Archive for the 'Technology Industry' Category

Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson

Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson
Steve Jobs, by Walter Isaacson (Photo credit: elycefeliz)

Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson. 2011. ISBN 9781451648539. This book has been on my Kindle forever. I had a chance during the holidays to finally get to it.   It was simply  delightful.  Unvarnished, no fan boy prose, just a good story.   The author was able to acknowledge the reality distortion field and rise above it to see what was going on.  I have probably read every book and article I could find about Jobs, but this book really wraps the whole story up. Lots of quotes from others and lots of pure Steve.  If you choose to read this – your time is well spent. I found it inspirational and full of good learning.

The Launch Pad. Inside Y combinator Silicon Valley’s most exclusive school for startups. Randall Stross

Image representing Y Combinator as depicted in...

The Launch Pad. Inside Y combinator Silicon Valley’s most exclusive school for startups.  Randall Stross. 2012. ISBN  9781591845294. The author( a good  writer)  spent the summer of 2011 with the 64 start-ups funded by Y combinator and recored what happens.  It is three month uber intensive (selective 3% of applicants get in)  program ending in a marathon Demo Day in front of several hundred qualified investors.  The book has similarities to Tracey Kidders 1981 classic , The Soul of New Machine,  in that all the covers are off and you get to look right into how it is done – warts and all.  This makes this a new classic.  Y Combinator is really Paul Graham the founder, and his core of follow on investors who put up $150 00 for every company that demos.   About 2/3   of the companies each session get even more follow on investing, 1/3 a small amount more and 1/5  none at all.  The success rate shows that by 2010,  Dropbox exited for more than  the next 199 all together , and No 2 OMGPOP exited for more than the next 198 cos altogether. Perhaps you can add up 21 of non exiting stars who had a value of $ 4.7 b. So the odds are long, but this model appears to work better than any other startup model.   You need highly selective auditions, companies that had a killer coder and a killer salesperson,  non stop attention to the job at hand and sufficient guaranteed follow on  funding to make the time/effort  expended worth the while of the participants.

Dark Pools.High speed traders, AI bandits, and the threat to the global financial system. Scott Patterson.

Cover of "The Quants: How a New Breed of ...

Cover via Amazon

Dark Pools.High speed traders, AI bandits, and the threat to the global financial system. Scott Patterson.2012. ISBN 9780307887177.  Patterson wrote The Quants which I enjoyed so I was looking forward to Dark Pools.  It does not disappoint. He has the gift of rendering what could be numbingly arcane facts and numbers into a very compelling book that reads like a novel. I read it in one sitting – it is that good.  His focus on the people involved is appreciated by the reader.  That all said, this is not a comforting book. The system is rigged against us, the little investor, over the short and long haul. You do find out how these wizards make the money on the backs of others.  You end up with second thoughts as to why anyone still puts money into stocks.   A must read for anyone who interested in how their money works…for others through the use of very advanced computers and machine learning

The $100 Startup. Chris Guillemeau.

Entrepreneur of the Century

The $100 Startup.  Chris Guillemeau.  2012 . ISBN 9780307951526.  The author uses a series of interesting case studies to prove out his theory that anyone can start a business and be his own boss by creating a micro-business- employing one.  He did it himself. Full of “motivating ” phrases the book does a reasonable job of proving his point that there are countless ways of becoming an entrepreneur.  This is not a book for those who want to build the next Facebook or build a big manufacturing concern, but it is very realistic in its goals and delivers on them. I appreciated that there are many nuggets of guerrilla promotion and good sense buried in this  text.

Rocket Surgery Made Easy. The do-it-yourself guide to finding and fixing usability problems. Steve Krug.

Cover of "Rocket Surgery Made Easy: The D...
Cover via Amazon

Rocket Surgery Made Easy. The do-it-yourself guide to finding and fixing usability problems. Steve Krug. 2010. ISBN 97803216572999. Another Lean Management recommendation. Krug wrote Don’t make Me think – which I totally enjoyed and agree with.  True to the author’s intent, this is a very usable book.  He has six maxims (which you will find in the book). His writing style is delightful – tongue in cheek, self deprecating and above all clear and simple.  Check out his sample usability test at and watch the Demo Test file.  It is very revealing as to why you will want to read this book.  Is he onto something – well yes. In our practice we are daily being sent to complex, hard to understand what the company does,  completely lacking on customer value company webpages.  Most of the problems would be solve if they followed Krug’s easy to use suggestions.  All I can think is usability is just not done. Everyone who has a webpage should read this book.

Cover of the book "Don't Make Me Think&qu...

Smart Customers (Stupid Companies). Michael Hinshaw & Bruce Kasanoff.

Customers are Ignoring You

Customers are Ignoring You (Photo credit: ronploof)

Smart Customers (Stupid Companies). Michael Hinshaw & Bruce Kasanoff. 2012. ISBN 9780985133900. I loved this book.  It contains enough examples and arguments to indicate exactly how your company needs to meet the smart plugged in customer.  This aligns with recent machine to machine research RocketBuilders carried out. well written and beautifully argued. The authors look at four disrupters:

  • Social Influence (WofM)
  • Pervasive memory ( Amazon and Zappos)
  • Digital Sensors (machine to machine everywhere)
  • The Physical Web

I loved these quotes:

1. We are confronting a fundamental shift in the ways that companies interact with – and serve – their customers.At many firms, their “social media strategy” involves creating a Facebook page, monitoring social sites for mentions of thecompany or its products, and generally extending its existingbusiness model into the social media world.But this approach stops short of confronting the real issues.If you could physically see the thousands of social influencers

crowding the space between your sales team and your customers – if they were physically present in your store or office – you would no longer accept the misguided notion that a few extra posts online would solve your problems.The reason so many companies are vulnerable is because the state of relationships between companies and customers is so poor. Products and services tend to be impersonal. Responsiveness tends to be uneven at best, or miserable at worst.  It is reasonable to assert that frustration, annoyance, and anger have been building among customers for decades. They are tired of being treated as numbers, of being misled or even lied to, and of being considered targets instead of living, breathing human beings.

2.  CRM doesn’t actually track relationships or experiences, it tracks transactions. As a result, CRM doesn’t take into account the customers’ views of the company, and doesn’t capture how these interactions make customers feel, much less what they want or need. Yes, CRM does a great job tracking company perceptions of value, and tracking those interactions that are important to the company – sales, marketing, service, etc. – but it fundamentally misses what customers think, feel, and want as a result. It delivers an inside-out perspective that means the conclusions reached by companies about customer relationships are skewed, based on the interactions that occurred rather than the customer perceptions that resulted. While CRM can tell the company that two customers have the same set of interactions, it can’t tell which customer is delighted, and which feels trapped, upset, and may be actively bad-mouthing the company online. This is important information.

This is a must read for leaders in the tech industry ( and every industry) . What you do not know will hurt you.

The Now Revolution. 7 Shifts to make your business faster, smarter, and more social. Jay Baer & Amber Naslund.

Social Media Cafe

Image by Cristiano Betta via Flickr

The Now Revolution. 7 Shifts to make your business faster, smarter, and more social. Jay Baer & Amber Naslund.  2011. ISBN 9780470923276.  This book has been sitting waiting for me to get to it and I am glad I finally did.  It is a mix of an analysis of what the world is like now plus some serious do it now tips.  Some key takeaways:

  • The transition from 50 to 100 employees has big impacts on holding onto the company culture
  • If your company is not already “social” in its culture you will have a reduced chance of success in the social media space.
  • There are quickly changing requirements for the talent you need in your company, what worked before will not work now in your hiring process.
  • You need an army to use social media – starting with a heavy emphasis on customer service, and empowering many many employees to contribute to your social media initiatives.
  • You need to use a new telephone to listen for buyer, customer, competitor  and employee “keywords” .
  • How you respond to this challenge and how you measure results requires some serious analysis – its not  something you hand off to an intern.

Very cool use of QR/ tagging codes in the book, making it more interactive.  Check it out at As ever, some of the Microsoft stuff does not play nice with Android, ie when they send you to a document and not a webpage.

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After 10 years – I said goodbye to a Blackberry

Image representing Android as depicted in Crun...

Image via CrunchBase

After 10 years – I said goodbye to Blackberry last week.  I held on as long as I could, but I grew tired of waiting for  RIMM to bring out competitive products for the foreseeable future, I had to make a change, my data plan had run out four months ago.  I chose an Android phone (HTC Amaze), with the Samsung Galaxy my first (but not from Telus ) choice.  After 7 days.  I miss the following on my Blackberry:

  • Data compression ( reduces the network charges)
  • EZ controls where I expect them
  • Being contact/email centric
  • Simple battery control, and long life
  • Good pocket sized form factor
  • Out of the box focus on what I use daily.

I do enjoy now having:

  • Very fast download speeds
  • Incredible and diverse Android apps available – very easy to get and use, today  I just used one to store all the bar codes for all my loyalty cards. No more keyring.
  • A 32GB easily swappable sd memory
  • Two cameras – easy to use for Skype video and take very clear photos/movies.
  • The five Android screens are smart and easy to customize.
  • A big screen to read Kindle books.
  • A free phone on my plan – RIMM was going to cost me.

I am surprised I do not miss

  • Having a separate keyboard ( the virtual one gets smarter as I use it)
  • Encrypted data  – who would want to read my stuff?
  • BBMessanger – most of my contacts do not use it anymore .
  • BES
  • PIN communications (again few use it now)

Technically Blackberry has a better industrial design. If I was on their marketing team I could create some pretty compelling value statements for owning a Blackberry.  But this does not matter anymore. RIMM has missed the boat. The issues are legion:

  • There were almost 18 months without significant new products, dissipating their market leadership
  • Failure to nurture the app partner channel leaves them far far behind, getting further every day.
  • Reduction of US channel pull, means retailers push other vendors, commoditizing Blackberry
  • Increasing unit failure/returns means retail has a lower confidence in the hardware
  • Incompetent management of system upgrades = huge loss of services, followed by bumbling public response by CEOs
  • The CEOs and the Board who caused this have no idea how badly off they really are. A new Chair is deckchair rearrangement.

Its likely RIMM leadership has a similar problem to the US movie industry. Despite declining US revenue, the growth of new offshore markets skews the numbers to help balance the books.  This disappoints the local markets so they abandon products (like how many movie sequels do you really want to watch?)  In my early microcomputer days  companies like Commodore would have aggressive annual N American roll outs of new technologies, while still having tremendous cash cows in the emerging world through selling them last years (and earlier)  products at new product prices. But Commodore used the demands of the NA market to drive relentless innovation. When they missed that, the end was quite swift.

Compounding the foolishness, RIMM by not keeping ahead of competition, lost product (and gave up market) leadership . They let Apple claim it. Apple now through using a selective skim pricing strategy is able to generate very strong profits and revenues, while getting tremendous economic benefits through volume sales.  RIMM has to incur more cost to stand still, let alone create new products, incent retail to sell them and spend heavily to create marketplace pull through.  The answer lies partially now in a full bore marketplace war, someplace where RIMM is hopelessly inept.

As a friend of mine said, he sold his RIMM stock when he found out they were hiring ex Nortel employees. We are likely watching the death spiral of yet another Cdn company. Lets hope whomever buys the pieces lets us keep something in Canada.

Day 1. A Kindle Fire in Canada

Cover of "Kindle Wireless Reading Device,...

Cover via Amazon

First impressions.  Lovely to look at, nice to hold and a bit heavier than earlier Kindles
Books etc all delivered flawlessly.Everything the other Kindles do this does.

Added pdf docs from my pc.  Worked well,  colour. Yeh!

Browser is an improvement.  Will not win speed awards.

Colour sucks more juice so you will need to charge it more often.

The early adopter penalty is that the “tablet” stuff is not available in Canada until they get legal stuff sorted out .
I pushed music up to to the Amazon cloud for my pc  (Had to use Hotspot as they have not turned the cloud on for Canada).  Music was then pushed down to  the Kindle – works well

Getting new Android  apps is a can not do if you are not connected in the US.  Not cleared for anywhere else yet.  So Apple wins until that happens since their Cloud and store worked asap.
Hotspot to my pc would not work for apps as Amazon  checks where the device is connected and will not let you download.  I could root the unit…

The apps that come with the Kindle.

Mail app worked with Gmail – looks good.

Pandora,  not in Canada.Quickoffice app reads office attachments.
Pulse app aggregates lots of blog feeds.  Pretty good.  Add your magazine feeds here.

If you connect via wifi in the us, you can get everything. The app then works in Canada.

Ditto for streaming video.  Not in Canada.  I tried to add a video I had to the device from my pc.  Could not find it.

Magazines.  Only allowed to send B&W in Canada as yet.  This will come. Need a US  address for colour.

So no advantage to getting this early.  But I expect it will all get done.

A great Saturday outing

Last Saturday was the annual luxury cars show at VanDusen gardens in Vancouver. Combine incredible (for Vancouver) weather and desirable (and costly) cars  in a luscious garden made for a delightful way to spend a morning.   For those who love beautiful cars , clink on the link and enjoy.

Beauty in Red