Category Archives: Friday Five

Friday Five – January 20, 2012

So the big news in the tech world this week was… Newt Gingrich. Just kidding it was SOPA – a proposed piece of garbage legislation written people that don’t manage their own Facebook and Twitter accounts that, if enacted, could cause disastrous harm to innovation and the tech industry. This issue was so important that Wikipedia blacked itself out in protest, essentially making the source of reference unavailable for the millions that use it. So kicking off the Friday Five this week is…

 

#1 – Thank you. [Wikipedia]

The Wikipedia blackout is over — and you have spoken.

More than 162 million people saw our message asking if you could imagine a world without free knowledge. You said no. You shut down Congress’s switchboards. You melted their servers. Your voice was loud and strong. Millions of people have spoken in defense of a free and open Internet.

For us, this is not about money. It’s about knowledge. As a community of authors, editors, photographers, and programmers, we invite everyone to share and build upon our work.

Our mission is to empower and engage people to document the sum of all human knowledge, and to make it available to all humanity, in perpetuity. We care passionately about the rights of authors, because we are authors.

SOPA and PIPA are not dead: they are waiting in the shadows. What’s happened in the last 24 hours, though, is extraordinary. The Internet has enabled creativity, knowledge, and innovation to shine, and as Wikipedia went dark, you’ve directed your energy to protecting it.

We’re turning the lights back on. Help us keep them shining brightly.

There’s also a “read more” page to find out more about the milestones of the blackout, and of course about the issue itself.

 

 

#2 – Megaupload Taken Down On Piracy Allegations [TechCrunch]

Popular file-hosting site Megaupload, probably known to our readers for a variety of reasons, has been taken down after the FBI charged some of its staff with copyright infringement and “conspiracy to commit racketeering.” Seven people have been charged, and four arrested (in New Zealand), and the site itself appears to be down as authorities around the world closed in on the site’s resources.

The day after the SOPA/PIPA protests, the FBI illustrates why we don’t need those bills by orchestrating an international takedown of a site that was a haven for piracy. The system works, and if you break the law, the law will come and take away all your toys.

 

 

#3 – Twitter Is Making A Gigantic Move (And Going To War With A Board Member) [Business Insider]

Twitter is slowly finding a way to curate its own massive fire hose of information.

Twitter has typically been a pure stream of information that’s gone uninterrupted. Thousands of tweets fly across the Internet in a given second — sometimes tens of thousands, depending if there’s a big event.

But just moments ago, Twitter announced it acquired Summify, a service that crunches Twitter and other social media sites and creates a personalized news digest based on that information.

I subscribe to the Summify service – it does a pretty impressive job of curating your social feeds and sending you highlights of things that are of interest to you. This is particularly useful if you’re not continuously plugged in to your networks scanning for the latest news, or if, you know, sleep. This acquisition should be making the future of the Twitterverse interesting to see how the integration works. Hopefully they do a better job than they did maiming Tweetdeck.

 

 

#4 – The Wired Q&A: ICANN President Rod Beckstrom on ‘the Biggest Change in DNS Since Dot-Com’ [Wired]

Beginning Wednesday, Jan. 12 — midnight UTC, to be exact — the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) starts accepting applications for new, bespoke top level domains (TLDs). This will be the first time website owners (at least governments and businesses) will be able to request their own replacement for .com, .net and .org. Think .facebook, .losangeles and .lolcats.

The number of top level domains was originally restricted to give the internet user some idea of what kind of a site they were going to – .com for commercial, .edu for educational, .org for a nonprofit, etc. Of course, the vast majority of TLDs accessed in the U.S. are .com, which forces some institutions to register multiple so that unsuspecting folks don’t end up at the wrong site (remember that whole whitehouse.com debacle?).

Countries also have their own country-specific TLDs (.jp for Japan, .de for Germany, and the ever-spammy .ru for Russia), and then some companies, especially those URL shorteners, found they could get cute and repurpose, say, Libya’s TLD .ly to create sites like bit.ly, although one of the original domain “artists” was none other than del.icio.us, using the relatively unused TLD for the United States.

So the underlying question is, will all hell break loose now that anyone (with $185,000) can get their own top level domain? Not likely. People don’t rely on the TLD anymore to know where they’re going. In fact, with browser search integration, a lot of people don’t even realize they’re typing “amazon.com” into Google instead of the address bar. Search and social media will drive people to sites, so any new TLDs will just be a new kitschy advertising device.

 

 

#5 – Every Presentation Ever: Communication FAIL [Habitudes for Communicators]

Watch it. Then hang your head in shame at how many of these things we’ve all done.

Friday Five – July 22, 2011

Friday Five is my [most]weekly technology tidbits post.

#1 – Google’s ’20 Percent Time’ Will Survive The Death of Google Labs [TechCrunch]

Google announced this morning that it will be shutting down Google Labs, a platform that allowed users to interact and give feedback on experimental products produced by Googlers in their 20 Percent Time.

While many were left wondering, Google tells me that the company has no changes to announce with regards to the 20 Percent Time program; killing Labs doesn’t mean the discontinuation of the one day a week Googlers get to spend on “projects that aren’t necessarily in [their] job descriptions.” “We’ll continue to devote a subset of our time to newer and experiment projects,” Google representative Jason Friedenfelds tells me.

I was going to start out this week by mourning the death of Google Labs, but after reading this TechCrunch article, I don’t think it’s a big deal. The 20% time is the valuable component of the Google Labs puzzle. If anything, maybe this means that Google will actually launch products instead of being perpetually in beta.

 

#2 – Intranet Portals: Personalization Hot, Mobile Weak, Governance Essential [useit.com]

Early definitions of “portal” focused on the gateway concept, but times have changed: characterizing portals as mere doorways to other places no longer adequately describes the sophisticated role they play. Today’s portals are not just about access; the best ones provide true integration of enterprise information, resources, and tools in a unified user experience. The portal is a dashboard that offers all the enterprise information and applications that employees need to do their jobs.

At the same time, the distinction between intranet and portal is diminishing as companies increasingly adopt a portal perspective for their intranets. The trend is toward “an intranet is an intranet is an intranet” and a portal is just a nicer, more functional intranet that integrates more systems.

The ROI from achieving the full portal vision is clear: saving countless, costly staff-hours that would otherwise be wasted hunting for information on various systems and learning incompatible user interfaces. Of course, the ideal vision rarely happens: for example, single sign-on remains an elusive chimera, though companies are closer and closer to achieving it every time we study this problem.

The biggest finding from our new research into enterprise portals? The sad fact that portals are not adding mobile features at the expected rate. Outside the firewall, the mobile space is teeming with innovation, but inside companies, mobile progress seems to be progressing at a snail’s pace.

There’s a lot of great info in this latest article from Jakob Nielsen. First off is confirmation of a tenet I stand by – stop getting caught up in terminology. There is no more distinction between “portal” and “intranet”. Now if we could talk people down from “the cloud” as well, we’ll all be better off. Second is the fact that mobile is important. While this is a “duh” statement to anyone who has a smartphone or tablet, recognition of this fact (or acknowledgement to do something about it) inside the enterprise always progresses at a snail’s pace. There’s also an interesting bit on governance here, where Nielsen claims that responsibility of who owns the intranet is shifting more towards corporate communications. It’s interesting in the fact that I believe here at Praxair we’re seeing that trend in the opposite direction.

 

#3 – None of the top 100 best companies to work for block employee access to social media [Stopblocking.org]

Click through to see a video with Mark Ragan and Erin Lieberman Moran of the Great Place to Work Institute discussing why blocking employee access to social media is hurts your company’s hiring ability.

 

#4 – The making of a social media slut [grow]

Before I tell my tale, let me relate a few of my experiences this week …

  • A very talented friend told me he was rejected for a job at a major ad agency because his Klout score was too low.
  • A B2B marketing agency Managing Director told me he chose between two qualified candidates based on their Klout score.
  • A friend in D.C is creating a Klout 50 Club exclusive to people with high Klout scores. Why? He wants to find good hires for social media marketing.
  • A woman told me her boyfriend was accepted to a prestigious conference based on his Klout score alone.

These experiences occurred in the span of 72 hours.

Klout is the newest fad in the social media space. They proclaim it as a way of measuring an individual’s social media influence using a bunch of metrics they created like “Network Influence” and “Amplification Probability” and “True Reach”. Klout isn’t the first website to take on this space and it won’t be the last. The author goes on to say how he felt “dirty” that he suggested to a recent college grad that she pander to the internet and beef up her Klout score to get an entry level job. Frankly, I don’t think it’s that big a deal. If you aspire to work in the social media world, the most important thing is being up on the daily-changing trends in social media. Klout is the meme of the day and if nothing else it tells an employer looking to hire someone specifically for a social media role that the person at least uses social media. Outside of that specific job world, I don’t see it replacing resumes any time soon.

 

#5 – The Interconnected World of Tech Companies [INFOGRAPHIC] [Mashable]

The “tech world” is really more of a “tech family.” Between digital giants’ appetites for acquisitions and the tendency of their ex-employees to start new companies, it’s easy to see how nearly every blip in the ecosystem is closely related.

We’ve mapped just a few of these family ties between “Xooglers,” the “PayPal Mafia”, “Softies” and the many other tech connectors who have yet to be nicknamed.

Interesting (and very large) graphic. Give it a glance!

Friday Five – July 1, 2011

Friday Five is my [most]weekly technology tidbits post that I write for my internal Praxair blog and cross-post here.

#1 – Google+ invite received, we go hands-on [Engadget]

When news of Google Plus’ arrival broke today, we called the service an “all out assault on social networking.” After playing around with it for a bit, we believe that our previous description seems even more apt. Past services like Buzz have suffered from a half-baked approach to the space, but Google has clearly pulled out all of the stops this time. With direct shots at some of the leading market software in the form Facebook and Skype, Google is in a position to extend its search dominance to other realms. As usual, the company has created a smooth, intuitive, and enjoyable experience. However, now comes the hardest part: convincing people that they need another social network in their lives, because without friends, you’re just hanging out by yourself.

The big news in tech this week is about the launch [to some] of Google+. Of course, in typical Google fashion, it’s a buggy beta product and you will have to beg everyone via your other social networking tools for an invite to it. That’s a poor launch plan in my book, since a social network without users is useless. So will it be a Facebook killer? Given Google’s track record in this arena… probably not. Although what could give Google an advantage is that they’re designing from the ground up for mobile, vs. Facebook which is continually being adapted for mobile devices via a litany of device-specific apps. And what about that other social network – My…somethingorother?

 

#2 – MySpace Sold to Ad Network for $35 Million [Mashable]

News Corp. declared it was ready to sell MySpace in an earnings call in February. The media company was reportedly hoping to get $100 million out of the sale.

In 2005, News Corp. bought the site for $580 million from its original owners, but MySpace’s traffic has plummeted in recent years. All Things Digital reported that News Corp. will still hold a 5% to 10% stake in the company.

Other reports this week indicated that close to 50% of the site’s staff could be cut after the sale, and it’s likely that any further iterations of the service will focus on music.

I don’t think the fact that MySpace being sold is a surprise to anyone. I think what’s surprising (and funny) is that it sold for less than it cost to make a movie about Facebook.

 

#3 – Another study distorts the cost of employee social networking [Stop Blocking!]

Shame on CBS Radio News.

On its June 23 6 p.m. (EDT) top-of-the-hour newscast, CBS reported on the results of a study that indicate Facebook and other social networking sites are costing companies lost worker productivity.

I dashed home to find the source of the report. What I found was a month-old study that focused on all manner of workplace distractions. In fact, email processing and switching windows to complete tasks both ranked higher as sources of distraction (33%) than social media activities (20%).

Interestingly, the study was commissioned by harmon.ie (formerly MainSoft) which is a product we use here at Praxair, but the point of the study is not to put down social networking sites, but to sell their product which integrates into the email client so you don’t need to switch windows and can process email more efficiently. Ironically, they pitch themselves as “a provider of social email software that brings document collaboration to every business user by transforming the email client into a collaboration and social workspace.” That document collaboration includes a tool specifically for Google Docs which of course integrates into Google+ (see article #1) which would be one of those social networks. One-sided studies are dangerous, and news organizations are generally lazy looking for something sensational to push. This study fits both descriptions.

 

#4 – Should I Change My Password? [ShouldIChangeMyPassword.com]

ShouldIChangeMyPassword.com has been created to help the average person check if their password(s) may have been compromised and need to be changed.

This site uses a number of databases that have been released by hackers to the public. No passwords are stored in the ShouldIChangeMyPassword.com database.

Great way to quickly check and see if you have to worry about your password being out in the open for hackers to steal.

 

#5 – Xerox PARC: Still Inventing Cool New Stuff After All These Years [Forbes]

Launched in 1970, PARC has given the world an amazing array of inventions: laser printing, graphical user interfaces, object-oriented programming, Ethernet, and various advances in lasers, document printing, data storage, fiber optics and other technologies.

While PARC may be doing more applied research than it was known for in the past, the research center is still doing work on the cutting edge. Hoover notes, for instance, that PARC has been working on a concept called “content-centric networking” that would radically remake the way information moves around the Internet. The original ARPAnet, Hoover notes, was really engineered for point-to-point communications. But that’s not really the way the Internet is generally used now. Ergo, he says, a lot of complex stuff has to happen if millions of people simultaneously want to watch the same YouTube video if you want to avoid bringing the network to a standstill.

I’m a former Xerox employee, and the joke was always on Xerox when it related to PARC. PARC had developed some of the most important computer-related technologies and Xerox could never figure out how to sell them right. It took Apple and Microsoft to fully realize the GUI. But putting the business management aside, you have to appreciate the outstanding visionary work done by PARC researchers. It’s great to see them continuing on in that vein.

Friday Five – June 24, 2011

“But, Derek – aren’t you on vacation today and Monday?” you’re asking. Yes, I am. But I already had a treasure trove of material for this week’s Friday Five by Thursday, so I drafted and scheduled this post for Friday. Ah… the awesomeness of scheduled publishing.

#1 – Social Media Policy [Youtube via Digital Landfill]

A brilliant way to present a policy to employees! It’s engaging and gets the message across. Here’s hoping Praxair comes up with something similar (both the policy and the delivery format).

 

#2 – You, yourself, and Google: Managing your personal search ranking [TechRepublic]

There are a lot of firms and consultants making a lot of money on the web, solely on the business of helping people shape their Google search results. For corporations, brands, and causes, the Google ranking is a kind of web stock price, with just as much obsessive energy invested. For your own name, though, Google has just released a few tools to help you monitor where and how your name shows up, and it’s definitely worth a lunch break visit.

It’s not often that The Google gives you a way to directly influence search results, but this is one of them. The Google Dashboard is also a great tool to bookmark.

 

#3 – Dropbox Accidentally Unlocked All Accounts for 4 Hours [lifehacker]

Dropbox accidentally dropped the need for password authentication this past Sunday so anyone could log into anyone else’s Dropbox account with any password—all they’d need was an email address. This lasted four hours and, according to Dropbox, less than 1% of users were affected. Still, this is another good reason why you should add an extra layer of security to the data in your Dropbox—particularly if you’re putting sensitive data in there.

The cloud can be a dangerous place, friends. It’s not all puffy white blobs of happiness up there. Give a good thorough thought about what you use cloud services for.

 

#4 – Firefox 5: New, but improved? [ZDNet]

I’ve liked Firefox since it first showed up. But, this new Firefox 5 concerns me. Oh, it’s a fine browser. But, it’s not a major new release. At most, I’d call it Firefox 4.1, but really it’s little more than Firefox 4.02.

The Mozilla Foundation, following in the footsteps of Google’s Chrome Web browser, seems to believe that if they keep popping out new “major” releases every six weeks, they’ll convince people they’re better than the competition. That seemed like a dumb idea to me when Microsoft went from Word for Windows 2.0 to Word for Windows 6.0 back in 1993. The idea hasn’t improved any with age.

I skimmed through a lot of FF5 articles to find one with the tone I was looking for, and this one’s it. I have version number games. Come on, Mozilla, don’t release bug fixes as a major version number. That’s idiotic. On top of that, extensions break because not all developers are going to rush to update their extension just to say it works with 5.x as well as 4.x. For a good laugh, take a look at this and this. Who knew Microsoft could be funny?

 

#5 – 15 Classic Tech Ads [PCMag]

Take a stroll down memory lane!

 

 

Friday Five – June 17, 2011

It’s been a couple weeks since I’ve been able to crank one of these out. Either I or my laptop has been unavailable. The laptop is now sporting a brand new SSD drive, though, so it was worth the interruption in content, at least to me.

So, kicking things off this week, an in-depth article on search ranking in SharePoint 2010:

#1 – Improve SharePoint Search Relevance [NothingButSharePoint.com]

SharePoint Enterprise Search includes a ranking engine developed in collaboration with Microsoft Research. It is specifically tuned for the unique requirements of searching enterprise content.

The great news is that it is possible for IT Professionals to customize the way SharePoint ranks search results. This can be done through creating a custom model (ranking model) and instructing SharePoint to use the custom model in a particular area of the solution or even to set the new ranking model as the default for SharePoint Search.

This article will provide you with the necessary background for SharePoint Ranking Models and will guide you through the process of creating and implementing your own custom ranking models.

There’s a ton of detailed info in this article, but even for the casual SharePoint user it provides a bit of insight. The first sentence I quoted points out that searching enterprise content is a different beast than searching the web. No, you really don’t want Google as your intranet search, so need something smarter that understands the nuances of your business and company. Admittedly we have not focused a lot of effort on search at Praxair yet, but as we move to SharePoint 2010 it will become an area of focus.

 

#2 – The Filter Bubble [Chris Smith-WNYMedia.net]

 

Essentially, Facebook, Google and others are turning into automated confirmation bias machines. Facebook, specifically, is trying to optimize your news feed to make it pleasurable for you to come back frequently, generate page views and increase ad clicks. As Facebook becomes the personal internet for people around the globe, is the company optimizing for social value by actively working to challenge your personal assumptions and connect you with people who might disagree with you? Not really.

The idea behind this article is really thought-provoking. Programmers have been continually striving to make “social” mean “understanding you better” so they can feed you more “relevant” information. But is that a good thing? Be sure to also watch the 9 minute TED video embedded in the article to learn more about this phenomenon.

 

#3- International Usability: Big Stuff the Same, Details Differ [useit.com]

Earlier this year, we ran a range of usability studies of websites, intranets, and mobile sites and apps in Australia, China, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Of course, we’ve always done lots of international testing (in 13 countries total), but this latest round — which covered 3 very different parts of the world — offered a good opportunity to step back and consider the big picture of international user experience.

(Definition of international usability: the effectiveness of user interfaces when used in any other country than the one in which they were designed.)

The highest-level conclusion? People are the same the world over, and all the main usability guidelines remain the same. After all, usability guidelines are derived from the principles of human–computer interaction (HCI), which are founded on the characteristics of computers and the human brain and the many ways the two differ.

Relevant info as we’re now starting to roll out intranet sites for other countries.

 

#4 – Traditional Texting Slows As Instant Messaging Grows In Popularity [The Consumerist]

Cellphone users sent and received more than a trillion texts in the second half of 2010, which is only an 8.7% increase over the previous six months. That marks the smallest gain in texting since it became de rigeur 10 years ago.

Apple announced their version of instant messaging this week, which will allow Apple users to send free messages to each other over the Internet. Google is said to be developing a messaging application for Android software as well, and RIM’s BlackBerry users are already fans of its messenger service.

Texting revenue reached $25 billion in the U.S. and Canada in 2010, with fees from around 20 cents per text or unlimited monthly plans for an additional fee. So without that, cellphone carriers are going to be pretty annoyed, considering many people would rather text than actually carry on a conversation.

The fact that people are willing to pay as much for texting as they do baffles me. It’s a tiny amount of data yet the fee for use is astronomically marked up (7314% by this article’s calculation). IM has been around longer that texting, which makes it even more baffling that people will pay for something they used to be able to do for free. Now that the phone technology is catching up to computers, the text-based communication methods are coming full circle. (For what it’s worth – I use Google Voice to text for free.)

 

#5 – Jobs’ Spaceship Apple Headquarters: A Dream 30 Years In the Making [Gizmodo]

Steve Jobs recently approached the Cupertino City Council with what seemed like the crazy vision of building a spaceship-like campus for Apple HQ. It turns out he had the same dream back in 1983. And it was just as ambitious.

Back in those more youthful days, Jobs approached the newly-elected mayor of San Jose, Tom McEnery, with a plan that would forever change their fortunes. His’ idea was something out of storybooks, “a shimmery glass structure surrounded by oaks and grasses.” He had even hired renowned architect I.M. Pei, the man responsible for the Louvre Pyramid in Paris, for the job. While viewing Coyote Valley—deemed to be the next frontier in development—for the first time, Jobs was “unequivocal about the vision he saw there,” envisioning a campus that incorporated the landscape into the design.

What can’t Steve Jobs do? I watched most of the city council video and I was amused by two things – one Steve Jobs is a lousy speaker, and two the Cupertino City Council may be the biggest Apple fanboys/girls in existence. At least they have the tax revenue as an excuse.