Monday, December 17, 2007

The power of Free

This video is great - it's a talk by Chris Anderson the editor-in-chief of Wired. He is the author of the much loved 'The Long Tail'. I found it the video on one of Guy Kawasaki's blogs.

His basic premise is this - there is a part of your business now which is a constraint that you have to pay for. What if that constraint wasn't there? What if you treated it as Free? What would that do to your market and your overall proposition?

It's a great talk given at NokiaWorld 2007 very well illustrated with lots of real examples from the Internet and telecommunications world (webmail and mobile in particular) and economics that anyone can understand.

There are a couple of conflicts in what he says (eg artists like Prince giving away music for free to create premium pricing for concerts - Chris hasn't commented on Prince taking legal action against his fans for the use of his likeness on fansites - maybe its another revenue model) and an unfortunate part of his talk where his PC SNAFUs without a graceful recovery.

Those are minor though - the premise is really powerful. Something that you think is a scarce resource, your competitor might be thinking is heading towards free. They act like it's free, you act like its a constraint. When that happens your world is going to get shaken up.

Of course you have to make the right part of your model free - sellmefree for example. There is no constraint for the audience on their primary competitor trademe. Sellmefree have made the wrong part of their model free as Lance and AirNZ have noted. It's free for anyone to browse and buy on trademe so the audience is there, which drives people to sell there. Virtuous cycle - boom.

It would be a bit different if there was no constraint for customers on the amount of a certain product to buy on trademe -and you could buy it at the price it just sold for on auction instantly - no such thing as missing out again. That would make it a meta-retailer (Sam Morgan's words - not mine) as opposed to community marketplace. Maybe the Ferrit model is not so bad after all? Especially when you look at the great deals they have on ipods now.

What would you want to see removed as a constraint now? How would you act if it was free?

Take 45 mins out to watch the video and have a think.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Agile Development

We've been working with a major international Systems Integrator and have been exploring the use of Agile Programming methods for a major (ie 12 month+) project.

While Agile has been well covered in other forums, one of the areas that I note is significantly underplayed is the amount of cultural change required moving from Waterfall techniques to Agile. In particular, I note that people from a Waterfall background *still* want to complete full requirements before moving into the Agile phase - it takes a lot of effort to let go of that security blanket. And on top of that, integrating Agile based deliverables into Waterfall deliverables seems to be left for others to discuss- maybe it's best not to consider that right now but seems like a recipe for failure.

So I was really pleased to see the Agile Barcamp wiki set-up from the session here in Wellington two weeks ago. I was disappointed I couldn't make that session as I was in Auckland that day (story of my life!) - however I have had the benefit of seeing the presentations uploaded now and can contact the people who wrote them and ask them how to integrate Agile and Waterfall. Fabulous.

Ironically (or otherwise) I've noted that a couple of Dilbert cartoons have focussed on Agile recently.

Being in the camp of the business owner, I personally like this one.

I found this here

The end of the traditional kiwi closedown?

Like others in NZ I've been acutely aware of the skills shortage that we are facing - and I'm impressed that a number of employers are using what would be typically called the 'deadzone' to recruit new people to their team. This time of the year would normally be viewed as a waste of money to recruit talent as Kiwis have pretty much clocked off and wont be back en masse until late January.

Phil and Teds have bucked this trend with a major campaign to recruit what looks to be a wide range of talent for their team. This could be, of course brilliant timing and great execution - timing from the perspective of being able to run full page ads in what should be a cheaper window for traditional media without a lot of other clutter and execution in terms of the language and style of the campaign.

My only misgiving would be whether they hit the whole market (full page ad should sort that) and whether people have the headspace to dust off their CV a week before Xmas. My guess is, given how successful P&T have been this year that this is a well considered marketing campaign - hope they can turn interviews around this week for the sake of a couple of people who I know are applying.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Did this make the weekend agenda?

I am not a big fan of commenting on politics - I have better things to do.

It would be fair to say though that I am unhappy about the electoral finance bill and have been actively following David Farrar and Whaleoil for their views on this. They make me look like a fencesitter and certainly attract some criticism but I digress...

Another blog I have been following has been Dilbert - ironically it's been very active since Scott Adams announced he was going to blog less. He brought to my attention his own conspiracy theory based on a news item that Kangaroos fart less and this discovery will lead to some genetic modification of cows, reducing the methane being added to the environment.

Now given Kevin Rudd's first agenda item will be signing Kyoto, which Helen Clark and NZ have been a supporter of in recent times, I do wonder if this subject made the agenda over the weekend when the two leaders met informally - what an icebreaker!.

And being a guy I can't help but think there could have been hours rolling around laughing about the benefits (or lack thereof) of farting animals.

However I now realise that this would have been embarrassing all round once I reflect on the stereotypes. For one, no guy is going to be genuinely proud of not farting, hence Kevin Rudd would not bring up the point of his non-farting national icon. And no woman (well none that I know) would be genuinely proud of the animal which is creating her largest cash income having the socially (and politically) embarrassing habit of letting rip and hence making the world a more unstable place. So an opportunity to reduce greenhouse gases in the region is blown off as a result of gender stereotypes.

However the solution is clear - Helen and Kev have to swap countries - it's for the good of the planet dammit.

It's not supposed to do that

My mum still tells me that bad things run in threes - must be an Eastern European thing, as my Yugoslavian (is there still such a place?) godmother said the same.

This morning I got a run of three in about 4 minutes. Started off innocuously enough - riding my bike in on a beautiful warm and calm morning after a 5:20 am start to do some stretches. I was just coming off the Wellington motorway onto the Hutt Road when I hit some debris - back wheel kicked out a bit and a noticed that it had lost a bit of air.

I pulled over - back tyre definitely soft. Number 1. Take my pump off my bike to put some air in the tyre, hoping against hope that it was a slow leak and I could get into the office without changing the tube. I undo the valve on the tyre, clip the pump on and realise it's set-up for an MTB valve and can't put any air into the tyre. Off course, pressing the pump onto the valve meant all the air came out of the tyre. I turn to flip the fitting over on the pump. The lock nut is basically seized onto the pump due to excessive sweat corroding the aluminium so I can't change it over and the tyre is definitely flat. Number 2. So I decide to take the wheel off, change the tube and flag down a cyclist to use their pump. I release the wheel, and start to pull it off and notice there is a bit of resistance. I jiggle it around and give it a yank. The wheel is off - I look down and the derailleur looks like this picture. Number 3.

I think I have sheared the bolts off with brute strength - guy in the bike shop tells me the bolts are ok - just too short. Pretty sure I have been riding like this for about a year since i replaced the rear derailleur - fortunately I haven't been mashing the pedals :)

The bright side to this is at least 25 people stopped this morning to see if I was ok on their way riding into work. Nice one - thanks!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Corporate Blog Guidelines

I like this sensible advice from Lance Wiggs.

Keeps it simple, and has two basic themes

1. Blogging is a conversation - it's happening whether you are there or not. If you want to be part of that conversation then make an effort and be part of it!

2. If you're going to be part of it, be genuine. And you don't have to give your company secrets away to participate.

I know its common sense but sometimes that is a rare commodity in corporate land.

I've been interested in Paul Brislen's presence in various forums, in particular geekzone. I am sure that it makes those forums richer for the fact that Paul is out there with Vodafone's view on a regular basis. I do note that Paul doesn't have his own blog - any idea why that is?

Do what I say or what I do?

Had a funny experience today - was looking after Ella this afternoon. I changed her nappy and she was playing around in her room. I told her not to touch her nappy cream and less than a minute later this was the result - her lion Frankie had his rear end covered in aforementioned nappy cream....

So after I stopped laughing (ok it took a while...) I had a change to reflect on a couple of things.

1. I've been telling people for ages to keep their presentations short and to the point, and tailored to their audience. Yet on Friday I was involved in a team presentation that could be best be described as a powerpoint-a-rama that lasted 2 hours. Broke all the rules that I hold dear - pretty clear what the message is there to people who were unfortunate enough to be on the other end of that. Garr Reynolds would have had a field day.

2. Later on that day we had an activity that was designed specifically to relieve some frustration that is evident in the same team. We did not say what the purpose was - we just acted in a way that gave people the opportunity to genuinely express their concerns in an environment that was safe to do so. Much more effective that point 1 - no fanfare but the result has been enduring.

3. David Beckham - say what you like about him (and I'm a Spurs supporter - damn you Ricky Villa) but this weekend in Wellington he showed what a professional he is. Put himself out for his fans and made every post a winner. Even with bronchitis. Can't wait for the next Phoenix game already.

It didn't matter what I said to Ella - Frankie got his tail covered 'cos that is what happens to her and why should she act any different. No different in the other world.