Looks like Major League Baseball is joining the "our current business plan uber alles" space that's already crowded by the clue-free minions of the RIAA and MPAA - they are calling Slingbox bad when it's used to watch a baseball game:
"...if a league can't protect the rights they (sell), that doesn't bode well for future contracts when they want to resell the rights at higher margins," says George Kliavkoff, who was vp business development at MLBAM before becoming chief digital officer at NBC.
At least he's upfront about what this is all about: preservation of current high margins. However - is he under some delusion that the sports watching public is going to start traveling extensively, and then - already jet-lagged - stay up to watch baseball games? This is a trivially small audience we're talking about here. Do they think people are going to invite the masses to their hotel rooms in order to watch out of region games?
Wow - today marks the fifth year for this blog. I can hardly believe that I've been at it this long; here's a link back to the first post - back then I had no idea what I was going to do with the blog, and I didn't have a feed. At first, I had this multi-person blog idea in my head, so if you look back at early June 2002, you'll see a couple of posts from other people.
Here's to another five years of fun on this site!
I think this little cluster**** demonstrates that MS has gotten so large that its constituent parts have no idea what the rest of the company is up to. First, they give the guy behind NUnit MVP status - then, they sic lawyers on him for some unspecified (and from the looks of it, utterly bogus) EULA violations.
I have to say, this kind of behavior would make me think twice about working on their platform...
The next Toronto Smalltalk User Group meeting is Monday, June 4. These meetings are open topic workshops. We'll probably review Smalltalk Solutions and GemStone's Seaside offering. Internet and power outlets are available, so bring your laptop. We also have a LCD projector to demo individual work.
| I'm reading a nice little book on the last
surge into Europe attempted by the Ottoman Empire -
"The Siege of Vienna". The most interesting aspect of this to me is how many things were going on in Europe at the time - Charles II died, was succeeded by James II - and that precipitated "The Glorious Revolution". Louis XIV was on the throne of France, and his machinations were part of what caught the Habsburgs so off guard with respect to the Ottoman attack (1683).
And of course, European colonial expansion was just starting to explode at the time. It really was an amazing time period in world history.
Technorati Tags: history
So here's my next question about Google Gears: Why doesn't Google calendar work with it? Sure, it's early, but you would think that they would have gotten the obvious applications integrated immediately. Is Google getting so big that the left hand has no idea what the right hand is up to?
Amidst all of the hype about Google Gears, something occurred to me - the thing that makes this possible is the explosion of storage space. Not so very long ago, getting more than a few gigabytes of storage was very expensive. Now? Between inexpensive USB drives and cloud storage, there are no real limits anymore. A quick count of the USB drives in my office shows just under a terabyte of storage, for instance.
Technorati Tags: web2.0
Mahalo is the world's first human-powered search engine powered by an enthusiastic and energetic group of Guides. Our Guides spend their days searching, filtering out spam, and hand-crafting the best search results possible. If they haven't yet built a search result, you can request that search result. You can also suggest links for any of our search results.
How is this different from something like dmoz?
The Open Directory Project is the largest, most comprehensive human-edited directory of the Web. It is constructed and maintained by a vast, global community of volunteer editors.
The difference seems to be that Mahalo's editors are paid, whereas dmoz' are volunteers. I guess we'll see over the next couple of years whether that makes a difference or not - the problem with non-automated search is that results tend to get stale fast.
Can someone explain the concept of testing to Bobby Woolf? I thought he'd get that kind of thing, but not so much:
Declared interfaces, like clean air and clean underwear, are easy to take for granted until you don't have them. I used to do my OO programming in Smalltalk, which is a great language; but one deficiency I always felt (and this is heresy for a Smalltalker to say, but I'm saying it anyway) is the runtime binding -- what I came to think of as extremely weak typing. Smalltalk variables had no declared type/class, so practically any code with correct syntax would compile. It wasn't until runtime, when a client invoked a message on an object, that the environment determined the variable's object's class and looked at the class to see if it implemented a method with that signature. So you didn't really know if your code worked until you ran it, and you got lots of runtime errors that finally uncovered your simple programming mistakes.
That's perhaps the most uninformed paragraph I've read in a long while. Since you can run Smalltalk code at any time, not testing it takes effort - even if you don't have unit tests, ad-hoc testing gets done all the time (I do it with my blog server and with BottomFeeder all the time). That class of error is what static typing advocates are certain Smalltalk must suffer from - but in practice, we just don't see many errors of that sort in a sealed application (and we can deal with the ones that do happen).
Along those lines, there's a kind of testing that's much, much simpler to do in Smalltalk than in the languages Bobby seems to favor now - live testing. Say you are trying to hook up some client tool to your server using a poorly specified API like MetaWebLog API - it's common for person A to interpret the spec one way, while person B interprets it another. What I've done is have someone hit my test server with a client, and had the inbound message break in a debugger - and then I've fixed my code to match the client while it was waiting for a response.
You can have all the declared interfaces you want, but they don't always help in the real world, when you are hooking up disparate pieces that were implemented by different people reading the same spec differently. Maybe in Bobby's ideal world, that doesn't happen:
XML does for data what Java interfaces do for code: It strongly types the data by declaring its schema (much like the DDL for a relational database schema). XML data has to be well formed to be parsed. It can also be valid, meaning that it fits the agreed-upon data structure. That structure is declared in an XML schema which the XML data is validated against. So when the consumer of some XML data can't consume it successfully, the development teams have a much more objective and less political means to determine where the problem is: a validating parser. Either the XML data validates against the schema--in which case the consumer has a bug--or it doesn't--in which case the generator has a bug (or the data validates yet the consumer finds flaws in it, in which case the schema needs to be improved).
*Cough* MetaWebLog API *Cough*. Or RSS. Two widely used XML Specs that demonstrate just how deep the rabbit hole goes - and how far off in WS* fantasy-land Bobby has travelled. Come on back to Smalltalk, Bobby - the water's fine, and we can handle specs that make your Java code pitch fits.
It's refreshing to see that the software industry isn't the only place where Gartner has no clue - listen to them on the Wii:
The newly published article cites Van Baker of analyst firm Gartner suggesting of the Wii: "Its appeal is primarily to casual gamers, and there's a serious question about how long casual gamers will stay engaged with the platform... It wouldn't be surprising to see them lose interest after a relatively short amount of time."
I suspect that Baker has never used a Wii, or attended a party where one is around. The Wii gets everyone engaged - serious game players and casual audiences. The Xbox and PS3 pretty much hit one demographic: the hard core.
The last time I looked, the hard core gaming crowd wasn't as big as the casual one, but hey - that's a complicated thing for a Gartner guy to wrap his head around - he might have to engage with the real world, or something.
|Cincom is pleased to announce a set of seminars on the upcoming (August 2007) ObjectStudio 8 product in June. We have the following dates and locations scheduled:|
- Wednesday, June 20, morning: German-language event in Zurich, Switzerland
- Thursday, June 21, morning: English-language event in Schwalbach, Germany
- Thursday, June 21, afternoon: German-language event in Schwalbach, Germany
Want more information? Head over here.
I was settling in for a quiet evening when we got a phone call from a friend - her car had died, and her husband needed to take the kids home - so could we drive out and get her home after the tow truck arrived? No problem, I just had to clear the debris from the front of my car and go. Her husband drops her off here, we wait for the tow truck to call with the "20 minute warning" (they called with a 45 minute one instead), and headed to her car
And waited. Actually, that was our fault - we looked at the time and discovered that we had arrived early, and they were pretty much on time. That's when the fun started though. You see, her car needed to be in neutral, but the car had just stalled out - so it needed a jump start so that we could move the steering wheel, put it in neutral, and get the car on the truck. Except... they couldn't find the battery in their truck:
That's the towers, trying to find the battery. I eventually offered to let them use my car. That worked, and finally they got the car up on the truck. Good thing too, because their theory was to just drag the car up - and since the car is an all wheel drive, that would have done real harm.
It's so nice to get real professionals :/
PC World reports that Wii's may be hard to find right through (and possibly beyond) the holiday season (as in, Christmas time 2007) - and they are managing to ship 1.5 million units per month. Meanwhile, getting a PS3 is easy, and Sony is cutting back on production:
Sony seems to find itself in a sort of reverse situation. Sebastian also states in his investor note that the company is “temporarily” slowing down production for the PlayStation 3, according to “reports from Asia”. He believes that Sony will return to full-scale console production as soon as costs stabilize and its more anticipated software titles hit the market.
The PS3 mess is doing immense damage to Sony. Now, back over to WiiTracker...
I love it when "professional" journalists get all emotional about bloggers:
Idolaters of Web-based news and information sites, "citizen"-produced journalism, and the blogosphere of individual self-publishers, often argue that old mainstays such as The Chronicle are, in fact, getting only what they deserve.
I'd have more sympathy for Neil Henry if the average journalists track record was better; as it is, my sympathy does not run over. Just look at news coverage of a topic you know well - how often is it accurate? How often are tech stories in the mainstream media as laughable as the scenes from Hollywood thrillers?
Too often to make me comfortable, that's for sure. I started wondering about fields I knew less about years ago due to this - if they screw up the stuff I know a thing or two about, how well do they do on things I only have passing knowledge of? My guess is: no better.
It kind of boils down to this: The best sections of the paper tend to be sports and movie reviews. Why? Because the people they hire for those slots are passionate about those fields, and they care deeply about them. Sure, they have biases (the New York guys will lean for the Yankees or Mets, the Boston guys for the Red Sox, etc) - but they know the subject. On technology, science, politics (etc) - I have no such confidence. Every day, I tend to pick some story at random, do a few minutes of Googling, and find out that the reporter who filed the story obviously didn't do any research.
So sorry, Neil - when you start living up the the standards set by guys like Peter Gammon, I'll shed a few tears. Until then, not so much.
Technorati Tags: newspapers
Via Phil Windley comes a good diatribe against a paper opining that it's only luddites who oppose electronic voting:
The Deseret News would do well to check their facts before they fly off the handle on this one. The fact is that the people most worried are computer scientists --the people least likely to be afraid of computers merely because they're new.
Jay Lepreau of the CS department at the University of Utah and I published an Op-Ed piece on eVoting in the Salt Lake Tribune in 2004. In that piece we noted "The consensus of computer and security experts is overwhelming: In a poll of members of the ACM, the premier organization for computing professionals, over 95 percent of the respondents felt that voting systems should provide a recountable physical record, e.g., paper." In other words, the people most educated in this area are the ones most concerned.
As I've said before, it's not what you don't know that does damage - it's what you think you know that really hurts. That's why we profile applications, and why we get wary of things that leave no paper trail.
Technorati Tags: voting
Along the lines of my earlier post on bandwidth - here's what I get this morning:
The discrepancy seems kind of obvious, doesn't it? I like the download speed, but working at home, I send a lot of big files around, too.
Technorati Tags: bandwidth
The UIUC VW Wiki is back up - whatever spam prevention mechanisms they were working on are now in place.
Matthew Ingram notices the fly in the video and peer to peer ointment:
Steve O’Hear -- who also writes for ZDNet on social media -- has a great post up at Last100 about how bandwidth-stingy Internet Service Providers threaten to stall many online-video apps such as Joost by throttling the download speeds that their users get. He looks at how some ISPs cut back your bandwidth after you’ve downloaded a certain amount per month, which with video isn’t difficult to exceed, and how some put a cap on downloads period. Many ISPs also use “bandwidth shaping” to restrict the flow of peer-to-peer apps such as Joost and Skype.
I've been wondering about this for awhile, and Doc Searls has made it a mission to write about this stuff. Basically, the way we get internet service is built on a broadcast model: someone else produces, and we consume. There's simply no thought given to non-professionals pushing content out, and the puny upload speeds we get are an indication.
However, it's worse. Take stories like this one - Comcast in this example - with services like Joost (or heck, iTunes - I just downloaded 1.5 GB of data this weekend, and I'm a light user) end consumer "bandwidth hogging" is inevitable. If something doesn't change, ISPs are going to end up cutting off a lot of "normal" users of the internet as "hogs".
I've just posted a new development build of BottomFeeder (under the dev links on the download page). I addressed a number of issues in the last dev build - for instance, the fact that the XML parser was rejecting lots and lots of feeds :)
Give it a whirl, but bear in mind that it is a dev build, not a release
Gile Bowkett says that Seaside has a marketing problem (relative to Rails), and I think he's right. I do like this:
But if you play with Seaside, even just for a few hours, you quickly realize that Seaside is to Rails what Rails is to J2EE.
Oh, and Squeak isn't the only thing you can use for Seaside: Cincom Smalltalk works quite nicely as well.
So I just watched the season finale of "Lost", and I'm trying to figure out where the heck they plan to go with another 48 episodes - the finale really did seem to wrap most things up. I don't want to give anything away, since I know the series airs at different times around the world - but for those of you have seen the finale, where do they go from here?
Gordon Weakliem points out that the "conventional wisdom" on optimizing things may not always hold:
it takes around 1,000 concatenations to make StringBuilder.Append() out-perform String::operator+ . Johan's point is that you need to consider the effect of reallocations and GC on performance - it may well be that the classic test to loop through the operations and compare the running time is flawed.
His example is for C#, but the broader lesson holds for any language/library: it's not what you don't know that kills you: it's what you think you know that just isn't so.
Doc Searls believes that newspapers have a future:
Print is a huge advantage for newspapers. Always has been, always will be. (Unless, of course, the cost of dead trees becomes prohibitive, in which case lumber and other tree-dependent businesses are toast as well.) Friends in the newspaper business tell me the folks on Wall Street no longer like print. It's all gotta be online these days. To them it's all about "content" pumped through "pipes" like the one that's pouring text on your eyes right now.
Well, I think I'm with Matthew Ingram, who disagrees. The problem is simple: a general newspaper targets a broadcast audience, and that's exactly the audience that's withering right now. I've siad before that I think the future of local newspapers is with increased local coverage, but even that's problematic - how many people who live near you care deeply enough about (say) school board politics to actually read a paper (and support the advertisers in it)?
There's another problem too, and it has to do with those advertisers - why do thye want to be in the paper now? Most of the revenue for papers has been in classified ads, not the page ads. All of that stuff is moving online, to places like eBay and Craigslist. I don't see that coming back to print any more than I see a revival of the yellow pages business.
I have sympathy for this viewpoint from Doc, but again, there are issues:
The first of those was Stop giving away the news and charging for the olds . Sure, daily papers make advertising money by selling inventory on the free Web versions of the papers that subscribers pay for. But by doing that they're also dissing both those subscribers and their legacy franchise. Put more simply, they're competing with themselves while cheapening their main product.
Like Matthew Ingram, I'm not at all sure how media outlets can get away with that. For good or ill, the model is ad supported news, and that genie simply is not going back into the bottle. I'd agree with Doc insofar as the archives being opened up (and paid for via online ads) - but I see no way of forcing all fresh news behind a pay-wall. On that point, Doc conceded after some other feedback.
Here's what I think is going on: the media business is in the midst of a large business model change - it's happening in music, it's happening in video, and it's happening in news. The paper media is simply the front line where most of the carnage is happening (just Google "newspaper layoffs" for an idea). What we're watching now is the classic denial stage on the part of the current crop of business owners: they know the old ways, and they would rather not change. Sadly, they don't have that option.
Time to look at the logs again: BottomFeeder downloads stayed up, at 201/day:
Off to the HTML pages accesses:
|Tool||Percentage of Accesses|
IE is gaining relative to Firefox amongst my readers - and Opera is creeping up there as well. Let's close with the syndication numbers:
|Tool||Percentage of Accesses|
|Google Feed Fetcher||3.9%|
|Net News Wire||3.6%|
Two things I've been wondering about are starting to take place: the tools being used to access the feeds are consolidating, and the usage of those feeds is rising (while the HTML readership is fairly flat).
I interviewed Kathy DeMartino of Penn State on Tuesday, May 1st at Smalltalk Solutions. We talked about Penn State's usage of Cincom Smalltalk for many of their applications - both client/server and web. Penn State was an early adopter of web application technology - they got started with VisualWave back in 1995. They have a great set of developers at PSU - I've visited them many times, and I've always enjoyed it.
As we pause for the weekend's barbecues, I think we would do well to recall these words from Abraham Lincoln, which form part of the Gettsburg Address:
|But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate - we can not consecrate - we can not hallow - this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us - that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion - that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain - that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom - and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.|
James McGovern continues to make me wonder:
When Nicholas Carr asked this question, what came to mind was he should ask himself how much of a disservice does he believe he is doing to all IT employees who are losing their jobs to outsourcing along with the resulting salaries that could create other American jobs are going instead to places who will never understand the meaning of Memorial Day. Maybe the blogosphere would be better if he exercised his right to remain silent and make life a lot easier for all of us.
That's right gang - if Nick Carr didn't voice his opinion, no one else would even think about these things. I'd suggest that McGovern try making an actual argument, but that would be crazy talk - The sort of person who tries to talk about software industry issues while littering his blog with political images just isn't capable of that sort of thing.
Technorati Tags: stupidity
It's not the prettiest thing in the world - I intend to get some help from someone with CSS skills to clean things up. However, the main page on our site now lists:
- The most recent Podcasts
- The most recent Screencasts
- The most recent blog posts
Right up at the top of the page where it's easily visible. It will update throughout the day as new things hit the site, so it should be a "one stop shop" for updates now.
Technorati Tags: smalltalk
Slashdot has a story out on a fan uprising over the cancellation of the show "Jericho". Personally, I don't think the show is worth this level of fussing - it was ok, but no great shakes. Still - this leaves CBS with something of a dilemma:
"After presenting 'Jericho' fans with a cliffhanging season finale, CBS promptly cancelled the program. The shocked fans quickly banded together, many using CBS' own public "Jericho" discussion forum, and began brainstorming on ways to convince the network to bring back the show for a second season. A plot point in the final episode of "Jericho" involving the expletive "Nuts!" (in reference to an historic conversation between generals) was turned into a campaign to send large quantities of nuts to CBS' NY, LA, and affiliate offices. Fans have sent a total of $26,000 for a pooled campaign hosted at Nuts Online to ship over 19,000 pounds of peanuts to CBS. Other efforts acquired over $9,000 to publish full page advertisements in Variety (National Edition) and The Hollywood Reporter for Tuesday, May 29th. This is expected to become the largest ever fan campaign to bring a television show back from cancellation."
The question for CBS is this: do they actually have a large body of interested fans, or simply a committed base? The former would justify bringing the show back, the latter probably not. If CBS' model allowed for less expensive show production, they could bring it back in a narrowcast only mode - but I suspect they can't easily do that.
This sort of campaign is only going to become more common - the net makes it very easy for the committed few to look like the committed many. The hard part for outfits like CBS is that their production model doesn't make it easy to create content for a solid - but relatively small - core audience.
Technorati Tags: marketing
This weekend I have an interview with Penn State's Kathy DeMartino coming out for the podcast. I've known Kathy for many years, going back to when I still did training and consulting work. We spoke about Penn State's usage of Cincom Smalltalk for various things they do - client server apps and web apps used by students and faculty. I should have that out by Sunday - hope you have as much fun listening to it as I had doing the interview!
Technorati Tags: smalltalk
Panel on Agile Product Management:
- John Mansour, ZigZag Marketing. They sell training around Product Management - "if you don't need it, we don't sell it"
- Greg Cohen - Dir. Business Development at the 280 Group - Product Management contracting/consulting company
- Jason Tanner - General Manager at NetQoS - responsible for the end to end management of a specific product in need of attention and expertise.
As to agile development in general - John thinks it's not that prevalent in the industry. There's still a lot more talk than there is walk, and most of it seems to still be waterfall. The rest of the panel concurs. Audience query: more resistance from Product Managers to agile than from Developers?
"Ask 10 different companies to define agile, and you'll get 10 different answers". You need a Product Manager who is open to change, or you won't get it. Financial Services firms came up, and it's noted that iterative/agile is more common there, because they are in a constant "arms race" with the competition.
"A lot of product managers are actually functional designers" - they should just re-title themselves. What is functional design? These are customer surrogates who will work with engineering to create the way the interaction works (User Experience Design). This is often a missing function at a company, and it often gets lost in the PM role.
What about trying to walk into agile from waterfall without help? ("on the cheap" to quote the questioner). Why not pay for a week or two of training that will get everyone on the same page? Getting an external expert (with the consultant "halo") to explain why this is a good idea is a good investment. Note from the panel - failures happen when agile gets adopted in isolation, and an attempt is made to follow a cookie cutter "straight from the book" process.
Question: How does agile change what PM does? "It forces them to get out of the building and meet customers" - find out what they do, how they do it, why they do it - and use that information to align requirements with what customers really need.
The real benefit of an agile approach for Product Management is that you are validating the things you are building can actually be sold - bearing in mind that you cannot become so "customer focused" that you forget the market.
Wrap up question: If agile teams could do one thing better, what would it be?
The one thing that keeps agile ticking is discipline and testing. Concurrence on the panel: unit testing is crucial, because it keeps the team focused. Solid unit testing dropped Q/A from 2 weeks per sprint (3 week sprint) to 4 hours. One more comment: trying to adopt without training of some kind is a potential failure point.
Technorati Tags: product management
James Morehead heads up Product management and Marketing at SupportSoft. he's giving this talk in terms of where he works.
So - traditionally, Product Management and Product Marketing are separately organized, although often with the same management. He's advocating having a single marketing organization for all of that. Where he works, the organization is one centrally located and managed group. Responsibilities?
- Customer interaction (supporting sales)
- Outbound - web content, collateral, press/analyst, speaking, etc
- Inbound - market research/planning, roadmap/release planning, pricing, training
Metrics for the merged organization:
- Quarterly MBO process - aligned with corporate objectives and quarterly bonuses
- Pipeline per product
- Release completeness - aligned with engineering, focuses each PM on shepherding reqs to delivery
By combining the two pieces, you get aligned communications. To ensure this, they set up a system of "gates" to ensure that products get to where they need to go - miss a gate, slip a release.
- Market Opportunity
- Use Case Definition
- Functional and Usability Reqs
- Engineering Development Timeline
- Functional Completeness
- Release Readiness
- 6 Month Assessment
These gates have various people who are notified of progress, and who have approval/decline power.
- Credibility with customers as you have one group in charge of all messaging - roadmap and communication
- Reqs tied tightly to customer interaction
- No communication gaps between PM and PMM
- Efficient Staffing Model
- Constantly being stretched between sales, engineering, and corp. marketing
- Hiring is more difficult - staff needs to be articulate and detail oriented
- Both sales and engineering can end up feeling under-served
One caveat: James is not sure that this would scale up to a larger firm (his has 220 or so people). In the summary, he figures that the roles will eventually split to some extent - probably around industry verticals, followed by field marketing.
It's after lunch - time for another session. This is with Hugh Richards of the Product Point Group. Hugh consults with companies on product management issues. The talk: Why we innovate and how to do that successfully.
Profitability comes from scalable growth - you need to be able to grow your revenues without letting your costs outstrip them. Meaning, innovation has to come in a scalable and repeatable fashion. Innovation in this context could mean culling projects that are dragging, or it could mean tackling new markets, or it could mean buying companies. Bottom line - innovations can be strategic or tactical.
Pitfalls? Underestimating costs involved (merger costs, development costs, etc). Announcing something new too soon, such that it saps sales of existing product. Having developers leave due to the way development is happening - you need to look ahead to prevent these. Also: make sure you aren't trying to innovate in a commoditizing field.
You want to be in for the long haul: Compare when OS/2 came out to when Windows Vista came out. You want to innovate "just enough" for the time you're working in.
You need to understand your own company and product before you can go forward. Sometimes it's more useful to stand pat than to innovate (commoditization vs. optimization).
Innovation must be led from the top - without executive buy in, you won't get there. You also need leadership to sponsor a repeatable process.
In the past, Microsoft aligned developer conferences around new operating system releases -- with Windows Server 2008 being the right candidate and the right time, given Microsoft's stated intentions to deliver the software this year.
My reaction: PDC cancellation likely foreshadows a delay in Windows Server 2008 release to manufacturing. Microsoft already delayed "Viridian" virtualization software, which is closely tied to Windows Server 2008. It's hardly a stretch to presume, with PDC's cancellation, something is amiss with Windows Server 2008.
There's no way this can be spun as good news, and I think it's a sign that Windows has just gotten too big for anyone to understand. It's time For MS to do what Apple did with OS X - start over.
Well - I've got power and an internet connection - things are looking up. The before lunch session is with Alyssa Dver (who used to work in product management at Cincom, well before my time here). Alyssa is the author of "Software Product Management Essentials".
Alyssa has 20 years of experience in the Product Management experience, as well as consulting experience in the field. Some objectives for the talk:
- Benchmarks against other PMs
- Insight on best PM practices
- Ideas and metrics in the field
- Other expectations (and how the field has changed)
We are starting off with a question for the audience - "What is a Product Manager?" - the issue is, it's not an easy field to define. The role tends to differ by company and product sector. There is no standard definition. The average PM crosses multiple business and technical boundaries. The Average:
- 36 years old
- 88% claim to be somewhat to very technical
- 91% have college degrees, 39% have a Masters
- 29% are female (down from the past)
The typical Product Manager represents three products. Typically, PMs report through marketing. The stat that's down is how many report to the CEO (now 8% - was as high as 25% as recently as 3 years ago). Typically receives 50 emails per day, sends 25 (this number is down "sales is finding links on their own"). We are attending more internal meetings - as high as 2 days/week (equivalent). What do we do?
- 71% researching market needs
- 51% preparing business case
- 18% perform win/loss analysis (down historically)
- 82% monitoring dev projects
- 80% writing reqs
- 54% writing specs
- 44% writing promotional copy
- 41% approving promotional materials
- 9% working with press/analysts (down)
- 49% training sales or going on sales calls
You need to get in front of relevant press/analyst people and be able to explain what you do to them. If you aren't talking to them, you are letting them form their own conclusions.
PMs do lots of ad-hoc training, manage product road maps, manage alpha/beta programs, perform ongoing competitve analysis. Spend time defending pricing/packaging/licensing. Product Managers also tend to manage the release paper trail (whatever that is - regulatory compliance).
How do you know that you are doing a good job?
- Successful product
- Customer Acquisition
- Customer Retention (need to be careful about how you play this)
- Invited to participate in sales
- Invited to participate in engineering
- Invited to participate in investor, management, board meetings
- Know their products but they know their own limits
- Listen First - ask what they do before you explain what you do
- Ask why, not what
- Decisive - make calls, don't wait forever
- Responsive - get back to people, period
- Communicate frequently, concretely, and concisely
- Manage Passion
Get face to face with sales, customers, engineering, and management. Find out why you aren't being invited to meetings. Benchmark your own processes, and measure progress. Alyssa is also pumping classes and training from a variety of sources.
Technorati Tags: product management
Best Practices in marketing are shifting right now, and a you need to keep up with that in real time. This is a talk from Anne Marie Beasley of Symantec. There's no time to stop "take the temperature" of the market - you need to make that an ongoing process.
- Stay in touch with your customers
- Anticipate/Respond to your competitors
- Align your organization appropriately - know what you're good at
You need to track customer shifts in needs, behaviors, and buying dynamics. Keeping track of their satisfaction and loyalty is crucial. Understand what your brand actually means to people.
Follow on from the morning talk: the Product Managers at Symantec get a daily report on things that come up in the Blogosphere - the report aggregates content from influential blogs in their segment(s). They do the same thing to track competitors. This allows them to do deep analysis of what their customers and competitors think about the market segment and the product(s).
All of this information is useless if you don't get the information out to your field people (sales/tech sales/etc). You need to turn that information around so that the field knows how to address both the positives and the negatives - and how to react to them. You need to be transparent - everyone else will know about the positives and the negatives already.
You also need to aggregate that information up the food chain to the executive team. Give them a single view of what's happening across the company's offerings. As a product manager, you want to be a strategic advisor by providing a real time pulse of competitive information (from customers, prospects, and competitors).
Morning Keynote: Larry Weber of W2 Group is talking about "the social web" and community building. Larry thinks of the current web as "web 4.0":
- Web 1.0: 1989 - 1994 - HTML
- Web 2.0 (1994-1997) - the browser
- Web 3.0: (1997-2001) - early social media
- Web 4.0 (present) - social media
Branding is changing due to the social web - users have control of the message, and the conversation is now running in multiple directions. In terms of community: Go back to the 17th century, New York City had 39 newspapers, and they were the social media of the day. A lot of the conversations you need to track are happening online on new media sites (example: Boing Boing) that are growing in importance.
Good point about getting links and attention - you need gto make your content interesting, and make an effort to be found. There have been a spate of "faux blogs" (he's bringing up "Ford Bold Moves" as an example) that corporate marketing groups have been setting up. If the site isn't authentic, it will cause problems. Larry mentions that he tried posting some feedback on that site, and the feedback was somewhat negative - it got dropped down the memory hole by the site editors. Being inauthentic doesn't help you.
It's not about talking at customers and prospects - it's about the conversation (you could get all of this by spending a few days reading Doc Searl's blog, btw). Larry thinks you're going to see more growth in niche social networks devoted to specific interest groups - and those groups will be partially walled gardens for those groups (this I'm not sure about, but it might run that way).
Interesting things here at the end: Media Relations and Crisis Management - those are going to be moving more and more to a need to react to online buzz storms (there are plenty of business and political examples of this; Larry mentioned a campaign that ran against a specific Wal-Mart policy).
Interesting point: forget demographics. It's all about behavior now, and you can split out that information much more easily now. "Marketing should be more like running a 24x7 TV show" - constantly adapting and changing. You need compelling content and it needs to be updated constantly. When aggregating the information being spread about you, you don't need to track all of it - you need to track the most relevant ones (Google/Technorati reputation).
Engage your communities in conversation, and they'll come to you. Very important - make sure the relevant influencers know who you are. Very important: Don't squelch negative feedback. Accept it as valid feedback and react appropriately to it.
Interesting reaction to a question - Larry thinks that Second Life will fail. The idea of virtualization works for entertainment, but he doesn't think that a general purpose virtual world will work out in the long run (i.e., he thinks you'll see niches).
Larry thinks blogs and podcasts should go aggressively niche - meaning, no "general purpose" corporate blog. He mentions that Jonathan Schwartz disagrees with him on that :)
For the 15th consecutive year, ESUG is organizing its International Smalltalk Conference in Lugano, Switzerland next august. Beside giving talks, submitting your software to the awards, and attending the conference, you can support ESUG action by pushing your companies to sponsor the event. Three packages are available:
- Silver ESUG Sponsor: By paying € 500 per year, the logo of your company/association is displayed during the ESUG conference, and you are also recognized as a sponsor on our ESUG website. You are entitled to mention that you are an ESUG sponsor, and to use the ESUG logo in that context.
- Gold ESUG Sponsor: By paying € 1000 per year, you get all of the above, and ESUG correspondence and distributions (CD, Documentation) will also feature your logo. You also get a 10% fee reduction on the ESUG events for up to 5 people of your organisation.
- Platinum ESUG Sponsor: By Paying € 2000 per year, you get all of the above, but you get a 20% fee reduction on the ESUG events for up to 10 people of your organisation.
Technorati Tags: smalltalk
Last session of the day - a panel discussion on breaking through the noise in the marketplace. The panel:
- Craig Fairfield - VP Of Marketing for QlikTech (BI)
- Michael Salerno - In the CRM group at Oracle. Also associated with the BPMA (Boston Product Management Association)
- Paul Zengilowski - Director of Product Marketing at DataCert.
- Paul Gannon - Senior Director of Corporate Marketing for TMA Resources
Paul Gannon: his firm is business to business, but they've found some success acting like business to consumer. This has been something of a tough fit culturally at the firm. What does that mean? They've started doing more "fun" stuff (example: jugglers in a trade booth) to get attention.
Paul Zengilowski: they realized that they weren't big enough to play the same game as everyone else. They settled on two sales channels: direct sales and their existing customers (who were driving perceptions of the company). They focused on "Thought Leadership" as a way of driving authority. They did that by creating a client advisory board (made up of clients and partners who they do business with). They got a lot of traction out of setting up these directed events. They are now starting to see their clients and prospects calling them to get meetings set up in their locales. They aren't using blogging/podcasting.
Michael Salerno: There is a lot of noise that you need to cut through in order to differentiate yourself. A few things to develop:
- What is your message? What problem do you solve?
- Once you know what your value is, identify who your audience is/should be
- Execute with conviction. make sure that the content you deliver has real value - do more than "phone it in"
Craig Fairfield: Two things: What are you going to say, and how are you going to say it? Be truthful - don't try to push BS. If your business isn't at the C* level execs, don't craft your message as if you do. Likewise, if you do sell there, make sure you do craft it that way. Put more simply, keep it real. Don't change marketing strategies quickly: Stick with something consistently for a period of time (at least 6 months). One other thing: this is the software industry: demos are king. Craig is amazed at how many people he runs across who cannot do a useful demo of what problem their product solves. How do you get that message across? Try to get other people pushing your message - customers especially. A poorly articulated message from a customer beats a great message from the CEO. No one believes your CEO.
"Go big or go home" - if there are 10 trade shows in your sector, find the most relevant one and make a big splash, instead of going to all 10 and going small. Along those lines, less is more. Talk to one analyst instead of trying to talk to 20 of them.
In an answer to an audience question, demos should be quick and to the point - they need to convey the key pain point that the product solves quickly. If your demo drives a prospect into a feature comparison conversation, you created the wrong demo. You should get into the product within 5 minutes, and out of the demo quickly as well. Don't waste a lot of the precious time with the prospect/customer in powerpoint.
It's after lunch, and time for David Meerman Scott's PR and marketing talk. The old rules - you had two choices:
- The media wrote about you
- You bought advertising
The new rules: You are what you publish. Marketing and PR are not about your products. The way to do web marketing is to publish content that your buyers/prospects want to consume. It's about participating in the community and being found by search engines.
David is a big fan of "The Long Tail" [ed: might be interesting to hear David talk to Nick Carr :) ]. I tend to agree with David on this one - the long tail simply means that niche products can get aggregated enough to create a serviceable market.
You want to optimize your site for buyer personas - move people into and though the sales cycle. And example: an electronics vendor with two buyer personas: "uber geeks" who know the products already, and know exactly what features they want, and "clueless" buyers who know they want an HD tv, but not much more. You need different paths for these two personas.
Bottom line: Create marketing for your buyers. Most of the marketing literature out there is dreck, targeting no one. You can spot these via terms like "next generation".
Blogging for business works if your buyer persona reads blogs. david is showing us a sampling of business blogs he likes and reads. The idea here is pretty simple - you enable conversation between customers, you, analysts (etc). Heh - he's showing us a YouTube video put out by IBM - it's hilarious, because it pokes fun at IBM.
Online Press Releases: A good way to reach buyers. The evolution:
- Printed Media
- TV and Radio
- Financial Media (Dow Jones, Reuters, Bloomberg) over the wire (40 years ago)
- Lexis/Nexis, Factiva (etc) (25 years ago)
- Consumer outlets after 1995 (web)
- Feeds (2001 + RSS)
The news release is no longer for the media only - they are for the interested public. The old rules said that you had to have "real news" (analyst quote, customer quote, release, etc). They are now useful for getting information out via keywords to any interested party. And Example: keyword search for "accelerate sales cycle" - top hit brought back WebEx news releases. Following those links gets you to free trial offers, which takes you into the sales cycle.
The new rules: Send a press release whenever you have anything to associate with keywords you want to have linking back to you.
Viral Marketing: Publishing fantastic content and getting people to link to you. Even when you get negative reviews (Rubel panned david's ebook), you get lots of conversation and interest. That all led to a book deal, paid speaking gigs, consulting deals (via the 250k downloads). The investment: $2500.
Search Engine Marketing: does not rely on interruptions (ads) to get attention - it's the only form of marketing that does not rely on that. Interesting: He uses his full name (David Meerman Scott) instead of David Scott so that he comes up first for his name searches. When you want to "own" a space make sure to do Google searches.
Advice: Act the part of one of your buyer personas and visit your website. Do some Google searches for your company/product name. See what comes up, and where you are succeeding/failing. Some more advice for marketing people: get out of the office and meet the customers. Find out what language they use, and create your content based on those experiences.
Hey - since I got a mention in his book, I've got an autographed copy now. Neat.
First message from Stacey Mentzel: There is no silver bullet to moving from sales driven or engineering driven to being market driven. This is very much a "how we did it" talk, with some tips on what might work elsewhere.
She's now at Business Objects, came out of an engineering driven firm that was acquired. Interesting point - that company did well until around the $25M mark, at which point the ad-hoc, engineering driven methodology failed. They got a new team of executives and became very sales driven - and brought in actual product management. That new product management became something of a lightning rod, as engineering had never really had to someone else's bidding before.
- "Squeaky Wheel" syndrome
- Missing Roadmap
- Frequently changing reqs based on sales input
- Sluggish revenue, especially new sales
- Discontented development teams
- Abundant overtime for PM
- PM not respected (just give sales what they want)
- Revenue Increased
- Start time for projects decreased
- Easier to get support (sales, execs, development)
- Increased job satisfaction and recognition
PM started out knowing there were problems. They started out with a requirements template, and then discovered that they didn't even know why they were creating requirements. They had something of an epiphany reading "The Inmates are Running the Asylum" (Alan Cooper). The base idea they took away was that more input had to come from outside development and sales. They also decided on another simple pre-release requirement: A "Marketing Bulletin" that explained what problems the software was solving, and who the target audience was (a value proposition).
From these ideas they got funding for some education (they talked to Pragmatic Marketing). The education gave them a lever with which to try and effect change. An internal reorganization and offsite meeting gave them the opportunity to do what they wanted to do - identify their problems and start moving to a better process. One result: increased sales in a "mature market".
One fairly large lesson: Executive support only came later. Sounds to me very much like a "forgiveness rather than permission" type of model.
Another lesson: They only acquired tools to automate processes late in the game, once the process they had settled on was well understood. That helped make tool adoption successful, because the process was already accepted. Along the way - don't BS your team. Maintain honest and open communications.
Here I am at the SMP conference in Boston - taking notes at Laureen Knudson's talk on agile and product management. Kind of interesting - something like 75% of the audience knows nothing about agile - so she's going to introduce Scrum, XP, and the Agile Manifesto. I think most of my readers are familiar with that, so I'll skip lightly over that part of the talk.
Two of the more important principles from my perspective:
- Working Software is the primary measure of progress
- The art of maximizing work not done is essential
- Time boxing the iterations/sprints and not allowing those to change
What's the role of Product Management here - to accurately represent the customer - this involves prioritizing requirements based on market requirements and getting that information to the development staff. Mostly, PM is the voice of the customer.
Agile is not a lack of planning - it's adaptive planning that accounts for ongoing changes.
Product Design - we focus on just in time design - and the PM is the customer advocate. It's the developer's job to create the requirement stories and iterate to completion. PM defines the acceptance criteria and defines "done". At the end of each iteration/sprint, PM needs to get involved in what came out - and either accept or punt back the tasks that development believes are done.
Good question from the audience: How do distributed (geographically) teams do this stuff? Face to face meetings at project start if feasible, otherwise a webcast. "Scrum of Scrums" meetings to link various teams.
Why do hotels do this sort of thing? There's WiFi here at the Marriott, but they charge $75/day for it (on the assumption that the conference will pay for it and hand access out). The end result: no one pays for it, and you end up unconnected all day. Sigh...