Capture all your 2010 Memories with Memolane

I've this fascination with life streaming, we constantly capture moments in time with pictures, status updates, check-ins, etc. but do actually very little with all the information. It's longevity is pretty short, while it contains a lot of memories and history that defined us over time.

I wrote about life streaming before, tried several services and I'm even experimenting with my lifestream build on the Google AppEngine. However none of the services are perfect, many are very slow, don't go back in time far enough and several even have stopped their operation.

Now Memolane (in beta) is doing another attempt and I'm impressed with the first attempt. It has some good things going for it:

  • Uses an easy way to add services. Not a very extensive list yet, but a good start
  • It's just beautiful, it looks great and has very nice way of navigating true time
  • It's fast and I hope they can keep scaling when the go live and usages increases
  • It doesn't use Flash so it works on your iPad too
This is it for 2010, check out my Memolane and leave your feedback in the comments below.

A healthy and prosperous 2010!

My 2010 in Review

Fireworks 042010 has for me been a pretty exciting year in many ways. Based on my favorite activities and things I'll go over the year and look at the effects it had on my personal life.

Travel


I enjoy to travel, going places and enjoy new things and tastes. 2010 has been a good year on this. In the first half of the year business travel was up a bit from 2009 and included Seattle, Cluj in Romania, Kuala Lumpur, Denver and Washington. I'm happy was able to combine some with them with some free time too. Personal travel followed the usual pattern, some short weekend trips, a winter snowboarding trip, a longer summer/fall vacation and family visits in Finland. Some of the new places I visited were Victoria Island in Canada, Washington DC and Japan while other places that got revisited are Seattle, Venice in Italy, Brussels in Belgium and M√ľnster in Germany.

Gadgets


I always claim I don't have many, but others seem to see this slightly differently. This year felt a bit slow on the gadgets and only included:
  • iPad, a great device that really changed the way I consume information and has highly impacted my computing habits. Instead of breakfast with a laptop I now use the iPad and while watching some occasional television the iPad is always on my side for some news snacking on the side.
  • iPhone 4, just an update from my 3G (I skipped the 3GS) and this was necessary. The evolution of mobile goes currently so fast that two years with one phone (and thus a 2 year contract with a telecoms provider) is too long. I love the phone, it looks and feels great.
  • IXUS 130 to replace a really old IXUS 400. I'm amazed how much technology fits in such a small device, especially cos it contains moving precision mechanical parts. It's beautifully engineered, has numerous different settings for taking pictures and even worked at -30 (see the slideshow below).

  • Magic Trackpad for my iMac. I've always been a touch pad fan and never used an additional mouse with any of my laptops. The Magic Trackpad was something I always dreamed of and it doesn't disappoint. The Magic Mouse has been untouched ever since. 
Work

A year of significant change. The move to a new modern building was a real nice experience. It showed how a new environment can really influence how people work together, motivates and changes the overall atmosphere. It was also a year where I build a User Experience team and facilitated a shift toward user centric design. However it was also a year with many management changes and some of my close buddies leaving. It had become a good moment to start and explore some new opportunities. I'm currently reinventing myself to define what I like doing the most. I will soon publish some more on this.

Private

Obviously many of these changes are having an effect my personal life too. Especially the professional change is having a big impact, although out of work, I'm much more relaxed than I've ever been. This brings more peace and relaxation at home and increases my quality of life. I of course do realize this is a temporary situation and during 2011 have to get my professional life back on track. For now however it's a great learning experience and gives me time to look forward to and exciting 2010.

How was your 2010?

Image: sunsurfr

A Picture Says More Than a 1000 Words

Don't we all love the fears debates on iOS versus Android, the changes of Windows Phone 7 to have an impact or the slow death of RIM and Nokia. Well all these discussions are not really important! The market is big enough to have multiple winners.

Isn't this the same as Ford versus GM or who build better cars BMW or Mercedes? In the end the market is big enough to allow a hand full of companies to make money. In the car industry there are no bad cars anymore, they are all good and only differentiate from each other based on emotion attached to the brand

The smart phone industry will become the same as the car industry, all phones are good and will continuously increase features, pixel, GHz, memory, etc. and reduces size and price. Every newer model will have improved specifications and might temporary have the best feature set. The brand emotion however is much more precious and doesn't change that quickly, but does in the end make the biggest impact. When MG Siegler writes in his An iPhone Lover’s Take On Windows Phone about Android as a poor-mans iPhone that says enough about the brand!

The brands will develop to attach more emotional value to their brands and target specific users. It will probably go as far as having specific phones for specific occasions. It will be come like wearings specific clothes for sports, works or a formal dinner. We might even get dress up phones. The whole notion of features and technology specifications will slowly loose it's importance.

It's all going to be about the emotion and feelings during and after using the device. The chart below says it all.

How a simple change makes the difference

I spend the holidays with relatives in Finland. Usually we fly with KLM from Amsterdam to Helsinki and drive the rest of the trip (a 6 hour drive). This time for a change we choose to spend a bit more on flying with Finnair and drive less. This turned out to be a wise choice, because the snow and weather conditions weren't very favorable for driving.

When boarding at Amsterdam I told my girlfriend: You know why I don't like flying these Airbusses (Finnair uses Airbusses)? Of course she had no idea, it's because you can't see the row numbers when walking down the aisle. On various trips I noticed that the row numbers in an Airbus are placed below the overhead storage, while Boeing places them on the side. I'm not terribly tall but the Airbus solution must have been designed by either a very short person or form was clearly chosen over function. In the picture below you can see what I mean.



Unfortunately in this situation the row number is only visible for either very short people or when you constantly bend over. I really believed this was a design error and made the first experience with the plane an unpleasant one.

This time however I noticed a difference. Finnair or Airbus had improved the situation and I could board the plane walking up straight and still see the row numbers. In addition to the nicely designed row numbers below the overhead storage an additional number was placed on the side, very easily visible when walking the aisle.


The solution was simple and effective and didn't even need a redesign of the complete interior of the plane, because it was just a simple snap-on additional row number.



A small change that made the overall boarding experience a lot nicer.

Do you know small changes with big improved experiences?

IT in a Social Business

SilosThis week two articles caught my eye:
I read them with interest, because I've a high interest in a social business and I've always struggled with the role of IT. A while back when I regularly did presentations to evangelize social computing in a business environment I always used the phrase: Doing business is essentially another form of social interaction.

I used this sentence to summarize the importance and need for a social component in business processes. In a social business the back office processes are fully integrated with social, technology supported,  processes. Unfortunately today reality is often different with many islands of automation and technology managed by various owners. IT often managed on costs and is not really seen as a strategic driver of the business, while the social activities are driven from marketing and poorly integrated with the back office processes. Thus creating silos in an organization, the presentation below (here if it isn't visible) gives a nice overview.


For a business driving solely on e-commerce (e.g. amazon.com) IT, most of the time, has a much more strategic role. It's one of the cornerstones of the business, what is understandable, because without IT there would be no revenue driver. This is also the reason why these businesses are front runners in deploying new technology and are able to recrute the best people. Allmost everyone in IT wants to work for the most advanced and progressive companies. A social business, or even any business, can learn from the strategic position of IT.

For a social business the first step is to make IT a strategic discipline driven on results instead of costs. This will be a challenge for todays IT managers, because they need to create proper business plans, complete with return on investments, to sell their investment proposals. It requires the IT manages to tightly align with the operational units and form a bridge between any of the existing silos. IT and the operational units need to work together to jointly enable social interaction highly integrated with the internal back office processes. The most likely requires a technical foundation owned by IT that can be used by all operational units to build their social interaction with all stakeholders. This all requires IT to become more agile, market focussed and have goals to drive the business based on customer satisfaction and sales targets. IT needs to learn from e-commerce organizations and adapt their role into the new world.

Image: Colin Harris

Happy Holidays

It's the end of the year with an exceptional amount of snow. Traffic in all means is disrupted and people have troubles getting to work, friends and family. However the Holidays are coming and here is a short message for all of you.



If you can't see the video, go here for the full article.

I'm living the Apple and Google Lifestyle

SimplicityInspired by Mark Cuban's Am I Living the Google Lifestyle? I realized that Apple and Google are driving my personal IT needs.

Apple

I've high demands on the aesthetics of the hardware I'm using, it needs to stimulate all my senses, be a joy for the eye and inviting to touch. Apple delivers with the iPhone, iPad, Macbook Air and an 27" iMac the perfect set of devices for many different situations. They are beautiful, sexy and not unimportant they just work.
  • The iPhone is by far the most sexy phone on the market, unlike all the other black plastic boxes it just sticks out in the crowd. 
  • The iPad delivers unbeatable battery life and fills the 'I'm waiting three minutes for the bus' productivity gap. 
  • The Macbook Air is slick, fits in a fashionable bag and offers sufficient power for the form factor. 
  • The iMac fits my office, has the best screen I've ever seen and combined with the magic track pad it's awesome to use.
Google

I've also high demands on convenience and services need to be focused on me, the user. Convenience in my vision is delivered through the cloud, I don't want to manage, control and maintain anything. Google delivers this level of convenience with a broad set of software services, all accessible based on a single account.
  • My personal domain aadjemonkeyrock.com is powered by Google Apps, providing me with email, calendar and documents. It's easily accessible, even on a public computer while traveling, hassle free and I don't need to worry about backups etc. For a chaotic person like me, the incredible search capabilities are essential, it's the only way I can find stuff from the past. I use this for all my personal productivity and with my plans to start some independent freelance work it becomes even more important.
  • This blog is powered by Blogger, the feeds with Feedburner and the analytics with Google analytics. I earlier wrote about simplicity versus complexity or Blogger versus Wordpress, but the key advantage of Blogger is the convenience provided by the tight integration with other the services and Google account integration.
  • Google reader is still my home base for consuming news and sharing information. News consumption has been enriched with various micro blogging services, but the core of consumption is still in the time shifted nature of feeds. Especially when living in Europe and consuming a lot of US based news the real-time nature of micro blogging is not always the most convenient way to consume news.
  • Google AppEngine powers some of my hobby projects like my life stream aggregator and is currently also being considered for a start-up project I'm working on. Google AppEngine is simple, convenient and still very powerful. There are no entrance barriers and it has almost unlimited scaling possibilities.
  • Picasa and YouTube play a role in sharing family and vacation pictures, although my favorite travel blogging service has become OntheRoad.to
  • Google Chrome is also the default browser that powers my Macs. It's again about simplicity,  convenience and power. The sync feature is simple, but adds and enormous about of convenience when using multiple devices for your daily work. 
How about Microsoft?

I still have a Microsoft Media Center, as a result of a hobby project. I love the concept, it works reasonable but is far too complex. It's a computer and not a living room device. I'm afraid Google is also missing the boat here, due to too much complexity and Apple doesn't want to ship to Europe (As usual with new product and I absolutely hate this). I haven't decided yet how to move this forward, for now I keep it running on an older version of Windows.

I like Windows Phone 7 and Windows 7, however with my strong preference for really nice and sexy hardware I haven't found a pretty device yet. Besides Windows 7 really need to fix their sleep resume problems. It needs to work 100% of the time, not 98% because that is still booting once a day! 

Further Microsoft's strength lays in Enterprise solutions and I'm an individual consumer with simplicity and convenience being a lot more important than sophistication and maximizing productivity. For organizations Microsoft delivers excellent solutions and I'm confident they will also help organizations moving their business towards the cloud.

Btw, I do also have a PlayStation 3, but maybe an XBox 360 would have been more appropriate, especially when thinking about my media center. Maybe one of these days...

What else am I using to make my life complete? 

I'm of course also on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and Foursquare. You can read in 'My different social networks' how I use them. I'm also constantly on a search for the perfect online presentation solution, the current favorite being Prezi.

I'm curious how you have organized your personal IT.

Image credit: Thorsten Becker

Bring the Fun Back in Business Software

Big Kid FunThe world of business software is going through an interesting time. A lot is changing, cloud computing, SaaS, whatever, it's all on the product road map agenda of every business software vendor. These changes bring both technology and business model challenges. The world is changing and there is no way back, it's only forward from now on.

One of the challenges for a traditional software vendor to a provider of software services is the increase of operational cost for providing a service to customers. In the past some software got sold and you got your revenue without having to thing about the costs for running your product, the customer would take care of that. Now you need to deliver an ongoing service and thus continue to make costs and it's in your interest to bring these down. There are many ways of doing this and one of them is to share the costs among many customers by driving up the volume of usage of your service. Creating volume and increasing the adoption of you services isn't easy and many software service providers look with a jealous eye to the hip web sweethearts like Facebook, Foursquare and even Evernote for gaining customers by the millions. How do they do it?

Well I can't tell you that, I wish, but I've, based on experience and study, some tips that can put you on the right track.

1. Remove all entrance barriers and complexity
  1. When you ask for too many personal details, forget it!
  2. When takes 15 minutes to set up, forget it!
  3. Provide instant value (Posterous let you start with skipping the whole sign-up process).
  4. It's a lot better to do one thing right than many things a little. This might be a bit of a contraction with the current, because a key feature of most business software is the advanced and compelling functionality. The web, however is changing how we consume functionality, it's now a lot easier to mix and match services into your preferred flavor. It's not really necessary anymore to consume all services from one vendor and settle for a Jack of all trades, master of none!
2. Add a social flavor
  1. It's hip, modern and a topic of conversation. It makes your customers also hip, modern and part of the In Crowd.
  2. You business will need it, because it's a good way to get closer to your customers.
  3. Close customer relations bring you more valuable referrals. Business models based on a pay as you go (either transactions or subscription) see relative high costs of customer acquisition. Referrals are an alternative for customer acquisition and thus should be nurtured.
3. Make the apps fun to use
  1. Make them human. Years ago I was talking to a voice response system. I worked well and got me all excited, because the machine on the other end was using a broad vocabulary. Instead of always answering Yes/No it would use terms like Yep, Ok, Got Ya, etc. It made the system more human and more fun to use. 
  2. Set goals and visualize achievements. Everybody in a business has goals, some are defined by the employer and some are defined by yourself. You wanna do well and you are interested in tracking your progress. However I haven't see many solutions that really entertain me with my progress and achievements. 
  3. Introduce competitive elements, you against the machine or you against someone else.
  4. Reward usage. It's not uncommon to motivate people with a reward, e.g. the employee of the month. Badges, as we see them everywhere now are a good example. Lets do badges for: working on a weekend, working 3 nights in a row, An early start, etc.
Fun is the key motivator for all of us. The world is changing and is giving you a new window of opportunity to shake down the dust and be young again, also worth reading on this:
Image: Steve Rotman

Is WikiLeaks a boost for the Cloud?

Am I an angry cloud or a happy cloud?I've always been a great believer of the cloud, central information storage and protection. I've uses as much as possible into the cloud and did that already years ago. As a result of the WikiLeaks debate I suddenly see a lot of stories on banning physical storage devices, just today I noticed:
These stories remind me on a conversation I was having a few years back. It was in a meeting of a confidential nature, complete with NDA's and other security measures. However powerpoint presentations where moved between computers on thumb drives, because it was a confidential matter and email could not be trusted. I was challenging the parties involved by asking why the presentations couldn't be stored securely in the cloud. The feedback was of the nature: 'how can you even consider doing such a thing?' I continued the debate with a simple risk analysis: What is the risk someone forgets one of the thumb drives in this room and exposes the confidential documents to the next users of this meeting room versus the risk of my secure cloud storage being hacked. We couldn't continue the debate, we had more important and very confidential stuff to deal with. 

I evangelized the cloud back then and I still do it today. The discussion fueled by WikiLeaks is helping to question the security of documents on physical carriers. WikiLeaks might even help the adoption of the cloud.

What is your idea on cloud storage versus local physical storage?


Image: Kevin Dooley

Strategic User Experience for Software

When I still had a day job I spend a lot of time evangelizing and implementing strategic User Experience in a software company your can read more about it in User Experience - The Series. I'm currently taking a break from a day job to explore some other opportunities and I've been receiving expertise requests on User Experience. So I just took my favorite presentation tool Prezi and created a short pitch presentation, you can see it below. If the presentation does show up, you can go here to the full post.



What else would you like to know?

Shifting priorities in Software Architecture

changed prioritiesIn the last few weeks I've had a few discussions and meetings to explore new opportunities. Several of them were related to software products and services. It made me also realize how in recent years the priorities in software architecture have shifted.

Years ago when you had a good idea, probably technology driven (not that this is really relevant), you created a great value proposition. The value proposition would define the functionality and feature set of your product. Once this was clear you as quickly as possible build and application to expose the functionality to your customers and users. The application in many situations was very technology driven and for the user interface, at best, the Microsoft Windows guidelines would be followed to create some consistency. You start to generate some income, collect user feedback and the application evolves. It gets a bit more complex and new requirements for usability and integration are slowly emerging. You address the usability with primarily an adjusted graphic design and small adjustments, because the architecture is a bottleneck for safely making larger changes. The integration is covered by adding a extra layer, we would call it an SDK in these days. The product is successful and you need to think about cloud and web adoption.

Today the starting point for a web/cloud based product or service is still a great value proposition defining the functionality. However a key change from the early days is that a product or service can only be successful with a very targeted and specific user experience for the different users in your target audience. The web and consumerization of IT have raised the user expectations and they are changing and becoming higher and higher quicker than the functional changes. You are challenged to constantly deliver updated and improved experiences to fulfill the expectations of your customers and users. You need to incorporate these new requirements for adaptability into your architecture. You solve this by isolating the functionality and provide and API to this functionality. On top of the API you can now build excellent experiences for very specific users and easily integrate your product or service with others. An easily accessible API, preferably build on open standards, allows you to become much more agile towards your user experiences and quickly scale the number of specific experiences.

This has completely changed the priorities you need to give to your software architecture.


It brings also new challenges, especially for existing applications. How are your dealing with these?

Image: Barbara Agnew

Are we Abandoning Social Computing?

Farmers' MarketThe last two years have all been about social media, social computing and social networking. It has been the holy grail of innovation and media attention. I've participated myself a bit as well, with for instance: business software a must.

Recently however I hear and feel a new under tone, it's more and more about quality of conversation instead of just being there. This was also for me a reason to adapt how I use social media and the likes. Briefly after I published 'My different (social) networks', just before National Unfriend Day, I read how Louis Gray, a prominent blogger, adjusted his social computing usage and yesterday I even run into: Creative Destruction: Why Facebook and Twitter May be Doomed.

What is happening here? Social computing has become mature and the novelty is gone. People review how they participated and re-evaluated the value they got out of it. In the beginning the novelty encourages you to be part of it, you don't want to be left out and just follow the crowd. Now social computing and social media has gone main stream you don't stand out in participation anymore and can choose your own path moving around. You can set you own standards for participation and involvement. This is good, although it gives people a little less  to write about, but we will be able to get more value out of it.

Join the conversation and tell how you are participating.

Image:  Natalie Maynor

Tips for Mr Steve Ballmer at Microsoft

Mr. Steve Ballmer,

For the last 12 and something years I worked for one your ISV partners. I recently quit to explore some other opportunities, but for now I'm sharing some of my knowledge and experience with anyone who is willing to listen. It's a pity we never had the opportunity to meet, because I would have loved to challenge you a bit. However I understand you are a busy person and of course have to make choices. Instead I will just write down some advise for you to take into consideration.

The years working with Microsoft have been very interesting, educational and mostly fun. An highlight was probably the creation of a Windows 7 recommendation movie. However I've also, at times, been very skeptical towards Microsoft, but in 2010 I've seen change in Microsoft and you do deserve a compliment for this. Let me explain:
  1. In the beginning of the year you introduced Windows Phone 7 and just before the introduction I was impressed by the under NDA presentation by Charlie Kindle. It was for the very first time I heard Microsoft speaking about a central role of the actual user and not about technology. Wow, it seemed that Microsoft is really going to embed and change toward user centric design methods. It was also the moment I gave you a very fair chance to fight back in the Mobile war. However by now you have delivered the first generation of a fine operating system, but that is not enough. Nobody buys a phone based on the operating system, but based on the sexy hardware. Here comes one of my tips: Go and talk to your hardware vendors and tell them to stop talking about the technical specifications and get creative. Tell them to hire some Italian designers and experiment with new materials such as stainless steal, titanium, magnesium, carbon, leather, Swarovski crystals... anything that makes a sexy and desirable phone, because right now all we are getting are ugly, thirteen in a dozen, black plastic boxes. 
  2. You finally embraced the web and the HTML 5 standard. The work you are doing with Internet Explorer 9 is a good start. I notice enthusiasm in the developer scene and it will help you win back some market share. However it's not all about the browser, it's about sexy and innovative web applications. You could get a lot more out of your web properties as live.com if you open up and adopt open interoperability standards. 
  3. Office 365, the most exciting announcement of 2010. For years I was already asking myself when Microsoft was going to put productivity in the cloud, and I mean really in the cloud, zero install, zero hassles and always up to date. BPOS was an understandable first step, but still very dependent on the Office client install, pretty complex and not yet hassle free. With Office 365 I believe you finally understand it's all about maximum convenience. However I also have concerns when you talk about the needs of a small business. The 10+ years I worked with Microsoft I learned you are predominantly enterprise focused and do not really understand small businesses. You continue to talk about increased productivity, depth of services, enterprise class software. Well a small business doesn't want enterprise class software because it's a synonym for complex and expensive, instead they want convenience over sophistication. Just a few tips:
    1. A small business prefers collaboration between companies over collaboration between people. Single sign-on is key for convenience and thus federated identity with business partners is crucial for success.
    2. People want to share a document, not store a document in a place where others have access.
    3. Coauthoring, nice in the enterprise, not relevant in a small business, except when you can author with people from another company. 
    4. My many years experience with small businesses have taught me that a 'one size fits all' doesn't really work. I suggest to really differentiate, including the messaging.
Of course you did a lot more in 2010, but that was just more of the same and business as usual. I complement you again with the fresh and changed Microsoft I've seen in 2010. However I also think you can still do a lot better. You just need to bring in some fresh new master minds into Microsoft.

Best regards
-Aad

New Opportunity: Location Based Business Apps

Community-designed geotag iconIn the past 2 years, as a result of an abundance of GPS equipped mobile devices, there has been an enormous development of location based social applications. Foursquare, Gowalla, Facebook Places, etc all exist because location has become the new context for our social behavior. This additional location context has create new social, search and commercial opportunities.

I'm wondering why I haven't seen business and productivity applications embrace of the new location context. In applications like of instance note taking, CRM systems, hour registration, etc. there are huge opportunities to provide additional convenience to the user by using the additional information. Some examples I've recently been thinking about:
  1. Notes. Imagine you are at a customers site and take notes. It's very likely the customer is in your address book, so why not use your current location to preselect or filter the most likely account and link it to the note. This rich context is cumbersome to enter manually, but now it becomes super easy and convenient. 
  2. CRM. Take an automatically geo tagged photo of a business card and email/upload to a CRM system that based on the geo tag automatically links the image to the nearest account. It's convenient, you don't loose it and the real information can be processed later, even by someone else.
  3. Hour entry. You are a consultant that travels between customers and jobs. While moving around you check-in/out at every location. The combination of the start/end time and the location give you insight of the hours spend at an off-side location and the distances traveled. It's even a solid basis for an invoice proposal without having to enter any real data.
Share your ideas on location opportunities in business and/or productivity applications or let me know about applications that already embraced location.

Apple iOS 4.2 - Nobody Cares

Yesterday Apple released iOS 4.2 to unify the software versions on the iPhone, iPod and iPad. It gave the tech scene something to write about and numerous articles with exaggerating the importance, lots of new stuff, how to guides, etc. have been written. My RSS reader was in overload.

Nice for the tech scene, gives them something to do, but no average user cares about this at all. I will give you some reasons why:

  1. After the update you have no idea you got something new. There is just no difference with anything you had before!
  2. Multitasking, most people don't even know what it is. They just got used to the powerful simplicity of iOS. Press the 'home' button, select an application, do some work and go back 'Home' and repeat the process. Really who do you think will ever figure out you can now double click 'Home' and do some swiping to get to a previously used application.
  3. AirPrint, First nobody has a suitable printer and second 99% of the people use their iPhones and iPads to surf a bit on the web and do some gaming. It's for consumption and entertainment not for output. 
  4. AirPlay, Who has an Apple TV, it's not even available in most parts of the world! Even if you have one, just consider the following: When are you in you living room using your iPhone/iPad to watch some movies, Yes.. when the rest of the family is watching a boring sitcom. They will really appreciate if you interrupt their favorite sitcom with the latest lol cats you found on YouTube
  5. Folders, again something too complex. There is for the average user (not the tech geek that reads all the How to guides) no visual clue that you can create a folder with dragging (how to get into dragging mode anyway) can create a folder. 
  6. Game Center, probably the best feature of them all. However again only for a selected target audience.
  7. Unified Inbox, go and explain to your mom that she can now have multiple email accounts and still get them into one list. For most average people this is just too confusing. The reason for multiple email accounts is to have the separate.
Anyway, for most Apple fanboys, including me, iOS 4.2 brings welcome new functionality. However the iPhone and iPad go beyond the traditional Apple fanboys and are appealing to a larger audience that really doesn't care about iOS 4.2

How I can help you.

Most of the regular readers have learned that I've quite my job to explore other opportunities. Right now, besides some chilling, I'm working on a bit of exposure and do some networking. More often than not a request for a CV comes forward. A CV, to me, feels too much as 'back to the 80's' and you asking for one doesn't really excite me. I've reasonable online exposure, I'm accessible and usually answer direct questions.

However I'm also a realist and understand that old habits don't die very quickly so I came with a compromise. I've made a little presentation to tell 'how I can help you'. If the Prezi doesn't show below you can also find it here.



And for those that favor linear PowerPoint presentation. If it doesn't appear below, you can find it here.





Which one do you prefer, Prezi or PowerPoint?

Open Letter to Mr Stephen Elop at Nokia

Mr. Stephen Elop,

In 1996 I bought my first mobile phone, a Nokia. It was selected because of the sturdy build, the excellent battery life, great call quality and ease of use. For the next 11 years I regularly bought a new phone. They were all, except for a mistake with a Motorola, Nokia phones, because they were great, easy to use and fashionable phones. This unfortunately all changed with the introduction of the iPhone in 2007. A newcomer, years ahead of the competition had arrived and the existing players had to play catch-up.

Nokia until today has not been able to catch-up. I've tried to stay loyal, but the gap is too large. I regret this and hope Nokia manages to survive and hopefully even better excels. You are new at Nokia, have an excellent track record and already showed initiative and commitment to Symbian. I like that and I've confidence you will listen to customer like me.

I will give you some tips and if you continue reading I even have a proposal for help.
  1. You former boss will probably try to convince you to adopt Windows Phone 7. It's tempting, but don't do it, you will loose the Nokia identity.
  2. Many others will tell you to adopt Android, but the same applies here. 
  3. It's not about Symbian, Maemo, MeeGo, it's about excellent user experiences.
  4. Excellent user experiences are defined by the details and not the technology. It requires focus on the user, something many engineering teams are lacking.
  5. Nokia builds the best and most detailed engineered hardware, with only half of the focus on hardware details would go into the software platform it would rock.  
I'm pretty sure you all thought about this and ask yourself the question: How? 

I happen to have some spare time and I'm available to help you. I've experience in refocussing engineering teams towards deliverables, details and an end user focus. Here are some options for you:
  1. You dare to take a risk: Send me a decent offer including some accommodation and a car and I'm your man!
  2. You are skeptical but interested: Give me three months accommodation, a car and a flight ticket and I come for Free!
  3. You are curious: contact me to have a discussion brainstorm on the topic
  4. You are polite: give me an personal answer and some pointers for trying
  5. You know it all better: Just ignore anything I said
... and as a bonus, I do speak some finnish too...

Best regards
-Aad

User Experience - Bonus Material

I hope you enjoyed the series of User Experience documents. Just for additional inspiration a few presentations on the subject for you to watch.

Enjoy!










My Different (Social) Networks

Circle of friends
Image: Roger Price
Like so many people I participate in various (social) networks, publish, share and republish information. I've been doing this in a very liberal way, I connected to many people, I republished everywhere and now as a result it has all become too confusing. In the various social networks I'm connected to roughly the same group of people, everybody is republishing everything everywhere and all I'm doing is reading the same information many times.

I'm putting an end to this and I've defined a clear set of guidelines for my 'circles of friends' in the various networks. The circles start from larger, more public to smaller and more private.
  1. My public life stream, a clear list of all my public activities available for everyone, but without any interaction. Feel free to visit when you feel like it.
  2. This blog with mainly professionally focused articles. Comments are unmoderated and open for everyone. You can easily subscribe to the feed!
  3. My Twitter, I publish a mix of private and professional content. At times you might find it too much. Nothing stops you to follow me and if you have something to say and not sell I might follow you back.
  4. Digg, I'm one of the rare people that actually likes Digg and feel free to connect to me and 'Digg' some of my submissions.
  5. LinkedIn for my professional connections. If we have worked together in any form or shape, or if we just vaguely know each other and I remember you we can connect. The true value are recommendations I will make them for my special business contacts, but never when we are currently doing business. Feel free to connect and it's highly appreciated if you make a recommendation for me. No Twitter content will be republished in my LinkedIn stream (and I recommend everybody to do so), but my blog entries (limited number) will be imported.
  6. Facebook for my personal connections. A personal connection is more than someone I just happen to know, this means having worked in the same organization of just have attended the same conference or never really personally met is not going to make you a personal connection. I must really feel a connection with you and is something that changes over time. Status update will not fed from external services (e.g. Twitter), except for my blog entries will be imported as notes, because my personal connections have shown their interest in my posts.
  7. Foursquare, Gowalla and other location social interaction focused networks for real close personal connections. It's a subset of the Facebook connection and we must at least have participated in some real social activities. If I've never had a beer with you, you are probably not part of this circle.

On all other platforms don't expect any participation, activity or reactions. I'm probably going to abandon them anyway. This new set of guidelines will also have an impact on the connections I'm having in the more personally focused networks. Don't feel offended when I 'de-friend' you, It's not you, it's just reality I need to make choices. After the weekend everything will be different!

Please let me know if you have better suggestions on dealing with the confusion and duplication of information. React in the comments below.

User Experience - The Series

bibliografia user experience design
Image: Stefano Bussolon
During the last few months I've shared my experiences on implementing User Experience design into a product development process. It was an interesting, educational and very rewarding experience.

I planned to write a complete series of articles toward final success, but things turned out to be a bit different. I quit my job and thus I wasn't able to complete to process towards successful strategic implementation. However I'm very confident that the team will succeed, but just without me.

Here I present you the published articles in the most convenient order for you to read

1. It all started with letting go and realization that I'm NOT the typical user
2. Followed by the activities to get started
3. ... and the battles you have to fight to get support on your efforts
4. Manage the expectations, because it's not the silver bullet
5. Your first feelings of achievement
6. Followed by deception and depression, the feeling as I was leaving the company. It's normal to have some set backs before the final taste of success
7. To final success and victory, something I'm sure the team will taste pretty soon.

Since I do have some spare time I'm available to help you implementing something similar in your organization, or share experiences with you if that is more appropriate. Check out my About page for more details

Using my Google Apps Account as a Full Google Account

Earlier this year Google announced to bring parity between the Google Apps account and full Google accounts. This would make most Google services available for Google Apps users. This I performed the transition of my Google Apps account to a full Google account and started to migrate services. It's not all smooth sailing.

I've very simple situation with a Google Apps account for personal use. I like to have my email, calendar, documents etc. nicely organized in one place on the aadjemonkeyrock.com domain. Next I also have a Google account primarily used for Google reader, YouTube, Blogger, FeedBurner and a few minor services.

My goal after the migration was to have one single account for use with Google services so I don't have to think anymore when to use which account!

The migration when smoothly. I first read the documentation, run through the transition wizard, enabled multiple sign-in and started to migrate information. Since I was not going to remove the personal Google account I'm fine with the data sharing options. Some of the experiences and pain points:
1. FeedBurner, it was simple and easy to transfer the feeds, probably the best migration possible
2. Blogger, just add the Google Apps account as an author with administrator privileges. You do get a new blogger profile (with a new blogger since date) and images used as of now are stored in a Picasa album on the Google Apps account. Not all very nice, but very workable.
3. Analytics, about the same process as Blogger, just add the extra account with administrator priviledges.
4. YouTube, followed the instructions, but it never mentioned that you can't transfer to a Google Apps account. I learned this the hard way. YouTube is a not supported on the Google Apps accounts (even so some information tells differently)
5. Google Reader, Moving your feeds to the new Google Apps account is simple, but you will loose your trends, followers, starred and shared items. I consider this a real problem and to make it even worse you Google Apps account can NOT have a google profile. This means you can't even create a custom URL for your shared items. After extensive thinking I will take the pain and request my followers to follow me on the new Account.
6. Picasa, there is no transition possible! I do regret this, because now I've ended up with 2 Picasa albums creating a lot of confusion.

Google: Your call to action!
1. Enable Google Profiles for Google Apps accounts! This should be your top priority to get fixed.
2. Allow transfer of Google Reader history and statistics to the new Google Apps account.
3. Enable YouTube to link to a Google Apps account!
4. Allow the transfer of Picase albums to the new Google Apps account.

Productivity Redefined

Cyborg M4p1
Image: Javier Roche
Usually when we think about productivity we always define it as output per unit of time. We are constantly doing our best to improve efficiency to increase the output per unit of time. This has also been the sales pitch of many IT investments.

In 25 years of business automation we first automated the easy stuff, simple transactions got automated. We used robots, computers to take over the simple tasks from humans. Many of these task were tedious and nobody really objected when machines took over. People could now focus on the fun and challenging stuff.

Next business automation started to address the processes in an organization. The robots and computers already managed the individual transactions and with little adjustment (of the humans) they could also starting to optimize the processes between the transactions. People needed to become more like machines and needed to change their way of working to fit the machines. People got more controlled by the machines impacting the fun at work.

Today we see a huge emerge of social software, helping people to maintain social relationships aided by information technology. For many it provides valuable information, builds deeper relations and it's fun! The fun, usually related to entertainment, also has cause a fears debate on this social stuff being a productivity killer and should be banned. Banning social computing and removing the fun factor would fit in the trend of slowly transforming people into robots and controlling their lives, just look at the history of business automation.

Well I've a different viewpoint. First it's just not possible to continue to squeeze more productivity out of people, there is a limit on how far you can go. Second, the fun factor is the new productivity booster!

We all have this, you are busy with something and completely forget about the time. You feel as if you just started, but already you have been busy for hours. You did heaps of work, but why did the time go so quickly? Probably because you were just having fun! Why does a day off usually go quicker than a day at work? Again, when doing something fun you forget about the time, so much that you even forget coffee/smoke breaks. You really get a lot of work done!

Productivity should be redefined as: How much fun did I have when achieving my business goals?

My Last Day at Exact

Today after almost 12 and a half years I left the Exact headquarters for the last time as an employee. In all those years I've had a fantastic time and I could never have imagined that it would last so long. Exact gave me the opportunity to build a career, to work with the best people in the industry and deliver exciting products. I’m proud of what I, together with all the fantastic people at Exact, have achieved and will carry the great memories with me. I’m especially proud of all the people who are less visible that supported me to get where I am today.

Why did I leave?

I’ve always said that life consists of a chain of five-six year chunks, you move from elementary school, secondary school, your studies into your first job, second job, etc. I’ve done now 12 years, a double shift and a good moment to explore other opportunities. I've done some careful reflection of my ambitions, my  interests and what I like doing the most. I'm a creative mind and a changed environment will do me good. I will take Exacts lessons and experiences into a different and new direction, it might be the entrepreneurial spirit the encouraged me to take some risk. I'm curious and excited about new challenging environments. I’m grateful that I’m in the position to make this choice.

I’m leaving with mixed feelings, I’m sad to leave many great things behind, but know that the people left behind will continue to do great things. I’m also excited to explore new opportunities in other environments. I see sparkles of glitter and joy in the unknown. I want to thank Exact and it's people for giving me the opportunity to become who I am and I want to thank you all for working with me and enriching my life.

What about the future?

I’ve many ideas, but no plans. I'll at least take the rest of the year off to emotionally detach and have a good rest to clear my mind and soul for my next opportunity. I'll start with a two week vacation to Japan, you can follow the trip here. I see this as the first step into a new adventure into the unknown. After the trip it's very likely that reality will finally hit: I'm without a job! Luckily there is a huge backlog with chores in and around the house that I look forward to get done. It's a great way to keep busy and build up some relationship credits before going into a new busy job.

A little further forward in time I'll probably ending up doing something with innovative and social technology. There is so many disruptive and interesting things going on, I'm sure there will be something that will capture my mind.

What's next?

Nobody knows... but you can keep up to date by subscribing to this blog, follow me on twitter, contact me on skype or drop me and email: aad[at]aadjemonkeyrock.com

Thank you all for working with me.


A Morning with Surprises

Surprise, South Lambeth, SW8
Credit: Ewan-M
This morning I had breakfast, against the normal pattern, at my desk in the home office. At the computer I opened a browser and for no particular reason went directly to twitter.com. After an initial surprise that the #newtwitter really exists and is not a hoax after all I started to play around a bit. I liked what I saw and felt in love. However at the same time I felt some sadness for my previously beloved web based twitter client brizzly.com. It served me very well and I'm pretty sure it was also a good inspiration for Twitter. I had a last look at Brizzly and was welcomed with a set of new features. I checked them out, made up my mind and changed my pinned tabs in the browser. Twitter you won, based on the snappy performance of the client.

I continued to scan some news and run into a lengthy blog post: End of the Road for Xmarks. This is really sad, because Xmarks is by far my most valuable service I'm using. It's an essential component to keep all the bookmarks of all the different browsers on various machines and operating systems synchronized. I never really thought about it and took it for granted that bookmarks automatically showed up everywhere. I respect and understand the reasons to stop the service, nobody should pursue a business that isn't viable. At least I've 90 days to figure out an alternative, because the synchronization features of browsers are still a long way from synchronizing between the various browsers.

How was your morning?

User Experience - First Achievements

So, you have been busy for a while now on your implementation of User Experience design. You went thru ups and downs, had to fight some wars but your team finally got to their first big user research event.

It took many days of preparation with discussions on content, research questions, methods and goals to achieve. The team broke down barriers, made people think out side the box and convinced the biggest skeptics to let go. The big day had come.... it felt great!





Other parts of the User Experience series:
1. It all started with letting go and realization that I'm NOT the typical user
2. Followed by the activities to get started
3. ... and the battles you have to fight to get support on your efforts
4. Manage the expectations, because it's not the silver bullet

Share your User Experience achievements in the comments below.

Social Business Software - A Must!

Today's Social Interaction
Image: Susan Smith
Recently we are reading a lot about Social CRM and Enterprise 2.0 to show social aspects when interacting with customers and prospects. However it's much simpler, all software needs to be social!

Most software today is used to increase efficiency, improve our productivity, enhance collaboration and streamline business processes. Since most businesses are run by people and not by robots it's important to create people centric software. Since people are social characters the software needs to be social too.

Social software is more than the ability to share and like information, it's about the network and expressing the emotions in the network. When in real life a friend helps me out I might send a card or flower to express my thanks, in a virtual world this shouldn't be any different. Now there are of course many places where I can send an e-card or some virtual goods, but the real power of emotion lays into the fact that it needs to be traceable to the original action. In real life someone would ask, wow where did you get the nice flowers? Nobody ever asks that about a virtual gift, because it's locked in your email. Social can only be social if it shows emotion.

When people work together, both within a company and externally this is always based on our social interaction, otherwise a long time ago we would have been replaced by robots. Since doing business is a social interaction, we just need to support more social interaction in business software to really make the next step in increased efficiency, improved productivity, enhanced collaboration and streamlined business processes.

Let me know your social examples.

User Experience - Not the Silver bullet

SILVER BULLETA few days ago I shared UX Won't Save You from the 52 weeks of UX blog, an article talks about the impression that many current think that User Experience is the new hot 'Silver Bullet'. Briefly after sharing two of my team members emailed me and asked if I had written the article. Their question made sense, because in the same week I had been managing down some expectations on User Experience and tried to explain that User Experience is NOT the silver bullet. However credit me for the great article is a bit too much, Joshua Porter gets all credit for the article.

I like to explain the importance of User Experience as one of the three cornerstone for great product design.  1.  The business side determines what is useful and thus also valuable. You require excellent business insights to pinpoint the business pain you are solving. This way you provide value to your customers.
2. Engineering determines what is feasible. You always deal with technical constrains, but by pushing the boundaries you constantly try to overcome them.
3. User Experience determines what is usable and therefor desirable. Deep insights of your users helps you to determine their desires.

All three elements are equally important!
1. Business and engineering created useful and feasible products, the productivity and business automation software as we know it so well today. It's very feature rich, but you only use it because your boss tells you to do so.
2. Engineering and User Experience create feasible and desirable products, something we might even all art. They usually don't solve any business pains.
3. Business and User Experience aren't able to create anything, except for valuable and desirable dreams.

Join the conversation

Image credit: Steffe

Road testing Gowalla and Foursquare

Last Saturday I had a few hours to kill and spend them hopping around a few locations, a great opportunity to road test Gowalla and Foursquare. For the tests I most of the time used an iPhone and in a few other situations an iPad. I was traveling in the north of the Netherlands and unfortunately the cellular data reception was poor, but that makes the test so much more realistic.

The test is nothing scientific, it just reflects some of my personal experiences

The Gowalla stuff I liked:

  • It's the beauty, especially the iPad app is really stunning!
  • It's faster, at least in my experience, to bring up a list of places nearby.
  • It rewards creating new places by tweeting them around.
  • It surprises you with newly found items and adds some fun by swapping them around.
  • It's cool to add pictures with your check-ins.
The Foursquare stuff I liked:
  • It's the beast, with more users (and more of my friends) and sharing is more fun with friends.
  • Has much more places already available (unfortunately also many doubles).
  • Mayorships are there to be protected.
  • The surprises are in the badges, however it's getting harder and harder to get new ones
  • Keeps cool stats of you check-ins.
Is this all relevant? No! Was it fun to do? Yes!

A New Hair Cut [Warning: Useless Information]

Once in a while I leave the office for a while and go for a hair cut. Hair grows during office hours, so why not going to the hair dresser during office hours! Each time after returning my new hair cut is suddenly the main topic of conversation in the office. Today wasn't any different and actually it go a bit worse because I just took a DailyBooth picture to test the Twitter integration. It even caused a Twitter conversation.

Now so you can all join in, here is a picture.


Feel free to join the conversation

iPad Disappointment

I love my iPad, it's really a pleasure to lay on the couch and consume content. I've significantly increased the amount of information I consume, just because it's always around. The endless battery, the instantly on capabilities, the snappy performance and smooth touch experience makes it a joy to use.

So why the title of this post? You first need to understand that I prefer to centrally store my information in the cloud to eliminate the need for synchronization, back-ups. I always can access the most recent version from any device I'm using. I keep most of my documents and notes in Google Apps and my presentations on Microsoft SkyDrive.

Unfortunately both web applications have decided that the iPad browser is Mobile Safari and only allow me to view read-only version of the documents and presentations. This is fine for most situation, but especially for note taking or last minute editorial adjustments (The Microsoft scenario for Office Web Apps) it would be extremely useful to have edit capabilities.  I'm disappointed that both Google and Microsoft don't give the the option to switch to the full browser version.

Call to action: Microsoft and Google the mobile web is changing, todays mobile devices are capable enough to run full web apps. Give us what we need, not what you are capable of delivering!

User Experience - The Battle

About a month ago I wrote about some tips on getting started with User Experience. Now you are well on it's way, gave your teams freedom and they plastered the walls with mood boards, schemas, designs, etc.

You are getting attention for your team and heaps of requests for help.

The requests usually go along the following lines:

  • Can you design a new icon set?
  • Can you write guidelines for standard components in my applications?
  • Can you design some of the screens for me?
  • Can you test and improve the usability of ....
... and now you battle starts. The requests are usually always related to design, usability and improving an already existed product. It hardly ever refers to business goals, users and their happiness. 

This is where it's getting tough for you. You now constantly needs to explain that User Experience starts with your target market, for who are you building your solutions, what are their business goals and pains? What is the functionality and which functionality delivers most value addressing the business pains. Every project needs to start with user research with users from the target market you are addressing. These don't have to be existing customers, actually you don't want to have only customers in your research group. They are already 'brainwashed' with you mind set and are biased. It's gonna by tough, but keep repeating and never ever settle for a mediocre approach. 

Ask your product guys a simple question: Do you want to optimize the customer's business processes to improve their efficiency or do you want to drive and grow the customer's business?

Good luck with your challenges.

Windows Phone 7 - Where are the physical phones?

Lately a lot is written about Windows Phone 7 and this is a good think. Many people, including me are curious and would like to get their hands on one. I saw the first demos back in February and it looks really neat and I share many of the reviews I've been reading lately.

I actually give Windows Phone 7 a chance to succeed, however it will not depend on the operating system. It's all about the phone, the piece of jewelry you are carrying around. A great user experience consists of 2 parts, the functionality offered and the emotion attached. I'm pretty sure the hardware specs set by Microsoft and the feature set of the operating system will provide more than enough functionality. However the emotion is for a large part determined by the physical device, what are the materials used, is it shiny and does it attract girls?

Microsoft if you want Windows Phone 7 to be a success ask the device manufactures to leak some smoking hot images of the devices, so we can really get exited about the emotions it gonna give us. For your information the Samsung phone used in the reviews is NOT a great example of a hot phone.

Mobility - The Future of Computing

Today I did a little presentation on mobility at mini seminar of one of our business partners Qube ICT solutions. I addressed some of the technical aspects on what is possible today and what will be possible tomorrow. The interesting aspect of the morning was the combination with Albert Kooijman who also addressed many of the more organizational and psychological aspects.


If you can't see the presentation you can also find it here

User Experience - Getting Started

A while ago I reported that one of my focus areas for 2010 is the implementation of solid User Experience (UX) design into our products. I'm not a UX expert, but the evangelist and facilitator for the process to embed UX design into everything we do. I've learned, made mistakes and here I've some times that might help you if you are going to do the same.

1. Convince your management that it's necessary to invest in UX. Explain that it's a lot more than just usability but involves emotions and feeling with any interaction your company has with the customer. Eventually for commodity products and services  the experience (or price) is the only thing that differentiates you from the competition.

2. Hire professionals! This sounds simple, but often you will hear that person x knows enough about usability. Continue to explain you need to get into the emotions of people and need professionally trained people for this. Finding the right candidates can also be a challenge, it's a new profession and experts are hard to find. A good starting point is to initially work with students and graduation projects to learn, experience possible results and build a network with the educational institutes. They can become a source of tallent for you.

3. Give your newly hired experts lots of freedom and space. Normally you are probably thinking in terms of standards, frameworks and feasibility. This is all good, but does kill creativity and thus gives you more of the same and not something new. If you want to innovate and attach new emotions to your products and services you have to start doing things differently.

4. Continue to communicate in all possible ways. Encourage your team to show results, create mood boards in public places. You only change the perception of UX if you allow people to experience visualized emotions.



In a next article I will share some best practices on how best to work with other disciplines.

Infographic about yourself

Infographics are really cool way to visualize a lot of information into one simple graphic. There seems to be a trend to use them more and more. Unfortunately it requires graphical skills to create them and therefor not everybody can do it. If you want an Infographic about yourself, just check out: http://ionz.com.br and with a few question you can create a cool Infographic with you as the subject. Below you can see a screen shot of mine.



How does your Infographic look like?