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