Workplace IM

Instant Messaging is following email and cellphone into the workplace, according to an NYT article:

Many IM users rave about the ability to do different things at their desks while also engaging in a continuing electronic conversation. But they say it is really the notion of “presence,” of being in constant peripheral contact with the cast of characters that defines one’s life, that makes IM such a powerful, intimate – and potentially burdensome – form of communication.

“IM-ing takes many of the virtues of e-mail and lowers the psychological costs of communication still further,” said James E. Katz. “It is extremely casual and easy, but in many ways it is more demanding.”

I still don’t use IM – maybe I should start. I have found it intrusive – prefer email and phone.

Linux Switcher Perspective

DesktopLinux.com has an article by Kevin L. Ritchey on his switch to Linux (because “it worked BETTER and made me more PRODUCTIVE”). What is interesting is his wishlist of the things that are still needed on the Linux Desktop:

– A better Exchange replacement
– Off-line Mapping (similar to MS Streets) solution
– Off-line Encyclopedia (anyone thought of moving Wikipedia to CDROM?)
– Intuit’s Quickbooks
– GTK/QT front end for Mysql or Postgresql to mimic the functionality of Microsoft
– A bundled group of home user friendly and useful software to mimic Microsoft’s Works package

Ray Lane on Real-Time Enterprise

Ray Lane has been talking about and investing in companies working on real-time software in his most recent role as a VC at Kleiner-Perkins. Some excerpts from an interview he gave to Optimize:

Automation did happen in the past decade, and some departments are doing tasks well. What’s missing is enterprise ability; it’s all departmental now. The enterprise is incompetent as a result of mergers and acquisitions and reorganizations. IT is the problem. It doesn’t give me competitive advice. That’s just wrong. We have to make computer systems faster, more responsive. We need to bring all the data to the enterprise level and react at the enterprise level.

We need full information transparency and on-demand response to questions. I have to know now. You need to integrate information and have messages flow through applications and out to customers in a few days, and go to the supply chain to get that information. I need global visibility. I want to know the status of one order immediately–I don’t care if it’s on an i2, Oracle, or SAP system. I want to know it will be shipped Thursday at 4 p.m. But we need applications to tie all the inventory and databases together.

How can the enterprise be responsive? That’s the next thing. Build apps, portals, query systems to allow businesses to access information. Customers want transparency and to serve their customers.

Two companies to watch, according to Lane, are KnowNow and Asera/SeeC .

Blogging’s Hive Brain

A CNN story on blogging becoming mainstream discusses briefly about one of its effects:

The way bloggers link and influence each other’s thinking could lead to a collective thought process, “a kind of hive brain,” said Chris Cleveland, who runs Dieselpoint, a Chicago maker of search software that recently worked with Blogger.com.

The hive brain is a science fiction theme most famously explored in the 1996 Star Trek movie “First Contact,” but Cleveland believes blogs can turn the concept into reality with the help of Google’s sifting skills.

Cleveland thinks Google might parlay its search engine expertise to develop technology that will analyze which blogs are getting the most links and pinpoint the most compelling material.

Some sites, such as daypop.com, use search engines to highlight the most popular blogs, but the indexes are limited.

If Google were to introduce a more effective search tool, the best bloggers might be easier to find, helping them emerge as influential trendsetters and shape public opinion — roles traditionally filled by mass media.

Cleveland describes this as “content Darwinism,” a process that will push the most compelling news and views to the blogging forefront.

On a separate note, an interesting point made by Dave Winer about the evolution of blogging: The evolution of blogs is following a path similar to other technologies, like the Internet itself. The early adopters are engineers and software developers, followed by librarians and lawyers and educators. Then comes business and then professionals – like doctors – and then government.”

Cautious CIOs

CIOs like Verizon’s Shaygan Kheradpir are cutting back on where they spend their money – the focus has shifted from spending money to seeing how companies can save money and improve profits. This approach is not good news for IT companies, according to a WSJ article.

Chief information officers for the biggest U.S. companies expect their technology spending this year to decline an average of 1%, according to a Goldman Sachs survey done in December. That’s after a 6% drop last year.

For one thing, corporate computers are becoming more like commodities. With wider adoption of software standards, the machines are more interchangeable, making it easier for Mr. Kheradpir to play one manufacturer off the other. Foreign technology has improved, so that Verizon can hire Indian companies, for one-third the cost, to handle programming once done by American firms. Better software can reduce the need for costlier hardware. Mr. Kheradpir has curtailed his buying of data-storage devices because new software allows him to use all the capacity of machines he already has. And eBay has made equipment prices more transparent.

We are in an era of “cold technologies“, which shrink the overall revenue pie instead of growing it.

TECH TALK: Transforming Rural India: IT for the Masses

My time and meetings in Madhya Pradesh set me thinking. We in India do not lack in ideas. What we lack is in the vision to think big. We think in terms of pilot programmes to cover tens or hundreds of villages, when the need is to do a roll-out in months or a few years across a nation. There are plenty of small-scale success stories in fact, I would argue that at a small scale, we can get anything to work. Whats missing is the ability to think of solutions which can be replicated across India between two elections (5 years) rather than two generations (25 years).

I am heavily biased towards technology and computers, perhaps to an extreme. I believe that by empowering people with access to computing and the Internet, we can create a bottom-up revolution across India. These connected computers themselves will not work wonders, but they will open up people, especially the young, to new ideas and new worlds. They will make people learn new skills, which could be harnessed in a myriad of different areas.

For example, farmers could use the connected computers to get commodity prices faster, or get information on new agricultural techniques. The youth would get details on job opportunities across the state. The district administration could get details of problems in near real-time. The eligible could search for matrimonial matches across adjacent villages. The voters would communicate their concerns to the politicians and bureaucrats electronically, with a trail of the communication. The village officials could share governance best practices faster among their counterparts elsewhere.

Many of these and other activities could doubtless be performed without computers. But there is a pain in those processes. That is where technology can make a difference. Computers have been the disruptive innovation of the past two decades. And yet, they have barely made a difference to the lives of people in most of the developing markets of the world.

I believe that the time has now come to take computers and allied technologies to every village of the world. Only through such a mass-scale deployment can we create a platform on which can be layered other programmes whose power can now be amplified dramatically. From primary education to adult literacy, from providing a two-way flow of information to enabling transactions, from increasing governance transparency to reducing corruption, from jobs to marriages, computers can indeed be the manna for the worlds villages.

By themselves, computers will do little. They need applications to make a difference. They need change in governments processes. But by making computing available to every citizen, they will force a seismic change through the lines of governance. They will become the platform which can be built upon to layer a whole range of different services.

Computing as a utility in every village is at the heart of my vision of transforming Rural India. As we shall see, a combination of innovative ideas can make this a reality in a commercially viable business model one where the government is not a funder, but an enabler.

[Id like to acknowledge the help of a few people who have helped stimulate my thinking in this direction. Prof. Ramesh Jain (for the invigorating discussions we have each time he visits India and his ideas on folk computing) and CK Prahalad (for his Bottom of the Pyramid ideas and writings, and his belief that India has to grow at 10% per annum) helped in getting me started. In addition, the discussions I had with R Gopalakrishnan (Secretary to the Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister, and who set me on the course by inviting me to make a presentation in MP), Rakesh Shrivastava (of MAPIT) and Anita Sharma (of MPsHeadstart programme) have helped refine many of the ideas I will be discussing here.]

Tomorrow: A Wider View

Continue reading