Sunday, 27 July 2008

The Internet Effect

It struck me a few days ago that while the internet has had a prolific and pronounce affect on many aspects of society, one of the strangest is the effect on the accessibility of people.
For a start there are now millions of us that carry mobile phones with smart technologies or pda's that allow us to have access to the internet and email 24 x 7. But this also means that people have access to us 24 x 7. People even take there phones to the beach when they're on holiday. The last time i went away, instead of the relaxing sound of crickets and the surf all i could hear were mobile ring tones.
Then there's google, you can get a huge amount of background information from google, so much so that its almost common practice for people to google candidates before an interview, or meeting. I've even heard of people googling potential boy or girl friends before dating them and or after a break up.
But possibly the strangest area that i've noticed a change is that it would seem a lot easier to get access to people high up in some of today biggest businesses. Through services like twitter and get satisfaction, and lots of other online communities. I've posted comments to some top people in companies like microsoft, apple, wikipedia, twitter, slideshare and magnolia and to my amazement i've got responses and sometimes responses from company founders. Just a few years ago this would have been completely unheard of a series of pa's and secretaries would almost certainly have vetted this kind of stuff long before it got that high.
I'm not sure if this is because attitudes are changing or because technology is making it possible or even if its because businesses have to be more agile to survive these days, but it certainly seems to be changing.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Getting Satisfaction

One of the most frustration aspects of working in IT is that sometimes you just can't get a piece of hardware or software to work the way you want it to. Most of the time you can sort it out yourself, but sometimes , just sometimes you need to call someone and ask for help.

Nine times out of ten this means looking on the internet for a generic email address or calling a helpline, and then the fun really begins, you will be passed from pillar to post to find someone that can help you, and by the time you find the right person you have lost the will to live.

There are people out there though that do have the answers and are happy to help or that can pass your comments on to someone that can help...the problem is finding these people.

This is where get satisfaction comes in the site links users with questions, suggestions, ideas and suggestions to other users and to contacts within companies that can provide answers or point people in the right direction.

So far i have used the site about a dozen times, each time i've had a response to a problem or a reply to a suggestion within a couple of hours. In a couple of this cases, i got responses directly from the owner/creator the the service, and in somecases by suggestions for the services were implemented into future versions.

The service seems to work best with young and dynamic sites and services and technologies, and i can't help but think that the more it takes off the less useful it will become as more people asking questions means less access to the people that can help, but for now it seems t be working.

Next time you have to give a help desk a call and start to get frustrated with being put on holg again, give get sificfication a go, and see if it lives upto the name.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Beta for business?

One of the greatest things about the internet is its speed of development. With the amount of open source code and application development platforms around, its becoming increasing easy for developers to produce new web based services and applications. It’s also becoming more common for these products and services to be produced by smaller companies without the resources to fully test them in-house prior to launch, so they come out as a public or invite only beta's first.
So what does it mean to be a beta tester? Typically a vendor will give you full access to their product or services before releasing it to the rest of the world, so you get to see it first and can work out if you can use it to your advantage before your competitors, in exchange you’ll have to report any bugs and give them some feedback.
Other advantages include, having the opportunity to have a say in the development of the service, it’s more likely that developers will include features you may want to see added, if your talking to them as they develop the service.
On the other hand this does come at a cost, the product is likely to have a few bugs, you may loose some or all of your data, the service is likely to be down at least some of the time and may be changed without notice, the service may even be dropped altogether, it could cause your machine to crash more often and you’ll have to spend a bit of time giving them feedback.
I have been Beta testing operating systems, applications and internet services for the past 10 years or so, and as an IT manager this has been OK on the whole. Sure I’ve been up half the night rebuilding my workstation or recovering lost data on more than one occasion, but i’ve also learned a lot in the process and its helped me find some fantastic solutions for my uses.
Would I like my users to become Beta testers? Probably not. It’s not only that they would need more of my time to support them, or that managing support would be that bit harder, but typically because when users want to beta test a product its because they want to work differently to their colleagues which causes real problems when implementing working practices.
There are beta version of new web based services and applications coming out everyday, the question is how many of these could really make a difference to your business, and is it worth making the effort to try, or should you leave it to other s and wait for the final release.

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Finally given in to Broadband

As i sit at a computer (well technically several computers) all day, the last thing i want to do when i get home is turn on the computer. Quite oven i have to, but thats another matter.

So i have always fought the temptation to sign up for broadband, and until this week when i finally gave in. There are a couple of reasons for this, one is that while i use a computer all day my wife doesn't so i guess it would be nice for her to join us in the virtual world, without having to worry about how long she is online on a dial up connection, another reason is is its so cheap these days , (for the first time dial up would cost me more a quarter than broadband) and the final reason is that it will simply make live a bit easier, having wifi throughout the house, i should be able to connect the laptops, the wii, the ipod and the mobile to each other and to my online friends.

Bridging the Tyne

I'm not sure that this blog is really the right place to talk about this project, (as it has no technology as such involved in it at all), but i'm going to write about it anyway, as its going on right outside my office.

For the past few weeks, a team of riggers (mainly from Australia) have been hard at work on the quayside in Newcastle / Gateshead, building a bridge out of bamboo. This bridge in some ways is a symbolic bridge, and i've heard Anna (the designer on the project) describe it as a bridge of aspiration. But its also a very real bridge, and its caused a bit of a stir, with mixed opinions as to what it's all been about, and whether its a thing of beauty or a blot on the landscape.
Admittedly during the day it seems a little light weight sitting next to the huge hulking steel creatures that are the tyne, swing, high level and millennium bridges, but last night (18th July) they lite it up with 400 fire pots and it looked stunning!

The bridge is only going to be up for 3 days during the Summer Tyne festival , but i'm sure its something that will live on in the memories of the people of Newcastle and Gateshead for a lot longer.

I've been privileged enough get to know some of the team and to spend some time on the site over the last few weeks, and i have thoroughly enjoyed it, so thanks guys! and also Thanks NGI, great project.