Archive for March, 2010

Add More Google Fiber To Your Diet?

March 29, 2010 Leave a comment

I was at a conference where a vendor challenged us to a scavenger hunt where we had to barter, cajole, and stalk certain people to collect items for a prize. You could win a trip to Vegas, a backpack, or a Monopoly game. I didn’t care for the Vegas trip since chances were slim. I already owned 8 backpacks and I don’t play Monopoly.

Yet I diligently searched for items, sometimes sacrificing dignity to complete my entry (dignity is overrated, anyways). I finally found them all, waited patiently for my Monopoly, then tossed it in my closet where it has been ever since.

Funny how something “free” can lead us to behave in funny ways.

This month we’ve seen some strange behavior in an effort to catch Google’s attention. On February 10, Google announced an experiment to build fiber cables with speeds up to 1 gigabit per second, roughly 100 times faster than what we get today.

What kind of gimmicks have some cities tried? Topeka, KS changed its name to Google, KS for a month. Then the mayor of Duluth, MN jumped into frigid Lake Superior and offered to rename first-born Duluthians to Google Fiber. Then the mayor of Sarasota, FL swam with sharks and changed the city’s name to Google Island (remember, dignity is overrated).

But will super fiber really change your life? Surely, if the mayor is willing to swim with sharks this must be revolutionary stuff…  but I’m not so sure.

First, only 50,000 to 500,000 people will get it. That’s nothing. If you’re a big city how do you decide who gets it? Good luck to the policy makers tasked with that decision. Or what if this goes to mid-sized cities like Topeka where fiber could power the entire city to gigabit heaven? If so, who wants to build the revolutionary applications to harness such power if it’s not even available in areas with millions of potential users?

Second, are people really going to increase their internet consumption just because their throughput has exploded a hundredfold? Broadband is already available in 93% of US homes, and only a small minority use an exorbitant amount.

Just because you suddenly have 100 times more bandwidth doesn’t mean you’re going to use more. I get 500 minutes for my cell phone but use 200 a month. If you gave me 5,000 minutes, I’d still talk 200. I average 30 mph on my commute. If you changed my humble sedan to a Ferrari, I’m still going to drive 30 mph. I eat 2 breakfast tacos a week. If you gave me 500 tacos, I might increase my consumption by 3 tacos, max.

My point is…despite all this hoopla, I don’t think this is going to change the behavior of how we as a society use the Internet. The individuals that will leverage this capability is too small to register a blip on Google’s nerdar.

But waiting for the next big gimmick is exciting. Maybe the mayor of Corvallis, OR can jump into a tank of hungry piranhas in a rainbow jumpsuit while talking on a Nexus One and telling his friends on Google Buzz about the evils of censoring search results in other countries.


Top 10 Nuggets from SxSW Interactive

March 22, 2010 1 comment

There were plenty of good presentations from South by Southwest Interactive in 2010. Here’s my Top 10 quotable quotes with links to the speakers’ Twitter page.

#1.If you’re at a certain point in a project and you don’t like what you’re seeing, tell your client you don’t like it before they tell you. Clients don’t like to play the bad cop and they’ll be happy they didn’t have to come down on you (Wil Reynolds)

#2. It’s easy for the client to jump into the driver’s seat, but  you have to remind them that they hired you to be in driver’s seat (Greg Hoy)

#3. You need failure more than you need success. Success breeds repetition, failure breeds change (Tracy Halvorsen)

#4. Don’t spin your mistakes. Own them. Build up your trust bank. Every time you do something right, take opportunity to build up trust so when you make a withdraw with a massive f-up, the client will go easier on you (Wil Reynolds)

#5. Designing a website before writing content is like building an art gallery before you have the art (Karen McGrane)

#6. Designers should be researchers. Don’t wait for researchers to come to you, try to be involved in the interpretation of data. Conversely, researchers should be involved in the design process. (Chris Fahey)

#7. Social media is not merely a channel for pushing messages, so should success just equal awareness? If success is completely quantitative, then all press is good press. But what’s lacking is context; we have to take quantitative data and frame them into context (Sam Ford)

#8. The City is a machine. Infrastructure that manages the city can harness data to gain understanding of what’s happening. Cell phone usage, sewer systems, buses, intersection cameras, etc. But how do you close that feedback loop? People become key. Look at people as actuators to that feedback loop. People are both actuators and sensors (John Tolva)

#9. Search is not just an IT problem, it’s a knowledge management challenge (Peter Morville)

#10. Four secrets to what makes successful (Jared Spool)

a) Engage through content. Product reviews are content. Use them to engage potential customers.

b) Don’t fear new ideas. Take mitigated, controlled risks.

c) Eliminate “tool time” (moving forward without improvement)* while delivering confidence. Roll out new features in small phases so you can constantly improve

d) Never forget the business. That’s where you focus your resources.

* Not sure where he got that term from, but I don’t think it was a jab at Tim Allen and Home Improvement fans. And whatever happened to Jonathan Taylor Thomas? He was such a heart throb.

Is “Follow Me On Twitter” Bad For Twitter?

March 17, 2010 1 comment

Ahh…South by Southwest Interactive… a time for web trends and developments, creative advice from industry leaders, and of course, fresh networking meat on Twitter. Which, of course, undoubtedly leads to the shameless promotion of folks who take the “Follow me on Twitter” slogan a bit too seriously.

At the first session, I sat behind a dude that stitched his Twitter handle to the back of his shirt. During the Q&A of the same session, the second guy mentioned his handle before asking a question. And there are plenty of folks who handwrote their @s onto their badges. Not that there’s anything wrong with it, but sometimes it gives the impression that you only care about adding followers.

Twitter is not about building your following; Twitter is about building relationships.

And if you’ve been actively using Twitter, you already knew that. But, unfortunately, shifting gears here, a good number of government entities on Twitter don’t seem to agree. I’ve heard plenty of agencies promote their sites and boast about how many followers they have, but rarely do they talk about how they’ve added value directly to their followers. In my opinion, there’s a disconnect when Gov uses buzzwords like communication, collaboration, and engagement, yet ignore the ability to use Twitter as a two way street to put these buzzwords to practice.

Twitter is not a one way street. Twitter is not an RSS feed.

People are always struggling to find information, confused about why they need to contact Department A for a fishing license and Department F for a different license to tow their boat. Or why they need to call the Railroad Commission about natural gas. Or why the number to call on the Department of Insurance’s website goes to somebody at DMV. Government is a complex network of systems and activities that is difficult to navigate, and a little help can go a long way to making somebody’s day.

Don’t just look to add followers to consume your message. Look to add value by responding to inquiries.

Categories: Twitter Tags: , , , ,

Why Gov Wants The iPad to Succeed

March 11, 2010 7 comments

I’m defending the iPad. Not because I’m an Apple fanboy. Not because I’m going to buy one. But because I think there’s potential to positively change the personal computing experience in a way that helps government sleep better at night. I’m not talking about the iPad itself, but what the App store can become via the iPad.

Currently, the way most us to connect to the web is through the browser, which was meant to only take you from point A to B. Unfortunately, the world wide web is a dangerous place if you don’t know how to navigate. Every day, innocent consumers fall prey to malicious scams and phishing schemes, and there isn’t much the government can do to protect them.

With the App Store, not only do you access the internet without going through a browser, but the barriers to entry for service providers should theoretically weed out illegitimate third parties. With a structured vetting process (at least security-wise, theoretically) and a crowdsourced reviewing process, there really isn’t an incentive for virtual predators to get on the App store. For the time being, you could be pretty confident that your apps aren’t trying to steal your personal information or plant bugs into your device.

Sure, there are still security vulnerabilities, especially with mobile security being nonexistent, but that’s a different can of worms and viruses.

But there’s nothing new about the App store. It’s been around for years on the iPhone.

Yes, but limitations with the iPhone made it difficult to deliver more dynamic functionalities. With a much larger screen size and upgraded processing power, developers have a lot more freedom to have their apps mirror that of their regular websites. Imagine being able to set your fantasy football rosters as easily as you would through your browser. There will be an app for that. And hopefully, you won’t have to worry about using it. And internet policy makers will take a collective sigh of relief.

Naming This Baby Is Harder Than You Think

March 10, 2010 Leave a comment

I’ve got a lot of ideas, but not much time to write. I finally decided that in 2010, I’m going to start posting again instead of just entertaining ideas in my head. But before I begin, I have to come up with a good name.

It’s like starting a garage band; a boring name is easily forgotten and a great name can compensate for a lack of talent. A name has to be catchy, just the right length, and look good on a t-shirt. If someone forgets my real name and calls me Mr. ____ Guy, I have to feel proud. Just like starting a garage band.

I want to write about technology in government. Gov 2.0 is my inspiration, and I thought about a play on “Gov 2.0” to name this site. Then I realized how difficult it is to come up with a good name out of “Gov 2.0”, and how easy it is to come up with a negative or satirical name. If I become a whining, grumbling sourpuss, I could go with:

  • Gov 2 NO
  • Gov 2 Blow
  • Gov 2 Doh!
  • Gov 2 Oh no
  • Gov 2 Uh-oh
  • Gov 2 Slow
  • Gov 2 Woe
  • Gov 2 Low
  • Gov 2 ‘Po

But I’m going to keep it positive. I think there is a lot of opportunity for the public sector to embrace technology in a strategic way that adds value to citizens. Government needs fresh ideas, not just for cost-saving reasons, but to connect more effectively with the people it serves. And it wouldn’t hurt to gain some street cred along the way.

I finally settled on a name. It was two breaths for you but more than two months for me. I’m calling this site Gov Me Tender. It’s more schtick-ish than I originally planned, but it does fit my criteria mentioned above, sort of. I wanted to play on the word “love”, and wanted to use a short phrase that most people recognize. Also considered:

  • Gov Is Blind
  • All You Need Is Gov
  • Gov is a Battlefield
  • I Will Always Gov You
  • I’ll Make Gov To You
  • I Want To Know What Gov Is
  • PS I Gov You

but none of these really work. I’m not sure Gov Me Tender works either, but at least it’s PG-13 with no implications to totalitarianism.

And if this whole Government and Web 2.0 thing doesn’t work, I’m changing the name to Gov 2 Slow.

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: , , ,