Jul 212014
teamwork in the cloud

Today in Technology Spectator, I have a piece on collaboration based around the Google and Deloitte paper released last week.

At the moment Google are on a marketing campaign promoting Apps for Business, for a previous campaign I prepared The Future of Teamwork which examined the benefits of cloud computing for industry.

It’s interesting how the message hasn’t changed a great deal in the last five year, despite it being valid.

Jul 152014

After last week’s long memo from CEO Satya Nadilla, it was inevitable Microsoft would have to restructure around the company’s new direction.

Bloomberg now reports Microsoft will be laying off thousands of employees – possibly more than the 5,800 laid off in the recessionary depths of 2009.

With 127, 000 employees Microsoft could almost certainly do with a cull, to make the company as nimble as it needs to be may take more than 5,000 jobs.

Jun 102014

Today I spoke about online safety to the Australian Seniors’ Computer Clubs Association about staying safe online.

Hopefully I’ll have a copy of the presentation up tomorrow but what was notable about the morning was the concern among the audience about security and safety of cloud services.

The ASCCA membership are a computer savvy bunch – anyone who disparages older peoples’ technology nous would be quickly put in their place by these folk – but it was notable just how concerned they are about online privacy. They are not happy.

Another troubling aspect were my answers to the questions, invariably I had to fall back on the lines “only do what you’re comfortable with”  and “it all comes down to a question of trust.”

The problem with the latter line is that it’s difficult to trust many online companies, particularly when their business models relies upon trading users’ data.

Resolving this trust issue is going to be difficult and it’s hard to see how some social media platforms and online businesses can survive should users flee or governments enact stringent privacy laws.

It may well be we’re seeing another transition effect happening in the online economy.

Jun 012014
how are we using data in our business

Late last month writer, painter and software developer Maciej Ceglowski spoke at the design and technology conference, Beyond Tallerand in Dusseldorf.

The Internet with a Human Face is his closing keynote for the conference – let’s try to kill that kill that awful term ‘locknote’ for closing presentations – and is a wonderful overview of the unintended consequences of the internet we’re now seeing emerge.

Maciej compares the internet’s effects with that of the motor car in the Twentieth Century – the rise of the automobile totally changed society in ways our great grandparents couldn’t have expected.

Unexpected consequences

In many respects the changes were positive; the age of the motor car saw massive increases in living standards through the second half of the century. However the immediate downside of those efficient supply chains were equally massive increases in obesity rates, suburban alienation and urban sprawl.

A similar thing is happening with this wave of technological changes; as Maciej describes in our presentation, our views of how the web was going to evolve is turning out to be very different to what we expected.

One great example is in small business advertising where we expected online channels would democratise marketing. Instead the exact opposite has happened.

Maciej’s view is far broader than just the relatively trivial problem of small business advertising, particularly with the ‘Internet never forgetting’ with the concentration of the industry in one of the world’s great earthquake zones as another major risk.

Building an internet we’re not ashamed of

Ultimately, though Maciej sees the problems facing the internet industry as a design problem.

“I have no idea how to fix it. I’m hoping you’ll tell me how to fix it. But we should do something to fix it. We can try a hundred different things. You people are designers; treat it as a design problem! How do we change this industry to make it wonderful again? How do we build an Internet we’re not ashamed of?”

While being ashamed is a big call, and probably unfair in that it’s like blaming Henry Ford for 2014 childhood obesity rates in Minnesota, Maciej has flagged that there are real adverse unintended consequences to the way the internet is evolving.

All of us involved in the industry need to recognise those adverse effects and start acting to fix these problems.

May 292014
radio programs for techonology, web, social media, cloud computing and computer advice

Paul Wallbank joins Tony Delroy on ABC Nightlife across Australia from 10pm Australian Eastern time tonight to discuss how technology affects your business and life.

For the May 2014 spot we looked at computer security, specifically Apple ransomware and The Heartbleed bug along with dropping off the grid, 4D printing and the future of design.

To protect from the Oleg Pliss ransomware – or any similar problems – have a strong password, enable the screen passkey and enable two factor authentication.

Join us

We’d love to hear your views so join the conversation with your on-air questions, ideas or comments; phone in on the night on 1300 800 222 within Australia or +61 2 8333 1000 from outside Australia.

Tune in on your local ABC radio station from 10pm Eastern Summer time or listen online at www.abc.net.au/nightlife.

You can SMS Nightlife’s talkback on 19922702, or through twitter to @paulwallbank using the #abcnightlife hashtag or visit the Nightlife Facebook page.

May 162014

Cloud helpdesk service provider Zendesk today debuted on the New York Stock Exchange with the stocks seeing a 49% surge on their IPO price, taking its value to just under a billion dollars.

Last year Decoding the New Economy had the opportunity to talk to Mikkel Svane, the founder of Zendesk about his company.

Svane is an enthusiastic, open guy and clearly passionate about customer service – a field that’s the ugly stepsister of modern business. As Svane himself says, “no-one ever gets the girls by working on the helpdesk.”

‘Beautiful and elegant’ is a phrase Svane uses to describe his software and it’s notable how many other founders of cloud services use those words about their products – Xero’s Rod Drury even uses it as the company’s slogan.

Like many cloud services, both Xero and Zendesk are still not making a profit and a big fat stage for a stockmarket listing is always a worrying sign that an IPO might have been undervalued.

At the moment though, the initial stockmarket success of Zendesk is a win for some nice guys.

May 082014

One of my favourite IT industry buzz words is fog computing.

Initially coined by Cisco Systems, fog computing also goes by the name ‘distributed computing’ or ‘edge computing’ – never accuse the IT industry of not having enough terms for the same thing.

The idea behind distributed, edge or fog computing is that sometimes cloud computing (another term) is not always suitable for jobs where internet connections are unreliable, sending things to a cloud server wastes valuable milliseconds or lots of unnecessary data is being gathered.

Cisco’s Wim Elfrink discusses fog computing in the interview he did with Decoding the New Economy earlier this year.

For many internet of things applications, edge computing makes sense as it means devices aren’t reliant on being constantly connected and the local computer can filter noise out of the data stream being sent to head office.

Another big advantage is in saving internet costs; rather than having say all the sensors on a car having their own expensive mobile connections they instead report back to a central computer which sends relevant information back to the dealer or manufacturer.

The car is also a good example of needed immediate responses; if the airbags are deployed, the onboard computer system has to make a lot of critical decisions immediately. Waiting for a response from a server on the other side of the world could cost lives.

For computing is not only a good example of how technology vendors make up their own catchy names for concepts, it also shows that there are limits to every solution. In this case, situations where cloud computing is not the answer.