Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Royal Scam or just a CopyCat App?

Apologies to Steely Dan.

By now everyone has heard of Ello.

The question still remains why?

Someone posted about it shortly after I read Robert Scoble's post about it.Being a messaging and communication person, figured I should check it out.

I described it as a mix between Pinterest and Twitter. Many said it was like Facebook. It does not really matter because it doesn't do anything special, yet, that I can tell. Maybe Jerry Seinfeld is behind it. You know, it's an app, about nothing...get it?

The niche that it may provide something useful to is amusing. If you worry so much about privacy, stop using cell phones, cable tv, your car, credit cards, etc. If you care that much about how Facebook handles your details, and think this will make it more private, okay, have fun. Ideally, yes, nothing should be tracking us, but living in reality is another story.

What if I am wrong? What if it will boom like Twitter? Until you have more friends to search on here, the search sucks right now by the way, it is like a ghost town. You can discover people, but as one of my friends pointed out, "same ol' jokers--- hey guys :)".

Talk about being in a bubble!

Persistent chat room with graphics and not limited in syntax length....yeah so what?

If he was meaner, I would venture one of my friends on the west coast would have asked his programming class to build something to set up the world for such a scam.

So why blog about it, because sometimes life is about failures and what we learn from them.

And yes I have invites still if you really need it.

Monday, September 29, 2014

I am speaking at Social Connections VII in Stockholm

Social Connections VII

After a few years of trying to get to the event, I have finally made plans to not only attend, but speak at the IBM Social Business and Connections User Group meeting, referred to as Social Connections VII (#soccnx) which is in Stockholm, Sweden November 13-14th.

Event and registration details here.

The event has had about 200-300 customers attend previous meetings.Vendors and sponsors are of course welcome and want to help you with your business.

The topic of my session is “Didn't you see my Status Update!? Accountability and the Modern Employee".

Trying to avoid this after you have entered your details in whatever software:

The pros and cons of email, ESN (Enterprise Social Networks), Instant Messaging, SMS among other items will be discussed. How to best leverage what you have and provide some purpose to how you get it done. Management's efforts to increase productivity do not always come out the other end as planned. Helping management and helping yourself is the key.

Expect an interactive discussion. You are encouraged to post your questions so we can cover all types of aspects.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Friday Frustrations - Online Bill Paying UX Failure

Received our first gas bill today from the Supergas company here in Israel. I can setup an automatic bank draft or pay by credit card. I can't do the bank draft yet so I figured I would pay by credit card.

Go to their site, find the pay my bill page, get to the screen where I put in my information and there is one small problem...the area code. Mine, 058 is not listed. Link to their page here

Naturally like any good hack I figured just pick an area code and let it go, like entering jay@jay.com for the email address. Nope, does not compute. It verifies the phone number on the account with their records. 

Supergas, what are you thinking?

1) Verifying a phone number does not sound like a good idea to me. If you have my account number, address, name, ID # and all, you would think that would be enough to validate me. I want to pay you, make it easy for me. Also which phone did we open the account under? Mine or my wife's? Fail again.

2) Why is area code a drop down AND a required field? Did you think I would not include my area code when I input my phone number? Is it a formatting issue? Then state how you want the numbers entered, using ( ) or . or - is fine. 

3) There is also no help on the page or chat with anyone. I am sure customer service would be unable to help me fix the UI and underlying coding, but they should be able to take my payment, for an extra fee of course. 

This is the gas company that everyone in my city gets their gas from and pays their bills. I can not be the only one that has this problem. Then again, if everyone pays by the bank using automatic drafts I can see how this web page was missed during the QA process.

It happens, someone updated code or forget to add in our area code. I know this, I've done it myself. I am not angry, slightly amused and slightly frustrated though, because what should have taken a few minutes to setup turned into a long process and now a blog post.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

My BlueMix Day of Coding

I rarely code anymore, but when I found out about this class, not far from me in Israel, I figured why not check it out.

Last time I did something like this was at IBM Impact 2 years ago when I sat in on a Worklight development hands on session.

Which was more useful? Bluemix is this year's iPhone from IBM and Worklight is a bit quieter.

Bluemix is a term loosely translated to me as "Websphere lite". Why do I say this? There are a lot of pieces to make this environment come together. Not sure how much of it is IBM or the architecture that requires so much, but as an Admin, it does not make me happy to see/hear there are so many moving pieces. As a developer, maybe you are used to this aspect. Yes I come from a silo coding world, so sociliaze me. Chris Sparshott of IBM did nice slides on the pieces.

The class was an all day event, 9-4, I had to skip out the last hour to get home for parent night at school, but we were done coding by then. We opened with a slide deck in English and the instructor presented it all in Hebrew. I may have missed some terminology or aspects, and any Bluemix people want to correct me I appreciate it.

I tried to get a picture of one slide which looked like this:

You may prefer this slidedeck, it is not the one I saw, but will enlighten you farther than I could ever explain it.

Once we got the introductions out of the way it was time to get coding. Well time to first find the pieces we would need.

Bluemix ID, Jazz ID, IBM ID, check. Oh the Bluemix ID is only good for 60 days then you need to pay for access. More on this later.

GitHub is the first stop, go get the files for the class. Fork them over, boil till ready then copy to your local drive. No doubt developers do this in their sleep, admins, we just look at this like it is another foreign language. Yes I have had an account at Github for a while, but I don't code so it was to tinker with some ideas. I followed directions and was amused at how much DOS is still in use. Sorry you all call it a command prompt or terminal.

Great so we have some file. Now what? Go get 2-3 other bits of pieces, and load them into Bluemix. Right, how? I asked the woman sitting next to me for help and she also had problems following. First rule of doing live demos, reset your machine or do it in a VM that can easily be cleaned up. Instructor had all the defaults found for him, but these got worked out and we moved on to the next part.

When we got into the BueMix environment we found there is a 2GB memory limit of usage. We were constantly deleting apps on screen, I at least, wondered how much memory we needed, or if I deleted the right one every time.

Coding involves various drag and drop bits and pieces which you can include. Some things like Twitter have already been included for you to play with feeds and searches easily. In general, I found it to be an easy way to code, if one knew what they were doing. I am still a bit confused about all the preliminary work we did, downloaded and setup(we used MYSQL, but I don't have it on my laptop, so not sure how that works). Naturally I wanted to integrate Domino in here but there is nothing there just yet. Perhaps at IBM ConnectED in January we will see/hear more about it. Then again, if one really wanted a fast development platform that could be used across the board, IBM Domino is still out there. Nathan Freeman had a similar question on his blog.

We eventually made it through to the coding part and made a little parking app. Mine is sitting out here, https://care.mybluemix.net, for the next 57 days or so. Cute enough and worked on my S4 and laptop browsers. This doesn't get published yet to the IBM Appstore, IBM Cloud Marketplace. I understand only SoftLayer apps can be published here, but I may be wrong with that information.

I presume one can package the app, somehow, and make it available from the Apple and Google stores as well.

My questions for IBM and the product management team:

Pricing to use BlueMix after 60 days, in my opinion limits development. On the other hand, you can sign up with multiple accounts and use it for another 60 days, just without your code. As an IBM Business Partner I would like to think we can have accounts that do not expire or cost us, much, money. The people I contacted had no idea if there was such a BP option. Anyone know?

Having all these pieces of a puzzle relying on SoftLayer, URLs, and version control seems like a lot of failure points to me. Just wondering about it.

Pricing for using BlueMix did not show up on screen, for my over 60 days account, just asking for a credit card, but no amount. Please let people know what it costs.

Speaking of costs, you can see what your built app might cost from inside BlueMix. To me it looks like a nickel and dime effort when all I want to know is how much to host my app every month. Who knew there were large and small push/pull requests. Right, you developers should, but do you really watch the costs? I think this could be done in an easier fashion so that the business line people could understand their budget hits. After all, I doubt the developers look at the bills.

It was fun overall, and when I had the right code, logins and things turned on, or running at all, it all went well.

I will now leave developer land again until the next time, like next Tuesday, when I go to Google's Cloud day and get a different perspective.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Accountability and the ESN

In this Golden Age of social networks that pretend to be burying email servers like Rod Stewart goes through wives, we have a black hole that is not discussed.

Email is not perfect, but better than most countries normal postal services.
IM is great for awareness of who is online, but just because I show up online does not mean I really am at the machine, phone or browser.
Twitter is awesome....when you are connected to the internet.
SMS is far from perfect, as anyone who travels can tell you when they get messages days later, if ever.
RSS feeds do, um, something for some people. But really, do you ever catch up on those feeds?
Faxes are, wait, you don't still use those do you?
Phone calls work well, but not when you are on 12-14 hours of different time zones.

Why do I bring these up? Because if you work any place on Earth, your life is ruled by email.You may say it isn't and for a handful of people, this may be true.

For the rest of us, email is the "certified and return receipt" way of knowing something happens.

Now comes along the Enterprise Social Network (ESN) and the status updates. A new inbox, so to speak. Some call it a waterfall, others call it the river, but what it all leads to is a big flooded lake of information.

Inside that lake lies missives of information that you may need to get your work done. But your job now is to go find it. Just when you thought you may have figured out the Inbox Zero thing, along comes another place to check and take you away from important work.

The early adopters will gesticulate so their Google Glass picks up their excitement about getting used to checking in multiple places. For IT people, we are used to getting information from all types of places like our Wii or Xbox not just our phone, laptops, ipads and watches.

Our normal employees, and executives, may not appreciate needing to check multiple places all day long. They can choose to check in every few hours maybe, but then what if they missed something? Those sneaky IT people are always making changes in the background and not telling people what they changed.

Yes, you will say that all the status updates COULD be setup to go direct to people's email. And maybe this is one way out of this mess, but maybe a better way would have been to just integrate email into the ESN properly so there were status updates that were really email? Why have another method or name for what really is just more email? I understand, the ESN sends updates to people that follow you, so the onus is on me to care about you. But what if I don't know you exist yet?

Or better yet, why is there no send update to SMS, Twitter or for the non_IT crowd, Facebook? Why is the default to use their email system or nothing else? Of course, why would a company want their information to get published publicly? For that matter, why would a company want to make their employees lives easier? Isn't that the whole point of the ESN? Helping everyone to know what is going on...in the ESN and hopefully in the company at large? The company values its privacy and security. This reminds me of when companies used to maintain multiple email systems because they could not agree which one to standardize on and for some crazy reason they think maintaining duplicates of everything would be a better solution.

Now we have the ESN where ideally we may be led down a path to drop our email systems.

Except for one little thing. ESNs have no way to talk to each other. They do not have SMTP servers nor gateways to other networks, even their own internal company ESNs in some cases can not talk to each other and they are from the same vendor!

one inbox

IFTTT.com (If This Then That) should be expanding their reach to help fill some of these holes, but I doubt it will work for enterprises.

If you create a Status Update and no one sees it, now what? What if my stream is so filled with items, and you did not tag me in it, that I just miss the very item I need for my project or deadline? Who's fault is it? How do we work around this problem? Email crush should be the game everyone plays, not candy crush.Your inbox will now be at zero, but your ESN notifications page is massive.

How do you solve this dilemma? Will it be solved? When? How? By Whom? Do we even see the end in sight yet?

Thursday, September 4, 2014

What is your Candy Corn?

For those not familiar with the reference, Candy Corn is a sweet confectionery candy which is quite sugary and shaped like a triangle with 3 colors in it. Wikipedia explains it this way. The picture below is from Wikipedia as well.
candy corn rocks

I could eat a mound of it and not think twice about it. To me Candy Corn is one of the best candies. It is a happy candy, for me, and I enjoy eating them, in many ways which I will not bore you with here. Sadly for me the only Kosher ones I know of are from the Jelly Belly company. When I shared space with my friend that had a candy business, the smell from a freshly opened 10 pound bag was just heaven. Like being in a doughnut shop when the first ones come out of the oven.

When you get sucked down by the world, what makes it brighter for you? As a parent, the natural answer would be my kids, but being realistic, we all want something to brighten our days that just exists. Coffee is not my thing, chocolate is okay, peanut butter cups are a crutch for me, but I have been known to go way, way, way, out of my way, just to snag some candy corn, and keep it for when I need it most.

But it is not always available. Thus, it becomes a really big treat when it is available. Like having my own time machine to just be a kid again.

It does not provide creativity, my friends provide more than enough for me. It does help bring the fun, the kid in me wants to have that the adult in me may not have time for always.

What sparks you to do something? What helps you get your work done? What makes your boss disappear?If you don't have something that brightens your day, what do you do to get through it? The goal, the item, whatever it might be that works for you, keep that with you always.

Be a kid! Have fun! If YOLO then you should enjoy as much as you can.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

What Are You Doing, HAL?

My friend Chris Toohey posted this on Twitter:

I replied, I just want my servers to talk to me.
What would you have your server say, if it could talk?

"My Router hurts, are you spamming people again?"
"Drive C has eaten all the chips and needs a bigger belt (no free space)"
"That agent you ran just now, were you seriously trying to crash me?"
"Things would run faster if you shut off service x,y, or z...or just buy me more memory"
"I can't see the Internet, is it a zombie apocalypse or did you unplug a cable?"
"Some one just attached a USB drive to the network with a virus, would you like me to dispose of it?"

I can dream of a smarter network, can't I?
Yes, monitors and notifications work, but I would like to hear form my server. It could call me over VOIP if it wants as well.

If the Internet of Things, as various places claim will take over, when will the computers get voice boxes and properly talk to us?

Please vendors, app designers and developers stop it with the crazy error messages we get onscreen that are meaningless and speak English. Or translate the errors to whatever language one needs them.