Thinking about Flipboard

Full confession – I am a big fan of Zite, a news curation platform that not too long ago was sold to its competitor Flipboard.

It was just a few years ago that the idea of a mobile device news curation service was revolutionary. The idea that I could access a flow of content from many different sources on any topic that I wanted beat the hell out of only being able to access what one content provider could generate.

How could this go wrong? Well, it is going wrong. As time has gone by, other big players in the mobile game have realized that they can stream  news content as well. And while Flipboard is not going out of business, it is no longer the darling of the mobile content provider world.

There is a broader issue here. As a daily user of Zite (essentially the same thing as Flipboard) I see it. The problem is that while I can ask for articles on a given topic – let’s say London or Paris or cooking – that ask does not generate precisely what I am looking for at that moment. Instead, it generates a lot of crap with a few interesting things. In other words, the curation does not “level up”. And because it does not level up, it can be copied.

The question — and it is a question that no one really has figured out yet — is how to do that leveling up. How do you empower content users to get precisely the content they need in order to learn.

Stay tuned!

Silicon Valley Inflection Points

Digital markets have been in flux for a while now and they are likely to stay that way. This allows us to see relatively quickly which companies are in synch with flux and which are not. A report card, so to speak, for firms on the issue of adaptability.

BTW, adaptability is the focus on Rita Gunther McGrathäs interesting book, “The End of Competitive Advantage”. Her main point is that firms that try to hold onto competitive advantage after markets adjust to what gave the advantage will fail. They need instead to find advantage, use it, learn from it, and exit. They need to adapt.

So what about the report card? BI offers this one looking at ho well firms have adjusted to the cloud. Apple and Facebook and Amazon and Microsoft have done ok.  HP and Oracle? Yikes!

Who Are We on the Web?

Remember the film Avatar? The idea that you could live outside of your body as an avatar of yourself was new for film, but not for gaming. Gamers were used to the idea that when they played online, they took on a totally new identity. They were (hope0fuly) more than themselves.

So has this idea moved on since then? It has, and I do not refer to the fact that many abuse the web – saying things that they would never say in person. I refer to the possibility of a new way to see yourself online. And it arises from Github. Al Wenger notes

When Linus Torvalds released git in 2005 he made a crucial innovation in version control widely available: git makes the full development history available locally to every developer (or put differently it is a distributed system).

This is a big deal. But there is more

I can form an organization on github and then invite existing individuals to that organization. As an individual I can see the different organizations I belong to. This is fundamentally different from how organizations work in most systems where I have an account that I log in on behalf of that organization and that is issued to me by that organization.

What is the big deal?

Imagine for a second if I had a single Salesforce account and could belong to multiple organizations (possibly simultaneously but maybe just sequentially over time) with that account. This new setup makes it possible to take something with me. Github doesn’t exploit this yet (as far as I know), but for instance, it could allow me to keep some statistics, such as how many commits did I make to code of an organization. Or in the case of Salesforce, how much did I generate in leads or revenues.

In other words, I could package my expertise online and plug it in as I choose. Nice, but if I do this on Github, Github still controls my identity. Could I do this without giving up that control?

This can be done with Blockchain ID.

It will allow me as an individual to control my own identity and services to make use of that identity. With Blockchain ID, I can control my own identity, am not locked into a particular registrar and can use that identity to sign into different services.

This will fundamentally alter the way we think about work. Not employed by a single firm, but plugged into numerous firms at my own choice.

Hegla Compact Loader as Case Study

Manufacturing is not what it used to be.

in the old days, big firms sold very expensive machines to factory owners who used them for a long time to make and sell expensive products.

And now?

First, Upgrading equipment now involves as much digital information control as it does machine tooling. One effect — you can more easily use older machines for new tasks, if you can get a controller upgrade (a new machine brain). Over time, the big machine sellers may not be able to keep up with the advances in programming.

Second – the length of time that a given factory configuration will generate profit is getting shorter. Why? Because markets are moving faster and that movement will accelerate more. The end result — it makes less sense to invest in a hugely expensive build out. It makes more sense to invest in things that can be moved around and bought and sold or leased.

So here is a nice compact Heglaloader at work

How much does it cost new? How much would it cost used? And how much would a controller upgrade cost? All good questions. Want to know more? Let me know.

Mentally Ill versus Prone to Violence

The recent debate in the US about gun violence is exposing some raw nerves. The most obvious raw nerve is that American policy makers have been in the pocket of the gun lobby for way, way too long. And their inability to enact any reasonable gun regulation is astonishing.

But that is not the only raw nerve. The mass shootings, and at least some of the daily gun violence, are performed by persons who suffer from mental problems. Bernie Sanders has pointed this out again and again and argued that the US needs to improve how it cares for persons with mental illness.

This may sound reasonable, but there is a problem. The figures show that mentally ill people are far more likely to be the victims of gun violence than to cause it.

we will increasingly need to consider is that an artificially created correlation between a diagnosis of mental illness and commission of a violent act will result, as anyone charged with an act of violence is increasingly likely to be labeled mentally ill. As that happens, it will unjustifiably become ammunition for those who want to base laws on the notion that “the mentally ill” are more dangerous than the rest of the populace.

In other words, Bernie Sanders may have a point that we need to take better care of the mentally ill. But we should not stigmatize them in the rush to blame a single group for violence.

Mobile Apps – Dawn or Illusion?

The business of creating and selling mobile apps should be mature by now. After all, smart phones have been around long enough for developers to understand what they can do. And app developers have been working on apps for years.

So why do we see articles like this, questioning whether one can sell mobile apps? The answer is rather simple. You cannot build a great business that is based only on incidental contact with you client. And mobile apps are points of incidental contact.

So where are we going? We are going to a place where mobile apps are integrated with platforms. Information flows between mobile, PC and other computing frameworks to be on demand where needed. Call it omni channel or whatever. But mobile is not a separate market.