Wednesday, April 27, 2005

eWeek Excellence Awards Fund Boys & Girls Clubs

Last night, I had the pleasure of attending the eWeek Excellence Awards with Sunnies Laura Ramsey and Chhandomay Mandal. The entry fees that companies submit to eWeek for these awards go to the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, and representatives from the Lawrence, Mass. club and the Harlem, N.Y. club were on hand to accept. Kudos to Ziff for doing something so worthwhile with the funds.

Before the formal awards, we had the opportunity to chat with Technology Editor Peter Coffee, who commented on how notable it was that Sun was making its debut as a software winner, with not just one, but with two awards. (And from several hundred entries, I might add.)

Peter served as the emcee of the event. (Who knew the guy was so funny?) He introduced the award for Java Studio Enterprise 7, winner in the App Dev category, by highlighting the importance of collaboration among dispersed development teams. He applauded the innovation behind the the product's instant messaging environment tailored for developers. Laura snagged the award, crediting the Java engineering geniuses out in the Bay area, and swears she'll send it back to the team.

Sun also won the "E-Business Foundations" category, with Solaris 10, which Peter cited for its manageability, cost-effectiveness and for Sun's bold experiment in deliverying it to market. Chhando picked up the award, noting the tremendous number of downloads to date, with one more million registered licenses in just two months of availability. (To which, Peter quipped: "Can you believe we just heard the word 'download' in connection with Solaris?")

Parting thought: I'm sure it hasn't been easy for Ziff to maintain its investment in eWeek Labs, but I commend them for doing so. About two-thirds of the companies picking up awards last night were small firms. The Labs help bring a lot of innovation to light and can truly help the industry detect gems that might otherwise go undiscovered.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Marketeers Beware, Your Freudian Slip is Showing...

Something on the lighter side for a sunny spring Friday, from VP Kevin Kosh...

Hi, my name is Kevin. Long time NPR listener, first time caller. Yes, I find stories on NPR on a daily basis that move, tickle or infuriate me, but I tend to leave those emotions in the car.

But today, one story struck close to home ... it was called "The Birth of PR," and as that is what I purport to do for a living, I felt compelled to offer comment, or at least observation.

The story is one of a series highlighting the scientific breakthroughs of 1905. It was the year Freud published Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality, and Albert Einstein published most of his important papers, including the theory of relativity. And, more importantly to my world, Freud's nephew, Edward Bernays, used Uncle Siggy's ideas to help convince the public, among other things, that bacon and eggs composed the true all-American breakfast. If you question the effectiveness of playing to the subconscious desires at some level in a "meat and potatoes" PR/marketing program, let me offer a quote from a great mind of our time, Homer Simpson, "Mmmm … Bacon."

In true NPR form -- and it's why I respect them so -- it passes no judgment either way, so for anyone interested in listening to the story of the dirty secrets behind how the PR world spins (pun intended) you're probably not going to come away with the ultimate code crack or formula for PR (since in PR, everything is "relative"…oh I'm full of 'em this morning). However, it does do a great job of framing, though more from a general marketing than necessarily PR-specific perspective, the logic -- or lack thereof -- and calculations in marketing communications that walk the fine line between id and ego, between PR and propaganda. And in one example, the extreme case of the latter.

All in all, I recommend this piece by as an intriguing, albeit brief, look into the historical context of public relations. It's something to get you thinking about how you parse the stories you read, see and hear.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

My Ombudsman: The Flight Attendants' Union?

From my sound-sensitive colleague Randy Wambold...

As I wrote in an earlier blog, there's talk of allowing in-flight cellphone usage.

I grabbed the blog bully pulpit to rally on behalf of planes as one of the few remaining places in this world of ours where you can count on a little peace and quiet (well, human peace and quiet anyway -- I suppose you wouldn't call a jet engine quiet). I thought I was writing as an idealist, calling this change "inevitable."

Now I come to find I might have reason to hope that this might be "evitable" after all.

A recent article from the San Jose Mercury News ( registration is required but an account is free) reports that the flight attendants' union is fighting the move toward allowing in-flight cellphone usage. A recent poll released by the union shows that 63 percent of airline
passengers oppose the idea of allowing in-flight cell phone calls.

My confidence that I/we as "mere customers" could have any leverage to withstand this trend is about nil; thus the statement in my original blog.

But when I consider what flight attendants also stand to lose if cell phones are permitted in-flight -- their sanity -- and that they have an organized union to represent their concerns...well, confident is probably too strong a word, but hopeful is a lot more sanguine than "nil."

Sorry, gotta run. I have to make a contribution to the flight attendants' union.

Russia Developers @ $12,000 USD per Year

An experienced developer in Russia earns $12,000 to $14,000 per year. Wow.

I'm not sure what I expected when I signed up for the Spring Meeting of the Mass Software Council, which was held a couple of weeks ago. I just knew that Mikhail Gorbachev was the keynote speaker, and it's not every day that you get to hear a Nobel Peace Prize winner live with 700 of your closest pals.

As it turns out, the broader theme of the meeting was collaboration between Russia's budding IT industry, Mass. software firms and the U.S. software industry more generally. This meeting was a culmination of several years of conversations between the Mass Software Council and RUSSOFT, a Russian association that is committed to promoting the region's software industry.

A mainstay of the Spring and Fall Software Council meetings is the "two-minute pitch," when CEOs of new Council members get to tell attendees about their startup in a nutshell. In keeping with the theme of the meeting, eight Russian software companies -- all outsourcing firms -- did their pitches. You couldn't help but be impressed by these executives -- all demonstrating that spark and fire in the belly that we know and love in U.S. entrepreneurs.

These presos were followed by a short speech by Gartner's Joseph Feiman, who gave us an overview of the Russian software market. He spelled out just how well trained and how cost effective external service providers (Gartnerspeak for outsourcers) can be.

At a rational level, I understand that if U.S. software companies don't tap low-cost programmers, other countries will, and our software industry will face a slow demise. But there's something that's still a bit unsettling about all these firms cheerfully telling us by just how much they can undercut the salaries of U.S. programmers.

Luckily, Gorby was next up, and one has to give the guy credit for capturing a room, even through a translator. Better than any of the other speakers, he brought the collaboration theme full circle, reminding us that if we don't share the job wealth, we'll have bigger problems.

Some memorable excerpts from his speech. These may be paraphrased in a few cases, as my shorthand leaves something to be desired:

We are one world; we are all interconnected. How do we make this world liveable, good for everyone? With three billion people living on one or two dollars a day, you have a delayed bomb. If we ignore this, it will be suicidal for the human community.

IT cannot work just for the benefit of developing countries while the rest of the world leads a pre-industrial life. We live in a world of globalization, but it has divided the world even more. If we allow this to continue, we'll have social darwinism. We hoped the money freed up by the end of the arms race would be used to address poverty. But much of the world still lives in poverty. If we fight terrorism by military means alone, we will not succeed.

The primacy of univeral human values -- the environment, avoiding war -- must bring us together.

Let us think not only about maximizing profit, let us think about future generations, or the price will be too great to bear. There is still some fear that Russia will be reborn as a military power, that it will use its educational resources to come back. This could happen if Russia is not allowed to move forward as an equal. If Russia feels that others want to keep it down, Russia would disobey in a powerful way.

What our two nations need is trust. We should leave the trenches of the cold war. We should say farewell to that outdated philosophy. This is an important moment. The choice that the U.S. is making is a model of leadership. It is undeniable that the U.S., given its wealth of democratic traditions can claim leadership in the world. Will it be leadership through domination, or through partnership?

The model of domination is not being accepted; the model of partnership will be accepted. There is tremendous historic potential between the U.S. and Russia. Russia will not accept the position of a junior partner. The future of our relations is to secure a just and democratic world order. The state of global chaos is good for no one.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

"We Can All be Ted Turner"

Last week, Yankee Group analyst Dana Gardner dropped by our offices for a brain-teasing chat on blogging and "consumer-generated media (CGM)." How is it changing our business and his?

We covered some familiar ground, discussing the evolution of vehicles that are finally delivering on the one-to-one marketing vision that's been bandied about for years. A few years back, TechTarget had the foresight to flip traditional publishing on its head. Rather than launch a print pub with a companion on-line vehicle, TechTarget used its niche on-line sites as trial balloons. Those with high readership got spun out into print pubs. (The outfit uses the tagline: "The Most Targeted IT Media.") Today, the publishing outfit boasts 29 highly specialized sites and three print magazines.

With zero cost of entry, blogs are the next step in this evolution, enabling marketers to exploit a communications vehicle that can effectively target an audience of one. As Dana put it, "We can all be Ted Turner, creating our own highly tuned channels."

Dana drew an interesting parallel to open source software and the blogosphere. In both cases:
  • The cost of entry is low
  • The traditional commercial model is being disrupted
  • New generation companies are springing up as a result
  • The technology can be a loss leader, dragging in more revenue via the traditional business model
He noted, the status quo of publishing is fast eroding into something else; we're not sure just now what that will be. But in the meantime, there's little doubt that the traditional ways of affecting markets are changing and every responsible communications professional had better be thinking about ways to exploit the new modalities.

And if that wasn't enough material to get the synapses firing for a bit, Steve Rubel directed us to this fascinating read this morning in his invaluable daily Bloglet alert. It's a parable about Rafat Ali, who created, a premier blog. It perfectly captures everything we've been thinking about regarding the evolution from traditional media to "minimedia," including the phenomenon of the chain reaction that can occur when a single blogger picks up a concept, which in turn is picked up by two other bloggers, and the hive really starts humming.

An excerpt:

At the other, older end of the spectrum, mainstream media (or msm in digi-hipster parlance), should feel anything but safe. Blame it on hard-charging technogeeks like Ali, who fell hard and fast for the notion of an everyman's media: You make it, you shake it, you share it. What a simple, elegant, and suddenly possible concept. And yet, when the son of an Indian biochemistry professor, with only a thousand dollars in his pocket chose to study journalism at Indiana University in 1999, he could not have imagined that something called Web logging would transform his life and, more profoundly, media everywhere on the planet. Right place, right time, right mindset.

And on that note, it's time to go grab a coffee and read the Sunday Boston Globe. Print still has its place.