Tuesday, 22 April 2008

I had one blog...now two?

I started a new blog today. I thought I would simply add it to the current Redditech blog of topics but realised that trying to get into graduate school to pursue an MBA is an entirely different aspect from this blog's focus of distilling technology and creativity and thus a different audience. It made sense to have a separate blog for these experiences to be shared.

I wanted to share this continually growing chapter of my life with the online community, firstly for myself as a way to judge a year or so from now how well I did at acheiving a set goal, and secondly to give back to future MBA hopefuls something useful, in the same way others have been assisting me with their words of advice throughout their MBA experiences. As far as I know I am the only Trinidadian who has started a blog on MBA application experiences. I would welcome being corrected on this fact, but until then this fact gives me a sense of responsibility to focus on both commonalities with other MBA applicants and particulars of the Trinidad situation.

I intend that the ReddiMBA blog's content will not be at the expense of quality or frequency of content for this one. I do still read widely on creativity, business and technology theories and specifics, and experiment with those ideas I can see integrating in my daily lifestyle and workstyle. I do still want this blog to exist as my way of distilling such ideas both for myself as well as others in the online community in general.

I don't ever intend for either blog to be popular, I don't think my writing is that persuasive or original as I am often inspired to write by more creative thinkers whose works I come across accidentally or follow passionately, to tweak their ideas for my own situation, and to share what insights I have on those tweaks.
If something I write one day inspires a future leader on his or her path to greatness, then I'd be happy this blog fulfilled its purpose. Thomas Friedman wrote in "The World Is Flat" that the new "middlers" in future society will be the great collaborators, orchestrators, synthesizers, explainers, leveragers, adapters and localizers, the green people and the passionate personalizers. I hope to be privileged enough to qualify for at least one of these roles one day with the continued writings in these blogs.

Friday, 18 April 2008

IT Outsourcing: Does Trinidad have the "something else" to become the next India

The title and summary of this Business Week article says it all:

"The New Economics of Outsourcing
Efforts to send IT work anywhere but Bangalore are taking on added urgency as costs of doing work in India rise and the dollar sinks"

The question to be asked is do we in Trinidad have the “something else” mentioned that businesses are now looking for?

I think we do.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Yahoo acquired IndexTools Analytics, now makes it free!

Yahoo! made this announcement to acquire IndexTools' Analytics Business a few days ago.

Eric Peterson has a great blog article on how this action makes a possible permanent change to the field of web analytics in general.

Come today according to this blog post the use of the tool is now free, putting it head to head with Google Analytics as well as
Microsoft's Gatineau

And there's still the outstanding deadline on the offer by Microsoft to buy out Yahoo.

It seems like the board of directors are either outright refusing to think in terms of a Microsoft buyout, or ensuring there's reason enough for Microsoft to make a higher bid offer for them to consider, and not a lower one as Microsoft has subtly threatened to make if it has to go directly to shareholders.

Will this move by Yahoo's board also reinforce their shareholders' confidence to hold out if Microsoft makes them a direct offer after the deadline date, or pass altogether on being acquired if the Yahoo board chooses that route?

Time will tell.

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Things are happening on TTLUG

After the first meeting of the new TTLUG executives, of which I somehow ended up in the post of Trustee, I am totally excited with some of the initiatives we're looking to undertake. "Executive" is probably an old-school term for what we are though, we've agreed that really we are firstly the caretakers for the Trinidad Linux community's "de facto" group. I hope we can also become the model team for leading by example in getting things done, that will hopefully inspire others in the TTLUG to volunteer and also help get things done.

The makeup of the group so far is just the correct mix needed to get some of these goals done. I definitely look forward to learning a little more about each of these guys going forward as we work together on cool stuff for promoting the TTLUG.
While I've missed meeting one member, I'm sure his experience in other social groups in Trinidad would be excellent addition to the current team of "superheros-in-training."
I say this as from our "icebreaker" question and subsequent discussion I realised that I really do have Hawkgirl, Professor Xavier and SpongeBob aspirants working with my Batman personality to help uplift the TTLUG over the next year. What a crossover comic this is going to be!

I'm hoping my past experience in getting things done with Medullan , a high-growth U.S.-based startup, and the lessons learned there both in project delivery and in growing organisations can contribute to keeping the ball rolling and the energy high when the various idea advocates gather their respective volunteers and start brainstorming the plans for each of them.
I encourage anyone reading this post who has an interest in learning more about Linux (and by extension Open Source software) and contributing to its growth in Trinidad to join the TTLUG mailing list and participate in our discussions.

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Can't make Google I/O? Youtube videos are the next best thing

I really want to make Google I/O Developer's conference. At $400US for the 2 days, it's the most affordably priced developer conference I've seen so far. As an example, Apple's WWDC (World Wide Developer's Conference) starts its minimum ticket at over $1500USD. Unfortunately, San Francisco is pretty far from Trinidad, a ticket there borders on $800USD, and nightly accomodations will range anywhere between $200-$300 USD per night.
At over 6$TT to $1USD, I'm looking at quite a hefty amount, somewhere in the realm of a years' worth of savings if I want to make this dream happen.

I'm going to try several options to make it happen, and then deal with the issue of convincing my new employer, a staunch Microsoft shop, to give me the time off to go learn Google tools.

The next best thing though is watching various videos on Google's YouTube channels. For the developer, there are the GoogleDeveloper and GoogleDeveloperDays channels. There is also a generic Google channel, as well as a Google.org channel for promoting their philanthropical initiatives, and AtGoogleTalks where they publish videos from the various guest speaker events they have at Google. One new community oriented video channel, the GoogleDocsCommunity channel, is geared at pushing community oriented content for using their GoogleDocs product, and also a possible template for future community oriented channels.

Don't get me wrong, I have no qualms about reading wikis or technical manuals to get ramped up on new technologies, reading about things such as BigTable and GFS get me excited about these ideas as well.
Seeing these "wonder" tools and products in action via video have a greater "get excited" effect on me that transcends the reading experience. It literally has me feeling "pumped up" about being a software developer in today's world.
I'm hoping the content from Google I/O makes it to one of these channels eventually, because I have found the past ones extremely useful in getting me up to speed pretty quickly on the new tools out there.

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Microsoft's Yahoo strategy, will Google get involved?

According to the public poll on Mashable on whether Microsoft is still evil, as of today
56% believe it still is
21% believe it is not
20% believe it never was evil...

Google's blogged on the proposed takeover of Yahoo by Microsoft very early on. Google's code of conduct ("Don't Be Evil") would be lived up to by getting involved, which doesn't just mean to counter-offer. Ideas such as outsourcing Yahoo searches to Google will be pushed to have the effect of boosting shareholder confidence in Yahoo continuing to operate successfully and profitably in future. This in turn will not only keep shareholders supportive of the Board of Directors in their refusal of Microsoft's offer, but also convince them to vote against a direct offer by Microsoft for their Yahoo shares if it is made.

Yahoo has also been talking with folks outside of Google like the MySpace owners, News Corp, however the question remains as to whether they can crunch the numbers in time and develop the strategy to make viable a real counter-offer before Microsoft's hard deadline to Yahoo.

However, Google's leadership has in the past preferred the problem of moving too fast rather than too slow, even praising executives at the centre of huge loss-incurring incidents that result from such a position.
I wouldn't be surprised if not being able to totally mitigate the risk because of the timeframe involved didn't stop Google from pushing ahead any of their ideas, whether it be counter-bid or new joint initiative with Yahoo.

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Microsoft sets deadline on Yahoo offer...threatens hostil bid

I just came across this headline on Google Finance
Microsoft sets deadline on Yahoo offer...threatens hostile bid

A related article, Microsoft threatens Yahoo with proxy fight, offers some additional information.
CEO Ballmer set a three-week deadline for their offer, after which he says Microsoft will take a lower offer directly to the shareholders, in a hostile bid to take control of Yahoo.

After the statements at Mix08 by Steve Ballmer that implied Yahoo was key to reaching critical mass in Microsoft's business initiatives into the world of search and advertising, where "search is the killer application for online advertising", this move is Steve's attempt at forcing of a response to move forward by setting this deadline and consequences for missing it.

The statement by Steve should come as no surprise to anyone. Steve Ballmer is after all, that good.

Friday, 4 April 2008

Plan to get in the MIX 08 this weekend

It's several weeks past already, but I'm only now getting time to get into the sessions from Microsoft's Mix08 event. One cool demonstration of their new Silverlight 2.0 technology, a new competitor to Adobe Flash, is the enhanced interface for viewing the sessions.

I've already blogged about my takeaways from watching part of Guy Kawasaki's interview of Steve Ballmer, which you can view for yourself. I'm sure the sessions I view this weekend will provide some excellent food for thought for future posts.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Steve Balmer already knows what Jane McGonigal just told us

I just took in some of Microsoft MIX08's Keynote between Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and Guy Kawasaki.

This is what Steve Balmer responds on Guy Kawasaki's question of "What Drives You?"
"1. I love what we do, I'm pretty jabbed about Silverlight 2, IE8...
2. I get a chance to work with customers as well as the folks at Microsoft. Some of the smartest most energetic most fun folks in the world...
3. I enjoy a challenge, and with the scale of what's going on in our industry...the folks we have to compete with...certainly we got them (challenges)"

In response to the question of the kind of days he has, Steve again summaries it into three kinds of days
"1. I'm out of Redmond, with customers, from 7:30am in the morning to 8 in the night, on a flight at night for another meeting at another location, that energises me...
2. I like to call it 'The doctor's in his office' day. Every hour I have a meeting, energising, but exhausting
3. Days where I can think, write and research. Mine to dig into things."

When compared to what Jane McGonigal said at SxSW on the four things that makes people happy, it seems that Steve is in his perfect job since the only area he missed explicitly was "being really good at something", which his position as Microsoft CEO could attest to in itself.
From programmer to politician to pundit, may we all strive to be as well matched in our own placements as Steve definitely is.

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Jane McGonigal hits the nail on the head with "What makes us happy"

I'm sick at home today, so as I've slept more than I could, I took the opportunity to review some of the videos posted from the SxSW conference. I initially wanted to see the highlights of Mark Zuckerberg's interview. Honestly I agree with TechCrunch, it was not as bad as it was made it to be.

In browsing the video highlights of various speakers, Jane McGonigal made me sit up and take notice.
In the video highlights of her presentation she speaks of the four things that correlated research shows make people happy.
1. Satisfying work to do
2. The experience of being good at something
3. Time spent with people we like
4. The chance to be part of something bigger

Of course she relates this back to games, so my local gaming friends may argue that they are closer to happiness than the rest of us. The slides she used in this presentation are shared on SlideShare.Net, another site I am fast gaining respect for (slide 17 has the points mentioned above).

These four things should also be guides of advice for two groups of people I am quite familiar with, the individual job seeker in his quest for employment bliss and the high-growth company in its quest to attract and retain great people and minimise employee attrition.
Speaking as a fellow "blissful job seeker" I can attest to the above being definite criteria in my past searches, and a judgement of how well adjusted I am to a position I hold. It is not often easy to identify beforehand whether an offer of employment will hold when judged against the above criteria, especially when an employer is unaware that this is what people are really seeking when they look to promote an employment opportunity's merits.

As I was once a member of the recruiting team at a high growth company, I see now how these words of advice could have added to delivering the positive experience to prospective candidate we strove for. Demonstrating the ability to meet these four human requirements for happiness to any candidate are paramount in encouraging them to consider an offer if given.
In retrospect, I realise this was already done to an extent.

If I had the chance to do it again though I would first post these four points on the whiteboard during planning of a recruiting event as a criteria for success. If during the event there were missing demonstrations of how any of the four would be achieved by a candidate's joining the organisation, then the planning was incomplete.

The problem I previously wrote about is that too often job seekers believe that a high salary is the key to happiness, which in turn hurts both them and the employer. On the other hand, employers as well do not see the root problem, and instead believe that higher salaries alone would be the key to a reduction in turnover. In the end, neither finds what they want. The new employee will quickly discover his happiness stunted despite the level of compensation received, and the employer will find himself with the continued high turnover rate as still unhappy employees leave.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

On buying things online and the power of the personalised experience

A friend recommended this Best Buy deal on a Canon Powershot 12.1MP camera. A quick Google search came up with this better Amazon.com deal.
It just goes to show the power of the Internet for deal-finding...if you're not the best price on the block, you're going to be found out pretty easily.

What will differentiate your site as a reseller then? It has to be the personalised experience.

Looking more closely, BestBuy's overview page is pretty brief. The "related items" listing has associated accessories, but because I know it's at the end a website for a chain of stores with inventory I don't know if that's what other people are buying or just what BestBuy is pushing.
The presence of multiple Best Buy locations also indicates to me that I can go and try it out before buying to make sure what I see is indeed what I do get.

In this example, I am an amateur photographer, so I need the layman's guide to making a good choice. The camera is pretty nice, and I like taking pictures but I have no idea of what a professional looks for in buying a digital camera.
Amazon.com's page has been more designed with me in mind. The product page focuses on educating the viewer in terms of similar items bought, product reviews, customer reviews and related recommendations that link to pages that are just as informative about alternatives.
It feels less of a "buy me" page, and more of a "learn about me and products like me" page. One key element, the "What Customers Are Buying" section, definitely helps to convey this effect.
What it risks though is becoming an overload of information by having all of this information on one page.

If I were new to buying online, I think the Amazon.com experience would make me more likely to come back to Amazon.com to search for my next purchase of an item I know very little about. My personalised experience with the website in trying to learn how to evaluate a good camera has lent itself to that.
Since I've bought from Amazon.com before and am logged in, I'll also have personal recommendations of items that are closely related to what I bought or viewed. These recommendations are usually spot on in terms of what I would buy. The personal experience will continue.
To borrow from the analogy inside Malcolm Gladwell's talk on Spaghetti Sauce, Amazon.com lets now find my "perfect pepsi" in a world of "perfect pepsis" more quickly than I would with the BestBuy.com experience.

In the end if I choose to buy this particular camera, I'll buy it from the Amazon.com website, because no matter the experience, the better price will win out for me once the after sales service and warranty support are there.
If there was a Best Buy close by, I would also walk into the store to try the camera out before I bought it online at the best price. That part of the personal experience BestBuy has won on. I don't know how many other consumers are that cautious before making a purchase though.

What is the lesson then?
If I were starting an online retailing store, I'd remember two things.
1. The personalised experience using a website is a value-added tool, and not the magic bullet for making the sale online.
2. Combined with the ingredients that make a traditional store successful, such as best prices, after-sales service and warranty/returns policy, and technology innovations such as personalised recommendations that I agree with, it's pretty close to being a magic bullet for making the sale online.

News from the front

A shocking headline in the Trinidad Linux world today!

MS G.Gobin elected TTLUG President-for-Life