Here’s some exciting news: I’ve joined the advisory board of high-flying cloud networking startup Pertino (a company worthy of ‘betting your career on’ according to one source). Why am I so excited about working with Pertino?
First, I believe in their vision. Pertino is making the next generation of networking technology accessible for small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). Allowing non-IT specialists to easily create secure, business-strength networks available from anywhere with an internet connection, while accommodating all the latest mobile and tablet devices that people want to connect with, is part of the “democratization of IT” trend that Pertino is making a reality.
Second, I think they can deliver on their vision. The team is really good. The product works. They’ve got funding. So there’s a real shot at changing the world.
And third, as a long-time student of digital history, I know that technology revolutions don’t just happen. Digital technology is incredibly flexible, and its development can take different paths depending on what happens at a few key moments in history. Just because applications and infrastructure are moving to the cloud, or open standards are making the next generation of networking technology more widely available, doesn’t guarantee that smaller companies can suddenly compete on a level playing field–the Internet didn’t suddenly make big business obsolete.
Pertino is deliberately aiming at SMBs, with a product that in many ways surpasses the current enterprise state-of-the-art. The main technology that Pertino is based on (SDN, or Software Defined Networking), was originally designed for shaping network traffic in huge data centers. It takes skilled visionaries to shape a larger technology trend such as SDN into a platform simple and elegant enough for whole new populations to use.
Update: The editors at PCMag.com have already rated Pertino as ‘excellent’ in their first review, and that’s just for the Limited Release version.
The WordPress ecosystem, now powering over 17% of the web, has been successful beyond even my wildest expectations when I started working with it over 5 years ago. As one of the best-known examples of open source software with business applications, it’s natural to ask what’s behind its success.
My study of the WordPress ecosystem, published in the Communications of the AIS, looks at the rich contributions to WordPress in the form of extensions. Extensions include plugins that add new functionality, and themes that change the look and feel, many of which are freely available. My research found that individual volunteers and enthusiasts contribute many high quality extensions, as you might expect in an open source project, but also a surprising number of contributions from small businesses. WordPress consultants and service providers do give back to the platform, but even some of the non-technical businesses (including bunk bed retail, real estate, and motorcycle repair) make contributions. In WordPress, the democratization of business software lies not just in the free use, but also in the widespread contribution of extensions, which are much less intimidating to offer up to the community than software updates to the core of the platform.
Not only do small businesses contribute, but they naturally form an ecosystem with at least two other types of contributors: pure volunteers, and hobbyists who hope to make a little money on the side with ads or donations (I call them ‘quasi-commercial’). Individual volunteers tend to contribute the more glamorous front-end extensions that provide new user features, small businesses tend to contribute less flashy back-end extensions that integrate systems and work behind the scenes, and the ‘quasi-commercial’ players lie somewhere in between. Interestingly, Fortune 500 firms, many of whom use WordPress, were nowhere to be found on the list of contributors.
I wonder what will be the next business software category to be democratized, with the help of small business?
I love searching online for travel deals. But what if the biggest travel sites have become so powerful they can force hotels never to sell their inventory to competitors at a lower cost? Then online travel sites would only be providing the illusion of savings, while actually dictating prices behind the scenes.
That’s what a recent class-action lawsuit in California is claiming. You can see my comments to the local news media in this KTVU video, while it lasts. (You need to scroll back to the “EMERYVILLE: Bargain travel and hotel sites” video.)
One of my goals in life has been to be mistaken for a Hospitality industry expert–they always get the best treatment around town. Mission accomplished.
Wait…don’t we already know everything about Enterprise Systems adoption? Why would I want to submit a paper by March 1st, 2012 to the Enterprise Systems Adoption and Business Models track (Call for Papers here) at AMCIS 2012 in Seattle?
Because Enterprise Systems are entering a dramatically new phase of cloud-deployment, software-as-a-service, and open technologies that are much more deeply connected to the outside world. The traditional problem of matching complex enterprise system to complex organizations is being transformed by new options that transcend or supplement the usual SAP and Oracle offerings. It’s an exciting time to re-open the traditional adoption and implementation questions, with an eye towards a future of fundamentally different Enterprise Systems business models that could change everything.
So don’t miss out. Check out our Call for Papers, and consider this range of possible topics. Questions? Ask me, or any of our fine co-chairs.
· motivation and justification for ES adoption,
· alignment between ES and adopting organization,
· barriers and impediments to ES adoption success,
· risk factors in ES adoption,
· critical failure factors for ES adoption,
· critical success factors for ES adoption,
· understanding of ES adoption success,
· evaluation and benchmarking of ES projects,
· multi-cultural and multi-national issues,
· multiple stakeholder perspective in ES adoption and use,
· business model frameworks,
· impact of new trends within the software industry on business models,
· business model innovation for standard software companies,
· implications of shorter product lifecycles on business models,
· SaaS related business models,
· open source software related business models.
I recently joined the International Journal of Electronic Commerce as an editorial board member, and its new web editor. Which is cool, because IJEC is still the #1 rated e-commerce journal in the universe. But it’s also cool because I had the chance to relaunch IJEC’s online presence with its first new website since the late 1990′s.
So far, it’s a somewhat minimalist update. It uses open technology (WordPress), making it easy to add new capabilities as we go along. It gets a modest 1000 or so monthly visitors from 70 countries.
It’s the largest content-based site I’ve ever done – almost 500 pages – so previously unknown bulk import and backup plugins have become my good friends. I even get that little pang of nervousness in the pit of my stomach when I hit the ‘update’ button, so you know it’s for real.
Except for much better search engine results on article and author names, there’s no dramatically new power yet. I look forward to hearing from you about what interesting new capabilities we should add. We technology academics are famous for always having the worst, most outdated technology (I’m not naming any names, um, AIS) but let’s break that cycle, shall we?
He was a revolutionary who embodied the American Dream; design was his weapon.
He was a self-made man whose success came from building products, not by gaming the system. He was counter-cultural; a dropout; a drug user; the darling of Wall Street; and the arbiter of good taste. He was somehow able to hold together earnest working class values, engineering values, elitist values, and Buddhist values.
It was not just his success, but how he succeeded. Entrepreneurship, innovation, building a better mousetrap, the startup in the garage–this was what America was supposed to be good at. Apple was a story of disaster and salvation. Maybe America is yearning for this particularly strongly right now.
I think his biggest achievement was how he made the revolutionary potential of digital technology real. That’s hard to do. Entire industries–technology, music, movies, personal communications–have been remade for the better. It’s not obvious that without the interventions he personally led, these revolutions would have happened.
His legacy will last longer than his products if the digital revolution continues; if the industries and institutions that desperately need re-inventing are revolutionized in Chairman Jobs fashion by his disciples and admirers. In the days to come, perhaps it will be TV, or financial payments, that are turned inside-out. Will commerce, education, government, or health care eventually follow?
His uniqueness and rarity, so celebrated over the past few days, illustrates how long and difficult a road it will be for America to revive its traditional hopes and dreams. There aren’t many Mr. Jobs lying around.
Thanks Mr. Jobs for letting me play with one of your Apple II’s when I was 15, and a 128K Macintosh when I was 17. That was awesome.
Strange coincidence: The two technologies that influenced my life the most were born on the same day. As me.
On August 6, 1945, the first atomic bomb attack was unleashed on Hiroshima. Nuclear weaponry, and the stranger-than-fiction doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction, was one of my first sustained intellectual interests. I remember a presentation in a 10th grade essay contest on “How to Survive a Nuclear War for Less Than $10,000” (it lost to an elucidation of the joys of stamp collecting, my first taste of intellectual martyrdom). I volunteered for UCSC’s Nuclear Policy Program (run by this guy) as an undergrad, and became a bit of an expert on tactical and battlefield nuclear weapons. I dragged my wife to Cold War locations around the country–Oak Ridge, Los Alamos, the Titan missile silo in Arizona, even the first nuclear power plant in Idaho. Thank goodness the Trinity detonation site in New Mexico is only open twice a year, or I would have dragged her there too.
On August 6, 1991, the first website was published. The Internet in general, and the Web in particular, were the technologies that elevated my childhood obsessions with TRS-80 pocket computers, VIC-20s, and Apple IIs to the level of world-changing forces. I signed up for my Ph.D. in Computers, Organizations, Policy, and Society at UCI a few years before the Web began, but by the time I left the Internet was open to everyone, and the Web was big money. My Ph.D. work was still pre-Web (ethnographies of manufacturing information systems being the hottest topic I could think of in those ancient times), but then moved on to mobile technology, open technology, and my current obsessions with online business. Launching a new website to 2 billion+ people still gives me a thrill, and showing others how to do it is one of my most satisfying teaching tasks.
As all early historians and players of Civilization know, for human society in the long run it’s always about technology–the Stone Age, the Bronze Age, the Industrial Age, etc. Digital technology dominates and shapes our world, through globalization, financial markets, social networks, and surveillance, with a force even greater than nuclear technology in its day. As I get older, I think more about how digital technology supports, and could possibly change, the most powerful human institution for shaping our future: for-profit business.
When I was a kid reading my International Herald Tribune from cover to cover, or writing my Model United Nations resolutions, I didn’t have an inkling of the kind of societal challenges we’d face in the United States–environmental unsustainability, a threatened middle class, corruption of the democratic process, financial speculation, and perpetual warfare to name a few. When the Cold War finished, I too thought it might be the End of History. Incorrect.
On August 6, 2011, I spent the day hiking in the Mokelumne Wilderness. Not that long ago, at least part of our society was wise enough to realize there are places where technology (and business) shouldn’t apply. I wonder if our society is wise enough today to make those decisions. Maybe it’s darkly appropriate that my spouse gave me Vonnegut’s Slapstick, or Lonesome No More to read on my birthday, an autobiography of the future last President of the United States.
Happy birthday to me.
Compared to old school Yellow Pages and newspaper ads, local businesses are facing a confusing new world of marketing across Google, Facebook, Yelp, Twitter, Groupon, email, and tons of other online services.
I gave a short seminar recently on how to create a simple internet marketing plan, with tips and priorities for local businesses. The slides are free to use for non-commercial purposes.
From the discussion yesterday at the San Francisco SEACC (Southeast Asian Community Center) Small Business Assistance Program Workshop, you can see how local businesses are struggling to connect with customers. Small businesses are being bombarded with sales pitches from internet brand names and startups.
Kelly Lam, owner of a local Vietnamese restaurant, told the group how a paid Yelp business account brought in far more customers than local media ads. But she really has to work it. She religiously reads customer reviews at the end of every day, even if she gets home at 7 AM! She responds to the negative reviews immediately, and feeds customer ideas back to her staff. A local caterer brought her more business too, but only on the condition that she had at least a 4 star Yelp rating–evidence that customer reviews are starting to affect business relationships. With Google Places moving into the local review space, Kelly’s work days might be getting even longer.
And yes, I know it’s strange for a geek like me to talk marketing. But no matter how simple the packaging (for example, Google Places for Business, AdWords Express, or Facebook for Business) there’s an unavoidable level of geekiness in this new marketing world. However, fear not: no matter how many Yelp or AdWords cost-per-impression vs. cost-per-click discussions I have, I won’t be dressing like a marketing expert anytime soon!
Perhaps the correct title is more like Your 30 minute introduction to Online Business, but below are the slides for this morning’s talk on Becoming an Online Millionaire (and Other Fantasies Partially Based in Reality).
It includes a simple version of the online business framework to be featured in my upcoming textbook, tentatively titled Online Business: Fundamentals and Getting Started. Look for it in all fine collegiate bookstores either in Spring or Fall 2012, depending on my summer work habits.
Thanks to social media, any clear separation we might have once had between technologies of intimacy, and technologies of broadcast, is gone. Lured at first by the promise of exclusivity, then by the efficient management of friends and family, essentially every American between 13-30 now willingly shares intimate details of their lives on the most easily accessible media platform in human history. As a facebook commenter might say: hahahahaha!
I’ve found quality guides online for how to protect your privacy on facebook and other social media (the ‘how’ to protect yourself), but I haven’t found as good an overview of the potential risks, and how real they are (the ‘why’ to protect yourself, and ‘where’ to focus your efforts). So I put together these slides for a panel on “Privacy and Security with Social Networking” at USF’s CIT.
One theme is that while elaborate privacy settings are nice, when damaging information gets into the wrong hands, claiming that the post was only intended for ‘friends’ has never worked as a defense.
[Note: the books I referred to during the discussion were Alone Together by Turkle and The Facebook Effect by Kirkpatrick. The site that demonstrates there is no limit to what people will post was failbook.com.]
- admin on Price fixing on travel sites
- Younson on Price fixing on travel sites
- Jyoti Nandrajog on Three strategies for open source deployment
- Sriya Chakravarti on Mr. Jobs – a revolutionary who embodied the American dream – design was his weapon
- Younson Huang on Happy birthday to me, the atomic bomb, and the web