28 Weeks. 18 Weeks Down


18 Weeks

18 weeks and 735 emails ago, Gianpaolo green-lighted my involvement on an Andrew Coates flight of fancy: What if we gave every paid delegate of TechEd a Netbook running Windows 7? Ideas are easy, implementation is hard.

By involvement read “Project Management”. And, oh what a wonderful ride it has been.

18 weeks of discussions, negotiations and thought. Wrapping your mind around all the side, non-technical implications has taken the last 18 weeks to contract signature.

People management, Finance policy, legal agreements, terms+conditions, understanding internal policies. The funny thing is that I’ve done all this before during the last 3 years of my Adobe sales management life. The internal Microsoft “stuff” was just my previous Adobe experience, with a different consequence.

Big thanks to Jorke Odolphi for being my sounding board. A calm shoulder to cry on. And thinking of things I didn’t anticipate. Thanks, Jorke!

What is new is the Project Management aspect. Technical Integration is going to be relatively easy: 2000+ high quality Netbooks with Windows 7 is a doddle. Jeff Alexander is taking point on the image build. David Haysom and David Connors are the logistics and install team leads.

Project Management not so much of a doddle. David Haysom will assist here. Right, David?

10 Weeks

The funnest part of this project begins now: one aspect is the logistics of getting 58 palettes of Netbooks loaded for the TechEd delegates.

The other major aspect is what happens with the Netbooks. Here, it’s the Microsoft community aspect: what can we do, as a Microsoft community?

New Windows Home Server

After becoming increasingly frustrated with the Tranquil Home Server, I decided to de-commission it. The drivers required at install time didn’t work, and Tranquil technical support (online and via email) just didn’t work. #epicfail

Old Tranquil PC in Pieces

There is a motherboard configuration called Mini-ITX where the dimensions are 170mm x 170mm. Intel have a great board with 1Gb Ethernet, 4 USB and a PCI connector. Adding memory, a SATA HD and case: and you have an instant Windows Home Server. I used the Windows Home Server media and serial number from the Tranquil.

What I purchased:

Stuff Price
Aywun A1-8989 Cube Mini-ITX Case with 150W PSU 67.10
Western Digital Caviar GP WD10EACS, 1TB SATA HD 180.40
Intel D945GCLF2 Motherboard, Integrated Intel Atom 330 1.6GHz 128.30
Kingston 2GB PC2-6400 (800MHz) DDR2 240-pin DIMM 39.99
Total 415.79


The case:

New Server in its New Home

Building the hardware took less than 10 minutes, and the software install time (fresh) was less than an hour, including formatting the drive.

Now installed at home, repopulating the data and getting on with life. I feel way better having built this myself.

Oh, and the kittehs like the box the case arrived in:

Kitteh in Server Case Cardboard Box

Microsoft and Web 2.0 Stuff

Like Michael Rees, Kathryn Greenhill asked me to list “web 2.0” things that Microsoft has available to provide some balance to a Murdoch University event.

By web 2.0, Kathryn meant: “To me, Microsoft plays really well in the large corporate ap space and is very good at that … but if I want to show people about the conversation, re-mix, open access, interoperable web, then MS is not the first port of call…”

I can only agree with Kathryn’s statement. Microsoft hides all its cool web 2.0 things under a bushel. In fact, the problem probably is that the coolness are hidden under many bushels, all over its web footprint. But hey, I am not from marketing; I am a mere Professional Geek. That is also why these listed are free. Some are even Free-as-in-Freedom, too.

I think it important that people get to hear, see and try alternatives before defaulting to “the known and safe.” And yes, I realise can work both ways.

Another perspective, and my own opinion, is that Microsoft should not seek to do everything on the web. For instance, creating a “Microsoft Twitter Ultimate Edition 2010” is stupid. Nor should Microsoft seek to purchase every cool company that pops on the web. Again, that is my opinion. And I am the lowest on the low of the totem pole; a.k.a Individual Contributor or Sacrifical Unnamed Ensign (ref: Star Trek)

Here is an edited version of my email response; drafted quickly and by no means exhaustive. If you have other cool examples, just post a comment and I’ll update the list.

  • http://Office.live.com for online mini-Sharepoint site for team collaboration. Office.live.com is a good place to start where people will use desktop apps for a full experience. Don’t forget other online app tools like EditGrid and Zoho.
  • Don’t forget bing.com & associated sites (including Photosynth, Virtual Earth) as viable alternatives to google. Librarians use all sources available
  • www.worldwidetelescope.org
  • Live Is more than spaces (spaces.live.com) – there are photo storage, file storage (skydrive, as mentioned by Michael Rees in his post), and live.com integration into twitter, facebook and other online social media services.
  • There is a Creative Commons plugin for Microsoft Office 2007 to permit correct (cc) for remix stuff out of spreadsheets, word etc http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyId=D1DDBDC8-627F-415A-9B0A-97362BC9B480&displaylang=en
  • Other remix things: apps.live.com is a single source for our desktop apps, including LiveWriter (don’t forget that Live Writer has a whole host of plugins: http://gallery.live.com/results.aspx?c=0&bt=9&pl=8&st=5 ) and video editing stuff, too. There are Wikipedia, FIickr, Twitter and all sorts of plugins. Office 2007 SP2 has both OpenXML and ODF (for OpenOffice) support.
  • Don’t forget that the most-used online conversation tool in Australia is Live Messenger (MSN) which does video + audio conferencing, too
  • RSS into outlook… hmm, possible but not something I’d recommend. Too clunky
  • Don’t forget IE8; with accelerators and webslices http://www.microsoft.com/ie8 these use open formats to work
  • http://visitmix.com/Lab has some cool tools, including Oomph with is a Microformats toolkit (works in all browsers, uses jQuery) … I use it on my blog. Licensed under MsPL (open source,  OSI approved, BSD-like)
  • Another good, slightly techy tool for Windows users is http://www.microsoft.com/web with the Web Platform installer. Permits installations of PHP, WordPress etc on your Windows machine without being a rocket scientist

Fifth Barcamp Sydney, Saturday June 27th

BarCamp Sydney is on again. This is our 5th BarCamp Sydney and as we are in the midst of the GFC and a recession we’ve decided that this BarCamp is the Recession Edition or “the BarCamp we had to have” (to paraphrase Keating from 1990). 

In keeping with the Recession theme of BarCamp there are a few changes to this year’s BarCamp. Firstly a new venue, whilst we loved UNSW it was quite expensive. Thankfully the Australian Technology Park (ATP) Innovations Centre is giving us access to the space for free! Yay!

Secondly, we need to spread the load of the cost of running BarCamp across more people so we are asking for individual sponsorship as well as our traditional corporate sponsorship. So what do you get for your individual sponsorship? Nothing really, just the warm fuzzy feeling that you get from helping run this fantastic community event. Hopefully there will still be T-Shirts but that will depend on how much money we raise in sponsorship. However, if you are a corporate and would like to sponsor the event please contact us ASAP.

Finally, we have a new idea for a few of the sessions – the Think Tank room. The Think Tank room is a small room with no projector and no tech – just enough room for a small group of people discussing ideas. And what better ideas to discuss than ideas about the future. As a result of the recent FutureSummit attended by a few of the local twitterati, @liubinskas has suggested we keep the ideas coming with a FutureCamp! There will be a real FutureCamp later in the year but we can start the future discussion right here at BarCamp Sydney.

There will be more details forthcoming about the venue, the logistics and how you can register and sponsor, but for right now please block out Saturday June 27 for BarCamp Sydney and put your thinking hats on to present a ripper of a session.

Keep up to date at the BarCampSydney Blog or this email list.

Thanks to Jodie Miners for driving this Barcamp. Community is fun

2765 Words

For various reasons, I am on another sabbatical from Twitter. This is not my first, and I dare say not my last. Duration, unknown. Frankly, I am boring myself and slowly sticking my foot in my own mouth. To fill the now empty space, I have spent more time thinking and writing. So, for instance these are some raw numbers from the last few days. This is by no means scientific.


Average Tweets per day: 100
Average size of each tweet: 100
Total Words: 10,000
Estimated Percentage valuable (ie: valuable content): 10%
Words of Value = 1,000


Average Tweets per day: 100
Average size of each tweet: 100
Total Words: 2,765
Estimated Percentage valuable (ie: valuable content): 90%
Words of Value = 2,488

So, the question remains: are the conversations on twitter worth 2.5 times the publishing via blogs?

Working for the Underdog

Photo by TCM Hitchhiker/Jason Jerde
The following is the personal opinion of myself and is not a formal statement nor position of my employer

Firstly, think about newspapers. They existed from the 17th century until the first decade of the 21st century on advertising. Using the money received from advertising, they funded content created by journalists and writers. The content attracted attention (ie: eyeballs), which in turn attracted more advertisers. A virtuous circle.

Newspapers will not completely cease to exist; however both their business model and lack of environmental sustainability – and most importantly, lack of attention, will challenge long term strangle-hold of power.

Now, think about Google. Started in the first decade of the 21st century. Using money received from online advertising, they funded tools and applications created by software engineers. Online, the cost of creating content is near zero, so everyone had the chance to create and share. These tools attracted attention in helping people find/sift/manage this content. By providing these tools, Google attracts and holds attention, which in turn attracts more online advertisers. A virtuous circle.

Traditional journalism will continue to exist as open societies demand independent, knowledgeable voices. However, who will publish their stories, and under what business model; is one of many changes happening in today’s society.

As more attention-time is spent online, the first model is under distinct threat; as is any traditional attention-driven business model. The attention is increasingly heading online.

Google has no direct need to earn revenue from these tools and applications directly. Using the online community to adopt (via APIs, etc) these tools, modify and contribute – Google wins more attention via the network effect. We have seen Google promote browsers (Chrome) with advanced APIs (HTML5, SVG, Javascript) as a strategy to shift the platform off Win32/.NET, MacOS/iPhone and simple HTML4

It just happens that Google’s model of software development is orthogonal to Microsoft’s model of obtaining revenue. As an added benefit, the model has the potential to cripple their largest potential competitor, Microsoft.

The effects of new software model will not dramatically affect the majority of the traditional, saturated software marketplace. Microsoft will continue to maintain a revenue stream from traditional enterprise platforms (operating system, office, servers, databases, CRM/ERP etc), but these are not long term growth businesses. Growth will largely follow World GDP rather than accelerate, as you would expect on a new business model. Growth at World GDP is merely a baseline

This is why Microsoft must, and is breaking out of traditional software-licensing model into tools and technologies such as Bing, Azure etc. Using the cashflows of the current platforms to ensure a long-term and viable business. Structural and product changes are already underway as seen with Microsoft’s Online hosted applications, and industry acquisitions.

The next 5-10 years is going to be an interesting ride, and Google understands their competitive marketplace. And this time, Microsoft is the underdog. I like working for underdogs. It makes life interesting.

Notes, follow-up:

  • Henry Blodget “It’s Time For Microsoft To Face Reality About Search And The Internet”
    (Nick) Henry has an interesting perspective on how Microsoft is framing it’s approach to the internet wrong, strategically. Henry’s premise is that Microsoft should refocus as a pure enterprise software play, and give up on the consumer internet business. This is certainly an alternative not discussed above; but this does seem like a growth by marketshare strategy. When you are already a large player in a market, this does become difficult without causing more regulatory ire. Extending from technology mountain ranges, the new rivers of gold are too attractive to be forgotten. To succeed Microsoft has to exhibit and execute a major mental/strategic shift without abandoning the current revenue streams.
    I read Steven Hodson over at The Inquisitr has a similar perspective as mine above, although coming from a different angle. Don’t underestimate the attractiveness of rivers of gold.
  • Michael Goldhaber, “The Attention Society
    (Nick) In post-industrial societies the scarce resource is attention. Grabbing attention, such as the H1N1 Influenza Pandemic is at the time of writing, is valuable. In the above text, I make mention of the Attention Economy, or the mechanism of monetizing the attention of society. Once, as people sat down to television after work: content providers could sell this attention. (Advertising is primarily a mechanism for obtaining attention).

The Group Twitter Account Conundrum

On my Soapbox, I have been somewhat negative (and somewhat vitriolic) on blind group twitter accounts. My argument has been that no-one talks to brands; humans tend to and would prefer to connect with rather human. There is a perspective I missed: where organisations want people to represent them, and the individuals see themselves are distinctly separate from the organisation.

My particular job is unique; not all organisations invest in weird people who name themselves a Professional Geek and describe themselves as Iconoclastic and Mercurial. As a daily part of my job,  I becone a lightening rod in a small community for a large and historically faceless brand. At one end of the daily continuum there is kudos/whipping for everything that brand does; and the other I attempt to be whatever “me” is at this moment.

This is somewhat OK for me, but sometimes risky for the brand when I fly off the handle. As as wise man at Microsoft counselled me earlier this week, we are all human. Social media will mirror this humanity. Whilst fraught with misinterpreation, it is better than bland corporate-speak, any day.

Living the organisation you work for is a legacy of my on-farm upbringing. You live in the work environment. There is no escaping large or small jobs. That, or I have a form Institutional Stockholm Syndrome. Ultimately, I am doing what I am paid to do.

So how do individuals represent the organisation, service or product they work for when there are multiple individuals in the team where the individuals see themselves distinct from the organisation? There are valid reasons why a solution needs to be sought.

Lower latency conversational mediums such as twitter, there is no time to review a tweet by a group before tweeting on behalf of the said group. By the time the group has agreed, the conversation has moved on. l’esprit de l’escalier en twitter.

Enter The Multiple User Twitter Conundrum. I’ve seen a recent innovation on twitter which I support. It is a good compromise between my idealism, and the hard-nose marketing oriented “brand is everything” divide.

Let’s review the Microsoft Bing team’s Twitter Profile page. It shows the five people who twitter on that account/address, with a name and caret (^xx) underneath the pictures of the humans. xx represent the initials of each individual. Tweets such as “SteveB at D (video incl. Bing at AllThingsD) http://twurl.nl/zorfia ^betsy” indicates Betsy, or ^BA tweeted this nugget. I now can identify a human behind that tweet, that conversation from the group twitter account.  This caret-xx only takes three precious characters out of 140.

As a further step to my idealistic people conversational mode of social media, it would be cooll if each individual should put their personal twitter id on this profile page. Or email address: ideally some mechanism to double check the identity of the person to stop twitter spam-bot miscreants.

Maybe in the future all we will just have twitter ids. They will become more valuable than ego URLs.

But then again, I am possible stepping back up to that very small platform of a soapbox.