Google Plus – A Few Early Thoughts

After using it for a few days now, there’s a lot I really like about Google Plus. But some choices, I don’t understand. I want to love Google Plus and think that I will eventually but that’s predicated on all the promise it could deliver. And that’s not to say that there isn’t already really compelling stuff about Plus (hangouts and circles of course). This is not an in-depth analysis, rather just some cursory thoughts on Plus. It’s cross-posted in my Plus stream here. Continue reading “Google Plus – A Few Early Thoughts”

Start the Wave: Disintermediating Social

Ad hoc social networks: right now that’s what I’m calling the disruption Google Wave will wreak. I’m looking forward to it leaving the invite-only preview. It’ll be like kudzu sprouting everywhere, from its quiet persistance in the nooks and crannies of the Web, right on through to the most popular gathering spots.

Google Wave, or maybe more accurately, the open source Wave protocol could be the most important innovation to our interaction with the Internet since the development of the Web. Continue reading “Start the Wave: Disintermediating Social”

Search Pad is Coming

Update 9 July ’09: I tried it… nice additional feature but not a game-changer. Actually I believe I’m very underwhelmed.

Actually, reader, I’m a little tired of all these search posts. But new things keep happening and this one is compelling enough to note. I really miss Google’s notebook feature (actually a lot of people do). It was like BasKet for the Web. It sounds like Yahoo! is about to launch a new app called Search Pad that will be like Google’s notebook but with a teensy bit of intelligence.

This sounds like a right combination. If the search engine can be intelligent enough to figure out that you’re doing some sort of research and then help you with an easy-to-use note-taking, organizing system, fantastic. But if it becomes even more intelligent and can offer even more useful things than just archiving notes, that would be a powerful assistant.

There is some nice potential here. I wonder if Yahoo! will take advantage or underwhelm. Either way Google please take note, your competitors’ efforts to improve how people use the search results they get are becoming more sophisticated and intelligent. Will Wave make up for the loss of notebook?

Dell Mini & Ubuntu Love

Near the end of December I bought a Dell Mini 9. If there is such thing as a Mini closet, I’m coming out right now and professing my love to this computer. It is my favourite among all that I’ve owned. That has nothing to do with processor power or that sort of stuff. For the last several months we’ve gotten along very smoothly and the only times I questioned our relationship were not the Mini’s fault (more its sometimes unreasonable parents–Dell–or the not entirely on-the-ball tech support setup). The Dell Mini is there when I want it without feeling like an obtrusive appliance in my home. Perhaps the chemicals just haven’t worn off yet but here are my impressions. Continue reading “Dell Mini & Ubuntu Love”

Continuing the Bullying of Analysts Issue

Today I read a SageCircle post about threatening analysts by cancelling business, which seems like a variety of bullying and certainly an abuse. I discussed analyst abuse previously, a situation that involved bullying an analyst. I looked at the situation as one that hampered both the analyst/vendor relationship and quality of communications. SageCircle offers the following smartness.

“First, it does not make business sense for an analyst at a major firm to change research that displeases a vendor, even one that is a client. If an analyst developed a reputation for being that malleable they would soon have no clients as what they sell in part is objectivity and independence.”

I completely agree with this statement. Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to show vendors that they’re not helping their cause when they try to undermine the objectivity of the analyst’s perspective. Occasionally a software vendor does try to unseat this balance–I’ve felt the implicit if not sometimes explicit threat of cancelled business. TEC based its model on trying to be an “impartial advocate for the end user” which is why our company has an audience that software vendors want to be in front of. That objectivity and independence is the wellspring of the audience the vendor seeks.

I tend to agree with most of the SageCircle points except I’m uneasy with the following.

“…analysts are not responsible for contract value so they don’t care if a vendor client cancels. Yes, the sales rep whose year just went down the drain will care, but the analyst just shrugs.”

But really, A cavalier attitude toward the work produced is unlikely to do anyone much good. Although the analyst may not be the one directly making the sale (in my company’s case we try to maintain a sort of church/state separation), all employees of a company do need to pull together in their work–after all the analyst’s job is every bit as much on the line as the salesperson’s. Does this imply that no analyst can be entirely objective? Well entire objectivity is a full topic in itself and covers a lot more ground than just where the money comes from.

So where am I going with that comment? Look, how could an analyst do his or her job well if s/he wasn’t attentive to a vendor’s concerns (even if they do involve threats or bullying)? There may be some underlying issue that has not been well understood or another sort of misunderstanding. The analyst, conscientious toward his or her labours, ought to critically consider these possibilities rather than shrug. I’d argue that the analyst ought to have the intellectual capacity to separate the threat from the issues so that s/he can rise above a vendors’ unsatisfactory communication skills (which, in the end, is all that a threat boils down to) in order to deal with the issue at hand.

As for the rest of the SageCircle post, it continues with a series of nicely-made other points on the topic of cancelled-business threats–I tend to agree with those and won’t comment further here. Software vendors, it’s worth a read!

Bullying Analysts isn’t the Best Way to Deal

I’ve enjoyed reading Robin Bloor’s series of posts on How to Deal with Analysts. The title of one called attention to analyst abuse, which set some thoughts meandering. Robin made a point under the heading of scruples, and related to briefings.

“The fundamental balancing act lies in the interaction between analyst and vendor. The vendors are keen for the analysts to know and understand their products. The analysts treat briefings as occasions for relationship building and selling.”

Although the point of the post I’ve quoted differs from what I’m about to mention, I really liked that bit in relation to the title on analyst abuse. One form of analyst abuse that could be included in a taxonomy on the subject: bullying.

A few months ago, my job function changed with some corporate restructuring. I found myself taking on the management of several additional teams, including directing TEC‘s research analyst group. It’s been an interesting and busy few months where (cue an excuse for my woeful lack of posting here) I’ve identified and set the groundwork for the year and focused attention on areas that needed it.

Yes, it’s an exciting time full of creative possibilities but when you take on a new job, role, or responsibility you quickly learn it comes ready to share its treasure trove of frustrations too. For example, analyst/vendor communications sometimes feel like an uplifting meeting of intelligent people, ready to help each other learn and spread useful information. Other times, communications go awry and it seems that one person after another dumps their grey matter onto a buzzing heap of rotting political motivation.

I think that Robin says a key thing in calling attention to the analyst and vendor interaction. Something important transpires (or ought to) between analyst and vendor, which involves building a relationship. That relationship (fundamentally if it’s good) requires understanding of the vendor’s product, direction, motivations, etc. Personally, if I don’t have a good relationship with someone, I find it more challenging to understand the person. Why? Pragmatically speaking, a poor relationship likely signifies that the people involved are not communicating well. Not communicating well certainly doesn’t improve understanding.

So, back to my frustations… there I was, sitting with one of my analysts on a briefing. The briefing resulted from a third party that provides some sort marketing/publicity/AR type of function for the software vendor. Ok, that’s fine, a nice briefing facilitated through this person’s efforts. However, the underside of this is that the third party only facilitated the briefing after falsely accusing the TEC analyst of having erred by excluding the vendor from an article we published. We agreed to the briefing under the assumption that it was a good opportunity to find out more and get to know this vendor better–after all, what harm could learning more do? Sadly, it seems the third party presented it to the vendor in a rather different light, one in which the vendor was inaccurately lead to believe we’d slighted them and owed them a fix.

The briefing was fine. Later however, the third party began a strangely vehement and tentacled campaign to charge us with further, (false) wrongdoings. The third party bestowed its unfounded opinions to a host of people including the vendor’s president–curiously shaping attitudes around a neglectful mythology. Coinciding with this, were the third party’s demands that we publish new research about this particular vendor or include mention of it in unmerited ways.

To me, this is a case of bullying. Here, the third party muddied rather than fostered good interactions between a vendor and an analyst. I suspect this particular third party has an odd sort of motivation to appear as an important source for garnering publicity (thereby securing its position with the vendor). Of course this is just an example, not necessarily the norm.

I don’t know whether bullying works on many analysts but it doesn’t impress me. At best, it cannot influence an analysis of the vendor, at worst, provided I have to continue dealing with the marketing/publicity/AR third party, it doesn’t compell me to reach out more than required to do my job properly and certainly raises some questions about that vendor’s interactions with its customers, partners, etc. I mean, is that part of its corporate culture?

It’s striking that a person hired to facilitate understanding with analysts, instead permeated vendor/analyst communications with misunderstanding. Bullying is analyst abuse, it fouls the relationship.

TEC’s Blog is Born!

The TEC Blog went live today. It’s been quite a while in the works but finally TEC is publishing its own analysis and corporate blog. My TEC colleagues and I will use it to regularly discuss enterprise software and selection issues, and augment the other research/articles we publish.

Although I’ll continue to blog here at pundit.ca, I’ll be addressing FOSS, software selection issues, and TEC’s services, research, and products on the TEC blog.

The TEC blog is actually a multi-blogging site. We’ve begun by publishing in English and Spanish, with additional blogs to come in other languages, including French and perhaps Chinese. We’re starting small at the moment and will then look at expanding it into more blogs. I expect we’ll have fun working out a number of kinks over the coming weeks. I hope the blog will make it much easier to have an open line of communication with our regular users and other visitors.

Fronting Prim and Proper Research

A long running debate at TEC, is it a good idea or bad idea to enable public visitor comments on our research? I’m not referring to blogs, which by their very nature are intended to enable commentary. I’m thinking in the context of analyst firm research. I think there is a lot of room here to create an interesting and valuable research methodology (I’m sure I’m not the first to say so). Here’s some background on my query.

TEC has published articles and other research on the IT/enterprise software front since the early 90s. For the majority of that time we haven’t asked our visitors to pay for much of this research. I often compare what we offer (rightly and wrongly) to things available from other analyst companies like Gartner. Gartner, for example, has just about everything locked behind its e-walls. It’s almost all for sale over there. If you go to Gartner for a report or some other research, you won’t see commentary posted under the report by regular visitors debating/debasing that report. Should you? Haven’t we all seen that some of the most significant cultural, business, political, and other developments are based on the new communication and collaboration means enabled by Internet technologies?

Back to TEC, I pushed for a while to have a simple comment system on our site. Something that our visitors could use to post thoughts about our articles, podcasts, reports, etc. It was implemented and people began using it. There were a mixture of comments. As you’d expect some were nice, some were not, some were well-thought out, others not so well. C’est la vie.

We didn’t implement an community moderation system like, say, Slashdot does. This then is where potential problems enter. I happen to be opposed to any electronic forum censorship (note: I don’t view a community moderation system as censorship, rather it’s a peer reviewed ranking device). Wading through online censorship experiences first-hand (dating all the way back to the days of BBSs) I’ve seen how censoring comments tends to destroy online communities or at least ultimately drives their quality down (I’d make an exception for things like spam, which aren’t comments in the first place). But that’s another debate.

A portion of TEC vehemently opposed displaying negative or poorly written comments, and with well-intentioned reasons. “Imagine if all analyst firms allowed such comments, they figured” (I’m paraphrasing the ideas). “Would they still be able to sell their research?” I think it’s a good question. Will people see commentary by other visitors and lose trust in what you have to publish? Does it detract from the professional image of the site? After all, sites like my Slashdot example, never portray themselves as analyst firms–they aim for a different impression entirely. Can an analyst firm, often sought out as subject matter experts, survive while fostering its own public criticism?

I think it could. A well-considered approach could enable that firm to take the reins and harness that criticism to improve. I think if you really are a subject matter expert, or even if you’re not an expert (I’m more of a generalist) but practice well-refined analysis and synthesis skills, you have nothing to hide and would welcome the opportunity to discuss your research publicly.

I would like to see greater online visitor participation. I think there is a lot of potential in getting all the different people related to aspects of the IT industry involved in voicing their activities, concerns, ideas, etc. around a specific body of research. It would probably make that research more valuable rather than detract from it. It could even give the firm totally new ideas for improving their products/services, just the way participation in FOSS development can.

Of course right now, we can all do this to some degree using blogs, but then aren’t we all just circling around the research, rather than assaulting it directly, in its home, where everyone else gets a chance to form some perspective. Maybe it’d be in an analyst firm’s interest to maintain that home? I’ve seen several peer reviewed journals on the Web, like First Monday. A few sites, such as ITerating, seem to be making some sort of effort to approach certain forms of IT research from this angle. RedMonk is interesting in that they espouse a similar idea through blogging. As I mentioned at the start however, the potential for reader participation is inherent to blogging; it’s not the same as offering a particular piece of research or report (or the methodology of developing it) to be ripped to shreads, lauded, or critically enhanced by its community of software users, consultants, vendors, developers, etc.

Whether or not it can be purchased is relevant to the business model, but not so much to the greater issue of what’s more useful–what can be done better? If you could derive a certain edge from opening up all your analyst research to public commentary, I think you might discover some very interesting competitive advantages. I’ve got ideas–but that’s for another time. I don’t know that I made a strong enough argument for the value of uncensored commentary and had to ask the dev team to remove the comment capability altogether. Maybe the implementation was too basic. Perhaps down the road we’ll find a way to make it more productive by implementing it differently. In any case, in the meantime, I’m happy to say that although our comment system died today, we simultaneously launched an official TEC blog. And that will be the subject of my next post.