Monday, December 6, 2010

3 Lessons from Beyond the Grave

This post was a terrific collection of lessons learned from discontinued products. Boiling it down, there are a three themes that dominate (at least to me):

  • Revenue. Don't just build solutions that people want. Build solutions that people will pay for.
    • Corollary 1: Building anything costs money. Eventually you gotta pay for it.
    • Corollary 2: Never underestimate the marketing power of "free".
  • Usability. You always fail by making manual something that can be automated. (Or, put another way: Failing to automate is automatically failing.)
  • Strategy. Don't build anything that doesn't advance your market strategy. Great ideas can still be distractions.
    • Corollary: Opportunity cost is really, really important. On a related note, I'm reading a book right now about the prices of things that is tremendously eye-opening. I usually just do reviews on, but this one will be featured here, it's been so good.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Tufnel-ization of America

Several people have suggested that November 11, 2011 be designated as "Nigel Tufnel" day, which makes complete sense for those of you who know what I'm talking about. Personally, I love the idea, but I think it's too late. Our country has already been Tufnel-ized.

Just last night, I was watching a basketball game. During a timeout, I was treated to commercials hawking movies and phone service. The movies, of course, relentlessly pointed out that they were in THREE-D, not that flat, pathetic two-d of your grandparent's ilk. And the phone service was FOUR-G, not that slow, pathetic 3G that your parents are probably saddled with.

Have we, as a nation, become so stupid that subtler differentiation plays are lost on us? Or are we all now so enslaved to software that we only understand "upgrades"? Do we accept, on faith, that something is better than its predecessor simply because it's "one louder"? At the risk of mixing my metaphors, there's something Orwellian about this and we should all remember to look behind the curtains.

Monday, November 8, 2010

A Land of Infinite Dimensions

Sorry for being silent for so long. I just finished my first full week of a new job and my brain is boggled. It's not like I haven't had new jobs before. Most of the people my age will have something like 6-8 jobs in their working lifetime. In my parents' time, the number was closer to 2. My children might change jobs every two years. The way things are changing, I suspect the very nature of the job will evolve into something I wouldn't recognize. Maybe they'll all be specialist contractors, each given some small slice of a larger project, but never allowed to see the whole. It'll be a bit like the world's funniest joke.

Anyway, what I wanted to write about today really does deal with change. For the past -- oh, let's say 20 -- years, I've dealt with on-premise technology solutions. That means products that are bought and installed in their environment by a buyer. It's a pretty simple proposition when you think about it -- you just have to know who the buyer is, what his problem is, how much money he has, and who else offers a solution. Work out the equation to your benefit and, whammo, your business grows.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

History: Swivel

One of the things I find most valuable is the history of a thing. In virtually every organization I've worked with, history has been vital, but massively underappreciated. At the end of the day, organizations hemorrhage institutional knowledge -- they remember what decision was made, but not why. Often this is because they fail to appreciate the necessity of documentation and/or the importance of the reasoning behind the decision. Inevitably, they thrash through the same thought processes over and over again when they could be moving on to the next thing.

All of this is a way of saying that history is a reluctant teacher. It stands there in the corner, knowing the answers to many of your questions, but will only enlighten you if you ask. (Data is another reluctant teacher -- as many of our questions can be answered with data on hand if only we know how to ask, but that's another discussion entirely.)

Learning Visual Analytics

I've read enough stuff now to begin to understand how far I have to go. There are lots of resources out there and twice as many opinions. Visual Analytics is truly a nascent space with, in my opinion, more energy historically given to the "visual" than the "analytics".

That said, I am beginning to structure my education thusly:
  • Technologies - What technologies must one master?
  • Contributors - Who are the organizations and individuals that are contributing to this space?
  • Economics - How the industry is shaping up in terms of monetization options, packages, margins, etc.?
  • History - What has gone before and what we can learn from it?
First historical perspective next.

Monday, October 25, 2010

An Old Story, An Old Wound

In 1971, Atlanta was still very much a small town. The interstate highways were not completed, so a trip from Atlanta to Marietta took an hour or more. (It still does, but for different reasons.) I remember one leg of this journey required crossing a one-lane bridge. That's one lane total as in "You go, then I go".

My grandfather lived in Marietta. He and my grandmother had divorced years earlier (an unusuality in the 1970's South) and we grandchildren trekked up to see him a couple of times a year. His was not an active presence in my life. He was distant, both physically and in my knowledge of him. But we lived with his shadow every day. Me with the idea of him built only from observations through small-child eyes; his children with the heavier memory of what might have been. He was short, trim, and drank Coca-Cola like a fiend. He was smart and well-read. From what they tell me of him, I would have liked him. I loved my grandmother with all my heart and I think I would have loved him, too.

This is how I envision what happened.

Friday, October 22, 2010

10 Thoughts About Finding A New Job

So, I have a new job lined up which I'll start late next week. But I wanted to reach this milestone before making a few observations about the process of finding a job (and the associated malady of being unemployed), which, in today's market, is not for those with weak constitutions.

  1. Time of year matters. August was dead and September was surprisingly feeble. It wasn't until October (and Q4) rolled around that employers began to get serious about hiring. I imagine that late November and December will be wretched with a nice uptick at the start of the year. I further imagine it'll hum along ticketyboo until June, when it'll die down again during the summer. The good news is that there are jobs out there, more and more as the weeks wear on into winter.
  2. Job search engines are largely worthless, even as search engines. There are one or two out there that are probably worth one (1) month's investment in their premium service, but I found them, in general, to be greedy (refusing to show you an employer's name without paying them) or wrong (linking to jobs that were no longer open). Often both.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Axioms of Visual Analytics

As I strive to learn more about the visual analytics space, I've tried talking to people in that industry to understand how the industry is structured and what skills are required to participate. On Friday, one of the smart folks over at Juice Analytics generously (and patiently) spent more than an hour with me answering questions about the space. Here are some of the things I've learned:

Axiom 1: Your data elements are not your children - you're not required to love them all equally. This is a famous-ish quote. What it means, essentially, is that just because you have data doesn't mean you're required to use it. Depending on what you're trying to accomplish. some of it might not be necessary. Which leads to...

Friday, October 15, 2010

Midnight Madness

I had a great meeting this morning with one of the folks over at Juice Analytics and walked away truly excited about the possibilities in the visual analytics field. In fact, I learned so much that I have to condense my thoughts into one or more posts. More on that next week.

Instead, I thought I'd close a blogless week by pointing out that today is the official start of the College Basketball season -- my favorite time of the year. Let's go Duke!

Friday, October 8, 2010

My First Four Analytics Lessons

I had a good meeting the other day with a very smart friend of mine (I have lots of friends who are way smarter than I am -- it's a secret to success). This buddy began his career as a graphic designer and is now a Brand Strategist for a well-known consumer product goods (CPG) company here in town. My intent was to pick his brain about his career -- what kind of training he needed to do his job, what did he look for in a job opportunity, what are the economics of his segment, how might one enter this segment, etc.

But our conversation, interestingly, swiftly turned its gaze towards analytics. I mentioned my interest in visual analytics and described what this field was. He was intrigued. We talked a lot about consumer marketing campaigns and how to measure their effectiveness, particularly when you start rolling social media into the mix. How do you know your marketing spend mix is optimized? How can you measure its impact when we're talking about hearts and minds?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Warren Buffet on Hiring

"In looking for someone to hire, you look for three qualities: integrity, intelligence, and energy. But the most important is integrity, because if they don’t have that, the other two qualities, intelligence and energy, are going to kill you."

The Conversation Prism

Presented without comment, for now.

The Conversation Prism by Brian Solis and Jesse Thomas