New Normal Random Thoughts #3

It’s more than a month since I landed back to the new normal, and there’s something quite clear about these days when compared to the quarantine ones: I have less time to think.

It’s the main reason why I have been writing less on these pages: it’s not just that I don’t have much time to write but I have a lot less time to think about what to write, which clearly I had plenty of when I was living all by myself, never leaving my little flat in Ealing.

The situation in Italy is still mostly stable, so far Italians seems to be doing better than all other countries that were hit hard. As strange as it sounds, I wonder if this is related to Italians generally having very little trust for authorities and being more inclined to figure out things by themselves (especially when scared).

I haven’t booked a flight back to London yet. I’m still undecided. It doesn’t look like “going to the office” is going to become normal again any time soon. If the future is working from anywhere, it might be worth just accepting the kind offer from the Government of Barbados.

We got a new car last week. It’s a cool new toy, it’s all modern, digital, it parks by itself and it has an intimate relationship with our iPhones, but I want to leave one last thought for the old car which we sold. The little yellow Ka had 20 years, it got us everywhere we needed to go, it has been sitting under the weather for all this time and the Ford CD player still worked!

I’m pretty sure that in 20 years the new car will not be able to connect with my iPhone (or whatever people will be carrying with them in 2040).

Good bye to the old Ka.

Speaking of upgrades, I have updated all my devices to the latest betas of Apple new operating systems. I have also been playing with CarPlay, which I had never seen before and it’s supported by the new car. I’m surrounded by new user interfaces and enjoying every second of the experience.

Generally speaking I’m not a huge fan of change, but when it comes to trying new things, even if this means dealing with unstable and buggy systems, I always enthusiastically embrace change as soon as I can. I wonder why.

Well… that’s it for today. Be safe and be kind.

SotN #17

And here’s the first 2020 episode of our podcast, get it while it’s still fresh on Apple, Spotify, Luminary or just click “play” in the box below! This time talk about viruses, behaviour change, narrating human experience, learning from podcast and YouTube.

This is the first time I used Ferrite to edit the show on my iPad Pro, and what a pleasure! Editing using the pencil and gestures has been the best new user experience I had in the last 10 years. Absolutely fantastic!

While Euan had recommended the app before, what pushed me to abandon Garage Band has been this video:

Now I can’t wait to edit the next episode!

It's a wrap

And this is the last episode of our little series. I’m quite happy with the results: I met interesting new people, learned a lot and created some content that can be useful both to startup founders and to investors. The next challenge is to spread the word, get feedback and start preparing for the next season.

State Of The Net Podcast

Last show of 2019! We start by chatting about my other podcast, then Sacha Baron Cohen’s ADL speech and Sir Tim Berners-Lee’s new Contract for the web. We move on conversing about millennials, what is right or wrong, we wonder if we would be better off without any rules and we discuss a bit about journalism and its future.

You can listen clicking on the link above, or subscribing on Apple Podcast, on Spotify or even on Google!

State of the Net Podcast – s01e15

Here’s a new episode Euan and I recorded last week. It felt like a good one while we were recording it. As usual, as soon as I finished editing it a whole bunch of things happened which are related and I would have liked to talk about. Oh well… they will be in the next episode. Stay tuned.

Investor series: behind the scenes

If we are in any way connected on social media it’s likely that you have already heard this: I’m co-hosting a new podcast/video series titled “Investor Series“, where we meet different kinds of early stage startup investors and try get useful information for founders trying to raise capital and for new investors on the exciting London investment scene.

I have some great partners in this adventure.

I’m hosting the show with Stephanie Forrest, founder of T/F/D, the marketing agency I have been working with for several years both with Activate and State of the Net (the best agency I have worked with).

Behind the scenes the awesome Victoria Medina and Sofia Pelúcio are in charge of pre-production work, social media management and most importantly are keeping all of us on schedule. Bhavesh Gorasia operates behind the cameras as director, camera man and best boy.

I’m having a lot of fun on the technicalities. After trying some other cameras, we are now shooting everything on iPhones and iPads. I am learning to use Final Cut Pro (it has been 25 years since I worked in video production, things have changed a bit), and I even played with a few loops on Garage Band to create the titles music. It’s incredible how much can be done with the tools available today.

We are still figuring out how to make the best of the dual distribution: the podcast containing the full interview (the length is between 20 and 40 minutes) and the shorter videos on YouTube containing bite-sized advice. I think that both formats are useful and they scratch two different types of itches, I’m curious to see how they will perform in time, once a few episodes start to stack up.

For this first “season” we have recorded five interviews, which will be releasing until the end of the year. As you can imagine I have had the opportunity to listen to all of them multiple times, at first hosting, then editing them, and I’m quite happy with the results: I found a number of interesting ideas, observations and stories in each and every one of them.

This week’s episode is a bit special: Greg Rice is the founder of Activate. This was the first interview we recorded, and at points we are clearly still trying to find our pace, but Greg did a great job as our first guest and there are quite a few good bits. Have a look and let me know what you think.

State of the Net Podcast – Episode 14

Since blogging is one of the key topics of this episode, I’m posting this here first.

In this episode we chat about the 50th anniversary of UNIX, problems at Google, the stories that we tell ourselves and how the world thinks. We hear about Euan’s intention to leave Facebook and how attractive the idea of going back to blogging is, preparing for a blogging renaissance.  

And here’s a link to Euan’s brand new blog!

You can subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts, using the good ol’ feed, or you can just click play below.

Sotn Podcast, episode 10

First Euan said: “Social media isn’t broken, people are.” And then we started discussing about the most recent news, how social media shapes conversations and conversations shape social media, how Filipinos influence everything we see, how India and Africa are evolving, and we finish by revealing the way to happiness.

SotN Podcast s01e09

First episode of 2019, recorded on the day of the Macintosh 35th anniversary, this episode is all about Euan and myself: the Apple fan boys. From experiences through this long stretch of history of computing, to the usual complaining about how things could be better, to the incredibly still fresh amazement for how technology changes our life every day.

SotN Podcast: episode 8

In this episode we wonder if podcasting really is the “intellectual dark web”, or if it’s just a good place for conversations (mostly because nobody can interrupt us). We also meditate on how we might have lowered the entry threshold of other tools too much, or if it’s just the natural cycle of digital tools. We reflect about amateurs vs. professionals and while we ponder on how we should do more things for love, we observe how love, competence and intent are the key to everything. We also mention Jordan Peterson, but we don’t necessarily agree with him.

Enjoy :)

Just testing something

This is just a test, nothing interesting to read here. Not that there’s anyone out there left reading any of this anyway. So what is the point of apologising? Well, there’s absolutely no point, it’s just that I’m testing something in the editor and I need to write something.

Some of you might say “well: couldn’t you just paste some lorem ipsum?”. But you should consider that first: none of you is out there; and second: I told you not to read this at the very beginning, so what are you even doing down here?

Well, anyway, it was good to hear from me after all this time. Thank you for your help.

 

Hello, old friends.

Recently I realised that the plug-in which was routing all my Instagram photos to this blog had stopped working. I didn’t have time to figure out how to fix it until this morning, now images will be flowing again. Thought I would leave a message here, even if I think no one will read it. Anyway, who knows? Maybe I will start writing in this space again. After all I have started podcasting again! Cheers :)

Early stage startup checklist

It’s a known fact: the vast majority of startups fail, most of them fail making the same mistakes again and again.

If you are crazy enough to be trying to beat the odds, we salute you.

At Activate Capital we have put together a programme designed to help founders like you to avoid the most common pitfalls and significantly improve your chances of success.

Here’s what we will explore with founders who will join us:

  1. Get Your Strategy Straight. Understand why you are doing this. Really. Not a strapline, why are you doing this, how do you want to have an impact,what concrete goals do you want to reach in the short, medium and long term.
  2. Business Model Design. Get clarity on how you are going to make money. How you are going to spend money. Who is going to help you doing both and how you are going to make sure that the business model will support the growth of your company.
  3. Your Value Proposition. Let’s understand your product or service. How does it touch people. Why would they want to use it. Why would they want to spend money for it.
  4. Your Market. Who are your customers? What problems do they have? What gains are they trying to get? How do you verify your assumptions?
  5. Impact mapping. Let’s start designing your product by creating a map of what tools are going to be needed to perform which jobs by who in order to obtain what specific goal. This will be the main guide for all your design efforts.
  6. Understanding the software business. Creating software is hard work, if you don’t have a background in software development it is completely different from anything you have experienced before. It’s extremely important that you understand how. And yes, there will be bugs. Lots of them.
  7. Prioritising for your MVP. The importance of “Minimum” in your Minimum Viable Product. It has to be embarrassing, otherwise you have spent too much time or money on it.
  8. Prototyping and testing. Before you start investing in a huge development project, let’s test your assumptions by building prototypes of the key moving parts of your products.
  9. Legal and accounting advice. It’s not only a matter of product. There are many other things that can kill you.
  10. Marketing & Branding. Once you will have a product you will need to get the whole world to notice. There are some key elements to keep in mind while building your marketing plan.
  11. Pitching. Convincing people to invest in your company is tough. We will train you to pitch your product and answer difficult questions.
  12. Hiring the right people. Who will be your first hire? And the second? The success of your enterprise depends on your ability to form an awesome group.

Let me know what you think about this list. And if you are one of the crazy ones: at Activate Capital applications are open for the April 2016 programme.

A cure for the “tech co-founder syndrome”

One of the issues that we are trying to address at Activate Capital is the “tech co-founder syndrome” which seems to afflict so many business people trying to start their new companies.

It’s what most accelerators and investors put as a condition to their involvement when the founder of a company doesn’t have a technical background: the startup must have a tech co-founder.

This request has created an environment where founders are constantly hunting for any dude who can write a few lines of code and is available to get involved in some undefined project.

It’s not that I don’t understand why savvy investors would want that: a company based on a digital platform which doesn’t “own” its own technology is in a very shaky position.

But looking for any tech co-founder is not the solution either. In most cases an unexperienced business person just wonders off and after a long search ends up finding the wrong person.

This is one of the reasons that lead us to form Activate Capital: our intention is to invest in early stage companies and become their “tech co-founder”, but with the weight of a full team of professionals who have been developing digital platforms for a long time.

Because it’s not just about tech. These days to build a competitive digital platform you need UX designers, software architects, project managers, front-end developers, back-end developers, and the list goes on and on.

So, if you know anybody with a great business idea and the crazy impulse to start a new business, please send her or him to Activate Capital: we need to talk!

Introducing Activate Capital

ac

Okay, this is the new thing I’m doing: investing in early stage startups.

I think that the methodology that we have developed both with Activate Media and M/V over the last few years is incredibly effective to maximise the chances of success of new companies.

So this is the plan: find ideas and companies that we like, put them through an intense 12 days over 6 weeks programme, then invest ourselves and/or help them rise capital to launch their product.

Further thoughts and considerations soon.

Make sure your iPhone backup is encrypted (if you want to save your health data)

Siri was misbehaving on my iPhone 6 plus (it would understand my requests but always fail perform the task), after reading a few articles here and there I decided that the only solution was to restore my phone.
 
Yesterday I backed it up on my Mac, wiped it clean and the restored it from the fresh back up.
 
Several hours later (after the restore it had to get back in synch with all the photos, the music, the apps, etc.) everything was back to normal, except that all my health and activity data was gone.
 
Turns out that health and activity data is only backed up when you are encrypting your backup on your Mac or when you are using iCloud for backups, while I had unencrypted backup on my Mac.
 
Now: I do appreciate the fact that Apple doesn’t want my potentially sensitive health data to sit unencrypted on any disk, but I can think several different options which would have saved my data.
 
Not cool Apple, not cool.

WordPress.com, the desktop app

Here it is: the new WordPress.com desktop app.

There was a time when desktop apps to edit web sites were needed because editing in the browser was such a lousy experience.

But then Dave started adding buttons to the pages of his sites that read “Edit this page”. I have always thought that this was an extremely powerful tool: rather than having to dig in the bowels of the back-end of a content management system every time you needed to change something, you just went to the bit you needed to edit and hit a button. There and then.

With today browsers you can do even better: you can just click on a bit of text and, if you have the priviledges, you can edit it.

For the last couple of years we tried to use this “edit in the front end” approach for most of our projects (for example La Libreria dei Ragazzi and AgriProFocus are all edited in the front-end).

So, what do I think of a desktop app to edit a web site? Is it even more removed from the site than the back-end? Hard to say. So far I enjoyed writing this post on my blog. It has been a long time.

I don’t think anyone is reading this anymore…

Good days

There are no bad days for great walks. I have enjoyed myself quite a lot under some very miserable weathers (as long as I had the right attire).

And then there are days like today: with better colours.

iPhone magic

I dropped by the Apple Store last week in London to see the new iPhones. I was hoping for the “instant lust” that usually goes with Apple’s new gadgets, but it didn’t happen.

Now, to be fair we should admit that smartphones are becoming a commodity and we can’t expect to be amazed with every new iteration. The iPhone 6 is a perfectly nice phone, most likely it’s going to be my next phone when my contract on the current 5 will expire (not the Plus, it’s just ridiculously huge imho), but I’ll just sit and wait for the upgrade without any exceptionally big expectation.

I’m just hoping that the Apple Watch will provide that little bit of extra excitement that keep all of us going ;)

PS: while I think that most of those “Steve would have not done this” posts are pure BS, I must admit that the bulging camera lenses are a bit odd.

Know where I’m going

Screen Shot 2014-05-14 at 09.17.01

This map shows all my movements from January 1st 2014 to right now. The data were collected by the app Moves and the map generated by Move-O-Scope.

To me this is absolutely awesome.

Running Moves significantly reduces the battery life on my iPhone 5, but it’s something I have been willing to live with because I just love the data that gets collected and the way Moves displays it.

Walking patterns in our neighborhood
Walking patterns in our neighborhood

Then Moves was bought by Facebook.

When Facebook bought Instagram I thought: “Oh, well… the pictures I was posting to Instagram were public anyway”. I was a bit annoyed with how they treated the integration with Twitter, but this was pretty much it.

When Facebook bought Whatsapp I thought: “Oh, well… I have never used Whatsapp anyway”.

But I do feel uncomfortable about Facebook buying Moves and having access to their data. Strangely enough giving all the information about my moving around to a tiny and unknown Finnish company felt better than giving it to a huge American one.

My walking patterns in London
My walking patterns in London

I haven’t deleted the application yet, but I guess that I will do as soon as I will find a replacement which works as smoothly as Moves. Or maybe I will just live with it.

What is certain is that I will keep running a tracking application on my phone.

VIP dinner guests

After lengthy discussion over drinks last night, here’s the top ten list of people I’d like to invite to dinner and have a nice chat with (sorted, Sir Paul coming first).

  • Paul McCartney
  • BB King
  • Mikhail Gorbachev
  • Sting
  • Bill Clinton
  • Giorgio Armani
  • Jony Ive
  • Steven Fry
  • Madonna
  • Brad and Angelina (Monica kind of insisted on Brad coming along…)

Workspaces

On the second day the history of this very blog, more than 11 years ago, I posted a picture of my desk.

I like taking pictures of the places where I spend a lot of time. Even after all these years, they still feel very familiar (no idea why I needed 4 computers back then…).

To keep up with the tradition, here’s a fresh picture of my desk, at home, in San Martino. I love working here.

IMG_3549

Can’t but wonder where we will be in another 11 years.

iOS 7 – day one notes

I was ready to fall in love immediately with the new os, and I must admit it didn’t happen last night after upgrading my iPhone 5.

This morning I do like it a little better.

Sometimes I don’t like good design at first sight. There has been more than one occasion when my first reaction to projects that had been developed for me has been “meh”, yet I ended up loving it later and even much much much later. I guess that new design languages made to last for a long time require some time to adapt. Not saying that this is the case, just saying that it could be.

It’s clearly the first OS designed for post retina display devices, it does work on the old ipad, but the smaller symbols and thin lines are clearly designed to work well on high resolution screens.

It’s unstable, it did crash a few times since yesterday. No big deal, you get back to the application so fast that it’s just a glitch, but I do hope it won’t crash while I’m writing this, and the very fact that I’m thinking this is a bad sign.

I have more than 50 apps queued up for updates (it was 0 a couple of days ago), it looks like most developers are embracing it. It’s more than one third of the apps I have installed on my phone updated within 24 hours from the release of a new OS, quite amazing if you think about it!

Intensity of the mundane

This morning I spent 10 minutes reading this post: Our new extrusions are in – and they are AMAZING

I’m not interested in aluminum extrusions, and I don’t plan to buy any, yet the post is a brilliant example of what Euan Sample, quoting Rob Paterson, calls “the intensity of the mundane”:

In the right circumstances nerdiness and passion about even “boring” subjects can be really fascinating.

But it so hard to convince people in companies to speak with their own voice, and even when they try they often go all “adult” ending up sounding fake. Yet the very same people use their own voice with their buddies on Facebook.

It’s a long road…

Addictions

For the last seven days I have been fighting an unusually aggressive chest cold. No smoking. No drinking. No taste.

I hardly noticed not smoking my pipe or the occasional cigar. I have not missed a bit the usual glass of wine, or our Friday martini. It’s flavours I can’t live without! For the last week I have eaten all these fantastic and tasty dishes, but no matter how hard I tried, I could only perceive some very basic “salted-acidic-sweet-bitter”. Nothing more.

Can’t wait to go back to all mi vices, but it looks like I’m only addicted to one.

We are all superheroes

A couple of weeks ago my iPhone stopped vibrating, so yesterday I sent it in for replacement (no Apple Geniuses in this part of the world).

I could easily drop my SIM card in some other old phone lying around the house, but making and receiving calls is the feature I’m less interested into, so I thought I’ll just sit tight and wait for a new iPhone 3GS to arrive in a couple of days.

After about 24 hours I can tell you how that it feels just like Superman exposed to kryptonite: I have lost my super powers.

This is what having the whole web in your pocket is: superpower. Or super-senses if you like.

Anyway, the grater awareness offered by knowing all the time exactly where you are, what’s on the other side of that building, what your friends are doing on the other side of the planet, and having access to more or less any information you might ever dream of, could have been the perfect subject for comic books not that many years ago.

Since I have plenty of time on my hands, I’ll start thinking about my superhero costume.

The news of RSS death might be exaggerated

While Steve Gillmor is declaring RSS dead, buried by the emergence of the real time web, I was thinking about the course of events as far as content authoring and fruition are concerned.

At the very beginning there was WWW, an application designed to author and browse web pages, all in one. But right after that, browsers evolved leaving behind the authoring part, which became the domain of a whole bunch of “professional” applications, separating content authoring from content creation in different tools.

Later, at the beginning of blogging, Radio UserLand would bring together again content authoring and reading: you would use Radio to write on your own blog, and you would use Radio built in browser to read what other people would publish on their sites, using RSS.

But then, again, authoring and reading tools separated these tasks: WordPress, Movable Type, Blogger etc. are authoring tools, while Google Reader, NetNewsWire, Bloglines, etc. are just readers.

Also if they do provide some degree of openness, Twitter, Facebook and most other SN we see today have brought again together the authoring and reading features, within the same applications.

While having the two features united makes a lot of sense to bootstrap a service, it looks like so far they ended up being separated by vertical specialized application. I guess we are going to see this split happen again soon.

PS: I do think that the news of RSS death might be exaggerated. Maybe some users don’t have time to bath in river of news anymore because they are too busy juggling real time applications, but most of these funky quick apps are still based on solid RSS pipes.

1982

Since my mom started getting old 35mm slides scanned, all kinds of curious reminescences are bubbling up.

At work, in 1982
This is me, back when my parents’ business was just a room in our house. You can spot an Apple II (or, better, Apple ][), the box of a Vic 20 and, in the background, an Olivetti M20. In the next picture you can see that I was using a Sinclair ZX81 (connected to its fantastic “spark printer”).

Multi-language Social Networks

FriendFeed-1.jpgFrom the logo I see today on FriendFeed, I guess they just introduced localized versions of their UI. For the Italian and the Turkish markets.

I don’t care much, usually I don’t like localized versions, but the move totally makes sense: FF is quite popular in Italy, and from what I hear social networks are very popular in Turkey.

But while most social networking tool support multi-language UIs, what they are missing is support for multi-language users.

It’s what happens to everybody who speaks English and a other languages, and has friends speaking exclusively only one of those languages.

I ended up trying to write most of my stuff in English, because my friends on-line are a pretty mixed group. But I do realize that sometime I publish stuff in Italian, and while most people can live with it, I know that somebody is slightly annoyed by this.

I don’t think that figuring out a language of an item is very difficult these days, but I’m still waiting to see a social network that does this well, allowing users to receive only items in languages they can understand, if they want to.

As far as I am concerned: I’m happy to see some French, or German or any other language, crossing my feeds from time to time.

Time to change ISP

Last Thursday one of our servers, hosted with an ISP in the Bay Area, suddenly disappeared from the Internet.

Turns out we were among the many victims of the cable cuts down in San Jose, as we found out hours later.
I’m not happy with how our ISP handled this incident. It’s not just for the outage, I’ve been in this business long enough to know that shit simply happens and sometimes there’s not much you can do about it.
I could also probably live with the fact that nobody on my team was able to reach tech support on the phone for hours.
I could live with the fact that they were so badly effected, that even their websites and email services were down.
I could live with the fact that they didn’t put an alert in their voicemail message, the only form of contact from the company, describing what was happening.
I could live with the total lack of feedback on their twitter account.
I could also live with the fact that we only got a message from them after the network was back on line, nine hours later.
What I cannot live with is the fact that the in the post mortem message I received after the incident, the company CEO was blaming “vandals/terrorists” for what happened.
Using the “t word” as an excuse is simply ridiculous. Time to find a new ISP.

BlogLiguria – Il Secolo XIX

Last week we opened a new site based on PagesPlus: BlogLiguria.

The site is run by the staff of Il Secolo XIX, one of the most important Italian local newspapers very pupular in Genoa and the Liguria region. They are using our aggregator with a slightly different twist, letting anybody subscribe to the service and republishing automatically all subscribers’ posts, mixing them with content generated by the editorial staff and content gathered from public sources.

Il Secolo XIX-1.jpgA new PagesPlus feature which was introduced with this project is geotagging support: the aggregator is now able to decode the most used standards for geographical data tagging of contents, consequently next to the traditional “river of news” and “tag cloud” navigation, you can also browse the aggregator using a map.

Il Secolo XIX-2.jpg

Early adopters

Today I installed again PhotoShop on my MacBook Air (painfully going trough a reactivation process on the phone since I had forgotten deactivating it on the old MacBook).

Back in 1989, my father started importing in Italy a little boxy scanner for 35mm slides called Barney Scan. It was the first scanner to use fiber optics to backlight slides.
But by far the most interesting feature of this scanner was the software that came with it. It allowed to do some very cool effects using multiple channels, something I had never seen before and immediately fall in love with. 
That summer I was working with movie director Dante Majorana on the special effects of a movie titled “Orlando Sei“, and I remember flying back and forth to Rome taking with me the NuBus card of that scanner, without which the software would not work.
The same software was later licensed to Adobe, they renamed it PhotoShop and the rest is history.
Apparently only 200 Barney Scan scanners were sold.
Which means that I’m one of the first 200 PhotoShop users. 20 years ago. <sigh>

It’s spring

Our plum tree is the most optimistic tree of the garden: as soon as it starts getting a bit warmer, it explodes in a storm of blossom. Every morning we get this stunning view from our windows.

Then one day the Bora start blowing and all flowers fly away. It’s spring.

Next Saturday I’ll wake up in San Francisco.

Poets in the clouds

This morning I followed this fantastic document by Dave, and in less than 30 minutes I had my virtual server up and running in Amazon’s cloud.

Of course I knew it could be done, but I had never really found the time (and the courage) to try doing it until I got to this page which provides all answers in a simple step by step guide.
I think that the fact that a regular user can start his own server in the cloud has some of very relevant consequences.
I was exposed to the concept of “desktop web server” by Dave back in the Frontier and then Radio days. I have always thought that being able to run your own server on your own computer is a very powerful concept. 
Since back then “our own computer” was the personal computer we were working on, it made sense to run server software on it. Unfortunately a personal computer quite often is not the ideal environment to run server stuff which needs maintenance, support, backup, and all the stuff that system administrators do.
But now, everybody can own any number of virtual computers in the cloud and run all kind of services. Easy, cheap, powerful, safe and somebody else is making sure that all system work. Brilliant.
The other very interesting concept of this experiment is that I didn’t start just a random Windows server on EC2. I started Dave’s server, with the software and services that Dave had installed on them, and this, of course, can make software distribution and entirely different business.

Not enough air

For the last year I have been quite comfortable with my MacBook Pro + MacBook Air set-up. I would basically take the thin Air on the road and move the heavier Pro only when it was really needed. I tried to do my best to keep the Air “light” in every sense: running everything in a browser (no Office, no PhotoShop, no additional apps) and bought a very little bag for it (no big backpack and no external drives, adapters, headphones and other stuff). It has been a huge relief for my back and it works pretty well while on the road.

A couple of weeks ago, at the office we needed an additional MacBook Pro quickly, and I decided to give up mine: after all I thought I could live just with the Air.

I was wrong.

airCpu.pngThe MacBook Air is the perfect second computer: it’s light, thin, beautiful, but it hasn’t enough power to run modern (albeit bloated) applications. Even watching a video with a flash-based player, with only one browser open, after a while becomes too much for the little machine. 2Gb of Ram should be plenty, but today it means running Skype, a browser… and maybe another app before running out of memory, and since the HD is quite small and slow, on this machine you really want to avoid swapping at all costs. And I haven’t even tried to install PhotoShop.

Well… I guess it’s time to start thinking about my next “unibody” MacBook Pro :-)

Social Media Influence 09

Last Tuesday I joined Lee BryantAndy Hobsbawm and Robin Hamman on a panel titled “Enterprise 2.0” at the Social Media Influence conference in London.

It was very interesting going back to a conference in London almost five years after the Social Tools for the Enterprise Symposium.
Five years ago we believed that we were at the beginning of a major change in all dynamics of communication within companies and between companies and their clients. Well… it looks like today we still think that we are at the beginning of a major change in all dynamics of communication within companies and between companies and their clients.

P1030654

What did change in is that today a huge number of people is using social tools in their everyday life (quite often the very same people working in those same companies). Sooner or later companies will have to follow.
I guess that one of the main challenges companies face today is that they still consider communication with their clients an activity separated from the rest of their workflow, managed by those weirdos at the marketing division; expensive efforts structured in campaigns which last only few months, that must be creative and innovative, and bring sales in the very short term.
At the same time while the “rest of us”, on this side of that communication activity, might be more or less entertained and amused by these activities, what we really want is be able to communicate with simple and effective tools, allowing us to get in touch with real people inside organizations who can help us when we need them.
So while it is nice that agencies come up every day with innovative ways to exploit the fact that more and more people spend their time on social media sites, I guess that we should try harder to get companies to understand how to use these tools in the simplest way: to let people interact with other people.

The ultimate tool: email

A few years ago many of us declared email bankruptcy, we all had in-boxes full of all types of crap and it was almost impossible to find the few useful messages in the sea of spam.

Progressively we moved our communication to other channels: blogs, twitter, facebook, various IM clients, other social networks, where we thought we could manage our communication better.

In the last few weeks I have missed a whole bunch of important messages which arrived on these channels: as a Skype chat (but I was away from my desk and didn’t notice it for a few days), as a Twitter direct message (I don’t check them very often) as a message on Facebook (I check those even less).

Meanwhile, my mailbox has started working again. With several layer of spam protection (before reaching me any email message has to go trough Spam Assassin, Greylist, Gmail filters Mail.app spam filters) most of the stuff I get in my mailbox is actually interesting, directed to me, and something I can manage pretty well with the tools I have (MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, more Macs at home, iPhone, etc).

Curiously this morning Loïc is declaring Twitter bankrupcy.

PS: of course, as soon as I posted this, gmail died.

Faces

I’ve been playing a little with iPhoto 09 Faces feature. It took almost 3 hours for my home dual processor G5 to go trough 15000 pictures and find all faces, but then it only took it a few minutes to learn how I look like and find me in several hundred pictures.

Me, me, me, me, me....

I don’t know how algorithms used in iPhoto compare to the ones used by security systems to track people in surveillance feeds. If they are somehow similar, we are kinda safe: while iPhoto did find a lot of matches, it’s probably less than 10% of the actual number of pictures with my face in them. It will probably improve in time by leveraging a larger number of models, but it still require quite a few human work.

What the software is very good at doing is recognizing that some groups of pixels are actually human faces. I lile the way iPhoto comes up with facewalls of faces, all cropped at the same size.

Hard not to wonder when Google will start running this type of code on their picture search site. With just a little “mechanical turk” contribution the precision will be stunning, and we will have to kiss another piece of our privacy goodbye.

PS: David Orban notes that google does have some basic face tools.