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Can a Social Business address some shortcomings from the first Web era?

I found an interesting article and slideshow here: The Web vs. The World : 9 Epic Battles. There are some really good thoughts in there and I would like here to quote the ones who most hit me:

  • Battle #2 : Personal support vs. Instant support.
    Some companies have even started charging fees for letting you speak to a live support agent.”
    Despite what is often said that the Web brought the customers close to the companies, I think we all experimented the degradation of service in customer-care. We often land to some Automatic Response System that is difficult to navigate. Talking to humans sometimes does not help given the poor knowledge of the outsourced staff…
  • Battle #3: Cheaper Flights vs. Hidden Costs
    To keep their ticket prices competitive, airlines break out add-on fees for seat assignments, baggage checking, and other previously included (or nonexistent) services. As a result, the listed fares seem relatively low, and most people don’t notice all of the tacked-on tolls until after they’ve clicked and committed. Sneaky fees are a shady way of doing business, and ultimately they negate much of the value to consumers of comparison shopping.”
    I think anyone who travels nowadays has a clear perception of the degradation of the service. Of course, travelling 15 years ago was expensive… but was a nice experience also. Today, budget limitations force even business travelers to adapt to very poor standards. (BTW: I am surprised to see that there are still Business Class and First Class seats on traditional airlines… which are the companies which allow their employees to travel Business Class?)
  • Battle #4 : Being Present vs. Being Connected
    how many times have you been at a concert or a movie and seen a group of teenagers tapping away on their phones through the entire show? Some people spend so much time telling the world about what they’re doing that they fail to experience it with their full attention.
    This is really evident with adolescents… but isn’t this also clear in the business world ?
  • Battle #8 : In-depth news vs. free news
    But regardless of how or where you read it, professional journalism fills a crucial role in our society that casual blogging cannot.”

Reading the previous paragraphs made me thinking about Social Business. I think that a Social Business, a company managing (and “living”) its business inside and outside as a community serving its customers, can actually address these  shortcomings and provide a different experience to its customers:

  • Battle #2 : Personal support vs. Instant support.
    Engaging the whole company and, also, its partners and customers, in the co-creation process would certainly help deliver products that address the customer needs.
    And creating strong ties with partners and customers would motivate a company to consider the “customer care” as an additional channel for co-creation. Customer support is not the last step of the sale-cycle but the  “first step” of the creation of a better product.
    This approach cannot be invented in one night. It requires the transformation of a company into a Social Business, both inside and outside!
  • Battle #3: Cheaper Flights vs. Hidden Costs
    It may be strange to talk about this when the economy is getting into a new low-cycle…. but as some expensive products prove, customers are ready to pay something more for an additional value they get (iPhones and iPads are not the cheapest products on earth… but they are in the hands on anybody, regardless of their income!)
    A Social Business understands the needs of its customers, makes the best efforts to please them and to deliver top quality because the relationship with customers becomes personal. And we all behave differently when we engage ourselves personally with other people!
    Are we seeking “margin” in the volume only or in the quality of what we produce ?
  • Battle #4 : Being Present vs. Being Connected
    In order to be a real Social Business, a company must be authentic and transparent. It is not just a matter of having some presence on the web in order to get more customers or to apply analytics to electronic interactions.
    We do not want to tactically use Social Media. We must strategically transform into a Social Business, living the customer interactions with an outbound focus.
    Otherwise, customers will consider us a we do consider people who do not behave coherently and who try to manipulate others.
  • Battle #8 : In-depth news vs. free news
    I think that not everybody has the luxury to in-depth reading and studying what they think is important. We do some in-depth reading normally, but this is not enough to give us the whole spectrum of information that is required to do our job.
    What we normally do in this case?
    We ask colleagues who are expert in a given domain to give us their interpretation.
    Why don’t we ask our customers to give us their interpretation of the things on which they are expert (i.e. how they use our products) ?
    You do not refuse to help or to share your insights with someone close to you, with whom you have some link. In a Social Business, people inside and outside the company boundaries will be likely to help you get what you do not know. Because the Social Business behaves like an organism where all the organs work together to ensure life.
    Because in a Social Business the synapsis between each cell work at the best speed and at the highest efficiency.
    And, magically, the intelligence coming from others is richer than the one I could discover myself browsing around….
    Let’s remember that we have been give two ears and one mouth in order to use them in that proportion.

A Social Business is Person-Centric and, thus, Customer-Centric. It is not about changing the kind of business a company is in…. It is about changing the way in which that very same business is done. Making it Social, I think, helps re-discover the way in which humans built this world: working together, discovering new frontiers and new goods, embracing new ideas and facing challenges .

The price of cheap

I have read the article Suicide, stupidity, and the iPhone and, I must admit, it touched me. Nothing I did not know before, for sure. But something I do not like to think about.

I have to think better to this article before writing a post which would not simply be a plain and ineffective agreement.

Memorial

China has begun silencing dissidents and students ahead of the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre

It happened 21 Years ago, but still this information cannot be delivered in the place where it happened.

Nevertheless the amount and volume of economical transactions has increased, actually justifying the repression that occurred and the silence that followed.

Being an Actor or a Spectator?

One of the things that we all loved from the Web was that it allowed, over time, the empowerment of us.
If you want, you can become an actor; you do not need big means, you do not need PR, you do not need to be a famous star. You just behave the way you are, you just express what you think, you just irradiate out of your brain and heart.
So, after the very initial period, we saw the dawn of personal web sites which, then moved to blogs, and then to the myriad of social networking sites. And, in addition, we were finding the possibility to influence (little parts of) the outstanding economy around us, by commenting, putting “stars”, voting. Well, as much (or as little) as the current democracy gives us right, we were (thinking to be) empowered to change the world around us.
We tried to be one of the two variables in the famous Heisemberg’s principle. Our presence, our existence could affect the world around us.

I was thinking to this in these days after the launch of the iPad.
And this evening, in a newspaper, I found a very concise sentence that made me catching what was in my thoughts since a while:

Q: Can the iPad replace a computer?
A: No. An iPad is not a production tool, it is just a consultation tool

eh yes! The main goal of the iPad is to have people to consume information produced elsewhere (and delivered via iTunes, a new “controller” of what should and what should not). Yes, you have the virtual keyboard. But it is undeniable that the goal is to make the iPad a big remote controller, where I have different channels from which I can choose (140K applications).

I have an iPhone and I like its interface. Few months ago I also wrote that “The road paved by the iPhone of having dedicated applications delivered just to the point, remembers us that the new technologies for the web need to exploit the power of the devices on which they run“. Which is true, but only partially true.

I need mashups on the iPhone and the iPad. I need the possibility to express my own creativity and to mix together the information silos that are delivered to me via iTunes. But perhaps this is just what someone does not want us to have.

Google may pull out of China

If what I am reading today in this article is true, it is certainly going to be something significant.
I would rollback all my criticisms to the egemonic position that Google took so far and will openly, franly and wholeheartdly applaude this move. It proves to be courageous and deserves the maximum respect!

Enter the "Reign of RIA 3rd"

I would like to continue to express my point of view around Google Chrome. First of all, I would like to say that it looks really nice! The performances are incredible but they are just the mean that Google used to reach their goal.

I saw all around very many articles and comments where the accent is always put on the fact that Chrome is the way in which Google is attacking the power of IE8. chrome-1
I think that this is a partial view of what Chrome could actually represent in today’s scenario. In my opinion, Google has chosen to enter the RIA war in a very wise way.

By reading the comic book that introduces Chrome, I was hit by few things:

  1. the accent is always on the the term application, as opposed to “web pages”.
    The starting point, which is consistently reinforced everywhere in the comic book, is always the fact that Google wants to address the need of supporting Applications (delivered over the web).
  2. the book stresses the use that Chrome makes of Gears.
  3. Chrome embeds a mode where one can associate a real “windows application” to a given “application executed over the web”.
    Even if this looks similar to what the Mozilla Prism technology did….
  4. Each tab is executed in its own shell
  5. Javascript is executed in its own Virtual machine

What are those things telling me? 
In my opinion they are telling that Google has decided to create a platform where applications delivered over the web can be executed fast, securely and offline. And this without changing the way in which those applications have been created so far (AJAX). (see what I just posted earlier on this subject)

Whilst Firefox and IE position themselves in the playground of general-purpose browsers, Chrome chooses to target the support of the new generation of Applications delivered over the web (ensuring, of course, a backward compatibility with the legacy of the web, i.e. the “web pages”). This is a big revolution;  Google decided to break the politeness game, where Microsoft and “the others” actually have chosen to improve the experience (of using a browser) without changing the scope (and, thus, keeping the constraints).

Of course, this was not done accidentally, or because of the simple evolution of the technology (even if, from this point of view, what I have tried since when I first downloaded Chrome is simply remarkable!).
All the toys that Google gave us in the last years actually needed something more that what a general-purpose browser was providing. More precisely: Google Gears deserved a more coherent and robust environment! Chrome becomes a container for applications delivered over the web!

In the long term, we think of Chromium as a tabbed window manager or shell for the web rather than a browser application. We avoid putting things into our UI in the same way you would hope that Apple and Microsoft would avoid putting things into the standard window frames of applications on their operating systems … The tab is our equivalent of a desktop application’s title bar; the frame containing the tabs is a convenient mechanism for managing groups of those applications. In future, there may be other tab types that do not host the normal browser toolbar. (see the User Experience Section on Chromium)

Adobe moved to AIR from Flex. Microsoft moved to Silverlight from WPF.
Google has delivered a platform for AJAX. They went beyond the browser, in a way that grants the continuity of the legacy web.

To Google, the browser has become a weak link in the cloud system – the needle’s eye through which the outputs of the company’s massive data centers usually have to pass to reach the user – and as a result the browser has to be rethought, revamped, retooled, modernized. Google can’t wait for Microsoft or Apple or the Mozilla Foundation to make the changes (the first has mixed feelings about promoting cloud apps, the second is more interested in hardware than in clouds, and the third, despite regular infusions of Google bucks, lacks resources), so Google is jump-starting the process with Chrome. (see The cloud’s Chrome lining)

Have you tried to transform Gmail into an application using Chrome? What does it tell?
Now, let’s imagine Google Documents…. and all the other tens of goodies that we were shipped regularly, in a “Beta forever” format by Google…

  • It is an explicit attempt to accelerate the movement of computing off the desktop and into the cloud — where Google holds advantage.
  • Google hopes to kick-start a new generation of Web-based applications that will truly make Microsoft’s worst nightmare a reality: The browser will become the equivalent of an operating system.
  • The clearest expression of this comes when you drag a tab containing a Web application like Gmail to its own separate window and specify that you want an “app shortcut.” At that point, the tabs, buttons, and address bars fall away and the Web app looks pretty much like a desktop app. Welcome to the cloud era.

(see Inside Chrome: The Secret Project to Crush IE and Remake the Web)

I think that Chrome may represent the platform by which Google will establish a new way to consume the Web:

  • at home, of course.
    You will use the Google (web) Applications as applications, in the way in which you are used to use Outlook Express, Word, Excel, MSN
  • in the enterprise. Also !
    You do not have to look in your bookmarks to access the URL that points to your application… You just execute the applications which, accidentally, are delivered over the web but are more and more executed locally (via Gears)

To say this synthetically:

“Any desktop application that has not been implemented in the browser is now going to be implemented in the browser,” Andreessen said. (see What Netscape’s Founder Thinks About the New Google Browser )

When I was speaking about AJAX in the last few years, I remember I often quoted a sentence that said “AJAX means that Javascript now works…“.  What I see with Chrome is that “Chrome means that AJAX (and, thus, Javascript), becomes a full-fledged platform for building local applications“. See it? There is no issue here of sharing the same (j)VM because of resource consumption. The scope is more manageable (certainly less powerful) and, thus, it does not cost anything to start a new application with its own VM.

Google Chrome features a new JavaScript engine, V8, that has been designed for performance from the ground up. In particular, we wanted to remove some common bottlenecks that limit the amount and complexity of JavaScript code that can be used in Web applications. (see Google Chrome’s Need for Speed)

Yes, I am enthusiast. Strange for me when talking about Google! But it is true. I like it. I like what I see.
Some other consideration:

  • Hey, Chrome is a browser that does not ask you to become your “default browser” !
    Very nice, indeed.
  • Chrome may become a Bootable Browser.
    A bootable Chrome-based platform could very well put an end to PC tune-up problems for masses of people. ” (see Is Google’s Chrome browser a Windows killer?)
  • It will be interesting when the Resource Model will be published, in order to really create applications on it

I am now expecting one other step.
I am expecting that Google creates a Declarative Language for easily creating the applications that will be executed by Chrome. After all, in the comic book, they talk about the fact that the team that created the VM is actually able to create a VM for virtually any language. Right ? At runtime, one flavor or the other of the VM can be loaded if the activation cost is so cheap and if the resource consumption is so low.

I think these properties will rapidly make V8 the dominant VM for dynamic languages… the release of the V8 VM is the beginning of a whole new era for dynamic languages (Smalltalk, Ruby, Python, etc).  (see Chrome and V8)

Last, but not least:

And another thing Google did well here was in not trying to over-engineer their explanations of highly technical processes. They simplified their message down to bare essentials, and I felt enlightened after reading this document. Most technical documentation talks down to people, assuming that all the basics are already understood. Google removed some barriers to entry by explaining their new technologies in a way that almost anyone with a little technical know-how can understand. This is something almost every other open source project out there fails at. Technical documentation is far more than simply documentation…it’s an implicit invitation to take part in the experience.At the end of the day, I’m really impressed at the quality of this documentation. I actually read the entire thing, which is much more than I can say about the technical documentation for any other software I use. Who knew that I could find the difference between multiple threads and multiple processes interesting?  (see Google Chrome’s Design Comic )

One word of caution. Page 9 and Page 10 of the Google Comic Book. When they describe the way in which they test Chrome by using the massive cache they have on the internet! Unfair ! And, once again, showing the disproportionate power that Google (as a company) has on today’s Internet.

Before going on, let me explain the title of this post. Napoleon 3rd was, according to the Wikipedia article, “the first President of the French Republic and the only emperor of the Second French Empire. He holds the unusual distinction of being both the first titular president and the last monarch of France.
Much like Chrome, which could be the last browser but, perhaps, the first element of a different kind

Who is David and who is Goliath ?

I am reading this article, Ballmer still searching for an answer to Google. The article explains that Microsoft “may be the only company in a position to provide ‘any real competition’ for Google in the online search business.“, that it may invest some significant amount of money in a “five-year task” :

We need to do some work to fundamentally reinvent the search business model… You don’t brute-force your way into a market. You only make great strides when you redefine the category for the user.

Well, it is not simple to understand who Goliath is in this case (because, of course, we would try to support David here). So, who is David? I personally think that promoting a real alternative to Google can only be great for all of us, the users. I would have certainly preferred that an alternative to Google would have been provided by a non-for-profit organization. I want, though, highlight two points:

  1. the idea of reinventing the search business model is, IMHO, great. Let’s stop copying what others do… Let’s put the face on!
  2. providing alternatives to an hegemonic system is too important.
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