Thursday, April 19, 2007

What does ECM Stand for?

(Apart from Enterpise Content Management...)

Ron Miller's post on returning from AIIM really rang loud with me.

"...It was the complete lack of innovation. I can't help feeling that ECM has lost its wow factor. It has matured to the point it really has nothing new and exciting to offer customers."
I work for an ECM company. It's a good one, and my company has plenty of experience and a great product. But I can't shake the feeling that the whole world of enterprise software is utterly devoid of any real innovation. There's nobody thinking different. The most interesting thing to really happen to the ECM industry in the last three years has been SharePoint, and it's not really very interesting at all.

Add to that the whole round of market consolidation that's happened recently has ensured that things are going to be more consistent than ever before. There's no pressure on any one of the major ECM vendors to deliver anything revolutionary. The RFP process ensures that the whole industry is focussed on box-checking, staid and static feature sets that deliver questionable value. Even worse, that same procurement process ultimately places the decisions into the hands of people who aren't going to really interact with the solution all that much - so the people who use the software aren't important enough to effect change.

And so, there's no real impetus for change in the market. It's more about business as usual. About services costs, and new license revenue wars. About sales demos and shipping software that nobody uses. About delivering the same old stuff.

Although I can't find the reference, I believe it was Shigeru Miyamoto, creator of some of the world's best video games, who once said:

"If all you do is give customers what they are asking for, you will be able to keep them happy. But you will never be able to really surprise them."

It's not the kind of thing that is going to inspire the next generation of people to become better at what they do, or save them from ridiculous working hours.

John Newton and the guys over at Alfresco have recognized that this is the case. But it's going to take more than just a different business model. Safe is risky, remember? For a long time I've held on to the notion that what we really needed was some truly great, inspirational software. But even this might not be enough. (Hey, maybe enterprises want boring, hard to learn and use unhelpful software. It does keep them busy, after all.)

I really feel that software needs to improve people's lives, or else it's just a complete waste of time. Change the world, or go home. It's Tail-Chasing. It's nothing more than a bunch of stuff that we all did while we occupied the planet in order to 'pay the bills'.

There is such a huge amount of potential in both our technology and our ingenuity, to improve the way that we do things. And at the heart of all this activity are those nebulous organizations of people that we refer to as 'Enterprises'. Managing their content is important, no doubt. But improving the way they function is more so.

Better functioning enterprises benefit us all -because we are their employees, their customers, their citizens. Enterprises only exist because they are made up of people, and they exist solely to interact with people like us.

Striving to maintain the status quo is actively retarding the (already slow) development of enterprises, and that doesn't help anyone at all.

If they work better, we all work better.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

What's better than actual tax?

Virtual Tax!

I just spent WAY too long in the local Fairfax H&R Block, waiting for Michael, the local tax guy to figure out how to do my taxes. While he was "out back" trying to cajole the system into filing my 1116 (Foreign Tax Credit) form, I sneakily opened a web browser on his machine...

The default home page was an internal intranet site. It told me, in delighted H1, that H&R Block had just opened an island on second life.

"No way!", I hear you exclaim (Or is that just me thinking loud...)


As long as you don't have to pay tax twice on your second life... although I guess it kind of makes sense. Incidentally, my tax 'burden' here in the US for the last year ended up being the princely tithe of 185 dollars - apparently because I have four kids. Still, it seems crazy low. I don't know who's paying the taxes over here, but it turns out that it's not me...

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Life in a cupboard...

This is my new 'office'. It's a cupboard. Because we have Ali's Sister and family staying with us in the crapshack at the moment, I had to forgo my study to be used as an extra bedroom - so I moved into the cupboard in the hallway.

I know, it sounds a bit nuts, but I really like working in here! There's no distractions, I can shut the door, It has great soundproofing and acoustics so I can crank up the music - and best of all, nobody can come in and talk to me, because there's no room for more than one person. So if people want to talk to me, they have to wait until I come out.

Joel Spolsky is currently trying to find a bigger office for his Fog Creek developers. Maybe he just needs to move them all into cupboards...

Creamy Snuff?

Okay, this is just plain weird.

In India, you can buy Toothpaste packed with Tobacco.

"In a state of despair or when you are depressed, use Ipco Creamy Paste to drive out the blues. It will change your attitude and your reactions so that your responses will be positive, leading to improvement in your state of mind."

Um... Okay.

Crazy nicotine dreams...

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Yep - We can Mow that....

Since late Summer, Simon and I have been working on a way to fix the Craftsman Riding Mower that we bought for fifty bucks. It had been left in the rain for a year, after it refused to start. Well, we replaced the fuel line (it was full of some weird looking fungus), replaced the starter motor (unnecssarily, it turned out) replaced the battery and the ignition switch, banged one of the engine mounts back into shape, drank an awful lot of beer, and finally - Voila! We can mow anything!

Here's the maiden voyage:

And Even better - It can tow kids!

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Low tech is good

I really got a kick out of Miranda July's new website for her upcoming book. (link via Seth Godin)

(You know, there was a time when it wouldn't have been possible to build yourself a website using the top of your refrigerator.)

It seems to me that the best marketing in the world is the stuff that comes honestly from people.

For all our new-fandangled technologies, various broadcast media, and in a world that is full to overflowing with 'Your call is important to us' style corporate bullshit, A Single Conversation between two people still counts more than everything else.

I guess it's because as people, we're all hardwired to listen to each other.

(Well, most of us, anyway :)

Saturday, April 07, 2007


My Brother Grae is a photographer for Snapper Media, one of the leading "Independent Photo Agencies" in Australia. Basically, he's what might commonly be referred to as "the Paparazzi", (although he does a lot less street photography these days)

He's currently in Melbourne, following the celebrities around the children's hospital.

While such a job might seem glamorous, and the sort of thing that Video Games are made of, His latest post about the stark reality of his current gig really touched a nerve with me.

You can keep up to date with his travels over on his blog, Please Don't Punch Me.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Patrick's Science Show

My Son Patrick decided to prove the theory of gravity with some help from his baby brother Lincoln, our tree house, a large log, and a shoe...

Thanks to Simon for producing, directing and uploading the episode!

The Path Less Travelled...

Speaking of Red and Blue Pills, one of my oldest friends has bravely declined the suppository in favour of starting along his own path.

Marimba is a service designed to connect music students and teachers using some of the latest "Web 2.0" technology (there are only a few months left where I'll actually be able to write that phrase...)

Cam Grant is one of the smartest and most talented people I know. Besides teaching me all about XML way before it was cool, A long time ago (can it really be more than ten years?) he introduced me to Jazz Fusion, by bringing home a box set of Weather Report CDs.

And now, he's decided to create his own kind of fusion from his two great passions, technology and music.

But let's face it, technology is really only of interest when it does something amazing. By helping musicians become better, and to improve and grow, Cam's really helping to fill the world with new music - which is just a truly inspiring thing to be doing.

If you're planning on being the next Jaco Pastorius, you're a music teacher, or you are just thinking of taking up those piano lessons from when you quit in the seventh grade, you should drop by and bookmark - I have no doubt that it will be worthwhile for you - and maybe for all of us :)

Red Pill/Blue Pill

Simon sent me this comic the other day. Like him, I'm not sure of it's origins, but it sure made me laugh...