Archive for the ‘ Internet ’ Category

Zoe: Flash conversions to HTML5+CSS

This could be very big.

Web developers know that Flash support is diminishing. This is thanks to devices by Apple & Microsoft (at least)** that don’t offer Flash support, and, more important, due to Adobe’s own elimination of support for Flash on mobile devices.

I’ve heard of a few tools so far to do interactive graphical Rapid Application Development (RAD) in HTML5 instead of Flash. However, this one caught my attention.

Zoe is a stand-alone application which significantly helps in converting existing SWF (“Shockwave” Flash) animations to Canvas+CSS. In other words, the work that’s already been done for some Flash applications can be translated to a standardized methdology available on an ever-increasing set of browsers. (Examples: Internet Explorer 10, Chrome.)

Zoe is even sponsored by Adobe itself (as is Edge, another HTML5 development tool which you should also check out).

As we get further and further from Flash viability on anything but current laptops/desktops, I believe there will even be a significant market for developers offering to convert existing websites’ Flash content to HTML5. Perhaps they will find Zoe and such tools useful.

As a real world example, it appears that Atari may have used Zoe to help with converting games to HTML5 for their new touch arcade. Zoe and some other tools are also mentioned if you explore the Developers section at that link.

** Apple’s decisions about lack of support for Flash could take up an entire article.

As for Microsoft, its new Windows 8 operating system is extremely tablet-friendly, with at least a dozen tablets by various manufacturers slated to run on this OS by November. And the IE10 “touch” browser that comes native with Windows 8 will offer no Flash support at all (but full HTML5 support). While there is a browser included on most of these tablets that will still support Flash, I believe Adobe’s own actions prove that Flash is heading into the sunset, however slowly.

 

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On Facebook and Internet citizenry

This morning I read a post on SeekingAlpha. The author accused unhappy Fecebook users and competitors of “whining,” as Facebook “schooled the Internet.” The author is correct that complaints abound, as do comparisons to AOL’s previous dominance in being an Internet gateway.

Thr problem is, Facebook is worse than AOL ever was, and it is not a “walled garden.” In a few short years, due to Facebook’s impressive aggressiveness and other developers’ laziness, there have become two classes of Internet users:

– users of the Internet who try to consume its services
– Facebook Internet CITIZENS

The reason I say that is that more and more sites have resorted to becoming de facto Facebook add-ons. Some big services only accept Facebook logons as sign-ups, period. Many services only accept Facebook comments. Many services haven’t implemented their own internal ratings systems, in favor of Facebook Likes.

You may be okay with a world where Facebook is the passport to the Internet, but I am not. That’s not to knock its impressive zeal for imperialism, new tools, and ease of convincing developers to accept its API and platform as their own base. It’s just to point out the facts.

I represent a startup that is working on two major web 3.0 projects. Hell, web 3.0 will be easier if one company controls the majority of the information and sign-ons. But just let it be said that I am a part of the group warning that Facebook will become more than a social monopoly. It may become an Internet services monopoly also.

The unboxing of me

I just received the FedEx package containing me.

FigurePrints can produce 3D figurines of avatars from Xbox Live (XBL) and other online platforms. I’m fascinated by 3D printing, as it is used very successfully, for example, in Formula 1, and was intrigued with being able to have a collectible memento of the process.

The FigurePrints process for a customer is very simple. My XBL avatar quickly appeared on the screen.  The XBL representation is a reasonable facsimile of me as a cartoon, so I wasn’t hesitant to immortalize it in a bonded, coated plaster. FigurePrints offers the choice of selecting from multiple poses for the figurine.

Some pictures of the finished figure are at the bottom of this post. I’m certainly happy with it. It’s about 3 inches tall from base to the top of head, and under its base, there’s a FigurePrints Microsoft Tag. The entire process of production and shipping took about 3 1/2 weeks.

Details of my online cartoon, such as my wedding ring, goatee, glasses, and even my facial mole, have been successfully captured.

There aren’t many “cons,” except to say that a 3D figurine caricature of an online caricature is bound to not look quite right. For example, the mini-me is scrawnier than my online avatar, who, like the real me, has a wide chest. Also, its neck is skinnier and longer than my avatar’s or mine. I will bet that at least the second issue would have been resolved by a different pose. But hey, if FigurePrints is erring on the side of skinnier and scrawnier representations, I think that’s better than erring on the side of being too bulky.

As I say, I am very happy with the figure. Living in a time when we can recreate ourselves as digital proxies to compete in online sports and other games is interesting enough. Being able to use a company like FigurePrints to then summon ourselves out of the machine, almost literally “from thin air,” is even more impressive.

(Just FYI, this post was unsolicited by either FigurePrints or Microsoft, and I received no compensation or discount of any kind on this service.)

Posted from WordPress for Windows Phone

What would life be like with Facebook-Twitter, Inc.?

Rumors abound about Twitter considering buyout offers from Google and from Facebook. Wait, check that: Twitter has flatly denied a deal with Google.

What Twitter has not done is deny a deal with Facebook. A deal that rumors say would be worth over $9 billion…especially since Twitter was recently valued at $3 billion without considering competing suitors. Is it notable that Twitter won’t deny a potential deal that would make it a Facebook subsidiary, while denying that it intends to sell to Google?

Plenty of people think it is notable, and even go as far as to say that a Facebook/Twitter deal is “inevitable.” An alternative theory: a case of some very savvy guerrilla negotiations where Twitter purposely denies what’s really happening, while showing Facebook what could have been (via the public reaction).

Let’s assume, though, that a Facebook/Twitter deal is consummated. I’ll call the new mega-social giant Facebook-Twitter, Inc., or FTI for short. The sea change from no formalized “social media” to one giant social monopoly in less than a decade would be stunning. (By the way, a legal study on the anti-trust concerns will be an interesting read and make for lively debate.)

Here’s where I stand. I am not in favor of a world where a private company creates a de facto, neo World Wide Web, where every Netizen would need an account to have a rich online experience. Doesn’t it already bother you that individuals and companies publish Facebook-only content, use Facebook Connect-only web apps, and basically consider you a lesser friend or lesser customer unless you have a “key” to get in? I believe we already need to step away from the Facebook-as-THE-web brink. Ever have a friend think you were dead, or that you’d converted into a technophobic monk or nun, if you didn’t have a Facebook account? Of course, some of the same issues can be raised with Twitter’s domination of micro-blogging and quick, real-time marketing.

Let’s start with the positives of a theoretical consolidation that results in FTI.  It would be a powerful force for social change. It would accelerate the development of the new industries that Facebook and Twitter have created. (Had you ever heard of a social media guru until a few years back? Dreamed of forking over $10 bucks to have someone DELETE your Facebook identity?) It would also accelerate positive changes in the world, because Twitter and Facebook separately have already allowed us to support extremely important causes and revolutions in real-time.

However, there have already been grumblings that the coziness between Microsoft and Facebook (Office integration, Bing search, Windows Phone 7 devices with seamless Facebook integration) has changed the social experience negatively. This comes from the realization that Facebook isn’t your friendly collegiate geek letting you try a nifty new social tool, but rather a behemoth that partners with an even bigger software behemoth, and now may buy a micro-blogging behemoth.

As someone who to this day refuses to have a Facebook account, I could be even more strident in hatred of this potential deal. I’m also a Twitter lover, and wonder what changes the deal would bring to one of my favorite concepts of all time. Worst of all, could a Facebook purchase mean that FB simply absorbs the Twitter staff and kills off the Twitter identity (as has happened with some of its other acquisitions), unlikely as that might seem? However, instead of being afraid or angry about the future of social media, I’m looking at whatever happens in a new light.

I firmly believe it’s time for some competition, not monopolization. Since November, I’ve been helping to craft a new social network. I believe it addresses key complaints of actual Facebook users and Twitter users. I also know that it strikes a great balance between true privacy — of the sort Mark Zuckerberg intended when he visualized The Facebook as being an exclusive Harvard network — and the freedom to explore and connect more freely than the unwashed non-users of Facebook. I believe it is in a perfect market space to excel by having key traits of LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Path, and Namesake.

This major project, supported by a female CEO and great young co-founders, will be in beta very soon. I bring it up because in the face of big companies consolidating all the time, we not only are seeing a world of monumental change and foundational structure, but also one of opportunity. No matter what you think of a world where Facebook-Twitter, Inc. may soon “dominate,” do not ever stop innovating and believing that you have the right to compete to make things better.

CEO for a day: thoughts on talent retention.

Workplace Generational Transitioning

For 12 years, I’ve been involved in thinking about attracting and retaining employees, and workplace generational transitioning.  This has been a common thread from early in my career when I was a business manager, to the role I fulfilled with a consulting firm advising a major Atlanta corporation on workplace “generation gaps,” to my excitement at today’s entrepreneurial youth culture.  The representatives of that culture are interested in constant innovation.  They’re ideally suited to times best summarized by that old Rochefoucauld quote: “the only thing constant in life is change.”  Imagine a group of workers who embrace change, rather than hide from it.

I mentioned workplace generational transitioning.  Ten years ago, when we were advising leaders of the Baby Boomer generation on how to team with and learn from Generation X, and vice versa, we couldn’t predict at least two recessions (2001, 2008+).  The impact of the recessions is that fewer Baby Boomers are heading for the door right at “retirement age,” or taking early retirement.  [Source note: unfortunately, I haven’t seen any recent studies on the average age of CEOs.  The last study I saw was from the late ’00s and featured CEOs in their mid 50s.]

So that bought the executives in major companies a bit more time, whether they wanted it or not.  Have they been using that time wisely?  I’m not so sure.  I believe this major company in Atlanta was ahead of its time, because I didn’t see similar courses offered at another corporation close to my heart until years and years later.  Think of your few favorite Fortune 500 companies.  Whether you’re a young gun or a member of the old guard, you have to admit that those companies matter right now.  But will they succeed at attracting and retaining young talent, while simultaneously passing along the knowledge and life lessons of the older employees?  It’s probable that many of them are perceived, internally and externally, as being too big to fail.  And we have recent experience in how that works out.

Innovators seek new opportunities

Hiring and retaining innovators is job one.  Silicon Valley provides a great example that we can see playing out in front of our eyes in real-time:  the culture, the level of talent, the influx of ideas, and the influx of capital in that part of California is an accelerant.  Here’s what we see:

  • Prized talent has numerous choices of workplaces and roles in the ecosystem
  • The mega-corporations in the ecosystem (for example: Google, Facebook) are either concerned about losing top talent, or eager to never lose their talent edge (1) (2) (3)
  • These companies offer special advantages to retain talent.  For example, they offer to allow employees to run their own micro-companies (startups) using their employer’s money and resources.
  • Even when offered every conceivable advantage, some employees still leave: they want different projects, or they want to start their own companies. (4)

Though Silicon Valley is an accelerated case and primarily represents a certain set of talent, this same cycle will play out in other major corporations, in most departments within those companies.

An innovator — that is, someone who not only has respect for a big idea, but acts on it and gets things done — will always be interested in a new challenge.  This innovator might ride the wave of available small funding (government-guaranteed small business loans, or venture capital), and start her own company.  Or she might seek out opportunities with a competitor who makes talent acquisition and retention a bigger priority than her current company.

In this study, two things are certain.  The first: a time of planning for mass retirement of an older generation is the wrong time to be losing young talent.

CEO for a day

The second thing that is certain is that companies need to be proactive about finding ways to retain employees who are committed to innovation.  In 2009, Facebook started a “startup incubator” to encourage the development of nascent tech companies.  In 2010, Google pondered setting up its own internal startup incubator to ensure its employees could remain with Google while pursuing their dreams of being Founders.  In 2011, Facebook will purchase approximately 15 small tech companies for their talent. (5)

If you’re a decision maker or employee at a company, no matter how large or small, I’m convinced that your company needs to do something very similar.  And if you’re a student, you need to look for this in your next company.  Enough with low-level corporate titles.  In major corporations, Fred the Engineer might work for two years to become Fred the Engineer II.  If you can’t let your employees found their own internal startups, then your company needs to make each innovator feel like the CEO, Founder, COO or Chairman of the Board of a specific role or project.

To that end, I offer a bigger idea that ensures employee engagement and retains talent.  Let’s have major companies commit to a program to put someone into any C-suite role they want for a day.  For the purposes of this discussion, I’ll say most people would want to be CEO for a day.

The company would somehow select a group of innovative employees to compete for a specific time period, for example, for a fiscal quarter.  Perhaps the winner is chosen by performance reviews, amount of money saved on a project, amount of time ahead of schedule on a project.  Whatever the case, when our innovative winner is chosen, she gets to truly step into her dream role.

Let the “real” CEO play an advisory role for that day.  But let the winning innovator truly take the lead on some decisions.  A breakfast meeting with other C-suite executives.  A photo op or television appearance scheduled to promote the program as a whole, where the CEO for a day proudly describes what she’s doing on that day.  Let her set part of the agenda to be a focus on one particular pet project, where she is empowered to call or meet with any employees to move things forward.

The day will be over far too soon, but the innovator will never forget it, and it will drive her even more.   The innovator will probably learn how tough the CEO role can be.  (Ev Williams of Twitter said it was a “sucky job.”) (6)

Simultaneously, the CEO and other C-level executives will learn something about innovation, guaranteed.  These senior managers will be exposed to passion about a particular project that they might have otherwise have ignored.   They will have helped bridge generational gaps between all of the participants.  They could repeat the program as often as once per quarter, and the waiting list to participate would always be full.

CEO for a day is only one idea.  It’s a paltry contribution to a discussion that needs to be happening every day among management at companies all over the world.  But I think it’s a positive idea, and I’d certainly love to read about it in the news every quarter.

Response to Nicholas Deleon re: Wikileaks

Look at Matt Drudge, freaking out over Wikileaks’ so-called “insurance policy” against Julian Assange’s arrest. READY TO LAUNCH “DOOMSDAY FILES,” Drudge screams. (Red font, too. All we need is a siren.gif and we’re in full meltdown mode.) And Doomsday for whom, exactly? I mean, as of today, all Wikileaks has done is to make available a number of documents that were already available to some 3 million Americans. So if this information is already available to 3 million of our fellow citizens, why not us? Is it wrong for the citizens of a republic to know what’s being done in their name around the world…

Fox News says that Assange has “warn[ed] that any government that tries to curtail his activities risks triggering a new deluge of state and commercial secrets.” That’s been taken to mean that, should he be arrested, Assange will release the encryption key, thereby unlocking insurance.aes256 forever.

At which point, we’re led to believe, the Sun will disappear, throwing the Earth and all the other planets of the solar system into the far reaches of outerspace.

Nicholas Deleon, “Does Wikileaks Represent The End Of Internet History?

This is not a black and white world.  I don’t believe there’s a black and white answer to whether Wikileaks is good for the United States, good for the Internet, or represents positive global change.

In fact, one of the reasons it’s so hard to firmly take Wikileaks’ “side,” if you will, is this insurance policy Mr. Deleon mentions.  He uses the phrase “the Sun will disappear” to mock the hyperbole of those who don’t want those documents leaked.  Of course, his sarcasm is well-placed: the Sun will not disappear.  The planets will not be out of alignment.

But, what if the insurance policy contains the real names of all covert intelligence agents worldwide, or some sensitive information about susceptibility of the US military to harm?  What if it contains some Secret Service information about the routines of the President or Vice President of the United States?  Or nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons information, which could be extremely useful to those who wish to inflict harm to as many people as possible?

The Sun may not disappear, but are we now saying there is no line that cannot be crossed, just because the Internet is supposed to be a free source of information?  Or worse, are we celebrating it?

Mr. Deleon uses as justification that 3,000,000 people in the US had access to prior Wikileaks documents already (although, as I’ve mentioned, we don’t know what the insurance policy comprises).  That logic is laughable.  One percent of one country has access to “secret” clearance information, and each one of those people had to pass a background check and/or some other vetting to obtain that clearance.

More than anything else, it’s certain that Wikileaks represents a seminal moment in the history of the Internet. Closing your eyes, stomping your feed and wishing it would all just go away, is completely ludicrous.

ibid

No, “stomping [our] feet and wishing it would all just go away” is not an answer, and I’m not sure who ever suggested that it was.  Again, it’s not a black and white world. But I believe it’s ludicrous to justify Wikileaks from the viewpoint that that every person with access to the Internet should be able to see anything that normally requires a clearance.

That naturally leads to the argument that perhaps we don’t need any clearances.  Perhaps we should not trust any of the people we elect, or any of our military leaders, when they say that something should be kept secret and not placed on an open site for all to see.  To be allowed into our police forces, into our military, or into the ranks of the folks who protect the President, one has to undergo psychological testing and criminal background checks.  Then, we ask those folks to keep some things secret, to keep us — in their view — as safe as possible.  Personally, I believe this is a necessary fact of life.  Some seem willing to let this slide on the Internet in the name of open access, or the lack of trustworthiness of our alleged protectors.

Sure, we may live in a world of truly open access to any information, and change our whole view of entrusting some people to keep secrets.  Or if we don’t now, we may soon.  If a person we elect shouldn’t be able to decide that something’s secret, then none of us can.  By my reading of that fundamental question that Wikileaks has forced on us, we may be one step closer to anarchy.

I’m not “closing [my] eyes,” but I’m not throwing a party to celebrate it either.

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