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Apple, Docker and Cloud (no Segway)

May 8, 2015

segway_poloIn a recent internal communications project I had the opportunity to gain an interesting perspective on emerging IT and technology trends.

To promote an upcoming technical training seminar, I emailed out a questionnaire to help compile profiles on each of the 30 participants – who were solution architects from around the world specialising in cloud computing and data centres.

The questions included these three:

  • In your view, what is the most exciting current development in IT?
  • What is your favourite tech gadget?
  • What is the next big thing in cloud computing?

Given the depth of knowledge and experience that each of these technologists had, it was not surprising that there were some wildly divergent responses. What did surprise me was that a number of them said that they were not really into gadgets (and no-one said the Segway was their favourite gadget).

With IT technical specialists, I think we too quickly assume that they are all techno-geeks.

Most Exciting Current Development in IT

Not surprisingly, given the specialisation of the solution architects surveyed, a strong frontrunner was cloud computing accounting for 35 percent of responses, but there was also some popularity for IoT – the Internet of Things.

And what was in the ‘Other’ category? Responses included machine-to-machine (M2M), virtual reality (VR), automotive safety, automation, agile software development, wearable technology, , 3D printing, service-oriented IT, DevOps, virtualisation and consumerisation of IT.

Exciting Development in IT

Next Big Thing in Cloud

The question on the next big thing in cloud again threw up a range of divergent responses, but there were some clear trends, with support for cloud federation/brokerage and application containers both at 18 percent, followed by IoT at 15 percent. The ‘Other’ category included single nominations for computing power, community clouds, a killer SaaS app, big data, security, orchestration, and automation.

Big Thing in Cloud

Favourite Gadget

Finally, we had a fun question – what’s your favourite gadget? Again, there were a lot of different nominations but also one that stood out: Apple. Combining the responses received for Apple, iPad and iPhone, they represented over 35 percent of the total. The only others to rate more than a single mention were Microsoft Surface and the Tesla Model S (two nominations each). We also had a lot of ‘non-tech’ gadgets nominated, including a chainsaw, a slide-rule, and super-light waterproof fabric. The ‘Other’ category also included Bluetooth headphones, drones, safe driving tech, Android phone, Xbox 360, Raspberry Pi, Oculus Rift, Arduino board, Bose noise-cancelling headphones, and the BMW i8.

Favourite Gadget

What’s really interesting in the gadget responses is the shift in thinking about Apple. Five to ten years ago, I wonder if there would have been the same popularity among high-end technologists for Apple’s devices and ecosystem? Amongst IT architects, it was a Windows and Linux-dominated mindset back then.

Looking for underlying themes across all three questions, you would have to say that there is a real appeal among technologists for the trend towards simplification and abstraction brought on by the world of Apple and cloud computing. The complexity can be hidden behind the user interface – if you want to install an app or spin up a server, it just works. There is also a strong interest in the impact that the hyper-connected future (IoT, wearables, automotive developments, etc.) are starting to have on the IT industry, particularly cloud computing.

For cloud itself, I was surprised with the number of people who specifically called out Docker as the next big thing in the field of application containers. The facilitation of easier application development on the cloud will be something to watch …

#Mobilegeddon Scaremongering

April 24, 2015

SEOIs Google’s ‘Mobilegeddon’ the latest bit of scaremongering from the SEM quacks? If the headlines in both Australia and the US are anything to go by, the tactic is working.

Mobilegeddon is this thing where Google, on 21 April this year, changed its organic search algorithm to favour websites that had been optimised for smartphones.

The WSJ, in ‘Google’s `Mobilegeddon’ Could Affect Major Companies‘ cites research from ‘digital marketing agency Merkle | RKG, [that] 46% of Fortune 500 companies and 25% of top retailers did not have websites with “mobile-friendly” designations from Google at the beginning of April.’

In Australia, one of the local digital agencies had the same idea:

‘We took a list of the ASX 200 companies and we ran all of those companies through the Google mobile readiness tool, and what that indicated was that 51.5 per cent of the ASX 200 company websites were not deemed as mobile ready by Google, and the remaining 48.5 per cent are in good shape for the change.’

– from ‘Google’s Mobilegeddon: Fears more than half of Australia’s big companies will disappear‘, ABC News, 21 April 2015

Does it really matter if an ASX 200 or Fortune 500 company’s website isn’t optimised for mobile? Yes and no.

Yes – because there is no doubt that an increasing proportion of web browsing is happening via mobile devices.

No – for two major reasons, there is no rush for these big companies to create mobile-friendly versions of their sites.

First, these companies already have massive brand equity and recognition – turning up on the first page of a Google search is just a blip on the brand radar for them. Sure – it might have some impact on the brands in their portfolio, particularly consumer ones – but not their main corporate identity.

Second, did anyone really think that these big brands would disappear from Google searches?

Here’s what Google had to say about ‘Mobilegeddon':

head of mobile at Google Australia, Lisa Bora, says the tag is a misconception.

“Firstly, mobile-friendliness is just one of 200 signals that we use to determine the ranking of results,” Bora says in an April 22 blog post.

– ‘Google promises sites won’t disappear‘, BRW 22 April 2015

For those smaller players and brands, anxious to climb up the rankings in Google organic searches, sure – it’s important to think about your online presence for mobile web browsing – but that’s also about the customer experience, not just your search ranking. And, if you are banking your marketing success on search engine optimisation (SEO), think again. Paraphrasing Google’s Lisa Bora, it’s just one of 200 signals that determine if someone wants to do business with you.

(Pictured above: “Search-Engine-Marketing”, By Danard Vincente, available under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) licence.)

Making Fun of Yourself and the #UnfinishedBusiness of Marketing

March 5, 2015

UnfinishedBusinessHumour can be a great way to promote your business, especially if you are brave enough to poke fun at yourself and your industry.

A great example is this week’s very clever marketing campaign – a combined effort from Getty Images’ iStock online stock photo business and Twentieth Century Fox, promoting its new movie ‘Unfinished Business‘. An email was sent out to iStock members this week offering a set of free stock images (we got the email here at Explore):

In case you didn’t get the memo, you’ve got the green light to download your free #UnfinishedBusiness stock images.

Yes, they are a set of those really clichéd corporate images that come up time and time again when you go searching for that perfect photo to illustrate ‘teamwork’, ‘productivity’, or some other business concept or value you are trying to portray. The only difference is that these photos feature Vince Vaughan and the rest of the cast of a big Hollywood comedy.

While it’s clever, it works more in favour of Fox than iStock. ‘Unfinished Business’ looks like it’s poking fun at the world of business clichés and business-speak – so corporate stock photos are a perfect butt for the movie’s jokes. Still, it’s a great piece of exposure for iStock, and will probably attract a whole new bunch of members.

However, the most effective ‘making fun of yourself’ marketing effort recently has to be ‘This is a Generic Brand Video‘ from dissolve.com last year, inspired by a parody piece from Kendra East in McSweeney’s Internet Tendency. In marketing, we’ve all seen these videos (and probably been responsible for making a few) – but the video is a perfect showreel for the dissolve.com’s business – selling stock video clips. In fact, links to license the clips featured in the video are conveniently included at the bottom of the page!

 

Photo at top used in accordance with iStock’s Editorial Use Only licence.

Extreme Sports, Social Media and Smart Phones

January 29, 2015

redbullThis week has seen a set of mind-boggling numbers announced from Apple, Facebook and … Red Bull.

Let’s talk about Red Bull first. The energy drink slash extreme sports promoter has just clocked up one billion views on its YouTube Channel, since posting its first video back in 2008. The most popular videos include clips from the amazing Scottish cyclist Danny MacAskill and the Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner – both of whom are sponsored and heavily promoted by Red Bull.

Speaking of billions of views, as part of Facebook’s latest earnings announcement, the company has stated that three billion videos are viewed on its site every day. According to independent US tech news site Re/code, that figure compares to just (just!) one billion views per day back in September last year. The scary thing is that this number only accounts for the videos that are natively uploaded into Facebook, and not videos referenced from other sources, including Facebook and Vimeo.

OK, we can get into a debate over how many videos are really watched compared to, say, Facebook, given that Facebook has an auto-play feature running on its clips – but it is still a big number nonetheless.

Facebook’s ad revenue for the last quarter of 2014 was US$3.59 billion – the vast majority of its overall earnings for the period – with engadget reporting that ads from mobile accounted for a whopping 69 percent of that revenue. According to TechCrunch, 65 percent of Facebook’s video views are via mobile devices.

Finally, on to Apple’s ‘insane’ quarterly earnings which included posting US$18 billion profit – the largest quarterly profit figure by any company in history. That result is on the back of selling 74.5 million iPhones for the quarter, which has been calculated at a rate of 568 iPhones sold every minute. Considering the intense competition from the likes of Samsung, these are results are incredible – and show just how much growth there still is worldwide in the smart phone space.

So, what do all these numbers mean for the owners and publishers of content, and their sponsors and advertisers? If you have highly-compelling, spectacular extreme sports video that is easily shared via social media and viewed on a mobile device, you are on to a winner. If not, try and create some!

(Pictured above: ‘Red Bull can’, by noelsch, available under a Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication (CCO 1.0 Universal) deed.)

 

Christmas e-Marketing – Bah, Humbug!

December 18, 2014

scroogeSomething odd happened today. I received a Christmas message from a marketing agency and it caught my attention. There was nothing particularly striking about the email; the design was not overly creative– a cut out Christmas tree and simple little blinking star animation – and the message was a generic ‘wishing you and your family …’.

What stood out was the sender. I looked at the name, which was quite distinctive, and thought, ‘I’m sure I’ve been receiving emails from this guy for years, and never really paid any attention’. My email management is poor to say the least and, when I searched back in my email archive, I found a handful of emails that I hadn’t deleted from this marketing agency going back to 2007 – seven years!

I know nothing about the agency, I have no idea how I ended up on its mailing list, and for some reason I have never asked to be removed. Maybe the frequency of emails was so unobtrusive that it was easier to ignore them or, subconsciously, maybe there was some reason for me to do nothing and let the emails keep coming.

Would you class this as a successful marketing approach? There are two schools of thought on this one.

On the one hand, you could consider it a monumental waste of effort. At least seven years’ worth of e-marketing for not a single response – no emails opened or read and no click throughs from me. Sure, it’s a volume approach so the individual cost and effort is minimal. Let’s say my email address was acquired in the first place – a few cents at the most – then the ongoing cost per email sent, which again, probably amounts to just a few cents. Add it all up and, over the years, this marketing agency has probably spent just a few dollars in marketing to me. At some point though, wouldn’t you take a look at your database, and decide that after seven years of zero response, maybe it’s time to quietly delete my email address and move on?

On the other hand, you could argue that with perseverance, the marketing agency has finally achieved some cut-through, albeit in a perverse way. I’m finally taking notice! For a minimal marketing cost and effort, time and weight of numbers has worked. Who knows, after the next email I receive, maybe I’ll pick up the phone and talk to them.

The truth is, I would never use this agency, let alone talk to them. Why not? It’s lazy marketing. There is no attempt to understand what I need or if I am even the right target audience. It’s just a numbers game for the agency – there is no analysis of the success of its approach in marketing to me.

And a Christmas message? I don’t know who you are, because you have never bothered to engage with me in any meaningful way. Sure, send me through ‘useful’ advice on ‘Expanding the Reach of your Email Marketing with Social Networking’ or ‘Targeting Potential Customers for Better Marketing Results’ (I went back and read the agency’s old email subject lines) – but don’t make out we have a personal connection if you’ve never bothered to create one.

I think I am finally going to hit the ‘unsubscribe’ button.

On a brighter note, I’d like to wish all Explore Communications’ past, present and future clients and their families a very merry Christmas and happy New Year!

(Pictured above: “Patrick Stewart as Scrooge”, By Tnarik Innael, available under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) licence.)

 

The Ash Cloud

November 24, 2014

ash_cloudWhen Adobe first announced it was moving Creative Suite to the cloud as a subscription-only offering, I pitched my tent in the unhappy customer camp.

Up until last week I was running Creative Suite 6, which I had bought for $2000 in July 2012. And I know I paid that much, because I looked it up in 10 seconds on my cloud-based accounting software program, Saasu.

Adobe’s announcement in May 2013 that it was replacing CS6 with ‘Creative Cloud’ wasn’t just the nail in my coffin of obsolescence – it was my $2K boxed product rolling down the tracks through the crematorium’s furnace doors. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust …

Heavily laboured analogies aside, my investment in the Adobe CS6 boxed product was doomed the moment I paid for it. Under Adobe’s yearly release cycle, CS7 would have come out around the same time Creative Cloud was announced, and it would have been a cat and mouse game to see how long I could keep CS6 going before I’d be forced to upgrade.

So why was I so negative about Creative Cloud? Despite working in the IT industry for nearly 20 years, I’m in the generation that first bought music on vinyl. I still insist on reading novels as a book not on an e-reader, I pick up the daily newspaper from the front lawn in the morning and I don’t like the concept that you never really ‘own’ the music you buy through Apple iTunes.

The catalyst to upgrade from Adobe CS6 came when I offered to take on the design work for a client’s case studies. Presented with an Adobe InDesign template that was two versions on from my CS6 application, I realised I couldn’t resist any longer.

When I checked the Adobe subscription options, I had the pleasant surprise that my previous loyalty was recognised with the opportunity to purchase (in local currency) a 12-month subscription for just $20 a month – giving me access to Adobe’s entire Creative Suite.

I emphasised ‘entire’ for good reason. In all the years I have used Adobe design software (I still remember making the decision to switch from Quark to InDesign), Adobe Premiere had always been tantalisingly out of reach. For the limited amount of video editing I do, there was never a cost justification to upgrade the Creative Suite package to include Premiere. Instead, I’ve had to make do with dodgy video editing software I’ve taken a punt on downloading via website recommendations.

Now, for just $20 a month, I can use Premiere, and a host of other apps that I’ve never heard of before that in the past would have cost me squillions but spent most of their time gathering dust in the All Programs menu.

Apart from Premiere, the most exciting thing about Creative Cloud is that now I am connected into Adobe’s continuous upgrade cycle, and I can immediately take advantage of innovative new products. For example, I just read that notepad manufacturer Moleskine has collaborated with Adobe to launch Moleskine Smart Notebook, which connects directly to Adobe’s Creative Cloud applications.

And I no longer need to go through the ‘which version are you running’ preliminaries when sending Adobe files. The last of us CS6 luddites are being prised away from the beautifully-packaged software boxes we’ve been clinging to, limpet-like.

It shouldn’t really be a surprise to me. Just about everything else Explore Communications uses is in the cloud (like my ironic reference to Saasu above). I think the last boxed product I’m using is Microsoft Office, but it’s time will come sooner than later …

That said, I can’t see myself switching to e-books, ever.

Blog Posts: WordPress or LinkedIn?

September 26, 2014

In the past fewLinkedIn-InBug-2C weeks, a number of people have asked me for advice about the effectiveness of LinkedIn as a publishing platform.

In some respects, the answer to the question can be found in the fact that these enquiries have all been triggered by people reading the posts I have published on LinkedIn.

I was invited by LinkedIn to publish content on its site in June this year, and I made the conscious decision to post the same content both to my WordPress-based corporate site – www.explorecomms.com.au – and also to LinkedIn here. (This is one post that I can’t simply copy and paste to both sites!)

If I was just comparing readership stats, for me LinkedIn is by far the better publishing channel – and LinkedIn also provides a greater level of reader interaction.

However, spam comments are the killer for WordPress at the moment. I would average at least 500 a week. Most are caught by the Akismet filter, but a few always slip through every day. It drives me crazy. On my LinkedIn posts, I have no spam.

On the plus side for WordPress, the posts on my website reach a virtually infinite worldwide audience – but how useful is it to my business to have a reader from Honduras? (That was one of today’s stats.) That’s also a negative. LinkedIn posts are very visible to my connections, who are largely connected with what I do professionally, so the content I write is more likely to be relevant and of interest to them – and they are more likely to read. Unless someone is already following my blog on WordPress, most of the hits my posts receive will be from search terms, which may or may not have anything to do with my business.

My WordPress blog is also closely connected to my business. A lot of readers might find Explore Communications via one of my blog posts, then click on the “About Explore Communications” page or “Our Services”. On LinkedIn, the posts are currently tied to my personal profile, not my business page, so it is one step further removed for a reader to find out what I do for them.

Another advantage, WordPress also gives me much better data and analytics compared to LinkedIn, which seems to be limited to a basic tally of Views, Likes and Comments. I am only on the free LinkedIn service, so there may be more reporting available if I take out a premium subscription.

So what’s my advice?

If you are a small business owner like me who already has a website with a blog publishing engine and you have modest website traffic, publish your posts on both sites. Publish first to your own website, then repurpose the content and publish on LinkedIn. It’s only an extra ten minutes work, and be sure to include a link to your website at the bottom of your LinkedIn post. (If you are reading this on LinkedIn as most of you probably are, you will see that below.)

If you don’t have a website with a blog publishing engine and you want to post content regularly, my recommendation is to first convert your site over to a platform that allows you to do so easily. If you don’t want to do that, LinkedIn publishing will give you a great opportunity to immediately start engaging with a targeted and engaged group of readers.

If you are an independent contractor or sole trader, where you are the service you provide, LinkedIn publishing alone is ideal. If the content you publish is interesting, and provokes discussion and engagement, you will increase your professional profile and reach.

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