A decadesworth of consumer technology.

television

1991

i did not keep a television for the twelve years i spent living alone, preferring books and music to the ghastly and limited broadcast offerings of the 1990s.

2003

When we first started living together, my wife-to-be produced her elderly SONY Trinitron television, a cubic-metre of black plastic shrouding a buzzy, hot, squealing cathode-ray tube with its fuzzy, staticky, swollen, heavy, greyish, screen.

2006

In the relatively-wealthy period we enjoyed before having children, we splashed out on a beautiful, if modestly-sized, top-of-the-range high-definition SONY Bravia flat-screen LCD television, cast the old cathode-ray unit into the ocean, and marvelled at the details and the colours of our new television.

2015

The SONY Bravia television had held up well, despite my young daughter scratching its screen by driving and scouring a plastic-toy DottyWot1 across its surface, and despite her malevolent cousin smashing its remote-control unit with a hammer.  However, just before Christmas, the picture started turning pink and blue and becoming frustratingly-unwatchable a greater proportion of the time than not.  We held out for a few weeks.

2016

A replacement television had become necessary, so we bought another SONY Bravia, this one with built-in wi-fi and a big red “NETFLIX” button in the centre of its remote control.  This new television:

  • was much cheaper
  • has a bigger screen
  • has higher resolution
  • is smarter
  • weighs less than half
  • consumes less than half the power

…than the old television, and it has been embraced as a wonderful thing by the whole family.  The characteristics of the two machines are:

Specification Old Television New Television
Model Number KLV-V26A10 KDL-32W700C
Date Manufactured JAN 2005 OCT 2015
Date Purchased JUL 2006 JAN 2016
Price Paid NZD$3,150 NZD$747
Screen Size 26″ 30″
Weight 17.6kg 6.8kg
Wireless Connectivity none 802.11a/b/g/n
HDMI Inputs 1 4
Power Consumption 145W 62W
Screen Resolution 1366×768 1920×1080
Made In Japan Malaysia

What strikes me heavily is the size and nature of the difference a decadesworth of progress in consumer technology has made, and this is a very-mainstream and very-pedestrian example of that progress — there is an unimaginably-vast quantity more to come.

 

Notes:

  1. DottyWot is a character from “The WotWots”, a children’s television programme made in New Zealand: https://www.wotwots.com/

First-Mover Advantage and BYOStuff

I still feel like a bit of a wanker pulling out my ipad in meetings…

…lamented the author of a recent tweet i found interesting because the stigma of the tablet has all but disappeared from my:

  • Work: where tablets are quite prevalent, with about as many being company-provided as are personally-owned devices, and the defining behaviour in my jaundiced eyes is not producing a tablet in a meeting or a workshop (that’s a good thing) but having it sitting on the desk as a beacon of status and having, or being fiddled with impotently, or being neglected as too hard in favour of a paper notebook, rather than being used for productive common good work.
  • Community: at conferences and other events the tablet ratio is much higher than at my work, but so too is the ratio of productive use in note-taking, micro-blogging for the benefit of remote attendees and colleagues back home, researching background information on the fly, fine-tuning presentations, and for sharing with other attendees.
  • Industry: Stephen Prentice, in his Gartner research note Technology Trends That Matter† that for media tablets:
    • First-mover advantage has already passed [and] it no longer garners the attention and buzz that it did in 2010, to the point where not using a tablet is likely to be more commented on.
  • Society: during my morning public-transport commute to work it’s become unusual not to see at least one passenger using a tablet, though they’re generally consuming news, social media streams, or ebooks rather than participating or being involved in content creation.

This tip-of-the-iceberg aspect of consumerisation-meets-the-enterprise in Bring-Your-Own-Device is quickly being echoed in non-physical domains, such as:

  • Bring Your Own Identity, whether that’s a governmental or commercial identity-proofing service, or whether that’s from something like Facebook or LinkedIn
  • Bring Your Own Productivity Software, from the likes of Google, Dropbox, and Evernote and from the as-a-service subscriptions to teamware such as Basecamp or code libraries on github.

With the first-mover advantage already well behind us on the device front, it’s likely we’ve already missed the boat in understanding (first priority) and providing guiding governance (second priority) how to get the best for everybody out of the BYOStuff stack.

† Prentice, S. (2011) Technology Trends That Matter, Gartner Research, Article G00212538

Public/Private Convergence: devices, information, and connectedness.

Pukehina Beach is a strip of sand-dune lined coast in the Bay of Plenty where several of my wife’s uncles and aunties live year-round.  We recently packed up our family and drove down there for a four-night stay, and with naked eyes we could see the outline of the stricken container-ship Rena stuck on the Astrolabe Reef near to Motiti Island, leaking oil into the sea.  On our first night there i took some pictures with my phone and shared them on Instagram, pictures like this one:

The sheltering sky and the lemonade waves alighting on the sand.

On the first morning of our stay i went with my daughter for a walk along the beach.  The tide was high, so the waves were breaking close to us and fizzing their salty lemonade wash through our feet and right up to the edge of the dunes.  In a moment of carelessness, while holding my daughter’s hand as we jumped out of a rushing white tongue of bubbling wave-froth, my mobile telephone popped out of my pocket and landed in the water.  Instantly, instantly, it was gone, it was simply taken in by the champagne of the ocean and it disappeared.  The force of the retreating waves was tumbling football-sized rocks and large pieces of driftwood.  After cussing loudly at the sky, i removed my trousers and dug like a lunatic into the wet sand beneath the water, searching for the phone… but it was gone.  At the low tide i returned with a stick, and not without some hopefulness, but there was absolutely no trace whatsoever of the device, which had probably been drawn down fairly quickly deep into the sand.

The purpose of this post is severalfold:

  1. Grief: the depth of distress and grief that i felt at being disconnected was palpable.  In an instant i had become cut off from my work email, from my personal and my professional Twitter networks, from the ability to send text-messages to anybody, from being able to take a phone call from work if somebody needed anything from me.  In short, i’ve developed a strong dependence on being connected, and on being connected all the time, and through multiple channels.
  2. Embarrassment: losing my work-provided mobile phone was really embarrassing, not least because i needed to get back up and running quickly, because we have two-year lease cycles and i wasn’t close to the point of being able to break the lease without penalty, and because the release of an updated version of the phone was imminent, so there would be scope for the unscrupulous to question the extent to which the loss of the device was an accident!
  3. Convergence: once my emotional response started to fade i started thinking about public/private convergence, and that the lifestreaming and real-time nature of our private-life social relationships has a sense of convergence with our working-life event streams, though they still tend to be dominated by email.
  4. Lock-In 1: when we returned home i tried hard to use another brand of smartphone, principally because it was available immediately without presenting an unplanned cost to my employer.  This other phone was adequate for all the traditional work basics, in that it was capable of basic integration with enterprise email and calendar systems, important contact and telephone-book details adequately, and worked as a telephone.  However, it was really clunky and its Twitter client was horrible and there was no Instagram client available and the web browser was deficient.  i’d become locked into a particular vendor ecosystem, so now, now that i have another identical replacement for my old now-in-the-sea phone, i’m planning to reduce my dependence upon this ecosystem.
  5. Lock-In 2: the positive side of lock-in is that when the new replacement handset arrived i simply connected it to my desktop computer and synchronised it and there, within just a few minutes, was the spirit of my old phone restored into a brand-new body, a body with the same name as the old phone, the same mobile applications, the same music, and the same photographs.  i had to re-enter a few new passwords, but i lost nothing save for a few photographs taken on the beach, the last of which never made it off the old handset, because it was taken only about sixty seconds before it was engulfed by the sea.

From an architectural perspective, there is something change-friendly about the separation of layers involved between the content, the applications, the mediation layer afforded by the desktop synchronisation/backup, and then the operating system and the physical handset itself.  Although this really isn’t any kind of loose coupling (because everything was on the phone itself), there is an abstract sense in which there are parallels here with virtualisation.

i’m glad to have the old phone back, albeit in a brand-new body.

Forming Web Applications to Instantiate Business Processes

…”Quite rare is the Web application that doesn’t make extensive use of forms for data input and configuration” — Luke Wroblewski

Last week saw a very constructive initial meeting of a Web Forms Working Group that is charged with delivering a strategy about how forms should be surfaced, designed, tracked, and governed.  The group has been convened by the Business Process Management Office at The University of Auckland and enjoys sensible and wide representation from technical, faculty, and service-division areas.  There was a bit of discussion during the session about the definition of a form and about the scope of the group’s mandate.  Particularly:

  • Scope: when referring to a form, are we talking both about paper forms and also about web (and other channel representations) of forms?
  • Web: what is the difference between a web form and a web application?

Subsequently, i became embroiled in a way-too-long and quite-unconstructive discussion about the difference between a web form and a web application.  The two views were unable to be reconciled, though i doubt they’re actually very different from one another at the end of the analysis.  Here’s a summary of the two views involved:

  • jeff’s View: We shouldn’t fuss the distinction between a web form and a web application, because it doesn’t change what we’re trying to achieve, because web forms are notorious for becoming complex and starting to look like something more than what a web form might otherwise be, and because we’re really looking at the set of attributes that defines the behavioural requirements of some artefact that is needed to instantiate or to continue a business process (i.e., we don’t get people to fill out forms for nothing!).
  • The Other Guy’s View: Web forms are intrinsically different from web applications because they capture information but then they place it into some kind of local pre-processing suspense-type area rather than updating a transactional system with the information directly, so the difference between a web form and a web application is what happens after they capture the information from a user.

Gartner’s recently-published Hype Cycle for the High-Performance Workplace, 2009 suggests that e-forms are climbing the plateau of productivy, and offers the following defintion of electronic forms:

  • E-forms provide a user interface to data and services, typically through a browser-based interface. E-forms enable users to interact with enterprise applications and back-end systems linked to them. Web applications, e-government and e-commerce solutions have sparked the demand for better Web forms that support richer and more dynamic interactions than are possible with HTML forms. New e-form applications include XML content identification, multiple data callouts, field-level validation and embedded process logic contained within a secure and often portable format.

…and i’m taking this statement as supportive of my view — that everything is a web form, and that web forms have a bad reputation because they’ve generally been things that are:

  • implemented badly
  • ungoverned
  • allowed to grow into complex and standalone devices
  • not related clearly to enterprise business processes

…whereas web applications are just bigger versions of those things that we (often) pay money for.

This leads back to the atttributes of the web artefacts people use make things happen.  Elsewhere, we’ve identifed several potential behavioural requirements of web forms:

  • Authentication
  • Authorisation
  • Prepopulation
  • Validation
  • Integration
  • Branding
  • Email Routing
  • Event Routing/Tracking
  • Usability/Accessibility
  • Digital Signatures/Signing
  • Mobile Device Support
  • Development Speed
  • Ease of Creation
  • Training/Systems Knowledge Required
  • Multi-channel CRM integration
  • Questionnaire-Style Surveys
  • Deliverability
  • Scalability

In a constructive environment that responds with agility to business needs we should be able to interrogate a decision matrix to plug in the behavioural requirements and determine which solution patterns are suited best to enable which sets of business opportunities.  Whether it’s officially defined as a form or officially defined as an application is a Gordian knot, and nothing more than a time-consuming distraction.