Usability - Productivity - Business - The web - Singapore & Twins

By Date: May 2008

Patent Trolls reach Singapore

If I recall correctly HTML has been proposed and standardized 15 years ago. It includes the possibility to wrap a link around an image tag. Nevertheless a patent troll from Singapore managed to get the combination of image and link patented. And I though April fools was weeks ago. While I'm not a legal expert, I would say showing prior art shouldn't be a big problem. Nevertheless the internet sites are buzzing.
What could be the motives of such a patent claim? The old legal wisdom stands even in our times: " Dolo petit quid rediturum est". Could it be lack of dilligence? Could it be misled judgement of prior art? Of course nobody would propose sinister motives like "Find enough idiots who pay up and run" since that for sure would lead to a defamation suit, a popular past time in our part of the world. So we keep wondering what this is all about!

Posted by on 27 May 2008 | Comments (0) | categories: Business

Is anybody using .ws domains?

Occasionally I follow spam links to see what they are pouching for. I skip the typical suggestions to increase size or performance of body parts or make a fortune in Nigeria. Lately I've seen quite some messages that suggested a new easy way to generate a lifelong income. Interested in the delusion I had a look. It turns out, that Global Domains International created a Pyramid selling scheme multi level marketing scheme to pouch 10$/month .ws web addresses with personal hosting.
I strongly disdain such schemes since they exploit social connections in connection with delusional hope for business gains. Seems like the regular .ws registration business didn't work that well. I haven't come across any organization actually using .ws pages other than protecting their trademarks. Do I miss a hot new development or is .ws just the answer to a question nobody ever asked?

Posted by on 26 May 2008 | Comments (2) | categories: Business

When service sucks but people go the extra mile

I like flying Singapore Airlines. The planes are modern, the flights clean and on schedule, the staff takes care of one and the lounges provide shelter from the temptation of compulsive buying in duty free. While typically I fly economy class, I was in the air long enough to have gold status with the Star Alliance. For sentimental reasons (and since the Star Alliance members don't allow transferring miles from one to the other program) I'm a Lufthansa Miles and More member. It doesn't matter, Gold status opens the SIA launch anywhere. At least so I thought. Turns out, not in Mumbai. The guy at the lounge labeled "Singapore Airlines" flatly rejected me entry: for SIA only. Explaining Start alliance gold status didn't help. The Mumbai airport is undergoing renovations (from what I can see, it will be nice once finished), so the prospect of killing 2 hours in the regular waiting area dampened my mood a bit.
Luckily the airport staff who showed me the way to the lounge winked me to a different lounge, that is used by Thai, Korean Air and the likes. After a short discussion with the guy at the entrance they noted down my number and now I'm happily sitting and writing this rant. Anyway a general impression here in Mumbai: people take service really serious.

Posted by on 16 May 2008 | Comments (0) | categories: Travel

Culture Snippets.

Living in a diverse region like Asia Pacific brings a lot of opportunity to interact with different cultures and views of the world. Having time to kill at the Mumbai airport waiting to back to Singapore I'd like to share a few observations:
  • When you meet people in Malaysia or Indonesia you shake hands with men always and with women if the start holding the hand out. After the handshake you put your hand to the heart to indicate that the greeting came from the heart where honesty is located. I find this gesture quite charming.
  • Business cards are handed with two hands all over Asia in a way that your counterpart can read the card. Also you don't stuff business cards away but key them on the desk during a meeting. It is expected, that you actually read them.
  • In India when a team is asked to work on a presentation, they will not pick one team member to present the result, but share the parts of the presentation within the team to present.
  • Eating roadside food in Mumbai is fun, at least if you have local colleagues who can pick the right stall and explain what you are eating and the story behind that food.
  • For European ears Thai language is surprising, since the base tone is higher and intonation is on the end of the words
  • There is no such thing as "The English language". There is "the family of languages referring to some degree to English". I like English spoken by people from Beijing best
  • While an English man would state: "It looks like there is an issue and we have to evaluate options.", the same message in Singlish gets compressed to "So how?"
  • 300 seconds are 5 minutes, at least on every watch. When asked to deliver a pitch in 5 minutes or less in Mumbai, it can be anything between 100 and 1000 seconds. And if you cut the speaker of after 5 minutes they are actually puzzled that you do so. (I wouldn't cut anybody off in a customer or public event, but in a training exercise any time)
  • Where ever you go, insist with your hosts to try local everyday food. It is lighter on the travel budget and great fun to sample new things. And your hosts see a human side when you appreciate or struggle with the local stuff. Hotel or high end dining is usually rather detached from local habits.
  • Read the local newspaper in the morning (if you understand it), so you can make small talk with customers. They like when overseas guest are aware of their place
  • When your counterparts struggle with language, pull out your white board markers and draw on the board
  • We react to body language much faster than we can think. I struggled quite a while with the Indian head shake, which is a sign of affirmation, not a negation
  • Germans are considered not to have humor.
  • In Malaysia it is considered rude to use your index finger to point (and that other finger too). So people will use the thumb, pressed to the closed hand to point directions

Posted by on 16 May 2008 | Comments (2) | categories: Intercultural

Knowledge Management and Social Software

Last week I visited a banking customer in Malaysia. They transformed their banking from traditional western style banking to banking in compliance with Sharia law (commonly referred to as Islamic Banking). Transforming an entire bank is no easy feast, just google for " BPR and failure". The bank learned a great deal of lessons, which both form their heritage as well as serve as a template for others. Now the key people who were driving the transformation are nearing their retirement age and the lessons are on the risk of being lost.
In the meeting I was presenting how Social Software with its pervasive availability of tagging can help to preserve that knowlege and introduce a knowlege culture into the way how the bank operates. Knowlege Management and Islamic Banking seem to be a natural fit: both work on the principle of "sharing your gains". To implement "KM on the go" I suggested using Lotus Connections With its capability to surface in any application it benefits knowledge workers directly without leaving their work. However to capture the stories/knowlege that happened in the past it might not fit. Connections' blogging capability could be used, but eventually a more structured approach with a mix of tags and meta data would be more appropriate. So we concluded to expand Lotus Connections existing services (Profiles, Bookmarks, Blogs, Communities, Activities) with a new service we will call "places". To get this new service we just need to add it to the main navigation and deploy Lotus Quickr with a customized template featuring the Connections navigation. The places will face on the different aspects of the transition (products, front-office, back-office, training etc.) and feature stories, interviews (podcasts/videocasts) and supporting documents. This is what we came up with:

Posted by on 15 May 2008 | Comments (0) | categories: IBM - Lotus

Features and Requests (So you want to be a Domino developer - Part 1)

My little graphic drew a bit of attention. Patrick seems to be particular interested in Project Management and Prototyping (which I labeled "Software Lifecyle" and "Features & Requests"). So I start off with Features & requests. I will focus on the initial gathering of features, not on the tracking and change management (that will be covered in "Software Lifecyle" at a later point in time. We all have seen this:

Since Notes and Domino is a rapid development environment asking the right question, the right way, at the right time to the right people is essential. Changing functionality gets exponentially more expensive with the implementation progress of your project. You should so a reality check in your environment: how long does the initial feature set on a new rollout survive before it is "amended until you can't recognize it anymore" (this is a fancy expression for saying: "Thrown away and rewritten").
Depending on the time and intended scope you have different courses of action. When you think big (both time and scope) it is very smart to use a tool like ideaJam to collect features and feedback. When you are closer to the users, getting them into a room (buy them lunch) and brainstorm ideas there. Very important: talk to the actual (or future) users. Talking to the IT guys doesn't cut it. Sometimes, especially when you are an external consultant, that is hard. Nevertheless insist on it. It will bite you later on. When you only listen your project is at risk too. You need to watch what your users are doing. Collect some work artefacts. Watch out for the stickers that go with paper based processes (and all the handwritten notes on the margin), they show where processes are incomplete or broken. Users might not be comfortable being watched what they do, so reassurance and dialog are critical. If you take notes without sharing what you noted down you create suspicion and risk to alienating a potential supporter.

Read more

Posted by on 04 May 2008 | Comments (1) | categories: SYWTBADD

Brunei ICT Career Day

I was presenting on "Workforce 2.0" at the Brunei ICT Career Day. The event was organized by new newly formed InfoCom Federation of Brunei ( IFB), the IT vendors industry association. I know the 2.0 memme is a bit overstretched, so I decided to present my case with a little tongue in cheek. In a nutshell: well trained talent is more mobile than ever, so attracting and retaining them requires enterprises (the 2.0 versions of course) to adopt to the work and collaboration style favored by them. They will blog and twitter about work and their customer interaction anyway, so providing them with the platform within makes that more valuable for their companies (Knowledge Management anyone). I got good questions from participants from AITI as well as the Prime Ministers Office: How do you "police" a Social Software environment against abuses: time wasted or even use against corporate interest. The example given was: If an IBM engineer uses the communities tool to gather a group of experts with the intention to jointly leave IBM and setup an independent, innovative and competing company. My reply to that: it happened before (SAP anyone?) even without these tools. Today IBM probably would have a close look and later buy the new company.
In the evening we had dinner with Bruneian customers and a good set of discussion items: How do you design a long term national development plan when the world is developing at "Internet speed"? Somehow inevitably the discussion later touched the topic of the recent Malaysian election, where the common understanding is, that bloggers played a big role in the mood swing that led to the heavy election losses of the current government. One of my Malaysian colleagues attributed the influence of the bloggers mainly to the failure of the Malaysian government to reach out to young voters and their failure to engage in dialogue to address the growing frustration about progress and inclusion (or the lack of) in Malaysian politics. As my mom always told me: you better listen!

Posted by on 03 May 2008 | Comments (2) | categories: IBM - Lotus IBM Notes Lotus Notes

The shape of things to come

Alan reported about it first. Our Business Partner Pentos AG is integrating Skype into Sametime and Lotus Notes. What started as a "simple" plug-in rapidly evolves into a fully integrated solution. Tim (the lead developer) shared a preview of the next iteration of the plug-in with me. It shows the Skype status wherever you have a Sametime enabled field. How kewl is that.

Sametime and Skype

Posted by on 02 May 2008 | Comments (0) | categories: IBM Notes Lotus Notes