Why I just bought Google Glass

Google Glass - Active, charco

Google Glass - Active, charcoalWhen Google Glass first appeared on the scene in April 2012, I knew I wanted a pair. But, I’m not a developer so I had no way to contribute to the program. For some time now Google has been hinting at a consumer version to be released in 2014 but there’s no hard information in public yet about that. And so, with Google offering the Explorer version to the public today, I went online and bought a pair.

I was an early adopter of the PC, carrying a personal laptop on my travels as far back as 1989. Then, one day in April 1996 I was on a flight from St. Louis to Houston and the guy next to me pulled out a US Robotics Palm Pilot. I got off the plane, went straight to CompUSA and bought one for myself. In 1998 I moved to Paris, France. I upgrade my Palm, added a modem, and developed a habit of downloading my e-mails before leaving my apartment so I could read them on my bus commute to work.

For quite some time I resisted the BlackBerry as the Palm’s of the early noughties had much broader functionality in their application landscape and BlackBerry only really mastered e-mail. But, since my company wasn’t going the Treo route, I eventually caved and retired my Palm.

I avoided the early iPhones. Again, my employer wasn’t buying and I didn’t want two phones. When I left that employer I was allowed to take the BlackBerry with me and so I stuck with it. While my wife bought an iPhone 3, I tried the T-mobile G1 – a rebadged HTC Dream. I never really liked it and after a few months I returned it for another BlackBerry.

Then Apple announced the iPad. Brilliant! I saw such great potential in the iPad that I immediately ordered the 3G version for delivery on the first day of availability, April 30, 2010. I still have that iPad and still use it daily but I’ve not yet been driven to buy an upgrade. My beef with the iPad is the lack of memory and its ‘Appleness’ that renders it less than seamless in a Microsoft driven business world. Perhaps the recent release of Microsoft Office for iPad will change that, but it won’t run on my 4-year-old device, stuck on iOS 5.1.1. I want more memory, a lot more. Why? Because at the max 128 GB, that still won’t hold a full backup of a single vacation’s worth of photos so I’m forced to drag around a second piece of kit just to do that. The iPad did, however, finally get me off the BlackBerry in 2010 and onto the iPhone 4 and now the iPhone 5.

So here enters Google Glass. I tried a pair for just a few minutes with back in February. I was traveling with an Explorer in Death Valley and he had a few minutes to show some of the navigation and recording features. As there’s no cell signal through most of Death Valley, he wasn’t able to demonstrate in great depth but I’d seen enough to know I wanted to dive deeper into wearable computing.

I find it strange how many people say that Glass is unnecessary when you have a smartphone but I don’t see it that way. How do you operate a smartphone? With both hands. What else can you do with those hands while you’re using your smartphone, nada, zip, zilch. We just stand or sit there, transfixed by our screens, scrolling through information and missing the world passing by just mere feet or even inches away.

Professionally, I help companies realize the value and potential of their IT investments. Few companies get a real return on their IT investments and in most cases it’s because they’re trying to solve yesterday’s issues with yesterday’s solutions. Projects are overly ambitious and take too long to deliver, the problems they set out to solve no longer being the problems the business is facing when the project is finally delivered.

For a significant part of my career I’ve worked with ERP and EAM systems – systems that are designed to deliver the information needed for someone to perform a task or activity effectively and efficiently to smooth the flow of business. In the fields of Maintenance and Supply Chain, that means users who inevitably have to stop doing something to interact with a device – a keyboard, or a scanner, or a set of drawings and instructions. Solutions such as bar codes and RFIDs go some way to streamlining activities, but usually the worker needs to have a device in his hand to scan or read the codes.

I frequently use the scanner on my iPhone to read bar codes to reorder items, or to read QR codes to open web pages. I imagine doing the same without using my hands. I envision looking up schematics or maintenance procedures and having the information displayed right in front of me while I have both hands free to perform the task required of me. I can even record what I’m doing to aid my supervisor in knowing the job was performed, and performed properly. I imagine a pair of geolocated Google Glass presenting me with with contextual information – like the augmented reality app Layar, but without me having to hold my phone up to ‘see’ the street.

Obviously there’s a lot of noise around Glass, mostly issues around privacy. Social networking  users willingly give up their privacy to the social networks and allow them to mine their data for their own revenue generating purposes. The privacy settings are a theatrical device allowing you to decide how to present yourself to other users but have no impact on how the algorithms mine the content you create to return to you ‘relevant’ news and advertising. We go about our day oblivious to the security cameras already recording much of our lives. We have already all become data points in someone else’s Big Data project. Over time, those privacy concerns will be addressed and I believe we’ll come to accept wearable computing as we’ve come to accept smartphones. It may be, as Robert Scoble has posted, that Google Glass is still a few years from mass adoption, but I don’t see the concept of the personal heads-up display being uninvented.

And so, I just bought Google Glass so I can get in on the ground floor of this technology. Will I be disappointed? Probably, to some degree. But, I think there is tremendous potential here for improving the delivery of contextual information to actors in the business to better present them with the data they need to perform the tasks assigned. Many companies are still wrestling with Windows XP but Windows XP is the distant past. For IT to deliver value IT leaders need to be looking forward to the future. Further iterations of PC, new versions of SAP or EBS are not going to game-change your industry, but mobility already has and wearable computing might just re-imagine your business once more.



Google+ and Facebook are Moving Your Cheese

Google + and Facebook make changes

Google + and Facebook make changesIf you’ve visited your Google+ profile in the last few days you’ll have noticed you’re being given an option to change layout with no way to revert to what you have already.

That’s fine, but when you decide to change, there’s zero information on what you need to do. You can select a new image but Google only tell you the minimum image size, not the ideal image size (it’s 2120 px by 1192 px, by the way – the 16:9 letterbox format of a widescreen movie).

Google+ has also redesigned the ‘About” tab as well.

Now Google snuck this in one day before the change to the Facebook held their event to announce the upcoming changes to the Facebook Newsfeed so maybe Google rushed delivery before getting the user communication and help instructions completed and issued.

The changes to both Google+ and Facebook are built around larger image sizes. Both companies now clearly view the visual elements to be the hook to draw the reader into action – to tell the story or click to get to the story. The image is becoming the headline.

So all this change is fine – change is the only constant after all. But if you’re not the one leading change, then change is being imposed upon you, and so are the costs of change.

For Google+, I’m now going to have to set time aside to redraw my images in the required size, review and update my profile to fit the new layout, etc. This is time I wasn’t planning to spend on these activities so it becomes an unwanted burden – a tax increase if you will for using the service.

For Facebook, I’m going to have to invest time in learning the new newsfeed and its image dimensions, then maybe I’ll have to adjust the way I size images for them to display properly. (Your image at a minimum needs to be the minimum pixel size or larger, never smaller. If smaller it will appear fuzzy.)

Now I choose to have a Facebook account and I choose to have a Google+ account (and a LinkedIn account) and I’m aware that because these companies own the properties, I’m a slave to their decisions. I either need to embrace these changes or leave, because at some point, the existing layouts will be de-supported and the change will be imposed. Google+ and Facebook are moving my cheese.

I think Facebook have made a better job at alerting their users to the change through their news event while Google+ launched in near-stealth mode. But both are burdening me with a cost I hadn’t budgeted for. And if you run business pages or make business posts on these networks, they’ve just imposed and unbudgeted cost on you too!

Interestingly, the media has still be slaying Marissa Mayer at Yahoo for the ‘return to the office’ memo – that, as I wrote last week, has been overblown – but take a look at this newsfeed from CBS (there’s an ad at the front). It shows the team, working in the war room, a messy collaborative environment necessary to bring this idea to fruition. If Yahoo wants to compete with Facebook and Google, the Yahoos will need to return to the war rooms from their couches and coffee bars. No question.

Yahoo’s Report to the Office!

Yahoo's Report ti the Office!

Yahoo's Report to the Office!There was a lot of buzz a couple of weeks ago when Marissa Meyer, CEO of Yahoo had her head of HR send a memo rescinding the Yahoo work at home policy. From all the media coverage at the time you’d have thought this missive would threaten the very fabric of American work life!

The more I read around the issue, though, the less important I think it is. The full text of the HR letter can be seen in this post at AllthingsD.

Besides the enlightening fact that Yahoo has only recently introduced ‘Goals’ – no wonder they’ve been adrift for years – I don’t find the memo to be particularly revolutionary.

Over my career I’ve worked from numerous strange locations, leading co-located teams and globally dispersed teams and about pretty much every variation in between. Some have been more effective than others but I’ve found the glue that holds a team together is a shared goal that everyone is on-board with and in the achievement of which, everyone knows their role. Team building activities remain central to effective performance of the team and that can be difficult with dispersed teams, especially those spanning multiple time zones.

The Yahoo CEO wants to improve collaboration, speed and quality through co-locating her teams in company facilities. If I take an example of something several of my teams are working towards today, we’ve improved efficiency and effectiveness by co-locating teams within a conference room because we found even being spread across adjacent cubes was inefficient for our current phase of work.

Trying to string a process together, an actor would perform his role and e-mail or IM the next actor for the next step. Often that actor was engaged in a different activity and the work just got stuck for 15 minutes or so. Processes that should have been executed in minutes were taking most of the day to complete and troubleshooting often descended into finger pointing.

Bringing the team together into the one conference room still enabled the actors to multi-task on other activities but they were present when needed and the friction of the dispersed team was overcome. Troubleshooting morphed into problem solving and everyone involved got a much better sense of the end-to-end process they were tasked to facilitate rather than their isolated piece of that process.

The key benefit of proximity is access to all the non-verbal communication. Depending on which study you read, 70% or more of communication is non-verbal. Even with high resolution video cameras and screens, the video conference still fails to convey much of that non-verbal communication. Since communication is key to trust, building trust between team members is difficult in dispersed teams and often has to be assumed. It is much simpler to develop that trust through personal, face-to-face, communication.

That said, not all team tasks or activities have to be performed in a war room setting and often, to do their best work, people may need peace and quiet so they can concentrate and focus. But not everyone has ideal conditions at home for their best work. Just as the water cooler at work can provide a distraction, so can kids or spouses in the home, or noises on the street outside. Indeed, as I write this my daughter is watching a cartoon on the TV with the sound unreasonably (to me) high.

I’ve often found solutions to problems in hallway conversations or even elevator conversations. My own experience tells me that the new Yahoo policy has a chance of providing what Marissa Mayer is looking for – improved collaboration and speed. But there remain plenty of work activities that can be performed effectively while away from the office and and plenty or research that shows for some employees their productivity is greater when working from home.

Yahoo will undoubtedly lose those employees that find dragging themselves through the morning and evening commute is not what they want to do day-in and day-out but I doubt Yahoo will end up losing out from rescinding this policy and I doubt Marissa Mayer has lost any sleep over it.