By the time this gets published I expect to be on vacation. I will return in about a week with a ton of pictures, a nice tan and (hopefully) more patient and on an overall better mood.
With some luck I'll get inspired on my leave and have a bunch of stuff to write about on my return.
Take care and talk to you soon.
I recently ranted about the Copyright laws and how little sense they make. Coincidentally (like coincidence exists!), I found myself browsing TED, as I do every once in a while, and came across an awesome speech by Larry Lessig.
It lasts about 20 minutes, but it is well worth every single second. I think it expresses my own opinions on this regard quite closely.
Two concepts that reached deep into me: the line of thought on how sound recording created a read-only Culture and how the Internet is helping revert culture back to a read-write status. The second bit is almost at the close of the conference. Larry brings up a really serious question: "We live life against the law". In our everyday (digital?) life we brake the law, and that, in a democracy, is an unacceptable state.
Here's the video:
Quite inspiring indeed.
After over 2 months of 12 to 15 hour work days, working weekends and the usual "big project" work-life alterations (which I really appreciate, there's nothing more boring than business as usual) I'm taking a week off sometime next week.
Timing couldn't be worst, but, as someone recently told me "If I ever waited for the right moment to go on vacation I'd never leave". A week away from the wired world is going to suit me well, I think. Although I don't feel as uninspired as I was on December, getting away from the trenches is most certainly bound to put a lot of things into perspective.
I need the time to think. Some serious decisions are bound to happen when I return.
Everyone is talking about it, why shouldn't I? I'm very familiarized with the online tools both companies have to offer. I'm also quite a heavy user of Google's tools. I have my own preferences on the tools they all provide, but that I shall keep to myself.
I don't know if the deal is going to happen, as David believes, but I know one thing: it is a screwed up idea. Two wrongs don't make a right, never have, never will. If it does happen, and events take their natural course there will only be one big winner: Google.
Now that I've thrown the bomb, let me elaborate.
What Microsoft has neglected to do (Yahoo is too busy calculating exactly how much money $44 billion is) is to address a very simple question: what makes Google so special?
Back in the late 90's Google was the new kid on the block, and Yahoo! owned the web. The sheer fact that yahoo has already lost the masses race against Mountain View seems to be appropriately overlooked by the Redmond Bunch. But that alone isn't a good reason not to buy. A heroic comeback could be possible (Give me a CEO chair and a couple billions and I'll let you know just how!). The thing is that I don't see that comeback possible in a Microsoft-Yahoo! joint venture.
What made Google the #1 player on the net? Simply put: Ease of use and focusing on the right places. When I say ease of use I don't just think about the end user, but for all the universe revolving around their apps and services, the one brilliant thing Google did was learning that the web is about community way before web 2.0, social media and the like became buzz words.
The way they do achieve this is quite diverse. Take advertising programs for instance. Google focused mainly on Adsense on the startup, making it attractive and easy for webmasters, once Adsense was all over the internet it was a lot easier to sell the ads.
Same thing happened after the google-facebook soap opera. When the deal went down the drain, Google came up with open social, a tool for the developers who will, ultimately, build what the web will be in the future.
Microsoft, on the other hand, is too used to be the only player in the game. Just look at the Open XML move; instead of embracing an existing open standard, or develop one jointly with others, they wanted to create their own. Microsoft can expect to succeed at such attempts on the OS and Software world (for the time being), but there's no way that is going to work on the web; turning to the next application is way too easy. There's no caging customers on the web. You need to dazzle them instead.
Yahoo's case is rather different. They have an excellent eye for acquisitions, they can take their existing services to premium levels, but I they can't seem to be able to create the next big thing from within the company. I don't have enough information on Yahoo's corporate culture to know what causes this.
What rather surprised me was Google's reaction, which I can understand and share, but Google doesn't have a need to make that statement. I completely see eye to eye with their point of view; the web's openness could be at stake, but if Redmond wants to go all "microsofty" on the web they will only loose share, profit margins and customers.
With less players on the scene we (the customers) loose. We loose variety, ideas and speed of evolution. And it is only bound to get worst. It is almost impossible to create another Google (or Yahoo!), since all successful startups get bought before they can get powerful enough to fight the big 3. If from big 3 we go to big 2 (and a very polarized 2 they'll be) we get less options. And options are always a good thing to have.
The culture clash is a force to be reckoned as well. And I have a tad of experience on that matter (remember, IBM, Lenovo?). John Bell nails it right, in my opinion. Yahoo and Microsoft are way too opposite to work well together. If the deal gets through I'd expect to see massive lay-offs, exec changes and fleeing headcount within the first 6 quarters.
Yahoo! you're better off on your own.
That's how long I spent last Friday in front of the ThinkPad. It has not been the longest workday of my life (that was 2 months after I joined Lenovo, when we migrated to the current lenovo.com template, I worked 28 hours in a row), but it was long enough.
The reason? Good, old Lenovo blogs. A couple of months ago we applied a new look and feel to the homepage. Now that has been seamlessly integrated into all blogs but design matters (which, being a design blog and everything it gets an aspect of its own).
We also launched a brand new Blog, "Worldsourcing". I can't start to to underline how close to home this new blog hits. Living at a "marginal" country (both geographically as well as economically) it is hard to feel you are part of a decision-making process rather than just "cheap labor". This is a sentiment I can say I currently have.
I have recently posted about life in the globalized world. I noted the effect cultural differences have on how people work and act, and how processes and management need adjustment to adapt to this differences.
What I neglected to write about is how that same cultural differences can also block the development of both individuals and teams full potentials. I see this every single day within companies as well as outside of them.
Last year, at Wordcamp Argentina, for example, people didn't quite believe I had a role in Lenovo's Social Media Marketing initiatives. I have also seen managers stopping teams development because they didn't believe they were capable of something more than doing un-elaborate tasks. I've also seen valuable individuals progress strangled so hard that they had to leave their jobs due to decision-makers narrow minds. This happens mainly due to ignorance to the fact that the centralized world is an outdated idea. The only way to win and advance is to have that sort of mentality, unfortunately that is something that is not all that common on all cultures. It can get frustrating.
Hopefully the world is changing and people will get rewarded by their skills and not their territorial origin.
Web Marketing shouldn't be a part of marketing at all. Why so? Because Web Marketing is measurable, those holding the threads and running campaigns and initiatives can be held accountable for the failures and successes they encounter. Traditional marketing works more like a religion, companies grant faith (dollars) and hope to get something in exchange in the afterlife. That usually yields the eternal discussion of wether bucks spent on Marketing are investment or just expense.
Web Marketing, on the other hand, has a full range of tools and methods that can measure the ROI to a very acceptable degree of accuracy. So, with the focus put on dollars, measurement on web builds us the case, and, with some good fortune, gets more funds to invest.
This has become known territory for all of us working at web marketing. We spend a lot of time, effort and money to get the greatest and latest in Analytics tools because we have learnt that it pays off.
But I do get a feeling that haunts me. The knowledge, deep inside, that we have just scratched the surface; that there is a ton more that we can learn with the different metrics we can acquire, a lot of things that are more complex than cash-in and cash-out, a knowledge that can -potentially- lead to a better understanding of the web audience and, eventually, profits. (Gosh, is that phrase messed up or what?).
If you read parts 1 and 2 of this series you probably know where I'm heading. If you haven't, go back and read!!
We sin. We do the exact opposite thing to what I have suggested on this series. When looking at our facts and figures, those thousands or million visitors are just sheer numbers, abstract entities that build up the charts. They are "visitors" who make "visits" and, if planets are aligned appropriately, they generate a "conversion", else we have an "abandonment". A -> B -> C or D. Analysis can go deeper, try to determine what on the face of the earth influenced the conversion or abandonment and where and how it happened.
With some fortune, some multivariate tests can take place as well. Those determine if a rather limited set of variables building some recipes are more successful in terms of driving our visitors towards our goals.
I know I'm making this sound simplistic. Getting this much takes a lot of time and hard work. Code has to be developed, metrics tools need to be configured, campaigns and start-ups need to be tracked and measured and analysts need to make some sense out of it all.
So, what we have done so far is trying to figure out how things work from the company's point of view, but what would happen if we tried to understand the other end of the function?
What we should try to gather data from and analyze is the public "sentiment" of people reaching out to our web-based efforts. Social Media Marketing does this already, to some extent. Buzz reports, blog and forum monitoring and similar initiatives all provide insights into what's going on on the public perception end. Yet, for the most part, the public is still treated as a mass.
It is not viable to treat each of a million different visitors as a unique entity. For starters the sheer numbers are overwhelming. Then again we are not able to pick up enough data to get the complete picture of why every single individual does what it does. Thus, analyzing each individual is an utopia.
So now we stand in the middle of two opposite approaches. One too general, too broad, too focused on businesses' own belly buttons. The other an utopia, an unviable approach.
In an almost Buddhist reasoning, the truth lies somewhere in between. Focusing metrics on the users, taking advantage of the vast amounts of data we have at hand, learning how to serve them best in order to achieve better business results.
Easier said than done, since we're usually too immersed into trying to close a good quarter to stick our heads out of our own narrow vision to try to establish policies that will, most certainly, not yield results for a rather long period of time (in business terms, that is).
More on this line of thought will come, for certain. For the time being this series is done.