Oct 10

BIF and Jason Fried by Walt Mossman

Jason Fried (as interviewed by Walt Mossman)

Founder and CEO, 37signals (web-based software and services)

Fried is the founder and CEO of 37signals. Fried is a passionate leader in the field of simple, clear, and elegant web-based user interface design. He spearheaded the concept, design, and development of Basecamp, 37signal’s web-based project management tool for designers, freelancers, and creative services firms. Fried is also the co-author of Defensive Design for the Web.

  • JF: we build web-based software for small businesses…we think of our products as tools to get things done.  We give things that solve problems and then we get out of the way.
  • WM: what products?
  • JF: we have 7.  3 main: Basecamp – project management tool.  Highrise – a CRM tool, a recent tool, keep track of who and what you have talked about.  BackPack- personal tracking of things to do
  • WM: you also have Ruby on Rails-
  • JF: a web development framework, takes care of 80% of the stuff.  lets you focus on the 20% that is useful
  • WM: over the last year, we have developed allthingsd.com, we hired Mule Design in SF (I recommend them) we use basecamp to corral feedback etc on the design.  So how come most people are shackled to a piece of crap called outlook?
  • JF: software industry is structured to build crap.  Traditional software is based on shipping a CD/download.  the only way to get more money is to add more stuff.   The industry does not work for many people anymore.  We build services that are not shipped, you pay a monthly fee to use the products – we focus on a service.
  • WM: I do not buy it.  I saw outlook before it was released, it was done by a small, smart team at MSFT.  it was a great idea, a combination of PIM and email.  very sleek and small and clever.  But it has become a mess.  But i disagree with you, you have a more continous flow of updating but you are still subject to feature creep.  Never seen a company that does not have this problem .   So, how do you balance your mantra of simplicity with the demands of enthusiastic customers who want morre features
  • JF: You need good editors to curate.  The model allows us to say No more often than Yes.  The most anyone can give us us $149.  We do not have to please the large customers that pay a lot of money
  • WM: I agree,  but even the ones that are not sold to enterprise still have feature creep- ie Quicken.  
  • JF: you have to be hard ass and know that you cannot make everyone happy
  • WM: you have to be Seve JObs>
  • JF: yes.  I think SJ is the best business mind in the last 50 years.  He says no a lot
  • WM: agree, at an interview at my conference he said he was proud of the things that he has not done.  iLife is great, ne of the best media suites available.  The new version of iMovie has had features stripped out, very simple.  The jury is still out on this.  But Jobs is a dictator, does everything, 
  • JF: I love that, I think it is fantastic!
  • WM: is that a business model to replicate?
  • JF; i think people and companies need opinions.  We believe in our way of doing things, if you like that you will like our products
  • WM: Google is like that, I hate gmail.  I had a fight with them about this, they have the same attitude as SJ
  • JF: I think this is like Italian restaurants…you have your favourites.   We do not build for everyone, but some people like us
  • WM: let’s spend the last few minutes speaking about why Open Source is a failure.  Firefox is one big success that I recommend,  OS is a failure because they cannot stop adding features…and they do not associated enough with regular people.  The writers would not know a normal consumer from a bag of cheetos
  • JF: good for techie stuff not for consumer facing.  OS is not about usability etc, it is for software development.  If you think about customer interface and experience than you will have a great consumer product.  OS is not like this, usually.  OS paint the walls at the end, but experience has to be bought in from the start.  Everyone is involved and it can get pretty terrible.  You need a leader to make decisions.  FF is an anomaly
  • WM: FF< it has now gone to a company that can grow it.
  • JF: i do not think the crowd should decide anything-  you need a leader to make great decisions.  A lot of people hate us, I’d rather people cared about us, to love or hate us, than to have no feelings.  People need to say no more

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Oct 10

BIF and Euan Semple

Euan Semple

Independent Advisor on social computing for business

Semple is a well-known writer, thinker, public speaker and independent advisor on social computing for business. As the former head of Knowledge Management for the BBC, Semple pioneered the use of weblogs, wikis and on-line forums, enabling the staff to work more effectively. Semple’s unique experience enables him to provide inspiration on this wired-up world of work and strategies for how businesses can prepare themselves for challenges and opportunities that come with new technologies.

  • collaboration in the BBC – introduced blogs, RSS, wikis etc into the BBC
  • 15 yrs ago, had a serious problem that had been escalated all through the experts.  Got to the top consultant, very disengaged, did a lot of tests and told him there was nothing wrong!!1 
  • looking at the boards and forums, found information from people, and made some decisions that allows him to change the way he lived
  • evident that the gatekeeper role of the specialist was not good for him, there was more information out there that helped him
  • in the BBC, a lot of time in the World Service, 47 languages and there was more collaboration in that department than in the rest of the BBC
  • later ended up managing some of the editors, 2 groups – film editors and video editors.  Film were very arty and creative and video people were engineers, more ‘manageable’.  But the people who changed things were the film editors. 
  • I ended up running a unit called digilab – looking for new technology and how to use it in the organisation
  • some of us were playing on the web at the time, using their own servers…got some of these tools in the business – did not have to speak to IT!  had own servers
  • Got Chris Locke in to speak to a bunch of managers, to introduce them to the web.  CL started the talk about how his life was falling apart, how he was splitting from gf..and then he stopped and stated that this is how they talk on the web – it’s personal, not objective business speak
  • we used advocacy to grow the use of the tools.  Last yr there were 23k using the forums, 5k using the wiki.  Slow growth
  • Asking questions is often a problem, admitting you do not know things can be an issue.  Add on to that the feeling that managers feel they are in charge, in control, these tools were a challenge.  We encouraged the staff to talk about anything and some of the threads tested even me.  One of the threads was about being single..which turned into a dating thread!!   We let it go..and 3 days later one of the producers came in and said the thread had done half the research for a programme he was making. Being human and social had helped.
  • The BBC had done a number of attempts to get people to behave socially – lots of top down initiatives.  the forum had done more than those to develop the one BBC
  • One thing he believed was the content had to be collectively owned..avoided going in and ‘sorting’ it.  It would not change if it was always controlled.  They went in and asked questions…tried to get people to think.  There’s no one currently managing the system, but it still grows, it still has life.
  • at home there’s all this stuff that people are doing and then they come to work and get told what to do. 

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Oct 10

BIF and Matt Cottam

Matt Cottam

Cofounder and Principal – Tellart (design consultancy)

Cottam is a co-founder of Tellart and serves as the company’s CEO and creative director as well as being a part-time faculty at RISD (The Rhode Island School of Design.) At Tellart, Cottam uses information architecture and design methods to discover challenges, find opportunities for design, and build design strategies and processes. Cottam’s current research and course topics at RISD involve design for Search and Rescue and Disaster Medicine.

  • he’s been called a  professional amateur – goes in and learns about lots of things at different times
  • was a tech lead for a project with the DOD, Hospital and art college
  • train army medics – build a human casualty robot
  • had to learn how to ask the right questions to the army medics and doctors
  • had to learn all about the biology and anatomy to build the robots
  • I became an EMT during the project and then went to paramedic school, 2 years worth of study
  • it was way more than I needed, probably a big mistake…in the middle of the process I got engaged and it became a huge mistake!  24 hour shifts were not the best thing
  • now part of an emergency team that can be deployed to disasters – a lot of training
  • then looked at designing suits for medical personal to enter contaminated areas, improving how they can be out on and managed.   Designed a suit that can be put on without help, with great seal management
  • then looked for a way to apply medicine to things he was passionate about – joined the national ski patrol.  Looked at ways to improve medical care for the mountain rescue.   Top of mountains it is difficult to get life support – load and go was the way to do – get people off the site and to the hospital
  • researched the injuries, looking at ways to get care as soon as possible, looking at using the sleds to store stuff and the best way to keep things
  • he thought he would become a better designer from studying medicine – and that was true, but the real lesson was that it completely changed his life, how to deal with parents and children, getting intimately involved with people, impact of these individuals on his understanding of social responsibility.
  • last week he got to catch 6 babies…great day

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Oct 10

BIF and Dean Esserman

Dean Esserman

Chief of Police, City of Providence

An expert in community policing, Colonel Dean Esserman’s innovative approaches have revolutionized law enforcement since the late 1970’s. Esserman, a protégé of former New York City police chiefs William J. Bratton and Lee P. Brown, is using his community policing technique to transform Providence’s approach to law enforcement and redefine the role police play in the communities they serve.

  • after 9/11 Bin Laden said he would be back.
  • what I want to talk about is that we are doing it for him..we have 50 people a day being murdered.
  • the face of the victims are young.
  • as a father and patriot it is hard of me to conceive that we have become a country that buries its young
  • and that has become the face of violence in America
  • my son graduated college (remarkable if you knew him).  I bought him a bike for graduation, but it was stolen in his first few days…his first call was to me.  And if even the son of a police chief does not know to call 911 then what about the rest if the country
  • the relationship of ‘call 911 and we will come’ is the paradigm of American policing.  But why do people not do this?
  • crime is intimate and personal, and then you call who you know and you do not know them anymore, you do not know the police.  We wear name and number so you can tell who we are.
  • the deal, for American policing for a generation, but people do not
  • most crime is not reported in the US.  People do not bother to tell the police.
  • Never entered my mind to tell my son to call the police…
  • the police have become strangers… the deal we figured out is not working to well, even when you report it that us when it stops.  Most crime does not get solved.
  • there has to be a better way…a different way.  What’s beyond 911
  • to see the police as simple enforcers and report takers is to miss the point.  we are the agency of first and last resort.  It is remarkable what they need.  they call is for everything but they do not tell us about crime
  • the do not tell us a lot as they do no know us.  That realisation led to conversations, gave birth to community policing, about returning to the neighbourhoods.
  • America has accepted that – the anonyminity of police.
  • we are looking at becoming a different type of police force, that has moved into the community.  becomes part of it.
  • Look in town, you will see business cards in shops, with officer names and cell numbers.  we are becoming known
  • crime is down 5 years in a row/  we will bury less children this year.  We do not have more cops…
  • we have an honest mayor.  the chief is only as good as the mayor.  The mayor gave the police back to the people.  we have begun to develop relationships again.
  • go to a murder scene, you see the cell phone of the patrol men going off – the people are calling their cop to tell them what is happening
  • you have to know and love the person in the uniform and that is where we are going.
  • next time my son has his bike stolen, then I’ll be the second caller – he’ll have already called his local cop and the day that happens then american policing will be in a better place.

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Oct 07

Futures of Entertainment 2

Last year I really enjoyed Futures of Entertainment, a 2 day conference up at MIT, all about transmedia entertainment. they are runningit again this year and details can be found on their site. I’ve gone and booked a ticket (assuming i can sort out the logistics). Last year I live blogged it, which considering each session was about 3 hours, took some concentration!. I’ve listed the posts below. Sam Ford has some links as well. Well worth the time I think, so go and book now over here.

Virtual Worlds: They are becoming platforms for thought experiments — some of which involve fantasies we would not like to enact in the real world, others involve possibilities that we may want to test market before putting into practice.

Fan Cultures: Courted, encouraged, engaged and acknowledged, fans are more and more frequently being recognized as trendsetters, viral marketers, and grassroots intermediaries

Transmedia Properties Part 1 – an introduction

Transmedia part 2

User Generated Content Part 1: Caterina Fake, Ji Lee, Rob Tercek, Kevin Barrett.

User Generated Content – part 2

The Future of Television: Andy Hunter, Mark Warshaw, Josh Bernoff, Betsy Morga