Monopolising An Idea

It's somewhat remarkable that in this socially mediated age a brand can now be perceived as occupying a monopolistic position of something as abstract as an idea or concept long before any material monopolistic value can be ascribed to it, if ever.


Thoughts on Microsoft

I appear to have lost the ability to string sentences together. Seriously. I've tried to write up some thoughts on Microsoft, Ballmer, Nokia etc. a couple of times and never made it farther than a quirky but deceptively insightful (if immodest) opening paragraph.

So, in lieu of actual writing, some completely unsubstantiated bullets points are about as much as I can manage.

  • Microsoft, having run every significant 1980s and 1990s business software company out of town (WordPerfect, Lotus, IBM, Novell, etc.) spent the years that followed constantly looking over its shoulder waiting for its own 'Microsoft' to show up and rebalance the karmic bank account.
  • Accordingly Microsoft's resulting defensive state led it to only value innovations that further secured its 1990's business plan objectives (aka kill threats or competitors to Windows & Office), everything else was a sideshow.
  • Then, when its 'Microsoft' did eventually show up in the form of Google, it took far too long to work out Google's OS gameplan and instead dug even deeper foundations for its 1990's business plan and at the same time completely failed to hire the kind of people that could help it compete with Google on post millennium terms.
  • So, while it was one of the first to try to bring tablet computing (Windows XP Tablet Edition in 2002) and viable smartphones (Windows Mobile in 2003) to the masses, it fundamentally compromised them by using them to buttress the walls of its Windows/Office fortress.
  • Which kinda worked in the short term but which effectively stalled the business for ten years, the medium term impacts of which are only now becoming apparent.

More later. Maybe.


Startup culture vs. business culture

One of the side-effects of being in a fast growing business is you find yourself interviewing lots of candidates for new jobs as the company expands. So, I'd estimate that I've personally interviewed getting on for 100 people over the last twelve months and therefore I've also listened to myself answering the same kinds of questions over and over again, too.

One of those questions is often 'So, what's it like working here?' to which my stock answer is 'Fun, rewarding, exciting, challenging, amazing but I've never worked harder in my life."

That last part is a deliberate warning designed to initiate the required portion of the interview conversation where you try to smoke out people looking for 'just a job'.

I remember times in my career where I'd have the occasional slow day, the kinds of days you reserve to clean out your cluttered inbox, defrag your hard disk, tidy your desk, get your shit together and take stock. Not a lazy, slacker day; just a day when you have some headspace to attend to the kinds of tasks that always seem to come second place to the more important, pressing matters of the day.

These days don't exist in a startup.

Instead, in startup (or just post-startup) it's relentless and akin to standing in front of an out-of-control tennis ball machine. I thought I'd worked pretty darn hard in the twenty odd years I'd expended before coming here, and I've had some challenging, demanding jobs.

How wrong I was.

PS. I'm hiring.


Tweet of the year


Revenge of the Nerds

I sort of like the idea of Google Glass but it makes me uneasy in the sense that it's a further and quite significant social encroachment, as if people staring at their phones all day wasn't already bad enough. So, in a sense Google Glass signifies to me that we've gone too far down a particular blind alley and we probably ought to do a reset and rethink what we want technology to do for us, and why.

There's also a sense that Google Glass is a product of the lunatics finally having taken over the asylum, in this case the lunatics being the one-time social outliers - nerds & geeks and what have you - only these days they're not so much outliers defined by poor social skills and bad hygiene as much as they're outliers with Lamborghinis who are increasingly architecting larger and larger parts of our tech dependent society.

And with Google Glass they're subconsciously having the last oppressive laugh by now insisting we all walk around wearing nerdy spectacles in their own image, like a post-modern nerd remake of Mao's communist China uniform.

My money's on the smart watch as a much more socially digestible form of personal tech.