Monthly Archives: January 2011

will 2011 be the year that innovation and authentication meet?

…What doesn’t exist yet is a Google-approved or Google-designed system that ties it all together — NFC, payment and biometric ID. But with Apple apparently taking the lead when it comes to using a cell phone as a debit card and a universal ID, you can be sure Google will step up and do whatever is necessary to compete.

I believe that it will soon be possible to live without passwords or credit cards. If Apple builds in these capabilities, you can be sure Google will. And if Apple and Google do it, so will all of their competitors.

It won’t be easy — we can look forward to messy standards and privacy battles. But once they ship cell phones that can replace both passwords and credit cards, I think life will be more convenient — and more secure.

via How Apple and Google will kill the password – Computerworld.

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innovation trumps invention

It is time to clarify and redefine the difference between invention and innovation.


Invention is accurately perceived as a cornerstone of innovation. It generates new ideas, patents, prototypes, designs, breakthrough experiments, and working models. However, it’s innovation that transforms these inventions into commercial products, services, and businesses. Ultimately an invention is only valued by the marketplace when customers use it or buy it. For example, the technology behind flat-screen TVs was invented decades ago. The breakthrough innovation was the application of that technology to the public’s insatiable appetite for crystal-clear digital pictures on big-screen HDTV.

For the past 30 years I have been teaching courses in the process of innovation in executive education programs at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management and consulting with firms worldwide on the topic. When I started, the application of the word to new products and services was uncluttered by different interpretations or spin. But over time, marketers discovered “innovation.” They found a word that evokes a good feeling without the burden of being specific. Do you want to avoid saying “new and improved”? Just say the product is the result of innovation. The word has come to mean just about anything that is new, which is too broad to be useful.

Competing with innovation for attention is invention, which is also surrounded by an aura of good feeling, conjuring up images of a computer being built in a garage and the inventor emerging as a billionaire folk hero. As a result, invention has been linked in the public mind to success in the marketplace, and that is not so.

When a new idea surfaces or a new patent is filed—that is an invention. It is the classic eureka moment when a person has an idea for the better mousetrap and sets about creating it, putting off concern about who will buy it for another day. At a different level, much of the basic research done in R&D labs in corporations and at universities is the invention process. It is research for the sake of building knowledge, which is certainly important, but not done with thought of commercialization.


Innovation is a very different concept. When a need is identified and a product or service is developed to meet that need, you have an innovation. People talk about the “invention” of the lightbulb or the “invention” of the iPhone, when in fact neither Thomas Edison nor Steve Jobs were inventors. They both used existing technology in new ways with an eye toward a big market for the result. They were innovators.

via Innovation Always Trumps Invention – BusinessWeek.

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on learning to disagree

Paul Graham offers this hierarchy of disagreement. In the hope that a rubric will help all people to migrate toward the top of the heap. Read the whole passage for a concrete prescription for change. 

One question that arises is in the ‘so what?’ category. 1) will people become more fluent in institutional change? Or will they find more reason in orthodoxy? 

…there’s a lot more disagreeing going on, especially measured by the word. That doesn’t mean people are getting angrier. The structural change in the way we communicate is enough to account for it. But though it’s not anger that’s driving the increase in disagreement, there’s a danger that the increase in disagreement will make people angrier. Particularly online, where it’s easy to say things you’d never say face to face.

If we’re all going to be disagreeing more, we should be careful to do it well. What does it mean to disagree well?

via How to Disagree.

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on recognizing when the problem is in your hands

Ed Robinson reminds coders that UX is not an additive issue. In fact it is the opposite. And that reductivism can start with the coding of each and every site that was once coded with large-screen-economics in mind.

…The trick is in understanding how mobile sites are different from the standard site that’s designed for the desktop.

First, understand that most websites are built for the large screen.

Let me make this point again: A visitor’s iPhone is literally downloading giant desktop files and resizing them for their 3.5-inch screen once the files reach the smartphone. Needless to say, smartphones and their browsers don’t have the processing power to make this a quick procedure. This is particularly noticeable with images on your site, which should be re-sampled to reduce their size for mobile devices.

Second, optimize even the seemingly “lightweight” components of your site, like the text-based HTML, XML and stylesheet files. All these can be compressed before being sent to the browser, and it can shave a good chunk off of load times when optimized in aggregate, particularly if the site is heavy with these types of files (media sites and other content-rich properties are prime examples).

Third, consider a more aggressive approach to caching settings. If a site owner sets his caching for far-future expires, it will dramatically lower load times, and the site owner will reduce the data traffic between the server and the user’s mobile device: a win on both sides.

The Big Performance Picture

Ultimately, this issue is all about perception. Web performance has long been perceived to be a network issue, an infrastructure issue or a hardware issue. However, web performance has as much to do with the way someone codes and optimizes a site as any other factor in delivering it to the end-user’s device.

This misperception has also masked the fact that load times are about much more than just “being fast.”

Load times directly impact your customers’ experience of your brand and your service.

via Slowly Going Mobile –- Poor Site Performance Is Holding Us Back –

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when a country pulls ‘the master switch’

With Joe Lieberman doggedly pursuing ‘ kill switch legislation, he now has a prototype to refer to. Yesterday, under duress, Egypt did the unthinkable and disconnected its economy from the web. While we can know little about what is happening at the moment, this will surely emerge as a precedent for continual study. 

…At 22:34 UTC (00:34am local time), Renesys observed the virtually simultaneous withdrawal of all routes to Egyptian networks in the Internet’s global routing table. Approximately 3,500 individual BGP routes were withdrawn, leaving no valid paths by which the rest of the world could continue to exchange Internet traffic with Egypt’s service providers. Virtually all of Egypt’s Internet addresses are now unreachable, worldwide.

This is a completely different situation from the modest Internet manipulation that took place in Tunisia, where specific routes were blocked, or Iran, where the Internet stayed up in a rate-limited form designed to make Internet connectivity painfully slow. The Egyptian government’s actions tonight have essentially wiped their country from the global map.

What happens when you disconnect a modern economy and 80,000,000 people from the Internet? What will happen tomorrow, on the streets and in the credit markets? This has never happened before, and the unknowns are piling up. We will continue to dig into the event, and will update this story as we learn more. As Friday dawns in Cairo under this unprecedented communications blackout, keep the Egyptian people in your thoughts.

via Egypt Leaves the Internet – Renesys Blog.

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the idea of the ‘positional good’

John Cassidy looks for meaning in the price of admission at Davos.

…Gillian Tett, who has a Ph.D. in social anthropology, quotes one Davos veteran to the effect that it is a self-help group for fearful and embattled C.E.O.s. The world is an increasingly “murky, complex, and unpredictable place,” Tett notes, wherein “hostility to elites is rising.” At Davos, it is true, the corporate bigwigs get to chinwag, socialize, and meet with clients in peace. Following violent protests a few years back, the Swiss police now erect roadblocks halfway up the mountain, and the nasties in black ski masks are largely limited to hurling snowballs at the attendees’ limousines as they whizz by. (Many people fly in by helicopter from Zurich, at a cost of $3,400 each way, thus sparing themselves any indignity.)

I wouldn’t push Tett’s argument too far, however. If C.E.O.s want to meet each other on the q.t., they can have breakfast at the Mayfair Regent or the Savoy. If they want some affirmation, they can agree to be profiled by Forbes or Fortune. The real key to Davos’s success, and reason why it has survived for forty years, is that it has turned into what economists refer to as “a positional good”—an item or service the value of which is mostly a function of its desirability to others.

The essence of positional goods, and the reason they cost so much, is their exclusivity. An apartment at 740 Park Avenue is a positional good, so is a painting by Andy Warhol, and so is a reservation at a trendy new restaurant. The fact that you can’t get in is the main reason you want to.

The same applies to Davos. If anybody (and by “anybody” I mean anybody who holds a senior job in a multinational corporation) could go—if you didn’t have to be “invited” and the entrance fee were, say, a mere $10,000—it wouldn’t attract the Sergey Brins, Rupert Murdochs, and Jamie Dimons of the world. The elaborate vetting procedures and stratospheric prices are ways of creating artificial scarcity. About the only people who can get in fairly easily and cheaply are journalists and heads of state, and that’s because they provide so much free publicity

via Rational Irrationality: Letter (not) from Davos : The New Yorker.

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patterns in ownership and value

…We used to own our books. With most ebooks we own them in name, but effectively we lease them. As Jane documents, the slide toward more and more attenuated concepts of ownership continues.

The process is gradual. Mental models change slower than technology. If the Kindle had debuted with an access-based “faucet” model, it would have failed. Consumers would not have traded true ownership for a tethered, metered and monitored product. But we’ll get there soon enough, as each step away from ownership makes the next step more acceptable. Once you realize your Kindle book is not fully yours, you’ll accept it being mostly not yours. Google Ebooks are a further step away from ownership. Eventually you get to a faucet model, as music has done, either low-price (Netflix) or free (Pandora, YouTube).

By itself, such changes might be culturally and economically neutral. Ownership of paper books wasn’t so much a consumer preference as a side effect of their physical nature, and law followed and solemnized that state of affairs. Maybe the faucet model will produce more readers, more reading, more good books, more paid authors, etc. Or maybe it will produce less. Who knows?

via The downward spiral of ownership and value « The Thingology Blog.

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