Amazon.com Widgets TechBiz

Pandora, RIAA, and Buying Music

By Nick at August 11, 2011 12:50
Filed Under: General, Tech Stuff, TechBiz

Another “reprint” from my Embarcadero blog.  Funny thing is, I was thinking of writing this exact blog post yesterday.  Right now, I’m doing something that would have seemed crazy ten years ago:  I’m listening to a wonderful personalized radio station on Pandora through my television via my Blu-Ray player.  I can honestly say that paying for Pandora was some of the best money I’ve ever spent.


I’m a huge fan of Pandora.  If you haven’t discovered it yet, Pandora is a music streaming service that has a terrific knack for playing music that you like.  You can create stations simply be telling them one of your favorite artists, and then they start playing music from that artist, and then music similar to that artist, based on the input of other users. As they choose different songs for you, you can give them the thumbs up or the thumbs down, and the  I have a great station based on the GooGooDolls, and something like 98% of the songs they play on that station I like.  After a little tuning, I only very rarely give the thumbs down to a song they play for me.

The service is free, and I will occasionally try to click on some of their ads in support of the service.  But maybe the best thing is the number of new artists that I’ve discovered.  If not for Pandora, I’d have never heard of Colby Caillat or Sara Bareilles or Matt Nathanson.  And because of Pandora, I’ve purchased many new CD’s that I otherwise would not have.  The same thing happened to Julian Bucknall when he discovered Pandora.

Now, given the above, you’d think that the music industry would be delighted with Pandora.  Sadly, the opposite is true.  They are putting the thumbscrews to Pandora.  Pandora is still on the air — I’m listening right now — and hopefully that will continue.  I’m not familiar with all the details — I gather that they may be working this out so Pandora and other broadcasters can stay "on the air".  I’m all for artists and the record companies getting paid, but it seems to me that this is another example of an "old economy" business not realizing how things work and how they can benefit from the "new economy".

Flotsam and Jetsam #40

By Nick at July 27, 2011 16:50
Filed Under: Delphi, Flotsam and Jetsam, Software Development, TechBiz

A Bunch of Stuff I’d Like to See Embarcadero Do

By Nick at July 05, 2011 22:22
Filed Under: Delphi, Tech Stuff, TechBiz

There are a bunch of things that I’d like to see Embarcadero do.  I’ve listed and discussed some of them below.  I’ll probably think of more later.  Winking smile  They are in no particular order, and they are not grouped in any particular way.  They are a bit random, and range from business decisions to minor technological decisions. Where it makes sense, I’ve linked the titles to the entries on http://delphi.uservoice.com/ so that you can vote for the items if you see fit.

I’d like to see Embarcadero:

  1. Provide an Enterprise-level MVC web framework for Delphi.  This almost seems like a no brainer to me. Ruby on Rails has had a profound impact on web development and development in general.   In the .Net world, MVC has become the leading ASP.NET development method,winning over hearts and minds from WinForms.  The general idea of MVC is becoming the norm for much of the development world – separate those concerns!. Delphi’s new RTTI capabilities would actually make this kind of framework very, very possible and very, very cool.  And Delphi already has a very powerful and capable web infrastructure to build on:  good, old, and venerable WebBroker.  There are even existing frameworks out there that could be leveraged, including the G Framework.   There is a business opportunity here for Embarcadero, if not for an enterprising third-party Delphi developer.  A native, ISAPI based MVC framework in Delphi?  That would be very, very sweet.
  2. Stop trying to do other stuff and invest in Delphi.  This one has been one of my huge frustrations over the years.  Delphi is a profitable product, but no matter who owns or runs the show,  the profits always seem to get skimmed off to fund other “next big thing” projects of, well, questionable benefit at best.   Remember “SDO” taking the market by storm? Yeah, me neither. AppWave seems to be interesting and have a lot going for it, but I personally would rather have seen that effort invested back into Delphi.  I hate to think about where Delphi might be today if it hadn’t been used to fund other projects and instead been allowed to use it’s profits for it’s own development.  Delphi could use a year or two of un-distracted attention from its owner. 
  3. Create a Javascript/HTML development tool.  I’ve always said “As assembler is to the Intel chip, so Javascript is to the browser”.  James Governor has it right:  “Learning Javascript used to mean you weren't a "serious software developer". Today, not learning Javascript means the same thing.”  A powerful, feature rich RAD development tool for Javascript and JQuery would be really cool and a great new product for Embarcadero.  Maybe RADPHP could be steered in that direction?
  4. Make Dependency Injection part of the RTL: If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m a big believer in Dependency Injection.  So much so, that I think that if you aren’t doing Dependency Injection, then you are doing it wrong.  Incorporating a DI Container into the Delphi RTL would be very cool.  Again, Generics, anonymous methods, and the new RTTI makes is very easy and powerful, and there are open source projects to leverage and build on (like my favorite, Delphi Spring).
  5. Do one thing at a time and do it really well:  This is the one that I wish they would do the most:  Take the product forward one step at a time. For instance, the next release should have as it’s main focus 64-bit Delphi and only 64-bit Delphi. That’s it.  Other improvements can be made, of course, but clearly that should be the “big one”, and it should be the only “big one”.  Don’t try to do two or three “big ones” in a single release. Make each release focused on a big, single step forward, executed thoroughly and solidly.  The product will be fine as long as it shows steady, sustained improvement.  Many large improvements executed all at once is not what the market wants.  Focus and deliberately move forward.

That’s all for now – I’ll probably have more as I think of them, but that ought to be food for thought for while

A Note on Delphi Open Source Licensing

By Nick at May 12, 2011 23:29
Filed Under: Delphi, Software Development, TechBiz

I love open source code.  I love the notion of sharing and working together for the betterment of a community. I love the free stuff that I can use because of the generosity of open source developers. 

Open source development often can be bogged down by licensing decisions.  I don’t know how many bits have been spilled arguing over the exact meaning the Lesser GNU Public License (LGPL), or whether the GNU Public License (GPL) is one step away from a socialist worker’s paradise or not, but surely it’s a lot of bits. 

Well, I’m going to spill a few more.

I totally get the GPL – I respect it, and I laud the folks that do work on GPL-based projects.  They are really giving away for free (as in speech) their work to others.  Linux exists because of the GPL. I get why the license exists. I understand the whole “Free Beer/Free Speech” thing.   Some amazing, awesome things exist because of the GPL.  It’s all good.

However…..

The GPL is completely incompatible with commercial software.  Totally, utterly, and completely incompatible.  If you use GPL source code in your commercial application, you are obligated to release your entire application as a GPL Open Source project.  Everything.  Obviously, if you sell your software, you very likely don’t want to do that.  (I recognize that there are folks that will, and more power to them…..).

Now, Delphi is a development tool used by a whole lot of businesses – businesses that are likely not to want to make their source code available under the GPL.  And so open source projects that are aimed at Delphi developers make a very limiting decision if they release their code under the GPL.  A Delphi library of code with the GPL attached to it will severely limit the number of Delphi  users that can or will use that library. 

Many of the popular open source libraries for Delphi use a much less restrictive license.  All the Turbopower code was released under the Mozilla Public License (MPL) which is much less restrictive, only requiring you to share any changes you make to the MPL project itself.  Others use the Apache License which is very permissive.  But some do use the GPL.

Now, I’m going to give some advice to those folks who publish Delphi source code under the GPL:  Issue it under an alternative license – one that businesses can handle.  I’d recommend MPL at the most strict end of the spectrum.  We are going to start using the Delphi Spring Framework, and that is licensed under the very friendly Apache license.  I’d love to use the Emballo framework as well – particularly for the Mock object classes, but it is licensed under the GPL, and so we really can’t touch it. A project like the Emballo project is also available for use under the LGPL and worth considering.

The GPL is great – it works well in the Linux world and where other open source development tools reign supreme.  But for more commercial-based eco-systems like Delphi, a business-friendly license is much more in order. 

Delphi and Google Words

By Nick at March 31, 2011 20:43
Filed Under: Delphi, TechBiz

Hey, if you do a Google Search on “Borland Delphi”, you get a result that find kind of pleasing:

DelphiGoogle

Nice to see Embarcadero grabbing up a good collection of words and searches on Google and directing people to the right place. 

Some Food for Thought About AppWave

By Nick at March 30, 2011 10:40
Filed Under: Delphi, TechBiz

Here are some facts, thoughts, and a conclusion concerning AppWave.

  • Embarcadero has announced their latest thing called AppWave
    • Marco has a pretty good article about it on his blog. 
    • It appears to be sort of a “AppStore for Windows”.  You can sign up for the AppWave store and publish your wares.  It looks like Embarcadero will provide the tools to virtualize your application, as well as to provide sales support.  You just write the app, post it, and watch the cash meter go up.
  • Amazon has an interesting announcement this morning,
    • They are creating a “CloudDrive” for storing your music out in the cloud.  You’ll be able to play your music from any computer, as well as from your Android phone.
    • You can get 5GB for free (I signed up already).  You can get more storage by buying songs and music from them, and the storing of Amazon-purchased MP3’s doesn’t count against you.
    • This follows closely on their announcement last week of their own Android marketplace.

amazon

Amazon started out as bookstore online, but they have expanded to selling almost anything that can actually be shipped  via UPS or Fedex, and more importantly – electronically.

And in the last few years they’ve moved beyond even that to being a leading player in the cloud space.  They have their own digital book platform in the Kindle. They are knocking on Netflix's door with their own Instant Video offering. Their EC2 platforms are pretty cool – you can basically own a computer out on the cloud for a very reasonable price – probably less than you would spend on purchasing and maintaining a physical box.  You can remote into the machine and manage it like it was your very own.  You can clone the machines with a click of a button.  Pretty powerful stuff.  And a pretty compelling, forward thinking business. 

I think it is safe to say that Amazon is not fooling around.

Apple and Google both should be looking over their shoulders.  Apple should be concerned about Amazon cutting into the iTunes arena, and Google should be feeling the pinch on the cloud computing side of things.  Amazon is coming strong into their space. 

Okay, so here is the conclusion I promised:  One of Embarcadero’s end-game plans for AppWave is to get bought by Amazon. 

Amazon is the only one of the players in this space not tied to their own OS, and thus can be the one that provides an AppStore for Windows.  (Google is OS neutral at best, but obviously interested in promoting Android and ChromeOS, and Apple, well, they are Apple, aren’t they.)  AppWave theoretically could be something that launches Embarcadero into the big-time, but it’s also something that the big-time players could very well want to buy.

And of course, one has to believe that Microsoft won’t be silent in all of this.

Thoughts?

What is the Next Layer?

By Nick at January 19, 2011 07:44
Filed Under: Delphi, Software Development, TechBiz

The software of today is really made up of a rather long series of layers, with each layer reducing the complexity and increasing the capabilities of software developers.

The first developers literally programmed in ones and zeros.  They had nothing more than that – pure binary. Heck, in the beginning, the notion of “programming” didn’t even really involve software, but rather the manipulation of hardware – actually flipping switches to physically alter the bit settings on the device. 

But soon enough, along came an assembler, which is basically a layer of abstraction over binary code.  Then Grace Murray Hopper invented the notion of a compiler, and this brought about human readable languages. (Some argue that assembly is human readable – I guess I mean “readable my mere mortals”). 

But of course, every language has to have an operating system to code against.  Once we had that idea down – that of writing a human-readable language against the operating system (OS) - we wrote Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) to make calling into the OS easier.  Instead of coding against interrupts in DOS, we had a neat, fairly easy to use thing like the Windows API. 

But naturally, we weren’t happy there.  We needed another layer!  So along came things like the VCL and MFC.  They were layers on top of the OS’s Windows API making it easier to write Windows programs.  (Of course, if MFC makes it easier, I’m not sure what word to use to describe what the VCL does for Windows programming.  Winking smile)

But that wasn’t good enough for us, now, was it.  We needed yet another layer.  So along came things like Java as a cross-platform layer, and for Windows, we now have .Net.  At its base level, .Net is another level of abstraction on top of the Windows API.

So (crudely put) we have .Net on top of the Win32 API on top of the OS on top of Assembler on top of binary code on top of physical switches.  Layer after layer. As a result, we have managed to tame the immense complexity of the computers that we have today.  Without all these layers, we’d never be able to write the software that we use today.

So the question that pops into my mind is this:  What is the layer that we are going to put over things like .Net and the VCL?

I myself have no idea, despite having thought about it quite a bit.  I’m guessing that it will be something that we haven’t even really conceived of yet – or something that only people way smarter than you and I are thinking about today.

Nevertheless, I bet you have an idea.  What is it?

The Developer Solutions Conference

By Nick at January 04, 2011 06:57
Filed Under: Delphi, Software Development, TechBiz

Hey, I want to give a shout out to the folks at RemObjects and Developer Experts and their upcoming conference focused on Delphi – the Developer Solutions Conference. It’s taking place February 8 –10 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Now, I can only assume that the vast majority of you are always looking for an excuse to go to Vegas, and now you a have one. 

Sadly, I won’t be able to attend, as the conference is falling right around the time of a major release for us.  I really would like to be there.  I always love hanging around with Delphi Geeks, and so I hate missing this opportunity. 

More information:

If you are looking for a stimulating conference and even better, a reason to go to Vegas, why, you should register and go!

Novell, Attachmate and Embarcadero

By Nick at November 25, 2010 21:29
Filed Under: TechBiz

As you’ve probably seen/heard, Novell has been purchased by Attachmate.  I can remember when Novell was a real high flier, right up there with Microsoft and Borland.  Of course, that was in about 1995, but hey, they were all up there during those heady days before Delphi was released.

I also remember when there were some pretty strong and perhaps well founded rumors that Borland and Novell were going to merge, or one was going to buy the other, or something.  Would have been interesting at the time, I guess. 

Anyway, Marco makes an interesting point (via Olaf Monien) – that Attachmate is owned by Thoma Bravo, the same equity firm that owns Embarcadero.  Attachmate is one of those companies where you can stare at their website for a long time and still not be clear about what they do or why you’d want them to do it for you.  (Sort of like Microfocus, who recently also acquired a formerly high flying company….) 

The Thoma Bravo guys were always pretty mysterious.  They never seemed very interested in any particular business needs that Delphi might have had after the Borland years.   They did seem interested in making money, though.  Nothing wrong with that, as that is pretty much exactly what private equity firms do.  

I can also say that being a “sister company” in the Thoma Bravo family to Novell/Attachmate probably means little to nothing for Embarcadero.  TB owns a number of software firms (did you known they own InstallShield, for example? They also own Plato Learning, a former client of mine in Minneapolis who was at the time a pretty big Delphi shop.)   But as far as I know, we never had the occasion to cross paths with any of the other “family members” when I was at Embarcadero.. TB seems to be buying up properties at a fairly furious rate, though, so perhaps that will change at some point. 

I hope so, because there are any number of things that Novell in particular is involved with that might make for some good synergies with Embarcadero, most notably the Mono project and MonoTouch for the iPhone.  It would be cool to see those two members of the “family” working more closely together. For example, one would hope it would make it easier for Embarcadero to include MonoTouch with Prism and RAD Studio. 

Anyhoo – it was an interesting point that Marco and Olaf brought up.  Something to think about and keep an eye on for sure.

Mobile Marketplace Madness

By Nick at October 10, 2010 19:49
Filed Under: TechBiz

Got Your Smartphone Yet?

It seems everyone has a smartphone.  Everyone.  Hey, even my mom has a smartphone. I love my Mom, and she’s super smart, but I am not kidding – this is the woman who was still typing her book  manuscript on an IBM Selectric in like 1996. And she has an Android phone.  Can you even buy a non-smartphone anymore?  The whole world is staring at their phones and dragging their index fingers across that smooth, velvety touch screen. 

As a result , there is a battle going on  for the big money involved.  Apple blazed the trail, but Android is now at least pulled even, and the wild card of Microsoft is out there as well.  I’m not even going to talk about Palm or Blackberry, both of whom I think are out of the picture.  Nevertheless, the big question is:  Who’s going to win in the latest battle for supremacy in Silicon Valley?

Apple and the App Store

Apple, of course, has a good chunk of the smartphone mindshare out there with the iPhone.  All the cool kids have one, and “There’s an app for that” has climbed right up there with “Can you hear me now?  Good.” as a culture meme.  Apple has also garnered  lot of attention – not necessarily the good kind -- in the developer community for its heavy-handed approach to rules for the App Store. 

Apple has had a long and storied history of being “anal” about their platform.  Apple– some say to their detriment -- famously never  let anyone run their operating system on anything but Apple hardware.  They’ve always wanted to control every aspect of their platform and the  user experience on it.  That has been a key to much of their appeal.

The same is true for the iPhone/iPad.  Apple is the sole vendor for the iOS software and iPhone hardware.  They have an exclusive contract with AT&T to provide phone service, so if you are an iPhone owner, you are – for good or for ill – stuck with AT&T.  The only way to get anything onto an iPhone is via the App Store.   They take a strong-arm approach by controlling the applications that can be loaded onto an iPhone and by limiting the ability of developers to use runtime support such as Flash.  They are very concerned about controlling the user experience and have made technical decisions based on this.  For instance, because they are concerned about battery life, even the latest versions of iOS don’t allow for true multi-thread/multi-tasking, a feature which (as I can testify with my Android) can be murder on battery life if not done well. 

Apple is the sole gatekeeper for every application on every iPhone in the world. If Apple doesn’t like your application, it isn’t going on anyone’s phone.  It was only recently that Apple actually published a set of guidelines for what could and could not go up on the App Store.  Before that, they could – and often did – ban an application for seemingly capricious reasons.  Although they recently backed off the idea, they proposed the notion that developers would only be able to use Apple tools to build App Store applications, effectively specifying the language and frameworks that developers had to use. 

The ‘Droid You Were Looking for

(Okay, that’s corny title, I know….) Anyway, while Apple blazed the trail, others are following and even catching up. Google has recently made great headway in the market with the Android operating system.  Depending on who’s market numbers you believe, Android is the fastest growing and most popular smartphone platform.  iPhone has a large mindshare, but Android apparently has the numbers. 

With regard to application distribution and development, Google has taken a completely different approach than Apple.  Android is available on multiple phones from multiple network service providers.  The Android marketplace is open to all, with basically no limits on what can be built and uploaded.  Android developers today use Java and C++, but there is nothing stopping anyone from creating runtimes and libraries for using any language at all.  Delphi for the Android is clearly a possibility.  The world of Android applications is the Wild West of the smartphone world.

What is up in Redmond?

Microsoft isn’t taking all of this lying down, either, and after a number of furtive starts,  they are well on their way to providing Windows Phone 7, a .NET-based phone platform that is just now coming to the market.  Microsoft reports that they, too, will have a “gatekeeper” system for applications.  They appear to be taking somewhat of a middle road between Apple’s tight control and Androids free for all.

Microsoft is a bit late to the game, but since Phone 7 is based on Silverlight and .NET, they have an army of developers ready to start programming for their platform.  We can’t count them out yet, but they have some catching up to do.

So What?

So, what does this mean?  Who will win?

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that history is going to repeat itself.  In the 1990s, there was a battle in the marketplace for the desktop between the Mac and the PC.  Sorry, Mac Fanboys, but the PC running Windows won – the actions of the US Department of Justice pretty much settle that argument.  The PC became the dominant desktop platform.  And it became so because it had the best applications. 

And they had the best applications because the PC was the OS with the “Wild West” attitude.  Who doesn’t remember downloading reams of crappy shareware applications written in Visual Basic with garish interfaces and 23 different versions of THREED.VBX?  Sure it was a mess, but it succeeded. 

I’ll argue that it succeeded because it was a mess.  There were a lot of really crappy applications out there to download, but because there were a lot of them, there was a much greater chance of a good one being created.  And inevitably, the good one’s rise to the top and squeeze out the bad.  The platform with all the most applications, good and bad, became the platform that people wanted to use.  

This compares with Apple’s model of tight control and a desire to “control the user experience”.  Well, I don’t think that the user wants their user experienced controlled by a large corporation. I think they want to control their own experience.  The free wheeling, wide open marketplace produces a lot of crap, but it also is the means by which the best applications can thrive.  The Mac suffered because users didn’t have the breadth and depth of applications to choose from – good and bad --  that Windows users had.

The open marketplace creates the best applications for two reasons.  First, just as the marketplace and not a government mandate created the iPhone, so does the competition of  the marketplace produce the best applications.  Tightly controlling how apps are developed, what tools can and cannot be used to develop those applications, and providing a tough gauntlet for getting apps out to consumers is not a recipe for true innovation.   Innovation comes from no limits and no restrictions.

Second – and this is something that Microsoft knew well back in the 90s – the platform that attracts the developers will be the platform that produces the best applications.  Developers like freedom, and Apple left a bad taste in the mouths of many developers with their famous “Section 3.3” trial balloon.  Attract developers, and your platform succeeds.  Microsoft proved this with Windows.  Given the uncertainty and the capriciousness of Apple about the App Store, a lot of developers are going to be both hesitant and ideologically resistant to developing for the iPhone.  With Apple basically owning the development tools market, is anyone going to invest a lot of time in tools and frameworks for iPhone development?   Limit development to one language and you limit the number of developers who will build apps for your platform.

Now, I admit that there is no dearth of applications for the iPhone. There are about three times as many as there are on the Android Marketplace.   But the market is still young, and what can be done with a smartphone is still in it’s infancy stage.  We are still looking at the “DOS Phase” of smartphones.  The best is yet to come, and someone is going to rule the next phase.

Finishing Up

If you look over the list of strengths and weaknesses for the Android platform in the Dr. Dobbs Mobile Development issue, you’ll see that bears a remarkable resemblance to Windows circa 1994, and we all know how that turned out.  Now, I’m not saying that the iPhone is going to disappear-- not by a long shot. The Mac is still around and going strong.  But I believe that in the coming years, the “defacto” smartphone – the one that will rule the “post-DOS” smartphone world will be an Android.

I have an Android phone and I’m betting that it is the platform that comes out on top in the current shootout that is going on in the smartphone space. 

Mad Men vs. The Cluetrain

By Nick at August 19, 2010 21:05
Filed Under: TechBiz

You know, I think this Interwebs thing might actually take off.

Well, of course it will. Actually, of course it has. Well, actually, one could argue that not only has it taken off, it has utterly transformed the way that people communicate. I know I spend a lot more time in front of this laptop than I do the TV, and I used to spend a lot of time in front of the TV. I also spend a lot more time writing emails, IM'ing, and on Facebook than I do on the phone. And I used to spend a lot of time on the phone, too. Talking to girls. Running up huge long distance phone bills talking to girls. Of course, this was before I had the good sense to marry my awesome, super-hot wife.  Now I don't talk to girls on the phone very much or at all.  (Actually, I don’t talk on the phone very much at all anymore, but that is another blog post).

Anyway, it is safe to say that the Interwebz has changed communication methods. But it has done more than that. It has changed the tone and timbre of the communication that goes on. You guys probably all know what I'm talking about. The vast majority of the time we seem to spend on the Internet is in conversations. We are answering emails. We are commenting on blogs. We are chatting back and forth on Instant Messenger. We are commenting on each other's Facebook pages. We are tweeting and re-tweeting and lord knows what else. These are conversations. It's me saying something and you saying something back. It's arguing with people that we've never met. Heck, half the time we don't even know their names. (You haven't lived until you've had an online discussion about the intricacies of anonymous methods with some guy(gal?) named Lord Vacuous.....)

So much of what goes on on the Internet are conversations. And as a result, the way that companies communicate with their customers has changed as well (or it should have).  Many companies realize this.  Many companies don’t.

One thing you find out really quickly is that everyone on the Internet has a ‘voice”.  It’s the way you ‘sound’ online.  Some people sound happy.  Some people sound grumpy.  Some people sound silly.  But everyone sounds like something.  For instance, I’m pretty sure that I “sound” different to people online than I do in my head when I type.  I’ve grown more aware of that over the years of hanging around in the Delphi forums.

Companies sound a certain way, too.  They have a “voice” just like people do.  They communicate with customers, and customers “hear” them.  They get a certain impression about the company based on these communications.  Obviously, how people “hear” a company is pretty important to that company’s success.

Now, folks who watch the terrific AMC show “Mad Men” know that back before the Interpipes, companies spent millions of dollars getting smart advertising guys to help them “sound” like something that they wanted to sound like.  Companies could control how they sounded because there were few avenues for companies to communicate – TV, magazines, newspapers.  You couldn’t actually “talk” to a company.  They talked to you, and you decided whether you liked their message and bought their products.  They had complete control over the message, and short of sending a letter with a stamp on it (if you could find the address), then you had very little way to talk back to the company.  It wasn’t a conversation, it was a lecture.

Well, things are different now, a whole lot different.  Now, a company -- despite their best efforts  -- can’t control their message.  The internet – with its blogs, newsgroups, forums, message boards, email, web sites, Facebook fan sites, twitter feeds and goodness knows what else – means that companies no longer have control over what customers hear.  Quite the contrary, in fact.  The “voice” of a company is made up of what people are saying about it as much as what a company says itself.

Many companies haven’t figured this out yet.  Sadly, many technical companies haven’t figured this out yet, and one could argue that they are the ones that should have figured it out from the beginning.

Now, of course, this isn’t a new idea. In fact, I’m pretty much saying the exact same thing that the Cluetrain guys were saying over ten years ago.  I strongly suggest you read their book (you can actually read the whole thing online) as they explain this notion better than I do.

But here’s my point (finally, I know):  I think there is a strong correlation between companies that were around before the Internet and companies that haven’t jumped on the Cluetrain.

Company cultures are a persistent thing, and can actually persist long after the original people who formed the culture are gone.  (There is a famous experiment involving gorillas, bananas, and a high-pressure water hose that illustrates this phenomenon.) A company whose culture and way of communicating were built on the Mad Men model can often have a difficult time making the transition. 

And what can even be worse is when they think they have made the transition when they really haven’t.  Companies that try to somehow straddle the old-school way and the ClueTrain way can end up kidding themselves.  They think that they are having a conversation with their customers, but they really sound “tinny” and artificial.  If a company is constantly worried about “messaging” things properly instead of communicating in a simple, straight-forward way – like two people conversing -- or if they are so hopelessly secretive that no one knows what they are up to, then it might be a company that hasn’t quite gotten the Clue yet.

Companies that have risen up in the age of the Intertubes are much less likely to have failed to understand the conversation going on or to have ended up straddling the gap.  These are companies with cultures steeped in the open conversation. They usually have already caught the Clue.  They started out having conversations, and they have a voice that sounds conversational.

So, what do you think?  Is your company having conversations with people? Are you caught in the middle?  Do you have to deal with companies that are seemingly in constant spin mode? 

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The views I express here are entirely my own and not necessarily those of any other rational person or organization.  However, I strongly recommend that you agree with pretty much everything I say because, well, I'm right.  Most of the time. Except when I'm not, in which case, you shouldn't agree with me.

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