Monday, February 16, 2009

The buzz of KiwiFoo: some of my takeaways

I had the privilege of spending the weekend with lots of great energising, exciting people doing great stuff in New Zealand at KiwiFoo 2009 (aka Baa Camp).

Run in an unconference style, the topics were wide and varied and included a variety of topics such as the opportunities of Real-time data, the Economy, Section 92A, Cloud Computing, Sustainability, Broadband, Building Communities, Working globally from New Zealand, OpenID, Utility 2.0 and the list goes on.

There were so many exciting sessions that one of the biggest challenges was working out what to go to. The conversations during, in-between and after the sessions went early into the morning on both Friday and Saturday nights and were packed with great intellectual discussion and debate.

Some of my takeaways (respecting the FrieNDA rules i.e."what goes on tour, stays on tour") included:

Working globally from New Zealand
  • If we can work out how to work well remotely then this can help to keep smart young people in New Zealand.
  • Different people have different work preferences.
  • Working in a distributed environment does not suit everybody, some people prefer to work on their own, some can't work on their own.
  • Face-to-face relationships are great and being able to have a beer with somebody should not be underestimated in terms of building up relationships.
  • Low office politics is a huge help if working remotely and/or having somebody on the inside to represent your views and keep you informed what's going on.
  • Regular interactions (e.g. via voice conference, weekly updates of what's happened / what's next) are good.
  • Trust and Reputation are key to having good working relationships.
  • The Opensource community is an example of distributed working that has worked many times, and there are lessons that can be learnt from this.
Building communities
  • "Crossing the Chasm" by Geofferey Moore was recommended as an excellent read.
  • The team building the community should have people of different people types (i.e. Big thinkers, Detail people etc.)
  • A Newcomers forum is good to give people comfort in how to interact and not feel that they may be breaking rules and regulations.
  • Dunbar's Number and Maslow's hierarchy of needs are worth checking out.
  • Experience points / Karma systems can be good for allowing people to have extra privileges (such as kicking people off communities)
  • Measurement of community success should including looking from the outside in and from people within.
Utility 2.0
  • Check out Powershop for an example of Utility 2.0 in action for Electricity in New Zealand.
  • Enables consumers to have choice, swap easily between providers, potentially use multiple, flexible payments such as buying in advance etc.
  • Putting consumers at the heart of the business.
Real-time data
  • XMPP is a great protocol for this space.
  • Customers need to be able to determine what level of granularity of information they want to share with people/applications.
  • User overload of data and being able to set thresholds needs to be addressed. i.e. when is it okay to be notified and how?
  • A key question to think about is "What would real-time versions of existing products look like?"
  • An example of a good use of real-time data is that if it is raining 15km away and then starts 10km away, it might be a good idea to inform you to bring the washing in. (Hattip to Rob)
  • Pachube is like YouTube for data and worth checking out.
4 million leaders
  • New Zealand has an opportunity to be the beacon of light for a powerful small country.
  • thinksmall.co.nz is a great place to find solutions to issues facing New Zealanders.

Sustainability
  • Consider the impact of what you are doing to the environment. Is what you are doing sustainable to our planet if everybody was to do it forever?
  • Check out http://lifeboat.co.nz
  • Grow More - this is something anybody can do and very easily.
  • Buy Less - do you really need a new cellphone or ipod? consider the impact to the environment of the waste.
  • Food miles.
  • Tele-commuting.
  • Open source design could be good for products that last.

New Zealand has a huge opportunity on the world stage and KiwiFoo has renewed my confidence that every one in New Zealand can make a difference.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

3 simple questions: Challenge yourself, challenge others, question why

Having worked in a corporate for many years, I find that it is often useful to step back from the every day process and ask a few very simple questions:
  1. If this was my money would I spend it on this?
  2. If this was a startup what would we be doing different?
  3. Is this really a Must Have requirement / Do the stakeholders understand the impact this has to cost, timeframe and/or complexity?
Challenge yourself, challenge others, question why.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Different leadership styles are required for different stages of team development

"The One Minute Manager builds high performing teams" by Ken Blanchard, Donald Carew and Eunice Parisi Carew is an excellent book that simply explains through examples the four stages that teams go through and that a different leadership style is required in each; namely Orientation, Dissatisfaction, Integration and Production.

For each stage, it is clearly articulated what the Characteristics are, what the Needs of the team are, what the Issues are that need to be addressed and what type of leadership style is appropriate.

It is a very quick and easy read, written as a conversation, and I found it very easy to relate to when I looked at various projects I had been involved with. I will be re-reading this again.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

NZ newspapers are embracing New Media

Impressed by all the ways the NZ Herald is allowing people to get the latest news (Twitter, RSS Updates, Widgets, YouTube, Digital Replica, Email Updates, RSS Feeds, Mobile, Paper Delivery), I decided to look into what some traditionally Old Media newspapers are doing with New Media in New Zealand; The New Zealand Herald, Otago Daily Times, The Dominion Post, Waikato Times, and the other "Newspaper" sites hosted on the Stuff.co.nz platform.

The New Zealand Herald - http://www.nzherald.co.nz/

At the base of each page, the NZ Herald promotes all of the ways they allow people to get the latest news.


Each post enables people to distribute the content further via Email or IM.


Blogs are also a component of the site where people can comment on a variety of topics. There are however no general commentary features for non-Blog news stories.


Otago Daily Times - http://www.odt.co.nz/

The Otago Daily Times has an RSS Feed and also sports an Online Poll.


Another feature it that they enables users to post comments to any story, and make it easy for the story to be submitted to various online services such as Delicious, Facebook, Digg etc:


The Dominion Post - http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominionpost/
Waikato Times - http://www.stuff.co.nz/waikatotimes
Many more "Newspaper" sites hosted by Stuff.co.nz


The stuff.co.nz platform hosts many of New Zealand's newspapers and consequently have a very similar look & feel and make use of its common capabilities.


Prominent on each page is the ability to set up a variety of alerts, including RSS feeds.


In terms of distributing the content further "Email a Friend" links are easily found associated with all stories.


Although these sites have the concept of a Blog, there is no ability to post comments, other than a more generic "Have your say" feature that is not associated back to the blog post and is akin to sending in a new news story.

Conclusion

It is great to see New Media being embraced by so many newspapers in New Zealand. Admittedly many of them are hosted by stuff.co.nz and whilst this platform is not as rich in its adoption of New Media as The New Zealand Herald, there is the advantage that if this platform gets updated that many readers of the various different newspapers will benefit.

The Otago Daily Times capability of allowing people to comment on any story and to easily submit stories to a variety of Online Services is something I would like to see on more news sites.