Growing the cloud

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Lately, more of the activities that I do online is in the cloud.

So what online activities am I doing?

I use file storage like dropbox as a digital locker to store and share large files. This syncs with your computer and your mobile devices. At work, we use Sharepoint to share files, collaborate on word and excel documents online and save them back into the system. Having the files online makes it easier to access and also ensures there is only one copy people will work from.

When I want to listen to music, I jump onto YouTube and type in my favourite artist and find songs that I like. I’ve been mixing it up lately between MySpace, Grooveshark, Hype Machine, and Soundcloud. To be honest, I don’t have that much music on my computer. I mostly stream it from the cloud because there is an infinite collection online, fast access and play lists.

I spend a lot of time online also watching videos. Again, I love my YouTubes! But there’s also Vimeo and a bunch of other sites you can stream from. I look at my friend’s photos not on their computers but via Flickr and Facebook. That’s where we store our photos and share them with others.

What is the cloud?

The cloud is defined as:

The use of a Web services such as Flickr, Google Docs to perform the functions that were traditionally done with software installed on an individual computer.”

Penn State Learning Hub Community Glossary

Cloud computing is Internet-based computing, whereby shared resources, software and information are provided to computers and other devices on-demand, like electricity.”

Wikipedia

There is a big push from the digital industry to go cloud. Consumers are already there. Enterprises have started to as well. Its only a matter of time before all of our online activities are in the cloud.

What are the benefits of being in the cloud?

1. Not having to install software on your machine. When was the last time you had to update Gmail? Our corporate email has regular maintenance and scheduled downtimes. Now, computers all about getting online, as fast as possible. Deploy in the cloud = deployed everywhere.

2. Access anywhere, anytime. Of course, this is dependent on being in the range of fast internet access, so this is a coverage and bandwidth issue.

3. Mobile & Cloud is a great combo. Allows for greater connectivity and syncing between your devices. Your mobile can’t store that much compared to a desktop computer or laptop. For example, my mobile currently has 8GB memory expandable to probably to 32GB so the cloud makes sense. Being able to stream music, access files in the cloud, play games on an online network with other gamers is perfect for mobile. Fred Wilson has a few ideas here on monetizing mobile audio.

There are many other benefits for Enterprises like scalability, reducing your IT hardware costs, and IT support costs. Turns your capex into opex. There are 3 types of cloud computing – SaaS, PaaS, IaaS, but this is for another blog post.

The Cloud Agenda

There’s a really good video I watched last week about Zoho’s new cloud accounting offerring. Its similar to SaaSu, Freshbooks, etc…

What I found interesting about it, was towards the end of this video at 26min 5seconds, they discuss mobile and the cloud and the advantages of the cloud. Other cool stuff they discuss is having your car connected online and the ChromeOS Notebook (which is purely online, no software installation required).

What they are doing, whether they realise it or not is advocating the growth of cloud computing. Not just necessarily growing their piece of the pie, but the entire pie. Because its in everyone’s interest.


Consumers and enterprises benefit as more activity is in the cloud. You can see a lot of online companies now pushing the cloud agenda such as Zoho, Salesforce, Google and Atlassian. Even Microsoft has evolved their service offerring to incorporate cloud services.

As we become an increasingly connected society online, the cloud will only keep growing.

I’m out like software installation,

Matt Ho.

p.s. if you are interested in cloud computing, register for Cloud Camp on 25 Feb 2011.

Google vs Wolfram Alpha

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The Tech World has been buzzing lately with the introduction of several new search engines and innovations.

In the past few weeks, we’ve seen the following come out:

- Wolfram Alpha
- Bing
- Google Wave
- Google Squared

I’ve experimented with all of them, except for Wave since it’s not publicly available, though I have signed up for updates and preview =)

 My intial impression is that Wolfram Alpha is very cool. It answers questions as opposed to finding results. You ask it for the distance between Sydney and Melbourne. It will find the distance, time by car/plane and a map showing the distance. Ask a question and it gives you one answer with some stats. I actually believe this is the way search engines will be headed. It’s a new way of thinking about search results.

Check out this video which has a good comparison of Wolfram Alpha v Google by ZDNet.

Bing is ok. Microsoft needed to upgrade their Live search, which I never used. I only used it when I searched in IE and I forgot the default setting wasn’t google.  Live search just did not look pretty. Google was minimalist. It simply worked and had a great UX (user experience). To be honest, I don’t see myself switching from Google to Bing or Yahoo. Google is too dominant in the world of search right now. In Australia, it has something like 70% market share. I might use Wolfram Alpha to experiment. It’s better for unknown answers and simple queries. 

Google Wave

I watched the Developer Google IO preview. Its roughly 80 minutes long and I got through about half of it. Waaaay too long. It’s very ambitious and has the potential to change the game. The potential to change the way we communicate online from email/wiki’s/IM, etc…. I really dig the idea of concurrent editing, because half the time you are simply waiting for the other person to respond on IM. The danger is that it can become a stream of consciousness. 


 
In terms of how I communicate and come up with ideas, I like to have the time to think and reflect and then type it up in a word document or a wiki / blog. If I’m doing concurrent live editing (where people can see my edits and thoughts in real time), I’m really put on the spot to come up with something. I know you can turn this feature off on Google Wave, but this is the danger of concurrent editing and the potential. 

I really dig it though. The ability to combine rich media like photos, video, playback. The developer described is as how email would look like if it was developed now! It’s like a cool mashup of blogs, wiki, photo sharing, microblogging, IM, etc…

You can read an alternative take on it by Jeremiah Owyang.

I’m out like Altavista,

Matt

The Future of Digital 2009 – AIMIA

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Today, I went to the AIMIA conference on “The Future of Digital 2009″. It was pretty interesting.  My company, Next Digital was the main sponsor and my general manager Stephen Lord was one of the key speakers.

There were a lot of companies represented like Microsoft, BBC, Communicator, News Ltd, ABC etc…. I figured if I was going to make it in this industry, I had to attend events like this, meet people and hear what people had to say.

John Butterworth, the CEO of AIMIA (Australian Interactive Media Industry Association for you noobs) gave a quick overview of the digital future. In 2008,  digital spend was $17.9 BILLION (yes BILLION!) and  25% of business revenue was generated through digital. After that, he said “Look around you at the 100 faces here in this room – this is the future of digital”.  It was exciting and also a bit scary at the same time! And hey, I was a part of the 100!!


The Agency – Stephen Lord, Next Digital

The next speaker was Stephen, who spoke about the agency perspective. He gave a brief overview of the major digital events that happened in 2008 such as:

  • the iphone and the apps store (converging mobile and web)
  • online viewing overtaking tv spend for the first time
  • twitter coming of age and how the events of Mumbai were microblogged. At work we use yammer and its great! Its like a corporate twitter
  • political parties using digital channels  – Obama’s heavy use of digital (YES WE CAN!!!!!)
  • cloud computing  – one of my favourite topics

twitter

If 2008 was the year that digital spend increased, then 2009 will be about measurement and ROI. It’s true.  People are spending an increasing amount of time online and in front of the computer.  In fact people even do two of the activities simultaneously -  engaging in multiple media channels. Look at me now – I’m blogging as I watch House in the background! Digital spend will only increase as marketers direct more of their budget into digital as it is more accountable that TV, radio, print, etc… (did someone mention a recession?). But most importantly, this is where the audience is, hence marketing dollars will follow.

Digital will reach a tipping point – a point where more dollars spent won’t equal more results. Hence the search for accountabiliy and better measures. What are we measuring now as digital marketers, bloggers and media planners? Page views, bounce rates, CTR’s (click through rates)? Puh-lease!!!!!! That is so old school. None of these really tell you anything. So what if your page achieved 1,000 unique views, CTR of 18%. It doesn’t mean jack. We have to find new measures to determine engagement, influence, involvement, and stickiness. The metrics we use have not kept up pace with a constantly evolving digital world.

The thing about digital is that every user leaves a digital footprint. It is a captive and active audience and we need to understand how to better measure that. In the past, we were hunters / seekers of information (early to mid 90′s). Then we become do-ers, and now we are in a stage of feedback 3.0, where people are having true conversation in the digital sphere.

The Evangelist – Michael Jordahi, Microsoft

The next speaker was Delic8 Genius, aka Michael Jordahi, a developer Evangelist for Microsoft. So what exactly is an evangelist? I had a discussion with Peter about this on the way down since he knows a few. In fact, I met another Microsoft one from the UK, a pretty cool guy. An evangelist is someone that encourages people to adopt new technology, that engages with people about it, explains how it works, gets people to sign up for licenses and so on.

He actually was a really good speaker, like he had drank 3 redbulls before he got up. Pretty funny guy, and very passionate about Microsoft Surface, bordering on a sales pitch. I didn’t mind, because of the energy he brought and I really like the concept of Microsoft surface. FYI When you go to a lot of marketing presentations/industry events they tend to end up like sales pitches.

microsoftmilan

He gave us an overview of how we had from old school user interface (UI) to GUI to NUI (natural user interface). He compared them to reading a book vs watching a movie vs playing an interactive computer game.

He had a lot of interesting stuff to say, such as how we are no longer restricted to computers, keyboards, and mouses. Examples like Microsoft surface, Toncidot – this little cube you can move around to replicate real world movement, this sphere type device, holograms, etc… He even brought out October’s Esquire magazine cover which had a digital cover.  His view of the future was technolgy and social interaction (real not like facebook or myspace) becoming one.  His opinion was the natural surface and augmented reality was the future (I actually have no idea what he meant by augmented reality) but half the crowd was nodding.

The client – Paula Bray, Powerhouse Museum

I can’t believe she got up and held a deck full of powerpoint slides in one hand and navigated the actual preso with the other slides. I just thought it was going be dead boring and she did didnt do anything to prove me wrong. She was representing the Powerhouse Museum and started going through their website, some of their interactive display thingys. I rolled my eyes (and I suspect half the audience did too). HOWEVER, the next part of the presentation started to get real interesting.

She spoke about how the Musuem developed glassplate negatives of historic shots of Tyrrell. I don’t think anyone actually understood what Tyrrell was about but that wasn’t the point. They had all these old historic shots and so did the National Library. So they put them on FLICKR, the photo sharing website.  They were generating some pretty impressive stats re number of views. Then they decided to put their collection on the creative commons license, which allows anyone to use the image and it kinda of exploded. They let go their collection and people were helping them out by providing meta tagging, geo tagging (locating them on google maps), people started to mashup the pics with Google street view and so on. The craziest thing was that they started to upload pics of how Sydney looked in the past and how it looked now. Then it snowballed because people started contributing their current pics, and even going to the trouble of finding the exact same shot.

tyrrell

In fact, the best thing was when they were searching for Mosman Water falls and wanted to find out exactly where this thing was. They posted a query on FLICKR, and someone answered the query in 30 mins and directed them to a real estate website.  Paula, went out to the property, discovered the waterfalls in someone’s backyard and took pics to compare and share. It was pretty amazing, the find and the altrustic of this John Doe contributor on FLICKR. So they got in contact with him and tried to find out more about him, got him to come to the musuem (he hadn’t been in a decade), so now he takes his family regularly there and writes about the musuem on his blog.

To think that a government institution, a public musuem was prepared to do that was pretty amazing. The philosophy was to create a musuem without walls. They let their collection go out on a commons license (IP lawyers hide yourself!).

The futurist – Jen Wilson, Lean Forward

Let’s just say she was interesting. Every speaker had an agenda, and her’s was mobile. If I could describe her in a few words it would be “mobile evangelist”. Accordingly, the future for her was “mobile”. Not phone, but mobile, a point she distinguished.  About a year ago, I wouldn’t have thought so either. She gave a view of the world as everything going mobile – your camera, your car, your kitchen sink, etc…

iphone_inhand1

In fact, she was probably the most interesting speaker because she really was talking about the future and was saying things I hadn’t really heard before. Of how mobile was breaking down the digital divide. For example, fishermen in Kerala using mobiles to arbitrage in the local fish market by calling into the port and finding out which fish markets were low and then supplying those markets.

I think she could have spoken all day and night about mobile.  Then she had a little rant about the “evil empires” ala how Google and Microsoft want to control everything…..Oh and did I mention that during the entire conference she was texting on her iphone? I only discovered later when I googled the conference and her twitter account came up, she was updating her twitter account every few mins!!!

That’s been one long recap of the AIMIA conference.

I’m out like the future of digital,

Matt Ho.

Ad Age Search Fact Pack 2008

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Here is the link for the ad age search fact pack 2008. It covers SEO / SEM and is packed full of pie charts, stats and short stories on Google, Microsoft, Yahoo. Took me about 20 mins to go through it – nice overview of what’s happening in search. Covers industries like travel, politics, entertainment, what are the top search terms in these industries. Also lists the top 25 search firms.

Oh and yes we can! Obama becomes president – congrats.

Matt Ho.

Scratching the surface

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After countless Google posts, I have to do something different no? Here is a new technology developed by the guys at Microsoft called “Microsoft surface”. I love it! I saw a video of it last year and it just blew my mind. It looks like its come a lot further but still is not in mainstream production yet.

They’ve invented tabletop which is interactive. Screw the mouse and keyboard experience (which is how we’ve used computers for the last 50 years). The coolest thing is how it interacts with electronic objects. It downloads photos immediately from your camera, without any cables being inserted. You can split bills at the restaurant by putting your credit card on the surface and moving the food pictures around of what you ordered.

Check out the youtube video – which still does not do it justice.

If you want more videos and info, check out the official website.  the possibilities are endless. If you check out the other vids, you’ll see that they’ve used it for interactive games with multiple users and also a chat function at Las vegas casinos (hello ladies!).

I’m out like tabletops,

Matt Ho