Thursday, 15 March 2007

Crossing the Chasm

In the fast moving world of technolgy 16 years is a huge chasm to cross. What can a book written in 1991 tell us about the marketing and strategy formulation for technology companies today?

Quite a lot as it turns out. We review Moore's classic Crossing the Chasm, providing high level commentary on the text, before examining the strengths and weaknesses of his argument.

Crossing the Chasm critical commentary here...

Wednesday, 14 March 2007

The Journey of the New Troubadours

The least we can say is that music industry is moving fast - very fast. It was not a long time ago that Thomas Edison breveted a French idea from Charles Cros and developed in 1877 the first phonograph able to record and play music. With the emergence of the walkman, music started to invade the outside of home and tapes enabled us to create our own copies, CD technology only re-enforcing an astonishing sound quality.

A new generation for music has now arisen with audio compression formats such as mp3 allowing an incredible simplicity of usage and manipulation of tracks to create our own music lists from our favourite artists. Music is selected and downloaded directly to our computers from our old CD collection or from fast growing web stores such as iTunes.

All these continuous improved technologies coupled with the development of communications systems (radio followed by television followed by internet) helped the growth of a mass market music industry and created wide opportunities through the emergence of pop music and its derivatives (metal rock, electronic music, etc.) generating amazing amount of money for some luckiest artists (which personally I find the amount of money they generate, outrageous) but essentially it gave the opportunity for prolific talented people to express theirs skills, live from their passion and generate all this various lyrics and melodies we love so much.

Nevertheless, it seems that a derivative system is penetrating the market of music industry to offer the possibility to download music for free on websites which started with Napster and which are in the process to be legally approved despite some artists brandishing the risk of prejudice for author rights and the end of a golden era (in term of money making) for music artists. Maybe I have different values but it is difficult for me to find it normal to get for free the work of people who worked hard to produce it even if my wallet would feel better, nevertheless, if it is legally free, I will not pay!
In the mean time, the record companies seem focusing on the easy route to make money with shows such as pop idol and other X-factor to nominate a pseudo-artist who will find instant fame without any credibility and being forgotten by the public after one to two years but generating a huge amount of money for record companies in a very short time. This controversial method is , I believe, shadowing the emergence of what I call real artists who write their own music and touring for years, slowly improving and perfecting their singular music style to attract and keep a specific public audience.

I am glad that today communication technology and also sites such as myspace increase the awareness of the public to a wider range of potential music artists and enlarge our choice for music to give less power to record companies dictating us through radio DJs what to listen and buy, thus marginal artists but with real talent get the chance to attract an audience while still being outside the record industry system. But I have concerns about a sustainable future for the majority music artists with the end of the author rights and the emergence of the pop idol phenomen. I am hoping music artists will still be able to live from their talent music through touring concerts and will not morph to providers of music for other industries (i.e. movies soudtracks) where they can still make money. A worst case scenario would be that a majority of talented people who could not afford to live from their music, would keep it as a hobby during the week end with potentially less engagement and passion, therefore a loss for music in general.

Do you remember the troubadours? They were not wealthy people but living their passion for music and spreading their creations to the public. Well, it seems like artists will be back to a troubadour-esque life style and only passionate ones will continue to convoy the evolution of music through various channel of information and still be able to perform on stage. Hopefully this would skim the music from its commercial aspect and give back performing artists their true place in the public heart during all these highly communicative concerts where music is at its best.

Sunday, 11 March 2007

Open source marketing, without marketing

If you remember the Blair Witch Project, you will no doubt remember all the attendent hype. You'll remember that the film was made on a shoestring budget, but maybe not that it was also marketed for even less. Yet incredibly successfully.

Alex Wipperfurth's superb book Brand Hijack explains how, and presents a framework adopted by Red Bull, by Apple and many others whereby brand managers are turning to the masses to define, segment and market their products for them.

"With enough eyes, all bugs are shallow". It seems that with enough Is, brands are in fact deeper. Wipperfurth talks convincingly about the "tribes" and "cults" that have sprung up around various totem poles. Rather than erecting the poles, successful companies are instead handing out chisels and letting the good people do it for them. The resulting brands succeed because they are "defined by cool" - rather than "chasing cool". The result of this - loyalty beyond reason and high profits, though not necessarily from where you thought.

One step of logic not open when the book was published was that of Second Life. If you want to open source a brand - why not do it online where speed of interaction is high and cost is low. Nike might want to look at World of Warcraft for their next product launch. Boots of striding and leaping?

Pabst Blue Label beer - which features strongly in the book - is already at it.

Though not explictly labelled "open source" it seems a good example of the concept's spread from traditional software sector. How much further it goes is open for debate. Services, I'd suggest, could all easily follow. With little fixed cost centres and easily facilitated peer review and recommendation, services like marketing and consulting are well suited to open sourcing. Business Week last podcast even told of mining companies open sourcing the search for gold.

Pharmaceuticals, heavily regulated with high fixed cost assets (laboratories, etc.) will have trouble following. Whilst code or brand is hard to fake, clinical trials cannot be subjected to remote peer review so easily. If anyone knows of any advance examples it'd be great to hear about them. For now it seems those "bugs" are of the electronic kind only.

Friday, 9 March 2007

Following on from Peter’s article on democracy I thought I would highlight this paper on e-democracy. It seems to be a collective piece of work on the potential democratic impact of blogs. The very fact the work itself is collective is indicative of the influence it believes blogs could have on democracy through facilitating debate.

The article talks about the fact that currently pressure groups have more say than individuals in policy making. It also notes that the press was originally considered to be the voice of the people but is now more or less simply the voice of business and media barons. This is hard to deny if you read the profile of Rupert Murdoch published last year in the New Yorker – reading this article it is difficult to identify who decides elections; the voters or the media. The natural follow on question from that is who politicians serve when in office?

The article suggests that blogs may help address this imbalance, giving the example of the Trent Lott resignation. The intuition here is easy, bloggers as a community of voters will become another powerful open pressure group but one with significant numbers of actual voters.

The article also questions Peter’s assumption that you will always need a town planning officer. It suggests instead that blogs could facilitate citizens self organising to address complex democratic issues. It debates points such as the need for freedom of speech and for web democracy to come from many-to-many conversations rather than the manipulation of the internet by corporations and governments to control people.

I guess the question is will this happen or will the internet not simply go the same way as the press, and be dominated by big corporate players such Google and News Corp.

Saturday, 3 March 2007

Mr Spock where are you?

The degree of information we can get today is, I believe, endangering the thrill of adventure. Despite living now in Sheffield, I consider myself as a passionate surfer (not on the web but the real stuff which involves a surfboard, sometimes nice blue turquoise waves but not systematically long blond hair) and I have to admit that I enjoy today technology which allows me to keep in touch with my home beach in France. It is indeed very easy to check everyday the conditions of my favourite surfing spot through webcams and other weather forecast analysis, accessible from the internet. Obviously I pray for bad conditions to happen so I don’t miss anything and can spend a peaceful day at work but unfortunately, most of the time I pay a look on the internet, conditions are great and I feel then that the time is right to share with my colleagues my delight of being stuck in sunny and warm Sheffield instead of spending time on a gold sand beach in the South West of France! What is worse is that I also just discovered a great video of my surf spot on youtube to make me suffer even more!

Being back to my point, I have always considered surfing as my domain of adventure, going to different places in the world, analysing conditions, moving further to the original spot to find a better environment, meeting people, etc. which I consider are the necessary preliminaries to a good surf momentum. But with the information we can gather now from the today technologies, it is easy to determine, days in advance, where the surf will be best, the optimum time of the tide, etc. which create a crowded surfing population gathered in the same place fighting each other for a wave and who have lost this adventure spirit and converted surf to any other banal activity. This model is easily adaptable to any other adventure type activity slowly dying because of too much accessible information, allowing to plan with extreme details leaving few to the unexpected which is the source of adventure.
We are now too dependent of the sophisticated tools we are developing to explore remote places, collecting various data, analysing data collected without physically travelling and make our own perception of the environment leaving that to the machine, forgetting to use our five senses (some people believe we have more than five senses but I will not go to this route for this time).

For these reasons, I consider the exploration adventure on Earth as over apart maybe for the abyss exploration but it would be more an invitation to deepen our knowledge of our environment rather than a human adventure unless to our surprise we encounter some forms of developed intelligence living at the bottom of our oceans (and I am not talking about the kraken) who wisely avoided to communicate with us until now.

My worry is that the future of exploration, space exploration, will lie predominantly in the machine perception of our external environment. I really liked the concept of Gene Roddeberry’s Star Trek Enterprise with humans mixed with other species such as Mr Spock and the representation of what should be the human adventure, meeting new life forms from a different environment for a voyage to undiscovered territories where the human place was preponderant and not the information system hardwares used as a safe device prior exploration which in reality spoil the concept of exploration adventure. So what is the future of exploration now, who will be the new Christopher Columbus, the new Doctor Livingstone, will Captain Kirk be replaced by Data? I would be really disappointed if the encounter of a new form of intelligent life was established through a satellite named XX37PT or robot R2D2 junior rather than a human person; if we meet this new intelligent form, what kind of interaction can we propose with a machine as interlocutor and not a proper person with feelings and great capacity of adaptation . We need to think about where the information needs to stop and the human adventure can start (or rather continue).

Today we are already launching various space missions using satellites but I am glad that NASA is resuscitating space programs to send people to the moon and are thinking to send people on Mars. I am still waiting for an equivalent of the Star Trek Enterprise to meet Mr Spock and search for this final frontier quest to recognise at last that the adventure is where the man can go, not the machine. It is imperative to think where is the place of information systems in term of exploration, and the need to place human first to live the adventure, not watching it.

Friday, 2 March 2007

The toaster will be online soon

I was reading this article last night, and given the content of todays MBA talk about utility billing based on live feedback from meters, it seemed appropriate to post it - despite the fact that the article itself dates back to 2001.

The gist of the article is that everything will soon be on-line. I have to say that the fact the toaster could be on line is what stuck in my mind!,1282,42104,00.html

Thursday, 1 March 2007

To Bare One’s Sole
(I never was very good with words!!)

Last week I made my first blog posting. I did so at a time when I was supposed to be moving house so life was a tad hectic. However, in posting the article I procrastinated somewhat before actually pressing post. Over the next few days I thought: why?

On reflection, this was because the action of posting put my thoughts out “there” for all to read; whatever or wherever “there” is! Like publishing a book or writing a newspaper article, this was creativity. Ultimately, this is what scared me - my thoughts irretrievable published for the world.

I then found this article which debated whether blogging is the domain of the creative or the commercial, noting:

"Who feels confident about their perspective in a way that they're willing to announce it to the world? Confidence is not the same as expertise. Some people are far more confident than they deserve to be; others are afraid to speak up even though their expressions are so valuable."

I would not claim to have expressions that are incredibly valuable beyond perhaps my immediate circle of friends and family, and I express myself best in dry, sarcastic wit. This does not translate well to a blog world where it seems that to succeed you have to be able to communicate in an appealing and interestingly literary way.

The key to good blogging seems to be creativity, the blog discussed on the MBA course is popular primarily because of the talented and engaging writing style. My girlfriend finds my blog colleague hmatt’s style of writing very appealing and funny and thus returns to read his posts.

So where does this leave those of us who stand at the flat world’s edge and don’t feel we translate easily into the blogosphere? Yes I like the thought that blogs turn people from the now popular pastime of passive consumerism to the more challenging role of creative participants, but clearly some of us have a way to go to discover how we can use this new medium to freely express our creativity.

Using a blog in a work/business environment is one thing, it holds less trepidation, as we tend to work with material and people we are comfortable with. Using it to be a creative participant in a much larger world is entirely another. That is not to say we should not seek to express our creativity and blogs are surely one of the most accessible tools available to us, especially given the anonymity they afford. The alternative, of course, is to join what E M Forster called “the vast armies of the benighted”.

Saturday, 24 February 2007

Vive la Diversité

Last Friday, a friend made a joke aimed at me about the French. I suddenly realised, well I have a specificity which makes me recognisable from others. Information systems are great in the fact that people from different countries, cultures, opinions can now share theirs experiences, visions, etc. without any pressure and to anybody in any country in the world. But I have to emit some concerns about the direction these world wide communications are evolving into. It seems that English language, more or less already universally accepted as the business language, is also becoming the language for people to communicate through internet chats or other ways of communication. I understand that it is useful for people speaking different languages to have a 'speaking' agreement so that conversations can take place without the need to buy a CD "learn mandarin in 3 lessons" to reply to the first question of their interlocutor, therefore a conversation can continue without any delay from consulting after each sentence the infamous foreign language CD. But the fact is that it looks like we are moving towards a sole speaking language which could soon lead people to discuss universally same topics and who then would agree on common worldwide interests which could become uniques and big (i.e. a news website would become from general agreement the world best news system and watched by most of the population, as it would be considered the best to watch, therefore leaving few variety discussed from the same topics described by minor networks). I have fears that it would achieve a sort of intellectual eugenism with people more and more lookalike in their way of communicating, having interests and developping and sharing ideas; who will lose their specificity, their uniqueness of thinking which had allowed creativity so far because of the exchange of different ideas driven by experience, culture, etc.

To illustrate this warning towards this culture lobotomisation, I believe it is essential to mark this article with comments in my native tongue as a contribution to the cultural diversity.
Je voudrais décrire mon village natal qui me semble la parfaite illustration de ce besoin de préserver notre identité. Bien que né à Arcachon, j'ai vécu toute ma jeunesse à Biscarrosse et me considère comme Landais pur souche matiné vraisemblement de Basque de part les origines de ma famille. Les Landes dont fait partie Biscarrosse doit son nom à ce que fût son paysage composé essentiellement de landes marécageuses jusqu'à ce que tout d'abord des plantations de pins furent réalisées fin XVIIIe siecle pour repousser la pénétration des dunes vers l'interieur des terres qui ensevelissaient les villages côtiers. Ensuite les plantations furent étendues à l'ensemble du departement en vue d'assainir les marécages pour donner aujourd'hui la célèbre forêt des Landes. Cette lande marécageuse était occupée majoritairement par des bergers montés sur échasses conversant en patois local. Aujourd'hui les échasses font partie du folklore local et des associations essaient de ressusciter le patois ou gascon. Entouré de grand lacs Biscarrosse fût au coeur de l'effervescence aéronautique avec l'avénement de l'hydravion en première moitié du XXe siecle réunissant des pilotes tels que Jean Mermoz ou Antoine de Saint Exupéry. Les loisirs à Biscarrosse se partagent entre tradition du rugby et l'émergence du surf. Toute cet environnement a contribué à constituer mes premiers repères et élaborer ma spécifité.

As a conclusion, it is essential that we find a right balance between a necessary uniformisation to improve the communication of the information and the preservation of our precious cultural identity to create a new breed of worldwide tribes. I believe these tribes would constitue the right fuel blending for the drive of an ingenious system to continue the drive through the journey to our technology evolution.

Friday, 23 February 2007

Hair today, gone tomorrow - will online friendships Flickr and die?

Everyone on Flickr is so damn nice. Sure enough, there are some breathtaking images on display. Absolutely worldclass stuff. But there's some pretty mundane shots too. And even the better ones could do with a tweak here and there.

In my experience real world photographers are a pretty miserly breed. Stood alone waiting for the sun to fall, you may exchange a pleasantry or two with the fellow stood beside - but there's no eye contact. You clutch your lens and face forward. That's if you have a companion. Often you haunt the sunset alone - an outcast, a wanderer questing for mysterious images - truths - with which to amaze civilisation upon your return.

There's lots of sneering in technical photography too. Lots of F-stops and apertures and shutters for one to misplace, lots of room for some scientific type to lavish you with dismissive snorts and "hahs".

Online, however, the photographer is, so Flickr leads me to believe, a breed apart. Comments crowd about your capture with praise and applause. "Great capture", "Nice one", "Cool", "Love it!!!" - with such a vocabularly and nothing more you could interact with all and never would anyone think sneer to another about your limited lexicon - let alone your F-stops.

My first assumption on visiting the page was that there'd be an awful lot of "tried too hard and f*cked the exposure - lousy work - pack it in". There is not. Of course, praise can be plentiful or it can be scarce. Perhaps the harshest comment is no comment at all.

Photography, however, seems to play second string to community on Flickr. What can one say of a community with a shared exchange of some ten words - nine if you don't count "nice", as one quite rightly should not.

My immediate reaction is to say that it will be a shortlived community at best. Imagine a real world friend with whom you often spoke. In two word couplets "great, mate". The relationship would lack a certain frisson. It is easy to look at the vast tracts of positive global whitewash and denounce Flickr as something trivial and banal. Transcedent images, washed with a stream of effluent praise, no stronger than cowgum.

This would be incorrect, however. Behind the scenes, there is more meaningful contact, in niche groups. The discussion is as much social as it is photographic. The photos are in some cases the tip of the iceberg, and it is beneath the water that groups of friends share their private thoughts as well as their public back slapping. Moreover, the photographs, as catalyst, give focus to some rather esoteric niches. Have a look if you don't believe me - maybe you have been waiting all your life to join the "Japanese Red Hunting Lizard" pool. You won't find that in the back of the Express.

At this stage you realise that not everyone on Flickr is a professional photographer (myself excepted). For others, this is not a showcase of artwork, but a diary of life. Friday nights out, Birthday parties, the mundane shared not to argue aperture, or poo-poo shutter speeds, but simply to bring their friends in this global community up to speed on what they're up to.

If they want to throw a few words of congratulations about whilst they're at it, where's the harm in that? At the end of the day, that's the point of the thing.

This great shot of Ms. Spears pre-sheers the work of, of Flickr.

Thursday, 22 February 2007

Last evening I watched a fairly dull game of football (or soccer, if you like baseball). My team got an away draw so I am quite happy. But this got me to thinking about the impact this new media world I am slowly being dragged into introduced to will have on the world’s favourite source of information and entertainment: television. Being a bit of a follower, where technology is concerned, I did not imagine the tele-media we take for granted was facing such a huge paradigm shift.

This was in part motivated by an article on blogs written in March 2005, which was one month prior to YouTube being founded and two months before News Corp bought MySpace. This article predicts that:

“Mainstream media companies will master blogs as an advertising tool and take over vast commercial stretches of the blogosphere. Over the next five years, this could well divide winners and losers in media. And in the process, mainstream media will start to look more and more like -- you guessed it -- blogs.”

Now from my point of view I have always though of television as the main method of getting information in-front of people, and thought of people who get most of their entertainment and information off the web as a niche audience of slightly quirky people (no offence intended). However, the natural follow through of this article is that we will all get lots of our entertainment and information from blogs or blog-like phenomena such as “MySpace” and “YouTube”.

The article has clearly been borne out to some extent. But I have to admit a time when the majority get their entertainment/information from blogs seems some way off. There is no doubt that this technology is being embraced in a big way. So what is the future for the BBC and ITV? Indeed do they have a future, perhaps that belongs to independent entertainers and programmers.

Given the statement that “social competence lags behind technological capability” I would imagine this is the beginning of the end for television as we know it. But at the same time it must be the start of truly global entertainment as the same programmes will be available on the web all over the world at the same time. The potential impact of which is massive for governments and programmers alike. I am not sure global un-censored television is a good thing.

So essentially what I initially thought was an interesting development in people writing diaries is actually going to change the distribution of entertainment and news beyond recognition. Best start thinking about how this will render all by current expensive gadgets obsolete!!

On the up side, I may be able to watch all my teams games live for 20p a half as Peter suggested the other week – but then will people still go to the ground?

And, as an aside, who will be winning these in the future?

Cash is for losers

Smaug would be turning in his grave. Lounging on plastic isn't too dignified a pursuit. But if the Economist is to be believed, the days of horded coins and the pleasing weight of wealth may soon be over.

Imagine - you are stood at the till, with any item costing £1. Would you rather pay just 97p? A saving of 3p - the sort of thing I like. What if by adding a penny sweet to your bill, you could reduce the total cost to 2p? A saving of 98p.

I hope you'd agree that option 1 (cost £1) is the least attractive. If you're the sort of chap who pays cash, this is your only option.

With an American Express or Morgan Stanley Platinum card, you'd only be paying 97p though, thanks to their 3% cash back. With a Lloyds VISA debit card with "save the change", your £1.01 of purchase will only cost you 2p. They'll round it up to £2.00, pay your 99p into a savings account and match it with an extra 99p (until 31 March). Something of a windfall if you're skilled with a fuel pump.

The basic fact, hammered home by Natwest with their "the penny's dropped" campaign in recent months, is that cash seems less attractive than electronic alternatives. And that's now. Scroll things on a couple of years and it will become even more so.

The Economist (17th February), their wonderful cover lavished upon left, conduct a lively review of the history and probable demise of cash.

Payment with mobile phones, or "wave and pay" cards or "smart cards", along the lines of Oyster, is cheaper and quicker. It doesn't fill your pockets with deadweight copper. It's also proven technology, in daily use the USA and Japan, where smart card operator Edy processes 15m transactions every month.

If you're a Londoner you will soon be able to do so yourself with the "Squid" card - an Oyster for convenience stores. Like payment through mobile phones, this instant electronic transaction does away with a retailer's need to carry a cash float. Japanese retailers are offering discounts to incentivise electronic payment.

So electronic payment - whether through a phone or a card - is faster, more convenient and saves you money. Why wouldn't you convert?

It's a stark question for a chap working in the ATM industry. People pay a surcharge to withdraw their cash from our ATMs, as it is more convenient than finding a free machine to use. Convenience is king. This is the real worry - as well as cheaper and faster, the alternatives to cash are much more convenient.

It's a problem faced universally by industries that rely upon the real world physics of trading matter. If someone else can offer the essential same or more whilst largely defying physics - by side-stepping those real world rules and limitations - it may be time to get those share options out of the draw.

The Economist rightly points to one advantage cash retains - anonymity. I've heard stories of shops where people buy photographic nudes. Though I've never seen one myself, I'd imagine those shopping at one of these places might chose a method of payment which will ensure the transaction is not logged against their name, address, etc.

In the mucky, twilight world of vice and crime, perhaps cash will rule on - King of the Underworld.

For the Economist story:

Wednesday, 21 February 2007

Benevolent dictator

It's Sunday night outside a Blackpool Tesco Express, and my girlfriend has refused to get out of the car. She's not happy, but it's a compromise - I'll go to the pub quiz with her, so long as we can go via Tesco. Not to make a purchase, but for a few goes on a lucky dip where points mean prizes.

Tesco's Clubcard is a source of some suspicious mumbling in cynical quarters. The conspiracy theorists shake their heads dolefully as, for a few pennys savings, we offer up the contents of our baskets to the scrutiny of the Corporation's evil quants. Such is the suspicion of some, that they will not sign their souls over. Their unclaimed points, recorded in barcode at the bases of their receipts, haunt it even after death.

For those willing to trawl about the car park peeling waterlogged receipts from the tarmac, or fish crumpled tallies from the bin, these points may be resurrected and claimed against one's own account. I am one such unfortunate addictee.

Pity then the computer or technician charged with decoding my purchase history. Some weeks my grocery bill will stretch into the thousands. I think my best haul was over 1200 points - £1,200 spent on groceries in Blackpool, Norwich and Edinburgh, in a week. Though I don't smoke, some weeks I'll appear to spend a sudden £100 on tobacco, without any brand loyalty (no points on this, we note). Two cars are insured against our Clubcard account, both unleaded - yet some month's the two of us buy hundreds of litres of diesel.

You can imagine the wild fluctuations in product choice and spend as it appears on their systems. My point is not to boast about the £50 pounds or so I make each year by sifting through other people's rubbish (though it's interesting to note that on a crude pence/hour basis I'm better doing so on Tesco's car park than I would on a Guatemalan landfill). The point is that unless their tyrannical software fuelled strategy to rule the world isn't as efficient as we're led to believe, they must surely be aware of my sordid games.

Why would they let it continue, then?

Well, I suppose that for all the obfuscation, my core purchases could be deduced with reasonable certainty. All the peripheral noise of other people's discarded chicken drumsticks easily filtered away to expose that 2 pint full-fat organic milk that trundles the rubber week on week.

And that noise does reveal on additional fact - that I am so bargain obsessed that I'll hit the bins - even as they scalp me for an extra 30p on that organic milk. No doubt that amuses someone with an MK postcode. Perhaps they scalp me for enough 30ps on organic this and thats that I'm profitable enough for them not to risk offending me by confronting my post-transaction kleptomania.

Perhaps, when they rule the world, they will be a benevolent dictator. Offer Clubcard points on the executioners bullets and the like, when the greiving kin are billed.

Seeing beyond blind

Californian technology company Second Sight has created a revolutionary piece of technology able to give blind people the power of sight.

As shown above, a chip, light signals are translated by first camera, then implanted chip, into impulses the brain can understand. Whilst at present the quality of image produced is sufficient for a blind person to navigate their way through a building, in the future the technology should give enough clarity for recognition of individual faces.

Trials for the latest iteration of the "Argus" has just been given FDA approval, which if successful could see the device on the market two years from now, at a probable cost of around £15,000. If this price cannot be driven down, accusations will no doubt be levelled of exploiting the vulnerable, tempting them with snake oil (albeit functional snake oil), and so forth.

One target market will be the over 75s, of whom 15% suffer from the macular degeneration this device overcomes. With all the cynical takes on pension shortfalls and equity release in the press at the moment, one suspects that pitching the high ticket treatment to the elderly and generally short on cash may generate increased controversy.

Perhaps the uniquely appealing functionality - giving the gift of sight - will prove enough to overcome suspicisions, but will this elderly segment be keen to adopt cutting edge cybernetic technology? Our cash machine business has trouble encouraging this segment to use our ATMs, hardly a recent innovation!

Leading the charge to Main Street may be a big ask of those who are traditionally unwilling to adopt.

The BBC give a good summary at, whilst inventor Second Sight offers greater detail, with little corporate spin, at The Telegraph also gives coverage at, and was the source of the image above.

Sunday, 18 February 2007

Return of the Geek

From the time of the Z1 computer conception in 1936 (see picture) to the daily use of the internet in 2007, seventy one years have passed with an extreme development of information technology. Today, web 2.0 is conquering the internet with websites such as wikipedia, youtube and others flickr, which provide a network of shared information accessible by everybody. Also constantly updated softwares are used for applications as diverse as car assembly, plane flying or even writing a letter. These information systems have considerably modified our lifestyles and it would be difficult now to live in this modern world without a basic knowledge of their use. Who has not noticed the evolution of the employment in the UK or other western countries where demand for IT specialists is increasing considerably (IT sales executives, IT startegy consultants, IT support specialists, IT project engineers,... have a look on a job search website, type 'IT' for keyword and there they are!!!). On the other hand traditional heavy industries are disapperaing from our landscapes, being de-localised to countries offering cheaper labour. Chimneys and red brick buidings have been replaced by nice glass bubble's IT desks.
The counter effect of the today situation is the concern for people over 30 years old like me who have difficulties to catch up with this revolution. Former IT geek in the beginning of the 80's, programming in basic, pascal, I was on top of the game, knowing everything about the sinclair ZX 81 with its 1K ram to the revolution of the apple IIc and macintosh while enjoying top games on a commodre 64 (any nostalgic also remembering them?). It has been a mere 20 years gap from this period to nowadays for me to fall from specialist to this status of total ignorant.
Manchester BS MIS course has shaken me up and I realised how disconnected I am now. What if I don't want to or cannot re-plug myself, what for the other people like me? We are already talking about web 3.0 (see John Markoff article on the New York Times) while I am just discovering web 2.0, can't they leave me breath a little bit, trying to technologically re-surface? Why no regular updated on-line instructions are available on the internet to follow-up? Please give a chance for the return of the geek before the web 3.0 strikes back!

I thought we created the machine adapted to human need but now what I want is to be adapted to the machine!

Where all is this going, what is the purpose of this technology evolution if people cannot follow, maybe it is time for alternative technology to appear.