.bob for sale to a good home

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Newsflash! Changes ahead in the types of internet addresses consumers use.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) voted this week on the final set of rules that will enable changes to the assignment of top level names on the internet. Think of it this way.  There are 22 existing top level domains. Things like .com, .net, .org, .edu, etc.  Now, the dictionary could also become a source of domain names. So we might start seeing internet addresses like .nyc, .city, .coke, .hotel, .facebook.

Say what? So we could see internet sites with addresses like iwanta.sony, my.honda, or unitedstates.president. That applause you hear is from marketers, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, and lawyers. A new frontier is opening on the internet again. It’s like the wild west. Prospectors are forming their teams and the gold rush is set to happen.

Holy cost of entry batman!
But wait. Not so fast. ICANN is putting rules, regulations, and a hefty price tag on the new domain registration process to keep away most cybersquatters and individuals look for a personal address. To start with the price of the new extensions is set at $185,000 with a $25,000 annual maintenance fee. The application includes about 150 pages of policy documents.

Applications must show a legitimate claim to the name they are requesting. It’s reported that ICANN is hiring consultants to thoroughly manage the application and approval process.

Alas! My dreams of owning .bob just disappeared. That’s too bad. I was warming-up to the idea of uncle.bob, whatabout.bob, or thetrue.bob.

But wait. There’s more. What if multiple entities apply for the same domain name? Generic names like .law, .city, .baseball, or .bank?  ICANN says that if multiple applicants pass the entrance criteria requesting the same domain name then the name goes to auction.

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No matter how you stack it, this game is for big boys with deep pockets. Sheesh.

So what’s this all really mean?
Well, in the early days of the internet, profiteers claimed brand names by the hundreds and thousands due to the low cost of entry. It’s like owning a piece of real-estate. You can park a site there that serves ads (making money) and then look/wait for a suitable buyer. I think the possibility for that same type of abuse exists, but with more sophistication and backing.

For example, what about all the registrars that sell internet addresses today? Some of these are for-profit organizations, unlike ICANN. Will they be allowed to snatch-up generic domains and then change the rules of the game for a resell? Once a domain is sold under the tighter ICANN rules will future resells happen without restrictions?

It certainly means a new wave of creativity for marketers to make easy addresses for consumers to remember.
Another possibility is the creation of domains that become defacto standard for a specific type of business. The owner could sell membership to the domain as a way to control access. This country club type approach could lock out phising sites.  Think .creditcard, .billpay, etc.

That’s all great. But will consumers use it?
Any change takes time, and certainly we are programmed today to recognize .com and .org addresses. Some tech pundits have said the domain name has a shrinking value because consumers are relying more on search than typing in addresses. In fact, all the major browsers on the market today already combine search functionality into the address bar.

One thing I like about the existing shared top level domains is they are recognizable by the domain as an internet address. This is why you marketers have dropped the ‘www’ designator in most advertisements today.  I’m not sure that holds true if the domain extension can be almost any word.  For example if there’s an advertisement for me to visit ipod.apple, would I recognize this as an internet address?

At the end of the day, marketers will have to solve for ease of use and value to the consumer. As with most technology changes, this doesn’t change the core components of transactions between two entities. At the end of the day there’s an exchange of information, goods, or services based on a need (real or perceived).

Tablets, mobile devices, and Chrome OS offer different computing models

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The Personal Computer model of the 80s and 90s is done.
In the early days of home computing, the personal computer was the choice for computing power from the home and office. The hardware required software to manage the operations of the computer and all of the software was installed locally to the device. Microsoft dominated these early days with the Windows and Office.

Through the 90s and 2000s we saw several advancements that started to change the world of the personal computer. The expansion of the internet to main stream life connected consumers to each other as well as consumers to businesses. The accessibility of broadband to the home made it possible for consumers to retrieve large amounts of information in the form of pictures, video, and rich text.  Advances in hardware speed and the reduction of computing device sizes helped engineers to create portable devices so that consumers could access information from anywhere.

Now we live in a connected world where individuals and businesses can not only consume digital content but they can create it as well. Facebook, Twitter, and mobile applications are all examples of this.

Today, consumers can choose from tablets, mobile devices, and cloud computing hardware.
I’m not a big Apple fan, but I’ll admit the iPhone and iPad have revolutionized the computing model that consumers use today. It’s a good thing, the advancements in user interface, ease of use, and practicality of the apple devices are creating more competition and advancements that benefit all of us.

Mobile devices work because of their portability and this makes them flexible to serve to consumers from almost any location. They have really become the swiss army knife of computing devices. Except they go one step farther. You can add and remove many blades from the device (software apps) to make the tool relevant no matter which venue of life you find yourself.

The tablet devices are filling a void between mobile device and laptop computer. The mobile device screen is just too small for some needs, while even the laptop computer can be bulky at times to carry. I see the tablet device as a portable and powerful information consumption device. Their use is exploding because consumers love the ease-of-use and breadth of applications.

But the tablet may be a challenge to use for heavy content creators.  The touch screen keyboard and limited hardware could decrease the efficiency for creating content. At least for now, until a generation grows-up using the touchscreen type keypads.

This past week, Google launched ChromeOS on a netbook frame to the general public. This event isn’t about netbooks, it’s about a computing model known as cloud computing.  Google has created a device similar to a smart-phone in a way. It’s a stripped down OS that removes most of the hardware operating system responsibilities and focuses on giving access to internet based applications through a browser. That’s the computer. A browser with access to the internet.  If you stop and think about it, many if not most, of the applications you use today are already from the internet.  It wouldn’t surprise to me to see ChromeOS on a tablet frame sometime in the near future.

Regardless brand loyalties or preferences, consumers win with all this advancement.
Consumers have many choices today. Unlike the PC-only model of the 80s and 90s, they have the ability to choose between different device types (PC, laptop, netbook, tablet, mobile) as well as different models (Local installation, cloud computing, and mobile application). It’s really about how the consumer creates and/or uses content. Consumers will choose those devices that work consistently and makes their lives easier by solving needs.

What do you think? What type of device and experience do you prefer?

How the waterfall method effects the PMO

I’ve used the term “Big Bang Software Development” to describe a process where all of the software project scope is delivered at the same time. Traditionally it’s been called the waterfall model.  Industry experts have compared the waterfall model to newer agile methodologies for how they differ in the approach to deliver software.  But what about the impact these two different approaches have on a portfolio of project work?

Project Managers and Project Management Offices are impacted as well.

Project Management Offices (PMOs) and Portfolio Managers look for balance, priority, and results from the breadth of work they manage. The challenge they have is balancing multiple concurrent projects and maintaining a queue of prioritized work that is ready as projects close. Making adjustments or changes to work queues can be disruptive and expensive for the total work output of the organization.

Reprioritizing work has a cost.

Moving work is expensive because it may require stopping some work to complete other.  Financially, this may make sense so the organization can go after the highest yielding project outcome. However, stopping a project is much more expensive in a waterfall approach than an agile approach.  If the waterfall project is stopped then none of its output is delivered.  It’s an all-or-nothing. It’s the Big Bang.  There’s also a delay while teams reset to change over to a new project. Agile methods tend to focus on smaller work units with set delivery schedules (i.e. every 8 weeks). So changing in-stream work doesn’t have the same level of disruption.

Long delivery cycles create unanticipated organizational requests.

In the waterfall method work is delivered in uneven intervals because projects by nature have varying levels of scope. When this happens, stakeholders look for ways to combine projects to avoid the overhead of project spin-up. This places further pressure on PMO managers to deliver work consistently. It’s also a threat to project managers because it impedes on their ability to deliver the project under the original specifications.

Project value is based on the few, but project scope the many.

Prioritization is for complete projects rather individual elements that add business value. How often do you see projects loaded with many scope items that don’t produce large returns? Often times, the project has a few scope items that provide all of the financial return while others are there as special interest items.  How much quicker would projects reach delivery if they contained only the essential items for return? That’s starting to sound a little like agile.

As I think about it, the agile method allows the PMO to be more nimble too.

With the agile approach work units are based on individual requests, not full project scopes. Think about how much more flexibility that allows PMOs with decisioning around priority. Making changes doesn’t have large effects of immobilizing big blocks of work which ultimately create larger gaps between work output deliveries.  The big idea is that agile organizations can move and adjust individual work requests rather than project requests.

It’s a different mindset.  But if you’re not there, you should be thinking about it.


An idea to engage loyal customers

A friend recently converted trinkets and memorabilia from his place of work into a photo album on Facebook. It was simply entitled “The Office”. He had each item placed on a white background for the photos. Then he tagged friends on Facebook who had some part in the historical story related to the item.

The Science of P3
An example image from "The Office" photo album

As I looked through the album I thought about how this idea could be used by companies to create a virtual museum of historical artifacts related to their company. Imagine a longstanding company like Coca-Cola or General Electric with a series of online catalogs on their web site. The catalogs could be grouped by business division, decade, or artifact type.

This gives customers, or really the general public, a chance to see the rich history of a company and a chance to explore the stories and meanings behind each item. It’s a social engagement to create a connection. With a social site, such as Facebook or a company blog, the company could further engage with customers through comments.