Thursday, September 30, 2010

Still off work

Click on photo to enlarge.

After seeing the doctor today he decided to keep me off work for awhile longer. I can walk with my boot and a little with my Sketcher shoes. It is healing slow though.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Understanding Disintermediation

Click on image above to view video.

David Houle is a futurist, strategist and keynote speaker. In this video he clearly describes the concept of disintermediation.

In short, disintermediation is eliminating the middle man:
For example, historically newspapers, through classified advertising, connected sellers to buyers and charged a fee for doing this. If you wanted to sell a piano, a car or a cat you took out a classified ad in the newspaper.

Classified Ad revenues once were a significant source of newspaper revenue. I remember visiting the San Jose Mercury in the 1980s and an editor telling me Classified Ad revenues paid for all the costs of producing the newspaper and display advertising sales in the newspaper were pure profit.

Ebay and Craig's List came along and came up with new ways to connect buyers and sellers and newspapers were disintermediated. Buyers and sellers no longer needed newspapers to connect to each other. That is when the decline of newspapers really began.

Typically technology provides the means for disintermediation and it has been happening for a long time, as Houle explains in this video.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Why Free eBooks Make Sense

A printed book requires a considerable investment in printing, binding and distribution. Since costs are high to get products in the hands of consumers, authors have to either spend a lot of their own money to get titles to market, have backers or have to get publishers to be willing to take a chance to print the books. Risk is involved, all parties proceed with hopes of making enough money off book sales to recoup printing costs and, hopefully, make a profit.

The barrier to entry is much lower for authors of eBooks. Using commonly available computer tools it is viable to print and distribute your own titles directly to readers over the Internet. eBooks can be consumed on devices ranging from cell phones to eBook readers to desktop computers. This can be very empowering for niche publications. Yes, Digital Rights management (DRM) is possible with EPUB formatted content, but like open source software, it may be preferable to make money off of free distribution of open source eBooks by making money off of related products or services.

There may be other business models where it could be advantageous to give the books away rather than charge for them. Since the production and distribution costs can be so low, it may be possible to profit through ad revenue. Author/publishers could include pages of advertising in eBooks, targeted to the reader demographics of a particular eBook title. If such a book proved popular it may be possible to gain further revenue by marketing spin-off merchandise.

Imagine, for example, an e-publisher giving away Harry Potter type eBooks and making the money off of movie sales, toys and related goods. That is not that hard for me to imagine.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Tablets to outsell eReaders

Flipboard on an iPad. Tablets do a lot more than eReaders and folks seem to get that!
Click on photo to enlarge.

According to James Kendrick on Gigaom:

Tablets that serve multiple purposes are going to see tremendous growth according to UK analyst firm Informa Telecoms and Media, as consumers choose them over dedicated e-readers such as Amazon’s Kindle. Tablet sales are projected to hit 50 million by 2014, a whopping increase of over 1200 percent over the 3.65 million to be sold this year. [Read More]

As more people have them and use them. Thanks to great device specific applications and Twitter as a content streaming and shaping tool, I predict the emergence of these devices as a whole new tech tool will really be understood and appreciated.

Commentary: The true cost of contracting out

Rich McGee, the California State University Employees Union (CSUEU) Unit 9 (Technical Trades) Bargaining Unit Chairperson, is among the many union activists in our union who are worried about outsourcing. We are not talking just about the kind of outsourcing we commonly see, where work is transferred off site and in-house staff is eliminated. In addition to outsourcing of major services and the visible loss of large numbers of jobs, McGee is worried about what he calls the micro-erosion of jobs.

"The micro-erosion of jobs is where little bits of our worker’s jobs are taken away, and soon we have no jobs left," said McGee. A good example of micro-erosion of jobs occurred at San Jose State University. Last Spring SJSU laid off about five percent of its CSUEU represented university employees, while at the same time outsourcing its e-mail services to Google.

When the e-mail system was in house CSUEU represented employees maintained the servers and protected the security of university e-mail. A common task done by CSUEU represented staff was password resets for users who lost or forgot their passwords. Many of the staff who did this were classified as Information Technology Consultants (ITCs.) These ITCs had other duties, few if any of them had resetting passwords as over 50% of their duties. None of them had campus wide ability to reset passwords. This work was distributed. Staff reset passwords only for the employees they themselves supported.

As part of the migration to Google the password reset function was taken away from long-time university employees and transferred to student assistants. These student assistants were given the ability to reset the passwords, and possibly access the e-mail accounts of every student, faculty member, counselor and staff employee at the university.

The “cost” of Google migration for CSU campuses was theoretically zero. But, the real cost as measured in training, lost productivity, weakened security and support of the Google migration has been far from free. In the SJSU example, the CSU system may be saving a few staff jobs and eliminating a few servers while incurring all the expenses listed above and concurrently sacrificing the security and integrity of university e-mail.

The true cost of contracting out state workers jobs, when you add in all factors, has cost our state dearly. Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1000 which also represents state employees has reported, "By our estimates, the state could save approximately $350 million annually by utilizing state workers to cut unnecessary and wasteful outsourcing in IT, medical services and architectural and engineering contracts."

The micro-erosion of jobs is especially dangerous to us. There is language in our collective bargaining agreement offering some job protection for university workers when their jobs are eliminated due to contracting out. But, it has been harder to fight the loss of our work when the work being eliminated is spread among a pool of workers. In the SJSU example you had maybe 30 or 40 staff performing these functions as a percentage of their work. The work was contracted out, three workers in the classification that did the work were laid off and the university has argued there was no impact to CSUEU staff of the contracting out.

The micro-erosion of jobs does not even have to result in layoffs to be a threat. Attrition alone can take a toll, as jobs are not refilled as the work is taken away. Less staff paying into the retirement system threatens retirees as well as staff.

Not only does outsourcing take jobs out of the CSU system, it can take them totally out of the state and even the nation. Google has tens of thousands of oversees workers in Bangalore, Gurgaon and Hyderabad, India as well as other nations like China, Hong Kong, Korea, Singapore and Taiwan. This is only one company. The CSU is outsourcing our jobs and off shoring our tax dollars.

"The state has been unwilling to collect information on private contracts and make it publicly available," said Marie Harder, a senior information systems analyst and member of SEIU Local 1000's Outsourcing Task Force. "We need to hold the state accountable to how much tax payer money they waste each year on outsourcing projects that could be done better and cheaper by state employees."

Sunday, September 12, 2010

When the Scobleizer was a Student

Click on photos to enlarge

According to Wikipedia:

Robert Scoble is an American blogger, technical evangelist, and author. Scoble is best known for his blog, Scobleizer, which came to prominence during his tenure as a technical evangelist at Microsoft. He is married to Maryam Ghaemmaghami Scoble. He has three children; one from a previous marriage and two with Maryam. He currently works for Rackspace and the Rackspace sponsored community site Building 43. He previously worked for Fast Company as a video blogger. He is also the co-author of Naked Conversations: How Blogs are Changing the Way Businesses Talk with Customers with Shel Israel.

These are photos from the days when Scoble was a student at SJSU. That's where I remember he got Scobilizer nickname. He worked for me as a student assistant in the SJSU School of Journalism and Mass Communications. He would sometimes load up computers with fonts, buggy beta software and other fun things as a favor to the users that would bring these old (Pre Intel, Pre Mac OS X) Mac Plus and SE computers to their knees. One of our staff let out a holler one day that could be heard down the halls. She said, "help, I have been Scobelized!"

The name stuck!

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

My Jones Fracture

Click on images to enlarge them
About 25 years ago I worked as a photo lab tech at UC Med Center in San Francisco. I never thought then I would be scanning my own X-rays. But, here they are. This is of the fifth metatarsal in my right foot. This is the bone that leads up to the pinkie toe inside my right foot.