Wednesday, December 8, 2010

When the browser is the operating system

The browser is the operating system. Can't recall when I first heard someone say that, but with today's announcement from Google about the Chrome OS app store and devices, the statement has migrated from hyperbole to fact. People use their netbooks primarily for their cloud applications: Facebook, e-mail, Twitter, playing games and enjoying video and music. The only requirement is an operating system that supports a browser interface to cloud applications. And it needs to be cheap, secure and fast.

For low cost netbooks, tablets and emerging portable or embedded devices that require support for cloud applications, Chrome OS will likely emerge as the optimum operating system. My crazy prediction - Chrome OS touch screen available on some refrigerators in the near future.

Congratulations Google.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Chuck and Vince drop the truth

For the longest time, the citizens of Toronto had to go through back hoops to get rid of their electronic waste. Now suddenly we can just take our e-waste to the curb on trash day. And everybody in Toronto knows this, thanks to Chuck and Vince.

This government ad is a great example of how to get a message out quick and cheap to a target audience:
  1. Keep the message focused. 
  2. Have your creative people create compelling content that delivers a focused message.
  3. Management's job is to hire the best creative people to do 1 + 2, and prevent anything from interfering with their work.
Sounds simple right? Well if it is that easy, why do most government ads make me want to vote for the opposition? Let's see what Chuck and Vince did differently:
The simple message is that the City of Toronto wants my e-waste. The humour made the message more compelling, but that was because the humour was honest and effectively supported the message. When you are spinning something to promote an agenda, you are no longer compelling. And so much of government and corporate advertising is spinning an agenda.
The City of Toronto hired talent from Second City. Brilliant, these are world class improv comedians. They can take any idea and turn into magic, instantly. Management let talent do their stuff and didn't interfere. Honestly, does this look like an ad from any government body you know? Some manager took a risk, did not follow the safe route, fought off the sharks and let the talent deliver. 

Did it work? Well ask any Torontonian how to get rid of e-waste and you are likely to get the right answer. And the video is now spreading virally on YouTube. Those of you that can count might have observed that other ads have hits that are orders of magnitude greater than Chuck and Vince. True, but in fairness Chuck and Vince are two large guys with message about waste disposal while the young sexy couple in this condom ad with 6 million plus hits is, well, it's just not a fair comparison.  But just like Chuck and Vince, this talent delivers a simple message with some very compelling content.

Social Media has a way of pushing the compelling content to the top. And nothing is more compelling than a simple truth.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Dark Shadows that WikiLeaks casts

The folks at WikiLeaks profess to pursue altruistic goals. And in their hearts, they might. However not every secret exists to perpetuate some evil power. Secrets are necessary for the proper functioning of good governments, corporations and individuals. Secure communication is necessary between groups and individuals if they are to build the trust necessary to overcome obstacles and resolve complex issues using honest data. When secrets are betrayed, trust, good data and potential resolutions are lost. 

A recent op-ed column in the Globe and Mail  written by former Canadian diplomat and current aid worker Scott Gilmore, illustrates some of the blow-back the world can expect following the November 28 leaks. For those that champion peace and human rights in the troubled parts of the world, Gilmore makes a strong case why the actions of WikiLeaks should raise concerns.

While the mass media has been doing its best Perez Hilton to publicize the most stinging diplomat disses  (my favorite: "Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi is rarely scene without his voluptuous blonde Ukrainian nurse"), Gilmore in contrast explores the dark shadows the leaks cast:
It’s not just the militant activist in Guelph, Ont., reading the cables. It’s the military dictatorships and the secret police in capitals all around the world. In the days and weeks ahead, people who dared to share information with U.S. diplomats will be rounded up. And thousands more who may have been willing to pass on pictures of tortured bodies will keep them in the desk drawer instead.
The world of whistle-blowing has changed dramatically since the days of the Pentagon Papers. Daniel Ellsberg had to photocopy each document page and clandestinely arrange drop-offs with his contact at the New York Times, an activity which took the better part of a year (Check out the fantastic documentary "The Most Dangerous Man in America"). He knew precisely what he was disclosing and fully understood the consequences of his actions as they would apply to himself and his country.

Today's anonymous leaker can uploads hundreds of thousands of classified documents they know or care little about with a few keystrokes and a USB drive. They can be distributed by organizations like WikiLeaks in the name of transparency and other purported noble causes for everyone to see with little regard to the short or long term effects of the disclosures.

Technology enables this mass indiscriminate disclosure of secrets by a few self-appointed jurors. While one might argue that some good may come from these actions, it is hard to justify given the immediate and future collateral damage. Technology allows us to obliterate a city to remove a villain, but only a madman would consider such a plan.