Monday, July 27, 2009

Waves with Force.com

One strength that Google brought to the changing world is the ability to create classification out of chaos. Rather than rely upon a carefully crafted (and failure-prone) system of classification, Google's strategies stem from finding order in the meta-data derived from the chaos.


Instead of carefully filing each bit of information away according to some personal system of logic, we pile it in a big mass at the center of the room and search it. When a player finally understands this freedom, the game changes.


Or to say it another way, "databases ARE indeed cool, but they're so '90s!"


So we can imagine that the Wave could become a fundamental storage element in a CRM system like force.com. And of course, further decomposition of waves into the component blips will yield even more useful "implicit meta-data" that will aid in classification and search. (For instance, the number of times Joe replies in a Wave, or the number of blips created within a time frame might become an interesting criterion. Certainly those facts contain information that supports analysis and matching.)


So perhaps developers who are adept both with development of resources to work with force.com would also benefit from a careful study of Waves.


Just a thought.


---v

Friday, July 24, 2009

Wish List: MS Word

...I've had the dubious pleasure recently of working on a project that demands the use of MS Word. It reminded me of a few things, and reinforced my affinity for the level of polish that Microsoft eventually brought to the world's most common word processor. (It feels weird to use that term: Word Processor.)

I'm not a Word hater. I hate giving money to Microsoft, given the amount of money they've taken from me without my choice (Such as licensing agreements with my computer manufacturer or my Enterprise client. In the former case, I paid for a computer that has the cost hidden in the purchase price, in the latter case I'm forced to buy a copy of the software in order to do business with my client.)

No. Word is just about as good as it gets for word processing. The interface is easily accessible without too much new learning on my part. The feature set is powerful and useful to me as I author complex documents, and the responsiveness of the software is acceptable to me when I'm in a hurry to deliver a document on deadline. (Although my business partners may be thinking, 'you deliver a document on deadline Vincent?) At least the software doesn't hold me back when I use it properly.

But there are some things I would love to see as an author and power user.

Style sheet management

I'd like two key features related to style and style sheets for a document.

I'd like the style dialog to present a filter options so that I can search for a named style easily among the many that accumulate as documents get written and shared with others. Right now my access to work with paragraph styles is a toolbar/window that lists all the possible styles in the document. After a while, especially when the document is shared in a chaotic environment, a large number of styles are present and I need to be able to find the one I need easily without having to scroll through a lengthy list.

I'd also like to have a tool that allows me to display my document with these two categories of paragraphs highlighted for my attention:

  • paragraphs that use "local" markup not represented by a formally named style
  • styles that do not comply with a specific stylesheet (ie. those styles that have been applied ad-hoc by a tired or careless co-author)

I love the spell checking and grammar checking inline, I actually find the auto-correction to be useful and mostly it does the right thing.

MS Word is not that bad. But it could be made better without changing the native file format or the fundamentals of the user interface. The truth is that although about 65% or 70% of computer users don't need the power of Word, the people who do need that level of support will be hard pressed to find an equivalent alternative.

Just sayin' what I see.

---v

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

God bless you again, Google!

...google voice is pretty much what I've been waiting for (oh yeah, for YEARS!).

Visual handling of voicemail is something that Sprint could have introduced rather than "yet another FEATURE that is designed to put a straw into my wallet."

For 20 years, the state of voicemail has mostly remained unchanged. The phone companies crow about stuff like the ability to "send pictures instantly to your friends" as long as you're willing to add another $5 a month to your phone bill. How cool would it be if they offered me something useful!?

My life for many years has been characterized by hearing "You have XX new messages" and then the cycle of "skipping.. next message from xxx.xxx.xxxx, sent at xxx xxx ... skipping..." so that I could get to the freshest one.

I've begged, cajoled, and pleaded for a visual interface to my voicemail much like email.

But on top of that, how cool is it that I can not only have my voicemail sent to email, but also with a transcription of the content, and a link that lets me simply play it on my computer? That's just part of the Google Voice package.

Basically I have a new phone number that can ring all (or some selected subset) of my phones, it allows me to force a call to voicemail, drop it to voicemail and then monitor it just like old-school answering machines, and even to IM the caller back with a short note without disturbing my normal flow of work.

I've been waiting for this for a long time -- and it's not the first time that Google has delivered what I wanted -- and presented it to me (as a consumer) for free.

If I were the corporate communications manager at a firm, I'd be begging Google to let me buy this for my entire enterprise. This is the real s&1T! I'm tellin' you!

---v

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Horse Race or Death Match

...those of you who know me know that I have a dislike for Microsoft for good reason. I don't hate them because they're giant and successful. I think it's fine for a company to achieve that. What matters is HOW.

If a company achieves dominance through innovation, responsible marketing, progressive business practices, and a customer-centered corporate strategy, I love 'em to death. (That would be Google.)

When they achieve dominance through predatory marketing and corporate acquisition practices, reducing and eliminating consumer alternatives, and through underhanded and vicious business and legal practices, well I may love their software, but I'm looking for another choice. (I think we know who this is -- I don't say the name lest they "cut off my air supply.")

This article at CNN sums up the battle, and why I like this author is that he's smart. (In other words, he agrees with me.)

Check it out!

---v