SciBlogs

Posts Tagged cloud computing

Of course nobody notices – there’s no photo opportunity! Peter Kerr Oct 07

No Comments

Naturally it has escaped the attention of mainstream media…

But, the fact is that two Kiwi IT companies are still in, and contributing to, the world’s largest IT project – the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope. (See a press release here).

Thousands of radio telescopes to be built in Southern Africa and Australia between 2018 and 2024 will monitor and survey space, producing vast amounts of data.

It will require real-time analysis of 120 terabytes per second – the equivalent of streaming one million high definition movies at once.

This is a massive Big Data project, and will require new developments in both hardware and software.

A team led by Open Parallel including Catalyst IT engineers has devised and delivered the initial version of the Software Development Plan for how participants in the project will develop software and/or firmware to achieve design goals established for the SKA.

Now, Open Parallel’s director, Oamaru-based (yes, you’ve read that correctly) Nicolas Erdody has also been the inspiration and driver behind three Multicore World conferences (now in its fourth consecutive edition – Feb 2015, Wellington). These assemblies of global IT heavyweights are looking how to take advantage of massive computing power available through multicore computers (where there’s many many processors on one chip).

So far no one has effectively cracked how to write the parallel programs (coding) that takes advantage of this power.

But, by being part of the SKA project, Open Parallel and Catalyst have positioned themselves to both learn, along with others, and ride the inevitable wave of parallel programming, big data, cloud and green computing, and many more state-of-the-art technologies.

So what?

Well, if it comes to pass, there will be a huge opportunity for New Zealand to be at the forefront of what will be a whole new basket of knowledge and technologies around multicore and programming for them.

The opportunities for our IT sector(s) to be ride this parallel computing wave will be immense – way bigger than the movie industry, with much more potential to branch into different fields.

Naturally, Erdody and Catalyst IT managing director Don Christie aren’t part of SKA solely as their contribution to knowledge about our universe.

But they are taking a longterm view, positioning their own companies to be part of the knowledge creation for the project, and clearly identifying themselves as clever and competent operators in an ever-expanding field.

It is doubtful that either of them have any clear idea of where their involvement will lead.

However, their leadership and vision will in the near future be of immense benefit to our country. After all, what computer programmer wouldn’t want to live in New Zealand to be part of both SKA and ongoing developments in multicore and parallel programming.

Not that the government or media would have a clue.

It’s not something that has a photo opportunity.

It also requires the ability to think.


Local, thinks global and quickly gets asked if it is for sale Peter Kerr Jul 02

No Comments

 

Many Kiwis struggle to appreciate the size of the global internet market, and how to tap into it says John-Daniel Trask.

The co-founder of Wellington-based Mindscape (“We build fantastic tools for developers”) recently spoke at the NZ Entrepreneur Club.

As an aside, the messages/language on Mindscape’s web pages are a model of simplicity and appealing description. Check out the company’s ‘About’ page to get a flavour of how others should do it.

Business, and more particularly digitally-oriented business has been in John-Daniel’s blood since high school in Palmerston North, including selling a program on a disk that masked other schoolboy’s internet search history on their family’s computer!

Torn between doing a business degree or computer science degree at Massey University, J-D opted for a relatively open-ended computer course – and shoved in as business papers as he could.

He (easily) got a job at IT solutions company Intergen, and from day one was quizzing its bosses about revenues, sales, margins and the nuts and bolts of how it operated.

Not surprisingly he quickly rose through the company; and while he was doing it bought as many shares off other employees as he could.

Soon he was one of the largest non-founding shareholders, and the option of buying the fourth largest shareholder’s portion came up. This would’ve made him the largest non-founding shareholder of Intergen by a long margin. The deal fell through however.

J-D then quietly, and completing the deals all at once, sold his shares back to other employees within Intergen, pocketing a tidy return at the same time.

In 2007, along with Jeremy Boyd, Mindscape was brought into life, creating software development tools as its products, concentrating on Microsoft’s .NET environment.

Mindscape’s main product these days is ‘Raygun’, error reporting software which was launched in 2013.

This software has had exceptional growth – so much so that Mindscape received a number of inquiries whether it was up for purchase.

Instead, and boasting real growth and revenue, Mindscape recently went to the market and raised capital.

J-D and Jeremy Boyd still own 87% of the company – but given that Mindscape’s doubled revenues since April, investors are probably pretty happy.

He says that lessons learned along the way is not to become too scattergunned in its projects or offers.

“Put your energy into one thing,” he says.

He sees a new wave of potential in virtual reality, arguing that the present fixation on the visual component ignores the touch, sound and audio.

In the meantime Mindscape’s focused on its revenues, as this keeps its future options wide open.

“We could carry out an IPO, we could be attractive as an acquistion, or we could continue to make a lot of money,” he says.

This Entrepreneur Club talk was a great example of a well-executed business, firing on all cylinders.

Without doubt, the winner of the Hi-Tech Young Achiever Award in 2009 will do something else clever again – probably sooner rather than later.

Watch this space.

 


A buried treat in WordPress’s Terms of Service Peter Kerr Jun 26

No Comments

It’s in keeping with the spirit of WordPress that its Terms of Service are simple, freely available to be repurposed by others, and, the tiniest bit quirky.

WordPress co-founder, and part owner of its tech-tools parent Automattic, Matt Mullenweg, pointed out there’s a ‘here’s a treat’ buried in the ToS.

Speaking recently in Wellington, he reckons that so few people actually read these legal bits, putting in a hyperlink is a nice surprise for those who bother. Go have a look yourself.

The San Francisco based open source enthusiast was on a whistlestop tour around Japan, Indonesia, Australia and NZ, spreading the word and looking to add to the globally-spread development team.

The scarily young Matt seems pretty savvy and modest all at once. His photo and bio is buried, alphabetically on the Automattic page (though he did point out the pun on his own name in the parent brand).

Part of the savviness comes from a 1970’s computer science graduate dad who encouraged his then six year son to play with the home computer’s code in the late 1980s – with the proviso he fixed what he broke!

A fair bit of looking under the hood later in 2004, Matt was looking around for, and failing to find, simple blogging software or platforms.

So, along with Mike Little he built the open source, free, WordPress. They quickly realising they couldn’t do it alone, and encouraged others to come into development team.

As well, they set up Auttomatic.

He describes Jetpack as the site’s tool with the most promise. This allows plugins that are available on WordPress.com to be available on self-hosted WordPress installs, powered by the cloud.

More than 130 Wellingtonians attended the Shed 6 presentation, including a colleague Harry.

Harry can’t code, but he too was impressed with the open nature of what Matt’s helping create in the net, and dispersing it around the world.

With only 22% of the internet sites, there’s 78% to go says Matt.

His lofty goal is to democratise publishing.

He might just do it Harry reckons.

 P.S. – In case you can’t find the tasty treat, check out paragraph 16


Lightning Lab II grows up – will its offspring make it to adolescence? Peter Kerr Jun 03

No Comments

 

Anyone that’s been around young children will appreciate there’s a heck of a difference between a one year old and a two year old.

A similar comparison is valid with Lightning Lab II, which last week had nine of its 10 starters from three months ago pitch to about 250 would-be investors, and a number of others who mostly filled Te Papa’s main theatre last Wednesday.

As LL itself says, it is modeling the way it works off TechStars and other USA originated accelerator initiatives.

But there’s a New Zealandness to how it is done.

So, as well as the added degree of presentation polish, one of the more notable aspects was, apart from three business asking for just under $500k each, the other six businesses were relatively low in how much money they were asking for.

This partly reflects there’s still more market validation and proof required, and also the New Zealand environment.

Often overseas startup accelerator businesses have already obtained some money (from friends, family and fools) before they begin the three month intensive mentoring and ‘is there a business here’ questioning process.

New Zealand accelerator startups at this LL tend to be less mature, and the degree of realism in the money pitch in bringing new investors onboard was one of the features this time round.

Naturally, since many of the pitches are as much about selling the sizzle as the sausage, there is a touch of scepticism required in the growth projections put forward.

But, without any due diligence, all the pitches sounded like they could – with the right combination of expertise, clear direction and luck – gear themselves up to grow.

And, rather than attempting to break down each businesses’ prospects myself, I’ll repeat Nicolai Thomson’s speculation. Nicolai, (Twitter handle, @nicolaithomson) is the founder of Lendyour.co.nz. Here are some of his, and some of his colleagues’ thoughts about the business propositions put forward at LL Demo Day.

He raises some interesting points, that investors too will no doubt explore as they look under the hood of these potential part-purchases.

In Nicolai’s words:

I don’t rate Twingl’s business model though I would totally use their product. They need to look at alternative monetisation and in the last 18 months I’ve heard their CEO twice and don’t rate his ability to spot a future trend, change and win fast enough when established companies jump on their un-patented mapping.

MishGuru, too reliant on Snapchat being a fad today, and limited audience using it. Snapchat will pass and be dead in 3 years. Their subscription plan is also fundamentally wrong as their target market is enterprise paying $10 a month. Every company will start on that level with little incentive to move to more expensive plans which would assure MishGuru can pay their bills.

Floc has a great concept but little future. Using Telco data is not going to be given to a brand new team with no reputation, and would be revoked the moment a controversial CEO or diplomat was tracked leaving their building after someone eyeballed then and identified their dot after hacking in to Floc systems. Never-mind the fact restaurants have legal obligations when it comes to employment and cancelling shifts before or on the day won’t fly for long in the name of saving the owner some dollars. Staff would likely leave and cause unnecessary headaches.

Coach Seek will be a safe bet, no spectacular exit so ideal for the risk averse of those investing. I like the product though maybe a touch too expensive starting at $49USD a month.

Cloud Cannon were my top pick, followed by CommonLedger.

CommonLedger will have a competition issue and will probably be best to position themselves to be bought out quickly. They will be overtaken by deeper pockets if their concept starts to take off. Their CEO gave the impression they are going to build a global giant and may miss a good return which some investors could be spooked by.

Cloud Cannon though probably have the closest disruptive product but I spoke to a designer friend last night and there are major concerns with SEO ability if you get quite messy code that it would deliver the site through. There is no comparison to original source code being indexed. This service cuts out the core web developers who provide the framework/CMS which is why WordPress has been so popular. If they can get SEO to be great, then it’s a winner. Again, won’t take long for others with resources to reverse engineer. Great business model though.

What I didn’t see from any of the teams though is a disruptive produce that carves out a niche which cannot simply be reversed engineered, or copied by teams with deeper pockets, more experience and crucially an existing customer base to test, and get faster feedback from. There were a couple of self-proclaimed engineers and maths geeks, however no one stated their competitive advantage was an algorithm that is one of the few things not easily replicated.

 

 

 


To business plan or startup plan? That is the question Peter Kerr May 20

No Comments

Just at the time I have no clue what to write, up turns this blog, It’s well worth repeating.

I’ve written about Nicolai Thomson and LendYour, a startup ” to be the place people come to rent”.

Here’s his very well written observations on the difference between a business plan and a startup plan…with the word rhetoric in the opening sentence.

By Nicolai Thomson, CEO, LendYour.com

Follow him on Twitter @nicolaithomson

Believe it or not, there is a big difference between a Business Plan and a Start Up Plan. The following stories come from experience and not rigid theory. Stories help illustrate points, and provide context by somehow firmly embedding knowledge in the real world, unlike rhetoric which can lack grounding.

I was sixteen and still at school when I started my first business in the UK. I designed jewellery and had it made and imported from Hong Kong, along with Indian and Brazilian style costume jewellery. This was back in 1999 so the few pieces I actually sold were at car boot fairs and markets. It was fun, but not a lot came of this business other than my sister getting a huge box of stock once I was through with it all. But still I collected my lessons and learnings.

Four years later, at age twenty, I started Executive Hospitality which later became taxiclub.co.uk. We created a basic website that could give you real-time taxi quotes driven by owner-drivers all around the UK. We also offered, minivans and executive cars in addition to normal saloon cars. We basically did half of what Uber does today, except back in 2003 so we were ahead of the game. We sold the company in November 2005 for an acceptable figure and it still operates today. I took off and travelled around the world for three months before deciding to start over in bonny New Zealand.

Although both experience were helpful and I learnt a lot, my fundamental mistake was having no Business Plan. Without well-thought-out visions and strategies the businesses floundered. We had no problems working out our short-term tactics, which got us short-term gain, but we had nothing to help us attain longer-term goals or even just a steady footing.

Too many people out there assume that a Business Plan is the first thing you should do. Don’t get me wrong, there is a place for a Business Plan, and it must be comprehensive, but if you are either thinking about, or have got beyond that to starting a business, then you need to start with a Start Up Plan. A Start Up Plan will give you time to think about the business without being bogged down in trying to work out financials or marketing strategies when you should be thinking about your vision and initial strategy.

How do you proceed with a Start Up Plan and what are the benefits?

First thing you need to think about is your vision, which should not fundamentally change unless there is a complete change in direction.

My latest venture, LendYour, started out as a simple marketplace website wanting to list holiday homes, motorhomes and boats, but that idea soon crystallised and we decided we wanted to be an international network providing mobile-first search, pricing, booking and review services for cars, vans, trucks and motorhomes — so, anything that drives on a road. Our vision, however, barely changed and has always remained “To be the place people come to rent”. Rock solid.

Do you have a grand vision for your business yet? If so, be sure to check your vision is not the same as what your product is meant to do. Your vision is what your legacy will say about you and your business. Richard Branson’s vision for Virgin is to ‘Improve society through the businesses we operate’.

Some may call this idealistic, but it reminds everyone that we’re here to enhance other people’s lives. In other words don’t be selfish, help others first. Imagine if every business in the world was there to enhance other people’s lives, and their actions were held accountable by boards and shareholders. This world would look very different!

Next is your strategy that is produced by thinking a lot about your goals and objectives. It’s OK and expected that these change often so don’t feel you are a dreamer that never does anything because strategy is the hardest, and takes the longest. It’s also what your product is. You should refer to your business idea as the benefit to your customer of using your product — don’t go around saying you are building ABC for the XYZ industry. Sell the benefits, not features because they are the things that a customer can relate to.

A company I have really enjoyed watching grow over the last six months is Groove. Their first description of the business focused on what they do, which quite rightly is “SaaS & eCommerce Customer Support”. It was bringing thousands of visitors to the site but did not get many sign-ups. Why? “… it doesn’t give me a single reason to do business with you” was the feedback.

Groove’s team then spoke with customers, asked their advice, and why they used Groove — a journey that could’ve happened at the very beginning.

The outcome and new message was “Everything you need to deliver awesome, personal support to every customer”. Conversions nearly doubled.

Perhaps building in Groove’s awesome customer support in to our software would be even more beneficial to my customers?

Think about your tactics last, as they could change daily or even hourly. Don’t be tempted to think about tactics until you have your strategy nailed. Tactics are ideas that turn your strategy into a business, which then absolutely requires a Business Plan, funding, sleepless nights and little social life.

I decided to apply the above Groove example to LendYour by describing our benefits to target customers and asking them, “If this product existed, would it be important enough that you would make it one of the top priorities for you or your company this year?”

The first client feedback shifted our strategy slightly, and after accepting and proposing that change he promptly said yes and committed to paying $25 a month for the basic plan. A sale! Talk about a confidence boost.

It’s only at this point that you need to think about detailed financial forecasts, sales strategies and marketing plans with your team.

Must haves of a Start Up Plan

Your Start Up Plan should be no more than 1 page long, and answer the following:

  1. What is the vision for your business? A good question to ask yourself is what’s the purpose of your business even existing. Be honest.

  2. Set your goals and objectives. Goals are not tangible things you can easily measure, whereas objectives are. Goals are also broad; objectives are narrow. This is how your strategies comes in to being, and are the two sentences on your Start Up Plan that you need to keep updating whenever your ideas change. Your objectives will reveal clues as to your competitive advantages too.

  3. Your team. Do a SWOT analysis on them. If you do not know what a SWOT analysis is find out. At this stage your answers to each can just be one or two words. Pretend you are in a large company, then ask yourself if you would employ the team you are heading up to launch this internal project you are writing a business case for. Again, answer honestly, and write down the concerns you would have because in a few months time you may have overcome those issues and its useful to have them written down to remind yourself of the progress you are making.

  4. Identify your three core markets or industries you are going to be involved in. This is where you go looking for your target customers.

  5. Identify what you can charge money for. Allow the answer to this question to influence your goals and objectives heavily. Neither of these questions has to be detailed at all, they are there for you to reflect on as your ideas change the strategy.

Once you have written this down, print it out and stick it on your wall somewhere you will see often. You are now ready to formulate strategies. Write them all down somewhere electronic and cloud-based so you can edit and add to them often. I use Evernote that has been absolutely amazing for this exercise. Every now and then I scroll down through my various notes about objectives and goals, growth, revenue, markets, or quotes I realise how far the business and my thinking have come.

Once you have those fundamentals it’s time to start refining that elevator pitch but don’t be rushed in to working it out until you have given due time to thinking about your strategy. If you rush, you may make mistakes and the probability of you going bust will be much higher than they need to be.

Don’t be afraid of spending an extra 2-3 months thinking and talking about your strategy to target customers. You may have noticed I have not talked about friends and family during the thinking period. Proceed with caution, because your ideas are going to change so often that you risk others close to you doubting your ideas and ability, which has serious knock-on effects to your confidence. Talk to the people who would be paying customers before friends and family.

Next, if you are up to it, write about your experience somewhere because it will be extremely useful to many people out there struggling to get to Start Up ‘first base’. Good luck!

Follow Nicolai on Twitter @nicolaithomson


Chipping in for multicore champion – let’s get parallel programming Peter Kerr Feb 04

4 Comments

 You’ve got to admire someone who has a vision, almost as much as someone who is prepared to use the word vision.

So here’s a plug for Nicolas Erdody, founder of Open Parallel, and more importantly the organiser of Multicore World Conference 2014.

Erdody’s well aware that computer hardware power – where many cores (essentially single computers) can be placed on a single chip – has advanced beyond the IT industry’s ability to program for such beasts.

In this light, he’s put together for a third consecutive year a two-day conference at Auckland’s AUT on 25 and 26 February that brings together many global experts on dealing with this challenge.

Naturally Erdody’s keen to get as many attendees to the world-class event as possible (just under $1000 for full attendance, including a conference dinner on the Tuesday night).

Equally he wants NZ Inc to wake up to the realisation that there’s a real opportunity for our collective psyche and IT infrastructure to ride the just-beginning wave of programming possibilities that exist around multicore coding.

Erdody’s passionate that a concentrated effort of NZ government, commercial interest, engineering and developers’ communities, R&D and academia could provide programming solutions for multicore.

Given that multicore’s parallel coding requirements are weightless, location agnostic, and an increasing problem needing to be solved, Erdody’s dead right about the opportunity.

Rounding up the collective cats to bring it to fruition, even in a country as only two degrees of separation connected as New Zealand has been an ongoing challenge for the Oamaru (yes, you read that right), former Uruguayan businessman.

However he must be doing something right. After two years staging the event in Wellington, for the third conference Erdody has pulled Auckland’s AUT (Auckland University of Technology) onboard as one of the sponsors, along with well-known open source software promoters Catalyst IT, SKA Organisation (from the UK) Cray Inc, NesI, NZOSS, MBIE, ThinkAgency, Scoop Media and NVIDIA.

There are more than 20 speakers at MCW2014, with over two-thirds of them from overseas.

Erdody would love to see as many IT managers, CTOs and CIOs, engineers and developers as possible at what is cutting edge thinking – and what is sure to be an inside look at where computing is heading in the immediate and not-to-distant future.

In a sense (though Erdody’s too polite to say this), anyone connected with the IT industry at even a slightly senior level would be a fool not to be there – if not for the speaker quality, then for the informal conversations which alone can often be worth the price of admission.

Additionally, on February 27 & 28, Erdody’s helped organise in association with AUT’s Dr. Andrew Ensor and Prof. Sergei Gulyaev a Square Kilometer Array (Computing for SKA) Workshop – the global initiative, using radio telescopes based in South Africa, Australia and New Zealand to better map the universe.  (New Zealand is a full member of the 10 country SKA Organisation, which is a cornerstone sponsor of MCW2014).

(Incidentially, Open Parallel is the only New Zealand company that leads a work package of, admittedly a small part of a huge international effort, the design phase of the SKA. Open Parallel’s contribution to the SKA isn’t funded by the NZ government, and, as a result, Erdody would appreciate international sponsorship or donors for the effort).

Finally, and getting back to the ‘vision thing’ (as accidentally coined by George Bush), Erdody deserves recognition for hammering away at an opportunity for New Zealand.

Our country could position itself as a centre of excellence and make lots of money by solving multicore programming problems for others.

Who is up for the discussion, the challenge and the prospect?

(In particular, government-type advisers looking for the next big thing, are you listening?)


‘Always be pitching, looking for feedback’ – Wipster’s Rollo Wenlock Peter Kerr Nov 19

No Comments

“Get your idea out there as much as possible, pitch it to everyone, even to strangers in a cafe, see what happens. If it doesn’t resonate, you probably don’t have anything.”

That was Wipster head sherang’s advice given at Wellington’s Entrepreneur’s Club in mid October.

Wipster was part of the Capital’s Lightning Lab initial inductees, and successfully pitched to 150 investors at Demo-Day in Mid-May. This capital raising brought in $600,000 for the startup – though this took a fair bit of too-ing and fro-ing, and it wasn’t till August that the money was locked down.

The cloud platform based service allows work-in-progress videos to be easily shared with team mates and clients, who can annotate feedback directly on the video.

Essentially, it streamlines the whole video-making process, with the video itself becoming the canvas for all communication to go through.

Compared to endless email chains which require naming a particular timestamp of the video, and then the editor having to go back and forwards from email to video, it is a neat solution to a problem says Rollo Wenlock.

He’s been in the video/film production and editing arena for a number of years, so is well versed in the frustrations of getting a final, edited and agreed by all participants, video out the door.

Considering that Wenlock had his lightbulb moment for what became Wipster only last November, he and Wipster have come a long way. Admittedly, Wipster’s been testing ever-improving versions of their product to those who have signed up as Beta customers.

But more importantly, the company’s about to hire a rockstar marketing/sales person whose sole focus will be to get out and sell to some of an estimated two million video-makers around the world, with a November 1 release date for a thoroughly tested product.

This includes staying in touch with, and letting some of the 2000 people using the software know what is happening, and using them to test and help refine Wipster.

Wipster now also has a board of directors, a chief technical officer, designer, front end developer, “and myself”, says Wenlock.

But he’s a passionate promoter of Wipster, and leading the charge while learning new skills along the way.

He’s also clearly having a lot of fun in the new role.

“We’re always one step from failure; but by putting yourself in the firing line, there’s always the chance you’re going to succeed magnificently.”

Wenlock gave two (formal) pieces of advice – given that the entire 20 minute informal presentation was a wealth of how to’s.

  • The importance of a startup getting to ‘product market fit’. This can take months – and is validated is when you get multiple customers buying the product
  • Startup is a buzzword. Focus on what problem you are solving; and then what’s your solution is to that problem.

“Then tell everyone. Don’t secretly develop it, loudly develop it. You’re building a business, and that’s why nobody gives a s#@t about the idea – action is the only thing,” he says.

Wenlock calculates that if Wipster can be useful for 5% of the two million video producers, who will be happy to pay $49/month for the service, then a viable business can be created.

The Wipster team also has a range of additional features ready to be rolled out, which will compliment the core feature ‘comment on the video’, but it all needs validating…

Wenlock’s zeal for Wipster, and ability to succinctly explain why it is good and the problem it solves is obviously key to its ongoing success in such a short timespan.

The recent launch of the 9th edition of the TIN 100 (successful high technology companies) showed that much of NZ’s ICT international success is based on being in the cloud, with a SaaS (software as a service) for which recurring revenue is generated.

Wipster ticks all the boxes.

Don’t be surprised to see this Wipster weightless product making the lower echelons of the TIN 100 (the TIN 100+, more than $2 million in revenue a year) in the not too distant future


Failing companies the most open to new ideas – Wes Yun, UX Design Day Peter Kerr Oct 15

No Comments

“The most exciting places to work are those big companies that are failing. They’re most open to ideas, they have nothing to lose. They’re looking for the Hail Mary pass.”

[American gridiron quarterback’s hope and a prayer hurl of the ball down the field in the faith it’ll be caught by one of his own players]

Wes Yun


This counter-intuitive comment, in an offline conversation with the UX Design Day’s keynote speaker Wes Yun, was one of the unexpected aha moments of an event which attracted a fullhouse of 360 attendees. It was also the first conference to be held in Wellington’s refurbished Shed 6.

(No doubt) using design thinking, the organisers had Yun as the last speaker of the day rather than the first – so there wasn’t that gradual crowd erosion that often happens at these sort of do’s.

The self-deprecating American designer these days is creative director at Samsung (USA), but among other stints has been Motorola, RIM (on its last legs at now renamed Blackberry) and FHM (as it was creating its online platform in the early 2000s).

A few of his take home points in his hour-long (but it didn’t seem it) presentation were:

  • When you’re designing something new, you have to be aware of the old thing you’re displacing (the old thing, or the people attached to it in various ways may not be that keen to be replaced)
  •  Get comfortable with failure. If at first you don’t fail…try…fail again
  • Don’t fail fast. Listen fast

Yun also made the observation that it is a fascinating time to be a designer.

“Everybody ‘gets’ what you’re talking about, that your trying to influence for the better, culture society, the world, behaviour.”

And for a couple of other take home points (unfortunately I was only able to make the later afternoon session).

Ruth Brown, head of UX at Trademe:

Ruth Brown

  • Data is the new coal. Abundant, dirty and bloody difficult to mine…but coal drove the industrial revolution (told to her by her friend Hansa, who received it from her friend Pierre, who is not sure where he got it from)
  • Design like you know everything. Listen like you know nothing

Resn designer Marcus Brown:

Marcus Brown

  • Audio adds the emotion. (Marcus reckons that so often designers are concentrating on the pictures, graphics and movement, they tack on the music and sound at the end almost as an after-thought. Compare that to the movies where audio is a key component right from the beginning – it adds to the overall feeling

This was an excellent event, and those people I asked who had been there all day felt they’d learned lots.

As a plug, and a hope that this inaugural UX Design Day is repeated next year, get there if you can.


The heart of the matter, and a matter of the heart, is design by intention Peter Kerr Oct 01

No Comments

Seeing as on the design side of things I’m more in the ‘I know when it works, I just don’t know how to do it properly’ camp…here’s a plug to the UX Design Day.

UX stands for User Experience – a customer-oriented view of whatever it is you’re offering.

This is happening on October 10 at Shed 6 in Wellington – and part of the reason to give it a boost is (as you’d hope and expect) the great website and more they’ve created.

Again, based on great design, they extracted half an hour of my time clicking through some of their 60 useful design resources. In case you can’t decide which of these to further browse, there’s even an option to play resource roulette!

Here’s what the organisers say about the one day, $150 event (which in the scheme of conferences is pretty good value it strikes me).

UX Design words, jpeg

Knowing that I don’t know much or enough about design, and that my son’s about to embark on (as yet undecided exactly what) design-oriented tertiary education, I’m looking forward to finding out more about the whole subject.

It’s a big gap in my understanding – and, apparently, you’re never too old to learn.

They’ve even included a ‘Convince your boss’ page. It takes you to a single page explanation/justification, with a box in the top left hand corner to put your name into. Very cool and clever.


Showcase site demonstrates how others can digitally engage with members Peter Kerr Sep 10

No Comments

Jamie Houston of Honk Marketing has been using his own (sideline, but now about to turn profitable) business as a showcase of how others can use the web to improve customer interaction.

This blog gives a few of the lessons the Wellingtonian has learned (and builds on a first story about him here).

As a lover of music in general and ukuleles in particular, Houston did a fair bit of research and found it was a very popular niche, with groups of like-minded people.

Hence, he has set up his, ‘Love My Ukulele’ website, which is intimately linked to a Facebook page.

Now, at the time of interview, Houston had over 6500 likes on this page. He’s also spent a few dollars on Facebook to specifically target/advertise to self-confessed Uke lovers.

And the Facebook Page is being constantly updated; but, rather than have to constantly find new material, he uses content submitted by his ‘members’ which is displayed proudly on his LMU website. When people Like his Facebook page, they’re asked if they wish to ‘join’ the LMU Club, a Self-Hosted WordPress website, with a Pinterest-like plug in and Blog section showing photos of people with their Ukes and featuring articles from the ‘members’.

The signer-uppers also receive weekly newsletter emails about ukulele-related tips, products, stories, and goings on.

From those Facebook likes, Houston has had over 750 people join his LMU mailing list – along with a little bit of information (including where they live), and a disclaimer that LMU has the copyright to re-user material posted on the site (including member-generated blogs and pictures). This is all done on a legal page.

Equally, this is all done automatically, and Houston can easily segment this ‘club’ that people have joined through their own volition.

As he says too, Facebook can easily change its rules, and just as MySpace disappeared, could become quickly unfashionable. For this reason, encouraging Uke-lovers to join his email list and use his own website, over which he has control, is a key part of his marketing strategy.

But, by also posting photos and stories that appear on the LMU website, back to Facebook, the possibility of fans liking and sharing the love is increased, and with it the word of mouth opportunities continue to grow.

“My objective is to build a mailing list off Facebook,” says Houston. “From there it is a soft-sell, that’s the strategy; the more-so because it is a heart-based one.”

One example is a community-voted-on T-shirt design. Using a crowd-funding platform, in which those wanting (and willing to pay NZ$40) a certain ukulele-inspired T-shirt, those signed-up knew that 50 people would have to pre-pay via credit cards before the ‘go’ button would be pressed at a USA-based printer who made and posted the finished article. (Only then too would their money be transferred)

So far Houston’s made two different crowd sourced and funded T-shirts.

“The strategies we’re using are cutting edge,” says Houston. “It is about engagement and having fun. We’re also straight up, not hiding anything, though 99% of people don’t read the small print telling them that we will make money if they purchase anything we recommend.”

Houston says LMU is in-effect a scalable, duplicable (by himself and others) effort, that is automated to a large extent.

Posting new material, at this stage anyway, is easy, and he’ll be looking at new ways to build off the mailing list – including affiliate sales of Uke-related products from the website.

He says that by understanding products that are freely, or relatively cheaply, available to all through the internet, people can build a separate business.

Of course too, he’s happy to act as an adviser to others wishing to automate customer engagement, and earn a reward for his own years of learning how all this works.

At the moment though, his LMU acts as an exemplar for those he sells his consultancy services to, and he’s got other potential niches up his sleeve.

For example, lots of people like cats enough to wish to be part of a group dedicated to moggies.

Don’t be surprised to see something turn up on that one day!


Network-wide options by YD - Freelance Wordpress Developer