Friday, March 31, 2006

Amazon: the risk of success

I'll make one last comment on the whole "Amazon Rude CTO" flap (see Shel Israel's post entitled "Why Amazon Should Blog"), and that is that Amazon's great success over the past decade (since 1995) itself poses a great risk for the company. It's difficult to achieve success, but it's far too easy to build a fortress around that success and try to protect it like gold at Fort Knox. The only proven technique for "guarding" your success is to, as they say, "eat your own children", meaning that you must innovate the obsolescence of your own cherished business systems. There are all sorts of terms like "Innovator's Dilemma", "Creative Destruction", "Disruptive Technologies", etc. that make the point that attempting to treat your "success" as an inherently protectable "asset" is a big, big mistake. The biggest mistake that a business can possibly make.

What the Amazon Rude CTO flap seems to demonstrate is an attempt by Amazon to raise the drawbridges and retreat inside the warm and comfortable fortress that has protected them over the past decade. That is a huge mistake.

By hiding behind demands for hard numbers and holding up impossible standards for new ideas, Amazon is committing the single biggest sin that any business can make: they are unnecessarily cutting off options, the kind of options that can present either great opportunities for their future success, or great opportunities for some new, small, nimble up-start start-up to unseat an arrogant incumbent.

With that, I shall formally retire from The Great Amazon Rude CTO Flap of 2006... unless somebody at Amazon decides to further stir the pot.

In its place, I will renew my original "invitation" for Amazon's top and middle management team to place a blog front and center on their main web page and start engaging customers and other stakeholders in true, meaningful, naked conversations.

-- Jack Krupansky

Amazon needs a friendly Web 2.0 face

I think we all appreciate that Amazon is a wonderfully fine-tuned "machine", but we also have to recognize that the world is gradually moving away from the brutal efficiency orientation of Web 1.0 to the friendly, smiling-face social computing world of Web 2.0.

Yes, we want Amazon to continue to be hyper-efficient, but as each day goes by, another batch of new Web 2.0 consumers come online and they will be increasingly intolerant of anything that resmbles a faceless automaton.

Memo to Amazon: Blog or perish. And by "blog", I mean naked conversations that leave the consumer feeling that you are sincerely listening, not megaphones aimed at consumers that leave them feeling like force-fed prisoners.

-- Jack Krupansky

Amazon: blogging vs. naked conversations

I as continue to think though the ramifications of the recent Amazon Rude CTO Flap, one of my (tentative) conclusions is that part of the problem is a slight communications issue, namely the distinction between the general concept of "Blogging" and the more specific concept of "Naked Conversations". It is quite clear that Amazon's CTO does have a reasonable understanding of blogging, in general, but it is also abundantly clear that he is completely clueless or at least in complete denial about the concept of a naked conversation and the concept of engaging customers and other stakeholders in true, meaningful, two-way conversations.

Just to be clear, Amazon's CTO "gets" the technology aspects of blogging and probably the insider and professional aspects of blogging, but does seem relatively clueless about the consumer angle.

Maybe he enjoys interacting with the elite up in his Ivory tower too much to be troubled with taking the time to converse with mere customers.

Amazon is certainly pushing the envelope with a lot of technologies and maybe they are simply too busy to be bothered, but the real bottom line is that they have failed miserably at their most recent encounter with the blogging community.

I took one look at Mr. Vogel's picture on his blog and the message that instantly comes across is "I'm *REALLY* serious and I'm clearly the smartest guy in the room, so don't think for even one millisecond that *ANYTHING* you have to say could possibly interest me". Who knows, maybe he's really a nice, open-minded guy, but his picture, his post, and his overall public (blogosphere) tone is not one that invites naked conversations, especially of the consumer type.

My constructive advice to Jeff Bezos is to put a blog or at least a "Blog" button right up front on your main web page and do a little blogging yourself and encourage some of your consumer-oriented employees to contribute to that blog, but please, please, please keep your pit-bull CTO locked up somewhere where he and your gnomes can crank out innovative infrastructure and user-interface code, but avoid like the plague any possibility that any customer or other stakeholder might run the risk of encountering his arrogant, aggressive, "refreshingly blunt" behavior. We want naked conversations, not brutal conversations.

-- Jack Krupansky

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Amazon as a Corporate America 2.0 company - NOT!

I was reading over on Shel Israel's Red Couch blog in a post entitled "Amazon's CTO Retorts" about the flap that arose when the Naked Conversations guys gave a presentation at Amazon. I may comment more fully (although you can read my comments at Shel's post), but my main point is that the flap illustrates the fact that Amazon is not what I would call a Corporate America 2.0 company, not even close. They don't appear to be even remotely convinced that the "benefits" of blogging and "naked conversations" with customers, potential customers, and other stakeholders outweigh the "risks". They seem, well, rather arrogant.

I would note that it is the best-functioning companies who have the greatest risks. Look at GM
today compared to a few decades ago. Where will Amazon be in 5 years if they don't push the envelope and take every conceivable risk to leapfrog ahead?

The greatest risk for Amazon on the blogging front is inaction.

I'll close on a positive, constructive note and simple invite Amazon to add an open, conversational blog (or at least a "Blog" button) on their main web page. How hard can that be? What risk does it really entail?

Oh, and let me suggest that Shel Israel and Robert Scoble are due a sincere apology directly and publicly from Amazon's CTO for his poor behavior. A post on his blog should be sufficient, but... I want to see a "Blog" button on Amazon's main web page!!

I further extend an invitation to Amazon to join the (currently empty) ranks of and strive to build their entire business around the concept of "naked conversations" with stakeholders. Some company has to be the first big company to do so, why can't it be Amazon? If not, maybe some little nobody self-funded Web 2.0 startup might be plotting at this very moment to rise up and un-seat Amazon.

Final question: What steps will Amazon now have to take to recover from the serious damage to their reputation that the "Amazon CTO flap" has incurred?

-- Jack Krupansky

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Personal Webosphere

I was commenting over on Shel Israel's Red Couch blog for a post entitled "The Importance of Seeing Ernest" and typed the term "" and then realized that I had never seen it before. Sure enough, even Google hasn't seen it.

So, I'll define it...

(1) A is the network of personal relationships that you have established on the Web.

(2) The  is the collection of all individual Personal Webospheres.

-- Jack Krupansky

How to get to Corporate America 2.0

I recently suggested that we need to push for something I call , which focuses on getting Corporate America to really engage its stakeholders in meaningful conversations right upfront on the main page of their web sites. Now the question is how we can move forward towards achieving such a vision.

I don't have tons of bright ideas right now, but at least I recognize that it is time to start thinking out what strategies and tactics would be appropriate and effective.

Maybe a starting point is to identify some specific "target" companies and then contemplate what changes would be needed for those companies.

Start thinking... (and commenting)...

-- Jack Krupansky

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Blogging as a sole source of income

Since I'm about to lose my current client out here in Boulder, Colorado, the question pops into my head as to whether blogging might become my sole source of income (or at least my primary source).

There are two issues:

  1. What can I blog about that will attract a large enough audience?
  2. What is my minimum level of income that will cover my basic living expenses?

An unfortunate aspect of my current financial situation is that I have to pay about $700 per month to cover back taxes. That would peg my minimum income at about $29,000. Given my diminished financial situation I might be able to have my back tax payments reduced, maybe to $350 per month, which would put my minimum income at about $24,000. Without the back taxes at all, my minimum income would be about $18,400.

So, the question becomes whether there is any realistic approach to blogging that I can take that would bring in an income of $25K to $30K? Anybody have any thoughts on this?

Sure, I could supplement my blogging income in some way, but I'm sure various unexpected expenses will likely eat up any supplement that I might come up with.

Currently, I make a very small amount of money each month from AdSense ads on my non-blog web sites (basically, the income covers my hosting expenses), but I make next to nothing from the ads on my blogs. I would need a strategy to make the change and change dramatically.

Hmmmm... plenty to think about.

-- Jack Krupansky

Monday, March 27, 2006

Now available for software consulting - Me - April 15 (or earlier)

I'll be finishing up with my current client by the middle of April and working half-time until then, so I am now available to consider new engagements.

I am open to considering software development work, but I'd prefer to do some work related to blogging or venture capital (e.g., due diligence), possibly helping technology startups get off the ground.

My resume can be found here:
Or, just Google my name.

-- Jack Krupansky

Now available - Me

I'll be finishing up with my current client by the middle of February and working half-time until then, so I am now available to consider new engagements.

I am open to considering software development work, but I'd prefer to do some work related to blogging or venture capital (e.g., due diligence), possibly helping technology startups get off the ground.

My resume can be found here:
Or, just Google my name.

-- Jack Krupansky

Friday, March 17, 2006

Corporate America 2.0

Continuing on with my endless rant about "corporate blogging" failing to live up to my expectations, I propose the term as a conceptual placeholder for businesses that really commit to the concept of seriously engaging their customers and other stakeholders in a public and "naked" manner (i.e., without pretensions and ill-disguised agendas).

I don't have a fixed set of expectations for , but they might include the following:

  1. A prominent "Blog" button on the business' main web page, as well on any other important web pages that are associated with a product or service that a customer or other stakeholder might "land" on.
  2. No requirement that senior executives must blog, but corporate representatives who are both knowledgeable and have the authority to make decisions and do something relative to blog comments is a requirement. Product managers and engineers and corporate strategists would all be welcome.
  3. It would be nice for senior executives to occasionally "check in", with some meaningful posts or even comments on other posts, and especially comment on reader comments and engage in some "naked conversations".
  4. There should be regular "Tell us what you'd like to hear about" posts so readers can provide give arbitrary feedback that may be off-topic for recent posts. Corporate representatives should endeavor to be responsive to such feedback/requests. Don't force readers to send feedback only by email or some "contact us" web page. Sure, it's okay to allow anonymous or private feedback, but lets try to encourage public discussion.

That's a start. No sense going further until some people in decide that they want to make the leap over to .

Startups of course have no excuse for not starting out as  from Day One.

Oh? You don't have the staff to be responsive to customers? Well, it is absolutely okay to recruit users as surrogate representatives. Give them special briefings, corporate visits, etc. so they have the background to be responsive.

So, , what are you waiting for?

-- Jack Krupansky

Wells Fargo has a blog

I keep complaining that big corporations don't have blogs that actually connect and converse with their customers. Now, Wells Fargo has come out with a "corporate blog" focused on the anniversary of the great 1906 earthquake in San Francisco and the general topic of earthquake preparedness. It's called Guided by History.

I found out about their blog from a post by Shel Israel entitled "Wells Fargo Starts a Blog." Alas, I am unable to agree with those who think this blog is a "good start" on the path of corporate blogging. Here are the comments that I made on Shel's post:


There is nothing wrong with the Wells Fargo blog per se, but it is *not* an example of a business trying to "converse" with its customers and other stakeholders in a way that is meaningful to the purposes that customers have for wanting to do business with them.

Now, I actually am a Wells Fargo customer and actually don't have any significant complaints about them, but... Where are the "naked conversations"?

Yes, the 1906 earthquake is always a great topic of interest, but... where's the *relevance* to what us customers are expecting from the bank?

I have plenty of topics I'd love to discuss with big banks, but I assure you that discussions of earthquakes and history are *not* on my list.

I have other financial services business that I don't do with the bank for various reasons... why isn't Wells Fargo blogging in a way that at least tries to get at meeting customer needs that they aren't currently meeting?

I'm not saying that the WF blogging effort isn't "okay", but it appears to be a *diversionary* effort to *avoid* talking about... business and the needs and interests of customers.

Notice how many comments you see on their blog? (One.) One look at the disclaimer and caveats and I can assure you that I would *never* place a comment on their blog. In other words, they've set up a blog that by definition *can't* have "naked conversations".

Maybe some of these restrictions are required by government regulations, but can Wells Fargo honestly say that they have exhaustively pursued working with regulators to enable real blogging (true "naked conversations")? I suspect that WF could set up a distinct business unit/subsidiary that would be part of the parent company, but with an arm's length distance from the actual banking operation so that the banking regulations won't be an issue. It sounds like they haven't even *tried*.

Just to close on a note of constructive criticism, and hoping that Wells Fargo is reading these comments, here are three complaints for the bank to address concerning their web site:
1) Your web site doesn't support IE 7 Beta. Even my stock broker, electric utility, and the evil IRS do.
2) Your web site isn't set up so that browsers (IE, Firefox, et al) can save my login id and password.
3) I see no "Blog" button on your main web page.

Memo to Wells Fargo: Enough toe-dipping already... lets see some hard-core, skinny-dipping "naked conversations".

Any questions?


-- Jack Krupansky

I'm serious. I want to see corporate blogs that seriously attempt to engage their customers and other stakeholders.

Come on guys, no more excuses.

Now excuse me while I go back to their blog and read up on earthquake preparedness since I'll be traveling to San Francisco on Tuesday for a three-day stay. Hey, I never said their blog wasn't useful!

-- Jack Krupansky

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

SHOUT at Corporate America for refusing to engage in Naked Conversations

Shel Israel (of Naked Conversations fame) says that he is sorry that he shouted at some big companies for their lame blogging efforts. I disagree. I think he should SHOUT at them even more forcefully. Here are my comments that I made on his post:

Actually, I *do* think that you should *SHOUT* at them, because clearly they do not "get it" and will never get it until somebody shakes them up and convinces them that "naked conversations" are supposed to be far less like force-feeding prisoners or lecturing small children and much more like *normal* conversation.

As I've told Robert, not a single one of the vendors who provide me with products and services have a "blog" accessible from their main web page in which they are willing to engage in true, two-way, give-and-take "naked conversations" with customers.

Not a single one of them. Zip. Nada. Zilch. Nil.

This speaks vast volumes for the level of intense disdain that corporate America has for its customers.

Refraining from *SHOUTING* at them is unlikely to have a desirable effect on them.

But, I still don't think the situation is truly hopeless... surely a few of these companies can be con[vinced] to at least *try* to have a "naked conversation" in public with "the little people."

Is anybody from Corporate America reading this comment??

-- Jack Krupansky

Come on Corporate America and at least try to engage in real, meaningful conversations with your customers and those of us who could be your customers if only you started showing that you do care what we think.

-- Jack Krupansky

Monday, March 13, 2006

My blogging strategy

Although I really have nominally sworn off blogging for the next few months, I'm also finding that there are occasions when it has a distinct advantage. Not every day, but occasionally I stumble across something that just feels like it ought to be out on my blog feeds.

I'll also use my blogs if I have some sort of announcement to make. For example, if I have a new or updated document posted to one of my web sites, the blog is a way of alerting people to its existence.

I only read maybe a very few blog every day or two, but I'm also finding that blog posts really do occasionally show up on my many Google searches, so I read some blogs that way. In fact, just today a Google search found a blog post from 2004 which I found to be of value.

One thing hasn't changed: since my original blogging hiatus back in August 2005, I have felt no need to resort to using a web feed aggregator (BlogLines, NewsGator, et al). I find that interesting.

So, that's my current "blogging strategy" in a nutshell.

-- Jack Krupansky

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

"Bug" using IE 7 Beta: some web pages too wide for screen

I've been running the Beta of Microsoft IE 7 for awhile now and noticed something strange today. A couple of web sites which should fit within the wide of the screen suddenly seemed a little wider than my screen (and I have a Toshiba notebook PC with a wide WXGA screen, too). I went back to Firefox and verified that the web sites hadn't changed, and they hadn't. I closed IE and restarted it. No help. I shutdown and rebooted. No help.

I noticed that text was bigger in IE than in Firefox. So, I manually racheted down "Text Size" in IE, but even that didn't fix the width problem.


Then, I noticed that way down in the lower right corner of the IE window there was an indicator that said "110%". Aha! There is a little magnifying glass with a plus sign next to that percentage and a drop-up menu that lets you set a magnification for the display of web pages. It is a cool new feature, better than tweaking just text size, and I have tried it on occasion, but I know that I had reset it back to 100% more than two weeks ago and that the web sites had looked fine yesterday. Who knows. Anyway, I set the magnification back to 100% (for each window/tab I had open) and all is once again fine in the world.

-- Jack Krupansky

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Updated Distributed Virtual Personal Computer (DVPC) proposal

I've just posted an updated version of my proposal for a Distributed Virtual Personal Computer (DVPC). Let me know what you think or if you know of competing proposals or products. Thanks.

I still have no intention of personally designing the details of such a product or even developing a business around the concepts, but I would like somebody to do it so that one of these days I can buy a new PC and it will come with DVPC right out of the box.

-- Jack Krupansky