» Archive for January, 2004

Book Review: The Invisible Computer

Thursday, January 29th, 2004 by Steven Morgan Friedman

The Invisible Computer
By Donald A Norman
Published By MIT Press

Review by Cassandra Mays

In The Invisible Computer, Donald Norman argues that “people are analog, not digital, biological not mechanical.  It is time for a human centered technology, a humane technology.”  He believes the computer industry is trapped by its own success, having to constantly produce faster more complex products.  The result, he claims, is intrusive and over-bearing technology.

Norman’s answer to this is to start over again with simple information appliances that are focused on the user.  Consequently, Norman argues manufacturers must develop a new approach to developing products by restructuring, changing processes and hiring people with human-centered skills in addition to technology-centered ones.  The result, if we are to take Normans word, is the “invisible computer” in which the technology disappears and humans can then focus on activities, learning, and doing their jobs.

Whether or not you agree with Norman, his arguments are well written and easily understood.  He does raise some interesting arguments such as, that “people should learn the task, not the technology.”  I believe, though, that  Norman is too idealistic, and as a result, his arguments can seem a little unbalanced.  For example, he fails to acknowledge that technology-focused companies have, and continue to make, very real contributions to simplifying our lifestyles and work processes.

Overall, Norman’s book, whilst both provocative and thoughtful, is too one-sided and ultimately one is left interested but unconvinced.

You can order this book online by clicking here:

The Internet is Broken (or how to deliver “free” broadband – and take two giant steps backwards – in one fell swoop)

Sunday, January 25th, 2004 by Jonathan Spira

Lotusphere 2004 started today (this COTW is being written on Sunday, the 25th of January), as it does every year at this time.  Traditionally, thousands of Lotus customers, business partners and members of the media descend on Walt Disney World, concentrating on the Dolphin and Swan hotels.

This year, I’m staying at the Swan which last year, along with the Dolphin, implemented broadband Internet access in all of its guest rooms.  Best of all, it’s free as it is included in the $10 per diem resort fee, which remained at the pre-broadband price.  After settling into their rooms, guests enjoyed speedy access to the Net, that is until the Lotusphere opening party wrapped and all the IBMers went back to their rooms.  At that point, my 1995 vintage 1200 baud modem would have been faster.  But whereas I would normally chalk that up to beginner’s, uh, luck, the same thing happened last year.

Today, I arrived in my suite just as the party was fizzling out.  I wasn’t suffering from Web or e-mail withdrawal, thanks to the variety of Bluetooth-enabled devices (laptop, PDA) which utilize my mobile for GPRS access.  But I did want to look at a few high-bandwidth Web sites so I connected to the hotel’s network.

Big mistake.

Something was dramatically wrong as even the Swan/Dolphin commercial page that loaded after the legal “accept” page didn’t make it past 4%.  So I called the help line.  “The Internet is actually broken,” I was told.  “Our servers are down so there’s no access.”  But I had access, albeit slow, I helpfully explained.  “They’re working on it” was the reply.  I thought about this for about two seconds and rang up the front desk manager, Jonathan, a cheerful chap who assured me that he had been on the Web earlier and hadn’t detected a problem – while at the same time advising that we all shared the same T1.  I think Jonathan hit on the root of the problem, as one T1 line couldn’t possibly be sufficient for all these guest rooms – especially given the number of high tech conferences taking place here.  But he checked on what I had been told and rang me back.  He was very apologetic, assuring me that the Internet, indeed, was “not broken.”  He even credited me a day and a half in resort fees, promising me the situation would improve.  [Did I mention that, while I was connected to the hotel's network, my computer received an RPC shutdown command that restarted the system - three times?]

So if anyone thinks that the high tech industry has made any great leaps in the hospitality industry over the past year, kindly give pause and rethink that thought.  And download our report “Romancing the Road Warrior: The Case for Free Net Access” – gratis for Basex:TechWatch readers.

Now I leave you with Jonathan’s final advice to me: “It might be faster if you use a phone line and dial an ISP.”  I wasn’t going to tell him about Bluetooth and GPRS, but that, dear reader, thanks to my belt and suspenders approach to Net access, is how you got to read this story.

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.

The New Year Brings KWIQ to the Enterprise

Friday, January 2nd, 2004 by Jonathan Spira

A new year is a tabula rasa, full of possibilities.  It is also the time to reflect on what could have been, as well as what will be, in Collaborative Business Knowledge.

As an analyst, I hear more than my fair share of what “will” be, some of which never materializes.  I also hear from end users about what works, more often about what doesn’t work, what their companies are deploying, and what issues they come up against as they deploy Collaborative Business Environments.  Frequently, managers enquire as to what impact they should expect when deploying a CBE.  Until recently, my colleagues and I found it difficult to nail this down.  Yes, vendors speak of lower costs, greater productivity, faster time to market, but how might one scientifically measure one CBE against another.

To that end, Basex has created the Knowledge Worker Impact Quotient, or KWIQ.  KWIQ allows prospective purchasers to understand better and to predict how a Collaborative Business Environment may impact a company and its workers. Specifically, it is the measure that describes the range of positive impact a Collaborative Business Environment can be expected to have on a knowledge worker.  The higher the KWIQ rating, the better a company’s chances of improving the bottom line, either as a result of costs savings or from improved profits.

Of course, as the fine print always says, “your results will vary” from one environment to another – the same product deployed in different companies will have different impact levels.  You, dear reader, will see KWIQ in Basex reports designed to help managers decide between various CBK tools.  We hope it will be helpful.

My New Year’s resolution is to open more channels to our readers so we can better understand your issues.  To start that off, I would like to invite you to submit your greatest issues and challenges for 2004 for discussion.  Simply click here and type away.

Jonathan B. Spira is CEO and Chief Analyst at Basex.