Grab a mic!

With the launch of the new site, many have already started subscribing to the enterpriseGeeks podcast hosted by Ed and Tom, others have probably also see the new eGeek TV section. A crazy brain child of mine I’m extremely grateful to see it already loaded with content from the popular ABAP Freak Show as well as Starship Enterprisey. Now I have spent a lot of time and energy focusing on audio and video media content over the past couple of years and have probably recorded hundreds of hours of combined audio and video as well. Am I an expert? By no means, however I am very good and finding ways to make it all work together (no comments on my designs please) so it’s probably no surprise to see that I am very interested in how these media types, video in particular can add a hefty benefit to the Enterprise software world and the Enterprise world in general.

Although probably not the most straightforward engagement my interests in these types of channels of communication arise not from college work, expert studies or any of the such but rather from a film – Pump Up the Volume. Surprising? Stick around this is probably one of the most diverse and unusual groups of like minded people you’ll come across, apart from the Enterprise Irregulars.

So what about this film has planted it’s roots in my brain to have me go about doing my own Internet TV show now? Well, one of the “lines” from the film was “Steal the Air.” Of course this was all about a pirate radio station and that havoc one kid can cause trying to get the truth out to the world regarding the trouble lives of teens but I think we might actually being seeing this very concept now.In a positive way mind you.

So many times I see internal memos about “open door policies” or I hear one manager say that to an employee or one VP to another, the Enterprise world is full of brilliant and creative minds and many ears that are willing to listen but HOW does one get heard? I can think of many cases of a person with an idea being bounced from one email address to another without finding the right person to hear their idea. It’s a shame and companies like my own (SAP) have implemented programs in order to help streamline the idea sharing process, others (Salesforce) have done so with their own products. The reach however is extremely limited, only those in the “know” are there and speaking up, you are still missing the mass population within the Enterprise and that I fear will lead to dissension amongst the troops. It’s time the Enterprise world look seriously at enabling their most powerful weapon in the market place, their employees and end users. SAP and Oracle both have done excellent jobs with their respective developer communities but the lack of end user communities is simply disturbing. Being in the business of community though I also know that this market, the end user, is also one of the most difficult to engage. Perhaps it’s that most do their job and go home whilst developers tend to do their job then go talk to others about what they did?

So where does all this lead? I think it leads to the following prediction, the predication that 98% of the content on the internet will be (think “Pennycam” fromLost in Space) video content sites like Kyte.tv,uStream, Qik and Veodia might be the new “black” in terms of the places to be!

I explored this topic in the summer of 2007,

Over half the web’s content is now digital video, my friend JD Lasica, a citizen video expert says. He says many predict the web will eventually be 98 percent video.

Source: Global Neighbourhoods: Why Ustream will change mainstream

I was not sure and I am still not sure 100% about that number, however I did some browsing and found the following interesting statistics in 2007:

Granted not a large sampling but an interesting trend, toss in a few of the new “online” video editors and it seems that perhaps life is getting to be more of a “dynamic photo” style these days. Check these Top U.S. Online Streaming Video Properties numbers.

Now a year and a half later the question still remains, the following numbers are available.

  • 12.7 billion – The number of online videos watched by American Internet users in a month (November 2008).
  • 87 – The number of online videos viewed per month per Internet user in USA.
  • 34% – The increase in viewing of online video in USA compared to 2007.
  • 3.1 – The number of minutes of an average online video.

Compare that to the number of websites as listed by the same source.

  • 186,727,854 – The number of websites on the Internet in December 2008.
  • 31.5 million – The number of websites added during 2008.

What does that mean for the Enterprise though? I felt strongly then, that the Enterprise should look at this area of technology and that the numbers were speaking for themselves. Now as I consider the problem of the “end user voice” I think it’s even more pertinent now that we push forward!

The first question I think needs to be answered, is their a reason for Enterprise to even give this a thought and I think the numbers speak for themselves (provided the prediction is true).

I still see my plausible “path” to embracing video in the Enterprise world from 2007 holding true today, in fact I also see more reasons for this path to be taken. Certainly many will argue that audio is much more comfortable since “coders” don’t have the time to stop coding to watch a video and if the video doesn’t actually show anything then why bother. However as I stated above the Enterprise is made up of a much larger number of end users and information workers that needs are simply not being met. Certainly coders are an active group with a loud voice but they also need to listen to rest of the Enterprise when it comes to working with their software.

Also want to ensure I point out that there is another side of this story that simply can’t be ignored like fellow eGeek and Irregular, Dan, pointed out to me. Text, text is still and will continue to be a major point of information on the net. You simply can not ignore accessibility issues or the power of the written word. Certainly Adobe (and others) has done massive inroads into deep linking as well as Speech to Text conversion, noticeably in Adobe’s newest release of Soundbooth. Not to mention a major highlight, Adobe advances Rich Media search on the web. Dan’s point and one well taken is that,

So the percentages are skewed because of a missing cog in the technical  wheel not because it’s better or preferreable.  You need both text and video/audio.

Again these are just my opinions (and on Dan’s part) of course and probably differs from many of you. Neither of us have advance knowledge of pending activities in this regards. We’ve just got gut feelings.

OK, now I tend to look more to the simple approach to things and base my thoughts on the real world experiences I’ve had as a developer in the enterprise world. These opinions also imply in no way the thoughts, opinions or strategy of my employer.

  • The Personal Touch
  • The Personal Chat
  • The Hammer
  • Facial Recognition

Expanding upon that I’d also add…

  • My Voice

The next set of items are from my original blog post in 2007 with a few minor changes and additions.

The Personal Touch

This is probably my favorite aspect of development and one that most developers never actually get to have, the personal touch is my ability to personally interact with and communicate with the end users. In the Enterprise world it’s quite possible that one application might have several thousands of end users and thus impossible to really have that personal touch. However, it’s been my experience that when someone using the application can interact with or at least to get to know the developer behind the scenes they tend to use the application more effectively as well as have a greater “desire” to use the application. So how can we easily add the “personal touch” on a scalable level to Enterprise applications.

So what is this revolutionary thought I have? Oh wait not revolutionary at all it’s all very common and already out there all over place. Developers (for the most part I do know an exception or two) hate documentation. What’s worse though is that users (again I know an exception or two) hate reading documentation. So what if we made the documentation “visual”, as much as possible? We give the user an option 1) read it 2) view it as a short screen cast with instructions 3) we take a page from the DVD/movie industry and we let the developer themselves give commentary to different features. For example, I like option 3 by the way, we let the developer give their own thoughts about “why I created the input form like that” or “the reason you need to give the input like that is because I can then do this, that and that.” It’s like Twitter, the user can choose the method they want to be informed by. A perfect example is Ed’s (fellow Irregular and eGeek) use of video to explain his Wii demo.

This of course is a 1:many approach and has some appeal but not all.

The Personal Chat

The personal chat is another favorite of mine and one (as a user) I would really like to have. One of the biggest complaints I hear when people contact support is that sometimes the person calling thinks the support person is not actually paying attention to them so they are immediately on the defensive, they are not positive and basically as the German’s like to say genervert (or peeved off). So how can you overcome that? One way of course is the 1:1 text chats that many companies are providing and others like Qunu.comare enabling, however still how often have you typed something into chat and waited for a response? How often has your mind wandered and you give way to thoughts the person is busy with someone else the whole time and you are not a priority for them? Enter companies like Eyejot.com and you start to see potential alternatives to ensure the user that they are the priority and that people are paying attention.

What I mean is truly the ability for the end user to request a chat and then see/hear the person they are getting help from. To ensure them that they are the priority and the user is not sitting there talking to his buddy about the game last night while typing responses to you. This enabled directly in the application itself.

The comfort level of the end user when dealing with support should be a main priority and a primary concern for Enterprise companies. If I am a user in a company and I get the feeling that support is not there for me, then I begin looking for alternatives and there are a million out there and many are able to “jump over” the local IT shops.

The “Hammer”

Hammer actually translates from German into English as “the awesome idea”. This is the third way I see for “easy” integration into the Enterprise environment.

Imagine you are sitting there and your application starts to give you some attitude, well with the simple click of a button, two things would happen. The first being that a support ticket is opened with all the necessary information as well as a “screen capture” to record a short video of you reproducing the problem and both being sent together to the support folks. The second is you being automatically launched to either a Wiki site or Forum (or both) around the exact activity you were working on so you can discuss with others what is happening. Might even be the case that someone has already had the problem which you can then try their “fix”. The support folks would also be taken there and upon finding a solution your support request and “video” would then be added to the forum and/or Wiki for others to benefit from. Now if you happen to try someone else’s “fix” and it works you’d have the ability to inform support of that as well.

Sure you could do that a bit differently and not inform “support” until after the “community” route but it’s a matter of your process of choice. The main thing though is that you have a video screen capture of the problem as it happens.

OK that brings up the issue of “IP” and confidential information being displayed and “shared” so that would certainly have to be addressed and most likely only available for the “support” folks, who could then recreate it themselves with “test data” and supply that to the community.

Naturally the videos and updates of the new “solution” would automatically be updated to everyone running the application.

In addition to those options I also see the possibility of the “this session may be recorded for quality control reasons”, you hear often when you call a company that “This call may be recorded for quality control” so why not the ability to “video record” a user session? GB’s of storage space are cheap these days, compression is good and screen capture tools can actually capture multiple varieties of screen areas so why not simply record ever users session for “video” review in times of problems later? Automatic “pause” can be implemented when the user goes to something outside of their “work” so privacy issues should be at a minimum. Let’s say we setup the recording to handle all SAP (OK I work there right) transactions (not including those where I am dealing with my own personal data) then I set it to capture anytime I am accessing a web based SAP system/transaction but to skip anything else I am doing on my screen, unless of course I opt to “start recording” in the middle of something.

At the end of the day I probably have 4 maybe 5 GB of compressed screen capture. Considering my laptop has had over 21.5GB free for over a year now I don’t see this as a big problem, 4 to 5GB x 5 days is feasible then at the end of the week I save it off to the network or burn it or whatever. Say we average around 700 GB a month, how much does one actually need to keep? Say I also have the ability to flag individual days for long term storage otherwise I simply just drop the oldest date and add one on top. Not to mention the enormous value this would have to to UI and UX folks, the ability to actually review how users actually use their software daily – how better to get the information needed to optimize flow and design?

So by now you are probably thinking I am nuts (if you’ve gotten this far) but let’s add another layer on top of this.

Facial recognition, no I don’t mean to video the person or something but by using technology similar you can actually process the video and “find” similar transactions or activities. Wait my screen resolution is bigger or I work with the window floating and not maximized, and? Regardless of where someone has the screen on their desktop the screen capture, captures the video so in most cases I think that location would be the same and thus quite easy to find all video segments showing a particular screen – scrap those out and compile an overall list video.

For 2009, I posted my predictions the other day in the form of video.


Which also leads me to my thoughts around the additional piece of the “path” I’ve laid out. That being the “My Voice”, the voice of course taking the popular concept of “rating and review” and adding it into each every application, transaction and process. Why not enable the end users? If the end users won’t come to a central community then why not bring the community to the end users? Think distributed community, we do it with computing (Cloud anyone?) then why can’t we do it with a community, what hardened fast rule says that a community has to have a specific central location everyone else comes too? Does having that alter the reality around us enough to have a community or is simply human nature to pick a common meeting ground? Why can’t the application or software package we are in be that “common” spot?

We already have tools, technology, back end systems and processes in place why not pull them together and add them into a existing applications? Let the end users give their feedback (video or otherwise), rate the application and converse with other end users around the world or within organizations from within their existing working environments – let’s stop trying to drag them to somewhere they don’t want to be.

During the recent US inauguration ceremony CNN.com worked together with Facebook to provide a live video stream which when opened loaded not only the video stream (live) but also the user’s (if logged in) Facebook status and that of their friends and social network updating live.

The common ground there was sharing an experience (something I believe in with @eventtrack) but not forcing the user to do so in a certain way. Certainly the fact that you had to load a specific CNN site meant you were forced to be in a specific place right? Actually because of the Facebook integration all of those people who were watching it elsewhere or were physically there and connected somewhere else like Twitter had their updates sent to Facebook thanks to the integration of Facebook and Twitter.

The community was where the people were and not the other way around.


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2 Responses to Grab a mic!

  1. Graham Robbo says:

    Wow! I need to read that again.

    Thought provoking stuff.

    Cheers
    Graham Robbo

  2. Craig Cmehil says:

    Love to hear your thoughts Graham!

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