Blog action day 2009 is coming soon

Goodness me, how quickly time passes. It is Blog Action Day on 15 October 2009.

This year it is about Climate Change.

Blog Action Day is an annual event that unites the world’s bloggers in posting about the same issue on the same day on their own blogs with the aim of sparking discussion around an issue of global importance. Blog Action Day 2009 will be the largest-ever social change event on the web. One day. One issue. Thousands of voices.

Customer service and student support – QUT gets it

As both an educator and tertiary student I’ve been able to see both sides of the fence. A recent experience with Queensland University of Technology stands out as exemplary in both student support and customer service.

A change in personal circumstances recently meant that I needed to make a decision and act very quickly regarding my studies. And I required speedy access to some information about my options as a student in the QUT Law School.

I tried phoning the Law School and was unable to get through to anyone. Immediately I sent an email outlining my issues to Kaylene Matheson, the Administrative Officer (Student Support) in the Law School.

Kaylene responded within minutes, phoning to give me a run down of the options available. She then emailed me contact details for Student Services, who could fill in the last bit of information so as to finalise my decision within the necessary timeframe.

The next morning I called Student Services and spoke to a really helpful chap, who patiently talked through my options explaining the consequences of each. We had a constructive discussion and I was able to decide on a course of action. He then explained exactly how to finalise my decision & noted what records I should keep for future reference.

Both Kaylene & my unknown helper at Student Services provided support and great customer service. They were patient and helpful, taking the time to help me to understand what I needed to do. They are a credit to QUT & are great brand ambassadors!

The funny thing is that this makes sense; as everyone that I’ve dealt with at QUT has been helpful and supportive. Clearly this is part of their organisational culture. What this all means is that when you put the good customer service together with good academics and good student support systems (like Blackboard and website) it makes a good place to study.

Following are some of my off the cuff responses on Twitter:

“the student services people at totally rock – they are super professional & really helpful!!! = EPIC WIN!!!”
10:02 AM Sep 17th

“some other unis should learn from QUT!”
10:03 AM Sep 17th

“if you are looking for a uni for distance education I cannot recommend QUT more highly – a very professional & positive experience”
10:03 AM Sep 17th

Web and the reshaping of IT

I always like to keep up with what Dion Hinchcliffe’s thinking and recently he’s been talking about How the Web OS has begun to reshape IT and business, and particularly about how businesses are driving the change almost by accident, in spite of the IT department.

For example:

These days in the halls of IT departments around the world there is a growing realization that the next wave of outsourcing, things like cloud computing and crowdsourcing, are going to require responses that will forever change the trajectory of their current relationship with the business, or finally cause them to be relegated as a primarily administrative, keep-the-lights-on function.

What Dion describes really aligns with what I’m seeing in lots of companies and their IT departments. For many IT departments there seems to be a feeling of “if we just ignore it, ban it, or block it then it will all go away”.

The issue of what I tend to refer to as the shadow IT department is beginning to loom large.  This shadow department offers many of the IT department’s capabilities, but they are accessible by ordinary business users outside of the normal IT and procurement channels.

Once upon a time the IT department were the custodians of technology. Selection, implementation of new systems and access to them was like joining a mystery cult. New users were indoctrinated into special language and special ways of making things work. The IT department staff were the high priests of the cult and they controlled access very strictly.

All this was reinforced by the high cost and complexity of IT systems.

But now technology has undergone a revolution. And it is a revolution akin to those of the Russians back in 1917. We are living through a sudden change in accessibility of technology. With web 2.0 and social computing ordinary users now have access to the same kind of technology that was once the province of the high priests of the IT department.

Everything you need is at your fingertips, for example:

  • Want a scalable web platform? Amazon S3 is there.
  • Want to reach out and find your customers? Try Facebook or Twitter.
  • Want a CRM to track all those customers? How about Salesforce?
  • Need a finance application? How about Saasu?

Each of those examples is readily available to the average person who can use a web browser & who has a credit card. No more seeking the advice (even if it might help) of the IT specialist. Just notice the need and get a solution right away.

I wonder how all of this fits into our fine Enterprise Architecture models?

Who will be the makers if computing becomes a utility?

Spoke at the Bunbury ACS Chapter the other night (g’day to @Moist & @nezzle) – about the future of computing and the impact of social computing. We had a really interesting discussion about privacy (and the death thereof as I have been prone to argue) and the possible futures arising from the social computing revolution.

My friend, Mark Pesce, has written extensively on the impact that the kind of hyperconnectivity enabled by the internet and social computing will have on education, business and politics. He covers many similar ideas to mine. And it would be foolish of me to do otherwise than direct people to his most excellent thoughts on the topic. Check out some of Mark’s ideas on his blog, or in particular here and there.

But one topic came up last night that is both interesting and important. One participant mentioned that perhaps her children & future generations would understand all of this new technology and its implications much better. She also posited that coming generations would understand the technology better than we do.

It was a great thought starter for me. Because I’ve argued for a long time that what we are doing with web 2.0 and social computing is abstracting away from end users the complexity inherent in technology.

Until now anyone who wanted to create a software artifact – web page, upload content such as images, video or audio – needed to acquire a reasonable amount of technical knowledge.

To create a web page one needed to know basis HTML. To upload the webpage and associated content to a URL one needed to know how to use FTP either via command line or client.

Now one can simply join up to Facebook or MySpace and, without any technical knowledge beyond use of a keyboard, mouse and web browser, upload and share textual, video, audio and visual imagery.

Web 2.0 and social computing have democratised the use of technology so successfully that it is now a utility akin to a light switch.

Most of us have no idea what goes on behind the light switches that we use everyday. The web and its applications are becoming similar utlitities.

An interesting question that follows on from this is – if web becomes a utility will we stop thinking about it very much?

Will we stop considering social, cultural and political issues that surround it and merely accept it in the same way we take electric light for granted?

By abstracting the complexity inherent in web applications and content away from end users are we making it easy for the technology to be used to constrain our behaviour, beliefs and actions?

And, most importantly of all, who is going to create the future applications if everyone just accepts the technology as a utility? We’ve already got a similar problem in the West with electrical engineers. How are we going to keep up the supply of people who know how to create software to ensure that we don’t end as a world of “middlemen” who only know how to use but not to create technology.

Some very interesting questions raised by the people I met in Bunbury.

Media140 and the future of journalism in the Social Media Age

Twitter_Logo_node_full_image_2Media140 Sydney is asking “What is the future of journalism in the Social Media Age?”

It’s an important question to be asking in these times of newspaper companies in trouble and growth of new media channels.

The venue is the ABC’s Eugene Goossens’ Hall, Sydney on November 5th and 6th. It’s apparently the first time that the ABC has hosted a Twitter conference!

Media140 Sydney plans to explore the

“… disruptive nature of ‘real-time’ social media looking at tools such as Twitter, live-blogging, Facebook and other social networking tools as they rapidly transform the media in real-time.”

There’s a bunch of the Sydney Twitterati attending & speaking on panels – sounds like fun. I’m hoping to get along there too.


Online policy madness – Don’t link to us!

Here’s an excellent example of a legal or marketing department (or both) who don’t seem to get how the internet & search engines work.

Further, it shows a real disconnect between the kind of content on the site and the policies supporting the site.

Wonder why they bothered putting all that funky interactive content on their site if they don’t want anyone to link to it? Hey *Vegemite – perhaps it’s time to revisit your policy?


Vegemite’s Ass-Backward Web Philosophy: Don’t Link to Us

What Was It Thinking With This Privacy Policy?

Posted by Abbey Klaassen on September 11, 2009 @ 03:17 PM

Here’s one for the annals of marketer stupidity.

As BoingBoing points out today (after noticing it on Tetherd Cow Ahead), Kraft’s Vegemite site has perhaps one of the most backward privacy policies known to man and marketer. It forbids anyone from linking to it.

Yes, you read that right — you might actually like Vegemite, you might appreciate the recipes on its site, you might find useful the “Kids Corner” section where it offers up Vegemite-themed classroom activities for grade-school teachers — but don’t even think about giving any link love. With links being an integral piece of a search strategy, perhaps that’s why Vegemite’s own site wallows in the bottom half of a Google search, below videos and shopping links. (Sneaking on the first page of search results for the brand? The BoingBoing post that highlights the ridiculous linking policy, which shows just how beneficial a smart linking policy can be for SEO.)


* I am ready for the Vegemite jokes that suggest this is all part of a plan to save the world from this product 😉