Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Internet Driven Improvement of Human Nature

The Internet makes us better. I am serious. You say it makes us stupid? Yes, maybe we tend to be more stupid, our brains get slower and lazier, but anyway at that we become better. The Internet just bites off part of our personality, and we happen to lose not the best part of ourselves.

One of the main impacts of the Internet upon human being is that the Web denudes people of privacy, not totally, but substantially. If you are a hermit, and nobody knows you, and no one has ever contacted with you, then you may keep your privacy, otherwise your appearance in the Internet is just a matter of time. The Internet is open, and it is really populated, so as soon as you appear in it, your privacy begins shrinking like Balzac’s shagreen leather as more and more information about you is posted in the Web.

Each of us wants to look better than –as he/she knows – he/she* really is. It’s so human like! Our combined Internet-images that can be collected from social networks, blogs, forums, and dating sites lack quite a number of rather unpleasant or even ugly traits we own in our off-line lives.

It is well known nowadays that not only our emotions effect our facial expression, but vice versa facial expression effects our emotions: if you are in low spirits, keep smiling, and you are on the way to good mood. It is very similar in the Internet: A human being cannot pretend always, so keeping “good picture” of him for the Web he has to really change himself for better.

If we become better in the Internet, than maybe it is possible to change a business paradigm for a more human like? At least for the Internet business?

As we have found out, people in the Internet tend to be better than outside of it. It means in particular that while doing business in the Internet we do not need to protect ourselves like crazy. We already see definite signs of “another business model” in the Web: I mean freeware and shareware products. More and more often we see button “Donate” at the Web sites of software developers or service providers.

My idea is to move forward - software developer fully focuses on the following business model: he produces software product, makes it available for download without any limitations and places a “Pay” (not “Donate”!) button near “Download”. Details about payment are discussable, for instance there can be combinations of “Pay if you like my software or remove it from your computer” and “I price my software at $ XX, however you may pay as much as you think my software costs”. There should be one indispensable condition: A developer who does business this way shall not earn any money doing business in a common way. So, a visitor who downloads the developer’s software has a clear picture: If the visitor does not pay for a downloaded piece of software, the developer will not have enough money for his life.

Though I believe in humanity firmly, this model still looks rather odd and risky. Who would venture to begin doing business this way? I would suggest young entrepreneurs not burdened with family and with responsibilities to try such a model. Anyway, sooner or later this taraadin** business model will be widely used, and those in the first line usually get great benefits.


* Not to overload this text with he/she, his/her, etc. ratios, I will use just masculine grammar forms below. Feminine grammar forms are certainly meant as well.

** Taraadin (noun) : [tah-rah'den] [arabic] - a happy solution for everyone, a win-win compromise (used primarily in cases where the avoidance of loss of face is important).

Taraadin (Arabic) - Arabic has no word for "compromise" in the sense of reaching an arrangement via struggle and disagreement. But a much happier concept, taraadin, exists in Arabic. It implies a happy solution for everyone, an "I win, you win". It's a way of resolving a problem without anyone losing face.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Business Model Change Required

Basically business is about exchanging something for something: grain for meet, food for clothes, trinkets for gold or for Manhattan, gold for banknotes, services for money, etc. Simplest possible way of organizing business is implemented in robbery: You save your life for giving to your business partner all valuable things you have with you at the moment you are arranged in this deal. It’s really simple: no printed agreement, no multipage requirements, no long lasting relationships – just a knife or a gun being exposed, and that’s it, deal is done. However, very few of us agree to be involved in such a business, so for centuries people have been designing and implementing more and more detailed and sophisticated means of regulating business relationships. All these rules and requirements about how business should be done, which documents should be singed between parties, what kind of reports should be provided to the state authorities, etc., are intended to make business relationships as safe as possible – safe from fraud, from inadequate behavior, from unjustified risks, etc.

Is it good or bad? It depends. If we compare it to robbery – current mechanisms look very good, but as soon as we recall Enron and Lehman Brothers cases, we understand that all these mechanisms are rather weak.

What’s wrong with rules and regulations? Maybe if we do them stricter and more sophisticated, Enron-like cases will be impossible? No, nobody can guarantee this.

The main obstacle to reshaping current business rules so that they become ideal is the nature of these rules. Let us recall that initially the rules appeared to develop robbery-like and warlike business relationships to make them wider applicable, safer and more effective. We see that from the very beginning business parties were considered enemies, and nothing has changed since then, all the rules still protect parties from each other and society from the parties. This struggling and defensive nature of business relationships prevents us from really improving them.

Times have changed; at least I believe they have. Now there is no need to totally beat down your business partner to gain more profit for yourself. Almost all of us understand now that it is much better to find consensus with business partners and with state authorities to ensure wealthy future for our families. In mathematical terms it means that, considering business relationships a game, we should move from zero-sum to positive-sum paradigm.

Can the Internet help us make steps in this direction? Fortunately yes, it can, and I’ll try to show it in my next post.

Friday, April 29, 2011

The power of “The”

I have never come across any information about how usage of definite article can affect market. At that, such an influence can sometimes become very, very efficient.

Before “The Social Network” movie became an Oscar-winner, there were a lot of social networks across the Internet. Now there exists “The Social Network” – Facebook.com, and when you hear ”social network”, your brain most likely helpfully provides you with a Facebook image. Great win for Facebook and great loss for other social networks, be they competitors of Facebook or not.

Another well-known example of how the definite article can be used, is the brilliant VW logo: “Das Auto”. After such a logo was registered by Volkswagen, all the other car manufacturers should have curtailed their businesses to start manufacturing something else, not cars.

Certainly, just registering your product as “The” product is not enough, first of all you definitely need to have a really good product. However, there are a lot of really good products, and not a few of them happen to become “The” products.

I’m trying to ponder on how to make a product worthy of “The” article.

As we have already noticed, just being good or even perfect does not guarantee to a product “The”-worthiness. Why? Can’t we think up a set of measurable (at least – partly measurable) must have parameters of “The” product? For example, length and height; or speed and fuel consumption; or number of dialog screens and buttons. Looks rather silly, doesn’t it? Unfortunately we cannot measure attraction. VW makes good cars, but they are not the best ones in the world. Nobody deceives himself about that; however “Das Auto” logo applied to VW production looks absolutely fine to us. We accept an image of VW car or of the Facebook social network as “The”-worthy. So, we operate with images rather than with real measurable products.

This way we enter the field of image-thinking (relative information can be found in the Web or in books, for instance: "Overcoming modernity: synchronicity and image-thinking" ). High quality advertising stuff impacts your subliminal consciousness rather than your brain, and it is exactly about effecting humans’ image-thinking.

So, what should we do to implant “The” image of our product into minds of our possible clients? Bad news is: Nobody knows. However, there exists good news also: At least we consider it an issue and we think about it.

To my shame, I have only one idea on the matter. The idea is simple and almost obvious: To make my clients accept “The”-image of my product, I first of all have to think out the concept of the product, to design the product, to develop, to market and to sell it with this “The”-image of the product in my head. Without my own dead certainty that my new product is “The”-worthy, there is no chance to convince somebody of the same.

Any other ideas?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

(2be OR 2outsource) OR NOT (2be OR 2outsource). That is the question

Fortunately, most often the dilemma does not look like “To outsource or not to be”. However, it easily might sound like “To outsource or not to grow”, and that is a real issue.

Why are we so afraid to outsource software development? Okay, maybe not afraid, let’s say we are cautious and uneasy about outsourcing. Anyway, it does not really matter how we name our feelings that result in avoiding outsourcing. The avoidance matters. Is this avoidance justified or not? Is it right or wrong? Do we lose or win?

To be more specific, let us take a case. Let me be a company owner, and let’s assume my company needs a piece of software to be developed. I do not have available personnel to undertake the development of this software. Maybe I have developers in my staff but all of them are now busy working on other tasks, or maybe I do not have any developers at all, it’s not the point. The point is: I need software to be developed, and I do not have anybody in my staff to do it. What are the options? Obviously, there are two of them: to hire new developer(s) or to outsource this development. To choose a right option I could begin drawing a pros/cons table, but I would rather skip this step because all the pros and cons are evident. All in all my choice depends on how I plan to use the new piece of software:

  1. Either I plan this new software to be in the focus of my business (like I am Microsoft, and the piece of software is a new word processor);
  2. Or this software is not in the focus of my business, and I plan to concentrate on other things: on other software, or on absolutely different things like e-trade, or real estate, or building airplanes.

If I am in the situation #1, I would never outsource this development. If #2 is my situation, than I do not see any fundamental reasons not to outsource.

So, if given just in facts, without any emotions, the decision looks simple and obvious. Why is it not so obvious, when we add emotions, and what are these emotions? I would say the main emotion is fear. You may call it uneasiness, caution or even prudence, but basically it is just fear, just a fear of something new and untested. Not a lot, a usual human fear one experiences times and times during his/her life: while entering school, or joining the university, or attending for new job, or visiting countries different in language and culture, etc. We always are able to overcome this fear of new and untested, so let us do it in this case also.

May I suggest considering an analogous situation. Imagine a gentleman who has never ordered custom tailor made shirts. Always before his mother used to sew his shirts when he was a boy, and then he began buying his shirts in a store as he became older. And now this gentlemen needs to have perfect custom made shirt. I do not know why, maybe for his wedding ceremony, or he is a pianist and he is preparing for his upcoming first concert at Carnegie Hall. It does not matter why, but he understands that he needs a perfect shirt, and he has three options:

  • His mother is still alive, and he can ask her to sew a shirt for him;
  • He can go to a store and buy a best fitting shirt there;
  • He can order a custom made shirt.

First two options are well known and proven, however the gentleman is not sure that choosing one of them he will get the needed result: his mother is rather old, and she does not know much about modern fashion, about styles, trends and so on; as for a store, even in a good one you are not guaranteed to find a shirt that perfectly fits you, that is of a desired color, made of a desired fabric with desired buttons, etc. Thus our gentleman turns to custom made shirts. What about fear? Yes, he is a little bit scared: he has never ordered his shirts at a tailor workshop, and he is not sure whether they would do it perfectly, or maybe they will just waste his money; whether they will be on time for his wedding (concert); whether they will need some excessive boring control from his side. Yes there are concerns, so what? Do these concerns totally stop our gentleman from ordering his shirt? No, why should they! It is quite a standard situation, and he knows what to do: he uses references, word of mouth and generally available information to choose a “right” workshop, a workshop he can trust.

Yes, we’ve found it! Here it is this key word: TRUST. It is trust that makes it possible to overcome fear in such situations of uncertainty and lack of information.

Real confidence can be gained only through real experience, we all know this. So, the more shirts you order at a given workshop, the more experience you have, and this experience defines the level of trust. Moreover, each your next shirt is potentially better because you yourself become more and more experienced in the issues of what to pay attention at, how to manage the interim procedures of measurement and of trying your shirts on, etc.

What about software development outsourcing? Absolutely the same, no difference at all: we are frightened to start due to lack of confidence. So, we need some minimal initial level of trust enough to make a first step, and we can get this initial level by requesting and examining credentials, references, and proven success stories from potential vendors. For instance, as to my taste, I am very fond of a success story of long-term business relationships between my own company and our US customer Better World Books company. For more than 7 years already we are moving forward tohether on developing the Indaba project, and here are some footprints: http://inrecolan.com/ourexperience/successstories/124-1,


http://inrecolan.com/howwework/testimonialsnawards/107-1, http://inrecolan.com/newsnarticles/companynews/269-1 .

Certainly, ordering a piece of software is not absolutely the same as ordering a shirt, so in addition to obtain a definite level of confidence, we also need to pay attention to the specifics of software development. Before starting an outsourced software development, we have to carefully think out all the development processes and to prepare accordingly. It’s not a rocket science, it’s a usual organizational activity that must be done. We need to understand that dealing with outsourced development (either onshore or offshore, no difference) is not the same as dealing with on-site development. In short: we have to have a manager assigned from our side as well as a perfectly organized development and communication processes. To be more specific:

  • depending on the project, there can be used either RUP-like (MSF-like) fully documented methodology or Agile techniques;
  • no doubts that all the developed source code, as well as project data, sketches, drawings, manuals, documents, records, databases, programs, etc., is always owned by customer;
  • repository can be located either at the customer’s or at the vendor’s premises. As for development environment, in addition to development tools there should be utilized version control system and project management tools (for example, SVN and Redmine or maybe other ones: VSS, Mercurial, Git, Microsoft TFS, etc.);
  • reputable vendor should provide full cycle of analysis/development/testing procedures.

This way, after eliminating initial fears, you come to usual professional business relationships, and you are able to utilize software development outsourcing to grow your business.