The Idea Dude


Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Wellocities, a journey and not a destination... part 1

Sometimes life takes you down an unexpected road. Of course, you have to be a traveller to reach that path. TheGoodBlogs took us down such a path several months ago. We were asked to help create a unique website, a Canadian online health social networking site. It was an opportunity to work with some great people from my past and for a worthy cause in the future.

Please go ahead and pay them a visit. Mind the wet paint and the rough edges. There are many exciting changes to come, but to wait would have been wrong... this is for the people and so it should be built with the people. The budget was small but the hearts were big.

One such heart belongs to Dr Amol Deshpande, head health honcho at Wellocities. Amol's insight into Canadian healthcare and the value Wellocities could bring to the community moved me enough to make room on this blog for his views.

I asked Amol why he had such a passion for this new adventure...

Here was his reply
Every 3 minutes and 15 seconds or about the time you take to read this blog, one more Canadian will be diagnosed with cancer. Just over double that time, or every 7 minutes and 15 seconds one Canadian will die from cancer.

My intent is not to startle you, but rather to make you aware of the journey that many Canadians begin and end on a daily basis.

If you are diagnosed with cancer, you will join the almost 30-40% of Canadians (12M individuals) that have a chronic condition. These individuals will consume 70% of health care resources this year.

If you end up in this group, most likely your journey will begin, like theirs did, alone in a physician’s office. When you’re given your diagnosis you will have between 9 and 12 minutes (15 minutes tops) to ask all the relevant questions you have before being sent on your way. Now, as the babyboomers begin to turn 60 and move through the system that 9-12 minute window of ‘opportunity’ will begin to close. The time spent on meeting your needs will become shorter and shorter.

We founded Wellocities to help meet those needs.

In the next part, I ask Amol. "Where do most of us turn to get help when we need it most?"

Monday, July 30, 2007

Does your blog sing?

My son is preparing for his music history exam. As I looked through his textbooks, I was struck by how similar blogging is to making music. The melody and the harmony.

The melody is the song, the string of notes across time that tell the story. Each blogger sings his or her own melody. Each song is an improvisation. It is the primary voice that carries the thought and the theme. It is the horizontal dimension.

The harmony is the combination of notes that support melody. The chords. Each blogger can call upon other blogs and voices to support his story. These chords are simultaneous notes that support the primary voice. They add color and depth. It is the vertical dimension.

Like a good song, there must a balance of resonance and dissonance. Resonance so we are willing to listen, dissonance because we need to return, reread or comment in order to resolve the tension.

Each blog entry is just the prelude, the introduction to the fugue which follows with comments, trackbacks that answer or imitate the previous voice... a rich and complex mingling of improvisations from unexpected quarters.

Just as good songs are imitated, shared and elaborated over time so do great blogs. And sometimes in our haste to put words to blogs, we forget that each entry no matter how long or short can sing. We have that power.

All songs, great or small start with one note or one chord.

So do all blogs...

Friday, July 27, 2007

You want what, when and for how much?

Seems like the classical and never-ending consultant's dilemma. There are usually three variables with any assignment. How you control these will determine whether you have a happy customer at the end of the day.

The three factors are:
  • complexity
  • speed
  • cost

Here are the real-world permutations the customer needs to know.
  • You can have something complicated and fast, but not cheap
    (message: you have to pay a premium for speed)
  • You can have something fast and cheap, but not complicated
    (message: you can only afford something simple)
  • You can have something complicated and cheap, but not fast
    (message: you get it when we're ready to give it you)

Any other combination will result in poor quality, an unhappy customer, no repeat business and lose-lose scenario. Ergo, it is unlikely that anyone who values quality can deliver something real fancy, real quick and real cheap.

What do you think?

Monday, July 23, 2007

The sound of one hand clapping

Mathew Ingram had a post about whether blog comments matter?. Mathew believes it does and weighed in with his personal experiences. What's interesting is that he is a journalist by profession (maybe I should say enlightened journalist) who values the relationships that are built through the dialog on his blog.

Frankly, I'm surprised that it is even an issue that needs to be discussed. Perhaps I'm so far over the dark side, I can't see the other point of view. What is a blog without comments? Where would be the balance of opinion, the dialog, the relationship with your reader?

I can see how it can be abused though. Many people comment on a-list blogs to be seen (perhaps a form of 'polite spam'). Contrast this with Liz's home where comments are the lifeblood of her blog. In fact, Liz goes out of her way to make room for you. Is that not a radical concept to blogging? In return, whether the comments are profound or friendly banter, there is never any doubt that everyone is more than a comment...

In fact, every comment is a connection.

Friday, July 20, 2007

What is Web 2.0 really?

By the time Web 3.0 comes around, we will still be debating what is Web 2.0. Ask anyone who is remotely related to the term and you'll hear that it's a social network (an overused cliche by now) to bold flat icons and rounded corners in the user interface, blogs and so on.

So it's interesting to read what O'Reilly said 2 years ago. Before anyone cries foul, keep in mind 2 years on the Internet is almost an eternity and by in large much of what they say are still valid. The question is whether they are observing the 'symptom' or the 'disease'.

What I did take away was what I consider the best definition of web 2.0 which isn't the UI or social network (if you have one friend, does that make you social network? Maybe then my cellphone makes the grade.) Here it is...

You have a Web 2.0 application if the core of what your business and environment is architected for participation. When that is your brand and your culture, the rest follows naturally, your business model, your user interface, you value proposition. Participation implies mass contribution, sharing and tagging, a many to many paradigm. You become the facilitator of activity rather than the producer of content.

Feature priority and design should start and end with the question. "Where is the participation?"

So that's my insight for the day. Web 2.0 - an Architecture for Participation.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Are you suffering from attention splatter?

Besides being a great singer and performer (we had the privilege to hear her live at Sobcon07), Christine Kane is also at terrific blogger. Recently, she wrote a wonderful series of blog posts called "attention splatter". It's a wonderful way to describe what all of us suffer from today. We point to the distractions that our kids are subjected to and say they suffer from ADD and as adults we're no better off.

My day is filled with attention splatter and attention splatters within attention splats (is that a word?).

A typical day would be checking on TheGoodBlogs, signing up users, answering support issues, answering phone calls, IM from friends, family and clients, writing code for TheGoodBlogs, writing code for clients, helping friends fix their blogs, writing on my own blog, creating proposals, answering comments to blog posts, reading other blogs, writing invoices, making sure bills are paid, accept invitations from Facebook, LinkedIn etc., conference calls, the list goes on.

By now it's lunchtime (actually 3pm). Quick lunch. Put it all in a box, shake it up and start all over again.

Some attention splatter is avoidable, others not. Often it is hard to decide what to give up. Everything seems strategic even though some may be tactical.

Sometimes I forget to breathe.

My solution from being stressed out. Accept chaos as a way of life instead of an exception. A wise monk once said, the secret of balance is not to try to be solid and stable but to master the skill of perpetually regaining your balance.

A wheel rolls because it is inherently unstable and as result, it reaches its destination.

What's your solution to attention splatter?

I'm hoping Christine will write a song about it.

Monday, July 16, 2007

An offer I couldn't refuse

Liz Strauss made me an offer I couldn't refuse. Be a guest contributor on her blog.

I was honored.

The brief was simple. Connect dots.

Dots being blogs at and TheGoodBlogs. The dots may seem like disjointed points in the blogosphere but in my mind, they create pictures and stories that inspire and challenge. The weekly column, called Connecting dots is about emotional resonance, the things people share on their blogs that make me smile, cry and wish for more.

Every dot has name, every dot has a heart. The aim is to celebrate blogs and show we are so different and yet so alike. And in the end, to share what Liz and I believe in so much...

It's all about people and the conversations that make life so wonderful.

Thanks Liz, for the crayon.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Won't you stay just a little bit longer?

According to MediaPost, Nielsen has changed their strategy from ranking Web sites by page views to time spent. The reason they quote is due to Ajax technologies that do not have to reload the page in order to update the content. The truth is, Ajax does affect widgets and scripts that are only loaded once when the page is loaded. However, if you own the actual website, you don't really lose page views because you are able to track every Ajax request back to your site (there is no free lunch). Most Ajax requests are HTTP requests to the server. The browser receives the response from the server and updates the content without refreshing the page. So if you count both the page load and the Ajax requests this would be comparable to page views before Ajax. So saying Ajax is obscuring page view counts is probably a poor reason for changing the measurement strategy.

A better reason would be because the value of site should be measured by how long someone spends on it. Time is money so the more time someone spends on your site, the more attention you are getting. By measuring time spent, you remove the Digg effect, i.e. you get Digged (Dugg?) a couple hundred times and for a brief space in time (1-2 days) your page views go from a couple hundred to a couple of thousand. The fact that the number usually drops back to normal levels mean that 90 or more percent of the people who came through Digg didn't really find your site or blog compelling enough to return on a regular basis. The same could be said about blogs that have several hundred entries attracting plenty of Google juice. Many get to the blog via the search engine but very few become regular readers. What you are really seeing is a enough people finding you through Google but it is an artificial level because on a daily basis, a large percentage of visitors are random. It is about measuring engagement that is important.

The irony is that most of us wear the page view badge proudly and at the same scoff at the MySpace members who collect so-called 'friends'. There is very little difference after all. At the end of day, it is perhaps our latent need to be heard and recognized, a universal need manifested differently in different contexts.

So how do you know the value of your blog? By counting the number of active conversations you have with your readers because these are your 'repeat customers'. And how do you get them? One at a time...

Sunday, July 08, 2007

New iPhone rocks

We're in Florida, my daughter is in the nationals dance competition. Pretty insane here, the quality and the quantity of great dancers are quite phenomenal. Competition is fierce as you would expect at the national level. If you throw in the dance lessons, costumes, accessories, this is a mega industry.

Anyway, all intentions to blog expired earlier in the week despite good intentions. But I did get to play with the latest Apple iPhone this week. Awesome device. The most impressive part was the user experience particularly the user interface. Very slick indeed. Apple didn't disappoint. They continue to make users happy with their gadget regardless of price. I still think there's a price to pay for its size but that would be the only downside.

Back in the saddle on Tuesday.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

What's better than an ecard?

It's my good friend, Liz's birthday today. I thought about an ecard but a blog entry is so much better. Firstly, because it's personal. Secondly, it's marked on my blog forever. Lastly, I can get you to head right over to wish her a wonderful day too!

Happy Birthday, Liz.

Thanks for celebrating all of us everyday. Today we celebrate you.

Oh, and the jukebox? you'll have to click here and find out

Are you wishing Liz a happy birthday on your blog. Add this tag to your blog entry so we know...

Monday, July 02, 2007

Now we are one

TheGoodBlogs turned one yesterday. A year ago, Tony aka Tealeaf and I decided we'd start something of our own. We had three rules... Firstly, was it had to be something we were passionate about. Secondly, we would focus on providing value first and making money second. Thirdly, we would have fun doing it. One year later, I'm thrilled to have fulfilled all three premises.

What did I learn?

  • Choose your partners well.
  • Listen to your advisors, but your own decisions.
  • Passion and fun are indivisible. If you're not having fun, it isn't your passion.
  • Money is like oxygen, you need it to survive but it isn't the meaning of life.
  • Life's a journey, you can map it but you don't really know what's around the bend.
  • Question your assumptions everyday but don't second guess yourself. Nope it's not contradictory if you really think about.

What keeps us going? Finding comments on people's blogs that say, "I found you through TheGoodBlogs". Sweet...

BTW: did I tell you we read over 2000 blogs and make friends with some really, really awesome people. That has made my life so much richer, more than I could ever imagine.