Things that I went to

It was a busy week of ‘things that I went to’ and they were all very informative and lovely and well run and definitely worth going to. Rackspace Solve was the standout with a most excellent conference at the Shangri La hotel. The focus was on managed cloud and it showed Backspace responding to the commoditisation of cloud services by dialing up there high-level customer service and support offering. 

Rackspace ANZ general manager Angus Dorney -wants to manage your cloud
So now you’ll see Rackspace talking about Microsoft Azure and VMware and even Google and Amazon (although not so much) as hyper scale, bulk providers and demonstrating their OpenStack and managed cloud expertise which is a clever move I think. The Rip Curl Search GPS wearable watch that tracks all your surfs was the case study darling (it’s worn by His Royal Shark Puncher Mick Fanning) and some of the spiky traffic load stuff on virtual sports games and government transport sites was also very interesting. And while I didn’t win the Apple Watch raffle, I did get a drink bottle, phone charger, T shirt, some excellent branded pens and a lot of lovely photos of Sydney Harbour from the 36th floor of the Shangri La hotel. 

Sydney looking glorious from the 36th floor Blu Bar. Look at it, it's beautiful. 
Can I also mention that event and conference production values matter a lot when you are blabbing on about managed systems and customer service (if you can’t organise a cup of coffee for 50 people then I have limited confidence in your ability to manage my cloud) and the Rackspace event was off the charts excellent so well done clap clap clap etc. 

Adobe systems Darling Park, Sydney swish and a nice breakfast too thanks
In a less infrastructure more content way, the Sydney content marketers converged on Adobe’s offices on Wednesday and that too was an excellent little gaggle of like-minded people. It was mainly people from large marketing and content teams. 

Content marketers- assemble!
I was a little surprised that people were still asking whether or not they should be producing their own content or if they could just curate (there are no easy paths to content quality and if you are a big brand then yes, 95% of the time you need to produce and distribute your own content) and at the low level of analysts usage (Google analytics of Adobe Omniture as a nod to our host :)..) so it would seem we are still at the early stages of full in-house brand publishing models. Great to see all the IRL faces behind the brands as always. 

Victor Dominello MP, food, and award festivity at the Fishies
Friday night was Fishburners night with NSW awards announced for GovHack Sydney. While my team didn’t pick up any prizes, it was good to see the winning hacks and eat some Mexican food and watch the politicians in full award handshaking, smiling-for-the-camera action. The Ministers for Innovation and Small Business turned up as did some Sydney Water people and a few Councillors so it was good to see the event getting support from NSW government. 

Our GovHack Sydney 2015 entry

Terence, Trent and me

I participated in GovHack Sydney over the weekend and what a great time we all had. Around 200 people showed up and we got into teams to hack away at open government data sets from lots of different areas like water, tax, health, military, housing and social services. 

Going through your data

Our team ‘hacked’ ourselves together on Friday night and started in to some Australian Tax Office records on net earnings by industry. 

We were fortunate to come across an Australian Stats industry mentor who showed us to some house sale data so we could look at affordability in different regions. 

Using Oracle Application Express, we built a database so users can compare current location, work industry and earnings to a future scenario and make fact-based decisions about their future. Have a play here

Our app is called amibetteroff.org and you have a go with it here —not bad for 48 hours work I think. 

ATO and ABS data in a user-friendly format to compare

We also had to make a 3-minute video entry and provide user info for our app, quite a lot to turn around in the time but we made the deadline and were mighty impressed with Fishburners upload speeds :)

GovHack events happened all across Australia and New Zealand and there are cash prizes depending on which data sets you use and the different judging criteria. For example, we entered in best use of NSW local data, Australian Tax Office and ABS policy data categories. Plenty of food and coffee was consumed and much swag was dished out across the weekend. It was good to hack away at the data and get into some code, which I haven’t done for a while. Thanks to all the organisers and mentors -it was a fab event. 

Connected cows and Windows 10: Microsoft Tech Net Sydney

Microsoft experts talked Windows 10, Microsoft Cloud OS and the Microsoft Internet of Things strategy in Sydney. 

IoT: cows with wearable ear tags for health and movement tracking

Raspberry Pi -windows 10 light sensor demo

Cortana is still learning how to speak Australian: mobile demo

You can also help build Windows 10 alongside PC experts, IT pros, and developers around the world by joining the Windows Insider Program.

Enterprise cloud team management that actually works

On Wednesday I went to a Microsoft Biz Data executive breakfast where CIO Dave Rumsey and CFO John Mackenney from Tourism Australia presented on their move to Azure cloud platform for BI. 

CIO and CFO Tourism Australia -Azure
I’ve sat through a lot of these project showcase things now and most of it is utter rubbish and people stand up and take credit for a broken system they didn’t even work on and lie about how successful it all was. 

You’ll be pleased to know this was not one of those sessions. 

myTA user walk through Sharepoint-Azure

Both Dave and John had a very practical understanding of how global, centralising systems and reporting works which started with the main problem enterprises face: people love Excel. So everyone has a little Excel spreadsheet they budget and report and do their washing in and their is no centralised way of using information for decisions.

I was very impressed with how sensible the solutions were and how they kept saying ‘we are a marketing organisation’ and ‘we are a media organisation’ so the main purpose of the system is to aid with campaign management and stakeholder management. Old systems were turned off. Report formats were standardised across global teams. I think sometimes with all the smug-ness around anti-meeting and anti-project culture we can forget that people talking to each other, clarifying what the issues are, figuring out what's trying to be achieved is work  and really important work that saves everyone freestyling off on their own and losing any benefits of centralised cloud systems. 

Choirs of angels and big gold stars for Dave and John who managed to actually work together and put together a cross-functional, shared analyst team so campaign management e.g. adobe web traffic data is linked to budget management finance data for ROI. What that means is that a digital analyst sits in the same team as a finance analyst ‘because it all connects back’. Yes it does. Thank you for being clever. And before you say ‘well that’s ok for them because they are a big org and have lots of money’, Tourism Australia only has 200 employees and four analysts so that’s not huge really. 

As I mentioned to the Microsoft man next to me who kept trying to show me how great Cortana is, “it’s almost as if they like each other” and I think the main reason their system implementation worked is because Dave and John might actually like each other and enjoy working together. I could be wrong but when you get a CFO and CIO who actually talk to each other and make decisions, a nasty ERP 18 month rollout turns into a charming and insightful breakfast presentation with blueberries. Well done. 

A very demanding blog post

I first noticed this the other morning on a bus going to physio. A man boarded the bus and sat next to a young woman across from me. She was late twenties, early thirties, he would have been early fifties perhaps? She was reading something on her phone and looked like any regular commuter on her way to work. 

The man said some sort of ‘good morning’ type greeting and she returned the pleasantry and continued to read whatever she was reading on her phone. 

The man then asked her a question and she did the weak smile response thing. He repeated the question and she did the correct thing in my opinion…she blanked him. 

He then had a spray at her how she was obviously more interested in looking at her phone then talking to him and that he found women like her boring and that was the problem with ‘people like her’ who look at their phones all day and can’t have a proper conversation on a bus. 

She continued to blank him. 

I noticed a similar interchange with three young university students (also girls) who were sitting in Starbucks. A man (much older and uglier than said three university students..look it was just a David Attenborough observation) tried to spark up some sort of asking questions directions type situation and they ignored him and continued to laugh and play around on their Snapchat accounts. He similarly vented that they were ‘rude little b’arches’ and sulked off. 

Not to be left out, I had a similar encounter this week sitting in a corporate building lift lobby watching ABC News on one of those big communal area TVs. 

‘What are you watching?’

‘Just the news’

‘What is the cricket score?’

‘I don’t know, there will probably be some sports news on’

‘It’s the weather. the sport news has been on. What did they say the cricket score was on the sport news?’

‘I don’t know sorry’

‘I was just going to get the cricket score’

‘You can change it if you want’

‘How do you change it?’

So then I too went into blank mode. Change the channel or go away I don’t care.

‘How do you change it?’

‘how do you change the channel. do you think I can get cricket on this? Where are you from? Do you follow the cricket?’

(listen buddy don’t make this sound as if this is some sort of personal benefit you are providing to me you crashed in on my peaceful war in Middle East news watching)

Annoyed with my blanking, the cricket man did the venting ‘hey I’m just trying to be friendly but if you would rather just look at your phone’ thing and I was left wondering how my sitting quietly minding my own business had suddenly gone all Gaza IRL.  

I don’t have to talk to you.
I remember thinking that when I saw the first girl on the bus. 
She doesn’t have to talk to you. 

Her preference to sit quietly and read stuff on her phone or stare into space or whatever is no more or less of a thing than your preference to chat. The university students at Starbucks were having fun on Snapchat with their friends. I was quite happy watching the news and tapping away at an email. I probably have more human interactions with people over an average month than most people because I go to a lot of events. I go to church on Sunday. I like people and I talk to a lot of people but sometimes, I want to have some thinking space to myself and/ or talk to someone who might not be physically there. I don’t think it’s being rude…is it? 

I’ll do the pleasant thing but if you don’t have the social skills to interpret when someone is in the middle of something important like staring into space then that’s your problem. And before you say it, no I don't think he was trying to chat me up or the bus situation one either was (the Starbucks one... probs yes), I think they were just people who weren't very considerate. Note I think the real-world chatters were the ones being rude and not the often-accused mobile users.

Perhaps something even more interesting is going on here and smartphones are empowering women to reclaim their own headspace?  Goodness where did that come from. 

so demanding

Maybe it’s got nothing to do with gender or smartphones and new social etiquettes are forming around the Attention Economy and some people just don’t get that attention is something you have to earn and people are starting to realise this and value theirs. Good communicators will be rewarded. Rude talkers who barge in with their own agenda be it to talk to girls, check the cricket score or sell computer software will be blanked. The Gen Y’s love people, are very social and have great human connections, they just might want some time out or to chat quietly about the things they like and in a non-demanding way. Is that just me?

ANSWER ME NOW

Not a cloud in the skynet for Australian CSOs

I went to a security conference which was great because I have dedicated a large part of my career to going around company IT security systems so it was nice to know who I had been avoiding detection from. 

Friendly CSO people at Daltone House, Hyde Park Sydney

Going around the company systems has got easier over the years with cloud apps and smartphones so I kind of thought a truce had been called with security and they knew that if things are a pain, employees will just spend two hours on Monday morning configuring their desktop to go around all the firewalls and app blocks for the week- hypothetically speaking….

Wired's Kim Zetter presenting on Stuxnet which was initially installed via usb stick by the looks

As it turns out, I was wrong and the company systems and plans for future systems sounded very much like the old ones you know and don’t love. 

Five things I heard from security types at Sydney CSO

1. People in our company can use anything they like, so long as it’s Blackberry that we issued

2. BYOD is a hassle so we just keep saying no, I don’t see the point

3. We will never have cloud email because it’s not secure

4. It’s Gen Y just wanting to use Facebook at work who keep going around our systems

5. Nothing has really changed- we’ll be running Windows/Citrix just different versions

A desktop based workforce with Windows/Citrix, a company Blackberry phone and limited apps pre determined by your tier when you join the company still seemed to be the model everyone was using which is not that surprising but the total lack of appetite to actually change and consider other products and models did surprise me. 

Consumerisation of IT is real

When I mentioned to one group that Fairfax Media (yes I used to work for them) implemented BYOD and Google Apps, a table of security experts blinked at me and my strange other-worldly information. Yes there are other, non-Windows products. Yes BYOD can work. No, they didn't have a lot of money. Yes I used to spend every Monday re-gearing my Windows/Citrix computer to go around the company's old system because none of the apps I needed to use would run in the company approved browsers. 

BYOD iPad with company email? Nope. “we can’t wipe it”

But does the workforce have decent tools like laptops and smartphones? “they have a laptop with 3G on it”

Can employees check Facebook at work? “the young ones bring their own phone and check it on the guest wifi network”

It was as if the cloud has not arrived in the company security team and if it has, it’s certainly not being considered as part of a serious architecture. High profile hacks like Sony and Target may have spooked some people but to me, that’s more about isolating and protecting the valuable stuff (payroll, credit card systems) and letting people frolic around in the not so risky stuff like third party productivity apps and web tools. Super secure email is only as secure as a user hitting the Forward button and the most vulnerable areas are probably shared printer networks that nobody really bothers to check anyway. Smartphones that automatically backup to cloud drives and personal document management in Dropbox seemed to be conveniently not included in CSO architectures, even though everyone knows that’s how most employees work. 

So if you’ve been hibernating for the last 10 years don’t fear, the enterprise work environment will still look very familiar to you- the clouds are still far, far away. 

Asia Pacific average page load times mobile versus broadband

Akamai have added some situational performance metrics in their latest state of the internet report. 

What’s the situation? 
Countries with super fast broadband like Hong Kong have high -what Akamai have called- mobile penalty. A mobile page takes 2.9x longer to load than a page on broadband. 

Figure 41: Average Page Load Times Based on Real User Monitoring

If you stop and think about it, it would be easy to think Hong Kong =fast internet so we can use lots of HD video and we only have to worry about low bandwidth for places like Vietnam. Then you look at Vietnam and see it has the same mobile penalty as South Korea, a traditionally fast internet type place and realise that the gap between broadband and mobile is the thing and not just the total speed. 

So if you are designing for the sophisticated Samsung Galaxy Y Hello Kitty BFF Smartphone business user in Hong Kong, it would be more like Vietnam and less like South Korea in terms of mobile page load, even though the broadband speeds are really different. I think it just really shows too the limitation of of thinking regionally as there are big differences between say Malaysia and Philippines in this data even though they are close together geographically and both very fond of all things Hello Kitty.

Akamai State of the internet

Marketing software to self-educating customers

Users are getting a bit more clever and they want to research and try things for themselves before they commit to the full assault of your sales team. 

"Cisco’s customers were beginning to purchase and use technology in new ways. Increasingly, tech-savvy business managers, instead of just IT professionals, were making buying decisions; user-generated applications were being added on top of the basic technology; cloud computing was becoming prominent; and digital media was becoming a key influence in deciding which technologies to purchase. Customers were self-educating and researching buying decisions in new ways – not just with a sales person." http://blogs.hbr.org/2014/10/help-your-team-spend-time-on-the-right-things/

Self-educating customers, the horror. I'm always moaning that enterprise software companies make you sit through half day demos and then you get to the end and you can't have a play around. Two things I came across today that are good. Splunk. See these guys are smart enough to create a sandpit for you to have go with. Very good, everyone do this please

grab your dataz and have a go
product info and play area

Number two is this launch campaign from Adobe for Premier Clip. It’s a free mobile movie making app that aims to make video more accessible and useable for those that don't want to go hard out with Final Cut Pro. 

#madewithclip Purrrmiere -get it hahaa 

I really like the video with the marketing team explaining their products and the simple walk throughs that encourage users to download straight away and try for themselves.  

Content is all tagged up and optimised nicely. Personal and useful and makes everything look easy and fun while still maintaining the product quality of Adobe Creative Cloud. Most excellent blog links through to themed user content 

Think about products and tools that you use regularly and how you originally came across them. Self education is getting more crucial for marketers so always think how you can get your products into the hands of your users ASAP before their little minds wander off to the land of cat gifs --ooo look it's Maru (=^‥^=)

no1 best cat on the internet Maru

Oracle's Larry Ellison air guitars his way into marketing but do we get it?

There are many things I like about Oracle:

1. The Larry Ellison / Russell Coutts bromance is one of them. 

I once heard Larry describe Russell as the only person he takes orders from and as the only New Zealander in the world today who supported Russell’s move to Team Oracle for the America's Cup  I was pleased to see him at the Oracle's Openworld event today. Haters to the left. 

2. The hilarious rock music driving a Hummer up a mountain in a Rocky action movie vibe for their keynotes

Dun dun dunnnnn — we have a database—YEAHHHH —air guitarrrrrr. 

3. Oracle have a massive client list. 

Laugh all you want but when I got a marketing email the other day from Twitter, it was sent from Eloqua. Twitter Cards puts customer details into Eloqua because lots of big organisations use it. 

Ever applied for a job at a bank or something? You’ve probably filled out an online form in Taleo

Pepsi Frito-lay is doing FMCG promotions on Oracle Demantra? What the hell is a Demantra? You can watch a video and I’m interested in this sort of thing and i can’t be bothered so I can’t really imagine that any of the regular, less geeky and interested in database apps marketers that I’ve worked with would but that's what they use if you care. 

I went to an Oracle  event in Sydney and after being asked by several salespeople whether or not I was in the Oracle events team or the hotel events team or ‘waiting for my husband’, I was invited in to a technical presentation where speakers wizzed through slides of logos for the many builds and acquisitions that Oracle had made, many in the marketing and social space.  

The speaker was the by-product of such an acquisition and he did something to do with retail and databases and e-commerce and then he talked about cloud development gap and how they needed people to build lots of stuff to run on the EXA META GRRR 4000 CLOUDERATION SUPERCLUSTER BLADE platform or something. In the scheme of end-user understanding of how this sort of thing works I would usually rank myself about a 7 and I had no idea what he was talking about. So I figured the preso must be targeted for developers but then most of the people in the room where from client-side big IT departments I don't know?

I couldn’t help but think there must be so many opportunities for developers to build really great products and businesses if someone could just, you know, actually explain the tech behind the Oracle products in a simple way. It’s tricky because a lot great developers are spending their time building Instagram copies and time tracking software when they could be building some awesome plugin for the Oracle Demantra if people like me who actually pay attention could figure out what it was and tell everyone else about the awesome tech at work on —umm Oracle Demantra?

It might not sound as exciting as Snapchat but in terms of impact, building something for a massive open government healthcare project or retail bank or media network would really change things and that’s what we need. IT people are buying marketing and media software because they are already running Oracle gear which may or may not be a bad thing. I don’t know because it’s so confusing to figure out if the stuff is any good or not and nobody would give me a demo account or any way of playing with it to make an assessment because I couldn’t possibly know how to do my job better than an Oracle salesperson who thought I must be part of the events team because why else would I be there?

When you get past all the air guitar-ing and motion sickness from the spinning logos and M7 chipset FUSION ERP HCM you can look around the room and see that there are many, many companies who use this stuff and a handful of nerds who get what their little piece of the puzzle means but probably not how it works across different functions, let alone to their customers. It’s an industry-wide thing and I’m sure Oracle are aware of it but I fear many marketers are going to get stuck with nasty, unusable software that their IT person has gone ahead and purchased because it talks to the Oracle thing and all their other things are Oracle. I’m sure Larry knows this and that’s why he can afford to pay Russell lots of money and buy a nice island in Hawaii with pineapples on it and good for him. What would be really great is if product marketers or evangelists or whoever does the customer stuff would sit and look at successful consumer products like Twitter and Evernote and Mailchimp and communicate it like that so that more people can get it and run with it and make enterprise technology not so complicated and unattainable for regular folk because if you can understand Mailchimp you should be able to understand Eloqua and marketing teams have large, successful teams of loyalty database marketers who get databases so they should be able to get Demantra, whatever that is. 

How to get better photos for your ecommerce sites

Photos are super important for ecommerce sites so here’s a few tips that might help you to improve yours. We were doing this exercise for a hotel and the main places we needed images for was the company, native web site, travel sites like booking.com, google business and maps, Facebook and Flickr.  Run an analytics report in google analytics, the site you’re using like Facebook or Booking.com or whatever you use and a site backup before you start so you can see the improvement. You want to see search and conversion ratios improving and ultimately sentiment and reviews improving as you empower customers with more information. 

Much like video, be realistic about what you can do with your current equipment and skill levels. I have basic equipment (smartphone camera) and very low photography skills so I know from the start this isn’t going to be a National Geographic award winning exercise. We’re talking snappy, point and shoot stuff for social and ecommerce photo albums. If you are entering architectural awards then you want to brief someone specialist like Simon Devitt who is amazing and at a whole different level of skill and budget. The hobby ‘oh look I have an SLR camera’ person can be your greatest time wasting nemesis. 

Get together some people in your marketing team and write a list of what you need for customer and SEO purposes. You’ll find (with customer content especially) you have a lot of the same types of photos. For example, if you are a cafe you’ll have lots of photos of coffee cups and probably none of the toilets. If you are a hotel you’ll have the front entrance and not the layout of the bathrooms. You want product and ‘answering questions’ type photos that communicate features like:

-does it have free wifi in the room? - photo of person on laptop in room and free wifi sign
-is it child friendly? - photo of child at cafe
-what is the room layout? -photo of room layout and floor plan
-when you say swimming pool is it a resort pool or a lap pool? photo of resort style pool

People are looking for lots of accurate information so as much as you want to put your best foot forward, be careful about showcasing your $300 room when you’re $99 room is the one that most people buy on a deal. If your photos don’t show a true representation of what people get, then you’ll get negative reviews and it’s just not worth it. 

Write some groups ‘newly refurbed rooms’, ‘old rooms’, ‘one bedroom’, ‘two bedroom’ and make sure you cover off different options people might purchase. 

Smartphone cameras are fine just make sure the size is correct for output for example booking.com want quite big images at 2048 x 1536. I’ll say that again: SMARTPHONE CAMERAS ARE FINE. Most of the images your customers post will be from mobile so it’s not a big thing to have some that you took in the mix to front-foot parts of the business you want to show. 

The worst thing you can do is wait around for the perfect photo of everything and then have customers tag and upload all their ugly photos because those will be the ones that appear in search and on sites like Facebook. Put your OK one’s up first. 

Release the hounds. Set everyone off to take photos in the group they’ve been allocated. Try and take photos early in the day or in the evening so the light works but again, don’t get too fussy or you’ll never get around to doing it. We just drew up a little grid and had one person responsible for a part of the business e.g. you are doing two bedroom units in the new part of the building and getting everything on your SEO list. Photos with people in them are prioritised on a lot of sites so make sure you ask anyone’s permission before you publish them in an image- customers or employees. 

Set a deadline and have everyone come back for the upload. Taking photos is the more fun part so watch everyone run away when you get to the boring editing, uploading and tagging part. Have one folder for each part of the grid and put all the raw photos in the folder. 

You want everyone editing and tagging so we used Picmonkey because it’s free for basic things like resizing and cropping. If you have multiple computers that can do Adobe Photoshop or something else that’s great- just don’t be restricted by only having a designer to do it because it’s really slow and you won’t get the volume you want in a short timeframe. Picmonkey struggles a bit with the big 2048 images in browser but just stick to cropping and basic stuff because if you fiddle around with colour setting they’ll all look different and the app crashes too. 

Set a file naming convention like ‘one bedroom new 2048 bathroom’ so other people can use the images again. We resized to 2048 x 1536 for booking.com and went to a standard Instagram square because I just like those at the moment and they’re quite handy to have for social sites - 410 x 410. Do both so you should have three types of each picture 1. raw 2. 2048 3.410

The most important ingredient at this point is coffee and headphones because it’s time consuming but listen to Soundcloud and you’ll get through it. I recommend Cay Taylan’s full album for ultimate photo resizing performance. After a Cay Taylan’s album length of time, you are ready to start publishing. 

Start uploading to the sites. Put one person on each site and make sure they’re working off lists so you cover everything. Booking.com has a tagging directory so that can be a good one to follow. Use your SEO keywords lists as well so the images are tagged correctly. It’s really easy to rush this part and not get the most out of it so try and channel the art direction enthusiasm into photo tagging and people will soon figure out there’s a lot to get through and not be so fussy with the images. If the image is 80% OK, use it. You can go back and update the exceptions later but try and stop people rushing off and taking more photos in the first batch because your uploading soldiers will desert you and leave you with three pretty photos of the main lobby and none of the bedrooms. Just remember that your customers will quickly boost up a photo without too much thought and it might not be flattering so get your ones up there and live. 

Tagging can take ages so really perservere and keep everyone on task because you won’t want to go back and do it later. Next morning, have a quick review of the images that are live and then you can make a list of any you missed or that are really terrible and need a reshoot. You want lots of images, about 20-30 on each site of decent size and quality all tagged up with descriptions and albums and any other helpful meta data like hashtags or geotags. 

Put all the final images into folders and back them all up to somewhere central and cloudy like google drive or dropbox -even though they are live on the sites it just makes it easier for the future. Getting urgency on to the job and powering it out in one or two days is much better than dragging it out with designers on $$$$ hourly rates and then you can go back and get some hero shots later if you want for specific campaigns. Hope that helps and when you run your reports again, the conversions are up and the reviews are positive :)