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30 January 2009

What Were They Thinking #3: Adobe Flash Player

The Problem: Desktop and laptop computers are now being shipped with a sweet new version of Windows Vista - the 64bit version. This upgrade not only speeds up common functions and applications, but will most likely become the standard OS for all future Windows-based computers (until the next big advancement).

So you'd expect large companies to be in the know and to have 64bit versions of their applications ready and waiting for the OS to hit the marketplace.
For the most part I am impressed with the number of apps that either offer a 64bit version or that work even without a specific upgrade for 64bit.

So you can imagine my shock when I started up the speedy 64bit version of Internet Explorer (IE7) and realized that there is no 64bit version of Adobe Flash Player.

Lack of Excellence: Don't worry, I understand that the marketplace is a mine field of copyright issues, patents, sovereign partnerships and other problems that may keep a company from developing the very thing the marketplace is waiting for.

But this seems different. For some reason the Flash Player team appears slow on the uptake. Not just in this situation, but in others as well.

  1. Flash support on mobile devices: Flash video streams so well over the Internet. Is there a reason why flash isn't a standard piece of mobile browser technology?
  2. Flash support for 64bit IE7: Adobe undoubtedly knew the 64bit version of Windows Vista was coming out. Why wasn't the Flash Player team ready?
Again - I'm sure there are complications and I don't have a good grasp on the development process for Flash Player. But if the technology is available and it can be done I'd definitely ask, "What were they thinking?"

27 January 2009

The Gospel and DTV

On February 28, 2007 a coalition was created to inform the public about the switch from analog television signals to digital on February 17, 2009.

Nearly two years of non stop public service announcements, updates to their informative website, voucher plans to get digital converter boxes into peoples homes and the incessant radio ads and still the public are asking,

What exactly is going to happen on February 17th?
Seriously! Engadget just posted that the transition deadline has been extended until June 12. I love the fact that they question if this will even be the date. After all, if they aren't ready by now...

Truth is, people don't like to be proactive. They have too much going on - too many other things to worry about. So instead they react when problems occur.

You better believe if the transition went into effect on February 17, everyone who lost service would be at the store the next day to pick up a converter box! So why postpone the date?

History Lesson
Procrastination is nothing new. History reveals that in Bible times people struggled with the same problems.

Didn't Noah warn the people of his day? Wasn't it for a lot longer than two years? People ignored that message too - and it was a matter of life and death!

I'm not saying the transition to digital television HAS to happen on February 17, 2009. What I AM saying is that there will be just as many people caught off guard in June as there would have been in February.

Am I being too pessimistic or negative?

24 January 2009

Meet Guido

Guido (as I call him) is a male Cardinal that likes to hang out in the trees outside my window at work.

For the past few months I've been taking the camera to work but until now most of the pictures were not worth posting. It has either been too dark outside (gloomy) or they have been too far away with numerous branches between them and me.

But this one looked good enough to put out there. A little Photoshop work to make the background black and white and we're good to go.

I learned something from Guido and his friends the other day:

You always have to be on the lookout for danger.
Now most birds are skittish around humans, but I'm talking hawks - BIG hawks. The other day one of Guido's not-so-fortunate friends became lunch for the hawk. Not a pretty picture and yet this is the sad reality about the world in which we live.


There are really mean people in the world - and those are just the ones we run into. Throw in Satan and his minions and the hawk starts to look pretty tame.

Stay strong Guido and always be on guard!

16 January 2009

I'm "Pre"paring for It's Arrival

All I've heard for the past year is, "When are you going to get the iPhone?" And can I just say it's getting obnoxious?

I've said it before - I love the iPhone and think it's a great product. I just can't help but think that at some point another company will get their #*$&$ together and create something that will give people options.

If you're a Mac person - the iPhone makes perfect sense. If iTunes is your music App of choice - the iPhone makes perfect sense.

But for me, a Zune Phone makes perfect sense. I bought a Zune the first week they were available and I love everything about it - from the UI to the subscription option with the Zune Marketplace.

Create me a phone that does all that in one and I would buy it in a heartbeat. But no such luck...yet...

My other issue is that I'm a Sprint customer (happily) and can't imagine spending almost twice as much for my service in order to switch to AT&T (for the iPhone).

So I was more than interested when Sprint announced the Palm Pre was coming. I've never been a huge fan of Palm products. In fact back in the day when Palm Pilots were such a big thing I ended up buying a Dell Axim with Windows Mobile. But Palm has been able to hold their own just like Blackberry for a good long time.

Unfortunately all I've been able to do is look and read about the Pre. Engadget has numerous articles about the phone and its revolutionary features (good one here). But I can't wait to actually hold one and see what all the fuss is about. This typically seals the deal for me. I can think something is awesome, but then pick it up and immediately change my mind if it isn't made well. My hope is that when I pick it up my preconceptions and my first impression match.

We'll see...

10 January 2009

Can You Smell a "Cheater?"

A recent article put out by National Geographic the other day documents some amazing research about ants.

In ant colonies there can be only one offspring producing ant - the Queen Ant in that colony. This doesn't mean other female ants can't produce. In fact they can produce offspring without the help of a male (called: parthenogenesis). When a female ant in the colony other than the queen attempts to reproduce, it puts off a chemical called a "pheromone" that is detected by the other ants. In order to maintain the hierarchy in the colony this female is attacked and restrained (killed?) by the other ants.

Researchers believe that pheromones may also be responsible for the behavior of other insects like bees and wasps.

Bringing it Full Circle
The female ants that attempt to reproduce in the article are referred to as "cheaters." And for some reason the concept of the colony with the hierarchy and the strict rules made me think of our work environments.

I'm assuming most companies have a hierarchy and fairly specific expectations that if not followed results in the employee being fired. Some companies more rigid than others. And the church is no exception.

The church has the typical "work" expectations like attendance, productivity and the like. But it also has a hierarchy like the ant colony. Not hierarchy like org chart (though we have that too) - more like a hierarchy of values that are held as important.

The ants follow the "No reproducing" rule almost as if it were their religious belief. And it is the same for the church. We work for a higher purpose - both the truths found in the Bible and the specific mission, vision and values that your church has.

For us at Granger, we have the Bible and we have, "Helping people take their next steps toward Christ, together..."

So is it possible to have "cheaters" on staff at your church - people who really aren't concerned about the two big things the church stands for?

My answer is "Of course!" Unfortunately you won't always have thoroughbreds on your team all pulling in the same direction.

The difficult task for the "colony" is to identify these employees, work with them to adjust their trajectory and if this isn't possible - to help them find another "colony" where they align better.

03 January 2009

"Textology" by Jarbyco (Update)

First service down. Heading into the second. Things running smoothly.

What a cool way to get people involved.

How does it work?

  • People allowed to text questions before and during service.
  • All (approved) texts displayed on screen during intro so people make the connection that the texts are being received in real time. An online flash movie is displayed on the large screen to display the questions and transition nicely between them (Text to Screen feature).
  • Out of all entries random ones are picked and three at a time are "approved" for display on the screen. As these go by, the speaking pastor (Mark Beeson in this case) asks for the audience to pick the question they want by clapping for it. Once chosen the Spyder operator "freezes" the main screen on that question (online flash movie doesn't stop).
  • The speaking pastor then answers the question while the "approved" questions are scrapped for the next three.
  • This continues until there is no time left in the message portion of the service.
Looking into a similar application for your church or business? If so, check out Jarbyco. They are a successful startup with awesome customer service and a highly versatile product.

"Textology" by Jarbyco

This weekend we're getting to put Jarbyco through its paces.

If Jarbyco sounds familiar to you it might be because we used it during Innovate08 to allow voting by text during the Film Festival.

Since then we've found a variety of ways to use the texting service. But this is probably our most visible use.

Create a weekend service where the audience can participate by texting in questions they want immediately addressed by the speaking pastor (Mark Beeson in this case). Obviously all questions won't be answered, but they will still scroll on the screen (if appropriate) so the interactivity is there. A couple random questions are chosen for the audience to pick from. Once the question is picked the speaking pastor answers the question and then the process starts over with another round of questions to choose from.

Jarbyco Text to Screen. As people enter the auditorium and as the service progresses people can text in questions that go to the big screen. A flash interface not only gives the instructions but also cycles through the questions with nice text effects.

You can also set up an auto response text so the person knows their submission went through.

Here we go...

More details on how it went on the other side...

Don't Create the Perfect Storm

I was just as excited about the new Blackberry Storm as the next guy. My wife currently uses the Blackberry Curve and it was nice to see Blackberry branching out - taking their brand of business communication to the next level with touch screens and a more "comfortable" and sleek user interface.

Unfortunately, the reviews I have read since the debut have been dismal at best (read this Gizmodo review for a fairly balanced look at the cool features and yet the areas where the phone falls short.)

I haven't even touched the phone yet, but here are a few of my assumption based on the stuff I've read and from talking with friends who have actually tried it out for the 30 day trial period:

  • RIM realized they had to keep up with the new touch screen trend powered by the iPhone, HTC Touch phones etc.
  • They tried to take their existing functionality and make it work on a touch screen.
  • RIM still won't play nice with a Microsoft Exchange Server.
  • RIM still assumes it has something that can compete with iPhone OS and WiMo (which may have been true in the past but is slowly getting away from them).
Again, just my assumptions. But after reading about the high number of people who have returned their Storm after trying it out - I must not be the only one.

Finding the Application
This whole scenario got me thinking about web strategy and the way we launch new stuff on our websites (either new elements or full on site redesigns).

When we mock things up and present ideas for this new stuff we often do so for reasons like:
  • Keeping up with others.
  • Keeping up with technology.
  • Adding functionality that we didn't previously have or couldn't afford.
  • And sometimes to be innovative - to ride the cutting edge of technology and lead by example.
Whatever our reason for adding new "stuff" to our websites, it would be to our advantage to use the Blackberry Storm as a case study. Unfortunately it seems like the Storm was designed to keep up with others and keep up with technology. They undoubtedly added some functionality. But what if they had been innovative and went above and beyond? What if they had built it to do everything the iPhone and WiMo phones could do and then some? My bet is people wouldn't be taking the phone back to the store...

Food for thought...