Yesterday, I tweeted a link to a thoughtful post with this clever title by Don Norman. It resonated with me on a few different levels and I encourage everyone to read it. First, it starts off at a tech conference with insufficient Internet Wi-Fi. A crime far too frequently committed. Hotels tend to have insufficient bandwidth for their general population of visitors, but tech conferences are a whole different color of a horse. The typical tech attendee is equipped with a Wi-Fi enabled mobile phone, laptop, and now a tablet that connects to networks for IM, email, social, and who knows what else content. Tech conferences need to supersize their Internet.
But besides that rant, the post makes two key important points. The first being how dependent we are on our devices (or more importantly how utterly useless we are without them), and the second being the increasingly proprietary nature of our once open network.
The first point is important. Just last night, Comcast failed me (again) and I was offline at home without notice for several hours. I was working on a document that lives in Google Docs and could not access it. That was my first priority, good thing I have a list of things to do. Fiddlesticks, I can’t book those travel tickets, nor do some online research. Maybe I should relax and buy a few things I wanted….oh shit. Deprived of the ability to do my top priorities, I opted to go to bed.
The second issue has to do with interoperability. The post in question looks at this from a consumer point of view, but it’s the same story in business communications, particularly UC. The Internet has transformed our lives thanks to open standards and connectivity. We can email everyone regardless of their platform and we can shop at stores or book tickets regardless of the brand and OS of the host site or the home site. It has transformed the way we work, play, and interact – yet it seems like everybody is working hard to build barriers to this successful model.
Facebook is for Facebook users, Twitter for Twitter users, and so on. Every cool app on my phone is yet another client for another network – another wall. Sharing information between gardens – even my gardens – is getting tougher and tougher. Back to the work environment, the same is true in UC. Skype users can’t talk to Microsoft Live (MSN) or the vast majority of corporate IM networks. Desktop video, collaboration tools, even web-based voice communications get stopped at network borders.
It’s wrong! It’s time to demand interoperability. The app frenzy is a bad thing, stop feeding it. Mr. Norman is a wise man, you heard it here second.
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