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I’m Pro Choice. I’m Android.

We in the tech world are a fickle bunch. On one side of our brain, we scream about openness and freedoms. We verbally disparage anyone who would dare mess with our precious Internet freedoms. Many of us, especially in my WordPress community, swear allegiance to licensing that ensures data and code exchanges on open standards.

Yet one thing stands out to me as an anomaly on this, the opening day of pre-orders for the iPhone 4.


Photo by laihiu on Flickr

Ah yes. The iPhone. The gadget that makes grown men quake in their shoes. The thing that causes adults to behave as if they left their brains at the door. At one point in time, I called this behavior “an applegasm” and identified the Apple store as the place where intelligent people go to die.

And it’s not only the iPhone. It’s the iPad too (I bought one 3 weeks after release and only because I needed it for some client work). In fact, it’s any Apple device. Apple has a way of turning people into automatons controlled by the Borg in Cupertino.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Apple and I love Apple products. However, there is a degree of hypocrisy (or shall we call it “situational morality”) that comes into play here. There is nothing “open” about Apple products. Sure, Steve Jobs famously points out that Apple encourages the use of open web standards like HTML5, CSS3 and Javascript, but the devices are nowhere near open.

In fact, the devices are so closed and guarded that strange things like lost stolen iPhone prototypes make huge news. There is only one device. There is only one operating system. There is only one permitted way of designing apps. There is only one carrier (in the United States).

And the open standards, web-free, maniacal tech world that is ready to take off the heads of closed entities like Microsoft, Facebook and Palm, whistle silently and look the other way when it comes to Apple.

In another few weeks, I am going to be eligible for an upgrade with Verizon Wireless. As a longtime BlackBerry user (I refuse to give money to AT&T ever), I will be investing in a new Android-based phone. I won’t be doing this with any kind of religious conviction about open source. There is a legitimate place for closed source in this world. I’m doing this because the culture of openness (which supersedes the execution of openness, in my mind), allows for more innovation and creativity.

In the Android world (which is quickly catching up to the iPhone world), apps are being created without the artificial restrictions placed by a single gatekeeper. There are more choices in phones. Don’t like this one? Try that one. There is a greater anticipation around what can be done.

Apple had to have its arm twisted to enable multitasking in it’s latest operating system. It had to have its arm twisted to allow cut and paste. It still hasn’t provided a decent camera, despite consumers begging for one. In the Android world, if Motorola doesn’t provide it, maybe HTC does. You have choice. Choice is good.

I’m pro choice.

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via XKCD

Doers & Talkers: Cultivating Innovation

A few years ago, I wrote a post called Doers and Talkers where I profiled two types of people in the technology space: Those who have ideas and are visionaries (or talkers) and those who implement those ideas on behalf of others (the doers).

I looked back at that post and realized that, while correct, it was a bit simplistic. In fact, in a world filled with shades of grey, there are more than just doers and talkers.

In review, talkers tend to be the ideas people. They have great ideas, whether in technology, business or just life in general. They see big pictures and tend to have lofty goals. They think quick and often take steps to see their visions implemented, often times without thinking about ramifications and potential pitfalls.

Talkers benefit from irrational thinking. They look at the impossible and, in their own minds, they don’t think it’s impossible. They see limitations as challenges and tend to think that road blocks are only minor inconveniences.

via XKCD
via xkcd

via xkcd

These are the CEOs and founders of the world. These are the people like Steve Jobs of Apple who say, “Phones shouldn’t be this limiting. I should be able to use my natural senses and behaviors to make the phone do what I expect it to do.” Thus, the iPhone was invented with a touch screen interface and technologies like the accelerometer that allow manipulation of the device through natural movement.

Doers, on the other hand, tend to not allow creative thinking. In fact, they tend not to be creative people. They are analytical, engineering types that look at data and extrapolate results based on that data. Doers, in the software world, are the engineers who are handed a list of specs, a timeline and budget, and are told to go and execute.

These people thrive on structure and expectations. They like to know what’s expected and, when they know, are exceptional at delivering results. Doers abhor irrational behavior and approach problems from a perspective of frameworks and architecture. They don’t venture outside their tent posts and, by doing so, are the necessary ingredient for Talkers to see their visions executed.

There really are shades in the middle, however, that are a rare breed. It’s the people in the middle, who both have the business savvy to see big pictures and allow for some degree of dreaming, yet have a firm understanding of expectations and roadmaps that make them so valuable.

See, doers rarely engage with the talkers in providing context or realistic expectation for proposals. Doers don’t really want that role. Doers get into trouble because they don’t know how to speak the language of the talkers. They don’t have the confidence, perhaps, or the desire to take a project and drive a sense of reality into a proposal. That’s above their pay grade, in their minds.

Meanwhile, talkers have an inherent nature, generally, that precludes outside input in decisions. Therefore, they don’t ask, or perhaps even think to ask, the doers for input. They create the business plans and monetization strategies, but rarely think about the implementation. By doing so, they often overlook problems that might be incurred. Talkers are usually distant from the details of the project and so, they tend to miss the detailed tactical decision making process that is employed by the doer.

Finding that personality who has the business understanding to see a 50,000 foot view, interface with management to guide a decisions in a productive manner and who also has the background and understanding to talk to the doers and collect their input is a rare, but important breed. These people should be hired immediately. Create a position if necessary but don’t let them escape.

These types of personalities tend to be excellent product managers and, in a technical environment, can really steer a product in a productive direction.

For what it’s worth, Google has instituted, for many years now, 20% time. This is the policy that states that every Google employee, regardless of role or position, is allowed 20% of their work week to work on any project that they want to. Allowing the doers, talkers and that happy middle the opportunity to be creative, to be structured and to foster ideas, has resulted in many Google Labs projects.

Notably, some of the best Google products used today, have come out of 20% time projects: Gmail, Google News and Google Reader. Additionally, many features (such as keyboard shortcuts in a variety of Google products) have also been added to existing Google products as a result of 20% time. There is even a blind engineer who created Google’s Accessible Search product.

While doers are important, and talkers are important, finding a way to foster open communication and understanding between them is essential for innovation.

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Allow me to Complain…

Festivus was the other day, the traditional day that people “air their grievances”. Since I did not do that but I seem to be a bit fired up today, I’m going to separate from the normal informative, intellectual articles that would normally go up here, and instead rant a bit. Because there are a lot of things to rant about and I believe very good reasons for those rants to come. If you will allow me…

The Rooney Rule

The Rooney rule in the NFL is a rule that requires an NFL team to interview at least one minority candidate for an NFL coaching position before it can be filled. The principle is clear… there are not enough opportunities for minority coaching candidates so the NFL mandates the requirement.

The problem is, it does no good. It has become a thing of bureaucratic obstacles and a checklist item for franchises. Take the case of the Washington Redskins who are likely to fire head coach Jim Zorn in the next week after yet another abysmal performance.

During the preliminary process of hiring a new coach, the Redskins interviewed Skins Secondary coach Jerry Gray. Cool, cool. Except that it seems to have been done to fill a quota (yes, I used the Q word). Gray is not likely to get the job and probably never was likely to get the job but it was required that the Redskins interview a minority. Even the front page teaser of the article on NFL.com suggests the process is a quota-based process with the phrase, “Skins Interview Gray, Satisfy Rooney Rule”. Duh?

Search Neutrality

Search Neutrality is the bastard half-child of Net Neutrality. Net Neutrality, for context, is the Internet policy argument that states that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) should not be able to offer preferential treatment to higher paying customers. First let me go on record to say that I don’t necessarily support net neutrality, though there should be some regulation around Internet service provisions because it affects more that just carriers pissing among themselves.

Though I am not a fan of unfettered capitalism (thus my support for some regulation around net neutrality), two or more companies trying to make money should be able to create incentives to customers that would provide better services (or preferred service, if you will) to better (or more high paying) customers. This has existed forever. You have Airline frequent flier miles. You have Premium accounts over basic accounts. You have different versions of operating systems offering better features. Etc. Etc. Etc. The Internet is not a Constitutionally protected right and is subject to the laws of competition and capitalism.

Which brings me back to search neutrality. There is some buzz around the idea that there should be regulation around search engines that would prevent search providers (Google, Bing, etc) from having editorial policy (read: search algorithms) that provide more favorable treatment to some publishers over others. Or would prevent search providers from supplying paid placement opportunities to publishers in an agnostic fashion.

This, on its face, is wrong. Yet don’t underestimate some guy who has no idea how to organically grow search result placements (SERPs) to try to rally support from the ignorant to punish the evil empires of Microsoft and Google for exercising capitalistic rights and sound business opportunities. Let me be clear, any kind of neutrality buzzword derives from the inability of some to compete on merit in a marketplace. Can’t get SERPs… smack Google with a search neutrality policy that makes everyone, everywhere completely equal while we eat fruit from trees while riding our unicorns. It doesn’t happen this way, people. Competition is created by innovation and capitalism. Survival of the fittest.

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