Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Pssst, Want To Make Money Monetizing Social Networking Instead Of Time-Wasting Social NOT Working?

FaceBook, MySpace, linkedin, and so many other social networking sites offer great ways to connect with people - and lose touch with reality (and the total time spent on a computer). That is even before location-aware GPS and RFID devices, married to addictive platforms like FaceBook, Twitter and MySpaceTime.net (more on that later) make social networking mean even more being social and not working even during working hours.

It is so ironic that just about 16 years I wrote an article contradicting people's then assertion that computers and the Internet were going to make us all anti-social.

Having started what was considered the first online matrimonial sites, at http://imran.com, I dared to disagree.

I felt that though we may spend more time on our computers, the Internet would actually help us find that one in a million connection from places around the world we could never have gone or known or met that person.

Little did I realize how social networking would grow. Lesson learnt, something that you consider merely a social observation, or the earliest makings of a trend, must be pursued zealously even as the trend changes shapes and directions from market forces. If you are riding, even shaping, it along the way, your opportunities to start something huge are....well, huge.

Of course, as is my forte, I have a knack for starting new things. But, in the past I also had a "rebel without a cause" habit of not sticking around in such businesses long enough to become a millionaire off them. So, my advice is to never lose your idealism - as that is what will help you achieve the impossible. But, temper that idealism with pragmatism.

Wanting something to be a commercial success does not necessarily mean you "sold out" your dream. Take an alternate view. If you work hard and make Project X a huge money-making success, even if you have to sell the company to investors or venture capitalists, you did not sell out.

All you did was leverage Project X to give you the freedom to freely experiment and play with your many other some-crazy some-great ideas without being worried about getting funding for them. That can take you from being a "serial entrepreneur" to a "parallel serial entrepreneur", capable of trying multiple new ideas and businesses and achieving success far beyond what Project X alone would have given you.

In my own case, idealism was a strength, but it was also definitely a huge liability. Usually, I sat back and a few years later watched someone else do the same thing, with funding instead of personal funds, and grow rich/er. I saw the same thing as online dating grow into a huge business with the likes of match.com and others many years after I had launched the first matrimonials database.

When I started Internet email for my native country of Pakistan, I also became "co-owner and co-founder" of the .PK top level domain with my friend and neighbor, the technical genius Ashar Nisar, who went on to establish PKNIC to manage the ccTLD.

Besides getting a kick out of being called "father of the Internet" (at least in Pakistan), I even gave many people free email addresses on imran.pk (the country's first email provider and ISP) to promote email. But, never could I have imagined that sticking around giving something for free I could later have sold it to a giant corporation as hotmail.com did a few years later. Oh, well. Live and learn.

Today, FREE is a valid business model. If you grow a business large enough, no matter how much money it is losing, as long as you have enough users, someone will buy you out for millions of Dollars.

When I started writing an online journal and political opinions (Occasionally Obnoxious, Obviously Outspoken Opinions) at http://imran.com in 1995-96, little did I know that I could have built some sort of "blogging" empire on that.

Once again, despite having an MBA and thinking of myself as a savvy entrepreneur, I missed the boat. So, look around you - some of the very ordinary problems you are solving daily without thinking twice may hold within them huge business opportunities. First, recognize them. Then, go for them with everything you've got.

In 1995 I became a heavy GPS user in boating and later in aviation as a pilot. In 1998-2000 I became CEO of EverTrac, among the first out the gate selling RFID and GPS based solutions. Alas, as usual, like Panasonic's slogan, I was just slightly ahead of my time.

Fortunately, EverTrac and my team survived the dot-com bust, but only because we were gobbled by a Fortune 50 level company - which did nothing with what they bought. Lesson learnt. It's important to survive, but if you sell out to a big company, try not to feel heartache when they don't make any use of the technology.

But, this current new momentum of GPS based devices we are seeing will prove I was on the right…. umm.. EverTrac?

Hopefully, this time, with my current projects, covering GPS, social networking and mobile-monetization - I'll actually make some "real" money if I can sell something to a Google or Yahoo or, some even smarter business!

If that does not happen, I guess the pattern (or call it the Corporate Culture of an Entrepreneur) here is that I love to start new things, just before their time, that others make billions off later. But, so what? The sheer joy of starting something new, taking something from an idea that everyone says is dumb, or will never work, and making it at least take shape, get launched, and become popular is, in itself, a huge reward.

So, feel free to call me about what I an doing now. Surely I can help you become a Web 2.0 multi-millionaire doing whatever I am too lazy (or not smart enough :-) ) to make money from!

Good luck and God Speed, fellow entrepreneurs.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Beats Bush Rice Pudding For World Peace

My sweet tooth (more like sweet teeth!) mean there are few desserts, and hardly any ice-creams, that I do not like. But, among my favorites are Ben & Jerry's flavors, along with Hagen Daz and many others.

I have been a fan of B&J's ice-creams from before they showed the courage to take the challenge of exposing our government's, especially the Bush administration's, follies and foolish policies.

Obviously I just consume massive quantities of Chunky Monkey, Chubby Hubby, Stephen Colbert's Americone Dreams, Half Baked, and many other flavors just to support Ben and Jerry be great corporate citizens. Fine, don't believe me!

Anyway, when I saw a link to it, I was happy to become a fan of their "fan page" on FaceBook. I saw that they have actually created several flavors and brands in support of world peace.

During the same Facebook session, I clicked on the page of a very interesting person in Israel, who had connected to me. On his page, in a section called The Wall, which is standard on most FaceBook profiles, it was very heartening to see Palestinian and Israeli members, writing literally side-by-side, for world and middle-east peace.

It was just a coincidence. But one that reminded me again that individuals, like Yaakov Ort and Ben & Jerry (as people and as a business), can, do and will achieve far more for world peace with simple web pages, than President Bush ever could, even if he had thought about actually trying.

Even just by naming some flavors for World Peace, Ben and Jerry has/have done more for peace around the world, than President Bush did in 8 years. Even with his FaceBook profile, people like Yaakov, do more than Rice can do inviting world leaders for photo-ops.

Of course, Bush still has a SO many weekends left to solve the Mid-East problem, Darfur, and other issues. Many effective techniques are at his disposal. He can have the conflicting parties come and solve it all in day --- perhaps by having some (kosher/halal, one hopes) hamburger cookoffs at his ranch.

I am not sure what dessert they serve at the Bush ranch. Surely it is not Ben and Jerry's ice-cream...

Perhaps the dessert is Rice pudding -- served on a water-board?

As I wrote in a comment on one of the profiles on FaceBook... Peace, with Dignity, and Equal Justice, to All.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Can "Atom" Bomb? Imran's Law of Expectations

Sharon Gaudlin's article in ComputerWorld April 3, 2008 begins: "With Intel Corp. betting so heavily on the mobile Internet device market exploding in the next several years, industry analysts are wondering if the fledgling business can live up to the expectations."

Intel has named the technology/chips in question ATOM. So, I guess, the question is, will Atom bomb in the marketplace?

I think some of the comments from analysts like Charles King suggest that might be the case. "For a market now in its infancy to grow that fast in just five to 10 years would be an enormous growth curve - one that may not be realistic, especially with so many people satisfied with today's iPhones and other smart phones, said Charles King, an analyst at Pund-IT Inc. in Hayward, Calif."

I think King's comments are an example of Imran's Law of Expectations: "Any technology can be sufficiently overhyped to be perceived as failing to meet expectations, even if it is commercially successful in the market."

Yes, Intel (and others) will overhype this chip, this technology and this market demand. But the market 5 years from now will be far different from current form factors, so using those as benchmarks is surely a silly way to analyze the potential for this technology. The market may be smaller than Intel's hype, it may be bigger than analysts guesses, but it will be BIG. Big enough to be commercially successful.

Five years ago people using handheld PDAs could not have foreseen millions of iPhones in people's pockets today. As Apple readies its iPhone 2 device for release shortly, with even more functionality, it will be even more likely to hit its target of number of units sold.

I can only imagine what general magic Apple, and its many copy-cat product designers will do when Intel's Atom and others' even more exciting technologies become available to them to design the next generation of cool new products.

(Update: April 23, 2008: As I was writing these lines, Steve Jobs was busy negotiating the purchase of PA Semi, a StrongARM design-based chip-designer firm. It will mean far more incredible machines from Apple. Will it be a blow to intel's Atom? Yes. Will Atom bomb? Probably not, as there will be plenty of Apple-copycats out there needing chips.)

What do you think?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Snooping On Big Brother Snoops So Easy

I am a frequent reader of ComputerWorld for many years. It often offers good news and analysis on technology as well as technology related issues. One of the areas that is of interest to almost everyone with a job that requires using a computer (isn't that everyone these days?) is employers needing to or choosing to monitor on (or spy on?) the PC and net activities of employees. Jaikumar Vijayan has written an interesting article in the April 7, 2008 issue of ComputerWorld, titled "IT 'Big Brothers' trying to keep internal users under control".

One thing most of my readers know quite clearly, is that I am a big proponent of personal liberty, freedom of speech and privacy - citizen rights that the Bush administration has worked hard to destroy for the last eight years. However, on the topic of employers' rights to monitor to employees' use of the computer and network, I fully support employers. A PC is given to employees to do work for the business, not as a personal tool.

Sure, most, if not all of us, have had to use the office computer to login to a bank's web site to pay a credit card bill, or to send a quick email from hotmail or mac.com Mail. However, that is quite clearly not abuse and I know of few employers who would target such use as abuse. (I am sure if the email being sent was sexually explicit or otherwise inappropriate, employers could find that objectionable).

But, such one-off "urgent issue" type personal use does not mean an employee has the right to be sitting writing personal emails, trading stocks, watching online videos, visiting porn sites or chatting with buddies during the hours he or she is being paid to do work.

That means more and more companies are using automated and semi-automated tools and policies to monitor use of their IT resources. ComputerWorld's article (currently available at this link) makes some great points and talks about some products. It starts off by speaking about a technology manager named Tom Scocca at some big company that he did not want identified.

But even before reading the complete article I had to laugh at the silliness of stating "Scocca, (who) asked that his employer not be named."

Don't these "Big Brother" snoops know that anyone with a PC can be snooping on them as easily. Suppose one of the people mentioned in this story was really protecting something seriously important. It is laughable to think that a person seriously targeting him or his company can not reverse snoop on him.

Tom Scocca is most likely the same person who can easily be found on the Internet as being the Senior Security Manager at Applied Materials. Since it can established that this person worked at Cisco, and may have attended Santa Clara University.

We can easily see the company proudly tell us that: Applied Materials, Inc. designs, manufactures, and sells semiconductor fabrication equipment worldwide. It operates in four segments: Silicon, Fab Solutions, Display, and Adjacent Technologies. The Silicon segment provides a range of manufacturing equipment used to fabricate semiconductor chips or integrated circuits.

Even without us feeling like being in a Mission Impossible type movie, an attacker could even speculate or analyze what Tom's attitudes or exposure to technology or even technology philosophy is by doing further research on his past job and even the courses he may have taken in the past. I think the biggest problem is that our IT managers today may be so focused on targeting small fish, they may not even know they are in the bite-path of hungry data sharks themselves.

Food for thought.