A Google ad moment.


These are deep waters.


On European funding, Airbus and Software.

This post was lurking in my Live Writer, but then Mike’s post spurred me to dust it off and rework it a bit. Over on Techcrunch UK he was pretty damning of EU research funding for the Theseus and Quaero projects…EU taxpayers to fund $306m Google rival. No wonder the Yanks think we’re dumb

A couple of weeks ago Vinnie had a somewhat more gentle dig at European technology industry too.

Airbus A380 at SFO, from the flickrstream of Telstar Logistics

Vinnie picked up on the Airbus comment at Cebit and said:

The Airbus for the European IT Industry is what we need,” says the president of Bitkom, the leading high-tech industry association in Germany.You keep funding that, Europe. In fact, we would love to lease Airbuses and send our folks from Washington to Brussels so they can help you design and grow the program. That way it would also keep them away from our thousands of technology entrepreneurs. Our preferred way of delivering technology innovation.

I’d like to raise several points in response to Vinnie and Mike.

1. The assumption the US software industry is somehow subsidy free ignores the history of the software industry, and the huge role that the US government plays in funding software research and driving demand in the US. Check out this book by Martin Campbell-Kelly, From Airline Reservations to Sonic the Hedgehog: A History of the Software Industry, MIT Press, Cambridge Mass., 2003. Herewith a quote..

The likely prime reason for U.S. software supremacy is a paradoxical one –government support for the industry. The paradox arises from the fact that, although the United States is non-interventionist in principle, in practice it promoted the early industry massively by creating a market for computers and software through programs such as the SAGE project, the Department of Defense’s ADP program, and the NASA program, to mention only the largest..”

And this still goes on today. In fact the whole software industry owes a big debt of gratitude to the US government and its big wallet. I bet if we were to dig around into the history of many of the most successful US technology companies and products we would find a research funded project at its core. (Netscape and the browser- thanks NSCA, and oh, and indeed Google itself.)

2. The president of BITkom knows a whole lot more about software entrepreneurship than the quote implies. August-Wilhelm Scheer is the founder of the company that builds ARIS, one of the leading German software companies and a major global player in the BPM market. He is an entrepreneur, not a bureaucrat.

3. His main point about the power of Airbus not about subsidies or government meddling, but that Airbus iis a joint Anglo-French company, and that both countries could be more successful through deeper commercial collaboration. Scheer knows, as he is also a professor at Saarbrücken University, close to the french border.

4.I don’t have a lot of details on the French Quaero project and the background for the split but to call the Theseus project a Google rival is missing the main point of this project. But I guess it makes a neat newspaper headline.

This is what the Theseus project is actually about.

So the Theseus project is not intended to develop a new Internet search engine to compete with Google and which could be used in every situation that crops up in the digital data world. The data contained on the Internet are simply far too heterogeneous and chaotic for that. What’s more, at the end of the project, there won’t even be an Internet platform – probably not even a physical product, says Thomas Huber, press spokesperson for the Theseus project. Instead, Theseus aims to create standards for semantic searches within specific areas. With partners from the business community, notably Siemens and SAP, and research associations such as the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft and various universities, Theseus therefore consists of subprojects which focus on specific application scenarios. As a spokeswoman from the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology explains, these have been selected in advance by companies and the Ministry itself on the grounds that they appear to be particularly promising.

The project is essentially about semantics, standards and the longer term future of the web, and it hopes to drive both fundamental and applied research.

Technology Research projects require funding. VC’s don’t fund primary research, and very few companies can afford to take the long term focus that it requires. Let’s take a well known example, a research project that evolved over about 20 years. The work started in the the late 1970’s and in 1987 a research alliance was formed between Erlangen-Nuremberg University and the Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits within the framework of the European Union-funded EUREKA project EU147. This led to the MP3 format. No EU funding, no IPod, I guess.

A while ago I argued that Europe needs to invest more in pure software research.

It is about time that the governments in Europe started to invest in the future of IT rather than just subsidizing cows.

Here in Europe I reckon governments need to do two things: fund research and help create an environment where smart people can build businesses with those innovations. The German government funding this research is a step in the right direction, but governments in Europe also need to do a whole lot more to encourage an environment to exploit those innovations. Sometimes this means getting out the way.

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Disclosure: As part of my academic work at the University of Karlsruhe, I have a connection with the project.

Command line. I’ll be back. (aka /nSE38)

If Arnold had been an SAP Consultant, he would have used the command line.

In my all too distant past, I was an SAP implementation consultant. Once upon a time I even did the ABAP for HR course, in Minneapolis of all places. I worked on several large projects in South Africa, but I found myself drawn into doing more and more presales. I enjoyed the adrenalin buzz of the one hour demo more than the grind of project work.

In presales the main skill required is the ability to do several things at once; , listen, click the mouse, talk, remember people’s names and lots of stuff about what other companies have done. Yet the most important skill remains a detailed knowledge of protector-laptop integration. (never mind SOA…how do I get this beamer working?)

I digress.

In the pioneering days of client/server typing commands into command line was seen as an evil throw back to the mainframe. Competing with PeopleSoft meant that the mouse had to dominate. The more things that were double-click and drag-drop the better. Icons and toolbars were hip, but the command-line…. this was verboten.

So in demo dream land, the mouse was king.

Meanwhile in consultant and power user land the command line remained the main form of access, despite various GUI redesigns and so on. /npa30 is engraved somewhere in my brain, and I’ll remember it long after I’ve forgotten what this icon means-

Kathy Sierra recently pointed to a fascinating start up and their blog. (Humanized) It is well worth watching the demo, and the blog is a super designy read.

It’s time for new, user-centric command line interfaces to make a comeback. A command line that lets you type or say what you want to do, and the computer does it. That’s what the interfaces of the future will be. And that’s what Enso aspires to.*

Think about the implications for HR application navigation.

Typing perf mary: and the system automatically opens Mary Jones’ (who is the only Mary in your team) performance appraisal, is a whole lot easier than grabbing the mouse clicking on manager self service, then scrolling down to my team, then clicking the icon for performance management then selecting this year then scroll down and selecting Jones, Mary.

I installed the demo for enso it.is.c.o.o.l. here it is in action (that is this post in the background on livewriter)

Humanized, in turn, linked to Design Guru, Don Norman.

Want to know what I think the next UI breakthroughs will be? Here are two, both of which can be considered a return to fundamentals:

  1. Command line languages;
  2. Physicality: the return to physical devices, where we control things by physical body movement, by turning, moving, and manipulating appropriate mechanical devices.

So, let’s rethink the command line, and think more deeply about taking the wii more seriously. After all what is Google but a command line?

Google reader’s most vocal supporter, Scoble, comments

I’ve read through more than 1,000 items so far today. I find it interesting that some think it’s slow. It hesitates once every 20 feeds, but I hit “J, J, J, J” as fast as I can read and it keeps up. But, the best part of Google Reader is that I can share my favorite items with you. I’ve read 1016 items so you don’t have to.

Courtesy of Cote, I’ll risk quoting from the novellist that many geeks have read, but very few admit to not really understanding, Neal Stephenson.

The introduction of the Mac triggered a sort of holy war in the computer world. Were GUIs a brilliant design innovation that made computers more human-centered and therefore accessible to the masses, leading us toward an unprecedented revolution in human society, or an insulting bit of audiovisual gimcrackery dreamed up by flaky Bay Area hacker types that stripped computers of their power and flexibility and turned the noble and serious work of computing into a childish video game?


This debate actually seems more interesting to me today than it did in the mid-1980s. But people more or less stopped debating it when Microsoft endorsed the idea of GUIs by coming out with the first Windows. At this point, command-line partisans were relegated to the status of silly old grouches, and a new conflict was touched off, between users of MacOS and users of Windows.

So scripting wizards of SDN, now that you have connected the SAP, Wii and Zoho, how about enso? Craig, Dan, Ed….and of course Nigel, who got me thinking about this in the first place.

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Google applies analytics to HR

Over the last 100 years or so, organisational psychology has developed a number of methods and tests to assess personality and competency. Yet despite lots of scientific evidence that proves these tests are dramatically more effective than interviews as a selection technique, most managers dismiss psychometric testing as hocus-pocus.  Yahoo’s position is sadly, all too common.

Yahoo does not use tests, puzzles or tricks, etc., when interviewing candidates,” Jessie Wixon, a spokeswoman for Yahoo, said.

Perhaps Jessie should have a chat with my friend Adrian Furnham,  one of the worlds’s leading psychologists and author of masses of books, including this one. 

It is great to read that Google are apply testing to their recruitment processes. Mr Bock from Google is spot on. Interviews and academic scores suck as predictors for employee success. 

I picked this up from James and Jon Battelle’s search blog.

Deriving Talent, Algorithmically

How will Google scale its massive hiring ramp-up while maintaining its famously intricate screening process for ‘Googley’ employees? With an algorithm of course.

After months of interviewing their employees to decipher trends in personality and interests that mark Googlers, Google has ‘derived’ a complex hiring questionnaire. Google will begin using the surveys with all applicants this month.

I hope Google based this algorithm on valid, fair, reliable, psychological research, that deals with issues of culture and gender bias in testing, and that the results are treated with the privacy they deserve. If they have, you can forget about gaming it.  (if you are interested to see similar tests check out SHL) Judging from the NYT article it looks as if they have involved some psychological rigour to it, but if anyone has anymore info please drop me a comment or an email. 

So, my HR readers, if you have pushback from line managers who think testing is nonsense, then quote them the Google example.

Also, Google, you might have a brilliant HR product here, I’m just not sure that I want my Neo  Disc,  Myers Briggs and  16pf scores  in your cloud.

I wonder how the cosy world of HR testing products would cope with Google muscling in?



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Google is an Internet Tax…

if I had a euro for every post written about Google’s business model, I would be very rich.  Actually, if I had a euro for everytime Nick Carr writes about Google I’d be well off.  Writing about Google and Wikipedia seem to be occupational hazards of blogging. 

Anyway, his latest post made me jot down something I’d been thinking about for a while.  He talks about Google’s model revolutionising the IT industry.


It’s pretty amazing to think about what a company can now get for $10 a year:

A complete, web-based IT infrastructure for its business

A custom corporate portal/intranet for its employees

Corporate e-mail service

Corporate instant messaging

Calendar software and services

Web-site design software

Web-site hosting

And, by incorporating some other free Google services, the company also gets:

Word-processing software

Spreadsheet software

Web-site analytics

All the necessary storage, data backups, security, maintenance, and related services are included in the $10 price.

This is surely enough to strike fear into anyone wanting to “sell” software?

But Google  isn’t free.  The company is on track to do about 10 billion dollars in revenue this year, and someone is paying for it.  I have never written a cheque to Google, yet somehow as one of the 1 billion Internet users,  I’m  paying for the pleasure of using their search tool, although very indirectly. Actually I’m paying whether I use the tools or not.

Google’s money comes almost entirely from advertising. Advertising is paid by those companies selling stuff to you. Google’s fees are now clearly part of the cost of bringing a product or service to the market, and you end up paying for it.

It is a brilliant business model.  The more “free” applications we use, the more exposure the adverts get, and the more Google can charge the buyers of advertising.  The more applications we use, more information Google has to provide even more targeted services, again at a higher price.  

In an earlier post, Nick discusses how Google manage a float.

Better than any other company on earth, Google knows the power of very small amounts of money. Collect enough nickels and dimes and quarters and dollars, and you can make billions. The $100 AdSense hurdle may seem like a little thing, but it’s making Google some serious money. At the very least, I bet it pays for the cafeteria at the ‘Plex.

Google’s model depends on the advertisers continuing to believe that they get value for money. As long as that continues, Google will continue to impress. Funny, I don’t ever remember clicking on an adsense advertisement and then buying something, but someone must be.

At the moment Google is a tax I’m happy to pay.  If we spread Google’s revenue over all the internet users, it works out about 10$ each.


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Google is omnipotent


I’ve just got a Google mail account (Thanks Den).  Google adsense is really on the ball. The first advertisement was for Thomas the Tank Engine PJ’s.

Oliver, my 21 month old son, would be impressed.  Tois engjjjjjjjjn is his hero How did Google figure that out

The second advertisment was for an anti-spam tool


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If I was the CEO of Google

Google is on a roll. Lots of folks have posted on the JotSpot takeover. Zoli is well worth reading on this.  CNET quotes Ross Mayfield of Socialtext who has blogged on it here.

This is another great validation of the category we helped start

Nicholas Carr takes a look at the youtube deal and has written lots of interesting stuff on Google in the past.   I not planning to add my own detailed commentary about Google today, others are doing a pretty good job. Scobleizer asks what will Microsoft do?

The Google bus seems unstoppable.

Moving on…..

Brad Feld is by all accounts a very successful VC, and he has a really good blog.  Brad posted about a presentaton he received from Lisa at SAP Ventures. Brad comments my favorite slide segment is “Name this Country:

Richest in the World

  • Largest Military
  • Center of world business and finance
  • Strongest education system
  • World center of innovation and invention
  • Currency the world standard of value
  • Highest standard of living

The answer is – England – in 1900.  Sound familiar all you American’s out there?  The presentation ends delightfully with “shift happens” which – of course – is where we started.

This reminded me of a fabulous poem.


I met a traveler from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read,
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed,
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look upon my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

-Percy Bysshe Shelley

If I was Eric, this would be painted in big letters on the wall of my office.

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What is going on with Google?

I expect that most Google posts today are about the youtube  takeover, this one isnt. 

I was trying to write something profound on patent earlier, and I’d remembered that Jason had posted on it. I typed the name of his blog,  ponderings of woodrow into Google, as my bookmark library is a tad chaotic, and Google replied with this.

SORRY….but your query looks similar to automated requests from a computer virus or spyware application. To protect our users, we can’t process your request right now.

This is a troubling development. 

We are frogs in the Internet bath, and spam is slowly but surely heating the water up.


corporate search, GUIs, Autonomy Google and so on..

Google will have us believe that search is the holy grail. (apologies Dan Brown)  Nicholas
Carr on roughtype comments on Google's attempts to surplant GUIs with search. I don't buy it. Charles, a fellow SAPler has some doubts too.

There is a lot of Google myopia at the moment with everyone wondering what will google do next. I'd like to stop thinking about Google and look at enterprise search more generally.

If enterprise search is such a big deal, howcome Autonomy isn't making SAP or Oracle kind of money?  By all accounts, the technology is brilliant (lots of maths PhDs)

Autonomy is founded on a unique combination of technologies borne out of research carried out at Cambridge University. Autonomy's strength lies in advanced pattern-matching techniques (non-linear adaptive digital signal processing), rooted in the theories of Bayesian Inference and Claude Shannon's Principles of Information, that enable identification of the patterns that naturally occur in text, based on the usage and frequency of words or terms that correspond to specific concepts 

 The company has 

  • a solid track record
  • is well run.
  • a very impressive government and blue chip customer base
  • Strong partners.

 It growing fast at the moment, but 50 million dollars revenue is not a big number. 

I don't think enterprise search is as bigger deal as Google and co think it is. If it was Autonomy would be 10x the size it is, or would have been snapped up by someone else for a big number.

If I'm wrong and enterprise search does end up being a really big thing, then Autonomy would seem to me to be a better bet than Google.  -Over 5 years track record in deploying search in the enterprise , understand stuff like security, ERP  and LDAP integration, have partners to configure the stuff, ……



So you have a cool Composite app? How do you sell it?

Steve Ballmer from Microsoft recently commented on how complex the enterprise software sale is.

 “The truth is that the way information technology decisions are made in a company is really complicated. You really have four points of view, and we have to work with all of them–end-users, central IT, line-of-business executives, and then the business leaders, who could be the head of sales, finance or operations.”

There is an excellent article here by Dale Vine  of Freeefrom Dynamics (this is where I picked up the quote) on the complex nature of enterprise software sales, and Hamish  has some thoughts too.  SAP has developed a strong sales force over the years, and it plays a part in our success.

I think one of the major challenges that small software innovators face is in building a proper sales process, team, business development, partnerships and so on. This is not easy. A top sales guy can make a huge difference to the success of start up or niche firm, but often they can't attract the calibre of people that they need to manage the complex sale.

As most of my merry band of 3 readers know, SAP is putting a lot of effort into the ISV channel, and we will see lots of applications emerging over the next year, hopefully emulating the success that Virsa has had. (see Joshua Greenbaum's article)

 A friend of mine has recently left SAP to set up a company, ISV-ecoNet,advising and supporting ISV selling into the SAP customer base. He ran the Netweaver sales team at SAP Germany, so he knows his stuff. He will be able to help companies align their sales and marketing strategies with SAP's, build help build the right contacts in SAP's sales team and in the vast German customer base, and close the deals. He aims to build a portfolio of hot niche products that complement SAP, and help the ISVs bring them to market and close deals. I think he is onto a winner. It will help SAP and it will help the ISVs.

As an example, he is working with a electronic signature company, Authentidate  who have built a great solution that integrates into SAP. Electronic signature is particularly hot in Germany at the moment, due to some recent significant legislative changes, and the German cultural fixation with the "stempel".