June 29, 2007

Glider Landing in R/C Field Video [video]

I've come across some interesting glider landing videos recently. The first video is of a 1-26 making a short landing in a radio controlled model airplane field. On the audio you can hear a lot of concern about the fence and I was worried about a ground loop from the tall grass under his left wing. But the pilot performed a skillful landing and didn't damage anything.


Oh, I was rather amused that he was ticketed for landing there. I guess that's not much to complain about if it's the worst part of the land-out.

Up next is a landing on some very wet grass.

Posted by jzawodn at 09:01 AM

June 28, 2007

When "entirely new" means "old" and "exciting changes" are not...

I came across An entirely new way to stay organized on the Google Docs & Spreadsheets Blog the other day and clicked thru with great interest and high hopes.

Fueling my interest, the first sentence made me more convinced there was something to get worked up about:

Today we introduced some exciting changes to Google Docs & Spreadsheets.

As a technology guy, I'm often interested in things which are entirely new or the result of exciting changes. But that interest was quickly washed away as I realized that it was mostly a fluff piece aimed and dressing up a long missing feature from Google Docs: folders.

That's right: folders.

Sure, they also talk about prettying up the UI and adding search (search? from Google? no way!), but search is often used when you're not organized because you're lazy like me. It has little to do with staying organized. But that's beside the point, really.

Folders are about the farthest thing from being "entirely new" when it comes to organizing documents. This is 2007. I remember folders back in the Commodore Amiga days. What was that? 15 years ago? This is hardly a revolution.

This leaves me wondering a bit about the users of Google Docs & Spreadsheets (of which I am one). Does Google think that their users are so easily impressed (or clueless) that folders, search, and a UI touch-up really qualify as "exciting" and "entirely new"?

If so, that's kind of insulting.

Or is it the case that Ron Schneider and team were so buried in work to get this release shipped that they forgot to think about it from their audience's point of view?

Either way, I'm disappointed. I want my exciting and entirely new stuff!

I'm not going to say much about the fact that the screenshot looks like a cross between Gmail (which has no folders but people still want them) and a Windows desktop application. Noddle on that one yourself.

Thus ends my snarky post for today.

Posted by jzawodn at 02:56 PM

Corporate Innovation and Hacking

In Clayton Christensen's Innovation Brain, Jena McGregor of BusinessWeek talks to Clayton 10 years after the publication of The Innovator's Dilemma (an excellent book, BTW) and elicits some insightful answers. I'd like to highlight two of them.

1. On the topic of why it is dangerous to mistakenly equate "disruptive" ideas with those that are "new" or "bold", he says:

Because it causes them to think that, "I'll just take whatever hobby horse I have, because Clay's study showed that disruptive products create these new growth markets. I'll cause everyone to believe my idea's going to do that." In fact, big technological leapfrogs rarely create new growth. Almost all of them are defensive in character. The equation of disruptive with new and radical causes people to target markets that don't exist.
Andy Grove recognized this a lot sooner than I did. There are many prior connotations in the English language for the word disruption. He was worried that the word would be so misused that he called it "the Christensen effect" internally. The problem was I couldn't call it the Christensen effect. In retrospect, it would have made things a lot clearer had I found a word that didn't have so many other connotations. It gets hijacked.

It's sad but true. I've seen more than a few people get all excited about something new (that's really not) and call it disruptive or go on about how it's going to change the landscape. Rarely does that actually happen.

2. On the topic of trying to cultivate innovation in established companies, he says:

Generally you create a lot of hype. People come up with lots of new ideas, but nothing happens. They get very disillusioned. Never does an idea pop out of a person's head as a completely fleshed-out business plan. It has to go through a process that will get approved and funded. You're not two weeks into the process until you realize, "gosh, the sales force is not going to sell this thing," and you change the economics. Then two weeks later, marketing says they won't support it because it doesn't fit the brand, so we've got to change the whole concept.
All those forces act to make the idea conform to the company's existing business model, not to the marketplace. And that's the rub. So the senior managers today, thirsty for innovation, stand at the outlet of this pipe, see the dribbling out of me-too innovation after me-too innovation, and they scream up to the back end, "Hey, you guys, get more innovative! We need more and better innovative ideas!" But that's not the problem. The problem is this shaping process that conforms all these innovative ideas to the current business model of the company.

[Emphasis mine.]

That's so true.

That was a real concern for the internal Hack Days we started at Yahoo. Back when we hosted the first Hack Day, some worried that it could be a great time and fun to show off, but if nothing ever saw the light of day, people would eventually figure out that's it's all talk and no meaningful action.

Thankfully, we've seen several business units and product groups really embracing the ideas and prototypes that come out of Hack Day. They've been funneling them into an accelerated development process and getting them launched.

The beauty, of course, is that people start to see evidence of how powerful it is to spend a day or two on a hack (it could get launched quickly), so the quantity and quality of the hacks seems to increase each time. It's a positive feedback loop.

It's a great problem to have and exactly the opposite of what we'd worried about happening.

Posted by jzawodn at 09:12 AM

June 27, 2007

Facebook Out of Control?

Is it just me or is this whole Facebook thing out of control?

I thought so.

I mean, I tried to ignore it. For seemingly years I had a login that didn't work and I couldn't find a way to fix. I kept hearing about it but knew it aimed mainly at the college crown crowd (which I am not), so I only kind of sort of paid any attention.

But then My Facebook Account Got Fixed and people started asking me to be their friend. So I friended them. And then more.

And then I played a bit with my profile so that it looked like I cared.

my facebook profile

And here we are today. It seems that not a day goes by without a handful of new friend requests showing up. Months after I thought Facebook had peaked and it feels as thought its growing faster than ever.

Who are all these people?

One of these days, remind me to write about the collision course that Facebook and LinkedIn (profile) seem to be on... Or better yet, point me at some who has already done a good job of covering that. All I'll say for the moment that it seems to be getting easier to add folks on LinkedIn now that Facebook is becoming such a force.


Posted by jzawodn at 03:54 PM

June 26, 2007

On Jerry Yang as Yahoo's New CEO

A few folks have asked me what I think of last week's news about Jerry Yang taking over for Terry Semel as CEO of Yahoo. The fact is that I tried to post something a few days back, but my server outage and a configuration problem made it vanish shortly after.

In any case, I think it's positive news. I have a ton of respect for our co-founders, Daivd Filo and Jerry Yang. I've been able to interact with both of them during my time at Yahoo so far and love the fact that they're still incredibly involved in Yahoo day-to-day. The same can not be said of many other high-tech companies.

Anyway, I was thinking about how to explain what I've been thinking, but Bradley Horowitz (who I also have a ton of respect for) did an excellent job in Welcome Jerry, Yahoo’s new CEO!, so read what he said.

In part, he said:

Having Jerry as our CEO is incredible… It was Jerry who personally “green lit” and funded Pipes (for instance)… When Caterina and I pitched it to him, he not only “got it,” but explained it back to us in a framework that deepened our own understanding. Having Jerry as CEO is gonna be cool!

In fact, Jerry and David have both been big supporters of several things I've been involved with as well. I'm looking forward to what the future holds.

Posted by jzawodn at 10:30 AM

June 25, 2007

Minor Outage and Server Update

Late last week I had to do a quick server move while I was out of town, so few blog comments were lost and things were only semi-functional. I'm in the process of bringing things back to normal (or what passes for "normal" around here).

If you posted in a comment in the last 3-4 days, it may have vanished into the ether. Sorry about that.

In related news, there will be one more move in the coming month before things hopefully settle down a bit more.

In unrelated news, I'm back from a week away and trying to plug myself back into the world. Judging by the few things I read while out, it was an interesting time...

Posted by jzawodn at 08:53 AM

June 14, 2007

Casablanca's Cafe in Willow Glen: Excellent Greek, Mediterranean Food

fawaz hamed Twice in as many weeks I've had the pleasure of trying to food at Casablanca's Cafe in downtown Willow Glen (just a mile from my house). Located at 1185 Lincoln Ave, it's conveniently located near many other shops, businesses, and resterautns--not to mention parking at the nearby Bank of America branch.

Both times the food was skilfully prepared by owner Fawaz Hamed using fresh and tasty ingredients. So far I've sampled the Chicken Shawarma (twice--it's fantastic), Kufta Kabob, and Chicken Breast Fillet. Oh, and of course the excellent Baklava for dessert. :-)

If you're in the mood for some well priced food made in front of your eyes at a locally owned business, I highly recommend Casablanca's Cafe.

It's hard to believe I've lived just a mile from this place for over three years and hadn't stopped by to check it out.

More about Casablanca's Cafe:

Posted by jzawodn at 11:42 AM