• CloudCamp at Gluecon – Australasia Moves East!


    As regular readers will know, I’ve taken up the role of Australia/New Zealand organizer of CloudCamps. The interest in these camps from both sponsors and attendees has been overwhelming – 2010 really is shaping up to be “The Year of the Cloud”.

    One month in to 2010 and we’ve already lined up events on both sides of the Tasman – mark the following in your diary and (even better) dive on in and register.

    Not content to let Australasian boundaries get in the way, I spoke with Eric Norlin, organizer of the fantastic conference, Glue, about running a CloudCamp in Denver in conjunction with his event. (Disclosure – I’m on the advisory board for Gluecon). Global CloudCamp honcho Dave Neilsen was also keen on the idea so between the three of us we had a deal!

    Ever the inclusive and community minded gent that he is, Eric agreed and so I’m stoked to announce that the first ever CloudCamp to be held in Denver will occur on May 25th 2010. Final details are yet to be set but CloudCamp at Gluecon will occur in the afternoon/early evening before Gluecon starts (May 25th from 4pm to 8pm MST), we’ll be having a CloudCamp on the same site as where Gluecon will take place over the following two days (the 26th/27th).and will be at the same venue that Gluecon is being held at.

    If you’re going to be at Gluecon (and you should – honestly, regardless of my involvement it’s an awesome event) or in Denver on the 25th, dive on in here and register. And if you’re looking to sponsor an event that’s got all the clouderati talking, feel free to get in touch.

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  • The Dark Side of Enterprise 2.0


    At last year’s Enterprise 2.0 conference in San Francisco, the highlight presentation for me was one given by Kathleen Culver and Greg Lowe from Alcatel Lucent. Their presentation was an excellent look at some of the benefits of Enterprise 2.0, and then some of the detrimental impacts that those benefits can bring.

    Last week I posted about one of these very pitfalls, telling the tale of social media being used in a professional setting by a bully trying to build themselves up by dragging others down. Enterprise 2.0 Adoption Council founding member, practitioner and thought-leader Susan Scrupski left a comment reminding me of the presentation Greg and Kathleen gave. I reached out to Greg who graciously agreed to let me use the presentation and write a blog post around it.

    What’s interesting for me about their presentation is that, despite there being some skepticism about Enterprise 2.0 generally, most commentators are couching that skepticism in terms of “where is the value” type questions – looking to prove the real benefit from the tools we’re all evangelizing, These commentators tend to be a little hypocritical, using these social media tools to build their own personal brands while at the same time pouring scorn on the value of the same tools within the enterprise.

    Kathleen and Greg however take the benefits the tools bring as a given, but then parse those benefits in terms of some real risks that go alongside them. They do so along several themes – flexibility, accessibility (both geographical and chronological, context specificity, information availability and retrievability.

    It’s an excellent presentation and well worth a few minutes viewing.

    Key is their summary – bear in mind these are two Enterprise 2.0 proponents who, despite understanding the risks, still see the value in the tools. Their advice in order to mitigate the risks?

    • Avoid “Alert Fatigue”
    • Unplug yourself
    • Focus on your audience
    • Make your smile count (in person)
    • Don’t be stupid (watch what you type)

    Kathleen helpfully provided a link to the references they used in the talk. Again this reiterates a bit of a theme of mine relating to the perils of enterprise 2.0  definitely not a reason to avoid using the tools but something to bear in mind.

    As part of a new offering that fellow CloudAve blogger Krishnan Subramanian and I are developing, I’m looking at doing some work in this space in the next few months – hoping to develop some whitepapers and practitioner guides touching on these issues – watch this space for more.

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  • iPad And SaaS Junkies

    Apple Inc.

    Image via Wikipedia

    When Apple announced the release of iPad earlier this week, all hell broke lose in the tech blogosphere including here at Cloud Ave. On a personal level, I am put off by the lack of camera and Apple’s arrogance to wield control on people’s buying habits. However, the idea of iPad excites me on a different level, especially as a SaaS power user and evangelist.

    Just when I was planning to write a post on the topic, I came across a guest post at GigaOm by Joe Hewitt, the guy who originally developed the Facebook iPhone application. Even though he is approaching the issue from a different angle, some of the statements he has made in that post completely captures how I feel about iPhone.

    I felt strongly that all Apple needed to do to revolutionize computing was simply to make an iPhone with a large screen. Anyone who feels underwhelmed by that doesn’t understand how much of the iPhone OS’s potential is still untapped.

    He ends the post with how he feels about iPad as a developer

    So, in the end, what it comes down to is that iPad offers new metaphors that will let users engage with their computers with dramatically less friction. That gives me, as a developer, a sense of power and potency and creativity like no other. It makes the software market feel wide open again, like no one’s hegemony is safe. How anyone can feel underwhelmed by that is beyond me.

    I am looking at it from a completely different perspective. As a heavy SaaS user, it excites me to have access to my applications from a mobile device that is reasonably bigger than a mobile phone and without the disadvantages of netbooks. iPhone changed the way I used business apps. Coupled with SaaS, my productivity has increased many-fold. Most of the SaaS vendors offer access through mobile phone in one form or another. Some like Mindmeister, Remember The Milk, etc. offer native iPhone applications whereas many others, who are fed up with the Apple approval process, use mobile web applications. In fact, SaaS providers like Google and Zoho (disclaimer: Zoho is the exclusive sponsor of this blog but this is my independent opinion) offer mobile web apps that almost mimics the users’ web experience.

    However, my experience with using SaaS apps on iPhone left a lot to be desired. I found the iPhone screen to be too small to have a strain-free experience. I also wanted the keyboard to be a bit bigger to suit my fingers. At times, I also want better processing power to have a more seamless experience. With iPad, I get all of these and more. It is a perfect mobile companion for heavy SaaS users without the clunkiness associated with netbooks. In short, iPad is a great device for any SaaS junkie and, in some ways, magical.

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  • New Whitepaper – 10 Questions You Need To Ask A Collaboration Vendor


    Recently Krish and I were talking about writing a series of whitepapers as a guide for organizations looking to adopt technology – there’s many highly technical documents on offer but something worded more as a “10 easy steps” type series was what we envisaged for this particular offering. To use the term coined by another commentator in this space – we’re looking to be the advocates for the users of this stuff.

    Fortuitously we were talking with MindTouch CEO Aaron Fulkerson recently and we mentioned to him what we were looking at doing. He saw the value in our approach and agreed to sponsor us in the writing of our first paper which looks at the key things that prospective buyers of collaboration software need to ask.

    The ten questions are detailed below:

    • Is your product extensible to meet the changing face of the collaboration landscape?
    • Does Your Product Support Standard Governance Frameworks?
    • Does Your Collaboration Product Integrate with My Existing Technology Landscape?
    • How Does Your Product Support Access Standards?
    • How Flexible Are Your Data Location Requirements?
    • How Does Your Product Administer Security?
    • Is Your Product Standards Compliant?
    • Can Your Product Scale With Our Planned Adoption Rates?
    • How Robust Is Your Solution?
    • How Viable Is Your Business Model?
    You can download the whitepaper in full here. Thanks to MindTouch for sponsoring the creation of this paper and if you’d like to talk about ways we can help clarify what customers really need to think about when it comes to SaaS, Cloud, Collaboration and Enterprise 2.0 generally, feel free to get in touch.
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  • Xero Gets Direct Bank Feeds in the US (and elsewhere)


    US customers have been waiting for automated bank feeds from Xero for awhile now. In New Zealand, Australia and the UK Xero build relationships directly with the banks and many were waiting to see what strategy they would adopt…

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  • Intuit and Microsoft Sign Deal to Serve SMBs


    Huge breaking news this morning is that Microsoft and Intuit (see disclosure here) have agreed to work together on the Intuit Partner Platform to bring a host of products and services to a greatly expanded customer base. This really is massive news for anyone involved in small or medium business – be it as a business themselves or in anyway selling technology products or services to SMBs.

    First a slight recap – Intuit developed the Intuit Partner Platform in the words of Alex Chriss, Business Leader of the IPP to:

    Bring end to end, best of breed products to small and medium businesses by providing an open ecosystem where customers have choice of products and developers have a choice of what tools and platforms to build on

    The Microsoft tie up is beneficial for the two vendors themselves, existing and future IPP and MS developers and the end customers. Let’s look at the gains to each of those groups:

    Intuit and Microsoft

    Since the withdrawal of Microsoft Money, commentators were trying to determine what Microsoft’s strategy would be with regard to SMBs – we all know that SMBs constitute a huge and lucrative market. This relationship gives both Intuit and Microsoft access to the channel of the other – there’s hundreds of millions of SMB users of MS products who will now be exposed to the IPP, while Intuit’s customers will now have access to products built by Microsoft‘s developer community.

    Microsoft gets a ready built channel to increase the uptake of its Azure cloud computing offering and, at the same time, gets themselves a ready built SMB applications marketplace.

    The developers

    Existing IPP developers get access to a massive new channel of potential customers, the ability to deploy their applications on Microsoft’s infrastructure and the ability to natively use Microsoft development tools.

    Microsoft developers get the ability to utilize the tools the currently do, but market their products on a specific SMB marketplace backed by a channel with millions of customers already.

    On a technical level, the diagram below sets out how the various integrations will actually work:


    The customers

    IPP’s stated aim is to give SMBs access to an end to end range of software tools – with this deal customers just got a whole lot more choice. Intuit is committed to integrating Microsoft’s Business Productivity Office Suite (BPOS) onto the IPP by the end of the year – this will mean IPP customers get the ability to use Exchange, SharePoint and (once they’re introduced) the online office products – all leveraging the core IPP offerings of single sign on, common data, single billing etc.


    The playing field just got really interesting – over on The Small Business Web – a large number of small SaaS vendors are trying to build an ecosystem that includes clear and open APIs and a comprehensive offering of business applications – done correctly the relationship between Intuit and Microsoft could very well provide the same value – but potentially more quickly and more easily for the end customers.

    APIs are great – wonderfully valuable things that allow applications to work together. But a common data model of the sort that the IPP is built around, is even better, allowing applications to be built from the start around an underlying and consistent model of data.

    I spent a few hours today talking to the founder of a SaaS business app that is still very much in stealth mode – we both discussed our concerns about the high aggregate price that businesses would be forced to pay for an integrated set of separate applications with all the duplication that entails – IPP is one way to drive efficiencies that can in turn deliver the holy grail of reasonably priced point-to-point solutions for SMBs – the space just got even more interesting…

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  • It’s Multi-Currency Month


    I posted awhile ago when Xero rolled out multi-currency so it’s only fair to do a wrap up of the latest multi-currency entries. Both FreshBooks and FreeAgentCentral announced this month the availability of their multi currency functionality.

    The FreeAgent offering is really slick, including on the fly calculation of daily unrealized and realized gains and losses on these invoices between the date of the invoice and the date customer payment is received. Like Xero, FreeAgent have opted to use the forex codes from XE.com – as the biggest exchange rate publisher – this makes sense.


    FreshBooks has done a nice job of multicurrency also, their rates are populated from the Bank of Canada but their approach isn’t dynamic, rather it averages exchange rate data over a period of time. They don’t have an intro video but have written a FAQ page for more details. Interestingly, with FreshBooks if you have invoiced someone in a currency that is different from your default currency, then you can only enable online payments if you are using PayPal.

    The FreshBooks approach is to mainly separate reporting by currency. While this makes life easier for them, it does make it harder for a business to get a really clear picture of their position – however at least P&L and tax show aggregate figures.

    It seems the FreshBooks announcement came a little out of the blue, if this post is anything to go by.

    All in all it’s interesting to see that multi currency is becoming almost a non-negotiable requirement, even for the smaller end of the SMB market – yet another feature that all vendors need to plan for…

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  • T-Shirt Friday #26 – ThoughtFarmer


    DSCF5404Everyone knows that professional conference goers like myself attend events not to listen to presentations, not to network but to collect schwag. Over the past couple of years I’ve done fairly well collecting tech t-shirts and I decided to create a weekly series critiquing tech companies t-shirt offerings in the expectation that a company with a great t-shirt is a prime candidate to have a great product also. Click here to see the series.

     If you’d like your t-shirt reviewed, flick me an email to arrange things. The judges decision is, of course, final and very little correspondence will be entered into (perhaps).

    At the Enterprise 2.0 conference last year in San Francisco, the chaps from ThoughtFarmer we’re very vocal in their promotion of their new, hot-of-the-press t-shirts.

    Always one to take up an offer, and impressed by a presentation given by Bevin Hernandez of Penn State University who sang the praises of the ThoughtFarmer offering, I flicked the guys a message and offered to trial a t-shirt.


    • Brown is good, way more interesting than black and more practical than white
    • The print is understated and not garish
    • The t-shirt is made by American Apparel – using ethical manufacturing in a first world location (well Los Angeles but almost first world)
    • Natural fabrics are best – this is 100% cotton


    • I was promised that the tee was “slimming” – my wife reports no huge different between my appearance in this shirt and any other shirt
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  • CloudCamp Haiti – Everyone Doing Their Bit


    I’m proud that the Cloud community has got behind the Haiti relief effort. Having some friends who have lost close family members to the earthquake brings home to me the impact of a disaster on the scale of this one – especially in such a poor country as Haiti. CloudCamp is running a virtual event and, in an unprecedented occurrence for the normally free-to-attend events, attendees will be charged a USD25 fee with proceeds going to Haiti disaster relief.

    CloudCamp Haiti is a virtual unconference held as a public webinar. CloudCamp-in-the-Cloud builds upon the popular CloudCamp format by providing a free and open place for the introduction and advancement of cloud computing. For this event, we are raising funds to donate to the aid effort in Haiti.

    Please help us spread the word, twitter, facebook, IM, tell your neighbours and friends. Attendees can register here.

    The event is being held Jan 20th 11:00am – 2:00pm Eastern Standard Time (EST) and if you’re interesting in getting involved as a presenter contact John Willis (john.willis AT zabovo.com). Interested in sponsoring? Contact Dave Nielsen (dave AT platformd.com).

    The agenda for the event is below:

    • 11:00am – 11:30am – Sign in and registration (Main Room)
    • 11:30am – 11:45am – Introductions & Overview (Main Room)
    • 11:45am – 12:30pm – Lightning Talks (Main Room)

    Lightning Talks – TBD

    • 12:30pm – 1:00pm Unpanel Choosen by attendee’s of CloudCamp Haiti (Main Room)
    • 1:00pm – 2:00pm Break Out Sessions – Round 1

    1. Unconference Room #1: main gotomeeting room (TBD)

    2. Unconference Room #2: 2nd gotomeeting room (TBD)

    • 2:00pm – 2:30pm CloudCamp Haiti Wrap up (Back in “Main Room”)

    Putting on my regional CloudCamp organiser hat for a minute, if you’re unable to attend the virtual event, be sure to check out the schedule of CloudCamps – there’ll be one coming to your town soon!

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  • CloudConnect Launchpad – Here we come!


    Update – my mistake. This from Launch Pad organizer (and she of the awesome teeth) Paige Finkelman:

     it’s called Launch Pad (two words), and we’re looking for ‘cloudy’ apps or services launched / announced between 1/1 and 12/31 in 2010. So this could be a look-under-the-kimono future tipoff, a new version, partnership, integration point or (even better) a startup first look.

    In the past I’ve tended to be a bit skeptical of launchpads run at the same time as conferences – they tend to seem a little bit like a meat market where we all attendees get to inspect (and criticize) the goods at will and generally without any more than the most cursory of glimpses at the product. Having said that every now and then a launchpad really does turn up a great company (I first came across YouCalc at the Enterprise 2.0 lanuchpad in Boston last year).

    This year, as part of the Cloud Connect conference, TechWeb will be running a launchpad for new applications to the Cloud Connect community. All developers, large and small, are invited to enter their applications or services – you do not need to be an exhibitor at the Connect Connect. Companies can just enter by filling out our application form, and then Tweeting their entry to the Cloud Connect Launch Pad Twitter handle.

    I’ve been asked to be on the judging panel for the launchpad so this post is a shoutout to those who fit the criteria (see below) to jump in and enter. To be eligible, applications must be announced after January 1, 2010 with a release date before December 31, 2010.

    Entries should target the Connect Connect market. Examples can include (but are not limited to) the following types of applications:

    • Cloud Clients (mobile, thin client, thick client)
    • Security-as-a-Service applications
    • Software-as-a-Service applications
    • Software + Services
    • Cloud Platforms
    • Cloud Infrastructure

    Entrants have until January 25 to submit their Twitter pitches and quarter finalists will be chosen by February 3 to create three minute video presentations for public voting. The final four will then present at Cloud Connect in March.

    Contest Rules are up in full on the site. So jump in and register then tweet @cloud_connect with your Twitter pitch along with the hash tag #cc_lp.

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