Category: Opinion/Editorial

Why the Future of Software is No Software

Help desk software is changing – it’s social customer service application built for the cloud. Traditionally, customer support software was designed to focus on resolving issues rather than helping people. Customer cases were generally handled by any available agent on a “first come first serve” basis, and agents typically knew little to nothing about the customer. With no mechanism for storing any context or customer background, agents spent more time re-learning about the issue rather than actually resolving it. And if that wasn’t enough, customer support software had to be maintained and updated, which meant companies wasted considerable time and resources hiring and training agents. There was no system for retaining customers beyond the fleeting one-time interactions, and it encouraged an impersonal approach to handling customer support.

Today’s customer service software bears few similarities to the software of the past. Customers are demanding more and better customer service, delivered through every conceivable channel from apps to mobile devices to the web. That’s why many smart businesses are using software as a service as a solution for help desk management. The key contrast with traditional software is that today’s software requires no software. Software as a service is delivered through the web, which means no installation or updates. So you can lower costs and raise agent productivity. You can spend less time training agents and more time making customers happy. And you can resolve customer issues quickly and easily so no customer ends up in “support purgatory.” The future of software is no software.

Read the complete article at Social Media Today.

Why QR Codes Won’t Last

Like most technology fans, I am always ready and willing to try any technology that promises to simplify my life. QR codes seemed to present an accessible and uniform way for people with smart devices to interact with advertising, marketing and media. Those little squares of code seemed to open a world of opportunity and potential. But after using them for a length of time, I shifted my perspective.

My initial honeymoon with QR codes was very short-lived. The initial rush that I had received from trying to frame the code on my device had lost its luster. I started to view QR codes as a barrier to additional information. And in many instances, the rewards (whatever I received as a result of scanning the code) did not measure up to the effort of the transaction itself.

Consider a recent study by comScore, which states that only 14 million American mobile device users have have interacted with a QR code. In essence, less than 5% of the American public has scanned a QR code. So where’s the disconnect?

Inadequate technology, lack of education and a perceived dearth of value from QR codes are just three of the reasons mobile barcodes are not clicking with Americans. But it goes deeper than that.

Read the complete article at Mashable.

The USB Memory Stick Is Facing Extinction

One of the odd questions I keep being asked about the iPad is “Where do you plug in USB stuff?” It’s a sister phrase to the weird criticism oft thrust at Apple’s device, “Ah, it’s too limiting for me: I can’t plug in USB sticks.” This is weird because other makers, notably Apple’s biggest competitor, Samsung, follow the same proprietary connector path and because I’ve never once thought about plugging a stick into the iPad. Maybe, soon, most people won’t think like this either–because the USB memory stick is very swiflty about to be obsolete.

To understand why, you’ve only got to look at how ubiquitous they are now. They’re a handful of dollars at your convenience store, novelty designs compete with austere ones, and they’re thrown around like confetti as promos at tradeshows. Any tech that’s got to this level of commodity is due to be banished to the history books. It’s just the way of things.

I jest, but USB memory stick tech hasn’t really advanced ever, even while it’s flourished like crazy to fill a technological need–moving files swiftly and easily between computers, faster and with more convenience than burnable CDs. That’s partly why it’s got so cheap so fast. But this also means that a bunch of other technologies have been advancing, and are about to make the USB stick obsolete.

It’s all about the mobile computing revolution, which has done two very important things: introduced people to the idea of accessing wireless data on the go or anywhere they could imagine and also changed how people think about computer files.

What’s A USB Stick For, Anyway?

USB sticks are useful for two things: Storing files temporarily, and sharing with another computer user. To drop a file on your USB stick you use your computer’s file manager, then you pop it in the new computer and access it.

Read the complete article at Fast Company.

Hey Hollywood, Online Piracy Doesn’t Hurt Your U.S. Box Office Returns [STUDY]

Remember SOPA? Remember the urgency with which the bill’s backers were trying to convince us that its intended target, online piracy, was a clear and present danger? Remember how those dastardly BitTorrenters were going to deprive us of a functioning, creative movie industry?

Well, an academic study now doing the rounds suggests that’s nonsense. According to researchers at the University of Minnesota and Wellesley College who examined box office history, piracy has never affected Hollywood’s U.S. revenues. After BitTorrent file-sharing software started appearing online in the early 2000s, it had no effect — none whatsoever — on domestic receipts.

Read the complete article at Mashable.

Believe It Or Not, There’s An Upside To Diminished Online Privacy

Sunday’s New York Times was a Luddite’s dream. Tthe paper’s Sunday Review section had three lengthy opinion pieces dedicated to “Life Under Digital Dominance” (their words, not mine), including Evgeny Morozov’s lengthy treatise that social media will kill originality because we’re all too afraid to publicly “like” something on Facebook that our friends don’t like, a plea to adopt European-style rules to keep data private and a particularly threatening piece by Lori Andrews promising sudden cuts in our personal credit lines and troubles obtaining insurance because Facebook is using us.

All three authors make good points, and they are points worth considering for anyone invested in a digital life. But they also brought to mind Reason magazine’s June 2004 cover story – a remarkably poignant preview of the world we now live in. It was also a reminder that a lot of us are okay with the amount of information we choose to share online, and many of us even benefit from giving marketers, friends and co-workers a more complete picture of who we are.

Read the complete article at ReadWriteWeb.

Is Social Media Shortening Our Attention Span?

It’s probably unfair to blame social media specifically, but I think it’s safe to say that the 24/7 media barrage of soundbites we face every day could be taking its toll. Twitter users need to make their point in 140 characters or less, USA Today, Fox News and others have shortened stories to be quickly digested and even media outlets like CNN rely on the pretty faces of their news anchors to keep our attention. As a result any substantive conversation lasting over five minutes is met with glazed eyes and shuffling feet. “Didn’t my iPhone just ring?”

Verizon’s “Can you hear me now?” campaign should probably be replaced with, “Are you paying attention to me now?”

I’ll be the first to admit that if we really want the ears, eyes and attention of our audience we need to make sure that our message is relevant (and interesting). This is particularly true in the workplace. How many times have you sat in a meeting where three or four of the people attending open up their laptop, tap away on their iPad or distractedly thumb through emails or text messages on their smart phones? Although the problem may sometimes be the meeting, even in the midst of important discussions, I’ve watched colleagues allow themselves to be distracted by email and other work they perceive is more important—only to find out later that it wasn’t.

Read the complete article at Forbes.

“How Money Corrupts Congress and a Plan to Stop It”

Public Funding for Public Elections

Larry Lessig gave a rousing performance for the 100th Seminar About Long-Term Thinking. In a lawyerly fashion he laid out evidence of a new type of corruption that is disrupting the American republic, and he offered a remedy for that corruption. Lessig has a very distinctive visual style of using slides that punctuates, word for word, the clear logic of his argument.

He said the type of corruption rampant in the US Congress is not the old type of bribery, where congressional representatives had safes in their offices to hold the cash they received for voting in certain directions. That is now illegal and eliminated. This new type of corruption is more subtle, indirect and harder to outlaw. Corporations legally donate money to the election campaigns of legislators, who in turn tend to vote in favor of the interests of those corporations. Non-profits like Maplight can graph the evidence that a representative voting in favor of a particular corporate-friendly law will receive 6 or 10 or 13 times the funding than someone who opposes the law. He cited studies that showed the ROI (return on investment) of lobbying to be 1,000%. It was one of the sanest expenses for a corporation. But the distortion is not just one sided.

Read the complete article at

Why College Is Still Relevant in the Age of Free Information

Hansoo Lee is co-founder and CEO of Magoosh, an online test prep company with products for the SAT, GRE, and GMAT.

The rising cost of higher education has driven student debt to worrisome levels. With the advancements in digital and online education, more and more would-be college students are seeking the inexpensive, individualized alternatives online.

However, the benefits of higher education are still immense. Given the debate around the value of a college degree, it’s important tease out the exact benefits that you’d get out a college experience, especially because many of them impact your digital presence.

1. The Network

Your real life social networks are largely tied to the institutions at which you’ve spent time: high school, college, graduate school, the companies at which you’ve worked, church, sports teams, etc. As you move forward in your career, these networks play a large role in securing jobs. That’s because managers often hire within their extended networks.

One major benefit of college is the ready-made network you will have upon graduation.

Read the complete article at Mashable.

Hollywood’s Last Stand: The Desperate Plot Behind The SOPA Opera

Look back at any period of rapid technological progress and you’ll find two groups of individuals: Pioneers tirelessly charting new territory for the benefit of the species and members of the old order standing against the tide to fight back the phantom of their own perceived obsolescence. The debate over the Stop Online Piracy Act boils down to exactly this — a desperate last-ditch effort by the reigning Hollywood and recording industry elite to preserve their crumbling empires, no matter the cost to free speech, innovation and security.

“Infernal Machines”

It’s not the first time this has happened, and it certainly won’t be the last. Jump back a hundred or so years to one example famously cited by copyright law professor Lawrence Lessig, in which American march composer John Philip Sousa speaks out against a machine called the gramophone that played recorded music without the need of live musicians.

“When I was a boy…in front of every house in the summer evenings, you would find young people together singing the songs of the day or old songs,” Sousa said at a Congressional hearing in 1906. “Today you hear these infernal machines going night and day. We will not have a vocal cord left. The vocal cord will be eliminated by a process of evolution, as was the tail of man when he came from the ape.” Ironically, he was rallying against the very recording industry that went on to rally against recordable cassette tapes, and is currently rallying against the internet.

Read the complete article at Motherboard.

10 Reasons to Switch to Linux in 2012

The past year was a tempestuous one in the world of desktop operating systems, it seems fair to say, with big changes occurring in just about all of the major contenders.

Most notably, we saw a raft of mobile-inspired features being brought onto the desktop, sometimes to a chilly reception among users.

If you’re wondering–or perhaps even fearing–what other changes 2012 will bring to your desktop, this may be a good time to take matters into your own hands and choose a system that puts you in control.

The system I’m referring to, of course, is Linux. It’s probably already on your phone. Here are just a few reasons you should give the free operating system a try on your desktop

1. It’s Diverse

Detractors like to refer to Linux’s diversity as a “fragmentation problem,” but in fact it’s one of its greatest strengths. Users have countless Linux distributions to choose from, whether it’s one like Mint or Ubuntu that puts usability at the forefront, or one like Fedora with numerous enterprise-focused features and extra security. There are even flavors focused on specific industries and niches. There’s something for everyone in the world of Linux, and it’s increasingly cross-platform as well.

2. It’s Customizable

Not only can you choose the particular Linux distribution you use, but one of the hallmarks of Linux is that it’s also highly customizable. Don’t like Ubuntu’s new Unity desktop or Mint’s GNOME 3? No problem–there are many others to choose from, and your pick can be easily installed. There’s no vendor lock-in here to dictate how you must use your computer.

3. It’s Open Source

A big part of Linux’s flexibility, of course, derives from the fact that it’s open source software. That means that no other entity controls the code–any developer or user can see and modify the code as they see fit. A world of custom tweaks and apps is before you, in other words.

Read the complete article at PCWorld.