An Evening with the United Kingdom’s CTO

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of attending an event that included a short speech by the UK Government CTO.  I didn’t really know what to expect, and like most who attended, I wasn’t even really sure what a government CTO is supposed to do.  It was being held at the TechCube and as the topic was related to government procurement of small business services, I thought it might be worth an evening to attend and see if we could drum up any business.

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Just prior to the session I was intrigued to learn that this was the team behind Gov.UK, which is a highly regarded foray into centralising, opening, and publicising government processes and guidelines via open APIs.

The talk opened in very English fashion, as quite a bit was made of the universities (Oxford) that the CTO and his companion had attended, and I felt cynicism brewing.  What followed was an almost surreal experience.  Liam Maxwell spoke for roughly thirty minutes on what his goals were for the UK government from a technology perspective, which distilled to:

  • Cut wasteful government procurement processes and government IT spending
  • Commit to sourcing at least 25% of government spending from Small to Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs)
Gov.uk provides APIs and other data for transparency and consumption.
Gov.uk provides APIs and other data for transparency and consumption.

Maxwell shared a fact which I found to be utterly staggering: in 2010 the UK government spent 1% of the entire country’s GDP on IT.  Much of this could be categorised as waste.  As an American, government waste isn’t surprising, but the scale of it can be unbelievable in the literal sense when presented with facts like these.  Liam had dozens of anecdotes which he casually referred to throughout the presentation:

  • UK Government data centers are currently utilised at 7% efficiency.
  • After a presentation from Amazon Web Services CTO Werner Vogels discuss the power of cloud based architectures employed at the world’s largest cloud service provider, Maxwell overheard a departing departmental government CIO remark, “We should build one of those!”
  • During an apples to apples comparison of services, a government contract was orders of magnitude more expensive than the same contract from the open market.

Maxwell and his team, who are very new in their roles, are aggressively combatting waste and wasteful procurement processes in four ways:

  • on online government store which is easy to sign up for and which provides market rate services to government entities: the GCloud
  • an anonymous “Bad Request for Proposal” reporting website where ridiculous government RFPs can be brought to light, and shut down.
  • a review board of seven people that must review and approve all government IT projects above a certain level
  • making sure that SMEs are allowed and encouraged to bid for government work

While the presentation was interesting, the ensuing question and answer session, to put it bluntly, blew my mind.  Maxwell answered questions in a blunt, often humorous way.  Stupid questions were rejected and his answers explained why the question was lacking.  He was self deprecating, sharp, and utterly committed to making sure his vision was communicated to the entire room which numbered about 75 attendees.  He relentlessly talked about culture change, asked for direct feedback, took notes of ideas proffered by the audience, and asked some to stay behind for more information.

During the Q&A session, I figured out why the experience felt so strange – Liam Maxwell was solving problems with an openness and bluntness that was commonplace in a well functioning, healthy business.  Or maybe more accurately, a startup.  Not government.  Were there cameras or recording devices?  He didn’t care.  Was he being political?  Only in that he was fulfilling his mission.  He was spending time soliciting opinions from companies across the UK, and he was pitching his idea just like we would to investors.  It was like I was watching a living episode of the West Wing where all of a sudden Hollywood transforms government staffers into extremely competent, hardworking, humorous, and admirable people who work as a team to battle against their problems.

As a UK taxpayer, (even if I am an American!), I was so impressed by Maxwell and my only thought is I hope he lasts.  Administrate is currently signing up for the GCloud if only to support the idea that small companies can sell to government.  I truly hope the Government Digital Services team continues their approach and manages to change the culture over their tenure.

2012, the Year in Review

Here’s a review of what for me was one of the best years I’ve had since college.

Travel in 2012

  • Paris, France
  • Aberdeen, Scotland
  • Copenhagen, Denmark
  • Mallaig (Harry Potter Train)
  • London (Olympics), UK
  • Dubai, UAE
  • Boston, USA
  • Beirut, Lebanon
  • Campbeltown, Scotland

It’s really hard to choose which trip was the best for this year, but I’d probably give the nod to Paris, followed closely by Copenhagen.  I also had an amazing business trip to Beirut, which is an incredible place.

Best Books I Read

Highlights of the Year

Plans for 2013

Book Review: And the Land Lay Still by James Robertson

Since moving to Scotland I haven’t done quite as much reading (we’ve had a busy first ten months here).  However, I was recommended “And the Land Lay Still” by James Robertson, a Scottish author, in order to better understand Scottish culture, the Scottish psyche, and the context surrounding Scotland’s current drive for independance in 2014.

For the Americans (non-UKers) reading this, Scotland is currently debating seccession from the United Kingdom.  It’s a complicated issue spurred along by the Scottish National Party (SNP), a once-fringe political party that started in the thirties.   Having succeeded in winning control of Scottish paliament, their attention has now turned to scheduling a referendum in 2014.  This will be the 700th anniversary of the battle of Bannockburn in 1314, one of the greatest victories in the First War of Scottish Independence.  You’ll remember this battle as the last scene in Braveheart where Robert the Bruce rallies the troops in William Wallace’s memory and charges down the hill.

Braveheart has been labeled one of the most innacurate movies of all time, but this battle was truly epic.  The English had assembled a “grand feudal army, one of the last of its kind of leave England in the Middle Ages,” which consisted of 2-3,000 horse, and 16,000 foot soldiers.  The Scots had two to three times fewer men.  During the battle, “one of the most memorable episodes in Scottish history” occured when a fully armored English knight astride a great war horse saw Robert the Bruce in the field and charged him.  The Scottish king was on a small palfrey, unarmored, and had only a battle axe, but he stood his ground against the charge, and hit the knight so hard with his battle axe that he “split his helmet and head in two”.  This battlefield event ignited the watching Scot army and spurred them to victory.  While the King was rebuked by his commanders for riding out in the thick of battle in such a dangerous fashion, he claimed that his only regret was that he had broken his axe due to the force of the blow.  Today the Scottish national anthem “Flower of Scotland” refers to this victory.

Even against this incredible backdrop, and despite current prevailing Scottish attitudes towards the English, were the vote to be held today, a majority would vote for remaining within the United Kingdom.  The almost continuous history of conflict between the two nations notwithstanding, there is a deep aversion to independance that prevails, and the SNP now finds itself as the majority party trying to navigate between its demands for a referendum and the realities of current polling data.

Back to the book.

This is a beautifully written book, and it’s no surprise given the author’s background as a poet who studied the literature of Sir Walter Scot at the University of Edinburgh.  He paints a surreal cast of characters that are situated against a tapestry of modern Scottish history spanning from the nineteen fifties to present day.  His descriptions and prose are well suited to the heavyweight themes that he deals with, and I found myself intrigued that an author of this quality could be a virtual unknown in the States.

This is a difficult book to read, with many difficult characters, plot points, and no real resolution.  You’re taken on a trip of exploration through the psyche of a nation that’s been torn by war for thousands of years, (not fully) reconciled for hundreds, and now finds that reconciliation starting to fray around the edges.  And yet, if you were to pick this book up with the expectation of it taking you step by step through the arguments, and the background, and the history, you’d be misled – this book is about Scotland and its independence but you have to look through the lens of the characters and the last fifty years, and many questions are left unanswered.

The book takes you from character to character along the last sixty years of Scotland’s history, touching on many different political events and trends that were foreign to me, and I found myself quite often researching the instances.  The coal miner’s strike.  Closing of the shipyards in Glasgow.  The poll tax.  The questionable death of an SNP party member.  The theft of the Stone of Destiny (Stone of Scone).  Council houses.  The problem of drugs.  Immigration of foreigners. Scottish attitudes towards homsexuality.

This was an extremely moving book for someone with (however remote) Scottish heritage.  There was something about the underlying sorrow that runs through the stories, history, and characters that tugged at me while reading, and I finished the book in roughly a week, despite its length.

This is not a book I’d recommend unless you’re ready for a tough time, introspection, uncomfortable topics, dark characters, and a less than clear conclusion.

Ultimately, I feel like this is an important book for those wanting to learn more about what makes up this ancient country and what still influences it today.  It hints at what conspires within its people to produce so many great things yet be so self critical and pessimistic.  Don’t expect an easy ride – but it will be beautiful, sorrowful, touching, and memorable, if not a little wistful.

Thoughts on Samsung, Apple, and Patents

I’ve been struggling about what to make of the recent patent spat between Samsung and Apple.  I do think that the level of discorse provided by most techies on this issue is somewhat lacking.  Hacker News seems to have come down firmly on the “patents are evil, ergo Apple is too” side of things.  I’m not sure it’s quite so simple.

Here’s what I know:

  • I’m against business process or “method” patents.  This generally covers most software or patenting things like algorithms.
  • I think there is an incredible amount of copying that goes on in the tech world.  Every company does it, and every company cries foul when it’s done against them.  I’ve written about this before.
  • I do believe that copying a tangible product should not be legal or tolerated.  Fake clothing brands, for example, or counterfeit items are not only crass, they can be dangerous (remember the baby formula issue in China?).
  • It was obvious from day one that Google and Android blatantly, crudely, and poorly ripped off iOS.  They didn’t spend any effort on being original or attempting to innovate.  I think the mental gymnastics that are performed by many geeks trying to absolve Google in this respect are intellectually dishonest and silly.
  • In my experience, the best defense is a good offense and the only real way to beat someone who’s ripping you off is to out innovate them.  Consumers will generally figure out who’s for real and who is playing second fiddle.
  • There have been several incidents over the past few years on Hacker News where a startup felt they were being copied by others, and the entire community expressed a lot of outrage over this.

I’m an Apple stock holder and an Apple customer.  Have been for years.  I think the conclusion that I’m coming to on this particular issue is that I feel a guilty party got what they deserved (for product trade dress copying) but the means to the victory was really awful (using the patent system).  I’m not a lawyer, but it seems to me if Levis can sue someone for ripping off their logo or making fake goods without owning a patent to the blue jean, why can’t we have that method in the tech industry?  I’m curious if using the patent system in this respect was a “nuclear option” that sends a signal to everyone else who might cross them in this area.  Apple certainly learned a lot during their lawsuit against Microsoft in the nineties and probably had their playbook well thought through prior to even launching the iPhone.  I also feel like Google got away with something here, as they were culpable in ripping Apple off as well.

The most bizarre thing about this whole mess is that somehow Microsoft came out looking like a world class innovator with their new Metro mobile OS which looks nothing like iOS.  Ten years ago, who could have imagined a scenario where Apple wins against someone ripping them off, Microsoft is the innovator, and Google is the evil corporation blatantly and poorly copying someone else?

We Consistently Underestimate Kids

I’ve long believed that we seriously underestimate kids.  Hanging around with my friend’s daughters who were 2, 3, and 5 when I was in college was really illuminating as I found myself interacting and conversing with his (admittedly smart) 2 year old daughter on a level that we often wouldn’t even attempt with highschoolers.

I have a very clear memory of being nine years old, reading an autobiography about a family who adopted several kids.  At some point they became stranded in an airport.  Don’t worry though!  It was no problem the author (and mother) helpfully pointed out, because nothing fascinates a nine year old like riding the elevator up and down for hours.  What a load of crap, I thought to my nine year old self.  It’s like that mom thinks we’re mentally disabled or something.

As a parent (I have very little additional advice and zero experience in this area) don’t be afraid to expose your kids to things that might seem advanced for a child.  Check out this video of 7 year old Philip explaining how he programmed his first video game on a Raspberry Pi computer his dad bought and helped him configure.  I guarantee you there are huge portions of the adult population who couldn’t follow his instructions or achieve what he’s completed.  There’s nothing quite like a curious kid who sets their mind to something.  Nice job Philip and well done by his parents!

Simplify Everything

There’s a lot of abstract advice about employing simplicity when building great products or writing great code.  However, life and products (particularly in the Enterprise software market, where I’ve spent most of my career) are complicated.  It’s often hard to gleen concrete examples of what these maxims are trying to communicate.

The other day I was in a pub waiting for a lunch meeting to start and I got to witness the week’s beer delivery.  This is a fairly hard problem to solve efficiently if you’re in a city where parking is difficult (or nonexistent), buildings were constructed hundreds of years before accessibility laws (meaning stairs and tight doorways), kegs are very heavy (over 200 pounds when full), and where a lot of beer is consumed requiring frequent deliveries.

If you or I were designing a solution to this problem, we might come up with this solution:

  • 1 truck
  • 2 employees (1 driver, 1 loader/unloader)
  • 1 automatic lift at the rear or on the side of the truck
  • 1 appliance dolly that can move up or down stairs

We’d be pretty happy with that.  Not the worst solution in the world.  It’s possible we could reduce to one employee but the automatic lift will take enough time setting up and lifting that we’ll probably exceed our very short “stop with flashers on” window.  We’d therefore need to park and have someone stay with the truck, or make several “fly byes” to stay within the unloading time limit.  This will really limit how many delivers we could make in a day, possibly requiring a lot of delivery crews.

Here’s how they actually do it:

  • 1 truck
  • 1 driver / unloader
  • 1 airbag

The driver pulls up, parks the truck right outside the entrance of the pub with the flashers on, whips out his airbag from the passenger seat, rolls up the side of the truck, pulls off the keg and lets it fall right on the airbag.  He then rolls it into the pub (for those with cellar keg storage, they have their own airbag) and after about 20 kegs and less than 5 minutes, he’s out of there.

A lot less cost, a lot faster, and no expensive equipment.  

Simple.

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Safety First: A New Mantra for America

I don’t ever watch the news on TV.  Maybe once a month, generally while sitting in a waiting room of some sort where you can’t help but listen to the TV blaring away in the corner.

A few months ago I was in that situation, and listened to Mayor Bloomberg utter the now all too common refrain that “safety of residents was his top priority.”  I don’t want to focus in on the specific situation he was referring to or anything along those lines, I just want to comment briefly on a once-bedrock notion that seems to have been lost permanently from the American Psyche: safety or security is not an ideal in and of itself.

Let me explain.

If you hang around geeks long enough, you’ll hear them discuss the security and safety of their computers.  There’s lot of things to secure (and thus talk about) too: their code, their servers, even security of non-computery things and other physical devices.  At some point, you’ll hear a version of this statement: “The only secure computer is one that’s turned off, unconnected to anything, encased in a block of concrete, sitting in the bottom of the ocean…and even that’s not going to be completely secure!”

What’s really being said here is that security is not a binary function of yes/no but a continuum between two mutually exclusive goals: utility and security.  In other words, security is a process during which intelligent and thoughtful trade-offs have to be made just to get stuff done.  This is why you will find nerds, geeks, and other computer professionals disproportionately critical of many modern security measures, processes, and other “security theater” institutions like the TSA.  Computer people already have a wealth of experience trading perfect security for reasonable security in order to achieve things, and we’ve done so without coercion or legislation or massive cost to the user.  The technology security analyst’s job is literally right on the pain point between these two opposing priorities and it’s often not pleasant, but that’s their job.

Back to America and our newfound obsession with safety and security.  Ben Franklin has an iconic quote (often paraphrased) which we seem to have lost sight of:

Those Who Sacrifice Liberty For Security Deserve Neither.”  

It’s as clear a signal from the framers of the United States as to what kind of country we were to be.   There’s an even more powerful quote which I’ll discuss in just a moment.

I’m not a George W. Bush fan, but I eagerly bought his book “Decision Points” when it came out and very much enjoyed reading it.  It clearly wasn’t ghost written, which was refreshing.  He plays fast and loose with the facts in a few places, and revises history in others, but the first chapter is genuinely inspiring as he documents his battle with alcoholism.

I found myself respecting him more after reading the book and I also gained a lot of insight into his thought processes.  Over and over again he justifies his, uhh, decision points by claiming that his primary duty was to keep Americans safe.  If you listen to talk radio even just a little this is a refrain you’ll hear over and over again.  We have to keep Americans and America safe.  We have to keep our allies safe.  It’s mentioned by commentators, newscasters, senators, congressmen, presidents, and people. Safe. Safe. Safe.

Except Bush, talk radio personalities, and anyone else who believes that safety is our ultimate priority are all wrong.  The founding fathers knew what they were doing when they designed the oath of the office of the President of the United States:

I, , do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Presidents and Congress are to protect our Constitution, not Americans, and in doing so they protect America.  Pure safety is unatainable, and to get as close as we can to pure security means totalitarianism, and no happiness, life or liberty.  Just like with the almost-safe computer sitting in the bottom of the ocean, a purely safe life means being locked in a room in the bottom of the ocean where nobody can harm you.

We need to stop pursuing this idea that the end goal of America and Americans is safety.  I don’t want to live a safe life.  I want to live a fulfilling life, one that’s full of adventure and creation and freedom.  

We need do a better job at educating ourselves about the true risks in life.  The reality is that it’s much more dangerous to drive and pickup a pizza than to fly.  I’m more likely to get hit by lightning than be a victim of terrorism.  

There are dozens and dozens of examples that document how we’re living in an age of extreme safety and relative security, and none of this is due to security checks or military spending or increased wiretapping.  I’d encourage you to do the research and see if you come to the same conclusion.  

Back to the American oath of office.  Think of how natural it would have been to make the chief goal of our President be the security of his people.  Swearing an oath to the constitution was no accident.  Think of how easy it is to make bad decisions if all you care about is safety.

We have a higher calling in life than to be safe.  Most of history’s meaningful changes have been very unsafe affairs.  We should expect our leaders to understand this and we shouldn’t accept safety as our prime directive or even as a goal in and of itself.

 

Hating Your (Potential) Customers: Content Licensing from a Major Record Label

Have you ever wondered what’s involved in licensing a popular band’s music?  A few years ago I was curious and wanted to see about using a rock band’s song (signed to a major record label, Sony’s Epic music) for a marketing project.  There are some bands who get the internet, and some who don’t, and this band (one of my favorites) is probably somewhere in between.

First, I had to spend quite a bit of time googling and navigating around their record label’s website.  Finally, I found an obscure reference to call a certain phone number.  I called it, and had to navigate through a maze of IVR options, pressing several numbers to wade through several different menu levels.  Finally, I got dumped out to an answering service that played a message instructing you to write a physical letter describing the band, song, use you had in mind, and several other criteria.  The message helpfully repeated itself, then hung up.

I remember being shocked at how arcane the entire thing was, despite the well documented track record of major media labels and distributors to make things as difficult as possible for consumers.  Needless to say we never sent in the physical letter, and I never actually found out what it would cost.

I like to remember this experience when thinking about the barriers our customers have when attempting to give us money.

The Efforts of a Generation – Some Thoughts on PPC Advertising

I’ve been spending the last month or so setting up, honing, and dialing in our Google Pay Per Click (PPC) strategy.  I have a few thoughts on this experience that I’d like to share and see what the current conventional wisdom might be on these topics.

A little background – we’re decidedly in the “long tail” camp of online advertising, which means we’re going after search terms that are very specific.  We’re not bidding on keywords like “cheap software” or something that would broadly appeal to all consumers.  Our target market is training companies who need software to help them manage their training businesses.  Search terms like “training management software”.  Even terms like “training business” are much too broad for us as this would usually refer to people starting a personal training business, and while they could use our software, we’re more geared to the type of training company that delivers many different classroom style courses (online and offline).

Is Google Adwords Designed to Scam You (or at least Mislead)?

Google’s motto is famously “Do No Evil”, but I believe that the way Adwords is configured by default is designed poorly at best and possible designed to flat out scam you.  Let me explain.  When you start a new campaign and begin adding keywords, Google accepts keywords you enter as a “broad match” type, which their documentation describes as “synonyms, related searches, and other relevant variations”.  This is totally reasonable on the face of it, and I’ll bet that most if not all campaigns get started with these parameters.  They’re the default and everyone would like to include synonyms!

Here’s the problem – Google buries the only way to sanity check which keywords your campaign is actually being clicked through on in a very hard to find option.  They also don’t update these stats until 24-48 hours later, when every other stat available through Adwords seems to be updating hourly or better.

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What does this mean?  It means that the default report you see which shows your keyphrases and the clicks via those keywords is not accurate – users aren’t actually clicking on those keyphrases, they’re often clicking on things that have almost zero relevance to your campaign particularly for those campaigns that are designed to go after “long tail” keywords.

Instead of showing you the real keywords that you’re paying for, Google hides these away on another report in a dropdown menu labeled “Keyword details”.

Google repeats this tactic of (at least from what I can see) in not allowing you to whitelist display network sites.  They allow you to select sites on which you’d like to run your ads, but they also require you to run on “automatic placement” display network sites which were all 100pct irrelevant and probably would be to most companies.  Sites like screensaver downloads, free software download sites, or a wide variety of other sites that seemed designed to be Adwords honeypot properties.  From what I can tell you can either disable all display network advertising, or login every day and manually “Exclude” sites where you’ve potentially wasted money the previous day.

Why does Google do this?  It’s clearly in their interest to extract as much revenue as possible, but the thing that’s weird to me is the entire approach here seems to be designed in a way to ensure a negative customer experience, at the expense of a few bucks of revenue.  Consider the client who doesn’t care, has unlimited budget, and wants to blast out to as wide an audience as possible – let him start with a specific audience, then suggest that he loosen up his criteria and increase his spend.  In fact, Google already has this tool – their “Opportunities” tab.  The flip side is the long tail client who without really careful exploration and attention is going to get hosed.  I’m sure there are millions of small adwords advertisers (mostly small businesses) who are getting taken for a ride and will never know it.

At the very least, the keyword clickthrough report should have a one-click drilldown to the actual keywords clicked to help users see and hone their campaigns.  I mean, certainly this is one of the most valuable reports (if not the most).  This report only increases in value as you widen your net of keyphrases.  Why effectively hide it?  Because you might rethink your spend when you see what you’re actually paying for.

Another really annoying thing possibly designed for lockin reaons (although probably just an oversight) – you can’t export your keywords.  Yes, it’s true.  You have to “spreadsheet edit” then copy and paste them out.

This is Probably a Conflict of Interest

It’s a really uncomfortable feeling to know that you’re bidding on keywords within Google Adwords while trying to optimise for those same keywords via Google Webmaster Tools.  This is a massive conflict of interest and Google would be well served to break these into separate companies or at least detail what kind of protections they have in place to prevent the obvious issues that could crop up should the teams begin to collude together.

Click Fraud

Google allows you to pay for ads based on conversions, which is something we haven’t experimented with just yet, but on the face of it seems like a good idea.  Good fora business and for Google as in theory it makes click fraud irrelevant.  Who cares if they fradulently clicked the ad as long a they didn’t buy your product?

Since we’ve been live, we’ve noticed 1-2 signups per week that come with good names, reasonable email addresses, and plausible phone numbers.  Some of the phone numbers are even real, but are innacurate.  I’m pretty sure these are due to click fraud that’s designed to earn money for sites that get paid based on conversions.  If you’re a site owner, you won’t know how your ads are being paid for but it’s a good bet that no matter what a “real signup” will look less like click fraud and could net you a few extra bucks.

I’m not sure what the best solution here, but I am sure that click fraud is probably responsible for at least 10pct of clicks (more for higher value products or “shadier” industries).  I wonder if Google releases its suspected rate of click fraud over time?  That would be really interesting.

The Alternatives are Poor

Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time

– Winston Churchill, Speech in the House of Commons, 1947

The alternatives to Google Adwords seem to be Facebook, LinkedIn, and Bing (which services Yahoo as well).

Bing’s ad platform doesn’t work with Google’s Chrome browser.  Their coupons they send you for free ad credit upon signup don’t work for companies outside of the USA.  Fail.

LinkedIn’s ad platform currently has a bug where your ad previews don’t work for reporting or management purposes. This means you stare at a report of metrics by ad and can’t actually see which ads are generating those metrics.  You have to clone the ad, then cancel, then go back to the report to even see which ad your stats are referencing!  LinkedIn also only lets you target based on things like title or group associations.  You can’t actually target companies by any kind of meaningful industry criteria from what I can tell.  It’s genuinely bizarre.  Their tool also has about 1/10th the information that Google’s platform gives you.

Each of these is unbelievably painful compared to Google’s options.  It’s really hard for me to believe that multibillion dollar companies are built upon these platforms (exception of Bing), or at least see them as their route to profitability.  If an entire generation of techies gave their lives to these platforms, they should be ashamed of themselves.

I haven’t setup our Facebook campaign yet, so we’ll leave them aside just now.

Google Should be Ripe for Disruption, but Isn’t

The really sad thing about this, is there’s very little chance of Google getting dethroned or even having someone to compete agains in the next couple of years.  It’s possible mobile ad networks will provide some heat, but it seems really fragmented and Google already targets these through its existing Adwords tools.

Martin Jacques TED Talk on China’s Economic Rise

This is a great talk and synopsis of Martin’s fabulously well researched book “When China Rules the World” which I reviewed a couple years ago on this blog.  If you’re not up for reading the 500+ page book, this is a good way to get the gist, and it’s updated with some post-financial crisis analysis.

His fundamental argument is against the conventional thought that when a country modernises it also westernises and that we can’t use Western ideas and thoughts to frame China when attempting to make sense of it.