Al que no puede con la sopa… doble ración.

Nicaraguan Sign Language

Posted in communication, Social Media, Software Development by wigahluk on octubre 29, 2011

Surely you are aware of this story. San Judas, Nicaragua, in a neighborhood called Managua was opened Villa Libertad. Quite a name for a school and what a school for deaf children.

This was a success story for the users and a big fail for the authors. Teachers tried to train students in lip-reading and speaking Spanish. While adults get involved in this unfruitful game, the children became to communicate with each other creating their own conventions. This way was born a new and fascinating language. Over time, this language gain in complexity and developed verb agreement and a lot of grammars.

Here we have a lot of lessons and for linguists a science fiction opportunity to explore human communication but without the fiction.

Listen to your users

Nicaraguan government and the school staff didn’t saw what was going on within the children, they didn’t hear or had attention to what those small creatures were doing. In those years, children and crazy people had no voice.

With users of computer software we have a very similar tradition, even now you can hear some technical people using the word “user” as a pejorative. It was not until the recent years that developers became aware of the importance to listen what their users have to say.

People want to communicate

You don’t need to force people to communicate, they will do it all by them selves if you just allow them to interact. Of course, if you make easy communicative interactions then surely people will communicate more.

It is an uncontroversial conclusion that “social media” systems are so successful because of the communicative opportunities they create or extend among people.

People adopt communicative conventions

The first children at Villa Libertad just used a few signs, but as soon other children adopted those signs, more and more were added and a grammatical structure were created to communicate more efficiently. All those linguistics artifacts are conventions adopted and “upgraded” by generations of children.

Twitter

Not an awesome story as the one of Nicaragua children is that of Twitter, where users have created a lot of “alternative” functionality integrated later by the developers.

Of course, users have influence from previous experiences, the same as speakers of a language import words and grammars from other languages. I remember when IRC were the “social media” available at the time. Those days, people used “@” sign to “address” a person in a message. Hash “#” where channels and a lot of emoticons were used.

Reading Scrumban

Posted in Agile Methodologies, Books, Software Development, XP by wigahluk on septiembre 18, 2011

Scrumban

Reading Scrumban: Essays on Kanban systems for Lean Software Development

I’ll be honest. I didn’t enjoy this book. Nevertheless, there are a lot of interesting ideas on it, enough to recommend its reading.

In the introduction, Corey Ladas resumes his book as a critic to the so called “old Agile methodologies” and presents his own work not only as the new proposal being different, but as the finest paradigm for software development. Reading further seems that the one Agile methodology that the author knows is XP, I guess he knows a lot more, but the only one he talks about is XP. I find difficult to criticize the Agile movement taking only a very partial sample as XP.

The Agile movement is more than a single methodology, but a form of thinking and living software development. You can be an old fashioned Agile developer or a vanguardist one, but Agile the same. The “costume” is a matter of personal and team preferences.

Scrum-ban is just another strategy of organizing workflows that indeed seems to be a good one, but present it as an anti-pattern for Agile is absurd and by no means necessary.

Scrum-ban takes almost everything from Kanban, a methodology more focus on product development than software. The main idea is to enforce auto-control of the workflow by the team using a quite simple pull system.

The attractive of Kanban and Scrum-ban is their simplicity of implementation. You can become your team a Srum-ban team even if this is your first experience with Agile methodologies with no sophisticated tools or an extensive knowledge.

The protocol of Scrum-ban is inherited from Scrum, but evidently you can be as protocolary as in XP or as free as in Crystal. In fact, Scrum-ban tries to reduce the protocol in Scrum reducing the time that meetings require. This protocol reduction leaves you in a scenario more alike to Cockburn’s self-made methodologies, which is my personal election, to have a self-made Agile methodology with a Srcum-ban pull system.

Some Links:

Scrumban at Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Scrumban-Systems-Software-Development-ebook/dp/B004SY63BY/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1316368812&sr=8-2

Selling People

Posted in communication, Social Media, web 2.0 by wigahluk on septiembre 15, 2011

“I’m not in the business, I am the business” says Rachael to Deckard in Blade Runner and seems that we also would say those very same words when talking about Google and Social Media platforms.

That’s at least the point of view that Don Norman wants to set down in his talk at the dConstruct conference. “You are the product” says Norman in very convincing words, as he usually does. Google is selling people, that’s the idea, and yes, they do, but that is, we must recognize, just a nice metaphor. Metaphors are risky, and this one is not a happy exception.

What is Google selling? This is the proposed problem. So, we are talking about the business model of Google. That’s a huge problem; you can face it from a lot of points of view, even if, like me, you don’t have a direct source of information about their business strategy.

Why is so tempting to say that Google is selling us as a product, to reduce the big problem to this simplistic assertion? I don’t know for certainly, but my best guess is that we are used to say such kind of things. People are used to say that Media companies are manipulating us with television and fabricated news. They like very much to believe that we live in a world of science fiction, with a Big Brother and some evasive illuminati controlling our destiny. Maybe that’s how the world really is, but there are other possibilities, less fancy but at least equally probable if not more. Those other possibilities start with the opposite assertion: Marketing and media companies do their best efforts to guess and deliver what people wants. They do what we ask them to do because they want to be consumed by us. It’s a media market and we all are players on it.

Google has a lot of users. Some of them are the advertisers, as pointed out by Norman, they are paying the real money, and they have a customer support service and invoices. And yes, if we are looking from this point of view, we all are the product. Well, not exactly. What Google really sells to the advertisers are clicks and appearances, these represent potential buyers to the advertisers, and these potential buyers are indeed real people. This is why can be said that they are selling people. But they don’t, they sell a probability of conversion. If you want to say that they are “selling people”, that’s fine by me, it’s a provoking metaphor, but not very accurate one.

We also can look the problem as a funding problem. If you are centered on users like you and me as the real users of Google, then the product are the search portal, gMail, Google Docs, etc. Those are products on their own right. We are paying for them with our visits (appearances) and our clicks on the advertisements. It’s not money what we pay, but a possibility of it. So, the quid seems to be: we are the users, Google sites are the products and advertisers are the funding source.

There is also another interesting option. You can think on the advertisements themselves as the products, we are the users, advertisers are the funding source and Google sites are just points of sale. This is a merchandising problem, on how you present a product to your customers. The customers are paying you with “clicks credit” offered by advertisers. But out there are a lot of other stores where the same products are sold, so must make your own stores more attractive to potential customers. That’s way you pay so much money for developing and buying points of sale.

So, if we are the customers, asked Norman, why we are not getting any real customer support from Google?. Remember that we were talking about a market where companies deliver what we ask? I must guess again, knowing for good seems to be impossible on these matters. Google doesn’t have customer support for us because we are not asking for it. We are not used to ask for customer support on services offered to us for free, but maybe we can change in future years and begin to ask for customer support even on free services. You can say also that they don’t offer us customer support because it would be very expensive to sustain it. That’s true, it could be very expensive and maybe would make unprofitable their actual business model, but if we, the users, were to stop using their systems because they don’t have customer support, then they should be doing some changes to their business model that allows them to offer us customer support.

My point is that the problem of Google business model is not as easy as saying “Oh!, it’s quite simple, Google is selling people!” and that when you are talking about Social Media platforms, you are talking about very complex problems that you should face from a lot of directions. You are selling people to advertisers, but also you are selling your site to these very same people, and you are also selling adds to them, and must probably, you are doing a lot more of things.

Some links:

Note on Don Norman’s talk: http://gigaom.com/2011/09/05/don-norman-google-doesnt-get-people-it-sells-them/
Don Norman’s page: http://jnd.org/
dCosntruct Conference: http://2011.dconstruct.org/
Brighton Digital Festival: http://brightondigitalfestival.co.uk/

To Hire or not to Hire a Social Media Expert

Posted in comunicación, Social Media, social web, web 2.0 by wigahluk on junio 26, 2011

En estos tiempos todo mundo habla de “Social Media”. Páginas como Facebook o Twitter han pasado de ser un ejemplo de sitios exitosos a convertirse en el medio favorito de las nuevas campañas de mercadeo. Con estas nuevas tendencias han surgido un nuevo tipo de profesionales, los llamados “Expertos” en medios sociales.

Como sucede con todo lo nuevo, nadie sabe bien a bien qué es o qué hace un experto en medios sociales, sin embargo, muchas compañías parecen estar desesperadas por contratarlos. Es como si tener uno de estos personajes en la nómina pudiese, como por arte de magia, hacer a una empresa exitosa, llenarla de seguidores comprometidos, generar lealtad en sus clientes, etc.

Hace poco leía un artículo de Rand Fishkin, uno de los fundadores de SEOmoz, nada menos. Fishkin parecía bastante molesto por la aparición de otro artículo escrito por alguien no menos importante, Peter Shankman, un importante consultor en mercadotecnia.

P. Shankman se lanzaba en contra de estos nuevos profesionales y R. Fishkin los defendía. Ambos tienen mucho que decir y pueden defender sus opiniones, de lo que no estoy tan seguro es de que Fishkin hubiese leído completo el texto de Shankman. Creo que ambos están esencialmente de acuerdo.

El artículo de P. Shankman es radical, en el sentido de irse a las raíces. No se trata, según él, de contratar nuevos “gurús” sólo por el hecho de estar con la tendencia, se trata, siempre se ha tratado, de hacer mercadeo y soporte al cliente, de hacer dinero. Marca y relaciones sociales no son una novedad surgida de las redes sociales, han estado allí por años y son el pan de los mercadólogos desde sus propios orígenes.

Ése es todo el quid del asunto. No creo que P. Shankman le quite el mérito a las campañas en medios sociales, como el mismo R. Fishkin lo reconoce, aquel ha utilizado en varias ocasiones las redes sociales para ayudar a sus clientes e incluso se presenta como un consultor en medios sociales.

La visión de P. Shankman de los medios sociales es pragmática. Son una herramienta más que puede ser utilizada en una campaña, y como una herramienta más, están supeditadas a la campaña y no al revés. Es en este sentido que la contratación de expertos que lo único que conseguirán es llenar de seguidores una cuenta de Twitter o una pagina en Facebook no tiene ningún sentido de manera aislada, sin el contexto y bajo las normas de una campaña bien planeada.

La visión de R. Fishkin no parece estar demasiado lejos, y su defensa de los llamados expertos pasa por una distinción esencial, los considera personas serias y bien estudiadas del medio en el que trabajan, no sólo son individuos capaces de tener miles de seguidores en las redes sociales, sobre todo saben obtener información de estas redes, generar tendencias, etc. Son mercadólogos especializados en medios sociales.

Personalmente no soy un experto en medios sociales, les he seguido un poco la pista desde aquellos tiempos del IRC, pero no me he dedicado a ello de manera profesional. Sin embargo, mi opinión respecto a contratar un experto en medios sociales (consultor de marketing en medios sociales para que no se enoje Peter) es la misma que la de R. Fishkin, pero con todas las reservas que pone P.Shankman.

Para leer más:

Everyone Should Hire ‘Social Media Experts‘ by Rand Fishkin

I Will Never Hire a “Social Media Expert,” and Neither Should You by Peter Shankman

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Canguros y Jacarandas

Posted in comunicación by wigahluk on marzo 21, 2011

Los occidentales solemos ser, no sólo ignorantes, sino groseros y petulantes cuando se trata de culturas indígenas descubiertas por allí. También se nos da muy bien eso de la mitomanía cursi y nos inventamos rápidamente mitos y leyendas sobre los cruces de palabras entre hombres civilizados y aborígenes.

Dos cuentos, casi igualitos, distinguibles sólo por el nombre de los personajes, narran la historia del ilustre y culto explorador europeo, tolerante y buen cristiano que sabe tomar en cuenta a los indios, y el aborigen estúpido y obediente que lo guía. El civilizado explorador observa por allí algo que le sorprende y sin tapujos racistas pregunta a su morenito Virgilio. El indio contesta con diligencia que el “no sabe” o “no entiende” a su amo. No solo es un pelmazo que no habla la lengua de sus conquistadores, también es un bestia para entender el lenguaje a señas y posiblemente es un ignorante de su propia tierra. El crédulo y honesto europeo se compra lo primero que le dicen y sale corriendo a publicarlo en sus memorias, dando origen a un gazapo taxonómico que todos repetiremos siglos después.

No sé a usted, pero a mi tanto parecido me deja intranquilo. Pero sobre todo, me incomoda esta visión del explorador europeo dominando amablemente al aborigen, un héroe de novela, que mira con la curiosidad inocente de un niño y que, siendo honestos, no se parece en nada a los exploradores de verdad que recorrieron el salvaje exterior de Europa. Junto a este emblema de la National Geographic está el estúpido indio, capaz de entender sólo las instrucciones más elementales como “derecha”, “izquierda” y “alto” que le da su amo, pero tarado para todo lo demás.

Así son los cuentos del canguro y de la jacaranda.

Del canguro dicen que James Cook junto con Joseph Banks paseaban por Australia cuando vieron un rarísimo animal. Le preguntaron el nombre de aquel bicho a su guía, un aborigen australiano bestia y sin nombre como deben ser los que no son blancos. El guía contestó “no le entiendo” que en su lengua, dicen los que inventan, se parecía mucho a decir “canguru”. Pero resulta que al menos la lengua del aborigen sí tiene nombre, se llama guugu yimithirr, y en ella la palabra “gangurru” existe y se refiere, justamente, a los canguros grises. Así que vaya usted a saber cómo fue en verdad la interacción de los invasores con los aborígenes, lo cierto es que los canguros ya eran canguros en guugu yimithirr.

Casi igual le pasó a la jacaranda, ese hermosísimo árbol de flores azules que en Latinoamérica y en el mundo adorna tantas ciudades. Dicen los que saben que Carlos Varela viajaba en una canoa en esas aguas del Brasil con un guía y remero guaraní. Nuestro naturalista, igual que Cook y Banks, se sorprendió ante la belleza de una jacaranda y le preguntó el nombre de aquel árbol a su guía. El indio, bestia y sin nombre también, entendió a su amo pero era tan tarado que no conocía ni el nombre de las plantas de su propia tierra, por lo que humilde, como deben ser los indios, contestó: “no lo sé” que en tupi-guaraní se dice, según otros cuentistas: “yacarandá”. Con el tiempo, y como de los guaranís sabemos todavía menos que de los Australianos, la gente se inventó que yacarandá quiere decir “de fuerte olor”, aunque en los pocos diccionarios español-guaraní que circulan por allí se reporta como “de lo que tiene un centro duro”. En cualquier caso, las jacarandas sí saben cómo se llaman y ya se llamaban casi igual desde antes de que los portugueses les hicieran el favor a los guaranís de descubrirlos.

Ya lo dejo, querido visitante, que quiero ir a pasear entre las jacarandas que en estos días andan todas coquetas y nos visten de divertida lencería la ciudad.

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