Not 24 hours ago, I was feeling pretty bullish about Facebook Messages, the company’s just-announced attempt to rethink the way people communicate over the Internet – including e-mail.
Being one of the first to have my Facebook account enabled for the new service, I spent a good part of yesterday messing around with it – asking friends to “email” me at my new facebook.com address and, more specifically, to email me from a variety of accounts, including those not registered on Facebook.
Here are some of my first impressions, with some analysis posted below.
1. Bravo to Facebook for making everything opt-in, including the @facebook.com email.
2. Thanks also for making all of the elements of the registration very easy to turn off and on.
3. A message appeared in my inbox while I had my chat feature turned off. I turned on my chat feature and saw that the message was actually a chat thread. I wasn’t sure exactly where to respond – in the messages window or the pop-up chat window.
4. I still don’t quite understand how the whole integration with SMS works. I received text messages when someone commented on a status update – not just that the person had commented but the text of the comment itself. A comment on a status update doesn’t count as a “message” and shouldn’t be arriving in my SMS inbox. Hmmm. Suddenly, I wondered how bogged down my SMS inbox on my phone would become down the road. Later, an actual email showed up via SMS while a chat that first appeared as a message never did. Confused? Me too.
5. Duplication sucks – and that’s exactly what I have on my phone and on my page. Who needs or wants the same message twice?
6. The conversation archive is inconsistent about how much of the archived conversation it shows. Consider the example in the image. My buddy Mike was responding to a message I’d sent him at some point in time – but all I could see in the message archive was one of his responses. Without the context, how would I know what we were talking about?
7. The messages system recognized the email addresses of people who sent test emails to my new @facebook.com account. If their e-mail addresses are linked to their Facebook accounts, then the email pops into the Messages folder. If their email addresses are not linked to their Facebook accounts – a work account, perhaps – then it shows up in the Others folder.
8. Did I miss the button to forward the email? It’s hidden under the Actions dropdown and then makes you select each message – not threads – to forward. I’m still not sure whether this is a good thing or a bad thing.
9. I have this overwhelming urge to go in and clean out my messages. I had no idea I’d had that many message exchanges on Facebook. And I had no idea that I had unread messages dating back to August 2009.
10. No, they have not yet activated my invitations so, no, I cannot send you one. Sorry.
Overall, I think I need more time to use Facebook Messages before I reach any conclusion. I can say this much: at this point, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was exactly right when he said that this is not a GMail killer. For now, it’s confusing and that’s intensified by the integration of SMS.
At one point during Monday’s press event, Zuckerberg said that the company wasn’t trying to add to traditional email but instead was trying to trim it down, to take away features. It doesn’t feel like Facebook Messages has been helpful at reducing clutter. So far, it’s done just the opposite.
Still, I’m willing to give it some time, recognizing that 1) there’s still a learning curve and 2) some parts could change once Zuckerberg and team start reading through some of the feedback.
Hope this one helps.
Katie’s start at Ace Software Solutions was fairly unremarkable. Hired as a technical “Jane of all trades,” she helped users by fielding MS Office questions, setting up hardware, upgrading drivers, uninstalling malware, and any other problems as they arose. Overall, the users at Ace were pleasant to work with and her manager Jennifer was a great person to work under. During busy times, she was willing and able to get her hands dirty, as she called it, in the daily support work as well.
Really, Katie’s only complaint was that once every month, (5:00pm on the last Friday of the month to be exact) the owner of Ace Software Solutions, Rod, would strut his way into the company’s large conference room and kick off the mandatory team meeting. He’d congratulate top salesman of the month, report the status of various current negotiations for various corporate accounts, new software upgrades coming out, and other goings on in the world. For the most part, everybody usually just zoned out, nodding occasionally to keep the illusion of interest alive enough to ensure the meeting wrapped up quickly.
After every meeting closed, Katie, felt tremendously grateful. Of course, she was free to start her weekend, but also thanking her lucky stars that she was not in Jennifer’s shoes, reporting directly to Rod.
Though she didn’t have any direct interaction with Rod, when Jennifer would return from a support call with Rod, she often predicted that a strong drink would be in her future come quitting time, and in the until then, two doses from the extra large sized jar of Maxcedrin.
Apparently, though being the owner of an established company that sold and distributed software, Rod wasn’t a very tech savvy individual.
Unfortunately though, like all good things, one day Katie arrived to work one day to discover that overnight, her manager had abruptly left the organization and now it was up to her to take over the role left behind.
Reporting to Rod
“This is a HUGE advancement opportunity for you, Katie!” Rod gesticulated from behind his executive-style desk with a big-as-the-moon grin. ”Now, YOU are your OWN BOSS! When we bring on another support person, YOU will then join the ranks of MANAGEMENT here at Ace! Pretty great, huh?”
In reply, Katie just smiled, nodded, and let out a small “Thank you.” in appreciation, after all, she wasn’t entirely sure of who this person was that she was chatting with. Rod, always dressed professionally and kept a very “boss” tone the whole time during their team meetings, but today, it seemed as though Rod had left his slacks, button down shirt and tie at home and instead was wearing what appeared to be a well-worn and stained track suit. Moreover, now that she finally had a chance to get an up close and personal view of Rod, noticed something peculiar about his tan.
Now, it wasn’t that his tan was of the topical, slightly burnt umber variety – this fact was long standing common knowledge among employees. No. It was his keyboard, mouse, phone, power button on his monitor that caught her eye. Basically, any surface he touched all had a shiny orange-brown smudge. He said a few other things reiterating something about teamwork and opportunity, but Katie couldn’t help but notice that nearly every surface in the office had a warm patina to compliment Rod’s skin tone.
Rod closed the meeting with an extended hand and a hearty “I’m REALLY looking forward to working with you, Katie.” to which Katie returned the handshake minus the sentiment.
Working with Rod proved to be a laborious task and it didn’t take long for Katie to figure out why her manager kept a bottle of Maxcedrin handy. Meetings about file archival turned into meetings about sending out an email template. Any time that Katie relayed even the simplest of instructions, she’ll find herself having to repeat them several times within minutes.
Once, Katie tried to make friendly conversation by mentioning that a friend had given her courtside tickets to see the Cougar Hardwood Classic.
“Oooooo COUGAR! Now, is this a Washington State University thing?” Rod quipped in reply. “OR is this some sort of HARD WOOD for those COUGAR women I’ve been hearing about lately? Get IT?!”
Katie just rolled her eyes. She was used to this sort of thing, it was no wonder that Jennifer had left.
A Curious Discovery
Rod wanted Katie to work on a mini project for him. His PC was crashing frequently and was running a whole lot slower than he thought it should, and it was up to Katie to do something to fix that.
Unfortuately, for (alleged) security purposes, Rod’s PC did not have remote access enabled. So, armed with rubber gloves and disinfectant spray that she kept around for just this eventuality, Katie logged on at Rod’s machine and started into things. At first, there wasn’t much to jump out as a reason. There were a few startup items that pointed to nowhere, some Windows Registry uh-ohs, and a clogged up Temp directory, but what caught her eye during the system scan was C:\Employees\Rod\Amy\xxx\
You can’t see something like that on someone’s machine and ignore it.
What Katie had found amounted to nearly half of the hard drive’s capacity worth of porn images and movies, each organized by female name. By itself, especially in the context of Rod, it wasn’t the biggest news.
However, there was one detail that made her sit up and take notice – the names were all current and former female employees of Ace Software Solutions…including her name.
Fearing the worst, Katie pulled up a thumbnail view of images under C:\Employees\Rod\Katie\xxx.
She was very relieved to find that, no, Rod hadn’t been taking secret pictures of her in the restroom. Instead there were several girls there who had what seemed to be similarly proportioned physical features and, disturbingly, a few snaps of what could have possibly been Rod’s noodly appendage…in the flesh, so to speak.
During all this, Katie noticed that the scroll wheel stuck and noticed it to be clogged with vicious, oily substance that was missing the tell-tale tinge of his tanning cream. Katie dared not want to think of what it was – all that she could think of was getting as far away from Rod’s computer as possible.
Changing of the Guard
Finding Rod’s porn stash was the final straw for Katie. So, come Monday, resignation letter in hand, Katie marched from the parking lot and directly to Rod’s office to tell him off once and for all and tender her immediate resignation in a moment of magnificent splendor.
However, it was not Rod behind the desk. Instead, it was…some other guy. He directed Katie to proceed to the main conference room where a meeting would be soon be taking place.
“Everybody, my name is Jeff Jennings and I represent the investors of Ace Software Solutions.” He began.
“Rod is no longer with the company and will NOT be returning. I am not at liberty to get into the details, but if Rod should contact any of you, please let me know as the authorities would like to speak to him.”
Jeff’s tone lowered, “However, we will no longer be able to sustain operations at the present level, and unfortunately, for several of you today will be your last day.”
As it turned out, Katie’s name was on Jeff’s list leaving her without a job, but she didn’t mind that one bit.
She’s currently hopping from contract to contract, living on a diet of mostly discount ramen, and has been unemployed 6 of the last 12 months, but one thing’s for sure – no matter how bad things may be, anything beats working for Rod.
Mobile devices have been around in one form or another for many years, but only recently have they gained mainstream acceptance in enterprise environments. For IT pros, it’s important to understand the unique challenges associated with managing these devices. In this article, I will give you 10 things to think about.
Note: This article is also available as a PDF download.
1: Remember the importance of device consistency
It is usually impossible to issue each user exactly the same type of mobile device. Even if every user starts off with the same device, manufacturers phase out device models quickly and you may find that the devices that you initially purchased are no longer available when you need to buy a few more.
In spite of this, you should try to limit the number of models used in your organization. The greater the variety of devices being used, the more difficult it will be for your helpdesk to provide adequate support for the devices.
2: Use fully provisionable devices
Microsoft offers a few server products (Exchange Server 2007, Exchange Server 2010, and System Center Mobile Device Manager) that can apply various security policies to mobile devices. But because there’s no universal standard for mobile devices, those server products can manage only certain mobile operating systems. Since only fully provisionable devices can be completely managed, I recommend that you stick to using just those devices.
3: Make sure that users are aware of mobile device policies
There is a lot of potential for abuse when it comes to mobile devices. For instance, I recently heard of a woman using her company-issued mobile device to call her sister in Korea. I can only imagine the resulting phone bill. Unless you want to risk astronomical wireless bills, you must create an acceptable use policy for company issued mobile devices.
4: Take security seriously
Since mobile devices were first introduced, many IT professionals have ignored mobile device security issues. In a way, I can see why. Until recently, mobile devices lacked the software and the processing power to be much of a threat. Today though, mobile devices can run a rich set of applications and can store several gigabytes of data internally. As a result, it is essential that you take mobile device security seriously.
5: Decide whether to allow personal devices
If it hasn’t happened already, it’s only a matter of time before an employee asks you to set up his or her iPhone to receive corporate email. Make sure you create a policy regarding whether you will allow personal mobile devices to interact with corporate resources. My advice is that you should only allow the use of company issued devices, because your organization lacks the authority to properly secure and regulate devices it doesn’t own.
6: Decide up front what to do about roaming
Last week, I took some much needed time off and went to Europe on vacation. Before I got on the plane, I shut off the radios on my Windows Mobile device. I didn’t really give the device a second thought until several days later, when I saw someone walking around using a device that was exactly like mine. It occurred to me that had I forgotten to turn off the radios on my device, I could have been accruing some hefty data charges even though I wasn’t actually using it.
This situation illustrates why it is so important to decide whether to allow users to send and receive data while roaming. Some users’ job functions may be critical enough to warrant data usage regardless of whether they are roaming. But for other users, it may be better to prevent data usage while roaming. In either case though, roaming charges are not something you should leave to chance.
7: Plan to deal with lost devices
Many organizations forget to plan for how to deal with lost or stolen devices. Granted, Exchange Server and System Center Mobile Device Manager both have a built-in self-destruct sequence you can use to remotely wipe a lost or stolen device and return it to its factory defaults. But that’s not what I’m talking about.
I once worked for an organization in which certain key staff members were issued cell phones. One woman was constantly losing hers. I’m honestly not sure how many phones she went through, but I would conservatively estimate that she went through at least eight phones over the course of a year. I like to think that this woman was just forgetful, but she could have been selling the phones on eBay for all I know. Obviously, this type of irresponsibility can become expensive. It probably isn’t a big deal if an employee loses a mobile device, but you need to have a policy in place to prevent reoccurring loss.
8: Stay on top of malware threats
Historically, malware hasn’t been a major issue for mobile devices. In recent months, though, incidents of malware have been reported on several mobile platforms. Make sure you look into the anti-malware solutions that are available for your chosen mobile platform. Malware may not be a major threat today, but it will probably be of major concern a year from now.
9: Periodically measure the impact of mobile devices on your network
Because mobile devices don’t physically connect to your network, it can be easy to forget that they do consume bandwidth and other network resources. As more and more users begin to use mobile devices, it becomes increasingly important to periodically check to see how much impact the mobile devices are having on your Internet bandwidth and on network server resources.
10: Make sure that the IT staff is trained for mobile device support
I once worked for an organization whose helpdesk staffers were simply thrown to the wolves. The management team would buy new hardware and software without even telling the helpdesk about it, much less train them on how to use it. The helpdesk staff usually wouldn’t even know that a piece of hardware had been purchased until they were asked to fix it. Not surprisingly, this approach to IT management ultimately proved to be disastrous. Most of the helpdesk staff quit, and the entire management team was eventually fired.
Anyone with a lick of common sense knows that this is no way to run an organization, yet this is exactly the approach I sometimes see organizations taking with mobile devices. Mobile devices have become so commonplace that IT managers may assume that the helpdesk staff knows how to support them. This is a dangerous assumption. You must ensure that the helpdesk employees are properly trained for mobile device support just as they would be trained to support anything else.
For once, I’m not talking necessarily about universities and college education, where things are a little different. Instead I’m talking about the ’school experience’ of K-12, which forms a vital part of primary and secondary socialisation and the level basics of education for today’s youth.
Cisco’s new commercial with Ellen Page shows a classroom full of kids on a ‘field trip’ to China using TelePresence, the company’s video conferencing technology.
Scott Raymond, newbie Tech Broiler considers the benefits of this, while questioning the point or the need for traditional classrooms, in that:
“Geographic, cultural and economic barriers would no longer be an obstacle to getting a good education. The internet is one of the great levelers [sic] for communication. Why can’t it be one for education as well?”
Theory and practice are two very different things. The problems will soon mount up, and for once, technology has very little to do with it.
For pupils and students who are on sick leave, or need to spend time away from the classroom but still want to participate in lessons, technology can help bridge this divide. Those in rural areas who still struggle to get a basic Internet connection are automatically ruled out as this would not be possible. The introduction of WiMAX across the United States will give many rural homes the chance to access high-speed Internet, however.
School is not just about academic education; it is where the child or young person develops personally, their attitudes and constructs, their opinions and values and the harsh lessons of life. Schools have adapted themselves to take into account the non-curriculum factors such as home life, welfare issues and medical inconveniences which means the child struggles or suffers in a way where intervention is necessary.
School to many children is a safe haven, a place where they can be to escape from home life or the troubles they face within their home community. My father who works in education at a UK-equivalent K-12 level in an inner-city school can face more non-academic issues than learning related concerns in a standard working day.
Technology in this case acts as yet another barrier between the school and the child, meaning the issues that the child faces and needs help with become increasingly undetected as the social barrier between staff and student is restricted.
One comment in reply of Raymond’s post[s] negates anything I and he said. The practical reasons of being at home as a K-12 student while their parents are away at work is irresponsible and in some cases, illegal. Schools exist for a reason because it’s like ‘daycare’ while the parents are at work, with a silver lining of guaranteed education.
I know this may not appear to be a widely held Generation Y view, but to suggest as Raymond did to completely rule out the physical entity of school as we know it would be massively detrimental to the Generation Z. The social consequences would be massive.
Technology can be a use for good, in the video for example where two schools and cultures are bridged together though thousands of miles apart.
“Everybody wins”, says Raymond. Everybody that is the kids, who are the ones who need to win considering it is their school experience, and nobody else’s.
Have your say.
“If you are really thirsty, then you might be disappointed by this all-digital touch-screen soda vending machine,” Scott Selikoff writes, “someone remind what was wrong with the ‘old’ ones that worked for decades?
“While working on Microsoft CRM 4.0, I tried to set the state of an entity through a plugin and got this helpful message,” David wrote.
“While downloading a new version of Java, a file that is something from somewhere came up,” writes Calvin, “Firefox crashed after that.”
“This is from a well-known financial planning site,” wrote Matt Parkin, “I guess 1350 and 100 are not greater than 0? Maybe I should try negative numbers.”
“I was pricing a 5-client server for our client and saw this,” writes Dave. “Despite these tough economic times, I was able to convince them to spring the extra -31.57 dollars to allow for 10 user CALs.”
“I was buying some vinyl from this site,” wrote Matt, “but I couldn’t help but wonder, what color is shade 8?”
“I’m kind of fond of file G, so I’ll have to answer No,” wrote Andrej Mitrovic, “Uhm wait, what was the question again?”
“Given that I’m 25,” Greg writes, “I guess I can’t continue with this survey?”
It seems mightily ironic that it should be a new browser release from Microsoft, of all people, that finally treats websites as applications. It’s been a long time coming — a decade at least — but I felt a sense of quiet satisfaction when I read Ed Bott’s review of the IE9 beta release, especially the second page on treating websites as apps.
I still remember back in 1999-2000 being shown a number of so-called web operating systems, which attempted to turn the browser into a workspace that both emulated and sought to replace the Windows desktop. Now Microsoft itself is conspiring to turn the browser into an application windowing system that, while tuned to take advantage of the underlying client environment, is at the same time independent of it.
IE9 effaces itself by adopting a minimalist frame and giving users the option of pinning shortcuts to individual websites to the desktop taskbar, treating them as if they were applications in their own right. Those shortcuts open a new browser window that’s branded with the website’s favicon and its dominant color, but which can still have other sites open in tabs within in it. Ed explains the advantage of this:
“It didn’t take long for me to begin creating groups of three or four related tabs for a common activity. For example, I have my blog’s home page pinned to the Taskbar, and I usually open Google Analytics and the WordPress dashboard for the site. Keeping those three tabs in a single group makes it easy for me to click the ZDNet icon on my Taskbar and find one of those tasks, which previously were scattered among dozens of open tabs.”
This is a welcome convenience that underlines how dependent many of us now are on web-based applications in our daily routines. But as more and more applications shift to the cloud, we’ll want much deeper integration between them than this (the phrase ‘lipstick on a pig’ comes to mind). IE9 will make it marginally easier to find your Salesforce.com contact list when a prospect email arrives in your Gmail inbox, but it’s hardly going to transform the way you work. For that, you’ll want much deeper integration of both data and process, all of which will take place in the cloud or the browser. IE9 moves the focus up off the desktop into the browser, and in doing so concedes the supremacy of cloud computing.
A company named Bump took to the stage at the DEMO conference in Silicon Valley this week, offering a peek at technology that ties you to your license plate numberand gives “mobile” communication a whole new meaning.
At first glance, the concept is scary, creepy and slightly disturbing – the ability for drivers to communicate with each other by text or email simply by sending a message to a license plate number. Sure, Bump.com has included some safety features, such as allowing users to reject or block certain messages and keeping names anonymous. And, of course, the service is opt-in only. The user has to enter – and verify – the plate number.
There’s a good profile of the company and its background by Dean Takahashi over at Venture Beat, who also explores some of the marketing usages – such as fast-food restaurants capturing information about favorite menu items as you roll through the drive-thru.
As a native Californian who learned how to drive on the Bay Area freeways, I immediately imagined new scenarios where road ragers send each other nasty messages. But then, as I started to hear more about it, I envisioned a number of other legitimate uses for the technology. So, I put together a short list of good things and bad things about this sort of technology – and I’ll let you decide which is which.
If you have more for the list, please add them in the talkbacks
- You could let a driver know that he left his cup of coffee on the roof of the car. Or that his turn signal on. Or that he has a low tire.
- You could send a note to the cute girl in the next lane to see if she’s single and free for dinner.
- You could tell that idiot who’s zig-zagging in and out of traffic to cool his heels already – or something to that effect.
- Rental car companies could register their cars to monitor the driving habits of their customers, assuming others rat them out for bad driving.
- Government agencies, utility companies and commercial businesses, such as electricians or repair services, can monitor complaints about poor drivers (an online version of those “How’s My Driving?” bumper stickers).
- Fast food companies could track customers menu favorites and target them with marketing messages.
- A good samaritan might warn you that the time on your meter has expired and that a parking enforcement officer is in the area – or a tow truck.
- Someone could tell you if they witnessed another person hit your car in a parking lot – and then flee the scene. Or, maybe the honest person who hit your car could send you a note, instead of leaving one on your windshield.
- Parents could gain some insight on how a teen driver is behaving on the road – again, assuming others rat him out.