Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Case study about Cirque du Soleil

The first case work on Managing Dynamics: Creative Content Business course is about Cirque du Soleil and the blue ocean strategy used to create new market inside such an competitive industry as circus industry is. The case report is published through Google Docs and it can be found here. I'll write some of my own and group's reflections about this after a week of interesting discussions and heavy debates on the subject.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Why isn't a product called C++ created?

The title of this post refers to my love - hate relationship with C++. C++ is an extremely flexible, effective, useful, widely spread and powerful generic and object-oriented programming language. At the same time it's frustrating, illogical, badly documented and poorly compatible language. The compilers work differently, the standard library isn't a standard, some of the compiler errors result in cryptic error messsages, C++ used in Symbian related projects doesn't even look like C++ etc. C++ was used very much in the 90s, but nowadays you can find it mainly in embedded systems and Linux programs.

I feel that C++ has mainly been forgotten because it was created to be an object-oriented programming language instead of a product. Bjaerne Stroustrup may be good at developing programming languages, but he seems to be bad in commercializing. I started programming with Java and I got used to standard compilers, cross-platfrom compatibility, very good up-to-date documentation and clear syntax. Then I moved to C/C++ world where even using different compiler may result in failure of the build and where standard doesn't mean that compilers could handle it. The C++ that is not clearly documented in any place and even if it is documented, the documentation may not be compatible with your compiler.

This is extremely frustrating when preparing for a C++ course in which we use different programming environments requested by customer. Checking all the answers with the new compiler and verifying that the needed examples work well with it. In case of extremely bad luck, I'm requested to use Visual C++ 6.o as a tool when teaching how to use templates and Standard Template Libraries. Too bad, the compiler in this case has a few bugs and some features won't simply work with this otherways fine (and old) Microsoft product.

Why, even nowadays, aren't all compilers compatible even though C++ has been standardized? I guess there are few reasons: first of all the standardization took long and was ready at 1998 when Java was emerging and C++ was seen as an old technique. The compiler creators didn't want to invest any more money to make it compatible. Also the people using the compilers already available had learned to cope with the problems. Second reason might be that nowadays the usage of C++ is very much limited to embedded systems. These are very often build on older hardware and this usally means that older programming environment is used. And of course this may mean non-standard compilers. Third reason may be just simple lack of skills. C++ standard required things like templates, RTTI and a collection of useful generic algorithms and collections, STL. These are not simple techniques and as an indication of that at least MS Visual Studio 2003 still seems to have some problems with templates.

I'm glad that Sun has resolved this kind of irrelevant problems in advance and they have relased a product called Java. Java is easy to learn, flexible, compatible, well documented and fairly efficient. I guess the developers have enough problems to solve when developing software so the last thing they want is to have problems with programming language or environment. The focus should be on software design, not finding ways to bypass compiler related problems.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

More visitors for Managing Dynamics blog (Part 1)

For this afternoon I thought I should reserve some time to work a bit more with my blogging business :). So I started with Google, as usually people who want some visitors on their pages do. Google Webmaster central seemed like a correct place to start growing organic visibility of my blog in Google. Well, after submitting my sitemaps and pages to Google, I still couldn't find my blog from Google. Darn.

Reading a bit more carefully through the webmaster help at Google popped new thoughts of marketing this blog. First of all, lists of blogs. A quick search resulted a few interesting lists (e.g. Technorati) which all seemed to need a new blog on their list. So after quick registrations and blog addings there was few links to Managing Dynamics blog! \o/

Still, I felt like my target audience would not find me. So I decided to search for some tips on how to make blogs popular. One very interesting one was the lenses at Squidoo. There was even a free e-book on how to get more traffic on websites with lenses. After reading through that, I was determined that the thing I was missing is a lens. Again in 10 minutes my blog was easier to find, thanks to Managing Dynamics lens. Now, after 1 hour of intensive marketing campaign, I will let Google's webcrawlers do their job and add this blog into Google index. And then it's time to start waiting for income from advertisements. :)

Creativity and business

As a first task for the "Managing dynamics: creative content business" we have to discuss about John Hartley's introduction to "Creative industries" (2005) book. This introduction gives reader a short view on creative industry itself and the problems emerging from the fuzziness of the industry compared to traditional manufacturing or service industries. It also introduces and explains the various terms used when speaking of creative industries.

The introduction starts with an essential question: “What is creativity?” The first description of creativity that popped to my mind was that it is an ability to create something. However that doesn't seem to match the respect creative person seems to get. In a way I guess all people have ability to create something, even my nephews create a loads of pictures, decorative items etc. I guess one thing that should be remembered from creativity is that it should result in something unique, something that has never been done in that way, and something that is not the most obvious solution.

This leads us to Schumpeter's idea of innovations and new markets:

Invention -> innovation -> imitation

First there is an invention to start with, this is commercialized and turned into an innovation. The product will be successful on its market so there will be many imitations and so a new market has been created out of creativity.

So is creativity an ability to create an invention or an innovation. If the viewpoint is from business side, I guess the innovation would be an outcome of creativity. We're looking for commercial inventions, innovations. Creativity may play its part in thinking up the invention or in using an old invention in a new, innovative way. Creativity in art, as I understand it, is more in the way an artist promotes his works to a broader audience than in the creation of that particular art piece. At least modern art makes me think this way. Well, I just don't understand art.

These success stories of creativity are not as usual as stories about technical breakthrough or technical innovations. These are harder to report, harder to spot than easily specified technical advancements. Still there are many examples, latest was just few days ago when Google bought YouTube with $1.65 billion.

Google bought a company that displays videos uploaded by normal people on the internet. The income for YouTube came from advertisements and in fact it wasn't producing much profit mainly because the constant growth of users and videos required a lot of investments on the computing power and storage capacity of servers. The company was creative. The company relied on customer created content and it was extremely successful in it, even though a large number of videos on the site are copyrighted for someone else. The point is that the technology behind YouTube is not very innovative.

YouTube has also created a new ways to advertise on internet. A Finnish TV channel SubTV advertised its upcoming comedy series by uploading few short clips from it and then spreading a word about them. The most popular one of these clips has been watched for 128 095 times in one month. Public TV channel Yle has taken a completely different approach to YouTube, even going as far as suing the people that uploaded small clips of their copyrighted work to YouTube. So the broadcaster would be suing its own customers.

Well anyways, creativity, an ability to see differently, do things differently, and think differently, "is now the decisive source of competitive advantage" according to Richard Florida (The Rise of the Creative Class, 2002) that was quoted by Hartley in his introduction. I must agree that. There is a global market for new kinds of services and products available through internet for anyone creative and active. The business model could start evolving from just starting a weblog and publishing ads on it. Now all I need is to get few thousand visitors to make the advertisers happy and to make some income from writing about my readings, courses and thoughts...

Monday, October 16, 2006

Everything has a beginning


I'm Tomi and I thought that I should start blogging. I have had these thoughts for a long time. Well now it finally happened, I started my own personal blog. This didn't happen by incident, this started when a need and my interests met. The need was (or is) the assignment in a course called Managing dynamics: Creative content business at Turku School of Economics. The assignment is a portfolio containing completed smaller assignments and the lessons that I have learned during the course.

So why a weblog? First of all blogging has been an interesting phenomen to follow. I love to read blogs and I've always thought that I should write something too. That something was the problem. Now I have a subject so that problem is solved. Second reason for starting a blog is my interest in Web 2.0 based services (or should I say applications). Many of these are changing the content driven business as the consumers a producers and consumers of the content at the same time. I figured out that doing everything on this course through a web application would bring a nice little addition for this portfolio and would make my work a lot more interesting. Also this makes me a content producer. I guess I will be the only consumer too, in addition to lecturers of the course. :)

So this blog will be the spine of the portfolio. I guess the smaller assignments I will write with Google docs and publish a link to them in here. I'll save the interesting pages to my own bookmark collection at del.icio.us and hopefully manage to create some graphical content to be displayed in Flickr. Nice services with interesting business models behind them all.

I'll try not to take too technology oriented viewpoint but rather i'll try to concetrate on the business side of content as the course objective is. And between the lines, I shall take a role of technology evagelist promoting the best possible solutions. :)

So this is my starting point for the course and for my own content creation business. Who knows where this experiment leads and what will I gain from it. 4 credits from the course would be a nice starter.