Thursday, November 20, 2008

Lively No More

I have blogged earlier about the coming of massive, multi-player, virtual on-line worlds before. Permit me to recap here.

  • Think of it as a 3D version of the web where you can see and interact with other viewers on any page/room.

  • Think of it as a cartoonish version of telepresence on a budget.

  • It's a natural fit for an artificial economy or other operant conditioning systems for rewarding desirable behavior.

  • It might have entertainment possibilities like a more interactive form of television.

  • Obviously, the role based, game playing versions of this have been very successful.

Part of the excitement in this space was the fact that other, fairly big, players were starting to join it. Well, today, one of those players announced that they were leaving the space. Google announced that they were pulling the plug on their version of this space now ironically called Lively.

I never participated in Lively so I can't speak to what the experience was like. Some say that the place was a ghost town. Others say that the performance of the client software was terrible. If you have used the service, then please leave a comment here as to your thoughts about it and any possible reasons why Google made this decision.

Feb 2009 Update:The NY Times mentioned this in piece entitled How Google Decides to Pull the Plug. It was not very in depth. Basically, Google pulled the plug because it wasn't popular. It didn't try to attempt to answer the question as to why it wasn't popular.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Innovation During a Global Recession

I read in the previous Sunday edition of the NY Times an opinion piece called It's No Time To Forget About Innovation.

Author Janet Rae-Dupree uses material from the following two books to further her advice not to completely stifle innovation during these economic hard times; Closing the Innovation Gap by Judy Estrin and Strategic Entrepreneurism by Jon Fisher.

According to Janet, Judy posits that the following core values need to be in equal balance in order to foster innovation; questioning, risk taking, openness, patience, and trust. You may have heard of this as failing fast, From the Outside In, and the long tail. She also advocates "green thumb leadership" where gardens of new ideas are permitted amidst the factory farms.

Contrast this with Jon's position that innovation must be embedded in the daily operation of the rank and file. Entrepreneurs should plan their start in a highly creative and innovative environment then sell the business to a larger, more established company in order to scale up.

I think that what most of these people are trying to say is that innovation, by and of itself, is not optimized for making money; however, innovation can open the door to profitable markets in the future. It would seem to me that the best time to focus on not making money is when there is not that much money available to be made. So, the best time to innovate is during a global recession. It's not like your competitors are going to raise their market capitalization by improving their profitability while you fritter away in the lab.

Of course, I'm not saying that you should throw huge amounts of money at it. Innovators work best when they are hungry. That's another reason why this is a good time to innovate. Think Guy Kawasaki's boot strapping.

To that end, I invite all innovators to join a newly formed and emerging community devoted to innovation on a budget. Code Roller is a place where entrepreneurs and engineers get together to produce the next generation of great applications for the web. Code Roller is a collaborative software development project life cycle management solution that combines time honored, best-of-breed deliverables and work flow with state-of-the-art techniques in social networking and crowd sourcing to deliver custom software faster, cheaper, and better by accelerating discovery. The use of Code Roller is free.