When tech is funny as hell…

…it’s usually involuntary.

Yesterday I updated my Navdy HUD navigation system to the new 1.3 software release. It’s a massive improvement over the previous version, including tons of nifty new features and making the product even more usable. Highly recommended.

Among the many new features is also international language support, really necessary because turn-to-turn directions trying to pronounce Italian or French road names or reading aloud SMS or emails in Italian did not work at all, to the point I had switched it off.

So I set it to Italian: the voice is a pleasant contralto, nice choice. But somehow (maybe it’s me) I can’t find how I switch the language of the UI to Italian.

Here’s the situation: I am driving while Joe Pesci’s little sister gives me directions and I am beginning to worry the crap out about what will happen if I don’t follow them…

“I told you to turn-a right at the traffic-a light-a, what am I, your fuckin’ clown? Am I here to amuse you?

Navdy support, help !!!!!

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Negating personal brands

A while back I wrote a small piece in response to a speech request describing what I believe is a Personal Brand.

Obviously mine are nothing but opinions, and – equally obviously – not everyone shares them. In particular my LinkedIn profile was visited today  by a person I don’t know who evidently thinks exactly the opposite of what I think.

Nothing in his profile identifies him as a person: he has no name, no face, not even a bio which does not tell us where he worked and when.

Besides, he claims he’s been in the role of Web Marketing Manager for almost 20 years, which is remarkable given the fact 20 years ago a lot of the Web as we know it today did not exist at all. That is not to say you could not do many of essentially the same things: I myself described what I consider one of my greatest achievements in Digital dating back to 1999.

Not one of his numerous posts are his writing: he likes and re-posts stuff he finds here and there.

And his personal website is not much better; actually it’s exactly the same content dressed in a plain HTML website written probably in the 70’s and never reviewed again.

In short what I do not like about such a profile is its complete lack of transparency, a trait I consider essential in this age of fake this and that.

That said, he’s got over 20,000 followers, while I am barely pushing 2,000 so, by that measure, Luca S. is right and I am wrong.

I’ll do my best to get over it.

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#TGD – update 3

Don’t go look for Update 2 of The Great Digitization, you did not miss it; that was last summer, but I never bothered writing it, so I am going straight from Update 1 to Update 3.

I may have already mentioned how incredibly time-consuming this task is: in the long pauses while the scanner does its thing I have time review the images, participate in two or thee different Facebook discussion, write this blog post.

Thanks God, unless I work on badly damaged film, usually the “auto” setting of the scanning software gives good results, but each image must be centered and scanned manually while trying to save it in the right place in the directory structure.

IMG_20170805_164640.jpgMy workstation was greatly improved by the addition of a large screen where I can leave the scanning and filing panes while I do other stuff on the computer’s screen.

Unfortunately, the settings I chose (2400 dpi and some scratch removing – this film is  over 20 years old, after all…) are not exactly the fastest, s each image takes about one minute.

How long until complete? Take your guess; mine is about 100 rolls x 36 images x 1 minute = about 60 hours

IMG_20170805_164312

All of this while I wait for the concrete to dry on my step…

Sad political post

I realized I have no right to sneer at the myopic decision of Brexit: looking at the latest polls, Italy could have a Five Star + Northern League government, say early 2018.

Then on October 31st, 2019 mr. Draghi’s mandate at the ECB expires to be followed (presumably) by a German Governor, unlikely to continue with the easy money policy, also because the EU economy has picked up some strength in the meanwhile and inflation may be approaching the 2% target. Net result: Italy’s interest expense shoots up by tens of billions.

The new Italian Government is now seriously (ha!) discussing leaving the EU and/or the Euro: imagine Brexit only a thousand time worse: no concrete planning, haphazard monetary policies and abysmal negotiation skills further undermined by a position that’s a thousand time worse than Britain’s but wrapped in the same bombastic populism to whip domestic support casting Europe and immigrants as The Enemy.

The military ineptitude of our Country is about the only silver lining, as it guarantees we can’t ignite the Third World War, but corporates (and the individuals who can, typically the better-educated, language-speaking group) won’t wait for this and will flee the country in droves, taking trillions of capital with them.

In a weird twist, the only capital for investment will be the Government’s making a right wing Government behave like a replica of the worst South American socialism: company after company, bank after bank will be nationalized making larger and larger swaths of the economy subject to political power, corruption and shenanigans.

Economy wizards who got their degree on YouTube resort to sky high inflation to wear off the crushing debt (maybe even theorizing the possibility of a “controlled default”)and to aggressive devaluation to bolster exports, hugely depressing the value of anything not Euro-denominated: despite the nationalization efforts, prepare for an asset liquidation on a scale never seen in history, Greece will be a petty yard sale by comparison.

Exceeding expectations

People usually turn to Social Media to complain, in frustration for not being listened to. As a result, also due to this habit, Social Media is a sad place full of angst and regret.

So I decided I want to put in my 2 cents to fight this trend.

Case 1: Navdy

I purchased this product from a young company in California during a crowdfunding campaign in march, 2014; as it is not uncommon in these cases, the product suffered some delays and was finally delivered at end 2016.

When I installed it on my car, I immediately noticed that the Bluetooth connection interfered with the car’s connection with my phone, resulting in broken voice and dropped calls.

I filed an incident report with their support which called back the day after: after some email exchanges and two calls with California to test the problem, it was determined that the fix required a patch to the software which could take several months.

As a workaround, they sent me (free of charge) a BT JBL speaker to use instead of my car’s BT while we wait for the fix to arrive. It’s not a perfect solution – and they know it – but it allows me to continue to use their product while they work on the final fix.

Case 2: Thule

My two readers may remember the raving review I wrote when I bought my Thule trolley in 2011. In fact, this bag logged tens of thousands of kilometers with me, to my utmost satisfaction.

Then one cold February two years ago, I inadvertently chopped off one of the aluminum feet in the foul streets of Almaty, Kazakhstan, with the result the bag slightly tilts on its side. Frankly, that did not alter its functionality, but it annoyed me, so after much procrastinating, I decided to seek a spare part.

 

As it so happens, such spare part does not exist as standard, so I filed a case with the Thule Support, asking if they could make an exception.

Within 24 hours they came back to me, asking to see pictures of the bag and offered to replace it altogether, free of charge, which I gladly accepted.

Even though (to be entirely honest) I do not think I will decommission the old one…

The metamorphosis officially begins

That’s right, it officially starts today, as I fetched the last test results (NMR) and delivered the whole lot to the hand surgeon who must decide whether he can do something for me.

I briefly thought whether this could be the beginning of my morphing into a cyborg (now, THAT would be cool) but sadly there is not much in terms of cybernetics into any of my current or future protheses, but rather the dull replacement of malfunctioning mechanical bits (mainly joints).

No augmentation for me, more like a catch-up.

Looking forward to sharing the gory details with everybody here as they become available.

Fourteen years of Digital Transformation

My first recollection of what was to become Digital Transformation is somewhat hazy, but I remember a couple of events which have a timestamp.

In 2005, Tim O’Reilly wrote “What the hell is web 2.0“, an article of still unsurpassed clarity; if you haven’t read it, yet, stop and go read it.

Now, I’ll wait.

I liked it so much I started writing a series of blog posts, the first of which starts with a this comment:

the “Web2.0” moniker is something we have been developing a lot of experience over the last couple of years

allowing me to date my professional interest in the thing that today we all call Digital Transformation circa 2003, hence this post’ title.

I also remember our first large client(*), a multinational company in whose Italian sub we managed to find someone crazy enough to risk the budget he had for a project on an approach completely unproven. The project turned out to be extremely successful, won a whole truckload of awards and kept growing and growing. At some point, however, the need of the Client for our support diminished as, essentially, they had learned everything there was to learn and continued on their own.

Such is the life of Agencies.

This event notwithstanding, the relationship was and remained good, and we did many other projects together, albeit none ever was as ground-breaking as the one in 2003. Nine years later I left the Agency world and wrote two books (this and this) which are deeply rooted in these learnings: I assumed that, by then, my knowledge was not (only) mine anymore, since nowadays Digital Transformation consultants are more abundant than bartenders.

Fast forward to 2017, when I get a call from that same client, but from another country. The person who calls me is someone I had never met before, had never heard of the project we did in Italy; in fact he does not even know me, except for the fact he attended (and liked, obviously) a workshop I gave in Riga, Latvia and when his boss asked if he knew someone who could run a Digital Transformation Masterclass, he thought of me.

In preparing this session, we demanded the audience (a dozen people who are responsible for marketing and communications for that company in a certain region) what were the issues they were trying to address.

To my huge surprise, these were EXACTLY those they had in 2003: it’s like knowledge had not spread around at all; despite the roaring success of that first project, our approach never turned into a true best practice and was never widely adopted.

Questions included:

  • why should we be doing this?
  • who should we talk to?
  • what should we be talking about?
  • how do we establish meaningful though leadership?
  • how do we keep it alive?
  • how do we connect it to our Brand?
  • what if we’re not selling a product?
  • how do I engage the rest of the organization?
  • how do I know if I’m being successful?
  • what should I measure?

So while I am flattered that after all these years the same client in another country is asking for my help, even if just for some training, at the same time I am bothered because – despite my approach being correct – I failed to really make an impact even on a Client which fully experienced its success.

Perhaps I was too ahead of my time, perhaps my books are not engaging enough (the forced readers in my family tell me, no, they aren’t), perhaps the methodology is awaiting some complementary element which will make it truly understandable and, therefore, useful.

Being right is not even the beginning of the solution.


(*) sadly, the client won’t be mentioned. Unlike other cases, I am not cleared to do so, and it will remain unnamed.

Is Nature uncertain?

In my Digital Transformation Masterclass I have two provocative slides, which I use to support my evocative call to action:

“Embrace uncertainty”

because – I say – even the two most precise of all human knowledge domains, mathematics and physics, are fraught with it.

The mere mentions of their names is enough to inculcate a healthy sense of awe and respect, so I never have to explain in more detail the depth of these discoveries.

So I cannot claim that this post serves a business purpose: it serves, however, my vanity in explaining what I believe are two incredibly profound (and overlooked) achievements by geniuses who graced my time: who knows, after the movies on Turing and Nash, these two might be next, because Science is sexy, after all.

Heisenberg’s indetermination principle

I’ll start here because, while Gödel’s Theorem deals with the logic of formal systems, Heisenberg’s Principle has much closer consequences on our everyday life even though it seems to violate what our senses tell us.

In one of its many expressions, the principle states that:

Δx × Δp ≥ h/2π

in plain English: “the uncertainty in the position of an object multiplied by the uncertainty in that object’ momentum is always greater than the reduced Planck’s constant”

I do not have to explain “position”, “momentum” is the product of the object’ mass times its velocity and “h” is the proportionality constant between energy and frequency of a radiation (6.62 × 10-34 J s or kg ms) which had been calculated by Max Planck at the beginning of the century.

This looks counter-intuitive: if I put a ping-pong ball with a mass of 1g on the kitchen table, I know exactly its position (Δx = 0) and its momentum (Δp = 0 because v = 0), no?

Well, not really: the mistake lies exactly in the sloppiness of our senses; when I say that I know the position of the ping-pong ball, I omit to add “as well as my eyes can”. Let’s make an assumption on this precision: what will it be? A tenth of a millimeter? a hundredth? Let’s assume we know the position of the ball with a 1 μm (= 10-6 m) precision. Werner is then telling us that the we know the velocity of the ball with a precision of ±10-25 m/s).

Our impression that the ball was at rest was indeed justified, since to travel 1 cm at the maximum velocity error, the ball would take longer than the age of the Universe.

But see what happens if we consider an electron, whose mass is 9 × 10-31 kg; if we know it’s inside an hydrogen atom (Δx = 5 × 10-11 m), its velocity cannot be determined with a precision of more than 10m/s: therefore it could be standing still or it could be traveling at thousands of kilometers per second.

If, however, we know with good accuracy its velocity (for example because we apply an electrical field), then there is a non-zero probability that the electron is not in the atom at all (or on our planet, for that matter), an effect which made possible to build devices such Scanning Tunnelling Microscopes who are capable of taking images of actual atoms.

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What’s in your bag?

A few years ago, I made a list of the gear I carry when traveling, and in writing this post on the rules of efficient packing I realized its update is overdue.

So here is the 2017 version of

What gear is in my bag

  1. power brick
  2. USB to mini-USB cables (2)
  3. thumbdrives (never enough)
  4. Thunderbird to HDMI cable (male and female, I have been in meeting rooms where the HDMI cable screwed on the screen had only a male connector available)
  5. Thunderbird to VGA cable
  6. remote clicker
  7. spare batteries
  8. main power bank
  9. wireless mouse
  10. universal smartphone tripod mount
  11. mini tripod
  12. portable projector (an item I reviewed here)
  13. Mogics donut power strip + mains adaptor (as it came with a US plug)
  14. phone wall charger
  15. UK adaptor


The power brick (#1), portable projector (#12) and wireless mouse (#9) are the largest items; the latter I could probably do without: using a mouse is so much more comfortable than using the clickpad on the computer, but the reality is I very seldom do, as most of my laptop use when on the road is when sitting at an airport lounge or in flight.

The weight is of course a worry when traveling, but the lot comes in at 1,400 grams, which, together with the 1,350 grams of the Macbook Air, uses about 27% of my luggage allowance.

Travel learnings

This week I had a somewhat hurried depart for Helsinki – thanks to a misunderstanding with my client, I learned about my flight details only 90 minutes before take-off.

As luck wants, I was leaving from the airport closest to where I live, meaning I was at the gate with time to spare. However, I realised I have become sloppy with some of basic traveling golden rules, which therefore I sum up again here as an aide-memoire.

  • Travel gear always in ready mode – this means a two day change already in the bag, including light sweater; throw in a couple of shirt and I’m good to go in <5′.
  • Never-ever take my toiletry bag, nor my travel pillow-cum-rain jacket out of the bag.
  • Carry on bag should be half-empty to accommodate briefcase: too may airlines have become fiscal on the one bag thing to afford the risk of having your bag snatched at boarding time.
  • Passport ALWAYS in the briefcase’ front pocket
  • Backup power bank in the briefcase and the backup’s backup in the bag, while I await delivery of my Space Case
  • Should I purchase an “extreme emergency” power brick to leave in the bag at all times?