Already missing the lovely day I had in Alaska on Monday. Better get to packin’!


North to the Future

The news is getting out, slowly, via Twitter. I’m returning to Alaska after a failed experiment in St. Louis.

I’ll be back in Anchorage, working as an IT Project Manager for a small firm that works primarily with healthcare and human services organizations — typically nonprofits — as of July 6, 2010. And I couldn’t be happier.

I’m returning to Stephanie, friends, a city and state I know well and work at which I excel for companies I intuitively understand.

I’m also leaving the public media world behind.

I’ve thought deeply about public needs for news and information and how organizations can migrate from broadcasting to participating, but after more than 5 years, I can’t see a way forward for those existing organizations. What’s needed is a massive die-off, a huge extinction event that can reset the clock and force absolute rethinking. Without a rejection of the past, there cannot be an embrace of the future.

That said, I lament leaving behind deeply dedicated and intelligent people working hard to bring about meaningful change in the old public broadcasting system. I wish them success and I hope they prove me profoundly wrong in my conclusions. I won’t discuss my thinking too much here, as I’ll leave that for my Gravity Medium blog. But suffice it to say I’m done toiling to envision a new future for public service media. There is one, but I don’t see it coming from inside the system. Not without CPB rewriting the rulebook from scratch — with congressional approval. That’s a long shot on the best possible day.

In place of working on public media issues, I’m turning my focus to local action and participation in my community in any number of ways. Naturally, I’ll continue to foster development of the Alaska Tweets community. But I’m also exploring the idea of firing up a local version of the Awesome Foundation — either a chapter or a variation-on-the-theme. And I think there’s a need to promote good IT application practices throughout the nonprofit world in Alaska. I can help with that.

In any case, it’s “North to the Future” for me, effective immediately. And let’s hope the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico doesn’t destroy the Alaskan economy in the process. I need it to stay afloat for at least a few years. 😉

Where Apple always aims

…while most people have entered the digital world, participation falls off sharply as complexity increases. For example, 93% of respondents have a digital camera, but less than a third use digital photo-sharing tools. Similarly, 92% of respondents have a cell phone, but only 22% have used an internet-based phone service such as Skype.


The iPad — like the iPhone, like the iMac and all prior Macs — aims for simplicity of use amidst a sea of complex products. It’s what Apple does best and what Microsoft claims it wants to do: give you the power to create and consume media and information with the least effort.

My technically-minded friends are unimpressed with the iPad, and personally I’m a little disappointed at some things that were left out of this first edition (some things seem to have been left out deliberately, like a camera). But the iPad isn’t aimed at us. We can load Linux on commodity PC hardware. We can hack the Windows registry. We manage e-mail servers, not just our own e-mail. It takes a lot to impress or challenge us.

But for the average user — the person that doesn’t care about the difference between a Gigabyte and a Megabit — the iPad fulfills the 93% use case, like a digital camera. It’s a digital lifestyle appliance, simple enough for everyone and powerful enough to be useful in several situations.

I don’t know if it will be an unqualified success, like the iPhone. To me, the iPad is an evolutionary product rather than a revolutionary one. The iPhone revolutionized the smart phone market because it was the first to get it “right” for a broad swath of consumers. Uptake was instant, even when it was just a 2G model with no apps and no cut-and-paste.

iPad uptake will be far slower. But each revision will be better and better and the price will moderate over time. As people are disappointed by netbooks and find they want to consume a variety of media on the go with the least hassle, and with familiarity from the iPod Touch and iPhone, it’s got a serious shot at creating this new category.

Down with PC applications, up with cloud-based apps

Apple endured its darkest days during the early 1990s, when the PC had lost its original magic and turned into a drab, utilitarian tool. Buyers flocked to Dell’s cheap, beige boxes. Computing back then was all about the programs. Now, computing is all about the programming – the words and sounds and pictures and conversations that pour out of the Internet’s cloud and onto our screens.


I’m not so convinced — yet — that the iPad is the answer to a bunch of different needs. It’s clearly a 1.0 product and it feels like Apple has withheld some key technologies and features for the next revision.

But if Apple delivers on a few more functions — video conferencing, textbooks and a sort of cloud-based “docking” and sync — then the fate of the PC is fairly well sealed, at least for personal use.

Posted via web from jmproffitt

Tabula rasa

When the White House announced that President Obama would deliver his State of the Union message on Jan. 27—the same day Apple was planning to unveil its new tablet computer—many of us at Slate cringed. “What is Obama thinking?” one of my colleagues joked. “He’s going to be totally overshadowed.”

The idea of a product rollout trumping the president’s annual speech to Congress does seem funny. Maybe the tablet will be a bust. Maybe Obama will rock the world. But the opposite is at least as likely. This isn’t Obama’s fault. It’s just the way the world is going: Technology, as a driver of social change, is overtaking politics.


Sometimes it’s hard to take a wide angle view of what’s happening in our society, whether within our national borders or planet-wide. This piece by Slate’s William Saletan explores just how pervasive and entwined our First World society is with technology. It’s changing how we act, how we think and, of course, how we communicate and share ideas.

And for me, the Apple tablet introduction totally overshadows the pronouncements of our President.

Apple’s tablet will actually change the world, one way or another. Our President, a year into his floundering administration? Not likely to change much.

Posted via web from jmproffitt