26 October 2016

The Next Big Thing in Tech

There is now a set of emerging technology that are competing to be the "next big thing" in tech.

Back in the '90s, the Internet rolled into all our lives, growing from a computer network used mostly by universities, government, and the military, to a full blown social, economic, and political revolution. It hardly surprised anyone. We could see it coming. There were even AT&T television commercials depicting everyday life with Internet powered services that we take for granted today.

Also during that time, we clearly could see that mobile technology would be big. Cell phones were proliferating, especially the Motorola flip phones. We knew that one day, computers would be handheld and merged with the phone. But we didn't know exactly how soon, nor how ubiquitous mobile tech would become. Of course, mobile tech extended and vastly expanded the reach of the Internet revolution.

Now we have some newly emerging technologies that are vying for attention. Namely, virtual reality, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, chat bots, and driverless cars.

Virtual reality (VR) promises to immerse the senses of the user, in a manner most easily associated with playing video games. VR tech from decades before were heavy, slow, and expensive, but those constraints have been overcome, largely due to the advances in mobile tech. Sci-fi movies have glorified the promise of VR, yet today's news media regularly portrays users of VR as people acting clumsy in the real world while wearing VR headgear. Having to shut out the real world while using VR has its obvious disadvantages, which makes usage of VR a very intentional and inherently isolating act, not something to do for a few seconds or even a minute here or there, like glancing at a smartphone or casually playing a mobile game app.

Augmented reality (AR) trades the immersive aspect of VR with technology that overlays computer generated visuals with a view of the real world.  While avoiding the isolation of VR, the use of AR introduces additional complications, such as distractions from real life hazards, and expensive see-through display technology. I think in the long run, AR has more potential for both business and personal applications, than VR. Perhaps there will be a future hybrid AR/VR device that can easily switch between the two modes.

Artificial intelligence (AI) has been envisioned for over half a century and has become viable as computing technology has accelerated in processing power and affordability. Many different emerging technologies are closely related to AI, including learning networks, speech recognition, natural language processing, speech synthesis, foreign language translation, and predictive analytics. There is a common fear, also frequently portrayed in sci-fi films, of AI, especially when combined with robotics, resulting in apocalyptic destruction and death, driven by soulless vengeance and limitless ambition for power. Some predict the Singularity will occur, when the machines develop their own intelligence faster than humans can control. Such fears may limit the trust consumers have with AI, which I predict will give initial prominence to AI related applications that only partially automate things, where people feel they still have some control, but enjoy some benefits of AI assistance.

Chat bots are a mashup of text messaging platforms and some aspects of AI. The shift in attention from disparate mobile apps to the stickiness of mobile text messaging platforms allows for software providers to refocus the entire user experience of an application to a text based natural language processing user interface. Customer service functions are leading the way. Other functions will likely follow. Chat bots, especially if voice recognition is mixed with the text interface, could possibly become the channel for AI to be accepted into daily mainstream use.

Driverless cars have garnered a lot of media and industry attention the past few years. Such vehicles are already in limited use under narrow conditions. Partial automation is also in use in Tesla cars, resulting in some fatal accidents. Truly autonomous vehicles which can navigate all roads under all conditions are still decades away. Fog, snow, and other foul weather hinder the sensors. Navigation maps are not always accurate or up to date. But the impact to the transportation industry will obviously be massive. It is yet to be proven there will be less traffic, but it is hoped that overall traffic safety will improve, while levels of car ownership, already on a downward trend, will likely continue to drop with both the convenience and cost of driverless cars.

What is possibly the most tantalizing idea is the likelihood that the next big thing might not be any of these things. It would not surprise some people, especially those of us in Silicon Valley, if some entirely new technology, built by a previously unknown, innovative teenage girl in her parents garage or basement or bedroom corner, rapidly emerges as the next big thing to change the world.

21 January 2016

7 Steps to Turn Every Employee into a Super Recruiter

Jobvite asked me to be a guest blogger, focusing on some consulting material that I have provided to my clients on building a robust employee referral program.  Please check it out:

7 Steps to Turn Every Employee into a Super Recruiter

10 October 2015

Replacement to traditional resumes/CVs

Like it or not, it has become abundantly clear that LinkedIn profiles are the only viable online replacement to traditional resumes/CVs.

The "death of resumes" certainly is not imminent, but for all the many different proposed / launched alternatives, LinkedIn has won, hands down.

John Lasseter remembers Steve Jobs on Charlie Rose


How Not to Be a Networking Leech

How Not to Be a Networking Leech: Tips for Seeking Professional Advice: http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/09/27/jobs/how-not-to-be-a-networking-leech-tips-for-seeking-professional-advice.html?referer=

08 May 2015

Jobvite Reawakens

Today's Jobvite Summit 2015 customer conference in San Francisco revealed that at least in terms of product development, the company has reawakened from a bewildering and detrimental slumber over the past few years. Live demos of the new homepage dashboard, the "candidate centric" profile format, and most importantly, the new data reports platform, proved that Jobvite is finally responding to its most vocal customers and impressively gearing up to once again fully compete in today's fast evolving recruitment technology market.

For many years, customers have shared feedback of feature wishlists and functional pain points, only to be told development for many such ideas would remain in the undetermined future. As Jobvite's market share and aspirations for larger and geographically disperse deals has grown, the pressure to address their products' functional gaps have become more pronounced and are now impossible to ignore.

While always facing a variety of competition, the recent emergence of spunky, VC funded, new startups, such as Greenhouse and Lever, who intentionally designed product functionality and marketing messages to target the specific concerns of disillusioned Jobvite customers, has provided healthy motivation for Jobvite to both catch up and renew timely innovation with its products.

Organizationally, Jobvite has also experienced some transition, with its own latest round of VC funding allowing Jobvite to recently beef up its own engineering team (and, accordingly, its in-house recruiting team), directly adding badly needed product development capacity. In addition, some changes in its senior management ranks has allowed for new and existing players to step up and briskly execute on long languishing initiatives.

For at least two years, Jobvite struggled with stamping out numerous bugs from its newer "blue" user interface overhaul, transitioning its application hosting to Amazon Web Services, constructing a complicated new analytics and reporting system based on a third party business intelligence tool, and fending off expectation-lowering competition from low-cost, feature-light system providers. All the while, frustrations from a distinct minority of its customer base were often left unresolved by a lack of product functionality development, customer success resolution, or both. Some of those customers have since switched to eagerly beckoning competitors, permanently lost from the Jobvite ecosystem. It really seemed that Jobvite was asleep at the wheel, or at least unable to step on the gas.

Had I observed no new changes in the company's trajectory with its product development from what seemed to be happening since around mid-2014, this blog post would likely be describing a vendor in the early stages of a tech startup death spiral.

However, what the Jobvite team accomplished at today's conference was to show its reinvigorated innovation feathers and a light at the end of what has been a long and dark tunnel for its customers. It must actually deliver to its customers the demo'd new features and do its best to gain strong user adoption. That would represent Jobvite finally catching up on its lost couple of years. And only then will it be in position, by building and shipping even greater product features, to retake its market leadership role in which its customers are once again truly delighted by their chosen provider of recruitment technology.

Mason Wong is the founding principal of ZWD Recruitment Management and Independent Jobvite Consulting.

21 November 2014

Peak Genesis

The original live version of "Tonight, Tonight, Tonight" was the peak of Genesis, in my opinion. I am a fan of all the many eras of Genesis, but my first favorite era was the mid-'80s.

This song and it's arrangement is powerful, ethereal, atmospheric, and even a bit gratuitous, sort of emblematic of the 1980's and its MTV driven consumerism and ambition. Phil's voice was still fully intact, allowing for the original aggressive delivery of the lyrics, and the song to retain its original key, as well as Tony Banks's mysterious sounding synth keyboard bridge, none of which would ever be repeated in subsequent live tours.


25 October 2014

CVS Takes One Step Towards Extinction

Twitter is lighting up with Apple Pay fans upset at CVS and RiteAid for pulling the plug on their NFC payment devices to prevent iPhone 6 users from paying with Apple Pay (as well as Google Wallet users), in anticipation of the 2015 launch of ConnectC, an insecure, customer data gathering, virtual coupon cluttering, QR code image scanning scheme, that a number of major retailers are hoping will work to beat out the banks as well as Apple and Google.
CVS in particular is getting singled out - many are threatening to boycott CVS until they restore the ability to pay by Apple Pay.
Walgreens accepts Apple Pay. I already shop there anyways.

28 September 2014

Favorite Quotes

I've previously shared these on my Facebook profile, which is not publicly accessible.

  1. "America, our moment is now... In this moment, let us reach for what we know is possible: a nation healed, a world repaired, an America that believes again." -Senator Barack Obama, campaigning in Iowa, November 2007

    "I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed." -Michael Jordan, Nike commercial "Failure"

    “Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard, and you’re kind, amazing things will happen." --Conan O’Brien, "The Tonight Show" final episode as host

    "Evolution is a fact, not a theory. It really did happen." -Carl Sagan, "Cosmos", ep 2, "One Voice in the Cosmic Fugue"

    “It makes good sense to revere the sun and the stars, because we are their children.” -Carl Sagan, "Cosmos", ep 9, “The Lives of The Stars”

    "The scientific world view is so much more exciting, more poetic, more filled with sheer wonder, than anything in the poverty stricken arsenals of the religious imagination." - Oxford professor Richard Dawkins, February 2002

    "Nothing is too wonderful to be true, if it be consistent with the laws of nature" - Michael Faraday

    "Science always wins over bullshit." -Dick Rutkowski

    "God is right here. God lives between the skin and bones... of a [roast] pig." - Anthony Bourdain, "No Reservations", Romania episode

    "Tastes like it died screaming." - Anthony Bourdain, "No Reservations", San Francisco episode, while chomping on a Red's Java House hamburger, lambasting Alice Waters and anyone's concern for how the cow lived before becoming a beef patty.

    "Just eat. The rule and law here [in Singapore] is: Bring the food to your mouth as fast as you can, without irritating your neighbors." - KF Seetoh, "No Reservations", Singapore episode

    "The more relaxed you are, the better you are at everything: the better you are with your loved ones, the better you are with your enemies, the better you are at your job, the better you are with yourself." - Bill Murray, fall 2012, speaking to members of the Screen Actors Guild, with a NY Times interviewer

    "So there's no such thing as work-life balance. There's work, and there's life, and there's no balance." - Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook COO

    “I have three messages: One is we should never, ever give up. Two is you never are too old to chase your dreams. Three is it looks like a solitary sport but it takes a team.” - Diana Nyad, 64, upon swimming Cuba to Key West without a shark cage, for 110 miles in 53 hours, on her 5th attempt in 35 years

    "I believe that what is wrong with our schools in this nation is that they have become unionized in the worst possible way. This unionization and lifetime employment of K-12 teachers is off-the-charts crazy." - Steve Jobs, February 2007

    "Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition... Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish." -Steve Jobs, commencement speech at Stanford, June 12, 2005

27 May 2014

Why Elon Musk is No Steve Jobs

Recently there was an online article proclaiming Elon Musk as the current day version of Steve Jobs, with a quote from a former colleague of Musk going as far as saying Musk far exceeds Jobs's capabilities. There's also a popular Quora discussion on the topic.

I admire Elon Musk. He has achieved great things in admirable, go-for-broke situations while leading very cool companies: PayPal, SpaceX, SolarCity and Tesla. On his own, he deserves respect and attention. And given his age, he will likely innovate and impress for decades to come.

But Elon Musk is no Steve Jobs.

1. No product demo aura. Steve Jobs mastered the product demo announcement event format like no other. No one cares that it sounded scripted and rehearsed and was always full of hyperbole. It amazed and stunned audiences just often enough to make fanboys want more. Musk is obviously not known for his product demo skills.

2. No legion of bitter, discarded former colleagues. Steve Jobs was known for being a total dick with many colleagues, including some very talented people. Regardless of whether it was justified, we all know and secretly admire that Jobs often got his way by mercilessly disparaging and firing people.

3. No hero's journey monomyth life story of acid induced visions, early victories, temptation, downfall, banishment in the desert, atonement and triumphant second coming. Along the same lines, Steve Jobs even lived a buddy story with The Woz. Musk's life story is instead punctuated with two divorces, betting the farm on his companies, and taking big government loans.

4. No affiliation with adored products used by generations of children who are now grown adults. Musk has no parallel with the exposure and impact that the Apple IIe and original Mac had on kids and schools.

5. No iconic clothing. The black turtleneck and jeans were quirky, but a necessary ingredient in the recipe of the Steve Jobs legend.

6. No impact on the creative class. Artists, musicians, photographers, videographers, and so many others have had their crafts deeply affected by Apple technology over the decades. Perhaps there will be a day when many of us will drive Tesla cars or fly into orbit on SpaceX rockets, but as of today, despite the retro-Sci-Fi cool these companies represent, they have not yet revolutionized something as fundamental as the arts.

Only because others have already compared Elon Musk to Steve Jobs that it is fair to then measure him as such.

And it is clearly no comparison.