Archive for April, 2007

Collective action to save the future of radio

Friday, April 27th, 2007

Talking about collective action you can organize over the web! Pandora asked a few weeks ago help from their listeners to help them in their ability to provide their social recommendation music radio service in the future:

More than 200,000 Pandora listeners contacted their congressional representatives! The entire fax infrastructure on Capitol Hill ground to a halt. We had to deliver faxes manually – literally boxes full of them were delivered to every office in the Capitol building. The result has been swift and dramatic: more than a million people have already joined the cause! There is now a bill just being introduced called the “Internet Radio Equality Act, H.R. 2060″ to fix the problem and save Internet radio -and Pandora- from obliteration.

Keep the net neutral, have the ability for free speech. Internet is not a series of tubes, it’s a new world. Limiting distribution of content based on content (be it by legislation or by enforcing through ISPs) is like limiting your ability to breathe in the physical world. Rock on. Join the cause.

Web is the operating system

Thursday, April 26th, 2007

The web is stringing together the spaces in which we conduct research, remix ideas, connect minds and share what we know. The next major development of Web 2.0 will be the adoption of social web innovations within organizations.

Forget the Vista upgrade and dive in the list of Office 2.0 vacuum cleaners.

A few days I’ve been planning to write an article on Personal Knowledge Management (PKM), PLEs (Personal Learning Environments) and the like. I think I have a contribution to make for all knowledge workers out there looking forward to obtain the black belt in knowledge work kung-fu.

Stay tuned.

Invoicing 2.0

Tuesday, April 24th, 2007

logo Invoicing 2.0

This post is about invoicing in Finland and how small businesses can save money by utilizing something I call Invoicing 2.0. There are not many Web 2.0 companies in Finland, so the new service I’m going to talk about is a warm welcome on the market.

The standard for e-invoices in Finland is Finvoice. According to list prices of Nordea (2007), sending e-invoices costs 0,60 cent / e-invoice and 5€ per month for the service alone. If you send 100 invoices per month, that’s 780€ a year. Of course they provide volume discounts to get the price down to 420€ a year, but you have to ask for the service separately. These calculations don’t include the setup fee 25€ and moving to volume discounts for 50€.

On the receiver’s side you pay 0,60 cent to receive the e-invoice.

Both parties have to pay for the transaction, too. Sender has to pay 15-20 cent and receiver 12,6 cent for the payment.

Converting to e-invoicing is often justified by the time and money saved in handling paper invoices. Most small business however, still handle invoices in paper-form for bookkeeping purposes, thus the paper cost is effectively transferred to the receiver side from the sender. If we forget the time issue here, the sender saves directly in letters and stamps, but looses in using the e-invoice service.

There is another option, which is cooking your own e-invoicing service. Many organizations send invoices in PDF form through email. Unlike e-invoices provided by banks, you don’t need any agreements or existing capabilities to send and receive e-invoices. Almost everyone has an email address and a computer capable of opening a PDF document. The drawback is in the ability to follow-up how the payment is progressing, i.e. seeing if the customer has…

  • seen the invoice
  • agreed that the invoice is ok
  • agreed that the invoice is ok before due date, if not, sending a reminder
  • paid the invoice

A lot of this often requires manual labour. Many small businesses who don’t have the resources or interest to pay for an electronic sales ledger have to invest the time in creating their invoices in some home-grown Excel sheets and then generating them as PDF files, opening up the email program and sending the bills away. This of course is labour small entrepreneurs should not be doing at all.

Invoicing 2.0 is about making this process much more easier by…

  • automating all the steps required for generating an invoice, sending an invoice as PDF, tracking the progress of the customer and archiving the invoice
  • making an easy to use interface to manage and generate invoices and customers
  • making it accessible through the web in a responsive user interface (AJAX etc., of course)
  • saving money by avoiding the bank costs on e-invoices

My friend Kim Forsman from Idoneus Solutions stepped up to the plate to fix this. As a small business owner like me, he was tired how hard it’s to use traditional invoicing software, how time-consuming it’s to use e-invoice services provided by banks and how expensive the e-invoicing service is. He created a service called Invoiced to provide a solution to small businesses to handle their electronic invoicing much more fluidly.

I started to use the service and it already saves me time and money. Not just productivity improvement, but it’s also incredibly good looking and fun to use.

So how much does it cost? 0€ for 5 invoices per month.

It’s basically free for an occasional private entrepreneur. If you want to send more invoices per month, you can buy invoice credits. You get discounts depending of how much credits you buy at once. Current price for 100 credits is 50€. If 5 invoices are free each month, that’s 47,50€ each month for 100 invoices. It’s also much faster to send invoices with the service because of the faster interface and the ability to send the same invoice to multiple customers at once. You get more for the money too, by having a web-based invoicing system for anyone in your company to use and the ability to remind your customers on unconfirmed invoices automatically.

If the invoice is due and you have to move it to some external collection service (perintä), you can do it directly through Invoiced by letting Lindorff Oy handle the collection. The availability of their collection service is free for Invoiced users, you only have to pay for the collection incidents. This is a service that small businesses don’t always have as easily available.

I interviewed Kim and he told me that APIs are coming, which means you could easily implement electronic invoicing capabilities to any online service you might be running. Localizations to other countries might be coming and the birds are whispering that Finvoice support might be right behind the corner.

Invoiced is a promising service. If you live in Finland and run a small business, go check it out.

Interview with Robin Good, part 2

Thursday, April 19th, 2007

Teemu Arina and Robin Good Rome 20070321I MG 0244 Interview with Robin Good, part 2

The second part of the interview between me and Robin Good is now online. I explore Cluetrain, collaboration, networks, barcamps, unconferences and Santa Claus. Trying not to forget who I’m constantly learning from, this time I also interviewed Robin Good himself, posing difficult questions of the future.

From broadcast to the miscellaneous

Sunday, April 15th, 2007

460223058 af9bec4a26 m From broadcast to the miscellaneous

Photo credit: Lotta Viitaniemi; David Weinberger and Teemu Arina having a conversation

I was at Helsinki Media Conference 2007 to check out David Weinberger’s presentation “From Broadcast to the Miscellaneous”. David has been very influential to my own thinking, first with Cluetrain Manifesto that predicted the hyperlink organization. It still serves as a great guide on implementing social technologies within organizations. Small Pieces Loosely Joined aimed to describe a unified theory of the web. It fit very well with the vision of online learning I have today on a decentralized learning network. David is going to release a new book called “Everything is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder“. I can’t hardly wait.

Tuija Aalto has a short video and another of David’s presentation I believe is on the same topic I saw. Here are some of my notes of his presentation at HMC 2007:

Changes in communication

We are moving from a world culturally dominated by broadcast (one to many) to a world of P2P: direct person to person communication, where everything will be digital. We are seeing new forms of being together from blogging, collaborative editing, photo sharing to news sites which we form together (e.g. Digg). New things include microblogs like Twitter and Jaiku.

For the first time in human history we can escape the physical limitations of communication. Knowledge does not have to be organized like physical things, like piles of clothing or bookshelves full of books. For some reason we have taken the limitation of physical entities and applied that to ideas. We do that and we are not very clever.

Peer recommendation

We are moving from recommendation provided from the top down to recommendation provided by our peers. We utilize mailing lists, blogs, discussion boards, Digg, Reddit and other services to discover and recommend interesting articles with others. As an example, everyone gets to vote articles up and down on the front page of Digg. USA Today jumped in the bandwagon and added Digg like features. Unfortunately this will not work until they add a thumbs down button in addition to the current thumbs up button.

Third order

Some people think blogs, wikis and other participatory media is providing fragmentation, but David thinks this rather provides a new type of unity that binds people together. We can’t seriously believe the new means of communication provide fragmentation unless we believe we are right now perfectly unified. We no longer need to build perfect hierarchies like physical llibraries to organize information.

In the third order of things both content and metadata are all digital. Messiness is becoming a virtue. The same leaf can rest on many branches. In the digital world messiness works because we can sort through messiness with computers. Search keywords become metadata to get into the real data. We use metadata as a lever to bring up new knowledge.

Unowned order

Another shift is the unowned order of things. People who own the stuff no longer own the organization of the stuff. In the physical world a clothing store owns the organization of the clothes in the store. In the digital world, the organization is now owned by everybody. Tagging in del.icio.us is a great example. We are taking leaves off the trees and then connecting them together again in different ways.

In the end tagging is not just about decentralized organization of stuff, it also connects people through their interests. No schema or formal taxonomy will be able to capture everyone’s interests. Give people good tools to sort through the mess.

From simplicity to complexity

Some people enjoy the serendipity of newspapers, when one discovers new things just by browsing the newspaper. Realistically, the internet is much better in serendipity. David never thought he would be interested in an article describing the Heavy Metal Umlaut.

Some people describe participatory media as narcissistic. The truth is, news papers are full of content and advertisements feeding the narcissism of people by portraying life-styles people would like to have. Politics is broadcast. What bloggers do, they take even the smallest and simplest things and make them complex (a Bush speech is given as an example). We are complexifying the world again through social technologies for the benefit of the people, bringing the different nuances to life again.

On authority

Authority in traditional encyclopedias is different than authority in digital encyclopedias. If an article is in Wikipedia, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s credible. Wikipedia sure has credibility, but where does it come from? There are various clues to find out if an article is credible or not, e.g:

  • Lots of edits means it’s often more credible
  • More comments on the discussion page tells you what the article is based upon
  • Wikipedia quality standards provide notices to readers on articles that the editors find incomplete, disputed, etc.

Wikipedia is on your side by telling that an article is not credible. Does any of the major newspapers do this by acknowledging that some of their articles might not be accurate? Unwillingness to admit incredibility makes sources unreliable.

Future of media is externalization of meaning

What is the future of traditional media? To draw an analogy, what does it mean to be a hammer? The concept of hammer is understood by understanding the context and connections in the environment which a hammer operates. The same thing applies to people. To be happier means to know the relationships around you. You become more you by connecting to others. The world is way richer than we thought. What part of the world is to be taken care by newspapers to mandate their existence?

Unfortunately traditional roles of a newspaper are becoming commodities better available through other means. Take for example facts and truths. Both are becoming commodities which are better available elsewhere. Facts and truths are no longer the value provided by newspapers. Facts and truths are better addressed in decentralized networks consisting of millions of people, rather than centralized entities consisting of a few self-promoted experts.

We are externalizing meaning. We are building a rich set of meaning by connecting things together. We are building a rich infrastructure of meaning by tagging, organizing content in new ways, using playlists, utilizing collaborative editing, blogging and hyperlinking (which is the fundamental piece) and even utilizing the traditional means of organization. We are able to adhere to different points of view and that helps people to sort through the mess.