Besides a killer algorithm and brand-name recognition, Google’s greatest strength is its speed at releasing new products. We get to play with new, cool and ever-improving tools for free. Recently, though, we’ve seen that being unwitting lab subjects can kind of stink.
When it comes to keeping your Windows PC secure, all of the scare tactics and overblown virus stories out there make it hard to feel safe online. The fact of the matter is that you don’t need to pay for Windows security.
You’d think that getting soundly beaten by Google and Yahoo over and over in the online space would mean that Microsoft would take the web a little more seriously. You’d be wrong. Case in point: Today’s epic failure around the distribution of the Windows 7 public beta download. This morning Microsoft’s web servers fell to their knees under the pressure of constant web page refreshes by eager and willing enthusiasts who want to volunteer their time to test Windows 7 after Steve Ballmer’s announcement the download would be available today. Is it fantastic that Microsoft is offering this freebie preview? Yes. Is it shameful that they’d be so woefully unprepared for the demand it would draw? That also would be a YES.
Sure, hosting a multi-gigabyte download on the web is an enormously expensive undertaking, but Microsoft has more money than God. Plus, while the download itself is large, it’s only of interest to a relatively small portion of the population. If lack of infrastructure to handle an insane traffic spike over a few hours was truly the problem (even though these were conditions Microsoft created), there are lots of alternatives they could’ve used that would have kept their servers up. In fact, users have been happily downloading and distributing the Windows 7 beta build 7000 now for weeks using an efficient file-sharing protocol called BitTorrent. (Think it’s a crazy idea for a company to use BitTorrent to distribute large files? Ubuntu is always seeding a torrent of their main distro.) Sure, Microsoft’s not the only one who’s blown web launches. Apple did it spectacularly with MobileMe, and even an occasional Google product craps the bed when the planets misalign.
But for a company that’s pushing cloud computing and web services and trying so hard to prove that they’re ready to move off the desktop and onto the web, today’s Win7 borkfest proves Microsoft is still too clueless about how to do stuff online to be taken seriously.
So it seems that games, virtual worlds and social networking sites are becoming entrenched in the way we live and work. No surprise to us geeks, of course. But it seems that some organisations are looking more deeply into how employees interact with these digital worlds, to see how they might harness these behaviours for good.
The BBC published a really interesting feature looking at this trend, and quotes Ian Hughes, IBM’s metaverse evangelist, as saying that many organisations were considering ways of harnessing the skills and familiarity their employees have with virtual environments.
“This familiarity has driven many organisations to consider virtual worlds as places where employees can meet, mix and get on with the job.”
This isn’t pie in the sky stuff, it’s happening right now – Tech Crunch’s Duncan Riley blogged about a recent meeting in Second Life, for example.
The BBC article also talks about a company called Seriosity which is working with businesses to harness game mechanics for the office – for example it came up with a virtual currency for use with emails. Given a limited amount of these Serios, users had to ‘budget’ the amount of emails they sent and which ones they ranked as important – a tool for minimising information overload and helping prioritise work.
And it’s not just productivity in the workplace that can benefit either – CNET reported on a new ‘world of Chorecraft’ game which I think is an ingenious way of harnessing people’s innate love of ‘levelling up’ in MMOs to get them to excel at housework. Chore Wars gives users experience points for various household chores, which can be used to advance your profile in the online game. This could be a great tool for parents or competitive gamer geek sharehouses. ;)
So is your workplace or household using any social networking, virtual world or gaming tools to be more productive? Do you think there are productivity gains to be made, or is it a geeky daydream? Let us know in comments.
When Work Becomes a Game [BBC News]