The Netherlands vs. the world

For social networking the entire world is using Facebook or MySpace, but in the Netherlands most people use Hyves. That is logical (by now), half of the Netherlands has a  Hyves profile, so why bother getting into Facebook (unless you have international friends). But the problem is when you want to integrate social networking functionality in your own website. Facebook allows (almost) everything. Hyves has quite clear limitations. So it’s difficult to have a good social network integration for the Dutch market. Besides that, as a Dutch company, an integration with Hyves is not a real good international example*.
For shopping the entire world is using Amazon, but in the Netherlands most people use Bol. Bol targets the Dutch market (also by selling Dutch books) and I guess we feel special, because Bol is in Dutch. But when you want become an affiliate of a shop, Amazon is more interesting, since the internet is not only Dutch but worldwide. So for sites from the Netherlands… what to choose?
For online payments the entire world is using credit cards, but in the Netherlands most people use iDEAL. For some reason in the Netherlands people are more anxious about the safety of online credit card payments, so another banc payment system, directly using your internet bancing facilities, was developed and now most used. In Dutch webshops, you should implement iDEAL, but it does make the shop uninteresting for everybody outside of the Netherlands.
For second hand buying and selling the entire world is using E-bay, but in the Netherlands most people use Marktplaats. Marktplaats is specifically created for the Dutch market, but when you want to sell something your possible market is bigger on eBay. So for Dutch people wanting to sell something valuable it is difficilt to get Dutch and international bidders.
* Still Hyves is better for integration than LinkedIn. LinkedIn has a complete closed API, making any integration without assistance of LinkedIn impossible. But that’s a completely different (annoying) subject.

For social networking the entire world is using Facebook or MySpace, but in the Netherlands most people use Hyves. That is logical (by now), half of the Netherlands has a  Hyves profile, so why bother getting into Facebook (unless you have international friends). But the problem is when you want to integrate social networking functionality in your own website. Facebook allows (almost) everything. Hyves has quite clear limitations. So it’s difficult to have a good social network integration for the Dutch market. Besides that, as a Dutch company, an integration with Hyves is not a real good international example*.

For shopping the entire world is using Amazon, but in the Netherlands most people use Bol. Bol targets the Dutch market (also by selling Dutch books) and I guess we feel special, because Bol is in Dutch. But when you want become an affiliate of a shop, Amazon is more interesting, since the internet is not only Dutch but worldwide. So for sites from the Netherlands… what to choose?

For online payments the entire world is using credit cards, but in the Netherlands most people use iDEAL. For some reason in the Netherlands people are more anxious about the safety of online credit card payments, so another banc payment system, directly using your internet bancing facilities, was developed and now most used. In Dutch webshops, you should implement iDEAL, but it does make the shop uninteresting for everybody outside of the Netherlands.

For second hand buying and selling the entire world is using ebay, but in the Netherlands most people use Marktplaats. Marktplaats is specifically created for the Dutch market, but when you want to sell something your possible market is bigger on ebay. So for Dutch people wanting to sell something valuable it is difficilt to get Dutch and international bidders.

* Still Hyves is better for integration than LinkedIn. LinkedIn has a complete closed API, making any integration without assistance of LinkedIn impossible. But that’s a completely different (annoying) subject.

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15 minute rule

If you have a problem, if no-one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire the A-Team.

For those of us that are not so lucky to find the A-team, we need another solution. A nice rule I saw implemented in my Lviv team is the 15 minute rule. If you run into a problem and don’t see how to fix it withing 15 minutes…. ask one of your colleagues to assist.

This leads to faster problem solving and more knowledge sharing!

(And it’s always nice referring to the A-team ;))

 

Update Feb. 11 2011:  Part of the solution is explaining your problem to somebody else in your own words. By explaining it, often you already find the solution.

Projects are about the goal

A couple of weeks ago I wend hiking in Belgium with my Scouts. And it was really nice, good weather, a nice route. After one and a half day we crossed a road which leads to the village Hotton, and we knew we also had to go through that village. One of the Scouts suggested: “Why not follow that road…. that’s faster than hiking up and down that hill in front of us”. Of course we didn’t follow the road, not only because it was a drive-too-fast-don’t-pay-attention-to-pedestrions-because-they-shouldn’t-be-there-anyway-road, but mainly because Hotton was not the goal of the day. The route was the goal. Hike through a nice environment, enjoy the view, enjoy the route.

This is different in projects. Projects are about the end goal, the business case, the benefits. And of course if you have no fun at working towards that goal,  find other work. But the  only reason for doing the project is reaching the goal. So if you find a fast route towards the end goal, you take it. No detours just for fun, no “sitting around, enjoying the view”…. 

That’s not always easy. Not only the senior user/business/client has a tendency to add as much as possible to the scope of the project, without verifying if it serves “the big plan”. Also developers like to add as much to the scope as possible, to deliver the best and complete product possible. However there is also time, money, quality, etc to consider.

So I guess in a project with every step you take, consider: “Does this have a positive influence on the goal?”.

Traveling frustrations

(Probably this will not be very interesting… it’s just me writing of my frustration…. enough time to do that.)

This week I visited our team in Lviv, Ukraine. Now I am on my way back to the Netherlands.

Because of bad weather there are a lot of problems with all the flights. That’s not something the people at the airports can help. But they can provide service.

I booked a two way ticket Amsterdam-Lviv at Austrian Airlines, this means you have to transfer in Vienna. My flight from Lviv to Vienna was delayed, which caused me to miss my connecting flight to Amsterdam. So after waiting half an hour 😦 in line for the services desk a nice lady told me that the next Austrian flight this evening was already overbooked. Also the KLM flight for this evening was overbooked. Her solution was to book me a hotel and book me the Saturday morning 7:20 flight. That was not exactly what I had in mind. After asking some more questions, pointing out that I should be automatically re-booked is their responsibility (that’s why you don’t book separate tickets, but one ticket with a transfer) she reconsidered and called KLM. To my surprise all of a sudden there was an empty seat available for me… Why don’t they by default try that? Maybe it’s too expensive…. or did my Flying Blue Gold card help?? Anyway…. I get to fly back this evening.

So I guess airlines provide as low a service as possible… until you start asking some more questions. Saving money seems to be more important than happy customers. But somehow I can remember something with returning customers delivering much more profit.

But anyway… I have a flight tonight, which cannot be said for the woman next to me with the same problems, but she didn’t ask more questions after the hotel and morning flight was offered.

Now it’s waiting for my flight…. which is delayed after leaving Amsterdam too late because of the weather.

Bad software

Next year Metallica and Machinehead are coming to the Netherlands. Reason enough to buy a ticket.

So there I was, on a Saturday morning, a bit before 10, behind my laptop (yes, that early). Tickets could only be bought via Livenation, because they try stop illegal tickets on the black market and to give everybody a fair chance for buying tickets.

When it’s almost ten I use the F5 button a couple of times, and indeed at exaclty ten the “buy tickets” button appears. Clicking that opens a pop-up with a progress bar. There is a waiting line because a lot of people want to buy tickets. OK, nothing wrong so far. But it gets a bit frustrating if the progress bar jumps back and forward between almost full, to almost empy, slowly full again, back to half full, back to almost empty, etc. And this goes on for a complete hour. Yes, that long. Then all of a sudden a screen pops up telling me my browser settings are not correct. And if that would be true it would surprise me. Should I set my security settings so low all viruses and spyware from all over the internet are automatically redirected to my laptop? I don’t think so. But it’s not even true, because for other concert tickets this strange screen does not appear (I tried). Going again to the “buy tickets” button is not possible anymore…. all tickets are sold out.

And OK, I am in favor of buying stuff online…. but if you want to offer that as a company, you need software that is capable of that. At Livenation some people did something terribly wrong. The people who designed and build the system did not do a good job, it’s not capable of handling huge visitors at the same time. Besides somebody decide to exclusively sell tickets via livenation and to also promote that, so everybody would be online at the same time.

So Livenation sucks.

Communication changes…. fast

While driving to the Bucharest airport (a couple of weeks ago) we had a nice talk about different ways of communication. Specially the extremely fast way it’s changing over the years.

But which media to use?

I have the idea the younger people are the faster the communication must be, easy to use and less personal, meaning less face-to-face, voice, but limited to text. And of course some forms are more formal than others, but also that is age dependent.

A nice example is job applications. My parents wrote letters for that that are being delivered by the mail man. I did my applications via monsterboard or e-mail. Now you even see some people looking for jobs via linkedin.

If you want to make an appointment with people… do you call them, send an SMS, ask in MSN or via a message in a social network. The order here is probably highly linked to the age of the user (old to young). Mobile online tools enforce this trend.

Ask a fourteen year old if it’s normal to break up with a girl/boy-friend via SMS. Probably the answer would surprise you.

Did your grand mother ever send an e-mail? Can you make friends via World of Warcraft? Do your parents use wikipedia? Do you talk to people more online or offline? Is e-mail during work helping you in your work or blocking normal progress?

What’s your communications age?

Gmail Goggles

I just read that Gmail has a new feature to prevent mail from being send when you are drunk or otherwise ‘instable’. It’s called Goggles. Once you turn it on you can set when you want it to work. When it’s working you have to fill in simple math problems before you can send the e-mail.

How stupid does Google think we are? Even if I head a couple of beers I am quite capable of doing some simple calculations, so this won’t work. Besides that… who only has one e-mail account? So if for some reason you can’t send the e-mail, you will use another account or send an SMS, etc.

What’s strange about this is the idea that Gmail is blocking people to send e-mails…. the main goal of using Gmail. So just stick to the main functionality and improve that. It would be the same as a bag of potato chips that won’t open around dinner time or a bar owner that kicks you because you have to go to work tomorrow…. Where is the personal responsibility in this case? A product that takes over responsibilty? So next year there will be somebody sueing Google, because the Goggles was not turned on while he was drunk. If you do something you are not happy with… just deal with it.

But I guess the main question is:
Why does Google want to know when people drink alcohol?