Category Archives: Know How

Cut into the present

I’m attending IBM Connect 2016 in Orlando as an IBM-selected Futurist, which is a first of a sort. While I have long been considered as a futurist — personally and professionally — this is the first time the characterization has appeared on a conference badge.

Note that I am not only a futurist, but a prospect!

As you might expect, I am singularly interested in learning more about IBM’s thinking about the future of work. But, I haven’t heard nearly as much about the future of work and #newwaytowork as I had hoped.

The opening sessions were strongly oriented toward IBM Verse, and its instrumentation of a mocked-up company. While I appreciated the illustration of Verse’s many well-considered affordances, I came away with the strong impression of a fictionalized but very conventional organization behind the play acting. However, this is mostly reading between the lines of the script, because the company wasn’t really described, aside from being a maker and marketer of sporting goods.

What would have been much better — at least for me — would have been to take some of the trends that are inarguably transforming businesses today, and to surface them explicitly as part of the story. What about the rise of freelancers, and the uberization of work, or the pressure to adapt to a new digital markets and economics? Or consider any of a dozen other themes that impact us all, as individuals, companies, and as a society. If things aren’t changing, why are companies adopting new tools?

Or even better, how about if IBM had presented a (slightly rosy) projection of a hypothetical near-term future, and lent some guidance to its customers about how to thrive there, how to transition to better adapt to that just-over-the-horizon world, and (yes) how IBM can help in the colonization of that new day.

Without that vision, I think any vendors’ demonstrations of tools fall a bit flat, because we are left only to imagine how we might use them today. Or more pragmatically, how we would use them in the company of last week or last month or last year. Your company today has already changed in ways that its management and employees have not realized.

McLuhan said,

We look at the present through a rear-view mirror. We march backwards into the future.

We are caught by our ties to the past, and I had hoped that IBM would try to cut into that a little bit. Because, as Willim S. Burroughs wrote,

When you cut into the present, the future leaks out.

Maybe next year.

Originally posted on on 2 February 2016

A Curved Screen Skeptic Takes a Closer Look

This post is sponsored by Samsung. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Sometimes it can be helpful to make a snap judgement on a particular innovation, just to keep from getting overwhelmed in today’s tech frenzy. For me, it was the curved screen that earned my instant skepticism. Cool? Sure. But I didn’t see the urgency; the flat screen still felt modern, delivered a wonderful picture and the joy of extra space gained from tossing the old box was still reasonably fresh in my mind. The curved screen struck me more as innovation for innovation’s sake, an upgrade designed for the upgrade-obsessed, and left me pondering if it was possible to run out of great ideas.

Then, when I realized the natural moment for my next phone upgrade was approaching, I found myself face-to-face with the Samsung Galaxy Edge. Lo, the curved screen was calling! But, before I could answer, I had to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. (And, yes, drop a few puns.)

This modern innovation—gimmick? innovation?—went beyond mobile phones, so I decided to start with large screens. When it came to curved televisions, it was easy to see that I wasn’t alone in my skepticism. Numerous reviews panned the “immersive” curved television display as a gimmick, while others pointed out that the curve could compromise viewing from certain angles. It’s not hard to imagine that if your reclining chair is over in that far corner, to the side of the TV, that curve is going to get in the way, but Casey Johnston of Ars Technica offered a rather detailed analysis of the field of view. It seemed that the curve most benefited from theater-style seating and, according to fellow skeptic Scott Kramer of Forbes, “You’d need a very large model — at least 70 inches — to really make the concept even work. Anything smaller and the vibrancy and immersion just aren’t compelling factors.” Cue Roy Schieder: “We’re going to need a bigger apartment.”

So my initial doubts about the curve seemed validated where TVs were concerned. Monitors, however, were a different story. The “immersive” benefits of curved screens fared better in the one-person-per-screen scenario, where you were less likely to be sitting off to the side while playing games and streaming.  As noted in this article, “the natural presentation and field of view supplied by these devices reduce neck and eye strain”, so there would be productivity benefits for the business environment as well. (Though both points make sense to me, as someone who is attached to the web for the better part of her waking hours, the thought of the telltale screen curving in closer and closer struck me as horror movie material.) But general receptivity to curved monitors aside, the fact that monitor sales, in general, are dipping along with PC sales means that they won’t likely be the driving force behind the curved revolution.

That led me back to mobile devices. Despite the buzz, curved mobile phones aren’t actually that common. Samsung was (ahem) ahead of the curve, with LG not far behind. And sure, it was a clear differentiator in a sea of iPhones, but could the curve do anything? Early curvers, Samsung Galaxy Round and LG Flex, opted for opposite approaches (side to side and head to toe body curves, respectively) and promised – yes – an immersive experience. The curved body also performed better in pocket, because it aligned better with the curve of the human form. The Edge had a different approach, with the display wrapping around the sides of the device. My first (skeptical) take was that the Edge chose style over function, but then I discovered that the extra real estate served a few functions beyond aesthetics, including a colored light indicator that could tell you who is calling when the phone is face down. Meanwhile, Cool? Sure. Urgent? Well…

At this point, I had reached the limits of online product research. The claim of the curve clearly went beyond specs, so I brought my skepticism to in-store, imagining the satisfaction of telling the Best Buy clerk that I was only doing research—I wasn’t someone who was taken in by innovation for innovation’s sake. Except that, when I reached the curved screen TVs and stood in front of their promotional solar system graphics, I couldn’t help myself: I nodded my head and my lips formed the word: “Immersive.” I was getting sucked in. By the time I reached the mobile section and plucked the Samsung Edge from its display podium, it struck me as mobile’s equivalent of an infinity pool. Cool. Serene. Desirable.

And this is where the aforementioned snap judgements come in handy. There is, simply, an incredible range of products to pine over today but, if you decide out of the gate that a particular innovation is a gimmick, it’s a lot easier to avoid that whispering want. As of the writing of this article, I have not (yet) upgraded my phone, and my television is still flat. But, I confess, I do see the appeal for the curved screen. Features and functions aside, its real strength is that it is a delight to view. And while “delight” doesn’t necessarily translate to urgency, that ever-important factor needed to drive up sales right this minute, isn’t that exactly what you want from something that’s designed to be viewed?

For more content like this, follow Samsung Business on InsightsTwitterLinkedIn, YouTube and SlideShare.

Data security, the future of work and the consumerisation dilemma

This post is sponsored by Samsung. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Data security has never been as hard as it is today. And it is going to get harder. Why? Because it is becoming more embedded in everything we do; and because we, not technology, hold the key to the future.

The protective walls of the corporation came tumbling down a long time ago. This is not about erosion – they are already gone. TargetWendy’sPlaystation, all have suffered massive losses of customer data. Utilitiesbankspublic institutions have been compromised, and will continue to be so.

Not only are a significant number of computer systems connected to, or indeed, run from the internet, but also the ways we access corporate data have fragmented beyond recognition. Within the past decade, mobile devices have gone from being exceptional to the norm. And millions of potentially insecure devices are now being connected, in the guise of the Internet of Things.

So, is all lost? Not necessarily. There is still a place for a robust security architecture, built on the principle of the ’separation of concerns’ — that is, limiting risk by considering how and where business data needs to flow, and putting appropriate safeguards in place. Indeed, I wrote a book about it.

We can talk about technical features and governance mechanisms to be built into such an architecture, as is good and proper. But data security is never, ever going to work without taking on board the most important, yet least predictable variable in the triumvirate of people, process and technology — the people.

In technology industry parlance, the term ‘consumerisation’ has been used to describe our increasing propensity to use our own tech in the workplace. But the principle goes much deeper. Consider, for example, how people expect to take their phone number with them when they move companies.

In general, employees will follow the rules, particularly if their contract says they have to. Acceptable Use Policies are a useful tool against direct abuses of computer systems, software and services. But you don’t need to be a behavioural psychologist to know that people hate to be told what to do if it appears pointless or indeed, counterproductive.

This goes right to the top. Gone are the days when senior executives expected their emails to be printed out for them, so they could dictate a response. Today, they are as tech-enabled as the rest of us, and expect to make full use of what is available — even if it means using their own devices, due to perceived inadequacies of corporate IT.

Is there an answer? Well, yes there is, but it requires looking way beyond current environments and towards the workplaces, and work forces, of the future. Not only are people becoming more tech-savvy, they are also more transient. Companies hire less and subcontract more. Where once they built, today they partner. And offices are replacing cubes with collaborative spaces.

This brave new world of work is built upon a spirit of trust and collaboration, with smarter organisations drawing on the broadest pool of stakeholders — co-creating with customers, suppliers and even competitors. While this approach puts people first, it nonetheless requires boundaries to be set and enforced — but without getting in the way.

Agility is key to the future, in data security as in business. For security to succeed in such a flexible environment, it needs to consider the role of data as an enabler to collaboration, as well as offering service provisioning mechanisms that are considerably more straightforward than today.

If you create an environment which hinders, rather than help people to deliver on the needs of the business, you will increase, not decrease strategic business risk. While this creates a dilemma for any security professional, that does not make it wrong. As organisations evolve over the next decade, we shall see this point proven again and again.

For more content like this, follow Samsung Business on InsightsTwitterLinkedIn , YouTube and SlideShare

Sony making a bet on IoT

Two stories in the news at the same time about Sony that draws a picture of the company’s plans.

The first is that Sony is forming Sony Interactive Entertainment (SIE) from all the units contributing to Playstation, hardware, software, and network, effective April 1. Sony has set the new company up with a US headquarters — San Mateo, CA — with a single CEO, Andrew House. Notably, console sales are way down in Japan, to the lowest level in 24 years, and the future looks to be mobile and handheld gaming there. But Playstation is still huge in the US, so the move makes sense.

The second is that Sony is buying Altair, a chip manufacturer for IoT smart appliances. This is a $212 million investment, taking the company way out of its niche in smartphone camera chips. Last year, Sony bought Toshiba’s image sensor operations, which is part of the same strategic plan: to grow into a major IoT manufacturer of chips and sensors.

So, Sony continues to operate SIE, but has positioned it as a separate operating unit, so it can be spun all the way out or sold off, as the presumed decline in console games ripples through the rest of the world. In parallel, Sony is increasing its bets on IoT, and a world crammed full of smart devices, sensors, and networks to link them together.

The Road to Cloud Is a Hybrid One

The benefits of using the cloud are undeniable—from reduced infrastructure costs and license fees to increased scalability and agility. But, while every company has some variation of a cloud strategy on their roadmap, the move to the cloud is a journey that doesn’t happen overnight. Most often, it’s a gradual implementation because some processes must still run on-premises or in a private cloud, while others can more easily and compliantly be supported in the public cloud.

Organizations are becoming more and more comfortable with a hybrid model because it makes good business sense—combining the flexibility and cost savings of the cloud with the option to keep more complex applications on-premises. There are many reasons why businesses may want to combine on-premises and cloud instances, from specific policies relating to where data can be stored, to having previously purchased on-premises solutions, to a future-focused strategy that integrates more and more cloud opportunities. In fact, a 2014 report by Infonetics Research confirms that hybrid cloud is becoming the “new normal” as adoption among enterprises was expected to more than double by 2015.

Hybrid Is the New Normal
This new normal is your new challenge: managing a hybrid environment that consists of private and public clouds and on-premises IT infrastructures. No longer are you responsible for just managing on-premises solutions within your own borders. Now you have to manage applications across the cloud as well. To effectively meet this challenge, you’ll need visibility into all of the pieces of this increasingly diverse environment.

Visibility Into the Hybrid Environment
Visibility across on-premises and cloud deployments is the key to navigating the shifting tide of IT management in the hybrid world because you cannot manage what you cannot see. You’ll need visibility across the environment to gain an understanding of cloud workloads and to ensure service levels, security and compliance.

In addition, you’ll need this visibility into what’s happening and why so that you can determine whether your hybrid environment is functioning as you had intended. If any of the applications that have moved to cloud aren’t performing as expected, you need to know so that you can modify your strategy. When you have refined your strategy and the workloads you’re running in the cloud are as reliable and secure as they were on-premises, you’ll want visibility into that as well, so you’ll feel ready to begin transitioning more and more workloads to the cloud.

Hybrid In the Real World: Gatwick Airport
One organization that maintains visibility and compliance through a hybrid model is Gatwick Airport. Among its other cloud solutions, Gatwick integrated Splunk Cloud into its operations to supplement its existing on-premises solution. In doing so, the team realized that combining ops data in this cloud solution gave them the agility and scalability they needed, while providing insight into airport performance. The world’s busiest single-runway airport now benefits from a seamless hybrid environment that allows them to better monitor on-time performance, optimize gates and terminals, improve predictability, manage security wait lines, reduce rail and road incidents, and more.

Like other major changes in business and technology, embracing the new normal of hybrid will require a shift in mindset and corporate culture. The good news is that on-premises and cloud solutions can operate at full capacity and very much in hybrid harmony—as long as there is the right level of visibility, monitoring and insight.

Find out more about how Splunk solutions can give you visibility across your hybrid environment.

Virtual Reality: Just for fun? It won’t stay that way!

This post is sponsored by Samsung. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

While the 1992 film Toys, starring the late, great Robin Williams, did not meet with universal acclaim (it registered a paltry 26% at the review site Rotten Tomatoes, despite receiving two Oscar nominations for its artistic merit), it contained at least one notable scene. This involved Williams, as toy designer Leslie Zevo, sitting on a sofa with his sister Alsatia (played by Joan Cusack) and wearing what looked like eye masks. As the pair rocked, screamed and waved their hands in the air it became clear that they were watching a roller coaster simulation.

Spot the date: over a quarter of a century has now passed since virtual reality (VR) headsets first entered the popular consciousness. A number of challenges have had to be overcome — not least insufficient screen resolution and movement tracking, which have been considered as causes of queasiness when headsets are worn.

But also, cost. I can remember, back then, considering the scenario of a young rebel on a city metro train, sporting cool-looking glasses that beamed images onto his retinas. Even if this were yet possible, it would be cost-prohibitive. But it is coming.

A mere three years have passed since Palmer Luckey first set himself the task of producing a low-cost VR headset. Following a luck(e)y break when he met John Carmack, creator of the seminal first-person shooter Doom, Palmer followed the footsteps of so many entrepreneurs when he left college to follow his dreams.

The Kickstarter campaign for the Oculus Rift heads-up display raised nearly $2.5m and while the device is yet to be released, its technology is already built into Samsung Gear devices. As it arrives however, the Rift is already offering more potential than just viewing images and videos.

To understand why VR in general, and the Rift in particular, are set to be such a game changer, we need to consider not just the headset but how it fits with a range of other technologies. Augmented reality for example, which links visuals with context-based data. Motion tracking from the likes of Leap or Kinect.

It’s not how any one technology delivers that matters; rather, it is how they can be used in combination. You can think of all the pieces as components of a new range of solutions, which have applicability in retail, in healthcare, in navigation, in geology and (as per Mr Williams) in film, media and all forms of entertainment.

Audi’s “world’s first fully digital car showroom,” based in London, is one example of how VR can benefit the retail experience. Audi integrated a Samsung Gear VR headset, immersing customers in a tour of the car’s features – you can even take a test drive. While this set-up claims to be the first of its kind, it is unlikely to be the last. As such solutions become prevalent, and as an inevitable consequence of the laws of supply and demand, the components will also become cheaper even as they diversify in form and function.

What other applications might we see? We might see a resurgence in virtual worlds such as Second Life; more likely however is that VR will become part of our daily lives. As such it is important for any organisation to consider the implications, which can come from a number of directions. It may be that VR has applicability within the business — in R&D for example, or in data visualization. Equally, it has potential to change behaviors, for example in how people work and relate to their colleagues.

The bottom line is: today, for many, VR still looks like a fun gadget, and indeed it is outside of certain domains. So have some of that fun — for a few hundred dollars, invest in some headsets and try them out. That way, when VR becomes more than fun, you will have a more solid perspective into how to integrate VR into your business strategies.

For more content like this, follow Samsung Business on InsightsTwitterLinkedIn , YouTube and SlideShare

Building For Success on AWS: Five Best Practice Tips

As AWS increasingly becomes the preferred deployment model for enterprise applications and services, it’s never been more important for a software or AWS SaaS provider to work effectively with AWS. Many leading technology providers are therefore optimizing their software to run on AWS as well as building globally available cloud services delivered through AWS’ worldwide regions.

Splunk has been very pleased with the success of our SaaS business on AWS, so we thought we’d share what we’ve learned in the form of best practices for you to keep in mind when developing your software or SaaS business on AWS.

1. Embrace the change

If you’ve attended the keynote at any recent AWS Summit, you’ve heard the message “cloud is the new normal.” Our advice is to take this to heart, and invest in your business knowing the momentum behind cloud will only continue to accelerate.

This is a boon to businesses of every size and in every location around the world—cloud makes it easier than ever before to innovate, rapidly bring an offering to market and serve your customer.

2. Relentlessly focus on the customer experience

Focusing your business on customer success is a must when building a business on AWS.

Why? Because the number one driving factor behind everything AWS does is to help its customers be successful and innovative. Tactically, this can mean many things for a SaaS Partner, but the one that stands out is building technology integrations that can provide additional value to AWS customers.

A good example of this involves AWS CloudTrail and AWS Config, services that deliver log data on AWS API calls around user activity and resource changes. When properly harnessed, these services help enable enterprises ensure security and compliance of their AWS deployments. A handful of SaaS Partners deliver integrations for these AWS services. The importance of these integrations is clear when you think of the importance of security and compliance for any successful AWS deployment.

3. Leverage your customers in your go-to-market strategy

When it comes to building your software or SaaS business on AWS, nothing beats customer validation. One of the most compelling stories is when a customer fully integrates your technology into their AWS strategy.

A great example of this is the Federal Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). FINRA is an independent regulator that examines all securities firms and their registered persons and monitors trading on U.S. markets. To respond to rapidly changing market dynamics, FINRA is moving its platform to Amazon Web Services (AWS) to analyze and store approximately 30 billion market events every day. FINRA uses Splunk Cloud to ensure security and compliance in their AWS deployment.

4. Choose AWS and go “all-in”

When building out your cloud strategy, you have to make choices. Our advice: When two roads diverge in the cloud, choose AWS.

This is a best practice because AWS has the richest and broadest set of services in the market. If your offering is storage intensive, there are specific solutions for that; if it’s compute intensive, there are specific solutions for that; if it’s I/O intensive, there are specific solutions for that as well. Regardless of what you need on the infrastructure stack—whether it’s automated provisioning, configuration or management, AWS has a mature solution that fits the bill.

In addition, business today is global. To successfully grow your business you need the ability to rapidly expand around the world. AWS offers that through their 11 worldwide regions.

5. Leverage the ecosystem

If you’re building on AWS, chances are that other folks building on AWS will find it useful. This is what makes the AWS announcement of its SaaS Partner Program so exciting. If you’re building a SaaS storage solution, odds are we could use it for our SaaS operational and security monitoring solution. Since we’re building a SaaS operational and security monitoring solution, odds are you could use it for your SaaS storage solution.

We have the opportunity to be better together on AWS for the benefit of all of our customers.

To learn more about our cloud solutions, visit us here.

IBM buys Ustream: is it a workforce communication play?

IBM has added Ustream to a long list of video technology company acquisitions in the recent past — like Clearleap acquired last month — buying the streaming video vendor for around $130 million (according to Fortune). The company had raised $50 million in venture funding, and was the sole video partner involved in the launch of IBM’s cloud marketplace in 2014.

The typical analysis is that this rounds out a spectrum of technologies that now make IBM a player in corporate streaming video, particularly targeting customer contact and marketing activities.

But I’m betting that IBM’s primary focus will be — although not be limited to — workforce communications.

Marcia Conner makes my case in a tweet.

.@IBM acquired video streamer @Ustream? Excellent! Video options usually a mess for work

— Marcia Conner (@marciamarcia) January 21, 2016

Ustream Align is an inside-the-company video ‘collaboration’ — or ‘workforce communication’ — product built on the Ustream platform.

Even though there’s a broad market of offerings from companies like Google, Microsoft, Unify, Cisco, and so on, no one has become the dominant player in video-based workforce communication, which may be the most natural solution for an increasingly mobile world.

The Ustream acquisition is another indication of the rapid transition to video in workforce communications, where it is destined to be the major medium for work communications.

IBM buys Ustream: is it a workforce communication play?

IBM has added Ustream to a long list of video technology company acquisitions in the recent past — like Clearleap acquired last month — buying the streaming video vendor for around $130 million (according to Fortune). The company had raised $50 million in venture funding, and was the sole video partner involved in the launch of IBM’s cloud marketplace in 2014.

The typical analysis is that this rounds out a spectrum of technologies that now make IBM a player in corporate streaming video, particularly targeting customer contact and marketing activities.

But I’m betting that IBM’s primary focus will be — although not be limited to — workforce communications.

Marcia Conner makes my case in a tweet.

.@IBM acquired video streamer @Ustream? Excellent! Video options usually a mess for work

— Marcia Conner (@marciamarcia) January 21, 2016

Ustream Align is an inside-the-company video ‘collaboration’ — or ‘workforce communication’ — product built on the Ustream platform.

Even though there’s a broad market of offerings from companies like Google, Microsoft, Unify, Cisco, and so on, no one has become the dominant player in video-based workforce communication, which may be the most natural solution for an increasingly mobile world.

The Ustream acquisition is another indication of the rapid transition to video in workforce communications, where it is destined to be the major medium for work communications.

Work chat Fleep’s slash commands, tasks, and email integration

2016-01-19: Updated with some corrections. Strikeouts indicated former erroneous material now amended or deleted, and italics show new explanations.

I’ve been closely watching the development of work chat vendor Fleep, and since I reviewed the product in August (see Work chat tool Fleep has native task management: Is that a key feature, or just nice to have?) the company has addressed so many areas I won’t try to cover them all, I’ll let them do that for you.

I am just going to focus on the slash commands, tasks, and email integration.

Slash commands — Fleep’s chat (or ‘conversations’ as they call them), support a number of commands that are preceded by a slash (‘/’):

/pin <message> — create a new pinned message
/task <message> — create a new task message
/taskto @someone — create and assign a new task
/bug <message> — create a new bug report task with ((bug))
/add <email> — add new members to the conversation
/kick <email> — remove members from the conversation
/leave — leave conversation

When these are used in the context of a chat, when a chat message with a leading command is posted, the action is taken. In the screenshot below, I have just invited Doppelganger Jones to the AdjectiveNoun conversation, assigned him a task ‘please write up a plan’, and I have formed a new chat message at the bottom to create a second task also assigned to him.

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 2.10.54 PM

Here’s the task pane opened after those tasks were created.

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 2.11.26 PM

One of the weaknesses of Fleep’s task model is that the tasks have very little metadata. I can understand why they might not need comments or notes — it’s a chat app, after all — but due dates are fairly essential.

Tasks are completed by checking the task box. I found it odd that pinning a task — which moves a message to the top of the chat window and stops it from scrolling away — leads to the task losing its ‘taskness’: it becomes just another message. Odd.

Documents can be added to the conversation — including Google and Dropbox docs — but these aren’t attached to messages or tasks: they’re just dropped into the chat. And one or more documents/files can be added to messages or tasks.

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 2.13.16 PM

Once added, they also show up in the ‘Files’ pane, the one with the paperclip icon.

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 2.14.23 PM

Personally, I might have designed them to do both. That limitation seems particularly irksome with tasks.

It’s great that Fleep tasks (and messages) can have attachments, since passing along a description of the work to be done, or a document to be approved are commonplace activities.

Also note in this case I was trying to attach a Google doc, but somehow Fleep instead creates and attaches a PDF of the doc. So my colleagues on Fleep can’t use this as a way to open and coedit the Google doc, but just to look at an immediately out-of-date pdf of the doc. This is dumb. If I were actually using Fleep in production I would copy and paste URLs to docs, instead. And Fleep provides a text markup for that, in this form:

link<<text>>adds an inline link with the text in the angled brackets

And that works really well, in fact:

Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 10.01.45 AM Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 10.02.01 AM

Clicking on the preview or the URL link opens the Google doc, and since I copied a share URL that allows for editing, my colleagues would be able to view, comment, and or edit the Google doc, in place.

Returning to tasks, the task pane can include ‘sections’ that can be used to arrange tasks into subsets.

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 2.49.17 PM

I like the capability to layout the sections in this way, and when coupled with the ability to ‘clone’ conversations, teams could create and reuse project templates to help regularize the work in project conversations. Too bad that the ‘clone’ function for projects only copies the set of contributors, and doesn’t include — for example — the tasks defined in the conversation. If it did, teams could create and reuse project templates to help regularize the work in project conversations. Alas, not today.

Fleep now supports ‘@mentions’, so that I can alert others to messages, like ‘Can someone take a look at the timeline in this doc to check it’s up to date?<<Report>> @doppelganger.jones’.

Note that the user identity in Fleep for Fleep users is an email address:

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 2.57.33 PM

This is by design. Fleep is tightly integrated with email, so that non-Fleep users can be invited to conversations simply by adding their email. If they aren’t a Fleep user, they can participate through email. This leads to all messages — including tasks — being sent to them, and their responses showing up in the conversation. Emailed tasks just look like messages at present, so email only participants can’t check them off, for example.

More importantly to me is that emails directed to Fleep aren’t treated as tasks but as messages, although they can be converted to tasks. And the model is that a new conversation is created with the other person for these emails. There is no way to direct them to an existing conversation. That’s a different slant than I am used to, from tools like Todoist.

I have not  touched on all features of the tool, but probably enough to get a sense for what using it feels like. Fleep is at core, a classic work chat tool, based on contextual conversation (see Contextual conversation: Work chat will dominate collaboration). Unlike leading competitors, however, Fleep has integrated task management.

At the same time, the limits on Fleep’s task model would chafe anyone who believes that richer capabilities are essential — like multiple assignment, subtasks, due dates, start dates, notes, comments, attachments, and so on. However, the fact that tasks and other messages can be brought back into context when looking at a task by selecting ‘show in conversation’ does counter some of the issues with notes, comments, and attachments, so long as they are in fact truly contextualized.

I hacked a link from a task to a day on my Google Calendar to represent a due date, but that just indicates the direction they might take if they start thinking about due dates and calendar integration. Here’s the edit for the task:

Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 9.51.54 AM

And here’s how it renders:Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 9.53.13 AM

This manual approach is just too much work, although I certainly could get the first order benefits simply by putting the due date in the text of a task.

Obviously, I’d rather have a calendar integration so that tasks with due dates would automatically show on my Google Calendar, and so would anyone else, I bet.

If the team at Fleep continue their development at the breakneck pace of 2015, they may in fact be countering some of these issues, and their focus on integration with a wide spectrum of developer tools seems to represent the same arc of adoption that we saw first with Hipchat, and later with Slack. We should anticipate the same disperal pattern, where the developers in a company infect non-developers with the ease of use and depth of the developers’ work chat platform, and they in turn begin to infect other non-developers across the company and the company’s ecosystem.