Sunday, May 5, 2019

Thank you for your service

Thank you for your service. Now get into the trash (or recycling) pile. 

OK, so my wife and I were testing out the Marie Kondo tidying methods this weekend. We hit the basement armed with trash bags, gloves, and my smartphone. Why the smartphone you ask? Because before I threw something away, before trashing something that was a memory from the past, I took a picture. Believe it or not, just the act of taking a picture helped to speed up the process. It was like we were "thanking each individual item" for serving its purpose before getting rid of it. More on this later.

Did you Ojo? Back in around 2005 we sold the Ojo video phones and service. I just found around a dozen Ojo phones in the basement, unopened, and still in the box.

Yes there was Skype, but Ojo was a dedicated, always ready two-way video connection. It also looked very cool on your desk. Two phones cost $1,600 plus around $9.95 per month, per phone. I see that you can (still) find Ojo phones online at Amazon and such, for around $55.

Ojo did not make it. The devices were too expensive, and the service was too limited. Fast forward to 2019: we have Facebook Portal. Dedicated phones, so that if you can't be there, you feel like you are there. Unlike the video calling you're used to (Skype, Zoom, etc.) Portal has a Smart Camera that will follow your voice as you move around the room.

When Facebook's smart display was released last year, it received mixed reviews. But now - we have the privacy and personal data controversies that have recently surrounded Facebook. Having an always-listening microphone and always-watching camera, after a year of privacy scandals, I'm not buying it. At $498 for two of the Portal "Plus" it seems like they might be going down the same road as Ojo. Would the Facebook Portal bring you joy?

Sometimes things change, and sometimes the change is within you. I remember when Newton's Telecom Dictionary was a must-have for anyone in the telecom or technology space. And every year, I would gladly pay good money for the latest version of that paperback book. I just said "thank you for your service" for the 16th version, and threw it into the throw out bin. I also see that you can buy the 31st "Updated and Expanded Version" of the paperback book online for around $25. But now I have poked around the Internet to find and and so I hope that Harry Newton is still doing well. I just pinged him on LinkedIn. If he is still around, I will thank Harry for his service - and I'll buy his new book. Harry Newton has given me joy over the years, and it looks like he might have lots more joy to give.

I also found the 2008 catalog in the basement. I find it amusing that the folks from NYDLA leadership had lunch in NYC last week with the folks from Jenne. And I find it even more amusing that you can access their 774 page products and services "book" online. Do they still mail this thing? I hope they are not still killing trees. I thanked the 2008 Jenne catalog for its service - and I threw it in the recycling bin. But I also thanked the guys from Jenne for our most excellent lunch meeting (again) as I will send them the link to this blog. Working with Jenne gives me joy, and this has been the case for over 25 years.

While poking around in the basement I also found all of our paperwork on the patent that we applied for: distance learning.

Back in 2006 (thanks to our Ojo experience) we thought that we were onto something - a way to take "off the shelf" technologies and create something magical. Guess what - we were right! Guess what else: it only pays to pursue and own a patent (on anything) if you have the means to defend and protect said patent. Otherwise the only people making any money are the patent lawyers. Lessons learned. Marie Kondo would be proud, as I thanked our technology patent (legal documents) for its service. It's all now in the trash, but first - I took pictures. Ah yes - mistakes are tuition. But the lessons learned, even the expensive ones, have given me joy over the years.

So was the Ojo phone too early? Will the new Facebook Portal become a hit, or will it find the same fate as Ojo? Will the issues of privacy and security kill it before it gets off the ground? And what about the voice only services like Amazon Alexa and Apple Siri? It will be interesting to see how privacy issues and data ownership issues all play out. For now, today: Alexa and Siri do not give me joy.

OK, back to Marie Kondo. The KonMari method is based on getting rid of physical items that do not bring joy into your life. But the method makes you pause and reflect on the things that did (and still do) bring you joy.

Sometimes we need to get rid of the good to make room for the great.

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