The 4K Video Revolution Will Not Be Televised


I am just getting used to Blue-ray and now tech company’s are pushing 4K video.  An odd rumor story on ArsTechnica about the yet-to-be released PlayStation and Xbox got me thinking about this new video format’s effect on the general TV viewer.  While I give better than even odds that one or both will support it, it is unlikely that people will care much in the end.

Today’s video quality is good enough.  Blue-ray disk, the best quality available, are to video as CDs are to music.  Both are slightly better than what the majority of users desire.  We sit too far away from the tele to notice 4K’s better quality.  In addition, the most popular formats for HD viewing, cable and internet streaming, both have worse quality than Blue-ray, but that doesn’t seem to bother people.  These are good indications 4K is doomed to a niche market much like SACD and audio DVDs are to audio.

If a company could get people to care, there is a need for yet another physical format (HD-Blue Ray anyone?)  4K doesn’t fit on a Blue-ray and even if it could, today’s hardware can’t read it.  Punters will need to shell out for both a new player and a TV to enjoy it.  Even if you ditch physical media, these two problems remain as well as the fact that cable and DSL internet pipes are too slow to accommodate the increased bandwidth.

Despite my poo-pooing, I do want 4K to succeed, but not for television.  The quality of computer monitors as peaked because TVs and computer monitors use the same technology.  Better TVs will naturally lead to better resolutions for computer screens.

Choosing Collaboration Software, Its Not a Technology Problem

yahoo groups no reflectionOne thing that I love about my job is that I’m on the lead end of some interesting projects.   Most of what I do, fails at first, but that rarely prevent me from having fun deciding doing it.

The main problem with these projects, especially at the beginning and tail ends of them is communications.  I started my career in the early 90s using three electronic communications tools, something to write documents in, something to enter numbers in and email.  Even 20 years later, I am still using Word, Excel, and email as the main methods of electronic communications.

Now the world has more tools, but few have replaced these time tested methods.   Now I’m looking into collaboration software and ways to integrate it into my division’s workflows. Now, collaboration software is nothing but a fancy term for software akin to Facebook at Work.  In the past, I have used a great many of these tools such as Yahoo Groups, Google Drive, Ning, Chatter, and even when I had to Microsoft SharePoint.

Most failed to work. The reasons are generally not technical but social.  Emailing a Word document is so damn easy.  If your going to attempt some like this at work or to get your friends involved in a community, remember these lessons:

  1. People over technology.  Generally group projects fail because the technology choice overrides how to get people to actually use the new tool.  Technology is rather unimportant so take a day or two and window shop for a product that is good enough and not perfect.  Spend the rest of the time harassing users into actually using the tool.
  2. People like to be told what to do.  This is why email is so awesome.  A user doesn’t need to do anything except fire up Outlook and wait for a report to come rolling in.  The problem with collaboration tools is that is requires effort on the part of the user to actually go out and look up the information (know as pull.)  People would rather have it pushed to them, even if the information is irrelevant and deleted it without being read.  To get around that, you need to make it the go to place to do their job, like a fashionable clubbing spot.  (I sometimes do this by shutting down the old tool, but that is playing dirty.)  Just be ready to field the inevitable complaints.
  3. People rather lurk than work.  Unless it is a small tightly knit community, you will have 9 lurkers for every one person enthusiastic enough to post.  Scale is the key.  Get as many people online as quickly as possible since few people want to be first poster.  Choose seeders if possible, especially managers or others with high status.  This will help kick start the community.
  4. People rarely see the need for new technology, until it becomes old technology.  A recent case in point is smartphones.  Dozens of people I spoke with never could figure out a reason they needed one.  Now most can’t put them down even when your talking with them.  Any communications software from chatter to IM to texting goes against the tried and true email.  You need to break people away by offering better content and relentless train to cut down on the learning curve. 

Opening Sourcing the Obama Back Office Code

Logo of Open Source Initiative

It looks like the Obama team will scrap their back office code rather than open source it.  Some of the software engineers complain that the less technical minded Democrats fear its use outside donkey’s tent.  I doubt that is the real reason.

The are many more logical reasons to abandon the code:    

  • Code is expensive maintain.

  Sorry engineers, systems cost a lot of money and open source doesn’t make it much less costly.  The Dems would still have to pay good money for someone to watch over the project, even if it is open sourced.  What makes the problem worse is its niche status and as such it has little chance for improvement.  Local candidates don’t even have the resources to operate these the tools let alone update the code and there are too few with the millions necessary to operate such a beast.

  • Data over technology.  Data is the life blood of any organization, political opportunist or no.  The technology team should document their design, so that in two years, the next group can hit the ground running with the better tools we’ll have invented.
  • People over technology.  What gave Obama the edge is he had really smart quants analyzing the data.  Having good technology makes it easier for users, but brainy people analyzing data for information is way more important.
  • Process over technology.  How a team decides to put all the processes and work flows together is more important than the user interface or any block of code.  This is likely the real reason it will never to see the light of day. 
  • Despite this, I do side with the software developers.  I’d like the code freed and see what they came up with and how it works.  I bet the design methods are the true innovations and I could see why the Obama team is a little leery about giving that competitive advantage away.