Saturday, August 10, 2013

Higher education: The attack of the MOOCs

DOTCOM mania was slow in coming to higher education, but now it has the venerable industry firmly in its grip. Since the launch early last year of Udacity and Coursera, two Silicon Valley start-ups offering free education through MOOCs, massive open online courses, the ivory towers of academia have been shaken to their foundations. University brands built in some cases over centuries have been forced to contemplate the possibility that information technology will rapidly make their existing business model obsolete. Meanwhile, the MOOCs have multiplied in number, resources and student recruitment—without yet having figured out a business model of their own.
Besides providing online courses to their own (generally fee-paying) students, universities have felt obliged to join the MOOC revolution to avoid being guillotined by it. Coursera has formed partnerships with 83 universities and colleges around the world, including many of America’s top-tier institutions.

EdX, a non-profit MOOC provider founded in May 2012 by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and backed with $60m of their money, is now a consortium of 28 institutions, the most recent joiner being the Indian Institute of Technology in Mumbai. Led by the Open University, which pioneered distance-learning in the 1970s, FutureLearn, a consortium of 21 British, one Irish and one Australian university, plus other educational bodies, will start offering MOOCs later this year. But Oxford and Cambridge remain aloof, refusing to join what a senior Oxford figure fears may be a “lemming-like rush” into MOOCs.
On July 10th Coursera said it had raised another $43m in venture capital, on top of the $22m it banked last year. Although its enrolments have soared, and now exceed 4m students, this is a huge leap of faith by investors that the firm can develop a viable business model. The new money should allow Coursera to build on any advantage it has from being a first mover among a rapidly growing number of MOOC providers. “It is somewhat entertaining to watch the number of people jumping on board,” says Daphne Koller, a Stanford professor and co-founder of Coursera. She expects it to become one of a “very small number of dominant players”.
The industry has similar network economics to Amazon, eBay and Google, says Ms Koller, in that “content producers go to where most consumers are, and consumers go to where the most content is.” Simon Nelson, the chief executive of FutureLearn, disagrees. “Anyone who thinks the rules of engagement have already been written by the existing players is massively underestimating the potential of the technology,” he says.
Certainly, there is plenty of experimentation with business models taking place. The MOOCs themselves may be free, but those behind them think there will be plenty of revenue opportunities. Coursera has started charging to provide certificates for those who complete its courses and want proof, perhaps for a future employer. It is also starting to license course materials to universities that want to beef up their existing offering. However, it has abandoned for now attempts to help firms recruit employees from among Coursera’s students, because catering to the different needs of each employer was “not a scalable model”, says Ms Koller.
For Udacity, in contrast, working with companies to train existing and future employees is now the heart of its business model. It has tie-ups with several firms, including Google. It recently formed a partnership with AT&T, along with Georgia Tech, to offer a master’s degree in computer science. Course materials will be free, but students will pay around $7,000 for tuition. EdX is taking yet another tack, selling its MOOC technology to universities like Stanford, both to create their own MOOC offerings and to make physically attending university more attractive, by augmenting existing teaching.
This lecture is brought to you by…
Alison, an Irish provider of free, mostly vocational education founded in 2007, before MOOCs got their name, is generating plenty of revenue by selling advertising on its site. “Ads propelled radio and TV, why not education? There is a lot of misplaced snobbery in education about advertising,” says Mike Feerick, Alison’s founder.
Another important category of MOOC providers are publishers, says Rob Lytle of the Parthenon Group, a consultancy. He says firms like Pearson (part-owner of The Economist) that run educational businesses such as textbook-publishing may thrive by offering free MOOCs as a way to get people to buy their related paid content.
Besides the uncertainty over which business model, if any, will produce profits, there is disagreement over how big the market will be. Some see a zero- or negative-sum game, in which cheap online providers radically reduce the cost of higher education and drive many traditional institutions to the wall. Others believe this effect will be dwarfed by the dramatic increase in access to higher education that the MOOCs will bring.
Mr Feerick predicts that the market will be commoditised, spelling trouble for many institutions. But Anant Agarwal, the boss of EdX, reckons the MOOC providers will be more like online airline-booking services, expanding the market by improving the customer experience. Sebastian Thrun, Udacity’s co-founder, thinks the effect will be similar in magnitude to what the creation of cinema did to demand for staged fiction: he predicts a tenfold increase in the market for higher education.
Sceptics point to the MOOCs’ high drop-out rates, which in some cases exceed 90%. But Coursera and Udacity both insist that this reflects the different expectations of consumers of free products, who can browse costlessly. Both firms have now studied drop-out rates for those students who start with the stated intention of finishing, and found that the vast majority of them complete the courses.
Besides LearnCapital, a Silicon Valley venture firm, and the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation, the participants in Coursera’s $43m fund-raising included Laureate, an operator of for-profit universities. Doug Becker, its boss, reckons that many established universities will soon offer credits towards their degrees for those who complete MOOCs. He thinks this will drive a dramatic reduction in the price of a traditional higher education, that will reduce the total revenues of existing providers by far more than the revenue gained by the start-ups. Still, if MOOCs reduce the cost of higher education by one-third, as he predicts, yet only earn for themselves 1% of that benefit, that would “still be a very nice business,” he says.


Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The 7 Stages of Lifecycle Marketing

  1. Attract Traffic – use content like free reports, webinars, blog posts, podcasts, and videos to attract traffic to your website.
  2. Capture Leads – convert the traffic to your website into subscribers by giving them something for free as an incentive for them to give you their contact information via a web form.
  3. Nurture Prospects – provide your subscribers with an ongoing series of educational information that is automated, yet highly personalized.
  4. Convert Sales – turn your prospects into customers with eCommerce tools and a well defined marketing strategy.
  5. Deliver and Satisfy – Fulfill your orders on time, and then provide additional unexpected value that surprises and delights customers.
  6. Upsell Customers – Determine your longer-term strategy for ensuring that your customers continue to buy more of your products and services so that you can generate additional recurring revenue.
  7. Get Referrals – Encourage your customers to refer more customers by creating incentives.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Continuous Delivery vs Continuous Deployment vs Continuous Integration

We have been writing a lot about Continuous Delivery and Continuous Integration and have discussed Continuous Deployment in our blog series.  If you are like most people these buzzwords are confusing and often misused.  I am going to try to dispel some of the confusion surrounding these processes and how they can all work together to provide a kickass environment that Managers, Developers and Customers love alike.

Continuous Integration

Continuous Integration is the practice of merging development work with a Master/Trunk/Mainline branch constantly so that you can test changes, and test that changes work with other changes.  The idea here is to test your code as often as possible to catch issues early.  Most of the work is done by automated tests, and this technique requires a unit test framework.  Typically there is a build server performing these tests, so developers can continue working while tests are being performed.

Continuous Delivery

Continuous Delivery is the continual delivery of code to an environment once the developer feels the code is ready to ship.  This could be UAT or Staging or could be Production.  But the idea is you are delivering code to a user base, whether it be QA or customers for continual review and inspection.  This is similar to Continuous Integration, but it can feed business logic tests.  Unit tests cannot catch all business logic, particularly design issues, so this stage or process can be used for these needs.   You may also be delivering code for Code Review.   Code may be batched for release or not after the UAT or QA is done.  The basis of Continuous Delivery is small batches of work continually fed to the next step will be consumed more easily and find more issues early on.  This system is easier for the developer because issues are presented to the developer before the task has left their memory.

Continuous Deployment

Continuous Deployment is the deployment or release of code to Production as soon as it is ready.  There is no large batching in Staging nor long UAT process that is directly before Production.  Any testing is done prior to merging to the Mainline branch and is performed on Production-like environments, see Integration blog article for more information.  The Production branch is always stable and ready to be deployed by an automated process.  The automated process is key because it should be able to be performed by anyone in a matter of minutes (preferably by the press of a button).  After a deploy, logs must be inspected to determine if your key metrics are affected, positively or negatively.  Some of these metrics may include revenue, user sign-up, response time or traffic, preferably these metrics are graphed for easy consumption.  Continuous Deployment requires Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery - otherwise, you are just cowboy coding and you will get errors in the release.

Once you have moved to a Continuous Deployment process, you will have to have several pieces of automation in place.  You must automate your Continuous Integration Build Server and Continuous Delivery to Staging, as well as have the ability to automatically deploy to Production.  

In the ideal workflow, the entire process could be automated from start to finish:  Developer checks in code to development branch, Continuous Integration Server picks up the change, see how to Build Gerrit Style with Assembla, performs Unit Tests, votes on the Merge to Staging environment based on test results, if successful deploys it to Staging Environment, QA tests the Environment, if passed, they vote to move to Production, Continuous Integration server picks this up again and determines if it is ok to merge into Production, if successful, it will deploy to Production environment.  This process varies slightly based on needs, requirements and approaches.

Continuous Deployment relies on small changes which are constantly tested and that are deployed and released to Production immediately upon verification.  The ownership of the code from development to release must be controlled by the developer and must be free flowing.  The automation of steps allows this process to be implemented and executed without cumbersome workflows.  Read About Moving Beyond Scrum to see how Assembla can be used to provide this process and help you reach Continuous Deployment on your codebase. Also, check out our Continuous Delivery page to see how the Assembla product helps you deliver quicker.
You can find the origin article here.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Why are Android users less engaged than iOS users?

Android has raced ahead of iOS in smartphone share but it continues to fall behind in usage and engagement in the U.S. The latest data from IBM  on Black Friday shopping traffic underscores just how much iOS outperforms Android. Asymco has some good charts that highlight the engagement gap.

IBM said that 77 percent of mobile traffic on Black Friday came from iOS devices. This despite the fact that Comscore said that Android has 52.5 percent of smartphone subscribers while iOS has 34.3 percent. Some of it comes down to the iPad, which is still the dominant tablet and produces the most traffic compared to iPhones and Android phones. But like the iPhone, the iPad exhibits outsized usage patterns beyond its actual marketshare. Gartner said in the third quarter, iPad shipments have dropped to 50.4 percent. But IBM said it contributed 88 percent of the tablet traffic over the long weekend.
Android engagement, Asymco
This is a pattern than has been in place over the last few years. But now that Android is now the top dog on smartphones marketshare-wise and is eating into the iPad’s lead thanks to the Kindle Fire, Nook and other Android tablets, why is iOS still so dominant?
Here are some theories we’ve gathered from around the web alongside our thoughts:
  • Horace Dediu of Asymco wondered if Android was attracting more late adopters, who were prone to do less with their phones than hardcore smartphone users. But he’s not convinced that’s the answer. Perhaps, it has more to do with “design considerations” or “user experience flaws or integration.”
  • One thought is that Android users are more apt to want things for free, so they’re not as likely to shop for things on their devices. We’ve seen a gap in how Android and iOS users are willing to pay for apps — Android users prefer free apps – but that difference is going down over time.
  • Some Android users are just graduating up from a feature phone and really don’t understand all they can do with their device. Considering the declining number of feature phone options, it’s possible that people are graduating to cheap Android devices, but just still talk and text on them, something Daring Fireball’s John Gruber mentioned before. 
  • Tim Windsor from Digitally Speaking goes a step further, saying that most iOS buyers are specifically buying their devices for the features they can access, while most Android users are just buying what’s available to them. Most, he believes, aren’t interested in serious computing power.
  • Jason Grisby of Cloud Four recently wrote that the gap doesn’t exist when looking at web traffic over cellular. It’s only when you examine iOS and Android traffic over Wi-Fi that a usage gap emerges. He believes that Android users might not be aware of the availability of Wi-Fi networks through their device or are in lower income brackets and have less access to Wi-Fi networks.
  • Some people believe there is no gap at the high end when looking top Android devices. The problem is with cheaper and older Android devices, which don’t provide as good an experience or are saddled with older versions of Android, which are worse at browsing. It is true there are more cheap Android phones options available, so that might contribute to some of the gap. And amajority of Android users are still on devices running Android 2.0x.
  • Apple users are more likely to use apps, which can provide a better user experience. Android users who turn to a browser may not find it as inviting or engaging.
  • It’s also possible that shopping data is not an accurate proxy for engagement. NetMarketShare earlier this year said, however, also came up with general browsing data that showed iOS devices have 65 percent of mobile traffic compared to 20 percent for Android.
To be clear, the data we’re looking at is from the U.S. only, and it’s based primarily on shopping traffic. My theory is that there are people who walk into a cellular store, see only a handful of feature phones available and a salesperson who is heavily pushing Android devices. If they want to walk out with a new phone, it’s likely going to be an Android unless they came in already looking for an iPhone. Those people may not be savvy now, but they will get more experienced over time. What’s your theories on this Android paradox?

Will the iPad kill the paper survey?

The iPad is an amazing tool. It’s lightweight, works on Wi-Fi and 3G and runs thousands of different apps. It’s reinvented personal computing. Most importantly for us, it’s a consumer tool with a consumer price tag. The App Store combined with the low cost will, I believe, turn the iPad into a massively efficient and cost-effective research tool for the field survey business.

Anyone who’s been in the market research business knows about the exponential rise of online research and the decline of field and telephone surveys. Although you could argue that the face-to-face and telephone survey business is not declining in the strict sense, it’s definitely not growing at nearly the same rate as online research.

The iPad changes the field survey business because it gives researchers direct access to the respondents in a way that was simply not possible with paper. Remember, the iPad is a connected device that consumers are very familiar with handling – or at least they are getting familiar at the rate of a million a month.

Field surveys are usually very expensive to run – you have to consider staff, location, data collection, data entry and report generation. Most companies turn to face-to-face surveys when they cannot find their target population easily online, or they are interested in tapping into the opinions at purchasing time. This idea of purchase intent at the mall is important, because research shows that the bulk of all purchasing decisions are made in store.

The iPad does not do anything for staff or location – you still have to hire folks to intercept people at the mall – but data collection, entry and reporting can now be done in real time. In the high-cost, low-margin business of field surveys this will be a game changer. Imagine going to your client and saying, “Not only can we deploy a survey in malls A, B and C simultaneously, we can enable complex branching, logic and quota controls in real-time and produce a live dashboard throughout the day as data is being collected.” It’s like going from paper to SPSS in 30 seconds.

The iPad may not be the first tablet device in the survey business, but earlier generations of handheld survey options were not cost-effective because they were targeting a very specific use case and business model. In the case of the iPad you can get the device for about $500 then pay about $30 to be connected to the 3G or Wi-Fi network. This sort of pricing is only possible if you’re selling lots of them. Fortunately, Apple is selling millions. The App Store then allows other companies to create apps that are specific for a target market – there are a couple of different tool providers that have built apps on top of the iPad platform to collect data and synchronise it with a central repository in real time.

The obvious question to ask here is, how come other tablets and PDAs have not changed the paper survey business? The iPad has three distinct advantages that other PDAs and handheld solutions do not have:
  • Usability and familiarity - The ease with which you can start operating an iPad, thanks to Apple’s incessant focus on usability and the consumer, has not been achieved by any other vendor. If you give an iPad to a consumer they can start operating it within a few minutes. Even my two-and-a-half year old daughter can start apps, scroll pages, navigate back home and shut the device down.
  • Battery life - No handheld computing device of similar weight or form has the battery life of an iPad.
  • The App Store - The iPhone/iPad development platform has attracted over a million developers to the platform. There is no other comparable mobile development platform - more developers and companies are writing code for the platform than for netbooks or PDAs. This will allow for massive innovation in the software that can be use for collecting data.
Finally, you can charge more for this service. I’m a big proponent of value-based pricing, which is the only way to avoid the curse of commoditisation. The connected nature of this type of data-collection gives you the ability to communicate with your field staff in real-time on the target audience and population that you are trying to reach. That’s value worth paying for.

If you are thinking of conducting a field survey, it’s worth considering the iPad as a cutting edge, cost-effective and, more importantly, efficient way to deliver your research study. Who wouldn’t take real-time reports over two-week-old ones?


Tuesday, November 20, 2012

20 + ePub readers for iPhone, iPad , Android devices , Windows , Linux and Mac OSX

1 – BlueFire  - link : ( iOS : iPhone / iPad / iPod Touch , Android )
BlueFire is  a free EPUB and PDF reader compatible for iOS (iPad, iPhone & iPod Touch) that supports Adobe DRM. also available for Android phones and Android tabs ” Samasung Galaxy Tab ”
2 – Ibis Reader ( HTML 5 – compatible with Android , iOS ) – link :
Ibis Reader (HTML5)Ibis reader is the first HTML5 e-book reader. It provides a seamless reading experience both online and offline on modern smartphones and supports both EPUBand OPDS.
3 – Aldiko ( Android ) – link :
Free ePub reader for Android devices ( Phones and Tablets ) , includes many features and connect to online ePub Catalogs .
4 – Laputa ePub reader ( Android ) – link :
Free Android devices reader , user can read books online or download them to his device and organize them in his own bookshelf .
5 – Moon reader ( Android ) – link :
Free android phones and tablets ePub reader , Supports txt, html, epub, fb2, umd , chm and zip files. includes many themes as well as many options for easy reading including features for organizing books in the shelf . ( My Bookshelf design: Favorites, Downloads, Authors, Tags; self bookcover, search, import supported )
6 - Wordoholic Reader ( Android ) link :
FREE Android .epub, .fb2, .txt book reader. Wordholic has also many other free products as Wordholic Language learning tool ( for Windows , Linux as well as Android ) , so as Wordholic dictionary ( Android ) .
7 – Tomes (formerly BookShelf) ( iOS : iPad , iPhone and iPod ) link :
ePub reader but also supported many formats such as ( txt , html , pdf , pdb , fiction books , Mobi books , CHM , MHT , Word documents ) . Supported all of those format and remote reading from Dropbox .
8 – Calibre ( Windows / OSX / Linux ) – link :
Calibre Advanced tool for eBooks management , organizing , reading , converting for Windows .
9 – Stanza (Mac/Windows/iPhone/iPad) link :
Stanza is a desktop ePub reader and converter ( Windows and Mac OSX ) ,it’s light-weight, and simple. It can be used to save bookmarks and quick conversions , from ePub to many formats including PDF .
10 – MobiReader ( Windows ) – link :
Free desktop ePub reader and eBooks organizer , simple , light weight as it connect and synchronize ePub files with smartphone, blackberry or PDA .
11 – EPUB Reader – Firefox Extension (Linux/Mac/Windows) link :
it’s a firefox extension there for it work on firefox installed OSX such as Linux , Windows and Mac OSX , it’s simple , light weight and also save time as it does not require extra option or even DB to run .
12 -Blio : ( Windows , iOS ” iPhone , iPod and iPad ” )">link :
ePub reader can be installed for free on Windows and iOS devices also there are options for Dell and Toshiba users . Supported extensions ( ePub and XBS ) .
13 – Sony reader ( iOS , Android , Windows , OSX and supports Sony Tablets ) – link :
Sony released this reader to be professional reader for their eBookstore but it’s also supports ePub readings among other extensions . as it support many OS ( Android , iOS ) and their own devices . ( Sony Tablet ) .
14 – Bookworm ( Online ) – link:
Bookworm is an online service for reading ePub files online , user can create account upload his books read them access them through web browsers .
15 – Lucidor ( OSX / Windows / Linux ) –">link :
Free ePub reader supports also OPDS , Organize ePub books in collections on the local machine , it can also convert web feed to eBooks .
16 – Megareader (iOS : iPhone , iPad , iPod Touch ) link :
Megareader iPad / iPhone / iPod Touch OPDS client and a highly customizable EPUB reader based on Quick Reader.
17 – FBReader ( Unix/Windows ) – link:
Free ePub reader for Windows , Unix alike systems including Meamo Powered devices as Nokia .
18 – Ouiivo eReader ( iOS : iPhone/iPad ) – link :
Reads many format other than ePub ( Docs , Txt , PPT ) . reads from OPDS catalogs .
19 -Quick reader ( iOS : iPhone / iPad ) :
access many online freely downloadable OPDS catalogs as it reads local ePub as well .
20 – DNL eBook Reader ( Android ) :
Free ePub reader for Android .
21 - Magic Scroll : ( Web based ) – link :
Html5 Web based ePub reader , user can upload ePub file and read it online .
22 – Adobe Digital Edition – link  :
Manage ePub format books and OPDS catalogs free and for Windows and OSX / Linux support is coming
Src: here

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Open source tools for small business

1. Adaptive Planning Express
Adaptive Planning Express

Adaptive Planning Express is an open source budgeting and planning application that can take a small business well beyond what can be done in spreadsheets. Although you have to register first, you can request to see an online demo ofhow it works. Worth watching.

2. GnuCash

GNuCash is a very widely used free, open source accounting software application. You can get a good feel for the reports, ledgers and investment tracking features it offers here.

3. OpenBravo

OpenBravo ERP is designed for much more than just finance, and is a high-end tool, but looks and feels very much like a database application. It has a strong set of financial management features, and is noted for doing supply chain management very well.

4. Xtuple

For a slightly easier-to-digest ERP application than OpenBravo ERP, try Xtuple. It comes in several editions, but thePostBooks Edition of it is particularly optimized for the financial management needs of smaller companies.
5. FrontAccounting

FrontAccounting is an open source application that allows your business to do secure accounting on the web. The advantage here is that workers in disparate locations can easily share and access an on-demand interface. You can find a large collection of screenshots presenting what it does online.

6. RapidMiner

RapidMiner is a powerful open source tool for data mining, and if your business already has a lot of existing financial data, you can use it for financial and accounting data mining and forecasts. You can take an online tour of how it works.

7. DataVision

In the world of proprietary software for producing financial reports, Crystal Reports is very widely used. For an open source product that works very much the same way and is compatible with countless databases and spreadsheets, look into DataVision. You can produce reports that you create here in PDF, HTML, text, PostScript and many other formats.

8. SpagoBI

Business Intelligence (BI) software is now very widely used to track how money flows within and outside of businesses.SpagoBI does very graphical flowcharts and other visual depictions of business money flow trends, and more.