Sep 19 2011

Online Gamers Model AIDs Retrovirus Protein

Categories: 2011 SAP TechEd Dave Rathbun @ 3:38 pm

As a follow-up from the SAP TechEd opening keynote on gamification and the power of online gamers:

Gamers solve molecular puzzle that stumped scientists

Scientists had long been puzzled by the molecular structure of a protein-cutting enzyme classified as a “retroviral proteases” and found in an AIDS-like virus afflicting rhesus monkeys. The enzyme helps the virus spread, and it could hold a secret about how AIDS and other diseases are transmitted.

The scientists uploaded the viral structures to an online game called “Foldit” which allows game players to collaborate on solving various three dimensional problems. The results?

Sure, that might not sound like much fun to the average Joe. But gamers on Foldit solved the puzzle in less than 10 days.

More detailed article at

Sep 15 2011

SAP TechEd Keynote – Final Review

Categories: 2011 SAP TechEd Dave Rathbun @ 4:48 pm

I published an abridged version of my keynote review already. This post will contain more details on a number of different subjects, but still almost in one-liner format.

In no particular order… Continue reading “SAP TechEd Keynote – Final Review”

Sep 15 2011

SAP TechEd 2011 – Gamification Keynote

Categories: 2011 SAP TechEd, Rants Dave Rathbun @ 11:58 am

We had a great start to the conference! Dr. Jane McGonigal took the stage to tell us how we can do so much more if only everything were like a game. That’s perhaps an over-simplification, but I’m going to run with it for a moment. The concept of gamification is basically this: if you put an obstacle in front of someone and tell them they have to do it, they’re likely to whine and complain. Trust me on this one, I have two boys (ages 8 and 10) and I can vouch for the whining and complaining part. ;) On the other hand, if you give them the same obstacle but frame it as a game, they’ll willingly go along with actions that they would not normally do… and have fun doing it. As one example she mentioned the “dance pad” games. Many people do not like to dance, and would rather do almost anything else when out in public. But turn it into a game that starts out simple and builds in complexity and they’ll willingly give it a try.

Golf was another example she used. Golf really is quite an unusual way to spend time. Suppose that golf didn’t exist today, and someone came up with the idea of putting a little ball into a small hole. Weird idea, right? The most obvious solution is to pick up the ball, walk over, and drop it in the hole. Of course that’s not how golf works. They make it far harder by starting from a long way away, and using various different sticks to hit the ball towards the hole. Pretty ridiculous, right? I can only imagine what the first conversation was like as folks were inventing golf… it probably did not go as Robin Williams imagines. (Warning: includes strong language, definitely not safe for work without headphones.)

Here’s a quote from one of her slides:

Games are unnecessary obstacles we volunteer to tackle

Golf certainly fits that description. With apologies to golf fans everywhere, it’s certainly not a necessary obstacle. The same could be said for many sports. Yet today golf is a multi-billion dollar industry. Folks spend hundreds or thousands of dollars buying equipment, spend hours out of their day, just trying to get better at putting a little ball into a little hole. What are they getting out of it? Continue reading “SAP TechEd 2011 – Gamification Keynote”

Sep 13 2011

Does This Application Need To Be Mobile?

Categories: 2011 SAP TechEd, Rants Dave Rathbun @ 6:30 pm

As mentioned earlier, one of the key themes mentioned in the morning keynote was (once again) mobile applications. Later on I saw a brief marketing video from SAP that showed off some of their mobile apps, and I started to wonder: were some of those apps mobile because they needed to be? Or because they were simply re-positioned from a desktop? And if so, where is the value? For example, one of the sample apps shown appeared to be an HR app used to approve expense reports. I can honestly say that I’ve never heard a request from our HR department saying they needed to do that via a mobile device. The same could be said for many of the other applications shown (however briefly) in the video.

Years ago I had a friend who started a company that was going to be based on the Internet. His idea would have been a very early front-runner in the social media space, although we didn’t know that at the time. Like many, his company disappeared during the “dot bomb” collapse. What really intrigued me about his idea, though, was that it was not a company that could be built on the Internet, it was a company that required the Internet in order to function. (The same could be said about most social media companies today which is why I said he was a front-runner in the space.) During the same time he was launching his idea, many other companies were trying to simply re-platform their brick-and-mortar offerings on the web, with various degrees of success. They didn’t require the Internet to function, they were just using it as a delivery device.

Today I’m starting to feel like I am seeing the same thing with mobile. Everybody seems to want to show off their mobile apps, but what they’re showing (at least a large percentage of the time) is a desktop app or common function that has been repositioned as a mobile app. It’s something that could be done equally well on either type of hardware. I don’t think anyone with a smart phone is going to be interested in giving up mobile access to their email, and that’s clearly a desktop app that has been re-platformed very successfully. Blackberry probably would not exist as a company today if not for the success of their mobile email devices. When I go out shopping, I frequently use Amazon or eBay as a price guide to see if a locally available item is priced competitively. That’s not a mobile app, though, that’s simply mobile access to data. I could do my comparison shopping at home, but it’s certainly convenient to have it on a mobile device.

I can get sports scores on my phone. I can get the same thing at home. Again, it’s convenient to have mobile access but it’s not mandatory.

Today I can deliver Web Intelligence documents over the Internet with the mobile platform in BI 4.0. That’s not really a mobile application, it’s an alternate delivery path for desktop content. The same thing could be said for the mobile version of Explorer.

In fact, I personally can’t think of a single thing that I currently do with my Blackberry that requires mobility. I just have a bunch of desktop applications in my pocket. There is value in that, but it’s not a very compelling (at least to me) mobility story.

How about you? Do you have any true mobile apps? Something that would not be possible any other way? Or are they simply desktop apps on a different device? Spreadsheets were the “killer app” for desktop computers. Email may have been an early force behind the growth of smart phones, but what’s the true mobile killer app that we can’t live without?

Sep 13 2011

SAP TechEd 2011 – Keynote Notes – Abridged

Categories: 2011 SAP TechEd Dave Rathbun @ 11:44 am

I took quite a few notes during Vishal Sikka’s keynote that kicked off SAP TechEd 2011, and I’ll have a longer summary coming out later on. However, I wanted to share a few highlights while they’re still fresh.

Once again the primary themes are mobility, cloud computing, and of course Hana. Some might say boring, others would say stable. IT likes stable. There’s nothing like deciding to drop several hundred thousand to millions of dollars on new technology only to find out that you made the wrong bet. Hasso in a video said that Hana has moved from viable concept to extremely desirable technology. As a result, SAP is starting the drive to educate customers on how / when / where to use Hana in order to speed adoption.

Dr. Christoph Kollatz took the stage to talk more about Hana, saying that in the 10 months since the release (3 months in GA) Hana has had the fastest growing pipeline of any product from SAP. Ever. He shared some customer success stories that very specifically included the terms “went live” instead of “proof of concept.” Of course the focus was on how much more efficient processes had become as a result (days to hours to seconds in some cases) and I’ll share more details later. I’m sure it’s no surprise that the customer they provided as a reference was using Hana to replace Oracle. ;)

Customers will be able to start switching their BW data stores over to Hana starting with a release that should be available in November. It would be interesting to know what the most popular platforms are for BW currently, and what the financial impact will be on those companies if SAP customers start switching to Hana?

The most important note from my perspective is that Vishal reconfirmed the September 16th general availability date for BI 4.0. But overall BI 4.0 was a small part of the keynote, much like Sybase which didn’t even get mentioned until over an hour into the session.

The opening keynote last night was very interesting as well. It featured Dr. Jane McGonigal and the concept of “gamification” which I found fascinating. I want to let my thoughts marinate for a few days before I share what I got out of her talk though.