On Episode 1 of The Edge of Innovation, we’re talking about RasberyPi, Elegant web design and Google Analytics. The Edge of Innovation is produced in partnership with SaviorLabs.
Paul: This is The Edge of Innovation, a podcast about hacking the future of business. Iâ€™m your host, Paul Parisi.
Jacob: And I’m Jacob Young.
Paul: On The Edge of Innovation we talk about the intersection between technology and business, what’s going on in technology and what’s possible for business.
Jacob: This week we have a great discussion for you about Raspberry Pi’s, responsive web design, Windows 10, and Google Analytics. We mentioned Raspberry Pi. Talk to me about what this new innovation of Raspberry Pi is. I’m not really clear what it is, what it does, and how it can be useful.
Paul: Alright. Well, pie is really good so there’s really no case where pie doesn’t make things better. Toby Zigler from The West Wing would say pie is absolutely the most incredible food there is. But back 2006, a man in England, Ebon Upton, great English name not John Smith. But Ebon Upton, he was looking for a way to teach computers to kids. The problem was especially back then computers were expensive.
So, what did he do? He figured out and he built basically a prototype for something he was going to ultimately name The Raspberry Pi. He thought there’d be a couple hundred sold. Well, his initial batch of like 1,000 sold out in hours.
Jacob: Oh, wow!
Paul: And it was basically a small computer about the size of a credit card that had USB ports, memory, a CPU, and a video card. So, with adding a power supply to it and a little bit of software you could do just about anything you wanted. And it was really cool idea and the real cool part it was $35.
Jacob: Oh, wow, that’s pretty cheap.
Paul: Yeah. So, the whole idea was, you know, getting these accessible computers into hands of people to be able to build things. And it’s been a big thing in what’s called the Maker Community, people who make things or create things out of electronics or even crafts or whatever it is. So, it’s been a huge thing there and they’ve come out with different models, etc.
But basically it’s this integrated little computer that you can make a hard disc backup system. So, people go out and buy a hard disc and connect it to their computer. If you connect it to a Raspberry Pi, put some software on it you can share that and have all your videos on it and share that along your house or your music and make it a music server.
The number of things that have been created using Raspberry Pi is incredible but it is sort of in that edge of the real nerd. You know, somebody who has a soldering iron and can understand that kind of stuff. Doesn’t come in a case. It’s a board so it’s a little bit hard to use for normal people.
I think there’s a huge opportunity from the business point of view to sort of commercialize or productize to the point where a normal person, as I like to call them, not a nerd can go out and buy something on a shelf, plug it in, and have it work.
Jacob: So, where do you get the programming and the software for that?
Paul: Right now, you can order these online. You can order a Raspberry Pi from Amazon. You can order it from the Raspberry Pi Foundation. They’ve come out with multiple models now. They have a model that just came out that’s $5. So, it has most of the functionality of the original Raspberry Pi.
It doesn’t have some interfaces that it had originally. And you go and you hunt it down. You basically look on the Internet and say okay, how do I get this. Where do I get this? You use a USB stick to put the software on the machine and then it would be done. You’d have a whole computer. It doesn’t come in a nice, neat case. Doesn’t come with its own power supply.
You’ve got to get one of those things. So, it’s sort of that kind of thing you’ve got to figure it all out.
Paul: So, I think there’s a gap there and an opportunity. Huge numbers of companies have come out to support The Raspberry Pi and build cases for them and all that but it would be really cool and there are a couple of companies in the maker space that will give you a little kit with all the pieces and you put it together.
But it’s not the kind of thing yet that you walk into a Target and get a Raspberry Pi computer. But there’s not a lot of distance from where we are right now to that being a common place thing.
Paul: So, Raspberry Pi is really cool. So, if you think about it from the point of view as if you’ve ever wanted to do something. And it’s very low power so it doesn’t cost a lot to run. If there’s something you wanted to do whether it be a weather monitor or occupancy sensors, that kind of thing, again, this is pretty geeky but you can do that with a Raspberry Pi very easily.
A media server is very easy to do. It’s really, you know, the sky’s the limit on what you could do. You could make a car computer out of it, a computer that reads your email while you’re in the car. You can do that with the Raspberry Pi.
Paul: So, you could go out and buy a laptop and do that. It’d be sort of awkward but again, Raspberry Pi doesn’t have a screen. You’ve got to add a screen to it.
Paul: You’ve got to add a power supply. You’ve got to add a few other things to it. But some really incredible, cool things that can be done.
Jacob: Right. It seems like a bit of, it takes out some of the lead time or maybe some of the technology heavy duty lifting that entrepreneurs would need to actualize new ideas.
Paul: Yeah, it sure does. Yeah, I mean, 20 years ago I wanted to build an intelligent room sensor. I’ve been into home automation for a long time. And a room sensor or an occupancy sensor, like a motion detector.
Paul: That says that’s something moving in the room, could be you, could be an animal, all those different things. But I also wanted to know temperature, I wanted to know humidity, all these different things that I might be able to look at and understand what was going on in the room and then adjust the utilities to effect that.
It’s really warm in there. It’s 90 degrees. Why is the heat running? Well, send an alert out to somebody. So, as we dug into that the temperature sensor is one little thing on there. And the temperature sensors were about $35 at the time. But then we had to figure out how to signal that back to some central brain.
And that was a piece of wire that somebody had to run across the house, line drivers so that the signal could get across the house. And it ended up being a couple of hundred dollars by the time we were going to have to build it. You look at like the Nest Thermostat.
Jacob: Right, right.
Paul: A lot of that, you know, it’s packaged. It’s there. You could do effectively everything the Nest does or what I was talking about with a Raspberry Pi. So, now I’ve got $35. I’ve got all the intelligence right there.
Paul: I add a $2 temperature sensor to it and now I’ve got a room, maybe a $2 motion detector and a $2 etc. I had a few of those and I’ve got a viable product. And those are sort of retail prices.
Paul: So, for $50 and parts I can build this thing. So, for $200 I could sell fully assembled, tested, that kind of thing, an occupancy sensor only because of the Raspberry Pi.
Paul: So, and there are other platforms as well that are very sort of niche markets as well. Something called the Arduino which a very dedicated little computer. But for a general computer that can do a lot of what a laptop did 5 years ago The Raspberry Pi is it.
Jacob: Wow. That’s excellent. Well, so for turning our attention it seems like The Raspberry Pi kind of came out. It caught my radar in 2015. Turning to the rest of 2015. I’m a real big fan in web design terms of the single page view, the single page website, the minimalism that seems to be kind of philosophically filtering through how we do web design.
I’m curious to know what are your thoughts about web design from 2015? And then what do we need to happen or what do we want to happen that’s going to be best for responsive web design in 2016?
Paul: Well, I think first of all it’s important to outline what responsive is. Responsive is the way your website responds to the device it’s being rendered on. So, you’re viewing this on a computer with a 17 inch monitor or 20 inch monitor and it displays one way and then if we display it on an iPhone that has a 2 Â½ inch wide monitor by tall, maybe 5 inches tall, it’s going to lay out differently.
Responsive design is one way that they try to solve that, that we try and solve that is to make the size of things get smaller or bigger depending on the device and it’s a good compromise. It’s a set of compromises though so you don’t have to do the work twice.
Paul: Basically, you lay out a page and you say then, okay. I was just working on a simple site and they have a big banner that’s up at the top with a bunch of images. And when it’s viewed on an iPhone you’re only going to have that banner that’s 2 Â½ inches wide and it’s going to be changing. It’s going to be taking a lot of bandwidth.
So, in the responsive settings I said don’t even show the banner. And, so, what’s going to happen I think. And there’s an interesting, I posted a recently an article about this. I don’t think it’s made it out onto the social platforms yet. But where there’s this tremendous needs as you said, we want things simple.
We want to have minimalist design. That’s sort of a trend that Microsoft set up with some of their metro interface.
Jacob: Oh, interesting.
Paul: And a lot of people followed that and liked that. And then you have the, what’s the Google one called? The Google material design. So, and you have Google has similar, it’s called the material design paradigm. And these are all ways in which we can show things and they respond well and they look well
And there’s also a little bit of design flavor thrown into that.
Paul: But I do think that you’ll see responsive web design continue. You’re going to see Bootstrap 4 come out.
Jacob: Oh, wow. Yeah.
Paul: Which will make things even easier. I mean, Twitter as a company, two of the engineers there got together and started something called Bootstrap a few years ago which is basically a CSS library that made it easy to lay things out in a responsive methodology. And it’s really wonderful. There’s a lot of competitive frameworks or CSS frameworks that do that as well.
And there’s attributes and you can get into fist fights over this with the different people who are passionate about this. But Bootstrap is very good. It certainly excels at what it does and it’s market use is huge. I think some of the things that we will see is. I mean, if you look at, one of the things you sort of mentioned was making it simple, making it clear.
Paul: And if we look at successful websites out in the world, one of them being Amazon, is anything but simple.
Jacob: Oh, yeah.
Paul: And that’s a conundrum to think about because it’s like well, wait a minute. If the rules say it has to be simple how come Amazon’s not simple? And most people who shop find the Amazon experience more than acceptable.
Paul: Good, maybe even. And, so, that’s really a big quandary. So, you know, when you have and I think it’s really if you think about the startup scene and when you’re trying to get mine share from somebody the simpler you can make that communication the easier it is to get them hooked. And that’s why the simple, clean design makes a lot of sense because if somebody’s coming to your website, you’ve got a couple of seconds to get them to stay there.
And if you present the level of information that you have on Amazon there’s nothing for them to latch onto, to grab onto. And there’s a lot to digest on an Amazon page. And I think you can see this by if you look at Jet which is trying to be a competitor to Amazon. They’re going to really struggle.
There’s a huge amount to overcome the sort of Amazon gravitational field.
Paul: It’s so easy for us to go oh, I’ll just buy it on Amazon. I’ll just buy it on Amazon.
Jacob: Right, Amazon is almost as second nature as saying just Google it.
Jacob: Kleenex the word itself has taken over the name.
Paul: Right. So, but my point there is that the responsive, the opportunity that responsive gives us is primarily because we have as purveyors of websites a small opportunity to get people hooked and so you’ve got to make your best pitch.
Paul: You know, it’s sort of like speed dating. If somebody goes and doesn’t present themselves well in that 5 minutes they’re not going to get another 5 minutes.
Paul: Well, I mean, so that’s really what it is and I think responsive.
Jacob Right, your website is like your speed dating.
Paul: Yeah. Well, it’s so easy to go to the next website.
Paul:So, there’s nothing there to stop you.
Jacob: In terms of development this year responsive, certainly those are great things to be looking forward to for responsive design. I recognize there are people in the world that that is not true for. And that there are some.
Paul: There are a couple of them, yeah.
Jacob: There’s a few of them. They keep talking about this new release of Windows 10. So, I was curious. What’s your opinion of Windows 10? What are the best things that are coming out with Windows 10 now? What’s exciting and helpful about Windows 10?
Paul:Exciting and helpful. It works. It’s a lot better than Windows 8 or 8.1. I think the biggest thing is that Microsoft seems to have this knack for releasing every other product well. In other words, the Windows XP was great. Everybody loved it and then they came out with Windows Vista. And that was horrible.
Jacob: Yeah, nobody liked talking about Vista.
Paul: Well, it was really bad.
Paul: I tried to use it and it was a bad experience. It was slow and cumbersome. And if you get down to the details of why it was that way they were trying to do some things. They were trying to do some security things that just didn’t work. Then they came out with Windows 7 and it was like oh, wow, this is really great. So, then they came out with Windows 8 and they forced upon the world a new paradigm for interface which was the metro design interface.
Paul: Which officially can’t be called metro because of a lawsuit or something but anyway everybody gets what that is.
Paul: It’s this full screen menu that lets you choose the application you want to run.
Paul: And what they did foolishly, I think, was force everybody into that paradigm rather than the millions and millions of people who had been used to the old paradigm.
Paul: Were able to go to the start menu. So, Windows 8 was a real stumble just like Windows Vista was. And Windows 8.1 came out which sort of compromised some of that forcing and said okay, now you can do it this way and then if you were aware of it you could download 3rd party freeware which would go in there and give you the start menu back.
Jacob: Oh, wow.
Paul: And so, Windows 8.1 was not a bad operating system. And honestly, for new people who had never used Windows, which it’s hard to find people like that.
Paul: When they were exposed to Windows 8.X or whatever it is and see that start menu they’d naturally take to it and click on it just like people did with the iPhone. So, really, the whole Windows debacle was really Microsoft trying to respond to the iOS challenge of you just click on it and do it.
So, that was what they were trying to do but people have been in this world of Windows and they’ve been trying to, they do very complex things with Windows. So, then, now we’re on track for the next release which is Windows 10 and they got it right.
Jacob: Oh, great!
Paul: They chose to put in a pseudo start menu where they had the start menu that you were used to as well as the tiles that they explored in 8.1 and even more so they made it more performant. They made it faster. They made it more secure. You know, and it’s interesting. I think it’s important to step back a little bit.
And these Mac OS and Windows, those are two incredible tools, two incredible pieces of engineering. And there’s a lot of people who sort of say, oh, I like this or I like this. They’re great tools. And we really should be measured by the output that comes out of the tools. It’s been interesting. They both have their black eyes. They both have soft and underbelly.
And so, one of the things I was reading just this past week that I think I shared and is the fact that if you approach a Windows machine and it’s got a password you can’t log into it. There’s just no way without that password. No way. Yes, there’s some ways to hack around it.
Jacob: Right, right.
Paul: But the ordinary person cannot log into that. Now, on a Mac, if I walk up to it and I know the key combination to boot in single user mode.
Paul: I can log in with no password whatsoever.
Jacob: Oh, wow.
Paul: And get into all of your files. Well, that’s a little scary.
Paul: That’s a generally very simple thing to do. Whereas on the Windows side, in order to hack into your machine I have to go in and get a USB stick with some software or a CD with some software on it.
Paul: And boot that special software and change the password in the machine if I can, if it works and then go ahead and reboot and then log in. So, you might say that’s vastly different or there’s not much difference between those two hacks.
Paul: But honestly, you know, within 5 minutes I could boot your Mac and be into single user mode and have all your data.
Paul: That’s a little scary and nobody really talks about that.
Paul: So, again, they both have soft underbelly. They both have issues, you’re working with two very mature operating systems. I’m working with. One of the things that Microsoft has done with Windows 10 is they have not just opened early releases for beta testing but they built a whole infrastructure.
Jacob: Oh, wow.
Paul: So, people who are crazy like me are on what’s called the Fast Ring so we get the most current release out of their development group.
Paul: I think right now I’m on a certain release and they’re two behind. So, they’re two ahead. So, inside Microsoft development they have two versions ahead of what I have.
Jacob: Oh okay.
Paul: And it’s buggy.
Paul: So, I’m using buggy software. So you know, like, last version when you went to copy something between one disc and another the progress dialogue didn’t come up. It was a bug.
Jacob: Oh, okay.
Paul: That’s been fixed in this next release. But if you go back and go to the release version it’s a very polished operating system.
Paul: But, you know, crazy people like me can opt to be on the Fast Ring or the Slow Ring. And the Fast Ring is the most cutting edge and then the Slow Ring is much more tested and reliable.
Jacob: Well, it seems like from what you were saying there in terms of Windows 8 to Windows 10 and even kind of pulling from our discussion about responsive it seems like some of what Windows and Microsoft is trying to accomplish is trying to wrestle with how do we have an operating system that works on all platforms.
Jacob: And that creates an intuitive experience that’s somewhere between all of them which certainly seems like. For 2016, I would assume that seems like one of the major issues that we’re facing in terms of software development.
Paul: Yeah. Well, there’s two aspects to that. Microsoft definitely wants to have, from the point of view of managing an operating system this one platform.
Paul: Now, there’s pluses and minuses to that. Whenever you take something to make it run across everything you’re going to compromise. And I think that’s what Microsoft did with Windows 8.1 is they wanted to make sure it worked on a tablet so they forced the tablet interface on people that didn’t have tablets.
Paul: That was very awkward. And Apple has taken a different way. They had iOS, I mean they had Mac iOS. Then they came out with iOS and they were vastly different.
Paul: Right now starting to converge those two. So, they’re both going out and doing that. Now, from a person who produces software so that it will run it sounds really attractive to write it once and have it run everywhere.
Paul: So, those things will happen over time. And I think that you’ll see. The difficulty is that whenever you adaptively, you know, do that or do it responsively you’re fundamentally making some compromises.
Paul: And you can do that but it still hard.
Jacob: So, how would you look at those compromises that need to be made with trying to make the best decisions forward for the strategy forward for the software platform?
Paul: Well, I think it’s too soon to tell. I mean we will. Things are happening not really rapidly but the change. Five years from now it will be vastly different than we understand it to be today. We’ve had about 20 years now of Window interfaces that allow us to do all that and interact with the computer through a Window interface.
Paul: Really iOS was the first thing that really broke that paradigm.
Paul: And it was largely stated that, from Steve Jobs that people do one thing at a time and weren’t going to have a multitasking, not multitasking but multi window environment on the iPad. And Android chose a different thing. You can have two.
Paul: Things on the screen at once. And so, but now iPads can have two things on the screen at once.
Paul: I don’t think if Steve was still here we would have that.
Paul: So, he in a lot of ways knew better than a lot of people and had the authority to say I know better than a lot of people so I’m going to do it this way. And I think you would find most of the people who use the iPad were like oh, okay. They weren’t passionate about oh, it should do this or it shouldn’t do this.
Jacob: Right, right.
Paul: It’s like a toaster. Oh, okay. I slide it this way or slide it that way. And so, there’s people like me, the geeks out there who are passionate about this stuff and it should be this way and it should be this way. Those are harder.
Paul: So, as the operating systems. I mean, Microsoft is working really, really hard. They’re also working on things like making an iOS app run on Windows.
Jacob: Oh, wow.
Paul: And run on a Windows phone and things like that. So, Microsoft was really on the ropes for a long time as far as the technological delivery and now they’re just everywhere they need to be.
Jacob: Yeah. Yeah. It’s certainly exciting to think about what the future of that merger between the two operating platforms will look like in 2016. You recently put up an article that got a lot of attention about Google analytics, 5 Things You Should Be Measuring With Google Analytics. That’s going to be in our show notes for those that want to read it.
But what is Google analytics for people who don’t understand what that is and then what are maybe one or two things or what have you found helpful about that article?
Paul: Well, yeah. We’ll go over the article in just a second. First, I do think it’s good to talk about what Google analytics are, what analytics are in general. And if you think about a webpage and you visit that webpage when you do that in your browser you share some information with that webpage.
And your IP address, what browser you’re using, what the fonts are in your system, all sorts of weird things, how big your screen is. Let me think what else would be wise. So, you share all this information and the people who own the website maybe it’s you want to know where people came from.
So, I want to know that somebody came from Chicago and viewed this page. And that’s sort of what analytics is, is keeping track of all that stuff very simply. Now, I can start to do some really cool things. So, I see you come to this website on woodworking, let’s say. And you read an article about how to use a saw.
And then you go and you read an article about first aid. And then you read an article about hospitals. No, and you get the idea here but you can now make some judgments about the person that was running that computer. And so, what analytics does is say hmm, they were reading an article about saws. Maybe I should show them an ad about saws.
And that’s what Google does. Google, by far, the main reason for their company is to make you a product. Tim Cook did, I think, one of the most salient things that’s ever come out of Apple is Tim Cook’s comment about that if you’re not paying for the product you are the product. And that’s a profound statement.
And Google is really the first company to execute that at the most extreme level.
Paul: So, in 2003, 2004 I had the idea of fingerprinting. So, what do you mean fingerprinting? Well, the idea of when you connect your computer to my website I can ask a whole bunch of things about your computer without you knowing it. Like I said the fonts, screen size, the browser, the revision, all sorts of different things, what plugins you have in there.
I can even track the way you type.
Jacob: The speed of how you type.
Paul: The speed of how you type, the timing between keystrokes, things like that and develop a fingerprint. And I thought that was too insidious in 2004. I thought.
Paul: That was just like wow. That’s really big brother. Nobody’d be crazy enough to do that. Well, that’s what Google does all the time. I mean, they track everything they can about what you do. And so, they came up and they said great, we can do that when you’re on a Google website but how do we do that for John Smith’s website?
Paul: Well, they came up with this thing called Google analytics and they give it away for free.
Jacob: Of course.
Paul: So, put our Google analytics code on your website and now we can track all the information that’s on your website. And, so, what’s interesting about that, you can come up with all kind of conspiracy theories but if I went to the Google data store and said I want to find everybody that just searched for hamsters that was in a Google search but then I actually went to the page and spent an hour on it reading about hamsters and clicked three or four pages in that.
Paul: I could do that. You could say well, I’m going to block my cookies from doing that. Well, I just told you about fingerprinting, don’t require cookies.
Paul: So, when you go into the privacy mode on your browser they’re still tracking you with fingerprinting technology. And so, they can still correlate all that different stuff and they can get it down to your machine. Because if you have two Macs, two identical computers in your home. You say, they’ve got the same IP address. They’ve got the same operating system.
Well, there are subtle differences between them and there’s also the keystroke differences. So, I can identify who’s using it. So, when you give away a piece of information about yourself. I mean, Google’s been masterful at getting this tucked in under the perception that hey, this is value for the person who’s buying, using Google analytics.
So, when you go and implement Google analytics on your website or on a website you are effectively giving Google more information.
Paul: To sell their product. And their product is website owner or marketer buying that information so that they can target you with ads.
Paul: That is the whole thing with Google. But if you are using a website there are options so you don’t have to use Google analytics. There’s something called Pie Wick which is an open source non-Google. You keep the data yourself. We’ve been experimenting with that on a bunch of sites and we also do run Google analytics at the same time.
And the reason is, is because the people who own the sites know Google analytics and expect it.
Paul: But remember you’re giving that away. So, then, how do we optimize Google analytics? And some of the things this articles talks about is there’s five important things to measure, understand the difference between user and session. So, a user is somebody who comes to your site but sessions are the number of times you come to the site.
Paul: So, you want to differentiate that. Users are unique people but a session is you came there and you did these five things. So, and it’s important. We were just talking about this this morning that you have a customer coming to your site and a customer wanted to put a link on the front that had testimonials on it.
And that’s not a bad idea. But wouldn’t it be wise to have looked at the Google analytics before that to see how the people, when they landed on the site what they did next?
Paul: And then what they did third and fourth. And say well, gee, we have people to come in, read our front page and the next thing they do is click on the about us page. Okay, well, there’s some value there. There’s some intelligence there.
Paul: Google analytics helps you understand that flow. The other thing is Google is all about mobile. Why? Because they want to protect their money making business of being able to get more data out of mobile. So, they help sort of direct the stream of where we’re going with the Internet and because of their just they’re the big 12 billion pound gorilla.
Paul: And they really focus now on mobile. And so, what they’re doing and Google analytics is going to help you understand how many people come to your site that are on mobile. We had one client we were talking to just earlier this week that we looked at some of the analytics. It wasn’t Google analytics but it was the analytics that they had and they had very few mobile people.
Jacob: Oh, wow.
Paul: Now, that, for that particular market and everything it makes sense. This was something that was family oriented and sensitive. It was thinking about when they might go and do that. And it’s not something you would do on a whim.
Paul: So, that’s important. The other thing that’s important and that Google analytics can help you understand is where traffic’s coming from. Really important to understand that the page that they were on before they came to you, that’s called a referrer and if you have a. I’m trying to think of something funny to say but bottom line is, is you can now start to reach out beyond where you were.
Paul: You can either find people that are driving things to you.
Paul: So, you go back to the page that they looked at and there’s a big arrow there that says hey, click here for interesting things about what you’re reading about or it could be something more subtle.
Paul: And then just understanding the way people flow through your site. They read this. They read that.
Jacob: Right, right.
Paul: And then what Google analytics is really good at is helping you understand or visualize goals. So, you have a goal of you want somebody to read this article and then do this action. And you can set that up and then measure it.
Paul: Those are conversions and goals.
Paul: And so, it’s great. It’s actually another podcast, great article and I recommend everybody that’s interested take a few minutes and listen to it.