Computer World Canada’s Top 25 stories (16-20)

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16. The Blog

From online diary to breaking news source to corporate community presence, the Weblog is becoming a dominant source of information, communication and entertainment on the Internet. At turn of the century, the blogging movement began to take off in earnest, as tools like Blogger,com made publishing online accessible to the less-technically inclined.

Blogs like The Huffington Report and The Drudge Report routinely broke news out of Washington, D.C.; Julie Powell’s cooking blog was mashed (pun intended) with legendary chef Julia Child’s My Life in France to become the award-nominated film Julie and Julia; Sun Microsystems CEO Jonathan Schwarz’s blog became so significant that a U.S. business magazine wrote a satirical post saying that IBM had offered $1.6 billion for the blog, with associated computer hardware and software operations included in the price. The first news out of earthquake-ravaged China appeared on Twitter feeds.

Increasingly, corporate blogs are becoming a central piece in companies’ customer awareness efforts, and no mainstream news organization worth its salt doesn’t have bloggers on staff. Political parties use them to woo supporters. Out in the blogosphere, the influential can make or break your product, service or reputation.

17. Social Networking

How many friends have you got? And how many have you never met in person?

While social networking dates back to communities like The Well in the early 1990s, it took off with a vengeance with the launches of MySpace, Friendster and Facebook in the early years of the new century. Social networks like these helped people connect with others with common interests, form communities for activism, and keep in touch with family and friends. Other more professionally oriented networks, like LinkedIn and Plaxo, allow users to keep up with professional contacts as they move around, find business and employment opportunities, and source job-related information.

As networks grow unabated, the science of social media marketing has become a prerequisite for corporate communications, and companies with a presence in one or more of the online communities continue to develop applications and programs to keep their customer community engaged. How significant is it? Best Buy advertized a senior position in the U.S. with a requirement that applicants have a Twitter following of at least 250. Expect more in the future.

18. The rise of Silicon Valley North

At its peak, the National Capital Region was compared to the California region that boasted the campuses of the most innovative technology companies in the world. Silicon Valley North was a critical mass of Canadian technology firms — Nortel Networks, Mitel, Newbridge, JDS Uniphase — and branch offices of tech multinationals.

Many of the biggest players are gone now, sold or bankrupt, but Ottawa remains a significant hub for technology innovation in Canada. Now, though, it faces a credible challenge for the title from the Waterloo, Ont., area, where investors are looser with their wallets, allowing startups to blossom into the next Research in Motion or OpenText.

19. It all comes together: ERP

There was payroll, accounting, inventory, manufacturing management, logistics … then, in 1990, researchers at Gartner coined the term “enterprise resource planning” to describe software that pulls together the standalone applications that allow a company to function into one homogenous package.

This ushered in the age of Big ERP, company-wide implementations taking two years or more at costs of tens or hundreds of millions of dollars. SAP, Baan, PeopleSoft, J.D. Edwards and others promised the only software an enterprise would need.

But these projects were too often delivered late and over budget, with some surveys citing failure rates in the 70 per cent range. Some of the bigger players were swallowed up in rounds of consolidation, though smaller operations like Agresso, Epicor Software, Lawson Software appeared to service niche markets.

Now, pundits are pondering the end of the age, brought on by its own expense and complexity and the challenge of hybrid and cloud-based architectures. But those massive implementations of the last 20 years are still entrenched, still being upgraded, refreshed and maintained. It’s still the software that runs your business.

20. Work anywhere, any time: The notebook revolution

The first “portable” computer weighed 24 pounds, had a five-inch screen and ran on C-cell batteries. Today, 17-inch widescreen laptops routinely weigh in at under three pounds, netbooks will easily squeeze into a purse, and handheld devices pack most of the functionality a knowledge worker needs into a mobile phone.

Unchained from the desktop, knowledge workers were freed from the confines of the cubicle. With the proliferation of broadband Internet access and wireless technology, workers could perform their tasks virtually anywhere. So came the age of the road warrior, the work-from-home parent, the projects consummated over coffee at Starbucks (the Horton’s didn’t have Wi-Fi).

That freedom came at a cost, though. When do you turn off? The mobile revolution has been a powerful force, for good and for ill, in the battle for work-life balance.

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