The BYTE That COIT Built - InformationWeek

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Infrastructure // PC & Servers
09:44 PM
Dino Londis
Dino Londis

The BYTE That COIT Built

How the consumerization of IT worked for BYTE.

BYTE -- You're missing the point if you dismiss the consumerization of IT as just employees bringing iPads into work, saving spreadsheets to the cloud or checking email on their smartphones.

It's like looking at the pieces of the puzzle but not putting them together. Want an example? Here's BYTE. Its launch is the very model of how the consumerization of IT (COIT) trend is transforming IT and business. And it's working.

We on the edit team didn't just think about COIT as we built BYTE. We lived it. The edit team built BYTE via GoogleGroups, DropBox, Skype and an assortment of cloud-based docs and services. By launch, there were more than 70 of us writers, editors and tech commentators working on BYTE's virtual launch team. Everyone but BYTE's editor, UBM Techweb's Gina Smith, worked without a single resource from BYTE's parent company, United Business Media (UBM).

This is COIT in action.

UBM is a big company with real marketing muscle, Gina says. But I heard about plans for BYTE's return on Leo Laporte's This Week in Tech (TWiT) online tech show. Leo's former co-host in radio, BYTE editor Gina Smith, was on, telling Leo about BYTE and saying she needed writers.

I queried her via email and she hired me that day. So what, you ask? Well, hang on. That's just the corner puzzle piece you're looking at.

I wondered where the infrastructure was. UBM backed the brand but "isn't ready yet," Gina told me early this spring as we discussed BYTE's return. "We have no servers. No official email. No profit center. No hired staff. It's all virtual." She was hiring staff via queries she received from appearances on TWiT -- sifting through emails and sample articles -- and her staff was growing. We were all over the map geographically and demographically.

That explained why Gina was on TWiT to promo BYTE's comeback -- she targeted tech pros who would care the most. TWiT is a cloud-based program, by the way. A free weekly roundtable broadcast live and ready for download after, I listen to it every week on my iPod touch. That was the right day to tune in.

So that's how it began. After she emailed me, I got my documents in and joined a fast-moving, virtual editorial team. This team rides an existing infrastructure of cloud and consumer products, with no out-of-pocket expenses beyond the trivial.

That is what I call dog-fooding. Eating the food you make. It’s a good term.

In May, when UBM at last assigned BYTE resources, we were already moving forward quickly on email and GoogleGroups. She'd collected the W9s and freelance agreements for everyone via email. No assistants and no paper.

She had recruited Brian Burgess, also via TWiT, as her executive editor. He worked from his Minnesota organic farm. By the time corporate got involved, Gina and Brian had already assigned, refined and edited hundreds of tech articles and pieces of art. That's the content you're beginning to see here.

As IT built the backend, Gina used her personal blog to promote it. Called BYTE Unplugged, it let aggressive reporters like BYTE's Jacob Lopez break exclusive stories and start a base of coverage. The blog also quietly and virally promoted BYTE behind the scenes, letting interested people find out who was behind BYTE and what was going on.

The team is widely spread out, with Gina in San Francisco, me in New York and most everyone else in between, excepting staffers in Hawaii, New Zealand and Canada. With no BYTE emails -- the vast majority of us are still waiting for email addresses from BYTE -- and no official server space from the company, we used our teamBYTE GoogleGroup to pitch ideas, make suggestions, debate and comment on tech news and to get to know each other.

By the time the enterprise was ready to manage BYTE, Gina and BYTE's Craig Johnston and Fritz Nelson had already recorded 10 episodes of BYTE's first podcast, BYTE Wireless Radio, and were planning several more shows. BYTE piggybacked on Craig's existing libsyn account until she had the funds to get BYTE its own account.

We worked behind the scenes and beyond the corporate veil. We kept our own hours. Demographics and geography didn't matter. We submitted videos we made with our own HD cameras and Gina posted them on the blog. When we did meet face to face, we used video chat. Gina and I still haven't met in person. Neither have Gina and exec ed Brian Burgess. Most of us haven't met personally. But we've been working together so closely. And we brought back BYTE.

Now compare that to the original incarnation of BYTE or any other magazine from 1975 -- or 2000, for that matter. No furniture, PCs (or typewriters), office supplies or air conditioning to pay for. Today's BYTE got going virtually and it still is. We spend more money on content and less on keeping the lights on.

And so goes the future of IT. Today's IT departments are keeping the lights on. They keep the servers up and the applications stable. I work in an IT department and witness it firsthand. And it's clear to me that tomorrow's IT will look more like today's BYTE. That means more tech savvy workers provisioning their own equipment. They'll never even have to deal with an IT person directly -- not unless they want to build something new for the customer.

Tomorrow's IT worker also will be more business savvy. COIT isn't just about improving your productivity in the enterprise with self-provisioned hardware. It's also about building something completely new with consumer products and the cloud. The cost is already spread out at the end points – and that includes the air-conditioning.

Based in New York, Dino Londis is a BYTE technologist and an IT pro at a Manhattan law firm.Email him at [email protected].

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