One of the things I like most about making a quick visit to Vancouver is the opportunity it affords me to visit shops that import cigars from Havana.
Now if the truth be told, I'm not a big fan of cigars, but there is something strangely appealing about smoking contraband that one has illicitly smuggled home from abroad.
And if you couple that activity with a fine day out on the golf course - the last place left in America where you can actually have an open container of beer in public - you suddenly find yourself living large.
Poor little rich kids
Of course, the nice thing about going to an expensive golf club such as the Presidio in San Francisco is that you get to hobnob with thousand-dollars-an-hour consultant types. One of the interesting things you discover when you talk to these folks is that they're all terrified that the gravy train is about to run out of steam.
It seems that with demand for enterprise resource planning systems pretty much saturated and most of the work concerning the year 2000 coming to a close, these folks are starting to wonder what the next big wave will be. After all, these people have mortgages and car payments to pay just like the rest of us.
Fortunately for the consultant community, the notion of dynamic business process integration is starting to gain some momentum. Starting with the InConcert unit from Xerox, which will this month launch a substantially easier-to-use version of its tool, look for the entire enterprise application integration community to start touting the wonders of business process integration at the office of your local CIO real soon.
In the meantime, a lot of these folks could join the rest of us work- ing stiffs who will be moonlighting at ExpertCity.com. Scheduled to launch this fall, this is the perfect site for all those folks who keep giving away for free what they should by rights get paid for.
Basically how it works is that you register yourself as an expert in a given technical domain. Then when neophytes comes to the site to ask a question, you and other experts can bid to answer their question for a fee. You can make only one bid per question, but with the holidays coming up, this is a nice way to earn some extra pocket change on what is essentially a virtual help desk driven by bids for your services.
Which brings me to one of my pet peeves. There are just far too many auction sites to keep track of these days. It's kind of like being inundated with virtual flea markets online. Hopefully, the folks at AuctionWatch.com will live up to their promises and deliver a set of tools that will make it easier to keep track of multiple auction sites without having to actually be online. While the business-to-consumer aspects of this software are interesting, the real potential here is in business-to-business commerce. With something like this around, corporate procurement would never be the same.
Right now my biggest concern is hiding my smuggled goods from Rose, who has a tendency to take long, hot baths while smoking cigars. I wouldn't mind sharing, except for the fact that she always wastes half a stogie by letting it drop in the water after she falls asleep in the tub.
Robert X. Cringely is a regular contributor to ARN's sister publication Infoworld.