2K8 and beyond for technology

Predictions and hopes:

  • The iPhone and its multi-touch screen has defined the mobile user experience. Whilst by no means perfect, it has shone a light on an area of innovation that companies as diverse as Nokia, Google and Microsoft are also focused on. More importantly it has raised consumers expectations of what makes a good phone and a good user experience. I expect to see haptic technology appearing in touchscreen devices to provide tactile feedback which will finally make virtual keyboards worthwhile. If the technologists aren’t careful we may also see fatigue failures damaging the touchscreens, transistors and backing glass on these screens when the devices are in the hands of touch-typists. Product recall anyone?
  • Location-based services will start to have an impact in the mobile market, and casualties are like to be the GPS hardware manufacturers. Mapping companies will gain, as will digital marketing agencies who are smart enough to get in on game fast enough with Google Mobile or flickr mash-ups to create services that provide value. So advertising becomes useful information
  • Portable devices will become more usable over time. The combination of new technologies like solid-state drives and LED backlights on LCDs and OLEDs, combined with the kind of engineering lessons learned from developing disruptive products like the OLPC, the ASUS eeePC, Apple iPhone, and Nokia N8XX series devices will start to permeate throughout the work done by the Taiwanese sub-contractors who play the artisans and workshops of the technology sector to Apple’s architects
  • Consumers will start to look beyond the energy footprint of their technology devices and look at the kind of social conditions they are made in. There will be a small but growing lucrative market in the American Apparel-type business model for technology, starting with simple gadgets like MP3 players
  • Apple will have a tipping point as the web becomes closer to the ‘net is the computer’ vision of Larry Ellison of Oracle and the folks of Sun Microsystems back in the day. However this will not be a slam dunk as there are very good reasons (mostly to do with realpolitik and power of IT within an organisation) that will see IT directors fight the power
  • Enterprise software, consumer electronics and internet companies will start to get a dividend from the technology that has been developed to fight terrorism post-9/11. Areas like pattern-recognition, systems that require fuzzy logic-type maths or machine learning like facial recognition, speech-to-text conversion and multimedia search will receive incremental benefits rather than disruptive revolutions (like the invention of the integrated circuit by Texas Instruments in the late 1960s / early 1970s)
  • Mobile phone companies making smartphone devices will finally all use mini USB connections to charge their phones and do wired data synchronisation, reducing the amount of cables and plug adopters needed by your average roadwarrior
  • IT departments will continue to ignore web 2.0 properties as time-wasting and will continue user policies that make the Great Firewall of China look liberal in comparison. Over half the working population will still not be able to use Facebook, IM applications
  • Other consultancies will follow Capgemini’s lead in selling web service applications like Google’s office applications to large enterprises from a manageability and cost point-of-view. This is likely to be rolled out first in companies that have outsourced their IT department to another company in the second term of its outsourcing contract and is desperate to find additional savings
  • User-experience on web services will start to become a major area of differentiation and the unintuitive will suffer as consumers move to more elegant products
  • Nokia will struggle to do web services and Google will struggle to do social software. Yahoo! looks as if it is already struggling to be meaningful in the European marketplace and will continue to do so (the exceptions being bought in services like delicious and flickr). I expect interesting developments, technology and services from the DoCoMo Google partnership, given DoCoMo’s pioneering of the mobile web with iMode and Google’s mobile services
  • Micro-content creation, despite appearing as a step back will be successful in terms of user adoption because of the services elegance, their lightweight nature allowing for easy usage on mobile phones and other computing devices
  • Mobile network operators will look to provide voice-differentiated services: for instance higher priority or quality voice calls via QoS applications working at layer 7, access (for a price) to VoIP services like Gizmo and Skype and broadband-on-the-go services beyond current walled-garden services to take advantage of the mobile web community supporting devices like the iPhone
  • In the forthcoming credit crunch-related economic correction the technology sector will not fall too hard because it has not soaked up that much money in IPOs or VC funds compared to the late 1990s, instead biotechnology and clean technology will take the fall

Memewatch: My week in media

work bookshelf

The thoroughly nice people over at Seventy Seven PR have an interesting category on the Mediawatch blog called My Week in Media. Check out James Gordon Mackintosh (of t4w fame) in particular.

The posts revolve around four categories

  • What I’ve read
  • What I’ve watched
  • What I’ve listened to
  • What I’ve surfed

You could argue with the taxonomy of all this:

  • Is a podcast something that I’ve listened to or surfed?
  • Is is even right to break out online in such an arbitrary way when most consumers don’t (they consumer their media the way that they want it)?
  • Should you segregate by intent, creation or involvement? So instead of what I’ve surfed, what I’ve done?

For all my quibbles I would be curious to see what other people’s week in media would look like. So Wadds, Steve, Jonathan, Drew, Jonny and Stuart what does your week in media look like?

Here’s mine, just to kick things off in keeping with the spirit of Seventy Seven’s original:

  • What I’ve read: I usually read the office copy of the Wall Street Journal Europe on the way home on the tube of an evening. I have a subscription to the print edition of Wired magazine and pick up Esquire magazine at the newstand every month. I have just finished Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson (loved it) and currently working my way through two novels, one of which (Cory Doctorow’s Eastern Standard Tribe) via the Mobipocket ebook reader on my Nokia
  • What I’ve watched: I tend to watch series either online or via DVD and am presently working my way through all four series of The Wire. The only Christmas TV I have watched so far is Doctor Who on the streaming Flash version of BBC’s iPlayer whilst my parents who came to visit watched Coronation Street on the TV. I really like going to the cinema; but found I am Legend disappointing, despite the sterling performance by Will Smith’s canine co-star
  • What I’ve listened to: I have high tension electric lines powering the railway behind my house so I am limited in my choice of radio stations. I wake up to the Today programme and listen to RTE News and my last.fm recommendations channel for a bit of variety. I subscribe to a number of electronic music record label podcasts and also enjoy the WSJ TechUpdate podcast and conference recordings from the Conversation Network
  • What I’ve surfed: I have a shedload of feeds in my blog reader, you can see my blogroll here (grouped by category). If I had to pick one blog in particular that I read religiously it would be Japanese online design magazine PingMag. I get newsletters from the likes of Good Morning Silicon Valley, I, Cringely, Popbitch and HolyMoly. I try to avoid Facebook as much as possible because of its shockingly bad user experience, so use Twitter, the feed on this blog, my bookmarks on delicious and my flickr photo stream to regularly update my page

UPDATE (January 3, 2008)

A combination of a lull in blog post creation because of the holiday season and a good idea borrowed from the peeps at 77pr and turned loose into the blogosphere seems to have given the My week in media meme wings. Here’s a link to the new ones that I have found thus far:

Stephen Davies

Stephen Waddington

Drew Benvie

Jackie Danicki

Stuart Bruce

Jonny Rosemont – Jonny and James are also looking for fresh digital PR talent, if you’re interested send him an email

Iain Dale

Philip Young 

The Devil’s Kitchen

Donal Blaney

KS Rees

Dizzy Thinks


Mark Pinsent

Neil McIntosh

Daljit Bhurji

James Gordon Mackintosh is keeping a running tally here.

Facebook optimisation

I managed to get a couple of roles through the influence provided by my blog and have fielded enquiries on business partnerships, new business and potential job offers via the contact me section.

The same has happened via LinkedIn over the past four years and over the past six months Facebook as been a similar source of new business. Part of this down to connections and part is down to my profile on Facebook.

Below are some tips that at a minimum will allow you to spring clean your profile and hopefully optimise it for gaining new business leads.

  1. Lose some of the more frivolous applications like zombies and pirates
  2. Reorder what’s left by dragging it around to show the most relevant content about you
  3. Trim back much of the notifications on the remaining so that your mini-feed does not look like some sort of obsessive compulsive disorder
  4. Finally put in the ‘Personal Info’ Activities section what you actually do for a living. Let’s face it you may love travelling twice a year and may have enjoyed those three wind surfing lessons, but you do your job for 50+ hours a week, you can put the activities you want to do in interests

A year in PR

Stephen Waddington at Rainier tagged me for a bit of reflection on the past year and crystal ball gazing into what the next year brings. I am reminded by a phrase from the Qur’an that is something to the effect of the man who predicts the future lies, even when he is proved right, so bear this in mind when you read the responses below.

(1) Most important development in social media

  • The decline of Facebook, from the new, new thing to being the dominant social network
  • There are a lot of really nicely put together cool applications out there like Yahoo! Mash, Nokia’s Widsets and further developments on Last.fm that haven’t got the early adopter attention that they deserve
  • I thought that the most exciting important development was the way many social networks extended across from the PC on to mobile devices from Jaiku and Twitter to the Facebook application on the Blackberry. We’ve still got a long way to catch up with the Korean sites like Nate.com on this though

(2) Biggest disappointment

  • Facebook, the user experience is pants and they haven’t learned from the experience of 24/7 and Engage about user privacy
  • People who keep going on about viral, when they don’t really know what it means
  • The underwhelming financial opportunity

(3) High

  • It may not be strictly this year but Matt’s Aswarmofangels crowd-sourced content creation project I think is really interesting and seems to have got traction
  • The Cadbury’s Dairy Milk gorilla advert showed how brave marketing decision-makers can be and gave me faith that risk-taking is still very much alive

(4) Low

  • People who think that a Youtube video is a panacea to everything and the lack of respect that is given to the audience. Bit of a radical concept I am going to throw out there, but the delivery channel for client content should only be as dynamic as the content itself
  • The decline of Blognation, I thought it would be a good thing to have a blogger network to counterbalance the American-based blogging networks and provide a wider perspective

(5) Biggest cock up
A choice of three:


(6) Predictions for 2008

  • More phones will have GPS modules in them location-based content will become more important, we’re already seeing this on Flickr with geotagging and Google Maps that allows annotations to be made. There are more exciting developments due like Tom Coates’ latest project Fire Eagle
  • Media companies will make some interesting content specially for the web like Bebo’s Kate Modern

(7) Next big thing?

  • Economic recession will sharpen client and agency minds on measurement and marketing return on investment, however it will also discourage risk-taking and investment in a brand
  • The further collapse of the US dollar will make overseas markets much more important for the technology sector
  • I still think that PROs don’t make enough use of picture-sharing sites like Slide or Flickr (rather than video), location-based information and micro-media
  • Integrated campaigns driven from social networks with real-world vouchers on the users mobile phones
  • A digital or integrated marketing agency winning a major PR account from an incumbent agency
  • A major PR agency will actually become an integrated agency and be a ‘PR agency’ in name only

(8) Most important tech development
Too many to mention:

  • The fact that OFCOM and the UK telecoms carriers aren’t willing to step up to put fibre into the home
  • Three’s 10 GBP a month mobile broadband, even available on PAYG (and Mac drivers available)
  • The iPhone, not because of its popularity (or lack thereof), but because of the demands that consumers will set on mobile device user experience
  • I would have put down Google’s Android, but I think that it will take a while to build a head of steam behind it
  • GPS receivers on mobile phones and dirt cheap sub-notebooks like the Asus eeePC and Nokia’s N810 will upset the apple cart in terms of the way that people think about and use technology

Who’s next? I will pass this on to Giles Shorthouse, Will McInnes and Jonny Rosemont.

Is marketing dead as a discipline?

Don’t worry, I still believe in branding, trust and providing products and services that customers actually want, in a manner that they want and when they want it. However business management no longer does.

At least that’s the conclusion that I drew having read The Short Life of the Chief Marketing Officer by David Kiley and Burt Helm in BusinessWeek (November 29, 2007).

The sub headline of the story blames the new media choices now facing CMOs, but the body of the article talks about CEOs who need results immediately to try and satisfy their obsession with the stock market pice, a lack of understanding of what brand is and its value, other function heads who are constantly second-guessing the CMO and the inability to justify marketing spend in terms of return-on-investment.

Mark Jarvis, Dell’s CMO since October: “It makes for a deadly cocktail of high expectations, resistance, and complexity.”

The thing is that business managers do understand brand value when it comes to their balance sheet; the more conservative call it goodwill, whilst the more savvy may break it out sub-brand by sub-brand. But they don’t want to invest money in it.

So businesses want to focus on transactional marketing: every bit of budget leading directly to a sale or measurable form of customer interaction that they hope will lead into a sale. This makes it harder to differentiate and sell on anything other than cost: either in terms of absolute price or multiple purchase offers (3 for 2, buy-one-get-one-free (BOGOF)). So, how would marketing be carved up? Social media elements such as blog and forum interaction lends itself quite nicely to the customer services operations of businesses and sales could take a lot of the other elements of marketing.

  • Where does that leave the marketers and associated professionals in areas like design?
  • And in the longer term where does it leave many businesses who are competing on price rather than harder to replicate differentiation and brand loyalty?

Google steals Yahoo!’s clothes



When I worked at Yahoo!, Jeff Weiner talked about knowledge search as opposed to information search. Google looked to organise all the world’s information, a logical extension of their expertise in algorithmic search.

Weiner’s vision had a Fitzcarraldo-esque aspect to it: to capture and make searchable all the knowledge in the world. This knowledge could be the details about the property (real estate) market in your town or the history of of an obscure Spaghetti Western film.

Move forward 18 months and Google is taking a similar patch to Weiner’s vision with the launch of Google Knol. Knol is also a unit of knowledge within the service.

From Google’s own blog announcement:

“Our goal is to encourage people who know a particular subject to write an authoritative article about it. … A knol on a particular topic is meant to be the first thing someone who searches for this topic for the first time will want to read. The goal is for knols to cover all topics, from scientific concepts, to medical information, from geographical and historical, to entertainment, from product information, to how-to-fix-it instructions.”

It is different to Google’s now defunct Answers product because it is based on a model that highlights individual expertise rather than resident experts or the collective knowledge of Wikipedia.

Readers can add comments, reviews, rankings, and alternative knols on the subject, but cannot directly edit the work of others. And Google is offering another incentive, knol authors can choose to include ads with their offering and collect a cut of the revenue.

The big challenge is the quality of the answers, there is an incentive to develop spam pages with ad links on them, like spam blogs.

Event: Webbys 5 at the ICA

Webby Night

I was invited by some Poke London folk to go along to an event promoting the Webby awards this evening. The highlight was a series of talks, each bounded by restrictions inspired by the Webby’s five-word acceptance speech limits:

Webby 5s presentation rules

The organisers managed to get along a number of great speakers:

The Players

This isn’t a complete capture of everything that was said, but of notes I’ve made notes of the presentations of things that I found interesting, provocative or thoughtful.

Matt Hanson - Aswarmofangels

Matt Hanson presented the idea behind aswarmofangels. The key concept that I found of interest was the captured in the phrase ‘Creator led, member powered’ which encapsulates the balance that the community involved in the project has involvement without losing project momentum

Francis Irving - Mysociety

Francis Irving of charity Mysociety highlighted a number of tips on audience engagement and involvement that he learned whilst trying to turn public opinions into action.

  • Always make the users first action on a site easy
  • Sometimes a site can be too transparent (for some stakeholders). A site that allowed voters easily see MPs voting records managed to upset a number of MPs who claimed that their voting record was incorrect. A re-check of the data showed the MPs were in error
  • An audience member will get involved in both online and real-world activity if they know that other people (not necessarily even people they know) will get involved too

David-Michel Davies - The Webbys

David-Michel Davies of The Webbys provided an amusing history of online video. The highlight of this presentation was what David termed ‘The Cat Problem’: when you search on YouTube you get hundreds of thousands of videos featuring cats, however only one may be relevant to the searcher. It has become harder because of easy publishing to find ‘media that is meaningful and relevant to me’. Which ironically sounds like the same problem that the likes Bradley Horowitz and other social search advocates have been trying to solve.

What is Identity - Miles Beckett - LonelyGirl 15 / Kate Modern

Miles Beckett of LonelyGirl15/Kate Modern discussed the divergence between offline and online identity. Beckett thought that the social contract which makes civilisation work effectively is undermined by transcient identities like those existing on Facebook or discussion forums. Beckett thought that there would be an eventual rejoining of online and offline identities to build a trust-based ‘civilised’ web rather than the current ‘Wild West’ situation.

Malthe Sigurdsson - Skype

Malthe Sigurdsson of Skype came up with a presentation which would have probably given their corporate communications team a heart attack.

Malthe Sigurdsson - Skype

Talking about the societial importance of communications through the medium of cheerleader photographs. Communications, itsself has changes from real-world one-on-one sychronious high bandwidth conversations conversations to synchronous communications that require little effort to create or consume and allow easier social interaction using the ‘lost email or IM or SMS’ as a pretext to soften social rejection.

UPDATE: hello and welcome to all the people reading this post from Skype in Estonia, there are more pictures here.

A site named Sue

When Johnny Cash sung A Boy named Sue, he knew the value of a name. I thought of Johnny Cash, when I was reading danah boyd’s blog. danah talked about her new car and the way she named it and I thought about my first ride.

My first car was a dilapidated Fiat 500 called Tia (because the car skated around a wet road in a similar manner to the girls in high heels that used to drink too many Tia Maria cocktails in the wine bar I used to DJ in during the week.) I had various company and personal vehicles over the next few years, the highlight being a company Unimog pick-up called Beverley after an ex-girlfriend.

My MacBook Pro has a name (Toshiro after Toshiro Mifune), but my iPod doesn’t since I seem to go through them before I get attached to them. Which got me thinking, naming a thing: a car, my Mac is about a recognition of a deep relationship with an immersive experience. A relationship that makes you tolerant to look over the bad things and focus on the good things. For instance, Tia’s handling weren’t a death trap, but more like an extreme sport.

Despite all the hoopla, you still don’t have that kind of relationship with your facebook page or your flickr account. Now, you could argue that facebook is a channel rather than experience that you can develop an attachment/relationship with. But then a car at its is just a personal channel in the physical world. But like the web it can be the vehicle to personal freedom and adventure. So the problem for the pet name website must be in the user experience, depth of engagement and experience.

Being able to tap into the consumer’s psyche wouldn’t only benefit a sites web traffic numbers but also benefit the marketer in deepening their relationship with the client. And unlike the car radio, every interaction has an answer-and-call mechanism behind it, allowing a virtuous marketing circle to develop. This also offers the opportunity to square the circle between transactional marketing typified by online campaigns and brand marketing which happens to various degrees in traditional mar.coms elements like PR, design and advertising as well as all customer-facing aspects of a business.