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思想 | ideas | 생각

2K8 and beyond for technology

Reading Time: 3 minutes

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
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伦敦 | london | 런던 小组会议 | event | 그룹 회의 思想 | ideas | 생각 艺术与设计 | design | 예술과 디자인

Event: Webbys 5 at the ICA

Reading Time: 3 minutes

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.

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创造力 | innovation | 독창성 思想 | ideas | 생각 消费者行为 | consumer behaviour | 소비자 행동 铭记 | branding | 브랜드 마케팅

A site named Sue

Reading Time: 2 minutes

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.

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媒体与艺术 | culture | 미디어와 예술 市场营销 | marketing | 마케팅 思想 | ideas | 생각

Word of Mouth

Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

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I was asked the other day by a friend what did I think was the sign of good PR and I replied that truly great PR would be PR that you weren’t aware was PR. And in this answer lies the root of the problem of what is wrong with word-of-mouth marketing.

Some of the biggest word-of-mouth marketing campaigns on Facebook such as the HSBC student overdraft backtrack and the campaign to get Cadburys to reissue the Wispa chocolate bar were both orchestrated by marketers (the NUS and Publicis on behalf of Cadburys). I know that this was the case and so does the general public. It is easy to assume that people are stupid because they like Hello magazine, but they know when they are being sold to or played.

Real-world world-of-mouth marketing is almost anti-marketing. Why the picture of Tiger Balm? I have never seen a Tiger Balm advert, yet it has been recommended to me dozens of times by friends and colleagues to help with colds, helping you staying awake when your driving or muscle aches. The same is true for New Balance trainers which doesn’t have a marketing budget and third-party endorsements like Nike or adidas/Reebok yet still manages to attract the cool kids and avoid employing sweatshop manufacturing.

I wanted to finish this post with a quote from Jonney Shih, CEO of Taiwan-based technology company ASUSTeK in a recent interview with DigitimesCurrently, we don’t think working on sales and marketing is a good idea. We believe that if ASUSTeK can do the best job it can, then there is no concern that the market will have a bad impression of the brand. Think of it this way, most people only know of the highest mountain, Everest, not many remember the second highest.

You may have not heard of the ASUS eeePC (made by ASUSTeK), but it is one of the fastest-selling laptops this Christmas on Amazon, putting it in the gadget hotness zone with the Nintendo Wii, Nintendo DS, the Nokia n810, the Apple MacBook and the Apple MacBook Pro. Nuff said.

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在线 | online | 온라인으로 思想 | ideas | 생각

Why the web has gone down the pan

Reading Time: 2 minutes

I was inspired to write this post from a number of things that came together at the same time. I found it hard to find anything worthwhile posting about over the past few days because I was insufficiently inspired, particularly by online happenings.

Then there was Michael Arrington’s post on TechCrunch: Silicon Valley Could Use A Downturn Right About Now. Arrington’s article made me wonder if his April’s Fool bid for FuckedCompany wasn’t a wiser move than he realised.

Finally I was watching a video from a past TED conference by author Barry Schwartz on the paradox of choice and the seeds of a post analysing my disenfranchisement with the web started to crystalise.

Schwartz lists four factors that consumers face with increasing choice that seemed to map on to my experience within web services and social media sites:

  • Choice produces paralysis: the very plethora of similar services makes it much harder to choose and find the right service for you. This means that I am likely to ignore newer and better services
  • We end up less satisfied with more choices rather than fewer choices. It is easy to imagine that whatever service you use, you could have made another even better choice. This dissonance takes away from the satisfaction provided by the service
  • Opportunity costs: when you have more alternatives it raises the benchmark for satisfaction with a given service, since if you take the good bits of each rejected service you could end up with a benchmark that is nirvana, creating a huge WHAT IF
  • Escalation of expectations: as you become exposed to more services, your expectations of how good a web service should be went up

In essence, more choice reduces the possiblity of having a user experience that is a pleasant surprise, hence no more Eureka moment like I felt when first using Flickr.

Schwartz’ video made me feel better as I was better able to rationalise why I felt that the web had lost it.

Arrington is also right, though a downturn is a very expensive and distructive way of refreshing my web palate. With some noticable exceptions that I will have the good grace not to name-and-shame Kara Swisher has a more balanced assessment of the internet start-up environment here.