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Can I have some context with that please?

21 October, 2008

I’m getting more and more of the view that ‘context’ is the missing ingredient in some many services that are designed, both online and on mobile. 

I’ve talked about soft personalisation, and the idea that people will happily just through hoops to tell you about themselves if you give them a good reason (like improving their experience, finding the content they like, telling them about places that are open now, or serve the fool they like best). But most of the time, I think we find it far too easy to build a ‘one-size-fits-all’ offering and just let the consumers do all the hard work.

Context is different to personalisation. Context is thinking about the ‘where’ and ‘how’ and ‘what before this’ that people have done that should influence what you do next with them. Yes, it’s about making some assumptions that are designed to improve their experience, but it isn’t about limiting what they can do, just structuring it better. And no, I don’t mean rearranging the options on a menu – that’s far too confusing for people!

So, some examples:

It’s 10am on Friday morning. You access an online gig guide. What are you really interested in? Most likely – what is on this weekend, particularly Saturday and Sunday. So let’s put the weekend highlights up the top, then give you the ‘what’s on’ in date order.

Let’s compare that with the same access made at 6pm on a Friday night. What are they looking for now? Likely what is on tonight, maybe near here, maybe soon. So let’s put tonight’s highlights up the top and then provide the recommendations for the rest of the weekend.

Could we be wrong? Of course! But we’ve not removed anything, just picked a different feature to highlight.

Another example. I am looking for a car. On Tuesday at 2pm, from my computer, I start a search. I am likely checking out what is available, reviewing my options, seeing what’s in the market. But if I access that exact same site from my mobile phone at 11am on a Saturday – there is a really good chance that I am standing in front of a car and want to know how this one stacks up against other similar ones. Same site, different device, different context.

But apply the right rules:

  • no changes of menu options (we learn those, so be consistent)
  • tailor the results to likely context, but don’t limit my options to chose differently
  • if you konw things about me that can help (like the shortlist of cars I made on Tuesday, or the music I usually like to go and see) – use this to make it even easier

This is even more important on mobile. I keep seeing sites where people think getting an internet site on a mobile phone is rocket science. It isn’t. It’s dumb unless you do something smart with it.

Like put it in context.

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Anyone want to buy a (slightly) used iPhone?

10 September, 2008

This is being written on an iPhone. I have a relationship with my iPhone which is starting to change my relationshipo with my Internet-connected laptop. But it has also slightly changed my mobile phone behaviour – and in ways that I can feel I am starting to rail against.

Love the interface? Yes, but…
Love the interconnection between apps? Yes, but….
Love the large display? Yes, but….

I recently asked a group of about 60 GenC’s whether they wanted an iPhone or not. About nine of them did – a respectable 15%, not bad. I was curious as to how the rest felt, and asked who had no interest or intention of getting an iPhone. I confess, i expected similar numbers, but I was wrong.

40% of them did not want an iPhone. In a couple of cases, it was anti-Apple sentiment, but even ignoring that… Some had tried it and rejected it. One had received and iPhone and gave it away after a week, one had gone into the Apple Store to try it out with the intention of buying it – but ended up walking away and is still looking for a new handset. For almost all of the 40 of didn’t want it – they saw the iPhone as a neat little browsing device, but a substandard mobile phone.

Why? They didn’t like the soft keypad – they preferred the numeric keypad for text entry as they could type without looking at the keys.

They wanted MMS so they could share photos. They wanted flash, they felt cheated by a far less than fully-featured GPS. And most of them already had a music player they loved (often an iPod), so they didn’t need a duplicate for this.

But close behind the (in)ability to text at 60 words a minute blindfold, and send and receive photos, was the lack of decent Bluetooth support – how are they meant to share with their friends without it?

I remember my frustration with journalists who never understood what MySpace was, get all frenzied over FaceBook. At the time, and still, I think this is in part because they never gotMySpace (it was for a younger, less structured and more creative demographic) whereas the more formal structure of FaceBook and the slightly elitists sense of community they found there appealed to them – so we had a year of journalists talking up FaceBook and heralding the death of MySpace. I have a feeling we’re seeing a bit of this now – Apple has always been a phenomenal marketing company (even if not a great technology company) and their concentration on user interface and experience cannot be denied. So now we’ve got a raft of journalists who suddenly getthe mobile internet – because they’ve got a real internet device in their pocket, even if it is not a great mobile phone.

For the mobile Internet (and the Internet will go everywhere) – the iPhone can’t be beat. But as a really mobile connection device – there are some pretty fundamental flaws. I might be fine about the changes to my internet behaviour, but I’m not happy about the loss of some really mobile tools I was used to. And certainly, according to one random sample of GenC – the iPhone just doesn’t cut it as The Most Desirable Device (which admittedly, most of them are still waiting for).

Apple’s Kool Aid sure tastes great, but maybe we need to slow down our drinking.

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Seeing some light

14 April, 2008

Two recent things have happened that make me feel as though we really are on the cusp of some exciting new stuff in the mobile application world.

 I’ve talked about how raving over the mobile internet is really just raving over the current major communication form on the brand new medium (radio with pictures). This shouldn’t be taken to mean that I don’t think the mobile internet is a good thing – I think it is great, long over due, and I am really looking forward to seeing more smart sites being built. I just mean that the mobile internet isn’t the end game.

In the last week, I’ve seen some serious and beautiful work done around a mobile social networking that includes location, presence, awareness and groups (and profiles, and chat and dating). It’s gorgeous – but sadly only for iPhone users.  There is a good Techcrunch article on it.

I understand, but don’t necessarily agree with the elite angle this socnet is aimed at. It really is for the ‘already well connected’. But it does show that thought is going that way. I doubt we’ll see social networks limited to any other handset as none of them (yet) has the social cache of iPhone.

But I do think we’ll start to see more use of groups. I designed a mobile social network called ‘tribz’ some three years ago (a little head of its time) and I still believe that the world, socially, comes in different sizes for us. Not all friends are made alike and we need to be able to manage them, as groups, in different ways.

Stirred enough to be determined to finish the business plan this week. Interested in being part of this?

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Mobile Engagement

26 February, 2008

Just done a presentation on Mobile Engagement at the Laboratory for Advanced Media Production (LAMP), which is a cross-media lab project from the Australian Film Television and Radio School (AFTRS). I’ve done a few LAMP projects now – they are immersive residentials where we spend a week expanding a variety of projects (this week, seven), making them consider immersion, Second Life, narrative, social networks, interactive TV, engagement and, of course, mobile.

I usually talk about Social Networking (and touch on mobile and Gen C) but this week Laurel Papworth is the social networking guru, so I’ve concentrated on mobile and some Gen C stuff. As a result, I’ve redone my presentation on Mobile Engagement for a (even if I say so) pretty good 30 min preso that really covers my thoughts in this area.

 Of course, I lean all over the ‘radio with picture’ frustration with mobile internet, and start to think about what the next steps might be. Here is the slide that I showed for this:

Mobile Engagement

Following on from this (and the whole presentation can be yours if you ask), I’ve come across a whole bunch of blogs that talk about mobile social networks (one dedicated to that elite community of iPhone owners – Fon11), the use of bluetooth (oh, if only the handset manufacturers would implement it fully within the USERS control!!) and, this morning, one on how the mobile application is now dead(long live the mobile internet).

I do believe in the mobile internet – I just don’t think it is everything. I also continue to believe in mobile applications, but not the humongous, complex ones. If we are going to engage with consumers – we’re going to do it through good experiences, not just clever devices. So anything that helps make a better experience (that personal aesthetic) has got to be part of the equation.

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Enterprise 2.0 forum (and the mobile)

20 February, 2008

The Exec Forum was a great day, full of fascinating (and fascinated) people and, as usual, a huge amount jam-packed into a short time.  For more info, see here: http://www.futureexploration.net/e2ef/blog/

There’s been enough comment on what happened on the day, but there are clearly a lot of conversations that are going to continue. Some of them are:

  • * Can organisations take advantage of existing social network applications? (eg Facebook)
  • * Should we allow open access to these at work (are they legitimate tools, social or otherwise)?
  • * Is Gen C really that different? Can their energy be harnessed the way we want?
  • * (and if so, does technology really have a role to play in this?)
  • * Is Enterprise 2.0 for everyone? And what makes it meaningful for you?
  • * Will mobile really take off as a enterprise device (other than communications) and will this be in “2.0”

I don’t know the answers to these, but asking the questions is always useful. I see “new media” companies which are really “old media through a different interface” (thinks: TV == ‘radio with picture’). Now we hear people talk about the mobile internet and I think (you all know this) “radio with pictures”.

In Australia, we are a PC-centric country – unlike most of Asia which is more mobile-centric. This means that our embracing of technology, rich experience, interaction – is almost always going to be through a PC (and even my iPhone was a pain to blog on yesterday).

To me, Web 2.0 was allowing the user to engage in a conversation with other users. Enterprise 2.0 needs to be about the users engaging in a conversation with their suppliers, brand, employers or dealers.

And next week, we’ll start on Web 3.0 (which I think is about engaging in a conversation with the content)….

But first, the conversations between you and me about all this. When’s the next one?

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There is a place for everything (even advertising…)

13 February, 2008
I got send this link earlier today http://bokardo.com/archives/why-social-ads-dont-work/ with the comment “i can’t say I completely agree. It takes a very one dimensional (i.e. transactional) view of online advertising and largely ignores the concepts of campaigns and brand-building.”This started a dialogue it is worth repeating here. I think it is true that we search because we are looking for something and therefore, as the offer may well be for that specific thing that you are looking for, advertising works .

In the same vein, when you are doing something (like socialising, reading news, looking at pictures etc), you are not in acquisition mode (whether for product, service, information or experience) as you are currently having the experience you want. So these ads are less like to perform for us.

The issue for social networks, as well as for many destination sites – both online and mobile, is that while ‘branding’ is fine as a concept (campaigns, recognition, placement, exposure etc) – with the rise in performance based advertising (CPC or CPA as opposed to straight CPM) – there is a difference in ‘performance’.

So, in discussing whether ads work or not, we ned to konw aht we mean by work. If we are to be rewarded on performance and not brand-awareness or presence, then ads provided as part of search search – when you are actively seeking something – will always perform better.

I just wonder if they do as much good for your brand.

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The Great Advertising Bandwagon

3 January, 2008

I am sitting here reading the program for yet-another-mobile-conference (YAMC) which has as its amazing and avant garde theme – advertising!

Ok, let’s look at this. Yes, mobile advertising is going to be big. But then again, advertising itself is big. Yes, mobile is the device of the future (event the right now future), we know this.

But with the exception of ‘Funniest TV ads from ‘ shows – I am yet to see advertising as anything other than a freeloader on a content vehicle. And I am afraid that when it comes to mobile advertising, we’re busy looking at the freeloader and being amazed and what their potential is, rather than focussing on the vehicle itself and wondering how to make this compelling and engaging and delivering of consumer attention. Which is, after all, what we are after – yes?

Simplistically, we need to continue to focus on behaviour and relevance. As long as we do, we have a chance of creating that engagement and getting that attention. Then, and only then, can we start to monetise the audience by something like advertising. We can also start to monetise it through subscription as well, as is already being successfully done, but we seem to be hung up on mobile.

I want YAMC to look at the core audience proposition. To focus on why they come, and what makes them stay – rather than just the ads. I know we might watch the Superbowl for the ads (or a wardrobe malfunction) but the ads are there for the core content – that’s why they pay, that’s why they watch, that’s why they stay…