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June 2007 Archives

June 1, 2007

Jeff's VoIP Questions

Now you almost just know I am going to disagree with the framing of the next question. Jeff Pulver asks (prompted by Luca) "What kind of VoIP user are you? Do you prefer Softphones or IP Phones?"  "For myself, when I am in the office or in my home, I prefer using “a phone”. And when I’m on the road if using my cell phone isn’t an option, I will use a softphone. But not as a first choice. What about YOU?"

I simply don't think we "users" "people" think about this as a trade-off. There is no useful learning from knowing what kind of VoIP user I am, other than that I am a geeky enough to know there are trade-offs. I do think Jeff is close in his answer which I think means he prefers a handset. Ie communicating via voice by speaking into something he's holding in his hand.

I'd suggest that the deciders are:
Handheld - Stationary (increasingly VoIP handheld N95 or cordless phone)
Handheld - Mobile (at home it is VoIP on the N95 set to automatic)
Handsfree - Stationary (headset often when working and at the PC - My Skype Mode most often)
Handsfree - Mobile (travelling in the car - bluetooth)
Video Communication -Stationary

It doesn't matter whether it goes over VoIP or PSTN or some satellite. What matters is the connection and call quality. Cost is becoming less relevant. Frankly if you came into my house and used my phones you wouldn't know whether it was VoIP or not.

Handsets require us to listen better than headsets particularly full headsets often used with programs like Skype. Plus you only need to look at a kid to see how they walk around with the phone to find privacy etc. Handsets also enable more gesticulating or related positions than being tied to a headset where notes may be being taken, typed in etc.  Headsets are more conducive to conference calls (less attention being paid) etc. Video is a strange mix and obviously VoIP.

At this point the whole handset thing become more complicated. Because SMS is still better than chat for many things; we just don't really know how to reach for it first yet.  Blackberry proves the point where users are emailing in real-time and not using SMS.

I prefer click to call or simple voice dialing. My mobile or a Skype buddylist is better than dialing numbers. So softphone style interaction with my buddylist is helpful. Thus the mobile wins again as they tend to be click to call. Still they are dumb directories and I may get the wrong choice of number for you.

What this means to me is my super Nokia N95 mobile with Wi-Fi, like the N80 before is winning the battle. It's cheap / free VoIP where I work and at home. It's handsfree when I need it. Increasingly all the VoIP calls I make are free. I know they are VoIP and my wife knows they are VoIP to NZ when the phone is too far away from the Wi-Fi signal and the call drops. It also happens to do that chat / SMS thing.

Example: My brother SMS'ed me yesterday "out of the blue" with a "what was the best holiday you ever had?" He was in a group they were all reaching out to find out. It's a new norm; something you can do!

The reality is we don't think about VoIP. It is just an underlying enabling technology. Thus all the battles continue to be on price! We do however think about talking, leaving or sending messages, and about exchanges. We do think about:
  • Who's calling?
  • Is the ringer on? Silent mode? Will a phone call now embarrass me?
  • Where's the number?
  • How do I get in touch?
  • Is it a good time to call?
  • Will they remember who I am?
  • Will they know who is calling? Etc.
These are examples of things we should be fixing and considering. VoIP is part of the enablement of new solutions for addressing all of these.  So far we've really only just seen them beginning to emerge in formats that are more friendly on the desktop. We've also learned that the desktop is only a small portion of the total talk time.  The answer will emerge on the mobile; however not before a lot of new thinking has gone into the User experience.

Unfortunately even questions I disagree with can be useful. Still I'd never start probing a focus group on VoIP I'd start with communications. VoIP remains a great technical step forward; it will only really be meaningful if it enable new services. I think some of the comments Jeff got actually confirm this to. It goes to the mode of communication something I've written about many times. On the softphone side (Skype) itimacy also plays a role. The risk is that this question is not answered at a deep level. Skype's sound quality (hey Gtalk too) still provides for the most intimate communications; better nuanced than the phone. I'm sure many  traveller's would prefer it calling home or to their partner rather than the phone. So for some calls taking the laptop to bed to make it is natural. However, it is not VoIP or the laptop that is winning it is the need for deeper intimacy. You won't get this answer by just a superficial question.

In the frame of future technical questions I'd like to know 1) What will make the increasing fragmentation of channels from a user point of view simply go away? and 2) How we will manage the coming deluge of Voice Spam?

June 3, 2007

Positioning and the N95

N95's everywhere. Not everyone with the same view. Although underneath most  agree the techno in the N95 is mind-blowing. Still to get the most out of this phone you cannot make a snap judgment. Both Robert and David (below - like me) are going to be playing for awhile. Then I also had my son and wife laughing and making fun of me trying to use the GPS. So there is 1) positioning the phone (Scobe, Beckemeyer, et al) and 2)finding a position with the phone.

Positioning the N95
The better iPhone: Nokia N95? « Scobleizer

"But rather, I’m in love with the Nokia N95. The camera on this phone is unbelieveable.......Translation: it’s going to be lots of fun to compare this to the iPhone. We all know the iPhone will sell just cause it’s cool, but this phone will match up pretty darn well."
Mr Blog Entry - 06/03/2007: Straight talk on the Nokia N95
"I don't think anyone can beat the Nokia 6610. The original 6610, IMHO, is the best mobile phone ever produced. It is no longer made, apparently, but the 6610i is still available (I believe). I put together some simple criteria in the following comparison table, and as you can see, when it comes to the basics, the 6610 beats the N95 at any price:"
Finding your Position - GPS and the N95

Reading the comments on Robert's post I wasn't surprised to see the N95 GPS get a little flack. I'm getting used to my family laughing each time I bring it out and try to get a current location. When I do it and start walking with it it can take forever (5-10 minutes or not connect at all) Even when I'm holding it upside down in my hand - open pointed at the sun! (Heard the GPS antenna is more exposed that way.) Makes one look nuts!

When the GPS is locked in it is awesome. I downloaded the Sport Tracker and have been able to watch my speed in min/mile (slow!) find my altitude etc. Whether this is really useful I'm not sure. It takes too long to lock in. I have no sense that I can just run out the door in the morning with the N95 tied to my arm playing music and tracking my pace and distance. I think I would be half way through the workout before it ever logged on.  There's no voice commands  or prompts that I'm about to have a heart attack either. I think I should have voice commands particularly when I put it in the car and have bluetooth on too.

I've been tempted to buy a 3 month voice activated package and see it the GPS really works when in the car. However for that I need a Velcro mount of some description for the dashboard. I also need a charger for the car (dam battery life) and in the car I'd need to see the screen so backlight will just kill it when always on!). So I'll have to go buy these things.

I've done a little in car testing and again once locked in it seems to track ok. However, if you find yourself in a position where you want to turn it on and there is no GPRS connection for the maps it is a failure case. You just stay lost. When i wanted it just the other day that was the position I was in. 15 minutes later the batter was dead too. Celestial Navigation won!

So is GPS in the N95 a toy or tool? I'm not sure. I tried to demo it to a new user on their N95 the other day. We ran outside to get a signal and 15 minutes later after also walking around (Do two N95's in close proximity screw up the ability of one to locate us?) we gave up. I left with the recommendation they leave it running out on their patio to magically see the map and location where they live ..... much later. So someplace inside there is GPS. It does take a lot of patience to activate and use it.

My observation on GPS. I've been curious for years but never bought a GPS gadget. I don't have GPS in the car although 18 months ago I tried out a Nokia GPS device with my N90 at the time. It worked really well. My conclusion then was.. why would I ever want to buy a car with it installed.  It going to be in my phone --- sooner or later.

The N95 is a bleeding edge phone. It is probably Nokia's 959 (Porsche's late 80's $1m sports car sold at a loss - technology showcase).

So... how can they improve the GPS. (make it connect) bring it onto the front screen. It should be working all the time. It is too hidden and takes too long to load. We may want to turn it on or off. But put it on the front. Maps, location etc. are just like the time. My kids don't have watches. They throw them away. They use the mobile. I only use Gmaps to find where I am going today. In fact I met somebody who said that was the best thing about their mobile. They used it for Gmaps; not for calls.

It would be folly to underestimate the impact that GPS will have on mobiles. Just look at what Google is doing with Maps. Soon the two will intersect. Nokia is already leading the way in WiFi phones. Now what say we think just two years out. What if the new T-Series (Terra) all had GPS as standard? With carriers breathing down the necks of manufacturers to create new value streams - where we are now --- GPS integration seems like a great bet. How it will play out no one really knows. Still they didn't know how camera phones would work either. MMS remains a flop but camera's are here to stay on phones, they are just too useful. GPS will be the same.

June 4, 2007

iPhone Ads - June 29

Given yesterdays comments on the N95 vs iPhone I can only say watch the ads via the link below! I won't go and camp out at the Apple store on June 29th although many will. I will go to an Apple store and play with the iphone. That is the single biggest threat Moto, Samsung, Nokia have in this country. I'd never dream of going to an AT&T store, T-Mobile or Verizon store to play with the future of mobile phones.

Apple - iPhone - TV Ads

BTW in a country like India - Nokia has plenty of their own stores and they increasingly mimic some Apple store elements. There I expect to find the latest in mobile technology.

Despite the obvious iphone appeal I'm still not certain that it's enough. I'd also like to know if the frame rate was speeded up in these ads. The vertical to horizontal screen change appears very quick. I've learnt to do it on the N95 with the slider still the Apple solution is definitely more elegant in this regard.

June 7, 2007

I love NPR - Causes and Facebook

Do you believe in causes? I love NPR! Although not as a bumper sticker on the back of my car, or a T-Shirt that I'm wearing. Still I wake up to NPR most mornings. Today, (part of ongoing experimentation on Facebook) I placed that claim in (for me) a very personal place. I put it on my Facebook. I provided a small donation there and let two special people know about the widget that would appreciate it.

The power in adding a new application to your Facebook page changes everything we ever thought about marketing. It really is a mass distribution mechanism and it reinvents the game. The new app. goes into my Facebook news feed so my friends may see it or later when they visit my page. (You will have to join Facebook to see my page).

Thus without forcing myself or my views on others they can see what I'm adding and choose to experiment or not. There is little need for me to bother them with spam-like invites. My network may determine the relevance. I can also see immediately on "Causes" who else shares my interest in supporting NPR and follow up if desired.

The "Causes" plug-in was developed by the team at "Project Agape". It's simple although too some time to load. I have no idea what the "admin" charges are or how effective the donation is. That wasn't clear. It may make more sense to go direct. Still it impressed me enough to want to add the badge I'd first found on Rob Patterson's Facebook page. (Also see Rob's blog on Ken Burns and KETC St Louis.  He describes it as an online Lewis  & Clark's journey. Rob believes freeing the media will renew society. His story re NPR is very much 2.0+)

Two observations for today:
1. Facebook provides a new form of infection or infectious behavior (they call it mass distribution). It lowers the cost and risk of sharing new widgets with your friends. With a lower social capital cost it also increases the visibility exponentially. The result is we are also learning faster than we could individually. It may not be pretty. It certainly effective and addictive.

I used to apply this thought to blogging. I was certain that blogging enabled me to learn faster. That still holds true. Facebook takes it to the next level. I'm looking forward to having even better apps. It's may start a "cambrian explosion" for social apps.

2. Will it change immediately the way software is prototyped. It will certainly change the way consumer software is prototyped. Why would you build anything today outside of Facebook? Wouldn't you first test it inside. Soon even the targeted audiences will be very clear. Some will come to think of Facebook as a great research engine. Learning the Facebook API or at least what it does will be mandatory.

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June 13, 2007

iLike & Facebook - Accelerating Distribution

Awesome review Analyzing the Facebook Platform three weeks in by Marc

June 19, 2007

The Community is the Bank

I loved this post and idea. The Community is the Bank. See also MySpace meets Quicken although I too haven't see the actual report.

Community is the Bank « Vinu’s Online Cloud

Facebook and Orkut have the potential to be the next biggest BANKS … now will that not be cool? A bit from the abstract The rise of social networking could have a profound effect on banking and personal finance. As companies combine massive databases of financial transactions with the “collective intelligence” of a networked customer base, interesting things can happen. What might those networks look like?

I've long thought this and written in the past on it. We are getting closer. The Facebook platform / API may have the potential to enable new forms of syndication. I'd call and look at micro-syndication. Perhaps the community will also become better investors. The"Wisdom of Crowds".

June 20, 2007

Marketing and Relationships Track - Supernova2007

My sound-byte for session one: Companies that accelerate learning.... build relationships. The examples exist more around software although Amazon is a classic case of using what others bought and buyer reviews. It means I learn more at Amazon than I can at a bookstore or without a librarian. Similarly, whether iLike today or Napster when it first launched, I learn more by looking at others' music lists with similar interests than I would by perusing a music store.

What sparked me to write this? I'm at Supernova2007 put on by Kevin Werbach. Missed the last couple of Supernova's and the pre-event crowd has grown considerably. The first session I'm in is being facilitated by three all-time favorites of mine - Doc Searls, David Weinberger and Jerry Michalski. Naturally, it opens with "Markets are Conversations and evolves into how individuals are now trying to form relationships with companies.


Doc puts the point (paraphrased) - Marketers have tried to take up the markets as conversations. It is hard for marketers to be in the conversation. They are somewhat compromised as they have conflicts as they see outcomes in the conversation. So it is hard to get the marketers onboard... At Sun they are now incorporating Technorati results into the product pages. Marketers are trying to figure out how to enter the conversation. Their default it to want to bring the conversation in.. inside... but it is going on outside. So when Sun begins aggregating the conversations it is a very different action. Separately Doc comments on "owing customers" is the same thing as slavery. Doc also talks about ProjectVRM.

David also recently in HBR. Idea is that the second most important asset is your information (1 - people). So have been teaching cos to treat info like an asset. Turns out in lots of industries it become more valuable when you let some go mashed up with others. Everytime you mashup it gets more and more value. Often it is great for the company. (I agree but very hard to get old school companies to do this.)

Tags: supernova2007; brand futures

Changing Forces in Advertising - Supernova 2007

My question from this session came about when they were discussing how to allocate media between traditional media and online. I just wondered where the discussion was on prototyping media content. As media today is all social and it is easy to upload content in all sorts of places... why not just upload your content onto YouTube etc. (Some companies are beginning to do this). This can be a very effective way of testing your message. More hand drawn storyboards may indeed be coming.

The perception here is that marketers cannot measure the world the same way anymore. Ted Shelton from Technorati make this point strongly. Basically with continuous partial attention the marketer has to rethink their relationship with the audience. I also liked Deb Shultz's probing question which came later about getting to the long tail. Is it possible to get to one buyer for one item.

Evan Williams (paraphrased) " Twitter. "a social real-time connection type of thing" Is Twitter an advertising medium? How can we use Twitter? How can we make money? We will experiment with Twitter on an opt-in method. Because it is opt in, it has to be of value to users. We think it is a unique kind of communication vehicle. Already Dell and others are using it for announcements and building relationships or keeping people in the loop."

Some interesting ideas floated on getting more interest from ad opportunities. Eg Tivo or Facebook poll like. Clearly, "attention" still has a value.

  • Do you get a thumbs up or thumbs down with every ad opportunity?

  • What are you interested or disinterested in?

  • Can you use social media more cost effectively to attract attention? Does social media have an annuity for attention?.. if they stay it costs a lot less.. because bringing the new person costs less and less.... creating value... and concurrently reducing the cost of getting them in the first place
    Can i get them to come to me... or must i go to them????

  • If you create a walled garden... how many are already talking? What does technorati tell you?...

  • What if rather than spending money you left comments on a blog? Jeff Jarvis and DELL who now advertises on his blog. What if Dell said leave comments on the blog to engage in the conversation? Could it cost less than the advertising they are running? Is it more effective for Dell?

  • Will companies pay individuals to be on their hotlist?

  • Should there be millions of dollars in micro sponsorships? Is this nefarious or could it be legitimate?
    How should companies value and create "social" skills?

Research and Relationships - Supernova2007

I really liked what Ellen Konar from Google had to say about their process for gathering and gaining customer insights. I've left rough notes below. My challenge for this group was simple: Why is your research not public? Why can't your users do your research for you? I got some push back from Microsoft on this one. One nice lesson was... It is good practice to feedback research results to those you ask even if they didn't participate the first time. I'd agree.

Ellen from Google - driving customer insights... letting customers define products let them provide verbal and behavioral feedback. on the research side the job is both easier and harder.... lot less time eliciting opinions.. because it is a lot less available... you don't get to screen out the noise... you have to create it out of the data that exists ... how do you protect signal vs noise... as a recipient of data it is much more fulfilling.. you have piece of the customer pie doing the action.. it is not hypothetical... is from the real customer base. .... Google is run like a peer to peer network.. there is no structure by which information flows. the info is just available. If you depend on organic communications.. the stuff that at least looks like insights travels. ... we have dashboards all over the place... daily metrics on... the unusual part is not editing, it is not summarizing or dumbing things down. it is about extracting. See the Book "Made to stick".. (Mitch R: is it a social function that needs to be institutionalized. People must have alerts on)... and they do that with great effectiveness... (see Google friends)

Consider the skills and talents you have to hire... when went looking for the skills i needed ... much more on quantitative skills... linguistic skills visualization skills and conceptual skills... we are competing with a lot of other career options. is a tough road for market research today. Too many don't have these quantitative skills.. and mapping skills.... Who can spot a story may be most important and can take a point of view on it!.

Mitch Ratcliffe has more details on this session here.

Tags: supernova2007; brand futures; consumer insights; research

June 21, 2007

Facebook - Wish We Were Exploring More

Facebook is mentioned in the halls at Supernova although no one is upfront yet providing more than mentions. I believe Facebook is the number one disruptor of old business models today (for marketing, finance, sales etc.). It also shows how hard it is to be flexible with a conference plan. I'm sure the majority won't get it and yet next year it may be too late. (I said the same type of thing about Skype a few years ago, and Paypal before that etc.)

I'm writing on Facebook and community banks because in a crowded dark room the dialogue isn't keeping my attention and this note from Tech Crunch proves what I've suspected from the day Facebook launched their API and I listened to the launch video.

Lending Club Passes $100,000 Mark In Loans To Facebook Users

Lending Club was an original Facebook Platform/ F8 partner having launched with F8 on May 24. The company closed its first loan on June 6, and has since closed 27 more loans for a total of $101,250. An additional $212,650 in loans will close in the next 12 days. More than $180,000 is currently available from 271 lenders with around 10-15 new lenders transferring money to Lending Club every day.

The social networking angle of Facebook allows Lending Club to leverage trust by enabling lenders to find borrowers within shared networks. Lending Club uses technology to pair the two parties based on shared connections without giving lenders direct access to the borrowers Facebook profile.
As Tech Crunch notes there are others active in P2P lending models. It hasn't taken off yet.

Yet is your local credit union considering it's strategy? Is your bank? They have had less than a month to react! Yet companies are already filling the space. Many of the apps are hacky efforts. Yet these are real time tests with users. Brand names are created in moments in this environment. They also may be superceded tomorrow.

Yesterday I heard the comments and the jokes that Facebook is still too college centric and I'd agree with their comments on the "how did you meet" exchange. I'd also add that while it is early the learning that is going on is rapid. There is no chance to sit back. In the end whether you apply it on Facebook or somewhere else the learning will be the best investment you can make for your company today.

I'd like to talk more; convene a group with others on Facebook. A lot more. From a behavioral, emotional exploratory point of view. Who's up for accelerated learning on Facebook. Real-time together all in the same room... Applications, Wall building, intense. A work-over in hours that otherwise may take days or weeks?

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About June 2007

This page contains all entries posted to Unbound Spiral in June 2007. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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