Thursday, August 19, 2010

Why the web will stay complex

Facebook's on-going attempt to replace the web (cite link protocol replacement 'like' and welcome 'FourSquare-killer' Places) raises questions we have to consider.
Is it all bad if someone at the centre does all the building? Our Governments deliver our road systems - and no one fears for our liberty as a result.
Expanding on that analogy, (and in the case of both Places and Like this is obvious) perhaps Facebook is simply paving over - making up to a 'better' standard - routes which others established over time. Loads of us walked that way so we flattened a path through the long grass.  Facebook paves it over.
Trouble is when the road network becomes 'improved' to a certain standard it also becomes subject to governing rules and restrictions. And we have to argue with the powers-that-be about where the next road should be built or expanded.
Is the web, as some suggest, being 'killed' in favour of big, simple, easy-to-use, one-size-fits-all stuff like Facebook or iphone and ipad apps? Big tarmacced roads (god forbid; information superhighways).
I suspect not. And I suspect not because while space in the world of the atom is limited - as are the number of locations requiring connection via roads - there are no such limitations in the digital world. No limits on the number of groups that can form (provided more nodes keep on coming along).
Facebook is a standardization of getting from A to B. It makes life easier. Lots will indulge. We like easy. It's a one size that fits many.
But it's not as interesting as going your own way. Creating niche response to niche needs. And actually, as a species (like most others, cats excepted), we like interesting more than we like easy. Cite any number of experiments Dan Ariely references in his work.
I'm sleeping safe. Facebook doesn't get to be the web this year, next year or any other year.
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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Black hat peer-to-peer

If you've ever heard the term 'SEO' bandied about you're likely familiar with the concept of 'black hat' and 'white hat' SEO (Search Engine Optimisation).
The good guys wear the white hats - and the bad guys don't.
Just as I expect a whole industry of 'twitter follower optimisation' snake oil salesmen to rock up at brands' doorsteps any day now, so I am fearful of an emerging new style of peer-to-peer corrupters: Those who spam your friends in your name.
We saw an example yesterday on Twitter - albeit (according to the coder behind Twifficiency) by mistake.
Twifficiency was (is?) one of the many borrowers of twitter's API to tell the user something about the way they use twitter - their effectiveness/reach/influence/rank whatever... (image, Lee Marvin via Cinebeats)
This particular version rewarded the visitor with a % score for putting their username into the magic box. The trouble is, Twifficiency then, under the cover of the obfuscating small-print of the Twitter 'allow/deny' screen (below), automatically tweeted that score with an invitation to all your followers to try theirs.
The convention has been to ask for further approval before granting permission to share - often via a tweet which you get to edit, approve and then decide whether or not to share with your peers: White Hat. White Hat doesn't hide behind obfuscation.
The black hat get out clause here is (see below) "access and update your data on twitter".
This apparently can be translated as meaning: "Tweet as if you were me, tweet what you like, and whenever."
If you wear a black hat.
If you wear a white one you know that wouldn't be very nice. You wouldn't like that to happen to yourself. So you don't do it to others. Social beings feel this and know this.
Passing yourself off as someone else to gain benefit has another name in law. Fraud. Not nice is it?
Twifficiency is a benign case. But it's not hard to imagine how less scrupulous developers could exploit the frailties of human nature by making 'you' tweet no end of scurrilous and self-serving content.
It's not good enough to lay the blame on the human desire to hear good stuff about yourself, as some have.
Those that blame ego (why do you want to know how popular/influential etc you are, anyway?) are likely the same people who never google themselves and claim to have zero shared performance anxiety or fear of public speaking.
If you meet one be sure to share the last of my stash of rocking horse shit with them.

Now, we don't want to suggest young James Cunningham did anything more serious than fail in his duty to fellow twitter users yesterday. Next time around, James, take a look at what others do - perhaps learn a few best practice lessons, then try again. We'll forgive a mistake - we've all made them.
Twitter is open. It's API is open. Which means there are doorways open to abuse.
What we have to do in response to this is become ever better at crap detection, at sharing warnings, and at defending the community against those who would more deliberately take advantage.
Let's start with defining what Black Hat Peer To Peer is:
  1. Attempting to pass yourself off as another person, in order to access that other person's social graph
  2. Hiding behind the small print instead of doing the right thing
  3. Using automation to acquire friends/followers
  4. Automating the process of dumping those followers who don't follow you back
  5. Sending unsolicited and irrelevant commercial messages to users based on shoddy algorithms (if based an anything at all?!) that's mine for now - can you think of examples?
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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A new role with 90:10 Group

As many FasterFuture regulars will know, I am a partner in 90:10 Group
Ninety10group is growing fast and growing globally.
Many of our projects are relatively complex and involve people from multiple organisations in multiple territories.
In response, we are making a key appointment to the role of Global Projects Co-ordinator.
The person we need must be both an efficient organiser and an excellent communicator - able to interact positively with people at all levels.
You will need to turn high-level strategic proposals into action-oriented, deliverable project plans - complete with dependencies and time requirements/allocations.
And you must be comfortable monitoring and recording progress against those plans to ensure they stay on track, liaising with all stakeholders throughout.
Basic understanding of project management techniques is key as is excellent written and spoken English. Additional languages to business standard are a definite advantage.
Experience with working with large plcs/process oriented organisations will also count in your favour as will familiarity with social tools and technologies.
The job is based in our London office at 88 Kingsway, Holborn.
If you'd like to talk to us about this role at 90:10 Group please drop me a line at david AT with any supporting materials you feel will be useful.
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Monday, August 16, 2010

It's a bit of a... missed opportunity

So. Peperami crowd-sources its latest TV ad. Well. It crowd-sources the creative idea for it. The creative idea comes (via Idea Bounty) from... er... two established professional creatives.

I'm not knocking the concept. Peperami essentially get 1185 people to pitch them on the hook of a $10,000 prize. No doubt an ad agency would bill them more for the creative time. So on the face of it, it looks like a very efficient solution for the brand.

I'd love to show you the outcome but... er... the video can't be shared from the Brand Republic site it's shown on. Score that how you wish (I'll be scoring that very low, just so we're clear).

Anyway, once again, rather like Nokia's collaborative co-creation of a phone, there is only one outcome here. Only one winner. Only one version of 'good' - and that good judged from just one perspective.

And since we know relevance beats quality every day of the week... it's throwing away a load of the long-tail value being generated.

Peperami should be creating a platform for people to make their own shareable versions of the story, ones which matter to them and their mates - not just coming out with the 'big hit' winner - which is meant to one-size-fits-all suit the lowest common denominator.

Every one of the 1185 entries tells Peperami what people think of its brand. But in isolation only.

The process isn't collaborative. It's silo'd ideas in competition with one another. And that isn't how ideas spread (the intended outcome surely is a spreadable idea as a minimum?). What's missed when you miss out on collaboration is that very critical human element - social influence. What does your idea mean to other people? How would other people reshape it? What do they choose to pass on? What do they choose to adapt?

The problem is that the key outcome of this process is aimed at creating a TV ad. When you start with that as a premise, you're bound to take a very broadcast approach; always an odd match with the networked world the idea is aimed at engaging.

And the networked world would prefer your innovations with the crowd focused on making better products - not just better messages.
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Thursday, August 12, 2010

Guiding principles for success in the networked world

I've been thinking about some guiding principles to apply to working in the networked world.

Let me know if you think they are helpful?

• None of us is as clever as all of us

• Adaptation to an environment is always best achieved by those living in the environment

• That which we create, we embrace.(Alan Moore)

• Less messages; better products

• No broadcast - only relevance.

These guiding principles can be applied to any proposed course of action as a sense check - a measure we are doing things in the way of the networked world.

Eg None of us is as clever as all of us - leads us to actions which open processes to the crowd. There are always better ideas outside the org than in.

Adaptation... Is always best achieved by those living in the environment: leads us to engage with those niche communities for whom the outcomes matter most.

That which we create, we embrace - leads us to value the power of friend recommendation - delivered through creating WITH the right communities rather than delivering outcomes at them.

Less messages, better products: reminds us when engaging in social media, peer to peer messaging (recommendation) is a happy by product of community engagement in the co-creation of things they care about. Messages aren't for layering on. They are a consequence of action.

No broadcast - only relevance: Communication must always be on a human scale. Relevant, useful and welcomed. All the rest is spam.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone so I may have to tidy it up later ;-)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Breakfast in London, Manchester and Leeds

E-Consultancy have signed me (and 90:10 Group) up for a UK mini-tour in November this year. This consists of breakfast briefings in London, Manchester and Leeds.

They offer an opportunity for me to spread the word about the real value of social media - the bit that's less about messaging and more about innovation. For the full outline, see below.

If you'd like to be at any of them use the following links to sign up:
Social media offers much more than an opportunity to ‘reach new audiences’. It offers powerful new efficiencies, better fit marketing, products and services your customers demand and care about – and new business models.

It can’t be layered on to your current strategies. Better-than-ever-connection with stakeholders (customers; potential customers; suppliers; employees; and anyone who cares about achieving what you have set out to achieve) places social media at the heart of what you do.

It creates disruption and opportunity in equal measure. These breakfast briefings will identify who is taking advantage – and how you can, too.

Areas for discussion include:

Location Based Services: 90:10 Group has researched the impact of LBS in social media. We’ll answer which brands are having success with FourSquare, Yelp and Gowalla and whether there is scale for LBS to matter to enough of your customers in the UK and beyond.

How innovation must shift from making better messages to making better things:
We’ll address how using the tools and techniques of social media delivers the ROI of better things, more fit for those they are intended for and how those better things come pre-loaded with the peer-to-peer power of the advocates who helped make them.

Scaling co-creation:
Bringing people together to share ideas and inspire creativity is nothing new. The scale and affordability delivered through social media is. What does this mean for everything from Marcomms planning to customer service, New Product Development to sales?

Innovation in the org:
Those who take a few steps into social media soon discover that old silos and ways of organising fail. What is CRM is PR is Customer Service is NPD and R&D.
We’ll make the case for change in the way organisations should organise and how they should now define their role as platform organisations.
Based on the forthcoming book: Platform thinking: How social media changes the organisation of business and the business of organisation.

All of this will be supported with case studies and data to take us from the theory to the practice.
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Friday, August 06, 2010

It ain't customer service until the customer receives the service.

I like Ikea. So please, this isn't meant as a specific attack - more an illustration of a general point.

And the general point I'd like to illustrate is: It ain't customer service until the customer receives the service.

Case in point: I left Ikea in Milton Keynes today having handed over a bit more at the till than I had expected. Now, anyone who has wandered through an Ikea store will tell you this is not an unusual experience. By the time you've thrown a dozen or so items of small value alongside your main purchases, you're soon in the realms of 'guess the basket'. I am used to failing at this game. So when my bill rolled up at approximately £15 more than my ready-reckoning had reckoned, I thought little of it - paid up and headed home.

En route my lovely wife and I did a bit of mental totting up. No matter how many times we did this we still fell short of the total Ikea's happily chatting checkout staff had got to.

So when we pulled on to the drive at home, I rooted out the receipt and... sure enough, we'd been double charged for a picture frame.

No matter, I have the receipt - and it's full of very useful info. Including a number to call for this kind of eventuality. Yes it was a call centre and yes there were a number of robots to select options against between me and a conversation with a human (a couple too many for comfort) but when I finished the interminal option dance I got straight through to a very nice, friendly lady. In customer service.

And what she did was tell me that this was absolutely no problem, they had a record of the transaction, they could see the error, they'd refund my card. One small snag... she couldn't actually refund the card herself. That's down to the store. Who she would alert. And they'd call me back. This afternoon.

They never did.

And there-in lies the problem. Ikea's customer service is just more marcomms unless it can actually deliver the service the customer needs. And it can't. So it's a misnomer.

Customer Service, it appears, is actually DONE (rather than talked about) in store.

And the bottom line is this: no matter how charming the people you call your 'customer service' team, no matter how professionally and courteously they deal with the customer's call, they are just another marcomms lie unless they have 100% back up from the do-ers - the deliverers of their promises.

The distance between what you say you will do and what you actually do, is a lie.

Harsh? Perhaps but for those on the receiving end of this mismatch, it's painfully true

UPDATE: Aug 7, 2010.
I had to call them back today - having not heard from Ikea to refund the money they had taken from me. This time they told me it 'takes 12 working hours'. When I probed further it turned out they would be reviewing CCTV evidence before giving me the money they have misappropriated from me. And that wouldn't happen today. I may get a call on Monday at the earliest. I told them in future I would be going v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y through their checkouts. And I advise everyone else so to do.

The initial pretence of trusing the customer was clearly a sham - a pretence - a lie. Marcomms at its very worst.

Now I'm not only out of pocket - I am angry about the misinformation and misdirection.

Ikea, not only is your customer service a misnomer, it's clear you actually don't trust your customers. Well, in at least one case, that feeling is now entirely mutual.
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The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?