Tuesday, February 28, 2012

By what and by whom do we want to be remembered?

Forbes reported this week that 'CMOs must prepare for the next technology revolution’.
The revolution in question is the shift from org-owned CRM (customer relationship management processes) to customer-owned VRM (Vendor Relationship Management - as Doc Searls has pioneered ).

This 'revolution' is, of course, far less tech/tool related than described. It is for more attitudinal and requiring of cultural shift (as often the case, observers confuse correlation with causality).

The basic notion is that the customer gets to own their data and share it with whom they choose to their own ends and benefit (as opposed to the organisation laying claim to customer data). 'Personal' is one example of the output of such a cultural shift in thinking.

All of which surfaces some questions about data ownership that have been gnawing at me.

What is the difference between your actions being recorded in a digital database - and being recorded by our human collective memory?
Do human memories decay faster, do digital ones do a worse job of delivering context (and therefore meaning)? These are the 'technical issues'. They are questions of effectiveness.

By what and by whom do we want to be remembered?
Let's set aside for the moment that memory and data may be different things - that memory may be the story through which we understand the data stored in our and other people's collective memory. In my view that applies equally to data stored in databases; it makes no sense without a story applied to it, derived from experience and with context.

By whom or what is it anything from 'ok' to be remembered, all the way through to 'desirable' to be remembered?
We want our friends and families to remember us. Is this different from data being stored in a database. If so, how and why?
We want our favourite restaurants and hotels to remember us.
We want society to remember us.
We want posterity to remember us.

Throughout history the remembering has been done by other humans, creating context around the data in the stories they tell, write, record and film.

So why not have Google storing your data? Why not Facebook? Why not the brands you consume? Perhaps they can record the source material more accurately than has been possible. The stories that make the data comprehensible, that gives it its context, will still require humanising.

I ask these questions because I think we need to be clear about what the risks and benefits of who owns data really are.
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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Revolution Will Not Be Automated

The revolution will not be automated.
It will not be delivered as a turn key solution or As A Service.
There will be no button to hit, switch to throw or command centre from which to run it.
The revolution will be hard, human, challenging, changing work.
Without the will to undergo cultural change all the tech will do is smear a little make up on the corpse of the past and prop it up in a chair. That won't fool anyone for long.
Treat me like a customer and I will buy your stuff. Treat me like a partner and I will help you make it.
Show me the console with a 'treat me like a partner', button.
Show me the console with 'understand behavioural change' on it.
Hell, show me the console with 'make better messages' on it - let alone 'make better products and services'.

There's a marvellous scene in Monty Python's Holy Grail in which Arthur's Knights arrive at a French castle and ask the guards if their master will join Arthur on his quest for the Holy Grail.
They say it's not very likely he'll bother since... "He already has one."

They were lieing too.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Work with me

I've got a vacancy for an entry-level role at Ninety10 Group in the UK office right now. Closing date is February 21, 2012.
Go here for the Linkedin job ad.

Friday, February 03, 2012

GPS, data caps and a crushing blow to location based services

For the first time ever I have received a warning that my smartphone data usage was coming close to my monthly limit.

It’s actually only the second month I’ve had a data limit – part of the joys of a new contract with O2 on an iPhone 4S.
I was assured when taking it out that my data usage was well within the limits they set. (A quick check of my records reveals I used no more that 175mb/month in the 3 months previous to the new contract).

I thought nothing more of it.
Until I got a text on Jan 31 telling me I’d used 80% of my 500mb limit and it wouldn’t be reset until February 7.

I hadn’t been streaming radio or video. I had maybe shared a handful of images the whole month. My iCloud settings were set to synch only when on wifi and the phone is plugged in.
In fact I did all the checks and there seemed little out of the ordinary.

In short I had used my 4S pretty much as I had the 3G it replaced and it was eating 3 times as much data.

O2 (via twitter) suggested it may be apps I’m running in the background. But of course apps don’t really run in the background, they only activate when called on (at least any built for IOS4).

I checked anyway. Cleared out loads of stuff in there.

The critical ones, it may be, are those which require GPS – ie location based stuff. The two key culprits for me; Googlemaps and Foursquare.
I’d rather like to leave them on, for the obvious reasons.

And I suspect the nascent location based services industry (which the telco's would also benefit from) would rather like us to leave them on, too. Because, unless I’m very much mistaken, the new limits on data use the telecoms industry seems so keen on look ready to strangle it at birth.

Don't know about you but I feel like I'm paying so much more for so much less. In the meantime, I guess this is what Onavo.com is for - download it free at the appstore.

And talking of App(le) Stores, O2 ended up setting up an appointment for me at my local Apple Store. They say they have had cases of iCloud using 3G for back-up even when it appears to be set to Wifi. They also, kindly, added a free data bolt-on to cover me this month while we investigate.

But if Apple can't find an issue with my phone (and I will update this when I have a result) then O2 and other providers may have to face up to the issue that their data limits are woefully inadequate to support today's smartphones and the ecosystem they promise to deliver.

UPDATE (Feb 3, 2012 2pm): The Genius bar at Cambridge (UK) could offer little advice other than try resetting the phone in the hope that perhaps one of my apps is incorrectly installed and continuingly calling on data when it shouldn't be. This (after the traditional 2 hours or so of back up and synching) I have done.

IF this does not work (ie reveal a significant fall in data use compared to previous, then Apple suggested I take it up with the operator who may be miscalcuating data (they've seen rare cases). And if that fails they'll try me with a new phone... Will keep you posted.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Honing the past versus building the future

Image via http://www.oldukphotos.com: Kingsway 1920
This decade looks increasingly as if it will be defined by the clash between those seeking to make the old world more efficient and those aiming to build a new one.

By which I mean as we hurtle towards the flowering of the full impact of digitally-driven faster, easier, cheaper, group-forming abilities, the defenders of the old will seek to use the technologies simply to lower the cost of doing the things they've always done.

This can loosely by characterised as channel management. Business as usual with a veneer of 'social' technologies at best. This is the world of the turn key solution.The rest of us, those building the new, must find ways to bring them with us.

The urgency becomes greater by the day. There is an oft-quoted peculiarity about the impact of new technologies on society: a consistent 20 year cycle between innovation and its widespread adoption - together with the impact wrought.

I spoke about this in New York in 2008 when I suggested the key technology in our case is user-friendly social networks - as these delivered simple and cheap group-forming into the hands of the mainstream.

I benchmark the beginning of this process as 2003 - the year MySpace launched.

Which means next year will see us half way through the 20-year cycle of disruption. My favourite example of this (via Vin Crosbie) is the impact of the car. In 1900 the streets of London were full of horses. 20 Years later? Full of cars, trucks and buses - and garages, and petrol stations, and new roads, and people and products travelling further, more regularly, more quickly.

In 1910 if you were a horse cart manufacturer you were likely feeling the pinch. But you still had a choice.
You could have chosen to stick to business as usual and used the new tech to make your business more efficient. You could have bought in cheaper supplies, wood, nuts, bolts, studs, leather. Delivery trucks could get you them cheaper and faster. You could deliver your carriages to customers farther afield - on the back of trucks.

You could make your old world more efficient with the tech of the new.

Or you could have joined in making the new world - turning your skills and resources to truck and car making. (If you want a starker example still - consider the cavalry charges and the emergence of the tank in World War I).

One scenario gave you a fighting chance of still being a business in 1920. And if you still want to be in business in 2023 you know the choice to make.
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Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Facebook needs to try much harder for its $100bn

Facebook's valuation is - apparently - justified by how much more accurately it will be able to target folk for 'conversion' very soon.
Not a religious thing, but that greater than ever ability to spot you and sell to you that you've been waiting for (ah hem).
Our pension fund holders are really going to pile into Facebook based on last-century's ad model?

Let's review for a moment.
Facebook is not an audience. It is an aggregation of small groups of people who care about each other (mostly) and a few that circulate around brands (mostly as a badging excercise or in hope of being thrown a fish or two).
I don't know of any groups that formed to be marketed to (either on Facebook or elsewhere). Facebook could test this by setting up the 'I signed up in order to be better targeted by advertising' group and counting the likes...

The broader point is this: targeted advertising - no matter how clever - remains advertising - a broadcast bodge job being unsatisfactorily applied to a networked medium.
I'm reminded of this, from ex-Facebook employee Jeff Hammerbacher:
"The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads," he says. "That sucks."

It's a shame that Facebook's share of the big brains can't be refocused, that Facebook can't take the opportunity to build new relationships between brands and their customers, to help shape alternatives that do fit the networked model.
Where is Facebook's product suite for innovating with customers - for making customers partners with brands in pursuit of things they both care about, for example?

I thought we'd all established we don't want to be targeted, we don't want to be marketed to, we want to join in, we want to market with.

We don't want better messages - we want better things.

Of course, we've said all this before (see below). I guess it wasn't a £100bn question last time.

Seriously, Facebook, try harder. You've got an opportunity to change the future for the better, not simply hone the past.

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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?