Archive | February, 2010

Why the Web Won’t Work: A Look Back

20 Feb

While browsing Digg, I came across this fascinating article by Clifford Stoll, published in Newsweek in 1995, about why the Web is simply all hype. While I highly recommend reading the entire (very short) article, here are some key quotes that made me chuckle. It’s amazing what has changed in 15 years. Stoll’s problems with the Internet all underscore how the development of broadband has fundamentally changed how we use the Web. With the technology available back then, no wonder Stoll was frustrated. Too bad he was short-sited — not to mention completely wrong — about the possibilities of online technologies and communities.

  • “The truth is no online database will replace your daily newspaper, no CD-ROM can take the place of a competent teacher and no computer network will change the way government works.”
  • “How about electronic publishing? Try reading a book on disc. At best, it’s an unpleasant chore: the myopic glow of a clunky computer replaces the friendly pages of a book. And you can’t tote that laptop to the beach.”
  • “Lacking editors, reviewers or critics, the Internet has become a wasteland of unfiltered data. You don’t know what to ignore and what’s worth reading.”
  • “What’s missing from this electronic wonderland? Human contact.”

Corporate Communities, Transparency and Competitiveness

20 Feb

What do consumers want? TRANSPARENCY, AUTHENTICITY AND COLLABORATION.

When do they want it? NOW…IN REAL TIME!

How do they want it? ONLINE, OFFLINE, ON THE MOVE, EVERYWHERE.

Why should corporations pay attention? BECAUSE HAPPY CUSTOMERS ARE GOOD CUSTOMERS.

So how can corporations use social media effectively in order to provide a relevant, engaging experience for consumers instead of seeming like they are simply touting their own horn?

The idea of corporate websites already seems outdated. Of course, major companies need to have an online presence, but consumers no longer need to perform a directed search in order to find out about a company’s products or best practices. Jeremiah Owyang succinctly explains how the evolution of peer feedback — through blogs, social networks, rating sites, etc. — has made traditional web marketing irrelevant. In order to stay on (or ahead) of the curve, companies need to approach marketing as a collaborative effort with consumers, as opposed to a two-way “we’re selling/you’re buying” paradigm.

As a specific example, Jeff Jarvis discusses Starbucks’ development of MyStarbucksIdea.com, an open forum in which customers make suggestions, other customers can vote on and discuss them, and then Starbucks can track which ideas are gaining popular support. Starbucks employs “idea partners” that follow and moderate discussions, and then work to implement customer suggestions on a corporate basis. Not only does such interaction promote transparency and authenticity, but it allows a company and it’s customers to grow together organically. If a customer idea succeeds or fails, the participating customers hold some accountability. It also allows for product innovation, customer loyalty, and evangelism by key customers across networks, which holds massive power for expanding and sustaining business.

While any forward-thinking company needs to have constant consumer engagement, I wonder how such transparency could affect a company’s competitiveness. Is too much transparency possibly dangerous for a company who wants to maintain an unique brand? If discussion is open to all consumers — including competitors — how does (or can) a company “own” consumer ideas posted within a corporate context to prevent poaching? Can consumer suggestions be considered intellectual property? This would be an interesting discussion point with our upcoming speakers.

Little Jersey Shore

16 Feb

A completely gratuitous video that has nothing to do with technology or online communities.

Film and TV Time Travel

16 Feb

This is just cool.

David McCandless, a British “data journalist and information designer,” wrote The Visual Miscellaneum: A Colorful Guide to the World’s Most Consequential Trivia, which was recently published in the US. Here is an amazing chart that details the history of time travel in film and television. I found out about this from the Good blog, which led me to McCandless’ amazing website, which details the intricate process he took to create this chart (click here for the full size image). Informationisbeautiful.net may be my new obsession. Visualizing and beautifully depicting a broad range of social data — from Beatles songs to successful online dating photos — blows my mind as a methodological process. I wish that I had artistic ability, because I would love to follow McCandless’ model in using such charts to aggregate social data in an accessible, easy-to-use format. I want to buy the book too. It will be a great coffee table conversation piece.

I’m Buzzed

15 Feb

I’m sure this is what Google hoped its users would say about it’s new social networking service. According to Google, more than tens of millions of people had tried the service within the first 48 hours of its launch. Like Apple, whenever Google introduces a new product or application, the hype will draw serious and immediate attention. But Google is fallible too. A New York Times article discussed how, after intense criticism, Google altered an initial Buzz feature that automatically connected people based on email contacts on the grounds that it compromised privacy. Critics believed that users’ email addresses would be exposed and that Google was forcing its social networking tools on to users, since the company didn’t initially offer the choice to turn off Buzz. It has since added a tab in Gmail to eliminate Buzz and also turned off the auto follow feature. Now that Google has entered the social networking space, it will need to continually update and tweak its privacy settings like Facebook or Twitter or any other platform that involves sharing personal information. In my opinion, then, such brouhaha over Buzz isn’t surprising or far-fetched. Social networking is fluid and dynamic. Not every tool will appeal to everyone at every time. If people choose to use a tool, then they should familiarize themselves with the privacy settings and choose carefully what information to put online.

Although Buzz is limited to Gmail users (176 million versus Facebook’s 400 million+), and I don’t believe that it will replace Facebook and Twitter’s expansive networking capabilities, Buzz offers unique features that are detailed by Saad Fazil in VentureBeat. Here are some of the highlights (and a link to the full article):

  • Since Buzz is immediately available to all Gmail subscribers, the platform already has an audience at its fingertips.
  • Gmail users tend to keep an email tab open, which will likely encourage Buzz use.
  • Buzz has the seamless capability to integrate standalone apps, such as Picasa and Google Latitude, which differentiates itself from Facebook.
  • A potential downside is that Buzz is the “jack of all trades, master of none”: it can be Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare at the same time, and users may be turned off by it’s broad (versus niche) capabilities.

Here is a video that demonstrates how Google Buzz works:

And here is a great parody of that video:

And one more for good luck:

Parisian Oops

9 Feb

I love this interpretation of Google’s Super Bowl ad. Made by a UCB sketch group in New York, the ad is already circling the tech blogs. The embedding link is acting funky, so you can watch it directly here.

Super Bowl SearchStories

8 Feb

This is what I know about Super Bowl Sunday: it is the only time I will 1) proactively watch football and 2) proactively watch ads. I’m not anti-football. I’m just not that into it (unless, of course, the Bears are playing…then I’m moderately more interested). I knew that the Colts were playing the Saints, that Peyton Manning is the Colts QB and former Trojan Reggie Bush plays for the Saints (and dates Kim Kardashian).

After reading an article in the New York Times on Sunday morning, I was very excited about the possibility of seeing an ad for Google during the 3rd quarter. According to the article, Google makes more money from advertising than any other media company in the world, but has not traditionally promoted it’s own brand. I absolutely loved the “search story” that told, through search queries, how a boy goes to study abroad in Paris, falls in love, moves to Paris, gets married and has a baby. Beautiful, simple, and less than a minute. In addition to demonstrating Google’s search capabilities, the ad speaks directly to how we can tell life stories through information searches.

There are currently seven Google SearchStory ads on YouTube, each detailing a different emotionally-charged story while highlighting how Google allows the story to unfold. Here is an ad about planning a road trip that does an amazing job of showing Google Map features:

Examining the Super Bowl as an institutional apparatus that creates an intense escalation of media activities across industries, the various advertisements, sports commentator descriptions, pre-game and halftime show antics surrounding celebrities, and overall emphasis on American patriotism seem to convey distinct messages to the television and online audiences. As Scott Sles noted in his blog post that CBS denied running an ad by the gay dating site ManCrunch, much can be suggested about the interaction between television broadcasting, programming and cultural values. Google’s ad — along with ads for Vizio’s Internet Apps and the infamous GoDaddy.com domain site — show the prominence of brand marketing strategies for online services across other media. As the Super Bowl is the most watched television show each year, our cultural values are moving online. Google’s slogan says it all: “search on.” Use your tv to search the Internet. Use Google for planning your life. Use YouTube, Flickr and Twitter to share your stories (through Vizio’s service, of course). Just as the television served as information’s gateway, now TV is telling us to go online.

And just for fun, here was my other favorite Super Bowl ad. Leave it to the Simpsons (with Coke as a sponsor) to tackle the poor economy in a lighthearted, relevant way. (Yes, I used “tackle” on purpose.)

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