Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Networking does not matter – or does it?

It’s not the tool, it’s how you use it!

Recently, I ran a workshop about strategic networking for entrepreneurs and asked the participants why they think networking (i.e. making and maintaining relationships) is important to them. I got answers from “grow my number of contacts”, over “increase my visibility”,  to “to sell them my products”.

The first two reasons see a large network (in terms of knowing many people or being known by many people) as worth achieving by itself - but in the following I want to make the point that growing your network constantly is completely worthless. It's what you make out of the relationships you have, or knowing which new relationships will be valuable to you.

So the last reason, "sell them my products", is - although very ego-centric - actually a valid reason to network, because it comes the closest to why humans naturally build (social) networks at all – exchange.

Everyone of us has a certain (constantly changing) set of information, resources, skills, experiences, etc. , and therefore has got something, which is potentially matches what other people want. As soon as there is a certain unsatisfied demand from one person, which another person can satisfy by supplying any of these “goods”, these individuals can start an exchange – of course just, if they know each other and know about each other’s “wants and haves”.

This starts from being fed as a child from your parents over sharing knowledge to cram for exams to begging someone to design you a website - or doing deals for your business.

But in whichever situation, networks are just serve as the infrastructure on which exchange can happen – and satisfying specific needs through exchange should always be the purpose. Therefore before you go networking, you should be very clear about your needs and what kind of benefits you want to get out of a certain relationship or networking event.

Why build infrastructure if you don’t know what to use it for? Lots of entrepreneurs fail because they have fun working on something, but at the end it does not make enough money - “cool does not bring bacon home”. And with every successful tool mankind invented, it did not only matter to just have it – how it was used (which, if ignored, can lead to blindfold conclusions and decisions).

So to network strategically, I think it is crucial to understand what needs you have and what you can get from the people in your network – or what kind of people you need to know to satisfy your needs. And on the other side of the coin, you have to be very clear what you can give to people in order to sustain your relationships with them.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Conference Notes - Mobile User Experience (MEX) - London, 30/11/2010 (day 1)

This post is out of the usual context on this blog. For people who have attended (or missed) the Mobile User Experience (MEX) conference in London from 30/11 to 1/12/2010, you can review my notes from the talks below. The notes are by no means complete and there is no guarantee of validity. However, any comment is welcome - especially about things I missed or "misnoted".

1. Introduction to MEX (Norbert Metzner and Marek Pawlowski)
  • More than 50% of the network traffic comes from data
  • But just 20% of the revenue comes from data
  • Already 7.5 million iPads are sold - and they are the only personal devicee to offer simultaneous multiperson user interface
2. Tell me a story (Jason DaPonte)
  • Everytime we call someone, we tell a story
  • Location is key - describing and navigating the location you're in (or could be in)
  • Seabird Mozilla pico-projector phone
  • Reckons the use of second screens will initially be in a social context (e.g. constant twitter streams)
3. Simultaneous multi-touch interfaces on mobile devices (Kate Ho)
  • Seeing strong trend in people moving away from netbooks towards tablets
  • Simultaneous multi-touch interfaces mostly used for games at the moment (e.g. table football)
  • How to use multi-touch (and multi-user experiences) to increase productivity ? Move user experience closer to paper
  • On tables (and mosts multi-user interfaces), where there is no top/bottom side, the better multi-user experience comes through circular layouts (so that content is up-right for people on every side of the table
  • For advising or consulting, multi-user interfaces enable the customer to engage more in the process and take action himself
4. Best practice in mobile health care: setting the scene (Gus Desbarats)
  • The sooner a company puts an emphasis on the user experience of/for their technology, the more likely it is they build a brand instead of selling or licensing their IP to other brands.
  • In healthcare, it's all about productivity. They don't just need more data or more accurate data, but need to know how this allows them to treat more patients, increase success rates or allows them to be more efficient.
  • Difficulties in design for health care, because products have to be designed for people who are (potentially) completely different to the designer (e.g. less capable, less "technology instinct")
5. Overcoming technology limitations to explore new form factors (Mark Muenchinger)
  • Since pocket radios, mainstram personal devices have always been in a brick (or slate) form factor
  • Moving parts are the main challenge
  • Slate design is sub-optimal for 3D user experience (input and output)
  • Reckons clam-shell form factor will return soon (in the form of a wallet)
6. Identify ways 3D can enrich the user experience with visual depth (Mattias Andersson)
  • Combining emotional experience without sacrificing usability (highlights example of cool iris) is powerful
  • OpenGL on mobile devices is getting to a good standard, but is not yet perfect (feels unreal, not responsive enough), e.g. no real-time shadows.
7. A constructivist approach towards understanding user experience (Ali al-Azzawi)
  • "A person's processes are psychologically channelized by the ways in which he anticipates events" (Kelly 1955)
  • 3 part ICE model for user experience:
  1. Evaluation (of an item)
  2. Interaction
  3. Construction (of model how something works)
  • Super Constructs of user experience
    • Novelty (to engage users to try something)
    • Usability (Efficient and Understandable) - design patterns helpful
    • Complexity (Visual and Conceptual) - making things too easy makes them less fun to use - some form of complexity necessary
    • Aesthetics (Formal and Classical) - shared meanings (e.g. for people using apple products) drive network effects
    • Physicality (Mass, Size, Fit, Form) - determines how people hold an item and interact with it (which can be comfortable or uncomfortable)
    • Value (Quality, Functions, ...) - feeling exclusive
    • Convenience (Pragmatics, Compatibility, Battery, Capacity) - Symbols (like "Made for iPod") indicate that products will fit into your lifestyle
  • Relationships (between self and objects/brands/others) create meaning
8. Screen today, gone tomorrow (Greg Taylor)
  • Townhall research estimates over 500 million tablets alone will ship by 2015
  • Advanced 3D projections at a concert
  • Primary usage of free space projections is military (e.g. strategy planning) and advertising (e.g. projecting a coca cola bottle into a skyline)
  • Could lead to "bombarding" people with advertisement
9. Breaking free of shape constraints and identifying form factors of the future (Andrew Muir Wood)
  • Average height of a mobile phone dropped constantly until about 2002, when it started to increase again (because people wanted more features like cameras) to a now fairly stable average height of about 110mm (dominant design)
  • "My useful is NOT the same as your useful"
  • Ways to make mobiles more personal:
    • Custom (adapt it to personal needs or preferences by modifying or adding software and hardware). Also potential for rapid prototyping (e.g. shaping the back of the phone to match the owner's hand)
    • Boutique (e.g. importing phones from Japan which are truly unique but not available here as mass-import and necessary technical modifications not worth the potential sales). Barriers for making independent phones is decreasing constantly.
    • Special purpose phones (Switching seamlessly between two (or more) devices would increase mobile sales heavily as there is a demand for special purpose phones (link: especially women like to have different types of phones)) (Thought: The cloud could enable  this and Google with its sophisticated cloud synchronisation services is on a good way of enabling this)
10. Children, education, shared touchscreens and visual depth (Ben Scott-Robinson)
  • "Talking Carl" app - Interactive communications for toddlers
  • User experience intuitive, and the digital experience allows kids to just try things (e.g. singing fingers app)
  • Touch experience important for kids, which is why computer software for toddlers did not work out big time
  • Country-specific focus can be irritating (e.g. different words for things in US and UK)
  • Upcoming concept: "smart pollow" - soft, robust, but interactive, i.e. toddlers can play with it without any worries (from themselves or their parents)

Friday, 26 November 2010

Conference Notes - Launch48 Mobile - London, 26/11/2010

This post is out of the usual context on this blog. For people who have attended (or missed) the Launch48 mobile conference in London on 26/11/2010, you can review my notes from the talks below. The notes are by no means complete and there is no guarantee of validity. However, any comment is welcome - especially about things I missed or "misnoted".

Content in the Mobile World (Darren Goldsby)
  • But the digital world brought the customers much closer to the newspaper (as they can analyse how people interact with the content)
  • Culture of free content on the web was disruptive for news paper industry - move to mobile sphere (where paying for content is still more usual) was/is one of the only opportunities left
  • Ads don’t sell in mobile content (or significantly decrease the user experience), hence the apps have to make the money
  • Had to completely rethink “What is a newspaper on an iPad” - without even having an iPad at the beginning (the fun of being part of a big product launch).
  • Although the Times app gets charged $9.99 and Sun $4.99, the apps hit the top of the download charts - selling content on mobiles works. Thought: Potentially because the average early iPad adopter is wealthy and wants to leverage the potential of the pad.
  • Adding crosswords to the app increased app downloads massively
  • True innovation was the new Layout out content and making the user experience better (than e.g. on the web) with the convenience of a tablet.
  • But: Business model still relies on “Times readers want to read the Times”. Thought: No aggregation / syndication of content planned?
  • Once an app hits the Top 10, it gets downloaded constantly, because “people want what’s hot”.
  • Lessons Learned by Darren when developing the apps for News Corporation:
    1. Define your vision early
    2. Recognise the difficulties in a new market
    3. Work differently
    4. Choose your battles
    5. Gather support
    6. Look at competitive landscape
    7. Be careful how you sell your products
    8. Seek forgiveness, not permission (Thought: like facebook)

    Mobile Apps vs Web on Mobile (David Erasmus)
    (apologies for the few notes - very quick talk, hard to catch up with taking notes)

    • Apple does allows in-app selling of digital content, but does not allow in-app donations
    • Switching from apps to browser (e.g. to make donations) disturbs the user experience
    • Sees the way forward in building wep services to build native apps on top (instead of just having mobile websites - which load slow if your signal is low - and isolated apps)

    Supermarkets – Why focusing on just one outlet means you’re missing out (John Chasey)

    • Focus on Apple equals loosing money: Just 3% of all mobile devices
      • Now Android is catching up rapidly (and Windows Phone 7 is coming up as well)
    • But: Apple defined the market, all app stores copied Apple including the terms (e.g. 70/30 revenue share)
    • Platform independency became important on desktops once there were platforms with a somewhat equal user experience. Same development is happening on mobiles now, but platform independency is becoming important much quicker.
    • Technical strategy for a product should base on platform independency (make use of independent technologies)
    From 0 to 1.5 million downloads (Hermes Pique)

    • Publishing apps for android in early 2009: On launch day, you got 1000+ downloads no matter what. Today: 100 downloads if you're lucky (because there are too many apps released now)
    • Product quality crucial now - and the team behind the product is crucial for the product to be great
    • For the right applications, there are still hughe opportunities in less saturated markets (Blackberry, Windows Phone 7, ...), although install base might be slightly smaller
    • To find apps, always include direct app market links / QR codes everywhere you talk about it
    • Don't get stuck in web-app-style thinking (e.g. first screen = login/password/signup) - let your users just use the app and give them tools to share the app & what they think about it
    • Make your way into rankings (by popularity, price, ratings, ...), because searching markets is not perfect yet
    • You might have to spend money on Adwords or other ppc campaigns - but stop right when you are in the rankings (might increase app downloads by 2000%). Thought: Consistent with first talk by Darren Goldsby.
    Mobile payment experience (John Lunn)
    • Percentage of free apps on Apple and Blackberry: 25% - Android: 57%
       (because they take an open approach)
    • BlackBerry is giving people money to develop apps
    • By 2012, most money from m-Commerce is by selling physical goods (about 50%)
    • Worst apps: Maceys (when not having an account, you have to create it using a computer), Trainline (not have an account? Call this number) and other which just disturb the user flow.
    • Paypal app: Took step away from 1 click buys, because people tried the button without the confident intention to actually buy - now added "Are you sure" dialog. But no login required (if purchased once, phone is authorised to make further purchases
    • Advocates Titanium, because apps are native and look native

    New opportunities Windows Phone 7 offers (Will Coleman)
    • If users use apps, they still want to be sure their data is secure - apps which ask for too many permissions or might send data to somewhere unknown are perceived as suspicious. Thought: Heard before an official bible app got criticised for collecting/sending all sorts of data (e.g. location, user data, ...) - can anyone confirm? References?
    • Microsoft advocates customer interaction from a push perspective with their tiles screen (e.g. If the weather gets bad, then a tile updates and notifies the users, or if a train get's delayed) so users do not have to start the apps all the time but also don't have unimportant stuff taking up the screen (and disturbing the user experience).
    • Microsoft allows software trials (without publishing 2 separate apps), trials based on time or other factors
    • In-app purchases possible without restrictions - and without revenue shares
    • Aims to publish apps within 7 days - and if the apps do not get published, you get a full report what policies your app did not make, so you can fix and resubmit the apps as quickly as possible.
    • Advocate cross-platform experience (e.g. take content from xbox/pc to phone and back through web services)

    Taking advantage of big corporations: some tips from startup spawning to exit strategy (Ricardo Varela)
    •  To get resources from big corporations, get in touch with their "developer marketing team" (who make sure developers use a given technology) or "partners team" (for tighter integration with existing systems for mutual benefit)
    • Build a great product that works well with theirs - and get free
    • Start consulting for the companies technology - and get hired from them to do talks on it
    The reality beyond the hype – building VouChaCha (Ben Brown) 
    • Also seeked big partners at first, to build up credibility and get a number of small businesses (because they pitched to 500 small businesses and just had 15 signups). Interesting link to Strategic Networking: Getting a big partner through your network can build trust with companies which don't know you but the brand you signed up)

    The Dirty Dozen: The Next Mission (Andrew Scott)
    1. Don't choose a crap name (find out what your name idea stands for in different countries, cultures or languages)
    2. Build amazingly on one platform first (building on too many platforms makes your forget about the user experience) and then target other platforms (when you know how people want to use your product and what works)
    3. Location, location, location (go to silicon valley, meet as many people as possible and bring back all the contacts and learnings home) Thought: Just heard of a story as well where people went to the valley just to find funding, because of the better evaluations - flights, visa and accommodation turned out to get paid off by the better investment terms
    4. Hire slow, fire quick 
    5. ?
    6. ?
    7. Beware the bubble (Just 25% of the internet users use facebook, twitter even less - find out what people really really want)
    8. Stop guessing & measure (you need to know when you run out of money / when you hit your project targets / when you make your first million)
    9. Time flies (it always takes twice as long to build what you need than you think - funding 3 times as long. Never get near to running out of money - investors will take their time to get a better deal)
    10. Practise, no really
    11.  Help others, it's circular (helping others also helps you to think about your own situation - and you might get good tips / feedback on your ideas)
    12. Time out (to avoid burn-out and get inspired)

    Flash Platform for Mobile and Devices (Mark Doherty)
    • Now that HTML5 is coming to browsers (and is a potential thread for flash), flash is moving towards providing a consistent experience on mobiles 
    • Future flash solutions for macs/pcs will enable playing fullHD videos and high res video games with 0% cpu usage

    Mobile apps – less is more (Andy Munarriz)
    • 14% of total mobile operator revenue is generated from call termination - therefore voicemail is important to revenue generation
    • Within 3 years 70% of mobile phone market will be smartphones
    • Dont shy away from not being perfect or even having problems - engage with your users
    • User experience is key - "less is more"
    • Mobile data is not broadbend - test your data transfers under real (and especially slow) conditions, not with wifi !
    • In your design, think about people using one thumb to use the phone ! Testing the interface in emulators in your development environment doesn't help much
    • Don't get infected by "featuritis" - do 3 features really well instead of 150 features being just about acceptable
    • Think of left / right handed users and put important thigs (e.g. the play button for a video app) in the middle - and big
    • Strive to make your app intuitive / obvious - and cut non-essentials
    • Use designers that are not developers
    • "Eat your own dog foot - and give it to everyone you know". You are not "normal", so watch other people using your product. It's good enough if your wife/granny can use it straight away. Thought: If you don't plan to make money from training corporates to make their employees use their app, make it dead simple.
    • Recommendation: 1 app, 1 platform - because "One size does not fit all". All platforms have their own screen sizes, culture (e.g. menu button vs touch screen) etc. - and you have to keep the platforms in sync as well
    • "Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler" - Albert Einstein

    Will mobile make me rich? (Raja Saggi)
    • Follow the money: App store: 7bn downloads of 300k apps = 1.4bn in sales
    • Top 10 grossing apps: 70% are games
    • Digital Local Advertising is rising - even local microbusinesses will shift their money to this space soon (as it's more effective)
    • Microbusinesses highly dependent on location, and still the right target group (i.e. no point giving vouchers out for chinese food to people who don't like chinese food) - mobile advertising can solve this.
    • How to get rich:
      • Focus on a USP
      • Add a great UX
      • CPA or commerse oriented business model
      • Target space which is new but not a complete gamble
      • Partner where possible to fill in product and distribution gaps

    Monday, 22 November 2010

    Strategic Networking Blog - Mission Statement

    130 is the average number of friends that users on facebook have, 50% of all 500 million active users log in daily to interact with their friends. They post updates, share links and fotos, comment on just about anything - being social is in.

    And looking at how other parts of our life, that have been primarily our own issues before, get rethought and made social, there does not seem to be any way around social in the long run as well. Groupon is leading the social shopping front, and Google has been exploring social search for a while.

    Mark Zuckerberg is right saying, that being social and interacting with other people is one of our most important personal needs, especially since human's do not have to worry about survival and safety constantly anymore - food to live from and a lockable door are ubiquitous to most people developed countries.

    But with this, there are a few emerging challenges, which have formerly been recognised:
    • We cannot grow our network to an unlimited size. In fact, with about 150 people, we can just remain an overview of a fairly low number of people. Once our list of friends exceeds this number, we have troubles staying in touch with them - or we spend more time on our social life than we should.
    • Where in the old days, we replace about half of our friends every 7 years, because people moved to other places and contact details became outdated (therefore relationships were lost), this is not exactly happening anymore. Profiles on social networks never change - and are even always up to date. Where our best friends might still get replaced by others at times, the total number of people we can stay in touch with (and do every once in a while) is constantly growing. Or do you delete friends on Facebook or LinkedIn regularly?
    • Whenever we decide to do something, we base our decisions on expected returns, but in social life returns are much more complex to measure than for example in purchase decisions. And with the overwhelming number of social interactions, due to a lot of our daily life now involving social web or mobile apps, it is very hard to loose track of what we do and what we get from it.

    This blog attempts to explore these challenges, discuss potential solutions and will introduce readers to technology which can simplify their social life - not only for the sole purpose of having a better overview, but being more efficient in making and managing new, useful relationships.

    It sees networking as the art of making and managing relationships - and where the interaction part is mostly of operational nature, strategic networking shall be the process of taking a step back, analysing our networking efforts and aligning them towards the bigger picture (e.g. looking at if our efforts are worth the returns and re-aligning our efforts towards our goals), in order to achieve our goals quicker and more efficient - with our network and without cutting down on social life.