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)