Archive for the ‘technology’ tag
Some days it seems almost anybody can make an enjoyable video promoting a Kickstarter project, but these guys get bonus points for simultaneously giving the venture-capital system a big poke in the eye. "Nikola Tesla Pitching Silicon Valley VCs" is a biting look at what might have happened if one of history's greatest inventors had to rely on today's venture capitalists. It also happens to promote a Kickstarter effort to build a wi-fi hotspot statue of Tesla in Silicon Valley. What's interesting is that the video isn't some sort of populist celebration of Kickstarter. Instead, it depicts crowdfunding as a stopgap solution to the lack of large-scale vision among venture capitalists, whose tech-industry kingmaking is increasingly being called into question. The team behind the video, a creative project firm called Northern Imagination, admits the clip was pulled together quickly, which probably explains the strange audio levels and Tesla's questionable "Serbian" accent. But it has clearly struck a chord, inspiring GigaOm to write a 1,000-word essay on what the video "says about the state of Silicon Valley." In the meantime, the Tesla statue-raisers could still use your help. As of Thursday morning, they were still nearly $100,000 short of their goal, with only 10 days left. Via Boing Boing.
Have you seen the CTRL ALT Delete experience yet?
My latest book, CTRL ALT Delete, came out two days ago. In an attempt to create attention and interest, the team at Twist Image put together a very compelling story about business today. So far, the experience has been getting some rave reviews in places like Twitter and Facebook, but – for the most part – people are still misunderstanding what this all means. When you put things into context, provide the data to back it and present it as a story, you would think that the information would wake people up.
It rarely does.
It turns out that people still – wrongly – think that CTRL ALT Delete is a book about social media (it isn’t). It turns out that people still – wrongly – think that CTRL ALT Delete is a book about marketing (it isn’t). CTRL ALT Delete is a book about business life. We see facts, stats and data points all day long. We ‘re exposed to information, like we live in a world where more people have a mobile subscription than access to safe drinking water. We live in a world where Google‘s advertising revenue is greater than that of the entire print industry. But, beyond trying to catch our jaws as they hit the floor, what are we doing about it? We all struggle – deeply – to highlight companies that are handling this moment of business purgatory (as I call it) well. We can’t simple rattle them off. There are not a lot of great case studies (or simply not enough of them). Worse, each and every one of us struggles to figure our how to evolve professionally and bring the best "you" to work everyday. Will the company accept my new way of thinking? What will my clients and peers think? Is this too radical for our industry to handle?
What choice do we have?
In 2009, I published my first book, Six Pixels of Separation. It was a book that I wrote to demonstrate how technology, media our new inter-connected changes the very fabric of what it means to be a brand, create marketing and the relationship between consumers and these brands. It was a book that exposed the strategies we used at Twist Image to grow our business from a handful of employees and clients, to our current state of one hundred-plus full-time employees in two cities and working with some of the most iconic brands (we are one of the largest independent digital marketing agencies in North America). I don’t write this to brag, but rather as social proof that there was (and still is) alternatives to how to grow and market any business. In CTRL ALT Delete we have entered a world where the very fabric of business has changed forever (I break these out into five major movements in the business book), but brands are still not doing much about it. It didn’t end there. I felt that it would be unfair to write about these five movements without also spending a healthy chunk of time discussing us – the individuals – who are now entrusted to thrive in this new business environment.
Go through the CTRL ALT Delete story.
I encourage you to spend a few minutes going through the CTRL ALT Delete digital experience (you can do it online, on your tablet or smartphone). Keep a notepad nearby, answer the three questions that are a part of the experience and then think about two things:
- Your business.
- Your life.
Ready for a reboot?
What’s your take? How well-prepared is your business for this world that is not only constantly changing, but that has changed (dramatically)? How well-prepared are you, personally and professionally, for a world where we’ll no longer change jobs 4-5 times throughout our careers, but one where we will change careers 4-5 times throughout our lifetime? It’s funny, all of the staggering stats about the new reality in our world still triggers fear and anxiety. In reality, the feeling should be excitement and anticipation of a world that offers up a whole new layer of opportunity, wonder and amazement.
Do you still perceive this reboot to be something negative? You should not.
The first thought that crossed my mind when I tried out Google’s new “conversational search” functionality in the latest version of its desktop Chrome browser was Star Trek.
You don’t have to be a huge fan of the sci-fi TV series (and films) to remember the ways in which Captain Kirk (Picard, Janeway, etc) did search or asked a question. “Computer?” they’d start saying, and then speak.
That also reminds me of the rudimentary speech commands with the first-generation Kinect for the Xbox. You’d start voice-command interaction with that device by saying “Kinect?” and then tell the device what you wanted.
With Google’s conversational search, you don’t start with commands like those, you just ask a question at the Google search screen in your Chrome desktop browser.
This feature has been part of Google’s search functionality on mobile devices running Android and iOS for a while. The big difference, though, is using it on the desktop browser, the “computer speaks back to you.”
It’s actually very neat. Here’s a short video of a very quick and simple test I did, asking Google search, “How far is it from Wokingham to Hammersmith?”
Given the conversational way in which I asked the question, and my own accent, word-pronunciation and grammar usage, I was hugely impressed with the function’s ability to correctly – and very quickly – understand what I said. The voice answer was great, much better than the Max Headroom-style I might have expected.
My test is very simple. A clue to the real attraction of this new functionality for search lies in its description: conversational search. This is about asking a series of questions, each relating to the previous, like a developing conversation. I asked just one question. So what’s it like if you conduct a series, a conversation?
Danny Sullivan has a great detailed review of his experiences with doing precisely that, with impressive results.
Google conversational search isn’t perfect, far from it (and Google doesn’t claim it is). The new functionality had some teething troubles yesterday when it launched. And correctly recognizing every spoken word is nigh on impossible – look at the trouble we humans have.
But it’s a huge step forward.
- Read more commentary and opinion about Google’s conversational search.
Channel surfing got weird.
There was this episode of All-Star Celebrity Apprentice this season that revolved around each team’s ability to create a television ad for the consumer electronics company, LG. It wasn’t really about a particular model of television or kitchen appliance. It wasn’t about some new-fangled technology that would allow their washing machines to clean your clothes through some kind of micro-parcel technology. It was all about how connected these devices have now become. The television, the smartphone, the washer and dryer and yes, even the refrigerator are now "smart." Smart in a connected sense. Smart in not just being connected to the Internet, but in how each device now has a touchscreen that offers up all kinds of information – from operating data to content (like recipes based on what’s inside the fridge). Screens are everywhere. Screens are connected. Screens are mobile. Screens are increasingly getting cheaper and more ubiquitous.
Welcome to the one screen world.
Not too long ago, I was asked to give a presentation on the state of digital media and how well brands are intersecting the worlds of marketing and technology. Prior to my closing keynote presentation, there was a panel discussion about the state of media. One senior media executive was discussing the power of a four screen world. I thought that he had made a mistake. I was familiar with the concept of three screens (television, computer and mobile), but four screens was something new. Eventually, he unveiled that the fourth screen was the tablet. It’s still somewhat shocking to think that the iPad was first introduced on April 3rd, 2010, and we now live in a world where more iPads are being sold than any PC manufacturer sold of their entire PC line (and this has been a constantly growing trend since 2012). In fact, all of this shores up to the notion that it’s not about three screens or four screens. It’s about one screen: whichever screen is in front of me. In a world where screens are connected and everywhere, the notion of even counting them seems arbitrary, at best. Don’t believe me, speak to somebody who is currently sporting Google glass.
The true tale of a nineteen year old.
My niece is nineteen years old. When she was sixteen years old, she would come home school, take out her laptop, plop down on the couch, lift the computer lid, turn on the TV, plug in her earbuds, so that she could listen to music on her iPod, and her BlackBerry was always within reach. From afar it looked like she was running NORAD. Fast-forward a mere three years, and now she comes home from school, takes out her iPad… and that’s it. All of that core content is now readily available on the one screen (in one way, shape or form). From content (in text, images, audio and video) to communications (chatting with friends on Skype or via Google Hangouts)… it’s all readily available on this one device that rules them all. Yes, we are seeing a massive uptick in consumers who are using companion devices (meaning, they are watching TV but have their smartphones nearby), and while the industry does refer to it as a companion device, the truth is that you’re not watching the television with one eyeball and your iPhone with the other. The only screen that still matters, is the screen that is in front of you.
It’s bigger than you think.
While most people are busy paying attention to the fact that Yahoo just bought Tumblr for over one billion dollars, they’re forgetting something profound about the last acquisition of chaotic proportions (when Facebook bought Instagram for close to one billion dollars as well). In the Newsweek article, Instagram Will Take Facebook Into the Mobile Age (April 16th, 2012), journalist Dan Lyons so appropriately wrote: "The Internet was all about websites. Then came the iPhone and Android, and today the only reason anyone creates a website is to promote a cool new mobile app." And here we are, today, with over a billion smartphones in the world and they are outnumbering the PCs. Within the next decade, virtually all mobile phones will be smartphone, meaning 6 billion people will be constantly connected. And, as if the exponential growth of the one screen world is not scary enough, we currently live in a world where more individuals have a mobile subscription than access to electricity or safe drinking water (more on that here: Putting Global Mobile In Context).
So, how are the brands stacking up?
Not so well, thanks for asking. According to a recent survey by Adobe, 45% of marketers still don’t have a mobile presence, and this is happening at the exact same time that eMarketer is reporting that 15% of online retail sales will take place this year via a mobile device (sales will reach nearly $39 billion in 2013, which is up over 56% from 2012). If ever there was a time to embrace the notion of the one screen world, this would be it. Businesses are still splitting hairs of what is the Web, what is the smartphone, what is the tablet and what is TV in a world where consumers are shoring these screens up into one. They have a constant and consistent desire to simply have the content they want on the device they want, when they want it. Sadly, most marketers are thinking about how they are going to advertise on a mobile screen, instead of hunkering down and figuring out what the customer’s new expectations are when everything from their washer and dryer to their television and smartphone are hyper-connected to one another. Instead of curling up into a ball or sticking the proverbial head in the sand, what we’re truly seeing in this day and age is a massive global opportunity – unlike anything in business that we have seen before – to take the mobile lead. By the looks and sounds of the data and the exponential growth in consumer demands for these devices and the content on them, the one screen world is poised to make websites, social media and e-commerce combined look like a joke in comparison.
Are you ready? Is your brand ready?
The above posting is my twice-monthly column for the Harvard Business Review. I cross-post it here with all the links and tags for your reading pleasure, but you can check out the original version online here:
Thanks to technology, we’re watching a revolution happen in education right now.
From the explosion in popularity of language learning apps like Mindsnacks to the media furor about the rise of massive open online courses (MOOCs), companies are being built around the idea that technology can radically reshape our relationship with education.
Educating the well-educated
MOOCs have attracted more attention than any other edtech category, and with good reason. Imagine being able to take a physics class with Stephen Hawking without having to enroll at Cambridge, or learn poetry with Helen Vendler, and explore the solar system with Neil deGrasse Tyson.
The possibilities are seemingly endless — especially for the hyper-literate, hyper-educated communities of bloggers and journalists who typically write about this technology. These platforms started as experiments in distributing high quality education for single classes, and blossomed into fully-fledged companies on the strength of early, massive enrollments.
There’s an amazing amount of potential embedded in the idea of MOOCs, but for now, they are only struggling experiments aimed at the outer edge of enthusiasts of esoteric learning.
Enrollment figures point squarely at largely unfulfilled promises. Katy Jordan, an educational researcher, pulled together published stats, largely from Coursera, and plotted enrollment and completion rates for various popular MOOCs.
Harvard’s computer science class CS50x on edX had an amazing 150,349 enrolled students, of which 0.9 percent completed the course. Attrition rates on that level would instantly doom a college. While MOOC proponents argue that these completion rates are irrelevant because of varied interest levels of participating students at the outset, they’ve set the stage for their own measurement by using enrollment factors as their topline metric in interview after interview.
Education for the rest of us
But let’s say you ignore the massive discrepancy between enrollment and completion. Let’s say you focus, instead, on the stated mission of these companies. Each company states that its mission is access to education. So who is getting that access? Certainly not the millions of elementary and high school students struggling with a crumbling K-12 system in the U.S. Even if these kids have access to computers and broadband at home (which is a big “if”), they don’t necessarily have the skills to teach themselves the material with little or no human interaction.
Educating these kids in the subjects, and with the methods that they need to learn are not directly tied to jobs or expensive credentialing systems — the emerging business models of the biggest players in edtech. These kids are in the thick of the learning bell curve, not the autodidactic wunderkinds taking symbolic systems courses at the age of 12.
Many of the students that we work with at my company Tutorspree fall into this category. They are kids who are still learning to learn. Some are hugely advanced for their age, some need extra help — all want something more than the purely digital options being pushed by media and many government agencies.
These kids and their parents tell us every day that they need a real person to teach them, to learn with them, to react in real time to errors and successes, and to provide the kind of personal warmth and encouragement that computers cannot provide.
The power of people
We’re not the only ones noticing the importance of having real people interact with one another to make education work better. The MOOCs are beginning to hire teaching assistants and tutors to create emotional buy-in and attachment with students.
Sal Khan isn’t pushing for his videos to be the final say in teaching. They are meant as a gateway to unlock significantly higher rates of one-to-one teacher student interaction in the flipped classroom. Codecademy may use a carefully structured system to help people start learning to code, but they also encourage meetups and high school groups to get together to support one another through the really hard stuff.
The media likes to talk about how technology is creating radical shifts in education. Journalists talk about increases in access, tracking, and new mediums for delivery. But none of that is enough.
The real test of edtech is still to come. Companies will have to prove that they are able to actually teach students, not just put lessons in front of them.
We need teachers if we want a system that is effective for the students who really need help, and want real progress.
Follow him on Twitter @Harris.
Filed under: Entrepreneur
For the past 18 months, WebHostingBuzz has hosted this blog and my other websites on a dedicated server physically located in one of its US datacentres.
A dedicated server is a server that is exclusive to one user: it’s not shared with anyone else. So I enjoy the benefits of high performance, security, stability and control from a server that has only my content on it, and no one else uses it.
It’s like having my own high-end desktop computer but in the cloud.
Compared to shared hosting – many users on the same server, each with its own partitioned space and its own set of issues to deal with – I find this an ideal solution.
I like WHB’s confidence in its UK network:
[…] Based in the Midlands, our network is under 2ms from London and Manchester. Redundant private 10Gbps fibre links connect us to all the key London and Manchester POPs. Extensive private peering and connectivity with all major broadband providers mean our network literally flies! Don’t just take our word for it, try it out yourself.
Traceroute to: 18.104.22.168
Download test file: http://22.214.171.124/100MB.bin
To mark the availability of its new UK setup, WHB currently has some great hosting deals for dedicated servers at different configurations and pricing options.
If you’re thinking about switching hosting services, I think WHB is well worth your time considering and checking out.
And here’s possibly a clincher especially if you run WordPress sites at your current host – WHB will handle your migration. They did that for me when I moved and I can tell you I had none of the migraines that would undoubtedly have happened if I’d had to do that myself!
WebHostingBuzz is a good partner. And I’ve got to know CEO Matt Russell over the past year and a half – that’s him in the picture at the top with me at The B2B Huddle event at Oracle UK earlier this month, at which Matt led a discussion session. I’ve had only a few needs to connect with their tech support team. Very responsive, very quickly. Great experiences.
They’re all worth getting to know.
Given my relationship with WHB, you might see this as a “sponsor post.” I see it far more as my post (I wrote it, not WHB) about a great partner. You can read the foundation to this and decide how you see it.
Here’s a quote worthy of your attention:
"The real fact of the matter is that nobody reads ads. People read what interests them. Sometimes it’s an ad." – Howard Gossage.
Let’s face it: we often make out marketing and advertising to be more important than it really needs to be. This doesn’t mean that it’s not important, creative and a part of our lives, but this quote from the famed Mad Man speaks to the reality of a media saturated world… and this quote comes at us long before the Internet and social media made it stupid simple for anyone to be a media channel unto themselves. Ads are everywhere and the game of repetition and saturation is still what captures the attention, but there’s something else happening to the advertising industry that is worthy of thinking about. It’s also worth noting that the people who care most about marketing and advertising is usually us: the people who create it. Those who consume it? They could probably care less.
More than advertising.
If you survey the land of client and agency relationships, what you are bound to find is clients who are asking for much than an advertising campaign, these days. Technology and all of the media permutations that it has created has brought us to this interesting moment in time when clients aren’t looking just for ads, but rather business transformation. They want business solutions to help them augment the brand and build more credibility. Data, research and strategy has slowly crept into the creative department and now the work is much more than a thirty-second spot or a contest. Digital has given us the ability to better inform our idea and the net result is that advertising for the sake of creativity is now more like a stunt than the foundational work of what the brand truly represents.
What a true social media strategy looks like.
Too many inexperienced marketing professionals are pawning off social media editorial content calendars and tone and manner for tweets, blog posts and Facebook as some kind of social media strategy. It is not (don’t be fooled). The more experienced marketing professionals deliver social media strategies that are, in fact, brand strategies (when done right). Transformation is never easy. Transformation is very hard. Sadly, most people are still thinking like advertisers when, in fact, they need to be thinking more like these global brands that are demanding that the agencies that serve them act as stewards for the transformation of business.
Big, big work.
It’s true that sometimes people read ads. It’s true that sometimes people like a brand on Facebook or retweet a promoted tweet on Twitter. It’s true that a lot of brands use these digital channels as another mechanism to put up more impressions in the marketplace in the hopes of screaming louder than the competition. This isn’t what world has to look like. Yes, advertising is still – at its core – the ability to persuade someone to buy something, but the real marketing can be so much more. Delivering business solutions isn’t easy. Delivering business transformation is much harder. Creating a social media strategy that is, ultimately, a better brand strategy may not sit well with the clients, but we have to face the realities of the world that we live in.
It’s not about ads… it’s about solutions. It’s not about the ads… it’s about business transformation. And so, marketing, continues to change and evolve.
The tremendous impact the social web can have on a brand or retailer these days is amazing. The social web can make something an overnight sensation or negatively affect someone or something’s reputation in a matter of minutes. Therefore, it is important to listen.
Social listening is a critical step when it comes to building a social strategy. There are many options when it comes to social listening. But, when you break it down, there are narrow and broad listening tools. Broad listening tools help you harness long term insight while narrow tools help you keep a pulse on every tweet and post so you can respond and engage in the moment.
How to use social listening to not only determine but implement a social strategy is outlined in Part 6 of the Integer/CCRRC white paper, Untangling the Social Web. Click here to download Part 6 or visit the Other Studies tab to explore other sections of the 7 part series.
A new Google+ that looks a lot more like Facebook pages and Pinterest mashed together responsively (that was the commentary last night), and more dynamic and social data rich maps.
In the last couple of weeks, the Interwebs were filled with news, commentary, and reviews of Google Glass. Although little was said at the Developer Conference#.
Google Now app updates, too. How about those Google driverless cars#?
All this on the heels of changes to Gmail UI, and the announcement that due to declining use it will be retiring GReader in July#.
And I’m sure I’m missing changes because I blinked once or twice.
For a high level walk-through of what the New Google Maps looks like, I defer to Greg Sterling at Search Engine. He calls it more dynamic and social in his review.
I got the adaptive nature of the the product from Shlashgear: dynamically learning maps that tailor themselves to your needs the more you use them. This is the most interesting feature and functionality in the upgrade.
Showing different transport options on the same map simultaneously is a bonus. I often look for options, especially when in NYC. The driving route and public transportation options, such as trains or subways display in the results. I do like the on foot options when it’s a nice day.
Om Malik provides a quick review, inclusive of historical perspective:
Google now uses vector maps and is using data as a stream, processing it
on the graphical processing unit (GPU) of the new fangled computers and
creating a brand new map, which is personalized not just based on a
Malik also raises the data/privacy question. My take is data leverage and reveal should be situational, more around what I’m trying to do (e.g., search), than who I am (e.g., identity).
More than about tools
I’m envisioning these developments as digital products, technology applied to what we do and how we go about doing it.
Indeed, where we are is the bridge between what we’re doing both on phones and tablets and in the real world. It’s early days, and it will be interesting to design and receive better experiences as a result of this blending of online/offline.
What’s your take?
Valeria is an experienced listener. She is also frequent speaker at
conferences and companies on a variety of topics. To book her for a
speaking engagement click here.
A primer to connect some recent thinking about sharing economy, digital products, and marketplaces.
By far the most popular post I published recently was about calculating the lifetime value of the sharing economy. And with good reason.
Following a small trend among mobile workers and their families which began to develop in the U.S. about ten years ago (and that has remained fairly consistent in Europe), the number of individuals who chose to rent and lease by choice has increased steadily.
And by “mobile”, I mean upward mobility, as well as the availability to commute long distances during weekends to allow family to live in a place, and the (often) breadwinner to work in another.
Renting rather than moving
One of the principals at a company where I worked commuted from Chicago for years. I thought it was just an isolated case when through networking I came across two more professionals who did the same — and, in a small world kind of situation had met him on flights.
Rather than facing daily mega commutes, professionals who often travel a lot for work to be on client sites, renting an apartment during the week near the work location makes a lot of sense. The family can stay in a city with a better school district, and airports all look the same after a while.
With all the talk about virtual work, most organizations still require workers to show up at the office.
People willing to move to where the opportunity is in many cases require more flexibility to return to home base or sign up for another assignment after a short stint. The availability to quickly up and move to where the need arises is a way to move up within organizations.
In the driver’s seat
Leasing has been a good way to afford new car models more frequently for years. Change the concept from one monthly contract with one person to many people with access to paying just for what they need, when they need it, and you have car sharing.
The conversation is no longer about statistics cited to show younger generations are giving up the American Dream. We’re now talking about reinventing how we share resources — from co-working spaces, to co-housing developments.
From digital product to marketplaces
Digital technologies and social hubs are making it possible to engage in many different commerce marketplaces leveraging local resources and delivering the consistency of terms, brand familiarity, and service reliability that create the confidence necessary to (in some cases) replace the old markets.
Digital commerce markets create buying experiences that feel more like making.
I’m writing this quickly to hold on to the thoughts and observations.
As I continue to make sense of the research and chart the evolution of this trend to support my new speaking topics and implications for business promises, I’ll be posting brief commentary here to invite reactions.
A handy directory of digital platforms for sharing.
Valeria is an experienced listener. She is also frequent speaker at
conferences and companies on a variety of topics. To book her for a
speaking engagement click here.