DigitalSociety

Voice for “device” input

Voice is slowly replacing touch as a medium for device input. However, many common operations  e.g. starting an app , sending an email, replying to a phone call, even answering a phone call  are mostly done through touch.

It dawned on me that if you had voice capabilities on apps – specifically for doing things like reply back or to answer the phone without needing to physically touch the device, or your handset, or the headset it would be so much more convenient.

The “voice out” part of devices, by means of speakers are awesomely developed. The “voice in” is still being developed. I’m pretty sure that over  the next few years, as voice will become the key driver for device I/O it would develop significantly.

The brainwave driven device can wait – instead of leapfrogging “Voice” that sound waves as the primary interface to devices.

Overall, I think the human – device interface will progress from keyboard/mouse/IO peripheral -> touch -> voice ->brainwave…..

Zero-Rating internet

The debate over net neutrality –  is taking shape – more so in India, over the last few weeks.  Flipkart recently withdrew from nternet.org – and Airtel’s Zero rating internet program after severe public backlash.

The AIB guys -for once decided to put up something other than their` ROAST.

The Zero-rating internet started with the entry of internet.org into India and the tie-up with Airtel. Internet.org is a new app which provides a set of services in developing countries to mobile users at Zero cost  through a standard “Airtel”  subscription. Airtel is a large telecom service provider. in india. Companies that choose to be a part of internet.org compensate the mobile carrier – Airtel in this case – for carrying their apps based on usage, instead of the user paying the bill.“App Controlled Internet access” is now  feasible as shown by the  “zero-rating internet” .

Technically any firm can get onto internet.org – however regulations and a process for joining internet.org are not clearly defined.  On one hand , the argument  propounded by the “internet.org” folks is that there is no way combination of internet companies can make all of the internet free by paying the telcos. Hence, they would prefer giving “some” access to users for Free.  The rest of the access would have to be paid for by the user.

This is where it gets tricky: This “some” is defined by the consortium internet.org.  A group of companies decide what apps  people use, and more impotantly how they search, comminicate, buy and socialize on the internet. What is going to happen in price sensitive markets such as India, is that many people are going to stop buying  mobile internet packages through which they can access the internet. : Almost all internet services are anyways freely provided by the “zero-rating” internet along with a mobile connection.

Over a period of time, internet.org apps would become the defacto mode of  viewing the internet – providing apps to users, and in the process, large networks of users to the participant firms within internet.org. Newer Internet businesses (or startups) without deep pockets – would never have  a striking chance to get any form of usage by these 100′s of millions of *new* users of the zero rating internet.

My opnion is that- While  the “Something is better Nothing” argument is good,  this “Something” should not be harmful to the larger internet economy. This economy is so very dependent on network effects – created by repeated usage, by large number of its users who use the best service available to them.  Better yet, this “Something” should create a uniform platform to allow all firms to compete rather than depriving both the users of newer services and smaller firms without access to capital to reach these users.

How LinkedIn Is Taking Over the World

The above article sums up LinkedIn’s aspirations. With their ability to create an economic graph, they will be able to, as Jeff Wiener says “  We want to step back and allow capital, all forms of capital, intellectual capital, working capital, and human capital to flow, to where it can best be leveraged and in doing so, help lift and transform the global economy.“

Linkedin, at this point, is the one global company which knows most about the geographic demand/supply patterns for job-related skills. With Lynda’s acquisition – they will be able to provide targeted skill development across regions where demand, and supply are not balanced.

Let’s take an example here. Let’s assume that in New York, there is a huge demand for computer graphic designers.  Very few people searching for a job either on LinkedIn or from one of their partners in New York have those skills. This means that there is a surplus of jobs needing computer graphics skills, while very few people have those. In the current economy- these jobs would probably be transferred out of New York (probably permanently).

LinkedIn, now with Lynda can refer people to  certain specific courses and job training for a fee. Job seekers can then subscribe to these courses for a fee (an important revenue stream for LinkedIn). Upon completion of these courses, these new skills can now get advertised to recruiters (or firms). LinkedIn + Lynda will now form the new hotbed for recruiters to search for people having trained in certain technologies and accredited too. Combine this with the ability to predict job skill requirements from existing data .. There is a killer combination. LinkedIn can potentially detect job skill requirements – ahead of time and facilitate training of job seekers in those skills by the time these jobs actually become available. This cycle would retain jobs and skills in geographic regions.

It will be interesting to watch how Lynda, in addition to (or in competition with ) Coursera, Mit-X and other e-learning platforms figure in LinkedIn’s large vision of the Economic Graph.  It will be interesting to note how a large software platform which offers a multitude of services can influence all kinds of capital (intellectual, working, human, social) flows in a globally connected economy.

How LinkedIn Is Taking Over the World

How you are being Tracked on the internet

Last week  I was searching for a good online store for eyeglasses.My workflow was very simple, Type “online eyeglass store” OR “spectacle store”. in the google search box. Then I clicked a few links shown and compared prices for frames and glasses.

Google, at every moment knows what I’m searching for since I enter the search keywords.For the next few days Whenever I visited a google adword-advertised website like timesofindia.com or thehindu.com or nytimes.com. I kept getting WarbyParker.com or other advertisements. This was understandable. Google recognized me through my browser cookie and served me ads that were relavant to what I had searched for previously.

However, what totally surprised me was that Facebook also started showing me Warby Parker Ads for the next few days.

It also got me wondering :
1.Do Google and Facebook share user specific information and search related data?
OR
2.Does facebook  read cookies of other websites that I visited  which have been stored on my computer?

I know that (1) is not the case since these two companies compete. (2) is not possible since cookies are domain specific and there has to be some specific javascript read all cookies, which can’t logically happen. However, there seems to be an indirect way to do the second one using the datr cookie.

Identifying a Buyer’s Browsing Behavior

Then I read about this  article here about the datr cookie :::http://www.businessinsider.com/heres-how-to-stop-facebook-froperm-tracking-you-2012-9

The article states that if  a Facebook like button is present on any site you visit,  and, you logged into facebook in the past month,  facebook can identify that you have visited that site….

The cookie used to identify this is called the “datr” cookie.  Ofcourse, there are mechanisms to prevent this, as given in the business insider article…. However many people aren’t aware of this —In any case the pervasiveness of Facebook Like icon’s and twitter birds on websites give these large networks (i.e facebook and twitter) the advantage of combining user identifying information and browsing behaviors.

This means that pretty much any information you search for – any website you visit – will be known to FACEBOOK OR Twitter, specifically if those websites have a Facebook like icon or a twitter icon. Almost all websites have a facebook Like and Twitter icon nowadays.

Superbowl – The adman’s oscar

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It has been 2 weeks, since SuperBowl concluded. In addition to the actual game- Advertisements were the most interesting things. They were original, creative, theme based and sometimes outrageous too.. A 30 second spot on NBC, during the superbowl costed Advertisers between 3.75 m$ and 4.5 m$ according to this estimate. This is the most expensive TV spot ever..

Given the costs, sould a company advertise during Superbowl given these expenses?

This Bloomberg articlepredicts using historical information, the rise in Superbowl advertising costs and viewership. It states that for the price, the costs are in line with Prime time television.

Another article – critical of Superbowl advertising argues that firms could achieve better ROI and actual conversions through alternative means. A combination of online advertising campaigns including( i.e.youtube, banner placements and CPC keyword bids) are cited as better alternatives.The argument is that the targeting is much more precise using the digital channel and firms could predict their RoI using these targeting platforms..

My opinion on why firms would advertise during Superbowl is based on two different reasons.

I.Firstly, Superbowl is the OSCAR equivalent for the Advertisement world..

  • For the advertising industry,  the Superbowl is the most prestigious event. Firms try to create a most expensive classic advertisements for this event . These ads are then played during other prime time TV spots.
  • This is a chance for the CXO’s to get their sales act in shape, by creating their best possible Ad viewed by 100 million people. These ads have a real chance at winning Golden Lion award at Cannes (or the ADDY’s). Many Superbowl ads have won these awards in the past.
  • Superbowl is a branding launchpad for newer businesses trying to break into the big league. These businesses have a chance to create a mind-share amongst the general public about who they are. The David’s rub shoulders with the Goliaths.. For eg. the wix.com’s get a slot in the same event as that of Apple or Coke. Here’s an article discussing this.
  • Success during Superbowl is sweeter- In the biography of Steve Jobs – Walter Isaccson describes in a how the iconic 1984 ad was made and notes the personal contribution of Jobs to the creatives. This book was launched  30 years after original advertisement. The ad continued to win awards – including a notable Hall of Fame award – full 23 years after its original preview. It has an iconic following, including a wikipedia page dedicated to it..

Secondly, Superbowl has a Ripple effect, which far outlasts the 30 second ad-spot in which it appears. The Ripple effect is a term used by Maketers to indicate an effect on the brand/image of the product, which far outlasts the actual advertising event.

  • Digital vs. TV ads  – The regular digital advertisement has an effect which mostly expires the moment the ad is displayed. Very few advertisements are worth sharing. (Most video ads  on youtube are skipped after 3 sconds or go unnoticed, due to ad blocking plugins on Firefox or Chrome ).  Remember the last digital ad on google.com that you saw or shared?
  • Cross channel Social  share  – Many days after the actual ad is displayed on live TV, other video bloggers, documentaries, and commentators on radio, TV or internet spend time and effort discussing the ad. This Superbowl – a radio channel in Atlanta dedicated to sports had successive commentators  discussing the pros and cons of various ads during Superbowl  for atleast 3 days after the actual bowl.
  • Ad search complementing the TV ad-spot – Google search Trends for keywords “Mircosft Superbowl ad” shows a full 100 score on the days surrounding Superbowl, indicating  search traffic which complemented  the TV advertisement. A random search on youtube for the keyword “Superbowl 2015 ads” returns more than 0.5 M  results. The first few 1000 results are actual re-shares of the  advertisement run or video mashups of actual ads. These “re-posts” are mostly due to regular youtube users sharing the same.There are also some funny analyses created by youtube users like this one which tries to discuss the best and worst superbowl ads of 2015. The combined viewership of these ads are so much more.
  • Measurement of RoI – The Superbowl ad, given its premier standing amongst all branding events, provides a  different conversion funnel, extending well into the future. It is very difficult to compare this conversion to a typical digital advertisement where the results are almost instantaneous..

The possibility of *Failure* during Superbowl  is large.  Just as with any mega event which is associated with Prestige and with mindshare, there is an increased chance of failure….with the Superbowl. Ofcourse, only a few actors or movies really win an OSCAR. But there are many good movies.

Enterprise Social Networks and “hooked”

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Last week, Facebook launched its “Facebook at Work” platform, targeting corporates. Salesforce already sells the widely popular enterprise social network called “Chatter”. Similarly, other corporates such as IBM have used SocialBlue for connecting employees within the corporation.

In today’s workplace, in almost all industrial sectors – desk jobs allow employees to connect to the internet 24X7. This trend is bound to increase over a period of time. Policies to artificially restrict internet access will not work effectively anymore, because of the ease with which people can get online using mobile devices and cheap subscription plans.

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In this recent book called Hooked – Nir Eyal – describes how social media websites engineer consumer behavior. Nir Eyal explains that social media websites alter consumer behavior sublty, and over a period of time these changes make the user “addicted”.

Users who spend a lot of time online, increase advertising dollar based revenue of these websites. Also, once people start actively using  a particular social network, it becomes increasingly difficult for them to migrate. A term “Switching cost” is used by economists describes this phenomenon.

Unless, ofcourse another social networking website manages to replicate the incumbents functionality and/or a user manages to move his entire network to the other website. This is almost impossible to achieve by a single user.

Orkut and Myspace are exceptions. Both these popular social network websites were acquired by larger companies, in whose plans they were not prioritized. Software if not maintained – dies…like any machine, and forces users/customers to move on. Tweet this

Many firms that need employees to be connected online, have realized that social networks, while being addictive can also be used productively – to increase collaboration,  communication and to develop a work culture of informality.

Enterprise social networks are the way to go in today’s connected workplace. They serve a dual purpose – help employees to satisfy their emotional needs, and, enable firms to productively engage employees.

However, a lot is yet to be understood about how internal – enterprise social networks can repurpose productive office time. Tweet: A lot is yet to be understood about how enterprise social networks can repurpose productive office time. http://ctt.ec/3y139+ A question remains – are enterprise networks another productivity killer? Only time will tell.

The problem of many Social Networks

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On the internet there are many social “media” networks where one can participate. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Tumblr, WordPress, Pinterest, Google plus, and Whatsapp are a few in which I participate. Each one  serves some particular purpose and provides a unique value proposition to me.

With Facebook, I keep in touch with my friends and family and a few professional contacts. With LinkedIn, I connect with my professional contacts. With Twitter, I keep in touch with influencers in areas such as Economics, Finance, Technology and Entrepreneurship, and , I try to build an audience for my work. On google plus, there is no particular preference. Anyone whom I choose to email using gmail, or, anyone who happens to be in my adddress book automatically connects to me on google plus. With Tumblr, I try to maintain an active blog on technology, products and entrepreneurism.

While social media participation can be a big time and productivity killer, it is also possible to use this powerful technology to promote to one’s ideas (or business). On social networks, it is possible to actively and passively solicit feedback for your work. Tweet: Some of these thoughts and ideas, which could be converted into

For example, your blog post about a book – could help someone make a purchase decision. A photo that you share on Facebook could inspire someone to visit the gymnasium. An article you write and share via tumblr, could influence others to read it.Some of these thoughts and ideas, which could be converted into “posts”,“comments” or “tweets” could help other people to make real life decisions of economic value. With whatever action you take on social media, the reach is so much more, and the impact is so much higher – given the time you spend to make the impactTweet: With whatever action you take on social media, the reach is so much more, and the impact is so much higher - given the time you spend to make the impact. http://ctt.ec/8eRdV+.

Social networks give ordinary voices the “Power”, if used properly. That is why technology is so empowering. Ofcourse, as with any *fair use* technology, there are also negatives to this, which I shall post in  a later article.

One problem I see with maintaining an active status on multiple networks, is the ability to update myself of happenings on all of these networks at once. I have to login to each one separately and use different UI flows to get to updates on my networks.

It may be time to have a service that enables a user to track one’s activity across networks, and, be able to optimally promote one’s work – virtually free of cost. No single service exists today to do this. Is it time for a “ Network of networks” which could give users seamless visibility into their networks?

Today, there are services which accomplish parts of  such a grand plan.For example IFTTT.com – an acronym for “If This Then That”  creates a mechanism for users to share their posts across networks. Another service Klout.com (which was recently acquired for 200 m$) tries to create an “Influence” score for each individual based on social media activity across networks.

I find these efforts interesting – since they are baby steps attempting to unify one’s network identity on the internet. There might be more *unifying services* that  I am unaware off too.