Book review: Mobilized

I recently read “Mobilized” by SC Moatti, “an insider’s guide to the business and future of connected technology.” SC Moatti is a mobile veteran from Silicon Valley, having developed successful mobile products and services at the likes of Nokia, Facebook and Trulia. Moatti makes the book’s intentions clear in the first chapter: with businesses increasingly shifting their strategic focus to mobile, there’s a need to create a truly mobile culture and mindset within the business. To help companies become mobile first, Moatti introduces the “Mobile Formula” which contains the three rules for successful mobile products:

SC Moatti

SC Moatti’s “Mobile Formula”, the three rules of successful mobile products – Taken from: https://www.leanplum.com/blog/mobilized-on-mobile/

The Body Rule – The best mobile products operate by beauty: Contrary to what one might expect, the beauty in mobile products isn’t about aesthetics, it’s about eliminating waste. ‘Efficiency’ is the keyword here and Moatti refers to the Birkhoff formula in this respect: M=O/C. In this formula, M is a measure of beauty, O of simplicity and C of complexity. Beauty will increase with simplicity and will decrease through complexity.

Measure simplicity through the “thumb test”: Ultimately, the best measure of simplicity is to create a product that’s easy to use by everyone. The so-called “thumb test” is a great way to test whether your product is easy to use. To pass the thumb test, a task should be easily completed by a user with a thumb of average size and without incidentally hitting an unrelated link, button or design element by mistake. Take a look at AnkiDroid for instance. The flash cards on AnkiDroid’s Android app make it easy to learn words in a different language, with clear buttons and calls to actions (see Fig. 1 below).

AnkiDroid-1

Fig. 1 – Screenshot of AnkiDroid – Taken from: http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/6-flash-card-apps-for-android-compared-which-is-the-best/

Even the “thumb test” will become redundant (eventually): With voice command software like Apple’s Siri ,GreenOwl’s service TrafficAlert and virtual reality all being hands free, the thumb test will eventually become a thing of the past (see Fig. 2 below). Moatti argues that the principle underpinning the thumb test will still apply: beauty on mobile means that all user interactions need to work effortlessly and efficiently.

TrafficAlert

Fig. 2 – Screenshot of TrafficAlert – Taken from: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.greenowl.ta.android

The Spirit Rule – The best mobile products give us meaning: When describing ‘meaning’ in the context of mobile products, Moatti identifies ‘personalisation’ and ‘community’ as the two key factors that add meaning. One might argue that these two factors contradict each other, but Moatti makes compelling arguments for both. Firstly, ‘personalisation’ is all about the user feeling cared for, by giving the user total control of the mobile experience. Contrary to what one might think, recent research shows that mobile products create deeper bonds between users and their communities. For example, a study by Kyung-Gook Park at the University of Florida illustrates how mobile products make people feel more connected to those around them.

Building for meaning – Mobile products as extensions of our spirit: Moatti makes some great points about the use of internal and external filters to create mobile products with meaning. Internal filters, Moatti explains, can be as simple as our location or address book. These internal filters help in connecting users to their environment; using location or user based data to create a personalised experience for the user (see example in Fig. 3 below).

Personalisation

Fig. 3 – Personalisation through onboarding on Beats’ mobile streaming service – Taken from: http://www.appvirality.com/blog/personalization-in-retail-apps/

External filters come into play once it’s understood what users care about through internal filters. External filters allow the experience to be shared and enjoyed with other people. For example, a privacy policy is an external filter, in place to outline what a product can and cannot reveal about its users.

The Mind Rule – The best mobile products learn as we use them: The mind rule is the final component of Moatti’s Mobile Formula. Mobile products constantly adapting is of the essence here. This adaptation can happen either fast or slow. Messaging app WhatsApp is a good example of adapting fast. The team at WhatsApp have adopted a culture of ‘continuous learning’ where they learn from users and their behaviours on an ongoing basis, adding new features constantly. This is driven by a realisation that in order to keep up with the competition, they’ll need to adapt relentlessly.

In contrast, slow learning is all about breaking new ground, focusing on new users or launching new offerings. It basically comes down to taking one’s fast or iterative learnings to the next level; creating new mobile divisions to conquer a new target market or value proposition. Whereas an existing mobile product or business might not be the best place to explore new territory, due to a fear of alienating an existing customer base, a completely separate app might be a better place to do so.

Main learning point: “Mobilized” really made me think about how to approach the creation and improvement of mobile products. Most books on mobile products concentrate on design. The great thing about SC Moatti’s book is that it focuses on the mobile user instead, and provides great insights on how to best create a great user experience.

 

Related links for further learning:

  1. https://www.interaction-design.org/literature/article/using-mobile-apps-the-one-thumb-one-eyeball-test-for-good-mobile-design
  2. https://www.sciencenews.org/article/measure-beauty
  3. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sophiecharlotte-moatti/the-7-design-elements-of-great-mobile-products_b_8175942.html
  4. http://www.makeuseof.com/tag/6-flash-card-apps-for-android-compared-which-is-the-best/
  5. https://uxmag.com/articles/personalization-the-pillar-of-the-mobile-user-experience
  6. http://www.appvirality.com/blog/personalization-in-retail-apps/
  7. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sophiecharlotte-moatti/3-best-practices-to-get-c_b_5910572.html
  8. http://ufdcimages.uflib.ufl.edu/UF/E0/04/35/17/00001/Park_K.pdf

Facebook Graph – Can it really take on Google?

With the amount of data that Facebook has on its users and their activities, I guess it came as no surprise when they recently launched Facebook Graph.

One of the first questions raised was whether Facebook is now looking to take on Google when it comes to search. In essence, Facebook Graph generates a variety of results (e.g. people, places, interests, etc.) all based on the social data available through your network on Facebook.

An obvious first comparison would be with Google+ and it triggered to me think a bit more about what Facebook Graph entails and how it compares to Google+:

  1. Facebook uses the data it’s already got – I thought this post on Fast Company explains Facebook Graph pretty well: “Graph Search leverages Facebook’s social data to pinpoint any combination of people, places, photos and interests. It is designed to field queries such as “photos of my best friend and my mom” or “friends of friends who like my favorite band and live in Palo Alto” or “Indian restaurants in Palo Alto that friends from India like.” In essence, all Facebook Graph does is using the social data it already has. In contrast, the launch of Google+ signified a venture into a fairly new area for Google, with it having to build a new social platform almost from the ground up.
  2. Facebook Graph has its (search) limitations – It was interesting that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said that “We wouldn’t suggest people come and do web searches on Facebook, that’s not the intent” at the launch of Facebook Graph. Indeed, Graph is no Google when it comes to web search; searches on Graph are limited to data that are either public or visible to you. Also, as the aforementioned Fast Company article points out; if one of your friends has wrongly labelled a certain picture it’s just a case of tough luck with Facebook Graph.
  3. Different algorithms – Whereas Google’s search algorithms are predominantly based on keywords and links, Facebook Graph takes into social data around “likes” and “check-ins”. Consequently, the search results that Graph returns are likely to be a lot more personalised and authentic than Google’s. As I mentioned under point 1. above, Facebook has an almost endless amount of social data at its disposal which Google will struggle to compete with. Unlike Google, Facebook Graph enables users to search by using combined phrases such as “My friends who like cycling and have recently been to France.”

Main learning point: the main question I asked myself after having done this brief comparison of Facebook Graph and Google (Plus) was: “is it really fair to compare the two?” Google has clearly established itself as a very reliable web search platform, whilst Facebook Graph is clearly concentrating on “social search”. Having said that, I can see Google+ eventually suffering from Facebook Graph, mostly due to Facebook’s head start when it comes to social data. Facebook Graph, however, is currently only available in beta and it might not hit the dizzying heights that Facebook has hit. Facebook users might not sign up to Zuckerberg’s grand ‘one stop shop’ vision and prefer to search through Google …

Related links for further learning:

http://blog.immediatefuture.co.uk/facebook-graph-search-vs-google-plus-who-will-win-the-battle-for-social-search/

http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2013/01/22/facebooks-social-graph-is-a-google-plus-killer.aspx

http://www.fastcompany.com/3004819/why-facebooks-new-graph-search-no-google

http://www.wired.com/insights/2013/01/what-facebook-search-could-mean-for-google-and-bing/

http://www.fastcodesign.com/1671647/the-design-process-behind-facebook-graph-search

Why I really like This Is My Jam

I love This Is My Jam. Period. This service, which only came out of private beta a few months ago, is as simple as it is effective.  This Is My Jam (‘TIMJ’) lets users select one track at the time (your “jam”) which will expire after one week. As a result, you tend to get recent tracks and a good flavour of the kinds of music people are ‘feeling’ at any given time. These are the main things I like about This Is My Jam:

  1. It is curated – Are you also getting tired of “what my friends are listening to” features on Spotify or YouTube, and the unfiltered flood of music that provides for!? As TIMJ co-founder Matthew Oggle explains: “Music gets lost in the deluge, and even when it’s noticed, links out to Spotify or Youtube in a social feed can feel impersonal.” TIMJ tries to address this by forcing users to carefully select a single jam at the time and enables them to personalise their pick by adding their own text or imagery.
  2. It is simple – The TIMJ site looks simple and is simple to use. Selecting and previewing the jam of your choice is incredibly easy and so is customising it. If you wish to share your jam on Facebook or Twitter, again, that is very simple too. I don’t know where it sits on TIMJ’s product roadmap, but it will be interesting to see what their mobile app will look like when they launch it.
  3. Music discovery at its finest – Having been on TIMJ for a good 6 months now, I am impressed with the variety of music on there. There is definitely an element of people trying to ‘outcool’ each other which means that you get a truly eclectic mix of genres and artists, and get to discover music that you might not have come across otherwise.
Main learning point: like with all these services, the question remains how popular This Is My Jam will become, how quickly it will manage to grow its user base. What I do know is that TIMJ offers a great, easy-to-use service for anyone who is passionate about music or who wishes to discover new stuff!

Related links for further learning:

http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/this-is-my-jam-pinterest-for-music.php

http://drownedinsound.com/in_depth/4144756-behind-the-screens–dis-meets-this-is-my-jam

http://pandodaily.com/2012/03/05/this-is-my-jam-share-the-one-song-youre-currently-obsessed-with/

Fanhattan: cool name, but how does it work?

Intrigued by its cool sounding name, I wanted to find out more about Fanhattan. I then came across this demo by one of the founders of the service, which has been going for about a year now. In this demo, Gilles BianRosa (CEO) made it clear that Fanhattan is all about content and not about the individual apps that host films or TV shows.

As BianRosa explained, for the Fanhattan user it’s most and foremost about “what do I want to watch?” This means that as a user I will look for the content first and Fanhattan will subsequently present me with a range of services where I can access this content (think Netflix, iTunes and Amazon).

These are the main things that I learned about Fanhattan:

  1. It acts as a ‘content gateway’ – Rather than having to go into a specific app or service, Fanhattan enables you to look for the content you want to watch, after which it will let you know through which services you can access this content. The app is built in HTML5 which means it will fully support rich media like audio and video.
  2. It offers content in the broadest sense of the word – It’s a shame Fanhattan isn’t available in the UK yet, because I would love to have a closer look at all the features Fanhattan displays around a specific piece of content. Call me a geek but I would be very interested in seeing up close how Fanhattan display products or data related to “The Godfather” such as merchandising, the movie soundtrack, PG ratings, similar films recommendations and film info.
  3. It has a clear social element – As we know, digital content lends itself incredibly well to sharing with your friends and to friend recommendations. Fanhattan taps into this social discovery element by enabling its users to build a Taste Profile with the content they have watched, which they can easily share with friends. Similarly, if you like a film or TV show on Fanhattan this will automatically appear on your Facebook wall.
  4. It’s cross-platform – Being available on a number of platforms sounds like a no-brainer but Fanhattan has been following a (in my mind sensible) phased approach to rolling out on different platforms, with the iPhone being the latest addition. I understand that TV and game consoles are next on Fanhattan’s product roadmap.
  5. It’s cloud based – Because the content discovery element of Fanhattan is happening in the cloud, it should increase Fanhattan’s flexibility in displaying and storing (discovery) data and content.
  6. It has a flexible model – Users can either subscribe to Fanhattan (like you do for services like Spotify or Rdio) or pay Fanhattan for each transaction separately. It’s a shame no figures are publicly available on the uptake of Fanhattan as a subscription service vs. users paying for content on an ad-hoc basis.
Main learning point: I do see apps like Fanhattan playing an important role in the discovery of new content, acting as a user-friendly portal to a wide range of content-oriented services. At present, Fanhattan isn’t available in the UK; I’ll be keeping an eye out for Fanhattan or similar services rolling out on these shores. Will users warm up to the idea that you can use a single service to access the content? Will they move away from the likes of Lovefilm, Netflix or Amazon in favour of Fanhattan or a Spotify-like service focused on films/TV shows?

Related links for further learning: 

http://blog.fanhattan.com/2011/09/13/social-discovery-and-the-power-of-vudu/

http://techcrunch.com/2011/11/16/fanhattan-tv-discovery-app-migrates-to-the-iphone/

http://gigaom.com/video/fanhattan-takes-content-discovery-to-the-cloud/

http://news.cnet.com/8301-17938_105-20025825-1.html

Facebook follows Turntable.fm with “Listen With”

Keen to get a piece of the action that Turntable.fm has generated, Facebook has just launched its own “Listen With” feature. Like Turntable.fm, the main concept behind “Listen With” is simple: sharing music with your friends. These are the main things that this new Facebook feature will enable you to do:

  1. Listen to music with your friends – You can listen along with any of your Facebook friends who are listening to music or you can listen to music with a group of friends whilst one of your friends plays the DJ.
  2. Chat room –  Similar to Turntable.fm, Facebook offers its own simultaneous chat room feature. This means that when I click on the “Listen With” button in Chat and news feed stories, I can then select a friend as my personal DJ. When clicked, Spotify or Rdio will be launched instantly and I’ll start hearing the music my friend is playing in real-time. Other friends can also join the group chat listening room and we can discuss what we’re listening to whilst the music is playing.
  3. Only open to friends selected – The feature only works for whoever you allow to share music with. This means that a person who is allowed to view your listening activity will see a music note appearing next to your name in a chat. By hovering over this friend’s name, the “Listen With” button will appear.
  4. Newsfeed – If another user then clicks my “Listen With” button we’ll then listen to the same music, a chatroom will be created and my newsfeed will state that “Marc Abraham is listening with ….”
  5. Artist page – When someone plays a song for a friend, their “Listen With” chat room will display a link back to that artist’s Facebook Page. This could be a very useful feature for artists who can thus generate more fans and reach out to them with links to concert tickets, merchandise, and their websites.
Main learning point: looking at this new Facebook feature made me wonder whether the guys behind Turntable.fm are loosing sleep over it. At the face of it, this doesn’t seem to be the case. In an interview with TechCrunch Billy Chasen, co-founder of Turntable.fm, explained that “I look forward to seeing how they (Facebook, MA) interpret what social music means as we seem to have different core philosophies about it (such as the importance of discovering new music from strangers and not just friends).” I can see where Chasen is coming from, but with the sheer scale of Facebook and ample opportunity for it to iterate (for instance make it easier to replace DJs and for non-friends to join a chat room) I can imagine that Turntable.fm will be going back to their drawing boards very soon.

Related links for further learning:

http://techcrunch.com/2012/01/12/facebook-listen-with/

http://mashable.com/2012/01/12/facebook-listen-with/

http://techcrunch.com/2012/01/12/listen-with-musicians/

http://www.zdnet.com/blog/facebook/turntablefm-8216flattered-by-facebooks-listen-with-friends/7325

http://techcrunch.com/2012/01/12/turntable-facebook-listen-with/

Do you have Klout?

What is the appeal of Klout, a service which provides social media analytics that measures a user’s influence across their social network? The Klout Score uses data from a user’s social networks like Twitter and Facebook in order to measure:

True Reach – This measures the number of people you influence. It concentrates on the people who act on the content posted by a user, by responding or sharing it.

AmplificationHow much do you influence people? When a users posts a message or other content, how many people spread it further?

Network Impact – This measures indicates the influence by the people in my “True Reach”. How often do ‘top influencers’ (think Robert Scoble or Lady Gaga) share or respond to a user’s content?

The analysis is done on data taken from sites such as Twitter and Facebook and measures the size of a person’s network, the content created, and how other people interact with that content. Klout recently added LinkedIn, Foursquare, and YouTube data to its algorithm. Scores vary from 0-100, with 100 being the most influential.
Apart from giving you a score, Klout will also provide you with a ‘label’ based on your score and online behaviour; for instance, am I a ‘celebrity’, a ‘tastemaker’ or ‘thought leader’? To me personally these kinds of labels don’t mean that much to me, but I can well imagine that people will look at their scores and labels, which brings me back to the original question,what kind of people do care about their Klout Score and why?
  1. Social media junkies – I can well imagine that if you spend a lot of time on platforms like Twitter or Facebook you want to see what your impact is, even it’s just for fun.
  2. Am I having an impact? Klout will help you in figuring out the impact of the content you put out through your social media networks; who is responding to it and how?
  3. Am I making the right impact? I’ve seen posts from social media consultants advising people to use Klout as part of their ‘influencer strategy’, which I guess comes down to assessing whether you’re acting as a ‘thought leader’ or ‘tastemaker’ and if you’e reaching your target audience.
  4. Tailor your content strategy – Using Klout to generate insights regarding points 2. and 3. can help you in (re) assessing your content strategy and in making sure its customised to meet the needs and interests of your target audience.
  5. Other business related stuff – This is where things in my opinion get a bit murkier, but there are social media consultants who suggest using Klout scores to for example create candidate shortlists for job interviews, to put certain people on guest lists or to accept speakers (with a minimum Klout score) for an event.

Main learning point: Having looked into it, I can imagine who would use Klout and why. If you’re very active in the social media space, have got something to sell (be it content, a service or a product) or are generally interested in finding out your social media impact, then Klout can be a helpful tool. However, by its own admission, the Klout score is susceptible to people gaming the system and pulling all kinds of simple tricks to improve their score. Especially in cases where businesses start using the Klout score to select job candidates or invite people to events, it all becomes a bit too tricky for my liking. In short: I can see why people use it but it wouldn’t be for me!

Related links for further learning:

http://thenextweb.com/socialmedia/2011/09/20/klout-ceo-joe-fernandez-talks-with-us-about-the-future-of-social-influence-scoring/

http://thenextweb.com/apps/2011/09/30/klout-has-competition-peoplebrowsr-announces-new-social-influence-tracker-kred/

http://www.att.com/gen/press-room?pid=21023

http://mashable.com/2011/06/22/klout-gate/

http://thenextweb.com/socialmedia/2011/09/15/social-analytics-tool-klout-rolls-out-topic-pages/

http://www.business2community.com/social-media/your-klout-score-why-you-need-to-care-now-063391

http://www.mengonline.com/community/newsroom/meng_blend/blog/2011/09/27/why-klout-really-matters

http://ariherzog.com/klout-scores-and-you/

How robust will Netflix’ business model turn out to be? – Part 2

Back in February, I asked the question about the (long-term) sustainability of Netflix’ business model and I guess that some major events in Netflix’ life over the past week have provided some useful insights into answering that question:

  1. Splitting the company in two – On the Netflix blog, Netfox CEO Reed Hastings last week announced the split of the business into two separate parts. Netflix’ traditional DVD-by-mail business will be renamed Qwikster and the name Netflix will be retained for the company’s streaming activities.
  2. It’s not a spin-off – In his blog post, Hastings made it clear that both businesses remain part of the same company. However, Netflix has come to the realisation (albeit a bit slowly so it seems) that DVD-rental and streaming are two very different activities. Hastings explains: “So we realized that streaming and DVD by mail are becoming two quite different businesses, with very different cost structures, different benefits that need to be marketed differently, and we need to let each grow and operate independently.”
  3. Different brands, charged separately – Netflix’ recent price hikes meaning that its customers now have to pay separately for streaming and DVD rental (as opposed to paying a ‘package price’) caused quite a massive uproar and a decrease in the number of Netflix subscribers (and a significant share price drop to boot). I guess Netflix execs must have felt that to fully justify this price increase it had to package up both products separately, each with their own website, mobile platform, etc.
  4. Streaming is the future – To me, this split clearly shows that Netflix sees online streaming of content as its future. In his blog post, Hastings acknowledges that the days of DVD rental are numbered: “DVD by mail may not last forever, but we want it to last as long as possible.” One can imagine that in the not so distant feature Netflix will sell its DVD rental business (or terminate, depending on customer demand) and concentrate solely on its streaming business instead.
  5. Will Lovefilm follow suit? – Lovefilm which recently got acquired by Amazon is increasingly focusing its efforts on streaming. The Lovefilm Player is a good example of this strategy, streaming video content directly to users’ TV sets or game consoles.
  6. Content streaming is the way to go – In the past few days the ‘new Netflix’ has been announcing a video-on-demand rights deal with major Hollywood studio DreamWorks to beef up its content portfolio. Not only is this a logical step in Netflix’ ongoing quest to stream content across multiple platforms, moves like this one are critical if Netflix wants to gain a strong foothold in the content streaming market.
Main learning point: when I wrote about Netflix a few months ago I couldn’t envisage that it was going to overhaul its business model and approach to market. Whether this move was made out of choice or forced upon Netflix following a massive PR disaster, the fact is that Netflix has made its strategic intentions very clear: the days of online DVD rental are numbered, streaming is the future!

 

Related links for further learning:

http://blog.netflix.com/2011/09/explanation-and-some-reflections.html

http://thenextweb.com/media/2011/09/16/netflix-its-not-about-the-price-its-about-the-lack-of-choice/

http://techcrunch.com/2011/09/18/netflix-qwikster/

http://www.engadget.com/2011/09/26/nyt-netflix-strikes-deal-with-dreamworks-will-begin-streaming/

http://www.businessinsider.com/netflix-splits-in-two-the-dvd-business-will-be-renamed-qwikster-2011-9

http://www.wallstreetdaily.com/2011/09/27/netflix-announces-deal-with-dreamworks/

http://multiplayerblog.mtv.com/2011/09/19/netflix-video-games-qwikster/