Thursday 4 January 2007

NB: The Power of Chat for Sean Blogs

I predict that chat will be the biggest change in human communication in the next few years. I’m not gambling there, as lots of people are predicting that, because it’s a safe bet. Permitting online, realtime, chat, phone and video for free, is obviously going to work with people in general. It is just too obviously efficient to ignore. Chat, blog posting and VOIP enabled phones will mean that this mechanic for communication is set to explode. Those, like my good self, who’ve been using pretty expensive XDA, and PDAs for the last few years, have seen this functionality creeping steadily onto our mobile handset, but phones like a new Sony Ericsson K800i model I was told about, are expensive, but, with them, users online life, offline life, work and home life is seamlessly integrated into the one small window to the personal world you life in. That statement does require some clarification. I know.

I’m going to describe a typical member of net society. Sean Blogs. Mobile/iPod on the way to work, with music downloaded from friends n colleagues and online, at work and at home. Login to work broadband connection, with work and personal email, VOIP, chat and conferencing software, for work. He’s getting texts and personal calls on his mobile, along with access to personal mail accounts, MSN messenger, his favourite blogs and RSS newsfeeds, his dating profile news and up-dates and his MySpace community page. Sean is busy with work mind, very busy. But, he takes all this other stuff in his stride, and believes in work life balance. The only difference between Sean 10 years ago, and now, is that now he has his finger on the pulse of his personal life, and work life at the same time, in real time. And, he can deal with any and all eventualities immediately. He also logs into 2nd Life, but that’s for another blog. His mobile phone handset provides access to exactly these same services for personal use, though the line between personal, private, work and home has become so blurred, the line isn’t really the point any more. Its all about access, wherever you may be.

An important point of clarification. These services do not exist on the work PC, or on the phone, they exist online. The PC/laptop screen at work, his home laptop screen, and his phone/mobile screen, are only windows to the same world. The software that makes them work, and the information and data they contain, are on the Internet. The information is world of Sean Blogs, in all its complexity and simplicity. The modes through which he accesses the world may seem complex to the un-initiated, but once you get past the mechanism(s) of communication, and satisfying the basic needs of Sean’s life, it’s pretty simple.

What does Sean need? He needs to be able to reach his friends and family, and that girl he met at the weekend, oh, and the ex, and the mates from Bebo, and the girl he’s flirting with in an adjoining office. There are many of these people in Sean’s life, its true, but most aren’t that important, the messages they send or short and can be ignored, and very few require a reply. So, his down time from work is minimal, and can easily be managed along with his workload.

Sean is able to do work with an efficiency level impossible even a few years previously. Sean worked out that many of his work pressures came from people needing something from him; people who were not being able to reach him in time, and then they themselves were under pressure and became anxious. Communication then became impatient, and minty, and went down hill. Poorly connected managers who weren’t good at managing their own time were the worst. However, this new connectivity means that that doesn’t happen, and that expectations can be managed with ease. Sean knows what emails have come in after he left work, because he gets them on his phone, so there is no anxiety. No one has a chance to get worked up through mis-communication, or the pressures of time, because most ‘issues’ can be dealt with immediately. He can mail straight back and say. ‘Sure, no problem, first thing tomorrow,’ or ‘The way to solve this problem is by doing X and Y. OK?’, or ‘That is no problem, but it can’t be done till next week, so tell so and so to call me if there’s a problem with that.’ No one gets worked up, so his work life is just a productive as ever. Moreso in fact, and without the pressures. This takes a lot of the stress out of work, and makes it seem less like ‘work’ in the old sense of the word, and more like just doing lots of stuff every day; some interesting, some fun, some boring and yes, some drudgery… but nothing you can’t cope with.

Chat software like AIM, MSN, Y! and others bring this all a step further. Again, these will explode in popularity in the coming years, because they are just so efficient. A full and rich conversation can be had, while having several others at the same time through chat. You can be chatting through MSN, and on the phone, working on another document, sending files and a hundred other things at the same time. Being able to do this from your desktop is a really amazing experience. Being able to do it from your mobile phone handset, is even one step beyond.

OK. We’ve got that established to some degree I hope. Now the question for NB. Where do we fit in? Well, being able to advertise to people during their personal and work chats is something that has never been possible before. You are not ‘interrupting’ them, in the traditional ad-land sense, but you are accompanying them through their software. It’s a sponsorship opportunity, with other possibilities of click through, purchase, downloads, view video trailer, listen…. rich media… all the good stuff of net advertising at the same time. How will this work? Well, chatters will have a fair idea already as they’ll have seen the ads on their chat software, many of which were placed by NB. But for the non-chatters among you…. Think of someone making a phone call in their hall and as they talk to whomever, there are ads that always sit in front of them. The ads don’t bother them… they’ve always been there. Like the old stickers on the phone with the number of the local taxi company: − you don’t know when you might need it, but you reckon you will do sometime, and it saves you from putting the number somewhere you won’t be able to find it. (Hopefully, whoever is doodling on it will stop, so the number can be bloody read!) But more: while chatting for work or home, (it’s the same phone used for both because its online), you are also able to offer the chatter videos, offers of flights, competitions, trailers and anything they’d like to buy, at the same time. In fact, it’s only a short time away that the ads offered in chat software will relate to what the chatters are actually talking about. So, I say to you… ‘I wonder should we just hop on a plan to London… for the weekend?’ And the chat software advertises flights to London. It’s a creepy extreme I know, but it is going that way. Another example. I say to you, ‘what did happen with Saddam? What were they shouting. Did you see it on the news?’ And the software offers the latest news and video with subtitles from, CNN and Al Jazeera, all relevant to our conversation. I then say. ‘Ah, I’ll take a look. Wow.’ Google on the mobile has already put an end to the pub argument, but this will solve information shortages in so many more conversations.

So, in short, I reckon the advertising opportunities are endless, tremendous and exciting. And, NB, we’re there as it happens.