Thursday 11 December 2008

25 Reason’s Why Faceboook and Linkedin beat Email hands down

1. No Spam
2. No Spam filter
3. No storage issues
4. No mysterious blocked message issues
5. No backups necessary
6. Connect to friends and family ONLY
7. Connect to work colleagues and peers ONLY
8. No visible contact details to those who don’t need to know
9. Syncing with Outlook
10. Twitter style widgets for light hearted and serious updates
11. Log in anywhere
12. They’re free
13. No downloads needed so no compatibility issues
14. They work really well with iPhone and smartphones: work/life balance mail on the go!
15. Confidential messaging when necessary
16. Seamlessly mashes with Location Based Systems on smartphones
17. Linking and networking!
18. Your CV and History in your own words
19. Pictures and Tags (Flicr meets Ma.gno.lia)
20. Send documents, files and links with no spam filters
21. A few perfectly targeted, non-irritating and relevant ads
22. Blog link dissemination
23. File hosting (PowerPoint and Typepad so far)
24. Link to relevant industry groups
25. Smaller computer memory and less processing needed because it’s all online

There will always be email, for work communications, sending documents and keeping track of communications, but it is becoming less and less popular.

There are only so many people you can speak to in a day and more of this speaking is happing through online social networks like Facebook and Linkedin in. The Bebo generation take this for granted and they are right. The truth is that mail is being destroyed by spam as a work and social tool. It doesn’t matter how much storage you have, or whether your Gmail account will ever be deleted or not. If there is too much spam, it gets in the way. Even permissible communications can get routed in error to the Junk or Spam folders because there is a URL in the mail or a bad word or a picture or whatever. It is really irritating and happens all the time. (A wholly innocent holiday snap of son Dick riding in the Donkey Derby is unlikely to reach the recipient by email. How times have changed.)

Also, a big hassle when getting a new machine is transferring the mails over. It shouldn’t be, but it is, and legacy machines often lie around offices because they’ve got all those old mails on them. It can all be fixed with PST on the network, backups, transfers and the like, but for the small business person, or SME, it’s a serious inconvenience and requires some skill. Wizards rarely work first time and if you’re not techie enough to find a workaround, you’re stuffed! Social net communications have no such issues. These aren’t used for ‘serious’ communications at the moment, but I think it’s a no-brainer that they will be soon enough.

As machines get smaller and more mobile, or are ignored altogether in favour of iPhones and Blackberries, social nets will come into their own. The bigger machines (laptops and workstations) will be used for larger document typing, accounts, pictures, music and storage, rather than fulfilling the every minute of every day communications role they have done to date because once the phone syncs well with your machine, and everything is backed up, job done.

Also, as documents get bigger and the net gets slower or gridlocks altogether, (have you noticed the terrible 3pm slump in broadband speed when the US logs on?) social nets may become, of necessity, a realistic alternative for dependable net facilitated communication. It’s more technically efficient if everyone talks in the same location, rather than talks to each other where each has their own peculiar addresses and associated mail routers. We are all tied to a thing called bandwidth, and access to bandwidth, may become so valuable it could be seen as wealth, akin to money.

To get a big techie for a minute, as I see it, if people copy a typical mail with an attachment to several people the size of the mail is increased 100% with each copied person, so it impacts hugely on bandwidth available for everyone with large SMTP facilitated communications (SMTP is the email protocol). Senders are not only copying the same document to each other, they are also copying its format, pictures and loads of other information that isn’t used by each reader of the document. The doc in its most basic form is a text file after all. Very small indeed. However, if they send a doc to a shared webspace using FTP once (file transfer protocol) or better still HTTP (the same thing for webpages like blogs), rather than emailing several people, it is read with HTTP (hypertext transfer protocol) in a more spread out way or read and not copied or transferred with all its formatting to each user machine. It won’t clog up the bandwidth nearly as much. I’m pretty sure that’s how it should works. Techies among you feel free to correct me as I’m a day tripper in sys admin land and to be honest I haven’t even considered TCP/IP and Winsoc and all that malarkey since about 1996, so I’m sure to be a bit rusty L.

And finally there is that strange and mysterious ‘email blocked’ problem - the ultimate failure of the email system. And no it’s not my fault. No, the mailbox isn’t full. No, we’re not on a spam list. No, our Internet connection isn’t down because we can communicate through Facebook, Linked in and Gmail no problem. And yes, we get our mails from all our other clients… no problem. Mysterious, problematic, confusing and a total pain in the arse!

So, as Email fails Social Nets will win. Bring on the Nets!

Wednesday 26 November 2008

Why the Golden Spider’s is important

The Golden Spider awards?  Important?

OK.  The truth?  A part of me say’s it isn’t.  A bit say’s it’s a beauty parade of sites, large and small, some of which no one has ever heard of.  Part of me says it’s an excuse for late night drinking in a once super-posh south Dublin hotel. Part of me say’s it’s an excuse for competitors to sneer at each other across a crowd, or for employees and bosses to have sort outs, clearing the cigarette laden air.

But then, aren’t all awards ceremonies like that.  And are they the worse off for it?  No. It makes precious little difference to their importance.  The Golden Spiders is a forum for an industry to meet and greet, share a pint, clap and slide off home... Very therapeutic.  It’s an opportunity for an industry that has taken more knocks than others to take itself seriously for once and not take itself too seriously at the same time

OK.  This is where I sound older than I am, or, about the right age, but I’ve been to all of them so far (I think?)   Not a grand claim, but it gives me an overview of them... and an opportunity to point out some trends.

Before the dot com boom it was a nascent awards ceremony, where a small room could contain all the major players in Ireland each person being one-third techie, one-third entrepreneur, one-third person who couldn’t get a job anywhere else.   Then the Nasdaq struck a tone which shook all, and if you were on the right side of the investor fence, you were an instant multi-millionaire – on paper at least.  The atmosphere of the awards had changed.  An un-earned smugness and swagger crept in, accompanied by breathless ambition, greed, and some misery at missing out.  The bursting of the bubble decimated the attendees and this was a time where those at the awards who were involved in the industry and who’s experience pre-dated the dot com crash could be counted on the fingers of one hand.  There were five of us! The lingo and buzzword vendors had fled to fairer pastures, and the tables were populated by ‘industry’ rather than ‘internet enterprise’.  The sales guys were still there, but worked for telco’s and portals, rather than tech SMEs.  Then in the early 2000s, things limped along until Google fixed the net for us all.  Search engines worked, things could be found, and PPC made sense and was cheap.  Bebo and social sites cemented the advantage won and now we’re in the age of the iPhone, and very high levels of broadband net use for all, if you want it.

That was the difference about this year’s awards.  The mobile content providers.  The winning entrant involved a mobile phone system for keeping tabs on minors.  I’m reliably told it works on very few phones, but I haven’t checked it.  That’s not the point.  The point is that the net has left the office, or home, or SoHo business model.  Facebook can be conceived in the same breath as outlook, or a contacts database, without spam email.  Bebo.. . the same.  The buzzword is the mobile phone App.  This concept was almost unimaginable even a few years ago.  ( I know I’m always banging on about how things have changed, but it never ceases to amaze me, and informs views on the trajectory things might take in future).  But Locle takes things a step further, marrying Facebook with location based services.  The full integration of the latest developments of the social net online, with local society offline.

There was another difference with this awards.  Maturity.  The Internet has slowly but finally arrived in Ireland as an intrinsic and fundamental force in the media landscape.  Not as an add-on for nerds and geeks, but as a centroid around which old media rotate and learn... eating audience share and headspace like a black hole.  Netspace: -engaging, entertaining, informative, efficient, flexible, customizable, cheap, upgradable and full of innovation and creativity.  There were few times for other media that you could make any of these claims, but most importantly, the last two – innovation and creativity.  Radio Luxembourg for Radio?  Hall’s Pictorial Weekly for TV?  Maybe a few others, but these old media have been suffocated by top down civil society, from governments to the church with academic confusions about the role of the public service broadcaster, who owns the media in question and who is more important – the content producer or the audience.  But for the net, innovation and creativity are a commonplace and for this reason the net is where I think the future of our media landscape must lie – with great ideas and the chutzpah to do something about them.  Because what stood out to me about this year’s Spiders was that the creative media thinkers, innovators, inventors and entrepreneurs never seem to tire of the netspace and this is likely to be true for the mobile net too.  There were loads of them there; clever, clever people doing really cool things that stretch the boundaries of communicative technology and its relationship with modern society on very limited resources.  These are things that will create considerable societal change while they make a buck.  Very few new enterprises do things as important as that.  The vast majority make money for a single individual, but very few indeed change the way we all interact with each other.

So, why are the Spiders important?  Well, if it’s only because they are a haven for Ireland’s enterprise and good ideas - that’ll do for me.

Friday 14 November 2008

Moore Street on the Net. The Trader Segment of Netizen will Grow in Importance

A recent segmentation I ran on Internet behaviour showed several groups.

Dolittles (6%): This group don’t do much and could be termed low intensity Internet users. They report that they all use the Internet for email and chat and they will use all of the other Internet categories, but much less often than the other groups.

Media Consumers (31%): These are the consumers of net content in all its forms, and from all form of traditional media online (RTE, Irish Times, Sky etc), so I’ve called them the media net. Yes, but they’re net surfers with a purpose rather than aimless geeks enjoying the beauty of things digital. This group will go to read news of all sorts. They’ll be financially savvy and are well educated. They also have good jobs and incomes too. These use the net as an information resource and a career enhancing tool to aid decision making and economic communication.

Networkers (8%): Perhaps once considered the ‘sad’, depressive net addicts this group is now recognized as a growing segment of net activity, and they’re using the net tool to help extend their overt social nature... (or over compensated social phobia) and they love it.

These are the group who are into chatting and networking. They like to be linked and bring on the buzz of chit chat and juicy gossip. Yes, more girls in this group, but only just. They like chat, user generated content, bulletin boards and dating. These are the net socialites who get their fix of friendships and talk online.

I think this group are especially important as the trend towards a more digitally mediated social existence and staying in contact with ‘everyone you ever knew’ to feel part of the community is a strong one. It may just be a new stage in reaching maturity, or feed into broader psychological needs, but its there and will only become more prevalent in society and persistent in nature.

At an extreme, it gets silly. Is someone with 14 contacts less happy or socially or economically adept than someone with 100? Or 500? Doubt it, and studies would indicate that 50 is the max number of relationships people can handle at all. (For Lions its 30). Business contacts may be different of course and it will be quality not quantity that is important there too. Get this for a wheeze. There’s a cheat on Bebo so you can pretend you have 100s of friends. (Hope there’s one for LinkedIn L)

Mappers, Restaurants and Cars (42%): Then, there are those who use the net for restaurants, car trading and maps.

They might use email, but the net hasn’t impacted on this group socially or economically at all really. These tend to be older men who perhaps don’t have the time or the need to be chatting to their peers who aren’t that net savvy anyway. The net makes sense to them when they can print off a map or a timetable, but the rest of the stuff? Well, really! It’s more for the kids isn’t it, though he doesn’t understand what exactly it is that they do when they do it. But, he’s (as it typically a he) is proud of his net connectedness nevertheless. This group you won’t see on the web that much really except for newspapers, Google and main stream media.

Traders (13%): This is the group that are the main focus of this post. These use the Internet like an ATM... a ticketing machine for flights, banking and shopping. Functional stuff. 13% of Internet users are in this distinct group. Doing things without having to queue for less money, or when they need to upgrade their phone.

But, within this group are those that use eBay and Classifieds. The tech savvy ‘trotter’s independent traders’ of the great web boot sale in the ether. This is one of the most important sectors to Ireland Internet economy. The invisible spivs, the attic hunter gatherers, the ebayerati.

What exemplifies this group from the others is their need to make money from the net rather than spend time on it or buy things on it, though they will be include those who do. They ‘make’ money either in savings on goods purchased in other markets, or by selling and trading. And, I think in the current economic climate, this group is set to grow...

eBay consider people to be basically honest, and they’ve been proven right. Yes, there are always some people who’ll try to sell fake goods, but we don’t blame the platform, but rather the seller, and that’s the way it should be.

For example, I’ve always known that if I buy a €5 watch when I’m on holiday in Tunisia and it turns out not to be a real Rolex it’s totally my fault for being such a mean muppet – thinking I can take the piss in a third world country and even haggling him down from €20 and thinking I was clever. God, I so deserved it. (‘Wanna buy Rolex, Tag, Swatch? Reel Gold! Verry good price for you my friend. You Ireesh? My Mother she ees Ireesh. I write letter to her in Ireesh.’ And I thought I had the upper hand. what was I thinking?)

No, there’s is no such thing as a free lunch. And, the same applies online. But, on the other hand I also know that there are good carpets to be bought in Turkey, or art, or whatever, so I’ll have few qualms about taking that risk. eBay is a bit like that for me. Great bargains for the discerning purchaser. It’s just like the real world. There are millions of things to buy online, if you look and it doesn’t take long with a little practice. eBay should be a primary port of call before you shell out full whack for new goods with all the VAT attached. Very often, the only difference between an eBay purchase and a retail one is the box and Styrofoam it’s packed in, and even that can be an inconvenience to get rid of. Then there are tickets, brand new goods, antiques and all sorts of stuff you will only be able to buy online - if you look that is.

There’s a new breed of Irish seller to join the street sellers of Moore’s Street and Camden Street, and they’re waiting with their wares to sell to the highest bidder on the net.

This group don’t look like traders though. They are homemakers, women with kids, men who look for car parts online, fixers, menders and make doers. Oh, and a few petty crooks of course. These are the people who keep the family budget ticking over and make sure the car gets the kids to school. These are the head down and work hard bunch and these are the group I think are kind of recession proof, philosophically speaking anyway. It’ll be hard alright but they’ll manage, and if they don’t remember a recession themselves, their parents and grandparents won’t waste any time in reminding them.

And finally, I think we should all take a leaf out of the philosophy of the net trader. For the giant Irish middle class there’s no shame in saving money in Lidl any more is there. It’s a competition for how much you’ve saved, rather than being concerned about how much you have to spend. And to sell and trade things you don’t have to have a stall on the main street and the voice of 10,000 Woodbines - it can be done from your front room. I think it’ll catch on.

And Finally...

And finally, though these groups add up to 100% they are not ‘discrete’ groups. They cross over each other and almost all use email and Google etc to some extent (there are those that don’t believe it or not). So, there will always be exceptions, that is, groups that don't fit into these bands, but these groups represent a statistically valid generality with whatever insight that can provide. If you know a find a different group not described above they may reside within one of mine, or the Dolittles, or they are just new, or strange. Or indeed, they maybe have been so niche the weren't picked up by my sample. Gamers, for example, are omitted, and they are becoming steadily more important. But, they fall between stools in my breakdown... somewhere between social networks and chatters including behaviours of both. Why do they fall between stools? Well, because the stats told me they did. And, what does that mean? Well, if you think about it gaming is a social communicative practice after all, but there is no typical ‘gamer’ behaviour online on sites other than gaming sites that differentiates the gamer, as a type of Internet user, from the others. In other words, gamers are normal, just like the rest of us or there’s a gamer in all of us. Gamers don't use the web any differently to the rest of us... at least not yet with any statistical significance anyway. That will probably change in the coming years.

But tell me what you think? Do you know some groups that need exploration? Is there more to this than meets my eye? Let me know. I always listening, very interested and keen to learn.

And in the meantime why not get an eBay account and check it out. You know you want to and you could maybe save a bundle! J

Tuesday 7 October 2008

Stacked Media Consumption with Internet Protocol

Picture the scene.  Person sits at the TV, some music station, with significant other who’s playing a game on Xbox with the headphones on.  The mobile is on the arm of the chair, and the laptop on the lap.  (S)he is downloading music, transferring them to the iPod on the iPhone while checking the Bebo page, changing the flashbox for the new Kaiser Chiefs vid, answering mails, (emails that is) and scribbling on the wall (on the social network, not the actual wall.  OK?)  (S)he also uploads some pics from the night before that a mate MMSed to the public email account. (S)he got them on the phone that night ffs.  What a laugh.  Select list: Friends: Send.  Then, they’re done.  She waits till he’s killed and then shuts the lappy, kills the telly but hits record for later and the partner stops and drops the console on the shelf.  They head off for a walk by the sea, hand in hand, sharing the newly downloaded album, one earpiece each. Ahhh.  Sweet.

This is a true story, it really happened, just the other day, and just like I told it.  But what does it tell us?  It tells me that the way we see media consumption is totally out of date.  Radio.. one measurement.  One type of consumption... ¼ hours.  TV... one measurement... OTSs.  Newspaper... One measurement and daily slots.  And, then comes the Internet.  Don’t get me started.  Other non-Internet media see their consumption in a vacuum.  You are watching TV, and not doing anything else, like reading the newspaper, or checking your emails, or texting, or having the radio on at the same time.  As if we are back in the 1950s when whole families would sit around and listen to the wireless because it was the only medium in the house.  Those days were over in the 1950s

But now all of these media can be delivered over IP, and it doesn’t matter what physical client was used to deliver the message.  It is just media consumption.  Not Internet.  Not audio-visual.  Not multi-modal.  If it’s news, it’s not TV news or radio news or newspaper news.  Though it might be each of these.  And what is Internet news exactly?  All of the above?  It’s just news....  The barrier between the different delivery vehicles for the message have got so blurred, they’re largely irrelevant. 

Worked example: Let’s think of TV news.  TV over the TV, or the TV on the PC streamed or podcasted, or recorded TV, which isn’t the same as Video or DVD or PVR or PPV.  Is it WiFi?  Ariel on the house? Cable?  3G? Broadband? Or is it good old analogue, with rabbit’s ears sitting on the top of the box as we use in Galway three channel-land (one is in Irish though L).  And what about TV over the iPlayer, or TV news on my 3G iPhone.  It that no longer TV?  You say potayto, I say potahto.  You say it’s TV, I say it’s mobile video 3G news content from with text and video delivered over my local WiFi broadband hotspot for free. Oh, and I went to as well and sent a webtext.  Ah, let’s call the whole thing off! 

Does it matter?  Does it make me different if I have a different way of receiving the message?  Does it make the message different?  Em... No.  It doesn’t.

The truth is that all of the different delivery mechanics for the TV news are getting confused with the physical boxes used to consume them, the signals and codes they are communicated in, the methods of paying for them, the way they are watched – recorded or live and where they are watched – stationary, on the move, work, home, car etc...  So confused, they are almost un-researchable, and un-countable.... unless they are all over IP.  And, in a short time, this will be the case.  IP can tell if the TV content consumer is mobile, interactive, recorded or downloaded, or pay per view because IP all comes from servers, with ads and creative’s that are requested, sent and tracked, counted and billed.  It isn’t simple stuff mind.  The exact opposite in fact.  But IP will win out in the end of the day, because IP knows what is requesting the content, where, and in what form.  IP is the only ‘it’ that knows this.  Analogue will never know it.  DAB, digital audio band, knows it, because it too is digital and IP(ish).  IP doesn’t know everything, but it knows a lot.

So.  Questions:  What is the Internet?  What is on the Internet?  What is it used for?  Where is it used?  What about people consuming Internet and other media at the same time?  Well, these are all kind of the wrong questions.  The Internet isn’t a thing, like TV, or radio or a newspaper.  It’s a vehicle for things like TV, radio and newspapers, and a whole lot more, like social nets, email and phone calls.  When we measure the Internet what do we count?  Answer: The lot.

The truth is that it is possible to measure what media people consume, even if they consume lots of different media at the same time, but, we’ll have to do it in a whole new way.  Not with the existing structures of national media measurement, because these are out-moded and obsolete, and imply a way of living that isn’t the case anymore.  They are pre-digital.  They also imply nationally bounded media consumption, something that hasn’t existed now for many years and will never exist again.  Sadly, this is also the rationale behind the Joint National Internet Measurement, as if the Internet were a nationally bounded entity rather than being something that contains all of the other media, and is global.  It’s kind of the whole point of the net I would have thought.

Anyway.  Back to my two friends.  The modern media consumers.  Well, they don’t care about any of this stuff.  Music?  Free.  Video? Well there’s online, TV, iPhone, iPod, Video Pod, laptop, PC, Cinema, DVD, PVR, SkyBox, iPlayer.... and who cares.  News is just news, whether it’s print, on paper, or on a screen, or aertel, or a text, on the RTE website, or a newspaper site, or an RSS newsfeed, or an email subscription, or a paper flyer.... and again, who cares.  They don’t.  But they do care about the news, and sometimes they even know where they’ve seen it, but that isn’t the point.  They don’t say, I saw the new Kaiser Chiefs video on the analogue TV the other day.  They say they saw the new video.  They say ‘did you hear the news’, and often don’t remember where they heard it, exactly... because they were doing loads of other things at the same time, and it doesn’t matter where you heard it, as long as you heard it.  The delivery mechanic, the medium... isn’t the messag.e in a digital world.

So, we need to start counting messages, not media, and then work backward and infer, with probability the medium they were consumed on, by, for example, counting the media that a person has access to, and their propensity to use them.  And what happens to measurement then?  Audiences increase hugely for content, but maybe individual media audiences are vulnerable, because maybe, in truth, they are dropping.  This is the case for newspapers for example.  In the fullness of digital time we’ll know more about the media used when we look at IP.  We won’t know everything but we’ll know a lot more than we do right now and it will stack up.  And, when the content is consumed, over IP, from servers, will be able to track where it’s consumed, and measure the efficacy of the broadcast... just like we do in Internet land every day.  Simple (kinda).

Friday 3 October 2008

Economic Downturn Impacts on Irish Online

Purchases of Goods & Services - New Report
Drop in quantities of products and services bought online since 2007

Online research for products down by as much as 10% for some goods

Fall in online purchasing activity linked to decline in economic activity

Dublin, IRELAND - September 22nd 2008: Irish shoppers are spending less money buying good and services online and are spending less time on the Internet doing research on their favourite products, according to a landmark report that has just been published by Dublin-based digital communications consultancy, Net Behaviour.

The Net Behaviour Report - the most extensive research that has been carried out on Irish internet usage - contains the Net Behaviour (NB) Consumer Index, which looks at the propensity of Irish people to research and purchase goods and services online.... read more

How the Internet is Changing the World

OK. I’m indulging myself here... so, sorry if it’s boring. These are just some ideas, so skip this post if you’re looking for a quick hit of Irish net data.

Take yourselves back, 2300 odd years and Alexander's conquests have expanded the size of the known world from Europe east to India, Afghanistan and beyond. New trade routes, language, communication and the opening of the library at Babylon are the result. 2000 years and the Roman’s are building roads all over their Empire, and walls and aqueducts - paths for language, culture, post and armies to travel upon. 1700 odd years and Emperor Constantine’s coinage has the invincible sun on one side and the Christian holy labrum on the other.... (perhaps the first mobile marketing campaign) bringing together diverse peoples behind common symbols. The Renaissance and the Europeans re-discover the classical age after the desert of the dark ages, and printing begins. The 20th century and things speed up apace. Trains, planes and automobiles combine with post, telephone, Marconi’s radio and TV... all shrinking the world. And then comes the net.

The net may be more important to the growth, development and perpetuation of human civilization than all of the other changes mentioned combined. I’ll give five reasons, though there will be others...

  1. Global communication of ideas, instantaneously... across media. No need for roads, or tickets, post or paper... and (almost) everyone can use the net. The democratic idea generation and dissemination much feared after Gutenberg almost 600 years earlier, has finally arrived
  2. Central publishing and self publishing makes social and political control and ownership of ideas and knowledge almost impossible. Even powerful knowledge like how to make a neuclear weapon requires merely access to Google. Government propoganda has never been so difficult and may indeed become largely obsolete
  3. Mobile internet makes idea generation and dissemination instantaneous and moves them from the post office to the pocket. 
  4. Learning and idea generation speeds up by perhaps a factorial of 10, every six months. Wikipedia is 7 years old, has 10 million articles (at least) and it’s updated every day by thousands of authors. Brittanica takes a lifetime to write and the paper edition at least is a little bit out of date even before it goes to print. There’s a quality difference, but still...
  5. Internet protocol takes the best from all the media that have gone before, and centralizes them seamlessly. The medium isn’t the message, and neither is the format. The message is the message and anyone can produce one. Listen, read, see online or on your mobile... regardless of whether the initial content producer worked for a TV station, radio, newspaper or was a blogger. And then readers can comment on the message for all the other consumers of the message and the comment... a whole new broadcast message. And with web 2.0 this is only the beginning...

The net is the warp drive for human exploration, idea generation and communication, where TV was merely a pulse. Blogs carry the Gutenberg revolution to its extreme, while mobiles democratize the moving images of TV, and turns them into moving images on the move generated by the mover. Need to see pictures from Mars? Need results from recent medical trials? Need to say I love you to someone on the other side of the planet? Need to secretly broadcast a war in some far off corner? Need to develop a new idea with experts scattered hither and yon? Need a pizza? Enter the net. And anyone can do these things all by themselves.

I really think we live in incredible times and we take them for granted because we’ve got too used to amazing changes in the way we live, how we learn, how we talk to each other and how we listen. We suffer from Internet exhaustion as it’s too difficult to keep bothering to pluck up the energy and see the implications of the newest gadget. The iPhone is the latest... but there’s another gadget along every six months. And most of us are just too busy with the buzz of everyday life to sit down and play with these machines and see what their very existence implies. But it is truly awesome, inspiring and humbling stuff and once in a while I think it’s just good to sit back and soak up some scale.

Friday 26 September 2008

Visiting the Mobile Marketing Conference

I went to the excellent Mobile Marketing Conference in the Gresham yesterday, organised by Dan Morrissy, it was a real eye opener, and a great conference.

Picture the scene: cynical media measurement guy (me) sits at back of hall with no less than four net connection tools at his finger tips. I was at a conference, but I was ready for anything. My shiny new and oh-so-lovely 3G iPhone which requires a blog post all of its own; my recently out-of-date XDA orbit, which I still love for all its windows mobile features, though it only connects at the speed of Edge, or GPRS unless you're borrowing someone’s free WiFi; my funky little Vodafone 3G modem for the lappy, and the Gresham free hotspot I wasn’t banking on. Vint Cerf would’ve been impressed. What could go wrong? Well, I forgot my power cables and as luck would have it I would be offline in approximately 22 minutes, if I didn’t use the machines for anything. At all. If I did? 3. OMG. I quickly get them couriered to reception and it was a good job... as emails needing immediate attention streamed in throughout the day like a child’s runny autumn nose. Everytime I thought I’d got it all mopped up... there was another little drip starting that was only going to get bigger if I didn’t get a good blow in right now.

All these phones and connections and I was at a conference about phones, and connections. Christ. I really thought I’d had enough of technology as a whole for one day, but the quality of the speakers was nothing short of utterly compelling. They were all saying different things. All were coming at the topic from different angles and all agreeing somewhat while defending their own patch as if there was a siege on, but I felt they were just not putting all the bits together to get a wholistic view. That was for the audience. It’s not an industry that meets often, which is why such conferences are important. And, it’s a new industry, which means that, with a few notable exceptions, many have been working in isolation to carve a business out of their slice of their vision of how the business of mobile advertising and market will work, and works best and, of course, trying to put bread on the table. New businesses need to turn a buck, or they quickly become no businesses. Quality of note came from Ogilvy, Parvenio, Puca, Return2Sender and Peter McPartlin and many others were inspiring, interesting and entertaining.

One speaker (Mark Congiusta from Irish International if I remember rightly) started by saying... “Just so you know, Google is getting into the mobile space, so everything is going to be OK.” All laughed, because thats what most of us felt. If the big G is getting involved, they have a plan... a huge one that governments couldn’t even afford, couldn’t even understand in fact. A plan that will fix the mobile phone market just like they fixed the Internet. And Google is even bidding for radio spectrum in the states. Oh... Those guys. It’s so scary when people that are so rich and successful do stuff we haven’t even thought of. You have to love them or hate them... and they don’t care either way. How cool it is to have a kid in your class who’s that big and smart and potentially dangerous. Stockholm syndrome is inevitable.

There was some confusion initially as to whether the GPhone was a phone, or an operating system. Bit of both? Well, no. It’s a phone that has the operating system – Android – on it. Google seems to be trying to pull the MS Dos trick from yester year out of their wizard bag. Get everyone using the same operating system, or one of a few, and, as happened with choo choo trains, then we’re all sitting on the same gauge line and can start to concentrate on designing better rolling stock. Think about it. Isn’t it wonderful for home computer users there are only really three operating systems? PC (with Microsoft, windows, XP or Vista), Mac (with Mac OS), and Linux (with open source resilient free systems so popular for notebooks in the developing world, on servers and with the Asus eee). We have Bill Gates and MS DOS to thank for that. It’s an utter disaster in the world of the mobile on the other hand. Someone said casually there were around 1500 handset types. Jesus wept.

And the carriers don’t talk to each other, so there’ll be no joy soon from there. Each carrier will have god knows how many phones they’re selling, or has sold in the last few years. When you speak to them, they know everything about their users, but there are two problems. They’re only talking about their own users, not the users of other carriers. Of course, I hear you say... but no. It’s a mess. And worse than that. They can’t really text all their users with ads. It’s against the law. Users have to go to the mobile home page portal. Wisps of memory come to mind of the sunny Internet days of the Internet hompage giants, Oceanfree, IOL and Back when everyone was on dial up. In fact because there were only three pages that almost everyone had to go to at some stage, the JNIR online sample was an extraordinarily valid one for its time, and the online more robust than the offline. But, thank god, all of that has changed. People choose their own homepage, because they know how to use the net and because they can access it in so many ways, and they’ve discovered the wonders the web has to offer, not just the quality of the default telco portal.

One speaker from Parvenio cut to the truth this fragmented mobile landscape gives us. Let’s say there is a campaign with a cool creative. Carrier: “we have 134,000 users for this target market”. Advertisers: “Wow, so, I can reach 134,000 with my ad then?” Carrier: “Em... no. Not all visit the homepage. 18,000 do though.” Advertiser: “Oh, 18,000. Big difference. And they’ll be able to watch the video too?” Carrier: “Em... no. Not all the phones will be able to show the video.” Advertiser: “Oh, right, of course. Different phones have different capabilities. So, how many will be able to see it? 15,000? 13,000?” Carrier: “Em.. no. Not that many.” Advertiser : “Aren’t you going to tell me?” Carrier: “Do I have to?” Advertiser: “ I think you do actually.” Carrier: “OK. Be gentle. Nine.” Advertisers: “Nine thousand?” Carrier: “No. Nine. JUST NINE OK?”

With all those phones, and different formats of creative, and different operating systems, and carriers that don’t talk to each other and agree some general standards – things could be seen to be a bit of a mess in the telco portal arena.

OK. But I have an iPhone. (Yey!) It’s my mini-Mac, my iPod in my pocket and I can choose my own homepage. And, I think, come Christmas time when hundreds of thousands, of iPhone style mobys are sold, most people will have left the portal homepage too, and will just Google and YouTube throughout the day. For example, I read the Irish Times on my phone on the bus on my way home while listening to the inbuilt iPod... very comfortably. I checked my mail. Sent and received texts. Simple, happy, and all with the one device. So, because there is a much better way, this homepage mobile portal situation just can’t last. Can it. It’ll get a whole lot better very quickly. Digital technology is like that.


3G provides enough bandwidth to allow users to stream video, receive TV signal, send large files and of course make voice calls.
3.5G provides improvement to voice calls, two way video calls, mobile TV, mobile broadband to laptops, and lots of other stuff requiring a superfast download and upload speed. 14 megabites per second download. Its fast!

You have to think of what thing that mobiles do best. If it’s not a full 3G mobile web smartphone, like the iPhone, that thing is SMS. There are opt in short code campaigns. Bar codes pictures and vouchers too. Enter Eamonn Hession and Donald Douglas who swept any cynicism out of the room and down the corridor. Response and Targetting SMS. Great campaigns, case studies, wonderful entertaining creatives, targeted advertising for small groups, interruptive and not, and, especially when mixed with other media, a great investment with a greater return. And not much investment too. Small beans when it comes to a full media mix, but it could be the plum on the icing on the pudding. From my point of view the best bit is its all elective. Opt in, free cool content. And, it should not be the result of the one big idea, Donald Douglas was keen to point out, but the result of dipping the toe in, or exploring, experimenting, trialling... having a go. Because sometimes when people are trying something new they try too hard to guarantee a success, they totally mess it up. They’ve over sold it internally, and they look really silly, or worse, they’ve blotted their copy book. Better to just do it, not expecting or investing too much... and, they assure us, you won’t be disappointed. It makes sense though. As with search engine advertising online when people are clicking when they are actually searching for something – elective mobile visitors are a better class of visitor. And someone electing to have something sent to their phone will be engaged, totally. It’s on their phone for heaven’s sakes. How could they not be engaged. Free content to be enjoyed, informed, shown.

Did anyone out there get shown the Carling ad on the iPhone. It’s really cool. It’s perhaps the first truly mobile viral video, the prize John West Salmon won in the netosphere back in 1998. It’s a simple, cool, cheap idea. All it took was innovation from someone who sat down and said... “What does this iPhone do? How can we use it to our advantage? And that’s what we ad agency heads have to think about for mobile phones. 120% of us have phones (some more than one) so what do they do... and how can we use it? What makes an iPhone special? It knows when it’s tilting. An internal gyroscope. OK. That's what sparked the Carling idea. But what’s special about phones? They’re in your pocket? Everyone has them? They’re mobile... and can be used in conjunction with location based systems or LBS (Big Brother can see the phone's location on a map).

Is that it? Is there an idea to spring from the obvious? People text their loved one? They buy new phones every year? Is that where the next bit of inspiration is that will make the big difference when mixed with the rest of a campaign – outdoor, TV, Radio,? It worked for Walkers recently. Text in your new Walker’s crisps recipe. This reached 5% of the English market. 5%? That is actually a huge huge number when you think about it. Especially for a crisp campaign. 3 million people actually. Yes, it was mixed with all the other media, but that’s fine. Mobile doesn’t need all the credit. But it made the whole campaign work really well. That’s the point.

OK. I was enthused. I was there... on song and my foot was tapping out the tune to a ringtone, the most expensive music on the planet. It was all going in, and then the venerable Peter McPartlin took the podium, and apologized in advance for the news he was going to impart to the floor. He put mobile in the context of all the other media available to advertisers. There were so many choices including outdoor (with maybe 20 formats), TV, Radio, Internet, Social Media, Google and more and more and more. His slide showed media planets spinning around the advertising budget sun, and I don’t think he used any other slides. It spoke both clearly and very loud. It stared at us. Mobile... that little planet there, on the outskirts of the solar system, like Pluto before it was demoted from being a planet to the status of 'big lump of ice'. The little freezing ex-planet Mobile. Spinning enthusiastically... and all alone. If it was a mobile, it would be out of coverage. This was a shock, and the very opposite of the all pervasive medium message we’d just received, but the point was along the lines that, all media compete for big budgets and like the Internet recently, mobile just doesn’t come out of the big bag, but rather the lets-give-it-a-go bag. The couple-of-grand-can’t-hurt bag. The will-make-me-look-open-minded-and-innovative bag. It was a great bit of clarity, there was no doubt.

And he was right, of course, but IMHO (in my humble opinion) he was wrong too. (Sorry Peter.) We shouldn’t see Mobile on its own, like a planet, but as part of a system, or a galaxy. On its own it is like looking at bus sides, or the back page of a regional mag as the risk, or the new thing when they all should be part of the system (campaign) that is part of a product's brand and market traction (galaxy) and all in turn part of the advertising universe. Typically its a single format. That is the point I would have thought. And sometimes, if a planet like cold planet Moby doesn’t have the creative gravitational pull to the central sun, it will drift off into space. And yes. Then the media buyers will say to themselves... Well, that didn’t work did it. I won’t be doing that again. But it won’t be the fault of the little moby service provider, but rather the fault of the planner, or the plan, or the strategist. Everyone has a mobile, so it’s up to all to come up with ideas that bring its strengths to play, and makes the campaigns better and improves the relationship with the brand. That’s the point. And there are lots of people, like Donald and Eamonn out there to help, but they too must keep things simple. They must make it turn on and offable. Simply buyable. Clearly reportable. In fact, Net Behaviour aim to find processes to make it possible to put mobile on every plan it suits, as we do with online advertising, search, SEO and research.

We need to step back. Recognise everyone has a mobile, and integrate. Not the creative from TV (though it can go on many mobiles), or the homepage portal into the digital buy, but rather integrate the thinking of the whole idea. Join up the dots so that the planets exist as a wholistic system. Ask some obvious questions. What’s so special about mobiles? Why does everyone have them? Why are they so important in people’s lives? Why are they using them while watching TV, or for listening to music or the radio. And making movies too. Recent research showed that if someone loses their wallet, they might report it missing within a day or so... maybe longer. If their mobile goes missing, the loss is reported within the hour. Other research showed that when women go on holidays, they were likely to be more upset if they left their mobile at home, than their boyfriend. We just need them so badly, so, how can advertisers, communicators and service providers leverage that need. What makes them so special? There must be a million good ideas out there, like there are little lumps of ice around the Sun. They just need to be linked. Do we have to wait for Google to link of them first? Will they promote mobile from being the distant lump of ice on Peter's chart to being Jupiter-sized planet a pervasive media yardstick indicates it deserves to be? Sheesh. I hope not. But if they do, I’ll congratulate them and secretly be sickened that I didn’t come up with the same idea or a better one sooner. Won’t you? So, for all our sakes. Think people. Think mobile. The future is out there... and it’s on the move.

Friday 18 July 2008

Categorically Up the Creek: - What's Wrong with Google?

I just picked up a new(ish) telephone book and I said to myself - Silly me. The Internet is so much quicker. I’m an Internet guy. I can do this. So I went to Google instead.

I looked up Indian Restaurants Dublin because I had a babysitter for Saturday, and I got a list of all of the services which mentioned Indian and Restaurant, and Dublin in the order of who’d visited them most often. Interspersed with actual restaurants which provided Indian cuisine was an encyclopaedia reference for India, a Bollywood site and a bloody map of India. Then some joker had written a site slagging off Indian restaurants. I gave up and made a coffee and a sandwich.
I then said to myself. Silly boy. You’re not using it right. So, I looked up Java, the country west of Krakatoa (not east as in the movie title). Another disaster! In order of who’d visited them most, or linked to them most I got hundreds of sites on the software language, called Java, some coffee beans, another software called ‘Java Beans’ more encyclopaedia references and more maps, some programmers ones too that didn’t look much like the Island, near Krakatoa.
I then thought… wait a second. I’m stupid. I need to go the country search engine. There wasn’t one. What about the Restaurant in my region database… but Google doesn’t supply one.

That’s the problem. The list. As there are many, many more websites in the world every month. One for every company really and most things people talk about too. But Internet users are still going to Google and looking briefly down the list, which in all fairness is so much better than the old search engines we used, but it’s still just a list. And no one goes to the second page. (Well, some do rarely). All the categories that might be something to do with the keywords you put into the search box, in order of site size, the state of the site SEO, the links into the site (and out), the blogs associated with it, and a host of other algorithmic magical measures like code to keyword density and other bits are included and then Google pop out a relevance statistic that says… ‘this is what you were really looking for, with the two words you input…and here’s some other categories you may have been looking for. There you go.’

So, it’s my fault. I should have gone all Boolean – adding And and Not and But and other words to filter my search, and I should have added more and more words. But, eventually, you are writing and correcting and limiting and filtering till the cows come home, when you could just pick up the Yellow Pages, go to Restaurants, go to Indian, and glance through the 5 relevant listings that aren’t take-aways and pick one near you. You can’t go wrong really can you. And if there isn’t one in my area, it’s not that I haven’t put in the right boolean definitions and specifications, or that they haven’t SEOed their site, or that they have been banned for black hat coding… or that they don’t have a site (it’s a restaurant after all, they specialize in food). I’m also unlikely to get a map, distractingly, of India, or an encyclopedia page… or any of that. Because, the book, the Yellow Pages, has something called ‘Contents’ and something else called ‘Index’. Simple really. Genius. Why didn’t Google think of it?

In short, the world’s most popular search engine isn’t helping me, or letting me help it. It’s chucking in all of the categories in its index into one super clever list…. And I don’t really care if it’s searched 1.5 kazzillion sites in 0.5 of a milisecond… I’m still too impatient to go to page two. People are stupid. What can I say.

Time for balance. I really really really love Google, because I really love the web, and it’s one of the best things to happen to the web and computers ever in my opinion, on a par with the invention of DOS, or TCP/IP, or HPPT, or HTML. The Google link algorithm is right up there with them. And the company itself has revolutionised advertising for ever, and this promises to continue with their new optimisation tools. If I ever get a cat, I’ll call it Google. Google is well cool… but we, silly human’s need more help than the magical algorithm can possible imagine or compute. We need to be allowed to help the great Google do its good work. We need to be able to steer the behemoth. To be the captain of the ocean liner. We don’t need the machine to think for us all the time, foisting its ideas down our page one throats. We need to be able to choose, just a little bit, and give over more information more easily. I want my search engine to be more like when I’m phoning dial a directory, and saying something like.. ‘it’s an Indian restaurant, in my town. I don’t know what it’s called’ and the nice girl says ‘here’s a list of them. Is it Tandoor? Chaian… Sindar?’ and I choose. The search engine chat on the other hand would continue with me saying… ‘no, my town, in Ireland, not the one in Wisconsin with the same name. No, I don’t want a map, or driving directions. I know my town, I just can’t remember the name of the blood restaurant. I was there last week. It’s called Rajpuri or something. Sindar was a character in a film. That really interesting, but totally irrelevant. I’m hungry. I need a restaurant. A history of Indian restaurants you say? No thanks. Actually… Feck off. I’ll just bloody walk and won’t book. It’ll be quicker!’

But, there is a search engine which tries to do this. I think it’s going in the right direction and I think others, even Google, will have to follow. The site is an old one, and it’s changed its name recently. I used to sillily be called ‘Ask Jeeve’s’ (what a funny joke that was), but is now simply called ‘Ask’. Better! When I put Indian restaurant into Ask, I still get lots of categories, but they are in little boxes or along the side bar, so I can see them. I still see I can have maps, encyclopaedia bits, recipes… all sorts of information, but I can now see what categories these sites are in. They’re not in a single bloody list running to 50 pages. In Ask, I can then click on the appropriate category, and it's filtered. (Just like picking restaurants in Yellow Pages).

Why am I talking about Ask. Well, because I was reminded of it recently when visiting the new The programming behind Ireland’s newest, biggest and best search engine ever, and it’s similar to Ask, not Google. And, I really like it. I think it will work. I think it’s cool. reminds me of what aimed for in 1998 years ago, with its little Bebo style publishing tool, and super categorisation system but is doing it better, and it’s the right time for Ireland and for the state of social and net development. And, best of all, it’s automatic. Clear categorisation, great professional content… all organised, all neatly laid out. This is something you can’t see from the front page of, especially if you are looking for, but as soon as you search, there you go. It doesn’t matter how many pages or sites are generated in Ireland, the findings for this search engine won’t be cluttered, ever. Because they are categorised.

We humans need categories, because we have too much stuff called the same thing. We don’t have category words in our language (or symbols as with Japanese). This is why we have a Dewey Decimal system for libraries and IBAN numbers, and that’s just for books. We need categorization for everything humans think about, need, talk about, make, say, eat, lust after, go to… all of it. It’s a classification nightmare. Too many categories to think of, but I think it’s what the net needs.
Great categorisation.

You see, when I’m honest, I don’t there is a chance in hell that any mathematical algorithm can keep pace with all the information on the web. I believe that the term bandied around time and again in the late 90s –‘information overload’ needs to a reintroduction. I think that shortly, very shortly, humans will notice that they’re missing out by seeing the web through the blinkers offered by Google page one, and some pay per click ads, which, by the way, are getting a bit too snappy and salesy and generic for my liking… (Though, when managed well these do work, and are a super efficient spend. No doubt about it. The proof is there.)

So currently 99% of some age groups use Google almost every day. The reason is that Google is the best search engine. But, the job isn’t done. Much more to do… and hopefully, Google will get more like Like Ask. Categorically.
And as a happy conclusion to this barrage of frustration I looked up Indian restaurant in my home town on Bingo. There they were. Perfect. And the one I was looking for. And then I even got the menu and the prices for each dish on indexed by the site, the phone number, and the maps... all perfectly relevant, neatly laid out, and more than I could ever have hoped, or got, from Google or Yellow Pages for that matter. Howsat! I’ll so be back to

Oh, and as a PS, when I showed Mrs. Kelly the map, ‘we’ decided ‘we’d’ prefer to eat Italian! The search engine that can include woman-think into its algorithm will be seriously popular, but mus remain the stuff of science fiction for now. We live in hope.

Monday 9 June 2008

Irish Broadband Penetration Reaches 83% of Internet Users

I just did some trending on Broadband a bug bear of mine. Why? Well, people keep telling me there’s a broadband penetration problem in Ireland, and on the radio at least, they keep interviewing someone living well out of reach of roads, never mind a broadband connection. Everyone I know has access to broadband, so, it just didn’t feel right. It didn’t stack up. And, it turns out, it doesn’t stack up. It’s simply wrong.

The reason is the research is concentrating on home broadband connections and not home and work and school/university and café’s and the like, people were being given a false and damaging impression of Internet use and penetration in Ireland. The reason for this is the research is done by the traditional door to door method, from traditional research companies. It’s all they can count with the method. For the background to the discussion see my old post, Broadband by Any Other Name Would Work as Fast. My point is simply that in a time of increasingly mobile Internet use, the use of ‘any broadband connection’ is broadband use, and ‘at-home’ broadband, isn’t the point.

As I said, I did some trending, including the latest Net Behaviour Report data, Wave I 2008 and the findings are fantastic, and make a whole lot of sense. Pay special attention to the last column.

In 2007, 83% of Irish Internet users reported that they had access to broadband, and they used it. In 2008, this is 86%, and if we trend this out to 2011, it’s 95%. At home broadband is also growing, according to broadband users. So, 83% of 2 million, means that 1.66 Million Irish Internet users, access the web at broadband speed, from various locations. Good news.

But why, when I ask 1600 Internet users what their Internet connection speeds are like do many more of them tell me they have broadband connection than are reported in the mainstream media? Why, when I trend this on a 3000 sample, with sampling points over 2 years, is the news so good in the long term?

Well, I could bore you with 20 reasons, and get passionate about the whole thing. But, the statistician and researcher in me tells me not to be too defensive. To take the data as it is presented by the sample, interrogate its validity, and once it passes the tests, acknowledge its statistical truth. This is what they said. These findings are significant. It’s not only true for my sample, its true for the population. Job done.

Common sense told me there’s loads of broadband access out there for those that want it, and that everyone who needs it, can get it, and they do. The stats back this up. There is no broadband problem in Ireland. There’s a measurement and perception one however.

There’s also a need to push the debate along. Most broadband in Ireland is painfully slow. Many ‘free’ broadband packages give not much more than 1mbs. This works, but you couldn’t, for example, watch a video on YouTube. Here, at work we’re using 16mbs, which is as fast as it gets in Ireland, more or less, and we can do what we need to do. At home I use 3G 3.6mbs, which, again, does the job, but its so much slower. 1mbs means that big pages will make the browser time out. Big mails will also time out, especially if you’re using webmail. Many people use the Internet to send or upload pictures, and 1mps precludes this use for anything over a 3mg attachment.

So yes, we have broadband, but for most, no, it’s not quick enough. So, let’s move on the debate, and concentrate on what’s really at issue. Not just any broadband at home, but good broadband wherever you can get it.

Widget 101*

What are widgets?
– Widgets (or gadgets and sometimes apps) are tiny web-enabled applications that distribute content to users across the internet (David Smith 2008)

OK. That’s a broad definition. What’s a tiny web enabled application mean? Well, a little program that allows people to connect with content, and lots of other people. I suppose you could say RSS allows connections with content, widgets allow connections with people using content. Some widgets are embedded into social networks, like Facebook, while others are downloadable applications that sit on your desktop, or do the same thing. The problem with the latter is most virus checkers, and firewalls, don’t let you install them. Those on social networks can be huge.

But, things are more complicated than that. I need to differentiate widgets from two new concepts that are important, because they describe something very different from a programming and operations point of view. Alongside widgets are found 'applications', and 'gadgets'. Loosely, all of these are referred to as widgets, and there's debate as to where the line should be drawn, but all are sure, there is a line. Somewhere. I'll have a go. Briefly.

Gadget: a mini-program that's downloaded to your desktop, that talks to a database, maybe like an international clock, currency convertor, or news ticker.

Widget: a mini-program that's downloaded to a blog, or website, and doesn't speak to the site database (the pacman or google thingy on this site are widgets).

Application: a program that exists on a website, typically a social network site, that interacts with the websites databases through the website API. There are many facebook applications, like that Vampire one, and some new ones for geo-location of mobile phones that are simply too big, and embedded in the site structure through the site API, to be called widgets.

Clear as mud. Yeah... I know. But work with it and it starts to sink in. For the rest of this article I'll talk loosely, but keep these definition parameters in mind. I'll turn it round to where you'll find them, and see if it helps. Desktop program - gadget (limited / no database integration with site or PC); Blog game - widget (some added website interaction, no serious integration), Social Website API and database - application (full website integrated program functionality). An application is the biggest and most important of these three, and also the most expensive to design. Beware of super-enthusiastic clients who say they quickly want one of those widget things, and then briefly describe a full website application. They won't see the difference, and if the don't have a million squids in their back pocket... keep your eye on them, and slowly leave the room in reverse. Shut the door, and RUN.

What type of content can be carried with a widget?
All web content can be carried widget-wise. Video, games, music, social networking links, ratings, polls n votes… Whatever you want really.

How do you go about developing a widget?
There are stages in widget development though. First, you have to create the program that does the ‘cool thing’ people will want to use. Then you have to get content for it. Then you find a distribution channel and only at that stage does the widget actually reach the pc, laptop or mobile to use it. It’s not a simple process, and, from an advertising clients point of view, fraught with confusions and misinterpretations. Generally widgets are developed by developers, for developers… who’ll invest considerable sweat equity in the hope that it flies. It’s not like viral advertising. When it works? It’s cool though.
A marketer that does not wish to develop their own widget should consider piggy backing on someone else’s widget. Distribution networks are the next hurdle. The usual ones are HI5, Bebo, Myspace and the other social networks with (often) open api’s

Who’s making them and what do they provide?
Lots of companies, like ClearSpring and WidgetBox for example. Widgets tempt the user into… well, downloading and using them. Users interact with the widget interface. At this point page impressions, unique users, click throughs, view throughs (post view impressions) and all the usual palaver for advertising can be served. These can often be cut by time, number of feeds, or geo-targetted.
Ding… A worked example
Ding permits registered users to see live updates of website content, and get offers in real time. It makes €60m per year from registrations alone… and a whole lot more from advertising on Ding.

Widget Reach
Widgets are reported to have been 60% and 70% cumulative reach of the Internet audience around the world at a given time. Don’t believe it? Neither did I… but then I thought about it. Most people don’t even know they are interacting with a widget at a given time. I was ‘bitten’ on Facebook recently (by a vampire… don’t ask), and without meaning to, I bit an old friend (oh the embarrassment). It was a widget. I joined Hi5, and was asked to join a quiz. I filled out a short interview on Linkedin… and these are the ones I’ve done. I’ve ignored many others. I’ve also inserted a few mini-widgets onto this blog. Did I know they were widgets? Well, I knew they were small working programs on my page, but I hadn’t put that name on them. So yes. I believe the stats on reach for all widgets. Widget use is nearly as popular as web use itself.
Some mobile widgets I’ve seen recently may well become bigger!

How many? How big is this?
Facebook has 8,000 widgets with 31M active daily users. 80% of widget interactions are carried by 1% of the widgets available. The ‘Slide’ widget is the ninth largest Internet company with 17% of global Internet users. For the initiated, Slide designed ‘Poke’, ‘Superpoke’ and the ‘Funwall’. Slide is in 200 countries. They’re on many sites. There are 87million widget installations on facebook alone. 63% of users have a ‘Slide’ widget. Slide is gynormous.

How do we measure their use
We can’t. Not effectively anyway. Comscore are trying, globally, but there’s no real demographics, and nothing for the Irish market. There are also problems with widgets counting video on YouTube for content shown on other sites. Some developers can track their own widgets, but nothing beyond impressions, unques etc. No demographics. I’m working on something that will measure their rate of growth, but it’s not ready yet.

So, that should give you a good intro to the world of widgets.
If you want more advice on what do to about Widgets, and what they can do for you. Or, if you have one, and aren’t sure of next steps, talk to Emmet at

*Note: This post borrows wholesale from an inspiring presentation given by David Smith of MediaSmith, in Barcelona in 2008 (with his permission of course). He’s the widget king. Thanks David!

Friday 4 April 2008

How the Irish Use the Web

Well... After many trials and tests, we've decided to release The Net Behaviour Report into the market. We're very excited about it really. It was a serious challenge... producing a single mechanism for ongoing tracking of how the Irish use the Web. Counting pretty much every site Irish Internet users mention. 500 plus sites, anywhere in the world, commercial sites, news and media, social networks, travel, music, airlines, recruitment, property... the lot. Exploring all of their communication technology use. Running indexes to describe each demographic segment, and all the time checking to see if the data makes sense. Does it stack up? Well it does, and I really think we've done it this time. There's a sample of the data that can be downloaded from this site, on the side bar, and we'll be updating this on a regular basis with more sample releases, and tables and that. And we'll also put up snippets and interesting facts that emerge from the data as we find it. If you have any specific questions for me, don't hesitate to email.

This is real time research too.  We never turn it off, so we will be able to watch the web as it changes.  New sites coming out of nowhere and becoming hugely popular, while some fade away. New ways of linking, tagging, digging, twittering, flicring, sniffing and, of course, blogging.  New banking practices, entertainment sites, news sites, podcasts, video pages and messenger products.  How things have changed in the last few years, and they are likely to continue to change.  Becoming more complicated, more enmeshed with the real world, progressively linking more and more people with similar needs and interests in more efficient ways.  Well, we want to understand it, and The Net Behaviour Report will help no end.  Enjoy!

Tuesday 18 March 2008

NB 10 Predictions for 2008

NB 10 Predictions for 2008

1) 80% Internet Access and More
2) Phone-on-Net, Net-on-Phone
3) Mobile Networking
4) IPTV Video Downloads
5) Net Literacy Becomes an Issue
6) Mobile Content Explosion
7) Buzz Increases
8) Beyond the Laptop
9) Delivery Divide for Net Content
10) Gaming Is a Bigger Deal

1) 80% Internet Access and More

Internet penetration? What is it? Well, if the question is, do people have access to the Internet, 80% or maybe even 90% of Irish will have. Especially if we recognise that the phone now carries Internet signals and emails. Also, if we recognise that there are café’s, schools, colleges and universities, friend’s houses, libraries and so many other areas to sit, type, read and watch online content.

When it comes to broadband, you can see from my previous posts that I think this is much higher penetration wise than is currently being measured… but, I also think Internet penetration itself is being massively underestimated.
So, 100% access to the Internet? Maybe not 100%, but a lot!

2) Phone-on-Net, Net-on-Phone

This will be a time where mobile net use will come into its own. Huge marketing drives are making it common knowledge that you can do so much netwise on the little yoke in your pocket.
iPhone will bring this home to the Irish market in a big way. The phone is no longer a phone, but a pocket laptop phone PC thingy. With WiFi and/or 3G, the world of Internet pages is your oyster.

3) Mobile Networking

A new but a cool thing that changes the way we think about the web, and our phone. Where are your friends these days? Mobile Bebo, Facebook and whatever takes your fancy are on your phone. Twitter can give you some information, but what about colleagues? Or people in a different city? Well, mobile networking links with GPS phone location information, and you’ll can to see where your friends are, and, because your phone has been located, you’ll receive ads from the café across the street. The phone tells the website you are on where it is.

4) IPTV Video Downloads

Very cool video on your phone. You’ll need Wifi hotspots for streaming currently, as most phones don’t have a 3G capacity, and the cost based on current billing would be prohibitive. With WiFi, it isn’t though. Ads in videos and TV content will be pre-roll, post-roll, or interstitial, and will give a good idea of how much of the video is actually watched. Downloaded video won’t tell you much though.

5) Net Literacy Becomes an Issue

Some people and ad agencies too, just don’t ‘get’ the net, and probably never will. It’s their second language, at best. They could be said to be a real world monoglot. The truth is, if you don’t live in the net, you don’t get the net. In the net? Well, for this sort of literacy and fluency I’m saying you have to acknowledge that the Internet is an experience, not a set of facts or reference points, like other one directional flat media. Experiential knowledge!
Imagine you are talking to someone who’s got a brochure of Paris, or who’s Googled it, when you’ve actually sat outside the Pompidou centre watching the performers, eating your baguette, and drinking cheap wine. You get it, and you can tell pretty quickly they’re making it up and don’t have the slightest clue of this rich, stimulating, interactive space. Computer and net illiteracy is immediately apparent to the native. All it takes is a misused buzz word, or someone trying to sound in-the-know, and they are rumbled. So blaggers, don’t blag about how much you know about the net. It’s so obvious and so sad. Worse, if you’re the media business, once a client knows you don’t know, your credibility is completely shot.

Can you become a native speaker? Well, if you change your lifestyle completely, give it loads of time, and try to learn as much as you can as you go - yes. If not. No. Kids have an advantage, but they still have to do the work, and spend considerable time in net country.

6) Mobile Content Explosion

The net goes mobile. The screen gets smaller. The net and phone can do new things together − cool things. Mobile net content is different, because it’s consumed with different hardware, software and in a different physical context, and the content has to reflect this. Mobile content provision is set to become the new big thing for 2008.

7) Buzz Increases

Much excitement. Not quite a la 1998, but close, and a rather slower build about better businesses and business models that make real money and reach real people. The buzz online increases too as Web 2.0 becomes less of a buzz word, and more of a commonplace, with sites seamlessly linked to social networks, UGC, photos , digs and rating sites. The future is buzz, the future is net buzz.

8) Beyond the Laptop

Laptops? Great! I love them. But, they are still really quite big. I know, I’m using one now. But mobile web and pocket PC means they’ll look even bigger. So, they’ll shrink and slim down to net size 0. Not much of a prediction, things are getting smaller you’d think, but I recently purchase a foldaway keyboard for my PDA. Now I don’t need a laptop most of the time, because I can do pretty much the same stuff out and about. So, it’s not so much that laptops are getting smaller, or lighter, it’s that phones and PDAs are taking their place in a mobile phone/PC marketplace. Convergence is becoming physical, as laptops get smaller, while phones get smarter.

9) Delivery Divide for Net Content

Net content delivery used to mean a server, some files, and a request from a computer for a standard format. Now, this has fragmented beyond recognition. There is several servers, maybe not belonging to you, presenting some of your content, and feeds and links from elsewhere to networks for PC and mobile screens. Videos are embedded from YouTube and other to stream video content you may, or may not have produced. Video delivery is also divided between streamed and downloaded, the advantage being streamed means an advertiser can gauge if the ad was actually seen.
A second divide? It only takes one literate individual a few days to build the most complex and rich online experience, leaving even giant corporates to flounder in the tedium of web 1.0 brochure land.

10) Gaming Is a Bigger Deal

Gaming is the biggest thing to hit IP and the entertainment Industry, since the Internet itself and maybe moving pictures before it. It presents media buyers with new challenges like content and ad delivery, demographic reporting and automated tracking, streaming versus downloaded delivery, and real time playing and reporting. Online and offline IP facilitated gaming has changed the way many of us understand games, entertainment, film and even the narrative form − forever.

Thursday 6 March 2008

Broadband by Any Other Name Would Work as Fast

I was intrigued by recent figures from Comreg. They showed many impressive percentages, but in my opinion give a very unclear picture of Internet access and use in Ireland. The problems stem from three sources: − the definition of broadband, the obsession with ‘at home’ connections, and the research method (door-to-door).

These three issues combined lead me to the conclusion that we are significantly underestimating broadband use in Ireland and Internet use in general.
The report starts by stating that 54% have access to the Internet as do 48% of households.

Out of those who access the Internet, the percentage who connected with a home broadband connection is 52% (eircom broadband). 9% connect through wireless broadband, 9% with WiFi, and 6% with ISDN. 3% connect with cable (NTL) and 1% with a mobile broadband connection (3G).

The problem is that, with the exception of ISDN, all of the connections above are broadband, but by another name. (ISDN is midband). The term ‘broadband’ refers to the speed of the connection, (anything over 512kbps), regardless of the mode of connection. It doesn’t matter if the connection giving that speed is wireless, mobile, via a cable, Wifi or 3G. If they invent some new connection type next year, and that delivers data at more than 512kbps… that’ll be broadband too. Based on these figures, and with this more accurate definition, the total broadband connectivity of Internet users is actually 75%, − that is, 75% of Internet users use broadband, and this is out of 54% of the total population who have Internet access. Does this include broadband 'at work', cafe, schools and colleges...? These, in my opinion, will take care of most of the rest. In short, very few Irish Internet users will be accessing the Internet through anything other than a broadband connection. They may not be at home at the time, but that’s not the point, is it? It’s also true that mobile broadband has proved to be a lot more cost effective and efficient solution lately. If you’re a student, or you know which café to visit, it’s probably free! Other research shows that some are using the one broadband connection for TV, music downloads, Skype (VOIP) phone calls, radio and office/education purposes. And why not. It’s so much cheaper (NB/MIR 2007/1).

The report says that only 13% have dial up speed at home. I think that some of these may also have broadband at work, or university, or with Wifi through a laptop. The report doesn’t clarify. But, I’m more inclined to believe the number with only dial up access to the Internet is actually much smaller.

The report then says that only 4% say their broadband speed is 512 kbs or less, but this wouldn’t be broadband speed anyway. 28% say their connection speed is between 1 and 3mbs, which is a good workable speed, and 18% between 4 and 6Mbs, which is pretty fast. But intriguingly 51% of broadband users don't actually know the speed of their broadband connection at home. This begs the question − why do so many people not know the speed of their broadband at home? Are the researchers reaching the right people in the household? The ones who set up the connection? I think it’s a problem to be explored in more depth, and it may be a limit of door-to-door research. I’d have expected that more people would know their net speed, but this report suggests that that this is not the case. (Perhaps it’s simply the case that mobile broadband users aren’t at home.)

Growth, Drivers and the Future

Younger users’ consumption of online gaming, uploading photos, downloading videos and use of VOIP is driving increasing broadband speeds. An increase in the choice of connection vehicles, such as WiFi and mobile is also aiding penetration. Increasing levels of home broadband usage will soon affect bandwidth (contention) and home broadband speeds, though, currently most are happy with their home Internet connection. 3G is unlikely to encounter have such bandwidth issues in the foreseeable future, because there are no wires.

I predict the next year, especially with Christmas, will see an enormous growth in mobile broadband penetration nationally necessitated by poor home broadband access, and must have gadgets like iPhone and Vodafone / 02 3G. There will also be a huge growth in Internet access and use. The satisfaction levels with these modes of Internet connection are very high. Growth will happen mostly amongst younger groups, and those who don't own their own home. While such penetration is only at 1% currently, I think 3G could grow to as much as 10% or greater, bringing total broadband penetration/access among Internet users toward 85%, and total Internet use towards 65 or even 70% (taking into account the growth of non mobile access sectors). So many free Wifi hotspots have sprung up in Dublin in the last year and I’m sure the number will only increase. (This is huge, as, after all, Dublin is where half the county lives or works.) The online gaming industry will probably push Internet and broadband further, again, driven by the Christmas season. We can expect to see growth in Mobile Video and IPTV and these will increasingly be 3G enabled for many segments.

Some say that broadband speed is dropping, but this is a mistake stemming from the fact that they are only looking at individual cases of connection problems, and ‘at-home’ broadband. At-home broadband is becoming a largely irrelevant concept as laptops are increasingly prevalent and net enabled phones, or smartphones become commonplace. At the same time they note that dial up Internet access, and even fixed line telephone use is falling, while VOIP is growing. There’s a need to join the dots here. If 29% are making VOIP calls elsewhere and through other means... they are, of course, accessing the net elsewhere at broadband speed, and no doubt through the same mechanisms. It's the only way to get Skype to work properly.
iPhone and 3G, will push broadband and Internet penetration further in the coming year. Such must-have gadgetry has always driven technology take-up and net use just as the iPod made mobile music and related services like iTune super-popular. Downloaded mobile video and TV will also grow, and is gaining traction in countries such Denmark, Austria, Germany and Finland.