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    This is the personal blog of Simon Kendrick and covers my interests in media, technology and popular culture. All opinions expressed are my own and may not be representative of past or present employers
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Foursquare uses for my iPhone

In my post on mobile yesterday, I mentioned that the mobile internet is changing people’s conception of what a mobile can do.

Initially, a mobile phone was purely about communication. This is no longer the case. Broadly speaking, there are four main ways in which a mobile phone is now used:

  • Communication
  • Information
  • Entertainment
  • Utility

To illustrate the multiple ways in which a mobile phone can now be used, I shall give personal examples of how I have been using my iPhone in the month or so I have had it.

Foursquare is Mashable’s tip for the tool that makes location-based services acceptable for the masses. It is not yet available in London, but offers a nice title for the below 4×4 (i.e. four squared) examination of my behaviour.

By the way, I am not going to do a Morgan Stanley and extrapolate one person’s experiences into the behaviour of an entire generation. This is anecdotal only.

Communication

  • Phone – this has been relegated to the position of “just another app”. On the iPhone, it has equal prominence with Mail, Safari and iPod
  • Mail – I have both my Essential and Gmail accounts set up, and reply to emails when away from my desk/home
  • Tweetdeck – my preferred Twitter client, which is free and works extremely well as an app
  • Facebook – A big driver of mobile internet use, according to this report

Information

  • BBCReader – this is an unofficial tool; the BBC should bring an official version to market as it is incredibly useful. I cache all of the top stories onto my phone memory, and then am able to browse the news while on the tube
  • NYTimes – similar to the above, except that it is official and thus much smoother. They’ve started experimenting with disruptive interstitial ads, which I am willing to put up with in exchange for free access
  • London Tube Deluxe – there are free versions available, but a handy tool to keep abreast of closures and delays, as well as planning journeys
  • Flixster – it is US focused, but it does recognise my UK location and tells me my local cinemas and the showings. I can see the Rotten Tomatoes ratings, and review films I go on to see.

Entertainment

  • Slugger – the game that has seen most usage. An addictive home-run derby game, which uses the iPhone motion detector as the aim for your swing
  • iPod – ingeniously, this continues to work in the background while other apps are used. Apps themselves shut down when not in primary use, which means that if the Spotify app is approved, listeners will not be able to do anything else while using
  • Tap Tap Revenge – a Guitar Hero esque game that provides free tracks to play along to, with the option of going on to buy them
  • Simon The Sorcerer – I only downloaded this Monday and haven’t played it yet, but loved it when I was a kid. And at £1.19 it is far cheaper than any (legal) PC version

Utility

  • Calendar – it automatically syncs with Outlook but not Gmail (annoyingly)
  • Clock – I use my phone as an alarm clock. I’m not alone.
  • Camera – I still carry around a digital camera for events, but the camera is good enough for basic daylight photos that can be quickly emailed
  • Voice Memos – I haven’t had a great deal of need to use this yet. Aside from Twin Peaks impressions – “Diane, I am holding in my hand a small box of chocolate bunnies”.

In terms of weight of behaviour, I would estimate the majority of my behaviour is centred on information and entertainment. My phone is incredibly useful in particular situations (thanks to my dodgy sense of direction) but I derive the most consistent usage on my commute. Reading material (whether free newspapers, a book or the Economist), my “standalone” iPod and my Nintendo DS are all seeing far less usage as a result.

However, this is just one anecdote. Some may use it primarily as a communication tool (whether telephony or social media) and others as a utility (e.g. Nike+).

One of the greatest things about the App store is the customization it affords us. Rather than just changing the look of a phone, we can now alter the functionality.

Therefore, if we are to understand how mobile media is to be used (and potentially how it can be monetized), we first need to understand people’s motivations and interests. And since customization is near limitless, we need to try and do this at the individual level.

sk

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sigalakos/

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How can research inspire?

The question in the title is predicated on the assumption that research can inspire. While the haters may disagree, I truly believe it can.

Understanding the different ways in which it can do so is trickier.

In a slight contradiction to my previous post on “insight”, I’m using the term “research in its most catch-all form. Rather than restricting the thinking to groups or surveys, I’m thinking about all disciplines and all methodologies. Research, data and insight.

In order for research to inspire, the recipient needs to be able to be inspired. Some form of creative process in order to make that new connection or leap is necessary.

In thinking about how research can inspire, I’ve come up with three initial ways. It is by no means a typology and the examples aren’t even mutually exclusive but it seems like a good start in which to organise my thoughts.

Structure:

The way in which research issues are approached and the problems framed. Examples include:

  • Methodology: The methodology itself could suggest new and previously alien ways to approach an issue. This post from Tom Ewing highlights some innovations in how research is carried out, but there are numerous examples of fresh approaches – from fMRI scanning to crowdsourcing.
  • Influences: Research is often (correctly) portrayed as insular but there are notable exceptions – Tom Ewing himself being one of them. He is able to take his knowledge and skills from music criticism and community building and apply them to research problems. Admittedly, this example isn’t research-specific but it nevertheless can inspire others to bring in people with different perspectives
  • Backwards approach: I mean this in a good way – research briefs are often issued to answer specific questions. To discover the most relevant way to get this information, researchers need to start with the answer and work backwards to figure out both the question and the way in which it is asked

Results

While a lot of research may be characterised otherwise, results themselves can inspire:

  • Exploratory research: By its very nature is designed to uncover new observations or – deep breath – insights
  • Fresh perspectives: Seeking to understand different audiences can lead to fresh outlooks as we look at the same issue from someone else’s eyes. While the Morgan Stanley note from their 15 year old intern was undoubtedly overplayed, I did like the notion that teenagers stay away from Twitter because it is full of old people trying to be young (for what it’s worth, I view Twitter as being far closer to Linked In than Facebook – it is useful connections rather than genuine relationships)
  • Holistic understanding: On a larger scale, ethnographers like Jan Chipchase offer us fascinating observations into areas we would never have even previously considered
  • Prototyping: I’ve written about IDEO before, and I love how they actually physically build things in order to better understand the problems
  • Desk research: Somewhat tenuous, but even sitting at your desk and reading, and being inspired, by different blogs or sites can be considered a form of research – whether one is explicitly looking for specific information or not

Implementation and Impact

Moving on from the results themselves, how research is used or the effects it has may also inspire

  • Workshops: Debating how research can be used can lead to further thoughts on idea implementation
  • Social effects of making data public: From last.fm to Nike+ making personal data available both encourages further participation and causes people to adjust their natural behaviour
  • Rewards and recognition: Similarly, in communities there have been noticeable effects on user behaviour and community culture when elements such as post counts or social connections have been introduced
  • Analytics: Avainash Kaushik is a Google Analytics evangelist who is full of great examples in how understanding site data has improved business performance

This question was recently posed to me by a colleague working on an assignment. The assignment is ongoing so any further thoughts, ideas or examples on how research methods, results or implementation can inspire would be massively appreciated.

And perhaps this attempt at crowdsourcing opinion will inspire others to a solution for the issues they are facing…

sk

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/stephenpoff/

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Facebook Polls could be pretty useful

At the recent World Economic Forum, Facebook Global Markets Director Randi Zuckerberg demonstrated Facebook polls. This, accompanied by an interview in the Telegraph, has sent the blogosphere aflutter in two separate directions.

In one corner are those excited by the prospect of 120,000 responses in 20 minutes (as a question on Barack Obama’s stimulus plan received). In the other are those concerned with online privacy and civil liberties (Given the tone of this Comment is Free article on phorm, it is surely a matter of time before the Guardian whips up a fresh batch of hysteria on the matter. And this comes from a Guardian reader).

I’m in the former category. In limited situations, it has the potential to be a valuable tool.

This is something of an about-turn since my recent rant against online polls. However, within a limited sphere of usage I can see the value. If someone wants to quickly know “what”, then this seems like a valid option. If they want to know “why”, then they should look elsewhere.

What are Facebook polls?

If my understanding is correct, a Facebook Poll is a question that appears within one’s newsfeed – similar to a sponsored ad. The user can then answer or ignore the question.

Questions are targeted to a specific audience, and basic quotas on responses can be set. Facebook has since denied that it will use personal data for Facebook Polls, but I would think that this is just semantics. Behavioural data and interests may not be used, but the poll would be pretty useless if basic age, gender and location information wasn’t monitored.

Despite this recent chatter, it should be pointed out that Facebook Polls aren’t new. Ray Poynter ran an experiment during the London Mayoral elections, and it was only last month that they were put on hiatus. This merely marks a repackaging of an existing product.

Another necessary correction is the conflation of Facebook Polls and Engagement Ads. Engagement Ads are a separate product – namely advertising widgets that can be shared and commented upon. Jeremiah Owyang has a summary here.

What are the benefits of Facebook Polls?

The nature of Facebook offers several benefits to a polling tool

  • A captive audience regularly refreshing their news feed provides a fast response
  • Real-time response mechanism allows immediate analysis
  • Relative unobtrusiveness and simplicity could give a decent response rate
  • Scale of either large response, or decent response among a targeted niche (if permitted)
  • Traction among the public allows for decent tracking over time

What are the uncertainties surrounding Facebook Polls?

A rudimentary polling tool is bound to be limited. Areas that need to be explored include

  • How limited will the infrastructure be? Not only in types of question, but even character limits (Shouldn’t be a problem for Twitter users)
  • How attentive are the users? They are going to be multi-tasking and processing a great deal of information – how much thought will they put into an answer? (But in some cases, gut reaction is desired)
  • How representative will respondents be? Not only in terms of non-Facebook population, but also with the heavy user and participation bias within Facebook (Though present research panels are hardly a beacon of quality in this respect)
  • Will demographic info used for analysis be accurate? People are projecting a public persona and so may be tempted to lie on some matters. However, I cannot see age, gender or location being any more innaccurate than present survey panels
  • What sort of buy-in would it receive from the industry? There is little point using Facebook Polls if no-one trusts or uses them

What is the future of Facebook Polls?

How could Facebook Polls expand? Matt Rhodes is sceptical that this will evolve into a research community. I’m less so.

Poll users can be directed to a group or page, where questions surrounding a certain topic can be explored in more depth and with more nuance. They may not evolve into a full “community”, but if visitors can be persuaded to return then they will have some value. This evolution would also support a recommendation or sharing service whereby respondents can be recruited by friends – engagement that is part of the Facebook experience (though it would have to be handled better than the various Ninjas vs Zombies widgets).

Furthermore, if these people were to opt into sharing some of their personal information then a very rich understanding of behaviour and opinion could emerge. People are on Facebook to talk and procrastinate – we should try and utilise this state of mind.

Meanwhile, looking further ahead, Read Write Web ponders the introduction of a “sentiment engine”, whereby prevailing moods and attitudes can be judged through a contextual understanding of status updates.

This would be great if a robust analytic tool could be developed, but in the meantime it would be overcome by bored people proclaiming their hunger / tiredness / hangover.

Though unproven, I can see the potential in Facebook (re)launching this product, and it will be interesting to see how it develops.

sk

Image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/stephenpoff/

Links – 22nd December 2008

This post is part 1 of 2, and they will effectively be my only link updates for December. A shame considering I kept the updates fairly consistent beforehand, but December isn’t the easiest month to keep on top of things – particularly with ATP and illness.

Anyway…

Social media

  • I’ve been using Twitter a lot more recently – I think the main reason is the use of Tweetdeck, which has useful filter features within a great interface. This has allowed me to distinguish signal from noise to a greater degree – something that concerns me with social media. Two posts on the subject resonated with me – Inquisitr’s “Is Social Media Becoming A Social Mess” and The Tumbling Cod’s “I’m Pretty Sure Tumblr Makes You Stupid
  • Most people reading will be familiar with the furore over Chris Brogan’s sponsored post. For those unaware, Jeremiah Owyang has a comprehensive overview of the situation. I think Chris Brogan defended his position well (for the record, I have no problem with it so long as it is disclosed. If it happens more frequently than I’d like, like others I would unsubscribe) while Dirk Singer wrote the best opinion piece on the matter that I read.
  • E-Consultancy looks at social media’s metric problems. A while back, I wondered how best to measure the online sphere in general. I don’t envisage a universal answer being forthcoming anytime soon.
  • JP Rangaswami has a thought-provoking post on the nature of asymmetric networks and conversations within the social media sphere, while James Governor also gives his thoughts on the asymmetric follow
  • Paul Carr has a typically humorous post on his experiences at LeWeb, and the fallout from the less than perfect proceedings
  • Bubble Comment is  a new tool that lets you overlay video comments onto websites. I’m not sure whether this constitutes fair use, so it may not be around for all that long in its current form, but worth a look.

The Internet

  • Merlin Mann responds to the productivity/advice blog genre that has eaten itself. His contention is that it is wrong for people to look for quick tips and lifehacks – the best way to improve is to follow a cohesive and comprehensive plan. We should concentrate on doing, rather than living vicariously.
  • Cory Doctorow puts forward a persuasive argument for not extending the copyright privileges of recording artists

Research and data

  • The latest Trend Blend map is available. Download it along with previous editions here
  • Dataopedia is a brilliant, free resource pulling together all the publicly available stats for different websites.

A pretty huge list. So, for those that don’t have a lot of spare time over the Xmas period I would particularly recommend Jeremiah on the Izea brouhaha, JP on asymmetric networks,  Hugh on why social objects are the future of marketing, Guardian’s top 100 websites and the latest trend blend map

sk

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Links – 27th August 2008

Another shorter list. Rather than my getting more clinical in pruning bookmarks, I believe the main reason is that the Internet gets a bit quieter in August (and I’m posting this earlier in the week).

Blog-related:

Seth Godin upsets direct marketers – by suggesting that if we click ads on sites we like, we can up-end the status quo and marketers are forced to improve conversion rates. I disagree with it – if I’m clicking through with no intent to purchase, then a snazzy landing page or a special offer isn’t going to change my mind. But an interesting thought nevertheless

Age Concern are looking to reclassify the silver surfer with research findings from Equi=media – I agree that 55+ is an impossibly broad target, but then does the same thing not also apply to 16-34s, ABC1s or housewives? However, I do concede that they are an overlooked market, and the study does contain some useful statistics

Nike have admitted asking the Chinese government for details on a blogger who posted what Nike insists are false claims regarding Liu Xiang pulling out of the Olympics – I’m not sure where I stand on this. If it were written in print, Nike would no doubt sue. But anonymity is currently a right of bloggers, and privacy should not be co-opted after the event.

Can the British make money from blogging? The discussion started on Techcrunch UK, and then the BBC picked it up. An interesting debate, at least until the name-calling began

The ten most shameless product placement plugs in cinema (Cracked)

What Facebook’s engagement activity means to brands – as always, an informative summary from Jeremiah Owyang. Personally, I’m not liking the fact that I’m getting brand gifts from people who I’d previously marked as spammers. I assumed that had blocked them from sending me invites and gifts. Unless the price is right, I guess.

Will crowd-funded journalism take off? (NY Times) I think not – there will be too much conflict between editorial independence and proprietor opinion/interference, no matter where the delineations occur

The BBC iPlayer is going to offer series-stacking (press release) – great from a consumer perspective, but it will be interesting to see whether Ofcom has anything to say about it

Websites:

Pixlr looks like a very good in-browser Photoshopesque image editor

Youtube sunshine – profane comments are replaced with a touch of sunshine

The Orwell Diaries – updated in real-time, 70 years after the original entry

Ubiquity – a new, intelligent, add-on in Firefox that interprets an instruction and takes the appropriate action. A bit like Google Calendar. So, if I typed “Twitter I’m playing with Ubiquity”, the programme would upload that Tweet to the system. Looks incredible.

Recom.me – a Twitter tool that sends you music recommendations based on the artist you Tweet to it

Random:

Photos that changed the world – awesome collection of history-defining images (EDIT: Link fixed)

How your printer pretends it is out of ink – and how to get it working again (Slate)

A Freakonomics look at Usain Bolt and other sports records, and how they relate to a normal distribution curve. The title says it all – Usain Bolt isn’t normal

A fantastic graphic showing athletics world records over time (NY Times) – you can see that there was also a brief period in the 1960s where the average speed of the 200m record was quicker than that of the 100m record

An interactive map of history’s great journeys (Good Magazine)

This week my double recommendations go to What Facebook’s engagement activity means to brands, Pixlr, Photos that changed the world, Ubiquity and A fantastic graphic showing athletics world records over time

sk

Links – 16th June 2008

Part 4 of 5:

Technology and social software links

Collection of presentations from the Web2.0 Expo (random($foo)) – a very comprehensive directory containing both videos and slides

10 things to hate about web2.0(Hugh McCloud)

Scaling a microblogging service(Hueniverse) – or How to fix Twitter

Chronology of brands hit by social media(Jeremiah Owyang)

The first Internet disconnection due to piracy is… The Finnish Government (Torrent Freak) – I can’t think of a better indictment of this law

ExpoTV matches users to product owners(Mashable)

Chris Brogan’s exhaustive collection of social media advice – for me, the personal branding section is the most interesting

Top Microbloggers(Technobabble2.0) – Another sterling piece of analysis from Jonny

How to make the most of Twitter(Guardian) – the long list of 3rd party applications shows the benefits of releasing the API

Reasons to have a vanity folder in RSS (Pro Blogger)

Can newspapers publish blog material without payment or notification to the author? (Comment is Free) – the Mail on Sunday published blog extracts without clearing them with the author

The state of the Facebook platform (20bits) – excellent write-up of the application economy

The Get Out Clause make their music video using CCTV (Daily Telegraph)

Emily Gould on the dangers of blogging(NY Times) – I believe she got flamed on this from both regular NYT readers and those that broke her on Gawker in the first place

History of failed musical platforms(The Register) – I still have a minidisc player somewhere. The only discs I ever bought were blank, to copy my CDs over

Reuters opens up its API and makes its news content available(Mashable) – though lawyers will be watching closely

Wikipedia to be published in physical form (Read Write Web) – but the contributors won’t get paid

We should think like a dandelion (Cory Doctorow)

Is UseNet going to be blocked from the Internet?(Web Monkey) – though I’ve been online for 12-13 years, I’ve never actually used UseNet before

Is Google making us stupid? (The Atlantic)

The importance of being an early adopter(Mashable)

Facebook and Myspace lose out to the niche social sites on CPM (Chris Anderson)

Scoble and La Gesse have a flame war over who “owns” comments and threads(lagesse)

Prediction of a Microsoft-Facebook union that will be detrimental to users(Robert Scoble)

In particular I would recommend Collection of presentations from the Web2.0 Expo, Chris Brogan’s exhaustive collection of social media advice, The state of the Facebook platform and Is Google making us stupid?

The other posts in this series of updates are:

Friday: Marketing links

Saturday: Trivia, and Interesting/thoughtful articles

Sunday: Interesting websites, and useful tips

Tuesday: Miscellaneous random links

sk

What you see is what you get

Seeing this article on the Compete blog (which, incidentally, is often a fascinating read) prompted me to think more widely about our online personas – both real and assumed – and how perpetual they may be.

As social networking as a process (if not the specific sites – yet) becomes more ingrained, we are leaving increasing amounts of personal information scattered around the web. Most of it will be whimsical and incidental, but some of it will be personal. And what happens on the Internet, stays on the Internet. Facebook suicides only go so far when you have archive.org for all your nostalgic needs.

So, for instance, I have been on the Internet for around 10 years. I probably started moving from the application based (MSN) to the web-based (Faceparty/Friends Reunited et al) 5 or 6 years ago. I have closed some online accounts, while others remain open. I honestly have no idea what data can be publicly accessed at the moment. I certainly wouldn’t want people nowadays accessing my angsty musical preferences (Hello, Papa Roach) or film quotes (actually, my film taste has remained remarkably consistent…).

To my mind, online self-marketing is something I might do when I am single but it seems far to involve far too much effort and concentration to allow it to infiltrate all of my online activities. Therefore, I have taken a strategic withdrawal and retreated into my public shell. The people that know me will already know my hobbies and interests – the people that want to get to know me can ask.

Am I normal in this regard? Will privacy and persona concerns reach a tipping point and see the decline of blogs? I suspect that this may be the case among the professionals of this world but – and judging by their Myspace décor – kids will be kids.

sk