Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Old News dressed up as New News

As someone who tries to keep their eyes on technology, innovation and the actions of the big online companies to see what's happening next, it is rather shocking to occasionally see old news polished up as new.

An example of this is from today's BBC News showing an article about Google's wonderful email service, Gmail, providing an 'Undo Send' function for up to 30 seconds after an email has been sent.

Shocking because the feature in question has been a 'Labs' feature, available to all Gmail users, for many many years.

For me this is as heinous a crime as believing that a song on X Factor (or it's many equivalents) is original without realising that it had been written and recorded 30 years previously.

As I've mentioned previously, a fine example is those who think Steve Jobs invented digital music, the digital music player (iPod) and mp3s.  I, like many, had an mp3 player long before Apple's guru realised the potential of music and the company I worked for sold legitimate, legal, digital audio downloads long before iTunes thought people would pay for stuff online.

This is not to denigrate the wonderful job Jobs did in marketing something that the pioneers couldn't get out of the 'Innovators' stage of the Diffusion of Innovations curve... they didn't even reach Early Adopters in some cases - but they were, clearly, the future.

So Google having an 'Undo' button on Gmail is not an innovation. It's not a revelation.  it's not fascinating.  It's clearly a slow news day... and thank Christ for that. If we got through a day without a massacre somewhere in the world being reported by the news, then hooray for out-of-date tech news!

Friday, 28 February 2014

Gamification of Life

After a long time with no time to post, I find myself posting on Gamification whilst listening to a talk by @Yukaichou from Enterprise Gamification Consultancy at Hult International Business School organised by a student @NKakuev. He has been listed a 'top-5 gamification guru' on a UK Leaderboard apparently and having been to other talks about gamification, here is someone with 10 years' experience that appears to actually know what it is about.


One of the examples he talks about is how to create a game called 'FoldIt' to help create a protein structure for the AIDs problem. The problem existed for 15 years and was solved in 10 days.

Another example listed is SAP Community Network where they added game elements into their system and managed to increase their Active Users by 1300% and Activity by 2300%. As Yu-Kai says, this is not a start-up - that 1300% growth is significant when one is talking about SAP.

Example 3: Autodesk - where people go to different countries and people solve different problems. It might be fixing a bridge (etc.) and you have to use a free trial of Autodesk - the trial use increased 54% and Sales Revenue increased by 29%.

Yu-kai wrote a list of Gamification stats that are useful to help show ROI.

He then went on, through this whistle-stop tour of Gamification, to talk about the Schopenhauer Truth Hype Cycle (compare to Gartner's Hype Cycle)

  1. Ridiculed 
  2. Violently opposed 
  3. Regarded as self-evident

Which sounds like the process people go through with feedback... which brings us to Gartner saying that 80% of gamification attempts will fail due to bad design.  So how do you get better design?

Good Game Design asks the question "How do I want my users to feel?"

Yu-kai went on to talk about 8 core drivers that make games fun (do check out his blog for the meanings behind the headlines), but that also make us want to hang out with friends. These core drivers are:

  1. Epic Meaning & Calling
  2. Empowerment
  3. Social Influence
  4. Unpredictability
  5. Avoidance
  6. Scarcity & Impatience
  7. Ownership
  8. Accomplishment

Yu-kai gave a great talk about what gamification is and what works, what does not work and how people who want to use gamification should focus on engaging users rather than just causing addiction.  He has a framework called 'Octalysis' based on the 8 core drivers above.  He plots a matrix showing Discovery, Onboarding, Scaffolding and Endgame against Achievers, Explorers, Socialisers and Killers.

What surprises me is the number of people who still don't know what Gamification is, let alone whether or not it should be for them.  This is the same noise people made when social media first came about: 'it's for kids' or 'it's not relevant for my business'.  If you can make people enjoy engaging with your business, they will.  It should be obvious... I'll watch with interest how much people continue to treat this as 'new' over the coming years.

So why the title 'Gamification of Life'?  Is life a game?  There is an end-point.  There is a level of competition in every aspect of life: key points of the game (school, university, grad-school, relationships, marriage, children, jobs, careers, career-changes, recognition, fitness, beauty, wealth, longevity, popularity, altruism....) can cause people to compete and compare themselves with others (favourably or otherwise).

A lot of apps focus on this to help people eat less, do more exercise, spend more sensibly... so it would be interesting to see how this could be used to help individuals 'improve'.  Essentially, I'm thinking of how to gamify therapy: we all need that!

Friday, 19 July 2013

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

How to name tech products

Image from
What’s in a name? Would an Apple, by any other name, smell as sweet?  Would Jobs and Wozniak have had as much success with their company if it had been called Lemon?  Would a Blackberry be better as a Raspberry or a Gooseberry?  Would Raspberry Pi sell as quickly if it was Apple Pie?

With tech products there is no hard-and-fast rule of what works and what does not.  Is Apple’s habit of naming OSX versions after big cats (Panther, Puma, Mountain Lion) better than Google’s rule of naming Android versions after deserts (Froyo, Gingerbread, Honeycomb, Ice-Cream Sandwich, Jellybean…)?  Does it make one product more likeable than another? Does it make it more reliable?  Does it sell more?  Are either of them fundamentally better (leading to greater brand recognition and helping drive brand loyalty) than Microsoft’s Windows versions (Windows 95, 97, Millennium, XP, Vista, 7)?

Some tech products have names that have little more thought behind them than no one else had the name and the inventors liked it (see Firefox).  Others used branding experts to exhaust all possibilities in the search of the one, true, perfect name (iPod).  Some brands are vanity projects (Dyson and Dell) whilst the actual product names are instantly forgettable (Latitude E6320 anyone?).

In an age of multiculturalism, anyone thinking of branding has to think how the name will be received in different countries and languages.  Mitsubishi should have consulted their Spanish office when deciding to call their 4x4 ‘Pajero’ (which has connotations of self-pleasuring in the Iberian language) and, because it has to succeed in the USA to gain global acceptance, the name must be easy to pronounce in English.

It can have connotations of space (Galaxy) or be an acronym (Vaio).  It can be frivolous (Twitter) or a compound pun (Pinterest; Instagram).   It could even evoke the beginnings of a burning fire (Kindle).


Having been asked to write something (above) for ZDNet Asia but for which I have been asked to include less questions, I created another version.  My inability to self-edit efficiently means I am including both versions in this post.... with full disclosure and apologies for repetition:

People who create, design and program tech products, have long had a sense of playfulness.  Perhaps it is the ability to create something from nothing, and name it, that gives a sense of power.  It is different from naming a child as one must consider the feelings and opinions of one’s spouse, relatives, the child’s grandparents and, in some cases, if the name is so odd, if it will lead the child to get beaten up at school.
With tech products there are no such limitations. But there are no rules either.  Some fruit are suitable names… but not all fruit.  An Apple computer would perhaps not have the image it does if it were a Lemon or a Banana.  Calling a smartphone a Blackberry might seem obvious now, but would we have embraced it if it had been called a Raspberry or even a Gooseberry?

The idle sound of birds talking led to the name Twitter…but it could just as easily have been Natter, or Cheep-Cheep, or Noise.   Raspberry Pi, the new open-source credit-card sized computer, has as much connection to its name as Apple Crumble or Strawberry Sigma.  The two main sources of computer operating systems have very different nomenclatures but neither indicates, at all, what the products actually are nor what they do. Some names, therefore, are designed to clearly differentiate themselves from the previous version, or maintain an air of seriousness some might consider appropriate for a business, such as with Microsoft Windows’s Millennium, XP, Vista and 7. Some try to exude power and passion, such as Apple’s OSX Cheetah, Puma, Jaguar, Panther, Tiger, Leopard, Snow Leopard, Lion and Mountain Lion over the same period.  Some try to suggest a sense of fun, as with Google’s mobile operating system Android, which uses deserts in its naming: Cupcake, Donut, Éclair, Froyo, Gingerbread, Honeycomb, Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean.

Some product names have little more thought behind them than no one else had the name and the inventors liked it (see Firefox).   Some brands are vanity projects (Dyson and Dell) whilst the actual product names are instantly forgettable (Latitude E6320 anyone?).

In an age of multiculturalism, anyone thinking of branding has to think how the name will be received in different countries and languages.  Mitsubishi should have consulted their Spanish office when deciding to call their 4x4 ‘Pajero’ (which has connotations of self-pleasuring in the Iberian language) and, because it has to succeed in the USA to gain global acceptance, the name must be easy to pronounce in English.

Tech products often try to suggest the future, or science fiction. So any suggestion of space is valid, as with Samsung’s Galaxy range, or Sun.    Acronyms will sometimes work, such as with Sony’s Vaio range, whilst some companies go for compound puns, such as with Pinterest or Instagram.   A verb suggesting the beginnings of a roaring fire might, for some, be a strange alternative to paper-based books (Kindle).

One can go through a complex branding exercise to try and suggest a name that summarises the essence of the product (iPod), or one can name a product after one’s daughter (Apple’s Lisa or the MySQL database) or a popular TV programme (Python) or an item of clothing the founder wears (Red Hat Linux).

In summary, there are no hard-and-fast rules about what names work and what names do not.  The only rules are:
a.        Make sure no one has used it before;
b.       Make sure it can be pronounced in English;
c.        Make it memorable.

Friday, 8 June 2012

SEO and how to search on Google

From a recent project run for Masters in Digital Marketing students at Hult in conjunction with Greenlight, the SEO specialists, one of the key learnings for students was how to build links and the importance of link equity for SEO.

It is, therefore, always nice to see learning in practice - and this embeddable widget from is a fine example of how to do it.  Their simple graphic was on Mashable and shared from Mashable's pages over 1000 times - and each embedded copy of the widget will include (if not explicitly deleted) a link to OnlinePhD - thereby making the site more popular in the eyes of the great Google and, therefore, more likely to increase its Google rank.

So, since it is useful, and to remind myself in the future how to get better results from Google, I have also embedded it here. Kudos to OnlinePhD (or their SEO advisers).

UPDATE: In January 2013 contacted me asking me to remove the links in this blog to their site as they are accused of Google of 'over-optimising'.  Hmm... strange...but always one to oblige...the links have been removed...

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Where do ideas come from?

Image by chanpipat from
Creativity is easier said than done.  Where do creative people get their inspiration from? Where do ideas come from? When is an idea a good idea, and when is it fantasy?  In business terms, how do you identify an idea that has 'legs' or potential to become a sound business?

Much has been written on the creative process and how to become entrepreneurs. Much comes down to luck.  Malcolm Gladwell, in his book 'Outliers', points out how the biggest names in technology: Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer (founders of MicroSoft), Steve Jobs (from Apple) and Scott McNealy (from Sun Microsystems) were all born between 1954 and 1956 and, through the luck of location and access to computer facilities at a young age when most could only dream of using a computer, were able to get large amounts of experience (10,000 hours according to Gladwell's rule).  Had they been older they probably wouldn't have had access to the tools to get that valuable experience - any younger and someone else might have got their first.

However, luck suggests there is nothing one can do about 'ideas' and creativity.  A quote often attributed to everyone from Thomas Jefferson to Samuel Goldwyn via Mark Twain and Thomas Edison says:
"I'm a firm believer in luck, and I've found that the harder I work, the luckier I get."
It isn't just about hard work either.  As Seneca, the Roman philosopher from the 1st century AD, said:
"Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity."
So if one wishes to take these quotes as guidelines for achieving success, one has to work hard and be ready to embrace new opportunities.  If one takes that a little further, identifying opportunities is no easy task. It involves risk. It involves change.  The risk averse are unlikely to be successful entrepreneurs, but there is no reason to think they might not be highly successful corporate executives.

Coming back to the issue of ideas, again much has been written about where ideas come from.  Online guru Seth Godin has also posed the question and produced a list of 20 points that might help.

Steven Johnson wrote a whole book on the topic (although, focusing on "Where good ideas come from") which he's presented at TED:

Johnson has essentially summarised that which many others have said many times.  Steve Jobs said:
"Creativity is just connecting things."
A very wise woman once said "Ideas come from connections."  Jared Diamond's book on the fates of human societies: "Guns, Germs and Steel" connects all the dots of human development to show how luck and connections were fundamental to some societies developing more technology, infrastructure and art at a faster rate than others.  Luck in terms of the natural resources available where they were (including minerals and beasts of burden) and connections in terms of being able to exchange ideas and technologies ("I'll swap my axe for your spear") with other societies.

In conclusion, therefore, one should not think that one needs complete isolation to think, meditate and that an idea will materialise, fully formed, in one's mind.  The mind will reach that idea through a long line of connections.  The thoughts might rest on a window, and from there one might think of the glass in the window, the sand that makes the glass, the liquid nature of glass, the liquid falling on the glass (rain) and eventually to the irony of liquid protecting us from liquid.  Or with more knowledge of the chemical properties of glass, one might be able to connect the dots and create a window that is more liquid in hot weather providing a cooling effect, and more solid in cold.  Clearly, I am not an engineer...

So if you need an idea, connect your subject matter to others.  See how other societies live. See how other specialists work in their field.  Can their knowledge be useful in your field? Can yours be useful in theirs? Connect to people. Connect your business to others. Network.  Through connections, ideas will flow.

Surely therefore, Google+ and Facebook, and LinkedIn, and Twitter) will generate endless ideas...right?  Just as soon as everyone stops talking about Justin Bieber...

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Why we self-filter information...

Reading a post by Jeff Jarvis on lazy journalism and the easy target of new technology bringing the end of the world as we know it, I was inspired to add my tuppence-worth....

This is the issue that affects much of media.  Bias. It has been accepted for decades, if not centuries, that different newspapers will prefer different political parties and will skew the reporting to reflect that.  The paper one reads (if you still read dead trees) will usually reflect your political stance and how you vote - certainly in the UK.

Strangely there are still many who believe that editorials in traditional media are more worthy than blogs, which are ultimately editorials by unsponsored individuals. No less coherent or knowledgeable, necessarily. But by not having a behemoth organisation behind the writer, the opinions are for many less relevant.

And so it goes with new technology.  If one wants to believe Google is evil, one will self-filter news and articles to focus only on those that conform to one's world-view.  Ditto Apple.  Ditto Facebook. Ditto the internet. Mobile. Location...

It is frustrating, therefore, for those of us who 'get' technology, to see the myths being repeated time and again by lazy journalists.

I haven't self-filtered the various stories to focus on the Jeff Jarvis one that agrees with me, have I?! ...oh wait...

But heaven forbid that I should ever find a newspaper or site that agreed with me completely.... sometimes one needs naysayers and the small-minded in order to rant and long as everyone does rant and vent and does not simply accept the words of the sponsored without question...

This message has been sponsored by the Campaign for Ranting At the Press.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

How does Google Drive controversy?

Having been a fan of Google's products for many years, with Gmail, Google Docs, Google Maps, Google Desktop (RIP), Android, Picasa, Google Scholar, Chrome, Google Books and Google Translate figuring prominently in my private use of technology (oh - and I use Blogger too) - not to mention the work use of Google Analytics and Google Adwords - I was looking forward to the long-awaited Google Drive - an online storage facility for all and any files so that I don't need to remember a USB stick or have my laptop to ensure I can get to any file anywhere.  I already pay around $5 a year to increase my storage on Gmail/Picasa etc. to 20GB.  Very reasonable I think....although I've noticed that this deal no longer exists and the nearest other option is to pay $2.49 per month (just under $30 per year) for 25GB.  I'm not happy about this...but it's not a huge burden on finances.

When I got an iPad from work, I discovered the joys of Dropbox and having all my documents sync'd on the work laptop, the home desktop and the iPad... but being very price-sensitive, chose the basic version (i.e. free) with a 2GB storage limit.  It forces one to clear out documents and folders every so often rather than continuing to accumulate files that will never be read again - which is no bad thing.

So with the launch of Google Drive announced yesterday I immediately thought that as soon as there is functionality built-in to the various iPad apps that currently link to Dropbox, I'll be able to switch to G-Drive.

But then, of course, the controversy starts with some people trying to show that Google is now 'evil' (in contrast to their motto 'Don't be evil') by combing their Ts&Cs, adding 2 and 2 together and getting 3.14159.   ZDNet, a site that is usually a reliable source of tech news, has an article entitled "How far does Google Drive's terms go in 'owning' your files?" by Zach Whittaker.  Zach tries to highlight a difference in the Ts&Cs for Google Drive which say:

Your Content in our Services: When you upload or otherwise submit content to our Services, you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide licence to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes that we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content.

What was missing from the article is the same line in the Ts&Cs that both Dropbox and Microsoft have, which says:
Some of our Services allow you to submit content. You retain ownership of any intellectual property rights that you hold in that content. In short, what belongs to you stays yours.
And of course the post is riddled with comments explaining the 'what's yours is yours' part with others saying that Google is the anti-christ, should be burnt on the circuit-boards of public opinion and wondering what Google would do with their data?

So, with no other information available other than my own common sense, I imagine that what Google wants to do is have the right to crawl our files to identify trends and gather data. They won't be 'reading' our files, but if they can identify x% of G-Drive users have Britney Spears photos, or y% have a last will and testament, that might be of use to the wider public.

There is another use, however. Google Translate works not by translating every word in turn like a first-year language student with a well-thumbed dictionary, but by comparing phrases and finding the same phrase on the internet with a translated version and making an assumption that the translated phrase will hopefully work as a translation for the new text also.  Surely, therefore, if Google suddenly has access to more data with which to mine such translations, the better?  Surely the ability to see how documents are written (by people who probably do not have a blog or a website) will help formulate semantic language generators for artificial intelligence?

In the same way that you should not leave sensitive data on a laptop, iPad or mobile phone without having a password block on the machine and encrypting the actual document (how many laptops, iPads and mobile phones are stolen every day, compared to successful hacks of online document repositories?) one should be careful about encrypting documents before storing them online.

But there is a big difference between actively reading my emails, documents and data, and allowing computer code to analyse it.  If it were not for Google's 'bots' identifying key terms in my emails, they would not be able to offer me a great email product for free subsidised by ads that I was able to quickly blank from my vision.  If it were not for my house being on Google View, I would not also be able to use the service to see other places that help me when driving or walking to an appointment.

Google hasn't sold its corporate soul to the devil.  I personally don't think they have abandoned the ethos of 'Don't be evil'.  But corporations, as with all organisations, are just like people.  And as Joe E Brown (right) said at the end of Some Like It Hot:  "Nobody's perfect!"

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Using Social Media to Get a Job

As more means of communication become available, different managers in different organisations have varying degrees of familiarity and ability with those media.  In short, some are tech-savvy, some dream of the time of parchment and quill pens.  

Unfortunately, for the job seeker, this means you have to cover all the bases to try and get your CV and job application in front of the recruiter: including sending a CV and covering letter printed on quality paper (100gsm) in a large, hard-backed envelope, with the address printed and not hand-written.

Screenshot from LinkedIn profile
Fortunately, however, more and more managers are embracing new technologies and trying to find out as much about prospective employees as possible in the shortest time possible. They do this by using the internet and social media in particular.  So, tips for the job-seekers are:

  1. Google yourself.  See what sites the first 10 links refer to and what images come up.  Are they suitable? Are they the kinds of links you would like a future employer to see? If not, do what you can to change the websites listed or remove images that are less than flattering.
  2. Manage your settings in Facebook to ensure no embarrassing information is public. 
  3. If you intend to specialise in a specific area, build your personal brand by posting comments and opinions both through Twitter and by creating a blog.  On Twitter follow people interested in the same subject area. Find interesting news and information on the subject and retweet it. Connect to people when relevant.  Blog on the subject, particularly if you have several years experience and are able to share insights into the issues affecting your industry.  Remember to keep everything professional – you want a future employer to find it and rate you on the strength of the information posted – and you need to ensure others who see the blog (including former employers, co-workers or clients) will not take offence.
  4. Build your profile on LinkedIn. This involves putting as much information as possible on the platform as you would on a CV – giving employment history, skills, responsibilities, achievements and so on.  List the university and post-graduate education... unless you’re very young, school information should not be relevant.  Ensure you have uploaded a photo and connect to all colleagues, former classmates, clients and other business contacts.  Get colleagues, former employers and clients to recommend you on LinkedIn. The more senior the person the better.
  5. Use LinkedIn and Twitter to connect to people in organisations that interest you.  If you see a vacancy in organisation ‘XYZ’ and a friend’s contact on LinkedIn works for ‘XYZ’, then ask your friend for an introduction through LinkedIn and, if granted, ask the contact, nicely, if they can give you any suggestions on how best to present yourself for the advertised role. What is the organisation looking for?  Who would you be working for?  Use social media as your future employer would and find out as much as possible about the organisation and the people you would be working for.  This will allow you to adapt your application and, hopefully, the interview, to show how you are a perfect fit with the company.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

What is Glocial Media?

I started running sessions on Social Media and its impact on business in 2006.  I would often use the byline for the sessions “It is not just Facebook and Twitter…” which even today seem to be the only platforms large parts of the business world have heard of. Even some of the post-graduate students I teach now are still ‘offline’ when it comes to social media.  Some of the students, however, are far ahead of the curve and are harnessing social media to create new business ideas.

However, just as social media is another country to many people, social media in another country can be completely different.  Most English-speakers will think only of platforms from the USA when they think of social media… the ubiquitous  FacebookTwitter and YouTube.  Whilst those platforms do have international reach and dominate the global social media netscape, individual countries and regions often use them in different ways or have their own platforms that have proven far more popular with the native population.

Students from the Masters in Digital Marketing at Hult International Business School gave a presentation during Social Media Week in London at 01Zero-One in Soho, in the heart of London on just that.  The presentation, entitled “Views from inside: Social Media from around the globe” gave a whistle-stop tour of ten countries and how social media has been used there.

Fernando Martinez (@fermart19) kicked off talking about Colombia and how Groupon enjoyed first-mover advantage for a year, at most, before two clones were produced by the large media organisations in Colombia who had direct and easy access to the local businesses.  He also explained how Colombia has a very high level of creative digital talent, to the extent that a lot of web design for the USA is outsourced there.  In summary, there is a lot of competition and with a young and tech-savvy population, only good products and services will survive there.

Staying in Latin America, Larissa Sabino Erbacher explained how Brazil, with over three times the population of the UK, uses social media as it behaves offline, to be friendly and communicative.  E-commerce and business networks are growing, but the vast majority of social media use is ‘traditional’ social networking through Orkut (Google’s first foray into social networking before Google+) which accounts for 60% of Orkut’s total traffic.

From Brazil, the talk took us to Germany where Jennifer Bahr (@jenny_bahr) over 35 million people are registered on social networks, with 96% of the 14-29 age group on a network.  Over the half of the German inhabitants are online and 90% of them belong to the group relevant for advertisement between 19-49.  Whilst Facebook and Twitter are the most popular platforms in Germany, three related networks appealing to different age-groups and are by invitation only: ‘SchülerVZ’ is for school kids, StudiVZ is for students and MeinVZ is for professionals.  Wer-kennt-wenn connects people by geography whilst if you want to do business in Germany, you cannot rely on LinkedIn alone: XING is the German equivalent to LinkedIn and is three times more popular.  With over 22% of Germans accessing the internet on a mobile phone, it is little wonder that ad-spend for mobile has doubled at the same time as TV advertising has fallen.

It is hardly surprising that Germany, the richest country in Europe, uses social media differently to Greece… hanging on to solvency by its fiscal fingertips.  Ioanna Koliou (@IoannaKoliou) explained Greece doesn’t really have local social networks apart from, with 33% of the population on Facebook and LinkedIn seeing a surge in popularity thanks to the growing unemployment rate.  A key role of social networks in Greece, however, is for protest.  The “Bring them Back”  campaign aims to apply pressure on the British Museum to have the Elgin Marbles returned to their home, not helped by the recent theft by armed robbers of ancient artefacts from Greek museums).  The online campaign incorporated a YouTube video that went viral in Greece.  The global economic crisis has hit Greece harder than most and Facebook is being used to organise protests against the austerity measures and, to those who are tired of Greece’s image on the global stage, Peter Economides  has tried to ‘Rebrand Greece’  using social media.

Moving across the Mediterranean, Africa is the 2nd most connected region by mobile subscriptions and Egypt has the second largest internet usage in Africa.... (Nigeria is the first).  Yasmeen Marie (@Yasmeen_Marie) showed how social media in Egypt became an international issue when a Facebook group was set up to protest on 25 January which went viral. There was no specific intention to create a revolution, but when the government tried to stop the 25 Jan meetings, people got behind the movement, with over 2 million people at one of the protests in Tahrir Square.  When the authorities blocked internet access, Google and Twitter provided a service called ‘Speak-to-Tweet’ where users could call an international number and dictate a message. The messages would be tagged #egypt and were available to those in Egypt by dialling the same numbers or going to  An interesting example of how an online phenomenon was able to transfer offline to overcome censorship.

Russians” meanwhile “are the most engaged users of social media in the world, spending an average of 9.8 hours on social networks. This is almost double the global standard.”  Stacey Boguslavskaya (@Social_Net_Pro) explained, however, micro-blogging (such as Twitter) is not popular and Russians are not keen on location based services. The big winners in Russia are local social networks such as: and; perhaps partially due to the weather encouraging people to stay at home and connect online.  Russians prefer to use local platforms, so there is huge potential for entrepreneurs who can create Russian versions of Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, Yelp, Quora, Kickstarter or Pinterest. Finally, Russians have an average of 1.5 mobile phones, but only 11% of them are smartphones.

India, in contrast, has far lower mobile penetration with only 5% of the total  population. But with a population of 1.2 billion people, that equates to 61 million people or almost the entire UK population.  India is, according to Priyanka Ganguli (@priyaganguli) , a country where change is a constant.  What is popular today will be old hat tomorrow… Hi5 was the leading social network before giving up its place to Orkut. That in turn gave way to Facebook, but Twitter is now more popular.  What matters is how trendy the site or platform is and how connected it is – whether one’s own network has made the move or not.  Another issue to think about is how the government in India is implementing monitoring and censorship of social media.

From the biggest country in the world to one of the smallest, Angela Cheong (@angelacfw) explained how Singapore has a household broadband penetration of 104% and 70% of the 5.1 million population have smartphones – the highest in the world.  The smartphone is fundamental to accessing the internet in Singapore with mainstream Western sites such as Facebook, Blogspot, Twitter and LinkedIn dominating social media behaviour.  Corporate use, however, has not matched that of individuals, with only 30% of organisations using micro-blogs, 40% using social networks and 50% using video sharing – and when they use social media, they do not always understand how. An example shown by Angela was how SMRT, the main train company, failed to respond with information when a train was stuck underground with thousands of commuters on board, in the stifling darkness. The company ignored its Facebook account to feed information to the general public and only set up a Twitter account several days later after a series of further mechanical failures.  They tried to make a big deal of not fining a passenger who broke a window on the train to let in air – with a resulting public backlash to the mere suggestion that the passenger could be fined having a far worse effect on their public reputation.  A study has shown that local brands can achieve the same level of recognition as major brands like LV, Adidas and Gucci with a good social media strategy.

Taiwan could not, however, be more different to Singapore.  In Taiwan, Facebook penetration has grown by 7000% in Taiwan in the two years since a Chinese language version was launched – essential for any platform hoping to launch in Taiwan – but still tends to be the preserve of good looking young people who like posting photos of themselves.  Michelle Chen (Pin-Hsien Chen @pinshian) explained that ‘normal’ people tend to prefer the anonymity offered both through not needing to post photos nor use real names on Bulletin Board Systems (BBS).  The two largest BBS in Taiwan are PTT and PTT2 with 1.5 million registered users and around 10% of total internet users in Taiwan.  The boards focus on specific topics, such that there is even one on ‘gossip’ which is used by journalists as a pseudo Wikileaks. To show the importance of BBS in the minds of the Taiwanese, it is worth mentioning that they had a film, á la ‘The Social Network’:

Finally, the Philippines is not, as  Aaron Joshua Barroso (@mraaronjoshua) explained, just about eating dog, nurses and caregivers.  The event was nothing if not informative and I, for one, did not imagine the Philippines to have a population of 94 million people spread over 7000 islands.  The internet penetration is not that high at 30%, but there is an 80% reach of mobile phones and the country is the SMS leader with over 2 billion text messages sent every day – an average of 26 texts per person per day.  Most people going online to watch videos, blog and engage with global networks such as Facebook, Friendster and Multiply, but it does have home-grown clones such as PicLyf and Churp Churp for photo sharing and microblogging.

So what does this mean for the future of social media?  Facebook is all-dominant and there is no micro-blogging service to rival Twitter.  There are, however, still very large regional clones of the social networking platforms that are more popular – an important point to remember when trying to reach audiences in those regions.  Mobile is, as has been pointed out often, huge in some countries – meaning digital marketing must think of the platform of distribution and not assume everyone will have a large computer screen to view the content.  Finally, social media is about people connecting with people – for socialising, dating, gaming, recruitment or revolution.  People will find a way to connect regardless of the channels. If the internet breaks, they will go mobile. If technology breaks, they will go back to offline methods. They will connect, however, and will look favourably on those that facilitate those connections.

And what is 'Glocial Media'?   A term I thought sums up the trichotomy of social media today: it must be global, local and social.   

Monday, 30 January 2012

What new marketers need to know

Following a request from a colleague, I thought I'd turn this into a post.  Five questions (with my answers) aimed at newly graduated marketers:

  1. How did you discover the world of Online Marketing?
  2. I was an expert in music before finding gainful employment in the internet and was recruited as Director of Content & E-Commerce to a start-up selling CDs and other music-related products online. They needed someone who knew their ABBA from their Zappa and could segment music lovers from medieval madrigals through to garage and grime.  My role naturally included all non-music related content and marketing too and expanded to include all areas of digital.  The slow death of the music industry helped me decide to focus more on digital in the future than music.

  3. What are 3 common mistakes that marketers make?
    1. They forget who the competition is.  Marketers often only focus on the brand competitors, and ignore the other things that compete for the customer’s attention and wallet.

    2. They forget who the customer is and what they want. Marketers often focus on showing how great their brand is and how different and special it is compared to the rest – when in many cases the customer simply wants something reliable and to know they have made a sensible purchase.  This all comes down, clearly, to buyer behaviours and psychographic segmentation.

    3. They forget about the marketing mix (on a basic level, Product, Place, Promotion, Price) and focus only on the Promotion or advertising side.   Zara is an example of a highly successful global brand that has had minimal advertising, but has been extremely effective using other elements of the mix, by paying a premium for core locations of their stores, competitive pricing and ensuring the client base know that their products are fashionable and also only available for a limited time before a new collection arrives.

  4. What advice would you give to young marketers after they graduate?
  5. Image: Stuart Miles /
    1. Don’t set your sights too high at the beginning;
    2. Get experience in as wide a variety of roles and jobs as you can; and
    3. Only think about specialising after a few years.

    The reason for this is that if you start work in an agency you might find it very hard after a few years to get work on the ‘client side’ where the demands are different (you might have to do a lot more stakeholder management inside the organisation).  

    Equally, if you are only ‘client side’ within an organisation, you might find it very hard to make the jump to agency.  Equally, if your role is more offline or broadcast media, then you might find it difficult to convince a future (or existing) employer that you are also capable at the digital side, and vice versa.  

    The analytical side of SEO, PPC and so on can be less attractive to some than, for example, being on the creative side. But having those analytical skills is essential and will grow in importance as more data becomes available through the use of mobile devices by larger sections of the population.

  6. Google has recently introduced a new social media platform, Google+. Do you think that one day it can take over Facebook and Twitter?
  7. Can it? Yes. Could it? Yes. Will it? No idea. Remember that 5 years ago MySpace was the all dominant social network, and 5 years before that it was sites like ‘Friendster’ or ‘Friends Reunited’.  It looks like Facebook has achieved now a global domination that makes it harder for  others to overtake, but there are still more people not using the platform than are.

    And many people choose not to have a social life on social networks and only use them for business connections or as productivity tools. So there is still scope for someone (it might be Google, it might not) to produce a platform that adequately deals with all those other uses.  All the social networks are currently limited and, for me, frustrating. Twitter, equally, is a very limited tool and there is no reason why another tool cannot topple it.  

    Remember in the 90s Yahoo! was all-dominant, everyone had a Hotmail account and there were dozens of search engines available that people would use according nothing more than aesthetics (they all worked equally badly).  Any firm that thinks it is unbeatable is setting itself up for a big fall.

  8. Do you believe that Facebook’s $100B IPO is setting a precedent among all the social media competitors? 
Is it setting a precedent where the social media competitors believe now that the market is ready to understand they have a future?


Is it setting a precedent where good business models in the social media world can have successful IPOs?


Is it suggesting that all social media organisations are worth tens of billions?

No. Like everything, it depends.  

Some large organisations might get equally high billing, but it all comes down, unsurprisingly, to the business model.  How do they make their money? If they rely on advertising (as Facebook does) is there enough revenue to sustain it? Is it profitable now? Is it likely to be profitable?

There are companies that have great ideas, as many did in the dot-com boom of the nineties, that haven’t properly thought about how to make a business out of the idea.  Any organisation that successfully bridges that gap should feel confident about being able to have a successful IPO… but it is unlikely that they will get close to Facebook’s evaluation.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

How to understand online marketing in an instant

Having several courses to teach next year on Digital Marketing, I'm in two minds as to whether or not I like the inforgraphic from as:
  1. it makes my life so much easier... being able to give students the infographic and telling them to get on with it; whilst also
  2. realising that this might make my role teaching digital marketing somewhat redundant.

However, seeing as everything in life is futile and we are all merely passing time until the next change, I share the infographic below...

The Noob Guide to Online Marketing - Infographic

Thursday, 22 December 2011

BloMob: the future of digital publishing

One of the most frequent excuses I hear from clients, students and colleagues when we are discussing blogging and the use of digital publishing tools to encourage sharing and collaboration, is "I don't have time to blog".

One of the reasons I think Twitter is so popular is because the format is so limited that people feel less pressure when posting and can publish ideas without expanding on them.

The problem is that Twitter is limiting as well as limited...and there are many ideas and comments that cannot legitimately nor legibly be reduced to 140 characters.

The growth of tablets like the iPad has probably helped people create content on the go....although it's not easy to type on most tablets while on the move.

Recording thoughts like a personal podcast is possible on a variety of platforms like AudioBoo, but the disadvantage of audio is not being able to skim-listen, unless you are partially sighted and used to absorbing audio information really really quickly.

So what is the future?

There are two sides:
a. It has to be mobile, clearly, to allow people to develop posts on the go.  But that's not ideal as this post can attest....being written through an app on a train....creating links and embedding images is fiddly to say the least...
b. dictablog: being able to dictate thoughts into a mobile or other device and hoping it correctly transcribes the dictation into text. It would also need to become clever enough to insert links and images... and you have the downside of having to speak loudly and clearly into your mobile, possibly in public, definitely looking like a fool.

So what alternative is there?

Simple....keep your thoughts to yourself....           

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Automating value judgements

In my role as a professor of marketing and technology, I fully expect to have to assess and grade students. That is part of the lot of a teacher of any kind, from kindergarten onwards (although, arguably, the assessment may take different forms over the years).

As a conscientious educator, I am keen to ensure all the hard work of the students is also fairly and fully assessed.  There are possibly those, as rumour and legend would have it, who throw their papers down the stairs and then start grading those on the top step as 'A's, those on the 2nd step as 'B's and so on down to 'F's on the bottom step.

Tempting though it might be, I am determined to be as paperless as possible.  So far I have saved at least 700 sheets of paper in just one course (assuming double-sided printing) through not printing the submitted assignments.  And throwing a laptop or iPad down the stairs to achieve the same effect just wouldn't do. Think of the splinters.

However, grading 2000+ word assignments is time consuming.  If you do it properly, it involves reading each assignment at least twice, possibly more. Comparing papers to ensure the comparative grades in the class are fair.  Composing specific feedback (100 words minimum? 200 words optimal?) to help the student understand their grade and improve for the future.

Group work needs assessment and, by the nature of group work, involves fewer actual papers to read and assess. But it removes the individual assessment and is therefore subject to slacker students benefiting from the hard work of other team members.

There is no getting past it.  Detailed, objective and rigorous individual assessment is essential.  But how to do it efficiently?

My first thought was to build the most advanced AI computer in the world and get it to grade the computers.  As soon as the patent comes through I'll let you know.

My second thought was back to throwing everything down the stairs.

My third thought was carrying on as I have been and grading at 2am until I get through them all.

So my final thought seems the only viable option, other than me pulling an 'all nighter' or 7.  If Amazon, and every e-commerce site worth its salt, can tap into the crowd to assess and vote on how good (or not) individual books are, surely that would work for individual assignments from students?

All one would need would be a simple website, such as Scribd, where the PDF documents of assignments could sit, visible to the world.  The world at large could then read the assignments and grade them. Once a critical mass of assessment is reached (such as 500 votes), the average is taken as the final grade.  Space for comments would provide the feedback.

This is, in fact, I am certain, genius. There are only two obstacles to overcome:

  1. Getting that critical mass of people to read and vote on all the assignments in a short timespan; and
  2. Ensuring the students and their families do not vote for them.
If, therefore, you ever see such a business model come into existence, remember you read it here first.  Until then, it looks like I have an 'all-nighter' ahead of me....

Top image: digitalart /

Friday, 25 November 2011

The Art of Innovation

Guy Kawasaki's presentation on 'The Art of Innovation' is worth recommending not just for the anecdotes, insider view, venture capital experience and pithy rules to innovate, but also for showing how to present to a conference.

Humour. A good sense of humour is good. If you don't have it, don't try and fake it, but if you have it, flaunt it....

This keynote was from 2007 - but having only just discovered it 4 years later I thought it worth passing on...

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

The only way is up...unless you drill down...

This post is a copy and paste from a brief summary of the state-of-the-nation I had to produce today, giving a summary of the global economic climate at the moment.

As 2011 draws to a close, three years after the start of the current financial crisis, there is no indication of the situation improving. The OECD says all economies it monitors suffered a downturn in September with the U.S., Japan and Russia returning to their long-term trend (with the U.S. achieving 2.5% growth) but the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Canada, Brazil, China, India and the Euro area falling below.  It predicted the G7 countries would grow by just 0.2% while Germany, the world’s second largest exporter, falling by 1.4% in the Q4.
Within the Eurozone, the Greek economy contracted by 5.2% in Q3, an improvement on 8.3% in Q1 but still painful. Portugal, the previous danger area for bailouts, shrank by just 1.7%, Ireland and Italy were stagnant and Spain rose by 0.8%, compared with the UK’s 0.5%  growth.  Lithuania and Estonia, by contrast, rose by 7.8% and 7.9% respectively.

After days of speculation about Italy and Spain needing a bailout with Italian bond yields exceeding the 7% threshold beyond which it is believed they could not pay back the loans, and Spanish bond yields rising, both countries have seen the bonds bounce back after the European Central Bank has agreed to buy the country’s debts.  However, confidence in Italy’s economy is still shaky as yields rose once again shortly afterwards.  The focus on Italy remains high as it accounts for 16.8% of Eurozone GDP compared to Greece’s 2.3%.

The domestic problems in those two countries, however, have forced the resignation of Greece’s Prime Minister Papandreou and Italy’s Prime Minister Berlusconi have led to a new era of technocrats with academic economists Lucas Papademos, a former VP of the ECB in Frankfurt, and Mario Monti, a former European Commissioner, taking the reins respectively, providing a warning to politicians in charge of all failing economies that their successors could be civil servants, not fellow politicians.

UK inflation has fallen slightly to 5% from a ten-year high of 5.2% thanks mainly to current supermarket price wars, whilst clothing, electricity and gas prices continue to rise.  By comparison, prices in the Eurozone held steady at 3%, whilst the US rate of inflation fell slightly to 3.5%.

Finally, Britain has helped the love-hate relationship between Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy by giving it something to join together and fight against: David Cameron and a proposed Tobin Tax on financial transactions which the Tory leader is adamantly opposing.

All this, of course, is good news.  Whilst the present outlook is bleak, it means that things can only get better. 

A brief look at today's FTSE 100 index, showing the past 10 years, shows how things go up, and then they go down. Sometimes they go very down, but they tend to go up over time.

FTSE 100 Index

So here is hoping that the global economy is going to follow that just to cross those fingers and toes...