Search, and Google in particular, was the first true language of the Web. But I've often called it a toddler's language - intentional, but not fully voiced. This past few weeks folks are noticing an important trend - the share of traffic referred to their sites is shifting. Facebook (and for some, like this site, Twitter) is becoming a primary source of traffic. Why? Well, two big reasons. One, Facebook has metastasized to a size that rivals Google. And two, Facebook Connect has come into its own.
The Supreme Court ruled this week that naturally occurring genes can’t be patented, which should be a boon for the host of emerging gene testing and patenting companies that are coming out of the Valley.
The faces of the planet, as seen from space
Fjord charts the major innovations of the past, and predicts a future of totally intuitive "micro gestures and expressions" that will control our devices.
As IBM celebrates its 100th birthday, many observers are rightly calling attention to the many strategic changes the company put itself through to remain relevant amidst dramatic technological and economic change. But one of the biggest transformations IBM went through is less about computers and more about culture. Over the last decade and a half, the company has realigned its HR practices and strategies to move away from the analog ways of the past and to embrace a variety of 21st century approaches, including some highly unconventional ones.
A few weeks ago, I found myself in a conflict with someone in my work life. I felt he had clearly violated an agreement we'd made. My first reaction was righteous indignation. In this case, I believed the person at work had acted badly. I was right, and he was wrong. My goal was to get him to see it my way. A few days later, we had a chance to sit down together. Not surprisingly, the conversation was awkward at first. Then, to my surprise, as he explained himself, I felt myself beginning to understand why he made the choice he did.
It sounds absurd, but you can't argue that in the marketing industry we're seeing very real progress toward removing humanity from the process of making and placing brand communication.
I'll make it really simple for you to see the difference. Fundamentally, this is a conversation about putting the human being first or putting the brand/idea first.
At TEDxBerlin, Fabian Hemmert demos one future of the mobile phone -- a shape-shifting and weight-shifting handset that "displays" information nonvisually, offering a delightfully intuitive way to communicate.
Writer and artist Jonathan Harris laments about the lack of humanness on the internet, blaming online tools and social networks for offering the same kind of bland user-experiences across platforms. He also says that while communication has become shorter and faster, there will be a time when we will crave more in-depth, emotional interactions with people, but it would be difficult to move back from a digital world to the past.
When marketers use terms like brand "personality," "character" and "manner," they're more accurate than they know. New research into consumer brand purchase and loyalty behavior has revealed that the way humans respond to brands is simply an extension of the way they instinctively perceive, judge and behave toward one another. In short, people were the first brands; faces were the first logos. That insight could revolutionize brand and social-media strategies.
Do you have friends or colleagues who prefer dealing with people rather than machines? My wife is like that. When she needs to know her bank balance or just get some cash, she will go out of her way to talk to a bank teller rather than fumble with an ATM; and she'll always push the button for a "live operator" on an automated telephone service menu. This doesn't mean that my wife is averse to technology — she uses email, iPods, cell phones, and the usual array of 21st century devices. But at the same time she is drawn to personal, human customer service and wants it to be part of her life.
Two weeks ago on TechCrunch I posted “The Facebook Imperative,” which posed a simple question, “Why isn’t all enterprise software like Facebook?” It was the next iteration of the question I asked in 1999 that spawned salesforce.com, “Why isn’t all enterprise software like Amazon.com.” If you have read my book, Behind The Cloud, you are well aware how that one question launched a company, and a movement. Its been an exciting decade. But the real excitement is just starting.
A popular new reality series on CBS, “Undercover Boss,” shows senior managers working incognito as everyday employees. As for employees who are not secretly C.E.O.’s, they have champions, too, in marketers that are devoting ad campaigns to workers. The latest marketer to join the trend is Zappos, the online retailer that was recently bought by Amazon. In a campaign scheduled to begin on Monday, Zappos will celebrate its customer service representatives, whom the company refers to as the customer loyalty team. The intent is to demonstrate to potential customers — and remind current ones — how the employees make it easy to order or return merchandise, either on Zappos.com or by calling a toll-free number.
Google on Thursday morning set out a further defence of its system for ranking search results, as it attempted to defuse questions from Europe’s top antitrust regulator. In a new blog posting, Amit Singhal, a Google employee responsible for the ranking system, claimed the company’s algorithms produced a better quality and more relevant result than a system that involved human intervention.
I believe strongly that, rather than business injecting business values onto our communities to business ends, we really need to turn the tides and teach business how to espouse human values again…or as Gary Hamel writes in his excellent column, put soul back into business. It is human beings, after all, that are necessary to the success of any business (whether employees or customers).
Mobile question and answer startup ChaCha has been able to turnaround its model, possibly achieve profitability, and raise boatloads of money, much to our surprise. Today, ChaCha is rolling out a Facebook application allows users open access to questions and answers from both ChaCha and all of their friends.
Yesterday brought the news that Google has officially purchased Aardvark, a small San-Francisco-based social search startup that happens to have been created by former Google employees. The timing, coming just two days after Google unveiled Buzz, can't be coincidental--but what can Aardvark do for Google? An awful lot, as it turns out.
The news broke today that Google will be buying Aardvark, a human (and algorithm) powered social search engine that I have written about quite a bit (early last year, most recently, all). I've also featured the service's founders at both Web2 and the CM Summit.) I've confirmed the news in an email with CEO Max Ventilla. I can't say I'm surprised by this news. Aardvark's founders and advisers have strong ties with Google (Ventilla worked there, and a key adviser was at Kaltix, which was purchased by Google). To me the critical question around this move is this: Will the Aardvark acquisition be a Dodgeball, or will it be a Applied Semantics?
Holiday Inn hotels have been tasked by the brand's parent corporation to contemporize or get out of the business. These upgrades include "minimum quality specifications" such as better exterior lighting, redecorated lobbies, new bedding, and new signs with the updated Holiday Inn logo. However, three Holiday Inns are going beyond any minimum whatsoever with a new service to deliver warm bodies directly to customers' beds. No, the three locations are not in Amsterdam.
In the early days of the Web, when I worked at HotWired, I thought mainly about the new. We were of the future, those of us in that San Francisco loft, champions of new media, new tools, new thinking. But lately, I've been thinking more about the old — about those aspects of human character and cognition that remain unchanged by time and technology. Over the past two decades, I've watched as the Internet changed the way we think and changed the way we live. But it hasn't changed us fundamentally. In fact, it may be returning us to the intensely social animals we evolved to be.
As much as we (rightly) praise Google for having transformed our lives for the better, sometimes we all want answers that go beyond the right search query. Sometimes we want to reach out to someONE rather than someTHING. But engaging in a conversation requires trust. And just as no newsletter sign-up form or invitation should be without trust-building assurances and privacy statements, no social media invitation or landing page should be without its own persuasive and trust-building cues.
Businesses are made of people, many of them in the middle. While everyone loves to talk to the C-level, the shift in the way people at all levels work, select and recommend service providers, and get things done is more notable in the thick of things, so to speak. Technology has made it even easier for people to connect with peers, collaborate, and get and give direct and indirect (through search) feedback. There's a reason why social media has put a spotlight on being human - brands forgot how to tell stories. Along with a "me, too" characteristic of many B2Bs always in search of benchmarking and way to validate their value props, companies forgot (more likely stopped funding) media integration. This first set of considerations presents some difficulties in the connected world we live in.
And actually get to the heart of things. The touch of a human hand is always welcome. Yet it is what scares people the most. All kinds of push back and walls have been built to rationalize, compartmentalize and control the most basic of needs - that to connect with another human being. Yes, I'm also taking about social media environments. It's time to start mingling with the rest of the world - and do/create something. Doing business is a way of connecting, that of the current economic model and context. While it would be nice to think about intrinsic value, we use money to buy groceries and pay rent - business today equals earning money.
Over the past week Google has been rolling out the first invitations to its latest service, a complex "real-time communication and collaboration" system dubbed Google Wave. Instead of sending messages back and forth, users create web-page-like documents called waves that others can modify or comment on, using a combination of features more usually seen separately in email, wikis, instant messaging and social networking (see a video introducing Wave). Early reviews have been positive, and demand for invitations outstrips supply (Google says ours is still on the way). But even for those who have tried and liked it, Wave's potential is still hard to assess. The problem is that most talk about it is focussed on technology, not people.
It is hard to imagine that five years ago, neither YouTube, Facebook nor Twitter existed. But even then, as sites like Google, Amazon, Wikipedia and craigslist flourished, the characteristics common to successful second-generation Web businesses were becoming apparent: Their value was facilitated by software and created collectively by and for a community of connected users. These sites leveraged the Web not simply as a means to publish static documents but for the first time as a platform--which was significant in its generative properties as the personal computer was for desktop applications. The new sites also sparked a revolution in business, culture, society and, most recently, government.
Information overload dates back to Johannes Gutenberg. His invention of movable type led to a proliferation of printed matter that quickly exceeded what a single human mind could absorb in a lifetime. Later technologies – from carbon paper to the photocopier – made replicating existing information even easier. And once information was digitised, documents could be copied in limitless numbers at virtually no cost. Digitising content also removed barriers to another activity first made possible by the printing press: publishing new information. No longer restricted by centuries-old production and distribution costs, anyone can be a publisher today. In fact, a lot of new information – personalised recommendations from Amazon, for instance – is "published" and distributed without any active human input.
Imagine for a moment that tomorrow everything blinked off. All sense of normalcy gone. No Internet. No phone. No electricity. Nothing. But darkness. What would you do? Well, if you're not throwing yourself out of a window in panic or looting the local electronics store (duh), your next step would be to start doing whatever is necessary to survive. Things like hunting for food, finding water and gathering firewood. But then what? Well, you’d probably reach out to others. That’s right, you’d turn to your network.
AT&T knows its iPhone-burdened network has become a public relations mess, with a number of major news outlets recently recounting how heavy iPhone use has resulted in spotty service. But the No. 2 U.S. wireless carrier's latest effort -- meant to address its network and explain why it took so long to turn on a long-awaited multimedia message service for Apple's iPhone -- isn't helping.
The Massachusetts Historical Society is publishing the one-liner diary entries that President John Qunicy Adams made in late August, 1809; his posts were all 140 characters or less, so it’s doing it via Twitter. You can read them as if he’s tweeting each day, 200 years later. He has 4,200+ followers, so a few social media advocates have said this proves there’s value in micro-blog (short) posts. While the technology of Twitter may be new, the desire and utility behind the behavior is hundreds of years old. If Adams could tweet without a mobile phone app, shouldn’t we all consider it almost an obligation to do so now? Er, no.
Harvard biological anthropologist and primatologist Richard Wrangham has explored eating, self-medication, dominance, and violence in chimpanzees. In his new book, Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human, Wrangham lays out a problem about our own species that has bothered him for years: Why do humans cook?
Return on Marketing Investment is still the #1 concern among C-level executives. Accountability is new to most marketers, but others in our organizations have been here before us: Finance, Operations and IT folks have been measured [and have been measuring] for decades. Marketing is the final frontier for performance metrics.
Car Body Design reports on the BMW Design Talk held recently at the Concorso d`Eleganza historic car show in Italy. The theme of the panel was “Art and Design: Is Modesty the new Luxury?”
We have big problems in this country. Wall Street played recklessly with our money. Banks made bad loans. Insurance companies guaranteed stupid risks. People took out unrealistic mortgages and borrowed too much to buy things they couldn't afford. Companies are going out of business and laying off workers. And, the government is bailing people out and billing our kids. It would be easy (and tempting) to go on. But we have one more, deeper problem that's making all these other problems worse. No one is apologizing. No one is taking responsibility for what they did to contribute to our problems. They're all blaming someone or something else. We have a kindergartener's problem and it's tearing us apart.
Journalist Michael Blastand has written an interesting, simple but eye opening article that explains the correct way to think about all the scary “statistics” thrown around haphazardly in the news so often. He explains just how percentages mean nothing unless put into proper context.
Right now the biggest challenge to being successful on the social web is through high quality micro-interactions with high quality human beings. But organizations will find this difficult to embrace. The industrial revolution has taught us to mass produce and move away from human dependency. Here's a few ways to be "more human".
For the first time since the financial difficulties of General Motors began threatening the company’s existence, a G. M. division will run advertising that addresses the effects of the precarious situation.