Friday, October 01, 2010

HULU’s “Is this ad relevant to you?”

OK this is one of my rant posts. You may have noticed that Hulu asks you the question: “Is this ad relevant you?” on top of their advertisement. Let’s understand this question and where it comes from.

Most of us (by “us” I mean professionals of build Web businesses) know that the #1 revenue making machine on the Web is on-line advertisement. We also know that the Holly Grail of this industry is to be the most relevant to viewers so that they will click as we cash-in on every click. We also know that there is a fine line between increased relevance and privacy. Thus when we want explicit relevance we ask for permission, or for the user to tell us more about themselves. Others like Google’s Gmail are more bold, they will actually use the content of your emails to push “relevant” ads your way.

Using the term “relevant” is the issue I have with Hulu. What it says is that their marketing and advertisement team have spent too much time talking about increasing relevance and have transposed an abstract term to their viewers. What does this question mean in the first place?: “Is this relevant to you?”, especially when the advertisers’ messages are about strengthening their brand in a repetitive manner. What is Hulu trying to do here? I think that they simply want numbers to report on their “increasing relevance” campaign for internal and executive validation. Or that they are dealing with an inexperience team who just learned the word “relevance” in the context of on-line advertising. If they come from the TV industry, the ladder is most probable.

I have asked many of my friends what they answer to Hulu’s question. All of them said: “I click on NO so that they’ll stop bothering me with these ads.”. Here you go Hulu... you can’t be asking the question to your users that you yourselves are incapable of answering. Then again you are dealing with the traditional TV advertisement industry, and you are not using technology to change the paradigm of what a relevant message should be. Until Hulu can actually innovate instead of transposing, I suggest that it infers relevance from the shows and type of subscriptions the viewers select. Because let’s face it, you just don’t ask if people find advertisement relevant... it is a tolerated evil for free entertainment, no more, no less.

Here are some questions Hulu may ask (I am being ironic ;-):
“Is this ad repetitive?”
“Is this ad entertaining to you?”
“Did you know this brand?”
... So what? Will Hulu stop showing us ads that we don’t care about? Of course not! So once again, just like TV, we are back to branding.

I also remember that when Hulu stared; they had lower budget ads with actual messages that made me discover new products and social missions. Perhaps that is more powerful and relevant to viewers who know already who Microsoft and Toyota are.

Also Hulu might learn a thing or two from Google who actually made it possible for a new smaller companies to afford to reach more people through relevance. Perhaps someone should tell the media companies that we watch our shows at anytime and that the concept of prime-time placement is IRRELEVANT ;-) Can Hulu be that messenger?

What this blog relevant to you? ;-)

Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Facebook idea ownership...

All of us who worked on social and collaborative computing in the 90s know very well that Facebook is not a technical innovation, but rather a success based on timing and a brilliantly selected seed-community. I worked for Lotus and IBM where I directed, in 1996, a team of engineers to develop my vision of on-line communities; InterCommunity. I presented it in 1998 at Comdex in Paris with France Telecom as our alliance partner. We were there already, and we were using Notes/Domino as the back-end to a Web community portal where people were invited by the community leader and its members. Unfortunately IBM closed the project in 2000 and re-used it for enterprise collaboration as IBM did not see a consumer market for InterCommunity (same old story ;-). Since it was IBM's intellectual property I could not exploit it once I left.

During my 20-year career, in social computing research and development, I have seen similar ideas emerge simultaneously unbeknownst to their creators. This is particularly true in the Web era where the mere exposure to new paradigms and ways to communicate offer a common framework for thinking about opportunities (at the same time and all over the world; now compute the likelihood of simultaneous eurekas) . Ideas rarely happen in isolation and we know that... they emerge from serendipitous convergence if exposure to clues and answers.

I have met brilliant creators of community-driven solutions. One in particular who was ahead of his time is Frederic Soussin. He created in 1996 a face-book like light-client application using early iterations of P2P principals with his product called Kanari (before Ray Ozzie's Groove). Others companies like Affinitiz created web-based community platforms (a few years before Facebook), but remain unknown to most of us.

So basically Mark Zuckerberg acted in a timely manner on an idea that was inspired by his time and existed in so many ways on the Web. But a small team of engineers at IBM knew that already 10 years before he started Facebook. He did not invent social networking, he put it on the map for all to enjoy... and for that my hat off to Mark.

In this age of unprecedented communication, the creation and ownership of a solution is just not as meaningful as its timely deployment. I wish that venture capitalists and large organizations with talent would get this instead of over-thinking the technology and creating dream-pipe sales forecast spreadsheets to appease the old guard. Many brilliant solutions remain under developed because the business world has not caught-up with the reality of fast business creation that are constantly threaten by the next idea. When you look at the big new players like Google,Facebook, Twitter... you realize that most of them just put it out there and did not have a real plan for success or any idea as to how it would succeed. Paradoxically investors want new ideas to have 5 year forecasts and tight business plans. I can't help to see the irony. So if you have a good idea, stop wasting time convincing the old guard and just put it out there! Then perhaps you will be noticed by the right audience; your users. Then the investors will come.

Former Director of Action Research for Lotus/IBM

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Thinking about Device Interoperability for Apple

I am a big fan of Apple products. I am somewhat disappointed that I am unable to pair my iPhone with my Mac. I had an old Ericsson phone that paired with my Mac for me to dial a number from my Mac's address book. This was very useful. I don't care about the Blue Tooth synch since I have and that the rich content does requires a cable at this time... but the ability to use the iPhone from applications to launch calls and track usage would be very useful.

I think that Apple should be able to better balance device interoperability by making programs and features (GPS, compass, accelerometer, touchscreen, gyroscopic sensor, applications) available across devices that can connect. Just imagine how applications could become more powerful, and how many developers would think of Apple being feature-ubiquitous instead of proprietary (and this whilst maintaining manufacturing control over new breeds of devices that can be fragmented into module-driven resources).

I will be thinking of some cool applications with this model in mind. I will be happy to share some ideas.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

The digital paradox: more automation, less visibility

The ability for any business to remain aware of external influences and its own internal initiatives in near-real-time is becoming critical for informed and accelerated decision-making. The time for executives and managers to wait for monthly and quarterly meetings be aware of emerging issues and trends is gone. In the age of ever-changing regulatory compliances for public safety, the environment, trading, privacy and immigration, organizations face more complexity and opportunities that require prompt and informed actions.

Organizations are facing unprecedented challenges in this new and changing economy. The need to adapt in order to maintain and grow their market share is required. Change’s lifecycle is near-real-time and and has become a business-as-usual practice. This, despite the digital era’s success in delivering automatization tools, the multiplication of electronically published content and dialogue amongst communities keeps on challenging the true value of predictable outcome supported by automation. It remains a growing challenge as many businesses have yet to recognize that automated processes are just small component of what systems are capturing. Capturing all that matters to your business, detect new trends before they hit you, align your resources with what is happening outside in the market place, is a task that requires human insight at every level of the organization.

Connecting the dots becomes essential in order to enrich the decision process. The connection are the critical resource that powers your business, whereas process automation ensures its operating stability... not its sustainability.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

That's it I am removing myself from Face Book.

Removing myself permanently from FB. After having spent my career building collaborative and social networking applications since the late 80s, I am now convinced that the current FB trend to violate privacy and provide access to our personal information to third parties is crossing the line. In fact I have always been cautious of privacy matters while working at Lotus, IBM and my start-ups.

In the early 2000s I was exploring ways to empower on-line communities without using the old paradigm of the centralized main-frame (what Google and FB have been doing on the Web). I will look at my old design notes and revive some of the ideas that could resolve the current trend of turning our private information into a commercial asset.

Alternatives exist but the old way of capitalizing on advertisement is a hard habit for them to let go. Until we find an alternative, you could can stay in touch with me via email or Linked-in. I will cancel my account June 1st.Adieu FB.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

DARWIN’s Information Organic Network (ION)

We are all familiar with the power of web-published information networks; the URL cross-referencing web pages through its authors. We are also familiar with social networks driven by the desire to include friends, families and colleagues to keep each other informed. Both models have created part of the incredible value we get from the Web. Google could not deliver its ranked results without cross-referenced URLs, andt Facebook or LinkedIn could not expend their business reach without the social networks they capture.
Theses models are making the internet an unavoidable necessity for all. However, both models depend on the content authors to create links to other content and be linked to from other pages, and for people to invite and be invited to join networks. Basically the networks are built from the deliberate actions by Web actors. Is there an other type of network? The semantic Web? Surely but it is a framework for organizing concepts. It too requires human interventions to be useful.

Perhaps there is an other type of network that escapes the control of human control; an organic network of information? DARWIN’s use of chaos theories looks at the information captured on the web as connected through human cognition. If the human cognition is the environment for information genesis, then human cognition is the only media capable of decrypting the patterns that emerge from an unstructured and chaotic generation of content. By human cognition, we mean the thoughts contained within the content itself, and not the actions of humans on the content after it has been created.

The concept may appear esoteric, but Edward Norton Lorenz’s work in the advent of super computers in the 70s proved that chaos mathematical models reveal observable patterns in weather. In a similar way DARWIN looks at chaotic information and human cognitive as the key ingredients capable of displaying the patterns that reveal the existence of an Information Organic Network. Unlike the web-page and social networks, this network does not require human intervention to be organized; it is self-organizing and therefore more representative of what is happening as it occurs. Such a network of information provides a neutral awareness about what is happening, as well as making serendipitous discoveries easier to observe by its user.

The content organizes itself rather than being organized by human intervention or external algorithms. This eliminates the possibility of spam or clever SEO manipulation. Darwin’s approach lets the connections within the content emerge. Darwin them visualizes these connections so a person can use their own cognitive abilities to determine what is important and explore what is relevant to them. Each person can make their own sense of the content on the Web, rather than have an external force organize it for them as Google does. Darwin simply distills what is happening in a way that allows for the individual human cognition to take over.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

I am considering removing myself from Facebook.

I am considering removing myself from Facebook in light of their new privacy settings and ability to keep and share information with 3rd party companies. My activity will be limited and will eventually end. As most of my friends and former Lotus/IBM colleagues know, when I researched on-line communities of interest from 1995 to 2001 and created InterCommunity (a pre-Facebook of the mid-90s that was too early), my main concern back then and now is still the same; privacy! I also believe that Facebook provides enough privacy control for its users. Nonetheless the issue remains that they have the information and not the users. Unless serious legislation is pass to protect our privacy, or that we finally use the internet for what it was meant to be instead of a next generation-mainframe, I fear that trust can't be given to Facebook, Google and other personal information custodians.

Monday, March 29, 2010

2 Local Blind Schools Face Off In Fencing

Today I went to see an exceptional fencing event; A blind fencing competition where nine students from the Perkins School in Watertown and the Carroll Center in Newton fenced for the first competition of its kind. I spoke with most of the fencers and was amazed to see the passion and joy they get from a sport that would appear counter-intuitive given their condition. Quite to the contrary, I discussed blade pressure, sounds of the larger and smaller part of the blade and strategy by feeling the reaction of the opponent’s weapon when tapping it... basically all of the technics we expect our students to develop as second nature to become outstanding fencers. Needless to say that Cesar Morales, fencing coach, has the community’s utmost recognition for this initiative.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Monitoring and Measuring the Impact of Public Service Media Part Two: Addressing the Issues

In the last post I raised some of the ways that Public Service Media can support community through the Web. In this post I look at how Darwin’s Awareness Engine™ can help. First, I will look at data mining and awareness. The Awareness Engine™ collects Web events from both formal and informal sources, and correlates them with multi-dimensions to show occurring emerging patterns. The basic interface provides the user with the benefits in the “Awareness and Discovery in Action” section. The accumulation of this information provides a rich corpus for advanced trend analysis over time. Special reports and alerts can be customized and developed as needed to meet different levels of monitoring and analysis. Public Service Media programs can benefit from the measuring and monitoring of the evolution of a theme over time or dimension:

1. tracking and measuring the impact of the Public Service Media programs’ actions in the community and/or the broader Web

2. creating alerts based on significant variations within the designated themes of interest and/or controversial spikes

3. advancing analytics for pattern recognition and prediction

With these benefits, the Public Service Media programs have better awareness of critical themes to improve and mitigate their interaction within the community and the Web. Furthermore it provides them with better planning for subsequent and follow-up programs, which become more target-specific and identifiable.

The Awareness Engine™ can also help empower community leaders. Similarly to the Public Service Media team, the community leader/s can gain greater awareness from the technology. This access can generate more relevant content, but also engage more community leaders to participate as a valuable resource towards their community thanks to the Public Service Media. A key benefit is that the elevation of awareness will generate more content from the community, thus leaving the PSM neutral in the emergence of community issues. Our next post will cover an example of how Darwin’s Awareness Engine™ can uncover community Web activity before it hits the mainstream press.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Monitoring and Measuring the Impact of Public Service Media Part One: Defining the Issues.

A new breed of dialogue amongst communities is possible with the Internet and Public Service Media can play an important role documenting and supporting this effort. This dialogue can be intentionally coordinated for a known purpose or it can emerge out of a shared event or awareness. These new conversations range from known issues, to emerging and ephemeral bursts that can reach a tipping point capable of having a positive or negative effect for the concerned community in question, but also into other supporting or antagonistic actors or communities. The recent effort by the Latino community organized through a Web site to sanction Lou Dobbs is a good example that I will explore in more depth in a later post.

Considering that the information used by a community for support or dialogue can be found in different sources, it is important to understand the core issues and needs of this community when using Web technologies. Given that some of its members might be active information and support providers, one must be aware that the relevant content for this community can emerge from anywhere. As such, it is important, before interfering with the community’s use of their Social Web, to take a baseline measurement of the current pulse within the known sources and those that are far reaching but correlated

Darwin Ecosystem provides a Web Discovery and Awareness Engine™ that collects information from formal and informal sources, and displays the emergence of themes within the targeted content that relates to the topics of interest. This approach does not depend on the search engines’ popularly page ranking, thus, importantly, it can display in near-real-time the emergence of a Web movement from fresh information across multiple sources on one screen without scrolling through pages of results. It is also not subject to manipulation by search engine optimization (SEO) experts. Furthermore, trends can be analyzed from the collected information to observe the progress of a theme and its associated topics (monitoring the pulse through time and the impact of an event on a community’s topic of interest).

Darwin’s Discovery and Awareness Engine™ provides valuable real-time information about the technology savvy level of the community, and other sources addressing them directly, or even related topics unbeknownst to them. These sources display, with Darwin, the themes of interest where the program team can target its attention and discover opportunities for actions and/or further inquiries.

Awareness and discovery are cognitive and intimate processes that are best experienced by a user facing recognizable information that might validate his/her perception, or capture the attention when unexpected information is observed in a familiar context.

Public Service Media program can benefit from:

1. identifying key sources and Web-active community members

2. targeting investigative reporting

3. engaging communities in constructive interaction

4. observing the dynamics of leading theme over time

5. observing the impact of Public Service Media actions of the communities

With these benefits, the Public Service Media programs become a catalyst for community empowerment, thus accelerating a successful social integration whilst monitoring and mitigating the risk of extreme movements and stereotypes. In my next post I will look at some of the ways that the Darwin Awareness Engine™ can address these issues.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Where to begin about the iPAD?

Where to begin about the iPAD? The name? the iPhone OS? ATT? No camera? Lack of interconnectivity? Storage? USB? Lack of ingenuity perhaps?... and the list goes on. I will not repeat what every one has said on the Web and the press. It is now very obvious that Apple disappointed its fan-base with a lack of vision and absence of revolutionary thinking. It seems they hey lost their magic on that one, and the hype that they created is now hurting them.

I am sure that they will recover. Now all the competitors are going to try to move quickly... and of course this is good for us and innovation. This time I am sure that the innovators were overrun by business people who had their fingers in iTunes’ store, ATT and new imaginative ways to perform consumer cashectomies. To add insult to injury, Apple saw the writing on the wall as every day we saw emerge what the users, experts and developers expected to make this a great breakthrough. The iPAD is an ideal case study of the failure to leverage Web communities to create a product that meets and exceeds expectations; this should go in the business book of what not to do in the age of information sharing. Apple lost over 4% when the market closed today.

Now let’s innovate Apollo13-style. What can, after all, I use this iPAD for? It’s a screen, it can be programmed, it can access data, it responds to my touch, it’s feels good to hold, and it is an oversized iPod. Now what? It’s all about the apps. Regardless of the eBooks, movies, pictures, email, games.... this iPAD opens a new world of applications for very specific and unexpected use. I think we will see more business applications come out of the iPAD than the iPhone simply because business applications are process-driven and need to show more screen real-estate than a phone. But it will not be so easy for organizations to think outside the box considering that today’s applications need to be ubiquitous to the enterprise standards. So who will use them? In my opinion it will be defined according to roles and functions instead of an homogeneous platform requirement (after all the data access is/should be supported by server services and not applications themselves; review your IT director’s compensation if that is not the case ;-). I can imagine CEOs and executives changing their reports and dashboards for iPAD applications that provide them with more mobile and instinctive interactions, medical personnel using the iPAD for charting instead of nurse-station or bedside computers, and many other specific uses that the iPhone was too small to do efficiently. I also see new opportunities for information consumption models that involve visual representation of shared and/or large amount of information that require more tactile interactions than retyping a search query or browsing pages and pages of results before discovering what matters to the user. . But, maybe I am being optimistic.

Yes I am disappointed by Apple’s iPAD limitations, but I am interested in the potential it offers for developers and innovators alike. Apple has proven time and again what it can do. That’s what it needs to remember today as the critics speak.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Interview by CI Expresso about my position on moving towards extended community dialogues.

My apologies for this self-serving post ;-)


PS: I will eventually translate it in english.

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