January 30, 2010 Leave a comment
From the home office at the annual retreat of Republican members of the House of Representatives in Baltimore, where I’m taking questions on my blog care plan…
Observations on technology and business from someone who should know better
January 30, 2010 Leave a comment
From the home office at the annual retreat of Republican members of the House of Representatives in Baltimore, where I’m taking questions on my blog care plan…
January 26, 2010 37 Comments
In a recent interview with EMC’s Stu Miniman about the future of the web, I predicted that in 20 years, we’ll all have online reputation scores. Little badges, numbers that communicate our level of authority, this sort of thing. And these reputations will have tangible impact.
Three different trends come together at some point in the future to make this happen. These trends have been underway for a while, but come together at some tipping point in the years ahead. Here’s a visualization of the trends:
eBay, which went public back in 1998, played an important role in socializing the concept of people providing online ratings for online sellers. After we receive our purchase, we rate the seller. The collective wisdom identifies top sellers. Got your eye in that Donkey Kong game? Who are you most likely to trust…?
Amazon picked up on this, once it introduced third party sellers into the mix. You can see the percentage of positive ratings for the different sellers. Personally, I have paid premiums (i.e. higher prices) for the assurance that comes from a higher rated seller.
Yelp has taken this concept of rating a seller, and applied to offline consumer experiences. Want to get a burrito in San Francisco? You’re likely to go with the highest rated restaurants.
These ratings make up for our lack of information about various providers of services. One could do a lot of online research, and asking friends, before buying. But these ratings do quite well as shorthand ways of assessing quality. They’ve made it easy to transact, without knowing someone ahead of time.
The rating ethos is expanding. On Facebook, you can ‘like’ people’s entries. We ‘love’ music on Last.fm. We ‘favorite’ tweets. We ‘digg’ and ‘buzz up’ stories. Implicitly, we provide ratings when we share content via different social networks. Online engagement allows for this.
I found this recent Kaiser Family Foundation study fascinating. The amount of time kids spend online – smart phone, computer, television or other electronic device – is now at an all-time high. There’s no denying this: future workers are going to be more accustomed to online engagement and information-seeking than any generation before. It’s their lifestyle:
More generally, an important distinction from the web of the 1990s and early 2000s is that we aren’t just reading and transacting. Individuals are providing the content. More every day, in fact. We have transferred some of the engagement and contributions from the offline world online. Actually, we’re probably creating more content than we ever have,
For workers, the growth of Enterprise 2.0 continues. A key outcome of that? More and more work is making its way online. When it’s available there, and not just in a Word document on the hard drive or email in an inbox, it’s findable and usable by everyone.Your colleagues know quite well what the quality of your work and contributions are.
Do you think all of this stops, and we go back to message-relaying marathoners, smoke signals and carrier pigeons? No. Enterprise 2.0 and social media will continue their growth apace. And increasingly, this time spent online is through social media.
More and more people will be publishing their work, their ideas, their knowledge, their conversational bits, their creativity…online. It’s just going to keep increasing.
An emerging trend is the transition of where we seek information. Remember libraries, magazines and microfiche? Then the 1.0 websites where we got information? Then the portals that aggregated information from major media sites? Then search augmented all this information consumption?
Well, the next wave is to rely on our social connections to deliver interesting, relevant information to us. As was famously said by a college student in 2008:
If the news is important, it will find me.
A recent Nielsen study confirms this growing tendency to use social media as a first stop to find information:
Admittedly, the leading social sites of today – blogs, Facebook, Twitter – have a ways to go before they become a large percentage of the population’s first choice. And it’d help if Twitter could get their search working further back than a week or two.
But this survey and anecdotal evidence points toward an increased reliance on others to provide information to us.
It’s that last trend, still early in its cycle, that really points toward the development of formal, online reputations. When we started transacting online with complete strangers or small businesses we never knew, we needed a basis for understanding their credibility. It turns out, crowdsourced ratings are excellent indicators of quality. It also causes small businesses to be aware of the quality of their products and services.
In the years ahead, expect increased usage of social media for getting information and sourcing people, products and services. As an example, research firm IDC just released these survey results:
57% of U.S. workers use social media for business purposes at least once per week. The number one reason cited by U.S. workers for using social tools for business purposes was to acquire knowledge and ask questions from a community.
As reliance on people for information increases, expect an increased need for knowing which strangers provide the top quality information. Note I said “strangers” there. One thing we will continue to do is to rely on our “friends” (social media sense of the word) for ongoing daily information. The people we connect with on the various social sites.
But that’s the only way we will get information. Or make decisions. Great case in point? Google’s real-time search results:
If innovation is the focus of your work, wouldn’t you want to be include in those Google results? Here’s the thing. Google doesn’t just put any old tweet or other form of real-time content in there. As Google’s Amit Singhal stated:
“You earn reputation, and then you give reputation. If lots of people follow you, and then you follow someone–then even though this [new person] does not have lots of followers,” his tweet is deemed valuable because his followers are themselves followed widely, Singhal says. It is “definitely, definitely” more than a popularity contest, he adds.
Note his words: “You earn reputation“.
PR agency Edelman created a ranking algorithm called Tweetlevel, which analyzes people on the basis of influence, popularity, engagement and trust. Tweetlevel was recently used to create a list of the top analysts on Twitter. As the author of that post noted, one purpose for the list was to answer the question: “Should they spend their limited time interacting with analysts via twitter?” Presumably if you’re an analyst in the Top 50, ‘yes’.
Again, reputation being used for a defined purpose.
Ross Dawson wrote a good piece about the changes coming due to the increasing visibility of “people’s actions and character”. He notes the impact of reputation on seeking professionals for work:
Many professionals will be greatly impacted by these shifts. The search for professional advice is often still highly unstructured, based on anecdotal recommendations or simple searches. As importantly, clients of large professional firms may start to be more selective on who they wish to work with at the firm, creating a more streamlined meritocracy.
The mechanisms for measuring professional reputation are still very crude, yet over the coming decade we can expect to see substantial changes in how professionals are found. This will impact many facets of the industry.
And Bertrand Dupperin sees a similar dynamic playing out internally:
Use internal social networks to build a kind of marketplace that would put work capacity and competence on a given subject in relation with needs and allow those who can apply for an assignment instead of blind assignments to those who can’t.
In a world where individuals emerge as important sources of information, products and services, people will need a way to break through the limited knowledge they’ll have on any one person. Look for online reputations to emerge as a way to fill that gap.
I’m @bhc3 on Twitter.
January 23, 2010 Leave a comment
From the home office in Massachusetts, where I’m saying, “Kennedy who?”
#10: There truly are times a parent can look at his lovely little children, and think: “savages”.
January 12, 2010 5 Comments
In a recent post, Four Quadrants of Innovation, I described one type of innovation as leveraging existing technologies, serving existing customers. In popular culture, this type of innovation is..well, frankly it’s boring. No cool new advances, no new stuff you haven’t tried before.
But what is compelling about this type of innovation is how well it fits Clayton Christensen’s focus on understanding the “job” your product has been hired to do. Companies need to stay on top of their products, and changes in customer behaviors. Sometimes that’s sexy new technology advances. Mostly, it’s not. Rather, it’s good ol’ roll-up-the-sleeves and innovate to meet changing customer needs and expectations.
SlideShare CEO Rashmi Sinha wrote a great post recently where she asked Is it time to reimagine your product / service? She makes the point that many web services reflect their vintage year. They fail to evolve as the market does, ultimately falling further behind the curve of customer expectations.
Rashmi Sinha’s post very much reminds me of Clayton’s Christensen’s point of view. Your customers have:
On top of that, there’s something deeper in the Sinha’s post. There are times you need to push need innovations, even if your customers aren’t yet asking for them. Let your customers catch up to you.
These points don’t just apply to web services. They apply to all manner of products and services. Everything can be innovated. One key is to understand that sometimes innovation comes in service delivery or business models, not just product features.
Even things you wouldn’t expect to be innovated, can indeed be innovated.
In line with this, I came across a great post by Jake Kuramoto of Oracle AppsLab. In Unexpected Innovation, Jake notes two recent innovations he has seen with…
…traffic lights. Of all things.
The first innovation is actually not all that surprising, and really is the application of existing technology. New lights use energy efficient LED bulbs. They have some issues to be worked out in terms of their ability to melt accumulated snow. But they make a lot of sense.
The second innovation is one that really speaks to a deeper understanding of what’s going with traffic lights. See the pictures at the top of this post? Designer Damjan Stanković came up with a concept where a timer is added to stoplights. Stanković posits these benefits of such a timer:
That last bullet is the benefit that intrigues me most, in terms of the job I want a stoplight to do: safer driving. Here in San Francisco, we have walk signals at intersections that include countdowns. When the WALK signals appears, you can see how many seconds are left to cross the street.
Both Jake Kuramoto use these walk signal countdowns in a different way. When you are driving, you can see the countdowns. If you’re, say 50 meters out, this gives you something of an advantage in how you approach the intersection. When there are only a few seconds left, you know the light will be yellow well before you get to the intersection. With kids in the car, I slow down to be ready to stop for what will be a late yellow light by the time I reach the intersection.
Now if someone had asked me, I wouldn’t have come up with a requirement for traffic lights to have timers. But because someone put those countdowns on the walk signals, I’ve found myself using them in my driving when they are available. And Stanković’s design makes me realize that, “hey, I want those timers on traffic lights.”
Which goes to show you. Everything can be innovated upon. Even the most…uh…pedestrian of products and services.
Finally, I love this quote from Amazon’s Jeff Bezos in a Newsweek interview:
There’s a tendency, I think, for executives to think that the right course of action is to stick to the knitting—stick with what you’re good at. That may be a generally good rule, but the problem is the world changes out from under you if you’re not constantly adding to your skill set.
Markets are always shifting. Don’t think that anything is immune from innovation.
January 7, 2010 3 Comments
How should tweets be presented in search results?
It’s an interesting question – how exactly would you want to see tweets in your Google and Bing search results? And it’s an important question, as searches are critical bases for discovering information and huge drivers of traffic.
Tweets are different from web pages. They are more ephemeral, but also much more current. They’re short nature means we can consume them much more quickly than fuller web pages. In many ways, their brevity reduces their “burden of interestingness”. Read, move on. Read, move on. Read, move on.
Tweets are small nuggets of insight, and pointers to good content. Web pages are the foundational information components. The value of the two digital forms is different. Thus, it makes sense to consider options for presenting these different types of information to people.
Three different designs for presenting tweets in Google and Bing search results come to mind:
Let’s take a look at the options. For added context, I’ve included appropriate musical selections.
At the bottom of this post, I’ve set up a poll asking which approach you’d prefer.
Musical theme: Gotta keep ‘em separated.
This is the Bing way. A separate URL for tweets. It’s an acknowledgment that tweets really are different from web pages. The graphic below conceptualizes this approach, with a search on ‘Madrid':
The graphic above puts tweets searches more in line with overall searches. Right now Bing has no link to tweet searches on its home page. You just have to know the URL exists. Of course, the Microsoft Bing team is working on incorporating the firehose into its search experience, so that may change.
Musical theme: Man in the box.
The presentation of real-time tweets on the same page is something Google is experimenting with currently. The philosophy here is that you’re looking for multiple types of information in a search. Google already displays web page links, images, YouTube videos, maps, PDFs and other types of content. Tweets are just another type of content.
Something I’d like to see is a separate box of the tweets on the search results page, as shown below:
This design effectively distinguishes tweets from other types of content, while preserving the “all information on one page” philosophy. This is important for Google and Bing advertising, making the search results page even more engaging.
Open question: what’s better for ad click volumes? Multiple pages of different content (e.g. separate tabs described previously)? Or a single page with more engaging content?
Aside from the information aspect of tweets, there is also a people aspect. Tweets are as much about the person as they are the content. The separate presentation of tweets distinguishes them from web pages, PDFs, videos and the like.
Because of the volume of searches run through Google and Bing, there will be a premium on ensuring the quality of the tweets presented. This is important regardless, but even more so here with the number of times people will see the tweets. See How Should Tweets Be Ranked in Search Engine Results? for thoughts on how to do this.
Musical theme: Happy Together
There is a third design option. Why not put the tweets right in the mix of overall search results? Treat them less as exotic new forms of content, and more as just another type for searchers to click on. The graphic below conceptualizes this:
A tweet is just another URL that can point searchers to relevant content. The challenge is that Google and Bing need to alter their ranking algorithms to allow tweets to be served up high in search results. Something like a pagerank for the twitter account itself. If it has relevant content and a high “Twitter pagerank”, it gets served up higher in the search results.
Of course, tweets are served up in search results today. But that generally happens with very specific multi-word searches that match the tweet, or including the word “twitter” in the search. The design above brings tweets more fully into the pantheon of content, displaying them highly in search results for basic keywords.
I imagine smart folks can come up with other designs for displaying tweets. Leave a comment on these three or any other designs you think might be interesting.
Also, take a second and vote in the poll below. I’m curious what people think about the different possibilities for displaying tweets.
January 5, 2010 11 Comments
Want to know if you’re truly in the technology elite? Let Google tell you!
If you see real-time search results at the top of the page, congratulations! You’re a VIP! If not, well, sorry about that.
As was well covered a few months back, Google has made a deal with Twitter to get the real-time firehose of tweets. The actual rollout of tweets in search by Google is still a work in progress.
But I stumbled across this interesting test of Tech Worthiness in doing research for a different blog post. Some searches result in a display of real-time tweets at the top of the page. What’s interesting is who gets this treatment.
The graphic below shows the Google search results for six different people, along with the word “twitter”:
Jeff Bezos is interesting. He does have a twitter account, but they’re all protected tweets.
At the bottom, you see a couple of the non-elite in the tech world. Ashton Kutcher, the first man to the moon…er…to reach 1 million followers on Twitter does not get the real-time tweet treatment from Google.
And alas, I am not part of the tech elite either.
So there you have it. Google has provided a handy test to see if you’re part of the Tech Elite. Go see how you’re doing.
Several people reported to me on Twitter that they could indeed see my real-time tweets on Google using ‘bhc3 twitter’. Now I had tried that last night and this morning, got nothing. Now they’re showing up, as you can see in the picture below, taken from my iPhone:
When I ran the “hutch carpenter” tweet search on Google last night, there were no results. But on Twitter search, there were a few results.
Ashton Kutcher is frequently mentioned on Twitter, but he doesn’t show up on Google real-time tweet searches. His handle, @aplusk, is also mentioned frequently. Google tweet searches on aplusk were not bringing up his real-time tweets last night. But they are this morning.
A search on ‘Chris Messina’ yields @chrismessina in the real-time tweet search results. So Google does some association there between the two terms.
And there remain people who get no results, no matter what. So the exact nature of this real-time search is a bit murky.
Yet it still appears that the known “tech elite” show up readily.