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For Executives, Entrepreneurs, and other Digerati who need to know about SaaS and Web 2.0.

Archive for September 18th, 2007

Psst! Have you heard of Adobe Thermo?

Posted by Bob Warfield on September 18, 2007

Okay, I’ll come clean, I have no idea what Thermo is, but I did read a blog post that sounded intriguing:

You will lead a highly motivated team developing an innovative new tool, codenamed Thermo, that will enable designers and creatively inclined developers to easily build rich internet applications and interactive content. “Thermo” will streamline the process of adding interactivity, behavior and motion to creative assets and will work seamlessly with both Adobe’s Creative Suite tools, such as Photoshop, Illustrator, Fireworks and Flash, and with developer oriented tools such as Flex Builder.”

Clearly part of a job posting.  Now for the fun part: let’s guess what Thermo is.  In the spirit of being frequently wrong but never in doubt, I do hereby suggest that Thermo as described above, falls into the category of Magic Ink.  What’s that, you haven’t heard of Magic Ink?  It’s a way cool idea by Bret Victor for enabling visual designers to have a language of their own that adds interactivity to their designs.  The Usability Institute has a somewhat less scholarly post on Magic Ink that will hopefully show just how cool this would be.

Today designers are limited to getting programmers to help them add these kinds of features.  A tool that works by example to them them create fully interactive user interface would be awesome.  It’s not so hard to imagine either.  Anyone who has played with a really slick CAD program such as Rhino3D or Ashlar’s Vellum has seen drawing with constraints.  These constraints work to make it easier for you to create great drawings faster and more easily.  There’s also a whole world of Parametric CAD that does similar things. 

Now let’s reverse the process.  Imagine that we’re taking the drawing and defining constraints to control its dynamic behaviour.  A slider consists of 2 images.  One is the background and the other is the movable part.  Constraints would tell us to keep the movable part inside the slider’s track, and would also tell us how the slider can be grabbed and manipulated.  Further declarative code would tell us how to interpret the slider’s position to update a variable.  The whole thing could be completely interactive.

Work like this has been going on for a long time.  The first one I remember seeing was a Smalltalk program called “Thinglab” which was all about constraint oriented simulation.  I remember thinking at the time, “What a cool UI design tool that would make!”

If I’m wrong on what Thermo is, don’t be surprised, but the vision I describe is something someone ought to build.  If I’m right, be very very excited.  It will unlock a lot of cool new territory to the non-programmer world and put it in the hands of talented designers.  Thanks to Ted Patrick for starting this line of random speculation in my head!

Related Articles:  I was right!

Posted in ria, user interface, Web 2.0 | 5 Comments »

Logic+Emotion On Web 2.0 Personality Types + Roundup of Personality Posts

Posted by Bob Warfield on September 18, 2007

I’ve been writing about Web 2.0 Personality Types for a while now.  Logic+Emotion has a post up on a very similar concept involving web users as navigators, explorers, and engaged participants.  If you want to successfully target the broadest audiences on the Web, you have to think in behavioural terms.   Here is a list of the posts from this blog on the topic:

Part 1 introduces Web 2.0 Personality Types.

Part 2 maps existing web properties such as Google and Flickr into Web 2.0 Personality Spaces.

Part 3 shows how to target the individual Web 2.0 Personality Spaces.

In addition to the three part series, there’ve been a number of posts that show how the direction taken by many Web 2.0 properties and users makes sense when viewed against the Web 2.0 Personality Space model:

Imagini takes the bland social network look of a Facebook and recasts it into a boldly pictorial face for those who are more visual than verbal thinkers.

Dell’s Web 2.0 strategy touches a number of Personality Spaces.

A misunderstanding of what Twitter is all about comes from failure to consider Web 2.0 Personality Spaces that don’t appeal to you.

Will Google’s Video Ads alienate an audience brought up on clean textual UI?

Flickr expands its Personality Space footprint

Twitter and Fred Thompson’s Presidential campaign expand their Web 2.0 Personality Space footprints.

Another behavioural post worth looking at is the Psychology of Web 2.0 Persuasion.

Late addition:  check out Design Shack for a web UI that wants to know which style you prefer.

Posted in saas | 1 Comment »

Imagini Stakes Out A Unique Web 2.0 Personality Space for a Social Profile

Posted by Bob Warfield on September 18, 2007

I went to try Imagini thinking it was a “Visual Personality Test” based on the Information Aesthetics blog post I’d read.  There’s more to it than that, and I like this crazy site.  It’s another take on the Web 2.0 Personality Space idea I’ve been cogitating on for some time.  What’s different is the extreme visual focus versus something like Facebook.  Ironically, the personality test aspect is where I came up with Web 2.0 Personality Spaces. 

Give the thing a try, its fun.  You’ll be asked a series of questions and the answers involve picking from photo thumbnails that best match your reaction to the question.  At the end, a profile pops up based on your answers.  It’s a really slick looking thing, much cooler than the profile I have over on Facebook, for example.  The interesting thing about it is whether the visuals combined with the personality characteristics float your boat.

When I compare this to my recent experience with Yahoo’s Mash, I like Imagini a lot better.  It seemed fresher and more interesting.  Of course, maybe I’m just a more visual thinker and Mash was too textual.  Andrew Chen recently analyzed Mash’s viral loop and his comment was that Mash makes you work to hard to set up a profile for a friend.  Imagini falls back on the tried and true method of emailing you friends to create the viral loop.  They claim to have 4.5 million folks who’ve signed on so far.  They’ve also borrowed a tactic from my Guerrilla Platform Tactics playbook in the form of Widgets.  They’ll create a custom widget for you which they then encourage you to go and embed in MySpace or yor blog.  It’s a clever way to leverage the investment and contacts you may already have on another Social Network.

Posted in user interface, Web 2.0 | Leave a Comment »

What the CMO Wants from Web 2.0 Systems Management: A Negativity Early Warning System

Posted by Bob Warfield on September 18, 2007

Enterprise Systems Management is all about Bob the CIO knowing that his IT systems are online and doing the right thing.  Products like Tivoli do this with elaborate monitoring and control panel capabilities for the On-premises world of Enterprise Software.  Presumably, there is an emerging market to do this for the SaaS world as well, since the CIO still needs to know that his SaaS applications are online and doing the right thing.  Savvy SaaS vendors will start thinking about what sorts of Web Services are needed to facilitate this and savvy entrepreneurs and other product innovators will set about providing it.

What about the needs of Karin the CMO with respect to Web 2.0?  Despite her worst fears, Karin has unleashed the Web 2.0 genie because she knows what a powerful force collaboration can be for her company.  In order to sleep better at night, it seems to me that Karin needs a management tool too.  One that tells her all is reasonably well in the 2.0 world and nothing too terrible is happening.  This tool is harder to build than the Systems Management tool, but it is potentially capable of averting a greater catastrophe by preventing an unintended release of negative information or other PR gaff from spreading too far.

I got the idea for this one reading Steve Hamrin’s Outsourcing and Call Center blog.  Steve notes that with the Web 2.0, “The Whole World is Watching.”  He’s absolutely right when he says that for starters, there are sure to be benefits for organisations that conduct themselves in the most ethical, transparent ways, but that still doesn’t eliminate the need for Business 2.0 to have sophisticated monitoring systems in place to understand very quickly who is saying what about them in the Web.

Some companies have evidently already dealt with this problem.  Steve goes on to tell the story of the Standard Charter Bank.  Evidently he had a terrible customer service experience with them, blogged out it, and was a bit shocked when they called him up to repair the relationship.  That World is Watching bit cuts both ways:  The World is Watching You, so You Had Better Watch the World.  If you can spot a disgruntled activist who is passing on his negative experience, you may turn them around as Standard Charter did with Steve.  What better way could their be to demonstrate that you really care?

A potent monitoring solution is not necessarily an easy thing to come by.  There are so many Web 2.0 Personality Spaces to keep up with.  Not all of them are even available to Google directly.  And even if you Google, how do you go about sifting through all that information?  I’d never heard of Standard Charter Bank, which is a leading bank in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, but they have 2.2 million hits on Google.  Bank of America has over 10 million hits and Dell Computer has 112 million.  Clearly tasking someone with just taking a look at search results every now and again is not the answer!

This is a great enterpreneurial opportunity for someone to build a search engine that searches for negativity.  It seems to me that a negativity early warning system would be very useful to companies concerned with customer satisfaction.

Failing such a search engine, what else can be done?

First, the worst kind of negativity is internal negativity: bad messages emanating from within the Enterprise itself.  This sort of thing involves a much smaller set of sources that are potentially easier to monitor.  Think about getting a system in place perhaps built around mashup tools that can track these sources.  I’m not necessarily talking about your already buttoned down mechanisms such as press releases, look to the Web 2.0 mechanisms.  If you have forums, blogs, and other less process-oriented means of communication, put some monitoring in place around those areas.

Second, don’t overlook the human element.  Make it possible to anonymously communicate negativity and make sure it really is anonymous.  Reward folks for calling your attention to outside sources of negativity.  Make sure that your mechanisms for collecting the sources of negativity don’t turn into a percieved witch hunt.  You really do want to hear the bad as well as the good.  If the bad is misinformed, you want to educate it not eradicate it.

Posted in Marketing, Web 2.0 | 2 Comments »

Picks from the TechCrunch 40

Posted by Bob Warfield on September 18, 2007

Lots of stories about this interesting conference because so many story writers are there.  Below are my picks from the first day of the TechCrunch 40

Session 1: Search & Discovery

Powerset:  Understand the difference between a noun and a verb.  Hmmm.  Seems like we knew how to do that a LONG time ago.  What’s new here?  Is it just that nobody had gotten to it?  Sounds cool, I’m always open to better search.  I do remember reading an article where people presented the same search results under different names and Google got a 25% better relevance rating than the other services even though they were all the same result.  Can you say “search placebo” anyone?

Faroo:  Watch what people do in their browser and use that to decide how to rank search results.  Cool.  Not sure why Google can’t just watch what people click on, though they only get to see that first click.  Doh!

Session 2: Mobile & Communications

Cubic Telecom: Flat rate cell phone calls from anywhere in the world to anywhere in the world.  Who wouldn’t like that?  Seems like the old guard will fight dirty to kill it though.

Ceedo:  Carry your PC personality on a USB key, pop it into any PC and have what you need.  Remove it and leave no trace.  Cool!

Session 3: Community & Collaboration

None of the Session 3 products turned me on.  Too bad, there’s a lot of potential in the category.

Session 4: Crowdsourcing

Cake Financial:  Crowdsource investment ideas.  When you are interested in a stock, see what other stocks folks interested in your stock bought.  Compare your performance against family, friends, and top investors, all without disclosing your net worth, actual shares owned, and so forth.  See what users with better results are trading today.  The ZDNet folks liked this one too.

Ponoko:  Design a product and Ponoko will manufacture it for you.  So far, it seems to be focused around laser cut products made from acrylic or wood, but you can do some surprising cool things with this.  As some will now, CNC machine tools is my hobby so Ponoko appeals, though I’m not sure how good a business it will really be.

Posted in venture, Web 2.0 | 1 Comment »

7 Tactics for Building a Guerrilla Platform on the Web

Posted by Bob Warfield on September 18, 2007

Guerrilla Platforms are all around us, often lurking closer than we suspect until one pops out and grabs our attention.  I’ve blogged before on platform adoption strategy and on Marc Andreesen’s platform theories, but I felt the topic needed another kick, this time focused on subtlety. 

Platform adoption is a viral phenomenon, and the most successful viruses are those you don’t know you have even caught until you’ve gone on to infect many others.  A virus that is too strong, too virulent, will burn itself out before enough can be infected.  In platform terms, that means a platform that takes too much up front investment is likely to burn itself out before it can really take root.  A Guerrilla Platform cruises just beneath the surface building up momentum until one day everyone wakes up and wonders how a platform has suddenly appeared where there seemed to be none before.

Stowe Boyd talks about Building in Openess, and gives us some good ideas on how to create a Guerrilla Platform:

Centralized Platforms are bad, because they are closed and give someone a monopoly, says Boyd.  I submit that most often a centralized platform will be preceeded by a Great Application.  It is the art of misdirection, “Don’t mind that platform, these are not the droids you’re looking for, focus on this Shiny Object.”  Let us call the Great Application/Great Platform bait and switch Tactic #1.  Facebook used this mechansim by offering a Shiny Social Network at first and then unveiling a platform.  Note that a centralized platform need not be Andreesen’s Level 3 type, where the app is hosted on the platform.  It just needs to have sufficient controls so they app only runs on the closed platform and developers have to write for that platform.

Distributed Protocols are better, where disparate platforms agree to communicate via some common standard.  But it’s hard to achieve that agreement unless market conditions are right and it is particularly hard to profit from having created the standard, which must usually be given away and owned by some governing body or working group.  Still, you may need a platform to become established for other reasons.  Hackers do it for pleasure.  Some combination of the two may have resulted in the iPhone being hacked and protocols released for things like accessing the accelerometer or unlocking to change service providers.  I’ll call Giving Away an Open Distributed Protocol Tactic #2. 

Stowe’s “Interlinked” architecture I’d call a Bridge Architecture.  Bridges use a middleman to do the impedence match, freeing disparate platforms from having to support a common protocol.  The Bridge Architecture is classic Disintermediation.  You have to love that big long word, once the favorite of VC’s during the last Internet Gold Rush.  The tactic here is to offer something that makes you the middle man between the consumer and some other platform or service they favor.  If you’re a good middleman, the consumer gradually loses touch with the original platform.  At the appropriate point you announce with a flourish that the original is no longer even needed because you are the new platform and you can give the consumer everything they always wanted and more.  Voila!  The original platform has just been “disintermediated.”  Boy, that’s gotta hurt.  What’s an example?  Dave Winer’s fears about Feedburner and RSS are all about the potential for Disintermediation.  All those RSS feeds are all going through one central choke point in Feedburner, and that makes it possible for Google (which owns Feedburner) to contemplate mischief.  It gives them an unfair advantage.  We’ll call the Bridge Architecture Tactic #3.

In keeping with the Guerrilla Concept, there is also the Marketing and PR aspect.  Talk down your platform.  Don’t speak of world domination.  Focus on solving a few key problems and helping out.  If the platform has more power than that, let others discover it.  Toss a few rocks into the bushes nearby to help them find their way.  Tactic #4 is Talk Down Your Platform.

How about creating a Slippery Slope?  The carnivorous pitcher plant makes it easy for insects to get started entering, but the further they go the harder it becomes to back out.  You create a situation for your platform where someone does a little bit, gets excited, does a bit more, and over time they get completely hooked.  This involves minimizing the friction getting in and maximizing the network effects and lock-in aspects.  Scoble got totally locked into using Google Reader because he’s built a ton of personal metadata around it.  Tactic #5 is minimize the friction to enter and maximize lock-in to create a Slippery Slope.

Quid pro quo literally means “something for something.”  In this case, it would be the tactic of offering something that benignly enrolls the consumer into being an unwitting platform supporter.  Napster let people download music if they hosted the content for others to download.  Facebook is flirting with offering storage space if you use their platformSprint will put a box in your home to extend their wireless network.  Open Source gives you free software in exchange for adoption, but there are other ways they monetize your adoption.  Beware quid pro quo, it can become a form of lock in if you are too dependent on the quid, if you pardon my pun.  Quid pro quo is Guerrilla Platform Tactic #6

Tactic #7 is insert breadcrumbs in the other guy’s platform that draw customers back to you.  Widgets are an interesting game of tug-of-war when used in this way.  They’re like double agents.  In theory, the platform owner has created a platform by granting the largesse of allowing widgets in order to make their own platform stronger.  Yet, sometimes a player can insert widgets into a platform to drain attention back over to their own platform.  Witness Amazon’s use of widgets that can be embedded on blogs and the like.  Also, I know an awful lot of people who build something smallish (more than a widget but less than a full app) on Salesforce’s AppExchange largely to generate sales leads so they can get those customers onto their own products.  I would call this kind of strategy a “partial disintermediation with a shot of quid pro quo”.  Or, we can just label it Tactic #7:  Use Widgets or other bread crumbs to pull people off another platform and onto your own.

Summary of Guerrilla Platform Tactics

  1. Launch a Great Application that has a thinly concealed platform attached.  Defer announcement of the platform until the Great Application is well established.
  2. Give away a distributed open protocol that’s suitable to create a platform around.
  3. Be the middleman that matches disparate protocols between services to create a Bridge Architecture.
  4. Talk down your platform.  Focus on solving a few key problems and helping others out.  Give away those first couple of keys to prime the pump.
  5. Minimize the friction to enter and maximize lock-in to create a Slippery Slope.
  6. Offer Quid pro quo.  Give away something to platform participants that enrolls them as unwitting platform supporters.
  7. Use Widgets or other bread crumbs to pull people off another platform and onto your own.

Posted in platforms, saas, Web 2.0 | 3 Comments »

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