Nerd heaven: learning about the latest in UX while meeting killer startups On Sept. 17, I attended the latest SoCal UX group meetup in downtown Los Angeles, where 29o designers mingled with startups looking for talent, and honed their skills by learning about the latest trends in web design and marketing. The whole UX field […] [...more]
Nerd heaven: learning about the latest in UX while meeting killer startups
On Sept. 17, I attended the latest SoCal UX group meetup in downtown Los Angeles, where 29o designers mingled with startups looking for talent, and honed their skills by learning about the latest trends in web design and marketing.
The whole UX field is still very much a tech sector that is under construction. I’ve seen UX described as everything from the process of identifying the potential users of a new site, to the graphic design of a site, to the utter stats-based refinement of online marketing.
Sometimes, working in UX feels a lot like the “Alice in Wonderland” quote from Humpty Dumpty:
“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” “The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
UX is a field of study and implementation that really didn’t exist even a decade ago. It’s not surprising that we’re still struggling with the nomenclature to describe what it is that we do, now that web design has evolved to become a meld between art & science. Even moreso, now that we’ve seen the rise of DIY, paint-by-numbers sites like Wix, Weebly and SquareSpace.
It used to be that to build a site required a wide range of knowledge (and to a certain extent, it still does). But the democraticization of tools designed to make to make it “forehead install easy” to publish content to the web, has meant that the differentiator in the market has moved from technique … back to content.
If just about any schmo can spin up a responsive site with integrated forms and CSS transforms, then what use all those coding skills we all burnt so many brain cells to acquire these past 15 years?
That’s a larger discussion, and one I have had many times over the past few years (and will explore in more depth in future postings).
Meanwhile, enjoy these candid photos of the attendees and speakers at the SoCal UX Job Fair.
When Hootsuite, the industry leader when it comes to managing social media profiles, removes a feature so essential to what community managers, social marketing execs and wanna-be YouTube stars are trying to do (i.e. identify & interact with "influencers" to thereby achieve business goals), then there is definitely Something Really Heavy going on behind the scenes. [...more]
Industry-leader social management tool Hootsuite “deprecates” Klout – but who’s next?
Klout, you were mean to us and made us like it. You made us feel inadequate, and spend far too many hours indulging in unnatural behaviors to please your algorithm. And all we got were inane “Perks” like bland business cards that look like they were spat out of an old dot-matrix printer …
… or 1/2 off a crate of Sooper fREEKy POWer Drinkzzzz(aside: WhenTF are we going to collectively decide that replaces “S” with “Z” no longer denotes hip & outlaw status?) that magically combine the lovely taste of licking the sludgecrust from the bottom of a riding lawn mower with the sensation of a myocardial infarction and COPD. Yummy!
But all along, there was a sneaking suspicion that Klout scores were not all they were cracked up to be; that the “social media influence” they purported to measure&deliver was flawed, at best. Still, we went along with it, because, well, there really wasn’t much else. (Kred came and went and the less said about the brief spring of Empire Avenue, the better.)
Now comes the hardcore notice from Hootsuite that they are no longer including Klout, because “we put our customers at the forefront of every business decision.” My oh my. Whatever could that mean? Maybe that Klout does NOT do so? That they are, in fact, preying upon customers by snarfing up all our actions, interactions, posts, updates & etc. and selling them to the highest bidder? Or something worse?
This is what you get when you click on the Klout link. In corporate-speak, this is pretty much a bullet to the back of the head.
Embarrassing admission: I totally bought into Klout. For a time, I was even clicking like a lab rat hooked on blow on the “Share Our Content Now!” features on Klout. Yes, I was that kind of dingbat. I gave over my social media profiles to Klout and let them hijack my voice and suggest things that my friends and colleagues should read, all wrapped up nicely in a Klout-enabled URL shortener.
Mea culpa. Sorry. Won’t make that mistake again.
In my defense, when I obediently shared Klout’s suggested content, I saw my Klout score shoot up. But when I checked out all my shares, likes and interactions? Not a big change. Which obviously made me suspect that Klout was boosting its number to try to keep me incentivized into using Klout’s content and shortener.
I was becoming a human bot-net.
It made me uneasy months ago, and so I quit sharing Klout’s content. But I still had in the back of my mind that I should pay more attention to Klout, that the score is essential to building and maintaining “your personal brand,” etc. etc.
But then I saw the above notice when trying to use Hootsuite. I can only read between the lines as to what’s going on here, but if Hootsuite, the industry leader when it comes to managing social media profiles, removes a feature that seems so essential to what so many community managers, social marketing execs and wanna-be YouTube stars are trying to do (i.e. identify & interact with “influencers” to thereby achieve business goals), then there is definitely Something Really Heavy going on behind the scenes.
Maybe it’s all the old objections finally coming home to roost: inaccuracy, lack of transparency, encouragement of inauthentic behavior …
…or maybe there’s been some business fight going on, over who should share what money with whom in exchange for what. But the bottom line is: with Klout out of Hootsuite, we are going to have to start using something else.
Here are the suggested alternatives to Klout:
First, Right Relevance claims to ” helps you better engage your social audience by letting you search and share the most authoritative content currently trending on the social web. We achieve this by mining the social web to identify and rank topical influencers. The inherent trust of the influencers communities is applied to finding the most relevant articles.”
This app breaks out the “share relevant content” features of Klout. As with so many other “content suggestion engines,” the danger lies in the possibility that they will recommend content that benefits THEM more than it benefits YOU. I will be poking this one with a stick very carefully.
Next up, Riffle Twitter Insights says that they are an “easy-to-use efficiency tool that helps you build an instant rapport with anyone on Twitter. With a simple, intuitive dashboard showing users’ social patterns, networks and interests.”
What, no Perks for using? (sigh) OK, the big downside here is right in the title: it’s only for Twitter. Klout claimed to bring in Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, LinkedIn, FourSquare, and any other bright-shiny-jingly-key-social-media-network.
They make the interface look so very cool. But I rather suspect that you don’t get these kinds of charts, graphs & sophistication with the Free level of service.
Unnoticed to most casual users of Klout: many of the high-end social media measurement and management platforms (such as UberVU, RavenTools, Radian6 and others) scraped Klout scores and put them right next to usernames in the dashboard. It was a quick shortcut to identifying “influencers” without having to built your own algo or develop that side of your business.
I’ll be interested to see if any of these alternatives gets any traction – or if Klout starts showing more signs of distress (other than the inconsistencies in their dashboards, UX, features or all the other quirks that have surfaced in the past year or so).
“You can’t learn this in any graduate school. Years ago, I thought about going back to graduate school for an MBA, but nobody was teaching what I wanted to learn. These speakers, who are creating completely new businesses beats any education anywhere. And it didn’t cost $100,000 in student loans.” [...more]
How many times do you get a chance to ask spectacularly successful tech entrepreneurs anything you want?
Janine & I just completed two days of intense sessions with some of Silicon Valley’s most successful entrepreneurs at creativeLIVE’s “Secrets of Silicon Valley” sessions. And yes, that was really alliterative. Sorry. Bear with me. Everyone talked in such catchy bullet-point laden phrases that it leaked over into my speech patterns.
The walls of the creativeLIVE breakroom are festooned with flatscreen monitors showing what’s on their various channels. Most fascinating of all are the real-time “heatmaps” showing who’s watching at any moment, bordered by the latest comments on Twitter and Facebook. The “Secrets of Silicon Valley” was watched by people in more than 130 countries. In the map, you see clusters of red and white dots representing the audience through my reflection as I took this photo.
If nothing else, these two days were proof that above all else, Silicon Valley entrepreneurs have mastered the talent of giving really beautifully designed and stripped-down PowerPoint presentations.
Seriously folks, if you’ve ever suffered through a “Death By PowerPointless” presentation where you were assaulted with dense bullet-point slides with hundreds of words on them … slide after slide after slide, none of them memorable, that made you fantasize about massive natural disasters, zombie apocalypse or alien invasions … these two days were not that.
Here’s what was so special about the “Secrets of Silicon Valley” speakers, who are entitled to have more than their share of ego and self-satisfaction: they didn’t just brag. Nor did they ramble on in thinly disguised sales brochures for their companies.
The most compelling speakers hardly mentioned their companies. Instead, their focus was on us, the audience. On what we needed to know.
The speakers knew what they were going to say, and they said it with humor, efficiency and – most unexpectedly, from a group of uber-nerds – humanity.
Mobile gaming company Playgearz issues a fake PR release taking responsibility for criminally demolishing buildings. Is it OK now to pretend you've committed a crime in order to clickjack people into downloading your derivative iPhone game? [...more]
I understand that to break through the “noise” you have to sometimes be a bit outrageous…
…but accusing yourself in a press release of committing crimes is a bit over the top.
…in a series of “stunts” to gain public attention for a new Apple iPhone 5 and iPad game launch, a startup went overboard causing massive property damage.
At 7:00 am, a crew drove 3 cranes, equipped with 1.5 ton wrecking balls, to a mid-city housing complex. The wrecking balls were painted to look like roundish flying Yumbies, adorable characters who smash through buildings and other structures in the game.
The headline here is pure linkbait: “iPhone 5 PR stunt ends in disaster leaving 23 homeless.” Grabs all the journos looking for a follow-up story on the iPhone 5 launch, and seeds in the delicious possibility of catching someone doing something dumb & cinematic to put on the TV news.
The point is that the problems with the news business bear surprising resemblance to the problems of society as a whole. We've tied our fate to the unfettered free-market economic forces, without really taking notice of the fact that there are a few industries, at least, that are not prepackaged Cheetos. Where diluting quality and streamlining production schedules and all the other tricks of modern corporate management may work in the short term ... but in the long term are not only killing the industry, but harming ... well, basically Western Civilization. [...more]
The good folks at CNN asked me to appear on Backstory” to talk about the News of the World’s phone-hacking scandal.
I tried to oblige them with some insights onto why this kind of scandal keeps happening, and why. You can see the results of the interview in the segment below:
More on why the news business keeps getting hit with privacy scandals like this, and why it won’t stop after the jump…
A collective snicker/groan radiated out through the interwebs today with the publication of this AdAge piece on how video is like the news business was in 1998, as legions of print journalists who have seen the number and budgets of the news outlets for which they once worked steadily dwindle. Welcome to Disintermediation 2.0, where […] [...more]
Welcome to Disintermediation 2.0, where the content is video. It’s entertainment not news. And the stakes (at least the monetary ones) are much higher.
While everyone in online video is challenged by the reality that digital presents to any media — measurement, targeting, accountability — traditional “editors” are also being squeezed by the very same process that beset news in the late 90’s.
This has led to a new rating system, called either “C3” or “live-plus-three”; instead of only counting viewers who watch shows live, Nielsen counts anyone who records and plays back the program up to 3 days later. This captures more of the time-shifted viewing audience. By the end of 2010, McDonough says, Nielsen’s ratings will combine both DVR’d and online streaming content.
Kate Sirkin, executive vice president and global research director for Starcom MediaVest Group, sees the DVR, particularly the TiVo, as fundamentally changing the way Americans view television. “We have three in our house,” Sirkin says. “My 5-year-old doesn’t understand live TV; she’s always had a DVR.”
The other effect of DVRs, of course, is the commercial-skipping. Used to be that you had to hack your TiVo to be able to skip 30 seconds at a time. Now that comes programmed directly into the remote on the DirecTV HD controller (but I still prefer the TiVo, since it skipped you automatically 30 seconds forward in time, rather than making you watch blurred fast-forwarded action).
But the biggest eye-opener for me is that articles predicting that broadcast TV, the cash cow for so long for the advertising industry, is about to head into the abyss … well, that’s news. Because what took down newspapers was not that nobody was reading them anymore – in fact, the stats show that more people are reading newspaper content than ever before.
What has laid print newspapers low is that the revenue streams from traditional print advertising have dried up & blown away.
This relationship is inherently abusive, much like the relationship was between newspapers and their advertisers. When a viable alternative comes along, and you’ve managed to piss off your customers, guess what they do?
I had thought that Madonna and Michael Jackson were about as sophisticated as you could get when it came to figuring out ways to build up a juicy public image, and then squeeze it until rivers of cash started running out. Not so. Lady GaGa has rightly recognized that selling CDs if for chumps; anyone can pirate them, and pretty much does. [...more]
Her “Bad Romance” music video features prominent product placement for stuff she designs & sells – and has garnered 38 million views.
The song itself is kinda beside the point – it’s bubblegum synth-disco-pop, about as bland and processed as the stuff the taxi drivers in Moscow used to subject me to on the way back & forth from my gig there. Which may be why it’s getting so many views – this is the kind of stuff that works internationally, since the thumping beat and lyric structure make it sound pretty much interchangeable with everything else on the radio.
Can't wait until she starts marketing the exploding bustier shown here; Madonna's Wannabees all wore their undies over their shirts. Wonder if GaGaEttes are going to be lighting their smokes off their flaming boobs.
But the real action here is in the video to the song. Blew my mind. Didn’t think that people had budgets like this anymore. Costumes that would make Gaultier sick with envy — white latex with “Where the Wild Things Are” shiny plastic crowns, some kinda homage to LeeLoo’s orange strappy outfit in The Fifth Element and a Eastern European mobster/white sex-slave buyer with a steampunk-ish articulated brass chin. Looked to my eye like about a week in production, probably about $500K in total costs of models, locations, crews, lighting, post-production.
The plot seems to be that Lady GaGa wakes from her sleep the way normal people do – by sticking her hand out of a gleaming white Tylenol-shaped coffin – getting forced to drink high-end vodka and the gyrate for & be sold to a bunch of strange pervy dudes.I half expected to see Liam Neeson kicking someone’s ass in the backdrop and telling her, “Here’s the scary part. You’re going to be taken…”
Nobody does these kinds of elaborate music videos anymore, because there is no way to recoup that kinda cash from the moribund music industry.- at least, not until now.As Dan Neil points out in the LA Times
the “Bad Romance” video, which features placements for no less than 10 products: a black iPod; Philippe Starck Parrot wireless speakers; Nemiroff vodka; Gaga-designed Heartbeats earphones (via Dr. Dre); Carrera sunglasses; Nintendo Wii handsets; Hewlett-Packard Envy computers; a Burberry coat; those crazy, hobbling Alexander McQueen hyper-heels; and enough La Perla lingerie to choke an ox.
This isn’t a music video so much as the QVC Channel you can dance to.
I had thought that Madonna and Michael Jackson were about as sophisticated as you could get when it came to figuring out ways to build up a juicy public image, and then squeeze it until rivers of cash started running out. Not so. Lady GaGa has rightly recognized that selling CDs if for chumps; anyone can pirate them, and pretty much does.
No, you need to sell things that people can’t copy – or at least, if they do, it kinda defeats the purpose. So Lady GaGa’s come up with the list of high-end commercial goods to do “Hero Shots” of in the video and obviously done revenue deals with them.
As a business model, I have to say hats off to the Lady. She’s adapted to the draining of value from the content (i.e. nobody actually buys music anymore – at least, not like they used to), and migrated over to where the money still lies.
When advertising no longer works, when information is a commodity in which we all drown for free, then the only things that are left that have any value are physical objects that we can wear, eat, drive or plug in, as well as what cultural anthropologists call “fetish objects” that bestow special status because they signify that we hae enough disposable income so as to be able to waste a couple grand on some gaudy sunglasses.
I’m not sure if this is the way that all news & entertainment is going to have to go in the future. All of it sponsored, with big shout-outs to the guys footing the bills worked into the info-stream every 10 seconds or so. I do know that if this works, we’re going to see a lot more of these “branded videos” online.
It was a cinematic night, as event organizer Brad Nye looked like he was making an entrance in a James Bond film, and Jason Calacanis did a Q&A (thanks for taking my question first, BTW), and looked a little like Citizen Kane. It’s late and I’ve got a lot more post-processing to do on the […] [...more]
It was a cinematic night, as event organizer Brad Nye looked like he was making an entrance in a James Bond film, and Jason Calacanis did a Q&A (thanks for taking my question first, BTW), and looked a little like Citizen Kane.
It’s late and I’ve got a lot more post-processing to do on the photos, so here’s just a couple of the images that I shot. The video of the discussions can be found at This Week in Startups.
Before the lights were adjusted, standing on the platform over the audience made the speakers look like they were either making a dramatic entrance - or having their identities concealed in some "60 Minutes" tell-all segment.
The energy of the old VIC was certainly present – a little too much, as techies on the make back at the bar made it a little hard to hear the speakers at the time. This, despite the overt threat by organizers to find the yapping networkers and toss them out.
Anyway, here’s Calacanis discussing what the future of social media sites is going to look like, and what smart companies should do in the next couple of years to try to adapt to the increasing pace of innovation.
As I said in an email to Nye, Jason would probably be secretly pleased at the whole Citizen Kane-esque imagery here. And then, of course, he'd feel conflicted about it and make a self-deprecating joke.
One of the more interesting areas of discussion – particularly since I just got back from Costa Rica – centered around virtual currency as being “the next big thing.” Certainly seems that way in places like Costa Rica, where you’re getting an increasingly large, tech-savvy and connected labor force. A lot of people either work in the internet gambling industry there – or have relatives/friends that do. The speed of internet connections in San Jose – and even out in the jungles on the Pacific side – stunned me. I’ve had much worse connections in the small town U.S.A.
In which I get very "Meta" and write a blog post that aggregates other blog posts that were written about aggregation. The discussion in all cases gets heated very quickly. Insults are thrown around, fisking takes place in the comment threads, but a few actual new ideas & fact-based analyses sneak in here and there. The fact that some very smart entrepreneurs are actually interested enough to toss in some innovative thinking is rather heartening, actually. [...more]
In which I get very “Meta” and write a blog post that aggregates other blog posts that were written about aggregation.
I am also posting this over on the AIM Group blog, as part of what I think might become a regular feature, “This week in the paid content debate.” The best of the bunch is the back-and-forth between billionaire Mark Cuban, and the bete noire of many print publishers, Michael Wolff, who runs the Newser.com content-aggregation site. Cuban actually suggests something that shows that he’s put more thinking into the issue than the kneejerk “Up with the paywalls!” bunch. I note below the flaw in his plans – my ex-roommate used to describe for me in detail how impossible it was at Time-Warner-AOL to get the jealous VPs of Home Video, say, to play nice with the guys from HBO and pay-per-view. Why make someone else’s P&L sheets look good? That just means they are going to get the Exec VP slot faster than you…
This is an example of a newspaper that has developed multiple, reliable, alternative revenue streams. UOL in Brazil is doing quite well, thank you. They planned ahead, unlike so many complacent U.S. papers.(Click for larger)
Anyway, the discussion in all cases gets heated very quickly. Insults are thrown around, fisking takes place in the comment threads, but a few actual new ideas & fact-based analyses sneak in here and there. The fact that some very smart entrepreneurs are actually interested enough to toss in some innovative thinking is rather heartening, actually.
Mark Cuban gives some free advice to fellow billionaire media mogul Rupert Murdoch: http://blogmaverick.com/2009/08/08/my-advice-to-fox-myspace-on-selling-content-yes-you-can/ Basically, he advances the idea that to get consumers to pay for news, you have to bundle it up with other goods, services and content that exist within giant organizations such as Fox or Time-Warner. A “Newsjunkie” subscription would come with access to special sections of Fox News, a couple of books from HarperCollins, magazine subscriptions and DVDs of 20th Century Fox movies. Commenters point out that such “synergies” remain elusive in these big media conglomerates, as each of the divisions is still in its own silo, with its own P&L, jealously guarding its own turf. Cuban paid special attention to aggregators, suggesting that newspapers ban links from aggregators such as Michael Wolff’s Newser.com.
…leading to Mark Cuban responding with a schoolyard-taunt opus: I’m Rubber, You’re Glue http://blogmaverick.com/2009/08/12/to-michael-wolf-im-rubber-youre-glue/ Not sure what it means when the discussion over paywalls degenerates so quickly, even amongst intelligent and successful publishers. Apparently, Cuban takes umbrage to Wolff calling him a “big fat idiot,” and in turn, taunts Wolff by criticizing his “outdated model” of a site.
The fallacy of the Link economy: http://paidcontent.org/article/419-the-fallacy-of-the-link-economy/ This is another assault on the value of inbound links from Google and other news aggregation sites. Arnon Mishkin says that even sites that publish a headline and short description of a news story appearing on another site are destructive, because readers mostly skim stories, and therefore get the news content they need without having to click through. No word from him on what he thinks newspapers should do on newsstands – perhaps they should be like old-school porn magazines, in plain brown wrappers.
Ken Ellis responds on NP-Harder: http://npharder.wordpress.com/2009/08/14/the-fallacies-of-arnon-mishkin/He picks apart some of the assumptions as to what constitutes value from links, and concludes, “All that being said, I still agree in principle with his final three points. However reclaiming value from aggregators isn’t going to help publishers much. They need subscribers and a pay wall. Not an iron curtain, but a permeable pay wall along the lines of the Wall Street Journal. There’s no save-my-business-model pot of gold out there in the hands of aggregators to help you pay for all that good journalism.”
TechCrunch proclaims “The Media Bundle is Dead,” http://www.techcrunch.com/2009/08/16/the-media-bundle-is-dead-long-live-the-news-aggregators/ Erick Schonfeld addresses paid content by claiming that back when newspapers still enjoyed local monopolies on news, “80 percent of the stories in the paper sucked,” but that the audience was still forced to buy the paper because there was no alternative. Kind of like the argument that the music industry has failed because people are no longer willing to pay $15 for a CD that contains one song they like, and 9 others that are crummy.
A post drawing an interesting parallel between Microsoft’s dilemma on how to compete with Google’s free Open Office product, while still maintaining its huge profits from its own MS Office suite http://www.pbs.org/idealab/2009/08/future-of-local-news-about-more-than-paid-content225.html
From “Scooping the News” a post entitled: Newspaper Access Fees Destined for Failure: http://www.scoopingthenews.com/2009/08/newspaper-access-fees-destined-for.html He compares the paywall solutions to pop-up ads. He lists five points that he claims explain why access fees will not generate that much revenue. Basically, the argument against boils down to the “internet readers are used to getting information for free, and they have lots of alternatives, so they’ll never pony up when newspapers start slamming down the paywalls.”