Becoming Professional: A Blog

Posts Tagged ‘Google


people talking

Original by David Boyle on Flickr

What good is technology? Why do we love it and use it? What motivates us to use the new gadgets and websites that come our way?

I may earn the title of Captain Obvious for saying this, but humans are social creatures. We like to talk to each other and compare notes. We compare ourselves to each other and show off. That’s the basic thought at the root of gamification’s leaderboards. I know that whenever I check into foursquare I like to see how I am doing in relation to certain friends in particular.

A woman holding her blackberry

By chellseeyy on Flickr

But it goes deeper than that. The products that are likely to stay with us are the ones that enable our communication. Those that are failing in other ways are surviving in some respects thanks to their ability to work with our social lives. Let’s take the Blackberry as an example. What do the urban youth love about the Blackberry? Is it e-mail? The Internet? The ability to open multiple applications at once? Nope. It’s BBM. Free texting mixed with social network style updates. RIM is even trying to extend their brand by capitalizing on this love for their messaging service. BBM is apparently coming to Android.

Let’s look at Facebook. Why do people stay on it even when many can go on for hours about how much they hate it? For this I’ll turn to one of my favorite YouTube songs: the Facebook Song by Lynnea Malley. One of the lines in the chorus says it all: “Facebook, oh it would be sublime if I could erase you without being disconnected from society.”

But is making it easier to connect with others the key to success in our new digital world? Not necessarily. Though tools and products that make it easier to communicate more naturally are coming into the market (dare I look to Google+ as one such example?), there are other factors to consider.

  • Network advantages certainly come into play. This basically means that as each new person joins a network the value of the network for all the members grows. This in turn makes it more appealing to join. It can be summed up by saying “All my friends are there, so that’s where I’ll be, too.” If all their friends weren’t on BBM, then the urban youth would not be using it.
  • Utility is also important. So what if we can communicate in a natural and organic manner if we can’t use it when we need to? I’m going to poke at Skype here. Though Skype mobile apps and Skype phones are now available, not everyone has one. I don’t. So rather than showing my mother the shoes I am thinking of buying while in the store and talking with her about them, I have to either take a photo and text, avoiding Skype entirely and using an unnatural communication method, or buy them and Skype chat at home where I can try to show the shoes to my mother using my not-so-great web cam. Of course, that’s a comment on the camera technology as well as Skype.
  • Branding and money can also play a part. How else did Google+ get millions of users in only a few months? Of course that doesn’t solve the problem. Money can only “lead the horse to water.” It can’t “make it drink.” Google+ now has to get all those people with accounts to use them.

So no, making it easier for us to communicate is not the only thing to think about when trying to think up new products for the market, as much as that feature is in demand. What other roadblocks can get in the way? Feel free to add some in the comments.

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In the past few months, I had the good fortune to attend the first Google Firestarters event, where I heard and participated in a fascinating discussion of what agile business practices can do for both agencies and clients, and the IPA Club 44 Event at Microsoft, where I got to hear industry insiders talk about the advertising opportunities found in games. Why did I attend these events? Lord knows, I was generally exhausted, had deadlines to meet for school and work, and really only wanted to snuggle down with a good book. But they were worth it. After each of these events I felt re-energized, ready to tackle larger, harder problems, and better equipped to do so. I got myself to get over my laziness by just thinking of how I’d feel afterwards. It’s like going to the gym. After work, it’s the last thing I want to do, but I tell myself how great I’ll feel afterwards and go.

So, to help you motivate yourself to go to that next event, I am finally doing some short event summaries. This one is for the Google Firestarters event. Expect the IPA Club 44 Event in the near future.

Google Firestarters – Agile and Innovative

Harry Met Sally Movie PosterThis event was all about being agile and making things happen. Mark Earls was the first keynote speaker. He pointed out that people are herd animals. Best example: After the When Harry Met Sally’s famous restaurant orgasm scene, the little older woman says “I’ll have what she’s having.” Yeah, we flock together. And not only with our conscious choices. Mark also brought up an obesity example. Did you know obesity is contagious? Apparently, you are 60% more likely to be really large if a close friend is. Too bad it doesn’t work in reverse! However, Mark’s biggest point was that if an action isn’t visible, the herd mentality and contagiousness of state won’t come into play. Humans need to see it to copy it.

Stuart Eccles was the second speaker. He focused on start ups and how they, not the big companies, are changing our world and how we work in it. Unfortunately, there is no direct comparison between start ups and larger companies. But that doesn’t mean larger companies can’t learn from how start ups do it. Start ups Make to Learn to Test to Make, etc.focus on doing the minimum to achieve a goal, the customer, and being agile through iterations. The basic agile cycle larger companies can use is: Make → Learn → Test → Repeat. The trick is to do this process quickly, testing at every possible opportunity, and to start the entire cycle off at Make, not Learn, as unintuitive as that sounds. However, Stuart warned us not to confuse iteration with incrementalism. With iteration, you know what the beginning looks like, probably have a vague idea of where you want it to go, but you have no idea what the end will actually look like. You simply haven’t gotten there yet. With incrementalism, you know what the end will look like, you’re just doing it piecemeal. Hist final warning was that iteration won’t tell you what the best idea is, but it will help you to hone the idea you have.

question mark made of puzzle pieces

After the speakers we broke off into a short unconference. I spent the entire time in Ramzi Yacob‘s group discussing how agencies can encourage clients to work in more iterative ways. We tossed around tons of ideas, and it is really an interesting question to puzzle. In fact, more interesting than our solutions are the various problems: if clients give agencies only 10% of the actual budget to experiment with, we may have convinced them to experiment, but can we actually show impressive results with a small budget? Also, innovation usually fails. How do we keep client trust when this is just the way it is and yet we’re supposed to be the experts? How can we get around short-term sales appearing more important than long-term innovation?  How can a company motivate its employees throughout the change (or employees within the agency, for that matter)? The solutions suggested were often quite good and enlightening, such as approaching heritage brands with agile first because they generally recognize the need to stay up-to-date and relevant, or using case studies from different sectors to illustrate the possible gains. I personally like the idea of billing by results. But still, the problems agencies face tends to be more enlightening since the solutions wont be discovered in a discussion. They’ll be discovered through doing. Yet the problems we face can be discovered by sharing experience and then defining them together.

This event was truly fascinating and really worth attending. I hope to attend future Google Firestarters events, too, and report on them. You can find Neil Perkin, the organizer’s, summary of the event here. He goes into more detail about all the other unconference discussions and has some interesting points of his own about the event.

So In the Future…

Attend what events you can. I hope that this has inspired you to go to the next cool networking or presentation event you hear about. You can really walk away with some cool nuggets. If you know of an event that will happen, write about it in the comments. If you are, rather, looking for an event, write about that, too. We might be able to help each other out.


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Who Am I?

I am a Digital Native who is trying to puzzle out what exactly that means. I share my thoughts on social media, digital business models, and PR here on this blog.

I am currently getting my Masters in Digital Marketing from Hult International Business School, having gotten my B.S. in Marketing from Arizona State University. Everything is on track and I am making headway towards my dream: World Domination... or being a productive, helpful citizen and marketer. Whichever comes first.

Don't hesitate to get in touch. I Tweet daily at @KateDavids and also have a science fiction and fantasy blog (maskedgeek.wordpress.com) and Twitter (@Masked_Geek).

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