Wednesday, April 29, 2009

LifeStream, The Space of Flows or Just Stream

Today I read David Gelernter' interview on The Edge.

He was talking about the concept of LifeStream. It struck a cord with me.

"38. A "lifestream" organizes information not as a file cabinet does but roughly as a mind does.

39. A lifestream is a sequence of all kinds of documents — all the electronic documents, digital photos, applications, Web bookmarks, rolodex cards, email messages and every other digital information chunk in your life — arranged from oldest to youngest, constantly growing as new documents arrive, easy to browse and search, with a past, present and future, appearing on your screen as a receding parade of index cards. Documents have no names and there are no directories; you retrieve elements by content: "Fifth Avenue" yields a sub-stream of every document that mentions Fifth Avenue.

40. A stream flows because time flows, and the stream is a concrete representation of time. The "now" line divides past from future. If you have a meeting at 10AM tomorrow, you put a reminder document in the future of your stream, at 10AM tomorrow. It flows steadily towards now. When now equals 10AM tomorrow, the reminder leaps over the now line and flows into the past. When you look at the future of your stream you see your plans and appointments, flowing steadily out of the future into the present, then the past."

I have been working on a new project we are calling SehHey - more later. For one feature we were stuck just calling it "My Stuff" or even "Stuff". 

As a part of this feature you are able to place things - files, gadgets, pictures, links, documents, etc. - into a carousel. The carousel "flows" when you move from one group to the next. Kind of like a stream flows.

I like it. The SehHey Stream. Create your own SehHey Stream. Sounds good.

Any opinions?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Customer Retention

The American Agent and Broker magazine has a timely post on the value of keeping your existing customers. It Bears Repeating... 

While Laura Toops is focused on you keeping your current customers - and I agree - I think you also need to find cost effective ways to get the 8% to 15% of insurance buyers who are changing carriers this year.

Here is the list I believe in for why people change insurance companies:

1 - bad experience with current company - claims, service or premium increase
2 - move to new area
3 - buy first car, or in some demographics buy new car
4- new relationship with some one in the insurance business they would trust and like to work with
5 - sold by active sales approach

I have no idea of the order these fall in for volume. I'd be interested in your feedback.

Reasons 1,2 and 3 would be sales you get as a result of being found.

Reasons 4 and 5 would be sales you would get as a result of being active.

Where do you and your business come out on these?

Online Marketing Without Search

Only one result gets to show up first in search results. As much as the boomer generation wants everybody to be a winner, in search there is only one winner.

Like a friend of mine once told me about playing in tennis tournaments, in a draw with 64 players there are 63 losers.  Put that big L on the forehead boys and girls.

So if you can not win in search marketing, how can you win in online marketing?

DoshDosh had a good post about this recently titled Marketing Your Website Without Search Engines.

For many small businesses I believe this is your best approach.

To quote...

"Without search engines, people will do what they’ve been doing for thousands of years. They rely on each other. They rely on the community, on the collection of publications known within their geographic location or industry. They rely on word of mouth. And they also rely on getting information from common resources like a public square, library, forum or marketplace.

Go where people gather. There you will be heard. It sounds like rudimentary marketing but quite honestly, until I’ve tried ignoring search engines and focusing exclusively on gathering points, I didn’t realize how much actual marketing I was NOT doing."

The problem is most small businesses do no intentional marketing at all. That is not the same as no marketing. We all create some kind of impression on the people we interact with everyday. Whether we intend this to be our marketing, it will be seen as marketing by those with whom we interact.

I say as long as you are marketing by default, why not put some thought and effort into it and get the results you would like. Build a better business.

If you use online banking, how did you get the web address of the bank to go to for your online banking? I doubt you found it through search.

The key for your online banking was the bank gave you something you valued. You went to the site they told you to go to, logged on, and used the service. Then you went back again and again.

For your business what service could you provide that your customers would come back to again and again? That is what you need to offer.

Friday, April 24, 2009

1 Billion Downloads in 9 Months

Wired had the story today on Apple's 1 billionth app store download

Image how fast the world and our baseline expectations can change when you realize this was done in only 9 months.

I can tell you as an i-Phone user of 2 full weeks today, I find it hard to remember a world before I had an i-Phone full of apps. Maybe its my memory or maybe they are just that useful.

Last night I showed my i-Phone to my brother in law at about 11:45 PM. Two hours later I took it away from him so I could go to bed.

The thing really has that effect on people. It will do you no good to go to the store and see it. You have to get someone to loan you theirs for 30 to 60 minutes. Would won't put it down and you won't make a phone call. The phone is just a nice to have thing on the i-Phone. To be honest, if the i-Touch had 3-G access instead of just wi-fi, I might never get an i-Phone.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

How to Write for Non Readers

Since I have been waxing on and on about blogging and Twitter, etc, I thought it would be a public service to share some fun at my own expense.

For years I have irritated my wife by telling folks I have a Bachelor of Arts in Spelling but have seen my chosen profession replaced by spell check software.

After reading McSweeney's new English Department course description - Internet Age Writing - I am now going to change my BA to Writing for the Non Reader.

Here is the course introduction as a tease - the whole thing is worth the read...

"Course Description

As print takes its place alongside smoke signals, cuneiform, and hollering, there has emerged a new literary age, one in which writers no longer need to feel encumbered by the paper cuts, reading, and excessive use of words traditionally associated with the writing trade. Writing for Nonreaders in the Postprint Era focuses on the creation of short-form prose that is not intended to be reproduced on pulp fibers.

Instant messaging. Twittering. Facebook updates. These 21st-century literary genres are defining a new "Lost Generation" of minimalists who would much rather watch Lost on their iPhones than toil over long-winded articles and short stories. Students will acquire the tools needed to make their tweets glimmer with a complete lack of forethought, their Facebook updates ring with self-importance, and their blog entries shimmer with literary pithiness. All without the restraints of writing in complete sentences. w00t! w00t! Throughout the course, a further paring down of the Hemingway/Stein school of minimalism will be emphasized, limiting the superfluous use of nouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, conjunctions, gerunds, and other literary pitfalls."

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Social Applications and Messaging

What would you think a good social application for a business should look like? What features do you think it should include?

Messaging? I'll say that is a basic requirement for anything to be called a social application.

Should that messaging be a stand alone system? If it was you would only know you had a message when you went to that application. I don't think that would be very satisfactory.

The messaging could connect with your email like Facebook does. That way you can choose to respond through your regular email or through the application.

Would you want it to have a standard public API? That would allow third parties to create a variety of services - like TweetDeck for Twitter - so you could have many more choices about how you could be notified about a new message. This would also give you more choices of how to respond.

Are there other options I am missing?

Which ones would you prefer?

Monday, April 20, 2009

i-Pod Touch - An Army of One?

While I recently just purchased my first i-Phone, I have had an i-Pod Touch since they first came out.

Especially with the upgrade to the i-Phone operating system, my i-Touch has been slowly replacing my laptop.

Yesterday Lidija Davis at ReadWriteWeb had an article about how the i-Touch is becoming the U.S. Army's "go to" device for networking the soldier in the field - The Future of Networked Warfare Begins with Apple.

If we can fight wars with mobile devices, maybe we can learn to use them in our everyday business life.

I know I have seldom needed to defuse bombs - probably not since that chemistry kit in junior high school. But I can probably think of some actually useful things. How about you?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Un-Written Rules for Social

In talking at several events lately I am continually asked how to get started with blogging, Twitter - social media in general.

My friend Kipp Bodnar and his co-hort Wayne Sutton had a very useful psoting on their site Talk Social News yesterday.

I especially agree with the advice on teh importance of commenting on other blogs. As a beginner Kipp's 10 to 1 ratio is too high. But the habit of reading others and writing comments will develop the skills you need to write your own entries. It will also give you an un-ending source of good material.

Take the time to watch - its worth it.

Talk Social News 017 - The un-written rules of the web for bloggers and tweeple from Wayne Sutton on Vimeo.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Getting Started with Social for Business

Yesterday I had the pleasure and privilege of talking with at a Chat and Chew luncheon with the North Carolina Automobile Insurance Agents Association. I talked to them about my experience with using social networking, social media and social online tools. I hope I was helping them get an understanding of how to use these tools for their business.

Today I was catching up on Chris Brogan's blog and found these two very timely posts.

The first titled Its Just as Difficult as it Seems speaks to the truth that this is real work. But I feel enjoyable and worthwhile work.

The second, titled If I Started Today gives good suggestions from an very experienced source on what to think about as first steps.

I will be writing more about this very soon, but this is a great approach for now.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Language, Communications and Media

Before the alphabet there was story telling. A real person, physically present with you, talking and moving. You could see, hear, smell, even feel their presence.

With the written word the message was separated from the messenger. Our language became more limited in how we interacted with it, but it became portable through time and distance.

Finally came radio and then television. You could again hear, then hear and see the messenger.

Our language became richer, more human without giving up on controlling time and distance. But the cost to use this communications platform was even more expensive - and therefore  limited - than writing.

Now, with the web our language - that of each of us as an individual - can become a  fuller language of media. The barriers of cost are gone.

Our language is now closer to us than in centuries. And our language is now media. Symbols, images, video, audio, text, interaction. We can provide a richer, more complete culture with more people in stronger relationships.

The result is going to be that all the software systems built since the first software was written will be obsolete without allowing us to work with it in our fullest expression of language. It takes a little time, but Internet time is faster than most.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Our Service on the i-Phone

As I mentioned yesterday, I just got my first i-Phone. I intentionally do not use the blog to promote the various products I am involved with, but today I am granting myself an exception under the heading of discussing the idea more than the product. Trust me, I will promote the product in plenty of other ways.

Below I have embedded a video of me using one of our services on my i-Phone. The focus is terrible, but I hope you can get the idea.

Here is what I love about this - whether my service or some one else's.

The i-Phone is fast enough to use a full browser and let me run the same programs I run for my work on my phone. This means I get all the same information when I am out of the office I can get when I am in the office. 

I can...

  • look up a customer,
  • see their picture,
  • see their address,
  • use the link to Google Maps to get directions,
  • click on the phone number to have my i-Phone call them,
  • see all the files, pictures, videos we have,
  • e-mail or message them through this service,
  • send them documents, forms, etc through this service

I can't...

  • upload new information into this service - maybe later

Maybe all of you are used to this level of mobile access. I have not been. the reasons have been...

  • Phones did not have a full browser, just mobile browsers
  • Connection speed was too slow for rich content
  • Most web services were using screen design without mobile applications in mind so the user experience was poor

These problems are just gone as I use this service. What a great new world. And it is only going to get better.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Mobile Computing

I broke down today and bought an iPhone.

I had a Treo last year. It was always an awkward shape to hold. My wife simply would not use it.

I was given a Blackberry Storm for Christmas by my son to replace the Treo. It is better.

I got the iPhone to use for testing various software as a service products we write and provide.

I now understand. I guess it is sort of like Twitter - until you use it you just can't get it.

It didn't hurt that the Safari browser ran all our services fast and error free.

My favorite cell phone will probably always be my first StarTac. After all, my favorite car is still my 64 VW bug. 

But now I "get" mobile. It is just better. It is just easier. I still have a ways to go before I get it all - but for now - wow!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Linked Data

Tim Berners-Lee talks about his idea of linked data. I find this a bit rambling - as his old boss said about his World Wide Web idea "exciting but vague".

Still, could this be a next phase? Could this work?

I am going to have to explore more.