Why would I ask someone else to manage MY online reputation? Part 1

Either I have a reputation or I don’t. And reputation is not something I can buy off the supermarket. It’s not just my brand, personality or product; my reputation is my identity. It’s really all I have and it took years of sweat to build it.

Reputation has a huge problem. It is invisible; however hard I try looking even in the mirror I just can’t see it. The only way to know it even exists is listening to who’s saying what. Yeah, you experts will give me reasons why my reputation isn’t okay or how some rumour eroded it or how, for a “small” fee you can give me good advice. Dammit, I already told you it’s all I have and I’m not letting someone else use it to experiment with their theories.

We accept as a verity* of capitalism that someone (usually an expert) knows more than someone else (usually a consumer). But information asymmetries everywhere have in fact been gravely wounded by the Internet.

Information is the currency of the Internet. … The Internet has accomplished what even the most fervent consumer advocates usually cannot: it has vastly shrunk the gap between the experts and the public.

The above excerpt from Freakonomics says it all: the message is loud and clear that the experts – PR agencies, Advertising folks, Media Publications, the new breed of Social Media ‘experts’ – and all the erstwhile keepers of information asymmetry have to learn to play the game by the rules of our times. The rules do not allow for you to build your business by taking advantage of my ignorance or by hiding the source of your information. Are you game? No? I thought as much.

Which is why I had a huge problem with this Economic Times story: Social Media Entrepreneurs are transforming companies virtually. Read my lips – “by simply affixing the label ‘online reputation management’ on CRM techniques and tools, you just fell back to your old ways of creating information asymmetry.” Fortunately, this time around your white-labeling tricks couldn’t fool too many.

So here’s the thing. Reputation management is not like any other technique or methodology that you can learn in a B-School. Reputation is the ‘perception’ of a person, company, institution, nation whatever.

Reputation is about the personality of the entity as seen and felt by all those who come in contact with it directly or indirectly. And personality is not only about how you look in the photoshopped version of your picture on the cover of Vogue.

Personality is who you are and nobody but nobody can present you to the world without knowing the real you. Not even the experts.

Question I’m leaving on the table:

1. Who do you think is managing Airtel’s online reputation? They are doing a great job, don’t you think.

a) PR agency
b) Internal MarComm guys
c) Advertising folk
d) All of the above (Social Media ‘Expert’) 😛

_________________________________________
*Something, such as a statement, principle, or  belief, that is true

Note: This is the first part of a series of 3 – hopefully I have been able to give the reader some sense what reputation is. More importantly, I hope you have your own understanding of what it isn’t. Feedback welcome.

(go to Part 2) >>

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Revisiting – The Original Sin

The Original Sin (image source: IT Magz – October 2007)

RT @AnubhavSharma: Why is ‘save’ icon still a floppy? <— This question recently on my Twitter timeline prompted me to dig out from our archives this old article by Sunil Malhotra for IT Magz back in 2007, titled ‘The Original Sin‘.

The article had also mentioned the same issue and I post excerpts from it here –

Continuous and aggressive improvement is not as easy as it sounds. There are aspects that we technophiles must make ourselves additionally accountable for. Things that go so far unnoticed that they become absurdities. Here’s a simple provocation:

Who in today’s world would even know what a floppy disk is! The “Save” icon has lost its context but Microsoft does not seem to have even noticed its extinction. This illustrates how oversight or short-sight can create habits; even users stop noticing things that were meant to help them in the first place. The suggestion that emerges from the above example is to design interfaces that communicate at higher levels of abstraction so that their meaning is not lost when products of everyday use become obsolete. To think things through instead of either immediately imitating “œfamiliarity” or rushing into applying our existing skills. Imagine having the graphic of a dinosaur as a signage for a wildlife sanctuary in today’s world.

I can only suggest that we, the IT community, take a higher degree of responsibility for the total software experience – simply, that from our current focus on functionality and performance we must move up a notch into sustained usability.

Definitely something to think about. I love the term ‘Sustained Usability’ used here. Something you don’t get to hear of much, especially not from Experience Designers.

You can view the PDF of the entire article from here or access it from the IT Magz website.

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Neutralising Applethink

Neutralising AppleThink
Watch out Apple! App publishers choose to go the web-app way instead.

In my previous post about the Smartphone wars -“ Android vs Apple – I had touched upon the point that some people feel that Apple may have adopted a rather restrictive approach when it comes to their devices and the app store.  While consumers have to get used to downloading apps from the Apple store, the deal is not so sweet for the app publishers.

This is what a recent HBR post says –

An interesting battle is looming over Apple’s newspaper and magazines subscription pricing for iOS devices (notably the iPad). Apple’s offer to publishers is simple. They can offer an app that allows consumers to buy individual issues of their content or to subscribe to it from within the app; the publisher sets the pricing. But Apple will take a 30 percent cut of the revenues and it will also require the publisher not to undercut the price offered to iPad app users.

Which is why we now see newspaper and magazine publishers – the likes of Playboy and Financial Times – coming up with an interesting way of bypassing the Apple App Store. These gutsy app publishers have chosen to make iPad optimised websites rather than apps that are downloadable only through the Apple app-store. While for Playboy it might be that they do not qualify for Apple’s strict no-nudity policy, for FT, in their own words –

Firstly, the HTML5 FT Web App means users can see new changes and features immediately. There is no extended release process through an app store and users are always on the latest version.

Secondly, developing multiple ‘native’ apps for various products is logistically and financially unmanageable. By having one core codebase, we can roll the FT app onto multiple platforms at once.

Well Playboy’s and FT’s reasoning does seem to be sound from the user’s perspective too. While with the use of HTML 5, there is close to no compromise on the experience of the app – you can still touch,  swipe and flick your way through the app – the user is also not forced to get tied down to a medium and can access the same content on any device via the mobile web app route. This is also perhaps clear writing on the wall for Apple on exactly what they are doing wrong by having such a strong control over their app store. Clearly where Android seems to be scoring higher points.

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Smartphone Wars

Wanting to buy a touch-screen smartphone, I asked the good people on Twitter for their help in choosing between an iPhone 4 and a Galaxy S 2 and was overwhelmed by the number of responses in favor for Android! There is no denying the kind of support / backing Android has managed to get over such a short period of time. Surely they must be doing something right. Was discussing this with boss-man and I got a smile as an answer. He had of course, yet again predicted this a while back.

So what is it that Android is doing so right, or Apple doing so wrong? The 2 very strong viewpoints I got were –
1. Android is much more configurable. It gives the power in the hands of the user. AND it’s cheaper! “Why throw away your money on iPhone when you can get something just as good much cheaper.”
2. While there is no denying the User Experience of the iPhone devices, a lot of people seem to find the Apple way of working rather restrictive. Even the store manager at a store in Saket said (and I paraphrase) – “iPhone does not give you the flexibility of sharing data. No bluetooth. You can only transfer data to your device using iTunes. And you can sync your device with only one pc at a time or risk losing all your data.”

The restrictiveness of the Apple-way also comes to the fore when we see their strong control over the app store and their continued resistance towards Flash (Adobe). App publishers like Playboy and Financial Times are now coming up with innovative ways of bypassing Apple’s restrictiveness – which may also be quite beneficial for the end users actually. I will try and cover that in another post though.

Lifehacker has also compared the 2 OS from the perspective of a ‘Power User’ in this post.

Apple vs Android (source: Lifehacker)

While the Apple vs Android debate may continue, Ideafarms is backing Android for now. We also welcome your opinion on the topic. Do let us know which phone / OS you prefer and why. You can also join the discussion here –> https://www.facebook.com/topic.php?uid=179127528783537&topic=568

[As for me, I might still end up getting an iPhone but that’s because it’s an old itch I have to scratch. Although I must admit I almost changed my mind 5 times while writing this post :D]

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Use of Augmented Reality for marketing – still a long way to go for India

At Select City Walk (A mall in Delhi) in the main atrium where the regulars would know that they tend to have cars on display, yesterday the car that was displayed was the Ford Fiesta. But there was something different this time and what caught my attention were these big round red booths with an iPad attached to each. Excited to get a first-hand taste of Augmented Reality, all thoughts of meeting my waiting friends escaped my mind and I decided to give this a shot, only to come out extremely disappointed.

Ford Fiesta iPad Booth at Select City Walk – No magic happening here!

So the red booths were spread in a circle around the car displayed in the centre and the iPad in each was pointing towards the car. The so-called iPad app in the car was nothing more than a website adapted for the iPad’s interactions [iPad 1.0 if I may] which was in no way whatsoever utilising the vehicle kept right in front of it. The maximum extent of interactivity available in the app was that you could rotate the car 360 degrees. (I wonder which genius thought that one up since the car was right there in front of you to walk around.) The feature listing was again in a very website format and I was very disappointed because what I had imagined was that you could walk around the car with an iPad in your hand and some “magic” would happen. I asked the guy who was helping you interact with the app there (can you imagine an iPad app that someone has to help you use?!) if the iPad had an Augmented Reality app. He goes, “Ma’am I’ve never heard the term!”

Wondering which company had developed this app, I headed to Google and what I found instead was this video link to another Ford Fiesta iPad app.

Now even this app (not AR) by the same company, is far more interesting and better executed than what I saw yesterday.

And of course we have all seen the oh-so-many marvelous examples of how Augmented Reality is actually used to boost the experience at a car booth.

A few thoughts that come to mind with which I will sum up –

1. Marketers need to understand the real potential of the devices and the technology they are using to be able to come up with truly valuable ideas. Anything else is just a gimmick and more often than not would leave the user feeling irritated thus negating the entire experience that you so painstakingly created for them.

2. India still has a lot of catching up to do as far as tech innovation is concerned – especially in the advertising and marketing space. Infact I wonder if we will ever get there. I don’t know whether the blame lies on the “idea guys” who are pretty much still clueless or the marketing folk who remain tight-fisted and are not willing to part with the moolah. My guess is that it’s a bit of both.

Google Streetview Mashups

Seeing some nice pictures people have taken through Google Street View from around the world, roused our curiosity  and we decided to read up more about it. The first stop was the Street View site by Google. On the site, Google claims that Google Maps with Street View lets you explore places around the world through a 360-degree street-level imagery. You can check out restaurants, visit neighborhoods, or plan your next trip.

They even have a technology page on the site where they have described in detail the process, techniques and equipment they have used to gather all the street view data and have stitched it together for viewing. Quite impressive. You can read more about it here.

So of course the next question that came to mind was (we have seen quite a number of examples of very useful mashups that were created using Google Maps over the number of years), whether the same has been done with Google Street View. Below are a few examples we liked.

1. Stweet – Google Street View convenes Twitter

Stweet as the name suggests is a mash up of Google street view with twitter. It shows the exact location from where the tweet originated against a panoramic view of the location using Google street view.

Once a user selects a destination, Stweet shows the tweets from the selected location and as the user moves around in Street-view, it shows more tweets from those locations.

Stweet refreshes automatically when a new tweet is found in the destination that the user is viewing. Currently only available for some cities of US and Europe.

Created by: We Love The Net

Link: http://www.we-love-the.net/Stweet/

2. Zombie attack on Google street view –

Streetview Zombie Apocalypse developed by Wonder-Tonic

is a game using Google Street View. The user can choose his location and can fight the zombies and“œmoving pins” against the street view of that location.

You can play the game here: http://wonder-tonic.com/zombie/

3. World Cup Soccer 2010 Venues – Step up on Puyol’s playground

If you’re a sports fan, you probably came across this mashup developed for the Soccer World Cup – 2010. You can take an inside look at the various World Cup venues, pan around and check out the videos and images from that location and read up more about the location. It was early days yet for Google Street View but this was quite a nifty little tool developed for those who are fans of Soccer and Technology both.

Link: http://www.mibazaar.com/worldcupsoccer/venues.html

4. Globe Genie –

And now you can roam the streets of London and take your own short vacation while sitting in the air-conditioned comfort of your office. Globe Genie is mashup using Google’s street view technology with which you can teleport yourself to your favorite destination. You can view street level details about almost any place and it feels like actually you’re there.

Just select the continent and hit teleport, experience a whole new level of possibilities.

Link: http://web.mit.edu/~jmcmicha/www/globegenie/

5. Street Traveler –

A mash-up to virtually travel around the streets of some of your favorite cities around the globe. Roam around the streets of Sydney, Prague, Paris, Rome, Tokyo, Barcelona, Madrid and London using Google Street View. It lets you read about your favorite destinations, visit your favorite landmarks, and tour around in the panoramic view.

Link: http://streettraveler.blogspot.com/2009/08/list-of-places-in-rome.html

(If you’re in the mood for a few laughs, you can also check out these funny sights captured while taking some of the street views http://www.streetviewfunny.com/streetviewfunny/index.php)

However, looking at these examples and more, it’s pretty clear that it is early days yet for Google Street view and it hasn’t yet been tapped for it’s full potential. We are not sure whether it is because Street View by itself imposes some technical constraints (it could be that it’s just not as handy as Google Maps yet) or whether it hasn’t been explored as an option by people yet. We are definitely interested in exploring this further and discussing ideas on how Google Street View can be used to create more valuable tools. If you have some ideas and feel that you would like to discuss them with us, do feel free to reach out or share.

(Incidentally, Google has already started capturing Street View images for India and Bangalore is their pilot.)

source : http://ibnlive.in.com/news/google-launches-its-streetview-project-in-india/156060-3.html

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Should we let them walk all over us?

Small in size but in the news always for the right reasons, Ideafarms maintains that it follows a partnership model of engagement with its clients as opposed to a traditional client-vendor relationship and we have also successfully lived the model over a period of 8 years (2002-2010) with Continental AG. One of the key ingredients of any partnership is “trust” that the parties have to invest in each other to be able to successfully derive mutual benefit from the engagement. While we believe we did more than our share to establish a successful partnership with Continental AG, we feel we have been dealt with the short end of the stick in this case.

In the news – For all the right reasons

‘Should Government Support Davids?’ was a very pertinent question asked in this Economic Times article (dated 28 April 2011) which raises important issues about protecting overseas, the intellectual property created by India’s Small & Medium Enterprises. We know that it has perhaps not been a cakewalk for us to sustain a legal battle against a blue chip European multinational and we can understand the plight of many others like us, some of whom may not be able to afford fighting for what rightfully belongs to them – their intellectual property – being flouted brazenly by companies that least need to do so.

Quoting from the article –

“While Indian information technology companies should, indeed, be encouraged to diversify into software products whose intellectual property they own and license, what recourse do Indian companies have, particularly the small ones, in case foreign parties , particularly large ones, violate their intellectual property? Is it possible for the government to fund the legal expenses of Indian companies defending their intellectual property abroad, once initial screening shows a viable case?”

Ideafarms would love to hear your views and looks forward to starting a debate on this important and relevant issue.

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A quick summary from Navteq Developer’s Day

Back from attending the Navteq Developer’s Day with my colleagues Pranav and Ashish, this post summarises some of the points that stood out for me during the entire event.

Location-based Advertising

First things first –

  1. The grub was amazing.
  2. I won a USB stick during the developer’s special part of the event, while (ahem) my “techie” colleagues looked on. And you don’t want to know for which question but it was a very proud moment for me. I would like to thank my mother, my father…

Alright I will come back to the real deal. So Navteq is an organisation which supports application developers in building ‘Location-based Applications’ by supplying Maps data and also helps them in bringing their apps to market. They are currently expanding their reach with Indian Map data and thus the event. During the course of the day, they touched upon the type of services that they provide of which what stood out for me was:

  1. They will be providing Destination Maps – which will cover Map information beyond the final Destination. Destination Maps can actually provide information for how a market place or mall is laid out and which shop is on which floor. This definitely opens up opportunities for a number of interesting app ideas.
  2. 3D Map views.
  3. By the end of 2011, they may also be providing traffic information.

I can already think of a few Augmented Reality app ideas just by combining the last two points.

The most interesting part came during the later part of the day when a panel of industry experts discussed the trends and future for location based applications. Some very interesting trends and ideas were discussed during this session like-

  1. Applications should be able to learn from a user’s habits and provide him location-based services accordingly.
  2. In the future there may be an app that is able to study a person’s appoinment calendar and map it to the traffic conditions to alert the user in case he needs to reschedule or plan an alternate route.
  3. In the Indian context, the routes and timings for DTC buses are already being mapped to be able to provide real-time information to commuters. A gentleman in the panel raised an interesting point that real-time information for the Indian Railways would also be helpful for commuters and which doesn’t exist presently.
  4. One of the questions raised during the discussion was, which are the existing services which could be enhanced with the use of LBS.
  5. Location as well as context/POI based advertising was touted to be a big thing in the future.
  6. Enterprise level Location Based Services is an area which probably needs attention and could have a lot of potential. Anyone else thinking logistics here?

All in all, it was an informative event. As a side note, what stood out for me the most was the ease and humor with which Steven Citron-Pousty (the presentor from DeCarta during the developer’s hour and the giver of the free USBs) presented. He kept the audience engaged the entire time, even non-techies like me. Oh and the grub of course ;-).

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W(h)ither World on The Living Principles

The original article had been written in 1997 and the following is an excerpt from the post that was edited for The Living Principles.

Design sensibility as applied to sustainability and appropriate technology exposes new dimensions that embrace environmental concerns: habits and cultures of native people(s), potential for building indigenously on acquired technologies, protection of native heritage, promotion of craft, eco-friendly issues and the like. Design thinking plays a crucial role as a qualitative audit mechanism for adaptation of ‘preferable’ over existing fiscally ‘preferred’ packages. The prime concerns for sustainability are contextual relevance in native settings and the present-future availability of skills and material resources. The benefits of such auditing are evident and must be accrued cumulatively for true impact.

Looking back, I am amazed to find that the thought is still very relevant. Infact, it’s probably more relevant today than ever before.

Read entire article here

UI Design Patterns – Our Recommendations

More often than not, a good User Experience is not about reinventing the wheel but putting together in a logical (and aesthetic) manner, interactions that the user is already familiar with. UI Patterns are a great way of incorporating well researched and established rich interactions into your application without getting into extensive research or testing.

There are a number of sites which compile commonly used UI Patterns, indicate what the pattern should be used for and also show you examples of how these patterns are applied across different examples. As a designer, it is then up to your discretion to see which pattern fits your requirement the best and adapt it to your solution. Most UI Design Pattern Libraries are also a great source of inspiration – keeps you up-to-date and also shows you how other designers are implementing them.

Having gone through a number of UI Patterns sites for projects in the past, I will list a few that I find the most useful.

Design Pattern Libraries

Yahoo! Design Patterns

Yahoo Design Patterns Library
Yahoo Design Patterns

One of the most useful Design Pattern Libraries for me is the one from Yahoo!. They have categorised their patterns into useful sections like Layout, Navigation, Selection etc which makes them easy to browse. They also tell you which Design Pattern solves what problem which further helps in selection. Helpful resources – like related patterns and pattern code examples – for both developers and designers have also been provided.

Designing Web Interfaces (by Theresa Neil)

Designing Web Interfaces
Designing Web Interfaces – Theresa Neil

A 3 part series of Design Patterns – Screen Patterns, Essential Controls and Common Component Patterns . This one is especially recommended for beginners as it explains in detail which screen pattern should be used in certain cases and also provides multiple showcase examples. Download the pdf for Standard Screen Patterns and keep it as your handy quick-reference guide.

UI Patterns

UI Pattern Tap
UI Pattern Tap

A good compilation if you want to see a design pattern applied across different examples. Another great source for inspiration would be Pattern Tap – select a interaction pattern and quickly see multiple examples of its usage.

Go through these patterns and soon you will find yourself talking like a pro UX Designer. Beware though; these patterns can just give you guidance and offer tips & examples on how to use them. They are not a ready-made solution for your particular requirement. You will need to do your due-diligence for that. Or just bring it to us and we will do it for you ;-).

[Since we are developing a lot of mobile applications now, I am also researching Mobile UI patterns now and will share if I come across some good resources. Do drop a link if you know of any.]

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More often than not, a good User Experience is not about reinventing the wheel but putting together in a logical (and aesthetic) manner, interactions that the user is already familiar with. UI Patterns are a great way of incorporating well researched and established rich interactions into your application without getting into extensive research or testing.

There are a number of sites which compile commonly used UI Patterns, indicate what the pattern should be used for and also show you examples of how these patterns are applied across different examples. As a designer, it is then up to your discretion to see which pattern fits your requirement the best and adapt it to your solution. Most UI Design Pattern Libraries are also a great source of inspiration – keeps you up-to-date and also shows you how other designers are implementing them.

Having gone through a number of UI Patterns sites for projects in the past, I will list a few that I found the most useful.

Design Pattern Libraries

Yahoo! Design Patterns – One of the most useful Design Pattern Libraries for me is the one from Yahoo!. They have categorised their patterns into useful sections like Layout, Navigation, Selection etc which makes them easy to browse. They also tell you which Design Pattern should be used for what which further helps in selection. Helpful resources for both developers and designers have been provided along with the patterns.

Designing Web Interfaces (by Theresa Neil) – A 3 part series of Design Patterns – Screen Patterns, Essential Controls and Common Component Patterns . This one is especially recommended for beginners as it explains in detail which screen pattern should be used in certain cases and also provides multiple showcase examples. Download the pdf for Standard Screen Patterns and keep it as your handy quick-reference guide.

UI Patterns – A good compilation if you want to see a design pattern applied across different examples. Another great source for inspiration would be Pattern Tap – select a interaction pattern and quickly see multiple examples of its usage.

Go through all of these patterns and soon you will find yourself talking like a pro UX Designer. Beware though; these patterns can just give you guidance and offer tips & examples on how to use them. They are not a ready-made solution for your particular requirement. You will need to do your due-diligence for that. Or just bring it to us and we will do it for you ;-).

[Since we are going to be doing a lot of mobile application work now, I will be looking for Mobile UI patterns and will share if I come across some good resources.Do drop a link if you know of any.]

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