Tag Archives for TechCrunch
Today Apple came out with a slew of new technology products for education. They will surely do more to provoke change, if they don’t do enough to help teachers improve their impact on children’s lives.
I had only one really big bone to pick with TechCrunch writer Matt Burns, who argued that iPads have no relevancy for teaching things like math or sentence structure
He misses the point, and I say so in this radio broadcast, where I argue that it’s never been the case that tech was supposed to teach. Teachers teach. Educators will always be the deciding factor in a child’s learning curve, not the technology. Quit making it about the technology.
More radio rants and musings to come via the Douglas Crets Flipzu channel.
Others on Google+ have made similar arguments that it’s the teaching and the way we use technology that matters. This great discussion about whether the iBooks 2 launch will be cumbersome reveals that people are using ebooks differently. It also points out that our understanding of school is a structural one. We are never that concerned with the meaning being created in school. We are always focused on how it’s done.
That’s because when we were younger, I would bet that 80% of our learning was spent learning how to exist in the education system.
My argument with tech innovations in education is that tech innovations will free all of us up to do what we want to do in education, and find the sources of our own learning, which is a hybrid of ourselves, our teachers, our communities, and the things we are passion about.
If Microsoft started to develop apps and productivity Office software for the iPad, would that be a signal that Microsoft is willing to cannibalize some of its own product suite and go for the innovation? And even if it was, is Microsoft targeting the right innovation in order to disrupt its own sales for more profit?
I think they are having a forest for the trees moment here.
Microsoft will be bringing all of the software we know and love to the iPad, according to this TechCrunch report. Up till now, you have not been able to do much real office work on an iPad. It’s a consumption device, meant to trigger sharing of links, or the viewing of video when you are flying from point A to point B. It’s a handy e-book reader. It’s a lean back machine. I see people using them on the subway all of the time. I’ve only seen one person using the iPad like a desktop. A flight attendant searching for flights to book last minute opened her iPad cover on the desk of a ticket agent at an airport in Charlotte, North Carolina, and revealed a spring-loaded keyboard, which she used to type in URLs.
And come to think of it, I talked to another guy on a flight from St. Louis to NYC, who said that he never bought an iPad because he could never find any ergonomically satisfying keyboards that would attach to it.
Therein lies the disruptive problem within the disruptive architecture of the iPad. I don’t think that adding a Microsoft Office Productivity suite to it will help, because the problem with the iPad and its gaps in consumption is not software, it’s hardware.
It’s a great machine, but people want it to do something it’s not doing, but they can’t get it to do that thing. They don’t like the keyboard on the touch screen, so they normally don’t use it for that. When they do use it, they have to put another keyboard attachment to it.
The Daily has a little more information on the move.
In addition to an iPad-ready version, a new edition of Office is expected for OS X Lion sometime next year. The current version of the desktop package, Office 2011, officially supports iOS versions up to Snow Leopard. A Lion version, likely available via the Mac App Store, is widely expected. Windows, too, is due for an update, with Office 2012 currently in beta form.
It’s assumed that both of these would work with Office 365 as well as mobile versions, such as Windows Phone’s Office Hub. Because it would be compatible with these full suites rather than as stand-alone apps, the pricing will most likely be significantly lower than existing Office products. In fact, it’s likely the cost will be around the $10 price point that Apple has established for its Pages, Numbers and Keynote products.
Microsoft already has numerous popular — and some not so popular — apps available for the iPad. They include Bing, MSN Onit and MSN OnPoint. There are even more available for iPhone, including Microsoft Tag, Windows Live Messenger and Wonderwall.
Re-Wired Group member Chris Spiek saw things a little differently than I did in a chat with him about it.
I think it’s an opportunity to provide a great solution. If they can ensure that .xlsx, .docx. and .pptx files open and display formatting correctly on the iPad, that will be huge for iPad users.Right now, you can open those files in the Apple-equivalent programs on the iPad, but formatting is always terrible, so editing/enhancing is limited.
Fred Wilson, venture capitalist and blogger at AVC, makes a great point in the comments section of one his recent posts about great apps being lost in the noise of the Apple apps store. He says, “You can’t market a great app if you can’t find shelf space.”
The issue is that nobody has really solved the big noise problem at the app store. How do you discover what you really need to discover for an app on your phone, for Android or for iOS?
Bob Moesta says that he just allocates himself $20 a month to discover apps and the price of admission is worth the two hours he might save if he finds a good productivity app. If he doesn’t, he’s just spent a dollar, and wasted ten minutes.
But should you have to waste any money at all? Appsfire, a mobile marketing platform, has come up with an advertising notifications tool that lets developers advertise a coming app. From the TechCrunch article, which reminds us that Appsfire co-founder Ouriel Ohayon used to work for TechCrunch.
The new ad unit, which functions sort of like a trailer for mobile apps, includes a full screen preview, a few visuals and the above-mentioned “notify me” button. Users can be notified both by push messages and via email, depending on their preference. On the backend, Appsfire tracks the application in real-time so it knows when the app goes live and then handles the automatic notification process.
This is an important part of marketing — keeping your app in the people’s minds. If you can do that, they are much more likely to find your new app, because they will be anticipating it.
This is not the full piece and it’s far from finding a real solution. As I said in the comments at the blog, “Great move on their part, but I still think the real juice in apps marketing and advertising is in social discovery, and it’s more about narratives of trial and error and what works for me and what doesn’t that sells or scuttles an app. I realize there is a structural problem to apps discovery, but this is only a very small piece, though a potentially lucrative one.”
The company is working on a version for Android.
Facebook CTO Bret Taylor has said that “most” of Facebook’s users have changed their privacy settings. So? This still only tells us that users follow Facebook’s suggestions on how to use the site. How are they using it otherwise?
Sergey Brin and Vic Gondotra say that Google is playing a different game than Facebook.
Sean Parker, CEO of Spotify and founder of Napster, was interviewed the other day about Facebook’s privacy settings at Tim O’Reilly’s Web 2.0 Summit. Parker, who sits on the Facebook board flippantly — according to him — answered that when it comes to Facebook and privacy there is “good creepy and bad creepy.” The comment, and the write up on TechCrunch have resulted in a little bit of back and forth on just what he meant, and whether Facebook does in fact suffer from a privacy problem.
What follows is a case of where a product-focused company wants the product to mean something for he consumer, which it doesn’t. The consumer has his or her own idea of what the product means. Facebook wants them to be as open as possible on Facebook, because, I think, Mark Zuckerberg wants Facebook to be the platform for open sharing, frictionless and without limits. The fact that they are participating on the platform means that this is what they want. But consumers don’t work that way. You can give a consumer a glass of water, but that does not mean he is drinking it.
Parker believes the problem is semantic, and that if users knew what they were talking about a bit better they would understand that their issue is not one of privacy but one of information control. In a way, he’s right, because from an aspirational point of view, like a marketer, he wants consumers to want Facebook to operate in a certain way.
The whole string of comments is here. The following is Parker’s position:
Allow me to rephrase myself — it’s not that privacy isn’t a general problem, it’s that privacy isn’t the correct way of framing issue. The point I was trying to make, which I have made more eloquently in the past, is that many of the problems that users attribute to a lack of privacy basically boil down to a lack of decent controls, which boils down to a lack of sufficiently powerful interfaces for managing the flow of information. This isn’t a “privacy” issue per se, it’s a functionality issue.
The problem is not even privacy or even functionality, it’s the people judging you or using your informations/opinions/pict
ures against you on Facebook. But I guess fixing that would need another level of changing things…
It is NOT voluntary on their part, it stems from a failure to understand what product changes would actually mollify the privacy concerns that keep coming up. Facebook tries to built all sorts of privacy panels and settings and controls, but none of this seems to address the recurring complaints. I am simply saying that they should build tools for controlling the flow of information like those described above. These would not be considered “privacy” feature but I would argue they will go along way towards addressing what most people are now calling “privacy” concerns.
You are using semantics to re-frame an issue that, in web design, is not a semantic one. On a web site, as you know, how a user interacts is framed by how the developer creates it. While it may not be the intention for privacy to be an issue, the user experience makes it seem as such. Therefore, it’s an issue. You can’t tell a person not to think about privacy because the site or the experience wasn’t designed properly. If I go on a date, and the person I’m on a date with sneezes, farts, and burps during the date, I can’t say later, well, the date just wasn’t designed properly. That’s the date I had, and that’s the date I experienced, whether the date wanted to fart, sneeze or burp during the wonderful plating of duck a la mode.You can use semantics to frame your issue, but as Facebook is constructed, that’s how people use and see the issue. There are questions already, about whether there is an actual FTC investigation going on — Facebook does not have to reveal this, as a private company. The only way they would reveal this, according to someone I talked to at the FTC, is through the registration of their SEC documents, when they file for an IPO. Facebook delayed their filing, according to recent reports. There are also, I believe, nine different privacy suits being filed against Facebook, according to other reports.Also, my original comment was also pointed to TechCrunch, which didn’t report that you had said that as a shareholder you didn’t believe you could give an accurate answer.
As we have pointed out before, the advertising and marketing professions are slowly coming around to the fact that what worked for traditional media in terms of reporting on numbers, performance in media, and overall impact of messaging just doesn’t work the same way in social media.
That’s not the only industry where you see this kind of disconnection. You also see it in the tech startups industry, especially in the social media apps sector. Take this article in TechCrunch, for example. It suggests that concierge app Alfred has delivered a resounding success to the market. But drill down, do those numbers actually mean that?
Here’s a slice from the article reporting on the latest numbers issued from Alfred’s founders:
…and they’re looking good. Thus far the application has given 7 million recommendations to users in less than three months. And users have ‘Liked’ two million venues within the application (you can use a Pandora-esque thumbs up or down to further train the app’s suggestions). Apparently those recommendations ring true, too: the app has 550 ratings and a 4-star average on iTunes.
The most important stat, though, concerns the way people are actually using the application. Namely, the fact that some 94% of the requests that go through Alfred are based on ‘Serendipity’ versus only 6% that are explicit searches.
So what does that mean?
I don’t think they mean what the writer at TechCrunch says they mean, which is:
These few-tap queries are what Alfred means by Serendipity, and their popularity show that people really don’t want to have to deal with typing things in manually when they can avoid it (it’s also a good sign for Siri, which similarly lets people avoid typing).
To commemorate their progress, Clever Sense has put together an infographic showcasing several stats, as well as the density of usage in San Francisco and NYC. To see the whole infographic, click on the image below.
But it doesn’t exactly mean that Alfred is a success. Here’s the comment I wrote at TechCrunch. I think that in order for someone in social media apps to prove a success, they have to prove conversion, not that the app was successful in passively suggesting recommended dining venues. The problem is, what happened next? Did it suggest and then did the person look at the suggestion and say, “No, I’d actually rather have pizza?”
The same problem haunting traditional media measurement haunts social media apps. Where is the conversion, the engagement and the Return on Interest and Engagement?
I don’t think we know. If you are the founders of Alfred, we would certainly like to know what you think of this, and what those kind of drill down numbers look like, for instance:
1. What is the recommendation to place actually visited ratio?
2. How many recommendations are to the same venue? To how many people?
3. How many recommendations per user, per day? On which days?
Updated with Comments from Bob Moesta
Before you read what we wrote yesterday, here’s an important update from Bob Moesta of the Re-Wired Group. When you read through this, consider that Hipster is a product that moves one step of evolution from its previous incarnation. It’s a reaction to other location-based photo-sharing apps. What is it doing for this market? What is Hipster doing for Hipster? Why would someone choose it? You can visit the Hipster site here.
What is sometimes difficult to understand in the real starting point of the consumer. In hind sight many things are “better” than they expected, and the features and benefits are explicit not valued going in are now valued, but consumption starts with choice and the value is defined in the moment of that choice. A loaded product or service out of the gate rarely works or creates the value of the sum of it parts. The design of the experience from first thought in the consumers mind to change, to candidates she considers, to the way the choice was made to the actual usage, need to be explicit and deliberate.Two warnings: 1. People who have not bought are very dangerous and misleading. My experience is that people want a lot of things, but actual value and choice are very different dimensions that they espouse.2. Your best users will lead you astray and build barriers to the “non-consumers or build “non-consumption” (people who want to buy but don’t).What we do to get around this problem when we research why people really buy, and why they ask products to do a job for them: We talk to people who just purchased or switched, the fresher the better. By interviewing them in a granular way, we slow the purchasing and choosing process way down and put the story into a cinematic time line from the first explicit thought through to the “now” moment. This helps us capture the physical, emotional and social angles of the story. Focus on why did they change? What were the cues? We lay out the “progress equation”, who or what were the candidates, and how did they choose? (What is the value equation at the moment of choice). Do this 5 to 20 times. Embedded in the stories are the design requirements and the keys to successful products. 95% of new products fail, a majority because they are over designed and over-capitalized because they have been designed from a hind sight perspective, not a going in perspective.
People often search for places, things, or people with whom they can create a story. Right? You go on vacation becuase you want an adventure and youw ant to bring something immaterial, but psychically valuable, back to the place you began your journey.
In a recent article about re-launched location-based app Hipster, I think Alexia Tsotsis missed the lede. She asked “Do we really need another location-based photo sharing app?” I thought about that for a second, as I read her interview with Doug Ludlow, Hipster CEO, and I thought, “Forest. Trees.” That’s not what is going on with Hipster, in my consumer-centric point of view.
Let’s start with our idea of home. Home is the place where you process what happened so that you can live with the meaning and the realizations that your experience gave you. This new app, Hipster, looks like it’s trying to bring all that data being processed for those memories live, at the place where they are happening. Home is also a concept. This blog is one of my homes. I bring images, ideas, links and other people’s ideas back to this home. I process their meaning here, because I can’t do it anywhere else. I am not There.
Here’s an excerpt from the TechCrunch interview with Ludlow:
When asked the question in bold above [Do we really need another location-based photo sharing app?], which is likely to be any logical person’s first question upon seeing the product, Hipster CEO Doug Ludlow replied, “Sending a postcard is the first step in Hipster’s very, very long journey, and we decided to start this journey with a feature that is fun, beautiful and viral.”
Ludlow says that the company’s eventual goal is to capture “the most important information, the most fascinating people, and the most interesting moments that take place in the locations around us,” and eventually hopes that people will pull out Hipster to get a good sense of the stories surrounding a given location. The postcards are just a “wedge feature” he emphasizes, a way to get people to actually use the service.
A consumer would love this product, if that consumer is in the market to know what he can learn by being in a present place in a moment of time.
Ludlow’s view of what happens in a location is a kind of game changing proposition: that you can crowdsource your own sense of a place, by pulling in the strands of other people’s experiences. I imagine that the postcard delivery part of it is a kind of memory-spawning SEO. If I send something out, something will be returned to me.