Wednesday, 8 September 2010

The Future of Social Objects

The Internet of Things, when real world objects are connected to the Internet, has been slow to attract the attention of budding entrepreneurs. However, there has been some startup action in so-called "social objects." We've covered two companies in this domain in recent times, StickyBits and TalesOfThings. The New York Timesprofiled a third company in this space over the weekend, Itizen.
All of these startups are searching for a business model, but there is massive long term potential in this market. Leandro Agro, CEO of sensor data company WideTag(our review), says that by 2050 objects will be judged more for their 'sociality' than their aesthetic value. It's an intriguing notion, so in this post we imagine what a 'social' tennis racquet might look like in 40 years.

Living Objects

In an interview for Wired Italy and the Venice Biennale of Architecture, transcribed on the WideTag blog by David Orban, Leandro Agro said that "tomorrow a social object might be associated with Italy not because of its aesthetic value but because of its level of 'sociality'." He sees an opportunity for his country, Italy, to take a leadership role in re-inventing the design of objects:
"Every object should tell its own story. The story of its past (what it is made of, where it was produced, how it is used) and its future (how to differentiate it, how to take it apart, how to recycle it). It should be actively self-aware (being sentient or at least having some idea of the time and place for its own use), be connected and social, in other words it should belong to us humans, "living" as part of our digital and social network. "
I expressed skepticism about social objects earlier this year, because the early startups in this domain were attempting to create new social networks on top of objects. I still think that's the wrong model. However, there is a lot of scope for online data from objects to contribute to yourexisting social networks.

A Social Tennis Racquet (Circa 2050)

Using Agro's vision, here is one possible scenario.
Imagine a tennis racquet with an RFID chip embedded in it. The chip specifies the materials the racquet was made with, which factory it was produced in and on what date, the strengths of that particular racquet compared to other models, and so on.
Then when the racquet is bought, the chip tracks the usage of the racquet. It will monitor for damage and wear, how often the strings are tightened or swapped out, and so on. It might also send to and receive information from other computing chips - in tennis courts, other players racquets, inside tennis clubs, etc. This would enable the tennis racquet to, for example, automatically track the tournaments its owner enters and the games it plays in (let's assume this is an amateur player, since professional tennis players swap racquets every set or so!).
This Internet-connected tennis racquet has a social element because it is being used by a person, who presumably uses the racquet to play tennis with other people. So that data from the racquet can be a contributor to social networks.
Using today's social networks to illustrate the point (although surely these will be seen as rather primitive examples of social networks in 50 years time), imagine your tennis racquet automatically checking you in to a tennis court on Foursquare. Or the racquet updating your Facebook page when you defeat your mate in a social game of tennis. Or the racquet sending you a DM on Twitter that it requires string tightening (!).
These and many other scenarios will occur over time, as objects get connected to the Internet and the resulting data meshes in with your social networks. So by extension, the tennis racquet will become a 'social object.'
While this is a future-looking scenario, are you aware of objects that are already 'social'? And do you think StickyBits, TalesofThings, Itizen and others are on the right track to realize this vision? - The Best in Social Business

Royal Mail Adds Augmented Reality Stamps

The Royal Mail has teamed up with next generation mobile augmented reality browser junaio to provide online content to smartphone users from Great British Railway’s Special Stamp issue in the space of augmented reality.
By simply pointing the phone’s camera onto the ‘intelligent stamp’ in the magazine when in junaio, an application will launch online content on the stamp’s theme — which for this particular issue sees a reciting of the “Night Mail” poem by Bernard Cribbins.
RBIT Limited, working with m2end, has provided a whole new way of interacting with the world of stamps on mobile phones. And if you think stamps aren’t cool, just remember the Queen has a stamp collection tucked away worth an estimated £100 million.
To access this additional information, users only have to download the application from
the iTunes store or Android market, open the Royal Mail channel and place the camera over the stamp.
After recent cases like smart packaging or the talking magazine, the intelligent stamp is another groundbreaking implementation of junaio’s unique capability to “glue” digital (3D or multimedia) information onto objects.
Philip Parker, head of stamp strategy at the Royal Mail, said: “This is the first time a national postal service has used this kind of technology on their stamps and we`re very excited to be bringing intelligent stamps to the nation`s post. He adds: “Through Intelligent Stamp technology, our stamps will open up to a whole new world of information, interest and fun to collectors and the millions of people who will receive them on letters in the coming months alike.”
The technology will also be made available on selected future special stamp - The Best in Social Business

How JetBlue Used Twitter to Treat Me Like A Human

People often ask me why I use Twitter. Until recently I found it hard to explain. I have to admit, it took me over 5 months to post my 2nd update after my first “Trying out twitter” post. It just didn’t click with me the first time around. Until I took the time to use it for a while and successfully make that step across the “Ah Ha!” threshold, it just seemed a bit pointless. Why in the world would someone care that someone they don’t know is about to hit Starbucks or buy a new drill at the Home Depot?
The answer is simple…at least for me. After I took the time, Twitter opened my eyes to a world that is full of people who want to help me, people who are looking for help from me, interesting points of views with a fresh voice, new friends, new opportunities, and of course companies that want to help improve the experience that I have with them.
Ok Ok Ok. I know. That sounded more like a sales pitch than I wanted it to. I told you it was hard to explain. You need something more concrete.
Let me share an experience I had on Twitter that shows the power of this little communication engine in action. Sharing my actual experiences with JetBlue (@jetblue) and how they used Twitter, on 2 separate occasions, to enhance my customer experience and address my concerns in real time, sheds more light on the power of Twitter than any white paper or elevator pitch ever could.
This is how JetBlue, and the people on Twitter, used Social Media to treat me like a human:

Leg #1 – Boston to Denver

I was taking JetBlue for the first time on a 2 day business trip to Denver. On the flight out I think someone accidentally hit the thermostat with their carry-on because I swear it was a minimum of 80 degrees on the plane. When I arrived, feeling even more filthy than I usually do when getting off of a 4.5 hour flight,  I decided to shoot this tweet to Jetblue and let them in on my discomfort.
In under 2 minutes, JetBlue responded with this tweet acknowledging my concern. It may seem like a small thing but think about it. Here is a huge organization listening to me complain about the temperature on their plane over a channel that is far from mainstream. Even more impressive is that it was not an automated response. There was a real person writing that little note. It may not sell more plane tickets but it definitely made me to tell this story.

Leg #2 – Denver to Boston

Now it was time for the return flight home and this time it was a red-eye. I was already grumpy about having to try and sleep in a seat designed for a 10 year old child so I decided to get there a few hours early, relax, and do some reading. I used one of the kiosks to check in and headed up to the counter to check in my bag. Low and behold, there was no one at the counter. It was a ghost town. My plan was shot. Perturbed with iPhone in hand,  I turned to Twitter and shot this Tweet over the bow of my new friends at JetBlue.
Not only did JetBlue respond to me directly, but other folks who follow me on twitter also gave me insight based on their own experience. JetBlue, with the help of the crowd, was again able to turn a situation that would have normally annoyed me into one of understanding and outstanding customer experience.
JetBlue gets it and Twitter helped them deliver it. Just Awesome.

There are many other company’s that leverage Twitter to enhance the experience of their customers and even more individuals who are looking to enhance the lives of the people around them. Get out there and experience both for yourself. Get involved and be amazed at what you will find and how many times people and company’s will surprise you.
Got your own Twitter “Ah Ha” moment? Please comment and keep the conversation going.
Enjoy and of course follow me (@daveraffaele) on twitter

Courtesy of Dave Raffaele - The Best in Social Business

Sunday, 5 September 2010

StickyBits - Something New To Think About..

This year’s SXSWi-ers were the first user group to be introduced to the world of Stickybits, a new user-gen content-and-location app. It’s been making pretty big waves across social and news media so we decided it was time to have a go with it in the office.
Essentially, it is a barcode to which you can upload content with your smartphone and stick to real-life objects. You can attach any sort of content to it (pictures, images, copy, audio, etc...) including the location, if you want. Other people can then discover and scan the barcode to see what you’ve uploaded (the content that ‘owns’ the bar code) and can add content to it (a bit like commenting on a blog - so everyone who scans/views the code after you will be able to view the content you've added).
Try scanning the barcode above (you will have to download the app, but it's free) to see how it works.
Official barcodes can be bought or downloaded from the Stickybits site but, in an interesting twist, you can apparently also ‘tag’ (add) your content to existing barcodes as well (yep, even the one on that can of cola on your desk).
I’m not entirely convinced it’s eternally practical, especially in a broad scope of accessibility as it's a smartphone app and not a web based app. Part of the appeal of Twitter, Facebook, et al. is that they are web-based with mobile capacity, meaning they are more accessible to more people, in more ways, in wider demos. Stickybits is for smartphone users only (and not even all smartphone users - though Adam, our resident Googlevangelist, is happy they’ve included Android).
I also imagine there’s a huge amount of trust needed to make this work in a family-friendly, legit way for any sort of long term stability. I don’t think anyone wants to see streets lined with Stickybits or stumble across disturbing content (though apparently there is a ToS to abide by) while they're innocently scanning away.
Still, it’s intriguing. It opens up the door for brands (and not just the consumer ones, either!) to add another layer of interactive messaging to a physical product; a new layer of contact for building relationships.
It's a great step in the direction of on and offline integration and there’s huge potential to get really creative with it. Brands can incorporate reviews, best practice guides, user manuals, product notes,  inventory, tracking, feedback forms, viral contesting , maps, business information, networking details… the barcode is your oyster.
So now I put it to you – have you tried it out? Come up with some good ideas? Have any thoughts on its practicality, longevity or even relevancy? - The Best in Social Business

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Social Gaming...Whats next for Ipad?

The iPad has some pretty obvious use cases when it comes to board or card games, which can be played between two or more people using the same device. But could the iPad also spawn an entirely new form of in-person gaming?

Koduco, one of the latest graduates of Y-Combinator, may be one of the first companies to try. There are two things that allow Koduco to try new ideas with the iPad. First is the capacitive touch screen. Second, it’s light and maneuverable.
The first game from Koduco is PongVaders, a mashup of 80s arcade ideas: as in Pong, a ball travels back and forth between paddles on either side of the screen, and as in Space Invaders, there are aliens to blast.
But those were single-player games. In PongVaders, the game is meant to be played by two people, each operating a paddle on one side of thescreen. The accelerometer is also used, so that in some levels the players must take hold of their respective side and collaboratively move the device.
“The iPad is exciting because it’s really one of the first devices where you can get multiple users with a form factor that makes it convenient enough for people to actually use it,” says cofounder Cole Krumbholz, who has an academic background in human-computer interaction. 

The iPad is “more expressive in the way you can share it — it’s a more social device, probably one of the most social devices that has come out in the consumer computing space ever,” says Krumbholz.

Tablet computing could chip away at the notion that computers are inherently dehumanizing, if more social experiences are created. Koduco’s second title will look less like a game but even more interactive, with two players using the multi-touch capabilities of the screen to jointly control the eight tentacles of an octopus.

There’s the possibility unexpected intimacy in having two players both moving their hands on what is still, ultimately, a pretty small screen. That may evoke images of the iPad being used as a sort of technological pickup line — hey, baby, wanna wiggle my tentacles? — but Krumbholz and cofounder Jonathan Beilen expect a strong family market to emerge for such games, too.
In-person interaction over a game also raises some interesting possibilities for the spread of games, too. If there are millions of devices in the population, all with the potential for interaction through a game, could they birth a new word-of-mouth (or touch-of-finger) virality?

“I hate to say viral, but part of the decision to do things in person was to have a stronger personal experience that will tie between potential new customers in the game itself,” says Beilen.

Neither founder is sure where the company will go, but Krumbholz offers up the Wii as an example of radical growth in the game market. “When you saw the Wii come out, they created this new way that people could interact with a console, which generated a whole new set of in-person cooperative experiences for consoles,” he says. “This kind of device could potentially have a similar effect, where it opens up different ways to play mobile games.”

Courtesy of Inside Social Games - The Best in Social Business

Friday, 3 September 2010

Some New Twitter Numbers..

Twitter looks awfully mainstream--there's no other way to read the data Twitter chief executive Evan Williams shared in a blog post last night.
I don't say that on account of the more than 145 million users Williams claimed for the San Francisco-based status-update-sharing service, though that counts as a pretty good audience in anybody's Internet math. No, instead look at the chart showing how people access Twitter.
The most popular channel is Twitter's regular site, through which 78 percent of its users accessed the service over the last 30 days. No surprise there. But note the second- and third-most popular channels. Twitter's mobile site ( which works in even the plainest phone browsers, had a 14 percent share, and its even-more-compatible text-messaging option came in at 8 percent. (The numbers don't add up to 100 because you can use more than one app to read or write Twitter updates.)
Only after that do you see the smartphone applications you might have expected to see rank higher; the iPhone and BlackBerry apps, for example, came in fourth and fifth at 8 and 7 percent. Weirdly, the Android app--which I use so much that I've started forgetting what the mobile site looks like--doesn't even make the top 10 in Williams' list.
(Got an iPad? Twitter just released an iPad application that's been drawing some raves among the people I follow.)
Any time a Web service gets popular enough to draw serious traffic outside the universe of people who carry around high-end gadgets, it's a big deal. So is that service's settling on a business model or being deemed worthy of archival by the Library of Congress.
In the interests of full disclosure--and blatant self-promotion--I've beenusing Twitter since early 2008 as a sort of public notebook. Sometime in the last week, I crossed the 4,000-follower mark... which only seems impressive until you look at the far larger Twitter audiences of colleagues like Ezra Klein or Chris Cillizza.
There are more ways than Twitter to connect with me online, though: MyWeb chat runs from noon to 1 today. So if you're curious about Apple's new products--or anything else that's been going in the tech business lately--stop by and ask away. - The Best in Social Business

Social Media: What To Share and How To Share

Rule #1 of Twitter use – be helpful – right?  Does that make sense to you?  Absolutely.  Can you screw up your implementation of Rule #1 and ruin your Twitter presence?  Absolutely.    By the way, this rule applies to all forms of social media.
Let’s look at the idea of sharing in the context of two questions:
  • What to share
  • How to share
Automated social media – efficiency versus effectiveness
Megaphone by Kimba Howard on FlickrYou can automate parts of your social media presence.  ReTweet buttons are a simple example:  two clicks and you’ve Tweeted a useful link instead of typing it all out.  You can even set up automated Tweets, similar to E-Mail autoresponders.  Similar examples apply to other social media tools.
But here’s the important question:  Why automate?
There’s two ways to answer this question. One answer would address the methods used (efficiency).  The other answer delves into the more important question:  what’s your objective?  What do you hope to achieve?  What do you want your audience to do?  This reply delves into effectiveness:  Will automation help you achieve your goals?
When being helpful looks like spamming
Recently, Naomi Dunford of Ittybiz ( seemed to declare war on “useful” Tweets and called for a return (or resurgence) of informal Twitter chat, even designating a hashtag for this purpose.  A closer read of the post reveals the following key idea:  You’re not being helpful if you’re just presenting a guise of being helpful and creating a continual barrage of links.
Worse still, if all you’re doing is generating “helpful” output, you’re losing a big opportunity.
We’ve all seen these accounts, the ones that just post titles and links.  The worst offenders only link to themselves.  Actually, the worst offenders lie about what they’re linking to, but we don’t need to go there.
Since your blog posts and articles really should be helpful, pumping them out in an automated stream helps your followers by extension.  But when it looks obvious that it’s a machine at work, not a human being, it cheapens the gift by excluding the humanity.
Too much of this and it’s indistinguishable from spam.
When being conversational looks like spamming
On the other hand, if your social media output is purely social, you’ve need to be mindful of how this activity builds your business.  A number of celebrities or successful entrepreneurs churn out “personal” and “social” content with a minimum of links. Some look like they are just musing out loud or talking to themselves.
Granted, they may have less free time than working stiffs like you and me.  But they don’t look like they’re doing one of the most important things:  listening.  They’re just broadcasting, which is darn close to spamming.
The automation mindset obscures the need to listen
Automation is great.  It allows you to focus your time and attention on other things.  However, when information is being sprayed from the proverbial firehose, listening becomes even more critical.  People used to come directly to you with letters, phone calls and formal meetings and you had the ability to respond or deflect.  Now they talk to each other instead or they just complain to audiences, not to you.
If you delegate one thing, sometimes it’s easy to delegate a related activity.
I know that’s the MBA way, but you really need to think about delegating this activity.  You are the best listener and engager. You’re the one who should care.
The solution:  balance the automation with the personal touch
But you’re still limited by the same number of hours per day.  Automation may be a key component of the way that you communicate with the world.  It may be delivering valuable results to you.  If you want to automate Tweets to your blog posts, that’s fine.  But mix it up.  Respond to feedback, both on your blog and in Twitter.  Carve out some time to look for relevant conversations.
If you feel comfortable doing so, try:
  • using your Twitter accounts to just “hang out” and being social
  • acknowledge people (customers, suppliers, potential customers, remarkable people)
  • strike up a new conversation
  • experiment
Just don’t be the guy or gal who gets a machine to talk into the wind.  After awhile, too much “helpful” and too little listening just makes your voice blend into the cacophony we all live in today.  And that’s when you surrender the permission you earned to be listened to.

Courtesy of Social Media Explorer - The Best in Social Business