Commerce

Business and Web 2.0

A couple of conversations recently have made me review some of the literature and links about "enterprise 2". 

From stuff I've been reading, or re-visiting:   

I believe that Moore’s Law and Metcalfe's Law and Gilder’s Law have created an environment where it is finally possible to demonstrate the value of information technology in simple terms rather than by complex inferences and abstract arguments. 

 

Web and speed: II

Had I seen it last Monday (the BBC reported it on Thursday), I'd have linked to this Akamai press release, Akamai and JupiterResearch Identify '4 Seconds' as the New Threshold of Acceptability for Retail Web Page Response Times, in my previous posting, Web and speed:

Based on the feedback of 1,058 online shoppers that were surveyed during the first half of 2006, JupiterResearch offers the following analysis:

  • The consequences for an online retailer whose site underperforms include diminished goodwill, negative brand perception, and, most important, significant loss in overall sales.
  • Online shopper loyalty is contingent upon quick page loading, especially for high-spending shoppers and those with greater tenure.
  • JupiterResearch recommends that retailers make every effort to keep page rendering to no longer than four seconds.

You can download the JupiterResearch, vendor-sponsored (Akamai) report as a pdf via this page (requires registration). On page 9:

When it comes to page rendering, retailers must consider how well the site must perform in order to minimize shopper dissatisfaction. Based on recent survey data, JupiterResearch recommends that retailers make every effort to keep page rendering to no longer than four seconds. Overall, 28 percent of online shoppers will not wait longer than four seconds for a Web site page to load before leaving. Broadband users are even less tolerant of slow rendering. A full one-third of online shoppers with a broadband connection are unwilling to wait more than four seconds (compared with 19 percent of online shoppers with a dial-up connection). Consumers who have already invested in a high-speed Internet connection do so with the expectation that pages will load quickly. And, based on current availability, pricing, and adoption rates, JupiterResearch expects broadband adoption to reach nearly 78 percent of online households (or 58 percent of all US households) by 2010. The prevalence of broadband-connected online shoppers will continue to grow, and retailers must meet their expectations accordingly.

According to Akamai's press release, 

Close to half of the retailers on the Internet Retailer Top 500 list still experience site response times in excess of four seconds, demonstrating the need for site acceleration services.

(Akamai: 'the leading global service provider for accelerating content and business processes online'.)

Quite a gap between four seconds and the 'increments of 100 milliseconds' Greg Linden says Amazon was testing. For Marissa Mayer, half a second 'killed user satisfaction'.


Customer consciousness

After Guy Jackson, Electronic Publishing Manager at Macmillan Dictionaries, left a comment on my about the OED/KB917422 issue, I was thinking how we've come to accept that a blog posting about a product, made in some corner of the net, can be easily found by a conscientious company — or rival — and commented on … and how in this way we have a new customer/business relationship.

This was flagged up months ago by Robert Scoble when he spoke at Reboot 7 (I wrote up something about this and there's a bit more ) and, of course, there's Robert's and Shel Israel's book, Naked Conversations — sub-title, 'How Blogs are Changing the Way Businesses Talk with Customers'.

Then, earlier today, I read Alex Barnett on 'support tagging'. Read his whole for the background to this idea. This struck me:

Naturally, there will be those who scoff and respond to the support tagging idea along the lines of "Why? Customers should come to our support site, and open a ticket there". And that's how it's done today - make your customers come to you.

But why not reverse this completely? In one sense, this already happens today: customer conscious companies are trawling the RSS search engines and blogs looking for customer feedback / gripes / issues and post comments on those blogs (or post a blog and pingback). This is how these companies win the hearts, minds and loyalty of their customer. It's amazing customer service - a true differentiator. 

By providing a support tag, it could allow for further structuring around this 'listening to the blogs customer support' approach.

I'd given my post a number of specific Technorati tags, including KB924867 (the hotfix MS has now issued). I noticed a Technorati search was run for http://technorati.com/tags/KB924867 yesterday morning — and there's only the one post tagged with KB924867. I don't know if this was how Guy found my post, but one reason I tagged it like this is because I know the KB917422 issue will have affected a lot of users out there — and this tag might be a way to spread the word that a hotfix has arrived. 

Whatever the route, Macmillan has got itself into my consciousness because Guy bothered to find and then comment on my post. And because he did that, I discovered that any student having a copy of the Macmillan English Dictionary has free access to the Macmillan English Dictionary Online. When a student next asks my advice about buying a dictionary, I'm likely to pass this news on to him, too. 

I really like Alex's idea of extending this much further: a company issuing a support tag for a product would get my attention if they picked up on my blog post (tagged with the support tag), commented there and acted to help. The come-to-me web, indeed.


SpiralFrog

My first thought when hearing of SpiralFrog? Same as Publishing 2.0:

You’ve got to pity the poor advertiser faced with figuring out how to allocate ad dollars across all these new media.

But I was also excited. Anything that appears to break the ridiculous status quo of the music industry is bound to set expectations going. However ... questions certainly remain.

BBC News reported:

'Vivendi Universal, the world's biggest music group, has signed a deal to make its music catalogue available on a free legal downloads service. Under the agreement, Spiralfrog will offer Universal's songs online in the US and Canada. New York-based Spiralfrog will launch its service in December and make its money by carrying adverts on the site. Spiralfrog aims to take on market leader Apple's iTunes service, which charges 99 cents per song in the US.'

And CNET:

The downloads could be played on the PC or transferred to a portable device, though notably not Apple Computer's iPod.

(The FT also has a piece.)

Nice to see Apple, iPod and iTunes under pressure, and it was easy to take Universal's move as heralding more of 'content … at no cost'. But there's cost and cost, and this does appear to cost — in DRM:

Spiral Frog will offer a desktop downloader for Windows Media Files (no iPods!) that can be listened to on one PC and two portable devices. Here’s the kicker - you must log in to the Spiral Frog service at least once per month, and see their ads, or your files will stop playing! The details aren’t fully set in stone, but it will be something like that. There will be links to third party sites of the record labels’ choosing if you’d like to buy your freedom to at least skip the ads. TechCrunch

I'm also wondering how SpiralFrog will deal with payment to artists, but more than anything else I can only second what TechCrunch says: 'It will be an exciting day if the major labels come up with something truly more compelling than piracy on one hand or coercion on the other - but I don’t think this is it'.

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IT versatility

The most sought-after corporate IT workers in 2010 may be those with no deep-seated technical skills at all. The nuts-and-bolts programming and easy-to-document support jobs will have all gone to third-party providers in the U.S. or abroad. Instead, IT departments will be populated with "versatilists" -- those with a technology background who also know the business sector inside and out, can architect and carry out IT plans that will add business value, and can cultivate relationships both inside and outside the company.

That's the general consensus of three research groups that have studied the IT workforce landscape for 2010 -- the year that marks the culmination of the decade of the versatile workforce. What's driving these changes? Several culprits include changes in consumer behavior, an increase in corporate mergers and acquisitions, outsourcing, the proliferation of mobile devices and growth in stored data.

What's more, the skills required to land these future technical roles will be honed outside of IT. Some of these skills will come from artistic talents, math excellence or even a knack for public speaking -- producing a combination of skills not commonly seen in the IT realm. …

"For my money, the hot jobs in 2010 will be these enabler jobs: business enterprise architects, business technologists, systems analysts and project managers," says David Foote, CEO and chief research officer of Foote Partners LLC, an IT management consultancy and workforce research firm in New Caanan, Conn. "If I were in IT, I would be in one of these jobs in the next five years. A lot of people can't because they're pure technologists. …"

Computerworld (via Ross Mayfield, del.icio.us)

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Three into one: eBay, PayPal, Skype

As expected …

EBAY INTENDS TO INTEGRATE SKYPE into its auction service to further facilitate communication between buyers and sellers on the site, CEO Meg Whitman said at its Analyst Day late last week. The company also plans to use Skype to launch a pay-per-lead ad system to increase revenue on the site.

Describing the integration of PayPal and Skype with eBay as "the power of three," Whitman said that integrating Skype would help buyers connect with sellers in a simple and trusting fashion, one of eBay's chief missions. "PayPal created a simple yet incredibly powerful way to handle payments on the Web," she said. "Likewise, Skype found a whole new way to deploy voice technology to create the simplest online communications product in the world today."

MediaPost: Online Media Daily

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Dan Gillmor: lessons from Bayosphere on Citizen Journalism

Dan Gillmor has a fine piece here about the Bayoshpere venture into citizen journalism. There's much to thank him for in the posting: for one thing, his clear outline of the business options they considered before settling on publishing is a useful list for anyone considering doing something similar.

Bayosphere didn't get airborne, and the best of Dan Gillmor's posting lies in the lessons he's drawn from the experience:

Bayosphere attracted quite a bit of traffic, and some heartening effort on the part of some citizen journalists. I'm grateful to them for trying. But as is obvious to anyone who's paid attention, the site didn't take off -- in large part, no question about it, because of my own miscues and shortcomings. My friend Esther Dyson says, wisely, "Always make new mistakes." Did I ever. But I learned from them, and from what did work. Here are some of the lessons:

  • Citizen journalism is, in a significant way, about owning your own words. That implies responsibilities as well as freedom. We asked people to read and agree to a "pledge" that briefly explained what we believed it meant to be a citizen journalist -- including principles such as thoroughness, fairness, accuracy and transparency. Although some cynics hooted that this was at best naive, we're convinced it was at least useful.
  • Limiting participation is not necessarily a bad idea. By asking for a valid e-mail address simply in order to post comments, you reduce the pool of commenters considerably, but you increase the quality of the postings. And by asking for real names and contact information, as we did with the citizen journalists, you reduce the pool by several orders of magnitude. Again, however, there appears to be a correlation between willingness to stand behind one's own words and the overall quality of what's said.
  • Citizen journalists need and deserve active collaboration and assistance. They want some direction and a framework, including a clear understanding of what the site's purpose is and what tasks are required. (I didn't do nearly a good enough job in this area.)
  • A framework doesn't mean a rigid structure, where the citizen journalist is only doing rote work such as filling in boxes.
  • The tools available today are interesting and surprisingly robust. But they remain largely aimed at people with serious technical skills -- which means too ornate and frequently incomprehensible to almost everyone else. Our tech expert, Jay Campbell, did a heroic job of trying to wrestle the software into submission to our goals. We still felt frustrated by the missing links.
  • Tools matter, but they're no substitute for community building. (This is a special skill that I'm only beginning to understand even now.)
  • Though not so much a lesson -- we were very clear on this going in -- it bears repeating that a business model can't say, "You do all the work and we'll take all the money, thank you very much." There must be clear incentives for participation, and genuine incentives require resources.
  • On several occasions, PR people offered to brief me on upcoming products or events that they hoped I'd cover in my capacity as a tech journalist, but were happy to give the slot to our citizen journalists. This testifies to a growing recognition among more clued-in PR folks that citizen journalism is here to stay.
  • Although the participants -- citizen journalists and commenters -- are essential, it's even more important to remember that publishing is about the audience in the end. Most people who come to the site are not participants. They're looking for the proverbial "clean, well-lighted place" where they can learn or be entertained, or both.
  • If you don't already have a thick skin, grow one.

Marc (Canter) has some comments about this here (and see, too, Lloyd Shepherd's posting). As Marc says, 'How many failed CEOs would blog it - and explain what went wrong, their own shortcomings and deliver an honest apology?'.

No surprise, then, that I also take away from Dan Gillmor's posting respect for his honest self-appraisal: 'As an entrepreneur, let's just say I wasn't in my element. The relentless focus on a single, limited project for long periods of time, combined with the inevitable compromises inherent in for-profit decision-making, turned out not to be my best skills'. (A friend of his said, "Well, you've always struck me as more of a dot-org kind of guy than the dot-com kind".)

The experience hasn't shaken Dan Gillmor's faith in citizen journalism: 'As the Bayosphere project was playing out last fall, I concluded that I could do more for the citizen journalism movement by forming a nonprofit enterprise, a "Center for Citizen Media" where I could put my skills and passion for the genre to better use'. His concluding comments are full of hope:

The shift in how we communicate and collaborate, how we learn what's going on in our world, has barely begun. Predicting the future is for other people, but I'm optimistic that we'll collectively figure this out.

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The next revolution in interactions

Dion Hinchcliffe on the recent McKinsey & Company article, 'The next revolution in interactions' (free registration required):

McKinsey sites "phenomonal growth" in jobs requiring complex transactions, almost 3 times higher than for transactional jobs and the general economy as a whole.  They also cite numerous other recent statistics to back up the point, and which are worth further study.  The most salient point for us to take away is that the biggest productivity gains remaining in the economy will come from removing transactional burdens from employees so they can engage in higher-value interaction activites.  I would observe that many of these interactions are the most widely enabled by Web 2.0 style techniques like harnessing collective intelligence, customer self-service, The Long Tail, and many of the others.

The actions recommended by McKinsey are a fascinating study in Web 2.0 style concepts for collaboration, participation, content exploitation, loosely-coupled connections between diverse IT systems across the board (a critically important topic which I wrote about recently in the SOA Web Services Journal), etc.

Posted via Performancing 1.1 (now with added TrackBack support, del.icio.us integration — and much more!)

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Little boxes

John Naughton's column in today's Observer has an entertaining couple of final paragraphs about Apple's new TV ad and Intel's gobsmacked reaction:

'The Intel chip', it burbles. 'For years, it's been trapped inside PCs, inside dull little boxes …'

These preceding paragraphs are the meat, though:

The move to Intel processors takes Apple into uncharted territory. For the first time it will be possible - with a little bit of tweaking - to run Windows natively (without going through a software emulator) on a Mac. The prospect of so-called 'dual-boot' Apple computers - ones that can run both Microsoft and Apple operating systems - now seems real. This could be good news for people who run PCs, not because they love them but because an application essential for their business only runs under Windows.

It's more difficult to see what the upside of this would be for Apple. It might mean that it sells more computers and finally penetrates the corporate marketplace - hitherto a Windows-only zone. But the impact on Microsoft would be negligible, because people will still need Windows licences if they wish to run a dual-boot machine.

More troubling for Apple is the prospect that its operating system and applications software can now run natively on (much cheaper) PC hardware. The company is set against this, but already programmers have hacked it and it is difficult to see how Apple could stop the practice. If it catches on, Apple might see sales of its computers decline as those who admire Apple software but dislike its hardware prices get the best of both worlds.

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