Free by Chris Anderson - The full book is here... Free.

Chris Anderson (remember the concept of "Long Tail"? He invented it) did an impressive job writing this book. It's been a real source of inspiration for me and the least I can do is offer this little space to his publication. Chris recently release this book for free. Obviously.
So grab it, read it and learn from it.
It really changed the way I think about the concept of "Free". Hope it will work the same for you.

FREE (full book) by Chris Anderson (Read in Fullscreen)


You and the world's pulse: how Personal Context and Zeitgeist can change user experience forever

2010 word cloud


Have you noticed that the “contextual” part of digital experience is growing? With “contextual” I mean related to a environment in a specific space and time: time context, personal context, geographical context and so on.
We start seeing experiences that ask you to login (mostly via Facebook Connect) to gather user data, friend connections and content (e.g. pictures) that are then used to customize the user experience.


Two examples might give you the idea in a second:



Personal Context

I really like the idea of a unique and customized user experience, even if what we start to see now is just some experiments of customization with entertaining purposes. The point is such a solution could help providing the user something that’s not just interesting, but useful.
This could have a wide range of applications:

  • Finding out the best product for you by analyzing who you and your friends are and what you say (take a look at the “Meet the Volkswagens” project)

  • Giving you product support by identifying you through a quick login (e.g. Facebook Connect)
  • Providing the best version of a commercial website to you according to your tastes and habits
  • how a product and service can work for groups of friends (and not just for one person)
The possibilities are obviously endless. Keep an eye on this trend.


Zeitgeist


On the other hand, you might have seen the new Yahoo! Homepage or the new widget Twitter has just release for tracking real time conversations about specific topics.
The ability to keep an eye on what’s being said on the web in an aggregated way is real and is made everyday easier by technological improvements we are facing.
I think the idea of Zeitgeist (an aggregated “Spirit of the time”, the aggregation of the top topics the global conversation revolves around in real time) has the chance to be another important element of future experiences.
Think about how your experience could be even more unique if customized also on the basis of Zeitgeist: you’ll have all of your connections, data and contents but also a synchronization of the experience with the world’s pulse. With what’s happening right now.
Zeigeist doesn’t necessarily have to be referred to the whole world, but to a wider area than your personal interaction space.

It’s an extension of trending topics (similar to Twitter’s top 10) brought into a single experience. Another example for Zeitgeist can be TweetMixx (currently in beta), that aggregates links from Twitter and shows the most tweeted ones. This allows user to know which links are "hot" or interesting for the world at any given time.

The experience could customize itself for you recognizing the global mood through main keywords (positive, negative, happy, sad, relaxed, frenetic), understanding what group of topics might be of interest to align you with what the world is saying or simply giving you an idea of how lively is the interweb at a specific moment.
Zeitgeist has all the elements to be useful and interesting, just like Personal Context. It can be a complement of it.


Personal Context and Zeitgeist

By mixing the element of Personal Context and Zeitgeist, people will be given the opportunity to see what’s going on for their social graph as well as what’s the world’s pulse.
This will make the experience really unique and unrepeatable.

What’s your take?
What are your experiences with Zeitgeist?
Do you use tools to track it and does it influence you somehow?

Photo credit: craa22uk


Digital marketing = experience more

Starbucks in York


As a consumer, I’m always impressed when a product or service turns out to be an experience, rather than a purchase of goods. I love the Starbucks model: buy a coffee, but live a relaxed and characteristic moment. I like to buy on eBay because I have the possibility to share my thoughts and get hints and feedbacks from the huge community behind it. I also like Apple products because when I get one, I find a thousand possibilities that come with it and that weren’t at the core of my decision (like buyng MacOS X and appreciating GarageBand). For more, Apple has a tremendous packaging that’s pleasant to open and use, and this is a part of the experience, too.
It’s not like getting the cream with the coffee and it has less to do with the model “buy one get something free”: it’s like the product and service itself extends from the awareness and consideration phase to purchase and re-consideration.
I’m a fan of the new book by Chris Anderson: “Free”. My personal take from that book is that’s very important not to concentrate all efforts on the purchase phase, but on everything that’s around it, too. Simply because this is part of the product and service experience.

Is it marketing or product?


Coming to the digital part of this reflection, I – as a marketer – get everyday more convinced that what once was provided as a communication and / or marketing solution is now part of the product and service.
If you consider marketing as the activity of connecting consumers with products and services through brands, you soon discover this big truth: when something generates this connection by letting the user experience the product more, you’re acting on the product, not just on side elements.
“Experiencing more” can mean a lot of things: it could be an anticipation of the experience in the awareness or consideration phase, it could be making the purchase phase more significant, but it could also be making the most of the post purchase phase (through great support, too).

Is it really happening?


There are so many examples of digital marketing, communication and business solution that can just be recognized as product experience (or service experience). Let me give you 4 examples:
  • The new interactive “FunHub” by CarnivalCruise: a Social Network on a cruise ship. This gives the guest the possibility to with friends and find new ones on board. It’s a marketing tool, but it’s also a product feature. And it adds a lot to the experience. It will be perfect when it will perfectly sync with the off-shore digital community by the same brand.
  • Live Blu-Ray Disc (the possibility to comment a movie live while watching it using your personal social graphs. See the first experiments here.
  • Zappos, with a great direct consumer shopping experience.
  • Disqus, which I recently spoke with as a consumer: they provide an excellent community management service. If you have a problem you can write almost anywhere in the web and they’ll get back to you to solve your problems. Very efficient.


A pattern for digital marketing?


Marketing is developing more and more in the direction of extending brand and product experience. It can’t be seen anymore as something independent, it truly allows consumer to “Experience more”. The value of the digital world is to make this trend possible today.
The best digital ideas are the ones that add value to the consumer experience. But the consumer experience is tied to the product or service since the awareness and consideration phase.
What’s your take?
Do you see this trend, too?
Do you have any examples?

Photo credit: Phototram

It was there to see. Google makes it clear. Reflection on web-based uX.

On July 7th Google announced Chrome OS, the new Google Operating System through a little blog post (not certainly a big launch). As you might have noticed, this tiny post created a huge buzz. Frankly, it didn’t surprise me: almost everything Google does is has a big impact on the digital scenario.

Something else got my attention

I was really impressed by how almost everyone focused on Google challenging Microsoft (see this TechCrunch post that call Chrome OS a “nuclear bomb” dropped on the company from Redmond). Of course, Chrome OS is a competitor to Windows. But only on certain devices (it’s focused on netbooks) and Microsoft still has 90% of operating system market share.
This announcement really got me thinking about the modification of the way we approach to our digital life. It’s shocking to think how traditional operating system have always been at the core of everyone’s activity and browsers just a piece of software, almost a plugin, for it.
Today – presenting Chrome OS – Google clearly states what was there for everyone to see: the digital experience revolves around the web.

We don’t need operating systems with a browser. We need browsers. We need experiences.

The operating system is just a technical fact, needed to support the browser. We’re evolving to a world where almost every application can be web based. Also high-level games can be played “in the cloud”, using the browser as a terminal and letting the consoles somewhere in a server farm do all the job.

There’s more

Think about how this can change your everyday experience.
Now think about how the social web is evolving: social networks like Facebook are developing a lot of functionalities, getting closer to being operating systems. A web-based experience (especially in mid-2010, when Chrome will be released) will not have any chance to succeed without being social. I think referring to the “Eras of Social Web” can be a good way to imagine a scenario.
  • First, expect the social experience to characterize your everyday desktop experience (Seesmic desktop is a good preview of how it could happen)
  • Then, expect your Social Graphs to improve your everyday experience: by knowing your data, connections, friends, behaviours and content, the system will adapt and provide contextual content
  • The border between web and local will blur and so will disappear the separation between social experience and personal – local experience (even when in “private mode”, your information are vital to your system to customize the experience for you

I think the announcement is great mostly because of these implications. The Microsoft challenge is just something derived from it. I think Redmond is already moving in this direction, to evolve the operating system experience and put the user at the core.
The digital experience gets thus more and more useful and interesting for the user.

What’s your take? Can you feel this change, too?


Here's a video on the reason why Google built Chrome (browser). They're trying to increase the amount of time on the web.

Image credit: Michperu


Public Updates: What's in for Brands?

Social Network Updates Going Public: What's in It?

Public Profiles = Better uX Contextualization + Better Consumer Experience


This week Facebook announced the introduction of a new feature: the possibility to share content and status updates publicly, just like it happens with Twitter.
At first sight, this choice looks just like a new possibility for user's privacy setting, but it hides a whole world of possibilities for brands to build a universe that is one step closer to what Jeremiah Owyang defines as "The Era of Social Context".
A quick look at what happens today with Facebook's public updates, which is close to what happened with Twitter's public profiles.

Public data

While there is still private data (users need to opt-in to show updates publicly), there is going to be a lot of user data shared publicly. Brands can start analysing this public data to improve their relationship with the user. This is what happens today with Facebook applications that read your profile (see Volkswagen Facebook Application example). These public data situations are shared situations where brand adapt their actions according to publicly shared data.


Public context

By sharing their updates, users also choose to build a public context: situations where, just by entering a profile username, everyone can see a context adapted to that profile. An example of this is any application that relies on Twitter profile name for personalization (see Volkswagen Twitter example).

A relevant outcome

Expect a lot from this: public profiles (result of public data and public context) will allow to grow a social environment that will get nearer to the Era of Social Context. We can expect it to eventually help brands providing better user experience contextualization and better consumer intelligence.

Updates from Facebook

Twitter Updates

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