dchase Weblog Archives

Mobility and Meaning

Only humans can create meaning out of information, and we do this by playing around with information's contexts. Given this, handheld and wireless devices can potentially open up a whole new world of meaning for us:
"The obvious benefit in using mobile computers is that, by being with you, they can assist you in the context of your other activities."
- Peter Merholz, March 24, 2001

Michael Wolff riffs on the idea of new economy companies as cults in this quarter's Forbes ASAP. He's right. But, he's way off in trying to make it appear that it's something new or even limited to technology companies. Some people use the word culture rather than cult to describe a corporation's belief system. The head of a company (CEO in modern parlance) as visionary leader has been a standard concept in American business for most of the country's history. Examples: Samuel Slater, King Gillette, David Sarnoff, Fred Smith, Thomas Watson (IMHO Microsoft models their culture more on 1960's IBM than 1980's Apple) and Sam Walton . To survive, large companies must have a recognizable culture that employees can embrace (or reject, in which case they usually leave) and use as a basis for decision making. Without a strong corporate culture a company would fail once it got to a size where the leadership of the company could no longer make and control all decisions.

The question is not as much whether tech companies are cult-like, but at what point does culture (a good thing) become cult (a bad thing). At what point do the white lies necessary for a strong culture become the foundations of fraud?

Posted by Dick at 12:00 AM

Information Loss Leaders

Here's an idea...

I know and fully understand that news sites need to make money. In fact, I willingly pay my annual subscription fee to the Wall Street Journal to access their content online. The writing is excellent, the content is topical and insightful. There is nothing wrong with paying for quality. Indeed, it seems to me that paying for quality is a good thing.

Still, I often come across something really interesting in wsj.com that I want to share with others. But if others (meaning you) don't subscribe, I can't share. And knowledge kinda just sits there like a lump of cold oatmeal in a pot (once yummy to me, kinda useless and ugly to you).

So, how about if news sites gave individual links for free, but charged for full access to all content. By this I mean that I, a subscriber, could offer a link to a full WSJ article that you, a non-subscriber, could see without paying squat. Thing is, though, you wouldn't be able to see anything else in the WSJ without subscribing (other than an ad or two and an invite to subscribe). You and I get to share quality information, but the WSJ doesn't give it away the store (one of us is a subscriber, so they do get something). True, I could create a whole bunch of links to WSJ articles for you to peruse, but to do this all the time would be a pain - the digital equivalent of photocopying the paper every day. Possible, but not really practical to do manually, and eminently traceable if automated (which could be a violation of the subscriber agreement and legally actionable, just as photocopying the paper on a mass scale would be). Such single article links would be easy to implement technically, and, IMHO, a win-win for everyone - we share information, WSJ reaches a potential new subscribers with the most seductive sales pitch imaginable - a personal recommendation from a trusted source and a free sample.

Is this idea lame or brilliant? let me know

Posted by Dick at 12:00 AM

Trivia's Important

The web meme "All your base belong to us" appears to have reached its nadir with a story in digitalMASS at Boston.com. The article quotes Henry Jenkins, director of MIT's Program in ComComparative Media Studies: ''The fact that people are able to claim something that is relatively trivial, and make it into something much bigger - that's the Web community flexing its muscle.''

There's a story in this for business, both exciting and terrifying. The interconnected nature of the internet allows a brand to have a more intimate relationship with a customer than has historically been possible. It's also a relationship that cannot be controlled by either the firm or the individual customer...

Posted by Dick at 12:00 AM

Shocking News: Customer service matters!

A recent report from Jupiter Research concludes that Poor customer service online...could also hurt that merchant's off-line sales as well. It's amazing to me that this is news. But, for a lot of people it is. As with most business fads, the process (creating online entities) tends to overwhelm the value provided (enhancing the relationship with the customer). Hopefully we're getting past the fad stage now and will being to see firms using technology to actually create value.

I did find one item in the article to be news (if just that the study offers some empirical support to the idea): Consumers also want customer service staff that's privy to their entire order history - both online and off-line. In one sense, this makes a heckofalota sense. I mean, a big reason that a lot of people like Amazon.com is that they do recommend things based on what you've purchased in the past. I'd probably use Barnes & Noble online a lot more if they did this with my brick & morter purchases. Of course if Jupiter also asked "does it bother you if a company tracks everything you buy both online and in the store?" the response might be different.

How can a firm reconcile the service/privacy issues raised by the internet and bi technologies? Start by focusing on the customer (the person), not the technology...

Posted by Dick at 12:00 AM

Out of a limb

OK, I couldn't resist adding this one...

Because of problems with one doctor, a hospital in upstate New York now requires that patients having limb surgery have "yes" painted on the limb to be operated on and that a red sock be put on the healthy limb (and the word "no" painted on the limb, just in case the surgeon takes the sock off).

Sometimes usability problems really are user driven...

Posted by Dick at 12:00 AM


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