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Following up from the d.Construct post yesterday, I wanted to talk about the apparent obsession with social software at the moment, and to ask for comments on why you think it’s so. Seriously, there are so many other things that can be done!

What’s prompted this is Yet Another Client Call Asking for Web 2.0 and Tagging (that’s YACCAWT people!). Sure, the playing field is still new and there are opportunities to be had in social networking sites, but they’re limited now. 

I wish people were calling me up to discuss how to add a mapping mashup to their product data so that they can do x,y,z…  or whatever, but you get my meaning.

At the conference, there were a plethora of neat examples that illustrated stuff that is really interesting (and I start to see how they can be applied to my technology problems), but by and large they all had some sort of social app connotation. 

Interesting, but also boring from a business perspective.

So in general, there seems to be a lack of the application of the newer technologies to real world business problems, where that implementation would represent a quantum leap in user interface, usability and ultimately user experience and functionality.

Every time Web 2.0 is brought up, in the same breath we hear Bebo, MySpace, Flickr, Del.icio.us, etc etc etc – I’m not knocking these apps because they’re great and I use them all (apart from MySpace and Bebo). But it forces me to ask why we’re so obsessed with creating the next social app, instead of applying these really cool and useful new technologies to other problems and business opportunities. 

Basecamp, and the other apps created by the team at 37Signals are probably the only exception to this rule that I can think of, along with a few other applications released by the really big gorillas of the web world.

I wonder if this is because the people who drive solutions to business problems are the managers and CEOs, whilst the people that create and implement new technologies are techies who are scratching an itch they have for something that they can’t already do. The techie is motivated by challenge, whilst the manager is motivated by ROI – simple paradox, but this I think is what is underscoring the situation at the moment.

There is loads more that can be discussed around this, but I’d be really interested to hear if you’ve experienced the same thing, or are you thinking along the same lines…?

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Published 14 September, 2006 by Gareth Knight

27 more posts from this author

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Jamie Riddell

Jamie Riddell, CEO at Digital Tomorrow Today Ltd. /BirdSong

I think the challenge comes in clients' 'getting their heads around' this 2.0 stuff. The social stuff like del.icio.us, MySpace & You Tube are easier to comprehend because the client can actually 'see' something that they can have an opinion on. Remeber this is often a quantum leap in their digital marketing which is probably still stuck in the 'see;click;do' equation.

All the new technologies are indeed fantastic and will have great opportunities for clients but sometimes we need to find a bridge between the 'traditional' interactive stuff and the the edge of the 2.0 opportunities.

over 9 years ago

Ian Jindal

Ian Jindal, Founder and Editor in Chief at Internet RetailingSmall Business Multi-user

Nice post, however I don't think that the proposed Dilbertian opposition (ie marketing and CEO woofties versus the Grand Viseors of Truth, technochrats etc) is correct.

Rather I think we're seeing the latest (but not the last) incarnation of a twofold fascination: 1) human beings desire to communicate with/at others; 2) human beings obsession with commenting on 1.

You could replace "social software" with "My Home Page", website, instant messenger, texting, the first wave of business flirting (Friendster, Orkut, Ryze), self-promotion (ecademy, linkedin) and now Bebo and MySpace.

All of the systems, ironically, are proxies for human contact so - here on e-consultancy - I'm predicting that we'll move beyond 'proxy contact' for Web3.0 and have truly social approaches. I've applied for a bizmeth patent and will be marketing this revolution under the SayingHello i'theStreet [tm] brand. You never know - could work!

In the meantime all of this pseudo-social communication/broadcast/posting activity (more heat than light, even on a good day) simply gives tired brands the veneer of communication and engagement. The real question for brands is how to distinguish substance from form and to engage in a dialogue with customers. To miss this opportunity is to demote a customer into a 'purchaser', with all of the consequences for business sustainability that entails.

over 9 years ago

Ashley Friedlein

Ashley Friedlein, Founder, Econsultancy & President, Centaur Marketing at Econsultancy, Centaur MarketingStaff

Ah Web 2.0....

I've been trotting round recently presenting on this at a number of seminars. In fact you can download all 6.7mb of PowerPoint from a recent presentation I did for a RedEye Customer Day at http://www.e-consultancy.com/publications/web_20/

Currently I'm chunking up Web 2.0 into 3 areas:
1. Technologies - RSS, AJAX etc.
2. Social Media - User-Generated Content, Tagging, Wikis, Blogs etc.
3. (Opening up your) Data - mashups, APIs, feeds, syndication etc.

My theme has been - what does all of this mean for you Mr. Big Financial Services Brand or Mr. Retailer or Mr. Public Sector? Because let's face it we're not all Flickr or MySpace.

And of the three areas above, it is the Social Media part that it is always hardest to get simple, good ideas that you can see applying to their businesses. A community for car insurance? A wiki for toasters? Collaborative car fine paying? Mmm....

AJAX is easy: look at Google Maps then look at Multimap, which is better? AJAX up your booking / quoting engine and hey presto conversion rates go up 15%. That really shouldn't be hard to sell.

The data side is pretty easy to explain and see the benefits. If nothing else it's about making your feeds/functionality to various external partners (shopping comparison sites, affiliates, PPC, partners) better and smarter. A basic store locator mash up = mapping data + traffic data + weather data to allow customers to print off a route map, with timings, on how to get to a store. Mashups and APIs open up huge opportunities for more creative services and more flexible business propositions.

Given all this, yes I agree it is strange that everyone is so obsessed with the Social Networking part when there is so much else to be getting on with. However, I also take Ian's point about why this fascination may exist.

Also, in the mid-term some of the most interesting and exciting developments may indeed be around the social networking elements. Yesterday I was talking to a Mr. Very Big Mail Order Retailer and he was reminding me that in the good old days their business centred around local (community) agents selling their wares to a very focused community. They are currently building a web platform to allow such 'tribes' and communities and brand champions to emerge once again and take control. You can configure and buy stuff but you can also publish and share what you've bought (using a pretty damn nifty AJAX interface as it happens).

I hope that all this Web 2.0 thinking at least encourages big businesses to think harder and more creatively about what they could be doing in terms of online customer experience. Equally, I hope they don't just assume they must be doing 'social networking' beacuse that's the latest buzz.

Ashley Friedlein
CEO
E-consultancy.com

over 9 years ago

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John Milan, Partner at TeamDirection

I would like to add a fourth option to Ashley's list:

4) Desktop applications that are 'webified'.

By this I mean apps that bring the richness of the desktop, but still distribute and interact with data via the web. And not just the transfer of data, but data as it travels from a desktop to a browser, and back.

I can imagine information workers that use desktop software serving as 'information hubs' that synchronize data between applications-- desktop or web.

For instance, we do project management, and the next version of our product I'm calling webified in that it takes data from MS Project and pumps it into SharePoint or Groove task lists. But its not a simple 'export and forget', it also complete the circuit by pulling data from the web application and synchronizes it back into Project.

I try to explain some of what web 2.0 means to me here:

http://intelligantt.blogspot.com/2006/09/what-web-20-means-to-me.html

But the point is I think Web 2.0 is more about the mobility of data, and less about the AJAX, REST and pure web browser restrictions.

Best Regards,

John Milan
TeamDirection, Inc.
IntelliGantt.blogspot.com

over 9 years ago

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Luis Jimenez, Product Manager at Investors.com

Hi there, I like the blog.

Since you ask what the financial services brand is thinking with regard to the Web2.0 and its applications to solve business problems, I thought I'd share (without giving too much) my personal thoughts on it as a product manager for a stock research, tools and education company heading up our social media efforts.

The Challenge:
Our product is geared toward individual investors and the investing concepts we provide take some time to master. We believe in empowering people and providing them tools with which to make informed decisions. Our biggest pitfall has been our ability to properly educate and train our subscribers on how to use these tools and how to properly apply our investing concepts.

Solution:
We see a huge advantage of applying social media to allow our subscribers to interact and learn from each other. We are combining our stock research data, tools, and education content with a social media platform complete with blogs, bookmarks, ratings, comments, and yes, tags. This will help bridge the gap for some of our newer subscribers by learning from the example of those who are advanced users. Our platform will give a voice to those who really believe in our products and services and to those who don't, much like the healthy dialog we see in our current forums. The benefits to our customers will be to have quick access to quality UGC from which to learn and generate investment ideas from those using our tools and applying the concepts. The benefits of product advocates within the community, education, and ad revenue are huge for our company.

over 9 years ago

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Nic Brisbourne, Partner at Esprit Capital Partners

One reason (maybe the main reason) that take up of web2.0 is slow in the enterprise is that it requires an open-ness and ceding of control that is difficult for people to get their heads around. The obvious risks make it easy to stop these initiatives and risky to champion them.

Plus you have to learn to really trust your employees, and they need to get comfortable operating in a less controlled manner.

Adoption will be very slow in the enterprise for these reasons.

JP is leading the charge on this and has posted at length on the subject at www.confusedofcalcutta.com

Nic Brisbourne
www.theequitykicker.com

over 9 years ago

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