Why having everything on Spotify sucks

collectionsThe other day I was hiking with a very good friend of mine. An industrial designer by training and someone who’s fascinated by new technology and its implications, I was keen to understand what he now used to listen to music – another passion of his.

His answer was brusque and bordering on defensive – CDs. And he still buys them. I told him that I hadn’t bought a CD for years and was right into Spotify. “I can understand that”, he said, “but I’m still doing the CD thing.”

Why would anyone still be buying CDs? The same could be said for DVDs in some segments of society and perhaps even books?

There are a number of subtle reasons why some are not embracing the likes of Spotify and Netflix:

Curation: Let’s get that one out of the way to start with. It’s a word I know a lot of people don’t like but it still makes sense. I had a girlfriend years ago whose brother had a huge record collection in a separate room of the house. He was the coolest guy on the planet as far as I was concerned. He’d built that up over the years, perhaps even stolen a few of the records and certainly gone without other things in his life. And there it was – a physical manifestation – a collection defined, earned and realized by him.

I probably have access to all of that music via my Spotify account, right? Millions of others do too. I earned that right with a small monthly subscription. There’s nothing of me in it – no stories, no effort, no sacrifice and nothing defining me in my vast collection.

recordrack-discocolumbiarecords

Ceremony: When I lived with a friend back in the UK we used to listen to music in the evening – listen to vinyl records. And, like many others, we used to cue music up. This was done by someone sitting on the floor next to the line of albums that were stacked on their ends on the floor and going through them one by one until we collectively identified another track on we wanted to listen to. This album was then lifted up and left poking above the rest as we continued looking for the next track.

What was going on with activity? Well it was a shared experience – a specific ceremony around choosing and listening to music. Although not quite the same with CDs, something similar exists and you can point your dinner guest over to the CD rack, for example, and ask them to choose some music to put on.

Readers-007Status: Closely related to the above but perhaps more specifically about books is the idea of our displaying our tastes – something that was (and still is) manifested in our reading books in public typically on public transport. I know several people who happily admit that they miss this aspect of the behavior when holding up a faceless and ‘coverless’ kindle or phone.

 

In ‘digitizing’ services and media distribution we’d do well to not lose track of some of the emotional drivers and peripheral activities that give and have given so much meaning and to people.

Doing digital must not simply be about efficiency of distribution and availability and giving everything to everyone.

It must also be about struggle, about self and about it somehow being a manifestation of ourselves for others to see. There’s something too easy about having access to everything on Spotify – the effort to build something – the struggle – is missing.

Thank you #DHL

Every now and again I am reminded of what technology allows us to do – what it puts at our finger tips.

I’m quite old now – but not that old – and I remember when being able to see this kind of thing in an instant would have been the stuff of (rather bizarre) dreams!

It’s quite right and proper to take some things for granted. But every now and then I like to stop and marvel at some of those, now, everyday things and just think – “Wow!”

 

 

 

The #Expensify people wrote to me!

You know how when, sometimes, you uninstall software of unsubscribe from an emailing list you get an automated response asking you why?

Well I had an email the other day from the Expensify team asking why I hadn’t used their application. (Bascially it’s the same as with a lot of apps – looks interesting then play once then forget).

Although, in this case I don’t actually have expenses to deal with so the app hasn’t been relevant for me.

So I repsonded to the link on the email checking one of the response options to give my reason but also adding (in the free-form text field)  that I don’t have an expenses situation to deal with at the moment.

Then they actually replied!

Hello,

Thanks for the feedback.  If you do find yourself working with expense reports in the future please keep us in mind.  We would love the chance to work with you again in the future.

Thanks,
Kirk Barrett

www.expensify.com

 

I now know what I’ll do when I do need something to manage my expenses.

#Times Plus – #Murdoch’s Times – That One – #Fail

 

Some time ago I took advantage of The Times (TimesPlus, Times+) offer via their iPad app to sign up for a month’s subscription for just GBP 1.0

Whilst not a big fan of The Times’ general positioning (editorialy wise) , I love the app – unique as far as I can see on the iPad offering, as it does, a beautiful electronic paper experience.  Being a succour for experience I have glossed over some of the content issues I have had.

Recently though I noticed the (now usual price) monthly subscription charges on my credit card bill.

So, I thought I would log on, review my details, my monthly charge and my statement… you know, all the usual stuff we now expect to be able to do online.

But can I do that with The Times? Can I hec.  Nothing is available.  No review of payment details.  No indication of the current subscription charge.  No details of payments taken to date.  nothing.

I have been in touch via email with their help team.  Apparently I can cancel by emailing them they told me.

These are the last two emails we’ve exchanged:

From Me:

Thanks for your reply.

Why is there not the option to Manage my own credit card details and view recent payments as there is with every other website I do transactions with?

From them:

Thank you for your reply.  We do not currently have the facility to link our payment system with the ‘My Details’ area of the website.  Our online development team does review feedback from readers and they are aware of the demand for this feature; we may be able to offer this facility in future. I will of course pass your comments to the development team for their attention.

“Are aware of a demand for this feature”?

Really?  No shit Sherlock.

Hopeless.  Really hopeless.  What a joke.

 

NileGuide adds Events

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A few days ago, NileGuide
announced their new ‘events’ functionality for their already great
website.  I test drove the
NileGuide website before here.

As soon as I was on the site I immediately felt ‘at home’.  Although I haven’t used the site a lot,
my experiences so far have been good and there’s something nice about coming
back to a place where you had a good time last time you were there.  Flowery language you may think, but I’m
a strong believer (as some of you may know) of things and places having the
potential to make me smile and feel good and websites are certainly no
exception.

The events are quickly accessed from another tab that sits
logically alongside tabs such as ‘restaurants’ and ‘nightlife’.  Initially I hadn’t signed in and I was
presented with an interactive map and various search criteria.   Interestingly, one of the event ‘types’
was ‘Dangerous Festivals’.  It
immediate caught my attention and an event I am attending in September falls
into this category and is descried on NileGuide as: ‘…event is not for the feeble-hearted. More than 30,000 participants
purchase a ticket. …Understandably, tempers are short, and foul language and
nudity are very much a part of the experience.’
 Can you guess where I’m going?  You can be sure that I will blog about it!

Anyway, back to NileGuide.  I decided to focus on Singapore as a reference point to get
a feel for what I could find.  The
list of events was impressive.  It
covered a wide-range of things including exhibitions, sports events and religious
festivals.  I’d logged in by this
point and so was able to add them to ‘my list’ using the excellent core
functionality of the NileGuide site where one can create one’s own trip around
choices of hotel, restaurants and places to visit.  I could sort the list of events by start date and
proximity.  I liked the ‘proximity
sort’ option allowing me to sort with respect to a place of my choosing – my
hotel for example or the airport. 
This made very good sense. 
There were also some search filters including criteria like ‘kids
friendly’, ‘outdoors’ and ‘active’ etc. 
These too make sense but I look forward to the day when the web and its websites
and applications know me as an individual a little better and I don’t have to
filter and make choices based on others’ segmentation and differentiation however
well informed and intentioned.  (This is only around the next corner I think)

A click on a specific event brings up all the details you
might need – all contact details, a brief description and a map location.  It’s also shown on the page’s own map
as are all the events when looking at the whole list so proximity is easy to
gauge.  This is all integrated, as
I said, with the already great website and adds depth, context and richness to
the whole experience of planning a trip and working out what to do when
there. 

As I was viewing Singapore events, it occurred to me that
I could use this aspect of the website simply as a local ‘what’s on’ guide for
me.  I would certainly recommend
the folks at NileGuide to see how they could re-skin their existing content for
this purpose.

Social Media Day and Social Media Strategy

Social-media-strategy-vs-social-media-campaign

June 30th was Social Media day.  It was actually Global Social Media day as declared by Mashable. It was also a day when I went to
discuss Social Media strategy with a large company based here in
Singapore.  Our Social Media Day event
at Zsofi in the evening was great fun,
and a chance to meet some great new people as well as catch up with old friends
and to also meet some more virtual acquaintances in the flesh for the first
time.

 

Something kept getting said on that day and it was this: people
kept talking about Social Media strategy as a ‘resource’ – as a person.  They were implying, I think, that one
view of what constitutes a Social Media strategy is having a person sit all day
on Twitter or Facebook responding to people’s
complaints or questions.  And,
indeed, for some brands in Singapore and elsewhere, it appears that their doing
exactly this seems to be a large component, if not the entirety, of their
strategy.

 

This doesn’t feel like a strategy to me.  In fact, what it looks like is the kind
of conversations usually reserved for Customer Support Staff (probably on the
phone or via some support email address) happening on a Facebook page or via a
Twitter conversation.  I should
point out, however, that being responsive to a customer’s query on Facebook or
Twitter is, I think, at least for now, a necessary component of being in the
space.  I hasten to call it a
component of the strategy per se because responding to customers’ queries does
not feel strategic to me – it feels just like something we should do
anyway.  I’m not going to dwell on
how brands will need to deal with this obligation at the moment.  It feels like a bit of a problem and
I’m not sure how it will resolve itself. 

 

At the moment, opening your brand up on Facebook leads, in
some cases, to a lot of niggly little conversations happening.  A typical exchange I see (on a brand
fan page) opens with the brand saying ‘Hi’ to all its Facebook page fans and
then the announcement of the day’s special offer. There will then be a bunch of
comments about the offer interspersed with complaints and moaning.  So, what the visitors to that brand fan
page are actually seeing is some essentially one-way brand marketing
communications followed by publically visible customer service issue
conversations.  All in all pretty
dull, uninspiring and boring. 
There’s an inevitability to having to respond to queries as I said, but
the sooner we don’t all have to look at it, the better.  I put it down, in part, to the ‘brands
on Facebook’ still being a model in its infancy.  I have my own ideas about how this could be managed but
that’s for another time.  Back to
strategy.

 

Putting a product offer on Facebook that you may have put in
the newspaper a couple of years ago isn’t good Social Media Strategy.  There’s some immediacy to be gained
from it I suppose and there’s no doubting that your target audience are
probably hanging out on Facebook. But re-purposing collateral and messaging for
another medium without looking at and embracing the nuances and opportunities
offered by that new medium is rarely compelling for the customer. 

 

Social media is about people coming together around your brand
– it’s about a shared experience, about storytelling and, ideally, about
content creation and sharing.  One-way
brand messaging and planning to administer your dirty laundry in the open won’t
get you where you think you might want to go.  Integrating the unique collaborative and shared experience
of what social media offers and integrating this with an event, a competition
or another (more traditional) component of your marketing and branding strategy
whilst facilitating brand advocacy might just.

 

Gliider – A Review

Siew Hoon (all round Goddess of Web in Travel)- asked me to review Gliider.

Screen shot 2010-03-30 at PM 12.44.50

A few days ago I was asked if I would test-drive the Gliider
travel-planning site.  Their
tagline, incidentally, is ‘Plan Funner Trips’ – make of that what you
will.  I’m already thinking I might
not be part of the target demographic.

Using Gliider works via a Firefox installation file that
adds a Gliider button to the browser toolbar.  This is available for both Firefox and IE and worked on my
Firefox running under Mac OS. 

Firing up Gliider I created a test trip to Jakarta,
Indonesia. The UI was slightly confusing to begin with and I was getting
strange error messages about invalid dates but it wasn’t long before I had my
trip set up.  Gliider then provides
nine folders covering different aspects of trip planning.  These included hotel, flights and
transport etc and there were two user-defined files that I thought was a nice
touch.

Gliider allows you to highlight and then drag and drop
content from a webpage into the respective folder.  This ‘web clipping’ functionality has been around for some
time now and has been packaged into applications, some of which I have heard
about but none has really caught my eye apart from perhaps
Evernote which is
more technology feature driven. Gliider has kept the functionally quite light
focusing more on making web clipping make sense from an activity standpoint.

The clipping worked quite well and Gliider handled the
formatting and the adding of images fairly slickly.  It was a little ‘buggy’ with new clippings not showing up
until I went out and then back into the folder, for example.  I also tried clipping just a URL link
but subsequent clicking on that link didn’t seem to open the linked page.  I’m niggling here a bit though because
for simple clipping of text and images Gliider worked well.

An application wouldn’t really be an application nowadays if
it didn’t pay its due homage to
Facebook and Gliider is no exception.  Using Facebook Connect I can get travel
advice from ‘people I know and trust’ as the text on the Gliider ‘Ask Around’
tab puts it.  Gliider then asks me
what question I want to ask and then posts this on my Facebook wall either for
everyone to see or just selected friends.

As well as sharing via the ubiquitous Facebook, I was able
to share my trip details with up to four other people using plain old simple
email.  I tried this with another
email address of mine and received an email notifying me that the other me was
planning a trip and that I too should download Gliider.  Incidentally the email subject line was
‘a funner trip’ which irked me again…Anyway, collaborators are able to see the
pooled content and add comments. 
Adding comments sort of makes sense but I’m guessing that in reality
travel companions would simply chat about their trip face to face or over the
phone.

The third tab on the Gliider app is for deals and
alerts.  Gliider have teamed up
with at least two third party sites and for my New York trip that I’d added I
had a load of hotel deals for New York from
travelzoo.com.  Gliider say that they plan to expand
the ‘deal’ functionality into other trip components in addition to just hotels.

You wont be surprised to hear that Gliider has its own
iPhone application that I downloaded for 3.60 USD equivalent.  I’m not sure what’s exactly de rigueur
nowadays when pricing apps but I know that I have some great ones that cost me
nothing and my paying for one that allows third parties to pump deals to me
based on privileged travel itinerary information flew in the face of what I
expect nowadays.

The iPhone application provided no additional functionality
over and above the browser plug-in although the interface was well designed –
good to look at and intuitive.  My
initial reaction to the iPhone app was that having all the clipped information
in my pocket when actually on my trip could be really useful, the visitor hours
of the New York Botanic Gardens for example.  It would be a bit like having my own personalized guide in
my pocket that my collaborators and I had populated with relevant content
before leaving for the trip.  At
the same time though I was thinking about all the missed opportunities around
linking my hotel address in Gliider to my maps and GPS for example and Gliider
proactively recommending me other stuff and talking me there based on my
profile and the recommendation of others.

I think Gliider is a nice idea and it takes some
technologies and functionality and packages then into an application area where
the whole idea of clipping content around a subject really makes sense.  The interface is generally good and the
navigation reasonably intuitive. I think there is huge potential to take
Gliider to somewhere really cool by incorporating location and context
awareness and further integrating it’s communication with Facebook and other
communities.  Let’s see how cool it
gets.
 
 

Is Facebook more important that your own website?

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Last night I was watching the Man United Liverpool game for a few minutes.  I don't really watch football but it was kicking off big time in the first few minutes with an early goal from Liverpool and then a penalty for Utd.  It was momentarily engrossing in the same way that watching a bunch of drunks kick the crap out of each other might be momentarily engrossing. 

Anyway, I'm already digressing.  I noticed that there was a URL being advertised on the pitch-side display for Barclays Football – it was something to do with Barclays anyway. What was interesting to me was that this was a Facebook page URL – the url was www.facebook.com/barclays_something_or_other …. 

It reminded me of a recent trend I have noticed on the BBC World Service where the program hosts now encourage listeners to visit their programme's Facebook page rather than the respective BBC website section. Certainly the Facebook page is mentioned more often that their own website.  This is even the case on mainstream full-on news shows like World Briefing – I'm not just talking about the techie shows like Digital Planet.

Why is this I wonder?  Is it that the BBC and others want to grab involvement from people without expecting them to leave the Facebook environment?  Is it the fact that all the Social Media functionality is already there working and available without any bandwidth issues?  Any ideas? And what does this mean for company's own domains and properties?

Social Media Expectations – Starhub and Resorts World Sentosa

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Resorts World Sentosa's Facebook Fan Page

I was asked to participate in a social media panel a month or so ago as part of a lecture course for INSEAD MBA students.  It was there last lecture on Social Media and I, along with 4 or so other people, were asked to field questions from the students.

In the couple of days leading up to the panel I had tried to engage with a couple of Singapore brands via Facebook and Twitter.  My opinion had always been up to that evening that if a brand was to have a Facebook or Twitter presence then I should rightly expect to receive an answer to any query or question I may have about their products or services within a day or so.  One of these brands was Starhub and I have had some quick and useful responses from them on genuine queries I have had. They have been very responsive over the last week on a specific issue (below)

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Some interaction with Starhub(cares)

However, on the days leading up to the panel I had asked Starhub a question and it had not been answered and I arrived at the panel venue all ready to huff and puff about this one incident. (Un)fortunately, there was a fellow panelist who worked for the agency that does a lot of work for Starhub including their twitter presence.  Anyway, I huffed and I puffed to the crowd including this guy when the opportunity arose about this one incident of no reply whilst trying to temper it with several mentions of good contact from them.

After the planel, I had the chance to speak with the guy from the agency – Vocanic (I can't remember his name – sorry) – and I got to asking myself whether or not it is indeed reasonable to expect an individually tailored reply to every query.  My benchmark has been heavily influenced by a 'campaign' I have been following from Resorts World Sentosa (top of post) who, without fail, have responded to every post and tweet I have directed at them even when it has been to simply acknowledge their excellent work. I still can't help scanning down their fan page to see if they routinely address every individual who has a question and I think that they do.  They kept doing this during some slightly turbulent times too when there was some negative chatter over the soft launch date and one or two other issues.

This is just one level of engagement I suppose and it's not far off what I have experienced with Starhub I suppose.  Indeed the one 'non-reply' from Starhub stuck out all the more because of their general consistency in responding to me.

My question is should we continue (if at all) to expect this individual service and response from organizations who choose to engage with us on Facebook and Twitter?  What should our expectations be? and how might those expectation change over the next couple of years.  I was listening to a guy on the BBC World Service this morning who clearly defined Social Media marketing as 'peer to peer' in distinguishing it from more traditional advertizing.  Maybe he still expects a personal responses but I wonder for how long he might get one…