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Wikia Search and HAPPY NEW YEAR! January 8, 2008

Posted by psychobserver in BusinessWeek, Innovation, Social Networking.
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After some time away from my blog. I am back, and if my resolutions for 2008 are to be trusted I should be a good boy and post more often on my blog (objective once a week).

This quick post to highlight the launch of Wikia Search, a project from Jimmy Wales (read Wikipedia) that is supposed to bring an alternative to web search by bringing a human touch to the whole thing. More information can be found in the next two links:

I will not comment on the fact that this early version does not actually include any human touch to web search, but wanted to comment on the whole concept. It appears strange to me to think that people interested in searching for information will take the time to “rate” search and thus help the search engine do a better job. It seems to me that from a user perspective it defeats the whole purpose of a search engine, which is supposed to help us make sense of the whole Internet mass (not the reverse).

I don’t know how the people behind this project search, but in my case and the case of people around me, I don’t want to spend time searching for information. I want to spend time reading relevant content. If I cannot get the content I want the first time, then I will not use that search engine. And user reviews and rating takes time to make sense. With new websites, blogs and so on being created everyday, how can user rating keep up with all this.

Anyway… that was just a quick post on this. Will try to give me some more thoughts soon. Also a review of Zotero plugins for Firefox should come soon (I think I am going to get addicted to that thing real quick).

Update: One more article about Wikia Search on BusinessWeek. When your product is far from making a difference, is more press coverage good… or bad?

Changing the advertising experience? December 7, 2007

Posted by psychobserver in Advertising, BusinessWeek, Customer Experience, Innovation, Japan, Strategy, Web 2.0.
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BusinessWeek published an article entitled “In Japan, bloggers get to pick their ads” on December 5th 2007 about a new ad network aimed at bloggers called AdButterfly (website in Japanese). Advertising arguably creates one of the worse experience not only for online users, but for people in general. However it is done, advertising is most of the time perceived as intrusive.

I guess we could categorize the reactions to that fact into two. The reaction that seems the most common around the World and especially here in China is to consider that a negative experience with advertising is a given and cannot be changed. If that cannot be impacted on, the important objective for advertisers is to be seen and hope that will create brand awareness (or unintended clicks that would result is a purchase maybe?). If the user is in some ways “forced” to see the ad, the advertiser (or should we blame this on media placement companies?) is happy.  The growing focus on ad clicks only solves part of the problem. Indeed only some advertising campaigns can be measured in terms of clicks, while others are just supposed to raise awareness, or create brand associations. And because of the focus on clicks, the websites where the ad is displayed have an incentive to have flying ads all around, hoping users may click by mistake.

We can definitely put the new venture in Japan mentioned above in the second category. On AdButterfly, although I am not sure about the details, bloggers will be choosing which ad campaigns and brands to associate with. With bloggers endorsing the ad, it is thought that the experience created by the ad will be much more positive. It is very probably true. If I read a blog and I know the ads there have been selected by that person, I would certainly (even though maybe unconsciously) pay more attention to them.

What about the advertisers’ side of the story? Potentially companies with great brand equity can greatly benefit from such a platform. But companies with lower brand equity may be totally blocked from getting access to the network by users. A pretty scary thought for the advertiser who is so conscious about keeping the brand image under control. Scary yes, but maybe a good thing. If people’s experiences with ads can become more positive, everybody is bound to benefit from that. In any case, AdButterfly is a great experiment! I wish I could read Japanese and try the service…

BusinessWeek: Why “Good Enough” Is Good Enough August 27, 2007

Posted by psychobserver in BusinessWeek, Strategy, Trends.
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This is a reply to the commentary made on BusinessWeek entitled: Why “Good Enough” Is Good Enough.

In this short articles the author defends that imperfect technologies and unreliabilities can spur innovation. Two examples are included to support the point. The first is Skype, a service that change the telephony industry, but went off-line for two days in August showing its potential unreliability. The second example is Google, which uses old computer to keep users’ data; old computers that “die” all the time and need back-up.

I think the expression “Good Enough” is very dangerous here. To me the two example cited are totally different in nature. Skype outage is a disruption of service and is not acceptable from a customer’s point of view. Google’s use of old computer is an innovative solution that allows it to save money, while not interfering with customers’ experience. In the first case, it is true that Skype delivers a good service and brings value, but this does not excuse the fact that they went dark for two days. Service reliability is key, especially when you target business users, who cannot afford to use unreliable phone services.

As basic customer experience states, each element of the customer experience “multiplies” itself with the next (“Clued In” from Lewis Carbone). The result is that if one element delivers a bad experience (equals to zero), then the whole experience is negative. Customers should not be forced to live with below average reliability only because a company delivers an added-value service.

We all know that perfection does not exist, but aiming for it, will always help delivering better experience, products or services. And as these solutions will not be perfect, then there will still be innovation opportunities. Imagine a product development manager telling his team, now please design me a “Good Enough” product… Would that make sense? Would that motivate people? What would be the end result? Surely the end result would be a “Not Good Enough” product.

My take on this… just ban the “Good Enough” expression. If we look at China right now. For quite a few years, Chinese people have been encouraged to design and produce “Good Enough” products; “Good Enough” to be sold cheap. And now we realize that the standards of these products are… well, “Not Good Enough”, as they are unsafe, can explode, can poison people, etc. Still, these products are sold all over the world. Are they “Good Enough” because they deliver value (being cheaper)?

Personally, I don’t want to live in a “Good Enough” world. I prefer to live in a “Aiming for Perfection” world, even though it is clear that perfection does not exist and that aiming for it not easy.