Tag Archives: book

The broken iOS online commerce experience

Minor rant/niggle. The other day I remembered that I wanted to order the new book by Jeff JarvisPublic Parts. I was out and about, so I took out my iPhone, opened the Amazon app, and searched for the Kindle edition.

Of course, thanks to the changes Apple have made to the way in-app content is sold, with 30% of that sale going straight to them through iTunes, sellers like Amazon have decided to stop allowing digital content to be ordered in-app on the iOS platform. I can’t really blame them, although it’s interesting to see Microsoft rumoured to be following the now-established “30% App Store rule” for Metro apps Windows 8, with other content gatekeepers likely to follow suit, one would assume.

So I get a polite message telling me that rather than buying Jeff’s book, I can go ahead and add it to my wish list, change to the website via Safari (how many iOS users actually realise the browser is called “Safari”, incidentally?), and purchase it there.

The first thing the Amazon website wants to  do is entice me to download the Amazon App for iPhone. I’m using an iPhone, so why wouldn’t I want it? I smirk to myself and continue. It’s actually just as quick to repeat the product search on the website as it would have been to add the item to my wish list, find the wish list, and open the item.

Once it gets to the part where taking the money is involved, of course, Amazon have that just as well sorted as they ever did – one click and I am, as they say, done… well, apart from the part where the website assumed I wanted to book sent to my iPhone, since I was shopping from that device. Anyway… looking forward to reading Jeff’s new book on my Kindle later tomorrow!

No wonder Amazon want to just go out and build an all-in-one content and physical goods purchasing tablet.

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A Kind(l)er way of consuming tweets

Kindle CoverI picked up an Amazon Kindle 3 over the Christmas period, primarily because I wanted to be able to support a family member who also acquired one. I’d been impressed by the hardware when I’d had a chance to play with a Kindle 3 recently (I’d always thought that the screen refresh and form factor would put me off, but they don’t), and I may also want to dabble in the possibility of developing kindlet applications for the platform. To my mind, despite some limitations, it could be a fantastic slate for displaying relatively-static business content like facts and figures, and of course it is light and has fantastic battery life. I’ve gone for the wifi-only model, not because I wasn’t tempted by the possibility of global free 3G access, but purely because I didn’t consider that I’d need to use it to connect to the wireless much when out-and-about and away from a wifi network.

So far I’ve been very impressed with the device. It is simple, has reasonable usability – although a web interface via Amazon’s website for creating and organising Collections would be exceedingly welcome – and it is definitely encouraging me to read a lot more. It’s a tiny point, but I’m enjoy the progress bars at the bottom of the page that show me how far I’ve got through each book.

Almost by accident the other day I noticed one of my colleagues retweet a comment from David Singleton:

Now to be fair, this hit me squarely between the eyes – I have the former, and do indeed like the latter. So I just had to ping him and find out more!

Moments later, I had been invited to blootwee.

After a short signup process on the website (hint: it didn’t work brilliantly on the Kindle browser, but it can be done very quickly on a desktop machine), my Kindle refreshed itself with a new document “blootwee for andypiper”.

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So what is this doing? Well, essentially, it is scooping my tweets up, grabbing the associated / linked content, creating an ebook, and emailing it to my Kindle – for free. As you will see from the gallery above, the book has tweets at the start, one per page. By following any links, you can jump forward to the point where that web page content is embedded. You can then hit the Back button to return to where you were in the Twitter timeline.

David is currently offering the ability to do this for free on an ad-hoc basis, but he also has some very low-cost paid options to enable this to happen on a daily basis… so you end up essentially with a “newspaper” based on tweets and interesting web pages from your network. The transcoding of web content is not ideal – obviously Flash is not present and image-based content is missing – but it provides a nice way of summarising the content.

I like it. I’m not sure it will become my default way of reading tweets by any means, but what it does give me is a very convenient way of gathering up interesting web content on a daily basis, and reviewing it as I travel. With a 25-hour trip to Australia coming up in the near future, I can see this could be quite useful!

Ping me via Twitter or comment below if you want an invite, and I’ll update this when they are gone.

Notes, because people might ask:

  1. To take a screenshot on the Kindle 3, hit Shift-Alt-G… then hook up via USB and grab the .gif files from the Documents folder.
  2. The linen slip case for my Kindle came from an etsy seller called kindlecovers.
  3. I have a few more images of my Kindle on Flickr.

The Social Factor

Social matchesAround this time last year, I was asked to help some colleagues who were contributing to a book by IBM VP Maria Azua about innovation and collaboration in the workplace. In particular I spent some time reviewing a chapter by Laurisa Rodriguez, who I’d been working with for several years and had met up with along with many of the other contributors at the Web 2.0 Expo in Berlin a month or so earlier.

I was aware that the book was due to be published during 2009 but I’d been so busy with the day job that it had dropped off my radar. Then I noticed a couple of incoming links from others who were writing about it (and found Laurisa’s blog post about it)… and realised that it had hit the shelves. The book, The Social Factor (Amazon link), is published by IBM Press and features contributions from many of the IBMers I’ve come to know through our internal social networks and tools over the past five years. It contains perspectives which reflect many of our experiences adopting tools and techniques such as tagging, blogging, wikis and social bookmarking inside the enterprise. It also discusses something I’ve frequently referred to in my speaking engagements – IBM’s highly successful Technology Adoption Program (TAP), which Maria herself established, and which continues to drive a lot of innovations inside the organisation that feed out into software products and service offerings. There’s a good Redbook about TAP available, of course, but it’s worth reading more in chapter 10 of this book.

It’s always nice to see one’s name in print… despite being a blogger I’m not sure I’ve got an entire book to write, so this may be as much as I get… so for those interested, you’ll find a small quotation from Laurisa’s interview with me – about Twitter, of all things, imagine that! 🙂 – on page 105.

So, if you’re interested in the impact of social media, crowdsourcing and technology on innovation in a large enterprise, check out The Social Factor. I may be biased because I’m mentioned and several of my friends contributed to it, but I purchased my own copy, I’m making nothing from the book myself, and I believe that it is a great read!

Whuffie and the importance of loyalty

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been dipping into Tara Hunt’s book The Whuffie Factor. I’d intended to write a post discussing the book in more detail, but a case study has just presented itself which brought my plans forward!

Disclaimer: it’s worth restating that all content on this blog represents my personal opinion and my own experiences.

whuffie factor

Image courtesy of missrogue

The Whuffie Factor talks about the importance of establishing, growing and maintaining social capital in your market and with your community. The concept of “whuffie” is drawn from Cory Doctorow’s novel Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom (which I just started to read), which presents a world in which an individual’s social capital, or reputation for good deeds, is visible to others in an augmented reality, built-in heads-up display which everyone has. People can earn whuffie through good deeds and behaviour, spend whuffie in asking for favours, and lose whuffie in acting in some negative manner. Tara suggests that organisations and individuals that participate in online communities have exactly the same experiences, although whuffie itself may be less immediately tangible than in Doctorow’s imaginary world where everyone is wearing a whuffie badge.

So, on to the case study.

I’ve been an O2 customer for a long time. Before I got the iPhone 3G on UK launch day last year, I’d been an O2 customer on previous handsets and price plans. Actually, I had a relationship with the company stretching back to when they were BT Cellnet – a looong time.

My experience with the iPhone has been wonderful. Ignoring the device itself (this post is not about that) – the tariff was reasonable, I had unlimited data at varied speeds anywhere in the UK, and access to two wireless hotspot networks, the Cloud and BT Openzone. Life was great. I believe it was the best deal in the world on the iPhone.

Last month I decided to switch broadband suppliers, after Tiscali/Pipex were acquired by the Carphone Warehouse. Listening to the advice of many of my friends in the Twitterverse (Whuffie lesson – socially-connected individuals value personal recommendations above any others), it didn’t take long for me to select O2 as my new supplier. I felt comfortable with that, having had an excellent experience with their mobile service. I have to say the switch was painless and the service and performance of my new connection has been excellent.

Whuffie++!

Just after the switch, I thought about getting a broadband dongle for my Mac. Naturally, as an O2 customer with two of their products, I thought I’d ask in an O2 store what kind of deal was on offer to loyal subscribers. “No special deal, sir” – I’d have to go with their regular package, which is far less competitive than T-Mobile, 3 or Vodafone (I only really wanted to use the 3G modem occasionally, so I didn’t want to sign up to a contract on that).

Whuffie fell off.

Yesterday, Apple announced the iPhone 3GS. It’s an exciting device with some mouth-watering new capabilities – a better camera at last, a speed bump, voice recognition, a compass, and greater memory capacity. Oh, and it has the capability of being used as a 3G modem, which would mean I wouldn’t need a separate dongle for the Mac. Seems ideal. In short, I’d take one in an instant. I also discovered yesterday that O2 has a Twitter account, which I started to follow when I realised that it seemed to be a real person engaging in conversations, and not just a stream of PR pronouncements.

There’s a wrinkle here, though. In order to take an iPhone 3GS on launch day, I’d need to buy myself out of the final 6 months of my existing 18 months contract (in my case I’m guessing that will be a straight 6 x £35, not cheap), and then buy the phone on a new contract. So the reward for loyalty and being prepared to sign up for a long contract is having to pay more for an upgrade to the new technology. People are also concerned about the cost of O2’s tethering plans, which don’t entirely surprise me given my 3G modem experience.

Whuffie? Plummeting.

A couple of people have noted on Twitter that those complaining about the situation are either whinging in general, or that they don’t understand the concept of a contract. In my case, I fully understood that I was signing on for 18 months – it just seems bizarre that it is non-transferrable and that I’m actually penalised for staying with O2. It’s not like I’m heading off to another network.

Shane Richmond over at the Telegraph has an excellent summary of the issues, so I’m not going to pick through the situation point-by-point. Some of the commenters are right on the nail, too.

The Twitterverse is fairly upset about all of this, with one person going so far as to set up a petition (I’ve not signed it, as twitition doesn’t use Twitter’s OAuth option for login).

I phoned O2, at the suggestion of the O2 Twitter person, since “upgrade costs will vary”. The lady I spoke to claimed that no pricing information was yet available (odd, since there’s a page on the O2 website with that information), and then said that for upgrades, they were offering existing customers the option of downloading the new software onto their current phones, or buying themselves out of the existing contract.

I’m disappointed. Right now, I’m actually thinking that the Palm Pre looks interesting. It’s a shame, as I’m an Apple user and I think the iPhone is an amazing platform – but O2 just jettisoned the good reputation that it had built up, and made themselves far less likely to be recommended by me in the future.

End of case study. The conclusion here is that Tara Hunt has it completely right. In today’s social web-connected world, whuffie is important – potentially vital – for companies, as well as for individuals.

How did I hear about Tara’s book? I’d been following her (@missrogue) on Twitter for a long time, recognised her as someone I respect and like through her great blog, HorsePigCow, and I was excited to hear about her book directly from the source. Here’s my personal recommendation: get hold of a copy of The Whuffie Factor, read, and inwardly digest. It’s a great, enjoyable book. I think you’ll like it, too.

Update: levelling off…

OK. Having followed some of the discussion on the @O2 Twitter channel today, my attention was drawn to the notion of the Priority List, which is an account feature I’d previously been unaware of, as I’d opted out of marketing material from O2. The only thing is, there’s no easy way to find out which “level” of priority my account was set at. I logged in to my account through the website, and found a contact number which got me through to a really helpful lady (evidently not the same number I’d called this morning, not sure what happened there). I explained that I potentially wanted to upgrade, and that I’m a customer of both a pay monthly tariff and the home broadband service. The customer service rep very helpfully and patiently went through all of the upgrade options with me… and it looks like it’s not quite as dire as I’d thought – my potential upgrade date is earlier than I’d feared, but I’m still unlikely to be getting an iPhone 3GS on launch day.

So kudos to the helpful customer service staff, and I’m also impressed with the resilience and patience of the @O2 person. That has gone some way to restoring my opinion, even though I’m still disappointed with some aspects of the upgrade process. The Priority List is actually a way of rewarding customer loyalty, but it just hadn’t been on my radar.

The final word on this, from my perspective, is that it’s still somewhat confusing, and I’d particularly advise O2 to make their Priority List stuff more visible and simpler to understand. I’d also suggest that people give them a call and check individual circumstances!

Holiday reading

Randomly picked from the bookshelf, actually a surprisingly compelling read…

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