Short post about “My Facebook Movie” — from Charming to Cloying in 21 hours

The first person I saw share “My Facebook Movie” was Terry Kawaja, 23 hours ago as I write this short post.  I clicked.  I smiled.

I shared mine a few minutes later.

Then I looked at those of two friends and stopped.

This morning I saw that my wife had shared hers, so of COURSE I clicked.  Then one more from a friend.  I stopped.  The same cadence. The same music.  The same progression.  Meh.

Then I saw my friend Bettina’s post: “Here’s my Facebook mov… Nah. Nevermind.”  She posted that two hours ago.

Why did this happen?  Why did this cute algorithmically powered story jump off a satisfaction cliff so quickly?

If I’m right and my response is typical, then I wonder if Facebook agrees?  If their only metric is “who views the movie and shares it” then they are probably happy, as it is popping up like a game of Whack a Mole everywhere.

But a better metric would be: 1. View; 2. Share; 3. Watch other people’s movies.  If 3 continues beyond 48 hours, then that would be real success.

Perhaps the biggest problem with “My Facebook Movie” is that it is surprisingly not social.  It’s almost Apple-like in it’s egocentricism.  Sure, I can comment about my video or another person’s, but it’s not about my relationship with another person I designate, nor is it about my interaction with a coherent group— it’s about my interactions with the universe.  Interesting enough when it’s about me, but not when I’m watching a show about somebody else.

Am I just being a sourpuss?

Postscript: I just remembered two interesting articles about how Facebook can make people feel bad about themselves because in general we post about Awesome Life Moments. One was from The Conversation last week, and the other was from The Economist back in August.

UP, UP and away… How a wearable computer changed my brain

Yikes_wrist_photo_smOld dogs can learn new tricks.  So can people young and old.  Behavior is metamorphic, although we seldom recognize that plasticity in the moment.  Instead, we think the world changes while we stay the same, that our children are less responsible than we were at their age but that we threw crazier parties.  We think TV today isn’t as good as the programs we watched when we were younger, forgetting how many nights we spent on “Night Court.”

Sometimes, though, the planets align and we see our own behavior as it changes in the moment.

Here is one such story.

The Jawbone UP has decorated my wrist and recorded my physical activity since mid-March of 2013, but I did not reckon with how I depended on its steady flow of information and quiet alerts until it stopped working.  Ironically, this happened last week when I was guiding tours for Story-Tech at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, where wearable computers were a key technology with massive year-over-year growth, and I could no longer demonstrate how it worked to my tourists.

But the real impact of my UP’s absence didn’t hit until both my wife Kathi and I returned home from overlapping business trips, mine to CES and hers to the Modern Language Association.

Kathi is a night owl working late and I’m an early bird (it’s a mixed marriage), so the unheralded killer feature of the Jawbone UP and its kindred gadgets (Nike FuelBand, Fitbit Force) is the silent alarm that vibrates on my wrist when I get up before dawn to work while the world is silent and all the thoughts are mine to think.

Before the UP, a clock radio or smart phone would chime, blare or buzz, disturbing Kathi and sometimes failing to wake me (the first five or six times).  It took time getting used to sleeping with a bracelet, but I came to depend on that quiet buzz to get me up and let me lurch from the bedroom and pad towards the coffee machine like a sneaky zombie.

The UP’s death didn’t much affect me in Vegas because the Aria let me program the windows to open and the TV to pop on at a designated time.  Before Kathi got back from the MLA I simply used my old nightstand clock radio to wake myself.  But since her return I find myself waking up every couple of hours because I am so anxious about my iPhone’s coming bleep.

So I haven’t slept well, feel my stress level rising, and await the arrival of a replacement UP with less than graceful patience.  This is now the third time I’ve had to write to Jawbone for a replacement in less than one year, and so I find myself wondering if I should give the Fitbit Force a try just because I don’t want to go through this again.

This put me in mind of a fascinating article in December’s Scientific American: “How Google is Changing Your Brain” (preview link here but subscription required and recommended).  The internet’s infinite laundry pen memory has eroded our need to rely on other people to remember things and erodes the difference between information we store in our heads and the information we know is waiting in the cloud.

We’ve always perceived of our possessions as parts of ourselves.  The comic book visionary Scott McCloud observed in his brilliant book “Understanding Comics” that when another car bumps your car from behind we don’t cry out “his car hit my car!” but “hey! he hit me!” The difference is that with computers and particularly with wearables the devices on our bodies talk back to us in new ways.

As I’ve written elsewhere, I have outsourced most of my remembering tasks to Evernote and Instapaper, but my morning wakeup routine isn’t information— it’s action.  And so it’s only a minor exaggeration to say that the UP band has become a part of myself, so much so that when it’s gone I have to adjust in surprising ways.

“Never trust anybody over 30,” a cliché of the mid-1960s free speech movement, mistook an perceived mental inflexibility in the generation of the protesters’ parents with an age-related unwillingness to think and behave in new ways.  This is a common mistake and we make it in both directions, substituting life stage behaviors for generational ones and vice versa.

So, the pundits who claim that Millennials will never care about their privacy and will always overshare on Facebook are wrong: the Millennials just didn’t need to think about why not to overshare until they were on the job market and had to cleanse their profiles of the sexy selfies with the bong in the background.  Behaviors can change.

As a youth I would not have expected my behaviors to change so quickly when I had hit middle age, but they did with the UP band.

According to the UPS tracker my replacement UP should arrive today.  If it doesn’t, I think I’m buying the Fitbit Force.

[Cross-posted with Medium.]

Short Post: Best iGoogle Replacement

I’m a devoted iGoogle user since it first came online, and so I staggered through all the stages of grief when Google announced that it was discontinuing the product 18 months ago… with the count down ticking down to November 1… just a few days from now.

For months I’ve held on to the fond hope that Google would relent, would pivot the product in some way.  Then, at the beginning of the summer I came to a grudging acceptance and purged my iGoogle page of extraneous feeds so that I wouldn’t have to transfer too many things.

Finally, today, I gave up and decided to move my home page.  Do a quick search on “iGoogle Replacement” and you’ll find a bunch of inadequate solutions.

  • Netvibes is too busy and it’s import tool doesn’t work… it’s also just a free trial that attempts to get you to upgrade, so expect the freebie to go away.
  • igHome is ugly and has no import tool, so you’ll have to recreate your iGoogle page.
  • PortalPanel is one of those “if you think exactly like the developer then this rocks!” sites, and I don’t.
  • Symbaloo is just weird

The winner is [drum roll please…] My Yahoo! complete with a handy iGoogle import tool that actually works.  I had the bones of my home page set up in moments– the only real pain was having to reconstruct a list of bookmarks by hand.

It’s not perfect: the themes are limited and unattractive; the Gmail widget works but limits you to five emails, but it’s Fast, Functional and Free with only one unkillable banner on the upper-right side of each tab.

So don’t bother looking at alternatives– you can switch over to My Yahoo! in a jiffy and then think about the home page of your dreams… and wonder why there isn’t more competition to grab this real estate.

Addendum: In the 20 hours since I posted this I’ve discovered a few minor irritating flaws in the My Yahoo! page:

  • I can’t install a Google search box on the page or an Amazon search box
  • I can’t make the default setting change so that when I click a link on the My Yahoo! page it opens up a new tab… meaning that chronically have to hit the home button and reload the page rather than just clicking back to the home tab.

Two new posts on Medium.com, plus thoughts on platform proliferation

The past week or so I’ve enjoyed writing on Medium.com. I mentioned a post about Tina Fey’s “Bossypants as Startup Bible” here before, and since then I’ve written two more:

eBay’s Sublime Terror: Staring down the precipice while hunting Babylon 5 DVDs

and

Barnes & Noble’s real problem: In praise of chunky scale

Medium.com is a wonderful, collaborative, clean, well-lighted place to write, and it’s fantastic to have the comments juxtaposed next to particular paragraphs rather than as floppy addenda at the end of a post.

I also love the curation, the community, and was  tickled to be listed in the Editor’s Picks.

On the downside, why can’t it be easier to have what I write there cross-posted over here, to my own website?  Surely it should be easy enough for them to create a “share this post on wordpress” button at the bottom of the page right next to the “share this post on Twitter” and “share this post on Facebook” buttons?

Convergence, the dream of the first wave internet pioneers before the dotpocalypse of 2000, is still just a dream.

Along these lines, I’m taking Rebelmouse for a test drive to see if it’s a good aggregator of my stuff online, as well as, perhaps, a replacement for iGoogle before it goes away in November.

What should I ask Google’s Susan Wojcicki onstage at ad:tech SF?

I’m delighted to be interviewing Google’s SVP of Advertising Susan Wojcicki next week at ad:tech San Francisco 2013. She’ll make a brief presentation and then the two of us will sit down for a fireside chat.

So what should I ask her?  What burning questions do you have for Google when it comes to their advertising plans?  I have my own list, but would love to supplement via the wisdom of the crowd.

WSJ misses the point of “Recipe Rehab” going to ABC

This morning’s Wall Street Journal has a informative piece by Amir Efrati about how Everyday Health’s popular YouTube show “Recipe Rehab” is heading to syndication on ABC stations and how the YouTube and ABC incarnations of the show will cross-promote each other.

Most importantly, the Journal reports that YouTube is hoping that it’s $150 million original content initiative “will challenge the supremacy of TV and cable in the minds of advertisers.”

But today’s news does nothing to challenge TV, and that’s what the article misses.

While ABC grabbing a YouTube show — the way Cartoon Network grabbed “Annoying Orange” earlier this year — is a triumph for the content creators and (one hopes) an economic win for Google’s YouTube as well, it reinforces that the big screen in the living room is still the big daddy when it comes to advertising.

Right now, YouTube functions as an effective and powerful farm team for TV content producers and an incredible set of data for Google’s search algorithm, but the real win — the magical “I Love Lucy” moment  for online video — will only happen when advertisers flock to a series of online video content that can be measured in GRPs and offer TV dollars… and without additional distribution of that content to TV.

Will a YouTube video ever hit TV impact?

Yes, but probably not the way we expect. As TV audiences continue to fragment (see UM exec David Cohen’s remarks on this in the WSJ article) and as YouTube’s ability to distribute its content to the big screen increases via widgets on Blu-Ray players and the like, we’ll see a glacial leveling of the playing field where TV and online disappear as categories and we just have video.

The advent of heads-up displays like Google’s own Project Glass might inflect how we watch video in ways I cannot predict.

And as DVRs slowly increase their penetration and use — which means that most content will become on-demand content rather than appointment viewing where lots of folks watch the same thing at the same time — the usage and advertising playing fields will level even more.

But that’s not what happened with “Recipe Rehab.”

 

Ecosystem Shakeups: Q&A with Urban Airship CEO Scott Kveton… Or… Amazon, Apple & Android: Oh My!

Matthew Ingram’s GigaOm article last week, “Amazon shows media companies the future of the web,” provocatively argued that the e-commerce giant’s Kindle Cloud Reader was more than just a way around the 30% cut that Apple charges for books purchased via the Kindle app on the iPad or iPhone.

 What the e-book retailer has also done is provide a great example of how media companies should be looking beyond the world of apps to the future of the web: one in which websites behave like apps, thanks to the magic of HTML5, and publishers can get the benefits of both without having to sell their souls to one app-store provider after another.

Passionately pro-HTML5, Ingram’s article suggests that after the last few years of of app frenzy we might well be seeing the decline of apps.

Seeking additional insight into the future of native handset and appliance apps vs. HTML5 web apps, I reached out to Scott Kveton, founder and CEO of Urban Airship, which is “a mobile services provider powering in-app communications and purchases for tens of thousands of mobile apps” and serves companies like ESPN, Tapulous, Groupon, dictionary.com, misnbc.com and Newsweek.

Scott Kveton

Prior to Urban Airship, Scott worked at companies including Amazon.com, Rulespace, JanRain and Vidoop, and he gets the mobile app ecosystem at a deep and helpful level.

Then, in the middle of our interview we heard this morning’s surprising news about Google buying Motorola Mobility, and so we widened the scope of our chat towards the end.

Brad Berens: you’ve built your business on powering in-app notifications and e-commerce. Every time Steve Jobs sneezes there’s a press release, but how big a deal is this Amazon vs. Apple conflict REALLY? Walk me through the ecosystem as you see it.

Scott Kveton: I think that the Amazon vs. Apple conflict is a hint at things to come. For the last couple of years, publishers, retailers and anyone with a customer relationship have bristled at the idea of having to pay a “platform tax” (the 30% Apple, Android and others take). It was inevitable that Amazon and others would look for ways around this and natural that they would turn to the web to make it so.

Amazon has to play nice with Apple right now. Amazon’s customers are on iPads and other mobile devices. If the rumors are true, we’ll see an Amazon Kindle tablet based on the Android operating system sometime soon. If that is the case, then Amazon can start building their own eco-system where they completely own the value chain. That could be huge. The Amazon Kindle tablet would be like a massively distributed point-of-sale device.

Not only can I already do a lot of what I do on iTunes on Amazon’s website (buy music, books, movies, TV shows), but with a Kindle tablet I’d also be able to use it to buy things I need at home. That poises Amazon to take an even bigger piece of the retail market. Why have a shopping list on your tablet when you could just place the order right there? Throw some benefits to Amazon Prime users and now you have real motivation for those customers to sign up and lock in.

The reality is we’re still in the early stages of this market. Content is all about delivery today, but that’s just the start. Diving deeper into that content, discovering content from your friends or what is recommended to you by the cloud is all coming soon. Access to the platforms that provide us what we want, when we want it will be the key drivers and differentiators for these successful platforms.

The triple-A threat (Android, Amazon and Apple) is looking to be in the right place to build a whole new eco-system and be the gatekeepers for content to consumers everywhere.

Berens: What advantages do native apps have over HTML5 apps?

Kveton: What we keep seeing in the conversations are descriptions of HTML5 as bringing an “app-like experience,” with the “experience” being the key difference.

Native apps are designed specifically for the devices where they live and as such take advantage of the unique properties of mobile devices. Things like cameras, sensors, geo-location, NFC, accelerometers. The next wave of native apps is going to integrate these features into the functions of their apps in order to provide much richer contextualized and personal experiences.

And we’re not talking about which ads get served here. We’re talking sophisticated, predictive communications between apps and individuals — past behavior, preferences, where that user is going and at what speed — to predict what the user wants at that very minute. Users will love this: they’re going to be disappointed with HTML5 apps that fail to provide that individual attention.

I can see a whole industry of middleware provider who will help HtML5 developers hook into these functionalities. They can save themselves a lot of effort by focusing their development on native apps and continuing to innovate around mobile specifically.

Berens: I’m intrigued by what you just said: “I can see a whole industry of middleware provider who will help HtML5 developers hook into these functionalities. They can save themselves a lot of effort by focusing their development on native apps and continuing to innovate around mobile specifically.”  I’m not sure I quite understand it: are you saying that the ostensible middleware providers would take care of connecting an HTML5 web app to the more intimate affordances of the handset? Or that the middleware providers are an unnecessary evil?

Kveton: Yes, the middleware providers will help both connect to the more intimate affordances of the handset (camera, sensors, accelerometers, et cetera), but also provide a layer of compatibility that hooks into existing workflows. I will want to be able to send notifications, deliver content and understand usage more than ever before and that will only get more complicated as each of these platforms has its own tools and eco-systems. Today’s Google/Motorola Mobility announcement puts an exclamation point on that.

We’re going to see companies go with tighter integrations of device and OS, which means they will be able to expose more to developers/publishers. Again, middleware providers will be there to make sure those publishers can address the wide-range of sophisticated devices without the hassle of having to learn all of the gory details.

Berens: What is the biggest challenge facing HTML5 developers?

Kveton: The same challenge that all mobile developers face: how to get noticed, downloaded and — most importantly — how to get the apps used frequently.

Native app developers have a leg up here because they can use push notifications to create ongoing conversations with their users. Push is one of the most important features an app can have, and it’s not available to HTML5 apps. So they are going to be hamstrung once the apps get installed on the device. Our developer community has already solved this problem with native apps for iOS, Android and RIM platforms, and we’re seeing a ton of them succeed in attaining ongoing, frequent app engagement. The importance of push cannot be underestimated.

Berens: Let’s flip this around. Given Urban Airship’s revenue model you are, obviously, a proponent of native apps, but aside from the “get around the 30% vig” issue, what other benefits are there from choosing HTML5 over a native app?

Kveton: One of benefits of HTML5 apps is that you can immediately get your website mobile-enabled. So many companies jump right in with an app and forget about their own website. Websites need to be optimized for mobile viewing– the phone number has to be linkable to make a call. So HTML5 can solve a lot of things right out of the gate: you can mobilize a website and get your brand on a device with an app at one time. HTML5 also helps with cross-platform compatibility. Apple, Android and other platforms already support HTML5.

Eventually, it will be write once, be everywhere much like it is on the web today. We’ll never be 100% HTML5 apps (just like we aren’t 100% web apps on the desktop today) but we’ll see the value of HTML5 grow over time.

Berens: Last week in Advertising Age, Jay Habegger had an interesting column about a different Amazon initiative, which is to use their data to power targeting of online display media on third party sites.

To me, this seems like a natural extension of your thoughts about Amazon owning the entire value chain— do you agree?  And what about other potential players in this sort of competition?  Wouldn’t Google compete with this Amazon tablet? And what about other app-rich mobile operating systems like Microsoft or Nokia Ovi?

Kveton: These fully-integrated stacks are really interesting. Again, Google/Motorola comes into play. Now Google is going to be able to ship a complete phone (hardware & OS). I firmly believe this is going to force Microsoft’s hand in this space as well. You can see that Nokia’s stock is up this morning on the news. Owning the entire value chain is really compelling (see Apple) but its really, really hard to pull off.

If I’m Google I would be VERY nervous about someone like Amazon coming into the advertising space. Amazon’s impending Android tablet is another piece of the puzzle for them to own even more of the value chain and coupling that with their data for an advertising play is really compelling.

[Cross-posted with the iMedia Connection blogs.]



Portland Startups to work with Target, Coca-Cola, Nike, Google, Wieden + Kennedy

Our industry has relapsed into a high digital startup fever, but this time with a new twist— brands working directly with entrepreneurs in order to find the next hot digital companies at the earliest possible stage and to stay at the sharpest edge of marketing innovation.

We’ve seen this elsewhere with the PepsiCo10 in New York and Europe, the Brandery in Cincinnati, and now PIE, the Portland Incubator Experiment, is about to launch its fall class right here in my town — Portland, Oregon – smack dab in the middle of the Silicon Forest.

What’s in it for the startup? $18,000, office space for three months and a rich community of other startups, PIE alums, the digital team at W+K and a mentor network that includes thought leaders from companies including Target, Coca-Cola, Nike and – as of just last week — Google.

You don’t have to be a Portlander to apply—applications so far have come in from the Northwest and as far as Vermont and Tennessee.

The deadline is August 8 at 11:59pm, so don’t wait—get cracking on that application today!

Imagine being an entrepreneur with a nifty idea who gets to work directly with folks who have rich startup experience of their own from Google and YouTube.

And on the flip side, many young digital companies begin with technology, then move to a terrific user experience, and only then do they think, “Hmmm, what about revenue? I know, let’s sell some ads!”

But that’s not how major brands want to get involved—they want to get baked into the process early, and they want opportunities beyond advertising, including strategic, technological and other communications-related innovations.

And what terrific advocates for brand-centric development in Target, Coca-Cola and Nike!

Apply today!

 

Further reading:

Netflix’s Big OOPS– didn’t these guys take Psych 101?

Topline takeway for this post: Netflix has screwed up, turning unconsidered background choices into front-of-mind considerations. They don’t understand how pleasure and satisfaction work.

I’m on vacation and somewhat unplugged, but I was still connected enought to receive a surprising email from Netflix yesterday saying that if I want to retain both unlimited streaming and one disk out at a time, then my price will jump from $9.99 per month to $15.98 per month– and that this will happen by September 1st.

Thin-slicing report: my first thought was, “huh, guess it’s time to cancel Netflix.”

(Side note: the inevitable social media death spiral has already begun, but that’s not what I’m talking about here.)

Whomever made this call at Netflix HQ doesn’t understand how locally unsatisfying but globally satisfying the current Netflix product is.

Even though I probably only borrow a dozen titles per year in disk form — and those disks become a Tivo-guilt-like homework assignment — my satisfaction index for those choices is moderate if unscrutinized. These are things I know I want to see to a sufficient extent that I’ll actually forego other options in order to have Netflix send me the disk. Netflix is so low-pressure compared to the other video rental services it is driving out of business (no late fees, etc.) that I don’t pay attention to how much of the $120 per year is wasted or not optimized– a real set it and forget it service. And the unlimited free streaming on top of that makes me even less likely to ponder the value.

So even though no local choice is a slam dunk — the way going to see “Cars 2” with my kids this week is likely to be an eventful and memorable outing — my global level of satisfaction with the service is acceptable.

Likewise, my endless Netflix instant-streaming queue is composed of things I vaguely want to see but haven’t gotten around to yet. “Huh, they’ve got ‘Hot Tub Time Machine,’ already… okaaaaay.” Most of what I watch on Netflix I watch alone, and so the choice of what to watch is quite arbitrary and mood driven. There is no killer content on Netflix — nothing I can’t get elsewhere if I really want to see it — just an amazing range of good-enough content for vegetating on the couch after a long day. I don’t do a cost-benefit analysis because I still think of the streaming as a freebie on top of the disk-rental agreement.

Until now.

Now, Netflix has forced me to think critically, and that’s never a good idea with a customer. Here’s a sample of my internal monologue:

Is $7.99 per month is a good enough price for unlimited Netflix streaming by itself. What about Hulu Plus? Golly, I’m already spending a ton on Comcast and they have free and fee VOD… do I really need Netflix? What about Amazon Prime? I already have an account there.  Should I spend the $94 I’m about to spend on Netflix streaming on a Roku box to hook Prime up to the big screen in the living room?

And the same is true for the disks: for $120 I can buy most of what I want, use VOD via Comcast or Vudu or Xbox/Zune, or look more carefully at the offerings at my local library.

In Barry Schwartz’s remarkable 2003 book The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less, he articulates that the problem of internet plenitude is that for every choice we do make the opportunity costs of the choices we don’t make sucks away our satisfaction away from the lucky thing chosen.

The current Netlix service — the one going away in the fall that combines one disk with unlimited streaming –neatly jumps over the Paradox of Choice because the opportunity costs of each choice are ameliorated by a different sort of plenitude. If I don’t like the disk, I can stream.  If I don’t like the stream, then what about that disk lying on my desk?

Each service compensated for the faults of the other, but — I think — neither is worth paying for itself alone when there are so many alternatives.

Right now, I’m paying monthly or annual service charges for:

  1. Comcast Cable with Premium Channels
  2. Amazon Prime
  3. Netflix
  4. Hulu Plus
  5. Xbox Live Gold

Something’s gotta give.  Until that email yesterday I wouldn’t have imagined that Netflix would be on the list of likely evictees.

Now it is.