Category Archives: Mobile Marketing

Voice recognition was done first and best by humans

Back in 2008 I theorized that it would be just a few years before voice commands revolutionized marketing and commerce. Not necessarily for everyone, mind you, but most significantly for people who wouldn’t dream of using a keyboard, or even a smartphone!

My post, Leaping the chasm to a plugged-in construction site, predicted that voice recognition isn’t that far away, and is the only way that many professionals would benefit from the utility of digital networking and cloud computing — ranging from the “safety glasses and hard hats set,” to offshore oil technicians (were you listening BP?), and even to surgeons.

One Million Years BC was a very cheesy movie about life before history. Original voice was mostly simple words and grunts. Heavy breathing was also involved -- at least, I'm imagining, by certain audience members.
In the beginning, even before we had a written language with which to record history, our original form of communication was voice. The problem with voice, however, was that once the words were spoken, they were gone forever. HarQen was launched at a time of technology convergence, when original voice can be turned into an asset.

That was as an outsider in the digital voice space. After spending time “inside,” with my friends and co-workers at HarQen, I’m realizing that voice recognition isn’t the only way to make a big difference with these types of phone users. I’ve discovered that you can derive value simply from people talking into their phones and having these snippets turned into sharable assets.

In other words, I hadn’t considered original voice. Original voice can be thought of as voice “captured, stored and shared,” pretty much as-is.

HarQen believes The Original Voice Matters. I recently talked about their view, of how voice is the “original rich media,” at Ungeeked Elite. Here’s a post from last week, on the VoiceScreener blog, that helps to explain why the best voice recognition software still resides between our ears — and how HarQen is using voice asset management to give clients an impressive competitive advantage.

So I was wrong. But I’m even more excited now than I was then. I cannot wait to see what happens when voice asset management is commonly adopted. Although it might not be powered directly by voice recognition, there may be a plugged-in construction site after all, using speech in the way it was used in the days when the only construction sites were in barely habitable caves!

What was sorely missing from yesterday’s iPad unveiling was … Graffiti?!?

The iPad, unveiled WednesdayYesterday’s unveiling of the Apple tablet, which we now know is called the iPad, showed a device with a larger surface than the iPhone / iPod Touch. It allows for a better reading and video experience and provides improved ways to do things like manage emails and photographs. Largely unaddressed with this release is a far more important question: How will this multi-touch make me  better at thinking and creating?

Rocking the PDA old skool with Palm’s Graffiti

Return with me for a moment to a simpler time, before smartphones got “smart.”

It was a time when the handheld device du jour was a Personal Digital Assistant (PDA). In the 1990’s, Palm released their Pilot PDA. These Treos, sans cell phone required a stylus for text entry. There was no QWERTY keyboard, and not even a cell phone number pad.

The user needed to learn a type of stylus script called Graffiti to get text into the thing. Some people got good enough to write with something close to the speed of traditional longhand. Personally, as a lefty, I found it more comfortable to use Graffiti than to write in longhand. I didn’t have to think about the angle of the paper in relation to my contorted left hand. Smearing ink wasn’t an issue.

This was many people’s introduction to a computer user interface beyond the keyboard. There was a lot wrong with it, though. Styluses are a pain to use. And many Palm users found Graffiti so difficult to use that they simply called up a hunt-and-peck keyboard. Here’s a YouTube demo of it in use.

For me the golden promise of multi-touch monitors is not the ability to flick through photo galleries or zoom into a map — as cool as those functions are. Ever since the first mass market multi-touch keyboard was made available with the invention of the iPhone, I was waiting for a faster way to record thoughts.

I was hoping yesterday to learn of a gestural script — a Graffiti without the stylus.

What’s so wrong with QWERTY keyboards?

Whether displayed on an iPhone, an iPod Touch, or now the iPad — old-fashioned keyboards simply don’t free the user to quickly jot something down and get back to work.

Instead, these devices force users to leave the fluid, intuitive work of (let’s face it!) grown-up finger painting. The appearance of the QWERTY keyboard sends them marching back indoors like a recess bell. Ugh! The taps of fingers on keys — even ultra-modern keys, projected on slick glass iPad surface — still evoke the drudgery of an oppressive cubicle farm.

I know this sounds a little glib, but think about it. Our speed of productive output are in many ways limited by our office supplies. Give someone a soul-crushing keyboard to think with and you’ll be producing something constrained by that medium. If their work soars, it’s in spite of the keyboard, not aided by it. In 2003, Jeff Han demonstrated to cheers the full effect of a multi-touch experience. I predicted then that this technology will quickly change the very nature of our work experience.

Apple knows this.

There have been accounts of Apple applying for and receiving patents on what would be the building blocks of a new gestural interface. New Scientist recently recounted the patents Apple has applied for to tap into “touch or hover” and “gesture dictionary.” That day may arrive with a new version of the iPad. It cannot come soon enough.

Related post:

  • Jeff Han’s demonstration of multi-touch screens
  • Twitter entrepreneur to speak at likemind next Friday

    Starting next week, likemind will features speakers in an intimate, conversational format. Those who have attended one of these internationally acclaimed “un-networking” meetings can attest to their unique appeal. Like BarCamp conferences, they’re stripped-down ways for professionals of all stripes to meet and converse.

    Changes to Milwaukee’s likemind format were inspired by this realization: Most of us can benefit from a meeting where diverse ideas are traded and new acquaintances are made — as long as there is one thing we can be sure to take back to the office. I was quick to agree with Jamey Shiels, my new co-host for the meetings, that an interesting speaker could be just such a “draw.”

    Another change is the earlier meeting time. We’re started at 7:00 AM instead of 8:00. That means more people who must be in the office by the start of the business day can attend. Our speaker will be starting his brief presentation at roughly 7:20. And our first speaker is …

    streetzapizza

    Learn About The Streetza Pizza Success Story

    Scott Baitinger will be the speaker at likemind next week, Friday, September 18. He and Steve Mai are generating national attention for their street vending business. They sell gourmet pizza by the slice to a crowd generated in part by their posts on Twitter. Here’s what a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel piece on the duo had to say:

    Twittering food trucks are a rarity in Milwaukee — Streetza might actually be the first — but they’ve been embraced elsewhere. In Los Angeles, the Kogi Korean BBQ taco truck broadcasts its moves via tweets and draws from 300 to 800 diners a night.

    Scott will talk about the growing success of his business, which has generated dozens of franchise requests. If you missed his presentation at the recent Social Media University, you definitely do not want to miss this!

    Related pages and articles:

    Bokodes talk to you through your smart-phone camera

    According to an estimate on this video, the world is teeming with a billion people who are armed with a “reasonably high quality” digital camera. Most of these cameras are in cell phones. The Camera Culture, of the prestigious MIT Media Lab, wishes to exploit this opportunity with a new type of barcode, called the Bokode. The video below shows the science behind this breathtaking new technology.

    Geek Alert: Unless you’re an optical physicist, you’ll likely start zoning out by the third minute of this five-minute video. Hang in there. The more apparent business applications are discussed starting in the last minute of this thing.

    If you simply cannot endure the details about how this system conveys tons of product information, and senses where your camera is positioned and communicates that position to your camera, here’s a link to a more benefits-oriented video, from BBC’s outstanding technology bureau.

    Assuming you’re like me, a marketing professional who cares about technology, I urge you to educate yourself on this advancement in cell-camera-enabled barcoding. It’s the beginning of a more robust way for us to gather information about the products and businesses we encounter.

    Unless I’m mistaken, that is. I’d love to know what you think.

    Related links:

    It’s time we deliver great mobile web experiences

    moonForty years after putting a human on the moon, we’re faced with the same question we had that day: Now what? My vote is not moon colonization, or sending people to Mars. No, let’s do something really challenging — but arguably far more beneficial. Let’s finally deliver stellar mobile web experience.

    I’m proposing this in light of the new study that finds typical mobile web experiences excruciating. The user experience research firm Nielsen Norman Group reports today in their usability studies that the typical success rate for users completing tasks on the mobile Internet was just shy of 60 percent, compared to an average PC-based browser success rate of 80 percent.

    Jakob Nielsen says of these findings: “The phrase ‘mobile usability’ is pretty much an oxymoron … [watching users] suffer during our user sessions reminded us of the very first usability studies we did with traditional websites in 1994.”

    Improving mobile web experiences won’t be easy. But the returns in customer productivity and brand loyalty for businesses that hit the mark are huge.

    More answers and links for vet practice managers

    Let’s say you’re a practice manager for a veterinary clinic or animal hospital, and you realize you need to change your current marketing budget. Like last year and the year before, your marketing spend heaps way too much money on print and other tactics that are missing many of today’s consumers.

    So what do want to learn most desperately when a skinny, still-slightly-contageous (cough, cough) marketing geek climbs behind the podium at your conference (organized by the AAHA)? Well, I’ll tell you.

    What follows are links to resources that should come in handy if you live in the world of a practice manager, and will come in particularly handy if you attended my presentations. These are a Greatest Hits of sorts, based on the questions posed at the end of each of four presentations, and in emails I’ve received as recently as last night, requesting specific answers to question.

    First, here are the topics we covered, linked to their mind maps — which served as outline during the presentations:

    Most Popular Questions Posed

    I took a while to post this because I wanted it to be comprehensive, and until even last night, I was getting requests for specific information. The profession of veterinary medicine is clearly waking up to the ways a strong online presence can help grow a practce and keep it vital!

    Q: If you say a site that is “content managed” is ideal, what is the best person in my organization to manage that web content?

    A: The simple answer is it’s the person closest to the authoritative content. Content management systems have opened businesses up to a greater intimacy with their customers by making web sites more useful. If you know that a business’s site will provide you with realiable, time-sensitive information, you’ll return to the site more often. And ostensibly, you’ll be more ready to refer the site — and the business — to others. What sort of information can an animal hospital site provide? You do not have to talk about animal diseases or treatments. Other general sites do that. Talk about how your services may be accessed (hours? phone numbers?), the way your services are provided and what I can expect if I go to you. Know your audience, and provide every scrap of information that could be useful.

    This will require someone close enough to the answers, but obviously not a veterinarian whose hours would better serve the business by being devoted to billable work. Is there an assistant or clerical person who feels good about writing short snippets of information? Expose this person to all the facts needed and then let that person go!

    Q: Regarding search engine marketing: What if I have a new site that is competing against large, established practices for the same keyworks. These older sites are “owning” the keywords. My site barely shows up in search engine results pages for them. Help!

    A: You’ve done the first step. You realize there is a problem. One should consider a site’s real home page to be a search engine results page! The first step is to do a compehensive inventory of all keyword phrases you want to go after. The odds are, your competitor won’t be present for all phrases for all major search engines. You can start by creating content that is optimized for those unclaimed phrases. As for the others, realize that search engines favor age over “youth” when they look at web sites, so your new site will be viewed skeptically by Google, et al. So the second step is to find more backlinks than your competing sites have. Truly high-quaity backlinks can confer credibility fastHere’s a post to help you establish backlinks.

    Q: Can you help me read up on social network marketing?

    A: It’s the hottest top around in online marketing, and that was clear from the volume of questions I received immediately after my presentations, and subsequently, via email. Luckily there is a ton of material out there. Start with my post on why Facebook is a good set of “training wheels” for those unsure about how to begin. This post specifically addresses why Facebook is superior in its ability to instruct a user than Twitter. For an overall map of the social network space, I posted one nine months ago that gives you a taste of its size and complexity. The most valuable aspect of the map is the categories. You don’t have to follow many. Just think of the types of social sites that might have users talk about you.

    Yelp was discussed a great deal in my AAHA talk. Here is a link to that outstanding On The Media podcast, where Bob Garfield (of AdAge fame) explores what you can do when someone dishes dirt about your business on Yelp and elsewhere (the short answer: Precious little! But it helps to know when dirt has been dished). This link to OnTheMedia.org includes an embedded sound player, a way to download the MP3, and even a link to the transcript, if you’d prefer to read instead of listen. It’s a great show overall — I cannot recommend it more highly for understanding how media of all types are influencing us … and are themselves influenced, by politics, business and society.

    Q: I like the idea of a new media refrigerator magnet to promote my practice. Tell me more about Digital Pet Parade.

    A: That’s the Facebook widget that can also be viewed in higher-end smart phones, and can even be embedded in the blogs of your biggest fans (by one fairly recent count there are over 70 million blogs out there — certainly some of those are written by people your practice delighted). Read my post and then contact me if you’d like to be part of the beta test for this exciting marketing tool.

    Did I miss any?

    Let me know in the comments section below what other questions you’d like answered!

    Digital picture frame can help pet owners share their love

    This afternoon I had the privilege of speaking to the American Animal Hospital Association about, among other things, mobile marketing. I look forward to resuming the conversations tomorrow.

    Tomorrow I will also be posting an entry with many of the links and updates I’d promised. But for now, I wanted to present for your critique a gee-whiz idea I posed to the group. I hope you can help me with your comments.

    Please consider this: What if there was a way to use the viral marketing power of a Facebook widget to help your best customers talk about your practice.

    The idea uses something I’ve blogged about before: widgets. Ad Age contributor Bob Garfield has postulated, and I agreed in this post, that widgets can be for healthcare marketers the new refrigerator magnet. Well, how about for veterinary practices?

    A prototype image is near the bottom of this post, but the essence has more to do with functional design than actual appearances. It occurred to me that pet owners are almost as quick to flash you their latest pet pics as they are photos of kids and grandkids. One friend (a team member from my ec-connection days) even has a Facebook profile page for his lovely Dora:

    The Lovely Dora

    This spawned in my mind the Digital Pet Parade. It’s a digital picture frame, of sorts, that you would install and configure on your Facebook profile. Using this widget, you can display pet photos that you’ve already loaded in the Photos section of your site. The picture frame (a prototype shown below*) does these things that a mere photo collection cannot:

    A logo on the digital picture frame would link to the sponsor's practice site
    A logo on the digital picture frame would link to the sponsor's practice site
    1. Rotates your photos with a frequent “refresh” rate that you would set — or simply shows a new one from your collection daily
    2. Includes the photos of your friends on Facebook as well — or at least those who also have the picture frame showing their photos (and their picture frame would show your photos if they opt to allow this)
    3. Allows for picture comments, from you and you friends (not shown)
    4. Is equally functional on iPhone web browsers, as well as other many other higher-end smartphones.

    This afternoon I got a chance to chat with a lot of practice managers and veterinarians about using the power of social networks to help their best customers become their ambassadors. But I still wonder if this way particular way of empowering customers has real potential.

    Hot … or NOT?

    Here’s the big question: Has this simple widget added more complexity than is needed?

    From a marketing perspective, it’s a glamorized way to show you’re a “fan” of the practice, by using their branded widget. I frankly like the subtly of this. And yes, in this way it resides on your profile page the way a magnet would hold up papers and whatnot on the door of your fridge.

    But will your customers be eager enough to agree to install one more application on their Facebook profile? You tell me!

    I’ve met a lot of people today and asked them to respond. Let’s keep the discussion going!


    *NOTE: Digital Pet Parade prototype was designed by the lovely and talented designer and art director Heather Prickett Bolyard.

    Wearable computer hints at ways we might live digitally

    Every year the TED conference introduces new and provocative ideas, many of which soon become commonplace. Two years ago, Jeff Han’s demonstration of multi-touch screens presaged the Microsoft Surface, and the first mass-produced multi-touch cell phone: the iPhone. These multi-touch screens are many things, but unencumbered is not an adjective that comes to mind.

    Even the iPhone requires you to hold a cell phone, which is a barrier for a lot of real-world applications. MIT Media Lab’s Pattie Maes explained the challenge at the latest TED conference. She said that, for instance, “If you are in the toilet tissue aisle of your supermarket, you don’t take out your cell phone, open a browser and go to a web site when you want to know which is the most ecologically sound toilet tissue to buy.” She and Pranav Mistry, also of MIT’s lab, have devised a potential solution to accessing this type of rich information in the real world. They call call this sort of computer interface their Sixth Sense. Here is the video of the computer demo.

    The demonstration had the audience on their feet, cheering.

    Here are three things I love about this concept, as crude as it currently is:

    1. It’s cheap, light and small
    2. It can very quickly become cheaper, lighter and smaller
    3. With video recognition, the need for colored finger-markers will be unnecessary (so will logging in, since it will recognize its owner’s unique fingertips from anyone else’s)

    Wearable computers have been talked about for decades, but this is the first user interface that is starting to make sense to me.

    When Jeff Han’s concept of multi-touch computer interfaces was presented two years ago, my blog post was effusive about the possibilites. Someday we might be able to work standing up — more prone to both creativity and collaboration (please excuse the obscure pun). The biggest barrier to this future was that darned wall-sized screen. With the Sixth Sense device, any white wall becomes a screen — and an inviting whiteboard for one or more knowledge workers to play in.

    Do you agree that this crazy contraption has a lot of possibilities?

    If your site does any of these things, make a mobile version

    Web usability expert Jakob Nielsen is admittedly “bullish” on the mobile web. But his recent post bemoans how lacking most web sites are when viewed on mobile devices. For most sites, his prescription isn’t a web design overhaul. Instead, he recommends creating a separate version specifically for the lowest common denominator mobile browser.

    To be more precise, he recommends that only if your site is frequented by cell phones and smart phones should you make this investment. “Not all sites need mobile versions,” says Nielsen. “According to a diary study we conducted with users in 6 countries, people use their phones for a fairly narrow range of activities.

    “So, because many mainstream websites won’t see a lot of mobile users, they should just adapt their basic design to avoid the worst pitfalls for those few mobile users they’ll get.”

    Narrow Range of Activities

    So, you may wonder: What is this “narrow range” of activities? The following list is a good summary. These happen to be the “behaviors users engage in when using mobile devices,” as described in the upcoming Usability Week 2009 Conference(s), presented by the Nielsen Norman Group and presented by Raluca Budiu in full-day tutorials.

    The course description lists these activities. If your site has users doing any of these 11 activities, seriously consider designing or upgrading a mobile version for your site:

    1. Navigation to websites on mobile devices
      • Search
      • Portals
      • Bookmarks
      • Direct access
    2. Browsing for news, entertainment, sports
    3. Finding specific information (weather, movie times, etc.)
    4. Transactions (such as online banking and other financial operations)
    5. Using maps and location information
    6. Integrating e-mail and contact information with browsing and fact-finding
    7. Content management (ringtones, photos, etc.)
    8. Monitoring and communication
      • E-mail
      • Instant messaging
      • Online communities
      • Social networks
      • Discussion groups
      • And more
    9. Shopping
      • Finding information about a product
      • Comparing online and in-store costs
      • Purchasing
      • M-commerce
    10. Killing time
      • Video, music, and games
      • Accessing, choosing, and downloading content
    11. Accessing nutrition and health information

    Far from a narrow range, that seems like a lot of functionality! In Nielen’s Utopia, we’d all be doing most of our work and online recreation from our phones. It seems more like science fiction than a glimpse of things to come.

    So why exactly is Nielen so bullish on mobile? Here’s an excerpt of his reasoning in today’s post:

    Mobile is the trend of the year in application design. While trends can be wrong, lots of interesting things are happening.

    We’re turning a corner in mobile Web usability. Just as Apple’s Macintosh heralded a breakthrough in personal computer usability 25 years ago, its iPhone is pioneering a similar breakthrough in mobile usability today.

    The iPhone is certainly not perfect, and competitors could easily make better mobile devices. By “easily” I don’t mean over a weekend. I simply mean that it’s possible to do it given a strong focus on user experience and user-centered design [UCD]; iPhone leaves a lot of ground for improvement. So far, however, iPhone competitors have been disappointing because they haven’t been created with UCD.

    He goes on to write that, whereas mobile browsers may improve over time, it is the user experience designed into mobile web sites that will lead the way in the short-term. He explains, “There is immense potential for advances in mobile usability as more website, intranet, and enterprise software designers build mobile versions and revamp their current designs for usability.

    “The mainstream Web’s state in 1998 actually provides a hopeful precedent: just a year later, in 1999, interest in Web usability began to explode as Internet managers realized how chasing ‘cool’ rather than usable design yielded poor business results.”

    Nielsen concludes by stating that he hope history repeats itself. As we marketing technologists struggle to deliver more value with every customer contact (in today’s economy more than ever!), I see this being likely to happen.

    Google Latitude brings web closer to place-based networking

    Today Google has proved correct the predictions of many, including anthropologist and technology expert danah boyd. For years she has been fond of saying that the next iteration of the web — the much ballyhooed Web 3.0 — will be place-based. In a post of hers from two years ago, she writes the following:

    I believe that geographic-dependent context will be the next key shift. GPS, mesh networks, articulated presence, etc.

    People want to go mobile and they want to use technology to help them engage in the mobile world.

    Leaping across the chasm to a robust mobile web experience won’t be easy. Especially in this country. Like the ancient city of Bable, the current state of U.S. carriers is one of everyone speaking a different language.

    This suits the carriers just fine.

    As long as you cannot easily share rich functionality with someone who has a different cell plan, the temptation to switch is less. In other words, as long as each carrier is as dumb as the next, we all remain tied to our current one. In a confederacy of dunces, you might as well stick with the dunce you know.

    Enter Google, Stage Left

    Even before 2005, when Google purchased Dodgeball, there have been indications that they see the future in place-based networking. Everyone has been watching for the big play; the one that will accelerate the steady march to this new networked experience.

    In the meantime, many of us have done our own experimenting with what has been available. I, for one, have toyed with Brightkite.com — especially its “I am here” interface with Twitter (my handle in both: TheLarch).

    The experience has been kludgy.

    This is rarely a word used for Google applications, though. And today they officially announced Google Latitude.

    Here’s a video to explain how it works. It’s about (surprise, surprise) privacy:



    What Latitude will do for our progress toward rich mobile networking is not necessarily revolutionary, but it is evolution on steroids.

    I am certainly not the only person predicting that the news today is big.

    I am, however, the only one in this particular location. Perhaps by later this year, if you’re a close friend, and I choose to let you know, you’ll be able to know through Latitude exactly where my current “here” happens to be.

    iPhone voice recognition app presages a new mobile interface

    A newly-launched iPhone application allows Google searches through voice alone. This brings us closer to when non-computing types can work and play in a Web 2.0 world. Imagine: If this future comes to pass, productivity increases in many industries would be huge.

    More significant to us marketers, large swaths of the workforce will no longer consider the computing world to be hostile — or at the very least, impenetrable. As I speculated two years ago many workers simply will not make portable computing a habit until it is easy enough to do through speech alone.

    You might consider this Part II of a two-part post. Last week I reported on Powerset, Microsoft’s acquisition in semantic search. Now, here is an exciting stride in the the voice-recognition half of the hands-free computing equation.

    Below is how the New York Times characterized the voice recognition arms race (at least, the race for the juicy prize of mobile search dominance):

    Both Yahoo and Microsoft already offer voice services for cellphones. The Microsoft Tellme service returns information in specific categories like directions, maps and movies. Yahoo’s oneSearch with Voice is more flexible but does not appear to be as accurate as Google’s offering. The Google system is far from perfect, and it can return queries that appear as gibberish. Google executives declined to estimate how often the service gets it right, but they said they believed it was easily accurate enough to be useful to people who wanted to avoid tapping out their queries on the iPhone’s touch-screen keyboard.

    The service can be used to get restaurant recommendations and driving directions, look up contacts in the iPhone’s address book or just settle arguments in bars. The query “What is the best pizza restaurant in Noe Valley?” returns a list of three restaurants in that San Francisco neighborhood, each with starred reviews from Google users and links to click for phone numbers and directions.

    The emphasis above is mine. Here’s a demo of the new Google app for the iPhone:

    This is going to get very interesting, very fast.

    As Raj Reddy, an artificial intelligence researcher at Carnegie Mellon University, reported in the NY Time’s piece: “Whatever [Google] introduces now, it will greatly increase in accuracy in three or six months.”

    The semantic search problem, when solved, will help computers understand what people are saying based on their wording and a phrase’s context. On the other hand, voice recognition requires something at least as daunting: Penetrating regional accents. The most visible flaw in this first full week of the iPhone app’s release is it is baffled by British accents.