SEPTEMBER 2012

  • HANDWRITTEN IN REAL LIFE: CONTINUUM INNOVATION

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Project Thank You

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    As you know, I’m a big fan of the handwritten thank you note…  While Sprint’s “Thank You Thursday” effort continues to gain traction internally and externally, I’m always on the watch for others doing it right.

    Continuum Innovation is a design agency full of intelligent people who were instrumental in bringing apps and services to life in our retail stores.  We were working closely together at Sprint (and making huge strides) but fell victim to a changing of the guard.

    I received a thank you note in the mail today from the Continuum team and it really blew me away.  The note was genuine and full of gratitude for our partnership, thanking me (and my team) for our support and wishing us luck in the future.  Even in a situation where it’s easy to be upset about the outcome, Continuum looked at the great progress we made together and sent a heart-felt thank you for the partnership.

    Classy move guys….look forward to running into you again some day!

  • MY 3 FAVORITE SPORTS APPS FOR FALL

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: App Test Drives, Mobile Tech

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    Fall is a beautiful time of year…  After the horrible summer we had, the weather has been a treat and my inner-Nebraskan is overjoyed by the fact that football is in full swing.  Aside from a bit of a rough start for my Huskers and two weeks of heart-breaking losses for my fantasy football team, I’ve caught every moment with some help from my mobile phone and these three awesome apps:

    1)  ESPN College Football:  FREE (Android/iPhone)

     Nebraska law dictates that nothing shall interrupt a Husker game, unfortunately the occasional wedding or trip to Runza for a half-time snack may interfere.  Luckily the folks at ESPN were on point with top notch reporting and a really slick interface to fulfill all of your College Football needs.  I’ve found that even while sitting in front of my TV, I’m getting more information than the on-air talent (i.e. the Bo Pelini heartburn scare of week 3).  Simply log in with your Facebook account and add your favorite college teams….timely notifications can be customized to deliver news, game start/end, scores and more.

    2)  Yahoo! Fantasy Football ’12:  FREE (Android/iPhone)

    While I definitely bleed Husker Red, Fantasy Football has turned into an obsession over the last few years.  With the KC Chiefs completely embarrassing themselves again in 2012, it’s nice to have a fake team that I can root for.  We’ve used Yahoo! over the last couple years and their app has slowly become one of the more capable on the market with live scoring, roster changes and more available at your finger tips.  A must have companion when watching NFL Redzone in the basement.

    3)  THUUZ Sports:  FREE (Android/iPhone)

    While the ESPN CFB app definitely takes the cake, this sleeper pick is a MUST DOWNLOAD….  I’ve been watching THUUZ for about a year as they’ve developed from cool app to necessary utility.  The wizards at THUUZ watch every single game going on and will send you a notification if there’s something on TV that you shouldn’t miss.  It’s a brilliant concept made even better by the fact that they now can integrate your fantasy football teams with the click of a button.  By logging in with my Yahoo! credentials, Thuuz knows when Vick is tearing it up and gives me a quick nudge to flip the channel….nice work guys.

    How about you?  Any favorites that I missed?  

     

     

  • GUEST BLOGGER FOR A DAY

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Other Cool Stuff...

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    I’m not the next Design Star, but my friend Kelly asked me to writer her a post on her design blog with a technological slant.  I decided to talk about my favorite thing to do with my Instagram pics (bring them to life in the real world).

    It’s up and you should be following her blog….go check it out:  http://www.twentysixeast.com/2012/09/insta-interior-design.html

    She’s a fantastic blogger who covers design, style and local KC businesses….if you’re not following her go do it now!

     

    26 East’s Facebook Page:  http://www.facebook.com/pages/26-east/117893888358242

  • NO FACEBOOK PHONE, BUT FACEBOOK WILL RULE MOBILE

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Mobile Tech

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    Zuckerberg announced today that he’s not going to make a phone….  This is fantastic news given the fact that they’ve really blown it in mobile over the last few years; but I think they’re still poised to win the day.

    By all accounts, Facebook knows more about me than most of my close friends and family.  They’ve built an amazing engine that collects data about things I like, songs I listen to, people I’m associated with, our interactions, our relationships and all of our contact info.  They’ve done a lot of this by focusing on building a killer experience for my desktop computer and yet as announced today “mobile users are twice as likely to use Facebook 6 or 7 times/week.”

    This is absolutely no surprise to me….  Back in 2008 I did a quick cross-reference of my friends who were using the Facebook for BlackBerry application (which at the time was the only mobile platform that had a Facebook app…..BlackBerry developers actually created it on behalf of Facebook) and the people who regularly contributed status updates to the Facebook platform.  [Informally], I found that almost all of the people I enjoyed communicating with on Facebook were also BlackBerry users.  BlackBerry had latched onto what was so great about Facebook, one-to-many communication, and brought it to mobile with instantaneous push notifications and on-demand photo uploads….a match made in heaven that has since been duplicated in the form of mobile apps for iOS, Android and Windows Phone.

    So if Facebook was really made for mobile, why aren’t they OWNING our mobile phone’s basic functions?:

    Contacts – duh….seems stupid right?  You know a lot of people on Facebook, they put their phone numbers, addresses, email, birthdays and much more into Facebook.  Why is it so hard to get to that content in your native address book?  The original BlackBerry app did it….

    Presence – Facebook’s utility emerged in the form of sharing status…they need to take it to the next level.  Consider everything that your phone knows about you.  When you’re in a phone call, when you’re in a meeting, when you’re texting someone else, when your phone is traveling faster than a walking pace, when the screen is off, when it’s charging.  We need someone to develop a presence engine…Facebook is best positioned for this.

    Messaging – Given the above….don’t you think the average text message could become just a little bit more dynamic and rich?  Why are our text messages locked solely to our phones?  Why can’t our phones auto reply for us when we’re in a meeting or driving? How is it really that difficult to send messages to multiple people and reply to everyone on the string??

    Calendar – This one really puzzles me….my Mom and Aunts plan family Christmas through the Facebook calendar now but that appointment never shows up on my mobile phone!!  There are a lot of ways the average person could benefit from a social calendar.  Many have tried…someone needs to figure out a better way for my wife (and some day my kids) to plan together.

    Camera – Instagram was a good start, but why can’t my camera intelligently recognize objects in my pictures….instantly tagging them (i.e. Erik & Stacey are by the Eiffel Tower) or directing me to useful info (hey, that barcode you have in your viewfinder leads to this website).  Mobile cameras have come a long way, mostly stealing from their digital cousins.  The cameras in our phones are connected to the INTERNET and Facebook has done nothing with that…(Google Goggles is a good start though)

    App Stores/Commerce – Apple’s Genius is neat and Google’s starting to make recommendations in the Play Store, but Facebook is a content engine on steroids.  Apply this intelligence to not only digital content purchases but help me when I’m in a store trying to match a shirt and tie or looking for a car….

    I could go on….but there’s a theme here.  Facebook has completely squandered the mobile space by simply building an app.  That was cool when Facebook was just a place to share what “Erik is…” up to, but it’s proven to be so much more than that.  If they’re going to succeed over the long term, they need to bust onto the Web 3.0 scene in a big way.

    Make no mistake, Facebook SHOULD NOT have to create a phone…..in reality, that limits their reach.  Instead of focusing on building yet another mobile operating system, they need to put their tail between their legs, walk into the office buildings in Cupertino, Mountain View and Redmond hoping that they can still join forces with the current winners.  This will prove to be difficult given the large threat they pose but I would love to be a part of that negotiation.

    Monetization?  There’s a lot of value in putting the right offer in front of  the right person at the right place at the right time and make it look natural (and it probably doesn’t look like the banner ads we’re all used to).  The first step is having access to the customer….  We’ve shown Facebook that we’re willing to give them a long rope, should be interesting to see what they do with it.

     

    UPDATE:  Well holy crap!!  I beat Tim Cook to the punch by just a day:  http://www.insidefacebook.com/2012/09/12/facebook-integration-coming-to-iphone-and-itunes-app-store-next-week/

  • WHAT ARE YOUR EYEBALLS WORTH?

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: Life Lessons

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    Advertising is literally everywhere…..

    My friend Mark was re-counting an experience he had a few weeks ago.  He was out of cash and pulled up to an ATM to fill his wallet back up (I know, paper money….weird).  After typing in how much money he needed, the machine started to send the request to his bank.  He waited for the cash to spit out of the machine and his eyes were drawn back to the screen to see an advertisement standing between him and his money.

    As we discussed this interaction, he showed true exhaustion and frustration with the way companies are taking advantage of our attention.  It’s no wonder America struggles with ADHD, anxiety disorders and depression….there’s a battle for our eyeballs and we’re continually being bombarded.

    Amazon took another big step in this battle with the complete refresh of their Kindle lineup today.  The new Kindle models all have ads on the lock screen when you power up the device.  Yes….when you turn your Kindle Fire on you’ll see offers from Amazon, American Express, AT&T and probably others in the future…..not a pretty landscape or a picture of your wife’s cat.  While this was something Amazon experimented with over the last couple years on the standard Kindle it’s a bold new move on a product that will arguably see more usage and exposure.  In addition, while it’s still an “option” on the standard Kindle lineup (you can opt-out for $20 more), it’s a standard “feature” on the Kindle Fire models.

    So $20-$40 (or about 16% of the purchase price) is the value that Amazon has placed on your attention…and more importantly some of your personal information.  Looking at the Kindle Fire HD with LTE, the value exchange is even greater…as Jesus Diaz from Gizmodo puts it:

    The Kindle Fire HD with LTE is just $500, with a 250MB-per-month limited data plan for 50 bucks a year. The comparable iPad 32GB with LTE is $730, with a $180 a year data plan that has the same 250MB monthly cap. Oh, and Amazon’s plan includes 20GB of free cloud storage, and accessing it doesn’t count against your cap. That’s an amazing price difference. Well worth the lock-screen ads.”

    But is it really enough?  I’m not going to pretend that I don’t truly enjoy what our eyeballs have afforded us.  The ENTIRE internet is built on them and much like Mr. Diaz, I’m willing to trade some of my attention for the amazing capabilities I’ve been given (My eyeballs are worth $4.84 every year to Facebook).

    On the web, I get that I’m going to have to loan my attention out every now and then in exchange for amazing utilities, fun games, music and videos that I don’t have to pay a dime for.  How will the average user react to advertising when paying hard cash for something they interact with multiple times/day over the next couple years?  Jeff Bezos is going to find out.

  • LONG-TERM TEST DRIVE: GOOGLE VOICE

    AUTHOR: // CATEGORY: App Test Drives, Mobile Tech

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    As part of an ongoing series, I’m going to review some of my favorite apps that have been on my phone for a long time (I have hundreds clogging the memory of my phone….some are wonderful, some are one hit wonders).  The app du jour, Google Voice.

    I’ve been a bit obsessed with Google Voice from the beginning.  Originally developed as the service “Grand Central” and later acquired by Google; the founders have always had a vision of connecting multiple devices to a single number.  The initial intent was that users could sign up for a phone number and have it intelligently route phone calls to the appropriate location (home, office, mobile, etc…) based on conditions like time of day, day of week, incoming contact, and more.  “The last phone number you’ll ever need.”

    While this was interesting, I’ve found that Google Voice is far more valuable as a utility to extend my one phone number to other devices in my life.  With Google Voice enabled, I can send/receive phone calls, text messages and voice mail from anything with an internet connection (mobile phone, laptop and tablet)*.  In addition, Google Voice enables some pretty snazzy features like call recording, customized voicemails, and the ability to search all of that content in the cloud.

    *With some special behind the scenes “magic” in the Sprint network and the servers in Mountain View….you can use your current phone number!  No need to distribute a new phone number to your friends, just use your Sprint number like you always have.

    To be perfectly honest, the mobile application that enables all of this functionality has been a bit of a roller coaster ride….  Over time it’s definitely become much more reliable and something I have come to use as my daily driver for texting but still could use some modern usability enhancements (i.e. better message threading).  In addition, the Android application is FAR superior to the iOS application due to the locked down nature of Apple’s OS….so iPhoner’s beware.

    Google Voice is doing for carrier grade voice/messaging what IMAP did for email.  It would be ridiculous to think that your personal laptop is the only place you can send/receive email….  Google Voice proves that your phone number doesn’t have to be locked to your phone.

    So Google Voice:  MUST HAVE or SAVE SOME SPACE?

    MUST HAVE!!

    This is the first app I download on every new phone and tablet I get…I can honestly say I probably send more text messages from my laptop each day because the Google Voice window is always open through a slick extension in my browser.  If you’re a Sprint user and would like to get a little more control over your communications…go get this now!