FOWA: Putting Users First (Thomas Vander Wal) [en]

*Here are my live notes of this [Future of Web Apps (FOWA)]( session. They are probably incomplete and may contain mistakes, though I do my best to be accurate. [Suw also blogged this one](*

FOWA 2007 109

Throw out the “user”: used to be a good term to help us think of the people using our system… but somewhere along the line, the user became the annoying person for the developers, lost its empathy.

Focus on people. Real people doing real things. Me. All the stuff that has to do with my life, connecting all the bits. My information.

Real people… means we have to start thinking about their desires, wants, needs. This is really important for people who are building, designing, developing… even using these systems.

If we don’t think about their wants and needs, that’s when they start sending nasty e-mails or complaining on their blogs or facebook.

Real people includes the 95% of people who don’t live their life on the web. (Not us in the room, that is.) Think outside of the alpha/beta users. People need the information in their real life, out of the browser. Real needs there.

Tech pains:

– syncing (no comment)
– refindability: remember that time where you were trying to find something you knew was there?
– taste: better agree with the editor of Mahalo on what a “cake” is
– identity: “I gave the internet my details, why do I have to do it again?”
– easy of use
– portability
– privacy: smart privacy
– attention: we only have so much attention… we’re going the same stupid things over and over again (sorting junk out of the mail)

Lots of problems that tools today can address. What we should be doing is easing tech pain.

Tagging and other features.

FOWA 2007 111

Work contributing vs. derived value.

Tagging takes a bit of work but it puts your world of information in your context. Ratings require roughly as much work but don’t derive as much value.

Tagging brings up the “F” word: “Folksonomy”. Coined by Thomas in 2004: looking at Flickr and It’s not a taxonomy… it’s regular people calling things the way they usually call them.

Folksonomy solves the problem of retrieval. I tagged it, so I can refind it. It’s also usually done in a social environment, so that opens it to others. Personal and shared folksonomies. **The act of tagging is done by the person who is actually consuming the information.** I put something of my identity in my tags.

Three bits: object being tagged, metadata or tag, person doing the tagging.

FOWA 2007 112

Identity linked to object by interest. Identity linked to metadata by vocabulary. Object to metadata by definition. A community of those using the same term to tag the same object emerges. Community linked to metadata by terminology. Community linked to object by culture.

This allows us to find more objects. Find somebody else who has tagged stuff “audi”, subtract what I’ve tagged “audi” from their stuff tagged “audi”, and that gives me five new things! Smart system.

Social bookmarking gets (more) social. Ma.gnolia has groups. Nice feature: giving thanks. Just a click to say thanks for something nice you found through somebody else.

Private groups; top tags; recent bookmarks; discussions; members.

Sharing and being social is how humans have got out of caves, and how we advance as a society.

Getting to real relationships: lots of tools have a “broadmind friend” concept of relationships (“you’re my friend, therefore I’m interested in everything you are.”)

Spheres of Sociality: personal, selective (many), collective (all people on the service), mob. *steph-note: I got a “mob” feeling when I tracked “FOWA” on Flickr.*

Directional sociality: real relationships are not equal. They can be unidirectional. Unequal access. People might have access to read our blog, read and comment, read and also read private feeds.

FOWA 2007 113

*steph-note: this is exactly what I mean when I say we need a way to **structure** our social networks*

We don’t want to be listening to everything from everybody. And we need to be able to do something with the information. Frustration with Facebook and also, to a lesser extent, with Twitter.

Ease of use: needs to be as simple as ripping off a phone number from an ad stuck on a lamp post. The information is portable. Our web services need to be this easy. Good example: Stikkit. Identifies that this thing I’m saving is a date/calendar thing. *steph-note: like Tumblr recognises that I’m posting a quote*

Test early, test often, and test with real people. We’re not necessarily our own best audience.

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FOWA: Enterprise Adoption of Social Software (Suw Charman) [en]

[fr] Notes prises à l'occasion de la conférence Future of Web Apps (FOWA) à Londres.

*Here are my live notes of this [Future of Web Apps (FOWA)]( session. They are probably incomplete and may contain mistakes, though I do my best to be accurate. [Suw has written a blog post about her presentation.](*

FOWA 2007 105

Suw is a freelance consultant, has done a lot of work with businesses and vendors. Guide on getting your stuff used by businesses, based on her experience.

A couple of areas to think about:

– tech readiness? does our tool work?
– support readiness? are we ready to provide support to our customers, and how they will adopt our tool and convince people in their business to adopt the tool?

Two sides of the same tool.

Important: make sure your tool is really ready. If it’s still buggy, if the interface or language is confusing, don’t try to sell it into enterprise. Get more funding first. You only get one chance in enterprise. They won’t come back to see where you’re at.

FOWA 2007 106

Incremental improvements based on user feedback won’t work in businesses. They want something that works now, and regular but not-too-frequent updates. Stability.

Have a process for feature requests. Difference between big vendors (MS, Oracle) “this is what we’re giving you, deal with it” and small vendors.

Pilots aren’t an opportunity to do user testing. They’ll shy away if they feel they’re being used as guiney-pigs.

Don’t assume simple tools will automatically get adopted. People very resistant to use software. They don’t use software because it’s cool. They just want to get the job done, and will find ways to work around the tools they’re given.

Where do you start? Try to figure out what businesses want from you as a vendor, and your tool.

– integration with their existing systems, single sign-on, active directory, LDAP
– very concerned about security: “can our employees use this and put data in it and have that data be safe from accidental stupidness or prying eyes?” Technical security and user stupidness security (delete everything by mistake). Big plus for wikis, which have history. Disaster recovery: offices burn down, how will you help them retrieve their data

Understanding time scales. It can take months for things to happen. Lots of things can get in the way of adoption, even with vocal evangelists inside. Contracts, lawyers, packaging…

– be aware of internal political rankings (stakeholder management)
– be flexible about how you intend to sell into business. You might end up having to host your service (very different from selling a chunk of software). Trojan mouse solutions.
– be prepared for runaway success. Can you scale? Really? Quickly? Administration can turn around from “against it” to “we want this everywhere, now!” in the space of weeks
– be prepared for failure — understand what happened, and have processes in place so that you can learn from failure, but possibly not the same way. Try and fail in new and innovative ways.

Businesses are quite happy to spend money on hardware, software, but not really on operational (people) stuff. Bundle in your support costs into your selling price. If you do an unsupported package, they’ll take that, and you’ll still get the calls. You need to make sure you can afford to help your client get the best out of your tool. How will you be responsive? How will you deal with your contacts in the business, and all the (possibly tens of thousands) of people in the business using your tool?

Sales! One case where a business tried to get through to the sales people to buy, and didn’t get a response. Had to call the CEO! Have someone available to talk to a client.

How are you going to explain your tool to the people who are going to use it? You *need* an adoption strategy. No use in just giving people your tool. *steph-note: as I say, [throwing blogs at people doesn’t make them bloggers](* What kind of materials are you going to provide them with?

A good place to start: **pilots**. Groups of like people. Who are groups of people who might benefit from this? Case with wiki: PAs and secretaries, for example. People like very specific use cases. Not good at generalising. Who are you talking to and what do they need from your tool?

**Adoption isn’t a business goal.** Running the business is the business goal. You need to meet both the wider business goals and the individual people’s goals.

**People don’t use documentation.** They don’t click help. They ask human beings instead. There is a lot of informal and semi-formal learning going on in businesses. 80% is informal, it seems. Formal learning, training courses aren’t effective. How can you provide ad hoc support? IRC channel? Social collaborative learning tools? (blogs, wikis)

**Centralised support** is important for the people using the tool. If the company is going to take over that role, they’ll need the materials for it. Make your material user task oriented, not software task oriented. “This is how you do a meeting agenda in the wiki.” Not “this is how you make a page”. Present it to them on a plate.

A qualitative leap needs to be made between old and new things, even if the new things aren’t so much more complicated. That leap can be difficult. But at some point, when enough people in the organisation are using the tool, they start helping each other. Provide the materials for that. Giving people the confidence that they know how it works.

Don’t try to make it up as you go along. **Plan in advance.** Bring people in. You don’t have to do it all alone (materials, etc).

[More about this!]( Important: both management and grassroots buy-in. Balancing top-down with bottom-up approaches.

Q: tips for demonstrating tool usefulness?
A: work on the use cases. ROI: investing time and money and getting something in return. Important to understand those metrics. Careful, metrics don’t tell you what an individual’s use of something is. One of the problems with social software is that it can sound a little fluffy. “It improves collaboration.” But people think like “I want it to improve productivity to the point I can fire someone.”

Q: is it different for open source tools?
A: enterprises can be very wary of it (how will we get support?) even though there is a huge amount of open source being used. The more technically savvy they are, the more likely they’ll go for it, and the more business-oriented, the less. No hard and fast rules.

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FOWA: The Future of Presence (Felix Petersen & Jyri Engeström) [en]

[fr] Notes prises à l'occasion de la conférence Future of Web Apps (FOWA) à Londres.

*Here are my live notes of this [Future of Web Apps (FOWA)]( session. They are probably incomplete and may contain mistakes, though I do my best to be accurate. Chances are I’ll be adding links to extra material and photos later on, so don’t hesitate to come back and check.*

Felix does Plazes. Story: in 2004, original idea to build some location-based service for networks. Geo-annotated database of Wifi networks. At some point, where is the benefit for the everyday user? (Some nerds find it exciting to add data to a database, but not for everybody…) User base strong in certain cities rather than certain countries.

Jyri does Jaiku. Story: in 2006. Help people have a better social peripheral vision. We spend a lot of time physically disconnected from people we care about. Presence or activity stream. What are you doing right now? Not just things that people type, but also items automatically generated by what you’re doing online.

Brian: are Jaiku and Plazes “presence” apps?

FOWA 2007 101

Felix: presence is kind of a by-product of the network, software stuff. You’re connected to the network, and that makes it possible for the tool to broadcast your presence. But at the beginning, could only be somewhere if there was wifi… which is a problem! Need to be able to add small messages. (e.g. “I’m at the airport, leaving for London” — or “just here for another 20 minutes”) Coordinates don’t give you a lot of context.

Jyri: we’re still figuring out the language to talk about these services (e.g. “micro-blogging”). The important part is bringing people together, by enabling them to have this social peripheral vision.

Felix: actually, lots of services have been used like that for a long time, but we didn’t have specific tools for this. E.g. Felix used his blog in 2002 to keep people updated on where he was, and to send links rather than by e-mail. Shift from *push* to *pull*. *steph-note: ditto.* Lots of presence updates all over the place. Now it’s made more explicit by our tools that we’re doing that.

Brian: exciting idea, get all these things to talk together. How are you guys designing your systems to be open?

Jyri: social network portability… importing your friends/buddies from one service to another. Would it make sense for me to import my dog-loving friends from Dogster into my professional network in LinkedIn? *steph-note: I think it could make sense, if there is structure to the network. Maybe your dog-loving friends have great professional opportunities for you, but you’re not aware of it because of the circle in which you interact.* Getting rid of silos (IM, phones, e-mail…). The answer isn’t “everybody go on Facebook”. We want Facebook to be a player in a larger system which is *the internet*.

Felix: more about interoperability. Hard to figure out: harmonisation of the objects.

Brian: [Jeremy Keith’s lifestream]( *steph-note: the colors make it really readable*

Felix: as long as people are able to get their data out, it’s already a good thing.

Brian: Jaiku Mac client allows you to see what your friends are doing in a granular way. *steph-note: need to check it out*

Jyri: the image that comes to mind when you say “social network” is the graph of the relationships. But there’s a problem there: people are connected to one another [through some type of object](, for a reason. In Jaiku: reporting on the actions that people have performed on these objects (tagging a photo, favoriting a video…).

Felix: at the beginning, was just “I’m here now”. What is the “shared object”? In Plazes, I could share the location, but not “me being at FOWA tomorrow”. That’s where it confused people. No way to share or reference it. Blogging was a step forward because you can reference a single post, and do things with it.

Brian: are you building tools that many social networks might use, or are you building communities?

Felix: are we a community or a service? We’re a service, but we’re socially enabled. A service that different people can use in different ways, but it’s a social service.

Jyri: what’s going on on the web has to do with becoming more fluid. e.g. in social science, people are not just talking about social networks, but knots in the social network — transient. Jaiku is based on Jabber, so very different from usual LAMP systems. Creating a load on other servers to pull feeds — unnecessary load, and not real-time. A photo on Flickr has comments on Flickr, but also on Jaiku — not good, we’d like that to be one conversation. But very difficult to do. XMPP protocol to keep conversations in sync, maybe? This is a different approach to what we’re used to when building web pages.

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FOWA: Making Your App Social (Rashmi Sinha) [en]

[fr] Notes prises à l'occasion de la conférence Future of Web Apps (FOWA) à Londres.

*Here are my live notes of this [Future of Web Apps (FOWA)]( session. They are probably incomplete and may contain mistakes, though I do my best to be accurate. Chances are I’ll be adding links to extra material and photos later on, so don’t hesitate to come back and check. [Suw also took notes on this talk.](*

Rashmi does Slideshare, which is 1 year old today!

The idea behind slideshare: presentations are hard to share. Pictures of Flickr, videos on YouTube, but what about the slides?

*Again, nothing against the person presenting, but a case study of SlideShare shouldn’t be titled “Making Your App Social”*

People share varied stuff on SlideShare. After the initial “2.0” uploads, realised that PowerPoint is the simplest way for people to share a bunch of photos or stuff.

FOWA 2007 92

10 lessons…

– forget the iPod (good design, but it’s not social)
– give up control, it’s messy
– plant seeds, let people connect
– should have a strong individual focus; don’t count on altruism
– try to solve one problem really really well

*steph-note: can hear Leah Culver (talking in the other room) in here really clearly, it’s quite annoying*

What kind of social? Social space or widget? Facebook app? own a piece of the social network *steph-booth: ew, [another use of “social graph”](–1.html)*

FOWA 2007 93

Privacy is social: sharing is often in closed circles *steph-note: yes!! yes!!* There is a whole continuum between “public” and “private”. Important to be able to shift back and forth between public and private. By setting the default to public, really enabled the sharing of bookmarks.

FOWA 2007 94

Brian: how do you carry privacy settings outside? (feeds, etc)
Rashmi: give control to the person. The social connection is the carrier of the “privacy metadata” (ie, tell your friends to not share further).

*steph-notes: some of my thoughts on privacy are in [Ethics and Privacy in the Digital Age]( I agree that for the moment, privacy is **mainly** managed through our relationships with others, rather than technically.*

Privacy is a tough issue.

Levels of participation: everybody is not a creator.

Popularity. Metrics:

– favorite & tag
– comment
– view
– embed
– download
– e-mail

“The Wisdom of Crowds” by James Surowiecki– add to reading list.

Get into a conversation with users. You can’t get away from them, particularly if you’re in the social application space. Customer service as user research. Answer e-mails personally, monitor blogs… etc. *steph-note: cf. [Satisfaction](*

Launched SlideShare by just embedding a slideshow or her talk in her blog. October 4, TechCrunched.

Designed SlideShare for people like themselves, but quickly saw that people were using is to upload art, etc.

Rashmi believes more in “putting it out there”, and letting the people who need it find it, rather than a closed beta which is a lot of work. Hard to find the right people for the closed beta too. Launch first, refine later. *steph-note: I kind of agree, but in the case of coComment, for example, launching too early actually did them disservice.*

**Important:** make sure that what you “put out there” works. Little by little. Indeed, if it’s broken, people might try it and not come back. The “put it out there” philosophy works for non-critical stuff.

Be agile. Fail fast to get to the right answer. Track metrics, adjust, change.

Allow for play.

*steph-note: I’ve written about quite a few of these privacy issues on CTTS, and had a nice discussion over lunch with Rashmi. Start with [Ethics and Privacy in the Digital Age](*

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FOWA: Predicting the Future of Web Apps (Edwin Aoki) [en]

[fr] Notes prises à l'occasion de la conférence Future of Web Apps (FOWA) à Londres.

*Here are my live notes of this [Future of Web Apps (FOWA)]( session. They are probably incomplete and may contain mistakes, though I do my best to be accurate. Chances are I’ll be adding links to extra material and photos later on, so don’t hesitate to come back and check.*

FOWA 2007 91

1. A new industry consortium will develop standards for building web apps and concente for low-cost, reduced capability devices

2. AOL will announce a major push for HTML and JS applications on the desktop

3. A new mobile computing device, with a modern OS and open developer platform. The hardware will include a hard drive, harndwriting recognition, and a touch screen.

All these predictions have already come true… 10 years ago!

1. The Network Computer Reference Platform.
2. 1997: Netscape Crossware
3. AT&T/EO communicator (1994)

All these ideas are still relevant today. It’s not about the technology, it’s about the ideas.

The web apps of the future need to run everywhere. AJAX browser in the pocket (iPhoto), or on your Wii.

But you can’t be everywhere all at once.


– small and beautiful beats big and clunky
– sweat the details but not the infrastructure (let service providers do the heavy lifting for you)
– standards and openness are really important (employ them with an eye towards security and trust)
– technology moves faster than society (laws, education, customs), so use these tools responsibly — it’s up to us

Edwin predicts “Future of Stuff”, 5-10 years from now.

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FOWA: The Future of Web Startups (Paul Graham) [en]

[fr] Notes prises à l'occasion de la conférence Future of Web Apps (FOWA) à Londres.

*Here are my live notes of this [Future of Web Apps (FOWA)]( session. They are probably incomplete and may contain mistakes, though I do my best to be accurate. Check out [Paul’s essay derived from this keynote]( The [conversation also continues on the YCombinator news site](*

*steph-note: missed the beginning, very incomplete*

FOWA 2007 88

Standardizing things, from funding to acquisitions. Acquisitions are interesting because the buying company knows exactly what “brain power” they are acquiring.

Instead of approaching venture capitalists with a plan, start the company with a few thousands of $$ from your uncle or [Y Combinator](, and then approach VCs with a company. *steph-note: I thought this was the obvious thing to do*

We still need startup hubs. You need to make a startup succeed, not just start. Here is the value of startup hubs: face to face meetings. No technology in the world replaces that. Whether you need it is not the question: the important thing is “does it offer an advantage or not”? If it does, then your competitors will have it over you if you don’t do it.

The ability to be able to work face-to-face for three months greatly outweighs the disadvantage of moving.

Seed funding is a national business, contrary to VC funding which is regional. No regional Y Combinator branches. Just like you can’t have a regional “big university”. But maybe seed funding is actually international?

If seed funding is indeed international, then not really possible to create other “Silicon Valleys”, because the people who are really motivated to succeed will move to SV, and those left behind are “less good”.

Acquirers are assholes, even the nicest companies (lawyers, “they’ll make you pay”). Need: Chief Acquisition Officers. Would both identify the opportunity and close the deal. Now it’s two separate steps. Maybe in future, big companies will have both a VP of Technology (in-house) and a CAO (bring good stuff in).

College may change, if hackers start building startups. For the moment it’s warped towards preparing you to have an employer. There’s nothing magical about a degree. Do you need a degree if you’re going to start your own company? The need for degrees is driven entirely by administrative requirements.

Don’t encourage people to start companies in college, though, because that gives them a great excuse to abandon their startup. OTOH, some of their best founders were still in school.

The greatest value of university is not the brand name or maybe the classes, but the other people you meet there. *steph-note: not sure this is valid outside the US.* Shift from getting good grades to impress employers to actually learning stuff because you’ll need it. *steph-note: OMG, is US education that broken?!*

Increasing the number of startups would mean you can’t sit on an idea if you have a good idea, because other people have your idea. So if it gets easier to start startups, then they are more likely to actually do it.

If people actually get to work instead of sitting on ideas, technology will evolve faster. Some ideas are too scary! Look at how hard a time Microsoft is having trying to figure out web apps. New ideas implemented increasingly in startups rather than big companies. Big companies are just not a good place to make things happen fast.

Talked with a guy who had his startup recently acquired by a big company. From a “lines of code cranked out”, they were 1/13th as productive after the acquisition. Something about big companies that just sucks the energy out of you.

Y Combinator: there to release energy by making it more easy for hackers to start their startups.

For the moment, the process of starting a company is a whole series of tubes 😉 — lots of kinks in the plumbing.

In future: a big straight pipe. Being measured by performance, fleshing out the arbitrary crap people are measured by nowadays.

Paul talked about exit strategies, not running a company to make money. Startup means exit. If there is no exit, there is not startup. Not all technology companies are startups. Not all new companies are startups.

Hackers actually like to make stuff, they’re not in there for the money. So actually, if you let them make stuff, you can pay them less! Big companies are paranoïd about their brand, they should be less scared about releasing stuff. Companies are judged by their successes, not the crap stuff they might have released (look at Google). Just let developers release stuff to the world.

What can we do to encourage startups? (Question from Ian Forrester, BBC).
A: Make documentaries on people doing startups. Seeing how it goes is usually what convinces people to take the plunge.

If you just want a couple thousand $, don’t raise VC money, just get angel money. What makes Silicon Valley is the angels. Google would have never made it if they hadn’t had angel money.

Y Combinator is going to open source their angel money paperwork, to make it easier for “rich hackers” to invest.

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FOWA: The Edgeconomy (Umair Haque) [en]

[fr] Notes prises à l'occasion de la conférence Future of Web Apps (FOWA) à Londres.

*Here are my live notes of this [Future of Web Apps (FOWA)]( session. They are probably incomplete and may contain mistakes, though I do my best to be accurate. Chances are I’ll be adding links to extra material later on, so don’t hesitate to come back and check.*

Laws of the Edgeconomy

FOWA 2007 80

*steph-note: whoops, no more slides!*

(organizing principles)

– 1. Open beats closed

Huge companies are shifting to open business models.
A universe of external possibilities explodes.

– 2. Betters beat goods

– 3. Plastic beats specific

Bluetack vs. screw.
Glue that can hold stuff together.

Lots of companies get this, but it’s not enough.

How to make this work is about management. How do we manage all of this stuff? We really need to think about 3 key challenges.

1. volatility of the economy – interdependence

Craigslist does not intend to maximise profits.

Trust. *steph-note: slides are back*

FOWA 2007 83

FOWA 2007 84

Purpose Beats Profits.

FOWA 2007 86

Guilds were there to protect a skill.

A purpose is a set of shared beliefs about how value is created. Encapsulates key trade-offs. Google: organizing the world’s information (that’s a trade-off). *steph-note: I’m lost.*

Failure Beats Success.

Fail really fast. Not like Bush… Can’t plan for the future in this kind of environment.

Play Beats Work. There is No Consumer. They are the people at the edges of the firm. Synergistic relationships with firms. Culture > Brand. Competition is a Commodity.

Markets, Networks, and Communities Beat Firms.

We don’t compete. This is what we have to build business models upon.

Advantage is in the DNA. It’s the stuff that makes the firm go.

Future of the recording industry: two futures

– dynamic pricing
– open pricing (a kind of “social price” — challenge: how do you get that to scale?)

Networks manage risk much more efficiently. Communities are better for managing fixed costs. *steph-note: (?)*

Future of big media corporations? They need to start by blowing themselves up, atomizing — before coming back together.

FOWA 2007 82

*steph-note: can’t said I understood everything (and to be fair, I think Umair was a bit thrown off by the Powerpoint failure, or it’s just that I have trouble grasping all this “economy” stuff) but all this seems really interesting. Going to start reading [his blog]( for a while to see.*

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FOWA: Customer Service is the New Marketing (Lane Becker & Thor Muller) [en]

[fr] Notes prises à l'occasion de la conférence Future of Web Apps (FOWA) à Londres.

*Here are my live notes of this [Future of Web Apps (FOWA)]( session with [Thor Muller]( and [Lane Becker]( of [Satisfaction]( They are probably incomplete and may contain mistakes, though I do my best to be accurate. Chances are I’ll be adding links to extra material later on, so don’t hesitate to come back and check.*

FOWA 2007 71

The sacred hospitality code: serve people food and welcome them in before you ask them their name. A drink before introductions. Let’s look at customer service from that point of view.

Amandari, Bali: 8 waitstaff per guest

Great approach to customer service, but unfortunately doesn’t scale very well.

Different approaches to customer service:

– customer-focused (Four Seasons, [Zappos](, [Craigslist](
– product-focused (Apple, Google, most web startups)
– infrastructure-focused (telecoms…)

The best way to deliver excellent customer service is the stop trying. Because trying looks like robots in cubes answering the phone.

FOWA 2007 77

[Funny Dell Customer Service Call YouTube video.]( In the US about 3% of the population is employed in related support roles.

“Customer Service from ValleySchwag” on Flickr.

Secrets of the Concierge (hotels):

– they talk, get to know people
– they have little control, but a lot of influence
– smashing the silos

Enter the Cluetrain…

“Customer interactions are our best branding opportunities” Tony Hsieh, Zappos. Call centre, with no scripts, and no metrics for call length. Just do everything it takes to make a happy customer. A bunch of concierges rather than robots.

Online: how do you make conversation central? Look at the guys doing [30boxes]( With their previous company, had so much success they couldn’t really keep up with their customer support. Worked from a business perspective, but they weren’t very happy about it. So with 30boxes, they set up [a forum]( Went to 50% questions unanswered (previous company) to 50% questions answered by other customers.

Once you start building a community, customers want to start telling you lots of other things. Lots of valuable stuff.

Disconnected support tools => disconnected customers. Contact page, FAQ, Trouble Tickets, Forum, Wiki… But they don’t produce and engaged experience, and it’s disconnected from the service that we’re offering. The common thing here is *conversations*, except with Trouble Tickets (separate).

With a trouble ticketing system, Customer Service is often a firewall between the company and the users. When you make the conversations public, everybody inside the organisation gets much more exposure to the problems, questions, suggestions… Your successes are magnified too.

Dell IdeaStorm. Digg-like thing for their more loyal customers.

Dangers: the Digg revolt. (“The numbers.”)

These conversations are happening somewhere. Better be somewhere you can engage in them.

In your hands, but out of your control. [JetBlue YouTube video]( (CEO speaking).

Don’t create systems that place constraints on customer interactions. (Time per call: don’t talk to people, avoid interaction… which is actually the wrong thing to do!)

[Ning]( Putting out major product releases on Fridays, as the only people who would be banging it around during the week-end would be their more rabid users. So they’d get feedback etc. from them, and by Monday the release would be nice and clean for “normal users”.


Think of your story as your customers’ story. They’ll put the word out for you and defend you in the marketplace.

Danger: people are messy.

**Smash the silos**: think like a network. Companies think of themselves as silos. Our customers are in a lot of different places. “It’s not our problem” is a problem. When something breaks, it can be hard to know who to call (ie, cellphone not working). People get bounced around from company to company. So, put the customer in the centre. All the stuff we’re building on the web is very interdependent. So, for customer support, we need to stay focused on the customer.

E.g. [Dopplr](, a web application that you can use all over the place without ever going on the website. Widgets, API, integration. But a customer support nightmare.

Growing belief that nobody is really in charge anymore. There isn’t necessarily one person/entity to go to. Participate in the larger conversation that’s going on.

Danger: competition? It’s difficult to speak about competition in an environment where everything is networked. Some companies don’t want forums because they don’t want customers talking about other products on their site.

“What would a concierge do?”

Genius Bar in Apple.

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FOWA: The Future of Commerce (Robert Kalin) [en]

[fr] Notes prises à l'occasion de la conférence Future of Web Apps (FOWA) à Londres.

*Here are my live notes of this [Future of Web Apps (FOWA)]( session. They are probably incomplete and may contain mistakes, though I do my best to be accurate. Chances are I’ll be adding links to extra material later on, so don’t hesitate to come back and check. See [Suw’s notes on this talk](*

[Etsy]( soapbox for people who make things to stand up on.

FOWA 2007 69

Went to New York, faked college IDs to go and follow classes. Owning his education. Started about six different companies.

100’000 sellers on the site. Slow, regular growth. Only US$. Most of the users are in the English-speaking world.

If you engage people in a different way, you can change the way they relate to stuff.

Online marketplace: notorious tarpit where so many companies have tried to be successful. People go to offline marketplaces also for the people. The social aspect is important: who made what I’m buying?

Make things playful to engage people. Colour blobs you can play with on the screen, to choose things by colour. Time machine.

Userbase 95% women. 1500 people a day are joining at this stage.

*steph-note: I don’t mind being shown around Etsy, and this is quite interesting, but I’d expect something else from a talk titled “The Future of Commerce”. This more “Story of Etsy” or “Etsy Demo”. I think it’s really important that the people making the programmes of conferences are very clear about what the sessions cover.*

Etsy is still very much under the radar.

A brief history of money: going from very concrete (barter, silver coins with a certain weight) to abstract (paper money with number written on it, plastic, electronic — never physical).

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FOWA: 10 Cool Web Apps Demo (Ben Forsaith, Adobe) [en]

[fr] Notes prises à l'occasion de la conférence Future of Web Apps (FOWA) à Londres.

*Very brief notes from [Ben Forsaith](’s session at FoWA.*

FOWA 2007 5

– Slide Rocket (Keynote/Powerpoint online)
– Scrapblog: make visual stuff
– Picnic: very easy to use, full online photo editor
– MTV Video Remixer: not working
– BuzzWord (recently purchased by Adobe)

Examples outside the browser (AIR):

– Fine Tune: web radio station with randomized playlist
– eBay
– a Media Player of some kind
– Pownce
– a Google Analytics tool (sounds nice)

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