Yearly Archives: 2014Blog

Declining iTunes Sales Points to Increased Acceptance of The Cloud

When we speak of The Cloud, we generally refer to Internet-based data storage and hosting of applications. This contrasts with traditional computing, where applications and data live on a hard drive inside our local machines. The traditional model has worked fine until, that is, the rise of mobile devices. Most of us no longer work or communicate on just a desktop computer. Almost everyone now has a computing combination that includes a desktop, laptop, tablet, or smartphone. In this scenario, the problem becomes, how do you work smoothly from device to device? The answer is to have your data and applications stored centrally online. As long as you have an Internet connection, you can work consistently no matter what device you use. And that, for most people, is cloud computing.

But working from the cloud also presents some problems. When data lives in the cloud, how secure is it? How reliable are the connections — both on your end and at the host? Can you always get the Internet when you need it? What about backup? What about cost? And what if your cloud service goes out of business, or changes its terms, procedures, etc.? Concerns like these have caused cloud computing to grow slower than we might expect in a connected world. That’s where the latest developments at iTunes come in.

For the last few years, sales of digital music on iTunes have declined. In defense of Apple’s business model, Steve Jobs once famously said, “we don’t rent music.” But the market is showing that people today are happier renting than owning. Where are people renting their music? From cloud-based streaming services like Pandora, where you can listen to all the music you want for a reasonable monthly fee. Why own a bit of music when all of it is available so cheaply?

Granted that renting music doesn’t present nearly the same risks as trusting your data to a third party. But as more people move to cloud-based services, trust in the cloud will increase. And this means changes and new opportunities will arise for businesses. Software is rapidly moving to subscription models, and services like Box and Dropbox offer large-capacity data storage plans. There are also several services like Crash Plan that offer cloud-based backup. Perhaps it’s time to begin thinking about how your business can leverage the cloud to better serve your customers from any device.

Read more about declining iTunes sales:

The Internet of Things Is Coming

It’s great to be online. Connected, in touch, unlimited information, computers in our pockets. It’s the information age, after all.

Companies are happy that you’re online, too. So much so that efforts are ramping up to put almost every device, motor, gadget, and thing in our lives online. The purpose, of course, is to gather data. It’s not enough that the mother ship (ships) is (are) watching while we use a computer or device. Soon, every time we open a refrigerator, start a car, turn on some music, or presumably sit on the couch, a data stream will be generated.

It’s being called the Internet of Things (IoT). Tiny chips connected to the Internet will soon be embedded in almost everything around us to gather data and send it to whoever the terms of service (that we must agree to before turning on that washing machine or desk lamp) say it can be sent to. If you’re a company, you probably like the idea. You’ll learn much about your customers and the use of your product. If you’re a consumer and you’re concerned at all about privacy, you may begin to feel that this is big data running amuck.

The Internet of Things is made up of IP-enabled, totally embedded applications within devices that connect to the network. This includes sensors, machines, active positioning tags, radio-frequency identification (RFID) readers, and building automation equipment, to name but a few. Here there is the potential for trillions of nodes. Imagine every device in your home and workplace, every crucial component in an industrial machine, connected to the Internet. This layer of the Internet is only just emerging and will completely eclipse the Internet as we know it today in terms of scale.

We already see the IoT in items like household thermostats, electric meters, cable TV boxes, and especially wearables like the new watch computers from Samsung, Apple, and others. Maybe some of the data generated will help us save energy, combat diseases, better feed the world, and otherwise improve our lives. The tech companies love the idea, in no small part, because of the money to be made producing all these chips and devices. I’m not sure if it will work, however, at least if home networks remain under our control. But some of the largest tech companies are vigorously lobbying for free nationwide WiFi, which would certainly help make the data collection ubiquitous. It’s the information age, after all. But remember that the information is flowing both ways.

There’s a lot more worth learning about regarding the Internet of Things. The link below provides a good overview of this timely subject.

Read full article:

The Power of Big Data

Tech companies are just scratching the surface of what they can do with Big Data. An enlightening article describes some of the power that comes with recording the daily lives and activities of hundreds of millions of people. In a 2012 experiment, Facebook learned how it could alter its users’ moods. Google routinely runs about 20,000 experiments per year involving users. Facebook even discovered that it could motivate people to get out and vote — not inconsequential given that they can filter out individuals’ political persuasion. That experiment involved over 60 million people! Where else but online can such a large sample size be assembled — and without having to let the subjects know they’re being tested.

Facebook and much of the rest of the web are thriving petri dishes of social contact, and many social science researchers believe that by analyzing our behavior online, they may be able to figure out why and how ideas spread through groups, how we form our political views and what persuades us to act on them, and even why and how people fall in love.

We should expect researchers to start figuring out much more about human behavior, given the magnitude of data available and the power derived from such knowledge. It makes one wonder what interesting things they’re looking at right now that remain undisclosed.

Read full article:

Questioning the Value of Apps

We all know it’s an ‘app world’ now. Users love the simplicity of elegant one-trick apps that can perform a needed function. But the following article sheds some light on why apps aren’t always the answer. It asks why some apps are created in the first place and points out frustrations due to the significantly reduced feature sets and restrictive interfaces that come with mobile devices in general.

Have you ever tried actually using the Amazon app on iOS, Android, and Windows? … the Amazon app is a frustrating morass of missing and incomplete functions from the website. Sure, maybe you don’t need the full breadth of Amazon functions on your phone, though that’s debatable on a tablet. But natural web conveniences like opening links in new tabs, sharing links, the back button, searching within the page, and zooming in and out are available inconsistently, if at all.

There’s also the issue of privacy. What exactly are some of these apps accessing on your device? And how much additional data can they collect when users choose an app over the website?

Ultimately people will choose the best experience. Just because you offer an app doesn’t mean anyone will want it. App strategies must offer something unique or valuable that users can’t live without. Convenience on mobile devices is a good reason for creating an app, but not if it is poorly executed and frustrates users.

I use lots of apps — mostly clever utilities that allow my devices to do useful things like photo editing, FTP, or synchronized note-taking. But I usually reject apps and use websites for research, e-commerce, and search. I even resist mobile versions of websites because many of them are feature-restricted and inconsistent with their full web counterparts. In fact, my favorite link on most mobile websites is the ‘view desktop version’ link, usually found in the footer and only present if the website owner understands that users want to decide for themselves how to interact with the site.

It may be an ‘app world,’ but that doesn’t mean that every app is necessary, or even good. There’s no need to create an app for its own sake. But do create one when you can offer something so good that there’s no better way to deliver it.

Read full article:

Content From a Visitor’s Point of View

Website content is the vehicle site visitors take to decide if your offerings meet their needs. Writing web content requires a style fit for the medium. Web users are busy and rely on the Internet for convenient access to information. Effective communication requires understanding what motivates your users, how they use the web, and how to speak to them on their terms.

Web users are primarily online to solve a problem. The sites they visit must quickly and clearly state how they can solve that problem, or the visitor will move on.

Because of the sheer volume of information available, web users initially read as little as possible. They will search, click to a site based on the descriptions in the search results, scan the home page, and then judge whether or not this site can solve their problem. “Scannable” page elements include headings, subheads, photo captions, and bullet lists. These are the first things that visitors use to determine the site’s value to them.

If a visitor finds something of interest, they will click to go deeper and read in more detail. But it cannot be expected that a new visitor will wade through lengthy paragraphs for the information they need when it’s so much easier to click to another site that may be more useful.

Web content also benefits visitors by focusing on information rather than “sales-speak.” Glossy, adjective-laden prose serves the company, not the visitor, and visitors have no patience for it. What visitors want is solid, factual information that helps solve their problem. The sooner their problem is solved, the sooner visitors can stop searching, delve deeper into your site, and become customers.

Brief Is Better

Because reading on computer screens takes energy and visitors are busy to begin with, web content must be brief. Short paragraphs and sentences with plenty of white space make textual content more inviting. Cutting the word count almost always improves the user experience.

But web pages are not only read by people. Search engines read websites to learn what they have to offer and then list them appropriately on search results pages. The content that search engines find is the main factor in determining these rankings. Therefore, web pages should be written for humans but with search engines in mind as well. Placing keywords in a page’s META and TITLE tags, headings, image ALT attributes, and page copy can improve search engine rankings.

Finally, content should motivate visitors to act. “Action” is the natural response of visitors who believe that what they’ve learned on the website is a solution for them. Content can include links that enable visitors to go to the next step towards the desired goal, such as making a phone call, filling in a form, or making a purchase. Giving users the ability to act on information is a key difference between the web and other media and should be fully utilized in any web-based sales scenario.

More …

To discuss your content development needs please contact us »

Google+ and Facebook Roadmaps

The two most prominent social networks are “embracing opposite strategies, but heading to the same place: To add social intelligence to everything you do.” This is the current state of affairs as FB shrinks and G+ expands. Facebook will create (or buy) more products, like Message, Poke, or Instagram, while Google consolidates its many products around Google+. The idea is to leverage the massive data mills each company owns to serve ads wherever people decide to go next, even if not necessarily their own mega-social network. For example, Facebook’s user data can work to target ads on any of their products without users knowing that FB is at work behind the scenes.

Each company is trying to attract the maximum number of eyeballs and serve up extremely relevant, highly personalized ads on both desktop and mobile. To be all things to all people, each needs lots of services, products, and apps, but tied together with each company’s social signals and identity. To achieve this, Facebook needs many more products and a lot more “artificial intelligence,” which are initiatives the company has explicitly said they’ll take. Google needs to take the many products it already has and make them more connected to its social and identity information. So although the two companies seem headed in opposite directions, they’re actually competing towards the same goal: To add social intelligence to everything you do, plus add identity to everything you do so they know who they’re servicing up ads to, while also enabling purchases.

This interesting article shows how social networks will deepen their understanding of their users and incorporate AI to make online advertising much more effective.

Read full article: