Trip through history and explore the people and technology that contributed to the iPhone becoming what it is today.
The Future of Web Apps conference rolled into London this week promising to explore what the title suggests. Held at the Brewery, it hosted a range of speakers from developers to entrepreneurs and the combination of the two specialities was too exciting to miss.
The proceedings were kicked off by Christian Heilmann of Mozilla, who led a passionate rallying cry to developers to “get excited and build things” for the Web. With the flexibility of HTML5 and the power of the devices on which it can run, now is the time for web apps to take an advantage over native apps. The fact that the the Financial Times web app now has more users that it’s native equivalent is a promising start.
Eric Wahlforss, one of the guys who founded SoundCloud explained the principles behind their extensive API (Appliction Programming Interface). At the very centre is a clear desire to empower people to expand their platform in whichever way they want, resulting in such great apps as ThinkLink and OneSheet.
The highlight of the day for me was a presentation by ‘serial entrepreneur’ Dan Martel, a leading advocate for the Lean Start-up movement. He emphasised the importance of listening to your audience in the development of applications and allowing them to dictate what goes in. If 25% of your users would be disappointed if the app disappeared, you’ve got a product.
Dave McClure founder of angel investors 500 Startups very kindly revealed his 10 tips on how to pitch to an investor. In summary “keep it simple stupid” and hope to the heavens that you’re interrupted during the pitch. Being interrupted means you’re being listened to.
Quite worryingly however was that when he asked the audience of around 2000 people how many people currently owned or ran a functioning business website no more than eight people raised their hands. British entrepreneurialism certainly didn’t feel palpable. The fact that none of the speakers that I observed were from Britain didn’t bode well either.
We all looked forward to the panel session comprising of representatives of the leading browsers from Microsoft, Opera, Google and Mozilla who took the stage to answer Tweet questions from the audience. There was noticeable frustration towards Giorgio Sardo of Microsoft, who under pressure even went so far – in good humour – to say that all IE6 users should leave the room. I doubt that this request would be welcomed by our clients though.
It’s an interesting time in application development. After three years of Apple’s control over what appears on the iPhone coming to an end – thanks to stronger competition from Andriod and the introduction of HTML5 – the future of web apps is looking bright. We should just hope that the entrepreneurialism of taking them to market picks up drive in the UK.
My mindmap notes from the conference are available here.
As a brand it’s relatively easy to acquire a Facebook fanbase. Submit a few details into the Facebook form, add a profile picture, put a link on a bit of business stationary, link to it from the company website or if you’ve got a media budget buy some Facebook ads. Soon enough you’ll start picking up the fans.
There are little tricks to maximise the conversion rate from visitor to fan. The main one is by adding a welcome page that non-fans see when they visit the page. Explain a bit about the brand and what they can get out of them by being a fan and you’re twice as likely to convert them into fans.
Building the fan base is all great for maintaining corporate pride, but statistically 50% of fans never return to the Facebook page again and 28% of them will eventually just hide wall posts after a couple of months. To these users, although they are signed up, the brand has absolutely no connection with them.
What this means is that it’s not about quality of fanbase (as it was in the days of direct marketing), but about the quality of fans. Having 200,000 fans is great, but if the majority are not engaged with the brand, they’re worthless. What’s more important is to engage with a selection of core brand ambassadors, who are listening to the brand and then sharing the content with their Facebook friends.
The best way to connect to these ambassadors is by giving them the opportunity to interact with the brand. When they ask questions or comment on wall posts, responses should be provided shortly with as much brand personality as possible. In turn, friends of the ambassadors will notice the their relationship with the brand and potentially get involved themselves.
To take things further; fans should be invited to feel part of the brand, as if they have influence over their products and services. Skittles is the best example of this with they’re weird questions and competitions to make adverts for them (wall posts from them often generate tens of thousands of Likes). Also name a ‘Rainbro’ of the week whose user picture they use in their brand profile image.
I talked about this approach in a presentation that I did in April. In writing the deck with a colleague I was looking for an analogy to the level of engagement that Skittles are renowned for when I remembered an amazing show that I saw last year at Bestival.
The Flaming Lips are an American psychedelic rock band who have been going since the early eighties, releasing hit albums over the decades. What separates them from other bands however, is their live shows. Random members of the audience are often invited onto the stage to join the band and dressed in animal costumes. The animal-dressed fans are free to dance around on stage for the rest of the show.
Even more brilliant is singer Wayne Coyne‘s signature man-sized plastic bubble, in which he traverses the audience, letting the fans pass him around. Suddenly the audience is in control of the show with the band, not just the band commanding the show.
The band could just go on stage like every other band on tour and play their songs in a 5 to many relationship, but what they’ve realised is that they and the audience can get so much more out of blurring the conventional boundaries. In 2002, Q magazine named The Flaming Lips one of the “50 Bands to See Before You Die”.
There’s a lot for brands to learn from bands like the Flaming Lips. This kind of interaction is just what brands need to be using social media for in order to achieve a meaningful experience with their fanbase.
Get amongst the fans. Let the fans be part of the show. Let them throw your brand around.
This afternoon I chanced on a talk by Jim Coudal, CEO of Coudal Partners, talking about how the agency grew from working with business clients to creating bespoke products for themselves.
In effect the products themselves became the clients – meeting deadlines and honouring them the way an agency would another business.
His key message was to not be afraid of failure – but embrace it. Don’t do it in 6 months – do it now.
A few weeks ago a video made it’s way around that showed a guy getting a data matrix tattooed onto his chest, that when identified using an iPhone reader displayed an animation on the screen which perfectly matched the tattoo.
As it turns out; the video is part of a series to promote Ballantine’s Scotch Whisky, as they “celebrate original minds”. Also in the series is the production of an animated graffiti illustration, in which certain certain elements are decided by viewers.
Although not the most ground-breaking user engagement, the final products are so damn cool.
We’ve been discussing agile project management and it’s benefits for a number of years now. Whilst the methodology of developing in a highly flexible and interactive manner can result in the most satisfactory product, Neil Perkin also argues that we should take the agile approach beyond just the project life-cycle. He is calling this approach “agile planning” and has identified 7 principles:
- Ideas From Anywhere
- Users at the centre
- Not a single solution but lots of choices
- Test and learn
- Always On Marketing
- Smart collection and reapplication of data
- Free your mind (and your budget)
I went to Kennedy Space Centre last year and was completely blown away by the precision and work that goes into every single element of the space exploration. This 360 degree view of the Space Shuttle cockpit shows just a small part of the NASA’s endeavour.
If only I’d stayed in the Air Cadets, it might have been me flying that thing.
This idea absolutely has it all. A campaign which is actually based around users tweeting the campaign messages and rewarding them with a chance to win a new phone. Not overly sure how it meets the brief of getting more people to use mobile internet though.