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Data-driven Personalisation

Good article from Liz Gannes at AllThingsD about the use of data online to target, sell, harvest, refine, etc. Once again pitting personal privacy against the value of sharing our data for good. Particularly liked the summary at the end calling out 6 ways personalisation is valuable – if the service respects it is still our data and uses it well! (paraphrased, my inserts in [ ]):

  • Syncing experiences across multiple contexts so we can pick up where we dropped off;
  • Anticipating our preferences so we don’t have to enter them again;
  • Answering questions we didn’t [think to] ask by aggregating other people’s experiences and matching them to ours;
  • Learning from our own past interactions to show us what we’re most likely to be interested in;
  • Analyzing our habits so we can know more about ourselves and learn [adapt and improve];
  • Targeting advertising so it’s not sucky and irrelevant.
I ran some of these thoughts by the persuasive author Seth Godin as I was working on this piece, and he had a really nice way of wrapping it all together. As Godin put it, it’s increasingly hard to function in our society without being on the grid. So let’s support use of data as a feature, not a tax.”

Differentiation is about Service, not Data

“A long, long time ago, at least in Internet years, I wrote a piece called It’s Time For Services on The Web to Compete On More Than Data . This was almost five years ago – January of 2008. I was contemplating the rise of Facebook and the social graph, and Google’s nascent response. In the post I argued that Facebook should let us all take our social graph wherever we want, because the company will win not on locking us in, but in servicing us better than anyone else.

Oh, how utopian that all sounds. Now, pretty much every major Internet player is scrambling to lock us into a cloud commit conundrum . Even Twitter, in certain ways – it wants content viewed on its platform, not others’.

Again, imagine a world where coming and going as a consumer was a given, a right. Imagine that when I left Apple’s iPhone for Google’s Nexus 4, all my iTunes purchases followed me (and yes, I mean apps too). Is that too much to ask for? Really? Then you must not be an entrepreneur, because this kind of lock-in is ripe for disruption.

Five years ago, I predicted that Facebook would fail if it insisted on locking our social graph into its service: With one move, Facebook can change the face (sorry) of this debate by making it falling-down easy to export your social graph. And I predict that it will. Why? Because I think in the end, Facebook will win based on the services it provides for that data. Set the data free, and it will come back to roost wherever it’s best used. And if Facebook doesn’t win that race, well, it’ll lose over time anyway.

Time is ticking. It won’t be this year, it won’t be next. But the day will come when differentiation is based on service, not data lock in.”

From a blog post from John Battelle from earlier in December.


“Lightbulbs and electric light went from a scientific curiosity to a cheap, accessible ubiquity in the late 19th and early 20th century.What if lightbulbs were still $700?We’d carry one around carefully in a case and screw it in when/where we needed light. They are not, so we leave them screwed in wherever we want, and just flip the switch when we need light. Connected computers with eyes cost $500, and so we carry them around in our pockets.But – what if we had lots of cheap computer vision, processing, connectivity and display all around our environments – like light bulbs?”

via Lamps: a design research collaboration with Google Creative Labs, 2011 – Blog – BERG.

The Open Web is our duty

“When you use an app, or a platform like a mobile phone, or a social network, or a web service — whether it’s from Google or Apple or Amazon or Facebook — do you think about the extent to which it is open or closed? Or do you just think about how it looks, or what it lets you do, or whether your friends are using it? Most of us probably fall into the latter category, but as veteran blogger Anil Dash and others have pointed out recently, there are some good reasons why we should care about the future of the open web, and be concerned about a trend towards more closed networks. As natural as that trend might be from a commercial point of view, it is the antithesis of what made the internet so powerful.”

via It’s our duty — all of us — to fight for the open web — Tech News and Analysis.

That’s not how I like my coffee

“Starbucks is cutting paid lunch breaks, sick leave and maternity benefits for thousands of British workers, sparking fresh anger over its business practices.
On the day the House of Commons’ public accounts committee branded the US coffee chain’s tax avoidance practices “immoral”, baristas arriving for work were told to sign revised employment terms, which include the removal of paid 30-minute lunch breaks and paid sick leave for the first day of illness. Some will also see pay increases frozen.
The changes affecting about 7,000 coffee shop staff emerged as the company tried to quell public and political outrage at its use of secretive company structures that has seen it pay just £8.6m in UK tax over the past 13 years on sales of £3.1bn.

via Starbucks to slash paid lunch breaks and sick leave | Business |

Over the last month, I’ve been intrigued at how public opinion was having an impact on our corporate tax regime. Imagine, in abstract, a well-informed, financially-literate customer base deciding how much tax a company should pay! Sounds like fun and a lot cheaper to operate than our current shambles. Might be hard for HMRC to enforce but would certainly connect profitability, customer service, employee well-being and value to society in an efficient, market-driven framework for how much tax you owe. I like that.

So while I’m getting all excited about social forces playing their part on tax policy, I read from the Guardian that Starbucks are looking to make some cost savings by trimming employee perks.

Either their timing is really bad or there is some relationship between the issue of paying more tax and this employee benefits squeeze. Ouch. I get the need to remain profitable in a low margin environment. But £2.75 for a Cappucino is not a low margin business.

I now believe Starbuck’s financial management to be a lot sharper than their HR and PR department. Costa and Nero: you’re missing an opportunity here.

Twitter, Facebook and Those Ugly IBM Statistics

Last week, IBM looked at the effect of social networks at online retailers on Black Friday and found … nothing.Or almost next-to-nothing: IBM said social sites generated a mere .34 percent of all online sales. Referral traffic to retailers from social sites was also just about zero: IBM said Facebook only accounted for .68 percent of visits to retail sites, while Twitter had a giant goose egg.Can’t be, right? Those are huge platforms. Surely IBM got its numbers wrong, via some sort of technical or statistical oversight?If so, you’d think that Facebook or Twitter might want to publicly dispute those stats, since they poke a hole in their “buy our ads, use our services, and sell more stuff” pitch.But so far neither company has said anything in public about IBM’s Black Friday numbers. Just to be sure, I checked with PR reps for both companies this week: Nada.

via Twitter, Facebook and Those Ugly IBM Statistics – Peter Kafka – Commerce – AllThingsD.

20121128:1406 – harpenden

Why do the majority of posts from certain professional media organisations have the heading ‘Top 5′, ‘Top 10′? Are we that in love with lists? Is this some form of chunking to help us consume content? Some massive plot to blanket the human mind in lists? Like moths to a flame.