Archive for the ‘Research’ Category

Are You Collaborating Enough?

May 8, 2008

Listening to Marketing Over Coffee on the way home, there was a very small section talking about GoogleDocs and how you can activate a form to collect data for you. It also made me think further on the question about how much we’re collaborating (or not collaborating) online.

We had to create a wiki for our social media class, and of course, wikis tell you how much (or little) someone edited the final output. It was noted that a handful of people contributed the majority of the content, which made our Professor, Michael Netzley, less than thrilled. I brought up the point that though a few people may have been the actual ones to enter the text, doesn’t mean the whole team did not collaborate together. Both sides are debatable, but that’s not the point.

I’m an assistant scout leader for my alma mater’s scout troop and every year around this time we have a camp. As with previous years, the emails pile up, meeting minutes get distributed, camp schedules get sent and changed and re-sent and re-changed until eventually, no one knows what in the world is going on anymore.

To solve this, I set up a wiki for the leaders. It’s a private wiki so I’m sorry I can’t share the link. I will however say that we’re using PBwiki, which I find to be superior to Wetpaint in terms of editing as well as help. But that aside, so far it’s been helping us keep track of personnel and manpower, topics of discussion, a couple of things to be noted, schedules, equipment lists and so on.

No more losing of minutes on paper, no more “can you send me the latest schedule? I can’t find it”. Everything is up there and updated. To the minute.

So why aren’t more of us doing this? Is it the challenge of working alone as Michael brings up? Or an unwillingness to change our styles of working?

Does it make sense for us to share our items on Google Reader (my shared items are here)? Or on del.icio.us? How about collaborating on Google Docs in the classroom? In the office?

To me the biggest problem is convincing the people you’re working with that it’s worth their while. In my scout case study, I knew the people who were primarily going to enter the data would be the younger adult leaders, while the older leaders would keep and eye on it from time to time. To both of these groups, you gotta speak their language.

To my peers, it was the idea of collaboration. To see everything in one place, to have links and for easy reading. To the senior leaders, it was the idea of streamlining information. Not losing paper, not having to distinguish whether schedule(final).doc is the true schedule or schedule(final)THISISTHEREALFINAL.doc is the true schedule.

So how’s collaboration working (or not working) for you? Are you using wikis regularly? Online document processors or software based? Is it a challenge convincing your classmates/colleagues to use it as well?

Are Bloggers Really Influencers? More Thoughts

May 4, 2008

A few more thoughts on the influence issue, part one is here. Once again, I’m exploring this from the consumer’s point of view based on how I surf and am affected (or not) by what the blogs I read say.

Case Study 4: Podfire Soft Launch

The Podfire soft launch got pretty good coverage on ping.sg. I think that night and the day following, easily 3-4 of the top then most read posts were on blog coverage of the Podfire launch. One thing about influence and popularity is network effects.

One person talking about it positively on ping.sg is very different from five people talking positively about it. Again pulling in the “people like me vs bloggers” debate into the picture, I’m thinking someone who knows some or all of the five people talking about it (or any other topic) will probably feel a compelling reason to at least check it out.

Will it lead to the complete viewing of a video? Will they be repeat viewers? I don’t know, but by that stage, the product has to speak for itself. But leading them to click is the first step.

It’s Not About Reach Or Circulation

I read a comment somewhere ridiculing the buzz of the Podfire launch saying some people didn’t hear about it. Completely missing the point. I’m always asked in school whether I saw an article in the newspapers, or a good/bad advertisement on tv last night, and the answer is usually no. So…. people didn’t hear about it via print or tv either and therefore it’s useless?

The important thing for Podfire (and how blogs should be approached), is to try to reach the immediate community (small as they may be) and work from there. It’s targeted as opposed to the shotgun approach.

Get Help!

Su Yuen has a Facebook application called Get Help. It allows users to post out a question and get replies back from friends, acquaintances or maybe strangers. Again, the idea of influence seems relative. Anyone can help on the app, to varying degrees of influence. Would you discount a brilliant idea via Get Help just because a person who replied is a stranger?

Even “Weak” Links/Influencers Play A part

Case Study 1: Camera Buying
When I was deciding which dslr to get, Ingrid recommended a friend to of hers to help me out. I didn’t have any idea who that friend was prior to this, but I did continually go back and ask her what she thought of product A over product B, and bought the final camera based on that advice. Could I have made my decision by reading a professional photographer’s review? Sure. But the fact that I could interact with this person and listen to firsthand experiences made a difference to me. It just happens in this case she isn’t a blogger. But… what if she was?

Case Study 2: Iron Man
Twitter has been alight with raving, positive Iron Man reviews. I’m reading about people from all over the world (majority of whom I’ve never even met) saying how good it is. The Straits Times gave it three stars. After watching the show, I’m glad I didn’t listen to an “expert” reviewer, because anyone who’s watched the show will know it’s not deserving of three stars. Would you like to listen to an “expert” reviewer and forgo the show? (Assuming three stars is your threshold for “not watching”)

Ultimately this issue is still a tough one to tackle. My point here is not to say bloggers are the influencers, but that pointing to the various research without considering the intricacies of it is probably a bad idea. We know about the Long Tail (The ants have megaphones) and about the Wisdom of Crowds and crowdsourcing, and blogging fits squarely into the realm of these phenomena.

Are Bloggers Really Influencers?

May 4, 2008

The topic of “influence” has appeared a number of times, generated out of the “Why social media struggles in Singapore” post. I was writing that post from the corporation’s point of view, and questioning whether a certain factor (size) may be a factor that has hindered social media’s growth.

But let’s look at this from the point of view of the consumers: Are we really influenced by bloggers?

What The Research Says

Forrester\'s Research

Edelman Research

Result summary: People trust “people like themselves” the most, an “bloggers” the least. Okay wait, before you stop reading this right now and say “Okay, let’s cancel our blogger relations initiative”, read on.

Are Bloggers Really Trusted The Least?
When I saw the findings, my first thought was “But, what if a blogger is someone like me?”. This is something lacking in the research, and is brought up by Jason Mical and Jeremiah in the comments:

[By Jason]I believe about marketing and the direction it’s going in the digital space, and you have a proven record of posting insightful things that I find useful in thinking about this as well. So I would classify you as ’someone with my interests’ before I would classify you as a blogger in this regard.

[By Jeremiah]I agree, I wish I had more insight to how the questions about “do you trust blogs” were done. We need to see the context, as it could be broken down to:

“do you trust bloggers with similar opinions, that you read frequently”

or

“do you trust random blogs you stumble across”

Perhaps the questions could even be posed a different way: “do you trust the opinions of bloggers?”

I don’t think the lines between “people like me” and bloggers are as far apart as the research shows. And I definitely do not think the results are as disparate as the research claims.

I have a couple of case studies I thought of off the top of my head, tell me if they make sense to you, and keep in mind this is written from the point of view of a consumer.

Case Study 1: Xiaxue
I don’t read her, definitely don’t identify with her, to me she’s a “blogger”. But how about the 20 thousand people who read her blog daily? Does she have no influence over them? From the amount of comments generated in her defense whenever someone slams her, I’d say she has considerable influence over them.

Case Study 2: Kenny Sia
I had the privilege of meeting Kenny at the IDC Conference and he blogged about it, linking me. That one post generated almost 1,500 traffic to my blog, the next closest being tomorrow.sg with about 500. I’m not sure how you want to classify tomorrow.sg, but looking at the data, clearly 1,500 people think Kenny is not “just a blogger” but someone who influences them and makes them think “I identify with Kenny, he thinks Daryl is worth putting a link to, so that might probably be interesting to me too”, and hence the clicks. I can’t speak for everyone, but that’s definitely my personal thought process when browsing blogs.

Case Study 3: FriendFeed
FriendFeed is growing in popularity in North America. The level of activity after it opened from beta is exponentially higher than the level of activity before. Let’s look at the other categories from the research. Review on tv? Review on retailer site? I don’t think so.

Friendfeed was spread via word of mouth online from people who follow the early adopters and advocates like Louis Gray. Certainly I don’t know Louis personally (though we’re mutual readers of each others’ blog), but neither is he some anonymous blogger online. He’s someone I know covers a great niche in the social media space on rss aggregation, and I’m interested in all things social media, hence I definitely trust and believe his opinions. In fact I also signed up for LinkRiver, AssetBar and Yokway based on his recommendations. Admittedly I only use LinkRiver with any frequency, but I think that’s attributed to the product rather than the medium (Louis).

This post has gone on a little longer than I thought it would and I have a few more thoughts on reach as well as “weak” links or influences which I’ll try to post this evening. In the meantime, what do you think? As clear cut as the research suggests? Or are there intricacies at work that are unexplored? Do you classify bloggers in the same category as “people like me”? Or are they clear and distinctly separated?

Can You Move From Web1.0 Straight To Web3.0?

April 3, 2008

It’s a hypothetical question because Web3.0 isn’t here yet (although some would say it may manifest itself in personalisation). But let’s explore the scenario:

I’m doing a research project on Indonesia, where the internet penetration is very low (something like 9%) and many web activities are restricted to the old “Web1.5” usage of just a static website with none of the “social” elements that are typical of Web2.0.

One question asked in class was something like “Do you think Indonesia would go straight from Web1.0 to Web3.0 by the time their infrastructure catches up?” with the illustration of starting with Friendster and moving to Facebook, bypassing MySpace completely.

My answer is: probably not. I think Web2.0 is not a “technology” per se in the way we commonly refer to it, but a way of using technology. My analogy is take cars as the parallel to Web2.0. Different brands of cars all fall under the “cars” category. If someone moves up from a Toyota to a BMW (ie Friendster to Facebook), they do advance within the category, but they do stay within that subset. It’s not until one moves out of it (to say, flying), that the previous category is done with altogether.

Do you agree? Disagree? Let me know what you think. I think it’s a fascinating discussion and would love to hear from you.

Incidentally, if you happen to know data or internet patterns/trends in Indonesia, it would be great to hear from you as well.

Google Notebook = End Of Research Headaches

January 24, 2008

I really don’t know how new Google Notebook is, because officially the press release states May 2006, but I’ve not heard of it till now (nor have I heard of anyone discussing it).

What’s so great about it, comes about especially when doing research. When I travel or do research on a product or just general research for a paper, I usually end up creating a bookmark folder and dumping everything inside, and then when I need to consolidate my information I have to open up all the bookmarks again and find the relevant part. Either that or I cut and paste everything to one big Microsoft Word document, but then it’s not universally accessible (ie if I make note of travel places, unless I carry that document around, it’s useless outside of my desktop).

The solution? Google Notebook. It puts everything on one page, and you can even create sub-sections to find the exact things you want. I posted an image below for my exchange research, you can see that even though the entire sheet is called “Exchange”, I can separate them by schools (or whatever criteria I want), and easily see where different sections begin and end later. Of course, I can Google search the whole document as well. Can’t recommend this enough.

Click for full view

 Google Notebook

I think the best thing about this Google product, is that it’s instantly relevant. How many times have you downloaded something and it takes too long to fiddle around with and it gets uninstalled? Happened to me for Google Desktop. In fact I recently re-downloaded it after a year to see if it got better. Nope. I think they need to get their Desktop product team to learn a thing or two from their Notebook team. Not in terms of design, but in communicating what the product does better. The “Take A Tour” feature for Notebook is definitely far superior to that of Desktop.

Follow Up On Google/Wikipedia Ban

January 15, 2008

There’s another post over at Marketing Pilgrim touching on the same article I posted about yesterday (original article here).

I think Marketing Pilgrim says the same thing as Seth Godin, in that obviously Googling something for hard facts is normal, but Googling for critical thinking is just going to fail. If people use multiple Google/Wiki sources to pool together their essay/paper and help structure it, it shouldn’t be a problem. But just taking the first search result from Google and repeating that definitely isn’t a good idea.

Can Google Be Your Friend If It’s Banned?

January 15, 2008

Search Engine Journal, a site I started reading regularly when doing my Google research, posts an interesting article about a Professor in Brighton that has banned Google in favour of traditional research like hardcopy journals. She says “Google is filling, but it does not necessarily offer nutritional content.”

This actually echoes something posted by Seth Godin in October, called The Wikipedia Gap, reacting to a similar incident where Wikipedia was apparently banned in research.

Note that in Godin’s post, he doesn’t claim that Wikipedia is a credible source of information (indeed, I’d never use that as a formal annotation), but it does provide good groundwork for knowing and appreciating the subject, before heading off to “serious” research.

I do wonder what would happen if this came to SMU.