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What is the Social Customer?

I found the below a really insightful presentation on the social customer. The social customer is not social media but rather understanding customers as social beings.

This presentation may help you to understand how younger generations network and interact.

Insightful stuff and a great presentation, the word social media is becoming immensely over used and the true nature of being connected online all the time means that offline interaction is sparse and this is the most important element.


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Volumes of Data are not the Issue the Filter is – 5by

“All of the biggest technological inventions created by man – the airplane, the automobile, the computer – says little about his intelligence, but speaks volumes about his laziness.”

I often visit YouTube and just sit there looking at the screen wondering what to type in the search box, and more often than not I end up watching videos I have seen before or even worse cycling through tons of videos not really paying attention. Despite YouTube trying to change the website with categories and trending they still have not got the concept right.

Enter 5by the online video concierge:

Video Concierge

Video Concierge

5by takes an entirely different approach on how you consume online videos, you are greeted with the above screen when logging in and are presented with a menu which allows you to select a category such as “exploring” or “killing time”, then you are sent to a finer level of detail such as “travel” or “great outdoors”. It is once you have selected these two parameters that a video comes to the screen which is brought from YouTube or Vimeo. I must add at this point you do not get directed the video is in the portal.

While you are watching the video 5by asks you for reactions and presents you with an on screen menu to “LOL” & “OMG”, what this does is 5by takes your reactions and learns about what you do and don’t like so that next time it can serve up a better video for you.

I personally love this and although it is only in browser format for the time being the Montreal based startup are developing IOS and Android applications as they know this is the target market.

The concept is simple, easy to use and brings back some of the excitement of when YouTube first came about as for me YouTube is so full of everything you can ever imagine now it is hard to stumble across a video that is worth watching. I must say that now I have discovered 5by it has become addictive and as it feeds from the giants of YouTube and Vimeo you still get all the videos you could dream of just in an intelligent manner.

My opening quote may have seemed like I am lazy, I suppose I am in a certain regard but technology should work like this in my view and this is certainly a stepping stone. There is no shortage of videos out there you just need the correct filter!

Have a go on 5by you will not be disappointed, I am looking forward to the applications and if they can make this appear on my smart TV also!

 


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Removing your head from the sand…..

Take the time to learn from others around you

Take the time to learn from others around you

I often think that the IT world buries itself in its own little world and the analogy goes “If I cannot see them they cannot see me” (Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy quote). But there is so much more to be seen and discovered that relates to IT. We are seeing this more and more now, no longer is IT just responsible for the delivery of email and a service desk which we can moan at when things are not working, but IT is now responsible for innovation within the business and being extremely smart on efficiencies, cost and all the while completing this with the same number of staff and an ever decreasing budget. The “innovation” side comes from the now industry standard words of big data and big data analytics.

Now in my humble view IT departments have not yet fully understood these new aspects they are to bring to the table and this goes back to my analogy of burying our heads in the sand, maybe if we ignore it, it will go away? The harsh reality is it will not, smarter ways of generating revenue for the business and understanding customers through analytics is now becoming mandatory for businesses to compete with each other.

I sound like I am beating up on IT here, but I am guilty of this myself and I think we all are to some degree.

So I hear you ask what is the golden answer? Well I may have just stumbled across a path to that answer, last year I attended something called the “Yorkshire Mafia” in the UK. This was an event driven purely from LinkedIn with no real marketing campaign other than LinkedIn and there were over 2000 attendees.

The real golden nugget here is that it was not all IT companies attending it was businesses of all natures from large corporates to entrepreneurs. But more importantly the key notes were a great way to understand how other businesses are using IT, social media and the likes to the best effect. This involved key notes from Facebook, LinkedIn, Google, Microsoft, and Twitter.

This is a huge networking event which allows businesses from all verticals to meet and see what others are doing. Now isn’t that refreshing?! There is even a Billionaire panel where 6 CEO’s of very successful businesses sit on a panel and can be asked questions by the audience, now personally this was fascinating for me as when do you get this opportunity to ask these people what you want? I may be the exception here but I do not meet the CEO of many companies and this was a unique insight!

So the headline is, if you want to take your head out of the sand and see what other businesses are doing within all industries and how it relates to you, attend this conference I guarantee you will see or hear something you can use or find useful. And the best bit, how much does this cost?! Nothing its free! From a personal note, based on the success of this last year you can see from the sponsors such as Barclays that they have attracted this year that this type of event is growing in size and importance.

Register below and actually go to a conference which is different from your normal industry events, let me know what you think and maybe see you there! Also you will be surprised to see all the IT vendors now rushing to attend these events as they realise the potential of these networking events.

The Yorkshire Mafia


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Twitter’s Blob store and Libcrunch – how it works

TwitterYou may have read one of my previous posts “Arming the cloud” where I talked about why and how large cloud providers are using commodity hardware with intelligent API’s to separate the dumb data and intelligent data to give us a better service. Well in a world of distributed computing and networking you will probably not find larger than Twitter.

To me and you when we upload a photo to the cloud its in the “cloud” we do not care much for what goes on in the background all we care about is how long is takes to upload or download. And this has been Twitter’s challenge, how do they  keep all this data synchronized around the world to meet our immediate demands? It is a common problem of how do large-scale web and cloud environment’s allow users from anywhere in the world to use the photo sharing service overcoming latency which ultimately boils down to me and you waiting for the service to work.

So Twitter announced a new photo sharing platform, but what I am going to look at is how the company manage software and infrastructure to enable this service. Here is what Twitter released yesterday;

“When a user tweets a photo, we send the photo off to one of a set of Blobstore front-end servers. The front-end understands where a given photo needs to be written, and forwards it on to the servers responsible for actually storing the data. These storage servers, which we call storage nodes, write the photo to a disk and then inform a Metadata store that the image has been written and instruct it to record the information required to retrieve the photo. This Metadata store, which is a non-relational key-value store cluster with automatic multi-DC synchronization capabilities, spans across all of Twitter’s data centers providing a consistent view of the data that is in Blob store.”

Sound familiar to what I was discussing in my previous posts? Of course it is, this is a classic example of commoditizing storage\compute\network hardware and having the software API intelligently manage this data.

So what you have to consider with a platform like Twitter is speed and cost, they want users to be able to see the tweet with the picture as soon as possible but they have to be conscious of cost to deliver this service. Twitter has many data centers with many resources but the trade off is always going to be cost.

The next element of this is reliability, how do Twitter ensure that your photos exist in multiple locations on file but not too many to cost too much to Twitter, it also has to think about how and where it stores information on servers which indicate where the actual file exists (meta data). If we took the servers for example, and then thought about how many photos are uploaded to Twitter each day, that’s a lot of meta data to store, what if one of those servers then fails? Then you would lose all meta data and the service would be unavailable. To remedy this the original way of thinking is to replicate this data, but that is costly and time-consuming to keep synchronized and lets not forget will be using some serious space.

So Twitter introduced a library called “libcrunch” and here is what they had to say about it;

“Libcrunch understands the various data placement rules such as rack-awareness, understands how to replicate the data in way that minimizes risk of data loss while also maximizing the throughput of data recovery, and attempts to minimize the amount of data that needs to be moved upon any change in the cluster topology (such as when nodes are added or removed).”

Does that sound familiar again? This is the Atmos play from EMC which is using intelligent API’s to manage all aspects of an element of data, I referred to this last time as an “Object Store”, and the point of this that the API itself understands what to do with a particular piece of data in terms of replication, security, encryption and protection. So we are no longer administering pools of storage but the API is self managing itself, and in the case of Twitter you have to admit that this would be the only way of doing this.

So what does the infrastructure look like, well they use cheap hard drives to store the actual file and the meta data is served from EFD drives for increased speeds. Think of meta data as a search engine it allows you to find articles related to a query very quickly rather than looking at the entire web.

So to sum this up as we place more and more information in to the cloud which is a blend of distributed compute and network, locating information across them is becoming more difficult and slow. Thinking like this with API’s controlling the data according to policies is the right direction to take when using large cloud services.

If you are interested in looking at a cloud solution platform delivering intelligence like this go to EMC Atmos

 

 


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How we Could be Changing the Habit of Facebook

Social Media HabitsLet’s roll back to 2004 when Facebook was first launched, back then it was designed as a social media tool for Colleges in the US. Once Facebook started to gather momentum it was only then that people started to realize its potential. Just think of the last website you visited, did it have a “like” button for Facebook? Of course it did they all do! Let’s not forget Microsoft tried this tactic to track people’s usage of websites, and their bid was rejected yet here we are in 2012 with Facebook being in my view enormously advanced in tracking what its members do, where they go and what they like. The integration with Facebook has just become the normal.

Now it sounds like I am building up to bring down a crushing blow here, but I am a Facebook member and I get the social media revolution, I would argue that a “Corporate Twitter” should replace email as it is aging and in my view is a very old school way of thinking. Firstly let’s think of the power that Facebook has, when they do “Big data Analytic” they can gain so much information about you and your behavior  Social media is about our end-user experience but it is as much about potential buyers from Facebook knowing about your behavior.

One of my favourite examples of this is “Nike” running app on most phones, you get the “Nike” app and trackers for your shoes and then you can compete with 1000’s of people around the world posting your times to the boards and also Facebook. Now I am a huge fan of this, this in my eyes is what Technology should allow me to do which is reach and be able to do things I never have before. Okay so lets consider the value of this data, to us this is fun and competitive but behind the scenes is big business, if your phone is tracking your position, distance and speed then it is easy to say that they will be able to figure out your route and all the details about it.

So lets imagine you are a running shop owner, you want to open a new shop in Manhattan NY, how valuable would the collated data above be to you? If they could tell you how many people ran past a plot of land you were interested in, how many people were running in NY, where they stopped etc. The answer is invaluable, that gives you market data you would have never obtained before!

Now that to me is pretty cool. So to give this its official name it is Big Data, which in my view is analyzing information to find patterns and behavioral characteristics, this is what large computing is good at! How do you think Amazon know what to suggest when the pop up that little ad saying “people who bought this also bought”? The market for this is huge at present and is only getting bigger and bigger as companies have to become smarter when tackling consumergeddon! We all have choice, we all have so many resources at our finger tips. Big Data is what is understanding our behaviour, big data for me was not clear when first talked about, now I see this being used everywhere especially in social media.

So my very long point is, we today are creating so much data from social networking, locations, applications, online gaming……the list goes on and on. The one current theme though is that this is mostly mobile data.

The mobile market has developed so much, I remember when I first got a phone with a Camera and to be honest I thought “Big deal” but I did not grasp what was in front of me. The problem wasn’t the camera on the phone rather the software underneath, the only way I could show people was to put it on my computer, MMS (too pricey) or show them on my phone. Then Facebook came along and changed this game completely. My Facebook news feed is literally full of people posting photos if they are out, sightseeing, parties, what they are eating and all manner of other things. I can certainly not recall having that much visual content available to me at all! The same can be said about Twitter.

So finally on to Instagram, I do not know what you have seen in the news but as Facebook now owns Instagram they have amended their terms of service to include this “”To help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored content or promotions, you agree that a business may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you”. Now alarm bells should be ringing, we all love and use Instagram, it’s an online photo collaboration tools with API tie in to Facebook and Twitter (although no more now). So imagine the content that is on there now! Huge amounts of value to be sold to someone somewhere.

So we have all took photos, edited them and shared them and now all our activities can be sold, this for one feels different to me, fair enough with things like “Nike” above etc I can understand the way that businesses will want and pay for that information. But what these new terms are doing is selling content that you have created. I must not be alone in thinking that this is not really what social media is all about, they could be personal photos etc.

So I threw this idea to my friend the other day “Could we see the next age of social media coming which is subscription based?”, now we both agreed that we are already there just look at LinkedIn. We also banded about the notion that “If Facebook was a subscriptions service would you pay”. Now for me this is a difficult one, as I started this blog I wrote about Facebook’s inception in 2004, imagine if I had turned around to you in 2004 and said “One Seventh of the world’s population will have a website page by 2012”. I don’t have to describe what you would think of me, yet here we sit with 1 Billion subscription users to Facebook and users that login several times a day and update\maintain their page.

Now imagine if that was taken away from you now, and this moved to a subscription. I would argue that people would pay for this as Facebook is now habit and we socialize through this medium. Or the other way of thinking is if Facebook remained free but sold all your images that you post, do you think they would retain members?

I think that we are at critical mass with this social media at the moment, I think we could soon see the horizon change. Companies such as App.net have spawned are a paid social media experience with none of the advertising  so already social media has tipped over the edge in to a paid service.

What if I was to break the mold here and say imagine 8 years from now would we be saying “Remember that Facebook thing?!.

Just my thoughts….