The *real* Internet of Things

Part II of my minutes of the private Youstice meeting which took place in Prague on October 18-19, 2014 is devoted to another subject: the Internet of things.

“The more we can experience owning our own lives, the more beneficial technology can be for us” (Doc Searls)

Internet of things

 The Internet of things is, in my honest to God opinion, a very weird topic. First and foremost, it’s as old a theme as the Internet itself. I first started to hear about connected fridges in 1996, even though it never quite happened[1] and the subject has re-emerged a few times since then. At the same time, we are already confronted with the Internet of things: who doesn’t have a Smartphone, a connected watch and/or a heart sensor for their Sunday morning run? And lastly, the real Internet of Things might well end up being something entirely different. Who knows? That was exactly Doc Searls’s point in Prague last Saturday, when the co-creator of the Cluetrain manifesto described his own vision of things to come.

 

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“It’s a little like 1978” Doc said: “we were then talking about personal computing and we were then offered several kinds of standards which we ended up not using. “Right now we have a similar situation” he went on: “it’s the Google of things, the Facebook of things, and Amazon and things etc. and amongst those, it’s mostly Google’s and Amazon’s that are the most coherent”.

Yet, maybe our efforts are doomed to failure if all that can possibly be connected through the Internet Protocol is indeed connected and we haven’t thought about the customer journey: “Esteban Kolsky turned the buy cycle upside down” Doc Searls went on. “We have all these things we own and they all have their identity. The way marketing sees it is that we buy all the time whereas we tend to own more things than we buy.

Internet of things

Above: Esteban Kolsky’s diagram taken from his blog[2]

Ownership, experience are all of the essence, we are not just into buying, and a lot of experience is gained over time only, once we have grown used to things and have used them; even the very fact that we like products or not fluctuates over time.

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Doc took up on the work of Phil Windley[3], who thinks we should look at the Internet of things in a very different way. “Assume than when you buy a car, you are sold a cloud, a virtual space all your own on which you have all the service history”. What we have here is a space in which you could have and include anything we want” he said.

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Doc Searls at the flipchat explaining Kolsky’s reversed buy-cycle

We see this space in the Internet of things where every single thing is also a touch point for a relationship between you and the company. “This is a first person technology” Searls added. I’m the one who owns this cloud, this camera etc.

“This isn’t how people are seeing the Internet of things but this is how I can see how to reverse things” he said.

Ethan Katsch, the inventor of the field of Online Dispute Resolution challenged that idea: “The question is who owns that cloud? Who owns the data that’s in the cloud?” he asked.

Doc Searls responded that “inside the automobile industry there are a lot of things happening” and mostly, manufacturers aren’t all sharing the same views.

Ford for instance, “wants to spy on you, have advertising space on the car-browser, on the dashboard. On the opposite, there is VW who say they ‘don’t want to be a data octopus and let’s not make the same mistakes that the IT industry is making’” Doc went on. If we (the buyers) did take control of our buy cycle, this could be very good for our industry. And imagination is the limit he commented: “[retailers like] Tesco with their loyalty card only have limited information (what you bought but not the person behind the purchase: you see the shadow of the person). It’s a wide-open field”.

“The more we can experience owning our own lives”, “Doc said, the more beneficial technology can be for us”.

_______________footnotes

[1] Barring a few R&D examples which keep cropping now and often like http://group.electrolux.com/en/a-refrigerator-that-thinks-intelligent-refrigerator-will-simplify-homes-4349/

[2] http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/vrm/tag/esteban-kolsky/

[3] ttps://twitter.com/windley

Internet Pioneers Prague Meeting Highlights Need for ODR (Online Dispute Resolution) in E-commerce

These are my minutes from the discussions amongst the members of the private Youstice* meeting which took place in Prague on October 18-19, 2014 at the Aria hotel, right in the centre of the Czech capital, and barely a stone’s throw from the house where Franz Kafka used to live. Yet, our discussions were by no way Kafkian. On the opposite, they made it possible for us to link all the issues related to today’s e-commerce customer relationship management. The notions of trust and respect were at the centre of all debates, therefore highlighting the need for trusted third parties, mostly in Europe, even though the approach, as often, is different from country to country.

[*Disclosure: Youstice is my client]

ODR - Doc Searls

Doc Searls in Prague: despite what the message in Czech on the screen says, a clear signal was sent by the co-author of the Cluetrain manifesto during our meeting: respect your clients!

E-commerce: it’s a matter of trust

Doc Searls’ initial title for this discussion was “terms and policies individuals assert”. The discussion started with a consensus around Doc’s introduction to the meeting: “freedom of contract was established a long time ago in order to do business but in 1943, in order to gain scale, the law was changed, which means that one party is issuing the contract and the other is forced to accept or reject it (as when we buy stuff from Websites and are forced to accept terms of conditions which keep changing)” Doc said. Doc Searls, for those who can’t remember, is a co-author of the Cluetrain manifesto, which is still available at http://cluetrain.com; a fundamental piece of Internet marketing literature which was already pinpointing the need to consider Web viewers not as “eyeballs”, but human beings(1).

As is always the case with the Internet, all users are decision makers, whether some merchants like it or not; and from there came the idea of ‘do not track(2)’. “We are right at the beginning of that” Doc went on. A company called the Respect Network(3) have issued a document entitled the “respect trust framework(4)” which spells out principles like “both parties will respect the boundaries of the other party”. These issues of trust and respect are at the heart of the need for Online Dispute Revolution (ODR) as we will find out later on.

Two parties of equal power

Essentially, there is a need to “establish contracts between two parties of equal power” Doc went on. It is very early days but one thing that is happening is that “the system we have is broken and it needs to be fixed”. What was working well for few large companies in the industrial age isn’t working that well in the Internet age at all. “A lot of people are coming to us from Salesforce.com and other large Internet companies” Doc Searls added, and they understand that they need to deal with customers in a much better way. They used to think we were “communists” but this is over, they are jumping on the bandwagon now.

A new effort is also going on in the UK about what Doc called “consent receipt” for which any time a customer gives consent, they get a receipt. “This is a step forward in the right direction” he added. They are working on the “log in with respect” button with regard to Facebook and other social connect mechanisms. It’s hard to say what Facebook will be up to with your data. “If one comes up with this alternative button, there’s code which one will be able to install on site-side. This ensures that one enforces respect and issues statements you won’t tamper with users’ data” Doc explained. January is the potential release date, currently going through Kickstarter.

B.A. may not need an ODR (Online Dispute Resolution) system, but smaller players do

Esther Dyson, once head of ICANN in the early days of the Internet, joined the conversation mentioning that if there is “an issue with privacy, there is also one with regard to trust”. “British Airways doesn’t really need an ODR system like Youstice because they already have a reputation” Dyson said; even though there has been some traction with larger merchants and e-merchants which would tend to prove that a trusted third party for dispute resolutions is not only a technical solution; it is also instrumental in reassuring clients who expect neutrality and fairness. “The target for ODR is the sites that customers don’t trust” Dyson went on. Respect isn’t enough. Indeed, consumers want to be able to trust the shops they buy from. This is only natural in an increasingly globalised world where extra European buyers can make online purchases from 3-4 different merchants, not always located in the same country. It is hard to trust someone you cannot see in a country you know nothing about.

ODR - Esther Dyson

Esther Dyson (middle) with entrepreneur Zbynek Loebl (right). Meeting with Esther was like meeting a legend. The first time I heard about the Internet was in a Channel 4 program in 1994! (the program was entitled “Visions of Heaven and Hell” things haven’t changed that much after all!

The aim of ODR: reduce the number of disreputable merchants

“The ODR promise is that we’ll give customers the potential to negotiate one to one and resolve issue on an individual basis” Esther Dyson pointed out. The idea is to reduce the number of disreputable merchants. One of the issue with privacy though, is “that you never know when it’s been reached; you only know when it’s too late” the former head of ICANN and member of the Youstice board of advisors added. A tower of Babel, and the need for a common language Trust and respect aren’t sufficient, and there are more things in that balance of modern e-commerce which is more and more a cross-border issue: “there is a need for an enforcement mechanism and current legal systems can’t help because they are different in all parts of the world” explained Zbynek Loebl, co-founder of Youstice and our host for that week-end in Prague. And it’s very hard to predict that such enforcement mechanisms could be in place any time soon according to the Czech entrepreneur.

Joyce Searls, co-president, with her husband, of Searls Group(5), commented on Zbynek Loebl’s statement: “there are a lot of little things which can create a river of change when all those efforts will be aggregated and it won’t solve the problem just on the legal side but on the company side too.

We have been tracking this area for so long and it seems that something is happening here at last and all these things are coming together. Things have to be solved,” She said. It is no longer possible indeed, to ignore the need for respect and trust on the part of clients, as well as the requirement to solve disputes when they arise. The future of e-commerce hinges on that, the need to fix its principles, both ethically and technically. Online Dispute Resolution is part of that.

“Resolving claims is how you build a reputation” (Esther Dyson)

Pablo Cortes, our Spanish representative – also a Professor from the Leicester University in the United Kingdom, emphasised the requirement for the market to evolve beyond current practices: “trustees have been in the market for a long time and they have had their code of conduct,” he said, “but if a customer complains about a breach of privacy they never do anything against large businesses because there is a conflict of interest.

Yet, settling disputes isn’t just a negative thing, as pointed out rightfully by Esther Dyson: “one has to understand”, she commented, “that resolving claims is how you build a reputation”. Zbynek Loebl can however see “that this movement is happening, slowly but surely. The obvious example is BBB(6) in the US and there are similar trust marks in Europe” he said. “We at Youstice have well established that retailers could see that improved public policies would be seen as positive by customers and retailers alike and it could be a game changer. And it’s a matter of things catching up with all”.

ODR

The BBB Website banner: for US businesses only

Professor Ethan Katsch(7), who is credited for inventing the field of ODR(8) (Online Dispute Resolution) added that “conflicts of interest become more prominent because of so many entities being in relationship with so many others. You have got to build trust in spite of these conflicts of interests. The old way of building trust was to avoid conflicts of interest,” ODR offers a way to table these issues and solve them. “Is it safe to buy from this retailer?” Asked Zbynek Loebl.

A couple of months ago he just got an email from a VP from a retailer: “we have a request that someone from a country wants to buy from a small e-shop from France, and they want to know whether this e-merchant is safe to buy from; can you help us?” “This,” Zbynek Loebl said, “is a very simple issue, a very simple question and yet, answering that question is almost impossible and the reason for this is globalisation. There are still no simple answers to such simple questions but there are potential solutions.”

ODR

Internet pioneers: some of the attendees of the Prague meeting on Saturday 18 October, 2014

A simple complex question

As a matter of fact, this isn’t a simple question, as pointed out by Esther Dyson in response to Zbynerk Loebl’s anecdote. Yet, with such complex issues, third party services can help: “If customers were asked to have their problems solved by internal departments or third party, I’m certain they would choose third party” Leah Wing, lecturer at the University of Massachussetts/Amherst(9), commented.

“There is a need for that, but as seen in Germany with ‘Trusted shops10’, traction is only being gained and we are not there yet”. Ivan Debnar from Slovakia added: “if I were an merchant, I would like to show I care about my client and there is need for first line support from within the company. This is also instrumental in building trust with one’s customers”. “It is indeed a two step-process,” Ivan Stefanko joined in, “first and foremost, there is customer care”, and next comes Online Dispute Resolution.

The beginning of a new era: VRM supersedes CRM

There is still a lot of evangelisation to do in order that the term ODR is known and the concept develops. Even some of our meeting attendees declared they had never heard the term before. By and large however, the future of e-commerce is no longer a matter of CRM but a matter of trust and respect, and the ability to resolve issues which are sometimes, unfortunately, ignored or minimised by merchants according to Pr. Ethan Katsh.

The empowerment of users and the maturation of e-commerce and especially cross-border ecommerce is calling for new standards where consumers will be able to manage their relationship with their vendors, in much the same way that vendors started managing their relationship with their consumers through CRM, twenty years or so ago.

This, is the beginning of a new era.

______footnotes

(1) Suffice it to say that I have been a fan of the Cluetrain manifesto from day one, and still am. I hold that text for one of the most significant marketing texts ever written. A lot of what Doc referred to during that meeting in terms of respect and trust has to be seen in the light of the manifesto.

(2) http://blogs.law.harvard.edu/doc/tag/do-not-track-no-track/

(3) https://www.respectnetwork.com/

(4) http://openidentityexchange.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/respect-trust-framework-v2.pdf

(5) http://searls.com/tsg/

(6) http://www.bbb.org/ Better Business Bureau

(7) http://odr.info/katsh

(8) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Online_dispute_resolution#cite_ref-15

(9) https://polsci.umass.edu/profiles/wing_leah

(10) http://www.trustedshops.com/

The real Internet of Things seen by Web pioneers

This weekend is a very special one. On October 18-19th, 2014 quite a few pioneers from all over the world will gather to debate about what the real Internet of things really is about and other subjects which are all listed per below. They are all being invited by Youstice, the leading start-up which is revolutionising customer relationship management all over the world [disclosure: Youstice is our client]. Here are the invitees of this meeting, amongst whom we find Ether Dyson (1st head of ICANN and one of the first persons I saw on Channel 4 in 1994 talking about the Internet) and Doc Searls (one of the co-writers of the obligatory cluetrain manifesto still available at http://cluetrain.com). I will keep you posted at visionary marketing and LinkedIn about the outcome of these discussions and what we have learnt from these pioneers of the Internet about the Internet of things and a few other subjects.

Stay tuned!

Prague, Czech Republic

 

PARTICIPANTS:

 

esther dyson
Esther Dyson
  • Yang Jianzheng (China) 
  • Yann Gourvennec (France) : CEO and founder of Visionary Marketing.
  • Yoshi Hayakawa and Megumi Ohkubo (Japan) 
  • Zbyněk Loebl (Czech Republic) : CEO at Youstice.
  • Also for Youstice: Karina Ludz, Patric Illigen and Rado Bonk

 

 

TOPICS OF DISCUSSION:

 

Delegates who proposed the topics will introduce them briefly as an introduction to the discussion.

 

·         Terms and policies individuals assert.

·         The real Internet of Things.

·         Is it safe to buy from this retailer in that country? What should be considered?

·         The relationship between the collaborative economy’s focus on positive social impact and mutuality and how that creates untapped or under-tapped opportunities for ODR.

·         Implications for ODR of the many new services for online personal buying assistants (both automated and live) that we are seeing in e-commerce?

 

Economics: More Competition Leads to Less Competition (the rule of three)

The Rule of Three by Sheth and Sisodia

today’s selection is a (very old post) dated 2006, taken from this very blog …

… in which I was commenting on a book entitled “the rule of three”. I realise that this analysis is still – or maybe more than ever pertinent – and therefore I decided to revive this post, update it significantly, and submit to my readers again today.

Have you ever wondered why most markets – when they are mature enough – end up being dominated by 3 players? Sheth and Sisodia (2002 – buy it from Amazon; note that there are second hand books available from as little as £0.49!) have carried out a study about this and their book is available in electronic format too (buy an kindle version here for £9.99). 12manage.com comments that this is not applicable to Europe. On the contrary, it does apply to Europe too, or any other area for that matter, provided local markets are open to fair and unbiased competition and transparent (I know, this is a paradox, fair competition leads to less competition in the event).

For instance, if you apply this rule to the telecoms market, it is very likely that you will find that the rule applies in each country/zone of influence individually (multi-national markets). It’s not that the rule is false. It’s just that those markets are heavily regulated and therefore, keep introducing new devices to revive competition at regular intervals.

In the US, the situation is different though; a few decades ago, AT&T was broken into small companiesby the regulator, but the rule of 3 applied in the end nonetheless (Stephen Colbert described this phenomenon in a classic pitch, click the Colbert picture below to view an extract). The process of introducing more competition ended after that though, it is not the case in some European markets in which new devices are still being introduced to fuel competition and lower prices (transparency : I work for a Telco, my comment is and will remain neutral for obvious reasons)

Where globalisation has already happened (for instance in the fast food market), the rule will apply across Europe with Mc Donald’s, Quick or Burger King and the rest of the niche players for instance. Does that mean that the ultimate goal of open competition is … less competition? Eerie isn’t it?

A final comment is that not all markets, even in the high-tech sector, are truly global. Whereas the IT market is for instance (same brands, strong consolidation, same products sold from one end of the planet to the other etc.) others aren’t. Besides, a multi-national market (i.e. an addition of heavily idiosyncratic markets in many countries) isn’t really the same as a global market. In multi-national markets, many discrepancies persist, even when the brand itself is global.

Zipf’s law

Seth Godin described this phenomenon in a different way, in his famous opus entitled “unleashing the idea virus“. Here is the passage about what he calls “Zipf’s law” (the book is rather old too, but it doesn’t matter anyway, what Seth described then is still valid now).

There’s a name for this effect. It’s called Zipf’s law, after George Kingsley Zipf (1902-1950), a philologist and professor at Harvard University. He discovered that the most popular word  in the English language (“the”) is used ten times more than the tenth most popular word, 100 times more than the 100th most popular word and 1,000 times more than the 1,000th most popular word.

It’s also been discovered that this same effect applies to market share for software, soft drinks,automobiles, candy bars, and the frequency of hits on pages found on a website. The chart above shows actual visits to the different pages at Sun’s website [editor’s note: in 1996] .In almost every field of endeavor, it’s clear that being #1 is a lot better than being #3 or #10.There isn’t an even distribution of rewards, especially in our networked world.On the Net, the stakes are even larger. The market capitalization of Priceline, eBay and Amazon approaches 95% of the total market capitalization of every other consumer ecommerce stock combined [editor’s note: still in 1996]. Clearly, there’s a lot to be gained by winning.

Taking the Wraps off Product Packaging

Today’s selection is…

A selection of creative packaging with some very good and very innovative ideas. I have found out that just before going on vacation, rather than write yet another piece about the future of marketing or innovation, we would take some time off as and start browsing the Web a bit in search for ideas. That’s how I came across this photo mag list of “30 of the most creative and innovative product design you have ever seen“. Here are some other musings taken from my reading of that very good list of creative ideas:

  • innovation is not only in the product:  one can have a very trivial product like butter (photo) for instance and using innovative packaging change the customer experience; in essence, the same recipe could be applied to high-tech as well. You can very well take an ordinary online service and turn it into a superior customer experience through the way that it is packaged. Let’s take an example with the now defunct Posterous service, unfortunately bought and killed by Twitter. These guys were offering superior user experience through their innovative way of opening an account: with Posterous, you didn’t need to open an account at all. All you needed to do was to type a new URL (or send an email to a Posterous email address), and that would generate your account by default. You were then led to linking that account to an existing social media account and hey presto! you had bypassed the signup process entirely,

Taking the Wraps off Product Packaging

  • Some of these ideas are very innovative but also very unpractical: One of the lessons I derived from the reading of that piece, is that sometimes innovation can defeat is its own object. If we take this salami CD thing, I’m probably very thick but I still haven’t figured out whether it was a CD with a salami shape, or a piece of salami shaped like a CD. Okay, I must be lacking a sense of humour completely,

Taking the Wraps off Product Packaging

  • In some cases (Kleenex boxes) they have even managed to turn the product into a whole experience which makes you feel like collecting even the most trivial products like tissues. If you collect all the boxes then you will be able to rebuild the entire fruit. I found that extremely inventive and clever.

creative package design, innovative packaging ideas2

Here are some of my musings, I’m sure they are thousands of new ideas you can pick up from those beautiful and innovative photos. Enjoy!

30 of The Most Creative And Innovative Product Design You Have Ever Seen

When it comes to product design the packaging of the product play a very important role. A beautiful and creative product design greatly influences our decision while choosing one product over another. You may agree that several times you purchase a useless product because it was designed beautifully.

So a product design not only serves the purpose of informing the customers, but it should also appeal to your target market and impress the customer with its creativity and design. Below is our selection of 30 creative and innovative product packaging designs that will inspire you!

30 of The Most Creative And Innovative Product Design You Have Ever Seen – StumbleUpon.