From Intent to Expression

Arab Spring. An intertwined Europe. A watchful eye in Asia. And, socio-political discord in America. These all are elements of a perfect storm. They are tidings of a sea-change occurring across the planet that has more to do with empowerment of the individual and disenfranchisement from traditional pillars of power—political, social, and commercial.

They are centered on the power of the web, the Internet, to create bonds of unity that surpass echelons of establishment. For those attending the Web 2.0 Expo (#w2e), there’s nothing extraordinary about anything that’s going on around us. Over the last decade, we’ve been drivers of dialogue focused on the increasing “power” of the individual, of the disintermediation of traditional approaches and avenues to accomplishing things in less time and with thinking and resources that move faster.

In my presentation, “From Intent to Expression”, I spoke about how the payments landscape in the Web 2.0 world is changing, rapidly. What started more than a decade ago with e-commerce and then with the advent of solutions such as PayPal is now a systemic advance disabling traditional purveyors of payments and commerce. The web has, to a large extent, democratized the human voice across the political and the economic condition.

Today’s headlines are complete with rising discussions of indifference toward the norm. This comes at a time when the convergence of human commercial and media consumption has been fueled by digital enablement, giving further rise to innovations that strip away the skins of convention. Convergence is being met equally by disruption never experienced before in commercial enterprise. The time, and importance of, knowing one’s consumer has never been so great. And, at a time when dissatisfaction with the traditional firmaments of finance is overwhelmingly profound, the spoils stand to go with those bridge builders who have both the empathy and the energy to create consumer solutions that match, even exceed, the needs of their lives—emotionally, socially, commercially and financially.

The crux of my discussion is this: those spoils will go most to those who know their digital consumers best (despite having never seen their face, except by way of avatar). To those who know their consumers’ preferences and payments the best. To those, ultimately, who leverage the richness of the digital age to surround their customers through payments—the actual expressions of consumption, need and want. All of this is rooted in data. Data that I and my colleagues believe is the root of a new era we are calling payments intelligence. The cause and meaning of payments intelligence will become increasingly pronounced in the months and the years to come.

Here is a link to my presentation. I invite anyone to share feedback and observations.

(Reposted, originally from the Litle & Co. Official Blog.)

An actual use for Twitter?

I’ve been using twitter for a good many moons now but as time went on my use of it devolved into auto-postings about my blog entries, occasional rants about this and that, occasional baseball fever inspired entries, and yes, I admit, the rare drunken banter. Then again, is that devolving my use of twitter or is that evolving my use of twitter?

Over the same period of time I found myself disabling my phone notifications for some people I follow, mostly because I grew very annoyed with their random twits about who they’re having lunch with, where they’re getting drunk at, or whatever other random bullshit I don’t care about that they decide to twit about – you know, things that I also twit about. Some of these people think twitter is just revolutionary. Uh huh – and subway car graffiti is revolutionary too, and so are writings on a bathroom wall, and so is my Facebook status. Get outta here! Are the Gen X and Gen Y and Millennial generations really this self-important?

Anyway, I’ve all but declared myself a quitter of twitter and some of my twits have hinted at my growing boredom. But yesterday I was reading the paper and I saw that we were going to get hammered with snow today. I immediately thought of several things that would be impacted by the snow:

  1. Shit, I have to shovel and potentially use the plow. I also get partly excited by these thoughts because I like doing things that don’t require me to sit at this computer and the prospect of my heart rate going somewhere above ‘caffeinated’ status.
  2. Shit, Bob has an interview with a candidate for an open position. This is an important position. Does Bob know about the snow? He commutes in from Saskatchewan so someone better send a messenger.
  3. Shit, many of CitySquares’ staff come in from outside the city. Do they know? Do they think they’re required to go in?
  4. Shit, I have our marketing intern starting today. Am I going in to get her up to speed?

As it stands right now, it’s 9:12 and I’m at my kitchen table – not at my office desk in the South End.

So, what better use for twitter than a company broadcast system? Have the staff sign up for twitter and follow the citysquares account I set up. But I made it private so that I can control who gets access and who doesn’t. It’s a perfect solution for alerting the staff of important company updates.

I’ve had other ideas about twitter, like letting Citysquares.com users follow customers. Then, customers can notify their followers of random specials, sales, events, whatever. Think of it as a newsletter for mobile devices. However, based on T-Mobile’s recent issues with twitter (or is it the other way around?) I’ve questioned making such a feature available to users and to customers, when there’s so much dependency on third parties and so little internal controls.

Anyway, that’s my word.

User Experience

So my father sent this to me today, it’s a funny little bit about a book – the introduction of the book actually, and how it compares to the user experience of, well, the old reliable scroll. It’s very funny, and very well done. But what it really makes me think of, in the context that I live in every day, is website user experience.

It seems to me that with this web 2.0 transition that we’re all going through and adapting to, some developers and designers are trying to reinvent user experience. Citysquares.com isn’t the perfect example of a flawless user experience, but over the last year I’ve heard many more compliments and praise than negative. And over the past many months in my daily blog reading and in meeting with many other local startups, user experience is a big issue that many engineers struggle with. And let’s face it, most innovative web 2.0 startups are built by engineers. That’s a problem. Engineers are focused much more on function than form. That’s their nature. That’s not a bad thing, not at all. But without an intuitive user experience, startups are only creating more challenges and hurdles for themselves. A recent startup that I met with comes to mind. I won’t single them out, but they’ve got a moderately clever idea and have already gone to market. But their user experience leaves much to be desired. It was a big problem even for me – I like to think that I can adapt easier than say, my mother (who’s a great test case). If I can’t figure it out, my mother will only get frustrated and say “to heck with this!”

My partner and good friend Bob Leland is going to be launching his blog soon. And I can’t stress just how excited I am to see him join the blogosphere. Bob is a very very talented UI and UX guy. That’s his specialty and that is what his blog will be focused on. Again, although Citysquares.com is not the best example of his abilities or our vision (it’s a result of the limitations of our platform, for now anyway), Bob has done amazing work with the site and it’s only going to get better.

So without further delay, here is the video. Enjoy!

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