Ted Cruz: Net Neutrality

I don’t like to get into politics, but I have taken advantage of technology to send messages to our representatives. Being from Texas gives me the honor of informing Sen. Ted Cruz what I think about things and I chose to voice my opinion about the FCC position on Net Neutrality a few weeks ago. The response from his office on October 23 is below.

“Thank you for sharing your thoughts regarding net neutrality. Input from my fellow Texans significantly informs my decision-making and helps me better represent your interests.

The FCC’s latest ‘net neutrality’ order, a proposal to give itself the authority to dictate how Internet services will be provided to millions of Americas, would stifle innovation and subject the Internet to nanny-state regulation from Washington. Twice, a federal court has ruled that the FCC does not have the authority to regulate the internet, and the FCC has yet utterly failed to present evidence of an actual problem that this proposal is supposed to address. This approach must be rejected.

Since 1996, more than $1 trillion has been invested in broadband infrastructure in the United States, which has led to an explosion of new content, applications, and Internet accessibility. Congress, not an unelected commission, should take the lead on modernizing our telecommunications laws, and the FCC must not endanger future investments by stifling growth in the online sector, which remains a much-needed bright spot in our struggling economy.

Thank you again for sharing your views with me. Please feel free to contact me in the future about any issue important to your family. It is an honor to serve you and the people of Texas.”

Earlier today the Senator posted the following on Twitter. As I read his tweet against the backdrop of his earlier response via email, I’m totally confused.

I don’t envy our representatives. Trying to balance idealogical opinions against, party politics, constituents, donors, etc. is not my cup of tea. However, I wish the Senator had chosen to pursue a different course of action. For all I know Obama may intend to do something really crazy with Broadband access. But on the surface if you treat broadband like electricity or water is that the wrong direction?

Related: The Verge, LA Times


I wish someone told me

First JobWhen I started working many, many years ago I thought I knew how to work in an office, but had to get reminded I was a newb. I wish I could have avoided some uncomfortable conversations I had back then, but we all need to learn the hard way from time-to-time. Below are a few things that came to mind as I was thinking about this and some amazing co-workers added some good ones below.

While this is not an exhaustive list and far from the only list out there I hope it will help those looking to break into a the digital workplace. Many of these concepts are applicable to anyone entering the workforce. However, the ideas represented below are coming from an agency mindset. My hope is that perhaps this will help you as you begin your journey.

  • Kiss School Good-bye: The easy days of school are gone. Expectations are higher and you will be expected to deliver. Professors are easy to schmooze, clients are not. You aren’t going to be able to talk your way out of underperforming. Know this and you can avoid unnecessary stumbles as you start your career.
  • Set Goals: I had no idea what a goal was outside of hockey and soccer. Career goals meant nothing to me when I started. Some people have grand visions of being a CEO of a Fortune 100 company one day. Good for them. But for those of us with less lofty aspirations consider something you want to get out of this job in the next few months. It could be something like learning a particular technique in Illustrator or perhaps giving a presentation to a client. Your manager can help you here, but keep them attainable and realistic so you can get your feet under you.
  • Be Early: Don’t show up late to meetings. You aren’t important enough to get a pass. If you are expected to be in the meeting by 8:30am, you need to be situated in the meeting room by 8:29. Being situated means you have everything you need to start the meeting (drink, paper, presentation, projector, etc.).There is no harm in being first to a meeting, but there is quite a bit of negative attention you bring on yourself if you show up late, unprepared, flustered, distracted, etc.
  • Bring Paper and a Pencil/Pen: Keep laptops/devices closed unless needed. Take notes, even if you are not responsible. The more notes you take the better you get at picking out the key points during a discussion.
  • Questions: Client meetings aren’t always the best time to bring up questions. Listen, learn, write down the questions and ask your team during a break if they are worth bringing up. During team meetings you should ask questions so you can learn. Your team will get annoyed if they have to answer the same things multiple times or have to show you how to do something over and over. However, if you learn your team will appreciate you more.
  • Team work: This is crucial. You are expected to be tight with your team. That means joking, listening, caring and communicating with them is important. If you need to leave early or stay late, let them know. If you have a weird circumstance that means you need to work from home let them know. These are not trivial things, they are important so everyone knows what to expect from you.
  • Downtime: From time-to-time you will find that you have downtime. This could lead to boredom, but this time is more precious than gold. Why? You get to learn outside of a project. You have to seize these moments every chance you get. 1) Tell other teams and see if you can provide some support. 2) Listen in on pitches or other meetings and imagine how you would solve the problem. 3) Find things to learn with the tools you use or want to use. 4) Revisit some old work that you want to refine and make better. Don’t waste it!
  • Mentor: If you haven’t found someone that can mentor you yet, find them. In fact find two or three people you can learn from. Ask them to spend time with you periodically. This could be weekly or monthly, but respect their time. You should find someone in a higher position than yourself that is doing amazing things that will offer an opportunity to help you grow. Your mentors will change over time as you grow so feel free to adjust. Mentors should not be limited to a company or industry.
  • Meetings: If you want to speak to someone then it is your job to block the time on the calendar. That means you find a time that will work for you and the person(s) you would like to meet with and send them an invitation so their time will be blocked on the calendar. Especially as a junior employee you need to be respectful of the people you would like to meet with by setting up the time and making sure the meeting is an appropriate length. Do not suggest or book more than one hour unless they advise you to do otherwise.
  • Be Eager: You are going to have tasks and projects that are not exciting. It’s how it goes, but you need to give those projects even more attention so you prove your value to your team and coworkers. Take these opportunities to learn. Absorb what you can in each opportunity you are given.
  • Extra Hours: Plan on giving extra hours. This is part of getting your footing. It may not happen all the time, but expect to get asked and take advantage of the time. If you find you are being asked to stay late consistently bring it up with your manager because something isn’t right and they can help sort out what’s going on.
  • Email, Chat, Text: Remember not everyone uses shorthand when you message them. Whichever platform you choose to use with your manager and team you need to make sure the message is clear and concise. Assume most people are scanning this message and are not going to read a 50 line message.
  • Check Email/Voicemail: Perhaps you don’t like phone calls or just find email lame. Too bad, it’s still used by many people and some organizations live by it. You are responsible for knowing the contents of the email and voicemail and you can’t claim ignorance.
  • Vacation: They are great when you need them, but be sure you understand the vacation policy and use it wisely. Don’t abuse the time you have off and make sure your manager and resource manager understand your request. It’s not a guarantee until it has been approved so don’t spend a bunch of money that you can’t get back in case your request is denied. Make sure you have an out of office message on during the dates you are out that communicates how long you are gone and provide the appropriate contact(s).
  • Managers: Your manager should be there to help you. If you are struggling, confused, curious, burned out, tired, anxious, upset, etc. then you need to find time with them. They may direct you to other people in the organization that can better address your specific needs, but you can’t get help if you don’t ask. Your manager wants you to be successful so let them help you.
  • Hours: Core hours for the company should be communicated to you. This means you need to fulfill your obligation to the company and the team by being in the office during the core hours. You may find that you need to come in early or stay late, but your team is counting on you to be available during the core hours and fulfill the duration of your 8 hour day. This means if you aren’t busy you don’t get to leave early, you are expected to use downtime wisely; see above.
  • Clothes: Be sure you understand the expectations for dress in the office. Keep in mind this is not the right environment to wear revealing clothing. This applies to both men/women. What you may have worn to school or the part-time job you had in the past may not be appropriate in the office. When in doubt go conservative and ask your manager or mentor if you need additional clarification. Pay particular attention to what you wear when clients comes for a visit or you are visiting them. You want to make sure you are appropriately dressed so they feel comfortable.

Perhaps more will come from your feedback or questions.

To kill, or not to kill the hamburger, that is the question

I like to eat hamburgers and even turkey burgers. But we’re not talking about burgers that would make Jules Winnfield salivate. We’re talking app and mobile web experiences that have become the virtual junk drawer.

Thanks to Luis Abreu the conversation about the value of the hamburger has kicked up again. I don’t want to rehash what Luis has written. But in summary Luis suggests that the hamburger has become the place to stick all of the leftover stuff that couldn’t fit elsewhere.  Once you have relegated a feature to that area you run a significant risk of your users never finding it.

Many “big brands” consider themselves excluded from the discussion. Why? Take a look at the examples used by Luis? Facebook, Twitter or IRC chat are not going to be a strong sell to a Fortune 1000 company. The notion at those organization many times is that “we’re different” or “that might work for them but we have many more products/services”.

What to do then? How can a large corporate entity that isn’t a tech giant in social make sense of the UX pattern? How can consensus be built to avoid this pattern? Is this another blog post talking about a bunch of stuff that doesn’t apply to a corporate gig?

Stakeholders need to be reminded that mobile web/apps should not be treated like a website. Our websites have grown heavy with bloated keyword rich content, ‘sexy’ imagery, features and functionality that attempt to capture a long tail user. Repeatedly reminding stakeholders that mobile is a tiny screen where customers will view content in 60 seconds or less is going to be crucial in building a great mobile experience.

Companies may need to break the “concept” into different applications. This may sound like blasphemy, but it’s not unusual. Chances are you do it on the web already. Microsites are used all the time. But is anyone other than Facebook or Foursquare breaking up their apps? Yes!

There are 15 apps available for iPhone. They have made 7 of those apps available on the iPad as well as one iPad only app. That means ESPN, the “World Wide Leader In Sports” has 16 applications on iOS alone. Of these only three and a half use the hamburger menu. Couldn’t they just combine these into a “mega app”? Maybe but is anyone else doing this?

Ford has 16 apps available on iPhone and 9 of those work on iPad. They also made 8 iPad only applications. You might be able to argue that two of these apps have a hamburger menu. These two apps to have the icon, but it is presented in a different way than the typical location in the top left corner.

Others Examples
Rolex (4 apps, no burgers)
Amazon (15 apps, 4 burgers)
AT&T (40 apps, a few burgers)
Coca-Cola (40 apps, a few burgers)

In short, do not let the “hamburger menu” be the cure for all of your ills. There are ways around using this approach. Other large companies are doing it and so can you. If your direct competitors are lagging behind, champion a user centered approach that fits you user approach.

Next time we’ll explore some Pros and Cons to this approach and try to make some more sense for killing the hamburger menu. Sure it may be much easier to include a junk drawer to pacify stakeholders, but what about your users? Do you want to give them an easy experience that they keeps them coming back? Or do you make it a hassle that they despise?


Going Beyond Basic Push

Notes from Bottle Rocket Apps 2013 Client Summit (unedited)

Going beyond basic push by @ekrobi

  • 4B notifications/month
  • 1B active installs
  • 65K active developers
  • Personalization is key and inherent as part of the application and device experience
  • Average lifespan of an app is 1 month
  • Enhance your customers lives
    • Walgreens example of using camera to register prescription and remind people
  • Winning strategies
    • broadcast notifications
      • every user simultaneously
      • ex: update app, breaking news, sports scores
    • segmentation and targeting
      • Right person, right time, right message
      • preference center to tell what type of alerts
        • SoundTracking (email or push)
        • Rou la La (how far in advance? sound?)
        • Discovery News (top, earth, space, etc.)
        • 106 & Park
        • CoffeeTable asks users what they care about and delivers to users that want it
      • in app behaviors, define key actions, in the funnel
    • personalization
      • Deliver every user a message that speaks directly to them
        • airbnb – communication between the owner and customers
    • geo-targetting
      • Know where your customers live, work and play
        • where they are, where they’ve been
        • London 10M location pushes sent, 60% opt-in, 10X higher response rate
        • ABC News district segments, relevant and timely data
    • rich push
      • Message center inside the app
        • Onavo – 30% increase in social share
        • drive landing page content
        • 2-Bitbub companion to ParaNorman
        • Starbucks with music and information
  • Mobile relationship management best practices
    • Push is marketing – Rue lala
    • Mobile everywhere – adoption, sharing, opt-in
    • Measure & Optimize for your goals
    • Interruption better be good
    • Mobile is still emerging
      • 2013 predictions
        • Mobile in everyday life
        • big data convert to actionable data
        • mobile payment/commerce
        • privacy – you’re collecting data use it smartly
        • tablet/smartphone separation what do you do different

Action-Oriented Analytics

Notes from Bottle Rocket Apps 2013 Client Summit (unedited)

Action-Oriented Analytics

  • Outlook 2013
    • 2.6B events per day
    • 1.3B smartphone/tablet devices (estimate)
    • 2-5 Billions potential smart device owners
    • Upside, is dropping prices, replacement for computers
    • China is the largest smart device users in the world as of Feb
    • Media, shopping and productivity are increasing at an increased rate
    • Loyalty by app category
      • travel low frequency and 45% retention over 90 days
    • Tablet vs. Phone
      • Phone are good for in/out, tablet is leaning back to consume
    • Apps use about 120 minutes per day
    • App usage during Super Bowl
  • Measure your audience & pinpoint the actions that matter
    • Starts by tracking events
    • Add parameters to get further detail
    • User flow through the application
    • Create funnels
  • Identify your most valuable users
    • segment the audience
      • demographics or persona
    • understand and track users
      • monetize users that don’t spend
    • daypart segments
  • Acquire and monetize users
    • cross promote
    • user acquisition through ads
  • Wash, rinse, repeat

The Path From Mobile Engagement to Monetization

Notes from Bottle Rocket Apps 2013 Client Summit (unedited)

The path from mobile engagement to monetization

  • The first date
    • Initial impressions are extremely important to mobile users
  • Meet the friends
    • use the graph to learn behaviors and trends
    • social engagement varies by channel diff b/w FB and Twitter
    • what are the triggers for opening the app
  • Getting serious
    • shared experience – what are you going to do inside the app to tell their friends
  • Finding the fun (gamification)
  • Reminding them you care (incentives & notifications)
    • not intrusive, but still need to find ways to get users engaged
  • Cashing in
    • Virtual achievements for real world items
  • The big day (monetization)
    • has to be relevant
    • ads are not settled yet