Web Innovation

Living in Dallas, TX has its benefits, but when it comes to being the on the hipster end of the websphere we aren't really that cool. Austin gets most of the attention in Texas and so it should with SXSWi and being a big college and tech-centric city. Dallas, as a city isn't a heavy user of web technology. There are some great tech companies but that doesn't mean they are savvy when it comes to the web or mobile web tech. My recent trip to San Francisco had me thinking about web and mobile web technology.

Many retail stores are still satisfied with one web page that includes a phone number and their address, even if it is just one large image (ugh!). While on my recent trip I thought I would be well covered with Foursquare hints, tips, specials as well as Yelp ratings and search. I racked up some pretty serious points on Foursquare since I checked in to nearly every location we stopped at during the week long visit. But I was disappointed to see that the value in Foursquare was somewhat limited to me. I did notice while checking in at Union Square that CBS Interactive had nine people in the office. I guess that is good to know but it didn't really give me much value in finding something to do.

Another application I worked hard trying to use was Yelp on my iPhone. I thought this would make it relatively easy to find places to eat as we explored the city. It did and it didn't.The search aspect was great and when we knew the type of food we wanted we could usually find something. However I did find that asking the hotel staff was slightly more reliable hitting 2 out of 3 on the recommendations. Yelp was limited by the mobile app on the iPhone where the full website has more filter options.

A downside to using the Yelp iPhone app was that I eventually ranked 15th in San Francisco for check-ins. This shocked me since I was only there a week and I was rarely using the "Check-in" feature. For a service like Yelp to have such limited usage given all of the buzz around mobile and location based services I really had to take a step back and think more critically of these services. Being an outsider I tend to think of the Valley as the big leagues, but I have had to rethink my metaphor.

Years ago I was introduced to Everette Rogers theory on the "Diffusion of Innovations" via Dr. Corey Carbonara.Many people miss the fact that there are five adopter categories in the theory. Innovators, Early Adopters, Early Majority, Late Majority and Laggards. I'm not sure why some people feel like they should want or need to be in the "Innovator" category when they clearly do not belong, but it is important to recognize that there are people in this group that perform a function. Innovators are not necessarily the web and mobile engineers based in the valley. Innovators can and do live in Omaha, New Guinea, Kenya, Siberia, etc. I say all of this to point out that despite the buzz in the media and tech blogs these location based apps and services are still in the early stages of the diffusion curve.