Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Behold the consumer version of our App

We are nearly there with it - the consumer version of the iPhone App. For the masses. Which will also form the basis of what I hope will become the world's largest panel... (no I am not on prescription medication)

We knew we wanted it to be free in the App store. We also knew we wanted it to be easier to use. What we didn't count on is that we would have something considerably better than the current version of our professional iPhone App selling for £6.99 (or $11.99) in the App store.

Why better? When we launched the original App we changed developer to a great little husband and wife team based in the West Midlands (details on request). Their first reaction to the App was that it was the wrong way around.

Me: What do you mean?

Iphoneappdev: Well, at the moment, you have to first enter a project, add your themes and then take a picture, video or whatever it is you need to capture. Now if we were in the field, we'd want to first capture the event without even worrying about where it should go or how it should be tagged. Then, in our own time, we'd associate it with a project, themes, etc...

Me: Oh?

Iphoneappdev: We'll send you a version to play with.

And so they did. It was beautiful. Much more intuitive and extremely quick when it came to grabbing an event.

So the tail is now wagging the dog meaning that the free consumer version has become the basis of a new update for the professional version. But to those who have paid good money for the pro App, know that the new, right way round, pro version will have features not available on the consumer version.

I will let you know when the consumer version it's out (expect it by end of next week) so you can download and play with it. Importantly you will be able to use our webAPP (beta) in conjunction with it for the very first time.

Finally, stay tuned for some exciting news about the Blackberry version of the App and the South African world cup.


What do you think the story of consumer anthropology will look like?

A interesting post by Jamie Gordon.

Now I have a confession to make. What exactly is story telling? Can anyone tell me?


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Things we are learning

I have never been one for confidentiality (at least with our own initiatives) or competitive advantage nonsense. Everything we learn, we share. And through sharing we reenforce our position as leaders in ethnographic research using smart devices.

So this post is all about something we have learned. I'll start here:

We have now successfully completed four multi-country projects using our App. They came about because we convinced known clients who approached us with standard ethnographic briefs, to try something new and experimental. Which is why they needed to be known clients who would give us some slack in case we messed up.

We didn't.

The only person in the world who I would trust with running an App based project is my good colleague, B, who is based in Denmark. The first study involved respondents filming their own lives in response to questions and themes we sent them via the App. But first we needed to recruit iPhone owners according to a very detailed typing tool.

Once the first project was complete I had a sit down session with, B to go over key learning. Our conversation went something like this:

Me: So the client seemed very happy with everything. Were they just being polite or were they genuinely happy?

B: They were really happy. Look, they even sent us a new brief immediately on completion of the first set of explorations.

Me: That's great! So all went smoothly!

B: Erm... no.

Me: You are kidding.

B: Siamack, it took as much time to recruit and prep up these respondents as any ordinary ethnographic project and probably longer. The whole point of the App was always to speed things up, make our work more efficient.

Me: What!!! Of course it'll be more efficient when all they will need to do is download the App and capture events according to our brief...

B: Listen, next time we ask the question, "Do you have an iPhone?" when recruiting...

Me: Yes...

B: We should also ask them "How many Apps have you downloaded to your iPhone?"

Me: Why?

B: Because I estimate that 80% of iPhone users have never ever downloaded an App. Most of those we recruited didn't even have iTunes accounts!!!


B: No! With some respondents we even had to call them on and off over a three day period to explain how to download the App and to use it. We got there in the end and they used it fine but it took three whole days of going back and forth in some cases.

[You now have to picture me sliding off my seat while looking pale.]

Me: So we need to be sure they know how to download Apps. And we can't just assume that owning a iPhone means they have iTunes.

B: Correct.

Me: What else?

B: No matter how carefully we worded the themes/capture requests, most households started sending us rubbish.

Me: Oh.

B: But we managed to improve their outputs from 'rubbish' to 'amazing' in around two days.

Me: How?

B: By sending them examples of films and pictures we were expecting. And by sharing interesting clips and videos from other respondents.

So, to summarise just two learnings:

1 Do not assume that a smart device means techno savvy respondents
2 Respondents need examples of what you, the moderator are expecting

These may sound obvious in hindsight but they are critical learnings for us.

I hope you find them useful. We will share more mistakes/learnings as we make them.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Every move you make

This is a generally nice article referencing us, EverydayLives. What annoys me, though, is the last paragraph. Because it demonstrates perfectly how badly misused it is by clients (who are preyed upon by qual agencies who think they do ethnographic research) and in the end delivers nothing the client didn't already know.

Bringing something to life the client already knew should be a byproduct of ethnographic research. Not the main course. Making clients see and think about every day events in new ways and helping them to reframe these events is what great ethnographic research should really be about.

Very too frustrating.


A new business idea, again

I saw this post on the BBC news page on-line. Download an App to follow gorillas in the wild on your BlackBerry or iPhone. Simple fund raising App to help different gorilla groups in different regions. And the user chooses which of 4-5 groups to follow and receive updates from. No, the gorillas don't write the updates themselves.

It reminded me of an initiative on which we partnered with P&G way back in 2001. Here is a WSJ article from that time. Annoyingly they want a credit card number before revealing it in its entirety but you will get the gist of it.

The idea wasn't too different the iGorilla. We followed a bunch of households from around the world for three days each and captured anything and everything we saw and heard. No brief, no objectives, just random households. Then we sat through the footage, sorted it by theme, cut it into short viewable segments, subtitled it, tagged it and posted it to our EverydayLives website. That's right, EverydayLives wasn't a company name to begin with. It was the name of a subscription service.

For £1,500 per month, clients would be able to search and view an ever growing archive of fresh family life happenings. It was beautiful. And clients couldn't get enough of it. We even traveled to places like China to conduct training with a partner who wanted to learn how we captured our everyday life footage.

In the end, production costs killed the service. By not working through how many clients we would need to break even and and much content we needed to make the service genuinely valuable, we tripped up. And since then all of my various initiatives including Immersion Tank (it's on page 15) have been stepping stones (very expensive stepping stones) to the EverydayLives App which we are now calling EthOS - short for, Ethnographic Research System.

By the way the latest on the App is a rather large study we are conducting in SA over the World Cup Period. And, no, we don't need any assistants. Thank you.


Another take on intuition

Remember my post about gut feel and intuition? Here is further reinforcement by Seth Godin and Mike Earls.


Sunday, May 9, 2010

Playing with the big boys

Last week I had a mild panic attack. Perhaps not a panic attack, more of an anxiety attack. And here's why.

The web and iPhone/Blackberry Apps we are developing are taking off. And about time too. Users are falling into two groups; individuals and companies who will be subscribing to our service the same way one would subscribe to Yousendit or Basecamp and those who want bespoke solution, across their markets and tens of thousands of employees.

All good news.

But suddenly things get a little complicated:

Siamack we need service contracts.

Fine, we'll sort these out.

How much for cloud servers?

We'll look into it.

Subscription to you webAPP?

Not sure yet...

Payment gateways?

No idea who to use.

Analysis and reporting because you are the guys best suited...?

Well, other agencies should be involved too but happy to take the lead.


Goes without saying.


No problem I reply.

To 9000 employees? And kick start with the South Africa world cup?

Now you see where my anxiety attack stemmed from. I didn't let it consume me though. I picked up the phone to a nice man who might be able to sleep at night.

I will keep you posted on discussions with the nice man which start next week.

If any of you have thoughts in the meantime, you know my email address.


Monday, May 3, 2010

We're calling it, EthOS

We are working extremely hard to deliver the webAPP against a deadline. For those of you who don't know, the webAPP is the web application to which content such as video and pictures are sent when using our iPhone/Blackberry App.


Amazing because I wrote out a simple spec for a site which would
allow me to analyse, share and collaborate with events captured and people who captured them on using our iPhone App. A team of two specialist firms took the spec and came up with what you can see below. The final version will be up and running, cloud hosted, in early June. The screen grabs should be self explanatory.

Entry view - note ratings, map view and comments

Main project view page - note 'filter results' which will enable entries to be sorted by theme, time of day, media type to name a few variables. Keyword search will also be available.

Once filtered, entries can be dragged and dropped to a work area. Users/clients with different permission levels can collaborate.

It will also be possible to upload entries without our App directly via the site. Other features will include 'skinning' and pushing objectives, themes out to researchers in the field.

As always, your thoughts and comments would be greatly valued.