Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Communication, Collaboration, Coordination

In this entry I wish to build on the hypothesis that the development of the Internet started with communication, then came collaboration, and we are now moving into a third phase related to coordination. I first elaborated on this idea with Peggy Anne Salz a couple of weeks ago.

The first evolution of the Internet was concerned with communication; which primarily took place via email, Usenet groups, Chat rooms. Later, with the introduction of the Web, came hyper-linked websites with limited interaction. As the amount of information grew exponentially, it quickly became apparent that new tools, such as search engines and sophisticated email clients, were required to retrieve and filter the data.

More interactive rich media developments later brought about collaboration possibilities in the form of Web 2.0. This collaboration was primarily concerned with web-based activity related to knowledge sharing, generation and refinement. New opportunities were created for web users to generate even more content; however, interaction also allowed the development of collaborative editing (eg - Wikis) and review systems to help people refine and filter data. User recommendations are now ubiquitous and help us choose which YouTube video to watch, which watch to buy, which book to read or which hotel to book.

Collaboration possibilities and efficiencies naturally started having an effect on real life habits – most notably on consumer activity with the introduction of such services such as Amazon, Ebay and Netflix. Then the explosion in social networking services, such as Facebook, brought web activity right to the edge of our everyday lives.

The concept of everyday life in relation to the web is often overlooked but it is the battlefield in which most web services either live or die. If users do not find a place for a service in their everyday lives it will either stay niche or slowly die away.

The Facebook Events app has shown the potential for the web services to start coordinating real life activity. However, the fact that not everyone is on Facebook quickly blocks the full impact of this potential: Organizing Granny's birthday party is a classic example.

Other web-based coordinating services, such as Google Calendar, Meetup, Evite and Doodle, are making strong inroads into how we manage our lives and give a taste of the next stage in web development – coordination; or to be more precise, the enhancement of our everyday lives through web-based coordination services and tools. However, the full-impact of coordination possibilities is yet to be felt, since these services need to connect to a more readily available and established technology – the mobile phone.

The rapid development of smart phone technology is producing internet-enabled, contextually aware mobile devices. At the most basic level, a mobile integrated service can potentially make use of the following information: who is the user; the country he/she is currently situated; their most important daily contacts. In addition, GPS (Global Position System) technology is now being integrated into mobiles and services are rapidly being developed to eventually take advantage of the geographic information they will provide, eg – real-time maps showing the location of your friends.

However, the provision and adoption of internet enabled mobiles and unlimited Internet data services is not going to happen for some time yet, so it is important that developers tap into one of the most established coordinating technologies – the humble SMS. And it could be argued that the early integration of SMS into Twitter's marco-blogging system helped it gain ground over its arguably more sophisticated competitor Jaiku; which somewhat prematurely relied more on web streams.

Therefore we took the decision to put SMS at the heart of our Zipiko live social coordinating service. We saw that SMS has the potential to be more accessible and immediate than emailing. Of course in years to come free internet-based notification systems will take over, but in the meantime the SMS avoids uptake resistance and is almost ubiquitous – you will probably even reach Granny with it.

As Peggy Anne Salz wrote; “It’s early days, but services like Prompt and Zipiko change the rules. It’s no longer just about connecting people; it’s about connecting features and functionality to create a long tail of services capable of helping us make a better judgment about future events and experiences – if not predict them.”

She also wrote; “Granted, we require services that tell us how things are (weather, news); where things are (maps, directions); and what everyone we know is up to (Twitter, Buddyping and a slew of social networking apps). However, my take from a string of conferences and speaking engagements – industry events that covered topics ranging from social media to location services, and exposed me to super-cool companies just coming out of stealth mode in the process – is that the real revenue may be in providing services that connect the dots in our daily routines to help us manage our lives and express our intentions.”

We are sure she is right but we will make sure the money goes into giving you guys a great experience. But we might have a glass or two of sparkling along the way ; )

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