Put a ‘Buy’ Button on That!

Carrie Brownstain and Fred Armisen’s characters in Portlandia offering to put a bird on your bread (via toasting, of course).

Carrie Brownstain and Fred Armisen’s characters in Portlandia offering to put a bird on your bread (via toasting, of course).

Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen’s Portlandia has arguably become the de-facto skewering of Hipster culture in America, and much like the ‘put a bird on it’ meme started by the show, web advertising platforms are hoping to make ‘put a buy button on it’ equally as popular.

Google just confirmed they’ll be adding Buy buttons to Search results in the next few weeks, calling the service “Purchase on Google”. Facebook has been testing a buy button for some time, but has announced that users of Shopify’s ecommerce platform will be able to push content, buy button included, directly to Facebook. Of course we can’t forget about Pinterest and ‘Buyable Pins’, announced in June. Pinterest has several major retailers as launch partners, including Macy’s, Neimen Marcus, and Nordstroms and are able to integrate with the Demandware and Shopify ecommerce platforms. What does this mean for those hoping to provide solutions to retailers and merchants?

First, and most obviously, it means there is a dearth of solutions catering to this new method of shopper engagement. Tremendous effort has been put into providing tools to merchandizers that let them craft the ideal customer experience on their storefront, but this technology (which will be embraced by retailers, make no mistake) reduces the customer experience to a product image, brief description, price and a Buy button. That must be sufficient to either trigger the purchase decision or at least entice the user to click through to the storefront. How do we address this channel? What levers do we have to pull?

Second, it introduces an additional layer of mediation between the retailer and their customer. Much like the recent goings-on in online publishing (I suggest reading The Awl’s ongoing series “The Content Wars” if interested), “platforms” are hoping to cash in on the access to customers they can provide. The key here is to not just help the merchandizer best drive customer interest through the platform, but to understand the value proposition offered by the platform and be armed with facts to improve their negotiating position as they engage with the platform owner.

Third, finally, and perhaps even most critically, it introduces yet another channel to drive customer confusion. As noted by Pinterest, Macy’s is participating in the launch of Buyable Pins. How exactly does Macy’s plan to manage Pinterest as an additional channel of commerce? Does it get the same price as Macys.com? Is that price aligned with their in-store pricing? What about the catalog and phone channels? When Macy’s realizes a gain in revenue from a fairly low-effort engagement with Pinterest what do they do next? Put up Buy buttons on Facebook, in Google Searches, and any number of other me-toos that will emerge from the Valley (you know which one) to become the hottest new platform for direct-consumer-social-purchase-engagement.

These issues need to be solved in a way that improves the customer experience, and makes platform owners and retailers more successful. No sweat!

Social purchasing like this has a unique challenge from a pricing perspective. It’s inexorably linked to social interaction. If we version pricing by user it won’t be long until someone Likes it and posts a comment mentioning the price. The jig is up! So what else can we do? Well, if the retailer has control over how and to whom the content is promoted we may be able to identify cohorts and offer them, plus anyone in the Friends list, or their followers, the same offer as to avoid the situation. This forces us to select a somewhat suboptimal price, while still enabling more optimality than one price across the entire web.

What about other aspects of merchandising? In this example from Facebook the merchant has very little to work with. Perhaps the same product image used on the retailer’s storefront isn’t going to cut it? Maybe customers in this interaction model assess and respond differently than when viewing the storefront. How do we help merchants make the best possible visual merchandising decisions? What about the product name, how do we get the most out of the character limit imposed by the platform?

Retailers will need to invest not only in tools to manage this, but also in time, creative assets, legal to review the platform contracts, and much more. How do they know the decisions they’re making are successful? How will they know that the deal they’ve made with the platform is advantageous for them? This needs a solution as well. A/B testing could be powerful, if it’s supported by the platform. Will Facebook provide retailers with the same, or better, user targeting features as they do for ads? How do we leverage this capability to enable a test and learn approach to maximizing value from all the Buyable Pins retailers are going to start placing?

These are problems we can solve. They strike at the core of “commerce” as a concept and retailers will be looking to us to lead the way and help them make the most of these new capabilities. What other ways could we get ahead of this trend?

It's happened to me, too.

I never thought this would happen. I saw it happen to others, and always thought to myself, "How can they let this happen? What are they doing wrong here?" Well, I can no longer ride high on my mighty horse.

Why? I've filled up a 64GB iPhone.

Yes, I'm working on clearing out Overcast. I have a habit of stopping episodes with ~1 minute left causing them to not delete until I reach the "keep n episodes" limit. But I think this means my iPhone 6S+ (Yes, I'm going BIG this fall!) will be 128GB.

Hello, my name is ____

During episode 29 of the 5by5 network's Quit!, Dan mentioned to Haddie before taking a call from show regular and romance eCoach Virginia Roberts that he needs stickers to give to those he worries about, and those he doesn't.

I was listening to this episode on Saturday, June 30th while walking around downtown San Francisco. I happen to have my laptop with me and decided to find a quiet place and throw something together. 

Here's what I came up with.

Dan_is_worried_png.png
Dan_is_not_worried_png.png

PDFs were sent to Moo.com for printing and mailed directly to 5by5 world headquarters in beautiful Austin, Texas. 

If you'd like to print your own, the PDFs can be downloaded here

 

Creepy. Creepy. Crappy.

Robert Scoble reporting on comments by Bryan Trussel, CEO of Glympse, as he explains why his firm develops for Android before iOS:

Glympse‘s CEO, Bryan Trussel, told me his team develops its contextual mapping app on Android first, then moves it to iPhone.

Why is this?

A few reasons:

1. Android lets developers have access to the dialer so that app developers can watch who calls you and who you call.
2. Android lets developers look at the wifi and bluetooth radios on the phone so app developers can build better systems to track where you are, who you are near, and whether you are near things like your car.
3. Android lets developers ship and test without waiting up to three weeks to have their apps approved.

In other words,

1. Android lets us be creepy
2. Android lets us be creepy
3. Android lets us be crappy

Via Daring Fireball.

Lobby or Innovate

Google announced the details of their fiber service in Kansas City today. 1,000mb/s down and up for $70 a month, or pay a $300 construction fee and get at least 5 years of free 5mb/s internet service. They also launched a TV service for an additional $50 per month.

The big question: How will the cable industry compete with this? They only have two real options. Lobby state and federal governments to strengthen their monopoly and hinder Google's efforts or innovate and transform their business model.

I'm guessing they go with tried and true buying of government influence.

Aereo

As the content industry struggles to hold on to long established business models, consumers are pushing forward and creating opportunities for new methods of content consumption. Last year a company called Zediva tried to get around the draconian streaming agreement by matching each viewing session up to a physical DVD and DVD player. Unfortunately, they were obliterated in the ensuing legal battle.

A challenger appears! On March 12th Aereo launched an invitation-only service in New York City. They claim to have circumvented the rebroadcasting restrictions placed within US copyright law by leasing each customer their own antenna and having no influence or control over what the customer decides to watch. Sound familiar? The broadcast networks are claiming that they are profiting from the illegal rebroadcast of their content, but Aereo asserts that it is simply providing facility for customers to tune and stream their own content, something similar to Slingbox’s offering.

I’ve tried the service. It currently only works on iOS devices (including AirPlay streaming), which I find strange as desktop Safari and Chrome have excellent HTML5 and Javascript support. The service works well, compression seems fairly limited and the 720p stream looks very good on the iPhone and passable on the new iPad’s retina display. The interface is strangely anachronistic, resembling a Web 2.0 TV Guide. We’re all familiar with the channel guide. Can we move on? The DVR feature is very nice, providing up to 40 hours of recording.

We should brace ourselves for the all but inevitable shutdown, but there is one glimmer of hope in all this: the creator of Aereo is also the creator of Fox Television, and has raised over $20 million in funding. It’s likely that they’ve set aside a significant portion of this funding for legal fees as they’ve gone on the offense, seeking a preemptive injunction declaring their business model to be legal.

It’s doubtful that they’ll survive, but hopefully it pushes the industry just a bit further toward sanity.

Pushing Daiseys

For nearly two years now Mike Daisey has been performing a monolog called The Agony and The Ecstasy of Steve Jobs. Daisey presents this as a bit of investigative journalism, sparked by finding pictures of anonymous Foxconn workers on his new iPhone. He traveled to China and uncovered a scandal that would make Martha Stewart look like Employer of the Year. His work was used to produce This American Life’s most popular episode on record. It sparked a detailed piece by the New York Times on working conditions in Chinese factories. It even may have been the catalyst that caused Apple to increase its supplier responsibility reports to a monthly rhythm and allow the Fair Labor Association to begin inspections.

Last week we learned that Daisey had fabricated most of it. Took bits and pieces of the worst of the events of the preceding few years and collected it all into one nightmarish trip. He then packaged this as the truth and sold it to all of us.

He claims it was to bring attention to the problem. That if he presented it as fiction, or even ‘inspired by a true story’, that it wouldn’t change people’s minds. It would challenge them. It wouldn’t cause change. A certain author by the name Upton Sinclair would strongly disagree.

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries American workers confronted a problem of supply and demand. Demand for goods, manufactured, butchered, forged, cut, welded, or simply picked was increasing rapidly. There was little oversight of working conditions, no OSHA, no workers compensation. Corporations considered laborers as disposable and replaceable, and there was no one to stop them.

We as a society decided this was unacceptable. Through a combination of worker revolts, organized labor, and federal legislation, working conditions in the US improved dramatically. A line was crossed, society took notice, and positive change came as a result. Books like Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle brought attention to the situation through a fictional account of the meatpacking industry in the early 20th century. Sinclair spent seven weeks working undercover in meatpacking plants in the Chicago stockyards. What he witnessed and the information he gathered inspired the book, which was presented as fiction. Despite it being fiction, it challenged readers to more closely examine the reality of the meatpacking industry, and to a larger extent industry in general. It had a significantly positive effect on America and left a lasting legacy.

This is not what Mike Daisey did.

Sinclair never presented his book as investigative journalism, despite spending seven weeks undercover. Daisey spent six days in China. Daisey did not get a job as a factory worker. He spoke to a handful of workers and toured a few factories posing as a businessman. He then returned and started selling this story as fact. Propping it up as a bit of activism. Trying to rally the troops! He encouraged others to perform his monologue (Red Flag #1?) and uses the phrase “spread the virus”.

On his blog, he writes:

In the last forty-eight hours I have been equated with Stephen Glass, James Frey, and Greg Mortenson.

The comparison is perfect. Stephen Glass frequently mixed fabricated quotes and events into his stories. He dramatized his stories, often slipping into present tense, skirting the edge of self-insertion. After his downfall he even wrote a book, turning himself into a protagonist. How, exactly, is what Daisey did any different than this?


Mike Daisey has a wonderful talent. He’s a great storyteller, he has presence, he knows how to work a crowd, and he’s a showman all around. It’s a shame that his decision to seek attention has not only destroyed his reputation and professional career, but has also distracted from the true issue of labor practices and working conditions in China.

iPad Review (2012)

On January 27th, 2010, I was unimpressed by anything Steve Jobs presented at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. I agreed with many of the opinions making the rounds. The iPad was just a big iPod Touch. What’s innovative and revolutionary about that? It’s something we have all experienced already, except bigger.

The next day Stephen Fry wrote about his experience at the announcement event in San Francisco. The core of his message is that the iPad must be used to be understood. He referred to it as the herald of things to come, “like the first iPhone, iPad 1.0 is a John the Baptist preparing the way of what is to come[...]”, and insists that the device will be revolutionary1.

Over the next month leading up to the release there was a constant struggle between those who attempted to bring a rational analysis to the table (the ‘big iPhone’ people) and those who stick to their faith that it must be used to be understood. I paid little attention to this, even ignoring most of the reviews that dropped the day before release when the press embargo was lifted. At that point, I had decided to go and see for myself.

I walked into the Apple store on 5th Avenue in New York around 1PM. Well, more like shuffled. There was still a wait to get into the cube, and move slowly down the glass stairs. Once inside, I waited for an open spot at a display table. The crowd was thick and noisy, and even the blue-shirted employees seemed a bit disoriented.

After using the device for less than two minutes I found an employee and asked if they had any left. She suggested I get in line and see what I can get. Fifteen minutes later I’m asking for a 16GB Black Wifi at the counter. They bring one out (and I briefly see into the stock room where I see a wall of iPad boxes), I pay and head home.

Yes, I’ve written five paragraphs about the first iPad in a review about the new iPad. It’s important to understand a few things about iPad in general. We’re only on the third generation of iPad, and yet the disruption to the industry has been immense. The platform as a replacement for the PC is still in it’s infancy, but was apparent immediately when using the first device: This was something new, this was something different, this was something revolutionary.

This review is not for someone who’s never owned an iPad before. I’m not sure exactly how to review the new iPad without being able to compare it to earlier iPads. It certainly can’t be compared to anything else on the market, so for a first-time buyer the advice is ‘go try one.’

For those of us who have owned an iPad already the question isn’t about specs or design, it’s about experience. Does the new iPad enhance the exerpience? If so, in what ways? We’ll review the major changes that I believe significantly change the exprience from the iPad 2, starting with the screen.

The Screen

In 2010, Apple introduced the concept of a “Retina Display” in the iPhone 4. It was a doubling of screen resolution on each axis, resulting in four times the number of pixels in the same sized screen. At this number of pixels per inch, most people cannot distinguish between individual pixels on the screen. The result is a stunning display that must be seen to be believed. Text and high-resolution images look like glowing print and eye fatigue seems to be eliminated for most activities.

With the introduction of the 3rd generation iPad Apple once again upped the resolution game. The new iPad sports four times the pixels of it’s predecessor, at an incredible 2048 by 1536, for a total of 3,145,728 pixels on a 9.7 inch display. The result? Similar to the iPhone 4 and 4S, pixels are essentially indistinguishable and the display again resembles glowing print.

UI elements that have been updated to take advantage of the new resolution look amazing. Text drawn independently of resolution is crisp and fluid. Notice the skeuomorphic elements of the Notes app. On the new iPad they almost look like genuine remains of a torn off page.


There are some drawbacks in the short term. Besides apps that haven’t yet been updated to Retina graphics, the low resolution assets of most websites are now painfully obvious. While visiting your favorite website you may be disappointed with the fuzzy graphics elements that used to look so crisp. Additionally, images posted on social networks and blog sites, such as Tumblr, look generally bad. It’s going to take time for the web to catch up, but I believe it will. Look what happened to Adobe’s Flash after the popularity of the iPad.

Another drawback of the Retina display is the power draw itself. It’s likely that the quadrupling of pixels has necessitated the massive 70% increase in battery volume found in the new iPad. There are some consequences of this, such as the device being noticeably heavier, slightly thicker, and taking much longer to fully charge.

The drastic improvement in display quality is worth these trade-offs, and one could reasonably assume that Apple will continue to reduce the weight and thickness as other components are made more efficient.

The Camera & iPhoto

Apple also brought camera technology over from the iPhone 4, including the backside illuminated 5-megapixel (compared to the iPhone 4S’ 8-megapixel) sensor, upgrading the photographic capabilities substantially.

The front-facing FaceTime camera remains the same VGA unit from the iPad 2.

In addition to an updated Camera app that makes some much-needed usability tweaks to make the iPad easier to use as a camera (though no less dorky), Apple also released iPhoto for iOS. The next piece in their ongoing effort to show that iOS is not just for consumption, iPhoto joins GarageBand, PhotoBooth, the iWork suite, and others to expand the user’s ability to create content.

Watching live video through the iPad's new camera is impressive. It quickly focuses and adjusts exposure, and it's focal length allows for near-macro shots.

iPhoto is suprisingly full featured. Most of the normal image editing tasks one may find necessary on a desktop can be done on the iPad (and iPhone!). From basic edits such as crop, rotate, scale and skew, to more robust such as adjusting color saturation, brightness, contrast, and even applying Intragram-esq filters to your photos.

iPhoto keeps a seperate album of edited photos, so your originals are always still there, untouched. This is an interesting approach to file version management that I find refreshing. Rather than dealing with versions within the same file name, as with iCloud and other versioning-enabled apps on OS X, the user can edit and play with an image as much as they want without fear of mixing anything up.

The usual export features are present as well, including publishing your edited photos out to your PhotoStream. Photos quickly appeared on my Apple TV, floating upward as the device loaded them from iCloud.

Connectivity

The new iPad has also been updated to take advantage of the newest high speed mobile network in use in North America, LTE. Available for both AT&T and Verizon, LTE has a theoretical downlink speed of 72mb/s. Here in Manhattan I averaged just under 20mb/s downstream and 11mb/s upstream on Verizon.

Pricing is similar between the two carriers, but Verizon has graciously provided the Personal Hotspot feature at no additional charge while AT&T has not even committed to offering the feature at all. Verizon’s coverage is also significantly larger than AT&T, even though AT&T claims the largest “4G” network. Most of AT&T’s “4G” is not LTE, but rather an older technology called HSPA+ that maxes out at 14.4mb/s.

Voice Dictation

While Apple’s Siri voice-enabled personal assistant has not yet been ported over to the iPad, its voice dictation feature was. I’ve found it to be as good as the experience on the iPhone 4S, if not better.

As you can see it did a passable job, needing some editing after the fact.

Wrap Up

Using the iPad and iPad 2 was like holding the future in your hand. Using the new iPad is like using the future’s future. Apple has managed to produce a display unlike anything most have ever seen before, they packed in the latest in mobile connectivity technology, and they did it with virtually no impact on battery life.

Apple continues to push the boundaries of change in personal computing. The frequently used term “Post-PC” becomes real when you use the new iPad. The new Retina display tears down the walls between interface and content, removing that layer that we all came to know as the “screen”.

There is still room to grow, however. iOS needs to continue to develop as a platform, and if Apple truly wants to position the iPad as a competent device for content creation it will need to more closely integrate apps and allow 3rd party apps to better utilize each others capabilities (see Microsoft’s ‘contracts’ system in Windows Phone 7).

In the mean time, however, the new iPad is a marvel of engineering and the next evolution of the post-pc experience. Can I recommend buying one? Of course, but keep in mind I’ve bought a new iPhone and iPad each year. The new iPad isn’t really going to let you do anything you can’t already do with the iPad 2, but the overall experience is something that must be seen. I’d suggest that anyone interested go to your local store and play with a display model. Only then can you truly appreciate something entirely indescribable.

1. http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2010/jan/29/stephen-fry-apple-ipad

For the low low price of $485,000,000

Me, last Monday:

Can't wait till the quarterly earnings statement that includes this promotion.

RIM, this morning:

Research In Motion Limited (RIM) (Nasdaq: RIMM; TSX: RIM), a world leader in the mobile communications market, today announced that it would record a pre-tax provision in the third quarter of fiscal 2012 of approximately $485 million, $360 million after tax, related to its inventory valuation of BlackBerry PlayBook tablets.

As 'a world leader' this must be a tough pill to swallow. Who would've guessed that a product which excludes one of the primary features that made RIM famous would sell so poorly. It's ok though, they'll add it by February.

Reactions to Gruber

How not to open an argument if you want to be taken seriously:

John Gruber is suffering from a lack of critical thinking about his own opinions. I'm here to think critically about them for him, so he can keep not bothering to.

Yes, Gruber borders on Apple apologist territory; so do I. He has also never created and published a web site attacking entirely one person.

I think someone is a bit jealous.

Raises Questions of Fact

Jim Cicconi, AT&T Senior Executive Vice President-External and Legislative Affairs: 

The FCC has recognized that it is required by its own rules to dismiss our merger application. This makes all the more troubling their decision to nonetheless release a preliminary staff report on the merger. This report is not an order of the FCC and has never been voted on. It is simply a staff draft that raises questions of fact that were to be addressed in an administrative hearing, a hearing which will not now take place. It has no force or effect under law, which raises questions as to why the FCC would choose to release it. The draft report has also not been made available to AT&T prior to today, so we have had no opportunity to address or rebut its claims, which makes its release all the more improper.

Translation: Our PR budget isn't large enough to spin this because we owe DT $4 billion.

"...that AT&T has portrayed..."

That phrase nicely sums up the FCC's findings on the proposed AT&T/T-Mobile deal. Chris Zigler, The Verge (emphasis his):

T-Mobile's balance sheets just don't support what the FCC calls "the bleak short-term outlook... that AT&T has portrayed in its submissions," pointing out that the carrier pulled in $5.4 billion in earnings last year on revenue of $21.3 billion (and it remains profitable as of Q3 '11). The Commission also cites the fact that both carriers use HSPA+ as evidence that T-Mobile isn't way behind the times, and it goes onto say that speeds are "expected to be comparable for the next several years." Unfortunately, this part dives into some redacted statements and there's no mention of LTE, but we'd love to see the documentation that the FCC is using to assert that these guys will be at speed parity for the foreseeable future — it's an interesting claim.

Even I've bought in to the disinformation that T-Mobile is on the brink of failure.

On pages 32 and 33, the Commission also rattles off a couple examples of plan tweaks AT&T has made in recent years in direct response to T-Mobile, further damaging AT&T's claim that it doesn't view T-Mobile as a viable competitor.

Beautiful.

Charlatans!

Chris DiBona, Google's main open source guy:

Yes, virus companies are playing on your fears to try to sell you bs protection software for Android, RIM and IOS. They are charlatans and scammers. IF you work for a company selling virus protection for android, rim or IOS you should be ashamed of yourself. 

If you maintain a platform that allows 'virus companies' to play on your customer's fears by publishing their anti-virus software to your marketplace, you should feel ashamed of yourself.

If you read an analyst report about 'viruses' infecting ios, android or rim, you now know that analyst firm is not honest and is staffed with charlatans. There is probably an exception, but extraordinary claims need extraordinary evidence. 

Funny, I never read anything about 'viruses' infecting iOS or "RIM". The hysteria tends to revolve around Android.

Source: The Verge