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RockMelt was introduced to me through word of mouth from a colleague at my agency. The message was simply put that I should check it out and from the link I was given, it seemed worth doing, after all it is designed for social media, sharing and keeping up with the gazillion updates from RSS feeds.

It is an amazing concept. Molding multiple elements into one browser. But first thing is first: What is it?

RockMelt is essentially a beefed up Google Chrome with nice bells and whistles. It supports awesome functions like drag and drop sharing to Facebook friends which are on your left-side bar, making it easier to share with the people you care about. One the right-side bar, there are the sites that you subscribe to and show how many updates are unread and give you a pop up notification for each notification. If you prefer to not get pop ups notification for each subscription, you can easily change it. Take a look at the differences:

I want to bring up a few things that I noticed at first about RockMelt, I want to mention that I have only had this for a couple of days so it would be fair to do a follow up post later on.

Sharing:

Pro: One can easily drag and drop text, links, photos on Facebook friends. You can also share pages via Facebook and Twitter.

Con: Limited to Facebook and Twitter sharing.

Recommendations: Allow the user to pick and choose which networks to share to (Digg, Stumble Upon, WordPress, email etc…)

Updates:

Pro: Organized and simple individual feeds from multiple sites that you subscribe to such as Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, Websites. Also, if you are viewing a page that has an available RSS feed to subscribe to, it will notify you and you can quickly add it to your right-side bar.

Con: None so far. However, I should note that the user should experiment to get a feel for how you are updated, updates can be come very cluttered.

Recommendations: Maybe allow for groups or lists

Functionality:

Pro: I use Google Chrome as my main browser so it was an easy switch. It is easy to share and effortless to customize who I wanted on my Facebook bar (left-side bar) and what subscriptions I wanted (right-side bar).

Con: I have noticed there are a few minor bugs with the browser. I have had a few lock-ups but not sure if it was the browser’s fault or me over-experimenting with the functionality. Again, minor and not constant. Many new things are not flawless, a few minor bugs are acceptable. They will probably be fixed soon.

Recommendations: New features to merge with tools to adapt to the constant change of the web, BUT, give the user the ability to turn on/off features or customize which ones to use.

Practicality:

Pro: If you are a blogger, social media guru, journalist, or any profession in communication, this is very useful.

Con: If you are a student, this is very distracting, but you should have the maturity to avoid the distractions or turn them off if you are trying to type a 10,000 word thesis…

Recommendations: A practical browser is always a simple one. I recommended above with new features, but make sure they don’t clout the browser, unless you want to change your position on the “browser”.

Summary

RockMelt is in a good direction. With the development of the Semantic web, RockMelt saw this great opportunity and approached it beautifully. The next steps will be to keep up with the developments in technology. I have not looked at other browsers such as Flock or Fizzik, so I can not say which is better. What I can tell you is, the one that sets trend changes will be the best. Much like Clay Shirky said about “when we change the way we communicate, we change society”, if we change the way we surf the web, we change how we interact.

Take a look at RockMelt’s video demonstration

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Before reading: do not think I am biased on this. I owned two Windows Mobile devices and the reason for the 2nd one was because I loved the first. I respect Mac’s for the media and arts and PCs for the general user. The purpose of this post is to identify Microsoft’s future in mobile devices subjectively through facts.

Microsoft, up until a few years ago, developed some pretty innovative mobile devices that enabled a lot of businesses to expand with the Windows Mobile (WM) OS. As it is still widely used today in retail, logistics, and service industries, it has struggled with keeping its market share on the consumer market.

The WM platform has hit a few major road blocks that I will try to explain and predict Microsoft’s future with mobile devices. First off, the introduction of Android. This has been a detrimental part in Microsoft’s market because in many cases, Android appeals to a wide variety of demographics. According to The Nielsen Company, a major research firm, not only did Android surpass WM in market share, but they have lost touch with the younger demographics. Additionally, they are 4th in market share compared to Blackberry, Android and Apple.

It does not help either that they had a major product failure with the Windows Kin phones that were exclusive to Verizon Wireless. They were going to launch into Europe but cancelled due to the lack of product adoption. However, I do have to hand it to them by bringing an innovative phone that syncs everything on cloud but the product just wasn’t marketed enough nor liked by the market. Wired.com gives their opinion in four reasons why the Kin failed and two are worth noting:

  • Expensive for what you are getting
  • No games – No apps

Being a  built for social networking, it is nearly essentially to have games/apps. Overall feel it was a impulse attempt to hold the younger markets. They just lacked the research or “forgot.”

So now that the Kin is dead and the Windows 7 phones just launching, you really have to wonder: did they know Kin was going to fail and was Windows 7 for mobile devices in research before/during the research of the Kin? They do have a history about this as well. For instance, Vista and Windows 7 for PCs. Right when Vista released, there were already rumours of Windows 7 development.

I want to sum up Microsoft’s control over product releases in a fun analogy:

At first you think your product won’t sell, keep building it any ways and build another better one, just in case.

With the release of the Windows 7 phones, I really do feel Microsoft will struggle. Yes, Windows 7 for mobile devices are new, innovative and somewhat appealing – it does not make them good. However, for many consumers, it just may not appeal to them. Maybe Microsoft is changing their position in the marketplace purposely. Or they just stopped believing in their company.

It’s not what you do, it’s why you do it!

It also does not help that their CEO, Steve Ballmer, dumped almost $2 billion in Microsoft stock, according to Business Week. He does say it was for personal finance in a public statement, but you be the judge: to me, the quote that Business Week took from Ballmer’s statement sounds generic and sugar coated.

(EDIT)

The main reason why I think Microsoft will struggle, is they shot themselves in the foot before the release of Windows 7 for mobile devices. They have a declining market share and a bad reputation. Both of which are difficult to fix. Maybe their new release will recover their territory, but they will struggle doing it. That is a fact because after consumers sawhow bad Microsoft did with the Kin, it gave consumers a bad impression. So why should they buy the Windows 7? Microsoft will have to overcome this slump by creating a desirable product. But as stated above. Having an amazing product does not make everything OK again.

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Recently, I have been very interested in the subject of sociology and the effects and ethics of the internet, the web and social media. I have been thinking of many theories and writing notes and I have a very brief theory of the future of personal data aggregation.

Let me start off by saying Google does it brilliantly. Providing absolutely* free applications such as Google Docs, Mail, Calendar, Talk, Analytics and many more. With the addition of Android, the open source mobile operating system, they provide additional personality to their brand.

Yeah yeah yeah, about, the asterisk. By using Google, whether it be searching for something at http://www.Google.com  or using any of their apps, you give up your privacy for…. pretty much any content you provide to Google. Let me summarize by going over their privacy policy:

“When you sign up for a Google Account, we ask you for personal information. We may combine the information that you submit under your account with information from other Google services or third parties in order to provide you with a better experience and to improve the quality of our services.”

This includes: Cookies, Log information, User communications, Affiliated Google Services on other sites, Third-Party ApplicationsLocation data, Unique application number, Other sites. (all found from the privacy policy as it clearly states)

It makes sense, “to provide you with a better experience and to improve the quality of our services.” We are given a number essentially and tracked. But the free stuff is so appealing! Many business of opted out of purchasing expensive programs such as Microsoft Office and just used Google Apps.

But here is my scenario that I play in my head over and over again:

Open my eyes. Look at the clock which personalized and recommended by a computer. This computer aggregated everything about me to distil a algorithm that can tell you everything about my personality, values, goals, beliefs etc…

I notice it is time to get ready for the day. Roll out of bed and walk to the bathroom to take a shower. Since a computer knows my preferences, it sets it at exactly 104.4 degrees Fahrenheit because 104.2 is too cold and 104.6 is too warm. After I shower, I brush my teeth and use a special mouth rise because I recently was told by my dentist that I have sensitive teeth and I should use Product X. He wrote down notes on a tablet pc about this and it automatically notified a server that I am in the market for Product X .

So at the last time I was at the market, I bought it because my phone noticed I was at the supermarket and notified me that I need to buy Product X for my sensitive teeth.

Proceeding my brushing and mouth rinse. I head for my car that was previously decided based upon my income and my preferences. It was chosen for me to buy because I would prefer to own a car sooner and opt out of buying an over-priced car. So a server went through every car made and found a car that I could pay off in 3 years and gives me the best value for my dollar. I prefer a fast yet practical car. This car was also chosen because I can afford $400 monthly payments and gives me the highest performance and value. $395/month would be less optimized and $405/month is out of my price range.

What happens when possible choices that are developed on our own, are challenged by recommended choices are created with data aggregated by databases? We lose the power to decide our own fate and choosing against the recommended choices simply to make us feel we have power over our lives no longer applies because we are not ‘optimized’ to produce the best life.

To get a better idea of what I am talking about, read this Business Week article published in 2007. The author, Rob Hof, talks a lot about how Google is working to become a working A.I. search engine. He takes my idea and illustrates it quite well and examines other players such as Amazon.

The short version is: I love technology and how it allows us to be  more efficient and make better decisions. However, there needs to be a line. It is a massive trade off: completely remove humanity and thinking all together but have the most optimal life made for us.

Once this computer knows everything about me, making choices are pointless because the decision is already made by the computer.

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I know all of you have watched and helped Old Spice become viral. Over the past year, they have transformed a once troubled brand personality into web Dynamite. Boom!

Sure, they have brand awareness, social media implementation (genius use of Twitter and Youtube) and conversation, tons of conversation. But before I go through the low-down of what Old Spice created, watch a few parodies, then come back.

Sesame Street Parody

Scholar Grades Parody

I hope you enjoyed them! Let’s talk some sense though. If you are following social media, love social media, in the social media industry, then you know very damn well that is it difficult to measure your ROI on a social media campaign. Sounds easy to look at campaign budget, compare sales figure spreads, then formulate. No. You cannot account for conversation and other variables. In some cases you can, with new software revolutions in the industry. Maybe you can over a long term approach, but According to an Adweek blog, Ad Freak, published August 4th, just 6 months after the Red Spice campaign, stated some numbers gathered from the Wieden + Kennedy Agency, two I love and one makes me dumbfounded:

-Half the conversations came from women. (Great! The secondary target market responded!)
-The YouTube/Twitter social media response campaign was “the fastest-growing and most popular interactive campaign in history.” (Saw that coming when Old Spice Man responded to twitter questions.)

-Since the campaign launched, Old Spice Bodywash sales are up 27 percent; in the last three months up. 55 percent; and in the last month up 107 percent. (Quite a data confusion)

See, I looked at other people talking about the same mess. SymphonyIRI did some research on sales figures:

(Picture courtesy of Ad Age) Looks good for the overall but two commenter’s from Robert Paterson’s blog, also talking about Old Spice published July 27th suggests good insight:

Commenter 1: “According to PR Week sales of the product increased over 100% last month. A piece in Forbes.com uses the same SymphonyIRI study to show that sales were up 7.9% from the previous year.”

Commenter 2: “…people have got to STOP citing these SymphonyIRI numbers in reference to the Old Spice campaign. They measure the year ending June 13th, 2010, a full month BEFORE the viral/social aspect of the Old Spice campaign even started.”

Granted these results were made in July, the point stays the same. Digging some more, the media took the hook on the first results when actually the results were misleading. But something more interesting is that coupons also had a major effect on sales, Buy-one-get-one-free. In that same article from Evidence Soup, they provided a quote recorded by Ad Age on the Procter and Gamble spokesperson, Mike Norton:

“How much of Old Spice’s recent gains… come from Mr. Mustafa’s ads and how much from the coupons? It’s impossible to know.”

So now I wait for official results, if there are any, on the success of the campaign. Either way I loved the campaign, I subjectively believe that the campaign had positive ROI in addition to the mass conversation and growing viral videos. Let this be a learning experience.

I also came across Heidi Cohen’s blog where she lists out 31 well needed questions to ask about the Old Spice Campaign, number five being:

“5. Brand status. Did the campaign transform the brand making it an icon? Did the brand’s reach become part of the culture?”

Yes, and yes.

Cheers from London.

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Vodpod videos no longer available.

The day before backpacking through Europe and study abroad… a little anxiety but pumped to leave!

Vodpod videos no longer available.

In one week, I will be flying to London for a backpacking trip through a few countries in Europe and attending University of Westminster for four months.

I have finally come to terms with myself and realized, this is my last chance to study abroad, any later and it will be too late nor would I be able to graduate on time. It took about four months to get my financial aid approved through my University at Winona State. The wait ate me up inside but this is an experience I have been dreaming of for a long time, and I am finally throwing myself head first into it.

However, financial aid was not able to carry the full burden of the expense. As a total cost around $20k for a semester in Westminster, backpacking around for a couple weeks, round trip airfare and living expenses, it quickly turned into a guiltful experience. This is a once-in-a-lifetime-experience and I will never-ever get this chance again, so cost became no object, until it became too expensive.

I digress, my parents helped out with about 1/5 of the cost. This is because I was unable to raise enough funds working during the summer despite working 50-70hrs a week. However, one day, I hope to pay it back to my parents.

I am now left with the anxiety of planning the last loose-ends of my trip, establishing residency London, getting a proper phone carrier, suspending my AT&T phone, applying for a visa, proving I will be attending Westminster, staying in my first hostel, catching/missing my first train. But, 50+ pages of Google maps and proof of bookings will ease my excitement. On the side of backpacking around, I will be taking an online class and communicating to organizations I am involved in, but who is to say that my laptop suddenly never turns on or my pay-as-you-go Vodafone never activates; doubtful.

I am 21 and I am embarking on a life-altering adventure, solo. Here begins my life.

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