Posts tagged “ownership”

Whose Job is User Research?

I was interviewed by Laura Klein and we discussed Whose Job is User Research?

Not every research study requires an expert at the helm. Quite a few products would benefit from having somebody on the main product team who could quickly get feedback or answers to simple questions. “Even a newbie researcher should be able to answer some factual questions about what people are doing or might want to do. They also have the opportunity to reflect on what assumptions they were holding onto that were incorrect,” Steve explains. “You’ll always get more questions to go with your answers, but hoo boy–it’s better than never talking to users and acting with confident ignorance.”There are some questions you’re better off bringing in an expert, though. “The more help you need in connecting the business problem with the research approach and connecting the observations to the business implications, the more expert help you need,” Steve explains.

Check out the whole article.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • [from julienorvaisas] Facebook gained only 320,000 new U.S. users [Wired.com] – [Significant shift in uptake for Facebook. So…. what follows saturation?] Have we reached the Facebook saturation point? That’s one possibility suggested by monthly growth data from Inside Facebook, which reports that they gained only 320,000 new U.S. users in June after a gain in May of more than 7.8 million. Moreover, the net’s dominant social networking site lost active users in the 18-25, 26-34 and 35-44 ranges, while gaining users in their mid-teens and middle years. One possibility is that the May and June controversies over privacy policies and dominance have kept the company from tremendous new growth and even led some to curtail their use. Another possibility is that it’s just a statistical aberration, or a result of changes to the advertising system, where Inside Facebook says it gleans its numbers. But there’s also the possibility that almost every American who has any interest in joining Facebook already has.
  • [from steve_portigal] You Shouldn’t Have to Pay to Talk To Your Own Customers [AustinStartup] – [Emerging issues and best practices in online customer support forums] A focus on great customer care has become, in the era of Zappos, not just a requisite checkbox, but an opportunity for differentiation, and a primary means of acquiring and retaining users (customer care as a revenue generator, not just a cost center). Those interactions are not just happening on customer care platforms – they’re literally happening around the web…Whether you are a brand, a developer, an entrepreneur, or a well-meaning customer or user, welcome to the wild wild west of customer care and the nasty underbelly of passionate user communities, where who owns the data is a very political issue, and there are more questions than answers, unfortunately.

ChittahChattah Quickies

  • Summer Reading Programs Gain Momentum for Students About to Enter College – Nationwide, hundreds of colleges and universities, large and small, public and private, assign first-year students a book to read over the summer, hoping to create a sense of community and engage students intellectually.

    While there are no reliable statistics on summer reading programs, a recent survey of more than 100 programs by a student researcher at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minn., found that most had started in the last four years, although a few go back decades.

    The range of books colleges use is enormous, covering fiction and nonfiction. Classics are largely absent, with most of the works chosen falling closer to Oprah than academic.

    Still, a certain canon of summer reading is emerging: books that are readable, short, engaging, cheap. Often, it helps if the book is a best seller dealing with some aspect of diversity, some multicultural encounter — and if the author will come to speak on campus.

  • Canada Reads — CBC Radio – Canada Reads celebrates five Canadian books for three months online, on the air and at public events. It all leads up to a week-long show hosted by Jian Ghomeshi. In this annual title fight, five celebrity panelists defend their favourite work of Canadian fiction. One by one, books are voted off the list, until one panelist triumphs with the book for Canada to read this year.
  • Beyond the Book – Beyond the Book: Mass Reading Events and Contemporary Cultures of Reading in the UK, USA and Canada is a 3-year interdisciplinary research project.

    Our main objectives are to determine why and how people come together to share reading through a comparative study of selected mass reading events.

    The mass reading event is a new, proliferating literary phenomenon. Events typically focus on a work of literary fiction and employ the mass media as a means of promoting participation in the themed activities and discussions that take place around the selected book. Beyond the Book uses research methodologies drawn from both the humanities and social sciences to investigate whether mass reading events attract new readers and marginalized communities. We also wish to determine whether this contemporary version of shared reading fosters new reading practices and even whether it is capable of initiating social change.

  • "ONE BOOK" READING PROMOTION PROJECTS (Center for the Book: Library of Congress) – "One Book" projects (community-wide reading programs), initiated by the Washington Center for the Book in 1998, are being introduced across the U.S.A. and around the world. Here's lengthy list of authors, communities, and dates.
  • The Big Read – The Big Read is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts designed to restore reading to the center of American culture. The NEA presents The Big Read in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services and in cooperation with Arts Midwest. The Big Read brings together partners across the country to encourage reading for pleasure and enlightenment.

    The Big Read gives communities the opportunity to come together to read, discuss, and celebrate one of 30 selections from American and world literature. This initiative supports innovative reading programs in selected communities, providing engaging educational resources for discussing outstanding literature and conducting expansive outreach and publicity campaigns, and a Web site offering comprehensive information about the authors and their works.

  • Literary Reading in Dramatic Decline, According to National Endowment for the Arts Survey – (July 8, 2004) Literary reading is in dramatic decline with fewer than half of American adults now reading literature, according to a National Endowment for the Arts survey released today. Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America reports drops in all groups studied, with the steepest rate of decline – 28 percent – occurring in the youngest age groups. The study also documents an overall decline of 10 percentage points in literary readers from 1982 to 2002, representing a loss of 20 million potential readers. The rate of decline is increasing and, according to the survey, has nearly tripled in the last decade.
  • 15 Books That Have Stuck With You (yet another of those Facebook etc. "memes" that are more like chain letters than memes) – Pick 15 books that will always stick with you. Don't take more than 15 minutes. Tag 15 friends including me because I'm interested in seeing what books my friends choose.
  • My pictures from Belgium 2009 (345 of 'em!) – Here's the whole set on Flickr. I'll continue to blog highlights from the trip.
  • Google book project far from settled – As the deadline draws near for authors and publishers to opt out of a proposed legal settlement allowing Google Inc. to forge ahead with plans to scan millions of books, more opponents of the landmark deal are stepping forward, and the local literary world is growing more perplexed.

    "Smart people, major players that are sophisticated in the ways of publishing, are still at loggerheads," said Ted Weinstein, a San Francisco literary agent. He said they're not just arguing whether the deal is good or bad, "but still expressing disagreement about what exactly it will do. That's a problem."

Turn It On Again

Stephen Anderson’s musings on collaboration and attribution reminded me that a project we worked on for BIC has gone live:

From Business Week

[BIC is] designing disposable cartridges for fuel cells, a kind of power supply that could someday eliminate the need to constantly recharge mobile phones or laptop computers. Electronics makers are drawn to fuel cells because today’s rechargeable batteries can’t keep up with the demands users place on portable gadgets.

Bic’s big adventure with fuel cells began in 2002. Ken Cooper, the company’s U.S.-based director of strategic business development, was in a New Haven (Conn.) drugstore and spotted a cordless travel hair dryer with a tiny motor that ran on butane. This got Cooper thinking about fuel cells for handheld gadgets-a hot topic in consumer electronics circles. Few companies in the world package as much fuel every day as Bic does in its butane lighters, he reasoned. So Cooper decided Bic should take a gamble and develop fuel-cell cartridges that are “lighter-like, pocketable, yet safe.”

I know Ken worked with a series of small consultancies over that period. From our workshop, I remember strongly that fuel cells were a key takeway. But was that concept extant before the workshop, or did we generate it? I honestly can’t remember, and ultimately, (as Stephen addresses) it’s not a worthwhile pursuit to frame it that way. In most of our engagements we are trying to inform and inspire talented business people to develop and refine ideas and move them further along, and seeing this story in BusinessWeek 6 years later confirms that indeed we did.

iPhone – More than Talk!

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Cisco and Apple were in a dispute over the ownership of the iPhone name. There was news that a deal fell through right around the time of the announcement. One might assume this is Cisco raising the stakes a bit, trying to push Apple to make it all go away. Because this is certainly confusing the issue.

Unexpected thanks


Click picture to see it larger

Some businesses operate on a cooperative model where customers get money back annually, quarterly, etc. Either depending on their activity level (i.e., REI, Discover Card), or on how the business does overall (i.e., co-op grocery stores). AAA doesn’t typically do that, so I was surprised to see a check for $25 from them the other day, thanking me for my business as a policy holder. Sure, they could have discounted my rate at the time I paid (and I vaguely remember them doing this either this year or in the past) but this has a lot more impact. Instead of a brief line item (i.e., LOYAL CUSTOMER DISCOUNT) on my bill, they can communicate a bit more about their intent with the money the are kicking back to me. Call it a dividend and create loyalty with me not only by giving me some cash, but using some rhetoric that suggests a cooperative relationship; that I own a bit of AAA.

Their bottom line (if you ignore printing and mailing costs; which might wash out anyway since some checks won’t be cashed) is pretty much the same, but their chance to have an impact is pretty different.

This isn’t a huge winner or anything, but it’s an interesting example.

Serving Good Intentions by the Bowlful – New York Times


The New York Times looks more closely at the “alternative” breakfast cereals, including where the money goes, what ingredients they contain, what those ingredients do or don’t deliver, and who really owns these companies.

General Mills owns Cascadian Farm, and the name behind Kashi is Kellogg. Barbara’s Bakery is owned by Weetabix, the leading British cereal company, which is owned by a private investment firm there. Mother’s makes clear that it is owned by Quaker Oats (which is owned by PepsiCo). Health Valley and Arrowhead Mills are owned by a natural food company traded on the Nasdaq, Hain Celestial Group; H. J. Heinz owns 16 percent of that company.

The cereals sold under the Peace label are owned by Golden Temple, a for-profit company owned by a nonprofit group founded by the late Yogi Bhajan, who made his fortune from Yogi Tea, Kettle Chips and a company that provides security services.

Of the companies that made the cereals tested, only Nature’s Path, a Canadian company, has no parent company.

Don Sayles, a retired manufacturer and typical New York skeptic, was recently shopping in the cereal aisle at a Whole Foods in New York. He buys alternative cereals ‘because we believe the hype to a certain extent about whole grains.’

Renting Possessions

WSJ.com has a story [via Techdirt] about all the different services where people can exchange or “flip” their products, in essence you buy something and then resell it, so you’re only owning it for a short time for a small cost. This it the Netflix model (packaged differently). I guess that’s the gold standard now, Netflix-for-X.

But one model they mention is eBay – where the exchange is between individuals, rather than a controlled top-down facilitated exchange via a Netflix. As Dirk pointed out in email, there’s a too-much-stuff semi-conservation thing at root here as well, we can’t deal with any more stuff. That led me to consider a few other services that are out there as part of the “access-not-ownership” trend.

Freecycle is a grassroots organization that sets up local email groups (I run the Coastside group where I live) for people to get rid of stuff they’d otherwise throw out by offering it free (and only free) to somebody nearby. We got rid of an old shed yesterday – someone came and disassembled it and hauled it away. For free. I got service for free; they got a shed for free.

BookCrossing is all about sharing free books.

I think these peer-to-peer models for exchange of extra stuff (whether free, or commercial, like eBay) are equally valid and hold great potential. Instead of trying to be the next Netflix, maybe more companies should try to be the next Napster?!

Series

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