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Raymond Blijd

Apocalypse 2014: the End of Three Mobile Myths
Apocalypse 2014: the End of Three Mobile Myths 980 431 Raymond Blijd

1. Consumption or Creation?

A recent report by usability guru Nielsen on the iPad reiterates a common understanding about the iPad, which is that it’s mostly for media consumption. Email is “the only slight exception to the rule.” This might be true now but it is not a sign of things to come.

The main reason why consumption is more prevalent is simple: good consumption apps far outnumber good creation apps. The internet started out the same way until Web 2.0, Cloud and SaaS.

The ultimate example of mobile creation – microblogging (Twitter), photography, notes, to-do and other productivity apps aside- are in fact the Apple apps. Garageband, Pages, and Numbers are excellent examples of creation on the tablet. Especially iMovie on the iPhone I find extraordinary. I’ve created over 15 iMovies ( a mix video, photo’s and music) and loaded them onto YouTube in HD straight from my iPhone.

overview_imovie_20110302The trick is to figure out the usability and tasks and refitting them to the mobile form factor. It’s design led by format as oppose to desktop-based workflow.



2. Apps or Web apps?

A Forrester report stated, in general, to do both because it deemed the distinction irrelevant. But here’s the quote from their blog post: a majority of consumers across the globe will access the Internet, not apps.

This is especially true for areas which do have ubiquitous and ambient connectivity. Those areas are expanding. Moreover, real-time and streaming will always be preferred over sync, update, and download. I heard somebody once say: You need real-time data if you want to cross a street. Just as Cloud and SaaS are getting the traction we should not revert back to the notion of “installed software” and its drawbacks.

3. Mobile vs. PC

Taking the above into account the question is not if but when mobile will replace the traditional concept of a PC. Laptops have already replaced the workstation in most business and homes. Smartphone are doing the same with cell phones just as the iPhone is replacing Blackberry.

Predicting the tipping point is a challenging endeavor but here’s my attempt: 2014



Burning Filters and Popping Bubbles: The Personalization Paradox
Burning Filters and Popping Bubbles: The Personalization Paradox 834 472 Raymond Blijd
 In 2008 Clay Shirky coined the phrase “It’s not information overload. It filters failure.” In 2011 this was reversed by Nicolas Carr stating: “It’s not information overload. It filters success.” He also stated that we were, in fact, getting dumbed down by filters like Google. Eli Pariser at TED gave a presentation called Beware online “filter bubbles” which gave a warning of the dangers of filters and personalization. So are we going filter mad?

bubblesA question of perception

The reason for the filter upheaval is understandable from a certain perspective. So was book burning in its day. Filters have been around since there was information exchange of any sort. Eli Pariser made the case that in the last century we had filters called editors with build in ethics who decided to give us a wide spectrum of information. Algorithms – without ethics – are replacing editors in this century as our main filter. However, the problem is that algorithms for personalization will inevitably calculate your persona and provide you the information it can deduce you might want. This can be very confrontational. But that’s not much different from the previous century whereby the act of buying and reading a certain newspaper brand is highly ‘personal’ and would say a lot about who you are.

bubbles2The luxury of serendipity

In a world of consumer-targeted filters, do these also pose a “danger” for the business market? On the contrary, they are the core of the business proposition. The rise of information providers and publishers depended solely on finding the appropriate filters called sources, experts, authors, editors, etc . A lawyer arguing before the bench, a physician at the bedside, or an accountant before a filing deadline do not have the luxury of the accidental discovery of crucial information. They rely heavily on meticulously chosen filters to deliver in a clutch. And now they are requiring us to design better filters and not force them into haystacks to find a needle.

Information overload is a symptom best cured by filters that do not aggravate the problem or deceive the user.


Needles & Magnets: What’s wrong with legal research today?
Needles & Magnets: What’s wrong with legal research today? 1024 576 Raymond Blijd
An excellent piece by Mary Abraham at Above and Beyond KM questioned if Westlaw or Lexis are offering the right legal search solution. She states:

“It seems obvious that the current approach to legal research is fundamentally flawed. Lexis and Westlaw have created these enormous databases of case law that cannot be completely mastered unless you have world-class research skills.”

This prompted a response by Greg Lambert on 3 Geeks and a Law Blog to compliment her on daring to ask the essential question of “why are we doing it this way?” I’ll go a bit further and ask why are doing it all and what should we be doing instead?

A Needlestack
Both articles discuss the “needle in the haystack” approach of legal research tools and propose fixes. The solutions suggest pre-filtering or questioning the searchers’ motives before the search. But after the search, every nugget of retrieved information is a potential ‘needle’ so what is hay and what is a needle? Ultimately the end-user decides but it begs the question: why is there hay?

Publishers do not purposely produce products which nobody would value. That business model would not last. Publishers produce “needles” …lots of them. Research publishers produce content for extensive varieties of end-users and each with a different value depending on the time of access. Example: an attorney researching a contract written in the past in accordance with the law in effect at that time would not benefit getting the latest version of the law – they want the historical one. Whereas an attorney drafting a contract today would need the latest version.

Creating Powerful Magnets
In the future, I hope we won’t be creating more needle stacks. Hopefully, we would do better than a brute force keyword search. We would use more delicate filters and have a better understanding of the needs of the ‘real’ users. We should definitely have our own platform and running on our own data centers, maybe design our own chipsets and devices to better suit our users. Above all, we must design our own software to go along with the content and make it convenient and pleasant to work with. The business model will have to change from just selling needles to delivering magnets. Meaning, better ways for professionals to get information instead of just repackaging more information.

There is an advanced way to find a needle in a hay stack and that is by using a really powerful magnet to pull it out. These simple solutions gave rise to the Industrial Age yet seem strangely elusive in the Information Age.

When will we start exploring magnets instead of creating needles?

Cannibalism and 5 Special FX of Evolution
Cannibalism and 5 Special FX of Evolution 300 317 Raymond Blijd
Most of what’s happening on the information super highway – at accelerating speeds – is just evolution as genuine as Darwin. Yet, most are still determined to call it cannibalism when a “new” service or product threatens the established business models. But as the saying goes: there’s so sense in beating a dead horse…better to trade it for a car while it’s still alive.


Cannibalism / Evolution = Timing

On one of the earnings calls for Apple, an analyst asked COO Tim Cook: do iPad sales cannibalize their PC market? His answer in short: No, on the contrary, but if it would eventually happen it would be for the better.

It did not dawn on me until seeing Steve Jobs presenting the iPad 2, that Apple has already given up on the PC market they have defined since its inception, and are moving on to next thing. Mr. Jobs kept making the reference to the “post-PC era” and I could hear Bill Gates echoing in the background.

Most may have forgotten, but the ex-Microsoft CEO was an early champion of tablets and voice recognition. Yet Microsoft’s business model (or thinking) did not permit them to go full blown for marrying the hardware and software to make tablets a success. If the Amazon Kindle had not proven to Apple that the timing was right we might still be waiting for the first real tablet. This is an example of why timing is everything and it does not always mean you have to be first.

The taste of 3D

In a PC market disruptions are common and adapting is crucial, but to publishers both are unsettling. A business that hasn’t drastically changed since the invention of the printing press needs some time to digest it all. However, it is still a gamble what will be the “next big thing.” For instance, the film industry took an enormous bet on 3D and it paid off. We all know 3D isn’t new (and gives headaches) yet the film industry posted record earnings partly due to this technology. Still, most can argue that 3D is still a huge gamble for TV manufactures and PC makers.

What is the Pay Off? 5 Special effects:

1. Halo effect: Tim Cook called the effect of the iPad “a Halo Effect from Apple product to Apple product.” Similarly, any digital version (web or app) of a paper product will initially boost its predecessor and not kill it.

2. 3D effect: Technology doesn’t have to be “new” or “innovative” to work. It just has to be done right with the purpose of adding value to utility and design.

3. Darwin effect: “In the struggle for survival, the fittest win out at the expense of their rivals because they succeed in adapting themselves best to their environment” (Charles Darwin). Adapting to a digital environment is having a fundamental understanding of its strength (distribution) and weakness (usability) and using both to your advantage.

4. Pricing effect: In my opinion, the biggest challenge for publishers is their business model: pay for content. This will be increasingly more difficult to justify because of the abundance of (free) information. Just ask the newspapers.

Cannibalism legalcomplex


I foresee the following evolution in business models:

  • Content is paid: Original print model still in effect today;
  • Content is paid – Service is paid or value adds: Struggling to come to terms with the web, variations of this models are being tried;
  • Content is free – Service is paid: Due to the mixing of proprietary, free and user generated content and integration with software, this model might be forced upon publishers;
  • 4th Model: Due to the abundance of competing for cloud solutions, a model must arise that considers both the value of content and service and replace the ad-supported model as the predominant model for the web.

5. Goodwill effect: This a bonus effect due to all of the above effects. The marketing is in the product itself.

Did You Just Call Me a ‘Customer’?
Did You Just Call Me a ‘Customer’? 300 389 Raymond Blijd
In a business to business market (B2B), we often refer to ‘the Customer’ as the End-user which is not necessarily the case. Contrary to business to the consumer market (B2C) there isn’t always a direct relation between the purchaser and the End-user of a product in B2B. However, after recent very successful launches of consumer devices and services this differentiation has become distorted. So instead of focusing on the Customer, focus instead on the persons actually pushing the buttons.

Please, you may refer to me as ‘Patient’

In developing for enterprises I define 3 categories of ‘users’:

  1. End-user: the person who is actually working with a product on a daily basis;
  2. Experts: person who is considered by the enterprise as an expert in the field and is either the decision maker or influences the decision making;
  3. Customer: an entity (e.g. the enterprise ) which will ultimately foot the bill and is the main driver behind the purchase of a product.

Now all three types of users use a product in a different way but they are equally relevant. The End-user uses a product more directly. For the Expert the product would be more a means to an end. The Customer in this definition wants a Return On Investment (ROI).

All three users have legitimate uses for a product and must be considered when developing. However, when it is time to set priorities these three different uses might become a muddle.

Example: some business analytics tools come packed with shiny dashboards and gauges. The Customer would be pleased with exposing business critical information. The Experts is satisfied with the prospect of solving a business need. The End-user is – in this example: the person needed to input data in order for the analytics to work – livid with anger and frustration.

The causes may vary from no process in place to produce data to feed the tool, the tedious fashion for inputting or importing data or complex configurations to get information into the dashboard as required. In any case, being the End-users will feel more like a Patient, begging for a cure from a Doctor.

Traditionally, enterprise tools have put more empathize on the Expert and the Customer and who could blame them?

B2B legalcomplexWho’s this feature for?

For knowledge portal development these user roles are somewhat similar with one important distinction: the End-user has by far more power and influence.

For instance, in a legal market these roles would probably translate into the following types:

  1. End-user: Attorneys, Librarians;
  2. Experts: Knowledge Manager, Information Officer;
  3. Customer: Law Firm.

Hereby the End-user does the actual information retrieval (searching & browsing) on a daily basis. The Experts monitors the comprehensiveness, proficiency, and efficiency for the Customer who sees that as its ROI.

Now comes the hard part: Who do you focus on when developing knowledge tools or services? Especially when features request keep piling on and requirements keep coming in. A specific feature might benefit all three equally but that will not always the case. One must always strive to satisfy all three users but if deadline pressures mount (or common sense prevails) you’re likely being forced to choose.

For example, a feature, which is perceived to be crucial for End-users, might raise the cost of a product tremendously which in turn isn’t beneficiary to either Expert or Customer.

User Intimacy

Much to the chagrin of IT, Security and Compliance consumer devices and services e.g. iPhone, Google Docs, WordPress, and Dropbox have been making inroads into enterprises by way of End-users. These tools have in common that they are squarely aimed at them and not Customers. I will not venture and say that they have a really inmate relationship with their users but they do have succeeded in pleasing a lot of them. Enterprise tools have a spotty record in that regard and – in some cases- have been forced to make way for these competitors. A trend started by influential End-users that have been pleading their case for fewer restrictions and more convenience resulting in productivity. We’ve all received corporate emails signed “Send from my iPad” knowing full well that iOS is not supported in your enterprise.

It might not be easy spotting End-users gains as oppose to those for Expert or Customer, but betting on them will surely pay off in the End.

Pleasant Habits vs. Tedious Tasks
Pleasant Habits vs. Tedious Tasks 300 384 Raymond Blijd

Contextual Design to create solutions for customers is an excellent post on how to capture the essence of a particular task. But after you’ve turned your solution into the perfect filter, how do you turn it into a solution which gets users away from paper and onto your services?

Design-crop-300x384Design for Convenience
Forrester released a report outlining mobile trends for 2011. Among other trends, it signaled convenience as a focus for companies to invest in. One of the main reason the mobile market is growing exponentially is simply because – in some cases – mobile has become more convenient in use than a desktop. So how does someone design for convenience?

First, you envision the ultimate digital user experience. One in which the user perceives the service as a pleasant habit which they enjoy reusing contrary to a tedious task they are forced to repeat. Then you design the user interface to go along with this experience. Finally, you design the content and platform to fit the interface and experience.

For example, one can geotag content by jurisdictions to be displayed on a map. A user can then visualize different views of subject matter and distil various facts. For instance, they might predict the most likely outcome of a certain case per jurisdictions just by the size of pushpins or the color of a jurisdiction on a map. (See mapping lead ). It will also enable content to be location aware to the user, especially a mobile one, thus creating a new experience and possibly a pleasant habit.

The power of ‘Edit’
Creating a pleasant habit is also realizing that you are not the only one trying to do so. There already are lots of services out there aiming to do the same and your users have experienced some of them.

Moreover, old habits die hard so it is a challenge to entice users to switch to your newly created ‘habit.’ To make the switch easier is to ensure your service can be modified to better fit most users. Users must be able to customize and personalize your service and to easily join or cancel it.

This offers them a simple but powerful incentive called: choice.

Develop with an ‘edit’ button in mind for your user and present it prominently on your service, application, or site. Build API’s for developers and use emerging standards for your services. Let users know they have influence over whatever it is you’re providing for them.

As John Barker hinted in “Content & Software – an Eroding Distinction?”, software has a distinct quality that enables users to manipulate the output. The rise of user-generated content has proven that users crave more control and publishers should provide as much as possible.

Ultimately, publishers should strive to create a platform where a user has the freedom to use content to gain knowledge the traditional way but in a modern fashion.

Content is King, Search is Queen and Filters Are Their Offspring
Content is King, Search is Queen and Filters Are Their Offspring 1024 557 Raymond Blijd

In a digital space, all content providers fight for user face time which makes it increasingly difficult to be exceptional. Although good branding and premium authors help you stand out on a bookshelf, additional features on top of content will tip the scale in a digital environment. Content providers should, therefore, move towards providing solutions instead of just information. But how?

Search vs. filters
If search is your game plan the approaches might vary from finding the best authors on the subject matter and manually or semantically tagging their content before the search, or understanding the user behavior and adapting the content after the fact (see Google’s Marissa Meyers on “contextual discovery” – starts at 4:23).

I must admit, search is usually the first thing most people turn to, but only due to a lack of better ‘filters’ available. So what might be a better filter than search?

One obvious filter is to ask a person – usually a peer or colleague. Filters currently serving this purpose on a grand scale are Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook. Facebook overtook Google as the most visited site in the US for 2010. Also see Forrester’s research, Peer Influence Analysis.

A less straightforward filter is or a tool for bookmarking any passage inside a web page and sharing the direct link to the passage with others. In legal research, citations originated from paper perspectives and the rules, therefore, are bound by it. Yet these bookmarking services prove how a digital platform can greatly enhance an archaic system of citing materials. Imagine a future where such a service would be the standard for digital references and citations.


legalcomplex filtersA content agnostic view
There are many filters conceivable to assist a knowledge professional in finding what they’re looking for. To find what these tools starts with having a content agnostic view. Taking a content agnostic view means looking at the fundamental tasks knowledge professionals apply in their daily work. What actions do they take in order to ‘know’ things based on the information accessible to them? Moreover, how can we turn those tools into online services? See more examples of filters as online tools in this mindmap (click it to enlarge).


Knowledge_Library legalcomplex2William Gibson once stated, “the future is already here.” Most tools already exist. Yet they aren’t being considered for a professional setting because of their often mundane consumer market origins. What we are looking for is most often hiding in plain sight.

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