Wireless Wonders

No news, just comment about mobile phones and services, from a veteran practitioner...3G, GPRS, WAP, Bluetooth, WiFi, etc...

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Making mobile apps more viral...

That's "viral" and not "virulent"!
Having just spent ages trying to fix a virus-infested PC in my home network, the last thing I'd want to do is suggest we need more viruses. We clearly don't! AHHHH! Viruses are BAD!

What we do need are more viral applications. What I mean is simply that mobile apps programmers should consider building a "recommend to a friend" button. For example, I recently downloaded the mobile feedburner MIDlet. As I posted earlier, I had first to enter a tortuous URL on my non-QWERTY Nokia 6600. Boo hoo!

But boo hoo for everybody else too!
This is when it struck me that if I wanted to recommend this to someone else, I'd have to communicate the outrageously hideous URL to them. On the other hand, I could simply text it to them.

Now that it's increasingly easy to incorporate texting into a mobile app, we need to see more of this method of sharing. In fact, it should become a defacto standard.

In general, it's a good way of spreading applications from one phone to another.

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Thursday, February 10, 2005

The feminine user experience...

I followed some of the posts on "Halleys Comment" about Carly's resignation from HP. Halley liked a comment from Tom Peter's website on that story:

Women + too much technology = frustration
Women + simple technology + efficiency + reasonable price = a home run for whichever company dreams it up first.
(N.B. this is supposed to be a general point, not a comment about Carly, other than she supposedly understood what a woman wants from an HP product.)

I have to disagree.

NOT GEEK + too much technology = frustration
NOT GEEK + usable + value = home run for the RARE company that does it

Lot's of people, men and women alike, can't program their phones.
Good design would solve the problem, as Tom Peters has been telling us for a long long time...

Don't take it from me though, you can get it from a woman too...Barbara says it better....

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Wireless email is NOT POP3 + device...

POP3 client is not a product…
If the interface sucks, then we can't use it….
if the air-interface is unreliable…we can't use it...
if we can't easily enter email addresses….we can't use it….
we need a WHOLE PRODUCT….not just a tick against a feature list ("tick-ware")

SLA for mobile email...

Thanks for buying my book...

Thank you to all those who have bought my book "Next Generation Wireless Applications". Wiley have just informed me of its reprint, so demand remains high, thanks to you.

If you want to order 10 or more copies for your company or university, please contact me and a substantial discount can be arranged.

Meanwhile, work continues on the draft for "Bluejacking and Other Wireless Wonders", my latest book. I will start posting some excerpts soon, so stay tuned, or add my site to your newsfeed.

Another two books are being planned. One will be on digital rights management and the other on areas relating to mobile marketing.

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Street logos...

Earlier, I posted about John Geraci's Grafedia, a fascinating mobile experiment that turns graffiti tags into mobile links. "Click" on the piece of graffiti and you get more info on your mobile phone. The blending of real space with mobile information space is a very exciting topic. I have felt for a long time that once these connections start taking root in our mobile experience, then we have entered the real "3G era" (more on that topic later).

I contacted John to tell him how excited I was by his project. He was curious to know about how to monetize the idea. (And I thought it was art for art's sake :)

Digging deeper into this topic, I purchased the fantastic book "Street Logos" by Tristan Manco, who's based not that far from me in Bristol, UK. He has his own photo-blog.

Firstly, the book is an absolutely wonderful collection of graffiti art. Unlike other books on the topic, Tristan has documented a very diverse set of styles and concepts. These are not only visually stimulating, but intellectually. Some of the concepts are quite intriguing.

The book is a sequence of collections from around the world and arranged according to artist. Usefully, the website for the book provides links to the artists' online galleries, which are a very stimulating extension to the experience of reading book.

Some of the graffiti work definitely inspired connections with mobilisation. I am attracted to the idea of marking meeting places with graffiti as a kind of "war chalking" tag. However, instead of marking open WiFi access, the points would mark virtual meeting places. At each tag, users could "log in" and download, or exchange, information.

What really excited me were some of the graffiti styles and concepts that seemed to lend themselves to this idea. For example, the floor-based renderings of a compass by L'Atlas would make excellent visual markers for meeting places and allow directional information to be included, perhaps to the whereabouts of the next tag. This would blend well with the location-based potential of modern mobiles.

Other tag schemes had a very distinct style that in my opinion seemed to allow for a socially acceptable, or ascetically possible, use of graffiti for mobile communities. The Space Invader invasion is particularly interesting in this regard. Interestingly, the website contains invasion maps. This reminded me of war chalking maps, but is representative of the location theme that is already strong in this particular graffiti movement.

I shall come back to this topic with some possible ideas for mobile...stay tuned (get the newsfeed for my site - no space invaders included!!)

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Basic MIDP mistakes...

I just downloaded the mobile feedburner MIDlet into my Nokia 6600. It violates several basic principles of mobile design.

Firstly, I had the endure the pain of entering a URL like this:

Remember, I'm entering that behemoth of a link on my 6600, which does NOT have a QWERTY keypad. Nevermind that the folder and MIDlet name are too long, what's with those superfluous dashes?

Once up and running, I wanted to enter a feed address - my own blog naturally (for testing purposes).

Firstly, the menu options didn't have something obvious like "Add Feed". The option I needed was called "New". If you have the characters and display available to write a more meaningful menu option, then it's better to use one.

I duly entered my feed address. Full credit to the guys, as they provided speed buttons to enter "www." and ".com" and "/", the latter two being useful in my case.

My MIDlet then went off to download the feed. This is where is got tedious. Firstly, I was offered three connection options by the MIDP environment. Which one should I pick? As it happens, I picked the wrong one.

This selection is confusing for anyone and is all to do with having different GPRS APNs on the phone. If you don't know what they are, it doesn't matter except that if you don't know what they imply, then you might pick the wrong one too. I thought that the one I picked allowed open access to the Internet, but it obviously didn't.

Picking the wrong one highlighted a potential design flaw in the MIDlet.

Not being able to access the Internet using the connection I chose, the MIDlet couldn't find the feed. Not necessarily a problem, but it kept me waiting and waiting and didn't offer me a cancel button. A sensible design rule for accessing online info is to pass it over to a separate thread in the program, leaving the foreground active, so that the user can still operate the program, like hitting cancel.

When the MIDlet eventually returned from a timeout, the only option available was for me to exit the program. That's bad design and especially irritating as the feed address wasn't saved first. I had to restart the application and then re-enter the feed URL the next time around. AHHH!!!!

What's the odds that the coder has only ever tested this with good connections and feeds?
If mobile applications remain this painful, we'll all be out of business soon.

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Newsfeed and Wireless Wonders...

I have upgraded my news feed for this blog by moving it over to Feedburner, which allows for a greater range of subscription formats (RSS and Atom). You will notice the subscription buttons over on the right.

For those of you interested in reading feeds on your mobile, Feedburner offer a MIDP2.0 implementation of a feed reader. You could download this and read any blog feed. You can also read my blog via my own mobile channel, published on WINKsite (see link on the right).

I just added my blog feed to Feedster. As soon as it appears in their search index, I will post an "Add to my Feedster" button too, for all you Feedster users.

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Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Why 100 ideas?

Why am I posting 100 ideas in the next 2 months?

The answer is that I want to create discussion, provoke ideas, spark enthusiasm.
Some of the ideas will be good, some of them not so good, some of them bad. But, I'll keep posting regardless. It's the discussion that matters, or the ideas it might spark in the minds of others.

I realised that a lots get said about the importance of mobile applications. A lot gets said about the notion of "killer apps" and "killer cocktails". A lot gets said about operator mindsets not being in tune with developer mindsets. A lot gets said about applications technologies. A lot gets said about...I could go on and on about what gets said.

However, I noticed that there just isn't enough said about the applications themselves. What are they going to be. why do we need them, what will they do etc.

Don't get me wrong. I know there's a whole bunch of developer sites. I know, I frequent them, even though I seldom write code these days. I know there are developer forums. Even so, these don't really talk about applications, they talk about applications technologies. We can follow yards of threads about HTTP and Web Services and.....the list is long. But an application is what we do with these technologies.

Developers tend to have a dim view of operators, who simply "don't get it". Well, we can keep lamenting this point amongst ourselves and never go anywhere with it.

I hope that my blog will be read by a cross-section of the mobile industry and some interesting connections will form.

In due course I hope to cover the topic of what applications will work in the 3G era and the process of how to go from a interesting idea to a fully fledged service. Stay tuned...

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100 Mobile Product Ideas...#6...

Way back in the summer of 2001, I designed my first MIDlet. It was called "My Meeting" and it was programmed for me by associate Shomila Malik, now working at O2.

The application was simple yet effective and we designed it for the Blackberry. We were a pre-beta tester for their new JDK, one of the few companies outside America to get their hands on it.

Here's what the requirements spec said:

My Meetings Now is an application allowing a Blackberry user to record minutes (including other details such as attendees and action items) during a meeting and instantly send them out to all the attendees the moment the meeting is finished

That's it in a nutshell. I still think it's a great idea. It enables minutes to be captured on the spot in a logical fashion. The application takes the user through the following sequences/screens (which can also be navigated through non-linearly):

1. Create and name the meeting
2. Add attendees (can grab from the contact list) inc. names and email addresses
3. Add absentees (ditto)
4. Add minute(s)
5. Add action(s)
6. Schedule next meeting
7. Save & send.....
8. Voila! Everyone gets a copy in their email boxes immediately.

If you're really interested, I can send you the spec.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

100 Mobile Product Ideas...#5 (pt. 2)...

If you're waiting for idea #5 pt. 2, then here it is.

To recap, I suggested that operators capitalise on the targeted advertising techniques currently making waves on the Internet, like Google's ad-sense. This is a big topic in itself and has many interesting nuances and evolutions (e.g. Sell-side advertising).

There are myriad ways that advertising can be incorporated into the mobile experience. BUT, don't forget the golden rule - ads have to be permission based and relevant. For more on this, follow anything written by permission-marketing guru Seth Godin.

Those of you who followed my old blog will know that I have written lots about location-based advertising (LBA), exploiting cookies and related topics. The common rebuttal against LB-ads is the spam threat. We already hate email spam and thus far mobiles have managed to stay fairly clean of such filth (for now).

However, as I also discussed, mobile location spam needs thinking through. Users might actually want to receive ads if they're ready for them. This is what permission-based marketing is all about. We shall return to LB-ads in a later post, as my main concern for now is elsewhere.

What interests me here is how do marketers extend the conversation to the consumer through mobile channels from conventional ad channels. In other words, can we turn the increasingly ineffective poster boards, print ads and TV ads into something more "ad-sense" like?

The answer is yes, and I believe that that the possibilities are huge and exciting, especially when mobile TV arrives and its potential to run in parallel with other channels, a bit like the visual radio trial with Nokia and some radio stations in the UK.

However, in the meantime, we need a simple way to "mobilise" existing adverts without requiring new technologies.

In part 1 of this post I asked you to read first my previous article about using numbers to access content, rather than those crazy difficult-to-enter URLs.

Well, that's what the idea is, but with a biz model attached this time around.

There seems to be scope for an agency to sell ad-numbers. These are "phone numbers" you can place in an ad, or on anything you like. With some words like "Dial 1234 for mobile info on your mobile". The user dials 1234, which is trapped by the operator network as an ad-number and triggers the appropriate messaging response.

Technically, this is all straightforward, so we will avoid the techie discussion (perhaps for a later post, but Parlay gateways bring "number trapping" into the world of web services, which means this whole idea is easily extended to the net community).

The idea is that you dial the number and your mobile is sent to a nano-site where the user can browse more information, register their interest etc.

This solution is better than interactive text because it's a good deal simpler. Don't forget that we are interested in anyone, regardless of age and tech-savvyness being able to ask for more details, so dialling is more familiar than browsing or keywords.

The biz model is pay-per-dial, which, as we all know, is how Google can attract so many advertisers. And, just like with ad-sense, an advertiser should be able to sign-up online and start using ad-number within minutes, without talking to any ad-sales reps.

What's more is that this technique can be used for permission-based location advertising. Ad messages sent to the mobile upon request could include "in your area" ads for stockists of the product in the user's vicinity. Advertisers also get to know where a user was when they asked for the info - which is good for monitoring poster board effectiveness.

OK, there are issues here that need refining, but the basic idea is sound and seems worth exploring. What's more, is that it can work today on most phones (because most of them have browsers and WAP-push). We don't have to wait for the more elaborate interactive ideas based on bar-codes etc.

In my book, I already discussed the idea of using numbers instead of URLs, but I felt that users probably needed to become cognisant that they were dialling "pages" rather than "people", so I suggested an additional button on phones to make the distinction. In fact, the button can be the "dial" button with an added symbol, which I was suggesting should be the "@" sign. If the button were separate, then here's what it might look like:

That's all for now...we can return to this idea later.

100 Mobile Product Ideas...#1..#100

Go straight to the email list sign-up, or read on...

It has been a while since I started blogging and I decided to post 100 ideas as a running theme. I have often been too busy to blog properly and also have to watch carefully not to blog about topics that might infringe rights - I work as a consultant in the mobile ideas business!

I shall post a collection of each 10 ideas on my site and eventually a free e-book of all 100 ideas, with additional comments based on follow-up discussion with readers and various afterthoughts. The PDF will also include a recent chapter "Mobile in the 3G Era", written for thenow released book "Thumb Culture" and a free and lengthy paper about IMS, for those interested in this emerging area of mobile connectivity.

To read the ideas as they unfold, keep visiting my blog, or, of course, subscribe using the RSS feed. To read them 10 at a time, keep coming back periodically to my site, or get notified via my email list. To do this, or get the free PDF of all 100 ideas, you need to sign up to my email list. On the sign-up form, you'll be able to sign up for my general list, or just the PDF. Either way, I don't give out your address, nor do I bombard you with spam.

The ideas so far:

Monday, February 07, 2005

100 Mobile Product Ideas...#5...

Operators want to make more money from non-voice services.
Sorry to state the obvious, but it sometimes seems like they don't.

However, let me persevere with trying to come up with suggestions for making more money out of mobile messaging...just one of the sub-themes of my "100 Mobile Product Ideas" series of posts these coming couple of months.

There's money in advertising. Lots of it.
Advertising is undergoing a big change, or so say people like Seth Godin in his interesting book "Purple Cow". You have to ask people for permission to advertise to them. That's a theme from one of his other books too, but I've only read Purple Cow.

The future is ads that speak to individuals, "conversation marketing", "permission marketing", bla-de-bla.

Google's ad-sense speaks to individuals. You can see the Google ads on the right of this page. If everything's working, they should be advertising stuff to do with the content in this page. I'm not sure how it works really. I used the acronym "RF*D" once (* = "I") and ever since then, the ads are all about RF*D. Does that mean people are coming to my site from searchs on RF*D? Nevermind.

The really interesting point is that Google's advertising revenue was 1 BILLION dollars for the last few months (read about it on the BBC).
That's a lot of money.
That's a lot of new-wave "individual consumer targetted" ad money.

I'm rambling here, so let me get to it.
Mobile operators should be getting in on the advertising act.

I shall tell you how in the next post, but first you need to read this from my old blog (or pages 412-417 of my book for a more up-to-date explanation).

Read this blog on your phone...

You can read this blog on your mobile, using WAP or some other mobile browser.
I'm trying out a WINKsite for this blog from Wireless Ink.

Mobile URL: http://winksite.com/pgolding/ww
You can see what it looks like via an emulator by clicking the logo on the right.

WINKsite makes it easy to publish mobile blogs. In my case, I'm using its ability to fetch this blog from its Atom news feed. I don't know where Wireless Ink are going with this platform, but they are definitely trying to shape the unfolding moblogging story. Thus far, it is only a story, with lots of beginnings and plots doing the rounds.

Why would you want to read this blog on a mobile?
Not really sure. I was interested in trying it out myself.
It did occur to me that if all you want to read is the 100 Mobile ideas that I'll be posting in the next couple of months, then you could tune in every day or so on your mobile on the train, or wherever.

I've tried it on my Blackberry. Performance was a little slow, but that could be a number of things, not necessarily the WINKsite platform itself. However, I'm not sure why the platform gives me such a small WAP page. Is it a genuine limitation of the Blackberry browser, or is the familiar worst-case page sizing rearing its ugly head. Or, is it the device capabilities not being read properly from the device's UAProf (see it here)? Or........AHHHH!!!! It's just WAP.

As I blogged a post or two ago, it's important that mobile devices should be able to post content to blogs. Blogging is growing, probably exponentially, or some other beautiful progression. The ability to produce mobile multimedia content is growing, at some other rate.

Also, with Atom (or even RSS), it is a cinch for mobiles to read blogs. The reason is that blogs are generally well structured. A mobile could easily extract the data it needs to read one and format it appropriately for the display.

Happy moblogging or WINKing, or whatever....

Sunday, February 06, 2005

100 Mobile Product Ideas...#4...

Ever wanted to walk right up to a wall and spray some graffiti all over it? I think I know how you can do it without causing a mess, or getting arrested for vandalism. You can use a motion-sensing mobile to spray virtual paint.

Those of you who followed my last blog and my piece on Spatial Messaging know that I have an interest in graffiti and mobiles. It sprang from doing some consultancy for a hip-hop company.

I picked up the story going round in January about the new Samsung phone that has a built-in movement detection device. It immediately aroused my interest. I had been playing with this idea when looking at peep-hole displays, which I still think is a good idea (I tried patenting some aspects). I went out and bought a Gyration mouse to see what movement sensing felt like. I still use it - it's an impressive device.

As far as the idea of the movement sensing as a general input device, I'm not sure. Barbara Ballard has some interesting things to say about it. One thing I picked up from the guys at Gyration (and from my own experience with their product) is that accelerometers consume quite a bit of energy. Battery life suffers.

Waving your phone in the air to enter phone numbers seems daft to me, so I'm not expecting much from this device. But spraying paint. Well...maybe. And there's always war-chalking!

Well...back to the idea. It's simple. Walk up to any wall and spray your message on it. Of course, it can't be seen visibly, because it's not there. But with the right software on your camera-phone..voila! It's visible: "Paul Woz 'Ere and liked it."

In fact, you don't really need an accelerometer to do this. With a camera and some simply optical-sensing software, you can make it work just like an optical mouse.

How do we know where to look for this graffiti?

There are variety of solutions to that problem. One possibility is to allocate areas where users are invited to spray their virtual graffiti and it gets used as a kind of virtual bulletin board. This idea I blogged about earlier, including the use of near-field communication tagging to interact with the wall.

Graffiti or bulletins...these are messages from one user to another, or to lots of other users. In the mobile world, messaging is money. That's how it works at the moment.