Archive for the 'application' Category

compfight + a flickr™ search tool

Brilliant for ensuring that what you’re searching for has Creative Commons licensing

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Fiat Eco:Drive at Adobe MAX in Milan

What a week!
It took me over 13hrs to get to Milan on Sunday thanks to Alitalia, but aside from that the Adobe MAX Conference in Milan has been fantastic.


Adam Creeger & I demonstrated Fiat’s Eco:Drive in front of 1300 people during the 1st day’s keynote session and the response was fantastic.

After the keynote we had lunch with some very interesting analysts including Stefan Reid, senior analyst at Forrester (follow him on Twitter), Andreas Pfeiffer, editor-in-chief at Pfeiffer Consulting & James Govenor, founder of RedMonk (you can follow him on Twitter @monkchips – thanks James!).

All of them were eager to hear more about the technology behind Fiat Eco:Drive and were very aware of the challenges that face the automotive industry and very impressed at not only the concept of Eco:Drive, but more importantly what its potential holds. It was great to have the opportunity to speak with them and I hope we’ll have the opportunity to talk again.

After lunch I joined up with my boss, Andy Hood, for the MAX Agency summit sessions. Adobe had asked AKQA along to a series of sessions which also included other European agency representatives such as Chris from Tribal DDB, Peter from Ioko, some of the guys from Glue (who did a great talk on interactive video), Monochrome, HowardBaines (who built Alert Thingy) and group94 amongst others (apologies for not remembering everyone who was there).

We were brought up to speed on the Adobe road map and specifically asked to comment on how the road map would affect our internal structure and influence our clients. It was really good to hear other people’s points of view and the sessions highlighted what an enormous breadth of work the Flash platform now is used for.

Doubtless, Adobe have some challenges ahead, particularly in the realms of mobile and workflow, but they’re good challenges and they’re all based on choices – a very luxurious & envious place to be in when you look at their competitors.

They also have some fantastic products and improvements, particularly in the areas of video with their soon to be launched Flash Media Server 3.5, with what they have in the pipeline for Air 2.0 and through some of the announcements they’ve made recently concerning Visual Studio plugins for outputting Flex code and making Flash searchable. There’s more, but for me those were the major highlights.

Fiat eco:Drive

Then on Tuesday afternoon Adam & I did a session on “The Anatomy of a Seriously Sophisticated Application” to a packed room of some 150 attendees. We went through some of the workflow challenges in building Fiat Eco:Drive, the specific data parsing & data visualisation challenges (and solutions) and answered as many questions as we could in the time we had.

It was fantastic getting such enthusiastic feedback and from it we’ve managed to create some valuable relationships that I hope we’ll be able to continue and maintain – so many thanks to everyone who came and I’m very glad you all enjoyed it.

After the session Adam & I went up to the press room to do a national Italian newspaper interview and by the end of the afternoon it was time for the sneak peeks and awards.

This has been the first MAX conference I’ve attended and I’ve enjoyed every moment of it. I hope there’ll be opportunity to attend more of them in the future. Thanks to Adobe and AKQA for enabling me to experience it.

.car Evolution

(Disclaimer: I am personally involved in the development of Fiat’s digital presence with my work at AKQA)

BMW and Crysler DO NOT GET IT! (read the comments).
Gearing up for the .car Era | Autopia from
Ford sounds like it’s right behind them

It’s interesting to see how Fiat are describing and marketing their Blue&Me technology.
blue_me_fiat_500.jpg (JPEG Image, 475�316 pixels)
They seem concerned about the detail, which is always a good sign. They offer Blue&Me EcoDrive as standard and have Nav and Map add-on features.

Fiat EcoDrive is described in greater detail here, but essentially it measures your driving style irrespective of the car you drive. It puts everyone on a level playing field and gives them tips and suggestions on how to improve their driving style, saving them money by lowering their fuel consumption.

It’s a niche, but interesting, concept and importantly it’s engaging whilst not being disruptive. EcoDrive promises to ‘teach drivers how to go greener’. Drivers can fit whichever navigation system they choose to the car, rather than being tied down to a locked-in version, suceptable to bugs and poorly executed updates.

I’ll be interested to find out how drivers communicate between their car and their desktop computers to make intelligent use of all the data that’s captured and (possibly sharing that information within a community???), but it strikes me as a far stronger proposition than attempting to steal a march on the SatNav’s out there like TomTom and in the US, who only last week announced that they were opening up their API to developers.

What do you think? Do you want to watch YouTube in the car? Is being online important?? Is this running before you can walk or a bold move?

10 mobile apps of the future

Google has announced the 50 applications that have won the first round of the Android Developer Challenge.

ReadWriteWeb have listed their favourite 12 here. Chris Andreson commented on one application, Enkin, which wasn’t mentioned by ReadWriteWeb, who have been contacted by Google personally.

Here are 10 that I’ve found most interesting (in no particular order):

Beetaun project
Beetaun is a social network based around geographical content created by people and for people (from your neighborhood, from your city, from your country, from all over the world). By Sergey Gritsyuk and Dmitri Shipilov.

City Slikkers - Pervasive Game on the City
City Slikkers is a Pervasive Game (alternatively Location Based Game) which takes place in the real-existing city. It is designed to connect a large number of players through-out the world and change the way the surroundings are seen. The central idea behind the concept is to give people the opportunity to symbolically interfere with the everyday urban environment and come into contact with previously unknown people.

GolfPlay - Personal GPS Caddie
GolfPlay’s objective is to give support to all the real time necessities of a golf player during a game, using GPS location and an online querying site where it is possible to access to their game statistics, tournament creation and a social network to exchange impressions with other users about the sport that links them: golf.

Enkin Blog: After the Challenge
Enkin introduces a new handheld navigation concept. It displays location-based content in a unique way that bridges the gap between reality and classic map-like representations. It combines GPS, orientation sensors, 3D graphics, live video, several web services and a novel user interface into an intuitive and light navigation system for mobile devices.
Demo video here.

With Eco2Go you can Reduce your carbon footprint. Eco2go finds and suggests public transit alternatives for your trips – right on your phone.
Inspire others with your stories, join the eco2go network to build a global community around sustainable living – you’re not alone!
Offset your footprint. Eco2go calculates the carbon output of your trips and lets you offset it with carbon credits as you go.

PedNav - RouteMe² Technologies
PedNav™ is an application that helps you plan your activities efficiently when moving around and interacting with an urban environment. Based on the information you provide, and on the schedules of venues and transportation, PedNav creates a personalized “itinerary”: a time-orderly list of events for the day, specifying when to go where, and how to get there.

Pocket Journey: Know Anywhere
Pocket Journey is a mobile application that connects your location to the voices of a global community of artists, historians, architects, musician, comedians, and others so you can quickly know everything about anywhere.

Wikitude takes advantage of geographical information contained in Wikipedia articles. There are about 350.000 Wikipedia Places Of Interest (PIs) to download, split up in many categories and more than 10.000 POI files.

Automatic barcode recognition using onboard phone camera using ZXing library
Shows CD, DVD, or book cover along with detailed reviews from
Searches over a dozen stores, both online and brick+mortar
– Highlights brick+mortar stores that are nearby, with option to call the store or get directions
– Links to online storefronts to buy online from the phone
Tracklisting for CDs, along with option to play sample tracks right on phone
For books, searches local libraries to see if they have a copy
Video Demo here.

A biometric authentication system for Android. This application features iris recognition and can act as a password safe and provide single sign-on for other Android apps. Jose Luis Huertas Fernandez.

Google Android vs. Apple iPhone
These are all Android applications and I think there’s a couple of reasons why.

The iPhone SDK is currently stifling development:
– The iPhone SDK doesn’t (currently) allow applications to run in the background.
– The iPhone SDK doesn’t (currently) let applications talk to each other.
– The iPhone (currently) has no GPS.

The above examples highlight two things:
– How important GPS and location context will be.
– How important it is to have applications running in the background.

I’ll have a follow up post on why the iPhone doesn’t allow applications to run in the background and the complexity of the situation.

Mobile applications vs. Branded utilities
These examples show just how quickly mobile application development is moving. It will be interesting to see how brands get involved in marketing and partnering with some of these developments in order to ‘own’ these new spaces currently being developed.

I don’t think there’s a way for digital agencies to compete in bringing similar products to market for their clients within the budget and at the speed a smaller development team can unless something radically changes in the way in which they finance such projects.

If anyone knows of any other mobile applications worth mentioning, please leave a comment.

Google Android has promised to ship before the end of the year with T-Mobile and Sprint already lined up to offer carrier packages.


Slidestar is an open educational platform to your local college or library but in cyberspace. The SlideStar community is made up of mainly students and academics who can exchange any educational content and material they find useful. Publishers of content are free to define their own terms of use. If agreed upon, materials can be used and furthered for your own studies or research. Your Slideware (content) can come in any number of formats such as the almighty PowerPoint slide, an audio file, PDF and more.

A brilliant rich web application built using Flex.

The difference between a widget and an application

The previous post got me thinking of another outcome due to the differing functionalities of the two platforms. The concept of what a widget is and what an application is becomes clearer:

  1. 2nd generation widgety microsites in widgety-sized living spaces
  2. engaging and useful applications which make use of your digital web of friends.

    This second type of application can be split into another couple of sub categories:

  1. Utility apps – Training regimes (Nike+) and or niche digital organisers, a bit like ‘calender’ on Steriods which benefit aspects of your real life.
  2. Games – Engaging multiplayer, multi-platform, geo-positioned, haptics-enabled bundles of fun to be shared with friends and family. Where you can put the age old disciplines of human competitiveness, cooperation and comparison to the test. And before you ask, yes, “Compare”, “Crush” and “Growing Gifts” are all games.

The most successful of these will create an experience which offers both usefulness and enjoyment. Nike+ is sure to fare well, but who says there won’t be other Nike applications in the future? How difficult would it be to imagine an entire suite of specialist applications all created by Nike and sitting on your desktop…

As Nokia demonstrated at the Games Developers Conference this week, along with rumours of a partnership between Apple and games company Gameloft, we shouldn’t think that the internet is the only place, or the best suited, to socially interact.

facebook vs. opensocial

Shuzak’s presentation is very interesting.

One slide particularly got me thinking about some of Facebook’s recent moves. In the last couple of weeks Facebook has begun to put the kosh on invites in order to create more thoughful and considered applications and drive the spammers away.

I thought OpenSocial’s achilles heel was this lack of ‘virality’. It’s possible to create generic applications, but OpenSocial cannot take advantage of Facebook’s social graph. It is however scalable. And that’s the irony, because if you build something on Facebook that works through the social graph, it will be impossible (at the moment) to get it working across OpenSocial – All those viral invitations useless…

By pushing back so heavily on the invites, Facebook is helping developers not to think about how to game viral goodness out of the platform, but instead how to build really engaging applications. It also let’s any particularly successful applications that work on OpenSocial to benefit from additional engagement with the social graph rather than being spammed with it.

Despite Facebook’s very clean and well documented platform, the numbers still matter, and although the experience and audience will be more engaging and valuable on Facebook, it’s dwarfed by the 250+ million accessible users available on OpenSocial. I’d hate to be an OpenSocial developer right now though…it looks painful!

Undoubtedly there’ll be experiences created for both platforms, but I doubt very much whether there’ll be one killer branded application that’ll work just as well on either…unless it’s a mobile one…who could forget Tetris :)

Interpreting feedback – users and metrics

Daniel Burka is the Creative Director of Digg and the Co-creator of Pownce. Digg’s been going about 3yrs and has a user base of 2million, whilst Pownce has been going about 4 months and has just over 100,000 users.

Neither Digg nor Pownce got where they are without taking onboard feedback, interpreting that feedback and folding it back into iterative releases of the product on a continual basis.

This kind of development process involving constant iterative improvements is exactly what Facebook applications need in order to spread and gain in popularity.

The Standford students that developed the SendHotness application on Facebook created one of the most popular and successful applications in the class. Currently, it has attained over 6 million installs and averages about 125k daily users. Pretty mind blowing for an application that is about 7 weeks old.

Their secret: They spent at least 80% of their time on metrics. Create the viral loop, measure it, test it, change it, tweak it…Repeat until your brain goes numb…Simple assets such as images really made a difference in influencing people and getting more people to download and use the application.

“…it was all about the persuasive nature of our changes”

One interesting insight they mentioned in an interview was the dramatic improvments in sent invitations when they chose to do away with a large invitation window with thumbnail images of freinds and instead have a minimized invitation window with no images; psychologically, the feeling from a user’s perspective when seeing the large invitation window was “oh no, not another invitation screen – I hate sending invitations [skip]…”

Facebook weekly changes

Facebook’s changed the rules again and these ones are worth noting.

3 things have changed since Tuesday…

1. Notifications and Invitations on your profile page have now been bundled together. Application invites now have less real estate on people’s profile pages than they did a week ago. This is bound to be a good thing for people; not so good for application developers.
requests vs. requests new

2. NewsFeed ranking. Feed stories published onto a person’s News Feed which requires that person to download and install the app before reading the content will be penalised. This is analagous to web sites which force you to create an account before viewing content and I’m sure a welcome change – but not for developers who used it to increase their download base. Read more here.

3. Freind lists. You can now group your friends into personal silos for invitations and notifications. Profile page settings based on these groupings are sure to follow so that work colleagues and perspective employers can only see some aspects of your profile whilst close friends can see the full gory details.

Some thoughts on Facebook apps for brands

recently_pop There’s been some great discussion and insight recently into Facebook applications and how to create successful ones. The Stanford class’s reach of a combined 16+million Facebook application downloads in 10 weeks is testamount to what can be achieved with alot of hard work and determination and a surprisingly small development team.

What has become clear from their success and insights is the emphasis on metrics to substantiate what persuades people to download and use a Facebook application and how you can use metrics to keep track of your ‘persuasiveness’ – It’s interesting how the professors of the Stanford Facebook course describe Facebook as a “Mass Interpersonal Communication” tool.

There is a science to creating a successful Facebook application: Constant testing, measurement, metrics and application iterations are key.

18 Insights for brands engaging in Facebook (and now Bebo) with an application.

1. Set metrics and objectives upfront. Based on the metrics establish why people are engaging or not engaging and tweak your application to improve these rates. Based on the objectives, decide whether your application has been a success.

2. Is your app viral? Generally, the more complex the app is, the less viral it is. The simpliest ones spread the quickest. The more complex the app the more time they spend on the app’s canvas pages.

3. Go in light on the branding: A Facebook application can be “sponsored” by a brand and still attain marketing goals. Don’t beat people over the head with branding.

4. Build applications that “Look and Feel” like facebook. People engage with familiarity of design. Don’t have graphics with colors that overpower or clash with the facebook frame if possible. Don’t use rounded tabs for navigation. 95% of facebook applications use the same style of navigational tabs. Do the same.

5. Plan on A/B split testing & measurement for ongoing tweaks of your application.
The key metrics are Keep Rate, Drop Rate, Install Rate, Uninstall Rate. Others include the amount of time people spend interacting with your application’s Canvas Pages.

6. Metrics are critical. Many application teams set up custom metrics beyond standard Google Analytics in order to measure very specific details of an application. You need A/B split testing on things such as page layout, images, text, user flow etc. You can get enough statistical info within 12hrs to measure the effectiveness of different iterations of your applications.

7. Change 1 thing at a time for iterations and measurement towards desired metrics.

8. Pay very close attention to any trend or change in behavior; Un-install rate increasing for example. This can point you in the direction of a problem, either slow responsiveness (a scaling issue) or something being broken (a development issue).

9. Wording is very critical for influencing behavior. Change and measure. Part of the “Mass InterPersonal Communication” concept.

10. Pay close attention to the experience flow of how you pull people through your application and force desired behaviors to occur.

11. Consider “levels” or “rewards” as an incentive for participation. This means unlocking specific features of the app when a person takes desired behaviors.

12. Invites are critical. Do it right. Most facebook applications do not do it in the most effective manner.
A note on this is that Facebook has bundled invitation (which appear on the right hand of your profile page) together, giving only the most recent invite a prominent place on your profile.

13. Look at how you can easily expose behaviors through the viral carrier mechanisms available (mini-feed, news-feed, notifications, email, participatory sharing, etc.) without the user not having to think about sharing information.

14. Try not to shoe-horn a current app that’s successful on to Facebook. Try to make something totally unique to Facebook. Use the ‘Social Graph’ that is at the heart of Facebook to facilitate new and unique connections between people and their friends on Facebook. Give it a Facebook ‘twist’.

15. 2 attributes that make a successful widget are Attention and Interaction, also known as Engagement and Viral Growth. Pay attention to both.

16. Plan for continual evolution. Facebook’s Platform is in constant change with new updates, features and restrictions added almost on a weekly basis. Developers aren’t notified of the changes by Facebook unitl they occur and you need to be able to react. Application creators need to adapt to those changes and challenges.

Have a plan in place for revisions and additional feature sets. The application will evolve on a continual basis mainly due to people’s feedback. You need to incorporate this feedback and build it into future versions. It shows that you’re listening and creates affinity between your application and the people who use it.

17. Plan for scaling. Budget accordingly. It’s best not to build an app in the expectation that it will be very popular but instead have a plan in place for scaling the application over the short to mid-term. Applications can spread virally incredibly quickly and you need to be able to react to that. Consider using databases that can scale according to use (Amazon’s S3 is a good example)

18. Competitve landscape.
Look at you’re Facebook competition. Keep up to date with the changes they’re implementing and react accordingly.

These points are based primarily on learnings from the Standford Facebook class and on Facebook application development insight from Rodney Rumford and Jeremiah Owyang.

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