The Vortex: Kind of rambling

I accidentally hit the keyboard and typed ‘grr’ at the start of this post but considered keeping it. It’s been that kind of week, don’t you think?

–I should’ve seen it coming when my recent Foursquare vs Gowalla post became one of the most-read posts on our blog. Location-based apps are going to be one of the most hotly contested markets in tech this year. Yelp knocked the sector for a loop last week when it rolled out check-ins, though it remains to be seen exactly what they plan to do with the info. Part of the point of Foursquare and Gowalla is the gaming aspect, so Yelp would need to construct another layer on top of an already crowded product.

And then there’s CauseWorld, which surprisingly few people are talking about. Launched in December, CauseWorld turns the location game into good works, giving you “karma points” for checking in. You can then donate sponsors’ money to causes via those karma points. (The company has a special Haiti promotion going on right now). It’s a great way to turn iPhone silliness into something truly meaningful in the real world.

Keep a close eye on this space. I doubt this will be the last we’ll hear of new entrants and updates.

–Some sort of nonsense is happening next Tuesday in San Francisco and I’m so annoyed at the buildup that, by this point, it better turn out to be a flippin’ robot that makes me pancakes.

–Am I the only one who thinks this is a really bad idea? In the first place, if I want to know the national debt, I’ll type that into Google. Second – and most important – I’m having enough trouble keeping up with the tweets of everyone I follow. The last thing I need is to have their personal searches added to the noise. I am a huge advocate of evolving Twitter but this ain’t it.

On that note, it’s somewhat surprising to me how few evolutions of Twitter I’ve seen. Is anyone building on this technology to harness its potential value? Can I christen that a hot topic for 2010 in the hopes that it will catch on? And mind you, I don’t mean Twitter tools. There are an abundance of apps/sites that utilize the API to measure your influence or impact or whom you should block. I’m looking for someone who’s working on the next version of Twitter, in a sense. Let me know in the comments or ping me – carla [at] guidewiregroup [dot] com.

Now that I’ve allowed this to degenerate into a rambling wish list, I’ll take my leave. Happy weekend everyone.

The Vortex: The First Round’s on Me

Mr. Hyde it is. Dr. Jekyll was always the boring one, don’t you agree?

News from the Social Media Vortex

The technosphere was thrown into a tizzy (no really, they were) over the news that Facebook will include @mentions in your status updates. It’s being spun as an !attack on Twitter! So everyone choose your side. There will be no mercy for ambivalence.

–David McCandless has developed the fascinating and fun Hierarchy of Digital Distractions. Print it out, laminate it, and carry it in your wallet for those moments when you’re not sure whether to retweet or answer the phone.

–I was going to mention this last week but thought the post was already too Twitter-laden. Check out What The Trend, a super-handy reference that explains the reasoning behind mystifying Twitter trends. The minds behind it are also not above editorial comments; check out the explanation for “Michael” today.

–So you know Julia Allison? Yeah, I don’t really either. But she’s managed to make a name for herself as… um, I honestly don’t know what to call her. An Internet celebrity? The point is -  and this is admittedly coming solely from her – she is paid $4 a word for writing… something. We’re not quite sure what that is either. So to sum up: someone you’ve never heard of is being paid an obscene amount of money to write some sort of column for an unknown entity. That, my friends, is what The Vortex is all about!

Apps on the Radar

Yes, there were new Apple releases this week but they were pretty boring. I think the biggest “announcement” to come out of Wednesday was that Steve Jobs continues to soldier on.

–Flickr finally arrived on the iPhone, letting you shoot pics and video on your phone and upload directly to the site.

–Football season is here (woo hoo!) and my favorite sports app, Sportacular, had a nice recent upgrade for the iPhone that includes push notifications. Louis Gray prefers ESPN’s app but he’s just plain wrong. Shall we settle it with a duel?

Facebook Lite is here, for those times when you… I don’t know, need more white space. Do with it what you will.

–And if you’re like me, you love a good pandemic, so check out CNET’s round-up of swine flu apps for your iPhone. When the media isn’t whipping you into enough of a frenzy, fire up the CDC News Reader or, even better, Outbreaks Near Me to complete your hysteria.

Tweet of the Week

–Alex Iskold wins the prize, with a tweet sent mere moments ago. And one that makes me wonder where he’s choosing to school his children.

Picking up kids from school. Weird, it smells like scotch around here.

Here’s hoping your weekend is filled with inappropriately placed scotch fumes.

Wait!! I almost forgot to mention – if you own a Kindle, do me a solid and fill out this survey. I’m doing a usability study for a client and could really use your opinions. Once you’re done with that, you can resume your drinking.

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The Vortex: The Agony of Success

I’ve been awash in home-selling negotiations this week so I’m particularly cranky. You’ve been warned.

News from the Social Media Vortex

–As you’re well aware by now, Facebook acquired FriendFeed this week. Allow me to couch that: you’re well aware of this news only if you live in your browser. For those who frequent FriendFeed, though, it was like George Bush had been elected to a third term. Teeth were gnashed, tears were shed and exclamation points were employed with abandon. With characteristic good humor, FriendFeed set up a FestivusFeed on its site to allow for the airing of grievances.

I’ve been a long-time fan of FriendFeed and certainly understand the disappointment of a service’s community insiders. But the bottom line is that FriendFeed is a business that needs money to survive. Anyone who assumed that the site would exist as is in perpetuity needs to sign up for Economics 101 at your local community college. FriendFeed is an ingenious technology with a super-smart team that deserves to be seen and utilized by a much larger audience. Congratulations you guys – very well deserved. I can’t wait to see how far you go in Facebook.

–Marco Arment, Tumblr developer and Instapaper creator, took on Jason Calacanis this week, dissecting Calacanis’ I’ve-Decided-to-Hate-Apple post, picking apart the vast amount of circular, confusing and sometimes preposterous reasoning. There may have been a sound point or two in Calacanis’ post but those were overshadowed by his suggestion that we should activate multiple wireless services for one phone. Rather than defending his assertions, Calacanis instead “zinged” Marco by saying he needed a Wikipedia page and ending with a “for realz.” The really fun part? Jason did this on his personal Tumblr page.

–In related news, a Pear Analytics study found that 40% of Twitter updates are “pointless babble.”

Apps on the Radar

–Customers of USAA Bank will soon be able to deposit checks via iPhone, by taking a photograph of the front and back of the check. The actual check never even needs to be submitted. USAA is a small bank but their customers are primarily military personnel so they’re smartly adapting to fit client needs. Tech companies should take heed.

-AppsFire hasn’t been approved by iTunes yet but I’m hoping they jump on it. The iPhone app allows users to share favorite apps via email, something I’m surprised Apple didn’t come up with to begin with.

Tweet of the Week

–I fully admit to lifting this from the top slot on tweetingtoohard. But can you blame me? “I swear to g-d I can’t relate to most of society. I’m on a whole different level of consciousness.Its all so [censored] obvious. Wake the [censored] up.” – Loren Feldman

Wow. I need a shower after writing this one. Happy weekend, all.

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The Value of The Experience

Tomorrow morning, I’ll open the DEMO Conference with my semi-annual observations on the state of the information technology market. (We’ll post it here just after 8:30am.) One point I’ll touch on is the importance of the total customer experience with a product, a site, a brand, and/or a company. It’s my belief that those companies that provide a complete experience will profit most richly.

(In fact, I made this argument more than a year ago in a DEMOletter column, suggesting that the mobile operator that focuses on customer experience rather than minute plans will take the market lead. I am not, of course, holding my breath on that one.)

A case in point was brought to my attention by Rick Schutte, COO of New York money management firm Galleon Management and a long-time hardware analyst. Rick made the observation that had Apple charged a $10 entrance fee to its 200 Apple Stores, the company would have generated an incremental operating profit of $1 Billion in 2007.

Apple had more than 100 million customers visiting its 200 stores in 2007. Had the security guard at the door charged $10 per entrant at no incremental expense, Apple would have generated an incremental $1B in operating profit in 2007. Apple stores generate highly valuable traffic, even without the cover charge. Rick pointed me to a Sanford Berstein report that says Apple stores generate five times the sales per square foot than BestBuy, the leading electronics retailer. At nearly $4,500 in sales per square foot, Apple stores out-perform luxury retailers including Tiffany ($2,746) and Coach ($1,648). BestBuy rings up $929 per square foot, by the way.

All those Apple store shoppers have other options when it comes to acquiring their Apple gear. But the experience of browsing an Apple store, talking with staff at the Genius Bar, and laying hands on the latest Apple products builds a strong bond between Apple and its “faithful.”

Are Apple products better than those from other vendors? It’s an arguable point. But there is no question: the Apple experience far outstrips any other technology, mobile phone, or consumer electronics provider. And as such, Apple is the vanguard of the new experience economy.