July 6, 2011

Agile businesses don’t predict, they respond

It’s easier to be flexible today with access to real-time data

David SparkHere’s some of my coverage from the Future of Web Apps in Las Vegas. I was covering the event for Dice and Intertainment Media.

As much as you plan, as much data you collect and analyze, and as much as you predict, you never can be 100 percent correct. Heck, you’ll probably be correct just a small fraction of the time. As more variables are out of your control are part of your business and solution, the less you can predict the future.

‘Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.’
— Mike Tyson

Instead of trying to predict the future, why not have a business and production model that can respond in real time, asked Tony Haile at the Future of Web Apps conference in Las Vegas. Haile is the general manager of Chartbeat, a real-time web monitoring application.

Don’t pour all your money and effort into trying to create better prediction models. Make the problem of an uncertain future not matter, Haile said, quoting Taiichi Ohno, the father of the Toyota Production System.

You can make the future not matter by being able to react quickly in real time. It’s possible to do this now with easy access to and filtering of real-time data.

Haile used the example of the clothing industry that has a six month production cycle from concept to being available in retail stores. The whole industry is trying to predict what people will be wearing in the future. That’s a costly process (research and analytics), and risky (they still have lots of misses, which means it costs a lot more).

Conversely, clothing manufacturer Zara realized the way to conquer this problem is to simply stop predicting and rather have a faster production timeline. They reduced their process from the industry standard of six months to 15 days. So they no longer have to spend money on predictions nor do they have to take gambles. They simply just look at what people are wearing, and produce that.

Monitoring real-time data is a great idea, but you actually need to have a production plan in process to actually take advantage of it. Real time data isn’t worth a damn if you can’t respond in real time, said Hale.

Personally, I’ve seen way too many companies have this chain of command for any kinds of communications. For certain industries, like securities, there are rules and regulations that prevent quick responses without official reviews. If you’re in a non-review-required industry, not a self-imposed-review company, then you must have a real-time response plan in place. You do that by giving your staff the authority and responsibility for making decisions in real time for themselves.

As Mike Tyson said once, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.”

Don’t predict. Simply have a better system to respond.

September 29, 2010

YourVersion: Building recommendations through implicit & explicit behavior

Can you game the system?

David SparkI’m at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference reporting for Yammer.

Dan Olsen is the CEO and co-founder of YourVersion, which Olsen describes as Pandora for real-time web content. Just as you tell Pandora about what music you like, with YourVersion you tell them about what kind of information you like. And in both cases the applications respectively serve up music and news/real-time content to your desktop.

YourVersion launched last year at TechCrunch Disrupt and won the people’s choice award. Olsen is back now mostly showing off their iPad application. Given that the device is mostly for consumption, it’s really a natural for a YourVersion application.

I talked with Olsen about people gaming the system for these recommendation and social bookmarking applications such as Digg. Olsen said that depends on implicit vs. explicit tracking and how you’re measuring. Clicking to read an article is implicit. Retweeting an article is explicit. Olsen said they’re tracking both behaviors, but weighted more to implicit data, which is considerably harder to game.

Another aspect that Olsen measures with YourVersion is historical credit. For example, if Engadget publishes an article about the iPad and has historically had popular “iPad” articles, then YourVersion will give it a little showcasing credit. After that they’ll let the audience vote the article up and down implicitly and explicitly. Continue reading

March 15, 2010

Real-time web dictates change in industries

With serendipity and humanity we’re able to connect people’s digital souls

David SparkAt SXSW, I bumped into Jeff Pulver and asked him to talk about his passion around his 140 Conference. It’s not a conference about Twitter. It’s a conference about how the real-time conversations are motivating behaviors and telling industries what they can and can’t do. Jeff Pulver is insanely passionate, and he gives a fantastic rant on how the speed of real-time information is changing all ecosystems.

Watch the video over on Tweetshare. This is one of many videos I’ve been shooting for Tweetshare at SXSW. Browse through the entire SXSW collection. And please also read my report (if you haven’t already) “Search and discovery of the real-time web.”

January 18, 2010

ICQ launches all-in-one social network tool

ICQ7 introduces a way to manage social messaging across networks

icq-logoAyelet NoffIf we look back in history , we will find that much before Facebook, MySpace and YouTube, there was ICQ. For anyone who doesn’t know, ICQ was created in 1996 and is now wholly owned by AOL. Back in the day, ICQ was the pioneer of social media and real time updates. It introduced us to instant messaging and a revolutionary new way to communicate with people instantly in real time.

ICQ could have been a sort of Facebook or Twitter a long time ago. It’s taken ICQ quite a long time to get back to its status as a social pioneer, but now with its new client software, ICQ is getting back to what it was about all the way from the beginning: a place to interact with your friends everywhere. “Everybody Everywhere” is, after all, ICQ’s slogan, and being an ICQ veteran myself, I am very excited to announce the launch of the new ICQ 7. Continue reading