Category Archives: vision

idiomag – a missed opportunity

Idiomag’s value proposition is great: A daily personalized music magazine. Unfortunately they take it too literally.

I signed up in January 2007 and have been to the site only about 10 times since, typically as a result of an email notification that new content is available. These notifications seem to come in spurts. Sometimes I get one every day for a few days in a row. And then nothing for weeks.

2 days ago I received an email that promised new content on Dinosaur jr, Jeff Buckley, Radiohead, Nada Surf. Awesome! I click through but can’t find any of this content. Instead I find Hot Hot Heat and a History Channel ad. Yesterday the email promised Radiohead, Nada Surf, Weezer, Kasabian. Again, the content of the “magazine” didn’t match. We Are Scientists just isn’t Radiohead. And I couldn’t figure out how I would get to the content I came for.

The idea is great but the execution sucks. The virtual magazine does indeed look like a real magazine (except for the videos). Nice layout, glossy look and you can even flip the pages, all done in Flash. Unfortunately this interaction model doesn’t really work on the Web.

How to fix it

Idiomag has good content but makes it really hard to access and share. They have built in sharing functionality but it’s really hard to discover. They will have to drop the magazine-style if they want to become successful.

I would publish the same content (including all the meta data/tags) in an invisible blog. Expose the main genres as their own page/blog (basically a tag search on the main blog). The same recommendation/matching engine can still act in the back and produce a customized main page based on tags and meta data. Users would still have their personalized content but in a form that is easier to consume. I could then subscribe to my personalized RSS feed and go check out the full rich-media blog whenever I feel like it. Enable comments and ratings and even suggest new things based on what similar users find interesting. And all of a sudden sharing is easy through simple linking.

But what about the widgets

Idiomag is available as widget for an impressive amount of sites. I just added the one for Facebook and suddenly I do see Dinosaur jr, Nada Surf and Hard Fi. At least a partial match. However it doesn’t seem to play very nicely with the new Facebook design. Widgets are great for distribution but Idiomag has to fix their main site first. And please make the edit Interests easier too. Thanks.



When the ‘social context’ becomes ubiquitous

I start seeing more articles that emphasize the social¬† ‘features’ over the social ‘network’ (also see my post Increasing relevance by adding social networking features). This video on FriendConnect shows some examples and makes the difference more obvious.

I love Nova Spivack’s comparison to cars and how the choice of a Social Network will come down to personal preference (ultimately determined by brand). For this to happen the Social Networks will have to open up and support a common base feature set. This is already happening today but will accelerate. I’m convinced that soon most of our online activity will be aware of our friends and that ‘social context’ will lead to a more relevant user experience:

  • Amazon book and NetFlix movie suggestions based on what your friends like
  • Craiglist and ebay items from friends of friends
  • Search results ranking enhanced by sites friends clicked on
  • Yelp reviews and ratings from friends rather than 200 strangers
  • News that your friends have read

Things to think about:

  • ‘Friend’ is probably to strong a term. What are better terms? How will this evolve over time?
  • ‘Soocial context’ brings trust. Trust brings economic opportunities.
  • How can the 2nd and 3rd degree be used especially on commercial sites (LinkedIn is already using this)?
  • When will large retail sites grasp the concept and what kind of opportunities will arise?

And the big question is:  How can the Social Networks be open (interop) and closed (privacy) at the same time?

Product Design — Think 5 Years Ahead And Create Stepping Stones

Interesting idea found in BusinessWeek’s article “Staying Cool At Nokia” (paraphrased):

Think 5 years out and create stepping stones to the future.

Curtis refers to mobile phones but this can also be applied to web based products. The idea is not revolutionary but reality shows how easy it is to get tied up in short term issues (bugs, insignificant features, etc.). It’s important to have a long term vision for a product and stick to a plan on how to get there even if this means dropping some short term wins.

In fact, a lot of users are averse to change. Radical changes are refused without evening considering the advantages of the new version. Big changes can only be achieved through step by step changes. A nice side effect is that users get trained to accept change evolution.