Mobile is a verb

I recently posed a simple question to a twenty something and her answers revealed some interesting trends in the mobile economy. I gave her a hypothetical situation where while shopping at the mall, she would be asking for advice from her friends on a purchase. The question was simple: how would you request and receive that advice? Would she use SMS, iMessage, Facebook or a specialized application made for that purpose?

Her answer was immediate, she would use Snapchat. When I asked why, her answer was because it’s the easiest way to send and receive messages with pictures. As we talked and I dug a little deeper about what made an application “easy”, some key elements to a successful mobile experience emerged.

Convenience was a huge driver for her. Snapchat was easy because it was the quickest way for her to send this message. It took the least number of actions to get the task accomplished: snap, message, address. As we talked however it became clear that it was more than just a matter of having an app engineered with better time and motion characteristics. It had more to do with maintaining her flow.

She sent and received snaps all day long. It was just part of the way she maintained a constant level interaction with her friends. So easy to her was really what kept her in her constant communication stream, allowing her to flow from one quick interaction to the next in the most non-intrusive manner.

This maintenance of flow is now the fundamental characteristic of the mobile experience and a clear break from the more web centric model of interaction we’ve had in the past. Google search is the classic web experience. A solitary seeker poses a question and a series of links appear. The seeker is in control and moves from link to link at their own pace gathering information. It’s isolated and synchronous. There really is no flow as it’s a completely serial operation. It all about the nouns, the topics we are looking for.

While the mobile app experience started with this same information gathering model, the weather app a prime example, the current experience is fundamentally different. It is intrinsically interrupt driven and social. Ad hoc communication and community is at its core. As we saw, Snapchat was the choice for her because she is in the flow of sending and receiving messages all day long. So it was natural for her to use Snapchat for this use case. It was simply another interaction for her.

Mobile has now become a verb. It’s not about the information we’re seeking, it’s about the communal activity and experiences we are having. Mobile has become this constant activity of communication, of stimulus and response, shared experience across a community.

Mobile touches something primal within us at a level that the serial web experience cannot. We’ve moved from information explorers to experience hunter gathers and like hunter gatherers, we are constantly forging for the next experience. It’s no wonder we are now “always on our phones.” These applications extend and enrich our experience as never before.

Our ever-present and always connected mobile platforms are moving us to a more interrupt driven, multi-tasking way of conducting ourselves. While mobile voice initiated this trend, SMS and now application notifications have exponentially increased this mode of operation. More and more of our interactions are short asynchronous communications. This leads to a sort of “quantum theory of experience” where we interact in small discrete and often disparate units of communication. Any application that reduces interaction friction and helps the user effectively multi-task has intrinsic value to the user.

So given that mobile is a verb, what are the characteristics of applications that enhance that experience?

First they have to be seamless, allowing the end user to quickly move from interaction to interaction. User interfaces have to be simple and intuitive. For example, iOS 8 is making this easier at a platform level with App Extensions, a way for apps to seamlessly share functions and keep the user experience simple and focused.

Second, apps need to do one thing and do that well. Find your verb. Again, Snapchat is the perfect example of that. Make your action, your verb, straightforward and focused. Allow the user to “dip” into your function and then quickly and easily jump back. Don’t clutter your app with too many functions are actions.

You see this trend at work in the changes that Facebook is making. Instead of a giant single blue app that does everything, Facebook is moving to a constellation of applications. While they share data and services on the backend, the apps themselves are moving to a more single purpose model.

We see this trend everywhere today with “on-demand” applications that provide services to the mobile consumer. You want a meal, in just a few clicks Spoonrocket will have it there. How about a ride?, Uber has you covered. Going out, Care.com can get you a baby sitter. You can now even talk to a Doctor on demand when you are ill, Dr on Demand.

Third, use notifications effectively. Notifications when designed correctly fit in perfectly with the async, interrupt driven model. When a notification leads to a single purpose action that can be quickly performed, it maintains the communication flow. However one that leads to a complex and time consuming set of actions will be seen as “intrusive” by the end user. They need to be timely and quick in line with the quantum theory of mobile experience.

Fourth, make it conversational. Apps are no longer solitary experiences. They always have a community setting. Find ways to leverage that so the users community benefits as well. Even informational applications can make use of this. Flipboard is a great example of that where news is now social and bundled in beautiful shared magazines. In a sense, Siri and Google Now are examples of how information search has become conversational, context aware, and seamlessly integrated with the async, conversational mobile experience.

Last, go with the flow and make it fun and entertaining. Venmo is an interesting application of this. Venmo makes it easy to make small payments, really popular with college students. My twenty something highlighted for me however there is sort of an entertainment value to this. When she and her friends use it, they attach funny messages to the payments. So in addition to the purpose of payments, there is an entertainment and social dimension to the application. Remember as we forage for these experiences, ones that are entertaining as well as informative will be ones that we pay attention to.

Mobile has become a verb. To be successful, applications need to think of themselves as verbs as well, an integrated part of the consumers constant dance of communications and interaction. Apps that join the dance and bring real value will be a success with the new mobile hunter gatherer.

New Night Gilmmer Giveaway

Here’s a great giveaway for Night Glimmer. Check out all the titles.
http://bookreviewclub.blogspot.com/2012/06/500-follower-giveaway.html

Great Review of Night Glimmer

Another great review of night glimmer was just posted by S.M. Boyce.

You can find it here: Review

New Review of Night Glimmer plus Book Give Away

Laurie published a great review of Night Glimmer. You can read it here Review.

There is also an interview with me along with an excerpt from the book. You can sign up for a Book Give away too!

Would love to get your comments.

 

Great review of Night Glimmer at Night Owl Reviews

Laurie-J at Night Owl Reviews just published a review of Night Glimmer. Here is a small excerpt:

Aiden is a rare being, born half vampire, half witch; his supernatural powers were suppressed by means of a complicated spell for his safety and the safety of others when he was just a few days old. When he turns nineteen, the suppression spell finally dissipates, and Aiden discovers that he is a possible lynchpin in an ongoing battle that has raged for eons. Then he meets Tess, a human unlike any he has ever known, and Aiden realizes that no challenge is too great when it comes to protecting Tess and ensuring her safety.

This story began extremely well. It hooked me quickly. Aiden is a fantastically likeable hero who is lucky to have an extended family both supportive and protective of him. I always enjoy the idea of a hidden supernatural society and this story is no exception to that.

Read the rest of the review at Night Owl Reviews

Creativity Junkie

“Sing in me, Muse, and through me tell the story
of that man skilled in all ways of contending,
the wanderer, harried for years on end,
after he plundered the stronghold
on the proud height of Troy.”

-Homer, the Odyssey

If you are reading this chances are you, like me are a Creativity Junkie. By this I mean we are addicted to our craft. Art and the act of creation is as important to us as the air we breath, the wine we drink, the food we eat. At times our craft can be all consuming and we know like we know our own hands that we could not live without it.

How else can you explain the fact that in the face of our worst disappointments: the bad reviews, the book rejections, the rehearsals that make you just want to die, the odd looks when people find out what we do, that even in the midst of this, we keep on working. We sacrifice our time, our money, sometimes even our relationships, all on the altar of Art.

It doesn’t matter what kind of creativity it is. It can be painting, photography, writing or music. It can be crafts. It can even be computer programming. In any of these we labor, in both senses of the word, to bring some new thing, some novelty into the world. It’s not really the end that matters, it’s the process. It’s how and what we feel while we are working.

But why?

The answer is simple. It’s right there in the opening lines of the Odyssey. Homer knew as all the poets do. We work our craft it because in this act, in opening ourselves to some inner well of creativity and imagination, we touch something transcendent, something divine. Through us the gods sing and we participate in their act of creation. We are more alive in this effort than in anything else we do. That reach where we touch the face of God is what keeps us going.

It’s not just the west that understands this. See this poem by the Zen Poet Basho.

“Awakened at midnight
by the sound of the water jar
cracking from the ice”

The simplest act of nature is infused with the divine, waiting to awaken us to some transcendence that is yet right in front of us.

Philosophers know this too. In fact, Alfred North Whitehead thought the universe itself was made of creativity. It’s the stuff of the cosmos. The whole world, including our lives, is nothing but a process of novelty breaking into time. This is no more true than in our acts of bringing beauty and art into the world.

So next time you are discouraged, disheartened by some setback, remember this. That in the practice of your craft, no matter its form or outcome, you are participating in the very act of divine creation, of the gods coming back into the world.

Sing in me, Muse. What a rush.

Solstice

As winter draws near, it is a perfect time for a bit of reflection on the winter solstice. In modern times, this day often goes by completely unnoticed. Most could not tell you the date of the solstice even if they know what the day means. We are so caught up in the other holidays that fall around this time of year, the solstice slips by like a owl at night, silent and unseen.

This is largely the result of our recent immunity from nature’s rhythms. Our homes with their thermostats keep us warm against the cold, electricity provides light even in the depths of night, our cars in most cases make the snow irrelevant. For most of us this time of the year only slightly affects our work and home life.

This was most assuredly not the case for our northern ancestors. For them the winter solstice was in many ways the most important of holidays. Winter for them was an all consuming affair. Keeping warm was a struggle. The days were short so time for work was reduced. If you were not well prepared, winter was not just an inconvenience, it could be deadly. For them winter was serious business.

Just imagine. The harvest has come and gone. The fields are bare and each day is now shorter than the one before. The nights are long and cold. Snow blankets the world. The rivers and creeks are frozen. Easy travel is now difficult and hard journeys impossible. Isolation becomes the norm.

The sun is low on the horizon. Its rays have lost their warmth and its light seems feeble against the advancing night. It seems as if the night and ice have vanquished the light giver all together. Will the world be plunged forever into the gloom? Will the fields never see green again? Will the game ever return?

Of course today these questions seem foolish to us. The sun has not changed, the Earth simply tilted and in its normal course around the sun, warm weather will return.

But to our ancestors without the benefit of modern astrophysics, these questions were terrifying. What if winter never ended?

But then as if by miracle a day came, a special day when the sun began to rise higher, a day that marked each day becoming longer. This day held the promise of Spring, when green would return to the world. Even though the nights were still long and cold, you knew that light and warmth would come back. That the fields would blossom again and the game would return.

So this day was celebrated. Fire was made against the darkness as if to remind it that its triumph was temporary. That light and life would push back the night and ice.

The promise of that special day made winter less menacing. It allowed our ancestors to see the hidden charms of winter, safe in the knowledge that Spring would come. Isolation did not lead to despair but to reflection, to a special bond with family and neighbors upon whom we both depended and assisted. The hardships of winter were but the birth pains of spring, preparing us for more life.

So solstice was a magical time. A time of reflection, of hope, and of promise. A time to celebrate life and light.

And even today, so removed from these cares, immune to winters hardships, somewhere in those forgotten backwaters of our subconscious we hear an quiet echo of that life. Against the long nights, as if by reflex, we bring special lights into our homes. We hang green and red, the colors of life, against the cold and dark. We light fires and make merry. All as if to laugh in the face of winter, to say to the cold and ice and darkness, I know you. I know you are temporary. We will see the green again.

So maybe we don’t know the holiday. Perhaps we don’t remember the date. But somewhere, deep inside, we remember.

So take consolation in the solstice. Make merry. Bring in the lights. Burn the yule log for the dark and cold even with its own charm, will give way to the green. Life always finds a way.