Archive for the ‘Mobile’ Category

What if you could send people to your web site simply by getting them to point their smartphone at an image?

Well, you can. The images are quick response codes, or QR codes, and they look like this:

They can be put any where and can make smartphones take pretty much any action they’re capable of. Wikipedia says it best:
“QR Codes storing addresses and URLs may appear in magazines, on signs, buses, business cards, or on just about any object about which users might need information. Users with a camera phone equipped with the correct reader application can scan the image of the QR Code to display text, contact information, connect to a wireless network, or open a web page in the phone’s browser.”

The scanning happens automatically as soon as the person points the phone at the code. No need to press a button. No need to enter a URL. It’s simple and, in the age of Twitter simplicity, this is gold. The easier something is, the more likely people are to do it – just look at the success of Amazon’s 1-Click buying.

Now, there is one catch. Right now, people can’t just take a picture with their phone’s built-in camera. They have to install a code reader app like BeeTagg that uses the phone’s camera to scan the code (some Android-based and Nokia phones come with built-in readers).

That said, most people with smartphones know how to download apps and the readers are very easy to use. There are free QR code generating sites to make your own codes. The one I used let me create codes that send people to web sites, send text messages to the number of your choice, dial a number or display a message.

All the example codes that I got to work took me to websites. However, considering codes can make smartphones do anything, the question is: what would you like people to do that a QR code could do for them?

The organisations that start using QR codes now will find themselves way ahead of their competition. Will your organisation be out front or playing catch up?

ps. Want to try scanning a code? Download the BeeTagg or other QR reader app and point the scanner at the code above.

With the number of Canadians with smartphones on the rise, organizations have to ask: do we need a mobile site? If the answer is yes, then the next question is: what makes a good mobile site?

I’ve just begun to explore this so don’t claim to be an expert by any means but offer the following suggestions:

1) Make your site easy to find. It doesn’t matter how great your content is if people can’t find it. This is particularly important if your mobile site is in addition to your regular site as people will be used to going to your existing site. So make sure your mobile site has a “sniffer” that makes sure people searching for your site with a mobile device get your mobile site.

2) Lean and mean content – Those screens are small so be ruthless with your choice of content. Stick to four or five key subjects.

3) Provide content specifically designed for mobile users – In addition to limiting what you put in, also put in what mobile users want. The first two choices on the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) mobile site are Pack Smart and Carry-on Baggage. There are only six choices in all. The Public Health Agency of Canada’s site has only three choices: News Updates, Travel Health Notices and Media Room.

4) Compatible with multiple platforms – Make sure your site looks equally good whether people are seeing it on their iPhone, Blackberry or Android device.

5)  Option to switch to full site – People may still want access to your full site to get information not available on your mobile site so make it easy for them.

These are the basics as I see them. Please tell me if you have some to add to the list or if you think the ones I have are off.

ps. For some more technical suggestions on what makes a good mobile site check out this post from Ask Steve.

Forgive me for posting this so far after Remembrance Day but I still wanted to get it out there.

Veteran’s Affairs Canada created an iPhone app called We Remember for this year’s Remembrance Day and it’s great for four reasons: it’s simple, it’s attractive,  it’s free and it works.

It’s simple because it doesn’t try to pack too much in.  The home screen is a Remembrance Day signature red poppy with four actions you can take: Attend an Event; Watch a Video, Facebook Wall (one assumes this means, “write on” the Wall) and Learn More. That’s it.

It’s attractive partly because it’s simple which makes it uncluttered. Plus, the nice red poppy as the central image and the funky font used for the text, “How Will You Remember?” just looks good.

It works because when you click, “Watch a Video”, it takes you to  a list of videos and when you click one, it goes to landing page for that video. Clicking the Play button plays the video in a YouTube window almost immediately. This worked for every video I tried.

Clicking, “Attend an Event” launches Google Maps that uses the iPhone’s GPS feature to give you a list of events near you (there’s nothing in there now as the events are all done). Clicking one in the list gave you the event details.

Finally, “Learn More” takes you to a screen that has links to:

  • the Veteran’s Affairs web site;
  • a Share page that let’s you share the app via email, Twitter or Facebook;
  • Remembrance Day wallpaper; and
  • the Remembrance Day signature poem, In Flanders Fields.

The drawbacks are:

  • no Feedback or Comment capability.
  • No social location integration that would let people check in with friends at events (like Foursquare).

But other than that, it’s pretty nice and definitely has a lot to be modeled if your organization is thinking of creating its own iPhone app.

And, on that note, does your organization have its own iPhone app or app for some other platform? If so, how successful has it been at achieving the goals you set?

The mobile social tsunami continues to build. The latest indication being this week’s interview with Pete Cashmore, founder and CEO of the super popular social media blog, Mashable. The interview was done by financial giant, Bloomberg, at this year’s South By Southwest interactive conference – the mother of all social media conferences held annually in Austin, Texas. If it’s launched (as the mobile social network Foursquare was last year), at SXSW (the conference’s Twitter hashtag), it’s going to be big – at least for a little while…with social media early adopters. Cashmore said the hot topic this year was the “faceoff” between Foursquare and competitor Gowalla (seems Gowalla won as it beat out Foursquare for the Best Mobile Site award). When asked how businesses could monitise “lo- so” apps (location social), Cashmore said Foursquare already has deals with companies allowing them to offer free stuff to people who check in near one of their locations (a bar offering a free drink to someone checking in somewhere near by bar for example). This got me thinking about the various deals I’ve heard Foursquare has signed with companies in its attempt to monetise its growing network. In the last couple of months I’ve heard about Foursquare deals with:

* Metro local daily papers to deliver local news to people relevant to places where they check in.

* Bravo! Television to provide special badges to people checking in at locations related to Bravo! TV shows.

*New York Times – In conjunction with the Winter Olympics, The Times offered tips to Foursquare users on restaurants, attractions, shopping and nightlife in Vancouver, Whistler and the nearby town of Squamish. The tips were pulled from The Times’s travel and entertainment coverage. Foursquare users who checked in at one of the suggested venues earned a New York Times Olympics badge.
Does mobile social media fit your objectives and strategy? If so, get going by checking out these great 9 Killer Tips for Location-Based Marketing in this Mashable article by Shane Snow and please leave a comment about what you’re up to.

If I ever wanted an excellent example of a project that demonstrates putting strategy and objectives before tactics this is it.
Grameen’s AppLab works with Africans to deeply understand their information challenges and develops mobile phone applications to meet those challenges. Some of the apps they have developed include:
* the Farmer’s Friend app that gives farmers tips on how to make things like pesticides from local materials instead of buying them, saving some of them enough money to buy land;
* an app to provide people with info on HIV and AIDS – information that many are reluctant to get in person; and
* an app that tells farmers the market value of their crop so they can challenge middle men who try to price gouge them.
No “social media experts” here telling farmers they need to be on Twitter and Facebook “because everyone else is”.
This is listening, learning and recommending appropriate solutions.

Oh yeah, and it’s co-sponsored by Uganda’s leading telecommunications company, MTN and another little company called Google.

Have you got a story about how appropriate use of technology is making a difference? If so, please leave a commment.

Check out a video about AppLab.

Mobile moment #1

Author: Robin Browne

I just experienced another example of the value of smart phones – this time, as a learning tool.
While biking with my 5-yr-old to school this mornig, we passed an embassy (of which there are lots in Ottawa). On the lawn was this flag:

My kid asked: what country is that from? When we got to his school I pulled out my iPhone and Googled “flag with yellow on bottom and blue on top” and the first result was the Wikipedia entry about the flag of the Ukraine.
Problem solved. Daddy and munchkin smarter. Bonding moment. Oh, and then to top it off, I did this blog post on my iPhone. That’s value.
Do you have a story to share about the value of your smart phone? Please share by leaving a comment.

One of the most important uses for my iPhone at work is to get things done despite the IT security firewall. I’ll explain.
Part of what I do at work is explore new social media tools. That involves signing up for new tools and services that are often in the beta testing phase and may not be around for long. For these kinds of things I prefer to sign up using my personal email rather than work. But, because my personal email (Gmail in my case) is blocked at work, I would have to wait to go home to sign up for such things. Enter iPhone. With my iPhone at my side, I sign up using my work computer but entering my personal email. I then simply access my personal email on my iPhone to click the activation email that most new services send you to activate your account. I can then access the activated tool from work. This is a huge time saver and yet another reason why everyone will have a smartphone as soon as they make them more affordable. What’s your strategy?

Just got back from Podcamp Toronto 2010 which was a great event once again. Like last year I facilitated a discussion on mobile social media and wanted to get that up. I’ll do a longer #pcto2010 blog post later this week.


Why you need a smart phone: Part 1

Author: Robin Browne

This is a new post series aimed at showing the many uses of smartphones that will lead to everyone having one within the next one to two years.
On my way to Podcamp Toronto I used my iPhone to do the following:
* check in at, and add places in Foursquare and Gowalla.
* check gmail
* check out Podcamp T.O. tweets from Podcamp Toronto attendees, and only those, labelled #pcto2010 using TweetDeck
* listen to music
* check T.O. weather
* use Maps to find out how far the bus station is from where I’m staying
* use it as a flashlight so I didn’t have to turn on lights at my friends’ place who have a young child with sleep issues
* use the alarm clock feature to wake me up from a well deserved nap that I will now take!

For weeks I’ve been trying to figure out how to tag places in the new mobile social network FoursquareTags are labels that you give to content on the net, like tagging a picture of you and the family “cottage” or “summer09” or tagging a blog post about skateboarding tricks “skateboard: or “rad”. The tags may or not be visible on the page – but that’s not what’s important. What’s important is that they’re visible to search engines like Google.

My interest in tagging places in Foursquare was the tags being visible to Foursquare’s search engine. 

Here’s a concrete example of why this matters….

I was at a local Bridgehead coffee shop that sells only fair trade, organic teas and coffees.  I searched for “Bridgehead” on the Foursquare website, found it and tagged it “fair trade” and “fairtrade” (never know how people will spell it). Now when someone near that Bridgehead searches for “fair trade” in Foursquare that Bridgehead shows up. Before I tagged it it wouldn’t.

This is the power of location-aware mobile – especially for impulse based products like food. When someone wants it, they search for it and find the nearest place to get it.

Here’s what the Foursquare page with the tagging feature looks like:

Tag – you’re it.