The internet ain’t what it was in 2004 and on the tenth anniversary of Web Directions, the conference organisers are taking the time to remember just how far it’s come. “When we started Web Directions, we were just looking at ‘the web’, but now it’s the foundation for almost everything,” says Web Directions co-founder John Allsopp. “It’s powering major financial institutions.” The conference has two tracks, engineering and product, and its status as one of Australia’s premiere web events is highlighted by some of the big local and international names Allsopp and fellow Web Directions founder Maxine Sherrin have managed to attract. Genevieve Bell, Intel Fellow and vice president of Intel Labs, as well as director of User Experience Research at Intel Corporation, is delivering a keynote. Bell leads a team of social scientists, interaction designers, human factors engineers and computer scientists focused on people's needs and desires to help shape new Intel products and technologies. On the product side, Douglas Bowman, who just recently left Twittier as its creative director, is one of the big names they’ve managed to attract. Also on the product line-up is Scott Thomas, who famously worked on the Obama campaign, but also for the likes of Fast Company, Apple, IBM, HP, Nike, Patagonia, Levis, the Alliance for Climate Protection, and Craigslist. Younghee Jung from Nokia’s corporate research team, focusing on enablers of social development through mobile technology, will also be speaking at the conference. On the engineering side, Bill Scott, senior director of business engineering at PayPal, will be speaking, along with Railsbridge founder Sarah Mei and Jake Archibald who works in Google Chrome's developer relations team. Allsopp says he feels the calibre of speakers makes it the best line-up they’ve had and competitive on an international level. “These are world class speakers by anyone’s standard,” he says. This year also means a change of venue, moving from the Convention Centre to the Seymour Centre. “It’s got a good vibe and it’s both edgy and accessible, which makes sense for us,” Allsopp says. Allsopp says they’ve always advocated the benefit for teams and individuals to get out of the office and become rejuvenated by immersing yourself in the amazing work so many in the industry are doing. “We want to create that feeling when you can’t wait to get back to work because you’re just pumped with ideas,” he says. “For a lot of people who come from all over Australia, it’s the one chance in a year to catch up with people in the industry.” The full program can be found here.
If you thought that self-tracking and the collection of personal health and fitness metrics was just a fad then an announcement last week by Apple CEO Tim Cook at the annual Apple Worldwide Developers Conference might suggest otherwise. A Health app and a developer tool named HealthKit, which is designed to serve as a hub to allow various health apps and fitness tracking devices to “talk” to one another, have been included in iOS 8. But are these “new” developments from Apple really all that new – and do they indicate that matching hardware in the form of wearables is next on Apple’s launch list? What Apple and partners such as the Mayo Clinic envisage is, for example, an app that monitors heart rate, blood pressure, blood sugar or cholesterol. It would then be able to seamlessly share data with a hospital app or directly with healthcare professionals. Building a technical infrastructure to develop health apps, or to enable the sharing of information between various third party apps, is an ambitious task. Both Microsoft and Samsung are already entering the field of wearables with announcements of plans to release smart watches. Apple’s latest offering adds to the speculation of the long awaited iWatch with reports in could be released as soon as October. Meanwhile the latest advertisement (below) for the iPhone 5S shows people using a variety of wearable products already on the market. The benefits of aggregating health and fitness data in this way are fairly clear in terms of how medical histories will be taken, how they are shared and the aggregation of personal data. It should provide better experience for those who use personal metrics in various aspect of their daily lives. What’s in a brand name? Some of the celebratory hype around HealthKit was overshadowed by an Australian start up which took Apple to task for using the same name of their practice and patient management software. In a blog post the Melbourne-based company was both flattered and annoyed that Apple had used its established brand name: They didn’t feel that they had to do a quick domain search – it would have taken 5 seconds to type www.healthkit.com into their browser and discover us. Would it have made any difference to them? Are they so big that they are above doing an ordinary Google search? We might also wonder what other issues Apple’s health data aggregation system might face beyond this naming fiasco. When a user opens any of Apple’s HealthKit enabled apps the information they produce will be housed in database and is immutable and read-only. What this means for developers is that apps can be developed which can collect and analyse this data in a variety of pre-determined ways. Permissions and privacy This highlights a range of problems that are likely to implicate and frustrate users, health care professionals and administrators. Naturally issues of privacy are likely to be significant factor in how well Apple’s health apps actually work. Developers will need to seek end-user permissions to collect data on their behalf when they build Apple’s HealthKit into their apps, which means spelling out exactly which permissions they are seeking. Given the whole logic of HealthKit assumes, to some degree, an interoperability between applications and datasets, it would be fair to suggest that there are likely to be gaps between what the technical capacities and outcomes for end-users. Take for instance an app that has been designed to use a measurement from one device and ignore data on that same variable from another device. Or a user may grant access to a third party app to their pedometer data but this might not mean that the same app has the permissions to access other variables to produce meaningful data (such as location, heart rate, age, weight or gender). Not so healthy competition Vendors operating in this market will compete not only at the level of the brand but also at the level of components, algorithm and databases. An app might use Nike Fuel Band data over Fitbit when it takes calorie data to make some or another secondary calculation based on that data. Organisations such as Microsoft are also partnering with developers who are designing apps available for medical practitioners to use in telemedicine and the consulting room. This tethering of devices and data to proprietary platforms (Apple vs Microsoft) means that patients and doctors might need to use a certain product and patients might be restricted in terms of what systems they can use to track their health. The trade-off of openness to get systems to market quickly is going to make attracting users and developers difficult and makes Apple’s (and others) vision of health data aggregation far less attractive or whole. Suneel Jethani is a PhD candidate and lecturer in the media and communications program in the school of culture and communication at the University of Melbourne. This story was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article.
As Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) winds up in San Francisco today, 1,000 Apple engineers and 5,000 developers will return to their parts of the world armed with Apple’s own programming language. In his keynote on Monday, Apple CEO Tim Cook unveiled – among other new developments – programming language Swift and claimed it to be a significantly faster code for development across iOS and OSX. Apple is the latest tech firm to produce their own programming language (Google and Microsoft also have their own languages) and Swift can be used by Apple developers as of today with 677 pages of documentation available in the iBooks store. But why would a company want their own programing language – especially when existing, general purpose codes such as Objective-C and C have been successfully used for 20 years? So what’s so good about Swift? It pretty much comes down to speed. While Apple (and other companies) supply the hardware, developers ultimately bring the most utility value out of technologies. The faster developers can code, the more apps can be created. So let’s have a look at why Swift is the next big thing (and why developers should take the time to learn a new language, as it were): Swift is much easier to code with. Swift looks much “cleaner” than traditional code. In addition to getting rid of nested brackets and semicolons (which makes code look very complex and harder to maintain), programmers can now use inferred types, which means that variables and constants can be declared without necessarily specifying the data type. Developers can reduce debugging time over mundane and trivial errors (if you’re interested in the nitty-gritty, Swift manages unsafe codes by self-managing memory, preventing overflows – in arrays, for example – and properly handling nil objects). It also means that new developers can be spared the need to learn Objective-C’s complex and verbose syntaxes (but Swift will sit alongside existing Objective-C and C codes). Swift is fast and powerful. Fast programming is a key ingredient in Apple’s new hardware and software capabilities. Swift codes will be compiled using the same high-performance compiler, and it will be run natively to combine the best features from Objective-C and C. Based on the presentation in WWDC, we saw statistics showing complex algorithms can be run much faster than Objective-C. Swift supports “interactive playgrounds”. “Interactive playgrounds” allow developers to immediately see the results of changing codes and keep track of progress timelines. This is particularly useful for debugging complex loops, algorithms and animations. Speaking of new developments … As widely expected, Apple joins Google and Microsoft’s moves towards delivering health and home automation applications, as well as supporting stronger integration between native features (such as Siri and Notification View) and third-party apps and sensors. The Health app joins Samsung’s Gear Fit, Nike and Fitbit to bring health and fitness data, measured by mobile and wearable devices, into our palms. A new tool for developers called HealthKit adds to the standard activity, heart rate and diet measurements by allowing developers to create third-party apps and sensors to measure factors such as blood pressure and sleep patterns. Users can also create emergency cards with important health information such as allergies and blood types, accessible from the lock screen and emergency call screen. Another development tool – HomeKit – will let us control aspects of our homes (such as lights and temperature) using our phones. To enable natural interactions with our phone for home and health apps, iOS has evolved to allow Siri be hands free, similar to its Android counterpart Google Now. We could say: “Hey Siri, I’m ready for bed”, then the lights will automatically dim for sleep and the phone will go into “do not disturb” mode – perhaps even playing our favourite relaxing music. With the introduction of Swift, we can expect to see more apps than ever – truly building upon Apple’s 2007 slogan, “There’s an app for everything”. Dian Tjondronegoro is an Associate Professor of Mobile Multimedia at Queensland University of Technology. This story was originally published at The Conversation. Read the original article.
When it comes time to assess which e-commerce platform is right for your business, there are a few key questions to ask before looking at the options available. Are you currently using systems that can be utilised? If you’re currently setup and running a successful website or content management system (CMS) then it’s worth investigating if your existing technology can be extended to take advantage of e-commerce opportunities. Will you have resource capabilities? Are you flying solo or will you have access to development capabilities/resources as part of your team? You will need to feel comfortable operating the system you choose and if you have access to development resources make sure they are suited to the chosen platform. How many products do you need to sell? A practical overview of how many SKU’s your store is likely to be listing can help determine which shopping cart software is going to a better fit for your business. How complex will the product sets be? Some shopping cart systems do a better job of customising complex product listings than others. Researching this complexity and the need for customisation before choosing your shopping cart is paramount. What is your budget for the project? Budget is a relevant metric when choosing which shopping cart will be right for your business. If your budget is small an automated shopping cart system may be the wisest choice for your business. If your budget is larger you can engineer a shopping cart system that is customised to your business needs. Retail stores If you are also operating retail stores and want to integrate your shopping cart into your existing point of sale or warehouse system, then your choice might be made a little easier as systems might not have the support you require. Here’s a quick look at a couple of the common shopping cart systems you will likely come across in Australia and the types of businesses they’re typically suited to. Platforms Magento Founded in 2007 and acquired in 2011 by eBay for approximately $180 million, Magento is widely regarded as a leading enterprise level e-commerce platform. Although Magento is largely enterprise level software (annual licence fee for support), they do offer an Open Source community version (free) that thousands of retailers successfully deploy commercially. The main difference between the two versions being a lack of official support for the product within the Magento user community. Magento hosts a large marketplace of paid modules helping to enable rapid development of highly customised applications, however there is currently a large demand on developer resources in Australia meaning the costs to implement and customise Magento stores can be considerable. SUITS: Medium to large business PROS: Support available to enterprise clients. Lots of modules to customise the platform to your business needs. CONS: Resource hungry - requires advanced hosting techniques to scale which can prove costly on enterprise packages. COSTS: Free community version. Enterprise version starts at $15,500 per year. Developers in Australia are in short supply and can be costly. SITES: Nike, Converse, The Enabler Drupal Commerce Drupal Commerce was developed by ‘The Commerce Guys’ and gained momentum upon raising $5 million in Series A funding in 2012. This saw many Drupal developers move away from the previously popular Drupal UberCart product including core developers switching teams. Drupal Commerce is true Open Source (free) and a common option for the budget conscious retailer as the main costs are development hours. Drupal Commerce takes a slightly different approach to e-commerce. During install, most shopping carts load every feature which developers then proceed to turn off as per business requirements. Drupal Commerce only includes ‘add to cart’ functionality and backend order management - leaving developers to install a selection of modules (hundreds of free modules available) to build a tailored business system which helps keep things lean. The downside for medium to larger businesses taking an approach with this system is there is no enterprise level package. Companies such as Acquia and The Commerce Guys themselves are trying to change this but the reality is if your business needs an enterprise level approach to e-commerce this could probably get the job done but might not gain management approval. SUITS: Startup to medium business PROS: Hundreds of free modules and a large supportive developer community to help with your project. CONS: No enterprise level offering. COSTS: Free to download. Drupal developers in good supply at reasonable rates. SITES: Cartier, Open Sesame, Kenzo WooCommerce Another of the Open Source extensions WooCommerce is a free plugin this time for Wordpress. It’s been downloaded over three million times and powers over 250,000 e-commerce stores around the web including some bigger names such as Harley Davidson and New Balance. In the past WordPress would have been overlooked as a stable e-commerce platform but WooCommerce is gaining solid territory. It’s really hitting a sweet spot with people who have already devoted a lot of time and energy into getting their business online (in Wordpress) and now just want to extend it to gather some sales. Wordpress has a thriving developer community and lots of modules to extend the functionality. Similarly to Drupal Commerce there are advantages in having a fully fledged CMS alongside the shopping cart but the major downside is that once the business grows beyond a certain point there is not going to be an enterprise path to follow. SUITS: Startup to medium business. PROS: Hundreds of free modules and a large supportive developer community to help with your project. CONS: No enterprise level support. COSTS: Free to download. Wordpress developers in plentiful supply at various rates depending on experience. SITES: New Balance, Harley Davidson, Zanerobe Shopify Shopify have come along way in the e-commerce stakes starting with a single online store back in 2006 going on to raise $122 million in funding between 2010 and 2013. They are now a powerhouse hosted service provider which now drives more than 100,000 business from their core engine. With a sales model focussed on startups and smaller businesses looking to get started with e-commerce the Shopify platform allows business owners with limited technical resources and knowledge to create stores and upload products for sale. SUITS: Startup to small business. PROS: Quick and easy to get started. Can take a D.I.Y approach without technical knowledge or development resources. CONS: Can be limitations once your store expands. You are constrained to the platform. Some POS options not available in Australia. COSTS: $29.00 per month (Starter) up to $179.00 per month (Unlimited) SITES: Bellroy, Apartment, Black Milk Bigcommerce Bigcommerce launched in 2009 with offices in the US and Sydney. They gained traction quickly and ended up raising $75 million in two rounds before the end of 2013 to become one of the largest players in the e-commerce space. They take a similar approach to the market as Shopify but have a local advantage here in Australia. Bigcommerce also have an enterprise level offering to retain their customers that grow in size as they’ve realised many businesses will start out on this type of platform but eventually want to migrate over to something a bit more flexible. SUITS: Startup to small business. PROS: Quick and easy to get started. Can take a D.I.Y approach without technical knowledge or development resources. CONS: Can be limitations once your store expands. COSTS: $34.95 per month (basic) up to $199.95 per month (Pro). Bigcommerce also offer an enterprise version for $999.00 per month in attempt to keep customers that grow and need to scale. SITES: Bicycles Online, Style Addiction, Ojay When choosing a shopping cart it’s not always as simple as what’s the most popular or what’s the cheapest. It’s a matter of exploring the different options and seeing what’s the best fit for your business. If you’re still out of your depth after doing your own research it’s best to consult with an e-commerce build partner - there are plenty of agencies and consultants specialising in both big and small builds. It’s best to shop around and ask lots of questions to help get you on the right track. Ben is an e-commerce consultant with a career spanning across roles in technology, creative strategy and business management, including: marketing, public relations, digital production, project management, web development and systems administration.
Google have recently shown us a car of sorts. The self-driving Google Car is the internet giant’s latest foray into physical products. Visually it’s a cute cross between a golf cart and a Japanese anime character, with an obvious ‘face’ and round, soft features that exude friendliness and care. However, ideologically the driverless vehicle is more akin to an escalator than a car. Interestingly, in developing a car that doesn’t need a driver, Google are venturing into completely virgin territory and as a result they have exaggerated the friendliness of the product to make it appealing to the public. The Google Car’s cuddly aesthetic is designed deliberately as a counterpoint to the abject fear most people would have in handing over control of their car to a computer. The Google Car does contain amazing technology, even at a prototype level. The autonomous, self-learning vehicle has sensors that can remove blind spots by detecting multiple distinct objects simultaneously in all directions for hundreds of metres and hopefully react safely. Sound impossible? So did the iPod before Steve Jobs and Jony Ive put their minds to it. Watching the publicity video clearly illustrates Google’s ideas on the target demographic, with older people, the blind and children the focus. At least initially, they seem to see the car as a device for people who can’t drive or don’t want to. Unsurprisingly, everyone appears to be having a ridiculous amount of fun. Like all designers of products that create a paradigm shift, Google’s team needs to answer questions that others haven’t tackled before. Who would use it, how and why? Can current technology deliver a suitable solution? How much actual driver control should be relinquished? In discussing the Google Car in our studio, debate raged about what would happen in a crowded street. How would the Google Car react to a random mistake by another driver or pedestrian? These are the unknowns that still need to be worked through. Therein lies the most important aspect of this project. The Google Car is a big innovation, but it really is only the first foray into the unknown. This prototype will challenge what we think and allow people to test the technology in the semi-real world. No doubt it will fail some tests, but it’s sure to provide insights that we don’t expect, and lead to innovations that most can’t imagine right now. Like Apple and Nike before them, Google is applying their massive resources to looking outside their comfort zone for bigger opportunities. In doing so, they are risking failure and ridicule (look no further than the backlash against Google Glass), but they also open the opportunity for enormous rewards as the first into a new market. Perhaps the biggest hurdle to acceptance of the Google Car may not be confidence in the technology, but people’s love affair with the glamour of a fast car. The ability to be reckless, to feel the power of the engine or to show off to your peers may still be that intangible desire that an oversized golf cart could never deliver. Although many will scoff at the idea of a self-driving car, pointing to countless issues and dangers with the concept, the fact is that it seems almost inevitable in some form or other. If we look to science fiction we could expect these types of vehicles to be very much part of our lives sooner than we imagine. In the words of the great Henry Ford, “If I’d asked people what they wanted, they would’ve said a faster horse.” Perhaps the Google Car represents the first small step towards one of the biggest changes to our society since the internet was invented. Nathan Pollock is director at Katapult Design Pty Ltd.
I’m inspired to write this as I’ve just attended a seminar I wish I had walked out of after 10 minutes. The sales pitch about the event was remarkably different to what was delivered. Everything about the event stunk. I’ve been stung and feel stung. Don’t you hate being stung? It’s a terrible feeling and it hurts. Being stung makes you feel ‘yuck’. It leaves a bad taste in your mouth, feeling angry and wanting to vent (hence my blog post!). All trust is gone with this mob and I’m likely to talk more about my bad experiences than my positive experiences. I won’t lose sleep over it, but I guarantee you that I won’t be attending any of their future events, and will be recommending others to be very careful with this organisation. While I can’t get my time back, I will always have a story to share with one of my business partners who also attended about how bad the event was! Keep in mind that I am very selective about the events I go to and do try to make sure the event hasn’t been oversold in terms of what’s on offer. Also consider that because of my unbelievable experiences with the Entrepreneurs Organisation (EO) events I attend regularly, I am probably quite fussy and critical, and expect quality when I attend non-EO events. Here’s the moral of the story: Deliver what you say and don’t sting others! Make customers happy before trying to win more customers. Get it right. Deliver what you promise. Happy customers refer you more customers. Your business grows. Especially during a start-up phase you need happy customers! Sounds simple right? I am not here to rant on about good customer service or unethical salespeople. The issue goes much deeper here. There is often a disconnect between the sales team and the operational team who deliver the actual product or service. Salespeople want to make sales and are incentivised to do so. However, the sales pitch creates an expectation in the customer’s mind. The easiest way to grow is to actually provide a great product or service ‘in the eyes’ of the customer. Customers then come back and refer more customers. I call this ‘operational excellence’ in line with ‘matching expectations’. Do you think Gordon Ramsay would accept a substandard meal to go out in his restaurant? It’s about delivering what you promise, otherwise the customer ‘feels’ stung! Whether they have been stung or not is irrelevant if they ‘feel’ stung. The price is irrelevant. Make sure you under-promise and over-deliver wherever possible. Work out what you can deliver and offer slightly less. Then constantly strive to improve your product and offer more over time. Blowing the customer away beyond their expectation is even better. Far too many businesses overpromise and under-deliver. It’s a human right and not a privilege in our society to be treated fairly and not get ripped off. That’s why we have Today Tonight and ACA on at prime time to hear about the shonky builder! Can you imagine ringing the equivalent of Consumer Affairs in Bangkok saying you got ripped off and overpaid for your fake Nike t-shirt? Or in Bali, you paid twice as much as the last tourist for that Sarong! The irony in this is that you almost come to ‘expect’ being ripped off over there so you aren’t so disappointed! The expectation is to overpay as a tourist! Now here’s the test of the health of our economy: How many products or service providers have blown you away in the last 12 months and over delivered and made you feel amazing? Now, how many times have you felt ‘stung’ in the last 12 months? If B is more than A, our economy is in real trouble. In desperate times and probably in many third world countries, B tends to be disproportionately higher than A. The world needs more A’s. We need more positive experiences and stories spreading and we all win!
The pundits who have been waiting for Apple to come up with a new product category may just get their wish. New reports today suggest Apple is working on a wristwatch that could be released as soon as the end of the year.
Launching a pop-up shop to coincide with an event can be a huge success, according to a leading industry player, after Salsa’s Fresh Mex Grill launched a pop-up shop at the venue of the Australian Open.
The first class of Atlassian Hack House graduates have highlighted their achievements since participating in the program, after the second class began work yesterday.
I’m trying to think of a one-liner for my brand. What makes a great tagline? This week’s Secret Soloist is answered by marketing guru Mike Halligan. Taglines have the ability to quickly and succinctly define a brand’s meaning and position.
More than 100 brands have signed up for The 360º Mall, a 3D shopping centre created by a 16-year-old NSW schoolboy that will launch in Australia next month.
Global tech giant Microsoft has updated its logo after 25 years in a bid to reflect the company’s ever-growing product portfolio, highlighting several logo lessons for start-ups to take note of.
The London Olympics could be a boon for start-ups as they draw inspiration from major retailers such as Nike, which is allowing shoppers to compete against each other in virtual games.
While, in Australia, businesses are creating headlines for blaming price increases on the carbon tax, their counterparts in the UK are having to run a different kind of gauntlet.
I just read an awesome blog post written by Albert Wenger from Union Square Ventures.
The vast majority of brands are failing to connect with the $62 billion youth market, according to the latest Urban Market Research Report, which identifies key trends start-ups should focus on.
James Packer, one of Australia’s most prominent entrepreneurs, has welcomed the $1.97 billion bid from News Ltd that would see him exit the pay-TV sector.
It’s the most visible, striking aspect of your business. The thing that your customers will see more than any other, which you hope you will be plastered approvingly across billboards and the internet in double-quick time.
This article first appeared August 18, 2011. In this climate fresh thinking is the most important tool we have and there isn’t a person reading this who doesn’t have the ability to tap into it to solve any business challenge.
Hopefully, your business will one day command a huge advertising budget, tasking hordes of Don Draper-types to scurry around and devise knockout marketing strategies for you.