My sister gave me a gift this year that I thought was really funny…my family had a good long laugh at it. It’s a journal with matching pencils to write with, but the branding was particularly funny, especially as my nephew and nieces come of the age where restricting them from any “adult like” things becomes increasingly blurry. For a child at heart like me, even harder.
It got me thinking about two of the stickies up on my wall which, in case you can’t read my handwriting, say:
“Don’t solve someone’s puzzle, but help them find the missing pieces.”
“Don’t just come with a problem…bring a solution.”
I’ve tried to tackle quite a few “craps of life” things lately … driven mostly by a recent horoscope I read while waiting for my Americano at Starbucks – it suggested I should take care of housekeeping, paperwork, and record-keeping.
Virgo (Aug. 23-Sept. 22): Today is a 5 – Review and file documents. Finish old projects, and clear space for what’s next. Consider how you’d like things to go. Notice dream characters and symbolism. Meditate on what you love. Spend time in nature.
Given nothing but making fun of Kim Kardashian’s kimoji wedgie stood in the way, I undertook the task of making sure my life was in order as we lead in to the great, grand reset that is January 1. (It isn’t, by the way, a great or grand reset…it’s just another day.).
I sat through several phone calls with various customer service departments, navigated web sites, researched things I knew nothing about. Each day I had breakfast by myself, spending the time catching up on the world around me by reading news and tweeting the shit out of stuff. (#Bomergate is still alive today).
I spent a lot of time complaining to myself about the state of these experiences, and then I realized that I had spent no time thinking of the solutions. So I decided to devote a bit of time to this, crossing several different sectors. Today, I focus on the business/consumer relationship.
I am no Bill Gates, but these are my hopes:
CURATE DATA TO DEMOCRATIZE INFORMATION
I don’t disagree with Ev Williams and this blog is case and point – publishing meaningless shit to the web and then allowing it to exist in perpetuity is literally a zero cost effort. Despite monumental efforts and progress in search, finding curated content beyond those of interest to the 98% percentile of the North American population is incredibly difficult.
Three examples for me: Trying to find international drone laws by country; trying to find the best video editing graphics card for my desktop PC; trying to research an error code on my computer.
I’d argue that while the the internet has brought us real-time always on transmission of data, it has also entrenched the divides between cultures, countries, and different people of the world and the democratization of real information from all of this data is still a distant goal.
Beyond current events, the internet is a wasteland of unhelpful information. Look at any company’s community platform and search for your issue — good and bad content alike persist in perpetuity, even when products have long retired, and no one has figured out how to indicate what the most meaningful or helpful content is, effectively.
Ratings are a bitch — something I attacked Facebook for this year — but something which ultimately defines the divide between HI (human intelligence) and AI (artificial intelligence). Sentiment was hard enough to understand, but then you must layer that in with the person’s own perspective and what data you have on that to make it meaningful, relevant, and applicable to the individual.
Fucking hard job.
What this leaves you and I with is an internet with a ton of bits and bites, “data” if you will, but very little context, value-add, or benefit to our day to day lives. The benefit of this data is still only available to those who know how to use the data to their advantage, and until we democratize information…(information being the meaningful valuable interpretations of data that helps us make choices in life)…we won’t be able to move forward productively as a society.
The early days of the internet were about building a sizeable online footprint so your probability of appearing as “relevant” via keyword search was high. This built the mega empires of today. Tomorrow’s challenge is the same but much harder — becoming relevant, most valuable, and trusted to deliver the best information, while attacking trolls, incorporating perception and perspective, and figuring out when recency matters, and when it doesn’t.
PASSWORD & AUTHENTICATION NORMALIZATION
Bio-scans and what not are sexy, but flawed – I don’t want a webcam staring in to my living room where I regularly dance naked after showers to Britney Spears in hopes it will know when I want my computer to unlock.
Today, to access my corporate network, I had to enter my username, password, then pick up the phone, dial a code, and then was finally able to get on the corporate network.
If I for some reason wanted to use that same password on other services and kept myself accountable to changing them EVERY WEEK just to be safe, I couldn’t.
Because some companies are case sensitive, some require both cases, some require a symbol, some don’t allow some of those symbols, some require a number, some don’t. Some use your email as a user name, some require a user name. Some ask us to identify stupid fucking pictures with silly fucking codephrases.
Facebook, Google, and Microsoft all have authentication methodologies which span the web, but I think if these companies are serious about security, this needs to be an ISO-lead effort.
Because, guess what, the efforts to thwart compromise are being hindered by undue complexity.
CUSTOMER SERVICE vNEXT
I have experienced absolutely NO differentiation in experience from IVR (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interactive_voice_response) systems or cascading key-press menus since they were invented.
It was an original cash cow in the form of savings for companies that used it, because it effectively eliminated unnecessary “tier 1” calls that resulted in little more than a transfer.
Today, it is just a frustration. We need a reformation in tele-service the likes of which absolutely no company has coughed up. Today, I should never be asked to enter information then have to give it again. I shouldn’t have to repeat myself. I should be kept in queue while the receiving agent reviews my record before being greeted. My value as a customer should be apparent to me and a motivator for customers not in those tiers.
I shouldn’t even have to get on the fucking phone.
We need to also end the scripts. This isn’t our first rodeo, and I don’t think that Mikey from wherever when I contact him/her via IM at 11PM my time gives two shits how my day is going. It wouldn’t even especially matter if he/she did.
Because I want to resolve my problem.
And I’m probably multi-tasking, folding laundry, having sex, making dinner, whatever.
And returning to your chat window, so I can “keep the conversation alive” and not get punted out because of lack of response is more stressful than it needs to be.
And I’ll let you know if I have additional issues, believe me.
And yeah, your fucking satisfaction survey — forget about it. You rarely follow-up, why should I?
TAKE MOBILE SERIOUSLY
I’m glad everyone woke up a few years ago when Mary Meeker stated not only that online would overtake traditional media but also that MOBILE would overtake all media. I worked for Carolyn Everson at the time and she was passionate about this then, leads a big part of the charge delivering it to marketers and consumers today at Facebook, and continues to advocate for its influence. Speaking of password complexity, nowhere more would I love an effortless way of logging in, completing a task, inputting text.
We’ve come a long way with a long way to go, and as it turns out, we’re becoming so distracted trying to parse the data because we aren’t being delivered information, that our mobile devices may actually now be deadly outside of the vehicle.Along with curating of data to produce information, we have to re-invent our engagement with all experiences, including mobile…not only to make it easier but also to be inclusive.
We are a long way off from this.
Lastly, and I’ll close with this pending another blog post — we need to start owning our digital lives. Every day, consumers give up their photos, music…their valuables…to companies. In some cases, to own and not return. We do not safeguard this content like the physical counterparts of the past. And this creates very little in the way of a keepsake we can pass down to those that come after us.
And as I’ll paraphrase today, those who don’t know about history, are doomed to repeat it.