Stepping out of the App economy

Sometime late 2010 we started working on 2 rather big mobile projects and they made me think a lot more about apps and how our thinking for mobile is all about apps. Today mobile equals apps, and we are being dictated by the likes of Apple how we have to deal with that. So how big of an improvement the introduction of apps on mobile has been, I believe we limit our thinking by that same evolution, while it shouldn’t end there.

There’s no better way to experience the hassles one has to overcome when developing apps, then to develop your own (especially when the app is for the iPhone). And it was an article on TC about Disney that acquired an HTML5 game engine that got me thinking about this whole app approach. Smart move from Disney by the way. Bye bye appstores, let’s develop game experiences the way we like and let people pay what we think is right. And for multiple OS’s at the same time, all in one take. With Android gaining market share and also WM7 that will take it’s part of the cake at some point, HTML5 mobile web apps make it a lot easier to build experiences across OS’s and devices compared to today, and without all the appstore hassle. And if you go further, when you think about developing for mobile first instead of web and then mobile, I believe there’s a whole lot of untapped potential.

But the Disney acquisition isn’t having any live results yet. I think the FT was the first really big one to have made a move to go for HTML5 and the last few days or weeks a few others seem to have followed. LinkedIn just released a pretty nice HTML5 experience for mobile and earlier this week Amazon launched a similar experience for their Kindle:

“It can do everything that a normal Kindle app can do, such as synchronize your library, your last page read and bookmarks. Yet, the Kindle Cloud Reader is more of a reaction to the draconian app store rules instituted by the Cupertino giant than it is a dynamic new version of Kindle.”

It’s probably just a matter of time before those brand start pulling their apps from the appstore, or at least stop actively updating those in favor of native mobile web apps. I’m with Gigaom on this one when they say that Amazon might as well be showing media companies the future of the web with this one. Also sites as Twitter offer a rich and very nice mobile web experience, nothing like it used to be anymore.

I can only applaud brands moving in this direction and I believe that although the idea of apps on your mobile were a great innovation, they´re only a step towards a very rich mobile web experience. What´s your take?

Bonus link: HTML5 apps that are scaring the pants off Apple

A network of networks

Fascinating. And visually attractive. The people of LinkedIn Labs just recently created this InMaps application, a kind of analytics tool to “visualize your professional network, clustered in realtime based on their inter-relationships”. A pretty cool tool actually, and I’m a sucker for these kind of applications.

Log in with LinkedIn and the tool will analyze your network and visualize it in a graph like the one below, which is actually the output of my LinkedIn network.

What’s extra interesting about it is that the output is dynamic (unlike this image) and that you can hover over each contact to see their specific connections within your network. That way you also get a view of how the clusters are made and InMaps allows you to put a label on each colored cluster to make it easier to see who’s who. Just give it a try, you’ll see for yourself.

Interesting results for myself is to see for instance that I have 2 Microsoft clusters (I’m ex-Microsoft remember), one for MSN/Windows Live related contacts and one for more general Microsoft contacts. Interesting to see that this split is made, although it’s actually pretty logical when you look at it. Also interesting is to see between which groups exist more links, not always what you would expect. I’m definitely not done analyzing this, but curious what your graph/learnings look like so please do share ;)

Last but not least, it’s also pretty interesting proof that people are organized in groups, clusters and that if you want to influence people it’s important you understand these clusters – or ‘spheres of influence’ like we used to call them, dixit David Armano.

About building your network

Networks like LinkedIn seem to benefit quite a bit from the recession. People unfortunately are losing jobs and need to look for new opportunities, for which the network asset is very important. The problem is that many start building the network when they need it and that’s a common mistake. You should build it when you don’t really need it, so it’s there when you actually do. Here’s what I do, maybe there’s something in there for you as well.

LinkedInNetwork
Image courtesy of GustavoG, actually presenting the FlickrVerse

#1 Build a network based on people you know

I believe that your network on LinkedIn (and others like Xing) is only really valuable when you build it with people you know, people you have actually met, spoken with, engaged with, … any kind of interaction that was big enough for people to remember you. This connection can be face to face, online, over the telephone… but when you send these people an invite to join your network, your name should at least ring a bell. The reason this is important is that you want to count on your network when it matters. If your connections don’t know who you are or how you connected, why would they ever pass on a message to others? Why would they ever introduce you to one of their contacts? Your connections are the key to the second and third degree network, so make sure those connections are real.

#2 Strike the iron while it’s hot

You’ve met some interesting new people at a conference? You just ended a call with someone that you will probably do business with? You’ve been having a few discussions with someone online lately? First thing on the to do list – look them up on LinkedIn and send out an invitation (referencing how you connected if you think it’s appropriate). Now this is not a suggestion to quickly ‘run into people’, get their business card so you can say you ‘connected’ and invite them onto your network. Not at all, but if a real connection was made, you should solidify it ‘digitally’ and not wait to long before doing so either. After people accept I always download the vCard to my local address book, as it adds the person’s birthday to my calendar – always good to know.

#3 People change, how about your address book?

People change titles, jobs, employers, … and it’s important you know about this. Luckily networks like LinkedIn are amongst the first places for people to communicate changes like these, especially when they are related to the professional life. It’s not like you will go check out the LinkedIn homepage on a daily pages to track these changes, but LinkedIn add-ons like the Outlook Toolbar basically offer this kind of functionality for you. Every once in a while I will open up my LinkedIn Dashboard in Outlook and in there I can see all people that have made changes to their profile and I get the choice to update the contact info automatically in my local address book.

linkedindash

#4 Network overlays – use it

Although my own rules for connecting with people on LinkedIn are not 100% the same as those on Facebook, and the reason for connecting on Blip or Flickr are different from other networks – there will always be an overlay. And sometimes you can benefit from that overlay, I’ll give you one example. Using programs such as Fonebook will compare your local Outlook address book with your connections on Facebook which will allow you to add additional data from Facebook (like the person’s photo for instance) to your existing Outlook contacts. I’m sure there are other examples of using the network overlays as well.

#5 Avoid spam

The biggest source of ‘spam’ these days seem to be your friends. Stronger connections will help avoiding much of it but still, sometimes it’s just powered by laziness. When you want to invite friends to a certain group on whatever network you most likely have 2 options – pick those friends that might be interested (takes time) or ‘select all’ (the faster solution). A lot of people tend to do the latter, knowing for a fact that you will ignore if needed but that is not the best option. Choose wisely amongst your network, there’s a limit to ignoring things as well.

That’s how I do it anyway, feel free to discuss.