CIO Symmetry

October 3, 2008  2:22 PM

Obama’s iPhone App

Kristen Caretta Kristen Caretta Profile: Kristen Caretta

The Obama campaign has introduced an iPhone application — Obama ‘08. Self-described as the “official, comprehensive connection to the heart of Barack Obama and Joe Biden’s campaign,” the application has features and tools to keep interested voters up to date.

The application’s features include up-to-date campaign news, a “call friends” feature (allowing the user to reach out to friends to remind them to vote, etc.), videos, photos and talking points (to help users convince their friends to vote for Obama).

The free application was developed in less than three weeks by volunteers and is available in the iTunes App Store. In his blog, Senator Obama’s staff notes, “This tool is designed to help you become more directly involved in our campaign to change the country.”

The country hasn’t been changed yet, but the Obama campaign has changed the way Americans connect and become involved during election season. Before Joe Biden was announced as his running mate, Obama promised to text message the news to those who texted VP to a designated number. He also offered up free Obama buttons via Facebook to those who requested them.

The Obama campaign has taken social networking to a whole new level – using technology to its advantage. And it’s certainly not afraid to try something new – blogging, Facebooking, texting, Twittering and creating iPhone applications.

For those of you who try it – phone a friend. Or at the very least, share your phone-a-friend option with Governor Palin.

October 2, 2008  2:14 PM

Is Microsoft trying to buy users?

Kristen Caretta Kristen Caretta Profile: Kristen Caretta

In an attempt to get more users, Microsoft has added SearchPerks to its Live Search service.

But, unless you have Internet Explorer 6.0, you aren’t even able to access the SearchPerks registration form. Yep. In order to test out SearchPerks you need to have IE 6 or higher. That’s a deal breaker right there.

With only a 9% market share compared with Google’s 60%, Microsoft refuses to give up on the search market. And you have to admire that fact – despite the failed Yahoo acquisition (which Google sidled up and snagged), it’s full steam ahead! Microsoft will not quit – but it will pay you to use Live Search.

So what is SearchPerks? Registered users agree to download a usage tracking program and then earn one ticket per every Live Search query (up to 25 tickets per day) until the program ends in April. Users can then redeem their tickets for prizes or donate the rewards to charity.

As interesting as it sounds, the SearchPerks registration page has a bit of a late-night infomercial feel to it. Things like “the sooner you sign up, the more opportunity you have to earn tickets!” are reminiscent of the “act now to receive your second Magic Bullet completely free!” But then again, perks persuade people to buy (or in this case, be bought).

Why hasn’t Live taken off? Is it because Google is so well known as a reliable search engine that newcomers barely have time to make it out of the starting gate? Cuil didn’t get too far, either – and it had pictures included in the results lists. But maybe that’s it – we don’t want the extras, just give us our search results so we can continue on with our task at hand. We don’t have time to register and redeem prizes! I found the added prize bonus to be an incredible turnoff. I want results, not prizes. If I were aiming for the latter I’d open a box of Cracker Jack.

By offering up SearchPerks to attract users, has Microsoft inadvertently proved Google’s strength? The search engine should speak for itself, no gimmicks necessary.

September 29, 2008  9:51 PM

I’m a PC, and I don’t necessarily like Microsoft

Kristen Caretta Kristen Caretta Profile: Kristen Caretta

After the annoyingly strange Jerry Seinfeld/Bill Gates commercials promoting Microsoft, a new batch of adverts surfaced featuring the slogan “I’m a PC.” It goes something like this: Microsoft employees and users are meshed together in a montage of “I’m a PC and I [fill in stereotype of your choice here]” in a battle against Apple’s commercials portraying a PC negatively. Because, as they say in the ads, a PC is not a stereotype. But grouping all PC users in as Microsoft supporters is not?

Well, I’d like to go out and say I’m a PC, but I can’t give Microsoft all the credit in that decision.

By the way, why is Microsoft able to benefit from the term PC? Last time I checked, PC stood for personal computer and Wikipedia defines that as “any computer whose original sales price, size and capabilities make it useful for individuals, and which is intended to be operated directly by an end user, with no intervening computer operator.” So regardless of the operating system, aren’t we all using PCs?

Please, correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t I just as much as PC user with my Linux operating system as you are with your Mac operating system? And, no, I have not forgotten that MS-DOS was the catalyst making the personal computer a reality. But nowadays, Windows is just one of the operating systems that make our PC world go ‘round.

Do you automatically associate being a PC user with Microsoft Windows? If so, is it because we’ve been trained to think PC = Microsoft? Maybe. Look at the constant barrage of ads we’re faced with. It happens every single day with everything. We automatically call all tissues Kleenex, gelatin of all brands is Jell-O and no one flinches when asked to “Xerox it.”

Is Microsoft playing into our ad vulnerability? Worse, are we falling for it? Let me know what you think.

September 25, 2008  8:34 PM

Face-to-face social networking? Nticing

Kristen Caretta Kristen Caretta Profile: Kristen Caretta

Finally, we may be seeing the end of the business card.

I always forget to bring my business cards to the events and conferences I attend. On the rare occasion I do remember to grab a small handful from my desk drawer, actually handing them out seems … so out of date. If I don’t even like carrying my own cards around, why should I expect someone else to want it? They smudge, they wrinkle (who wants to hand out a finger-printed and bent, tiny white card?) and they’re a bit of a hassle.

Plus, how many do they ship you in a box? A million? Who actually goes through all those? And information changes, you need to get another million shipped out to you and before you know it, you’re sitting on 5 million crinkled-up cards that no one (including you) actually wants.

When I attended the MIT EmTech Conference this week, I remembered to bring along my necessary (professional contact) evil. To my surprise, when I registered I did not get the usual name card on a promotional lanyard – I was handed what looked like a remote control (on a lanyard). When turned up to face me, it vibrated and beeped to life – displaying a brightly lit options screen and introducing itself as an nTAG.

Slightly bulky but surprisingly light, the nTag is built around the world’s first interactive name badge and provides a communication solution for the events and meetings industry. According to the site, the nTag (created in 2004 by Rick Borovoy and George Eberstadt) “pioneered face-to-face social networking solutions via wearable technology.”

Equipped with an electronic agenda, a messaging system, event information, your personal profile and contact information, and a way to wirelessly share this information nTAG to nTAG, you can practically say goodbye to your registration packet and business cards. And those “hello my name is” stickers? Never again. When you get within conversation-distance of someone wearing the nTAG, his name flashes up on your screen with the option to add as a contact.

On top of all that, the reusable devices eliminate all the waste (paper and time) of events packets.

All in all, the nTAG was useful and fun. I didn’t have to hand out a single business card (even though I’m dying to get rid of them) and I could update my profile and check out my contacts during the … umm … slower presentations.

September 25, 2008  8:29 PM

Are we all too busy?

Kristen Caretta Kristen Caretta Profile: Kristen Caretta

Do your users pay attention to dialog box pop-ups? If you’re thinking, “yes, of course,” read on.

A recent study by members of the psychology department at North Carolina State University shows most people do not pay any attention to these dialog boxes – even when presented with information indicating potential malware.

The authors created four fake dialog boxes – one of them was indistinguishable from standard Windows dialog systems. From subtle (moving the mouse over the “OK” button would cause the cursor to turn to a hand — typical of browser control) to blatant (alternating between black text and a white background to white text on a black background), the dialog boxes should have been a tip-off to users that something wasn’t right.

The study was conducted by loading a series of medical websites to a panel of 42 college students, who were told to watch the sites and expect questions to follow. The fake dialog boxes were loaded randomly and the responses of the users were tracked. The response time showed the users did not spend any time evaluating the fakes. During the follow-up questions, students found “any dialog box a distraction from their assigned task; nearly half said that all they cared about was getting rid of these dialogs.”

Is there just no time for “dialog box speed bumps?” With the quick-answer Web-search service ChaCha growing in popularity, are we all too busy to even search for answers on the Web? Wasn’t that the point of the Web in the first place – a place to access information from all over the globe?

Are your users too busy to pay attention? Should you rethink the use of dialog boxes and consider another venue for that information?

September 19, 2008  1:47 PM

Microsoft reclaims ‘I’m a PC’; ditches Gates/Seinfield

Kristen Caretta Kristen Caretta Profile: Kristen Caretta

As quickly as they started, the Microsoft/Jerry Seinfeld/Bill Gates ads have ended. Phew.

The nonsensical ads left viewers scratching their heads and Seinfeld with quite a heavy pocket. The comedian reportedly earned $10 million for the commercials in Microsoft’s attempt to connect with its target audience.

But who is Microsoft’s target audience? It may not be the twentysomethings … but choosing 54-year-old Seinfeld as the funny man may be meant to attract the “thirty- and fortysomething business community” Marc Ippolito, president of Burns Entertainment & Sports Marketing, told The Wall Street Journal reported Microsoft turned down Will Farrell and Chris Rock because it didn’t want to seem like it was catering too much to the younger market.

Well, maybe Gates doing the robot will gain audience appeal and Vista will get another shot – if the robot’s not dead yet, Vista certainly can’t be either.

In an interview with, Microsoft spokesman Frank X. Shaw confirmed the plan to have “two teaser ads” (no — the weird Seinfeld/Gates ads weren’t cancelled, this was all planned). The next leg of Microsoft’s attempt at revitalizing the slogan “I’m a PC” includes celebrities (Eva Longoria and Pharell Williams among them) as the company works overtime to overcome the stigma Apple attached to being a PC.

What won’t you have to see again? Seinfeld asking Gates for a Microsoft product that makes computers “moist and chewy like cake.”

September 18, 2008  3:02 PM

The Wall Street Journal embraces Web 2.0

Kristen Caretta Kristen Caretta Profile: Kristen Caretta

The Wall Street Journal launched a redesigned site Tuesday featuring Web 2.0 – but you have to pay to be a member.

Web 2.0, the user-generated content explosion, has changed the Internet. Social networking sites, blogs and wikis are everywhere, allowing users to create their own spaces and connect with people across the globe. Few social networking sites, however, charge a fee. I certainly would not have joined Facebook (at least initially) if I had to sign up for a paid subscription. But then again, the only purpose Facebook serves me is a social one. Once you start examining your professional social networking options – the cost may be worth it.

For a CIO looking to make contacts and be privy to a host of subscription-only media, may be the way to go.

The paid subscription includes some enticing extras. The self-guided tour (albeit a bit campy — inviting you to “stop by and discover” with “more content to uncover”) provides brief descriptions of the new site additions.

Overall, the redesign boasts an updated look and feel with enhanced story pages (video, audio and interactive graphics), news highlights (which can also be managed as a direct feed to Facebook, My Space, your desktop or even your blog), subscriber-exclusive content, a member community, Mobile Reader (a service for your BlackBerry so you can access your account on the go) and Journal Women (featuring women in business, politics, science, the arts and the world).

There is certainly a lot going on in the new and improved – and a lot of mixed reviews surrounding it.

On one side, some reviewers found the paid subscription to be a deterrent to new readers. Being blocked behind a pay wall could discourage casual browsers and they might look for news elsewhere. On the other side, satisfied reviewers were drawn to the exclusivity factor – developing contacts within, what some have referred to as, an elite group.

Do CIOs see the benefits of paid social networking subscriptions when so many of them are offered for free? Or has The Wall Street Journal missed the Web 2.0 boat?

September 16, 2008  9:00 PM

LinkedIn to cash in, but at what cost to you?

Kristen Caretta Kristen Caretta Profile: Kristen Caretta

LinkedIn, a social networking site for business professionals, has been in such high demand amongst advertisers that it will be launching its own advertising network. What made LinkedIn such a sought-after site? The registered users.

According to LinkedIn’s June 2008 demographic data, the site’s registered users seem to be an advertiser’s dream. The data claims that the average household income of its members is $110,000, 49% are business decision makers and the average age is 41.

Facebook, another popular social networking site, has 90 million active users (who have returned to the site in the last 30 days) and is the second-most-trafficked PHP site in the world, according to the site. Facebook ads are targeted to users based on their preferences, status (employment, marital, etc.) and general information (age, gender, etc.). But Facebook began as a college networking site back in 2004 that was extended to high schools, and then later to the general population. That’s a lot of users, but the users can be just about anyone – not necessarily decision makers, the employed or people interested in spending money.

OK, so maybe comparing LinkedIn to Facebook is an apples-to-oranges comparison.

In LinkedIn’s claim to have “a younger, more affluent, more influential and harder-to-find audience than the leading business sites” it included statistics for and For users, the average household income is $93,896, 38% are decision makers and the average age is 47. users average a household income of $95,668, 42% are decision makers and the average age is 48.

With such a desirable audience, LinkedIn’s ad network could be raking in the dough – but what does this mean for the users? Well, whenever someone visits LinkedIn, a cookie will be placed on his or her browser identifying the user as a LinkedIn member when he or she visits partner sites. Opting out is possible, but unless you’re familiar with the changes, would anyone even know to opt out?

In 2007 when Facebook announced it would open user profiles to search engines, traffic to the Facebook privacy page spiked. But since then, traffic to the page has been relatively flat. Obviously, people care about their privacy – but they may be unaware of what they can do.

For CIOs (and any business professional, for that matter), being part of a social networking site like LinkedIn is beneficial. LinkedIn boasts 24 million users representing 150 industries around the world. With such an expansive network of people to connect to, you’re able to make connections, see where people have moved in their careers and even market yourself for a new job or position. But is being sold as a “desirable audience” a fair trade? Is privacy becoming more of a privilege on the Web, as opposed to a right?

September 12, 2008  1:25 PM

Are CIOs finding Apple’s sex-appeal, appealing?

Kristen Caretta Kristen Caretta Profile: Kristen Caretta

How important is it, as a CIO, to have a fashion-accessory phone? What about if said phone is sexy – unlike some of the more boring models?

Windows Mobile is boring. According to Mikael Nerde, head of the accessory and developer program for Sony Ericsson, “Win Mobile has so many great functions, but it just looks really, really boring.”

Efficient and well-known, but boring nonetheless. Just look at how Apple represents Windows in the Mac commercials – pocket-protector clad, bumbling, nervous Windows up against a younger, more confident Mac.

What is the Apple appeal? Apple showed the world it’s entirely possible to be smart and sexy with their “sexed up smartphone”—the iPhone. What makes the iPhone such a hit? A Handango Inc.- sponsored panel discussion decided it’s a “mixture of Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ marketing ‘mojo,’ the success of its App Store, integrated functionality and more.”

Smart, sexy and functional? Sounds great. But is sexiness necessary for those using their phone primarily for business purposes?

Well, for the mobile competitors, sexiness is necessary. That is, if they want to compete with the “one to beat” iPhone in the mobile world.

Research In Motion Ltd. (RIM) introduced a new member to the BlackBerry family — the BlackBerry Pearl Flip 8220. Available later in the year, the “not just for business users” model is smaller, more stylish and still retains the features you would expect in a BlackBerry.

Sprint Nextel Corp. is also releasing new phones later this year. Three of the five new consumer phones will have a new user interface called Sprint One Click. One Click is similar to Apple’s carousel functionality; it allows users to drop the icons of commonly-used applications on their home screen for one-click access.

OK so Win Mobile is boring and Apple is sexy – but do CIOs really care about how sexy their mobile device is? I don’t know, you tell me.

All in all, it seems mobile phones are bringing sexy back – and using the iPhone as a benchmark.

September 11, 2008  6:09 PM

Weekly wrap-up

Glen Weaver Profile: The Weave

What we did this week:

Suggested CIOs have a little mercy on their overworked security experts and data architects.

Imagined a world without microsoft.

Wondered why on earth CIOs would take themselves out of disaster recovery planning.

Seriously, get on that whole disaster recovery thing. The planning takes longer than you think.

You can’t really stop the government from hacking your phones. But you can try to stop everyone else.

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