Perpetual Beta in the Music Arena: Reverbnation

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We have come a long way studying the O’Reilly’s patterns for Web 2.0 platforms; some of the previous topics have been: harnessing collective intelligence, data is the next Intel inside and assembly in innovation. Now the turn is for “Perpetual Beta”. But what is it?

Perpetual beta

Perpetual Beta Life Cycle

Beta testing is, according to Webopedia (n.d.), a test to a computer product prior to general release, this test could be done by sending the software to beta test sites or to real users through the Internet to get some real-world exposure and feedback necessary to refine and revise the system. Beta testing is part of the old school waterfall model which include a program of sequential and iterative activities which are done for the user to ultimately enjoy and utilise the software; those steps in the waterfall model are: conception, initiation, analysis, design, construction, testing, production and maintenance (Wikipedia, n.d.). The approach of this highly rigid structure is to have most of the features ready and then show it to a sample audience that would help to spot the flaws and inadequacies in the software. The exposure of the software to the target users is often quite to late in the schedule and the interaction with the user base is usually not enough; that could lead to an unsuitable product.

With the emerging of Web 2.0 technologies and the open source movement a pattern was recognised by Tim O’Reilly (2005, para. 4) that mitigates dramatically the problem mentioned: “the open source dictum, ‘release early and release often’ in fact has morphed into an even more radical position, “the perpetual beta,” in which the product is developed in the open, with new features slipstreamed in on a monthly, weekly, or even daily basis”. This creates a more dynamic and close relationship with the user as the developers are on the lookout of users’ operations to fix, tweak or add to the current functionalities. Let’s see how this principle applies to one of the most popular social platform in the music arena: Reverbnation; which is devoted to create a network of musicians, venues, managers, labels and fans, striving to give to each of these target groups special benefits tailored for their needs.

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Reverbnation has been in perpetual beta since its conception and numerous functionalities have been added according to the current needs of the users and the trends of social media platforms:

  • Promote It: is a feature that uses the fact of interlinked social networks to present the band to fans who like similar kind of music. For that, Reverbnation connects with fans through YouTube, Facebook, Pandora, etc.
  • Music for Good: with this functionality the artists contribute to established good causes via a percentage of songs sold. This taps into fans inclination to buy more music from social active artists.
  • Tunewidget: are popular between musicians to feature their music, videos and press releases in widgets that could be fixed anywhere in their websites, social media pages, etc.
  • Band Equity: this is a performance metric to establish the engagement of an artist with their fans and it takes into account several factors: the reach of people through social networks, blogs and websites; the influence of the contact, e.g. how much time the fans listen to the artist’s songs; the access to direct communication to fans, that is, mailing lists sign-ups and finally how recent all those interactions are. With Band Equity Reverbnation is able to create chart-like lists that featured the most popular bands in the platform.

All these functionalities were included in the platform not as important version reviews, but as incremental tweaks based on user feedback and behaviour and market trends. From my standpoint, Perpetual beta  is not other thing that a responsive outlook to what is going on in the platform environment.

Thanks a lot for reading and I’d appreciate your point of view.

 

References:

O’Reilly, T. (2005). Design patterns and business models for the next generation of software. Retrieved from: http://oreilly.com/pub/a/web2/archive/what-is-web-20.html?page=4

Webopedia (n.d.). Beta test. Retrieved from: http://www.webopedia.com/TERM/B/beta_test.html

Wikipedia (n.d.). Waterfall model. Retrieved from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waterfall_model

The Art of Safe Online Dating: eHarmony

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eHarmony advertises itself as “The #1 Trusted Singles Online Dating Site”. This kind of Social Networks are a one of kind Web 2.0 applications, because they strive to introduce strangers, help them to find a match and start a long-term relationship. That is, help strangers to connect and create a relationship in the real world! So safety is a number one priority for the site and the compliance of the rules by the members becomes an important issue, as the reputation of eHarmony depends on that and ultimately they are dealing with the physical integrity of the members. How eHarmony regulates the behaviour of the users?

First of all, the Risk Management division is committed to preserve safety. They are involved in mitigating the risks of being part of the social network. They have several approaches to regulate behaviour of users:

Publish rules to stay out of trouble: common sense advice is given to the community in regards to how to go about contacting, meeting and getting to know other people. Here are some of the tips from the eHarmony Australia website:

  • Always use your best judgment: people looking for love tends to get blind about con intents from fake prospect partners. The cheats make use of this tendency to take advantage of the situation as can be seen in this video.
  • Never share financial information or certain personal information: with the pretext of trying to find out more about a person life, the cheats ask questions to find information that could be used to break into financial accounts. Click here to watch the in-person phishing con video.
  • Be cautious when sharing personal information: some people feel the need to rush to get to know better the other person and hastily share personal contact information such as, phone numbers and emails. That could result in people being harrassed as they don’t know each others’ temperament yet. For that, eHarmony advises to go through a step by step communication process that eventually would lead to a secure call made by the system where neither the person calling or the one receiving can see each other’s phone numbers.
  • Do your own research: even though there is some screening carried out by eHarmony with authorities, they have a disclaimer saying that the information could be out-of-date. They encourage people to make their own reseach before meeting the other in person by typing the match’s name into a search engine, contacting local autohorities to obtain public information, or using a paid service to obtain a full background report.
  • Make your first date safe and successful
  • Always be respectful and kind

The risk management division of eHarmony receives concerns about a match and undertake proper investigation on the issue that could lead to cancelation of accounts and escalation to authorities.

Finally, eHarmony also works closely with the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) to identify and combat online fraud in Australia. As such, if there is a belief that one of the matches could be a fraud suspect, in addition to reporting to eHarmony, they encourage to file a report with the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission website at: www.ScamWatch.gov.au.

In this way the online quest for love becomes safe and people can focus in finding their soul mate!

 

How to Get the Support of the Public – PRs in Brisbane Airport

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PRs stands for Public Relations and is nothing more than a tool for getting the support of others by means of good works well publicized.

Public Relations as its best!. Photo credits: Zebra Public Relations Ltd.

I think that this is a really interesting topic, is how you make other people get to know the good things that you have done and therefore get them to help you with future project that you have in mind. This is a basic skill that an individual or company would have to develop if they want to keep in business. This applies to everything in life, for example how do you convince a girl or boy to be your girlfriend or boyfriend, well showing appealing and hopefully true things about you! That’s the whole business of PRs: “Good works, well publicized”.

Brisbane Airport Corporation have some resources that could be well used in this direction through social media:

  • The Airport Ambassadors are a group of volunteers that have the will to help the visitors of the Brisbane Airport with questions that they may have and directions that they could need about how to do some things in the precinct. The Ambassadors are wandering in the international terminal and they run the Visitors Information Centre at the domestic terminal. They have a natural tendency to spread the knowledge that they have about the airport and their workings. This is what is called a Maven: “somebody who is willing and eager to share their knowledge”. They could be taught how to use properly Facebook and Twitter and could respond swiftly to questions that may arise in the public. And not only that, but they could be proactive in posting in public wikis or blogs how to do specific procedures that they have found are the more asked by visitors, i.e. Q&A. In this way the visitors and customers would be delighted about the swift responses to their issues and they will get a better impression of the Airport.

The Airport Ambassadors. Photo credits: Brisbane Airport Corporation

  • The Brisbane Airport has a program of free Tours that increase the awareness of the community of all the things that happen in a day-to-day basis in the Airport. This awareness definitely leads to a sense of engagement. I searched for some of these tour videos on the web a nothing came out. It would be a great idea to make a video about that, with a really popular and amusing public figure, who could help to create a funny and informal footage for posting it through the social media channels. The purpose is to get the video viral and innovative ideas are a great way to do this, i.e. check this amazing video of the American band OK Go and see the number of views that it has: 37 million+! If BAC creates a viral and educative video, the image of the airport would be enhanced in the community and the numbers of followers in social media would go through the roof!

PRs nowadays are closely connected with social media and the word could be spread to the extent that the outputs could be viral and appealing to the general public.

Wikis for Creation of Community – Brisbane Airport

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Wiki, what a funny word: it has rhythm, it has rhyme! Wiki, wiki wiki! When I first heared it, I wouldn’t imagine the importance that it has nowadays for the smooth flow of information. Wikipedia, the biggest ans most popular encyclopaedia and is a wiki.

Wikipedia Logo. Photo credits: The Independent

So, what’s a wiki anyway?

Is a website where multiple people could collaborate to produce documents that all of them could read, looks simple but powerful. Check out this video a for simple explanation.

Wikis could be used from a small number of friends arranging a holyday to multinational companies that would like to use it as a repository for their processes as explained by Dicky Chiu in his blog.

Let’s focus in a specific application that I am interested in: the interlacing relations between employees of a company.

Brisbane Airport Corporation (BAC) is the organization that has the lease over the Brisbane Airport for 49 years; this lease was granted by the Australian government for 1.4 billion dollars.

Just to give you an idea of the magnitude of the Brisbane Airport, I’m going to state some facts:

  • It has an extension of 2700 hectaers, roughly a square with sides of 5 km.
  • BAC is responsible for maintenance and bulding of infrastructure, such as sewers, water, roads and power and communications in the precinct.
  • The Airport accomodates over 420 businesses that service in different industries that range from freight and aircraft handling to leisure and retail.
  • All this businesses employ more than 19,000 people.

Brisbane Airport. Photo credits: Novotel Brisbane Airport

But the surprising fact is that BAC has only 300 hundred employees to handle this monster! So each of the employees is a valuable assett and BAC has to treat them like that. What better way to create a great work environment to strengthen the bonds in the work force community.

Wikis are just great to achieve that end! What about a Wiki categorised by hobbies where all the employees could enter information about their leisure activities and share them with their peers. The employees would get to know who are the people in the company that they could hang out with to share their interests, several clubs could be formed out of that such as: bands, cooking, photography, fishing and running groups, amongst others. This interaction promoted through a social media tool would create strong emotional links that are essential to the smooth operation of such a relatively small but important bunch. An example of that is how Atlassian uses their own wiki product Confluence to achieve these social activities in the enterprise, as Sherif Mansour (Technical Product Manager at Atlassian) says in the Digital Orgs interview (21:55).

Wikis are relevant for any group activity, where everybody could input and feed from the general output. Of course, media policies are important to keep the activity under certain control, but as said by Sherif Mansour in the previous interview, people tend to behave well when they know that they are identifiable and that they are writing for the whole group.

Wikis have a great deal of applications, this is just one, but the sky is the limit!

References:

BAC – Our Company

BAC – People and Culture

The Power of Microblogging at Airports

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In my opinion the Brisbane Airport is a great subject to study in regards to Social Media, mainly because is the third airport in Australia, it has a great number of stakeholders and also because is located in the Australia TradeCoast – the second source of employment in the Brisbane area after Brisbane City.

Brisbane Airport. Photo credits by Brisbane Airport Corporation

Some of the main stakeholders involved with the Airport are government, airlines, passengers, employees, retail shops and transport system (to and from the airport). All of them have their own interests and challenges:

  • Airlines lend air transportation services to passengers in a streamlined and profitable manner. Adjusting to satisfaction standards of customers to keep them happy and make them loyal.
  • Passengers would like to travel in a timely, economical and comfortably way.
  • Employees want to keep their job to get a regular salary, lend the service to public efficiently to keep their customers happy and be in an attractive workplace that would keep them interested in their job.
  • Retail shops are interested in making profits selling their products, be in a pleasant environment that would attract customers and have some market research about the passengers’ purchasing trends.
  • Transport system would like to create profits from the transportation of passengers and companions from and to the airport and transport quickly (without jams or delays).

To create an effective way of dealing with instant communication from/to the Brisbane Airport, BCA (Brisbane Airport Corporation) have implemented a Twitter account that is a paramount tool to broadcast information to a great number of people and to connect emotionally with users and other stakeholders. Several applications come to mind and other ones are already implemented by the Social Media department of BCA:

  • Airport could receive informal complaints about their services and solve the issue or at least give an explanation. Also help requests are made and handled through Tweets:

  • Information about flights timetabling and delays could be broadcasted.
  • Airlines could tweet through the Airport account recently available accommodations in their flights.
  • Airlines could use the Airport account for announcing discounts on tickets, making the airport account attractive to the Twitter user.
  • BCA informs the community of new policies and decisions, explaining the reasons for the changes and letting the community express their views; which creates valuable feedback for the airport administration:

  • Issues relating transport to/from the airport could be communicated:

  • Public interest announcements:

  • Airport receiving and acknowledging good feedback for their services:

All of these applications and many more that are being used and that could be found create a smoother communication with all the people interested in the Airport and make the public feel more engaged and emotionally involved with such an important public service as the airport is for Brisbane.

Show Me the Money!!!!!!!! – ROI in Enterprise 2.0

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ROI stands for Return on Investment, which mathematically calculated is:

ROI=Profits/Costs

In some business ROI is relatively easily calculated. Simplyfying, let’s say that a shopkeeper who buys merchandise for $ 1000 to selling it later at $ 1300 would have the following ROI:

ROI = ($1300-$1000)/$1000 * 100% = 30%

That was easy!

Photo credits: Chumpy’s Clip Art

But there are some arenas where the calculation is not easy and in some aspects in Enterprise 2.0 we have to be creative to crunch the numbers!

Following the Joction case study in the book Enterprise 2.0 Implementation by Newman and Thomas (pages 22-38) we could find interesting ways to find a tricky ROI. Joction is a fictional networking company that offer their services to a significant number of companies in Fortune 500 across the US. It have 20 branches spreaded in the country. It had grew really fast in past years and now an overload of information and pressure is straining the company’s employees. A big load of email sent to the managerial staff cause mental fatigue and lost of precious time.  Other problem is that creative employees from different offices don’t know each other, so that makes hard for them to collaborate in innovation ventures.

 Photo credits by The MatriXFiles

To solve all of that, the company bought and implemented an Enterprise 2.0 system that would strive to alleviate the situation and harness on the creativity of the network of savvy employees to develop innovation projects that would increase the proceeds of the company.

The case study is comprehensive and shows several methods to calculate the ROI of the implementation, I’ll show you some of the ones that were more interesting for me:

  • How they measure innovation caused by better connectivity: The Enterprise 2.0 platform has profiles for each of the employees, where they can enter their background, interests and aims. So any one in the company is able to look for people that has similar interest to theirs and connections could be created to innovate. In the case study, 20 groups were created after the implementation of the software and 16 of them attributed their formation to the Enterprise 2.0 platform. It was supposed than 10% of these groups would come up with projects that would produce significant revenue and it was assumed also that each of them would produce $ 500,000. So from the 16 groups, let’s say that two groups would come up with something profitable and that means that $ 1,000,000 would be the proceeds from that aspect of the benefit of the implementation.

Photo credits by The Creative Problem Solving Group, Inc.

  • Increased communications with customers: Facebook has 955 million of users and if compared with countries’ populations, it would be the third in the scale. That means that definitely attracted to social networking and that companies would have to create platforms that could accomodate these needs of their niche market. With the Joction’s Enterprise 2.0 plataform relations between staff and customers grew stronger and even between customers significant amount of connections were made. Wikis were created for communication and solving of issues between customers and staff, causing satisfaction for a good aftersale service. From the number of customers that use an account in Jonction social network, 70% renewed their contracts, in proportion to 45% which was the average renewal. This fact, relieved important time from sales representatives to look for new customers.
  • Better recruitment for Joction: The advent of Social Network in Joction have created an opportunity for new potential hires to join the network, so they are more aware of the culture of the company and chances of development. Employees are encouraged to reach out to the network to show them the conditions of work at Joction. Due to that, a 15% more resumes have been received for job openings posted and 60% of them are joined to the social network.

All of these methods of quantifying benefits would produce more accurate calculations of ROIs which can then be used to offer a Value Proposition for a company to implement social web technologies. That’s how you can introduce a new technology, just Showing the Money as Jerry Maguire.

Social Media Legal Setbacks for Punk Label

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In one of my past posts I wrote about an indie record label called Epitaph based on Los Angeles, led by Bad Religion guitarist Brett Gurewitz, which has been one of the successful indie labels in the punk industry.

Bad Religion – Photo Credits: The Humanist

Their business and focus is continuously changing as for most of the agents in music industry, but they are mainly engage in: signing up new artists, supporting the recording of albums, design of visual art, publicity and advertising for bands products and tours and the distribution of their music, videos and other media. For internal communication, storage and collaboration they use a Social Media tool called Socialtext  which is explained extensively in a previous post, but for external communication they use: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and RSS – Tumblr, that is where the fans are!

For Epitaph and overall for record labels the legal risks involved in their operations are:

  • Loss of confidential information: The record label plans with each of the artists when to release the album or items related. That depends in many factors such as, when the artists area planning to tour certain area, when is best to target a particular market and their related radio stations. The time for the release is critical. The fact that confidential information could be leaked untimely, i.e. a featured single, is a major setback for all the plans. The Social Media Policy (SMP) have to address this issue with workers to let them know the importance of keeping the information away from the public until is time to release it.
  • Breach of copyright: In the setup of Social Media, it is so easy to infringe copyrights. If an employee uploads illegitimately a song and share it with their friends just to show off is infringing the copyrights of the composers, recording artists and the production company, i.e. is distributing the artistic work without the permission of the author, which usually means without paying them. The SMP has to be clear in that regard, the products of Epitaph and their artists are their songs, videos, visual arts, etc. and any unauthorized publication is a breach in copyright, in other words a theft of copyrights.
  • False statements: Social Media is a way to connect with fans and is easy, is real-time! Anything that is posted is there straightaway! This means that the communication has to be thought out, not just simply write whatever comes to mind, because if that is the way to operate a lot of mistakes would have to be corrected and most serious the fans could be misled, e.g. to try to catch the band at the wrong time in the wrong music shop for autographs, which definitely leads to lower the reputation of the band and record label. SMP would have to make that clear to employees in communication positions.

Now, I get the concern and reluctance of some companies to be into Social Media, as the one that Yvonne Tang showed in her post about Singapore Airlines. I think that this is a virgin territory and that the law is being made as the fast pace Social Media effects are happening. However, with a good Social Media Strategy and Social Media Policy that would establish the rules of the game, Social Networking for companies would be more legal-safe and they could reap the benefits of Web 2.0.

:)