My two cents on Google Wave

imagesWe all face the same challenge: too much communication. E-mail overflow, status updates on Facebook, Tweets, blogs, RSS. All scattered around on the internet. We might have embraced these new communication technologies a bit too much. That it what Google might be thinking when they started the development of Wave almost two years ago.

Wave is supposed to solve the ever increasing tsunami of data. Being active in the introduction of an internal social network I whole-hearted agree with these imputations. One of the main topics of discussion there is the fact that people do not want to have more tools to communicate, they want less. So obviously I was eager to find out what Google Wave has to offer. And let’s face it, e-mail is soooo 1995…

First let’s have a look at what Google Wave actually is. I couldn’t find ‘Google Wave in Plain English’, so I’ll give it a try myself (alternatively you can watch the entire keynote -1 hours, 27 minutes, see below- looking at two dreadfully bad presenters in which they explain the entire thing. Recommended for New Media Specialists or if you want to play guru at parties).

In the basis Google Wave is a centralization of all forms of communication. Because of this centralization you can do cool stuff, as we will see later. When compared to ‘traditional’ e-mail (see picture 1) which is basically a copy of the snail mail concept, Google Wave connects everybody on one server (see picture 2).

Picture 1 - The traditional way e-mail works (courtesy of Google)

Picture 1 - The traditional way e-mail works (courtesy of Google)

Picture 2 - The Google Wave way (courtesy of Google)

Picture 2 - The Google Wave way (courtesy of Google)

What is Google Wave?

The information Google is providing is not too much, mainly because Google Wave is still in development. The keynote presentation (yes, I did watch it) reveals the following features:

A Wave can be compared to a sort of e-mail message on steroids. Looking at the interfce of Wave, you see a navigation on the upper left side (with inbox, archive, etc), Contact list on the lower left side, A pane in the middle with your ‘Waves’ and on the right side the selected Wave.

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Plain vanilla e-mail is done by creating a new Wave, dragging your contact in the wave and start typing. When the recipient receives the Wave it can reply. Nothing new here. But the cool thing is that one can reply on paragraphs within the mail and start a conversation based on this specific paragraph. So you get a conversation within a conversation. All visually stunning and easy to see. But now the cool part comes: whenever the sender is typing her message, the recipient, if online and looking at the same Wave, can actually see the sender typing. Sort if instant messaging, but without the message ‘xxx is typing….‘. Of course, if you want to give your love message a bit more thought you can switch this off and use the traditional ‘send’ button.

Dragging pics into your Wave is as easy as drag and drop. Also here the recipient sees the pictures arriving the moment the sender drags them into the Wave. Impressive stuff, also if you realize that all is done within the browser. No additional software is required.

If you want to name the pictures, you can of course do so. And again, whenever you add text to a picture, the other person can watch it ‘live’. But Google has built in an even neater trick. The recipient can start adding text too, and then the sender sees it automatically. In this way you can really work collaboratively on a document (as opposed to the dreadful way Microsoft has implemented this in Word).

Sometimes e-mail threads can become pretty long. Ever received an e-mail of twenty pages, where you have to scroll all the way down to start reading? With Wave, where people can start a conversation within a Wave, things don’t get any clearer. Fortunately Google has thought of that too. There’s a playback button on each Wave, and a timeline. Just press the ‘Play’ button or drag the timeline and see the Wave being build up from scratch. See who replied on who, and when. Handy stuff.

A Wave can be embedded in a blog, wiki or any other website. So when you embed your Wave, it’s there to see for the world. Basically you can take your conversation public, viral. Whenever people react to your Wave on the embedded website it is shown on the website itself, but also in your original Wave. Same goes for Twitter. A nice integration with our all time favorite microblogging platform makes it convenient to have your tweets together with your e-mails…eeehh… Waves. Just imagine what this could do for enterprises, building up a massive knowledge database automatically.

Another nifty feature is autocorrection based on Google’s language database (should be pretty big by now) and, guaranteed WOW effect, autotranslation. Somebody is typing in French and it is automatically -on the fly- translated in English. Google Wave, where were you when I was on High School? Using these features involves including a ‘Robot’ in your Wave. Just like including people in your Wave you can add these Robots (little pieces of software) which enhances your Wave. A bit scary may be for novel users but -depending of the Robot’s feautures- proving very helpful eventually.

Wave is open source, so all can start making applications. Next to that companies can install Wave software independently from Google so that communication never has to go through Google servers and stays within the group you decide to share. Clever, Google, clever.

There is much, much more to tell about Wave, but I suggest you grab some popcorn and a bottle of beer and start watching the presentation:

So, will Google Wave have a future?

From a collaboration point of view I certainly saw some very nice features. Collaboration within a Wave, dragging just another person to the Wave if you want to get involvement, conversations within a Wave, adding features with Robots, taking the conversation outside the Wave. All features which will bring a rich user experience and endless possibilities. But the main challenge will -in my opinion- be twofold:

1. User adoption
2. Lock-in by Google

1. User adoption
Google Wave has a strong competitor. A competitor which is so adopted within society, from a cultural as well as a technological point of view: e-mail. And why is e-mail so strong? Simply because we all have it, we all know how to use it (which is obvious when I look at the number of e-mails in my inbox) and because the technology is not owned by anybody. So the success of Wave -any new technology for that matter- depends on the adoption and thus on the number of people using it. If nobody has Wave, with whom will I dance the Wave? Google of course realizes this, hence the decision to make it open source. They want as many people as possible to try, build and embrace it. Hoping for a tipping point.

But will my mother use it? Will she see the benefits of online collaboration? Will she take effort to go through the rather steep learning curve? I just don’t know. For the average Digital Native this won’t be any issue. But mind you, there are still a lot of Digital Immigrants out there, and they feel perfectly okay using e-mail. Even so, it is not too long ago that they mastered e-mail and I’m not sure whether they want to go through that again.

And what about corporations? More efficient communication, building up knowledge collectively, online collaboration. Which CEO doesn’t want that? But what a minute… this is technology from Google, isn’t it?

2. Lock-in by Google
In a recent Wired article (August 2009) it is explained why Google is set on a collision course with the US antitrust division. Being seen as the ‘new Microsoft’, the recently appointed head of Justice Department’s antitrust division Christine Varney is sure to investigate the accusations Google has received from various parties. According to Varney “[Microsoft] is not the problem. I think we are going to continually see a problem, potentially with Google”.

Whether these accusations are all true or not, nobody can deny that Google has gotten some power over the years. And in general society doesn’t like such powerhouses. I can imagine that also companies are reluctant to use technology which on paper might be open source, but you just never know.

In conclusion I think Google Wave could potentially be very big. It certainly has all the ingredients to become the next iteration of online conversations. I’m not so sure about adoption, which is the main critical success factor. I will certainly give it a try when it becomes available later this year, and I advise you do the same. If it was only for playing the early-adopter guru amongst your friends.

Additional reading:

First Impressions of Google Wavers, by Dion Hinchcliffe

What works: The Wave Way vs. the Web Way by Anil Dash


Third part of my presentation

Finally got some time to edit the final part of my presentation at the Digital Pharma congress in Barcelona: “Best Practices Using Internal Social Media”. Check it out here:

 

First two videos of my presentation at Digital Pharma

Found myself some time to make my ‘SteveNote’ way of my presentation given at Digital Pharma in Barcelona last month. For a detailed report on the event, see here.

I have split my presentation (Best Practices for the Use of Web 2.0 and Social Media Tools for Internal Collaboration) in three parts:

Part 1: The Need for Innovation in Pharma
Part 2: Social Media and Internal Collaboration
Part 3: Best Practices Using Web 2.0 and Internal Collaboration

In this blogpost the first two episodes (it was late, so the third one coming up asap).

Digital Pharma Congress 2009- Socially Challenged Pharma

exl

We all know Social Marketing is the Next Big Thing. Or at least, that’s what we are all saying to each other. Making each other believe that the era of the 4/5/6 P’s is finally over. And of course Big Pharma can not stay behind forever. In a relatively short period the content of pharma congresses has changed dramatically. Two years ago a typical pharma marketing congress dealt with eDetailing, brand management and CRM systems. Now it’s about communities, Twitter, authenticity and transparency. Finally.

 

 

It was the first attempt for EXL Pharma to enter the ‘Old World’ with their Digital Pharma congress. Already an established event in the States, they now found the time right to see whether the Europeans are like-minded in the exciting area of new/social/digital media in pharma. And it seems that they are not the only one, by the way. This year alone we have been contacted by two other congress organizations which are planning to enter this space as well. It’s an interesting area to be in right now, especially when you have a story to tell.

We just returned from Barcelona (raining for two days, bummer!) and we look back to -in our view- a succesful first event organized by EXL. Of course not all things were perfect, it usually isn’t – especially when you do it for the first time. But I have to admit that Jason Youner and Bryan Main did a good job in pulling this thing off. Kudos go to them.

Now, let’s dive a bit into the program. I won’t cover all presentations, only the ones which were truly remarkable for me. For the Twitter feed with all tweets during the conference I refer to the EXL website with the Cover It Live feed (or search Twitter with #digitalpharma)

Old skool
EXL’s Digital Pharma Europe was organized in Barcelona on March 30 and 31. See for the full program here. The morning of the first day was reserved for a workshop entitled ‘Successfully integrating Digital Media into the Overall Marketing Mix’. Sam Trujillo, Director of Marketing Women’s Health explained in a three hour session the view of Bayer Schering on the way to engage with digital media in the marketing mix. Apart from the fact that a workshop usually involves ‘working’ and we didn’t do more than just listening, I did not find his story appealing and at it’s place at this event. His story was mainly focussing on digital media (fair enough) but it looked like the process he was presenting very much described the traditional approach of pharma companies using media: to stay in control. Seriously, I just do not think that putting your commercials on YouTube will generate a lot of traffic towards your channels. Who on earth is going to watch voluntarely a commercial of a pharma company, including the usual fair balance BS? It’s just not the channel for that.

The rest of the day was reserved for more Social Media stuff. So did Jeff Hithcock from ‘Children With Diabetes‘ (CWD) a touching presentation on his social network for parents and children with diabetes. Once started as a virtual space he created for his daughter suffering from diabetes, now a huge online community for thousands of diabetes children. Recently J&J acquired CWD. It’s not clear to me however what’s in it for J&J.

Pharma going social
Another great presentation was from Heidi Youngkin, Executive Director Global Marketing at J&J. She held an informative and engaging talk on her ‘Social Media Adventures’ within J&J. Intruiging to see that a pharma company is already that advanced. No doubt the fact that J&J is a huge company with a lot of FMCG might help, but still. I’m sure that her guidelines will be used as a ‘golden standard’ and reference frame within more pharma companies (I saw a lot of people making notes, since her presentation was not available online). Interestingly J&J started slowly with a blog about the history of the company (nice and safe). After they gained sufficient experience with this new medium they introduced a blog more specifically targeted towards their end users and dealing with more complex subjects. Now they have entered the third stage, going beyond blogs such as participating in the beforementioned community CWD. During the rest of the  conference J&J was quoted and cited as ‘Best Practices’ on several occassions.

The first day finished by a lively panel discussion moderated by Len Starnes, Head of Digital Marketing & Sales General Medicine at Bayer Schering. The panel discussion covered the paradigm shift of web 2.0 in the pharma world. Or should we say how pharma lives in the past not using (some of) these technologies. Interestingly it turned out that the FDA was present as well. Silently sitting in the back of the room, observing how Big Pharma is struggling with this paradigm shift. It sure is a pitty they (or anybody else for that matter) didn’t take the opportunity to start the conversation. And where were the European authorities?

Doctors and communities
Len must have done a great deal with EXL ;-) because the next day he kicked-off the second day of the event with his presentation entitled ‘Healthcare Professionals’ Social Networks – The Beginning of the End of Pharma Marketing As We Know It’. We’ve met Len at several other congresses and it’s always good to listen to his vision on digital marketing within Big Pharma. This time he gave a sound overview of all possible social networks available for the HCP (Health Care Professional). Although a few big players (Sermo and MedScape) there is still room for niche players like Ozmosis for example. And what about Europe? Well, it seems that Doctors.net.uk and DocCheck Faces are the biggest players on our continent but they will soon face competition by the Powerhouse Sermo which intends to introduce here in the not so distant future. Main question of course is how Big Pharma can participate in these communities. Sermo has a partnership with Pfizer, so is this the way to go? Len was firm in his statement that the pharma industry should observe, research, engage and discuss, but under no circumstances should hard sell. He also did a small poll on LinkedIn which showed that 86% of his network believes that Social Networks will have an impact on pharma marketing within the near future.

Enterprise 2.0 and innovation in Pharma

My presentation was next, talking about the internal use of Social Media in the light of innovation in marketing services. I am always surprised to see that an entire industry just jumps on the bandwagon of using social media for external use and just forgets that they first have to deal with yet another -equally important- community: their employees. Why is it that I can’t find more about my colleagues in Outlook’s address book other than their name, telephone number and office number whereas when I check on Facebook and LinkedIn I can find half of their life? Why is it that even a New Media Specialist is blocked access to YouTube at the office because she ‘might watch YouTube videos all day long’? Get seriouss, executives. Wake up in a new world and embrace yourself for the entrance of the digital natives, people who are actually used to share information with each other (and are hence not afraid to lose their ‘power’ when they do). Or read this for a change. We want to create a common platform within our organization where employees can find our internal blog, wikis, podcasts and share ideas. And if that means that we have to pull-in some people screamin’ and kickin’, so it is. Change is never without some pain.

 

 

 

 

YouTube genius
Yet another great presentation was from Kevin Nalty, Marketing Director Dermatology at a large pharma company which name could not be revealed but starts with an ‘M’ and ends with ‘erck’. Besides his serious job he moonlights as an official YouTube Comedian. His website Willvideoforfood is described as ‘a blog for online video, advertising, viral marketing, consumer generated media and blatant self-promotion’. Don’t know if he really needs a site doing all this since he’s one of the top-10 most viewed YouTube comedians with more than 750 videos seen in excess of 60 million times. He even wrote an e-book ‘How To Become Popular On YouTube Without Any Talent’. Well, I don’t have to explain you that we 100% agree with his vision about the power of video in communication. What we do differ in opinion is that although content is still king, form is becoming more and more important. By that I mean that the basic elements of filming should be carried out well (e.g. sound, lightning, basic rules of camera movement). That doesn’t mean that I think one should make a slick commercial. Please don’t. Some ‘rough edges’ gives it most of the time a bit more genuine look. But I will skip videos where the sound quality is poor, even if they have a nice story to tell.

Now, online video is exploding: Pharma, wake up and start using it!

The last presentation was an overview of the possibilities Google has to offer big Pharma. Interesting in that respect is Google.org, a CSR initiative of Google helping the community with their innovative concepts.

A quick wrap up ended the Digital Pharma Congress in Barcelona. Main take home messages of the audience (well, from people who actually dared to shout it out loud):

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That last point was not put in by me, but most probably due to me…

The future
I think it was a good start for such an event. I hope that for next congresses dealing with this subjects participation of European authorities is paramount since they are the gatekeepers of communication possibilities within our industry. Compared to the US Europe is different in that respect, also because we (still) have many different local authorities which can play and are playing according to their rules. The market is changing, people are getting more informed. The question is which information they use in order to get informed, and to what respect the quality of information is improved if Pharma can participate in the discussion. Pharma on the other hand should take it’s responsibility too, by being open and transparent about their products and claims. Pharma is low on the trust-scale, time to open up and fix that. Looking to the people in the audience I have the feeling that Pharma is ready for it. Now authorities, give them the opportunity to do so.

Stay tuned, soon I will post my presentation including the video online.

And the future is yet a bit closer

This demo from Pattie Maes’ lab at MIT, was the buzz of TED, a top of the bill conference about innovative ideas. It’s a wearable device with a projector that paves the way for profound interaction with our environment. Imagine “Minority Report” and then some. Very cool..

Six critical success factors to make Web 2.0 work

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McKinsey Quarterly published an interesting article this month how companies can successfully use Web 2.0 tools. McKinsey has studied in the past two years the experiences of more than 50 early adopters of Web 2.0 tools in corporate organizations. The experiences are equally balanced between enthusiastic and dissatisfied. However, basis for success lies in the acceptance of the disruptive characteristic of Web 2.0 and the understanding how to create value with these tools.

Based on these results McKinsey has identified six critical success factors for the use of Web 2.0 technologies:

  1. The transformation to a bottom-up culture needs help from the top
    Web 2.0 projects depend on bottom-up involvement of people throughout the organization. However, involvement of senior management is paramount as they will act as role models that will encourage participation of the rest of the organization.
  2. The best uses come from users – but they require help to scale
    Successful use of new technologies depend on the involvement of the users in the development and implementation of it. Failure is at risk when management tries to dictate their preferred uses of the technologies used. Mckinsey’s research demonstrates that the applications that drive the most value through participatory technologies are often not those that were expected by management.
  3. What’s in the workflow is what gets used
    When developing Web 2.0 applications make sure that the users are able to create the time within their daily workflow to participate in these new collaborative initiatives. Initial enthusiasm will fade rapidly if users experience that participation is another add-on to their already crowded to-do lists.
  4. Appeal to the participants’ egos and needs – not just their wallets
    Financial incentives do not work in collaborative technologies. They create content, but of low quality. More effective is it to bolster the reputation of participants in relevant communities, rewarding enthusiasm, or acknowledging the quality and usefulness of contributions.
  5. The right solution comes from the right participants
    Be sure who to target. To select users that will have valuable contributions takes thorough preparation. Look across the borders of the traditional experts  but also involve other disciplines within the organization. If done correctly, it can create great benefits beyond expectations. Sales forecasts predicted by participants with a more diverse base in operational knowledge were more accurate than those of the company’s experts.
  6. Balance the top-down and self-management of risk
    Web 2.0 by definition is disruptive and stads for authenticity, open and free communication. these factors feed many companies with fear for these technologies. However, Web 2.0 is not equal to total anarchy and some control over the content produced is prudent in corporate environments. Some security functions can, and should, be installed, such as prohibiting anonymous posting. Ultimately, successful participation means engaging in authentic conversation with participants.

Acceptance of Web 2.0 tools in corporations is growing. Spenditure on Web 2.0 technologies is currently estimated at $1 billion by McKinsey, but in the coming five years an annual growth of 15% is expected, despite the current recession. I fully agree with this view. Even stronger, due to the unique characteristics of Web 2.0 (e.g. cost effective, participative, collabrative, very effective harvesting of tacit knowledge) it is the distinctive technology in times of economic downfall. After all, if one thing survives in a recession, it’s innovation. And Web 2.0 is such an innovative technology that makes the difference.

With thanks to Bram Fasseur of Marketingfacts who made me aware of this article.

How the internet was born

We use it everyday, and you tend to forget how amazing it really is: the internet.  No doubt one of the greatest inventions of the past decade. Decade? Now way! Did you know that the internet was ‘created’ already in 1966? Have a look yourself in this highly animated video about the history of the internet.

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