The Real Paul Jones

Accept no substitutes

Mobile Social Gaming and Messaging – KakaoTalk #noemail

A lunch chat with Sam Oh who is visiting UNC from Korea had me thinking about the variety of ways that chat apps are used in different cultures. Sam briefly explained the history and use of KaKaoTalk in Korea. His story of a Yahoo!-like company’s rebirth as a messaging app that has dominated Korean phones intrigued me so I starting looking for more about KakaoTalk.

The app began as a simple chat app and expanded into KakaoTalk, KakaoStory, KakaoMusic, KakaoGroup, KakaoHome, KakaoPlace, KakaoAlbum, KakaoPage, KakaoStyle, and KakaoAgit. Most of the names explain something about the focus of each service — all mobile oriented and working as a quick sharing service. Kakoa even breaks services off into their own apps — KakaoTaxi, KakaoBus, KakaoMetro etc.

KakaoTalk (according to Sam with details added from Wikipedia) derives its income from three main streams:
Gaming – 67.5% ($31.1M) in 2012. Mobile and social gaming with in game purchases including the Korean “national games,” Ani Pang and Dragon Flight. These games are not only the largest source of income but also serve to keep user engagement very very high — unlike other cleaner purer chat applications. If there is anything that other messaging app or any mobile app could learn from KakaoTalk, it’s how to increase engagement via gaming. Then to use that increased engagement to produce a very effective income stream.
Coupons (instead of banner ads) – 26.2% ($12.1M)
Emoji sales – 6.3% ($2.8M)

In the wake of Pokemon Go, this seem obvious. But if — say a month again — I told you that #noemail systems could be profitable by offering mobile social gaming, I would have gotten and perhaps deserved an eye roll response.

It turns out that this week we are all believers in mobile social gaming with augmented reality. And investors believe that there are profits to be had in that space.

At the moment, investors are seeing mobile social gaming as separate from messaging but KakaoTalk points toward integration as a solution for increasing engagement and income at the same time.

Looking at the top global apps on Android for the first quarter of 2015, Qualtra showed messaging apps dominate with the top four being owned by Facebook (Facebook itself, WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram). [note: pre-installed Google apps are not included in the chart]. When it comes to number of sessions and for length of engagement, however, it’s KakaoTalk as number 1 by far.

Qualtra looks at top apps

Outside of Korea although installs of KakoaTalk are a much smaller percentage (in the US 1% of Androids for example), but the length of engagement is still the largest of any messaging app, reports SimilarWeb.

The problem facing KakaoTalk is how to get out of Korea and into other markets in a significant way. Is mobile social gaming integrated into a messaging app an anomaly or a pathway to success? Is KakaoTalk culturally and locally bound to Korea? Is the future to be found more in loosely connected apps for special purposes — a Clash of Clans + GroupMe for now and Pokemon Go + WhatsApp later –?

KakaoTalk logo

Under New Management with #noemail

David Burkus begins his new book, “Under New Management: How Leading Organizations Are Upending Business as Usual” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016), with an 11 page chapter commanding companies to “Outlaw Email.” Choosing #noemail as an opening chapter says a lot about the need for communication reform with in companies. But the content is even more compelling.

Burkus isn’t just railing about the evils of email, the delays, the time sinks, the spam, the miscommunication, the stylistic misuse, the passive-aggressive tendencies that email cultivates, or how email creeps into every minute of your life shackling your company’s productivity. Burkus presents proof that you can outlaw email and improve your company’s performance.

Beginning with a reference to the no email policies of Atos SE and ending with the no email on weekends or after hours at Daimler, Burkus fills in the middle with recent research that shows the cost of email and the benefits of using other more effective forms of communications from UC-Irvine and US Army as well as a survey on emotional effects by Marcus Butts and his colleagues.

In short, very good review of the most recent practice and research told well.

Burkus, himself, tells the story more briefly in the most recent Harvard Business Review as “Some Companies Are Banning Email and Getting More Done” (June 8, 2016).

“Clearing out your email inbox can make you feel like you’re ultra-productive, but unless your job description is solely to delete emails, you’re likely just fooling yourself.”

Under New Management

Year Five of #noemail Part 5 – Collaboration, a Short Rant

via Orange County http://www.211oc.org/get-involved/newsletter.html

The very first reason that I posited that email needed to die and that its death would be welcome sooner than later is that every day we have a greater reliance of open collaboration than ever before. This is. at the moment at least, now doctrine. In the past 24 hours, I’ve hear that from both candidate’s for the Governorship of the state of North Carolina. That’s about the only thing they agreed on.

What passes for collaboration and what facilitates group work is open for debate. Of course, a number of kludges immediately rose to the challenge. Everyone with a product or a consulting investment had an answer.
Email was at first pitched as an effective collaboration tool. What a great idea! You don’t need new technology to help you; you only need to be instructed in how to properly use email. The problem is that the learning or relearning in context is extremely difficult for humans. You can get some slight improvements. But it was immediately clear that smart calendars, simple meeting schedulers (like Doodle), collaborative writing spaces (like Google Docs), chat spaces (like Slack and HipChat) were much more effective and that the work done with those tools was almost immediately better and more satisfaction — as seen by their very quick adoption.

As I like to say it may take a short while but soon makers of tools rush in where those with older angles have already trod.

Attempts to retrofit email to make it more friendly to or at least tolerant of collaboration are numerous. I mentioned two attempts at making the in-box smarter by applying AI and machine learning in Part 1. Verse from IBM and InBox from Google. Other mail interfaces continue to kludge along as if they are a 20 century disco act at Bonnaroo. I’m looking at you Outlook.

Collaboration needs support in a variety of contexts – as I will describe later – as we see each new tool arrive, some failing and some immediately useful, we recognize how email fails us. Collaboration requires stronger context, better threading, better time shifting tools, a stronger knowledge base, and a degree of simplicity that email has never achieved

Year Five of #noemail Part 4 – Spam, Spam, Spam

Spam by Brownpau https://www.flickr.com/photos/brownpau/22249530108

Back when Spam was merely canned spiced shoulder of ham, we had junk mail. It came and still comes to our physical mail boxes just as surely and regularly as robo-calls come to our voice mail in-boxes. Passing some opt-out laws and restrictions helped stem the tide of junk mail somewhat. It as easy to toss in the recycle in any case. In the case of robo-calls, mandated do not call lists helped a lot. It seemed that junk robo-intrusions into our communications streams could be handled by some sort of legal relief — at least in the US.

In one recent instance legal recourse has proven to be helpful as the advertising spam industry has unified with fewer players. In 2015, FTC action against a California-based diet pill spammer resulted in not only a settlement that included a $43 million fine but also resulted in an overall reduction in spam in the phrama sector of almost 80%.

But overall, spam in email turned out to be different than junk mail and robo-calls. Global in design and reach, less costly to the sender, rarely stifled at the source, more easily disguised and overall more insidious, spam and anti-spam efforts have obsessed some of the best minds of our generation.

As a result of this hard brain work, we now have cleaner in-boxes but we also see plaintive sentences when we order from some sites asking us, warning us to please white list their email addresses (thereby opening ourselves up to their spam) or even more annoying “If you do not see our response, please inspect your spam folder.” One word of advice: Don’t unless you are desperate or want to be shocked by what has been rightly hidden from you.

I haven’t missed spam over the past five years, but I think spam has missed me. Recent reports at that spam is in decline. According to Symantec, spam is down as a percentage of total email sent for the first time in 12 years of measurement (as of June 2015). Spam has proven to be less effective for sales, but still very effective in delivering phishing schemes, malware and ransomware.

That is to say that spam, which was once mostly an annoying waste of time, is now more likely to be lethal — well, at least to have very bad consequences. We get less spam but instead of marketing green coffee or acai berries, we are deceived into entering our banking passwords or to send our contact lists to the fraudsters in the background for further exploitation.

Social media or even encrypted messaging systems are not completely free of spam. But the nature of whitelisting by default reduces automated spam greatly. I never get spammed on Slack. Facebook is fairly good at sorting out spam messages, but yes there are invitations that you just should not accept. My messaging systems are spam free as in LinkedIn — save the odd invite. Invite in and of themselves are annoyances; they do not — at the moment — include a payload of malware.

But there may be something to be said for spam even if somewhat tongue in cheek. Finn Brunton, in his lovely if somewhat twisted “Spam: A Shadow History of the Internet,” (MIT, 2013) writes “Indeed, from a certain perverse perspective–one with consequences for my argument–spam can be presented as the Internet’s infrastructure used maximally and most efficiently, for a certain value of ‘use.’” Soon after Brunton acknowledges that “[t]his description is obviously ludicrous, a panegyric of pure function, while still being true.”

Year Five of #noemail – Part 3 – Mobile workspaces

“We are rarely static people,” writes Kevin Benedict at the Center for the Future of Work blog in an article titled “Time, Space, and Speed – Mobile vs Static Apps.” Although Benedict wrote this in January 2016, he could have been channeling my own thinking as I compiled my original 7 ways that email must die list five years ago. I said one of the forces that would kill email was our use of “mobile rather than stationary work spaces.”

Benedict goes on ask us to:

consider two people in a vehicle. The driver, assuming they use their smartphone only when safely parked, searches for places, locations and directions based on a static starting point. However, if the person searching for places, locations and directions is a passenger in a moving car, a different set of information is appropriate. One based on movement, speed, direction, intersections, changing distances, etc. How should those variables change the way mobile apps are designed?

Mobility even within an office setting — and work within office settings is also changing for knowledge workers as I’ll write about later — is a design challenge one that the very design of email fails. Email has a context; it’s context is someone sitting at a desk typing a memo, penning a post-it note, sending in slow motion from her work station. While we still work, we are not usually at a station or as Benedict says “We are not static people.”

Even apps are having difficulty moving from web (static) to phone (mobile) just barely beginning to use voice effectively for requests, directions, and answers. When I began #noemail in 2011, Siri was not yet released for the iPhone 4S — that would happen in October of the year. Five years later, we are much further along than even I had hoped. Search and Google Now try — in my case more successfully than not — to anticipate the information that we need to know when and where we are when we want it. Sometimes before we know we want it.

“A transformation in thinking and design needs to take place, one based on the real world, rather than on static models” writes Benedict. While he is often in his brief piece taking about apps, he could easily be taking about the design of our workplaces as well.

Changes in organization, in spaces themselves, the rise of co-working, of open offices, of design for collision (for almost accidental encounters while in transit, at lunch, at coffee or just sitting in the sun) are the subject of Ben Waber, Jennifer Magnolfi, and Greg Lindsay’s Harvard Business Review article “Workspaces That Move People”

“Office buildings are no longer the sole locations for knowledge work. In fact, research from the consulting group Emergent Research suggests that two-thirds of it now happens outside the office.”

Waber et al remind us of three key elements of successful communication: exploration (interacting with people in many other social groups), engagement (interacting with people within your social group, in reasonably equal doses), and energy (interacting with more people overall) as described in Alex “Sandy” Pentland’s April 2012 HBR article, “The New Science of Building Great Teams.” These are measurable elements, as Magnolfi demonstrates in her study of Zappos.

These casual collisions designed into working spaces as shared coffee shops, central letter boxes, larger lunch/break rooms increase trust, reduce isolation, enlarge social networks, increase the effectiveness of business networks and increase productivity. Not by magic but by increasing bonding, deepening later interactions, and easing knowledge transfer.

Digital interactions are about continuing relationships, making weak bonds stronger, initiating f2f encounters and keeping links alive more often than beginning and remaining purely digital. Coffee can be as important as more than a dozen email messages as Waber shows.

For initiating and maintaining relationships, business and personal, the social, the casual and even the intimate exchanges in the moment whether digital or in physical spaces suit knowledge workers better.

Five Years of #noemail – Part 2 – Encrypted/Secure Messaging

Big Brother

When I began my on-going #noemail project, I knew or at least suspected that email would be replaced by smarter messaging systems. My hunch was that something more social, more interactive, more mobile friendly, more whitelist than completely open. What I didn’t count on what the proliferation of encrypted and even self-destructing-messaging apps.

Email can be encrypted and to some extent GMail does some transactional cryptography with https and ssl, but most email is sent and stored in the most insecure ways. Yet not only individuals, but financial services and medical sites also, often rely on email or email that directs you to a moderately secure site.

On the other hand, secure messaging is offered in various flavors by SnapChat, Wickr, WhatsApp, Viber, Telegram, Signal, Allo, Duo, BlackBerry Messenger, Gliph, Threema, ChatSecure, Line, Cyber Dust, and more. [Please send me your favorites if they aren’t listed here.]

Even old school messaging apps like AIM, Facebook Chat, Skype, Yahoo! Messenger and Gchat encrypt in transit — as some email does under some conditions.

Things are moving so fast that even the Electronic Frontier Foundation can’t keep up with them. EFF did a great job of evaluating secure messaging in late 2014 and produced a very useful scorecard, but that was out of date almost as soon as it was published. They’ve since produced a Surveillance Self-Defense Guide and promise that a new Scorecard will be on the way soon.

At the end of Year Five of #noemail, I ask myself why didn’t I make a point, amongst my Seven Points seen in Part 1, of talking more about security and encryption? It’s not like I don’t care about it. It’s not like I don’t have many of the secure messaging apps on my own phone. I mean ibiblio does run a TOR Exit Node (in support of journalists and our students and faculty as they travel).

I am aware of the need and desire for secure messaging — but I grew up with email where encryption was a task, a pain, such a specialty that even using encryption showed you were hiding something more than just embarrassing –; I hadn’t thought encryption would be so simple, so baked in to the apps, and so widely desired for even the simplest messages and exchanges.

I came around to this in Year Five of #noemail. It had been creeping up on me for the past few years. But now I should add to the list:

8. We want — no we demand — control over our messages via encryption and timed self destruction. Email does not and will not provide that.

This is Part 2 on a reflection and analysis and personal experience at Year Five of #noemail