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Good Product Management RIM’s Saviour?


Mike Mace has an excellent analysis of the challenges that RIM is facing.  My favourite quote is:

“The fault lies not in our ties, but in our selves. In my opinion, RIM’s real problems center around two big issues: its market is saturating, and it seems to have lost the ability to create great products. This is a classic problem that eventually faces most successful computer platforms. The danger is not that RIM is about to collapse, but that it’ll drift into in a situation where it can’t afford the investments needed to succeed in the future. It’s very easy for a company to accidentally cross that line, and very hard to get back across it.”

Anyone interested in Product Management should read the whole article here.

I thought the most interesting aspect of the article was the focus on the Product Management as the solution.  Specific Mike’s 2 recommendations:

“To keep a platform viable, you need to focus on two tasks: Keep the customer base loyal, and add adjacent product categories.”

Very simple advice and focus that many Product Managers forget and Mike follows it up with more strategies for each.

Overall one of the best articles I’ve seen on RIM and excellent reminder of the importance of Product Management.

Skype Reliability?


For over 2 days my skype account was offline and I was unable to login.  I could reset my password with the password recovery system ( and did multiple times ) but every time I kept getting an error that I couldn’t login.  No details were provided or contact for additional assistance.  Eventually I tried contacting Skype and was told my account was suspended pending verification.  The only verification they would accept was digits from my credit card which was on file, which I believe was setup when I created my Skype account 7 years ago.  I had no idea what card was used or even which bank it was from but I sent them a series of number I’ve used over the past few years.  Eventually I received this response today:

Hello Colin,

Thank you for your reply.

We understand your concern regarding your Skype account. We know the importance of getting this resolved the soonest time possible and we are more than willing to help you.

Upon checking our records, your account has been flagged for verification. Please be reminded that we do this verification process to maintain online security for all our customers and protect everyone from fraud which also indicated that you had carried out actions which are not allowed under Skype’s Terms and Conditions. Unfortunately we are unable to explain the specific reason for restricting your account.

However, we have now lifted the restriction, so you should be able to sign in again. Please note that if our systems detect further problems with your account then you will be unable to use your account again.

We hope this has clarified your issue. Should you need any further assistance or have additional questions please do not hesitate to contact us again.

Best regards,

Skype Customer Service

I’m not really sure what triggered this request for verification or if did actually verify successfully. Suddenly after 3 days of suspension my account is now active again.

I use Skype alot for business and now as my 2nd phone line at home. I even pay a Skype subscription with unlimited calling in Canada & the US. With Bell or Rogers in Canada there are terms of service guarantees but its very clear that when using Skype your really are mercy…

The New New Facebook Profile


Here we go again… Facebook has changed the profile page again and decided to roll it out on 60 minutes tonight.  The profile will be rolled out slowly to users but you can get it immediately by going here.

The changes are mostly minor with Facbeook but the most note-able visual change being the replacement of Facebook Tabs with a small menu on the Left Nav.  The menu includes all the pre-defined Facebook components including Wall, Info, Photos, Notes and Posts.  There is no option to add other menu items or areas.

A “jumble” of personal information is now included at the top of the below the user name, its not overly well formatted and the order seems to be clear.   The jumble seems to default to current job & employer, most recent education, current location, relationship status and partner,  home down, birthday.  I’ve also seen the Jumble show language(s) spoken so it might be related to the most recent changes to your profile.

New Facebook Promotion Rules


Facebook Contest PromotionPromotions on Facebook have been a little controversial over the past few years with Facebook requesting a minimum ad buy to approve the promotion and imposing  restrictive rules.   In many cases this has just served to encourage promotions without Facebook approval but always with the risk of removal or early termination.  Facebook has changed all this week with new Facebook Promotion guidelines that remove the minimum ad buy and define clear rules for all promotions.

The main focus of the guideline seems to be around focusing promotional activities on Facebook Applications and not core Facebook functionality.   In order to enter or qualify for a Facebook Promotion an application should be used either on the Canvas Page or a Facebook Page tab.   It’s prohibited for Facebook Promotions to use status updates, commenting on a wall or photo uploads as a method for entering the promotion.  This is very similar to the Facebook Policy against incentivized action for Facebook Applications.  The goal of both theses policies is to prevent companies from encouraging users to spam their friends.

TPMA Panel Tonight – Nov 30, 2010


I’m doing a TPMA panel tonight on career paths for Product Managers. I worked as a Product Manager for close to 10 years and I’ve attended several TPMA meetings in the past. Hope to you can make it and apologizes for the late notice.

Details on Career-Steering : How to Navigate In, Out, Up or Sideways in Product Management

My Presentation at Facebook Garage


We had a great event last night at Mars for the Facebook Developers Garage Toronto. It was our 6th event and we had a great crowd and speakers. My presentation on the Open Graph API is available here:

We’ll try to get the other presentations online soon.

The Legality of Groupon?


Groupon has really taken off in Canada.  I think mainly because many popular restaurants have been available as Groupons and that has driven alot of adoption.   One of my favourite restaurants, Utopia Cafe sold almost 1500 Groupons during their promotion.  Today’s Groupon is for the very popular Table 17 Restaurant

If you’re not familar with the concept basically a Groupon is presented for a limited time period, usually 24 hours and a certain number of people have to buy the Groupon for the deal the activate.  In most cases the Groupon offers a 50% discount when you purchase immediately.  Most Groupon’s don’t have alot of restrictions on when they can be used but do have an expiry date.  Groupon also encourages additional Groupons to be purchased as Gifts.  This presents an interesting legal aspect, especially in Ontario, where Gift Cards and Certificates are regulated.

In 2007,  the Consumer Protection Act was amended to ban expiry dates and most fees on gift cards purchased after that date to ensure consumers get their full value, regardless of when they use them. The enhanced consumer protection measures now in force include:

  1. Prohibiting expiry dates on gift cards and certificates
  2. Restricting fees charged for gift cards to a) customizing a gift card, or b) replacing a lost or stolen gift card;
  3. Requiring the clear and prominent disclosure of any terms and conditions relating to a gift card (e.g., any limits to redeeming a card).

Should this protection apply to Groupons?  Are they a gift card or certificate?

Facebook Developer Garage Toronto – Oct 21, 2010


It’s been a while since the last Facebook Developer Garage Toronto. Come meet with fellow developers, marketers and agencies, members of the Facebook community in Toronto.   Formerly we called these Facebook Camps and its a great free event for Developers and Marketers.  The evening is free to attend and we have a great line up so far:
6:00 – Doors open – Social/Mingle/Get a seat
6:30 – Introduction
6:35 – Facebook Canada – TBD
7:00 – Iskandar Najmuddin – Syncapse
7:15 – Colin Smillie – Open Graph/Group API
7:30 – Oz Soloman – Social Graph Studios
7:45 – Eli Singer – Entrinsic
8:00 – Daniel Patricio – Orange Rhino Media
8:15 – Social / Mobile Integration – Vortex Mobile
8:30 – Social & Drinks at Pogue Mahone

**There is no guest list for this event – first come first served, doors will close when the venue is at capacity**

Campaigning with Social Media


I’ve been watching the Mayoral campaign in Toronto with a lot interest this year, mainly because I wanted to see how the candidates used Social Media. In the Obama campaign in 2008 Social Media is often credited with having a great impact.  With my own limited involvement watching the campaign from Canada I was impressed with how much the campaign engaged everyone.  I registered for the Obama campaign, it recognized I was Canadian and asked me if I could contact American’s that I knew that were on the fence.  Brillant…

Now in Toronto I really haven’t seen anything that engaging.  I’m not going to try to compare campaign platforms or policies, I haven’t decided who I’m going vote for myself.  All of the candidates have the Social Media basics, they all have Websites, E-Mail lists, Twitter and Facebook accounts.  These alone are not that value, its really the content of these campaigns and I think right now the best messaging seems to be coming from Rob Ford campaign.  In my opinion he’s doing the best job of engaging citizens, mainly because he’s not marketing to them. He’s just talking to them.

I joined his mailing list ( I joined all candidates lists and Facebook Pages ) and its very simple and engaging updates. The first email I got contained a survey to collect my opinion on the a variety of issues.  He’s the only candidate who I’ve received a survey from.  Yesterday it was the advanced polls are now open and I could avoid the rush by voting now. Very simple and concise, there has been no cheezy spin, or over the top creative like about mobsters, or crazy promises. I got invited to a Town Hall Call and he was genuinely answering questions from a large group of people.

In all the debates I’ve seen of him he’s pitching the same message, always on topic.  Most of the other candidates either don’t present a plan or seem to change the plan to each group they’re talking too.  I haven’t seen anyone who’s connecting well with Citizens.

Why is Point of Sale getting harder?


Like most Canadians my credit card was recently replaced with a Chip Card.  Now my Visa requires a PIN to be entered when the transaction is processed.  This creates some very frustration experiences:

1/ No Remote Machine

Many restaurants only have Visa terminals in one location in the restaurant.  This means that I have to walk with the server to where the terminal is located to process to transaction.  Not the best experience for date night…

2/ Signature Too, Please

Some vendors seem to require a signature, even after I just went through the insert card and PIN dance.  I’m not really why but I think its a legacy issue.

3/ Transfering…

Many of the remote terminals transfer data over a very slow connection, this means I’m waiting while the terminal tells me also sorts of informative stuff like  DNS Established, TCP Enabled, Negotiation Established, Transfering… Transfering… and more Transfering… and finally approved.

4/ Strange Exemptions

Some vendors don’t seem to require my PIN at all, they can just swip and give me a receipt with no signature.  I’m not really sure the pattern here but McDonalds never asks for my PIN and Subway always asks for my PIN at roughly the same value so it must be vendor related.

The one good thing that the chip cards seem to have solved is whole card upside down or right side up issue that most swipe terminals struggled with…

The Problem with Facebook Groups…


Yesterday Facebook launched an upgrade to the Facebook Group functionality, the details of the new features are available here.   I think the more interesting thing is what is missing, the mainly one being the ability for groups to choose their own relationship and communication style.  There is still no good way to maintain a group communication system that scales.

Facebook Groups continue to degrade as users join them and the group owners essentially loose the ability to communicate with the group.  This is an excellent idea to control Facebook Group spam but it doesn’t allow users to engagement in popular groups and ideas that will quickly grow beyond the Facebook Group limits.  In way Facebook Groups should be renamed Small Facebook Groups because the functionality really favours smaller groups.  The Facebook Chat is great feature to chat with a small group but doesn’t scale well to larger groups.

In the end I think most groups are probably better served by something like Google Groups which allows a common mail listing and some basic HTML pages.

iPad Day Two Thoughts, Apps…


Ok, been using the iPad a lot to consume content.  The Apple closedness does kind of get in the way of watching videos but hasn’t really been an issue for anything else.   There are a few really great apps for it:


There are several media apps available but most don’t work well in Canada.  Pandora and the ABC app for example don’t allow content to be viewed in Canada, this is a deal breaker for me.  I haven’t tried Netflix yet but iTunes still seems to be the winner here ( no surprise ) with access to the best content.  Not sure the impact of the Canadian iTunes store but I suspect it will be pretty empty initially…


The best game I’ve found is Civilizations.  I loved this game as I was growing up and the iPad version is awesome.  Dragging your armies around is a really great interface and it just feels natural.  The other fun app is the Colour Aquarium application, which is a free app and kind fun to play with a bit..


I haven’t found the perfect app yet.  The two I tried are both free.  Twitdeck, which is a good first revision of the app for iPad but doesn’t work too well for reading posts.   I wasn’t able to click on links inside of the Tweet for example but the Tweet creation process is really smooth.  Twitter is kinda the reverse as a great app for reading your Twitter stream.   Very smart process to read and click on links etc..  The Tweet creation process isn’t great though.   For example there is no ability to add photos.  Hoping for another free option before I investigate the paid clients…


There are several apps that claim to be free but after download require a subscription fee to access any content.  The WSJ app is a good example of this with NO FREE content.  I uninstall and low rate all of these, Apple really needs to develop a process to indicate “Subscription Required” in the App store.  The 2 completely free apps that I did like were the USA Today and BBC Apps, both provide good content in a great format.

iPad Day One…


Apple iPad

I got my iPad today and I spent a few hours using it now. My initial impression is that is a great 2nd device to consume media. The screen is beautiful and watching video on it is awesome. The input is ok but will never really replace a laptop and is probably by design. I think Apple has designed the device to be a media consumption platform and not a content creation platform. For creation the Mac Book Pro or even my iPhone are better platforms.

I’ve downloaded a few iPad specific applications now and I’ll write some more on this shortly. If your an app developer and would like your an iPad app reviewed send me the details on your app in the comments below.

Four Square and being Social Mobile…


I was reading Sebastien Provencher’s guest post this morning on the LeWeb’s blog about foursquare and comparing it to Twitter.  I agree with Seb that fourSquare is not the next Twitter but I do think its a bit of a game changer in what its doing with in Social Mobile space.

foursquare gives users incentives to ‘check-in’ to different locations on their mobile phone.  It uses the phone’s GPS location to provide a list of local and popular locations for the user to check-in or the user can quickly create a new location profile.   The user can earn badges for each location they visit and it becomes a bit of a game to earn new badges and compare you points with your friends.  The user who visits an individual location the most earns a ‘mayor’ badge for that location.

I think the game changing aspect of foursquare is what its changing for user behaviour.   As users check into new locations they can instantly see other popular locations that are near them.    Right now that list is free from advertising and just based on the location and popularity of the locations.  Kinda like search engines were in 2000, where there race was on finding content and less on advertising/monetizing like search engines today.  Right now the user group engaged in foursquare is still quite small but its growing and ff this user behaviour continues it should develop into an excellent user intercept opportunity.

Advertisers could target users in their proximity with real-time offers.    This is already happening on the Twitter today and its only going to get more powerful with the social mobile connection.  Populating and controlling the list of ‘check-in’ locations will be increasingly important and profitable.  As will advertising that can connect with this location information in a meaningful form.

It will be interesting to see if foursquare can maintain a unique position here or if the other social networks will just duplicate its functionality and bring it internally.  Right now if feels like foursquare is more like an app on Facebook or Twitter than a social network on its own.  I would expect that Facebook and Twitter will continue to provide the identity data for the social mobile experience but the player with the local advertising is still an unknown.

Marketing with Facebook Search


For most marketing search engine marketing is a common marketing technique and entire business united have been established to focus on search.   The most popular tool being Google and in a distant second the Microsoft Bing/live tools.   Facebook search on the other hand is a much different beast and much more difficult to market against.   In order to optimize we need to understand the Facebook Search function.

The key component to understand with Facebook search is the interaction relationship.  This means that content that the user has interacted with in the past will appear first and may appear in the auto-complete if they have Fan, Joined or Bookmarked the content.

Facebook search then will  display search results based on your friends involvement with content.  This means that individuals, groups, pages, or applications which your friends have interacted with appear at the top.  The next considertation is your network(s) and content types with more people from your network will be assigned priority.  Facebook has indicated they will removing networks but this logic is likely to be replace with geographic filters.

The next concept to understand is that Facebook assigns a priorty to different content types, assuming you have equal friend interactions or no friend interactions.  The priority is generally:

  1. Individual user profiles
  2. Facebook Pages
  3. Facebook Groups
  4. Facebook Applications
  5. Facebook Events
  6. Friend Facebook Posts
  7. Everyone’s Facebook Posts

After these internal Facebook content types Web Search results will be presented from the Microsoft Bing search results.

The other major different between Facebook and other search tools is the keyword matching.  The matching seems to be much more strict that other tools and partial keyword matching is very poor.

Across all content types the depth of search seems to limited to the content title.    This is probably the most important tool for Facebook search marketing.  Creating an effective title can increase your placement in search.  Without partial keyword matching a long title will be difficult to match with user keyword and keyword stuff has limited impact because the title on most content sources is limited.

The other important consideration, especially when combined with paid advertising is to get maximum coverage across networks ( geographic, schools and employers ) and across as many friend clusters as possible.   Facebook allows for a number of geographic targeting options and good distribution here can help with Facebook search results.