Tuesday, March 10, 2009

How to Engage Your Audience

I have been thinking about how to have fun with your audience. I believe that if you have a tasteful level of playfulness in your product or service, people will not only have a more fun and pleasurable experience using it, they will tell others. You really want people to be saying, "Hey, I noticed this cool thing the other day...". Since I have been on this kick, wondering why people have not been doing this effectively, I have been more attuned to what is around me. I have noticed a few products that have stood out for their excellence. While there are a ton of products that I love, respect, and use constantly, a few of them are detailed here:

Amazon Kindle, Amazon Kindle 2, Amazon Kindle Reader on iPhone, and Whisper Sync

I have been talking about the Kindle for quite some time. I love gadgets. I could not resist running out and buying one with overnight delivery on the first day. :) I have had mine for about 15 days now. I love it. One of the greatest joys was the software update the Amazon pushed out to all Kindles right before they shipped. It added many really handy menu items throughout the product. For instance, you can now delete a book while you are reading the book. You no longer have to go back to home, then the content manager, then find your book, then select your book, then open the menu and pick delete. It is now: open the menu, pick delete. All of your notes, bookmarks, and the book (if purchased) are already backed up at Amazon anyways. In fact, during the upgrade, all of the books started out in the cloud. The Kindle2 was automatically configured with my account information. I just opened archives, picked the book I was reading and selected download, and resumed reading. This is the kind of experience that I was looking for from Amazon. They have gone much further. With their recent release of the iPhone application, I can now read a book on the kindle, leave it at home, stop somewhere and open my iPhone Kindle reader application. It asks me if I would like to sync to the last page read. I say yes and continue reading. The format has high enough resolution that I do not mind it at all. In fact, I would say that I read about half of Buyology on the iPhone. That was quite a surprise to me. When you go back to the Kindle, you can tell it to sync to the last page read and it will update. If you have a delay between switching devices, it will likely already have the new location stored and will just prompt you with a message like: Last page read on Jacob's iPhone was 186. Would you like to sync to this location? Love it. Thank you Amazon. There are still a few small kinks to work out, but even though I am in for ~$1000 so far, I am a happy customer (2 partial gift kindles, 2 kindles).

Oral-B toothbrush

I know, you are thinking, "Great, now he is going to talk about toothbrushes?" Don't worry. I promise it will not be that bad. I upgraded to the most recent version of the Oral-B Toothbrush. The little flapping things that clean between your teeth really worked hard to rip my gums off. I have switched back to the old style head on the new handles. That feature was definitely a FAIL. Sorry Oral-B. There are a few features that I liked. First, I liked the fact that the charger does not have any exposed wires or power. It uses inductive coupling to charge. Nice and safe. They have a wireless remote control. Yes, I know, it seems like tech for the sake of tech. So I powered this thing up (and yes, the toothbrush has and airplane mode. snicker) and mostly ignored it. About a week ago, I was busy thinking about how to be playful with customers, had just finished brushing, looked over, and noticed the display contained a large happy face. I was bowled over. Functional, clean teeth, and a smile. Points to Oral-B

Panasonic Packaging

A few months ago, I purchased a new phone system. I have been using Panasonic cordless phones for a while now. Unfortunately, my really snazzy high speed wi-fi network at home was not so snazzy during phone calls. It was obviously time to upgrade my phones to an even higher speed. :) I purchased the new Panasonic cordless phone system and kept it on my desk for a while. I was lamenting the process of unwrapping, cutting tape, twisting wire, slicing plastic, ... that is entailed in getting new electronics open. I was completely shocked. I pulled hard on the case and it just popped open. All of the components were recyclable and trivial to separate. They were held in by folds, placement, and friction. It was like the marriage of product wrapping and origami. I had quickly pulled everything out, separated all of the recycling, and was ready to install my new phones. Thank you for the innovative packaging Panasonic.

Apple iPhone

Apple has once again pleasantly surprised me with their products and customer service. I was in a hurry a few weeks ago and managed to bump my iPhone's hip holster. My iPhone flew out, pulverized the corner of the crystal and managed to slide about 20 ft across the parking lot. Needless to say, the iPhone that had not had a scratch to date, was now not quite so pristine. I called the local Apple store and made an appointment to see what the damage was. About an hour later, I went in and showed them the phone. There was a small part that had broken previously but I managed to bend it back into place so it was not a real inconvenience. When I pointed out the break to the Apple Genius he immediately replaced it with a new phone and wiped the old one. Thank you Apple. I love a company that stands behind their products.

I have a new book coming out soon. It has nothing to do with anything I blog about, but is instead written with a bunch of colleagues and discusses how to lead engineering in the Silicon Valley and how to work with people that do. Keep your eyes peeled for it.


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