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  • Archive for the ‘Rants’ Category

    • ‘Everything we know, is wrong’

      3rd May 12

      Posted by Mel Exon

      Posted in Events, Rants

      How communication is consumed: West vs East, from "Everything we know, is wrong"

      BBH Asia Pacific Chairman, Charles Wigley, and Rob Campbell of W+K delivered their joint talk “Everything we know, is wrong” at The Asia Marketing Effectiveness Festival in Shanghai last week. Asked to be provocateurs, their talk (slideshare below) smartly tackles five flawed notions in one fell swoop: from ‘tv is dead’, ‘brand love’, ‘everyone wants to join in’, ‘pre-testing makes everything better’ and finally ‘London and New York know absolutely everything’. At Labs we particularly enjoyed the provocation of the last theme, which struck us as something not discussed nearly enough on these pages. If you’re someone with a client or simply a keen interest in Asia (so all of us, then..), then may we suggest – if you do nothing else – reading slides 64-81 of Chaz and Rob’s presentation below.



      As Chaz himself puts it:

      “We had what we knew would be a crowd pleaser in the East where we have both lived and worked for years, but may be less of one in the West. We’ll see. We firmly believe it anyway. Specifically we took on the notion that ‘West knows best. If you believe that culture significantly influences how people look at and interact with the world, then there is ample evidence that it causes Asian – more collectivist – consumers to interact differently towards brands and to read communications differently. Academia and our business are just at the start of understanding this one. But it’s going to be big. Read Richard Nisbett’s ‘The Geography of Thought’.”

      Chaz and Rob in action at AME 2012

    • Quora’s pursuit of the holy grail: intent (a counter-view)

      24th January 11

      Posted by Saneel Radia

      Posted in Rants, Search

      We recently posted a rant about Quora that generated a lot of conversation. One of the comments was by Leslie Barry, the founder of Iphso. Leslie made the intriguing argument that Quora actually gets closer to question-and-answer nirvana than any other service: identifying intent. Here’s his explanation of what we’re just not getting. We couldn’t be happier to hear his perspective and would like to thank him for generously agreeing to guest post.

      *** *** ***

      Author: Leslie Barry (@LeslieCBarry), Founder of Iphso

      What is intent?

      According to The Search by John Battelle, the holy grail of search is to interpret the user’s intent and direct them seamlessly to the content, or ideally, provide the answer directly.

      If we assume that intent is not WHAT I’m asking, but WHY I’m asking it, then I believe that Quora is closer to solving the intent of search.

      So how does Quora get us closer to it?

      Quora’s approach is to get the best qualified people (through credentials or experience) to create some rules (boring to some, but necessary to prevent chaos – even Wikileaks has rules), then leverages the serendipity effect to overcome the constraints of similar services, like LinkedIn, to refine the best questions to elicit the best answer.

      What makes Quora unique is that it uses serendipity more effectively than other services.

      What is the ‘serendipity effect’?

      Wikipedia defines serendipity as ‘a propensity for making fortunate discoveries while looking for something unrelated.’

      An example is the real-world benefit I’ve experienced from social media, specifically Twitter, where I meet useful people that I would never know existed without a serendipitous network – i.e., people that I didn’t know I needed to know.

      Quora is leveraging this extremely well: connecting the right ‘people I didn’t know I needed to know’ to clarify intent of the question, and as a result, shortening the path to the answer.

      Intent is only relevant past a certain threshold of question. Something as simple as ‘What is the capital of Maine?’ is clearly better answered via Google. No rocket-science behind the intent there, but asking something slightly more complex and ambiguous like ‘How do you consume news? Has this changed in recent years?’ presents a greater challenge. When you Google it, Google assumes:

      • The question is correct
      • Keyword/location/context matching is adequate

      So here is what Google thinks the answer is:

      …and then Bing:

      They both completely missed the point without the Quora results!

      Conversely, this is what Quora’s users think the answer is:

      Clearly, Quora is more efficient at interpreting intent.

      This is because Quora doesn’t assume the question is correct. Instead it provides the ability to ask a question and have it clarified and modified wiki-style to help shape and tease out my intent. Often as a user, I’m clear on my intent, but am not the subject matter expert and therefore unclear on how to frame the question. The iterative, near-time editing of the question helps solve this issue. Also, Quora doesn’t focus on keyword/location/context matching like a mind-less search engine. Quora’s process of refining the question by subject matter experts eliminates the extra steps of sifting through multiple, non contextual answers.

      And yes, there are many planted questions (Google Link-bait pages, anyone?, LinkedIn self-promotion?, mindless waffle on Yahoo Answers?), and self-promotion, but so what?

      All I care about is the quicker path from question to most valuable answer that addresses ‘what I meant’, not necessarily what I asked. My intent.

      Why can’t Google or Bing use other people’s answers to opinion-type questions to decide the most relevant options to serve you? I think this is because of their strong focus on the search algorithm, which values content over context and popularity over intent. Also, Google is one-way traffic, without an iterative, refining feedback loop; we have to stumble blindly along hoping for one or two interesting search results out of ten or twenty.

      As a result, it’s Quora, not a traditionally defined search engine, that’s helping us take a step towards the holy grail of intent.

      It’s not perfect, but it’s challenging our approaches and thinking about teasing out intent from users. Maybe Google indexes them and learns from them? Once again, it doesn’t matter – we will have taken a huge leap from accepting that indexing and search is better than curated, considered, intelligent answers.

    • The answer to this Quora? No.

      10th January 11

      Posted by Saneel Radia

      Posted in Rants

      The question-and-answer site Quora is a big deal. It has some powerful supporters, with early content posted by a diverse group of digerati from Steve Case to Robert Scoble. It’s the talk of the media (see Google Trend of the word Quora).  There are weekly articles on how Quora will be bigger than Twitter.

      So, I guess it was inevitable that I’d hate it. To clarify, it’s not that I don’t like Quora. It’s that I hate it and want it wiped off the face of the earth. In a missionary effort to reach those few that are yet to form an opinion on this site equivalent of an Uwe Boll movie, I offer the following 3 reasons to resist boarding this bandwagon.

      It’s spam.

      This site diabolically infects those with the largest spam potential. I guess when a site is launched by the former head of Facebook Connect, it’s inevitable. By launching after Facebook established critical mass and Twitter became a big deal, Quora made a splash in the saturated question-and-answer site category. So, giving people the opportunity to be in the spotlight with their answer to an already-answered question is an ingenious way to drive audience and usage by appealing to ego. And I don’t even mind ego-stroking. I just don’t want to be repeatedly spammed across my various feeds as people whose content I otherwise love and trust fall victim to name-in-lights syndrome. Then again, if I could convince people I invented tape, it might be worth it….

      There are dozens of Quoras about what Quora is.

      OK, so maybe #Twitter was a trending topic on Twitter the first 6 months. But those conversations were focused primarily on usage and innovation with the platform. The Quora self-referential conversations are literally people scratching their heads looking for value. There’s no better sign that the emperor has no clothes people. But until we admit it, we’ll just keep tweeting how awesome he looks in that special toga (author’s note: this has nothing to do with how awesome I think the hashtag #emperorsclothes would be, promise).

      Quora is attempting to differentiate itself via answer quality.

      This is defended through its use of Facebook Connect (real people!) and an interest graph (curated topics!). Here’s the thing about quality: it’s inversely related to scale on the web. Generally, users or an algorithm are required to remove the noise. Last I looked, countless services already do this. They go by ticker symbols like GOOG, have David Fincher movies made about them, or add a new user every second (most of whom request a professional recommendation after a single meeting together).

      So, let’s sit this Quora thing out. We were able to resist Google Wave and Ping. Let’s make it three in a row that we tried and let pass quietly. This isn’t to say I don’t respect the effort or experimentation of any company trying something new (Google & Apple are incredible at innovation investment). In Quora’s case, I just think if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it via my newsfeed.

      Now world, if you’re not on board, pretty please give me a heads-up that I’m taking on a lost cause.

      Then I can start a new Quora-related Quora: “How can I get a job at Quora?”

      {Update: I’ve agreed to write a follow-up post to either eat my words or discuss what I got right after some, ahem, encouragement from readers. So keep an eye out!}

      {Update #2: We asked Leslie Barry to elaborate on his comment below and he’s posted a rebuttal, explaining the unique value of Quora I’ve neglected in the post above.}