Thursday, May 29, 2014

2014 Internet Trends

Mary Meeker, Queen of the Internet, has presented her annual Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers KPCF Report on Internet Trends.

Here are some talking points, as found on SlidesShare.

Mobile is taking over the web.  Mobile data traffic rose 81% year over year, and mobile usage now makes up 25% of total web usage.

Smartphones are still on the rise — now representing 30% of all mobile phones — but tablets are seeing the most growth: With 2013 tablet shipments up 52% from the year before, the devices are growing faster than PCs ever did.

Among Meeker's other observations:

-Tablets on a Tear: Tablet adoption is growing faster than PCs ever did, and there’s still more loads of growth ahead – tablet population penetration is at 6%. Meanwhile, desktop PC population penetration is at 10%, laptops at 11% (see slide 8 of the report - 'Internet Trends' link above).

-Tech Company Valuations Still Below Peak Levels: Is there an excess in tech company valuations? Some, Meeker says, but levels are still well below the peak of 2000. Venture financings are 77% below the peak of 2000 (see slide 22).

-Social Media’s Rapid ForceHalf of total social referrals happen in 6.5 hours on Twitter and in 9 hours on Facebook. Facebook accounts for 21% of global referrals on the web. See slide 42 for top social content leaders.

-Photos are Still King: About 1.8 billion photos are now uploaded or shared per day, a trend Meeker expects will only increase as more advanced apps and platforms emerge (see slide 62).

-More Video Screens, but Smartphones are No. 1: The number of screens are proliferating, from TV to laptops and tablets, but smartphones are now the most-watched medium in many countries. More screens means consumers will be able to get more content in less time (see slide 96).

-Pay Attention to Rapid Growth in Sensors: Just four years ago, a Samsung Galaxy S phone came equipped with four sensors. The S5 model, released this year, has 10. The rising growth in sensors will create troves of data that can be used to help researchers find patterns and solve previously unsolvable problems, Meeker says. (See slide 67)

-China’s Mobile Momentum: China is now the most mobile nation in the world — 80% of China’s total Internet users are mobile users (see slide 129).

-Millennials Changing TV: Millennials are abandoning Live TV for online video. Consumption of DVR’d and on-demand is on par with non-millennials, but it’s triple for online — and that is coming straight from Live TV (see slide 122). Meanwhie, apps are quickly replacing TV channels: TV is evolving from a directory of channels to a platform of TV apps, evidenced by the popularity of offerings like HBO Go and BBC’s iPlayer (see slide 106).

-The Biggest “Re-imagining” Will be in Big Data. Some of the most significant changes in the technology industry over the coming years will result from more advanced mining of data (see slide 60).

-The New Online Ad: Who hates ads? What is now called “The Art of the Short Form” is hugely popular online (see slide 112).

-1st and 2nd Generation Americans Lead Tech Companies: 60% of tech’s top 25 companies were founded by first or second-generation Americans. In the top 10, make that 70%. Meanwhile, the number of foreign students sent home for lack of a limited-availability H-1B visa has nearly quadrupled in the past decade (see slide 149).

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Smartphone users are getting smarter

People need to be connected and everyone needs information.  The right amount and quality of information at the right time gives us unprecedented power.  Too much information and digital distraction, however, can keep us from getting important things done.  It can keep us from connecting with those around us[i].  What many of us want is Zen-like ‘flow,’ i.e., not too little and not too much connectivity. My colleagues and I called this a state of ‘connective flow’ in our studies[ii] of distributed work teams.

How good are individuals at monitoring and managing connective flow?  Increased adoption of smartphone and other connective technologies has brought a subsequent growing concern and interest in the importance of regulating the quantity of interactions for organizational performance, while not undermining individual wellbeing[iii]. 

In a recently published article in the EuropeanJournal of Information Systems, Kristine Dery of the MIT Sloan School, Judi MacCormick and I compared how smartphones use changed from the height of the ‘CrackBerry’ era, in 2006 (the iPhone arrived in 2007), in the same sample re-interviewed in 2011. Our study was conducted within a large global financial services corporation and interviews took place mainly in Paris and Sydney. Corporations like the one we studied embraced technologies like the BlackBerry, which offered increased connectivity between workers, while the corporate culture often lead to employees suffering from hyper-connectivity and burnout.

Our findings revealed a few major shifts in smartphone usage in the five (5) years between interviews.  First, the iPhone had come onto the scene and while the corporation remained on and only supported the BlackBerry device, almost every participant in our study had also purchased an iPhone, which they used for both personal and work purposes.  Second, in the first round of interviews, participants expressed a love-hate relationship with the BlackBerry, some secretly wishing it would be lost or stolen, so they could ‘get a break.’ 

Five years on, our participants were much more comfortable taking work into their own hands, literally.  In managing their connections with work in the first round, interviewees spoke of ‘switching it off’ and ‘escaping’ its spell on them.  In the second round, they spoke of managing the ‘flow’ of information, turning the flow up or down ‘like a tap,’ as one interviewee described it.  And, finally these knowledge workers moderated the flow of media and connections between work and non-work life more seamlessly, with much less stress than they expressed in the earlier phase of our study.

Although the ‘CrackBerry’ days of email obsession may be gone[iv], myriad new work and social media have exponentially exploded in the hands of smartphone users. Other studies of knowledge workers have proven that addictive and dysfunctional behaviors are still commonly associated with mobile technologies.[v]   In our study, however, we have found that the use of smartphones is evolving relatively rapidly and that we are more or less adjusting to and making different choices when it comes to these tools that characterize our age. 

For those seeking the good life in a digital age, I recommend William Powers’ book, Hamlet’s BlackBerry: …. It sounds dated, but his insights and story telling make an excellent read for anyone who feels there must be more to life than the latest tweet.

A version of this article, titled, 'Finding flow: Smartphone users getting smarter,' appeared in the New Zealand Herald on Tuesday, 13 May 2014.

[i] Turkle, S. (2011) Alone together: Why we expect more from technology and less from each other. New York: Basic Books; MacCormick, J., Dery, K., & Kolb, D. G. (2012). Engaged or Just Connected?: Smartphones and Employee Engagement. Organizational Dynamics, 41(3), 194-201.
[ii] Kolb, D. G., Collins, P. D. and Lind, E. A. (2008). Requisite connectivity: Finding flow in a not-so-flat world. Organizatonal Dynamics, 37 (2), 181-189.
[iii] Powers, W. (2010). Hamlet's Blackberry: Building a good life in the digital age. New York: Harper Perennial; Kolb, D. G., & Collins, P. D. (2011). Managing Personal Connectivity: Finding Flow for Regenerative Knowledge Creation. In G. Gorman & D. Pauleen (Eds.), Personal Knowledge Management: Individual, Organizational and Social Perspectives. Surrey, England: Gower, 129-142.
[iv] Dery, K., Kolb, D.G. and MacCormick, J. (forthcoming, 2014). Working with flow: The evolving practice of smartphone technologies. European Journal of Information Systems.
[v] Perlow, L. A. (2012). Sleeping with your smartphone: How to break the 24/7 habit and change the way you work. Boston: Harvard Business School Publishing; Mazmanian, M., Orlikowski, W. J., & Yates, J. (2013). The Autonomy Paradox: The Implications of Mobile Email Devices for Knowledge Professionals. Organization Science, 24 (5), 1337-1357; Mazmanian, M. (2013) Avoiding the trap of constant connectivity: When congruent frames allow for heterogeneous practices. Academy of Management Journal, 56 (5), 1225-1250.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Working from home - yeah right.

A New Zealand beer called Tui has a great billboard advertising campaign which has silly claims followed by 'yeah right.'

So, a Tui billboard might say, 'Working from home.  Yeah, right.'  The joke would be that a lot of people distrust remote workers.  They believe they are trying to avoid work by saying they are, 'working from home.'

Having moved to New Zealand 22 years ago, I sometimes say I am a 'victim of lifestyle,' meaning that I have geared my work habits to that of the locals, which is about balancing work and other pursuits.  I am generally not work-obsessed, and indeed enjoy disconnecting when I am on our beautiful rural property.

However, like most academics, I need to connect with students, research colleagues and others from home on a day-to-day basis and wish I could do so.  Unfortunately, even though I live within sight of the Sky Tower in our largest city, my Internet speeds are slower than most third world locations.

Here are the broadband speeds:

Latency 66 ms
Upload speed: .43 mbps
Upload speed: .20 mbps

Recall that dial-up is .56 mbps.

Also, bear in mind that our lines provider, Chorus, claims to deliver 7 mbps to our door, but no one seems to have anywhere near that speed in our homes.  The upgrade on our road is scheduled for 2015, but that's a long time to wait.

To add insult to injury, Telecom and other broadband providers are constantly showing ads for outrageous extravagances like streaming video, video calling and gaming. I would like to be able to surf the web from time to time to prepare for class or explore possible vacation destinations, but I would even settle for being able to send a few emails with ease, instead of the painful lag of basically dial-up Internet.

By the way, these speeds are consistent with my neighbourhood of Te Henga (Bethells Beach) and although we have tried our best, no one seems interested in addressing the issue.

I get that infrastructure takes time, but New Zealand's broadband charges are about 20-40% higher than the OECD average and it seems unfair to be charged all the money for what amounts to less than developing world broadband speeds.

One of the first books I read on what has become my life work was the The Social Life of Information (2000), wherein John Seely Brown (former Chief Scientist at Xerox PARC and Paul Duguid, Adjunct Professor at the UC, Berkeley School of Information describe the 'joys' of working at home, where professionals of all callings are forced to serve as their own IT help desk and infrastructure troubleshooter.  Duguid was right, working at home is not always as joyfully seamless as some imagine.  You spend a lot of time working just to keep private systems on line and up to speed.  Telecom gets their payment no matter what they deliver, while we waste our time on the World Wide Wait.

The Tui billboard I would like to write is this one: 'Working at home.  I wish!'