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by Gord Hotchkiss, Thursday, June 3, 2010, 11:00 AM
It’s been a fascinating week for me. First, it was off to lovely Muncie, Ind. to meet with the group at the Center for Media Design at Ball State University. Then, it was to Chicago for the National Business Marketing Association Conference, where I was fortunate enough to be on a panel about what the B2B marketplace might look like in the near future. There was plenty of column fodder from both visits, but this week, I’ll give the nod to Ball State, simply because that visit came first.
Our Digital Footprints
Mike Bloxham, Michelle Prieb and Jen Milks (the last two joined us for our most recent Search Insider Summit) were gracious hosts, and, as with last week (when I was in Germany) I had the chance to participate in a truly fascinating conversation that I wanted to share with you. We talked about the fact that this generation will be the first to leave a permanent digital footprint. Mike Bloxham called it the Indelible Generation. That title is more than just a bon mot (being British, Mike is prone to pithy observations) — it’s a telling comment about a fundament aspect of our new society.
Imagine some far-in-the-future anthropologist recreating our culture. Up to this point in our history, the recorded narrative of any society came from a small sliver of the population. Only the wealthiest or most learned received the honor of being chronicled in any way. Average folks spent their time on this planet with nary a whisper of their lives recorded for posterity. They passed on without leaving a footprint.
Explicit and Implicit Content Creation
But today — or if not today, certainly tomorrow — all of us will leave behind a rather large digital footprint. We will leave in our wake emails, tweets, blog posts and Facebook pages. And that’s just the content we knowingly create. There’s a lot of data generated by each of us that’s simply a byproduct of our online activities and intentions. Consider, for example, our search history. Search is a unique online beast because it tends to be the thread we use to stitch together our digital lives. Each of us leaves a narrative written in search interactions that provides a frighteningly revealing glimpse into our fleeting interests, needs and passions.
Of course, not all this data gets permanently recorded. Privacy concerns mean that search logs, for example, get scrubbed at regular intervals. But even with all that, we leave behind more data about who we were, what we cared about and what thoughts passed through our minds than any previous generation. Whether it’s personally identifiable or aggregated and anonymized, we will all leave behind footprints.
Privacy? What Privacy?
Currently we’re struggling with this paradigm shift and its implications for our privacy. I believe in time — not that much time — we’ll simply grow to accept this archiving of our lives as the new normal, and won’t give it a second thought. We will trade personal information in return for new abilities, opportunities and entertainment. We will grow more comfortable with being the Indelible Generation.
Of course, I could be wrong. Perhaps we’ll trigger a revolt against the surrender of our secrets. Either way, we live in a new world, one where we’re always being watched. The story of how we deal with that fact is still to be written.
by Gord Hotchkiss
MediaPost Blog – SearchBlog
by Laurie Sullivan
Center for Media Design Project Managers Michelle Prieb and Jen Milks spoke at Mediapost’s Search Insider Summit Saturday, April 17. The presentation, Reinventing Search: Through the Eyes of Next-Generation Consumers, explored the outputs of ideation sessions conducted with Ball State students to rethink how they “want to find stuff”.
The students’ vision for a new search experience is highly personalized, communicative, very social and seamlessly cross-platform. View the presentation and our summary of the research outputs below and enjoy!
One predominant emergent themes from our ideation sessions was that students want a personalized search experience. They want search (and thereby marketers) to really get to know them as individuals, rather than as data or statistics.
These next-gen consumers want search to know them holistically within the context of their lives including their location and the times when they tend to search. They also want search to learn from what they do online to understand trends and patterns in their lives, so search knows their routines.
This desire for hyper-personalization provides an opportunity for marketers to understand their audiences in ways that go beyond determining intent and profiling.
Dialogue: Open Communication with Search
Our next gen consumers express the desire for search to be less like typing keywords into a text bar and more like having a conversation with a friend who knows them very well. They want to give and receive feedback via ratings and preferences so search can learn to tailor results and refine the search process for them.
Our students want to reserve the option for search to be targeted when they need something specific or exploratory when they’d like to “be adventurous” and receive results that are a little more open-ended (yet within the bounds of their likes and dislikes). They’d also like recommendations from search that are based on everything search knows about them from their online history, social networks (friends, interests and status updates) and context.
This dialogue with search creates very unique opportunities for marketers to make connections with users that are meaningful based on the personalized experience.
Social: Extending search into the social arena
Echoing the predictions of Summiteers, students want search to draw from their current social networks to provide richer, more contextual results. With the motto “we all get better the more we share,” next-gen students recognize the value of tapping into diverse communities for trusted word-of-mouth recommendations from grounded experts rather than paid or optimized results.
As they hope to garner insight from this rich and varied search pool, they affirm the need contribute to the free-flowing tide of information. The real-time instantaneous access and global reach of social networks uniquely extends the search experience with an improved (perceived) authenticity.
Accessibility and Design: Robustly cross-platform search designed for users
Our students discussed the importance of instant and constant access to their search process. To facilitate effective and social dialogue, search must be seamlessly cross-platform and it must be optimized for all devices. They see cloud computing as the way that this can be accomplished.
Students want to see augmented reality incorporated into the search process, regardless of device (but again, designed for optimal cross-platform experiences). Students also want search to be designed to interact with them in the way they interact with people – they want visual, voice, tactile, physiological and emotive interaction with search. Essentially, next-gen consumers want search (and marketers) to read their minds.
Indexing Life: The categorization of everything
This new search experience mimics human behavior and therefore requires developing a new Dewey Decimal System for life. Moreover, indexing all of human behavior necessitates an openness to sharing information to a higher degree than ever before, which ultimately incites abounding privacy implications. Next-gen consumers express a willingness to negotiate the exchange of information, but the option to control their own privacy settings remains paramount.
Characterization of Search:
In a move away from the current disconnect they feel between themselves as users and results as pushed advertising content, students want a relationship with search and answers. They describe next-gen search as an intuitive soulmate, a loyal sidekick, a benevolent servant and prognosticating sage.
Moving Forward: Considerations for search in the near future
Our students recognize that what they created during this ideation process is rather complex and incorporates a multitude of capabilities and technologies that they’ve seen applied in some form or another, all wrapped up into one integrated process. Accordingly, they note a number of considerations for marketers and technologists as we move towards this integration.
First, they express concern for the infrastructure that currently supports search and how it might need to change as we move towards more robust cross-platform functionality and hyper-personalization. Furthermore, they see a need for this infrastructure to move towards sustainability so as to exist in harmony with the environment.
Secondly, our next-gen consumers recognize that preparing for the transition to a seamless search experience will require a lot of work. Most of the capabilities they desire are scattered throughout the industry, siloed on singular platforms, embedded within applications or limited to textual input. There is a great deal of quantitative research to be done within current user databases and qualitative work needed to assess user perceptions and attitudes related to these functions.
As our students created their vision for search, they demanded that it be enjoyable and easy to use. This necessitates user experience and usability research to understand how search can learn from users and optimize their search process for every device.