Friday, June 20, 2008

Chasing Technology

So I’ve got a vision for the Internet where my Web is different from yours. We may visit the same sites, but the experience in terms of the content we see and the objects we’re served will vary based on: clickstream, history, intent and other factors that constitute the context of our visits. Of course, this is already happening today, but I envision a much more sophisticated delivery vehicle that perceives what I want based on my behavior and is able to enhance the experience in a way that is meaningful for me.

I’ve described this vision to a few very intelligent individuals and some have pushed back stating that my ideas were too far ahead of adoption and that the market wasn’t ready to handle these solutions. This made me stop and think. I’ve even uttered these words myself…The market isn’t ready for it…This technology is great, but no one will know what to do with it…It’s an idea that is ahead of its time… But why do we make excuses for the “market’s” inability to adopt technology? If technology wasn’t ahead of the market, then we would exist in a state of insanely boring un-change. It’s the good ideas that transcend mediocrity and technology that enables change.

A few technologies are currently playing with the capabilities I described, which manifest in some amalgamation of analytics, multivariate delivery [explicitly not testing], and behavioral targeting. Magnify360 is one technology that’s pushing the envelope on this hyped up form of delivering content on the Web. NextStage Evolution is another that’s tackling the challenge in another way. Both combine elements of cognitive behavioral recognition to pick up on emotion, intent and human psychology to deliver pages in a way that is best suited for an individual. If you’re curious, check out NextStage’s game (I only got to page seven). Although it won’t tell you how it works, your way of thinking will become part of the knowledge base. You’ve heard that multiple learning styles exist; some people are visual learners and others logical. These technologies have the ability to pick up on those different styles and present information in corresponding formats. It’s my vision that the Web at large adopts these practices to place information at our fingertips in such a way that is most consumable by us. And delivers content and information that is relevant to not only to our historic profiles, but within the context of our visits. Granted, this is not easy to do and content creation (something I spoke on earlier this week at WebContent2008) requires resources and is often a formidable challenge. So if you’re a technologist; how do you enlist participation and if you’re a practitioner; how do you begin to leverage these revolutionary technologies?

Technology Creators:
One school of thought says that you simply wait for practitioners to accept your technology. In the meantime, show your [insert time-machine-esque technology solution here] to a few innovators, allow them to stumble through the crawl-walk-run stages of development and then spotlight their success as proof of concept. Yet, this method requires the patience to wait years in an age where behavior can advance at the speed of a commercial on Tivo. The innovative few who represent the early adopters however, have a substantial leg up on the competition.

Alternatively, provide some bite-sized access to the solution so that adopters aren’t taking a leap of faith off an uncharted cliff. This has proven out well in other technologies with managed service models. In this way, a slow leak of functionality doesn’t scare away the customer and sets a foundation for further development.

Technology Implementers and Practitioners:
Early technology adopters may tend to view new initiatives as monumental projects that require hundreds of development hours and ongoing management. This mentality fosters a state of paralysis and inaction because of the implications of such an endeavor. Technology adoption can (and does) often happen under duress which usually crescendos after consumers (or senior management) scream for change – or – the Web takes a left turn and alters course (as it’s done with user generated content) forcing compliance. Yet, hasty reactions can make for failed endeavors.

Start somewhere and keep your eye on the deep end. An appetizer perhaps, before eating the entire elephant? Others may leapfrog this stage and go straight to mind-boggling innovation, yet there’s room for many models. Getting your house in order requires looking toward the future. Technology will facilitate the future of Web evolution and if your organization isn’t thinking about how these percipient means of delivering content will come to fruition, then you’re already lagging.

What do you think? Have you ever turned your back on technology because you weren’t ready for it? Are some technologies too far out there?

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