At and Between. Evaluating Interoperability through Quick-MI.

clip_image001In my earlier discussion, I outlined the importance of Sharability to successful Modular Innovations and Quick-MI. Quick-MI consists of 5 categories that bring to light critical variables instrumental in the sustained success of many current and emerging products, increasingly becoming part of the Modular Innovation trend. Modular Innovation (MI), along with a product’s User eXperience (UX), combine to be strong indicators of a product’s adoption and success.

As previously described

Modular Innovation (MI) is all about relationships, be they between people or products online. In looking at how these relationships are established, maintained, enhanced, and expanded, one can achieve greater insight into the underlying forces shaping Modular Innovation, quantifying the degree by which a product is participating within, as well as evolving towards greater degrees of, Modular Innovation.

1 of the 5 categories that makes up Quick-MI, is Interoperability. Interoperability is the measure of the degree of integration permitted. It is the means by which information is shared and disparate products can continually exchange information.

Interoperability is about the connection. It is the Interoperable, integrated connection between products that facilitates sharing and exchanging. This includes the ability to make that connection, to establish that relationship; or the hindrance, thereof.

Through the study of Interoperability, a clearer understanding can be formed of the immediate benefits achievable, as well as the quantification of these benefits and capabilities.

In abiding with the overarching goals of both Quick-UX and Quick-MI (quick assessment for summary, directional guidance, and quantitative comparison), the variables constituting the minimal representative subset for Interoperability are…

  • Connectivity
  • Redundancy
  • Legality

Each variable and category (e.g. Interoperability) is assigned a value that can be compared and combined. When all the categories’ values are combined, they form the Modular Innovation Index of a product.

Connectivity

Perhaps the most obvious variable of Interoperability is Connectivity. Connectivity is the means by which the current product can access and interact with external products and platforms. To exchange information, a connection must be established and methods must exist that enable the relationship to take hold and let flow the content.

02_twitter-homepage The content can be anything, from basic status information to images and friends lists. Connectivity is typically achieved via an API. A well known example is the Twitter API. This API provides a simple, web-based interface that allows people and 3rd-party products to perform actions, like read messages and status updates of the people on Twitter, as well as submit new ‘tweets’ and direct messages — resulting in a Connectivity variable value of 2.0.

Connectivity flows both ways: in and out, read and write. The Connectivity variable value (with a starting value of 0 and maximum value of 3.0) is determined as follows:

  • Add 0.5 if the product can read from, “pull-in,” content from one or more external products, and
  • Add 0.5 if the product can write to, “push-out,” content to one or more external products, and
  • Add 1 if external products can read from, “pull-out,” content from the product, and
  • Add 1 if external products can write to, “push-in,” content to the product.

Redundancy

When integrating with another product, is the user forced to choose exchanging information between either product A or product B? Or can both products be used in parallel?

Redundancy is the ability, provided by the product, whereby external products are leveraged to provide replication of functionality and/or content.

03_pingfm-homepage Building upon the Twitter theme, some services exist to facilitate this very sort of Redundancy. Most notably, Ping.fm comes to mind. Ping.fm does not force integration with one external product over another. Ping.fm allows for simultaneous, parallel integration with multiple similar products; making the user less dependent on any one of these services, in the event of down-time or other failures. Beyond “peace of mind,” Redundancy also provides for means to replicate content and maintain functionality that results from such integrations. For example, when I use Ping.fm (Redundancy value of 1.0), I can simultaneously send a status update to Twitter, Jaiku, Pownce, and Plurk …

  • saving me time,
  • replicating my status updates, and
  • ensuring that I can continue sending updates even if one or more of these products are unavailable.

Redundancy can be found on the user-facing side, like Ping.fm, or just under the surface, e.g. using multiple data clouds to store data. The Redundancy variable is assigned the value of 0 or…

  • 1 if, per touch point, multiple external products can be (or are being) used to replicate functionality and/or content throughout the primary functionality and interaction points of the product (e.g. everything from status updates to pictures to messages to data storage), or
  • 0.5 if, for each touch point, a single external product can be (or is being) used to replicate some of the primary functionality and/or content (e.g. status updates sent to both Twitter and Jaiku)

Legality

Terms of Service and other legal restrictions and requirements have a significant impact on the resultant Interoperability possible, or worthwhile. In some cases, broad capabilities of Interoperability are possible, but only for personal usage. Other exemplary cases, allow for Interoperability, but with an associated monetary cost.

01_yelp-homepage The website, Yelp, provides a range of Interoperability that allows external applications to access restaurant and related data. However, those products making use of Yelp’s Interoperability have the following restrictions / requirements resulting in a Legality variable value of 0.75…

  • Clearly display Yelp branding alongside any obtained content,
  • Product must be non-competitive with Yelp,
  • Cannot locally store any obtained content,
  • And, more.

Legality is a measure of freedom, and allowable range of use and usefulness, of the ability to integrate and be Interoperable. The Legality variable is assigned the value of…

  • 1 if there are absolutely ZERO legal restrictions placed on the Interoperability of the product,
  • 0.75 if commercial use is permitted,
  • 0.5 if only non-commercial use is permitted, or
  • 0 if no Interoperability, via API or other means, is permitted.

Rapidly Closer

Quick-MI is all about understanding and measuring the relationships formed and supported between online products, especially those pioneering the next generation of web products via Modular Innovation.

A relationship cannot hold together without the “glue,” without Interoperability, quantified via the Interoperability score (summation of the above variable values). Remember, Interoperability is just 1 of 5 categories that make up Quick-MI. The other 4 categories are…

When all 5 categories are combined, a sound, representative, quantitative understanding of a product’s ability to foster and maintain relationships both within and without — yielding an oft missed, yet critical, perspective into the success and sustainability of an online product.

Through the growing presence of Modular Innovation, and the important category of Interoperability, everything is becoming increasingly and rapidly closer.

Enjoy, Discuss & Tweet!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

PS Try it out, tweak it, learn more about Modular Innovation and share you experiences.

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Quick-MI. Quick Heuristics for Modular Innovation.

clip_image001

(Re)Introducing… Quick-MI
Modular Innovation (MI) is all about relationships, be they between people or products online. In looking at how these relationships are established, maintained, enhanced, and expanded, one can achieve greater insight into the underlying forces shaping Modular Innovation, quantifying the degree by which a product is participating within, as well as evolving towards greater degrees of, Modular Innovation.

Today, Modular Innovation is a prevailing trend that can be described as products and platforms consisting of or facilitating…

  • Relationships (people-people, products-products, people-products)
  • Control of Experience (from creation to storage to interaction)
  • Ownership of Content (personal content from comments to friend lists and more)

Time & Space, UX & MI

Often the initial and continuing success of an online product is solitarily framed in terms of User eXperience (UX). To understand Modular Innovation’s role in a product’s online success is to understand how this trend of relationships (aka Modular Innovation) relates to User eXperience, and can, itself, be quantified for comparison and analysis against other products.

One way to think about the interplay between User eXperience (quantified via Quick-UX) and Modular Innovation (quantified via Quick-MI) is to draw, metaphorically, from physics, namely Space and Time. If User eXperience represents Space, and the variables and characteristics of a product’s UX represent it’s shape and form within that Space, then Modular Innovation aptly would be imputed Time. Like Time, you do not necessarily see or directly interact with the forces (quantifiable categories) of Modular Innovation, but Time, Modular Innovation, is very important if you are, the product is, going to move forward, have an enjoyable experience, and persist into the future.

Quick-MI

Quick-MI is the simplification of the quantification of the Modular Innovations, the products and platforms, which make up the trend of Modular Innovation. The method described below is a great way to build a summary description with quantifiable and comparable metrics, representing the level of Modular Innovation present within a product.

More detailed and extensive heuristics are, of course, possible (I frequently evaluate along many more variables in my studies of Modular Innovation). Quick-MI allows you to dive into a product and quickly extract valuable, representative data points.

The Quick-MI evaluates the degree to which a product successfully addresses the following 5 categories:

Once quantified, the values associated with each of the categories are summed to represent the Modular Innovation Index of a given item (product, platform, etc.).

The characteristics evaluated within each category constitute a minimal representative subset that accurately evaluates the Modular Innovation Index while adhering to the goals of a method that are (1) quantifiable, (2) comparable, and (3) quick.

Some of the questions that are answered within the categories of the Quick-MI are…

Within Sharability

  • Can functionality and content of a product be shared?
  • With whom can it be shared?
  • How much can be shared?

Within Flexibility

  • Which aspects, and to what extent, can I customize the Sharing, Portability, Interoperability, and Convenient parts of the product?
  • Do the methods and formats adhere to commonly accepted standards?

Within Interoperability

  • Can the product interact with external products (and vice versa)?
  • Are there legal restrictions placed on content or other interactions?
  • Does the available interoperability facilitate redundancy and stability?

Within Portability

  • What content, if any, do I own?
  • Can I move my content to other products?
  • Can I control my content without any UX penalties?

Within Convenience

  • From where, and at what times, can I access the product and the content?
  • With what degree of ease can I shift between venues and times?

Not Without UX

Modular Innovation should not be seen as an alternative, isolated, judge of the overall success or failure of a given product, but rather as a central, complementary, influential part of the equation. Together, MI and UX shape the course of the evolution and, ultimately, the eventual success or failure of a product.

Modular Innovation is Relationships

The more relationships, the stronger the relationships, in turn, the stronger and broader can be a product’s acceptance, support, and success. These relationships comprise Modular Innovation. They are the trend. They exist within the products that are themselves Modular Innovations, albeit to varying degrees, as measured via Quick-MI. They are the characteristic elements (described, at a high-level by the Quick-MI categories) that propel a product forward, or a lack thereof, that stalls or otherwise hinders its progress.

The role and presence of relationships within and between people, products and platforms are ever increasing in importance and influence. They represent the next substantial evolution of the internet, beyond simply the data, but, now, to all the spaces in between. This can be seen in the sub-trends, with respect to Modular Innovation as a whole, like those of semantic web and data portability.

These relationships can be quantified, analyzed, built and expanded upon. Once quantified, products are better understood and clearer courses are able to be set for improvement and solidification of the elements within products directly relevant to Modular Innovation, and subsequently relevant to sustained success. And the current methods of Quick-MI, itself evolving and adapting, can be used in observing, from industry trend to individual product, the impact and the role of Modular Innovation on products and related trends.

Enjoy, Discuss & Tweet!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

PS Try it out, tweak it, learn more about Modular Innovation and share you experiences.

Bolstering Backupify

web1_thumb254As more content is moving into the cloud and people are increasing their dependence on access to the information that is stored within web services, having Redundancy, a backup, an alternate storage, an alternate means of accessing the data, is critical to maintaining continuity and stability. Products that facilitate Redundancy empower their users, and demonstrate trust in, and service of, the consumer over antiquated concepts of protection and restriction, even of the content that that very user has created.

Quick-MI provides for the rapid, simple and quantifiable assessment of a product’s Modular Innovation (MI). Among the various components that define a product’s Interoperability, as well as Quick-MI’s, are Sharability, Flexibility, Portability, Convenience, and Interoperability.

In understanding the characteristic of Interoperability the sub-category, or variable, of Redundancy plays an instrumental role. Redundancy is …

  • the ability, provided by the product, whereby external products are leveraged to provide replication of functionality and/or content, and
  • one of the many characteristics and features of Modular Innovation increasingly central to today’s successful and emerging products.

Example: Non-existent Redundancy (value = 0)

In the study of Modular Innovation Redundancy, Backupify presents as a fairly unique subject. There are not many products that result in me doing a double-take.

00_backupify_homepage

The Backupify product is described by many as a way to backup one’s cloud. It basically makes remote copies of one’s content and activities from many online products and services. By "remote," I am referring to content copies that are not stored within the confines of the originating product.

01_backupify_supports

Instincts

My initial instinct for Backupify was to designate it as a good example of Comprehensive Redundancy and move on. It made copies of stuff, lots of stuff, from lots of products. But wait, that didn’t seem right at all. Something felt unique, something about my thinking felt backwards. So I spent just a few brief moments more and here is what I found, and concluded.

One Cloud

02_backupify_s3 Beyond what this product does for other products, which we will discuss in the next section, Backupify depends entirely on the Amazon cloud (S3) as well as the proactive user’s manual downloading of archived content to their local computer, earning Backupify a Modular Innovation Redundancy variable value of 0, Non-existent Redundancy.

Neither the core functionality, nor the storage capabilities present a consistent and reliable means of Redundancy or replication.

While Backupify stores 100% of its primary content within a 3rd party service, S3, the lack of alternate synchronization options prevents it from achieving a 1.0. The minimal requirement for achieving a value of 0.5 is that there exist at least a single external product that can be (or is being) used to replicate some of the primary functionality and/or content. Allowing the user to download the files from S3 to local storage, the user’s computer, does not meet the set bar of a single external product.

Enabler

What makes Backupify a unique and interesting product in the exploration of Modular Innovation Redundancy is what it is able to do for those products that it supports.

In contrast to Backupify’s Non-existent Redundancy, it enables a Redundancy value of at least 0.5, Partial Redundancy, in all the products that it supports. Backupify, in the supported products’ cases, is the single external product that replicates some (or all) of the products’ primary content. Furthermore, without the existence of Backupify, those supported products would be on weaker footing, and in most cases, themselves only earn a Redundancy value of 0, Non-existent Redundancy, as most do not provide any inherent means of Redundancy of content nor functionality.

Backupify is a Modular Innovation with Non-existent Redundancy (value 0) that enables at least Partial Redundancy (value 0.5) in the products and Modular Innovations that it supports, disaggregating those products’ content risk.

Double-Take

Yes, the Backupify product caused me to quickly double-check my conclusion. Quickly double-checking the rules and guidelines is never a bad idea, whether you are performing a full Quick-MI analysis or merely seeking to understand a product or two from various perspectives and touchpoints. It will provide deeper insight into the product, a better understanding of Modular Innovations, and still allow for the “quick” of Quick-MI to hold true.

Should Do

Due to the nature of the Backupify product, 100% of the product’s content is, by definition, made portable. It is the storage options of that portable content that needs to be expanded upon by allowing for the consumer specification of multiple, parallel storage options for all the backed-up content.

Again

Take a look back at real-world examples of Redundancy values…

Comprehensive Redundancy (value 1) [Ping.fm]
Partial Redundancy (value 0.5) [Picnik]
Non-existent Redundancy (value 0) [Backupify]

Subscribe now (click here) to make sure you don’t miss any part of this series exploring the Interoperability and Redundancy of Quick-MI, the quick and easy method of generating quantifiable and comparable metrics representing the understanding of the overall Modular Innovation of a product, as well as other insightful posts from The Product Guy.

Enjoy, Discuss & Tweet!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

Partial Picnik

web1_thumb25As more content is moving into the cloud and people are increasing their dependence on access to the information that is stored within web services, having Redundancy, a backup, an alternate storage, an alternate means of accessing the data, is critical to maintaining continuity and stability. Products that facilitate Redundancy empower their users, and demonstrate trust in, and service of, the consumer over antiquated concepts of protection and restriction, even of the content that that very user has created.

Quick-MI provides for the rapid, simple and quantifiable assessment of a product’s Modular Innovation (MI). Among the various components that define a product’s Interoperability, as well as Quick-MI’s, are Sharability, Flexibility, Portability, Convenience, and Interoperability.

In understanding the characteristic of Interoperability the sub-category, or variable, of Redundancy plays an instrumental role. Redundancy is …

  • the ability, provided by the product, whereby external products are leveraged to provide replication of functionality and/or content, and
  • one of the many characteristics and features of Modular Innovation increasingly central to today’s successful and emerging products.

Example: Partial Redundancy (value = 0.5)

Picnik is self-described…

"…photo editing awesomeness, online, in your browser. It’s the easiest way on the Web to fix underexposed photos, remove red-eye, or apply effects to your photos."

This product is an online web service that allows for the editing of photos, online images, and web screenshots — captured through Picnik’s various toolbars and plugins.

00_picnik_homepage

In addition to the ability to easily import content from a wide variety of sources, including Flickr, Picasa, local computer, MySpace, and Facebook…

01_picnik_services

… Picnik provides for Redundant storage and distribution of the user’s saved content, the ability to save being a primary feature of Picnik, earning it a Modular Innovation Interoperability Redundancy variable value of 0.5, Partial Redundancy.

Saved

While not every aspect of Picnik is Redundant, it does provide for the redundancy of storage as well as distributing the risk of loss of user content. You have the choice to store the images locally (within the product or on your computer) or through any of a variety of third party products.

02_picnik_choices

With this level of Redundancy, should the Picnik service go down, either temporarily or permanently, or should one of the storage options falter, the content will still be accessible via one of the enabled third party providers.

For example, this captured screenshot…

03_picnik_screenshot

… can be edited, saved, and then re-accessed by any of the user’s enabled storage methods …

04_picnik_inapp

05_picnik_local

06_picnik_flickr

07_picnik_picasa

08_picnik_facebook

Should Do

The Picnik product’s Redundancy can be improved by providing…

  • automatic saving and distribution — when a image is imported, updated, or captured, it should allow for the un-prompted, automatic saving to all connected storage locations
  • API(s) to allow other products to leverage part or all of the Picnik functionality — thereby enabling third parties to bolster the Redundancy of the product’s core and further extend it
  • options for editing of photos / images by other online editing tools within the Picnik environment
  • access for users to plugin additional editing options / features from other parties — encouraging Redundancy of functionality and content within, and facilitated by, the Picnik product / platform

Again

Over the next several weeks I will be providing real-world examples of Redundancy values…

Comprehensive Redundancy (value 1) [Ping.fm]
Partial Redundancy (value 0.5) [Picnik]
Non-existent Redundancy (value 0) [Backupify]

Subscribe now (click here) to make sure you don’t miss any part of this series exploring the Interoperability and Redundancy of Quick-MI, the quick and easy method of generating quantifiable and comparable metrics representing the understanding of the overall Modular Innovation of a product, as well as other insightful posts from The Product Guy.

Enjoy, Discuss & Tweet!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

Redundancy: Just a Ping.fm Away

web1_thumb2As more content is moving into the cloud and people are increasing their dependence on access to the information that is stored within web services, having Redundancy, a backup, an alternate storage, an alternate means of accessing the data, is critical to maintaining continuity and stability. Products that facilitate Redundancy empower their users, and demonstrate trust in, and service of, the consumer over antiquated concepts of protection and restriction, even of the content that that very user has created.

Quick-MI provides for the rapid, simple and quantifiable assessment of a product’s Modular Innovation (MI). Among the various components that define a product’s Interoperability, as well as Quick-MI’s, are Sharability, Flexibility, Portability, Convenience, and Interoperability.

In understanding the characteristic of Interoperability the sub-category, or variable, of Redundancy plays an instrumental role. Redundancy is …

  • the ability, provided by the product, whereby external products are leveraged to provide replication of functionality and/or content, and
  • one of the many characteristics and features of Modular Innovation increasingly central to today’s successful and emerging products.

Example: Comprehensive Redundancy (value = 1)

Since I started writing about Modular Innovation and the Modular Innovation variable of Redundancy, many products have come and gone. Back then, I was a user of Jaiku, Twitter, and Pownce. Fortunately, for me, I didn’t lock myself into any single one of these products (Jaiku is basically non-existent, and Pownce is gone), I didn’t hazard choosing the wrong product to count on to win the micro-blogging, status-update wars, but found a way to mitigate my risk of functionality and content loss. Instead, I chose to use the Comprehensively Redundant Ping.fm.

Ping.fm, a recent acquisition of Seesmic, is a wonderful example of Modular Innovation, from Connectivity to, more relevant for today’s examination, Redundancy.

00_pingfm_homepage

At the core of Ping.fm is the functionality to update one’s status by leveraging a multitude of 3rd party applications.

01_third_party

No Choice

Why choose between Twitter or Facebook or Plurk? Which products will last? Which products will fail, and along with them vanish a user’s status update ability and content? Ping.fm does a great job in removing the peril of ‘forcing a user to choose,’ risking a choice that results in a dead-end product path with the user’s generated content eventually becoming unavailable and lost to posterity.

No Time

Typically, an online user of such products as Twitter, LinkedIn, Posterous, and Facebook has to individually log into each of these products , and one-by-one update their status.

02_various_updates

However, instead of a user having to spend the time to update numerous products or depend solely on any one product to provide their online community with status updates, Ping.fm empowers the user via Redundancy of both content and functionality.

Continue

The Ping.fm user is neither solely dependent upon Ping.fm nor any one of the 3rd party applications. This product provides, across every of the user’s activated 3rd party apps, the …

replication of status information (content)

  • mitigating the risk of the loss of user generated content — the user’s status information can always be available for as long as at least one of the many 3rd party products remains in existence, and

replication of the means to update (functionality)

  • providing numerous points of access to update one’s status information,
  • saving time for anyone who transmits their updates via one of the ping.fm interfaces.

Impressively, Ping.fm exists to facilitate the users’ updating of status information and allows for 100% of the information generated via the product to be stored and replicated across numerous, popular online 3rd party products. This, in turn, produces a level of Redundancy that saves time and provides security for the consumer through its ability to distribute the risk of both functionality, the ability to update one’s content, and the content itself; earning Ping.fm a Quick-MI Redundancy variable value of 1.0, Comprehensive Redundancy.

Should Do

With strong Redundancy, as demonstrated with this product, should any product be discontinued, should even Ping.fm disappear, the consumer can STILL access their content, the consumer can STILL make their status updates.

Ping.fm very soundly provides for the ability to replicate information submitted to it across many third party products. Ping.fm even provides for a good variety of interfaces to submit new content, beyond their basic website. But, that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for improvement.

03_posting

Two-way Redundancy would further solidify the importance and innate value Ping.fm brings, enabling other products that currently only receive updates from Ping.fm to, themselves, become instantly Redundant, stronger Modular Innovations. For example, allow a user to either submit updates directly to Ping.fm or import those updates for replication across the various enabled third-parties, via Twitter or Facebook (and other currently, one-way Redundant apps).

Again

Over the next several weeks I will be providing real-world examples of Redundancy values…

Comprehensive Redundancy (value 1) [Ping.fm]
Partial Redundancy (value 0.5) [Picnik]
Non-existent Redundancy (value 0) [Backupify]

Subscribe now (click here) to make sure you don’t miss any part of this series exploring the Interoperability and Redundancy of Quick-MI, the quick and easy method of generating quantifiable and comparable metrics representing the understanding of the overall Modular Innovation of a product, as well as other insightful posts from The Product Guy.

Enjoy, Discuss & Tweet!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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Quick-MI and the Redundancy of Interoperability

web[1] This article marks the start of a series of articles diving deeper into Modular Innovation (MI) and many of the characteristics and features increasingly central to today’s successful and emerging products.

To Recap

Today, Modular Innovation is a prevailing trend that can be described as products and platforms consisting of or facilitating Relationships (people-people, products-products, people-products), and through these Relationships …

  • Control of Experience (from creation to storage to interaction)
  • Ownership of Content (personal content, from comments to friend lists and more)

"Modular Innovation is Relationships. The more relationships, the stronger the relationships, in turn, the stronger and broader … a product’s acceptance, support, and success." (from Quick-MI. Quick Heuristics for Modular Innovation. 2008)

Quick-MI

These relationships can be quantified, analyzed, built and expanded upon. Once quantified, products are better understood, and clearer courses are able to be set for improvement and solidification of the elements within products directly relevant to Modular Innovation, directly relevant to sustained success.

Quick-MI is the simplification of the quantification of the Modular Innovations, the products and platforms that make up Modular Innovation. The Quick-MI method, much like Quick-UX, is a great way to build a summary description with quantifiable and comparable metrics, representing the level of Modular Innovation present within a product.

The Quick-MI evaluates the degree to which a product successfully addresses the following 5 categories:

Once quantified, the variable values associated with each of the categories are summed to represent the Modular Innovation Index of a given item (product, platform, etc.).

The characteristics evaluated within each category constitute a minimal representative subset that accurately evaluates the Modular Innovation Index while adhering to the goals of a method that are (1) quantifiable, (2) comparable, and (3) quick.

More detailed and extensive heuristics are, of course, possible (I frequently evaluate along many more variables in my studies of Modular Innovation). Quick-MI allows you to dive into a product and quickly extract valuable, representative data points.

Interoperability & Redundancy

The variables that constitute the Interoperability category are:

  • Connectivity,
  • Redundancy, and
  • Legality.

For this series, we will be taking a close look at Interoperability (within the context of Modular Innovation) and specifically focus on the variable of Redundancy.

Redundancy is the ability, provided by the product, whereby external products are leveraged to provide replication of functionality and/or content. The many benefits of a product with strong Redundancy are:

  • saving time,
  • replicating data, and
  • ensuring continuity even when one or more of the products goes offline.

As more content is moving into the cloud and people are increasing their dependence on access to the information that is stored within web services, having Redundancy, a backup, an alternate storage, an alternate means of accessing the data, is critical to maintaining continuity and stability. Products that facilitate Redundancy empower their users, and demonstrate trust in, and service of, the consumer over antiquated concepts of protection and restriction, even of the content that that very user has created.

Redundancy can be found on the user-facing side or just under the surface, e.g. using multiple data clouds to store data. One such scenario could be, over the course of storing content, a product could choose to not just store the content locally, but to also, Redundantly, store that content within two additional data cloud products, Amazon’s S3 and Rackspace’s Cloud, retrieving that information from whichever service is immediately available, providing the user with a more reliable service.

The Redundancy variable is assigned the value of 0 or…

  • 0.5 if a single external product can be (or is being) used to replicate some of the primary functionality and/or content (e.g. status updates sent to both Twitter and Jaiku), or
  • 1 if multiple external products can be (or are being) used to replicate functionality and/or content throughout all the primary functionality and interaction points of the product (e.g. everything from status updates to pictures to messages to data storage).

Again

Over the next several weeks I will be providing real-world examples of Redundancy values…

Comprehensive Redundancy (value 1) [Ping.fm]
Partial Redundancy (value 0.5) [Picnik]
Non-existent Redundancy (value 0) [Backupify]

Subscribe now (click here) to make sure you don’t miss any part of this series exploring the Interoperability and Redundancy of Quick-MI, the quick and easy method of generating quantifiable and comparable metrics representing the understanding of the overall Modular Innovation of a product, as well as other insightful posts from The Product Guy.

Enjoy, Discuss & Tweet!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

Add to Social Bookmarks: Stumbleupon Del.ico.us Furl Reddit Google Add to Mixx!

Echo’s Sound: Reverberations in Modular Innovation

00_echo-logo As the next decade prepares to unfold, so too will the challenges faced by both the products and peoples of the Internet. Foremost to many are the challenges of …

            • continuing to craft one’s own unique experience and interaction with the online world, while
            • enhancing and being enhanced by the ever growing web of relationships, connections between person and person, person and product, product and product.

Empowerment & Control, Relationships & Connections

image Such challenges know many forms. Perhaps one significantly familiar, especially to those of you reading these very words, centers around the exchange of content and opinions —

  • in the manner you want,
  • when you want,
  • by the means you want.

Whether you are the publisher of the original content, or the opinionated commenter, you most often are left with a mere sliver of a limited vantage point of the current state of discourse and its connectivity to everything and everyone else. Some products, some services, today, are striving to bridge these gaps, make everyone more connected, make knowledge more connected, and further empower everyone through the expanding continuum of means to generate and follow conversations and their relationships. These products are services are known as, and part of, Modular Innovation. And, Echo is one such Modular Innovation.

02_echo-homepage

Echo. Echo.

Echo is a commenting module for websites and blogs that allows for bi-directional communication, aggregating comments from outside the web product within which it is installed and distributing those locally made comments to other web products, such as Twitter, Facebook, etc.

Echo’s goal is to create a more connected, real-time, interactive Internet through the

  1. capturing of the echoes, offline continuing conversations based on a web product’s content (blog post, web page, etc.), and bring these echoes back to the local web product, and
  2. facilitating the continuation of the reverberations created by the web product’s content through the optional distribution of new, locally made comments back to the external, social spheres, e.g. Twitter, Facebook, etc.

Sound Pressure & Noise

There are definitely many challenges facing the evolution of Echo and its founder’s perception of it within the larger ecosystem of Modular Innovation. Most directly, its challenges can be seen coming from Echo’s two chief competitors: Disqus and IntenseDebate.

Intense Debate Disqus
03_intensedebate 04_disqus

Where Echo, best displays its strengths are in Integration and User Experience. Where an Echo conversation is seen to be ongoing within a web product, it can be seen, in motion, in real-time, fully interweaving conversations both local and remote into a single, cohesive whole. The user experience is more inline with a distributed conversation, continuous across a variety of platforms, and centralized. When content within a web product is augmented with Echo, the resulting discourse is treated as a whole, no matter its source; local comments are not separated from remote ‘reactions,’ as occurs in Disqus.

05_echo-integrated

That said, Disqus currently has the edge over the competitors, most especially due to a …

  • Robust API (invaluable in accelerating innovation, Interoperability, Portability, and Sharability)
  • Price of Free (most especially contrasted with Echo which recently removed its Free Core Option, in place of a paid subscription model for all tiers)
  • Large Community of Publishers and Commenters (as a result, more people are more likely to have a Disqus account, more people are likely to configure their Disqus account to extend the propagation of the conversations)

Propagation

Like some of its competitors, as well as other players in Modular Innovation, Echo has borne witness to the growing desire for greater Modular Innovation, stronger relational ties between people and products online. As recently as this past December, in addition to further enhancing the Echo experience with …

  • image Whirlpools: Turn long conversation threads and similar comments into neat clusters of activity.
  • Split Stream: Split the Echo stream between comments and other ’social reactions’ with total control over the visual layout.
  • Social Likes: A lightweight way for readers to participate by endorsing each other’s comments. User faces and names are displayed for everyone to see.
  • Pause: An intuitive and subtle feature that simply queues any new items from appearing in the real-time stream while the user is hovering over Echo.

Pasted from <http://blog.js-kit.com/2009/12/01/echo-innovation-accelerated/>

… Echo also announced the continuing mainstream adoption of the product, along with the underlying principles of Modular Innovation, through the receipt of new customers: CBS/CNET, Discovery News, Dow Jones Local Media Group, Hearst Digital News, etc.

Ranges & Levels

07_chris-saad Chris Saad, VP Product Strategy & Community at Echo and co-founder of the DataPortability Project, has a perspective on Echo and the Internet, at large, strongly founded in the core principles of Modular Innovation.

"Where we once built websites – destinations that attracted ‘traffic’ from which we monetized ‘eye balls’ – that had loose connections in the forms of links, we now build widgets; lightweight pieces of functionality that connect countless sites and services using rich, deep and meaningful pieces of functionality.  Like individual neurons, "sites" must now maximize their connections to outside data sources and applications in response to external stimuli or risk being pruned themselves. "

from <http://synapticweb.pbworks.com/>

"More profoundly, though, the connections between those pieces will be just as important as the pieces themselves. The connections will be interoperable and create spontaneous meaningful interactions."

from <http://synapticweb.pbworks.com/>

The Modular Innovation trends seen within many of the cutting edge, next generation products, services, and platforms are often described via the instructive categories of…

 

So, with what aspects of Modular Innovation is Echo strongest?

image Most prominent to the successes of Echo are the characteristics: Interoperability and Sharability.

Central to the value offering of Echo is Interoperability – the means by which information is shared and disparate products can continually exchange information. The list of products that Echo shares Connectivity with is large, and continues to grow, pulling in information from various web products…

Facebook, Twitter, Google Reader, Digg, StumbleUpon, FriendFeed, Delicious

… and also permitting the pushing out of users’ new comments to most of the same products.

Another feature, also shared with Disqus, is Redundancy of the user generated content, also referred to as UGC. Redundancy of functionality and content is provided by these products…

  • providing for both local and remote storage of UGC,
  • providing remote functionality in place of the local, built-in equivalent.

This level of Redundancy allows for the administrators of products that make use of Echo to run old and new commenting systems in parallel, in turn, allowing for the uninterrupted continuation of the dialog should the remote system cease to exist or the primary party’s product priorities change.

image Also at the heart of Echo is the Sharability of most of its content (excluding user Settings). When users post new comments, they can optionally share with one or more of the supported web products (listed above).

Reflection

Echo has a lot of things going for it, including a great experience. However, and in addition to the deficits already identified, and now re-emphasized as lacking…

  • a robust programmer API, and
  • a free tier in the pricing model…

… Echo would be well served by…

  • Increasing Connectivity
    • 10_linked-in If an article is posted to another source (with matching URL to the source), then pull in those comments too; and allow for an administrator to control (enable, disable, etc.) the detected and pulled in channels per content item, as well as site wide. For example…
      • If a news article is posted to LinkedIn, with a URL matching that of Echo-enabled local content, then when comments are made on the LinkedIn article, they should be pulled in to the local, original content.
    • When replying to a comment that originated from an external product, the reply should be posted BOTH locally and as a reply on the external product, thereby maintaining the Connectivity and flow of the conversation.
    • Allow for the local content creator to specify hashtags, or for hashtags to be extrapolated from the comments or content, to be able to selectively broaden the expansion of a conversation — not requiring a URL to always be the unique identifier of externally occurring content.
  • Improving Usability
    • Not all of the functionality is immediately clear, especially to a new user, when faced with the email-feeling new comment form. Individuals who implement Echo would benefit from being able to configure a more flexible user experience, forcing the display of some or all of the available ‘from’ and ‘to’ options.
    • Also, while the email paradigm may make sense to the more technically savvy, especially those knowledgeable of Echo’s core features, to the average user, it may be presenting too confusing a twist

    11_from-to-focus

    • Encourage more robust, complex conversations and sub-dialogues by…
      • Extracting supplemental comments, replies, from RT’s, and
      • Enabling unlimited levels of threaded conversation.
  • Improving Platform Integration
    • Allow administrators to, per page/post, disable and/or limit commenting. For example, if a WordPress blog post or page is set to ‘disable comments’ or ‘disable new comments’ then Echo, too, should not permit comments.

Echo is a very exciting product, with tough competition, whose presence is being heard loud and clear throughout the Internet, with reverberations influencing all flavors of the coming generation of web products, Modular Innovations.

As more products (from Twitter and Twine to Google and Microsoft) adopt the core principles of Modular Innovation, the relationships we all have with one another and the products and services we use online will dramatically evolve and forever change.

And, as these changes are occurring and, in the meantime…

check out Echo (and/or its competition), and

come back to share your experiences.

Who do you think will win the commenting system battle?

Is there room for more than one winner?

What do you think should be next in commenting? in Modular Innovation?

Enjoy!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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The Product Guy’s Weekend Reading (June 12, 2009)

Every week I read tens of thousands of blog posts. Here, for your weekend enjoyment, are some highlights from my recent reading, for you.

01_self-awareness

On Starting Up…

http://www.avc.com/a_vc/2009/06/self-awareness.html
Learn from the self-awareness of a wise VC.

 
 

On Design & Product Experience…

http://www.yuiblog.com/blog/2009/06/09/implementation-focus-squarespace/
Learn about how design and interface quality have bred success at startup, Squarespace.

02_squarespace
03_google-apps-sync

On Modular Innovation…

http://www.appscout.com/2009/06/google_apps_get_outlook_syncin.php
The growing Modular Innovation of Google Apps by through ever increasing Interoperability.

 

Have a great weekend!

Jeremy Horn
The Product Guy

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At and Between. Evaluating Interoperability through Quick-MI.

web In my earlier discussion, I outlined the importance of Sharability to successful Modular Innovations and Quick-MI. Quick-MI consists of 5 components, or categories, that bring to light critical variables instrumental in the sustained success of many current and emerging products, increasingly becoming part of the Modular Innovation trend. Modular Innovation (MI), along with a product’s User eXperience (UX), combine to be strong indicators of a product’s adoption and success.

As previously described

Modular Innovation (MI) is all about relationships, be they between people or products online. In looking at how these relationships are established, maintained, enhanced, and expanded, one can achieve greater insight into the underlying forces shaping Modular Innovation, quantifying the degree by which a product is participating within, as well as evolving towards greater degrees of, Modular Innovation.

Equally important, and another of the 5 categories that make up Quick-MI, is Interoperability. Interoperability is the measure of the degree of integration permitted.

Interoperability is the means by which information is shared and disparate products can continually exchange information.

Interoperability is about the connection. It is the Interoperable, integrated connection between products that facilitates sharing and exchanging. This includes the ability to make that connection, to establish that relationship; or the hindrance,

    thereof. Through the study of Interoperability a clearer understanding can be formed of the immediate benefits achievable, as well as the quantification of these benefits and capabilities.

    In abiding with the overarching goals of both Quick-UX and Quick-MI (quick assessment for summary, directional guidance, and quantitative comparison), the variables constituting the minimal representative subset for Interoperability are…

    • Connectivity
    • Redundancy
    • Legality

    Each variable and category (e.g. Interoperability) is assigned a value that can be compared and combined. When all the categories’ values are combined, they form the Modular Innovation Index of a product.

     

    Connectivity

      Perhaps the most obvious variable of Interoperability is Connectivity. Connectivity is the means by which the current product can access and interact with external products and platforms. To exchange information a connection must be established and methods must exist that enable the relationship to take hold and let flow the content.

      The content can be anything, from basic status information to images and friends lists. Connectivity is typically achieved via an API. A well known example is the Twitter API. This API provides a simple, web-based interface that allows people and 3rd-party products to perform actions, like read messages and status updates of the people on Twitter, as well as submit new ‘tweets’ and direct messages.

      Connectivity flows both ways, in and out, read and write. The Connectivity variable value (with a starting value of 0) is determined by way of the conditional summation of the following…

      • Add 0.5 if the product can read from, “pull-in,” content from one or more external products, and
      • Add 0.5 if the product can write to, “push-out,” content to one or more external products, and
      • Add 1 if external products can read from, “pull-out,” content from the product, and
      • Add 1 if external products can write to, “push-in,” content to the product.

       

      Redundancy

      When integrating with another product, is the user forced to choose exchanging information between either product A or product B? Or can both products be used in parallel?

      Redundancy is the ability, provided by the product, whereby external products are leveraged to provide replication of functionality and/or content.

      Building upon the Twitter theme, some services exist to facilitate this very sort of Redundancy. Most notably, Ping.fm comes to mind. Ping.fm does not force integration with one external product over another. Ping.fm allows for simultaneous, parallel integration with multiple similar products; making the user less dependent on any one of these services, in the event of down-time or other failures. Beyond “peace of mind,” Redundancy also provides for means to replicate content and maintain functionality that results from such integrations. For example, when I use Ping.fm, I can simultaneously send a status update to Twitter, Jaiku, Pownce, and Plurk

      • saving me time,
      • replicating my status updates, and
      • ensuring that I can continue sending updates even if one or more of these products goes offline,

      … all attributes, benefits, of Redundancy.

      Redundancy can be found on the user-facing side, like Ping.fm, or just under the surface, e.g. using multiple data clouds to store data. The Redundancy variable is assigned the value of 0 or…

      • 1 if multiple external products, per touchpoint, can be (or are being) used to replicate functionality and/or content throughout the primary functionality and interaction points of the product (e.g. everything from status updates to pictures to messages to data storage), or
      • 0.5 if, for each touchpoint, a single external product can be (or is being) used to replicate some of the primary functionality and/or content (e.g. status updates sent to both Twitter and Jaiku)

       

      Legality

      Terms of Service and other legal restrictions and requirements have a significant impact on the resultant Interoperability possible, or worthwhile. In some cases, broad capabilities of Interoperability are possible, but only for personal usage. Other exemplary cases, allow for Interoperability, but with an associated monetary cost.

      The website, Yelp, provides a range of Interoperability that allows external applications to access restaurant and related data. However, those products making use of Yelp’s Interoperability have the following restrictions / requirements…

      • Clearly display Yelp branding alongside any obtained content,
      • Product must be non-competitive with Yelp,
      • Cannot locally store any obtained content,
      • And, more.

      Legality is a measure of freedom, and allowable range of use and usefulness, of the ability to integrate and be Interoperable. The Legality variable is assigned the value of…

      • 1 if there are absolutely ZERO legal restrictions placed on the Interoperability of the product,
      • 0.75 if commercial use is permitted,
      • 0.5 if only non-commercial use is permitted, or
      • 0 if no Interoperability, via API or other means, is permitted.

       

      Rapidly Closer

      Quick-MI is all about understanding and measuring the relationships formed and supported between online products, especially those pioneering the next generation of web products via Modular Innovation. A relationship cannot hold together without the “glue,” without Interoperability, quantified via the Interoperability score (summation of the above variable values).

      Remember, Interoperability is just 1 of 5 categories that make up Quick-MI. The other 4 categories are…

      Through all 5 categories, combined, a sound, representative, quantitative understanding of a product’s ability to foster and maintain relationships both within and without — yielding an oft missed, yet critical, perspective into the success and sustainability of an online product.

      Through the growing presence of Modular Innovation, and the important category, the important element of Interoperability, everything is becoming increasingly and rapidly closer.

      Enjoy, Discuss & Share!

      Jeremy Horn
      The Product Guy

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      Quick-MI. Quick Heuristics for Modular Innovation.

      kllckety

      Introducing… Quick-MI
      Modular Innovation (MI) is all about relationships, be they between people or products online. In looking at how these relationships are established, maintained, enhanced, and expanded, one can achieve greater insight into the underlying forces shaping Modular Innovation, quantifying the degree by which a product is participating within, as well as evolving towards greater degrees of, Modular Innovation.

      Today, Modular Innovation is a prevailing trend that can be described as products and platforms consisting of or facilitating…

      • Relationships (people-people, products-products, people-products)
      • Control of Experience (from creation to storage to interaction)
      • Ownership of Content (personal content from comments to friend lists and more)

      Time & Space, UX & MI

      Often the initial and continuing success of an online product is solitarily framed in terms of User eXperience (UX). To understand Modular Innovation’s role in a product’s online success is to understand how this trend of relationships (aka Modular Innovation) relates to User eXperience, and can, itself, be quantified for comparison and analysis against other products.

      One way to think about the interplay between User eXperience (quantified via Quick-UX) and Modular Innovation (quantified via Quick-MI) is to draw, metaphorically, from physics, namely Space and Time. If User eXperience represents Space, and the variables and characteristics of a product’s UX represent it’s shape and form within that Space, then Modular Innovation aptly would be imputed Time. Like Time, you do not necessarily see or directly interact with the forces (quantifiable categories) of Modular Innovation, but Time is very important if you are, the product is, going to move forward, into the future.

      Quick-MI

      Quick-MI is the simplification of the quantification of the Modular Innovations, the products and platforms, that make up the trend of Modular Innovation. The method I describe below is a great way to build a summary description with quantifiable and comparable metrics, representing the level of Modular Innovation present within a product.

      More detailed and extensive heuristics are, of course, possible (I frequently evaluate along many more variables in my studies of Modular Innovation). Quick-MI allows you to dive into a product and quickly extract valuable, representative data points.

      The Quick-MI evaluates the degree to which a product successfully addresses the following 5 categories:

      Once quantified, the values associated with each of the categories are summed to represent the Modular Innovation Index of a given item (product, platform, etc.).

      The characteristics evaluated within each category constitute a minimal representative subset that accurately evaluates the Modular Innovation Index while adhering to the goals of a method that are (1) quantifiable, (2) comparable, and (3) quick.

      Some of the questions that are answered within the categories of the Quick-MI are…

      Within Sharability

      • Can functionality and content of a product be shared?
      • With whom can I share?
      • How much can be shared?

      Within Flexibility

      • What aspects, and to what extent, can I customize the Sharing, Portability, Interoperability, and Convenient parts of the product?
      • Do the methods and formats adhere to commonly accepted standards?

      Within Interoperability

      • Can the product interact with external products (and vice versa)?
      • Are there legal restrictions placed on content or other interactions?
      • Does the available interoperability facilitate redundancy and stability?

      Within Portability

      • What content, if any, do I own?
      • Can I take it with me?
      • Can I control my content without any UX penalties?

      Within Convenience

      • From where, and at what times, can I access the product and the content?
      • With what degree of ease can I shift between venues and times?

      Not Without UX

      Modular Innovation should not be seen as an alternative, isolated, judge of the overall success or failure of a given product, but rather as a central, complementary, influential part of the equation. Together, MI and UX shape the course of evolution and the eventual success or failure of a product.

      Modular Innovation is Relationships

      The more relationships, the stronger the relationships, in turn, the stronger and broader can be a product’s acceptance, support, and success. These relationships comprise Modular Innovation. They are the trend. They exist within the products that are themselves Modular Innovations, albeit to varying degrees, as measured via Quick-MI. They are the characteristic elements (described, at a high-level by the Quick-MI categories) that propel a product forward (or a lack thereof, stalls or otherwise hinders its progress).

      The role and presence of relationships within and between people, products and platforms are ever increasing in importance and influence. They represent the next substantial evolution of the internet, beyond simply the data, but, now, to all the spaces in between. They can be seen in the sub-trends, or minor trends, with respect to Modular Innovation as a whole, like those of semantic web and data portability.

      These relationships can be quantified, analyzed, built and expanded upon. Once quantified, products are better understood, and clearer courses are able to be set for improvement and solidification of the elements within products directly relevant to Modular Innovation, directly (yet, not exclusively) relevant to sustained success. And the current methods of Quick-MI, itself evolving and adapting, can be used in observing, from industry trend to individual product, the impact and the role of Modular Innovation on products and related trends.

      Enjoy, Discuss & Share!

      Jeremy Horn
      The Product Guy

      PS Try it out, tweak it, learn more about Modular Innovation and share you experiences.

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