Chatbot 101 – Serviceplan Middle East talk

I gave this talk a few weeks back at the Serviceplan Middle East office on the rise of Chatbots in 2017 but am only getting around to putting it up here now because I’m super lazy.

With mobile messaging app usage overtaking regular social media usage as far back as 2015, coupled with the fact that people have basically stopped downloading standalone branded apps, the opportunity for Chatbots to provide an alternative communication channel has never been more obvious.

Since Facebook opened the floodgates to developers on it’s Messenger app platform last April, tens of thousands of Chatbots have been launched. Some haven’t lived up to expectations, but the future potential of Chatbots when paired with more concrete mobile functions like location-based services, push notifications and payments mean that our definition of what a Chatbot actually is could change drastically over the coming years.

Keep an eye out for WhatsApp inevitably getting in on the action at some stage over the next 12 months too.

What else might this Snapchat feature be used for?

I came across this pretty cool Snapchat feature the other day on Twitter. Basically, if you point your Snapchat camera at the logo on the side of the Spectacles glasses pack, it turns into a secret filter. QR codes eat your heart out!

If this feature can be implemented in an Augmented Reality context then just imagine the possibilities! This backs up the Benedict Evans line of thinking of the camera being a new input device rather than simply a facilitator for our photo albums. Maybe the bet on Snap making it as a ‘camera company’ rather than a social media company mightn’t be such an absurd one after all.

Framing your product as a ‘job-to-be-done’

I just stumbled across this video of a talk from Clayton M. Christensen (he of ‘The Innovator’s Dilemma‘ fame) highlighting the important difference between a product’s function and its ‘job’.

The premise is that, when consumers are faced with a need, they essentially “hire” a product to do that job, and that this job can be wildly different from what the seller thinks it is. This thinking is summed up nicely by the Peter Drucker quote “The customer rarely buys what the company thinks it is selling them“, but Christensen goes on to elaborate in more detail:

The jobs-to-be-done point of view causes you to crawl into the skin of your customer and go with her as she goes about her day, always asking the question as she does something: why did she do it that way?

The fact that you’re 18 to 35 years old with a college degree does not cause you to buy a product. It may be correlated with the decision, but it doesn’t cause it. We developed this idea because we wanted to understand what causes us to buy a product, not what’s correlated with it. We realized that the causal mechanism behind a purchase is, ‘Oh, I’ve got a job to be done.’

Check out this article from the Harvard Business School or the video below for a more detailed take on this line of thinking.

A case for going cold turkey on social media this New Year

It’s a new year, and with it the obligation to try and pursue some form of self improvement. I came across this piece on the New York Times about one computer scientist, Cal Newton, who shuns social media in an attempt to maintain his concentration skills and it struck me as something worth looking into.

I’ve always seen social media as a harmless activity that can help develop your personal brand online and keep you up-to-date on news and trends, but Newton highlights some all too familiar downsides that certainly hit home. Mainly, the effect on ones ability to concentrate on a certain topic for a prolonged period of time. In work, this can manifest itself in jumping from task to task looking for quick wins and making it difficult to focus on one thing to completion.

Over the last couple of years I’ve found that messaging apps like WhatsApp are actually much worse at encouraging this habit than traditional social media channels, triggering an urge to check your phone every minute or two and tripping you up in whatever task you are trying to concentrate on at the time.

Newton outlines the side effects of this below:

Consider that the ability to concentrate without distraction on hard tasks is becoming increasingly valuable in an increasingly complicated economy. Social media weakens this skill because it’s engineered to be addictive. The more you use social media in the way it’s designed to be used — persistently throughout your waking hours — the more your brain learns to crave a quick hit of stimulus at the slightest hint of boredom.

Once this Pavlovian connection is solidified, it becomes hard to give difficult tasks the unbroken concentration they require, and your brain simply won’t tolerate such a long period without a fix. Indeed, part of my own rejection of social media comes from this fear that these services will diminish my ability to concentrate — the skill on which I make my living.

Maybe putting a limit on messaging & social media app usage might not be the worst New Year’s resolution to make. Food for thought.

Facebook targets mobile payments in Europe via Irish e-payments license

It’s been almost 2 years since I wrote about the new payment function in the Facebook Messenger app but it finally looks like the feature might be coming to Europe too after the company has secured an e-payments license from the Central Bank of Ireland.

Facebook payments

The Central Bank of Ireland’s register shows that the license was authorised to Facebook Payments International Limited (FBPIL) in October for “e-money issuance” and “payment services.” An Irish license would apply throughout the other 27 European Union member states.

In the short term, it means that Facebook Messenger will be able to roll out its peer-to-peer payment features in Europe, letting users send money to friends via the Messenger app (see below), but in the future this could also include payments to businesses as well.

For an insight in to what might be possible in the future, check out this example of two friends talking about, searching for, booking and paying for flights all within Messenger!