sábado, 31 de diciembre de 2011

Facebook to launch mobile ad product in March 2012?

Posted 14 December 2011 09:03am by Vikki Chowney with 0 comments

Facebook is said to be working on a mobile advertising product that it could launch by the end of March 2012.

Insiders report that this could involve putting Sponsored Stories ads, which feature friends' interactions with brands, within the mobile newsfeed.

This stems from a report on Bloomberg last night, itself based on a conversation with two unnamed informants from within the company.

Since mobile adspend is predicted to reach over $1bn this year, and grow to $4.4bn by 2015 according to eMarketer, this could create a healthy additional revenue stream ahead of a suspected IPO from Facebook next year.

Bloomberg says that Facebook expects its next 1bn users to come largely from mobile devices, rather than desktop computers - and more than 350m users already log-in via their mobiles.

Though Facebook obviously recognises the potential in mobile, Deals and Places weren't successful in engaging users through this channel.

Google and Apple might have led the way in this area, but for advertisers mobile is still relatively new ground. They're still unsure of how to approach the balance between useful and intrusive, and that's something that Facebook could use to differentiate themselves by handholding businesses through the process.

Just as it is on the Web, the social network is in a prime position to roll out highly personalised and targeted ads because it has so much information to hand about a person's likes, dislikes and interactions. This could ensure relevancy, and ensure that appropriate ads are being served at the right time to the right people. 

Vikki is News Editor for Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter.

Belle users get Car Mode and Play To update

Published by Steve Litchfield at 13:43 UTC, December 29th 2011

Anyone with Symbian Belle onboard might like to check out two software items, both free. 'Nokia Car Mode' essentially takes a common subset of applications needed while driving and presents them in large fonted, finger-friendly form, to avoid distractions and make it easier to concentrate on the actual motoring. 'Nokia Play To' uses one-way DLNA to let you show photos and videos (and listen to music) on your mobile wirelessly on your TV/home hi-fi. Links below.

Nokia Car Mode is built on Qt and is free. It "reduces driver distraction by making available the most relevant applications for in-car usage, such as making calls, using navigation and listening to music." Comments welcome if you have a Nokia 701 or 603 and have tried it.

Car mode

(via My Nokia Blog)

Nokia Play To "lets you show photos and videos taken with your mobile to your friends wirelessly on your TV. Or you can listen to your favourite music stored on your mobile with your home audio system. Just launch Play To, select the device and media you want to play. No configuration is needed once WLAN is on and all devices are connected to the same network".

This new version, 10.2.10, is for 'NOKIA BELLE ONLY' (Nokia's CAPS) adds proper localization, improved connectivity handling from the status bar and an on/off homescreen widget.

The promo video gives a good overview of Play To in action:

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HTML5 idiots are confusing meatballs with spaghetti

This is a guest post by Richard Holdsworth, Wapple CEO.

Flash is on the endangered species list, already extinct on mobile, and Silverlight has been all but aborted. HTML5 is being heralded as both the cause and the solution but what is it and are we getting caught up in a game of buzzword bingo that has spiralled out of control?

"HTML5 is the new Web 2.0?

The only difference here is that it's somehow more convincing. Version 5 sounds like we're on a journey while simply putting a 2 on the end of something has significantly less gravitas.

So many people are saying that HTML5 is the future of the web. They tell us that it will create richer web experiences that will match and surpass client applications and Flash sites. Er, lets get one thing straight. There is nothing in the HTML5 specification for animations, moving or otherwise visually manipulating anything. Nothing. The best you can do is play a video. Woop.

So let me be clear here if you think you've been witnessing optical illusions when you've seen animating sites. That's Javascript and CSS moving things around. Well written, nicely implemented and totally unrelated to HTML5. And totally possible on HTML4.

My point is that there is a growing group of idiots who have been caught up in the whole HTML5 hurricane and are confusing meatballs with meatballs, spaghetti and sauce. To extend the metaphor, it's time for you to Ketchup.

But please don't think I'm having a big downer on this whole field. I love what's possible in browsers and I believe the future for services and applications delivered that way is immense. After all, what HTML5 does promise – offline storage, universal media embeds, proper SVG support and so on, is fantastic. We'll find ourselves with highly capable software running on multiple screens wherever we may be.

I love the ideas that we collectively share for the future of online applications. I guess I'm just trying to clear muddy waters so we can agree on what things are called. The fact is we have plenty of time to get the semantics. The HTML5 specification is supposed to be complete in 2022, more than a decade away.

While we are seeing certain elements of support for HTML5 features appearing in desktop browsers, the support is inconsistent and not standard enough to rely upon any given feature of the HTML5 specification across all browsers. It's like the early days with Netscape Navigator and IE causing all kinds of incompatibility problems. Conversely, the Javascript and CSS 3 support of browsers is good – so we're not limited there.

Here's a hint. Let's call it an early Christmas present or just a suggestion for a New Year's resolution. Don't be that guy who sucks up the buzzwords and regurgitates them without understanding them.

Look up HTML5 for yourselves. Understand what it can do, when it will do it and what it will never do. Understand the relationship between Javascript, CSS and actual markup and realise what you can do today with existing technologies. Walk today, leave the running until tomorrow.

How One Author Found Success With Digital Books

It's said that print is dead — and not just newspapers or magazines, but maybe short stories too. After 20 years working in print, former Chicago magazine editor Dick Babcock found the perfect platform for his short story: Kindle Singles.

Babcock's short story tops the best sellers list on Kindle Singles.

The 5,000-word piece titled, "My Wife's Story," has sold 24,000 digital copies. It sells for $0.99 a copy — not much money for most writers — but it provides a place to publish works and the opportunity to build a brand.
Kindle Singles publishes short stories and journalism pieces with a minimum length of 5,000 words and a maximum of around 25,000 words. So far the platform has published 138 titles covering a variety of genres.

Kindle Singles' appeal: the stories are much less expensive than regular-sized ebooks. When the program was announced, writers and bloggers speculated that it could help new and unknown authors gain notoriety. Instead of many small works ending up in an anthology, Kindle Singles could give authors their own spotlight.

Although small, the Singles store so far has shown to be a place for unknown, as well as famous, authors to publish short stories.

Writers can work with editors, or self publish their stories. Such stories often have a quick turn-around time from publishing to selling.

Babcock sat on his story for 20 years while he edited the magazine.

"I would wake up at 5 a.m. and write before going to work," he explained. He made a limited attempt to get the short story published and then forgot about it. That is, until he retired from the magazine earlier this year.

Kindle Singles have been able to showcase fiction and provide exposure and sales for authors, says Kindle Singles Editor David Blum.

"We've had great short stories from well-known novelists like Stephen King, Lee Child and Tom Rachman, as well as emerging authors like Matthew Ducker, a young MFA graduate from the University of Virginia — and now Dick Babcock, in his return to fiction after a distinguished career in magazines. All have been among Kindle Singles' top-selling authors," Blum said in an email. "Most of our authors have been published before, but Kindle Singles has allowed many writers — both in fiction and nonfiction — to reach a wider audience of readers than ever before."

Babcock enjoyed a successful career as a publisher and writer. He retired in April. Early in his career, he said, there were many more literary magazines with long stories, but not so much anymore. He said he saw major potential in online publishing of short stories, like the ones on Kindle Singles.

Babcock has published two novels and is working on a third, which he said, he would love to have published for the Kindle.

What do you think of Kindle Singles — as either a reader or writer? Please tell us in the comments.

Review: smartEQ

Published by Steve Litchfield at 16:48 UTC, December 30th 2011


It's all very well having 'Equaliser' presets in Symbian's Music player, but what about if you want a different EQ profile? There's no way to edit the defaults, out of the box, but smartEQ promises to allow this, plus the creation of your own custom EQ profiles. How does it work and how effective is it?

Before delving into smartEQ, it's worth noting a few things:

  • Most people listen to music using the default equalisation setting, usually because they don't know the EQ functions are there.
  • For those people who do know about EQ, most can't be bothered to change the EQ settings ("There's not that much difference between them").
  • smartEQ only works with Music player, so third party media playback applications (e.g. Podcatcher) don't benefit from the extra EQ options.

So, if you're an audiophile, if you're happy with Symbian Music player, and if you want more flexibility in EQ beyond the built-in presets, then smartEQ can indeed help. It's a commercial application (but inexpensive) and effectively plugs into the Music player preset system, as shown in the screenshot, bottom-right.

Screenshot Screenshot Screenshot

No less than eight frequency bands are represented here, which should be enough for most people to fiddle with, plus left/right balance bias, as shown, and an extra rotary volume control - just because the programmer felt like showing off(!) You can make as many 'New preset's as you like and give them all sensible names, and you can adjust any of the existing Music player EQ presets, albeit with all of this only having any effect while 'smartEQ' is selected in 'Equaliser' inside Music player.

Impressively, everything can be adjusted in real time, i.e. you can fiddle with the sliders while listening to a favourite piece of music and hear the difference immediately. This, naturally, makes finding a favourite EQ profile much easier.

Having set up smartEQ with a new profile (in this case, the imaginatively-named 'Steve'), you can exit the utility, leaving 'Steve' in place and it will still get used by Music player, i.e. there's no requirement to have smartEQ actually running all the time - just as well, as it would otherwise have been something that had to be auto-started with the phone, etc.

In terms of audio quality, I had no issues and playback was just as smooth as with the built-in presets - I'm guessing that the chipset in the modern Symbian phones is doing most of the work anyway.

smartEQ is smartly done (written in Qt), works brilliantly and doesn't cost the earth. In fact, the only reason for not awarding it an 80+ score is that the vast majority of Symbian users will probably never need it - or even conceive of the possibility that they might need it.

Steve Litchfield, All About Symbian, 30 Dec 2011


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Meet the Writer Being Sued for His 17,000 Twitter Followers

At any conference, product launch or other event where the top tier of tech reporters gather, Noah Kravitz is easy to pick out of a crowd. He's the affable guy with glasses, earring and a cue-ball head; a supersmart cellphone-loving thirtysomething with a finely tuned sense of the absurd.

Online, Kravitz often goes by the handle "Kravy Krav," an homage to hip-hop legend Flavor Flav. KravyKrav was also the name of his very first (and now inactive) Twitter account. And if that had been the only Twitter name Kravitz ever went by, he wouldn't have made news this week.

But his subsequent Twitter account was @Phonedog_Noah, and that has led to an eyebrow-raising lawsuit from his former employer. The reviews website Phonedog claims Kravitz's Twitter account, now renamed simply @NoahKravitz, is the equivalent of a corporate customer list that the writer upped and left with. The site wants $2.50 for each of Kravitz's 17,000 Twitter followers over an eight-month period, which adds up to $340,000.

"I would do it differently now," Kravitz told Mashable this week, "but at the time, calling the account Phonedog Noah made all the sense in the world. That's where all my online efforts were going, and I was all about 'let's make this thing as big as we can.'"

"Not to blow my own horn, but I was Phonedog Noah for many years," he added. "People would recognize me [from the popular YouTube videos that Kravitz filmed for the site] and call me Phonedog."

At the time the account was established, Kravitz was the site's only editorial person, if not an actual staffer — a freelance editor-in-chief, as he puts it. "We weren't equipped to have policy on this stuff," Kravitz says. "It was all brand new. The lines were blurred."

Phonedog President Tom Klein demurs, saying the site had a social media policy in place from the start. "When creating the account, PhoneDog management permitted and directed Noah to establish the account using the PhoneDog_Noah naming convention," Klein wrote in an email. "PhoneDog is a personality-driven brand, and we realized that expanding Twitter, YouTube, and other social media mediums would allow us to better engage with our fans."

When he and Phonedog parted ways in October 2010, it was on amicable terms, Kravitz says. He contacted Twitter to change the name on his account. A dummy account was set up under the name Phonedog_Noah, so that no one else could grab it. And Kravitz agreed to tweet occasionally on Phonedog's behalf. (He now works as editor-at-large for the website Technobuffalo, which just posted a lengthy defense of his position.)

Indeed, emails obtained by Mashable show Phonedog staffers asking Kravitz to send out tweets about promotions long after his departure, and Kravitz agreeing to do so.

Things only soured after Kravitz filed suit for back pay he says he was owed, plus a percentage of Phonedog's ad revenue he was allegedly promised. Phonedog actually filed its countersuit over the Twitter followers back in July; it's making waves this week after the New York Times noticed it and published a story on Christmas Day.

The suit, if it goes to trial, could establish a number of precedents in the online world. "This seems to be the first case of someone legally trying to put a valuation on a follower," notes Kravitz. And that valuation, $2.50, is significantly higher than you might expect — given that you can buy Twitter followers on eBay for less than a penny each.

Still, Phonedog's attempt to put a value on Twitter followers could well backfire. No one particularly cares to hear that they're worth $2.50, even if that is well above the going rate. The site's Facebook wall is already filling up with comments to that effect. "I just unfollowed you guys on Twitter," writes one commenter. "You can put my $2.50 directly in my PayPal account."

Meantime, Kravitz is in good spirits. He's settling in for a long legal battle, but taking time to enjoy the absurdity of his situation — especially the fact that his often random personal tweets, which dominated his feed before and after the association with Phonedog, are now being analyzed by the world at large.

"I like the whimsy of it," he says. "All this hullabaloo over a guy who tweets about what the bathroom smells like, and posts pictures of himself in front of unicorn paintings."

Instantly Turn Video Clips Into Movies With V.I.K.T.O.R

The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark. If you would like to have your startup considered for inclusion, please see the details here.

Name: V.I.K.T.O.R.

Quick Pitch: V.I.K.T.O.R. is an automatic video-editing app.

Genius Idea: The free iPhone app makes movie making and sharing mobile clips quick and easy.

Built-in cameras on smartphone and tablet devices make it easy to record videos of experiences anywhere we go. But how often do we go back to watch these videos or share them?

V.I.K.T.O.R., an automatic video-editing app, provides a simple and convenient way to cut and edit video clips and turn them into short movies. The app allows users to make short movies — either 20 seconds, one minute or two minutes long — that actually look professionally edited. For now, it's free to create a movie, but in the future, the company plans to charge $0.99 for 1-minute movies and $1.99 for two-minute movies.

"We all have special moments that we want to remember," Evgenia Bogdanovich, co-founder of V.I.K.T.O.R., told Mashable. "This video editing app offers a way to recollect your memories and turn them into a video presentation that feels emotional and looks professional."

Developed in June, the idea of V.I.K.T.O.R. was inspired while two of the four co-founders of the app were traveling in Hong Kong. Sergey Nurmamed and Alexander Didenko saw tourists taking pictures and recording videos with their phones, and wondered how often people actually go back and look at these memories. When Nurmamed and Didenko returned to Russia, the V.I.K.T.O.R. team decided to create an automatic-editing app to make it easier for people to create movies from their experiences and share them with friends and family.

To start making mini-movies, download the app onto an iPhone and choose one of the following video-editing options:

  • Automatic: The app randomly chooses video footage from your phone.
  • Semiautomatic: Users manually select videos.
  • Controlled: Gives users more control by allowing them to sort their videos by different sections and shots

    After you select an option, users can also add in their own themes and soundtracks. Browse the list of categories (travels, sports, family, events, lifestyle or moods) and select a theme that suits your movie. Then create a movie title and select the mobile clips that you want to include.

    Select an unlimited number of video clips to include in your movie.

    Finally, click the "Magic Up!" button to see your own personal edited movie and instantly share it on Facebook, YouTube or via email.

    Hit the "Magic Up!" button to see your personal mini movie.

    "V.I.K.T.O.R. is a new way of communication because it makes it easier to have a presentation of your experiences to share with your friends and relatives," says Bogdanovich. "Sharing your own movie is much more emotional than sharing a photo."

    Unlike video sharing site TwitVid, V.I.K.T.O.R. automatically edits your videos, does not allow you to include your own songs in the soundtrack and does not have an option to directly share your videos to Twitter.

    V.I.K.T.O.R. currently has over 400 users and will soon be available for Android devices.

    Image courtesy of V.I.K.T.O.R.

    Series Supported by Microsoft BizSpark

    Microsoft BizSpark

    The Spark of Genius Series highlights a unique feature of startups and is made possible by Microsoft BizSpark, a startup program that gives you three-year access to the latest Microsoft development tools, as well as connecting you to a nationwide network of investors and incubators. There are no upfront costs, so if your business is privately owned, less than three years old, and generates less than U.S.$1 million in annual revenue, you can sign up today.

  • 2011: The Year of Reversal

    You could call it the year of humility; 2011 saw its share of epic shakeups in the technology world, but it also saw an unprecedented number of them shake right back and go away almost as soon as they happened. From Verizon to HP to Netflix, the biggest names in tech made big decisions that were ultimately — and often almost immediately — reversed.

    You can thank social media for playing a large part in the speedy course changes. With Twitter and Facebook leading the charge, negative reaction to a public decision now skips the murmur phase and goes straight to ear-splitting viral roar. Comments on web pages, blog posts and bad press all combine to create a torrent of indignation that few companies can endure.

    Occasionally social media itself was the offender, with services at times clumsily rolling out new features that its users rebelled against. Various networks almost cannibalized themselves in this way, as they struggled to find their footing as viable businesses.

    Big, public reversals by corporations are nothing new of course. Probably the most notorious one in modern history was the introduction of new Coke in 1985, which the company stubbornly stuck with at first, then soon relented. New Coke was actually around in one form or another until 2002, when it was permanently discontinued.

    Reversals aren't necessarily more common now, but they sure happen a lot faster. Tech companies are probably the most vulnerable because of the connected nature of their customers. With the touch of a button, consumers can "Like" anything. But that same ease can turn anger into full-fledged movements in minutes, and no company is immune.

    Here are Mashable's picks for the most notorious reversals by tech companies in 2011. Let us know in the comments of any we missed.

    The biggest power drain of all... cleverer software needed

    Published by Steve Litchfield at 11:28 UTC, December 28th 2011


    So there I was in a largish UK town on December 27th, visiting relatives. Naughty, I know, but I was staying in touch with email and Twitter through the day, because... well, this is me. And I totally killed two smartphones in five hours. And was on the way to killing a third. To find out why, read on, there's an issue here that I've moaned about before, that not many technologists acknowledge and which could do with addressing intelligently in each mobile OS.

    I was in Tiverton, UK, a Devon town with reasonable population, quite a way inland. I'd known from previous visits that 3G data was a complete no-no. (It drives me mad when tech commentators witter on about LTE and multi megabit download rates when much of even the UK is lucky to even see a '3G' indicator on their phones.) Yet, this time, I saw '3.5G' appear on my Nokia N8 - "Ooh", I thought, "someone's been putting in new cell towers".Well - maybe just the one cell tower, as it turned out, and not that close to my location.

    Over the next couple of hours, from my furtive peeks (in between probable disapproving glances from my family), I noticed the '3G' signal strength vary between one and three bars (out of seven) and, quite often, disappear altogether for a while, to be replaced by 'E' (for 'EDGE'). I also noticed two things - my battery status was shrinking rather too fast and the N8 was getting rather warm. 

    low 3G

    Two hours later, just after the turkey sandwiches were eaten, the mince pies polished off and the washing up was done... so was the N8. It dolefully bleeped that the battery was low and was asking to enter 'Power saving mode'. "Stuff that", I thought, I wanted navigation and other functions on our afternoon walk... so, being Mr 'never take just the one smartphone into the shower', I broke out my Google Nexus S (now running Ice Cream Sandwich, by the way), inserting my main SIM and, essentially, carrying on where the N8 had left off.

    Like the N8, the Nexus S started the day with a full battery charge - I always keep my phones near full charge - just in case. And, like the N8, by the time we were back from our walk, the Nexus S was very warm and down to about 20% power. Gah.

    I still wanted to show off some photos and do some Web lookups with the (non-tech-savvy) relatives, so I switched to the Nokia Lumia 800 (with different SIM, as it uses microSIM and I do NOT believe in messing around with fragile adapters). This, finally lasted through the day and got me home at the end of it.

    Three smartphone batteries to last one day though? That's insane. Most normal people would only have the one phone and the one battery. The culprit here, of course, was the low signal strength 3G data. Registering on a 3G network (and staying registered) consumes more battery power than doing the same on a GSM network. In an area of weak signal strength, the effect is multiplied dramatically, with the phone ramping up RF power to try and keep 3G active at all costs. Add in maintaining a 3G data connection only makes things worse again.

    The upshot is huge battery drain, a very warm phone and very poor battery life. The solution is, as many of you will know by now, especially if you've read any of my tips features before, to manually switch off 3G functionality in the phone and to force the fallback to the far less power-hungry GSM radio system. No, data won't be as fast, but telephony will still work fine and you'll still get a hundred or so kbps if you're lucky. And your battery will last the day - easily. Whichever phone you've got.

    In case you're wondering how to manually turn off 3G, on Symbian you need to go to 'Settings/Connectivity/Network/Network mode' and choose 'GSM'; on Android, go to 'Settings/Wireless and networks/Mobile networks' and tick 'Use only 2G networks'; and on Windows Phone, go to 'Settings/Mobile network' and turn '3G connection' "Off".

    Note that, on Symbian, this switch is also made automatically when you manually turn on 'Power saving mode', though this mode does include other restrictions and optimisations.

    On Symbian... On Windows Phone...

    Here's my question though. If, as a mere human being, I could spot the warning signs (one or two bars 3G consistently, 3G flicking off altogether, etc), why did none of the so called 'smartphones' act smart enough to step in and save the day? Battery life is poor enough on most smartphones as it is - surely more should be done in intelligent software to spot this showstopping situation happening?

    When 3G is intermittent, the OS, whether Symbian, Android or Windows Phone, in my case, should surely step in and perhaps pop up an optional message:

    Wouldn't that be:

    1. simple to implement?
    2. effective at stopping the situation ever happening again?
    3. informative for the user, making them more aware of the issue in the first place?

    If we were still in geek-centric 2006 smartphone land, I'd have said it was ok for the user to have to know what magic runes to cast to switch down to GSM. But this is 2011 and smartphone users have enough on their plate already without having to micromanage their phone's RF modes.

    Signal on Windows Phone

    Come on, Microsoft, Nokia, Apple and Google - this one's down to you. Get programming, I want to see this sort of RF intelligence in your next OS updates.

    Am I missing something? Do any devices or mobile OS already do this? Comments welcome.

    Steve Litchfield, All About Symbian and All About Windows Phone, 29 Dec 2011

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    5 Steps for Finding New Customers

    Ronald Brown is a successful startup CEO with an extensive background in technology and consumer marketing. His new book, Anticipate. The Architecture of Small Team Innovation and Product Success is available via iTunes, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.

    The subject of finding customers is one of the most mysterious in business development. I'm often asked how the most successful companies do it, maybe in the hope that there's a secret or shortcut to success. Sorry to say, no silver bullet exists.

    Even with large budgets, customer discovery is more art than science. Below are the five basic steps. The most important aspect of this process is to be very methodical in your approach. Knowing where you've been is the only way to improve and repeat successes. Pay close attention to the details and record everything in a consistent format.

    1. Classification Structure

    The first step is to decide on a classification structure, better known as segmentation. You might have a product in mind, or a general concept, but sometimes, you might just be fishing — looking for a problem to solve in a market that seems attractive. That's OK. Market segmenters are detectives.

    What makes a market attractive? Maybe you see alignment with your idea or product. Or, maybe something about a segment strikes a chord and gets your creative juices flowing, knowing what you know about your company's capabilities. Also, segment size is important: Why waste time if long-term financial gains aren't possible?

    The segment selection process can be intuitive, based on personal experience, or it can be driven by highly sophisticated segmentation tools that carve up the total market into standardized groups. (Lots of companies start with Standard Industrial Classification codes (SIC codes), a system for tracking the entire economy, managed by the U.S. Census Bureau.) Either way, at this point, you are simply making educated guesses about which ones might be a fit. You have no idea if the fit will materialize.

    In emerging industries, segmentation can evolve quickly. When the iPad was first introduced, tablets were tablets. Then ereaders became a distinct category vs. general purpose. Then pricing tiers emerged. Now, industry analysts are breaking the market up into broad stroke vertical applications — education, health care, etc. — which will get subdivided further very soon.

    2. Hypothesis Testing

    With your evaluation structure in place, you now need to determine, one segment at a time, if there is really an opportunity you can address. You dig deeper from a research standpoint, paying particular attention to competitive offerings. Again, there's a range of tools you can use. A consumer products company might do a formal, quantitative study, and a company selling to enterprises might set up personal meetings with senior executives. Major consulting firms, like McKinsey & Co. or the Boston Consulting Group, rely heavily on in-depth, one-on-one interviews in all of their projects. I'm working on a project in the tablet business right now, and you'd be amazed at how much you can learn from resellers.

    What are you looking for? You're identifying customer problems. They should be big ones — "pain points." If a problem isn't urgent and important, it'll be difficult to create a meaningful competitive advantage. At the same time, you're looking to see how your solution solves the problem. Is it dramatically better? Is it "demonstrable" (a very helpful ingredient when it comes to being socialized)?

    If you've found a pain point in a large market you can address and there are no competitors (yes, it happens), you've stumbled upon an "unmet need," one of the holy grails of new product development.

    Segment by segment, you are testing a hypothesis related to fit or alignment: that you have something of value to offer a customer group. You are not just collecting information.

    You'll discover all kinds of things at this point, from a particular segment being a complete miss, to essential product features that must be added. Hypothesis testing never stops, even after you introduce your product. In fact, the best is yet to come. Once a product is in the market, learning based on actual usage will flow in. That's why many in the new products field go to market with a "minimally viable product."

    3. Nuance Testing

    Here's the step that's easy to overlook. All problems have context. In other words, when customers solve problems, they are affected by circumstances associated with timing and physical surroundings, and by the nature of the task itself. As a marketer, you won't understand context by doing a survey, conducting a focus group, or talking to senior executives.

    You understand context by experiencing customer problem solving yourself. To do that, you turn to customer immersion techniques. Did you know dairy farmers use tablets? To elegantly solve their problems, you better be willing to get up at 3 a.m. on a freezing morning. Some consumer goods companies even live with customers in their homes for a short period of time. Procter & Gamble, considered one of the best marketers in the world, uses such an immersion program called "Living It."

    4. Customer Stories

    Hypothesis and nuance testing findings get captured as stories. They're much more descriptive than use cases in that they focus heavily on problem/solution decision making.

    5. Solution Iteration

    Tight product alignment with a customer is a matter of iteration. You put something out there (an idea, a prototype, an actual product), and you get feedback, and you go away and improve and refine. Your customer stories get more refined as well.

    It's highly unlikely that you'll identify a pain point and address it perfectly in one fell swoop. In fact, to even try is highly risky, especially if you're building hardware.

    Most of the time and money wasted in new product development is related to late-stage rework, but you can avoid it by developing in small steps, ever tightening the alignment. This is what agile development is all about, and why it's gaining so much in popularity in and outside Silicon Valley.

    Image courtesy of iStockphoto, pixdeluxe

    Sports and Social Media: Our Favorite Stories of 2011

    The past year was a wild one in the sports world, full of salacious scandals, poignant moments, new records, the passing of old legends and the forging of new ones.

    But digital and social media also shaped — and were shaped by — some of the year's biggest moments in the NBA, NFL, international soccer, college football and nearly every other sport humans play. Sometimes the stories were inspiring. Sometimes they were sad, or repugnant. Sometimes they were funny. But they were almost always interesting.

    Here, we look back at 15 of our most memorable sports moments from the year that was. Scroll through the slideshow below, and let us know what you think in the comments.

    What are your favorite stories from this list? What would you have added? What do you predict for 2012?

    10 Best Spoof Twitter Accounts of 2011