Usability and people skills are the key to catching the Wave

8 10 2009

When you open the top of a soft drink and look under the cap, chances are you’ll see a code that you can text in or type into a web site for the privilege of entering a loyalty club or contest.  Years ago, that same cap used to tell you if you were an instant winner.

Soft drink companies made a choice about usability and culture – do you have far fewer entrants, but collect more information, or do you make more people instant winners and hope it builds anonymous brand loyalty?

How many of you have texted in one of those codes on a cap using T9 entry?

That’s what I thought…

So, usability and culture are intertwined (e.g. “do I want to go through the effort of texting” and “what are they going to do with my phone number?”).  The reward has to be tremendous to get over the “activation energy” of user inertia and suspicion.

Enter Google Wave.  Technically speaking, it has got some pretty incredible components underneath it.  No, I was not one of the 100,000 preview invitations to Wave, but I do think it shares the same soft drink cap adoption conundrum.

Google is looking for passionate digital natives right now (they build a tribe, the tribe can structure a community etc.), so a long explanation (an 80 minute intro video) makes sense.  But, if Wave requires a culture change or a large shift in user habits, there is a long road ahead for it.  Ray Ozzie has some great insight into this conundrum.  He should know a thing or two about collaboration as the founding father of Lotus Notes and Groove.  I like that guy.

In New York City, there are 2,375 mentions of “Facebook” every minute

Read the rest of this entry »