MobileCamp San Antonio (aka MobiCampSA) is day after tomorrow. If you haven't registered for it, I highly recommend it.
It's a FREE conference held at the lovely Trinity University campus in San Antonio. It's a bunch of interesting, smart people talking and sharing information about the revolution in cell phones, smart phones, social media, "apps", iPads and other tablets, location-based marketing, Groupon type social marketing offers, Yelp and other review sites, how to get people interested in reviewing you, Twitter, Facebook, texting - you name it. Could you use some ideas on how to make decisions for your business based on all the possibilities? Me too! That's why we sponsored this event.
We're cooking up some wonderful ideas for panels.
Like all Camp-style open conferences, we the attendees create the programming. I have some discussions I want to have and I'm encouraging friends with fascinating experiences, deep knowledge, or specific techniques to share what they know.
You can also create a panel about something you want to know - and have discussed. You don't have to be the card-carrying expert. I've got one of those in mind too - What apps and technology should I use for vlogging/podcasting on the fly? I'm betting there are lots of folks there with great, specific advice for me on that, and even more folks who need to know, as I do.
MobiCampSA organizers asked me, as a sponsor of the event, some interesting questions about how we at Firecat Studio see mobile, and why we sponsored. Here are my answers. But do go register! You will NOT be disappointed.
1. Where do you see the future of mobile technology (smartphones/tablets/apps/etc) headed?
The U.S. has lagged behind other countries' adoption of mobile technologies - so in some cases I'd say we can look to markets like Europe and Japan for "what's next with mobile." I want the U.S. and especially Texas/San Antonio to continue to innovate and create in this space.
Much more can be done with location-based advertising, and I'm very interested in the privacy implications of location-based services versus the benefits of getting relevant offers to folks.
With tablets, phones, apps - these will continue to proliferate, and it's up to all of us in the industry to keep watch for the next emerging leaders in both devices and apps. I am still waiting for a thought-driven, fingernail Mac but we're getting awfully close :)
2. How do you use mobile technology to communicate with clients and sub-contractors?
We've used good old Yahoo Instant Messenger since 2005 for day-to-day quick conversations with our team, and still use that heavily, though we're expanding use of Skype and Twitter DMs. We have team members in several different countries, some of whom shift their workdays to accommodate the U.S. schedule.
It's really nice that apps have made it possible to Skype or use Basecamp from the phone or iPad. We keep getting more mobile. I remember when pagers first came out, the guys who monitored server performance and were required to use them thought of them as "electronic leashes" that could recall them from leisure or family time at a moment's notice. Now we think of the mobile devices as giving freedom, not taking it away. They give us the freedom to work from anywhere, and to stay connected with our friends and family. We're integrating those previously separate parts of our lives - it's a fascinating process.
3. Which sites/apps/tools have you found to be the most helpful when it comes to productivity?
Yugma and WebEx are key for us, as we do a lot of presentations of ideas, visual treatments, options, different views.
We've also been using the heck out of remote usability testing tools - low-cost, powerful tools like Silverback, which captures the user's facial expressions, audio of what they're saying as they use a "think aloud" protocol to describe their thought processes when using a site, and the screens and mouse movements, typing - integrating it all into a video that can be easily shared with the clients. Or Chalkmark, which makes heatmaps of our visual comps. Combine those with WebEx or Skype and you can do a great usability test for a fraction of the cost of the traditional lab-based tests - with the added benefit of testing people in their homes, or work environment, even out and about on an iPhone, Android or Blackberry.
4. What would you say are the top three reasons a business should embrace the mobile web?
- To be "open for business" for significantly more people, a significantly larger portion of the time. Your web channel allows people to self-service, whether it's a company intranet or B2B or B2C.
- It costs no more to develop a smartphone-friendly site than it does any other - just takes careful coding by people who know what they're doing and validate to standards, and test.
- Simplifying your offers for mobile will help you sell more, more effectively. Thinking about your business offerings in a "channel agnostic" way, suitable for web and mobile, helps you essentialize your offerings. That little 3.5-inch screen forces you to prioritize and simplify what you're saying, to whom, when. You think through your marketing, rather than just loading your website with a ton of information and expecting the prospects and customers to "find their way" through it. In today's information-overloaded culture, targeting your offers to your prospects in that basic way is a fantastic way to sell more, not less.
5. Why do you feel it is important to support camps, like MobiCamp SA, in the community?
Camps are WAY better than conferences, which I believe they are eclipsing.
Conferences: Expensive, elaborate gatherings attended by a bunch of stiffs who pay thousands of dollars, fly to some city to listen to sales pitches and make industry contacts. They troll the aisles of a convention center filling a bag with plastic crapeau, whooping it up in the Marriott with lampshades on their heads. They come home with a few whitepapers they'll never refer to again and a stack of business cards and brochures of products and people they don't quite remember without the help of the spam and junk mail received afterward.
Enter the web and social media. We have the ability to quickly and for very little money, organize and publicize any conference about any topic we want to explore. Attendees find out about the conference and register via social media. Interested persons show up burning to learn, share, grow - empowered. They bring all their ideas and experiences, along with their curiosity. They set the agenda, the pace, and the energy. It's FABULOUS.
With web, email, mobile, social all changing so rapidly, there is NO WAY any one person or organization can keep up with it all without comparing notes with other smart people. That's why Firecat Studio sponsors coworking sessions and Camps. It's how we stay abreast of trends, passionate and focused, and on top of our game. Thanks for creating these camps! They're gold!