Comments (3)

Created

April 12, 2010

Getting to where the people are

Ok, let’s do a little experiment.

Let’s start with computing platforms. Everyone who uses a PC, raise your hand. Ok, what, maybe 70-80% of you? Next, Mac, get them hands up! Ok, another 10-15%. So the rest of you are using Linux or Unix maybe?

Alright, next question. How many are using IE as their primary browser? Safari? Firefox? Something else?

Moving on to mobile platforms. Same drill, get your hands up when I call out your baby! :-) Blackberry! iPhone! Andriod! Motorola! LG! Samsung! Nokia! Sony! TI! Who did I miss??

Carriers, ready? Go! AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, Sprint!

So, can anyone tell me the point of this exercise? And noooo, it was most certainly not about proving that any one platform or device is better than any other! In fact, my point is simple. People have a huge variety of choices when it comes to how they access information and if you are a government agency, like it or not, you’re faced with the reality of having to deal with this.

Unlike commercial concerns who can make the decision to target particular segments with their services, government does not have that luxury. Government cannot ignore a particular segment of the population simply because they choose one mobile phone over another.


And let’s exacerbate the problem even more. People are becoming more demanding than ever with regards to how organizations, including government, engage with them. They are not looking for multiple, disconnected experiences, one on the computer, one on a mobile device, one while talking on the phone and yet another in person. People wish to be engaged at a personal level in such a way that all their interactions with a given entity are coordinated and integrated. Experiences should be long-lived and each new interaction should build from everything that came before.

Ok, I’ve tossed all this out there, so now what? Given the rise in expectations, a traditional, flat HTML-based site is not likely to impress anyone. Well, one consideration could be what I call the ‘lowest common denominator’ approach. What? How can that be good? Usually this approach yields situations and services that are simply not good enough for anyone! However, times are a-changing in the technology world. Ubiquity is becoming common, collaborative organizations have been formed to tackle some of the tough issues and systems and software applications are becoming more capable of creating people friendly solutions.

Let me call your attention to the Open Screen Project. The Open Screen Project is dedicated to bringing rich Internet experiences seamlessly to people across any device, anywhere. An industry-wide initiative that consists of the top players in the fields of mobile computing, enterprise software, content providers and device manufacturers, the idea is to minimize, if not eliminate the fragmented experiences people are currently forced to deal with by leveraging technology that is already in place. The most exciting progress to date is the up-coming release of the Adobe Flash Player 10.1. Currently available as a release candidate for certain platforms, this release is designed with mobility in mind, running on 19 of the top 20 handsets as well as all the usual desktop platforms you might expect.

With a consistent, usable platform in place, one needs a means to create content, services and solutions. To answer this call, please allow me to introduce Adobe Creative Suite 5. Already the defacto standard for creating interesting, dynamic content, video and websites, CS5 raises the bar by leveraging the work of the Open Screen Project, making it possible to deliver on the vision I painted earlier! In fact, even though there appears to be a non-technology related snag right now with regards to one particular mobile platform, experiences created with CS5 are capable of executing on nearly every one of today’s popular computing and mobile platforms!

I suspect something like this might be running through your mind, “So, let’s get this straight Bobby, you’re telling us that we can develop our user experiences one time and deploy them to practically all the leading internet connected devices today? And it works? And citizens can use these experiences in meaningful and practical ways?”

Yep, that’s what I’m saying. Sometimes the lowest common denominator is not so bad! You need to reach all your citizens and they are everywhere, Adobe and all it’s partners in the Open Screen Project want to help.

COMMENTS

  • By Sheikh Rustom - 3:08 AM on April 13, 2010  

    You know what’s even more ‘open’ than Open Screen?

    HTML5.

    There. It had to be said.

  • By Bobby Caudill - 9:27 AM on April 13, 2010  

    Hm, it seems I’m always working around the word ‘open’ these days!

    Of course, the intent of my post was to help direct government agencies to potential solutions to today’s citizen engagement challenges by offering pointers to technology that is available today or will be in the very near term, not to debate the merits of any one technology over another. That said, I’ll take a quick bite at your comment.

    Regardless of the promise of HTML5, which I admit is compelling and interesting, for government agencies who need to reach citizens right now, relying on HTML5 may not be the best choice. How many people have HTML5 capable technologies, cross platform and cross device already installed? (How many are even available?)

    As mentioned in my post, even if they want to, government cannot typically take the lead and become early adopters of technologies for citizen facing applications without running the risk of alienating their users. Not only is this potentially embarrassing, it can cause significant legal issues as well. So, it is usually in everyone’s best interest, government and citizen alike, to leverage existing, proven technologies.

    Assuming progress is made against the HTML5 specification in the coming years, and certain challenges are addressed, such as, providing a consistent display standard across a growing number of browsers/platforms and the display technologies become widely distributed and ubiquitous, my recommendations will likely change as well.

    But keep in mind, regardless of anyone’s personal or professional opinions, it would be hard to deny that the Flash Platform has been instrumental in providing a means for people/organizations to deliver expressive and engaging experiences on the web for the last decade! Given Adobe’s commitment to the platform, it’s quite reasonable to assume there will be many more innovations coming.

    So, back to the main point, let’s direct government towards using what people already use today and agree to reevaluate the recommendations as innovation continues.

    We can debate the ‘open’ issue you raise at a later date.

  • By bitpakkit - 11:42 AM on April 14, 2010  

    What exactly is the advantage of “more open” beyond posting it as a response? Can you really define it as more open prior to evaluation of potentially proprietary delivery approaches? Android (which I personally love) is wide open, but phone manufacturers and network providers completely lock it down.