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Long Live the Recommendation Engine

One of my favorite facets of the social web is the notion of a recommendation engine. This is essentially a vehicle for discovery of new content or ideas (art, music, fashion, food, etc. . .) driven by the recommendations of others usually somewhere in your social sphere. These engines take many forms, and they have been around for a long time. For example, I subscribe to a Google Group that is all about discovering new music. The forum is a large group of people with similar tastes in music and culture who use the list to share thoughts, ideas, and opinions on music they experience. From this group alone I've discovered countless new artists that I may not have otherwise discovered. From an engagement standpoint, companies like NetFlix & Amazon have the recommendation engine down pat, and have really turned this into a mechanism to drive sales. To find a few leading edge examples of recommendation engines, you don't have to look much further than some of the more popular social platforms of the day. Pinterest, FoodSpotting, and Instagram, can all be considered forms of recommendation engines. I enjoy all of these platforms and the ideas, content, and inspiration that they are designed to share. Where do you seek inspiration and new ideas?



Our Latest Launch - The Best Life -

It's with tremendous pride that I write this blog post. After 7+ tireless months of strategy, design, and development, SRG, in partnership with The Best Life, launched the new and improved The Best Life is Bob Greene's lifestyle, health, and wellness improvement plan. Taking a fresh approach to weight loss, The Best Life throws out all the old dieting conventions. You are encouraged to not even look at a scale for the first month of the plan!

The Best Life came to us earlier this year seeking an overhaul of their online wellness experience. While the site had been upgraded over the past 5 years, it was ready for a 21st century refresh. We identified components of community, content, and functionality that would really bring the experience to life. We activated community managers, implemented game mechanics, overhauled design and usability, and generally set the experience on an evolutionary course for the future. Overall we created an experience that truly speaks to the needs of the intended audience. Don't take my word for it. Check it out.



A Single Prediction for 2012

Last week we had the pleasure of meeting with the president of a large financial transaction services firm. He was an incredibly bright guy, with amazing insights on the payment/transaction industry. He came to us with a need for our innovation services. As part of the conversation he gave us some background on where they stand with innovation today. This led to some insights on NFC, and all of the players that are working together to make this happen. As often happens with a shift in technology (like a shift to mobile payments), it takes a few industry leader to get behind things to catalyze the effort. It's widely known that Google is putting a lot of effort behind the mobile payment movement. The one card yet to fall is Apple, and the iPhone. It was somewhat surprising that the iPhone 4S did not include NFC or mobile payment capabilities (SquareUp seized this shortcoming). It will be downright shocking if the iPhone 5 does not include this capability. So all of this is a long way of say this: My one tech prediction for 2012 is that we will see the iPhone 5 released sometime in the second half of the year. Some form of NFC mobile payments will be included, and this will spurn widespread adoption of mobile payments, just in time for the 2012 holiday shopping season. Let's hope the Mayan Harmonic Convergence doesn't happen first.



YouMail - VoiceMail Transcription - Expensive But Worth It

I have lots of digital era pet peeves. Phone books are one of them. I came home from work yesterday to find this giant yellow dead tree sitting at my door step. Horrible. Who uses those things anymore? Another is junk mail, for a lot of the same reasons. Please, make it stop. One more, and the focus of this post, is listening to voicemails. I've been horrible for years. Caller ID was the death of voicemails for me. I see who called, and call them right back, rarely (OK never) listening to their message. I tried leaving a VM recording asking people to text me instead of leaving a voicemail, but that only pissed off my doctor and auto mechanic. There have been a few transcription services for the iPhone that never quite made it. I recently did some more investigating on VM transcription services, and came across YouMail. You install the app, and to configure it, you basically allow it to hijack the voicemail from your carrier, and redirect callers to the YouMail servers. Overall the app is pretty easy to use, and gives you lots of VM management features not available on the iPhone (folder, archives, forwarding, etc. . .). I tried the transcription service for the 1 week trial, and loved it. My biggest gripes are the cost and pricing tiers (which go hand in hand!). The saver package provides 20 transcriptions a month and only transcribes the first 20 seconds of the message for $5/month or $55/year. The unlimited package transcribes unlimited VMs of unlimited length for a whopping $40/month or $450/year. That's as much as some cell minute packages. I went for the plus package that transcribes the first 60 seconds of 100 messages a month. Still pricey, but I bit the bullet, and with a discount code, it cost me $180 for the year. Pricey, but worth it if you hate listening to voicemail.



Our Latest Launch - Almond Board of California Health Professional Toolkit

This week we launched a simple and sweet mobile app for The Almond Board of California. The Health Professional Toolkit was built to provide and easy way for nutritionists to provide basic diet and tracking information to their patients. Using jQuery Mobile we created an adaptive web design that looks good and scales well regardless of your browser and screen size. Once you load the app, size the screen in any direction, and the app looks great. Don't take my word for it. Check it out!



SquareUp: Runaway Success or Soon to be Has Been?

In a fit of late night careerdom I became enamored with a really cool personal payment tool called SquareUp. It's a card reader that's about 1"x1" that you plug into your mobile device. Using the free SquareUp app, you can now accept credit card payments for a low, low, 2.75% service fee per transaction. The best part? The car reader is FREE! I may never take a personal credit card payment ever, but just knowing that I can is pretty damn cool. If you owe me money, watch out! I now take Visa, MasterCard, and Amex.

At first I was completely blown away by SquareUp. I ordered one immediately, of course. I've since reconsidered. Once NFC becomes mainstream, SquareUp better be well poised to be the PayPal of mobile personal payments or they'll easily be passed over by integrated hardware services. Maybe not. Either way, pay up suckers!



Our Latest Launch - Tervis Smart Cup

Recently we launched a unique and engaging campaign for Tervis Tumblers, everybody's favorite double walled insulated cup. The campaign brought to life both the Tervis lifestyle and the functional benefits of the Tervis Tumbler. Using the 3D panoramic platform KRpano, we built a series of immersive environments that really encouraged the consumer to engage and explore. Don't take my word for it, check it out!