Curated for content, computing, and digital experience professionals

Day: August 12, 2008

On Crowdsourcing and Social Media: An Interview with Plaxo’s Regina Bustamante

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Regina Bustamante, Director of Globalization with Plaxo, to discuss the company’s content globalization strategy and how Plaxo users are integral to its success. Plaxo offers a suite of online solutions for social networking. Top services are the address book and calendar applications in addition to Pulse, a sharing and networking tool.

KK: How has the growth of global web access affected the adoption and development of your social networking solutions?
RB: Plaxo’s user base continues to grow steadily since we reached the 15 million user mark back in October 2006. As a result, our product release cycles have accelerated from two or three months to just one week. At the same time, Plaxo’s non-English base of users and users with international connections is growing rapidly. Shorter product cycles coupled with user demand for multilingual products made it necessary for us to explore new ways to release products to major markets in local languages.

KK: What model did Plaxo use for its initial localization/translation efforts?
RB: We localized our address book and calendar tools into French, German, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish and Simplified Chinese over a year ago, using LSPs for the initial translations. We then provided early release versions to specific “power users” in each international market who reviewed everything, including the UI and suitability to local cultures.

KK: So Plaxo users provided quality assurance in this effort?
RB: Yes, users were even willing to test and report on features such as sorting, name and address formatting, etc. When Pulse was released with localizations into the same languages, non-English users continued to send suggestions, comments, and to act as informal quality control agents. The involvement of the user community improved the quality of local versions of our software.

KK: The Dutch version, released in July, increased the role of longtime power users, correct?
RB: Absolutely. The Netherlands has quickly become one of the largest markets for Pulse and we expanded the involvement of the user community, relying on a group of long-time Plaxo members for the development of the Dutch glossary.

KK: What’s in store for the future of Plaxo’s localization/translation efforts?
RB: For future product releases, we will move to a crowdsourcing model based on a translation portal we are developing that will enable any Plaxo community user to submit and comment on translations. To ensure high levels of quality, this portal includes separate roles for a language moderator and project manager.

KK: What will be the key to success for this model?
RB: Plaxo’s position as a provider of no-charge consumer software helps us to engage users for localization/translation assistance. The key is to only ask users to help with things that directly benefit them. Our crowdsourcing model is not intended to entirely replace LSPs. For example, we have no plans to use crowdsourcing to translate the corporate website or documents such as the Terms of Service or Privacy Policy.

Citigroup is Bullish on the Kindle

We’ve all wondered about how many Kindle units have sold. One Wall Street analyst is willing to make an estimate:

And Kindle could sell 380,000 units in 2008, more than double what a Citigroup Global Markets research analyst had expected, he wrote yesterday in a research report.
“In its first year, that’s exactly how many iPods were sold,” analyst Mark Mahaney wrote. “Turns out the Kindle is becoming the iPod of the book world.”

Beyond Intent

Intent, hidden within a search click, lies at the intersection of Search and Business, as in “let’s do some business”. That search click has extra-ordinary value because of the intent to buy — that’s why we’re searching, right?

Perhaps, or maybe we’re just browsing, or surfing, and we’re not in the mood for advertisements. It could be more militant than that; perhaps we’re still trying to research our choices and would see a sales pitch as tainting the honesty of the information. At least that’s what the founders of Google originally believed.

Although the model of the web was a set of stateless pages, and a Google search box certainly fits that appearance, people’s intent is not stateless. It ebbs and flows, from entertaining looking around, to researching choices and comparing possibilities, through sourcing a chosen product (now we’re talking about a qualified buyer), to selecting fulfillment options, and possibly all the way to figuring out how to return a product that we’re dissatisfied with. That last one is probably not the best time to present an ad claiming how wonderful that product is.

This is a “long running transaction,” a series of steps that fit together and flow towards (and past) a purchasing decision, but with back-currents and eddies. And it really is a transaction in the database sense where a failure during one step can cause the entire sequence to be discarded as if it never happened. Though if you believe Sergey and Larry, it will be worse than never happening, you may lose trust in your guide through that transaction.

Has the intent changed? Depends on what that means. On one hand, what has changed across those steps is the mode of the intent. If the intent was to purchase a product, then the research, comparison, purchase, and fulfillment were clearly pieces of that intent, though they call for different approaches: organic search for the research, product focused responses for the purchase, perhaps service-oriented for the fulfillment, and some combination for the comparison.

But what about that “I need to return this product because I hate it” step? The intent has clearly changed, but it is more necessary than ever to connect this new intent to the previous steps. If not, perhaps the search engine will continue to suggest that product to a disgruntled customer with very counter-productive results.

So, what is the unifying concept? Is it intent, organized by modes? Not if what is being unified is a complete user’s story about their purchasing experience.

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