Identity management to solve mass confusion?

June 20, 2006

Frank Piller, a mass customization guru, addresses mass confusion on his blog, and how how to cope with it. Mass confusion, or complexity or noise is one of the main subjects of this research.

Mass confusion is a result of customer co-design, which is the genus of mass customization according to Piller. Mass confusion has two major reasons:

  • Burden of choice: One limit of mass customization is that excess variety may result in an external complexity. Users might be overwhelmed by the number of options.
  • Matching needs with product specifications. In addition, customers often simply lack the knowledge and skills to transfer their personal needs and desires into a concrete product specification. A pair of sport shoes becomes a rather complex product if one has to decide explicitly between different widths, cushioning options for the insole, patterns for the outsole, and color options.

Piller argues that the premier task of the design of co-design toolkits (configurators) is to prevent mass confusion. A premier measure for this is a starting solution so that customers do not have to start from the scratch. In a good mass customization system, there will be a pre-configuration which represents already a full configuration and which customers can modify according to their wishes.

That means knowledge about consumer preferences is needed for first-time consumers and for returning consumers. For first-time customers, the provision of a good starting solution is a more challenging task.

This task can be simplified by using a virtual identity. Higgins is an open-source 'user-centric' identity management. Higgins breaks a person's identity into pieces, allowing users to dictate who can access parts of their identity information, within applicable privacy guidelines and laws. Organizations using applications built with Higgins open source tools can share specific identity information, such as their telephone number or buying preferences, according to rules set by the individual.

If Higgins is successful and adopted by mass customizers, this will mean a large boost for mass customization according to Piller. New research has clearly shown that mass confusion and the burden of choice are major obstacles of mass customization – preventing consumers to adapt this strategy.

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The downside of customization of digital music?

June 5, 2006

My research is not about communities, but communities arise constantly on the Internet. Also for digital customizable products such as music, for example Last.fm. These communities are mostly based on similarities and, in the case of Last.fm, at the same time about discovering new music also based on similarities. Now there are some critics on this, because these similarities are killing these communities. 

"If people can get any song they like, why should they listen to their friend's music, or (horrors) listen to the music selected by a group of barflys? By allowing people to have whatever they want, are we destroying that ability to get along?" (source: Bloggingstocks). The same can be said about blogs, do they only attract people that are alike, or do people with different interests also interact on these topics? Or as a professor of us in class puts it, "blogs are a-social!"