Thesis finished!

November 23, 2006

Today is the day that my thesis is finished. I handed it in on November 15, and today I graduated with honor (cum laude) 🙂

The past months were very intense, but all was worth it. For everyone who’s interested, the public version of the thesis can be downloaded from here.

Thesis customization in the Internet economy

My aim is to keep posting to this weblog every now and then. The thesis is finished, but the topic is still alive and research never ends.

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iLike, another music discovery service

October 25, 2006

At this point in time I am writing the conclusions of my thesis. During the journey of this research, my interest for topics that are related to my research is increased significantly. Therefore I keep track of some sites that regularly write about related topics, for instance TechCrunch of Michael Arrington. Yesterday TechCrunch posted about a new startup called iLike. It has some similarities with Last.fm and Pandora. Recently, many services started which can be compared to Last.fm and/or Pandora.

The reason I write about iLike, is because one of my conclusions it that recommendations are important in these kind of services. I did not try the service, but it is nice to notice that companies like this are there, and that they are related to my study. My first impression is that it can be compared to Last.fm, because they seem to support a community.

I think it would have been a service that could have been of value for my thesis, if it had just existed six months ago…


The mass customization of television begins

October 2, 2006

I ran into an interesting article today, where mass customization of television is the subject.

The best thing of this article is that it has some similarities with my research, and that some early conclusions seem to correspond. The experience when customizing digital products seem to be very important, which is rather different than with mass customization of physical products. The interaction length of time should be as short as possible when customizing physical products, while it seems it should be long when customizing products. The experience is still important when customizing digital products, but not during the interacion process, but during use. With digital products, the interaction process with the supplier and the use of the product happens at the same time. This shows some similarities with services; services are always produced and used simultaneously. One can only value a digital product after it is being used.

The above argument shows similarities with the following quote from the article: “Community based interactive channels and programmes let viewers feel they are a part of the programme, that their views and opinions make a difference and that they are part of an active community. This emotional connection will not only keep them watching, but also participating.” Close relationships between supplier and consumer are important, what indicates that a high degree of customization (consumer involvement) should be available.

Social also communities seem to be important for experience goods. “The real challenge for us all is to create cost-effective, revenue-generating interactive services, whether for brand promotion, product sales, social networking or gaming, that deliver both shared and unique experiences and foster active communities of interest.”

It seems that customization of television shows similarities with customization of digital music. Nice for further research…


Holidays are over…

August 31, 2006

Holidays are over means back to my thesis. At this point in time this means I am analyzing the interviews. While it was over three months ago since the interviews, they are starting to reoccur in my mind again. Also it maybe means I have to rewrite some of the literature background, or maybe to revise the instrument I am using. The literature as a background is at many points very similar to and useful for my thesis, but also very different. But that was the point of the thesis after all.

It seems a bit confusing, also for me, but it seems that there a enough opportunities to finish my thesis with some useful conclusions, useful to address a gap in literature, and useful for further research. Now it is up to me to write it down in such a way that it will make that clear. A challenge for the coming month I suppose. More to come shortly!


Customization in the Internet economy is getting recognized

July 26, 2006

While I am writing my thesis, and reading literature on mass customization, characteristics of information products and other parent disciplines for this research, it is getting clearer that existing literature has a gap on customization of digital or information products. That makes my research interesting for me and maybe for some other people too.

As can be read on this blog, digital products are being customized and personalized on the Internet. Digital products in the form of music, or music stations, can be customized on Last.fm and Pandora. As I had contacted Frank Piller before on this research, he showed his interest in the subject. Now on his mass-customization weblog this topic is getting attention, as he has reviewed Pandora and some other services that allow music to be personalized.

It makes me curious if customization and personalization is getting more attention in scientific literature in the near future. But if Frank Piller is starting to mention it, I’m sure it will.


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.


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!"