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!

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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!" 


The value of variety

May 9, 2006

During one of my interviews, we talked about the optimal amount of variety. This is a question which is not easily answered. When will the advantage of variety ends up in complexity, or even in regret as is mentioned in literature (Desmeules, 2002).

variety-regret-450.gif
Recently during the Google TechTalks, mr. Barry Schwartz addresses this issue. Barry Schwartz is an icon on this subject. He talks about the paradox of choice, why less is more, also addressed in his book.

Thinks like capability and usability is something he's addressing in his talk.


Interviews are done!

May 9, 2006

The interviews that I had scheduled so far are all done. If the respondents are reading this, I would like to say "Thanks again!". At this point, before I have analyzed the interviews, I have only transcribed them, I can already say their input is very valuable for my research.

As for now it has no use to go into detail of the contents of the interviews. First, I will treat the conversation confidentially. I respect the openness of the subjects, and will not misuse it. Second,like I mentioned, I yet have to analyze them. So I probably will give more detail after that.

For now, I can say my research is progressing as planned, and I will continue to update this blog on a regular basis. The feedback I get is motivating me to keep updating it. 


New update at Pandora: ‘community feedback’

May 3, 2006

Just one day before my interviews with Matt Nichols and Tim Westergren of Pandora, the system is getting an important update. They're extending their playlist generation with user input. It seems like an extra way to customize radio stations. When you let the system know the played song was not good, that feedback will be used for all listeners. It is called 'community feedback'.

Source: here and here.