The days of hanging up on those pesky debt collectors may be coming to an end. Some debt collection agencies are now harnessing the power of Big Data to take a scientific approach to profiling those who are more likely to pay up, and then working with them to get the debt paid. Using analytics and applying algorithms to filter through the “water hose” of deadbeats to get to the few that are willing to pay will bring a bigger return for companies trying to recover their cash. This will allow collectors to focus on a more positive approach as well by enabling more “self-service debt repayment” through customized re-payment plans that are workable for those who really want to pay their debts. Big Data’s promise in this space requires a new set of skills though: it’s not about being a database administrator. It’s about being able to analyze data and hash algorithms. Expect debt collectors to start hiring scientists very soon. A scientific approach to getting you to pay your past-due Visa card is the wave of the near-future.
Category Archives: Tech
Starting yesterday, if you have an Amex card, you can now tweet to buy products. Amex has teamed with Twitter to launch the first “pay by tweet” service. Amex cardholders simply send a short message with a hashtag to make a purchase. Out of the gate, Amex offered a $25 American Express gift card for only $15 if cardholders would register their card and then send a tweet with the #BuyAmexGiftCard25 hashtag. It took me just two minutes to register my card, and then seconds after sending the tweet, @AmexSync tweeted me to confirm with a follow-up tweet, and then my gift card was purchased.
Coming next, synced cardholders will be able to accept offers from merchants by tweeting the hashtag in the offer. If I get an offer from Target that digital cameras are on sale, I could simply tweet the hashtag #BuyDigitalCameraTarget, for example.
The big question is — will consumers feel comfortable making purchases this way? Will they be more inclined to make “smaller” purchases using “pay by tweet”? What are the security issues? It’s good for Twitter to team with Amex first, since their trustworthiness is high with consumers, but are their cardholders early adopter types?
The tech community has been mostly unified in semi-harsh criticism of Microsoft’s Surface hardware. It’s like schoolyard bullies going after the geeky kid that stands by himself on the playground, thick glasses, and button-down shirt, twiddling his thumbs as everyone else plays sports (I know what it’s like — I was a geeky kid like that). Bloggers have been commenting about the seemingly deficient battery life, the weight, the size, and the cognitive dissonance of going back and forth from the Modern UI to the classic desktop. On top of that, many have been bloviating about how the “Surface is no iPad killer.”
Let me stand apart from the fray and discuss why I think the Surface devices are forging a completely new paradigm shift for computing.
When Apple introduced the iPad in 2010, they ushered in the “tablet era” and revolutionized mobile computing. Although people have been moving to laptops and away from desktop computers for quite some time, in one fell swoop the iPad sped up the move away from being tethered to a desktop. Combined with the App Store, Apple made mobile computing and the cloud real for the masses. In my opinion, the iPad represented the first real example of how mobile computing and cloud technology combine to provide an experience of how people really want to connect with devices and each other. I knew something big was afoot when I was in a mall watching an older gentleman swiping through screens on his iPad. In one device, Apple captured how most people want to interact with technology.
Humans are funny creatures, however. They will naturally try to evolve their own perceptions of what a device means to them and try to make it adapt to their environment, needs and desires. People love the “lean-back” experience of consuming content on the iPad. But many wanted it to do more — they want productivity apps. They want to work with it. They want to always BE with it and make it an integral part of their lives. Many already do this with their smartphones. Inevitably, developers starting building apps to unleash the power of productivity on the iPad.
The app world has moved fast. Developers are innovating at lightning speed. Much faster than Apple’s UI and OS developers can keep up. Supporting two devices that are selling faster than Chinese kids can screw them together, combined with updating the OS and the built-in apps to keep up with how people are using them, has kept Apple on the edge of its capabilities. Compromises are made. The fragmentation of its operating systems are starting to show. The rough edges are exposed. The “old-school” textured backgrounds in iOS, the debacle of Maps, the bandwidth leaks, and so on show a company splitting at the seams with its strategy as it tries to stay the dominant player in the market.
Along comes Microsoft with a different perspective of how an operating system should support its users. Instead of two OS’s and a fragmentation between devices, Microsoft builds a new OS to blend the lean-back experience with the desktop experience and give the user control over how to interact with their device. They decide to build their own hardware to control the experience. They fundamentally provide a different perspective on what a “tablet” computing experience represents. Enabling the lean-back (what I call the “entertainment mode”) with the “productivity mode” in a form factor that supports both touch and input devices tells the world they’re not going to dictate how their users should interact with the device. In one operating system, Microsoft is saying, “you can traverse between your tablet, your laptop and the Xbox and determine how you want to interact with the device in a seamless fashion, picking up where you left off.” A completely different approach than Apple, which has a disturbingly complex and confusing cloud strategy, a stretched-to-the-max hardware strategy. It seems like Apple’s current strategy is to tack on a few “blingies” to the existing line and host a new launch party. (See the convoluted iPad product family as an example.)
Then there is the contrast between the user interfaces. Microsoft’s Modern UI is nimble, flexible, and approachable. iOS is still trying to shake off the legacy of the Jobsian look-and-feel, which is to try and be cute and clever with “real-world” textures and metaphors to physical objects. Firing Forstall was necessary, but Apple is years away from where Microsoft is already. Windows 8 begs you to touch. It wants you to interact with it. I’m tired of fumbling around iOS, falling into holes where the way I use my device is just not well thought out.
Having said all this: The Surface devices, in my opinion, represent how I will interact with my mobile device. When I want to consume content, it provides me a quick, snappy way to engage. It supports an app store experience like any other device. When I need to be productive and “get things done” I have the perfect interface in which to focus on work. I don’t have to try and make the OS work for me and accept compromises (I mean, just try to get Pages to really WORK on iOS — and many features on iPad’s version of Pages are different than OS X’s version).
Bloggers are beating Microsoft up, but history will show it has the right strategy. The Surface devices are representative of how humans want to interact. Sure, battery life will get better, the devices will get thinner. This is version 1, folks. Right now, Apple is the schoolyard bully, throwing it’s punches — but I’d rather be Microsoft right now: the geeky kid with the pocket protector, holding the key to “getting the girl”.
Guest post by Matt Polsky, social media director for Veterans United Home Loans.
Those new to Google Plus have a tendency to carry the misconception that it is just another Facebook. What naysayers don’t realize is that Google Plus is a groundbreaking platform that has the ability to become a huge success – even though some contributors at Mashable, Huffington Post, Forbes and Social Media Today may disagree.
A predominant factor that inspires this confidence generates from the organic search potential; however, through the unique applications of this social product, people, companies and brands can do more than bolster their search results, but provide a channel to build relationships, contacts and connect on a completely personalized level – no matter their location.
Over a year ago, I wrote a piece for Brian Solis on why a business would want to be on Google Plus, focusing on search implications and the latest feature at the time known as Direct Connect.
At this point, Google Plus was relatively new, making it difficult to see the entire picture or direction of the social network. Fourteen months later, a few unique features emerged that are in the process of mapping a steady course and strong user-base.
For starters, Google Plus’ Hangout feature provides users an easy and effective way to engage with multiple viewers through face-to-face interaction, as well as a free broadcasting tower if you decide to use it this way.
Hangouts take mere seconds to set up. After a quick plugin download you’re ready to start broadcasting live. Google also gives users access to a free production suite and a live stream that can be viewed on Google Plus, YouTube or any website or blog that copies the YouTube embed code.
Hangouts have many possibilities, especially for creative minds. Webinars, live music, company meetings, live customer service and even job interviews are all possible. But, to take it a step further, Veterans United has found multiple uses for Hangouts, including the first Virtual Career Fair – allowing active military, veterans and interested job seekers an inside look at the company.
If video isn’t quite your forte, consider one of the most recent Google Plus features – Google Plus Communities.
Communities provide a fit for every person, company or brand, brought together by their tailored interests. With Communities, businesses and consumers alike can meet, share information, personal tips, how-to’s and communicate on a personal level.
And if there isn’t a community for your niche, then congratulations on the ability to build barriers to entry, since anyone can start a community and invite members to join.
Communities can be configured in many ways. For starters, users can set them to be public for anyone to join, publicly seen and can join with moderator approval, or private – opening great possibilities for internal communication. If that isn’t enough, categories can be created for filtering topics outside of general discussion.
For example, a fitness community could have topics resembling “Chest Exercises”, “Leg Exercises”, “Nutrition and Health” and more, allowing for greater targeting and control.
Lastly, let’s take a quick look into the future. Google’s philosophy says that “It’s best to do one thing really, really well.” And they directly follow that statement with, “We do search.”
Google is dedicated to bringing search to unexplored areas, and Google Plus falls right in this category with authorship markup.
Currently, thousands of search terms in Google’s results are accompanied by a mugshot of the content’s author, only if their work is linked to their Google Plus profile with the rel=”author” tag – the beginning stages of a principle known as “AuthorRank”.
There is currently no proof that AuthorRank is active; however, the premise rests in providing authors with an individual ranking for the topics they write most about. Basically imagine having a personal tag cloud, combining keywords, links, titles and headings that indicate the subjects that determine where your authority rests.
In short, this could signify the demise of the anonymous content writer, building many subject matter experts in the process.
An estimated 625,000 users join Google Plus each day, opening a multitude of opportunities for people, brands and organizations that are willing to spend the time on building a successful, engaging channel or community. Add this to the possibilities of author markup and you can’t deny having a Google Plus strategy for yourself or business.
Matt Polsky specializes in producing creative, scalable and adaptive marketing strategies for Veterans United Home Loans, the nation’s leading dedicated provider of VA Home Loans. In his spare time, Matt guest lectures on search marketing, social media and conversion optimization. Connect with Matt on Twitter @mattpolsky or on Google+.
I’m quite frequently angry with Comcast Xfinity. I pay a small fortune for my measly 30 mbps Internet speeds and I’m lucky if I get that for longer than a second.
The idea of ubiquitous wifi appeals to me. I think it should be regulated, to a degree, by those who maintain it. But being able to always be online, eliminating ridiculous fees I pay each month to both Verizon and Comcast? Well, let’s just say I support the idea of free public wifi as a right (right to pursue happiness perhaps?).
Much to my surprise, the FCC agrees. The FCC wants a free, public WiFi net, nationwide. If approved, it would take a few years to put together and launch, but their plan is extensive and far-reaching.
“We want our policy to be more end-user-centric and not carrier-centric. That’s where there is a difference in opinion” with carriers and their partners, said a senior FCC official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the proposal is still being considered by the five-member panel.”
Of course, the carriers – everyone from Verizon and AT&T to Qualcomm – have issues. This would put their current business models at risk.
But according to this Washington Post article, this planned WiFi net would make it possible for heart monitors to communicate with hospitals over a mile a way, and would make things easier for emergency response teams in times of crisis. That’s a large and strong network they’ve got in mind.
The new plan has the backing of both Microsoft and Google, who see ubiquitous wifi as a way for everything from more tablets to robots and self-driving cars to access the Internet. These two companies see the FCC’s plan as viable and a step forward, paving the way for things to come. Ubiquitous wifi, clearing away the monetary broadband gap between upper and lower classes, could bring an explosion of new innovation.
Like anything coming out the government, this has to go through countless committees for approval. With the lobbying power of companies like AT&T, Verizon, Qualcomm, and Intel, this could be stopped dead in its tracks. For now, at least, I’m a bit comforted that the FCC is on the same page as me.