Apr 19

2 Extremes in a week — Facebook Prevention and its social network implications; Mobile Virtual Persona enablement

This is proving to be a week which encourages lateral thought. In particular two extremes come to mind. The first starts with inhibiting Facebook and continues about the future success, or otherwise, of the ‘Facebook-model’. The second reflects a wide ranging discussion with Omer Eiferman, CEO of Cellrox and what Multiple Virtual Personas can do for you.

My daughter Claudia teaches in Madrid as part of her University Course. In discussing what options she might choose when she returns for her final year we talked about the challenges of writing longer papers and mini-theses. In that conversation she introduced me to a software product that baffled me — SelfControl (http://visitsteve.com/made/selfcontrol/).  What puzzled was why you would want to use this free download (for OS X) which prevents access to self-designated web sites. Apparently, once you set it up you cannot visit the designated sites for the length of your chosen period — an hour, a day, a week, a month or whatever. My immediate guess was  that this must be designed for preventing gambling online or something equally pernicious.

I was, then, astonished when she laughingly dismissed this (“online gambling — there are far too many alternatives to be able to block all of them”) and instead explained that many of her friends use SelfControl to assist them to complete their University work. By turning-on SelfControl they prevent themselves watching Facebook in the slavish ways that those keen on Facebook seem to require. She explained that she could even think of using SelfControl herself, just so that she would not be able to sit in front of Facebook all day — afraid to miss some thing that might be happening in her social network.

The more I have thought about this the more it seems extraordinary. First there is the concept of using a software tool to prevent you from participating in your social environment (imagine a software tool to prevent you from going to the pub or the movies). Next there is the degree of self-realization, and acceptance, that the amount of time spent on Facebook may work against your ability to deliver. Third is the appreciation that a social networking tool like Facebook may be so compulsive because of the fear of what you might miss (rather than what you obtain). Fourth, to me at least, it begs three questions:

  • is Facebook, and others modeled on the same type of dependence, ready to crash and burn (especially if its supposedly most arduous adherent generation perceives it as ‘delivery threatening’)?
  • is social networking, more generally, about  to start hitting resistance points?
  • are businesses being canny, as well as realistic, when they prevent Facebook (though it can also be argued that prevention only encourages more attention) and similarly purposed business tools?

I am not a social networking specialist nor evangelist. The arrival of millions upon millions of smart devices (especially smart phones) means a whole new social networking communication avenue is opening up for the likes of Facebook — evidenced not least by its $1B purchase of Instagram. And SelfControl is not available —  that I can find — on iOS or Android, so there are ways round the blocking.

Even so, for some time it has felt (I can put it no stronger than this) that social networking could be about to hit a wall.  That wall would not seem to be a flattening out of potential users (the numbers carry on increasing) but might be about users deciding that enough is enough, and using tools to dissuade themselves. (For a real social network professional’s view, read Alan Lepofsky at http://bit.ly/I4RQyf).

Now to something quite different — Multiple Virtual Personas (MVPs) on smart devices. As discussed in a previous blog (http://bit.ly/zHTUhb), Cellrox has built an approach for Android that enables you to have more than one persona on your smart device. Unlike other solutions (from VMware Mobile or Enterproid), Cellrox has spent a large amount of its development effort on thinking through the user experience and interface. For example:

  • what do you do if you are working in one MVP and an event (say an email arrives) in another MVP; how do you switch without losing security and integrity
  • how do you swiftly differentiate between your various MVPs (you do not want to send personal email from your business  MVP, and vice versa)
  • what response should occur if you are on one call on one SIM (in a multi-SIM phone) and a call arrives on the other SIM (answer, roll over to voice mail, etc,).

In the discussion with Omer it also became clear that there are a wide range of other issues.  Should one keep all MVPs running simultaneously (in which case you will not miss an event) or should you be able to choose to stop (or suspend) selected MVPs?  In the latter case the interesting example he offered was for (say) a gaming MVP used by your children: you probably want to stop the sounds of a game’s weaponry erupting from your smartphone in the middle of a sales meeting (in this case, stopping or suspending makes sense).

A different MVP capability, probably more applicable to tablets than smartphones, would be an MVP for batch processing.  You might have an MVP for long running tasks but set at a lower performance threshold.  You might also dedicate an MVP for travel/roaming, when you want to use a different SIM (but without necessarily losing the connection capability of your original SIM) …

What became clear is that MVPs on smart devices, rather than traditional virtualization, have lots of potential.  This is particularly true for enterprises.  Unlike social networking, however, MVPs for smart devices is in its infancy.

Twitter: @CharlesBrett

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