Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Goodreads could be a good buy for Amazon

I had been meaning for a while to follow up my previous comments on http://www.goodreads.com/. In conversations at home, I had speculated why it wasn't better connected with my existing Ebook purchases. I didn't want to have to search for the book I was reading, I wanted Good Reads to auto-update whenever I bought a new book for my kindle or from the iBooks store.

So from a user point of view, I was more than a little surprised by some of the backlash to the announcement Amazon had purchased the site. In my mind, this could be a really great collaboration.

I have a number of issues with the Good Reads site. For one, the search functionality is poor. It is very unforgiving for spelling errors: we don't always remember how to spell an author's name, or the exact wording of a title. Amazon, in contrast, has incredible search. Regardless of whether you like or dislike Amazon as a service, if they were able to incorporate this into Good Reads then that is a great result for users.

I also really hope, as above, Amazon incorporate a link up with Good Reads on Kindle. I don't want to have to manually type in what recent ebooks I have purchased (and again be irritated when they don't show up in search, because I have forgotten the exact wording of the title).

There will also be great benefits for Amazon too. They tried, and (in my opinion) failed, to make a community work on Kindle, by showing what phrases people have highlighted or statistics for people who had read the same book. I'm not really interested in that. What I do want to see is what Good Reads has done a great job of capturing: what I've blogged about before as "friend-to-friend" peer recommendation. Even more powerful than the peer-to-peer word of mouth we have seen with TripAdvisor and other mainstream review services, this shows us what people who we have a genuine connection with are recommending. Amazon's reviews might offer some sense of what others make of a book, but think what power there would be in seeing reviews written by those you trust, whose opinion matters to you. That's where the power of this new relationship could lie.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

First thoughts on Coursera

Earlier this month I started my first MOOC (if I have to tell you that stands for Massive Open Online Courses, then really I need to ask, where have you been for the last year?).

I actually signed up for this course last September, after returning from the ALPSP annual conference all fired up after hearing an excellent presentation the fantastic Charlie Rapple of TBI gave on change in the industry.

Interestingly enough, as is usual in our household, my husband had not only signed up for a MOOC long before this, he had also completed two courses (both ridiculously hard mathematical modules), and had been wildly and enthusiastically telling me to check out Coursera.

So, with my new found excitement for the growth of 'gamification', I signed up for Kevin Werbach's Gamification course on Coursera. Werbach is Associate Professor of Legal Studies & Business Ethics at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. There have been reports recently about the elitism of Coursera, in only working with the best schools. Having now engaged with a course, I can completely understand why they want to maintain this stamp of quality, and I sincerely hope that every course is as excellent as this one.

I didn't really know what to expect. I was feeling a little concerned actually when two weeks beforehand I still hadn't any more information about the course than a one paragraph summary of what it was. As you may have guessed from my enthusiasm above however, I needn't have been worried. Leading up to day one, I had two email reminders. I was also asked to complete a course questionnaire, asking about my technology and Internet speeds. It gave me a really clear summary of what would be available once the course started and where to access the information.

Finally April arrived, and the emails landed with course information. I get at least one email a week updating me on when new course lectures are available, and providing me with reminders about assessments. The Coursera platform itself is attractive and easy to engage with, and the video lectures work really well. I've been able to watch all of them on my daily commute over 3G, which I wasn't sure would be possible. The only downside is not being able to download video to iPad, but it's a small limitation only.

The course itself? Wow. I am so excited by what I'm learning. Gamification is without a doubt something all businesses should be carefully analysing, and I'm going to be blogging a lot more about what I'm learning and how it might apply for PR and publishing...