Built In: Our Decreasing Need To Remember Anything – Part 2

On March 15, 2012 I wrote this article/blog post “Marketing Trend: Our Decreasing Need To Remember Anything“.   This post is a follow up. You may want to read the original and then this post.  Of all the things I have written about in the past couple years, the decreasing need to have to remember most anything, because of the efficiencies of technology, has been one of those things that I not only think about, but live everyday.

In fact we all do.  When was the last time that you had to memorize a new phone number?  How many email addresses do you know by heart?  In fact do you find that you used to know them all by heart, but as time passes and technology changes we need to know less and less.  How many times have you emailed or Text/SMS somebody asking for their mailing address and then fumbled around in Gmail looking for that email so you can buy them a gift!  This trend and the ensuing impact on our lives is what I had touched on in my first article.  And the reason I was saying that I am living it everyday is my involvement with Connect Address.

Connect Address

Around the time I wrote this first article I had just started to work as a consultant with a small group in Boca Raton, Florida that was trying to find a business model for a start-up.  That start-up had already developed a Facebook store and a bunch of great technology.  Their issue at the time was they did not have a serious direction.  Their Facebook store really did not have a great brand, great products or even a reasonable profit margin.  It was a dead-end.  Over the next few months after meeting the owners, we changed the direction of that business from being an online retailer to being a technology company.  The trend or piece I observed within their technology, or the turning point, was when I recognized something different in their process that would be of great value to other players in the market.  They had put together a process to allow a buyer on Facebook to purchase, but that buyer did not have to know the shipping address of the recipient.  The process would send a message off to the receiver and ask for it, providing a form to enter the address where they would like the product shipped.

Seeds of Not Having To Know Anything

Well, the ability to order without knowing where the order would be shipped intrigued me.  A few months later I began writing my first blog post about what we can call “address-less” shipping.   And when we went to the first fortune 500 company to pitch this concept, their answer was Wow, that is different, and yes we want it.  So, within a few months there was a prototype app and Connect Address has been on their way since.  That app has been improving and changing over the past year, but the concept is pretty much the same.  You are buying a gift for somebody and you don’t know where they live, so you use this third party service to get it.  So where does the not having to know anything come into play. Well, if you are using this new, disruptive service, you will notice that you simply login to Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Gmail, Yahoo, etc, and get access to your names and email address.  Most of their technology requires you to click on a picture to choose who you are sending the gift.  End result, address-less shipping, without the pain of having to send an email off to your gift recipient, waiting for the address, keeping two browser windows open and then copy and pasting 7 times…

The History

When I wrote the original blog post, I realized that this is not just a one off event that turned into a product.  Address-less, Phone-less, and not having to know things is a product of the evolution of technology.  I was able to trace this decreasing need to know anything trend back to the original speed dial.  It was innovative at the time.  Store a phone number and then just click a button.  Many old phones used to have that little piece of paper you would stick in the phone that would say the name.  Then it got better and better until virtual phone systems appeared.  The cell phone network introduced both on board address books and voice activated address book look-up and dialing.  Then gmail (that is one I remember) introduced a bit of AI (Artificial Intelligence, which are often now just JQuery lookups), that figures out from the few letters you have typed in what the “email” possibilities are; basically what we are going to think of next…  Gmail figured out who to send email without the email address.  Once I get an email from you and send to you, next time I just type the name, not the email in and it goes to town popping in the email address.  So, cool stuff.  Life is better. Now, people don’t own address books anymore.  Now people don’t need to know your phone number.  Everything is becoming built-in.

Built-Ins

So, just like your cabinets in your living room that are part of the walls, the information that connects us is built-in to the technology.  Soon the next couple generations will not even know what a phone number is.  Maybe they will just bump or square you and it will move from phone to phone, stored somewhere far off in a cloud server.

Google Glass And Beyond

I am not one of the 8,000 chosen to test Google Glass (Irreverently spelled, but obviously about eye glasses), but let’s just say it is the next step in this evolution.  With everything not having to be remembered, improving upon how you can easily access that information is the next step of this evolution.  Google Glass seem to work great and I saw a user who was very happy with them.  As far as Connect Address, they are still just getting started in a brave new world of helping you to not having to know one more thing, the shipping address of who you are buying a gift.  It’s Built In.

Marketing Trend: Our Decreasing Need To Remember Anything

Years ago in the not so distant past there used to be these little black books we all carried around that held in them names, addresses and phone numbers. Ah, yes we called them address books and phone books. To those of us not well endowed with the gift of memorization, these little books were very, very important. Ok, you know I am being facetious. Along with the demise of these little black books (I personally see the iphone/ipad as the death knell), there is also a big trend, in fact a marketing trend, that we don’t need to remember much about who we know, where we go online, who we email in order to contact others. Why is this important? Well if you look at the recent trend of social bookmarking, social media and sharing sites, like Addthis.com, you are seeing a new paradigm emerging where we don’t need to know this contact information anymore. In other words, social networking and other kinds of sites are becoming the conduit for our contact information. The question is how and why can you capitalize on this trend.

Phone Numbers, Cell Phones & PDAs Start The Know Nothing Trend

Let’s step back a bit. I had been in the cell phone business back in the 90s, when the first internal phone books emerged. They were good and you could choose from a list of people to call, but when you broke, lost your phone or upgraded, you had to go through the painful move your contacts over process. But long before cell phones, landline phones, the old phone companies had those 10 digit numbers you had to remember. I am saying “had” because I believe phone numbers one day will be so obfuscated, you won’t need to know a number. In fact maybe you just say a name and your smart device finds that person.

When the Palm emerged (how soon we forget) it had all kinds of contact information apps on it. When the Palm merged with a cellphone, we were ecstatic. We would no longer need to keep that litttle black book for phone numbers. We still had to keep the address book around for the written addresses and some emails at that time. In the late 2000s as the phones got smarter, we were able to keep our contact list, integrate lists eventually with things like Google and Gmail. This made it possible when I lost a phone to get back at least an old copy of my contacts. But we were not free of having to remember some information.

Tell-A-Friend

As a little side note here, we had put the Tell-A-Friend page on almost every site we built up until recently. The problem of course with Tell-A-Friend is, if you don’t remember their email address, you couldn’t tell a friend. So how close a friend were they. So in the early years of the web, you remembered all your friend’s email addresses and if you didn’t, you copied and pasted it from your email program. But this is where the little black book came out.

Google Throws A Life Line

Gmail was the first really great implementation of a technology that naturally offered up contact information, such as email addresses and names of previous email contacts in a way that was unobtrusive. It used a natural intelligence that was not dorky or difficult and did not bother you. Using my Gmail account, I would just start to type either an email address or a name and it would show the contacts I needed. You could still search Gmail and find it other ways. Now, the geeky at-heart will email me and tell me that there were others before Gmail with this capability. I am sure of that. But this is the place I remember losing my “email” mind and not having to add email addresses to my little black book. I think it was around 2003 or so for me, but it doesn’t matter. What is important is I don’t know your email address if you asked me now!

Make It So Linkedin! Now We Don’t Have To Remember Ourselves

The emergence of Linkedin.com is much more than just a place for our business info and contact info. It created a place where we could put our resume information and not really have to maintain a physical resume. We are not totally there yet, but it is the beginning of another little piece of paper shoved into my little black book going away. The critical aspect of LinkedIn is it allowed people to change jobs, lose their primary email address, and keep in contact with you regardless. If you are LinkedIn with somebody, they can change their email address and life is good again. You don’t lose them. Next time you login to LinkedIn they have a different email address but life goes on just the same for your contact relationship. And the ability to use LinkedIn to communicate to you with “send them a message” changed the game. This small innovation in the business world has made it so even my little Gmail artificial intelligence is not that important anymore. The ability to contact and communicate within these types of applications was well underway with the big daddy of them all coming to town, Facebook.com

Social Networks, Honey Where’d My Brain Go?

So now that Facebook is upon us and seemingly consuming 90% of the online time of people who seem to have all the time in the world for Facebook, a second phase of this trend is now kicking in. We no longer need to remember not just phone numbers or email addresses. We don’t even have to remember our friend’s names. When you share a link or webpage on the web and you use one of the many sharing mechanisms, like Facebook, Gmail, Twitter, Vimeo, and there are others, life has gotten easy to ping somebody. If you use Facebook sharing to share you can send your message by searching for a face now, right? That conceptually means that you don’t need to remember anybody’s name anymore. And I see this trend increasing as Facebook logins and other types of sharing mechanisms seem to be everywhere these days.

The Final Frontier: Smarter Devices Means You Can Be Even Dumber!

When you got your first iPhone and you logged in to iTunes, and you downloaded your first Angry Birds app, the trend became apparent. You did not have to enter your email address each time. Just enter a password. Apple knows who you are, your contact info and basically we don’t need to know ourselves (email-wise). The whole concept of remembering your email address is becoming less important. Once you are on an iPad you don’t need to enter your email address to get on a list with an app. You buy things through iTunes. And if you use Words With Friends by Zynga you interact with people that you don’t really know and your contact info is embedded somewhere on a hard drive in the cloud (“the keyword for India hard drive storage”). So smart devices are making it so we don’t need to even know who we are.

What’s Next?

Well, I have no crystal ball, but obviously Facebooking your way around the web, using Facebook to contact and communicate is here to stay. The smart devices to me represent a major change in how and where this contact info lies. I noticed recently in my Android phone that I can sync my contacts with Gmail and/or the main company I use so I don’t lose it. I guess in the near future some of these mechanisms many cross paths either through mergers, acquisitions or just a central control system, like the old phone company.