Back in the dark ages of the mobile web, I recall a series of media interviews for a client where we were trying to educate journalists about the fundamental difference between the web experience on computers that were  chained to a desk and mobile phones.

The so-called “smartphones” were not yet available in the early 1990s.  But text-messaging enabled by mobile networks’ “short messaging service” (SMS) were.  It made perfect sense to me at the time that mobile phones were fundamentally different from desktops: the network is aware of your location at all time, and this dimension made it ideal for rudimentary location-based information services (LBS).

Now comes the news that an Android application called Everything.Me is at last harnessing the fundamental difference between the mobile and desktop web experience.  From its description the app seizes all the contextual information about the user, time of day, location, professional and personal preferences and actually morphs the handheld device to suit these variables for greater utility.

Though we did not have smartphones available two decades ago, we recognized then that context was a significant advantage that mobile devices had over the  desktop computer Internet experience.

It’s therefore ironic to see that the editor who wrote the Quartz headline, “This is what comes after search,” still misses the point. Where web searches always (and still) require users to identify their location for search, from Day 1 the mobile web knew where you were. The contextual difference is not a serial development, but a parallel development made possible by improved visual displays, social media platforms, and big data analytics.

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CGI Fiddles While the ACA Site Burns

by sam on October 23, 2013

I was curious about the stealthy prime contractor behind the Affordable Health Care website, what with all the negative attention it has been garnering with the so-called Obamacare portal.   So far CGI appears to be a poster child for bad crisis communications.

CGI is rightfully proud of its torrid growth by virtue of a string of acquisitions.  As someone experienced in advising technology companies, I recall some reputable names that CGI has folded into its IT conglomerate.  Logica, a once prominent software house, comes to mind.

The internal focus on building a cohesive team from a diverse set of corporate cultures is laudable. In fact, the Globe and Mail, the Toronto-based company’s “hometown” paper, covered the welcome party for all the new employees it brought into the fold.

Morale-building events are great. Yet the company seems to ignore external criticism coming from major media like The Washington Post, which shone a light on the company with a provocative headline, Meet CGI Federal, the company behind the botched launch of HealthCare.gov . WashPost writer Lydia dePillis found an internal source indicating management is giving the fiasco short shrift:

CGI’s leadership is really excited about the health-care work, and wants everyone to think it’s going okay. Last week, they held an annual meeting with a dinner reception at a nearby Marriott. “They addressed some of the health-care exchange things that people have been hearing on the news,” the staffer recalled. “Vague things about how health care is changing in the U.S. and how CGI is going to be at the forefront of that. ‘You guys have probably heard some stuff, but this is indicative of any huge rollout of any project.’”

Tellingly, the company’s spokeswoman, declined to comment.

So here’s the point: It’s OK to be proud and celebrate company milestones and success, but do not ignore the all-important need to manage crisis communications.  While you’re enjoying the party, be mindful that external events may require you to put out public relations fires before they consume you.

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