Mobile strategy: Amazon vs. Flickr

I would love to understand the mobile strategies of some of the biggest brands on the internet. I am the user of two apps that one might consider to be rather major: Amazon UK, and Flickr. (On an Android phone.) Their strategies seem to be vastly different. And from usage of the respective apps, below is my interpretation of their supporting mobile strategies:

First, Amazon UK.

Make sure you can do everything on the app. that you can do on a computer through the website. Do so while recognising the difference between the way in which people use the different devices.

If you can add a new delivery address on the web, you should be able to do the same through the mobile app. Wishlists, split deliveries, save for later. All of that. Make sure people can do it. And make sure they are able to do it in an intuitive way.

Never lose sight of people’s desire to instruct us to do everything we can do for them while on the move. But also, never compromise the beauty and simplicity of interacting with Amazon.

Now, go deliver.

Now, Flickr.

We need to recognise that the mobile interface is way more limiting than the web browser on a computer. So we need to be mindful of which features we enable through the mobile app.

We can’t expect that the user can do everything through the mobile app. that they would be able to do on their computer. So we need to select which features we enable, and which we don’t.

We need to make judgments on what people might want to do, and not clutter the interface by giving them the option. For example, if someone’s in one of their friend’s photostreams and wants to search, we should make a judgment on what they want to search within.

My view is that Amazon’s strategy is right. It strives for the best, and it hits the mark. Flickr’s is wrong. It strives for compromise, and I always feel cheated when using the app. I am writing this very post from my computer. I turned my computer on after trying and failing on my phone to find an old photo from a friend’s Flickr photostream.

The heated discussions that surround thermostats

Well that was all rather bizarre. Some time ago, I joined a Facebook group called Photo Of My Thermostat. As its name suggests, it involves people taking pictures of their thermostats, or those they encountered upon their travels. The group’s description is as follows.

A group for people who wish to post a photo of their thermostat. Please note that only one photo of your thermostat is permitted, though if you have more than one thermostat (perhaps through inhabiting more than one property, or due to having an atypical central heating regime), you may post a photo of each thermostat*. In the event of one thermostat being shared by more than one group member, each member must post their own photo of the thermostat. *For these purposes thermostatic rad valves count as individual thermostats.

It’s an “Open Group”, meaning that anyone can see who’s in it and what its members post. But membership must be requested; and granted, refused or cancelled.

The group is humorous. It’s dry. It appeals to my geeky side, and, it seems, to that of its 200+ members. Its purpose is exact and exacting, and its members seem to relish in the geekery and humour that accompanies the subject matter. To me, it holds a similar allure to the Pencil Museum in Keswick.

I was alerted to the group a few months back through a friend’s status updates. I thought that it might be fun to join, and so requested the group’s owner to allow me membership. My request was accepted, and I was granted membership. I never got round to posting a picture of our thermostat, but I enjoyed the updates that the group yielded. And on the odd occasion, I contributed to the friendly banter, both with people I knew and those I didn’t.

Until recently.

One member of the group, Sharon, posted a picture of her air conditioning unit, complete with remote control in the foreground. Naturally, some lighthearted banter ensued surrounding the definition of a thermostat – specifically whether the device or the remote control technically constituted the thermostat. As you can imagine, things got pretty heated. (Ha!)

But actually, they did. I chimed into the discussion with a viewpoint, and agreed with Sharon when she cited what she saw as a constitutional crisis for the group. I suggested, rather glibly, that the group be renamed to “Photo Of My Thermostat And/Or Its Associated Remote Control, Wireless Or Otherwise”. The group’s owner, Neil Edmond, who had already shown frustration at the possibility of a constitutional crisis, seemed to come in heavy-handed with Sharon, challenging that there wasn’t a constitutional crisis beyond her that of her own making.

He was right, of course, although I would argue that Sharon’s comment was meant entirely in jest. At first, I thought Neil Edmond’s retorts were also in jest, but their frequency and lack of humour suggested otherwise. Greg chimed in.

It’s tantamount to anarchy, what’s next? Pictures of ceiling fans???

At this point, I posted within the comments a picture of a remote-controlled ceiling fan, with the comment:

Look at this bad boy!

Neil Edmond then took what was clearly banter that the group was enjoying, and thoroughly shat on it. Figuratively.

You see, Dan, that’s just you being provocative while knowing that it’s an infringement of the Thermostatic regulations, so you may either remove it or leave the group.

His comment was lovely and warranted, apart from the threatening and rather sinister final clause. After some further banter surrounding the word “umbrage”, there was another comment from Neil Edmond, recognising the quality of my involvement and then further threatening me.

Dan, yes, that’s good. However, it does not compensate for your inflammatory fan. You have until 11:00 GMT today to remove it.

Oddly, in the height of summer, he was still operating in Greenwich Mean Time. I would expect better from someone whose Facebook group is doubtless so seasonally aware. I left the picture up, and posted the following comment.

I’m sure the fan picture will be taken with the humour with which it was meant. If the authorities deem its posting to warrant expulsion from the group, then I relish the 53 minutes that I have remaining.

Some further banter. Then, shortly after 1200 BST, I was expelled from the group. And, indeed, all of my comments on said post were removed. (I know that this latter piece was a specific action on the part of Neil Edmond, rather than a symptom of being removed from a Facebook group, as my comments on other posts remain intact. A subsequent comment compared Mr. Edmond to General Augusto Pinochet, the Chilean dictator. Neil Edmond threw in his final oar.

There have been some very nice Photos Of My (Their) Thermostats posted today. That is why the group exists. I do not enjoy people deliberately testing the boundaries of the Regulations because they think that’s the point. The Regulations in place allow tasteful, playful self-governance. Demands and accusations – which disrupt and overshadow the advice, discussion and communal invention which this Group is full of – will be met with warnings and action.

I believe the “demands and accusations” comment was directed at me, though I have no idea what demands I was making, nor indeed what accusations I was levelling.

All in all, I find his reaction all rather hilarious. Yes, I lose out for not being part of a rather enjoyable group. Yet I feel strangely freed from the dictatorial regime that seems to define it – though I quite enjoyed the support I received from fellow members.

Someone who has clearly set up a group partly for amusement purposes has come in heavy-handed on one of its newer members. Cuntitude of the highest order.

Here is a link to the diatribe-fuelled discussion in the Facebook group itself, after the edits that Neil Edmond made. Below is an image of the full discussion, complete with ceiling fan image, with many names redacted purely to protect the innocent. Click through (three times) to see it in all its glory. And notice the lack of a comment box at the end, signifying my lack of right to reply.

PoMT (reduced)