Mobile Search … Live and in Action

The European Association of Directory Publishers held its 11th annual spring conference in Rome, June 1-2. The Kelsey Group cosponsored the first of these events, which was held in Monaco, and we have attended every spring EADP congress since then. This year the title was Getting Personal, and the conference organizers deserve a great deal of credit for implementing an interesting "hand's on session" using the latest technology.

The 220 attendees were divided into teams of six to 10 people. Each had an appointed leader and was given two Nokia cellphones that were capable of accessing Yahoo!, local search and Pronto. We were also given maps of Rome and a piece of paper on which we were to write down how we found each of the 12 items on the list. For instance, the first thing we were looking for was a she-wolf (as in Romulus and Remus). Headquarters sent us a hint on the Nokia phone saying that we had to go to the Hassler Hotel and find out when the wolf in the lobby was moved to that location and where it had been before. This wasn't a scavenger hunt as much as an information hunt. And you didn't get the hint for the second item until you sent the answer to the first clue back to HQ.

If this all sounds a bit complicated, it was, but it made for the most unusual session of any conference I have ever attended. How many times have we heard speakers say that in order to appreciate a product, service, network or delivery system, you have to use it yourself? The session lived up to its billing as "mobile search in action." We used the phones and all of their capabilities, from voice to search to SMS to taking pictures and putting them in folders. It was also a good bonding exercise because we had to work as a team (although Kiefer Sutherland probably could have single-handedly whipped any of the teams). Finally, we all had an opportunity to see some of the highlights of the Eternal City.

The next morning I had breakfast with Nokia's Ralph Kunz, who said Nokia learned a lot from this exercise, including the need to identify exactly where you are and oral navigation directions. The first speaker of the morning was also from Nokia, Matthew Snyder, who is head of business development for the media industry. He called the previous afternoon's effort a wonderful focus group for the company.

Our team's most valuable player, besides our leader, Anders Thoren of Bisnode AB of Sweden, was Moshe Kamar, head of Amdocs' directory group, who has an excellent mobile application and most importantly knew how to use the complex user interface on the Nokia phone. The bottom line is that the most effective way of finding answers is still word of mouth, but as the UI improves the machine will eventually turn out to be faster than human interaction.

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