Tag Archives: context

Context is king

Given the previous principle, you may be surprised to read that context, not content, is king in the Adobe® Digital Enterprise Platform. Actually it’s more like a king and his kingdom. Great content is critical to customer experience, and customers experience content in context.

At the center of Adobe’s technology for customizing and optimizing user experience is something called the Context Cloud.[1]

Adobe’s approach to building CEM solutions aims to empower and delight customers by (among other means) giving Web visitors exactly the information they need, in the right form, at the right time. Doing this reliably and in real-time can be a challenge. It requires software that can aggregate relevant user information from a variety of sources so as to drive intelligent provisioning of content on a page according to predetermined strategies.

Adobe’s Customer Experience Solution for Web Experience Management rises to this challenge with a patent-pending technology called the Context Cloud. The Context Cloud represents a dynamically assembled collection of user data that can be used to determine exactly what content should be shown, for example, on a given Web page in a given situation.

Envisioning Context Cloud extension for social

Several things make Adobe’s implementation of the Context Cloud unique:

  1. Much of the information (such as info about the user’s viewing environment) is derived on the fly in real-time; it is not persisted anywhere.
  2. Marketers can experiment with different user-data values to see changes to a page in real-time (e.g. to try different campaign strategies before going live).
  3. The Context Cloud is extensible. You can add a new (custom) session-store object whose contents can fully participate in campaign “what if” scenarios.[2]
  4. Non-volatile information shown in the Context Cloud viewer is persisted on the client side (in a cookie), relieving the server of having to maintain (and then transport back and forth) large amounts of user data.

Because user info is persisted on the client, concerns over privacy and control of potentially sensitive user data are easily allayed: The user has ultimate control over the data.

Credit: Thanks to Kas Thomas for his work in describing Context Cloud.

Next: cloud first, mobile first, social first

Update 9/6/2011: The larger technical white paper from which this post was drawn is now available from the ADEP Developer Center as a PDF download. Please feel free to provide me with your feedback on that work here. Thanks in advance!

[1] Previously in Day Software, Context Cloud was referred to as Clickstream Cloud.
[2] When Adobe CQ5.4 released in February 2011, it demonstrated this extensibility via its integration with Omniture. CQ5 is now known as the Customer Experience Solution for Web Experience Management.

Thoughts on social software

Social is a popular adjective in software these days (along with cloud and mobile); so, I thought I’d capture some of how I view social in light of enterprise software and customer experience.

Footprint in the sand

When I think about “social software” I think about how experiences are impressionable (e.g. customers can leave impressions causing other direct/indirect participants to learn/benefit/dialog/collaborate). To me, “social” means allowing users to leave impressions such that impressions are mined for context and understood in context. Software that embraces this notion of sociability becomes more context-sensitive as a whole much like a piece of UI might present or hide itself depending on context (e.g. user’s role, workflow state, etc.) or a different service is invoked depending on context (e.g. SLA).

To me, “social software” isn’t about simply sprinkling social artifacts into existing systems (e.g. adding tags, ranking, etc.). It’s about ensuring that software incorporates sociability into its equilibrium as presented to customers.

One hears “less is more” and “more is more.” I find that both can be true, and the user will ultimate indicate the truth. In the case of providing more context, a user action to exclude is social to the underlying system, if that system is built to recognize it as such. That is, being exclusive is part of being social; excluding (and including) is a form of engagement. “Social software” must promote engagement–for relationship-based business benefit.

Being social can mean being friendly (i.e. sensitive to past expressions of preference, a form of context, as well current inference of the task at hand in a framing goal). A context-sensitive platform should go beyond just facilitating “one degree of friendliness.” It should anticipate the implications of deeper…collaboration. When a compelling experience and frictionless interaction is delivered to one, it can become a beacon for many subsequent experiences and interactions. So, how can this downstream effect be understood up front? How should context-sensitivity adjust, pivot, etc. to optimally understand this potential (reality)? “Social software” get this at its core.

Social is about collaboration–with purpose. To understand/infer purpose requires being sensitive to context.[1]

My definition of being social is as follows: a software system that allows any user to leave an impression, expecting that the system will recognize it, understand it and subsequently bring it to bear on the resulting experience, across space and time (i.e. same customer and/or different customer(s), immediately and/or in the future). This is just one of the traits we’re building into our enterprise platform at Adobe.

[1] For more on context, you may want to check out what my colleague Ben Watson has started over at Contextography.com.