Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Design Thinking: Missing Empathy for the "Silence Majority"

(Originally from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/0/us-election-results-and-state-by-state-maps/)
 
As a general rule, I don't normally blog on the politics & elections (let alone another country's election). Last night, as exhausted as I was, staying up past 1:00 am following the US presidential results, I was utterly captivated and enthralled.

On one website (http://www.270towin.com/2016-election-forecast-predictions/) they predicted a big Clinton win: 322 vs 216. In the end it was Trump win: 289 vs. 218. They got it wrong. $millions and thousands of pollsters.

Hindsight is always 20/20, but reflecting I believe this (and other recent world events like Brexit) have taught me:

#1 - Go Wide, and then Go Wider again.

Simply looking at celebrity endorsements or analyst reviews Clinton should have won. Trump party dissenters ignored or didn't believe in #SilentMajority (http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/2016-election-day/analysis-rural-america-silent-majority-powered-trump-win-n681221).
(Originally from http://www.cnn.com/election/results/president)

The final results were almost 60 million US citizens voted for Trump (almost 19% of total pop.). How much of that 60 million was adequately interview and understood?

#2 - Louder isn't Better. Louder isn't Right.

Look aingt Twitter before, during and after it's hard to see how Trump won. Trending hashtags #HesNotMyPresidentlike (https://twitter.com/hashtag/HesNotMyPresident) and #Trumpocalypse(https://twitter.com/hashtag/Trumpocalypse) are still lamenting his win today.
(originally from https://twitter.com/hashtag/Trumpocalypse)


But louder doesn't win elections. Smart comments doesn't win elections. Money doesn't win elections (Trump spent less than half of what Clinton did).

(originally from http://www.bloomberg.com/politics/graphics/2016-presidential-campaign-fundraising/)

Majority does. Clinton might have won the Twitter war, but Trump won the election.

#3 - Technology without Empathy is just Technology.


I work a technology company. I am in a technical role. I believe deeply in technology. However the take away I will remind myself is:
"Technology without empathy is flawed. It's just technology." - Wayne Pau
Today's pollsters have more tools than any other election before us. Yet they couldn't have been more wrong, even losing to a monkey (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/worldviews/wp/2016/11/05/this-mystical-chinese-monkey-has-figured-out-who-will-win-the-u-s-election/). Garbage in, garbage out. #CloudComputer #BigData #MachineLearning are great, but they needs good inputs, good data.
(originally from https://twitter.com/hashtag/silentmajority)

How did everyone get it so wrong? Simply put they lacked Empathy for the User. They failed to identify a huge number of US citizens who were tired of the status quo and wanted change, massive change. But this time it was not just change in Republican vs. Democrat, but lifetime Politician vs. Outsider.

A cynic could say although many voters disliked Trump and his message, many voters (still) feared and disliked Clinton more. Which is ironic for a campaign that seemed founded on inclusion and diversity. 50% of the voters did not 'feel' included or well represented with Hillary Clinton.

We shall see what the next 4 years brings. (Maybe Russia & US relations might be healed: http://www.cnn.com/2016/11/09/politics/us-election-the-world-reacts/index.html) However as a Design Thinking coach, I think I've learned to never underestimate the need for Empathy. Technology in and of itself is not enough.

Hope that helps...
w.

Monday, 24 October 2016

Design Thinking: Sticky Note Confidential




For something that was created almost by accident, Sticky Notes are basically a Design Thinker's bread and butter. As part of Brainstorming session they are essential and until they create a more environmentally friendly electronic version, I'll still be going through them by the multi-pack! However, beware not all Sticky Notes are created equally and after many years of cycling through different brands, colours and formats, I will share with you my 5x basic rules for purchasing Sticky Note...

#1 - Get Super Sticky!


I stick with 3M and where possible the "super sticky" version. In 2003 3M released a new formula which is at least double as sticky as the original in my ad-hoc testing. This makes it perfect for offices where I am using any old painted wall (vs. clean glass or whiteboard). They do cost a little more (approx 20% - $18.99 vs $22.56 for 12x 3"x3" yellow, but have only 90 vs. 100 sheets), but the last thing you need is to have all your ideas drop to the floor, especially after they have been moved around once or twice.

(For the record, I almost always go 3M Post-Its when I can. I have used some very poor cheaper brands and they just don't stick well. Some peel off really poorly or curl up into an egg-roll shape the moment you remove it from the pad. 
The generic patent for Post-Its ran out in 1990s, but I imagine 3M will have the exclusive on Super Sticky for quite a while longer. So if you want the super sticky you'll have to go 3M.)



Currently I get the 14x pack @ Costco for $11.99 in Canada.







#2 - Get Bright Colours!


I use the more vibrant collections vs. traditional dull, pastel "Canary" yellow. Nothing seems to bore me more than a sea of yellow Stickies with thin blue ball-point pen ink that I cannot read until I am within arms length. The original colour was an accident, but you don't have to keep repeating the accident.

Turns out 3M sells multi-pack in 'collections' which are palette of 5x colours. I like Rio and Marrakesh, because I believe the vibrant colours help to stimulate the mind. I actually avoid Marseille and pastels as they are muted and give off the impression of dull idea.

(For the record, I always pair my bright colours with coloured brand-name Sharpies. This gives me near infinite combination of text + stickies to ensure there is lots of visual diversity. In a bind I do use white-board markets, but find the chisel tips sometimes annoying. I am *VERY* careful to remind folks not to use the indelible/permanent markets on the Whiteboard and *JUST* the Sticky Notes only! No pens please. )





Recently Costco no longer carries the multi-pack, but they have BIC permanent markets, 26 for $9.79




#3 - Get Traditional 3"x3"!


I have tried smaller and larger pads, but the square 3"x3" seem to work the best. There is enough space to get a good picture/visual, but not too much as to invite long, boring rows upon rows of text. Square pads provide nice symmetry and allow for both vertical and horizontal grouping.

(For the record, for me it's more 'feel' thing, the 3"x3" seems to fit into my palm quite nicely, better than the smaller 2"x2" and larger 3"x5" pads. 2"x2" are very hard to see and differentiate from anything more than 5-6ft. 3"x3" pads take up 60% of space 3"x5", allowing for quite a bit more ideas per square foot!)


#4 - Get Extra!


As a Brain Storming facilitator, the last thing you need is someone saying they 'had' more ideas but ran out of Sticky Notes. Buy in bulk and get extra as unused Sticky Notes don't really expire and can be used in a future Brain Storming session.

In an ideal world, everyone would start out with their own 90-100 sheet pack, but in most cases I do split a pack among multiple people when I have larger groups.

(For the record, in most typical sessions I use anywhere from 200-500 Sticky Notes, so get bulk multi-colour packs to keep things economical.)


#5 - Watch out for the Gimmicks!


There are number of options you can get now and most of then interfere or distract with the process. Especially if you are ordering on-line, read the description and avoid:
  • Dispenser: The accordion style as these are special dispensers. Using these in a Brainstorming session will ensure someone will write an idea upside-down.
  • Lined: The lined pads are extremely distracting and discourage using a large part of the pad for visuals.
  • Full adhesive: These are great at sticking to surfaces as the sticky surface areas is increased greatly, but I find it slows some people down. Getting Super Sticky pads are often enough. (However for users who always write on pads up-side down, these can solve that problem!)

The last unwritten rule (with apologies to Chase Jarvis) is "The sticky note you have is better than the one you don't". Grab anything you can get your hands on (even if it's 3"x5", pastel yellow, knock-off brand with lines!!!) and split it up so everyone has at least a few to start off with. There should no excuse to getting out ideas once the session starts.

In reality I actually have two habits that always keep ready to do a brain storming session at a moments notice:

A) Design Thinking Bankers Box



I have on a shelf a Bankers Box that I literally just dump new stationary supplies and old left-overs from past BrainStorming sessions. I label it my "Design Thinking" box and right now it sits in our d-shop. Keeping it isolated and separate from the stationary cabinet ensure that a local supply emergency does not constitute a Brain Storming emergency! Also ensure that any left-overs are collected and used up next session.

B) Sticky Note Ziploc Bag


I also have a larger freezer Ziploc bag full of at least 4-5 packs of Sticky Notes and 5-6 multi-coloured sharpies on top of my desk or in my bag. So when I find out our meeting in 2 mins is actually a brain-storming sessions, I just grab the bag along with my coffee mug.


You can watch a vblog version here: https://youtu.be/uqIWohb-cNo


Hope that helps!

w.




Monday, 29 December 2014

What is Smart Technology? (vs. Dumb Technology)

***** Note: Originally posted @ SmartWeek blog:  http://www.smartweek2014.com/blog/what-is-smart-technology-vs-dumb-technology ***** 

Ok. Today everything seems to be "Smart", from Smart Food to Smart Cars to Smart Phones, but what we really mean by Smart Devices?


(Smart Car - http://www.smartusa.com/)


I first heard the term used when working with RFID readers about 10 years ago. Smart RFID Readers were devices which a certain amount of logic could be added for filtering based on tag reads. (This was great as it helped us to lower overall 'noise' due to unwanted tag reads, etc. There might be hundreds of tags in a read range, but we often only wanted to myopically deal with a small handful of them.) This was in stark contrast to what we called "Dummy" readers which were older devices which could only simply read RFID tags and simply send that information along.

Today the term "Smart" is co-opted for anything that is a primary function "+"  (or plus) device. Basically it's better than it's non-Smart or Dummy predecessor. A phone that does more than just make phone calls, such as stores & plays music, run apps and gets email is a Smart Phone (as compared to a Feature Phone). A whiteboard that is touch sensitive and connected to a laptop and projector is suddenly a Smart Board (see SMART Technology's SMART Board). A fridge with a computer & LCD panel to tell you how much energy it consumes and what's inside is a Smart Fridge (see LG's SmartThinQ Fridge).

Therefore my humble definition is:
Smart Device -  next generation of multi-use/multi-functional device (or appliance), created through the addition of auxiliary complementary technologies to an existing previous device. 
These potentially simple changes or additions should not be underestimated as they can vastly improve the overall impact of the previous device. Take for instance the humble Fax Machine, which in it's basic functional components is part Optical Scanner, part Printer and part Telephone. When Xerox invented & patented the Long Distance Xerographer (LDX) in 1964, all 3x technologies were well established and none were invented specifically for the Fax Machine. However when put together, the sum is greater than the parts and more importantly there is power in having a single device that is integrated vs. simply just connected. (Note: In the case of the invention of the Fax Machine, it was created as a whole new device not just a Smart Scanner or Smart Printer.)

One of the easiest ways to make something "Smart" is to add Internet connectivity to it. Therefore any devices that is part of Internet of Things (IoT) is connected and therefore generally Smart(er) than it's disconnected predecessor. This is why IoT and Smart Devices and M2M (machine-to-machine) are often talked about in the same breath and sometimes interchangeably.

(For those interested, at SAP we are working hard on helping Smart Devices get off the ground with a good push. We're working on things like Smart Vending Machine that can interact with consumer's smart phones and also help to maintain itself through metrics and predictive maintenance. We're also working with places like University of Guelph on Smart Green Roofs, which are not only environmentally friendly but are also self-maintaining and optimized for energy and resource consumption. Additional we're also making the world safer through Smart Cranes, which can detect and avoid collisions in dense construction environments. Just to name a few things...) 

Unfortunately the terminology isn't ideal and it's sometimes confusing. Smart Devices shouldn't confused with Artificial or Machine Intelligence, which is about building software in a way that it can mimic learning and improve over time. These Smart Devices aren't that kind of Mensa "Smart".

Hope that helps...

Wayne Pau

p.s. Maybe the trend will be for "Super" Devices next. In the mobile world we're already past Smart Phones and now we often talk about Super Phones (like Androids and iPhones, etc). These phones are even a step above Smart Phones, which were step up from Dummy Phones or Feature Phones

Monday, 3 November 2014

IoT: 3C's of Internet of Things (aka Welcome to Industry 4.0!)

Recently I was lucky enough to be invited to speak on a panel discussing IoT and UX at SMARTWEEK 2014 (Toronto) hosted at MaRS and UofT. (slides for Challenges of IoT and UX).  After the session I got a few questions & requests to expand on my 3x C's of IoT idea and I'm hoping this blog entry helps any similar questions...


(SMARTWEEK 2014 @ UofT Bahen & MaRS DD)
My take is slightly different from others like Google's Scott Jensen whose broken IoT into 3-layers: Discovery, Control and Co-ordination. (see his blog Deconstructing the IoT). I have strong influences from my RFID and controls experience (via now defunct Sybase RFID Anywhere) which worked with many hardware technologies like Passive, Active RFID tags, PLCs and Location Information Systems

I've seen the slow progression from very 'dumb' readers to today's 'smart' readers. I've seen original simplistic hardware readers which had to be directly connected to PCs and servers, become only *a part of* more expensive, complex programmable readers systems that had customer firmware, high powered CPUs and locale storage. Hardly recognizable from their more primitive predecessors. I've seen old 'dumb' readers become simply a component or plug-in for more powerful mobile devices that are connected with locale storage and run apps.

So here is my take on the 3C's of IoT devices...


(Slide 7 - IoT + UX challenges - SMARTWEEK 2014)

In my reverse pyramid, devices are quickly moving from individual, isolated direct Control devices and into Connected network of devices that are able to Cooperate and Coordinate. So to expand:
Level 1 - (Direct) Control - At the bottom of the pyramid, the devices work on their own and isolated. They can go through life on their own and interaction is necessitated directly between the user and the device. Your Toaster is a example of this, it's happy to fully function on it's own never knowing another toasted (or any other device) ever existed.
These devices are bottom of the ladder and aren't very smart at all.
Level 2 - Connected -The next level is a device that can communicate with other devices. (Unfortunately, at this point often the communication is uni-directional and more in a slave-master type of relationship.) Your Logitech Harmony remote is a example of this, as it's happy to tell your Blu-Ray Player, Receiver and TV what to do. Once you've gotten used to interacting with the single remote it's hard to imagine interacting with every single device one-at-a-time (like when you have to debug which device is not working properly!?!).
These devices are smarter as they have to know at some level to communicate to other devices.

Level 3 - Cooperation-Coordination - The 3rd and final level IoT is devices that work together for a common good. At this point the magic happens as suddenly the sum is greater than the parts. Beyond gains from simplification, new features and powers emerge from the 
gestalt/collective. For example BitCoins is much more powerful than a simple collection of electronic banking institutions. Your car cooperating with your house so you can seamlessly continue that conference call would be another use-case.


These devices are by far the smartest as they realize the untapped potential of co-operation.

Another great example of what Level 3Connected, Coordinated/Cooperating Smart Devices is Industry 4.0. Pioneering out of Germany and SAP is playing a part. 

In this 4th industrial revolution, Cyber Physical Systems (CPS) will interact with each other (aka Co-operate) and work together (aka Coordinate) to build and manufacture products in much more complex ways than we've ever seen before.

Below is a quick diagram that illustrates how far we've come since the Cincinnati slaughter house in 1870 to the next generation of CPS enabled factories. Ironically PLCs aren't even 50 years old yet!


(http://www.engineersjournal.ie/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/Domhnall_Carrol-006.jpg)

So without talking about Machine/Artificial Intelligence, we are currently building the next generation of factories and other systems that have 'smart' devices that are Connected and Coordinating/Cooperating together to provide never seen before productivity. Isn't technology awesome!?!


I hope that helps clear things up...

Wayne Pau

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Design Thinking: The greatest Danger to Brainstorming! (In defense of Brainstorming - Part 2)

(A little while ago Fast Company's Rebecca Greenfield wrote a piece entitled "Brainstorming Doesn't Work; Try this technique instead". I wrote a response: "In Defense of Brainstorming (aka you may not need Brainwriting)", but I realized *now* that I had forgot to add what I think is instead the biggest obstacle to Brainstorming, so this Part 2 attempts to address that.)

There are *many* obstacles to a good Brainstorming session, but the actual biggest *danger* I believe is not having enough 'quality' ideas and especially getting those amazingonce-in-a-lifetime radical ideas. It's the same principles regarding Quantity and Quality of ideas.

(For more info on why I believe quantity begets quality, see a previous post on 50 lbs of clay and how Quantity also intrinsically begets Quality.)

User Interview/Insight expert Steve Portigal has a great graph I like to use to illustrate the divide between the 'first wave' of pedestrian ideas and the 'second wave' of magical of "Wacky, transgressive, innovative, breakthrough, weird" ideas. Steve goes so far as to say we need to slough through the 'bad ideas' to get to this 'second wave'.


(Steve Portigal - Power of Bad Ideas)
As good Design Thinking coaches and Brainstorming facilitators we need consciously to *PUSH* to get people into the 2nd hump or 'second wave'.

This is why as part of Part 1 of this post, we have rules #1, #2, #6 & #8

  1. Defer Judgment - to prevent smoothing radical ideas
  2. Go for volume - to push envelope to get to great ideas
  3. One conversation at a time - to ensure everyone gets a voice
  4. Be visual - to stimulate right-side of the brain and communicate efficiently
  5. Headline - to communicate efficiently, allowing iterate through ideas quickly
  6. Build on the Ideas of others - to help iterate and evolve ideas
  7. Stay on topic - keep sessions moving and prevent time wasting
  8. Encourage wild ideas - getting past the easy, obvious ideas
(8x Rules for Brainstorming)

Over the years I've personally become more keenly aware of passing through the barrage of easy ideas ('first wave'), into the more difficult silence or lull of little/no ideas and then finally into the flood of 'second wave' ideas.


(1st Wave vs. 1st & 2nd Wave Brainstorming)
The above graphics attempts to show the difference between simply settling with only 'first wave' Brainstorming vs. 'first wave' and 'second waveBrainstorming. In this example, it's 7+ more Ideas Total and 3+ more Great Ideas.

Funders and Founders Anna Vital has a great post called How Many Times You Should Try with an info graphic that shows James Dyson tried 5126 prototypes before his initial success. How close are you to Brainstorming out that truly great idea? Are you giving up before the second 'hump'?

If you want to keep doing additive or derivative innovation, don't worry about what Steve Portigal is talking about. You can Brainstorm out the next iPad-mini from the normal sized iPad, basically a slight/marginal improvement over the original. (BTW Apple/Tim Cook, if you reading this, maybe you should 'invent' the *new* iPad-Biggie while you're at it...)

OR *IF* you want to do something disruptive and truly innovative, to build that first iPad, iPod, or iPhone, then I encourage to have a look both the Quantity and Quality of ideas your next Brainstorm.


Hope that helps...

Wayne Pau


p.s. There is no magic number of post-it-notes where the you know you are getting the 'second wave' of ideas. However it's not uncommon when I get a group as small as 5 people to aim for 150 post-it-notes within a 30 minute session.

5 people x 30 mins ==> 150 Ideas

It sounds radical, but it is really is a reasonable target. The first 50-100 will probably be 'first wave' ideas. If you push really hard, often you can get an extra 50-100 ideas if you are consciously about it. (As your diverse, T-shaped, multidisciplinary teams evolves, you'll easily surpass this target! Honest.)

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Design Thinking: In defense of Brainstorming! (aka. You might not need Brainwriting...) Part 1

A  week ago Fast Company's Rebecca Greenfield wrote a piece entitled "Brainstorming Doesn't Work; Try this technique instead". While Fast Company has many great articles and I did agree with some of pitfalls listed in the article, (with apologies to Leigh Thompson of Kellogg School), but I think Brainstorming works just fine if you're doing it 'right'. We don't need Brainwriting, but rather just stick to Design Thinking's Brainstorming 8x rules and you should be in great shape!




We love Design Thinking at SAP and we especially love the Brainstorming part. Along with SAP I suggest that Stanford d.school, IDEO and many other companies also aren't giving up Brainstorming anytime soon. When done correctly, I believe those companies are still reaping many rewards from those sessions.

We have 8x basic rules that govern Brainstorming sessions (link to d.school Bootleg PDF on Brainstorming):

  1. Defer Judgment - to prevent smothering radical ideas
  2. Go for volume - to push envelope to get to great ideas
  3. One conversation at a time - to ensure everyone gets a voice
  4. Be visual - to stimulate right-side of the brain and communicate efficiently
  5. Headline - to help communicate efficiently and filter through ideas quickly
  6. Build on the Ideas of others - to help iterate and evolve ideas
  7. Stay on topic - keep sessions moving and prevent time wasting
  8. Encourage wild ideas - getting past the easy, obvious ideas
You can see a great blog post describing the rules above by Caroline O'Connor of Stanford d.School at Rules for Brainstorming.

Below are 3x concerns I have regarding why Brainstorming wasn't being applied optimally in Leigh Thompson's research. I've love to see if the statistics and outcomes would have differed if the groups had a proper Design Thinking coach and were adhering to the d.school process.

#1 - In Design Thinking Brainstorming sessions, we have idea/post-it-note rounds where team members write down their ideas on post-it-notes by themselves individually before verbally sharing with the group.There are definitely oral parts of it, but I disagree with Leigh Thompson's premise that (2:01 of How to Stop People from Dominating Meetings video):

Brainstorming: Simultaneous Oral Generation of Ideas
Brainwriting: Simultaneous Written Generation of Ideas
If Brainstorming was just Oral Generation of ideas, why do I keep buying so many darn Post-it-Notes and Sharpies! One of the d.school Design Thinking rules is being visual (#4), which *only* can happen on written down ideas. We do in fact write ideas, atomically one per Post-it-Note all.the.time.

(Using Voting Dots with Design Thinking)

#2 - In Design Thinking we also use voting dots to help semi-democratically decide on which ideas to execute on first. The dots are equal in size (and therefore also equal in 'voice') and can't lobby other dots, so aren't vulnerable to 'Doom Loops'. The process is usually done with little talking, so once again minimizing any dominating participate effect. (There is obviously still some small possibility of peer pressure but it's largely minimized for the reasons stated above.)

#3 - The Stanford d.school's Design Thinking Brainstorming has more rules and structure in place over and above the 2x rules that Leigh Thompson from Kellogg School has. Rules that encourage full group participation and embrace not just balance but also diversity. So if you're looking to change things up, why not move to a more encompassing methodology?

While it's often hard to argue with Fast Company or Kellogg School, but I believe I'm going to keep to Stanford d.school's Design Thinking Brainstorming sessions. At least for me, it's been working great and we don't often suffer from Doom Loops and Uneven Communication Effect

We've never really had a problem with that using d.school's Design Thinking methodology. These days I feel that a "Brainstorming Session" without these rules is just a discussion. ;) It's not really what we'd call "Brainstorming."

Hope that helps...

Wayne Pau

p.s. I realized that I did not outline what I thought was biggest obstacle for Brainstorming. Therefore I'll be posted a follow-up Part 2 on this posting.



Original Links for Fortune & Fast Company articles on Brainwriting:



Sunday, 13 July 2014

UX: Death to Versioning! (aka. the Perpetual BETA program)

(from http://www.theweathernetwork.com/forecasts/precipitation/canada/ontario/toronto)


The other day I was viewing weather updates on www.theweathernetwork.com when I ran into a new feature "Percip Start Stop" for tracking rain by the hour. What surprised me was not the new feature but the above disclaimer. BETA stage. Soliciting User Feeback.

As a long-time gmail.com user (back when you had to get a invite just to get an account!) I'm used to being the QA department for companies. Google is known for being in "perpetual" BETA, as this Wharton K@W article: "Is Google Stuck in ‘Perpetual Beta’?" outlines. Ever try to figure out the exact "version" of gmail you're using?

However controlled BETAs help facilitate rapid deployment of new features. It's often a low-risk, high gain way of not waiting for a major release to see if there are new features users like and will use. For UXers this is a chance to update small changes without having to wait for major release (but I don't suggest changing the UX too radically too regularly... that's a good way to annoy users). 

"Back in the day" we used to wait patiently for new version, like Windows 3.1, 95, 98, XP, Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8, etc, we expected to have to pay more for the newest release to get new features. Many users didn't upgrade and that's why we now have the Windows XP EOL issue as outlined in this Microsoft support article: "Windows XP support has ended". Yet I think he Web and Mobile revolutions have changed radically for the following reasons:

#1 -  On a website you can generally *only* have access to the latest version. A website generally has usually one version and this makes it easier to maintain. There is no install for a website, so changes are implicit and virtually immediate. When it's it's UP it's OUT! Very different from former native apps which changes only occurred when users installed an update.
(For the record I think Gmail does usually have a linked to revert to the old theme or UI, at least for a little while.)
#2 - Users are always running latest version. Generally speaking users who buy mobile apps from AppStore/Google Play Store have free upgrades and do in fact upgrade often. Pretty much when the new iOS update is out within days everyone is upgrading.
(After Heartbleed Bug and other vulnerabilities it seems like some apps update every few weeks now. I always get these notifications on my iPhone.)
 #3 - Users culturally embrace change. For the most part users are very open to changing UI. Therefore, because there generally isn't a uproar or backlash, this has given license for companies to regularly re-vamp their apps and websites, almost as often then as they re-org.

(UX Warning: However I've encountered issues with older users who spent years learning how to to use Hotmail.com, only to have one day all the button changed on them and not know how to use the site anymore.)
 #4 -Cloud SaaS and pay-per-use. Since companies like SalesForce.com have turned software into a lot like leasing cars. If you don't care to own it then were happy to give you the latest and greatest car every few years (or in internet years, every few months).
 #5 - Rapid pace of change. It's likely cliche, but really the pace of change is so quick that without a steady pace of updates many of our websites and apps would be obsolete. Every so often I read a UX book with a screen capture of a website from 5-10 years ago and laugh how outdated the IxD is.
The only unfortunate part I see in perpetual BETA program is that sometimes I feel companies use this as license to release lesser tested software. In a true BETA I should be providing feedback on my experience, not submitting bug reports. +_+

(In full disclosure, I work for SAP and we have a very strict release process and I don't think it's changing any time soon. For the curious, it's called I2M (Idea-to-Market) and PDF executive summary is available online: Product Quality at SAP.)

However even SAP is quickly becoming a cloud company (see SAP buying SuccessFactors for 3.4 Billion back in Dec 2012). When you move to SaaS/on-line/Cloud offering, you are basically no longer owning the maintenance and upgrade of the platform. So when we upgrade the Cloud, we're doing it for everyone, and this allows us to roll-out these BETAs and hopefully provide things even quicker than ever!

Hope that helps...

Wayne Pau

p.s. For more jokes about Gmail spending so long in BETA you can read this blog: "Gmail leaves beta, launches "Back to Beta" Labs feature" in which Google actually added a way to put back the BETA disclaimer. ;) Jokes.



(from http://gmailblog.blogspot.ca/2009/07/gmail-leaves-beta-launches-back-to-beta.html)

Sadly when I tried it on my gmail today I couldn't find the setting. I guess that joke got old quickly. Likely when they started to charge companies for an "enterprise" version.

It also does not escape me that ironically I'm blogging this on Blogger/Blogspot, which is also another Google product. :)