Interview: Swarmteams’ Ken Thompson on multi-channel mobile communities

September 27, 2007 at 3:15 pm

Last week we chatted with Ken Thompson of Swarmteams which facilitates group communication through many channels, including SMS, instant messaging, and the Web with some key features taken from on how ants and bees communicate. Today we continue our conversation with Ken about how people actually use and benefit from the Swarmteams application.

What ways do you see people using Swarmteams?
Thompson: Multi-channel engagement marketing is particularly attractive for the digital media (e.g. music, film, sports, and books) and corporate branding sectors. For example, a music band can sponsor a swarm community to develop and grow its fanbase and benefit from increased media sales by embedding ecommerce links in the SMS, email and web messages. Alternatively, an interactive agency working on behalf of a major brand can use Swarmteams to create an instant “swarm community” for instant brand awareness development or new product feedback.

What else?
Thompson: Push mobile/multi-channel communities: Swarmteams is particularly attractive to both existing and new online social networks and other virtual communities who need to embrace the mobile channel in a practical and open way (without the limitation of a dedicated mobile application running on the handset and requiring wireless internet access). Swarmteams easily integrates into existing network applications via the comprehensive Swarmteams API.

What surprises you about how customers are using Swarmteams?
Thompson: One of the most surprising is conference organizers [who] are using swarms to allow their audiences to have a virtual back-channel where they can interact or give feedback to the presenter in real-time using their mobile phones and laptops with the results displayed on an open swarm messageboard projected on the wall. We have also had conference organizers use swarms to promote conferences via word of mouth by engaging with a small group of enthusiasts (like the Alpha Users I mentioned earlier). [One example is the Sixth International SPICE (Software Process Improvement and Capability dEtermination) Conference in Luxembourg.]

How about commercial uses?
Thompson: Swarmteams as a multi-channel community is also very attractive to major enterprises who need to support mobile and virtual work teams, organizational knowledge management, corporate communications and event management. Swarmteams also works for mobile network operators (and MVNOs) who can use it to increase messaging levels and add non-SMS functionality such as Instant Messaging into their consumer networks.

Tell us about Swarm Communities.
Thompson: The ‘Swarm Community’ concept is very unique. A Swarm Community (video) is a set of interlinked swarms all around a common topic such as a music band, a fashion brand or simply a special interest area within an organization or community. A Swarm Community may be made up of any number of swarms which this allows us to provide very high-levels of “message Intimacy” within group communications because the messages get relayed through the individual swarms. High message intimacy means the messages are more likely to get opened because the receiver knows the sender.

How do users prevent “information overload” in the swarm?
Thompson: Good question. Firstly, swarm participation is permission based – you have to accept an invite (for invite only swarms) or apply to join a swarm (if it is a public swarm). Secondly, you can leave a swarm instantly from the Web or mobile phone if you feel the messages have become too frequent or you are starting to get “bombarded”.

Does everybody in the swarm get every message?
Thompson: We have a unique concept called Swarm Rings. Team dynamics research shows that any group always has 3 levels of participation – we call it inner, middle and outer rings. Swarm Rings allow you apply a range to messages so that they only get broadcast to a specific ring within a swarm. This stops you waking up the boss with a text message in the middle of the night on his business trip for a swarm that he is just keeping an eye on! This also fits the biological model well. Ant communications always have a definite range, being chemical (pheromones).

What kind of relationship do you have with mobile operators? Do they see you as a threat?
Thompson: We don’t directly interact (or even need relationships) with mobile operators to deliver our messages. All our text messages are purchased in bulk from SMS aggregators who provide fast reliable global delivery through a comprehensive range of interconnection agreements with the mobile operators. So its probably more an opportunity than a threat, as a mobile operator can license the Swarmteams platform and power it with their own SMS messages (and branding).

Michael M.
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Entry filed under: interview, ken thompson, mobile content, mobile messenging, swarmteams.

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