This page is a showcase for my research into the convergence of information, communications and technology. While an interest of mine, I am doing this as part of a class dealing with the impact that emerging media are having on our lives. I will be putting up my findings on this page. This class is part of my MBA Program at the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley.

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Focus Group: One-to-one Marketing

Review of a Multimedia Program

Entrepreneur Magazine's Small Business Encyclopedia

October 15, 1996

Because of my interest in electronic commerce and new venture creation (entrepreneurship), I have examined a CD-ROM titled: Entrepreneur Magazines Small Business Encyclopedia.

My examination and review of this multimedia program will be from the perspective of user interface and value-added to the user.

This CD-ROM is intended for the aspiring entrepreneur or small business owner, presenting him/her with the essentials of business planning and execution. Its breadth of coverage is very much the same as the core course material in most MBA programs, including a course in entrepreneurship. I chose this particular program to review because of this angle. I am very much interested in creating a new venture as part of the entrepreneurship program at the Haas School of Business. In fact, my team had very much considered producing a similar type product. After reviewing the Entrepreneur Magazines Small Business Encyclopedia, I am glad that we have chosen another product! It is very broad in its content coverage and presentation, challenging anyone else to produce a product with greater content capability. However, it does not fully exploit the advantages of the CD-ROM or mixed media. While a great aggregation of information, I found it to have no compelling advantage over a good book on the same topic.

It would be hard for any other product, CD-ROM or otherwise, to beat the breadth of content covered by this product. It covers every conceiveable topic of interest to the aspiring entrepreneur, and then some. It exhaustively covered the material that would be presented in most b-school programs core curriculum and then some. However, the most noticeable weaknesses were the depth of coverage and the level of understanding assumed by the user.

The content presentation did not allow me to drill down deeper into topics. I would have felt that a CD-ROM would have gone further to allow me to customize the level of information, but this program had one level. I could move around horizontally, but had one level of depth. Furthermore, that level was on the side of sophistication. In other words, I was surprised at the assumed level of sophistication of the users. Had I not been an MBA student that had studied most of the topics, I dont think I would have understood many of the topics or the points being made. And as I will point out later, the multimedia portion did nothing to improve comprehension. Major improvements could be made here. But, given the title of encyclopedia, perhaps this was a conscious effort on the part of the producers.

As for accuracy or validity of the content, it was in line with what I have learned in business school. From that perspective, I would say that the producers have done their homework. That gave me the feeling that the producers were either business educators themselves or had worked with advisors who were. A vote of credibility to me.

User Interface
From a navigation perspective, the program was very easy to use. I was up and running with no doubt about where to go and how to get there. The entry point was presented as an office with books on the shelves that had the titles of the topic areas. Additionally, there was an alpha-index at the bottom of the page that allowed for quick jumps to any area by letter. And a topic guide allowed the user to look at all of the topic areasor chaptersand to jump to any at the click of the mouse. Again, the interface did not allow the user to delve further into any topic. The appeal of this program to me would have been enhanced if I had had the ability to drill further into some topics and to view others at a higher level. Finally, I would have voted for a more interesting look to the interface as well. This one was pretty staid looking; perhaps by design.

Use of Multimedia
By far the biggest disappointment to me. Video was sparingly used and did not truly add value to the program. The video might have appealed to someone who did not have the patience to read the text, but was not in any depth. It was added, it appeared, to make this a true CD-ROM rather than a book on CD. To me, the video was wasted bandwidth. It was merely short snippets from seminars no doubt given by the producers, giving the CD the appearance of an infomercial. Either the videos should have been more in-depth (a recurring theme throughout this program) or should have been eliminated and other capabilities added.

Fully utilizing the interactive nature of this medium would have made this a much better product. As it was, I saw no compelling reason to use this product rather than a good book on the same topic. In fact, the book would not require a $1000 computer to use! I would have added more hot links that would have given the ability to go more in-depth on topics of particular interest to the user. In doing this, the producers would have made a product that was more user-customizable, hence valuable. Furthermore, adding links to the Web would have truly made this a valuable product and would have ensured timeliness of the material. The exhaustive resource lists at the ends of each topic were clearly a value-add for me, but they would have been even greater had they been linked to the Web where possible. I am not sure if this was an oversight or strategic decision. Given the copyright date of 1996, I think it was a strategic error!

In summation, this productthe Entrepreneur Magazines Small Business Encyclopediaoffers an exhaustive source of information to the aspiring entrepreneur, including an impressive list of resources. However, it was completely lacking in depth and interactivity. Given the options of this versus a book, I would have opted to buy a book. The value-added by the use of CD-ROM was not compelling enough for me. Finally, the last nail in the coffin was the apparent lack of quality control; i.e., there were numerous typos and incidents of bad text quality. This product holds promise and could do well in a second release if the producers look at the issues I have addressed

The Impact of New Media:

A Model for the Use of Desktop Videoconferencing in Negotiations

December 5, 1996

As part of a research paper for Negotiations (BA 252) and The Impact of New Information Resources (BA 296), I have examined the impact that desktop videoconferencing will have on negotiations, and have developed a descriptive model.

The model is derived from media choice theories (media richness theory and social influence model) as they apply to desktop videoconferencing as a new medium for communication. These theoretical frameworks were applied to the key determinants of negotiations; i.e., trust and power. Given the current technology, a model was derived that describes how desktop videoconferencing will be employed by negotiators.

While technology plays a critical role in the successful employment of desktop videoconferencing, I did not focus on the technology issues. However, it is clear that resolution is and will be the number one driving technical factor of videoconferencing. This medium will continue to be a far second to face-to-face negotiations until picture resolution is life-like, which will most likely require a technology breakthrough.

The model that emerges is for desktop videoconferencing to be used for either pre-negotiation rapport building or repeated-play negotiations. That is, negotiations by parties that have a long-term relationship and have built a high level of trust. This medium will be used by those having high levels of trust in general. Trust was clearly the common denominator in deriving the model.

View the entire paper

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