Background to SMS Text News

I thought it was about time I posted a background page to give some more context to SMS Text News.

Years ago, together with my colleague Hetty, we established Neo One as one of the leading providers of moderation services, in particular text message moderation in the United Kingdom.  Our principal activities involved managing the interactive community services for an array of high profile clients – including BSkyB / Yoomedia, Handbag.com, Worldpop.com and World Online/Tiscali. 

Working with Teletext gave us substantial experience dealing with high traffic consumer mobile services – from the rough end – that is, managing non-sanitised direct interaction with consumers via text message. We managed text chat for Big Brother 2 (I think it was) as well as Teletext’s own extremely popular ‘Chat-a-Box’ service.  This gave me a grounding as to how mobile networks performed (i.e. badly!), particularly at high volumes.  I couldn’t quite get my head around how so many operator’s systems appeared stuck together with tape.  Things are better now, thankfully.  I remember when one of our moderators reported a delay in messages coming through for a particular service – we reported it up the line, to find out that the delay was resolved by an operator simply deleting a backlog of 40,000 messages to clear the queue.  ;-)    Riiiight!

I remember when we had to have four different ‘shortcodes’, one for each network.  I remember when One2One (now T-mobile) users had to use a special 15-digit ‘shortcode’ and when mobile billing was a glint in the salesman’s eye and was never quite reliable.

As well as managing the services for other organisations, we also developed our own extremely popular mobile applications.  In particular, we created Impulse – it’s still, to our reckoning, Earth’s number one text-to-screen service for nightclubs and entertainment venues. We installed a small application into each nightclub, connecting it to our message hub, enabling clubbers to send requests directly to the nightclub’s screen.  This meant that you could walk into your local club and text a message (non premium) to the screen asking the DJ to play your favourite song or make a dedication for your friend’s birthday.  You could also sent a note to screen telling the girl in the red dress on the dance floor that she was fit.  Useful!  It also worked the other way – back to the consumer.  If you gave us permission, we’d keep you updated with special offers and updates.  We were, at one point, one of the leading practioners of proper mobile marketing.  I don’t mean spamming a database and trying to get 1% of them to buy a ring tone – I mean using the medium to correctly and accurately communicate with customers who wanted to buy our client’s services. For example, we were able to regularly fill our client’s nightclubs on previously ‘dead’ nights by targeting key customers at the right time during the day and by using appropriate offers.  Service is live or has been live in almost every single continent and across dozens of countries.  At peak times, we trafficked 200,000 messages a night.  We were the first to offer MMS or picture message to screen in nightclubs and entertainment venues – long before o2 did the sensible thing and opened access to a direct MMS service.

We’ve developed and managed a veritable plethora of mobile services – many before their time and many because we reckoned it was a good idea, not necessarily just for commercial necessity.

We’ve worked with a whole range of people from FTSE 500 board directors, to 5 person charities and one-man-bands, experimenting, innovating and delighting in the possibilities of mobile technology.

When it comes to understanding how consumers adopt and use mobile technology and applications, I am well experienced to comment.  I like to understand the technology itself and look for ways that our clients can use that to achieve their objectives.  There’s usually a translation required between what we can do technically and what the majority consumers understand at this point in time.   Therefore I have an insatiable quest to check out the latest and the popular (or popular-to-be) devices and services.  This is also why I am often seen with a different mobile handset each week ;-)

While I have a good understanding about how the mobile industry works, I’m not a total geek. I begin to get disinterested around the application layer and below.  I’m more concerned with the presentation layer and what can be done with it.

Neo One now specialises in providing a wide array of interactive services for conferences and events whilst our other company, Interactive Energy, focuses on blogging, community management, training and strategy. 

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