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Tuesday, 4 March 2008

An amusing but cautionary SMS tale

Regular users of the service in the UK will have noticed that they had the option to share stories with others through SMS. We trialled this feature in the UK first intending to roll it out globally if it proved successful.

Very vigilant users will have noticed that this SMS share option has disappeared.

Why?

Well, we witnessed some very interesting use cases that had nothing to do with Mippin. This is a long story so please make sure you are sitting comfortably and I'll begin.

In our first iteration we provided the ability for someone to add a message to their friend to give the incoming text some context e.g. "take a look at this.....". However, an example of what we actually saw happening was this:

Example 1
11:36:18,828 - 0044777083xxxx BODY=Your friend cal says: call your mum chloe asap

Example 2
12:43:22,008 - 0044771767xxxx BODY=Your friend Steph says: Ive done it alg emailed debbie this mornin and said that im in level 1 but she said im in level 2 in


Example 3
12:45:24,313 - 0044772763xxxx BODY=Your friend donna says: hi babe x just got back xxx


Example 4
13:02:40,805 - 0044794739xxxx BODY=Your friend Christian says: Yh for 2minz 2 get ma cv, im wit ashleigh nw n i got a job day 2mz frm 10-5 lol

Example 5
13:06:16,968 - 0044794739xxxx BODY=Your friend Christian says: In da 2nd hand furniture shop, i dno didnt c her

Example 6
14:02:02,853 - 0044777450xxxx BODY=Your friend Sadat says: Hi cyn why u didn't tx m chat msn me? Im sad now. I stil horn..

Example 7
17:01:59,308 - 0044751625xxxx BODY=Your friend djoakes says: hi bbe am not comin down just mashed up ma leg a car turned da corner n a mashed up da left door uk

Example 8
18:16:47,436 - 0044783331xxxx BODY=Your friend KITTY says: PAUL CAN I SPEAK 2 U ITS URGENT

My favourite is #7 - surely Mippin wasn't the most effective way of communicating this message. And before you check, I can confirm that the article has nothing to do with the content so it did not add anything to the delivery.

In other words, a segment of the users began using Mippin as a free P2P messaging service despite the inconveniences of doing so. This actually generated over 95% of messages through Mippin.

Now at one level I just want to tip my hat for the ingenuity and we might seem spoilsports by looking to discourage this activity. However, each message actually costs the company money and eventually means less spending on making the experience better for everyone else, so we looked to close the loophole.

The change suggested was to take away the free text entry field and only allow the end user to enter their name (up to fairly short maximum number of characters), e.g. "John has sent you this story..."

Bizarrely we saw the amount of messages increase. Significantly.

Scratch head time.


Then we realised something. These users were not changing their behaviour. They were simply dividing their messages into smaller chunks so that they could use the name field to send their messages bit by bit.

Now, this is fiendish in the extreme. Tedious for the sender and incredibly irritating for the receiver. But this loyal base of free messaging addicts did not appear to think so and we saw the number of messages sent escalate considerably.

Back to the drawing board.

Our last option was to exclude the user name completely and remove all mention. But in this we have stopped short. First, to the end user this would look like Mippin was sending an unsolicited SMS. Second, we noted the growth after the second iteration of one or two individuals using the feature to spam others repeatedly - many, many times.

Thus, dear reader - if you are still there (I told you it was a long one) - : there is no longer the ability to share via SMS on the service. And if you provide such a facility then be aware that a large number of text addicts, formerly with Mippin, are heading your way.

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7 Comments:

Blogger James said...

great stuff thanks for sharing

4 March 2008 at 18:08  
Blogger Ben Godfrey said...

Have you thought about rate-limiting for a specific sender? If you don't have a unique identifier for the sender, just require log in. This could be a nice way to encourage sign up too.

5 March 2008 at 01:15  
Blogger Nick Richards said...

Are those the real customer MSISDNs?

5 March 2008 at 10:58  
Blogger Coalface said...

Hi Nick, no. They are disguised.

7 March 2008 at 14:31  
Blogger jewell said...

Have any of you guys ever heard of www.FreebieSMS.co.uk ? It seems to send free SMS messages in the UK, but does anyone have any experience with them?
I am using this web site for communicating with my friends in U.K. You can try it and easily maintain a good communication with you dear one through SMS!
So without any hesitation log on it and explore the opportunity waiting for you. Have great fun!

9 March 2008 at 08:10  
Blogger HeavyLight said...

Bah, you spoilsports!

You should have piped their pseudo-texts into an 'Ingenious Cheapskates' channel so we could all laugh at them in real time...

14 March 2008 at 15:43  
Blogger mippin said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

20 March 2008 at 07:49  

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