Thoughts following a hangout with the BBM team

By Chris Umiastowski on 27 Nov 2013 03:07 pm EST

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of hanging out with a bunch of the BlackBerry folks on the BBM team. I had a chance to express my (pretty strong) opinions, make suggestions and pick their collective brains on BBM topics of all kinds.

Just to make this clear, they didn’t reveal any big secrets, but I think I now have a good idea of what seems to be a priority to the team. Without being too specific, I’m pleased with the plans they seem to have in place for the next few months. I’m convinced they are not standing still, and we should see more upgrades before the end of the year.

A big focus was on BBM Channels, which moved out of beta yesterday on BlackBerry devices. While it’s still very early days, this social product looks like a great way for brands to engage with mobile users. Over the next couple of months I think we’ll see Channels roll out on iOS and Android, which will kick things up another level.  In my opinion, it’s as important to rollout Channels cross-platform as it was to rollout the basic BBM service. 

In my opinion, it’s as important to rollout Channels cross-platform as it was to rollout the basic BBM service

Since companies (and individuals) already have ways to socially engage with their audience (Facebook, Twitter, etc), and since these other services are already fairly mature, it’s common for people to ask why BBM Channels has an opportunity to succeed. I don’t know the answer yet, but I’m willing to consider the possibility that BBM Channels could be more engaging, more personal, and more mobile friendly right out of the gate.  

BlackBerry’s recent acquisition of Scroon may also grease the wheels a bit here. Scroon has tools for corporations to manage their social media presence across any API-based social platform. This obviously extends to BBM Channels, so now BlackBerry should be able to convince a lot of brands that use Scroon to also push content out to their BBM Channel.  As a side note, Scroon already has paid tools. If BBM Channels starts to include services that are supported by these paid tools, then we’re seeing the early stages of monetization.

How else can BBM Channels be monetized? There are so many ways to achieve this from charging money to be displayed as a “featured channel” to selling ads or charging for brands to be able to push certain content to channel subscribers. I don’t want to spend too much time on this topic yet because it’s far more important, early on, for BlackBerry to build up a huge base of channel publishers and subscribers across all major mobile platforms.  That’s got to be the focus right now.

It’s far more important, early on, for BlackBerry to build up a huge base of channel publishers and subscribers across all major mobile platforms

As for Channel features, there are two things I’m pushing for.  First, I see BBM Channels as a  beautiful platform for anyone to build the mobile equivalent of a free discussion forum. There are millions of discussion forums all over the web which are desktop-centric and cost a lot of money to deploy and manage.  BBM Channels could become the free, mobile-friendly and cloud-powered version of vBulletin (or insert your favorite forum software here).  But to really go after this opportunity, I think Channels needs to let users create pseudonyms (pen names).  The sales executive who works at Cisco Systems probably wants to use his real name with his BBM buddy list, but I’m guessing he prefers to use a pseudonym when chatting in the Miley Cyrus Fan Club :)

The other obvious feature I’d love to see?  Search. Right now there is no way to search for content within a channel, which I think is a pity.  Give people a way to find channels of interest, but then give them an easy way to find (or return to) content within that channel so they can participate.

Bottom line:  It’s clear that Channels has a huge potential roadmap in front of it as far as feature launches go, as does the entire BBM feature set.  It seems to me like the BBM team is actively listening to users, and has the manpower to make things happen.

Reader comments

Thoughts following a hangout with the BBM team


It is, but two things I believe are really needed and key to make WhatsApp supporters switch over: increase attachment size limit to at least 25MB and implement in chat pictures for group chats...

BTW: Those orange quotes are kind of annoying specially when reading on the CB10 app, you think they will be some kind of new interesting fact related to the article and you end reading the same thing twice.

and you end reading the same thing twice.


Posted via CB10

Nah, nice to have it optional but a HUGE pro of BBM is precisely the fact that you don't have to worry about giving away your PIN number, if you don't know or want messages from someone you just don't accept the invitation, or block the contact if you get tired of it. Phone numbers on the other hand, once you give it away you are open to receive not only unwanted / harassing / spam IMs but calls too which is so much worst, impossible to stop it!!!

Also, for the same reason girls are so much more open to give their PINs at bars... :-)

Yes, but what if they are already a phone contact? I would love to just have an easy way to add them to BBM if we're already ph contacts.

 BBM Channel: TheGroupRide C00055B7C

There is an "invite by SMS" option. That's in addition to PIN, barcode, NFC, etc. Perfect balance IMO between Whatsapp's involuntary opt-in and inaccessibility.

I think there should be a "scan bar code" button/interface on the home screen like the camera button/interface to quickly collect and give numbers. A lot quicker than entering phone numbers.

Collar ID:, what's yours? Shirt addict plan....coming soon

How do you "make" someone switch over? It is one thing to love something, but to think that everyone else ought to love it is just foolish.

The sentiment of some is a crusade to get others to switch products or devices. Has it ever dawned, that some people may love to stick with what they have?

Comparatively speaking, we don't see people crusade to have others switch their brand of toothpaste or the car they drive. Why is a phone or an application so different?

Addict for 10 years, but it may be time to get off this drug.

Well, you are right, you cannot make them, what I really meant is there are a lot if android and iPhone users that installed and liked BBM but could not get used to it and went back to whatsapp, those 2 things are what they complain the most and if BBM wants to take a more significant market share of the IM space they need to be addressed...

You are exactly right! Not just pics, but videos, voicenotes and any other file we choose should appear in the group chat. Also, whenever you open the group chat you're inexplicably positioned at the bottom of the messages, instead of the top. Whatsapp keeps u at the top with an "XX unread messages" line before new msgs so u don't have to scroll up and find where u left off.

One on one chats, bbm excels, but for groups whatsapp is still much better

Posted via CB10

I agree 100% for increases in attachment size and for an increase in message text size too, plus an easy way to send a message text to other members instead of copy and paste method. I prefer the Whatsaap method, for the size of the message text size, and the send to short-cut.

exactly , If I have a professional consulting BBM Channel , I would want my material searchable and or once BBM Money is setup I can charge a fee for certain searchable material demanded by my subscribers. Keep moving BB, Search within a BBM Channel is key ....Folks think micro enterprise as THOR excellently explained at the Milken conference

How about linking your phone number to your pin so you could see which of your contacts have BBM. It will still maintain its privacy because you don't have to accept them. Also a snapchat like feature would make BBM totally epic!!

Posted from my bangin Q10

Good idea. An "encrypted" link between phone and pin that other users can't "see" leaving the choice to each user. Also all your potential bbm contacts with "linked" numbers will show on your list. I'm not sure exactly how it would work but nice idea.

Posted via CB10

I believe he is saying that you cannot search "WITHIN" a channel. Yes, you can search for channels, but once in a channel, you cannot do a more granular search.

For example, if I am in Mercedes Benz Canada, I cannot do a search just on the S-Class and see what comes up.

Me parece que deben de implementar URGENTE una forma rapida de EXPLORAR más Canales de interes!!!

I think there should URGENT implement a quick way to EXPLORE more interest Channels!!!

Estoy de acuerdo, algo interesante seria ver Channels por tus preferencias.

I agree, It would be interesting to see channels according to your preferences.

Posted via CB10

Agree Chris. Search is something we need here. I would like to see options for categories like tech, sports, news, music, TV, etc... hope they can bring something else... really important!!

Posted via CB10

Yes Categories would be a great idea.

The featured channels is really terrible. Unless that is where they are making their money. Maybe follow the Google approach and have some paid ones on top and interesting ones below (((all within the categories idea!!!)).

Posted via CB10

I agree. Search by Category an important add, maybe 'Approved by Blackberry', Recent adds, Most popular. Similar to Blackberry World.

I'd love to know when the new emoticons will come back. They're a fun addition but the only way to use them now is to type them in.

Totally agree that channels need to go out across all platforms. It needs to be free too otherwise no one will bother with it

Posted via CB10

BlackBerry Engineers are great probably some of the best in the industry, its a shame public perception of BalckBerry is so poor and their hard work goes left un noticed. they have pushed out major software updates faster then anyone else has with BB10 and its such a shame that all they get is a lay off slip because peopel aren't buying their hardwork

Also would love the ability to delegate posting to another person. Example I have a channel and I'm the admin/owner but I wish I could give access to another member of my team. Also would love to be able to sort and categorize my subscribed channels.

Posted via CB10

Let them log in from the desktop link for channel management. This was covered in an article yesterday.

You have to take a step back from looking at channel from a "features" lens and look at the product structure lens. They've already built the infrastructure around PINS and that just isn't conducive to branding, marketing and most importantly lightning fast sharing via social networks in plain language not some meaningless pin code. It seems like they've held onto an old idea and applied it to an application that it's not suited for. Give it a month or two and engagement will fall off a cliff once the initial curiosity subsides.

Posted via CB10

Guess What? It hasn't even been 24 hrs since I commented about Lewis and Voila !! He has one now, do a search,that new channel has 1 subscriber.Going to check on it periodically and watch the #'s grow.He didn't have one Yesterday,With Channels,Watch out, what you wish for.There are going to be millions of Channels.I doubt it is his official channel,but should be interesting to see how it evolves.

Bad Boy Beiber-81 Channels , Toronto maple leafs-18 Channels,Rob Ford-2 channels,there are going to be Hundreds of Millions of channels,just like all those fart apps.

I don't think using "PIN's" for channels is very user friendly, but 2 things make it okay in my opinion:

1) Users can search for channels of interest in plane English as well.

2) it can be difficult to determine whether or not a celebrity page is official on other social platforms, such as Facebook. The "PIN" could be used to definitively join the right channel.

Posted via CB10

Country Music Fans--- Check out this awesome channel that showcases trending music by Florida Georgia Line, Blake Shelton, Luke Bryan and tons more!! Search for country music or the pin is right here

Posted from my bangin Q10

BBM Channels In My mind will one of the most shared to Apps along with FB, TWTR, Youtube and LinkedIn. Plus the best secured Social e-Com Brand Enterprise Messenger

Get on Board the micro enterprise of BBM Channels :

Family Medical BBM Channels
Math Tutor BBM Channels
Financial Advice BBM Channels
Engineer Consulting BBM Channels
Real Estate Listing BBM Channels
Nutritional Advice BBM Channels

Pfizer BBM Channels
Abbott Vascular BBM Channels
Nursing BBM Channels
Tax Advice BBM Channels


Posted via CB10

Channels would be useless without huge crowds of followers. Huge crowds are impossible with the current user base. With the limited group and group chat features it is currently difficult to get more users.

To me the urgent issue of bbm is Group.



+1. Until it can match (and ideally top) WhatsApp and even MMS in regards to basic group chat capabilities, everything else is a non-starter.

We need BBM Channels and BBM Money + cross platform and yes users big time ...then financial transactions ....micro enterprise

BBM definitely should have out of box enterprise micro blogging service by leveraging BES. But it can come later. Group chat enhancement cannot wait. BBM must support, e.g. in-place pictures, in group chat NOW. Group size should increase as well, at least to a size that can host alumni groups which reunites people and snowballs fast. Just an example, there are other things need to be done for BBM groups.

I wish I could watch video clips, movies or listen to music in BBM channel. Would it be possible?

Posted via CB10

Agreed. Ability to post files directly to channels, not just links. Short videos and mp3's are necessary!!

Posted via CB10

BBM channels needs a menu that groups channels into categories. It will make it way easier to find content that you're interested in.

Also, BBM channels needs to have content control settings.

Posted via CB10

They need to have surveys integrated, and cross app posting, i.e Facebook, Twitter, intagram

Posted via CB10

I really enjoy using channels. I hope in the coming months that it takes off cross platform.

Posted Via CB10 using the power of "Q"

I'd rather see video, voice, and screen sharing go cross platform than channels.

It needs to be seen as a flexible communication conduit through which anything that be sent and received.

I'm a bit scared that Channels is the first real step into turning BlackBerry into a niche market player - a software and services company only. That, IMO, will be the final downfall of a once great company.

Just an off-topic question, how can some people post/link their PINs in the BBM channels (comments or wherever) while others can't? I keep getting the message "You can't include PINs in comments."

Any idea? Thanks in advance :)

You'll notice the pins are entered with an underscore _ at the end, or some other character. This fools the system into not seeing a pin...

Posted via CB10. See my BBM Channel C00045D82

That’s what I would like to know about. Cross platform BBM money world wide.
Some how to integrate with channels, so for example CrackBerry posts a product on sale, I could buy directly through there channel using BBM money.

Also should be able to imbed small videos, less age and content restrictions might help, I'm not sure...

Posted via CB10

One of the interesting marketing aspect of channels is the "noise free" aspect. In short this means that while in FB TW or any other social network your content will be mixed with random ones (personal, other brands...) Channels will display a continuous feed of your sole informations.
Agree for searching within a channel (or maybe a collapsed view with titles only ? ).
I'll add another request : the ability to clearly identify official brands Channels VS copycats or fan related ones.
I really believe Croon is a neat acquisition, both for pushing BBM as an effortless extension for external social communication and generate some revenue. Last but not least, let's not forget the enterprise centric strategy, where internal communication and ESN is still searching for a secure, efficient and mobile ready platform.

P.S: I wish I could add something about how this platform came to the mix, undercover, but I believe it's a bit early and many will read between the lines what I mean.

Posted via CB10

Yes, I like what you are saying and had thoughts similar to this.
They should make it so a company can post internal policy updates etc for their employees to see. They could also use the same D and R to they know what employees have gone to the channel and read the updated posts etc.
This way employees could also communicate back to head office by posting a comment on the channel.

Chris, are they going to put inline pics/thumbs (or at least notifications with hypelink to the full pic) in group chats? Seems like a fairly easy thing to do and a huge annoyance to anyone who used Whatsapp to go without.

One thing I would personally like to see is official and UNIQUE channel names. No two channels should be able to be named the exact same thing. For example, right now I can create a channel named "CrackBerry", use the same display picture, and description as crackberry and make posts. The only difference would be the "verified" symbol. I don't think the exact same name/spelling/title should be available to two channels. Like on twitter, There are some that are close in name ("CrackBArry" would be allowed), some fake, but no two names are identical. An imposter can currently make a non verified channel copy verbatim and no one can tell the difference.

This will cause problems in the future once there is a flood of new channels. They cannot possibly verify all channels "of note" or all channels that people would recognize and join because of the unique recognition. People will be fooled into joining a channel they thought was something else, or someone elses.
There needs to be a visible differentiation factor on the search results.

I'm curious how Channels is going to compete with other systems. I was trying to figure out what (on mobile) would compare. Facebook has pages, but it really isn't targeting the mobile environment.

What does compare, though, is Google+ Communities. Where G+ excels is that a community can allow all community members to start threads, add photos, and reply. I do like how Channels lets you reply to a specific person in a conversation, but you can't reply to a reply.

The other benefit that G+ has is the social aspect. If you have an event, you can create a group chat for the people attending, and all members can share photos from the event. Plus, you can create a video hangout.

Channels has a chat room, but it could use a social upgrade to make it more competitive.

One thing I really want to see out of Channels is more original content. Between people just linking to their website (even CrackBerry does this),or reposts other people's articles. This takes away from the social basis of Channels. If you read a small blurb in Channels, with a link to the full article on CrackBerry, are you going to comment on the CrackBerry website, or are you going to return to Channels to comment?

I want to see BBM as SMS 2.0 as a default messaging app on carrier networks around the world.

"My toast is better than yours!"

Channels have to come to the HUB. I don't want to open BBM, go to channels and then select a channel to see the news feed. This has to be in the HUB

Posted via CB10

What's the use of this if only BlackBerry users can see it? Even if channels go cross-platform, I'd rather use Facebook and Twitter.

Get a bigger audience and userbase on BBM by releasing Audio and Video to iOS and Android as soon as possible and change some annoying things like not being able to send videoclips and files bigger than 6mb, that's ridiculous. -.-

Posted via CB10

Totally agree with you on the data size limit. It's absolutely ridiculous in this day and age. Even WhatsApp's limit is 16mb. I think BBM should increase it to around 25mb.

Wait, so you went to Malmo, Sweden???????????

Or did the collective CB nose just grow a little longer.

You guys are really hurting after the big changes up top at BB aren't you. I don't think you'll be getting any direct contact with many of the higher ups. I doubt Chen wants to be affiliating with a blog, especially one with the amount of hubris that comes out of here, and with the forums that are a complete wasteland of trolls and internet bottom feeders.

Karma?? You reap what you sow??

Don't worry, the masses don't know any better. Just like they don't actually care about apps/specs/etc, they just think they are supposed to cause thats what message is delivered to them

Still waiting Kevin, wheres that proof of phone convo with Thor, or audio from the Chen interview, or proof of the interview with Saunders. You're gonna poke someones eye out sooner or later.

I would love the ability to add and make videos and Gifs m within Channels as well as share videos within groups not just links but the video and please increase the mb size of sending data

I love the UI but could use a little refresh in my opinion like the featured Channels page should be last. I want to view my Channel and the Channels I'm subscribed to first

Posted via CB10 with my Z10

Its funny how blaze was moaning in the forums about how some article on the register didn't offer and new insights.

read a CB blog post and you come to realize pretty quick that there is zero new info or insights here. If there is any on CB it only comes from the forums. But the blog posts here obviously come with the hightened sense of entitlement and hubris.

Its okay, I'm a fan and former CB user, I've just grown tired of the missed deadlines, outright lying, horrible upper-managment, etc. You get the point.

For me, cross-platform doesn't just mean mobile. To be taken seriously, desktop and web versions of BBM and Channels are required. Plus: a well-designed REST API would help start integration into the social media landscape.

Channels has a huge advantage for small business to get their message out. Now you need a Web page, a flyer, a yellow page add etc etc...all cost, all are implemented by others. Channels is something I can text to my client base, update myself and share cool content...all in minutes...very powerful tool indeed.

Posted via CB10

We need more emoticons on bbm. Like how what's app and ios have. Maybe not as much to start but instead of releasing 5, increase it to 10+ next time.

On my BlackBerry Z10 running 10.2 on Rogers

Make channels a productive "imitation" of Instagram. It needs to be a "must have" like how Instagram is a must have for a vast majority of users. Channels should have video feeds longer than all the other social sites too.

On my BlackBerry Z10 running 10.2 on Rogers

A few suggestions (some may have been covered already):
1) Video/voice on all platforms DEEPLY integrated to the phone (e.g. you are in camera taking a video, you should have a menu item to allow you to "share" with BBM, or you are in the phone app and go to make a call and it "knows" your contact is available on BBM and automatically switches to VoIP to call them directly in stereo)
2) A tool/utility/function to go through your address book and find people that are already on BBM and give you the option to invite them (all) with one click... also, invite those who aren't on BBM to join you with one/two clicks plus a way to put a BBM invite in your email tagline automatically (i.e. "Sent from my BlackBerry Z10, you can connect with me in real time with BBM by clicking on this button")
3) many kids these days are running with text only plans... the only way they can access BBM is when they are connected to wifi... so they don't use it because texts/iMessage always work. Use SMS when wifi isn't available for degraded service at least.
4) BBM at the server level should "know" your cell phone number, your pin, your name and your email so it should be able to find you/your friends in your address book (or other's address books when looking for you). ... it should be able to "find" you with only one out of the pieces of information (but not reveal the rest of it without being given the appropriate permissions).
5) BBM should be able to update your address book with those items people have chosen to "share" with their BBM contacts so your address book is always up to date (i.e. if someone changes cell numbers and they have made that "friends" level information, then all their "friends" addressbooks would automatically be updated when they changed it.
6) BIG files! When sending to multiple parties... send it to one spot in the server so that others can download it from there (sorta like dropbox but entirely seamless to the end user)
7) The ability to share video/voice/screens/photos with groups
8) NFC tags for bumping BBM's (perhaps that's there but I haven't tried it)
9) Status indicators on email addresses that are your friends... i.e. when putting in someone's name in a To: field of an email, show that they are online (perhaps by using a green box for the completed name instead of the grey one that is there now) and give them the option to simply click on the name to start up a BBM conversation with the subject/text of the email written so far (i.e. send "Subject: Tomorrow's Party, Hey Bob....wanna go out before hand for a beer?" Do the same thing in the contact application... allow a simple click to start a BBM conversation. this might not be possible on Android/iOS but that's OK... people will need some reason to enjoy the magic of BB10.
10) Allow the option to rebroadcast to other media channels (e.g. catch Facebook chats in BBM, tweets for twits). Make BBM the go to place for instant communications

Would love to hear if anything other than channels was discussed.

More specifically overall bb10 strategy.

Posted via CB10

Is the BBM team "not standing still" working to fix the countless bugs that remain in cross-platform BBM, Groups, etc.? Did your "strong opinions" address these gaping holes the current cross-platform offering?

Posted via CB10

I f bbm would work right my friends would use it. I have five friends how say when the get a BBM message they don't get notifications on there phone. They complain if I BBM them they don't get the message unless they open the app and check. If it's like that why would they use it. I certainly wouldn't. Sad. I think BlackBerry droped bomb again. Worked hard to get them to try. BBM.

Posted via CB10

Good article Chris. I agree with all of your points. Channels is still early and I can't wait to see how it evolves. A Lot of potential here IMO.

Join the unofficial Wu-Tang channel

Posted via CB10

I really want to see the ability to edit your post after the fact. I'm sure these features will come in time.

Posted via CB10

Does BBM have a plan to deal with adult content? It will eventually find its way onto channels and there needs to be a an to manage it.

Posted via CB10

I believe rolling out BBM video and voice calling will make BBM stand out as the most complete communication application. Because now, though many of my friends try BBM instead of WhatsApp, they still stick to things like Viber and Tango, because of the video and voice calls.

Posted via CB10

I want the chat history feature of BBM 7 reenabled. The current BBM, in order to keep the chat history, I need to maintain the chat window open. Making the phone sluggish.

Posted via CB10

Good article. Channels seems very interesting. Monetisation seems to me a difficult task. For my interest the BBM team needs to perfect voice and video across platforms. For individuals and business this is huge in my view. Competition will get this quickly. The voice and video on Ios and android could charge a modest annual fee. I use voice for all my current BlackBerry contacts and would do the same for others if I could. Scary for carriers?

Posted via CB10

Revamp the BBM Music service with a Pandora / Slacker / Songza business model. Can't go wrong!

Posted via CB10

Channels has to potential to be absolutely huge and it could bring the blackberry brand back in mind share and rejuvenate consumer interest in BlackBerry phones

Posted via CB10

Did the latest release of BBM break toast notifications for BBM? I could have sworn BBM had toast and instant replies before and now nothing on 3 different z10s

Posted via CB10

I Went to Amazon Site & they had the BBZ30 For VERIZON for $99/w-2 year Contract or in my case Upgrade! I went back the next day or 2 & wanted to get 2 of them! Well, I was A day too late & were out of stock!! My Local "VERIZON STORE, NEVER HEARD OF IT??!" They Carry Almost "ALL ANDROIND STUFF!??! & Rhe Windows Phone! I was going to get the BBZ10 But After seing Video & all the specs; I'll Wait for the BBZ30! Its More Advanced than the "10" in less than a year!! HOPE IT IS SOON!

They need to incorporate preview of links and in-app view of YouTube video.
BBM channels is painfully static right now.

Here is my channel: C0123A7E

Posted via CB10

A lot of sensible optimistic ideas in that article. However it seems to me that there's also tremendous scope for BlackBerry to blow this opportunity, as it has a number of similar promising opportunities over the years. Obviously I hope the latter doesn't happen. How can BlackBerry 'bake in' an opportunity like this? Making sure the right people are in charge of the enterprise in question, is one way.

Posted by the inimitable Z10 handheld system

I believe it would be great if BBM channels offers us to share this information posted there via BBM, WhatsApp, email or even on Facebook and tweeter. This will also be a good way to promote BBM Channels too I suppose.

Without it BBM Channels seems a little crippled and people who do not know about it will not even want to try it out.

The best about bbm, so it can beat whatsapp, would be to make video calls to iphones also through bbm. thats the top reason!