Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Facebook's SocialAds: How they should work - but probably won't

The blogosphere is a-buzz with the rumour that Facebook's 'SocialAds' will be announced at New York's ad:tech conference on November 6.

This is the long-awaited out-google-adsensing proposal that makes Facebook worth that multi-billion price tag - allegedly.

Interesting that google is fighting back with its new OpenSocial to kick Facebook where it hurts.

Between them, you have to hope that someone is about to crack the 'how to make money out of social networks' conundrum.

There are plenty of guesses about how SocialAds might play: This from TechCrunch...

"It will be how Facebook will actually start to make real money—both through ads on its own site and on other sites through a new ad network... (presumably with its ad partner and new investor Microsoft). SocialAds will be an attempt to be like Google’s AdSense, except that it will allow ads to be targeted to Facebook members’ individual interests and profile data rather than the text on a given Web page. This targeting will be done by placing cookies on Facebook members’ browsers when they visit the social site, so that they can be identified later when they visit other sites hosting SocialAds."

I hope there is more to it than that. Adsense isn't just contextual - it's real time too. At the time I'm interested in content (as revealed by the fact I'm viewing it right now) about X, I get served ads about X.

If, as a result of knowing from my social comms that I'm interested in X, the net effect is the same. And if I'm served that ad long after I've left the content that relates to X, isn't it just in-my-face spam when it hurls itself at me when I'm viewing content on other un-related sites?

I'm guessing Facebook have worked that much out.

So what are the possibilities?

Isn’t the truly imaginative solution to try to work out what advertising/marketing looks like in a networked world?

Talk of ad networks, targeting to personal interest and data, it’s all very web2.0, but is it addressing the fundamentals of change here?

We have a generation of collaborators, with a network to collaborate on (the internet) and an economic infrastructure which makes out-sourcing, the means to produce, cheap and easy to find and do. The perfect storm that wikinomics refers to is upon us.

We accept that this has and will continue to disrupt the way content is created. It’s why social networks of the Facebook variety have succeeded while old-style broadcast sites stare wide-eyed at their Reed’s-Law-driven exponential growth.

And it’s dawning that the same disruption is happening to the way in which products and services are created (co-created). It's graphically illustrated in the information industry by Linux, for example.

And yet the predicted response from the cutting edge is, more ads, pretty much like the old ones, but better targeted to the individual's social data.

Haven’t we missed a (the) point here?

If a community is involved in the co-creation of the products and services it has decided it needs to call into existence, this has two key impacts.
  1. It has the potential to be a perfect fit. The people who’ve been involved in the co-creation of the product or service that results will love it and 'buy' it (that which we create we embrace, as Alan Moore likes to say). They will also rave about it – marketing it to other like-minded people, attracting more with the same passion/purpose to join their niche global community of collaborators.
  2. Doesn’t co-creation of this kind imply a perfect fit between supply and demand? What's the need for traditional ads. The community does its own marketing - and it's powerfully peer-to-peer and with all the ramped-up trust that implies.
Is this the end of capitalism? We only create what we need. So who needs someone else making something I don't need and then trying to sell it to me. Skills get matched to product production on a global scale - cheaply and more efficiently than ever before.

And if it is the end of the mass industrial model full stop, must it also be the end of advertising?

As I wrote once before: "How do you sell a mass produced one-size-fits-all product to people who want their content disaggregated and delivered to them exactly where they want it, when they want it, and honed to the interests they self-select and/or navigate to/discover through trusted communities?
"One answer might be to tailor the advert to the segmented user group. Take a look at for a vision of this.
"It's a brave attempt to solve a difficult problem. But I'm not comfortable with it. I wasn't sure why before. Now I think I am - it doesn't address the fundamental miss-match here - that we're trying to sell the same mass produced product to different people by effectively pretending (spinning that) it's a different product.
"It ain't, it can't be and it won't be until you let the community of shared interest take a stake in the creative process. "

However, the problem is, there are still things we need which we can't ALL participate in the creation of.

I need medicine. But I'm not passionate about taking part in making it. How do I get my medicine? I could contribute something to the process I suppose (can you make it taste nice? can you change the colour, I thinkthere's a need for a non-stain version etc etc). But can I contribute something of real value to the process of production (co-creation) of every good and service and public utility I'll ever need? Time would seem to be a barrier, if nothing else.

It feels like common sense to say no. So I'll still need to offer something in exchange for my medicine. Cash/Capital works pretty well as the representation of this. So capitalism gets to roll on.

And for the matching of supply to demand in those cases, we'll still need some form of connecting agency (marketing of some form or another). So if we can get ads working in a much more engaged way - more like content we want, like and trust - through the use of powerful social data analytics - then it has to be better than the interruptive models we see struggling all around us. Perhaps get some recommendation and rating from members of communities involved.

We see some giant leaps toward this with Blyk. Perhaps we'll see a further taste of it with SocialAds.

But wouldn’t it be wild if SocialAds really do what the name suggests: they simply act as the way in which you are recruited to join co-creating communities through a system of brilliantly executed, real time, taste and recommendation engines.

Now that, I would stand up and applaud.

Communities Dominate Brands & The Obvious sign up for the Call Centre Customer Manifesto

More support for the Call Centre Customer Manifesto arrived today in the form of this post on Communities Dominate Brands.
Thanks to Tomi Ahonen and Alan Moore for that. This comes in the wake of backing from Christopher Carfi's Social Customer Manifesto.
And the facebook group in support of the cause "No More Call Centre Monkeys" starts today with 47 members. Let's see where it ends!

UPDATE: Just seen Euan Semple at TheObvious has joined in, too. Thanks Euan!

Details of the Manifesto: HERE

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Google's mobile platform stumbling into view

Reports are filtering through that google's mobile platform is looming. There's talk of announcements about plans for announcements, if you get my drift.
But mid 2008? Is google perhaps being a little less fleet of foot than one might expect for a company built on innovation?
At least the talk is of an open platform. And it's that which might let it catch up with those who are still bricklaying.
Still, I wish they'd make a phone though - just for the fun of it.

Never underestimate the future... or how hard it is to predict

Stumbled on this while scouting for images...
Claims to be how scientists at RAND in 1954 predicted home computers might look in the year 2004.
UPDATE: But it is (I'm informed in the comments below) a fake. Despite (pity!) I'll still leave the final question. See end of this post!

The text is a little hard to make out. It reads: "Scientists from RAND Corporation have created this model to illustrate how a "home computer" could look like in the year 2004. However the needed technology will not be economically feasible for the average home. Also the scientists readily admit that the computer will require not-yet invented technology to actually work. But 50 years from now scientific progress is expected t solve these problems. With teletype interface and the Fortran language, the computer will be easy to use."

Anyone fancy lashing up a model of the equivalent 50 years from now?

Social Customer Manifesto backs the Call Centre Customer Manifesto

Great to see that Christopher Carfi at the Social Customer Manifesto has given his support to the Call Centre Customer Manifesto we've launched on this blog and as a facebook group "No More Call Centre Monkeys"

The group is ticking along, 40-odd faces signed up. But we need more. The corporates like (hate?) big numbers. So please, if you're already a subscriber, share the word with anyone you think might want to help us make a difference.

If you blog, please post about it, too. If you hang out on consumer forums - likewise.

If I can read only 100 blogs, which should I read to be most up to date?

BTW, big Congrats to Chris for making the top 100 blogs you must read to be first with the news in the blogosphere. A great one-hit for your RSS reader!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Starting a fire on the village green

Citizen Dave and I met on Friday. I'm speaking at the Digital Identity Forum he organises on November 20-21. He recorded our conversation for a podcast which will be made available in December.

But in the mean time, he's brought some wisdom to the discussion about a replacement for the clumsy them-and-us implicit in the term User Generated Content.

In responding to this post, discussing a suggested new term 'indigenous content', he wrote: "I rather like "Indigenous Content" and will use it from now on. But is there a corollary: is the content produced by publishers, record labels and so on now "Imperialist Content" or perhaps "Colonialist Content"?

My concern was, that by giving the content that is provided by the community a different name from that produced by publishers, we were embedding walls which set us apart from that community, preventing us from being PART of that community.

Dave's "Imperialist Content" makes the point very forcefully. We have to end the master-and-servant relationship that content providers default to with their communities (more often, audiences).

On Friday we discussed a couple of metaphors I'd like to share.

Once content providers (effectively) delivered newsletters to a series of individuals living in a block of apartments. We delivered information, they consumed it. They didn't feedback. They couldn't talk to each other.

Now we are in the business of gathering people around a campfire on the village green. Bearing in mind the imperialist metaphor, we need to enlist the help of those villagers to make sure we place that bonfire in the right place and that it's of the kind they'll be attracted to. If they think we're an invading army setting up camp... don't expect them to join us any time soon.

If and when everyone gathers around that fire, the last thing we should do is stand up and hold forth with a monologue... The moment we default to that we have to kick ourselves. Shut up and sit down, let someone else have a go!

Our place is to provide the location and get the fire going. Then it is simply to sit down with everyone else and add fuel to that fire - just as they are all welcome to.

And we should make available some kindling, matches, and a place nearby, when some around the fire want to start their own.

It's important those around the fire enjoy it and get value from it - and feel they will want to keep it going. Because on our own, we're going to struggle to keep it fed. But together, we'll work out how to keep it going in tough times, organise ourselves to gather fuel for it and work out what we all want to use it for.

Should we cook with it? Cook what? How will we grow/catch the food? Should we build a shelter over it to keep the rain off? What is expected of those who want to feel its warmth?

Our fire is just the start. Letting those sitting around it shape how it grows and what it is used for - that's the rub(bing of two sticks...)

Safety Last: The network means common sense will eventually prevail

Try to do something too corporately, too completey, too centrally-controlled and you often end up creating the opposite effect. Perhaps this is because you are running contrary to common sense - the networked intelligence of us all.

Two examples occurred to me recently.

1) My daughter had been over-sucking her thumb. It ended up red raw and as she picked at it in the car on the way to nursery, it started bleeding, just a little. I asked at nursery if they'd put a plaster on for her. "Can't do that," I'm told. "In case of allergies". Health & (f**king) Safety madness. "Should I take her home instead then?"

Result: Open wounds, open to infection? Is this risk smaller than the allergy one?

2) Bonfire parties. November 5 is coming soon so that means fireworks in the UK. Years ago I recall almost everyone in the small town where I grew up trudging up to the 'Sand Hills' where the scouts would organise a firework display and bonfire. Roundtables, scouts, local rugby clubs etc etc organised events for years. But they seem to be dieing out. The reason - cost of meeting all the increasingly ludicrous health and safety rules - and the challenge of getting insurance. Result: a BOOM in home (completely unregulated, inexpert) displays. Every supermarket has racks of explosives pushed at customers as they come through the door.
All the rules were about reducing risk - but the result has been to wildly increase the risk.

Trust. We trust our nurseries to care for our children, with common sense. Externally applied rules prevent this.
We trust our community organisations to put on a good firework show, consider our safety, and provide a communal event. With common sense. Externally applied (centrally-derived) rules prevent this.

The network wants more and can deliver more. Common sense was once allowed to prevail. It is the natural state of humans. Now rules from the centre seek to over rule it.

The network will disrupt this. Common sense will re-establish itself as the edge-in model of distributed intelligence it always was. The centralised rule makers have to become part of the network or they will simply be replaced.

Legislators would do well to pay attention.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

How Fuzzy R U?

Just came across the following (from David Armano's blog Logic + Emotion, see links, left) which speaks just fine for itself.

It's about breaking down internal and external silos and being prepared to change. Find more of David's writing (and often brilliant illustrations) here.

The Fuzzy Tail

From: darmano, 3 months ago

The Fuzzy Tail is a play on Chris Anderson's Long Tail—but that's where the similarities end. Being "fuzzy" means unlearning the way we've always done things and moving away from rigidity toward adaptability. The first draft of this presentation will be presented to employees of Critical Mass, a digital experience consultancy based out of Calgary, Canada.

SlideShare Link

I'll be adding this to the resources section you'll find low down the left column of this blog.

UGC : does changing its name change our approach?

Stowe Boyd points us at Clay Shirkey's (see recommended blogs, left) thoughts on the need for a new term to replace User Generated Content in the minds of the media.

"Indigenous Content (which is to say “Created by the natives for themselves.”)

Instantly I quite like indigenous content. Or IC, as we'll be calling it by the end of the month... It's warmer, less master-and-servant.

But at the same time, is it just me, or does it still seem a bit, well, patronising?

Perhaps it's just my perspective - as someone who has been used to being at the centre, broadcasting out for a large part of my career. My natural (and obviously incorrect) fall-back position is to assume that I am not part of the native group doing the creating. If that's an issue for me, I suspect the mainstream media are going to be in at least a similar, if not worse, position.

Is what we call UGC important? Well yes, I think it is, for the reasons illustrated above.

The important thing is for media companies to understand is their relationship to both the natives and what the natives create.

If we label it as in some way different from that created by media companies (ie, simply 'content' or increasingly, and usually inaccurately 'expert' content) then we place a barrier between Us and Them.

Doesn't what we have learned about the power of the network and the dominance of communities insist that the barrier is torn down?

And to that end I'm going to stop calling UGC anything other than content.

Please, by all means question this approach, or suggest alternatives. It'll help us arrive at a more robust position.

Monday, October 22, 2007

The long tail and the death of the (passively consumed) hit

My blogging buddy BadgerGravling got me thinking about our 'hit' culture (and the long tail) and the argument that there will 'always be' hits. (read his post What the Long Tail is missing)

And I started feeling myself drawn to the idea while I watched two mass media events at the weekend - the Rugby World Cup final and the F1 in Brazil. Surely this kind of broadcast - of live events - could never be supplanted by the long tail?

I think Badger is right about the relationship changing. I want to hear the Radio 5 commentary, and then decide which camera angles I want to watch from etc etc. Theoretically (streaming mobile, anyone?) everyone witnessing can be part of the process of producing that live event. Many people will default to what's shown from the centre, but those many people will likely be those who aren't mashing up in the rest of their lives - for whom participating and co-creating is less natural. Time will change the % on either side - as generation-c takes charge.

As for the F1 - did I want all the interruptive TV ads, did I want the poor ITV analysis? No, I didn't have a choice. A communal experience served by people I have trust in (place authority in) would have served something better, for me.

Some things will always be popular. But the versions they are witnessed as will be myriad. The aggregation of these versions may approximate a 'hit' in the old broad model. But it won't be the same thing. There will be multiple community niched versions of how we witness the same single 'hit' event. Advertising should be devised to suit each of these differently witnessed versions - if it wants to overcome the crisis of interruption.

Badger describes the AND/OR world we are in. You can have 'hits' AND 'long tail'. And I agree. Right now that is clearly the case. But it won't always be. Prepare for the shift.

Reed's Law (referred to in my white papers) reveals that the economics of the long tail will always overtake those of the 'hit', given time.

The film example Badger refers to is good (ie I'll watch a clip on YouTube AND go and see the movie in a theatre). But I can imagine 'films' created in a far more co-creational/ participatory way. Take a step or two down the road. Wouldn't it be more fun to step into the film, take part, shape its outcomes with your friends?

is but a baby step towards that. Wait till we get jogging along. Then, is it possible you'll still want to sit back and watch someone else's centrally contrived movie?

The networked world is a participatory one. Passive consumption does not fit.

The call centre customer manifesto

I've just started a facebook group called: "No More Call Centre Monkeys!"

I urge you to join - and tell your friends. Maybe a bit of pressure will force the centralised management structures of these organisations to listen. Listening, incidentally, is exactly NOT what they are allowing their employees (those on the edge of their networks, those interfacing with their revenue streams, ie their customers) to do.

So, with apologies to Christopher Carfi at The Social Customer Manifesto (see recommended blogs, left)... here's my Call Centre Customer Manifesto. Feel free to add and adapt!

The Call Centre Customer Manifesto

  • I want to talk to someone who is listening to me - not reading a script from a computer screen.
  • I want to talk to someone with the power to do something about my problem.
  • I want to talk to someone who knows how to get round the moment when 'the computer says no'
  • I want to talk to someone for whom reason is allowed to mean something.
  • I don't want to input my account number on my phone - then have to tell three more people what it is during the same call.
  • I want a full response to my complaints.

When we call, we want to talk to a human empowered to actually do something about the thing we've called about: not someone reading off a screen.

We understand the drive for efficiency that call centres represent BUT we're fed up with your poorly-executed "customer relationship mechanisms" which present us - YOUR REVENUE STREAMS - with the shitty end of the stick.

We urge these companies to stop insulting the intelligence of both their customers AND their employees. Giving the poor saps on the end of the phone a script they must stick to effectively turns them into a computer. We don't want to talk to a computer.

We think it is grossly unfair on call centre staff - the very people charged with dealing direct with your customers - to leave them with no power to think or act for themselves. It leads to depression for them - frustration for the customer.

Senior managers - do something about it. Or start answering the phones yourselves.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Good and bad at spy games

Love this: GCHQ (Britain's spy HQ) are recruiting their next James Bonds through an in-game advertising campaign.

Not sure from the report whether you actually have to prove yourself to be a half-decent virtual spy before being offered details about a real world role you could fulfil.

That would make sense to me - show your mettle at problem solving, negotiation, participation (ie get a Hi Score) and then you get - as a pretty special reward - an invite to a spy recruitment day at GCHQ. Now that would be cool...

Open to the really big opportunity

Open wide and say..."let's grow!". Facebook opened its API and away it flew. Apple has just gone official with open api for the I-Phone - congratulations Steve. Now MySpace is giving itself the Facebook treatment.

Interesting that MySpace makes this decision just as Facebook moves right up its chuff (it's now no.7 on Alexa's global rankings to MySpace's No.6). YouTube (no4) has been doing it since early days, google and yahoo (no1 & 2) do to. You tell me if there's a single one of the top 15 sites that doesn't.

This is communal R&D of the nobody-is-as-clever-as-everybody variety, this is allowing your community to shape your platform, this is co-creation.

But most simply of all, this is how WE succeed in 2007.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

It's not what you've got, it's what you do with it

I helped run an interesting (I hope) seminar/workshop, yesterday, about the power of the network and the dominance of communities with people working on digital stuff.

And while the toolkit they had to work with faced certain restrictions, what was interesting to me was that if you give people permission to think differently, they come up with solutions that have real value for their communities - regardless of the technology available to them.

It isn't about the technology - it's about your view of the emerging socio-economic ecology and your place in it.

Alan Moore (Today life is always in beta) on Communities Dominate Brands talks about a project he's involved in - and a more extreme approach to development. In short hand: The best way of finding out what's wrong with your digital play is to get it built and see what the users think.

Traditional R&D is hung up on 'getting it right first time'.
There is a good reason why the traditional 'getting it right before we release' approach leaves the old guard flat-footed: It requires them to give up control - to release it from the centre to the edge.

You can't really learn where your connected community will want to take their community until you give them some basic tools to connect and share. Once the community is functioning then - and only then - does the R&D of the nobody-is-as-clever-as-everybody variety start.

I read some claptrap recently about how the best websites in the world have 'not been developed by committee'. The implication is that the strong leader, stick-to-my-guns approach makes for supreme winners.

The original kernel of an idea may well come from one person or from very small teams - but the execution as (exponentially growing) social phenomena has only been possible because of the engaged involvement of their participating communities. They have shared, marketed, developed, contributed to ALL the global digital successes.

To dismiss the huge role played by EVERYONE is, to my mind, tosh!
It's all about the Power of We - and unleashing it. See my white paper: The Power of the Network = The Power of We for more on that.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Next generation (C) of user generation... (Current TV to you and me) has hit the turbo button.

I could ramble on about all the cool new features and the wonderful community connections it creates, but you'd be better off (and way more entertained) by watching the video tutorial you'll find here.

I'm indebted to Richard Moynihan for giving me the heads up on this.

Richard said: "Current TV has relaunched its website now, converging its online presence with its TV channel. They've dropped the url and gone for an all-inclusive"

I did get invited to the beta trial earlier this month (was there any user who wasn't?!?) - but I've been on hols so missed all the fun!

Here's what had to say about the new stuff:

"Current's new website is a place for you to connect to people and topics that are important and interesting to you - and when you do, you'll influence a global TV network.
  • Explore cool stuff from the Web submitted by people like you
  • Add things of your own and share them with your friends
  • Watch and influence the full line-up of programming from Current TV
  • Join the conversation ... with your keyboard or your webcam!"
It really is an exceptionally fully-featured user-centric, community-driven news (information) service.

What it does is connect two human needs - validation (through the repuations, ratings and some good old-fashion broadcast fame via the 'global TV network) and community.

I have a view about news I often quote (see below). Take a look at and see how close you think they've got...

"News is:

1. Personalised, real time, community-created, shared information.
2. Best gathered at the point of inspiration (on that handy converged device - the mobile)
3. Best distributed to the point of need (and, taking advantage of the always on, always with you nature of that same converged device, that's best served by mobile, too).

This draws from the understanding that it is the community that best serves its own needs. An individual cannot get this from a disaggregated collection of digitised information. They can from a... community of shared interest. The community emerges as the dominant force.

From: The Power of the Network = The Power of We: Why Media is the New Business Ecology.

Lessons in education 2.0

I share this because I can. If you've got kids, you may decide you should, too.

Is education really so out of touch with the needs of the people it serves? It's hard for me to say with certainty. It feels like it is - but it's a long time since I was in the classroom!

Kids brought up as part of constantly connected communities, for whom interaction and mmprg are second nature, for whom participation and the need to shape, share and mash-up are ingrained... the church pews of education seem so wrong. The listen-while-I-speak model so out of date.

This is another thought-provoking video by Michael Wesch at Kansas State.

It's about much more than education, isn't it?

First spied on Confused of Calcutta.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Scott Karp on the new consolidation in media

Scott Karp at publishing2.0 has written a thought-provoking post that's worth your attention.

Read the whole thing in full here

Here's a taste:

"The new media consolidation includes:

  • Buying and selling links to influence search traffic — a practice Google is cracking down on to protect its own consolidation
  • “Citizen media” sites like the NowPublic, AssociatedContent, and the recently acquired Newsvine, which consolidate independent content creation activity
  • New York Times bringing the Freakonomics blog onto its domain and cranking out new blogs (over 40 now) in order to crank out more and more content at a fraction of the cost of its traditional print content operation
  • Vertical ad networks that comprise mostly niche sites you’ve never heard of but that get tons of traffic from search
  • Traffic networks — a larger strategy that encompasses ad networks, blog networks, affiliate networks (e.g. Glam, Reuters’ new Affiliate Network) — networks like CNN’s partnership with Internet Broadcasting’s local TV sites, which created the largest news “site” after Yahoo News

These represent one of two principal new media consolidation trends, i.e. the consolidation of content creation. The second trend is consolidating the power to decide WHICH content gets attention."

Music Industry: Making money because of content rather than with it

Radiohead offer their new album for however much you are willing to pay. Madonna ditches her record label to connect more directly with her audience.(more) The Charlatans offer their next release free to download.

Previously we've seen how the music industry has demonstrated that the price of content is collapsing more vividly than any other sector (Selling Content Sucks If That's All You Do). But perhaps it also demonstrates the new ways in which value is created - and content has a part to play in this.

Radiohead fans will pay what they think the content is worth - and then pay more for the limited edition box set version.

Prince fans scoop up their free CD on the front of the Daily Mail - and then pay a fortune for his concert tickets.
Madonna's new deal is with a concert promoter - not a record label.

The Charlatans see the wood for the trees.

All of these examples are about using content (the thing that in and of itself has little value because it is so freely and widely available) to promote the demand for the thing which is scarce (Radiohead's box set, Madonna and Prince's concert performances).

It's that Because Effect all over again (more here)

This from 'Confused of Calcutta' (see recommended blogs, left)

"When something that was originally scarce starts becoming abundant, something strange happens. You find that you start making money because of that thing rather than with that thing. That’s the Because Effect." Click here to read it in its original context.

Generation no-tech vs Generation C?

Is this a metaphor for how much further and faster our children are going and will go?
I won't identify the parties here, to save embarrassment, but it's all true.

I recently arranged to meet an elderly couple at a location they had been to once before. I hadn't but I had two things on my side: google maps on my mobile - and a decent sat nav system in my car.
We left together. I arrived on time, they arrived 40 mins later, distressed at having got lost.
When it was time to set off back (dark by now) I said they should just follow me. They declined, assuming they'd be fine.
I got home and half an hour later got a call from the mobile I had recently taught them to use. They were lost and very upset. From their descriptions I was able to find where they were on googlemaps (on my mobile) and dial that in to the sat-nav.
I found them in five minutes and they followed me home.

Two things occur:
1. The generation gap where technology is concerned (and I know I generalise and that very many older people are extremely clued-up, but they remain the exception) is restricting the opportunities for large numbers of (predominantly) elderly people. Designers of technology should be aware of this. Indeed, while the Japanese are developing easy-to-use mobiles for very young children, perhaps there is a market for easy-to-use mobile internet and very easy to use sat nav for non-tech-savvy people in general. Why is the internet so darned complicated for first timers (and old timers?)

While we continue to design for the bright kids in the class, we are losing touch with whole generations.
Losing connections with anyone diminishes the power of your network. How much wisdom is already lost to the www?

2. If you have the technical back up and expertise you are more willing to explore. But are we taking the risk out of exploration (perhaps the excitement too?). What is different about a world in which you can always find your way home. Is it all good?

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Mippin: Satisfying the long tail - extending the reach of the stumpy dog

Some time ago I asked for the moon on a stick.

Today I saw something which might not offer the entire lunar body, but I think it gets us into orbit. Mippin is in beta right now. Next week it'll be shown in public and go into public beta.

I was lucky enough to get a pre-preview preview, if you like - and VP, product management, Prashant Agarwal is happy for me to share. So go check it out for yourself.

It's the latest thing from Refresh Mobile - the former T-mobile management buy-out team which previously gave us Mobizines.

And it ticks a lot of the boxes from my moon-on-a-stick list.

As I said once before ...the fixed line net was initially grown by content providers of the mass industrial age, the mobile web will explode as a direct result of User Generated Content.
And because of the social nature of 2.0 I expect the growth to be exponential - and to dominate the way the mobile web develops in a faster and more pervasive way than we saw with the original fixed-line internet.
The long tail will wag the mobile internet dog more vigorously than it has the fixed line internet."

And I identified these drivers for the long tail to go truly exponential.

1. Really easy creation of mobile pages (on fixed line and on mobile)
2. Really easy ability to change the design to our tastes (and I'm thinking icons/desktop style as well as background colours and layout)
3. Ability to add and create rss feeds
4. Ability to add code snippets (ie YouTube video, google adsense)
5. Really easy share/ creator propogation (ie socially networked)
6. Enabled for social trade.
7. It has to be free to the site owner.
8. Option to offer as an application-based widget.

Mippin gets a long way along the route. It's really easy to create mobile pages (from rss feeds from your current content - your blog for example, or your website, if you are a publisher). So it also ticks number 3 on the list. FasterFuture is, of course, already available on it!

There are both sharing and rating functions (5) and community scoring edits the 'hits' you find on your portal home page.

Critically it integrates with ad services such as admob (or at least it will very soon) which allows the UGC creator to benefit from their efforts. The ability to monetise long-tail content was a huge driver for the explosion of the fixed web (eg google adsense, the most powerful widget yet!)

Mippin is free (that's no7) and there are plenty of widget plans (they've even got a bit of an in with facebook... watch that space).

This is Widsets on steroids. Where Widsets doesn't allow you to make cash from your rss feed in, the admob integration (Screen Tonic for bigger publishers if you prefer) means you benefit from your labouts.

And powerfully, while you have to download a client to your phone to make Widsets work, there's no need for this with Mippin.

How do they make their cash? Ads on the aggregated elements (users create their own portal of content they want to have fed to them, they get to rate it and share it too (though the share via sms function is too clunky at the moment - but it is early days).

There are no ads on the publisher's content - other than the ones the publisher selects AND which that publisher is earning cash from. This trumps the peperonity model, for example.
They take no revenue share from your arrangement with Admob, google adsense or whoever, either. They expect to make money from their introduction of your content to the likes of Admob. Which seems fine and reasonable to me.

In a nutshell, what Mippin does is allow individuals to create their own mobile portals of content they care about and rate and share that content.

Their marketing plan involves mobile ad campaigns of their own. It remains to be seen how effectively they can position themselves as your first-choice mobile portal.

The publisher (be it users creating their own mobile sites from their blog feeds etc, or publishers of bigger websites seeking to move into the mobile space) are simply extending their reach.

We shouldn't confuse Mippin with something which allows the creation of mobile-focused services fitting the 6Ms of mobile to perfection - as described by Tomi Ahonen (and those who attended Mobinar will be clear on these).

It also doesn't carry links from the original content, nor videos (though it does manage images from the rss feeds.)

What it does do is radically simplify the process of extending reach into mobile - and monetising it.

To publishers, I do not recommend Mippin as your long term mobile strategy - but it does seem an ideal quick fix to get you on the road and to use as part of your strategy. Create new mobile services alongside this - but perhaps use this to extend your reach and make a little revenue - free.

To those who are about to create the long tail - this is going to help a whole lot of shaking happen faster.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Video: Tomi Ahonen on Mobile as the 7th Mass Media and more...

As promised - and with thanks once again to's Angus Farquhar and Dan Thornton (for the recording and uploading of the videos) here is Tomi Ahonen speaking at Mobinar - an essentially internal emap event with invited guest contributors.

Tomi has very kindly agreed to allow us to share the videos with you all. A reminder - video was very much an afterthrought on this occasion, so we didn't mike-up. Sound ain't great, therefore - and my apologies for any difficulties that causes. Always best, on these occasions , to listen on headphones.

But Tomi is a great workshop and seminar performer, so I hope you'll enjoy these.

There are two presentations. The first is on Mobile as the 7th Mass Media - a concept you'll find expanded on at Tomi's blog Communities Dominate Brands. It's also the title of his next book.

The second is an excerpt (it might end a little oddly, the memory card filled up!) of his presentation on how the future is happening right now - inspired by his latest book Digital Korea (highly recommended - I'm reading it right now).

At the end you'll find links to my presentation on The Power of the Network, which preceded Tomi as the warm-up act for the day!



Licensed for life

As I wandered through my home I spied a stray cd copy of Julian Cope's Peggy Suicide - all alone on a kitchen shelf. I thought: "how many different formats must I own that body of work in?"
I bought it originally as a cassette because that best suited my car-borne life at that time. Later as a CD, later still as a download.
It's easy to assume that now I own it digitally I can do with it as I wish, that I could store it in some vast secure portal somewhere and repurpose as I wish ad infinitum.
Trouble is there are already higher spec digital versions available. And you just know that the quality will only improve - and rapidly.
So how many formats of a body of work are you meant to own in a lifetime? Perhaps this nagging concern - at least for anyone old enough to have a loft full of vinyl - holds us back from buying music and dvds like we once did.
Isn't it time we were able to buy a licence for access to whichever format we want, whenever it emerges, to do with as we wish? That, I might pay for.

Carnival of the Mobilists

Honoured to find one of the FasterFuture posts has been selected for this month's Carnival of the Mobilists - a kind of round up of the best of blogging on the subject.
Visit this month's carnival HERE.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

It's all about connections and connectedness...

As Euan Semple says at the very start of the video you'll find below, it is all about connections and connectedness.
It is my good fortune to know both Alan Moore (Communities Dominate Brands) and Euan Semple (The Obvious). Both blogs are listed in my recommended list, left.
But Alan and Euan hadn't met.
The video here is of a brief part of the conversation that happened when they met for the first time when I introduced them at the British Library this week. I was thrilled to be the connection in this case.
Their conversation ranges from the power of the network, through blogs and blogging, why they blog and what they get from it, through politics, education, engagement marketing, the loss of control (if the centre ever thought it had any anyway...) identity and trust.
It's worth 10 minutes of your time - if you're interested in how the network is disrupting where-ever it touches.
There's even a cameo appearance by yours truly... when Euan takes charge of the camera (sorry, converged device, it's a Nokia N73).
So here is a bit of content, created at the point of inspiration (ie we started talking, I thought, let's record it) which scores high on relevance for this blog and my aims in sharing the Power of the Network message. But it ain't quite BBC TV quality.
Your comments, as always, are actively sought.

By the way, those still waiting for the Tomi Ahonen presentations from my Mobinar last week - we haven't forgotten - aiming to get the first ready to share tomorrow.

Monday, October 01, 2007

BT: Another example of companies from Mars, customers from Venus.

When will they learn? When we we learn?
I've just had the joy of a bill from BT (who provide my phone and broadband access at home).
It's another cracking example of the dehumanising of customer relationships that's going on at large 'scale efficencies' companies. Perhaps they are being infected by the logic of customer relationship mechanisms. Perhaps they have to think less digitally about this (by which I mean on-off) more organically (allowing choices to develop).
Here's the issue this time:
BT sends me a bill. The front page says I have a credit balance of £250 (approx). It also says that I need take no action.
I pay my bill by direct debit.
The next page shows the same £250 amount as a minus figure. Confused? Yep, me too.
And those of you who have read previous posts about the confusion companies seem to revel in creating in their customers (Dehumanising customer relationships, Sprint Nextel, and When is a Free Download not a Free Download) will know I'm not a big fan.
So I rang up. I felt the customer did need to take some action. Lucky I did.
My question was a simple one: "Please can you tell me what 'credit balance' means".
This simple question, rephrased also, for absolute clarity to: "does it mean I owe you money or that you owe me money?" was evaded a total of seven times until I asked if the person I was speaking to couldn't answer it perhaps they could pass me to someone who could?
Answers every time included a by-rote explanation of how the billing system works. That's what I mean by the digital approach.
In other words I ask a question which includes certain terms 'credit, balance' and the computer at the other end - pardon me - the human being at the other end - starts to reel off the customer script.
Turns out (after some persistance on my part) that BT owe me £250, that I am paying twice as much a month as a I should be, and that the amount they owe me is rising by the day.
I suggested that perhaps this was cause for the customer to take some action. Actually - if your customer is out of pocket to the tune of £250 and you are rifling through his pockets to get even more of his cash that you don't need on a daily basis, you might think it incumbant on the company to take some action.
'The customer relationship mechanism' clearly isn't up to dealing with customers. What it is very good at piling extra cash, that isn't BTs, into its coffers.
Not good.
I noted that the call was recorded. I thanked the person who dealt with me and asked that BT do two things (I should say, they had already by this stage agreed to refund my overpayment immediately and to cut my monthly direct debit in half... maybe I should have asked for an interest payment?)

1. State on your bills YOU OWE US "£x" or "WE OWE YOU "£X".
2. Don't tell someone you owe money - and will owe even more on a daily basis if no action is taken, that no action is required. To continue with this policy is at best a dereliction of duty.

Big business is headed in the wrong direction. As I've said before, just as their customers are finding their power at the edge, want to control from the edge, companies are centralising theirs. They are going to the centre, we are going to the edge.

Where the customer is in contact with your company you must allow them to have conversations with empowered people - not people whose only response is one governed by answering questions by rote - dictated by a CRM.

When they do this they don't listen. When they don't listen a conversation is very hard. Every market is a conversation.

There are enough clues there for BT. I'll send you my bill - see if you can work out what it means.

(The title for this post is taken from the chapter in Communities Dominate Brands, see recommended blogs, left).

The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?