Friday, September 28, 2007

Mobinar: Power of the Network (in your pocket) Video 1

As promised - and with huge thanks to the efforts of Dan Thornton (for filming) and Angus Farquhar (for putting it somewhere we can all share online) of motorcyclenews.com (hence the logo!).
This is part 1, the intro to the Mobinar day and my presentation on the Power of the Network - and our requirement to embrace it.

Now, before you click the go button - a warning. The quality ain't great. You will probably need headphones on and to turn up the volume to hear it properly. Video was something of an afterthought for the day - next time we'll give the miking up a bit more attention. But, as I'm increasingly fond of saying - relevance trumps quality every time.

And the content of this - and the video presentations that will follow - will be extremely relevant to you if you're interested in understanding how the world has changed and the role of media in it.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Burma: A problem shared is a problem defeated

My good friend Alan Moore has posted about the UGC that's opening the world's eyes to what's going on in Burma. Go and check it out, it's powerful stuff.
I've often raised the question of whether or not Tianenman Square could happen again in today's world of constantly connected communities. Like the Phillipines protests referred to in Smart Mobs (where the people organised against the government via viral text messaging), now it's possible to disrupt the usual media controls that the centre would otherwise impose. Now the media (the power to move minds) is in everyone's hands - Literally with a mobile phone.
So, as the Burmese people shoot video of what's happening - and share it with each other and the world - does this bring true power to the people?
Knowledge is power - information shared is power growing exponentially. Surely Stowe Boyd's Edglings, Alan Moore's We Species, has to win in a battle with the centre, given the tools available?
The Burmese are sharing their problem with the world. But, like all communities of purpose, if we aren't prepared to respond, in real time, then all their sharing is for nothing.

Share the problem. Defeat it.

SceneCaster.com: The moment virtual world's go mainstream?

The virtual world is coming to a facebook page or a blog near you (and as soon as they find a place for me on the beta public test I'll demo it!).

There's a real buzz growing up around SceneCaster.com. I'll resist the urge to add it to my 'one's to watch' until I've actually had a play.

But non-stop-digital-news blogger Robert Scoble is raving - and it does seem to open up some interesting new possibilities.

I have to say I do like the disaggregated, user-distribution model they're using (like youtube's widgets). So SceneCaster should 'play' on this or any other webpage, provided you can paste in a code snippet.

This alone may prove to be the virtual world's mass-market trigger point - in the same way as the I-Phone presses the go button on mobile internet. Virtual worlds go viral.

Imagine a real-time auction for the item you are selling. This may have powerful, and rapidly enabling consequences for the new forms of classified advertising I've been imagining (ie virtual showrooms - now everyone could show off their vehicle for sale and pitch buyers head to head: eBay meets SecondLife...)

It has implications for global niche communities, too. In SecondLife there are limits to the numbers of people (80) who can meet in one place. So replicating a full crowd experience is tough. Now we can have a proper virtual conference.

And I love the possibilities of that when it comes to getting a niche community of shared interest together - 'physically' on a global scale. It really writes large that synchronous communication element that's so important in the most powerful communities of shared purpose.

It should be easier to give directions in Scenecaster because you can link to a location as a separate url. That's been a problem for SecondLife. It's a bonus for those who will use it to promote anything. There's a big marketing play here.

It may not have the complete immersion of SecondLife, but it looks like the advantages (and Robert lists more on his blog) could trump this - particularly for those who prefer to 'live' in the real and virtual space.

UPDATE: Sep 27, 1.30pm:
Having had a play I've found there were more limitations than I initially believed. I can access, update and share my scenes but only (currently) within SceneCaster or Facebook. Not on my blog etc. All I can share on my blog is an image of it. Now that may not be all bad. Combined with the url for the room, it should suffice as an invite to people to come on it... I think.
Come and check out the FasterFuture lounge here.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Emap's Mobinar: The Power of the Network in Your Pocket

Yesterday, I was honoured to host emap's Mobinar: The Power of the Network in Your Pocket .
We had a fantastic line up of speakers: global consultant and high-tech author Tomi Ahonen, Dave Springall (Yospace) and Mike Burgess from emap, Jonathan Macdonald from Blyk (on the day after Blyk launched) and myself on the whole network thing!
And contributing throughout the day we had Jon Williams from bmbagency.com

Everyone attending came because they wanted to. We were a self-formed community of interest - and boy did it show.

The afternoon workshop sessions were amazing. Perhaps they were driven by the commitment that one of these ideas would happen. As people created ideas, they took responsibility for them - we found champions who will help bring them life outside of the Mobinar.

Tomi is a whirlwind of an inspirational speaker and workshop leader. I heard only positive - and I mean really positive - reports about him from the small group attending.

Jonathan blew our minds with the fabulous engagement model that Blyk represents - leaving his audience in shock and awe.

I think I learned three things for a successful event of this kind:

1. Get people to attend who WANT to attend (ie, are not directed to attend)
2. Commit to a really solid output: If it's about ideas - commit to making one a reality.
3. Commit to a follow up. And mean it.

It goes without saying of course, get the right speakers on the right subject. Frankly I don't think I could have found better speakers if I'd scoured the planet with a budget of millions. A huge thank you to you all.

Now, this will all seem a bit esoteric if you weren't in the small group who attended (which was primarily emap people, but we made those silo walls a little permeable by inviting in 'outsiders').

The slides the event generated will be circulated to those who attended - and to those who indicated they had planned to but were let down by last minute circumstance. Can't share that with everyone here, for some pretty obvious IP reasons.

However, Tomi has been kind enough to say he's happy for me to share a video of his morning sessions so expect to find them on this blog soon, along with my own morning presentation.

Finally a giant thank you to every single person who attended. You were awesome.

Two posts you should check out for more. Tomi saw the 'guts' of Blyk for the first time at Mobinar, this is his blog response.

And this is his kind comments about the event.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Choose 'hard to do'

A lesson learned from recent networking:

Choose 'hard to do'.
If you're brainstorming, the choice of what to follow up is often driven by the 'low-hanging fruit' philosophy.

The 'hard to do' rarely gets selected for follow up... in ordinary organisations.

Guess what? That's being repeated in most companies. The handful that understand 'hard to do' is where they should aim get calm blue seas to claim for their own.

FasterFuture a year on... and here comes Blyk

Saturday marked the first anniversary of this blog. It's been an extraordinary journey and, in many ways, I feel it's only just beginning.

The biggest lesson I've learned is the huge emerging value networks of shared interest create.
I'll be speaking about that at the 'Mobinar' I'm hosting for emap people (and invited 'outsiders') tomorrow.

The event is part inspiration/part perspiration, in that I've got some great speakers (Tomi Ahonen and Jonathan Macdonald) to get the ideas flowing - and a workshop to help forge the ideas into something we could get excited about. If you're coming - I'm looking forward to seeing you. If you aren't, I'll post more about it later in the week.(There are plans for video, too).

Talking of Jonathan Macdonald (he's from Blyk), Blyk launches 'to the press' today. Best of luck to them - it's a hugely disruptive mobile model that just might take the world's breath away. Hold yours.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Inspired by Inspirathon

I was at emap's inspirathon yesterday, performing the role of network and communities 'champion'.
The plan was those who had submitted their ideas for consideration were invited to a venue in Mayfair to get a bit of help in a very creative atmosphere and hone their thoughts into something the company could act on - and support. And a budget is already in place to support that.
The concept was that we would come away with one winner (and the person who comes up with that winner bags £5K).
But the great thing was while we did find one winner (who did indeed bag that £5K), we also found some eye-opening thinking about markets which get too little consideration.
I'm going to be asking those attending the Mobinar I'm hosting next week to do a little more thinking in some of those niches.
There were examples of some great thinking with almost all of the ideas driven by serving communities of passion - putting communities first.
It wasn't all roses, of course. But there were some really encouraging green shoots. The seeds are being nurtured.
It's an exciting time to be in media - and particularly exciting when you're surrounded by creative people excited about what they are doing, too. It's how every day should be.
I'm going to do some thinking about how we might achieve a little of that. If you have thoughts on this, please share.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

My new role at emap

Regulars may be interested to know I have a new role. It's still at media company emap.
Here's how it's being communicated by Group Managing Director Ian Templeton:

"I have asked David Cushman to take on a challenge to help us accelerate our adoption of new technologies, capture the knowledge that exists within (and outside) Emap Peterborough and to act as a provoker of ideas as to how we grow our business.

"David is appointed Digital Development Director – a new role aimed at engaging ‘the network’ internally and externally. He will work to promote and enhance the revenue and idea-generating power created when our thoughts are shared.

"This means he will work with digital communities and face-to-face gatherings to inspire more product launches, reinventions and acquisitions, and use his role as a thought leader in community, media and mobile to bring us future business intelligence.

"David will report to me.

"David said: “I appreciate that this role doesn’t fit our usual expectations. If you’d like to know more about what we have in mind come and talk to me, drop me an email or read and comment on my blog.

"A mobile seminar, to kick it all off, will be held later this month..."

There's a link to my full job description listed towards the bottom of this page.


Mobile internet: A new media - no wonder Google gets it wrong

I was lucky enough to stumble on Informa's mobile web2.0 conference at Lord's in London yesterday. I'm indebted to Ajit Jaoker (for the invite) and the good people at Informa for letting me gate-crash.

I caught the last few presentations and final panel of the day (the event continues today). As a result I'll recommend you check out mystrands.com which was presented by Atakan Cetinsoy as an exceptionally well thought-out mobile community play. And I was delighted to catch up with Ajit and Tomi Ahonen, talk with Ken Blakeslee and at least say hi to Jouko Ahvenainen.

But the bit that stayed with me was Russell Buckley's (admob and Mobhappy) scathing analysis of the launch of Google Adsense for mobile.

He pointed out adsense will start appearing on mobilised sites whether the site the ad links to has been designed for mobile or not.

In other words click the adsense link and you could get a very poor experience. That's bad enough for the user. Imagine being the poor sap who is paying per click?

It's astounding really that even Google can't get this right. But as is often pointed out, there's hardly a brand from the old media forms that has successfully transferred to the internet.
So why should we expect the 'experts' on the internet to be able to move smoothly to being the experts on mobile?

How many are really making the effort to understand the vital differences between Tomi Ahonen and Alan Moore's 6th and 7th mass medias (internet being the sixth, mobile the seventh)?

As Russell points out people might get excited by 450,000 people accessing MySpace from their mobiles but the leaders in the mobile social space are NEW and MADE FOR MOBILE - such as peperonity. They have way more page impressions than the old guard (amusing to think of MySpace as the old guard...).

Russell should know - Admob is currently serving mobile ads at the rate of 1.7bn a month and gathering more data about what the mobile internet accessing public are doing than almost anyone else along the way.

In the evening I was Admob's guest (and many thanks to Ivanka for that) at the Mobile Entertainment Awards - where Admob deservedly picked up the award for Best Marketing and Advertising Provider. Interesting - at this Nokia-sponsored event - to see Admob getting the nod over Enpocket (Nokia's latest squeeze).

A Google rep (picking up some search-related award, obviously) said there was much more from them to come in the mobile space. On the evidence of the adsense effort so far, there had better be.

Monday, September 17, 2007

The ad battle moves to mobile - but maybe they are drawing the wrong lines?

One of the most critical business battles of the early 21st century is raging - for dominance of the mobile advertising market.

Google has lit the blue-touch paper on adwords for mobile and just days later Nokia announces it is buying Enpocket


Nokia says: "Enpocket is a global leader in mobile advertising; providing technology and services that allow brands to plan, create, execute, measure and optimize mobile advertising campaigns around the world.


"By acquiring Enpocket, Nokia will accelerate the scaling of its mobile advertising business, leveraging Enpocket's platform and strong partnerships with advertisers, publishers and operators. In addition to key assets, through this transaction Nokia is gaining a team with strong expertise in global mobile advertising across disciplines."


Big guns - and all blazing.


Looks like the big fish are starting to snap up the clever ones.

Wonder what it all means for Admob?


I also wonder how strategic these decisions are - and how tactical.

For me, the forms of mobile advertising we've seen so far are of the kind Tomi Ahonen would characterise as 6th mass media plays on the 7th mass media. That is the kind of ad styles/inventories are pretty much like internet ones, squeezed on to mobile internet - with less cookie-driven relevance. (see Mobile as the 7th Mass Media, top of page). Which take advantage of what makes mobile different?

No one has gone (alan moore's) engagement marketing route, though I suspect Blyk will get closest of all when it launches before the end of this month.

Expect a lot of eyes pointing in Blyk's direction. And a lot of people wishing they were under 24...

When the vanguard becomes the frontline (the network comes with them)

There were some brilliant minds in London and all at the same time last week.

Ajit Jaoker organised a dinner for ForumOxford members to hook up with Howard Rheingold.
Stowe Boyd, JP Rangaswami, Euan Semple and Doc Searls all got together in various combinations.

If you don't know who these people are - or about their work - it's time you got yourself up to speed. Really. Not next week. Today.

I'm not listing all this for the sake of name-dropping.

The point is these people have been at the vanguard of thought about the seismic changes we are all undergoing - in social, economic, political and business fields.

They have represented the bleeding edge. And as Alan Moore likes to warn, people with a message from the future don't often get a warm welcome from the status quo. "Pioneers often get shot," as he puts it.

But I get the feeling the bleeding edge, the pioneers, are increasingly becoming the frontline.
They aren't out on their own anymore. The status quo is finally learning to embrace them and what they represent.

These guys all do work with bluechip companies. The bluechips aren't shooting them any more.

And if your organisation still thinks their thinking is all a bit "out there", it's time for a serious reappraisal of what you consider the norms.

I met Stowe a fortnight back. I met Euan last week. I hope I'll catch up with the others in person soon. I'm aiming to introduce Alan to Euan very soon. The connections have all come through blogging first. We are an example of a self-forming community of interest in action.

This community understands the power of the network. It lives by it.

I'm reading Systems Thinking (Creative Holism for Managers) by Michael C Jackson at the moment. It's a hard slog. But here's a gem that's kept me going:

  • "Everyone can talk to everyone and should"
  • "Everyone is responsible"
  • "Network extensively"
I'll just corrupt that last one, if I may (sprinkle in a bit of co-creation...)
  • Network extensively - with purpose

Thursday, September 13, 2007

New connections; New resources... new lessons?

We are indebted to Jill Simon for the latest addition to 'Resources' (see left hand nav).

She pointed us to The Communication Group's Social Networking Intro for Business in response to my call for help on "What makes for great communities?"

It's a straightforward easy-to-read pdf doc any of us might use to educate and inform and share within our businesses? It's on the resources list now - so open for all.

Jill is the brains and passion behind start-up fashionpublic.com

We came to each other through the shared connection of Stowe Boyd. (And, by the way - many thanks to Stowe for his kind comments on and reference to my paper 'Don't Just Witness The Network: Be Part of It'... I am truly humbled.)

But, back to Jill. She's creating quite a buzz around fashionpublic. She has to. She's trying to raise the capital it needs to become a reality.

She, perhaps, understands that the buzz is part of the creation of the value?

But often when large companies build for launch they do exactly the opposite. We close the doors. We keep secrets. We hide what we are doing from the people we think we are doing it for.

Can that be right?

Social networking is wasting whose time exactly?

The BBC reports that 'Facebook costs businesses dear'

According to some number crunchers somewhere (see the Beeb article for the full credits) 233 million hours are lost each month to employees 'wasting time' on social networking. £130m a day, apparently.

And you'll recall the cases of companies who even go so far as banning google (Bosses Who Ban: Out of Touch and now Out of Control).

Some argue that facebook will stop being regarded as a waste of time when the business applications get developed for it. JP Rangaswami on Confused of Calcutta has some wise words on the issue.

I'd argue anything that facilitates self-forming communities of interest (and facebook is surely one) can be conceived of a business app itself. Sure, if all you do is gabble and play solo games, it's a waste of time. But if you are connecting with a purpose...

So where is the story about how much value is created by people being part of social networks during their working day? Which set of number crunchers have added up those figures?

All depends on your terms of reference of course. Relationships made via social networking may have a business benefit to the company. That relationship will continue outside of working hours. The constantly connected communities of today continue those relationships on mobile, on their home pcs etc etc.

So where is the line between working time and personal time for these people? Are they putting in a bill to the company each week when they connect outside of the 9-5, when they even think about work outside of business hours?

My guess is that if they really go through the balance sheet with a fine-tooth comb they'll start demanding their employees do MORE on the network.

I'll give you one example. Through blogging, and connecting with other bloggers, I've become a facebook friend of Stowe Boyd. Stowe is based on San Francisco. Face-to-face meetings in Cambridgeshire UK are therefore pretty unlikely.

However I saw on a Stowe's facebook status update that he was in London. So we exchanged messages and ended up meeting for dinner.

This meeting was arranged and held in our own 'personal' time. It will result in a range of value - introductions to new people and new ideas, which I will find of huge value to new projects and who knows what else. Hope Stowe got something too.

The point is, if I regarded social networking as a waste of time, none of this value would be created. None of the introductions would be made, none of the new ideas would emerge.

I particularly like Stowe's notion that there's no such thing as your 'own' time any more. I think companies may have to reconsider what they consider 'their' time, too.

As referred to in previous posts and in my paper: Reed's Law and how multiple identities make the long tail just a little longer Stowe says: "Productivity is second to Connection: network productivity trumps personal productivity. I am made greater by the sum of my connections. So are my connections."


If there's one thing that illustrates how screwed up most companies are...

It seems to be an accepted fact of business life that when a new CEO gets appointed, heads always roll.
If there is one proof of how silo'd hierarchical companies create painfully counter-productive internal competition, perhaps that is it.
After all, if heads start rolling, it's usually an indication of either the new CEO seeing his exceptionally bright co-workers as threats or obstacles, or that the structure he's inheriting is fundamentally flawed.
In the first case - surely that's kind of dumb? In the second... should it really need a new CEO to sort?
And before anyone asks, no, I have no idea who/when/if a new emap CEO will be appointed. This thought was prompted by 'the outside'.
My walls are permeable!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Don't just witness the network. Be part of it

This article is not necessarily intended for regular readers of this blog. You guys get it.

This is intended as a primer for those new to the network - those who still need convincing. Forward it to your boss or anyone else you think it might help.

It's aimed at those working in traditional media companies. But you are welcome to use it as you will. Crib bits, share bits. Attribute where it's fair.

And if you create something better as a result - great. Do us all a favour and share it!

A version you can download is available here.



There’s a powerful explosion looming. It could wipe out everything we know.

Some of us see it coming. If only we could warn someone.

Sound familiar?

Sometimes I feel a little like the Japanese fellow from Heroes. Only, not as cute, obviously.

Hiro can bend time and space. I can’t claim that.

But he’s seen the future, he’s seen a threat and he’s doing his best to warn those who can make a difference. But he’s speaking a language few of them understand.

Now that is familiar.

Today, I hope to teach a little Japanese, so to speak…

In Heroes there’s a moment of super-evolution kicking-in.

Perhaps art is imitating life? There’s little doubt in my mind that the changes in media and in business in general happening right now are not evolutionary – they are revolutionary.

But revolution is how evolution has always happened.

Need an image? Think of the fosbury flop. Once, every high jumper tried to leap a little higher over the bar by honing their scissor kick. And everyone knew what they were doing. They knew how to do a scissor kick. They just had to work a little better and harder to make incremental improvements.

That’s often what we demand of our business planning. It’s what ‘The City’ likes. It’s what The City ‘gets’. Incremental improvement. Get a little better, a little faster… a little higher.

But the breakthroughs – the great leaps forward – come when someone works out how to alter what they are doing. And the rest of us wonder what the hell that high jumper is up to as he turns his back to the high jump bar and starts to leap… backwards… and higher than ever before.

We’re witnessing a world in which self-forming, non-directed, communities of shared interest (and purpose) are winning. We are witnessing a world of edge-in rather than centre-out control. We are witnessing the death of mass media and the emergence of global niches.

We should be more than witnesses. Because all this adds up to the biggest change since the industrial revolution – and not only for media. It’s also the most radical of shake-ups for how services will be developed and served, how products are created, how value is built – how the business of business is done.

And in pure information-control terms, it’s the biggest shift in 500 years. Information – not money - is what makes this world go round.

But the good news is that you don’t have to be first to win. The good news is that it’s not the fittest that survive – but the most adaptable.

Provided we are willing to learn, to adapt, we can do more than survive. We can go from strength to strength.

What characterizes the new world we see emerging?

It is inhabited by what Alan Moore refers to as the We Species, what Stowe Boyd calls the Edglings. These people are nodes on the network. They are constantly connected to groups of their choosing and creation. They expect to co-create, rate, share, shape, design, engage - participate.

In this world there’s no need for mass media. Mass media is about the lowest common denominator – pleasing as many people as possible for as much of the time as possible.

But the possibilities are now much greater. Now there are tools available which allow anyone to please themselves – and their self-selecting groups of shared interest - all of the time.

Mass Media was always about offering you a load of content you didn’t want (literally in the case of magazines) stapled to content you did.

Where digital content applies, now the user can choose exactly the content they want, and only the content they want.

This disaggregation leads to one-to-one relationships between relevant content and relevant selling opportunity. Advertising is no longer about reaching the maximum number of any-old eyeballs. Now it is about reaching the optimum number of the exact right eyeballs. And if there’s no need for a mass audience for advertising eyeballs, what role is left for mass media?

Interruptive ads on TV aren’t working, we’ve stopped looking at the banner ads on websites and we tune away the moment an ad appears on radio - if we are still putting up with our listening choices being made centrally for us!

Now we are seeing that it’s more important to be famous for 15 people, than for 15 minutes.

This world is awash with content – slashing its value in and of itself. Its value does not reside in broadcasting it to the masses – its value is revealed only by the long tail.

Quality rules are changed. Relevance trumps ‘quality’ if that quality is judged by someone essentially irrelevant to you.

What does the We Species want? To engage with self-forming communities of (global) niche shared interest (purpose).

It wants Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, Bebo, Twitter, txt… social networks are the fastest growing business opportunities on the planet.

Most of the world’s top 15 sites are engaged networks of sharing. None are broadcast, centre-out models. And it’s been this way for more than the last five minutes…

We Species is a communal, social, animal. We Species is a participator.

We always have been. Now we have the tools to roll back the oddity of the last 50-or-so years of being ‘entertained’ in silence – of being broadcast at.

Audiences (that which we were) consume content.

Communities (that which was formerly known as the audience) co-create, comment on, rate, review, engineer, design, market, share, buy, sell, create value (YouTube, Blogs, eBay, MyNuMo)… are in charge.

How do we engage with this networked world, with the communities we wish to be part of rather than the audiences we want to broadcast to? How do we find our place?

Perhaps the new role for media is to be the creators/facilitators of platforms for self-forming communities of shared interest.

Focused on their interests, we should provide tools to allow co-creation and aggregation of content, products and services.

We see communities working together to create content right now. And we’re seeing the emergence of communities creating services and products, too.

And I believe (see Why Media is the New Business Ecology, below) this puts media in the very best position of all business types as the 21st century finds second gear.

In the networked world community – not OUR content – is king.

The network creates, responds, controls… creates value.

There are new rules:

1. Serve the community first

2. Niche global NOT mass.

3. Two-way flows – NOT broadcast

4. Networks NOT Silos

5. Power of the node over power vested in hierarchies

6. Adhoc, self-forming communities over directed teams.

7. Persistent conversation trumps ‘capturing’ ID.

8. Real-time, niche-community-focused, user-generated information over News

9. We should all act as shared contributors to and users of common pool resources.

10. We should learn to cherish Group Forming Network Theory (Reed’s law).

Great things happen when you engage with the network. Value emerges in rarely-predicted ways…

Blogs are a great example.

Some regard them as the best illustration of all of this giant leap we are undertaking.

They represent the greatest shift in the control of information since Gutenburg rocked up with his movable type.

Until that point information was centralised and restricted. The Church published The Book. You were lucky if you could even read it, let alone own a copy.

With the arrival of the printing press books could be produced cheaply and distribution became much less controlled – much less centralised.

The result was an explosion in new thinking generated by new routes for the exchange of information. Mash-ups for the masses.

Now blogs have arrived, lowering the technical barrier so that anyone can publish their thoughts, their views, their ‘information’, on the internet.

Doc Searls says: “I can’t think of anything that demonstrates the sovereign nature of the self better than a blog.”

And if blogs were just like books – this would be a radical transformation in information control and in self expression, too.

But they are more than this – much more.

Blogs offer two-way flows of information between the author and the readers who respond.

They create trust through recommendation and reputation.

They enable decentralised, self-forming communities of interest.

They have zero hierarchy or silo restrictions.

Bloggers share connections with one another. They come together through the interest they share. They form networks – communities with a common purpose. They introduce each other to things they didn’t know they needed to know – and to people they didn’t know they needed to know – and all the things that these new participants in their community of interest know.

The mash-ups and mergers of ideas that result create new emerging value.

They are much, much, more than electronic never-ending books.

And they work to create real value. Conferences get organised, products and services get invented and marketed, new ideas emerge. Job offers happen.

Opening up your network – which successful blog networks do – will help you understand and it will help you win.

Goldcorp in Canada shared its mining data with the internet – and turned itself from a $100m company to a $10bn one. Nokia’s ‘connecting people’ mantra transformed it from a cellphone maker to a major media powerhouse. Facebook students bagged themselves £144 a year in profit just by joining a group to protest against proposed overdraft charges. Regarding itself as a series of widgets anyone could distribute made youtube the phenomenon of web2.0.

How do you personally get to grips with this world?

The best way of learning usually involves a bit of doing. I’m going to advocate the same.

Mostly because, as Alan Moore is fond of saying,: “That which we create, we embrace.”

So, be a node. Don’t just witness the network in action. Be part of it. Leave an impression on it. Add a little of yourself. Participate.

If you’re doing nothing on the network right now, start. Just touch the network maybe three times a week: write a post on a forum, add a comment on a blog. Write a blog post yourself? Rate someone’s review. Play with facebook. Suck it and see!

And please don’t say you don’t have time. Getting a fundamental understanding of how the network functions is critical for you to take your value-sharing place on it. It’s critical for your future and for your own and your network’s productivity.

Stowe Boyd asks us to think of attention (ie demand on our time) as being more about flow than focus.

  • Don't listen to industrial era or information era (the last stage of industrial-ism) nonsense about personal productivity...
  • The network is mostly connections. The connections matter, give it value, not the nodes.
  • Time is a shared space -- your time is truly not your own
  • Productivity is second to Connection: network productivity trumps personal productivity.

This belief in the power of the network and his willingness to subsume personal focus to it is based on the simple notion that:

I am made greater by the sum of my connections. So are my connections.

At a corporate level, it’s my belief that we need to activate the network internally: Allow adhoc, non-directed, self-forming communities of shared interest.

I believe we have to figure out the tools to bring people of shared interest/passions together within business organisations to create ideas they will embrace. These will result in teams of people that no one has directed to get together – working on projects that no ‘boss’ has ordered the construction of. These will be a better fit with the needs of the residents of the networked world.

We must learn to make our internal silo walls permeable – and those around the organisation itself.

If Nokia is comfortable inviting emap, Disney, Yahoo et al to talk mobile advertising with it – why isn’t your organisation opening its doors?

Shared ideas create emerging value for all those taking part. This is the lesson of the network.

Jouko Ahvenainen of Xtract says: “Today’s great phenomena are born in networks where shared passion creates action.”

We see examples again and again: it’s even transforming politics right now with Barack Obama’s facebook groups, youtube channels and blogs threatening to trump all the cash old-style politicians are throwing at the American presidential race.

Centralised control, centralised power, is being disintermediated where ever the network touches it. A new ecology dawns.

There’s a powerful explosion looming.

You can be part of it – or you can be blown away by it.


Investigate further:

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Respond - and respond fast - or die

Jeff Jarvis writes about Steve Jobs decision to give cash back (well, $100 to spend with Apple) to i-rate i-phone buyers when they heard he'd slashed the price of the phone-that-you-must-own.

The early adopters felt hard done by.

In the past Apple would have made its 'go-for-bulk' price cut with adding to the customer-numbers heap in mind.

It would take a considerable time (and quite possibly a serious slump in early adopters for the next product) before the company would discover how much it had annoyed its most fervent advocates (and you'll appreciate the huge damage beating up on your advocates can do).

Now Jobs hears the blogging buzz, the forum feedback, moments after he makes the announcement. The credit cash back must go hand in hand.

Jeff is right to point out that speed is the essential difference. I think of the recent HSBC case re overdraft charges for students and the facebook group that self-formed at lightning speed.

Students were always able to organise to protest. Now they can do it in an instant.
Critically, they now have a way of reaching people with a shared interest or purpose immediately, too.

Most of the students who were impacted by the HSBC decision had left university and were dispersed. Facebook meant they could be reassembled.

There’s a story about Noel Edmunds returning to a stint on radio recently. He was told the most important screen to watch was the one showing text messages from listeners.
In seconds the first one came in: “Get that beardy tw*t off the radio!”.
He commented it used to take a week to get feedback like that, in listeners letters. Now it’s immediate.

Monday, September 10, 2007

That whole viral thing

Anyone who has read the Tipping Point will recall how there's a frightening permissive viral effect to suicide.

There are many recorded cases of suicides coming in batches - and in particular areas. Several in one school, endemic in some polynesian societies etc, surges after the widely publcised suicide of a famous person.

Staggering to think that the most important of all decisions in our lives (or deaths) are so easily 'tipped' by the choices of others around us.

My parents once told me they got married, because all their friends seemed to be getting married too (how romantic...)

I'm pretty convinced divorce may be viral, too. If one of your circle of friends succumbs, the chances increase for others in that group.

Essentially the same is true in each of these examples:
Permission has been granted for this to be an acceptable course of action/conduct/behaviour in your particular community (or shared interest group).

And if such permission-based influence can act so virally in such very important parts of our lives it follows (surely) that this must have real power in driving our behaviour in other community contexts. Imagine the potential marketing power, for example.

Take facebook (again!?) if one of your friends leaves a group do you stop to consider whether or not you should? Do you think, hmm maybe I'm in too many groups and I should have a bit of a cull?
The reverse is true of course. See a friend join a group and if it meets your interests you are in like flyn!

In this context some people hold more viral sway than others. People who have lots of friends and do lots of things on facebook have more influence.

And I'd contend the same is true in real life. It's not necessarily the most dominant person (ie, most looked up to, the leader, the coolest) in a community who has the most power to effect change. It's more likely to be that active person with multiple light social touches. These people need persuading - then the rest will feel they have permission to change.

This is a lesson learned by the likes of Xtract in Finland and captured in their concept of the alpha user.

It's a lesson anyone considering social media has to learn, too.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Facebook: Open to persuasion?

Both Scott Karp and Badger Gravling have posted about Facebook's plans to make your profile searchable outside of facebook (eg by google) in recent days.

Scott's concern is that facebook has started opening up its network without consulting with that network - and even went so far as to test and implement without a nod to their nodes!
Scott points out that the default mode is to make your (it has to be said, very limited) profile available to search engines.

Personally, I don't have a problem with making my node on the facebook network also a node on the wider network of the internet. But then, you'd expect me to say that, wouldn't you?
I expect it to be another way my connections with interesting people and thoughts will be amplified - with all the emerging value that entails.

That said, I do understand why some people would NOT want to be involved in that widening. It's clear from recently successful networks that control over how closed or open your personal group within a network is, is very valuable to many. Think Cyworld (Korea), think LinkedIn, and (usually) think Facebook.

Seems to me facebook is scrabbling around trying to work out how to monetise its huge community (note this is a community, or series of communities, NOT an audience). Increasing the potential traffic and page impressions (a result of opening up to search engines) is a very standard interruptive advertising response.

It's attempting to gauge success in terms of Sarnoff's Law: ie The more viewers, the greater the value.

But it's a serious under-estimation of the true (Reed's Law) value being created in the facebook network.

Examples such as the student group who turned over HSBC give a pointer to the value on offer - if only facebook could tap it.

I had the pleasure of dinner with Alan Moore (co-author Communities Dominate Brands, and the man who coined the term 'engagement marketing') last night.

He had just returned from time spent working with Xtract in Helsinki. And it occurred to me that the combination of facebook, Alan and Xtract could prove very powerful.

A quick snapshot of how great the potential, is demonstrated by Robert Scoble's 5000-strong facebook group and explained by him in this video. (watch here).

An aside: Robert's video is pitched as exclusive content available only to his facebook friends - yet when I add it to my vodpod (see left navigation) it seems that content is made freely available outside of the facebook wall!).

So I took a look on Facebook to see how I might go about contacting the right person to get the conversation going.

I ended up having to pretend I wanted to place an advert in order to be able to send any kind of message to HQ at all!

Seems like facebook values its privacy...



If anyone has any clue as to how to crack the 'contact a human being at facebook' code, please do share.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Self-forming community beats the banks

So an adhoc, self-forming community of shared interest/purpose has won its battle with banking giant HSBC: HSBC makes U-turn after student facebook protest
It's a great example of the rapid growth of actual, real value that's possible when the exponential of Reed's Law is let loose. 5000 supporters joined the facebook group protesting about new charges within days. They weren't just doing it to talk ( in a classical social network way). They were out to create value for themselves.
The real value concerned is £144 a year per graduate. Now they won't have to pay. Any charges already paid are being paid back, too.
HSBC has just been taught a tough lesson. It's a networked world. Anger a mob of students and all students will soon get the message that you aren't a bank to sign up with.
This was always so - it's the break-neck speed at which this happens that are startling - and it is this which is a direct result of digital communities.
The question from a publisher's perspective is - how the hell do we get our cut of the value from this.
HSBC loses cash, students gain it. Where's the cash for facebook?
Well, of course it would be possible for a traditional bit of faux engagement (ie, in context, related banner ads from rival banks looking to encourage people to jump ship). But there's growing evidence that we're switching off even to these. They feel forced, they feel mechanistic - and they always carry the risk of revealing just how little they 'know' about the context they are related to (examples like this are always a possibility).
The clever response for HSBC now (and perhaps facebook could negotiate a facilitator fee) would be to galvanize the protestors with some good old two-way conversation to repurpose this adhoc group (which would likely change with some leaving, some joining as a result) to co-create the next student bank accounts.
This is rather more than focus groups on steroids. If they worked with (for!) their communities of shared interest (ie young students, mature students, graduate students, overseas students, married students, parent students) they might be able to create new products (accounts) to attract many, many more to their brand.
It's just the simple lesson of allowing the community to take charge.

See also: The Great Graduate Rip-Off

What makes a great community?

Please join in trying to create a workable definition of what makes a great community. Post your thoughts and I'll gradually integrate them into the main body of this article (and of course your contributions will remain listed in the posts attached).

Your examples - with descriptions of what makes them so good - are also very welcome.

Here's some to get us going:

Great communities:

  • Put the community first, understand that the community is king.
  • Encourage self-forming, adhoc, non-directed groups of shared interest/purpose
  • Apply Elinor Ostrom’s eight design properties for stable Common Pool Resource systems (recognizing the crucial role of ratings/reputation) (http://fasterfuture.blogspot.com/2007/05/why-ratings-and-reputation-are-so-vital.html)
  • Activate co-creation of value (content, services, shared tools [widgets/apps] and products)
  • Enable constant real-time connection (synchronous communication).
  • Treat people as converged individuals – buyers/sellers/designers/engineers/creators/marketers/employees/employers
  • Make the technical barriers low.
  • Enable discovery/introduction of people with shared interests/purpose
  • Enable users/communities to set their own definitions of good, and how open or closed their network will be.
  • Enable users to get into flow rather than focus (ie manage the risk of information overload).
  • Put the individual user in control
  • Understands the distinction between audience and community: Audiences consume content, communities primarily communicate with one another. Communities communicate with one another, audiences don’t.
  • A community is a community because of the connections that form between its members.

Great examples:

Facebook is extremely easy to use, encourages (rewards) the use of true identities, offers levels of privacy in groups, networks and in peer-to-peer friendship groups. There is even a small element of ‘degrees’ of friendship. The newsfeed offers something of the flow needed to manage risk of information overload – and the realtime connectivity (especially when accessed and updated from your pervasive computer – your mobile!).

eBay offers a good example of converged user – buyer/seller/marketer/developer etc. And it applies Ostron’s design principles for Common Pool Resources.

Danah Boyd: (from Incantations for Muggles: The Role of Ubiquitous Web2.0 Technologies in Everyday lives) "If you want to understand the success of a social technology, you can't stare at the technology. You need to understand the social practices that make it flourish. Technologies succeed when they support what people already do, what they want to do, and what they're required to do. Technologies become ubiquitous when people stop thinking them as a technology and simply use them as a regular part of everyday life."


Over to you!

FasterFuture.blogspot.com

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?