Wednesday, March 05, 2008

BlogTalk 2008 impressions and takeaways

I was lucky enough to have my paper 'Reed's Law and how multiple identities make the long tail just a little longer' selected to be presented at BlogTalk 2008, in Cork, Ireland.
So while I could quite happily repeat to you what I had to say (though there's little need while there's that link to the paper itself) I thought it might be better to share a little of what I heard and learned.
I was only there for the Tuesday, March 4, the final day of the event - so apologies for those I missed.

Twine and the semantic web for consumers

Nova Spivack, CEO of Radar Networks - the creators of Twine - gave the keynote on Tuesday morning. Twine is a wonderful mix of the various attempts to do semantic web; human, linguistic, AI, statistical etc. I'm lucky enough to be invited to try it in its 'VIP' Beta mode and will be sharing what I learn right here.
Nova says google is about organising the world's information, while Twine is about organising YOUR information.
He describes the semantic web as a 'Hi Res' version of the web. If web2.0 connects people web3.0 (by which Nova means the third decade of the web, and nothing else) will be about connecting people and things. It will be about data getting smarter so that it is possible to take the sum of all human knowledge and offer that in a machine expressable form on the web. We're talking about software that can think here, and help us think collectively.
This has huge implications for humanity - for what we can collectively achieve as a species together, Nova argues.
The Semantic web is not some fantasy requirement of the future, it's an increasing necessity for today - as anyone who searches google knows. With each passing day it's taking more and more iterations to find what you are looking for - because with each passing day there is more and more data to be sifted through.
And as I've dsecribed before google doesn't know what you are looking for.
Anyway, if you get a chance to try out twine, take a look. It's been on my list of 'ones to watch' (see left hand nav, way on down) for some time now.

So that was a tough act to follow, but that was my job. I was thrilled that Nova wanted a copy of my white paper after the presentation. And if you think I'm too cool to mention that, you way overestimate my coolness by several degrees...

Blogs vs Microblogging

Other highlights for me: Panel discussion re blogs and conversational social media - basically the battle of the long form blog versus the micro... which led to some interesting feedback re twitter usage (some use it to float ideas which then converge in a more traditional blog later - I know I do). To be honest, the floor contributed better than the panel to this - but that's not a bad thing by any means. Who is aggregating the comments and the thinking twitter inspires?

Web2.0 is all about advertising. A Lastfm of content anyone?

I enjoyed Michael Breidenbrucker's afternoon keynote in which he posited that a) Germans like copying and pasting (entire websites and concepts...) but more seriously b) web 2.0 is all about advertising.
Michael (who was one of the founders of and is currently with Lovely Systems) essentially makes the argument that our recommendations of good stuff to each other (through our actions as they are shared via the facebook newsfeed, or our contribution to the processing of an algorythmn which results in a recommendation a new piece of music to enjoy) act as content.
This is content we create, content we distribute and content which serves as advert. Advert as content. That's be engagement marketing then.

Had an enjoyable chat with Michael over coffee, discussing the potential for a UGC-driven Lastfm of news.
He was concerned that what makes Lastfm work is the back catalogue of available music. Back catalogues aren't of much use in news (which needs to be, er new). But in principle, it's all about tagging and algorythmns. And they could apply to audio, text pictures, video... information... content (as advert as content).
Ok, well, I argue maybe news doesn't have to be new, as in just happened, it has to be new - to you. ie something that you didn't know you needed to know, but now you do. And it's relevant to you. That fits the relevance over quality model of news I bang on about.

Make it a Lastfm of content and... hmm maybe that's what twine can become. Maybe that's why they compare themselves against google "organising your information" indeed!

And if that wasn't enough for one day I was certainly inspired to take a look at Microsoft's Popfly (a way of creating mashups without needing to know a line of code) by Martha Rotter (Martha also advised us to watch out for an announcement re Silverlight er today), impressed by MindVoyager's social tools for marketers and blown away by the impressive array of tools for collaboration assembled within IBM (thanks to Gabriel Avram and Brian O'Donovan for that insight) where 10% of the staff blog and a third are actively involved in internal social networking - complete with self-forming networks of purpose.

Plenty more good stuff too, including videos of some of the presentations - start here.

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?