Tuesday, April 29, 2008

You the channel

Microsoft Research was kind enough to invite Bauer Consumer Media (the company I work for) behind the doors of its Cambridge (UK) facility today.
I was joined by our Head of Technology Gus Swan and, along for the fun of it, Communities Dominate Brands' Alan Moore.
My very sincere thanks to Natasa Milic-Frayling for putting together a sparkling agenda and group of brilliant people which sparked some fascinating conversation.
Microsoft Research is the blue sky arm - where new stuff gets toyed with - often ideas that are years from being turned into a product, if they'll ever see the light of day.
And for that reason I'm not going to repeat the bulk of what we were shown.
However, one thing Natasa demo'd is in the public domain and I think it's very interesting indeed: WeConnect.co.uk.

Early in the afternoon we discussed Reed's Law (Group Forming Network Theory) and the idea that navigation and real-time discovery of people who share the same purpose is the thing that unlocks the potential of Reed's Law.

The problem that needs solving is: how do I find people who want to achieve the same as I do right now?

One limitation to overcome (and a pretty significant one at that) is the fact that the tools which enable this kind of connection, social networks, even social mediums like twitter, are still, no matter what their scale, silos.

The long term and monumental win is in a platform-agnostic solution. It is where we are the platforms. We, the nodes, connect through the internet as a whole, not a small subsection of it.

Which is why I find WeConnect.co.uk so interesting.

At this stage it's a series of platform-agnostic personal broadcast channels. I take a picture in Venice - I can share it with you on your mobile, or to my online picture gallery, or directly to your desktop; one-too-one or one-to-many. The connections are between us (via Internet Explorer in this case). The device we use simply realises that connection. There is no social network or medium involved.

Natasa and co are thinking about adding some of the kind of commenting we come to expect of social networks, but know that this will also bring complex design issues.

As it stands it's a brave first step.

Imagine an internet in which there are only blogs and those blogs exist nowhere other than at the point at which they are realised, or rendered, on a device. Imagine a place without platforms or silos, instead a place where groups attract through the implicit and explicit data each of these blogs exhibit. In real time. To and from any enabled device.

(nb, these are my imaginings, not those of microsoft, at least not on this occasion!)

A few steps to go then, but I like the direction WeConnect points.


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?