Monday, March 31, 2008

Day one at Mobile Internet, Berlin

I've heard loads of interesting and challenging stuff today at Mobile Internet in Berlin (see 'speaking at' links, left). I've met some interesting people too.

I was twittering live throughout, as I will be on April 1 and 2. That means those that follow get to ask questions, too.
Was great to hear from Antonio Vince Staybl, CEO at GoFresh/ from the stage and to have a conversation with him in a round table. I'm a big fan of itsmy's focus on community first and mobile first. They have an incumbent- rocking model. As Antonio points out a new media leads to new leaders; before cars there was no BMW. Before the internet, there was no google... before mobile there was no itsmy!
I also like the itsmy ad model. Users don't get a share of the revenues they create. BUT they do get to choose if their ugc carries adverts - and if it does, what sort of adverts. The users are allowed the power to treat the ads as content (the content as ads).
Interesting itsmy stats: The first pic of the recent UK earthquake was uploaded to itsmy within 30seconds (only content created on a mobile can be uploaded to mobile). Each user looks at 60pages per visit. 42% had never used a social network before using the mobile-only itsmy!

Cyworld's Christian-Peter Heimbach revealed the South Korean MoSocialNetwork is retreating to asia after a failed european experiment. Christian himself will crop up working in Brighton soon. Brighton types - give me a shout so you can welcome him in, he's a nice chap.

The Cyworld back-track was clarified after Jonathan Macdonald (following via twitter) asked Christian, via me, what the plans for a launch in the UK were. Answer, er none just yet. It's back to rebuild the aging tech with a view to returning someday soon.

Yahoo's Alex Romero had some nice things to say about my presentation (I was on before him, and before lunch!) and talked about new products such as oneconnect, among other things. It allows you to bring together all your social networks merging all your contacts. To which asked if yahoo thought this was something we actually want.

I caught up with Alex later and he explained the idea is more about a user gathering their routes to networks in one place - not sharing your digital identities and each identity's connnections. Need to investigate this a little more before drawing a conclusion, I feel.

Alex was fascinated by my eeepc. A few more sales coming Asus' way. Wonder when I'll get my commission...

I was also interested in Tim Hyland's youtube stats eg: every minute of every day 10 hours of video is uploaded to youtube. youtube uses more bandwidth today than the entire internet did in 2000.

Spent some time chatting to Luke Brynley-Jones of Trutap. Aim to catch up with him some more over the next few days. Luke revealed one user had sent 1200 messages in a day. Who knew thumbs could do that? And two Finlands a month are going on to contract in India each month at the moment. Now that's a growing market!

Finally (and apologies to those I haven't mentioned here, I may have reported previously via Martin Duval of orange gave us an interesting insight into the orange start-up programme which has orange working with vcs to develop and help new businesses take shape. He's creating a value web in the best traditions.

More from conference tomorrow, Follow it live at and look out for opportunities to ask questions.

Starts again at 8am UK time.

Twittering live from Mobile Internet in Berlin

I'm twittering my notes as we go here at Mobile Internet in Berlin (see speaking at list, left nav). If you want to see the updates as they happen, go to or just watch for the updates in my twitter update pane, also in the left hand nav of this blog. I'll be doing this on March 31, April 1 (no joke!) and April 2.

You can't organise a conversation

I'm finally getting round to reading David Weinberger's Everything is Miscellaneous in quiet moments here at Mobile Internet in Berlin.
Reminds me of a forum category we created on when I was its editor: genera/general. We should have just called it miscellaneous.
You guessed it, it was by far the most used board among some 400+ forums.
Owing to the limits of our tech at the time, we had boards for each individual motorcycle model. There were other categories too, for different kinds of bikesport, biking leisure pursuits etc. Lots of centrally organised and selected pots.
But most people most of the time figured what they were about to say, or conversations they were tempted to join in with, were unclassifiable: general/general.
Conversation needs to self-organise.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Anyone in Berlin next week?

I'm off to Berlin on Sunday night (hopefully with my eeepc snuggling up to my elderly HP compaq). I'm speaking at Mobile Internet on the 2.0 pre-conference briefing (see the 'Speaking At' list in the left nav) where I'll be sharing a podium with youtube/google, orange, trutap, cyworld, itsmy and yahoo... which is nice.
I'll be there until Wednesday but have every intention of keeping up the blog. So expect a very mobile internet flavour for the early part of next week.
If you happen to be going, ask me about the US-based mobile platform I've been given a sneak preview of. Can't name names at the moment, but it looks set to tick more of my moon-on-a-stick list than anything previously.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Asus EEEPC. Unique problem? And a message for the supply chain...

My pursuit of an asus eeepc looked like it had resulted in success yesterday. A nice white one turned up as promised from ebuyer uk ltd. £250 plus a chunk for 'next day' delivery.
Sadly the small thing of beauty failed to er... function. Charged it up last night. Tried it for the first time at the Coach and Horses today (free wifi in Greek St, London) and found that while it sought and connected to wifi a treat, it did bugger all else.

Pretty much any click anywhere resulted in a frozen screen.

(Stick with this long-winded whine. There is a bigger-picture point in this somewhere...).

So I called ebuyer who started the returns process very efficiently (though still waiting to hear if they will actually pick up the offending article as their t&cs suggest) and put me through to tech support.
And tech support couldn't really help, didn't know enough about the model. But they gave me a number for Asus (0870 120 8340 in the UK).

And when I called them they seemed equally baffled. We tried the old reboot and reset factory settings thing and... no change.

The tech support team at asus claimed they had never heard of anything like my case (Dan Thornton picked up my tweets and kindly checked the eeepc wiki and forums to confirm that was likely to be true).

Lucky old me. I've been in a dash to get my hands on one of these since some twittering at the weekend because I want use it while in Berlin. I'm speaking at Mobile Internet on Monday (flying on Sunday) so...
What the hell to do now? It's a struggle to find these beasts at the mo. Tried ringing my local toysrus... out of stock, no idea when the next ones are in. PC World/Curry's et al... only stock them online with week-long delivery times.

So I found one tonight at which also offers to deliver on Saturday for a wince-inducing £24.95 extra. And they charge extra for using a credit card. No like.

Still, beggars can't be choosers etc. (or should that be customers stuck with faulty items in need of rapid replacement can't be choosers... can you see where this is going yet?)

Laptopsdirect offer a pre-delivery check for another chunk of cash. Seems odd to ask for cash to make sure the thing they are selling you is actually fit for purpose... but I'd been bitten once. So I was tempted... but surely I can't get two on the trot that are screwed?

Not even I could be that unlucky.
If that does happen (and Im sure there will be updates to this exciting story) I suggest you don't sit next to me on the flight from Stansted on Sunday night.

UPDATE (Mar 28) oh gee... shock of shocks, Laptopsdirect don't actually have any to fulfill my order CANCEL!!!. My return with ebuyer is now sorted to my convenience (well done ebuyer, minor moan, I did have to chase you some more...) So I found another supplier who responded to an email to say yes they had it in stock and yes they would get it delivered to me by 12noon tomorrow... can you wait? Company in question?

UPDATE 2 (Mar 29) come up with the goods. The next day delivery arrives at 10am, I charge up the eeepc and... it works. I'll be staying in touch with it while at that conference, after all. Top work efficentpc fellas!

Oh yeah, why this long, long moan?
Strikes me that playing your role as a consumer can be painful? Just way too painful at times. Why am I making all the running?

One - this started off with me screaming out into twitterland that I wanted one of these things. Asus should have acknowledged that - a chance to cash in on the intention economy. You'd think a maker of always on-always connected kit would do better...

Two, I wanted to find out how 'unique' my asus eeepc problem really was? So go ahead, share your experiences, share with others you think might have comments. And not just the bad stuff - rave if it's rave worthy. We often accuse the brands and the marketers of spin. Let's make sure we don't fall into the same trap as consumers.

Three: A message to the supply chain:
When we, your financial life-support system, have a faulty product that we've spent our hard earned cash on, we want a replacement when we need it. Not on your schedule or according to your rules. We don't want to distinguish between distributors and retailers - we don't give a damn for your distinctions... Honestly, we don't. Get used to it. Organise for it.

Wouldn't it have been nice if the girls at Asus had said, "look, we can see your problem. This is clearly such a rare and unusual case, you know what, instead of trotting out our usual 'we don't deal with the public (that'd be me then) line, and telling you to return our faulty goods to the retailer we supplied, we're going to courier you a replacement right now, to where-ever you are.
We'll worry about the return later. Our retailer has got your address and cash after all.

"You've got nothing but a broken laptop from us."

Wouldn't it be nice? Hello! Wouldn't it be reasonable?

Like Tomi and Alan say at Communities Dominate Brands: Companies from Mars, Customers from Venus.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Hello! I'm on a plane...

The regulators have just given the all-clear to using mobile phones on planes... once they reach 3000m.
There's still some hardware to be approved and installed to make this a reality though - each plane will need its own picocell. So don't try it on your next flight just yet.

Social Shopping? Think Conversations of Intent

Social Shopping seemed to be all the buzz at last week's AdAge conference in New York. I wasn't there, but my self-selecting trusted news filter (that'll be blogs and twitter) kept me up to date moment by moment.

And as I mentioned in a throw-away line previously there is some sense in this because it combines the social tools/media/networks where all the 'eyeballs' happen to be, with the intention to buy (which is demonstrably lacking from most 'social networks').

Example? Bloomingdales in New York offers booths in which you can get a snap taken of you in the clothes you are thinking of buying. Does my bum look big in this? The wisdom of the crowds will pass judgement thanks to pictures sent instantly to your friends.

This kind of real time validation of choice has its place, no doubt. But it seems little more than a surface scratcher against the many opportunities which arise if you look at your consumer as someone rather more than a spending machine ( think converged buying/selling/marketing/creating/designing/inspiring individual).

I've been talking about two key elements of marketing recently: Conversation and Intention.

We often talk about "cutting through the clutter" and the "battle for attention" created by the proliferation of channels.

I'm thinking it is now less about the battle for attention and more about Conversations of Intent. Being the place where intention is expressed could be incredibly valuable.

My posts about trying to buy a car illustrate part of this, the part where I am expressing intent (apparently into an echoey void, as it happens - but there are fixes for that).

My post about buying an Asus EEEPC illustrate another part, the part where I am not only expressing intent, I'm seeking advice and navigation.

In both cases not one single advert was clicked. I had conversations (in the case of the car I tried and failed to initiate one with dealers... they have a long road to travel).

Both beg questions about the traditional role of the (even in-context, related, uber targeted) ads, especially online.

The value has been created by the fact that conversation within trusted networks is enabled.

All very Facebook Beacon, you may argue. But there is a crucial distinction. The initiation of the conversation is with the person who intends to make the purchase. It is a Conversation of Intent. And that's more in tune with Vendor Relationship Management thinking, as proposed by Doc Searls.

Social networks - any group within them - only create value you can easily measure when they self-organise with purpose. Groups that just have a bit of a chat don't create that instant value - the members don't even click on those carefully targeted ads. (They do, of course, create a longer term 'social ties' value which may be activated when 'the purpose' dawns on the group...)

Within twitter, those I follow and who follow me have a certain level of trust in each others ideas and opinions - it's writ large in how you go about deciding who you will follow. You find them interesting because they are interested in things you are interested in...

When I ask a question of that group another self-forms within it - one which is available right now (there's that value of synchronous communication and the value of those in a group who are willing to drop everything to help out that Stowe Boyd references).

What we end up with is a self-forming group which, by its very actions, defines a value-creating purpose.

The purpose in the case of my EEEPC purchase was to help me buy a small wireless device. It could as easily have been to find a good hotel, restaurant, car, piece of software, or to force down the level of tax on UK petrol!

And this all happens in a very fine conversation enabler ( conversations of intent, after all, require the easy ability to initiate conversation).

The self-forming group of purpose has three other important elements for 'social shopping'.
It has to:

a) be interested in me
b) be interested in what I'm expressing intent about
c) drop everything (no matter how briefly) to join in a conversation about it right now.

These may be the key factors in enabling the social shopper, provided we allow the 'consumer' to take the lead - for them to initiate the Conversation of Intent.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Centre giving you a tough time? Just add a connection

Via Twitter... Stowe Boyd stoweboyd "When you are a software guy in a hardware company, you are like a second class citizen in a third world country.' - John Paul

Quite. And my response? When you are an edgling and you have to confront any centralised edifice, you can experience similar frustrations.

But, you know, there's really no need to worry. The open network will always prevail. If (and according to Reed's Law, or Group Forming Network Theory, this is true) the value of the network doubles with each additional node, then just by making one connection you've doubled the value of your contributions and of everyone else's in your network.

So if/when you're battering your head against the proverbial brick wall - if you fail today don't lose heart, don't give in. Respond the way an edgling must.

Add another connection. Then go back and try again. Literally: your efforts redoubled.

I am part of a community, therefore, I buy.

There are some Forrester stats that do the rounds. I quote them myself when speaking. Up to 70% of all purchase decisions are made based on word of mouth.
The more I think about marketing and advertising in the networked world, the more I start to believe that figure is a lie.
It's nowhere near high enough.
Every purchase decision I make of any significant value is made based on word of mouth. Do you call it word of mouth if the conversation is entirely online? You do as far as I'm concerned.
Especially if you're using a conversation enabler, such as twitter.
As the blurring between real and virtual worlds accelerates, we won't be bothering with the distinction for long.
Latest one; I decided I needed a really small wireless device. I was in Cumbria at the time - away from my broadband access and where even my mobile internet access was seriously diminished by the lack of 3G.
My approach was to ask my twitter community for advice. See some of the conversation in the pictures.
Essentially, I listed what kind of device I was looking for and some people whose opinions I trust shared what they thought would be a good option. The conversation continued with calls for reasons why I shouldn't buy - and a bit of pro MacAir banter and the result was I placed an order for an Asus EEEPC (4GB one with webcam). It was quite hard to come by. Demand is high. It's the latest wii with stocks flying off the shelves at your local ToysRus. And I needed it ready for this coming weekend.

An interesting aside that a device that is portable and keeps you constantly connected is such a hit with kids (this thing is so small it almost looks like a toy). The creation generation wants the participation to go on and on and on...

Anyways - I tried reaching out through twitter to see if someone wanted to sell me one... but to no avail - I had to go the traditional route.

But at least the (re) 'search' element of the process was entirely human, complete with trusted recommendation. There's clearly life in that Mahalo (human-powered search engines) concept.
I made my intention to buy clear, and my community helped me make the purchase.

I didn't read any 'expert' reviews, I relied on the wisdom of my crowd. And I really don't think I'm alone in acting like this. Interestingly, I had never heard of this brand before. Any equity it now has for me has come from my interactions with members of my community.

I wonder when those on the 'intent to sell' side of the great divide will reach back towards us?

A picture of the intention economy

And lo, there was ubiquitous computing

Google is asking them at the centre if they'd be so kind as to let us at the edge connect up all the time everywhere. Odd that the question still needs to be asked, but that being so, if they get a yes won't this make life different?
In a nutshell; broadcast broadband using the 'unused' bandwidth in between TV signals.
Apparently we've already filled up the spaces in the UK - with, among other things, a wifi enabling technology.
Throw that switch then!

World 1.0 vs World 2.0: Thinking out loud!

This from David Gurteen:
"This thinking can be applied in business, in education and learning, to adults and to children and to government and to society. Its not just about technology!"

Amen David. It's certainly about more than simply who gets to create and distribute content.

World 1.0
World 2.0
Knowledge sharing and learning is imposed additional work Knowledge sharing and social learning is a welcome natural part of people's everyday work
Work takes places behind closed doors Work takes place transparently where everyone can see it
IT Tools are imposed on people People select the tools that work best for them
People are controlled out of fear they will do wrong People are given freedom in return for accepting responsibility
Information is centralized, protected and controlled Information is distributed freely and uncontrolled
Publishing is centrally controlled Anyone can publish what they want
Context is stripped from information Context is retained in the form of stories
People think quietly alone People think out loud together
People tend to write in the third person, in a professional voice People write in the first person in their own voice
People especially those in authority are closed to new ideas and new ways of working Everyone is open to new ideas
Information is pushed to people whether they have asked for it or not People decide the information they need and subscribe to it
The world is seen through a Newtonian cause and effect model The world is recognized to be complex and that different approaches are needed

Facebook | Videos from Jaffe Juice: London Tweet-Up on March 19, 2008

Joseph Jaffe's London tweetup last week... organised somewhat on the fly. This is just us telling you who we are.
Broken out of the jail that is facebook and given its chance of distributed freedom by vodpod/blogger.

from www.facebook.composted with vodpod

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Hey Twitter - beware the groups!

I hear it won't be too long before Twitter finally deploys the 'group' function so many have requested since its inception.

Biz & Co, can I offer a word or two of caution?

What I like about twitter is that it is evenly distributed micro-blogging. It's a place where the conversation can start from any node. It's a place without hierarchy. It fits the networked world. Edge in, not centre out.

Group messaging speaks to the asynchronous. Group messages by their nature are not necessarily intended to be responded to by all parties right now. They make the assumption that not everyone in the group is connected at this very moment. And they offer less value because of this. Real time response is a critical element of value-creation in social network's.

Stowe Boyd's 'Boyds Law says the value creation of a network is in direct proportion to that groups willingness to contribute their time to respond with their efforts in real time (ie drop what they're doing and help you).

You can't access that with a group message - not unless you think of your broadcast as trying to reach as many as possible. And that is a legacy, group email-like approach to using the medium. It's broadcast.

It's microbroadcast if you prefer (though the way Jason Calcanis (12,000-plus followers) and Dave Winer (5000+... and following less than a 10th of this number) are going at it even the 'micro' bit is being challenged).

The massing around groups means the power inherent in the distribution of information can become concentrated. Who controls the group is therefore vital.

So, as a sop to me, at least make sure that anyone in the group can message everyone else in the group (this control should not be vested in the person who sets the group up).

That is; if you join the group you have the same rights as any other member of it. Seems reasonable doesn't it? Maybe the group has to decide if you get to join in the first place. As well as being neatly democratic that might sort the potential spamming risks, too.

I think twitter is at its best - and such a good fit with the networked world - when it sticks to its even distributed, disaggregated guns.

Hopefully the very open nature of twitter - exemplified by its exceptionally developer friendly api - will continue to pervade its each and every development. And if it does, it will sustain its lead in being fit for the networked world.

Jaffe in person: Turning social networks into social reality

Who's that man? Joseph Jaffe who I had the pleasure of spending much of yesterday with. Joe was the keynote at the Digital Marketing Briefing, and I was there to present a couple of sessions, too (Power of the Network and why we should be more than witnesses to it).
Joe and I twittered and emailed beforehand - I'm one of the marketing team for his latest book (in that I've reviewed it).
And thanks to twitter we organised a tweet-up for other followers immediately after the DMB finished at 6pm.
I'm using twitter more and more. It's not only a fabulous multi-dimensional means of microblogging, it's also proving itself to be the most effective way of turning digital social media into social reality.
For example, none of the parties who came together for the tweet-up had met before. This kind of gathering is easy to organise on the fly with twitter (particularly if you're a mobile twitter user, too). Somehow twitter manages this more effectively than facebook.

During the morning I presented one session. In the afternoon I had another. In between I followed David Armano's mostly micky-taking tweets from the Adage conference in New York. And I took one of the examples he witnessed into my afternoon presentation. All of this achieved without a pc.

ie: I got relevant news to me filtered by a source I trust, faster than any other way I know.

The example that amused me, by the way, was of kiosks in Bloomingdales in which you can try on new clothes and send images of you in them to friends to get their view on which you should buy - kind of a changing room with cameras I guess...
Of course, that could just be a mobile app. Who needs a kiosk when you have a mobile phone... except perhaps you need someone to take the snap for you, but that really shouldn't be so tough. Social shopping is the big buzz at AdAge, apparently. Makes sense: social networks plus intent to buy - the missing link!

And talking of mobile. If you're interested in why it's going to be THE hot ad medium, Tomi Ahonen does a great job of pulling together the themes of permission, segmentation, co-created advertising, the whole ad-as-content thing. Enjoy it.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Anyone going to Digital Marketing Briefing?

I'm speaking at the Digital Marketing Briefing at Savoy Place in London tomorrow (March 19).
Joseph Jaffe is doing the keynote and I'm hoping we'll get some time to chew the cud.
If you're coming along, please seek me out to say hi.

Widget industry gets its own awards

Ivan Pope is launching the widget industry's own awards: The Widgeties.
It's part of the WidgetWebExpo event Ivan is hosting in New York on June 16-17 this year.
Building on the success of Widgety Goodness, it promises to be a big one, so stick it in your diary now.

Disclosure: I'm on the advisory panel for this event and due to be speaking at it. See you there!

What's a widget? (see computing)

Machines No, People Yes

I've been watching the growing fury over Phorm from afar. Today there's an argument it's illegal because permission should be sought not only from web users but also from websites.

I think it comes down the difference between the too-human robotics of the uncanny valley (and my thanks to Russell Davies for that image) and genuine human voice.

It does freak us out (as Russell pointed out at Widgety Goodness) when 'the machine' knows what we want even before we do, in a Minority Report nightmare kind of way.

It is a considerable fear in a command and control, centre-out model. If you apply edge-in, community-focused approaches to the same dilemma I believe you end up less freaked out, more helped out.

Simply, if a machine has a recommendation for me I may be suspicious (it is an approximation of a human face - an uncanny replicant), if a friend has a recommendation for me, that recommendation has a human face - a real and comforting one.

So far as I understand, Phorm is a centre-out model. A gathering of info about YOU and people like you, centralising and mashing that data and then recommending away. Helpful? Quite possibly. Freaky? Very, very possibly. Freaky equals shutters up and since, as (again, my understanding) Phorm doesn't use personal identifiers, that makes it hard, individually, to say no.

The BBC reports: Richard Clayton, treasurer at Fipr, said: "The Phorm system is highly intrusive; it's like the Post Office opening all my letters to see what I'm interested in, merely so that I can be sent a better class of junk mail."

Ouch! Perhaps you'd trust your family to open the post for you though?

Uncanniness anyone? See below:

Monday, March 17, 2008

Bored of Facebook? Real friends don't spam

Sorry - had to share. Via Johnnie Moore

There's a lot of truth in humour. BadgerGravling will enjoy. Real friends don't spam you.
Not nice being broadcast at, is it?

Doc Searls explaining the Cluetrain Manifesto 10 years on

I've added this to my vodpod (see left col) but in case you miss it there, here's your chance to see Doc Searls talk about the Cluetrain Manifesto 10 years on. Gotta get a clue!

Why China won't win

The events in Tibet have brought this front of mind: I'm starting to wonder if the Chinese economy really can continue to grow to become the world's biggest - eventually outstripping the US- as everyone seems to predict.

I know all that stuff about the cycles of empires (for example) and I'm not suggesting the US will remain No1 for ever. But I do believe that the 'empire' that dominates in the future will be:

1. Closer to an edge-in rather than centre-out command and control economy.
2. Less dominant (period)
3. Dominant for less time

Why am I sticking my ill-educated nose into geo politics?

I think the network disrupts where ever it touches - and economics and politics are no different.

So a society which emphasises control is less likely to win against one which allows its nodes to connect and reconnect in groups of its own choosing ( a la group forming network theory).

China has a living, breathing illustration of this within its borders, the Chinese motorcycle industry operates without the regulation of the Chinese government. Small groups of manufacturers choose to co-operate to create new models, together. Their nodes form and reform into the most effective groups to solve each problem they face.

The result is the world's largest motorcycle industry.

The same cannot be same of the Chinese car industry, which is controlled by central government. (reference: Wikinomics).

Tibet, Google, The Car Industry... China is only playing at allowing the network effect to permeate its economy. Doing fantastically well at the same time - but that's a scale thing.

Imagine if they really gave up control from the centre. Then the rest of us really would need to worry.

There are plenty of other nations/economic actors who have the technology and the mindset to enable the exponential growth of the power of the network. Look elsewhere for your winner.

On a global scale, the fact that the power of the network enables the long tail (more in this paper) the influence of the biggest player has to be much reduced (the 'hit' economy ends up responsible for roughly 15% of the value, the rest is in the long tail. The hit economy is still a good place to be, just not as good as it was in a less networked world.

I can imagine conglomerates of smaller players recombining time after time (in a self-forming group way) to become the next dominant grouping.

It's going to be an interesting century - one in which the old rules no longer apply.

Reality check: This isn't only about empires - it's about the way your business functions.

Does your face fit? Business plans and the fitness landscape

The idea of the economy as a complex adaptive system (as popularised by The Origin of Wealth) can be, well, complex.
One of the key learnings, for me at least, is the idea that business plans more often than not fail before they even get to be tested for fitness by the place they are intended for: the market.

In a networked world, you can substitute the term community for market (at least a fully empowered co-creating community, you can).

If the economy is evolutionary then it finds the 'most fit' by a process of selecion, amplification and repetition.
In evolution this happens in the environment. In the economy the environment isn't the boardroom - it is the fitness landscape of the market/community.

It's just another important reason we should find ways to make the silo walls of the company permeable - particularly when it comes to your business plans. Yes, I think that does mean reaching out to the community the plan is meant to serve when it comes to creating it. And letting that community make the selections. You can help with the amplification and repetition.

Actors as business plans.
The adaptability of the plan is also critical. Imagine you're a jobbing actor going from audition to audition. The fitness landscape (the selection process) is the director and his honchos.
If you look right for the part, you get the gig, if you don't, you don't.
The more adaptable you are (the better an actor you are, I guess) the more often you will be able to change your performance to meet the needs of the role. You can shape how well you fit. You learn from the feedback you get, and do more of what got you the gig next time (or less, or try another strategy next time, if you failed).
Selection, amplification and repetition.

If you sit alone talking into the mirror and try to decide for yourself how good you are, all alone, it's unlikely you'll improve. And when you go to that audition the market is more likely to say no.

Has your boardroom got mirrors or open doors?

Friday, March 14, 2008

And so the arms race begins

The empire strikes back:

Disaggregated Government, here we come

I saw Alex Butler speak yesterday; the Director of Transformational Strategy at the UK Government's Cabinet Office (cool title, btw)

She's facing an uphill battle - as anyone who is attempting to tackle the silo'd mentality of any organisation will attest. Her gig is to try to put the 'citizen' (read consumer for the rest of us) first - not the producers of the information (familiar difficulties in media, too).

Her problem is that each Government department wants to dissemminate its 'information' from its centre, out to the edge that is the citizenry. The result is something like (and it appears very hard to audit) 1500 government web sites.

And famously you may need to contact something like 40 government offices if you suffer a sudden bereavement. Not really putting the citizen first.

So the site is an attempt to address this.

Alex says she understands the need for two-way flows of conversation, says government is learning from the success of e-petitions (that people actually want to take part in the legislative process) and is even considering the thorny issue of letting go of control - by offering government stuff as widgets and sources for mash-ups. Alex referred to NetMums (not a government site), revealing an understanding that local mums know best about services locally. Edge is best.

And at the end of this process you might conclude there will be no need for
For example, if you want to go abroad; sure you need to know about passports and visas and whether or not your dog can come with you etc etc etc - all those government agency things... but you also need to know where you can book flights, hotels, car hire etc.

That government information is best deployed where it is of most use - eg when we're going through the 'consumer journey' of booking our travel.

So allowing government 'information' to be set free to be re-used by other relevant widgets/sites will mean the distribution is no longer controlled by the centre. And in citing NetMums Alex seems to understand that even the control of content is not always best performed from the centre.

Heartening. Makes me wonder what changes will be wrought to the machinery of government as a result. Disaggregated government here we come.

2028: The year the newspaper dies

An interesting day all round yesterday (and I don't just mean the sale of Bebo).
But since I've raised it, £417m for Bebo? How much money did it make last year? Not close to a 10th as much as emap did - (the consumer media part I work for sold for £1.14bn last month to Bauer.
So why did Bebo sell at this point? Because it could. Now it's someone else's problem to monetise its social network.
This comes in a day when I hear Microsoft's Alex Marks (at ABCE's conference at the Emirates Stadium in London) draw on a global survey the firm has conducted to predict the death of the daily newspaper in 20 years.
In 10 years the first big daily will close... Microsoft predicts. Gloomy if you're in the print news business - but not entirely unexpected. To be honest, 10 years for the first death seems surprisingly long. As Bill Gates says, we overestimate the amount of change that will happen in the next two years, and underestimate the amount in 10 years.
Better news for other print media, from Microsoft: glossies, weekend editions (weeklies then?), books, longer lean back/experiential reads with less focus on immediacey have no need for alarm, Alex told us (an audience from a mostly print background).
Hmmm. Raises questions for the Bebo valuation for me when you compare it with the emap price, doesn't it?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Measure how viral you are in the real world

Now footy fans can not only show their support for their team, they'll also act as walking brand advocate - thanks to a QR code which any suitably equipped mobile phone can 'read' linking you directly to a mobile website or potentially activating something to be sent to your mobile.

Footy shirts have always been the sartorial equivalent of music videos - ads that fans are prepared to pay good money for, but this just takes that a step further. All branded clothing could follow. Hang on a minute. All branded products could follow.

"Love my pikolinos? Take a snap with your phone and find out more."
You get pointed at a site to buy from - you might even get a voucher. I get a cut - or a big discount on my next pair of shoes.

That would be perfectly possible if each item had a different QR code, so the vendor could track the most viral of their purchasers in the real world and respond accordingly.

Real world interactions between people account for 80 per cent of all conversations about products, after all.

Dave Balter at got the cogs whirring?

A picture of the intention economy - and a second experiment in VRM

Well, here's another of my poorly-put-together diagrams. It came to me after my testing of a one-man-vrm in trying to buy a car.

It's pretty clear that tools, and simple ones at that, which can connect these two intentions are available. Put together shrewdly we may have a way of helping the vendor side catch up with the consumer?

Rather than search for myself, (and/or deciding for myself)which are the most likely candidates, I thought I'd try a little more VRM (vendor relationship management) - this time aimed at the people who should be best equipped to pick up on my clear intention! That is, if you're pitching tools which can do this job, the least you should be able to do is be alerted to my intention to find you, from this posting alone (though I will twitter away, too).

So please, either email me your suggestions for good tools which could help, or just post your thoughts and suggestions below. Thanks

Monday, March 10, 2008

Eight things you (probably) didn't know about me

Eight things you probably didn't know about me... blame this on Neil Perkins (Only Dead Fish) who tagged me.

The trail so far goes (so far as I can ascertain...) me back to Neil Perkins who got tagged by Eoan from Thayer via Chris Hambly by way of Dan Hon (who apparently started it). If you get tagged, leave some breadcrumbs...

So here's 8 random snippets about me.

1. I support Leeds United FC. There is no locational or familial reason for this. I simply thought they were the underdogs in the 1972 Fa Cup final... they won and I've backed them ever since.

2. I used to turn up to work with long, crimped hair (chance would be a fine thing now)

3. I read philosophy and sociology at university. Sat the wrong exam thanks to an admin mistake at the end of my second year... and got a 2:2 in a subject I hadn't studied. Hmmm.

4. I hold a RoSPA Diploma in the tuition of advanced motorcycle riding.

5. I was lead singer, guitarist, idiot in a series of zero-success rock bands in the early 80s. Some memorable names: Kamikaze Moth, Earth City Survivors, Totally Impossible er, I think that's it.
There is a cartoon accompanying of one of the very badly recorded songs available on the internet. And if you think I'm pointing you at that...

6. Started my 'journalistic' career with a fanzine about David Bowie called Hunky Dory. Professionally it was with the Biggleswade Chronicle.

7. I have (essentially) worked for the same company since I left university in 1987.

8. I genuinely can't believe you were interested enough to read this far.

And so, I nominate the following eight:









Carnival of the Mobilists #114

Thrilled to find myself among esteemed company on this month's Carnival of the Mobilists, this time around hosted on Chetan Sharma's Always-On-Realtime-Access.
The carnival is a celebration of the best in blogging about mobile. So it's always a blush-worthy pleasure to be picked out.
The post that caught Chetan's eye was this one about facebook, twitter and the I-phone. Thanks for the kindness. You'll find more great blogs and posts about mobile by following that Carnival of the Mobilists link.

50 most powerful ways to provoke the blogosphere

I was merrily following gapingvoid on twitter when he pointed us at this (50 most powerful blogs in the blogosphere). Hugh was gently crowing (no doubt with tongue firmly stuck in cheek) that his blog was included while superstar blogger Robert Scoble's was not.

My response was "Most powerful blogs? Contradiction in terms, surely?"

When blogs become large enough in 'reach' to turn up as 'hits' on lists, I worry there is a real risk that their agenda will change to meet new needs, and a further risk that what makes a blog a blog is at risk. They will start to serve an audience of consumers rather than a community of contributors.

They face the risk of becoming a microniche, on-the-cheap broadcast.

In this context too much attention could be worse than too little because if all that attention means you can't/don't/become unwilling to engage in conversation, the heart of the blog is gone.

Anyone who's tried to engage in a conversation on a 'hit' blog will know what I mean. I won't name names, but some of you are pretty poor at joining in the conversations you set out to provoke.
Blogs (as I've posted before)

In the process of blogging, one blogger linking to the work of another, new value emerges, for example:

  1. Two-way flows of information.
  2. The creation of trust, validation and reputation
  3. Decentralised, self-forming adhoc communities of interest
  4. Zero hierarchy or silo restrictions.
Too much harm is done to 1, with the knock on risks to 2,3 and 4 when you become a 'hit' blogger.

So, genuinely, I really would prefer to be famous for 15 people, than 15 minutes. Careful what I wish for, hey?

What is certain is that if you want to stir up the blogosphere there is one sure-fire way: publish a list of the 'best/top/most-powerful blogs. The 50 on it will say thanks very much.

The 80,000,000 (-50) that aren't, are likely to point out the above in their own sweet ways (resulting in a bubbling of activity pointing back at that very top 50. Just as this does.)

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Who wants to sell me a Toyota Yaris? (Part II)

My little experiment in VRM has become a little more pressing. Just to recap:

"I'm in the UK.
"I want a low mileage Toyota Yaris in either T3 or TR spec, registered late 2006 onwards (new shape one). Must have aircon of some form. Ideally 1.3 petrol but will consider 1.0. Probably go for the five door. My wife prefers silver (and it will be her car). Ex-demo would be ideal. Will consider new if you can do the kind of deal that makes me accept the ludicrous VAT costs involved.
"Don't need to do part-ex."

It's more pressing because the car it's replacing is now sold.

So it's just as well this blog (and my tweets) is not the only place sharing this story.
Chris Carfi at the Social Customer Manifesto has picked it up and done a great job on it, and that in turn has been picked up by Topix

By the way, the man whose garage has serviced it and carried out the MoTs for the past five years has bought it for his partner. That speaks volumes for his faith in his own work, don't you think. So here's the recommendation for you: Serviceman in Huntingdon, Cambs.

View Larger Map

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Why twitter is going to beat facebook - and force me into buying an iPhone

Twitter's mobile app is a bit on the crummy side. I can't find new friends on it, I can't send private messages, I can't pick them up.
But it doesn't stop me using it - way more often than I do the facebook mobile app at the moment (see the Armano illustration...hmm).

Why? I think it's because Twitter's 'What are you doing' updates have so much more value than facebook's status updates. They have something Linkedin, and anyone else who thinks low-effort microblogging has tapped into a rich vein, should seriously consider. They have the option to point to something outside of Twitter - to the rest of the known and being-rapidly-discovered-by-my twitter-friends universe of digital stuff.

In short, urls work as they should in twitter. The only time I see them work as they should in facebook status updates, by comparison, and not without irony, is when they are are an rss feed from another application - such as twitter.

Links are immensely conversation-enabling. By pointing at something you flag it as a conversation starter. And the more conversation enabling, the more in tune with the power of the network.

What is it that stops facebook status updates turning into a conversation? Is it simply the clutter of all the other updates streaming through my news feed?
I don't think so. There's plenty of 'clutter', if you mean stuff I'm not going to give my attention to, on my twitter feed. Is it a disinclination imposed by the design of facebook?


Perhaps facebook turns us into little broadcasters? I announce: "my status is x. I don't want to talk about it. I just want you to know it. If you'd like to talk about it... message me."

This indicates the facebook newsfeed is less conversation enabling - and therefore ultimately offers less value in a networked world. Conversations aren't shared so others can't contribute so the Reed's Law value growth enabled by self-forming groups is harder to come by (though granted, far from entirely precluded by other aspects of facebook).

The fact that we move to private messaging when we want to talk on facebook, rather than share an open conversation, indicates to me that facebook risks growing its value according to the law of one-to-one communication networks value (Metcalfe's Law) rather than the exponential growth of Reed's Law (Group Forming Network Theory).

A blog is way more conversation enabling.
Is facebook microblogging at all? Or simply microbroadcasting?
The distinction is writ large by the whole facebook premise. It is about privacy over openness.

Blogs and Twitter (despite the ability to block followers - which again, you can't do on the mobile version of Twitter) are about openness. I haven't received a single private message on twitter since I joined (though I did send a few before I worked out for myself this wasn't really the place). When we require privacy we use different modes of communication.

Conversations are there for all to see and join in. And on twitter they can start from anywhere and from anyone (on a blog its more centralised, more where the author leads).

Perhaps we should describe Twitter as decentralised microblogging?

This makes it exceptionally conversation enabling and a great fit with the networked world - which I think is why the net gen love it so.

Why does that make the inevitability of my acquisition of an iPhone greater by the day? Simply that whenever I click a link in a tweet on the mobile version of twitter I have no guarantee of being taken to a mobile-optimised page or a mobile internet page. I get the 'real internet' on an iPhone or indeed on any good tablet style wi-fi enabled device. Without being able to follow the links I'm unable to join the conversation. 3G mobile isn't enough. So I guess mobile had best stick to broadcast, cracking text plays, and that brilliant services thing - but that's a post for another day...

By the way, follow me. I'll follow you.

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.

Monday, March 03, 2008

BlogTalk 2008 - live streaming

I'm scurrying over to Cork first thing Tuesday morning (March 4) where I'll be presenting a paper at BlogTalk2008 at 10am.

Streaming live video is available from the event. This is the link. If it's all working, I'll give you all a wave!

Below: My slides: Reed's Law and how multiple digital identities make the long tail just a little bit longer.
Best viewed while reading the paper I guess (which you can download on from under 'white papers' on the left-hand navigation.

Any colour you like as long as it's BBC

The BBC's new homepage has clearly come out of Beta. Now anyone visiting gets the igoogle-type experience. Except of course, you only get to choose from bits of BBC content to put on 'your' homepage.
Maybe it is possible to be half pregnant after all? Got to hope so for the BBC's sake.
Next-generation baby by the end of the year?

Why I love twitter right now...

Another genius illustration from David Armano (via JaffeJuice)

Where does your personal facebook curve intersect your twitter one?

Perhaps the 'what was I thinking' timeline can be extended the more you enable the conversation.

I drew a picture of that. Not pretty, but a picture all the same...

Nine Inch Nails free album: Advert as content, content as advert

Nine Inch Nails are offering volume one of their new album free.
Advert as content, content as advert. Engagement nirvana.

I want to buy a Toyota Yaris. An experiment in VRM and word of mouth

I want to buy a Toyota Yaris... really, I do.

After reading the previous post, there may be some who a conclude from the supermarket analogy that it makes life easy for me to show up at one place where the prices are good and I can get 'all I need'. And therefore I'll back the jack-of-all-trades model.
(Worth noting, however, that you're getting all 'everyone' needs at the supermarket - you are being served as part of a mass, the lowest common denominator...)

I get where you are coming from. Who needs the hassle of chasing round the internet?
Doc Searls' Vendor Relationship Management project at Harvard has a response.
Brief description: "(providing)... customers with tools for engaging with vendors in ways that work for both parties."

This should mean that if I mention that I want to buy something in a blogpost, facebook status update, twitter feed etc - then that is the right time for the supplier to reach out to me.

Yes, if I had google adsense on this page a supplier would be reaching out right now (and they may well be where this post appears as an rss feed elsewhere). Trouble is the google adsense advertiser would 'reach out' with a 'broadcast' advert - one which didn't answer the particular questions I will raise. They wouldn't start a conversation with me. It would be down to me to click-thru and trawl through options, likely as a result of some bland white lie such as 'best price'.
No one would have recommended the click receipient to me, either. Trust?

What else could we expect our vendors to do? Well, clued-up service and product suppliers need not wait for the VRM project to do everything for them. They have proto-tools available now, if only they look around them.
They have google alerts, rss feeds, rss aggregators, etc etc. How many are actually using them?
So I'm going to test to see how well and if any are using them.

There's a prize at stake, of sorts. The winner gets to sell me a car.

I want to buy a Toyota Yaris - and I'm going to blog about this fact (and twitter a bit) to see if this simple piece of disaggregated content gets picked up by someone savvy enough to sell me one.
It's also a test of word of mouth because it's possible that the dealer (owner?) with the car I want isn't clued up... but he might know a friend, or a friend-of-a-friend who is.

So let's begin.
I'm in the UK.
I want a low mileage Toyota Yaris in either T3 or TR spec, registered late 2006 onwards (new shape one). Must have aircon of some form. Ideally 1.3 petrol but will consider 1.0. Probably go for the five door. My wife prefers silver (and it will be her car). Ex-demo would be ideal. Will consider new if you can do the kind of deal that makes me accept the ludicrous VAT costs involved.
Don't need to do part-ex.

Over to you.

Too much choice = nobody pleased

I was at a Macdonalds. It's not a happy place (despite the happy meals).
The staff in the place we were in were in a state of turmoil and panic. Stress levels appeared high.
It's unlikely that creative team was going home happy each night.
Just as importantly, I'm not sure many customers would be.
And I wonder if the cause is too much choice.
Macdonalds is always adding new stuff to the menu. New stuff that's rarely available at the moment you want it, resulting in your meal experience being somewhat... disrupted (here's your chips, now go and sit down while we cook the rest of your meal...?!). The wide range of choice means they do the jack-of-all-trades thing. Sounds a bit like mass media don't it?
Few people leave delighted. I share my bleak experiences of Macdonalds - you are less inclined to visit etc etc etc
So I thought, if Macdonalds just concentrated on (and became known for) being the best value, fast burger-chips-and-a- coke joint on the planet maybe everyone would get what they wanted, enjoy it, enjoy the experience, and tell their friends. Instead of trying to do everything, perhaps they should concentrate on doing one thing, brilliantly.
Very often media companies try to deliver 'everything' when they build a website. It's a habit brought with us from the stapled-together print world.
Rather, we should approach the networked world with a series of 'brilliant' services. If one of those is the content you create - great, but allow the user to disaggregate as they choose and reassemble to their own liking and take it where they want it to go (we are no longer the distributors).
It's like shopping. We keep building supermarkets, trying to make sure we stock everything.
Supermarkets work in the 'real world' because there is a travel and inconvenience issue (and granted, price too) in going to a range of specialist shops.
The web has one huge advantage over the real world in this respect - there is zero distance between all locations (which even has implications for the price thing too)
Now, how would you prefer to do your shopping?

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?