Thursday, April 30, 2009

Your content at risk: A credit crisis for the co-created web

There are reports that flickr may be in trouble. Well, it is owned by Yahoo, so maybe we shouldn't be too surprised.

When loic le meur (he of Seesmic fame) heard this he wondered outloud (on twitter) if he should start backing up his years of images.

This is the social web's equivalent of a failing bank scenario.

We have invested our content in it and now we're fearful that we might have been better off stashing it under our mattresses. We're worried if the bank fails, our investment disappears. (Image courtesy Travis Truman)

When we contribute content that we value, in the joint creation of a site such as blogger or flickr, we not only insist on retaining ownership of our content (traditional media companies really struggle with that bit), we need confidence that this content will be stored safely and not evaporate over night. Just as we do when we hand our cash to a bank.

In both cases we hope to create a little extra interest for ourselves along the way and recognise that our service provider has to find a way of making a return on their investment (the platform or bank) in return.

If Flickr were to fail, how would that change your online generosity?

Of course, Flickr would not be the first to disappear, taking our treasured content with it. But it would be the first co-created giant of the social media age to tank.

Imagine the holes it's sudden desctruction would leave across millions of websites and blogs... there would be one on this blogpost, for a start.

Is Flickr is too big to fail? Given the interconnectivity of the web, can anything which stores and shares be allowed to fail?

Perhaps it is time for a bail out strategy - time for a global institution to guarantee our content investments are protected, the assets safely transferred and made accessible to us in the event of failure - so we can reinvest them elsewhere if we choose.

There are some regulation issues opened up by this, such as, do you have to comply with T&Cs of the bail-out guardians in order to have your web service covered? Who gets to set the rules? etc

But without some kind of guarantor does the web face a credit crunch all of its own where we as investors of our content start becoming more wary about who we will lend it to.

Let's not underplay this. These loans are the very reason businesses from twitter to facebook, wikipedia to google can exist at all.

The web has grown through peer-to-peer content creation and distribution. We contribute on the understanding we can always get it back (which at least means access it online and share it with others).

As we increasingly rely on the cloud for our storage requirements, the providers of those clouds will have to come up with protection for lenders which include exit/bail-out strategies whether lightning strikes or financial storms come.

What kind of terms and conditions would restore your confidence as a contributor? What terms and conditions would you find acceptable as a platform creator?

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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

LinkedIn; looser ties and adhoc communities of purpose

Reid HoffmanImage via Wikipedia
Ok. Stick with me on this. Today's is a long post including gems from Reid Hoffman (CEO LinkedIn) and JP Rangaswami (Confused of Calcutta) and shock revelations (at least to me) from a British Goverment minister (Tom Watson).

I was lucky enough to be invited to The Guardian/The Conversation Group's evening with Reid Hoffman, last night in London.

Reid is both CEO of LinkedIn and a serial innovator. He sits on more boards and advisory boards than he's had hot dinners.

Before Reid took the floor I had a chance to meet and chat with him, and also to catch up with JP Rangaswami and Tom Watson MP.

Tom's an interesting chap: the first politician I've met who really gets the depth of the coming disruption and its potential to reorganise politics.

Watch his next moves!

JP is busily expanding his personal Dunbar number. He thinks he's up to 380. He won't claim these are all intensely maintained relationships but they can be activated to become so. All digital relationships have resulted in face to face meetings to build to that number.

We mused that this may be a male-favouring model. Our shared experience being that women tend to allocate more time to maintaining relationships between these bursts of intensity - and are therefore likely to maintain less, but stronger ties.

Men (perhaps because our relationships, our knowledge of each other, are shallower) can 'pick up where we left off' after long gaps in contact, as if the intervening time has simply melted away.

We are good at loose ties.

What our digital social tools are enabling is a way for all of us to extend those loose ties.

And because it's a light-tie model, perhaps it favours the male psyche?

This seems to run contrary to the idea that 'the web is female' in that networks are feminine while linear models masculine.

It does and it doesn't (to answer in a less binary, more networked way :-)

The digital tools we now have enable both the deep and loose tie models. Their real power is in the way our deep-tie focus can rapidly shift and reform in communities of purpose.

These are the periods of intense relationships with an adhoc group from among your ever-growing Dunbar Number.

The web gives us more opportunity to build the right loose ties so that when the time and the purpose are right those ties can switch from loose to deep.

Or as Reid put it later: "Sorting signal from noise means participating in the right groups: Wisdom of the right crowd vs the stupidity of the masses."

Which takes us neatly on to Reid's talk. I tweeted a few highlights and invited questions for Reid from followers.

Here's the result of that, some Reid Hoffman highlights:
  • Companies can tell employees not to have info online about as much as they can stop them having mobile phones. Having a profile means you may be recruited and that makes companies nervous. But it's a benefit - it reveals the companies presence - it's access points and specialities.
  • All companies need a social media policy since EVERYONE will end up using it in some way. Linkedin insists if its employees are going to blog about Linkedin they run it past the PR department first.*
  • What the Internet means for management, companies and careers: It helps pros become more efficient.
  • How I get new ideas is that I talk to people. Add the power of online and (you get to talk to more people, more efficiently).
  • Every individual is becoming a small business. Part of what makes a professional good at what they do is knowing where to go to assemble a problem solving team around them - deploying networks of people around you.
  • I think we'll see the assembly of collective intelligence to make good strategic decisions in companies.
  • Businesses fail when they only depend on resources within their firewall. Look at what Microsoft is doing trying to be relevant online! Too many long-serving Microsoft-ingrained people in charge and believing they know best.
  • Speed of iteration is key. Linkedin releases every week. Doing this teaches new techniques about how to execute in that cycle.
  • We live in a networked world. Don't compete late.
*This seemed contradictary to me since Reid also spoke about the value in trusting your employees.

My take - you don't need separate and new policies you need reminders of the same ones we've always had which govern how we talk about our employers - ie you don't share the things that give your company a competitive advantage and you don't publish bitches about the boss, the brand, the products etc.

Grown-ups know how to do this. People you trust should be allowed to get on with that. I called Reid out on this. His response was that there are cases where such policies protect the naive employee (one case saw a woman tweet to ask followers if she should take a job she hated at Cisco in return for a fat paycheck. She hadn't realised that Cisco would be listening for mentions of its brands and that her tweet could go beyond her followers.).

I also accept there are some professions for whom guidelines are essential because having a political bias or being seen to tout for business could get them slung out of their profession. But again, this would be the same if they wrote a letter to their local paper. You don't need a different set of behavioural guidelines simply because more of us have access to publishing.

We got a few questions tweeted during Reid's talk:

@Aage_Reerslev asked about Reid's take on the development of mobile going forward, which we didn't really nail. Sorry. TBC

@soverpeck asked how Linkedin would remain relevant as more people start to use Facebook for business. Reid's response is that it will revel in its specialisation - you will always know why you are using linkedin; and it won't be to play poker!

@chadcat asked about Linkedin making its API more open. Given Reid's rapid iteration mantra, the process of getting accepted (for developers) seems slow and restrictive.

I suspect Reid's thinking on this is focused on that specialisation idea. Linkedin's focus on the individual (ascendent over the needs of the company) and on business efficiency over 'anything else you may want to do online', is the real evolutionary funnel here.

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Friday, April 24, 2009

I'm loving it. Macdonalds delivers!

Big Mac
Good service comes in human-sized packages. It's best served distinctly un-supersized.

My daughter likes a Macdonald's Happy Meal. She chooses relatively healthy options - tonight opting for carrots and fruit - which is more than can be said for her mother and father...

I used the local drive-thru. And when we arrived home to eat discovered that my wife's craved-for Big Mac was missing from the order. I'd definitely paid for it - I'd even kept the receipt.

So, I made a quick call to the restaurant.

This is not the first time this has happened.

In the past I've been asked if I can 'pop back to pick up another'. No. I can't. I'm eating my dinner.

Usually the best you can hope for is a credit against a future purchase - on the say-so of a name you get quoted to jot on your receipt (and who you are to assume will still be there in a forthnight when you may want your next fix).

On this occasion, however, when I was asked if I could pop back, and I asked, as I always do, "no, could you deliver it?" I actually got asked for my address.

This is a first, for me at least.

And within 10 minutes a Big Mac (and some fries thrown in gratis) were hand delivered by private car.

I told the member of staff I was impressed. And I am. So I'm telling you.

(And for the info of Macdonald's HQ I'm talking about the Huntingdon, Cambs, UK restaurant.)

I'd like to think this is a new policy being implemented globally (after all, at the end of the day when your order isn't filled and you are charged for it, Maccy D's pockets cash for something they haven't supplied).

But I doubt it. It's likely the decision of a local manager responding to local conditions. And while Maccy D staff feel they have the freedom to act like humans and not simply follow the company rule book, they'll go from strength to strength.

I am put in mind of Fight Club.

The rules of corporate customer service:
  • No1: There are no rules of corporate customer service.

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Thursday, April 23, 2009

UK Budget: chancellor cries for help!

UK Chancellor Alistair Darling had a coded message in his budget speech yesterday. The tagcloud of his 100 most used words in it showed the single most used word was HELP! (cloud via TimesOnline)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

My favourite five bloggers

Here's an interview with yours truly, published in the Pakistani Spectator.
Because they asked. And I could.

They asked me to list my top five bloggers... oh dear, a recipe for getting in trouble with the other 100+ I would heartily recommend without hestitation... (see my recommended blogs, left hand column, to even out the love)

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Can we stop patronising Susan Boyle now, please?

Via OneGoldenSquare it seems Susan Boyle is now more searched for than the hottest other thing in social media: Twitter. Alarmingly, I almost certainly don't have to tell you who Susan Boyle is. If you haven't heard, I guess you'll need to add to that search volume :-)

BTW: One reason the search volume may be so high is that people are talking about her peer-to-peer in social networks of all descriptions, but have been unable to take the video of her with them on their journeys since embedding has been disabled. More people would have seen her and not needed to search for her had friends been embedding the video where they meet.

But, to my point: Susan is not a pretty sight.

The reason we were/are so surprised/blown away when she opens her mouth to sing is precisely because she is not a pretty sight. She does not fit our (broadcast media built) stereotype of the way our entertainment must be packaged.

Which would be a wonderful challenging thing if only her talent matched the search volume. Sadly, in reality, it doesn't (but I guess this is only my opinion...)

Strip away the patronising "wow! the frump can sing" and you're left with a pleasant enough lady with sub-cruise ship talent.

Stop feeling sorry for the way she looks. Start being honest about how she sounds.

This is going to be a real test for a straight-talking media celeb like Simon Cowell, but it shouldn't be tough for us as we share in our own communities of purpose (eg like, by me, right here, right now).

Does the Susan Boyle phenomenon point to something grander for entertainment? Does it ask questions about the way celebrity is constructed in a peer-to-peer world?

It certainly reveals the speed with which celebrity can be attained in our hyperconnected present; a world in which we are the distribution.

But it does little to reveal the next wave - the shift from stars manufacturered and delivered (and broadcast) to the world as finished articles by big business.

Our next generation celebrities will be people we share in creating, not just join in distributing.

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Mobile Advertising: Serving people not targets?

What's going on with mobile advertising? A couple of people I thoroughly recommend have come together to try to answer that question with an event in London on June 15 - James Cameron and Jonathan Macdonald.

Mobile Advertising UK is backed by the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA), Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) Europe and the Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) UK.

Ogilvy, Mediacom, Mindshare, Alcatel-Lucent, Sponge, Mediaedge:cia, Inside Mobile, Unanimis, ringring media, AKQA Mobile, Vodafone, Telefonica O2, Orange and 3 will all take part.

And I'd have been there joining a panel if it wasn't for the demands of a family holiday.

On top of the conference, the event will host the inaugural EverySingleOneOfUs Mobile Campaign of the Year Awards, designed to recognise the past year's most engaging, creative and effective mobile advertising campaigns (download the entry form here). Image courtesy theworldscreams

Jonathan (who founded EverySingleOneOfUs, and was among the launch team at revolutionary mobile operator Blyk) has come up with a neat twist on the awards theme. It'll be judged on how useful it's been for the people it was intended for - us lot.

"The EverySingleOneOfUs Mobile Campaign of the Year award is the first award in new media to be judged for the benefit the campaign has to the public."

It will be judged for value, relevance, ease of interaction and transparency of offering.

Who dares enter?

Contact James for delegate passes, awards entries and the conference programme.

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Monday, April 20, 2009

Social Psycho: When your friend becomes your enemy

Check out this slidedeck from Marcus Brown (TheKaiser). It raises some really interesting questions.
My gut response is that the darkness always gets illuminated by the greater-good majority; That if someone were boarding a plane to come kill me, there would be a wall of alerts and support from the good guys in my network.
But what would happen if our former-friend stopped sharing altogether?
Join the fun. See below.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Social media is good for you

Does the rapid stream of news that constant digital connectedness brings us (via social networks and the likes of twitter) make us less compassionate? Does it mess with our moral compass?
That is the suggestion of a report from a NeuroScience Group.

And I'm sure they have reams of evidence to support this. And please do investigate, by all means.

But my common sense nags me to question this. Compassion is a powerfully human thing - it's part of what drives our social selves - compassion for others brings us together to help each other. And it has ever been so, since the first family units gathered together for protection and to achieve things together.

The argument made (as is often the case) is that we are replacing real face-to-face experiences with digital ones.
But that isn't how it works, is it? We use social media, digital means, to augment our human relationships, not to replace them.

They enable long distance ones, they reinforce local ones, they lead to physical meetings with physical people, which then reinforce what may have started as purely digital relationships.

The argument also assumes that our digital represenations of ourselves are less human than our 'real' selves - a whole other area for philosophical debate touched on in yesterday's post and the comments on it.

So I thought I'd offer some relatively hard evidence to counter this.

Intuitively, using social media should make us more human, not less (the clue is the in the name here). So here's my evidence to support that claim:

Over the course of my career I have been asked to complete several psychological personality profiling tests. They are always based on Jungian principles.

Traditionally I would turn out Red/Blue on the many and various colour wheels these generate. For those not in the know that roughly translates as creative, leader, director, (in the main) with a good dose of detail, logic, calm, introspection. There's lots of negative stuff about arrogance and aggression in that red/blue stuff too which - much like star signs, we like to ignore about ourselves. But you get the general picture. (the four-humours style diagram shown here is from )

But that was in the days before I immersed myself in social media - in constant connectness to others.

I retested four years ago - not long after my daughter was born. This time around I came out much more yellow/red. Yellow people are more sociable and demonstrative. I put that down to becoming a father - making me a softer (more rounded?) individual. Less competitive/demanding/strong-willed etc

Four years on and I have just retested. And after all this time deeply ingrained in social media I've turned out to be massively yellow-green (caring, encouraging, sharing... sound anything like the kind of things we all enjoy about social media, to you?)

It's not neuroscientific research, but it is real, it is testable, and it does offer some evidence that the long term use of social media strengthens some really important human attributes: compassion, very much included.

Caring, encouraging, sharing, sociable. Surely these are the nobler aspects of humanity?

If these are nurtured by the use of social media then I have to conclude social media makes the world a better more moral and ultimately more human place.

Carry on tweeting everyone - your moral compass is safe.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Lego Man: Why the next web is about meta data, first

The next web, the one that really counts, will connect us all via the real time expression of intent through meta data.

It will find ways for us to find each other through the things we find interesting. It will automate, cut down technical barriers and be available to all.

And the way we will cut through the unimaginable clutter of everything everyone finds interesting is to focus on the real time and focus on intent.

The more we can make relevant, intent related connections, the more value we bring to the network (for example, communities of purpose vs focus groups)

The first step is to connect in ways in which you can express your real time intent to others. All others.

That requires a simple ability to connect, a ubiquity of connection and perhaps (in the first instance) a focus less on the human expressing the intent and more on the meta data (content) being expressed.

Zemanta is giving us an intro to this right now: Less who is friends with who?, more what is interesting to who?

It is what the semantic web seeks to achieve, taking us beyond the node-focused world of social networks and towards the meta data (connections) of the networked world.

So we shift from focusing on social networks as some kind of goal towards a mission to enable our transformation into global digital social beings, constructed from and expressed as meta data across a silo-free web.

But for all this, we must not lose sight of the human.

Ideas don't act, humans do. It is our discussion of ideas that leads to the creation of new ones, new action and new value.

But in so much as we exist on the web, it is as a bundle of ideas which we choose to express or which are bundled with us through our interactions with others. Hence the initial focus on meta data. Hence the ever-deconstructable, reconstructable Lego Man. (image courtesy freezelight)

The next web has to retain the sovereign self while acknowledging the multiple complexity of that self.

Content, metadata, can and should seek out related ideas, provided those ideas come with a human attached.

Focusing on real time expression of intent of course misses a cornucopia of value stored in latent, indirectly expressed intent, which when shared will add thousands, millions more nodes to the potential communities of purpose that could form.

But let's see how we handle expressed intent first.

I'm meeting with later this week with a view to joining as a trustee. It's mission is to add nodes to the network.

And really, this post has been about reminding myself about what is valuable in that endeavour.

But it's also my expression of metadata on these themes. I await the connections it makes with both interest and purpose...

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Thursday, April 09, 2009

Another day, another set of stunning twitter stats

Seems only five minutes since all the comscore stats showed amazing growth of twitter - yet that growth appears to be relentless, here, via SocialTimes comes news that twitter now has 14m-plus users a month in the US alone (14 million users, up over 76.8 percent).

And as far as other reports I've seen indicate, the US accounts for only around a third of twitter users. Phew. That could mean we're at 42m global users a month.

I know at least one VC who passed on Twitter and may just be weeping into their humble pie about now...

Ok, so Facebook has 200m active users (100m log in every day - and it's hard to know how Twitter's possible 42m a month measures up against that) but there's some other stats that might balance that book. For example, each Facebook user has an average of 120 friends - while the average number of Twitter followers in the UK ranges from 84 in Belfast to 594 in Coventry (these stats from Social Media Insight by Social Media Library and referencing 2008). In London (which accounts for 11% of all UK twitter accounts, while Scotland accounts for 16%!) the average is 256.

I think its reasonable to assume right now that the average number of twitter followers is 250 (which speaks volumes for the less private-data-heavy requirement of twitter - enabling the fuzzy edged adhoc group forming nature of twitter communities of purpose)

The Twitter numbers are only going to grow.

And the services around it too.

Today I've been pointed at a new form of twitter search. One to watch? Check it out and let me know what you think
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Wednesday, April 08, 2009

200M Facebook users and a whole heap of secrets

Via Techcrunch it turns out Facebook is now claiming MORE THAN 200M ACTIVE users, with the fastest growing demographic in the over 35s (almost literally everyone and their mother is now on Facebook).

The average user has 120 friends (helpful for those of us calculating the eyeball-focused numbers required of 'reach' in social media.

Half (100M) log in every day and one in ten update their status every day.
Which, I guess means on average 60 of your friends log in each day to see up to 12 status updates from the rest of your friends each day.

And that leaves 90M social netlurkers (as Iain Harrison neatly put it) popping in for a lurk at what their friends are up to each day. If they contributed we'd have a little more for everyone.

All of these big numbers mean its increasingly important to brands and organisations to understand what people are saying about them in this big old bruiser of a social network - which is of course pretty much hidden away in Facebook's password protected vaults (which won't help the user if their preference is to publish in a brand's face).

Even tracking the relatively public formation of groups and pages is a challenge. It requires a human to log in, conduct a search, note and sift the old and the new etc.

For my part, right now, I'd find it really useful if there was at least an automated way in which I could get alerts when a new group or fan page is created relating to my choice of keywords.

If anyone has put together a way of delivering that, please let me know. If not, watch this space.
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Should a qualification in social media have more on-the-job focus?

Over at (where I work) we're reaching out to find social media practioners to join in defining the tasks the holder of an MA in Social Media should be able to perform.

We're taking a vocational approach because we believe there are going to be more and more jobs in social media (we've got three up for grabs right now!) for the on-the-job elements of a vocational qualification to take place in.

So, please join in to help create a standard we can all find useful?

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Monday, April 06, 2009

Listening: expectations, realities and incentives

Now that we have tools to make everyone a publisher, a distributor and a marketer, many of those of us who employ those tools are raising our expectations.

When we publish we expect our voices to be heard by companies, organisations and brands we are publishing about - where-ever and when-ever we publish.

If we publish a moan about service we are coming to expect that service provider to hear us.

And we expect action, real change, as a result. (image courtesy

But for them to even listen requires the employment of good listening tools and expertise (and many businesses have not tackled this first step) AND quite fundamental shifts in thinking.

They have to raise how they value what customers think and say to new, empowering, highs.

They have to see you as much more than their customer. Few have taken that leap.

So, often the power the citizen thinks they weild (and should be weilding) when they use social media to publish, lacks the effectiveness they hoped for and intended.

Their friends will hear them ( and that will hurt your business of course) but the intended receipients remain deaf to the message.

Two fundamentals about social media:
  • We want to be heard
  • We want to make a difference.
With these two notions we can start to build tools to connect more silo'd businesses and orgs with the citizens of the networked world in a way that brings value to both parties.

It's in the interests of the business because listening and responding to people who care about your products and services brings huge value for:
  • R&D
  • A/B testing
  • Marketing
  • Market Research
  • Reducing Churn
  • Recruitment
  • Etc (please do add your etc in a comment below :-)
And it's in the interests of the networked citizen because we want to be heard by the org to effect change.

Outward facing orgs are ready to reach out. Great listening tools and a willingness to engage with the conversations they discover give them their launch pad.

More inward facing orgs, those a little more disinclined to relinquish control, have a workable alternative:

Create and maintain a set of social tools around yourself where those who care about your products and services can interact one with another and with you.

Create a conversation-about-you portal; complete with an aggregation of related conversations-about-you RSS feeds.

If you build it, they will come? Perhaps. Some. But you will also need a listening strategy to find those who care.

And their incentive to have their conversation on your portal?
  • They want to be heard
  • They want to make a difference
Guarantee that and they may come. Dell ideastorm guaranteed that.

And to improve the value exchange still further, offer rewards for contribtions that do make a difference.

Make it so the people who publish and distribute and market where and when they like, see value in publishing about you to your face.

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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?