Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Video: Clay Shirky at the LSE, part ii

Here's part II of the Shirky presentation on Cognitive Surplus at the LSE on  June 28, 2010.
Part one can be found here.
In this section Clay discusses some of the drivers behind behavioural economics, our intrinsic motivation towards community and how these motivations do a better job of holding us together than any amount of external rules.
He discusses what it takes to motivate people to participate - on three levels - communal (where it's mostly for each other), public (where it's for each other and those who choose to consume the outcome) and civil (where it's for the public good - where it's to make a better world/thing/outcome that really matters.

Enjoy, comment and standby for part III - in which Clay answers questions and gives brands a bit of a kicking.

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Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Video: Clay Shirky at the LSE Part 1

I was lucky enough to interview Clay Shirky a couple of years back - when his first book Here Comes Everybody was hitting the shelves and causing a stir.
Now the New York professor is back with Cognitive Surplus - creativity and generosity in a connected age.
I was lucky enough to blag a press pass to his presentation at the LSE on June 28, 2010 and the video, below, is part of the result.
Over the next few days I'll be posting parts II and III - which includes an excellent Q&A section.
Clay's theme that we have in abundance the desire to connect and live out the reality of our social selves will not be unfamiliar to readers of this blog.
In this first part he discusses, with references to case studies, how the social tools of the internet enable and support the social reality of being human - and how the generosity this reveals has far-reaching cultural consequences for any and all institutions.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

ITV to 'incorporate social media'? Meh

Isn't it time we got over ourselves when it comes to getting excited at yet another traditional business jumping on the social media bandwagon?

The latest 'reason to get excited' is that ITV is going to 'incorporate social media into the news'. Gee.

Meanwhile, the rest of us are busily getting on with sharing what we think about 'the news' (or more potently, that which is relevant to us and our peers) every day via - you guessed it - social media. We've self organised, you see. We aren't waiting for permission to join in from them's that used to be in control. (image courtesy Matt Hamm)

And the more we engage with each other (at the edge) the more we discover we don't need that someone in the centre setting our agenda for us.

But I've banged on about the bankruptcy of the broadcast news model more than once.

We should no longer be excited when yet another company decides its going to use social media. What we should applaud is when one commits to participating in it - understanding that the deal is not all take, and it's not to broadcast through.

What should earn our applause is an organisation participating in social media not as a means of gathering free 'user generated content' and not as a means of getting its messages distributed, but instead as a way of finding people who care about the same things it does inside and outside, and supporting them in shaping better-fit outcomes for all.

There's the return on investment. Make better things, not better messages. Together.

Better things make better messages.
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Friday, June 18, 2010

The 90:9:1 rule reveals ability, not willingness, to participate

I hear a lot about the 90:9:1 'rule' (try working in collaborative co-creation and not hearing it dragged up from time to time.)

You know the one:
1% of people create content, 9% edit or modify that content, and 90% view the content without contributing.
I suspect its assumptions are used to calculate all kinds of 'propensity of your market to join in social media estimate'. I'd hazard a guess Forrester applies it to this, for example (corrections welcome). (Image courtesy Chris Devers.)

Let me say I don't think this is a rule about willingness to participate - it is one about ability to participate.

And that is a critical, critical difference.

It means (and assumes) for example that everyone wants to participate and that it is the lowering of barriers to participation that will surface this.

The barriers could be cultural, technical, linguistic, financial, logistic

Whatever the case, don't kid yourselves participation is for a small elite. It's for whoever you are prepared to help overcome the barriers the rest of us face. It is up to you to lower those barriers.

Afterall, it's a rare human being who doesn't want to join in a conversation that matters to them. You just have to find ways to help them join in.
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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Deploying social tech to enhance co-creation means a long-tail of outcomes

Making just one product as a result of a social tech-powered approach to collaborative co-creation kind of misses the point - and out on lots of the value.

It's great for making your product a better fit for the needs of the people you would have use it.
It's great for creating a marketing force for the result - the folk who joined in creating the outcome and who will therefore embrace and champion that outcome to their peers.
It's great for making people feel you are a more open, outward facing, welcoming, brand or organisation.
But if the outcome is just one product, my concern is you've missed out on everything else you've discovered on your journey to making that one product.

For example Nokia's Design By Community project, in which we are all invited to help shape a prototype phone, will end up with just one outcome.

The spec for that one phone is selected by the community each week. From a range of choices, users are invited to vote. And even if (as is likely) there is a long-tail distribution to the spread of votes, only the spec accruing the highest number of votes - the single most popular spec for that week - gets included in the final outcome.

This, like Twitter trends, tells you one thing - what is the single largest grouping.
Yet everything we know about the peer-to-peer network world of the internet tells us that there is greater value in the long tail than in the single largest 'hit'.

So while the single largest group (note, this is very far from the majority in a networked world, while it was very close to the majority in a broadcast one - see 'why hits are worth less in the networked world') may be telling you to make a phone with the largest possible touch screen, 80% or more may be telling you they want something different - be that a small touch screen, a qwerty keyboard, or whatever.

Failing to respond to that, may be missing out on what looks like the smaller prizes, but together, serving global mass niches, they result in the bigger prize.

Watch this mistake get played out again and again as old broadcast ideas get applied to the networked world - where people try to use social tools to bring people together - but deploy them against broadcast concepts.

I fear this may be exactly what our new UK government ends up with as it attempts to use technology to bring more of us into the decision-making process. They will surface and serve lowest common denominators; with the resulting disatisfaction for the majority with the single outcome.

Socialising the processes of collaborative innovation and co-creation means more than just using social tools to find people and to distribute to them. It means understanding the greater value lays in the long tail and ensuring this isn't lost in the rush for the single most popular.
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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Are the iPad and the iPhone leading publishers astray?

Despite all the excitement for publishers over the iPad (and no doubt the excitement to come over the iPhone4 - well the screen resolution should improve the reading experience) I remain sceptical about the long term benefit for publishers - particularly publishers of 'news'.

In fact you could make the case that by encouraging them not to adapt, it puts their survival at greater risk.
The issue is that news - at least what we understand as news in the current lexicon - is not a best fit with the networked world.

It's lowest common denominator - the fat end of the long tail. And we all know more value exists in the long, long, skinny end - and that the fat end seems to keep on getting smaller.

That approach to news suits a broadcast world. If you can only make one TV news show, with a limited amount of items, then you'd best try include news that appeals to as many people as you can muster.
It has always been the fact that more people weren't interested in each item than were (fact - more people won't watch the World Cup this month than will - you'd be hard pushed to believe that if your guide was traditional broadcast news and programming).

But until recent times there was no alternative to this model. They'd have had to broadcast a million versions of the TV news with a never-ending range of news items to meet the needs of all the people who weren't interested in the main agenda.

Now of course that's pretty much exactly what does happen and is possible. Say hello YouTube.

In a networked world we produce for niches (for ourselves), distribute peer-to-peer and get value from relevance rather than quality (we like both, but we'll always take relevance over quality).

News, as I have often said, is now less about when it happens and more about when it's relevant (matters) to you.

So, back to that iPad and iPhone4. Too many traditional news vendors, it seems to me, see Apple's open hand as a way of reformatting/repackaging exactly what they've already done on the assumption that the reason we have been buying less newsprint is because it wasn't available in a beautiful digital format.

That doesn't make sense to me. I don't sit on the train each morning pining for a copy of the Guardian to read. I get on with participation and interacting with other people discussing stuff that's way more relevant to me than the vast majority of stuff in ANY newspaper. At least any they've come up with yet. Yes, some of it comes from newspapers. Shotguns hit targets, too.

Even the personalised rejigging of the content they have, to respond on individual use patterns, only delivers the more relevant stuff from their pile of 'not-quite-the-right-fit-with-me'. And it's individual. We are social.

There are two options. Invest like crazy in quality rather than scale. Think less mass and more about serving a niche of people who value the specific and otherwise unattainable. There are, after all, still people who will hand illuminate a leather bound Bible for you some many centuries since the invention of the printing press.

The other is to be the filter; the curator for specific niches. Prove you are a better filter of what's valuable to me than my peers and you win that game.

That is no easy task - and one that's a million miles away from decanting your current offering into the latest digital formats.

The networked world demands new models, new approaches - not just new technologies.

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Tuesday, June 08, 2010

An Open letter to David Cameron (with the emphasis on Open)

Hello David.

Long time no see. I want to catch up on one or two things and suspect it may be a while before I
bump into you in Starbucks again.

You see, I love the idea of the Big Society. But in order for it to save us from a generation of savage cuts and all that goes with them, we must move it from the village hall to the heart of Government.

David, your speech in Milton Keynes yesterday paved the way for a dark future. It sounded much less 'Yes We Can' and much more 'You Just Can't'.

Where has the Big Society gone, David? Cuts imposed from the centre? Under whose guidance? Whitehall's 'experts'? When do we actually get to be in this together, rather than have this done to us?

There are more experts outside Government on any given subject than inside (witness, the digital economy act). That was the Big Society trying to act - and revealing the reality of the potential power of us being 'all in this together'.

So David, I urge you, for the sake of that deficit - and its impact on future generations - start walking the walk of The Big Society.

Make it a priority to use social tools to discover those who can make a difference to any given subject. And use your resources to bring them together.

Collaborative co-creation works. It creates best-fit policies and less waste, more efficient services. It creates engaged citizens: Ones who aren't just told we're all in this together, but actually are in the process of it rather than at the receiving end.

Using social technologies all this can be achieved so much more cheaply than through the focus groups and traditional stakeholder engagement methods of the old approach to policy making.

Government is not something you do to people, it is something you do with them. Social technologies lower the transaction costs of making that more than just a slogan.

Through social tools we can make best use of those things we DO have in abundance: our desire to do things together (as the highly social ape we are) our willingness and desire to connect one to another and to talk about what bothers us, our creativity - our desire to make a difference.

Make use of all that we have in abundance to make the best possible use of our more scarce resources.

Use real-time auditing of digitally expressed intent, and need, to target resources (there are millions of us publishing what matters to us to our peers on social networks and through social tools right now).

Use the army of experts outside Government to make policy that fits the real needs of more people - decide how to cut and where to spend.

Use the solutions of the networked world to provide a long tail fit with real need. Move away from the ill-fitting, waste-ridden application of lowest-common denominator policies (pleasing few), to niche-focused service provision to truly serve the diverse needs of all (sounds like a vote winner to me...).

Recruit a whole army of service providers, as those who contribute to the co-creation of policy find they care enough to want to make things better on the ground. This is how you will engage that army of volunteers. And how they will recruit another. If they have a hand in making policiy it becomes their policy - one they want to make work and will help to make work.

In short, David, the world has changed from mass to niche, from broadcast to network. The way it must be governed must change too.

The future is about self organisation. Government must become about enabling that self-organisation: Platform Government.

It means less power at the centre. And that's tough for those with power to accept. So it needs a new breed of politician. One which truly puts the people before their own power.

Are you one of the new breed David?

That self-organising future gets to happen with or without you.

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Monday, June 07, 2010

Video: My presentation at Social Media In Business

Here's the presentation I made at Social Media In Business (#SMIB10) at eBay/Paypal's uk HQ late last month.
Thanks to SMIB for giving me the platform. (update - video is now available to view!)

You'll also find the slides I presented to, below.

Untitled from SMIB EVENTS on Vimeo.

And here's the slides...

All feedback very welcome!

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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?