Friday, December 21, 2007

Warning for social media marketeers

One line from Todd Defren's PRSquared Blog summarises the issue for brands as they make an effort to come over all communal (and when they get it wrong they come over all comical).

They didn’t want to be part of the conversation; they wanted to be the topic of the conversation.

Thank you Todd.

Rather know where you are... or everything?

Am I missing something? The headlines (Consumers Prefer GPS over Mobile Internet/GPS edges out internet as desired mobile feature - study) tell us US mobile phone users would rather have a GPS-enabled phone than a mobile-internet enabled one.

Translation: I'd rather have a sat-nav than be a live, real-time connected node on the network.

What kind of questions resulted in that?
Q"Would you like to know where you are? Or would you like to know any and everything?"
A"Oh, I'll take where I am thanks."

Knowing where you are and where you're headed is all very nice - but it's so much more useful if you can check in with the human race for a bit of help and advice about what's around you as you go.

So, in my view, those headlines are red-herrings. My guess is what people actually want is connection and if you can also hand them a map, they'll thank you for it.

Mobile Internet WITH geolocation is clearly a powerful proposition, but if I have to take one or the other, I'll take mobile internet every single time.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Digital Media predictions for 2008

2008 will be the year the perfect (fire) storm starts doing some real damage.

It’ll be the year in which traditional companies finally react to the alarm bells they’ve heard ringing since the turn of the century – and start shuffling towards the fire exits.

Trouble is, the flames are already licking around their heels.

They’ve heard the consultants, they’ve read the books. Even McKinsey looks like it’s finally read Wikinomics (if not the Cluetrain Manifesto and Communities Dominate Brands).

So I think the biggest economic shift we’ll see in 2008 is the rapid acceleration of old money being invested in the networked world. And they are going to need guidance to get it right. Practical, how-to stuff. (Maybe they should read this before they reach for their wallets).

So in 2008 it will no longer be about the What, it’ll be about the How.

But before we get into that, a quick review of my predictions for 2007 – so you get some idea of how large a pinch of salt you'll need to take the following with.

Those 2007 predictions in full (my comments on them in italics)

1) Access to the internet via mobile will surpass 40% of all internet use (globally).
Yes. 1-for-1. It was 25% in 2006. Now it's up to ??% (Morgan Stanley are predicting that this year 3G users will overtake fixed broadband subscriber numbers). The google-driven Android alliance is going to push this still harder. Half the world now has a mobile phone – and that’s not something you can say of the PC. The dominance of this new pervasive computing will shift how we think about everything.

2) A UK national newspaper will close its print operation. And a series of one-time print only magazine brands will become digital only (pick a number between 25 and 100).
No. Can’t give you chapter and verse on this. It hasn’t happened in my back yard. It still feels like it might.

3) Broadcast TV on your mobile will become commonplace. Sky will offer it as a bolt-on upgrade to your home services.
Yes. Even down to the Sky offer

4) Microsoft/Google/Yahoo (one or all) will launch a mobile phone.
Yes-but-no-but-yes (Android is the closest we’ve got to this)

5) All mobile operators in the UK will follow 3 and offer fixed price mobile internet access.
Yes. Even 02 is offering this in packages for the I-Phone now

6) A mobile operator will seek the edge by launching a fixed price for all services (ie £40 a month for all-you-can-eat internet, voice, text, mms...TV(?)
Not quite. Virgin is closest with a broadband, TV home phone and mobile package for (you guessed it) £40 a month. If only they’d thrown in all mobile data.

7) More than 10% of internet users will blog.
Almost. It’s actually reached 8%.., come on world… you’re lagging!

8) A citizen-journalism TV channel made up entirely of video shot on and uploaded from mobile phones will launch.
Yes. Flashbox TV did exactly this.

9) TV on demand will revolutionise how you consume TV and send advertisers into a blind panic.
Yes (for me it has!) I think this is widely recognized now, and my viewing has changed. Has yours?

10) A slow-burn campaign for users to claim back their digital identities will turn to a riot of noise by the end of the year...
Evidence so far: The response to Facebook Beacon, the UK Government losing ‘our data’, increasing influence on services which only use your data while you are using them.

All in all, not too bad I reckon. How rose-tinted are my spectacles? Post your comments n the usual way.

So given my track record so far – take the following with a pinch, dose or truck load of salt depending on your PoV! I’ll try to offer a concrete-ish example in each case so we can say whether they did or didn’t happen when it comes time to reviewing them at the end of next year!

10 Digital Media predictions for 2008

1) Aggregation will be the key buzz word in media. The BBC’s beta homepage let’s you take control of how you view their content. By the end of the year they’ll ‘get’ that you can’t maintain a reputation as a ‘destination’ in the networked world unless your node is strengthened by its connections to others.
Example: Expect a BBC-curated collection of externally created (including, UGC) feeds and widgets. And this will prove the model – allied to a wide range of social, community-driven functionality, that emerges from established media brands.

2) The new advertising: This is the year in which engagement marketing will finally start taking significant chunks of spend. Mobile is already leading the way with a successful start for Blyk.
Example: Expect forward-thinking traditional companies to set up units to specifically make money with EM. Expect new companies to set up to do this alone. Crash course in EM here. People might even start understanding how viral works

3) Talking of which…Widgets. Widgets play to both the aggregation trend AND the engagement marketing trend. Widgets just had their first conference (Widgety Goodness). Widgets rule Facebook. Widgets carry the promise of widgetising ourselves! Imagine a widget which carries your personal ID – your data - which you can plug into a site as and when you wish – and take with you when you leave. You want your data back? You got it!
Example: Expect to see the likes of google, nokia, Microsoft acquiring widget makers and the engagement thinkers behind them. The digitization of the web disaggregates discreet pieces of information. RSS allows the user to re-aggregate. Widgets lower the technical barrier so everyone can be their own aggregator. And in that context, it’s going to accelerate…

4)A shift in thinking away from the url as destination and towards search as navigation.
Example: Ads in other media will stop carrying urls – more will refer to places to look for services (eg use Macdonalds calorie counter on Facebook Mobile....

5) And talking of Facebook… I think it’ll emerge that Microsoft’s dabble with Facebook is less about cracking digital advertising – more about the future of the desktop – the future of computing itself.
Example: I dunno – Microsoft’s replacement for vista comes across like a newsfeed?!?

6) Tools will emerge to allow online videos to end their TV envy.
Example: Tools which allow everyone to mash up video, add comments into/over the video stream, save and share their own versions... all with technical barriers low enough to be used by anyone (just like commenting on a blog!). These will be available in/on engagement marketing widgets, viral efforts and YouTube itself. And finally 'rich' media will no longer be poor.

7) Games consoles and game user interfaces will have increasing influence on the UI of both hardware and web experiences. This will feed into the design of services for mobile and web.
Example: Expect the fall of the traditional mobile phone nine-number interface, and a pc without a qwerty keyboard.

8) Celebrity will take a dip. Once we talked to neighbours about neighbours. Our friends were the gossip, our friends were the news. Then community took a kicking from the interruption of mass production and command and control economies. Our fascination with celebrity filled the friendship gap, they became our make believe friends. But now we have tools (such as the facebook newsfeed) which make our friends our news once more.
Example: Celebrity-obsessed media is likely to suffer. Viewing figs for I’m a Celebrity start to fall, less Celebrity Dog Walking type shows being made.

9) On the threat-to-newspapers theme, I think the Sun will go free – on the streets of London, at least.

10) Peer-to-peer collaboration will continue its disruptive march. This will go in any and all directions. So let’s pick one to expect to happen by the close of 2008.
Example: OK, someone will launch a peer-to-peer bank in the western world.
UPDATED DEC 20... the wisdom of the crowds (see comments) tells me I was really good at predicting the past on this one! eg Have offered a replacement in the comments you'll find below.

And one for fun… Amazon will regret its Kindle, e-book because it’ll get hacked and that'll make book content as free and accessible as music has become. Scarey for Amazon.
Then again, perhaps its closed nature will make more of us realise the tactile value of a real book – which any of us can pass to any of us – or sell to any of us.

So that’s my gaze into the future. What’s yours?

The new advertising = the new graffiti?

Spotted in London's Oxford Street. Search is navigation. Online and offline worlds merge. Digital grafitti?
Rather neatly illustrates Services and the Death of The Website, while it's about it.

How to go viral: Lose the TV envy and tell the truth

Once upon a time if you put together a nice little video (brim full of TV envy) of sufficient quality and (usually subversive) humour you'd get a nice little pass-on rate. I think of those old Ford Ka ads.

These were essentially broadcast. They relied on a different 'distribution model' (that'd be us then) than the 30-second slot, but that was all. And the marketing world slapped itself on the back. For we have invented pull... ish (at least in the sense that those who were amused by the ad would forward it to others who they thought would be amused, and along the way the sender would accrue some kudos for showing a side to his own sense of humour, and for being first (among his peers) with the gag.

And let's not discount that. It was a decent leap forward. But it was one with a one leg tied behind us. More a stuttering hop then.

They were a hop forward in another way too - they got closer to the true voice of the brand. Instead of a sanitised made-for-TV version of their voice, this one dared to speak something approximating the truth.

For example, a few years back one bike manufacturer showed an awesome video of one of its new bikes being thrashed through early morning city streets. It was great to watch - accompanied by banging music. But it was only for consumption within the exhibition it was being shown at (on a small screen on its own stand). It was kind of semi-public. I was the editor of at the time. We thought it was great and wanted to show it on our site. The manufacturer daren't share it officially.

But in the hyperlinked world of the web, the truth will out. We found a site showing the video and linked to it. It didn't last long (the site got taken down pretty rapidly and this was a world pre the ubiquity of Youtube.)... but the video was out. The voice was heard.
That video said what the people who worked for that manufacturer really thought about bikes and this bike in particular. And that was extremely refreshing. It carried the authentic voice of people passionate about two-wheels - about people who cared more about that truth than about PR, the risk of offending a handful, of being accused of inciting bad behaviour etc etc.

This is one of the things that good viral does. It does what is not allowed by the carefully constructed PR-riven world of brand 'management'. It subverts The Message, to reveal the true voice - the real conversation happening in an organisation. It closes the gap between those who craft and those who market.

Another example is rattling around the web right now. It isn't an 'advert' at all - but advertisers and marketing teams could learn an awful lot from it.

I'm thinking of this:

I've been sent a link to the clip above by two of my peers. That's pretty damn viral then. It's been viewed 1.9m times (as of Dec 19, 2007), it has hundreds (400+) comments on YouTube. It's been favourited 5000 times.

Outcome: When I saw it I thought... actually I'd rather like to a) buy an Eddie Izzard live DVD b) see Eddie Izzard doing live stand-up. And there may be nearly 2m more just like me.

But where's the hard sell? Where's the link to buy? Where's the professionally produced, slick high-production-values? Where's the TV envy? Where's the end credits with a url?

There are none of these. Is it more effective for it? It feels that way to me. It's made by a fan (there's even a helpful rumour doing the rounds that Eddie makes them himself - which would be great if it were true, because it would be an example of closing the gap between creator and marketing still further) - not a corporation aiming to make bucks out of Eddie.

Imagine the 'viral' ad that most agencies would have put together in a bid to achieve the same outcome? I don't think Lego or stop-motion would have been involved. Relevance over quality - comes up again and again...

So viral needs to tell the truth of a product/service... whatever, in the authentic voice of those who create it. Their passion should shape it. If Eddie didn't make this video a fan did - and that's as close as it gets to being part of 'Eddie Izzard Corp'.

The Izzard example illustrates another requirement of great viral. It's mashable. And that means you can create a personal outcome, as Chris Cunningham spoke about at Widgety Goodness. You get a version for yourself to co-create.

And since you create it, you will embrace it, it becomes relevant to you and your friends. And that relevance becomes more important than any amount of shine, spin (quality) you can put on it.

Trouble is, the Eddie case comes with some tough technical barriers to overcome... I have to save off the soundtrack, then go create my own video version, then upload to youtube et al, then share with my good buddies...

So here's an example that makes the point rather better, because it lowers the technical barriers very well (and rids itself of the TV envy in the process). I was pointed at this by David Armano at Logic + Emotion.

What we have here is a promo for Pampers in which you can make your kids the stars - and then who wouldn't want to share it with their nearest and dearest? And they'll have friends they'll want to share the idea with etc etc.

If given tools to create your own version of something you can create something which is relevant to you, and which you will embrace. And now that there's no space between us (thanks to the web) you can share your joy with your friends really fast.

So, here are the lessons I draw from these examples. If you spot more (or think I'm making assumptions that need challenging) please join the conversation by commenting.

1. Speak in an authentic voice (close the gap between creation and marketing)
2. Lose the TV envy (think relevance over quality)
3. Give people tools to make it their own (that which we create, we embrace)
4. Don't bother with urls, links or 'brand messages'. (We don't do spin) If people are interested they will search. Buy the keywords if you want to make it easier for them.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Google Knol: Knol = Limited Knowledge

Is google knol the answer to a doubt that doesn't really need to be raised? You know, the one that goes..."ah but you can't trust what you read on wikipedia"...

Google Knol, illustrated above (and in very limited beta at present), is being characterised as a wikipedia rival. And there are those who claim wikipedia is unreliable so perhaps organising chunks of expert knowledge in easily sorted boxes is just what the web ordered.

I'm not a subscriber to that view. Wikipedia is rarely wrong for long. The wisdom of the crowd is a rapidly self-correcting beast - certainly much faster than Mr I M Expert can be, even if he does bother responding to 'suggested edits and additions' on his Knol.

Knols look like being sealed units - essentially wikipedia stubs that only the original expert author can add to. In this respect (and this one alone) they are more like a blog than a wiki.

But google has a blog search and a self-publishing platform in Blogger. So what's the point of Google Knol?

Perhaps Google doesn't trust itself to deliver the right search results? (rate the likeliness of this below!) Or perhaps it just likes the look of all that juicy un-google-adsensed traffic over at Wikipedia? (ditto).

Let's assume it is simply a way to organise chunks of expert information as unique pieces of knowledge rather than streaming through the dialogue of the blog? Apply all the usual social media functions we'd expert and we could have league tables of the best expert guides to life the universe and everything.

Michael Arrington on Techcrunch tells us: "It’s a new knowledge base for authors. Anyone, eventually, will be able to write on any topic they choose. Google will provide authoring tools, store the information, allow others to comment and suggest edits, add ads with the author’s approval, and provide traffic via their search engine."

But even this doesn't make the best use of the collaborative power of the networked world.

I agree with Stowe Boyd when he suggests knowledge is vested in/created by rich conversations ( a la blogs) rather than sealed off units (a la a Google Knol). It's the whole point about connections creating the value, rather than the nodes themselves.

So perhaps it is apt that google has gone for a conjunction of the word knowledge as its 'unit of knowledge'... a restricted, sadly stunted version.

BBC beta - new design, same old content

The BBC has launched a new beta version of its homepage. It smells like web 2.0, it looks like web 2.0. But it isn't.

It smells like web 2.0 because there is (as readwriteweb puts it) "rounded corners, large fonts, big buttons, a soft color palette, and a liberal dash of AJAX... (it is) comprised of drag and drop content modules similar to Netvibes or iGoogle."

But there's a big something missing: You can only choose from BBC content.

So, no feeds in from sources you choose, no communal rating or ranking of content. You can choose blogs - but only if they are BBC ones. And that's why it's nothing like Netvibes or iGoogle.

The Beeb has to wake up to aggregation and lose its addiction to its own content. For a born-digital generation, this just ain't going to be good enough.

Got an I-Phone? Read this

Wow! Chris Anderson (The Long Tail) has just been cut-off and landed with a $2100 I-phone bill - cos he left it on in his pocket as he travelled from country to country. The charming little user-friendly device kept automatically fetching email every 15 minutes!
I guess that's the danger of auto-opt-in. Facebook Beacon, anybody?

Video is poor media - until it loses TV envy

Jeff Jarvis shares his thoughts on extreme story-telling and well worth a read they are, too. But the part of his post that made me pause for thought was this:

"So far, video is being used online mostly to tell a complete story: here’s the story in text, there’s the story in video (or there’s a slideshow or a podcast or a Flash thingie). The video is almost always a packaged piece, self-standing. It wants to be television."

And that is a problem - and a waste - in a networked world. Video in this TV-envy form is for passive consumption. But the networked world is about participation and the co-creation of value.

Jeff points us to prezvid for an example of a more mashed-up approach.

The video efforts of so many default centre-out sites cling to the mantra of video as 'rich media' while missing out on the value-creating truth of the networked world - where media really gets 'rich'.

In order to make the most of the networked value of video we really need a new set of tools, tools which lower the technical barriers so everyone on the network can participate with the same ease with which they can post text or a link.

On a blog or a forum, pretty much anyone who can read the content can engage with it. Don't like what I've written - you can post a comment. Think there's another angle to explore? You can post a link etc etc. There is little in the way of technical barrier preventing you from joining in the conversation.

But if I post a video... well you can respond with a comment, or a link (at least, you can on a blog). So I offer rich media, you get to respond with text. Many sites don't even offer that, not even an opportunity to rate what you've just watched, either.

Wouldn't it be better if you could:

1. At least rate and comment on any video content (an absolutely minimum requirement).
2. Insert your comments as text overlaying the video at the point they were relevant (subtitles if you like).
3. Add your comments as video at any point you choose (upload a quick clip from your phone or webcam)
4. Insert other peoples videos to make their or your point
5. Add an image, or draw a picture, if that's the way you prefer to 'talk'.
6. Change the soundtrack to one of your own devising.
7. Connect to discuss in real time with other (like-minded) people watching it right now (youtube offers this without the brackets...)
8. Some other cool stuff you've just thought of (post as a comment!)
9. Save it all as your own version to post or share as and where you wish.

All this requires is the lowering of technical barriers. Some new tools. And if you know where they are already available or coming soon, please share.

Star Trek is wrong

It's that time of year when we start thinking about predicting the future. I've just done a little work on that for the consumer media part of emap (the Bauer-bound bit for those who follow corporate affairs).

And before the week is out I'll publish a few thoughts of my own about what'll happen in 2008 (my guesses about 2007: 12 months ago ).

First, I wanted to pause and think about the impact of point of view on predictions. Fairly obviously, It is exceptionally difficult to see beyond that which you are experiencing.

For example. What does the future look like for Gene Roddenberry? Essentially - stick the military in space and give them warp drive. No shock then, that he served with distinction in the US Army Air Corps.

Captain Kirk. Captain? Isn't that a little command and control, hierarchical? Think of most popular science fiction and the visions are the same.

Sometimes they nightmarishly play out what happens when command and control, when the centre, gets too much power and influence over the minutiae of our lives (1984, anyone? Orwell started his working life as a policeman.)

I fell for it myself when I started on my great-unfinished-novel in 1987. If your context is a world of disconnectedness, of centre-out control, this will colour (and generally darken) your view of the future.

The internet (and the web that layered over it) began to emerge in the late 1980s (and became more easily public-facing in the early 90s with the arrival of html - and the joy of documents).

The internet has no hierarchy or central control. No one ordered it built. No one controls who links to who, no one says what can and can't be published, when, where or by whom. No one controls the horizontal, no one controls the vertical...

We haven't had long to digest this networked world, for its influence to seep into your collective consciousness and help us shape the stories of the future we want to tell.

It is a new and all-encompassing context. It changes everything - disrupts everywhere it touches - visions of the future included.

History is our story-telling about the past. Science Fiction is our collective story-telling about the future.

When we do tell new stories about the future, ones inspired by a networked world, it seems likely those stories will be created by the interaction of many people - crowd sourced, co-created if you like. A shared vision of a networked world.

Will they have the blockbuster appeal of a Star Wars? Some will. Some will resonate for many. But even the hits will be wiki-style stubs - a starting point for new stories to grow from.

So, when my predictions for 2008 get slung towards you later this week, expect them to be heavily influenced by the world I live in - and mine is the networked world... and all the brighter for it.

What's valuable in a time of change?

Jonathan Macdonald comes up with a new way of looking at the bottom lines of companies: Revenue Centres, Cost Centres and Future Centres. And in a time of change, he argues the Future Centres may be the most critical of all.
Fairly obviously, I like this idea.
It's one with some personal resonance for reasons that become clear if you connect my career dots.
But much more importantly, we have to recognise that ALL companies are going through a period of huge change - rather, those that are going to survive will recognise this.
As the industrial era ends and the networked world begins to hug us all, the Future Centres are your guides.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Go on then - delete this!

I've just had a post deleted from a graduate job site's forum. It was a post which offered undergrads or new grads - or you, if you like - a bit of work experience with a media company (emap's specialist media business, based in Peterborough, Cambs, because that's where I work).

I thought it might be the kind of thing that was useful for people trying to work out what they want to do in the world of work. And, of course, the learning experience can and should be a two-way thing.

My post (and at least they emailed me to explain) was being removed because: "...The Forum is a place for discussion and advice - it's not a place to advertise positions I'm afraid. This is a rule we employ across the board. That is why we have a proper, regulated jobs board on the site.

"Unfortunately, we are going to delete your post from the Forum for the above reason. If you are interested in officially advertising your positions with us then please do get back in touch with me and I'll pass your details along to the sales team, who can help you out. Media positions and work experience are hard to come by and I know that our huge user base would love to see you advertising your positions with us in the proper fashion."

Er, we haven't got a position to advertise - and aren't advertising it. I'm offering an open door to someone wanting to learn a little about life in media. Isn't that advice/information that might be of some use to the people the forum is meant to be for - we could discuss it if you like?

The moment you start deleting from forums (unless there's something really offensive going on - and then I'm right there with you) you are defining the forum as yours, rather than ours. Communities don't like that. The last post before mine on the forum in question was in October...

You can't control the conversation. It'll go on with or without your involvement. It'll go on elsewhere.

I haven't named them because I'm choosing to be kind today. I can't promise I'll always be this nice.

Is it just me - or is there a certain irony in the sign-off line of the email signature for the company in question:

"Helping people... make more informed and successful decisions about their future"

Where were the brackets saying (provided there's a buck in it for us)?

So, if you'd like to have some work experience somewhere, here's a tip. Contact someone who works for the company you're interested in - perhaps through a blog one of them is writing. There's a fair chance you'll get in touch with a human being and one who'll be chuffed you're interested in them.

Start with me if you like: david(dot)cushman(at)emap(dot)com

Go on - delete that.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Optimise this MoFo! Sean Warwick delicately put it in the original headline for this post on MediaLifeCrisis (retained in the link name).
Really powerful analysis of how seo is the art of disappearing up your own arse. I knew there was good reason for why I think of SEO as the new spam. Sean nails it.
Deserves a wider audience - so please go read and comment.

Widgets, video and a case study of success?

Regular participants in the conversation that is this blog may recall how last week VodPod's Mark Hall reached out after I'd mentioned my plan to add a particular video to VodPod had failed.
Well, Mark and I met yesterday in London. He was on his way from the States to Le Web in Paris. It seems we have some common thinking - around curation, communities gathering around passion centres, and how no one seems to be offering the replacement for advertising... yet!
VodPod interests me for all sorts of reasons. Here are some:
1. Between 15k and 20k bloggers etc have added one of the VodPod widgets to their own pages. Include Facebook and that number doubles. They haven't spent a money on marketing. This is how it works in the networked world where trust and word of mouth is created and shared within the network itself, not layered on later by a branding exercise.
2. Vodpod is now attracting 2m unique users a month. Not bad for a 'brand' from scratch in 12 months. 230,000 registered users have signed up, Up to 45,000 are actively curating their own collections of videos.
3. VodPod's approach has been to code to enable video sharing from almost any site. It can take video out of facebook, for example - no mean feat. So far it has found 1900 video source sites.
Yes, that's 1900. Most video sharing services cater for the top four or five and leave it at that.
4. The guys are able to run this on a shoe-string thanks to the every collapsing cost of technology, bandwidth etc.
VodPod is backed by VCs TrueVentures, out of San Francisco.
I'm hoping to talk more with Mark soon - an interesting bloke with an interesting company.

We want our data back (part 752...)

The riot of noise is being turned up to 11. In December last year I predicted that by this time this year we'd be seeing a clamour of people wanting their data back. Today offers a search tool which allows you to delete your data from their server. AskEraser puts the user back in control. Google keeps your data for up to 18 months.
There is a swing away from data ownership, data farming. It's about data mining now - data is all mine, not yours! See Ankur Shah's thoughts' about using data only when interacting with the owner of that data (ie the individual concerned) reported here.

Take That: And out of darkness of the audience comes the light of the community

Oh, alright it sounds a bit cheesey - but hell, I started thinking about this while watching Take That at the O2 arena. If ever there was a case for cheese begatting cheese, then this was it.

Yes, I admit it, I was one of the very few straight men at Take That on Friday. I'm not ashamed.
I'm not a convert to their music. I'm not about to rush out and buy the back catalogue. And I was only there because my wife's friend was ill.
But the event, the experience? Unmissable.

And it turns out, it was grist for the mill of this blog, too. How so?
1. Engagement Marketing as right experience.
2. Community emerging from audience
3. The blurring of online and offline realities.

The O2 (see I've already started calling it that...) is an awesome venue. 16,000 seater. Giant. Not the kind I usually enjoy. I pointed out the gap between the stage and the audience to my wife. It looked like an insurmountable void. How would performers reach out to connect, I mused, as the arena filled up.

It turned out they didn't need to. Audiences don't passively wait to receive. They reach out too. It's why the crowd buys so many luminous things to wave in their darkness. They are reaching out - saying "I'm here, I'm part of this - I am a participant". It's why we wave mobile phones - and way back when, why we waved lighters.

Live concerts perhaps were never an audience experience - they were always a community experience - complete with 'all together now' singalongs.

It's what O2 realised when it bought the white elephant of the Dome and made it the wonderful experience it has become. That experience goes down to every member of the team. We ate in a chinese ahead of the gig, within the 'dome'. Staff persued us down the stairs after we had eaten to ask us what we thought. They were ensuring the experience was all we'd hoped.

As we entered the venue and a few searches were carried out, they were done by people wishing us a great evening.

As we left the venue we were expertly guided to ensure footfall flows never jammed - and again every member of staff hoped we'd enjoyed ourselves. It's a consistent and compelling message.

BUT, I'm a big Bowie fan. And when my mate (who works for O2) told me he'd played there in November I asked why I hadn't known. "You're not on O2 are you?" No I'm not. But now 02 has just pissed me off. Signing up with them would now feel a little like having too - because they are holding me to ransom over access to the Dome.

Since they are also holding us to ransom over the I-Phone (and I'm told that's a very long term deal) I suspect I'm going to feel extremely, reluctantly coerced into signing next time around. Hmmm.

And the blurring of offline and online... fantastic video imaging which merges with real life action on the stage... could it be magic? (sorry).

Carnival of the Emap Bloggers (wk 2)

Sorry I'm late on this one. Harriet Linton picked out the highlights this week - and she was kind enough to include one of mine.
Check them all out. Most are new to the blogosphere - please help nurture the green shoots.
I'm thinking we might have to change the name at some point soon...

Video and thoughts from Widgety Goodness 07

So finally, I get a chance to share with you some stuff about Widgety Goodness. And it's all good.
I even shot (badly) some video on my Nokia N73, so you can get a sample of some (not all) of the speakers.
Here's some stand-outs for me:
1. Yahoo's Susan Mernit (coiner of the phrase Widgety Goodness) via video. What's next for widgets? Your ID/own data being migrated and embedded in widgets. She reminded us that web2.0 really means "we are the operating system".
2. Freewebs Chris Cunningham: "Widgets teach those who try them about engagement marketing, they require new engagement metrics - not CTR or PI.
"Widgets are pull, display ads are push. Widgets are about brand advocacy."
Chris (who I shared a cab with, and thanks for the lift!) says widgets need both a value utility AND and personal outcome.
And he points out that the widget is simply the lastest version of the increasing dominance of personal voice as we've moved from CRM, through corporate blogs to widgets today - and who knows tomorrow?
3. Open Intelligence Agency's Russell Davies: His presentation was more performance than lecture - and a fine illustration of adding value with imagery/sound/humour which is kind of his point. I have video of Russell. I don't wholly agree with his perspective. For example, he discusses (just before the video clip starts) the idea of the uncanny valley - the notion that as robotics become more and more human they start off kind of cute and end up kind of freaking us out. And he takes this idea and applies it to advertising messages. When they have the nirvana of complete knowledge about us what they serve us freaks us out. It makes us feel uncomfortable - cue nightmare visions of the Minority Report kind.
But I think you only end up there if the world remains a command and control, centre-out one. If you apply edge-in, community-focused approaches to the same dilemma I believe you end up less freaked out, more helped out. Russell gets 10 mins or so to state his case on video - so I thought it fair enough to make a counter-case?
The other thing I didn't get was his belief that ads that add value to products (eg the soft porn of perfume ads which transform a £3 bottle of liquid into a £50 fantasy fulfilled) were irreplaceable. I think this plays to the world as it is.
But when we're all involved in the conversation, when we're all involved in the co-creation, is anyone going to pay £47 for an image constructed for them and broadcast at them? So while I get his 'right now' point - and his premise that a widget can't do the job of fooling someone that a £3 bottle is worth £50, I don't think its a sustainable long-run position as the networked world disrupts. The networked world reveals the huckster.
Anyway - enjoy his presentation - I certainly did.

4. The widgetizers panel: Steve Bowbrick stuck an enduring image in our heads - The Darwinian Disco (not really sure why it's a disco, other than the alliteration...). Anyway, the notion is that the website building universe is Newtonian - massive, relatively slow-moving giants. The widgety world is more like little animals (warning - mixed metaphor ahead!) scurrying about in the undergrowth, swinging from tree to tree, adapting fast - or dieing. Websites are lumbering dinosaurs. (mixed metaphor over now... and relax).
5. Google's Matthew Trewhella: If only from an insight into the Gadgety Goodness of Google - and OpenSocial. See video.

6. Techlightenment's Ankur Shah on what Facebook teaches us about viral widgets. Watch the video, but the big take-away from me came in the q&as (and I'd put the camera down by then).
Ankur was challenged about the 'ownership' of data implied by how some of his widgets worked. But he calmly explained the data is only used when it is functional for the user. ie it only knows who and what you are while you are interacting with it. The data is not farmed/owned/kept/stored. This is a model of data usage (ie permission to use when the user allows) which I expect to become the norm.

Interesting stats:
Facebook accounts for 80% of widget consumption right now. The top 20% of Facebook widgets account for 80% for usage.

I went down to Brighton the night before the event to catch up with organiser Ivan Pope - and ended up joining in the co-creation of the conference in a tiny way - by stuffing T-shirts into goody bags into the evening! By the way Ivan - if you've got a spare medium...

Ivan's vision was to pull together some brilliant thinkers and case studies on the explosion that is widgets to try to work out what the uses of widgets are to real businesses.

His team pulled it off in double-quick time, too, and its success means Ivan is busily putting together the next Widgety Goodness, this time in New York in the summer of 08 (disclosure: Ivan has asked me to be part of the advisory panel for that event and to speak at it - so I hope to be playing a larger part in the co-creation of the next one).

Friday, December 07, 2007

Widgety Goodness - more next week

Just back from Widgety Goodness. Unfortunatey I'm a bit snowed under catching up with everything that's going on here so it'll be next week (Tuesday, I'm hoping) before I can bring you more - complete with video of some of the speakers.
Suffice to say for now, I met a load of great people and heard some great speakers. It was a real triumph for Ivan Pope and his team.
Congrats all.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

See you at Widgety Goodness?

I'm setting off soon for Widgety Goodness in Brighton. I'm lucky enough to have been invited down by conference host and snipperoo founder Ivan Pope and we plan to be out on the town tonight in advance of tomorrow's big day.
If you're headed that way, come and connect.

My Vodpod, clues, and the power of the blogosphere

I was blown away this morning to find an email in my inbox from the CEO of VodPod, Mark Hall.
It was as a result of one line I wrote on this blog yesterday, a throw-away mention that I'd like to have added a particular video to My Vodpod (which you'll find in the left column of this blog) but that it wasn't working at the time.

Pre-Cluetrain companies might have set the bots looking for references to themselves and then sent out automated 'please accept our profound apologies for this inconvenience' emails to all and sundry. You know the sort. You get them from google from time to time.

Mark did rather better. Hope he won't mind me quoting from his email - I'm guessing he gets the open-silo'd approach to markets as conversations, since he uses such a human voice.

"Hi David-
I'm at Vodpod, and saw your note on your blog about Vodpod hanging. Apologies for that, we had some problems with the service overnight (our time).

"We launched a year ago today, so typical we'd encounter some gremlins on that day, in the middle of the night of course.

"Seeing your post led me to your blog... I'm going to be in London next week... and wanted to suggest getting a coffee if you happen to be in the city during that time.

"I'll also be over at LeWeb on Tuesday and Wednesday next week if you happen to be there. Would love to talk to you more about Vodpod, and what we're doing generally."

"Also: we just released some nifty new blog widgets, details here.

"Again, apologies for the problems last night.

And I'm impressed. I feel even better about Vodpod than I did before. I'm talking about it some more (hello? THIS is marketing). I'm even happy to hear about some new widgets Mark tags on to the conversation (some more marketing - which I'm happy to be complicit in!)

What a great illustration of the power of the blogosphere and proof of the idea of marketplace as conversation.

For those of you thinking this is all very well but how could we possibly ever deal with every customer this way? Imagine the value of this one conversation between Mark and I - now that it's being shared.

Yes Mark - I'd be delighted to drink coffee with you. I'll be contacting you right away!

25% of all entertainment made by you within five years

Nokia has just issued a report on the trend towards user participation in entertainment and away from traditional media groups. It's a sign-post that points very firmly in the direction of a world in which we create what we want, rather than have it created and packaged for us.

I'm going to replicate it in full below. I have a few thoughts on it - and I'll add them in bold as we go.

Up to a quarter of the entertainment consumed by people in five years time will have been created, edited and shared within their peer circle rather than coming out of traditional media groups. This phenomenon, dubbed 'Circular Entertainment', has been identified by
Nokia as a result of a global study into the future of entertainment.

This is not to say that traditional media groups don't have a role to play in this - simply that the content they themselves create and broadcast will have a reduced role. The new role is different.

The study, entitled 'A Glimpse of the Next Episode', carried out by The Future Laboratory, interviewed trend-setting consumers from 17 countries about their digital behaviors and lifestyles signposting emerging entertainment trends.

Combining views from industry leading figures with Nokia's own research from its 900 million consumers around the world, Nokia has constructed a global picture of what it believes entertainment will look like over the next five years.

"From our research we predict that up to a quarter of the entertainment being consumed in five years will be what we call 'Circular'. (others might call edge-in, rather than centre-out) The trends we are seeing show us that people will have a genuine desire not only to create and share their own content, but also to remix it, mash it up and pass it on within their peer groups - a form of collaborative social media," said Mark Selby, Vice President, Multimedia, Nokia.

Selby continues, "We think it will work something like this; someone shares video footage they shot on their mobile device from a night out with a friend, that friend takes that footage and adds an MP3 file - the soundtrack of the evening - then passes it to another
friend. That friend edits the footage by adding some photographs and passes it on to another friend and so on. The content keeps circulating between friends, who may or may not be geographically close, and becomes part of the group's entertainment."

Participation culture. Relevance trumps quality - at least for this 25%

Tom Savigar, Trends Director at The Future Laboratory added, "Consumers are increasingly demanding their entertainment be truly immersive, engaging and collaborative. Whereas once the act of watching, reading and hearing entertainment was passive, consumers now
and in the future will be active and unrestrained by the ubiquitous nature of circular entertainment. Key to this evolution is consumers' basic human desire to compare and contrast, create and communicate. We believe the next episode promises to deliver the democracy politics can only dream of."

Of the 9,000 consumers we surveyed:
- 23% buy movies in digital format
- 35% buy music on MP3 files
- 25% buy music on mobile devices
- 39% watch TV on the internet
- 23% watch TV on mobile devices
- 46% regularly use IM, 37% on a mobile device
- 29% regularly blog
- 28% regularly access social networking sites
- 22% connect using technologies such as Skype
- 17% take part in Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games
- 17% upload to the internet from a mobile device

As part of the research we have identified four key driving trends; Immersive Living; Geek Culture; G Tech and Localism.

These trends are currently sitting on the edge, but as these trends become more mainstream, they will have a collaborative, creative effect on the way people consume entertainment and, we predict, will lead to the Circular Entertainment phenomenon.

Immersive Living

Immersive Living is the rise of lifestyles which blur the reality
of being on and offline. Entertainment will no longer be segmented;
people can access and create it wherever they are.

Geek Culture

This triumph marks a shift as consumers become hungry for more
sophisticated entertainment. Geek Culture rises, consumers will want to
be recognized and rewarded - the boundaries between being commercial
and creative will blur.

G Tech

G Tech is an existing social force in Asia that will change the way
entertainment will look. Forget pink and sparkly, it is about the
feminization of technology that is currently underway. Entertainment
will be more collaborative, democratic, emotional and customized - all
of which are 'female' traits.


The report uncovered a locally-minded sprit emerging in
entertainment consumption and Localism will become a key theme of
future entertainment. Consumers will take pride in seeking out the
local and home-grown.

The extensive research identifies the trends, along with the technologies, that will be pivotal in the next episode of entertainment. In conclusion, the results of the survey lead Nokia to
believe in the next episode; entertainment will be circular.

Notes to Editors

The research took place between July and September 2007. 9,000
consumers, who are active users of technology and own a mobile device
[not restricted to Nokia] aged 16-35 were questioned. In addition 17
correspondents from the Future Laboratory's LifeSigns Network were
interviewed. LifeSigns network is a community of 3,000 'superconsumers'
thinkers, doers, creators and authors of culture. Interviews were also
conducted with 10 leaders in different areas of entertainment who
provided us with in-depth proven insights into this subject and what
lies ahead. Experts were chosen from the areas of radio, internet,
gaming, device developments, mobile telecoms, music, computing,
legislation and marketing.

About Nokia

I think Nokia has recognised trends we've been tracking on this blog and elsewhere for some long time. Five years isn't very long. Is 25% a big ask? I have the feeling it ain't. I have this feeling because, even among Nokia's own figures, there are indicators that we're already there.

For significant portions of the population 25% and more of their entertainment is already c0-created. These fast growing markets are already ripping up rule books. Think youtube, think ohmynews, think spreadshirt, think mynumo.

What Nokia is saying is that across the entire multi-billion global industry of music, film, radio, computer gaming, publishing etc, 25% of the value will be created by people who used to be regarded as consuming it. 25% of the total value. I don't know what that adds up to in dollars but I do know it's one very big number - and one that can't be ignored.

The big questions for 'traditional' media companies are:
  • Will this be substitutional?
  • If it isn't - how can we share in the value creation?
It can sometimes take 20 years for an idea to become all pervasive - especially if there's technology involved.

Which suggests this figure will not stop at 25% in five years. 50% in 10 years? 95% in 20 years? I always expect the future, faster. Halve those timescales.

These questions need answers. My stab here.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Don't just read this, start your own blog

Here's a great quick guide on why. I would have just added it to the vodpod but it's hanging rotten right now:

Media as the interface between human and experience of culture

BMW doesn’t make all of its cars. They use a network of subsidiaries and partners for the messy business of putting together bits of glass, rubber and metal.

But BMW also looks after other stuff which can best be described as the interface between driver and the experience of driving.

It focuses on the high-tech development of electronics; the stuff that determines what it feels like to drive – the feedback through the steering wheel, the ergonomics of the switching, the feel of the suspension, the sound of the engine. And of course they hold the web of suppliers, peer producers if you will, together.

It also looks after the customer experience – showrooms, aftersales, marketing. The branding. How you feel about being a BMW owner.

All brand-related areas of competence (design, purchasing, service, etc.) remain the responsibility of the BMW Group.”

Aston Martin has an interesting attitude, now that Ford has sold it.

The chief exec, Ulrich Bez, can see a day when a 'car maker' like Aston only controls the brand and marketing - everything else (design, R&D, manufacturing) can be outsourced to suppliers, according to an interview in Car Magazine in May 2007.

Car manufacturers are not alone in this approach. Hotel chains rarely own bricks and mortar and certainly don’t build it. They act as the interface between guest and experience – they do the branding, they train the staff, they set the standards etc.

This idea has set me thinking about how it could be applied in my industry, media.

What is the production line process of building a car or the bricks and mortar of running a hotel when it comes to media?

Perhaps it is the creation of content? While we are currently geared to making content, what if we were not – what would we do instead? Regular participants in the conversation of this blog will know I have a view on this.

Perhaps this is another way of groping towards some new conclusions?

What does it mean to act as the interface between humans and content? And isn’t this what we have always done? Isn’t a magazine a way of shaping someone’s experience of content?

Perhaps it helps to think about what the selection of that content does to shape our experience of culture.

What is the equivalent of developing ways of nuancing our communities’ experience of culture (in the way BMW nuances the experience of driving)?

BMW has a Point Of View. It knows what experience it wants to generate. It selects technologies, invests in development, chooses materials, positions its brand, to respond to this POV.

The question from a community perspective is how this POV is arrived at in the first place? We have to assume BMW gets meeting the needs of their community substantially right. Failure to do so means no more car sales.

But what we also know about BMW is that the customer can indulge in a reasonable range of co-creation (ie customising) of their vehicle. The value in this for the customer is in creating something they cherish more.

Surprisingly – despite the clear marketing value for BMW in allowing people to shape their vehicles – BMW doesn’t give you a cut of the value you create. Still – while they can get away with it, I guess why not? What am I on about? Ok, bit of a meander here but, if I opt for the better alloys on my beemer my car looks better – I love it more, more people see better-looking BMWs, more demand is created both in a broadcast way (each car out there acting as a rolling billboard) and in a recommended-by-a-friend way (the most powerful selling technique there is). And yet BMW want you to pay extra for this. Neat business model!

Anyway, back to the nuancing of experience.

Let’s say the selection of relevant, quality, materials is equivalent to a media brand curating a range of relevant, quality, materials.

The customising element? We then allow the individual to choose from among these quality materials to customise the experience of the culture to their own tastes.

Our role becomes one of aggregating materials against a brief agreed with /determined by our community of passion. And there are various social tools available to us to allow the community to engage in the co-creation of this brief.

Does this mean we must cease all content production? Not necessarily. Boeing, for example, still makes the tail-piece on its latest airliner while working with a peer-producer network to create the rest. It has chosen to retain control of this because it’s technically tough to do and gives them control of one element which the rest of the peer-producers in the creation of a plane would find hard to replicate. In short they can’t build a plane without Boeing.

Perhaps this indicates the kind of content media companies should concentrate on. It can’t be the stuff that is easily replicated by everyone else. It must be the exclusive and the hard-to-do. It must be the piece that a new media, purely ugc-reliant company could not replicate if it sought to put together its airliner.

So do we have some guidance?

Regarding the role of media as the interface between human and culture leads me to a handful of conclusions:

  1. We should curate content compiled against a set of shared values, shared values which have been co-created with our community of interest. This content to include that produced by all sources. This represents our nuancing of the relevant culture.
  2. We allow individuals (and self-forming groups within the community) to customise their experience – nuancing their experience still further and making that experience one they are more likely to market on our (and their) behalf.
  3. Manage the web of peer producers – create the platform, manage the interaction of those contributing to it.
  4. Contribute hard-to-do content. This is the one piece no one else can easily replicate. It’s our Boeing tail piece and represents a barrier to entry as compared to purely user-generated-content models.

I should emphasise that this is my first wild stab in the dark at this notion of media as cultural interface. And I could really do with your help… definitions of hard-to-do content… ideas for managing the web of peer producers… etc

Monday, December 03, 2007

Search is male

Established media will have last laugh in social networks

There remains a reliance on clicks on ads on the web. It's the core revenue stream for most building digital enterprizes. Even social networks.

And yet, as Dana Boyd points out, they only engage a tiny percentage of the people/audiences/communities in question.

Some highlights from her post (which references Dave Morgan's blog post about AOL's survey):

"Ninety-nine percent of Web users do not click on ads on a monthly basis. Of the 1% that do, most only click once a month. Less than two tenths of one percent click more often. That tiny percentage makes up the vast majority of banner ad clicks."

"Who are these “heavy clickers”? ...they look at sweepstakes far more than any other kind of content. Yes, these are the same people that tend to open direct mail and love to talk to telemarketers."

You could conclude that banner ads aren't reaching anyone new. The same old people are just being reached through mutliple channels. And they aren't any more likely to buy as a result.

Whatever the case, it's pretty clear we need something better.

While there is an increasing understanding that community, not content, is king, this understanding clearly hasn't reached as far as what we do about advertising.

For example, the exponential growth of social media is often judged successful because it means loads of people (users/eyeballs et al) are being dragged together in a huge fishing net of their own making. And there they are expected to flap helplessly, mouthing breathlessly, while the factory ship slaps banner ads all over them.

This mentality comes from the Property Developer approach to site building. If you're building it with a view to selling it on, all you are likely to consider is catching those fish and getting them to market before they go rotten.

Even the mighty facebook has suffered from this. The site's lean towards opt-in as default (which has driven its viral growth and that of its apps) came unstuck when it was applied to their Beacon advertising model (where opt-out as default would appear to have been the preferred option for freedom loving fish). Watch video below for how the privacy rules have changed in response.

And so, the idea that capturing the fish in your net (to sell to the next guy) is your prime function is seriously restricting the value creating capabilities of social networks as we have experienced them. It is seriously restricting the amount of thought being given to this.

If you build your social functions with a view to staying with that community for the long run the question of what replaces banner ads (and indeed, what replaces advertising) becomes much more important to you. The rest (the gathering of a huge audience to banner-ad at) is just smoke and mirrors.

So it is left to those of us who have long-established relationships with communities - which we wish to continue - to really activate the power of the network, to understand and implement the new ways in which value can be created - to forge the new business ecology.

It matters more to us. We aren't the ones selling our communities.

Established media is therefore very well positioned to end this story laughing loudest.

Will it be engagement marketing, will it be marketplaces as conversations, will it be the co-creation of products and services, does all this amount to the same and still require a lifeboat of banner ads?

Probably. What is certain is that it will be different from business as usual.

No one is fooled. Nobody. Talk human to me.

Great post from Chris at the Long Tail that everyone trying to sell subscriptions to magazines this Christmas should read.
Repeats the message of the 'Trust me I'm a brand' post below.

It was 20 years ago today...

Can't let it pass without comment - I've worked for the same media company - emap - for 20 years. It's official.
I passed this landmark on Sunday, December 2. This marked 20 years since I've been on the official payroll.
Actually, I started a little earlier on my training course.

20 years ago I was a trainee local newspaper journalist. We used type-writers. We made carbon copies of everything we typed. We faxed in copy from field offices. We corrected by XXXXXXing out or ripping out and throwing away. We joined unions. We drank together. We printed in the same building we wrote. We owned the printing press. We had a huge physical archive - two librarians.

We had defined roles. Photographers frowned if we took a snap. We took those pics in black and white. We called into the office from payphones. We did research by looking in books or ringing and asking a human being - usually one as fallable as we were. We answered all the questions we raised.

We subbed using emms and picas. We had 'headline counts'. We sized (and cropped) pictures with mystical wheels. We layed out pages on paper. We printed all the news that fit.
We edited. We controlled the horizontal, we controlled the vertical...

20 years ago today.

Imagine 20 years ahead.

Trust me - I'm a brand

What you say. What they hear.
Acting like a huckster fools no one any more.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

The Carnival is coming to a blog near you!

On Tuesday this week I hosted an event to encourage more people who work for emap - the company I work for - to blog. (see Never Mind The Bloggers). Alan Moore and Euan Semple did the inspiring.

As a result, we now have around 20 bloggers (and that number growing by the day) feeling the joy of the network (or just plugging away waiting for someone to connect).

So to support them - and celebrate their achievements - colleague Dan Thornton has come up with the genius idea of launching a weekly Carnival of the Emap Bloggers. It's an idea like the Carnival of the Mobilists that Faster Future has benefited from in the past.

The Carnival will be hosted by a different emap blogger each week - and the selection of posts that blogger highlights will be entirely their own choice - provided the post in question comes from a fellow emap blogger. They are, of course, at liberty to link to anywhere they wish on any other occasion.

I'm really looking forward to the first.

Please offer your support. These are green shoots in need of care and attention!

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Beep-beep, beep-beep - my degree certificate just arrived

Now you can do a complete degree course on your mobile. Only in Japan... for now.

Is one-person-one-vote redundant in a networked world?

I'm not proud. I admit it. I was watching the X-Factor on Saturday evening. It made me sad and angry. And not just because I know there are millions of things that I should have been doing that would have been of greater value to me and humanity in general. Like staring into space, for example. Forgive me.

Two things stood out.

1. This show (and those of its ilk) has been lauded as a vanguard of co-created media, two-way flows - the viewers as participants rather than simple broadcast-as consumers. (for those unaware, you text to vote for your favourites - so the audience acts as mass collaborative judge on the singing talents of those paraded before you). (There, I knew I had an excuse to watch it)

But it strikes me that all those ideals of mass collaboration, of edge taking control of centre, work at their best in unfettered networks. And these are not unfettered networks.
While the X-factor may create the illusion of handing control to its voters, they only have one option - to create a hit.

They aren't allowed to say - hey actually we want to form our own global niche of supporters for this artist here (who the 'masses' are kicking out in week six of the show, for example). And, you know what, we're going to set up our own show - or tour or whatever. No, all they can do is join the relentless pursuit of creating the next, one, single, hit.

Seems a bit of a miss really, since as any fool will tell you about the Long Tail, the hit will only account for 15% of the cash to be made. 85% going down the dunny? Has anyone told Simon Cowell?

This winner-takes-all approach results in the survival of the blandest; the least worst, emerge as the 'hits'.

There are recurring examples of this 'survival of the blandest' emerging. In every case they are where a centre-out-we're-in-control approach remains at the heart of the trappings of shared ownership. Simply - the centre organises a competition - the edge gets to vote. The edge loves diversity, is passionate about difference and will self organise around it to celebrate it - but this gets swept away by the pursuit of a winner.

The lesson of the networked world is the big win is in the long tail.

2. My second concern is perhaps more challenging. A very fine singer got voted out on Saturday night. I mean a very fine singer. A fabulous school teacher, from Luton. The studio audience stood in awe to applaud her performance. She was good. Oh, I did I mention she happens to be black?

It's not the first time staggeringly talented black singers have fallen under the wheels of the battle of the bland. Whenever it occurs I get alarmed and surprised about the great British public. And it tells its own heartbreaking story that the wonderful Beverley was entirely unphased by this turn of events.

So this is where it gets challenging. It turns out I just don't trust the judgement of a significant number of people. So why should I be comfortable allowing their 'one vote' to be equal to my own?

Of course, this begs the question - why should my vote, my say, be given any more weight than anyone else's. This is the difficulty of democracy, and famously, it's tyranny.

But perhaps the networked world is showing us ways in which the idea that it must always be one-person-one-vote can change.

We are quite comfortable talking about user ratings being given more credence if the raters themselves have been given more credence by members of their community. We seem comfortable with the notion that if the community values your opinion (or doesn't) they can share this through some kind of scoring, some form of rating and recommendation. And that your influence, your opportunity for your voice to be heard, may rise and fall with this.

One-person-one-vote means everyone's opinion is equal. But in the networked world there is a general acceptance that this is not the case. Perhaps it can apply within niched communities - but not on the mass scale?

Imagine an X-Factor competition in which only people I trust can vote. This is the niche global approach. Tough one to stage on mass broadcast TV, I grant.

My community of people I trust would vote away and we'd all end up with a result we supported. Our bit of the long tail would award the 'win' to artist x. And we'd love x, our building of trust may even have included some taste sharing. No wonder we all love x.

Now repeat with someone else's community of trust. Artist Y wins! Hurrah. The long tail is being enabled.

Everyone is created equal, but when they enter a community equality ends.

That sounds quite anti- web2.0 quite anti, social. But it also sounds like the reality of life as we experience it.

It feels natural. But is this slippage towards hierarchy natural, helpful, or simply residual? Your contributions very, very welcome.

Pushing the blogging go-button

It's not every day you get the likes of Alan Moore and Euan Semple in the same room. It's even rarer that you get them to share between 20-odd people in your own backyard. But that's what we were treated to at the Never Mind the Bloggers event I hosted at emap's Specialist Media hq in Peterborough yesterday.
We'll be sharing video from the event before too long - thanks again to the efforts of's Angus Farquhar. Alan has already blogged about it.
The event was meant to inspire people to start their own blogs - and give them the tools to do so. One way or another it's off to a good start.
I say one way or another because while not everyone agreed with the message that Alan and Euan brought (and which, to be clear, I support), their words did achieve the objective - to act as a call to action to blog.
So today emap has more bloggers. Check out some of their initial efforts here:
more being added as I collect their urls!

And of course, we already had this blog
and Dan Thornton's:
and Guy Procter's:
Matt Clarke's
PFK blog

And if you know of more by emap staffers, let me know.

More nodes on the network - more opportunities to connect - more understanding of the power of the network. More edge.
This is good.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Text2Win against the Zimbabwe government!

Communities Dominate Brand's Tomi Ahonen has asked for FasterFuture's help in spreading the word about the following. I'm delighted to be able to offer it. Their work and creativity is a great example of out-thinking a repressive central regime.

The centre can't keep control in a world of constantly connected communities. SW Radio Africa is demonstrating the shift to a world of 'we' from one of them and us.

And it will continue to do so, with your help.

Tomi: "The Association of International Broadcasters awards ceremony has rewarded a small African radio station, SW Radio Africa, for the most creative marketing concept. But while they are doing wonderful work, this is something that needs immediate and urgent support.

"Briefly, Zimbabwe is a poor African country where the economy has collapsed (latest inflation just during the month of October was 15,000 percent) and the government is very corrupt. And the government censors the media.

"SW Radio Africa is the independent Zimbabwe news source broadcasting on shortwave radio out of neighboring South Africa. Except that now Zimbabwe of course also blocks their radio broadcasts.

"SW Radio Africa decided, if you censor my broadcasts, then I go SMS... (text) Pretty clever by the small radio station where TV is not a viable option and internet/PC penetration is nearly zero. But there are plenty of cheap old second hand mobile phones...

"So SMS. Zimbabweans can't afford even to pay for the SMS. So SW Radio Africa sends the news free to anyone in Zimbabwe who signs up to the service. Over 6,000 have signed up and they are adding 100 new subscribers every day.

"So they don't do advertising (who would advertise to such a devasted economy anyway) but someone has to pay for the SMS. SW Radio Africa asks for sponsors to cover the cost of the SMS transmissions.

"So here is my request. If you think this is a worthy cause, that a free radio station broadcasting news into Zimbabwe is on a good task, and that since they are now blocked by the Zimbabwe government, SMS text messaging is a reasonable alternative to get past the censorship, then please do spread the story. Lets try to find some supporters and further sponsors for SW Radio Africa. Lets get some news and information to the poor devastated people in Zimbabwe."

Their website is

Never Mind The Bloggers

Just putting together the final details of an internal emap event I'm hosting at our base in Peterborough, Cambs, tomorrow: Never Mind The Bloggers.
It is intended to inspire and turn that inspiration into immediate action.
I'm thrilled that Alan Moore (Communities Dominate Brands) and Euan Semple (The Obvious) have agreed to speak and join in a forum in our morning session. That's the inspiration - and some of the finest around.
The guys will also be hanging around when the 'action' starts. Everyone who attends the event will get an immediate follow up session in front of a pc to help them turn the desire to blog into the reality of their own blog.
We will be videoing the presentations and hope - with permission - to be sharing words of wisdom on this blog before too long.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Whoops - there goes your identity. Mass hysteria in the UK

I spoke at the high-brow but fun Digital Identity Forum at London's Clink yesterday - on the subject of Reed's Law and the Demand Curve. It was an interesting place to be when news broke of The UK Government's rather careless loss of the personal records of somewhere around half of the entire population.

For those not familiar with the story a Government department was asked for sensitive data records by another - and it chose to send them in the post on a couple of discs - unsecured. Not even recorded delivery. And they didn't arrive.


A story Dr Ian Brown told at Digital Identity (you might have seen him talking on the subject on Newsnight last night) reveals how/why this kind of thing will inevitably happen.
Apparently it was the case in the National Health Service that access to computer terminals involved a swipe card. This card revealed your personal level of clearance. The higher your rank, the greater your access - essentially. Great in theory. Trouble was, each day the most senior person in the department would swipe to log in and then leave the terminal open for all to use - probably because this was expediant.

And in the same way, you could make the data the Government has lost as secure as you like when you control the process, but the moment you introduce human beings, things can go wildly wrong. In this case a human took the expedient course of sticking them in the post. Not wise; But not beyond the realms of reason either.

Even so, I'm not sure there is quite the cause for all this hysteria. The kind of information about me currently available on those missing discs include bank account names and numbers, home address, my child's name etc. Sounds scary. But it's only scary if someone can do something scary with it.

Aren't our security conventions just a little screwed up when they rely on us NOT sharing the name of our child, or our home address. Isn't that just a bit inhuman? Anti-social?

It's time we changed the locking mechanisms, rather than making it the responsibility of users to be less social - to be less like, well, human beings.

It's in our nature. Technologists - design for it!

In any event - isn't my address and other details available publicly on the electoral roll? Sharing the name and number of our bank account gives no one access to remove anything from it. So what's the big deal?

The issue is for other people's security systems. For example - someone could apply for a credit card or some such with 'my' details. Great. They could apply for it. Not me. They are responsible for any bill racked up on it. Not me. So the problem is for the system which makes knowledge of a few social details about me its dirty big key. They are making a few social details equivalent to my identity. Mistake.

Those guys have the problem - get on with making better locks. Leave me to enjoy being human.

Monday, November 19, 2007

See you at Digital Identity

I'm back in London tomorrow, this time to speak at the eighth annual Digital Identity Forum at the Clink.
It starts tomorrow and also runs on November 21 - though I can't stay for day two, unfortunately.
It's an interesting time to be considering digital identity - with the growing buzz around the social graph.
I'm going to be speaking on 'Reed's Law and the Demand Curve'. For those who can't be there, much of what I'll discuss is covered in the white paper you'll find here.
For those who can, please come and say hello.

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?