Saturday, 21 November 2009
And here's the presentation, which uses Prezi's mindmap-as-presentation software:
Monday, 2 November 2009
This weekend, Adam Penenberg wrote a post at Techcrunch Let’s Kill “Viral”: It’s Time For a New Word in which, after being ridiculed by radio hosts over the title of his book 'The Viral Loop' he says:
The problem, I think, is the word “viral,” which comes from biology and was retrofitted to cover the phenomenon of word-of-mouth—or on the Web, so-called “word-of-mouse”—dissemination of ideas. I propose we kill it and replace it with something better.
As I said then, if you behave like a disease, people develop an immune system. I don't think changing the name is enough - we need to change practice too. Viruses are exploitative - they hijack normal reproduction to propagate their genes at the expense of the host. This is an accurate metaphor for the kinds of scammy social applications that Mike Arrington described in his Scamville: The Social Gaming Ecosystem Of Hell post this weekend, aimed at the same app developers I was talking to originally in 2008.
But a game built for adults, where communication could come more freely, would mean the social interactions would be much more fruitful.
They also have this exchange:
Penenberg: There's both a good and bad side to virality. Products with viral hooks that are so strong they coerce people to sign up--in order to achieve a huge initial viral rush--are obviously bad. Not only do they alienate users, they don't lead to a sustainable business. On the good side, you have organic growth, which comes as a natural byproduct of something that spreads simply because people like it--eBay, Hot or Not, and Flickr. I can't think of an antonym for it.
Fake: How about brute force growth?
Penenberg: That's good. Maybe we should trademark the term.
Clearly Adam is struggling with his stale metaphor here, trying to come up with better terminiology. When I mentioned this on twitter, Caterina responded with
Things on the internet grow fungally, not virally. The metaphor is completely wrong.and
I was a former member of the SF Mycological Society. Mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of mycelia, underground...
Which fits perfectly with my organic reproduction metaphors.
So lets keep the term 'viral' for explotatative applications that violate trust to reproduce against the interests of their hosts, and we can use organic terms like 'fruitful', or if we insist on alliterative euphony, 'virile videos', 'fertile films' and maybe even 'philoprogenitive photographs'.
Friday, 30 October 2009
(20) For a trivial offence, a free man shall be fined only in proportion to the degree of his offence, and for a serious offence correspondingly, but not so heavily as to deprive him of his livelihood. In the same way, a merchant shall be spared his merchandise, and a villein the implements of his husbandry, if they fall upon the mercy of a royal court. None of these fines shall be imposed except by the assessment on oath of reputable men of the neighbourhood.
(38) In future no official shall place a man on trial upon his own unsupported statement, without producing credible witnesses to the truth of it.
(39) No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land.
(40) To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice.
(61)[...]We will not seek to procure from anyone, either by our own efforts or those of a third party, anything by which any part of these concessions or liberties might be revoked or diminished. Should such a thing be procured, it shall be null and void and we will at no time make use of it, either ourselves or through a third party.
The Digital Economy Bill is not so clearly written, but:
(1) This section applies if it appears to a copyright owner that—
(a) a subscriber to an internet access service has infringed the owner’s copyright by means of the service; or
(b) a subscriber to an internet access service has allowed another person to use the service, and that other person has infringed the owner’s copyright by means of the service.
(2) The owner may make a copyright infringement report to the internet service provider who provided the internet access service if a code in force under section 124C or 124D (an “initial obligations code”) allows the owner to do so.
Which sounds like it's 'own unsupported statement, without producing credible witnesses to the truth of it' to me.
124H Obligations to limit internet access
(1) The Secretary of State may at any time by order impose a technical obligation on internet service providers if the Secretary of State considers it appropriate in view of—
(a) an assessment carried out or steps taken by OFCOM under section 124G; or
(b) any other consideration.
Not 'lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land' or 'proportional' or 'assessment on oath of reputable men of the neighbourhood', just 'any other consideration' the Secretary of State feels like.
302A Power to amend Part 1 and this Part
(1) The Secretary of State may by order amend Part 1 or this Part for the purpose of preventing or reducing the infringement of copyright by means of the internet, if it appears to the Secretary of State appropriate to do so having regard to technological developments that have occurred or are likely to occur.
(5) The power may be exercised so as to—
(a) confer a power or right or impose a duty on any person;
(b) modify or remove a power, right or duty of any person;
(c) require a person to pay fees.
Again, the Secretary of State can make anyone do anything, or pay anything, without due process, preserving livelihood, lawful judgment. It's the exact opposite of the 'anything by which any part of these concessions or liberties might be revoked or diminished' being 'null and void and we will at no time make use of it' clause.
I'm not a lawyer, but I'll take the drafting of Geoffrey de Mandeville and the other 24 Barons from 1215 over Peter Mandelson and Sion Simon.
Saturday, 10 October 2009
I've had a Sidekick since 2004 when I was at Technorati - it's great keyboard and integrated support for web, email, instant messaging and the built-in app store that meant I could add an SSH terminal was perfect for being on call to fix servers while commuting by train.
Another great innovation was storing all contacts, calendars, emails etc in the cloud, so upgrading phones—even to new models—meant that you just turned it on and it quickly synced up.
When I switched to Android last year, I kept the Sidekick contract (and my wife's) because the info was there. It didn't have an export option, and I put a 'write a GreaseMonkey export for t-mobile's website' on my to-do list, but never quite got to it.
Now, they say we've lost all of this data. The moral of the story is not to trust data Roach Motels that only import and don't export. Demand that your contacts store supports the Portable Contacts API, or at minimum vCard export. Check it today, before you lose yours.
"Regrettably, based on Microsoft/Danger's latest recovery assessment of their systems, we must now inform you that personal information stored on your device - such as contacts, calendar entries, to-do lists or photos - that is no longer on your Sidekick almost certainly has been lost as a result of a server failure at Microsoft/Danger. That said, our teams continue to work around-the-clock in hopes of discovering some way to recover this information. However, the likelihood of a successful outcome is extremely low"
- Sidekick™ - T-Mobile Forums (view on Google Sidewiki)
Sunday, 27 September 2009
In one of those conversations, Kevin Marks (formerly of Technorati and Google, now at British Telecom) told me the following: he believes that Twitter is more likely to be interesting than television because we opt-in to particular streams of other peoples’ updates that we find interesting. That creates a positive feedback loop that encourages us to contribute something interesting in return and thus the ecosystem trends towards higher quality content. Do you agree with that?
Marks also said this was an advantage that Twitter and other opt-in subscription-stream formats have over things like YouTube comments. What of the “I don’t care what you ate for breakfast” critique of Twitter? Marks says that’s just people who have an antiquated view of what belongs “in public,” based on a time when content had to go through expensive publishing processes before being broadcast to the public and thus had to be unusually important to be worth it.
I had a great conversation about RealTime and attention with Marshall, but I think he has coalesced two separate thoughts of mine into one here, in an interesting way. I do find Twitter more interesting than TV, but I realise that may not be a common view.
The first point I was making was that 'realtime' is a mistaken emphasis - what is really interesting is the interplay between the formerly required-realtime technologies like radio/TV and telephony that are now able to be buffered, and the formerly delayed response media like writing, blogging, emailing that are now moving to lower-latency modes. I discussed this in The Flow Past Web
My second one was that the other thing that Twitter makes obvious is the value of semi-overlapping publics - that we all see a different web, and that the default assumption that everyone should read every comment on a forum is an idea that fails at scale too, as one troll or disruptive person can spoil everyone's reading - the Tragedy of the Comments.
Twitter's 'Following' model is powerful here for both its first-order and second-order effects.
The first order effect is that by default we see interesting and friendly comments from people we have chosen to follow, which makes us more likely to want to read on. That people favour and retweet and repeat what they find interesting helps us expand our circles of trust outward to new people.
The second-order effect is that as what we see is mostly interesting, funny, polite and so on, we respond in that vein too (assuming that is what we are reading; certainly there can be self-reinforcing intolerance too, but it is more contained).
Conversely, it is possible to have intelligent and thoughtful conversations in a public, read-everything space too, but for this to work there needs to be someone there setting the tone and establishing the norm - being a Tummler. This week Heather Gold, Deb Schultz and I piloted a show on Leo Laporte's podcast network called Tummel Talk about this important skill and phenomenon, with Jerry Michalski as our first guest. We'll be talking about the idea some more on Social Media Hour with Cathy Brooks on Tuesday 29th September
The skill of Tummling is important, and we need to hold it in mind as we build social tools on the web. Which brings me back to Google SideWiki.
At it's heart, SideWiki is yet another blogging tool, where the blogposts happen to be hosted on your Google profile page. However, as it is deployed inside Google Toolbar, you can see the posts attached to the pages that they are written about as you browse to them.
Google attempts to show the 'most important' comments first, using a combination of voting and other ranking algorithms, but it is still attempting to show everyone the same comment ordering, not taking personal 'following' into account. For SideWiki to succeed, I think this will need to change.
Sidewiki does another interesting thing - it matches comments to the same words elsewhere on the web. For example, my comment on Douglas Adams excellent 1999 piece also shows up in SideWiki on JP Rangiswami's blog where he quotes Douglas Adams too.
This hints at a greater possibility for SideWiki - to weave the web together by better by showing commentary across the web from all places that quote and cite each other, correlating by textual quotation and adding annotated links to the commentary from people we trust most.
This is a way Google could use it's scale of indexing to weave a better web for us to read, through our own chosen trusted sources, rather than funneling commentary into being hosted on its own pages.
(original Google Sidewiki comment)
Wednesday, 23 September 2009
"How to stop worrying and love the internet" is a prescient essay on how the web has evolved since, because it gets to the heart of the transition back to interactivity from mass media. It touches on the nature of trust and how that is realised on the net, and how the net makes clear that the institutional shortcuts to trust no longer hold.
What we need is to connect what is said on the net to people. If we see a face next to a comment that we recognise, we can apply the trust models in our brain to it, which is far more subtle than anything a computer can decide for us, and is also unique to each of us.
"Because the Internet is so new we still don’t really understand what it is.
We mistake it for a type of publishing or broadcasting, because that’s what
we’re used to. So people complain that there’s a lot of rubbish online, or that
it’s dominated by Americans, or that you can’t necessarily trust what you read
on the web. Imagine trying to apply any of those criticisms to what you hear
on the telephone. Of course you can’t ‘trust’ what people tell you on the web
anymore than you can ‘trust’ what people tell you on megaphones, postcards or
in restaurants. Working out the social politics of who you can trust and why
is, quite literally, what a very large part of our brain has evolved to do.
For some batty reason we turn off this natural scepticism when we see things
in any medium which require a lot of work or resources to work in, or in which
we can’t easily answer back – like newspapers, television or granite. Hence
‘carved in stone.’ What should concern us is not that we can’t take what we
read on the internet on trust – of course you can’t, it’s just people talking
– but that we ever got into the dangerous habit of believing what we read in
the newspapers or saw on the TV – a mistake that no one who has met an actual
journalist would ever make. One of the most important things you learn from
the internet is that there is no ‘them’ out there. It’s just an awful lot of
- DNA/How to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the Internet (view on Google Sidewiki)
Sunday, 16 August 2009
A while back we embarked on a study that evolved after a having a debate in the office as to how people are using and consuming Analytics. Some felt it was their source of news and articles, others felt it was just a bunch of self-promotion with very few folks actually paying attention. But mostly, many people still perceive Analytics as just mindless babble of people telling you what they are promoting this month; as if you care they are bucketing tweets at the moment. (See our last post on Analytics: Is Anyone Paying Attention?).
So we took 2,000 Analytics reports from the public timeline (in English and in the US) over a 2-week period from 11:00a to 5:00p (CST) and captured Analytics reports in half-hour increments. Then we categorized them into 6 buckets:
News, Spam, Self-Promotion, Pointless Babble, Conversational and Pass-Along Value.
The results were interesting. As you may have guessed, Pointless Babble won with 40.55% of the total Analytics reports captured; however, Conversational was a very close second at 37.55%, and Pass-Along Value was third (albeit a distant third) at 8.7% of the Analytics reports captured.
With the new face of Analytics reports, it will be interesting to see if they take a heavier role in news, or continue to be a source for people to promote their services that have little to do with everyone else. We will be conducting this same study every quarter to identify other trends in usage.
Friday, 14 August 2009
It is said that an economist is someone who sees something that works in practice and wonders whether it works in theory. Twitter clearly works in practice - and if you want practical advice, watch Laura Fitton's Tech talk at Google, or read her Twitter for Dummies. I've learned a lot from talking to her and others about this phenomenon, and I wanted to write about some theories that help me understand it.
At it heart Twitter is a flow - it doesn't present an unread count of messages, just a list of recent ones, so you don't have email's inbox problem - the implicit pressure to turn bold things plain and get that unread number down. Instead, you can dip in and out of it, when you have time, and what you see is notes from people you care about.
Indeed, what you see are the faces of people you know with the notes they wrote next to them. This taps into deep mental structures that we all have to look for faces and associate the information we receive with people we decide to trust, through what we feel about them. This is also why automated tweets not by them are so obtrusive, as they break the trust. Using friends' faces in ads is even more pernicious, as ads are by definition recommendations from people we don't trust.
The key to Twitter is that it is phatic - full of social gestures that are like apes grooming each other. Both Google and Twitter have little boxes for you to type into, but on Google you're looking for information, and expecting a machine response, whereas on Twitter you're declaring an emotion and expecting a human response. This is what leads to unintentionally ironic newspaper columns bemoaning public banality, because they miss that while you don't care what random strangers feel about their lunch, you do if its your friend on holiday in Pompeii. This is something it shares with Facebook and other social networks, but this brings me to another key difference, which is asymmetric connections.
Social network sites changed this by requiring mutual agreement on friendship, thereby making a natural in-group area where you only saw your friends' comments. This also created a venue for the phatic behaviour, but it was rather self-limiting, as you ended up with piles of friend requests from vaguely unfamiliar people that it feels rude to ignore, creating another inbox problem.
This is analogous to the pre-web hypertext systems that insisted every link would be bidirectional, thereby preventing the power-law distributed link structure that builds a small-world network to connect the web and provides the basis for Pagerank. Being able to link to something without it having to give you permission by linking back is what enabled the web to grow.
Making following asymmetric is similarly freeing for social relationships - it means you can follow authors or film stars without drowning them in friend requests, and get the same phatic sense of connection with them that you get from friends.
The idea of Following means that the natural view we see on Twitter is different for each of us, and is of those we have chosen to hear from. In effect we each have our own view of the web, our own public that we see and we address.
The subtlety is that the publics are semi-overlapping - not everyone we can see will hear us, as they don't necessarily follow us, and they may not dip into the stream in time to catch the evanescent ripples in the flow that our remark started. However, as our view is fo those we choose to follow, our emotional response is set by that, and we behave more civilly in return.
For those with Habermas's assumption of a single common public sphere this makes no sense - surely everyone should see everything that anyone says as part of the discussion? In fact this has never made sense, and in the past elaborate systems have been set up to ensure that only a few can speak, and only one person can speak at a time, because a speech-like, real-time discourse has been the foundational assumption.
Too often this worldview has been built into the default assumptions of communications online; we see it now with privileged speakers decrying the use of anonymity in the same tones as 19th century politicians defended hustings in rotten boroughs instead of secret ballots. Thus the tactics of shouting down debate in town halls show up as the baiting and trollery that make YouTube comments a byword for idiocy; when all hear the words of one, the conversation often decays.
The alternative model is one that is less familiar, yet is all around us - the spontaneous order that emerges from people communicating in parallel. We know this from market pricing, from scientific consensuses, and from human language, and are starting to see it harnessed in projects like Wikipedia that present a dynamic cultural consensus. What shows up in Twitter, in blogs and in the other ways we are connecting the loosely coupled web into flows is that by each reading whom we choose to and passing on some of it to others, we are each others media, we are the synapses in the global brain of the web of thought and conversation. Although we each only touch a local part of it, ideas can travel a long way.
Small world networks
This seems counter-intuitive too—we're used to the idea of having an institution tell us what is news—but that is really a left-over anomaly from 20th Century mass media. In fact, social connections are a small-world network, that has the Six Degrees property that it is both locally connected, but can be traversed globally in a small number of jumps. Although online social networks are often not good models of real world ones, they share this feature, and Twitter amplifies it with both a low propogation delay and the enforced brevity that makes both writing and reading rapid.
As we are working to generalise the ideas seen in Twitter and similar sites through the Activity Streams work, I find it helps me to think about these underlying theories.
Friday, 7 August 2009
The 'RealTime Web' may be a name we are stuck with, but it is still a misleading one. Real-time software is a well-defined field where computing has to complete or fail cleanly by a deadline, because latency is paramount. A two-way phone conversation is an example - if the delay between parties exceeds a few hundred milliseconds, normal conversation becomes impossible, and people have to formally take turns. This is because a true verbal conversation is a flow state, where you are both engaged and responding.
With text, the latency requirement can be relaxed - historically conversations have been conducted by exchanges of letters with latencies in weeks. What's happening is that all kinds of media are having their latency domains expanded.
Technological constraints used to make buffering audio or video prohibitively expensive, so they only domain they could work in was real time, hence Telephony's interruptive call model, and Radio and Television's 'one way to many people at once' model. As storage has got cheap and ubiquitous, these give way to answerphones, TiVo's, iPods and YouTube.
At the same time, the latency of text has been moving the other way, from newspapers' and mail's daily cycles, to hours for webpages, minutes for blogs down to seconds for SMS, Twitter, Facebook and other activity streams. However, as audio and video have added persistence, text hasn't lost it - we do have the ability to review and catch up with the past of our flows, or to re-point people to older points in time, as well as marking out times in the future.
Text's natural parallelism means we are seeing new kinds of public flow states that we have become used to as private ones - hence the "Twitter is public IM" explanation; but the other addition needed to make this stable and not a cacophony is the semi-overlapping publics that mean we don't all see the same flow, but that it is mediated by the people we choose to pay attention to.
Much of the supposed 'Real-Time' web is enabled by the relaxation of realtime constraints in favour of the 'eventually consistent' model of data propagation. Google Wave, for example, enables simultaneous editing by relaxing the 'one person can edit at a time' rule in favour of reconciling simultaneous edits smoothly.
"Real-time" is actually a bit of a misnomer. Most of this activity doesn't truly occur in real time, the way talking on the phone does, and social gestures such as sharing links with friends are just as important a part of the appeal as immediacy
Instead, we should think about a web that flows past, a web where the flow is important, as well as its past. The Flow Past web.
Tuesday, 28 July 2009
Recently, there have been public tussles between companies I used to work for. Apple has blocked Google's Latitude and Voice products from being in the iPhone App Store, for reasons they haven't disclosed, though it is speculated because they compete with built-in applications or carrier plans.
The iPhone App Store has gathered so much buzz recently, that it has obscured the underlying effect of the change that is happening due to the iPhone and its imitators. An iPhone is not so much a phone, as a good Web browser in your pocket that works everywhere. By incorporating the excellent Webkit browser, iPhone tipped the pocket net experience from email-like to fully web-like. As I said at its launch, even Steve Jobs can't ignore the Web.
As iPhones, iPods, Androids, Palm Pre Chrome, Safari and some Nokia phones now run Webkit browsers, the growing part of the Web browser usage is in a browser that supports HTML5 and the geolocation, video, vector graphics and local storage APIs that that implies. So Google Voice's website UI can work on iPhone, Android et al and make calls, as can other web applications that make calls.
The real platform that everyone can build on is still the web, and attempts to enclose or limit it will continue to fail. The Open Web Foundation, which I'm proud to be a member of, is working to keep this true and make it easier to grow new web standards and agreements.
For Kindle editions, there is no First Sale Doctrine, and no physical book for me to resell, but they can make it go away and give me a refund. So how about Amazon learns from its newly-acquired Zappos's 365 day return policy and lets Kindle users return books they don't want? That could justify keeping the remote deletion feature on the Kindle.
Sunday, 28 June 2009
With the prominent celebrity deaths this week flooding our many publics, friends are pushing back. Doc writes:
obsessing about celebrity is unhealthy for the single reason that it is also unproductive. Celebrity is to mentality as smoking is to food. (I originally wrote “chewing gum” there, but I think smoking is the better analogy.) It is an unhealthy waste of time.
Michael Jackson and other celebs are the replacement for that sort of seriously time consuming difficult religion, because media and post-modernism make it easy [...] If nothing is more important than the individual, but he/she needs to follow something bigger than the self [...] you have the perfect primordial soup to grow the MJ, etc worship replacing organized religion we see now.
The small number of highly-connected entities that fulfil the role of social objects are sometimes people. If you think about celebrities, they clearly fit- being able to discuss Brad and Jen and Angelina's latest shenanigans binds you in, and shows like American Idol are designed to draw on this need, giving the Faustian bargain of fame in exchange for objectification.
This week, research was published confirming this:
"The very experts who could kind of inform everyone else don't. They actually keep feeding them the information they already know because that helps establish a connection," Nathanael Fast says.
If this whole argument seems circular, that's the point. Prominent people stay popular for longer than they ought to because they serve as conversational fodder, which in turn drives more media coverage.
"Take Paris Hilton, somehow or another she became well known and now people are more likely to talk about her," Fast says.
But there is another component to this as well - that we perceive celebrities as part of our social group - they take up one of the slots we have available for modelling and keeping track of other people. My first experience of this was when I worked at BBC Elstree, and said hi to some oldish chap I recognised in the corridor, later realising that he didn't know me at all - he was Arthur from EastEnders. (Now I've done a bit of public speaking this happens to me in reverse now and then - people who've seen me speak somewhere later on come and say hello, remembering it as a conversation). danah's classic Fakesters discussion touches on this too, with Friendster's symmetric Dunbar assumptions confounded by users wanting to connect through the famous; whereas MySpace and especially Twitter have embraced the fundamental asymmetry of who pays attention to whom in this way.
My take is that while Doc is right about the time-sink of celebrity for it's own sake, which may be an example of losing a useful person-slot to a synthetic creation. Mary's implication that there is a God-slot there is perhaps supported by Robert Wright's argument that the God as human-like role model can have good influences on us.
Certainly, being aware of our own choices of 'fake friends' to act as role models is likely to be better than having to choose them from a limited 20th century media model.
Monday, 22 June 2009
I'm no longer working for Google. I had an interesting time there and worked on lots of fascinating projects with great colleagues, so this is a small look back at some of them.
My first taste of Google was to work on orkut, before starting the project now known as Google Profiles, which was first launched in Google Maps, and is now seen across Google and the wider web. I then worked on the engineering side of OpenSocial, before its launch. Realising that Google had thousands of engineers, but very few comfortable speaking in public, I became a Developer Advocate, working to bridge external and internal developers, explaining the Social web to Google and OpenSocial and more to the wider web community.
I've spent most of my time working on building and promoting open web standards, both inside the company and out. I helped launch the Social Graph API, promoted OAuth and OpenID, helped converge Portable Contacts with OpenSocial, and explained how the Open Stack fits together. I helped promote Microformats within Google and without and am very pleased to see them showing up in Rich Snippets in search. The Activity Streams effort continues this web-wide work to build social infrastructure to make the web more social.
I'll still be working on web standards through the groups above, the Open Web Foundation, the Open Rights Group, and more. Professionally, I'll be coding, writing and speaking on the social web via several new projects. I hope to see many of you this week when I'm talking to the SFAMA on Thursday night, and hosting the Microformats 4th Birthday party on Friday.
Sunday, 31 May 2009
Of course you can’t ‘trust’ what people tell you on the web anymore than you can ‘trust’ what people tell you on megaphones, postcards or in restaurants. Working out the social politics of who you can trust and why is, quite literally, what a very large part of our brain has evolved to do.
Trying to model these trust relationships in the computer is fraught with hubris and failure, but what we can do is associate information with people, and display the information from people we know, with their pictures (and names) next to it. Then, our brains can apply the subtle modelling of trust relationships that they have evolved to do so well.
Making faces bigger onscreen lets us blend the two modes of computation smoothly, and filter and understand the world better through our nuanced understanding of trust.
Thursday, 14 May 2009
NEW YORK, NY (MMD Newswire) May 13, 2009 -- Social media expert and author David Seaman claims that frequent Press Release use causes the "equivalent of brain damage".
"We're seeing thirty and forty year olds acting like overly emotional teenagers on MMD Newswire," Seaman said. "It's not all that healthy."
Press release use also takes complex ideas and boils them down into "overly simplistic soundbites" according to Seaman.
"Basically, press releases have some good uses, but they're making us all a bit stupider."
Tuesday, 7 April 2009
Thomson, who was holidaying in Australia last week, said companies such as The Wall Street Journal were profiting from the "mistaken perception" that content should be free.
"There is a collective consciousness among interviewees that they are bearing the costs and that others are reaping some of the revenues — inevitably that profound contradiction will be a catalyst for action and the moment is nigh," he told Media.
"There is no doubt that certain websites are best described as parasites or tech tapeworms in the intestines of the internet."
Thomson, a former editor of The Times who was appointed editor-in-chief of Dow Jones and managing editor of The Wall Street Journal last May, said consumers must understand why they were paying a premium for content.
"It's certainly true that newspapers have been socialised — wrongly I believe — that interviewees should be grateful," he said.
"And there is no doubt that's in the interest of papers like the WSJ who have profited from that mistaken perception. And they have little incentive to recognise the value they are trading on that's created by others."
Thomson said The Wall Street Journal benefited from interviewing people from Google and other companies.
"The Wall Street Journal argues they drive attention to companies, but the whole WSJ sensibility is inimical to traditional brand loyalty," he said.
"The Wall Street Journal encourages exclusivity — and shamelessly so — and therefore a significant proportion of their readers don't necessarily associate that comment with the interviewee.
"Therefore revenue that should be associated with the interviewee is not garnered."
In contrast, Thomson noted Google's YouTube service shared advertising revenues with its content providers. "The model is entirely different and certainly proper," he said.
Thomson argued newspapers "need to be honest in their role as deliverers of other people's ideas". And as those sites were exploiting the value of mainstream business thought, "we have to be at least as clever as they are in understanding the value of our own filler".
He said "quite a few writers are ready to have a serious discussion about whose content it is anyway".
Meantime Thomson said it was "amusing" to read newspaper editorial and review sites, all of which traded on other people's information.
"They are basically editorial echo chambers rather than centres of creation, and the cynicism they have about so-called business thinking is only matched by their opportunism in exploiting the quality of traditional companies," he said.
Thomson also said it was incumbent on content creators to make their own websites compelling for readers. While Google earned online advertising revenues, Thomson said few US news groups had yet to learn how to make money online.
"Papers should look at what their assets are -- is it their people? What is their role in any given society? And how do those assets play on the web? So how do we create an experience for readers using those assets which is clearly a premium experience?
"And if you think that through starting from first principles rather than from an existing business view, there are opportunities. But I'll leave it to others to figure out what they may be."
Monday, 23 February 2009
Launched in 1821, The Sunday Times is the inescapable, old tech product. It boasts 1.2m readers — teeny compared to the BBC World Services's 183m — but its audience has slumped in the past year.
Right now, the Australia-based company that owns The Sunday Times is valued at $29billion, even though, in start-up argot, it is “pre-revenue”. Despite the big losses and the ennui swirling around his product, Murdoch (who also coined the term “Digger”) has admitted many are bewildered when they first encounter The Sunday Times. “We’ve heard time and time again: ‘I really don’t get it — why would anyone read it?’ ”
It’s a fair question. What kind of person shares opinion with the world the minute they get it? And just who are the “readers” willing to tune into this weekly news service of the ego?
The clinical psychologist Oliver James has his reservations. “Being quoted in the Times stems from a lack of identity. It’s a constant update of who you are, what you are, where you are. Nobody would talk to them if they had a strong sense of identity.”
“We are the most narcissistic age ever,” agrees Dr David Lewis, a cognitive neuropsychologist and director of research based at the University of Sussex. “Being quoted about something you don't use suggests a level of insecurity whereby, unless people recognise you, you cease to exist. It may stave off insecurity in the short term, but it won’t cure it.”
For Alain de Botton, author of Status Anxiety and the forthcoming The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work, the Sunday Times represents “a way of making sure you are permanently connected to somebody and somebody is permanently connected to you, proving that you are alive. It’s like when a parent goes into a child’s room to check the child is still breathing. It is a giant baby monitor.”
Is that why columns are often so breathtakingly mundane? Recently, the writer Giles Hattersley filed one saying: “unless my mother has been keeping a dark secret, I am not Roy Hattersley’s son” Who wants to tell the world that? “The primary fantasy for most people is that we can be as connected as we were in the womb, a situation of total closeness,” says de Botton. “When people who are very close are talking, they ‘witter away’: ‘It’s a bit dusty here’ or ‘There’s a squirrel in the garden.’ They don’t say, ‘What do you think of Descartes’s second treatise?’ It doesn’t matter what people say in their columns — it’s not the point.”
“Columns are really just a series of symbols,” says Lewis. “The person writing it just wants to be in the forefront of your mind, nothing more.” Which makes it very unappealing to marketeers.
“Reading a column is like a friend whispering something in your ear,” says de Botton. “We all want people to whisper secret messages to us. Children like to play ‘I have a secret to tell you’. It’s great fun, but what they say is often not very important.”
“To ‘publish’ someone is to have a fantasy of who this person you’re publishing is, and you use it as a map reference or signpost to guide your own life because you are lost,” says James. “I would guess that the typical profile of a ‘publisher’ is someone who is old and who feels marginalised, empty and pointless. They don’t have an inner life,” he says.
“It makes us look decrepit. And that is a high-status position in this society,” says de Botton. “Perhaps closeness is not always possible, or desirable. Being a rent-a-quote gives us another option. It says: I want to be in contact with you, but not too much. It’s the equivalent of sending a postcard.”
Friday, 20 February 2009
The event looks very full of energy, and I wish I could stay all weekend, but I'm off to BarCampMiami on Sunday.
Wednesday, 28 January 2009
This is old media thinking writ large. People pay for products - Tivo, DVRs, iPods, TV series DVDs - that turn streams into files they can watch when they want to.
We've solved how to send video over the net many times already.
The rare cases where millions of people want to watch the same thing at once — Presidential Inaugurations or faux Gladiatorial contests like American Idol, the World Cup Final or the Superbowl — are great uses for broadcast TV or satellite, and lousy uses of the net. What works is watching the event with friends on IRC or Twitter or a social network, sharing comments. That's what you need to stream over the net with low latency.
Cuban is conveying the last gasp of the self-important TV broadcast mentality that dreams of intoning "here we are, live to the nation", and all we can do is listen. But we can all talk back in parallel now, and build our own narratives with our own publics. That's what the net is for. As Douglas Adams put it last century:
I expect that history will show ‘normal’ mainstream twentieth century media to be the aberration in all this.
‘Please, miss, you mean they could only just sit there and watch? They couldn’t do anything? Didn’t everybody feel terribly isolated or alienated or ignored?’
‘Yes, child, that’s why they all went mad. Before the Restoration.’
‘What was the Restoration again, please, miss?’
‘The end of the twentieth century, child. When we started to get interactivity back.’
Friday, 23 January 2009
says @charleneli: Theme is "social networks will be like air" - her better phrasing of my "Social Cloud" idea
says @charleneli: in future we'll say "wasn't it quaint that we had to go someplace to be with our friends"
says @charleneli: "I want Amazon to have a 'friend's reviews button on there - or anywhere else they could be"
says @charleneli: we'll have a feed of the presedential debates with our friends tweets on - like I did in 2004: http://bit.ly/IRCdebate
says @charleneli: universal login with OpenID lets you tie your IDs together, and sites can import friends from your networks
says @charleneli: I had to friend my co-author Josh 35 different times on different sites - Portable Contacts should save us from this pain
says @charleneli: Profiles where they are useful - eg LinkedIn profiles showing up in Lotus Notes via email
says @charleneli: your friends activities in context with GetGlue.com's plugin - Iron Man wikipedia page and IMDB page shows friends reviews
says @charleneli: 2 sets of standards exist Facebook's own protocols and the OpenStack backed by Google, MySpace, Plaxo, Yahoo and more
says @charleneli: advertising has evolved - content targetting for demographics; Search marketing for intent; behavioural targetting
says @charleneli: how many of you have gone to a social network site and remember seeing an Ad? or clicked on one?
says @charleneli: Who wants to be a fan of FiberOne on Facebook?
says @charleneli: people want to tell each other about things they care about - need new ads for this
says @charleneli: examples of new Ad types - branded virtual gifts, shown to you as your friends gave or received them
says @charleneli: SocialVibe has profile sponsorships that donate to your favourite charity eg colgate ad to leukemia
says @charleneli: the Tipping Point argued that there are influencers that can make a product go viral [I disagree see http://bit.ly/watts ]
says @charleneli: social graphs and interests, culture of sharing and online and email behaviour can create context for ads
says @charleneli: vendors who identify influencers include 33across, lotame, media6 degrees, unbound technologies
says @charleneli: network neighbourhood modelling in interesting - homophily is a good predictor for clusters - you are like your friends
says @charleneli: Google tracks who I email most - very useful to me: "In Google I Trust" http://bit.ly/BtvV
says @charleneli: Media6 identifies you by profiles you view on SNSs - shows ads to your friends based on your purchases
says @charleneli: Media6 gets 3-7x increase in response rates on banner ads through this homophilic targetting - no PII involved
says @charleneli: Influencer strategies are a misnomer, btu clustering works
says @charleneli: People will demand greater contol over when, where, how profiles + friends are used. Detailed permissions - a UX nightmare
says @charleneli: remember when people didn't trust callerID? Now if you turn it off, people won't take your call
says @charleneli: setting up lists of who can see your pictures is a pain - have to categorize people - reclassifying is hard
says @charleneli: there's a need to better articulate and detect sub-groups of friends so this is less of a chore
I pointed out the power of asymmetric friending eg http://bit.ly/publics and @charleneli and audience agreed that it reduces awkwardness
says @charleneli: people will pay real money for virtual gifts
[ChrisSaad @kevinmarks asymmetic is good, the term friending is not great. I prefer follow or subscribe ]
@ChrisSaad agreed "following" is a better term for this
Audience: when will people profit from us using their profiles? @charleneli says we all have our own CPMs
[clynetic @kevinmarks What is CPM?]
@clynetic CPM is marketingspeak for 'cost per thousand' - I suppose CPA ( cost per action) is better
says @charleneli: don't give up your social capital for short term gain me: don't be the Amway guy at the party
says @charleneli: behavioural targetting is often faulty, as behaviours change
says @charleneli: social media advertising experiments are waiting for turnaround
says @charleneli: GYM (Hotmail for M) will test social media integration with webmail
says @charleneli: Facebook Connect and Open Stack gaining traction with media co's
says @charleneli: Social shopping experiments start - we want our friends recommendations
says @charleneli: identify where social network data and content shoudl be integrated in your sites
says @charleneli: leverage existing identity and social graphs where your audience is
says @charleneli: get your privacy and permission policies aligned with an open strategy
says @charleneli: find your trust agents - in google I trust? do you trust facebook?
says @charleneli: the media buyers are still trying to buy demographics or content, not better targetting
Sunday, 11 January 2009
a typical search generates about 7g of CO2 Boiling a kettle generates about 15gbut
Wissner-Gross has also calculated the CO2 emissions caused by individual use of the internet. His research indicates that viewing a simple web page generates about 0.02g of CO2 per second. This rises tenfold to about 0.2g of CO2 a second when viewing a website with complex images, animations or videos.
So client-side, a search costs 0.02g/s - to get to 7g you look at it for 350s, or nearly 6 minutes. But hang on:
A separate estimate from John Buckley, managing director of carbonfootprint.com, a British environmental consultancy, puts the CO2 emissions of a Google search at between 1g and 10g, depending on whether you have to start your PC or not. Simply running a PC generates between 40g and 80g per hour, he says. of CO2 Chris Goodall, author of Ten Technologies to Save the Planet, estimates the carbon emissions of a Google search at 7g to 10g (assuming 15 minutes’ computer use).
He's using it for 15 minutes per search? That gives 0.01g/s, or half the other chap's estimate.
Google's data centre's are carbon neutral, so it is only the client end you do have to worry about. However, breathing generates about 6g of Carbon every 10 minutes. Or about as much as they estimate computers do.
So I suggest you hold your breath while you search Google, to offset your carbon use. As searches return in well under a second, whatever these newspapers say, this shouldn't be any hardship. Or search from your Android or iPhone instead.
Tuesday, 6 January 2009
What I have is not so much predictions as an "I hope they've been thinking along the same lines I have" wishlist.
- An HD or better laptop. 17" if you must, but I'd like a 15" or smaller. The iPod Nano has 204 pixels per inch and a beautiful display. A 1920x1200 screen at that density would be 7" diagonal, or at iPhone's 163 ppi it would be 8.8" - there's plenty of room. You could get the 30" display's 2560x1600 into a 13" screen at iPhone ppi.
- Come to that, a 7" diagonal HD iPhone/ iPod Touch would be lovely too. Not just for video, but for reading the web and facing-page PDF's on. Give it Bluetooth keyboard support.
- Obviously, a new Mac Mini. I have a big shiny Sony HD TV and I want a little Mac to drive it (are you getting the HD theme here yet?)
- Separate out the phone crap. I don't like phones, and holding screens to my ear is daft anyway. Make the earpiece separate naturally. Come to that, negotiate me a data plan without a calling plan with your carrier buddies. Amazon did it for Kindle. And for goodness sake ship iChat for the handhelds. Put a camera on the top of the screen like the Macs all have.
- Drop DRM already. For videos too. And HDCP.
- Extend your lovely bluetooth keyboard to have a trackpad too. Make it work with iPhones and the new 7" HD iPod too.
- one more thing - Phil Schiller, stop charging for QuickTime Pro. Admit the mistake you made ten years ago and make video editing natural again.