Joining the dots...
... that is how an FT article about social networking and media in workplace begins. I do not normally link to subscription sources but this article was too good to miss and I’ll quote the bits that make the main points.
The next wave in office productivity, represented by wikis (editable websites), blogs and other social networking technologies, is here. Experts say these tools will transform the way work is done by encouraging new types of collaboration.
This is a point I have been making for some time. It’s difficult to demonstrate the benefits of wikis and blogs (and tagging) to companies who operate on measurement and metrics only. The thing about the whole Web 2.0 (before it became an annoying buzzword) is that you cannot foresee what impact the activity of many individuals will have on the network and its dynamics. Many people doing their own ‘thing’ - blogging, organising events via wikis, uploading photos, bookmarking web pages, aggregating their knowledge, etc, give rise to phenomena that leave most business types scratching their heads, wondering what it all means. Well, it’s the emergent, stupid. Nobody could have predicted or planned or justified something like Wikipedia before it happened. As for business applications, the trick is to provide clear parameters to avoid unacceptable risks.
The article mentions some respectable companies such as Google and Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein as believers in the brave new world of wikis and blogs.
Every Google employee can create a blog and contribute to the company’s internal wikis. Social technologies play an essential role in keeping the creative juices flowing and also help Google keep track of its rapidly growing numbers of ideas, projects and employees.
More than 450 DrKW employees have internal blogs and the bank has built an internal wiki with more than 2,000 pages which is used by a quarter of its workforce. After just six months, the traffic on the wiki exceeds that on the entire DrKW intranet.
This is what JP Rangaswami says about his experience with blogs and wikis within DrKW:
We recognised early on that these tools would allow us to collaborate more effectively than existing technologies… Using wikis is much more participative and non-threatening, as people can see what other people have suggested…
And most importantly:
Is blogging a good use of company time? They are going to have these conversations anyway – in the lift, for example – and if the topic is boring, people lose interest. It is self-policing.
Indeed, you won’t get the creativity, collaboration and innovation that most businesses profess to want without letting individual employees assert and reclaim their sense of identity and value. And this cannot happen if you box them in metrics, return and objectives that do not take into account the emergent impact of social media and tools.
Social software is the experimental wing of political philsophy, a discipline that doesn’t realize it has an experimental wing. We are literally encoding the principles of freedom of speech and freedom of expression in our tools. We need to have conversations about the explicit goals of what it is that we’re supporting and what we are trying to do, because that conversation matters. Because we have short-term goals and the cliff-face of annoyance comes in quickly when we let users talk to each other. But we also need to get it right in the long term because society needs us to get it right. I think having the language to talk about this is the right place to start.
- Nat’s notes on Tim O’Reily’s blog on Clay Shirky’s talk at ETech.
Robert X. Cringley does his end of the year act when he recognises… all that is twisted and unholy in the world of high tech. Welcome to the third annual GUI Awards, for Greed, Underhandedness, and Imbecility.
I think my favourite winner is the “I’m With Stupid” Award:
… is a tie between Sony BMG Entertainment and First4Internet, which made the CD copy protection technology that turned consumer’s PCs into hackers’ playthings. Even more stupid: Sony BMG issued a “fix” that made things worse. As part of their award, executives from both firms will be locked in a soundproof vault and forced to listen to Celine Dion until their ears bleed.
Other good ones are the “Drop Those PowerPoints and Nobody Gets Hurt” Award goes to Cisco Systems (Profile, Products, Articles).
At last summer’s Black Hat conference, Cisco did everything it could to prevent security consultant Mike Lynn from spilling the beans about holes in its IOS (Internetwork Operating System) software, save for a) putting a ball gag in his mouth, or b) fixing the damned flaws.
and The “We’d Show You, But Then We’d Have to Kill You” Award, which goes to SCO
...which finally submitted evidence in its nearly three-year-old copyright infringement case against IBM (Profile, Products, Articles), but asked the judge to seal the files so only he could see them. I understand the evidence is so terrifying it has been known to drive grown men insane (although not insane enough to hold on to their SCO stock).
Good show although I hope next year won’t have that many contenders. Right, as if.
Jon Lund, whom I take to task (in the spirit of friendly exchange of opinions) over his interpretation of my ‘message’ at an IAA event last week in the post below, has come up with more thoughts on the subject of marketing and where it’s (or should be) heading.
Traditionally marketing has been seen as the skill of creating first Attention, then Interest, Desire and Action – as known in the AIDA model. Some ten years ago, however, something happened. Under the “I am not a consumer"-heading, “consumers” started reacting against the direct call for action – reclaiming their right to decide for themselves what to do and when to do it. In effect the Action-part af the AIDA lost much of its meaning: Hence - I’d suggest - AIDA lost its “A”, now simply crying out “AID”.
He also sees the desire of users to interact and to be part of the content production as great news.
Instead of regretting that advertising today has limited opportunities of controlling the choice of consumers, marketers today are confronted with vast opportunities of resources only waiting to be awoken in consumers. Opportunities marketers can take advantage of, by entering the new sphere of market-"conversations". Conversations – or dialogue – in the true sense of the word, where both parties are allowed to unfold and expressing themselves.
Sounds good. But why on earth would I want to interact with marketers?! If anything, I’d like to interact with the guy who know something about cars or makes wine or
or beautiful jewellery. So give people a story and a reason to interact with marketers and they just might. Or not.
Communities Dominate Brands could be mistaken for a book which is just about the shape of things to come. And whilst it does indeed have a lot to say about the future, the really interesting thing about this book is that it is about the reality of brands and markets right now in 2005.
The fact much of what Tomi and Alan have to say is controversial and counter-intuitive to branding strategists and marketing insiders is just a measure of the seismic nature of the changes being wrought by the ‘Connected Revolution’. The world is not just changing, it has already changed and many of the axioms and practices which underpin how entire industries operate are now little more than a form of ‘phantom limb syndrome’.
This book is not just an essay about understanding how the convergence of many technologies has changed everything, it is nothing less than a survival guide which I would urge people in businesses of all sizes to read from cover to cover if they want prosper in a world in which the balance of power on so many levels has shifted in favour of the digitally empowered individual and the affinity groups they form. These communities really do dominate brands. Get used to it.
Reading this article in MediaPost made me exclaim - They never learn, do they!
Podcasting, simply put, is just another way to distribute content to consumers. As with all new digital sub-channels, the hype for podcasting can be overwhelming.
Perhaps I am still on the roll from the Cillit Bang affair, but what is it about the media types that they have to use such langague?
We are embracing the change and seeking viable new ways to reach and influence these consumers…
... the golden opportunity for marketers - the opportunity to deepen relationships between consumers and your brand or product.
Deepen relationship between consumers and a product?! People do not usually have relationships with inanimate objects (unless it’s computers, obviously, or other items around which many a ‘premium content’ website has been built) but with other people (or their pets). One can talk about a following, enthusiasts or fans etc but do not pretend that I am ‘relating’ to a brand or a product, especially one that thinks of me as a consumer.
My gripe is not just about the choice of words such as content, consumers, ‘reach and influence’, consume content etc, but about the original point behind the article - looking how to insert advertising in podcasts, although the conclusion gives us breathing space before there will be ads in podcasts.
Although podcasts do represent great opportunities for marketers to deepen relationships with consumers, they do not yet represent viable advertising opportunities for most. Ads within podcasts are innately low engagement ads, even less so than pre-roll and in-stream audio or video. The net result is that the brand impact is more passive than that of other, more engaging forms of digital media.
Obviously engagement in adspeak stands for I push something at you that you can click on, basically meaning the same as interactive that has got worn out about 5 years ago.
The MediaPost column Just an Online Minute has an interesting factoid:
The band the Presidents of the United States of America shot its latest video using only mobile phone cameras. That just may be a first. The video for the band’s “Some Postman” was reportedly filmed in Seattle in only a day using several Sony-Ericsson mobile video phones. If this catches on, the advertising industry, its high-priced agencies, production company partners, and all related hangers-on could be in even more trouble than they are already. We don’t know what the associated costs were, but you can bet your bottom dollar they were less expensive than shooting a regular music video.
This is it, with all that cheap (but user-friendly and effective) technology, I wonder how agencies and commercial film-makers are going to keep their grip on advertising budgets. There is value in their expertise and migrating to new tools they will discover a whole new world. I know one who already has.
A VC in NYC likes to keep things simple. Blogging to him is about three things: Posting, Subscribing, and Tagging. And it is about far more than putting text into a blogging software and hitting a publish button.
Blogging is way bigger than that.
Podcasting is blogging.
Posting photos to flickr is blogging.
Building a link roll on del.icio.us is blogging.
Posting your cell phone videos of your cat on vimeo is blogging.
Building your personal page on MySpace.com is blogging.
Anytime a user posts their content on the web in a place they control for the world to consume, they are blogging.
This makes sense. And it is part of the growing understanding that talking about blogging in isolation, as something that ‘bloggers’ do is missing the point. Often people who haven’t really looked at blogging talk about ‘bloggers’ as if they were some alien species that invaded the online world. This is especially true for marketing and advertising types - they need to stick to their understanding of markets by demographics and their categories and by dimissing bloggers as something different from consumers, they feel they can cope with them newfangled things called blogs.
Every time I talk to a person involved in “traditional media” who wants to understand the Internet, I tell them one thing – user generated content.
Until you get user generated content, you don’t get the Internet.
And blogging is the platform for user generated content.
Subscribing is not about technology but about human behaviour… of choosing to read what you like.
...readers vote every day about what content they like and what they don’t. They do this by subscribing or unsubscribing to RSS feeds of the blogs they like.
And finally, there is tagging:
With 10 million or more bloggers posting a couple times a day, how do you keep track of all that user generated content? You can’t in an absolute sense. But you can establish a framework for user generated content and build on top of it. That’s where tagging comes in.
Everything I have seen so far (and I have been blogging for more than 3 years) leads to me agree with VC’s conclusions:
I believe that together posting, subscribing, and tagging will profoundly change the worlds of media, entertainment, commerce, and communication.
We are five years into the posting revolution, two to three years into the subscribing revolution, and maybe one year into the tagging revolution. We are just looking at the tip of the iceberg in terms of what can be done with these techniques.
This is a long post, so I won’t make you wait for me to get to the point: Real authority in the blogosphere cannot be measured by current tools, because current tools cannot account for the fact that we choose not to read some blogs precisely because they are authoritative.
One thing that happens when you let RSS do the work of pointing you towards interesting information: You quickly grow weary of certain blogs that are updated several times a day.
I do think it’s important for bloggers to post often, especially in the beginning when you’re trying to build up a dedicated audience. (As Adriana points out to people about the huge number of visitors who hit Samizdata on a daily basis, what is really interesting is that so many of them are repeat visitors and make the effort to check the site once or more each day. Maybe I’ll post some other time about what this means in terms of building an emergent brand.) And I myself used to blog several times per day, in part because it was a big element of working with tBBC, and in part because...Well, I wanted to, and I had the flexibility in my work day to do so. No more.
But there are only a handful of blogs that I really get excited about seeing updated several times a day - in particular, my guilty pleasure blogs, like Perez Hilton‘s. I ignore those in my aggregator until the weekend, and then Saturday morning is a big, indulgent catch-up session.
I recently deleted Steve Rubel‘s blog from my list of RSS subscriptions. Why? Because he’s almost too good at blogging. He updates his site several times a day, and nearly everything he posts is interesting or downright absorbing. But it’s daunting to see that there are 25 or so unread pieces from him in my aggregator, just waiting to be read.
More to the point, lots of the other blogs I read also read Steve’s blog, and link to all the cool stuff he posts with their own take on each item. So I was getting a lot of duplication in my aggregator, with the truly useful posts being the ones which added commentary to the information. Anyone who used to read Glenn Reynolds and no longer does may also be familiar with this scenario.
This isn’t me trying to knock Steve or Glenn, both of whom are phenomenal bloggers and put enormous time and effort into being stellar human filters (Steve starts blogging at 4.30 or 5 AM, seven days a week). But as I know that the stuff they link to will be linked by other filters who are also commentators, and whose insights stimulate my own thoughts, it makes more sense for me only to read the filters who add relevant commentary to those links. (Your own requirements, as always, may vary. Isn’t it great that we all have the choice to tailor this stuff according to our own needs and wants?)
This is another good example of the network effect of blogging: I don’t read Steve or Glenn anymore, but the stuff they link to reaches me anyway. And because of attribution inherent in blogging, I know it when a commentator has found an interesting link via one of them. If someone asked me to name a big PR blogger or a big politics blogger, I’d name Steve Rubel and Glenn Reynolds. If someone asked for more names for each of those categories, I could keep going, naming bloggers who I’d never before read personally, but who I see getting hat tips all over the place for linking to noteworthy items. (This is particularly true of political blogs, of which I have wearied of late; I know that Kos and Atrios and Michelle Malkin are popular information filters, but I can’t say I’ve ever spent more than two minutes on any of their blogs.)
My point once again: Real authority in the blogosphere cannot be measured by current tools, because current tools cannot account for the fact that we choose not to read some blogs precisely because they are authoritative.
So how do the metrics fetishists propose to measure authority in light of this? I’m still waiting to hear.
Cross-posted at The Hole
Red Herring reports:
U.S. blog readership in the first quarter jumped 45 percent to 49.5 million people, or one-sixth of the total U.S. population, a report said Monday, suggesting the blogosphere is becoming increasingly alluring to online advertisers.
I am hearing this from all sides and have been invited to a couple of conferences for advertisering industry to speak about blogs and advertising. Hm, I am not sure they’ll like what I have to say but I will try to make sense of the relationship between such two different worlds - the blogoshpere and media industry. Well, the first thing I notice, apart from the bitching from both sides, is the media industry’s eyes watering as they are trying to focus on blogs. Too small for those big-budgeted and gloss-filled vista and the range of vision is adjusting with the declining revenues, impact and channel fragmentation and other disruptive goodness.
But back to the blog ‘metrics’:
As far as advertisers are concerned, blog readers are a desirable demographic—young, wealthy, likely to shop online, and with high-speed Internet connections. They visit 77 percent more web pages than the average Internet user.
Blogs are addictive, that’s the real news flash. Heh.
In today’s Guardian Jane Perrone writes:
80,000 new weblogs are being created every day. Technorati tracked more than 14.2 million blogs this month, compared to 7.8 million in March.
But the statistics show not everyone who starts a blog stays the course. Although the blogosphere has doubled in size in just over five months, only around half of all blogs are “active” - in other words they have been updated in the past three months - and just 13% are updated every week or more often.
But that does not really matter, does it? As I often point out, talking about blogging as a unified subject is focusing on the format and missing the most fascinating aspects of the phenomenon. It is like judging the success of printing press by the impact the Communist Manifesto, or the Bible or trashy novels for that matter, have had on the world. And this is actually what happens - there are people complaining about how blogging can be toxic by causing confusion or lack of transparency and credibility(!) and many arguing that blogs are nothing but self-absorbed rubbish at worst and an online version of tabloids in terms of facts and reporting at best, etc etc etc. Even is such objections were true, which they mostly are not, they are irrelevant to the understanding of what is happening with communications and the ability of audiences to connect not only with the ‘broadcasters’ but also with themselves.
My point in the article is that we should not be focusing on the numbers - that is playing the game by the big media rules - but on those aspects of blogging that are truly revolutionary. Self-expression, individual creativity in the public space/domain giving rise to a new online social infrastructure, on top of the technological one.
If you know somebody, how long does it take to know what they are thinking? It’s a long drawn out process. But with blogs it’s the other way around - you meet the person’s mind through their blog.
I see this every day and I myself have found a number of amazing people in a very short period of time. That makes blogging a social activity par excellence. And this is before the pyjamas even come into it.
Cross-posted from Media Influencer
Wired Media Hack talks about FCC chairman Michael K. Powell noting that most of the significant pictures of the London suicide bombing attacks didn’t originate from professional photographers employed by news agencies but from witnesses at the scene using cell phones and digital cameras to document the tragedy.
Before, blogging was largely fixated on the failure of mainstream media. Now it has become a necessary supplement, and in some cases, a substitute. But Powell takes this a step further. To him, London showed that blogging has morphed into the art of raw, personalized storytelling.
It certainly isn’t reporting and this should not fuel the misplaced debate about blogging vs. journalism. But it is a development that was to be expected.
You really felt as if you were there as opposed to watching CNN or reading MSNBC.com, which are fine for the facts but stale and a bit removed.
Again, the myth of objectivity makes for a ‘detached’ (often read biased) reporting of facts that made the bloggers appear in the first place after 9/11 when many people felt that the media reporting was not on the same planet as them. This time, the media actually sourced its news from the ‘citizen journalists’ and we are all better informed for it.
And now there is Technorati.
The number of posts on blogs tracked by Technorati increased 30 percent, from about 850,000 a day in July to 1.2 million on the day of the attacks. Nine of the 10 most popular search requests involved the unfolding tragedy in London.
If you think about it, Technorati has become a public utility on a global scale.
Indeed. And not just Technorati but other search applications (such as Ice Rocket, PubSub, BlogPulse etc) built around dynamic content. Here is a very good explanation of the difference between Google and traditional search engines (wow, I am using the word traditional in internet context, I feel so old!) and Technorati.
Google, for instance, views the web as the world’s largest reference library, where information is static. Instead of the Dewey Decimal System, Google employs its PageRank technology, which orders search results based on relevance. Google uses words like web page, catalogs and directory, which are more than just words: They convey an entire worldview.
In contrast, Technorati sees the internet as a stream of conversations. This makes it much more immediate. Google requires two to three weeks to input a site into its search engine. (Although it does post frequently updated content from news sites.)
David Sifry, the guy behind (and in front of) Technorati uses a phrase meme epidemiology (love it!) as in:
In meme epidemiology, knowing the first person to say something is the first step to understanding the contagion, why some memes are contagious while others aren’t.
That is exactly the kind of stuff early bloggers were figuring out for themselves. On Samizdata.net, we have worked out fairly soon that blog something about guns, freedom, abortion, Iraq, Afganistan, multi-culturalism etc etc, you’d get more comments and more people linking to it. We, in the Editorial Pantheon, used to call it the tabloid-effect as it was predictable and rather crude. What Technorati has made possible is tracking much more subtle and niche memes and conversations that result in much emergent goodness.
There is also a mention of the Chinese blogosphere and how Technorati tags are helping the bloggers by-pass the Chinese policenet.
One indication that the phenomenon that Sifry spawned three years ago has worked itself into the fabric of internet life is that in China, bloggers are using Technorati tags to get around government censors. The Adopt-a-Chinese Blog program works by volunteers announcing their intention to host a blog on their server by employing a special Technorati tag. That way, bloggers in China can locate the blogs through a special page. Since the pages are served outside of China, the government can’t censor them.
Now we are talking about the proper use of technology!
cross-posted from Media Influencer
Just as with RSS syndication, it is a sign that things have taken hold when the non-technical mainstream media start writing about innovations which were once the preserve of hardcore techno-geeks. Podcasting is the latest ‘next thing’ to get noticed in such places as the Wall Street Journal.
Podcasts are yet another of those emergent activities that spring out of nowhere with very little warning. Much like blogging, no one ever sat down in a corporate office and thought up podcasting, the component technologies were there and it just ‘happened’. It is just another way in which the internet is both enabling and disintermediating. It also shows that merely analysing the technologies is a pretty ineffective way of seeing what is coming down the road: a high proportion of mainsteam analysis of the internet is rather like studying how cars work and then expecting to understand where people are going to drive and why. Podcasting, like blogging, are made possible by technological developments but they are not ‘technologies’ themselves so much as social phenomenon. This is also probably why IT consultants are usually the last people to understand developments like these because you cannot understand how such innovations come about by just looking at underlying technology.
I have thought for some time that when Adriana does her presentations to various conferences, we should be podcasting her remarks for people who cannot attend. But even though we do this sort of thing for a living, even we have difficulty actually finding the time implement it all some times!
Podcasts from tBBC, coming soon
An excellent article by Gordon Cook in strategy+business about Skype’s challenge to both telcoms and traditional companies. Skype is a “softphone” — a software-based telephone that uses a computer, cellphone, PDA, or any other equipment connected to the Web to deliver voice with simultaneous file transfer and instant messages over the Internet.
It is different from the growing number of “voice over Internet protocol” (VOIP) networks offered by phone and cable companies, because it is a peer-to-peer system, creating ad hoc computer-to-computer links over the Internet whenever Skype users want to reach one another. The big issue here is that no central networks mediate
or manage the connection and so the user to user calls are free. Since its debut, Skype has signed up 35 million users and, at any one time, well over 3 million people are logged into its network.
Those of us who use it, know how revolutionary it is and how it changed the voice communication and its cost. But as Gordon Cook points out, the road to Skype’s domination is not smooth as most corporate IT and telecom managers are trying to avoid Skype at all costs. It is for sound security reasons, but I am sure the idea that employees can be using something that is not controlled by the company and/or its IT department plays a role. But because Skype gives more control to the individual I don’t see how its progress can be halted without resorting to drastic measures:
Soon it will become imperative for larger companies to take Skype seriously, if for no other reason than that peer-to-peer architecture is one of the most efficient, most direct, and least wasteful systems of digital interaction.
But perhaps the most lasting influence of Skype will be that it will force management and IT executives to consider how to structure a network that exists both inside and outside the corporate firewall. To improve innovation and their own productivity, employees will gravitate to the most advanced collaboration and communications tools with the most reliable levels of quality, no matter what price is paid in weakened security.
Indeed. The corporate firewall is a technological equivalent of the great business divide between the company and the ‘consumers’ whose porousness Cluetrain has so effectively pointed out. This is not a statement about no need for security but for looking at the landscape in a bit more peer-to-peer way, you might say…
Cross-posted from Media Influencer
The Economist has an excellent leader article about what important lessons the remarkable tale of eBay’s growth points to for any business trying to operate online. Today that includes, one way or another, most firms.
The commercial opportunities presented by an expanding global web seem almost limitless. But the pace of change is rapid, and so is the ferocity of competition. To succeed, firms need agility, an open mind and the ability to reinvent themselves repeatedly. Most of all, they need to listen carefully to their customers, paying close attention to what they do and don’t want. Such qualities, of course, would be valuable in any kind of business. Yet for online firms they are not a luxury, but necessary for mere survival.
Hence their writing on the wall for the marketing industry about the ’empowered consumer‘. They translate the many-to-many nature of the internet into the need to pay attention to every whim of the customers. Which is good advice, but I would go even further - businesses should understand that the barrier separating them and the ‘consumers’ is breaking down. Their employees are the same people who create the ‘consumer class’ and the big divide between the ‘broadcaster of the message’ and the ‘target audience’ is no longer what it used to be in the industrial era of mass production and pretty much mass everything…
The Economist looks at the entire landscape, sees the changes but does not go beyond the company and industry edifice:
The internet is not only growing, but changing rapidly—which, in turn, changes the rules of the game for any business relying on it. The barriers to entry are still low compared with those for most offline businesses, which means that just keeping track of your existing rivals is not enough. These may not represent the greatest competitive threat tomorrow or the next day. That could come from a number of directions—a firm in a different type of online business; one that does not yet exist; or even from one of your own customers. On top of all this, the behaviour of many consumers is constantly changing as well, as individuals discover new ways to shop and interact with each other via the web.
Here we go, finally a mention of the most fundamental change that the internet has cause in how we conduct our affairs. The user rulez. We now see a ‘new tech sector’ where technologies emerge and spread like wildfire as users are designing, developing and inventing things for other users. This has major implications on both the functionality and the format of what is being created - modular, inexpensive, constantly evolving and above all often capable of doing more than large corporate ‘solutions’.
All these factors make the internet a dangerous place to do business, as well as one full of promise. For managers of any business, the lessons of eBay are both exhilarating and daunting: the prizes offered by the internet are dazzling by any measure, but only those who can satisfy the demanding and changing tastes of consumers, the internet’s true sovereigns, will survive to enjoy them.
Indeed. It is about paying attention not to your consumers but to the dymanics of this ‘dangerous place’ in order to fully immerse yourself in it. The blogosphere to me is like a Petri dish, where I can observe, analyse and understand what drives people, their interactions, communications, connectivity, innovation and creativy - and all those social dynamics that the online has become synonymous with. I can do this not because of some external ‘qualitifications’, ‘methodologies’ and ‘analytics’ but because I have been part of it for some time and my understanding comes from understanding the impact on the individual. From that, over time and with interaction with many other bloggers I have built up a clear picture of how that understanding can be extrapolated and applied to businesses. All rather straigthforward, really. And most of all, it’s fun to see it work…
Cross-posted from Media InfluencerGo back on the hippo's back...