One Man and His Blog: December 2008 Archives

December 2008 Archives

December 24, 2008

Carol Singing

I'm just back from an evening singing carols around the wards at St George's hospital in Tooting.

I've spent an awful lot of time in and around hospital wards this year, and much of that time hasn't been very happy. So it was really great to spend some time bringing a little bit of festive cheer into the hospital on Christmas Eve.

Have a very Merry Christmas everyone.

December 23, 2008

2008, Journalists & Blogging: A Parting Shot

Christmas in ParisSo, today's my last day in the office this year. I'll write more about the ups and downs of the editorial development effort here at RBI during my OM&HB review of the year next week, but I have to say, this has been the single hardest year of my working life. 

A recent e-mail conversation reminded of how difficult it can be doing a job like this in a traditional publishing company. I asked one of my colleagues the reason behind a comment here that seemed, to me, unusually hostile. And he replied that he was merely playing devil's advocate to my remarks. And in that moment, he caught exactly why I feel so very tired right now.

If you spend your life teaching people in media about social media, about conversational publishing and genuine online community, you will spend a good percentage of your time being told you are wrong. Sometimes it'll be in small ways of the "interesting but... nah" way, and sometimes in all-out confrontation, which I rather like. And sometimes it'll be in the soul-sapping "I'll be all nice to your face and undermine you and your work behind your back" kinda way. But you'll get some element of it every single working day. 

And sure, there's nothing there that isn't just part of office politics generally. But you don't get into a job like this unless you're passionate about the thing you're evangelising, and constantly having to defend it against a barrage of negativity can get wearing. Having to defend what you've done is one thing, having to continually defend the existence of your own position is quite another.

So, this is Christmas. I'm off to spend time with my (sadly diminished) family, eat and drink, and rediscover my enthusiasm for this fight. And I really, really need to do that, because 2009 is going to be the hardest year in memory for publishers. And I still, quite genuinely, believe that mixing good, original journalism with genuine community interaction for professional communities is the way that we'll survive this. And that it will be an even tougher year for me than 2008, because the stakes are so very much higher.

December 22, 2008

A Lesson Learnt

What I have learnt since Wednesday:

Being smug about not catching the various bugs that have been flying around your office and family is a good way  of generating enough hubris that karma feels the need to take you outside for a good kicking.

And yes, I'm feeling a wee bit better, thanks. :-)

December 17, 2008

links for 2008-12-17

December 16, 2008

How The CEO's Kids Drive Adoption

Great post from Lee Bryant at Headshift looking at the evolutionary pressures around Web 2.0 tools in the workplace:

What I really like about the consumer Web 2.0 world is the fact that it has given us an amazing experimental laboratory for new tools and communication techniques. It has produced a Cambrian explosion of start ups, tools, features and buzzwords, each of which has evolved very quickly through exposure to rapid feedback at scale. Conversely, in the enterprise tools space, users are of secondary importance and therefore there are few evolutionary pressures that can improve the generally poor quality tools and systems that IT departments force on the business. This is starting to change as more and more senior people ask why their children have access to more effective tools on their home PCs than they have access to in the office.

Time to be proactive in providing stuff, before the CEO comes asking some hard questions...

Making Users Happy with Social Software

As part of a post looking at predictions for 2009, Ross Mayfield of enetrprise wiki provider SocialText presents som interesting figures about making social software projects successful:

Line of Business implementations not only experience growth, but greater success. According to this year's McKinsey survey on Building the Web 2.0 Enterprise, IT-driven implementations had 60% user dissatisfaction, whereas LoB-driven had 74% satisfaction.  Part of this is vendor selection, but LoB implementations have greater engagement and adoption.  I believe the best approach is to partner LoB with IT, what I once called middlespace, for the benefits of top down and bottom up adoption.

However, at least one group is finding that wikis are slow to catch on internally...

Reasons for B2B 2B Cheerful

John Welsh, of United Business Media has a list of 15 reasons that B2B media should survive the transition to digital. I like 11 and 12 particularly:

11. Clients know they must move their marketing online. They, like the media, are just struggling with the cultural changes necessary.
12. B2B sales teams have a relationship with clients that allows them to mentor them as they learn about digital together.

What's Black & White & Completely Over?

Everone else republished it, so I might as well don my sheep disguise and go eat some grass:

links for 2008-12-16

December 15, 2008

Save B2B Publishing By Loving People

Naked bloke on a horseMore WIN from my feeds. Ross Mayfield has been posting about the different styles of relationship between users that various web tools promote. One post had this wee gem:

Consider a 1.0 community feature, Forums. Forums are topic-centric instead of people-centric. There isn't the notion of following people, or leveraging the social network as a filter. You have to sift through what everyone is saying regardless of who they are, which I find tremendously inefficient. This also means that if someone is truly obnoxious you can't unsubscribe from them.

Now, forums are beginning to evolve away from those roots, by grafting social-network-esque features onto their platforms, so the role of forums is not really the point. The point is that the shift from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 was the shift from topic-focus to person-focus. That's why blogs lead the charge - they are a transition technology, in that they're still (usually) topic-focused, but that the person writing the blog is as important as the topic and often more so. 

However, traditional B2B publishing companies are still, structurally, topic-focused. Our business is built and arranged around topic silos. But people don't live in topic silos. They have more than one interest, area of expertise and desire to communicate. And the more we try to shove those people into our pre-designated and easy-to-sell (for now) silos, the more we'll hasten our own demise. 

We need to shift the balance from topic first, person second, to person first and topic second in every element of our publishing process. Until we do that, I don't think we'll every escape the trap of sprinkling a wee bit of magic community dust on fundamentally Web 1.0 offerings and wondering why we struggle. 

40 Signs That They're Not Ready for Social Media

Ah, I love it when my feed reader is just full of win. Today it contained:

20 Signs You Don't Want That Internal Social Media Project

And that pointed me to:

20 Signs You Don't Want That Social Media Project

And then I laughed. Until I hurt. A lot.

December 13, 2008

Predicting the Hackopalypse

Clay Shirky

Image via Wikipedia

Boing Boing ran an excellent post by Clay Shirky earlier in the week, pointing out that the current apocalypse raging in the US newspaper industry was entirely predictable.

The argument is simple. The internet is primarily a technology that makes it easier to publish and distribute information, and that the result of such a process will be to drive down the value of information. This one simple fact is what too much of the publishing industry has failed to grasp, and it's why we're seeing such a dramatic effect on jobs and publishers, out of proportion with the economic downturn.

And we've known this was coming for over a decade. Shirky:

And once that became obvious, we said so, over and over again, all the time. We said it in public, we said it in private. We said it when newspapers hired us as designers, we said it when we were brought in as consultants, we said it for free. We were some tiresome motherfuckers with all our talk about the end of news on paper. And you know what? The people who made their living from printing the news listened, and then decided not to believe us.

Well, now there's abundant evidence of it in the US. In Europe, we have (at most) a few months now to really address the truth of this, to avoid suffering the same fate.

2009 is going to be a hard year for journalism. But it needn't be the last year for it.
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December 12, 2008

The Doom of B2B Publishing

I've just reread Paul Conley's superb post on the future of B2B (business to business) magazine publishing. It's an excellent, thoughtful piece of work, and I think much of what he says will apply just as much to the UK as the US.

So much so, in fact, that I've just registered in preparation for the implosion of the industry and my inevitable move from B2B to running a B&B in Devon...

(And on Monday, I might just post a more useful response to his discussion points.)
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Le Web 08: Some Follow-Ups

Here's a few follow-up posts to Le Web 08 that I've noted on my web travels:

December 11, 2008

Le Web 08: Virtual Goods

Susan Wu
As some of you know, I'm something of an online gamer. That lead to me really enjoying Joi Ito's talk last year, and really looking forward to Susan Wu's talk on virtual goods this year.

Of course, Wu, who is a founder of ohai, had to go and deflate me by saying that it wasn't all about online games as soon as she game on stage...

Hers was one of the short talks so she had to rattle through the ideas quickly. So had a quick go at dispelling that idea that virtual goods are not a valid business model because they're intangible - so is love, she pointed out, and that's a pretty powerful motivator... Tencent in China is selling virtual goods on an IM platform. 66-69% of its revenue is from them. And it had to monetise via virtual goods because there was no ad money.

So, what are virtual goods? They are any intangible asset you can purchase in an online environment that improves your avatars or relationships in there. It's more than just tools to customise an avatar - there are decorative, functional and behavioural versions of them. Imvu, a chat service, sells better names, for example. 

Ideally, virtual goods are tied up with passion, relationship and interaction.  1: VGs are way of capturing passion and interaction. The little gifts you can give on Facebook are a good example: they're a gift, they're a social interaction between giver and recipient and they're a trophy that the recipient can display. 

But she finished on something that was to me, a controversial note.  She talked about the decision between time and money in an online environment, citing a new mount available to players in World of Warcraft which costs 18,000 gold - that means about 50 hours of play time to earn it. Alternatively, she suggested, you can $300 to buy the gold on the open market. "How much is your time worth?" seemed to be the question. But World of Warcraft is an environment that actually bans the sale of virtual goods, and the market in them is an illicit one. Not an example that helped her case much...

Le Web 08: Podcasting Live

Wine Library TV Live
Scoble & Arrington
One of the small moments of genius at Le Web 08 was the way the conference closed. It's so easy for conferences to end on a down note, with a bit of a damp squib as the audience drift away into the night. No so this year's affair, which actually managed to go out with a bang.

Finishing the conference with the live recording of two podcasts - Wine Library TV and the Gillmor Gang - gave a huge lift to the final hours. Gary Vaynerchuk is a hugely charismatic and passionate guy, and his talk preaching strong personality, love for your topic, openness to others and media channel ubiquity was both compelling and inspiring. And it was only improved by seeing him working live with a wine maker to record the show.

Equally, the Gillmor Gang recording saw a bunch of intelligent, knowledgeable guys (but all guys, sadly) really getting their teeth into some of the issues that had come out of the conference. There wasn't a whole lot of Love in what was said, bar the brave efforts of Hugh MacLeod and Loïc himself. Bit it was witty, entertaining and informative. 

I'm glad I didn't leave early. It was well worth seeing.

Le Web 08: Pictures of Love

Heart mat, originally uploaded by Adam Tinworth.

All of my photos from Le Web 08 are now available in a Flickr set.


December 10, 2008

Spot The Blogger Competition

LeWeb'08 Paris 6, originally uploaded by Stephanie Booth.

Rats. Caught on camera at Le Web 08...

RBI Divestment Cancelled

You missed your chance to buy me.

Maybe getting a whole B2B publishing company thrown in was offputting? :)

Le Web 08: Christine Lagarde

And so, just like in 2006, we have a surprise French politician, the finance minister, Christine Lagarde.

She's been talking about the French economic bailout plan, and then moving onto entrepreneurship. It's of more interest to the French people here, with some talk of making it easier to set up a company officially, using a two-screen online process, and other streamlining for business.

However, she put out an appeal for us bloggers to undermine the cliché that the French are a race of lazy, conservative civil servants. What do you think?

Le Web 08: Startup Competition Finalists

Update: Surprise guest judge - Christine Lagarde, is on stage. She's the French Finance Minister.

WiFi permitting, I'll post 'em here as they appear:

  1. Zoover - a site for user-generated travel reviews.
  2. Webnode - a free website builder for the non-technical.
  3. Viewdle -  a video indexing and search service - can target parts of a video and take you straight there.

Bronze: Zoover
Silver: Webnode
Gold: Viewdle

Le Web 08: Marissa Mayer

Marissa Mayer
The WiFi problems continue at Le Web, so liveblogging is hard-to-impossible. However, I have a load of notes, and I'll try to get them online before the Techcrunch party tonight.

However, Marissa Mayer, vice president, search products and user experience at Google, said a few blog-worthy things that are rapidly bloggable:

  • Chrome is out of beta
  • Searchwiki "on" is likely to remain the default option. It's more about personalisation than another part of PageRank, but if tens of thousands of people downrank a result...
  • Video search is a challenge. Two likely routes: speech to text and face recognition. Speech to text is more advanced, and we might see it next year
  • Time-based searching is another thing we're likely to see in the default search next year.
I got the impression that a lot of the hard-core webby types skipped this session, which was a shame. This was the least product pitch presentation I've seen Mayer give, thanks to some intelligent questioning from Mike Arrington.

Silent Night, Holy Night

image1222785681.jpgI've just spent a couple of hours singing carols round the wards of St George's Hospital.

After spending some very unhappy times in hospitals this year, it's nice to bring a little happiness to some tonight.

Have a great Christmas all!

Le Web 08: Platform Love & Open Standards

Finally grabbed some WiFi and have my first (almost) liveblog of the day up - on the Platform Love open standards session.

Today's programme is shaping up to be much better than yesterday, incidentally.

Le Web 08: The Social Stack

marc canter

Marc Canter (who didn't, in fact, perish yesterday) lead an entertainingly scrappy session on open standards around social information. He started by giving Facebook's senior platform manager Dave Morin a hard time about Facebook apps. Has the social network pushed apps back with the recent revamp of the site?

Morin responded that there were always multiple integration points for apps, and the most important was the profile box, but that didn't always give a good user experience. The news feed has become very popular, and that's become their focus. Users can display most recent actions. Devs can user it to get engagement.

Canter riposted quickly: "The feed is the epitome of your locked in strategy."

Dave Recordon, the open platforms tech lead from Six Apart joined in the criticism: "Open platforms have been more successful, historically," he argued. Even if Facebook is currently the shiney place, if developers can write and application once and put it loads of places, Facebook will be marginalised.

MySpace has taken the opposite route, argued Max Engel, head of data availability initiative at MySpace. They're building using open standards because the "internet routes around roadblocks and we want to be part of the flow". MySpace users already thing of themselves as, so we're in a great place to bring thsi forward. "We've now implemented everything on the open stack." The stack is a group of technologies which enable open social platforms. Canter gave us this slide of it:

Continue reading Le Web 08: The Social Stack.

Le Web 08 Day One Photos

All my photos from day one of Le Web are now up on my Flickr stream.

December 9, 2008

Le Web Blogger dies of Starvation & Hypothermia

No, not really, but when Ewan suggested the headline, I couldn't resist. But boy, the organisational problems (really cold, precious little food, precious little WiFi) and some dull, dull stage presentations have taken the edge off the day. But, seeing as I couldn't get into the evening party, sponsored by Netvibes, because it had a hard limit far lower than the number of attendees, I've got the time and WiFi I didn't have earlier to catch up on some posts...

Idea slightly nicked from Steph...

The Le Web 08 Food Situation

Le Web 08: A Little Lunchtime Music

Sing-a-long Le Web 08

One of the wonderful things about Le Web is a refusal to adhere to the normal conference dogma of staying strictly on topic. And so it is with this one, with a group of sessions from unusual speakers exploring the conference theme of Love.

How often do you get a conductor like Itay Talgam doing something like this (with apologies for my singing):

Le Web 08: The Opening Sessions

Loïc and Geraldine.jpgAnd so, Le Web 08 gets underway. Loïc and Geraldine kicked things off slightly late, as they struggled to drag people away from the (rather good) coffee and croissants. The mood of the conference is rather different this year, given the uncertain economic times.

The pre-coffee sessions this morning were distinctly corporate, so I blogged them over on my Computer Weekly blog. Presentations from Google and Microsoft were relatively predictable - either plugging a product (Bizspark and Azure from Microsoft) or just fairly anodyne, as was Google's talk. Mind you, neither were as dull as the MySpace presentation which I couldn't be bothered blogging.

However, the most interesting one was, not surprisingly, Dave Weinberger's, who unleashed a torrent of ideas about leadership in his 20 minutes which challenges many of our current preconceptions. It makes mw think about what a post-web journalistic organisation might look like, if we move beyond command and control from an editor/leader...

And things only got better after the coffee...

Le Web 08: Leadership in the Network


Quick summary of Dave Weinberger's speech:

Information age has been formative of who we are as individuals and people together. also formative of what our idea of leadership is.

As it comes to a close, it's interesing to think about it.

The whole idea has been to reduce information to make it manageable.

The HR system strips away everything that makes people interesting, all their quirks. In comparison, a Facebook page is a much richer view of the person. Hyperlinks are the opposite of information; they connect things in a rich, unstructured way.

So, we now have an abundence of stuff, and an abundence of crap. We can deal with the crap. It's the good stuff that's throwing our culture for a loop.

Leadership has been based on scarcity. Jack Welch - paragon of leadership.

Leader leads by keeping info scarce.

We treat it like a kind of heroism - the lonely leader, carrying the whole weight of the business on his broad, strong shoulders.

Now: crowdsourced leadership. The job of leadership gets spread across a network. Decision making is a failure of leadership.

Strategy tries to turn something the future into something scare - but that's the past. There are multiple numbers of futures. Flexibility may be better than having a strategy.

Leaders are realists - but relaists would never have built the web, wikipedia... Realism is over-rated.

Networks have the properties that we used to attribute to leaders.

Obama team put up a change.gove site. It wasn't perfect, but it gets better everyday. It shows that the team understand the net.

People emerge into prominence through a reputational system. It becomes Reputational Democracy (Simon Willis' term)

No way of predicting in what the outcome will be - it's a political struggle from work to national politics. No way to get through apart from getting through it.

The heroic leader idea is going to fall. There are great leaders - but not enough. We need more, and that will only happen with networks. We need a leadership that deals with abundance, and that uses it. Fewer leaders and more love!

Le Web 08: Google, Recession and The Future

Google Guy

Second up is Nikesh Arora, SVP, Google and President, EME Operations.

Loïc dived straight in with questions about the recession.

"It's an interesting time - like having a hang-over after a big party," said Arora. "I expect the US to come out of this before Europe does."

Is Europe doomed to create second class start-ups compared to the US?

"There are some structural reasons why you see more startup activity in the US."

But there is start-up activity in Europe.

"The guys I'm scared of are two guys in a garage..."

You need to think of terms in the worldwide audience, said Arora. But Loîc countered that companies in Europe naturally start by focusing on the the country they know best. "And that's the fatal flaw," said Arora. All the big companies thought global very quickly.

Loïc then raised the issue of funding, suggesting that Google should set up a fund to help startups through the downturn, to huge approval from the floor.

"You need a very good idea..." replied Arora.

"I have a good idea, but it's hard to find €100,000..." responded Loïc.

But, in response to a question from the floor, Arora made it plain that he didn't think that waiting to be bought by Google was a viable business model right now...

Le Web 08: Microsoft, Bizspark and Openness

Microsoft Guy

Ah, and the conference kicks off with Microsoft. Steve Gilmour is interviewing Dan'l Lewin, the Corporate VP for Strategic and Emerging Business Development. In particular, Dan'l is talking about Bizspark, we he describes as an aggresive expanion into startup community.

It's for startups that are less than three years old, and with less than 1m revenue (local currency variations apply). Basically, you get free stuff for three years.

Lewin worked with Apple and Next before coming to Microsoft, a company he suggests that is reinventing itself around distributed systems on the web, away from the desktop. He admits that Google did well in this space and have  "reasonable thoughts about how to turn organisng the world's information into a platform".

Azure services are available as part of it - were as soon as it was announced. An intergral part of how join the programme.

Gilmour suggested that Microsoft were coming into this space from behind? Lewin replied that they're ahead now - but were behind before.

Previous efforts (like Hailstorm) didn't consider OpenID, fedeation and open standards. This one does. And they're very clear that the enterprise owns the data. Demand since Y2k is to make things work together.

Gilmour suggested that Microsoft has boat loads of cash, so can afford to take advantage of a downturn.

"Those who are cash strong can get stronger during downturns," replied Lewin. "But it's also an ideal time for entrepreneurs."

Continue reading Le Web 08: Microsoft, Bizspark and Openness.

Le Web Begins

image250428249.jpgAnd we're off. A brief walk from the hotel and a surprisingly brief wait fir my badge and I'm sat near the front of the main conference area, waiting for the show to begin.

This is the first year the conference has made a definite effort to welcome bloggers on a par with press, with an outreach programme and desks. And that means we have a strange disparity between the official bloggers and press, and the unofficial ones like me...

Game on. :-)
Mobile Blogging from here.

December 8, 2008

Irish Medical Times is Website of the Year

Irish Medical Times websiteThe Irish Medical Times website has won website of the year in the PPA Ireland awards.

I'm really happy for the guys over in Ireland about this, and am allowing myself a little glow of pride, as I was heavily involved in the initial setup of the site. It was the first magazine website we built using Movable Type, with the help of Lift

RBI Sale Timeline is keeping a timeline of the (still proposed) RBI divestment, using the rather neat Dippty

Liveblogging Le Web 08

Le Web 08 sign
Apologies for the silence over the last month. Ironically enough, it was largely because I was busy getting a Web 2.0 web application upgraded for use both within and without the business...

Anyway, I'm bringing a little life back into this blog starting tomorrow, with Liveblogging from Le Web 08 in Paris. 

See you then.

The Stage is Set...

And once more I'm on the ol'conference liveblogging trail. I'll be covering this year's Le Web both here and on the Social Enterprise (and on Twitter, probably) from early tomorrow...

Off To Paris

image1084764179.jpgI've just left Ebbsfleet on the Eurostar, which can only mean one thing: it's time for Le Web again.

Expect the normal mix of Liveblogging and photos over the next 72 hours or so, only with added love, which is apparently the theme this year...

Mobile Blogging from here.

December 4, 2008

Tech Aggregator Techmeme gets Human Editor

Hmm. Automated tech news aggregator Techmeme is about to become slightly less automated. Venture Beat reports that a veteran tech journo will now rearrange and generally improve the results coming out of the aggregation algorithm. Techcrunch argues that the inclusion of a human undermines the site's objectivity (oh, so ironically, given how obsessed we journos can be about our "objectivity"), and that a pure algorithm solution is better.

But I don't think that's the significant issue for journalists. This is a high traffic tech news site - run by one editorial person

The game: it is a'changing.

December 3, 2008

Movable Type updated to 4.23

MT Signin
I've just finished upgrading this blog to version 4.23 of Movable Type, a security update that was release last night.

All seems well but, as ever, if you see any problems, please drop me an e-mail.

Inevitably, of course, Six Apart releases a security update less than 24 hours after we finish upgrading all our versions of MT at work...

December 1, 2008

Talking Metrics

image1839210975.jpgWe're in the first stages of doing some thinking about how to genuinely measure engagement on our sites, and we're kicking off with a meeting arranged by Mr Rogers. Mr Cochrane, our analytics gearhead, is presenting some ideas of what can be measured, but it feels like we have a long way to go.

However, I'm insanely glad we're having the conversation...

And yes, I do have my feet up on that table. I have a reputation to maintain, dammit.

If Blogging is Conversation...

Why I love blogging, summed up in one sentence:

"In conversation we think out loud together, trying to understand."
- Dave Weinberger, Everything Is Miscellaneous


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About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from December 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

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