One Man and His Blog: October 2010 Archives

October 2010 Archives

October 29, 2010

#likeminds - Robin Wight says the future's bright, the future's social

Robin White

How do you fuse the best of the old media and the best of the new? A communication coalition, if you will.

Brands only exist because they help consumers make buying decisions without too much brainpower. The are useful, so they work. The brain runs on a cognitive miser system, it uses more energy per ounce than any other part of your body. It wants to be spending that energy on things like who to fall in love with...

At some stage the brain needs more help than a TV ad can help with. That's where new media starts to come it. And that's fine until the biggest problem of marketing - once the brain has made up its mind, it doesn't like changing it... Learning something is much more energy expensive than practiced behaviour. Cognitive dissonance - anything that doesn't fit in to our existing belief system is reprocessed until it does.

The famous yuppie car ad?

People reprocessed it so that 2/3 didn't think he drove a BMW - the car targeted.

The mouse can be a game changer - by managing a flow of pages on a website, the brain might start changing its mind. We're researching that now, says White. People have found that being attacked online reprogrammed them - but you can retaliate by engaging. Virals are almost old media now - they're a hybrid of both.

This was spread at no cost to the advertiser, rewatched to check for cheating, and cut road deaths in London. Win.

Marketing is moving from telling people where to go, to coming along with them on the journey.

But - we've always been social. Robin Dunbar - the larger the group around you, the better your chance of survival, if you're an ape.  Evolutionary speaking, Facebook is grooming. We have the evolution of mobile grooming; "scratching each other's back" - endorphins are released, and the system responds to low level repetitive actions. Joggers are addicted to those endorphins. From brain size, you can predict an animal's social grooming group; 150 for humans.  Villages were around 150 people, but in cities our groups shrank to 25. Technology responded, first with soap operas for virtual friends, and then mobile phones and Facebook for real ones.

What's Mine is Yours - an amazing book. The Big New Idea: collaborative consumption. It's going to transform our lives. The Big Society is as much about Collaborative consumption as volunteering. - aimed at 16 to 19 years old, gathering ideas, paid for by Nokia. Like between schools, business and mentors.

If you're a creative person, and you're not doing creative mentoring, it's going to look pretty bad on your CV...

View his presentation

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#likeminds - Feedback on Steve Moore and Andrew Dubber

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Combined into one as it was done in one go:

  • Radiohead, Arcade Fire and OKGo are releasing the creativity into the wild and letting their fans curate it
  • Private enterprise needs to become more of a social enterprise, and thus be more sustainable
  • Sally doesn't envy the archeologists of the future, given the amount of data we're creating
  • Information overload is the problems - but it's not buried. It's there.
  • The Eden Project is going to start gathering people's creations around the project
  • In order for curation to be strong in the future, we're going to need a strong community around our brand, so they create material to curate.
  • The Big Society - it is doable, and it needs to be sold in as achievable.
  • Where are the quick wins? There are life hurdles to get over. What one thing could you do?
  • Gary said that the + in Creativity +Curation hasn't been talked about…


#likeminds - Andrew Dubber on medium-appropriate curation & creation

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Wow. Interesting start. Andrew Dubber just started by saying that he was with Ed Milliband in opposing Steve Moore's ideas on the Big Society.

He's thrown away his presentation, and is perched on the edge of the stage, doing his talk. His viewpoint is that the media environment we are in manages the way we perceive the world. It's important that we have iPhones in our pockets, that we use e-mail, that we're on Twitter. That's different from sitting reading a book on our own.

Five ages of media:

  1. Oral Age (storytellers)
  2. Scribal Age (literacy is power)
  3. Book Age
  4. Electric Age (recordings and broadcast)
  5. Digital Age (as different from Electric Age as it was from the Book Age).

So, we need to do things that are appropriate to the internet. Oh, right, he's making the old point that early TV was pointing cameras at theatre. Yes, we know this.

His experiments around curation are figuring out about how to do medium-appropriate work online.  Music is a process not a thing - but we archive is the recordings, and nothing else. We archive an idealised version of it. He decided to put a music event called Aftershock online, by giving all the musicians involved a Flip video camera, and then "uncurating" what they recorded. It was uploaded as it, with purely descriptive tagging. It created a multiple first person narrative, and people had to find their own way through it, by choosing the videos. They created their own narrative, and, over time, they become invested in some of the characters, following them through events.

Dubber is writing a book - well, a blog, which he hopes will become a book. He's concerned about the fact that 95% of the recorded materiel produced by the record companies is mouldering, unavailable, in their archives. The decision not to release it is purely commercial. He'd rather not curate archives - he'd like to see everything archived and tagged, because other people may find value in it later. His values are not the only standard. There's no shortage of space online - why not?

Social object theory - there are two things online; conversation and things people are discussing - the social objects. If you share everything, then people can curate on top of that. People can make money from making meaning.

Curation project: Curated by interesting people

#likeminds - Steve Moore is building the Big Society

Steve Moore

The Big Society - it's an idea that started to emerge a year or so ago, from issues around the state of the economy. Other issues played into it: the aging population was one. The costs of health care, of looking after the elderly are rising all the time. Oh, and currently 80% of the decisions about the spending of public money is decided within one square mile in London. Nowhere else is that power so centralised. How can we hand that power back, asks Steve Moore?

Communities are fragmented. 3% percent of people attended a public meeting last year. Only around 25% of people volunteer in any way. 1 in 10 feel lonely, 60% isolated from any decision making.

Yes, it's a political idea. It was part of the Conservative Party manifesto, and is part of the Coalition's government. It's being factored into the legislation.

Moore is involved through the Big Society Network. If we use networked technologies, if we use creative media, we can start to build the Big Society.

The government is serious about transferring power to a local level - and he means below local government level. Don't expect contracts from central government, but make your focus on local projects on a very granular level.

Groups are the currency of the Big Society. Allowing local groups to take action in the local area is at the heart of the Big Society.

Everywhere he goes, he discovers remarkable stories of people doing remarkable things, unheralded. Tapping into that community entrepreneurship is going to be key. While Moore was preparing his talk, Ed Milliband was making a speech trashing his ideas. But Moore suggest that all the technological and social change going on means that we need to find new ways of doing things. And he thinks that over the next year we will be able to create some great new ideas.

#likeminds - Karren Brooks teaches us to be here, now

Karren Brooks

What is more important: the inventor or the invented?

Karren Brooks is kicking off her session with questions. In every conference there must be a session that's hard to liveblog. This is proving to be it. She's throwing a lot of ideas at us, but I can't find a thread in it yet. Here's the sorts of elements she's giving us: She's inspired by people she works with. She's a connector by nature, and she loves networking. If she teaches us something, we need to be able to take it away.

And now we're staring into each other's eye. Wow. That was an uncomfortable experience. But that's a connection - and if you go into a meeting, you need to make a connection with someone. (That was a "presence drill" we did, apparently). If we're present in a space and connected with the people they're with - they're more likely to buy whatever you're selling. The most important thing to master is yourself, because you are the primary product you sell.

"Become an advanced being," she says. "If you're not present, how can you ask other people to be so?"

Where your attention goes, you money goes. Your attention is your personal currency.

That was...interesting.

Update: Just had a chat with Karren, and her colleague Barry Fairburn. We had a really interesting discussion about both public speaking, and the lack of psychological elements in people's discussion of social media. I'm idly wondering if that session would have worked better a a "fireside chat" style session, rather than a talk.

Reporting Back

  • Sometimes we forget that learning happens all the time, and we should think of mentoring as a normal part of business life. People who become mentors don't always know how to do that.
  • Having outside influences into a moment can be helpful, but the "doing two things at once" element that things like Twitterfalls can prevent us really being in the experience.
  • The current generation will grow up with continuos partial attention, and perhaps it's up to us to teach them presence.
  • There's a tension between creating stuff and just being there - enjoying a physical, chemical moment with people. (This habitual live-blogger is feeling uncomfortable right now.)
  • Sometimes you should edit experience before you shout about it.

 View Karren's Presentation

#likeminds - Scott Gould

So, Scott Gould doesn't like the photos I take of him. I wonder if he'll like these any better?

Scott Gould hero shot

Scott Gould and his bag

#likeminds - Chris Carey on music as a canary

Chris Carey of the PRS

Blimey - it's the PRS! Traditional music industry guy talking at a conference full of internet types. This should be interesting...

Data matters because it dispels myths, Chris Carey asserts. Some data: £1.4bn on recorded music in 2009 £1.5bn is Live. PRS = £0.5bn. Advertising & sponsorship? 2%.

Remember touring at a loss to support CD sales? Record companies used to pay for it! In 2004 live revenues were less than half of recorded, now live is bigger. BUT secondary ticket sales growing faster BUT so are merchandise and sales at venues.

Recorded music ended its five year decline last year - it was flat in 2009.

Long Tail theory - Chris Anderson cited Rhapsody as an example. That's a bad example, as it's subscription sales. It's volume data not value data.

OK, he's here to defend the traditional music industry to some degree. He's trying to debunk the major online thinking around music step by step. He's trying to suggest that creator to consumer sales are largely a myth, you need a go-between to sell to iTunes, for example. Returning to the long tail, he's showing a graph that shows that Spotify is more hit-based that the long tail model suggests. The niche 95% generate 20% of listens (Hang on, Spotify is a subscription model - the very thing he criticised Rhapsody for being in Anderson's example). We7 is even more hit-heavy.

"I want to keep my job after this" <--- bear that in mind when analysing what he says. ;-)

He's focusing very much on the big company market for music publishing. He's quoting investment of £5m - all for one band, or split between 5?

Gossip Girl - they turned off free streaming of the TV show. They got a slight bump - but there as a tenfold increase in torrents of the show. Top Gear torrents increase in speed (in terms of how quickly they're downloaded after broadcast) week on week during a  season. I Am Legend torrenting peaked when a leaked copy of the DVD hit the torrents - quality conscious pirates. Watchmen was the most torrented film in the first half of 2009. Did those people go to the cinema? Maybe - cinema offers shared experience that TV doesn't.

(Interesting - the opening sessions both yesterday and today seem to be there to challenge the recieved wisdom of the web world - "free" yesterday and "pirate/paid business models" today. Intentional choice?)

Reporting Back:

Change from yesterday - the moderators are reporting back.

  • We need to look forwards to changing patterns of behaviour, not just historical data. 
  • Connection with artists through online community or piracy can lead to sales.
  • Good quality content will always find an audience and be successful.
  • Giving things away from free eventually devalues it. Free music devalues it.
  • Evidence-based thinking is good. People were interesting the data shown. 
  • Pirating behaviour is consumer behaviour. The people downloading Watchmen may be the people most likely to buy the directors box set.
  • There may be a generational issue - the younger people still don't want to pay for music.

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#likeminds - Delighting Users Immersive liveblog

Who's the end user?

(Liveblogging - prone to error, typos and inaccuracy. And possible bias in this session...)

Starting the second day of Like Minds in the Delighting Users session, and feeling slightly suspicious, because I've just realised that it's essentially a Windows Phone 7-derived session. That said, the new mobile OS has been getting good reviews, so I'm going to hang on in here and see how it goes... (liveblogging this on an iPad, incidentally. :-) )

OK - potted history of Windows Mobile now, to draw out the point that the earlier versions didn't feel like they were designed for the user - and they weren't. They were designed for the network operators. BlackBerry - feels like its designed for the CIO rather than the user. Android is an OS designed for people to build with/on it.

Bit of a political battle going on now. The session leader is saying that Apple always puts design first and is suggesting that the glass case of the iPhone 4 is "impractical". Sceptical/hostile reaction from most of the audience, and luckily we're moving on.

Great line from one of the designers: "We want our clients with money to get taste and our clients with taste to get money...".

Oded Ran is challenging us to prove that our businesses are really focused on the end users, and pointing out that differing pressures within a company can shift that focus - especially if you're not clear on who the end user is. I think the underlying point here is that the success of the new Windows Phone 7 is derived from what was probably a tough corporate shift of direction from seeing the phone networks as the customer to the actual person who holds the phone in their hand. He's challenging simplistic notion of who the customer is - it may not be the person who signs the cheque to you... It's the difference between the "end user" and the "customer".

Twitter's been brought up - and that's complicated the debate. It was developed almost by accident. and in the early stages the users developed it - @ replies, hashtags and retweeting were all user-created, and not initially supported by the service.

Jonathan AkwueAnd now we're on to personas - for example, the new Windows Phone 7 is very clearly targeted at what they call a Life Maximizer - looks like primarily 18-34 university educated males... However, there's some debate emerging. Some people are standing up for personas because they help make the user a real person, others feel they lock people into rigid thinking that can hinder the product in the long-run. "Real people are better than fake people," says Jonathan Akwue. He revisits my Twitter comments, pointing out that Twitter went with a vision, and then listened to the users to shape the future direction of the product.

Microsoft's personas are Anna and Miles (shades of This LIfe, there...)

So why do we care what people think? Lots of debate about wether people who are happy or unhappy talk more. Akwue suggested that people will complain to 10 people for every 1 person they evangelise to - and that feels about right to me, although others disagree. Someone suggested that there are now too many components on social networks, so their impact has been lost. I think that's nonsense, because those complaints have an impact in aggregate. My complaints may only influence my friends, but lots of people complaining to their friends has an impact.

The $1bn question: what makes us happy? Answers being flip-charted... Answers very revealing about the group, because they're all about personal success and achievement and material things. Very little about family, friends and the one person who suggested connection with nature got mocked. Hidden shallows in here. :) Ah, the social fight back has started. One person has just pointed out that it isn't owning a laptop that makes her happy, it's what she can do with it, particularly connecting with others...

In the flowOoh, we've moved onto flow and timelessness. What is flow? The moment you're balance perfectly between challenge and skill. Stress is when external forces impact on you negatively, particularly at work. We're not designed to spend long periods of time in a sedentary environment with people we wouldn't naturally choose to socialise with.

Three concepts that Ran is steering us towards:

Autonomy - crucial concept. Loss of autonomy = loss of happiness.
Competence - the feeling that your are effective. (I suspect a lot of websites and tech fall down on this - they don't make their users feel competent)
Relatedness - feeling understood and appreciated

And we're on to a demo of how the phone matches these concepts. Attention in the room wavering...

I will admit that Windows Phone 7 does look very impressive (and very un-Microsoft, in fact) but I'm not going to add to the vast numbers of reviews of the product here. Lunch time...

October 28, 2010

#likeminds - Tiffany St James on technology & social change

Tiffany St James

Tiffany St James is hammering us with stats - the vast amount of data created every two days, the number of people online, the even larger number of people using mobiles.

What's the most common reason for using the internet? News, followed by researching products, followed by keeping up with friends (I better the latter will be higher in future surveys - that list parallels the rise of different forms of web content pretty precisely. ).

Pervasive trends:

  • Personal
  • Social
  • Local
  • Commercial
  • Enterprise
  • Mobile

(Source: James Cashmore, Google)

55% of office space is empty says Microsoft (be interested to see if agrees...) So they're working on creating hybrid spaces, because the barrier between home and work is blurring.

Is social networking good for you? Maybe. Plenty of research shows that maintaining relationships is good for you - but does diminished physical contact reduce your health? Is the behaviour that social networking promotes actually changing our brains? (Learning an instrument changes your brain...)

Interesting survey of people's attitudes to spending time disconnected in the room. The majority would be uncomfortable with completely disconnecting for a week - I've rather enjoyed it in the past. A holiday from the internet is great sometimes. But then, there are people in this room who feel uncomfortable with being offline for a day...!

(This presentation is something of a buffet of facts, figures and research, so sorry if this post seems disjointed)

We receive news differently - stories break via Twitter - and we get entertainment streamed to us over the internet.

Is technology enabling democracy or hindering it? The #cnnfail hashtag during the Iranian elections was one form of democratic protest. The fake BP PR twitter account gets more followers than the official. Trafigura, of course. And she's cut off, because her time is up.

View Tiffany's Presentation

#likeminds - Benjamin Ellis on the We Generation

Benjamin Ellis talking at Like Minds

The 70s. Big Hair. Big Ties. Bell Bottoms. And Benjamin Ellis's first computer. He's been part of the online culture since his childhood - and now he has four children as his own experiment group. And he's been spending a lot of time thinking about how the access to information the internet has granted us may be shaping our thought-processes and decision making.

When we're immersed in a technology, we don't really think about it. Ellis broke his mobile phone, and the week that it took him to sort out a replacement taught him how much he'd come to depend on it. When we're immersed in technology, we don't think about it. He can't get his kids to imagine what a world without search engines is like. They have no concept of how we found things out before The Google.

"I'm living in a world of barely planned behaviour," says Ellis. Once we were in a world of five year business plans and long terms decisions - and now we're in a world of lots and lots of micro-decisions. Look at Swarms on FourSquare - lots of micro-decisions leading to a badge of many - but influenced by each others'  behaviours. These micro-decisions are group consensus-based.

The amount of knowledge available to us has exploded - a few hundred years ago it was almost feasible to gather all human knowledge together in one place. Two types of knowledge - explicit is the stuff we learn at school, and write blog posts about. Tacit is the sort that is more important to business, like "is this person a good prospect?" We think we know more than we do, because we've got so good at documenting explicit information. Curation of information in business is crucial. But how does the curation process turn knowledge, which we have in abundance, into knowledge, which is, uh, not?

Context takes knowledge and makes it into wisdom. We're obsessed with knowledge we can manage and store, but it's not the most valuable kind. Narrative is what allows us to process information - it allows us to take knowledge and transform it into wisdom. Knowledge, suggests Ellis, is being aware that a fall from five feet will kill his MacBook, but wisdom is knowing that leaving your rucksack unzipped on the tube with the MacBook in it will lead to disaster. And that anecdote is the narrative that transfers knowledge to wisdom.

View Benjamin's Presentation

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#likeminds - Endeavours

A quick round-up of the Endeavours sessions at Like Minds:

Sim Stewart
One of the interesting things (for me) about the internet is people's tendency to help one another, from chronicling a problem and its solution on a blog, to Wikipedia, to forum support, people undertake altruistic actions. 

Cofacio's core idea, according to co-founder Sim Stewart, is that when people need assistance with something, rather than looking for pages published with help on them, people can search for people to help them. It's about linking people with a problem with those who want to help through altruism, or, more compellingly, perhaps, through the game aspect, that allows you to earn points, which can then be allocated against charities. When the charities get enough point, they get a donation from the site sponsor. 

Interesting idea - but I'd be interested to know how they'll get people to the site in the first place. That was hinted at - every time you help someone, you have the option to push that to social networks - but I suspect that it'll stand or fall on that.

Robyn Brown
Ah, the National Trust. Wonderful places and buildings. "For the spiritual refreshment of the nation". Nice phrase by Robyn Brown.  About 5% of the people here are members, but nearly everyone has been to a property. The Trust has an agenda - it wants to connect more with the local communities around properties. There's business benefits to that, as transport and support business bring trade and money.It's using the properties, rather than just showing the properties.

Robyn is addressing the Disnification of the Trust issue. "Disney have the most brilliant customer care ethos", she says. "We are not about pushing content, we are about providing experience. Just like Disney. They make a lot of money. We need money to run our properties."

£9.2m into the local economy from Greenway per annum(!)

By 2020 they want everyone in the room to feel like members (so only 95% of people here to go...)

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The Front Row at #likeminds all laptops.

The front row at Like Minds
And I'm just as guilty. :)

#likeminds - Guy Clapperton Shows Us The Money

Guy Clapperton
Guy Clapperton, author of This is Social Media: Tweet, Blog, Link and Post Your Way to Business Success, appears to be trying to puncture our bubble. People who deride Murdoch's paywall are derided in turn. Twitter isn't making money. We're building expectations of getting something for nothing, and there's a disconnect between this expectation and the realities of needing somewhere to live, and to pay for it...

He's returning to the Times paywall, and talking about the value of the people that will no longer visit the site, and particularly, do they have any? Murdoch is running a business - he needs to make money. If we're using free services, who do we complain to? Is the lack of money, of paying customers, going to dry up the source of innovation, which needs money?

This unpaid model could start to change at any moment. And, ironically, the generation that expects everything for free are the generation that will have to pay off our debts...

And that's it? Ah, no. It's the provocative statement to trigger a discussion. Facilitators moving through the audience.

I've been ear-wigging the debate. Lots of words coming up repeatedly. Freemium is one, as you'd expect. Quite a lot of people suggesting that "free" is so deeply ingrained in youth culture via bittorrent that you have to work with it rather than against it. Others are suggesting that one the venture capital dries up, so too will the free culture of the internet. Not heard a single mention of the cost-depressing nature of internet distribution, which is interesting. A couple of people are talking about cross-subsidy and free as marketing, which is intelligent.

We're moving reporting back?

#likeminds - Publishing Immersive Liveblog

the #likeminds publishing immersive
The publishing immersive at the Like Minds conference in Exeter, hosted by Andrew Davies of Idio, is packed out. It's literally standing room only, as we've stolen all the seats we can from the ill-attended Microsoft Windows 7 launch in an adjacent room. 

We've kicked off with some good general scene-setting, mainly around that crucial issue that the cost of publishing is tending towards zero, opening access to publishing to everyone, from the individual to the brand. And from there we're diving into a discussion about curation. Lots of ideas coming out here, around the ideas of working to what people want, as well as the idea that it's a more valuable product than aggregation because there's choice being made to increase the value of what's being drawn together.

And now we're looking at physical world curation. Molly from 1000 Heads is making the point that this is about context and relationship (someone pointed out earlier that Facebook has proved to us that people find lists of friends boring, but it's the relationships that are fascinating). She also brought the idea that narrative is an important part of curation, which I agree with. Humans seek narrative to make sense of things. Another attendee brought up the idea of a journey, of guiding people through things, which feels like an extension of the same thing.

Neil Thackray of the Media Briefing makes the point that too many publishers are following the music industry model of trying to shut down new models, rather than embracing then, following George Nimeh's point that people in the room are tending to use "we" to refer to the publishing industry, were people from outside that industry have already figured out some of the answers (eg Mumsnet).

Lots of discussion about value being key - you'll only get interaction if you've managed to get relevance, for example. Slight detour into "is human intervention necessarily part of curation" - yes - "can mechanical processes be part of it?" - yes. And we're back to the semantics of curation. Is all of Twitter curation? One person thinks so. I'd suggest that some people curate on Twitter, but not everyone. Can you curate for yourself? Quite possibly, but I rather feel that our grasp on this word is spinning out of control...

Ah, now, here we have a good point - curation is about filtering, it's not about getting access to everything, it's about getting access to relevancy. We're reading more than we were 10 years ago - because there is now abundance of publishing. Are we enjoying it more, asked one lady? For me: yes, because I'm curating for myself the people I choose to read, in concert with the curation of my friends on colleagues, rather than being dependent on a single editor.

Interesting distinction between "bought media" - the traditional media approach of buying advertising space - and "earned media" - engagement with a community through your own social media activities. Self-publishing is becoming more important, and that's a challenge to traditional publishers. Thackray leaps in again to point out that many people are chasing audience numbers to the exclusion of all else, without a clear sense of their value, or if a high level of engagement with a smaller number people would actually be more valuable.

Some horrible misconceptions about Google and numbers thrown around, but James Whatley jumps in with some sensible stuff about Facebook, and how his work for Nokia is measured by a whole range of metrics, not just numbers of fans, but participation, engagement, etc. He cites a US Facebook fan page that has many more fans, but no curation or community management, so the wall is full of insults, and attacks on the company. Numbers is a fools' way of measuring success, if that's the only measure you use.

And now we move to small group discussions.

Reporting back from those: 

  • One group thinks people will get fatigued with a la carte news and go back to trusted sources (wishful thinking there - I think the new trusted sources are people's friends and contacts)
  • Another suggested that publishers are destroying trust - The Times is coming across as punishing its readers for not clicking enough links. Davies suggested that an audience suggests relationship, longevity and trust - which will outlast any platform.
  • Curation in Cancer Research - how do you bring scientific research into it? (reminds me of the Science Online discussion). How do you draw money from relationships? Are social hubs narrowing our range? Davies suggests that their stats suggest very little political affiliation to papers, but far more to their friends. 
  • Lots of familiar debate about the problems of diminishing advertising returns, the BBC being to blame, etc. Thackary makes the point that these problems are pre-internet (he quoted something he wrote about local newspapers in 1981) and that we're just using it as an excuse for the deep betrayal of trust the journalism business have inflicted on its audience.
  • Lots of talk about maybe journalists going off and building their own businesses. Very little awareness that this is already happening... Lots of 2006-esque discussion about "newspapers using blogging" and "citizen journalism". Will to live fading... Davies tries to drag it back to 2010 with discussion of data journalism, but nobody's biting. (I tried).
  • Lovely closing quote pointing out what too many people are missing - content is no longer scarce. Relationship and trust are scarce. New business models will emerge from new forms of journalism, and new methods of journalism. And I want my lunch.
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October 26, 2010

Real Time Web Reality

Tweeting from an iPadA little while ago, I was flicking through feeds in Newsrack on my iPad. I chose to share an article via Twitter, in the application. I pressed send - and saw the Tweet pop up immediately in Seesmic Desktop II on my work Dell laptop, which is on a completely different network.

The real time web is, well, real, isn't it?

I wonder how many publishers are getting to grips with protocols like PubSubHubbub and Twitter's user streams?

If we're serious about news, about exclusives, about breaking stories, we need to understand the new technologies that allow us to get stories out there fast And my gut feeling is that the industry's low-level technophobia and conservatism is still holding us back. 

And I wonder how many people reading this are thinking "wow, that was a geeky post"? If that's what's going through your mind, try it this way: there are now ways of getting stories to readers the second we push publish. Why aren't we taking advantage of this? 
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i spy, with my 20p...

The first issue of i
Nice to see the first national newspaper launch in years focusing on the big issues - house prices and the sexuality of an American puppet.

Journalism. Vital to our democracy.

October 21, 2010

#media140 - Dataeconomy - New Opportunities, New Business Models

Andrew Lyons

Andrew Lyons - Ultraknowledge

The dataeconomy is about turning information into a usable asset - and an engaging experience. So, there's a reason to develop new business models. Lyons invested £100 in a quiz at the beginning (the money was the rewards) - he might get contacts, a drink, anything out of it at the end - but he's trying something new.

He's showing off his Twitterwall product, which draws out user icons, tweets and stats. Which came up with a 404. Oops. OK - working again. Lots of data sifting about the people who have tweeted with the #media140 hashtag - can this be used to identify the most influential people at the events? The product can build a relationship wheel to show you who is connected to whom amongst a Twitter community - and its being demonstrated with my relationships... *gulp*

They also work with publishers. They have archives - but now they need to think about how to wrap it up in new visual stimulus. They can create news walls for every sub-section of a publisher's website. They content's already there - they're just giving a new, enticing interface. Here's an example. You can search visually for things you're interested in. It's more of a discovery engine than a search one, perhaps - it's about finding things you don't know you might be interested in.

#media140 - Dataeconomy - Visualisation

David McCandless

David McCandless - Information is Beautiful

Oh, look. David McCandless. I'be blogged his talks once or twice recently. He's kicking off with his billion dollar-a-gram. He scraped all the data for it from journalism sites, but he did it manually. Did it via searches on billion dollar amounts on sites. Drew the proportional shapes in Adobe Illustrator. And then played Tetris with them until the fitted together.

He sketches ideas for his visualisations, trying to match the style of the graphic to the feel of the data being conveyed - triangles are more conspiratorial, for instance...

Spreadsheets underlie a lot of his work - word processors are linear, while spreadsheets are multi-directional - and you can bring in live elements. They're very tidy, and they can be the start of a great design. Visualisations go through many drafts, as he works on the details of layout with the person commissioning it. The designer on the time travel visualisation left after the 13th of 14th draft. McCandless then realised that time travel was a chaotic thing, and that a visualisation that embraced that would work - and allowed you to see crossover points between various time-travel movies... Sometimes the form of the visualisation only emerges during the work - you discover the important data as you go.

What doesn't work? Too much spaghetti - not shaping the data with a story - just creates a mess. Circular diagrams often make little sense. Cartograms (based on geography) are over-used and the information is difficult to get out.

McCandless's bif FAIL:

McCandless FAIL

Can you figure out why?


#media140 : Dataeconomy: Open Data

(Live-blogging - prone to error, omission and typos...)


Rufus Pollock from Open Knowledge Foundation

Wouldn't it be nice to know where our money goes when we pay taxes?

You need lots of stuff - government spending (local and regional), region codes, company data… Much of it locked up or in difficult formats like PDF…

We need raw data and we want it now…

Open = freedom to use, re-use, redistribute - but it must be non-personal. More and more businesses are being built on data (*cough* Reed Business Information *cough*) Data is non-rivalrous - if I give you a copy of my data, I haven't lost access to it (like my shoes or car). Information systems are the most complex systems we've ever built - and how do we deal with complexity? We break it down into bits. But if those bits are closed, it's very hard to put it all back together again.

Why open? Other people may come up with the best ideas of how to use the data - and we move towards a read-write society, where we no longer just passively consume information.  Too much information is now locked up in closed systems like Google and Facebook? How do we change from that? How do we build an ecosystem around that outside these walled gardens?

Lots of back-end work needed…

Simon Rogers

Simon Rogers - The Guardian Datastore

Inspired by James Cameron - not the Avatar one - he was all about telling human stories and making things real, and Florence Nightingale, who made visualisations of troop casualties as well as nursing…

Guardian busy collecting and using data for journalism - why not share that? Lead to the setting up of the data blog. No longer journalists labouring in isolation, but others can pitch in and do things with the data.

Showing a bunch of examples - MPs Travel Expenses, the expenses crowd-sourcing - one person did 29k pages! Interest rapidly declined after first day. Sometimes too much data can swamp the story. Coins Data Explorer - built both for journalists and others to use.

Then he showed us an Excel spreadsheet of Afghanistan data, and showed how it could be used via a pivot table to feed a visualisation. It's probably quite straightforward, if you have the first clue about Excel, which I don't. :-)

Oh, and if you really want to get attention - do a Doctor Who visualisation

iMovie ‘11 and the journalist

Some thoughts from Chris Meadows on iMovie ‘11, released yesterday:

It’s funny to compare the fancy capabilities of iLife’s video editing component to the AVID MediaSuite Pro nonlinear video editor I used when I was getting a Mass Media degree back in the ‘90s (on a Mac whose hard drives had an amazing 5 gigabytes of storage—who’d ever need that much space for anything except video editing?).

You can do a hell of a lot more with iLife than you could with that old AVID—and the selfsame AVID was what many TV shows of the day were using. Professional or near-professional quality media production has never been within the reach of so many people.

Bear that in mind next time someone tells you that iMovie isn’t up to journalistic video standards…

The Flightblogger and Runway Girl Show continues...

I love the show round-up videos that Jon & Mary do:

October 20, 2010

Finding inspiration for new forms of journalism

So, it appears that I don't need to write a blog post today, because I replied to an e-mail from Jude Townend, and she used it to write one instead:

One thought that stayed with me came from Adam Tinworth, serial event blogger and RBI editorial development manager (ie. plays with social media a lot), who said that he was finding his ideas outside journalism of late, and found the journalism conversation stifling at times. Since I didn't have pen and paper to hand, I've asked him to elaborate by email and I thought I'd share his excellent answers here.

Aside from containing the best one clause summary of my job ever, she explores the idea I raised: that I'm getting more inspiration from outside the journalism discussion than I am from within it. There's a couple of points I'd like to add to what was said there:

  1. In many ways, I've come full circle on this. Back in the days when I started working on this (July 2006, fact fans), the journo blogging world was much, much smaller. Pretty much all my "juice" came from outwith the journalism debate, as it did for most of those other journo bloggers. Much as I have enjoyed debating journalism with my peers more recently as the amount of journo blogging has grown, I'm horribly aware of how easily an online community can become an echo chamber...
  2. This is a far more exciting situation than I painted it as in that e-mail. The fact that we have so many new tools for journalism emerging, that there are new publishing ecosystems and new roles for journalists to play is exciting. Journalism has had a great and enjoyable past, but then, I had a great and enjoyable childhood. The doesn't mean I want to stay a child...

October 19, 2010

Hacks & Hackers & RBI

The ScraperWiki LogoJudith's just posted the news to the Scraperwiki blog: RBI's hosting a Hacks & Hackers sessions here in Quadrant House. 

For those unfamiliar with the concept, the hack days are designed to bring together "hacks" - journalists - and "hackers" - developers - to build interesting online journalistic products using the skills of both groups. The RBI session will be focusing (as you might expect) on data and information that affects B2B interactions, including relevant government data.

The day isn't just for RBI staff, either - it's split 50-50 between us and anyone who wants to come in from the outside. It's going to be a complete day-long event, and I'd love to see some of the readers of this blog there, 

The event's taking place on Monday 29th November and you can scramble for a place on Eventbrite

October 16, 2010

Modern journalism kit

A table full of hack kit at the Brighton Future of News Shoreham Project:

Modern journalism kit

The coffee is vital, of course.

Telling Shoreham's Stories

Shoreham Stories
View Larger Map

I'm spending the day chronicling a day in the life of Shoreham-by-Sea, with a group of south coast journalists.

We're in the Agora, one of the Empty Shop Network, spending the day doing random acts of journalism - getting the stories of people who drop into the shop, or going out to report on what's going on through the day. Should be fun...

The whole day is being chronicled on a blog.

October 15, 2010

Understanding your community manager

Excellent post on community management (or, perhaps, the activity formerly known as community management):

The two words that kept cropping up as I spoke to people from a number of industries (both old and new) were ‘strategic’ and ‘commercial’, and while those phrases might cause some CMs a little concern, I honestly don’t think there is anything to be scared of here. The notion of community as a separate entity, divorced from everyday commercial requirements, is outdated and unrealistic.

Lots of history and good ideas about the future in there. Recommended.

Testing iPad blogging once more

It's been a little while since I tested the blogging-readiness of the iPad and the blogging apps have been updated a couple of times since then. So, time to spend a few days testing iPad blogging workflows again.

For reference, the photo was shot on a Canon compact cameras, and then imported into the iPad via the SD Card reader that's part of the camera connection kit. It was edited in Adobe Photoshop Express, and then inserted into this post via the BlogPress app.

Let's see how the finished result looks...

Update: Not bad - the link to Photoshop Express went AWOL (I've restored it), but there weren't any of the line break problems I had last time. Things are definitely moving forward with iPad blogging. More experimentation is needed...

October 14, 2010

Blogging & Journalism; Form & Function

Mr John Bethune is clearly a man of excellent taste and discernment:

...let me state for the record that Tinworth is one of my favorite and most respected bloggers.

(Flattery will, at the very least, get you linked.) He does, though, feel the need to expand on something I said in an offhand tweet:

A blog, Tinworth said, is a container, not an activity. As he put it elsewhere on Twitter, Marr's criticism of blogs as fine things for certain purposes but inadequate to the task of journalism is like saying that "magazines are fantastic, but won't replace journalism."

That's a pretty good summary of what I said on Twitter. I think Marr was making a significant category error in the way that he was comparing journalism and blogging - but then I also think his comments become a lot more explicable if you put the words "certain high-profile political" in front of the word "bloggers", because I'm fairly sure that's what he was actually talking about.

Bethune has other fish to fry, though:

However, to dwell for a moment on the metaphor of container vs. content,  can we really say that the blog format doesn't influence its content? Would we say that blogging and other forms of social media have not in fact altered the practice of journalism? Or that journalism as we knew it a decade ago can simply be ported into social media without undergoing some degree of transformation?

To which I reply, with wit, sophistication and verve:

Well, duh.

In publishing, containers almost always influence form. Look at a feature or a piece of news in a tabloid newspaper as compared to a broadsheet. Sure, they're performing the same basic function, but the expression is radically different. And that's exactly as it should be.

Bethune has hit the nail straight on the head with his post: the most common category error I see around blogging and journalism is hacks shoving straight inverted pyramid, 350 word news stories (or opinion pieces) into a blog and calling it blogging. And, to anyone who reads blogs regularly, that looks much like a News of the World sex scandal on page 5 of The Guardian: jarring, disconcerting and utterly, utterly wrong for the audience.

So, journalists, when you open your blog platform in a browser, remember that:

Readers expect more immediacy, more transparency, more injection of the self, and more interactivity in their news content.

Otherwise, you're going to look like a moron. And, of the many fine attributes in Andrew Marr you could imitate, his ability to look stupid while engaging in modern publishing isn't the one you should be aiming for.

That’s what I said, more or less

The APA has published a write-up of the event I spoke at last week:

Adam Tinworth, Editorial Development Manager for Reed Business Information, on the other hand, made a great case for the importance of blogs ‘even if they are not seen as that trendy anymore, it is one of the most important hubs to run your brand's marketing activity through.

Fairly sure I didn’t say “hubs to run your brand's marketing activity”, as that really doesn’t sound like me, but the general gist is correct. I’ll try to find the time to expound on that a little more tomorrow – but don’t hold me to that. ;-)

October 12, 2010

Marred Links (Going Cheap)

A few things that have crossed my radar in the last 24 hours about Mr Marr's little outburst:

Brighton, Shoreham and the Future of News


Last night I took myself off to Brighton (only a short detour from my new commute) for the monthly Brighton Future of News group. It was a sparsely attended night - seven people in total - but we were planning a very specific event.

In one of those strange meaningless con-incidences that we humans insist on reading meaning into, the BFonG is taking occupation of an empty shop in Shoreham-by-Sea this Saturday, both to Do Journalism and to do some digital consultancy for the local area. And I've just moved into Shoreham (well, for most of the week, at least) as posts like this make clear. It would just be darn rude of me not to make an appearance, so I'll be setting out my journalistic stall in the Agora this weekend.

Cathy Watson has posted in more depth both about last night and what we've got planned for Saturday. The results of the day should start appearing on the Shoreham-by-sea Future of News Project blog around 11am on Saturday...

October 11, 2010

Not Inadequate, Single, Bald or Cauliflower-Nosed. Possibly Slightly Seedy.

I've decided to outsource my blogging today, by coming up with an idea for a post, and then simply waiting until someone else writes it. For instance, when Andrew Marr says something as deeply wrong-headed as this:

A lot of bloggers seem to be socially inadequate, pimpled, single, slightly seedy, bald, cauliflower-nosed, young men sitting in their mother's basements and ranting. They are very angry people.
I can just wait around, until Shane Richmond writes something like this:

It's disappointing to hear comments like that coming from someone in Andrew Marr's position. Criticising bloggers was 2005's pastime. Any self-respecting curmudgeon these days is complaining about Twitter.

And then I can suggest that you read the last paragraph in particular, because There Be Insight.

This blogging lark is dead easy, isn't it?

October 8, 2010

Mapping online communities

The online communities map on my office cabinet
There's a small change to the decor around my Quadrant House desk. Yes, an updated version of the xkcd online communities map is here. 

It's a fascinating visualisation of the relative size (in activity) of the various online communities, and even a cursory glance at the original shows how quickly this change in this space...

Owning Social Meda, and APA Breakfasting

iab mugs
My diary is filling up alarmingly right now, and it has been a hectic couple of days, but I just wanted to pause a second and blog a little about a talk I gave to the APA - the Association of Publishing Agencies - yesterday.  

It was pretty much a standard "here's why we use social media and how it fits into our ideas about money" gig, but I was surprised by how much reworking my decks needed. It was, in essence, a whole new presentation, because the ways we're integrating social media into our business are changing rapidly. It actually forced me to sit back and think a little more deeply about where my working priorities should be over the next 12 months, and that was worth 20 minutes' of standing in front of a sceptical audience on its own.

That said, I think the presentation went over well - one of the advantages of a breakfast event is that, even if you're the last speaker, you're just standing between the audience and their working day...

The questions were much as I'd expect - the future of print, for example. (I gave my standard reply - it has a future, but I think it's going to evolve like theatre, as either an upmarket, high-quality product, or a cheap and cheerful, disposable thing. The middle ground is doomed.) 

A more interesting one was the question of who owns a company's social media presence. PR? Marketing? Editorial? An outside creative agency? 

I suspect that this is the sort of question that will make as much sense in 10 years as "who owns the company's telephone presence?" does now. Social media is, first and foremost, a communications tool, rather than a publishing tool in the traditional sense. The majority of social media roadcrashes I've seen from older publishing businesses has been as a result of misunderstanding that distinction, and now I'm beginning to see it from other businesses as they misunderstand it as a purely marketing channel (not helped, admittedly, by the 1001 "promarketing social media guru" blogs out there, recycling the same advice in 10 bullet points endlessly). 

These "ownership skirmishes" will be a big feature of 2011, I suspect. 

October 6, 2010

Fact-checking, Wikipedia and basic journalistic credibility

When I was in my early 20s, and working in my first proper journalism job, my features editor and boss at the time, Andy, took me for a pint. But he didn't take me to the usual pub, he took me to one a little further away from the office. And he took me there because he was about to give me the nicest - but the most dramatic - bollocking I've been given before or since. 

I'd filed a feature before I went on holiday, and there had been something like three glaring factual errors in the piece. And he made the point, repeatedly but over a pint, that doing something like that undermines my credibility, his credibility and the credibility of the publication. And if the publication loses its credibility, it loses its ability to make money, and we all lose our jobs.

The internet has done nothing to change this. Get your facts right, or you're toast. 

To me, it doesn't matter if you're "underpaid, overworked and underresourced" - and a good number of journalists are these days, at least compared to, say, two decades ago - this is the bare minimum of credibility you need to call yourself a journalist. Have at least a modicum of professional pride.

Why am I writing this now? It's in response to both an article on the Register about journalists quoting Wikipedia without fact-checking and Dave Lee's response to my tweeted link to it. Dave went on to say:

@adders I'm not doubting you. But in a world where the first to publish gets better Google News treatment, this will carry on happening
But does it need to? I think that something is being lost in the clash of two cultures. Too many journalists are trying to mix the culture of fast that's the defining factor of the internet age, as Dave rightly points out, with the "finished article" culture of traditional journalism. 

Get an article up quickly with the bare facts that your know are true, sure. Don't stuff it with facts you haven't checked out - it's the internet. You can update stories. You don't have to do it all before you press "publish". Add the extra stuff as it's confirmed. 

I started this post with a story of my days as a fresh-faced young journalist. I think I've just proved that I'm becoming a grumpy old one. ;-)

October 2, 2010

How do you define a blogger in 2010?

Steph raises some very interesting questions. Help her find the answers by filling in her survey

October 1, 2010

Jobs is right about newspaper apps

From an article about Gordon McCloud's abrupt departure from the Wall Street Journal:

In a Q&A session with the assembled executives and managers, including Journal editors, [Steve] Jobs railed against the apps newspapers like the Journal have created for his iPad. Their interfaces are terrible, he said, and their content is all too often limited. That the Journal's archrival the New York Times was among those singled out for criticism -- Jobs hates the limited NYT Editors' Choice app -- must have helped take the sting off. And Jobs did praise the WSJ's iPad app as very attractive. But the CEO also said the app was too slow, essentially calling it a clunky reading experience.
The thing is, in my experience, Jobs is right. Most apps from traditional publishers are a league behind offerings like Flipboard in their usability and reader experience. Jobs may be rude and arrogant at times, but there are few on the planet with his obsession over good user experiences, particularly on his own devices. 

Gawker, as you would expect, is trying to characterise this is "if you cross Steve Jobs, you get sacked". However, if you can't take advice on a good user experience from a man whose entire career has been based on providing it - then perhaps the company is better off without you. 

Liveblogging: an ecosystem, not a product

Daniel Bennet's posted some thoughts about the art of liveblogging. It's an interesting read but I would like to suggest that there's a false underlying assumption in the post. He seems to be assuming that a liveblog is, once the event is done, a finished product. And in my experience as a liveblogger, that not how it actually functions. 

It's pretty rare that a live-blogger is the only source of coverage. When I'm live-blogging a conference, I'm usually part of an ecosystem of bloggers, both live and analytical, people who are tweeting what's being said, Twitter discussions, and then analytical posts that follow on from the liveblog. But that requires a viewpoint that sees all the coverage, not just the coverage on your own site. And not just that that appears on your own site. This is a viewpoint many in the traditional media seems to struggle to adapt to. :-)

In essence, a liveblog is not a finished product - it's the first step towards a record of the event, part of a large pool of raw material that will be collated, aggregated and analysed after the event.

It's all about the ecosystem...

Low tech solutions to paywall problems

I confess: for all my "meh" about paywalls, I currently have paid access to The Times' new websites. There are a couple of bloggers I actively miss, and think might be worth the money. Yesterday, I spotted this on Ruth Gledhill's blog [paid subscription required, rather obviously]:

A note from Ruth Gledhill 
Thank you for subscribing to The Times and reading this far. I have decided to become a human 'RSS feed'. I will send out at least one daily email, sent blind to all recipients so no email addresses of other subscribers or commenters are revealed, of updates to the blog.

If I may be a little "internetty" for a moment: WTF?

This actually worries me more than anything else about the Great Paywall of Wapping. Not that Ruth is doing this - that shows a fabulous respect for her readers and understanding that a blog is a community -  but the fact that there isn't and RSS feed. It can't be beyond the wit of their technical team to publish a feed that either was free to air, but only contained the link, a headline and perhaps an excerpt, or a full text feed that required authentication (and RSS readers have supported authentication for years).

With RSS apps starting to get some traction on mobile devices, this really betrays a deep lack of understanding somewhere in their organisation about how their most engaged - and therefore the most likely to pay - actually find their way to the content. 
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