One Man and His Blog: December 2010 Archives

December 2010 Archives

December 31, 2010

My Top 10 Posts of 2010

2010 is staggering towards the finishing line, all but spent in the convulsions of iPad lust, paywall panic and Wikileak wailing. It's been quite a year for journalism, but one that's been more marked by wishful thinking and panic than actual progress, to my mind, anyway.

Let's see if the facts bear that our shall we? Here are the top 10 posts published on this blog in 2010 by traffic:

  1. Internet Stat Porn 2010 - It's just a video. This is testament to the power of the words "internet" and "porn" in a headline...
  2. On Those Times Paywall Numbers - Golly gosh. A post on The Times and paywalls topping the (non-porn) charts? Who'da thunk it? A link from Greenslade helped with that...
  3. A Reader's Safari - a surprise to me, this one. A post about the new Reader feature in Safari, which strips all extraneous page clutters to present a clean reading view. Perhaps people are more interested in clean web design than I thought...
  4. Who Cares About The Front Page? - A small rant, this time about people who equate journalism with national newspapers. Frankly, the thoughtless abuse of the word "journalism" has been one of my bugbears this year.
  5. Science Online: Cultures Clash Over Infographics - data journalism poster boy David McCandless gets a roasting from scientists over his axes and other points of weakness. The highest viewed conference liveblog post - and it's not from the "big" events like Like Minds or Le Web. Niches are the future...
  6. iPad Magazines - Not Beating The Web - Ah, the iPad. Probably the second biggest driver of traffic to my  blog this year other than paywall discussion (and stat porn). It's depressing how little has changed in the six months since this was written. iPad magazine apps are still, in the main, rubbish.
  7. What Does Facebook Like Do For Blog Traffic? - Traffic was largely driven to this post by Facebook Likes. Of course.
  8. Factchecking, Wikipedia and Basic Journalistic Credibility - Yes, so journalists' brains turn to mush when confronted with the internet, and they do stupid things like copying information from Wikipedia without fact-checking. Lots of tweets and comments for this post - something of a hot button issue, clearly.
  9. The Paywalled Times - An Online Private Members Club. Oh, look. The Times. And paywalls...
  10. news:rewired: Crowdsourcing - the second liveblog of the top 10, this time from the first and best of the news:rewired conferences. (Of which there were three this year - at least one too many, I think.) Good old verbal punch-up between the new media hacks and the old school types. Simmering resentment boiling over; that sort of thing. All good fun.

Disappointingly few surprises in there. The obvious targets are all hit: paywalls, iPads and the desperate hope that a magic bullet will turn up and allow us to save journalism with one shot. Somehow this list feels, well, predictable to me. It feels like it needs shaking up a little more; it needs an injection of ideas from outwith our bubble. And that pretty much confirms what I suspected was my mistake with OM&HB in 2010 - but that's fodder for another post.

December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas

Christmas Pressies
A very merry Christmas to all of you who read these thoughts of mine. I hope you all have a great festive season and I'll see you in the new year.

December 20, 2010

Just a leaf on the Blog Tree

The Blog Tree
Fun visualisation of the "relationship" between some leading blogs in the tech and online communication space. There's more about the Blog Tree concept on the Eloqua blog.

December 15, 2010

A foghorn for lies on a giant scale

Why Adam Westbrook is leaving the mainstream media:

Of course, none of these things are possible inside the mainstream news cycle, which is why it has become so distorting and dangerous. The actions of thousands of journalists telling half truths here and there, and passing on unchallenged information as fact from 'reliable sources' creates a foghorn for lies on a giant scale.
The point he's making here is incredibly valuable. People see the "threat from the internet" aspect of the changes we're going through very easily. What they miss is the terrible damage the journalism profession has done yo its own reputation. 

December 9, 2010

LeWeb: Gary Vaynerchuk in Quotes

GaryV

"I hate the term social media. I liked Web 2.0. Why? Corporations see "media" and think it's time to start talking at people again."

"You talk too much about scaling at this conference."

"How do I do it? I fucking try." [on scaling his interactions]

"What doesn't happen enough at this conference? Taking about the end user. And the end user is the game."

"A business should be listening 24/7. And we spent too much time listening to problems - how about the people giving you love? Thanking them for thanking you is important."

"Client work is like having someone stick a knife in your face."

"If you're truly an entrepreneur: did you sell something before you were 12 years old?"

"If you know what you're good at, execute harder against that."

"The ROI of social media is patience. The problem with businesses as creatures is they don't have it."

LeWeb: Social Business in 2010 and 2011

Jeremiah Owyang

Jeremiah Owyang is presenting some data about social business this year and next. Highlights:

What happened in 2010 in social business?

Most corporate social strategies are only two years old - 2010 was the year of formation. The decision maker tends to be in marketing or corporate comms. That's where the money is now - it will move into support and product teams over time.

Models:

  • Decentralised - everyone can do it - looks authentic, but is disorganised
  • Centralised: Consistency and control, doesn't look authentic.
  • Hub and Spoke: small central group works with each division - Majority
  • Multiple Hub and Spoke
  • Holistic or "honeycomb": everyone does it in a consistent way

What's gonna happen in 2011?

Year of integration. The struggle is to measure social media. Most cases, they're using engagement data (which is not helpful). Most people looking to embed social in their sites. Brand monitoring is most popular area, but all areas of social are seeing big investment in social.

In dollar value? Jobs. $278,000 People are looking for social media staff.

As companies get more mature in their social media strategy, they move from tarditional agencies to the boutique social media agencies.

Six recommendations for corporations:

  1. Hire correctly - don't hire "social media gurus/ninjas" - hire business process managers.
  2. Integrate social media - be pragmatic. Don't just put a "follow me on..." button on your site. Integrate feature into your site.
  3. Use advertising that leverages social graph: use advertising that triggers word of mouth
  4. Develop an unpaid army of advocates: Microsoft's MVP's aren't paid, but they get access and trips. That's scalable. One on one dialogue doesn't scale.
  5. Invest in scalable systems like SCRM and SMMS - help you manage hundreds of accounts across the globe.
  6. Learn to measure right. Right metrics for the right people.

The full presentation is on his blog already.

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LeWeb: Startup Competition Finalists

Liveblogging: this post will be updated through the course of the session, and will be prone to error, omission and misunderstanding. You are warned… ;-)

paper.li

1. Paper.li

I suspect most people reading this are familiar with this service. It turns links from your Twitter and Facebook accounts into a newspaper, using semantic analysis of the contents. Forthcoming: more services you can aggregate from, premium services, and access to it by people like ad networks.

(Just noticed, FWIW, that they're the number two referrer to my blog this afternoon, from this page)

supermamrmite.jpg

2. Super Marmite

A social tool to allow you to sell your home cooking - or to buy a meal from a neighbour rather than a take-away. Seller pays a proportion of the price.

It's insane, but it might just work…

waze.jpg

3. Waze

A trun-by-turn car navigation app, that aggregates route and traffic information from users - and uses game mechanics to encourage users to have the app on even on routes they know well. They get extra points for using routes they don't have recent information on, for example.

The Winners

The changed all the rules, and reshaped the awards in this form: (it involved stickers)

1st Prize - Virality: Paper.li

1st Prize - Technology: Waze

1st Prize - Originality: Super-Marmite

LeWeb: Get the kids outdoors for €299 (Augmented Reality)

Smart phones - are they the idea device for controlling remote control devices?

Take, for example this:

Controlled by an iPhone (works a little better in places without more than 3000 wifi connected devices…)

Toys have lost the war with video games, says Henri Seydoux of Parrot, that makes the device. This encourages children to get outside and play, because of the integration with the phone. And it can fly high - they have videos of it soaring over churches and the like.

So, how do the games work? Much like this:

They have an API for developers to build other apps that use it - as long as they promise not to use it as a weapon…

LeWeb: Brain Waves. Literally.

Ariel Garten

Ever wanted to control your computer by your brain alone? Ariel Garten, CEO of Interaxon, is showing us that it could be closer than you realise.  She's also  showing us her brain. Not, admittedly, by opening her skull and showing us the meat inside, but by wearing a brainwave monitor (which you can see in the photo), and then projecting the waves onto the screen behind her:

She's giving us a potted history of brain monitoring tech, from the 10 pounds of equipment, to a size-and-price revolution in the late 90s. Now, it's in toys, like the Star Wars Force TrainerZEO Sleep Trainer is putting it to a more positive use. It's being used to aid people with ADD, too, and to control wheelchairs. And the more it's used, the better it becomes.

And soon you'll be able to use it with your iPad on a game called Zenbound.

Downloading our brains into computers? Not going to happen, she says. Using our brains to control many devices around us? It's happening now, and it may be the next, big transformative technology.

LeWeb: Where now for WordPress?

Matt Mullenweg

It's been a tricky year in the blogging world - Six Apart, the traditional blog business representative at Le Web has gone, attention has shifted to things like Twitter and Facebook, and new services like Tumblr and Posterous are driving innovation.

So, how do Matt Mullenweg and Toni Schneider of Automattic see the future of blogging?

About 30m people are using WordPress - about 10% of the world's site. 300m uniques a month on WordPress.com, which is about half of the WordPress-powered sites.

Are they making money? "We don't talk about our revenues in public," says Toni. "We've been focusing on our team and infrastructure, and not focusing on revenue. We will be doing that over the next year." They're breaking even he says. Most of their revenue comes from WordPress.com, and the revenue comes from premium services, from extra space up to WordPress VIP for companies. They're a company of 74 people.

"Blogging hasn't found its AdWords yet," says Mullenweg. That still needs to be found

Why haven't they been acquired? "Our goal is not to be acquired," says Mullenweg. "We're also a quirky little company. We're a tech company that gives away our intellectual property. We're a distributed company."

Indeed, he'd like to grow to the point where they don't need acquisition. The web needs something open, for publishers at least. You have something that's Facebook-sized out there in WordPress blogs - so how do you unify that? There's a lot of interesting stuff on the web happening there.

"There're really not any different between WordPress.com and WordPress.org. There are trade offs."

He seems to suggest that there's a lot of mileage in connecting up the hosted services of .com with .org installs in a way that makes it much easier to do things that your $8 a month hosting account can't do. And maybe that's where their revenue will come…

LeWeb: Forever Evernote

Phil Libin

"Nobody is happy with their meat brain," says Phil Libin. "Everything important that happens to you can be in Evernote."

Evernote is one of those "everything bucket" apps - a notebook that works on every device, syncs between them, and allows you to have an outboard memory, if you like. I'm a user and a fan. They've grown mainly through word of mouth and blogs - they haven't paid for any SEO or advertising

And their growth is astonishing in some parts of the work; there are 14 published books about Evernote in Japan! Growing rapidly in Spain - and Libin has no idea why.

How to they track their success? They do cohort analysis - assigning each user into a Cohort based on the month that they joined. People either drop Evernote within the first two months, or stay users from then on. And, then, and deeply importantly, the people moving up from the free to the paid service grows steadily month on month.

Conversion rates grow steadily over two years of use, hitting over 20% of a cohort 29 months after they joined.

Libin has been suprisingly free with facts and figures about his business - I wish more speakers did this. It'd ass so much more value.

"Starting a company is a bad way to make money," he says. "On average, it's a terrible way to make money. But if you want to save humanity from boredom or mediocrity or from the city of Paris shutting down from an inch of snow, then start a business."

December 8, 2010

LeWeb: The Ad-Hoc Snowbound Panel

Leo Laporte

After years of listening to Leo Laporte's TWIT network, I'm now seeing him live… He's lost one of his panelists to the snow, so Dennis Crowley has stepped in, joining Brent Hoberman of mydeco and Loïc.

And we're talking about entrepreneurship in Europe. Should people just copy US ideas? No, but it's a qualified no. Hoberman explains that his original startup (lastminute.com) could only expand into France, for example, by acquiring a local firm that helped them deal with all the legal restrictions in each country. So there's a value in building our parallel sites in countries that have different legal systems.

That said, Loic moved from being an European entrepreneur to being an US one, because being in the US gives him direct access to the management of the big web companies that matter - like Google for example. It's more difficult in Europe, Loic suggests, citing Daily Motion which started before YouTube but never got teh funding to scale in the same way.

Crowley started Foursquare in New York, simply because that was where he lived. He thinks the urban density of the city helped them create a better product, and they're now part of a whole thriving community of startups in the city.

Hoberman jumps in with mention of east London and the silicon roundabout area, that's becoming the hub for the UK startup scene. And he thinks any entrepreneur that can make it in Europe has great management skills, because it's so much harder to scale over the language and legal barriers than it is in the more monocultural US.

Lots of discussion about funding, which seems to be a perennial topic here. Hoberman pointed out that venture capital is a terrible investment class right now, which doesn't help. And there's not the volume or the structure that exists in the US. Most tellingly, Loic revealed that he had several companies turn down his "how to be acquired" panel tomorrow simply because it's Europe and they're not interested.

Loic is replying to a question from one of the questioners, talking about the infamous "political hijack" of Le Web 3 in 2006 (my first Le Web). His mistake wasn't so much inviting the politicians, he suggests, but in springing it on the room. If he'd informed people, it would have gone better. And he spent a long time afterwards reading every bit of criticism and responding, and using that to inform future events.

Nice challenge from Leo: is it necessary to always build big companies? Can't you be happy with a local, niche service? The reply, between Hoberman and Crowley, is that you don't get a platform that way. And if it's working, why wouldn't you want to scale it?

LeWeb: The media and Wikileaks

Adrian Monck

Adrian Monck is chairing a media panel, and inevitably we're focusing on WikiLeaks.

We've always had leaks, says Julio Alonso of Weblogs S. "The WikiLeaks phenomenon is not new, but it has a different form. " The closing of Amazon and PayPal accounts , the problems with wikileaks DNS, are showing us where the weak links in the online chain. They're also raising the issue of who applies and decides on the limits.

Pierre Chappaz of Wikio thinks that this is a defining moment. This is, if you like, the first skirmish in a global infowar. Monck challenges that, suggesting that we've seen many governments try to shut things down, but Chappaz's point is this is the first global incident.

Gabe Rivera suggests that there's so much in common with what wikileaks is doing and what traditional newspapers are doing that we should be concerned. And Ben Rooney returns to Alonso's point that DNS, in particular, is the weak link in the internet's chain, the thing that breaks the "routing around barriers" theory that it was designed for.

Chappez points out that it's ludicrous that Wikileaks itself is being targeted in this way, while the newspapers that republished the material are left alone.

Gabe Rivera

Rivera thinks that the censorship efforts are essentially doomed. There are too many potential co-publishers, he suggests. If Twitter closes down the account listing the torrents, there's Facebook, or they could go somewhere else. And Rooney agrees, calling a game of international whack-a-mole that's futile.

Chappaz declared his support for a self-regulated internet, in response to a question from Monck asking if we need a body to protect leaking. The audience, broadly, seems to support the optimistic position that attempts to close down Wikileaks won't adversely affect leaking online in the long term. However, Alonso points out that every week he's getting cease and desist letters and complaints from companies that don't like their coverage. This is only going to increase because they see the government doing the say. But, as Rooney quite rightly points out, that's not new. Journalists have been living with that for decades.

Rivera thinks that the national newspapers that have worked with Wikileaks have done well out of this, and isn't worried by Monck's suggestion that it's disappointing that it's old media rather than new doing that. "Newer sites will have their day," he says.

Following a question from the audience, Alonso thinks that the western government have lost their moral authority over many governments with poor records on censorship who can, quite rightly, now refuse criticism on the basis that those making the criticism do exactly the same thing…

We are still a democracy, points out Chappaz, and with democracy comes justice. It is yet to be proved legally that Wikileaks has done anything as yet.

LeWeb: Dennis Crowley for Foursquare

Dennis from Foursquare

The snow is beginning to send things off the rails at Le Web. Speakers are missing and not able to find their way here. But we have slightly late, Dennis Crowley of Foursquare. It's been a gentle, rambling chat, talking about his path to where he is now. It's clear that his time with Google after they acquired his first startup, Dodgeball, has affected how he sees the world. Google bought it, he couldn't get the things he wanted done with it, and so he left and they closed the service. And where does that leave us? He's clearly reluctant to sell again, because he's more interested in building a product than a business per se. And Google is trying to play catch-up in location services.

He reiterated the product point in response to a question from Tara Hunt as to what he'd do if he could magically change things - and he just came back to wanting to build products. But, from the other questions, there's an emerging message that he's building revenue through partnership. He's building a far more sophisticated version of the loyalty card, where you're not just rewarded for 10 purchases, but for bringing a number of friends, or trying different dishes, or going to different outlets...

LeWeb: Google's Marissa Mayer gets local

Google's Marissa Mayer

It's the now annual Arrington/Mayer chat. Whoohoo. She tries to say nothing, Mike tries to make her say something.

Of course, there's a context shift this year. Mayer has changed jobs at Google. They're talking about her new role - her shift from a focus on search to location-based services. They're experimenting with local context in search, but it's not something they've integrated into a product so far.

In essence, she suggests, they're trying to build a virtual mirror of the world at all times. The have their planes flying, the cars driving…

Contextual discovery: if you can look at what people have been looking it through their web browser, you can start delivering relevant suggestions to them. On a mobile phone, you're looking at physical movements, rather than web browsing. This is the predictive suggestions that Schmit has taked about, by the sound of it.

Arrington challenges her over Latitude, which is perceived as an also-ran in the location space (and points out that she's an avid Foursquare user). She, without acknowledging his point, does suggest that there's more work needed - and that there might be a place for it, given that there's probably a small set of your friends and family whom you might be happy to let know where you are all the time. And is it coming to iPhone? She'd like to see it there.

Interesting that she thinks that there are four key platforms on the web: search, video, social and mobile. And she thinks Google has got three of those right. They're clearly still working on social. And no, she won't confirm the Google social platform.

And now we're into a plug/demo of the Nexus S and the new version of Android (Gingerbread), with a guy in an amazingly shiny suit. I'll leave that to the gadget bloggers…

Android Mobile

OK - the vector based mapping is rather cool. The 3D panoramas of the cities is very impressive. Vector maps makes the data set smaller so it can be pulled down (or stored offline) more quickly than the older tile-based mapping. Based on the audience reaction, they could get another 5% market share from that.

Oh, and they gave away (under heavy pressure from Arrington) an Nexus S to a guy who said he'd hand in his iPhone for it. Arrington then went on to pressure her about the role of Chrome OS versus Android - which is going to be the tablet one? She suggested that Google hasn't yet defined clearly exactly what each of the two OSes will do. Broadly, Andriod is phones and tablets and ChromeOS is notebooks - but it's early days still.

LeWeb: Le Snow

The snow that's been bedevilling Europe has decided to make walking between the three buildings that make up this year's Le Web treacherous - but very festive:


LeWeb: Angry Birds, Happy Business

Mikael Hed

That bizarre image of our host dressed up as the most basic of the Angry Birds had a purpose: it was setting the scene for the arrival of Mikael Hed, CEO, Rovio, the people who are stealing away our lives in avian/porcine conflict…

There was a little background on the game, and its roots in sketches for an entirely different game, and its growth to ubiquity. The differing business model of Android versus iPhone apps seems to have been as much an access of accessibility as anything. On iPhone, you have to have an iTunes account to manage the device, so that's an easy route to the market. The app store ecosystem is more complex, and the free-plus-ads seems to make it easier to get the game onto people's devices - and it was a gamble that has paid off financially for them.

It's interesting, because as much as Angry Birds has become a cultural phenomenon, there hasn't been much evidence that Hed has a clear idea why that might be. Even the sell-out success of soft toys based on the game seems to have caught them by surprise. If anything, they seem to be leaving it to partners to build revenue from merchandise, while they continue to expand the platforms the game is available on. For example, he's taking about consoles and downloadable content as a major target for next year.

Fun talk, but in the end, Angry Birds is Angry Birds, and phenomenons are rarely repeatable.

Other Bloggers

LeWeb: Angry Birds Loïc

Angry Birds Loïc

LeWeb: The Rise of the Social Game

Sebastien de Halleux, Co-Founder, Playfish & VP, Business Development & Strategic Partnerships, EA Interactive

Sebastien de Halleux, Co-Founder, Playfish & VP, Business Development & Strategic Partnerships, EA Interactive is up now, kicking of the social gaming strand.

Veronica Belmont kicked off by asking why so many existing social games were derivative of concept and brand.

de Halleux didn't answer directly, suggesting that he hoped that more new concepts would be coming forwards soon. On Facebook, they tried to launch new categories of games, to attract people who weren't existing gamers. In the first quarter of next year he suspects we'll see a raft of announcements of new gaming concepts. Disney will be announcing some things…

How many on Facebook are engaged in social games? Roughly half of them: 200 to 250m users…

Many traditional categories aren't represented on Facebook yet - action games, third person shooters, and the like. He thinks that gives great room to innovate (although I'm not sure that just porting existing categories to a new platform really counts as innovation…)

Playfish sells 90m items a day - so virtual goods sales are high. Why do people buy these items? It has to do with social emotional reactions. 8€ for a random pack of five players in Fifa is very meaningful to football fans. You need to sell things people connect with. (He said that players in World of Warcraft buy functional goods - they's flat out wrong. Blizzard only sells "emotional" goods - basically non-combat pets).

The overall revenue model is very different from traditional gaming. There, you buy a box and that's your cost. In social gaming, the majority of games are free, and you make a series of micropayments to add additional things within the game - that allows the players to set the value of the game to them, rather than have it defined in advance. The pressure from players has been to allow them to spend more - buy $100 gift cards for each other, for example…

Real world linkage and "game enhancement through brands" (product placement) - mapping virtual flowers and Seven Up to real world purchases has been very successful - but he's wary of going too far in that direction. They turn away more advertisers than then accept. Their central customer (and hence revenue stream) is the paying customer, and they don't want to be serving two masters badly.

LeWeb: Does MySpace have a future?

Robert Scoble and Mike Jones

It must be tough to sit on a stage and see that only 1% of the audience has bothered to check out the latest version of your product. But that's exactly the situation that Mike Jones, CEO of MySpace has just found himself in. The new MySpace they launched 15 days ago? It hasn't stirred the attention of the tech crowd.

Interviewer Robert Scoble pushed on the point, stressing that MySpace has been part of LeWeb almost since the start: will it be back next year? Jones argued that it was, and that News International, its owner, is very focused on entrepreneurship. They've let go of trying to win as a social network, and have refocused on their new entertainment-focused product, and that means they won't be dumped if the new strategy works.

Interestingly, one third of MySpace's views are now mobile. So, they're creating a hole range of applications - an application network as Jones calls it - doing niche, targeted jobs on iPhone and iPad.

It took him until quite  a distance into the the interview to clearly articulate what the new site is about: it's about entertainment discovery through a social lens. That's why they're now happy to integrate with Facebook - because the Likes of you and your friends through Facebook can inform the discovery mechanism. They don't want to compete with iTunes either - they;ll send people there to buy. They seem to be positioning themselves as a new middleman, sitting between your friends and your entertainment store, finding related and connected content.

The problem, I think, is that it's something people have to go to, rather than be pushed to by their social network. And we all have enough online islands to row out to…

This is the second speaker this morning that has explicitly talked about reinventing their product completely to compete in a new age, one where they're no longer a market leader. And both of them gave a very corporate line rather than an enthusiast's one. Telling? Perhaps.

LeWeb: Jason Goldman Quits Twitter

Jason Goldman

A man who's leaving Twitter is on stage, talking about the site's future. He told the company that he was leaving on Friday, but he's staying on in an advisory role. But that doesn't mean that Jason Goldman doesn't have views on the future of the company.

Sure, he covered much of the common ground; Reassurance that they're not going to steamroller all app categories, like they did on mobile devices; News that they're offering out Promoted Tweets to others; that sort of thing.

An intresting discussion then followed about the biggest mistakes made - Goldman suggests its when they added too much complexity. In particular, the IM functionality that would fail over between IM or text message depending on where you when was too complex - a nice solution that left the users wondering where the tweets would actual turn up. In fact, Goldman suggests that sometimes offering options is the wrong thing to do - it;s just a away of avoiding making a decision and pushing that to the users to do instead.

What's next? "We need to create a better consumption experience." It's hard for people to find the content that people will be interested in right now - they need to improve that, and the suggested users is only a first step in that direction.

But then, he's not going to be the one to do it, so he took the chance to reminisce about canvassing to change the product name to "fleeting" and writning the status blog posts during the worst of the "Fail Whale" days. He's not quitting to join anything in particular, or to start up something new he claims. We shall see…

LeWeb: Is Facebook Evil?

Ethan Beard

My, Le Web is breaking its reputation for softball interviews this year. Mike Arrington is busy putting Ethan Beard, Director of the Facebook Developer Network, on the rack over a number of questions, not least "is Facebook evil?"

"I think the fact that you ask a question like that is a testament to how much people care about Facebook, how much it's part of their lives," says Beard. Which isn't actually a "no"…

He's also grilled Beard on the mobile phone issue; Beard is "ready to deny" that there's a Facebook Phone coming. He wouldn't give a strong opinion on the future of Windows Phone 7, but did say that it was too early to say that iPhone and Android have won.

Ah, interesting question: which industry will be disrupted by social next. Beard makes the point that Zynga has disrupted the games industry by building social into what they do from day one. He's not willing to commit on which industry will be next, but he suggests that it'll be done in the same way: a smart entrepreneur, launching with social in the forefront of what they do. Arrington throws a line baited with music, but gets not much more than a statement that Spotify's Facebook integration has been great for the service.

10,000 sites are added to Facebook Connect every day! "We're not trying to move the entire web into Facebook, we're trying to make the entire web social," says Beard. However, on the application front, he suggested that, based on user expectations, it's better to build inside Facebook than add Facebook functionality into an external product, if you're starting fresh.

They're also pushing hard on Facebook Credits. There's only around 100 applications using them right now, but their focus has been on getting everyone onto that platform, using the credits, and then they have the scale to make them useful both to users and developers. "The transition is not necessarily fun, but everyone knows that the end game is worth it."

LeWeb: How Microsoft Cut Its Own Arm Off

Talking Windows Phone 7 at Le Web

WARNING: Liveblogging. post will update and change over the next half hour. Prone to error, typos and horrible grammar.

Ah, the cat and mouse game. Loïc is trying to chase down some hard information from Charlie Kindel, the GM of the Windows Phone 7 Developer Ecosystem at Microsoft. Loïc keeps aksing how many they've sold, and Charlie keeps not answering the question…

Instead, he's telling the story of the guy who had to cut his own arm off after a climbing accident. "His life is very different, but he survived." This is apparently a good analogy for Microsoft and the smartphone market. They failed to execute, competition was the boulder on their arm, and to survive they amputated their old version of the mobile platform.

Kindel is trying very hard to stay on message here: they think of it as an Xbox phone, this the beginning of a new line of phones, it's something different and surprising from Microsoft. I'm actually quite impressed by Windows Phone 7, but I'm afraid that Kindel is being too relentlessly on-message to actually say anything interesting or new…

Oooh, Loïc's just asked the tablet question - and Kindel is "keeping his cards close to his chest". Well, that's useful.

Loïc did highlight one good point - the Windows Phone 7 social experience is predicated on Facebook, rather than (say) Windows Live. Does that mean that Microsoft has lost control? Kindel says not, but actually, I think the fact that they did relinquish that control in favour of a better user experience is one of the most positive things about the system…

LeWeb: Carlos Ghosn of Renault on the future of the car

renaultguy.jpg

First up is Carlos Ghosn, Chairman & CEO, Renault S.A. & Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. (Disclosure: I drive a Renault Megane)

He's trying to persuade us that once the car industry was the engine of innovation - and he's pushing at an open door with that.

"Cars have stopped being perceived as a symbol of modernity," he says, citing stats that suggest that all over the world car ownership is slipping down the list as a desirable status symbol.

There's steady, incremental change in the car market - there's as much intelligence in the new Megane as there was in the first Airbus, he suggests - but no radical change to the concept of the car. And there are challenges: the green agenda, the price of oil and the growing need for individual travel in third world countried. There are 1bn active cars in the world right now, and that will probably grow to 3bn over the next few years. The basic need for autonomous transportation will continue.

Innovation is focusing on ideas like better batteries to make electric cars affordable and practicable - and that's going to require working with local governments until the point that scale brings costs down. But they're great: no noise, no smell. "Once you've started driving them, you can't go back," he says.

€4bn invested in electric cars between Nissan and Renault - but they think it's necessary. But they're doing it in the face of scepticism. "Every kind of naysayer," as Ghosn puts it. "But let us not forget that we are at the beginning of this technology." He makes a comparison with the early days of mobile phones, with the weight and battery life challenges. Competition drove improvement, and he suggests that exactly the same will happen with cars.

However, he goes on to argue that this is necessary. People want autonomous transport, and other green solutions - like public transport - just aren't viable as the complete solution because of people's great desire for this autonomous travel.

And now we're into the fireside chat with Loïc. He's talking about the cultural differences you encounter working internationally - the confusion created between the "women first" culture for doors and lifts in Europe against "men first" in Japan…

Loïc's pushing him on the idea of the car as a platform, something we can build on top of. He showed a video of someone who hacked his car for iPad integration. Ghosn counters with the safety issue - he doesn't want to facilitate anything that distracts drivers in a car - and causes accidents (and liability, a word which crept out briefly).

A lot of the innovation they create in the lab never makes it to the road, because it needs to be submitted to strenuous safety tests. (I'd like to see him challenged on things like the Ford Sync, which is creating a platform for in-car tools).

They're shifting as much advertising budget as they can to new platforms - especially mobile. 15% of their budget so far, but Ghosn doesn't think they're moving far enough or fast enough in that direction.

Also live blogged by Rachel.

LeWeb 2010 begins

Loïc and Geraldine
And we're off...

The theme this year is "platform" - the conference as a platform for meeting and making deals, the stuff presented as platforms for innovation...

LeWeb: Under observation by the head of the Blogger Program…

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A photo of Steph and I from the Blogger Party last night. This is the You by Egobox at work…

Before Le Web: Conference, Curation and Creation

The Pearltrees LunchTraditionally, I've come to Le Web at the last minute - the night before the conference kicks off - and stayed a day afterwards. This time I did it the other way around, and I'm glad I did. I'd missed the degree to which a culture of peripheral events has grown up around the main conference. For example, I had lunch with the good people of Pearltrees, discussing curation of content over a spectacularly good meal at Alcazar.

I had a long conversation with Tom Foremski of Silicon Valley Watcher, a former FT journalist, about the shift from the only publishing cost bases and revenue models to the emergent ones in the new information ecosystem that was quite fascinating, especially Tom's perspective as someone who has made the jump from the old model to the new...

I suppose the key thing I took away from the conversation is how fundamentally the lack of permission needed to publish today has changed every aspect of media, from traditional publishing, to ad buyers, to corporate communications and PR teams. The information channels have opened right up, and we're still only just scratching the surface of what that could mean for our society - as the current Wikileaks cablegate controversy amply illustrates. And, at a conference with so many habitual creators present, the potential impacts are made flesh, at least for a few days.

The Blogger Party on a boat in the Seine was one of those events where you saw a camera, video or still, in action wherever you looked. Bloggers chatted, jokes, shared Twitter names and blog URLs, and generally had a fun, showy time. I found it great fun, despite a small "incident" with some red wine and a white backdrop (ahem). The grown-up photobooth provided by You by Egobox proved a particular hit, as you can see from the video below:

People who voluntarily choose to self-publish enjoying a device which allowed them to pose narcissistically? Who'd have believed it. :-)

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December 7, 2010

Preparing for Le Web 10

For the past 24 hours I've been in Paris, ready for this year's Le Web, which kicks off tomorrow. Like the rest of the official bloggers, I had the chance for a backstage tour this afternoon, a chance which I largely blew by getting trapped in traffic with Irene Koehler and Michelle Blanc on the way there. Still, I was able to grab some images of the stage being quite literally set for the next two days. We're back in Les Docks, the venue of 2007's conference, which (a) I rather like and (b) is still completely unknown to Parisian taxi drivers. Still, my past experience was that the "three building campus" style of this venue actually made for a highly social conference. Let's see if that applies again this year.

I'm looking forwards to the next two days of liveblogging. There are some familiar faces on the stages - some might say too familiar - and I'll be interested to see what new ideas they can bring to the conversation. And there's some interesting new speakers, too. Time to grab some kip, and get ready for the liveblog frenzy. Bon nuit!

Camera, ready

lewebpre 3.jpg

Le…

Seesmic workman

Bloggers assemble

December 4, 2010

Time(s) for the weekend papers...

Time for a little Times update, as it were. The last time we spoke about it, I was considering dumping either my Times online subscription, or stopping buying the iPad version.

Well, guess what? Since the most recur updates to the iPad app, my website subscription also gives me access to the tablet version. So, no dilemma. I keep the website sub, and get the iPad thrown in.

This is why I think it's unwise to count Murdoch out just yet - they're experimenting and learning as they go, and are prepared to shift the model around. And I don't think any of us should be complaining too much about an open-minded attempt to find new revenue models for journalism.

December 3, 2010

Video test: Canon Ixus 130 vrs Flip MinoHD 3rd Gen

One element of my job I need to keep reminding myself to revisit is video technology. The kit available in this area is changing so fast, that recommendations I make to journalists need to move just as fast. I'm mainly interested in the low end kit, the cameras you stick in your pocket to grab footage of something interesting that happens unexpectedly. Basically, once you reach the stage where you're using heavy tripods and Final Cut Pro, you've moved beyond my interest zone...

With that in mind, I've been experimenting with two options for producing quick'n'dirty video by journalists on the go, rather than video-centric journalists. While I'm aware that you can get great results from mobile phones like the iPhone 4, there are some compelling reasons for not using it on occasions, from the fact that they're no corporate-approved devices in many companies, to the battery life challenge. Flip-style mini video cams and digital compacts can both be good alternatives. 

First up: a digital compact. This was shot on Tuesday night with a Canon Ixus 130 digital compact camera. The footage was stabilized in iMovie '11:


And this was shot this afternoon, on the latest model Flip Mino HD (generation 3, I believe). Soundtrack replaced, because it was just a car alarm in the distance. Footage stabilised in iMovie '11, as with the previous clip:



On balance, I think I prefer the footage from the Flip. It's caught the drifting mist far better than I expected it too, and it's managed to catch the mood of some difficult lighting conditions. 

The bigger test, though, will be filming some brief interviews on them. 
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December 2, 2010

Snow Day

Snow day
Like so many others, I was completely snowed in today, with no realistic chance of making it to work. Snow day! But snow day is remote working day for us online types, but with the advantage of a much more scenic lunchtime walk than either Sutton or Holborn can offer. 

There's a snippet of video of Shoreham-by-sea in the snow on my personal blog, and photos from the day will be uploaded to Flickr.

Hacks and Hackers in video

Rachel from journalism.co.uk has done a rather lovely video feature of the RBI-hosted hacks and hackers day from earlier in the week:

December 1, 2010

My Snow Saviour: Social Media

Snowy Sutton Station
Like pretty much everybody else who works in and around London, I've been caught in the travel problems caused by the onset of snow. I abandoned the car in the Sutton carpark last night, and took the trains back to Lewisham. I managed it in a little over two hours, but only because Twitter had told me that it wasn't worth trying to get a train from London Bridge. The #southeastern hashtag on Twitter was eye-watering but informative reading, and suggested to me that a Thameslink/DLR combo would be a better way to go, and sure enough it was. With colleagues reporting up to 13 hour journeys home, I'm pretty thankful.

In fact, I've got pretty much all my travel information over the past 24 hours from Twitter and blogs, like Daryl's excellent tracking of SouthEastern's ongoing failure, rather than mainstream media. It's this sort of granular level of coverage, right down to line and operating company, that social media excels at - and which mainstream media has neither the resources and the inclination to do. In fact, all the mainstream news can do is tell us that people are having travel problems all across the south east. It's social media that's helping us figure out how to get to a warm bed...

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