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May 16, 2013
It's a beautiful sunny day, I'm full of cold and I'm distracting myself by reading commentary on NEXT 13 for my work on the conference blog. The talk that seems to have had the most impact - despite being the shortest - was Bruce Sterling's. It was noticable for both its joy in the possibilities of the future and its skepticism about so much of the way it's structured right now.
Worth a watch, if you have 15 minutes this lunchtime:
October 8, 2012
May 27, 2012
- The Future of the Network and the History of the Computer - two keynotes that kicked off the conference, with René Obermann of Deutsche Telecom talking about a more open future for mobile networks, and George Dyson showing how the past of computing might point its way to the future.
- Towards the internet of things - four talks about the emerging world of networked smart objects
- Designing Digital Services by Putting People First - a great talk for agencies and product managers by Lousia Heinrich of Fjord, about human-centric success
- Making Books into a shareable experience - Henrik Berggren of Readmill has ideas of how to make eBooks more networked.
- Hacker kids, Maker culture and Wired clothing - my personal favourite session of the first day. It felt like a glimpse into the culture of five years hence - or what talking to the Homebrew Computer Club must have been like.
- TV to come , TV to go - a panel looking at visions of Future TV.
- The startup pitch winners
- The velocity of digital business - Ajaz Ahmed and James Hilton of AKQA with a vision of doing great work in a digital age
- Give the teddy bears WiFi - Russell Davies' grab-bag talk of ideas from the future
- Selling fashion online and printed clothes - a weird mix of pragmatic advice about selling clothes online - and whole new ways of creating clothes, including 3D printed bikinis!
- Three views of the future of media - always connected consumers, updating eBooks and the psychology of publishing
- Dave Weinberger & the future of everything - not a children's adventure novel, whatever the title makes it sound like. ;) Mr Weinberger takes us on a gallop through the likely consequences of the networked world.
- James Bridle: Moving beyond the fanfics of technology and place - a brain-stretching journey through the cultural consequences for places and ideas of mash-up culture
May 9, 2012
May 8, 2012
Berlin. Possibly the throbbing heart of continental Europe's digital scene. Certainly the scene of one of my most over-written opening paragraphs in years. But then, what else can a city like this stimulate in you? One of the opening parties last night featured a woman dressed as a peacock. That's all you need to know.
Oh, perhaps you also need to know that I'm here for NEXT Berlin, the annually digital conference that I enjoyed so much last year. And, like last year, I'll be liveblogging it. Unlike last year, I won't be liveblogging it here - I'll be posting on the official NEXT Blog, which I've been running since January...
Not quite sure what will be appearing here - probably some analysis, random photography. And possibly peacock ladies:
May 19, 2011
May 18, 2011
It's nearly the end of the conference, and I'm flagging. I've tried to distill the essence of the advice from three community-driven businesses and keep this punchy. Here goes:
Jovoto - Bastian Unterberg
I found the first talk the most difficult to get value from. Unterberg talked about the problem of disposable coffee cups used by most coffee shops, and their huge environmental cost; 16bn gallons of water, millions of trees - they're the cost of disposable coffee cups. The average in-use life spans is seven minutes...
So, they launched a competition - betacup - to try and resolve the problem. They reached out to Starbucks who had an interanl team working on the same problem. They connected multiple communites - threadless, Instructables, core77
The result? 430 ideas in 1600 versions, with 13k votes on them. And a tonne of brand exposure for Starbucks. But, uh, as far as I can figure, no actual solution as yet. And surely, unless something actually comes from this, all that goodwill will turn bad…?
Etsy - Matt Stinchcomb
Like so many startups, Etsy was born, 6 years ago, from an idea in a flat. And that idea took $100k in its first year, then $7m, then $27 to $600m now. 96.5% of that money stays in the community. It's not an eCommerce site, but a marketplace, says Stinchcomb. You don't just go there to buy, but to join in with the community. Once you knew the cobbler who made your shoes, you knew the baker who baked your bread. You supported them because you knew them - and they supported you back. So Etsy is about the community.
They publish all their revenue and traffic details - the community is a partner. They hold meetups wherever they go in the world.
They grow primarily through word of mouth. They need to give their community tools to bring more people to the site. The desire to use them comes from the relationship. Community curation and activity determines the home page, rather than the traditional metrics of what sells when.
SoundCloud - David Noël
Everyday, we choose a user as SoundClouder of the day, says Noël. They started sending back stories about how the site has changed their lives. Site was built from the group upwards to encourage participation. People can put comments at particular moments in the track. Community people can tend to talk too much - do too much. It's important to listen and absorb. The first thing you need is support - the faster, more personal and more friendly the reply, the better. It's the foundation of the community team. When things go bad, be totally transparent and keep communicating until things are fixed.
Other community initiatives: SoundCloud Local - picking a city a week. Meetups. Old-Skoolers - took them on board and talked to them, along with QnAs. Sessions on their roof in Berlin.
Be patient and place dots - you want too much too fast. It's extremely hard, and you need to be patient. See how people respond to your dots.
David Rowan tried to build a compelling case for gathering and sharing data about yourself, because it can benefit both yourself and society.
One example: Patients like me. It's a site where people are sharing response to treatments for 500 different conditions. In particular, for one condition called ALS, there was a belief that lithium could delay the onset of some symptoms. So some of them took lithium treatments, and some didn't. And they found that it didn't work - not even a placebo effect. Pushed science forward.
Lots of people have depression. There are lots of different ways of coping. The community tracked 5000 people to see what worked and what didn't. Most popular and effective was exercise, followed by more sleep. But there were some interesting results in the middle around various art-type therapies.
Self-tracking and self-reporting is moving forward our knowledge, he suggested.
Some other tools:
- mycrocosym - allows you to visualise anything
- runkeeper - tracks you using GPS - maps, graphs and share with other people. Got an e-mail congratulating him on April being the best month yet. Drove him to do better this month.
- Daytum - allows you to track all sorts of everyday facts about your life.
- 23 and me (although I know a PhD geneticist who is sceptical about this)
Price of storage is trending towards zero.1TB is £50 from Amazon.So why shouldn't we collect this data? We might not know what we'll use it for now, we might not spot the trends straight away, but over time, we will. And we'll regret not storing more once we do.
A lot more of our devices are going to be linked to the network - so we need to take control. Companies are collecting data about us. Why shouldn't we? It's opening up our own API.
Martin Deinoff and Frederick Marcus gave what has to be the most strange presentation I've seen at NEXT. The talk was nominally about making data central to product design.
You should bake technology into the product to make it better, they suggested. And there are several layers of data:
- Product data layer
- Extended service data layer.
- Organic data layer (social media)
- Broadcasting data layer
So, a pair of scales with a WiFi chip (layer 2) apps and website (layer 3) and then tweets your weight (layer 4) - or connect to your doctor or your sports system…
Beware: The power of habits is strong, the habits of power possibly even stronger. (IE, your traditional management may be resistant to these concepts - there's always golf to distract them - and you need to find ways of doing this that don't need their permission)
But data is a two-way flow. You need to respect and understand the power of the user - something they never had before: time, media, tools, opinions and information. Time, for example, is time shifting of media consumption. Fredrik is a time-shifter, never watching TV when it's broadcast. We chose to control media - like using comparison sites instead of going to a business's site.
Product development is all about utilising the power of digital technology. The levels of data we have now are new. There's an ecosystem of data around every product in social networks and elsewhere. Price as a message (or absent message) is a problem - because people now have easy access to that information. Transparency is damn efficient. It is better to be good than to try and persuade people that you are good. Why are cars more integrated with the net? Spotify in the car - homepage linking to maintenance videos. Data about how you drive and your fuel consumption. Make it useful, and then you can integrate commerce around it. Integrate everything.
And then we went into a bizarre demo - of a teleport system mediated by your iPhone or iPad.
The beaming app, you see was too technical, so people made mistakes, and so they went missing during the teleport. So they had to back people up. Problem: old backups. Half a year old in some cases - kids had grown, wife left… Half a year of work to catch up to. Solution: Instant backup.
How interesting is it to see Foursquare and Gowalla in Facebook? Not very… Now you're beaming it is very, very interesting....
And then they demoed beaming a mouse live on stage. Uh, wait for the video. It might make sense then…
WARNING: Liveblogging. Here be errors, inaccuracies and typos
The panel is working on the assumption that social media is going to go away as a separate, but become integrated into the whole of the business.
Mike Arauz, Undercurrent
Mr Arauz prefers to do over-complex presentations. But today (phew) he's going to try and keep it simple. In the summer of 2004, a group of people built a system that allowed them to deliver messages to 1000s of places all over the world. And he's going to go through a whole number of examples like that…
I Love Bees - an immersive game that promoted Halo 2. Thousands of gamers worked together to solve puzzles and take on challenges. The ARG evolved to the point where "Melissa" (the alien character) would call one payphone, and demand that someone at another payphone somewhere in the world, and the person who answered had to have the answer. The developers pushed it down to 15 seconds - and still the players managed it.
Reddit & Stephen Colbert - How do you get Stephen Colbert's attention for your plan? Work together to raise money for a charity he's on the board off - and he went on to host the rally they wanted him to.
Ask Metafilter - a spin-off community from Metafilter, full of people who enjoy research. One day, a post: "Help me help my fiend in DC." The friend, a woman, had come over on a shaky visa situation. She was going to meet some people in New York, and her friend was concerned that she would be kidnapped, or dragged into sex slavery. In 24 hours, 20 to 50 people called embassies, government agencies, the FBI, the police, the woman herself. By the time she got to New York, she had met a safe person from the community, the NYP investigated the people she was to meet, and they turned out to be sex trafficers…
It Gets Better - After a series of teen suicides by kids who were being bullied for being gay, Dan Savage and his husband posted a video. 3 days later they had one extra video. Within a month they had thousands, including a messaged of support from Obama.
So why do people do things they don't have to?
- Accomplishing satisfying work
- Get good at something
- Spend time with people I like
- Be part of something bigger
Will Sansom, Contagious
Contagious is a quarterly magazine looking at the future of marketing and engagement. And we're in an era when people tune out of anything that looks like marketing. But he argues that it's all become marketing (God, I hope not). People are looking for entertainment and meaningful experiences. That's why you can't carpet-bomb people with social media - it needs to be meaningful.
1. Projects, not campaigns
Lots of brands are having success through effective change in the real world. You can't plan and schedule this in the same way as traditional campaigns. They need to be designed to live and grow organically. Volvo's right to clean air is cites as an example.
"Dude we should do" - problem of jumping on bandwagons. Chose the media that work for your idea, not whatever's trendy.
Doesn't have to be worthy - Nightlife Exchange Project
Is you project so good people would share it without media, then you have something that will work.
2. Networks of the Unacquainted
Getting people to connect around common interests, and reaping the benefit. Examples:
- Real Women of Philadelphia - started life as a UGC competition with Philadelphia recipes. Built a huge community, sales up by 8%.
- Sneakerpedia - wiki community for sneaker heads. The only branding is a tiny logo under the banner.
- Heineken Star Player
3. The Emotional Power of Response
- @jessGreenwood tweeted @flyairnz asking them to change the music in the airline lounge. She was paged, called to the desk and asked to change the music… Of course, she tweeted to her thousands of followers about the experience.
- @interfloraUK monitoring Twitter for people who are having a bad day - and sending them flowers to cheer them up.
Social data - lets you treat people as people. Data is the oil of social media - useless until you refine it.
- @twelpforce - Best Buy's tech pros on twitter offering real time after sales services. Creates a real relationship with recent customers.
- iButterfly - an augmented reality butterfly collection game - and the butterfly becomes a coupon for a local retaier - and they're sharable with friends...
Amanda Rose, Twestival
She was nine when LiveAid happened - but that sense of being part of something bigger than yourself left a deep impact on her. He had big dreams of changing the world 20 years ago, but then became part of the PR world. About 5 years ago she had the "wow" moment of social media with Facebook. She did a Masters about Twitter (I was interviewed for it ;-) ). She found that it changed events, because of the backchannel…
In 2008, she and friends organised a meet-up, a good night out, called Twestival - and it was great. And she couldn't help thinking that this was something that should happen all over the world. But it took finding the right charity - and that turned out to be Charity Water.
202 Twestivals simultaneously around the world was the result. 55 new wells in 3 countries was the result.
Now there's two different branches of Twestical: Global and Local. Over the four campaigns, they've raised $1.75m and 200+ cities have participated.
Social media has changed the game - they was no way all those volunteers worldwide could have been mobilised without Twitter. Even Facebook couldn't have done it.
Amanda doesn't have a home right now. She was in Sicily, and now going to Thailand, and then Switzerland… Skype and social media have enabled that working pattern.
The first Twestival cost her £200. To raise that much money for £200 - pretty crazy. She's not a fan of "Tweet this" - she wants to see connection and tangible results.