Aug 18

Gnomedex Review

I’ve finally got round to posting this. I had to decamp to a coffee shop to focus on actually getting some writing done as lazing around at home was just not cutting it.

My 2007 Gnomedex experience is now over. I’ve had 2 days of conference, a further day of unconference and networking, a bit (just a little) of sightseeing. A lot of meeting and greeting with old and new friends.

I chose to come to Gnomedex after following it last year via chatroom and blog posts, the excitement of the attendees bleeding through, the difference of the conference being clear – far more in the Reboot mode than an IAB conference, a place to learn and network. A little part of me is disappointed, this year’s event did not seem to fly like last years, the follow up commentary seems more on the negative site, there was no standout flash of inspiration from the speakers. The speakers themselves were a very mixed bag, some very practised and energised, others new and fumbling. There was controversy, boredom and negativity, excitement and challenge.

However, looking back over the last few days, I’m pretty satisfied. There was something to be learnt in all the presentations, things to think about. Many of the presentations looked at what could be done thought technology, not just the technology itself. They challenged you to look outside your comfortable world, as Ethan commented.

One of the best things about the time here are the people I met. Ben, Kosso and I spent a bit of time together – friends from London who no longer meet in London. It was good to catch up. I spent time with the b5Media crew; Jeremy and Aaron I’d met before, Darcie, Chad, Steve, Mark and Tris were all new meetings face to face. Meeting up with Britt again was great, there’s been a lot of changes in her life since the first time we met. New people I had good conversations with included Tom from HP gave a fascinating insight into working in PR in a company that is trying to change how it interacts with customers; Brady, who bought along the fun Ignite sessions to the conferences; also good to chart with Sean

I sat just along from Jason at the conference, someone from Chris’s chatroom. He was kind enough (or was that foolish?) to offer me a lift back from the UnGnome day which led to a van full of people being dropped off a various places around town, a little above and beyond I thought given the time restraints some passengers were under (a hint – if you need to get somewhere at a certain time, don’t rely on the kindness of strangers – organise something!).

I didn’t liveblog this conference, which is unusual, but there were few talks that were strictly documentable. They were far more discussion and story based, which does not make it easy to transcribe. My favourites were Guy Kawasaki, Darren Barefoot and Ronni Bennett. You can find the presentations to some of the talks over at Chris’s blog.

Would I go next year? Yes, the chance to meet and connect with so many in an atmosphere that encourages this is great. The price is not too bad, the conference is well run and if I don’t like a speaker I can alsways find something to do until the next one 😉

Aug 18

Mahalo for my sister

Mahalo is brilliant, or so says my sister. That’s what she thought when she took a look at it after looking at Twitters about it. When I asked why she thought that, here’s what she said.

Wow – now I do not have to spend hours searching for things on the Web – I can just ask MAHALO – one human powered search engine that will find the best pages for you. This is a genius concept that will move Web research in to a new dimension. Interesting to see that “I am not a plastic bag” is in the top 20 searches for today – What are you then?
I wonder…….If I ask them to research an assignment heading – do you think they would write it for me? NO, I thought not.

Unlike the majority of people at Gnomedex, she’s not a heavy user of the web. She reads my blog, uses Twitter occasionally after reading my writings about it. She, and the rest of the family, use the net for email, as a tool to find and buy things, not as an essential part of their social network or as a creative source. As far as I know, none of them are on any SN site. There’s not necessarily the same web savviness and understanding of the crap that is out there as there is with someone who works in the space or uses it extensively. So having a search engine that provides good stuff helps in finding things.

Jayne was prompted to take a look at the service after I twittered about Air Hawaii saying the word Mahalo after every announcement and Aaron commenting back that this was airport spam, instead of the conference spam that Jason Calacanis had been accused of at Gnomedex a few days earlier.

There’s a whole lot been said about Jason’s talk at the conference and how it too much like a sales push. Although I’m surprised that anyone thought that the company would not be mentioned there were side bets in the chat about how far into the talk he would mention the company. Anyone who reads the blog or has seem him speak would expect that – it’s what he does to push whatever he is working on at the time. In the talk, a problem was presented, Jason’s version of a solution was suggested and then it was opened up for questions. How was that different to the talk about JibJab or JustinTV which were all about the product? I think in this case it was all about the expectation and the presentation. It was expected that he would sell, so when he did, that got a reaction. I’ve seen far worse promotional talks from sponsors and speakers that did nothing but lecture; at least this one opened up the discussion. So read all about it, watch the video and make up your own mind.

Jun 13

Blogher 07 and Scrapblog

Interested in going to Blogher07. Scrapblog have joined forces with the conference to offer an all-expenses paid trip to the conference for two. But only in North America – I wish these competitions for web based companies which are global in their vary nature would make these restrictions clear on the main page and not buried in terms and conditions.

Entry is simple – create a scrapblog, tag it and get people to visit it. This is a traffic and member generation strategy, as the more people you get to see your scrapblog, the more entries you get. Go ahead- what are you waiting for.

Jun 07

Future of Online Advertising

I’m going to be at Carson System’s Future of Online Advertising over the next 2 days so I was checking their website. Not sure whether they had a timed page or if someone made an error promoting to live, but they still had all the faux latin on the site. It’s better this morning though. There’s a number of speakers who are not ‘traditional’ in their use of online ads, so I think this may not be a more typical industry discussion but will look outside the lines.


Jun 06

NY Tech Meetup

I went along to the NY Tech meetup last night and had a good time. Five short presentations from companies in the NY area, plus a couple of extras from James Hing of Hot or Not (who I also met with on Monday at an IAB event) and Dave Weinberger who gave a 10 minute version of his book. However, Dave and Sanford have done a great job of blogging the actual presenations, so I’ll just add my impressions.

  • Goloco. After the success of Zipcars, Robin moves into shared journeys. Join and you can find friends who are going to the same place as you. Lovely implementation, aimed at existing groups rather than random strangers who meet online.
  • ExpoTV. I’d never seen this before but superb extension of the review space into video. The revenue share for the reviewers, at $5/video is a good idea. They are realistic about advertisers getting into the mix and provide a way for it to be transparent.
  • LiveLOOK. You can share screens via a browser without any downloads, so it can be an alternative to stuff like webex without a download. A paid service, especially useful for service agents, although I was uncomfortable with an answer to a security question (what’s to stop you just putting numbers in until you find a live feed). There are free alternatives to this, ie MSM share desktop, that will be useful for c2c usage but there is an attraction for b2c or b2b.
  • Adaptive Blue. I loved this, taking metadata from pages and extending them via contextual menus in the bowser or direct via links. Installed!
  • Mogulus. This got the biggest reaction of the night, with a vary cool demo. The service allows you to run video and do lots of cool overlay stuff, live broadcast, plan programming etc. Another entry into the lifecast area, but more focused towards linear programming

The other 2 sessions were a last minute overview of Hot or Not and how James is putting the service onto Facebook and a run through the ideas behind Everything is Miscellaneous from David; it’s a pity I’d already bought the book and read it, as I did not have it with me to get it autographed. One last aside, I found it strange that there was a cheer raised when it was announced that 4 of the presenters were women – if you have to bring attention to it, you need to work on doing it differently.

May 31

Mesh and Craigslist

Building a Web Business

Mark Evans talks to Craigslist CEO Jim Buckmaster.

Q: How do you guys operate?

A: we have been in the same place for 7 years, we have 24 employees, 2/3 tech, rest customer service. we don;t try and give any message, the site is all about the users and it is about us getting out of the way as much as possible

Q: any advice to companies looking to establish a brand, when marketing is not a strategic

A: don’t market if you don’t have to. but lots of people do, use a lot of resources on this, WOM is powerful for us, we focus on getting the service right.

Q: Criagslist has maintained it’s status as the online listing service; how does it stay at the top of the pack

A: 100s of companies do online classified. not sure why we are at the top, part of it is that the only thing we work on is things that users are asking for. we try and model site ways the users are trying yo use it. sites driven by revenue and profits do things to maximise this, we focus on what users want.

Q: a few years ago, I interviewed Jim as part of my reporter job. And now I’m embarrassed about it…my piece was about the lack of making money. and now I apologise. But why does it not charge for more of it’s services.

A: we’ve had the luxury of having a healthy and profitable business since 1999. we figure we are making enough money for our needs, we did not want to move away form running the site for our users. It;s more fun doing it our way than worrying about making more and more money. when having outside investors or publicly traded you have less choice in the matter.

Q: there’s a lot of pain in newspaper industry and people point fingers at all sorts of things. Craigslist is been pointed at as well

A: we do get asked that question a lot. Overall, newspaper business overall is still 2x as profitable as the average US company. It’s easy to point fingers when you are doing layoffs, motivated by trying to raise profits to please wall st, they are done to maximise financial performance.

Audience Q&A

A: are you looking at expanding into buying/selling, providing paypal like services etc?

Q: in contrast to ebay, where a lot of transaction take place at a distance. on craigslist, many transactions are local where people meet up. there are no plans to add a payment mechanism as it does not need it.

Q: revenue model and future?

A: we charge for jobs in 7 cities and NYC brokers. 3-5 years, a lot if incremental things, more cities, categories, multi-language support pretty soon; improved search.

Q: we’ve talked a lot about community and trust; what do you think about the future of identity and trust online?

A: trust online – craigslist is a lot about meeting in person; the vast majority of people are well intentioned but some are not. Technologists get to play a role in isolating these less well intentioned people.

Q: how do your serve 90m pages per month

A: underlying is LAMP (where P is for Perl). 3 tier architecture as traditional. we compress pages 10-1 as they are being downloaded, most browsers can uncompress on the fly. we keep trying to maximise our page views per kWh, for green, costs and sanity sake. we keep outgrowing our colo centres. we have 175k page views per kWH, on 200 servers.

Q: what is your take on web2.0 design work.

A: users can be as creative with own pages as they like. we look for page performance, accessibility and usability. as far as web2.0 techs, we stay away from the leading edge, when you add the new stuff you can exclude users, we try and make the site usable for all, old software, text only browser etc.

Q: what is the long term strategy? what functions are users looking for now?

A: we only have one strategy, do what users want. we don;t really hold meetings to discuss strat…we don;t hold meetings! we have not lost a tech person in 12 years. we don;t have business people which could help! and that we are in San Fran. we have absolute flexibility in hours;

Q: what factors influences you to charge?

A: we charged for jobs in 1998 in sanFran, from necessity as costs rose; Craig went to users to ask how to raise money – charge business. In 2003 or so, the job boards were getting out of hand in LA and NY, so we got requests to bring fee to these cities to improve quality. We opened up a discussion board for over a year to discuss what we should do. In the other 4 cities it has been a similar discussion in process. Again in NYC for broker listings, that one category in that one city was 30% of listings, so the fee was to control; our fee of last resort and a lazy mans tool. We can spend a lot of hours technically stopping them flood the list, but the fee stops the substandard listings.

Q: as you grow, will your employees scale at same rate?

A: staffing needs is driven from growth in existing cities rather than new. New are slow to grow unless adjacent to areas where CL well known.

Q: What values drive CL?

A: Craig is a long time tech person, most of us from tech background. money os not that big a concern for us, we have enough to do what we need. most business have pushes in that direction, we are a private company, never needed outside investment money, we do not feel the decisions that we have made are radically different from others would make in the same position

Q: is there a better metric than money

A: the emails I get, explaining how people build there whole life from CL.

Q: video?

A: it’s something we would treat like any other feature – if users ask for it, we will look at it, not too much call for it.

Q: what is the freakiest thing you’ve seen listed.

A: the group looking to form a new bible study; a girl, missed connection ad, to a gentleman..I spilled my grandmother on you! another one was aa lost and found for a carton of live crickets.

Q: does CL fear anyone/thing?

A: as an org, it is a silver lining on focusing on users, not other companies, we don’t to worry about them. Net Neutrality is worrying.

Q: what are your growth drivers?

A: a small number of one off events have driven certain sites…katrina for NO, 9/11 for NYC, it is a site that is useful for basic human needs and when that happens a site can increase

Q: CL is a huge business there any idea about using the asset to raise money for philanthropic causes?

A: we get that question time to time. if our users ask for it, we would look at it. businesses and people have that money and they can send to the charity, we have no special expertise in collecting and sending on to charity.

May 30

Mesh and The Future of Entertainment

The Future of Entertainment – “The People Formerly Known as the Audience”

Jian Ghomeshi talks with McLean Mashingaidze-Greaves, Amber MacArthur and Ethan Kaplan.

This primarliy focused on music..and DRM

Jian: what is the biggest change in the last 12 months?

Ethan: record sales are down, did not recover after holidays this time; there has been a new focus on its not going to go back to when the streets were paved with gold and cocaine. there is an effort not to to fix it but look forward to a new direction the technology is there to create a direct relationship for the fan. its; not rocket science, its not expensive, we have to create different value propositions.

Amber: there is credibility in NewMedia, look how I’ve changed. it;s changed so much as the people have so much more power; people believe the web is here to stay; people are jumping ship, they are internet hippies, people going own way.

McLean: lots of quiet changes; cell phone video conferences, Nitro 32MB bandwidth, WiMax, portable internet. we’ll see the impact in the next 2 years.

Jian: I want to stick with Sam the record man – the music store to go to in Toronto and it is now gone. the audience is no longer passive, they want what they want, they get it. I want to test that theory. When I wanted to buy my favourite INXS record (as a kid) I had to get up, dress, get on the subway, go to the Sam the record man, buy the whole album, go back home and then play it. It seemed to me that I was really invested in the record. that feels like a non-passive experience. are people investing more now or less?

McLean: I think they are investing more, they can consumer more content in the past. ipod can carry thousands of tracks, they can listen to a lot more; burn DVDs, swap harddrives. it gets easier to share more. We will suffer from continuos partial attention.

Amber: CPA – we consume more but less of each. do we get loyal;ty, people jump ship, will they leave facebook? you need a long term strategy to get people hooked on it as the next big thing is round the corner, I wonder about long term, there’s not a long lifespan. I’m not sure. I feel they are getting more content but spending less time with it.

Ethan: the illusion of passive consumption was maintained by the companies, to maintain the exclusivity but dies a few years ago. The major companies are starting to change; the active movement was always there, ie punk. all the modalities have broken down and crumbled, the content from the performer. there’s a refocusing t the centre instead of the endgame. music is just binary data through a pipe..the same as the rest of the stuff. It’s more about the hole package.

Jian: is there something intrinsic in making things harder to get. does the ease of getting things devalue it?

Amber: it;s a global audience, get it out to as many people and then figure out how to make money. That could be the new model.

McLean – with rapspace, the investment with the audience is a lot different to the past. there are different ways to build loyalty, connecting with people who hope the new people succeed.

Jian: how do you (Ethan) get people attached to new stuff,

Ehtan: the notion of creating an attachment is where it comes fun. we have to embrace the notion that readily available content has crated a situation where we don;t have to strive for the original but treat it as a sandbox, but take the loyalty to the brand and the sea of content and create the attachment. A record label is not completely evil; we have to think creatively how we deal with it. Michael Buble – you have to treat him as a personality, not the record as a product. Buble had a core audience but we had to extend it; like no flash websites, change it to be blog friendly, do all other stuff. we had to do a bunch of video stuff. There was a set process to create a record, Now, it is a more collaborative process, make it an event when a record release is just part of it. look at engaging the fans in the way they want to be engaged, use the medium in the way ot can be, not just how you want to be it.

Jian: avril lavean, 3million ring tones in Japan, plenty of changes. mcLean said that was fine for an established artist like avril; so for a smaller group how do you build it.

McLean: you can build a brand on the web, you take the tools that are out there, out your image and stuff where it can be. YOu have to have traditional distribution at some point but web stuff can build a lot.

Jian: of they are up against millions of other artists where they weren’t before?

McLean: certain artists just create a buzz straight away.

Jian: has the responsibilities of artists changed in becoming more accessible

Amber: yes, transparency is important, engage your audience and know what they want. you have to be active and involved and you see people doing it know. Look at Tome Green, on his site, live internet, he bypasses all the rest of the BS and take things into his own hands.

Q: people want to feel it is there music; DRM is a barrier.

Ethan: DRM is a very small piece of a very large problem, the removal of it will not ness increase or decrease the same. Now you have Digital rights metatdata, with your name and email address in the track. (itunes) It’s a quality issue, that problem is not going to be fixed or helped through DRM. it;s a value chain issue, you need to think about it abstractly instead of reactively, and that is where the DRM becomes a very small part.

Q: the world view of DRM comes from the content captors, that does not take into account the users. YOu see it from the corporate viewpoint, not from the people who make the culture together. Culture does belong to the people and not to the content capturers.

Ethan: I knew I was going to get owned..I was expecting Cory! As a Warner Br employee, I say that the problem is complex, that there is more than one pov. DRM is a reactionary measure against a larger view of consumer behaviour, is it the right one? maybe not? do i think DRM is the future? I don;t know. the issue is a lot more complex. than that. As a music lover, I know what I want. I control consumer facing websites and technologies; i consult on distribution but it is not something that I can directly effect. [Ethan being very diplomatic about what he thinks personally and what he can say as a WB employee!]

Q: if 80% of ad revenue went to web and only 20% to TV, would there be a DRM issue?

Ethan: how would you see the ad revenue meshing with performance rights etc? Would music be a loss leader? how do you get money to the artist? I’m working with drupal to build a platform, so we can take ownership of the whole brand, of all the aspects; we need to create a brand around the whole artist and control that. The grateful dead relaunched this morning using drupal;’ we are trying to be smart and not do something good, not be reactionary. do some planning.

mcLean – we are building to monetise the artist without just selling mp3s and music. companies have to work out how to use the emerging platforms and not just sell a piece of plastic that was overpriced in the first place.

May 30

Mesh and Pros vs Amateurs

Pros vs. Amateurs – the War for Attention
Jon Dube talks with Paul Sullivan, Steve Herrmann and Tony Hung.

Jon: so one of the issues is control and who controls the content. with the BBC, the BBC have the final say, with Paul, there are a series of editors, with Tony, anything goes.

Paul: we do not make distinction btw pro and amateur, if you have a story you are more than welcome. Power was important in journalism, but it concentrated in traditional media, often for a lot of good reasons. But people felt and still feel alienated. they believe they have something to say, that they have stories to tell. and rather than pound on the door of teh newspapers, so i decided to give them that opportunity. People are respectful of the site and they play the game civilly. we have filters, filter out a vast role call of words. People are so used to other people having authority, when we give them the responsibility, they get kind of nervous. We’ve turned it on its tail – the editors work for the corresponders and not the other way round.

Jon: so what is missing in the way the BBC does stuff

Paul: the BBC have the final authority over my story; with the best intentions. When I hired a couple of sex workers to cover a trial, I got 100’s of calls telling me why it would not work…but it did. Street authenticity is missing;

Tony: if editorial control, or lack thereof, is important, why don;t they start their own blogs.

Paul: we provide a presentation platform, we provide and audience and we are a community and that is important for a lot of people

Steve: i come at it the other way round. The BBC news brand, if we are speaking the language of news, if we tell people that this is the news, we need ot be sure that this is right. I would never relinquish that responsibility. Other areas, message board, music reviews, etc people can get on and tell their stories. but if there are mainstream news, etc, you have to get it right. The other difference is around show case and presentation. etc…For Mogadishu, we found a person to tell their story but there English was very poor, , but we subbed the story down, turned it into readable and sharable English.

Paul: but how did you know that was right? As a journalist, I came across 1000’s of stories where the facts were wrong. An editorial overview does not always get it right.

Q: how was the legal issues of using the sex workers to cover a story and did you pay them.

Paul: we taught them about the legal implications, contempt of court, libel etc but we pushed that this was their story. (the Picton trial). we all have to live by the law and make accountable decisions. Everyone is just as capable of making the decisions.

Jon: Tony, do you have lawyers look over the stories? (BLog Herald)

Tony: we use our judgement; if you get it wrong people tell you. If you repeatedly get it wrong, then you other people take over the story

Steve: mainstream media is not immune to that kind of feedback, you need to become attuned to what is out there, about what people are saying about your writing.

Jon: can anyone turn themselves into their own personal brand? Can pros and ams work together

Steve: we have 2 areas to focus on. Transparency about what we do and why we do it, the editorial process, get it in the open, to maintain peoples trust in a world where it is possible to go elsewhere. Also media literacy, to explain what the process of reporting the news it, so people can buy into it or not buy into t. If you have a training model for journalists, turn it into a public-facing model, so all can benefit it. if you don’t run things, explain why,. Second thing, open the gates, bring in the sources, to help you tell the story when you need them. That is easier said than done, it is resource intensive, it is the only way to do it. you cannot pretend that you are the only ones, you have to ask others what they know and reflect back out to a wider audience. The transparency and incorporation of reader stories, there are simple logistical issues, how do we do this. eg emails with attachments, Until recently we had 10 people altogether that had to do it manually. now we are developing software to automate that, to chew up emails and turn them into somethings that can be easily uses and categorised.

Paul: Steve is talking about an important way for a trad company to open the gates and talk to people. Bu they need to understand that people want to go further. People have the means of production now and they will do it. So how do pros work with them.

Steve: so i think that there is room for all this stuff…and our responsibilities on our sites to reflect back this stuff. to recognise stuff that is interesting, that is pertinent to the story. SO how – do we handpick, take technorati feed etc. say to our audience, here’s our version and there are other versions as well, and point to it.

Jon: what about the future.

Tony: trusted brands will exist, and this will include current traditional brands, plus new stuff. As we open up tools to communicate, the signal to noise issue will get more challenging and the tools will also rise to the challenge. It will get louder and noisier, but people will be able to tell them apart.

Paul: i think that anyone can tell a story in the way they want. if you want to do a newspaper and people still buy it, then fine, do it. but how long will you have to continue to pay for the news? there are too many choices. I can get details on any story that I want. tehre are one or 2 trad venues that I may continue?

Jon: is society ready for unfiltered news?

Steve: it;s here already. the questions is what is going to stand out; where do people go to get news? One model that I’m interested in is journalists getting a personality. This is here – Arrington and others. I went to a presentation by someone who was a football writer; he was a local Norwich sports writer. He left the newspaper and set up own site and got traction and ads. How long before that breaks out even further. We have some ‘famous’ journalists’ and in theory, they could leave and set up own brand/sites etc.

Tony: Om Malik did that; the magazine he was with encourages people to set up own blogs inhouse and they are trying to share revenue from ads etc. Riases questions about popular rather than quality.

Steve: quality will out; if best quality is somewhere else, then people will go there.

Paul: a free market of stories.

Tony: it does not always have to be about people reporting on events, it could be people in the events

Steve: who else pays for correspondents in multiple places; there are bloggers in Iraq etc that are doing a good job and we use these. In otehr places, there are not the people and we need to cover it. You cannot assume that other people will send in journalists to places.

Oaul; you have to assume people will. We have bloggers in repressive regimes…the more sources you have the more diffciult it is to shut doen the story, you can;t out pressure on all of them. OIne of the things that is happening is freedom of information.

Jon: Final question – what keeps you up at night (10 words or less)

Tony: making sure there is the potential for anyone to say what they like
Paul: al quaeda behaeding videos
Steve: keep getting it right and being able to respond quickly when we are told it is wrong.

May 30

Mesh and Should Old Media Be Afraid of New Media?

Live Blogged Notes

Barbarians at the Gate – Should Old Media Be Afraid of New Media?

Mark Evans talks with Rachel Sklar, Cynthia Brumfield and Loren Feldman.

mark: things are changing; I used to be in newspapers, I still read them…papers are laying off people, they can’t get revenue from online.

Rachel: the laying off (SanFranChron) is part of a larger trend. the smart newspapers are seeing it as an opportunity, the ones that refuse to change will be wiped out, but there is incredible opps for business to grow in new direction, to discover new talent, for citizen journalism, I’m looking to see how the industry adapts to the change.

Mark: does the industry need to reload? get multi-taskers, new people before they can move forward? are they prepared or just scrambled.

Rachel: they are scrambling, a heedless rush to get new things without realising their institutional memory is still valuable, to build a story, to recognise trends etc. I don;t buy into the new vs old, there’s value in the people who have been there, done that, The smart publications will recognise these strengths

Mark: are broadcasters a little more likely to experiment? or are they scrambling?

Cynthia: the video situation is more complex; broadcasters do not depend on subscriptions but on advertising, so easier transition. the tradition networks are losing audience and are increasingly going for lowest common denominator and looking like dinosaurs. THe biggest impact on those that depend on physical distribution – newspapers, music industry – previously dependent on physical distribution. they have to protect it as that is the business model. they can’t easier jetison. it’s a little easier for broadcasters, physical stuff was less important.

Mark: Loren, are you the old media’s worst nightmare.

Loren: to a certain extent…when viacom pulled stuff from YT it did not dent the traffic. There’s room for all. I do 60-90 seconds, I’m not goign to replace CSI or the big shows. the web is not little TC, it;s completely different medium.

Mark: is Google destroying journalism? is the search/RSS etc doing this, compete against traditional

Rachel: it;s bout efficiency, it’s about having quick and dirty version. But I’m a traditionalist, I enjoy going to an actual site, or a magazine, to see an layout etc, YOu can;t take a computer to the beach to read your gossip! Tangible media will not go away as there is a tangible object there.

Mark: are traditional delivery systems irrelevant?

Cynthia: my parents gave up their paper subscriptions as they can get it online. He now looks at far more, 20 newspapers a day; the web has opened up the geographic reach of what you can read and experience. Google has opened up competition – there’s no longer one paper in town. Google has improved the efficiency,

Now we start Questions from audience?

Q: Where are we going with web entertainment?

Loren: ustream and event based programming will increase.
Cynthia: never cease to be amazed at what works. Look at Look at the cheese watching camera – watching the cheese age.
Rachel: the playing field is flat. you have 8yo making imac movies, the barriers to entry has collapsed and everyone is a potential artist. Some people may think that talent is no longer a requirement, but people watch all sorts. If not entertaining or good we will not pass it on. Evolution of dance was successful as no language barrier so sipped around the world.

Q: how will ownership of infrastructure influence the shape of media?

Loren: as long as my stuff gets out, I don;t care how, what or who.
Cynthia: the phone companies pushed for payment etc which led to net neutrality (???). It’s too late for carriers to pick what goes on the web. A rational response to to charge people more for the more they watch. I think this is OK (RC: Don;t agree the war is won – see espn/jason calacanis)
Rachel: google buying up dark fibre shows that they are a company that thinks ahead, that’s why they are doing so great.

Q: do you see your media being used differently by the younger generation?

Loren: we are in an attention economy, there are only so many hours in a day. I do 90 seconds, I think that wil reduce with a younger generation, you have to be good and short to get that attention.
Cynthia: my teenage daughter..they roam around the web in enclosed spaces. Zanga then MySpace and then Facebook. They are limited in what they do. they don’t use email, it;s all IM. With the opening up of Facebook platform, now they can stay there all they want. No need to travel around. There world has shrunk!
Loren: it’s AOL – they stay in community and don;t go outside it
Rachel: I’m a huge HP fan..and when you say make it short I think about when the new book comes out, may will stop and read the whole book. Quality still plays.
Loren: newspapers will be here in the future – people like touching a newspaper, I don;t have to power anything, I just pick it up and read. Lots of people do not have computers, In a diner I like reading a newspaper. They have to change there content; it’s not breaking news, it’s about depth. Analysis is their forte. Commentary and sports will carry on. They need to cut infrastructure, and change the content.

Q: What advice to old media on managing perception of authority?

Rachel: most important thing is to be right. I’d rather be right than first. I hold back on things I can;t confirm or stand behind.
Loren: I would tell the NYT not to worry about Digg or wikipedia. they are both a joke, Digg is a horror show, a bunch of morons piling on. Focus on the work, do quality stuff. When you worry about the competition you are dead, you need to focus on you and your work.
Cynthia: newspapers were blindsided as they did not think their could be competition.
Loren: Arrington is one guy, he does not have all the infrastructure, he can hussle and get the stories, the one hussler is a bigger threat than the other orgs. And Arrington no longer needs to hussle.

Q: how can you get the old guard to be less fearless of online?

Loren: tell them their family won;t eat anymore unless they learn it.
Cynthia: are their people on the journalism side looking askance at the web?
Loren: motivate them by giving them the freedom. I do everything for my content; there’s something liberating and freeing about this. about not getting approval. How can any writer not embrace this freedom.
Rachel: teach them how to check reach, ego is a motivator.

May 30

Mesh and Philanthropy

I’m here at the Mesh Conference, having flown up this morning. Travel meant I missed most of the conversation with Mike Arrington except for some of the Q&A. From some of the replies, I’m guessing many of the questions had been asked before; the biggest reaction was due to a question from a representative of PayPerPost, the organisation got some ribbing even as he answered the question.

Second session was on The Web and Philanthropy, with Rob Hyndman talking to charity 2.0 entrepreneurs Tom Williams and Austin Hill. Here are two people that made their money early and now want to give things back. I didn’t take too many notes, here’s a few points that caught my interest.

Austin: like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, there is a broadband version. First is access, then safety and only once these base needs are met do we get communities, arts, media etc. The saying ‘be the world you want it to be’ is more true in social media than in many other parts of the web; we are giving people the tools to do that.

Tom: What is different now from the first wave of the web is that organisations look to inspire others, not wait for people to come to them. UGC does not work for a lot of the incumbents….but it does in the charitable section, that is what is should be about. But the establishment in this section is as entrenched and needs to let go as much as the rest of them. A blog that is talking about what is really happening in Dafur can get a bigger audience than Oxfam.

Austin: Social media can put the fun in functionality. Give them an experience so that their human agency os reciprocated in some way. For some, it is about writing, for others it is different – media increases,

Tom – we live in an ego-casting world. web3.0 needs to facilitate good conversation better. we need meaningful discussion, or it will just be little groups of interest that bubble up and disappear.

Now to check in at the hotel.

May 19

A tiring week

I whole week without blogging – I guess the parental visit left me a little tired, although I was posting on Behind the Buzz (which has been updated to the latest B5Media template and not looking too bad at all).

Thursday afternoon, Robert Scoble invited people along to a small lunch at Katz’s deli; about 10 people turned up. One of them was Grace Piper, to whom I’d mentioned the event on Tuesday night at the Supernova pre-meet. Afterwards, I tagged along for a walk in the park and pastries at Cafe La Fortuna. Luckily I escaped before being stuck in traffic for the rest of the day ;-). Loren Feldman, of 1838Media and Podtech(or should I call him a star?) took a few video clips during the day. Paul Marino also came along, an expert in machinima. We’ve looked into using media like this at work, either sponsoring or creating. Still looking for the right opportunity and match.

On Tuesday I got talking to Sherry, a B2B PR expert. One of her clients makes body armour, which lead to a surreal conversation about which bloggers could be approached to try out the products and why tey should be offered it!

May 19

PSFK London Conference

Back in March, Piers organised a great one day conference, many of the sessions appear around here somewhere. In a couple of weeks time, the PSFK conference is set to repeat in London. Looking at the quality of people speaking, it’s well worth a trip. If I was around, I’d be looking forward to this lot the most:

  • Russel Davies, a marketingblogger I’ve been reading a while and would love the chance to meet.
  • Hugh Macleod. I’ve seen him talk a few times and he alays brings up something new.
  • Jeremy Ettinghausen, Penguin books. I’ve followed the blog they have and would love to hear if/how it changed them internally

The rest of the line up looks good, with some interesting agency representatives. Althugh clikcing through the links I always despair at advertising agency websites – I can never easily find out what they actually do, not link to the work as they are usually wrapped up in flash. I include my own agency site in this as well 🙁 Sometimes a simpler design with easy navigation is better.

May 09

Barcamp in Business Week

Good to see a piece in Business Week about the *camp movement but not surprised at Tara’s reaction. The article explains what happened at Web2Open:

“Chris Messina, 26, and two fellow Web2Open organizers stood on chairs in one of the Moscone Center’s alcoves, addressing a crowd of about 80. Speaking without microphones, they asked everyone to introduce themselves and offer three “tags,” or one-word descriptions, to give a sense of their topics of interest.”

So Tara is feeling rightly aggrieved (and see Chris’s response as well):

Seriously…months of hard work and being the ‘lead’ on the project, I get reduced to a chair perched by-stander? Luckily Chris has piped up on the subject before me, but wtf?! This ain’t the first time. And I’m not imagining things.

From what I saw, Tara did a remarkable job in organising and pushing this event and the many others she gets involved in; not getting the recognition for that role does not help her nor does it help the general attitude towards such events, whcih can be self perpetuating. I look at the London Geek Dinners – the ‘open’ ones which tended to be typically male dominated (or were, I’ve not attended any for a year) and the Girl Geek Dinners that had an entry criteria for men – you had to be invited by a woman. Given the number of women who go to the latter, self-declared geeks, it’s not a lack of numbers that skews the ration but the perception of the event. Articles like this do no help open up that perception, do not make the events inviting to women in general.

However, as an aside, the recent Podcamp NYC was the most diverse ‘tech’ event I’d ever attended; I wonder if because the media moves more towards art than pure tech.

Apr 10

Future Of Online Advertising

Through a nice opportunity posted on Seth Godin’s blog, I managed to get a ticket for the Future of Online Advertising conference being run by Carson Systems, Having attended their Future of Web Apps day in London last year, I know these guys could put on a good conference, pulling together some top presenters.

Looking at the planned schedule here’s what I’m particularly interested in:

  • Michael Walrath (Right Media) ‘Online Advertising Basics – Everything you wanted to know but were afraid to ask’ (yep, I need to get some basics in when it comes to online ads)
  • Case Study: Online advertising analytics
  • Panel ‘Ads in Online Video – the future of interactive advertising?'(I’ve got my own opinion on this and I’ve not yet seen a great execution of this)
  • Case Study: Paid reviews and blogging
  • Henry Copeland (Blogads) ‘Cracking the blogosphere – the secret to successful blog advertising’
  • Jay Adelson (Digg) ‘Tapping into the ad potential of crowd generated media sites’

The second afternoon in particular looks to be good. I also have some discount codes (10%) if anyone is interested.

Apr 06


Tomorrow is Podcamp NYC, an unconference that has grown way beyond that into a monster, with over 1200 registered users. A decision was made pretty early to solicit session proposals and then to schedule them – otherwise there are just far too many going to have it self-organise. Although there is one plan as you go track for any last minute desire to get up and talk.

The sheer numbers mean that it had to move venues – straining the sponsorship dollars to keep it a free conference. So there’s no food this time, it is just not possible. The New York Hotel is now playing host, the New School no longer being able to fit everyone who signed up. Even if they only get 50% of the people it’s going to be a great day. I’m speaking too – if you go to these you have to contribute! So 10am on Saturday I’m with Howard Greenstein talking about how podcasting can be used as part of a Social Media strategy for marketing. It’ll be recorded along with everything else. The timing is good for me, i can do my volunteer session first thing, then the talk and then spend the rest of the day learning. Or maybe trying to see if the wifi is good enough to let me watch the Boat Race!

Apr 03

Blogher Business Roundup

For the ease of sending this link around at work, I’m pulling together all the links I have from this conference to make it easier for me! (thanks for an email from elise for these)

Next up, the audio recordings. At some point I may download mine and work out what I said 😉

Apr 02

Mesh in Toronto

I enjoyed being on a panel at Blogher the other week, far more than the one time I’ve given a presentation. So i was really chuffed to be asked to be on a panel at Mesh at the end of May in Toronto. After the reports I dug up about last year’s inaugural event it looks fun. Barring schedule changes, I’m going to be on a panel roughly titled ‘fake is the new real’, looking at some of the campaigns that marketers are behind that may look like UGC. So if you are around, and not going to Reboot, I’d take a look and come up to Canada. By the way, if anyone is thinking about buying a Reboot ticket, let me know – I’ve got one to transfer to you 🙂

Mesh Logo

Mar 27

Social Media Club NY Mar 27

Jay Rosen ( talking about Assignment Zero

When Tim Berners-Lee designed the web, he created a platform for people to collaborate, so scientists could share data. It is a giant collaboration machine. but it has developed more as a broadcast media, print, tv, cable to web.

so what are the consequences for journalism, investigative reporting, when we have falling costs to locate people, share info, collaborate. so like-minded people can find each other, collaborate and make stuff for value. see OSS, Wikipedia, others. So with what are the consequences for journalism,

this is a research project; to spark innovation, to develop new knowledge, to push forward platform of open source reporting.

So how do you do reporting under open conditions? the fist attempt is Assignment Zero, joint project with Wired magazine, they have shared some costs, e.g. hiring an editor to carry project to the end.

So can you take a big trend story, out there in 100s or 1000s of places, break it up into parts, develop online, assign to people, write stories and publish the best of the results. an open invitation to participates to join in that behaviour. can you do stories with 100s instead of 2-3?

Have 700 members in 2 weeks, they expected 250 in 2 months, with 100 or so real contributing. biggest problem is organising all of these people. Thye have joined, got blog, have email address. have said intend to contribute. Most members have put photos, They are known.

The heart of the site is the assignment desk (very crudely designed). List all the topics under the big story about the spread of crowd-sourcing.

There are forums to discuss new stories, complaints, a survey, the survey is open to all- looking at motivations across the various types of open source projects.

Most of the editors are professional journalists. we have a Director of Participation. to do this, you need a traditional editor and then you need someone to organise the people..the Director of Participation.. One drives the story, the other solves the people problems. We are deluged now under the cost of interactivity, we have 3x as many people as expected. we do not have the staff to manage this at the moment. then you have to organise volunteers to absorb this costs, to add to the solution, to organise more people. to keep the people there.

The Dir. of Participation’s background is in political campaigns, have understanding of organising people horizontal. The equivalent roles in tech companies are community managers.

We think it will be a 2-3 month project. so what do we get? Wired will have a big feature about everything we will do, and will also publish an editors cut of everything that came in. a big package of stories here, a big feature on the mag. everything is CC, so things can be published elsewhere as well,.

Also (today) starting a second project with Huffpost, following 12 Presidential candidates; create a group blog, with networks of 50-100 people, feeding material to one blog, doing a microbeat. there will be backstage forum for the network to discuss the news, sort out things etc.

Audience Questions

Q: how do you accommodate for standards of journalism, from writing to vetting stories.

A: we are trying to practice open platform, capture the benefits of openness but we know there are cots. the tricks are to have benefits and reduce costs. one of costs is about knowing the credibility of the participants. we are not going to prevent people joining, but have strict controls on what we will print. exercise controls at the final gateway. if we can’t reach you by phone, then unlikely to give you stuff essential to do. there’s no single solution to it. you have overlapping measures that add up to a workable solutions

Q: Dan Gilmore had Bayosphere for a while, the main difference here is there is an editor, far more of a focus.

A: this is a second wave attempt built on what happened the first time round. the first was about building platforms for people to do their own thing – that is what blogging is This is far different – one story into 100s of parts. we can do stuff that are as good, and stories that they would not attempt, that would not be feasible.

Q: what is the business model

A: this is not a business; the costs for this project are over 40k for one this one story, but we do not know what will come out of it. the costs for the first may not be the same as the second. will you get costs savings? not sure, but will get increases in quality and volume. the crowd become a way to make the crowd reliable. it is no a cheaper journalism, but a better one that is done on bigger subjects

Q: how about faster?

A: Last weekend the Justice dept, dumped 3k page of emails, see how spread out the work, asked readers to help them out. posted 100s of pdfs, asked people to analyse and find the stuff. they did it overnight.

A: Sunlight foundation got people to check members of Congress employing family members- took a weekend – then all were fact checked and there was a high degree of accuracy.

Q: in terms of wikis, how would you describe the difference?

A: in starting this, we could learn from first wave of projects. take a step beyond that. 2ndly he biggest gains would be in hybrid forms, where you have openness and also some controls. there is structure and chaos. if anyone can sign up, this is the opposite of a controlled newsroom. it is going to be a mix of openness and controls, professionals and amateurs, order and entropy. the only way to find it is through practice, not ideology nor theory. I’m a tenure professor of journalism – who’s going to tell me I can’t. the cost of trying things is plunging so the cost to learning new things is plunging. no paper will do this. most journalists are very protectionist about this, defensive. I don;t have to care at the moment, we can do it without them. I put out an appeal for pros to help with it, when we got to 450, got 25 people interested. we have some problems, we did not design the pages properly. we are redesigning now, so you will find info and who the editor for the pages who is the contributor is, you can join a topic when you want to work on it, and you will know who your collaborators are. we add a blog for the editor to address the contributors.

Q: will we see the reporting that has gone on?

A: will we see their notes, what they add to it. They post in their ‘notebook’. which shows on the front page. Open source code site is built in drupal, all code is there, we need to find developers.

Q: is there a back channels or open channel for the participants?

A: when we redo the topic page. you will find discussion and deliberation at the page – publicly. when we do other stories, we may add some confidential stuff. we do it story by story. if the best thing for the story is to be confidential, then we will.

Q: why do you need a professional at the top – does not community do it already? can’t you do it like that?

A: it’;s possible we will get there, but when starting this I could not work out how to do this without some pros. if we could get there, and have almost no pros, then that would be fantastic discovery..a self informing public, a wild idea. but right now I don;t know how to do it, how to create the controls. I think the biggest gains will be with the hybrid.

Q: At the moment, my reporters notebook is covered by laws to keep me out of trouble, what about this notebook, how is this handled?

A: it;s a complicated questions. I have thought it through with lawyers. write now, all we can do is differentiate the edited from unedited. there is a belief that the libellous material is in unedited material then some protection (common carrier). this is not yet proven, we do not know that the courts will say. it is not exactly clear. this is an experiment in shared responsibility and liability. if I had checked with all lawyers possible, then they may say I could not do it. but I have to innovate. you have to solve the practical problems that you run in,. the knowledge that you develop to solve the problems is the goal.