Wednesday, February 28. 2007
...where the trees go Bong (wrote Spike Milligan - see here for the rest of his poem). Ning has come out of beta, we've had Ningsites (e.g. Grumpybugger - the world's first Antisocial Network?) for a year but after another little play and gawk at the movie, here's why we are still underwhelmed:
- Its still closed - you have to belong to Ning.com to participate on our site. Why would you do that in a web 2.0 world? In fact, why risk someone else controlling your site if you want to monetise it.
- There are not many people on it* (see above)
- It has Ning's ads, not our Ads - and we make nowt for our content
- in fact, they own our content, not us
- They want to charge us money to take off Ads / put on Ads / use our own sitename etc
* well, we can't see any - but whaddaya expect from an AntiSocial Network?
In short, why wouldn't we just set up our own open SocNet site like we have with this blog - its not as if there is a shortage of platforms? However, we are a tad geeky so I supect its not aimed at us, rather at the consumerati
In essence its the SocNet evolution of Yahoo Groups - a MetaSocNet? - another Flickr or MySpace except you have your own Social Net rather than your own Profile. Our take - Good luck, its a tough play today - about a year too late (We were interested in using it as an open system to get a Social Net up last year for a client). The "Whats In It For Me" is just not compelling enough today for me to move my Groups off Yahoo or make any existing Blogsite closed. Now, what would be more interesting is if it were open (whats the bet Ning'll be supporting OpenID within a month and the IP ownership was retained by the sites.
Responses have been mixed : Rave On by Techcrunch (who initially panned it iirc), more careful at GigaOm, ShowTime at Scobleshow and downright doubtful at Don Dodge
. The Social Media Club view tallies closest with ours. German blogger Nicole Simon has a balanced take on it, and raises the concerns over privacy.
So - which of you buggers wants the 5 minute argument about Ning then?
(Postscript - one suspects that the driver of Ning, as with so many things, will be its porn capability)
Tuesday, February 27. 2007
This is very funny................all about news-papers, the new new new old media
I found an old friend's blog today (one of life's pleasures) and he has been building the most amazing thing at NYU on the ITP program.
The inspiration was from this thing our kids have, and he wondered how you could transmit the pattern and reproduce it elsewhere.
So, he set about building an mechatronic device to do this - you push the shape into one, and it transmits the shift in the pins and reproduces it in another device.
He calls this device the "Remote Emote" and details the design concept here
Dave outlines the final build on his blog here
As he is inventing a new paradigm (and it even shifts), he gets to name the bits. He calls the pins "thixels"
It ties in to a discussion I had with Simon Wardley after his talk at FOWA, about the internet enabling JIT manufacturing of designs close to the point of use.
Its an intriguing idea...I feel there must be loads of applications*, I just can't think of one straight away except maybe as a way of making dies/moulds for manufacturing from shapes pressed in half a world away...thoughts anyone?
* Postscript - asked a few people....cybers*x anyone?
Last Friday morning I attended a session Sam Sethi held re creating a network to connect London's webscene together (the talent, the money, the beer....). I suggested at the time (somewhat tongue in cheek) that a Speed Dating system might be just the thing.
Mike Butcher's latest post today reminded me, so I did a search - turns out that someone is already doing it - this week - at Stanford.
Read it in the papers...J. K. Rowling, Harry’s creator, is suing eBay after some sellers used the Indian version of the website to sell unauthorised versions of her books. Now where was my DiY Self Publishing kit again...
Apres moi le deluge?
Chinwag's Mobile Metamorphosis event last night was dominated by the Topic du Jour, Mobile Advertising. Not surprisingly, as Blyk were on the panel (Blyk being the startup that plans to launch an all advertising funded service in the UK later this year).
Hugh Griffith - O2 Group Strategy
Jessica Sandin - Senior Consultant and Head of Mobile Practice, Fathom Partners
Jonathan MacDonald - Sales Director, Blyk
Russell Buckley - Managing Director, AdMob Europe
The speakers were asked a number of questions by Tim Green - Executive Editor, Mobile Entertainment Magazine.
This being Planet Mobile, the hype floweth over, but there were some quite interesting things that came out during the evening about the interplay between Brands, Agencies and Mobile Ad Players.
For example, it seems no one is quite sure what Advertisers want, including the Advertisers - the emerging story seemed to be that some Advertisers want to know who is doing what to a minute level of detail, others are not yet very sophisticated in dealing with the levels of granularity interactive advertising can give. Exacerbating that is the problem that its not yet clear what some of these emerging metrics actually mean in practice, as it is all so new. What was a common theme was that Advertisers were increasingly interested in the ROI of their investments, and increasingly expect metrics to give them greater clarity.
They clearly want to know which half of their Adspend is working.....
There also seems to be some - evolution? - in what the role of the Agencies and other Service Providers will be going forward. There is clearly a tension between the "creative, experiential" side and the "give me the details" side of the industry - my take is that the metric side is gaining sway judging by some of the comments during and after the session, including an impassioned plea from one of the audience for more experiential thinking from the brands, and less focus on data.
On to the Operators - the positions of O2 and Blyk were well defended by their speakers, but in essence the O2 story is the classic Telco game of delaying the inevitable price decline, the Blyk game is the equally classic "noisy disruptive new entrant" story.
(I think I heard Huw say that in 2007 most operators will be offering lower cost flat pricing...my ears went into shock at that point)
Blyk's basic argument is that they will start collecting very detailed user data from the get go, and use this to finely segment their customer propositions. Credit card companies have been doing this for years of course, but Blyk's view is that traditional operator's systems will not easily be able to do this level of analysis as their systems are not built to do that. (Someone gave the example of an operator not being able to tell which ringtones were selling best)
Huw's response was that despite all the New Metrics for the New Media, Advertisers stick with CPM rates because that is what they understand. Jessica noted that both Operators and Advertisers are fairly conservative.
Quite how Adspend will work is unclear - as Russell pointed out, the entire UK Ad industry is roughly the size of the 4 mobile players, so it's a tall belief that all its spend will move to subsidize mobile. (The entire Internet Adslice is about 10%, so if all of that came onto mobile its 30p off your £3 ringtone - will that move and shake you?)
Despite this, no-one doubts that Ad supported services of some form will emerge (apparently everyone at 3GSM has transformed into an Ad support platform - much like at IBC last year, where everyone is now an IPTV support platform). Jessica noted that the Mobile Mantra that "people will pay for mobility" was true only until free services became available.
In general the Mobile Ad world is copying ad models from the Internet world (and some Radio/TV for moving media) but that it is still unclear what really works in mobile. Many early assumptions about how and where people even consume media are turning out wrong - apparently most mobile video is watched in bed or while watching TV with someone else! Blyk noted that they had to do a huge amount of testing of ad relevance, frequency, type of message to find the "sweet spot" - and that sweet spot differs per person.
But all this doubt hasn't stopped volumes going up. Admob noted that they had served 30 million ads for their first 6 months of operation, and now in their third 6 month period they would be serving c 2 bn.
There did seem to be a general consensus that behavioural data is far more accurate than demographic data for ad serving, though there was concern about having the type of Ad inventory available to serve all these different sweet spots. Not only that, but as a new medium the type of Ad will change - "hot or not" and very blatant "X% Off" Ads seem to do well.
There was a discussion re spam, fraud et al - view was that as yet Mobile Ads had not experienced fraud - not sure I believe that, as James Cooper of Spectrum noted, many now promoting mobile ads were the same people who tried to break the subscription model in earlier times, and "ripoff" was a word not unconnected with some of these plays.
Two Big Question were left unanswered, so as a public service I asked them
1. What about the deals with Google and Yahoo? To my surprise, everyone on the panel was very blase, feeling that the Operators had the measure of the GYM club here. Touchingly naive imho.
2. Would Ad supported mobile media be half the issue if data charges weren't so high? Huw naturally defended the Operator position, but I think this is an issue the Operators do need to think about if they cannot match the newcomers in terms of serving "sweet spot" ads. In Fixed Telcoland the way MCI outbilled AT&T via the first "Friends and Family" is Required Reading>
All in all very educational, and being Planet Mobile, there were some great Soundbites - for your delectation we offer:
- "Users is not the same as Usage" - Jessica
- "We need to find the Social Athletes" - Jon, Blyk
- "Mobile Advertising today is like Websites were in 1996" Russell (Admob)
- "Mobile is the about the Age of Engagement" - Huw
Monday, February 26. 2007
While we eagerly await the British Invasion of Hollywood*, it seems like there may not be so much "there" over there to invade anymore. And its the Internet wot is eating Hollyowood in an invasion of the booty snatchers, as broadband allows people to consume their movies online, and even make their own. To quote the Los Angeles Times:
Who needs Brad Pitt if you can be your own hero on a video game, make your own video on YouTube or feature yourself on Facebook?
So, Dire Warnings then...what happened to Music is coming to a cinema near you:
Exhibitors Relations reported that attendance actually declined yet again, reaching its lowest point in 10 years. And though defenders of the industry protest that foreign markets account for 40% of a film's revenue and that those proceeds are compensating for falling domestic box office, foreign receipts have been down too, and even DVD sales are plateauing. In short, the overall trends remain discouraging.
Robert Young at GigaOm has an interesting take, that Online Media is changing the way we consume video media, so the traditional "theatre broadcast" model needs to change - Theatre 2.0?:
what Hollywood might look like in the year 2020 could have more to do with how studios develop new “products”… much like they did with the advent of television (when they created sitcoms, game shows, movies of the week, etc.). But this time, future Hollywood products will probably have to integrate and leverage the virtually unlimited digital resource of self-expression and social media.
The article itself makes an interesting point, that movies are irrelevant and its actually the sleb's life sagas we watch now instead, in our always-on world:
Two years ago, writing in these pages, I described an ever-growing culture of knowingness, especially among young people, in which being regarded as part of an informational elite — an elite that knew which celebrities were dating each other, which had had plastic surgery, who was in rehab, etc. — was more gratifying than the conventional pleasures of moviegoing.
This rings true with me, as it explains a world where slebs can be sans talent, all one needs is access (and usually silicone) to get a small bit-part in The Saga.
Is this what Jenny Sundén , who argued that, in order to exist online, we must write ourselves into being really had in mind
* Postscript - still no gong for Peter O'Toole, after 8 times up - very frustrating!
Thursday, February 22. 2007
Hmmm...didn't go to the Future of Web Applications Entrepreneurs' debate because I thought nothing new would come out....but I was wrong - seems like Mike Arrington called for the BBC to be turned off...
The Boy has Form
The thing that is frequently forgotten (until one goes to other countries) is that the BBC prevents UK TV from "diving all the way to the bottom" by holding to a level of quality only really possible in a service that isn't ad supported. (I said *all the way*....). Also, it stops Ads getting out of hand, you can't stick 20 minutes of ads in per hour in the UK because the Beeb provides a real alternative.
Mike's real issue is that it is spoiling the market for UK startups in this space, for e.g the BBC virtual world, free podcasts etc etc.
Should the BBC be in all the online stuff...sure, why not - learn to compete with them and you will be a world beater. Isn't that what all those US Management Guru's tell you?
And if it stops Ad Abuse globally, then I'm all for it (who will sign on to an Ad-Intrusive US Web TV play if the BBC is offering a decent alternative ?)
What we would like is to be able to access its content (I think my taxes paid for it :), mash it with my own content, and also for BBC Kingswood Warren's stuff to be Open Source.
If that were a UK asset, it would give us an interesting competitive advantage vs Silicon Valley and Tin Pan Alley!
Postscript...Mike Arrington responded here
There's an interesting story about the crack on the HD DVD DRM at Bobbie Johnson's Blog. DRM is hard, because as Bruce Schneier (and probably many others) have said digital content "wants" to be copied. In the latest twist to the content protection tale, a hacker has discovered that he can find the keys by looking in the memory of his DVD player. There's a surprise The significant thing about this hack is that Hollywood really did seem to believe that that they had good a "secure" DRM system. I can't find the reference, but I remember Andy Setos of News Corp saying that this was their last chance to get DRM right.
There is so much snake oil in the world of DRM, that I prefer to go back to cryptographic basics. If you want legitimate owners to view content, you have to send decryption keys. If you send keys, then the bad guys will get them unless you can hide them in software or some physical device. Pay TV smart cards try to do the latter and are fairly successful as you need industrial size equipment to hack them. This attack seems to be a standard bit of reverse engineering and the only surprise is that anyone is surprised!
I don’t really buy the “update” idea that the AACS people put forwards, as there must be a root key somewhere!
So.....Day 2 of The Future of Web Applications emerged blearily from the steam of my coffee cup (The Day Job being something one does at night when on conferences...) and we were tipped into a morning of not so much the Future of Web Applications, but The Present of Product Sales as IE7 and Adobe Flex were run through by affable guys with jeans (jeans are Chinos 2.0 ), american accents and the obligatory folksy references to families, flexible solutions, "new paradigms" (aka a new feature) and so on and so forth.
OK, OK, a bit unfair I know, but these were both bright guys who I felt could have contributed real insight to the FOWA if released a bit from the corporate straight and narrow. The one thing I got from this was from the Microsoft chap was that they did lose their way a bit, and noting that the in the Future of IE, Security will be No. 1
Next up though was Khoi Vinh, who gave a fascinating presentation about how a pre - Web 1.0 company - the New York Times - deals with web 2.0. ( ie Social Media, where you anti-socially pinch their content to chuck it into The Conversation on your blog and get all the linklurve and kudos without paying a bean). There was a LOT of stuff in his talk to take away, here are some gems:
- Content is evolving into functionality....and functionality is context
- Visual Schizophrenia - users are adopting high end - HDTV, Digital SLRs - and Low end - YouTube, Camphones - at the same time.
- McMediazation - in Old Media, the content authors bear the cost of functionality, in New Media the user does - so do you offend the few experts or teh many novices in your design for functionality?
However, the real takeaway was in the question session when someone asked why not use the popular companies' products (eg delicious) to do the stuff, why should the NYT DiY? Khoi's response was good - they needed it to be fit for the NYT's purpose, not just for purpose.
Agree totally - since the underlying technology is actually pretty simple (compared to the infrastructure layers) and "Web 2.0" is all about making it all easily user choosable and do-able , why are you somehow going against the faith just because you don't use the posterchildren's stuff?
Next up was Simon Willison, an evangelist who delivered a passionate sermon for Open ID. Given all the hype that this has generated recently (see NetVibes below) it was good to hear someone go through the rationale of the product, and even talk about its weaknesses. Not sure why it is such a breakthrough - the concept is hardly original, it doesn't really do much for trust and preventing antisocial media behaviours like phishing, and it still leaves you creating multiple personae - but judging by the Hallelelujahs of The Faithful it seems like this is the Next Big Thing.
(To me , the Trust endgame is when My Data is on My System under My Control - just having a choice of potentially untrustworthy third parties doesn't do it for me)
Lunch, met another blogger in real space whose work I like (Suw Charman) and starved her by keeping her talking* - topic du jour was stopping Tech letting the Work Culture impinge too far in Life. (must admit I had to wonder if its a lost battle, looking at all those people in the hall with their laptops open, furiously typing away while someone was talking
There was a session on Us vs UK entrpreneurialism, (here's a summary).....didn't go as its all been said so many times already, but check out this post by Saul Klein.
Then came the Googletalk given by Jonathan Rochelle, who flogged his company to Google, and it was all about Google Office. I had hoped he would talk about How To Build A Company Google Would Buy , but it was about spreadsheets and that stuff. Oh, and how, to Google, the User Data is Sacred, and they won't peek into it, No Sirree. He admitted this one was proving to be quite a tough sell. My big takeaway - because they had user involvement early in the process they were able to defuse some of the internal politics during the development cycle by pointing to what users themselves wanted.
Next, the User Slots - talks that We (albeit a tiny %) had voted for - Very good talk by Simon Hawkins on a topic close to our heart, which is how to build the infrastructure for a Virtual Company. Some good stuff, and I felt there was some learning we have that we could contribute back - maybe we need a social network for virtual companies to swop tips. Had to leave for a bit, so missed the next two.
Back to hear Dan Applequist talk about The Future of Mobile. Having contributed some of our material to the recent Mobile Web 2.0 book I was interested to see where Dan would go for the FOMWA, but I'm afraid it was another Back to the Future moment - all about how the majors were going after common standards, defining best practices (in their self limited worlds) and so on - sounded just like the Fixed Line Telcos c 1995. The questions were equally predictable - when will prices come down, and why does it take iPhone to do the obvious stuff you would want in a 'phone browser. Dan is a smart guy, so just watching him dancing the steps in the standard Mobile mambo mumbo jumbo was frustrating.
He did talk a bit about BetaVine, the Voda developer platform, and kudos for them pushing this boat out - but the issue is, until there is a common Planet Mobile rather than just a Voda platform, those X billion mobile users they keep on banging on about still fragment into Z thousand different niche platforms.
I hate to even think this heretical thought, but they need a Bill Gates badly.
Next we were addressed by Rasmus Lerdorf, who created PHP - this is as close to a Geek God as one can get, but I'm afraid most of the talk was techie porn so not printable in a polite blog like this. The big takeaway though was his view that there is no solution to Phishing apart from typing in the URL.
Now, on to some Mo' Buzz. After being told that Tariq Krim's NetVibes would be making a Big Announcement, we were in eager anticipation - what was it - a sale of the century, a paradigm of great import, a solution to phishing even? Nope, it was cross platform widget compability and they will support be supporting Open ID.
Hallelujah, the congregation clapped and whistled again.
Next up, Richard Moross and Stefan Magdalinski of MOO (who make those tiny business cards that I can't read and that slip out my pocket.....). The talk was a good discussion of how a great marketing approach transformed a me-too industry play. A lot of great marketing ideas, but fundamentally you use a channel like Flickr and a low cost distributor like the Royal Mail. My big takeaway - the Royal Mail hugely underprices its services, I know where our next consulting pitch will be....
Last in the show was Brice of Contact Office who showed how they migrated a 1999 Web 1.0 system into a Web 2.0 world, mainly by making heavy use of Google Web Toolkit. Big takeaway - they have a revolutionary Web 2.0 business model - they ask their users to pay for the product.
It'll never catch on
* Suw has stenographed the entire conference...awesome feat - I was trying to get her own thoughts, but she just gave me a mona lisa smile on that......
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