Thursday, January 15. 2015
The next edition of Charlie Hebdo went on sale on Wednesday, and the production run was up from 60,000 to c 5 million - and rather than c 25% of 60,000 copies being remaindered, this time 5 million was probably not enough. (The money will be going to support the families of those killed, though there is a bit of a sour note starting with people trying to sell copies on eBay)
If the aim of the shootings was to cow Hebdo and its satire it has been a complete failure so far, and also far any attempt to further inflame France (if anything the UK media seems more cowed than the French).
But (and this is why the subject surfaces on this digital tech blog) modern online technology probably has quite a lot to do with this beng different to what it may have been even a few years ago. In short, my thesis is that the huge amount of user generated content has both increased ordinary citizen participtaion globally, and lessened the ability of the various vested interest armed camps to twist this to various agendas. My thesis is that, (so far anyway):
Firstly, using violence or banning to suppress unwelcome media is hardly a new trick, and it usually works if there is no way to route around it - but if it can be routed around it often produces the opposite effect, i.e. drives a far larger distribution and hence support base for the victims. (This is why banning stuff always backfires if the material can find a route out, as it incites more, not less people to take an interest). Digital media, including video and image based media, was a major part of that alternative channel here.
In addition, the shootings have generated furious discussion about a multiplicity of conflicting issues to a new level of distribution and intensity. There are many interlocked issues - Freedom of speech vs Causing needless Offence; What observances can a religion rightfully demand of non-believers; Is this religious fundamentalism or a cynical use of religion for political ends, What is the role of Satire - to only speak truth unto power, or to poke at any sacred cows, etc etc etc.
It has engaged millions of people all across the world like nothing I've looked at online before, and (I can't prove this on my very limited analysis to date, however I think this is true based on what I've looked at so far) I think we're not merely seeing the all too usual polarisation and a spit-at-your-camp approach that contentious issues usually take, there is actually some hope that we are still in an Age of Reason.
At this "interesting" time in history this is something that can only do good in this writer's opinion....
Tuesday, January 6. 2015
Interesting article on the Daily Dot, in essence it argues that:
..social media disastrously amplified every new load of garbage thrown on the trash fire that was 2014. There were a few spots of solidarity and community that couldn't have happened without the Internet, including #YesAllWomen and #BlackLivesMatter. But the fact that these movements happened openly on social media also made them instantly vulnerable to responses that were at best oppositional, at worst nakedly hostile. Even the remedies, when digital, invited further illness.
I've been increasingly thinking the same over the last year, as increasingly I am seeing Social Media operating not as a vehicle for bringing the wisdom of the crowd to bear on a topic, but instead bringing the madness of the crowd out, along with pitchforks and torches. A petition and a social media whip-up of the faithful has the impact of allowing often quite small special interest groups to hijack all sorts of topics and push all sorts of agendas, even using public pressure to end-run existing social and legal frameworks. It was ever thus (the silent majority always loses out to the well organised pressure group) but social media magnifies the impact of small and focussed noisemaker groups (and even individuals, reinforced by a few sock puppets) considerably more than any previous comms technology. And then of course there is the increasing usage of the medium to sell the advertising message, so lord help us if McLuhan was right.
And while in the short term it looks like a boon for every clicktivist, special agenda or Ad campaigner going, in the longer term it will kill the medium as a useful tool as people will increasingly tune out or turn off. Some years ago we reckoned that Filtering would be a key need in social media, but we thought it would be mainly needed to sort the really useful information from the noise - the chaff and the untrue - now I am increasingly thinking it will be required to screen out the plain noisy and vexatious as well.
Daily Dot lists what Twitter has been doing this year:
Also it's probably worth Twitter having better Follower management functions, I am sure they will come as concern about social network privacy also hots up. - the two issues are interlinked in my view.
But it won't just be Twitter, there is a systemic problem with a medium that seems to over-promote the interests of the noisy few over the (more) silent majority.
(Postscript - was reading some stuf I wrote on all this a few years back - in theory the "silent majority" should be able, relatively easily, to register their views online, but it seems that they won't, especially when faced by very aggressive online activists. So you wind up with - as Daily Dot notes - the online battles being largely fought by opposing groups of activists)
(Post-Postscript - and then there is taking shutting people up a bit too far - when the state is over-policing online speech it is also a worrying trend)
Monday, September 29. 2014
I wrote a post on the Agile Elephant blog about some observations on UK/US vs European use og Social technologies, this is the first few paragraphs:
We attended the IoM conference in Cologne last week, at the same time London Social Media Week was happening. (David gave a keynote talk, the slides are over here). It was interesting to juxtapose the core themes of these 2 events (incidentally, it was our Patchwork Elephant Conference held during last year's Social Media Week London that persuaded us to set up Agile Elephant).
In a nutshell, I noted the following large differences in themes on my twtstreams:
Now to be fair, IoM is about "social business" whereas "Social Media Week" has a wider remit, but it's interesting to note that even "Social Business" conferences in the UK are often focussed much more heavily on the sales/marketing arena. (Which is why we are running a more operations & customer related conference in November - see last paragraph of this post)
When we were kicking around the "why" this might be so, we came to the following hypotheses:
Whetever the reasoning, it leads to an interesting conclusion - best practice on customer attraction areas is in our observation coming from the UK and US, best practice in operational areas from Europe. Customer service examples seem to be coming from everywhere (it was after all a Swede who invented the concept of Moments of Truth in the customer value chain).
I'm not quite sure of the "form" for a blog in 2 places - reporoduce in entirety, or "skip after the break" - anyway, I've gone for the latter so here is the link to the rest of the article
Friday, September 26. 2014
Ello is a bright and clean new social network that promises, in its manifesto, to stay free of ads, never sell your data, and not make anyone use real names. People are paying attention to Ello because other people are paying attention to Ello. It is invitation only.
Invite only, so only the In crowd get in - Google approach redux. If only one could rely on the no datascraping promises - it's like promising not to be Evil.
But, once it has several hundred million users, and a large infusion of funding, and needs to "monetise" before shooting for an IPO - I wonder what conclusions it will reach about user data and advertising. I'd suspect the words on the barn door will subtly change
Remember people, if you ain't paying, you ain't the customer.
Still, its a few years before those pressures will really come in so it's probably a better 'ole vs. those that are now under the cosh to monetise.
Friday, September 5. 2014
There is a new trend emerging, perhaps - these 2 posts from Nick Carr & Awedience blog's Chris Arnold are thought provoking.
In essence, Nick argues the that the big, imepersonal, autobotted and analysed social mediascape is becoming counterproductive:
These trends, if they are actually trends, seem related. I sense that they both stem from a sense of exhaustion with what I’m calling Big Internet. By Big Internet, I mean the platform- and plantation-based internet, the one centered around giants like Google and Facebook and Twitter and Amazon and Apple. Maybe these companies were insurgents at one point, but now they’re fat and bland and obsessed with expanding or defending their empires. They’ve become the Henry VIIIs of the web. And it’s starting to feel a little gross to be in their presence.
Now Nick is a fairly reliable curmudgeon, but much of his scepticism is based on hard analysis so this is an interesting observation. Nick is pretty good at setting current trends into historical aptterns, one cann imagine that big data driven SM may well go the way of pop-up Ads. (there is already a movement gaining momentum to limit how much user data can be picked up)
Map to that an interesting observation by Chris Brogan, who I've always seen as a "everything's rosy" kind of fellow, but note this piece from Awedience on the idea of Warm Data:
Have you ever seen that whole “we’ve got mountains of data on our customers” experience play out? In lots and lots of cases, most organizes aren’t really equipped to actually do anything with the data. And “big” data just means that there are mountains of information points that, in the right hands, can make interesting things happen.
If I were to pour cold water on this (as if...) I'd say this is just Personalised Data, reheated - and this message about the medium is a year or so old....but it's been striking a chord again recently and sort of fits in with Nick Carr''s observations. Awedience makes another interesting point, quoting Rob Hatch:
There’s a big counter-trend going on where people are pushing harder and harder to automate and dehumanize their use of communications tools like social media and email and the rest of the digital channel. Go ahead. Do that.
Now, 2 tropes do not a trend make, but seems to me the Social Media market is starting to recognise a distinction between mass produced commodity SM and high value SM as a value proposition, not an interesting theoretical concept. The limits to "big" social media automation benefits may be approaching, perhaps. Which stands to raeson - any market eventually shakes out into a commodity type offering. midrange offerings, and more added value/one off offerings so its clear SM will too (and faster than we think, perhaps)....
Tuesday, September 2. 2014
For those who are not aware of the unfolding story, this is a summary from Channel 4 News:
Bear in mind that in theory they have committed no crime that should trigger a Europeam Arrest Warrant either, yet one materialised astonishigly rapidly.
But that is the main story. However, there has been a very interesting secondary story to this, for those interested in Social Media. There was quite a lot of poor information disseminated at first by the "official sources" via mainstream media (for example unnecessary scare mongering about safety, and aspersions about the parents). The kindest conclusion one can come to was that there was initial confusion and now continuing uncertainty over what is permissable to divulge. The net effect was to paint a very negative picture of the parents for public consumption.
However, the parents used Social Media very well to get their side of the story across in the face of this mainstream narrative:
Clearly this will be an increasing trend - it's hardly new, after all - the medium may be the message, but with multiple mediums multiple messages can get out. But what the lesson is here is the high quality of the messaging that a fairly ordinary family is capable of today, and that the size of the "alternative medium" channels to spread it can trump the mainstream. Control of the message on the Old Media is a busted flush if these new channels pick up the story (If.....there are lkely many worthy cases that do not go viral, so its not a failsafe for the "little man" - but its a start)
Now there is probably information that the authorities cannot divulge, that would help explain their position and actions better, but right now they are coming off very badly by keeping quiet in this multi-medium model. Senior Government figures are now stepping in to halt the impending sh*tstorm before it gets fanned all over them, which will only increase the kicking these services get. Which points to the inevitable corollary to this event (all actions have reactions, 'tis the law....). If the services involved - medical, police, legal - did make available some of the confidential information they had, and it would help stop them inevitably being seen as the chumps in a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" scenario, they will be under increasing temptation - and pressure - to do so. I can imagine that currently mores of patient confidentiality may well shift to more of a "dump if provoked" process - i.e. data will be let out if the other party starts to refer to it.
You read it here first....
(Update - as predicted, the senior poiticos got involved, and are now busy scoopng up the plaudits...and more interestingly, the hospital concerned has published some of its notes of the medical situation in its defence. )
Sunday, February 2. 2014
Great post over here by Tuttler Anke Holst on starting your own cult:
Because really, starting a cult isn’t a big deal. You need to find a theme, a dogma, write some scripture, invent a mythology, establish the old ‘us and them’. Then find some way to exploit people’s insecurities, ‘save’ just a few people with the right set of hangups to be your first disciples. Then you build a framework of rules and regulations and routines that is so difficult to follow that nobody is able to, and when they come to you with problems you can blame it on the fact they aren’t following your instructions.
There's more, but you have to go to Anke's blog to read it This is a really good post and should be read by all wannabe marketeers, movement starters etc - says in a page what other more famous pundits take a book or two to say. And when your cult starts to wane:
....you say to the newer ones ‘oh, they weren’t strong enough to withstand the power of the illusory energy, they have fallen by the wayside, ignore them, they have turned into enemies. This should be doubly easy because you can now busy yourselves exploiting the positions of power they left.’
Now, Anke doesn't go into the "how to monetise your cult" bit, so I thought I could Add Value there, as it were. Ideally there is something in your cult about renouncing all worldly possessions (but ensuring they go into The Cult's asset base, not FreeCycle). Ensure that at least Tithing (a 10% minimum tax on all followers incomes) occurs (or at least a healthy whack as a Membership Fee). Then there are the books, clothing, posters, events, whale music CD's, crystals etc etc that should all be money making opportunities. Ideally Cult members also give their labour for free, though you may have to invest in some form of accommodation to feed and house them - so make sure you own it and gain its capital appreciation benefits. And of course set it up in a place where you get tax breaks for being charitable/religious/not for profit
Anke pointed out over Twitter that "cash for karma" is as rife as it was in Mediaeval Europe, see this video
Wednesday, January 29. 2014
I wrote this article on the Agile Elephant blog, but as not everyone who follows me follows Broadstuff, it may be interesting to people here. In essence, there is more than 1 Dunbar Number:
Dunbar actually theorizes there are a number of Dunbar Numbers, based on a series of boundary levels of social intimacy and acquaintance. These levels reflect familiarity and emotional closeness, and each level has its own "cognitive constraints on sociality" (loosely speaking, how much you can constantly know about the people in the group). His work came from looking at group sizes of hunter gatherer societies, past and present. The levels he defines are broadly:
Core group - up to 5 people (family)
Dunbar notes a geometric progression, "a factor of 3" applies to these larger and larger (but increasingly less intimate) social structures. He was looking mainly at fairly primitive human social structures, but he also believes that these group sizes have impacts on how we structure organisations and social network technology.
Anyway, I go into it in more detail on that post, but here is the conclusion for social networks and organisations:
At each Dunbar's Number level, a new level of social transaction frequency and intimacy is required – it’s not a hard break as a change of state
This allows us to make two hypotheses for Dunbar's Number in a Social Network world:
Firstly, the technology removes some of the transaction time, so in theory the Dunbar number can grow for any one of these groupings that makes heavy use of digital comms. That means that a 6 person team is not going to see a huge benefit from social technology, buts a 150 person business spread across multiple locations is more likely to see benefits. Either it can handle a % more people as well, or the same number of people more richly. However, the state shift between these groups makes it very unlikely that the technology will allow a 150 person business to have the feel of a 50 person one - more that it can run to say 200 people before losing its 150 level Dunbar status.
Secondly, the transaction cost change makes it easier to keep up with people at a distance, as there is less "hassle" in dealing with them. The Allen Curve showed that intimacy tends to drop with distance, even using technology - but that was before the current crop of "ambient presence" services.
Thursday, January 23. 2014
Water, Sunset, Elephants....and Social Business
As some of you may know, we've been working on various Social Tech projects and putting on Social Business events for a while with two old Tuttle regulars, David Terrar and Janet Parkinson. Well, after the last event (see here) we decided to make this a bit more permanent and "structured", and so the Agile Elephant was born as a place where we could do our stuff and work with the many people who had expressed an interest in the same space. (It was interesting - we started it off conceptually as a .org NFP, but to do some of the stuff we want to do it's easier - read: more legally secure and insurable - to be a Limited Liability Company in this day and age).
Anyway, as one does these days, we set up a website, wrote a Manifesto (its quicker than writing a book....) and started a blog on matters Social Business.
Why Agile Elephants? Well, the conferences we did were called the "Patchwork Elephant" conferences, as we saw the emerging social business arena as one where everyone was seeing a different bit of a far larger thing and declaring the bit they were seeing was "Social Business". But the Elephant motif also has a number of other interesting resonances in business:
- Elephant in the Room - things that one could no longer ignore, but still was ignored or not being taken seriously. We thought this described social business perfectly today.
As to Agile - well, a dancing elephant is agile (and anyone who thinks a real elephant is not agile has never seen the real thing, in the wild*) and that ties in with what we think the major business impact of Social Business will be - helping existing as well as emerging businesses to become more agile, lean and responsive.
Hence, the Agile Elephant.
Broadsight continues as ever, its focus is on cutting edge technology consultancy and systems design, and will provide back end networking and integration technology for Agile Elephant projects where and when required (you knew that Broadsight built its first social media monitoring device in 2007, in the Days Before Twitter right?). Nothing like building your own social media technology to get to know how it all works...
The Broadstuff Blog will continue of course, with its somewhat sceptical look at the passing Tech parade - there are just too many large, and not very nimble Elephants still around to take pot shots at
(* Or in my case, in the South African game reserves in my youth - got charged by one once. By the way - did you know that the Elephant's nearest relative is the Dassie, or Rock Rabbit - which I can assure you is extremely nimble too. And bites!)
Friday, January 17. 2014
In the days of yore when I was doing my MSc, before Inter-Networks were called the Internet, and we were trying to get a grip on what this new New Thing was, I studied a lot of Information Theory. And a hot off the presses at the time was a book was written by MiT's Prof Thomas Allen, that talked about the Allen Curve (above). In essence, it says that the further apart people are physically, the less they communicvate - even over telephones and so on. In essnce, physical contact drives electronic contact.
(Incidentally, Allen also discovered Information Gatekeepers, those people who connected and conveyed vital knowledge from just the right people to just the right other people in the organization, decades before Malcolm Gladwell rebottled them)
Anyway, the neuron in my brain that had this fact was rudely wakened today when I came across his latest book (from 2006), which looks at the impact of Social Meedja on the Allen Curve. Given the massive reduction in comms transactions costs over the 30 years (good lord - is it really...) since the Allen Curve was first plotted and the ubiquity of agressively gamified inclusive social network architectures, you'd think the curve would have been attenuated somewhat, in multi-degrees of freedom, no?
He found that:
"rather than finding that the probability of telephone communication increases with distances, as face-to-face probability decays, our data show a decay in the use of all communication media with distance (following a near field rise)".
In other words, face to face still drives social contact.
Except, I know of an exception. Since the days of the textnet, I know I have reached further, wider etc etc in one area - my "communities of interest" - the other sad sacks who are interested in the more esoteric things things that I am. There, it was the other way around. I found them because they were interested in the stuff I am, and the digital comms were flowing thick and fast long befire the (inevitable) face to face meetings occurred.
So, I have formulated Alan's Corollary to the Allen Curve, on a whim, in this post. It states that the attractiveness of the topic being communicated can over-ride the "physical drives digital comms" formula. The power of content trumps the power of comms, for this case. For day to day dross (the content of the lions share of any Social Network content), the Allen Curve is correct, but when you're talking about, say, the music of cult geek bands of the 70's then we're all in the same place, sitting together - and this town ain't big enough*...
*Look at the spelling on the synth. Cool hey?
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