Friday, September 20. 2013
Readers of this blog may know that we are involved with the Web Science Trust which deals with the emergence of the new discipline of Web Science, especially with the Web Observatory - a group of academics, enterprises and people who are using mathematics and other analytical techniques to understand the web, and the interaction of people on it, in a systemic way.
Web science is the socio-technical science that investigates how the World Wide Web evolves given the regulations, technology and content imposed, engineered and contributed, respectively, as an effect of human behavior and how the Web vice versa affects human behavior. An earlier definition was given by American computer scientist Ben Shneiderman: "Web Science" is a term that refers to processing the information available on the web in similar terms to those applied to natural environment (Wikipedia)
It's Big Data on steroids, only bigger.
For anyone wanting to learn more about Web Science, this week, Southampton University launched a MOOC - a Massive Open Online Course on Web Science (see video above):
The arrival of MOOCs is in itself a fascinating evolution of the web and the democratisation of knowledge. The UK has been a bit behind, but plans to catch up with the FutureLearn this week, which has far more Social features than earlier MOOC suppliers - TimesHigherEd:
The platform, which is owned by The Open University and was launched on 18 September, will compete with the likes of US-based platforms Coursera and edX, the latter of which last week announced plans to develop its open source platform, Open edX, with Google. FutureLearn – which initially will feature 20 courses from across its 23 university partners – would have a “very powerful social architecture” that will be familiar to users of social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, said Mr Nelson.
MOOCS have created fierce advocates and opponents - just read Wikipedia. However, it is probably not going to go away, and if this week is anything to go by, is growing - a list of available MOOCs globally can be found here.
So, this weekend, instead of firing up an MMPORG, how about firing up a MOOC?
Tuesday, February 19. 2013
An interesting article on the "Future of Print Media"in INMA, its the sort of analysis that I prefer - look at the trends with a hard eye, and build scenarios that use the facts, not wishes. Here's the argument:
- Ad revenue in nearly ALL categories has been trending down for many years, to the tune of half of the industry’s revenues in less than a decade.
The argument is that media owners don't like these trends and the implications, and so tend to roll out a more comfortable scenarios to believe, not so much ("straw men" as "hollow men" in my view) such as:
- The economy will turn around!
As the author points out, the first is a faint hope, the second is observably wrong - there are already smart, hard-working people in the industry and yet things are not getting better - and all those people who prefer a newspaper in their hands are in fact buying large numbers of smart tablets and e-readers, or getting older and shuffling off this mortal coil.
The hard thing is to build realistic scenarios, step one is to calculate a "worsr case" - which here is something like a business with:
Take a blank sheet of paper, and design a media business that operates in this milieu. Oh yes, its's been done already.....but, can even this last?
Friday, December 14. 2012
Anil Dash on what we have lost in the stampede into large, corporate walled garden social networks (abridged and time-structured by us):
Five Years Ago you had:
- Most social photos uploaded to Flickr, where they could be tagged by humans or even by apps and services, using machine tags. Images were easily discoverable on the public web using simple RSS feeds. And the photos people uploaded could easily be licensed under permissive licenses like those provided by Creative Commons, allowing remixing and reuse in all manner of creative ways by artists, businesses, and individuals.
A Decade or so ago you had:
Dash believes there are 2 great fallacies with the current Walled Garden approach:
His worry is that a whole generation of web users are growing up with no other mental model than walled garden content farming, and this needs to be remedied:
The first step to disabusing them of this notion is for the people creating the next generation of social applications to learn a little bit of history, to know your shit, whether that's about Twitter's business model or Google's social features or anything else. We have to know what's been tried and failed, what good ideas were simply ahead of their time, and what opportunities have been lost in the current generation of dominant social networks.
If only - after 5 years of highlighting these issues, I am convinced that you can fool most of the people most of the time, and that there is truly a sucker born every minute. One of the other commentators on this post, Giles Bowkett, made this chilling point:
I'm sorry to say that my take on this is more fatalistic; in my opinion, many of the functions of the venture capital system actively thwart the production of good software, but perform marvelously if you view them as a bridge for transferring the population of an aristocracy from positions which control the social and economic systems of the past to positions which control the social and economic systems of the future.
I'm not as negative on this as Bowkett, in my experience these models work until they don't, and all the fooled sheep wake up, jump over the wall and go someplace else. Being older still than the Web generation, I have seen more than one cycle of the game, and they always seem to run in a 4 part sequence
- massive experimentation (Web 2.0 in the 'noughties)
We are now in the "locked in vertical stovepipes" phase, (we are in the same phase with smartphones) but it is usually a necessary phase as it builds the first integrated, end to end services. Yes, they don't have all the anarchic freedom of the earlier phase but they are easier to operate, by more people, and so attract the mass market. To illustrate, there were multiple PC operating systems once, multiple "OSP's" (AOL, CompuServe et al), multiple mobile smart phone OS's - then they were stovepiped - but it all opens up and/or commoditises eventually. That is, so long as you can stop vested interests locking things up into cartels (cf ITU and Internet, as we speak). Anti Trust regulation is also a key tool here.
Wednesday, November 14. 2012
Just spent the last hour or so following a rather interesting story involving some of the BBC'ers recently suspended post Director General Hara-Kiri Scapegoat Event - El Reg
It would appear the BBC has been less that transparent about how it came to its editorial policy about Man Made Climate Change - El Reg again:
You could just imagine the hoo-ha if something like this had been done for oil and gas company lobbyists!
The FOI request has been pursued by a blogger, Tony Newbery, who had smelled the original rat. Anyway, the net effect was that the judges agreed with the BBC to quash the FOI request, despite it being a request for data about a meeting funded by licence payers money that determined editorial policy in an area which is (to say the least) under some debate, and has already been shown to have some dodgy email stuff going on. (And it appears the judges were hardly impartial...)
Same Old same Old, the cynics among you may say....but in this case the Internet came to the rescue, as it appears that the data was once put on said 'Net, and of course was therefore findable by the Wayback Machine. And, quelle suprise, it reveals that this "panel of experts" could more accurately be described mainly as a "panel of lobbyists who we like" - no wonder the BBC was not keen to disclose the names. One wonders whether the BBC's army of lawyers had ever heard of the Wayback Machine, would've saved a lot of licence payer money in court! One also wonder what happens now - the FOI request has been quashed by The Law, but the Wayback Machine shows the information was - and still is - in the public domain anyway. But the ramifications of fighting FOI requests like this are...interesting. One immediately wonders now how many other editorial policies have been decided like this, behind closed doors by "Lobbyists we Like"?
More evidence, methinks, that a Director General of some 54 days tenure heroically falling on his sword is a total diversion from the real issues at play...
And the lesson - yet again - is that the only directly accessible protection or support that We The People are going to get from those people who want to hide things and do stuff away from public scrutiny is this here Internet thingy, which allows alert individuals to dig away and shine a light in murky areas. Protect it, its very precious.
Friday, March 9. 2012
Day One, Part 2 of the FT Digital Media Conference on Wednesday, as per the trusty Olde Tech iPad 1.0 - in these posts I'm noting any changes of emphasis from the daily mill and what is seen to be the New New Thing - or what I call Digital Ketchup, the thing which, if slathered over your Old Thing, will make it look so appetising today.
Session 5. Profiting from Social Data
It is (finally) being said in fairly mainstream (albeit early mainstream) Conferences like this that there are huge amounts of social data, and it's like a microscope for human behaviour
- social graph
Its an arms race for statisticians, marketing is the new finance, moving from an art to a science, web analyst and data analyst are high demand roles, tools are still quite complex
etc etc - but you've read that on this blog over the years, you've heard it before, we apologise. So, the snippets I took away were:
- Chad Hurley (yes, that one) bought deli.cio.us as a data analytics sandbox, to analyse the data it already had and to "to create a better experience" - my takeaway is they wanted a big social graph database to play with and it was quicker to buy one
- Chad Hurley (again) on social selection and data analysis and "Beware The Simple Algorithm":
- "hard to find out what we are looking for",
Others on Data Analysis
- many pieces of straw look like needles
But you knew all that, dear reader. And after the social layer comes the Gamify layer, capturing even more data. What has changed is that the company with the most data no longer wins, it's about what data you have. Quantitative has moved to qualitative.
And what is in it for the poor datascraped consumer - why, a Better Service of course. Only problem with this plan is the Customer is increasingly Not Happy (Pew Research, 2/3+ of people do not like Big Data watching them)
6. Technology Innovation Panel
This had the beneft of the irascible Josh Bernoff in fine sceptical form - some soundbites.
- The reason media co's are struggling is that they confuse the customer with the consumer, but now the consumer power is increasing, and media co's domination of distribution channels is reducing - so old ways don't work
There was also BBC Future Media and Pearson on the panel, nothing new there except the foollowing emphasis shifts:
- Pearson - killer device is the browser (back to the future).
The other echo picked up from the morning is the realisation that the owners of platforms in the New Value Chain are getting into positions os monopoly power, or at least Castles on the Rhine tollbridges:
- If the end device and content is controlled by a company (that'll be Apple then) they have a lot of ower - eg cartoon satirist blocked (Mark FIore) by Apple until he won Pulitzer prize. Media Co power used to comes from content and brand, but they lack connection with viewers because the new media brand is on teh device in their hand and in its Apps store.(because they are conflicted?).
7. Multichannel World Part 1
Not much new here, the song has remained the same. In the UK most people still don't pay anything for content (40% only Pay TV), very static owing to quality of BBC, and people tend to use the 2nd screen for metadata about TV programming - "social TV" is still in its infancy.
So - shaken from the bottle were Big Data, and Social of course...but this afternoon, the realisation that New Monopolists were emerging in the New Media impinged on the party mood.
I was at the FT Digital Media Conference yesterday and on Wednesday, and it was very interesting comparing and contrasting it to the 2010 and 2011 ones which I also attended, as a sort of Zeitgeist sampling exercise (of which more, later). These days I am not so much looking for stuff I haven't heard before, but more looking for change of emphasis and what is seen to be the New New Thing - or what I call Digital Ketchup, the thing which, if slathered over your Old Thing, will make it look so appetising today.
This is my impression of the Wednesday morning, in point form, taken on that conference tool du jour, the iPad (if Microsoft's Macromanagers saw the number of iPads there, they would have heart attacks....):
Session 1. Jimmy Wales - Harnessing the Power of Social Media - Or why we are a Charity
Old media models money making games are over ( eg windowing), but new models not yet evolved, Apps library is interesting new low cost evolution. Teenagers will always find ways to copy music but they are not the problem, the law needs to support the way people use content. Go after the criminals, not the users. The one sided "every few years the industry increases it's copyright" is over, the public now has a voice. Quality - getting better, but WP is far more comprehensive than anything else. Simplifying the Wiki UI to get higher diversity of contributors, but Wikipedia in classic tech trap of having to support power users at the same time.
So far so good, then this:
"You don't want to pick a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel" has changed to "page views by the million"
Shazam! - the story of these last few years and the next few - the transfer of power and influence in one pithy statement. Click. The picture falls into place. The dominoes fall. That is why "Murdoch, Now" happened.
Also, on Privacy, heightened sensitivity - Wikipedia will not let Facebook see what you are reading on Wikipedia, they are increasingly concerned about a closed world. Wales sees a need to move from "Net neutrality" to "Privacy neutrality", devices are getting more locked down and privacy more intrusive and roadcasted.
And also this - Apps stores have a risk, bottlenecks in software distribution from a small number of major players
But the really, really piquant moment was when the UK CEO of Encyclopedia Britannica asked a question* - why did Wikipedia use a charitable biz model, not a commercial model? JW says charity allowed enthusiastic volunteer content production PLUS finessed micropayment problem for content snippets. There endeth the lesson.
2. The Obligatory Future of Newspaper Navel Gazing Panel
Nothing particularly new, except that it continues to highlight the different strategies necessarily being followed between mass and specialist media (essentially is your customer an Advertiser or a Subcriber - that makes all the difference in the path followed), and hybrid vs purely digital models. Data analytics is supposedly the next big thing, as you can now tell which 50% of ads work. Evgeny Lebedev noted that the Moscow election has sent some major shock waves, a real time lesson on how citizen journalism is changing game in serious issues.
3. The Investment Landscape VC Session, aka "Is Facebook really worth $100bn"
Predictably fairly cagey on The Facebook Question, but fairly faint praise methinks:
Dharmash Mistry (Balderton) - depends on your view of sustainability and defensible (Clintonesque, no? )
Note One - when they say "Mobile" today, they don't mean "mobile", they mean "tablet" and all who sail in her - Neil Rimer said the obvious (but oddly largely unsaid in public fora till The Tablet) - that no one could invest in Planet Mobile for a long time owing to huge market scatter, and the convergence into a small no of platforms and a viable applicationss market now making it viable. And of course, as the pendulum swings away from Planet Mobile, it swings to..... Planet New Telco - as Mistry pointed out - all screens from TV to smartphone now have converging computer platforms, so the risk is too much convergence shifts power to the new platform owner.
Note Two - when the inevitable question about Facebook, Privacy and impact on FreeConomic business models was raised, there was a palpable....... pause.......of about 4 heartbeats before the answers started:
Neil Rimer - "have to believe FB valuation won't be affected"
Very telling. I predict 2014 before conferences will be told "well, of course privacy impacts the business models of free-to-consumer social networks" Because that is when the man in the street will have bought all shares...
4. The Soundcloud Story - Frühling im Berlin
We predicted podcasting would crash out in our 2005 analysis, and it did. We haven't seen the "sons of" catch fire either, and our own client work in the audio area has told us that navigation/sampling remains a pain. So what has changed? Eric Walhforss, Soundcloud CTO argued that the New Audio is different due to:
- better mobiles now, smart phones do a better job with navigating audio
We shall see....good luck to them, I think Audio is still a very tough game, even with Social splattered all over it like ketchup.
What interested me most in this talk was the following snippet - they moved to Berlin, although they are Swedish, as the city is "amazing - like early Silicon Valley, but more punk meet geek than hippie meets geek". Now that I can easily believe - although their move was prompted largely by where their angel investor is, Berlin - especially Olde East Berlin - has a "cool" vibe that London's Siicon wotsits just don't have. As Wahlforss noted, London's bid to be a Silicon EuroCentre has to deal with a mobility in the VC world, so is not a slam dunk.
Big Data and Privacy Friendliness got a big shake-out, but Prime Ketchup of the morning was...Social! (just Social - there is no verb nor noun attached anymore).
*Added 5 days later - even more piquant, Britannica has just announced they are no longer printing when stocks run out)
Friday, July 22. 2011
Demand Media is trying to censor blogs that record its suckiness* - Forbes :
We thought the Demand Media business model sucked pre IPO, and still do, but its nice to see these sort of shark practice businesses get their own remora-blogs.
One of the lessons of the New Media is your critics are always with you......... and like remoras,they won't go away easily.
*Suckiness - a business that sucks at sucking suckers'
Thursday, June 9. 2011
This week I had a client engagement in Wales, about 3 hrs from Broadsight's London base. Got there and, with sinking feeling, realised I had left my laptop back in London. Presentation to client COO early the next day, lots of last minute work to do.
Why is this significant? Well, the sinking feeling was from remembrance of times past - I've done this sort of high stress "forget the laptop" once about every 10 years - here is how it went:
1991 - Arrived at hotel near client (in Wales) at c 12pm, had a few final touches to make, no problems as meeting is at 10 am next morning but then found I had left correct "luggable" computer (with the files on) at office - in those days you didn't have your own laptop. I got up at 3am, drove 3 hours back to office, got computer, drove 4 hours back to client (more traffic by then) and then rushed into meeting and present without final touches. There was early Internet in the UK (I used it) but virtually no companies were on it, and as for storing files in the "cloud"...
Of course, you know the end don't you - the meeting was postponed till next week .
Now, in about 1993 I wrote an article in Management Today stating that the impact of this new fangled Internet would be to replace physical travel with digital travel. It hasn't done that yet, but it has replaced the sinking feeling with a sympathetic latte from the hotel staff.
One wonders what will happen in 2021 - will laptops be disposable commodities (5 more cycles of Moore's Law means a £300 machine today will be a tenner by then) or will my laptop be hardwired into my brain, so it cannot be forgotten unless I forget my head!
Tuesday, March 22. 2011
Bit of free time, so writing up my notes from Morning 2 of the Financial Times Digital Media & Broadcasting conference 2 weeks ago. Big takeaway is that everyone expects the near past to look like the near future:
Firstly, that old chestnut, Books - Engaging readers in the digital age had Chris Cleave, New York Times #1 bestselling novelist; John Makinson, Chairman and CEO, Penguin Group and Richard Palk, General Manager at Digital Reading Business Europe, Sony on teh panel. My notes abiut Things I had not heard before are:
- iPad adoption speed incredible, no one is sure what it eans but unlikely to be bale to charge silly prices like you can on e-Readers. 70% margisn are going to come off Amazon/Kindle.
Then came the obligatory New markets, new models session - with Tony Chambers, General Manager, Emerging Markets, The Walt Disney Company, EMEA; Mark Read, Director of Strategy, WPP and Caleb Weinstein, Senior Vice President, Discovery Networks, Emerging Markets. New Points noted are:
- Where is the growth? - not BRICS et al, they can't pay western prices so piracy is endemic - long term game. ROI > 5 years
Then comes the even more obligatory "Next-generation advertising and marketing" featuring Jeff Levick, President of Global Advertising and Strategy, AOL; William Eccleshare, President & CEO, Clear Channel International; Matt Brittin , Managing Director, Google UK and Guy Hayward, CEO, JWT UK Group. New points made:
- There has been very little innovation in Display ads over last 10 yaers, the system was built by technologists in dotcom era but marketers are starting to change it now
The Google chap said that they had not given up with Google TV, but will iterate from what they have learned.
My summary - After 2 days at the conference, I think apart from the more rapid growth of the iPad, and the entrance of a 2nd wave of "adventure capital" into Video, the heavy duty work we did in this space in 2008 stands up pretty well - ie it was all largely predictable. I sat down this morning with my notes trying to scry trends and threads and connections just "below the surface", or anything that looks truly disruptive. I know wveryone want to believe in "mobile", but I just don't see it in the short term as the essential economic limits in the mobile broadband value chain - too much variety, too few standards, cr*p cost structure - just haven't changed much since 2005 when we first looked at this area. What will happen is "Big Smart Mobiles" - ie Tablets - will take the broadband media content load (and payola) as quite simply a mobile screen is just too darned small.
The New York Times paywall learns about work-arounds the hard way - Nieman Labs:
The paywall is costing the newspaper $40-$50 million to design and construct, Bloomberg has reported.
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