May all your Tuesdays be productive. 

gold_moore2.jpgThere’s nothing particularly interesting about gold – but it does tend to keep it’s value over time.

What does seem to be gaining in value is ‘interestingness’: Millions of Blogs, Tagged Media and Social Networks it seems that the aggregation of time based activity is becoming the the commodity to invest in.

What these three investments suffer from is time: Time to generate content, relationships and ultimately enough statistics to make sense to the next generation of software development after web2.0. And now there is a scramble to get enough far enough underground into the lives of the audience to mine the depths of interestingness.

Google have been on this since their humble beginnings with the page rank system. Now Yahoo! has made a grab for the Interestingness through the patient office. Flickr has been using this concept for sometime and it’s a fastinating way to ‘see’ what the audience is drawn to.

If you do a word search for ‘time’ in the patent, you see how dependant the system is on the duration between user activity. Space/Location is of less value, for example:-

[0049] Another score component may take time into account. For example, the system designer may set up the score computation to decrement the thus-far accumulated score by a predetermined percentage over time starting at the time the media object was posted. For example, this time decay may cause the score to decrement by 2% per day from the day of posting. This and other means may be employed to prevent the occurrence of “positive feedback loops” where the sorting of media objects by interestingness itself skews the results, causing those same media objects to be more frequently accessed, thereby unnaturally increasing their interestingness scores.

In the same week Flickr Maps is rolled out to ramp up interest in Geo-Tagging. Again – fascinating to see the world according to photos, but the larger scheme of value to Yahoo! (Flickr’s owner) is the pattern of usage, not media aggregation.

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Russell posted a couple of assumptions about Interestingness, and a 10 point guide to ‘How to be Interesting.’ It’s very good and the comments (as usual) really really good. He’s promised that if anyone follows his 10 point guide for three months he’ll senf you a ‘I’m More Interesting Than I Was Three Months Ago’ certificate.

The difference between Yahoo!’s attempt to capitalise upon the patterns of interest (btw: here’s another Yahoo! patient for tagging) and Russell’s encouragement for inspiration is one of confusing your own habits over time by constantly challenging and surprising yourself. This is the way of the artist. The Yahoo patents tries to embody this, but with no pursuit of finding what is interesting on that there is interest.

As ever – Google is building an intent based algorithmic recognition system whilst Yahoo! is relying on the collaboration of editorial media to understand intent, but there’s no cheating the clock on building enough information to make these systems become the Operating System for the Web.

But what exactly does time give us? Maturity of thinking, depth and breadth in imagination, referential examples as proof of things did exist? This is a trickier one to answer than ‘what is Google’s business model’, so I’ll leave this for Mike to show the wonders of time in one of time lapse movies. (There’s a whole load of time lapse movies on his youtube channel – go see..)

MiniBar – London

November 10, 2006

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I’m not one to spend time at the large social networking events, especially the technology ones – in fact I avoid them – namely because there’s too many of the same type of thinkers in one place.

MiniBar might turn out to be something of a refreshing change. Organised by the champions of openness – Open Business, and they’ve asked MagnaTune’s CEO John Buckman to sponsor the event – in fact he’s buying the drinks..yay!

MagnaTune has been trying to turn the Internet distribution reality into a business model with not just dynamic pricing of music – but offering the audience the right to say how much they want to pay for the rights to download and own a copy of the music. Here’s an article by USA today about the concept.

John also launched BookMooch – a service to enable people to share books. That’s loveliness and ‘interestingness’ wrapped up in a single software service. Great stuff.

I’m sure there will be a unhealthy appetite in web2.0 but hopefully we’ll be treated to a wide range of interesting folk who just like sharing ideas.

Full details here. See you there.

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The great thing about media software is the diversity of people who are involved with it. The downside of being involved with software (and media) is that social time tends to get sucked in by the office machines – so last night at the Old Queens Head was a vain attempt to catch up with mates who have never met each other before.

From left to right we have Paul Thornton Jones of Channel 5 TV Interactive, Christian Alhert of Open Business and Creative Commons and Paul Argent Founding Partner of Milo who make lovely educational Flash media for Channel4 and the BBC. Petros (the other Founding Partner of Milo) and the beautiful Elena, also of Milo left before we got the camera out.

I’m supposed to write up what we talked about: It was along the lines of the demise of the broadcasting era, what happens to a brand when everyone can access content without the need of a mediator; what’s the role of media producers in a world of open source software; what else was there to mash up in a web2.o kinda way; is everyone using netvibes?; who’s reading blog rss feeds via their phone (erm…just Petros on that one – but I like the idea – I never thought about before – simple brilliance from a technologist – perfect); living in Forest Hill after a decade in Shorditch (Argy is now a squire); Free Wifi on Upper Street – Paul thinks he can get it from his flat..

We all spend most of our working days dealing with media technology ideas – but the opportunity to bring together marketing, commercial TV, education mentors and an open licence specialist together for a beer is perhaps a more fruitful way of thrashing out the future than the occasional conference or social networking night. Honest talk, no pretence and a desire to find a way to make great work.

I think we all left with a better empathy about the industries we participate in than any real insight on what’s around the corner. Sometimes it’s better to have a feeling about the future than a vision – it helps to take the next step somewhere, rather than work out where we should be going.

Cheers fellas!

meebomap-thumb.pngThis a distribution map of Meebo via O’Reilly.

Here are some statistics too: –
How many times do people login every single day? 950,000!! You may ask how many of those are “unique?” About 670,000. It turns out most of you happen to log in about 1.4 times per day. Oh, and here’s another interesting one… how many network accounts do you all log in with on average? Also 1.4…which means 1.35 million network ID are logged in daily.

Over 3.5 million unique individuals log into Meebo every month, and on a daily basis you’re all sending and receiving a mere 57,000,000 messages. If you aggregate all of the time everyone spends in Meebo on a daily basis? 64,000,000 minutes which calculates to approximately 122 years! WOW! (click here to see a graph) It turns out you’re all sending and receiving a message just about once/minute, and you’re staying on Meebo an average of 70 minutes/session.

Impressed? That’s a lot of chatter going on.

It’s worth very little though.

Social Networks sites are almost as hot as user generated video sites. Hot, ‘cos the short term land grab for attention is driving the ad revenue – there is a shortage of media in fact – no where near enough for all the advertisers. The medium term will show a decline. Why? Sustainability. I’ll explain.

At the moment we have a shock of the new – the barriers for peer communication is at their lowest. This is great. More talk, more conversation, more commerce, as the ClueTrain passengers would tell you.

Meebo dont do indexing for meaning, but I expect they would love to dump the suitcase of conversations on Google Triumvirate desk and ask for $10+bn. The problem is, Meebo cant leverage this data. It belongs to the users and as soon as they try to sell to Google, the punters will ask for revenue share. And this applies to all the other social network systems. Thus, the short terms benifits out rank the medium to long term plans. The ability to grow the services are latent, but the owners of social network applications are not media producers.

Ah, Myspace and Murdoch.. hmm, yes – now you can see why this should arouse fear into the boardrooms of every broadcaster and media production company on the planet. Google recent $900 deal with MySpace for the adspace seemed like Murdoch’s money shot par excellence (sorry about the similie), but understand that Google now have access to useage data via the advertising program and effectively are listening in on the conversations. Well worth the price. Consdering its a multi-year deal, ensures Google have a social stream of knowledge pouring into its indexing service. Google can afford these rates, they know they’ll be making it back in the medium term.

Once the flames of the web2.0 die down, Google will have the white hot embers ready to forge some very serious toys.

I’ll be posting something about why YouTube is worth a lot more than $1.65bn to Google later this week, and should explain why they really dont care about the ‘content’ of media. In fact, they are after 1 thing only. As said – I’ll post this up later in the week.

In the meanwhile follow the data, not the money…

channel4_taxi_ident.jpgAfter almost 4 years at the UK’s best broadcaster Channel 4, I’ve moved on to join Imagination, the brand experience specialists. I’ve highlighted here what I did there – but in short – I managed a host of new media projects based upon video distribution and online communities. The web is now awash with video systems with YouTube leading the traffic flow. YouTube was starting up when I was planning FourDocs, and I knew then that it was game over for broadcasters in this area. Why? Well, it the way the law is stacked. Broadcasters like Channel4, ITV and Five dont own any content and worse the OFCOM regulations for broadcasting restrict the lifeblood out of freedom of speech. It’s a draconian system that doesn’t take into consideration the global, non-geographical nature of the internet – and as the web is the formidable network for all communication distributions, adhering to terrestrial concepts of broadcasting enables online entities to lure a global audience. These in turn lures the advertisers away from the decline broadcaster audience.

Further, the 2003 Communication Act, hands over all copyright control of the media you see on the telebox to the production companies. Thus, the industry starts to examine the role of a broadcaster by asking “Where is the value added?” Meanwhile, the Communications Act, though designed to help all producers, has seen the insanely large growth for Super Inde production Industry, namely All3Media, Endemol and RDF. These guys can operate internationally, whereas C4 cant. You can begin to see the problem…

The recent McTaggart Lecture by Charles Allen, after the acceptance from ITV the industry is in sustainability trouble indicates that there is wide spread disbelief that strong branded broadcasters cant hold onto the audience or advertisers even with CCR deals in place. In fact they cant retain has the knock on effect that there is no opportunity for growth – this being the foremost driver for investment for online commerce. Again, the advertising industry flock to the new growth areas to learn and greet the early adopting audiences.

So the embrace of User Generated Content Authentic Media by Channel 4 was a great opportunity for growth. I remember printing of the first releases of Creative Commons licences and leaving them on Commisioners and Editors desks complete with articles about how the business models of open licences opened up a plethora of commercial and creative opportunities that were not available under OFCOM’s rulings. Adam Gee was the first to pick up on this (as the true maverick he is) and we launched the VJ support site Pix ‘n’ Mix and Webit, an education site for kids, using Creative Commons licenced material – material that came from external producers headed up by Dominique Lee and more importantly, TV archives that had been acquired by the ClipBank team. A world first of a broadcaster using Open Licence media – and sadly over looked by the industry.

Fourdocs, which ran alongside the launch More4 was heralded as the Channels foray into Authentic Media. Again, Creative Commons licencing was used, though, much to my frustration, the Non Commercial clause was slapped on the licence. The frustration comes from not being able to explain convince the Executive Producers that: –

1) Channel4 was a commercial entity and using/showing/distributing media under this licence is incorrect as the brand profits from audience retention. This has never been proved in court, though the Adam Curry vs. Weekend case is worth knowing/remembering.

2) A significant reason for people sharing their media is that others can reuse the media, thus spreading the original authors work further. No one really profits from showing video online, it is and will only ever be a leader to sell further services.

Much talk of copyright infringement was had during this project – the backend of the service is a comprehensive system to ensure that copyright is not breached when media hits the site. Remember, the EUCD law is irrelevant if you are a broadcaster as OFCOM will get you first.

My swan song for the firm was 4Laughs, which went live yesterday. I’ve been gone a month and haven’t work on the project for 3. Much of the planning was work of myself and the most excellent Comedy Producer, Russell Barnes. Again, it’s supposed to be an Authentic Media service, and again there is no ability for users to share and develop productions via the site. The legal stuff is really funny. Bold disclaimers that the Channel will use submitted material as it wants to though other users can not. FourDocs used ‘marketing purposes’ as the channels legal reuse fig leaf..

My time at the Channel was a fascinating time, and to honest a privilege. Seeing the workings of a broadcaster from the inside really is living in the belly of the media beast. I remember my father asking me 10 years ago after I left art collage what I was going to do, I said “Something to do with technology and publishing.” I started this blog cautiously whilst at the channel, firstly anonymously as I understood that the voice of Channel4 was impeccably controlled and often didn’t reflect the reality of the business, and thus I found myself not being comfortably blogging about my interests and musings about media, open business processes, licences or marketing. I also knew that hardly anyone there read nor wrote a blog, but all the same, creating ripples just wasn’t worth the effort; I’ve read and watched the ongoing faffing that Robert, Tom, Ben have been through and going through that with the Channel would be unproductive.

Within the organisation I was outspoken about the nature of the online media – I know that that may have raised an eyebrow or two. It came from a sense of responsibility, social (as a consumer of Channel 4 and a managing producer). When you see the global media industries trying to adapt to consumer patterns, actively learning and enthusiastically engaged with new opportunities, whilst yourself is being forced to produce something of a chocolate teapot, you cant not ask what on earth is going on. I’m not a lawyer, but I spent a lot of time reading up on licencing concepts, admittedly inspired by good friend Rob Myers. If you are going to produce good media based products for online communities, understand the rules of engagement comes with this baggage. Ignore the framework and it’s weakness and you’ll find yourself with a huge waste of time to account for.

So all this amounts again asking what is to come of UK broadcasting. No growth, audience and advertisers migration to enabling communities, no ownership of media and spiralling media use licence costs. No advertising income = no programmes. I cant see ITV nor Five being part of the SKY portfolio, as SKY has that audience already. Channel4 has the form of a nice niche brand within Murdoch’s empire. I still think the channel has the brand radiance to engage audiences, to work with them to create what the audience really want..

As Charles Allen pointed out, this is a time for radical thinking. I think he’s wrong. It’s a time for radical listening.
Much of what I’ll now feel comfortable about writing here will be what I’ve been talking about over a coffee with colleagues and friends for the past couple of years: –

“The media object is a catalyst not a destination. Communities are wrapping themselves around communication nodes and in turn are the producers of media. With the support of professional services we will begin to see how language works, and when we do, the need for context advertising, least objectionable TV and search will vanish.”

So as that employment notch is coded into the Linkedin profile, I rejoice in working for Imagination – which seems to be mix of airport departure lounge, technology (software & hardware) media production studios and creative planning. I’m managing the interactive media content in the Samsung Experience Store in New York, whilst being based in London. Alongside that, working on the online strategies, actively exploring open source solutions in commercial environment (think Enterprise Mashups) with the backing of possibly the most interesting IT Director I have ever met..

So I’m running with a job title of Transmission Tactician. It seems to fit the planning and management of communications and projects, for the clients and team…and kills the dreaded uninspiring ‘Project Manager’ title I’ve had for too many years. At last I’ve found the crossroads of media technology, creative planning, online services and open mindedness. Every direction looks good from here.

making-the-web-work-for-you.jpg

Adam Gee (Commissioning Editor of Factual for Channel 4 New Media) and I spoke at the Inverness goHi festival last Thursday, and by request, here is my PowerPoint presentation.

Adam covered the opportunities for producers to showcase their work online, while I explained the commercial virtues of sharing and collaboration on digital platforms.

Many thanks to all who came along – and for putting your hands in the air in response to my questions, the applause, questions and after talk chats – you were a fantastic, welcoming audience – and made the event a great example of sharing and collaborating.

Many thanks also to Gill Mills from Icast.com who joined us for the Q&A panel session.

My apologies for the lack of illustrations in the presentation, I was called up to present just 2 days before the event and thus it shows in the slides. Judging by the questions afterwards, there seemed enough to engage in the ideas within the presentation – so again – thanks for bearing with me!

UPDATE: There’s a video of the talk on it’s way to the editing suite – which will help explain some of the slides. I’ll post the link when I hear that it’s been uploaded to the web.

If you have any questions, leave a comment below and I’ll be happy to answer them.

making-the-web3.jpg

I’ll be talking alongside Adam Gee at the Channel4 / IdeasFactory event “Making the web work for you” in Inverness on the 7th September. Aimed at producers wishing to use web platforms to gain media coverage of their work, we’ll be discussing the online media communities such as Channel4’s FourDocs (which I project managed into existence) and the usual niche media alternatives such as YouTube, MySpace and Flickr. We’ll also discuss (I’m sure) licencing, podcasting and of course open-source collaboration – so it’s likely to be the full spectrum of pros and cons of creativity online. The event is free, so if you can make it, do pop along and say hi. Full details here.

I had a quick search for Creative Commons photo’s tagged with ‘Inverness’ on Flickr to see what activity is going on – the photo above is from Calum Davidson aka ccgd. After discovering these amazing images I read that Calum also administers the Scotland Flickr Blog – which is a stunning collection of images and a fantastic example of what we’ll be talking about on the day. In fact – I’ll use it as an example.

Ah – it’s good to practice what you preach..

When to offer a piggyback

September 1, 2006

img0000.jpgMichael Simkins LLP have published a warning to advertisers regarding User Generated Content:-

“If the content does infringe third party rights then under UK law an advertiser may find itself liable for any resulting claims either jointly with the content creator or on his own account.

UK law is as yet untested as to whether an advertiser piggybacking on user-generated content would be liable for copyright infringement. A user generated video may be a parody of an existing audio visual work, it may include music written or recorded by another, comprise footage of a concert or dramatic performance, copy or mimic cartoon characters, include actors or identifiable members of the public, depict distinctive locations or products. If any of these (or other similar) inclusions are made without appropriate permission then it may be an infringement of copyright or related rights. The content generator would certainly be liable for any infringing acts but it is not clear whether UK courts would find the advertiser to be liable.

“Copyright is infringed by anyone who copies the work (or a substantial part), issues infringing copies to the public, rents or lends it to the public, performs, shows or plays it in public or communicates it to the public. It is also infringed by anyone who authorises these acts. It is a secondary infringement of copyright to possess an infringing copy in the course of business.”

Referring to the EUCD directive, advertisers are simply users of a hosted service, and request content is taken down (either their advert or the content if it’s infringing their copyright).

The above is a solution to a problem (“It’s a split between receiving stolen goods and contributory infringement.” – Thanks Rob (who likes to point out he’s not a lawyer etc)) that doesn’t need to exist. If advertisers worked with the User Generated authentic media communities, there be none of the anxieties of guessing where to place a commercial endorsement. Working with some tidy Creative Commons licenced media, advertisers and their creative agencies can bring the spit ‘n polish that home-brewed media desperately needs, whilst warming up the communities who are the consumer group they are interested in.

There really is no need to stack up the legal risk when you have a non-zero sum relationship between online collaborators. While commercial voices compete for attention over the glut of community media offerings, and losing by having to slip an advert in the least obtrusive moment, the effortless collaboration based upon every participants ability to satisfy their own comfort zone has yet to be presented. Collaboration is not about hierarchies, it’s about what you can offer. Suitable offerings result in suitable collaborations.

Meanwhile, Google and MySpace will be facing such anxieties during their $900m relationship, and I’m sure Sony and Grouper have yet to work out how to manage legal threats.

Image by the master of appropriation and copyright juggler – Jeff Koons. “Stacked Animals, ed. #150/200” 2003.#

Sharing business models

August 23, 2006

openbusinesslogo.jpg

I’ve been asked by the lovely folk at OpenBusiness to contribute to their blog on a regular basis, and so I’ve kicked it off this week with a couple of posts. I’ll reblog them here too for reference, especially as the articles are summaries of a larger pool of research – which you can see on the wiki.

“OpenBusiness is a platform to share and develop innovative Open Business ideas- entrepreneurial ideas which are built around openness, free services and free access. The two main aims of the project are to build an online resource of innovative business models, ideas and tools, and to publish an OpenBusiness Guidebook.”

What a great idea.

My first posting is about the Bowie Bonds – where the Thin White Duke leased his back catalogue for 10 years in return for $55m. Simply a fantastic way to avoid the issues of copyright infringement in this online-peer-2-peer age – just sell on the risk..

The second posting is about the Relakks service, a VPN for anyone wanting anonymity online – which is apparently handy if you want to share pirated media. This has a downside as the article explains.

We are the Web

August 23, 2006

If ‘Net Neutrality!’ needs promotion, then this is one way. Spread the word song and dance.

Much of the ‘crisis’ over the the prioritising of data packets is understandably a technical concern. Both the Wikipedia entry on the subject and the cited website by Tim Wu are worth studying. The economics are focused on giant technology players gleaning preferential treatment (or not) on the Internet. What doesn’t seem to be discussed is the relationship to Information Theory.

Every network has operational concerns and external influencing obstacles ranging from terrorism to tollbooths; the Internet is unlikely to ever to be free (as in problem free) as it too takes on the same dynamics as any transport networks.

Just as with the above Internet celebrity song and dance routine, the amount of data actually required, not desired, should be the focus of improvements to the use of the Internet. Networks like efficiency and if the Inernet fails to deliver to the users then the users will find another system to adopt. From canals to railways to roads, different forms of networks bring specific results and problems. There’s no such thing as a free-way.

At present, with the rise of video distribution, this has kept the Telcoms excited – lots of data being moved around. With the attraction of VoIP, a realtime data exchange, the arguements arise over what needs priorotising. If Microsoft Office ever gets to realtime business being contucted over the communication networks (as opposed to document writing and sending), then yes – you’ll see commerce ‘bunging up the tubes.’

But this is mapping the current use of media over a system and expecting the processes of communication not to be refined. Look at txting, emoticons and rss feeds. These light data communications are the effecient forms of transfering information and they’re capable of being rich in personal expression.

Just as the transport networks in London are plagued by overcrowding, the rise of the cyclist has increased commerce where it didn’t exist before. Cyclists find a freedom in being able to go anywhere and more importantly stop anywhere – this leads to bars and cafes and shopping areas being accessed by new customers thus creating new communities.

What has been realised with the Internet is that ‘the communities are the network’ and the relationships between participants will be maintained by their own needs not regulations that support commerce that is no longer persued.

I’ll finish with the post with a documentary-in-the-making called ‘In Your Car No-one Can Hear You Scream!’, that investiagtes London’s traffic. Both the documentary and the comments posted on the YouTube page are worth reading and relating to our Internet neutrality debate.

Seeing software

August 22, 2006

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Yup – that about right. In fact – all business managment should use cell shaded images to describe processes and activities. Now thats a string to Pixar’s bow I would love to see.

Seriously, much of the process in software is captured in either UML or ‘textual documentation’, both have verydifferent ontologies. Add the Visio aesthetic or even Omnigraffle and you begin to translate ideas for the better or worse.

Creative Director of Digitas, David Armano has been working on a bunch of diagrams to enagage the whole gammut of participants in a software development. Though they’re bright, cheerful and optimistic – software development at it’s best is about reflexity and recursiveness.

It’s all in the briefing and the planning.

As the advertising and software industries get closer and closer, my hope is to see the art of planning meet the Agile methodologies.

In a networked world, development teams for both communication and programmers need a direction, not a destination.

Never mind the buzzwords..

August 22, 2006


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Zero Influence Wiki

August 12, 2006

As an aid to research and managing the bottleneck of posts on this blog, I’ve set up a wiki with the new and amazing WikiDot service.

I’ve not made the wiki open for anyone to edit as it’s purely for my own notes, but anyone is free to go and see what I’m thinking about/researching; only conclusions and observations will be rendered here.

Tagging Time

August 11, 2006

Viddler will be popular..

“The keystone feature here is the ability to add tags and comments tied to particular points in a video. Those tags are then searchable, so if I want to find the particular point in one of my videos that I tagged “touchdown,” that’s easy to do. I can also have a conversation with other users regarding a particular moment in a video and choose to embed the video on another site in it’s entirety or only from a particular point I select.”

“Videos are served as streaming files, so they can’t be downloaded and will thus be preserved from copyright violation.”

[via Techcrunch]

…if the interface is latency free.

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