Archive for category Web2.0

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Chris, Chris, Chris & Kris – Taped from SxSW

I sat down with Chris Brogan and Kris Smith (with special driveby guest Chris Messina) for a great podcast on BTRex during our last full day of SxSW this year which you can listen to here. We had a rollicking good time talking about social media and so much more. Some portions of it are potentially NSFW, and some aspects are not fully PC, but if your sensibilities can get beyond those minor issues, this is one heckuva entertaining and informative podcast.

I still love the line I laid down during the opening section, “Serendipity is a weapon!” gotta love it.. and be careful of it.

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Chris Brogan Joins Utterz Board of Advisors

I don’t ever recall seeing an advisory board announcement getting any attention, but when it is one of social media’s finest and wisest joining a great new company, I guess people notice. Yesterday Utterz announced that Chris Brogan agreed to join their Board of Advisors, which is fantastic news for everyone involved (including me since they are a client of mine at The Conversation Group).

Chris pointed out on his own blog how the ease of use and wide availability of Utterz was so important and cool “I love that the barrier to entry of using a social communication
platform is pressing 2 on their cell phone. Do you have a “2″ on your
cell phone? Yes? You’re in.”

Chris has been an active user of the service since the early days of its launch, helping other people learn to get more out of the service by using Utterz to teach, as he did here with his Utter about “5 tips for Utterz Users“. In fact, Chris introduced me to Utterz and we have a photo (on Utterz) that captured the moment down at BlogWorld Expo.

Mashable also covered the news with some a bonus prize of an interview they did with Michael Bayer, CEO of Utterz a short time ago.

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Social Media Jobs, Turn Your Passion into a Profession

Social Media JobsA few weeks ago I got an offer for one of the domains I own, then I got another, and another. Since they were all through brokers, except for one, I never really had a conversation with any of them to see what they might really be willing to pay, but I did realize I need to start doing something with all the domains I own. So I decided I should just go ahead and finally launch it myself rather than accepting the offer, which was around $1,000.

Fortunately, I remembered talking with JobThreads a year ago, which has since made their service much easier to use and much more friendlier to launch in this way. At the moment, and for the next month, job postings will be free, but after that I hope to start charging some fair fee. So that’s where you come in. What’s fair for a job posting site? Is the $75 Craigslist charges fair?

In the meantime, check it out and let me know what you think I should do to make it better…

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Will Tagging+Attention Make 2008 the year of Smart Agents?

I have been noodling on what 2008 might bring for the wonderful web world in which we live and I think I finally hit on it this morning after reading Marshall Kirkpatrick’s excellent post called Five Ways You Can Fall in Love With Tagging Again. His five (and a half) ways are:

1. Re-enforce your learning at the end of year
2. Build a collaborative tag stream for a community of practice
3. Create a shared items feed and put it on your web page
4. Tag into a mobile reader
5. Tag your microblog posts
5 1/2 The future

I am very glad he has brought this important topic back into the spotlight as we enter the new year. The lull in uptake of tagging, particularly in some new applications I have seen lately has actually troubled me. It is a feature that can provide so much added value for the people who use it (and those who will casually benefit from those who contribute to it) that I think it can be the difference between a success and a failure.

In reflecting on the adoption (or lack thereof) of tagging systems, I believe we won’t see a real rise in usage until we see the next generation of apps. Yes Twine is one potential member of this class of apps, but real knowledge management folks don’t trust systems to do classification for them (yet). I think Marshall’s point 5 1/2 is heading in the right direction which he describes as:

In a future that leverage our Attention Data, we’ll be able to tag things in order to influence our Attention Profiles. What does that mean? It means that once you’ve exposed your Ma.gnolia APML (Attention Profile Markup Language) to your Bloglines RSS reader – then you’ll be able to influence the feeds that Bloglines recommends to you by tagging certain things in Ma.gnolia.

The future Marshall references as point 5 1/2 is a very important one to consider – one that I think is indicative of a broader vision. It is, I believe deeply, the goal we should all be moving towards, especially in 2008. What we really need is smarter systems that do more for regular people automagically, tools that will recommend and deliver useful information, resources and services to us when we need it most without having to express more then our intentions, learning from everyone’s attention and explicit descriptions.

If 2007 was the year of the widget, I hope that 2008 is finally the year of smart agents…

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Facebook Not Understanding Opt-In is Like Universal Missing Digital Music

Facebook Beacon NotificationThere are a lot of smart people who have weighed in on the Facebook Beacon issue and Mark Zuckerberg’s apology today, and while I have not had time to read it all, it pretty much equates to a lot of bad PR for them. Then again, as they say in show business, any PR is good PR. This just furthers the broad, mainstream awareness of Facebook as a Social Networking Platform.

In the end, my take is that this is actually great for Facebook despite some of my scathing commentary below.

As Dave McClure points out today, the majority of FaceBook users who are uninformed consumers will look at this, and FaceBook’s response without the cynicism that all of us longtime observers have and without the scorn for the obviousness of their mistake. While I respect Dave, and agree with many of his points, he misses out on the fact that having FaceBook know everything I do, nearly everywhere on the Web was not part of the Faustian bargain we made when we signed up. Wasn’t it somewhere around 1998 when EVERYONE realized the only way to gain trust with users was through opt-in policies? In reading Mark Zuckerberg’s well crafted statement produced by an army of PR professionals and lawyers, I stopped in my tracks when I read:

The problem with our initial approach of making it an opt-out system instead of opt-in was that if someone forgot to decline to share something, Beacon still went ahead and shared it with their friends.

Well yes Mark, that is the problem with opt-in systems, it does things that people don’t necessarily want it to do. How can someone forget to decline to share something, when they aren’t even aware the system is really sharing it in the first place? Kristie and I found out about this firsthand when managing our queue on Blockbuster. She didn’t notice the small little window that popped up in the lower right corner, I merely remarked – “wait, what was that?” Only on the 3rd instance did we actually see what it was doing and get there in time to “remember that we wanted to decline sharing something”.

Despite the minimal macro effects this has on the company, I have a ton of disdain and scorn for Mark agreeing to make this clearly moronic statement as part of his broader post…. but wait, there’s more. The very next line in his statement is even more offensive (and demeaning to his colleagues who tried to do the right thing):

It took us too long after people started contacting us to change the product so that users had to explicitly approve what they wanted to share.

What about all the smart people on their staff who realized this was silly? What about all the people who complained about the early spamming incidents of lead FB App developers who automatically sent invites to all of a person’s friends when adding an app? What about all the partners who agreed to implement this technology, and the smart people on those teams who most likely asked the same question all of us have been asking? Even now in reading this, I am concerned that they still have not understood how far from reality their philosophical understanding of privacy issues in social networks really is. I mean, doesn’t FaceBook, as a general principle, confine what is being shared only to those we agree to share this information with, even giving us the option of only sharing a “limited profile” when adding them?

Hmmmm – I don’t know Mark, so I can’t make a reasonable judgement on him personally, but I have had the pleasure of speaking with Dave Morin, their platform architect. I have to say, I expected better of him then this – he really seems to get it – though like Mark, I believe they are still young entrepreneurs and are perhaps not seasoned enough to be running the nation state that is FaceBook. Which is why perhaps these moves are indicative of the fact that they are not really running the show, or that the pressure has them relying on more experienced executives and the investors for advice instead of their own instincts. Perhaps we just need to form an advisory board of straight shooters who they could really rely on for hearing it straight, to support them as individuals and leaders of the FaceBook Nation.

A good point was made by Tom Foremski last week at the Something Simpler Systems conversation on Mining the Social Graph that I helped produce with my partner Ted Shelton. Tom said, paraphrasing “What if trying to monetize these social environments merely pollutes them and destroys the real value they hold for the people who are there. They aren’t participating in FaceBook to make money, or to make money for others, they are there because they want to be social!” His post on MSFT: Setting Up Facebook For Failure, is a must read on this subject. In looking at the FaceBook Beacon fracas, I have to wonder who is really in charge, and if the eagerness to prove monetization means that the evil greedy stupid marketers are the ones really in charge.

Who is FaceBook’s Dick Cheney anyway? While Mark takes the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, someone behind the scenes is sitting on their private jet saying “Oh well, that didn’t work. How did the market do today?”, all the while leaving Mark to take the fall with silly statements like this one today. But wait, it gets worse, and now I wonder if he has some septugenarian crisis management expert writing his statements instead of a digital native:

Last week we changed Beacon to be an opt-in system, and today we’re releasing a privacy control to turn off Beacon completely. You can find it here. If you select that you don’t want to share some Beacon actions or if you turn off Beacon, then Facebook won’t store those actions even when partners send them to Facebook.

I know everyone else out there has made this point ad nauseum, but really, how can you dare claim it was changed to an opt-in system when your partners are still collecting data on our use of their sites and sending it to you? It seems as if whoever is really in charge over there is overly tempted by the apples of user behaviour on the tree of knowledge that they not only took the first bite, they just cant stop themselves… let’s hope this sin is not infectious.

Let’s be clear about this for everyday, non technical folks. To say it is an opt-in system means that it should be off completely until you opt for it to be turned on at all. This version of what they call opt-in is a mutant merman, like the one that saves Lois on a recent Family Guy episode. Its completely upside down and misses the point. This is why I think it is the equivalent of Universal Music’s CEO Doug Morris claiming there “wasn’t a thing he or anyone could have done differently“.

For Mark to make a claim like the one above, calling the ‘improved’ beacon program opt-in, demonstrates a cluelessness of gigantic proportions. Of course, the bigger problem I see here is that Mark is being forced to make such statements, not realizing that in today’s world, regardless of the multi-billion dollar corporate interests at stake, we are, as the original users of The Well stated so eloquently, “You Own Your Own Words“. So take responsibility and stand up for what is right Mark, don’t let them play you like this…

I want to thank you for your feedback on Beacon over the past several weeks and hope that this new privacy control addresses any remaining issues we’ve heard about from you.

Of course it doesn’t Mark, and you are seemingly smart enough to know this. I thought the practice of SPIN was dying, particularly with your generation which has even less tolerance for BS then the rest of us. Please stop trying to defend this egregious invasion of privacy and do the right thing. While I am sure that the mainstream parts of society and the uninformed won’t care about, or remember this a few months from now, WE won’t forget. So, let’s chalk it up to being an experiment gone awry, and rather than continuing to try to defend it, work with US to openly craft a better balance of privacy, social signaling and monetization opportunities. If we work together, I am sure we can come up with something that could really work for us instead of against us.

Doc Searls really drove home an important understanding about the bigger issues at play here in his series of posts about Making Rules. I may be interpreting it slightly differently, but these eloquent series of posts support what I have been thinking about regarding Social Media’s ability to tear down the walls that make an individual’s interaction with a company an us vs. them proposition. This isn’t about the Executive Team at Facebook making decisions separately of its users, though they certainly have the right to do so as they are the one’s in charge. It is my opinion, that in the modern market, particularly for a social media company, it is imperative that the leadership thinks about it from the perspective of all of us working and creating our online communities together. As my wife Kristie Wells reminded me again, if it weren’t for our contributions, there would be no value in the company – we are absolutely the co-creator of this company and should be respected as such.

Of course, as Dave McClure and many others will tell me, if I don’t like it, I can just leave – just as many Americans said about what they would do if Bush was re-elected President. Like most of my friends (who still live in San Francisco 3+ years later), I would rather stay and work to create change from the inside, not by leaving the FaceBook Nation, but by being a part of the conversation and contributing towards positive change…

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Sex, Technology and The Economy

Glad to get into Valleywag for something funny – this little piece called Chris Heuer’s grand unified theory of porn, tech, and the economy is from a short video interview I did with Sarah Meyers. Follow the link to Valleywag to view the video…

I could have actually gone faster to get it under a minute as she requested, but thought I would try to make some of it understandable. This isn’t something I would normally speak on, but since Sarah asked, I obliged – her stream is a probably a more thorough exposition of some of my thoughts on this, though perhaps equally incoherent in spots as I was digging deep to remember the correct citation while trying to make the story structure support my point – which I failed at as evidenced by the Valleywag commentary.

In the session at BarcampBlock before this interview, entitled Web 2 dot oh (or uh oh), we were discussing the economic state of Web 2.0 and leading indicators. Sarah wrote about the session, and showed I did not o well at making my point there at all – you try explaining the economics of population size in 140 characters or less…

My point was related to the fact that economic cycles, the upturns and downturns, are driven by many different factors. I brought up the point that one of the biggest factors driving the economy is actually sex (and I am getting this from esteemed authors, not from deep dark corners of the net). By this I mean, all the returning soldiers from WWII came home and created the Boomer generation. As that huge burst in our population ages and moves through life stages, there are different major spending events – go to college, first house, big promotions, enterpreneurism, kids in college (how many kids are they having), kids move out/downsize house, kids have kids, retirement, grandkids, grandkids in college etc…

This cyclical aspect of the economy, predicated on how large the population is growing or shrinking relative to their life stages, makes a major impact on whether the economy is strong or weak. It is not the only factor, but a large one nonetheless.

I referenced the work of Paul Zane Pilzer in this regards, but the book that I should have referenced, where such theories were featured more prominently, was in the Roaring 2000’s by Harry S Dent. Dent is more of a management consultant, coming out of Harvard Business School whereas Pilzer is an economist.

According to a 2000 Businessweek article based on Harry’s predictions entitled “Call it a Boomer Boom

“The 80 million or so boomers–those born between 1946 and 1964–are hitting their peak earning, spending, and investing years, and that’s what’s driving the economy’s incredible performance”

An interesting metaphor he used was in this quote on the Stone Creek Wealth Advisors site:

Studying the spending and investing habits of this current “Baby Boomer” bulge that is rapidly changing our society, is like a snake that swallowed a pig. You can easily see the progress of the snake’s meal as it moves through the snake.

While Dent is ostensibly way off in his 2000 prediction of a 40,000 level Dow by 2008, his basis for such optimism holds water. The Businessweek article goes further to state

“In Dent’s view, the economy goes into a deflationary funk for another 10 or so years, until the boomers’ children–the 83 million ”echo baby boom” generation–reach their economic prime.”

Where Dent was seemingly right on track was in regards to his predictions from 2004 for the second part of this decade. From an article from Bank Technology News on Finadarticles called Harry Dent Say Prepare for Boomer’s Aging, he shaes some interesting and timely insights

He paints several broad trends. The first is that thanks to Boomer spending and increased productivity, the economy will be stronger in the second half of this decade than is generally believed. Second, financial services will be stronger than the overall economy as Boomers pick up their savings rate in preparation for retirement. The growth areas will be investment services, not lending and consumer finance. “Banks should be positioned for stronger growth, and growth will come from the investment side and retirement, more than mortgages and consumer finance,” Dent says.

In a Wired Magazine Interview in 1999 with Kevin Kelly, Dent said

Bull markets end when a generation stops spending and stops being more productive as workers. Our growth boom will end around 2008 or 2009, as the boomer generation begins to cut its spending. We’ll see falling prices, high unemployment, and massive consolidation in industry.

Of course, at the time, the trends did not show how much longer boomers were willing to stay active in the work force, nor did it accurately predict the productivity enhancements that the widespread adoption of the Web brought forth. Most importantly, the procutivity gains to be realized should Enterprise 2.0 become a widely adopted trend will further alter the timing of any potential bust he references. This however, does not totally remove the microeconomic impact on spending that population and life stages has on the overall economy – but it certainly does change the odds and the possibilities.

Despite many incorrect predictions from Dent and other economists, I still maintain that sex drives the broader economy, it certainly has influenced technology and it plays its own unique role in all emerging markets (and marketing).

It was a great session though – I wish someone would have posted the notes to the wiki


Furrier Steps Down as Podtech CEO

I have been hearing the rumor for a long time now, but I saw the status update on Facebook and then turned into John Furrier’s blog to read the news that he is stepping down as CEO of Podtech.  I like John. I can hang out with John. He is a smart guy and built the beginnings of a success story while fueling the growth of social media adoption by big technology companies. I have a lot of friends at Podtech, and I hope this bodes well for their future potential (as well as John’s, because he has been working his ass off).

Many have speculated that this was a requirement for Podtech to get new funding (was that Valleywag?), but that is still unknown and probably never will be.  Podtech has a tough transition ahead to reposition/re-energize the brand and find a business model that will work for them, their investors and their customers. There are many opportunities still in the technology side of the house, but I understand they largely have a content focused team so this is going to be a real challenge.

Bottomline, they are my friends, so I wish them well…

UPDATE: Chris Brogan has a nice story on this where I added a long comment I need to turn into a blog post…

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Why USA Today is not a Social Networking Failure

USA Today Declining AudienceI tried something new this morning and was reading TechMeme on my commute to work when I noticed this story about USA Today’s declining page views since reinventing itself and adding a social network function on TechCrunch.
Mike did a great job of supporting his claims by including metrics from both and Comscore (both have their statistical ‘anomaly’ problems), which clearly points to a real decline. The reason why was left up to the commenters, and many pointed to

  1. bad redesign
  2. failure of social networking
  3. aggressive ad deals
  4. core audience not wanting to participate (failure to understand audience desire/needs)
  5. decreasing quality of content
  6. increased competition
  7. the change was too drastic

These all are valid concerns, but as I posted in my comment there, which I am reposting below with additional thoughts, I think they miss the bigger picture.

Content is important, but context is king. What is the context of USA Today‘s coverage, shallow dives across a broad spectrum of topics for the entire USA [wasn’t it supposed to be like the McDonald’s of news?]. Their brand has always been about this and people know it. Worse still, they are always trying to make everyone happy, which ultimately makes a lot of it (the content) very mediocre and less appealing – a downward spiral really. With the increasing “nicheification” made possible in digital media (and evidenced by the need for all the different Crunch brands), what is the context for passion, attention and interaction within a USA Today? [or rather, why would I want to join their community?]

The other major trend for context is the move to hyperlocal. Gannett is doing a great job with this in many markets (see the latest Wired article) and I expect that much of that will ultimately bubble up. In short, they should not let go of this experiment unless they want to hang on to the core brand value they established over the last several years.

This is not a failure of the Social Network + Traditional Media model, it is a failure of USA Today to be aggressive enough with rethinking their brand and innovating to serve the needs of their core audience and expand the definition of their audience.

Yes, they did not consider the impact of the radical redesign on their existing audience – Yes, their core audience is mostly part of the 90% from the 1/9/90 rule – Yes, they have alienated a portion of that audience and are losing SOA with them (Share of Attention) [need to go deeper into this idea in another blog post soon]

So what are they doing to encourage participation from those who are there? How are the identifying and supporting the contributors? How are they themselves joining the conversation?

As a final point, it is important to remember that the key facets of personalization for setting proper context have always been geographical and topical. Where someone lives and what they care about. The right mix of context setting is as much art as it is science. USA Today’s state by state news page and their local sports coverage was one of the first to teach me this important lesson over a decade ago. I still think the traditional newspapers have figured out a lot of things that can benefit our thinking 2.0, despite all of the other baggage and often slow pace that considered, researched thinking begets (and the many mistakes that it avoids).


Stop the Insanity! Don’t Call It “Conversational Marketing”

My thinking here is very clear – despite a lot of people whom I respect using the phrase “Conversational Marketing” to describe the new way companies are relating to customers, it devalues the underlying shift which is, in Doc Searl’s words, of “greater significance”. While the word marketing is intended to get the attention of those corporate folks who are somewhat attached to their titles and have budget, the language devalues the importance and ends up missing the point.

In the world I inhabit, Marketing has become a four letter word. It has come to mean interruption, manipulation and pushing messages into people’s heads. As David Weinberger says, “somewhere along the way, markets, what we do together, became marketing, what we do to other people.” It seems to me that Conversational Marketing is in danger of ending up becoming something that traditional marketing people use to do TO other people rather than understanding it is something that we do WITH other people.

This was one of the chief concerns that Stowe Boyd rightly brought up in our little ‘kerfuffle’ earlier this year about the Social Media Press Release. That marketers would use the tools without understanding the underlying shift in strategy, intention, process and purpose that is at the heart of human to human communications (H2H) that is the hallmark of our new world.

As an abstract management term, it is seemingly technically accurate, but the spirit is missing from the language. In this case, I think it is the spirit behind the ‘meme’ that makes it powerful and will accelerate the greater transformation it represents. Of course, as someone who has been active in defending the often debated phrase of “social media”, I am a bit sensitive to the challenge we face in the conversation about this new business practice. In fact, I have been reluctant to bring this issue up – especially with the upcoming Conversational Marketing Summit being put on by the folks at Federated Media, who I respect very much. (especially after some of great conversations I had with Chas back in June)

Everyone I know who cares about this emerging practice has clearly been influenced by the Cluetrain, so I don’t know why we would want to move away from their description and intention. For me, it is not Conversational Marketing, it is Market Conversations. I realize I am splitting hairs here somewhat, and that no one can really win a semantic argument such as this, but I think that the intention we bring to this new era is evidenced strongly in our language. For me, conversational marketing makes it seem like more of the same old same old, rather than a real transformation in the very nature of how businesses operate. Our intention should be reflected in our language.

More broadly, I think what is happening is really about Market Engagement – how companies interact with the market’s they serve – how companies relate to the people within those markets through product experience, conversations and media. This can simply be thought of as first person, second person and third person. A conversation is not an advertisement, not an email newsletter, not a podcast, not a press release, not a ‘contrived’ focus group where management watches real people from behind the glass – these are all pieces of communication. A conversation is a human interaction between two or more people, which involves listening, speaking and responding.

So on Sunday, here at Gnomedex’s Unconfernce, UnGnomeCamp, I will be leading a session to delve into this topic more fully. I hope you can join us and let me know what you think. Am I hitting the nail on the head here or am I out of touch?