Archive for category Insytes

Is Social Media bad for the environment?

Sunset in JamaicaOdd question isn’t it?

I mean, surely Social Media is doing a lot for the cause, helping people spread the word via blogs, organize efforts and make everyone aware of our global climate crisis. Sarah Perez (love her stuff) even has a great post just today on How to Use Social Media for Social Change. Of course I agree, as evidenced by my early post on the Importance of Social Media and Amanda Chapel’s constant attacks against me (which I gleefully laugh at as he continues to give me more attention).

So what made me stop trying to fight my insomnia and get out of bed to write such a seemingly silly blog post at 430am this morning?

During the course of the work I have been doing with Intel lately, I have been researching the enterprise IT market and learning a lot about what they have been doing to reduce power consumption while maintaining performance across all there product lines. This CIO survey from March has some interesting details on “The Greening of IT”. It’s a very big and important topic for the industry and each of us. My friend Bill Kircos from Intel tells me that Intel is the largest buyer of reusable/renewable energy as ranked by the EPA (story on They are also extending their Greening Efforts across their operations in other important ways such as removing lead from their chips. Even my wife (Kristie Wells) is researching carbon offsets for her company Joyent.

At the same time, I have been thinking a lot about the big data portability issue (which I fully support) and whether or not the recent Facebook/Google challenge over Friend Connect might mean that we are seeing “The Twilight of the Open Web” (a topic of discussion for next months Social Media Club meeting in San Francisco – details to come).

In talking with some folks at the Executing Social Media conference last night, I mentioned this event idea and Nathan Gilliatt remarked we will always have some walled gardens and I replied with my standard “we can’t have walls, we need semi-permeable membranes”, meaning there needs to be some trust filter to keep the bad actors out and the good actors safe – which is the role Facebook claims to be playing in safegauding its users privacy from Friend Connect sites.

This is similar to the debate around Flickr and Zoomr and an open API for user portability which was basically about (paraphrasing) not allowing people to have all their data and photos transferred to a site where they may not be able to take it somewhere else in the future. As Stuart Butterfield said “we definitely should approve requests from direct competitors as long as they do the same … fair’s fair”. Or as Marc Canter infamously said at BloggerCon IV, “If you’re gonna suck, you gotta spit“.

Now look at the great and hugely popular service that FriendFeed and SocialThing are providing, a true value for sure, but it is duplicating, and in some cases tripling the amount of storage used for the same content.

Was also thinking about TubeMogul, which Tim Street mentioned during a session yesterday and which I also happen to love. It allows you to send your video to any and all of the video sharing sites you want all at once, saving us a great deal of time in distributing our video. Of course, there are also the people who take copies of it and upload it to other servers and other sites…

So these thoughts and discussions lead to me wondering about the impact that all of this data duplication we are creating with our Social Media is creating. Multiple hard drives, redundant systems, ultimately needing to head to a landfill or get partially recycled and replaced. Perhaps it is merely distributing the consumption we would have had anyway, but I have over 8,000 photos on Flickr and if I put them on Zoomr too that would be (@3MB each) 24 GB of extra storage space I am taking up on primary systems, plus backups – then the electricity to run it all.

Jake McKee talks about how he and his wife upload the same photos to their different Flickr accounts, what if they switched and then switched again. Of course, we also have a ton of different equipment we are using for creating and consuming media. Just today I had my M-Audio podcast rig, my Flip video camera, my phone and my iPod sitting in front of me next to my 3rd iBook/MacBook. The impact of manufacturing and disposal and power consumption of all this stuff we are using is just huge.

Of course, this is, most importantly, the method through which the whole of our society is improving, growing smarter and becoming more connected.

It’s obviously ok for the storage folks bottom lines and the power company and even me as a Social Media evangelist, but is Social Media bad for the environment? Shouldn’t we all be thinking more about Storage Conservation instead of Duplication?

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Transforming the Heart of Business (My BIL Talk)


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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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


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?


10 Years of, Some Insytes, Some Issues

I remember sitting at my Guru Communications desk in Miami Beach seeing the Washington Post come online back in 1996. We were in the height of our frenzied growth and struggling against the five headed monster that was our management team. We had just finished launching Isle Bombardier a couple of months beforehand and we were all talking about how big Media doesn’t get it. But the Post did, and that was surprising and refreshing to see.

Reading the article Web Site Starts From a Memo, Gains Millions of Readers about the brief history of the Post, I found a few gems that I wanted to share with you.

In particular, this quote from Warren Buffet is extremely relevant to the modern thinking of many of the Web 2.0 startups I know who don’t really have a business model or plan to revenue other than AdSense. I never really understood that form of business model in the early days (which is why I was not able to make Virtual Community Network a big success – I thought we were supposed to try to make money not light it on fire and burn it). While I disagree with the free spending strategy in principle because of the huge risks, I do see how those risks can be mitigated to ensure some modicum of success.

And Kaiser recalls a conversation with Post board member Warren Buffett in which Buffett told Kaiser to stop worrying about the financial side: “There is no case in history of somebody assembling a huge audience and then failing to make money from it,” Kaiser recalls Buffett saying. Washington – Web Site Starts From a Memo, Gains Millions of Readers

This was the beginning of the “eyeballs” movement – build an audience, make the site sticky and make it viral to grow the audience. I still find it very interesting that today people expect to get to the same “sticky eyeballs” outcome by being “open” and letting their customers easily migrate to competitors. At least today there are standards of quality and methods of understanding audience expectations that make it more possible to create a product/service that really satisfies the needs of the audience.
What really make sense to me in this debate is that it clearly drives competition and motivates organizations with thriving collaborative cultures to make the best possible product in order to prevent people from leaving. It is sort of like an unsatisfied customer relief valve – when the pressure from customers leaving for a competing service get too high, is the company more likely to shut the valve or respond with greater innovation to reverse the flow?
This is seemingly being played out in the Flickr v. Zooomr discussion – especially now since the Flickr Famous Thomas Hawk is going to work for Zooomr. While he says he will still continue to post to Flickr, that does not make sense – he has switched his life to a new photo sharing platform by joining the company, he should make the full commitment to it. While it may be a stab at a brilliant marketing move (keep talking on Flickr about how much better Zooomr is), I feel that such a move is not in the spirit of authenticity that is so prominent in this era of the Web 2.0 Social Contract.

Which brings me back to the brief history of and some of the more recent strategic shifts. To embrace more of the many to many aspects of the covversational Web instead of the one to many model that has been so prevalent for so many years.

In a recent all-company meeting, Caroline Little, WPNI’s chief executive officer and publisher, spoke of recent online innovations. “We set out, very purposefully, about two years ago, to leverage the medium of the Internet, to create more possibilities of conversation and to drive people to come and stay on the site: With blogs, comments on blogs, Technorati [links], comments on articles, a broader and deeper opinion section,” she said. Washington – Web Site Starts From a Memo, Gains Millions of Readers

I refer to this shift as moving from being the “Town Crier” to becoming the “Town Hall” – moving from the idea of media as voice to the idea of media as place – a venue where the conversation happens. From trying to control the conversation to facilitating it amongst peers. The Post does understand this better than most big media companies, but not completely. They still think the game is about driving people to the site and keeping them there, which is an ad revenue model rather than being a social one. This was further evidenced by their position looking out at the world from inside the organization., they realized, wasn’t a completely separate product; it could also help market the larger Washington Post brand. Audience spikes around big news events sent a strong message: Readers yearned for the authority of The Washington Post’s reporting. Washington – Web Site Starts From a Memo, Gains Millions of Readers

Internet usage always spikes around big news stories – email volume, IM volume, hits to the big authoritative news sites and now so does the amount of stuff people contribute to the conversation through their Blogs, Podcasts and Vlogs. Yes, people need to have a trusted, authoritative voice to turn to, but this is no longer the Post by default. In all fairness, the strategies that the Post has taken are in the right direction. They are willing to experiment a little, they are embracing conversational methods and they have a really bright team of folks working for them.

But the jury on relevance and authoritative voice is still out and probably won’t render its final judgment for another 10 years. Personally, while a track record and brand loyalty is important, I now judge news sources on the merits of each piece they publish. I am just as likely to stumble on a Washington Post story as I am one from the New York Times. What matters most to me now are the filters like TechMeme, TailRank and Digg. Then it comes down to the people I trust and then the organizations. Until I can build a more personal relationship with Post reporters (neither myself or them have the time to do so), I will only have a limited amount of trust that I can give the organization.

This fundamentally misses the most important point, that Greg Narain paraphrases nicely

Is anyone really dealing with the relationship that’s held and the realities of maintaining that connection and loyalty over an extended period of time? Socialtwister 2.0

That is the problem with social media – and that is the opportunity.

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Insytes on Creating YouTube Popularity

This is a great, common sense plain english analysis of what people are watching most on YouTube. It doesn’t hurt that he has an engaging style, looks like Kevin Smith and comes from down under. He also knows how to use minimalist editing for maximum effect. Check it out for yourself.
Update: For some reason this WordPress configuration does not like embedding objects, so click on over to the video instead.

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