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"I can’t think of anything that demonstrates the sovereign nature of the self better than a blog.” - Doc Searls
About the Author
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Stowe Boyd is a well-known media subversive, and an internationally recognized authority on real-time, collaborative and social technologies. His new blog is Message.

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June 30, 2005

iTunes 4.9 = Podcasting Slows To A Crawl

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Flash from Blog.DanYork.com: "Kind of like the whole world of podcasting got a massive slash-dotting by Apple." Its going to take a while to assimilate the influx from the iTunes podcast onslaught.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Media

Yahoo Search Goes Social: My Web 2.0

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I have never really adopted the use of Deli.cio.us, the best known social bookmarking and search tool. There was something about the spare, blank, austere user interface that annoyed me, so I never warmed to it. However, I am a great believer in the future of social search, so I turned to the new Yahoo My Web 2.0 with great interest, and now believe, like Waxy.org, that it is possibly a Deli.cio.us killer.

I continue to believe that the center of the social universe is the instant messaging buddy list metaphor: not just because I am biased toward real-time communication, but because human beings are the center of the socialized world. That's the rationale for the ideal that animates a series of posts I made over the past few months. However, the Yahoo My Web 2.0 builds on the Yahoo 360° social network metaphor, to decide who makes up my universe, which is a pretty good second-order approximation. I want to know what the Dunbar core group -- the 150ish most critical folks in my universe -- are reading, finding, thinking. My Yahoo 360° group includes Stuart Butterfield, Marc Canter, Jonas Luster, Greg Narain, Liz Lawley, Ross Mayfield, and a few dozen others, so the results are pretty indiciative of what My Web 2.0 might look like in a steady state of use. Here's a tagcloud based on the tags being used by my contacts in Yahoo 360°:

yahootagcloud400.jpg

Ok, so I am going to start using the system for the next few weeks, and I plan a series of posts chronicling my experiences, and the commentary of other explorers.

Here's what the folks at Yahoo Search blog have to say about what they are up to:

[from Yahoo! Search blog: Search, with a little help from your friends]

Introducing Social Search

To address these kinds of limits of today's search experience, we are releasing an early beta version of My Web 2.0 for a limited number of users. It is a new kind of search engine -- a social search engine -- that complements web search by enabling users to search the knowledge and expertise of their friends and community in addition to the web. Here's some of what we think is interesting about My Web 2.0:

  • The trusted web -- Anyone can save, tag, and share knowledge with their community. Any page on the web with your comments and insights. Your community can do the same. The result -- a new search experience that combines web search with what your trusted community has tagged and shared. Users can build their community by inviting their contacts via email or by importing existing social relationships from Yahoo! Address Book, Messenger, or their 360° community. My Web 2.0 then leverages the Yahoo! 360° personal network platform to enable people to manage their search community.

  • Personalized search -- My Web 2.0 is powered by Yahoo!'s new MyRank Search Technology, which provides personalized search results based on the shared knowledge of the people they trust. Personalized search is also supported by our My Search History capability, (launched in My Web 1.0 ). Over time, you will see us integrate MyRank technology across other Yahoo! applications and services.

  • Control over what is shared and with whom -- Each page saved and tagged can be shared with the world, just with friends and their friends, or kept private.

  • Structured tagging -- The internet is about much more than web pages -- key dimensions like time and location can be as important as the content itself. With user-provided structured tags like "geo:[location]" applied to pages, search results can now can include maps to locations in addition to the web page.

  • Open APIs - Through the use of My Web 2.0's XML and RDF APIs , a whole host of new applications can be built -- like what the folks in the Stanford University TAP project are working on.

How Is Social Search Different?

Social search complements web search, which is driven by publishers and web sites, by providing a better search experience that is powered by people and communities. Flickr is a great example of this power applied to photos and image search.

Much like links and anchor text enabled major improvements in web search by becoming a new source of authority for search engines, people and trust networks are now an additional source of authority for social search engines. In the same way that blogs and RSS are empowering individuals to participate in publishing, individuals and communities can now participate in search, using tools like My Web 2.0 that let them define what is valuable to them and their community.

Over time, we envision communities using My Web to build their own search engines to capture and make accessible the knowledge of their community -- search engines populated with the collective experience of a group of medical researchers, a community of PHP experts, a bird watching club, or members of a structural engineering consulting firm.

Ok, I am looking forward to the integration with Flickr and Messenger, but please make sure everything works with Mac, ok? The Yahoo Address book doesn't sync with Mac, and the newly released beta of Messenger (I wrote about it a few weeks ago: Not Nerdvana, But Maybe The Suburbs) doesn't run on OS X yet.

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Technology

June 29, 2005

iTunes 4.9: Now With Podcasting

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I downloaded the new iTunes 4.9 with integrated podcast support. The access to podcasts at the Apple Music Store seems to work without a hitch, although I yearn for social filters for music and now podcasts: tags, friends, and so on.

ipodcasting350.jpg

What I really want is a better way to find good podcasts; as usual, the real issue is attention. Just being offered the 'top podcasts' based on mass leanings doesn't really help me, at all. I already know that Adam Curry is getting mass downloads.

The future is is socialized search: what are my pals lookling at, reading, getting into? If Apple has any sense they will rapidly incorporate tagging, neighbors, friends, and all the other social goop that works. They have the high ground, based on the dominant position of iTunes and iPod: please, please add the features that will make it work the way it should.

I also uploaded a True Voice podcast, just to see how that works. Hmmm. Led me to add some additional fields to my XML: "ManagingEditor" is used by iTunes for the author of the podcast, for example. Anmd there seems to be a considerable delay in getting approved -- probably a manual process.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Technology

Call for all Advertisers

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

For some reason (probably because I have too busy to chase them) Get Real currently is without sponsors. It's a good place to connect with the digerati. Get Real is now hovering around 3000 on Technorati, and we have a core readership of several hundred influencers and thought leaders. In February (the last month I analyzed in detail) we had over 115K unique visitors.

As just example of Get Real's effectiveness: we started cross posting for the Collaborative Technologies Conference a few weeks before the event, and there had been nearly no readers of the conference blog. The other day, I checked while at the conference, and readership had risen to over 10 thousand. Not solely due to our efforts, but we had a major impact there.

Please contact me for more information.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category:

Motorola Ojo: No Possible Way

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Motorola has announced the Motorola Ojo Personal Video Phone.

ojo.jpeg

Ok, I am sold on webcams and video conferencing. I'm there. And I can't wait to be able to do it on my cell phone. My new Sony Ericsson s710a has streaming video and video recording capabilities already (psst... any Sony Ericsson or Cingular folks who read this and want my life to be more beautiful, please tell me how to get the damned thing to connect to the EDGE network, please). But the George Jetson-esque video phone, this Ojo thing, that requires a special service, and folks on both ends to have indentical devices? You must be kidding me.

The system requires you to plug the gizmo into a broadband modem (like a cable or DSL modem), and its not wireless:

[from FAQ page]

Q: What if my cable modem is in my upstairs office and I want Ojo in my kitchen downstairs? Is there any way I can put Ojo in my kitchen without relocating the modem there, too?
A: Consider using HomePlug® products that allow you to connect computers and other broadband devices through the electrical circuits in your home to your modem/router. Please view www.homeplug.com for more information about these products. Ojo video quality is likely to be less than optimal when connected through the electrical circuits in your home.

Oh, great. They don't even make it work through your phone lines, which would at least be convenient.

This one is destined for the ash heap.

Comments (8) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Telecommunications

June 28, 2005

New Google Personalized Search

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Posted by Arieanna Foley

Google has announced a new version of personalized search today. It uses search history, which it has been collecting after you sign in to Google. It uses patterns in your history of searches and clicks to reorder search results just for you.

Personalized search can be turned on or off. Although I think the concept is a valid one, using past clicks and history information to deliver you targeted results (organic and paid), I personally choose not to turn it on. I'd rather keep my search history out of Google's servers, as far as that is possible.

From John Battelle, SEW

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Technology

Phishing costs reach $1 billion in the US

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Posted by Arieanna Foley

Messaging Pipeline reports that phishing has cost the US nearly $1 billion - and this is only direct costs associated with lost funds from banking schemes. It does not include any of the costs in combatting phishing, hard costs to the banks, or any of the soft costs from all this hassle. The rate of incidence has gone up significantly this last year.

[tags: ]

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Chris Anderson Get Peeved About Misuse of "Long Tail"

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

The fuzzy wuzzy usage of the Long Tail term has led Chris Anderson to author What the Long Tail isn't:

There are many distortions of the term, but the most common one is to use it as a newly-positive synonym for "fringe". Invoking the Long Tail is not a magic wand to explain away the apparent lack of demand for what you've got. The Long Tail is not a get-out-of-jail-free card for poor-selling product. Or weak sectors. Or bad ideas.

The fact that something isn't popular doesn't mean that it's just a matter of time before it will benefit from all sorts of powerful demand-creation Long Tail effects. More likely, it's just not good enough to be commercially interesting, and probably never will be.

Most of the "niche" products in the tail are simply crap.

I have stumbled across the growing proliferation of the Long Tail in a lot of odd places. I got a piitch from some entrepreneurs about a 'long tail' social tool where the term was really out of context, for example. As Tim Oren points out, Chris had better get his book done before all the chewy goodness has been sucked out of the term.

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business

GPS Camera

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

My new bud, Lars Plougman, says Geography is here to stay, and wants a GPS-enabled camera or camera cellphone. Me too.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Technology

June 27, 2005

Highlights from Gnomedex

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Posted by Arieanna Foley

Gnomedex has come and gone. It was, hands down, an amazing conference (or un-conference, as it turns out). It was basically a room full of thought-leaders coming together to share ideas and look at where we are going. The energy and the vibe were exhilarating. Chris and Ponzi did an amazing job of not only organizing the event, but coordinating all the speakers and topics and making sure everyone got the most out of it.

I met a ton of new people, went all out blogging the whole thing on Blogaholics (23 posts in all!), and came home with a bag full of swag.

Anyway, rather than inundate everyone with all of my posts, I'll just go over some of the highlights:

Dave Winer notes that anyone can lead the future of the web now. It's not about being the leader or controlling the technology anymore. He advises us to think of the web based on how everything interconnects. To think of it as a repository of knowledge. When you do, you'll think of it based on how things fit together. Technology is secondary to this and should be used to highlight these interconnections.

We saw the release of IE 7 and previewed Longhorn, which will feature RSS integration as its main selling point. Many of the RSS features, including the new Simple List Extension, will be available under Creative Commons.

Dave Sifry notes that the web is a stream of state changes, not documents or pages. It's people talking.

The Hive was launched. For Windows fanatical leaders. Enough said.

Matt Westervelt, Asa Dotzler, Scott Collins and Matt Mullenweg had a great session on Open Source; all about the benefits of word of mouth, about community building, and the challenges of choosing what is your core product and what you leave to others in the form of extensions. It's hard to transcribe. My posts are here and here.

Julie Leung gave the best presentation at Gnomedex. Everyone just sat in awe. Julie gave a presentation on blogging as a social tool and the challenges in deciding what to blog, what to keep private, and what your online self really is. It was inspiring to hear her struggle to find the balance as well as her rich description of the benefits you get from sharing your life online with others.

"This is a personal media revolution" - JD Lasica (ourmedia)

Terry Heaton (Donata Communications) told us how WKRN-TV was using blogging to build audience. They started with one blogger but now they are moving to having the reporters all blog as a part of the company-endorsed strategy.

Adam Curry keynoted the end of Gnomedex by sharing with us Daily Source Code #200 with the following highlights:

  • "We want to take back the media. Not to put it into our hands, but our hearts"
  • Blogging is a communication medium. A marketing medium. It will always be both. Let's embrace it.
  • Podcasting will be the revolution for music promotion
  • We're taking back our media to its roots in the hearts and minds of people through the power of subscription.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Events

High performance collaboration and the patterns we have lost

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Posted by Arieanna Foley

I had the pleasure of interviewing Eugene Kim before CTC about collaboration and the need for simplicity. I also sat in on his panel. And I was thoroughly glad I did. There was very little overlap in the interview and session, and I was really pleased with the whole session.

Eugene really took on the un-conference ideals and shook things up. We started the session by all getting into a large circle. Each of us on a level, being able to see everyone, and with Eugene as a part of the group. Instantly created a whole new dynamic.

First, Eugene's definition of collaboration:

Two or more people interacting and exchanging knowledge in pursuit of a shared, collective, bounded goal

What does this mean? Simply that people work together towards some finite, measurable end.

Today, we struggle to communicate. To collaborate. Eugene thinks we have lost the knowledge to work together effectively. And so we struggle to find technology and knowledge to meet our collaborative needs. Eugene draws on an interesting example to explain why we have come to this struggle. He uses parenting.

For centuries, people grew up together in large extended families and social groups. Knowledge was passed on orally and through sharing of traditions. Some of this was simply just everyday knowledge you gain from being a part of a larger community. As we have now recently grown away from this type of societal structure, more and more just living in single family homes with little to no daily interaction with family or neighbours, our learning of many of these norms has been disrupted. As a result, people have lost knowledge on how to parent. You didn't see whole bookstores devoted to the subject before. But now you do.

The same thing can be said for collaboration. We have been collaborating for as long as we've held social groups. Collaboration is communication. And it's never felt this complicated. It just was something we did. Now, we've lost that knowledge.

We've also become impatient. We want technology and services to work immediately, without training or setup. But we forget that the things we do everyday to add performance to our workday did not come to us so quickly. Writing. Spelling. Typing. These all took years of development. We must sit back and remember that some high performance tools will have tradeoffs.

An interesting topic we went over was that of patterns. Christopher Alexander was an architect who developed a concept of patterns which very much coincides with what we talked about above on lost knowledge. The idea is that we intuitively grasp patterns, even though we cannot easily vocalize them. For example, we understand basic constructs of our own language and apply that to learning new languages intuitively. Once, vocalized, these patterns produce the "ah ha" moments we all know. Like the "i before e except after c" pattern. It makes sense. And is easy to apply.

Well, the same patterns exist outside the bounds of language alone. For example, we can look to centuries of "great" architecture. Not just the pyramids, but the elaborate chapels and castles and cities of the past. Somehow, we've lost the pattern needed to reproduce works of this magnitude. Sure, we have our skyscrapers. But do they have that greatness we all feel when we enter some of these old pieces of art? The pattern is lost. We can feel it is there, but it has not been vocalized.

A pattern has a goal of quality, even if it cannot be named. A pattern is a named best practice, when vocalized. If you name the pattern it becomes real. Something to share and improve upon. If the knowledge of the pattern is lost, if the implicit knowledge is not passed on, the pattern and the ability to make it explicit are lost. It requires great effort to regain this knowledge.

Regaining knowledge of the patterns of collaboration is the social necessity for us to improve how we interact and work together towards some end goal. Technology is not the solution. The solution is social. For us to examine our interactions for the pattern for success. Perhaps this is where best practices will become important. So that we may seek out why some teams work better together, and why some do not.

Some patterns to consider:
The permission to laugh - remember Finding Neverland with the kids in the theatre?
The permission to participate - sitting in a circle, as we did here
Shared display - whiteboards are great collaboration tools, especially if everyone has a pen
Visible pulse - RSS, IM: you can see others working and making things happen

I hope I've done justice to this panel. I look forward to speaking with Eugene again in the future. Great work.

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Technology

Andreessen Launches 24 Hour Laundry

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Looks like Andreessen is trying to break into the blogging/social networking marketspace, according to CNet:

[ from Netscape co-founder eyes video blogs | CNET News.com]

24 Hour Laundry (24HL) is a blogging and social networking site for consumers that will include video, according to sources familiar with the company's plans. The Palo Alto, Calif.-based company--which boasts alumni from Netscape, Google and Excite--is currently looking for user interface designers, a director of engineering and other executives. While Andreessen has put money into the company and sits on the board, Gina Bianchini is the CEO, according to sources.

A number of folks are suggesting Andreessen is a bit late to the party, like Om Malik:

I guess the only thing that needs laundering is the reputation. Like many Web 1.0, Marc is looking for redemption. Lots of investments, including in 24HL which is video blogging, blogging meets social networking meets something …. in other words, yawn! Start-ups, just a quick read on Marc’s un-midas touch! You have been warned! (By the way this is just a slight poke in the ribs Marc!)

Marc Canter says come on in, the water's fine.

Personally, this is just the beginning of the land rush in the coming socialization of everything internet. All the money will be trying to get on board. Brace yourself. I'm just surprised that Andreessen and company haven't called me up yet. But then again, people with lots and lots of money usually think they know everything already.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business

Sho Dan Ho: Survived Black Belt Seminar

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

A number of folks who also read my personal blog asked about the black belt seminar I was involved in, and, yes, I did pass the seminar. I am now a Sho Dan Ho (provisional black belt) in Shito Ryu karate. It will be at least a year before I undertake the seminar again, at which point I might become Sho Dan.

shodanhocertsepia.jpg

I managed to crack my pinky toe during the sparring at the seminar, so I was hobbling in pain last week on my whirlwind tour of Supernova (SF), CTC 2005 (NYC), and AMA's Blogging Seminar (Boston).

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June 23, 2005

24/7 Millenials

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

LA Times piece on just how connected young people are. Offers a better slogan for AOL: "If you don't have AIM, you don't have friends."

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Technology

June 21, 2005

James Surowiecki Keynote at CTC 2005

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Posted by Arieanna Foley

James Surowecki opened up CTC on its second day with a keynote on crowds and what business knowledge can be learned from crowd behavior. As background for his arguments, he gives an example of a crowd of individuals who need to guess the weight of an ox. Taking the average of these guesses - the collective intelligence - they came up with a number that was, in fact, really closed to the weight of the ox. In fact, it was only very marginally off. Was it a coincidence? No. James says that it is merely an example of group intelligence.

Under the right circumstances, groups together can be smarter than even the smartest person amongst them. That they have a power of collective intelligence. As business people, the average group perspective can be a powerful thing. Google has succeeded by taking group opinion into its search - it returns better, more powerful search results because of the PageRank system. PageRank is an Internet vote for relevancy.

Probability will take that groups will be correct in many predictions, including those of business. What is the stock market if not a crowd. But, on a smaller scale, businesses can tap their own employees as a group or crowd. HP set up an online stock market that was used to predict printer sales. Their predictions, as a group, were more effective than the formal predictions the business was running. Internal stock markets are used because they are an easy way to make predictions. Even without incentive or payback for participation. It's like bottom up decision making. And it doesn't need to be chaotic, as many assumptions for teams and crowds go.

What circumstances make groups smarter? People need to be independent, cognitively diverse, have diversity in information, and there needs to be a way to aggregate opinion. Collective intelligence comes out of an aggregate or average of opinion, not from picking the strongest argument. Consensus and imitation are failures of group intelligence.

Where decisions under uncertainty need to me made, we cannot imitate what others around are doing. Imitation is rational, but it does not lead to collective intelligence. And, though we learn from others in our group, it is also important that we share information along, not influence. This is difficult. Some people will be more powerful than others. This can lead to an information cascade that can go against rational self-informed decision making.

Information must come without influence, but it's not an easy step. To avoid influence skewing rational decision making, people must have loose ties to each other. This may sound counter intuitive, since groups that know each other well do work quickly. However, they are more likely to reach consensus rather than forming individual opinions. One step to change this is to have leaders spend more time asking questions than answering them. Diversity and independence are key markers to making groups collectively smarter. Once individual decisions are freely encouraged, those opinions can be averaged or aggregated - this is where collective intelligence is shown. The final answer may be completely different than the individual ones, but it will be the best decision and the best predictor.

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James Surowiecki Keynote: We Are Not Ants

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I had the opportunity to hear James Surowiecki's keynote this morning. See my comments here, in a post I called "We Are Not Ants"

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AO/Technorati Open Media 100

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Tony Perkins announced the AO/Technorati Open Media 100 today (see here). There were a number of Corante contributors honored, including Liz Lawley, David Weinberger, and Clay Shirky. Hylton and I were recognized as practitioners, I guess because of what we are up to at Corante. Cool.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Media

Tom Malone keynote at CTC2005

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Posted by Arieanna Foley

Tom Malone gave a very interesting keynote focusing on a new shift in big business that has resulted in the economies of scale we are used to with the creativity one gets from small business. Scale and freedom. How did we get here? Part of it is a technological shift decreasing the costs of coordination. Part of it is that people gain satisfaction in participating in a community and in creating value. The technology makes the shift possible, but people make it happen.

Tom draws out an interesting example around this shift in business. First, he looks at society. First we had decentralized bands that together make decisions for each other. Then, with the development of writing, it became possible for larger areas to be connected through a central power that would make decisions for all - kingdoms. Next, with the advancement of the printing press, literacy spread and people could be informed enough to contribute to decisions - democracy.

The shift in business follows the same decentralized -> centralized -> decentralized but connected shift.

At first we had small businesses where everyone could help out. Next, big businesses achieving economies of scale and working in a hierarchical environment. Now, we have the opportunity for decentralized decision making with "empowerment, outsourced, networked organizations."

The technologies of coordination make it possible for people to be empowered with greater decision making. This makes them more motivated and creative. And creates the value and innovation that lead to today's success.

Not all companies will, or should, move to this business model. For knowledge-based businesses, it makes sense. It also makes sense for knowledge units in production-based businesses. There are also many points of variance along the way from centralized to decentralized decision making - it's not an all or none type of thing.

Some interesting points:
1. Standards can create and foster decentralized decision making and freedom - the Internet
2. You gain power when you give it away

The innovations we make now will continue to be, in some ways, technological ones. But those with greatest impact on business will be innovations in the ways we organize ourselves. Personal innovations. It all drives down to people. It's something we all need to remember, in this scenario and others. It's not the technology that makes collaboration possible. It's people. People collaborate by nature. Technology is only a facilitator.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business

June 20, 2005

Missing the Point at Supernova?

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

[Update: Kevin Werbach points out that the dinnner that Suw attended was not a Supernova session: "we invited Supernova attendees and friends to attend as our pre-conference dinner." I also want to note that Kevin did in fact invite me back to speak at Supernova, despite the hue-and-cry that followed my 'email blows' session. I think that shows that Kevin understands the value of dissent, and as a result is interested in a diverse range of viewpoints. Thank you, Kevin.]

Suw Charman attended the Supernova kick-off dinner, and she suggests that folks attending are missing the point about the collision between social media and the mainstream:

[...] the crowd there (and half the panel) didn't really seem to grasp the issues, and there was quite a bit of hostility and opinionated voices without much in the way of displays of deeper understanding. Maybe I felt that way because I have been thinking about and talking about blogging and its impact on the media for a while, so such a shallow and unfocused discussion is always going to leave me wondering why I bothered.

As the social media meme begins to diffuse, all sorts of odd things happen. One that I have seen a lot in the past year -- in over 10 conferences I have attended -- where the dreaded panel session format (see ) throws up all sorts of characters onto the podium. Especially those that attempt to occupy some sort of surreal middleground, stating that blogs are "just another medium" that can be used "to push messages" and so on, but that the same old techniques have to be applied to get maximum return on whatever buzzword. Gah.

I guess I have had some reservations about the Supernova show, too, but it's moot since I will only be here a few hours. I am doing a True Voice seminar this morning, and then heading east to NYC for the CTC 2005 conference. I look forward to hearing Suw's take on the conference. I was almost lynched here last year for saying that "email blows" when I was heading a session on the future of email. I wonder what the tenor of the conference will be this year, now that Wharton is involved. Last year, I definitely felt that the neck-to-necktie ratio had moved in the wrong direction: not enough fringe lunatics, and too many folks in $400 shoes.

Comments (8) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Events

June 18, 2005

Constantin Basturea on Ketchum Personalized Media

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Constantin Basturea does a masterly job in an open letter to the silent management of in Dear Ketchum, welcome to the blogosphere: "When it launched the Personalized Media service, Ketchum had some good ingredients for preparing a smooth entry in blogland: a (sort of) blog (and RSS feeds, by default), a podcast (well, almost), and a collaboration with a PR blogger. But it just didn’t managed to put all these elements together, which kinda sucks when you’re such a big PR firm, and didn’t managed to listen to those who talked about the launch and change what didn’t work, which definitely sucks in the blogosphere (no conversation = bad, bad, bad in my Cluetrain book)."

He cites chapter and verse as to how the got it wrong -- almost everywhere -- and how to fix it. I bet we don't hear from them, as Constantin suggests is necessary, Monday AM. Anything this screwed up requires a committee of important people, and it will take a committee of important people at least a week to respond.

A must read.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Marketing

More On Remote Tagging: Dave Sifry Wises Me Up

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Dave Sifry responded to my recent post on Remote Tagging, telling me that what I want already is supported:

Stowe, we already do this, and support people who link using rel="tag" without necessarily pointing to technorati.com.

This surprised me, so I went to Technorati and looked up the Tags description and found out that, yes, something nearly exactly like what I want is supported:

[from Technorati: Using Technorati Tags]

You do not have to link to Technorati. You can link to any URL that ends in something conforming to the tag standard. For example, these tag links would also be included on our Tag pages:

  • <a href="http://apple.com/ipod" rel="tag">iPod</a>
  • <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gravity" rel="tag">Gravity</a>
  • <a href="http://flickr.com/photos/tags/chihuahua" rel="tag">Chihuahua</a>

So, this allows me to create a tag in a blog post that associates a tag with someother post (or URL), basically a remote tag. But it isn't in the more normal conversational form:

"over at <a href="http://marc.blogs.it/archives/2005/06/stowe_floats_a.html" rel="tag:socialarchitecture">Marc's Voice</a>"

This would have to be written differently:

"over at Marc's Voice, he has some comments about <a href="http://marc.blogs.it/archives/2005/06/stowe_floats_a.html" rel="tag:socialarchitecture">social architecture</a> worth reading"

What I don't understand is what Technorati does with all the social information: I have never noticed a Technorati tag that displays the information that a tag like 'social architecture' is associated with a particular post at a blog, such as Marc's Voice, but has been created by a third party, in this case, at Get Real. That the critical social glue, here, not just the abilty to create the remote link.

So, I am going to create one here, as an example, and I will see what the outcome is.

Marc Canter agrees with my call for as I wrote the other day.

This should lead to Marc's post being associated with the tag at Technorati, as I understand it.

More to follow.

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June 17, 2005

LA Times to start using Wikitorials

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Posted by Arieanna Foley

LA Times is set to start using Wikis for editorials. The plan is to let readers edit the editorials in a section of their website to be named "wikitorials."

As far as refreshing newsprint, I think this is one of the better ideas out there. One of the few that actually goes to engage readers with the content and the paper. It would be interesting to see the revisions as they evolve as well, to see what opinions are made then removed. Editorials are often opinion heavy, so who will come out on top, or will it strive for neutrality?

News via Smart Mobs

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Qumana buys Lektora

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Posted by Arieanna Foley

Qumana Software Inc. has acquired the exclusive rights to market the browser-integrated RSS aggregator Lektora. Qumana launched version 1.0 of their blog publishing software QumanaLE less than a week ago. I've been working with Qumana for a few weeks and am excited about what's coming around the corner. Creating a seamless chain from reading to publishing is just the start. Go here for the press release

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Always-On/Technorati Open Media 100

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

openmedia100.jpegI haven't heard anything much about the Open Media 100 project since the initial announcement. I read a bunch of stuff early on, but its pretty quiet recently. However, yesterday I got an email from Tony Perkins, trying to get me to become an Always-On Insider with the come on of getting the new issue of their blogozine (although he didn't call it that in the email).

So if they have published the issue, or its in the works, I guess the OM 100 have been selected. Has the list been released? I haven't seen anything about it.

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June 16, 2005

Cleaning Out The Closets: Trimming Blog Categories

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

As an interesting side effect of adopting Technorati tags, I have rethought the use of blog categories for Get Real -- which were starting to get out of hand, anyway.

Basically, because of the specificity offered by tags -- which are potentially infinite and perhaps time-limited in their use -- I have decreased the number of categories at Get Real from like 40 to around 20. I have dropped some categories altogether, etither collapsing them into others (like "Geolocation" and "Proximity" which are now "Geolocation, Proximity"), or replacing them with their corresponding tag.

I guess what I would like is a finer-grained control on the domain of tags, really, and then I would just drop categories altogether. I'd like to be able to represent that a tag is intended to be used locally, which would be the equivalent of a category. My blog platform could scan the entries for this information, and create the equivalent of category archives. But remote platforms, like Technorati, could also scan this information, and take advantage of these category-like tags in some fashion.

[A side note: One hazard of this housecleaning is that you can make a dumb mistake. I did. I unintentionally deleted "Social Networking" as a category, and had to manually recategorize 50-something entries.]

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June 15, 2005

Ketchum: How Not To Approach Social Media

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Neville Hobson touches on the reasons why would-be clients should be skeptical of Ketchum Public Relations new Ketchum Personalized Media Service:

Yet I can't help but wonder how much credibility, if not faith, you'd want to place in a PR agency which enters this area where:

1. they don't have a blog,
2. none of the people named in the press release has a blog (none that I could find with a bit of Googling),
3. there's no RSS feed on their website,
4. the new offering announced yesterday isn't mentioned anywhere on the website apart from in the press release, and
5. the offering appears to be a separate service, not integrated with PR.

Picking nits? you may ask. No, I don't think so.

I do think that if I were a potential client, I'd want to know what hands-on experience they have to back up the talk in the press release about what the service comprises and their skillsets, and how it all fits into the overall PR services they offer. In conjunction with reviewing the CVs of all the people mentioned in the announcement and reading their blogs, and perhaps reading a paper on the Ketchum website called The Challenge of Blogs to Public Relations (undated but a thoughtful paper, in my view), I'd still want to know what hands-on experience they offer with new channels that demonstrates their understanding of them as integrated elements of a credible PR offering.

Anyone can say they can do something, and produce an impressive-looking list of people. But in this field of new-media communication, you'd better be able to walk your talk. Otherwise, the only word that comes to mind is 'bandwagon.'

Ketchum, if I were you, I'd at least start a blog immediately.

Actually, it's way too late for that. They had better hire someone to run or front the service with some credibility. Like Michael O'Connor Clark, for example. It's way too late to start a blog, and point to it as some kind of success story.

And its even worse than that. The Challenge of Blogs to Public Relations paper that Neville suggested was thoughtful, has a bunch of outsider-looking-in mumbo-jumbo in it. It is also written by some faceless, nameless editor who isn't named, but who lobs a bunch of softball questions at Ketchum's media 'experts':

In its current form, how would you describe a blog?

AB [Adam Brown, director of eKetchum and 'expert' on new media]: A blog is the output of personal journalism. It's a diary of its owner, a news-clipping service of its moderator, a minister preaching to the choir. In most cases, though, it's navel gazing. Most blogs are simply people writing to themselves for their own personal edification about what interests them, with the idea of an external audience almost an afterthought. [emphasis mine]

[Yikes. This is Ketchum's expert, mind you.]

NS [Nicholas Scibetta, Director of Ketchum’s Communications and Media Strategy Group and an 'expert' on traditional mass media]: There is a strong element of personal gratification to them. Blogs tend to stick to one topic because the author is passionate about it. To Adam's point, though, I believe a majority of the bloggers are writing about issues that mean a lot to them and want to get their opinions out to a mass audience. Blogs are important because opinion influencers read them and they give a voice to people who are typically outside of the mainstream media.

[One topic? Mass audience?]

Are blogs just a passing trend, or do they represent a permanent part of the media landscape that PR practitioners must reckon with?

NS: Blogs are rapidly becoming authoritative news sources. There's a whole level of personalization with a blog that represents a new form of media that won't go away soon. Proof positive of that is the big move of outlets such as The Wall Street Journal to post blogs themselves. These media mainstays are slower to move into new technologies and new information channels, so they think this is something actively capturing consumer interest. That said, the blogs that will be around in the long run will be those that "cross over" and influence the dialogue in the mainstream media.

[Or the ones that remain standing when MSM finishes its death glide?]


AB: We'll probably see with blogs something similar to what happened in the first years of the Internet, when everyone threw up their own Web sites. Ninety-nine percent of these personal sites are now ghost towns. These sites were developed in the heat of the moment of the novelty of the Internet but then were never updated. You're going to see much the same thing with blogs. You're going to see a lot of small, one-person blogs that people have started because it's the newest thing, but then these will fall by the wayside. Some of the blogs published by more well established organizations will then become that much more of authoritative information sources.

[It's a fad, it's just like websites in the 90s, yada, yada, yada.]

I actually like the comments of the mass media guy better than the new media 'expert', but only by comparison. This is once again the natterings of those most threatened by the rise of social media, who see their business model being sideswiped by something large and fast-moving, but whose exact shape and dimensions they cannot fathom.

Better advice for the blog-lorn is much more likely to come from people who really understand the social dynamics in the blogosphere, not those attempting to triangulate on what is happening using the old terms and metaphors of broadcast and mainstream PR.

[This was not intended to be a plug for Corante's Social Media Advisory Service (SMAShmouth), per se, but I will admit my bias and potential conflict of interest, since we are in the business of providing advice in this area. Maybe Ketchum should hire us, so we could rework their jargon into something less likely to raise the hackles of the bloggers their clients want so desperately to influence!]

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Remote Tagging: A Richer Social Model

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I was involved in a brief email exchange with Eric Marcoullier of Mybloglog.com about his service, which provides a means to track what hyperlinks people are clicking on in your blog or website. I told him that I seldom look at the reports, and the reason is that I am more interested in why people follow links than what links they follow.

It occured to me that I would really like to steer people to links in a traceable way, one richer with semantics. So I have a humble suggestion for the poor folks at Technorati, whose life I have been making a living hell over the past months.

Here's my idea: a means to associate tags with URLs, so that I can assert that the destination location in a URL should be tagged, even if those who are managing the destination site/blog don't use tags. I can do that today with Deli.cio.us, but not within the context of blogging. I am colling this "remote tagging" for want of a better term.

Currently technorati tags are of this form:

<a href="http://technorati.com/tags/whatever" rel="tag">Whatever</a>

When you click on the link takes you to the technorati page associated with that tag. But what I would like is another form of url, where you associate a remote destination with one or more tags, and when you link on it, it takes you there, to some blog or other destination, not to technorati.

An example:

"over at <a href="http://marc.blogs.it/archives/2005/06/stowe_floats_a.html" rel="tag:socialarchitecture">Marc's Voice</a>"

This would have the effect of associating the tag with Marc's post. Technorati could also keep track of the fact that it was Stowe that associated the tag with Marc's post, and in which post I did so. Presently, only the author can create Technorati tags for a blog post, unless you use Deli.cio.us (or Furl) bookmarks.

This would turn Technorati tags into a much richer mechanism. The social element would be heightened, because the tag could be used to connect posts. This brings the social element of Deli.cio.us bookmarks into Technorati, but not based on a bookmarking metaphor: it's threaded into the social medium of blogging.

This would also provide tremendous fodder for analysis of the social networks implicit in links. For example, if I have 10 links to Marc's Voice, and 7 are tagged "socialarchitecture" and 3 are tagged "deathtopanelsessions", the nature of our social involvement can be teased out. And likewise, the multifaceted nature of people's social networks could be directly supported in this way. I could tag all links, including blogroll entries, so that the various overlapping social networks that comprise my world could be evident. This would mean that we could drop efforts like FOAF, and instead simply enrich the blogging activities we already are involved in.

I hope offering this feature to Dave Sifry & Co at Technorati will make up for all the trouble I have been causing, finding various nicks, warts, and bumps in the current Technorati implementation. Of course, free advice has a tendency to be worth what you pay for it.

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June 14, 2005

Del.icio.us Introduces Multimedia Tagging

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Posted by Gregory Narain

Del.icio.us has introduced several new extensions to their tagging system and quietly changed the way many people will discover new parts of the internet. At least that's how the headline should read. In reality, the new features will help surface tons of multimedia from both the middle and edges of the blogosphere and beyond.

Until now, there were two problems, in two different domains:

  • Podcasts are generally discovered by talent or theme, not topic.

    That comment will raise hairs on many necks, but it's something I believe to be true. For newcomers to podcasting, they generally start at a directory or with a directed search as guided by an "insider". The challenge for newcomers, as has been covered many times before, is that to tell if you like someone requires a good deal of work (finding shows on the right theme, downloading and listening to determine the fit, etc.). However, we've also got lots of shows that are situated around streams of consciousness or broader themes (generalization again).

    What has been missing, largely due to the huge effort required the prepare detailed show notes and the lack of available indexing tools (podscope.com aside), is the ability to determine what a show covers. Some may consider this to be a suitable challenge, however I there are many, many use cases where random banter won't cut it.

  • Audio could be tagged, but not downloaded easily

    Since our podcasts and other forms of web multimedia live, well, on the web, they all theoretically have a unique URL. This is where del.icio.us comes into play. People are tagging URLs all the time inside this service and their recent round of funding will surely deliver greater reliability and new features.

    The disconnect, though some creatives have worked around them, was that the links to the audio were not presented in a format that made it possible for Podcatching clients to download them - we could see the smoke, but not the fire.

So here we are today, and things are very different. Now, del.icio.us has added enclosure tags to their generated RSS feeds. This will provide us all with a unique ability to reach people who were:

  • Not looking for podcasts, but could benefit from them

  • Looking for more granularity, but unable to find it

All we need to do now, really, is start to register our podcasts with del.icio.us and provide tags that are relevant to the conversation had. Now we're getting topical views of the podcasting space. What's best is that all the "traditional" arguments for tagging as a whole come with it, and then some:

  • Quick and easy to designate, as compared to writing show notes with time stamps, etc.

  • Human-mediated (for the time being) provides that key human filter that helps us determine what's appropriate (note, I'm not commenting on quality in any manner).

  • Reputation-enabled by default since I can choose to let people I "trust" to recommend the topics for specific podcasts. Now I'm choosing editorial talent.

It's safe to assume that a new league of extensions and applications will launch atop del.icio.us soon.

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Yahoo buys blo.gs

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Posted by Arieanna Foley

To reiterate: Yahoo is moving. Today also announces the Yahoo purchase of blo.gs. The "Y" graphic already appears in my address bar. They move fast. Kudos to Jim Winstead on his sale!

What is blo.gs? A ping infrastructure. More simply - a directory of updated blogs and a series of tools to track them. blo.gs currently tracks 8,777,904 blogs. According to Scoble, others such as Technorati rely on it. Once services get all connected like this it's difficult to just start one. Acquisition is key.

I can see Yahoo making the run to be a major player in the service convergence trend. Picking up today 2 companies, and not too far back Flickr, is just the start. VoIP. Blogging. Photo sharing. All different services. Now all offered as part of the Yahoo bundle.

Picked up the news from Robert Scoble, who caught its original source by Jim Winstead.

href="http://technorati.com/tag/blogging" rel="tag">blogging, , ]

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Yahoo buys dialpad

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Posted by Arieanna Foley

Yahoo! has had a frenzy of activity this year, and it's still early. It has just been announced that Yahoo has purchased dialpad, a VoIP provider. Rather funny since everyone has just been waiting for Yahoo to scoop up Skype. Well, right idea, wrong company.

Yahoo's purchase of Dialpad will give them fast entry to VoIP services on their own terms, rather than using the services of others (such as their past use of Net2Phone). As well as VoIP, Yahoo gains all of Dialpad's fraud management detection that can be made use of in other Yahoo areas.

So, we can see Yahoo moving all over the place to build an integrated space with value adds. Definitely moving much faster than either MSN or AOL. Wonder what kind of ripple effect this new acquisition will cause.

I caught wind of this news on Andy Abramson's blog, but Om Malik broke the news first.

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Call For Participation on Social Architecture Symposium: Tools For New Wave Social Media

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I would like to organize a conference, and following the general meme of an open business plan (that I have pursued recently), I am opening the discussion to whoever is interested.

The theme I am interested in is Social Architecture: Tools and Technologies for a New Wave of Social Media. The social architecture term I am shamelessly lifting from the recent interaction with John Hagel (see here), one of the authors of Can Your Firm Develop a Sustainable Edge? Maybe I can coerce John into participating?

I will also be sending out emails, inviting various tech firms, thought leaders, and researchers to jump in. I guess I still don't trust blogging to be the sole mechanism of getting things rolling on an activity like this.

I hope to explore dozens of themes at the symposium, but all circling around social media, and the social architecture that arises from our interactions through these technologies and tools. I am eager to create an opportunity for a wide range of researchers, analysts, entrepreneurs and users to interact. And I want to explore Marc Cantor's contention (see here) that this has to be more than just a brief real world event: it needs to be an ongoing community, with continuing virtual activity after the symposium is over, and leading up to the event itself. Marc's already said he's interested. Now, all I have to do is convince some weak-minded people to do all the hard work involved (wink).

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Antony Brydon and Stowe Boyd at the CTC2005 ConferenceEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Stowe Boyd

Wednesday, June 22 at 8:45am, Antony Brydon and I will be speaking at the Collaborative Technologies Conference 2005 in New York. I am chairing the session, Social Networking Apps: Real Value for the Organization?. I interviewed Antony on that very topic last year, and here are some of his observations:

[See the rest of the posting at the CTC2005 blog.]

[tags: ]

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Craig's List Listing on Google Maps

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Awesome integration of Craig's List housing listings with Google Maps: HousingMaps. [pointer from Jerry Michalski]

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Sendup of Dvorak's To Tag or Not to Tag, That Is the Question

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

John Mahler has a glorious parody of Dvorak's To Tag or Not to Tag, That Is the Question:

[ from Gonzo Engaged: To Troll or Not to Troll, That Is the Question by John C Mahler]

The uninfluential columnists should be defined here. These are people whom you've never heard of, but whom other uninfluential A-list distopianist columnists all know. I reckon there are about 500 of them. He (or she) influences other like-minded columnists, creating a groupthink form of critical mass, just like atomic fission, as they bounce off each other with repetitive cross-links: trackback links, self-congratulatory links, confirmations, and praise-for-their-genius links. BOOM! You get a formidable explosion—an A-bomb of groupthink. You could get radiation sickness if you happen to be in the area. Except for PC Magazine, nobody is in the area, so nobody outside the groupthink community really cares about any of this. These explosions are generally self-contained and harmless to the environment.

Goes on to swap Dvorak's use of the word "tag" for "troll" throughout. Delicious!

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IM Away Messages: Meta Status

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Using a variant of the trick that teenagers have employed for years -- using their instant messaging away status to represent mood, location, or generally what they are up to -- Hollywood freelancers have started to use their away status to indicate availability for work:

Cyrus Farivar
[from Wired News: Never IM in This Town Again!]

Instead of displaying simple "away from my computer" messages, Hollywood buddy lists now overflow with come-ons, from "need work" to "wrapping up shoot." Producers hiring for a new production can tell at a glance who's available now, who's not and who might be free in the near future.

My on-going Nerdvana spin on this: the buddy list is the center of our online universe. People make the away message do all sorts of things that it wasn't designed for because we would like to hang all sorts of self-identity attributes off it. It becomes a nexus of our meta status. I generally display what I am listening to on iTunes, but I would really like to have a spectrum of information being displayed: what I just read, the newest tag I just created, the last blog entry I wrote, and my Plazes location.

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June 13, 2005

Technorati Beta: Still Some Bugs To Work Out?

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

There are a lot of new features in the Technorati beta -- such as the RSS feeds associated with tag pages -- which I really like. But otherwise, it seems like the same Technorati with a new coat of attractive paint on it.

And there are still some strange bugs. For example, I can't seem to ever get the 'list by authority' tab to work for me, in either the old or the new Technorati. If you go to Technorati and check out Get Real, you'll see there are 399 links to the blog, and it defaults to showing the most recent list of references. But if you click on the authority tab, you see a screen that says there are no links to Get Real yet.

getrealnotfound.jpg

Note that you also see a message that the last update was 6 hours ago, however, the 399 links number is days old.

[Update: Tried it again, and this time I got strange results again. "50 posts in the past 502 days"? Should it be more like 399? I'm lost.]

A recommendation for Technorati, on a completely different note: Why only show the top 100 blogs? I would personally like to see the top 1000 blogs, or the top 100 blogs that use a certain tag or set of tags. Or the top 100 blogs that are linked to by people who have also linked to me. Showing the top 100 over and over is uninteresting. We all know about BoingBoing and Engadget. We want to poke around in the rich interconnections buried in all those links you are tracking. Let us at them!

And why set up a feedback page, when you have tags? Wouldn't it have been better to recommend a tag, and ask people to post using it?

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Social Networking: Broken, Boring, or Offtrack?

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I saw that Olga Kharif and Molly Wood, of Businessweek and CNet, respectively, have pieces that suggest that today's public social networking services don't offer much of a reason to play.

This thread has been going on for a long time. For example, I started my retreat from the sites in February (see Opting Out Of Social Networks, which went to five nine pieces in the series, now tagged as ). I polled people at that time and found a lot of dissatisfaction with the services:

Looks like a sizeable number of people are sharing my ambivalence. Almost half have considered dropping out, since nothing much seems to be going on, 75% have been "socially spammed," and only 14% believe that the current features are adequate.

Molly Wood makes good case for social media (blogging) trumping the personal profile model that underlies so many social networking solutions:

It's interesting, for example, to blog about the experiences I had on a given day, but it's tedious to make sure my personal stats, favorite books, and current reading list are up-to-date. One of the reasons I think personal blogs win out over social networking is that they're inherently more personal, more inwardly focused, and a better chance to show more than a snapshot of yourself.

Well, sort of. I think the reason that blogs are simply better is that they are conversational, where SNAs are more of a telephone book experience. People's names, preferences, bios, and contacts does not make for an interesting interaction. SNAs are like begin stuck next to a really boring person at a dinner party who never asks questions, and just tells you the history of his life. Boring.

There are a lot of examples of extremely interesting social networking applications -- I love Last.fm and Flickr, for example -- and services like MySpace and SuicideGirls show the value of a deep concentration into a committed and already-existing constituency, like indie music fans or the counterculture types.

The possible big bang in social networking has not happened: no one has gained the critical mass needed to clearly demonstrate some transformative business case. What I don't understand is why haven't the obvious players tried to incorporate some elements of social networking into their solutions?

  • SixApart, or other blog technology players, could include features to make the social linking that is implied by blogrolls, trackbacks, and hyperlinks more explicit, or more obviously searchable. "What is being read by those that are strongly connected to Get Real?" for example. This is sort of what Technorati and other search tools are offering, but only Deli.cio.us seems to be on a social bent, here, and even that is more focused on the tags than the taggers and their relationships.
  • MSN and AOL have fiddled around with integration of the most obvious social tools -- instant messaging and blogs -- but I am waiting expectantly to see something huge come out of Google and Yahoo in this area. Google is going to launch its own Firefox-based browser, and integrating instant messaging (from Picasa?), blogging, and son-of-Orkut friend of a friend stuff should follow. Ditto with Yahoo's integration of Flickr (which was an instant messaging tool before it was a social networking photo world), including it's blogging capablities, into the Yahoo Messenger and Groups world.

When the social networking modeling and analysis becomes just one helpful element of the substrate that these next generation offerings will be built on, then we will see the true explosion in social networking use. In the meantime, leave me out.

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June 12, 2005

John Hagel on All Edge, No Center

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

John Hagel comments on my recent post, All Edge, No Center:

[from comment at post]

Stowe - Sorry you were disappointed by our interview with Wharton. I hope that will not discourage you from listening to Ross in terms of reading our book. I sense that we are much more aligned than your post suggests. We make the point in the book that we are in the midst of a major change in the focus of IT investment in the enterprise from process automation to practice enhancement. The new technology tools are largely being adopted in a bottom up fashion by communities of practice who are wrestling with better ways to address the exceptions that standardized processes can't cope with. The point I was trying to make in the quote above is that there is a side-benefit of making local innovation and learning more visible to the rest of the organization rather than risk having it be lost forever. But this is only a side benefit - the primary value (and the reason the new technology is being adopted within the enterprise) is that it is really helpful to people on the edge in harnessing the power of swarm intelligence and distributed communities of practice (and, by the way, much of the relevant swarm resides outside the walls of the enterprise - something that previous generations of enterprise-centric technology failed to acknowledge).

I guess I wasn't disappointed in the interview, since I didn't really have any preconception of what might be said. But maybe I was dinged by the tone or angle of the discussion, which seemed to be following familiar ruts in the road.

I am still certainly planning to read the book, and I look forward to it more eagerly now that John has cleared up my misperceptions of the authors' intentions. Thanks John.

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Does IT Matter? A new look at an old argumentEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Arieanna Foley

Does IT Matter? This is the discussion I recently had with Larry Cannel, who has been an integrated part of the Collaborative Applications Group at Ford Motor Company since 1998. As a leader in the IT side of driving collaborative technology strategies, he has some great insight to the actual deployment and adoption of collaborative tools. Part of leading change is understanding new technologies and how they can solve enterprise knowledge and collaborative needs. Larry will be speaking at the Collaborative Technologies Conference, which starts in just a week now, on Collaborative Strategy and how IT can drive these strategies. In essence, Larry argues that IT does indeed matter.

Can IT lead collaborative strategies? Or should it be left to each vertical function to find their own means? Larry strongly asserts that, in most cases, IT are the only ones in the position to do so. However, it really does depend on the individual or team leading the process. One crucial component is perspective. Is IT the owner of the collaboration tool or are they the operator of it? Most of the time IT is simply the operator of technology - you throw out a tool like audioconferencing then just walk away. However, with collaborative tools, they must step up to be the owners. Here is the distinction in perspective: as an operator, the focus is on saving cost and avoiding risk; as an owner, the focus is on creating value and seeking opportunities to create value - on making it easier for people to meet and collaborate. To do so, they must drive the change. So, changing perspective is the first step, and it's one obviously on the shoulders of individuals. The role of IT has changed, and people must change with it.

How can IT ensure that collaboration tools are used to create value? Part of this comes in how its adopted. IT has a role to show people why something creates value - to show them how to post files in a wiki, for example, rather than dumping them to email. Reinforcing value creates a pull effect. IT can even go so far as to start using the tools themselves - to become the best practice community for others to watch and learn. Just like I discussed with Ross Mayfield on the topic of wikis, there should be a balance of bottom-up/grassrots adoption along with driving the change top-down. However, Larry and Ross differ in opinion on ownership. Ross argues for shared ownership, whereas Larry argues for IT ownership. I can see the validity in both arguments, and I'm sure it's a long-standing debate that I'm just grazing now.

Go read more of the ownership discussion on the CTC blog.

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June 11, 2005

Robert Manning: Blogging Is Not Fundamental

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Robert Manning of UPS is stridently stuck in second gear in his recent piece: Blogging Is Not Fundamental.

Please, enough about blogs already.

As someone who makes his living in interactive marketing, I'm ecstatic over the flurry of effusive commentary around digital media and marketing, everything from "the vanishing mass market" and the ROI of search marketing, to new interactive television formats and podcasting. It's positive affirmation to read forecasts such as the recent Adweek report predicting that by year's end advertising revenues generated by Yahoo! and Google will rival those revenues by the big three television networks. Interactive marketing has truly arrived.

What I love about blogs is the authenticity of voice, how they further democratize web publishing, and how they provide more relevant information through contextual links. What concerns me about blogs is the signal to noise ratio -- do we really need all these niche, special-interest blogs, or will it become increasingly difficult to find relevance amidst the seas of personal web journals (or diatribes) without much to offer the broader constituency?

What I propose for those in the digital marketing realm is to stop chasing the latest fad and concentrate on the inherent utility of the medium. Digital marketers need to get back to the fundamentals: What are the inherent qualities of digital marketing that warrant an even larger share of the overall marketing spend? Digital marketing is non-linear, interactive, targetable, measurable, and most important, user-initiated -- it puts user choice and personal preference at the forefront of the experience.

Well, well, well. I guess we ought to just shut up and let the real professionals explain 'digital marketing' to would-be-marketers.

Manning's real metaphor is the individual as a consumer of information, a little pacman, zipping around taking a bit here, a nibble there. Manning has progressed from broadcast and mass media metaphors (industrial age) to those of microcast and niche media (information age), but he is reluctant to move into the social era: its a social medium, where individuals are interacting, and there won't be any -casting at all.

But then, this is example the sort of push back we will see from corporate types, who are struggling madly to get the genii back into the bottle, so they can 'attack markets' through 'segmentation strategies' instead of engaging in direct conversations with people, and more inportantly, to be willing to sit on the conversations that people outside the company are naturally involved in already.

The signal to noise ratio is irrelevant, a term brought in from engineering, and it only makes sense in the context of pushing a message through a communication channel. Social media are in part based on the rejection of the 'pushing messages to the market' mindset.

In the blogosphere, people who write dumb, uninteresting stuff will just have no interesting conversations going on, since we vote with our attention and links, here. The chaff is winnowed out by the activities of millions of independent actions. What remains are the impacts that these conversations have on those who participate. Traditional marketers hate this sort of paradigm, because they have no control, their 'messages' are changed, and their positioning is upended.

For all his love of 'digital marketing' I think Manning just thinks of it as a new bag of tricks to herd the couch potatoes, and control their 'buying behavior'. Its like the 1990s television mantra of 500 channels liberating us. But the same people who love 500 channels are terrified of the prospect of infinite channels, which really means no channels, no control, everyone finding their own shows whenever they want, the death of prime programming, and the upending of the entire worldview of television... which is happening right now.

So, beware of marketers who say they love the Internet, but that blogging is a fad. It's like saying you love democracy, but are opposed to univeral suffrage.

[Pointer from Scoble]

Comments (5) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Marketing

All Edge, No Center

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Ross Mayfield tells me I must, must read the new book by John Hagel III and John Seely Brown, Can Your Firm Develop a Sustainable Edge?. I haven't had a chance, but I did see [pointer from Ross] an interview with the authors at Wharton's Managing Technology column, interviewed by Kevin Werbach.

Many of the premises that were developed in the piece seemed almost shopworn -- executives need to think about competitive advantage in dynamic terms rather than static, sustainable advantage requires people at the edge being able to perform new work, the need to be faster to develop capabilities faster than competitors, and so on.

I think what I was struggling with most is the implicit premise: the book is written for executives of large companies, rather than speaking to individuals living in a new world. If it's people at the edge doing all this invention of new capabilities, isn't that where we will see the new use of social tools? Is that itself one of these capabilities? My bet is that fatcat senior executives are not going to invent much of anything in this regard, although -- in typical self-congratulatory, great-man-theory-of-history fashion -- if various front-line engineers, customer support staff, or product managers develop innovative ways of applying social tools that enable increased productivity, better products, and more profits, the lions of industry will certainly take credit for it.

One comment in particular jumped out, though:

[from Can Your Firm Develop a Sustainable Edge? Ask John Hagel and John Seely Brown]

Hagel: One of the big issues we see is that to date most of the social software tools we are talking about have tended to be one-off kinds of tools. You have instant messaging, Wikis, a whole array of collaboration workspaces that have been developed, but there isn't an operating environment where all these social software tools can come together in a seamless environment. Part of the opportunity here is that as you create these environments that are open ended so you can plug in social software tools as they develop and evolve, you can also create a record-keeping facility. By doing that, not only are you helping people to resolve the exceptions, but you are also creating a record of who came together over what kinds of issues, what was the context of the issue, and what was the resolution of the issue. That creates the basis for doing pattern recognition and dissemination of the learning to a broader part of the organization.

This is an echo of the Nerdvana meme I have been chasing, although my desire for the Nerdvana model is not really motivated by an enterprise vision of analysis and feedback about handling exceptional cases in defined workflows -- I spent what feels like eons chasing a dream of the perfectability of process, and have left it aside. While I believe it is still useful to define business scenarios -- how to process an insurance claim, and the like -- increasingly, the work left to people are the exceptions, where automation fails. In this domain, the language of process holds no power.

The dynamics of group interaction and the interaction between groups, when all is not known, and people need to invent solutions, is very different. The critical factor is not each person doing the role assigned to them, but each person applying their own personal knoweldge and network to the issue at hand, based on their own imperfect reasoning. This moves into the realm of Surowiecki's Wisdom of Crowds: swarm intelligence works where people do not converge to a consensus, where they independently apply their own thoughts, and then share them through social connections. Paradoxically, providing the same information to everyone can lead to bad outcomes, because it can lead to information convergence, and then to bad decision making.

So the vision for the Nerdvana client is not about the enterprise gathering information about how individuals respond to exception situations, so that the enterprise home office weenies can analyze it and send it all back out to the edge as a new operations manual. Nerdvana is about the individual, managing in a complex and fragmented world, but bringing together all the threads of our social relationship of the world into one metaphor. It is a focus on the needs of the individual, not the need of the enteprise to have it all managed in one seamless, centrally controlled social architecture

Learning naturally follows social paths, so I think all of the sorts of things that Hagel and Brown are talking about will take place at the edge. The future of work is that there is only edge, no center: there will be no one at HQ analyzing invention going on at the edge. Any analysis will be direct, on both sides of the social connections that link us. Any model of social architecture -- as outlined by Brown and Hagel -- will need to account for the intensely personal, as opposed to corporate, forms of social interaction that increasingly typify the world of work.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Business | Culture

June 10, 2005

New Technorati Beta

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Posted by Arieanna Foley

Joi Ito and Sifry have just announced that the new Technorati beta has gone live. It is a gorgeous little redesign, that's for sure. I love it. Just balancing on the side of a little busy, but manages to pull it off without being too confusing.

technorati

But it's more than just a fancy new look. It features some great new stuff:

- New help pages aimed at new bloggers (Blogging 101, Tags)
- A "popular" tab for news, books, movies, top 100 blogs.
- More tagging! If your search matches a tag, it will give you the related tags, results from the tag, results from plain old search, and flickr results.
- More search features (like the standard advanced search options)
- More personalization right on the homepage
- Expanded capabilities of the Watchlist - you can see them on a page now, in addition to RSS.
- Watchlist a tag!

It's still a beta. Still improvements to come. But it's a large jump to this new Beta. Way to go! I am changing my bookmark as we speak...

Now, for some Technorati news:

The good news for all of us is that blogging has taken off, and we all benefit from new eyes reading what we write. The pace is staggering: we are tracking somewhere between 800,000 and 900,000 new posts made each day, over 40,000 new weblogs created every day. A year ago, we were growing by a gigabyte a day. Now, we're growing by a half a terabyte a day. So half the battle is just keeping up with all this explosive growth, and I apologise in advance for when we stumble.

Stumbles aside, it still offers a search experience as of yet unparalleled. Congrats on the new release.

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sponsored by Microsoft

Virtual teams are just teams with amplified collaboration needsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Arieanna Foley

Lisa Kimball and I talked a bit about virtual teams and what can accost them to make them go off track. Lisa founded Group Jazz in 2000 - her focus has been on how to create effective teams and communities online and offline. Lisa will be heading up two very interesting groups at the Collaborative Techhnologies Conference. One session will be a tutorial on effective virtual teams, the other will be a shorter speech on the same topic.

What is a virtual team? Simply, it just means people who are in different locations or companies that must work together. Lisa made the point to clarify that virtual teams really are just teams - same challenges, problems, needs, and dynamics. The only difference is that these teams, versus co-located teams, perhaps suffer from more, and earlier, team dysfunction than do non-virtual teams. Virtual teams are not just distributed across time and space, they are also often made up of people from different functions, departments or organizations. Toss in the fact that people may be on more than one team, that your team expands and contracts at irregular points and that your boss may not be everyone's boss. Sounds complex, doesn't it?

Without face-to-face interaction, problems tend to show up earlier and corrections are much more difficult to make on the fly. Before you know it, you may have taken a wrong turn in your project or your team dynamic and it will be harder to turn back the longer you leave it unchecked. With virtual teams, you cannot read people in the same way - body language, tone of voice and all of these important things are lost. Assumptions we don't know we make are suddenly taken out of the equation. The problems that can occur more frequently and/or earlier with virtual teams range from breaking the ice to trust to sustaining forward momentum and shared vision. We need to solve these team issues with more than technology. We need to processes to help manage these complicated social networks, to help foster communication, and make sure the team creates value as a whole.

What are the top three reasons virtual teams fail? According to Lisa, these are:

1. People lose the sense of the whole. They only see what they are doing and have no way to "look across the room" to see what others are doing. Lack of context kills.
2. Assumptions are not explicitly stated.
3. People don't enjoy it - they don't have fun. Without the laughs to go along with the work, it feels less "human" and the lack of personal interaction is dispiriting.

So, one of the key ways to make your virtual team happy is to make your team happy. Period. So, let's look at what makes a good team in general. Throwing people together does not a team make; a team is measured by its interconnectedness and the understanding of its goals and roles. One important step to achieving this is to create a team charter that outlines the purpose of the team, its norms, everyones roles, and how success will be measured. You don't need to write this down or talk about it in an overly formal way, but you do need to address this early on. And regularly.

Read more on how to create a better team on the CTC blog.

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June 09, 2005

Evan Williams on Second Time Entrepreneurialism

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Ev Williams responds to some heckling about his new company Odeo, where the trons are apparently not not working like hamsters on the treadmill:

[from evhead: Mr Gutman: Second-time entrepreneurs.]

I firmly believe that the extreme imbalance so pervasively assumed to be a required component of startup life is detrimental to effectiveness in the long run. What I think is much more key is focus.

I agree with Ev. We are running crazy hard at Corante, but the things that jump up to bite us are not the number of hours in the day, but what happens when we get off target. For example, we have been swept into a few 'collaborative partnerships" in the past year, where we wound up putting too much time into projects that weren't owned by us, where we couldn't control events, and ultimately we had to write off the time investments involved. A focus issue, not a time issue.

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Yes, That's a Hotel Room

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

It was such a small room, I had to take a picture.

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Jabber Inc Ships New Version

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Jabber Inc. announced a new version of the company's flagship product: v 4.2 Jabber Extensible Communications Platform (XCP) and Instant Messaging Advanced (IMA). The company continues to mature XCP as a XMPP transport mechanism that can form the basis for any sort of real-time messaging architecture.

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June 08, 2005

sponsored by Microsoft

Wikis for Group CollaborationEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Arieanna Foley

Ross Mayfield, co-founder and CEO of Socialtext, and I had a great chat yesterday about wikis and group productivity. I have to say it was a very informative conversation - Ross was very eloquent and had a lot to teach me about wikis in particular. Although I have an account with Socialtext, I am more than convinced that I have not used it to its fullest extent.

Socialtext is a wiki-based social software aimed at the enterprise market. The idea was to take wikis plus blogs and add tools, and support, to make it easy to use by enterprise customers for collaboration. The use of blogs & wikis for collaboration, will be covered by Ross at the upcoming Collaborative Technologies Conference, now less than two weeks away.

So, what are the benefits to using something like Socialtext, or more generally, wikis and blogs, for collaboration? Well, let's look at the most common method of collaboration today. Email is high on the list. How many emails do you receive each day from people in your project group? How many are to you that don't get shared? How many are group emails you may not wish to get? And do you really spend the time to organize them to find them later? Worse still, do you ever look at them again?

The average Fortune 1000 employee spends 4 hours in email everyday, where email captures 75% of knowledge and 90% of collaboration time. So, email carries with it a lot of inefficiencies in productivity and, by its archiving system and inconsistent sending lists, does not foster group memory. My email archive is different from those in my project team - my memory of the project is just one of many isolated threads of the overall picture - our group memories are disrupted, and there is no way to easily share them with new group members.

email-vs-socialtext-20050320Wikis, when used for project communication instead of group emails can help solve these issues. Socialtext has found that time savings and shared understanding through access to information can reduce the project cycle by 25%. Group emails create occupational spam; with a wiki, you can choose which material you are notified of, how often, and in what form (email, RSS). This type of asynchronous communication gives you the control.

Read more on the CTC blog...

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June 07, 2005

Webby Awards Judges: 25% Shouldn't Be

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

My pal, Ted Rheingold, is receiving a Webby Award this week for the best community site, Dogster, and it's well deserved. Amazingly, this started as a goof (see here and here).

Still, some have suggested that many of the judges are suspect, because they don't maintain an active web presence thewselves:

[from Judging the Judges at the Webby Awards]

As of this moment, with 340 of the Webby Award judges surveyed, here's the count:

Webby Judges Possibly Fit to Judge Because they have Active Web Presences:
251 (74 percent)

Webby Judges Whose Judgment Should be Questioned Because Their Pages Are Out of Date:
30 (8 percent)

Webby Judges Unfit To Judge Anyone With a Web Page Because They Have No Credible Web Presences of Their Own:
59 (17 percent)

No offense, Ted.

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Ed Batista: A Lab Rat In My Own Experiment

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Ed Batista analyzes Audioscrobbler using Seth Goldstein's analytic framework and finds it a future hit in the making.

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Meetro: Instant Messaging Gets Local

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I stumbled onto a new Mososo app called Meetro, based on the instant messaging paradigm but offering the possibility of interacting with random users who happen to be geographically close to you.

meetro.jpg

It looks interesting, although much of it is unimplemented, and the cockamamie way I was using it -- via Virtual PC -- meant that the server couldn't even hazard a guess about my location. According to Paul Bragiel, of Meetro, they plan an OS X version later this year, as well as rolling out all sorts of other features.

Meetro interoperates with AIM/ICQ, although I didn't see if that includes iChat addresses.

I'll keep you posted as new features roll out. Looks cool, but has a long way to go to be the Nerdvana client I wrote about not too long ago.

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TagCloud

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I have installed TagCloud in the right margin, as a test of that eponymous solution, which offers automated tag clouds: a collection of words that differ in size based on their relative frequency in the associated RSS feeds.

I used only one stream, from Get Real. It was relatively simple to set up, and installation was easy if you are a Movable Type weenie. Works with the Feedsterized RSS stream we have adopted here at Get Real. But it looks like it is ignoring the Technorati tags already in place, which is dumb. For example, "Continuous Partial Attention" should show up, as well as "Corante Open Business Plan."

[pointer from Jarkolicious]

[tags: , ]

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June 06, 2005

John Dvorak On Blogging, Tagging, and All That Fringe Lunacy

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I locked horns with John Dvorak a few years ago when he fired off some not-very-well-considered flames about the stupidity of instant messaging (see Dvorak Weighs In On IM, An Exchange With Dvorak, and Dvorak Relents). The interchange followed what I believe to be the MO for Dvorak: he makes wild pronouncements about the inutility or outright stupidity of some technology and its adherents, someone calls him to task and is called stupid, and then he caves or says he didn't mean it (because he is already off on his next harangue). More recently, Leslie Martinich got in a Dvorak headlock, when Dvorak claimed that "concept of disruptive technology" "the biggest crock of the new millennium" and Leslie called him an idiot, justifiably. In particular, I realized that I was dealing with a toad when he attacked me for using the term "value proposition":

"to tell you the truth these VC phrases such as "value proposition" -- which is a completely meaningless phrase -- do nothing to help your argument.

combining these two words is nothing less than silly

I'm guessing that what you mean to use is "worth" as in I don't understand the worth of IM. This may be true. Or possibly I do understand it and reject it anyway. But instead of saying it simply you use the condescending language of Silicon Valley 20-something bullshitters trying to sound important. So how can I take this seriously?

But, of course, I have become used to being taken seriously.

So, now Dvorak suggests that A-list bloggers are a bunch of off-the-map self-idolators:

[from To Tag or Not to Tag, That Is the Question]

The influential bloggers should be defined here. These are people whom you've never heard of, but whom other influential A-list utopianist bloggers all know. I reckon there are about 500 of them. He (or she) influences other like-minded bloggers, creating a groupthink form of critical mass, just like atomic fission, as they bounce off each other with repetitive cross-links: trackback links, self-congratulatory links, confirmations, and praise-for-their-genius links. BOOM! You get a formidable explosion -- an A-bomb of groupthink. You could get radiation sickness if you happen to be in the area. Except for Wired online and a few media bloggers, nobody is in the area, so nobody outside the groupthink community really cares about any of this. These explosions are generally self-contained and harmless to the environment.

After my previous go-around with Dvorak, I know better than to contact him directly. I have learned that he is a troll, and he doesn't really stand for anything. His technique is to throw darts at whatever trend has a sign of life, and to put on his fools cap and cut some capers for four or five paragraphs. This likely satisfies some cabal of equally negative pooh-poohers, who he as accumulated after decades of this nonsense. He is the Jerry Springer of IT Journalism, and we should simply change the channel. You will not be able to change his "mind" since he is not really interested in discourse, he is a fatuous actor, and beneath the greasepaint there is... nothing.

As a result, I recommend to all and sundry that it is pointless to dig into his arguments against blogging or tagging, because there is really no antagonist behind the barrage of words. He is a cardboard cut-out, not a real adversary. I have probably expended more words than he deserves, but based on my experience with him, and the concerns of other bloggers (see here and here), I wanted to head this off. I don't even consider this a media convulsion because of the threat that blogging poses to mainstream media: Dvorak is not launching a polemic against blogging and bloggers because he's threatened, but just because he needs to rant every month in his column, and this month it was blogging and tagging that wandered into his crosshairs.

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AOL announces unlimited email storage

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Posted by Arieanna Foley

America Online (AOL) has just announced that they will set no limits for email storage for AOL members - that's right, unlimited email capacity. First of it's kind. I know I'll just about never hit my Gmail limit, but maybe some out there could. Via Messaging Pipeline

[tags: ]

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A Chat With Jory Des Jardins

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Last week, I had a chance to chat with Jory Des Jardins, author of Pause, and frequent contributor to a wide range of publications, like the NY Times, Sports Illustrated For Women, and Fast Company (to only mention a few recent examples).

Jory and I met as the outgrowth of the upcoming Blogher conference (I am one of the hims going to Blogher), although I have followed her work for some time, and we have a lot of common friends. I was particularly interested in the trajectory of her work, which has led her from a more-or-less conventional media background -- working with companies like CNN and the folks who were running Comdex -- into very familiar territory for me: management consulting, and now media consulting. I guess it's not much of a surprise that I would find so much in commen with someone who spends her time very much like I do.

Right now she is splitting her time between various writing projects, her blog, and working with various companies who are trying to wrap their minds around the application of social media to their businesses. That's why she is a perfect fit with the Corante Social Media Advisory Service: another true voice joins SMAShmouth. I can't wait for the right project to materialize where I might get to work closely with Jory.

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June 04, 2005

A Bad, Bad, Sign

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

David Weinberger has turned trackbacks off, which is a bad, bad sign. We need to prosecute comment spammers.

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Technorati Update: Truncating URLs

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Technorati -- a service that I use all the time -- is still lagging in its updates, but seems to catch up periodically. I have stopped watching it daily, but I noted that Get Real was stuck at "360 links from 241 sources" for over a week, even though new links were piling up. Today I noticed we had shot up to "397 links from 264 sources" (and incidentally, broke the 3,000 mark: 2,961 -- note that we were above 8,000 at the start of the year).

Still I have to report that I recently stumbled upon another bug, which the nice folks there responded to almost immediately. Apparently, in the original design of Technorati, they decided that no one would have URLs longer than 127 characters. I recently discovered this when I created a post with a long title (A Conversation with James Surowiecki: The Perils and Promise of Collaborative Tools), and was looking to see who had referenced it at Technorati. When I clicked on the link, it didn't work.

Turns out, Technorati has fixed this limit in a new database schema, but older accounts have not all been transitioned to the new schema. Get Real has now been migrated over, supposedly, to the new schema, and this was to cure this bug. However, when I looked today, the same behavior takes place: the link is still truncated. Adam Hertz told me it was just a caching issue, on June 1, but here it is June 3, and it hasn't yet been updated.

[tags: ]

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Continuous Partial Attention: Here, There, and Everywhere

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Piers Young picks up on a recent thread about Continuous Partial Attention (see here, here, and there), and wonders about the backlash against laptops in some coffee shops who offer free wifi:

[from Monkeymagic: Wifi, Cafes and Solitude]

What is curious about the Seattle Coffee Shop (real world) example above, is not that they don't talk. I think they do, just via laptops, blogs, etc. What's curious to me is that, even though a lot of the roles of the old-fashioned coffee shop get subsumed by their online variants, people still go to coffee shops (rather than staying at home). The coffee can't be that good, can it?

The Seattle Coffee Shop owner noticed increasing numbers of 'customers' who were not buying coffee, but sitting using their computers for hours on end, sucking up free wifi. In principle, she was concerned about the increasing lack of 'interaction' in the shop, not so much the fact that these wifi freeloaders were occupying space without buying a single cup of coffee.

I'd like to separate the two elements of this story, and address them separately:

  1. If you offer free wifi to all you are going to get slammed by people looking for free access in a congenial atmosphere. My recommendation: switch over to a solution where network ids (perhaps time limited) are handed out to those buying coffee, and for those not buying coffee charge a minimal fee. That will get rid of the true freeloaders.
  2. People -- even ferocious connectheads -- like the ambiance of a coffeeshop, even if they desire to share the foreground of their attention: a screenplay they are writing, friends in other locales (via IM), or email. Coffehouses do offer chance opportunites to interact face-to-face, new music, people watching, and a change in setting from staring at the same old wall in your home office.

    The coffeeshop's owner, I guess, devalues the interaction that might be going on via network, in favor of the interaction that she'd like to see face-to-face. But labeling continuous partial attention a public nuisance, like talking too loudly, taking cellphone pictures of the unsuspecting, or urinating in the corner, is too much. Staying linked up via PC while situated in a coffeeshop is much less annoying than loud conversations or people shouting into their cellphones, which seems to go on all the time, and has led me to leave many a coffeeshop for one down the street.

    I think what is happening here is a flip-flop in perception. The coffeeshop owner believes that people leave behind other contexts when they walk through her doors, and subsume themselves in the coffeeshop experience until leaving. Continuous partial attention blends context: I am in the coffeeshop, but I am still in conversation with my buddies, worldwide, who are not there. I am watching the people go by, but reading the online musings of various folks in my inner circle, not just the newspapers strewn about. I am available to business partners for a quick email interchange, even though I am watching a beautiful woman I have never met licking whipped cream from her lips. By remaining connected we enrich our own experience. But the coffeeshop owner views the result as destructive, because the heightened experience of the connected is invisible to the unconnected, and all she registers is a decrease in things she can see.

    So, by all means charge for the access to keep out the freeloaders. But don't turn off the wifi. The connected -- which increasingly means the young, the creative, the digerati -- will just go to the coffeeshop down the street, where we can get the fix we want: good coffee, the circus of life swirling by as we sip, and the foreground of attention shared with connected pursuits, where we remain in conversation with those not present.

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Why collaborate with Open Source toolsEmail This EntryPrint This Article

Posted by Arieanna Foley

I emailed back and for with Matt Mullenweg, founder of WordPress. The topic was not WordPress directly, although I do have a WordPress powered blog and would have loved to chat on that too. Rather, we spent some time talking about collaboration tools, open source, and how companies can get going using non commercial collaboration tools such as blogs and wikis.

Matt will be a speaker at the Collaborative Technologies Conference on the topic of Open Source Collaboration Solutions.

My opening question was to ask Matt what kind of collaboration tools he used. Well, WordPress, like many projects today, is distributed - most work is virtual. Therefore, you do not have the option of collaboration tools such as a piece of paper - rather, one must turn online for solutions. The WordPress folks use Subversion for source control, and Trac for coordinating bugs and getting some code insight. More generally, they use wikis a lot.

All of the documentation is user-generated in a wiki using the same software that Wikipedia does, called Mediawiki. For communication between developers we use AIM, lots of mailing lists and email, and an IRC channel that has chats 24/7 and a weekly IRC meeting.

I think blogs and wikis are collaborative technologies of the highest sort. I think many enterprise systems I've been exposed to were over-engineered and too complicated, things need to be as simple as humanly possible and have a flexible UI (like email) to really take off.

I agree with Matt when he says that blogs and wikis will bring the greatest impact to the corporate world over the next world. We've already witnessed how blogs can be used externally to generate communication between customer and company, and now we're just starting to see how blogs, not to mention wikis, can be used internally to enhance communication and collaboration with very little work. And that's the important thing. As I've noted before, collaboration must be seamless to be used. Anything that creates more work or detracts from the task rather than making it easier will fail to get the internal adoption it needs to take off.

When it came time to examine the benefits of open source collaboration tools, I wanted to know what Matt saw as the benefits of open source vs. commercial applications. And benefits other than just cost, of course. This is the response I got:

The traditional benefits of Open Source over proprietary tools are pretty widely regarded, now that companies like IBM, HP, and Novell are batting for open source software there's not as much as a fight for legitimacy. I think in the long term open source software has the brightest and most promising future, I wouldn't want my company reliant on someone else's business model in such a rapidly changing market. Selling software is dead.
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Continue reading "Why collaborate with Open Source tools"

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June 02, 2005

June 01, 2005

A Distributed Architecture For Social Media

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

I have been struggling with the current infrastructure for social media, and writing about various issues that have been surfacing with Technorati (see here and here) and other tools of the trade. I had a thought today, when I got out of the office and went for a walk, clearing out the cobwebs: maybe the best path woulkd be to devise a distributed architecture for social media.

To some extent, we are doing that, organically. People post links to other blogs, quote other people, reuse tags from other bloggers, and lift memes that others have developed or improved. We create blogrolls. So there is a lot of distributed social stuff going on.

But what I envision is something more automated, local tools or plugins that create more complex and sophisticated presentation of the connections between us in the blogosphere:

  • Every time I update my blog, I would like an automatic recreation of the list of the 10 (or 20, or 100) blogs and authors that I link to the most, or most recently. I would like those to be generated on my server, like other Moveable Type indexes, and accessible in such a way that I can include them in my margin, like other widgets.
  • Ditto for the tags and categories I use most or most recently.

And then, I would like to be able to send that updated information -- a social profile of my blog -- to a central repository. There, that information could be collated with other profiles, to create a social network map of blog cross references. Note, having such a distributed model, where the initial work is handled by each individual blog server, and where updates only happen at the point of rebuilding, could decrease the complexity explosion that seems to be pestering Technorati, PubSub, and others.

Likewise, I could poll the central server to gain information for another widget: who is referencing my blog, which entries are most and most recently referenced, what tags and categories are being picked up, and so on.

I am perfectly happy that there is a site like Technorati -- where I can go to inquire about links and so on. But what I would rather have is to have these these presentation capabilities built-into or plugged into the blog itself, rather than having to go there to see it. This could be by extending the architecture of the blog platform (are you listening, Mena, Ben, Anil, Barak?), through plugins, or through other trickery.

The central repository would be the place where my blog would request information about outside references to Get Real, but once again, I would like to have an in-built blog widget that would send the request to the central repository -- "how many references have been created pointing to to Get Real in the past 24 hours" -- and then render the results. And, of course, much of this information could be formulated as an RSS feed.

Anybody who has any pointers to anything along these lines, please contact me. Corante is at work on the design of Corante 2.0 (as we call it internally), and we have a long list of architectural attributes we would like to make standard against the new blog platform we are planning to build on top of Moveable Type. Alternatively, anybody interested in working to develop such capabilities, also contact me.

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Paolo Has The SMAShmouth Bug!

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Posted by Stowe Boyd

Paolo ginned up a new logo for the Corante Social Media Advisory Service, SMAShmouth:

smassmaller.jpg

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Thought Leadership and The Two-Orders-Of-Magnitude Overload Conjecture

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Posted by Marc Eisenstadt

I was starting to write an entry on how feed overload was just like every other kind of overload (email overload, web surfing overload, etc), when I noticed this one from Canter:

I'm falling more and more behind in my feed reading - breaking 6,000 unread posts for the first time. I looked at my blog, and I haven't posted for 5 days. All I can tell you folks is that means that we're getting a TON of work done!

Perfect timing for this post! Now, I know Marc's productivity is indeed high, and I'm certain he is getting tons of work done right now, but I wanted to comment on something else, namely the deluge that's engulfing us. But this is not a hand-wringing moan - consider it an observation concerning the benefits of tapping in to thought leaders.

RSS aggregators, as a way of managing zillions of feeds, always struck me as something of a short-term fix for the problem of how to deal with, well, zillions of feeds. They are of course a critical daily tool, and the real benefit for me has always been providing a 'radar alert' to keep in touch with what I'd like to call 'thought leaders' (forget 'A-list' and all that nonsense): the people and services who, in my opinion, have something to say to me.

My conjecture is that tools like this (e.g. RSS aggregators) give users, especially early adopters of new technologies, a two-orders-of-magnitude (i.e. 100x) 'power boost' in dealing with the 'knowledge flow' (forget 'information' and 'content') whipping around us. Indeed, such tools are particularly valuable in helping foster and even accelerate knowledge flow among other early adopters (who tend to correlate highly with the 'thought leaders' involved in the knowledge that you want to be, well, flowing)! But whenever there's a three, four, five, or six orders-of-magnitude (i.e. 1000x, 10,000x, 100,000x, or 1,000,000x) increase in 'adopters of new technologies', not only are such technologies not new any more, but a two-orders-of-magnitude 'power boost' is insufficient, so we turn to new technology to improve the signal-to-noise ratio.

'New technology' is not the only route we could take. In fact, there are three related ways to go: 'more power' (e.g. slicker aggregators, filters, etc., but using essentially the same technologies); 'more knowledge' (some kind of intelligence or delegation to help us partake in the knowledge flow); 'new technology' (branch off in some other direction that involves a much smaller number of people, so one can participate more readily with the thought-leaders).

It seems to me that we see-saw between new technology, which is both useful and seductive, and more power (while keeping the technology steady), which helps us manage the technologies. 'More knowledge' is still the research dream, e.g. of the Semantic Web, but it is the other two (technology and power) that have tended to have the upper hand.

This see-saw and orders-of-magnitude overload is just what happened with email, listservs, discussion forums, usenet, Gopher, the web itself, Yahoo's first directory, IM, blogging and now RSS. For example, in the early years of email, it was not only a great way to foster social exchange, but also a key medium for keeping up with the latest developments, and a fantastic enterprise-wide tool for political leverage and strategic advantage. As it became more commonplace, it became less of a leverage point, and more of a burden.

Usenet was a great source of ideas and debate, and when it started getting overloaded, 'more power' tools helped navigate and manage the overload, but only up to a point: when a five, six, seven-orders-of-magnitude increase swamped it, it became a third-rate source of leading-edge knowledge flow and idea exchange. Still good for a quick fix in certain niches, but not the leading-edge knowledge flow that has been cornered by blogging.

Can you remember the earliest days of the web, when Andreesson's Mosaic hit the streets, and there was a great page called "What's new with NCSA Mosaic?" (heh... survived from June 1993 to June 1996; check out NCSA's awesome archives of those pages). It was a wonderful place to look around for new ideas. If you were an early adopter, the ideas of other early adopters permeated the atmosphere. But soon a three, four, five, six, sever order-of-magnitude increase took over, and sites like that were unsustainable.

Yahoo's earliest directories fit the bill nicely, and some still use directories like that, and indeed the Mozilla Open Directory Project continues to provide a nice structured entry point to content. But 'knowledge flow'? Well, we look to blogs, wikis, RSS feeds, and trigger alert services like PubSub, Technorati, and Bloglines to give us that sort of entry point today.

Yet we are now being swamped, just as in earlier examples. One interesting thought is that any radical new technology is useful for 'whittling down the masses' -- i.e. as the thought leaders (or even if just the self-selecting nerds) migrate to it, there won't be very many users, and therefore the signal-to-noise ratio will be pretty high, for a while at least.

Much as the 'long tail' (of millions of bloggers) is an interesting and important phenomenon, we all have our noise thresholds, and as soon as something new comes along, it is very seductive precisely because it increases the signal-to-noise ratio: so we jump ship, and move to the new technology.

This means that although 'more power' and 'more knowledge' would be the intellectually more satisfying route, the 'new technology' route provides the quick fix: hence the part of my conjecture claiming that as the overload becomes unbearable, we will continue migrating to new technologies that appear to mitigate the overload, but only until the swamping effect kicks in.

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