January 15, 2008
Are Bloggers Smarter than Backpackers? Find out Sunday Night!
I recently posted about how getting on TV was a nice benefit of blogging. Well, it's coming - this Sunday night - 8pm on CBC television. The show is called Test the Nation, and if you live in Canada, you can watch it then - it's live, coast to coast. It's a quiz show using a team format and I'm on the Blogger team! Don't ask how or why - it's happening, and it should be fun.
So, there are 6 teams squaring off - Bloggers, Backpackers, Celebrity Look-Alikes, Flight Crews, Cab Drivers and Chefs - and beyond that, I don't have much else to say.
Well - the only downside is I miss the Patriots/Chargers game - we need to be at the studio in the afternoon to prepare. And there's no live blogging onsite, so there won't be any posting on the fly.
Somehow, I think we're gonna win. Why? Well, the show has its own blog page and a Facebook Group. These are tools of the trade for us bloggers - not so sure about all those other folks - and the CBC people are pretty smart, and of course they look to us for all the latest in modern ideas...... hmmm, let me re-think that one...
Well, don't listen to me - you can vote any time for which group you think will win - the poll is on their site and blog page. So, speak your mind, tune in, and watch us prove what know - or don't know.
December 24, 2007
Is Facebook killing blogs? The conversation continues....
I really wasn't planning on posting much at all this week, and just got on the PC now for a quick scan of email and blog stuff before heading off to the same family get-togethers all of us are about to start doing.
Sure glad to see the dialog continuing, which really is the point of blogs in the first place, right?
For anyone following this topic - and I really think I'm hitting on something here - it's clear from Jeff's experiences that the conversations are shifting from the blogs to the social media sites, namely Facebook. What's a blogger to do? Jeff has built up a fantastic network of engaged "friends" on FB, and by rights, he should be getting great conversations going there. What's really amazing is not how big his network is - and lots of avid FB'ers have large networks too - it's how quickly he's done it. Again, nothing unusual there in the FB world, but I'm sure Jeff would agree, he's built up a large following there much faster than it took on his blog.
I don't know about you, but I'm still not sure what to make of all this. I still stand by my position that FB could well be killing blogs, but of course it's not so simple. FB is just another forum for communicating, but it's much more social, whereas blogs are really all about the writing - and for some, the photos too. That's the primary reason we go to blogs - to read what the thought leaders are saying. That's not why we go to FB - we go there to be social, and if we happen to see something interesting to read, well, we'll do that too.
It really doesn't matter where the conversations are taking place - as long as they're happening - that's what I think is important. So, again, Jeff's posing a valid question about why the comments have fallen off at his blog, but at least people are still talking - so no harm, really.
All I can say from here is that as this trend continues - and why shouldn't it? - blogs are going to just look so 1.0. For me, it doesn't matter, since I don't anticipate becoming a rabid FB user. I'm pretty old school, and the blog is where my public writing goes, and I don't see anything changing that.
For Jeff and all the others who are big on FB, no doubt this has to be creating some dissonance, and I guess you just go with the flow. As Jeff says, some posts he duplicates on FB, but only a few - you just have to experiment and see what happens. Nothing wrong with that.
The ones I worry about are those who are trying to build businesses around blogging, where the name of the game is attracting sponsors and/or advertisers. Social networking sites will only continue to fragment readership, so if eyeball and page counts are materially important to you, I suspect you have a bigger problem on your hands than what Jeff has been sharing with us.
That's my piece on this for now, but I'm all ears if you want to keep this dialog going. I'd love it if you did, but in my case, you'll have to do it here, not on FB! :-)
Over and out for now. No idea when I'll be blogging next, hopefully before the year is out.
All the best for the holidays!
December 21, 2007
Is Facebook killing blogs?
Real interesting post from Jeff Pulver yesterday. Titled 'where have all the comments gone?', Jeff raises some troubling points about the impact that Facebook is having on where the best conversations are taking place. It's a valid lament for any high traffic blogger who regularly generates a healthy flow of reader comments - which I think is the true measure of what a blog is really worth.
This isn't a problem for me, as I don't have A-list traffic, so I don't get the volume of readers that usually yields the stream of comments that make blogs a much more interesting read. To some degree, this is by choice, as I don't take advertising or get into the SEO game, so as a matter of course, my blog will never show up on mainstream radar. However, I'm happy to have a small core following, and I get my share of reader input, both online and offline. Of course, Jeff doesn't take advertising either, but he's a globetrotting icon who attracts attention wherever he goes.
And that's the dilemma Jeff is sharing with us. The blog has been his soapbox for years, but since he's become enamored with Facebook this year, he'll be the first to tell you that's where his day starts now, and that's where he's spending his online/public time. So it's no surprise that that's where the conversations are happening now. His post touches on many facets of this issue, and as anyone who has taken the Facebook plunge knows, its pervasiveness has basically changed our behaviors. It's become the hotspot to meet, be seen and see who's doing what. It's a lot more fun, sexy and less work than a blog, and the expectations certainly aren't very high for what goes on there.
The blog is still a much better forum for articulating ideas, but sites like Facebook really are more engaging, and certainly have a great sense of immediacy. At any given time of the day, the chances of finding your posse are far great there than on your blog, so that's where the comments are going.
I can totally understand Jeff's issues, and others do too based on the comments he's received on this post. Interesting that a post that asks where have all the comments gone, is in fact, generating lots of comment for Jeff. That aside, it addresses some of the realities of trying to maintain an active, engaged presence in multiple places, whether real or virtual.
The big takeaway from all this is that FB is not really built for this type of dialog, and there's pretty good evidence from the threads running through Jeff's post that fixing this would be a good idea, making FB that much more powerful as a central meeting place. On the other hand, that may NOT be what FB has in mind as it might introduce elements that take away from what's already working so well. That's their problem to solve, and I have no doubt that the mashup community is coming up with all kinds of ideas/widgets/add-ons/whatevers.
I'm more of a casual FB user, so it's not keeping me up at night, but it sure will be interesting to watch if Jeff's dilemma is the catalyst for some potentially disruptive change with FB. The title of my post is more likely to keep me up at night, and I'm sure it holds true for any blogger who is living multiple online lives via FB, Myspace, Twitter, etc. If this is where people are really investing their online energies, it doesn't bode well for traditional blogs like mine.
Makes you wonder if blogs are going the way of print media and other 1.0 media. I sure hope not, and would like to think the world still needs forums like these for personal expression that runs longer than IM-style messaging. Much like the way LinkedIn is becoming more social media-friendly to stay relevant, Jeff's post is a wakeup call to say that blogs need to evolve too. Interesting times, no?
November 28, 2007
Blogging Has Some Side Benefits - Being on TV!
This is a fun post, really. Just sharing with you one of the payoffs that can come from blogging. I sure don't do it for the money - don't know anybody who does. The only monetization scheme of note that I participate in is with Newstex, who has been tracking me for almost 2 years. If you scroll down the right margin of my blog page, you'll see a blue Newstex box. Just click on that, and you can learn more about it.
Anyhow, I recently got my current royalty report, and I've earned a whopping $28.42. As you can tell, my blog doesn't carry ads, and I don't really take advantage of the web tools you need to build online traffic, so I have no expectations of turning my blog into a money machine. If that was my business, I'd be doing things very differently, that's for sure.
That aside, I'm happy to say that my blog does generate regular inquiries from people/companies wanting to know about my services and the things I do to make a living as Principal of J Arnold & Associates. And a good portion of those have turned into paying clients, including two this week already. So, if you're wondering if blogging is worth it, that's a hands-down yes, at least for me.
I'm posting now to tell you about a nice side benefit that's come from blogging. I get to be on national TV, but not to tell the world about VoIP. Get this - our national broadcaster - the venerable CBC - has been airing a show since March of this year called Test the Nation. It's an IQ-type quiz show that originated in Holland back in 2001, and the format has been used in some 40 countries, although I don't think it's in the U.S. yet.
The show works on a team concept and 2 teams face off against each other. So, guess what - one of the teams for the upcoming series is.... bloggers. I've been back and forth with CBC on this for a bit now, but I'm on the team. The new series airs on January 20, 2008, and the overall theme is 21st Century knowledge. I'm pretty solid aside from up to the minute stuff, so I'll be leaning on my kids to make sure I'm schooled in all the latest cyberknowledge.
This sure should be fun, and for a change, blogging leads to something totally unexpected, and something I wouldn't be doing otherwise. It's one thing to be on business TV talking about telecom, but an IQ quiz show? Why not, right? So, if you have aspirations of getting on national TV, blogging might be your ticket. I've got no idea what kind of questions they'll be asking, but I sure hope they have something about VoIP - I'll be ready for that! :-)
November 22, 2007
Deloitte's "State of the Media Democracy" Highlights
Earlier this week, Deloitte hosted a really engaging webinar titled "State of the Media Democracy", and I listened through the whole thing. The webinar featured extensive highlights from primary research conducted for Deloitte earlier this year. I'm not exactly sure when the research was done, as I've seen highlights of this study published as far back as August. However, it's reasonably current, and with a base of 2,200 U.S. consumers, it's a pretty solid sample.
As far as I can tell the webinar was done for the Canadian market, and given that the research findings were very U.S.-centric, I'm sure Deloitte has done similar webinars in the States for their American clientele.
Anyhow, this webinar was hosted by Gary Gluckman, the leader of Deloitte Canada's Media and Entertainment Practice. I've cited Gary on some of my posts, and have done several others around other Deloitte initiatives that touch on IP communications.
Sorry for the long preamble, but I think it's pretty likely that I'm sharing new information for my readers, and that you probably weren't on this call. So, if you have even a faint interest in how consumers are engaging with the media and technology these days, you'll want to read on.
I'm just going to share some high level takeaways, as I'd be here all day doing justice to the research. I'm privy to the full slide set from the webinar, and since Deloitte spent a lot of time and money to get this great research done, I'm not exactly going to give it away here. Same for me - I don't make a living blogging, although a lot people seem to think so. Anyhow, even a taste is worthwhile, so here we go....
- Big idea #1 - yup, we've finally crossed the line. Overall, consumers are spending more time on the Internet than watching TV - 16.6 hours per week vs. 15.2. We knew this day would come - and it's probably the biggest shift in media consumption habits since TV supplanted radio. Aside - the research sample is segmented into four user groups - Millennials, Xers, Boomers, Matures - and I'm sure you can draw your own conclusions about how each one consumes media.
- User generated content is very popular. For every two hours people spend on regular Web browsing, they're spending one hour engaged with user-generated content. It's not clear to me how much of that hour is spent creating their own content vs. watching YouTube-type videos, but it's still significant. Not surprisingly, the mix was 50/50 among Millennials. They spend as much time with user generated content as they do with everything else on the Web.
- Reading books still rocks (hoorayyyyyy!). I'm so old school, and damned proud of it. When asked what 5 things people expect to spend more time doing next year, reading a book rated the highest aside from socializing with friends and family. Even more interesting - and encouraging - is how this finding held up pretty steadily across all age groups - not just with Matures. Actually, I think this may be the tip of the iceberg for a backlash that's coming against multitasking and media/technology saturation. I can definitely see that happening, with people getting zoned out on virtual living, and just wanting to do simple, singular things like read a book, go bowling, baking bread. Remember those days?
- Big idea #2 - TV is just background noise for doing other things. Only 10% of the sample just watch TV when watching TV (I'm in that camp). Everybody else is doing other stuff while "watching" TV - Web browsing, snacking, homework, email, talking on the phone. Talk about a medium that isn't very engaging. This is why going to the movies is such a powerful experience - you can't do all this other *hit - you actually have to pay attention and watch the movie. And - we're happy to pay for the privilege of doing so. What a great business model. I can see a whole bunch of other businesses that could be started based on the same premise. Gee, I can think of SOO many things to talk about here - I see a book coming. Don't get me started, unless you come running with a publishing contract or a cable TV show.....
- Big idea #3 - the advertising-driven model to support Internet content doesn't work for everyone. No surprise there, and the data shows that more than 1 in 4 (28%) would be willing to pay for online content that was free of advertising. Hey, that's good news for my blog, which is so Stone Age on this front - it's no wonder nobody can find me. I'd rather have a handful of engaged, loyal readers than thousands of strangers any day.
- People prefer to read print materials than online. Overall, the sample spends more than twice as much time reading printed newspapers and magazines than online versions of these - 4.3 vs. 1.8 hours a week. And, practically nobody reads online magazines - just 1/2 hour a week on average. Advertisers beware.
That's all I can tell you for now. There is a 3 page summary doc that Deloitte has made available, so by all means, get a copy here if you want any more detail. Beyond that, you should call me, and I'll be happy to get you in touch with Gary.
October 26, 2007
I'm on Facebook Now!
People have been leaning on me to get on Facebook for a while now, and I've finally succcumbed, just before VON.
Well, I'm also doing it now in honor of the founders who have an incredible goldmine, now that Microsoft is investing dot.com kind of dollars for a tiny sliver of this thing. It's an amazing example of the power of a good idea and being in the right place at the right time.
So, with 200,000 people jumping on this train every day, I'd better get on before I start to look like more of a Luddite than I already am. If you do the math, that's 2.3 sign-ups EVERY SECOND of every day. That sure is a nice curve to be riding.
These are Skype-like growth metrics, of course, and it will be interesting to see how Facebook's trajectory unfolds, especially now that Skype and MySpace are hooked up, and Microsoft has skin in the game.
I mention Skype for another reason. It's all about ease of use. Took me about 10 minutes to set up a basic Facebook profile last night, and right away I had friends, and a bunch more in my inbox this morning. As I recall, it took my son Max about the same amount of time to set himself up on Skype. To me, more than anything, it's ease of use and simplicity that make these things successful. From there, it's all about who can build an engaged community, and of course, laying the foundation for the advertising that will inevitably monetize this and make billionaires out of the founders.
So far, I just see one glitch in the ease-of-use department, but I know it's there for a reason. Want to find me on Facebook? Go to the site, and try.
What do you get? 144 Jon Arnolds. Yup - I'm certainly not alone. Good luck finding me, especially if you're not yet a member. The site only lets you search through the first 3 pages of "Jon Arnold", and I'm not there. So, I guess resistance is futile - you will be assimilated. If you really want to find me, you've gotta join up. So, join up, and let's be friends. Or, drop me a line and I'll send you an invite!
April 27, 2007
Blogs, Baseball and a Bloody Sock - Why Not?
Just a quick post about a news item that combines a few things that I really like - baseball and blogging. Not so sure about the blood part, but just like Tommy Lasorda bleeds Dodger blue, it's only fitting that players for the Red Sox bleed red - right?
So, there's been a bit of a story brewing in the sports media that the fabled "bloody sock" from Curt Schilling during the 2004 ALCS Series against the Yankees - perhaps THE defining moment in Red Sox history - was bogus. You don't have to look far to find this story, along with the subsequent denials from the Red Sox to discredit this ridiculous claim. The more I think about it, this is sounding a bit like Verizon's patent claims - I digress.....
Well, this could be a lame excuse to talk about the Red Sox, who are off and running, and have a golden opportunity this weekend to stick it to the Yankees right in George's house - weather permitting. I won't deny that, but what I really want to post about is that the protagonist in this story - Curt Schilling - who we all know is outspoken and very media friendly (he's a regular on the Boston sports talk show scene)- also happens to have a blog. It's called 38 Pitches, where he blogs not just about baseball, but his personal life and his activities outside of baseball. If you're a gamer, you might already know this, as gaming is one of his passions, and 38 Studios is a venture he started up to develop games. It's all there on the blog if you want to poke around.
Back to the sock incident - they picked the wrong guy to accuse for a sensational story, and Curt has wasted no time putting up his personal take on the matter. Today's post, titled "Ignorance has its privileges", provides his rebuttal to this nonsense, along with his some criticism about the media in general, especially when the media itself becomes the story, as opposed to getting the story.
I've scanned the major U.S. sports sites, and while everyone is talking about this story, outside of the Boston sports media, Curt's post isn't being picked up. Either they're steering clear of it because they don't like the message - or they don't know what to make of jocks who blog (which may well be true). Or they don't know he's got a blog - which I would be surprised to learn. In any event, if ESPN was smart, they'd get an RSS feed going to my blog, at least for my Red Sox posts! :-))
There's a whole can of worms here around sports stars and celebrities who blog, since they're going to have a built-in following, and you never know what their real agenda is. That's another discussion, but I just wanted to tie in a few themes here, since this story just emerged the other day, and it happens to focus on a guy who blogs, and is pretty articulate in the first place, and just happens to play for the Red Sox.
I'm done - back to work...
February 21, 2007
Jim Courtney in Support of New Presence
Fellow blogger and colleague Jim Courtney has a very thought provoking post today on Skype Journal, and I've been meaning to post about it all day.
For anyone who has concerns about the intrusiveness of always-on communications - myself included - this is a great read. Jim is a technophile for sure, and has been trialing all kinds of leading edge IP services and apps, so he's got a very good handle on all this.
Through all these experiences, Jim is bringing us around to the virtues of Web 2.0 applications, and more importantly, a more refined approach to Presence to make the always-on world a good thing. On its own, Presence is really more beneficial to the sender than the receiver, but we all know how annoying that is.
Alec Saunders is no stranger to my blog - and I'm sure to many of you - and he has articulated this thinking more extensively, and calls it New Presence. I'll steer you to his blog post about this, and that will really tell the story about how Presence really can be a good thing for both the sender and receiver. Alec's company, Iotum, is a pioneer in this regard, and they are one of the companies that Jim talks about in his post that is bringing this idea to market with applications you can use today.
Andy Abramson added his informed take on Jim's post earlier, and is another good read on these ideas.
February 13, 2007
Apple - Got to Get You into My Life
"Say we'll be together every day..."
Image courtesy of ECommerceTimes
How much do you want to bet - how much do you want to bet - that this will be Apple's new tag line, now that they've made peace with Apple Corps?
It's not such a big leap - think about how nicely it would fit, giving the Beatles estate yet another generation to pass its great music along to, and in such a cool, accessible, youth-friendly format. How can this not happen? All together, and slowly now..."All we are saying..... is give this a chance........"
I'm in Apple overdrive right now, mainly due to a couple of posts from Andy Abramson's blog. Stick with me here, and I'll try to weave all these threads into something good.
Let me first get to Andy's post about Apple and Cisco, and then I'll come back to what I just started. I think this was posted Sunday night, and when I read it, I said to myself that I need to leave a comment on Andy's blog. It really hit a chord for me, as I've been writing/commenting recently along similar lines. Andy - I tried twice to register so I could leave a comment there, and twice I just couldn't get this to go. So I was going to email you about this, and then I get wind that your post is getting some nice attention, and this great citing in NetworkWorld.
Well, with all that out there, I figured my own post would be the best way to support you. In short, I basically agree with Andy's position - both Apple and Cisco are oil to Microsoft's water. So, they have a common purpose - on a number of levels. Apple, primarily for the hearts, minds and wallets of PC users, and Cisco for both control of the enterprise and our TVs at home. And yes, the iPhone could be Apple's entree to the enterprise market, which Cisco could really help fast track. But I'm not so sure iPhone can really compete against RIM et al.
It's also interesting that both companies have recently done some repositioning of their monikers, with Cisco dropping "Systems", and Apple dropping "Computers" from their respective names. Both are very savvy companies for sure.
Regardless, I think there's another layer to this story, and one that will help get the iPhone trademark issue settled so the universe can unfold as the cybergods wish it to be. And it has little, if anything to do with the iPhone.
There's something bigger that Apple has that Cisco craves. It doesn't come from picking up a Linksys router at BestBuy, and it doesn't come from watching John Chambers hold court. And it's getting more valuable by the minute. It's the cool factor. Apple is cool - always has been, and they're cool with the audience that matters the most long term - the youth market.
Cisco will continue to make tons of money with routers and switches, but they paid a lot to acquire Scientific Atlanta, and the real prize is control of the digital home. And Apple owns the youth market, well, just like Cisco owns the enterprise market. My view is that Cisco wants to make nice with Apple not for the iPhone, but for Apple TV. Remember - that was the other announcement they made at MacWorld. Apple understands how to create the kind of end user experience that wins markets. Cisco can enable some of these pieces, but Apple is what makes it cool. And cool is what kids buy.
No doubt the iPhone gets everybody talking, and sure the Apple stores and the broad Linksys presence in big box stores would give them a huge footprint. And sure, turning your Linksys router into an iTunes jukebox to play your music anywhere in the house is fun. These alone could be enough. But I think video is the bigger - untold - story that's really bringing Cisco to the table. What Apple has done with music, they are now poised to do for video. It won't be easy, but they're in as good a position as anybody. And it doesn't hurt to have the Beatles on your good side. And Cisco has way too much at stake to be cut out by Apple. I think they need Apple in a big way here.
To close out this mode of thought, I wanted to come back to the image that's at the top of this post. I think it's really neat, and for me, it nicely captured what I was thinking with these two Apples.
Just as much, though, it's quite similar to the image that came to mind for me when commenting on AT&T's Unity plan. It just struck me then that the Apple and AT&T union - via Cingular - sure put Apple in pretty high company.
I'm just mentioning this because it could become another piece of the puzzle, especially if the iPhone/ATT&T relationship goes well, and moves beyond voice into IPTV. Then things could really get interesting.
Enough for now.
One last quick thought on the iPhone, and why they launched when they did. Aside from upstaging CES, it set the bar real high for the vendors announcing their new models this week at 3GSM. After all, being a GSM phone, iPhone is a global product, and ultimately they want to play on the 3GSM stage. North America is not the end game for iPhone, and by launching so soon, it buys Apple some time to see what's coming from Europe, and possibly re-tool. Andy gave a hint of what's being announced at 3GSM yesterday, and I'm sure all the GSM vendors are wondering how much a threat iPhone really is.
And just before I go, and to bring things full circle with Apple and the Beatles, I wanted to comment on yet another Andy post - one that's been getting a lot of attention. This is Ted Wallingford's post about iTunes.
There's definitely merit to the idea of using iTunes as a platform for launching new music, much like YouTube is doing for home-grown - mostly crappy - video. To some degree I agree with Andy, Ted, Alec and others, and with music being my biggest passion, I should probably have a separate blog for stuff like this. Basically, all the pieces are there for iTunes to do this, and if Steve Jobs has his way in dispensing with DRM, then there's nothing getting in the way.
Well, except for the most important ingredient - the music itself. And, as Andy points out - the old guard. They're not about to give up on their PSTN and legacy networks, so to speak. That's a long term transition. That aside, it's about the music. When things are free or almost free, and self-produced - you get what you pay for. It's a bit like the hangups that journalists have with bloggers. They would say we're amateurs, we're not objective, we don't check our facts, we're not accountable to editors, etc. It's the same with music, and it's exactly what you get with YouTube.
If you remove all of the professional infrastructure and know how of the business, I don't think you'll get a very good product that will hold the public's imagination. Yes, you'll get tons of very niche music that appeals to a very narrow audience, and no doubt there will be good music in there. But ultimately, if you create a free-for-all, that's what you'll get. Most people just don't have the bandwidth to wade through all this just to find some new hot tunes. It won't take long for Google to come up with search algorithms that will guide us through this new universe to help identify songs or bands we think we may like.
I think you can see where I'm going, and I'd better stop. The Grammys on Sunday have put me in such a bleak mood about the state of popular music, I'm having a hard time seeing how iTunes can be our savior. Believe me, I sure wish it would. Thinking about the music giants we lost last year - Ahmet Ertegun, the Godfather, Ruth Brown, etc. - and what's out there now - it's just hard to see if there's a corner for music to turn. Ever since MTV, when we stopped listening to music and started watching music, the experience has completely changed, and music has really become a visual medium.
And on that note, I'll just say one more thing related to Ted's post. While iTunes could help reinvent - or even reinvigorate popular music, if I'm Steve Jobs, and if I had to choose between investing in this path, and making a deal with Apple Corps to license their catalog on iTunes, it's a no brainer to me. Maybe he'll do both, but judging from the music that's out there today and the enduring quality of the Beatles ouevre, I don't think the indie approach stands a chance. The Fab Four is safer, surer, better and after all, he's in the business to make money, not music. We all love music, but making money at it is another story.
"When I find myself in times of trouble..."
February 01, 2007
Deloitte's Crystal Ball/Guy Kawasaki - My Busy Day, Part 2
Before attending last night's blogtv.ca launch, I was at a really great breakfast session put on by Deloitte. This was their annual Predictions event, and is my second one. Last year featured Jim Balsillie of RIM, and this year's guest speaker was Guy Kawasaki.
The market researcher in me loves these events, as it's a great showcase for Deloitte's research on the big trends they think will shape TMT - Technology, Media, Telecommunications - in 2007. I've maintained a dialog with their London-based research practice, and really appreciate all the work that goes into this. In total, they produce 30 key predictions - 10 for each TMT sector - and there's a lot of output behind these. I'm not going to get into it here, but if you want to explore this further, please drop me a line.
Nick Foggin, one of their Senior Researchers, did a great job highlighting the top 10 TMT trends overall in terms of impact on Canada. We could have been there all day, and I'll just give you the key takeaways now. Basically, the uber message is "power to the people". As we all know, IP has a lot to do with enabling end users to get whatever they want, wherever they want, whenever they want, etc. Sounds like Homer Simpson to me, and if aliens came to visit us, they'd think the planet was full of 2 year olds who only understand instant gratification. I'm being a bit cynical here, and maybe showing my age, but hey, that's reality, and it's tough to swim up the IP stream. So, as consultants would say - and as John Ruffolo noted in his opening remarks, the focus has shifted now from product functionality to the end user experience. No argument there.
Some of the themes that caught my eye from Nick's presentation was the greening of technology (where do all those spent iPods go???), analog media isn't dead yet!, and virtual worlds/user generated content are powerful trends from which great business opportunities will emerge. Yes, yes, yes.
Following Nick was Guy Kawasaki, who I have only recently begun to follow. He's certainly a big name and I'd love to read his books. As you can see from his website, he's a VC, author, speaker and one of the top bloggers out there. If you're not following him, you should.
His perspective is really great, and gave everyone food for thought on a few levels. He was particularly well received here as he is an avid hockey fanatic, and told us how he just recently took up ice hockey and just loves Canada. Whoo hoo!
He provided some highlights from his latest book, Art of the Start, and is real big on innovation. I really liked his message of striving not just to be 10% better than before, but to "jump the curve" and redefine your space. Canadians tend to be more conservative than Americans, and hopefully this message was well taken.
I'll say this much about that. As I'm writing this post, I realized that this is exactly what happened today, right here in Canada. This morning, Videotron and Cisco announced their plans to provide 100 mbps broadband service in the next few months. That's a good 5 times faster than any broadband service in Canada, and if that's not jumping the curve, I don't know what is. Of course, it remains to be seen how much bandwidth consumers really need, and if they're willing to pay for it, but no matter - it's here, now. And if I'm Verizon or AT&T, I'd be watching this one closely. Videotron is being bold and innovative here, and the spoils will be theirs in Quebec if they execute right. And if they do, Cisco will have a big green light to do the same with TWC, Comcast, Cox, etc. How's that for a game-changer? You can read more about it here.
Oh - Guy also has a great sense of humor, and had a lot of fun taking jabs at the woeful Toronto Maple Leafs. Best line - "Why do I believe in God? It's the only explanation I can think of for Apple's continued existence." Hah - that was great! Being an Apple Fellow, Guy knows of what he speaks, and gave many fascinating anecdotes about Apple's culture as well as the Silicon Valley psyche. Time well spent.
I'll leave you with some photos from my pocket pal, the Nokia N93....
John Ruffolo, Guy Kawasaki
To think differently, you need to look at things differently....
Q&A panel, w/John Ruffolo, Nick Foggin, Guy Kawasaki and Garry Foster
Hockey - the great unifier....
January 08, 2007
Andy on "Instant Journalism" During CES
I wanted to share a thought-provoking piece by uber blogger Andy Abramson as he prepares for the show-of-shows, CES. If there ever was a showcase for new technology, this is it.
Well, Andy is talking about a different type of new. Having been in the communications business over 30 years, Andy has seen a lot of evolution, and his post is a great read on how the new media tools like blogging and video messaging are changing the dynamics of journalism in a big way.
I have no doubt that he and many others will do a great job proving the value of these tools at CES, and hopefully this will elevate new media a little closer to the standards of traditional media, which conventional media types hold as sancrosanct. There's certainly room for both, and all new media wants is some respect. Let's see how the week unfolds.
I'd just like to comment on something Alec said in his post - that for him, newspapers are an afterthought, as he gets his morning news primarily online. Fair enough - I'm still old school about reading the paper, and I rely equally on print and online sources. There's room and merit for both, and it's not an either-or thing for me. Online sources are far superior in some ways, for sure, but for me, a lot of things in the newspaper don't have a 3 hour life, and I just can't read anything that's longer than a page or two online. I'll stop there - this topic has a lot of legs, but not now....
Seems the whole world is at CES, but not me. However, I will get a taste of the show second-hand, and so will you. Jim Harris is a colleague of mine here in Toronto, and he's at the show. He's an interesting author - more on him later. Anyhow, he'll be my podcast guest next week, and he'll give me his recap of the show then.
December 20, 2006
The Human Side of Blogging - Philip Stern
I've known Philip Stern for many years here in Toronto, and was pleasantly surprised to see him in a great human interest story in today's Globe & Mail. Like me, Philip is a consultant in the tech space, and is pretty web savvy. He also has a big heart, and as the story explains, he's struck up a friendship with a homeless man who frequents his local cafe.
Aside from the goodness of this outreach, there's a wonderful tech angle here that should be of interest to anyone reading my blog. Ever the fair-trade entrepreneur, Philip recognized that Tony, his coffee companion, has a lot to say, but lacks a voice to connect with world at large.
So, Philip has recently set up a blog solely for this purpose - HomelessManSpeaks.com. They chat, share stories, and Philip puts it up on the blog, allowing Tony to get his thoughts out there. It's a fascinating window on street life, and what it means to be homeless.
Aside from reading about what it's like to be Tony - along with photos from Philip for a visual perspective - the links on the blog page indicate there's a web-based ecosystem out there around the homeless world. There are links there to both support groups dedicated to the needs of the homeless, as well as other homeless people/groups who have found a way to get on the Net.
This really struck me, and from a blogger's perspective, it's a great example of how the Web works in weird and wonderful ways. It's not just about tech or commerce, that's for sure, and this story says a lot of about how blogs can serve a higher purpose, and is a truly democratic medium that gives a voice to those who usually don't have one. And of course, it's all the more profound in the week leading up to XMas.
Well done, Philip - you're setting the bar high here, and hopefully this will inspire others to find similar ways to use technology for the public good.
November 24, 2006
US Thanksgiving - Canadian-Style
How American - is that in-your-face enough for you?
Last night, thanks to my Mother's urging, I did a first, even though I've lived here a thousand years and have been a dual citizen for some time. I attended a U.S. Thanksgiving dinner put on by Democrats Abroad, which does a great job of building community amongst American ex-pats, and in this case, here in Toronto. And yes, it's all about being a good Democrat, and revelling in the recent election wins that give Democrats very good reason to believe they'll be back in the saddle in 2008.
I really didn't know what to expect at this dinner, but it was a lot of fun, and even though I didn't know anybody, there was definitely a nice sense of cameraderie and shared values about a lot of things. Here are a few photos that will give you a better sense of what I mean.
As usual, photos are courtesy of my Nokia N90...
Yes, we're taking over Canada, in case you were wondering...
We certainly have a few things in common...
Good crowd - full house, I'd say. Treasurer Joe Green showing off a bumper sticker if you care or dare to show your true colors on the road! Small world - Professor Green was on the faculty at York University when I did my MBA there. I didn't study with him, but I sure remember him.
May 18, 2006
Today's Concall from Save the Internet and Moby
Yesterday I posted about this concall, which took place earlier today. I listened in, and just wanted to share some thoughts.
The concall was a well orchestrated effort to keep pace with the telco lobby in their efforts to influence the Net Neutrality debate. On the call was Tim Carr, who coordinates the STI coalition, recording artist Moby, and Congressman Ed Markey (D, MA), who has been championing this issue.
I'm not a regulatory expert, so I won't go too deep here. The speakers on the call all took turns to state their case, which is basically that the Internet should remain free and open, and we should not let big business take ownership and become the gatekeepers. It's a familiar story for those following Net Neutrality, and there are plenty of blogs that get into this in great detail.
Tim set the stage, talking about the importance of preserving Net Freedoms, and how over 700,000 Americans have signed the petition (myself included), making this a bona fide grass roots effort to get our voices heard. He explained this is a necessary response to counter the "disinformation" being put forward by the big telcos to strengthen their case to defend a dual-tiered Internet. As such, he's urging Americans to "learn the facts" and don't let big biz hijack the Internet. Setting up for Moby, he added that the Internet has become the "medium of choice" for independent artists, and they risk losing this if the telcos get their way.
Moby added his piece, saying that "Internet freedom is under attack", and named some recording artists who have just joined this coalition, such as Trent Reznor, and yes, the Dixie Chicks! He noted the importance of mobilizing citizen support since midterm elections are coming, and this is worth making an issue over. Moby also pointed out this is not just an issue for artists - it was mentioned that both the Christian Coalition and gun owners were onside here as well. When you can get all these people to agree on something, there must be something to it! He ended by making an appeal to support Representative's Markey's proposed Net Neutrality amendment and keep the Internet free.
Representative Markey was the last speaker, and he talked about the issues and challenges around getting his amendment heard. Interestingly, he dropped off the call just when we needed him most! Bizarre. The cynics out there have to wonder if the concall was being hosted by a big telco, and someone decided to mess with the call just to make it interesting. Who knows???
As mentioned, this was a well-orchestrated event, and you can pick up all the pieces from the various posts that followed the call:
I just wanted to add my overall take on this call. I'm all for Net Neutrality, and nobody really wants to see an "Internet tax" that would ulitmately stifle innovation, creativity and choice (well, hopefully nobody!). And Congressman Markey's efforts need to be supported. I should also add you won't find a more fervant advocate from the IP world than Jeff Pulver, and he's as active in this space as anyone.
My concern is the black and white, good guy/bad guy scenario this call was painting. It's very easy to make the honest efforts of artists and creative people looked oppressed by big business. To some extent that's true, but the scenario being painted is just as fear mongering and self-serving as the telcos. The telcos are entitled to make a fair return on their investment, so there is some basis to their take on Net Neutrality. The bleak world portrayed on this call is not good for anybody, and I don't think the public will tolerate paying twice for Internet access - once to get the basic broadband we get today, then the second charge to ensure QoS for high bandwidth content. I guess I'm not convinced the telcos are that evil and will go so far as to make life impossible for artists who depend on the Internet for their livelihood.
I guess what I'm getting at is a need for clarity and a framing of the issue in a context that is not about winners and losers. We should - and can - all come out winners if this is done right. As Moby noted, the Internet today works pretty well, and as it continues to get better, and as more people continue to use it and benefit from it. it's really our game to lose and screw up.
The tenor of the call suggested an all or nothing outcome, and I'm just not so sure that's what will happen. I tried really hard to ask a question on the call, but couldn't get through. They also didn't leave much time for Q&A, and seemed in a hurry to end the call. Basically I wanted to ask if they could see a middle ground, where there's a distinction made between charging a premium to ensure premium quality access, and the telcos hijacking the Internet to suit their own ends. Or, as Tim Carr called it "economic censorship".
I'd like to think a middle ground can be struck. It's fair to say that nobody should "own" the Internet, but I also think it's a bit idealistic to expect it to be totally open and free to the point where those who have invested in the networks are reduced to being providers of fat, dumb pipes. I didn't get a sense there was much distinction made here on the call about this, and I came a way with the feeling that this call was every bit as orchestrated as anything the telcos would do. I guess that's just the way it is on Capitol Hill, but it didn't leave me with the impression that this coalition has all the answers either.
May 17, 2006
Join Moby and Me on a ConCall to Save the Internet!
For those of you wrapped up in the Net Neutrality debate, and happen to be passionate about music and artistic freedom, you probably know about Save the Internet.com
Got an email late today about a concall being hosted by Moby - yes, Moby - Play, 18, etc. - about how musicians are banding together in an effort to keep the Internet open, accessible and democratic.
THE CALL IS TODAY - THURSDAY - AT 12:15 EST. SEE DETAILS AT THE END OF THE PRESS RELEASE BELOW TO RSVP AND DIAL IN. HOPE YOU CAN MAKE IT.
Pretty interesting stuff, and I'm sure we'll be seeing more voices like this from other corners of the arts world. Digital media is so disruptive, and Net Neutrality speaks to the essence of how important the Internet has become as a distribution channel and vital link between recording artists and their audience. Nobody has got this figured out yet, and much like what we saw with Napster, this is another step along the way to how IP is redefining an industry faster than anyone can comprehend.
Anyone who saw Michael Geist speak at the Mesh conference this week in Toronto will understand this totally.
The press release isn't up on their website yet, but here's the gist of it....
R.E.M. and Moby Speak Out for Internet Freedom, Against Corporate Web Takeover
Musicians band together to demand Net Neutrality with congressional showdown over the future of the Internet imminent
WASHINGTON -- Rock group R.E.M. is joining Moby and a growing list of musicians pushing Congress to protect the Internet from corporate takeover by AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and other telecommunications giants.
Major artists and musicians are signing the "Artists and Musicians for Internet Freedom" petition -- joining Internet advocates, political groups on the right and left, consumer advocates, and more than 600 diverse organizations on the SavetheInternet.com Coalition. This coalition is uniting Internet users against a congressional proposal to gut Network Neutrality -- the Internet's First Amendment.
"This is yet another attempt by corporations and their congressional buddies to pull our society backward rather than moving us forward," Michael Stipe of R.E.M said. "These corporations are trying to set up tollbooths on the information superhighway. We need to keep Net Neutrality so the Internet remains a free and level playing field."
R.E.M. also blogged about this issue as the top item on their Web site, www.remhq.com.
Net Neutrality ensures that small music blogs and independent news sites open just as easily on people's computers as large corporate sites. Companies like AT&T are spending millions lobbying Congress to let them decide which Web sites work best based on which corporations pay them the most.
"If Congress guts Net Neutrality, independent music and news sites would be choked off, consumer choice would be limited, and the Internet will be become a private toll road auctioned off by companies like AT&T," warned Moby. "We need to stand up for Internet freedom now. Congress must uphold Network Neutrality."
Moby will join Representative Edward Markey (D-Mass.), ranking Democrat on the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and Internet, for a Net Neutrality event Thursday in Washington.
The Save the Internet.com Coalition -- an alliance of organizations from across the political spectrum, consumer groups, educators, small businesses and bloggers that have joined together to protect Internet freedom -- has galvanized support for Internet freedom from artists, musicians and hundreds of thousands of average citizens who will hold Congress accountable on this issue. Nearly 700,000 people have signed an Internet Freedom petition to Congress on the site, more than 7,000 friends have joined SavetheInternet.com's MySpace, and thousands of blogs have linked to the coalition.
R.E.M's announcement: www.remhq.com
SavetheInternet.com Coalition: www.savetheinternet.com
RSVP for Thursday's conference call with Moby to email@example.com
******CONFERENCE CALL WITH MOBY******
Date/Time: Thursday, May 18th - 12:15pm (EST)/9:15am (PST)
Participant Dial In: 1-800-905-0392 - Password: Net Neutrality
RSVP - firstname.lastname@example.org
May 16, 2006
Mesh Conference - Final Thoughts
Have had a bit of time to reflect on the past 2 days, and am trying to conclude if we really meshed or mashed up. Putting a lot of good ingredients together that sound good doesn't always guarantee a successful recipe, but I'd say on the whole, Mesh was a success.
I wanted to share my final thoughts on Mesh, really for 2 reasons. First, the analyst in me compels me to look at the big picture and try to explain what I think it all means. Not sure if I'm right, but that's for you to decide. Secondly, I've had a look at a lot of blog posts from those attending Mesh, and most of it is just reporting of what went on. There's a lot of that in my other posts about Mesh, but I haven't seen much in the way of a critical analysis of the overall experience. And I mean critical in a good way!
Let's look at that logo again. I think it's one of the coolest things about the event - it's a very engaging image, and I think there's a lot of good design going on there.
Did I connect at Mesh? Yes.
Did I share at Mesh? Yes.
Was I inspired at Mesh? Yes.
Well, if I'm a PR guy, I'd say mission accomplished! In large part I'd agree, but still, I'm left with some questions, both of the conference itself, and where we go from here.
There was lots of good content and obviously some great energy. I'm sure the successes of the show were a happy mix of good planning and putting everyone together to share and feed off each other. I definitely learned a lot, but for someone who is on a steady diet of VoIP and telecom conferences like VON, Internet Telephony and Globalcomm, this is a different world in many ways. Didn't hear much talk about VoIP or podcasting or SIP - stuff like that. But that's ok - Web 2.0 is about so many things.
And that's where the challenge lies for me. A lot of great perspectives were put forward at Mesh - both from the speakers and the attendees. However, there wasn't a lot of connecting the dots - maybe by design - but I'm left with the feeling that for as much as I learned, I still don't have a sense how these things fit together.
This actually brings me back again to the Mesh logo. You can't help but be drawn into that image and the energy it seems to radiate - which is exactly what happened at the show - so, kudos for the logo designers. The energy was there alright, but like the logo, I didn't really feel that all the strands - yellow, blue, green, etc. - connected. They're oscillating around each other, and bumping into each other a lot, but never really intersecting or truly meshing into a unified form. At the end of the day, much like Earth at Creation, I'd like to see this humming mass of energy and chaos sort itself out and unravel nicely like a ball of yarn.
My conclusion is that this did not happen, and I'm concerned that for some, the conference was just a blur, like this....
Or, that people become blinded by the light (as the Boss would say) of Web 2.0...
Can you guess what this is a picture of? Big prize if you can...
Am just saying these things as food for thought. As I mentioned yesterday, I think the guys behind Mesh are on to something, and they've done a GREAT job on many levels. Just like with a lot of things in Web 2.0, sometimes you need to start with a clean slate to get it right. None of these guys are from the conference business, and the "unconference" approach was edgy, but it was just right. Having been involved with so many conferences, I can think of a million things to consider if/when there's a sequel to this.
Mesh can go in many directions now, and the founders have probably made a nice profit from which they could bankroll the makings of a pretty exciting business opportunity. What I'd like to see next is something - maybe a conference - maybe something else - that helps make this nascent community more real. And from that, those oscillating rings of energy and great ideas will have a better chance of truly meshing and turning into that ball of yarn that makes sense for everybody. I can sure drink that Kool Aid!
Mesh - Day 2
Am blogging in real time now. Steve Rubel of Edelman is the first speaker today, and Stuart MacDonald is doing a great job to cover the broad topic of PR and how it fits into the Web 2.0 world. Steve is one of the most widely read bloggers out there, and has been talking about how PR is adapting to this new world.
For Steve, blogs "further the conversation", which is a great way to look at things. The big issue for him is how it's getting harder to trust people in our scandal-ridden society, and Edelman's research has found that peers are one of the most trusted sources of all. That's where the Internet comes in, as it creates so many new ways for people to connect and interact. From a PR perspective, the big challenge is how do you tap into social networking to help build brands.
Bottom line for him - advertising still works, and PR still works. To be successful you have to find ways to engage these online audiences, and to do that, "you have to go where people hang out". So, whether it's blogs, Youtube, Myspace, etc., if that's where your market is you have immerse yourself in those places. He gave some great examples of this, and clearly, blogs are playing an increasingly important role for reaching online communities. Steve also noted that new business models are emerging, and he thinks that subscription-based models will work, and this is really causing havoc for the TV networks. But when you look at the success of things like iTunes and even residential VoIP, there's definitely credence to this.
As to how do you know who the good ones are, he noted that the community is self-monitoring. The credible bloggers will keep their following, and the wannabes will fall away in due time. Blogs and the Web are simply too transparent for it be otherwise. Good stuff.
May 15, 2006
Mesh Conference - Day 1
Quite the buzz today at Mesh - am sure the Mesh Group of 5 felt like proud parents seeing their new baby come to life. It's a great story about how a cool idea ramped up real fast to become a real, live conference. I'd say there were 400+ people there, and the buzz felt very real.
That said, I'm not sure what the buzz really was aside from the great anticipation one gets to finally be in the same physical space as hundreds of other like-minded people. I'm also saying this because the conference has - by design - an unconventional format, which is perfect given the disruptive nature of the whole Web 2.0 zeitgeist. The format is at the right level (not too technical/not too mainstream), and touches on a lot of interesting subjects, with lots of real thought leaders sharing their insights. I think it's a great formula, and I for one, think Mesh is on to something. We're all trying to figure this brave new world out, and it's more fun to do it together than at our desks.
That said, I'm sure many of us have been blogging about the day, but you have to go to all their blogs (like Mark's) to find them. There is a blog section on the Mesh website, and Stuart has posted there about the day, but otherwise, I haven't heard if there is any plan to somehow aggregate all the blogging that's going on about the event. It sure would be great if there was. I have no idea if anybody will see this blog post, and I'd love to find all of it in one place - wouldn't you?
The morning had 2 keynotes, and they were both quite good. Mark Evans kicked thing off with Om Malik, and it was great to see two uberbloggers do their thing. Both being journalists, there was a lot of talk about the balance between journalism and blogging, and there are so many issues around that. I found the discussion a bit meandering at times, but Om brings so much to the table. To me, his perspective is very grounded in reality, in part, I think because he writes for a traditional publishing form - a monthly, mass market biz/tech magazine (Business 2.0). Could there be anything further from the day-to-day realities of the Web 2.0 crowd? They don't wait a month for ANYTHING. Maybe I'm showing my age, but I'm 100% with Om in the sense that traditional media still has LOTS of life in it. As disruptive - and exciting - as things like Slingbox, Skype, Tivo, MySpace, etc. are - many people at the end of their work day just want to zone out and do something passive like watch TV or read a magazine.
And to keep it real, Om kept repeating that the Mesh crowd is NOT typical - we're a long way off from how the mainstream utilizes the latest and greatest. On the positive side, Om feels there's a great opportunity out there for ad-driven business models to make blogging a rewarding endeavor, but they haven't emerged yet. And he rightly lamented how RSS is killing his business since it keeps so many people from coming directly to his blog where all the ads are.
Finally, another nugget from Om was that the real value of the blog is not the content - it's the comments - the real dialog that blogs create a platform for. His job is really just to provide context for the important news items, and that sets the stage for intelligent engagement with a community that cares about that topic. Along those lines, as a journalist, blogging is his way of keeping a story going, which I'm sure all journalists would agree with.
Following this, Rob Hyndman had a very engaging discussion with Michael Geist. Prior to their sit-down, Michael gave his own keynote, which probably blew everyone away. I wish I could have taped it, because I'd need to watch it a few times to take in all the ideas he's throwing our way. Michael is definitely on top of this space, and really understands how it works and where it's going. Given his focus, copyright issues were central to the discussion. He did a great job of raising many troubling issues, and there are many complexities yet to be discovered as every form of content becomes digitized and so easily reproduced. The main message for me was his point about how copyright law is mostly about controlling markets instead of protecting the creators, and that clearly doesn't sit well with the latter community. I'm totally onside there, and if this stuff matters to you, you should follow Michael's activities.
Finally, before the lunch break, they had a neat idea called 15 Minutes of Fame. The conference team selected 3 companies they thought had a good story, and gave them each 5 minutes to tell it. First was Pixpo.com, who just got funding and sound like an interesting play on accessing all your media content from anywhere. Next was areyoufrank.com. I don't think I'm alone in saying I have no idea what they do, so go to the website if you really need to know. Finally, Devshop.com - hosted project management software. That one sounded pretty good too. Not quite sure if this concept really worked - I'll know better when I see tomorrow's Fame presenters.
The afternoon had 3 different tracks, and I could only take in one - Mathew Ingram hosted a session about journalism and blogging. A bit of a reprise here from Om's morning talk - and he was on this panel too - but still pretty good ideas there.
That was it for me today, and I'll be back for Day 2. On the whole, I'd say Mesh has been really well put together, and it's great to feel such a good buzz and sense of a community coming together before your eyes. Mind you, I have no idea who most people in the crowd are, since they don't usually travel in my circles.
I saw a number of people who were at last week's Canadian Venture Forum, which was really neat. But otherwise, many new faces, and no doubt lots of really smart people - all with the same questions in their minds - what is Web 2.0 all about, and is there a business opportunity? I don't know about you, but so far, I haven't seen much in the way of answers to either at the conference, but hopefully that will change tomorrow!
Here are some photos from the day, courtesy of my Nokia N90....
Stuart MacDonald, Cathy Faktor (TorStar Digital) and Mark Evans
Michael Geist/Rob Hyndman, Mathew Ingram and the Blogger/Journalist panel
Om Malik, the buzz at Mesh
Ronald Gruia/Om, Philip Stern
April 27, 2006
IPTV With a Twist - Bird Watching Reality TV
A colleague of mine here in Toronto, Mike Kinrys, sent this my way yesterday, as he knew about my interest in IPTV. I thought this was really neat, and wanted to share it here.
Disruptive technologies work in all kinds of ways, and here's a great example. Mike's wife is a bird watcher, and a fellow bird watcher out in British Columbia has done something that sure looks like IPTV to me - with a twist.
He's trained a webcam 24/7 on the nest of a bald eagle who is incubating her egg(s). This doesn't make for compelling viewing for me, but apparently it's HUGELY interesting for bird watchers out there.
How interesting? How about 3+ MILLION visits per day. I'd say that's traffic to die for. All to watch and listen to a bird sit in her nest and not do a whole lot else.
The site is called - not surprisingly, Eagle Eye - love the name. This is so Seinfeld, it isn't funny, but this guy is definitely on to something. Unlike the pilot of Seinfeld, where Jerry and George had a hard time getting network executives to buy into a show that was basically "about nothing", Eagle Eye has just gone out and done it.
Well, Eagle Eye is arguably about nothing, unless you're a bird watcher. But he didn't have to sell it to any producers or networks that controlled the content, the channel, the distribution, the rights, the money, the syndication, etc., etc.
He's got the perfect business model for the Web 2.0/IPTV world:
- a totally open channel to reach his audience, and at no cost
- total artistic control
- zero production cost (maybe a few bucks for hosting)
- zero time to market
- real time content that refreshes and updates itself
- a huge built in audience
- zero marketing costs
- lots of sponsors who want to get in front of his traffic
Now, I don't know if he's really making money. And due to the huge traffic loads, he runs out of bandwidth to provide streaming video sometimes (which I'm sure can be fixed). However, once you see this, you just go, uh huh! Anyone can do this, I suppose if you're creative enough and see the opportunity.
Of course, you may hear from wildlife activists decrying exploitation. And what do you do when the eggs hatch? Will the nest stay in its location? What happens if the eagle packs up and leaves, or somehow the nest gets dislodged? All kinds of what-ifs here, but I think the basic idea is there - for all to see and run with.
This is reality TV of the lowest order, but there is a market for anything, especially in the always-on world of broadband. So, if you can do something like this, and attract traffic volumes that any major network would be happy to get - at no cost - you can be pretty sure that we're on the verge of some very interesting times as the worlds of IP and broadcasting collide.
April 25, 2006
Is Tech Really Helping Productivity?
I'm a reflective person by nature, and I ask myself this question a lot. Anybody under 30 would probably never question this, but I can tell you that not everybody else feels the same way. Tech is wonderful, of course, and our livelihoods largely depend on it, but it's not the great emancipator. I could go on big time on that riff, but not now.
I'm not writing this post to be anti-tech, but some things only become apparent when you step outside your everyday skin, like when you go on vacation and learn to manage without broadband or cell phones for a while.
Today I was at a conference focused on the HR sector, and one of the speakers hit on this theme in a way that gives you pause for thought about our relationship with and growing dependency on tech to do our jobs. The speaker was Dr. Linda Duxbury, a Professor at the business school at Ottawa's Carleton University. She's well known in HR circles, and focuses on the impact of tech on corporate culture and employee performance. She's done some really great research and is a very engaging speaker. Sure takes me back to my MBA days and focus on Organizational Behavior, but PCs weren't around then, so the issues were very different!
Anyhow, one of her key points runs contrary to what many people living and breathing IP take as gospel - the always-on workplace is really not so great for employee performance. The expectations from employees at all levels increasingly spills over into our personal time/lives, and puts us all on an endless treadmill of managing information instead of living our lives.
In theory, all our tech tools, like email, Blackberries, cell phones, etc. are great in terms of what they can do. However, Dr. Duxbury would argue they're not necessarily translating into to better employee - and ultimately - organizational performance. Too many people are becoming addicted to managing all these flows of instant communication, and simply don't know how to push back and say - I need time to think and do my job. Sound familiar?
So, in her view, and from an HR perspective - when technology is not properly managed, it becomes a drag on productivity and performance - not an enhancer. She cited familiar examples of the anxiety people get on the weekend that they'd better clear up their email backlog before going back on Monday, otherwise they'll start the week way behind. There is some truth to this, but that's a treadmill you can never get off.
An interesting solution she mentioned was a company that simply shut down their servers over the weekend so this problem wouldn't exist in the first place. That may not work for everybody, but it's certainly one way to manage your information flow.
This is obviously a BIG issue, and we're not going to tackle it here. However, sometimes it takes a day away from the routine to see how things look in a different pair of shoes. Personally, I'm onside with Dr. Duxbury's message, and from there, I can see lots of opportunity for organizations to get a better handle on how tech is impacting their culture - and for vendors as well. It's really just another problem to solve, but one that will need more balance between what the technology can deliver, and an understanding of what is really going to be the most helpful to performance. Always-on is not a means to an end - unless you're a machine.
April 21, 2006
Google, Miro, Slingbox, Red Sox - Many Questions
It's one of those days where I don't have much to say, and am quite busy fulfilling projects for my clients. So for today, I've just got some loose ends to share - but these stories raise some really interesting questions. In this Web 2.0 world, the ground at our feet is like sand - always shifting, and everyone leaves a different imprint.
First up, fellow Canadian/Bruins fan/gadget guy, Jim Courtney.
Jim has recently become a contributing editor for Skype Journal, so he's got a great high profile soapbox now. Loved his post yesterday about getting interviewed by CBC about Slingbox.
It's a great sign of the times when our #1 national TV broadcaster does a story about Slingbox, which was just launched in Canada at the end of March. For those who can watch CBC, the segment is supposed to air next Monday or Tuesday at 6:30 according to Jim. Hopefully this piece will help spread the word about Slingbox and what place shifting is all about. As Jim says, it would be even neater if they made the segment available on their website, which is really another form of place shifting. Great going Jim - will try to watch it.
Next item - Miro and Google. You've all seen it, right?
Have to admit, it's well done, and the intentions seemed right - to honor Joan Miro's birthday. Given how Google is everywhere these days, you just know something had to come from this. I don't think this had much to do with their great earnings numbers, but there doesn't seem to be much right now they can't do.
Anyhow, I'm too busy to get into the details now, and I'll steer you instead to today's post by Alec Saunders. It's a great read and touches on the kinds of questions that come to mind for me.
It has raised all kinds of issues around copyright, artistic license, and plagarism, and makes you really wonder what rules will ultimately prevail in the digital world. I don't think Google expected the response it got, especially from ARS - the Artists Rights Society. And as Alec points out, the Miro family is probably missing out on a wonderful opportunity for Google to actually bring Joan Miro's art to a broader audience. Talk about a different kind of mashup! Just another hat for Google to wear - goodwill ambassador for the arts. Maybe this is the start of a trend where we'll start seeing stylized logos from Google, Yahoo, MSN, etc. for other artists. The possibilities are endless and could create a whole new pot of gold for licensing logos to get treatments by other artists. No doubt Andy Warhol would just be loving this...
Finally, the Red Sox.
Am a bit anxious after last night's finale of their homestand. Should have swept TBay and gone 7-3, but we may be seeing an early Achilles Heel here - their inability to hit southpaws. Kazmir had them stoned, and Wakefield wasted another great outing. Go figure - he only gives up 1 hit through 6 innings - and is down 2-1. Huh???? Another passed ball cost us a run, and then the wheels came off in the 8th. Can we do something, please, to get Mirabelli back? At least Foulke pitched well, and the tying run did come up with only 1 out in the 9th. But it was not to be.
Well, I get to see the Sox for real tonight - no Slingbox for me this time, Jim! They're here to play the Jays, and I'm going with my 13 year old, Max - hope to post some pix and clips over the weekend. Jays took 2 of 3 at Fenway, so we'll be looking to get even. The big hope is that Manny hits very well at Rogers Center - nee SkyDome - and he's so due it isn't funny. And talk about a fab pitching matchup tonight - Beckett vs. Burnett - the 2 biggest off season pitcher signings. Should be a great game. Only a true fan can get this into a ball game so early in the season - can't help it....
April 11, 2006
I Want My IPTV....
I've been dying to say this for so long, and the time has finally come!
I won't get into the details about Disney's news yesterday about making some prime time programming available over the Internet. Of course, the hitch is you have to watch the commercials, but the sheer novelty I'm sure will far outweigh the inconvenience among early adopters.
As a shortcut to the details, I'll refer you to a heartfelt posting yesterday from Jeff Pulver. I say heartfelt, because as anyone knows from Spring VON, that Jeff is now championing video, and as he says at the end of his post, "welcome to the age of Broadcast 2.0". I couldn't agree more.
We've seen the signs leading up to this. NCAA March Madness over IP was a hot story just recently, as was Disney's earlier deal with iTunes for downloading episodes on the iPod. All steps along the way, but now we're talking about live, prime time TV - not re-broadcasts, or one-off events, which lend themselves very well in a pay-per-view model.
Yesterday's news gives real legitimacy not only to IP as a content delivery channel, but to the PC as a bona fide endpoint for viewing broadcast content. It wasn't that long ago that VoIP was not taken seriously because nobody believed that people would want to make phone calls on their computers. Doesn't that just seem so quaint now?
Bottom line is this - the Internet generation is different!!!!!!
Their world revolves around the PC, and now they have the tools to do just about everything that's important to them there. Gaming, chat, email, VoIP, iTunes, and now TV. Is it really that big of leap for this audience to embrace TV on their PC? I don't think it is. Coming back to Jeff and his love affair with Slingbox, and you can certainly see an industry starting to shape up now around viewing broadcast content that's viewed anywhere but on a TV.
If this isn't broadcast 2.0, I don't know what is. IP is quickly starting to reshape the business of television, and I'd say the faster the networks jump in and start experimenting, the better. Habits and loyalties change real fast in the IP world, and the business models are going to change too.
My main concern at this point is the impact this may have on local TV affiliates who rely on the big networks for content, but also on local advertisers for revenue. I can see people flocking online to watch big name franchise shows like American Idol that have a brand supported by hugh national sponsors. But if your PC viewers are mobile - watching shows while on the road, local advertising may be useless.
This could have implications about the kinds of programming that are viable for PC viewers, and we may end up only getting safe, mainstream fare at the expense of the diversity supported in the 500 channel cable universe. I'm getting ahead of the game here, and I know all kinds of programming alternatives will emerge. But I can also see how the food chain for advertising and content will be disrupted, with no way of telling yet how it will turn out.
Coming back to the title of this post, that's still the song that sticks in my head when I think about how IP is starting to impact broadcasting - much the way it did for telecom in 2004. It also reminds me of an article I wrote for CNET News that year on that very topic, entitled "I Want My VoIP". Re-reading it now, I realize that the basic story line hasn't changed much - once people discover that this technology works, the demand will materialize, and the market will become real. I have no doubt Disney sees things the same way.
November 24, 2005
Google/U. of Waterloo Redux
Earlier this week, I posted about a private donation of $25 million of Google stock to the University of Waterloo.
Fellow IP blogger and Iotum CEO Alec Saunders has had a running dialog with me on this posting - first on-blog, then off-line. Alec raises many valid points about Microsoft's long history of generosity with Waterloo, and of course their much larger philanthropic efforts in several areas.
My intent was not to make MS look spendthrift - not at all. I was really just trying to draw attention to how easily and quickly Google has managed to get itself permanently attached to Waterloo, long a major feeder of top talent to MS. I think it says a lot about the momentum Google is bringing to so many facets of our digital world, and in such little time. Waterloo didn't have to accept this offering, so to me, it's a tacit message of endorsement for Google and the school's desire to associate its name with them so prominently.
I actually had no intention to revisit this topic on my blog - until I read today's Globe & Mail. They run WSJ pieces, and today's was about Google's recent hiring trends. Unfortunately, I don't have a link to the article, but if you're interested in what I'm talking about, it's a great read. The title is "Google's growth helps ignite hiring frenzy", written by Pui-Wing Tam and Kevin Delaney.
Basically, the story focuses on the lengths Google is going in the pursuit of the top talent - wherever it exists. Kind of a perverse application of their own search engine, come to think of it. For example, one of their recruiters was assigned the task of "tracking down all women from the top 50 universities world-wide who had graduated after 1980 with PhDs or Masters degrees in physics, math or computer science". Wow.
The story goes on to talk about how this impacts the Microsofts and Yahoos of the world, and the pressures they face to keep up - not just to recruit new talent, but to retain their own top people from going - to Google. Dog-eat-dog at its most primal - very Pac Man, huh?
And of course, the parallels with the 1999 tech bubble are scary, especially with the MLB-type salaries and stock options been waved about. But that's another topic....
If you ask me, this article is highly relevant (another clever pun, right Alec?) to my earlier posting on Waterloo, and that's why I'm writing about it now. Google is clearly on a mission, and I stand by my earlier conclusion - I think Google is out-doing MS in the hunt for global dominance!
There's really a lot at stake here, and my blogging is only scratching the surface. Alec - let's do a podcast about this - I think we need to examine the ethics of recruiting and philanthropy in the digital age. You up for it?
September 27, 2005
Maxwell Smart - He Will Be Missed!
The blog isn't always about tech - I also love comedy, cinema, music, the Red Sox, etc. - and I just have to note the passing of Don Adams.
Get Smart is still my favorite show from the 60s, and it's been off the air as far as I can tell for ages. I don't know who controls the rights, but it's one of the few classic TV shows that I can't find on DVD. Maybe Mel Brooks and/or Buck Henry were smart enough to know this show would have some real staying power.
Jeff Pulver made a great reference to the show at a recent VON about how visionary the show was in terms of all the gadgets they'd come up with. And of course, nothing tops the shoe phone - who knew???
I'm sure we all have our favorite episodes - so many classics and great characters to choose from - the Laser Blazer, the Craw, Mr. Bob, Max's mother-in-law, Hymie, Shtacker, Bronzefinger, the Cone of Silence, Rupert of Ratheskeller, Don Rickles, the Tequila Mockingbird, Leadside, Smartacus, etc. I have to stop now - makes me just want to watch 'em all over again. They just don't make them like they used to. Agent 86 - we'll miss you big time!
July 04, 2005
Blue Man Group - Stanley Kubrick Meets David Byrne
This weekend I saw the Blue Man Group here in Toronto. BMG has been around a long time, but they just recently started a Toronto production. This may be old news to many of you, but I suspect if you saw the show in Las Vegas, it will feel more like entertainment than if you see it your local theater, where the whole experience seemed quite intimate, even though these guys never say a word.
As entertainment, it's superb - fun to watch, witty, funny, great music, colorful, inventive - well, you get the idea. And I won't give away the ending - very interactive and participatory. That stuff isn't hard to miss - these guys are good.
What I really liked was just how original the whole thing is. To me, this counts a lot considering how much things are recycled these days, or badly re-made. You don't see much out there that's really different, and also challenges you. I just love the way they explore the relationship between man and machine, and where art fits into a world that is becoming more and more based on technology and automation.
Not since Kubrick's 2001 Space Odyssey, have I seen something that's really explored this territory in a way that connects with you on a primal level. It's really not much of stretch to switch how the Blue Men react to everyday life with the way the apes reacted to the monolith in beginning of the film. That sense of fascination and wonder - that's what gives the Blue Men their charm - you can't really tell if they are man or machine.
I had to bring David Byrne into this because he also explores some of these themes in his music, and really brings it to life in his music, and a strong sense of rhythm and percussion. I'm a huge Heads fan, and I can see how their music might have evolved into something like what BMG does. It's really primal and edgy and keeps you connected to the ideas that the Blue Men are trying to get across. I especially liked the way they showed how Internet technology is actually increasing urban alienation rather than bringing us all together.
On the positive side, the central message for me is that BMG is showing us their vision of how to combine music and art with technology, and they're doing it in an original way that is really good. So, technology can serve a higher purpose than just making our lives more efficient, but it's hard as hell to do. That's what I liked most about BMG. It can be done, and you don't have to rely on everything that's come before.
Isn't that what we're trying to do with IP communications? Right - building a new communications network that is simply better for the age we live in - much like how the telephone displaced the telegraph. That seems appropriate to say given how effectively the Internet was used this weekend to broadcast all the Live8 concerts.
If you want to see what David Byrne is up to these days, and how he sees the role of art evolving in our global village, check out his Journal - it's really great. And while you're there, he's got a very cool Internet radio station. I think he's a great visionary for where art and technology meet and can make the world a better place.
Ok, so where's the VoIP tie-in? Well, this one's a stretch, but anyone who has seen the Herding Cats perform at Jeff Pulver's VON events will know where I'm coming from. Their showstopper is a killer version of Whole Lotta Love. This is one of those cases where the cover version really is as good as or better than original. I've certainly got my fave examples - but we'll have to take that conversation offline - that's another topic! Anyhow, the Cats version is really great, and at one point, their drummer, Jon, pours water onto his drums, and if you've seen the show, you know just how cool the effect is when he pounds away, and the water shoots up like a volcano.
BMG does this too, but with different colors of paint, and the effect is even more spectacular, and of course, much more theatrical. So, for the handful of us who have seen BMG and the Cats, you can't help but make the connection. Anybody out there know who actually came up with the idea? Maybe it was neither of them. Whatever - it's a great effect.