Archive for January, 2009

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Who the Tweet are you?

21 January, 2009

I was told I had a new follower by Twitter today (I’m JenWilsonSydney if you weren’t across this).

 In the good manners of reciprocal social, I clicked on their link to see who they were so I could chose what I would do. Generally, if I’m being followed by a real person, who has any shared interests with me or who has shared friends with me, or who has some interesting posts (even if a newbie) – I’ll follow them. If they are a marketing scam, spam or zealot of any persuasion – I will block them (so they can’t follow me any longer). If they are in between – such as a blog update I am not sure I want, a newbie who doesn’t yet step up to the mark or a product – I will often ignore them (and hopefully review this status later). My particular gripe is with people who sign up to Twitter, start looking for people to follow, but don’t both to tell me who they are by leaving the description field blank.

 This morning, I had two new followers who were heading for the ‘ignore’ category. One was what looked like an application or service wanting to following me (what? So I’ll follow back and get spammed by product updates?) and the other was someone with about 20 followers, but absolutely zero description of who they were or where they lived.

 In the case of the product – it was interesting enough for me to head to the blog site listed as part of their description (an excellent start) and check them out. It was an interesting product and the blog was broader than just product updates – including a post on them trying to get Twitter to deliver more for them. (Yes, dear reader, I did leave a constructive comment – setting the brain cells off and leading to this post). So I am now following Mapanui.

 In the case of the individual, I was about to ignore them when I noticed, in their Tweet stream, a reply to someone I follow. So, mutual friends criteria met – I followed this newbie (five posts to date). But it did really bring up the importance of the description we supply to these states.

 Laurel Papworth rightly (and obliquely) criticised me a while ago for using Digg, but not using Digg. Basically, I went there at Laurel’s prompting to help Digg something she has written which was rocking up the ranks, but when Laurel went there and checked out who was supporting her – she found no description, no image and no activity from me. (I’ve since fixed that – but as confess, as minimally as possible.) My only excuse was that Delicious and StumbleUpon are more home to me that Digg, for some reason. But consistency says that if I am going to use social media (even to advance a friend), I need to play fully.

 So, if any of you are thinking about signing up to Twitter or extending your online identities to any other social forums – please, please, please make sure that you take the time to identify yourself a little, to say why we should be interested in you and provide something about the individual behind the handle.

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Is a Change in Social Capital/Currency Afoot?

14 January, 2009

I am not a daily reader of the stars, but I do think astrology often has interesting things to say. I’ve had too many coincidental things happen (and too many scarily accurate astroligical readings) to not pay some mind to this. Let’s add two personal facts to this: I am a Sagittarian,  and the first group I ever joined on Facebook was “When I was your age, Pluto was a planet” (a real testimonial if ever there was one). So of course, I am talking about the transition of Pluto from Sagittarius to Capricorn.

The short paragraph on the astrology side:
Pluto in Sagittarius was about (amongst other things) excess, consumerism and adventure. Pluto in Capricorn is about reality, value and the real worth of things. Very simplistically, the whole Global Financial Crisis is really about the end of the Sagittarian excess and we are all expecting that we’ll get a dose of (financial) realism, expectation of honest value and maybe a little less excess in our corporate greed.

Ok, regardless of astrology, the whole GFC is also altering our mindset in many ways. I know a lot of people who are questioning values and what they stand for and invest in. People are increasingly interested in local food (locavore); organics, real value and tangible good.

One of the things that I think this might affect is a classic GenC interest – celebrity.

If we look for real value, we are unlikely to look for it in the more vacuous famous faces; the YouTube 15-minutes-of-fame types; or the excessive party-boy with no redeeming features. GenC is still likely to be looking for role model images (every generation prior has also done that) but I think we might see a shift in them looking for real value in these images – real talent, real skills and real quality, rather than just the sheen of celebrity.

And, that makes me wonder if we will, as a result, see a slight shift in the role of social networks and media. If we are after real value, then social currency might start to lose some of the gloss. Tangible assets such as communication, quality of response, thoughtfulness and responsivness are likely to come to the fore are critical components of creating social capital. Not that they aren’t important now, just that other things (such as numbers of friends, looks, sarcasm and ability to waste time and/or money) seem to have as much importance. Add to this that it is generally well understood that a key value in social networks is the presentation of the image we want to show (whether real of not) and I think we might be ready for a little reality collision.

Whether you think it is the stars, the GFC, or just a maturing of the social environment – I am betting that we will be seeing less of the “celebrity in her own lunchtime” stars, and more of those with real value (and likely more positive values). And that this may, just might, start to change the way in which we use social networks, what we say and what images we portray of ourselves.

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Rights that are Wrong

9 January, 2009

I’m currently working on a White Paper (read: conversation starter) on the issues for Screen Content Producers in getting more engaged with the digital environment. I’m close to finished, but determining when enough is enough is hard.

When talking to film makers and other producers of screen content, the issues that really came up for them were two-fold. The first key point was that many makers of heritage (linear or non-digitally consumed) content simply don’t get the online/mobile/interactive world: the language is different, the concepts are different, and the expectations are different. The second issue that came up was rights: rights required to be approved to place material online, right required to be approved to go digital, rights of people to get access to content (paying or not).

So the paper really has two parts – a fairly simple overview of the three main areas of education for digital (distribution, audience and monetising); and a section on what the issues over rights are, and what some of the solutions might be.

I’m not a lawyer, which is a good and bad thing here. It means that I ask big questions (like “why can’t we….”) but it also means that the reasons take a lot of investigation so I can understand them. Here are some of the issues and things that frustrate me.

  • music isn’t a single thing. There is incidental music and theme music and published music and recorded music
  • and then there are synchronisation rights that let you ‘synchronise’ the music with you content

There is a film in the US (Sita Sings the Blues) which uses recording from the 192o’s which went into the public domain years ago. However, to use these in the film, the producer needs to pay synchronisation rights. Sadly – the record companies are demanding more for the music than the whole film cost to make.

  • Australia didn’t keep particularly good records years ago when we first started making movies and documentaries
  • But none of these can go online until the rights in all the elements are cleared by everyone concerned
  • And we often don’t even know who those people are…

So about 15 years of video content that tells Australian stories in documentary, film and other forms of narrative is going to be destroyed because it has “no value”. I’d love to see this, and I don’t think I’m alone, but unless all the rights holders can be firstly identified, and their approval given – it ain’t going to happen. And it only needs one of them to say ‘no’ and the content remains unseen. Add to this that some documentaries including footage from news items and all these people need to be found also – and the problem just compounds.

Digital needs to mean thinking differently. Digital and online means we need to consider that public access is actually the prime requirement. Digital should recognise that theft of a car (a tangible object which is lost) is different to digital piracy (where the item still remains). Don’t get me wrong – I absolutely believe that authors should be recognised and rewarded for their work. I just think that we need to find ways of doing that that don’t limit what we can access.  In particular, I don’t want our inability to find new ways to address rights to means that years of fascinating video footage, part of our history, is going to be denied to us.

Some rights are just wrong. We need new rights that recognise contribution, that have the potential to reward creators, but that do not result in the public being denied our stories.

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Social networking: Collaboration, Aggregation or Disintermediation?

6 January, 2009

This last year has been a year for the rise of the social network aggregator, or, if not a tool, the rise of aggregation through collaboration. I discovered this to my own horror when I realised that my Twitter posts were appearing as Facebook status updates. I had done this so that I could appear more active in places where I wasn’t (really). Cheating, I know, and a lesson that I learnt. When I was Twittering a conference I was at in early December with about 45 updates over the course of an hour, my Facebook friends were spammed with status updates from me including hash tags that meant nothing to them, about something that wasn’t of interest. I am still in the process of disconnecting all these networks from each other.

So – lesson one – don’t take the short cut on allowing one social media service to update another without thought. The audiences are different, the purpose is different, and in the end, what I realised is that that Facebook is for friends and Twitter is for followers – and they aren’t the same group of people.

Now, thinking about Aggregation and Disintermediation. Disintermediation is one of those great words that are always a contender for “what does that really mean”. It means taking out the intermediary (the middle man) – in this case the social network service itself. But first, aggregation.

We’ve seen a huge number of social media/network aggregation services arise. These are aimed at allowing us to keep tabs on what our various friends are up to on the various networks that they might play in. In theory – through a single interface, we can follow what people are doing/saying on Twitter, Flickr, Digg, Facebook, Twine, MySpace, Bebo, Qik, Mashable etc. Many of these also work on mobile phones – so in theory we have a single site/application that allows us to keep in touch with all of our networks all of the time. Some examples: Plaxo Pulse (nice one), Friendfeed (from ex-Google peeps), Xumii (on mobile), Flock (browser based), Profilactic (one of the first) and a range of others. For a good overview/review, see Fabric of Folly’s great review at http://www.fabricoffolly.com/2008/03/review-of-social-aggregators.html.

So, in 2008, there were a few sites that heralded social aggregators as the big thing of the year. I wonder if 2009 will be the year of social disintermediation rather than aggregation. We are seeing this in a few sites already – often, to me, incorrectly named as aggregation. I’ve written about this before – the concept of social network as ‘feature’ not ‘function’. Yahoo integrated this last year, and there are a host of sites that are coming up that include some form of social media/network within them.

My experience in with collaboration really brought home the idea that there are different networks for different purposes for good reason. What I want to do is often determined by where I am, and what I am doing. So, when I am loading pictures in Flickr – I’m interested in what my friends have been up to in Flickr and would love for Flickr to tell me what my friends have done there recently. When I’m reading the news online, I would love it if I could see what my friends had be commenting on, rating or tagging on that news site; when I’m in iTunes – that same – what are my friends buying, listening to etc. To my mind, this is exactly what I think Facebook does. When I am in Facebook, I am interested in what my friends have been doing – so all their updates are relevant to me at this time.

I suppose that what I really would like is context with my social aggregation. I want to be able to see what my friends have been doing online that is relevant, wherever I am at the time. I want to see the footprints they leave as they travel across the net, so I can walk down some of those same paths. I also don’t want to have to go somewhere special to see this (the aggregator) but want it bought to me where I am right now and where they actions in this space are relevant to what I looking at/listening to/doing.

In summary, I guess what I want is contextually relevant social media that is given to me where I am, rather than making me go and find it.