Friday, December 7, 2007

The New Natives

Rupert Murdoch certainly created a common term when he referred to himself as a 'digital immigrant'. The term 'ditigal native' has become common enought that I received a chart today with a generational breakdown showing where groups ar natives, immigrants or aliens.

I think the same thing is happening in mobile, and that it has happened with every paradigm shift device.

When television first arrived, we called it 'radio with pictures' - and that's exactly what we did with it. We also treated it like theater and had static camera with actors moving about. Eventually we realised it was a new phenomena and TV as we know it took off.

With the internet - this started the same way. We took the existing forms of media - TV, magazines and newspapers - and put them on the internet. Even now, a huge number of internet sites remain digital version of legacy media.

But that changed when the natives, who had grown up with the internet, reached the age of invention. Suddenly we got internet sites (and services) which could exist only on the internet. Amazon, eBay, Google for starters. More recently we've seen tagging, sharing and social networking sites join them.

On the mobile, what we've got now is really the same thing. The previous media (in this case the internet) on the new medium (the mobile phone). Mobile natives, those who grew up with the mobile as a integral part of their life, are only just coming of age.

I don't think we've seen even the first wave of native application for mobile, and I think most of us are so steeping in other media/mediums that we can't even conceived of what these might be. Sure, they are likely to include location, bluetooth and integrated uses for the camera and phone - but I'm not even going to start imagining what they will be.

And, like all good innovations - once we see them, they will be so obvious that we'll wonder why we didn't come up with them first.

Anyone who says they know the future of mobile, mobile services, mobile applications - is more than likely only a mobile immigrant. The future will be with the natives.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Social Media meets Mobile

We all talk about how consumption of media is changing, but don’t often look exactly what this means for the consumer. Specifically, there are two key influences happening right now which are leading to about ten other things.

The two key influences are the rise of social networking and the extension of then mobile phone from communications into other areas.

By social networking, I include social media, being media which we can interact with in some form (by commenting, blogging, creating, sharing or mashing up with other things); social networking, being the ability to define groups of friends and communicate in a more public manner with them, either by actively communicating or by referential communication, activities we (publicly) undertake; and the wider concept pf social graph, defined as “the network of connections that exist through which people communicate and share information.” (Dave Morin, Facebook) which underpins social sharing sites like Flickr, youTube, Twitter, FriendFeed etc.

The change in the mobile phone reflects that which happened with the internet. Email was a killer app for the internet – suddenly we could communicate with people easily. Yes, there was content, but it was difficult to find outside of our walled gardens (like CompuServe and AOL), search wasn’t very sophisticated and it seemed huge (in reality, a fraction of the size it is now). Mobile phones are starting to be not the primary device for content and media, but definitely an option to a growing section of the community. That, coupled with their uniquely exclusive relationship with an individual, makes them a critical device.

So, together, we find that our networks and the people we know are becoming more and more central to what we do; what we buy; what we read and what interests us. Not so much ‘herd’ mentality as ‘tribal’ interests. Conversations between people relate either to the imparting of new information, or the discussing of shared information – so knowing what our friends are doing, reading and saying will influence what we are also likely to do, read or say. And as the whole idea of ‘life caching’ means that the mobile will move into being a part of the way we capture and consume the stories that are our day.

In order to facilitate this, we need to ensure that our relationship with our consumers takes into account the fact that their networks and social graph are far more important that we are (the mere deliverers of content) and that recognising their primary relationships (social) also means ensure that we continue to know who they are (and what they’ve done) regardless of the device through which our relationship with them is mediated – thus ensuring that our knowledge of what will drive them encompasses all those elements of their life. (The zero, one, two, three rule.)

Monday, October 8, 2007

Facebook Fatigue or Social Networking as a 'feature'

Does it exist or doesn't it?

I wonder if the phenomena is one that attacks older SocNet participants, who have a rich first live with a solid physical network that they have to spend time (offline) maintaining, as opposed to those who can, either through work or social freedom, take the time and energy to maintain these. Having been dragged away to monitor HSC study for the last few weeks, finding the time to do more than a brief status update has been hard.

I don't think that this means that social networks are dead, or even dying; I think it means that social networking needs to meet a different part of our lives - where the maintenance of out networks is not as much "heavy lifting" as it is now.

So, if we want to maintain our social networks, but can take the time to keep our own part of this up to do (and it only works if all of us play in the same open, public and participatory manner), where does this mean social networking will go?

Chris Anderson (yes, Long Tail Chris Anderson) recently commented that social networking is a feature and not a destination. I think this is right. He goes on to say "I'm placing my bet on the biggest impact coming when social networking becomes a standard feature on all good sites, bringing community to the granular level where it always works best"

Despite a few people I admire holding out that social networking as destinations are here to stay and that this is where communities have moved their primary communication to - I am, commercially placing my bets with Chris Anderson. I have Facebook fatigue, but don't want to give up all those now 'spyware' benefits of the newsfeed. So how can I have my cake, and eat it too?

I could of ideas are playing around my mind. As a friend of mine described them "Twitter without the heavy lifting". I like that idea. I want the feed, I want it updated and I want to participate.

But I don't really want to do any work...

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

FaceBook vs mySpace

Reading today about the battle (so called) for the social network space. Will it be facebook, will mySpace? Will it be both of them, one or the other? Does it really matter?

In my discussions with GenC a couple of consistent themes come up:

  • we go where our network is
  • we prefer to message people through the social network application
  • we want to say what we want to say
  • we like 'playing' with who we are

So a couple of thoughts on this. If my classic GenC (17, female) is on mySpace; yet my classic GenX (44, female) is on FaceBook, why is it? Our GenC likes to say she lives on Christmas Island (even if all her friends live in Sydney's inner west); she likes to say she is 99 (but doing her high school leaving certificate); she likes to be friends with Pink (who has has met) and Tom (who is friends with everyone) and lots of people she doesn't know; she knows her mySpace is vivid and loud and her mother would hate it - but it's all about HER - ok?

And my GenX - she only really wants to talk to people she knows, or who come recommended, but who she is pretty sure are real; she is more interested in seeing what other people are doing than in making statement about herself (loves the news feed); she doesn't mind playing, but sees FaceBook as a bit of a time waster and is starting to get to the point where updating it is difficult and tedious (FaceBook Fatigue).

Maybe the biggest difference is two fold - where their community is; and where their sense of self is - internally focussed or externally. In reality, does it matter? Some of us are comfortable in more than one place and we might never chose one network over the other.

But then again - if home is where the heart is, social networks will end up being where the network is. I'd be interested to see the possibly different networks we keep or develop on these different sites - do they reflect different elements about who we are and how we connect?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Email is a Window-Face Envelope

First - no excuses for the silence, but sometimes work gets in the way of a good idea!

I was recently at a session on social networking with a couple of school kids who were talking about how they communicate with each other and with their networks.

On the whole, their preferred manner is through the network application (mySpace in their case) - notably if they knew their friends were online *now*. If not through the SocNet, then their next preferences were Instant Messenger or SMS (text). In fact, they commented that they used IM and SMS for private conversations; SMS for speed; and the SocNet for the public comments (more on this later).

They don't like email.

Yes, in fact they really don't like email.

Why not? Well, the only who they need to talk to who aren't on either their network or their IM buddy list are clearly not friends. They are parents, teachers, supervisors - authority figures of some kind, with whom they communicate through the 'legacy' communication systems of their elders choice. Email.

Remember the days of snail mail? Hand written or even machine addressed envelopes were fine, looked forward to, exciting. But when a window-faced envelope arrived, well, that meant the bank or the lawyer or, more likely, some bill for something. You dealt with window-faced envelopes reluctantly, as a necessity. This was authority encroaching on something that should be fun.

And that's how GenC sees email. Just like a window-faced envelope.....

Makes you wonder if long term, this might have an impact on how FaceBook sends out alerts. While email suits those tied to their inbox, if I live on IM and SMS, the alerts are going to dead air. Only when I join the workforce and my inbox rules my day, will those little alerts become a have instead of more hell.

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Strange, The Early, The Beautiful...

I read today about the death of Joybubbles, one of the founding fathers of the phone phreak movement.

I had heard of phone phreaks and apart from thinking they must be people who were phone obsessed, didn't really follow it up much. Doing some research, what I subsequently found was that Josef Carl Engressia (he legally changed his name to Joybubbles in 1991) was able to whistle at exactly 2600 hertz which, when done into a AT&T long distance line, let him set up free calls to anywhere in thA very unique subculture of hackers and well predating our general familiarity with the whole concept of hacking and cracking. (For more on this, see Interestingly, phreaks (or those interested and inspired by phreaks), include both Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, founders of Apple.

I think there are two reasons why I was interested in the passing of Joybubbles. One is that I really believe that there is something very valuable about people who dances to their own tune. Later in life, Joybubbles founded and became an ordained minister of Church of Eternal Childhood, part of which included running a (one-man) not-for-profit organisation called We Won't Grow Up, for people rediscovering their childhood. More of this I say.

The other think is likely my own experience in hard-wire telephony. Just over 21 years ago, I was invited to interact with a computer through a telephone. This was the very early days of the Interactive Voice Response industry, in the UK, using a box under development with a new service to be offered by British Telecom. Up to this stage, apart from early systems we played on when I was learning programming, there was not such thing as interactivity; information services; content or, more especially - user control of what we got. Using the IVR was the first time I told a (public) system what I wanted - and received the information in return.

This was June 1986. I was hooked. Took up a job as a programmer and builder of IVR services and, would now argue, have been in interactive information systems ever since.

RIP Joybubbles. Hackers of the world, honour a worth forebear.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

UGC - who cares and who is responsible?

Lots of questions lately about the responsibility for User Generated Content: to moderate or not; when does one take down; what obligations and responsibility does the publisher have?

At an AIMIA conference yesterday on Social Networking and User Generated Content, Matthew Hall from Swaab Attorney aptly summed up the situation as 'analogue legislation trying to regulate digital media'. Yes, it's a mine field.

There is a view that the best way to treat UGC (comments, reviews, responses etc) is to take a stance of either ALL care (and thus all responsibility) or no care and no responsibility. Simplistically - one either vets, edits, moderates and reviews everything which is published and thus has full responsibility for accuracy, libel, spelling, the lot; or else you don't touch it and let the public decide.

Of course, providing 'take down' or 'mark as inappropriate' buttons can help in having the public act as moderators of the data. It also helps to let threads develop - so that comments about comments can be made - effectively allowing a right of reply.

So will we ever have and Australian version of 'Yelp'? Until the right of free speech (or free spray, however you want to see this) is enshrined in some Bill of Rights - it is unlikely. The different libel and privacy laws in different countries lead to different outcomes based on the regulation.

And, in three years time, when the law has caught up with UGC - we'll all be troubled by some other aspect the legislators are yet to get their heads around.