August 2009

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The Influence Landscape: click for a more details

This year, the Future of Media Summit has been replaced by the Future of Influence Summit. It’s next Tuesday 1 September, Sydney time. I’ll be going, and I can offer you a discount.

Summit-master Ross Dawson has changed the name because he reckons that influence is the future of media.

Ross writes:

We have already begun to discover this through the now-dominant concept of “social media”. In the Future of Media Strategic Framework that was launched for our Future of Media Summit 2006 we described the (symbiotic) relationship between Mainstream Media and Social Media.

Social media is all about human relationships, about how we shape our view of the world based on our peer communication. The extraordinary breadth of information and opinion that we are exposed to today, combined with the ability to converse, means our own opinions are often driven more by peers than traditional sources.

In fact this shift to the social means that media is becoming far more about peer influence than information and reporting.

This year companies globally will spend US$450 billion on advertising. The composition of advertising spend has changed dramatically over the last decade. That pace of change will rapidly accelerate in coming years. Total marketing spend is hardly set to reduce in an increasingly crowded marketplace, but it will be allocated to those activities that truly make a difference. Influence — based on conversations and aggregated opinion — will be at the centre of how companies seek to drive sales and customer engagement.

Today, people find content such as movies, music, news, books and so on primarily through aggregated channels. Instead of buying the New York Times and reading it cover to cover, people are pointed to the most relevant articles in the New York Times and elsewhere, based on what people find interesting. It is hardly new that people buy music or books because of recommendations — but now adding to their friends’ opinions and magazine reviews are a universe of influencers who provide guidance on what to buy. Influence is driving the world of content and publishing as never before, and this is just the beginning.

Last year’s Future of Media Summit was full of old media journalists and managers in denial.

It triggered my controversial essay Note to “old media” journalists: adapt, or stfu! (parts of which were even translated into French in Le Monde), a wonderful response from the MEAA’s Jonathan Este, and furthers writing from me including the essays “Trouble at t’paper” and Sunday Thoughts about Journalism.

A year later, a lot has changed — although my liveblog from Media 09 still reads as pessimistic. I’ll be interested to see what emerges, and to prepare myself I’ll be reading more of Ross’ blog over the next couple of days. Expect further posts.

Meanwhile if you want to register for the Future of Influence Summit, you’ll get 20% 25% off if you use the discount code TIESTIL.

“Hating the Internet because of child pornography is a bit like hating the roads because of drug trafficking. If you had no roads there would be much less of it.” A great observation from a friend today.

Yes, “bad things” happen online, just as “bad things” happen anywhere. But when Clive Hamilton screeches about all the naughty things he’s found online, it looks to me like a deliberate attempt to press our emotional buttons and avoid rational debate. And he does it repeatedly.

The police don’t try to stop drug trafficking by putting a road block in everyone’s street and searching every vehicle. No, they use intelligence — in both senses of the word — to work out where best to deploy their finite resources for maximum results.

They also allocate their resources between conflicting demands so society as a whole is best protected. Their risk assessments tell them to worry more about the suspected rapists, serial killers or violent thugs in their community than some kid with a few grams of weed.

The people who actually understand child protection continually remind us that the greatest threats to children are the same as they always have been — abuse in their own home by family and close family friends, poverty, and bullying by their peers. Why oh why do we have to keep repeating that, Senator Conroy?

Crikey logo

On Sunday, Pipe International‘s new PPC-1 undersea fibre-optic data link from Guam to Sydney was fired up. As I wrote in Crikey in May, when the cable was landed at Collaroy on Sydney’s northern beaches, PPC-1 will increase Australia’s international data capacity by almost 50%. That’s like adding the third runway at Sydney Airport. So where was the media coverage?

I wrote about that in Crikey today, and it’s free to read: They’re building data pipes under the ocean: why no media coverage?

OK, there were some reports, in The Australian and in IT-related sites like iTnews, iTWire and ZDNet Australia. But where was the ABC? Fairfax papers?

There was a “robust discussion” on Twitter this afternoon between The Australian‘s Andrew Colley, ZDNet Australia‘s Renai LeMay, myself and others, and I’ll try to summarise that later. There were certainly key areas of disagreement!

For now, though, have a read of my Crikey piece and tell me what you think.

Stilgherrian’s links for 16 August 2009 through 26 August 2009:

  • Academic Earth: “Video lectures from the world’s top scholars”, it says. Provided they’re American. The universities included so far are Berkeley, Harvard, MIT, Princeton, Stanford, UCLA and Yale.
  • [Air-L] Trivial tweeting: Another viewpoint on the “Twitter is pointless babble” rubbish, this time from Cornelius Puschmann, PhD, in the Department of English Language and Linguistics at the University of Düsseldorf.
  • Power of Information | UK Cabinet Office: The February 2009 report from the UK government’s taskforce on Government 2.0.
  • My #blogpostfriday post | Scripting News: Dave Winer is worried about the cloud. “We pour so much passion into dynamic web apps hosted by companies we know very little about. We do it without retaining a copy of our data. We have no idea how much it costs them to keep hosting what we create, so even if they’re public companies, it’s very hard to form an opinion of how likely they are to continue hosting our work.”
  • 8129.0 – Business Use of Information Technology, 2007-08 | Australian Bureau of Statistics: Detailed indicators on the incidence of use of information technology in Australian business, as collected by the 2007-08 Business Characteristics Survey (BCS).
  • The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction | Wikipedia: Someone — I forget who — told me to read this 1935 essay by German cultural critic Walter Benjamin. It’s been influential in the fields of cultural studies and media theory. It was produced, Benjamin wrote, in the effort to describe a theory of art that would be “useful for the formulation of revolutionary demands in the politics of art&”. “In the absence of any traditional, ritualistic value, art in the age of mechanical reproduction would inherently be based on the practice of politics. It is the most frequently cited of Benjamin’s essays”, says Wikipedia. Sounds like I should indeed read it.
  • How Tim O’Reilly Aims to Change Government | ReadWriteWeb: Tim O’Reilly posits “government as platform”, where the government would supply raw digital data and other forms of support for private sector innovators to build on top of. That’s the writer’s version. Does this fit with the Rudd government’s idea of the government as an enabler, as outlined in their Digital Economy Future Directions paper?
  • CHART OF THE DAY: Smartphone Sales To Beat PC Sales By 2011 | Silican Valley Insider: This is based on worldwide sales figures, and it makes sense. The Third World could really use a low-power, rugged smartphone at a sensible price, rather than a laptop or even a netbook to lug around.
  • News Corp pushing to create an online news consortium | latimes.com: By “consortium” they mean “cartel”, right? “Chief Digital Officer Jonathan Miller has positioned News Corp as a logical leader in the effort to start collecting fees from online readers because of its success with the Wall Street Journal Online, which boasts more than 1 million paying subscribers. He is believed to have met with major news publishers including New York Times Co, Washington Post Co, Hearst Corp and Tribune Co, publisher of the Los Angeles Times.”
  • Us Now : watch the film: “In a world in which information is like air, what happens to power?” This entire film can be watched online.
  • Morons with mobiles sour the tweet life | theage.com.au: Jacqui Bunting writes some of the dumbest words about Twitter which have ever been written. Note to editors: Anyone who starts from the premise that Twitter is meant to be a “commentary on life” needs to be taken out the back and slapped around a bit. It’s 2009. Please catch up.
  • The Conversation | Now That I Have Your Attention: The creator of Father Ted and The IT Crowd, Graham Linehan, also has a few words on Pear Analytics’ cod research on Twitter. He makes the point that for the first time we’re truly having a global conversation.
  • Pointless babble | The New Adventures of Stephen Fry: The redoubtable Stephen Fry rips into that Pear Analytics research on Twitter, with more brevity and wit than I did the other day. Well said, Sir!
  • Top 100 Aussie Web Startups – August 09 | TechNation Australia: The latest league table of Australian web businesses, for those who like to have winners and losers in clearly-defined categories.
  • Benjamin Franklin’s daily schedule | Flickr: Proof that you don’t need the Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology to be boringly anal-retentive about your scheduling.
  • Bruce Schneier: Facebook should compete on privacy, not hide it away | The Guardian: Another thought-provoking essay by Bruce Schneier.
  • Hype Cycle Book | Gartner: Mastering the Hype Cycle is the book explaining Gartner’s regular Hype Cycle reports.
  • How It All Ends | YouTube: A follow-up to the video The Most Terrifying Video You’ll Ever See, which presented a risk analysis showing that we cannot afford to ignore the potential risk of climate change, even if it all turns out to be wrong. This version skips over the main argument and addresses the potential objections.
  • Climate change cage match | Crikey: A delightful comment from a Crikey reader, Stephen Morris, who likens the tactics of climate change denialist Tamas Calderwood to the mating habits of the Satin Bowerbird, which is totally obsessed by the colour blue. “It will actively search through a wide variety of brightly coloured objects that might suitably decorate its bower, but the only colour that interests it and it wants to collect are those coloured blue. Tamas in his scientific objectivity (and unfortunately often his logic) is very Satin bowerbird like. It doesn’t matter what large amounts of available data says about global warming, the only titbits of data of interest to Tamas, are those that can be seen to indicate cooling. Once a data set loses its blueness (or coolness), it seems interest in it is lost and other blue data sets are sought.”
  • Senator Lundy describes her Public Sphere initiative | Net Traveller: A ten minute video in which Senator Kate Lundy describes her Public Sphere initiative, made for students at ANU studying Information Technology in Electronic Commerce COMP3410.
  • AP contradiction: Move forward but restore | Pursuing the Complete Community Connection: Steve Buttry points out the problem with Associated Press’ content protection plan: How can you “move forward” and “restore the past” at the same time?

Thanks to a post at The Inquisitr, I’ve found a whole new way to waste time: letting Google suggest the questions we should be asking.

Screenshot of Google asking "Why does he..."

Just start type in the first part of a question, like “Why does he…”, and Google tells you what’s important to people.

  • Why does he do that?
  • Why does he ignore me?
  • Why does he like me?
  • Why does he love me?
  • Why does he cheat?
  • Why does he push me away?
  • Why does he lie?
  • Why does he stare at me?
  • Why does he text instead of call?
  • Why does he hurt me?

Screenshot of Google asking "Why does she..."

Asking the same question about females gets a similar-but-different result.

  • Why does she stay lyrics?
  • Why does she stay ne yo?
  • Why does she ignore me?
  • Why does she cheat?
  • Why does she stay lyrics neo?
  • Why does she love me?
  • Why does she like me?
  • Why does she lie?
  • Why does she play hard to get?
  • Why does she stay youtube?

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Image of Script Challenge text: click for full story

After two years of sitting online unchallenged, my Script Challenge is finally being tackled by a couple of people.

Can you figure out what’s said by this unknown piece of writing?

It’s a quote from a novel by Ursula LeGuin.

Bob Bain and Jason Langenauer started having a go across the weekend, and a high school English teacher said he might show it to his class. So, no more clues for now — except to say that people are missing one very important point about alphabets.

[I'll close off comments on this post so that all the discussion stays with the original article.]

MIT Personas image for Stilgherrian: click to embiggen

This image is supposedly some sort of profile of me, concocted from data gathered on the Internet by Personas, a component of the Metropath(ologies) exhibit, currently on display at the MIT Museum.

I have no idea why such a big proportion is allocated to sport. But, hey, play with it yourself.

Daily Telegraph (UK), 19 August 1939, page 3 (part): click for a closer view

If the world was about to explode into a Total War lasting six years, would you know?

As I wrote back in 2007, TV documentaries about World War II cover the rise of Adolf Hitler in a few minutes. We forget that Hitler was head of the National Socialist Party from 1921, fully 12 years before he became Chancellor in 1933. It was another 6 years before the invasion of Poland.

What did it look like for people living it in real-time?

My guess is that for the vast majority of people the rise of Hitler had very little impact on day-to-day life — just as today the distant wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have virtually no discernible impact on my life in Sydney. Nor do the many minor changes to our laws which increase the powers of central government without any balancing increases in our own ability to hold that government accountable.

In the summer of 1932, a few politically-aware people sitting in sunny cafes might have discussed that odd Mr Hitler’s failed run for the presidency, but I doubt anyone would have seen it as heralding global war.

This is why I’m starting to find George Orwell’s diary intriguing.

Initially, as the Orwell Prize published the entries exactly 60 years after they were first written it was, to be honest, boring. Laughably so, in fact, as the meticulous journalist documented the day-to-day activities in his garden. On 30 November 1938, it was nothing more than: Two eggs.

But now, we’re only eleven days out from the German invasion of Poland. Thirteen days from Britain and France declaring war on Germany.

Orwell notes a Daily Telegraph report (pictured): “Germans are buying heavily in copper & rubber for immediate delivery, & price of rubber rising rapidly.”

Orwell’s journalistic eye could see the signs. Could ordinary citizens? Sure, gas masks were being distributed and air raid drills held, but did people believe them?

In 2007, did we believe John Howard’s “alert but not alarmed” scaremongering? Or didn’t we? And if not, but they did in 1939, what’s the difference?

I reckon Orwell’s diary will be an interesting read over the next 13 days.

Apart from my own astoundingly wonderful critique of that “research” on Twitter by Pear Analytics, I’ve been directed to two extraordinarily well-written responses by the redoubtable Stephen Fry and by Graham Linehan, creator of TV series Father Ted and The IT Crowd. I particularly like Linehan’s observation that Twitter has given us humanity’s first truly global conversation. A hopeful romantic?

21 August 2009 by Stilgherrian | No comments

[Update 9.40pm: It's only 40 minutes since I posted this, but discussion has already turned to the topic of the government's role in developing new services rather than the original Twitter-as-Chinese-whispers theme. Hey, join the discussion!]

Twitter bird cartoon by Hugh MacLeod

Even though I’m one of Australia’s most prolific Twitter users, and even though it seems like I’ve spent half the week defending it from half-arsed criticism, I’m also well aware of its limitations. Like tonight.

Earlier this evening I attended the Government 2.0 Taskforce‘s Road Show in Sydney. At one point, I tweeted:

Nicholas Gruen seriously says that the government should have created community good like Google, Facebook and Twitter. #gov2au

That was soon picked up by people who weren’t in the room, who hadn’t heard the context. Hours later we’re still seeing tweets like this one:

@skaye: “The Govt should have invented twitter, flickr…” LIKE WTF?? #gov2au *shudder* (via @NickHodge) They struggle with discounts on utes!

Notice how the content mutated as the message was passed on? “Created” becomes “invented”, Flickr is added to the mix, and the “community good” qualifier has vanished.

Here’s what really happened…

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