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September 2006 Archives

September 17, 2006

Back to Blogging

Bloggers Block. I haven't been blogging and I i can't put off blogging any longer. Over the last 18 months I blogged one topic "Skype Journal" more than anything else. For a long time I've wanted more freedom. Thus the return now of Unbound Spiral. It's my personal blog, personal opinions and I've simply missed the opportunity to use it push my thinking.

I know I have lots to blog about. From why I'm in India (see my Flickr photos) to why I've been so silent on the Skype front. There are many more stories in between and I'm just going to start breaking them out over the next few weeks.

I've also been encouraged by good friends of mine to get back into it. I'll also have some work to do to reconnect my blog to others. Still that is part of the fun. Engaging and creating new conversations. My themes remain voip, identity, social networking services, mobility and conversational blogging. Still they will emerge with a new slant. As always I'm interested in disruptive innovation.

I also had to take some action on the blog. You just can't leave a blog to die. However, when I started blogging there was no such thing as tags and the templates that run this blog hadn't really been upgraded for 18 months. So I upgraded to the latest MT3.32 today and swapped all my templates out. Thus a ground zero reset. Now I can get to tagging and installing other features. I can take my time on that. Some navigation enhancements are definitely required. Some data has now disappeared. If anyone has a great three column template they would like to share with me I'd be grateful.

September 18, 2006

Open Space - New Realities

Thank you Rob. Your comment is living proof that blogs work and they shouldn't be ignored. . This was a post I composed some moons ago in April. It was always my intention to blog it. No better time than around your first anniversary of walking in the door at NPR.

I'm returning from Washington where I've been an elf in an Open Space session led by Rob Paterson and Johnnie Moore. It was the final workshop in a series run for National Public Radio - NPR. This post will just share a few words about NPR and the results of the Open Space session. I've also made some notes on my challenges and observations on the NPR conference site, which is open to the public.

NPR like many organizations is threatened by the radical changes impacting on broadcasting today. With the evolution of Podcasting, video blogging, and ongoing changes in listening behavior with iPods, PVR etc. the "arrangement" that has held public radio together requires a new common ground and understanding. This was Rob and his team's challenge as they worked with NPR over the last nine months.

NPR is the last bastion for "authentic American news". The closest thing America has to the BBC, and in my view we need it more than ever. And yet the "fund drives" and the way we get our news is being overtuned by the Internet. Concurrently, many stations lack the resources or the knowledge to "stream media", run a website or engage their community with emergent social media tools. There is also a large disparity between stations dependent on market. In my view, the opportunity exists for NPR to both go global and local with community radio. In the end NPR and the stations must engineer MyNPR.com. For community radio will become part of a multi-modal participatory media experience. Done right, with narrative journalism at its roots and a renewed look at the business model, NPR could well emerge as the media format for the future. MyNPR could be a nice place to be. (This is my speculation although I believe they must prototype it.)

Open Space was invented by Harrison Owen. It has a simple set of rules and for the most part the approach is "hands off". It's empowering although often seen as a "risky" choice by sponsors as there is no set agenda before hand. The NPR Open Space session took the place of their National conference. It involved almost 300 people, provided each and every attendee with the opportunity to speak and contribute. For me it was the largest Open Space session I've participated in. It was also wildly successful. New initiatives emerged, a new understanding between independent radio stations and NPR emerged. In the end, 47 different session were run with self-organizing groups of 3 to 60 participants. Stations worked with stations. Stations worked with NPR and NPR worked with stations. In the end it was clear that only the "whole system" can create the future and move public radio ahead.

Quotes from the end... "wonderful process... all have been heard.... really worthwhile...

I was lucky to be invited to the aftermath dinner with the team from NPR and Renewal Consulting (which included Rob, Johnnie, Jevon, Kash, Dina and myself). As a relative outsider who was just there for this event I'd missed out on the many "New Realities" workshops that had been run over the last 9 months. However, what impressed most was the "human values" and soul searching that has been applied to this project from the beginning. The team correctly determined that the required change was not about technology, rather it was all about people and how to bring them along on a conversation and find a new path forward. The belief and trust established with each other was what ultimately made this Open Space session so successful.

I will remember one discussion for a long time. I was testing Johnnie asking him where next and what instruction for the next session. I'd used an example I've used before. A few minutes later we shared it with Rob and he responded in the most remarkable fashion. The example is less important than the "values" (which he writes about all the time from his heart) with which he set us straight. Ultimately, it came down to how he wanted them to think and engage their creativity. Still his words at the time were "that's too much like consulting!". I had to agree with him and in this context it wasn't the right way forward. It was also the reason why he's generated so much trust on this project with his client. A trust and set of relationships that has allowed him to do the unthinkable for many. Not much more than a month ago Rob had never met Johnnie, Dina or myself. Johnnie met with Rob just over a month ago for the first time. While for our small roles in this theater we met on Sunday before the kickoff.

For many that's a risk they wouldn't take. For me, like Rob, it is increasingly one I find myself taking with my blogging buddies. We've read each other often for years, probably Skyped and chatted off and on; perhaps met at a number of conferences. For me this small assignment is just the proof that 1) a new way of working is emerging, and 2) given the chance a few bloggers can often out strategise, out perform, and simply do a better job than the most expensive consulting firms around.

September 19, 2006

Getting to India - Plane Trips From Hell

I've become an exceptionally well seasoned traveller this year. Having logged more than 200K miles already I've had my share of exciting flights. One plane dropped out of the Sky landing in less than 15 minutes when someone had a heart attack at the back of the cabin. We were on the ground 30 minutes and I still made my connecting flight; although my bags didn't. I've watched bags go missing and then turn up. I've run between gates so many times I can't count them anymore. Still for the most part they have gone smoothly.

Today, I just can't seem to get out of Detroit. I left SFO yesterday morning bound for Minneapolis, Amsterdam and Delhi. I made Minneapolis and then somewhere over Labrador the plane turned back to Detroit. Oil pressure loss on the DC-10 tail engine. After holding us on board for two hours they deplaned us and sent us to hotels at 2:00am. This morning I found myself booked via Amsterdam, Mumbai and then on to Delhi. Was supposed to get there about lunchtime on Thursday. That was crazy.. so I worked on routing and hope still be be on my way to arrive in Delhi by Wednesday evening. All seemed well and good.

Just boarded and deplaned from my Northwest flight that was supposed to put me into Newark. They claim weather delays... Now 2:45pm. That should still make my connection. However it is getting tighter! Nothing one can do.

Continue reading "Getting to India - Plane Trips From Hell" »

A Little Blogging Insight

The value of blogging can really jump out at you when you've left it for awhile. I just left a comment on Rob's blog. Commenting stimulated me to a little personal insight in the closing statement. "Nothing I'm doing today or have done for the last four years would have been possible without my blog." Now that's worth mentioning.

For many bloggers I know this is true. My number one example is Dina who's "Conversations with Dina" is a thoughtful fantastic and inspiring blog. She's also used it to take real action. It has created a world of opportunity for her. It's also resulted in us doing a number of projects together. I'm also bummed with all my time in India that I missed out on the recent BlogCamp India. The one week I was back Stateside in September. Still I understand the organizers are going to run some more. I hope I'll be at the next one.

A reminder to me today. When I first got into blogging I spent my time going to blogs rather than streaming them in via a newsreader. In those days I still had Radio Userland and its inbuilt aggregator. Still there was something about building a blogroll; seems almost antiqated today. And yet I can see it is the perfect strategy for getting back into blogging.

Visiting a page is much more personal than quickly adding it to a newreader. In the comment I wrote today "Blogging for me is a social and conversational media. I'd gotten away from it. For awhile blogging controlled me. Now I hope to simply enjoy blogging again.". I also discovered someone new. That remains an important part of blogging. Let's not forget it.

September 21, 2006

Is Texting (SMS) Killing Chat?

Is there a future for IM (Instant Messaging) as we know it? Or is it ripe for real innovation? Does it remain a killer application? Or are Skype, Yahoo, Aim, MSN etc... all fatally flawed? Why do mobile operators and handset manufacturers ignore the facts. Why does my mobile remain call centric in a text centric world? I don't know the answer. I did want a provocative intro, share some observations, note some reservations and almost jump to some conclusions..... I'll start with a story about my kids.

Early this year T-Mobile USA announced a special family deal for unlimited text messaging. Then it was $9.99 (all you could eat family of four) today the same option is $19.99. Concurrently they raised individual text message charges to 10cents for both receiving and sending from 5 cents. Until that point my kids had effectively been banned from text messaging. Something that may seem strange in other countries encouraged by other cost structures. I changed my plan. My kids now have unlimted text messaging.

The outcome. In every month since, my two kids (14 and 17) have averaged 500 text messages inbound and outbound. As a family we went from maybe 30 text messages a month to over 2000 (in and out combined). I've watched this pattern now for six months. It's a static level and my kids operate now in a different paradigm.

Changing Texting Observations.

  • Circle of Friends: The kids text within an inner circle. It's a relatively small group. From this group they like the interruptions or pings of a new message coming in. My son in particular will often text rather than call. They use text messaging in a real-time way. For the most part they answer and have short exchanges. Calls don't happen unless its free time or there is some quick organizing to do. Meeting where, driving etc.

  • Less IM: My daughter has all but abandoned AIM. My son continues to use IM systems however, it's not the primary mode of communication. The mobile is. From what I see / observe / and they have reported they use IM significantly less now than six months ago. Most of their friends I think are similar. They too have unlimited text messaging. I'd make some observations about their phones separately.

  • Locked Down. IM systems are often locked down. Privacy limits communications to buddies if a "spam" problem exists. The mobile is also locked down currently. It costs money to call or send a message.. although from their perspective messaging is now free. An important aspect and possible change here. Their mobile number is more important than their AIM handle. It's the always on connection for them. It's also privacy related.

  • Presence: The current availability, away, not available etc. presence message isn't doing anything to retain users. (I'll look at that in more detail in a separate post.) Where there is already intimacy with an inner circle of friends "you know" roughly what they are up to. Need proof? Why is it that voice centric IM clients like Skype simply result in chats "can you talk now / context?" first? Simply, the presence systems aren't adding major value.

Continue reading "Is Texting (SMS) Killing Chat?" »

September 25, 2006

Crossing the Road - India

I have been relearning how to cross the road. Not quite up to this standard yet. Rule number one. Cross with certainty. Rule number two. Don't try this. Life is good!

September 27, 2006

Social Group Dynamics of Online Identity Production --- ARRRG!

I had to clip a couple of sections from this post Los Angeles 2026 in New Scientist by Bruce Sterling and picked up by WorldChanging. My bold highlights. Thing is, it's not 2026 and it is scary enough to be almost today. Sometimes it is hard to make imaginations really reach out. There are dangers sure.

I'm in India not China, and certainly not working to create an identity production mentality. Still Bruce's slant makes it clear why "Social Networking Sites" remain essentially broken. In that 2004 post I wrote "Fragmenting association systems does not enable better connections. Integration on to my desktop (address book / IM systems) at minimum and preferably into my cellphone is required ..". It hasn't happened yet. One day it will. Controls will be with the users.

In the second paragraph Bruce slips into the darker side of rich old men. I'm more optimistic. I think we will create human centric systems owned by you and me. I think all the trends run against Bruce's world. I only have to look at how my kids already manage privacy, to know that great conversation and dialogues come with trust. My kids will not be entering this world and I certainly don't want to retire to it.

My Dad - he's still alive, apparently - he sent me an email from China and said I ought to "recruit" Debbie into my "social group dynamics of online identity production". My Dad always talks like that. I haven't seen Dad face-to-face in six years. Look: I am a 17-year-old male, okay? I don't want to send Debbie any hotlinks and digital video. I want to take Debbie out! ..........

It's not that we can't do it: it's that all our social relations have been reified with a clunky intensity. They're digitized! And the networking hardware and software that pervasively surround us are built and owned by evil, old, rich corporate people! Social-networking systems aren't teenagers! These machines are METHODICALLY KILLING OUR SOULS! If you don't count wall-graffiti (good old spray paint), we have no means to spontaneously express ourselves. We can't "find ourselves" - the market's already found us and filled us with map pins. New Scientist

September 28, 2006

Fring - Fringing Interesting

Fring, a new mobile app looks interesting. I want to try it out on my N80 with Wi-Fi and so do many others in the Fring forums. Come on Fring make it available for the N80 and N91. I'd say "fringing fantastic!". Lots of claims on the Fring about page including Skype and GoogleTalk compatibility.

"fring is a 3G mobile application that allows you to make free mobile calls, send instant messages to other fring users, and communicate with PC based VoIP applications such as Skype and Google Talk." Fring

Andy points me to a new Ken Camp. Alonge with VoiPNow they talk Fring. The Red Ferret really has the low down. Unfortunately, I can't test it till I get home and change handsets. It will work on Nokia N70's and similar. The challenge for Fring is there just aren't enough handsets out there yet. For my two cents. Go after Nokia N80 and N91 users.

The Wi-Fi enablement in these handsets makes the 3G connection irrelevant. My guess is a flat rate GPRS in that mode is all you need. The people already buying the N80 and N91 are ready to push them to the limit. It will spread. At the moment these handsets lack applications that really use their WiFi strength. Example Shozu2.0 preview. It's is set up to synch when I'm on Wi-Fi hotspots; like work and home. I don't burn a data plan when traveling outside the US and I still get my Rocketboom on my mobile.. It could become much cooler.

Still someone is going to ask. Will the operators block it?

About September 2006

This page contains all entries posted to Unbound Spiral in September 2006. They are listed from oldest to newest.

February 2006 is the previous archive.

October 2006 is the next archive.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

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