Social Networks Archives

June 19, 2002

Stories Accelerate Learning

Another positing from the online converation with Terrence L. Gargiulo and Making Stories A Practical Guide for Organizational Leaders and Human Resource Specialists.

Stories help learning when they stimulate and shape conversation. Stories that are part of a network conversational exchange really accelerate learning. Thus one on one storytelling has no where near the same impact as collective story-making. The latter brings a real sense of ownership and understanding. Some call this "the art of the strategic conversation".
The interest in business story-telling seems to coincide with an increase in uncertainty in the workplace. Similarly as we move to more networked org forms, we need to enrich the pipes (info flows) without overloading everyone with data.

The book Future Search has a wonderful story - timeline exercise in the beginning of the book. It builds a collective sense of where we have come from, our organization, and the world around us. Individuals post their events on the three timelines and three groups typically report back, with a story about the people in the room, and how the organization and world has changed and impacted on us collectively. This rapidly establishes a collective story about the past for any group.

Stories being posed for the future may entertain more debate. One of the reasons I became a passionate scenarist was seeing too many organizations fall over a single vision / story for the future. A story that is too structured limits learning. Successful strategies and stories are often the result of unintended consequences.

Today innovation rules - stories / rapid conversations and learning are an essential part of the prototyping process which leads to markets. Actually, stories don't accelerate learning, "insights" accelerate learning. However, stories may frame the connection that enable new insights.

For example there have been stories around TIVO, online music sharing, satellite, cable TV and perceptions of where they are going. Recently they were reframed --- File-Served TV --- a new vision & direction. Except I doubt this is the end of the story....... That in itself is both refective and iterative.

I'd be interested in the contrast between a world in which story-telling was between cave-dwellers and in today's - tomorrow's highly networked world. Are effective stories synthesized now rather than told? Similarly, is "chat" creating a new framework for the realtime story? What happens if a leader isn't in the "chat" group?

October 24, 2002

Doug Engelbart

<A href="">Doug Engelbart on improving collective IQ</A>.
<P>I don't think I have read as eloquent an explanation of what collaborative intelligence augmentation is and why it matters as <A href="">Douglas Engelbart</A>'s World Library Summit keynote speech <A href="">Improving our ability to improve: A call for investment in a new future</A>. Here are just a few quotes - but I think it's well worth attentively reading every word of the text. And taking time to think about it.</P>
<BLOCKQUOTE dir=ltr style="MARGIN-RIGHT: 0px">
<P><FONT color=darkblue>...the investment in C&nbsp;activities is typically pre-competitive.&nbsp; It is investment that can be shared even among competitors in an industry because it is, essentially, investment in creating a better playing field. [...]</FONT></P>
<P><FONT color=darkblue>At the C level we are trying to understand how improvement really happens, so that we can improve our ability to improve.&nbsp; This means having different groups exploring different paths to the same goal.&nbsp; As they explore, they constantly exchange information about what they are learning.&nbsp; The goal is to maximize overall progress by exchanging important information as the different groups proceed.&nbsp; What this means, in practice, is that the dialog between the people working toward pursuit of the goal is often just as important as the end result of the research.&nbsp; Often, it is what the team learns in the course of the exploration that ultimately opens up breakthrough results. [...]

Continue reading "Doug Engelbart" »

November 11, 2002

Collaborative Communities

Participating in online communities is not only growing easier, the results more positive. Kuro5hin is also more than a weblog. It's been around for awhile and yet today I ended up giving it much closer attention as I considered voting on an MLP posting on the Nickel Exchange, was asked for other help with editing, etc.

Various links took me to SCOOP and you learn quickly about the collaborative media application behind Kuro5hin and other communities.

My journey started today looking for methods improve my MT posting and reporting options. I've had in mind the opportunity for a MT based community. Clearly plausible yet not self-organizing. When one compares Smart Mobs with Kuro5hin it becomes clear how obvious this is. I will be looking at Scoop further. is a community of people who like to think. This is a site for people who want to discuss the world they live in. It's a site for people who are on the ground in the modern world, and who sometimes look around and wonder what they have wrought.

Scoop empowers participants to play a role in the newsmaking. This is not the only application however. My searching located Eric Hanson andShouldExist around ideas;as an idea exchange. Check out their description Eric's list also proved to me how sharing can close and create new links... Some we don't even know. While looking at his "people" section I found myself linked back to Seb's Open Resesearch. who has a great blog going on knowledge sharing, communities and innovation.

Note:" is a non-profit website, founded on the belief that individuals are more successful when we work together through open standards, modularity and decentralized control." His project list also includes others. Check it out.

Part of my interest in the first place was driven by the question posed to me. Should the NICKEL EXCHANGE story be posted? I'm going to watch over the next couple of days. We will be revisiting "Nickel Exchange" for I still believe the next frontier is in solving highly decentralised P2P transactions. Frankly... the nickel exchange looks premature, needs consumer friendly content, and a little more to give it legitimacy. I didn't yet try to see if it works.

Then today Movielink launched. This is the site offered by the movie moguls to provide downloadable movies to American broadband connections. Incredibly slow to appear, you would almost think the site is down. Obviously checking out my system for compatibility. I'm waiting for it to be cracked, then Kazaa movies etc might take on a whole new meaning.

Posted by henshall at 09:22 PM

March 27, 2003

Identity Circles

I’m sharing this emergent - thought piece today. I can’t vouch for the approach or the technology. In a nutshell it ’s a speculative identity solution, using a nice metaphor “Circles”, P2P (peer-to-peer) underpinnings and posing an ownership approach that looks like a cooperative. Is it off the wall? Perhaps it can't be done. Objections? Thoughts? Abandon?

IDENTITY CIRCLES CIRCLES enrich and enhance life’s many connections. Whom you know has never been so important. Professional, Business, Community, Friends, creating circles of trust that you control. Now you can be more connected and share what and when you want. In CIRCLES you can discover a whole new range of connections, intersections where you connect for fun, influence, advice, learning. Today’s world is connected. Sometimes for fleeting moments or maybe for a lifetime. We move, we change addresses, our contacts change from year to year. Yet serendipity still strikes.

We meet friends in unexpected places, and find old work or college colleagues when we least expect them. CIRCLES let’s you grow and learn from whom you know. So together we travel many different circles and through many different roles. Collectively we learn we have a lot more to offer, when we don’t always know what we can do for each other. Cooperatively we learn together, individuals can create more value from their profiles that they can individually seeding them at many different destinations. There are valid reasons for public and commerical interests. Under Circles you control access.

So what’s different? Safe and secure in your circle, you are part of a many circles environment that makes up “many trusted circles”. CIRCLES guarantees your privacy and the privacy of your friends. Under Circles there is no more spam. The information is yours alone to share and trade as you wish. Circles is merely a commerical and public broker of information. Tomorrow's Post Office. How is it done? see the extended entry....

You begin by building your profile with your own circle of trust. This P2P based component puts your profile on your PC or personal mobile device (on or off whenever you like). When you open your account you will be required to find three friends to secure your profile and join the network. The friends provide backup (secure keyed) in case your encrypted data is lost. They can’t see your data, however their systems can broadcast for you should you be offline for any reason. (We see something similar in music with Kazaa).

This provides a built in redundancy and back-up using your friends, so you can store all your data safely. Effectively you have a duplicate safe deposit boxes for your key personal information. Your information profile is secured on your PC and controlled – served- only by you. Similarly accounts for family members may be stored there. (Freenet)

Within the P2P network that makes up Circles (think close friends) you can connect with friends of friends (buddylists/Friendster/Ryze Friends). You can look up friends knowing a phone number address or name and request that they add you to your contacts list. As a consequence you will never have to update your address book again. Some connections will also be temporary (eg Child’s sports team parent list). Circles makes these easy.

Within Circles, the Jabber IM solution (?) automatically lets you chat and talk to friends. You can send messages, share files or simply VOIP, while also enabling new conversations and searches to connect with friends of friends. Circles helps those important introductions. Similarly, Circles will keep you private if you don’t want unwelcome intrusions. You control the access to your profile. This becomes even more important as your profile becomes increasingly mobile with you.

We expect many of your current relationship providers will want to expand your profile. For example, a corporate profile (that depending on the company and policies may want to keep public or private) and similarly a health record. As Circles is an Open Source project we expect these profiles to be standardized over time.

While Circles enable you to enhance and grow your network we are also working to create commercial opportunities you profit from while putting an economic value on your attention.

Who Controls Circles, who’s in charge?

Circles approach is to create a cooperative connectivity system. Imagine the post, phone fax and e-mail service owned by you and me. First and foremost you serve your own information. Circles simply provides the enabling and verification service for public and commercial access, those not in your friends list, and all commercial contacts. To activate this opportunity you create a verified contact account at the Circles Common. Correspondingly your employer may open and verify an employee account.

When you activate your CIRCLES account you join our cooperative and are paid for your attention dependent on the commercial and pubic content consumed. (Paypal Account). It’s simple really. Imagine a world without mailboxes at your front door, and yet someone wants to send you a letter or a video or a voice message. Where do they send it? It’s easy if they have your address. It’s hard if you don’t! Economically you can make it cheaper for direct mailers, your key bill providers and others to reach you. When you reduce their costs, you can make money. That way Circles earns it’s transaction fee (Visa) on each delivery. That is the economics of attention. The sender pays, not the receiver.

You participate already, each time you see an add on TV it costs you thirty seconds. With Circles activated it is on your terms and timetable. Alternatively it can be set by your employer for certain hours as part of your “attention contract”. Remember not all offers are bad, and as others learn your interests you are more likely to get information that is useful to you. This goes for the organization as well, (however the organization will be paid for those interruptions).

Similarly, small commercial transactions (eg the plumber, lawnmower, acccountant etc) may request to sign and leave a commercial greeting card. (Think Ryze guest book) Your rating and reference will then be available for other friends etc in the neighborhood. (Xpertweb??)

To fund Circles growth and the market for the information assets you are prepared to share …..

1. Circles Members receive a monthly attention payment dependent on the collective rate schedule as determined from time to time. The rate schedule for personal accounts will be set to recover the costs of your broadband connection over the course of the year based on average participation levels. Thus as a cooperative our aim is to make digital connectivity available and free for all.

2. Each Circles member becomes a shareholder, vesting overtime based on participation. Each member will be deemed fully vested at 60 years of age and must have participated for a minimum of 5 years. Circles will buyback your shares at that time based on the value of the collective income pool adjusted for current vesting levels.

3. Your shares in the coop will represent a “life time” information asset, which after 50% vesting you may sell at any time. This reflects the collective value you have created for the community overtime valued at the point you sell it.

4. We aim to grow the market for your information assets. Our success is dependent on your participation. Once we have basic accounts up and running we will enable opt-in opportunities. We all know one consumer interested in buying a car won’t save much. However, 10000 consumers wanting to buy a similar car could save a lot. Information brokers chosen and acceptable to you can act on your behalf in ways that are not dissimilar to priceline and accompany (now defunct).


  • Only you control access to your information.
  • Circles brokers introductions and eases personal, social, business and professional exchanges.
  • Circles creates a valuable economic asset, that grows with the collective value of shared information assets in the community.
  • Circles aims to “connect” everyone on earth digitally, just like the original post and telephone, but this time for free.

Continue reading "Identity Circles" »

April 22, 2003

Musings - Rich Profiles

Tom Portante and I have held many conversations over the last few months, testing them, working them forward.  He's posts a collection of examples today. It's a little long in this format. Note this.   

"An unintended consequence of all of these possibilities -- once you establish a system that allows e-mail recipients to charge for their attention (by way of a token 17-cent 'postage' rate or some other fee structures) ...

...spam goes away."
There are three good example of how the knowledge innovation boundaries will be stretched. 

You will see the common themes.

  • Economics of Attention
  • Relationships, trust, circles,
  • Personal Knowledge Management

Look more closely and you will see the emergent knowledge sharing opportunities, the benefits of rich profiles, and database technology that with redefine connectivity.  If you were a corporate you may see that as KM is individualised the relationships become more personal.  As the number of relationships grow the organization has new opportunities.  Real links with the outside world have always been treasured. The difference is every employee will add 150 and probably more like 1000. Each of those links will add to brand value.  The organization can once again become / have a conversation..... 

The last observation for tonight.  Is certainly one I've been experiencing today.  Websites for companies appear aggregated - centralized.  Well I've got news.  The new tools are decentralizing, not top down, no one controls all of them.  If you just look at this blog.  It's personal, it uses MT,and all the ecology items I just added add functionality.  Some come with a cost.  The KM field failed to centralize knowledge.  At the end of the day it's knowing 'who' to call.    

May 5, 2003


I had a delightful session with Duncan Work, Jan Hauser and Mike Dillard just over a week ago.  The conversation opened easily on a subject that included a passion for money, religion, and politics suggesting it can turn online communities into virtual nations --complete with leaders, laws, and citizens. 

Mike Dillard co-authored the article for the World Future Society "The Approaching Age of Virtual Nations":  I'm not sure you can down load it there. (It's fun with nice comments and response.) It was the idea about metamediaries, and consumer power that really got us talking. 

In the article they introduce Lifecast a company that managed to assemble a community of 1.4 million affluent participants.  Their combined annual incomes totalled more that $240 billion, and their documented personal net worth of more that $1.28 trillion.  There's some great stats there. Members flew more that 32 billion milles annually.  Arguably it would range 23rd amongst all the worlds nations. 

What was interesting in Mike's story was this company was formed round the golf clubs and as a result there was an enormous increase in social bonding and information gathering. Lifecast which was set up around a living the club proposition in the end turned off the networking because it's customers the clubs found it was detrimental to doing business.  The members didn't need to turn up for meetings they simply exchanged it online. 

What did they do? (from the wayback machine)

In addition to building and maintaining private, interactive, club Web sites with all the benefits of club news, email and message boards, we give members access to a range of lifestyle-oriented content through LifeCast Features, a selection of Web channels designed specifically for club members and their families.

Club members get stock quotes and weather reports, and the latest news and features from the worlds of travel, sports, finance, and fashion. It's kind of an online magazine for the private club lifestyle, and it's available only to members of LifeCast affiliate clubs.

What couldn't they do.  They couldn't enable or help people to connect between clubs.  That's where there remains a healthy business opportunity and one that requires an appropriate trust engine. 

While writing this I see Britt's been busy on a mass lux meme.   
Escapable Logic Another way of possibly confirming the potential. 


Abe Burmeister recently comments:  "I think the key is to look at the blog *as a path towards a better designed conversation space*, not as the conversation space itself. I just don't see conversation flourishing to its full potential in the highly owned and branded environment of the blog."

To which I agree! He draws the metaphor of the blog as a home a home for thoughts, invites, the occasional dinner party etc. And yes for the replacement for the personal page. Well I'd sort of like to go out tonight!

Ton Zijlstra writes on the Tipping Point. He also looking for a meme to seed. Let me suggest "Blog Coops" or "Blogops" or perhaps as you will see below "Jazz-Blogging" 

It also reminded me of a  Dave Winer post i saw today contrasting a Barlow point of view with "These are utilitarian things, they simply facilitate a higher level of communication." Maybe but we have to be "collectively involved" and engaged for them to really matter. 

From my perspective most blogging today seems highly personal, the number of public community or cooperative blogs very limited. Of those personal blogs I see two kinds.  First the blog done for primarily for intellectual interest, and second the blog that is part of an economic engine. While I see examples where coding solutions and new memes spread rapidly what clients want when it comes to thought-leaders is a safe place to engage.  So blogs aren't just thinking tools or communicating tools, they are also learning tools.  It just how we apply them and how we create access.  For them to really work some new business models must emerge around them. 

Earlier today I posted on Lifecast.  One of its secrets was the "club", the limited role the safe environment.  So if we want a trusted blogging engine we should assemble a few pieces and test it.    

Here's some quick notes of what I'd like to work towards trying out. 

  • Personal blogs (perhaps a category eg Collective Intelligence).  Each contributor posts two or three times per week. 
  • Fed to a private aggregated community blog I think the max number is about 15.  A subscription - invite only community of approximately 150. 
  • Defined by some key themes.  This extended think tank harnesses the nature of the jazz club.  Clearly the group plays in real-time.
  • Members can comment and become private blogger too if they desire although it won't be necessary.  There's also a message area and capability to share profiles round the group. 
  • It has a profile component too. The social capital exchanged is probably as important as the intellectual stimulation and the technology participation. 
  • Individual blogger still get the benefit of promoting their external self. Blogging externally they can enables new meme and connection to be fed into the blogop (for blog cooperative)

What are the benefits.  Safe access to thought leaders.  Top executives daily news feed, are part of conversation.  The conversation will connect and introduce them to others.  Their views and the views of others stays within the community.  We will meet as a community 3 or 4 times in the year.  There will be a core underlying research program. 

The tools are right there in front of us.  Who has examples of where it is being done already? Always On doesn't cut it as an example. 

Why will they buy?  The same reason the brand manager wants a 24/7 focus group at their fingertip.  Here's the chance to run some ideas, lines of inquiry, test uncertainties, in real-time...... beta testing.  Nothing like having 150 experts at your fingertips.  More importantly the trust and reciprocity that is established means everyone benefits.

Similarly, for key contributors -- their efforts will be sponsored!


"Jazz-Blogging" as a possible meme for colective collaborative intelligent blogging.  What clients want when it comes to thought-leaders is a safe place to engage.  My individual blogs are not safe or maybe too public.  We need to create safe access environments. Probably as part of a collaborative blogging environment. Perhaps then it more like an extended dinner party in the Hamptons.


May 7, 2003

Exchanging Trust

There's an interesting discussion around trust fueled by Pierre's blog and Mr G's follow-up on the Global Trust Exchange. It began with a question "What for?".  Somehow I think some posts are at cross purposes, when everyone could really be eating cake. 

It's not surprising.  Trust is not a simple word to define. Trust is situational, it is also mine.  Do I trade trust? And what's a trust exchange? If we are not sure of motives -- when trust's involved we are even more likely to jump to conclusions.

In a trust vein we looked at adding friends on Ryze.  "Will you be my friend?" and concluded we stopped asking questions like that long ago.  We've learnt that trust has many different faces.  In one instance I may ask you to be a referree on a job.  However, it's still possible that while I trust you with that reference, I may not trust you to cut down a tree.  Similarly I may be happy to refer you but conditions may be attached.

The problem here is in the name GTX not the concept. What's needed are illustrations.  In GTX connections between parties are defined by layers of permission and access.  These are friend to friend and not generic.  The brilliance in Net Deva is in the definitions and ultimately the simple way in which it makes connections, referrals and introductions. while paying attention to affinities and the type of relationship you have. 

Consider Pierre, Joi, William and Mr G.  Pierre asks Joi to be a financial reference and provides "Nickel Exchange details" plus general contact information etc by providing access to a rich profile format on GTX.  Joi is pleased to be a referee and accepts putting the minimum amount of information relating to himself into the system. He adds no further contacts, but over time others contact him, linking their business cards.  Similarly Pierre secures other referees.  For he's learnt that there are connections between us that hold hidden value. 

Example at a networking event or a conference when meeting someone new we cross-reference on books, people, places, and names possible connections pop up.  These are ones we sense might be worth sharing a little of our social capital on and making an introduction.

Now William is in the GTX and is looking for a connection and introduction to the Nickel Exchange. Without GTX it may take forever to find someone who knows his work and may provide an introduction.  With GTX he keys in his request and gets a list back of possible connections.  He's pleased to see Joi is on his list.  Now there are many levels, dependent on all the relationships that each have with each other.  If William is merely an aquaintance of Joi's the next exchange will be very different from finding out one of his partners (Joi possibly) knows Pierre. 

Now imagine you have a plumber come to your home.  On completing the job he asks if you might be a local reference for him - valid for a year. You are pleased with his work.  You say yes.  Now a neighbor is looking for a plumber (of course you don't know this).  Rather than waiting to ask friends they key into GTX, and find there are three people they are connected to via their daughters school class.  Three of them have the same plumber listed by name.  A fourth has a connection to a plumber but the name is not visible.  One parent you know very well.  Rather than calling them you call the plumber direct..... For the plumber has given access to his business details (super yellow page listing) though his trusted business referrals.  It's quite possible that the same plumber doesn't enable the same visibility via his church group.  Although members of his church group may be someone the neighbor could connect with who knows of a plumber. 

The trust issue is more I fear more of context here.  The examples are possible.  It's been done and there's an initial prototype. I've viewed Net Deva and want to see it rolled out.  It deserves further funding.  Ultimately a trust exchange may emerge.   

 Possible applications. 

  • An enterprise wants to intiate a socially innovative client service and business development strategy
  • An enterprise wants to lower the cost of human capital acqusition, finding new recruits though their network of employees, suppliers and key customers.
  • A jobseeker wants to build a network of trusted referrals which will help get a new job and bring more value when newly employed
  • A small company links to a multide of professional free agents, their access to talent just went up exponetially.   
  • An individual wants to find someone who lived in Holland in 1983.
  • A non-profit wants to raise money. They want to direct their volunteers to target specific organizational accounts.  Who best to reach out and approach? What groups could be put together? 
  • that's enough for now

The real issues for "this trusted rich profile exchange" is in securing the numbers, ensuring and controlling access, security from spam and simply managing expectations.  In my view there's an organizational / enterprise model and a public model.  Usability must be kept simple.

So has the Global Trust Exchange just been miss-interpreted? Is it the language or the concept? We all exchange information all the time for value creation. See the applications.  The real question is what's the value of your missed opportunities? Can you afford not to experiment in this space.  If you are a large enterprise, a professional networking community or non-profit foundation, Net Deva is a nugget that may reframe how you do business. 


May 8, 2003

Individually Social Software?

A Wonderful article "Smarter, Simpler, Social".  provides a great introduction to social software.

A few perspective sentences that really grabbed me.  

  •  " Enterprise software itself is grounded in out-dated "process thinking".....
  • free online social applications are achieving usage levels and a depth of user engagement that enterprise software purchasers can only dream about....”
  •  the popular model of the value chain is also an engineering concept, derived from expanding the process view to the business as a whole. …
  •   closed networks amplifies predispositions….
  •  Maintain a healthy level of connections between people so that when and where they need to they can connect effectively with others….

The authors also make a nice point about emergent metadata.---- goes beyond syndication toward synchronization.  ….. Manage personal knowledge according to their own individual perspectives.  This all after starting the piece noting busineses face a crisis

It's the individual area I think I'd like to learn more about.  Maybe it is just a suspicion, but smarter, simpler, social seems to miss out an individual element.  Perhaps it is self evident.  Smarter simpler software at the individual level then enables new opportunities to emerge.  Just like mass customization I suspect the individual has a larger role to play. I’d add the individual is also the customer.

Personal knowledge spaces are very real-time. Expanding real-time PKS will enable more innovation though better connectivity.  Some time back I blogged a short piece PKnF – Personal Knowledge networking Friends.  

One paradigm that is missing is the amount of duplication we are all going to be able to have.  The collaborative – collective personal info assets will outweigh the business info assets.  When that’s true, organizations have to compete on their design, sociability, and adaptive capability.  Wealth then is in the creative friction, the touch points between individuals.

A parallel piece --- one that is completely counter-intuitive to most is and what Brit and Flemming are doing.  It’s a new form of knowledge contracting.  It’s time is nearing.  Add to that the capability to hold the library of congress on our key chain, the question may be how we make it much more useful?  

May 9, 2003

Linked-In :

Like many I had a couple of invites to LinkedIn over the last few days.  So my curiosity came into play.  I'm getting a little jaded now.  Ryze, Ecademy, Friendster (there's a financial connection / similarlity) etc.  This post today will force me separately to do an update on Ryze.  There's the plenty of natural speculation out there on how it will grow and do. 

LinkedIn leaves me a little cold from the get go. Utimately, this site will fail not on short-term interest or due to power laws.  It simply doesn't doesn't deal with the gradiations of trust and the number of different connections that are required. 

It seems simple enough profile yourself.  Give lots of industry and CV detail.  The thing is the connections that are suggested in many case don't need all this information to be revealed until the parties are prepared to play. I still believe Ecrush is something to learn from. There's someone out there that's interested in your skills - you both know X do you want an introduction? A lot more privacy and control with this example. 

I notice that Joi has some 232 connections today. What does it mean? What sort of introduction does one get? When the search returns the one with the most connections is that the best link for me?

Some rambling objections and queries:

First it's captured my most personal e-mail address - I didn't get a choice.  Of course it's how my friends and key business contacts find me, but LinkIn has no rights to know me or start a relationship this way.  And now they are dumping invite responses in this e-mail stream.  Yes I've fixed it with a new primary address. 

Now I'm in - I should be spending time credentialling myself.  Where are the models, I only have one friend (at this point) I skip the details, they just wanted one industry (doesn't fit me) and want to know who's here.  When you are new it's hard to learn from others in this system.  Search see some resumes. Will take more time if I'm to be active in here. There is no immediate kick or gratification.  No Ryze like guestbook goodwill. 

It's not very transparent behind the scenes.  There's no photo's, I'm becoming hesitant to send out any invites.  The only people I can think to invite are those I've been experimenting with.  They'll understand I'm on the loose again.  I invite a couple.

Now today there are plenty of great comments on Joi's site.  It does bother me what's happening behind the scenes.  See Kevin Marks. Look at Marc Cantor's comments too.  

What I've not seen are the following questions

  • How do I link out (get out) of LinkedIn? It simply doesn't allow me to share my information with my contacts in an effective fashion.  For example I might be willing to share Scenario Proposals with key contacts or those I've worked with or for.  I might not want to do it for everyone.  
  • This is another "invite" focused site.  Make connections it screams. This may be backwards.  Should you invite or ask for a referal or reference.  Had the instruction been set up this way my network building would already have been significantly different.  The language used is important.  LinkedIn uses "Connections".  Some connections are transitory others are permanent. Connections are different to contacts which we placeholder and categorise differently. 
  • Can I change my relationship with my connections? If my perceptions of my contacts change dropping them means they aren't referring me any longer.  How do I change the relationship?  At the moment you can't although you can withdraw an invite. Because it is declarative with no middle ground, we'd have the childish problem Ryze raised at one time but in reverse.  "So you don't want to be my friend (connection) anymore?" 

It's encouraging that investments are continuing in this space.  This one doesn't bring much pleasure or instant gratification to the user.  Still if someone contacts me it might be a real surprise.  My impression may change.  At the moment I'm doing slightly better than the average on connections (4vs3). I expect nothing. 


LinkedIn provides an interesting preview for the future of referrals.  It fails to engender joy or excitement, in fact many will be hesitant to use it.  Connections terminology is not consistent with trust and the leader board search that ranks on connections isn't helping things.  It's too closed for my liking.  I know of something better. 

Trust requires transparency

To find Jim McGees post on Trust Security and OD after writing on LinkedIn today seemed appropriate particularly as LinkedIn is a closed system. 

"Humans gain trust by interacting and "getting to know" people. Transparent technologies that make it easy to see what people and companies are up to (in a sense the opposite of firewalls) are what help me trust. I like Reagan's saying: "trust, but verify". It implies that trust requires means for openness, not firewalls and secretiveness." David Reed,

Somehow I think bloggers are opening up perhaps just so we can get to know someone and make some new connections.  Having a degree of broken or incomplete connections is probably ok.  That's exploratory.  We also desire collaboration, that's in smaller groups. 

Jim uses a chart reproduced below created by Bob Keidel of whom I'm not familiar and writes:

Typically we tend to think only in terms of the tradeoff between control and autonomy. His, richer, model introduces a third point of cooperation and suggests that organization design problems can be treated as looking for a spot somewhere inside the triangle instead of somewhere along one of its edges. The trend has been northward towards more recognition of cooperation and, hopefully, away from stale debates about control or autonomy

I'd gone off triangles..... and would like to see the tittles changed to reflect the knowledge organization.  Replace Control, Cooperation and Autonomy with Leadership, Learning and Leverage and we may conclude that innovation and communities of practice go together.  They work when there's the context and discipline to ask better questions.  Which for me is a balance and mixing it up between leadership and frontline understanding - leverage!


June 18, 2003

Augmented Social Networks

What’s Coming? --- Augmented Social Networks:

“Could the next generation of online communications strengthen civil society by better connecting people to others with whom they share affinities, so they can more effectively exchange information and self-organize? Could such a system help to revitalize democracy in the 21st century? When networked personal computing was first developed, engineers concentrated on extending creativity among individuals and enhancing collaboration between a few. They did not much consider what social interaction among millions of Internet users would actually entail. It was thought that the Net's technical” architecture need not address the issues of "personal identity" and "trust," since those matters tended to take care of themselves.

This is a clip from the Linktank paper posted as part of the Planetwork conference.  Like the Smarter, Simpler, Social paper referred to earlier on this blog here it is worth reading.  For me together they provide a useful entry point into thinking about where we are going.  For me these two papers are further warning indicators that reaffirm my belief that radical innovation is being redefined by those that use ASN related tools, within their organizations, CoP's and simply with their circles (business, professional, social). 

I also just re-read a post from my earlier blogging days on Radical Strategy Innovation. (One that gave me some concern at the time for mouthing off.)  Looking at it today and thinking about the tools I've become more accustomed to using and participating in I believe the key messages still apply.  Five points for Radical Strategy Innovation.

  1. First organize your lines of inquiry to be network and community centric.
  2. Then collaborate to create compelling friction points that give your community "an innovation voice"!
  3. Seek out "hidden" connections - collaborative responsive highly connective networks are important to framing the fullfillment of unarticulated needs.
  4. Build-in collaborative community skills into facilitating markets - value creation. 
  5. (New / revised) Add to the collective and spiritual values -- without them you will have a system rather than a transformation.


In a world of increasing hyperconnectivity, how will augmented social networks impact on innovation? Is your current dogma for Radical Innovation collaborative and spiritual enough to make a meaningful transformation?  How will your communities best be served -- strategically and through what architecture to facilitate the change?


June 20, 2003

Building Better Communities

All communities need a purpose.  I just liked this as one quick way to think about your knowledge innovation practice.  It's the type of chart one can whiteboard as part of a group discussion.  It's contained in a presentation by Cynthia Typados's for Planetwork Using her 12 principles.  Here is the link to the presentation.  You will have to scroll down to "Social Networking Sites vs. The 12 Principles"....  (Can't reproduce it here or provide a direct link.  Shame really - it is locked in frames). 

Note the importance of idenity and reputation after purpose. Also mentioned was the article "It's not what you know, It's who you know" published in 2000 on FirstMonday." I found it well worth going back and reading. 

We chose the term intensional to reflect the effort and deliberateness with which people construct and manage personal networks. The spelling of the term is intended to suggest a kind of tension and stress in the network. We found that workers experience stresses such as remembering who is in the network, knowing what people in the network are currently doing and where they are located, making careful choices from among many media to communicate effectively with people, and being mindful to "keep in touch" with contacts who may prove useful in the near or distant future. At the same time, "intensional" also suggests a "tensile strength" in network activity; we found our informants endlessly resourceful and energetic in their everyday collaborative activities within their networks.


September 9, 2003

Social Networks & Brands

Emerging Social Networking sites need to think more carefully about their brands. Too much time is spent "engineering" and not enough being conversational telling real stories. Strategic brand positioning is becoming ever more important in this realm. I continue to miss compelling stories on the new sites.

Today I was pushed by a colleague back to take another look at LinkedIn. I've not been growing my network there. My profile lacks detailed documentation. So I found myself playing around there and on Tribes getting a feel for yet another emerging social network. There's also SixDegrees (in beta), and if you are enterprise ready with money you can look at Spoke and Visible Path. also locked in beta. There are others too. Mostly clones.

Ross Mayfield ("The Network is the Market") also provides an excellent technical positioning overview of Tribe and demonstrates the innovative thought going in these offerings. Matt comments here and I'm sure there are others as a vacation means I'm late to the party.

At each one I try and ask myself: "How do we all feel here?" What's the tone? What is the brand trying to convey. Seeing as none of these are yet growing exponentially --- all have failed to get into the millions I suspect core issues remain around branding, functionality and "viral" growth strategies.

For my two cents Tribe is being too structured and planned in its layout and branding. While it is crisp and organized - when I think about my networks I do with feelings, sensations, connections perhaps even trepedations. I also think directory, business cards, phone numbers. If I'm thinking about trading things (something Tribe encourages) then my online experience is dictated by eBay. There's lots of personality in the listings on eBay. That's missing from Tribe. Similarly the book reviews on Amazon are another way of adding color. Ryze does it by using GuestBooks. While guest books aren't endorsements --- they are an informal method of understanding the conversations around people. As such they are useful and can rapidly broker new exchanges.

While I'm on these things... I have a generaly gripe about many of the registration processes. They don't quickly show me while I'm filling things in what others are putting in their boxes. A new registrant is going to be uncomfortable. What are you interests? Many... No be specific..... Human stories - and examples... please!

Then for participation they must be friendly, fun and inviting. If you don't enjoy it --- it won't get done. Tribe might take on Craigslist or take people away from Friendster. I know it still in beta and I bet there are many new functionalities to come. However from what I've seen so far... play, chaos, individuality, is in my view too restrictive.

So I'm going out on a limb.... just before Ryze - rumoured to be readying a relaunch shows its new stripes I'll reinforce that from a brand point of view - Ryze's inelegance is part of it's brand strength. Ryze was clearly created by human hands, the journey of a special person. Its useablity inelegant. Still at Ryze I feel like I own my own page. Ryze's pages often have a chaotic appeal that Tribe in it's current format will never achieve. At Tribe I'm part of a database - the tight pages.. no scrolling. It's an important distinction. Ryze could learn some lessons from Tribe, while Tribe still has to learn some Ryze lessons. Yep they are ostensibly focused at different markets. Still if I was Ryze I'd add their listings functionality.

So... make these brands about people.

Some functional desires in support:

  • a great directory which I don't need to update; including phone numbers etc.
  • to make those new connections and leverage my relationship capital.
  • integrated with my IM systems
  • with levels of disclosure
  • with keys to kill all my spam
  • to not only enable trade... but cooperative buying
  • to arrange meetings
  • accept my newsfeeds
  • be part of an indentity federation
  • integrate with my mail system
  • create consumer power

    Gee I want all these things. Is there a business model in here? That's also a question being asked next week. Get to Vlab and attend Social Networking: Is there Really a Business Model?

  • September 11, 2003

    P2P Telephony Should we SKYPE

    Try SKYPE out. When I've made a few more calls I'll report. If you are thinking about the future of IM, social networks, progressive disclosure, disruptive innovation and thought the founders of Kazaa were smart. This will probably confirm it. Read their Skype discription here. Provides some interesting strategy insights. Wish it would work with my Mac based friends.

    Evan caught this:  Skype.  P2P telephony.  From the Dutch developers of FastTrack (the system that powers KaZaA).  In my opinion, this is the first true legitimate application of P2P technology.  Next step:  a pro version with call waiting, voicemail, etc.   I am going to try it out to see if it does provide the quality level claimed.  If you are on, let me know so we can try it out.  Also, I wish they had skins for this so it won't look bad on my desktop (nobody needs an ugly ICQ-like system on their desktop). [John Robb's Weblog]

    Uncorking P2P Research

    Are there more business models around P2P? Seems a good time to highlight this emerging research business. BigChampagne is bubbling in the media world. Like Zoomerang lowered the cost of market reserach BigChampagne is the online ethnographer. They simply observe - watching for behavior changes.

    In fact, it tracks every download and sells the data to the music industry. How one company is turning file-sharing networks into the world's biggest focus group. By Jeff Howe from Wired magazine. [Wired]

    This month, I chatted with Kai Rissdal about the RIAA and BigChampagne, the company that gleans customer intelligence from filesharing networks. (The interview is in RealAudio.) [Z+Blog!]

    This is Forrester's view in August.. I'd ask youself how could they be wrong. Despite the RIAA threats... Big Champagne says file-sharing is up this week from August. Makes sense to me... back to school. Will music CD's exist in 2008?

    Hard media is in jeopardy: By 2008, revenues from CDs will be off 19%, while DVDs and tapes will drop 8%. Piracy and its cure -- streaming and paid downloads -- will drive people to connect to entertainment, not own it.

    If you are like me scanning for early indicators --- looking upstream from time to time to see what's coming then Skype and Big Champagne are two "signals" that the world may be moving in this direction. When I mentioned Skype to George Por today he kindly referred me to an article by Michel Bauwens, "Peer to Peer -from technology to politics to a new civilization". It was the first time I'd heard the meme "P2P Civilization". I rather liked it. There is further thinking in the "Integrative Style" in this Text Index.

    September 15, 2003

    Skype Changing Social Networks

    It's all really intriguing. This question of whether and how we should codify relationships with the majority of effort around centralized data solutions, negotiating standards and adoption. I'm thinking there is another route.

    Right now Skype has 18869 users online with 240000 downloads. That is more than any of these social networking tools Ryze, Ecademy, Linkedin, Tribe etc.. have ever had on concurrently. The founders negotiated no standards they are simply providing a phone system that works. See Cnet and the quote below.

    Let's tie the interesting discussion on relationships and social networking software that's emerged over the weekend to whats happening with Skype. The discussion started with Liz Lawley here and then a great perspective by Danah Boyd here and Matt Mower adds more here. Summed up in Marc's blog as well where he says.

    However if Matt knew what it took us to even broach the subject of multi-granularity to the RDF camp and get it expressed in FOAF, he'd know that you gotta walk before you can run. Since everyone's concept of 'friends' is this binary yes or no sort of attitude, it has repercussions across all sorts of issues: user experience, profile interchange, the semantic web, ecommerce and multimedia personalization.

    Whether it be for a foundation of federated social networks, enhancing one's digital lifestyle aggregation or as a basis multimedia personalization - putting identity into CONTEXT is what it's all about. Identity doesn't work as a stand alone concept - putting folks into a frenzy about privacy and security. It only works - when it's put into some real-world context.

    Well we have a new real-world context. whats interesting is it is driven by voice not text. Most of the above remains driven by text, transactions and regulations. What I want to know is whether or not we should talk. Some text and a profile or additional infomation may help. Around the telephone call are all sorts of "understandings". I'll be interested to see if we have to reinvent them as a result of Skype.

    I fully expect people to leave AIM, Yahoo and MSN for Skype. Skype's already carrying a profile. It could be made significantly richer and I'm sure progressive disclosure could be enabled quickly. My question is what access do I want to enable. My buddies and buddies buddies? Those that have read or linked to my blog? Sure! The doctor's office, dentist etc. Yep. Then those that perhaps I don't know but are prepared to provide a verified profile, including those verified to contain no adult content. Concurrently with these lists we have an emerging phone system that may be linked to our knowledge assets. Why can't Google and Technorati be linked to Skype? If Technorati can search Skype blog urls and match with owner names... then we would accelerate exchanges. It could easily be made smart (online or offline) and provide a notification!

    Thus blogging / knowledge assets would also have a Skype contact number capability and whether they could be reached now or if they are offline you could offer a notification service perhaps even using Skype that so’n so is now online. Potentially you could make this a Technorati call. You become the call forwarder thus brokering the intro. Ie this person has linked to your blog and is available to talk to you. Similarly when I send a trackback pin, should I have an option to ping Technorati that I'd be willing to talk to the pinged author? There's a lot that could be done here. I imagine Feedster too could start searching online Skype users and link back to retrieved postings.

    Similarly I'd like someone to tell me quickly how I add an additional input section to my comments like the e-mail address that enables a Skype callback. Be a lot easier to thank people that way!

    Kazaa co-founders Janus Friis and Niklas Zennstrom have a new target: the telephone industry. They've launched Skype, which they claim is the first Internet phone service to use peer-to-peer software. In just its first week of availability, 60,000 people downloaded the free Skype software. Other voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services, such as Vonage or Free World Dialup (FWD), needed several months to attract the same level of interest. Tech News -

    Separately, where there has been some negative blogging around the Eula and possible future charges keep the following in mind. First it is now proven and could be duplicated. Second this is a global phenomena and any charges will have to work accordingly. Lastly, real disruptive change happens when the cost factor means the new product is 10 times cheaper. That can only happen if everyone get online. Pressure your friends and I bet more than a few new businesses emerge.

    September 17, 2003

    Friendster, Ryze, Tribe and Faces.

    Via Marc see the Abstract Dynamics posting on Friendster.check it out.

    September 18, 2003

    Scotty's Red Ryze

    I don't really understand Adrian Scott at all.
    ... the Ryze thing... what's with this new logo... LIKE WHAT???? ryze.gif
    This is exactly what we've been talking about. Branding and Social networks. You know the YASNS. Well caution. Don't jump the gun. It's not finished. Yeah. just first impresssions? Really give them to me. Thought you would never ask.

    Well sire it looks a little awkward, bits of the old design intact. No come on now I really want your opinion. Well then I'm really really disappointed. In fact I'm RED with it. DANGER DANGER. That's no sunrise honey... it's the morning after an A-bom. Are you sure you have thought this though? Is it gut or analysis? What's with the colors? It hard to tell. Presume they will play with the left and drop the duplication. Sort of looks like they are short handed. Was this really a good investment in the community. All I wanted was some features. Not a strip bar. There's

    no sense of art in a place where artisans play
    no sense of personality in a realm of personalities.
    no sense of canvas when everyone paints
    no sense of action when everyone chatters
    no sense of our place just structured space.

    Jeez when we talk about branding we talk brand personae and oh high and mighty I see red. I see the red devils work here. Just when I was hoping to get a break from that stinking light blue-grey. You know... White, with spashes of orange and yellow! We were once an innovative community, transforming networks, connecting not red for the hunting.

    Wonder if there was a budget for it. Careful, be analytical now. Yep I'm certain it is totally out of synch with what RYZE stands for. Hey do you remember that Ryze research, the few focus groups... the quotes from users, the group on Serious Play sort of kicked it around. Can you remember that far back. Yes sir. It's in my blog --- before categories. Look them up if I must. Shared some with the Ryze folks too. Hmmmm... Check my recollections! Thinkthe comments are on representative. Could the community have changed that much?

    Oh man those guy must need a party. Where are Mixers in all this? Where the Guest idea? Didn't you feel like you used to own your page? Yeah I did. It was the first of the soft human profiles. I'm wondering where my home will be now. Gosh what next? A Friendster faceroll? I used to welcome you to my space. I'd check out your guestbook. When you were on my page you were visiting and then I'd go home to the house that Adrian had built for all of us. Dam I can't find the mixer on the beach. Ever been to a Mixer on the beach? Nope but I bet they happened. You sure you are not just mouthing off. Nah.. well maybe. Bet you got a trip to the Bahamas.

    Where is the fatal mistake? The evil of the ways? Oh it's coming to me. Yep that's it. the fatal mistake. the emphasis till now on the left was navigation. Holy Crap Batman you mean it has been Amazoned. Yep sure do Robin. Alfred has the lesson. The emphasis on the left was navigation ... . by trying to go left to right with the oversized new indexing tabs... outlined and shadowed... he's usurped my identity.... Scotty's stolen my page. You sure? Yep pretty sure. Before graphically the header wasn't so strong. Now the header and the RED logo are stronger than my name and picture. Oh come now. pack up that frustrated marketer. Go back and whistle techie tunes.

    No way I got to get me a link to that touchy feelie research. Now where's those quotes> Yep here it is consumer research? What's it say. Probably said Ryze was refreshing, tickled the parts other sites didn't reach. Was Adrians thing for his friends. Look like maybe he sold out.

    The new stuff? Says RYZE first --- ME second. What was the brief? Oh probably make the community more professional looking. You have any recommendations? Is there a strategy? Is there a business model? Ryze could have had it all.

    September 22, 2003

    Ryze Home - Bad Feng Shui

    A smart community is allowed to weigh in on developing its future direction. Scotty's Red Ryze saw follow-ups; "followed up last week with "Ryze - don't let the sun go down". Maybe it was just late night fun. I was temped to let it go until I learned Dina had asked the question in a couple of Ryze networks. So here's the scoop (selected comments are hardly a sample). However the Ryze Logo change is a wonderful illustration for others around which a community forms. Just possibly it will help the team at Skype think though the "community" opportunities they have and the implications for creating an open dialogue.

    I like this application of Feng Shui. I'd never thought of it that way before. Not everyone comes at a logo or a community with the same perspective.

    From the fengshui point of view, on a page the element that occupies the topmost left corner is wood. the element colour being green. the colour red symobilises fire, which is totally destructive of wood. its not suitable at all.

    However if the red logo was positioned in the centre ie. top centre of the page, it would help since the element for that portion is fire, element colour being red.
    I will not be surprised if the majority feel uncomfortable about the red in that corner. try changing it to green or blue. it would definitely be more soothing
    . Full Quote link
    Sandhya Advanii

    More community centric are these great observations. Run a contest, let the creatives on Ryze get noticed.

    If I were behind the RYZE scene - I would run a contest -
    What should our logo look like ? Let:s see your Stuff...BRAND US!
    ...submissions have a dedicated posting page where WE the peeps get to VOTE.........

    RYZE wins all around... they get free graphic design, test market a winning logo that WE voted into being, create an internal buzz that moves them up a notch on the " what can we do for our members" tip, deliver a non-verbal message everybody wants to hear, it's YOUR community and last and most important - all the creatives who submit their work "Get Noticed" - which is one of the reason we are all here. Full Quote linkRosetta Stone

    Brings us back to functionalities:

    My take on Ryze is that it was the Craigslist of networking. It's not all fussy about site design, and more about function. I think this logo, and the whole direction is caught in the middle. If you want to be simple, then don't have a logo. If you want to build a brand, then do a GOOD logo. Certainly, with all the talent on this community, there had to be someone out there who could have done a compelling logo that's easy on the eyes.
    Full Quote LinkMarc Lefton

    Which are still underway according to Erlend Wilhelmsen who says.

    "As some of you may be aware... Ryze is doing the implementation in phases - thus what you see now is perhaps 15% of the GUI we designed. Obviously, few of the IA or GUI improvements have been made and the visual ID is (clearly) not completed and/or representative of any sort of "brand building" efforts."

    More Skype Talk

    David follows up today with another detailed posting Skype P2P VoIP App: One in a Million?
    "If they don't screw it up with a confusing and overpriced subscription service, Skype could possibly become one of those extremely rare apps that comes along and truly changes communication and networking on the web." David also puts a stick in the ground on pricing. I'm not sure I agree either in the global context or the method. What's important right now is the appropriate business expectations are created. Skype may well have launched with more "noise" than expected.

    What I do want from David is his method for signaling whether Skype is online or offline on my blog. Come on David share! They will want it on Ryze pages and on Ecademy.

    In the early reviews some emerging features are being missed.

  • One-Click Calling: The idea that i finally have my phone book on my desktop and only have to mouse click to call is just great. It's been buried before. Voice vs Chat centric reinvents this for me.
  • Share your contacts feature: In "Tools" - "Send Contacts" you can share connections on your buddy list just like in AIM. Come on bloggers we can connect up quicker. Finding addresses will be much simpler.
  • Languages. The latest update provided languages and reinforces the global nature of this product. I had to go back in an download again to update. Short-term it's the international and long distance calls that you never could justify just making before.
  • Imagining what it's like behind the Skype walls? What's being monitored, number of hits on google. Broadband vs dial-up connections etc. Looking at the slowing toward the end of last week at people on line at 12:00pm suggested to me an increasing number of dial-ups. Yet today I think I saw 42500 online. That's roughly double a week ago.
  • Biggest functional issue: Currently in IM I can't click on a hot-link sent to me. I also seem to have some conflict with my other IM systems. Particularly Yahoo. Not sure if this is my system, firewall etc.

    Some new quotes follow: First asks how do I call my friend of my friend. Well that's part of the profiling opportunity.

    Nowadays Skype becomes one of the most faschinating application over peer to peer communication instead of Kazaa. I love this application but I want one specific function. That is to find a friend of my friends. [Kokoro]

    It's neat that Ecademy and Thomas Power groks it. They have already experimented there with RSS and blogging. Bet they will be the first social/business networking app to incorporate a link. May be the reason enough to activate my profile there.

    The product is amazing I have spoken with 2 Ecademy members already from the UK and Faroes, cost nothing. Kazaa are killing the music business. Will Skype kill the telco business? Thomas Power - Chairman... [Thomas Power]

    Getting your friends to stream in a broadcast..... Not the first time I've heard this desire.

    Best Use of Skype EVAR Alabamas game against Northern Illinois isnt on TV today, so I tried to find a stream of the radio broadcast. Unfortunately, Yahoo seems to have a monopoly on the streaming rights and wants to charge me $5/month, and theres no.. [Refer]

    I'd worry that I've become an advocate for Skype, yet there is support. So come on. Suspend your disbelief, try it and Skype me. It opens a new world for thinking strategic futures.

    This is a link that I would normally post over there in my sidebar in the Cookie Crumbs microblog, but considering I havent really heard any buzz about it at all lately, I wanted to post it in my main blog instead, just to get your attention. Check... [Refer]
  • Technorati API

    David Sifry announced a new callto tag for Technorati. This should create some interesting new "social networking" and interesting directory creation opportunites while stirring up some new profiling options.

    Technorati API. The first is called getinfo. It tells you things that Technorati knows about a user. In the simplest case you can use getinfo to find out information that a blogger wants to make known about himself, along with some information that Technorati has calculated and verified about that person This information is available in HTML form at: . In this case, all the personal information that I want you to know about me is my username, and a link to a picture of myself, and the blogs I author. The second part of the document is a listing of the weblogs that the user has successfully claimed and the information that Technorati knows about these weblogs. This is the default, by the way. You'll see lots of information in there, like the Name and URL of each blog, its RSS feed (if it exists), number of bloggers who are currently linking to it, when it was last updated, and some other optional data, like a link to a FOAF file, or GeoURL.

    Will have to try it out.

    November 4, 2003

    The Coming Age of Personal Communcation Exchanges

    What is your strategy for Skype? Where's the news and quotes on it this week? I've blogged Skype fairly consistently since my first Skype post because disruptive innovation is where real value is created and new industries born. Because it remains an "early warning indicator" of a tech-tonic shift. Then organizationally the question is... "How do we plan?" "How do we minimize risk in this emerging environment?", What powerful challenges must we communicate down through the organization? These are strategy questions. Current answers analytically based from Gartner to who knows where say you have years. Well it is simply not true. So how will you frame your questions to make your organization think faster?

    The cost of my being right and you wrong ---- is an unbelievable destruction of bottomline wealth. If Skype reaches million and millions the loss of revenue will be in the billions. Yet Skype is not the problem it is merely the indicator that all has changed. The input you need to address the challenge is more qualitative, more focused on behavior. In a world in which the perception is the "profit" is gone... and cost cutting only (look at the centralized VoIP providers!) retains users the seeds for new value added propositions must begin now. Now these aren't just products. They may also be contracts, interconnect agreements that enable better products to be marketed. Strategies born of conditions to develop tomorrow. How well has Yahoo done with broadband?

    So I remain amazed. The number that don't get it and the emerging few that do. What is really the state of understanding this week? While we still have reporters in the WSJ thinking phones if you are operating in this market with that frame of reference you are going to be dead.

    The Register
    "In Faultline's view Lee Gomes of the WSJ fails to understand how disruptive and discontinuous innovation works. The rules that have been observed through history are that you need to offer something half as good, for a tenth of the price."

    So there is a complete disconnect. The industry has failed to identify how to get consumers beyond thinking phones. Hell in the same time period they used postage stamp before telex before fax and then e-mail. They are going to think "phones" and not about how communication is changing. Is it because we put it to our ear rather than use our eyes? Ear Phone. Web Phone? I-Phone? When you look at it VoIP is a useless label for creating consumer products. Next generation communications would at least introduce the idea of something new. Concurrently talk of convergence fails to provide the stories one can grasp. Consumers can make this shift. Just see the mental shift to Home Entertainment. Concurrently all these hardware devices are being commoditized. What we need will be very cheap in a very short time!

    It's the End of the Phone As We Know It …
    "But I don't think the traditional wire-line phone folks will feel so good. That's because when you combine Wi-Fi with cellular, you just obviated the need for any wired phones at all. "

    Yes please send out a few of those babies. It's much closer to the Pocket Personal Communication Exchange. In fact the first generation PCE's (give it a label maybe it will stick) will be desktop/laptop sized. What we are missing is the handsets to make stage one a reality. You can't wire people to PC's with headsets when they have been walking in the garden with their analog cordless phone. Compared to music we've been on LP's, there are a number of CD's around getting fairly pervasive, while ripping Mp-3's is just about to begin. Wearable communications products look like nice to have and yet nothing I've seen even begins to suggests how they will harness social networks in new ways. Similarly "marketing" opportunities abound in this new connective world. See Managing the Maze of Mulit-Sided Markets (registration required)

    Werblog "It's the difference between making a phone call over the Internet, and voice as an internetworking application. Or to put it another way, the different between the Internet as a subset of telecommunications, and telecommunications as a subset of the Internet."
    There is an assumption that perfect quality is expected. Land lines are seldom down but try and answer the phone in my house when the power is out. My mobile companion "Verizon" is frequently useless. Some will want to pay for more centralized exchange services. Others will be quite happy to manage their own personal communication exchanges. So who has the advantage? Run some scenarios on the IM world. Bet at least one turns up where the regulations are closer to the wild wild west.
    The Jeff Pulver Blog: Highway Skype Revisted "The present signs are for the coming of a true "Consumer Communications Revolution" but it will be up to the people to decide what part of the next phase of this revolution they will be a part of. And don't forgot that in the case of any revolution, you should expect to see those effected fighting back with the tools they are most effective in using - in this case it will be and is telecom regulations."

    I've also been learning about ground reakers who have been in this space before and not made it. Elise Bauer is one. See her point of view at AlwaysOn.

    The Hype of Skype :: AO

    "Will Skype fulfill its promise as an end run around the phone companies? In my opinion, ultimately no, though it may do a good job of competing with AOL, Yahoo, and Microsoft's IM clients. What would be a great product in this space is something that lets you program sophisticated phone capabilities for your phone through a simple web browser, your own soft PBX so to speak. However, I can tell you from experience that you can’t get there from a Windows IM client. (my bold)

    In a world where less than 20 people can put together Skype, don't tell me it is either too expensive, not worth some experimental dollars, or different research approaches.

    November 9, 2003

    Wallup / Huminity

    Is Wallup another mix on IM and Huminity? Huminity was a discussion item on the Well reported here back in January Maybe Wallup will solve the "revelation" hierarchy.

    Wired News: Will Microsoft Wallop Friendster?

    Wallop, however, would be open to anyone with Microsoft Instant Messenger. Cheng says building an online network starting with your buddy list makes the networking process more natural. And instead of becoming immersed in a network the size of a city, Wallop would maintain its intimacy by automatically moving friends to the forefront and background of your network based on how often you interact with them.

    Feedster & Skype

    This Skype complaint is one worth looking at a little more seriously. For I still believe that adding a SkypeMe function to Feedster would promote some interesting conversations. The SkypeMe button on my site has certainly worked positively for me. However, I think it is the unintended consequeces of linking Skype to RSS feeds and their resulting searches that will create the real value.

    Need a for example. Bet people start AOL blogs and then send out anonymous SkypeMe personals ads via RSS. You keep the blog and the handle only for that purpose. When Skype enables multiple profiles (lines) some will run more than one blog at once.

    Now if you were AOL you might just put an add in every feed to pay for the blog. Similarly once you find the "anonymized" blog entry... the SkypeMe handle will enable you to search all their postings.

    Debating Turning Off Skype -- Permanently

    I just had the oddest Skype experience. Someone called me. They seemed to know who I was (at least my last name). They accused me of not talking clearly............... I just exited -- and may never run the damn thing again.

    The reason for asking about this is that I've been debating adding a Feedster feature to find Skype IDs and now I'm not sure if its worth the bother. What's the perception of Skype out there? Yes they have > 1,000,000 downloads **but** I've only ever completed maybe 3 conversations successfully. And those three were right when it launched and the load was presumably lighter.

    November 11, 2003

    Networking Dynamics

    If you are not familiar with this.. try it out on your blog and more.

    TouchGraph provides a hands-on way to visualize networks of interrelated information. Networks are rendered as interactive graphs, which lend themselves to a variety of transformations. By engaging their visual image, a user is able to navigate through large networks, and to explore different ways of arranging the network's components on screen. TG: Technology Overview

    November 12, 2003

    Number Portability

    Looking forward to a little change in perspective? When will the telecoms give us what we want. Carl Ford writes:

    The Carl Ford Blog: Local Number Portability

    For me, my cell phone and my home phone represent very different parts of my life. And the idea that I should combine them means that I will lose the selective call processing capability I gave myself with the cell phone.

    Don't know me and want to reach me? Here is my home number.

    I want to reach you anytime, I call from the cell.
    I expect that about 20% of the landlines will get this kind of migration. I also believe they can get about 5% back in a few years.

    Meanwhile you can still reach me on IM.

    The issue here is not the phone number but managing degrees of access. What it demonstrates is we now want at least three lines each. We're used to a shared home line, we like the personal mobile line, and also have various IM accounts with different profiles. Managing this access is just a nightmare. Similarly managing various devices can be a nightmare.

    In "early days" of Skype I posted on this. Numbers may still be required to connect certain services. However what's really required are relationships, introductions, mediated exchanges, conferencing capabilities. See this too on profiles.

    On the 20% migration claim... I'l like to enable my cell phone to handle a second line that is shared with my family. I can toggle it off /on at various times of day. When everyones phone rings in the house we know what type of call it is. Voice messages there are for all etc. Then the phones really will become wearable.

    That's what still excites me about the Skype type potential. Enabling me to manage access, profiles and multiple lines. At the moment my buddy list continues to grow. I want' to run my own exchange. Guess the phone companies aren't going to encourage me.

    December 5, 2003

    Get the Keys - Open the Club

    Yesterday I found myself holding the keys to a new "Actionable" jazz club. Thing is I wasn't sure I knew what I'd find in the room. If you have been handed the role of facilitator for an event at the last moment where the room was booked months ago you will know this trepidation. In such a situations in the past I've turned up and found posts in the middle of the room, the room like a corridor with plans to have everyone facing each other like knights at a long table.

    So what? Well all these little things can affect the dynamics. You can plan round them, you can have successful session etc. But for that reason I always like to get there a little before. Just long enough to absorb a sense of how the room is going to feel, how might the stage be set. In those fixed events and workshops there is usually a fixed time and the context is very clear for closure. We know our deliverable, we just have to get everyone there.

    So I'm holding the keys to a "Actionable Sense" on SocialText. Oh I saw some scaffolding and walked the space long before anything got to this stage. Yesterday the walls were up and yet everywhere was bare. So what does one do when presented with a virtual "workspace" for the first time?

    Well I'm trying to share what I did. I had a ready list of individuals who had expressed interest. There is a loose understanding of context between us all and a deeper belief that blogging has brought us to the brink of the next wave.

    On reflection I found myself concerned about four things:

  • Building the Agenda
  • Stimulating Input
  • Hygiene Factors
  • Enough or too much?

    First the beauty of a new club is the people are going to make it beautiful. Heck in the real jazz clubs they turn down the lights and up the smoke. It the music that matters, clatter around in the bar too much and the music stops. So I made some noise before inviting the first wave who are also bringing in and suggesting more contacts. For the agenda idea I fell back on Open Space Technology. The difference here is not everyone is present. So I'm hoping we spend this first period to build the agenda. At the moment the posts / pages can be like post-its. The key agenda categories should emerge. We will have to do some sorting and yet that's exactly what we do we do when brainstorming with post-its.

    So brainstorming is something i wanted to seed. It is really the opening stages, a time to open discussion up and capture the suggestions for what we should be working on and what's important about them. Little examples help as they go up. So, I started the "Brainstorming Blog" hoping to start this quick post-it mentality why the early energy and interest is just forming. Brainstorming is also good to get things started. It's not judgemental There are no wrong posts. New items get recognition and can be mulled over and organized later. So in support I also set up a few categories from business idea to hygiene factors. Go for it group!

    And that was the nub of it. Hygiene. I really spent the majority of the time thinking about encouraging participation. The "workspace" on it own helps to accelerate this particularly when participants start posting from e-mail. We got a few going on that yesterday. makes things happen! Still there is a learning curve. Accelerating contributions in that early stage feel important to me. We also started a ChatRap --- quick e-mail posts to capture sidebar and IM exchanges out of the wiki workspace. Another experiment.

    At the end of the day that just leaves one with the questions... enough or too much? Sometimes you just have to assume it is the right amount. I sense that in this wiki. Like the Open Space calling; those that will come come... etc. Something about this group spells "emergent". This morning things started happening and have done thoughout the course of the day.

  • December 7, 2003

    Accidental Communities - New Connections

    There is more to Accidental Communities than you might first think. Make the simple installation on your blog and then "feel" how it changes your perspective on "presence" (someone is at the door) and "connects" you with real-time interest. It might just make me a better blogger. A couple of concerns and questions noted in the closing.

    Discovered via Dina --- a Kuro5hin article on Accidental Communities. I became immediately intrigued. I've felt for a long time that I don't spend enough time looking at who is visiting my blog or why they might be visiting. Crawling back over logs is something I never find time for. Instant Gratification is just that. A real time personal communications dashboard component providing IM pings via AIM. I'm running them on my second communicator screen so it is real easy to see what's happening.

    What is really different.? The persistence and desktop visibility makes this valuable. Not because I am concentrating on a stream of hits, rather I'm seeing my Page Titles that are being hit and obtaining the referral or search info. However in just a short period I noticed some of my blogging buddies visited. None that I had immediate IM for which may have freaked them out with a "Just Looking" are we. Similarly I'm getting a much better idea on what and who is referring me. Sure I can't watch this all day. However that is not the point. I'm obtaining real-info on what Google search (Skype Review), Ask Jeeves (What sort of world will your children live in?, etc are finding and listing me.

    Dan Grigsby's instructions are easy to follow. He would also like some linking visibility for his new company. Comments are located here.

    Webloggers and diarists are using Instant Message visitor alerts to build accidental online communities. So I created Instant Gratification about four months ago. Instant Gratification is a free, totally non-commercial service that sends website owners an IM whenever someone visits their page. In the four months since then it's become sorta popular, with about a million messages sent so far.

    On a whim I added a feature to allow the people visiting your site to optionally identify themselves with their name, email, AIM username or blog address. This has had a neat and unexpected result:

    Whenever someone visiting my site provides their Blog address I tend to visit it in real-time while they're visiting my site. The act of them surfing actually causes people to read their site, which they see in the form of an IM traffic alert. It's an odd, almost Pavlovian stimulus-response kinda thing. Very often I'll IM the person too. There must be 20 blogs that I regularly read because their authors happened upon my site. || Accidental Online Communities

    Help me think a little more about how the data can be used. One element that concerned me and perhaps with advice from everyone I will understand better. Is this not providing my weblog stats to a third party? Many bloggers do the same with Sitemeter, however perhaps they have policies. None are clear here. Separately, could this data provide an interesting sub-layer like "Touchgraph" links blogs or Google searches?

    There is also a parallel program for those views that don't use RSS or would just like an IM notice of a blog update. See the blog change bot. I'm may try this out and think about it later. The application used in a similar way for updates on a wiki might be interesting.

    Anyone else tried these programs? Final for example: I just had a hit on "Plaxo Security" realting to this post on "Sharing Personal Data"". Sort of cool. Makes some of the "stuff" blogged more meaningful in someway. There's more to learn here.

    December 8, 2003

    Wrinkles for Skype Hype

    Thoughts on Skype, Skype Problems, Skype Limitations, Skype Hype, Skype Product Development and Viral Marketing. A few things pushed me towards this post.

  • Continuing comments re the proprietary nature and performance
  • My son's Skype usage
  • Impact of potential Skype conferencing features
  • Continued "phone" perspective.

    Continuing Comments:
    Useful perspective was added by David Beckemeyer advocates taking a broader perspective. This market is changing quickly. There's a lot more in play than just POTS and calling granny. I'll take him up on his challenge to take a look at Free IP Call. So far I've not had much success with these types of services. I've not had the trouble that Robin writes about. I'm happy to try new things. The biggest pain is getting functional buddy lists. In organizations that can be forced. As an independent that just means run them all.

    I want to encourage you to think about employing a SIP-based solution, if not now, please keep it in the back of your mind.

    The advantage of SIP for all of us is that it is an interoperable standard, being embraced and adopted by many vendors. SIP is like the 802.11b of VoIP. It means we can (soon) buy phones at Bestbuy and like email, if we have a SIP address with one provider, we can still make calls to people on other providers.

    Skype, on the other hand, is like Compuserv. It is a proprietary closed system. It might even be that Skype today offers a better overall product experience in practice, so I can understand why people use it. SIP-based products and services have to compete........ (read it)
    Unbound Spiral Comment:

    There is no reason not to SIP. Just the functionality that most SIP phones are giving me are less that what I'm seeing over the horizon on my desktop. Instead concentrate for a moment on what my 15 year old son does.

    He's recently become addicted to playing America's Army. This is not about whether it is good or not it is about the impact that it has. He's found that double teaming with his buddy using Skype increases their chances of success. So he's running the full game sound and listening to his buddy while in the action. I know now that they can't wait until Skype offers a conference capability. The pack mentality of young men on Skype is a scary thought. This won't just apply to America's Army. He plays "Warcraft" etc. The difference is he will be able to choose who is on his team. He's never managed to do that with Socom a PS2 Game.

    In a post on why "Skype Growth is Slowing" I noted that the always on number had slowed while downloads continue apace. Today some 3.5 million downloads.

    Imagine a little scenario for a moment. Skype announces a conferencing capability (see CNET) and provides the first 5 hours free. My son patches in his friends. They win games together. When his five free hours are up his buddy starts the hosting process. Ultimately they will either buy it themselves... or get Mum and Dad to buy it. If as expected this is less than the price of a new game for a year... they will be into it.

    In the theoretical world above, our kids become the first "visible society" members. By staying visible they get called into a game, added to the team. Having persistent identities easily shared within their circles closes the gap between individual PC pursuits and group online action. There is much more Skype could do with games if they would just open up their API. 3-D sound, player positioning etc. That's being promoted by Diamondware who has just won an award for this type of technology. I'm sure they understand player velocities and location. The release confirms tested by the military.

    This little scenario also illustrates the opportunity that exists in the business world. Many of us have adopted headsets for interviewing, and typing away at the PC. Using the Skype interface the conference addition could include conferences that your buddies are in and their topic when not private. There are some neat refinements possible to that solution which really impact on the virtual office. In the physical world I'm used to walking down the hall and we have some peripheral sense of where people are. That's not true in todays virtual world. The Diamondware publication above confirms this belief and opportunity. When conferences become visible then collaboration and project management is almost sure to be accelerated. Note this is different from chatrooms for it is difficult to monitor more than one at once. And the one you are monitoring you are participating in, idle or mute.

    Yesterday's post on Accidental Communities begins to illustrate the power of this peripheral vision in another way. To date it was only in the hands of the smartest site managers and network analysts. No more. Those connections can be pushed to personal desktops and become part of PKM - Personal Knowledge Management. This will enable the smart caller id systems and other RSS transport of content and connection information.

    Phone Thinking:
    On the phone we make "connections". With the exception of a few individuals no-one is really experienced in the multi-connect impact of conference calls that can be done on a whim. The phone paradigm and the IM paradigm is built round 1 to 1 and not many to many. Microsoft can offer an option tomorrow for their IM system. Select "text based" or "phone based", similarly so can the others. However, why add to the central server system to handle conference calling. Advantage Skype and P2P telephony, until MS and AOL adopt a similar approach. Could Passport become the Skype cloud?

    I should be able to do other things too. Like drag and drop invite buddies into conversations. See that other meeting rooms are occupied and see the topic. So I can text in... "when you talk about customer x" pull me in. I'm afraid that the telephone discussion only serves to make the course of action that Skype or its followers take even more disruptive. Let's make it a practical example. I'm using Spoke to ease my way into making a new business contact. Spoke locates my best connection and then waits until the "connector" has approved that they will do a voice introduction. Then when all of us are online together and available... the system initiates a call. This has major benefits. No e-mail requests. No connection, message waiting, an easy "yes lets extend this conversation. This can be extend further when an additional caller comes on line while 3-D sound helps the memory by placing them in a location. That is something I've never had on a phone call and am yet to see. This will make for a nice pictorial circle.

    Communicator Connect:
    Skype may not be the answer for this. However, get their conferencing capability running and enable the "ID Exchange" companies to plug in and they will create a new demand where there was none before. Before you know it social networking software may really have value. Ask yourself. Can Skype plug in Friendster, Tribe, Ryze, Spoke etc? See Skype Social Networks / Yellow Pages. Maybe a deal with Match?

    Viral Pricing:
    I'd like to close with an observation. Many may urge me to make a second post at this point. I won't. I want to suggest a viral aspect for the potential conference calling premium package. I found myself testing Glance the other day. They have a one day trial offer. In fact for me the first trial didn't go all that well. It was too slow. However I wrote them and suggested I was just the type of guy to test this product out. They generously extended the trial and I have had some better experiences with it since. However, I don't really have a regular use for it. So how should you charge to enable the viral aspect to take hold? You simply create a scale. A user that uses it infrequently, maybe two or three times a month remains free, unless the sessions are talking hours. Each time they use it they have the potential to infect others. I'm assuming the real target is "sales presentations, training etc". A new user that become a heavy user quickly will find themselves paying for the service. Make 20 presentation in two days and on the third you will be paying... Make 6 in the first month and then the 10th in the second month... and you start paying.

    What is the learning? Provide conferencing free for limited periods. Those that use it irregularly will infect others and get an even bigger feel good factor. It will make them even less likely to turn it off. Turn conferencing off or make them pay immediately and they simply won't. They have to become comfortable using it first. Watch out WebEx.

  • December 19, 2003

    Finding the eBay of Social Capital

    The blogosphere seems intent on finishing the year on a social note. I'm seeing plenty of posts on LinkedIn, ZeroDegrees, Spoke and continued tirades over what Ryze, Tribe and Friendster provide or don't. Yes it's an area I've read about and have followed closely all year. So in the closing moments I'll say I don't think any of these are real businesses. None of these are the eBbay of social capital. Some may have important functionalities that may add up to a business sometime in the future. However those that use $10 subscription rates for current functionality levels can forget it. They are all too expensive. It's cheaper to get in the Yellow Pages.

    Early in the year I found myself writing about identity and sharing human profiles to thinking through circles of friends and the impact of actions on branding and behavior. I've explored almost every one of these software applications as they have come along. There is not yet one pieces of software from this genre that I get real enjoyment from. Each one I can learn the system and get it to do a small number of things. I can get new introductions, however the people that really count and my long time referees aren't on the system and I've given up trying to get them there. In the end my blog and strategies that I execute around it are a better time investment for networking to new connections.

    Many of the social networking services provide useful functionalities (dating - matching is really separate to my comments here) however none of them provide the type of product / service that is going to be a big time winner. They are high maintenance for the most part and fail to integrate well into the day to day work that we do. Then there is trust too. Upload your outlook address book etc... They are all useful experiments and many of their features will be built into corporate systems. Yet, I believe the majority are barking up the wrong tree.

    Here's some top of mind reasons why.

  • Mobility: These systems are static, don't integrate well with our cellphones and our SMS or what is to come in this arena. PDA's with Pocket Presence etc.
  • Presence: A few like Tribe provide some indication of presence. However have you ever been there where there are more than one or two people that you know online at the same time? Ecademy provides another method. None of these enable quick voice brokering. Although there is an Ecademy group that has experimented with that. IM already does this.
  • Voice: More than half of all knowledge is communicated verbally. These systems aren't adding in the additional cues. (If you want to see a great piece on this read Tom Coates). Skype uses both presence and Voice Quality to really change the game and the location --- integrated with the PC.
  • Conferencing Calling: 2004 will see the introduction of effective VoIP voice conferencing at effectively zero cost. This will have significant impact on knowledge sharing, networking. and getting to the right questions quickly.
  • Buddy Lists: IM is accelerating. IM is displacing e-mail. IM redefines addresses, personas, and access. Expect to see some RSS in with IM. Buddies want to sell a car... just blog it. All your buddies see it. Buddy broadcast. It's already done with SMS messaging.
  • Blogs: Is TypePad not in the Ryze social networking business? From what I've seen everyone there can have a profile / about me section in minutes. Feedster provides another example of networking around content. Just search the blogs for "social software".
  • Search: I think we are going to want to capture the searches that personally network us with people we want to connect with or who are also investigating an area. I'm also surprised that Google doesn't make it easy to link a search that returns a link to a blog to an IM opportunity. Makes even more sense in large corporate databases. Would that make it a decentralized Ask Jeeves?

    So where does that lead? Right bang on the doorstep of the phone system. It's where all the money is, and where the above is likely to be most disruptive. Vonage's new softphone like Skype is just another indicator.

  • January 21, 2004

    The "Online" Distinction

    I'm participating in the current Muckabout. It's going to be a wonderful face to face meeting in early February. Right now the online ramp-up has begun and registration captured wonderful people and kicked off a set great questions there.

    This is a question that just grabbed me tonight.

    "is there a disruptive innovation in "collaborative work/learning/action" in process yet or are we still warming up?"

    Just made me want to ask. Are "online communities" a relevant distinction in the world going forward?

    Online (to me) now means that it is separate from my buddy list, apart from my social networking services, unlikely to connect in real-time and / or involve a voice conversation and for the most part we can forget the flip charts. It often means large lists of brilliant contributions to run though and contributions made in the environment are semi-lost to my personal search engine when my memory fails. It's also a separate destination I must go to.

    By contrast my "always on" buddy lists with their "presence" connect in much more interesting ways. My blog and trackbacks potentially link to others and my newsreader can aggregate all this stuff!

    Is it the tools, is it the time, or is it just me? One thing is certain my online community participation has gone down since I began blogging.

    The above is pretty much as I posted it in the Muckabout forum. I'm adding this little postscript here as it tells an additional story.

    I shared my post with an online buddy, there was no-chat active in the forum. Just wanted to test my thought and check clarity. In a live facilitated session it would be the equivalent of a mini-paired discussion before sharing to the group. In closed online conferences where you don't know everyone you learn caution. I'm intrigued by the fact that as I write this and post --- the more "open" blog world lets me post with less reservation. That's probably because they are in the context of all my posts, rather than an initial or early post on a forum. Here I actually know some of my readers.

    Finally, I'm not being more explicit about the Muckabout right now as "blogging" it has never been discussed and I sense it is "community" work product. Thus I share my little piece.

    January 25, 2004

    Orkut - Mushrooms

    Orkut launched on Thursday (see CNET) By Saturday morning I had quite a few invites, so I joined up. Is it just another social networking service? Did the implied Google link help? Maybe, but I'm inclined to believe it is more. Here's a taste from Many to Many.

    Observation only.... at this stage... If you are a member of Ryze, Friendster, Tribe, Ecademy, Linkedin or one of the many others you should at least take a look at it.

    First impressions. This one is really viral. It could just be timing and a little competition to see who could get the most names first. Still I think something deeper here touched a chord. I personally simply found myself wanting to be part of it and began adding names and getting responses almost immediately. That is always rewarding. Clearly many bloggers were on last night. After a couple of hours I started inviting people that I've not invited since Ryze days over a year ago and they began joining too this time.

    My suspicion is that Orkut bridges the gap between Ryze (too open) and Linkedin (too closed) without the "everything is for sale" on Tribe. I suspect that those with "Friendster" experience also see it as providing extra functionality. Not all the connections are set up for the instant deal. Most of mine remain blogger and 'online" related. It's user interface is simple and it is quickly giving me the key data that I need to use it as an address book and birthday book etc. I failed to add my Zonkboard to it, thinking that would be neat. Look at Orkut vs Ryze or Ecademy and it's utility as a potential address book is obvious. It's only one click away from my network or my friends page. If I could just export it easily that would be cool!

    The downside? I still don't believe that this system is better than more decentralized peer to peer solutions. Similarly, there is no "presence" indicator. We were all on last night, the numbers and connections just dialing up. However that sharing was all outside Orkut via some IM system or another. IM systems, Skype like, or Humintiy style are much more likely to connect us. Until these things link with voice and text systems they are toys. Of course Google already has every telephone number in it. So Orkut could put Google into the "connect" anywhere business.

    Separately, not everyone is comfortable with the informal connecting and experimentation in these networks. Who are my friends and how do they qualify remains a key issue. Both Ton Zijlstra and Martin Roell comment on the importance of face to face as a sort of credentialing aspect. I'm going to say I find this quite quaint but not the way business or connections are done anymore. It's not to belittle face to face. It would be great to meet both these guy's in a bar and buy them a drink. Lilia picks up on posts here and her Dec 21 post provides a different perspective. I think phone, Skype, lots of blogs, exchanges of work and personal referrals in person from others provides real insight.

    So I thought I'd add a couple of notes on why I'm comfortable adding a person to my friends that I may not have met personally face to face.

  • I believe in all cases I already know someone that knows this person face to face. Perhaps that is just relationship triangulation . I'm also willing to bet that person knows one or two that know me the same way. This may be a weak tie, it is also more likely to result in an interesting connection or a new relationship. If I just want tried and true or a reputation system I'd hope that Xpertweb gets working. It's also a little more than that.

  • Adding as a friend in the context of above means I'm happy to find ways to extend further the relationship. Should someone else in my network want to use me to connect to that person and I'm unsure as whether to go direct then I will simply go to the person closest to me that can answer that question more effectively. I don't mind using some social capital in that way. Frankly that eliminates the stiffness that exists in LinkedIn. It is judgement not a computer that that builds relationships. Help where you can.
  • I've had little time to experiment with the community functions. They were generating very rapidly. I've not seen any numbers for Orkut. However, I'm pretty sure it is already larger than Ryze. I had 7000+ connections last night. If all my invites confirm my direct network on Orkut will be more than twice the size of Ryze and 4 times the size of LinkedIn for just over two hours online. Tribe doesn't really feature in this. I wonder how many others have had the same experience?

    A few "beta" problems have cropped up. As a result Orkut is currently offline.

    February 10, 2004

    Tom Coates on ETech

    Tom Coates has a great set of posts coming out of ETech. Wish I was there! This is the summary of day one in total. Is it Flickr over Orkut already? I have an account ---not yet enough time to check it out. When will these sites bring voice in???

    So ETCon Proper Day One ends and I'm basically high on some kind of highly emotionally charged intellectual hysteria-generating buzz. So far I've only managed to write about the things that have caused me frustration and irritation - probably because irritation can be easily quantified and described while the enjoyable papers cause an explosion of possibilities that are hard to collate and contain. The papers I've found most stimulating today have been threefold:

    The first two in particular I can't rave enough about and have pushed me into some kind of weird euphoric intellectual trance - but I think it's best that I talk about them later when I'm feeling more centred and can produce a more rational response. The Castranova piece on cyberspace economies intrigued me and stimulated me because of the question-and-answer component rather more than the paper itself - which was more of a bringing-up-to-speed piece for people who haven't been reading Terranova or read Richard Bartle's Designing Virtual Worlds.

    But it was the final talk of the day that was the most heady, but more because of the launched product and the play around it than the talk itself. I'm going to let Cory describe what was launched because - frankly - I'm a bit fried:

    Flikr is a social image-sharing application: it's a mechanism for creating ad-hoc chats, using a drag-and-drop GUI interface that lives inside your browser, and share images from peer-to-peer and within conversational groups.

    I've beta-tested this at various points and at each time I've been struck by Ludicorp's amazing combination of utilitarian, usable interface aesthetic and genuinely witty whimsy. As Ben Ceivgny, a developer on the project, said:

    We collect images with cameraphones and so forth, but we have no good mechanism for advancing them out into the world. Here's a mechanism for batching them into a locked-and-loaded tool for firing them into the world.

    I'm not a Ludicorp adviser, but I have been beta-testing it. It's bloody good fun and I highly recommend it. Much much better than Orkut - introducing Flickr!

    Read the comments


    February 13, 2004

    Go Flickr Go Figure

    Final questions. Could Flickr stimulate a new visual chat language? Will cameraphoneaholics adopt it? Will it change how people share phone pictures? Will it expand and grow the market for chatrooms (they use the word forums)? Will anyone really go beyond looking at the interface and wishing that someone would solve and integrate the "chat " and "presence" problem? Who else thinks that screen space is now at a premium?

    There are days when I want to rave about emerging social software and others when I want to rant. Today I realize I'm just going to have to break up my efforts. I've been playing with both Flickr and Gush side by side this morning. That's probably not a good idea for they are radically different and will serve different audiences. As always each one has a little of what I want and is not really what I want at all. In the end they both leave me feeling a little empty.

    This post is only about Flickr, the emerging story of a small band of programmers launching a new product on the world. They've met their deadline and now shipped (probably) not quite sure what they have unleashed. So lets start with the Flickr announcement by Stewart Butterfield at Etech...

    It is too hard to figure out how to use, even though everything is easy-as-heck drag and drop. But people aren't expecting drag and drop. When I demo it, people REALLY, get it. I worry that the people stumbling in will just stumble out again without understanding what is going on.
    Sylloge: We ship!

    I have to concur. See too Scobleizer . It's still at a stage where personal demonstrations matter. Ross says: "best social software at ETech" and Judith makes a very relevant connection to Greg Elin's Fotonotes It is only this afternoon that I start to get the drag and drop going when experimenting with more pictures and dragging others into conversations. Alan Reiter should introduce this to the camera phone audience. You can e-mail your pics direct to your shoebox in Flickr and then share them with friends.

    The other night I posted Tom Coates entry from ETech. He said it was much better than Orkut. It's actually not a comparison at all. As I've experimented I've come to the realization that it serves a different purpose altogether. Like Gary Lawrence Murphy I'm not sure I can give it rave review.

    The paint isn't quite dry and of course it is getting rave a-lister reviews --- their innofateful share-hook is that real-timeyness ... which seems to mean signing up for yet another disconnected IM. Hard to say other than the caution, "Flickr is built on Ludicorp's platform for messaging and event distribution" and Caterina's comment "today George and I were trying to greet every single person that came in ..." TeledyN: My Friend Flickr

    Then "Where's my mind" see's behind the screen and get's the extra meaning. This post stopped me from abandoning it and drove me forward while eWeek gives it the quick heads up PR overview. Guess I was also lucky to get welcomed to Flickr by Frank Boosman one of their advisors today. Still how many hours should one spend on these things?

    From an end-user viewpoint, Flickr is chat photo sharing social networking. If you think about it from a photo sharing-centric point of view (which is only one way of looking at it), the social networking determines with whom you want to share your photos, while the chat provides a narrative context for them. But it's subtler than that. Is Flickr a photo sharing application? Yes. Is it a chat service? Yes. Is it a social networking tool? Yes.

    From a technical standpoint, Flickr is built on Ludicorp's existing engine technology, which means it's a Flash front end communicating with a J2EE back end using an XML-based protocol. pseudorandom: Flickr Launches

    The thec really did impress me and yet I was instantly frustrated. Almost all the pictures I have on my hard drive were taken on high quality. The system won't upload them at higher than 500mb and I didn't have the time to convert them. An auto converter is mandatory, I'm not going to resize etc them one by one. I wanted to share some MP3's straight away but I'm betting that is not on. I'm not sure what all this photo sharing does for bandwidth and I'd bet the RIAA would have something to say about music sharing. Later I just grabbed images from Google to share. On the other hand Frank doesn't say enough about the forum component. We could see thousands of forums (PictoChat Rooms?) just like you see them on the IM platforms. "Adult" channels may pose a challenge for Flickr.

    There is potential for things to come. When in a chat session with another right clicking on their name provides the typical Macromedia (cam/mic/etc) settings. If you want expansion then "voice" activation will be a must add. These functions already work in other platforms, why not here too? Bandwidth again? Flickr also provides another example of why we increasingly need a multi-screen setup on our desktops. At least it can reside on my second screen (I note Dina's added one too! - I must blog the rationale!). Otherwise it simply takes over my desktop and hides any work I may want to do.....

    The net net is this. I'm not recommending my friends try out Flickr, IMHO it is too difficult and too time consuming to get them to play and little things will get in the way. This is in stark contrast to Orkut where connections are quickly made. Flickr also has a ratcheting up of relationship status. This is frustrating. Really does everyone have to start as an acquaintance?

    If you want to experiment with Flickr I may leave it on for awhile, although I don't think I'll be here in a week. I became frustrated as hell when I first logged in and created a profile around "stuart henshall" then logged out and created one for "stuart" and then deleted it. I wanted "Stuart" instead. Now it won't let me have it (or the old one back) and set up e-mail address conflicts. Concurrently I registered something a little less obvious, but don't know "socially" what it is best to be in under. Frankly some pseudonym seems smarter. Why's that? This is a place where you may begin by sharing many photo's with people you don't know. In such a situation where the norm already appears to be "cryptic names" I think I find my full name too revealing. I'd also say the same about Yahoo chat. This is not a place where I'd want to be taken too seriously.

    Next little gripe would be around "online contacts". There is no double click functionality in Flickr. Instead hold the button and then initiate what you want to do. I find it weird. I want to double click to start a conversation with an online friend. I can right click if I want an alternate. Later you can DRAG someone new into an already going conversation. Seems you can't drag to initiate. The drag and drop the picture in is great! As noted that's a real threat to Yahoo style chats. When people first arrive Flickr should provide a few pictures or make it clear you can select some easily from the public gallery. Possibly some of these pictures will become tomorrow's smileys, more importantly it confirms the intent and the type of behavior they are trying to encourage. That is chat with pictures. Be interesting to watch what sort of visual language that becomes.

    March 16, 2004

    Social Networking is Broken

    This slightly facetious statement: "My social networks are broken... at least I think they are." reflects my conclusion that the social networks I've been playing in are for the most part associative networks. While they have a social element the socializing for the most part takes place by blogs, forums, IM / e-mail, phone and in face to face visits.

    After 18 months of experimenting with formalizing relationship structures through Ryze, Orkut Linkedin etc they are really no more useful to me now than before I found them. Oh Orkut is a wonderful place for assembling connections but recently they really suck. Here I am with all these friends and they expect me to recategorize them. Would you try demoting your friends? Try it - see how they like it.

    So how broken are they? Well which one should I turn to if I want to contact someone through one of them? If they are on more than one, which messaging system should I use? The newest? The one I contacted them on last time?

    So now I have these planetary social networks each with their own orbits spread across the heavens. So while I've visited all these places I can't remember the name of the ship that offloaded me last. That's about as damming conclusion as any user (dare I say consumer) of the SN product can draw. However, lets face facts. For the most part none of these social networks are on my desktop, unless I happen to have their page open. And then with the exceptions of Ecademy, Tribe and Flickr they don't let me know whether any of my friends are online or not. As most of the people I really work with either don't use them or are as sporadic as me I still little chance of finding spontaneity within. They all fail for none of them provide the things I really need.

    I saw a post from Stowe Boyd today, planning a review of enterprise social networking services. It made me curious. The dating ones are excluded. For that matter so is MSN, Yahoo, AIM etc from the list. Skype too isn't included. Some little "scream" at the back of my mind tells me that the bundle of failing social networking services listed in Stowe's may not get to the heart of solving the enterprise problem. He wrote up Xfire just days ago. I made an association with Skype on it yesterday. No it is not enterprise ready. But others have the conferencing linking capability. I also tried to get my 15 year old son using Xfire. He discarded it in seconds, "I can do this stuff already" --- not as neatly I respond, "does it have voice?" --- nope, basically end of discussion. Maybe it is only about associating people. However I hope these services will offer something more. For if that is all they are there will be an upcoming backlash.

    For the life of me... When is IM not a social networking device? (Have you ever seen a 12 year old girl reconnect her buddies after taking a new name?) That looks like social networking to me. When are introductions by e-mail not social networking. Or a speakerphone call? It's time to put a stop to categorizing these "things" as social networks. Call them "Associative Networking Tools" or "Structured Association Tools" or something similar. Then you can create a bucket for them. The reason there is no real business model is they are just part of / or component towards building our capabilities to enhance "presence" and connectivity. Most of the friends I network with in this realm also have IM. But step outside and look at the real world and usage is sporadic at best. If we can't get our friends to adopt one of three messaging systems how can we hope to get them to adopt one of one hundred social networking services? Via Dina this comment from Jenny Levine sums it up.

    It's time to refocus the debate and bring in new functionalities and capabilities. For me that integrates with mobility. There's a program which I don't expect to take off any time soon for Nokia 3650' called Pmatch. pMatch allows 3650 owners to learn of others with similar interests or information, without revealing their own personal, private data. In a similar vein Trepia or AirCQ are using proximity and presence to enhance connections. I know not everyone can make the list. Judith had a list of 100. A readable report can't cover them all.

    What have we learned.

  • We don't socialize rather only associate through the Orkuts while we socialize using messaging, telephone and face to face visits.
  • The opportunity to connecting through friends is much greater than generally understoood. Some successes have been achieved.
  • Virtual connections mean managing ones connections and presence has never been more important.
  • Structured services are creating problems where there were none before. From categories to access. And designating "artificial" forced levels of buddies or friendship.
  • 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 for there are few you can synch with and while one can upload addresses you can seldom download.
  • The sites themselves are seldom responsible for the association, the connective knowledge is broader than the networking sites. eg blogs, blogrolls, online forums etc.

    Judith Meskill has been encouraging me to dive into her posts on autonomic networks. This wonderful post has some great questions, and left me with the question at the beginning of the post.

    If you utilize one or more of the current entrants in this swell of online SNS offerings [such as LinkedIn, Friendster, Orkut, Ryze, and/or Tribe] - what value, if any, do you derive from them? And, harkening back to the citation with which I started this post, has one [or more] of these services assisted in helping you to successfully reduce the 'traffic congestion' at the 'intersections' in your life? And, in closing, any insights, comments, or ponderings on the recent and future blurring of lines between 'wetware,' 'software,' and 'hardware' in an infinitely connected wireless world?
    Judith Meskill

    I see this morning that Heath Row is reporting on a discussion of "The Asthetics of Social Networking" at SXSW. Read Molly Steenson's comments. They may just jell with the above.

  • March 23, 2004

    Skype Business Plans Revealed

    Estonia March 23, 2004* WTF Spoof Newswire

    Skype Business Plan details released today outline large scale enterprise ambitions. Throwing caution to the wind and responding to recent enquires from international press sources Skype founder Niklas Zennstrom released new products and service details in a closed session post CeBit conference for the Enterprise market. Earlier Skype announced partnerships with Plantronics and Siemans Mobile. The most important announcements disclosed details of the Skype "Supernode" Corporate Server, the Skype "Presence Manager and Skype for PDA's and Symbian Skype Messenger.

    Skype testing began with a free to consumer "telephony" application released in August 2003. With over six months in testing billions in connected calls, and online callers exceeding 300000 concurrently Skype announced that HP would begin an immediate world wide corporate implementation. An unnamed HP spokes person said it was their "Windows" opportunity. It will be deployed in consulting services over the next three weeks. Concurrently HP will release new look PDA's and bluetooth headsets. Skype recently received $18 million in funding from Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Index Ventures who said""The Skype team boasts some of the world's great corporate innovators, and is the hottest viral marketing phenomenon since Hotmail"

    Speculation of Skype next moves was enhanced when their early PDA alpha was demonstrated. While details have been known for some weeks it wasn't until the CeBIT presentation that the loosely joined piece came together. As you will see Skype's combination of emerging products provide the enterprise with the lowest cost VoIP service and the highest "presence" management functionality available. Complete with a secure solution to enable enterprise mobility while enabling the rapid convergence of texting, calendars and e-mail in simple handheld devices Skype looks confident and scaleable.

    Skype "Supernode" Corporate Server:
    Skype's new server platform tested with a worldwide user base continues to get glowing press reports. For more details on Supernodes and how they work see Page 29 + of this write-up. Skypannouncede focus on the corporate enterprise market displays real savvy and the depth of thinking that has gone into this emerging platform. As Skype's CTO explained. Security, presence management and service are the key deliverables. Skype solution is as simple as the user interface. When Skype first launched their free public service we retained and held back the use of certain key characters. Most notable the @. This simple variable is the "connectivity" solution.

    Skype Supernodes Server logs the company rather than the individuals into the cloud, thus managing the identity and pass codes for its employees. (This also disperses the security risk inherent in the initial log-in cloud structure) Corporate accounts will have unique sign-on addresses eg By adopting e-mail addresses Skype makes it easy to authenticate that the caller is indeed from Company X. This is the simplest form of reputation that a corporate can apply. So if you are Skyping with a company e-mail name then you can be pretty sure that they are official and still employed there. Skype will hold a central list of all companies and will maintain an independent complaints registry.

    The Supernode system provides further additional functionality. For example. If the Supernode fails to detect an active PDA or Computer as being online it simply activates voice-mail and e-mails the message or text to the individual. Thus corporate Supernodes maintain an always on aspect. Vacation Away message can be logged on the corporate Supernode just like todays email solutions. The Supernode also provides secure encrypted connectivity and systems oversight. By being the active component in the corporate system it also manages all the encryption keys, thus providing the potential for record keeping, monitoring and recording of sent files etc. Future functionality will enable the auto blogging of this content as calls are automatically categorized. This is important for legal reason and for training in corporate call centers.

    Corporate Supernodes will provide additional capacity for the growth of the global system. They will also enable "corporate virtual rooms" and conference calls with up to 50 participants in a structured sound environment. Enterprises may also choose to refuse to accept Skype calls that are not 1)already on a buddy list, and 2)not approved or authenticated in some way. These actions are designed to create additional legitimacy for the system. This transparency is expected to enhance business relationships.

    Skype Presence Management:
    SPM sits on top of Skype Supernodes server system. By managing the collective buddy system the corporate system recognizes that most communication withing groups is within the group walls. Only a few need to go outside or frequently accept new incoming unknown callers. Thus all important suppliers and customers are integrated into the company network. Network analysis will further help enhance relationship management. This reduces the number of traditional inbound lines required while enhancing connectivity within the value creation network.

    Skype's initial release will add employees pictures further enabling identification and personalizing connections. Andreas Sjolund Project Manager at Skype expects to provide all the functionality that Spoke or Linkedin has been chasing with the voice link. SPM enable buddy link management to provide the opportunity for other incoming Skype calls to be diverted when someone is not available depending on category. The option to apply social network learnings are apparent in initial screens as all employees have access and can search the whole database at the same time. Individual "private" connections will be known to the system and are handled similarly to private appointments in Outlook. The capabilities do not stop there. Should someone leave the firm --- the firm retains their contacts and the "association" memory even if someone new now takes the auto directed inbound call. Skype plans also include new buddy categories including "commercial" eg for your personal shopper who may only have limited or periodic access. Similarly eBay resellers are looking at this as a new method to notify on auctions and build more lasting relationships. Corporate Skype buddies appear in the corporate font and color.

    Mobility and Symbian Skype Messenger
    Niklas: Our PDA' solution provides a mobility solution that until now could only be achieved using the most sophisticated cellphones. Cellphones are expensive to run relative to a WLAN voice connected network and few cellphones really integrate PDA functions at at a reasonable price point. Concurrent with this are demands for organizations to upgrade and introduce new VoIP phone hardware. With software centric solutions like Skype proliferating investing in "phone specific" hardware no longer makes sense. By contrast adding new software capabilities to PDA's and phones transforms their capabilities. With a corporate Supernode incoming calls from non-Skype enabled accounts can be simply routed at no additional cost to anywhere in the world. Concurrently, a Skype install may reduce the number of incoming or outgoing lines required. Corporates adopting Skype also provide a significant incentive for suppliers to do the same. The benefit for both parties is control of "presence" and speeding up "real-time" communications. PDA's combined with bluetooth headsets further enhances the utility of the devices and makes them on campus more useful than the majority of cellphones. Examples also include hospitals where the majority of the personnel are mobile and an increasing number of smart programs on PDA's being tied into patient care. Having 'presence" may save lives during the crucial critical care moments.

    Note that Corporate PDA users that use their Corporate Laptop in WiFi enables homes remain connected to the secure Skype Corporate Communication system. Thus the corporate line may go home and it also rings at home.

    Our other initiative involves integrating Skype with GPRS options using Symbian enabled cellphones. By offering at text only on Symbian cellphones we can retain presence indicators and can connect quickly via text or voice regardless of whether someone is Skype to Skype, Skype to Cell or PSTN, or PSTN or Cell to Skype. As Corporate Supernode Servers can all bridge this link this connectivity comes at no extra cost. Further announcements in this area will be released in the coming months. Concurrently we are looking for OSX and developers to enable Skype on the Mac platform. Combined with emerging Linux solutions we believe we are on the verge of a universal communications system that will integrate and flow with next generation networked work methods.

    There are too many variable to lay out a quick cost-benefit analysis here. There is also more than one product in the above. The Skype Supernode, Skype for Enterprise PC's, Skype for PDA's etc. Add to this A text based Skype for Corporate Mobile phones or "Data" accounts like used with a Motorola Sidekick and a methodology for managing corporate communications. What we know is we are at the tipping point where this type of VoIP install is much cheaper than a Cisco or similar solution with many times the functionality. Additional value for information sharing can be created. Over time significant enhancements for managing presence will emerge. Concurrently your costs for conference calling facilities go to zero resulting in immediate savings in both cost and in time scheduling. We expect to partner with some additional desktop sharing applications in coming months. As to pricing our solution is simple. Apply the corporate Windows pricing model. First year licenses will be available and granted free to the first 10 million corporate users. You will see that ongoing fees are less than the cost of a current extension. Call costs as always on the Skype network remain free.

    To summarize. I expect we will begin shipping the Skype server and individual application products in early September 2004. Welcome to the new world of Global telephoney... no scratch that global communications.



    * This is a spoof. The author has never seen a Skype business plan or any statement other than publicly announced or revealed details. None of this information or speculation came from Skype so your interpretation and judgement should apply. I have been following Skype since it launched. If you have gotten this far it must have either been compelling or intriguing. If you repost any of it you may want to insure that you note this was a spoof.

    I posted these thoughts in this format for sometimes the most compelling way to make managers stuck in a paradigm see what is coming is simply to tell them a story. When one uses Scenarios is it less important to get it precisely right. It's unlikely that every element in the above is true or a certainty. It could be completely wrong. The point is to ask yourself. What could we do? What should we do right now if Skype emerges with all the above capabilities by September 2004? That is where strategy comes in. If you are HP or IBM the context is completly different to WebEx or Vonage. If you are SBC you better have answers. They are different in each case. The purpose of this type of exercise is to enable an interest in gaining strategic foresight. Companies that are open to exploring strategy outside their comfort zone are more likely to succeed in the long run. Concurrently two other things happen. First embracing change becomes easier for the recognition emerges that it is already here. Second making things happen are now in an accelerated context.

    I don't get to go to David Isenberg's WTF I'm on vacation at the time. Still this might be a fun way to think about it.

    And that sums up this post. WTF --- nothing to lose.

    April 21, 2004

    The Online Presence Spiral

    - The Online Presence Spiral - an interactive experience that is engaging, accessible, immersive - not just IM indicators but sound quality - active cams, mobility etc. Emergent thoughts that we need a new "Presence Formula".

    This post represents rough notes on how online presence is being redefined by new audio solutions. These are creating a sound spiral and an unexpected tipping point for tel co's and cellular phone providers while redefining consumer / user audio expectations.

    Driven by IM systems we are becoming increasingly accustomed to knowing; available, away, do not disturb, not available, invisible and custom forms thereof. In parallel there has been a growing interest in the social networking sites like Ryze, Linkedin, Orkut, Tribe etc. Most of these haven't had the critical online mass to activate an effective 'presence" indicator yet. They also fail to have the immediacy of an IM buddy list. Learning gained in social networking software will be applied to IM systems in the next generation. In fact ICQ has recently been releasing upgrades. As will more complex access profiles which further refine definitions of availability, access, privacy, security etc. However this focus on presence and "presence management" is limited an IM style focus on smiley faces and social networking that may limit developments. As VoIP and IM systems integrate interaction designers should take a broader view of presence.

    Let's just step back for a second and consider real life examples…. Eg "you felt his/her presence when they entered the room. Or the speaker carried real presence. Take it further and over the years there have been interests in telepresence from science fiction books to research studies. This objective that i found quickly appealed to me. "To design forms of interactive experience that are engaging, accessible, and immersive". I'd like to think about this as presence cubed.

    The IM style is helping with accessible, however the other aspects engaging and immersive still have a way to go. The point is recent posts on "Presence Management" are really missing the broader picture. The post I've seen from Dina, and Dave I think support my point of view. They are looking for a much broader integration of presence. In fact presence management is an oxymoron just like Knowledge Management. Similarly telecoms and VoIP providers that simply believe they can step up with a VoIP IM solution are going to find they are continuing to chase the curve. Using Skype as an illustration, it masters the current state of consumer presence pretty adequately. It also redefines voice presence. Our ears are extremely sensitive to vocal cues. And yet we are accepting. We accept or are forced into landline and cellular systems that clip our voices, reduces our gravitas and thus reduce vocal presence effectiveness. The narrow band spectrums simply doesn't compare favorably with a well connected wide band Skype type call. In fact I was told the other day how different I sounded on Skype. Apparently, I had more presence!

    Now imagine you were part of a larger conference call negotiation. You could hear the other party with brilliant clarity. They were restricted to a mediocre cellphone standard. You could easily position each of the individuals and easily decipher the stress or excitement in their voices. Now which negotiation team has the upper hand? If you are looking at new solutions then thinking about presence in terms of availablity indicators and not audio quality will only will only result in an early replacement as higher quality more efficient sound solutions become available. For conference calls you have to have an audio connection that is equal or better than those your are connected to. For the most part the highest sound quality will result in better conversations. It's pretty self-evident. Just like the e-mail that can be misinterpreted. The brain fills in the blanks in poor quality sound.

    Now I would like to know if any commercial or consumer SIP applications so far have been initiated with a codec comparible to Skype. For it is not SIP that is restraining the voice quality it is the VoIP telecom providers that seem to think current sound codecs are good enough. I have a Vonage line. At no time does it compare to Skype quality. It's better than my cellphone at home, and often doesn't match my landline for quality. Via the Register today, Morpheus launched a VoIP solution. They are in fact just playing off their P2P name and number of users. As far as I can tell it is a standard VoIP solution a little cheaper than Vonage. Other than trying to leverage the Morpheus userbase I'm not sure that there is a P2P relationship in this system although they are claiming that with VoiceBox to VoiceBox you get higher quality.

    With Skype we are only just getting a taste of what's to come. As our understanding of "presence" is broadened by better audio experiences the industry will compete and collaborate to bring even more interesting "presence" experiences. Then the solutions won't stop with sound. There will be a huge awakening in equipment solutions too. Just think what happened when we when from mono to stereo, and then how quickly so many have gone to home theaters. The consumer knows Dolby and 3-D sound. While we may not want a total immersion experience for all calls (you may want to listen in on another simultaneously) we will want the ultimate immersion for some calls. The movie industry has already demonstrated what is possible.

    Skype also shows what happens when increased audio presence is combined with appropriate visual cues. Those black heads don't look very friendly now, still when they become real faces and an inbound call is generated then our connection to the caller will be further enhanced. Photo's are a first step that will aid adoption adoption of real-time web cams.

    Consequently I periodically find myself running updated experiments on the latest online video solutions. It is almost a couple of weeks ago since I tried out various alternative with Dave Pollard. I'd read Dave's post and he was willing to try out his new webcam. We started with Yahoo cam and voice. The voice connection was crap and so we soon closed voice and opened a Skype connection why retaining the Yahoo cam. In this instance there wasn't much of a delay on the cam although 2-3 seconds is not uncommon. Still as a free solution I've personally found little to beat it.

    Next we tried out Sightspeed, The cam was much faster, however the voice connection was not up to Skype quality. We retained it for a period. However by that time we were doing what I think we should be doing. We were sharing http links, and looking at other alternatives. The cam had simply disappeared into the background replaces by texting and browser links. From my perspective this is not unusual.

    Durning this week I also tried out CamFrog. While I didn't try the premium edition the basic one didn't provide me with confidence. While these observations and ongoing trials are fun from time to time I'm yet to find a wow solution. Robin Good in particular has shared some great conferencing solutions with me. They do require some customizing to context. It also takes time to master these tools. So ultimately there won't be hundreds of winners.

    What I've found is I'm not prepared in any of these online sessions to put up with poor voice quality. That simply is a killer.

    Second I dislike screen delays. The update has to be quick. Screen synch between individuals fast. Last year I'd experimented with Glance a product that shares your desktop. More recently Bill Campbell generously got me set up on tightVNC. Many use it for remote access to their computer. It's also perfect for sharing your desktop with multiple users. WIth tightVNC working there is no need for expensive services like MeetingASAP, you can share your desktop at anytime. There are other synch capabiliities that MeetingASAP provides however no matter how beautiful the last time I talked to them they could not confirm that the voice quality was not equal or better than Skype. BTW... if you want a cheap conference where everyone cam is synched on a page and one person is showing a powerpoint. Just cram it all on your screen and then tightVNC. The refresh rates on the cams will be poor for other viewers however it will cost you nothing. Everyone will know who's at their desk and watching the presentation rather than making coffee while wearing their bluetooth headset.

    For working with others expecially new people where you have never had a picture before and never met them an early introduction with a web cam is effective. For family and friends it may be appropriate. However my belief is that sharing pictures is a pretty good substitute right now. The issue is most webcams are effectively passive. They provide a head shot as the person is sitting behind their PC. Usually the cam is not directed very effectively. I really don't believe that web cams will be the big thing until they are "active" cams. By active I mean people using them while on the move, out and about. Thus when we get our PocketSkype+ installed in a UltimateWi-Fi PDA with video capability and users are out roaming we will have a webcam usage that really adds a sense of presence along with the mobility and narrative. It still won't be telepresence although we will be a lot closer.

    Finally from what I've seen and been fed about Skype performance and connectivity, their sound solution still eats up too much computing power. Add to that limitations on uploads and downloads to maintain voice quality and Skype video and Skype file exchanges may break what is good. That may provide some opportunities for others. So while Skype may have brokered new connections for some, and thus encouraged additional experimentation with webcams this user is still looking for better sound first and foremost. In that regard so should you.

    What's more this user has learned that Wi-FI Skyping from HotSpots is better than a Mobile phone when available. Thus the paradigm that threatens the landline system may have more impact on mobility than current projections suggest. Some of you may have seen the recent releases of mobile phones like the Nokia Communicator 9500 that provides the traditional cellphone features along with Wi-FI. So now consider the user experience. When they are in a hotspot sound quality goes way up. When they get home their cellphone automatically becomes the home phone and the cellphone and the quality is way up. It's just possible that the mobile providers are entering a sound spiral as well. Then I also know that despite not being to Skype via my mobile phone to laptop connection Dina has proved to me that she can do it. Looks like the Indian cellular structure is more advanced than the US!. That will make cellular connections a commodity just like the landline in time.

    Good place to close. The Online Presence Spiral. The emerging business experience parameters for communications.

    May 3, 2004


    I was lucky enough to have lunch with Image(25).jpgRobert Mao yesterday. He was over for a session at UC Berkeley on China's Digital Future which unfortunately I'd missed. He's one of China's budding social networking entrepreneurs and bloggers. UUZONE is networking people and reaching out to the world. Robert also has a backgroud in VoIP. Thus it is not surprising that he found me via Skype. Frankly he maybe alone as an entrepreneur in the social networking space who I hear talking about the potential for voice when tied to this technology (when tied to the current narrow SN definition). His company LodeSoft has also released some interesting products. There will be more to come.

    May 4, 2004

    Forget Current Social Networking Models

    David Coursey chimes in to the Social Networking is Broken theme. So if it is broken with no business model where to next?

    Social networks are a good thing. Everybody should have one--and everybody I know does, in some form or fashion. But whether you need an online social network and, particularly, whether you need one whose primary purpose is separating you from your money is another question entirely.
    No Business in Social Networking

    Where to?
    This is a question I've been pondering I just know I'm not getting to it tonight. Maybe someone else in the network will.

    August 23, 2004

    Manifesto for Social Networking Required

    When I blogged "My Social Networks are Broken" in March I had already stopped trying most of the new ones. Now with the flurry of posts round Many to Many I'm watching the implosion of SNS... Will they all just collapse into each other or will something new emerge that is useful, integrated and adaptive to the individual? Stowe's posted "Ten Commandments" which is interesting because I was thinking about a "Manifesto for Social Networks" and haven't had the time to go there yet. I began by digesting Adam Greenfield's and recent Many to Many posts lamenting the lack of new prescriptions.

    Before I lose my thoughts or they become dated in the slipstream of fire I'd offer up the following ingredients to take the dialogue up a level strategically. This is not just about spam and e-mail. It is about you and me, and how we connect. When we think social networking services put "individuals" at the center.

    It's my Network:

  • That means I want to own it. It's not yours it is mine and it should reside and be under my complete control. If I want to host it other places ok then, but remember it is my choice. I'll distribute my profile and I'll control or agree with my friends what they can do with it. This network is about two-way relationships and in some cases associated relationships. I remember when I was really frustrated that Ryze had changed my page - (I thought not for the better) when they changed their basic layout to tabs and a new logo. Up till then Ryze had done a fairly good job of nurturing the community. New users came along, dressed up their pages, and Ryze was in the background. Similarly remember the uproar when Friendster challenged Fakesters? All of these networks fail to recognize it is my content that makes them valuable and I'll take it elsewhere or simply no-longer use them if they displease me. Account for that in the design and I may just stay.

  • Social networks should empower people. Unfortunately most of the YASN's have forgotten this basic fact. They try and call us back time and time again, unfortunately they just don't. Few exist on our desktops. Most require an open browser. That's not interoperability. As each of these SNS specializes they should consider how to connect. It's ridiculous that I need to build a profile in each service. I have no way to upgrade or make a change. (Sooner or later someone will make that happen - if not done already)

  • I represent the hub of activity and my participation should reflect the logic in "Stupid Networks". My social networking solution will enable me to connect and exchange with family, friends, colleagues. Each one of those may be a different service. I may use them from time to time. I need to be able to log in and out of them from a central point (my desktop or phone). To me these services will act as my agent, I may contract them for one-off searches (eg find everyone I went to school with to find people like me in the market for a new car.) or for something more ongoing and continuous (eg business connections, matchmaking, personal shopper, home handyman etc.) where a personal referral or a tacit referral can make the difference.

  • Simplify and speed trades in data. Referrals and connections are done through either personal exchanges (voice, F2F) or with some form of data. Data is the unheralded, unexplored frontier for social networks. Most of the data is static. The markets for data are limited or non-existent, and as data exchanges aren't yet automated most fail to see the connections and parallels to business.

    At the risk of saying some things twice. I believe we should look outside the current crop of SNS for the SNS of the future. Blogs are a better model, they are distributed (many have them hosted which is ok). Unfortunately there is no profile plug-in (Typepad has an "about" though I've not seen it as special.). Skype like IM (Instant Messenger) systems are better at connecting in real time, provide presence and new opportunities for file and data sharing etc. IMHO this could be modified to be a SNS Manifesto and these are additional points.

    My Blog is Better at Networking:
    I know the humble blog has been held up as a social network many times. From experience my blog is much better than any of the SNS as a networking tool. One advantage my blog has over all the SNS is I can make connections with people that aren't in any network. I've found some of the non-blogger connections to be the most important of all. I've also found following up on trackbacks and comments much more valuable.

    Create Markets for Connectivity:
    Social Networks should look at how they can facilitate markets for conversation and connectivity. The conversations in most Social Networking Services today are stilted and hampered by poor connectivity. Do you really want to link through three other people to get to someone in LinkedIn? Connectivity remains poor because they lack diversity and depth and the mechanisms to harvest both depth and diversity are lacking. So create a market for me where I can trade different kinds of information about myself. Enable bots or search capabilities that can create unique inquiries and then return helpful connections and results. We all have information to trade, the problem is we don't know what to trade. In a networked world those that facilitate markets win. eBay remains the best example I know. However eBay only really applies to hard goods. I'd like to know who is going to broker "the people's" information?

    Adopt user centric models.
    The solution has to work in my hand, when mobile. The only device I carry like that now is a cell phone or possibly future PDA. To jump into this realm the solution must address "Presence". Without presence real-time inquiry is impossible and pointless. Not everyone needs the same presence information. Non of the social networks I'm a member of require "daily use" in stark contrast to my IM clients for my newsreader.

    Encourage Face to Face.
    A few unique relationships may begin without face to face contact. With both blogging and Ryze I made great contacts globally without any early "live" meetings. Yet each time I meet another blogger / networker at a conference or in their home town the relationship takes on new dimensions and presents new opportunities. Other bloggers have expressed the same sentiments. In fact blogging leads to the desire to collaborate, we just don't have the tools to close that gap too easily. Ryze as an example is encourages F2F through their Mixers and that is one of the reasons for their continued success. However when it comes to collaboration tools after or around the blog it remains difficult. Skype has helped bridge the cost gap and thus opened up new avenues for conversation and reflection.

    Integrate with IM / VoIP.

    I've pushed this thread for awhile. The future of communications is changing. Presence is the driver and it will be controlled from wherever you are. The more seamlessly the better. None of the centralized IM systems enable personal control and even Skype requires you to log-in to a cloud. However I expect Skype will enable "clouds" for corporates, and potentially "personal clouds" down the road. For the moment this is a convenient intersection, where converging technologies create a wholely new set of applicatons.

    No to Accelerated Spam:
    Orkut was exciting when it was built. It emerged almost over a weekend. The viral effect in overdrive. By contrast I'm not sure Multiply is having the same effect. It has certainly spammed me with invites although not as many times as others. See also Clay Shirky's comments on spam.

    Where is my demand? It sits between wanting a better address book and better presence information. I feel the capability in my network and the potential for new connections and new value opportunities. However so far the tools don't let me synthesize these very effectively. The system that bridges this has a neat opportunity. I'm going to download Wired Reach again. I still don't know where or how their business model will work. However, I'm up to trying Wired Reach again. You should read Ashish's blog on "What is P2P" and "Beyond Social Networks", the latter I would have missed if I didn't go looking for a Blog. Clearly Ashish gets it. His blogging will bring him more exposure.

  • September 2, 2004

    Social Networking More Manifesto Thoughts

    Of all the summaries of my little attempt at a Manifesto for Social Networking I found this one from Christian Crumlish the most helpful. He took my 1437 words to just a few. I'd clip it further and focus on the mine and hub element now.

    • It's my Network

      • I own it.

      • Social networks should empower people.

      • I am my own hub.

      • Ease data exchange

      (I'd make amendment to some of these following points now. They were really part of my rationale for the above. The most important aspect of is is what we can and will do with this new connectivity as it emerges. I hope it doesn't result in spam and does lead to new consumer controlled information markets.)

    • My Blog is Better at Networking

    • Create Markets for Connectivity

    • Adopt user centric models
      Encourage Face to Face

    • Integrate with IM / VoIP

    • No to Accelerated Spam

    It's incomplete without adding.
  • We understand that relationships based on trust are not always explicit and categorization is neither a requirement or necessity for participation. In fact we embrace individuality and expect it to emerge from the information we exchange.
  • We want control over our presence, our whereabouts and what we are doing. While and when norms emerge we understand they will change over time and with the audience.
  • We recognize we are each part of many different networks and conversations. We may have difficulty articulating them and yet under the right conditions new sources of unexpected value emerge.
  • We control when it is appropriate or not to share infomation about ourselves. We retain permission and determine the level and degrees of privacy we desire and will share with those that we trust
  • We share to create utility and opportunities for all of us to grow. As our networks expand they will encourage new emergent forms of sharing and discovery. Agents and Initiators are an important part of the network when linked to reputation, trust and relevance.

    I made the direct link to blogs too strongly. I should have stuck with "I am my own the hub". What was meant as a decentralized illustration for knowledge sharing takes on too large an importance. Blogs and text are not necessarily requirements for Social Networking.

    A great strategy is really central to solving the puzzle. The comment via SSW reflects my belief that accelerating learning is the real payoff. This quote sums it up.

    In this brutal competitive market that we face today, the only conversations that matter to businesses are " Where can we find and collaborate with customers and business partners in our quest for Strategy Innovation ". And the new social networking technology (weblogs and social software) is our best chance to make this vision a reality. It´s true that is not yet good enough but I think it` will be in no time. Eric Rdz - The Social Software Weblog

    I've taken some flack for appearing too blog centric and believe we need to go farther than the comment below. While meeting people is a dynamic in social networking today this post suggests we look to other possibilities resulting from this new connectivity. I'd applaud such initiatives. For the most part the current crop of SNS are broken. They are being "loaded" and then forgotten. Social networking shouldn't be hard work.

    Henshall often implies that social networking is about the meeting new people connotation of the word "networking". There are uses of social networks beyond meeting new people. This fact is indeed recognized by the statement My social networking solution will enable me to connect and exchange with family (assuming the author doesn't want an SNS tool to meet new family members). However the paragraphs "Create Markets for Connectivity" and "Encourage Face to Face" fall back into the social software analysis pitfall of equating social networking with meeting new people.

    ... It would also be interesting and insightful to see some analysis on what kind of social network product will be popular with people that don't have the time to professionally blog nor desire to meet new people. Michael - The Social Software Weblog

    I'd like to see more discussion around static versus dynamic systems. I feel that IM, telephones (old world) are very important.... So are tools like blogrolls and touchgraph. A better dashboard would help. At the moment it requires too much inquiry, rather than just a quick visual update. I think that means we are looking for "living networks".

    .... in my 34 years of work in communities f2f and virtual, the most important variables to the effectiveness of social entities have been presence, commitment and contribution. However brilliant the structure - technical or organizational - what makes a network work is the purpose and active involvement of its members. Networks form organically or out of the selection of an initiator, and their social composition is like the quality of their fuel. Linkedin serves me as a locator and somewhat trustworthy profiler. It does not serve my conversations or information sharing. Comment Cliff

  • October 15, 2004

    Friendster Phone Stupid Execution

    Friendster links with Glophone in a too late (a least a year!) too little (no imagination) introduction to VoIP. This effort is similar but different to the Morpheus launch that went nowhere some months back. The key difference is there is no ATA box required, instead just the GloPhone software client and a PC of course.

    So why's a phone on Friendster a bad idea? Friendster demonstrates short-sighted thinking.

    First this is just a soft phone. There is no presence associated with it. It's just a business deal where GloPhone can extend their reach and potentially acquire a new customer. They even offer to add some dial-up options in the future. I can at least see which of my buddies are online on Flickr and even Ecademy. This won't bring Friendster closer to real-time interactions and personally I think that's a shame. One of the latent opportunities for adding voice is the opportunity to explore introductions to friends of friends. (Would I be a good match with X etc.)

    Second firing up or logging on to your GloPhone via Friendster defeats the purpose of integrating social networks and communications. Either the GloPhone remains running on your desktop or it's turned off until you think about calling someone again. In the Friendster case we require "profile" calls and access depending on your how much access you want to grant. I'm sure there is a great group of people out there that would like to experiment with talking to others. There are also some mighty rude callers. So the second component that is required is some form of simple reputation or warning.

    Then the call system must provide some calling context context. (eg seeking activity partner, travel companion etc.) An inbound number or even a name is not enough. Particularly as this Friendster phone is open to the world. All these are easy things to do when one connects the phone with a text messaging application. Thus for those Friendsters that are not logged in, but able to take a phone call as the soft phone client rings... the caller ID data should include the Friendster profile and the call context. Some opportunity for personalization makes sense too.

    Aphone is an always on application. While many of the social networking sites can be adapted to provide an excellent caller ID service and potential for marketing personal messages with auto-call backs, they won't replace my "buddylist" and my ability to simply and quickly control my presence. This has to work on my desktop and soon must be integrated with my mobile.

    Finally, it makes little sense to create this connectivity without access to a billing or charging system. While calls may be free, the opportunity to say send gifts (eg a 99 cent music file via iTunes) needs the same type of functionality that exists on cell phones when one downloads a new ring tone. Similarly I'm sure new options for the mighty e-card will also appear. At a few cents these will be fun to send. And in that last aspect that is the rub. Where one wants premium caller ID services users will pay a little more (pennies) to their social network while voice connections will speed things up and make them more personal.

    December 7, 2004


    I had a wonderful conversation with TDavid of MakeYouGoHmmyesterday. For once I found myself being swamped with new links one of which was StumbleUpon. (see also TDavid.Stumble) . Everyone on Stumble has an RSS feed for the links they are clipping so while investigating what Stumble actually is I added his RSS feed to my aggregator and then scanned the last few clips. Some interesting examples emerged. It was enough to prompt me to install it and try it myself.

    StumbleUpon is a new way to surf the web. It lets you channel-surf pages recommended by friends and peers - great sites you can't find using search engines.

    We are a community-based, word-of-mouth approach to websurfing - pages you "stumble upon" come from like-minded people who share your interests. Add the Toolbar, choose some topics and click Stumble! You'll meet people who like your favorite sites as you discover the best of the web.
    StumbleUpon Toolbar

    What I found was it very quickly provided some neat and fun links. Not the stuff I'd normally find just by searching. I'm going to play with it some more. Where it will become even more useful is when someone sends me a link and I want to remember it quickly. Unlike favorites it saves them in a blog format. That makes it easy to go back to later. Adding the thumbs up to sites no yet in the community is a postiive too. Capture my own RSS feed and I have all those recent pages of interest that I should be blogging ready and available.

    The final twist in this post is better late than never. I'd captured Stumble in my link blog via Judith Meskill way back in the beginnning of the year. And low and behold TDavid blogged it back in January. So apparently I've just joined another social network despite thinking they are effectively dead and almost a year late. At least this one looks like I may learn from what others are clipping. Click Click Click....

    January 23, 2005

    SkypeCasting Rants and Raves?

    Are rants and raves a good idea? This post could be both. Are they necessary, helpful, etc. We all do it in some way. Could RnR's empower change if captured easily and offered free distribution? I started this post thinking about customer complaints. Once you wrote a letter and you had to be really mad and it took a lot of time. It went to a corporate black hole and disappeared. it you did it well you get a refund or some type of action. Still unhappy? Then you tell your friends. Word of mouth. What if we gave word of mouth a fast forward function? What if we gave individual word of mouth a megaphone. Some blogs are sort of like that. Yet they aren't nearly as powerful as the personal storytelling, speaking the words.

    What happens when you cross a free telephone / communication system with a free distribution system, turn it over to you and me and apply it to customer rant and raves. (This will be even more interesting when Skype enables Video Messaging!)

    What happens if you use Skype to record a one minute VM rant or rave? Simply Skype it in. You can even set up a site with different SkypeMe tags and then automate the playback conversion. To make it work more efficient you can also ask them to rank some previous rants and raves as their contribution. You may even find there are people that want to collect rants and raves on certain products. It just needs a central directory! This creates a new genre and venue for providing customer feedback. Hate a product you want to call it in! You have a powerful story and you want to tell it. We want to hear the passion and understand the details. In the end a stream of expletives won't make the Hot or Not Rant n Rave meter.

    It's not much good if you can't distribute them and find them. So we need PodTorrent or RantnRaveTorrent or something like it. So the site captures one-minute VM's and turns them into Podcasts that are rated and possibly managed by a Slashdot / Kuro5hin type site. The best rants on products (these could be positive and negative) simply bubble up. Then anyone who wants to hear the latest feedback on a product can enter a quick search and spend 10 minutes listening to the best rants or raves.

    May change the nature of advertising, afterall who are you going to believe? The customers and users delivering it with passion or a 30 second ad? I know what works for me. Perhaps something can be done to the iPodder so when we hear a rant or rave, it asks us NetFlix style how you liked the last rants or raves. Now that would be powerful marketing information! Maybe our responses to rants and raves could be something that we could collect and share --- call it "experience capital" a subset of the social capital we share already. Gives a new meaning to audio feedback.

    BTW I had an idea in this realm a few years ago. I called it Antiport. Antiport was a market for customer feedback. It used urls and wasn't nearly as friendly as just lodging a SkypeVM. Still merge these types of ideas. What I find rather appealing in the above is:

  • The cost of registering a rant is less than five minutes and costs not even a postage stamp.
  • Your voice has impact and the "news" on critical rants potentially goes public in minutes.
  • It's captured in a medium that is more persuasive and easier for most people to do.
  • Rant and raves could be tagged back to the blogosphere, thus providing reference links etc. Presume this would also help distribution.
  • Set the tools up right and it becomes a self-managing and powerful force. An automated watchdog?

  • October 14, 2005

    Did My Blog Miss Me?

    It's been months and months since I wrote here. This is a tentative step. Not necessarily back, but also recognizing that the vehicle - Skype Journal - I've become a part of also restricts some of the things I want to blog about.

    I've learned much by blogging hard on one subject "Skype" and how powerful a single minded focus is. The Skype Journal has far eclipsed any exposure I ever managed here. That success also paralleled Skype's success. Still one's personal blog is their own playground. This one remains mine.

    There are many things I've not blogged over six months that I would have liked to. Many new things in social media. Lots more on holding conversations about change. Add in collaboration, and futures research. There are also bloggy developments and wiki initiatives I've tried and been part of.

    So you may ask. Why blog here today? I'm not quite sure although I believe it traces to the desire to just be a "blogger". I've recently felt pressure in some quarters to act more like a journalist. My answer is I'm not a journalist and never intended to be. It's not that I don't like interviews and following up on facts. It's just those aspects can become very time consuming. I'm much more interested in creating applications and solutions for tomorrow today.

    I choose to look at things based on the info available to me. I think about what consumers want, and what I'd observe if I saw many using a product and their responses. So a lot are just simply my observations. It's inferred, my suggestion and opinion. What's most important to me is my voice is authentic and trusted.

    Thus blogging remains a thinking-out-loud pursuit for me. It's why I first decided to take up blogging and provided so many observations and ideas. I've kept sharing them freely, hoping that they will grow into bigger things and ultimately make their way back.

    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 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 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

    November 4, 2006

    Orkut and GTalk Married Up

    No surprises for me here. I've  been an advocate of merging SNS with real-time voice communications. We're finally at that stage with Google apparently ready to blend Orkut with GTalk. Orkut's on fire in India, and Brazil... thought at one time they owned it. Other pointer? Well just see the Match / Jangl announcement for MatchTalk also in Forbes below. It is still very early days. These new marriages will create some new problems --- we will want solutions for.

    Orkut members will be able to text message and voice chat with other members of the community if they choose to communicate in that way. Google believes the new functions might add a sense of immediacy to member interaction on the social networking site. A Google spokeswoman says some of the functionality of the Orkut site will be built into the free standing GTalk client. Orkut "friends" (and their "presence" status and information) will show up on GTalk users' buddy lists. Light Reading

    The system protects privacy by assigning the couple a unique number that they can use to talk to each other without fear of giving away their real telephone number or other personal details. People with caller ID will see the matchTalk number instead of their actual listing.

    May 30, 2007

    Blog Ping from the Past - Identity Circles

    When one gets out of the habit of blogging we can forget some of the reasons why it was so important to us. I used to use my blog continually for sending links and updates to others. It provided a steady stream of what I'd been thinking about, testing and what I'm following. Even today I get pings from the past on a post I've written. I really appreciate them.

    Hi Stuart,

    I stumbled upon an intriguing post of yours dated March 2003. It's about "Identity Circles": . Put it today, it would still be ahead of its time. It's quite amazing that you had this vision back in 2003.

    I'm curious if that was your wishes at the time or you actually worked on it to realize this vision. Any company that you are aware of which has achieved a good part of your grand vision? It would be interesting to know. Do you have any plan to have a follow-up post on the current status for this space?

    Thanks and best regards,


    Thank you Joshua! Sometimes we need reminders. I believed then in the core ideas for Identity Circles and have been working on in this area although I'm learning there is still a long way to go. I'm going to give some thought to your request for a follow-up post. In the meantime I thought I'd just republish a segment of it.

    IDENTITY CIRCLES enrich and enhance life's many connections. Whom you know has never been so important. Professional, Business, Community, Friends, creating circles of trust that you control. Now you can be more connected and share what and when you want. In CIRCLES you can discover a whole new range of connections, intersections where you connect for fun, influence, advice, learning. Today's world is connected. Sometimes for fleeting moments or maybe for a lifetime. We move, we change addresses, our contacts change from year to year. Yet serendipity still strikes.

    We meet friends in unexpected places, and find old work or college colleagues when we least expect them. CIRCLES let's you grow and learn from whom you know. So together we travel many different circles and through many different roles. Collectively we learn we have a lot more to offer, when we don't always know what we can do for each other. Cooperatively we learn together, individuals can create more value from their profiles than they can individually seeding them at many different destinations. There are valid reasons for public and commercial interests. Under Circles you control access.

    So what's different? Safe and secure in your circle, you are part of a many circles environment that makes up many trusted circles. CIRCLES guarantees your privacy and the privacy of your friends. Under Circles there is no more spam. The information is yours alone to share and trade as you wish. Circles is merely a commercial and public broker of information. Tomorrow's Post Office. How is it done? see the extended entry....

    You begin by building your profile with your own circle of trust. This P2P based component puts your profile on your PC or personal mobile device (on or off whenever you like). When you open your account you will be required to find three friends to secure your profile and join the network. The friends provide backup (secure keyed) in case your encrypted data is lost. They can't see your data, however their systems can broadcast for you should you be offline for any reason. (We see something similar in music with Kazaa). READ MORE

    What I still believe is the control must rest with the individual. That we must own our own identity, that it must be both private and secure. It won't happen without open standards.

    Perhaps in this last line "Circles creates a valuable economic asset, that grows with the collective value of shared information assets in the community. Circles aims to "connect" everyone on earth digitally, just like the original post and telephone, but this time for free."

    This partially serves to highlight why I thought Skype was such a big thing when it launched. Yet today the world of networks and communications is many times more complex. Identity Circles will only emerge when we have an abstract identity layer in place. When you and I can have one name for all communications with complete control over what we share and who has access. So in a way nothing has changed, we still need this.

    June 7, 2007

    I love NPR - Causes and Facebook

    Do you believe in causes? I love NPR! Although not as a bumper sticker on the back of my car, or a T-Shirt that I'm wearing. Still I wake up to NPR most mornings. Today, (part of ongoing experimentation on Facebook) I placed that claim in (for me) a very personal place. I put it on my Facebook. I provided a small donation there and let two special people know about the widget that would appreciate it.

    The power in adding a new application to your Facebook page changes everything we ever thought about marketing. It really is a mass distribution mechanism and it reinvents the game. The new app. goes into my Facebook news feed so my friends may see it or later when they visit my page. (You will have to join Facebook to see my page).

    Thus without forcing myself or my views on others they can see what I'm adding and choose to experiment or not. There is little need for me to bother them with spam-like invites. My network may determine the relevance. I can also see immediately on "Causes" who else shares my interest in supporting NPR and follow up if desired.

    The "Causes" plug-in was developed by the team at "Project Agape". It's simple although too some time to load. I have no idea what the "admin" charges are or how effective the donation is. That wasn't clear. It may make more sense to go direct. Still it impressed me enough to want to add the badge I'd first found on Rob Patterson's Facebook page. (Also see Rob's blog on Ken Burns and KETC St Louis.  He describes it as an online Lewis  & Clark's journey. Rob believes freeing the media will renew society. His story re NPR is very much 2.0+)

    Two observations for today:
    1. Facebook provides a new form of infection or infectious behavior (they call it mass distribution). It lowers the cost and risk of sharing new widgets with your friends. With a lower social capital cost it also increases the visibility exponentially. The result is we are also learning faster than we could individually. It may not be pretty. It certainly effective and addictive.

    I used to apply this thought to blogging. I was certain that blogging enabled me to learn faster. That still holds true. Facebook takes it to the next level. I'm looking forward to having even better apps. It's may start a "cambrian explosion" for social apps.

    2. Will it change immediately the way software is prototyped. It will certainly change the way consumer software is prototyped. Why would you build anything today outside of Facebook? Wouldn't you first test it inside. Soon even the targeted audiences will be very clear. Some will come to think of Facebook as a great research engine. Learning the Facebook API or at least what it does will be mandatory.

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    July 17, 2007

    Facebook and Mydentity

    A few years ago (about 2002) there was a meme Mydentity I think first put up by Eric Norlin and others summarized here by Doc Searls which had me writing about Trust Circles.

    Two months ago I considered launching a "Facebook Journal"as I am ready for a new challenge and I'd learnt from Skype Journal what both the advantages and disadvantages of such a strategy are. While it could be done; (there are some "Facebook" Tracking blogs already out there) the thought really traced to Facebook's evolution and the excitement it would generate. Yet it is not the real meme that is exploding here. Under it all is a greater need  for an "Identity solution"

    Then at Supernova I missed seeing much chatter about Facebook (Kevin tried to insert it). The following week we arranged a small Facebook Face-Off - a small group adding applications in an accelerated learning and communications session. I'd recommend this to anyone, even novices who haven't been on any of these networks before. 

    Three memes have recently emerged that are interesting to me.

    • Concentrating SNS on Facebook:
    • Facebook as an Identity Solution
    • Stuart Henshall is Media
    My SNS on Facebook
    I'd already started concentrating my networking efforts onto Facebook. However, it was a note by Jeff Pulver on Facebook yesterday (see his blog) that made the choice I'd already been making explicit. I'll admit that Facebook was the same ah-ha moment for me that accompanied Skype, Paypal, Napster, and eBay. I still dislike its closed nature however it works. It also means I've been inviting and enocouraging others to join. Something I've not done on a social network since Ryze. LinkedIn only existed because it was "approved" of by business types. I never had any fun there. My observation is the threshold to exchange is much lower on Facebook vs LinkedIn. Jeff notes the same re referrals. More importantly the exhaust gas from everyones activities helps to maintain and even strengthen weak ties. Facebook as Scoble notes is set to replace my contact lists.

    Facebook and Identity
    Any large community today can potentially offer an Identity solution. Jeremiah Owyang works of some predictions for Facebook, Identity and Social Networks. He correctly identifies that blog comments  require a better log-in system and his post provides a Books on Campus log-in via Facebook. Which is just another app. I'd be happy to provide this as an option tomorrow on my Blog. I'm still wrestling with the OpenID system in MT4.0. Perhaps a Facebook plug-in would be simpler. However using a Facebook Identity to log-in to other sites is really only half the battle. The question is will Facebook allow us to log-in with an OpenId. I'd like to see one identity for all my communications. I'd still like =stuart to mean something. However, while Facebook is aggregating my directory it is also aggregating micro-content. The power in Facebook is the directory. We don't have 1000+ connections anywhere else. In fact the belief was 150. Facebook overturns that. You cannot move a personal directory of 10000 or more. Scoble already has 3000+. I'm still waiting for an OpenID app for Facebook. It would work around communications access in a channel agnostic fashion and manage access depending on the relationship; an area where Facebook manages poorly. See also Facebook is now the New OpenID

    I am Media:
    I liked this post by Roi Carthy and the pharse "I am Media". He links to Robert Scoble is Media This reinforced the discussion we had yesterday in the Yitan call on Facebook. The discussion started about exhaust gas.

    One of the more interesting aspects of Facebook -- at least to those over 22 years of age, for whom much of today's Net may seem counterintuitive -- is the way it works by routing seemingly insignificant exhaust data to your network of friends.

    Do I really need to know the latest favorite book you posted? That you're now buddies with Sam? Apparently yes.
    Facebook will reward those that share. If you believe like me that the more you share the more you will ultimately get back then Facebook shouldn't be too hard to understand. As a blogger I've learned that the more I blog the more I get back and that is a good reason to get back in the blogging habit. I'm still not using Facebook effectively, and there are many behaviors we will all learn that make it more effective.  I hear the same rejections and same not for business comments that I've heard about other social tools. Get over it. Start experimenting.

    As we learn to share more it will become easier to aggregate information about ourselves. That is where the future is. In the meantime Facebook while interesting still lacks really meaningful controls.

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    July 18, 2007

    What's your Facebook Strategy

    Jeff writes: What's your Facebook Strategy? A message I flogged about Skype for a long time. He's made his perfectly clear.  As noted there are many apps just waiting to happen. While the obvious apps are going in little focus is being placed on the threat that Facebook as a global directory makes to communications; or the power that "groups" might acquire in relation to media and access or the new distribution channels being created.

    While the white pages never made any real money without them there would be no telecom industry. Facebook is certainly much more than white or yellow pages. From my perspective it is doing a great job at creating very rich profiles. Nothing else anywhere comes close. For the moment Facebook's strategy is "numbers"; more and more converts. Telecom companies should worry about it. For media companies it is a threat of a different kind which will over time turn over all their ad model assumptions.

    The Jeff Pulver Blog: Facebook is: Self-Healing

    And now is the time to think about what YOUR Facebook strategy is or is going to be.
    I'd add I still have some reservations about Facebook, however these are not material in terms of where we are on the development curve today. Facebook is the one to study and the real question to deal with is "What's your Social Media Strategy?"

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    July 26, 2007

    The "Social Strategy" and Alec Saunders

    I have to tip my hat to Alec Saunders. His blog, his writing and the topics he's writing about. Including "Stop Using Me". Well Alec I'm using you today, as a friend, blogger, and  pointer to a person who writes a great socially aware marketing blog. Who acts as both the customer for many products and the CEO of Iotum. I'm holding you up today. It's both a knack and a creation.

    I think I will go looking for more blogs like yours. It's an emerging genre and for some companies a foundation element for success with "Branding" and "Marketing" in a 2.0+ world.

    Great commentary:

    I enjoyed your Ooma insights and somehow you still managed the thumbs down politely. While I was described by you as thumbs down in criticism. I was certainly blunt in providing the feedback that I won't shell out $400 for this product.

    Where I want to pick a bone is on your perceptions that the PR and Marketing failed to have the right blogger outreach. While it may have helped the real problem is still the product and the price point. Still I think it goes further than just the product and there are lessons for hardware / physical product launches everywhere.

    In a 2.0 world marketing is reframed; the consumer is dead, and the users are people. Every product requires a social strategy. Products like the message are inherently social. All media is now social. I know you know this. Iotum has a presence and SOCIAL standing way beyond it's footprint. This traces to trust, transparency and a sense that "we" know and understand what you and your team are trying to do. Most importantly Iotum seems communications as social.

    The Ooma marketing failed on all these fronts. They are not transparent about the technology. The product suggests security compromises. They brought in an Actor and and that's supposed to make it cool. They thought they were in control of the "message". That's an old school thought and thinking that too many companies are continuing to make. Ooma is not a social product.

    The brand manager cannot own the message. We the "people" are the message and collectively "place" the product. In many ways it's always been that way. Just in this case --- no one seemed to ask... "what will the WOM (word of mouth) be?". Andy perhaps characterises this very well describing it as "Hype".

    While I started this post with Alec, and close with Andy both these guys are exemplary examples of participating in next generation marketing and branding programs. It has become a "trusim" that if you want to launch VoIP products then you better think and build relationships with them; and I could name a dozen others. VoIP products today require a social context and backdrop to be successful. Names, branding, pricing etc all matter. However, if you are not prepared to talk about it early and often you can forget about it.

    Just in the VoIP space these are (just some of the companies) that share their stories and are learning faster from their customers. Truphone, JajahFring Phonegnome,etc.
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    August 29, 2007

    Blogger's Posts Launch Mosoci

    I didn't expect to blog today about new ventures and plans. Then in a world of twitter steams, IM exchanges and general old fashion sharing we often get the "push" that accelerates us forward down the path. I found Ken Camp and Dan York this morning blogging and humbling us with what they had found at Mosoci. Mosoci is the new venture that Dina and I have set up to formalize a collaboration that goes back a few years. There's more at Mosoci where we are still very much in the alpha - beta point of working out how to best integrate our lifestreams. Now we get to do it live.  It's exciting and frankly rewarding to live in a time where news and commentary just makes you say... "Oh Wow!".

    We know we would not be doing this without everyone that has read our blogs over the last few years. Social Media built the platform for our collaboration and the sense that our network and community would support, participate with us and help us grow. Now it is beyond an idea and yet it is still being formulated. We certainly don't want to end up as just the two of us. Today though we are happy to feel like we are in a constant state of beta. That's the zone where it is a real rush.

    Thank you for your support, praise and interest. Our blogs and blogging will evolve just like our other social media activities are. For example we are really enjoying bringing our bookmarking into the feed. For now our tweets are there too. That may be overwhelming. Then it may also be helpful. We'll let the readers tell us.

    It would be great if you would jump in on the conversation at Mosoci and add MosociRSS to your reader. We'd love your feedback and suggestions.

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    October 8, 2007

    Facebook Profiles

    I hope this isn't true! Structuring profiles eg (business or professional vs personal) is so limiting and isn't representative of the flow that exists between different relationships. If elements of a profile are to be limited then the controls must be much more precise. To go from one to two profiles leaves me with the same problem. Are they both on... is one on, are they both off. Profiles are outputs of how we group and tag information... and then grant access to it.

    This issue is another facet of Stowe's message re groupings. You must enable it so I can assign more than one tag. Group Tags may have different access to different information. If you are a member of more than one group you may have access to more or less profile information. Eg you can be my Friend and my Colleague.  This may also relate to time of day, my state (what I'm doing) and how I perceive my relationship with you. In reality we can't manage every piece of information on a per user / per relationship basic. However, we should also remember that just because we make it available... others may choose not to subscribe.

    Laughing at Facebook’s “older” users « Scobleizer

    IBM has about 20,000 employees on Facebook. We’ve explored how that can be used for internal communications/engagement objectives, and have discovered that there’s real potential - though many prefer to keep their “personal” and “professional” lives separate (I call it the “do I want my boss to see me in my bathing suit?” problem.) If Facebook can solve this - and the reports from last week that they’re developing a way for users to have dual profiles suggests they’re trying - FB’s value for networking will increase considerably.
    Where Facebook can really innovate is in the controls area. Tags should also have controls that determine what's shared, how long, privacy, expiry, etc.

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    About Social Networks

    This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Unbound Spiral in the Social Networks category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

    Skype Journal is the previous category.

    Social Software is the next category.

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