Strategic Foresight Archives

June 30, 2000

The Swarm

Is it sharing or stealing? Entertainment moguls may not be able to stop Napster and Gnutella Fred Vogelstein 06/12/2000 U.S. News & World Report

The moment he laid eyes on it, Gene Kan, 23, knew he had stumbled across something big--really big. Hundreds of music tracks were coming up on his computer screen. A program called Gnutella had connected him to thousands of individual computers around the world, and now he and everyone on this spontaneously created network could search one another's files for songs.

"I realized that this wasn't about swapping MP3s [music files] but a cool new technology." It was the basis of a New Age search engine--one that wouldn't just search for music on people's computers but would hunt down anything anyone wanted to anonymously share with the outside world,

Intel Chairman Andy Grove and Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen, the man who developed the first Web browser, think file sharing is an important trend. "The idea of file sharing is the most important development on the Web since the browser," says Andreesen. One of the problems with the recent evolution of the Internet is that it has become too centralized, he says. "It's all up to something in the middle to determine what you see. Gnutella's technology blows that up. It mirrors the original architecture of the Internet."

File-Swapping Networks and related sites:

Napster: (First to get big PR though and others where around earlier)

See also Viewpoint
The Digital Reckoning Listen up. The music industry is being "kidnapstered," and it's fighting mad Karl Taro Greenfeld 05/22/2000 Time Magazine Time Inc. 56

Almost any news search will bring up many listings. Most of the file-sharing sites above are linking into PR references.

FreeNet hompages at

Freenet is a peer-to-peer network designed to allow the distribution of information over the Internet in an efficient manner, without fear of censorship. Freenet is completely decentralized, meaning that there is no person, computer, or organisation in control of Freenet or essential to its operation. This means that Freenet cannot be attacked like centralized peer-to-peer systems such as Napster. Freenet also employs intelligent routing and caching meaning that it learns to route requests more efficiently, automatically mirrors popular data, makes network flooding almost impossible, and moves data to where it is in greatest demand. All of this makes it much more efficient and scalable than systems such as Gnutella.

The original Freenet design was created by Ian Clarke as his final year project in a degree in Artificial Intelligence and Computer science at Edinburgh University, Scotland. The project was completed in June 1999 when Ian made it available on the Internet in the hope that others would see the potential in the design and use it to make Freenet a reality. The software can now be downloaded.

The FreeNet publicity pages contain a number of articles on the evolution of Freenet

April 16, 2000: Freshmeat This may no longer be available hard copy attached.
Client As Server: The New Model
An interesting article discussing distributed systems and how systems like Freenet are actually in a similar spirit to the original Internet.

Cybiko</b> Toy or Prophesy?
For an on going update on the changing tech environment see one of the more useful e-mail discussion letters found at and click-through to the recent issue dated 05/08/2000 on Changing Our Internet Rules - Yet Again. An earlier letter speculated on and now new toys are emerging for the summer and fall

A recent new clip included: Now imagine the same scene, but in this version there is hardly a sound. Children carry low-cost, high-tech devices capable of beaming voice and text messages wirelessly to fellow students packing similar devices. By speaking directly into the devices or tapping tiny keyboards or writing with styluses on touch screens, they dispatch and receive juvenile jokes, jabs and gossip over radio waves.

IndraNet Technologies

IndraNetTM networks are self-managing and evolving. They are based on a new approach to telecommunications and artificial intelligence. They suggest a possible breakaway evolution based self-managing and evolving systems. For a functionality overview refer:
For further detail on concepts see:
For their scenario of applications see:
For IndraNet issues relating to Telecommunications and Network Technology and how the IndraNet system will differ with related patent discussion see


This new entrant recently came to our attention. Worth looking at the investing partners alone. Graviton combines proprietary technologies in wireless communication, micro-electrical sensors, and object-oriented data management solutions to enable distributed, self-organizing, device-to-device communication networks. graviton sensor networks can measure anything at anytime.

In the 21st Century, sensors will play an increasingly important role in the network economy as trillions of devices are interconnected in distributed wireless networks. By cost-effective management of data traffic from these networks, gravitons custom solutions and services will provide dramatic benefits to home and industrial users.

This book is the best management guide to complexity theory I have ever seen. It is well worth the read. It has been out of print and only recently relisted. Buy it at

Navigating Complexity: The Essential Guide to Complexity in Business and Management
by Arthur Battram Navigating Complexity

An excellent source for further reading, including Reciever Based Communications (Fly-by-Wire) and autopoiesis which applies to all living systems and suggests approaches beyond receiver and sender based communications.

June 27, 2002

Scenarios & Stories

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

I wonder... How many of you would jump on a 747 with a pilot that had never trained in a flight simulator? We know that pilots train in simulators on the ground to better prepare themselves for eventualities and challenges that many never happen. They also train for landings at airports that will appear on their schedules in the future. Unfortunately few teams have the opportunity provided by the flight simulator.

I tend to think of scenarios as a flight simulator for management. Framed well they are hypothesis of alternate environments in which our decisions may have to play out. They do not represent the future story of the company. By windtunnelling (or testing) current strategies against a range of alternate scenarios an organization improves its potential to minimize risk. Scenarios need to be customized to context if they are to be useful.

Scenarios as a form of story-telling work because they are framed around critical uncertainties (simplistic example - boom or bust economy). By building scenarios around uncertainty we are 1)opening and focusing minds on what is both important to the issue at hand and uncertain as to outcome. 2)critical uncertainties are more likely to take us to the edge of chaos where new ideas, solutions etc are most likely to emerge. 3)Scenarios must be plausible, therefore drilling down to changes in the sytemic underpinnings is important to building understanding and retaining credibilty. In this form they provide story telling and structure that not only helps to minimize risk about the decisions we must make today, but they are used to accelerate learning. When we accept that Planning is learning, (not extrapolation)then we also embrace that it may be the only way to sustainable competitive advantage.

As an organization (like the pilot) reacts to new inputs, better questions are what sustains success. The future is inherently unpredictable. Yet with very little effort we can bring in stories from the outside - so we think better inside the box. In a networked world --- connectivity is driving this. If you are a cellular carrier you better be thinking about swarms, if you are a health provider, genetic testing is already here. If you are a cotton producer, perhaps you should look at goat silk. From time to time an organization should look at everything, a "ruthless curiosity" is healthy. If stories and hypothesis get you to where you can really "listen" then success in the marketplace is much more viable. Scenarios are just one tool for getting us

I agree Stephen with your comment to find a star to peg future stories. I've always felt that the 1 to 2 word strategic intent was the right way to go. They work when stretch is involved. Effective leaders also cut the time for delivery. A yet they are also falible. Years ago Motorola - Wireless World (It led them to Irridium!)Motorola was so focused on their story they didn't pay attention to the Nokia's etc of the world. More recently Motorola has use "Intelligence Everywhere" For my two cents another example of introverted disaster. There is no benefit for "us" in this. Many of the early ad campaigns were close to I spy.

October 19, 2002


This posting is the result of watching Poptech, finding the following blog and then subscribing to it.  That added it to my news list (which will need some editing).  Next step will be to add some navigation bars..... The post and comment....

Total Immersion in Virtual Reality and Virtual Worlds - this afternoon's program features Jordan Pollack and Bruce Damer, and apparently it's show and tell time.  Pollack shows us a gangly robot that was evolved from software trying to create something.   Damer showed us a virtual world program with weird heads that were actually controlled by real people.  I lack the skills to even attempt to explain what is happening during this session.  

[Ernest Svenson: Poptech 2002

Joe's piece raised great quesitons about Intellectual Property and Artificial Intelligence.  Clearly we need to think more about how the artificial world thinks about property.  For what are the implications when a world of replicators (like star trek) can simply pull information out of an "object"?

November 5, 2002

Manhattan WiFi Map

Found a new map on Smartmobs, the results of the Public Internet Project to log WiFi nodes across Manhattan. Also picked up in Werblog and others.

At first glance it looks like an explosion of WiFi inter-connectivity and visually we are being asked to reconsider our "traditional" mental models. However, let's also provide some perspective. MAPS are made for purposes. And this one reminds me of another island and the stories around early maps showing California as an island. At GBN we called it the Map Rap. It's a story about mental models, our assumptions and perceptions.

The learning. If you get your facts wrong, you get your maps wrong. If your map is wrong you tend to do the wrong things. Please don't get me wrong. This is a wonderful map, and interesting collaborative project. What a neat idea. Yet......

Public Internet Project.bmp misses many aspects and details. This is a map that existed last fall. Maps are a wonderful naviagation tool. At issue here is how to navigate from then to the future. The answer will not be found in the map, but in the hearts and minds of those connected to the ground swell. They are not only in Manhattan, networks like these are popping up all over.

The technical forces have propelled us this far. Yet what I want is a living map, showing the conections, and exchanges at any point in time. Though is this enough? I'd suggest this is just another signal in the tsunami of change. If you are tel co, an info provider, etc. I hope you are way beyond this map testing alternate environments in which your decisions play out. If a completely devolved decentralized mass provided impersonal collaborative network is not part of your thoughts, then consider testing your strategies against it. Don't just think about sytems. Think about social structures. From communications to accounting and marketing! etc.

Then... what might tickle a real explosion?

It also poses antoher question. As a company, have you done enough future thinking? Now what are all those wireless networking companies doing about their brands?

November 10, 2002

Future Edition

John Petersen at the Arlington Institute wants more subscribers. His newsetter FUTURE EDITION is published bi-weekly. It "explores a cross-disciplinary palette of issues, from the frontiers of science and technology to major developments in mass media, geopolitics, the environment, and social perspectives." To subscribe

November 12, 2002

A Publishing Future?

From Dan Pink The biggest story you missed . . . if you're into publishing, Costco, or waffle wedges.

From Steven Zeitchick's excellent piece in yesterday's Publishers Weeklys NewsLine: "Over the last decade Costco's influence on the book trade has grown extraordinarily, with the company leading a segment that is now responsible for nearly 10% of sales.

"But starting soon, the retailer will try on a new hat -- as a publisher.

November 19, 2002


Today I had a motivating coffee with a close friend. Much of our early conversation was about SMART MOBS the book. Both of us really itching to push boudaries and take product and service concepts concepts well beyond the boundaries outlined in the book; to give SMART MOBS a business building edge.

Then it is not unusual for Tom and I to reflect on stories, the scenarios we write and exploring different concepts as we go. It's an update. We are both passionate about the challenges of the future. Then we discover some fragment or item we have never shared, playing with some new concept and model. Today one emerged as I was hunting for yet another example of how the blogging / publishing community might revolutionize the customer service business.

ANTIPORT traces to 1999. I remember writing it - sort of pounded it out. It was meant to fly in the face of today's customer service practices. Antiport suggests that smart mobs can run customer feedback systems. What's more perhaps today with a more object oriented web the costs and programs maybe ready to enable it!

I beleive it was brash and bold then. From marketing PR to seeding a community for customer feedback. Let me know what you think. I'll be watching to see if anyone registers this time round.

Imagine: January 21, 2003 (updated) News headlines around the world...
Antiport Flys New Format for Landing Consumer Feedback
Today the largest mass registration in the history of Internet names took place. The top 10000 companies worldwide have a new conscience. Today, spent $1m and registered 10000 urls including,,, anti.anything importantand they plan on making a new business out of customer complaints. Whats more they are giving the business away!

Marketplace for Customer Feedback
So how does it work? Antiport is a new marketplace, the market for customer feedback. Antiport began by giving away 10000 opportunities to take over the customer feedback function for the largest companies on earth. Each antisite will run a similar franchised feedback model capturing and reporting on key customer feedback. The antisite will pay five percent of all revenue received to Antiport. Antisites are all employee owned and gain shares and vest over three years in the Antiport based on the volume of organizational and community feedback they support. As this feedback network grows, so will the value of Antiport shares. Antiport appears to have adopted the successful SAIC ownership model. Potentially anyone can register an unregistered anti-site and working to the open standards gain approval and membership. This may become the ultimate recruit yourself business.

Handling the complaint virus!

But it doesnt stop there. Antiport is simply anti bad services and products. And the best remedy isnt just forgetting about it but making problems transparent. When you register a complaint with the relevant antisite, as a consumer you get some additional choices; you can share it with a pass this one on list of your friends or contacts, you can also add to that the activist list automatically forwarding your complaint / request to a random sample of interested parties. Then there is the follow-up list. Having put in a complaint you can follow similar items, etc. Each one provides metrics, and a call back to the community for discussion and remedies. This is because the founders believe that these cold viruses will make poor performance transparent. As consumers we can expect better responses. Companies that fail to respond will probably end up on the anti-port black list. Now would you buy a product from one of those? Its rumored that deals with bizrate, epinions, revbox and dealtime are also pending.

Lower Costs, Improved value creation
With the announcement 25 fortune 500 companies announced from today that their feedback functions were outsourced to these new antisite consumer communities. In reality their customer service departments just started their own businesses. Long term the new services are expected to provide customer feedback for a lower cost. So now, for the first time those receiving the complaint will have ownership in running it down and reporting on it and getting a remedy. Now thats a lot better than just $10.00 per hour. More importantly Antiport just redefined their job. They are no longer there to hide company problems (How much sooner could we have learned about explorer tires?) but to benefit each of us. No wonder we will leave them a tip --- and thats different! What happens when it is a pleasure to make a complaint? Now, just think how their shares of the most valuable information on earth will appreciate as consumers adopt this simple new approach. We expect Antiport to be come the news portal for all major consumer complaints.

Antisites all agree to provide for the customer information they collect to their originator for free (eg to Additional customized data required by the company will be completed by Antisite customers at current costs. Additional revenue comes from selling the information to competitors, selling advertising for competitive products, a commission on legal remedies, and running new industry community feedback groups.

For the community too
For smaller companies there are even bigger benefits. A number of groups are registering anti-sites for a collection of local community businesses. For example three people expect to handle all consumer complaints for the businesses in the town of Lafayette California. They are just using the same infrastructure the larger companies use, but there are some twists too. They are providing a follow-up sales service to local contractors, so feedback on their performance is captured. Its rumored that the best community in the US award will be announced starting in 2005. Whats more it is tied in with

Of course it wont be easy for them to get off the ground. But if you interested and youve got a company you think need reforming you best get acquainted with Antiport. The educational materials, on-line training and control systems are all there for you to get qualified and started. Register and hold your Antisite today!

Antiporters will also participate in an audit system exchange, thus learning from other industries and other problem solving situations. Thus at its core it provides a Peer to Peer model of learning and collaboration. Interestingly, it may well be the first business that requires no offices anywhere! The core web system is completely web enabled, reducing communications costs.

The antisite approach is currently available in 13 languages and confirmed operable in 56 countries.

Marketplace for Customer Feedback

Centralized feedback market, - one number- guaranteed follow-up
Distributed Structure Distributed scalability
Transparency - Viral rapid visibility,
Ownership structure owned by knowledge workers directly involved
Marketplace speeds learnings and provides new opportunities for solutions / community
Industry groups possible shared learning and new standards
New panels possible

As consumers:
Feedback is used not buried, more likely to improve products and services.
Enable the powerful telling of real stories.
Viral structure will take bad feedback to a new level!
Creating a consumer conscience!

November 20, 2002



Smart Mobs
Today's post reviews SMART MOBS by Howard Rheingold who many have admired for his passion and thinking development around communities. SMART MOBS recognizes and captures a new paradigm. As he says "....a technology that is going to change my life in ways I can scarcely imagine..." Ultimately that is my real bone of contention with this book.

It's unfinished. We must collaborate on dreams to seed tomorrow's solutions.

My attraction to SMART MOBS was the language that enables swarms to emerge from science and appear in our daily lives. The theories arent really new and neither are the observations, which never break any new ground. It is a masterful collection of sources capable of leading you on a merry journey. Yet someone not already partially aware may find it tedious, for within a descriptive prose it fails to uncover real dreams for tomorrow. As a result it wont create many inspiring new options for you. It may stimulate further inquiry. It is timely and yet primarily observational tracing to Howard Rheingolds 2001 journey of discovery.

If you are new to Napster, SMS and Seti, or books by Kurzwiel or Mann and dont know what 802.11b is, then this book may provide plenty to think about. Did I mention Lessig, Winer and Searles, or Seattle, participation on eBay, surveillance? The list could go on.

This book is exploratory not prescriptive. Not all the facts and observations are likely to be correct. It fails to address questions that CEOs marketers and strategists should ask about a SMART MOB world. If you send it to your CEO friend (not HP, Motorola, Sony IBM etc. who better be very familiar with the concepts) for Christmas make sure you make it your job to get them thinking constructively beyond this book. Sell them a Learning Journey; collapse Howards travels over two years into two days. Then help them create. Here there is not enough to move the majority of businesses forward. If you see possible impacts on your business the challenge will be to create a dream and road map for action. For CEOs it fails to conceptualize how smart mobs will affect the business model. Or how will money be made in a world like this? What does marketing mean in a smart mob world?

So lets give FIVE STARS for those that need SMART MOBS as a wake-up call, and realize that the book is out of date. I believe much is inevitable. Hidden within are market-changing concepts and ideas. Believe and you will ultimately need to rethink everything regardless of market and industry, from Inventory to customer complaints.

Smart Mobs covers a lot of ground. Some like music sharing or texting we take for granted now. Not all of it exists on our doorsteps. The changes are global and local. However the emergence and impact cant be confined to your business, market or learning environment. The challenge is also personal. I wish HR had spelled it out more boldly. You will need to take a stand. A revolution is in the making. It will tip the whole system, as we know it. Think about your position on intellectual property, digital exchanges. How should wireless spectrum be regulated? What is the future of publishing? Are you managing your reputation? Where do you place your bets and investments? How should learning and education change? Will this affect my government? Etc.

If you have views on these things and need examples, use this book. Dont wait for a follow-up edition. Share your motivation to learn and swarm on curiosity seeking answers collaboratively in real-time. For the next hit about SMART MOBS wont be written by an individual. It will emerge collectively perhaps bloggedly with many faces, contributing. Despite todays uncertainty the web is already a better place to learn, experiment and prototype these things. Resorting to a book is catch-up! There are daily blogs that provide more up to date perspectives. The supportive SMART MOBS blog tries to step into real time. It has a nice focus. It has a theme to clip around. Absorb the postings and you will probably be on your way.

My largest learnings in the book came from the link made to Steve Mann and CYBORG. Again this is not news. Mann has been a roving CYBORG for twenty years. His experience shows there is a problem in the language. The link that Howard makes bringing Cyborgs into this picture was interesting to me. His quoting of Mann was worth reading the book for: The smart room is a retrograde concept that empowers the structure over the individual, imbuing our houses, streets and public spaces with the right to constantly observe and monitor us for the purported benefit of ensuring we are never uncomfortable or forced to get up from the armchair to switch on a lamp Naturally Manns research is working to foster independence using wearable computers. Bring it back to today. Now look at networking your house. Will you wire it? Or simply go wireless? Wireless is already winning on cost!

For those that know how technologies trickle down and where to look, Smart Mobs gives great examples out of DARPA. (Mesh networks and more.) When our kids and soldiers operate this way. Take notice. The book may also help you understand quickly why the regulations around wireless and selling bandwidth have been a mistake. We now have incumbents with enormous investments trying to protect and maintain a system that is no longer effective. Change the way Wireless is regulated or simply watch it overturned by consumers.

I am not raving madly about this book for Id like a stronger conclusion. I really believe Howard is on the side of decentralization, collaborative communities, protecting the innovation commons and thinking about governing in a world of SMART MOBS. SMART MOBS is simply another name for communities of consumers (COMSUMERS) empowered and collaborating to accelerate the use of their information assets. Are costs for moving to unbound systems rapidly dropping? SMART MONEY will be on invisibly aggregating these new markets while consumers stay in control.

There is a thread. Not one I found blaring out in the book. SMART MOBS accelerate learning. Whether you are part of a music sharing community, fighting on a battlefield, a human cyborg, all are part of collaborative SMART MOBS prototyping real-time solutions. They are more open source by nature. The thread is there. Napster hot lists and the emergent subscription communities around blogging for example.

Despite underscoring SMART MOBS as the next social revolution there is little clarity on when the revolution will tip. What is the tipping point? As examples from Philippines to Seattle show, systems can tip in just a few days. There is an inherent suggestion that systems around wireless may tip and become P2P based. I remember writing such a Scenario a couple of years ago. As we wrote it CYBIKO was announced (another example in the book) which added credibility to our scenario. That stimulated a financial discussion (the book lacks any financial insight about tipping points). How close is it? That will be for you the reader to guesstimate.

This decade will continue to challenge us all. The way we live, collaborate, and connect though communities that swarm, sometimes for seconds and others towards eternity. Smart Mobs goes beyond just applying Moores, Reids, and Metcalfs laws and yet never really brings urgency to the challenges that face us. As a business you cannot afford to wait!

November 21, 2002

Radical Strategy Innovation

Charles Handy is one of the really primo strategy thinkers. The thread I picked up on was how top managers - manage - and yet fail to have the skills to look beyond. The classic solution is to bring in consultants - outside perspective -. Great we all need it. AND I WOULD NOT TURN AWAY ADDITIONAL WORK!

Then I open Fast Company. I always read Gary Hamel "Now's the Time to Change the Game" and think. My offering has to be better than his! In the FC article I see similar words around the Handy dilemma, reading as he introduces learning journeys and the need to inspire "viscerally" led solutions from within! So I will take his advice from the article to heart! His advice! My response! Flippant comments!

1>>> Radical innovators challenge the dogmas and the orthodoxies of the incumbents. The first thing the CEO should challenge is his strategist and outside advisors! Ask them how do we create tomorrow's strategies today? Ask yourself --- What dogma does this strategist carry? How orthodox are his perscriptions? What strategic business model does he or his organization use? Then get rid of every "strategy" provider that isn't network and community centric. For the first rule is. Go fishing where the others are not fishing! Don't let Strategos, McKinsey, BCG etc near your business for insights. Insights come when your whole community (customers, employees, partners, shareholders, other stakeholers, etc) accelerates learning. Then search out individuals with dreams to help you make change using methods that inspire from the ground up. Make sure they come with an offer that includes a free beta testing capability worth 20 -200 times what you are paying them! Cause then you know you will be getting leverage! As an individual I can give you 20 times now tracing to my network and affiliations. Then wrap this in to a community and grow the organism.

2>>> Radical Innovators spot the trends the are already changing but have gone unnoticed. Well we followed his first rule in one above (look where your competitors aren't). Sorry real radical innovation is in sythesizing disparate threads find collaboratively creative solutions at friction points. Spotting suggests someone is a watcher. Collaboration suggests methods within your community that accelerate the emergence of new concepts that lead to action. Your role is to create compelling friction points that give your community "an innovation voice"! Of course in this section he really pisses me off. "I'm not a big fan of ...... scenario planning, because I don't believe that you can predict the future." Scenario planning is not about predicting the future! Scenarios are about synthesizing new threads, discovering potential, accelerating learning, asking better questions, often in real-time, yes testing hypotheses to creat alternate environments in which we MAY have to execute our decisions. I think Gary's problem is not knowing how to create relevant context for scenarios with participants. THEY are NOT PREDICTIONS! Merely a tool to help answer the unaswerable.... until you know, really know.... What must we collectively do next?

3>>> Radical innovators learn to live inside the customer's skins. Looks good doesn't it. In fact I'd trace my most successful marketing programs to just this statement and the need to go after unarticulated needs. So what's the problem? It's a given. In our world of radical strategy, accepting the above is to accept the industrial paradigm. It suggests we... the organization are providers of value rather than the co-creators in value. The emergent exchanges that create real value are multivariate experiences. The current renewed passion for deep ethnographic reseach is a result of the dash amongst large corporates for the "unarticulated need". I admit I've seen some fantastic stuff as a result. So while I am finding it difficult to frame my complete objection here. I have a suspicion that these current passions are microed into the shower or bath, when perhaps the real elements that will reframe them are a paradigm shift away. Mentally, although not in time. Now if you have read my posts whether on swarms, smart mobs, or COMsumers you will see an underlying belief that collaborative responsive highly connective networks are important to framing the fullfillment of unarticulated needs. So as a strategy organization we should start thinking much more systemically about how to respond. For me the experience is enhanced when everyone is a customer and th community is the brand and vice versa.

4>>> Radical Innovators think of their companies as portfolios of assets and competencies. There is a fundamental assumption here. It is that the company controls assets that actually make a difference. (Brand, customer relationships, databases etc noted) These are fundamentally information assets and increasingly valueless when held by companies and not within markets. SMART MOBS can take this asset away or make it transportable and mulitply them 1000 fold. The radical innovative leaders for tomorrow won't think of themselves as managing organizations but facilitating markets - value creation across markets / networks. And here we seemingly have a dilemma, and a real challenge. For networks aren't more effective when they compete. They require collaborative skills.

Then the closing --- guess what? He promotes "Wisdom in markets" markets with peer review and alternate forms of funding. However I struggle with the suggestion that "The goal is to build systems (Internal) that mimic the marketplace, where ideas, talent, and capital can find one another quickly." This sounds like consultant speak for spend lot's of money. Guess that is the problem. There are not many companies out there that would live in an open source world or provide that degree of transparency with their customers. When you spend your money. Remember you are not really after an innovation system. What you want is to be the leader of and in healthy markets! At the moment beyond eBay I can't think of many. Like Gary I believe you need an effective migration path and a systematic approach customised to context. Then like me. Test what he is telling you. Is it radical enough? Then cut his budget by 20%, offer us 10% and pocket the rest! You need some heretics on board!

Ah it's old: A para from The COMsumer Manifesto. "As information transfers to COMsumers, organizations are thrown back into the world of goods and services. Information will no longer be a scarcity around which organizations compete. This is a world where information is freely available or priced at fair market rates. Businesses will no longer be able to maximize their profits by mining the closed, proprietary data mines they have accumulated. This is a world where information is freely available or priced at fair market value rates. Thus organizations will find themselves with new product and service development demands. The challenge for organizations will be to look to other scarcities that help to develop the value of their products and sustain their position."

As a final note and thanks to Gary for stimulating my thinking - one of my favorite stategy quotes from him is: "Great strategy is always subversive!" Without "Competing for the Future" other books and all the HBR articles my life would have taken a very different path!

November 22, 2002

Darknet Future Strategy

The Darknet and the Future of Content Distribution is an article by Microsoft employees posted at Stanford University. They describe the darknet as the collection of technologies used to share digital content including hardware (DVD Burners), software (Kazaa, Napster) and the objects that are traded (music, films etc.)

Their conclusion:
"We speculate that there will be short-term impediments to the effectiveness of the darknet as a distribution mechanism, but ultimately the darknet-genie will not be put back into the bottle."

More importantly they had a few words for business and marketing strategy.

".... probably make more money by selling unprotected objects than protected objects. In short, if you are competing with the darknet, you must compete on the darknets own terms: that is convenience and low cost rather than additional security."

So in other words... in the minds of Microsoft's thinkers it is a foregone conclusion that the trading of digital product (music, cd's etc.) will be enabled by darknet technologies. Nothing really new here. So what is the recording industry to do? First follow the advise of many. Provide me with an experience!

Now using the music industry as an example and simply trying to be provactive, with thoughts of Smart Mobs, COMsumers etc in the back of my mind.

Economics limited the size of personal music collections. I could never before afford every piece of music on earth. Now I can. It's almost free! However, I have no idea what to look for. I also bet there are many more "stars" out there who are not managed because they didn't package into a record store. So expand the number of artists you market, and then market them to me, locally as well! I'm sure music is played in public venues in the Bay Area! I suspect the challenge for RIAA members is to become a lot more efficient at becoming a ubiquitous agent.

Technology has enabled me to play progams in many locales. I'm no longer confined to a plug or affected by environmental conditions. My music consumption by time is increasing. So how fast can you grow my music interest and music conversation? Make it even more attactive to live my life with music. Can you make my music profile go anywhere? Can it swarm with people in a street fair? I think you better take my darknet sharing wireless!

As an industry you segment me rather than link me. You seek to profile me rather than find my peers. I'm guessing there is real utility value in linking hotlists. I believe that and some slick metrics / indicators would subtly accelerate my learning and your learning about me. Hey you can have the information if I get some better utility for it. Afterall on Kazaa I already give it away. What might that be? Try changing the experiece of a dinner party - invisibly without effort?

Of course the music industry thinks they are limited to music. In fact this industry is the benefactors of a completely new channel. This is like waking up and realising you could be the next WalMart. A channel where consumers are comfortable sharing their music lists. Can you not ask yourself what else we consumers might be willing to share. Here you are an industry that knows how to write contracts! Negotiate good prices and secure a profit for yourselves and your artists. Hey can you link me, my interests and make some slick purchase recomendations on my part? Perhaps (given the number of us playing the music) you could do some buying for us. Might just be a margin in it.

Easier? We play more data records with more connection points per day than we will every play music. Perhaps you might like to think about books rather than my groceries or insurance at first. Amazon is nice and yet they will never understand what I read or the reviews I should be seeing. (like blogs I'd like sent to me.) Why don't you put your minds to it. Afterall I know what I play. Just not prepared to put the effort into list sharing. Can't you use the same principles with my peers to create and enhance my reading experience?

Of course dear RIAA you thought I was done. I'm not. To build your reputation you must build the reputation of our community, our data sharing community. You need to work on trust and building in the right levels of privacy. I really doubt you can do it. Afterall it requires leadership by example. With your threats I've learned to despise and distrust you. Clearly you can't control it. HOWEVER YOU CAN FACILITATE IT! Your goal is to set in play a market for digital information sharing. Call it eBaycubed for the prototype. Get the idea?

It would seem the elements for a recipe are obvious. All that is left to do is cook up a migration path. Weathly magnates, show me the customer that you really have our music interests at heart! Build a community for all of us around our digital rights!

November 25, 2002

Smart Mobs Scenarios

All of us, at one time or another, have wondered what the future will be like? Dreamt the odd imaginary life and asked what sort of world will our children to live in? As corporate leaders there is pressure and desire make the world a better place? However, short-termism often gets in the way of exploring better ways of getting to the future. While we rush to INNOVATE - INNOVATE we still require frameworks for testing BETTER IDEAS! How often do we consider the forces of change that might light a long-term fuse, --- create new options and ultimately help us frame that better more robust path forward?

This is a post mulling over long-term changes and whether earlier thinking about Smart Mobs had appeared in Global Scenarios. I just briefly looked again at "The Millennium Project" from 1999. It's a normative scenario and way out there 2050, so we don't benefit from an alternate view or obvious critical uncertainties. I just scanned it for threads around innovation, invisible tech, smart mobs etc. My interpretation is that our emerging "digital commons?" is encapsulated in the cyber brain concept, which appeared to emerge without wars over IP, DRM etc. Could it be the Millennium scenario assumed that "information wants to be free"?

Relating Global Scenarios to Smart Mobs; will the underpinnings that link the interests of organizations and govenments survive?

Global Scenarios are developed to go beyond regional or business boundaries. They are really attempts to think at higher levels of abstraction. They usually deal with global scale developments often providing useful background summarizing research and findings that enable smaller organizations to relate to these issues. An organization can then nest their scenarios in a way that enables a panorama style view. Dependent on an organizations / industry development there may be parallels. As an organization progresses this might increase the level of confidence amongst decision-makers. Regardless the idea is to provide people with images that make them think and learn. Having strong Global Scenarios out there helps us think.

So recent Smart Mobs discussion points piqued my curiosity. If I search Google for Global Scenarios, how many will address "Smart Mob" type issues? How many links will provide thoughts and frameworks for the next stage of this technical revolution? On searching I can find smart dust, pervasive computing, and yet I think our probing finds Smart Mob threads sadly missing. At a time when technology is accelerating is it possible that we need some new "global scenarios" that more effectively deal with the emergent challenges to "identity", the digital commons, nano-dust, etc.?

An older article may help to provide some additional context. In 1995 Wired "How to Build Scenarios" asks the question "What will be the general tenor of commercial life on a global scale in the year 2020?" This article was not about predicting the future or specific event, but to highlight large-scale forces that impact on the world we will live in tomorrow. The scenario matrix is still interesting today, though we may fill in some of the blanks differently.

Quoting from the article: "The first axis of uncertainty is the character of our desire, an "I" or "We," individual or community. This uncertainty about the quality of our individual hopes and intentions cuts at the most fundamental level: Will the energy of democratization and the ascendance of the ultimate individualized "I" continue to prevail? Or will our social organization and self-definition be rooted in a group - a nation, a tribe, a collection of users of a particular brand, a more communitarian "We"? The I or the We will never disappear, but which will come to be the prevailing influence in our culture? It could go either way, and with a bang; that is the uncertainty."

The second (vertical) axis shows the uncertain character of social structure: Will society be a center that holds and provides stability, or will it fragment? Here, we stake out the extreme possibilities of social organization: Will social and political structures (either new or traditional) provide a society wide coherence and order? Or will society shatter into shards, the jagged edges of which do not mesh into a coherent whole? Will there be a state to impose order, level the playing field, and unify a commonwealth? Or, will permanent fragmentation, increasing plurality, and unfettered free-marketism bring us to "bottom-up" functioning anarchy? Our second uncertainty might seem at first blush an outcome of the first. But in fact, while they're related, they're separately uncertain. Indeed, it's precisely the way they're intertwined that makes them interesting by giving us four scenarios, four very different "future spaces" to explore.

Now I know scenarios have been written (some with/by my clients) that included "smart mob" type consumer environments and radically changed information asymmetries. Yet my quick brush looking for updated Global Scenarios doesn't bring this social information revolution to the fore. In fact there are few scenarios around that contrast the changing digital commons. Lawrence Lessig has spoken at length about the innovation commons. In other threads the 'war on terrorism" is perhaps masquerading while serving a darker purpose.

Please judge for yourself. The question I am asking myself is. Are the premises that have effectively linked organizations and our governments for the last 200 years likely to be broken by Smart Mobs? I'd certainly like to see some global scenarios that deal the future for innovation, the exchange of cooperation, identity and community values.

Have you seen any? Can you provide any links? Without them, organizations and government may not change fast enough. As institutions they have served us well. Are we certain they will serve us as well for tomorrow or how must they change? Perhaps there are other ways forward? This area for dialogue can be made more compelling and build a conversation with a broader audience. Id love to see some new global scenarios do just that. Of course even better would be to run such a project

November 28, 2002


Michael Crichton has done it again. Written a book that will make a powerful screen play and a great movie. I was attracted to Prey as soon as I heard that this nano - machines exploration was released. It's a quick read, a tale greed and scientific disregard. Prey is composed of nano-particles, acting intelligently, learning from the environment. They are growing exponetially more dangerous. The story and characters remain fictitious. Yet Crichton's descriptions of swarms, flocking, and complexity brings the convergence of biotechnology, computing, and nano-technology into our lives in a way that will make you think. Let's hope this is not the future we pray for! Let's hope the likely movie follow-up makes sure of it!

Don't discard this from your realm of future possibilities.

December 3, 2002


Kevin Werbach is one of the organizers of Supernova to be held December 9-10, 2002 in Palo Alto, CA. Their description.

Supernova is a new conference exploring the distributed future. With the bursting of the Internet bubble, businesses, end-users, investors, and technology vendors face a bewildering array of challenges. Yet a common theme runs through the fundamental questions facing software, communications, and media. That theme is decentralization.

Intelligence is moving to the edges, through networked computers, empowered users, shifting partnerships, fluid digital content, distributed work teams, and powerful communications devices. Each industry sees only a small piece of the picture. Supernova is the first event to bring these threads together. Those who understand the business opportunities, technical underpinnings, and policy implications of decentralization will have a competitive advantage in any economy.

Some real interesting thinkers. Wish I was going. May provide an interesting update to the P2P conferences I've attended in the last few years. Be a shame if it runs short on attendees. It is still hard to mainstream this message, particularly to marketers. For ultimately this turns the marketing world upside down. A decentralized infrastructure will change consumer interests in information. Perhaps Supernova will help uncover the stories that accelerate change.

If you are looking for more examples of "decentralization" read Kevin's short October paper

December 12, 2002

Piracy & Distribution

<b><a href="">Tim O'Reilly </a></b>has put together a very thoughtful article on file sharing, digital rights and managing digital content distribution channels for the future.

December 18, 2002

Year of Ideas

What was the best idea of the year, and how did it change your life? Check out the NY Times Year in Ideas Mine was going blogging, then that is not an idea it is following a movement. So too are some of suggestions from Smart Mobs to Enhanced Clothing. Still enjoy and think about the innovators behind it. Success may remain beyond these illustrations and yet our interest in Success and "New Thought" began a long time ago.

"But how shall I get ideas? Keep your wits open! Observe! Observe! Study! Study! But above all, Think! Think! And when a noble image is indelibly impressed upon the mind -- Act!"

All who have accomplished great things have had a great aim, have fixed their gaze on a goal which was high, one which sometimes seemed impossible.

-- Orison Swett Marden (1850-1924), founder of Success Magazine - and part of history and old new thoughts.

December 19, 2002

Muddling Through

There is a Serious Play forum on now at Group Jazz Chautauqua with Lisa Kimball and Susan Doherty. Open registrations. Howard Rheingold will be participating there in January on Smart Mobs. See their program. These tend to be interesting discussions. Get on their list. You may want to wade in from time to time.

Current topic Lego Serious Play with Jody Lentz emerges from a practical strategy application using Lego and an "imagination play" metaphor. It also reminds me of the book with a similar name by Michael Schrage which I really enjoyed. Serious Play.bmp
The book has a simple premise. What type of culture are you. A spec to prototype culture or prototype to spec culture. Critical to this is modeling. beta testing etc. The later suggests faster learning, more muddling though. Stories, illustrations, models are all important here. At time there must be rules and other times no rules. I'm sure the structure of the Lego product can be made to work both ways in reality. Go try cyber building with it! Ultimately, "bricks" may help with strategy, but nothing replaces excellent tools for the mind... including great facilitation, context and the excitment and enthusiam of dealing with complexity.

Wonderful to find Stacy's Agreement / Uncertainty matrix presented so well. Found via John Keldon at Sign of Knowledge. His link to Plexus Institute finds many interesting links.


As I blog... I'm far from certainty and similarly perhaps far from agreement... thus with inconsistency I can continue "muddling though" searching for the creative zone while following the fashion for - self expression.

Ad-hoc Wireless Communities

Technology Review - December 4, 2002

As Gerd Kortuem, an assistant professor at Lancaster University in England, sees it, the crowds who surround us every day constitute a huge waste of social capital. If you live in a city for instance, there are many who pass within a few yards of you each day who could give you a ride home, buy an item you're trying to sell, or consider you as dating material. Dynamic networking makes it possible to tap those resources through a momentary alliance among transient interest groups. But in a world of wireless wearables, computers embedded in clothing could form networks on the fly, prompting software agents to carry out mutually beneficial transactions

December 20, 2002

Lego Up

Following the Lego post yesterday I'll state that companies don't need "Lego Serious Play". What they need is great strategic facilitation.

M2.JPG 3d modelling is neat, draw out of it real-time stories and that's better still. Lego is a prop - a tool for illiciting the stories. The strategies emerge from the discussion, the search for clarity, common understandings. For my two cents, it's too easy to draw the wrong conclusions from Lego models. Lego is simply too structured. Better to use clay, more mouldable, messy, more suitable to complex ideas, more intuitive, and tactile to boot. So if Lego Serious Play is really encourages us to think with our hands. Then follow it with a more maleable tool kit. Tools don't make strategies --- people do!

This example was facilitated by a friend of mine. Now think Lego. Which will provide more emergent insight?

December 31, 2002


After receiving a few comments privately I felt roughed up for slashing (could have put it better) at Gary Hamel's recent article in Fast Company. I still believe it was basically on target. So naturally I been following other postings. Here's some snips;

Sudar Dasai says (my bolding):

"Innovative, breakthrough, radical ideas - those that occur at the fringes, happen through processes of interaction among a wide variety of employees, not constrained to fit within boxes. The process of tolerating this 'Variety', of deliberately creating it and nurturing it, is something we have not been successful at implementing. We have not learned how to create the kinds of environments where this kind of innovation becomes systemic.

I don't believe you go looking for radical ideas through a Top-Down process. Organizations have to create the conditions in which radical ideas emerge and thrive. All you then need is to create sound processes to pick the best ones, not through some internal panel of judges, but through sandboxes in the external world, and developing a fine sensitivity to spot potential winners.

The challenge with this kind of thinking, which we are scared to recommend - even in forums that incite people to radical thinking, is that it asks for a relinquishing of control, for trusting processes that you cannot completely control, for creating environments that allow internal denizens of the fringes to flourish, tolerating the coexistence of hundreds of failures with the few phenomenal successes. All of these are ideas which have been around for a while in search of hosts.

To suggest that there is a cookbook, a set of formulas, a checklist of things to do, is to go back to a prescription that has not worked for the last several decades. The innovation we now need is not just in the techniques of Product Development, Marketing or Strategy - It is in finding the courage to simultaneously create exciting communities of innovative people, those fringes of excitement within our organizations that we so want to serve in the outside world."

Then Hal Richman added his thoughts about scenarios too.

"Hamel's portrayal of scenario planning as predicting the future - it is really about understanding plausible futures. Hamel's quest for "What are the things that are already changing that most people ( especially my competitors ) haven't noticed yet?" is addressed by the driving forces that are part of any scenario planning exercise."

Did I see in these sandboxes and stories? Heretics and values? Scenarios and communities?

January 3, 2003

Rethinking Mail - COMsumer POST

I've been listening to Tom's search for heritics recently and was reminded about the stamp story and the origins of the postage invented in Britain in 1840. Postage created new industries, including advertising and rapidly accelerated literacy rates. The parallels are important today, for e-mail, spam, and digital identity.

The printing and publishing industry of the time was caught up in the 'Industrial Revolution', benefiting from changes in manufacturing and exploiting developments in other network technologies - railways and telegraph.

Stamps were a reformers idea. Rowland Hill wrote"Postal Reform; its Importance and Practibilitiy" in 1837. The plan introduced stamps and uniform low rates, which made it universally affordable. It also dramatically cut the accounting costs of the Royal Mail who up and till then logged each individual letter. Let's be clear. Up until 1840 the "receiver" paid. After 1840 the "sender" paid. Until 1840 the system was high cost, with frauds on it common.

Within a few years the stamp revolution spread around the world. For additional statistics see The Economic and Social Background to Victorian Print Culture

Post packets.gif

Today 163 years (May 2003) later the postal revolution has peaked. The efficiencies driven to a point where AOL can create metal non-recyclable CD sign-up trash and still make a business case for putting it in my mailbox. An with e-mail yep we have improved the immediacy of the delivery and reduced the costs. And behold.... just like pre 1840 the receiver pays, the system is increasingly spamed and fraud is more rampant.

What was the platform they launched the penny post on? "Mothers and fathers who wish to have news of your absent children; Friends who are separated and wish to write to each other; Emigrants who do not want to forget your motherland; Farmers who want to know the best place to sell your produce; Workers and labourers who want to find the best work and the highest wages" to support their postal reform measure."

It went beyond their wildest dreams. The rapid rise in literacy; an unexpected consequence. The passion to learn played a great role. With the internet we have the greatest learning and productivity tool so far.

The case and outcomes for a digital COMsumer Post will go way beyond our thinking today. The final comments here introduce an idea, that creates markets for digital identity by moving the postal system from an industrial paradigm to today's knowledge paradigm.

Should we look at POST another way? At issue is the value of access to our personal mailbox. We think about e-mail without thinking about the history and purpose of the postal system. Today the post box in front of my house is public and I receive 98% ineffective direct mail offers. Some put up no solicitation signs etc. The telephone directory is public and I suffer more abuse from telemarketers. However e-mail is completely free. Get my address get spam! Put an e-mail on a website, get more spam.

Is it possible that what we have is the postal system before the stamp revolution? Stamps put a price on sending. However they also drove efficiencies that enabled lower tarriffs, and accelerated more profitable exchages, be they personal or business. (Can anyone tell me where bills and checks fit into this story and early timeline?) Have you looked recently at the value spent dumping trash in your mailbox? Postage plus printing costs?

Our digital mail system is currently free, and increasingly suffering from receiver based inefficiencies. Could the price of free acceptance be too high? It seems the few are spoiling it for the many. It's also costing senders. It's harder than ever to look up an e-mail address. Why can't I just look it up and link it with a phone number? We give our phone numbers away almost without thinking. With e-mail there are reservations. Many have multiple addresses, separating public, business and private, with different levels of profiling information (and honesty) attached to each.

Perhaps it's time to re-think mail. How can we keep it free for the public, our preferred business suppliers etc. while putting a price on spam, that turns it back into information we want to eat.

At the same time we can return the stamp value of "post" to the people. It's no longer efficient to get your power bill via the post or pay it using the postal system. Done correctly, it's USPS that will have a problem. Perhaps literally we only need one physical delivery per week.

Let's start thinking out a solution. I'll call it COMsumer Post - after The COMsumer Manifesto. This is a world in which we all are paid to receive mail. It's a world where different levels of transparency surround our profiles. COMsumer Post is the system that enables the market for consumer information to arise.

Let me say this is not choice mail! Both Kevin Werbach and Jon Udell made recent posts on that subject. This piece on the impact of choice mail Jon's Radiois a great illustration. Choice mail assumes all incoming mail is spam unless it's mails from a buddy - approved source.

More to come.... Tying Smart Mobs to Post and Digital Identity.

April 17, 2003

Universal Impact

When I find myself keying in to thought pieces with alternate future scenarios I'm always looking for another edge;  a dynamic or systemic change that starts my early warning radar.  

In Are we doomed yet Salon poses an update on the Bill Joy Wired Article which I found far too gloomy. The Salon abstract:

The computer-networked, digital world poses enormous threats to humanity that no government, no matter how totalitarian, can stop. A fully open society is our best chance for survival.

What really caught my eye were these closing sentences:

If we allow our basic attitude toward knowledge to shift -- if we get in the business of criminalizing, censoring, monitoring, and limiting various kinds of knowledge -- I believe we will very quickly slip away from the ideals of universal education, open scientific enquiry, entrepreneurism, equality of opportunity, and the fecundity of creative effort that has made Western democracies so strong during the past two centuries.

I've never thought about the tech changes overturning the ideal of universal education.  I can't imagine my children's world will want that to happen.  Yet a few more Iraq's and literacy could be encouraged round the world to go backward. I hope it not a symbol or early indicator of this.   

The counter to this is the open society that is alluded to.  We won't have it unless we wrestle with the economics in such a way that everyone can be connected to the net. Who's thinking out there on how to connect up everyone with a universal connection? A univeral right!

It's worth the read, even if it just brings you back to using voice recognition software and thinking more about nanobots. 

June 3, 2003

Radical Innovation & COP's

Congratulations George on your paper "Radical Innovation with Communities of Practice" being circulated by the Knowledge Board

"It is that shift in the basis of value creation, what propelled communities of practice (CPs) in the limelight as collective players with largely untapped potential for radical innovation."  

The topic had us chatting in France.  If you've not seen it download and join the conversation. 

June 18, 2003

Collaborative Spaces - Transforming Innovation Capital

How might the growing interest in linking digital identity, blogging wiki's, RSS feeds etc evolve?  How might the emergent functionalities in these tools benefit our evolution and daily experiences. How will they combine and spiral to augment our collective intelligence? How will they reframe the KM knowledge innovation paradigm? For most companies it's happening more rapidly than they think. 

There's a saying "the future is here  - it is just unevenly distributed" (William Gibson). This couldn't be more true when we start to apply it to emerging lightweight knowledge innovation tools and combine it with what we know about mobility, decentralization, hyperconnectivity, online identity etc. 

Yet using the metaphor "standing in the future" we almost inevitably find ourselves reframing the space we compete in today. 

I facilitated the chart below about three weeks ago before going somewhat silent (at least on my blog) when exploring early ideas for transforming a "systems integration business" into an innovation engine.  As the tools paradigm developed we kept spiraling back to the benefits. Each iteration breaking a new frontier, each new technology providing new functionality.   

It's a WIP (work-in-progress) and making the point that all these technologies are already available they are not just effectively connected yet.  For the most part it will be bloggers reading this.  Some have the curiosity to ask:  Is corporate blogging just noise or part of a greater shift.  What about wiki's and the broader aspects of augmented social networks? Etc. 

For my part I've seen no clear model of where corporate blogging is heading.  Yet I firmly believe that blogs are part of the emerging value creation spiral.  The recent wave on posting on wiki's, forums, corporate blogs reaffirm this interest.  Similarly thoughts keep emerging about creativity and innovaton. The underlying thread is a move from systemic innovation to transformative innovation (about which I will define separately).

A few years ago Tom Stewart wrote "Intellectual Capital" and more recently followed it up with "The Wealth of Knowledge".  I'd suggest if we really think about the chart above -- IC /KC merely set us on a pathway.  The (not new) idea of "Collective Intelligence" is just now beginning to reframe how we think about capital and the types of organizations.  We now know that organizations will increasingly compete through their collaborative networks. While it's not just asking better questions -- it's the capability to capture and harness the hidden ones.  More peer driven, more decentralized; almost certainly. 

It's transforming innovation capital (lets not get hung up on definitions of Capital here) simply because what we are now after is hidden.  It is primarily social and these new tools are helping us to uncover the wealth that was always there, always undisclosed, tacit unless tapped, and too infrequently accessed.  Even a small start would include employee who's thoughts or interests you never before knew, to teams doing collaborative manual building, and spontaneous connections enabled through who we know in trusted networks. 

This is nothing less than the beginning for framing tools and an evolutionary path to a  radical shift in the collective intelligence of teams, communities of practice and organizations.

There could be much more to this post.  A little encouragement and a few questions and I might just get back into writing again. 

A little over a week ago I had the pleasure of listening to Doug Engelbart at the Planetworks conference.  Doug's summed up his life's work for the conference: "As much as possible boost mankinds collective capability for coping with complex urgent problems." 

As he developed his view of the world I realized there were similarities to the chart above  -- originally tracing to conversations I'm in with George Por which started and were furthered in France a few weeks ago.  In Doug's chart the frontier (cloud in mine) is constantly changing.  His concepts which I'm still discovering include... The "Hyperscope", "NIC's" - network improvement communities and "DKR's - dynamic knowledge repositories.  They fit easily within the above. 

One word of caution.  This is a somewhat generic chart.  Organizations wanting to explore this space must develop their own pathways augmenting their current competences and enhancing the culture of their organization.  Then having the "foresight" to take this forward begins with a few small bets or prototypes and a few committed individuals.  The key to motivating individuals to participate is creating the clear need for change and building the excitement for what the future might bring. 

June 19, 2003

Buddy List Envy

 I have to confess... I'm envious of my daughter's (11) buddylist. I'm also fascinated how AIM adoption amongst all her friends in the last year is changing communications patterns.   I don't think I've ever had six or more buddy screens open at the same time.  Yet for her it's common place and I think she loses interest when it is less than three.   Of her list 96% are from her year which means about 50% of the kids in fifth grade are on her list.  Is it the norm?  How would I know. No matter it changes how I communicate with my kids.  IM is great and makes me more accessible. 

So when I saw this link via Many to Many and Clay Shirky.  Social Software How Instant Messaging Augments Conversations I followed it though to Stewart Butterfield.  There are more appropriate references there.  Still in the context of my daughter this helped.

"Part of this is because it is OK to not answer an IM until you are readya pause of 30 seconds is perfectly acceptable where it wouldnt be in voice (and the answerer doesnt even have to hold the question in their mind while doing something else, but can refer back to it later)."

There is also a great set of comments there.  Despite K's list and visible groups they seldom use a chat room together, according to her it not as much fun.  I'm not sure if this is just time, experience, or gossip. 

Still the italics above are consistent with what I've observed.  The kids are no longer shy or embarassed to "talk to boys" -- they have time to think about their responses.  The old phone paranoia is gone. 

From my own interactions she periodically corrects her short-hand spelling in the next post with a "*word" the asterik meaning correction.  Of course I don't have a technorati on her buddy list (although there is a program that does it from memory). Still this group has their own shorthand. and it's not just "wut u tnk"

Should I be worried? It beats having the phone tied up. 

June 30, 2003

Social Software and CI?

Is the current Social Software meme really just part of something much larger? Will the ideas behind Collective Intelligence shape the future development and direction? Sometimes I look at something and intuitively know there's something relevant but perhaps not ready for transmission or simple to translate into plain english.  I have a suspicion tonight that Britt Blaser, Flemming Funch and Xpertweb may just be an illustration - an early indicator of this style of model. 

From the University of Ottawa and the emerging Collective Intelligence Lab.  The top half of the chart represents our collective Intellectual Capital in the virtual world.  Contrast this with the lower quadrant which more closely represents the collection of structural capital, social capital and process capital found in the physical world. 

I find this model interesting for two reasons. 

  • First there is no real mention of financial or customer capital.  This is a real departure and a major shift re "collective". If delight exists... then it is in the top half...and experienced on a higher plain.  
  • The second, is more an observation.  The debate around social software continues to focus too often on the physical manifestations rather than the virtual - spriitual elements that enable - augment and benefit real collective intelligence.  

Note the following charts can both be found via the link above. 

This second chart suggests for each pole a two way relationships.  While this looks incredibly complex I believe it could be simplified into a short questionnaire and then provided in a radar format as a development tool.   

One item is certain.  Unless they all interplay together --- spiraling value creation is a pipedream.  There is also an underlying thread in these postings.  Pierre Levy talks about informational capitalism which includes; Cooperative competition Competitive advantage to the inventors of the most cooperative games. Well Xpertweb is a cooperative game.  While contrasting this with conscious consumption controlled by a transparent cybermarkets could bring with it unexpected communism.

This is worth following for: Knowledge Innovation, Strategic Foresight, human tools development and the evolution of our desires.

July 19, 2003

Are We Conscious?

I'm at the WFS World Future Society conference and there is a dearth of plugs and power. WIFI? So far forget it. It seems I can get a very weak signal via T-mobile from the Starbucks I presume across the street. The Hyatt Embarcadero for all effective purposes --- I'm in the basement of backwardness. I registered this morning at a desk in the old fashioned way. There are no bar codes no RFID buttons, no access to the net, looks like no back channel chat, ...... This seems to be quickly verifying one of the reasons I decided to attend. What are futurists? How future oriented are they?

In just fifteen minutes... I can see there is nary a laptop in sight - not that it is a criteria --- I'm going to feel strange here. My blogs won't be live. Will post them when I can.

I've had an interest in futures for many years. Probably like many people here. For me it was Alvin Tofflers first books as a teenager influenced by my Dad who was a rocket scientist.  Caught me in a lifelong curiosity about the future. 

After all these years I've never been to a WFS Conference before. A quick preview of the agenda suggests I explore some of the "spiritual and consciousness" agenda items, while continuing to try and track where they are on social change. I'm in a room of maybe 70 people. The average age is older than we'd like. There are many sessions avialable. Probably 700 here. It's a little potluck. I chose this one because I recognized the names. It was a toss-up ... this or an FBI guy on Homeland Security.

Session One. Peter Russell  "The Future Evolution of Consciousneess". Key points paraphased.

How fast can we adapt to change? Can we find a deeper inner stability in ourselves? Need help to deal with stress. Lot of stress comes from living in the future. What we are realling looking for is a longing for the "experience" of the present. Human consiousness is not really valued by society. Newsmedia are not really interested in it. Not on politcal agenda, etc. Science basically ignore consiousness. Despite Science's capability to to push back boundaries... nothing in science that explains why any of us have a certain thought. It's an anomaly!!

Are we moving to a new model? Is consiousness as important as space time and matter? Is consiousness the "hard problem"? Are we approaching a new metaparadigm? This doesnt threaten physical sciences. What it does begin to do is open a whole new understanding of what people have been saying about deep experiences for 1000's of years. The inner journey / mystics will be really crucial for where we are going. How can we free ourselves from our old mindset. Can we wake up to what makes us really think about what make us consious human beings.

Lot of stress here just trying to find a plug and I can forget WiFi. After so many recent conferences with WiFi everywhere I feel a little out of place... am the only one tapping away on a keyboard. Maybe I should be trying to aborb this at a deeper level. There are no slides in this session. Now the reason why I came to this session. Barbara Marx Hubbard

Conscious evolution is the context for the transition we are undergoing. Evolutionary concsiousness. The qualities are:

  1. Inner traditional the oneness the source the spirt ...
  2. Extend backwards in space times... cosmogenisis or cosmic evolutionary consiousness expanded reality. Just identify with the billions of years that is embodied with our genetic DNA. She "surfs the spiral" and feels that surge of intense evolution in me. "How could I possibly be depressed?" Assoiciating with de... chardan.
  3. The rise of the cocreative human: a new type of human. with evolutionary consiousness to consciously evolve or destruct.  That is why evolutionary consciousness is a matter for human survival. If we assume that consciousness is prime. (Recommends: The LIFE DEVINE by? and the book The Jesus Mystery.)

This evolves --- human evolutions. there are many types of homo sapiens sapiens... call it homo universalis... Are we becoming self-evolving? It is not a univeral universe it is a participatory. The emerging view of human universalis is a major step to consious evolutionary psychology. Emergence and convergence. Emergence out of Homo Sapiens Sapiens.  There are many menbers of this species that think their own consiousness is shifitng. It starts with a conception - an awakening, an opening a mystical experience. Once one has had a conception experience there is a gestation period within the wome of self consiousness.  You will feel there is something missing. The inner devine informing the essential self.... Shifting idenity from ego to essence. If the human specieis is going though a quantum jump in the noosphere a mature thinking layer what might be like on the other side of the transition? It becomes an interesting idea.

Can we retain a continuity of consciousness so we don't keep forgetting? .... Can we remain consious though bodies ...... the physical aspect of ourselves created though the consious side of things. The animal human lifecyle is completely ridiculous.... for if consiouness is prime... then we will become conscious creators on a universal scale... then we will be a universal species. consious co-creators... If consiousness is evolutionary .... can we expect to influence it... because we actually are... eg changing DNA... has led to the capacity to change our own evolution.

See Alan Lithman... "the evolutionary agenda" out of egoic transformations.... eg homo polaris... awakened to emergent capacities that is guided by an internal star of intuition. The technology that consciouness is creating has become disconnected from its rea meaning. "Voices of the Gods" book about resonance and being of the coming. "I am!" Is there a turing test for Consiousness. eg prayer affects sick patients. beyond faith... How might the unversality of consicousness come into being? Association made with Spiral Dynamics here. that seems relevant to me. See "EVOLVE" Barbaras...

What do i think about this sesssion This is a neat interpretation of the Singularity.

Future of Future Studies

Why is it that Future Studies has never really gotten off the ground.  This was an interesting session.  Certainly helped my perspective.  I've often thought that it is everyones job to study the future. Still -- And I'm already getting the feeling here.... there is often too much talk about the future, and not enough intelligent analysis.  Yes it needs some constructs and frameworks.  Plus while the overshoot analysis may be correct....  

(Mini note: Lack of access to hook links while listening is reducing my pleasure of being here. Still can't believe I am the only one with a laptop open in this session (ah someone else has joined. as far as i can tell....must be 50 here). Redefining strange. Should question whether I am strange wanting to blog this and add it to my bank of memories? Now thinking that here I am and the speakers.. aren't enabling my interaction or connection with some form of avatar or even FOAF. Gosh would be nice to have some of their links etc, confirm my presence and set a possible dialogue for later. The speakers are also here for exchanges. The system is limiting them.)

Convergence and Collision:  Creating a new filed of applied foresight: (Paraphrasing again)

Begins with a story from HG Wells about the impact of the automobile. What we could have just learned if we had anticipated the automobile. Could Professors of Foresight have foreseen all this? Ie What we have today?

Rick Slaughter's conslusion after 20+years is that our species is headed for the overshot and collapse reality. Basically the rational that gets me going is "perceptions of real danger" is what can change the system.... too many futures just help people get along with the subsidiary things. Idea of Strategic Foresight! Realised that conventional strategic planning is dull... "foresight refreshes strategy" the ulitimate goal... "sustaining social foresight" every individual has it... how do we bring forward the practioners to make it happen?

Peter Bishop University of Houston Clear Lake: Can we do anything. Is there any hope for foresight to help is create a better future in the future? Can we use Foresight to improve the human condiiton?

  1. Knowledge we might be able to have about the future.
  2. Most is highly contigent, but putting knowledge in front of them clearly infom. Try and lay out what we know in predicted and in the alterantive ways of where we might end up. Recommend where we might end up... choosing the best course of action... capacity to value, can affect the mix of recommmendations.
  3. Falls well out side of foresight ... why don't we take action ourselves? Why do people blank out and make assumptions?  Do we have good knowledge about the future? We just don't have perfect knowledge. Our reasoning has unconsious influences. The values are nowhere clear. The problem is how do you weight. We've found pushing the buttons of society didn't work.

How will society respond?. Some 30 years later we are more humble - we know we don't know, and so strategic foresight faces a number of hurdles. The 20th century was a century of psychology... the elevation of individual above all things. That came down to an individual discussion of foresight. In society we can't act only as individual, and have found the modern conception was not quite valid. The invention of democracy and politics is about the pursuit and maintenance of power within a framework. The second is the free market and capitalism. Two solutions show how we can have colelctive solutions that can improve it all. These are examples of collective activiities that have solved some of the decision making.

What are we to do in an ecology of ideas. Richard Dawkins ideas of memes... they live in a ecology. based on their abitity to survive and propagate themelves. Proposing mulitiple answers and letting them beat up on each other... is perhaps... the way to address the threat of overshoot and collapse? Current restrictions in the free flow of information is limiting responses.  There are not enough sources of ideas about the future fueling the ecology of ideas... hope is the internet is a place where that might yet happen. Central sources of info remain a problem.  Our knowledge is a function of choice. choosing what we should know and believe. How do you make choices unless you know what the choices are? Point out to people that they have choices. Choices in their actions and thoughts.

Foresight is the practice of the ecologies of ideas in conjunction with alternative scenarios for the future.

Mike Marien Editor of Future Survey for 25 years.  Many corporates get this monthly abstract.  Of course it's not really online.

Futures Studies has ... seven disabling myths.

  • Future studies is a field or a discipline
  • Futurists are generalists
  • Futurists are primarily Futurists
  • Future Studies do what no other field does
  • Future Studies is understood and appreciated by outsiders
  • Future Studies is a commmunity

Six categoreis of FuturesThinking five P's and a Q

  1. Probable futures
  2. Possible futures
  3. Preferable futures (these first three are pretty common)
  4. Present Changes (auditing, indicators, social reports, trend analysis vital signs and 9 others)
  5. Panoramic View (big pictures, comprehendsive views, consilience, holistic thinking, eintreative thingks, ponoptican thinking, systems thinking and 18 others)
  6. Questioning (critiquing dissenting, embracing error, reformulation, unlearning and 9 others)

Continua for Analysing Futures Thinkers

  1. Culture
  2. Dispostion
  3. Style
  4. Origination individual versus group
  5. Time frame very long terem vs now
  6. Breadth
  7. Ideology
  8. Identity
  9. Grounding: realist vs idealist , academic vs applied, western vs not western
  10. Relevance leading edge vs sideshow vs backwater
  11. Right
  12. Engagement

So with this foundation and perpective on Future Studies what should we do? Eight broad tasks if Future Studies is to really go ahead.

  1. Shared vision of what we are about
  2. Emphasis on all purposed. The five p's and a q
  3. A serious Global Information Sytem
  4. A widespread and evalutated academic presence
  5. Multiple excellence
  6. Second profession recrutiment and training
  7. A respectable Public Presence
  8. Adequate Funding as if the future mattered.

Can't help thinking that something is missing here.  I'm getting a sense that Future Studies was invented as an idea some thirty + years ago and hasn't come all that far since.   

Future of Schools.

Had an interesting conversation walking out of lunch after two mundane keynote presentations.  Makes me wonder... is the World Future Society really backward??? There certainly is a problem with the old conference format here.  Few people speak. I'm off to an education related presentation. 

I remember finding Dee Dickinson's New Horizons for Learning site years ago.  I think I'm shopping on names I sort of know here. 

Next Milton Chin (George Lucas Educational Foundation). Moving Images.

Patrick McKercher - potential to individualize education --- new media savvy kids aren't learning in the same way. the evidence is accumulating that what we are doing doesn't work for a growing number of students. How can we change our schools?

Students learn best by doing with others and now we can tailor education to have more project centered learning ..... Students building learning expereinces for other students. We can now do that very well. The metric was ... how much didiyou memorize? Today the teacher becomes not the judge but the facilitator or learning coach.

"The Knowledge Web" is a virtual organization the kind of world that you build inspires different activities. See also ActiveWorlds

This comment struck me.  It is now possible to educate students at less than 5000 dollars per year which is less than what California currently spends. Hi stakes testing.... is driving teachers to distracton... so teachers are cutting project based learning and education is going backward because it is test driven. The majority of the schools will fail to make the standards... and then federal funding will impact. 

Not a particularly inspiring session.  Expect the Education crisis to grow! 

August 22, 2003

Augmenting Search and Scenarios

A belated post from WFS.  John Petersen is a highly respected futurist. He runs The Arlington Institute and I'm sure many of you know about the value of his bi-weekly newsletter.

John presented LISA: A breakthrough Technology for Anticipating the Future. The LISA tool provide an "information and knowledge engine" that can globally track emerging ideas around any selected topic from thousands of sources. For fellow bloggers... This is about augmenting search capabilities.  It is worth a broader dialogue and you may have to click the links below to get a feel for what's being done. Plus, if you think the collective noosphere and smarts of bloggers will beat the government then we better learn from this!

John is in the business of trying to think about big global futures. He too uses Scenarios. This however is more than a scenario it is being put into practice with millions (i'd guess) spent already. 

This tool is being created for the Singapore Government. They are hoping it will prevent being caught out by SARS like surprises in the future. That's probably just the public side of what's envisaged. It's a systematic tool. (I'm hoping I can capture it here in words.) John is reinforcing that it is being put together with off the shelf tested technologies and that is what's interesting about it.  It's an excellent synthesis or prevailing technologies. There are a few Google listings around it.  The components are listed below. 

Part of the challenge is to design a process that can find, picture, realize, foresee, model and decide (using humans - who do a great job of dealing with complexity) in easy to use interfaces. These components make up LISA's augmented search capability. 

  1. First we are looking at search that uses Convera. So match Google with Convera and you can start searching in multi-languages.  "Convera's unstructured information search across more than 200 forms of text, video, image and audio information, in more than 45 languages. Ie get a planetary view.
  2. Semantix: provides cross-lingual search capability in an off-the-shelf solution that allows users to enter a search request in one language and receive relevant result documents in several different languages
  3. Kapow Technologies has developed an intelligent platform that extracts information from HTML data sources, and converts this into more structured data forms, such as XML and relational databases,
  4. Streamlogic Inc: "Instead of archiving data and running search queries through it, we archive search queries and run data through it," Streamlogic Inc. "It's a search engine on its head." "The advantage of an inverted search engine, is that it's 6,000 times more efficient than the conventional approach. It can handle huge volumes of data that would be expensive or impossible to process using the standard method of loading data into an archive, indexing it and then retroactively querying it."
  5. DSO:  ??? Not sure what this links to. Can't remember. 

You might wonder who would want this apart from scenarist...  Even multinationals will want it.  It's the next level in power searches.  No one will launch a product anywhere without it being recorded or tested in a global context. So once one has the seach function in question up and running how do you use it?  What interface is required? What kind of interfaces will humans use? 

The examples show the latest in displays are being used. 

Starting with Pacific Northwest National Laboratory: Starlight: is a forerunner of an emerging new class of information system, one that couples advanced information modeling and management functionality with a visualization-oriented user interface. This approach makes relationships that exist among the items in the system visible, enabling exciting and powerful new forms of information access, exploitation, and control. Further, Starlight visualization tools employ a common XML-based information model capable of effectively capturing multiple types of relationships that may exist among information of disparate kinds.

Saffron? Add in for additiona concept mapping --- hard to get everything! and apply - Think Tools for developing scenarios and scenario strategies. So imagine a solution that visualizes and leverages vital quantitative input and merges it with qualitative data. Thus ideas, experience, interpretations - even 'gut feel' - become measurable and indispensable - and transparent. Part of the overall analysis.  

So a little repetitively, some of the claims I was hearing this bundling could make... (paraphasing some again...)

Looking at the visualization technology "Starlight" (very cool!) provides visualization of temporal mapping. This provides the capability to look acrosss planetary idea space... then with comparisons you can look at the evolution of ideas... do they become clusters of their own ... how do they migrate.... 

Saffron is a powerful adaptive learning agent based on a dynamic agent so they can predict complex relationships in real time. Saffron observes users online selctions and uses that information to guild future searches. Once it starts to learn basic relationships it gets smarter and smarter... XML documents to Saffron's xml processor transforms information into entities which are then put into the network. Each one with 100k links that can be tied to the network. So then you have a network of the network of all these relationships. Apparently they can do this in compressed form in a real-time manner once you have figured out broadly the kinds of things you are interested in.

For example you can then look for SARs in the last 24 hours.... By using Kapow to provide armies of robots to do the searching the robots will go as often as you want and thus there is no need to retain all the data.  Having set it up you can do it in multiple languages.  

Then extract out of the system where the key nodes are..... with a cluster you can see which are most influencial. Those are the ones that are the most interesting.... This can shift using scenarios. SCAN data, FIND patterns, PICTURE mental models, VISUALIZE, Generalize, Guide behavior adjust by bulding a three screen cockpit.  Anticipate surprises using this technology.

1 Build surprise scenarios. If you don't think about these things before hand it doesn't do any good. 

2. Identify prerequisite events. There have always been recursor indicators we just don't know we should be looking or where.

3. Monitor the recursor indicators proposing to make scenarios a real discipline. Take it down one level... build a scenario database... events bounce off the past; bounce it against the future see the scenarios it is related to then bouce it against the present ..... So surround the event ... with everything you know.

For me... this made being at the WFS session worthwhile. 


August 25, 2003

Wi-Fi Hospitality

Headline reads "WI-FI Hits the Spot" again quoting Gartner Dataquest who estimates there will be 22.6 million users logging on to 53,300 spots in the US by 2008.  Then IDC says 28 million will be using Wi-Fi by the end of 2003.  Hard to understand how these firms survive.  Who buys these perspectives? Consumer or business numbers? Is that really something like 20 people per spot / hour? Is that current maths? What about all those homes installing Wi-Fi?

At least the Chronicle article picks up on small business owners who are giving it away - free (please buy another coffee).  It's the way forward.  Rule of thumb number.  $50/mth DSL line plus the modem plus the Wi-Fi Router and installation.  Less than $1000 all up per annum.  Number of coffees at $2.50 40%GP (it's much better almost double -- than this!!!) = 1000 coffees extra.... that equals..... about 4 per day or maybe one every two hours.  I'm willing to bet that Wi-Fi coffee lounges get more people hanging around pretty quickly on a daily basis --- this hospitality will pay out. 

So lets think laterally and exponentially rather than the straight-line straight-jacket forecasting that appears to be going on in the article.  What's happening in the Palm PDA market?  What's happening in homes everywhere?  What are kids doing?

Well last Christmas PDA's were becoming a gift item for Soccer Mums --- the $99 Palm.  (Was that really just last Christmas?) More recently PDA's are morphing with phones and ..... some are adding Wi-Fi.  My head is still rules my heart --- the HP 5455 still looks real nice and remains expensive.  Still Wi-FI cards are becoming cheap.  If you are a student.... on an enabled campus... could this replace your cellphone?  Could a $300 Wi-Fi PDA be the next gift instead of moving your student from desktop to laptop? Yes laptops are gettting cheaper and PDA's are cheaper still. PDA's have one over phones when connected to IM.

On the flips side I'm visiting friends and colleagues recently and Wi-Fi at their houses is no problem.  One buddy pulled out his new Palm last week and just connected to AIM and an IRC chat off the PDA all with a gadget the size of a billfold. For those with Broadband already... little more than $30 will provide a connection for your guests. Run a B&B?  Get Wi-Fi. Etc.  Etc.

When students or Soccer Mums want to network then the always on IM buddylist connection is unbeatable.  It may result in a message "can u talk now?" (and thus may go VOIP or to the phone) the fact is accelerating Wi-Fi and IM adoption may go hand in hand.  Campuses are converting now. Schools will go Wi-Fi or the neighbors near schools may just provide it; Safeway supermarkets too.  With Wi-Fi PDAs loyalty programs will finally begin to make sense.  Shopping lists, and promos all in one. Yes I know it is not tomorrow.... Still these early indicators may point in new and unforeseen directions. 

So here's the start of a scenario has to impact on the numbers above.  Let's call it "Wi-Fi Hospitality".  If you have broadband... it's simply impolite not to provide Wi-Fi in your home or business.  If you keep me waiting in a waiting room at the doctors office.... let me at least have my link.  As for Starbucks --- pity their deal with T-Mobile.  Nothing like a hospitality brand that is no longer a good host! I want and expect free access.

There was once a time when visiting where we asked politely to use someones phone. Now the script is written --- please excuse me a minute... I must go and make a call (cellphone).  There is no returning  our guests to the "polite" ---- do you have Wi-Fi?  Do you mind? It may be as offputting as asking --- "Can I use your computer?" --- there is a level of privacy and lack of indepence involved in that request. 

So to be THE HOSPITABLE HOST hook up Wi-Fi so the next time a friend enters your house and their PDA smiles... WiFi inside you get to hear the "Cool Dude - I'm connected! Thanks!" You may just expand your network and in the short term impress your friends! 

All in all this has very little to do with linking Wi-Fi and blogging.  I just feel that how we connect affects how we blog. 

To close. If you are an enterprise using the Gartner / IDC numbers for planning I'd think carefully about what they are telling you.  Make sure you ask the the question; "How could we be wrong?"  

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.

November 4, 2003

Corporate Environmental Optimism

Andrew Zolli uncovering why pollution and waste usually indicate inefficiency. So, in an economy of competing companies, inefficiency is for losers. So does it follow that in the long run, successful companies are going to be green and clean? Some optimism here!

In the context of an ongoing futures research project, we recently came across the work of Jesse Ausubel, a 21st-century renaissance scientist and Director of the Program for the Human Environment at New York's Rockefeller University. Ausubel’s scientific interests and insights are incredibly broad, from the future of the physical environment to the mathematical modeling of sustainable systems.

Of particular interest is his paper The Environment for Future Business, which contains the kind of rigorous, contrarian thinking on the future of the physical environment which demands a very close read. Unlike the much gloomier ‘standard model,’ which predicts human-accelerated rapid climate change, Ausubel is optimistic. “The wheels of history are rolling in the direction of prudent, clean use of resources. Pollution and waste usually indicate inefficiency. […] In an economy of competing companies, inefficiency is for losers. So over the long run, successful companies are going to be green and clean.”

To back up his claim, Ausubel points to two the two-centuries-long decarbonization of the world’s energy supply. Think of the fuels we have used over the last two centuries – wood, coal, oil, natural gas, etc. Each of these basic fuels contains a mixture of carbon and hydrogen atoms. Wood, for example, contains a lot of carbon, and a little hydrogen. In coal, the ratio is about 1:1.

As motors and power-plants of one sort or another have become more and more efficient, and as more carbon-dense fuels are replaced with less carbon-dense successors, the result has been the slow, 200-year ‘decarbonization’ of the world’s fuel supply. The shift has been from wood to coal, coal to oil, oil to methane and, inevitably, methane to hydrogen.

Click on picture for larger version

Seen this way, the much-vaunted Hydrogen Economy seems less like the esoteric sci-fi wonder it is pitched as in the media, and more the natural and inevitable next step for a world energy system that is becoming more and more efficient.

Click on picture for larger version

Ausubel also postulates that the shift from one dominant fuel to the next occurs in 40-45 year ‘pulses’, followed by lulls or depressions of a decade or two in energy consumption. Each pulse was triggered by the adoption of cleaner fuels, which in turn led to real growth in per capita energy consumption. If that’s true, the next two pulses Ausubel predicts – one for natural gas, and one for hydrogen, won’t just be good for the environment – they’ll also lead to real economic expansion. (Ausubel's Hydrogen Economy starts to take off globally around 2050 - a conservative and reasonable estimate.)


November 5, 2003

Now Camera Phone Policies

Time to show the organizations all the good things photoblogs can do. Camera phones have taken many by surprise. Most of us have heard the Gym stories by now. Still applyingHR policies that focus on the technology aren't the answer. Even when you are hearing voices say "ban them". A picture is worth a 1000 words. Is there a CIO that can tell the story pictorially in just 10 pictures? The discussion is just pointless if one looks over the horizon.... camera phones are only the beginning. In the short term phone manufacturers may have to give short sighted customers what they want.

Gizmodo : Removing the camera from the phone Because for security reasons their business customers don't want to issue their employees cellphones that can potentially snap pictures of sensitive company material and documents.
Note this is not Gizmodo's point of view... it just lead me to this thread and Alan Reiter's new blog.
Reiter's Camera Phone Report I think businesses are going to be surprised by the value of camera phones. People will find uses for camera phones they didn't anticipate.

Stopping corporate espionage
A couple of weeks ago I wrote in my Reiter's Wireless Data Web Log about an analyst -- a clueless analyst -- who recommended that corporations ban camera phones even if they don't deal with sensitive products or services.

November 7, 2003

Oblique Strategies

I'd like a 1975 first edition deck of the "Oblique Strategies" by Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt. Today I had an e-mail from a friend and was following links and wow had to blog it. Why? See the fun stuff below. The BBC provides context of the "place-nireland/A635528">Oblique Strategies" This site is the effective home.

So here's the fun stuff. Try this out... Oblique Culture(Click the Culture Tab on the right). Someone else was creative in another fashion with this version. Try this one too: Oblique Version 2 in English or French.

"These cards evolved from our separate observations of the principles underlying what we are doing. Sometimes they were recognized in retrospect (intellect catching up with intuition), sometimes they were identified as they were happening, sometimes they were formulated. They can be used as a pack (a set of posibilities being continuously reviewed in the mind) or by drawing a single card from a shuffled pack when a dilemma occurs in a working situation. In this case the card is trusted even if it appropriateness is quite unclear. They are not final, as new ideas will present themselves, and others will become self-evident." Brian Eno Oblique Strategies

I just like these things. Sometimes they come in books like Richard Neville's "Footprints to the Future". These types of combinations never solve anything, yet they speak to us and get us to look in other directions.

Is there a blogging application? Look at this iteration again then hook it up to a newsreader with 1000 feeds and cycle the last 250 news items updating frequently. Throw the titles very fast at me. Enable me to change categories... eg new, tech, etc. Might be more than a toy.

November 20, 2003

Futurism is NOT Dead!

I appreciated a ping I received from IFTF's new blog "Future Now" today. It brought to my attention a challenging post "Futurism is Dead!" just published in Wired. It brought back Michael Marrion words at the WFS meeting in July. However Michael was constructive rather than dismissive and while I've included quotes from Hope's article below it troubles me that Wired published it. So in a world of uncertainty Wiredshould one have a point of view? First some background:

Alex provides a thoughtful evolution of the field in response to Hope's criticism. To make it a little more interesting the editor of "The Futurist" responds and of their response you may be the judge.

Alex's response to Hope Cristol's Wired Magazine article, "Futurism is Dead." [Future Now] is a worthy read for background.
This was fueled by comments by Hope Cristol who writes in Wired
Futurism is doomed and not just because fools are endemic to the field. It's doomed because the loosely informed, jack-of-all-trades, trend-watching pontificator (read: professional futurist) is obsolete.

For starters, we now have a plethora of niche consultants and a booming field called risk analysis, which uses proven actuarial methods. "Everybody's more specialized, so there isn't a market for someone who can speak about very large, holistic matters with any authority," says Mike Marien, a recovering futurist and an outspoken critic of the field.

Further, we've wised up to the fact that futurism as a discipline is something of a con: Futurists don't have a crystal ball. They examine trends and play out what-if scenarios. Any hausfrau with gumption and a dialup connection can do it. "Does intelligent thinking add up to a futurist field? I don't think so," Marien says.

Finally, futurism is obsolete because it now has a past: Forty years of failed predictions should be enough empirical evidence to turn even the true believer into a skeptic

Who would have predicted that futurists would evolve into a scrappy dialogue? In a field where differences are embraced, curiosity, concepts and ideas will be part of the social nature of futurism. While futures, scenarios and strategic foresight has received it share of criticism, it's from those seeking answers rather than better questions. The future is inherently unpredictable. Insight drives the things we do differently. Instead of selling the future, the sale should be made on "curiosity" and "wonder". Only a real pessimist takes the future too seriously. The optimists on the other hand perhaps make too light of the challenge and only speak of those that already seem obvious. Those in the middle are left to do the real work that can harness people, collective intelligence, collaborative methods, and emergent networks, or they can sit on the fence and be castigated.

While I liked Alex's history and I understand the anger from WFS is it also possible everyone here is looking in the wrong place? Two lessons I learned during my time at GBN and prior to GBN included seeking out "Remarkable People", and the importance of delivering on "Change". Scenarios, future plans, dreams and concepts are nothing if they fail to enthuse the hearts and minds of participants. Organizations that are more adaptive, more in tune with their environment are more likely to live another day. For my two cents it is all about making better decisions today. That require "context". Without context -- the today-- too many projects are just fishing expeditions.

The WFS response includes a reference to the Internet.

Membership is down vs. 10 years ago.
The editorial makes no attempt to provide an explanation. In the last 10 years we got new competition from something called the Internet. And also the economy has been troublesome of late.

Actually the Internet has accelerated and made even more important the role of Strategic Foresight. In a world of time compression, increasingly interconnected ideas, there are both systemic and intuitive possibilities. Access has never been easier. Ideas about tomorrow have never been more necessary. The difference is we no longer need expert futurists, we need individuals that help people accelerate the capability to make the right "COLLECTIVE" choices.

Blogging is just one example of the type of emerging knowledge exchange. One can reach more remarkable people though blogging than they could possibly meet though a constructed network. These Living Networks are far more likely to lead to contacts, introductions, conversations and insights, than prescriptions. Organizations that contract out inquiry rather than building the capability to ask better real-time questions remain beholden to a "core group" of thinkers and ideas are more likely to fail. Innovation must be built in. Future Studies won't create innovative networks, people will. However the tools and processes are perhaps even more relevant.

Still using a blogging example is not enough without building into it the concepts of networks, connectivity and flows. As we move from a command and control hierarchies to peer centric, decentralized nodes and networks our perspective on "Future Studies" has to change. Like Richard Dawkins ideas memes we are seeking an ecology of ideas for COLLABORATIVE rather than Competitive ADVANTAGE. Blogging only begins to illustrate what this journey might be like. Future Studies seen as an "individual" pursuit it is doomed to failure. Future Studies defined in societal terms, collective intelligence, values and leadership remains inspiring, fulfilling and necessary.

While I grew up in the 60's and we might argue today times are just as exciting perhaps even more so, few of us are really equipped to instill the wonder a moon shot brought, with stories about todays technologies. Rather than big futures, the future is now tiny, miniscule. Perhaps the failure is in the transition. From grand plans, to living systems and nanotech. Our children already are beginning to understand, are networked and connected. Lets hope they retain their sense of wonder. For if we ask ourselves truly why the future is important, it is not for forecasts, trends and ideas, rather it is about desire.

In closing I did attend the last WFS meeting. I'm not in my view a "futurist" and yet I'm constantly curious about what the future may bring. The "balance" above is one of the things I've learned to help teams implement. It's more about helping to facilitate market changing ideas for businesses, rather than just watching trends. Don't build "futures and trends departments in your companies. Instead build a "curiosity" competence. That requires safety, transparency and for the most part better approaches for sharing insights. So, I couldn't believe the number of people that had been attending WFS conferences for twenty or more years in a forum and format which has hardly changed. This remains their "core group". In a world where digital rights, file sharing, WiFi, VoIP, ---- easy interconnectivity ---I still can't believe I couldn't get a WiFi link at this conference! --- are redefining life. The smartest people I met at WFS were in the audience. The audience was told and talked at. For me that is not the future! For me the challenge for the WFS is to be relevant 20/365/7/24/60/60.

Possibly some of Wired criticism is correct. If WFS wants to catalyze the future then it must get with the times and accelerate innvotive thinking about the future. That needs some new tools and approaches. Even an RSS feed might help!

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 10, 2003

    Seeing the Future New York Times

    Two pieces on strategic foresight and scenario planning. The first by a former colleague and mentor Jay Ogilvy who's touch clearly graces the pages of "What Strategists Can Learn from Sartre" and the second a contrast in the New York Times.

    .....Suddenly, humanity had a future — in the sense in which existentialists think of the future, as an open-ended, indeterminate field of untried possibilities. For existentialists, existence precedes essence. It’s not that no one or nothing has an essence. It’s just that essence, for free human beings, anyway, is achieved rather than prescribed. You become the results of the decisions you make. You don’t find yourself, as those suffering “identity crises” try to do. You make yourself by making decisions. You’re not just the result of the genes you inherited or the circumstances of your birth. Of course genes and family background make a difference, but what you choose to do with them is subject to existential freedom. ......

    A future filled with new possibilities presents a backdrop for planning that is very different from a future that is a reshuffling of the same old same old. Reshufflings should follow laws that allow for prediction according to rules that cover every possibility. A future filled with genuinely new possibilities might not even be describable using categories and metrics that cover what has occurred before. How could a 19th-century scientist anticipate, much less predict, prime time, venture capital, gigabits-per-second, butterfly ballots, fuel cells, genetic engineering, cellular telephony, and so on?

    Jay Ogilvy "Source"

    Jay's article provides a nice contrast with the short piece in the New York Times advocating broader use of Scenario techniques in government. Jay demonstrates the story-telling capability that must emerge though the process for scenarios to provide the infectious leadership tool that enables change and momentum. We need it in government and the descriptions in the NYT are good. The trick is scenarios is not the "how" but the context of "what". There are millions of scenarios... --- engaging people in a context where they can act is key to creating better futures.

    In this new era of uncertainty, not only must we must accept that simple forecasting is not going to be very useful to us, we must sharpen our skills of forethought. One way will be to augment traditional strategic planning with "scenario planning," a strategy that has long been a staple at the largest multinational corporations. Scenario planning involves the creation of alternative narratives about the future based on different decisions by many players" as each scenario progresses.

    As opposed to the classic strategic method of applying the past to the future — coming up with a single, likeliest story about how things will turn out — scenario planning is about applying the future to the present, creating a learning framework for decisions. The idea is not so much to predict the future as to consider the forces that will push the future along different paths, in order to help leaders recognize new possibilities, assess new threats and make decisions that reach much further into the future.
    Op-Ed Contributor: Seeing the Futures

    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.

  • February 24, 2004

    Supersonic Skype

    I've taken some flak recently for my "SkypeMe" middle name. Similarly I've had a few comment from different quarters that Skype will never be a real telephone company. With that comment I probably agree. My point is that Skype is leading us somewhere new.

    From time to time my work involves me in scenarios and strategy. I tend to press the boundaries of the possible. By now if you are reading this blog you will know I also like the devils advocate and contrarian roles when appropriate. For that divergent thinking is part of the real role of scenarios for minimizing risk and maximizing learning. Through that lens Skype remains an early indicator. Like Napster and Kazaa (for that matter) it is a radical change in the way things operate.

    Much of the debate around Skype focuses on the telephone industry rather than seeing something new. Skype may be the airlines and aircraft while POTS remains the train tracks and trains.

    I also believe there are a number of lessons from presence to mobility that "old style" telecom providers fail to understand or aren't actively pursuing. Most of the marketing I see remains phone centric rather than about communications. The type of new and emerging functionality that people includes things like can I handle my voice mail while on a plane? Of course you can, just most people have yet to experience it. Similarly in a car. Concurrently I've been more interested in the opportunity for new information markets around Skype type functionality. The future of call waiting, caller id etc. Even 0900 style numbers provide opportunities. No much is new here. Just the opportunity to tie it into computing applications and the big screen. Skype's biggest risk and challenge may just be the exchange on the desktop that just accesses the lowest cost solution whereever I am using the highest quality sound.

    Similarly I still get comments re MSN and Yahoo. What out Skype they are coming. From what I can see MSN has had more than six month to launch a voice centric version of their IM product, Yahoo the same. Both however have significant issues with increasing "voice" which I'd guess is much more expensive than brokering test messaging. Thus theyy have two problems. To compete with Skype for consumers and SMHO they must adopt a P2P approach and they must adopt a sound codec that is better than the one they currently use which is I think SIP compatible. Similarly they have to solve their NAT problems. MSN and Yahoo don't deliver on voice. Yahoo can deliver a fairly good but sometimes delayed webcam in conjunction with a clear Skype call even at full screen size.

    This is perhaps not the ultimate in communication. It's also not a full telephone system. However Skype has started a battle that the telecom giants are not well equiped to handle. That battle is around sound quality. It's also a challenge for mobile providers. I know there are also other technologies out their that are better than Skype. I expect they will continue to improve. I also see headset operators whether Nokia or Motorola or HP adding WiFi and bluetooth capabiliies everywhere. Then we will see which "quality" level is preferred.

    So.... Will Skype fly fast enough and high enough to break more than just the sound barrier?

    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 19, 2004

    VOIP - - Emerging Experience Model - for Business

    Crashing around in my blog tonight wondering where to start. Commitments got the better of me last week and sometime a brief pause for reflection is useful. So this posts begins with a few of the things I'd like to see myself blogging on particularly as my thinking tonight is very much how to break traditional "industry" business model thinking and counter with strategies that are "experience" model driven.

    Starting Points:

  • How Presence is redefining KM and knowledge innovation.
  • Why Skype type experience space and dialogue functionality will redefine telecoms and more importantly the relationships between consumers and companies.
  • Why this emerging co-creation space and ready capability to conference will generate bot driven demand buddies that will negotiate on behalf of consumercommercial groups.
  • Why Skype's model is ultimately the eBay of communications. Will Skype facilitate consumer choice on interconnects? Are they a market manager or solution provider?
  • What new "experiences" will further revolutionize the "tele-space"?

    These questions consider how to build future strategic capital in the telecommunications space and thus remain competitive in a networked interconnected world.

    Skype is a demonstration of intelligence residing in the software and not in the hardware or a physical device. This investment in IP is distinctly different to hardware solutions. Concurrently Skype users are no longer passive. A Skype users doesn't wait for a central exchange to execute a ring. They broadcast their presence and status to their buddies. This involvement is enabling them to co-create additional value within the communications system.

    Strategically what is being missed is the new opportunities that this "always-on" co-creation space creates:.

    Here is a blogged Skype story after being bugged by a caller from Poland. Clearly people are prepared to chase down information. Perhaps a bot / search service could become part of your buddy list.

    Take if further.... Why not just add a travel service buddy to my Skype list. The bot acts like Priceline or Hotwire and simply gets the best price for me. This just illustrates that at the moment we think about Skype in the context of IM and only in a limited way. In fact this type of interface could radically change the way we interact with commercial enterprises. Consider what happens when consumers run commercial profiles and incorporate them as buddies providing some levels of controlled access.

    So far Skype has not sold Expedia the opportunity that enables me to integrate Expedia into my buddy list. What would happen if Expedia or Priceline could actually handle multiple connections, connect the key data with text messaging type searches and links to actual locations and say local hotel proprietors in New Zealand who can sell personally what I am buying? If this is Priceline with their guarantee they potentially have just increased and improved their services. The call connection cost was zero. The experience was enhanced and potentially more revenue is collected.

    The goal of strategy today is to discover new sources of value. What irks me on the Skype thinking front are too many Porterish approaches to competition and value creation. For the most part there isn't enough thinking on what enhancements are likely to come to the UI to improve the experience. I'm sure there are millions working in telecoms worldwide. The type of question that is not being asked is.... What happens when millions (of consumers) learn to use a system (interconnect /networking product) in which telephony is merely a byproduct and thus set to creating new forms of value together through that interconnectivity. Should Skype enable millions of users to determine how best to monetize value then they may learn that these consumers may just be willing to pay the facilitator a fraction of the transaction cost. On eBay it is done everyday.

    The above was only partially stimulated when I read Rafe's Always's On Skype Economics post today. He doesn't think it will play despite the accolades he gives it for voice quality.

    However, I really don't see how Skype, as wonderful as it is, can maintain a financial advantage over what is sure to be a brutal fight of pure economics, especially if it connects to other systems. I think the real opportunity in VoIP is in the back ends the interconnection of different VoIP systems and the connection of them to the ordinary telephone network. Skype Economics :: AO

    I think the real opportunity is not the interconnection of different VoIP systems but the interconnection of commerce combined with presence. So far we have only seen an emergence of interest in social networking tools with no real connection to real-time voice solutions. Concurrently regulations, spam, privacy, security and encryption are a smokescreen around the telecoms battle to redefine their relevance. Let's all spend a little more time thinking though the experiences hyperconnectivity is going to allow us.

  • 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.

    June 9, 2004

    Supernova - See You There!

    I just took a look at the list of people now signed up for Supernova in Santa Clara on June 24-25. Kevin Werbach has assembled a great group for another deep dive exploration into our decentralized future together. This will be the second time I'm attending having thoroughly enjoyed the first (December 2002) soon after beginning this blog. I'm going to be pressing the agenda for answers on Presence and Mobility with a VoIP / Collaboration hat on.

    Supernova 2004 -- June 24-25, Santa Clara, CA
    Voice over IP...Social networking...Web services...WiFi and unlicensed wireless...Blogging and syndication...Broadband applications...Next-generation email...Grid computing...Digital identity...Collaboration tools...Digital content distribution...and more. Supernova links together the most compelling technologies, and uses many of them to enhance the conference experience itself. SUPERNOVA 2004

    Start tracking the SuperNova weblog and there is the SupernovaWiki. If you can't make the event but will be in town for the dinner. Come join us all there. It will be fun.

    August 25, 2004

    Better Futures

    I received three complementary pieces on the future this week. They are worth linking to and reading or at least thinking about. Ming has a pithy play in "Predicting the Future" and looks for something more disruptive than this piece about 2014. I think the disruptions are never where we are looking unless we dig deeper to see some underlying patterns. It is that insight into deeper changes that capture people souls and attention. The other a wonderful interview by Jamais Cascio with Adam Kahane on "Solving Tough Problems".

    For the majority the future just fills in around us. However, Adam's view and Jamais trace towards understandings that are more visceral, that get you at the gut level. In Ming's case there are disruptions all around us, yet without some context and digging we just don't see it. More importantly for the most part individuals don't see, groups see. We need the processing power of the group that embraces diversity. For without diversity we really will have views of 2014 will be much like it is today. What Adam's stories and success brings is the opportunity and understanding to influence the future.

    Then I had a last piece from the Innovation Network who had asked in the previous week "What might dramatically change the world of Consulting within the next 10 years?"
    Joyce Wycoff
    wonders if there's a way to get a glimpse of the changes we can't see and provided these questions in her newsletter.

  • How might bio-tech change consulting?
  • How might consulting be changed by global warming?
  • Could "options theory" change the world of consulting? (side note: Robin Hanson will be talking about the use of options theory in innovation at Convergence 2004)
  • How might the generation of computer and game-proficient youngsters change how consulting is done?
  • So my questions are so obvious!

  • How will "Presence" change consulting? Some think this will be a nightmare, the client knowing where you are and trying to check and time every minute. The other view may be much more integrating with new opportunities created by pervasive connections.
  • How will India and China change consulting?
  • How will information economics change consulting?

    However without context, without important problems these are just questions. The lesson for thinking about the future lies in the problems and opportunities presented today. Then look at the tools which can dig deeply and broaden understanding. Then you too can influence the future.

  • October 12, 2004

    Google - through the looking glass

    Good scenarios are often better with age. I caught this one by chance. It's worth reading and provides a real appreciation of the strategic value created when it was written. The shame is... this was probably not done for a client and not part of a collection of scenarios.

    August 2009: How Google beat Amazon and Ebay to the Semantic Web (

    Please note that this story was written in 2002.

    It's hard to believe Google - which is now the world's largest single online marketplace - came on the scene only a little more than 8 years ago, back in the days when Amazon and Ebay reigned supreme. So how did Google become the world's single largest marketplace?

    Wondir Land- Building & Connecting the People Web

    October 26, 2004

    Stars of Pop!Tech

    There are a few presenters I'd like to single out at Pop!Tech for sheer brilliance, something new, or just plain guts. I've noted a few links and for now you can access a few MP-3's here on the web. Pop!tech's overall format mentored by Bob Metcalfe comprised of two or three presenters per session, and then the usual expert panel questions moderated by Bob with a few limited questions from the audience.

    Poptech 01_introduction.jpg

    The best overall session in my book was the first one on day one. It's what every conference wants. It set the stage with Joel Garreau, Malcolm Gladwell and Frans de Waal who introduced the art of chimpanzee politics, power and fairness. Malcolm Gladwell was also brilliant on "preferences". I will pre-order his new book "Blink" (The Tipping Point was a favorite)and you can listen here.

    Thomas Barnett: Put his blog on your read list. You can listen here. Ethan Zuckerman sums it up perfectly and made a brilliant presentation captured in more detail by David Weinberger .

    I could go on. Here is a collection that links to all the graphic artwork created by Peter Durand. Richard Florida, Janine Benyus, Ben Saunders, Spencer Wells.

    I really enjoyed Ben Saunders presentation. It was simply inspiring. Ben Saunders Alex Steffan from World Changing one of my favorite blogs--- Listen here.

    Where did Pop!Tech fall short on presenters? Janine Benyus was the only woman this year and I know the organizers know this. More foreigners would be appropriate. Coming out of the presentations a theme for India, China, Brazil, and Africa emerged that suggested conferences need new solutions for bringining in more foreign input. Dina Mehta made this point perfectly. I think there are some format changes that could help here. There's no way that a US based researcher can tell the story with the impact of someone that lives there. I have a few ideas for Dina that I'll post separately..

    This criticism is a little unfortunate, for one of the real benefits of Pop!Tech was how it enable and brings together a great audience. Audiences make conferences. I'd guess 40% women, and while the average age was probably late 40's the ushers where design students and there were many local people that had been coming and bringing their kids since Pop!Tech kicked off eight years ago. In that alone Pop!Tech has created a community. Add in the venue and you quickly understand why people go back year after year. I'm certainly hoping to go back next year.

    For now like Scheherazade I am in a state of PopTech recovery.

    October 28, 2004

    Conversations - Another World

    What methods are available for bringing more international conference content to America? For me an important theme running across Pop!Tech was the global world. While we had a few foreign presenters and participants in the audience there really weren't many. There were plenty of excursions to 'foreign" places, many maps that looked similar, and yet these interpretations were "researchers" rather than Brazilians, Africans, Asians, etc. I know the message got out and for cost reasons is a difficult task for conference organizers. Still I know Andrew Zolli wants suggestions for next year. Dina blogged the problem very succinctly below after we watched the Bhutan presentation. I believe Dina could also be part of the solution.

    Some thoughts as an Indian in an audience that is primarily American - The theme of the conference is The Next Rennaissance and a lot of the presenters yesterday and this morning talked about developing countries and how the world order is changing - India is one of them. Naturally, from an American or first world perspective given the location of the conference and the composition of speakers and audience.

    What bothers me a little is that presentations like the one on Bhutan earlier today only reinforce ''exotica'' - they in no way are telling us why and how these nations must be embraced as one world, how these nations have real people, real development, real innovations that might often surprise the first world. And that the first world could learn a lot by sharing. Alex Steffen touched upon some of these - but i havent seen enough of it yet, or any depth. And what about commitment ?

    The sense i get from many of the speakers so far is the attempt to tell or 'warn' America to wake up to the potential and growth happening in these parts of the world. I just wish they had speakers from these nations who are actually affecting and changing the future in those parts of the world, through work they are doing.

    I feel the audience here would benefit from hearing their stories, diving deeper into projects that are on, and then moving the conversations to how the first and third worlds can come together as one community to chart the course for the development of our world, which is indeed one world. Dina Mehta

    Dina has been working on an ethnography project around India for the last year. Dig a little deeper and you learn she also has a talented sister Sherna Dastur whose last film won some international prizes. So my suggestion would be to find a small sum - sponsorship for these two to document 12 "India Changing" insights, captured in local language, with a linked commentary. Creating stories though a more impartial lens. An element of human voices and the more gritty side of some of the challenges.

    This just seems like the right opportunity to me. Comment on Dina's blog and make her write a proposal for next year. How's that as a plug for a blogging buddy?

    There are some other possibilities for Pop!Tech conversations too. I was just amazed at the number of people that had been there more than 5 times... some 8! Many of this core community was local. I'd think that they could provide a very interesting commentory on change too. Clearly this conference has a life. Some of these we got in the very well organized lunches which grouped us nicely together with different people at different cafe's. Still I'd really like more opportunities to find the real nuggets of wisdom in the crowd. I realize that I missed meeting so many neat people.

    November 13, 2005

    Timeline to the Future

    Nice look at the future. Food for thought.

    Further out, things start to get uncomfortable. BT puts a date of 2029 for the much anticipated 'singularity point' when computers become more intelligent than humans. The scary thing being that if Moore's Law still holds by then, they will be twice as intelligent by 2031. PC Pro: News: BT looks into the future

    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

    July 18, 2007

    Yahoo 100 Days and....?

    100 Day plans always worry me. It's like a signal that McKinsey or BCG is coming in. Then they will magically have the answer in one hundred days. What ails Yahoo is simple. Their Ad model is obsolete. So in one hundred days can Yahoo figure out how to put the ad model into the hands of you and me. Solve that and open up on Identity and you have a revolution. Do it right and it changes the rules for Google. Take it further and we can have some control over what is searched and on the expiry of data.

    Still no cure for what ails Yahoo | CNET

    On a conference call with analysts after the earnings report, Chief Executive Jerry Yang said he would "spend the next 100 days or so mapping out a strategic plan" and conduct a "top to bottom review of our business." "I have a great sense of urgency to move fast and in a focused way," Yang said. He promised there would be "no sacred cows" and talked about three key topics: insight, openness and partnering. Specifically, the company will de-emphasize underperforming products and "set a new bar for the Yahoo culture" by "prioritizing teamwork, leadership and a desire to win."
    Now it is Day Two. I hope he has at least 5 radical items on his list. Looking down the cellar stairs is just one black hole.

    Powered by ScribeFire.

    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?"

    Technorati Tags: , , ,

    Powered by ScribeFire.

    About Strategic Foresight

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

    Storytelling is the previous category.

    Trust is the next category.

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

    Creative Commons License
    This weblog is licensed under a Creative Commons License.
    Powered by
    Movable Type 3.32