What the internet should be for…

Find something cool (in this case, a 9-year-old’s DIY cardboard arcade), share it, and bring people together to enjoy it and make a child very happy.

Story via BoingBoing.

The best way to enrich the web is to go out and discover, find and create interesting things and then help people come together around them.

We live in strange times…

It’s been a strange couple of weeks, both personally and given the events occurring across the country. My personal situation is changing radically, I’ve had some unfortunate news about some family members, and it’s been hard to collect my thoughts on anything not immediately related to my work whilst mainstream media, Twitter and Facebook have been constantly churning with updates, responses and reactions to the civil unrest.

Having seen and attempted to analyse social media in the context of events abroad, it’s been strange looking at something so close to home, affecting friends and former colleagues. I’ve watched mainstream media struggle to add any meaningful context and insight into events as online media and networks have been providing both, and seen a wide range of responses from all areas of my online connections.

I’ve bemoaned the amount of commentary from middle-aged white commentators on what is happening with young multicultural teenagers in areas of economic deprivation, and the number of politicians who don’t seem to know what the heck is going on, but want it to stop unless they can score some political points from it.

I’ve seen social herd behaviour lead to violent unrest, and then seen it result in people coming together to clean up the aftermath.

I’ve seen people criticise those who copied people in joining in mindless violence end up copying people who signed up to a group started by someone who has consistently posted offensive and racist content.

I’ve seen the media mis-label social networks and flash mobs, and at the same time as they look at communication tools as a cause, they’re using them to share their own content from reporters on the ground and news teams back at the studio. And I’ve seen police forces change from engagement to enforcement on social networks.

I’ve seen important reports and information mixed with rumour, hearsay and almost hysterical panic, and both the mainstream media and online media have shared in misreporting the facts as well as bringing important news to light.

And I’ve seen a huge mix of people looking for punitive retribution as a solution to the problem, and an unequal number looking at what they believe to be the causes and triggers of the events which could potentially have been prevented.

And given what appears to be a relatively quiet and trouble-free night, at the end of it all, it’s hard to quantify exactly what has changed as a result of the rioting, whether in a political, social or purely technology-led sense.

Despite the predictable flurry of bloggers attempting to get traffic by relating their top tips for marketing or small businesses which can be derived from the rioting, there’s still a huge amount of uncertainty in the air, and a sense that the implications of what has happened will take a while to surface.

And all of this comes at a time when the digital era is still leading to massive media disruption, the increase in robotic technology is having more implications for unskilled labour, and 3D printing is set to unleash a whole new wave of disruption to the manufacturing industry.

Strange, and interesting times indeed.

Great videos on the creative culture and remixing…

I’ve finally got around to watching the first two parts of ‘Everything is a Remix‘, (h/t Rubbishcorp and Only Dead Fish), and it’s a really good series of realtively short videos looking at the pervasive remix culture which has become more explicitly acknowledged in the digital era:

Part 1:

Everything is a Remix from Kirby Ferguson on Vimeo.

Part 2:

Everything is a Remix Part 2 from Kirby Ferguson on Vimeo.

It’s very well-made and crafted, and Kirby Ferguson does a great job of pulling together a huge number of sources and insights. And oddly enough in the spirit of remixing, it reminds me a lot of another great film about remix culture, RIP! A Remix Manifesto, written and directed by Brett Gaylor.

What’s particularly interesting is that Kirby lists RIP! in his references section, alongside another film, ‘Good Copy Bad Copy‘, which begins which features DJ and remixer Girl Talk from the start – who also plays a big part in RIP.

All three are worth watching, and it’s interesting to see the similarities, differences and shared influences. And if anyone goes on about how bad remix and mash-up culture is for artistic endeavours, or consumers, it gives me a lot of hope that talented filmakers around the world are creating great documantary remixes on the topic of remixes.

If you’d prefer to examine the written word when it comes to remix culture, copyright, and the legal issues involved, then you can do no better than to start with Lawrence Lessig. Code 2.0 and Remix are highly recommended and the also excellent Free Culture is available as a free download under a Creative Commons licence, from here.

Ebooks evolving: TEDBooks launch as Kindle Singles

The launch of Amazon’s Kindle Singles has been accompanied by the launch of TEDBooks – short nonfiction works designed for digital distribution by following the type of idea which has resonated from the global series of TEDTalks, and presenting it in less than 20,000 words, which is enough for a single sitting. And you can read them via any device with a Kindle App: iPad, Mac, PC, Android, iPhone, Blackberry and Windows 7 smartphones, as well as the Kindle itself.

Longer than a typical magazine article, but shorter than your typical book, it’s an interesting approach which sees three books available at launch for $2.99. The line-up is The Happiness Manifesto: How Nations and People Can Nurture Well-Being by Nic Marks, Dangerism: Why We Worry About the Wrong Things, and What It’s Doing to Our Kids by Gever Tulley, and Homo Evolutis: Please Meet the Next Human Species by Juan Enriquez and Steve Gullan.

The presumption behind the books is that their length and cost will see people choose them in preference to magazines or other short entertaining diversions, and I think it’s a fair gamble to make. I don’t think it would work for everyone, but the ideas which are shared at TED events are always interesting, engaging and designed for you to want more. It also means I can self-serve myself the topics I really want to know about, rather than paying a few dollars or pounds more for a magazine, which often contains things that I either don’t care about or don’t read if time is short.

It’s interesting to see projects like this, and Seth Godin’s The Domino Project, all taking a new look at how publishing works in a digital world, and pretty much starting from scratch and building from there. Does a book need to be a certain minimum length? Does it need a traditional print version, or the standard marketing and promotion? Will people go for something for a couple of quid or bucks, and will they choose that over a longer, more general, and more expensive magazine?

It’s also interesting that these ideas are coming Amazon, TED and Seth Godin, not a traditional book publisher. That’s not to say traditional publishers aren’t changing, but it seems like starting from a fresh perspective could reveal a lot more about the future…

(Incidentally, an alternative source of TED inspiration are the videos of TEDTalks available via Youtube. I can’t recommend it highly enough if you fancy watching talks ranging from the likes of Stephen Hawking, Bill Gates and Richard Dawkins through to the likes of Christoper ‘Moot’ Poole – the founder of 4Chan.)

(And if you’re intrigued or interested in what books I’m currently planning to obtain for myself, here’s my current tech/marketing/digital culture wishlist on Amazon – this isn’t a cheap ploy for presents (Although they’re always nice), but it’s the one place I’ve gone to the trouble of updating recently with recommended additions to anyone’s library. I’ll have to go back through the various book sharing social networks to provide a complete list of everything already assimiliated. Anyone got any recommendations?)

David Cameron on Twitter, whilst on Absolute Radio

David Cameron appeared on the Christian O’Connell Breakfast Show on Absolute Radio today, and created a furore on Twitter and mainstream news sites.

Luckily my wonderful colleagues are handling everything brilliantly, as I’m still at home with a family full of swine flu…

Here’s the original video of the interview:

I’ve cross-posted this at my microblogging blog: 140Char.com. And I’ll try and update there with more of the information resulting from being involved in a trending topic on Twitter etc.

Some things to think about this week…

When it comes to balancing my time at the moment, it only takes a slight problem to throw things into flux. Which means I can either wait to post until my fully-formed thoughts are completely developed – or I can get back to part of what made blogging great for me in the first place, and throw out more links to people, subjects, posts, videos etc I find interesting and inspire me in some way.

So in that spirit:

If you’re wondering where the scarcity is in the new economy, JP underlines the answer – The customer is the scarcity.

Here’s 40 minutes of Howard Rheingold on 21st Century Literacies:

See the larger version, and read more at Smart Mobs.

And then there is the always watchable and inspiring Michael Wesch with a new talk, and it’s only 33 minutes long:

Go and subscribe to his Youtube channel – mwesch.

And by the time you’ve digested this lot, I should have some substance to add!

A vitally important law for business communications

I neglected to write about my fellow speakers at the ALPSP event, mainly because I was enjoying a bit of time off for the last week.

There were great presentations from Ros Lawler of Random House, Phil Archer from the W3C Mobile Web Initiative, Steve Paxhia of Beacon Hill Strategic Solutions (With whom I got absolute soaked in the storms that hit en route to the station), and Gail Robinson from TSL Education Ltd.

But the one presentation that really kept me thinking was by Alex Evans from MediaMolecule (The developers of LittleBigPlanet for the PS3). It was interesting as a videogamer, someone interested in game theory, someone interested in encouraging user generated content, and someone interested in developing business and revenues in the changing economy.

But he also highlighted a very important law – one which was applied to programming, but in my mind applies equally to marketing, PR, and to almost every aspect of a business.

It is:

…organizations which design systems … are constrained to produce designs which are copies of the communication structures of these organizations

Conways Law was originally introduced in 1968, by Melvin Conway. And for me it encapsulates a lot of the challenges I’ve encountered, whether it’s been for a large company, a group of volunteers, or in my current role.

As much as a system designed may mirror communication structures – communications will mirror them just as much. That’s why things tended to be more rigid and evolve more slowly in a larger, more traditional company which was constructed around a defined hierachy.

It’s also why a flat structure of volunteers led to challenges that seem to have proved even more insurmoutable since I left – trying to encourage business attributes from non-businesslike creative people.

And it’s why I relish my new challenge – listening and engaging with a team packed full of ideas, and then herding those cats into the most effective order.

Is the media having less effect of my purchasing?

You might want to sit down, but I’ve just spent some money on physical entertainment media. Or to put it another way, I bought some books and DVDs for the first time in ages.

I’d actually been looking for a work-related book which doesn’t seem to be available in bookshops, so that will be an online purchase, but in the meantime, I though I’d treat myself.

Interestingly, I’d spent a while choosing the unavailable book, so was at a bit of a loose end, and ended up coming out with three purchases – and as far as I’m consciously aware, I hadn’t seen advertising or media reviews etc of any of them:

Buyology: How Everything We Believe About Why We Buy is Wrong by Martin Lindstrom was bought mainly on the strength of the topic, and the foreword written by Paco Underhill, whose book on Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping I’ve previously read and enjoyed.

Code: Version 2.0 by Lawrence Lessig was purely chosen on the articles I’ve read by him and interviews I’ve watched with him.

And from the non ‘tech geek’ world, I also picked up:
Lukas Moodysson Presents (4 Disc Box Set) [DVD] – I’ve already seen three of the four films, but wanted to watch the fourth, and revisit the first two (Lilya 4-Ever is a well-made film, but is the most relentlessly bleak film I think I’ve ever seen). I’m also using it to improve my Swedish language abilities, and be able to lend ‘Show Me Love’ (the original title is better but far more offensive!) and Tilsammens to the rest of my family – and they all understand DVDs!

I thought I was all done, but there wasn’t any peer recommendation to prove this whole social media thing.

Until I got home.

The first I heard about the Xbox Live only release of Battlefield 1943 was via two friends of mine as we chatted. I hadn’t been online on the Xbox for a while due to the work/commuting/family combination, and as a result, I hadn’t been looking at gaming sites.

And within 10 minutes, I’d paid 1200 Microsoft points (About £10 or so), and downloaded the game.

It’s having a number of server issues at the moment, but the basic game is pretty good, and the online distribution of a ‘full’ game is interesting.

It’s being followed up today by the release via Xbox Live of 1 vs 100, which is an online gaming show with real prizes, which should be interesting.

Peer recommendations and loyalty aren’t new, of course. But generally they’d be prompted for me by either an event (my plumbing has broke, who can fix it?), or by media awareness (this game is coming out, is anyone else buying it?).

It seems as if the weighting has now changed, and the peer/loyalty aspect is what then might result in someone sharing a helpful media review, or just leading me straight to a purchase.

When concerns over social networks go way too far…

Businesses and organisations can either embrace the opportunities and challenges of increasingly easy social interaction, or they can react against it. And two recent examples show how worrying that reaction can be.

Most digitally-aware people realise that anything you put on a public (or even supposedly private) social networking site can be seen by people including your employers.

But how about Bozeman City, in Montana, which requires job applicants to hand over their log-in information and passwords to any internet chat rooms, social networks or forums?

Why should potential employees have any right to privacy at all?

And then a media company, which by rights should know better, gets shown up. The Associated Press has issued social media guidelines, which not only match the restrictions put out by other media outlets such as the Wall Street Journal,  but actually asks employees to monitor and edit what appears on their social network profiles, even when it’s written by their friends.

From the guidelines (via Mashable)

“Q. Anything specific to Facebook?

It’s a good idea to monitor your profile page to make sure material posted by others doesn’t violate AP standards; any such material should be deleted. Also, managers should not issue friend requests to subordinates, since that could be awkward for employees. It’s fine if employees want to initiate the friend process with their bosses.

The News Media Guild, which represents 1500+ AP employees is rightly speaking out about the matter, which could, in theory, see AP employees punished for something written by someone else on their profile wall etc. Or, as is equally likely, a spambot.

Some reactions to Digital Britain…

I haven’t been able to fully digest the Digital Britain report to be able to dissect it and add anything to the commentary already online, so I thought I’d share the thoughts of those people who I value enough to have in my RSS feed every day:

Digital Britain Scorecard: So how did Lord Carter do? – Paid Content.

What does #digitalbritain mean for journalism – Adam Westbrook.

Digital Britain calls for pirate-free universal broadband – Ars Technica.

Digital Britain: 2015 – First thoughts on radio – Adam Bowie.

(Disclosure – Adam Bowie is a colleague of mine at Absolute Radio, although the views expressed on either of our blogs are our own, and do not necessarily represent the views of our employer. )

I’d also recommend the always erudite and interesting Bill Thompson, – Digital Britain engaging with the internet – but his blog appears to be down at the moment. Luckily he’s also available on the BBC site.