Ada Lovelace Day

About The Authors

Suw Charman-Anderson

Suw Charman-Anderson

Suw Charman-Anderson is a social software consultant and writer who specialises in the use of blogs and wikis behind the firewall. With a background in journalism, publishing and web design, Suw is now one of the UK’s best known bloggers, frequently speaking at conferences and seminars.

Her personal blog is Chocolate and Vodka, and yes, she’s married to Kevin.

Email Suw

Kevin Anderson

Kevin Anderson

Kevin Anderson is a freelance journalist and digital strategist with more than a decade of experience with the BBC and the Guardian. He has been a digital journalist since 1996 with experience in radio, television, print and the web. As a journalist, he uses blogs, social networks, Web 2.0 tools and mobile technology to break news, to engage with audiences and tell the story behind the headlines in multiple media and on multiple platforms.

From 2009-2010, he was the digital research editor at The Guardian where he focused on evaluating and adapting digital innovations to support The Guardian’s world-class journalism. He joined The Guardian in September 2006 as their first blogs editor after 8 years with the BBC working across the web, television and radio. He joined the BBC in 1998 to become their first online journalist outside of the UK, working as the Washington correspondent for

And, yes, he’s married to Suw.

E-mail Kevin.

Member of the Media 2.0 Workgroup
Dark Blogs Case Study

Case Study 01 - A European Pharmaceutical Group

Find out how a large pharma company uses dark blogs (behind the firewall) to gather and disseminate competitive intelligence material.

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All content © Kevin Anderson and/or Suw Charman

Interview series:
at the FASTforward blog. Amongst them: John Hagel, David Weinberger, JP Rangaswami, Don Tapscott, and many more!

Corante Blog

Friday, October 6th, 2006

UK AOP: Awards and sessions I didn’t blog about

Posted by Kevin Anderson

I’m still recovering from the Association of Online Publishers awards bash on Wednesday night, but Mark Sweney at Guardian’s (yes, my new keepers) Organ Grinder blog has a roundup of the award winners. Host Jimmy Carr was baffled by one winner: Nature’s Avian Flu Google Earth Mashup. Too bad he didn’t have a clue what a mashup was, and too bad that this is behind Nature’s pay wall. I’d love to have a play with it. But you can get a feel for it here at Declan Butler’s blog. Declan is a senior reporter at Nature and helped put the mashup together.

(Thanks Declan for the updated link!)

Congratulations to the CiF editorial team for their award and several honourable mentions. The team works hard to keep their rambunctious community happy. It’s a bit anarchic sometimes at CiF, but the commenters seem to like it that way. Well done, Georgina, Tom, Ben and Toby.

Jemima Kiss was there for PaidContent, and she has a nice write up with pictures of Tim O’Reilly’s session. You can see that brilliant IBM visualisation of a Wikipedia change log. She also wrote up the session about marketing to youth, or The Mystery of Teenage Boys. As Jemima says, “kids are watching less TV, spending loads of time online and on mobile and just love IM,” which are trends that pretty much everyone knows already. But there were interesting experiences given by panelists. I also liked how she wrote in the post about how social this generation are. They are just socialising in different ways.

Thursday, October 5th, 2006

Der Standard

Posted by Suw Charman-Anderson

Austrian paper Der Standard report on my presentation at BlogTalk. Thanks to Horst for both the image and the translation.

Wednesday, October 4th, 2006

UK AOP: The social web

Posted by Kevin Anderson

Another panel discussion here at AOP, now talking about the social web. Simon Waldman, of the Guardian Media Group, moderated the panel.

The panel:

  • Tom Bureau, CNET Networks UK
  • Adriana Cronin-Lukas, Big Blog Company
  • Lloyd Shepherd, Yahoo!

Tom talked about CNET Networks UK. They try to create ‘architected participation’. They will look at Gamespot. One of the biggest interactive, online-only publishers with about 115 million unique users each month. They have, CNet and other sites.

It’s important to think about who you serve. There is only a small sliver of groups who will contribute, but they are very important. They are not trying to be AOL, Yahoo or MSN to cover everyone. What they are trying to do is to focus on the top third of level of passion/expertise and numbers. They are not trying to reach the ‘true freaks’ but with ‘avid contributors’ with a very deep way. They want to create value for the smart consumer (probably people like me with the obsessive-compulsive comparative shopping gene).

They have to be aware of brand sensitities both ours and our clients. Also, they are looking at challenges with quality, appropriateness and relationship to their core mission. He talked about MySpace and Bebo issues of size of community and ‘child care’.

He also talked about the issue of centre of gravity. Without a centre of gravity, they wither, eg Friendster. You give people are a reason to return.

Systematic approach for created architected participation

  • Draw in passionate and high value users
  • Solicit their knowledge and get them to contribute and translate that to the broader audience.
  • Encourage them to make contributions and connections

He gave the example of Gamespot UK. Globally, it reaches 30m unique users. First thing they realised, users create content everyday, their use, their links. They created a product called Gamespot Trax, a real-time reporting tool. You can find out an enormous amount of what they are doing. They use this information to focus on what content they need. They have to register. They have to use site for several weeks. They must use drop downs. They set a barrier to entry.

They promote user content. They encourage them to create better content. They create an identity for themselves. They have over 3000 ‘editors’ on Halo Union.

Your profile is your social identity. They have blog levels. Profiles. They are encouraged to set up their own identity. She can contact and track others and start to make social contacts. Real life connections hapen. People take their online contacts to make offline social connection. Someone set up a Gamespot UK Frapper map. How many users are using your site and for what period? That is the new metric.

Adriana and the social web and Web 2.0. Changing attitudes and behaviour. This is not about technology but a developing culture. This about creating content and distributing it like never before. The one trend driving this on all sorts of fronts. The consumer is no more. The monolithic is no more. People are contributing. Does this technology allow people to do what they could not do before?

Control was always a delusion and you were never were able to control the context for the content. The process of distibution on relaying a message to the final audience has been disrupted.

We’ll be right back after these imporant message. Feel free to go fuck yourself in the meantime.

from a Hugh McLeod business card

Channels and networks. In the early days, ots of people see the internete as another channel. TV, print, radio and internet are just seen as another distribution channel. But the internet is a sea for the other channels. It is creating leaks from these other channels. We all swim in the same pool. The internet is not a one way channel.

All of the other pipelines have a particular business model. The current model is based on pipelins. Media makes society one way. Internet is many-to-many. The internet is interconnected. We are all networked even in the offline world to some extent. Why does thi matter? Online if aster. Change is being amplified faster. The balance of power between the broadcaster and the audience is changing.

Social media: Blogs, RSS, wikis, live search. The social aspect is far more important than technological.

The demand side, the customer, the consumer is now supplying itself. It is no longer a straight forward supply-demand curve. She pointed to the rise of the amateur professional. First came the geeks, then the news junkies, then the teenagers and now anyone. It is not mainstream as in the mainstream media, but it is mainstream. The network is more dense. The amateur professional is someone who uses their knowledge but uses social media tools. You can’t cry that these aren’t amateurs. They are professionals.

Why talking about social media? We’ve had new media for a long time. People used to pigeon hole me into new media. The progression from old media to new media means that old media is moving to the digital space. The pivot where new media and social media meet is the individual.

Where’s the business model? New media doesn’t change the core competency of the media. Google sells reach. Amazon sells reviews. eBay sells reputation. It goes back to what O’Reilly said this morning that we are selling something but it might not be what we think.

She said that media used to sell eyeballs to advertisers, but now they are trying to sell content as audiences flee.

The internet is a network. Users are rerouting around the gatekeepers.

One things she said really resonated with me:

Content is never finished. The ultimate audience is gone.

Lloyd Shepherd with Yahoo! finished up the round of talks. He started off with a couple of quotes defining social media, one from Tom Coates of Plasticbag:

The age of social media then is probably about a fusing of these two

ways of thinking - the communicative and the publishing/creative parts

of the internet - into something new and powerful. It’s an environment

in which every user is potentially a creator, a publisher and a

collaborator with (and to) all of the other creative people on the


(I don’t think this is the quote of Tom’s that Lloyd actually used, but it’s a good one.)

He then quoted a blog in an article called the Myth of Social Media:

Social media is just one metaphor for the way that humans tend to

coalesce into various thought collectives. Let’s not forget that we’ve

been doing this for millennia anyway – mainly in offline mode. And the

jury is still out on whether social networks can establish anything

beyond weak, loosely-coupled relationships;

Lloyd then walked us through all of Yahoo’s social media sites, including Yahoo 360, Yahoo groups (800,000 groups in Europe alone), messenger, MyWeb and, of course, Flickr and He credited Flickr with unlocking and spurring a lot of social media and interface design at Yahoo. They just launched a feature in the US called The 9 (note the video automatically loads on launch and note Suw, number 6 is Chocolate: It’s what’s for dinner). The programme is the top 9 videos on the web based on what users think.

One of the interesting things things that Lloyd talked about were some interesting mixed community-driven or user-generated content advertising campaigns. One was on the Yahoo! France for the launch of the Ford S-Max. They gave 10 people a S-Max for a week, and asked them to blog about it. The person who had the most popular blog won the car. After a week, the bloggers had posted 1200 photos, 168 posts, 15 videos and 3 podcasts. Wow.

They also had a contest called Get Your Freak On and had people do their own versions of a Shakira video. The most popular user video got as many views as Shakira’s video.

In the Q&A, one of the questions about the attention economy: How do keep relevant with all of these new bits of content out there?

Adriana said watch what the individual is doing. I’d follow that my network is my filter. So much of what I read, watch and listen to come from recommendations from my friend. My social network points me in the direction of articles that I’ll be interested in either in e-mails or IM conversations. I was slightly surprised that this wasn’t brought up. But a former BBC colleague said that she was surprised that no one has mentioned RSS today. I would be drowing in information if it wasn’t for RSS, and I’m constantly looking for better tools to manage those feeds. But in the meantime, my friends are my filter. And they are a damn spot better than the EPG on TV.

Wednesday, October 4th, 2006

UK AOP: Publishing 2.0

Posted by Kevin Anderson

Damn, some fool just announced that Wifi is available here. How does he expect me to finish downloading the last season of Lost now?

Oh well, Tim is up now. Web 2.0 meets publishing. They try to find people who are innovating from the edge and amplify that effect.

“The future is here. It’s just not evenly distributed yet.”

William Gibson

They saw hackers building yagi’s out of Pringle cans, and they thought WiFi was going to be big. Riffing more on William Gibson, they are in the business of patttern matching. What do the apps of Web 2.0 have in common: Google, eBay, Yahoo?

  • Information business
  • Software as a business
  • Use the internet as a platform. It is no longer an add-on. Google is one of the leading Linux applications, and you don’t even know it.
  • All of these applications are about harnessing collective intelligence, in one way or another.

Yahoo! the ultimate content aggregator. Google realised that it was about links not just documents. Google gets smarter every day because of the hundreds of millions of users making links everyday. eBay is 800,000 people making a living online .

Amazon, unlike other Web 2.0, no big breakthrough. They ask again and again and again to contribute.

CraigsList is user self-service.

Mapquest didn’t realise that users add value. They used it as a database publishing opportunity. How do you get your users to add value to what you do.

Web 2.0 is the era of asymmetric competition. Unlike Netscape and Lotus, Microsoft’s previous competitors, Google is a content company. Look at the top 10 sites on the internet, they have thousands of staff, but CraigsList has 18, well probably a little more, but still orders of magnitude smaller than competitors.

Britannica didn’t realise that Google was it’s competition. Google is O’Reilly’s competition for publishing. They now have tutorial books as opposed to reference books.

User-generated content. More than one way to do it.

  1. Volunteers - Wikipedia. 20th most trafficked site on the web. Tens of thousands of contributors. IBM research did a visual representation of the change log of a Wikipedia entry. Wow! Britannica growth flat.
  2. Harness users self-interest like CraigsList or eBay.
  3. Architecture of participation. He used the example of Flickr. They have tag clouds. He compared Flickr to Shutterfly. Default is to share on Flickr. Think of defaults that encourage participation.
  4. Content is a database and developers are journalists. Adrian Holovaty as Tim mentions Django. They build a page for every Little League team, every soccer team.

How they applied this at O’Reilly. They built Safari as a user-help syndication services.

Database+Webservices+Participation=Web 2.0 success

DRM? Don’t have too much DRM. DRM is like taking a cat to the vet. You have to hold the cat lightly or get scatched to hell. Apple blew Sony out of the water because they have loose, almost invisble DRM.

Two types of platforms.

  • Lord of the Rings. One Ring to Rule them All
  • Small Pieces Loosely Joined

This networked world is gaining steam. We have to figure out how to become players in this world.

Q: Is this about free versus pay?

No, they do pay but what are they paying for? It can be free. Google is minting money by selling eyeballs.

Talking about publishing and the Long Tail. With Safari, abbout 30% of page views come from books that aren’t successful in print.

Q: What is the role of traditional editors in the world of user-generated content?

A: Wikipedia does have editors. Google has human intervention to control spam. The editorial function of the future is computer-aided editing. They have much more powerful tools.

Q: Will new models of trust develop if users feel exploited?

A: Some people understood the dynamics. Some didn’t. They thought it was just like TV. Shout with loud ads. Lots of people won’t get it. There will be a lot of movement. Thik back to first days of personal computer. Think of companies that don’t exist. The companies are bubbles on the wave. They aren’t the wave.

There will be a lot of consolidation. In 5 or 6 years, the internet industry will become increasingly consolidated. This is the very beginnings. Just the beginning. Location aware devices. Managing the huge amount of data.

Q: How do communities scale?

Best opportunities how stay small while it grows. Can we build a social network access to everyone but retain small circle? How do we build value in these massive sites so that people are find the niche they like?

Wednesday, October 4th, 2006

UK AOP: Ulrik Haagerup, leading new media change

Posted by Kevin Anderson

This was the second time in a year that I’ve heard Ulrik speak, and it’s a real treat. I first heard him talk at an IFRA convergence workshop last summer. His ideas are compelling, but his new media leadership is some of the best in the world. He clearly communicates a plan of action for media organisations but he also has a management framework that helps organisations help staff through the change.

He started off by quoting a Chines proverb:

When the winds of change blow, some build shields against the wind but others build wind mills.

In 2002, Nordjyske was a newspaper in North Jutland in Denmark as it had been since something like 1767. It took about 10,000 Euros a day to put out the newspaper in 2002, and he said that the staff would strike at the slightest provocation. But they were facing a crisis, possibly the worst thing that can happen to a newspaper in Denmark: They were under threat of being sold to Norwegians.

Something had to change. He asked his staff what Darwin had said. Invariably, they said that strongest survive. Ulrik corrected them. What Darwin had actually said was that those with the ability to adapt to change in their environment would win, would survive. And he said that if more change is happening outside your window than inside, you’re in trouble. They had to adapt to survive, which is a fair comment on lots of business models these days.

We as journalists have lost our monopoly on information

They looked and saw that their audience was watching TV. They could run adverts telling their audience not to watch TV, or they could manage the change. Everyone watched CNN Headline News, but what they needed was a local version, so they launched 24 Nordjyske. Now, it’s watched by almost everyone in North Jutland, and they suddenly have an audience far greater than the newspaper. And that wasn’t the end. They launched a radio station, a premium SMS service. They have a website, and a weekly newspaper as well as the daily newspaper.

They now have a multimedia newsroom. They don’t have newspaper reporters or radio reporters. They have reporters. They create story for all media, but not all stories are created for all media. He broke it down this way as media and their strengths:

  • TV- feelings
  • Radio- here and now
  • Web- searchable and depth
  • Mobile- everywhere
  • Traffic paper- find time
  • Weekly- to everyone
  • Daily- stops time

His thinking about convergence is some of the best in the industry. He was the first person who I had ever heard that said that convergence is not a cost-cutting measure. It won’t save you money. He said that his staffing has changed little since transforming his organisation from a newspaper into a multimedia house. (They are so successful that people the world over come for tours and sessions. They pay 2000 euros per visit. They put that money in a box and just bought a new helicopter.)

His journalists are multi-skilled, but obviously, the learning curve is steep and not all of the results are award-winning. But he said: Don’t criticise the product. Applaud the process. He also talked about the difference between industrial management and innovative management, and one of the things that he said was that industrial thinking looks for short-term returns, while innovative thinking looked for long-term results. He said that the word for manager actually came from a French word for controlling horses, but that modern managers didn’t need to order their people around.

One thing that he said last summer that he didn’t in this talk is one off the lessons that I learned and really informs how I work and now I lead as an editor:

Most managers point and say to their staff: Go that way. That’s where the future is. But leaders say: I’m heading in towards our future. Follow me.

Wednesday, October 4th, 2006

AOP: The evolving content model

Posted by Kevin Anderson

Torin Douglas of the BBC moderated this panel. The panel:

  • Rod Henwood, head of new business Channel 4
  • Zach Leonard, digital media publisher, Times MediaTim Weller, chief executive, Incisive Media
  • Jim Scheinman, VP of business development and sales, Bebo
  • Rod Henwood, 600 channels on Sky’s basic pack. Our business model is under threat in a multi-channel world and with the disruptive force of broadband. He says what will save their bacon is brand (We worship our brand, he says), exclusive content, cross-promotional capability, corporate focus and adaptability. The biggest challenge is not so much what to do but what not to do. They have embraced video on demand. It is a possible threat, but they see it as an opportunity. They are looking for platform ubiquity.

    I’m glad that VOD is coming. Even with 30 channels of choice on Freeview, too often it’s 30 channels and nothing on, and I go back to DIY video on demand.

    Zach Leonard and the Times are gunning for the Guardian. The last six months he said that they are bringing in deals that before were only familiar in a print market. The story telling process of journalism has changed forever. He made a plea for developers to come see him. “I am sure that we can make you an attractive offer,” he said.

    Good to hear that. At least someone is hiring.

    Integrated newsrooms and common platforms are just the beginning. They are also looking at user-generated content and community. They recently posted the video of the 9/11 hijackers in 2000 that was just discovered. Their traffic doubled and trebled. And their podcasting is ‘dominating iTunes’.

    Tim Weller, founder and CEO of Incisive. One of 40% that didn’t know what a blog is. He was the target of bloggers in the States for their search engine strategy. He founded the company 12 years ago. They turn a quarter of billion in revenue. They connect people who want to buy products with people who want to sell. They are platform agnostic. Key challenge is that the call for ROI (return on investment) is getting stronger. Buyers want real-time market intelligence.

    Work with search engines or block them out from paid content? I think it’s a fabulous marketing tool. Develop more community-based content with user-generated content. MySpace and Bebo, peer-to-peer markets are great at breaking down barriers to people communicating with each other.

    Jim Scheinman, of Bebo, was a no show. Bummer. I wanted to hear from him.

    Rod of C4 said the word: Convergence. I’ve heard about convergence for years, and for C4, it’s all about VOD right now.

    Torrin said that at C4 and the BBC, they have public money coming in, but how does the Times finance these changes. Zach says that they have a range of titles from the Times, the Sun to the Times Literary Supplement. On the Sun, they can play more with community.

    There was an interesting discussion happening about how to innovate. Rod said that there was the integrationist and the internal incubator model. They are two extremes, but he said that a balance must be struck between speeding up innovation but also getting this to the core of the business model.

    After listening to this, the absence of the voice of Bebo was noticeable. People are talking very peripherally about community, but you can tell it’s not core to their business models right now.

Wednesday, October 4th, 2006

UK AOP: Five challenges for online publishing

Posted by Kevin Anderson

I’m of at the UK Association of Online Publishers. The keynote is about how to compete in a new economy, giving by Carolyn McCall, the chief executive of the Guardian Media Group, so my boss’s boss’s boss, or some such high level above my head.

She laid out five challenges for online publishers:

1) Our brands and our staff are the foundation of our future. This didn’t wow me at first, but then she started to talk about online brand tracking. I don’t think (and Suw will tell you) that companies are doing too little to monitor how their brands are being talked about online.

Dell Computer’s business is a little soft. Did Jeff Jarvis’ continual drumbeat of discontent on Buzzmachine play a part? Definitely. Hard to say how much. But he’s offering them suggestions.

2) Stay close to your users. She mentioned that Flickr doesn’t even talk about users but talks constantly about community. This is one opportunity that bloggers like Robert Scoble understand implicitly, but publishers don’t yet. Blogging is an opportunity to listen as well as publish.

3) Innovate to learn. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. You have to start somewhere.

4) Excel at software development. Our best developers are as important as our best journalists. Adrian Holovaty will be cheered to hear that his message is getting out.

5) Drive digital revenue growth as soon as possible. I’m not a hard-core money maker, but I feel very strongly about the importance of quality journalism, which costs money and takes time. It’s desperately expensive, but without getting into the pro-am debate, it’s also pretty important. Newspaper revenues are in collapse in the US, well at least they are declining from the double digit margins of the past. But to continue to pay for quality journalism, the revenue model has to change.

Torin Douglas asked who has time to read Comment is Free, the Guardian’s mega commentary site. Carolyn, honestly said, that she only goes there a couple a times a week to get a flavour of what people are saying about Iraq or the Labour Party.

Tuesday, October 3rd, 2006

BlogTalk Reloaded: All the videos

Posted by Suw Charman-Anderson

It turns out that the guys at BlogTalk have been busy videoing all the talks and getting them up online before you have time to blink. Mine is up online, as is Danah’s. For everyone else, just pop along to the schedule page and click on the title of the talk.

Monday, October 2nd, 2006

BlogTalk Reloaded: danah boyd

Posted by Suw Charman-Anderson

[This is liable to being the only talk I take notes on - just too braindead to do more.]

The word ‘beta’ used to mean something. Before Friendster, it used to mean that something was in testing, but now it probably means ‘not yet profitable’.

Software dev used to be a hideous process with specs being written, and checked, and coding and lawyers. But developers don’t like this sort of process.

MySpace developers decided to hack something together using Cold Fusion. No spec, no qa, no usability, no legal, no marketing. They just deployed it. From idea to deployment was two months. Can say ‘maybe they got lucky’, but that’s not the full story. But when they shipped, they asked the users for feedback, and built out requested features. But still no designed system, it’s just piecemeal hacks.

The beta is still pretty standard way of doing something. But MySpace still doesn’t have QA, instead they launch 2 or 3 new features a day, and hack on the live servers. An extreme idea but it’s a new way of working that’s pretty consistent to the social software world.

- hack it up, get it out there
- learn from your users, evolve the system with them
- make your presence known, invite feedback
- monetisation? Add a few ads here and there

Pros and Cons to this.

Cons - produces terribly horrible code that fails frequently. Held together by voodoo. But if you think about how usability been done, has a mentality, lab-driven context. They show people software, ask them to interact with it, and the result is that they fix a few pixels, change working, change page flow. Great for human-computer interaction but not human-human interaction.

But when you have crowds it is different to when you have individuals. Anything that can be fucked with gets fucked with. No good way of testing it per se, but no way to say ‘how to make certain that this can be used. But this is key to what makes social software valuable - it ends up reflecting the crowds.

Because social software spreads friends to friends, this is great from a marketing perspective. Shapes way people use it, the way they think about it. Early days of flicker, Caterina and Stewart said hello to every new users and talked to them about the site and why they did it. That shaped the Flickr culture, and the community because then friends of Caterina and Stewart did the same.

Lots of social software is tech-centred technology.

But an example that went awry. Orkut. Known now as a Brazilian site. WAs originally deployed as an invite-only to tech people, engineers, people associated to Google. But people joined because they knew those people, but weren’t necessarily interested. Too many YSANs.

But then some Brazilians joined, and the list of countries had a list of flags… like a sports event where you want to rise in the rankings. The Brazilians thought this was fascinating because they could beat the Americans. Messages went out and the Brazilians joined en masse, went from 5% to 90% of the people. At this point, the developers weren’t living in the system anymore.

Orkut has now spread to India, and that was deliberate. No problems launching but has taken on a new form recently. The space duplicates the caste system in some detail, and again Orkut does not know what’s going on or how to deal with it.

Culture’s provide meaningful context that tells us how to act. Spaces set norms, e.g. getting on a bus. As kids we don’t abide by norms, until our parents teach us. We learn from people around us and the space itself. Know that a bus is different to an opera house.

So how do you make meaning of context on a social site? Early Usenet groups all looked the same - so how do you make context? Can’t tell the difference between the others except by interaction.

So look at Friendster:
- Gay men
- Bloggers
- Burning Man attendees

Depending on which group people joined Friendster in, they took on that role. So if you were invited by a Burning Man attendee you thought it was a Burning Man site, so you they did their profile as per their own context, and didn’t realise or assume there would be any other contexts but the ones they knew.

Didn’t take long before your boss got online and you realised this was not a place to be half-naked.

Academics often talk about context and what’s appropriate. But it’s very difficult to cross contexts. People change, for example, the way that they speak depending on who they are talking too, but you can’t speak to multiple groups simultaneously without having to make a choice.

When researchers created ARPANET they were interested in sharing information. Interest driven starting point. Even MUDs and MOOs were activity driven.

But inversion with social software, because they started people-first, because you don’t want to know everyone on the web. You may be blogging to reach an audience, but you don’t have billions of readers, you start off with your friends, and if you’re really popular you’ll get beyond that. But your friends build the context. The people you know, connections of relations you have in the system.

Radically different process, but we don’t know how to deal with it. Problem is scale. These contexts collapse. How can you deal with multiple contexts because you’ve scaled.

Monetisation is forcing a lot of sites to scale too fast.

Facebook, for example. Colleges… then… schools… then businesses… now everyone. Tension with marketing - marketing means scale, and scale means multiple contexts.

Delicious, conversations about how awful it was that non-techies were posting.

How far can things scale? Can it work?

Blogs are the only area where its scaled successfully. Because there is no ‘blogosphere’ because it’s not one thing. People are unaware of each other - foodies and knitting bloggers don’t mingle.

Three questions;

Designers: There are costs to chaotic processes behind the design now, and what are the processes that can support users without burning out designers
Researchers: what implications does all this have for society, design, every day life, globalisation
Business folks: Monetisation and growth are seen as desirable, but they destabilise most social software and kill communities. is it possibly to monetise without doing that?


Monday, October 2nd, 2006

Conference burn out

Posted by Suw Charman-Anderson

OK, it’s official. I’m burnt out as regards conferences. My flight was over three hours late last night, and our pilot told us just before we took off that had we been another 20 minutes later, we would not had enough fuel to get to Vienna, so he would have had to cancel the flight. Instead of thinking ‘Wow, that was lucky’, I found myself feeling cross, and wishing that Air Traffic Control had held us just a bit longer, or that the weather had worsened, so that I could just get back on the Piccadilly line and go home.

Instead, Lady Luck saw fit to ensure that I didn’t get to Vienna until 2am, and didn’t get to my friend Horst’s place until nearly 3am. I am, as you can imagine, a bit tired.

I’m also not impressed one little bit with the programme at BlogTalk Reloaded. There are lots of great speakers… in fact, there are too many. With no slot longer than half an hour, and a distinct lack of breaks, I am wondering how I am going to last. In fact, I know I am not going to last at all. I haven’t had a proper meal since lunchtime yesterday, I didn’t get dinner last night, no breakfast this morning because we had to rush to get here in time, we have a 15 minute break at 12:30, and lunch is not until 1.45. My talk is just before lunch. If I can string a sentence together at that point, I will be lucky.

I have to ask, for exactly whose benefit was this programme put together? As a speaker, I feel a bit miffed at only getting half an hour, because it’s not really long enough to get into the interesting detail of what I have to speak about. I will either have to talk fast or cut stuff out, and either way I’ll feel like I’m short-changing everyone. (And no, I’m not going to come over all falsely modest to say that I’m not interesting enough for a full hour. I’m bloody interesting, actually, and I believe that I’m not the only one here who’s bloody interesting.)

Half an hour also doesn’t give time for questions. Half the fun of talking is having a chat with the audience for the last 15 mins… oh, wait. Now I’m really pissed off. I don’t get half an hour, I get 10 minutes. I spent all that money, and went through all that pain for 10 minutes? I work for myself, so I have to pay for my own flights, there’s no nice business slush fund to pay for me. The whole point of coming to these conferences is to raise one’s profile in order to get more work. Networking is a big part of that, but so is having the opportunity to prove one’s experience and express one’s opinions from the stage, thus giving people an understanding of what you do and who you are.

10 mins gives no more than a snapshot, and frankly, had I known I would never have bothered.

Their format is this - two 10 minute presentations and then a 40 minute chat afterwards in small groups. Now, I’m all for chats, but would rather do that with everyone here (there are not many people here so it would be more than doable).

I thought last night that I need to put a moratorium on conferences for the next few months, and this experience just emphasises that I need to not book in any more conferences for a good long time.

UPDATE: I complained to the organisers, and they have changed the format so that myself and the other person talking this hour get half an hour each, with no ‘open space’. I do appreciate this, and I hope it will make for a better experience not just for me but for the audience. All I have to do now is not pass out or fall asleep.