Category Archives: Social Media

From Stone Age to Phone Age

It’s high school graduation season. I’m at that age where friends, family, and colleagues are celebrating. There’s a timelessness to graduations. At every ceremony I’m reminded of my graduation. Look in the face of any kid in cap and gown and you’ll see your friends’ faces from years ago. But look down a few inches and there’s something new – the phone. It’s the all-consuming device. Kids don’t have conversations any more. They simply get together and use their phones in the same physical location.

The data streams they create and process are simply amazing. Thousands of text messages and hundreds of images per month, and perhaps dozens of videos. Like our grandparents with their Polaroid cameras, most of the images receive no further processing – point, shoot, share. No Photoshop, no iMovie. Just send. And this is where it gets interesting because now we see the rise of apps such as Hipstamatic. Many have mused that just as the cameras in our phones became capable of producing decent images, a generation of tools specializing in degrading those images emerges. Seems crazy.

Hipstamatic allowed me to set the eery mood of this swamp in the field rather than having to load it on my Mac and tweak it in Photoshop.

As a software designer for today’s content creators and an instructor to the next next generation of creators, I look at it differently. There are now creative tools that allow the artist to look at an image and decide the look to apply at the moment of capture. It’s understood that the Hipstamatic or Instagram shooter has forfeited access to a raw file to process in Photoshop, but that’s not much of a forfeiture when the image was unlikely to be processed anyway.

These tools add a degree of creativity back into the photographic process that was lost in the era of one button to Facebook simplicity. Personally, I’m enjoying these gimmicky tools, and I’m finding they often do a pretty damn good job helping me realize my vision.


Use care discussing next-gen anything

The Times had a nice bit of analysis on some Forrester analysis of the Morgan Stanley* analysis of teen media consumption. While much can be learned from Forrester’s latest research into next-generation media consumption. There’s a bigger point to be made here. I call it Townshend’s Theory of Cultural Evolution. To most everyone else it’s the last line of Won’t Get Fooled again. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. What Forrester discovered is the new teen is a lot like the old teen.

The Times tells the story best in the opening paragraphs of the Media Cache blog entry:

During a slow week for news last summer, the investment bank Morgan Stanley generated headlines when it sent out a research report about teenagers’ media consumption, based on the musings of a 15-year-old intern at the bank’s London office.

For those who missed it, here’s a summary: Teenagers like movies, music, video games and mobile phones. They like to pay as little as possible for them, or nothing at all. They use the Internet for social networking and other “fun” things when their homework is done. Twitter is pointless.

Like many of us, the analysts at Forrester figured executives probably shouldn’t be pinning their businesses’ futures on the media musings of a single, 15 year-old male Morgan Stanley intern. How typical could any teen be that opts to work at Morgan Stanley for the summer over lifeguarding amongst bikini-clad peers? But it’s absolutely amazing how that Morgan Stanley “research” became common wisdom overnight.

* I highly recommend reading our intern firend’s media worldview. The confidence, the definitiveness he shows tells me he’s going to make a hell of a grown up analyst.

The Forrester research didn’t completely disprove the Morgan Stanley intern’s world view, but it did rein it in. Yes, TV viewing is down, Forrester acknowledges, but TV is still top dog.

The lesson to be learned? Revolution is rare. Evolution is the norm. It doesn’t matter what the context, when a producer, a marketer, or an advertiser talks about how different today’s X is from yesterday’s X, be suspicious. Be very suspicious. In my world as a software designer the alarm bells start to ring whenever someone says anything prefaced by the phrase, “but newbies…” I spend a lot of time with new users. (I loathe the pejorative term newbies — it makes them sound like infants. You’re trying to describe a class of users, not a size of diapers.) Yet most of the people so eager to school me in the wants and needs of newbies, see one just a few times a year. We are all subject to believing our infinitely small sample size is indicative of a larger population, but it rarely is.

So the next time someone tries to instruct you how to write, shoot, edit, or design a website for today’s X, check their sources. If it’s their niece the intern, take it with a grain of salt because today’s X is yesterday’s X tomorrow.

Catching the wave

Google Wave logo

A few weeks ago I received a Google Wave invite. Unlike Gmail, which I considered a must-have, I didn’t go beating down the doors of colleagues and peers in search of an invite. How much do I need another collaboration tool? Currently I use SharePoint (more on that later), Confluence (enterprise wiki), Twitter, Yammer, FriendFeed, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Skype. And let’s not forget the old standbys — email, list servers, web forums, SMS, and RSS. TechCrunch has a pretty evenhanded review of Google Wave.

The challenge of adopting a new communication platform is the chicken and the egg conundrum of Metcalf’s Law — the value of a network is proportional to the square of the number of connected users. Every time I asked someone about Wave, I pretty much received the same answer, “It looks really cool, but I don’t have an account and I’m not sure what I’d do with it.” One never knows with Google if the justification for the paucity of beta invites is due to infrastructure limitations or the desire to simply create hype through scarcity. A lot of people sitting on a technology not knowing what do do with it is far less desirable than having thousands of folks wanting to get their hands on it — not fully aware that they have no idea what to do with it. Get those early adopters who really want to figure it out using and talking about your technology and it will eventually come together. It’s worked for Google to great effect in the past.

Everyone wants better collaboration tools. In the media production space, Avid’s collaborative capabilities have been our differentiation for years from Media Composer to Unity to Interplay. So this is an area near and dear to my heart and paycheck. It behooves me to get to know Wave.

At the most cursory level, it’s possible to justify my initial skepticism about the value of Wave each time I log in. Of my 500+ Google contacts, only 12 (2.5%) have Wave accounts, and 25% of those I invited. But it’s become apparent that in the professional space Metcalf’s Law is only part of the formula for network valuations. Let’s use Twitter as an example. It’s such a massive network that the first thing a new user does is narrow the list of tweets he sees. It’s not just how many people are on the network, but how many people saying something worth hearing. It’s also about context. Sometimes I want to read tweets about video editing, sometimes I want to read about the Boston Red Sox. Rarely do I not have a preference. Twitter became much more valuable to me after it introduced lists. All the people who talk about media production in one list, sports fans in another, and family members in a third. Here is where Google excels — all its tools are great at filtering content. Wave is no exception, even in its embryonic state.

Getting back to that 2.5% of my contacts on Google Wave. While a dozen people do not a valid network make, I note that these people are all thought leaders in their space — my cousin the professor with the DBA, the director at Avid working on cloud computing and SaaS deployments, the executive director of AICE, faculty at USC. These are precisely the people who will create a network that I will value. Google’s onto something, again.

So here’s the challenge for would-be collaborators. Managing the Wave. Back in the 1990s Lotus was incredibly successful getting large enterprises to deploy Notes. Everyone could collaborate, and everyone did. Most installations were not well managed, and databases sprouted like mushrooms. In fact my first gig in IT consulting was working with a team at a Fortune 500 company to migrate thousands of databases into a single intranet. The project ran out of money before it ran out of Notes databases.

To quote Stan Lee: With great power comes great responsibility. Misuse of SharePoint has already begun infecting corporate knowledge management the way Notes did. Google Wave with its looser structure has exponentially more potential to wreak havoc. As the TechCrunch review notes, it’s imperative IT and knowledge management pros get ahead of this Wave, and third parties such as Avid build the right hooks into these platforms to make them useful instead of overwhelming.

Commercial tweeting tips

Leave it to Jakob Neilsen to bring iterative design best practices to tweets. For those of you who use Twitter for commecial ends, as opposed to merely sharing moment by moment minutiae, this Useit article might be of interest. A few pointers on scheduling tweets are also given.

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