All posts by renny gleeson

Seven on Seven

W+K is collaborating with Rhizome.org and the New Museum on the upcoming Seven on Seven event –

“Seven on Seven will pair seven leading artists with seven
game-changing technologists in teams of two, and challenge them to
develop something new –be it an application, social media, artwork,
product, or whatever they imagine– over the course of a single day. The
seven teams will unveil their ideas at a one-day event at the New
Museum on April 17th.”

Who’s in?

On the “technology” team

And on the “artists” side of the floor:

Why is W+K there?  Because the future of storytelling, narrative and human experience lie at the crossroads of art and technology.

Seven teams of two will offer you a glimpse of the future.  And they’ll make it real in twenty-four hours.

And then they serve cocktails.

Sweeeet.

Brilliant 4square ‘locations’

‘Sitting on a Plane Going Nowhere’ – @RSW

Best? Check in netted ‘+2 travel bonus points’

As 4square evolves from ‘GPS check in’ basis to networked locative meditations, one wonders how superusers with edit priviledges will feel about inevitable narrative creep…it feels natural that eventually we’ll see 4sq ‘history’ and ‘conversation’ tabs for the discussions around the true meaning of individual places – physical, temporal, psychological?

Note: explore rev potential for Bachelard 4square app…

Running on lily pads

My tweetdeck was an audio machine gun of alert bleeps and blorps when a co-worker stuck their head in and asked "how can you get any work down with that thing distracting you all the time?"

And I would have answered, but another alert went off about @marshallk blogging that he was "Sitting at the bar & talking to random people about ppl getting out of prison".

It was a random tweet from my self-inflicted data firehose, but in spite of having partially proved my co-worker's point, it reinforced mine as well.

We are only as good as our networks.  

While Kurzweil predicts humanity's obsolescence at the hands of the Singularity, I see people connecting faster to each other than ever before, becoming a world-spanning ultra-connected network of emotion, inspiration, and stupid cat tricks.

Sure @marshallk is at the bar, but we are available to each other.  Human potential that can be unlocked by technology-enabled contact.

The quantity of skype, twitter, and FB links are not overwhelming – they make me better at my job. 

You run on lily pads because if you stop, you sink.

Your network is your bridge over troubled water.  And no one can afford to be a rock/or an island.


All Currency is Social. So what’s in YOUR wallet?

I was looking up the definition of currency on Wikipedia, when I came across this line: "modern currency…is intrinsically worthless".  I'm no economist, but the info there indicated that the dollar, euro and other currencies have no value beyond the government declaring them to have value, and markets effectively betting on their future value.

So it's kind of funny that there is a distinction between hard currency (cash) and social currency (as in "net promoter value", WOM recco, blog readership or twitter followers, etc.).  Because both are effectively social constructs (for the cash, at least, since the 'Nixon Shock' ended convertibility of US dollars for gold).

But faith in institutions, like faith in people, can be fragile. 

What the hell does that have to do with marketing?

Well…

I'll go out on a limb here.  The era of the one stop shop, or agency network, or do it alone communications company – or brand, for that matter, is dead.

No brand is an island.  No agency a one-stop shop.

Brands ask for multi-year communications plans in 2010, when in 22 months between February 2005 and November 2006, YouTube went from startup to $1.65 Billion Google acquisition.  One thing you can count on is guessing wrong on the right tactics to employ in three years' time. Many of them simply don't exist yet.

So here's where the currency/social currency comes in:

Agency and brand "currency" will be a reflection of their social portfolio strategy. 

The most successful brands and agencies will be driven by a net value comprised of actual sales of goods and services + the "stored value" of their social currency (in the form of their networks of collaborators).

The key will be how quickly and effectively they can convert stored value to real value, by unlocking the power of their collaborators to achieve mutual goals. 

Darpa-network-challenge_1
DARPA's "Network Challenge" was just such a test to see test the value of networks in real world problem solving.  An MIT team used a tech-fueled "inverse pyramid" scheme to solve in nine hours a problem DARPA assumed would take significantly longer.

The trick is identifyng mutual goals.  Creating a shared vision – and shared risk.  Opportunity – and accountability.

As an agency, it's a good idea to treat partners well, and treat everyone you meet as a future collaborator.  If entire alliances are forming because you are ridiculously awful to work with, you have a serious problem.

And collaboration prevents legacy investments (or entire company acquisitions) from dictating your solutions – a dev shop full of C sharpies not so useful for your Ruby project.  A search shop with an a state-of-the-art proprietary tool yields decreasing returns once that tool gets dumped onto an overall dev list across an agency holding company.  Flash devs on iPhone/iPad?  waaa waaaa.  Or in our case, it helped to have access to the right folks when we wanted to build a robot.

Victor & Spoils promised crowdsourcing as a creative model.  Meh.  What they have done is built a seriously impressive network of freelancers.  The danger is that that network is built on unstable bonds -  bonds that consist of the promise of hard currency.  Hard currency buys you loyalty with an expiration date (the better offer). 

And while money can't buy you love, earned social currency just might.

The agencies and brands that win will build networks of shared inspiration and mutual goals.  Bonds of social currency.

Because an inspired network, a network built on passion and trust, not submission forms and "friend requests", has the power to move mountains.

Innovation will be free

In "Google Takes on China", Jonathan Zittrain writes on his blog:

"What next?  My hope, and expectation, is that Google engineers who
might have been a bit halfhearted about implementing censorship
mandates in google.cn could be full-throttle in coming up with ways for
Google to be viewed despite any network interruptions between site and
user.  There are lots of unexplored options here.  They’re unexplored
not because they’re infeasible, but because most sites would rather not
provoke a government that filters.  So they don’t undertake to get
information out in ways that might evade blockages.  Here, Google would
have nothing more to lose, so could pioneer some new approaches."

Eric Pfanner, in the 01.18.10 NYT, quotes Zittrain, but then ends his piece "In War Against the Internet, China is just a skirmish", with this:

"But even Google, which has benefited more than any other company from
the flourishing of content online, might be unable to fight the
momentum of government restrictions, despite its move in China."

Pfanner is wrong.  Flat out wrong. 

Governments will fight the internet and what it represents and enables, for the same reason many companies did at the beginning of this messy techno-cultural-societal Gotterdammerung: they are wedded to legacy systems of command and control, and believe that they are financially incented to remain that way.

But the companies that will survive and prosper recognize that rejecting the technosphere or attempting to dam it will simply reroute its flow to more viable channels – and their only chance to lead is having those channels pumping through their doors.  I suspect governmental structures will be similarly stressed taxed and broken/rebuilt.  For instance:  when Obama can raise millions in one day online, and when the Red Cross can generate over a hundred million dollars for Haiti through text messages, we have to rethink financial controls and monitoring.

Innovation and capital will go where opportunity exists. 

I was at the Seattle "Museum of Flight", and a particular plaque caught my attention in the 'space' display wing.  In the 'history of rocketry' section, a note mentioned that two thirds of Nazi Germany's physicists and half its physical chemists fled the Nazi's ethnic and political policies – fueling Western leaps that resulted in the Atom bomb and (eventually, once the Peenemunde scientists were added to the mix) space travel.  They played to a legacy, and sacrificed their future.

Government restriction will drive innovation – at home, to circumvent such restriction, and abroad through migration of human capital and resources.

Survival is based on the answer to a simple question: do you drive innovation, or do you drive it away?

Brain Belches and Sentience

Somewhere this past year, I effectively traded blogging for brain belches.  Blog posts gave way to tweets, FB status updates and foursquare check-ins. "@"replies and retweets replaced blog comments as my virtual crack.

I'm not proud of it, and I will  rectify that this year (resolution #3, just after #2's "ripped abs")

In Katie Hafner's NYT piece "Driven to Distraction, Some Unfriend Facebook" (a piece dealing with kids attempts to self-regulate their Facebook addictions) she quotes Michael Diamonti, head of school at SF University High School:

"[I support] these kids recognizing that they need to exercise some control over their use of Facebook, that not only is it tremendously time-consuming but perhaps not all that fulfilling."

Hafner goes on to quote Sherry Turkle, director of the MIT Initiative on Technology and Self, who writes of an 18 year old male who quit FB while working on his college application:

"Facebook wasn't merely a distraction, but it was really confusing him about who he was."

Jonathan Harris, in his recent piece on World Building, writes

"Our online tools do a great job at breadth (hundreds of friends,
thousands of tweets), but a bad job at depth. We live increasingly
superficial lives, reducing our relationships to caricatures and our
personalities to billboards, as we speed along at 1,000 miles an hour.

We trade self-reflection for busyness, gorging ourselves on it and
drowning in it, without recognizing the violence of that busyness,
which we perpetrate against ourselves and at our peril."

There is something beautiful, terrifying and powerful about the rise of ambient intimacy, and our willing adoption of the latest and greatest tools to feed it.  We feed it with our hearts and souls like a confessional booth after a Las Vegas bender, but occasionally forget that every wry observation and catty tweet is now searchable, indexable and forever. 

But seeing is not knowing.  Telling alone does not create understanding. And the fact I can't actually deal with the immediacy of a restaurant until I've "checked in" in pursuit of my "Crunked' badge is…well, a little sad.

Sad, but I believe it will evolve into something beautiful.  This stuff would not survive, we would not be obsessed by it, if it did not meet a fundamental human need.  Our job is to understand that need and work to meet it with technology that enhances our humanity, and deepens our connections, rather than reduces our rich world of experience to 140 character bleats.

But it does make you think – children learn interaction by observing our emotional states.  How much of our hearts and souls can we pour into the technosphere before it develops its own api to tap our raw data, and begin to react?

It feels inevitable that a status update will someday generate a reaction – "feeling blue" may generate a skype call from an unknown (but somehow familiar soothing) voice, suggesting you "look on the bright side – you've got that Mexico trip coming up!  You'll be tan and happy, and you'll probably hook up!" – and when the line goes dead, you'll feel great, and maybe slightly, momentarily unsettled.  But you shouldn't be – you put the trip into dopplr, booked it through Expedia, and you've got a profile that matches someone else who did the same (and is single)…weather.com predicts sun for the 10-day forecast, and the tweets you posted from Tulum the last time were, algorithmically speaking, the happiest of your 8,956 posts. 

You can't miss!

Toilet Paper Users and Facebook Users

We social media wanks often earn our fear money through hyperbolic/histrionic presentations laden with "you're business model is f***ed" slides, typically including a gasp-inducing image that compares the population of users of Facebook to the population of actual countries.

But Facebook isn't really a country.  Individual users of Facebook have as much in common with each other as individual users of toilet paper. 

And come to think of it, there may be more TP than FB users for a little while yet.

Facebook-heat-map

(FB heatmap when they were limping along with 200MM users back on april 8th,2009, stolen from Dave Know's HardKnox life blog…and interesting to note that if in April they were "admitting" 200MM, and in December Zuckerberg claims 350MM, HOLY HOCKEYSTICK, batman.)

If FB were a country, it would be an interesting one – a preselected technological "upper" class who have sufficient material resources to at least guarantee access, so they probably aren't hurting for basic needs – food, shelter, etc. 

They'd be the world's third most populous country – 350MM+ people, all a few rungs up Maslow's ladder.

And in spite of various valuation discussions, this "country" of tech "haves" wouldn't be a G-7 or G-20 candidate.  Various estimates peg the FB "GDP" at about a billion for 2009 – with about half that coming from ad revenue, the other half from monetization of the FB platform via third party developers.  that puts them at #169 for global GDP, a few steps behind St. Lucia, and just edging out Dijibouti.

The smartest, wealthiest, tech saavy folks in the world, 350MM strong, barely edging out a win on Dijibouti?  Golly.

But there is something much more interesting and a little sad going on here.  A real country has many things that make for an engaged citizenry.  The two I think are relevant here are

  1. economic/social/emotional barriers to leaving, and
  2. a national mythology/narrative

Friendster, MySpace and Facebook are cheap, easy, and addictive, but their glue is driven by the critical mass of friends (network effect) and the difficulty of porting your entire life onto the NEXT BIG PLATFORM.  Facebook Connect is a brilliant way to deflect the need to re-port, but at the end of the day, FB loyalty will be proportional to its perceived utility.  Like toilet paper.  If there is a softer better cheaper toilet paper, I'll use it.

Tpjoke

(stolen from extremefunnyhumor.com)

But none of these social nets has an embedded narrative or mythology.  they have a perceived "cool" factor, or not, but they are social tools, little more.  FB is doing its best to become the Leatherman of social nets, with a tool, port or app for every need, but I question the loyalty of its users and the longevity of its position.  Because they have no narrative.  The US Army/Marine Corps CounterInsurgency Manual (available as a pdf here – Download COIN-FM3-24) defines a "narrative" as:

"a story recounted in the form of a causally linked series of events that explains an event in the group's history and expresses the values, characters, or self-identity of the group.  Narratives are means through which ideologies are expressed and absorbed by members of a society."

There is no common purpose to FB, no shared mission, no shared narrative. 

Like Toilet Paper. 

We flush (TP) and upload (FB) our crap every day.

When will a virtual social net nourish our souls?