It’s been a while since I have posted something on wilbertbaan.nl. The next weeks I’ll try to pick it up again and write about why the experimental news system EN.nl stalled and where it stalled, and what I learned from it. And I will write about some new private projects I’ve been working on in the last months.
Ideas In a very interesting piece called World Building web artist Jonathan Harris is comparing online experiences with fast food culture. I can very much relate to what he writes and reading his essay-like story is definitely worth some your time.
City ideas have to do with a particular moment in time, a scene, a movement, other peopleâ€™s work, what critics say, or whatâ€™s happening in the zeitgeist. City ideas tend to be slick, sexy, smart, and savvy, like the people who live in cities. City ideas are often incremental improvementsâ€”small steps forward, usually in response to what your neighbor is doing or what you just read in the paper. City ideas, like cities, are fashionable. But fashions change quickly, so city ideas live and die on short cycles.
The opposite of city ideas are â€œnatural ideasâ€, which account for the big leaps forward and often appear to come from nowhere. These ideas come from nature, solitude, and meditation. Theyâ€™re less concerned with how the world is, and more with how the world could and should be.
The development of and on the web is mostly iterative. We make small steps fast, and as a result our creative focus narrows, making bigger steps less likely. It’s also happening in our communication. Open communication like Twitter lowers the barriers to talk to someone, not only are the costs near zero, the social barrier is also very low. I can ask you something. And even easier, I can directly respond to something you share.
Open source software and the thrive to continuous communication with customers makes product development public and iterative. As a results it connects better to demands and minimizes risks.
I don’t judge this culture. I don’t think you can. It’s the effect of a time. I don’t think you can judge it right or wrong, it’s a fact, something that’s happening right here, right now.
Personally I like the iterative structure the web is in. I also feel it’s blocking me from taking bigger steps. It’s difficult to take some distance from something that’s always moving.
If you do take some distance and ask yourself how will this be in five or ten years you will get a pretty clear focus and you will be able to think in leaps instead of iterative steps.
For me, my best and personal most successful and satisfying projects are those where I took some distance and time to research.
Social media (Twitter/Facebook) is the new Google (making the web more useful with its service). It doesn’t care about page rank. It cares about what people think and how trustworthy and influential people are.
Google and Twitter are very different in a number of ways.
Longer URL, the longer the better
Getting bigger websites to link to your website
Know and find
The best of time
Short URL, an URL is waste of space
Getting influential online people to talk about your website
Follow and discover
The best of now
What does this mean for news reporting?
The major news websites and publication systems weren’t really designed for SEO. They are still catching up, far behind the current technological state blogs are in.
While media and journalist are still blaming Google the second disrupting innovation for their Industry is already taking place. And this time they won’t be able to blaim a company.
What about the editors? Google was about systems, about technology. The current wave of social media is about people. Are the news editors – the current and a new generation – ready?
A news organization in a social media environment doesn’t have to create content, it creates context around links. It directs you. That’s the function of a news organization. Guide you as a customer to the best information you can find. Sometimes this mean (re)writing a summary or story, other times it means linking to other good stuff.
It’s also about value. If you – as a content creator – are not adding much to what’s already out there you can’t expect to have a sustainable business model. If you don’t add much, you won’t get much.
The link is the most important asset of the web. It is for Google and it is for Twitter. In a social media driven web it’s not about the content the link directs to. It’s about who presents the link. Linking builds trust. You have to earn this trust by linking to things that add value for your audience.
Jay Rosen, professor at NYU on the ethic of the link
In a while Kutcher will have over one million people that actively follow what he says or does. Making him continues mass media.
Due to the nature of the web we are all media and publishers. We might have fifteen minutes of fame, but very few people have access to a continues mass audience without necessary having something to say.
Somehow Twitter is growing very fast. This changes the numbers of followers and thus perspective.
Within some time it will be possible for some people to directly reach over 1 million people by just using their cellphone while waiting in a supermarket.
Professional design is very conceptual. There is an idea about what something should be and why. It’s a mix of professionalism, creativity, rationality and personality. The designer makes something and iterates until there is a version that fits best to match the interests of the producer and his clients.
Or does it?
Changing products on the web, like websites, is difficult. With comments and social networks readers are in direct contact. Reader don’t like change. And they are right. Change disrupts routines. Radical changes forces you – as a user – to rethink a product or service. What is this, why do I come here, where can I find…
Even if the new design is better, radical changes will only work when there is a big improvement for the user. You have to make sure the balance is right. You loose something (control) and you win something (a much better future experience).
From virtual to reality
The voice of your readers is strong on the web because they unite on your website. And it happens live. Readers can collectively turn against business changes a company make. The user is not the consumer, but part of the process.
This started on websites, but social networks take it further. Because people can easily gather creating groups and exchange information the power of each individual can be more amplified with less effort and at higher speed. This reflects to the physical world. People can online disagree about a product design update and this collective emotional disagreement amplified by groups and networks can demand a company to reverse a design strategy.
Brands out of control
Brands are experiencing the social pressure of users. It is not even about the physical product that changes, but about changes in presentation. The product identity is becoming something that grows much more out of the direct control of the creator.
The Pepsi logo update (brand doc. pdf) was not seen as a very popular improvement. Lawrence Yang, a San Francisco based designer busted the logo by turning the logo into a fat drinker. This is the kind of online creativity that is killing for the concept of a logo.
I think the most exiting and successful combination was what CNN did together with Facebook. CNN had a high quality live videostream with Facebook updates from your friends talking about the video stream.
Current TV was also broadcasting the event on television and used Twitter. Which is great for television, because television is a one-to-many medium and you can easily interact with the television by using a Twitter client on your phone or laptop.
Facebook was the best option for the web. Watching video on the web is more a personal and more interactive experience. This is what Facebooks adds. You’re watching the stream, not with the world (like Twitter+TV) but with your friends/contacts.
The computer is much more personal compared to a television and thus the interaction should be more personal as well. My social network is not your social network. It’s a distributed conversation.
Portable Social Networks
These kind of combinations or applications can only be created if social networks are (partly) open and allow services like CNN to use the network. For this event CNN didn’t create conversation tools, networks or any other infrastructure. They just connected the dots of Facebook to the dots of what they do best. Making live television.
This is what happens when services open up. You get the best of both worlds. Portable social networks are the future.
Our information culture is changing into a networked culture. Distributing is changing how we publish from the traditional one-to-many into many-to-many.
For example. If I make a picture of people ice skating and publish it on Flickr. Than Flickr is a traditional one-to-many distribution system. Everyone can be a publisher.
I’m also re-publishing this same picture on my blog, because this is what we can do with data, a duplicate is the original. And beacuse Friendfeed checks my Flickr account, the picture will also appear on my friendfeed page.
Out of control
This makes three places to view this photograph. My blog, friendfeed and my Flickr page. Those platforms have some similar visitors, but most are different. These platforms, Flickr and friendfeed have also full article RSS feeds or API’s that are being aggregated and republished. There is no control about what happens after we publish something.
We like things to have one place. We are used to physical objects that can only be in one place at the same time. This is how we order and structure information. This is how we control the amount of information. This is structure, instead of chaos.
The emerging web with API’s, feeds and social networks is chaos, its networked. The more instances or copies are distributed the more people you reach.
To be a successful publisher on todays web you need to work distributed. Work with websites and integrate with communities instead of creating them. A gadget is one way of doing this.
The Eclectro election for the best dance record of 2008 is finished. This election took place in a gadget. Over the past weeks we had 68.049 votes and 184 placed gadgets on blogs and social profiles.
The gadgets versus the amount of votes show a power law / long tail. Only a few websites collect the majority of the votes. The web is a networked environment, but not all nodes are equal. In this case the tail of the graph should have been four times as long to make up the amount of votes generated by the hoster of the gadget, the Eclectro website.
It’s difficult to spread gadgets. We had a continues flow of spreading, but there was no self-reinforcing effect. The tail did generate part of the votes, and reached a new audience.
In an ideal situation you want the nodes in a network to be more equal, a better distribution.