Chinwagging tonight

Whoops – I meant to post about this in advance but clearly I have to organise my time better.

I'll be on the panel tonght at Chinwag's event: Xmas Futures, Crystal Balls? discussing, um, I guess, what 2009 will bring.

Others speaking on the panel include:

  • Neville Hobson – blogger, communicator, digital luminary
  • Jonathan Mitchener – Futurologist & Principal Research Scientist, Devices, BT
  • Jamie Coomber – Head of Digital Strategy, Profero

I'll be bringing up the issues of the economy, the perennial echo of "next year will be *all about* digital, the direction a lot of digital PR and marketing seems to taking compared to the route I believe it should be and how this leads my thinking right up to Doc's vision of the "end of the social bubble."

Hopefully see some people there.

Technorati tags: Chinwag, Future watching, Crystal balls

Doc Searls on digital capacity building in the new admnistration (and what Lord Carter can learn)

A few weeks Doc Searls laid down his vision for how the incoming President Elect could use the Internet to stimulate the US economy. coincidently, Docs’ post came about a month after the UK government’s Department for Business, Economy and Regulatory Reform (BERR) launched its own plans for using the digital economy to regenerate the UK’s economic fortunes. I have my own concerns about BERR’s plans for what it calls ‘Digital Britain’ which I laid out recently. Doc’s vision is inspirational however, and the UK government should read his blog post carefully. In case it doesn’t however, here’s a few things worth noting.

Doc outlines a number of key issues for consideration but at the core of his vision is the need for greater infrastructure – specifically “fiber-optic” – although a solid case for wifi is also made.

And then what to do with this increased infrastructure? Doc believes that it can only lead to greater productivity among everyone – individuals as well as small businesses; thus boosting, creativity, production, consumption, the economy and mankind:

“new devices based on open source technologies demonstrate how easy it is to scaffold and build innovative new products and services that make money and expand the scope of civilization.”

However, one of the major barriers to this potential great leap forward lies not in the impracticality of increasing infrastructure nor does it lie in the predicted costs of the investment program (estimated at $300bn).

No, the big barrier to making this significant economic and social step forward lies in the thinking and strategic mindset with which the government and business approaches the issue.

To quote Doc again:

“We can’t see the potential for that [digital economic] growth as long as we’re blinded by phone and cable company offerings, which treat the Internet as the third act in a ‘triple play’. Even though most home phones are now digital, we still “dial” to connect and get billed by the minute. And while analog cell phones are gone, even “smart” digital phones are locked up by phone companies and their phone-making partners. Next February [By 2012 in the UK] all over-the-air television broadcasting in the U.S. will go digital, matching cable and satellite TV distribution systems that have been digital for years. Yet we still watch “programs” on “channels,” just like we started doing in 1950.”

Doc’s argument is for an American market, but there are clear parallels with the UK and its current situation – not least the shared desire of national Governments to inject stimulus into their domestic economies.

Which is where I want to shift my focus to the UK. In the US they are still riding high on the optimism of a new administration. Doc’s post is aimed as a piece of pre-emptive advice for Barack Obama. Here in the UK, the Government has already unveiled its plans to use the Internet to improve the economy. My concerns are that its planned review will not even head in the right direction, let alone go far enough down the right route to really make a break through.

In fact, researching this post I googled ‘Digital Britain’ to see if there was an update on the Carter Review. I found a Marketing Week article from earlier this month (this in itself maybe gives us a steer on the *actual* aim of the Digital Britain review).

The article revealed the review team assembled by Lord Carter. These experts are (in no particular order):

  • TV presenter and child psychologist – Dr Tanya Byron
  • Chairman of Japanese investment bank, Nomura International – Francesco Caio
  • Chairman of the Digital Radio Working Group – Barry Cox
  • Editor of political magazine, The Spectator – Matthew d’Ancona
  • Former ITV commercial chief – Ian McCulloch.

So all in, a well qualified team of digital experts.

Doc ends his post by urging Obama:

to make constructive and realistic suggestions about what this new administration can do in just one area of infrastructure investment: expanding connectivity and network capacity in ways that open innovation and growth opportunity for everybody.”

I wonder in which direction Lord carter’s review will go? Towards greater infrastructure investment and opening up peer production; or towards regulation and centralised creative production?

Technorati tags: Carter Review, Lord Carter, Digital Britain, BERR, Doc Searls

Quote du jour

Pure poetry:

“…companies so lobotomized that they can’t speak in a recognizably human voice build sites that smell like death.”


[Via Doc Searls]

Is Knol *really* the great Wikipedia-killler?

Doc Searls is the first to echo some of my initial (private) scepticism about Google’s Wikipedia rival, Knol.

Knol "aims to include user-written articles on a range of topics".or as Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan calls it, "Wikipedia with moderation."

Knol permits anyone to author a page about a particular topic. While each article or ‘knol’ defaults to a ‘moderated’ setting, this can be changed to closed, preventing anyone else from authoring it.

This struck me as odd from the outset. I personally wouldn’t place too much trust in anything that was authored, put online then closed to revisions or third party intervention. That’s simply advertorial.

The power of Wikipedia, as David Weinberger has pointed out previously, is not necessarily the articles themselves – it is the social knowledge that is embedded in both the article and its discussion page. Wikipedia is trustworthy because it isn’t authoried by an authority rather, by many conflicting authorities.

But I presume Google knows this already as Knol is a shrewd business move. How smart a move remains to be seen.

Edelman Digital’s Steve Rubel circulated an internal memo which highlighted some of the ‘operating rules’ for Knol. These include:

  • Each article can list its “Affiliation” – a move intended to flag conflicts  of interest.
  • There is a significant emphasis on authors and their authority. For example authors are asked verify their name using mobile phone or credit card details
  • Google (apparently) has a team in place watching for spam, while links are no-follow in an attempt to prevent SEO spam.

But despite these worthy measures, it already looks as if the spammers are setting to work.

Going back to Doc Searl’s initial foray into the Knol-iverse, he writes that that a big chunk of the search results search for ‘hair’ were, in his words, “commercial gaming”.

More specifically he highlighted a clear example where Knol’s guidelines were being (or at least appeared to be being breached):

“The top result is for this article on hair loss, by Rob E. Angelino, Founder Hairlab center for hair restoration. Or so it says at the top. At the bottom it says "Copyright © 2005-2007 United Global Media Group, Inc. All rights reserved".

Not sure how that squares with Knol’s defaulted Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License, but it’s significant that Mr. Angelino also has collaboration closed on the document. You can do that with Knol. It also says here that Mr. Angelino is "Founder and CEO of United Global Media Group Inc." and "currently the CEO of The Beauty TV Network". Mr. Angelino has a total of six knols, including one each for the Beauty Channel, BeautyTV and The Beauty Network.”

And there’s my concern made real. I just don’t get the point of Knol. It is just one quick and easy algorithm away from a spammers’ paradise. But even despite Google’s best attempts to keep Knol spam free. I still don’t see the point. And perhaps that’s because there isn’t one.

The big hype around Knol has been that it is Google’s Wikipedia-killer. But, as Doc points out, Knol isn’t a rival to Wikipedia at all. It doesn’t come close or even compare.

And maybe Google knows that which is why they (or someone) has positioned it as such.

Technorati tags: Knol, Doc Searls, Wikipedia, Spam

I’ve been cloned!

Or rather this blog has. Doc Searls spotted this post over at the spammy-looking site, Lalaia – the virtual city, and blogged it.

It doesn’t take a close read to spot it’s word-for-word the same post. If you look further down the site you can spot pretty much all my other posts this month.

On the one-hand if it’s a spam blog then I don’t really see there’s much I can do. But if – as Doc points out- they making commercial gain from the content then where does that leave me? I can’t see any form of  contact for the site’s owner/author.

There is a link at the bottom of each post directing the
reader to the ‘oriinal post’ which sends them to my blog. BUT… as
Michael May points out in a comment on Doc’s post Lalaia are breaking
the Creative Commons 2.5 I use for my blog because "no CC license copy
is distributed on the copy site."

For the time being I’m inclined to do nothing but keep a close eye on the site. Doc’s linked to what looks a really good post I need to read – and I’d welcome others’ thoughts too.

But, if nothing else this occurance seems to reinforce the growth of flogging, splogging etc etc. Even Technorati seems to have atrophied under the volume of these sites.

Technorati tags: Doc Searls, splogging, flogging, Creative Commons

Social media and the dark side of doing PR

There’s a, well…. how can I put it… rather depressing post by former Friendly Ghost aka Brendan Cooper on the issue of ghost-blogging. It’s quite timely given my post on the subject the other week, although Brendan comes at the issue with a very different perspective.

The post begins:

The blogosphere is no garden of Eden. We can try to self-regulate, but in so doing we’re only exposing our own naïveté.

And it continues with the theme that, like it or not, the internet will evolve to match the current world of traditional media and PR.

Rather than clients appointing us to help them create sustainable, long-term relationships based on trust and respect using the social web, it will be business as usual where spin, ghost writing and paid advertorials are not only common place online but expected.

If that sounds a little bleak, Brendan tells us to quit our bleating and hammers home his point:

There will be a time, a year or two or three hence, in which we look back at the arguments against ghost blogging, and laugh. It lacks transparency. It lacks integrity. It lacks authenticity. Gimme a break.
In a year or two or three hence, the big money will be savvy. It will be pushing messages out in every digital channel available. The people you think are saying things, will not be saying them. Other people will.

I find this alarming both in the sense that Brendan thinks these thoughts but is also prepared to share them with others – although perhaps I *would* think that given that Edelman takes very much the opposite stance to Porter Novelli. In fact we’ve just launched a group blog about PR and the drive for transparency appropriately called Authenticities.

In a way, Brendan’s view kind of makes sense. He is a former copywriter and now social media planner – which suggests to me (and is alluded to in by Brendan his post) a strong tradition with top-down, command and control communications.

Arising from Brendan’s post are a number of interesting things.
Firstly, I personally believe Brendan is missing the entire challenge to traditional media and PR created by the internet. People don’t trust advertising, PR and marketing. That’s the power of social media – it is connecting real people with real people. That’s why it works. Faking blogs or social networks etc will similarly shut down genuine relationships built on trust.

Secondly, Brendan’s post is timely because if offers a startling counterpoint to the idea raised by Dave Winer and now picked up on by Doc Searls that maybe it’s time to get out of blogging. Blogging is becoming flogging, suggests Searls. Brendan seems to reinforce this idea – or at least confirm its growth.

Thirdly, I was blown away by the Cluetrain manifesto when I first read it. Brendan suggests in a comment that the Cluetrain Manifesto is “pretty naïve”. Um. Woah. I’m not even going to get into that one.

Technorati tags: ghost blogging, blogging, flogging, command and control, Cluetrain

Great VRM debate: will PR still have a place to play in a customer centred business environment?

There’s a great round-up on a recent VRM debate by Ian Delaney – although I am galled I missed the chance to meet Doc Searls :(

The event was put on by Media Influencer‘s Adriana Lukas who raised the spectre of PR (as well as advertising and marketing) having zero relevance to a world of VRM.

She flagged this issue in response to a comment I left on Ian’s blog suggesting that VRM might drive PR back to where it is supposed to sit in a classical business envirnoment: at a strategic board level (at least according to Grunig).

I buy into Adriana’s point about disintermediation entirely, but can’t help but feel that PR will still maintain a place at the table. It will be a radically altered place, but a place nonetheless.

Technorati tags: VRM, Vendor Relationship Management, Adriana Lukas

Does the social web socialise politics?

I had an email from a friend on Friday telling me she was backing Obama in the US elections. She’s not American but said that British politics was boring at the moment – although perhaps it is fairer to stay stagnant when compared to the thrill of an election.

Dave Winer and Doc Searls have some great insights about how US – and by extension, UK – politics could empower the citizen through a change in politicians’ attitudes towards the collective electorate.

Doc suggests that just as in commercial markets, politics is built around three areas:

1.    Transaction
2.    Conversation
3.    Relationship

Again, just as in business the links between all three are disproportionately weighted towards what Doc calls “big money” and away from (disenfranchising) the public/citizens.

The socialisation of the internet, disintermediation of business/politics and empowerment of individuals clearly has the potential to change this.

It all sounds good, however I’m conscious about not equating ‘socialisation’ with ‘socialism’ – although there are strong arguments for taking that line.

Read more from Doc here and Dave here.

There’s so much great political campaign work being pioneered in the US at the moment, but I wonder how much of it will cross the Atlantic in 2009?

Technorati tags: US elections, politics

The Bullshit business

Doing some research for a potential client meeting and I came across this gem:

"To get real, marketing has
to get out of the bullshit business. And it can’t do that while it
isn’t touching customers. To touch customers, marketing has to solve a
political problem with sales, which is the main corporate organ tasked
with touching customers directly. As I said in that last link, threre’s
a good reason why VPs of Sales & Marketing tend to come from Sales."

Thank you, Doc Searls.

Why agencies need to understand that social media is more than just ‘media’

There was a letter in PR Week UK last week [paywlled] criticising agencies having ‘specialist’ teams to do social media work. The author complained that agencies shouldn’t look at social media as separate from other media; in other word it should be baked into all other parts of the agency.

Now I agree with this sentiment, I’m also of the view that social media is more than just a tool or tactic. The internet is a platform that’s creating and facilitating some pretty fundmental shifts in our society and culture.

While Edelman in the UK has a separate team working with ‘digital’ we encourage other account teams to bake in as much online stuff as they are comfortable and capable of.

In return we get to look into the technologies and ideas that are and will be shaping society – both online and offline.

Which brings me onto what Doc Searl‘s has written about the whole Microsoft/Facebook story of this (last?) week. Doc’s view seems to suggest that while the deal is big business news it’s not as exciting as developments being made in the open source industry:

I believe … that the solutions that matter most aren’t going to come from big companies. They’ll come from independent developers working at companies large and small — including Microsoft, Google and Facebook. Also from users themselves, who now play roles as producers as well as consumers. (In fact, much of the open source movement is about the demand side supplying itself — “scratching one’s own itch” and all that.)

For me this is where social media ‘specialists’ (yuk!) add real value to agencies and their clients by not only advising how to use media in an online world, but how to do business and communicate in an online world that is becoming inreasingly like a test-bed for future society.

How many account teams who can advise on ‘monitoring blogs’ can also help clients understand that trends such as the open source movement may mean that in five years time the demand side of their sector will be supplying itself and how they can adjust to this?

Technorati tags: Facebook, Microsoft, Doc Searls, public relations, open source, consultancy