World’s Oldest Blogger?

October 17, 2007

Here’s a nice story (at least I think so, and I’m the one writing about it 🙂 ). Olive Riley turned 108 today. Probably the world’s oldest silver surfer, Ms Riley has been causing something of a stir with her website and video diaries on YouTube.

Seeing her on the TV, I wish I was that sprightly at more than 70 years younger than she is!

Happy birthday Olive!

Olive Riley at 108

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Last One And I’ll Move On

October 4, 2007

Much like blogging about blogging, blogging about Facebook is also currently contributing to blocking the tubes: you can see that I’ve been just as guilty as the next person in that regard. I also wasn’t trying to create a series on Web 2.0 either, but as I have the admin power please indulge me one last time (just don’t hold me to ‘last’ ;-)).

Normal service of random nonsense will then return. Promise.

I do find this stuff interesting though, so whilst doing some random link following on the FB subject I came across a comment on Bubble Generation from one Phil Jones. Phil is a lot more eloquent than I am on this, and so I hope he doesn’t mind me quoting him.

This is, to me, the essence of my platform argument below.

Phil says: “Actually, the world of Facebook apps. and widgets is the first time I’ve started to see that an old-style platform strategy may be possible. Here the basis is something which which is a hybrid of technology, namespace and social convention. Of which Facebook’s “news-feed” is the archetypal example. Facebook’s news-feed is not merely technological : which is why other generic data-sharing feeds like RSS or Twitter aren’t equivalent. It’s also a social convention within a particular namespace and community: I’m willing to look at data that an application writes on my friend’s feed, even though I haven’t installed the application or explicitly subscribed to it. This is different from the open web – I wouldn’t welcome an ordinary web-application that my friend used, randomly spamming my email. (Similarly, if too many bots started writing to Twitter, that would kill that particular community pretty damned quickly, it’s not part of its culture either.)

Facebook’s platform power ultimately rests on their ownership of this complex but delicate socio-technical hybrid. If they can nurture and grow it, such as giving both users and applications, more and subtler ways to manage it, more nuanced types of relationships between people, with more fine grained privacy control and applications that access these both through the APIs and patterns of software behaviour, then I think they have something that’s very hard to escape from or reproduce elsewhere.

This is no longer about just data, or arguments about open access to it. It’s data + social data + social conventions.”

Well said Phil!


Facebook and Social Networking Are A Fad

October 3, 2007

Or so says Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer. To be fair to the king of the chair-throwers (alleged), Ballmer does say there is a risk that this is the case.

He may well be playing a clever game of toning down Microsoft’s interest in a rumoured stake in Facebook. Or he may just have missed the point entirely; particularly as he seems to be focussed just on the technology.

I’m with Scoble on this one. There will undoubtedly be a lot of consolidation and casualties to come from the plethora of social networks currently around. There will be cooler and more seamless technologies, new players and new cool toys to play with. What Facebook, LinkedIn, Digg, Thursday Club (sorry, gotta get a plug in :-)) and who knows what else provide though is a platform and a ready-made largely self-segmenting group of identifiable and targetable consumers.

Let me explain: the platform, when done right, offers an open and extensible opportunity for the originator and third-parties to build on and add interesting new twists based on existing data. Witness the Facebook API (although, as an aside, I think that whilst the viral nature of the applications built on the API is superb, they need to be cautious that people don’t get turned off by the sheer volume of ‘Zombie vs Pirate’ style requests. I’ve turned off most of the plug-ins – it was starting to feel too much like crappy cc’ed joke emails. But, I digress.)

Take that platform and add in millions of people who have voluntarily decided to add an advertising persons dream set of demographic data: age, sex, location, marital status, interests, pets, groups, fetishes, favourite bars, clubs, food. You name it and people on sites like Facebook are telling you about it. Or if not you, they sure are telling the automated algorithms that will shortly be feeding them targeted adverts and other useful information. Users on Digg might hate the adverts and a number of the tech-savvy may have ad-block or clever host files set-up so they don’t see them. But your mum? Your sister? The other sixty three and half million emo kids on MySpace? Pure gold if you can mine it.

So Mr Ballmer, it really doesn’t matter whether Microsoft could technically build another Facebook in a short time period (and that’s debatable, but we won’t get into that). It doesn’t even really matter that one particular platform loses some of its appeal, a’lah Friendster (which still goes great guns in Asia by the way). The methods might shift too. But the concept of the network will stay.

Final thought: I’ll bet there are people in Microsoft, lots of super-smart, super-switched on people in groups like Live banging their heads on the table thinking “We know how to do this, but we are missing the boat. Stop frigging around with politics, protecting positions, re-orgs and headcount manipulation and give us a few smart people, a long enough rope and some space and then see what happens.”

And, no, I don’t work at Microsoft 🙂


Infamy, Infamy .. They’ve All Got It Infamy

October 2, 2007

Following on from my post about Web 2.0 apathy, I’ve decided to repost an entry I made on another long-dead blog as it seemed aposite (and I’m pushed for time 🙂 ). Well, we all need to do our bit for recycling – right?

“When I was young – back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, surfing was only ever done on water and Googlewhacking would probably have seen you being arrested – a friend of mine called Peter Marsh and I used to amuse ourselves by sitting in front of my little mono tape machine and recording a home-made program we amusingly titled: “Radio Gummy Johan”.

I don’t recall too many details of each program, except that they were entirely unscripted and consisted of little sketches and news items. Each one was done in the style of a particularly crap pirate radio station. We used to use a little Casio keyboard for sound effects and jingles. It had a cunning ‘white-noise’ generator, which accounted for the fact that most of the recordings featured ‘helicopters’ or reporters in very windy places. One memorable piece had Fish from Marillion finding his long lost brother on a cliff-top in Dover.

Our little masterpieces had a small but loyal audience which consisted of about six classmates, and ran for all of half a dozen episodes before we got bored and formed a ‘band’ instead (I use the term ‘band’ in the loosest sense).

Fast forward 20 years or so into the ‘Internet age’, and – had we been recording it nowadays – Peter Marsh and myself would be podcasting or streaming Radio Gummy Johan to millions of devoted listeners, eager to get their latest fix of ‘Sir Francis Francis’, and ‘The Weather Report (sponsored by the IRA)’.

At least, that’s how I’d like to imagine it.

The reality would be that like most blogs, podcasts, YouTube videos, vanity publishing and dare I say websites, our Goon show wannabe would still be attracting roughly the same number of devotees as it did back in 1985: a distant electronic pulse in a galaxy of electronic noise.

And yet still these things come, in ever increasing numbers. Everyone hopes that someday, somehow, in some bizarre cosmic coincidence they’ll be ‘discovered’ and break out into the big time. As slim a chance as it is for amateur broadcasters, unsigned bands and aspiring authors, the Internet offers the slimmest of the thinnest of the narrowest of channels through which, if you manage to squeeze, your 15-minute patch of infamy awaits.

So, altogether now: ‘Welcome to .. Radio … bing bong bing … Gummy Johhhhaaaannnn!!'”


Humans too Lazy for Web 2.0?

September 27, 2007

There’s an interesting article from The Futurist at CrunchGear which posits that the web 2.0 bubble will burst because humans are too lazy to continue contributing to collaborative websites.

I don’t buy it.

The bubble may burst for a number of reasons, but I don’t think inherent laziness will be one of them.

People love to feel connected. They love to have the chance to have thousands of ‘friends’ (however unreal those relationships may actually be). They love to show-off: blogs, videos, job skills, podcasts. They love the fleeting chance to become the next Chris Crocker or Tay Zonday.

And I love the fact that random strangers read my ramblings (hello to both of you!).

Sure, we’re always going to be searching for the next new new thing. In shorter and shorter timeframes. It’s natural therefore that Friendster gives way to MySpace which moves over for Facebook and so on. Or that people move on as they grow-up. First to Ecademy or OpenBC then LinkedIn or something else.

I’m pretty sure we’ll see more consolidation and aggregation. Maybe one virtual profile, manageable from your GPS enabled mobile device? Location info, personal details, video, pictures, blogs – all available via one uber-OpenID. Other services or people subscribe to you as appropriate.

The article asks whether people will also get fed up contributing to sites like Wikipedia for pretty much no reward? I don’t think so, but I do think that what will need to happen is the site will need to automatically utilise other sources of reputable data and will also have to tap into people’s drivers for recognition (it will be interesting to see how the new editor rules work out).

Keep us engaged, make it pretty easy to do and give us the smallest hint of global glory and we’re sold!

[update] good timing: front page of tonight’s MX paper in Sydney mentions Facebook alone growing nine-fold in Australia in the past three months. Even MySpace, so disparaged by the technorati, has trebled its numbers. What comes next? Stay tuned!


O’Blogger Where Art Thou?

September 25, 2007

Unfortunately (or, more likely, fortunately) my life doesn’t exactly mirror David Duchovny’s in Californication. I do share one thing with his character though: sporadic blogging syndrome. Perhaps a reflection of me not wanting to bore you with the mundane realities of everyday life (‘today I had some toast’), and almost certainly an indication that my life has periods of mundane reality, it nevertheless feels like I am slacking off my homework by not writing something here.

Luckily I don’t have a Carry Bradshaw readership to worry about, so I can pretty much please myself, but you have to wonder: are things I find boring actually interesting to someone? And are the things I do write about interesting to anyone but me?

Should I even care … ? Blogging is kind of like pinning your diary to a wall. For most of us it’s the wall of our house, which guarantees almost no’one will see it and we can satisfy our vanity with little worry about comeback. That said, I shouldn’t worry about not writing, or blog stats or any such nonsense. But I do, and I feel like I should apologise for being away living a real-life off-screen.

Weird huh?

Anyway, truth is I’ve been in Perth and then out getting very drunk with friends who were visiting from overseas. I might even tell you about it sometime 🙂