Ted Newcomb (tcn) Mon 19 Mar 12 15:38
It's time to remind non-WELL folks that if they have questions or comments for Jon or Ed,they can e-mail them to email@example.com and we'll pass them along.
Ted Newcomb (tcn) Mon 19 Mar 12 15:47
Futurists like to talk about "drivers". One of the big drivers today seems to be the digital convergence of media. Jon and Ed, any thoughts on how that was reflected at this year's Festival? And what's to come?
Ted Newcomb (tcn) Tue 20 Mar 12 02:39
Tagging along with #51 is the trend away from "all the news that's fit to print" to "all the news that's fit for you". <If there is one unambiguous trend in how the Internet is developing today, it's the drive toward the personalization of our online experience. Everything we click, read, search, and watch online is increasingly the result of some delicate optimization effort, whereby our previous clicks, searches, likes, purchases, and interactions determine what appears in our browsers and apps.> via Slate, subtitled How Automated Journalism and loss of reading privacy may hurt civil discourse. (http://www.slate.com/articles/technology/future_tense/2012/03/narrative_scienc e_robot_journalists_customized_news_and_the_danger_to_civil_discourse_.html) Ed, how is this trend shaping journalism? As a content creator can you still write about what people NEED to hear rather than what marketing data says they WANT to hear? And can you get an audience that allows you a living income? Or is the burden on you to create an audience?
Ted Newcomb (tcn) Tue 20 Mar 12 02:53
Jon, I've been thinking a lot about Bruce Sterling's 'stacks' comment. It's an apt visualization. If you think of cyberspace as an infinite domain in digital space, with all sorts of towns, cities and geographies (sites)and the ability to travel anywhere in that universe, almost for free, why would anyone want to stay in one city block and only travel up and down exploring 5 buildings? But that's exactly what's going on. And tied to the previous question, it creates a feedback loop. By staying in only those 5 places our data is more easily manipulated, reinforcing both the desire to stay there as well as an extraordinarily narrow view of the virtual world(s) that actually exist. Totally dumb! This would have to collapse almost by design. Howard Rheingold's new book Net Smart:How to Thrive Online is so relevant, glad we'll be interviewing him next month. (http://www.amazon.com/Net-Smart-How-Thrive-Online/dp/0262017458/ref=sr_1_1?s=b ooks&ie=UTF8&qid=1332237085&sr=1-1)
Ted Newcomb (tcn) Tue 20 Mar 12 03:20
Great infographic about this year's SXSW, via Robert Scoble: http://demo.tracx.com/sxswinfographic/
Ted Newcomb (tcn) Tue 20 Mar 12 05:34
Social Networks explained by donuts: http://instagr.am/p/nm695/
Ted Newcomb (tcn) Tue 20 Mar 12 05:53
It's wild and woolly out there in cyberspace, maybe that's why folks like to stay inside their walled gardens: http://www.bgr.com/2012/03/16/more-than-half-of-internet-traffic-is-non-human/ via Bruce Sterling on Wired's Beyond the Beyond (http://www.wired.com/beyond_the_beyond/)
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 20 Mar 12 09:29
You ask about digital convergence of media and how it was represented at SXSW. The reason SXSW is such a big deal is that it's a conference all about convergence, and it was also about "social media" before we used that term. In 1995 or 96, Mondo 2000 asked me to cover the conference, and I wrote a piece that I (in all modesty) think was prophetic, but they didn't run it. I was struck that year by the extent to which people showing up at the conference were producing their own media - 'zines and cassettes and niche websites. I wrote how people were getting access to the means of production and beginning to see that they could produce content for each other, that the old media infrastructure could lose mindshare to truly popular (of the people) media. A later insight was that digital convergence of media was imminent on the web. This was increasingly clear to me after writing that article, though at the time SXSW was just starting to acknowledge the Internet and not really considering the digital future the same way others of us were thinking about it. However because SXSW was a festival and conference trying to be inclusive of all media, convergence was apparent there early on. A decade later I programmed a SXSW Interactive track on digital convergence, and it was immensely popular. We included threads of discussion that played out in much bigger ways over the next few years. And in those same years following realization of convergence, SXSW Interactive has become bigger than Music or Film, and those two other conferences have interactive aspects and elements via convergence. In fact convergence is really what SXSW, as a whole, is about.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 20 Mar 12 09:47
Responding to your comment about the stacks... the history of media is a history of monopolies - phone companies, film studios, radio and television broadcast companies. All of those industries started with multiple players and evolved to a point where there were a few big companies. The stacks are the digital world's monopolistic organizations. Facebook, Google, Apple and Amazon have all grown large and powerful leveraging network effects and outmaneuvering the competition (e.g. Myspace, Yahoo, Microsoft, Barnes & Noble). As Bruce said, each of these guys wants to think it's the dominant force in the digital world, but they're actually fragile; the future for any one of them is fraught with peril. They have to be persistently fast and smart, and that's never assured. Your question is why somebody would adhere to any one platform with a whole diverse world of options in front of them. I bet you know the answer to that already - we're creatures of habit, we adhere to the familiar and safe. We have limited time and energy. We don't necessarily want to explore... we eventually give up surfing in favor of trusted aggregators.
Ted Newcomb (tcn) Tue 20 Mar 12 10:23
Thanks Jon, all good observations. You get my prophetic vote. I like to explore what's out there, so I give FB, Twitter, etc. very little bandwidth or time, but I do use them. One spin-off from convergence is SMO (Social Media Optimization) -producing new sensory apps for the digital wilderness; kind of an ESP of the digital landscape around us. Highlight (http://highlig.ht/) was the buzz this year, a way to locate and connect with people near you(currently 300 meters)that share likes, interests, and friends in your social network. Did you use it or hear much about it? Interesting interview with Paul Davison, Highlight's creator, on You Tube. I really like the thought and concern he puts into thinking about how to properly use these apps with respect to privacy and the possibilities. Clearly, we are breaking new ground in the ways we interact and connect with one another: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nbiaAfhkaWo
Ed Ward (captward) Tue 20 Mar 12 10:25
I'm on deadline for my realeyz blog this week, so I'm not going to be able to chime in here for another 24 hours, most likely. I'll try to catch up with you, but I've been travelling and now I'm working. I'll post the URL for the next blog -- which has to do with "sharing" -- when it's up tomorrow.
Ted Newcomb (tcn) Tue 20 Mar 12 10:28
Great Ed, looking forward to your inputs.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 20 Mar 12 11:08
I installed Highlight a bit before the conference, and throughout SXSW my connections were showing up there, and when active the app would tell me if someone nearby had mutual friends and/or shared interests. I disabled that capability to save battery, but while it was active I didn't feel compelled to contact those people. Though I heard people say that the theme of this year's conference was social discovery, I saw nothing to suggest that was the case, and couldn't tell whether others were using Highlight or the similar app Glancee. Justin Hall and I were talking about this, and I said I wasn't feeling compelled to connect to the strangers-with-affinity that were popping up in highlight. He said he felt the same way in the context we were in, but might use it if he was sitting in an airport, bored and looking for conversation to fill the time. As Sterling said, you can't expect to break a new app at every SXSW.
Ed Ward (captward) Tue 20 Mar 12 12:19
You might want to check what the EFF says about Highlight.
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 20 Mar 12 13:18
I don't think EFF has taken a position on Highlight, but one of their activists, Parker Higgins, wrote a piece about it that appeared at Gizmodo: http://gizmodo.com/5891744/the-hyped-new-social-app-that-collects-data-without -limits They haven't been smart about data privacy, but a lot of savvy people downloaded and set up the app anyway. That's probably because savvy users know their expectation of privacy is limited, and they're making the tradeoff (giving up some privacy in exchange for a perceived benefit from social discovery). That Gizmodo article says "Highlight is poised to be this year's breakout hit at South by Southwest, the Austin tech and media conference that has become known as a web service kingmaker after launching services like Twitter and Foursquare to a wide audience in years past." I don't think it was a breakout hit, and I don't think Foursquare was exactly a breakout hit, either. Twitter may have been a special case. I think the idea that SXSW is "a web service kingmaker" is hype.
Ted Newcomb (tcn) Tue 20 Mar 12 16:12
Just wanted to check. There's the real buzz from users and then the one the social media mavens push. I got the sense from the Paul Davison interview that he wasn't snowed by any of it. Saw SXSW more as a testing ground for how his app would work at conventions, etc. But it does indicate a whole new push in our social dimensions. I rarely allow any location devices to be working; even take the battery out of my cellphone. When I do use check-ins or location apps it is very intentional. Jon, you make a good point that most of us are now aware of the privacy we are exchanging for the use of apps. I regularly cancel permissions I have given and don't allow them to run in the background on my phone, Facebook, or Twitter. It just creates more spam and feedback loops I don't want.
Ed Ward (captward) Tue 20 Mar 12 17:51
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 20 Mar 12 21:02
I wouldn't say scary - we're not talking about a banking or medical app, where there's sensitive information in play. Social media platforms like Highlight, Facebook, Twitter et al are for entertainment, conversation, hanging out. What sensitive information would you be passing to Highlight? I mean, I think it'd be smart for these guys to have clear policies and enforce them to the hilt, but I'm not giving any information to Highlight or to Facebook that I consider sensitive, that I would need to protect. There is a case here for cultivating data literacy. Anyone who uses an app like Highlight that doesn't publish explicit policies should understand the risks, however minimal.
Ted Newcomb (tcn) Wed 21 Mar 12 02:05
It's an indication of the generational divide. I'm more on Ed's side with these things, and actually read the permissions I'm being asked to give away. I'm still not comfortable with the exchange that takes place by being "always on". Getting better, but I like a low profile and, for a digital monk, it's quite a leap. Geez, just doing this interview has sent my Google+ sphere into orbit. I've had over 300 new followers and I basically only use + for Hangouts. Now I may actually have to figure out how to incorporate Google+ into my network :) Aargh, another learning curve. I realize the younger generation doesn't even give it a thought, they just plug and play; it's what they've been doing all their lives. All part of the great transformation and migration to the Net. And there's an arc to the process: evolution, revolution, reformation, renaissance, pre-,post-, and modern. We're only in the 2nd stage. Lots still to be done.
Ted Newcomb (tcn) Wed 21 Mar 12 02:16
Here's an example of things that need to be sorted out. Employers Ask Job Seekers for Facebook Passwords: In their efforts to vet applicants, some companies and government agencies are going beyond merely glancing at a person's social networking profiles and instead asking to log in as the user to have a look around. (http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2017794577_apusjobapplicants facebook.html)
Ted Newcomb (tcn) Wed 21 Mar 12 03:25
This is all filed under Trust Networks. We are learning whom and what to trust as our lives push out to include the virtual domains. It's one of the primary reasons people like walled gardens and silos; they are a fairly safe place to put your feet in the water. Eventually you want to go swimming in the deep water. Given the amount of data being produced each day, the virtual worlds are expanding beyond our reach. Web 3.0, the semantic web, will help in the exploration, but it is now beyond any individual's grasp...networks are the only successful way to navigate and they rely on trust. Jon's comfort zone is built on that trust, as well as his digital literacy. Skillz, and the joy of discovery.
Ted Newcomb (tcn) Wed 21 Mar 12 04:57
One other comment for your responses... Most good apps and platforms develop out of answering users' needs. Here's one I think is obvious and I'd really like someone to develop this. I no longer see a divide between my online and offline lives - it's no longer AFK --- IRL, it's all just part of how I live now. But my online persona is managed to all too great a degree behind the walled gardens of FB, Twitter, Google, and a few others. First of all, it's a bother to have to deal with each of these sites separately; constantly checking in and out of each one. Why can't there be a platform that lets me have them all in one place, where I can get a quick overview of what's going on, what or whom I should follow, link or respond to? And why can't I broadcast all at once to multiple sites of my choosing. 'Add this' is tedious. I ought to be able to write a post and have a dropdown box that says where I want to post it. I mean, these are just "Duh" things from a user's point of view, and just mechanical from a transmission point of view. Linux folks, give me a browser that let's me set my permissions and passwords across my social spectrum and let me fly.
J. Eric Townsend (jet) Wed 21 Mar 12 08:35
>What sensitive information would you be passing to Highlight? What sensitive information are they buying from marketing or credit agencies and how do they map their users to that data and who do they sell the results?
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 21 Mar 12 08:40
It doesn't make sense to me to insist on privacy in a sharing context. Facebook and Twitter both allow you to restrict access to your shared information, and when I encounter one of those, it feels a little weird to me, though I respect that some people want to be more private and share only with an intimate circle. I think you should have an expectation that Facebook and Twitter will honor the restrictions that they allow you to enable. There should be no surprises, you should always know how your data will be handled and the systems for protecting an expectation of privacy should be solid. So I want to be clear that I'm not saying to Ed that I wouldn't share his concern, but Highlight's lack of a clear policy doesn't strike me as scary, because I don't think people are giving Highlight access to sensitive data, like a credit card number or your SSN. And if you're worried about sharing your location data, you're not going to use an app like Highlight. Maybe you wouldn't use a cellphone, either. Twitter famously got a critical mass of users at SXSW in 2007. People were using it to coordinate action, just like those kids in Shibuya used text messaging to coordinate a flash meeting in one spot. That was a form of social discovery and location sharing that later manifest in more dedicated apps: Foursquare and Gowalla for location sharing, and now Highlight and Glancee for social discovery. Of the five apps I've just mentioned, I think only Twitter was what I'd call a killer app. I don't think location sharing has been as big a deal, and it's something you can do with Twitter, unmediated by another app. I think social discovery is even weaker than location sharing - the idea of finding strangers with affinity sounds interesting conceptually, but in practice I don't think it's really compelling. (We can come back to this later and see if I was totally wrong...)
Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Wed 21 Mar 12 08:56
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