I'm at the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council's Innovation Un-Conference today, because the previous such conferences were clearly worth it. This unconference series was the personal mission of Bill Warner and, as of today, it's grown extra layers beyond a straight unconference, including one-on-one mentoring sessions for entrepreneurs and a social networking site run by Eventvue.
Not surprisingly, my interactions have been all over the block, as there are plenty of interesting people here and zillions of ideas, entrepreneurs and those that cater to start ups (lawyers, investors, marketing and PR, consultants of every stripe). There does seem to be a preponderance of social networking businesses and/or advice on using social networking to support whatever else you are doing. While I use a variety of social networking tools, I'm more interested in infrastructure for my next company, so this is interesting but distracting.
At the last moment I decided to host a session myself (on potential business models for services delivered via wireless mesh technology). We ended up in very far away room and the session was lightly attended (5 people total) but still a good discussion. Other highlights of the day include hearing Donald Eastlake's pitch for Stellar Switches and talking with him about his recent standards work (Donald chaired the IEEE's 802.11s while at Motorola and still chair's the IETF's TRILL working group). Later sessions included two on networking ideas and entrepreneurs and networking students who want to be entrepreneurs or want to work at startups. (I expect to need partners for 1-3 different businesses by early next year...). Two people to track are Bobbie Carlton who has been running Mass Innovation Nights and Lauren Celano who is launching a biotech careers site, Propel Carrers, but is thinking more generally. At Lauren's session I also met Rick Eichhorn, a recent Babson MBA graduate. Rick appeared to have evaluated all of the potential career networking sites and several of us urged him to write a white paper or consumer reports like summary. If he does, I'll certainly point to it. Unfortunately, I missed the session where Scott Kirsner apparently listed 40+ innovation networking events that happen in and around Boston.
If you live within reach of Burlington Massachusetts, I highly recommend future Mass TLC Innovation conferences.
There's a fascinating agenda building for eComm in Amsterdam in October. Here's the latest list of talks, but what's best is the set of speakers who are giving these talks. I personally know quite a few and know of many more (who I look forward to meeting). The group includes a preponderance of innovators -- new views on what's happening, new ideas for how to drive change. If you don't read through this list of talks, look at the speakers list here. Then come to Amsterdam and meet these people.
21st Century Economics: Lessons for Telcos - Umair Haque (Havas Media Lab)
Advances In Spectrum Transparency, Software Defined Radio/Cognitive Radio - Darrin M Mylet (Spectru-Station)
Almost all Marketing & Product Management of Telco Services is Wrong - Rudolf van der Berg (Logica)
Current Trends in Community Wireless Networks and Beyond - Aaron Kaplan (FunkFeuer)
Death of the Handset: Evolving from Mobile Devices to the Mobile Digital Life - Mark Rolston (frog Design)
Edge As Value - Value As Edge - Graham Brierton (Voicesage)
Enslaving Humans using Communications Technology for Fun and Profit - Thomas McCarthy-Howe (Jaduka)
Entrepreneurial Advantages with New Open-Source Technologies - Jay Phillips (Voxeo)
European Telecoms 2015: Silent Death or Generative Bazaar? - Julien Salanave (IDATE Telecoms)
Finding Disruption - Michael Jackson (Mangrove Capital)
Goodbye Minutes, Hello Moments - Martin Geddes (BT)
Google Wave - David Wang (Google)
How the "Internet of Things" will Change the Way we Connect - Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino (Tinker.it)
How to get More Value out of Customer Interactions by Blending Online with Voice - Stefan Hopmann (Swisscom)
Humans as a Service: Abstracting Communications to Reach New Applications - Todd Landry (NEC Sphere)
Is LTE being Held Hostage by Ordinary Voice Telephony? - Dean Bubley (Disruptive Analysis)
Lifestyle Segmentation from Carrier Location and Call Data - Greg Skibiski (Sense Networks)
Lifestyle Segmentation from Carrier Location and Call Data - Tony Jebara (Sense Networks)
LTE - Long Term Employment or Less Than Expected? - Moray Rumney (Agilent)
Open Access Makes Economic Sense - Benoît Felten (Yankee Group)
Open Screen Project: Next Generation Contextual Applications - Andrew Shorten (Adobe)
Opening of the Terahertz Region - Robert Horvitz (Open Spectrum Foundation)
Opportunities in Post-Telecom Connectivity - Bob Frankston (Frankston Innovating)
Post Financial Trauma - How is the Telecom Value Chain Now Positioned? - James Enck (mCapital)
Redefining Gifts in the Digital Space - Katie Lips (Little World Gifts)
Slowing Down Communication: Designs Inspired by Quality, Intimacy, and Humanity - Stefan Agamanolis (Distance Lab)
Spectrum 2.0 – What's Really Happening? - Brough Turner (Ashtonbrooke)
Stealth Approaches to Legislating Open Spectrum - Brough Turner (Ashtonbrooke)
Technology and Biological Evolution: What This Means for Media and Communications Technologies - Tomas Rawlings (University of the West of England)
Telemedia Futures - Gerd Leonhard (MediaFuturist.com)
The Emerging Telecology of Social Networks and the Status Update - Stuart Henshall (Phweet)
The Future of Interconnection - Rudolf van der Berg (Logica)
The Global Battle for Communications Justice: An Open Spectrum Manifesto - Sascha Meinrath (New America Foundation)
The Next Wave of Communications Applications - Cullen Jennings (Cisco)
The Practical Edge of Speech Technology - Moshe Yudkowsky (Disaggregate)
Ubiquitous Voice over Broadband - is There a Future Role for the Smart Pipe? - Martin Taylor (MetaSwitch)
Unlicensed Spectrum: Future Regulation - Prof. William Webb (Ofcom)
Video Killed the Telephone Czar? - Jan Linden (Global IP Solutions)
When Will HD Voice Become a Reality? - Martyn Davies (Dialogic)
What Would Telephony be Like if we Designed it Today? - Matt Ranney (RebelVox)
If you've read this far, there's a 10% discount via this registration link
Sorry, no magic answer. But I look forward to eComm 2009 to provide a lot of ideas in the first week of March. The speaker lineup is posted and the list is both impressive and diverse. Like last year, the format is a single track with a veritable firehose of information, mostly in 15 minute and 5 minute talks.
Based on last year and what I know of the speakers on this year's list, it fair to say Lee Dryburgh has done an excellent job of picking interesting and bleeding edge speakers. I'm also on the speakes' list and I have to say I'm working hard to make sure my 15 minutes lives up to expectations.
Even though this is a terrible time for conferences, eComm has signed up an impressive list of sponsors. The facility (The San Francisco Airport Marriott Hotel) is larger this year and so there is still room for additional attendees, but early bird prices end this week. Also the extra 20% off you can get my mentioning my name ends this Friday, so if you are thinking of attending sign up this week.
So here's the deal, if you mention my name you get 20% off. More specifically, if you enter the promo code "BroughTurner" (case-sensitive) at the appropriate point during registration, you'll get 20% off the registration fee.
I attended a number of conferences in 2008, both interesting and not so interesting. One conference stands out, for the range of interesting speakers and the variety of interesting people I met. That was the first Emerging Communications Conference, eComm 2008, organized by Lee Dryburgh. Many of talks from this conference are available on Slideshare and as podcasts on IT Conversations.
eComm 2009 is scheduled to take place at the San Fransico Airport Marriott, March 3-5, 2009. I highly recommend you check it out.
This is not a trade show with vendors hawking today's products and multiple tracks full of vendor product pitches.
Presenters have been chosen for the quality of their proposals: is it new? is it disruptive? what will the audience learn? (As an adviser, I've been in on those discussions). Like last year, the format is one track spread over three days, with 15 minute presentations, 5 minute lightning presentations, panel discussions and social time. It all adds up to a veritable fire hose of information.
There's a list of speakers here. Major topics for 2009 (so far) include:
* Mobile Social Networking (MoSoSo)
* Open Handsets & the Open Ecosystem
* Both Voice and Video Evolution
* Convergence of Media with Personal Communications
* Open Spectrum
* Open Communication Platforms
* Leveraging Cloud Computing
* Social Computing
* Towards 4G Wireless
* P2P and Decentralization of Telecoms
* Communications enabling business processes, especially B2C
* New Forms of Contactability and Connectability
* Emerging Markets
And last, but by no means least, if you mention my name you get 20% off. More specifically, if you enter the promo code "BroughTurner" (case-sensitive) at the appropriate point during registration, you'll get 20% off the registration fee. This works now, while early bird rates are in effect, and I'm told it will also work right up to the last minute ("late", not on-site registration), although then it's 20% off the full conference rate, and only if the event is not sold out!
I hope to see you there.
I had an interesting discussion over dinner last night with a mother whose daughter is in college. She was relating how her daughter follows the news, gets her opinions, etc. Of course her daughter was blogging and using social networks to keep multiple lines of communications open at once. This led to the typical lament, "the world is changing more rapidly than I can understand." We hear this in many contexts. Here's one that's fairly far afield for me, but still typical:
...technology is changing at a pace without precedence in human history. One day's marvel becomes a necessity of ordinary life the next. Rapid technological change permeates the whole of human existence, exhausting our mental ability to comprehend and cope."
By amazing coincidence, yesterday I also stumbled on this article from the Atlantic Journal written in 1883.
"The world is too big for us, too much is going, too many crimes, too much violence and excitement. Try as you will, you get behind in the race in spite of yourself. It's a constant strain to keep pace... and still, you lose ground. Science empties its discoveries on you so fast that you stagger beneath them in hopeless bewilderment. The political world is news seen rapidly, you're out of breath trying to keep pace with who's in and who's out. Everything is high pressure. Human nature can't endure much more."
Indeed, earlier technology transitions have also upset people -- think of the Luddites responding to the industrial revolution. While the pace of change may be increasing, emotionally disturbing change has been affecting individuals for several centuries.
In a recent article over at Skype Journal, I lamented the fact that Skype had not built it's subscriber base as rapidly as I'd hoped or as rapidly as QQ in China or even (perhaps) Windows Live Messenger. Shortly after I wrote those words a friend pointed out the MySpace-Skype announcement from last October. It sounded like just what I'd been adovocating, i.e., Skype cuts deals so they interoperate with as many communities as possible thus growing the range of people I can connect with.
I immediately went to my (otherwise little used) MySpace account to check it out. Unfortunately, the integration between MySpace IM and Skype only applies to voice! You can't chat between the two services. What good is that?
One of the significant features that Skype introduced was the idea of combining presence, text chat and voice conversation in a single user interface. That value is lost when the MySpace - Skype integration is restricted to voice calling only.
I'm continually amazed at the East-West cultural gap (that's between Asia and the US/EU, not between Boston and Silicon Valley). It goes both ways, but as an American Internet and mobile enthusiast with Asian connections, I'm usually struck by US ignorance of Asian Internet and mobile services.
Today, China has the worlds largest mobile population and the worlds largest Internet population. Korea is a leader in high speed broadband, as is Japan. Japan is also the #2 economy in the world and arguably the world's leading mobile society. Surely it's worth the time to understand what's happening in their markets!
For a change, over the weekend, I stumbled on an excellent presentation, What Asia can tell us about mobile social networks, from O'Reilly's conference, Graphing Social Patterns East, held in June in Washington DC. The presenter was Benjamin Joffe who resides in Beijing where, among other things, he's the founder of Mobile Monday Beijing.
Some of his numbers may be a year old, but the impact is clear. Asian services like QQ (740M registered users), CyWorld (used by 90% of young Koreans) and Mixi (10M mobile users in Japan) typically started before Facebook, have many more features, and are profitable!
Here's Benjamin's features list:
Check out the entire presentation. Well worth the effort!
Dawn Nafus, Ph.D., an anthropologist at Intel, discusses why a technology company would have an anthropologist on staff, and exactly what she does for them. Dawn will be speaking at the eComm Conference being held March 12 - 14, 2008 at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA. Her topic will be “Context Aware Technologies” and how they can assist different cultures and countries around the world.
About 4:30 minutes into the interview, Pat Lynch asks Dr. Nafus why there are only a few women on the program at eComm and indeed at most high tech conferences. She doesn't have a simple answer but she does point out it's a myth that women's position in high tech is getting better gradually over time, at least in Silicon Valley. Silicon Valley is very young in the grand scheme of things, it has little or no history. And yet, it has reproduced the male dominated culture that was a characteristic of older industries. Now older industries are improving at a greater rate than high tech.
I just recently read Herman Goldstine's classic history of the early days of computing, The Computer from Pascal to von Neumann. Interestingly, some women play key roles, not just Ada Byron (Lady Lovelace), but multiple women during and after WWII. And when I think back to the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) that I joined as a student in the early 1970s, there were more women involved in programming, and the mathematical side of the computer industry than in traditional industries. Also my first part time job was with a small company where 25% of the software staff (1 out of 4) were women. :-)
I look forward to hearing Dr. Nafus speak on "Context Aware Technologies" at eComm this coming week. Hopefully I'll also get a chance to talk with her, as she mentioned some references to recent literature on women in high tech.
I'll in California quite a bit in March and April, but the highlight is my first week, when I'll be speaking at a new conference, eComm 2008, March 12-14. While the conference in new, the community is established and fascinating. eComm 2008 being put together by Lee Dryburgh, who was on the program committee for O'Reilly's eTel conferences. When O'Reilly cancelled eTel 2008, Lee took the initiative to keep that incredible community alive. He was soon joined by many others.
The first thing I look for in a conference is interesting people, then new ideas. eComm promises an abundance of each. The focus is next generation personal communications and the schedule is set up for rapid fire delivery inlcuding many 5 minute and 15 minute sessions. As far as new ideas goes, this will be a fire hose!
*** Correction: 12/21 ***
The conference is being held in the Computer History Museum in Mountain View. This easily beats the typical conference facility, but it means there are only 300 paid admissions available. Registration has opened, here. If you register before the end of 2007, the $1495 registration fee is marked down to $1195.
I look forward to seeing you there.
2 email accts/ 7 email aliases/ 4 IM accts/ SMS/ this blog/ Bloglines (238 feeds)/ BlogRovR (480 feeds)/ LinkedIn/ Facebook/ Myspace/ Twitter/ 23 other "social" networks/ 3 PSTN accts/ 2 mobile accts/ Skype/ FWD/ ...
...accessed via 3 different PCs and 2 different mobile handsets, at least on most days.
These are not just information flows — most have associated directories of friends, business associates and other acquaintances.
One year ago I wrote:
... I already run four instant messaging clients on my laptop. A single client would be nice, but it's not that important. Once we finally learn how availability should work from an existing player like Skype or from an entirely new overlay network (as Skype was a few years ago), then we can worry about consolidation.
Now I'm not so sure.
Who will aggregate this flood for me, in some convenient and semantically meaningful way?
Where is the tool that lets me organize my diverse connections?
There's an opportunity here for a new class of solutions...
This morning, NMS Communications launched LiveWire Mobile as a new brand for our mobile applications business. I'm leery of re-branding exercises but this was long overdue as our mobile applications business is substantially different and independent of our traditional developer focused business. Now LiveWire Mobile is operating as a distinct division of NMS with this new logo:
LiveWire Mobile focuses on mobile personalization services, including our well established ringback tones business. That makes LiveWire Mobile a market leader from inception, as our ringback tone service is deployed with over 30 operators around the world. The most recently new operator announcement also came today — it's Virgin Mobile USA.
Mobile personalization services hit some years ago with ringtones and wall papers. Many think of ringtones as a content business, and yes, there is a content sale in many cases. But whether it's ringtones or ringback tones, the key motivation is the human desire to personalize our possessions and our environment.
Today, ringtones are widespread and revenue growth is slowing. However, ringback tones are still in the early growth phase, at least in Europe and North America. Ringback tone penetration is over 55% in Korea, but less than 10% in the US.
Besides the established ringback tones base, LiveWire Mobile has plans for additional network-based message and subscriber-focused personalization services — stay tuned.
UPDATED: Here's the link to a press release with more info (in PR prose...).
Some notes from the first after lunch session at Connect 2007 in Madrid yesterday, entitled Community Goes Mobile. Dave Penny (VP Biz Dev at NMS) moderated, with panelists:
The first key point is communities don't align with operators. The lead example in every market is SMS. Until there was universal connectivity, SMS never took off. David is particularly vocal that social networks have to span multiple operators to succeed. This is interesting as Yospace currently runs SeeMeTV for 3 in the UK and Look At Me for O2 in the UK and a similar service for 10 other operators in various countries.
Big discussion of charging models. If Facebook is free on the Internet, why pay for mobile access. Conclusion, you'll never get someone to pay per transaction, but you might get someone to pay an Internet access fee, especially a fixed known flat rate fee (like x per day for all day and y max for all month Internet access).
Another interesting point is that mobile operators are doing deals with Internet brands (like Vodafone UK with MySpace) because the Internet brand has more recognition than the mobile brand.
Of course there are no operator representatives on this panel to hold up their end... :-)
I'm an articles guy not a news blogger, so I didn't even try to compete with the numerous people blogging last week's VON conference. In any event, I was double booked much of the time. The best part of VON is the people I meet and the one-on-one discussions but let me mention a few impressions of note:
One interesting tidbit: I finally got to hear from ooma and get the answers to two questions that had plagued me about their distributed termination approach. Distributed termination means calls, carried long distances by VoIP, can terminate in a remote city using another subscriber's local line. My issues:
The conference itself felt a little smaller than last year in Boston or last spring in San Jose, but booth traffic appeared to be good. Also, there were more sessions and more tracks and more experimentation, as PulverMedia is obviously trying to reinvent itself and the show. I have some specific suggestions which I will offer to Carl Ford, but it may be another week or two before I get a free moment to write them out.
Here's a photo of the show floor on Tuesday at lunch time.
I’ve never liked the term presence or the way the function is implemented in instant messaging systems. I want to indicate my availability — something that, at any given moment, may be different for my wife, my co-workers or my friends in the blogsphere. And, if I check my PC for messages at 6am, just before walking the dog, that doesn’t mean I’m planning to respond to those messages or accept calls or chats at that moment — my dog is desparate and she’s letting me know it!
Now there’s a new kid on the block, EnThinnai, that’s launched the beta of an information sharing site featuring privacy and control. They also include a concept of availability that looks very much as I desire.
In addition, they’ve done a peer-to-peer implementation with a choice of query (you only ask when you’re interested in knowing my availability) or subscribe (you want to be notified when I transition to a specific state). This makes a lot more sense to me than a central server farm monitoring everything I do and continuously broadcasting it to people who only contact me once or twice a year.
About 12 hours ago I had a long IM chat with Carl Ford about the Innovator's track at the VON conference. The Innovator's track is already very interesting, but Carl is going one better and running an unconference based on the ideas of FooCamp and Barcamp. Carl's is the VONCamp Unconference.
FooCamp is an invitation only event. BarCamp is open to anyone. VONCamp is open to anyone who is attending VON. Otherwise, the formats are similar.
The first order of the day is to determine the order of the day. Tom Howe will lead this, but it's a free form way for the attendees to develop the agenda. As Carl puts it:
The Innovators Forum is a series of sessions that show case companies in our more traditional format. However dialogue in these sessions is encouraged. The VONCamp Unconference is harder to describe, because it gives people a chance to self identify as a speaker. At the present time there are 12 speaking slots. If you've got something you want to discuss that's outside the formal program, VONCamp Unconference is the place to do it. We also have a SpeedDating session.
Here are the rules:
- There are no rules.
- Everyone is equal. Everyone is a rockstar.
- Give back to the conference by participating actively. "Active participation" might mean giving a presentation, helping with a presentation, blogging or podcasting the event, or whatever other creative ways. While everyone is encouraged to lead a session, there are only twelve slots available.
- All sessions must obey the Law of 2 Feet - if you're not getting what you want out of the session, you can and should walk out and do something else. Hopefully you will walk the show floor!
This should be very interesting! Thank you Carl. Hope to see you there.
In my last post, I mentioned an interesting email correspondence with Paula Muller of Net-Scale Technologies. At one point in that dialog, I associated mobile telephony with the third and fourth levels of Maslow's hierarchy of needs. It's a thought I've mentioned in talks (as far back as 1997) and writings, but never investigated critically. Paula’s response caused me to revisit the subject and realize I’ve been tying legitimate observations about mobile telephony to a discredited theory of psychology.
Here's what I wrote:
Speaking of human priorities, you may have run into Maslow's hierarchy of needs?? I didn't take psychology in college so I only ran into it years later... Maslow claimed people don't worry about higher needs until they have lower level needs under control. At the most basic, you need safety and sustenence, then you can think about community or belonging, and then you can think about your identity and self esteem. Only when all those are under control, can you rise to "self actualization." I don't know about self actualization, but I understand community and identity. I equate community and belonging with mobile phone adoption! :-) Then once you can call your family and friends, you need to establish your identity (achive self esteem) which you do by acquiring ringtones and ringback tones. :-)
In reply, Paula points out the appeals of mobile telephony are much broader than just community and identity (Maslow’s belonging and esteem):
With respect to Maslow's hierarchy of needs, it's quite interesting. I didn't know directly about him, but it's expected that this hierarchy exists. Interesting from the articles that I found, mobile phones give the perception to their users of affecting more fundamental needs than the 3rd level (family and affection). People have the perception that they feel safer - second level (safety needs) and even it affects the first level (with improving their work options to get food and transportation to get to work). I think this is a fascinating aspect that I wasn't aware of, but it makes sense.
That got me thinking. As Paula comments, mobile phone usage cuts across several layers of Maslow’s hierarchy. And as studies like this, this and this, show, a significant number of extremely poor people list telephony as the last thing they would give up. Does Maslow’s hierarchy even make sense?
An interesting phenomenon related to Maslow's work is that in spite of a lack of evidence to support his hierarchy, it enjoys wide acceptance (Wahba & Bridgewell, 1976; Soper, Milford & Rosenthal, 1995).
That may be acceptable in college psych courses, but as an engineer, I'll drop the Maslow analogies from here on out.
* Wahba, A., & Bridgewell, L. (1976). Maslow reconsidered: A review of research on the need hierarchy theory. Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, 15, 212-240.
Dave Penny, VP at NMS, is moderating the first session after lunch entitled "Community Goes Mobile" with panelists:
Prakash Iyer, Founder and CEO, envIO networks -- a market centric approach to recommendations and content discovery. They are still in stealth mode, but already he's said more than shows up on their website.
Nicolas Arauz, Co-founder and Managing Director, Xipto LLC -- some notes earlier today...
Dan Melinger, CEO, Socialight -- location aware social recommendations particularly useful when you want friends comments on where you are right now.
Jouni Welander, Head of New Solutions US, Nokia Siemens Networks -- most people know NSN...
Some comments I found interesting:
Jouni showed a Nokia Siemens forecast that by 2016 there would be 5 billion people connected. I can't imagine it will take that long... Of course they are talking about real people, not just subscriptions, but still... Why so long?
Jouni also mentioned a study that says 12 million people used mobile devices to access social networking sites in June 2007. Half of these were US users accessing either MySpace or Facebook.
Prakash differentiates mobile community by location but also by the different characteristics of the mobile environment. On the other hand, neither Prakash nor Dan see the need for different services on the Internet and on mobile -- they will just be different interfaces to the same community. Nicolas focuses on how personal the mobile device is, e.g. spam on a mobile is much more intrusive.
A lot of discussion about location and privacy issues. All of the panelist seem to assume that location is something that may become available from the service providers. So far, no one has mentioned Navizon which I wrote about last week. The real issue is trust and the need to push control of location information to the user. Edge solutions sound best to me, but everyone seems to assume they'll have to work with operators to get location info.
A long discussion of swarming, i.e. too many people including completely unrelated people showing up for a suburban party, political protests, or related, cyber bullying. Also discussion of privacy in virtual worlds and in your on-line social persona. The panelists are worried about privacy, but everyone on the panel is over 30. My impression (even though I'm over 50) is that today's youth are much more comfortable with living their lives publicly. Or to put it another way, it used to be if you lived in a small town, everyone knew everything that went on. Today, it's not just in a small town.
Making money -- social networks must appear to be free as they are on the Internet. Money comes from driving traffic (on a flat rate plan), perhaps by offering some premium service to a subset of users and, eventually, by advertising and advertising-like activities, for example, content discovery and content recommendations.
In response to a question, Nicolas made the point that your closest contacts on your mobile may churn quite rapidly but can be represented by who you've communicated with in the past 24 hours and/or past week. To me that suggests that a mobile social network client should capture all your phone calls and SMSs and ask you if they are people to add to your social network (and if so, where and how they are to be added). And, sure enough, three minutes later Nicolas added the idea that your biggest mobile social network is the people you call and SMS in any given day.
General agreement that mobile social networking won't really take off until it is available across operators. Exclusive deals won't promote widespread adoption.
Dan suggests that handset standardization should come through browsers, although this will take time to roll out.
**** Minor corrections 12 Oct 2007 *****
Tags: community, connect 2007 nms connect 2007, envIO Networks, mobile community, nms communications, Nokia Siemens, social networking, Socialight, Xipto
Quechup - a social networking site that starts each new subscription with anti-social spamming!
I'm interested in social networks and community sites, so I've joined many such services, only a few of which I actually use with any regularity. A few minutes ago, I got an invitation to Quechup and went ahead and signed up. Unfortunately, I didn't Google their name and check other people's comments in advance. [I'm just back from vacation and not thinking???] Worse, I blasted through their sign up procedure without my usual caution.
During the signup process, Quechup.com suggests it search your address book to check if some of your email contacts have already signed up as well, so as to give the networking process a head start. I've seen this before and I'm usually very suspicious, but this time I acted like a total newbie. I let them see one of my address books, in which they found only the person who had invited me. What they didn't mention is they immediately spam each of the addresses they got access to.
If you got such spam, I deeply apologize. I've been on-line for years. I should know better. I do know better! What else can I say? I'm sorry.
Both Bob Schechter and Joe Pavlat forwarded me copies of the article, Home truths about telecoms (subscription), that appeared in the current Economist Technology Quarterly. The most interesting were these points from an interview with Stefana Broadbent,
an anthropologist who leads the User Adoption Lab at Swisscom, based on studies of users in Switzerland and France:
Not the way I thought about anthropologists, so I doubled checked the definition of anthropology, finding this at Wikipedia:
... cultural and social anthropology has been distinguished from other social science disciplines by its emphasis on in-depth examination of context, cross-cultural comparisons ..., and the importance it places on long-term, experiential immersion in the area of research, often known as participant-observation.
Indeed, Stefana and her lab appear to be immersed in their studies.
Dopplr is a social network for travelers. Plug in your travel schedule and a list of people you'd be happy to meet. Get back info on who will overlap with you, when and where.
I joined last month, but the pool of people using the service was small (my internal ID is 993) and their overlap with people I know or want to meet was smaller (less than a dozen at that time). So I listed my known travel schedule and thought no more of it. Indeed, no meetings have come about as a result. My one impromptu meeting (with Darren McKellin of Visto) on last week's Asia trip, resulted from my blog post not a connection via Dopplr.
But now I notice I have "unlimited" Dopplr invitations available. So while it's still in private beta, it appears I can invite all of my readers! If you are crazy enough to follow this RSS feed or otherwise read any of what I write, then I'm vain enough to correspond, and possibly, meet.
Either way, if you are interested in joining the Dopplr private beta, send me an email (rbt at nmss.com) with your name and email address as you want them to appear within Dopplr.
But if you suffer from Social Network Fatigue, I'll also continue posting travel info in my blog. I'm happy to meet interesting people, as time allows. And anyone who reads my writings must be interesting, right? :-)
I travel a fair bit and, on occasion, run into people I know in airport lounges. But how much easier if my travel plans were easily visible to friends, business associates, and bloggers & email correspondents I'd like to meet? That's the promise of Dopplr and, now, my request to join has been granted, by Chris Herot. Thank you Chris!
Dopplr's premise is simple, plug in your travel schedule and a list of people you'd be happy to meet. Get back info on who will overlap with you, when and where. There are obvious issues of privacy, but they seem well handled and, anyway, I'm fairly promiscuous with my travel schedule.
The bigger issue is critical mass. I joined yesterday and my internal ID is 993. Chris Herot is 180, Dave Wienberger is 60. I recognize Dopplr members who are well known in social networking circles, but fewer from the telecom blogsphere or other circles I travel in.
So to help build critical mass, especially among people I'm interested in meeting, I have three invitations to give out. Readers of my blog sound like good candidates, so I offer these invitations to the first three people to write a comment below.
Yuval Klein of Plymedia gave a cool demo. Plymedia allows you to annotate any video on the net. It works by providing an overlay, not by modifying the original video. In that sense it's rather like the Chinese service Mojiti. I assume there are others doing this as well, but I can't guess which will succeed. In any event, the Plymedia demo is very cute. ), It's based on Flash.
It’s been a busy week. I had intended to post every day, but the level of activity was overwhelming, and minimum sleep flying to Europe followed by five hours of sleep per night while there just got to me.
In a business sense, this was a very good show, for NMS and seemingly for many others. There’s tons of opportunity at many levels.
Taking the longer view, I worry. Tim Berners-Lee, in his keynote address, beseeched the industry to “be a foundation, not a ceiling.” He talked of the enormous opportunities that the open Internet has generating. The walled gardens of the mobile industry are stifling this potential.
Of course they’re going to collapse. Countries with mobile oligopolies may preserve their walled garden for years but, as serious 3G bandwidth and other sources of connectivity (WiMAX, WiFi) roll out in developed countries with real competition (3+ competitors making significant investments), the walls will collapse. I’m talking 2–5 years. Based just on anecdotal conversations, I think many of the operators realize this, but their whole structure and organization is such that all they can do is milk the current situation, leaving their future to be dealt with in the future.
Highlights: Mobile communities, Mobile TV (& here), talk about mobile advertising (most of which I missed), Femtocells (also here), and WiMAX (which grates on 3GSM types), but not much progress on GSMA instant messaging (last year’s buzz). Also, last year’s radio hype was HSDPA, so I expected hype for HSUPA this year, but evidently it’s not quite ready (or it’s too little and will be too late to counter WiMAX?).
In any event the radio technology hype was diffuse, but included multiple announcements about 3GSM’s Long Term Evolution (LTE) from DoCoMo, Ericsson (and others I missed). This is an obvious counter to the WiMAX crowd, but it’s a lame response, as LTE demos are a few years off with deployment still further.
Finally, the show was even bigger than last year — claims are between 57K & 60K people attended.
Here’s the NMS booth on opening day.
What was in it? MyCaller ringback tones, of course. We now have 27 operators who’ve deploy our system. But we showed several new applications for the first time — Interactive 3G Mobile TV and Mobile Publishing, both based on 3G video calling technology. And on the developer front we showed the first AdvancedTCA media blade, our MG 7000A and the latest release of our Vision VXML Server targeted at IVVR (interactive voice and video response).
Our strategy is to foster a rich developer community and then partner with developers in that community to bring new applications to our operator footprint. Thus the Vision VXML Server is the core of various IVVR (interactive voice and video response) platforms, including those that run Interactive 3G Mobile TV and Mobile Publishing.
I’m writing this on the plane (using BlogJet software) but I’m fading, so good night for now.
There were several people in the audience who kept asking "where's the business model?" even though most of heard the obvious answer — if you have millions of users and tiny operating costs, it doesn't take many cents (or fractions of a cent) to produce a profit. Advertising is the number one model, although premium or adjunct services (think posters and albums from you photos site) also helps. I think they understand this is Silicon Valley, what's wrong with the New England crowd?
Rick Roth (of TnR Global) had a good question/ observation from the audience: Taking the information consumer's point of view, the big contribution of RSS has been help with content overload; now, with a proliferation of specialty social networking sites, there's a problem of identity and linkages between communities. Where is the single sign-on solution that works across all the social networking sites? I didn't hear a good answer, but I certainly agree there's a problem here.
John Furrier's afternoon keynote was excellent, covering his career as a blogger, podcaster and vblogger, and explaining the industry in a fashion that matched my views. :-) Best of all he showed a 5 minute clip of Jerry Zucker speaking at last November's Vloggie awards. Very amusing. Here's the YouTube version.
The summary, transcript and mp4 video version are available on the PodTech website here.
Besides the program, the event brought out an excellent cross section of the New England startup scene — old friends and new acquaintances. Definitely worth the time!
I'm listening to the New Media panel at the MIT Enterprise Forum's Brave New Web conference in Boston with Laurie Baird (Turner Broadcasting), Jose Castillo (thinkjose.com), Alex Laats (PodZinger) and Andy Plesser (Beet.TV). I'm not that good at blogging live, but I've been noting a variety of interesting snippets.
I was particularly struck by Podzinger's media searching capabilities, not so much to index audio and video media, although that's useful. More interesting is the idea of detecting and avoiding spam in tags, thumbnails and so forth. One of the critical things Google does in evaluating the importance of web pages is evaluate the value of the incoming links. Today, content is being spammed by having every tag under the sun tied to one piece of content and by having deceptive thumbnails to lure people into (probably questionable) content. So it's possible the value of audio and video search technology will be in evaluating whether the tags associated with a media clip are plausible.
Alex Laats stated the average length of audio clips on the net is 22 minutes, but the average listening time is 3 minutes. Likewise, the average length of video clips is 7+ minutes while viewing times average 1 minute. I can think of all sorts of potential problems with these averages (presumably they include people who listen to just a few seconds and quit as well as people who listen to the whole thing). I need to catch up with Alex on where he got his data. Intuitively, there would appear to be value in being able to find just what you want within a media clip.
A common thread was that advertising will be the dominate model. Laurie Baird went further to project that, by 2010, 50% of the ad revenue would come from the 80% of less popular individual pieces of content. Along these lines, the best statement (I'm not sure who made it) was "copyright problems will be solved with new business models" — presumably advertising-based models.
Alec Saunders has just published an excellent article on the future of presence. If you follow VoIP, this is the Saunders who brought us the Voice 2.0 Manifesto (October 2005). I highly recommend Alec's current essay on the "new presence," but I have some thoughts, of course :-)
Can't we change the name? With my mobile phone on my person I am always "present" but I may not be available. Alec's essay covers these concepts, but why not suggest a new name? something around the word "availability" would be good.
I want a communications interface that helps me capture my preferences. When I receive a call on my mobile, there's a one-click way to capture the caller ID into a phone book entry. I need comparable (and better) help in creating and maintaining profiles. If, in a particular circumstance, I decline a call from a specific caller, the phone should recognize this behavior and ask me "Do you always want to send this caller to voice mail when your phone is in vibrate mode?" and so on.
And there's one place where I disagree with Alec. I'm not worried about the proliferation of standards and semi-closed networks. Just as Skype came on the scene with a proprietary system that "just worked" I expect someone to solve the "availability" problem without waiting for standards or heterogeneous networks. I already run four instant messaging clients on my laptop. A single client would be nice, but it's not that important. Once we finally learn how availability should work from an existing player like Skype or from an entirely new overlay network (as Skype was a few years ago), then we can worry about consolidation.
There are several items from today's sessions to write about, but not enough time right now… So let me talk about my closing presentation, just completed and apparently well received. Here is a copy:
I was “assigned” the title and choose to use it to talk about telecom economics, suggest when mobile "dumb pipes" may emerge, and then examine what we can learn from the economics of successful Internet applications that might be relevant to the evolving mobile industry.
In high tech, the word “disruption” was popularized by Clayton Christensen’s 1997 book The Innovator’s Dilemma, but for today’s discussion I used the material I wrote about in this earlier blog post.
I tied the ideas to mobile broadband which, today, is still limited by technology thus vertical integration (and walled gardens) remain the norm. Once 3G or 4G technology is able to provide “enough” mobile broadband capacity, there will be strong pressure to offer “dumb pipes.” Unlike the fixed access market where regulation, legislation and lobbying dominate, mobile is a competitive industry, so once the technology can support adequate dumb pipes, they are bound to emerge.
People who say “the operators will never allow themselves to be marginalized” don’t understand that this decision is not under management control. If mobile VoIP begins to significantly impact mobile revenues, those operators who don’t find a way to split themselves up, will be restructured by corporate raiders, just as the steel industry, the auto industry, etc. have been restructured in recent decades.
There's a lot more in the presentation which I'd be happy to discuss if anyone inquires.
The second session at Connect 2006, Innovative Multimedia Applications, had several interesting applications but the most compelling for me was an application developed by Kallideas SpA (in English) in Milan in partnership with Rietek SpA. The application is called Virtual Girlfriend and is best illustrated in this video.
Kallideas is the application provider using their avatar technology. Reitek provides the mobile video technology to get this running on mobile networks. As an application that appeals to individuals, especially to teenagers, this is a natural for your 3G mobile – frequently a teen has only shared access to a family PC, but sole possession of their mobile phone.
One of the wonderful phenomena of the past few years has been the emergence of Wikipedia as an incredible reference for just about anything. If you've heard Wikipedia's founder Jimmy Wales speak (for example watch this 20 minute video from July 2005), you've also heard about Wikipedia's vibrant community, how 50% of the edits are done by just over 500 people and 75% of the edits are done by less than 1500 people.
It appears these statistics, while true, are very misleading!
Aaron Swartz has looked at who actually provides the most content and it's very different from who makes the edits. First Aaron was just looking at specific articles, initially the article on Alan Alda. But then he wrote a program to examine the Wikipedia archives and extract statistics. He's written a very comprehensive article, but in summary:
If you just count edits, it appears the biggest contributors to the Alan Alda article (7 of the top 10) are registered users who (all but 2) have made thousands of edits to the site. Indeed, #4 has made over 7,000 edits while #7 has over 25,000. In other words, if you use Wales's methods, you get Wales's results: most of the content seems to be written by heavy editors.
But when you count letters, the picture dramatically changes: few of the contributors (2 out of the top 10) are even registered and most (6 out of the top 10) have made less than 25 edits to the entire site. In fact, #9 has made exactly one edit -- this one! With the more reasonable metric -- indeed, the one Wales himself said he planned to use in the next revision of his study -- the result completely reverses.
When you put it all together, the story become clear: an outsider makes one edit to add a chunk of information, then insiders make several edits tweaking and reformatting it. In addition, insiders rack up thousands of edits doing things like changing the name of a category across the entire site -- the kind of thing only insiders deeply care about. As a result, insiders account for the vast majority of the edits. But it's the outsiders who provide nearly all of the content.
Aaron's a smart guy. As a teenager he co-authored RSS 1.0, worked on the W3C's RDF 1.0 Working Group and wrote RFC 3870. Then he went to Stanford for a year before dropping out to become an entrepreneur. I'm impressed he has the time to work on Wikipedia. He's currently running for a seat on the Wikimedia Foundation Board.
Of course his article raises all sorts of governance issues for the Wikimedia Foundation. Today, you have to have made over 400 edits in order to qualify to vote for members of the board of Wikimedia Foundation, i.e. only the editors can vote, not the folks who are actually contributing most of the content. And not me whose contributions are very minor. What's critical is that it remains easy and rewarding for stray individuals to add content. I certainly hope the Wikipedia inner circle takes note of Aaron's data.
Some of my blog posts serve to organize a set of references on a topic that's important to me. This is such an occasion -- hopefully one or two others may share this interest.
Back in 2002, I really enjoyed Albert-Laszlo Barabasi's book on networks, Linked: How Everything Is Connected to Everything Else and What It Means, but haven't paid much attention to scale-free networks since then. Yesterday I stumbled on this interesting presentation by Chris Anderson at "SciFoo" last week, which prompted me to revisit the subject. The notes in Anderson's presentation include two great references (Limpert et al., Mitzenmacher) for the mathematically inclined, and the current Wikipedia article on Scale-free networks has excellent content and a lot more references.
New to me, are the diverse models that generate networks which are scale-free but differ in other meaningful characteristics. Barabasi discussed preferential attachment, a model which generates scale-free networks with highly connected nodes near the core. These networks are robust even if a large fraction of the nodes are removed. However the Internet, while a scale-free network, has it's highly connected nodes closer to the periphery, so the preferential attachment model doesn't apply. And as Wikipedia currently puts it,
Indeed, many of the results about scale-free networks have been claimed to apply to the Internet, but are disputed by Internet researchers and engineers.
The "big bucks" part of my headline was prompted by Chris Anderson's The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More. Anderson's thesis, originally published in Wired magazine, is that the popularity of items in certain markets, like media, follows a power law -- the same law that applies to the connectivity of nodes in a scale-free network! In such a market, a few products have enormous sales but there is a very long tail of products that have only a few sales each. This long tail goes way out, so taken together, sales on the long tail represent big bucks.
Since Anderson's book was published there's been considerable argument about the long tail. Nicholas Carr has good summary of the argument between Wall Street Journal columnist Lee Gomer and Chris Anderson. But Andrew Odlyzko (on a private economist list, quoted here) has the best overall answer to the questions Lee Gomer raised.
As with the Internet, the key question is: does the phenomenon follow a power law (as scale free networks do)? If however, it follows a log-normal distribution, there's a lot less money to be made selling products out on the long tail as illustrated by this slide in Anderson's presentation:
As Anderson puts it:
But here’s the problem. I’ve been assuming that the powerlaw is the “natural” shape of all these markets. But there are other distributions that start off straight on a log-log chart, then fall off the line not necessarily because of a bottleneck effect but because they’re simply not powerlaws. The best example of this is the “lognormal” distribution, which often stays straight for several orders of magnitude before sloping downward. How to tell whether a market that falls off the line is a natural powerlaw shape distorted by a removable bottleneck or a natural lognormal market that will look like that no matter what you do? In markets such as film or television archives, this could be a billion-dollar question.
As I've written before, social networking sites are worthless if they don't succeed in building communities, so I was struck by this report by Christine Herron on the story of Flickr, as told by co-founder Caterina Fake at the recent BlogHer conference:
The Flickr team spent a lot of time greeting every user that came to the site, offering them help on how to get engaged with the rest of the community. Through this, they discovered that online community-building is just like being the host of the party - if guests come to a party, and they don't know anyone, and no one shows up to take their coats and introduce them around, they'll leave. These social networking skills are essential practices to bake into community management. Eventually, you'll want people to identify enough with the community that they themselves will act as the community police, kicking out trolls and making new users feel welcome. This community will also provide much of the user education in a socially networked site - people tend to come once invited there by a friend for a specific purpose, so they come with some idea of what they will be able to do and how the site works.
While I'm on the subject of social networking, Kenji Mori reports that mixi.jp, a major Japanese social networking site (Wikipedia info here) is going public on the Tokyo Stock Exchange in September. While the potential valuation (over $1B US) seems absurd, at least as a public company we should get some insights into the inner workings of one social networking company - all the others I'm aware of are private of captive of a larger organization.
Fukumimi is already dissecting their prospectus (and reporting in English!).
The major, major, Korean social networking site, Cyworld, has versions in Chinese and Japanese and, beginning today, in English. The US site has been in alpha for many weeks, but today it's open to anyone, so I tried it out. My new "Minihome" is here.
Looking around, i.e. sampling other members via the "Random Minihomes" button, the current US members are predominately Asian Americans. Quite a few members list their MySpace and other contact info prominently on their Cyworld Minihome, but this may be a reflection of the alpha test policies and the familiarity of the Cyworld brand in Korea and Chinese communities.
A key feature of Cyworld in Korea, mobile access, is either missing or downplayed on the US site. That's too bad. Other than that, it was easy to get started and I think I prefer the look of my Minihome to that of my entry on Myspace.
If Myspace didn't already exist, Cyworld US might have a chance, but to go against Myspace at this point they will need a distinctive product position. I don't see at it, at least at the moment. As I commented in July, Facebook is taking the elitist position and thus growing their niche of college kids and college-bound high school kids. Cyworld has an enormous, profitable business in Korea and they are owned by SK Telecom, so they have the resources to stick it out. I'll be interested to see how their product position evolves.
Myspace dominates US social networking sites. Indeed it dominates all US web accesses. As I noted in June, Facebook comes in 3rd among US users of social networking sites, far behind MySpace. But Facebook has nearly complete control of the college social networking market. And they appear to be leveraging that elite position very effectively.
Facebook started with incremental rollouts at US and then UK colleges. In September 2005 they added a separate site for high school students. In February 2006 they allowed college networks and high school networks to interconnect. Finally, a few months ago they started adding corporations. At every stage they have preserved a sense of exclusivity. For example, you must have an appropriate email address (initially a ".edu" address at a member school) in order to register. Of course once you are registered, you can substitute any other email address and, while you start as a member of the network at your college, you can search across all networks for people and invite them to be friends. So there's a strong sense of exclusivity or elitism, but not as much exclusivity as you think.
Fred Stutzman, a PhD student at the University of North Carolina, posts a very interesting analysis of Facebook adoption among incoming freshman at UNC. The first thing to note is that more than 90% of incoming freshman have signed up on Facebook by the beginning of the summer before they arrive on campus. This was true in 2005 and it is true now. What's different this year is that most incoming UNC freshman already have a large set of friends on Facebook that are not part of the UNC network. Here's the image from Stutzman's essay.
Obviously the high school program has worked wonders. Evidently anyone planning on going to college (at least to UNC), gets onto Facebook while they are still in high school.
Today Myspace gets five times the page views of Facebook, but of all the English language social networking sites (i.e. not counting sites like Cyworld), Facebook has the market position as the exclusive, I'd say elitist, service and they appear to be leveraging that position effectively.
Look for Facebook to move from #3 to #2 in short order.
Perhaps more important, when it comes to monetizing social networking services, Facebook's user demographics give them a strong position. (Some indicators here).
Some postings do little more than point to a press release but others add bits and pieces of discussion, like "unifying 2 of the large 4 instant messaging services ... (MSN, AIM, Yahoo and Jabber)." Others mention ICQ, but no one mentions QQ - the largest instant messaging service in China currently peaking daily at 20 million simultaneously on-line users from a base of 493 million registered users at least 221 million of which are "active subscribers". I don't have access to 3rd party subscriber estimates, certainly not apples-to-apples comparisons but, based on the Wikipedia entry, I'd say QQ is a major IM service provider we ought to be watching.
I've commented before on how little real knowledge there is about Asia among those of us in the US & EU. That's unfortunate as the number of Internet users in China is second only to those in the US and the use of the mobile Internet is more widespread in Asia than anywhere else in the world. Many new mobile phone applications already originate in Asia (e.g. ringback tones which started in 2002 in Korea).
Going forward we should expect many new mobile Internet and Internet applications to start in Asia. It's time to pay attention folks!
comScore Networks tracks Internet usage. They use a sampling approach "based on a massive, global cross-section of more than 2 million consumers who have given comScore explicit permission to confidentially capture their browsing and transaction behavior, including online and offline purchasing."
I don't subscribe to their service but I do follow their press releases. Around the middle of each month they give highlights of the last month's trends. Today's release gives data for the US-only for May.
Whatever negative press MySpace has experienced, it doesn't seem to have slowed things down!
Based on a sample of two, it appears a relatively small percentage (single digits) of registered instant messenger users are actually on-line at any given time. And, if you consider that "on-line" doesn't necessarily mean someone is actually available to receive a communication, the percentages are even lower. That's striking when compared to cellphones, which many people have on for most of their waking hours.
Anyway, here are my two instant messaging data points:
Recently, Skype broke two records. At the very end of March, they reached 6 million users simultaneously on-line and then at the end of April, they reached 100 million registered users. Skype had 6.27 million on-line yesterday mid-morning (EU afternoon), so their on-line users are running just over 6% of their registered users.
Tencent's annual report (pdf) gives statistics on QQ. Tencent Holdings is a Chinese company whose stock trades on the Hong Kong stock exchange. Their QQ instant messenger service runs on PCs and on mobile devices, mostly within China. As of December 2005, QQ had 493 million registered users, 202 million active accounts and 18.4 million peak simultaneous on-line users. That's about 4% of total registrations, but 9% of active accounts.
What's going to happen as mobile devices become richer communications tools that seamlessly combine context-aware availability with live, or near-real-time messaged, voice, text, photos & video sharing? Think the best combination of VoIP services like Skype and mobile phone interfaces like those I discussed in my March Spring VON presentation.
I expect to see early indications by watching Chinese users as, by shear numbers, the mobile Internet beats the PC-based Internet in China. Companies like Tencent started on the Internet side and have only recently focused on mobile value-added services. It will be interesting to see if QQ's percentage of peak on-line users climbs over the next 12 months.
A recent discussion on the GoogleTalk blog highlights one of the annoying features of first generation instant messaging systems, notifications when buddies go on- and off-line. I typically run four instant messenger clients on my laptop in order to participate in my communities of interest. In each case I have turned off even silent notifications to minimize distractions.
Jon Perlow's post exposes part of the problem:
... we have this arbitrary distinction between being "idle" (you stepped away from your computer) and being "unavailable" (you shutdown chat or turned off your computer). It's problematic. Some people leave their computer on 24/7 and are always logged in. Their presence toggles between available and idle and I never get a notification when they become available. On the other side of the spectrum, there are people who are constantly moving their laptops from wireless network to wireless network and I will get notifications for them every time they reconnect. What I am getting at here is that there are flaws in our presence model ...
But he's only beginning to realize the issues and the motivations at work here. You may have an immediate desire to communicate a specific thought with a specific person. Or you have a thought you want to share with someone in a set of your friends depending upon who is "around" at the moment. Or, you are lonely and just want to see who is "around."
Also, with IP communications, the word communicate can mean text, voice, video, cartoons or photos. Pure IM or pure telephony are too limiting. We're just beginning to see the new world with programs like Skype and GoogleTalk. So yes, there are flaws in our presence model!
As I commented in my presentation at Spring VON, even the word presence is wrong. I'm always present somewhere. The question is, am I available? and am I available for the kind of communication you want to engage in, right now? and if not, am I available for some other kind of communication?
If my communications client is a mobile device, it's always on, but the alerting function is in vibrate mode when I don't want audio disruptions. That doesn't mean I can't received a text message or a picture or a video stream (from your see-what-I-see mobile webcam?). So my availability needs to reflect my current context.
And, at a minimum, notification of changes in other people's contexts need to be filtered, based on what I'm trying to do at this moment. If I want to talk with you the next time you are available for a conversation, then I'd like notifications about just you and your availability to talk. If I have a thought I'd like to share with anyone in some set of buddies, then I'm interested in notifications for just that set of buddies. And if I'm a teen desperate to connect with anyone who'll respect me, I want as much notification detail as my friends and associates are willing to share.
We're at the very early stages of figuring out availability for context-aware communications. Indeed, we've still focused on PCs even though the mobile phone is our primary communications device. But it's good that the folks at GoogleTalk are thinking about it from the user experience point of view.
I'm continually surprised how insular people can be, even those of us who think we're globally connected because we use the Internet. Recently I’ve written on various social networking subjects and a few weeks ago I spoke on the subject at VON, so I’ve been getting feedback and having discussions with people all over the world.
If I'm talking to another American, it's a safe bet they've heard of MySpace and, if they follow social networking applications, Facebook, Friendster or LinkedIn. But few if any have heard of CyWorld, the largest social network in Korea, where over 30% of all Koreans (90% of teenagers) have a “mini-hompy” or homepage.
When the discussion turns to instant messaging, Americans and Europeans have heard of AOL Instant Messenger, MSN, Yahoo and Skype. But few have heard of QQ from Tencent. QQ is the largest instant messenger in China and, with nearly 500 million registered users appears to be the largest instant messaging community on the planet.
The Internet is global, it’s wonderful and it has vastly increased the flow of information, but we’re far from overcoming our islands of language and culture.
I've been discussing the evolution of our Mobile Applications business with operators in the US and the EU. A key issue in most conversations is how the operator will maintain control of their customers. This is very different than the approach in Japan or China.
In Japan, NTT DoCoMo is famous for the success of their i-mode service, but for i-mode they chose to enlist partners -- tens of thousands of partners. DoCoMo gets 100 % of the transport revenue, but only takes 11% of the value-added service revenue (in exchange for billing) while their partners get to keep 89%.
A similar scheme exists in China, where most value-added services are hosted by external service providers and the mobile operators focus on transport and billing. Recently a well connected analyst, who virtually commutes between China and the US, told me Chinese 3rd party value-added services are now a $800M industry.
China and Japan are extremely different -- different cultures, different demographics, different business climates. But in both cases their mobile operators have chosen to open up their networks to as many 3rd parties as possible, with significant positive impact! DoCoMo leads Europe and US operators in data revenues. I don't have reliable numbers for data revenues in China, but mobile data usage is soaring.
In recent years, most breakthrough mobile applications start in Asia. Why haven't US & EU operators noticed Asian business models?
Here is the slide deck for my "Industry Perspective" presentation at VON yesterday, Mutual Disruption: IM/ Presence Meets the Mobile Phone.
When Carl Ford interviewed me for a podcast the week before VON, he was surprised to see I wasn't talking about Layer Zero Competition, my topic at the last two VON conferences. So, before diving into my discussion of communities, contextually-aware communications and mobile phones, I briefly mentioned three of my passions:
and I didn't even mention video...
VoIP disruption is not a surprising topic. It's been a recurring theme for me. The first time I spoke at a VON conference was in 1996 and my topic was wideband audio. I had organized an IP-PBX panel and used my position as moderator to advocate wideband audio rather than "toll quality speech," i.e. don't struggle to duplicate the PSTN, use IP communications to do better!
Some of the points in this presentation are:
I closed by suggesting there was an enormous opportunity, in the next 18 months, to create the best combination of communities, availability, Web 2.0 and mobile phones.
Normally walled gardens are a user turn-off, however...
Recently the social networking site Facebook changed their membership policy. It used to be that you had to be a college student (or alum with college .edu email address) to participate. Last fall they introduced a high school program, presumably because they were jealous of MySpace's incredible success, primarily among high school students.
The high school program operated separately from the college program until February 27th, when Facebook started allowing college students and high school students to add each other as "friends." That's created a problem as Danny Shea and Matt Feinstein explain in their open letter to Mark Zuckerberg (founder of Facebook) published March 9th in the Daily Princetonian.
Suddenly, we had to begin removing tags from photos of us drinking, erasing wall postings referring to awkward hookups and getting rid of anything else that might negatively influence younger siblings or get back to once-adoring high school teachers.
Unfortunately, they don't understand that by posting "OMG how are you? I haven't seen you since our Model UN trip three years ago!" they are undermining the college personas that we have so carefully constructed over the past three years.
So, while walled gardens instituted by a service provider generally work against community formation (the service provider's customers are not usually a natural community), there are evident advantages to walls around specific communities.
I follow his Mobile Pundit blog for it's coverage of telephony news in India, but this was the first (well maybe the second) time I noticed how much our thoughts on telecom and cultural issues are in alignment. My thoughts, triggered by his presentation:
First, about user-created content. Mobiles are ubiquitous and as VeerChand points out, with mobiles, multimedia creation is easier than text creation. We're already seeing explosive growth in Internet-based picture sites, Flickr and the like. According to this article, most of the referrals to photo-hosting sites already come from blogs and moblogs. With 3G, user-created video clips are about to soar. Part of my interest in our recent acquisition of Openera Technologies is it gives us a peer-to-peer video sharing capability. As our "community-based services" kiosk at 3GSM suggested, capturing P2P shared video on behalf of the creator preserves an option for its later use in a moblog, blog or community homepage (think Myspace, Cyworld, or 12wap).
Second, the importance of communications technology to the advancement of civilization. This was the subject of my immediately previous post. VeerChand's comment was:
Language, the alphabet,cities, the printing press did not eliminate poverty or injustice. But they did make it possible for groups of people to create cooperative enterprises such as science and democracy that increased the wealth, welfare and liberty of many.
Third, communities dominate brands. For decades I've put more store in public relations than in advertising. With the advent of the Internet, it's now clear that chat rooms, blogs, etc., i.e. unfettered community discussions are more important than traditional PR. Organizations that candidly talk with their communities of interest get more useful input -- and more external credibility (leading to good PR) than any advertising or PR campaign could ever generate.
In the past 48 hours, I've had three very different conversations about social networking, touching on US and Asian variants like Myspace and Cyworld (in Korean or about Cyworld in English). In each case, my perspective was a little different than that of the people I was talking with, so maybe it's worth setting out.
A social networking environment (software, etc.) is necessary but not sufficient for success. Success depends upon communities. That's the reason Myspace is doing so well and Friendster has languished. As Anick Jesdanun points out,
...when its founders noticed heavy usage among musicians and fans, MySpace embraced that community with custom features... ultimately music is what made MySpace special.
Once communities had formed around bands, musicians and their fans, Myspace was off and running.
Of course the underlying social networking software must have competitive features, but I already run four instant messenger clients because the different communities I participate in happen to run on different platforms. It's the communities, not the platform that counts.
I've looked at (and joined) Myspace and Facebook, but they are both Internet centric, i.e. no mobile support. Not reading Korean, Chinese or Japanese, I haven't been able to join Cyworld. Luckily, at 3GSM, I ran into long time friends Kevin Chia and Michele Chan of Singapore who are operating an interesting Internet/ mobile community under the name 12wap (pronounced "want to wap"). I've just started exploring 12wap which lets you set up both WAP and Internet homepages. I haven't set up my home page, but you can see my photo on your mobile at wap address 16172850433.12wap.net :-)
At 3GSM yesterday, the GSM Association announced an instant messaging initiative. I heard it verbally from a friend at the show — my initial reaction was ho hum, this will never fly. That was before I read the press release in detail and talked informally with some of the people involved.
My initial reaction was based on mobile operators’ long standing affinity for walled gardens and their quite logical desire to promote their own brands whenever possible. Also, the big IM vendors covet a cut of the mobile revenue, making any arrangement difficult. So despite the Wireless Village initiative and efforts of mobile IM startups like Oz Communications, mobile IM remains a niche, especially in comparison with the roughly $50B global market for SMS messaging.
But mobile operators are learning. With SMS, nobody made serious money until there was nearly complete interconnectivity. The operators noticed. In addition to the GSMA’s IM initiative, there are dozens of interoperation agreements already in place. It appears that nearly universal mobile IM interoperability will be available in major markets this year — probably India first, then the UK and other EU markets near the end of 2006. < But not the US, of course… >
As the press release makes clear, the mobile operators are, so far, only dealing among themselves.
Eight of the world’s largest operators, China Mobile, Orange, Telefonica, TeliaSonera, TIM, T-Mobile, Turkcell and Vodafone, and the GSM operators in India - Aircel, Bharti, BSNL, Hutchison Essar, Idea, MTNL and Spice – are gearing up to roll out IM services that adhere to the core GSM principles of ease-of-use, security, reliability, interoperability and initiating party pays.
Guy Kewney points out, they have made no attempt to recruit existing IM giants to participate and in any event, “AOL, Microsoft and Yahoo! have waged all-out war on anybody who ever tried to unify their user bases.”
So why do I think the mobile operators could really score here?
Because presence is personal and mobile handsets are the personal communications device. Your PC is not available and connected all the time. Your mobile is. Also, there are many teenagers who share a family PC, but each have their own mobile. If any handset can participate in a common mobile IM scheme, it may not matter that the kids were using AOL or MSN — whole groups could flip in an evening. And in countries like India, where mobiles far out number PCs, the Internet IM leaders AOL, MSN & Yahoo! won’t matter anyway against a universal mobile IM scheme.
Yes, it will take 18 months or more to get enough going, but this is one initiative that going to shake up the market. Who knows, it may even drive AOL, MSN & Yahoo! to federate.