The Lord of the Rings OS: One OS to rule them all?

Convergence – the combination of multiple entertainment and communication devices and platforms – has been one of those terms tossed around for decades. I first wrote about it in the mid-1990s when I was at university. It has been a rather quixotic quest until now. The handheld devices weren’t powerful or flexible enough. They didn’t have enough storage. Set-top boxes and televisions were pretty dumb in terms of what they could do. They did one thing really well and weren’t extensible. However, we’re starting to see the first glimmer of the pieces falling into place. As Rob Andrews of wrote ahead of the recent launch of Google TV, “Innovation in the connected-TV space is about to explode, in to several, rival parts.” Moreover, it’s not just connected TVs but connected everything – TVs, tablets, phones and computers.

Apple, of course, has been knitting together its vision around OS X and its little brother, iOS. Microsoft has been trying to push this as well for years. While years in the making, their efforts are only now maturing to the point where they are actually compelling. Microsoft tying their new mobile OS to XBox 360 might be a very smart play. Apple’s iOS universe of iPhone, iPad and Apple TV shows their vision.

The two big consumer computer OS makers aren’t the only ones in this game. Motorola is showing off advanced demos of its phones and set-top boxes seamlessly share content, and KDDI in Japan has been using an earlier version of the system for its au Box service. Motorola is now adding its social-network mad Motoblur interface to its set-top boxes. Yes, indeed, it is all blurring together.

Google now has its TV offering with Sony, Logitech and other partners, and this brings together connected televisions, Blu-Ray players and the Android platform on the TV and mobile phones. You can now search broadcast and internet video content just as you search for things on the web. Google TV also runs Android apps and connects nicely to Android phones.

The dark horse in this race is MeeGo, the marriage of Intel’s Mobile and Nokia’s Maemo Linux-based efforts. The goal is the same, to knit together a seamless experience across mobile, home entertainment and other devices such as tablets and netbooks. MeeGo phones are expected to appear in early 2011. Intel believes that building an OS from the ground up for multiple platforms is superior to Google’s approach to drive Android to a range of platforms.

Intel and Nokia definitely have the hardware background, but the interface and content partnerships will be key to this. As recent reviews of its recently released flagship N8 smartphone show, Nokia has the hardware knowledge to make great phones, but it needs to radically rethink its user experience. With consumer electronics, you have to make powerful hardware that is so simple to use that it borders on seeming magical. Will MeeGo be a clean break from its past? We’ll have to see.

Whether you call it convergence or the post-PC era, to resurrect another decade-old phrase, the game is really on now with players from the computer, internet, consumer entertainment and content industries all approaching this from slightly different angles. This will remake technology, entertainment and information, and the battle is now on.

Annenberg-Oxford Summer Institute: Continuing the Conversation

A couple of years ago, I spoke at the Oxford Internet Institute, and after my talk, the conversation carried on via Strange Attractor and the blogs written by some of the students there. I went back to Oxford today to talk about social media, journalism and broader media trends with the very international group of “scholars and regulators? at the Annenberg-Oxford Summer Institute.

As I did from my talk a few years ago at the OII, I’ll follow up some questions that came after my talk and some questions that came in via Twitter.

Does participatory media make public service media obsolete?

I met Shawn Powers at the Al Jazeera Forum in Doha in May, and he invited me to give a talk at the institute. After my talk, he highlighted what he thought was a contradiction in my presentation, which he thought could be interpreted as supporting James Murdoch’s attack on the BBC. Not to over-simplify his point, but with all of the examples I gave of people creating their own media, Shawn wondered if I was making the point that British society no longer needed a public broadcaster like the BBC.

It never really occurred to me that my presentation could be interpreted like this because four years after I left the BBC, I value public service media even more than when I was working there. Most of the examples I talk about in my presentation (a version is here on SlideShare) are collaborations between professional journalists and members of the public not examples of the public supplanting or replacing journalists.

When I came to London in 2005 to research how BBC News could use blogging, I actually saw the possibility of a public service broadcaster like the BBC deepening its public role by developing stronger relationships with people formerly known as the audience.

James Murdoch’s argument delivered in Edinburgh last year:

We seem to have decided to let independence and plurality wither. To let the BBC throttle the news market, and get bigger to compensate

I see commercial media and public service media combined with emerging participatory media as creating greater plurality, not throttling it. Murdoch’s argument is a rather unsophisticated and transparent attack on the BBC because he knows that most surveys show that when consumers are asked to pay for news online, most of them (74%) would switch to free options, such as the BBC. Only about 5% in the and Harris survey would pay to continue to use the service. (For a good critique of the Murdochs’ hard paywall that they just erected around The Times and The Sunday Times, see Steve Outing’s look at different commercial strategies.)

Returning to the strategic white paper I wrote for the BBC, I also thought by encouraging media creation by a wider part of the population that it actually would expand civic participation in new ways and possibly reverse trends in the decline in traditional forms of democratic participation such as voting. (Andy Carvin at NPR is demonstrating how social media is public service media can be a powerful combination.)

Maybe in the future, I should start with a statement of principles or values. I assume that my career choices say a lot about my journalistic values. I have worked for two very unique journalism organisations, the publicly-funded BBC and the trust-supported Guardian. It was an honour to work at two places that value journalism as much as the BBC and The Guardian.  I don’t see social media as an argument for ending subsidies to public media in favour of a “pure” market-based media eco-system. Rather, I see my interest in social media as a perfectly logical extension of my passion for the social mission of journalism, a mission to inform and engage people and to empower them as citizens in democratic societies.

Choosing the right tool for the job

Another person at the institute raised the issue of whether I was focusing on the tools rather than the editorial goals. Was I seeing social media as the hammer and every story as a nail?

In reality, I’ve long argued against using a tool for the sake of using a tool. In my original presentation at the BBC, one of my slides was a herd of cattle with a little Photoshopped brand on one of the bulls labelled MSM (mainstream media), complete with the song Rawhide playing in the background. I said that the media was engaging in a lot of herd-like behaviour, rushing off to blog without any clear reason as to why. I used to play a clip of Jon Stewart of the Daily Show sarcastically congratulating MSNBC and their blogging efforts as “giving a voice to the already voiced”. I questioned why the media needed blogs when we already had publishing platforms.

To justify blogging, we had to have clear editorial goals and not just blog because it was the new media flavour of the month. I did see benefits in blogging and using social media. We could engage our audiences directly and take our journalism to where they were instead of relying on them to come our site. We could enhance our journalism by expanding our sources, adding new voices and highlighting expertise in our audience.

Often people saw blogging not as a conversational, engagement focused media but as a means to secure their own column. They didn’t want to write more than once a week. They had no interest in actually responding to comments. Although I didn’t see this as an appropriate use of blogging, usually, they got a blog because I wasn’t in a position to deny them one.

It’s important to understand that social media is only one tool in a journalist’s toolkit. It is powerful, but it is very important to understand when it is appropriate to use social media and when it isn’t.

As someone at Oxford also pointed out, as journalists we need to make sure that we don’t over-interpret opinion on Twitter, Facebook and other social networks as truly representative. I often use social networks and blogging to find expertise and first person experience of an event, not necessarily to canvas for opinion. The same student at Oxford also was concerned that journalists would rely solely on online social networks to source stories or generate story ideas. That’s the mark of either a lazy journalist or one who is so overburdened with work due to staffing cuts that social media becomes an all too easy shortcut. (I understand only too well the time pressures that journalists are under due to the hollowing out of newsrooms.)

Do location-based networks have staying power?

One of the students told me that she had asked a few questions via Twitter while I was talking, and here is one of her questions:

#AnOx10 Kevin Anderson @kevglobal– Social Media for Social Change: great talk today but do u really think Loc-base has staying power?

I’ve been working with location for a couple of years ago, starting with my coverage of the US elections in 2008. I’ve been testing location-based networks like BrightKite and the location features with Twitter since 2008, and I’ve been trying the newer networks such as FourSquare in preparation for a keynote that I’m giving at the SpotOn conference in Helsinki in September.

As I started saying in 2005, in this age of information-overload, two things are key to success: Relationship and relevance. Social media allows news organisations to much more directly build and maintain their relationships with both members of the public who simply want to consume their content and also with people who want to collaborate or contribute to news coverage. In a world with so many information choices, relevance is extremely valuable. This weekend, I spoke to the Gates Scholars at Cambridge, and many of the questions to the panel that I was on were about finding and filtering the vast ocean of information available. To me location is one filter for relevance.

There are two ways to interpret this question: Will the current generation of location-based networks have staying power? Will location itself have staying power?

In using FourSquare, I actually find the game element rather simplistic. Without a native app on my Nokia N82 (am considering buying Gravity, but its £8 is higher than my impulse threshold for buying a mobile app), the friction is too high for me. I am too aware that FourSquare is trying to trick me into surfacing my location. For Google’s Latitude, I set it and forget it, and I see my friends on my Google Map. That service hasn’t hit a critical mass of users in my offline social networks to be all that useful.

However, in convincing people to reveal their location, FourSquare is already beginning to partner with media and other companies to sell other location-based services. Frankly, I don’t need the psychological trickery of points and mayor-ships to get me to check-in, if I get a useful service from revealing my location.

That’s where I see location being interesting, not as an element of games like Gowalla or FourSquare, but as a fundamental enabling technology like RSS. Very few people use RSS directly in standalone readers as I do, but many more people use RSS without even knowing it. Location will be one of those underlying, enabling technologies.

The big difference between RSS and location is the issue of privacy and security connected to revealing one’s location. Lots of people follow me on Twitter who I don’t know. I have a category of contacts on Facebook “People I don’t know”. I am not going to let people I don’t know in the real world know where I am in the real world. I’m working through whether I want to be selective in my contacts on FourSquare or selective in checking in.

Location is going to be a powerful feature in new services. That has staying power. Part of me thinks that services like Gowalla and FourSquare are very first generation at this point. They have a certain Friendster feel about them. However, FourSquare is evolving very quickly, and its very clear business model means that it will have the space to experiment.

Those are the questions that I can think of off the top of my head. If people have more, leave a comment. I’ll try to answer them before Suw and I start our summer break on Thursday.

Hulu Unveils Subscription Service For $9.99 a Month – Media Decoder Blog –

Kevin: Stunning move by Hulu. $10 a month buys you access (in the US) to every espisode of every show that its affiliated networks provide. That's on your computer, your iPhone, your iPad, some internet-connected TVs and soon the XBox and PS3. Woah. It will still have ads, but who cares? This is possibly the most clueful move by big content yet. Quincy Smith, a former chief executive of CBS Interactive and a founding partner of Code Advisors, said: " And it certainly concedes that the future of TV is video, not just on-air or on-demand, but also online and on mobile.”

Economist reports success of mobile phone mag sales – Press Gazette

Kevin: Dominic Ponsford with Press Gazette reports on a novel new scheme by the Economist that sends a text message to readers in the UK to see summaries of the stories in the next issue and order a copy directly from their mobile phone. The copy is delivered overnight. The Economist boosted their sales 1.2% in the UK, even thought they consider the market "mature".

NewsRewired: Mobile news and services

This is a live blog. I work to be as accurate and comprehensive as possible, but you might see some grammatical errors and the odd typo.

Ilicco Elia has been working at Reuters for 20 years. He got into mobile when redesigning the mobile site 8 years ago or so when people had PDAs and synced them to read the news. The news was as fresh as their last sync.

Two or three years ago, they started the mojo or mobile journalism project. Christian Payne aka Documentally said you never should have called it mobile journalism. Journalists should all be mobile. Reuters gave them a Nokia N95 and told them to take video, pics and write story. Immediate reaction from journalists: “Are you going to pay me three times as much?” No.

However, every journalist they gave the kit to came back and raved about how it allowed them to tell the story in the way that they wanted, whether that was with audio, video, pictures or text. He quoted one of their award winning journalists talking about using the N95 covering conflict in Chad. The journalist said that it didn’t replace a camera with a £3,000 body, but that it added to the coverage.

Michael Targett, online and digital development editor at Flightglobal. Industry events are key to their coverage. They sent a reporter Jon Ostrower to cover the maiden flight of the Boeing 787. He took an iPhone, a ‘decent’ camera and a laptop. He wrote 14 long blog posts. He posted 142 tweets, 282 images and four videos. He did 25 ‘live shows’. It shows what can be done with the right attitude and the right kit.

A reader lauded Ostrower and Flightglobal’s coverage saying it made him feel as if he was there.

They also cover air shows. A quarter of their annual display advertising budget came from the landing page of the Paris Air Show last year. They have added features to their show coverage. For the Dubai air show, one of their readers said that FlightGlobal’s.

The next presentation was about Yelp. It was basically an overview of the review service. They have been adding a million uniques a month, and as Glyn Mottershead noted on Twitter:

yelp are getting 27% of searches from iphone app #newsrw every 5 seconds call made from the app!

The last speaker, Sam Jones, is director of strategy of Kyte. Mobile is the fastest growing segment of video consumption. It increased by 55% in 2009. (I wonder how low of a starting point that was.) Trinity Mirror, Fox News and the Huffington Post are all working with Kyte. Kyte has a moble video producer app. They showed footage from the iPhone taken by a Fox News reporter. Mobile networks remained up even as they struggled with other connectivity.

I think that one key point was that this really reduced the cost of video production. Kyte is also allowing reporters to take a bit of video and easily post to a publisher’s website, Facebook and mobile web, iPhone and iPad almost instantaneously. People can also interact around the video with a similar app across platforms.

Mobile data costs

The first question from the audience was about data costs. Elia said that he’s a heavy corporate and personal mobile data user, he usually uses 500 to 600MB. He asked his provider, Vodafone, how much it would cost him to upload 100MB of data on their network. They couldn’t answer. That was the biggest issue Elia said, the lack of pricing predictability. Targett said that during a recent coverage trip in Europe, Ostrower, in the course of doing his job, ran up a £700 data bill. Fascinating issue.

When I was travelling in the US in 2008 for work, I hired local data gear, both for better coverage and for lower cost.


In terms of fragmentation, Elia was talking about the huge number of platforms that he has to support currently for mobile: iPhone, Android, Blackberry and a myriad of Nokia platforms. He hope that HTML5 would end this issue. Sam Jones talked about how divisive HTML5 was in the industry and the fear of a VHS versus Betamax style format war. He also added that the growth in apps was bigger in terms of growth than anything Apple had seen on the iTunes store.

Apps and workflow

Targett of Flightglobal made a really great point that apps were providing a better workflow for journalists in the field. People didn’t need to offload images from a digital SLR to a laptop to upload them. They could upload the images directly from the phone.

Mobile has changed his newsroom. “Talented and able reporters are becoming more autonomous,” he said. They do have a support team in the office who edit some of the video, but mobile tools have allowed journalists to be out in the field more. It’s a great point, and one that I make often. Technology can be liberating. Most journalists who use it want to spend more time out in the field and closer to the story.

I have my own thoughts, but if the technology allows for more mobility, why do journalists spend more time in the office? (That’s assuming that you think they are in the office more.) Discuss.

“OK open systems beat great closed systems every time”

The title of this post is a quote, via Steve Yelvington, from Prodigy’s Vice President of marketing around the time that the Web arrived and changed the online game. Usually I just reference links like this in Delicious, but Steve’s post Early to the game but late to learn how to play needs a little more attention.

In the current business climate for newspapers, Steve brings a wealth of experience and history that few folks in the industry have and, as he points out, it is not that newspaper didn’t try to adapt but that they tried to adapt the web to their existing business rather than adapting for the web. Newspapers tried to keep their closed systems as they moved online, locking their content in online services. The web might have arrived ‘pathetic and weak’ but it was ‘open and extensible’, says Steve, and it eventually buried online services like Prodigy, Compuserve and even AOL. He quotes Jack Schafer from a Slate piece titled “How Newspapers Tried to Invent the Web:”

From the beginning, newspapers sought to invent the Web in their own image by repurposing the copy, values, and temperament found in their ink-and-paper editions.

I’ve long fought against the re-purposing reflex of shovelware, mindlessly slapping content from another medium onto the web. As we move to integrated newsrooms, we’re often still treating the web as just another distribution channel that simply has to be optimised for Google. Here is why it isn’t. To quote Steve:

Many of us who were there at the time knew that human interaction, not newspaper reading, would be the most powerful motivator of online usage. Certainly I knew it; I had run a dialup bulletin board for years as a hobby. But as hundreds of newspapers rushed to “go online,” few even bothered to ask basic questions about content strategy. It was, many declared as of they were saying something wise, “just another edition.”

But it’s not.

If human interaction is the ‘killer app’ of the internet, which I agree with Steve it is, how would this make a news site different? It is only in the so-called Web 2.0 era that we finally started adding social elements into our news web sites. And if human interaction is primary motivator of online usage, can we as journalists fail to interact and still hope to remain relevant? Open systems are not just about a choice of technology. The philosophy of open systems is also about how we use technology. Open is a philosophy that drives us to use technology to bolster human interaction. It is why Steve talks about the mission statement of his news site as being to increase the social capital in the communities Morris serves.

Jay Rosen has been doing a lot of thinking about closed versus open editorial systems, and he characterised this comment as one of his clearest comparisons yet of the two systems:

The strength of a closed system is that it has controls, in same sense that an accounting system puts controls in place. Stories are assigned, reported, edited and checked (copy edited) by a team using a protocol, or newsroom standard. These are the hallmarks of the closed system. The controls create the reliability, right?


Open systems take advantage of cheap production tools and the magic distribution system of the Web. This leads to a flood of “cheap” production in the blogosphere, some of which is valuable and worth distributing in wider rings, much of which is not. Thus, a characteristic means of creating value online is what I called the intelligent filter to do that sorting and choosing.

If you look at successful open systems, they don’t try to prevent “bad,” unreliable or low quality stories from being created or published. They don’t try to prevent the scurrilous. But the Los Angeles Times would. Typically, successful sites within open systems “filter the best stuff to the front page.” And this is how they try to become reliable, despite the fact that anyone can sign up and post rants.

That way of creating trust (or reliability) is different than the way a closed system–like the health team at Time magazine–does it. Therefore the ethics will be different.

And he talks about hybrid systems, which is where I think some of the most interesting work is going on. We live in an AND world not an OR world, and I fear sometimes journalists’ tendency to paint the world in black and white infects our approach to our own way of working.

For me, I don’t use technology simply because I’m neophilic. I use it because it helps me do better journalism, in a way that is more useful to people in my network, or as Dan Gillmor says, the people formerly known as the audience. The internet as an open system means that my methods aren’t a fixed destination but an ever evolving, extensible process that adapts as the network changes, whether I conceive of the network in terms of the technology or the people I’m interacting with. Through all this my core journalistic values and ethics haven’t changed. That’s the constant.

I’m feeling a little philosophical at the start of the New Year. I am an online journalist. If the road trip I took for the US elections reminded me of anything, it reminded me of the power of networked journalism, which in terms of both the technology and the human connectedness increases almost constantly. Let’s just look at the expanding reach of mobile phones and data. In 1999, I got my first mobile modem and started to be freed from my desk. It ran at 9600 baud, slow even then. In 2009, I used a DSL-class mobile network card, and when I was on the move, I used a Nokia N82, which like the iPhone and Blackberry, allowed me to continue to use key internet services like Twitter, Flickr and Facebook. The network is not only mobile, it is on my mobile.

Open systems are a huge opportunity for journalists, not a threat to our professional livelihoods. We journalists don’t have to limit ourselves to closed systems, we have a vast range of open systems that can support and improve our work. I know that 2008 ended with a lot of anxiety for many journalists, much of it from a sense that our professional lives were out of our control. But by embracing the network, you can start taking back control of your professional destiny.

Media08: China’s emerging digital culture

Kaiser Kuo, Group Director, Digital Strategy Ogilvy China (also a rock star)

China’s digital culture shares a lot of features with anglo cultures but also eastern neighbours – mobile culture of Japan and Korea. He is going to take some time to “bust some persistent myths”.

I was born in the States. He has lived in China continuously for 12 years. He is most famous for starting China’s first heavy metal band, Tang Dynasty. He plays guitar in Chunqiu. They think of CDs as name cards. You can’t possibly make money on the sales of physical units. He worked for tech mags including Red Herring. He was bureau chief for China. He is director of digital strategy for China for Ogilvy. He writes the Ogilvy China Digital Watch.

China’s wild, wild web. There are lots of caveats for foreign companies entering the Chinese markets. It is ferociously competitive. Any day now, China will pass the US as the country in terms of internet users. There 210 million internet users, and growth is accelerating. Growth has accelerated to more than 50% on an annualised basis. About half of those people are using broadband. Overall, internet penetration is extremely low: 15% as opposed to 60% in the US. It will not approach the level of the US for another decade.

  • The average age is 32. In the US, that average age is 42. Roughly half are 24 years or younger. 40% of internet use amongst that age group.
  • Predominantly urban, though growth is faster in rural China
  • Relative neophytes: Half of current users not even online two years ago
  • Focused on entertainment, not information
  • Used to be overwhelmingly male, now relatively gender balanced

Instant messaging culture is massively important. Only 14% of internet users do not use IM. In the US, 61% of internet users do not use IM. QQ users send 40 messages a day, as opposed to 15 messages a day for AIM, one of the most popular IM clients in the US.

Chinese use IM as a primary internal and external business communications tool. Do not assume that Chinese staff on IM are not doing their jobs. The IM client QQ is so popular that they named a car after it. You must understand QQ to understand the market. It captures the zeitgeist. QQ facts

  • 86.19% market share in IM
  • 715 m registered accounts
  • 288 m active users
  • 36.2 m peak concurrent users

Internet cafes are extremely important, second only to home use. People go to cafes to play online games. The larger chains have 120 machines per cafe. High end gaming rigs.

Not a lot of UGC use. Newbies on the web are not jumping on many YouTube clones or blogging. It’s undeniable where trend is going.

Chinese BBS culture. There are 3 billion registered BBS users.

Number of mobile subscribers in China: 550 million. That’s 2.5 times the number of internet usres. It is growing at a rate of 7.5 m mobile subscribers per month.

More than Europe or the US, about 35% of mobile users are listening to mobile music.

Problems with mobile marketing:

  • SMS spam has turned off consumers.
  • WAP use rates remain low.
  • Lack of meaningful competition for China Mobile provides little incentive to push WAP adoption.
  • New subscribers are overwhelmingly prepaid with limited use.
  • Fast 3G is slow in coming
  • Mobile ads dominated by content with little brand advertising.
  • There are few cases of compelling ad projects

Without a viable advertising market, development of the mobile internet will be badly hobbled.

Will China’s digital culture look more like Japan or Korea’s or America’s? Probably more like the US.

People say that China copies but doesn’t innovate. He joked about C2C not being consumer to consumer but copy to China. He says that China will become a net IP exporter. Blame the VCs? Venture capitalists are not an adventurous lot. If you are a Chinese entrepreneur, and you want to grab some of the billions.

He highlighted the Maxthon browser. First tabbed broswer. Only Chinese internet company with global footprint. He also pointed to high level of P2P users. Software and digital magazines are being distributed . ZCom, Poco, Vika. 60m users.

He was going to challenge some of the myths about the ‘Great Firewall’ and talk about western media’s obsession with net censorship there, but he ran out of time.

Technorati Tags: ,

Reuters-Nokia Mobile Journalism Toolkit and mindset

Last night, Suw and I went to Reuters headquarters in Canary Wharf for an Online News Association event. Reuters was talking about its MJT – mobile journalism toolkit (they used to call it MoJo for mobile journalism but for some reason aren’t using the term any longer). Reuters partnered with Nokia to develop the toolkit after working with the handset maker on a mobile Flash-lite application to highlight their content on the N95. Nokia is trying to understand the needs of journalists in the field and how that might drive development of special applications for consumer-oriented mobile phones like the N95. Reuters is exploring what is possible with the current generation of phones (and networks) while doing some experimentation with what types of story-telling this might allow.

The basic toolkit includes:

  • a standard Nokia N95
  • a Nokia Bluetooth keyboard
  • a Sony digital mic with a bespoke adapter for the phone
  • a special tripod
  • a solar charger
  • a Power Monkey supplemental charger

They also have slightly modified the RSS output from the phone’s production app and WordPress’ RSS intake to allow for some additional RSS elements that Reuters needs in order to handle content correctly. Video is uploaded direct to their hosting service and text goes straight to the blog platform, and an editor is automatically alerted that content has been sent for review and publication. The material can then be published to various platforms.

The discussion was lead by Ilicco Elia, Mobile Product Manager Europe; alongside Mark Jones, Global Community Editor; Matt Cowan, European Technology, Media and Telecommunications Correspondent; and Nic Fulton, chief scientist for Reuters media. Ilicco gave an overview of how Reuters and Nokia decided to work together.

Nic said that they decided to work on multi-horizon strategy, looking at what they could do right now, what they could do in the near future and aspirational things they might want to do a lot further down the line. Right now, the N95 takes 5-megapixel stills, near DVD-quality video and works on 3.5G data and WiFi networks. But Ilicco is already looking to the future:

We see in five years, HD video, extremely powerful CPUs. You might say it’s a laptop, but it will still be a personal, mobile device.

They worked directly with Timo Koskinen, the project manager for Nokia’s research centre. Matt Cowan talked about his experience with the toolkit, showing video he shot of Vint Cerf at the Media Guardian’s Edinburgh TV festival. My colleague Jemima Kiss has an overview of the experiment and talked with Matt about the toolkit for the Guardian’s digital content blog.

Before joining Reuters, Matt worked for Canadian CTV covering California. There he did work shooting and editing his own pieces, so he had experience with multimedia reporting. Matt said that he fed back his experiences directly to Nokia. The phone is a bit difficult to hold steady, which isn’t surprising – it’s not like balancing a hefty traditional TV camera on your shoulder, which provides some stability.

I’ve experienced this same problem myself, first hand, doing a video journalism project for the BBC in 2003. I used a Sony PD150, a ‘pro-sumer’ digital video camera. Doing handheld work takes practice because the light camera is much easier to shake, despite built-in motion compensation.

Other downsides:

  • unreliability of 3G networks (Ilicco said they had spoken to Vodafone but didn’t seem very pleased with response)
  • battery life, although this improving
  • it takes six hours for the solar panel to recharge the phone
  • the brutal costs for data roaming charges

Matt talked later about this would allow journalists to develop relationships with the audience.

There were slightly predictable questions about quality. One of the journalists said “cutting quality is a fancy way of saying cutting corners”. One of the shots, an opportunity shot backstage at a New York fashion show was a bit jerky, and one person asked what the point of the video was.

What I really liked from the Reuters team was this spirit of experimentation. Matt said:

I don’t think that this will change everything overnight. It is an incredibly exciting tool. It will change how we report certain stories. … It’s not ‘I’m here in front of this building, and this happened 10 hours ago’. You have immediate interaction, an intimacy. You’re in the environment.

As Howard Owens recently said after widely circulated comments from Rob Curley about the difference between mindset and skillset, having the right skills doesn’t mean that someone is open to innovation and entrepreneurial ideas. Owens calls it the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset.

The fixed mindset might say something like, “I got into this business to be a writer, not a videographer.” The growth mindset might say, “Video? Cool! Let me give it a try.”

And I think he puts the ‘quality’ debate in perspective:

You don’t make “quality” a religion and refuse to try new forms of reporting because it doesn’t immediately meet your quality standards. You are willing to try and fail, and keep trying until you get it right, and you don’t resent others doing the same.

There were some comments about how we would see “Bloggers doing this in a year’s time”, but as Suw said last night, bloggers have been doing this for years. I often say that keeping an eye on bloggers and other grassroots media is a good way to find inspiration for new ways to get the story. I still remember at the 2000 Democratic Convention in Los Angeles seeing an IndyMedia reporter  backing up as mounted police moved towards him. He has carrying a PowerBook with a webcam and an early wireless modem strapped on it, sending live video from the streets to the net.

But one thing that was refreshing was to hear Reuters talk about community and bloggers in such a positive way. Mark talked about Reuters’ community strategy:

My role as community editor to create a bit of identity around editorial talent and be more open to the audience. We also want to be open to the web including the the blogosphere and build networks around our journalistic expertise.

Reuters have their own blogs and their YouWitness user-submitted photo and story effort. They have invested in Pluck and its Blogburst aggregator service. They also partner with multi-lingual blog community Global Voices, including on their Reuters Africa project, and they have a carbon trading community.

And Matt said that he saw advances in mobile technology as an even bigger boon to bloggers. He knows the founder of eco-community TreeHugger who used to have to trek to internet cafes to feed his site but now can do it almost anywhere. Bloggers can “build a brand with their own thoughts.”

In 1999, I covered Hurricane Floyd as it made landfall in North Carolina for the BBC News website. I filed throughout the night, but after the storm passed, it knocked out electricity and phone lines throughout the eastern third of the state. I wasn’t able to file a number of pictures I had taken because I simply had no way to get them back to the back to base. Within months after the storm, I had a data cable for my mobile phone. As the mobile technology got better, I could do more in the field. In 2006, on a trip for the BBC’s World Have Your Say, I was able to use a 3G data card in the US to set up a mobile WiFi hotspot and keep us connected when standard communications channels failed.

Mobile technology lets journalists stay closer to the story and connected not only to our office but also to our audience. The news organisations that experiment now will be best placed to take advantage of the journalistic possibilities that ever-advancing mobile technology allows.

Tags: , , , , ,

X|Media|Lab Melbourne: Liz Heller, Buzztone

Sincere apologies to my fellow mentors for not getting some of my notes up sooner, but without WiFi on Friday and the mentoring all weekend, I usually ended up posting late at night. Friday, I stayed up until 130 in the morning. I did as much as I could in between sessions on the weekend, but being a mentor, I wanted to do justice to the groups who came to discuss their projects. As for continuing the late night blogging, exhaustion prevented me from doing more over the weekend.

Liz Heller started out in sociology, and she is fascinated how people travel in ‘groups and loops’. They formed a company called Buzztone, which “creates award-winning lifestyle, pop culture, urban and guerrilla marketing campaigns”. She went on to describe social motivations to keep in mind when thinking about social software and services:

We share a lot in common. We want to be a part of something. We want to share what we love. We all want to be just a little famous. We all want to think that we are the first to find something new. We all want to have friends.

People want to stay in touch with friends they already have. Social networks are seen as ways to deepen existing friendships not supplant them. (Bravo Liz. I couldn’t agree more. Media always cover online social networks as if they supplant not supplement real world social bonds. For most of the people I know, it’s just not so. And Liz added a new word my vocabulary: Frobligations, friends referrals through other friends that you feel obligated to befriend.)

Her work revolves around marketing campaigns that relied on some of these social needs. They used a social club and lots of social outreach to connect women to French wine. They used feedback from the members to feed back into the social club. (Again, I think this is a key thing that most ‘social marketing’ companies forget: Feedback. Most of the time, they focus only on seeding their message in social networks, not using those social networks to make their products better and their companies genuinely more responsive.)

They also developed a student network for Microsoft called Spoke. It was the first social network for tech students. It was global and regionalised. It helped to change student perceptions of Microsoft.

Social networks are a filter. She pointed out, OurChart (a social network for lesbians from the popular programme The L Word), Block Savvy (a niche urban-focused social network) and a number of others. (When people ask me about how I stay on top of developments in digital media and journalism, and one of the best tools I have is a the dozen or so digital journalism experts who blog in my RSS reader. They are my filter, my radar, my early warning trend watchers. Now, seeing all of these social networks developing, I must say that it reminds me slightly of the late boom when sites took an e-commerce model and chased increasingly small sales niches. Remember all of those pet e-commerce sites? I think there is value in focused communities online, but that is value to me as an end-user. I’m not so sure about value in terms of a sustainable business model. However, I can see the justification if you’re looking to build a social network around a marketing campaign, even if that isn’t my particular focus.)

Groups and loops for causes. She showed, a social network following on from Live Earth and Zaadz. Social media encourages face-to-face engagement. and all encourage real world events. (Again, it was really good to hear someone counter the media-driven myth that online social activity creates a world of anti-social people. Whether it’s Twitter, Flickr, Dopplr or my blog, these things reinforce my real world social interaction. They helped jump start my social life when I moved to London a couple of years ago. But as Suw says, Twitter gets her out to the pub to spend time with friends.)

I liked the ideas Liz was presenting. The marketing-sensitive consumer in me was possibly too aware of commercial purpose of some of these projects, but Liz wasn’t just talking about trying to infect social networks with marketing messages, which seems to me the purpose of some viral campaigns. Social marketing campaigns that don’t listen, aren’t social, even if they are targeting social spaces online, and her emphasis on using feedback from the community is often missed by many digital marketing companies.

And I really liked Liz’ emphasis that there is a symbiotic relationship between online and offline community. It’s a myth that online community is a parasitic drain on real world social interaction, and it’s great to hear someone like Liz challenge conventional wisdom.

Technorati Tags: , ,

X|Media|Lab Melbourne: Martin Hoffman, Moko and Loop mobile

Martin Hoffman is with Moko, a mobile-only social network, not using mobile as an extension of the PC experience as Bebo and MySpace are doing. Social networks have their own metrics, looking beyond page views and looking at the length of user sessions. Moko boasts 72 minutes per user visit.

Mobile social networking really is about communication, and he pointed to the development of SMS. Last year, SMS generated $70bn of revenue worldwide. He said that SMS really took off when the networks interconnected, but the carriers still haven’t learned this with data and web services. Bebo has done a deal with Orange. MySpace has struck a deal with Vodafone. Mobile data is not as open as the internet. The handset manufacturers add another layer of complication. Nokia and LG might want different user experiences on their handsets.

Nokia bought a small social network called Twango. Imagine that Dell had spent $100m to buy a social networking. If you use a Dell, a Mac or any other PC, you don’t think about buying a computer to access a social networking site. The challenge for mobile is that you can have great services but can’t get access to users. And he said he didn’t even want to talk about data charges.

The mobile phone is the most profound platform out there he said. But it’s clear that carriers and handset manufacturers have not learned the value of openness.

Technorati Tags: , , ,