Traditional Media v. New Media Punch Up at #pubcamp Sydney

It was very interesting to see the panel discussion at #pubcamp Sydney last week – the topic was “How media companies are dealing with the challenges of this new world – including traditional media, online media and hybrid ventures,” the moderator: Mark Jones (Filtered Media); and panelists: Kathy Bail (Fairfax), Jackie Blondell (Hardie Grant), Stuart Clarke (homepageDaily), Ben Gerholt (IDG), Tony Kenna (Abundant Media), David O’Sullivan (Media Publishing / itechne).

The panel pretty much argued that editorial processes of traditional media is good and holy, that blogs are often poorly written and that most new media is not edited properly and is done by people who don’t know how to write. I remain confused as to why bad writing is so scary, there is so much of it in the newspapers & magazines everyday.

The stance taken by the panel really seemed to polarise the audience and the twitter backchannel went berserk.

It is ironic how the participants in the traditional media have lost sight of their own historical roots in citizen journalism. News media has been taken over from the early heady days, where news media advocated radical social change (like getting the kiddies out of the coal mines or universal male suffrage), by corporate entities (mostly men in suits or the old media silverbacks as I like to call them) who tend to advocate for the status quo.

Also there appears to be a failure to understand how the forces of fragmentation are beginning to impact media consumption. The internet has created the ability for communities of like minded individuals to connect, share and co-create content. Previously traditional media was a force for creating consensus because there were so few alternative voices. Now alternative voices are becoming the norm.

In spite of what many folks in the new media camp like to say, I think that the imminent demise of traditional media is totally over-hyped. It reminds me of the similar declarations of the death of the mainframe in the 1990s. Mainframes are still with us and continuing to do a good job in their rightful place. Traditional media will be much like the mainframe, useful and helpful in its place.

But on the other side it is amusing how much of the activity in the ‘new’ media space is actually using newer technology to do traditional media type activity. The only viable monetization model continues to be advertising. And I don’t really think things will change, even in the new media space, unless we can identify alternative monetization strategies.

Grass roots change in the enterprise

I love the whole web 2.0 philosophy and the idea that we can break down organisational barriers and make workplaces better places for people to create and innovate. But an earlier series of comments by Nick Gonios got me thinking how this kind of grass roots change can occur in organisations.

Having spent the better part of my adult life in large corporations and working on large projects I can see why the web 2.0 philosophical approach to things is a good idea. But what I am still trying to understand is how organisations can be open to adopting this kind of approach, and how we as individuals can help this to occur.

Think about the characteristics of larger organisational structures. They are generally hierarchical and often there is high power-distance between staff and management. It is interesting to think about the *social networks at play within in an organisation since this is what really determines which memes get traction.

  • Which way does information flow?
  • Who does information flow through?
  • Who talks to and with who?
  • What forms do the formal & informal communications take?
  • How do new ideas enter? Who’s allowed to bring them in?
  • Who has permission to do new things? Is that permission formal or informal?
  • What kind of people (roles, gender, departments, etc) are allowed to push boundaries?

These types of questions are critical to work out the organisational boundaries for change. Why? Because memes are catching and you catch them from the people you hang out with. If your meme is to become ascendant then people who influence the power structures of the organisation need to catch your meme. Thus for guerrilla change agents enterprise social network mapping is a critical tool.

It is clear to me that change within an organisation must be given permission in some way, either formally or informally, otherwise the persons advocating the change will be ejected or marginalised.

It is all very well to say just go build a prototype and they will come. However, if the people in the organisation are not able to put that idea onto their mental maps or have reached their own limits of innovation then the idea cannot progress. This is why startup-land is full of people who pitched their great ideas to their previous employer and were rebuffed.

But, for those who want to stay inside an organisation and change it, what can they do? I’ve got some ideas that I’ll keep working on, but anyone who’s got the answer should let me know.

* social networks in this context means offline (not Facebook etc) relations between individuals and teams within the organisation

Fundamentals Matter for Web 2.0 Business Cases

Explanatory note – this post is from the perspective of implementing web 2.0 within an enterprise. As per Nick Gonios’ very good suggestion in the comments below, if you doing it yourself as a startup just go for it (check out his comment for the details).

At a recent conference I ran a workshop about building business cases for web 2.0 and one of the feedback responses was that the person was disappointed that all I talked about was ‘generic business case’ stuff.

The funny thing is that I see so many business cases for web 2.0 or enterprise 2.0 projects that fail to gain traction or ultimately fail to deliver business benefits precisely due to a failure to prepare a good business case.

The important thing to understand is that the nature of the technology proposed is almost irrelevant, more relevant are the following:

  • how the technology supports the overall business strategy – you have no business proposing it if it does not support or extend the business strategy
  • what the story or narrative is that makes sense of the proposed technology for the business – any new technology adoption is a change program and needs to be driven as such
  • how to bring all the various parts of the business together to gain benefit from the new technology – stakeholder engagement and management
  • how the new technology will drive changes in operational areas of the business – how business processes, staffing, other resources will need to adapt to deliver and support the new technology
  • the current internal capability to deliver the technology – this is at both technical and business operations levels, also often people don’t want to call in experts

That is by no means an exhaustive list, but it is the absolute basics. Whether you are putting forward a business case for web 2.0 or some even newer and funkier technology get the fundamentals right and success will flow.

If you are unable to put together the story of why the proposed technology will improve the business somehow then that is a red flag. It’s a sign to go back to the drawing board and keep working on the idea. Bad projects always start badly, the business case is often where the rot sets in. A good business case is a sound foundation for execution of a project.

There is lots of good advice out there on how do deliver successful projects, and some exposition of project failures. Check out some of the links below…

IT Project Failures
Australian Institute of Project Management
Project Management Institute

The Un-Email Generation

One interesting thing about teaching accounting students at the university is that I get to ask them what they think about various web trends that I follow. It’s nothing formal, more of a straw poll or temperature check. But it still helps me to understand a more mainstream view of current web trends. This is important to help me stay grounded since many of my friends are uber-geeks who are definitely not a representative sample.

So far this year, the big thing in my classes is how much anyone under 30 just does not really ‘get’ email. They state a clear preference for instant messaging (IM) and mobile phone text messaging. Hardly any of them use MySpace, and only a handful use Facebook, some use Hi 5. Zero among them have ever heard of Bebo.

This aligns with other anecdotal evidence – e.g. Jeremiah Owyang’s younger sibling who told him that “I only use email to get a hold of old people like you”.

On the other hand, my informal research indicates that people over 30 actually cannot imagine why you would use anything else but email! They also seem to find the notion of using social networking sites quite baffling. A few even confessed that they had never purchased anything online due to security concerns (not surprising as I suspect that mature age accounting students might err on the side of caution in a number of areas).

Funnily enough, I hate both email and voicemail, much preferring the short text based message services for their brevity and utility. Thus my liking for Twitter. And, given the recent problems that I’ve been having with my email services, it has just reinforced my feelings.

The LOLs Prayer

Warlach talks to Ceiling Cat
Sometimes when you’re having a bad day the only recourse is Ceiling Cat:

Our Cat, who art in ceiling,
Hallowed be thy LOLs.
Thy cheezeburger come.
Thy wants be done,
On floor as it is in ceiling.
Give us this day our daily Noms.
And forgive us our do not wants,
As we forgive those who do not want against us.
And lead us not into curiousness,
But deliver us from basement cat.
For thine is the cheezeburger,
and the bucket,
and the LOLs,
for evers and evers.

(Hat tip: Warlach and NickHodge)

Social networking traffic v. email

Late last year Hitwise reported that social networking internet traffic surpassed email service internet traffic in the UK. This trend was also noted in Asia.

This is a signifier of a shift in the role of online social networks, and ordinary people are increasingly finding utility in social networks. This all makes sense when you realise that human beings already doing social networking in real life. The online versions merely enable broader connections than are possible in real life not using technology.

In real world social networks it is hard to stay in contact with people who have moved away from your location. But online social networks enable us to stay connected with people who are not physically proximate. What are businesses going to do about this?

Looking forward to Pubcamp Sydney

“Do you ever get the feeling you don’t really understand where the Web’s heading (let alone this Web 2.0 or Web 3.0 you keep hearing about) or that it’s leaving you behind? You’re not alone. The simple fact is no one really knows for sure or has all the answers. So, what can I do about it? Come along to “PubCamp – The Web 2.0 Media Day – A Conference and Unconference” — a free event about the future of media on the Web — and get some group therapy for dealing with this precocious teenager and its seemingly limitless potential.”

Lots of interesting speakers (including little ole me) – list here

This #pubcamp event is on in Sydney on Wednesday 18th June at 3pm at the Marriott Sydney Harbour Hotel, 30 Pitt St, near Circular Quay.

More info:

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

Psychology of why reuse fails – courtesy of GeekAndPoke

This amusing cartoon by Geek and Poke captures one of the important reasons why so much of our planned software reuse fails. Thus projects often fail to achieve the economy of scale benefits from the business case.

Within companies there is often little trust between departments and an unwillingness to rely upon things that other people have built.

The real question is how can we overcome this problem so as to achieve the benefits of shared resources and reuse?

The first step in resolving the problem for any organisation is recognition that this kind of problem exists. The next step is to bring the issue out into the open.

Often there are war stories within the business that explain how or why the lack of trust has evolved. It is important to uncover these reasons. Once things are out in the open they can be managed.

My rule of thumb for problems with technology projects is that about 70% of the problems are in our heads (us being all the people involved in the project), while the other 30% of problems are logistical (e.g. stuff takes longer to do than planned; or stuff gets delivered late).

Very rarely are the problems actually about the technology in and of itself. More often the problems that appear to be technical result from hidden issues with people that remain un-addressed, or architectural problems that lead to the selection of inappropriate hardware or software.

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire

#myspacedev jam Sydney 0.1

Went to the inaugural MySpace Dev Jam in Sydney today. Great chance to hear from some startups that are doing some work with MySpace and an extremely funky venue (see some pics here). It was interesting to see how they are using Open Social and they have extended this in some areas too.

Firstly we heard from Jeremy LeBard about his project BookTagger which has launched a My Space application. He spoke frankly about the good and the bad. Interestingly the key good point from his perspective is the support from the local MySpace office team.

Then Jodee Rich gave us a quick preview of his new project PeopleBrowsr, which is still in alpha testing. Looked like a really cool application (can’t wait to get my hands on this one). Jodee also shared some good advice on doing a startup, doing offshore development, and some pros & cons of the various social networks for developers.

Finally, Daniel Reyes from MySpace gave us a demo of how easy it is to build a simple application. At this stage I had to dash out to a meeting so missed the rest of the time to build an application. But plan to give it whirl soon.

By Carruthers via Aide-mémoire