Theme for 2010: reinvention and reinvigoration

Each year, instead of making new year resolutions, I pick a theme for the year. That way when I get sidetracked (as often happens)

I can simply return to the theme. Also with a theme there are often many different things I can do to support it.

For 2009 my theme was simplicity and frugal living. The results here were pretty good on the whole. A big reduction in my carbon

footprint; using public transport wherever possible; and living local as much as possible.

The idea for my 2010 theme came to me while traveling home via train from a lovely dinner with @mpesce – the words reinvention and reinvigoration popped into my head.

It seems to me that this is something that needs to happen on both a personal and societal level. We need to re-imagine the way we work, we need to reclaim healthful approaches to living, we need to find sustainable ways to exist.

The next step is to consider which areas of my life will be the starting point for reinvention and reinvigoration.

Future of the Web | The Scoop

Recently I had the honour of joining Mark Pesce & Ross Dawson on Mark Jones’ podcast The Scoop where we discussed the The future of the Web.

It was a fascinating discussion – so many interesting ideas to consider:

What happens when our real and virtual worlds collide? And how will we live in this hyper-connected world? In part three of our “Future of” series, The Scoop is joined by Mark Pesce, futurist and ABC New Inventors judge; Kate Carruthers, a business and technology strategist; and Ross Dawson, futurist, author, speaker and chairman of Advanced Human Technologies.

You can check out the podcast here

Future of news – a direct quote from one Gen Y

Here’s a little quote from one of my Gen Y friends on my Facebook wall today:

“I won’t ever pay for normal news content ever again full stop. If i wanted to subscribe to something niche likes financial markets pieces etc, then potentially yes, but even then i would discerning. I think he needs to get with the program. Old empire = dead. “

Clearly a sample of one in this instance, but it’s not the first time I’ve heard this sentiment. Wonder how this is all going to work out for Rupert?

Is Mordy Koots a glimpse into the future of entertainment?

I had the pleasure of running into Jim Shomos the other night & he was telling me about his latest project – Mordy Koots.

This project is amazing in the way that it brings together so many of the threads of film, gaming, web and social computing. Lots of the ideas that people have discussed, such as the shifting consumption patterns for new media, are realised in this project.

Mordy Koots uses a different approach to telling a story. There are 10 x 3 minute action packed episodes delivered via web and mobile in partnership with NineMSN. It stars the very funny & endearing Shane Jacobsen (of Kenny fame) and is directed by Clayton Jacobsen.

This has not been launched yet, but Jim kindly gave me permission to use the clip. Check it out.

I suspect that this is a glimpse into the future of entertainment led by some Aussie ingenuity and the constraints of making feature films in smaller markets.

Blog action day 2009: What can one person do? #BAD09

Today is Blog Action Day 2009 & the topic is climate change.

“Climate change affects us all and it threatens more than the environment. It threatens to cause famine, flooding, war, and millions of refugees.

Given the urgency of the issue of climate change and the upcoming international climate negotiations in Copenhagen this December, we think the blogosphere has the unique opportunity to mobilize millions of people around expressing support for finding a sustainable solution to the climate crisis.”


As a somewhat sceptical individual I’m not bought into the idea of global warming nor of a coming ice age.  But as a rational thinker it seems prudent to be a good steward of the place where we live & which sustains us.

While I do not want us all to return to hunter-gatherer times and eschew modern conveniences, it does seem like a good time to direct our substantial collective intelligence towards find better ways of doing things.

In Australia we are already seeing the effects of climate change.  The recent devastating bushfires in Victoria appear to be a mere harbinger of what is to come.  We can expect to inhabit a much dryer and more fire-prone environment in some parts of the country.  While in other parts of the country we are seeing increasingly bad storms and cyclones.

To me this seems like a very big problem.  But all very big problems seem daunting unless they are chunked up.  This is a great case to apply the old maxim

Think global! Act local!

Here are some simple things some friends & I have done:

Kind supporters of Cupcake Camp Sydney

A number of organisations have stepped up to offer prizes for Cupcake Camp Sydney. I wanted to take the opportunity to thank them for their generosity, and also to show the prizes that our cupcake makers could win.

The Plantronics has provided one of their Discovery 925 Bluetooth earpiece.

It is a nifty designer headset for both men and women.

“Delivering exceptional audio performance, complemented by bold lines and distinctive finishes, the Plantronics Discovery 925 Bluetooth earpiece embodies technical craftsmanship previously unseen in the mobile accessories category.”

Plantronics has also provided on of their GameCom 367 Closed-Ear Gaming Headsets.

This headset “delivers an immersive audio experience with

50mm stereo speakers and earpods that redistribute pressure for maximum comfort.

The headset features a noise-canceling mic boom which allows you to

Adjust audio levels using in-line volume

and mic-mute controls.”

Altec Lansing have provided one of their Muzx 126 SnugFit noise-isolating earphones.

These are iPhone, MP3 and iPod compatible.

“Sound quality is excellent thanks to the use of wood and other materials to help sound resonate and gold plated plug for superior sound transfer.

The earphones also feature fashion detailing.”

Everyone who makes or buys and brings cupcakes to share is in the running to win one of these prizes. Again, a big thank-you to the donors.

Social Networking – Past & future

Social Networking – Past & future

Looking back to 2007 – and it seems so long ago now – social networking was just starting to get a bit of buzz happening.

Some of the social networks that we were talking about in 2007 included Bebo, MySpace, Second Life, and YouTube. Back in those days we were all talking about Second Life, and pondering how it might revolutionise business. Ross Dawson’s Impressions of Ad:tech Sydney 2007 gives a good flavour of some of the buzz at the time.

It is also of interest to note that some of the questions raised back in 2007 included: identity protection, growth of personal branding, how to do SEO & online marketing, how to incorporate social media into marketing plans. Funnily enough we are still searching for definitive answers to most of these even today.

Darren Rowse (aka ProBlogger) has a good summary of some his thoughts and concerns back in 2007 in his archives.

For me 2008 was the year of microblogging with a bunch of new betas, e.g. Twitter, Jaiku, Pownce. By mid-2009 the clear winner in microblogging so far is Twitter, but it has also been interesting to watch the evolution of Friend Feed.

Again, this marked a shift in the way people were using the internet. There was a move away from static web 1.0 mindsets, where the chief consumption mode was passive consumption, into a more active and collaborative co-option of technology to each user’s own purposes.

Social-Network Traffic Surpasses Web-based Email's in UKThis was a seismic shift in how ordinary people used the internet and applications. For me this is borne out by the Hitwise UK email v. social traffic statistics that showed social network traffic surpassing web email for the first time at the end of 2007.

[Source: Hitwise]

This trend arises, not because people suddenly stopped emailing each other in 2008, rather it is simply easier to send messages from within Facebook (or whatever social network they were using) than to open up an email program to send a message.

In any case, this phenomenon signifies a shift from the old utilitarian world of email to that of the integrated social network.  Where the integrated messaging and online presence was enabled without the need for users to purchase expensive unified communications platforms.

Looking forward

It is hard to predict the next big thing in particular (who could have predicted Facebook or Twitter in particular).  Rather it is probably safer to identify some trends that are driving technology innovation.

We are at a stage in the evolution of devices and bandwidth that will enable location based services to come into their own.  Their rise has been predicted many times but never at a time when the iPhone and its various competitors is a commodity product.  With the game changer of the mobile computing device (a.k.a. mobile phone) location based services are finally viable.  I suspect that we are going to see many contenders and it will be hard to guess which ones will win.  New products like FourSquare , Google Latitude are considered contenders in this space.  This trend especially taps into how teenagers use technology to stay in touch and find out where their friends are right now.

The other trend that is accelerating is video on demand.  This is another area that will continue to grow.  Where all the growth in the past few years has been in text based social computing I think we are about to see video based social computing and communication take off.  Again, this has been predicted before but the bandwidth and hardware were insufficient to support it.  Now though we have many devices that are ready to support high definition video over high bandwidth connections in the hands of ordinary people.  The usage trends show how significant this trend is– for example the growth of Hulu and the continued strength of YouTube.  Also international news services like the BBC and Australian Broadcasting service are seeing publication of video content as a public service with their iPlayer and iView services respectively.  Already this trend is impacting on television viewing figures and we can expect that to continue.

Innovation and technology predictions

“I think there is a world market for maybe five computers”.
Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943

It is easy to look at a statement like this and poke fun. Hindsight is a wonderful thing!

But as I have said on many occasions – innovation always comes unexpectedly & from the periphery. Very often the innovation is not a completely new technology, rather it is a new way of using or applying existing technology. The iPhone is a good example of this phenomenon – it is still a mobile phone, yet it changes the very playing field for mobile phones & computers in important ways.

But Watson’s quote shares a common feature with many technology predictions. Based upon then current knowledge of existing business models, technology and applications those predictions are often right at the point in time they are made.

For example, how many people in the world really needed a computer at home that looked like this one?

When Thomas Watson made his comment regarding the number of computers in the world, he had no mental map of a world where a computer could fit into your pocket or be used on your lap while watching television.

For Watson the computer he referred to was something like the British Colossus computer or the American Harvard Mark 1 – these were physically huge machines that were designed to assist with decryption of coded messages during World War II. Machines of this kind were not needed in large numbers across the world, and their cost to build, use and maintain was very high. Thus Watson’s statement from1943 was apt for its time. And he was unable to imagine some of the future improvements in technology, like transistors, that enable us to have computers in every home (and soon in every pocket or handbag).

Predicting technology futures is a funny old thing to do. When an innovation is revealed it often seems obvious, except that it was not obvious until you saw it.

The other challenge with predicting technology futures is that people change in their expectations of what is helpful or desirable. If we had explained Facebook or Twitter to an ordinary person back 1997 they would probably have thought it a completely mad idea. And, with the technology available to us in 1997, it would likely have been a bad user experience too.

But in 2009 Facebook seems like a completely reasonable thing for many ordinary people to use on a regular basis.  I keep wondering what the next big thing will be – I’ve got some ideas.  But my suspicion remains, that like Twitter, when I hear of it first it will seem either stupid or irrelevant.  Then, only gradually will it dawn that this new technology is changing the way we think and behave, or that it is shifting our expectations of technology and people in everyday life.

Women’s rights still evolving slowly

It is very easy for young, well-educated urban women in Australia to think that we have achieved equal rights both here and overseas.  Consequently one often hears comments like ‘I am not a feminist, but of course I believe in equality’ – and the speaker often genuinely  believes women are equal.

But it is within living memory in Australia that women were forced to leave their jobs immediately upon marriage.  It is also within living memory that women were paid substantially less than men for equivalent work.  And, even today, women in Australia have not achieved wage equity.

Presentations from Justice for Women at Work: A discussion of Paid Parental Leave and Pay Equity are available here.

Women’s childcare responsibilities also create inequities in ability to generate income and superannuation; while divorce and family breakups damage women’s prosperity more significantly than that of men.

At least, for the most part, Australian women live in comfort and something close to equality.

Australian women have many choices, mostly based on our access to education and work.

But equality for women in large parts of the world remains a distant dream – some examples include:

[Source: Global Issues]

There is still much work to be done that builds on the foundations laid by the feminists & suffragettes who fought for – and won – the rights and liberties we enjoy here today. Women should still be proud to be called feminists. It is an honourable label and one that I’m proud to wear.

Some will argue that this is all just about human rights.  But the fact remains that women have less access to basic human rights than men.

The informal slogan of the Decade of Women became “Women do two-thirds of the world’s work, receive 10 percent of the world’s income and own 1 percent of the means of production.”

— Richard H. Robbins, Global Problems and the Culture of Capitalism, (Allyn and Bacon, 1999), p. 354