Thursday, April 20, 2006

Knowledge vs Wisdom vs The Enterprise

What's all this babble about Web 2.0 & The Enterprise ... coming to a company near you? Organizational memory meets the photocopying machine? Cut and paste and offer it to the employees and customers alike? Sounds like Anthony_Kiedis is singing another song about California :-)

What are the leaders and shakers thinking these days? How is the new world of social networking, individualistic journalism and Web 2.o affecting them?

Here’s the deal: contrary to popular belief, there’s no such thing as a organization or a company - product company, telecom company, international organization, consulting company or a retail company. All companies are people companies. All collectives are people collectives.

People make products for people. People serve people. People work with people and for people. I’d venture a guess that the root cause of business problems is not financial, not product-related and not structure-related. Businesses live and die by its executives' and employees’ talents, levels of empathy and ability to play well with others… and by their willingness to listen and acknowledge that customers (also people) just may have some valuable input.

If an orgaization is rife with internal politics, fiefdoms and one-upmanship, I doubt that it will be successful in this new customer-centric era. If a company’s employees aren’t successful in their personal relationships at home, it can’t become a successful people company.

The solution is not a new business model: or organizational model: it’s a new people model.

We don’t need a new ad campaign or a new org chart. There are no quick fixes. The skill sets needed in today’s times are not management consultants or marketing specialists. If we’re all really honest with ourselves, what we really need are psychologists and coaches and relationship experts. We’re talking about real people connections, not a personalized direct mail piece.

And this is why blogging and other social technologies have exploded onto the scene.

Over the past few decades, we’ve lost the humanity of organizations. With the advent of mass-produced global one-size-fits-all cookie-cutter solutions and multi-dimensional geometric org charts and 24/7 relocation and nuclear, non-nuclear, secular families, we’ve forgotten our ability to relate and connect.

How do we expect an organization to build relationships with people when most of us have difficulty making genuine connections with anyone? So we can keep talking about the importance of employee focus, transparency and co-management but we’ll never get there until we recognize that it’s not that easy to overturn decades of organizational depersonalization.

We may have to make some difficult choices: letting go of talented employees who are more focused on being right than being empathetic; moving to a new job at a company that fosters a relationship culture; taking a risk and going out on your own. I’m sure that part of the free-agent trend stems from a rebellion against the dehumanization of organizations.

Web 2.0 and the Enterprise? C'mon - who are we kidding?

We can't turn back time - to a time of community marketplaces, bazaars, neighbourhood shops and pubs where everyone knew your name, and town squares. Or going back further still to trading posts and tribal campfires.

Or can we?

Let’s start and focus on who we can influence and what we can do in our own sphere. Let’s start where we are. Let's start with the person in the next office but let's not stop there. We can use Web 2.0 in the office if we can do Web 2.0 in oerson. Offline comes before online. That lesson has been taught over and over.

Creating a social enterprise is a pre-requisite to attend the global classroom. Remember - knowledge does not equal wisdom. Knowledge is flat. Wisdom is knowledge experienced. Wisdom creates value.

So let's spread the wealth.

Early to bed - early to rise in South Korea

Cyworld=MySpace+avatars+Flickr+virtual world+people

Started in South Korea and owned by SK Telecom (Korea’s largest wireless provider), Cyworld boasts 17 million users — that number is almost one third of the country’s population.

This is possible because South Korea is the world’s most wired country, where 72 percent of all households have broadband access. The secret of their success is that South Korean government decided back in 1997 that the only way to get ahead in the world it to be a tech-savvy community, so this type of business gets a lot of help from authorities, directly and indirectly in such ways as having almost every school have advanced Internet connections for all students.

But Cyworld is smart in that it integrates video gaming, mobile technologies, music downloading and every possible aspect of what users want to do online — so it is a kind of monolithic all-in-one service, a kind that may not be quite as popular in the US because of cultural differences.

This is all nice and said but what about the impact? Let's face it, social technologies succeed when they fit into the social lives and practices of those who engage with the technology.

Society as a whole is moving in a direction that supports this. As the speed of innovation increases and the social glue of the family unit decreases, youth and alienated individuals are inclined to spend more time going through identity development processes because they are trying to "figure out who they are."

The menu is getting bigger and bigger - more social networking opportunities are at hand - decisions are harder to make due simply to the opportunity cost.

Blogs and social technologies are particularly supportive of this. Of course, blogs require having something to say while social media let you meet people and exchange ideas like never before.

People do grow out of ongoing identity production, but not for quite some time. Traditional (read:local) society needs people to be serious and fit into pre-defined checkboxes - to know who they are.

the new society (read:global) allows for individuals to broaden their reach and connect to others with similar ideas - wherever they are. Smartmobs breaking any type of boundaries. Dissatisfaction in France leads to uprisings in Germany.

See what I mean? It's not all about productivity. It's about knowledge.

Even when there's no prescribed reason for surfing the net - people are collecting ideas. They're hanging out. They're comparing their ideas with others in front of digital mirrors. They're supporting these ideas and patting their friends on their digital backs. They're increasing the strength of their relationships through sharing. They're consuming and producing cultural nuggets of knowledge that position them within their digital societies. They're laughing, exploring and being entertained - all while attending the digital classroom.

South Korea gets it. Too bad we don't. Too bad developing nations can't.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Social entrepreneur 2.0

Despite efforts to spread an innovation-based definition, far too many people still think of social entrepreneurship in terms of nonprofits generating earned income. Too bad. This shifts attention away from the ultimate goal of any self-respecting social entrepreneur, namely social impact and focuses it on one particular method of generating resources.

This view is too narrow and sorta misses the mark.

Entrepreneurship turned eBay founder Pierre Omidyar into one of the world's richest men. Now, he's betting it can ease one of the world's most daunting problems: poverty. Omidyar, who started eBay 10 years ago, has announce that he is donating $100 million for a new Tufts University program to generate millions of tiny loans, some as small as $40, to finance entrepreneurs trying to escape poverty in India, Bangladesh and other poor countries.

This type of social entrepreneurship began about 30 years ago in rural Bangladesh when economics professor Muhammad Yunus launched what is now Grameen Bank. It has 3.7 million borrowers, virtually all women, relying on the bank's nearly 1,300 branches covering 46,000 villages. Repayment rates are 95% to 98%.

But now the focus has shifted from social impact - a hard indicator to measure - to earned income.

This is only a means to a social end and it is not always the best means. It can even be detrimental - taking valuable talent and energy away from activities more central to delivering on an organization's social mission.

Though it is very popular right now, it is just one funding strategy among many and must be assessed on a case-by-case basis. The key is finding a resource strategy that works.

Focusing on earned income leads people to embrace the problematic idea of a 'double bottom line.' Profits should not be treated with equal importance to social results. No amount of profit makes up for failure on the social impact side of the equation.

Any social entrepreneur who generates profits, but then fails to convert them into meaningful social impact in a cost effective way has wasted valuable resources. From a management point of view, the financial 'bottom line' is certainly important, but it is not on the same level as social impact.

Social entrepreneurs have only one ultimate bottom line by which to measure their success. It is their intended social impact, whether that is building houses for the homeless or expanding ICT programs to reduce the digital divide.

The biggest problem facing micro - entrepreneurs in developing countries is the inability to access the larger public market and its market information. They do not have efficient channels to reach customers.

This creates a significant barrier for the working poor to rise from poverty. This is exactly where the digital divide sits. Often owned by national telekoms, ICT expansion using the national backbone at the local level is limited at best - expensive and segregated at worse.

Indeed, recent discussions, including those within the context of the WSIS, have reiterated the need to sustain and strengthen substantive dialogue in a global, multi-stakeholder, open, inclusive and transparent manner. the national monopolies must listen or loose their markets to the new social technologies like Skype and Jajah.

The window of opportunity is closing ... not fast, not just around the corner but fast enough that action is now needed.

Any form of social entrepreneurship that is worth promoting broadly must be about establishing new and better ways to improve the world. Social entrepreneurs implement innovative programs, organizational structures or resource strategies that increase their chances of achieving deep, broad, lasting and cost-effective social impact.

This resource-shifting function is essential to progress.

As Peter Drucker has said, 'What we need is an entrepreneurial society in which innovation and entrepreneurship are normal, steady and continuous.' Now - who's volunteering?

Social entrepreneur 1.0

While the ‘digital divide’ makes computer technology an elite domain, a ‘cognitive divide’ may hinder local socio-economical development and eventually, the success of any local initiative. Should social entrepreneurs start bridging the cognitive divide?

Just a note: the United Nations today announced the launch of a new Global Alliance for Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and Development which will bring together a wide variety of interested participants as part of broader international efforts to harness technological advances for use in the fight against poverty. It aims to help integrate ICT into national policies in order to reach the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

But is this the idea behind social entrepreneurship?

In the 'shifting involvements' between private and public approaches to governance and economic management, nations have tried different versions of capitalism and different versions of socialism, debated market failures and government failures, coming sooner or later to some form of mixed economies.

Attention has lately focused on the third sector, the nonprofit/NGO sector. The public, private, and the NGO sectors thus constitute the institutional map within which policy makers and others are looking to solve mundane as well as urgent social problems.

But is there a fourth sector, the social enterprise sector, which happens to be situated within the overlap or the shared space among the three traditional sectors mentioned above. Efforts to enlarge that sector, to support social enterprises and social entrepreneurs in that sector, must be based on a theory about who a social entrepreneur is or what social enterprise management is.

And what role does the digital revolution play? ICTs? Technology of a broader reach?

Friday, April 14, 2006

Message for the class of 2010

The currently enrolling class at universities will be the graduating class of 2010. What are they thinking? Why are they different?

Here's some very humble advice.

1. Bringing online behaviour offline.

Online or cyberspace is like 'training wheels.' On the internet, you may be experimenting with new ways to express yourself. You may be developing new behaviours and aspects of your identity. If you introduce them into their f2f life and relationships, you will better understand those behaviours and why previously you were probably unable to develop them in the f2f world.

2. Bringing offline behaviour online.

Translating an aspect of your identity from one realm to another often strengthens it. You are testing it and refining it in a new environment. So if it's beneficial to bring online behaviours offline, then it's also beneficial to bring offline behaviours online. Cyberspace gives you the opportunity to try out your new and usual offline behaviours and methods of self expression in new situations, with new people.

3. Web 2.0 is over.

The new WEB 2.1 is all about the on and offline mashup. Not for the rich or the 'west' - but for everyone. The new graduating class of 2010 HAS to understand the disconnected world before any aspects of the online world can be affected. Don't get caught up in 2.0 hype. Blogging can be opinionware at it's best. Facebook is organized and legitimized social phishing. They are going to sell your so-called 'user generated content' to the highest bidder.

Look around by using your eyes AND all the screens that you have. As a rule, the integrating of online and offline life and of the various sectors of your internet lives is a great idea.


Integration - like commerce - creates synergy. It leads to development and prosperity. Both sides of the trade are enriched by the exchange. If the goal of life is to know thyself, as Socrates suggested, then it must entail knowing how the various elements of thyself fit together to make that Big Self that is you. Reaching that goal also means understanding and taking down the barriers between the sectors of self. Barriers are erected out of the need to protect, out of fear. Technology often plays a large part in creating these barriers. Those anxieties too are a component of one's identity. They need to be reclaimed, tamed.

The next generation entering the workforce can make great changes - break down barriers - think and act differently. Start now and change the 101 courses that you attend.

Speak up. Act up. Measure up.

Don't just dress up in the costume that the universities are handing out. Learn to understand yourselves and where we, as humans, fit in the world. My guess is that the laws of nature will inspire you more that the laws of the concrete jungle.

Have a good long week-end everyone - I'm disconnecting for a few days to recharge!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Look behind the numbers

A European Union report released on April 6th showed big differences in the level of Internet use among EU nations, with Benelux and Nordic countries leading the way and eastern and southeastern Europe generally lagging behind.

But that's not the story here. The EU tried to play it up but the numbers are dismal. We in Europe think that we are part of the 'inner circle' when it comes to internet and all the Web 2.0 hype.

Europe is not. It's that simple.

In the Netherlands, 78 percent of households are connected to the Net, compared to just 16 percent in Lithuania, according to the report from the Eurostat statistics agency, based on data gathered in early 2005.

The Dutch lead the way in domestic broadband access, with 54 percent of homes with broadband but look at this ... 1 percent in Greece, 4 percent in Cyprus and 5 percent in the Czech Republic.

In Greece, 73 percent of the population say they have never used the Internet.

More than half the citizens of the Czech Republic, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Poland and Portugal have never logged on to the Net. Among students, only 7 percent across the EU have never used the Internet.

That's a sad story.

For EU businesses, Internet access rose from 89 percent to 91 percent, while broadband connections increased from 53 percent to 63 percent.

Perhaps an a tax incentive for individuals households would make sense.

Below are the world numbers - another obvious story being told. Growth is where it should be.

Committee to Protect Bloggers

'Closing the digital divide is one of the most important things we could do that would have the quickest results in alleviating poverty, which is inexcusable in the kind of economy we’re experiencing in the 21st century.'

President Clinton made this statement in April of 2000. The solution to poverty, he was saying, is to increase people’s access to the Internet and to computer technology.

So, poverty can be alleviated by giving technology to the less fortunate? Broadband DSL and high speed Internet will not pay the electric bill or watch the kids while parents are at work.
Is the Internet and the bridging of the digital disconnect a true panacea for poverty’s eradication?

No but there are soem differences being made.

I was fascinated by a project by the folks at the Blogswana and the idea is that they will train 20 university students from Botswana in journalism and blogging, then those students will go into the field once a month and interview some one who does not have access to the web or blogging.

The interview will be turned into a blog post for the interviewee's blog, the interviewer will have a blog of their own as well, and the most recent posts from the blogs written by the 20 students will be aggregated onto a central site. Comments left by users will be delivered to the interviewee next month and their answers will be posted back on the blog.

The AIDS angle is that all the parties involved will be people who have been impacted by AIDS in one way or the other, though that won't be the central topic of the interviews.
The instigators of this project hope that it will be a pilot for many others based on the principal of overcoming the digital divide and doing citizen journalism by actually visiting and talking to people who are not online.

Technological change has, of course, always been a central engine of economic growth, but what is significant about the past decade is the acceleration in the pace of change and, as more and more countries have made efforts to improve their macroeconomic and policy environments, technology and technological innovation appear to have entered a 'golden age', a time when they are emerging as the key drivers of growth and development.

There are, to be sure, still many basic battles to be won in the developing world, addressing fundamental issues of development, from reducing poverty levels and the incidence of disease to enhancing opportunity and the quality of life for large segments of the world’s population.

But, as economists are prone to point out, what matters most is what happens ‘at the margin,’ and at the margin technologies today - particularly information and communications technologies (ICT) - are increasingly playing the central catalytic role in pushing the development process forward.

Mankind is facing some tough challenges in this modern era. We have progressed
at amazing speed through the technological age, harnessing the forces of nature to produce marvels that were not dreamed of a mere century ago.

But the progress has come at a price.

While some of us enjoy material comforts that were once reserved for royalty, much of the rest of the world is living in poverty. The global population has grown exponentially, putting enormous pressure on earth's resources, and we now have evidence that the very climate has been altered in a few short decades of industrial development.

We concentrate too much on technology.

For example, when we talk about pollution, and what causes it, what we're really talking about is people; about human behavior. Thus the real challenge is not what we should do about the pollution, but what we should do about our fellow man; what should be done about the fact that so few people care.

We have to look at and come straight to grips with the hard reality of an uninvolved, disconnected society, starting right where people live, at the grass-roots – on the streets, in the parks, the plazas, and in the neighborhoods where we make our homes.

What can one person do to change the world? Can you personally make a difference in your community? In your neighborhood?

Damn right!

The triumph of the industrial economy is the fall of community. But the more freedom that individuals aquire, the more requirement there is for a community.

What we are missing is a new social, philosophical, and political map and the organizations to lead it forward. The Committee to Protect Bloggers and their supporters are a good example. More here

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Convergence bought

It's beginning to feel as though actors need advanced degrees in computer technology and economics just to keep up with their industry. Every day, the trades shout front-page news of another media conglomerate or mogul making a million-dollar partnership to develop entertainment for new media, such as the Internet and mobile devices.

Just this year, for example:

  • NBC Universal acquired the female-oriented Web portal iVillage for $600 million
  • Disney unveiled a new Web service called My ABC, which will offer free ad-supported content as well as downloads of "Lost," "Desperate Housewives," and "Grey's Anatomy"
  • Mark Burnett signed to produce an interactive online reality series titled Gold Rush for AOL
  • Ashton Kutcher's Katalyst Films announced it will create at least five comedies for and its instant messaging service
  • Steven Spielberg partnered with Yahoo! to develop online programming
And the list goes on. Making a difference? Or making a killing?

Convergence awards

The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in the US released the nominations Monday for the first Emmy Award that will recognize entertainment programs created specifically for new media, such as iPods, mobile phones and websites.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Watching me watching you

Surveillance is nothing new.

Technology has created effective ways of identifying and monitoring citizens, especially those who might resist a new ideology. Look at the first three decades of the Soviet Union. Its pioneering strategies for molding the minds of its people, monitoring compliance, and punishing non-compliance modelled government control to other totalitarian regimes around the world. Soon China, North Korea, and other Communist nations followed suit.

But what's happening in Britain? They are plunging ever deeper into citizen monitoring.

Great Britain has become what the Observer newspaper recently called the 'closed-circuit television nation,' with a guesstimated 4 million public and private surveillance cameras in use. Most of them are in London, where it is said that the average citizen shows up on screen as many as 300 times a day.

Since the 90's the US, Great Britain, Canada, New Zealand and Australia have been monitoring all electronic communications for threatening content. That's all your email, cell phone calls, everything.

A few years ago, an ordinary Canadian woman received an extraordinary visitor - a government investigator with a mission. He had come to question her about a recent telephone call. Apparently, Canada's Communication Security Establishment (CSE) , working covertly with Echelon, the secret surveillance system established by a partnership between the USA, Great Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, had picked up several trigger words during her conversation with a friend. Two of the words were 'shot' and 'killed' and were totally innocuous.

What about the words you and I use in our email and telephone conversations?

Now the Mobile Gazette is reporting that the British government wants to shut down the UK's GSM networks next year and re-use the frequencies for gambling terminals and a new citizen surveillance program extending the use of the new compulsory ID cards.

We all know that in Singapore, all of the Internet Services Providers are operated by government-controlled companies. Each person in Singapore wishing to obtain an Internet account must show their national ID card to the provider to obtain an account.

Streaming of 'explicit political content', such as podcasting and videoblogging, is cleverly banned under 'election advertising rules' set in 2001. Bloggers that espouse a political line must register their sites with the government.

Is the reverse possible? Using the same technology to monitor against political corruption?

In Santo Domingo, the European Union and 2 non-government organizations will . The European Union, Citizen Participation and Intermón Oxfam have create a surveillance network to monitor against corruption in Santo Domingo. The project’s main objective is to contribute with transparency by means of applying tools similar to citizen monitoring back on the governments themselves.

Information is etching a new political landscape.

To date, most discussion of cyber-politics has centred on such traditional topics as political campaigns, lobbying, regulation and legislation. But citizenship only thrives when the entire culture encourages and reinforces social participation.

New social media channels are changing the ways in which culture and information delivery have influenced definitions of the privacy. This has a large effect on social participation.

This social participation, facilitated by social technology, helps us to define new approaches to such questions as the role of gender, race, and economic status in determining social change; the role of popular culture in shaping political values; the ways in which developing nations are exploiting (or failing to exploit) digital media to reach socio-economic goals or to establish new sorts of relationships with peers.

The international dimensions of this emerging political culture, especially the points of tension between the positive and negative uses of the same technology, are now being shaped. As the same technology eradicates some of the imbalances within today's society, it creates new ones.

We are all part of a social experiment as remarkable as the industrial revolution. All of us - the political class and the citizens, teachers and the students, rich and poor. All being watched.

Watching me watching you.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Subconscious extranet

Just commenting on a few emails I just received about my last post .. and Matt's comment ...

With pervasive and instantaneous information exchange, what will happen when we are able to exchange information with other people and not even know it?

Imagine when you don't know who you are exchanging information with BUT it is influencing both of your decision making.

Imagine when our subconscious becomes an extranet - gathering, evaluating and filtering information that we are not consciously aware we are receiving. Our minds will be creating case scenarios (which from a cognitive perspective, we do all the time) and make decisions by analyzing information from sources that we do not control. This isn't subliminal - this is rewiring our knowledge process.

Studies show that multitasking (the replacement of linear learning process by multidimensional ones) is defining new skills in the youth of today. A skill that society still doesn't know what to do with.

I'm a hybrid - I have a job where I work but I actually do several jobs at the same time - often in the same moment. I weigh inputs and outputs and make decisions but in doing so, I often refer to information/knowledge that I don't consciously know I have.

Go exponential with that thought .... Nicolas Nova touches on some of the mechanics here. Jordan Crandall also touches it. Who then has control and influence over the way we learn and act?

Better we find out before others do.

Designing information

There is no such thing as good information or bad information. Like design - there is no good or bad design - there is design. There is information.

Society often adds the 'value layer' on information and design. At the same time, human society has lost control of the amount, type and delivery mechanism. Our influence is diminishing.

Today’s culture embraces portability. The world has become smaller, in part due to the Internet’s possibilities of transacting internationally on a scale unheard of 20 years ago. Further, this opportunity to connect, transmit and receive information has moved away from simply using a personal computer to view web pages. The advent of total wireless and body implants (BMIs) or symbiotic machine-human interfaces, is just around the corner.

But the next step will go beyond the most basic and inherent constraints of our human condition so that we can increase our potential and attain an even better existence.

Going beyond the fundamental constraints of the human condition is called ascension. Ascension may begin partly through advanced mind and body practices, but in its fullest form it will likely arise only through new technologies that will allow us to completely transform the nature and processes of our minds and bodies.

Human beings have always struggled with obstacles in the way of attaining their purposes.

Sometimes these obstacles have been aspects of the rest of nature and the world, but often human beings' own inadequacies have been the obstacles. Poor thinking, poor relating to other cultures, poor competence at basic skills and erratic moods have harmed humanity at every turn.

These sorts of flaws in fundamental human nature have been extended by the ills of widespread ignorance, delusion, apathy and despair. Very soon, technological singularity - the accelerating mash-up of technological, biological and medical innovations will lead to the development of new forms of expression and intelligence.

But this is getting too philosophical.

Right now - is it possible to 'design' information that changes our social dimension?

Structured content, micro-formats, ambient findability and new models of information delivery let me do what I want, when I want, how I want. They let me manage how I fulfill my desires; how I accomplish my goals.

Information design gleaned from many diverse sources: years of pre-Web application design, the best interactive web sites and mobile devices such as cell phones and iPods are becoming pervasive.

At the same time, our environments are becoming intelligent.

Our environment is now self-designing and is being influence more by a variety of disciplines including artists, philosophers, computer scientists, designers and sociologists - all are in the debate on how information can contribute to improving the quality of everyday life.

Therefore, we need to promote discussions that take a completely fresh view of the interaction between society and technology; how this should be used in the future to maximize the benefits to individuals and society.

Globalization cannot be stopped. It's not even here because it has already happened. Intercultural in now intracultural. Physical and virtual environments have meshed together.

I met Jeffrey Huang from Harvard at the LIFT06 conference a while back and he jogged a few nerves. This idea has been stirring in my brain for a bit. To humbly paraphrase Jeffrey, the way we exchange information is fundamentally changing how we practice some of our most basic everyday activities and challenging how we perceive and use space. Yet the nature of these information-driven changes and their effect on humanity and society is not understood - rarely even noticed until after the fact.

By nature, information is becoming patterned after natural language. Cultural differences are melting into one with 'personal opinions' being the only differentiator.

I think that our environment - interactions, products and tools, space and time - will also start to be designed this way. Not by people but organically. We, as humans, do not have the influence as we must compete with nature itself.

In the Kardashev scale, proposed by Russian astronomer Nikolai Kardashev in 1964, he classifies potential civilizations by their ability to exploit the energy available in their environment.

We need to develope a new scale that helps us define ourselves in our pre-type I societies. We will move and interact in our daily lives with the same ease and comfort as reading Bukowski.

Now wouldn't that be perfect!

Friday, April 07, 2006

Public definitions

Have you ever considered the relationship between publics, cultures, markets and societies?

It seems that publics are groups of people who are connected by information flows, and each of the others are sets of people who use the information carried by those flows to arrive at various kinds of consensus read: markets are groups who arrive at a consensus on the value of some particular good or service.

According to the discourse mostly attributed to McLuhan, the notion of the public, and concomitantly individual privacy, were created as artifacts of mass literacy post-Gutenberg.

Now, as this age has been decimated by the digital ease of access to information, the concept of 'public' is rendered non-dominant in terms of shaping society and privacy reverses into publicy.

Deeper you ask?

Historically, we have talked about the public, as in the public sphere. Implicated in the word 'public' as a singular, is the idea that there is only one entity that one could address or visit. Translation: publics are made up of strangers who are connected by information and, thus, share a coherent position as receivers of that information.

In other words, a public in London is not the same as a public in Hong Kong. For example, when Jacque Chirac speaks of addressing the public, he means all of France. If he uses the "local" hall or arena - information is contextualized to local public issues.

Yet, Chirac cannot speak of addressing the public in a global sense because he is not addressing the poor farmer in Kenya. Likewise, that Kenyan's notion of a public doesn't include France when he speaks in his town's public square.

It's more than content and more than information: the digital effect deals with relationships that transcends the traditional reach.

Digital life has really screwed with the notion of public, removing traditional situationism that connects strangers. If the Kenyan farmer is connected to the internet and reads French, he can be a part of Chirac's public. Yet, this does not mean that the French websites would include him in their public, nor does it mean that his public acts would be equally visible by other constituents of the same websites.

This is where social networks have made their mark. This is the new definition of information sharing and thus, knowledge sharing.

Digital architectures alter the structure of social life and information flow. Persistence, searchability, the collapse of distance and time and certainly, the ability to forward and copy are not factors that most everyday people consider when living unmediated lives.

Yet, they are increasingly becoming the societal norm.

Throughout the 20th century, mass media forced journalists and 'public' figures to come to terms with this, but digital structures force everyone to do so. People's notion of public radically changes when they have to account for the Kenyan farmer, their lurking boss and the person who will access their speech months from now.

People's idea of a public is traditionally bounded by space, time and audience - the park is a public that people understand. And, yet, this is all being disrupted.

Benedict Anderson predicted some of this in his work - Imagined communities.

This is nothing new in the digital age. Organized crime has been aware and profiting from this since the BBS days.

Organizations are behaving differently - SMEs are not the traditional 100-250 employee shops of a few years ago - this application of the term is changing rapidly - one-man shows are changing the nature of information flow. People with absolutely no authority are gaining influence.

Jean-Luc Nancy's concepts of community, experience, discourse, and the individual argues that modern thought and the ability to communicate determines how all organizations/communities succeed.

Couple or questions:

  • What will the 'public' look like when they are infused with the features of digital and the new social architecture?
  • What social effect does it have when individuals and groups can speak across time and space to an unknown audience?
  • What happens when you cannot predict who will witness your act because they are not visible now, even though they may be tomorrow or later in the future?

Corporate memories are small when we consider the changes there are happening to social memory and the definition of 'peers'.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Wolfe under a new moon

In 1973, Tom Wolfe identified the four main devices 'New Journalists' borrowed from literary fiction:

  • Telling the story using scenes rather than historical narrative as much as possible
  • Dialogue in full (Conversational speech rather than quotations and statements)
  • Third-person point of view (from inside the head of a character)
  • Recording everyday details (which indicates the status of character's lives)

New Journalism is not fiction. It maintains strict adherence to factual accuracy and the content creator being the primary source. To get inside the moment, what one is thinking or how one feels is imperative.

30 years later, it is starting to become a reality.

Is social media the next wave?

No. Already here. Biotechnology will be the next wave.

The biotechnology industry will surpass information technology as a dominating force in our lives. All industries - everything from fashion to television - will have to breed with biotech in order to stay ahead.

Products will be genetically modified to serve as mobile bio-environments that not only take us where we want to go but also ensure our safety and well-being, geared to our individual circadian rhythms, hormonal balances and brainwave patterns.

As computers and biotechnology overlap and merge, we will be able to develop a completely simulated human who can be used for any purposes, for the study of everything from thought processes to mental health and other aspects of human behavior and biology.

Content is the food of social media. Life will be the food of biotechnology.

Re-inventing public information

Rejecting the 'me vs. you' bipolarity of traditional pubcasting (in which television is neatly divided into the vast wasteland and the much smaller promised land), alternative content producers have adopted a rather bio-organic stance for channel development.

Most of new media DNA (which include digital arts, vlogging, blogging, moblogging, college and community radio stations, websites, podcasts, and other forms of alternative media) are forced to subsist in the cracks and fissures of the mainstream media.

In comparison to the biggies like Fox, Viacom, Time Warner and Disney, they are tiny operations, almost insignificant in their reach. Collectively, however, independent media represent a sizable force on the media landscape, and that landscape is rapidly changing.

Nowhere is this change more evident than in the areas of digital audio and video being produced on the fly by normal individuals. Just a decade after the US military loosened the tight grip on the Arpanet - over 600 billion Web pages are now available.

Note: China now has over 100 million of its citizens currently online - number two after the US. Technology has a huge impact on ones life when the air is polluted and you can't drink the water.

Not only that (if that's not remarkable enough) there are an estimated 10,000 Internet radio stations currently in operation, most of them customized sites that reflect personal tastes and serve niche markets.

With the growth of satellite radio (over 7 million subscribers to XM and Sirius, which offer more than 270 channels between them) not to mention the growing number of podcasts and the evolution of wireless technologies that will make online broadcasts much more accessible, the radio universe will soon be far different than the tidy AM/FM world of just a few years ago. Africa and India have already seen this.

Does this mean that the oligopoly of media masters will disappear? Hardly. The 21st century is not the 20th century. Religion, technology and organized crime are the three pillars of the 21st century.

But it does mean that those with particular messages to deliver will find it increasingly possible to do so. Mobs will form on the fly, just as content is created on the fly.

While growth is slowing at most top Internet sites, it is skyrocketing at sites focused on social networking, blogging and local information. This growth in reminds us that the Internet is fulfilling its original promise about participation.

What the Internet has done for radio will soon be the same for television, with much the same dynamics and consequences (i.e. an explosion of new video choices, but with comparatively little diminution of audiences for mainstream television, at least in the short term).

We're not that far from a time when artists and writers can distribute their own work and make a living doing it. That's the kicker - now it's just for the passion -soon they will do it for a living. Millions of them.

So we will have little movies and little records and little magazines on the Internet because the Internet is made up of so many different interest groups.

All this while the media giants are still pushing Brittany Spears. Cheap sensationalism - the won't even here it coming.

What HAVEN’T you noticed lately?

Does it seems that despite creating systems, complex organizations and supporting social media and communication systems to acquire and manage knowledge, we often miss something.

There is always something of which we are unaware. No matter how much knowledge we have of our organizations, our customers, our markets, our competitors, there is always more to know.

So perhaps we’re going about it all wrong.

In trying to capture as much information as we can possibly find, we may be undertaking an exercise in which, like the Red Queen says in Through the Looking Glass, 'it takes all the running you can do to keep in the same place.'

Perhaps we should ask a simpler question. Like … 'What haven’t you noticed lately?'

say it - 'What HAVEN’T I noticed lately?'

Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to achieve the requisite awareness of what we haven’t noticed while we are immersed in a comfortable, or at least accustomed, environment. We are all subject to the ground-rules, that is, the rules and unperceived effects that govern our ground or context.

It is like asking a fish to suddenly become aware of water.

One thing about which fish know exactly nothing is water, since they have no anti-environment which would enable them to perceive the element they live in. It is only when it is pulled from the water that the fish becomes acutely aware of its former environment.

The challenge in achieving the awareness to notice the formerly unnoticed - what is called 'integral awareness' of the total environment - is to create an appropriate 'anti-environment.'

Simple. Change. Now.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Internet IS the Intranet

Regardless of the communication area, new media or traditional, internal communications is one of the driving powers behind the successful actions of any organization or group.

In reality, it doesn't matter what the organization is - the employee or the manager, Friendster or Fusker, the demonstrators or the riot police - internal communications is the driving force behind successful action.

The Toronto Globe and Mail pointed to a report - Watson Wyatt Worldwide study that linked employee communications to bottom-line performance:

Shareholder returns for organizations with the most effective communications were 57 per cent higher than returns for firms with less effective communications over the past five years.

The survey also found that the best communicators had a 19.4-per-cent higher market premium the extent to which the market value of a company exceeds the cost of its assets than the less effective communicators.

In the real world, one doesn't talk about shareholder value but just plain value - this can be interpreted as the successful completion of a task, transfer of knowledge or simply a collection of ideas.

However, a couple of items in the opiniosphere recently have had me pondering the positioning of employee communications within the organization and what is the role of employee bloggers or any employee making public statements.

Allot of managements have disregarded employee chatrooms/forums because of the 'threat' of disgruntled employees blowing off steam or being negative towards management.

But perhaps the opposite is true.

Bloggers or other social platforms are personalized information - they are not anonymous. Doesn't this raise the level of content when the one who officially write the babble has to officially be responsible for itaccuracycy?

Perhaps the 'threat' is the disruption of the hierarchy - the blogger becomes an official spokesperson for thorganizationon. It's a rallying call. It's the formation of an opinion where others can support anpropagatete.

Robert Scoble's characterization of employee bloggers as being 'at the edge of a company' is slightly off the mark. I think that, when successful, they are at the center of the company.

That's the threat, perhaps.

But in the end, as employees are constantly questioning managment desisions, isn't it a question of employee credibility?

If 10 or 20 employees voice their diverse opinions about an organizational issue and in the course of their discussions articulate subtly different information, which one reflects the authoritative statement of record for the organization? The manager or the employee?

The question of where authority resides is an intriguing one. Where is the actual or informal authority? I guess it's up to the listeners or readers to deduce that.

Perhaps that is the threat.

While we wrestle with these issues as we journey farther into the era of social computing, there is one thing organizations can do to ensure accurate information is presented to various external publics: they can communicate more effectively internally, providing accurate information and access to details that will help those employees who blog (or otherwise engage in the great conversation) avoid making any mistakes.

In other words, internal communications is having a greater and greater effect on external communications.

Internet IS the Intranet. Internal perceptions IS the external message.

Given that, how much additional emphasorganizationsations need to place on employee communications, and where should it reside? Too often, the answer comes down to politics.

Wherever your internal communications department sits in the org chart, though, you'd better make sure there's a strong tie to the external team and that messages are clear, consistent, accurate, thorough and candid.

If not, this new era of social computing could reach up and bite the organization in the backside.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Milbloggers under pressure

More and more, U.S. military commanders are clamping down on military blogs, known as milblogs. Rumsfeld hey are getting too 'informative' but after all, photos of blown-up tanks and gritty comments on urban warfare don't just interest the parents let alone the general public.

The enemy, too, has a laptop and satellite link.

Nowadays, milbloggers get shut down almost as fast as they're set up - something is lost as the grunt's-eye take on Tikrit or Kabul is silenced or sanitized. The Army, Marines, Air Force and Navy have now tightened control on bloggers by requiring them to register through the chain of command and by creating special security squads to monitor milblogs.

Hartley was targeted for his honesty of his blog.

A visitor wrote: 'Is this a joke or what? This whole blog gives a bad taste in the mouth.' Hartley replied, 'It leaves a bad taste in your mouth? That's sorta the point.' Another blog reader, with the moniker Alberto, defended the shock-blog: 'The point of being so graphic it's to see what a war really is. Good blog, keep it up!'

Hartley was among the first active-duty combat troops demoted and fined for security violations on his blog.

'Well - what happens - the ones that stay up are completely patriotic and innocuous, and they're fine if you want to read the flag-waving and how everything's peachy keen in Iraq,' said Hartley, who is back in New Paltz after two years stationed in Iraq.

The military, at first unaware of the milblogging trend, began targeting bloggers with warnings, punctuated by high-profile disciplinary action. Echoing the World War II censorship slogan, 'Loose lips sink ships,' the Pentagon in November 2005 sent out an advisory titled 'Loose blogs may blow up BCTs.'

A waste of time?

Let's face it - the military commanders can't control the flow of information by shutting down soldiers' blogs. There's a tremendous communication underground - soldiers won't even go remote unless there's a connection - at least email - the Army is wasting its time.

So milblogs remain popular. claimed more than 700,000 page views in 2005, with not far behind.

And michaelyon.blogspot is ranked in the top 100 (No. 81) of the 8 million blogs tracked by

A complete milblog blackout will never succeed - as long as there are soldiers with something to say. In the end, it's the public who has the power to make or break any blog. Not Rumsfeld.

Fact vs. opinion: Who wins online?

Demonstrations are interesting.

Its 7:55 pm in Geneva and I am watching CNN and BBC. The commentators are discussing the demonstrations in Paris. I am not a supporter of violent demonstrations but a couple of ideas come to mind.

History shows that they work.

Its the fifth day of riots and the commentators, especially Jim ... are saying how terrible these demonstrations are. But here's a question: What would happen if we we didn't speak our minds, gather in protest? Would the politicians here and react to our wishes? I mean - day 5 - where is Chirac?

Cataloging the thundering ineffectiveness of government expenditures in fighting poverty is trite, yet the salience of government failure is perhaps greater now than ever before. Witness the impotence of France where, in the space of a year, one Paris-burning riot protesting widespread socialist unemployment was followed by the current Paris-burning riot against any reform of that same system.

Close up on a demonstrator reading and writing a text message. People on both sides of the tear gas using video cameras to record the action.

Now, Sarkozy is mounting a counteroffensive among French bloggers, who he thinks are mainly 25-years-and-under. In the same paragraph, Sarkozy told Business Week that he is all for 'debate and exchange.'

Then he says in a CNN interview that business leaders fear France's image will be damaged if protests continue and that investment and tourism could suffer, particularly because the crisis has erupted so soon after rioting by youths in French city suburbs late last year.

Making a difference? Or making a buck. Demonstrations work.

Meanwhile, Fox News displayed a strange form of journalism during its 'Dayside' coverage of the French protests. Fox News found the protests on the streets of Paris and elsewhere in France so compelling that it junked most of the planned segments and shows video of the people in the street being shot with water cannons by Paris riot police. The video was supposed to be so enticing that Fox played in a split screen even during a briefing from the Pentagon by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

Co-hosts Juliet Huddy and Mike Jerrick remarked about the protests turning violent, but mostly mentioned people throwing rocks, bottles, eggs, and balloons filled with paint. During about 45 minutes of video, one demonstrator hurled something, but mostly the scene was one of several thousand people milling around and occasionally shouting something at the police, or cowering under streams of water from the double-decker trucks moving through the crowd.

The co-hosts spoke with Fox News correspondent Greg Burke, who was supposed to be covering the protest in Paris. Most of his comments focused on actions of the police, noting he saw some police almost totally covered with paint and some protesters being dragged on the ground, but said they probably deserved it if they were resisting arrest.

Had Fox News relied on journalism of the old fashioned variety, viewers might have gotten some real information, as readers of the New Zealand Herald did. In its story on protests in Paris, the reporter talked to average Parisians, one a young person and the other an older one.

Or read the Al Jezeera report.

Fact vs. opinion: Who wins online?

In his online column last Friday, Slate founder Michael Kinsley questioned whether readers will continue to buy articles written by professional journalists from a detached and purportedly objective point of view.

"Will anyone sit through a half-hour newscast invented back when everyone had to watch the same thing at the same time?" he asked. "Or are blogs and podcasts the cutting edge of a new model for both print and video: more personalized, more interactive, more opinionated, more communal, less objective?"

To that, media executives say that if news organizations hope to be trusted, they have to retain clear lines between factual reporting and opinion — even if point-of-view websites and blogs are increasingly popular.

Wanna know how to get the most out of covering a riot in Paris? Stand on a balcony and write.

Meanwhile, John Green, weekend producer of ABC's Good Morning America, has been suspended for a month after an e-mail he wrote to a colleague in which he criticized President Bush and former secretary of State Madeleine Albright appeared last week on The Drudge Report and The New York Post.

Meanwhile, between 500,000 and 1 million people filled the streets of downtown Los Angeles on March 25th, 2006 to protest the anti-immigrant bill HR4437, which would make all 12 million undocumented people in the United States into felons as well as anyone who aids undocumented people in anyway.

This march came in the wave of many other large demonstrations - didn't see much comentary on the internet about these 'riots' ... meanwhile the Paris students are already planning for later this week ... the future of the media is becoming an open competition.

$ign of the Times

From Jon Lebkowsky at worldchanging:

Day one of David Isenberg's two-day Freedom to Connect conference in DC has ended, and I don't know that we have a handle on "net neutrality" or the larger issue of how we sustain the freedom and openness that has been so much a part of the Internet's architecture and culture throughout its history. Money changes everything, and the Internet is clearly a platform for profitable innovation.

As FCC Commissioner Michael Copps pointed out in his opening address, we view the Internet as a place of freedom and openness where the possibilities for innovation are endless, with a dumb network and intelligence at the edges. But we're hearing a warning: new broadband "toll bridges" that would give network providers a cut of content providers' profits could restrict this freedom, openness, and innovation.

To ask web sites to pay for the traffic they generate is problematic in two ways: companies for delivery of content. But it's a model that's possible, and one that it's the content that makes the broadband service valuable, and the large service providers would be "double dipping" by charging users for access and web-based service providers like AT&T and Verizon are seriously considering as a way to participate in the success of companies like Google.

Jajah´s license policy

Just a follow up on a recent post, Fred pointed out some interesting aspects of the Jajah licensing agreement .... little devils ....

Monday, April 03, 2006

Disconnected and Slow

Had a beer with Laurent last night and he struck a nerve (as he usually does). He mentioned the word disconnected and then he was talking about something he saw on Bruno's blog ... something about 'Slow' .. a book or something ... little bit of google action and here we are, at the website of Carl Honoré, In Praise of Slow.

The book sounds interesting but this is not about the book - this is about the rest of the world that's not connected.

Disconnected and slow.

I was talking with some very smart and passionate North Africans at a British Council sponsored conference in Tunisia. What does 'disconnected and slow' mean to them? What does it mean to the multitude of people from all over the world that are missing the wave .... the ones deep in the ditch of the digital divide?

While the high cost of Internet connectivity may still remain a challenge for countries without adequate infrastructures, an even bigger hurdle can often be establishing a culture of collaboration among countries within the same region to create 'economies of scale.'

But then there's education. Seven of the world's largest distance education universities - where students and faculty alike all use some form of computer-assisted learning - are located in developing countries.

For these communities, educational resources available via the Internet can offer cutting-edge applications of cyberspace. Yet, roadblocks - from inadequate national communications infrastructures to teachers reluctant to adapt to eLearning - exist for the full success of online education for higher education.

Latin America is making a change .... Red CLARA (Cooperacion Latino-Americana de Redes Avandazas) is an Internet education network for Latin America that began in 2003. It is funded by the European Union through a project called ALICE (America Latina Interconectada con Europa) that is supported by @LIS (Alliance for the Information Society).

Red CLARA links national academic networks in 15 countries. At the beginning, the networks were based on commercial Internet services at low speeds (frequently 256Kbps) but graduated to 2 Mbps through Internet2 (i2), a U.S-based consortium led by 207 universities.

Now that many of these countries have access to fiber optic cable, Red CLARA really got going in 2005. For instance, Ecuador was just connected to Red CLARA in January 2006 creating new opportunities to get connected to academic peers around the world.

These are theinfluencers - key people that can foster change - raise awareness at the political levels - open doors for students. The ripple effect is ongoing ....

Meanwhile, the use of internet in developed countries for corporate training is predicted to overtake education usage in developing countries by 12-to-1, becoming an estimated $150 billion industry by 2025. Something smells.

The history of African telecoms is based on the initial infrastructure developed during colonialism followed by a period of stagnation during the 1960's to 1980's that saw little advancement (except in the pockets of the colonists and then, their puppet governors).

This stagnation resulted in a terribly inadequate system with the lowest teledensity of any continent. Thus when the Internet arrived in the mid-90's, Africa was wholly unprepared to access its new opportunities.

But the Internet does have a vital role to play in advancing African development; the emergence of the global information economy is unavoidable.

But it's still not a done deal.

If some efforts are not focused on bringing Africa into this economy, it will surely be left behind and end up further marginalized than it already is. There are five major areas where ICT development holds the most potential. These include:

  • Education - ICTs improve opportunities for African scholars to advance their own work and access the wealth of information (especially e-journals) available throughout the web.
  • Health and Medical Information - Telemedicine and other innovations have proven effective at delivering services over wide areas and IP based communications have the potential to inform poor populations about a variety of pressing health issues.
  • Balanced Media Environment - IP based publishing and broadcast media could help to shift the balance from Western produced media to more regional information and entertainment sources. Honestly. news about Africa is often filtered through Western lenses before Africans receive it!
  • Economic Development - ICTs can make major contributions to the functioning and competitiveness of African entrepreneurs and contribute to African efforts to become producers of knowledge rather than producers of goods.
  • Human Rights - Access to information is central to efforts to challenge and check governments and political forces and there are studies that have causally linked interconnectivity and increased respect for human rights.

    Here's the chicken and egg question: while education should probably precede infrastructure development, how can the people become educated without the important tools necessary for such education.

    Investments in the emerging markets of Africa (like cellphones) are more likely to generate rapid returns on investment that will generate the resources for improved education efforts. Guess one has to pay the devil first ...

    Despite the difficulty that the continent faces in leapfrogging into the information economy, the prospects for improving the lives of Africans make such efforts worthwhile. The changes that are embracing the entire globe also affect Africa and it would be perilous for the continent if it does not heed these winds of change and embrace a new liberalization of the access to information - open the doors or at least the windows!

    Western nations are not patiently waiting. Listen to this;

    'Children need to participate fully in digital culture in order to develop the skills, knowledge, ethical frameworks and self-confidence needed to be full participants in the world around them,' MIT Professor Henry Jenkins told members of the AAAS recently.

    Jenkins proposed that there is a high 21st-century literacy rate among teens -- measured by their skillful use of all things digital, including instant messaging, Myspace, sampling, zines, mashups, Wikipedia, gaming and spoiling -- that has far more meaning than "screen time" implies.

    How are the children in the developing nations going to compete?

    There is no getting away from the Internet - what does this mean for any digital divide - in relative timeframes - we better start now. Each one of us!

    Why? Listen, the number of people online will triple in the next 10 years, and the number of connected devices will increase by billions.

    The number of people online will triple in the next 10 years.

    With the Internet such a critical component of national economies, governments will struggle to determine standards and oversight.

    A UN solution? A UN responsibility? a UN obligation?