Archive for the ‘web’ Category

TrendSpotting: Internet

February 17, 2007

1. Faster Broadband won’t cut it: as fibre continues to be rolled out to consumers, eventually the question will be asked, what for? 100 Mbps is only essentially for high definition video, and the movie studios want to keep this under lock-and-key. Apple will keep pushing ahead with their AppleTV solution, but the tv and computer remain in different worlds. Television connects to the outside world via broadcast signals or cable, and computers tap into the net via broadband. Separate universes.

2. Calls for greater Identity Management – there is already is a defacto system in place. If someone wants to verify who you are, they ask for your credit card details. There’s nothing more precious than money, and so secure (or semi-secure) systems are in place. Nice to know that it’s Visa and Mastercard safeguarding your identity. Otherwise, who you are online is who you say you are. IP addresses are recorded, but often the damage is already done. In the online world. you exist as your email address and credit card number.

3. Yahoo, Google, and MSN will continue to rule: it’s a sad fact, but humans can’t deal with too much choice. The famous Rule of 7’s from psychology comes to mind here. One only has to study the history of media evolution to see that all new media forms (paper, radio, tv) began as an explosion of creative, individual expression, but soon succombed to ad dollars and corporate consolidation. As soon as the next-big-thing comes along and starts getting everyone’s attention, a buyout offer will be in place. Attention equals opportunities to serve up ads.

4. The Digital Divide will blow out: in a serious way, there will be a class of people who are information-savvy, and know how to find quality things in the quickest way. Everyone else will rely on google’s distorted search system, and be at the mercy of manipulation. Ever heard of the Deep Web? These are rich resources that are publically accessible, but beyond the reach of search engines. Just knowing of it’s existence gives you a leg up. Already the world of RSS and feed readers is pushing into new information territories.

5. The Virtual Economy will explode: taken at it’s most basic level, money is just an exchange for you time and effort. It doesn’t really matter if it’s in the real world or not, but that’s how most people would understand it. Dig a trench, get paid for it, answer a phone, and it’s the same. Time and effort count online as well. It could be playing a character in an online game (Second Life), doing menial work for Amazon (via their Mechanical Turk). or just helping people out with their Myspace Profiles. Either way, it’s making a living from your computer screen. It’s a fascinating social development.

Changing the World from the Keyboard

February 13, 2007

The man of letters is back.

Once a staple of public life, the likes of Henry James and Bernard Shaw have been in short supply. Television, and especially cable, have made the moving image dominant, and pushed back the role of letters.

Things are shifting back now. Ideas were once passed around via yellow pamphlets and personal letters.

Today, the weapon of choice is blog/email.

From the comfort of our keyboards we can reach out and engage others. Debate, provoke, challenge, present. Think of it as a level-market for ideas. By discussing things we expose assumptions and ignorance. (myself included!)

It’s an exciting time to be living in.

Transcending Tech – or, it was meant to be this easy

January 30, 2007

Computers and gadgets have come a long way. Gone are the days of 500 page manuals, and having to call your techie friend to help set things up. Just open the box, plug it in, and you’re on your way.

This is the way it’s meant to be. There was a time when cars were fickle and unreliable, and every guy had to learn his gaskets and gear belts as a rite of passage. No longer. Now it just works – most of the time.

Technology is meant to be the servant of man, not us spending hours and hours trying to figure out a simple feature. It’s there to help us, to make life easier, to save us effort and time.

And computers and the web have finally reached that mature point. That magic tv-zone. One button on, one button off, and it works. It’s taken a couple of decades, but it’s finally here.

We have transcended tech.

The Digital Tribe

January 23, 2007

As the bonds of society and place have fallen away, we have become increasingly disconnected individuals. The lone person, who has his family and his workmates, then faces the choice of who his personal friends are. We can meet everybody, but where is the meaningful connection?

This deep felt need is best reflected in the immediate generation. They are characterised by a single label – Myspace. This is the place where they construct their digital identity, network with interesting others, stay in constant global touch. Our youth feel this deep need to reach out, and connect.

That is their solution. Increasingly, adults faced with this same anomie, have found their own workarounds. A huge roster of email addresses is one way, this fantastic community of WordPressers is another. We all have our faces here, and our opinions. We contribute to each others lives by reading, commenting, bantering. We share an online existence.

We have become a digital tribe.

Is It Ethical to Ad Block?

January 8, 2007

If you’re using Firefox as a browser, you can setup an ad blocker in under five minutes. The tool of choice is Adblock Plus; it’s free, effective, and time tested. You’ll be amazed at how much easier it is to concentrate on pages when you don’t have silly images flashing at the top of your screen and bright red links popping up everywhere.

But is it ethical?

I see a couple of issues here –

1. the advertiser only gets charged when you click on an ad. If you don’t see it, it’s not an issue. This is different from traditional media where the advertiser pays up front.

2. the page owner (or blogger) might rely quite heavily on ads to support their income. If you don’t play the game, they might not either.

Ultimately, the web is a form of media like all those before it, and media almost always evolves to an advertising supported model. It’s being able to get someone’s attention, and then giving it away to a third party (to sell something).

I guess if you’re running ads to support yourself, you shouldn’t be using an ad blocker.

The New Currency: Attention

January 3, 2007

The web world revolves around attention. Around the globe, there are hundreds and hundreds of millions of human beings staring into screens. They surf sites, do email, wander from page to page, all in this glorious playground called the internet.

With the advent of web2.0, the observers have become participants. Your photos, music edits, carefully written stories, all can be dumped into the web in a flash. As Time put it – “you are the web”.

So, what’s your point?

In this article written in 1997, “The Attention Economy and the Net“, Michael Goldhaber describes unerringly the web of today. Don’t forget, ten years ago was before google, before broadband, before youtube! it was even before slashdot, so the extrapolations are based on a deep understanding of links and transience.

What is the Attention Economy?

Quite simply, everyone can put up a web page, so everyone is competing for attention. In this new online media, earning an income is driven by ads. If someone has a “better page” more people will go there, see more of his ads, and he will be more successful, ie better able to earn an income.

So we have to compete for attention. We get it any way possible – by getting a high ranking in search engines, buying links, whatever. But gaming the system only gets people to visit your site once. You need them to come back, and that is purely voluntary. You need to create a hook, great content, a warm environment.

The Whirligig of Attention

So all these people, all round the planet, jumping around, finding what works for them, telling their friends, making their own links. What is value for people co-agulates attention, and ultimately what rises to the top is the result of a process almost akin to random sampling.

So when you get to a page you like, pay attention!

a new way of surfing?

December 30, 2006

Stumble Upon could be the next big thing. Although they’ve been around for a little while, the user base could be reaching a critical mass – where it can direct traffic and influence, and people start opting in because everyone else is.

Read about this experience here, where someone got a huge surge in traffic because they got Stumbled Upon.