TechCrunch 3rd Summer Meetup

Going to TechCrunch’s 3rd summertime fling wasn’t at the top of my list for a Friday night. I ignored the event until Twitter-aided social alchemy came into play.

I was without Twitter for 10 days. A series of epic hardware/software fails kept me off the grid. On the eleventh day I settled in with a reconditioned Lenovo (oy!) and installed Twhirl. One of the first tweets I spied was Arrington putting up 200 invites for grabs. I jumped on it. Within 4 minutes all were taken.

The gig started at 5.30. Not that the Valley is a 9 – 5 place, but I figured that there would be a lot of Fred Flintstones sliding down the tail of their dino at 5 and making their way to Sand Hill Road. I got there at 6.30 to find a minor traffic jam adjudicated by rentacops. Once parked, there was a long line, but the socializing wasn’t bad. The shock for me was this…. young entrepreneurs being carded at the door. The borders of the sub 21 crowd’s badges had a different color to indicate their lack of drinking age.

I often ask myself why I give up a Friday night to attend such events. After all, none of the ideas are nearly as interesting as what you can find at MIT’s Media Lab or Stanford’s AI lab. The reward I get is seeing so many old friends. These are the ones that were there when this whole damn thing got started. I won’t name names, but they are the ones that were ambling about the West Coast Computer Faire thinking that this is cool shit.

Every generation has inventors. There are visionaries born every day. I just hope that none of us ever forget that seeing the unseen is still the game. We all need a bigger dose of that.

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The new new year

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The year is new of course, but the new, new thing for me is the next step in my career. I’ve joined The Conversation Group. It’s a new agency in San Francisco with the people, relationships and tools to make a difference for major brands as they try to engage people online.

The rise of the digital lifestyle has bubbled up a new crop of influencers who don’t watch tv, read newspapers, or listen to the radio. They hang out online. The Conversation Group helps brands understand, listen to and communicate with consumers in new media venues. I could not be more pleased to be working with such a smart group of folks.

I enjoy the earliest stages of new ventures. It’s a clean sheet of paper unhindered by legacy and powered by new ideas. The big idea here is that old media’s share of attention has been on the decline for years. Last year was the first time that Americans spent as much time online as they spent watching tv. You don’t need a math degree to extrapolate the trendlines between old media and new media. It’s one of those immutable trends.

Social Hacks

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Ok, I agree with Loren Feldman about Seesmic. I followed a link from Twitter to some guy’s rant about social hacks. The title was irresistible. It drove me to register on Seesmic with the key I got from Rafe. What I found was an articulate rant, but I couldn’t leave a text comment! Damn. Let me leave a text comment please! I don’t want to brush my teeth, comb my hair, or fire up the lights. I just want to comment. The need to comment on Eric’s vid is why I wrote this post.

Eric Rice caught my attention because he used two of my favorite words in sequence, social and hack. Eric suggests that profiles can be set up that are not real people. As if this does not go on right now? Come on. Still, he had an important vidpost:

There are two threads of thought I’d like to share. One is humanity’s penchant for fantasy and the other is a reminder that the Turing Test hasn’t been passed by silicon…yet.

Marc Canter advocates that social networks allow multiple personas. The profile you show from 9 to 5 may be different than the one you show from midnight to 3. The details have yet to be worked out, but Marc’s idea conforms well with human nature. We present ourselves situationally in real life. Static profiles aren’t flexible enough.

Alan Turing’s test has not been passed by any bit of code that I know about yet. Bots in chat rooms are easily spotted and fake profiles are easily discovered. If you’re spending so much time online that you can’t distinguish people from proxies, it’s time to jack out and take a vacation.

Demo or die

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Last night Robert Scoble demoed Dave Winer’s latest thing, FlickrFan. FlickrFan is a cute software trick that taps Twitter and Flickr’s API in order to feed tweets and pics to your home entertainment center via Apple’s MacMini. While many a good man has been humbled by a software demo gone bad (this writer included) the way the demo was delivered only compounded the muddle.

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Robert used Qik to webcast the demo via cell phone. The Qik page displays the video feed and hosts a chat window. The fact that all of the chatters were anonymous (Qik is alpha and I’m sure many like me were using it for the first time last night.) meant that the chat room was more than a little boisterous. Maybe it was the holiday spirit.

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On the surface, Qik appears to be a great mobile solution. Simply use your cell phone to upload live video. Unfortunately, the quality of the video was awful. If Loren Feldman has a problem with Seesmic, he’d be apoplectic over Robert’s attempts to show FlickrFan running on a large HDTV display. The image was worthless, and the software remained a buggy mystery. Such is the life of an unscripted demo god.

Dave Winer called in mid-demo. Rather than use a mixing board or some other way to capture phone audio, Robert just put his iPhone on speaker and held it up to the cell phone that was taking the video. Oy, even for telephony, the audio quality was painful to listen to. Dave didn’t stick around very long. I’m not sure if the chat comments put him off or the overall slapdash nature of the demo wasn’t comfortable, but after a brief chat he said “I really don’t need to be here right now” and hung up.

The chat room was baffled, Scoble scrambled to fill air time and I was left wondering why Dave didn’t at least stick around to describe his vision, talk about the opportunities with the current crop of APIs, discuss how media companies might use his Radio 8 based FlickrFan. Dave is a very articulate guy I just wish he stayed around long enough to tell us why we should care about it.

As far as Qik is concerned I’m very forgiving of alpha software. It appears to be a useful tool but as with all media, production values must be paid attention to. Better lighting, better audio and less hand held camera work. Still I applaud Robert for using alpha software to demo alpha software. It really takes brass balls to do that.

Dead Bird

I tried connnecting Twitter to my Facebook account today. The resulting message from Twitter did not look good.

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I remained optimistic that at least I could get ZuPort’s Flickr feed going. That’s a no brainer in WordPress. Stymied again!

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Go home yourself, eh?

Digital Society on BlogTalkRadio

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Join us on BlogTalkRadio today at 2pm pacific as we talk to Eleanor Wynn, Social Technology Architect at Intel Corporation. Show details are here. I hope she will dispel my gloomy view of tomorrow’s digital panopticon.

Eleanor is an articulate speaker that concretely addresses social media and organizational behavior. Her insights into the future include ways social network mapping can be used to understand where conversations were happening and where centers of competence exist. This is the next iteration in enterprise social media and she’s the only speaker I’ve heard address the topic. We’ll explore:

  • What’s the role of anthropology now that digital lifestyles are fair game for research?
  • Are you a participant observer? What does that mean?
  • How does digital society map to face to face society? What’s inhibited, what’s enabled?
  • What’s your projection for the near term, revolution in co-worker relations or a massive time sink?

Please join us for a great show. Call us between 2 and 3pm pacific and weigh in on tomorrow’s digital panopticon. The call in number is 646 478 5503

Moon’s Gloom

Bernard Moon’s post forecasts a “dark period” for social networks. He points out that the novelty of user experience wears off quickly. Even Club Penguin is suffering as 8 year olds migrate to fresher venues.

As the attention deficit economy putters along to the latest eye candy, social networks need to embrace new content strategies to remain interesting. The question is whether the current crop of social networks can innovate their way towards relevance.

There are two trends that counter Moon’s gloomy mood. The first is a boom in real time media. This research report reveals some drivers that are more, um, discreet.

“WebCam total market forecasts indicate that there is strong growth from a number of segments. The pornographic WebCam market is more hidden from analysts than the other segments, but it is a lively part of the market. The Internet revenue started with porn and continues to benefit from this aspect of use. Because of the relative anonymous aspects of viewing sites, there is usage that might not occur otherwise.”

The other immutable trend is the opening up walled gardens with APIs from Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and others. Data aggregators, data miners, and marketers love this stuff. That’s what’s propelling the next round of social media investment. Barring any unexpected results, it just may work.