Friday, 20 February 2009

Foot massage

Since I saw Fergal Sharkey talking at the Mandrake a few weeks ago, I've been pondering how the music business is changing. The trailblazers like Radiohead and Prince provide interesting case studies, as they try out new business models. But I don't think anyone saw this coming - Josh Freese, the drummer for NIN, is selling foot massages with his latest CD, and that's just the start of it. Brilliant!

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Micro-experiment

Thanks partly to frequent mention of Twitter in the Red Tops, as well as a few high profile celebs joining the network, usage is rising steeply. Newcomers are trying to understand how to use it. Several will fall into the trap of treating it as a broadcast channel, others will be too commercial, and others will fail to recognise the kind of behaviour that inspires trust. And some will get annoyed at the supposed mis-use of the system.

Which is why this quote from Rands is pertinent:
Twitter spam. Really? Are you even paying attention? I’ll say it again, you choose who you follow. If you’re following a newsbot, you’re going to get news spam. If you follow a good friend who can’t stop RTing, you’re going to to get retweet spam, but complaining about it is like standing the middle of a freeway asking, “Why do these cars keep hitting me?”
Whole, really rather good article is here. Pub-sub, baby, it's the future and it works! And it's this mentality that's meant my experience of twitter hasn't changed for the worse during this growth period.

It doesn't come as a huge surprise that the traffic increase is reflected in more corporate accounts. I've mentioned in the past that social media stops being social when it adopts a commercial tone of voice. And one-on-one engagements count for more. I kind of ran the company twitter feed at my last place, which I'm convinced helped us to engage with a savvy audience (176 followers, which ain't bad), and we're going to explore how it can work at The Team.

Letting anyone post whenever they want hasn't really worked, so we're setting up a simple twitter experiment. There are many people at The Team who are on Twitter, and they have a wildly diverse portfolio of work. Only 1/4 of our staff are in the Digital team, the rest being involved in Brand, Marketing and Employee Engagement. So we're going to take it in turns guest tweeting from week to week, to use Twitter as a social tool for sharing our varied outlook on life.

If you want to see whether this experiment works, you can follow us here.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

The Dark Ages of Football

There are plenty of businesses that should be pulled kicking and screaming into the 21st century. Airports is one. Government is another. But within the entertainment industry, there can't be many organisations as backwards as that which runs our very own national sport.

Turns out Sky Sports has won more of the rights to show live football. As far as I can figure out, this gives the average consumer very little to cheer about. The government needs to take a look at an industry which forces consumers down a duopolistic, narrow broadcast channel when the web offers so many greater possibilities - and these possibilities could well be more lucrative for distributors and football clubs alike.

Let's just say that I wanted to watch this match live. My choices would've been to either go to the ground or, ironically, go abroad and watch it on TV. Or watch a poor quality live stream through a dodgy website.

Let's just say that I want to only watch live matches involving my favorite club. There are no packages that let me do that, I have to pay for all the other games too. I won't even get this on the club's dedicated TV channel!

Let's just say that I want to watch a specific goal from the weekend. I've got to look on Youtube, and keep trying until a clip appears, then watch it quickly before it's taken down. The fact this happens is sufficient proof of demand, surely? Fortunately it's still possible to see the best goal ever scored...but we all have our own favorites, and they're not always easy to find or see.

Long Tail economics assert that infinite supply leads to unlimited demand. There is such a vast quantity of footage out there (including off the field of play) that it's surely just a question of how you serve it up and what you charge.

Dear Football Association: We will look back on this time as the dark ages of football. The above demands aren't unusual, and there's a ready made distribution network out there waiting to be harnessed. Time to suit up!

/rant

FOSDEM 2009

I've just spent the weekend at FOSDEM (Free and Open Source Developer's European Meeting) in Brussels, and it was every bit as invigorating as last year. There's something very special about such a well attended event where the vast majority of people are contributing their time and considerable expertise free of charge out of love. It can't help but rub off, even on non-developers like me.

However the most interesting thing I found is that several open source projects are now making special efforts to engage with non-developers. Whether it's in the fields of design, usability or marketing, several projects are now realising that their product can benefit from a more diverse skill set. I've written about Ubuntu in the past, and now Drupal has hired not one but two usability gurus and MediaWiki is hiring for a Usability Initiative.

Furthermore, Mozilla are starting a new design initiative called the "Creative Collective". What sets this apart from the other projects is that creatives are expected to contribute for free. And they've done it in the past, e.g. for t-shirt design projects. How did Mozilla drum up so much support from designers? Through branding and marketing. Many designers embrace Firefox to such an extent that designing Firefox t-shirts is a form of self expression. And the results are terrific.

Anyway, back to FOSDEM itself! I was mostly interesting in the Mozilla and Drupal tracks, and both projects are making great strides.

Mozilla in fact is now imagining what life might be like in 2060! Obviously no-one can predict what the web or world will look like then, but they're going to follow a "clear conceptual map" to get there, based on helping users to study, copy, modify and share. Incidentally, it's worth pausing for a moment to see how far they've come already. In 2003, Internet Explorer had ~99% of the market share. In 2008 that figure has dropped to ~68%, with Firefox taking ~21% of the share. And that's even with most standard PC builds coming with Internet Explorer pre-installed. Amazing, really!

As for Drupal, it was useful hearing about the progress they're making towards Drupal 7. But the best session for me was one by Emma Jane Hogbin, who lives some 200 miles North of Toronto. She operates a sort of Drupal club, for small businesses within 100 mile radius, for whom she runs several web sites based on near-identical principles. Economies of scale (think: bulk security updates) means she can provide a valuable service at bargain prices, and she brings all these business owners together for a Drupal night once a month or so, to see each other's websites and form friendships. Inspirational. She's uploaded session notes and answers to questions here.

Anyway, that's FOSDEM over for another year. I'm going to miss the quirky, geeky humour:
Toilet humour
...not to mention the crazy beers...
Kwak
..and Brussels was gorgeous as always!
Tower
Finally I can't end the post without thanking the organisers and staff. As ever they did an amazing job, didn't ask for any money, and every single one of them deserves a huge amount of credit for a job well done. Thanks guys!

++

UPDATE 9/2/09: Oops, forgot to mention that there's an album of photos up on Flickr.