How to recieve the New Year, Venezuelan style

My husband is out buying some new yellow panties for me and for his mother (highly traumatic event which I’ll pay in therapy years for him). Not that big of deal people, yellow panties bring you luck! And you can’t just go out an buy them someone must GIVE them to you. That’s right, in Venezuela we buy yellow panties for the women and get new ones every year. But that’s not the only tradition…

One must wear something new. it’s tradition that prosperity starts with a new outfit to wear, we dress up and receive the new year in style, even if we stay at home.

To bring in the cash, wear a dollar bill in your shoe and/or wet a dollar bill and put it on you forehead and drink champagne bottoms up!

Eat 12 grapes (right before midnight), making a wish for each (tip: you can make the same wish).

To travel, run out the door with empty suitcases and walk them around the block. The further you go, the further you’ll travel. I have done this every year and the one year I didn’t, there was no travel.

Hug your mother. I know Americans don’t tend to spend New year’s eve with their families, but in Venezuela it’s truly tradition to spend it with the fam, we even made a song “There’s 5 minutes to midnight and I gotta run home to hug my mom”. But we also go out a party with friends after.

And finally, watch the new year’s sunrise with someone you love.

Feliz Anio Pa’ to’os!!

Be timely, Be constant, Be useful: 3 principles in social web

This week I had the pleasure to talk to some of Seattle’s pro-bloggers: John Cook, Todd Bishop,Jason Preston and Michael Bean. I’m calling them pro-bloggers because they have managed to attract and retain a very loyal community that by any standards qualifies them as influential people in their circles. How do they do it? They work hard! And while we can discuss a lot about the different tools and the technology they use, the common thread is they uphold these 3 principles (oh, and they don’t sleep): Be timely, Be constant, Be useful.

 

TIMELY: it’s not just about breaking news (though this is important), is about linking their niche stories to the things that are relevant at that time and offering a unique or insightful way of telling the story. If the economy is the hot topic they talk about the economy, if politics is hot they tie to that. This requires being aware of the big trends that are affecting us all.

 

CONSTANT: This is the big secret, they work really hard. They are very committed to their blogs and communities and they are hustling all the time. They are constantly look for opportunities to innovate and experiment and better serve their communities. Becoming a reliable source requires being constant. Michael said to me that people form opinions very quickly, but while you may not get it right with every post, it’s more important to keep at it.

 

USEFUL: This is the trickiest part, and the one that requires you to listen to your audience constantly. When you are building up a community online you need to be useful to them, you need to provide something of value, you have to be useful. Communities will value different things, but in general they want to:

 

    • Get information (that they can’t get elsewhere or that they trust)
    • Learn
    • Be entertained
    • Contribute and feel recognized for it
    • Connect with others they care about

 

Non of the above are commercial motivations (read Benkler), which is why I think of digital content as a service, not a way to sell more stuff. I know that brings up the question of why would companies participate in social media if they can’t sell, specially now that the economy is tight and it’s all about the bottom line. This is the big question I face everyday, but I’m leaving it open for my next few posts.

From outsourcing to crowdsourcing

Charlene Li sparked a bit of controversy by crowdsourcing her Logo using CrowdSPRING. Designers protested that services like CrowdSpring and 99Designs take work away from them and that you can’t get the same level of quality. Charlene’s colleague, Jeremiah Owyang, commented on the controversy on his blog and defended Charlene’s action pointing out that this is phenomenon is here to stay and that it makes complete sense for Charlene to tap into this type of service.

 

Why is this controversial? Well, crowdsourcing is disruptive in a  similar way that outsourcing was. Just like outsourcing, crowdsourcing is an organizational change that impacts production models and revenue structures. Here’s Jeff Howe’s definition of crowdsourcing:

 

“the act of taking a job traditionally performed by a designated agent (usually an employee) and outsourcing it to an undefined, generally large group of people in the form of an open call.”

 

The big implication here is that when a task/job gets taken to the larger “crowd” the production cost also gets reduced and so does the revenue. Hence, crowdsourcing is an attractive and affordable solution particularly for simple and discrete tasks like designing a logo (vs. an entire identity system). This is not necessarily a bad thing, but let’s not fool ourselves: Crowdsourcing is absolutely disrupting the design industry (and many more to come).

 

When we do business with an agency, we hire their organizational ability to manage creative talent, all the paperwork that goes with that, even the people that help us define and articulate what is that we want (account managers) and ultimately we hire the reliability of a group of people (if an individual falters the organization will deliver). But what happens when all this can be set up in a different way that is cheaper and more convenient? Wouldn’t you try it? Of course you would! Just like many organizations tried outsourcing. Some of them did it quite successfully, some of them had disastrous experiences. And I can guarantee this is already happening in crowdsourcing.

 

The factors that would prevent you from crowdsourcing are not so different from the ones that would prevent you from outsourcing:

 

a) the result is not up to the quality you expect 

 

b) the experience is more complicated than you expect (CrowdSPRING certainly emphasizes the easiness of the process, it’s just a 1-2-3- step)

 

c) you have a problem with a level of complexity that cannot be crowdsourced (complexity limitations will continually be challenged as crowdsourcing becomes more popular).

 

Jeremiah says that this may represent more demand for design services and that higher quality will always survive. My belief is that this is true, but you also need to understand that crowdsourcing represents a fundamental change in production models. You need to adapt and start experimenting with new ways of generating revenue because the business will not stay the same — whether you are a freelancer or a larger organization.  One way is to join the movement and lead the way into crowdsourcing for your field by helping people manage this change, evaluate results, set it up, understand it, etc. This is how photographers and many journalists are surviving the revenue erosion in their fields. Think what programmers did when the outsourcing craze hit the late 90s/early 00s.

 

And make no mistake, just like outsourcing started with the programmers and call centers and then it spread to accounting and many other functions — so will crowdsourcing. Much more experimentation is going to come with more sophisiticated ways to manage the ‘crowd’ in many fields. Product and visual design are just the beginning.

 

As Clay Shirky says in his book, when we change the way we communicate we change the way we organize society.  So the worst we can do is ignore it and second worst is to resist it. What we CAN do is open up and figure out what opportunities and changes crowdsourcing brings to our field of business …hmm, maybe we should crowdsource that too.

Making sense of the web chaos

“Semantic, shemantics” says Alan Wilensky in reaction to today’s ReadWriteweb post: Top 10 Semantic Web Products of 2008.  I have to agree with him that these apps just all seem to process existing data in different ways to create a new node in the network rather than to deliver content that is relevant to me and that I can trust (key word: trust). But these apps are exciting because they show glimpse of what’s possible when we push beyond the search engines, particularlyZemanta, which helps you produce content better, and Glue, which helps you connect better.

 

 

 

When Web 2.0 became the buzzword du jour, it had to define what Web 1.0 was, and inevitably people started to question what would Web 3.0 be, if anything. However, a few publications, including a New York Times article from November 2006, shaped to the vision of what Web 3.0 is expected to become. PC Magazine defined it as:

 

“to many, Web 3.0 is something called the Semantic Web, a term coined by Tim Berners-Lee, the man who invented the (first) World Wide Web. In essence, the Semantic Web is a place where machines can read web pages much as we humans read them, a place where search engines and software agents can better troll the Net and find what we’re looking for.”

 

Initially people thought that having a Semantic Web requires a major overhaul of data tagging and a standard organizational structure that translates across browsers and platforms.  This goes against the organizational (or rather disorganization) principles of Web 2.0, where tools allow individual users to tag their content to create taxonomies that may be unrelated to one another, thus making Semantic Web an almost inconceivable plan. Yet, in MIT Technology Review (2007), John Borland wrote how the growth of UGC and social sites like flickr and del.icio.us have changed the approach to building a smarter Web, directing the research to finding ways to extract data from unstructured environments. They realize the power of self-regulating communities and it has become the Eden for the latest initiatives around Web 3.0. And that’s where companies such as the ones highlighted by ReadWriteWeb come in.

 

Ultimately, we need a smarter solution to Web 2.0’s explosion of content.  Current search engines and organizational principles are not sufficient to make sense of the data.  Critics of Web 2.0, and in particular social media, argue that we have created an uncontrollable amount of content that is highly unreliable and impossible to distinguish. And those concerns are precisely what’s driving the arrival of Web 3.0.

 

Meanwhile I’m trying out  a few of these applications and seeing what they do for me and how helpful they really are. I’ll post on December 15 with results.

A Digital Ecology: Yes we can!

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As political analysts pour over reasons that led the Obama campaign to victory, one fact reveals itself: he better understands the role of the Internet as the predominant medium for reaching and activating the populace.  More than a convenient way to fund raise and present his message in a readable (brochure ware) format, he really understands the active, engaging ideas of SOCIAL MEDIA. In recent weeks as his opponents and pundits tried to slander him as a socialist, they weren’t far off, but they were still thinking of the word ’socialist’ in 20th century terms. If anything, Obama’s team makes a great case for redefining the term.  Social (media) -ist might best describe this involvement in terms of leveraging the nodes along our digital ecology (see previous posts) into active organization of a movement.

 

From Facebook organized ‘groups,’ ‘events,’ and ’causes’ to Obama’s status as the ‘most followed on Twitter’. Note here, number two on that list is Kevin Rose founder of Digg, which is no surprise.  For Obama’s campaign, bridging the generation gap to the younger voters wagered this strategy: get the word out everywhere online and let it self-propagate via the networks.  This means: be as active as the top players in the field, such as Mr. Rose.

 

In case you haven’t already, peruse his website’s statement on technology, and take into account these several statistics from the campaign. These statistics do not present that large a portion of the 50-60 million voters that cast their ballots yesterday, but that’s really not necessary.  At nearly every large point in the campaign, whether a speech, debate, crisis, or attack, social networks were ablaze with activity, people were creating art, music, clothes, organizing, donating.  Actions, via tools (iPhone’s Obama ‘08 app. is one example, Facebook apps another) engaged and enabled users to USE the Obama message daily, instead of passively receiving a message. This is the key difference here, the use of the message allowed it to continually regenerate beyond the campaign’s control or power to do so. Obama’s message became a living ecology.

 

The immediate effect was that the buzz spreading through social media networks coalesced into production: designers made posters, musicians published songs, and participate in the effort by.  This took the campaign’s points of discussion and crossed over from one node of digital media (see graphic from two posts earlier) to the next: into emails, conversations over the phone, call-ins to radio and TV talk shows, music videos, gigs at clubs, activating channels across what could be considered the greater digital ecosystem.

 

It’s difficult to ascertain everything that this election’s outcome will influence, but it’s certain that the socialists (media socialists that is) played to win — and did. Yes, indeed, we can!

 

How Pickens Plan’s pickens social media

I just spoke to Joey Mornin, from YourRevolution and it’s really incredible what they are doing. In just two weeks these guy have delivered a formidable social media strategy (Joey has not slept 8 hours in the last week). Pickens campaign had no idea how good they had by hiring these young super powers!

The campaign has really moved into high gear making social media a core part of their strategy. But let’s not miss the BIG point here.

Continue reading How Pickens Plan’s pickens social media

Growing pains of on-demand media

No one loses or wins in the battle of Netflix & Amazon on-demand streaming videos, says Betsy Shiffman from Wired Magazine. But judging by the reader comments, the Losers R US: the generation X/Y users.

We’re still so early in this on-demand content game that the technology is very poor and the usability is far from ideal. Sure, we’re doing it to spare our kids from this painful transition. Thanks to the persistent curiosity of our guinea-pig mind we are patiently trying out anything you throw at us in a shiny box (virtual or real) until you — content providers — get it right. Even with the economy failing, game sales are up 52% and overall electronics sales continue to show growth. You can thank us by lowering your prices and making better tech toys — that is better usability, energy efficient and visually pleasant with less cables.

Continue reading Growing pains of on-demand media