Category Archives: NMK

Some hero magic on Ada Lovelace Day

It’s all about the “now” and the “next” in media and technology; but in the headlong, often mind-numbing rush for mindshare, followers, whuffie or whatever is this week’s shiny nu nu thing, what has gone before is equally important.

That’s why, to mark Ada Lovelace Day I wanted to write about someone who inspired and mentored me directly.

I’d already edited a web site for the Edinburgh Festival and covered technology and multimedia culture for the likes of The Scotsman newspaper and .net magazine before I touched down in Londoninium in July 1998.

I was starting as Web Editor for the international website of Ernst & Young but – I was informed on Day One – there was a month of handover between me and the freelancer who’d previously been editing the site part-time.

On the morning the freelancer was due to come in my nerves were ratcheted up another notch from their already high levels. There was me *way* out of my comfort zone working in corporatesville when in walks this stunning woman: pixieish hair, jeans and a biker jacket. And when she removed said jacket, ooh, the tattoo on her arm was just gorgeous. She smiled and extended a hand: “Hey! I’m Lizzie”. And that was Liz Bailey. I’ll never forget it.

It was less of a handover, more of a crash course in ramping-up my html skills, and getting the ultimate outsiders insider’s guide to my employer, interspersed with some scrumptious Chinatown and Soho lunches and lots of hilarity. The full-spectrum introduction :-) But more than that it was finding – in this most alien of environments – a kindred spirit, because Lizzie was my entry point into London’s embryonic web scene.

A freelancer who also wrote and did web editing, design and production for Wired UK, The Guardian, BBC Online, the FT, Demos, Wallpaper*, McKinsey, The Telegraph and more, Lizzie knew everyone who was doing anything interesting web-wise in London.

Missing my own familiarity with Scotland’s web scene, I was happy to take a cue from my new mentor. If it wasn’t for Lizzie, well I would’ve been fine, but she allowed me to bridge both worlds: the corporate but innovative focus of my everyday work, and the creativity, excitement and bone fide madness of the first dotcom boom.

I’d seen a black and white A4 newsletter once in Glasgow (when someone in London posted it to me) called New Media Age – it carried four pages of news on the nascent sector and no ads! But it was Lizzie who tipped me off re a packed mid-week party in Great Titchfield St dubbed ‘Boob Night’ where I met the editor of the then fully-fledged magazine, a young fella by the name of Mike Butcher who I managed to out-argue . He says he doesn’t remember it, but back then nights of mayhem where the champers flowed gratis were ten a penny for the current TechCrunchUK editor  ;-)

At Lizzie’s 30th Birthday party I also met Phil Gyford (then at BBC Online I think), and a guy she was working with on ‘New Media Creative’ magazine called Paul Murphy. Later she introduced me to hotshot new media reporter Polly Sprenger who was fresh over from Wired News in San Francisco (Mike Butcher once described Polly to me as “the Red Rum of technology reporters” after they worked together on the shortlived Industry Standard Europe magazine).

It reaffirmed I wasn’t just working in a “job”, for a “company”, but part of of something game-changing and amazing.

But this melange of web culture, innovation and merriment paled next to Lizzie’s own formidable focus and grit. A web grrrl to the core, Lizzie would magic up websites to die for whilst relentlessly promoting the causes of usability, innovation and the visibility of women in the web design and technology sector.

That movement for change – and celebration of talent – has latter day embodiments in UK-founded networks (some of which have gone global) like She Says, Girl Geek Dinners, Women In Mobile Data, and the briefly existent Digital Womens’ Club – all great initiatives I’ve actively supported.

Three years flew by, and when I was two jobs on from Ernst & Yong working as editor in chief of a VC-funded music website, the entire sector imploded. After a barren several months I decamped to the TV industry back in Belfast in 2002. But Lizzie hung in there. Multi-talented and entrepreneurial to a tee, she was surely the woman who knew most about new media in London. She was praxis.

And just when I came back to London in 2004, as the first timid signs of hope were visible in the sector (I’d been waiting, watching and biding my time you see), Lizzie switched careers and started studying to be a barrister.

Now she’s qualified and doing well, but her influence in web culture and technology still resonates for me. I’ve often been at conferences like SXSW Interactive, FOWA, Changing Media – and the NMK and Chinwag Live events I’ve organised myself – and thought “damn, Lizzie should be speaking at this!”. But looked at in a broader way, she has been…

I don’t know if I’d have dared come back to digital if I hadn’t known Lizzie. There were too many talented people flushed out of the sector back then. As it turns out while digital certainly has been affected by the current recession, compared to the rest of media – and jobs more generally – it’s still *relatively* resilient. In short, it’s nowhere near a dotcom bust Groundhog Day scenario.

Tons and tons of people inspire me of course, but in reality it’s hard to say what it all will mean and which parts will be valuable 10 years hence.

So raise a toast to the inaugural Ada Lovelace Day and sample some vintage Liz Bailey (NB. it’s an internet hazard that most of Lizzie’s work from then – like most of mine – has not been archived):

Boo gets booed – The Guardian 11th November 1999

Britgrrls No Bark and No Byte? – 1999, trAce

Demos publications by Liz Bailey

Who was Ada Lovelace?
Born on 10th December 1815, the only child of Lord Byron and his wife Annabella, Augusta Ada Byron (now known simply as Ada Lovelace) wrote the world’s first computer programmes for the Analytical Engine, a general-purpose machine that Charles Babbage had invented  »read more

Credits
Thanks to Suw Charman for co-ordinating Ada Lovelace Day on Tuesday 24th March 2009. The first of it’s kind, it’s “an international day of blogging to draw attention to women excelling in technology. Women’s contributions often go unacknowledged, their innovations seldom mentioned, their faces rarely recognised. We want you to tell the world about these unsung heroines. Entrepreneurs, innovators, sysadmins, programmers, designers, games developers, hardware experts, tech journalists, tech consultants. The list of tech-related careers is endless.” »Ada Lovelace website

Join In!
You (male or female) can still register your pledge to write a blog post celebrating your technology heroine on this day – Tuesday 24th March – at the official »2009 PledgeBank page

Alchemy in the micro media maze

Micromedia makes my life better. For one thing – I don’t have to take comprehensive notes at Chinwag events, because there’s always the trusty podcast :-) Thus I spent more of this event using my more evolved faculties of listening and thinking. Amen to that!

L-R: Umair Haque, Ewan McIntosh (The Guardian), Steve Bowbrick, Mitch McAlister (Last.fm), Miles Lewis (Last.fm), Gerd Leonhard

L-R: Umair Haque, Steve Bowbrick, Neil McIntosh (The Guardian), Mitch McAlister (MySpace), Deirdre Molloy (Chinwag), Miles Lewis (Last.fm), Gerd Leonhard

Another good thing about micromedia is that it can re-combine or aggregate into different – often richer – things than its constituent ingredients. The whole is indeed greater… usually. And that’s exactly what happened at Chinwag Live Micro Media Maze last Tuesday 20th May.

PANEL

Umair Haque – Director, Havas Media Lab / Bubblegeneration
Gerd Leonhard – Media Futurist, Author, Entrepreneur
Mitch McAlister – Product Director (Europe), MySpace
Miles Lewis – SVP, European Advertising Sales, LastFM
Neil McIntosh – Head of Editorial Development, Guardian Unlimited
Chair: Steve Bowbrick

From the premise of widgets, and disaggregated, widgetised media more generally – it quickly took off into a much broader debate about the value of media, the challenges for advertising, and the potential of openness for brands, innovators and society more generally.

That’s an exciting leap – and it’s alchemy in my book. Like a previous event we held in Manchester in April – User Centred Advertising – raising bigger questions and breaking out of the ‘media as entertainment’ mindset triggered a much more stimulating conversation with the audience and pointed to an almost boundless horizon of opportunities.

Syndicated companies vs dinosaur brands

And if you’re looking to the future, then Media Futurist (and author of books The Future Of Music and Music 2.0) Gerd Leonhard is your man. Gerd has a way with metaphors and was on good form that evening. He predicted that in the future, there will be one bookmark that represents me, which I can reveal and share different parts of with my friends, colleagues and network.

In the future, most companies are going to be 90% syndicated, he said, as few can afford the huge investment it takes to create a major centralised [aka monolithic?] brand.

Coming from a massively widgetised service, Miles Lewis had some fascinating facts and insights – Last.FM‘s homepage only has 3% of its total hits. They’ve built their success by being all about music and nothing else, he observed. As such, I guess they are one of the leading niche networks – certainly the leading one founded in the UK! [aptly – they spoke at the first NMK Beers & Innovation event I organised in February 2006 on Start Up Culture]

Steve Bowbrick, Umair Haque and Ewan McIntosh at Chinwag Live: Micro Media Maze May 2008

Steve Bowbrick, Umair Haque and Neil McIntosh at Chinwag Live: Micro Media Maze May 2008

The writing on the crumbling walls is that they’re doomed

Lewis estimated that by the end of this year 55% of their users will be partaking of Last FM via widgets (currently that already stands at 40%), of which the largest has 50,000 users, and the smallest just 3. Regarding those thousands of smaller widgets, he wondered – somewhat archly – how the big media buyers and agencies [with their dinosaur mindsets ;-) ]can reach down into these micro audiences.

Mitch McAlister threw his and Myspace’s support behind the tenets of and movement towards openness – what Gerd is doing, and Lawrence Lessig, and a whole lot of other people, plus open source technologies and development. Collaboration, data portability and more are all key.

What’s more, Mitch expected to soon see the majority of traffic to Myspace on non-PC devices. The main stumbling-block has been the mobile network operators but that’s starting to change. Social nets shouldn’t be walled gardens, he stressed.

Brands in the wild and the benefits of remixable culture

Neil McIntosh of Guardian Unlimited said micromedia is good news for journalists, quipping that “nobody wants to be a channel”. The difficulties he saw were twofold. Firstly, it’s harder to serve ads against feeds. The second challenge was context – if you have a brand built around trust, what happens when your content is presented in an upsetting or inappropriate context off your site.

Umair Haque of Havas Media Lab explained that he wrote a long piece entitled The Age of Plasticity in 2005 (accessible as a Powerpoint download from his Bubblegeneration blog), wherein he first articulated and explained at length the idea that we get productivity and efficiency gains when we are allowed to remix things. Haque didn’t mention that he was also one of the two people who independently coined the term micromedia – also in 2005 – the other being leading new media theorist Lev Manovich]

Coops on the mike and Ian Delaney (lurking left) at Micro Media Maze

Coops on the mike and Ian Delaney (lurking left) at Micro Media Maze

Last FM and Myspace have revolutionised and solved the problem of the music industry, Umair said. But what is happening now – apart from micromedia being seen as yet another way to shove shitty advertising down our throats?

Going beyond the trivial mindset…

Umair (who also blogs as a discussion leader at Harvard Business Online) loathes the term ‘monetize’, he said, because you have to *create* value before you can capitalise on it; you have to have a purpose before you can profit from it. It’s not about creating games for Facebook. We in London labour under the delusion that media is entertainment, but media is so much more than that, it’s the interface for so much activity and experience in the world.

He challenged the panel and the audience to come up with something that would help solve real problems, not trivial ones, and create value at the same time.

Gerd Leonhard drew this analogy: in old media control = money; in new media trust = money. In companies embracing new media, collaboration with the audience is supplanting the old business model of control. Gerd’s remarks on a trust-based market reminded me a lot of the ideas of social capital getting a published articulation in Tara Hunt’s book The Whuffie Factor due to drop this autumn.

Media and ad agencies looking in the wrong direction?

Paul Fisher of Advent Capital Partners was first in from the audience with a question. If industries are creating less value, does this mean there will be fewer jobs in the old companies? In turn, where should he be looking for growth areas in terms of investments? For its sheer audacity, this got a few laughs from the audience.

Miles Lewis of Last FM had an interesting perspective on this. He argued that it is media agencies and ad agencies that are the dinosaur industries. The billions of spend they control are not going to where people are, it’s all going into TV and search.

—-

PODCAST ACTION!

Well, that’s what I’ve deciphered from my pleasingly sparse notes… but the debate was long and lively, and continued as people stayed to chat and have a drink afterwards. You can catch it all on the Chinwag Live podcast due later this week. Subscribe here or for iTunes go to the event page.

MORE COVERAGE OF MICRO MEDIA MAZE:

There have been some superb write-ups already from people who attended.

Jonathan Hopkins – Middledigit
Ben Matthews – Pudding Relations
Jemima Kiss – PDA Blog, Media Guardian
David Jennings

[NB. cross-posted on my Chinwag blog]

How we knit the webosphere together – lessons so far

This is outta character, but I’m reposting a comment I made on the Broadstuff (aka Broadsight’s Alan Patrick’s) blog within the last hour, with a few corrections…

Here’s the original post: Bitchin’ About Aggregator posts on Techmeme

To recap on Broadstuff’s key points:

“In essence the issue discussed is… that these aggregators are taking commenting and all that away from the blogs, and “the conversation” is happening elsewhere

… here’s my thesis; anyone who wants to talk to the blogger will probably do it on the blog still, or on a social network they use.

… all these Feedread type aggregator plays that are trying to create their own platforms are medium term f*cked (no matter how much PR $5m can buy) as any form of large scale service – they are just too disjointed…

… Maybe what would be more useful than a Friendfeed downstream aggregator is a “reverse aggregator”, where people who want to comment on any one of these media can do so and it pops up on the blog page, allowng other commentators on other aggregators to see the conversation.”

Here’s my verbose response (but it’s a mammoth issue – my lame excuse)

(1) Initially, in terms of connecting blogosphere conversation together there was trackback, but then along came the traditional publishers and they couldn’t deal with the (spam / gaming) issues, nor incorporate the lessons of online communities’ design or etiquette so far. Thus the promise held out by trackback (see Nico Macdonald, ‘Comment is Free,’ but designing communities is hard, Online Journalism Review, 17th July 2006) was quashed.

(2) Then trackback spam arrived (your favourite Alan) – possibly the final nail in the coffin of trackback’s potential (if we agree pingbacks are the watered-down substitute).

(3) In turn, beyond mere feed readers, more sophisticated aggregators like Netvibes and other “thin portal[s] of widgets” (to quote Mike Butcher on a post about Sleevenotez he wrote on Vecosys, since deleted by the blog owner) entered the arena, along with cross-platform microblogging. The social web and mobile stuff more generally – rather than just the blogosphere – at least became more manageable [see also Jaiku, though it's gone quiet since Google acquired it late in 2007, and interesting lifestream propositions like Rememble].

(4) But before we could take a breath, social networks went zoom, and we were pouring tons of valuable-to-trivial content, discussion and links (it’s all a continuum, right) into the likes of Facebook and Bebo. But it was hellish-difficult/impossible to connect this back out to the open internet, the ahead of its time [and much lamented] BlogFriends for pouring back in-and-out notwithstanding.

(5) Now we have the next wave of aggregators: Friendfeed, favorit, Plaxo’s Pulse feature, the recently souped-up MyBlogLog et al.

(6) And hot on their tails – for the blogerati – Cocomment, Disqus, SezWho, and IntenseDebate became part of the equation, some of whom even have social network integration in their pipeline apparently :-) [my, that sounds rather painful]

(7) This doesn’t even factor in the photo and video outfits out there – Seesmic, Qik, Flickr video, Google Video, Vimeo, BlipTV [gratuitous interview and Beers & Innovation RSS Frontiers video linkage], Moblog and the like; especially the cross-platform players among them. Who has even mentioned or interrogated their part in the connected web in this month’s discussion? Yep, time to remove the old-skool web goggles.

So now that the conversation has left the blogosphere [ReadWriteWeb, 20th March 2008] where does that leave us?

If the walled garden is crumbling, but our attention is ever more stretched, and our conversational quality and digital health suffering, is the model of aggregating eyeballs doomed or due for a fresh lease of life from the most innovative but implacably dominating mover in this space?

And / or in biz parlance, has the reverse aggregator got legs?

I’d love to hear what folks think about all or any of this. Then I can go back to knitting or eating chocolate to calm down – apparently that’s what works for people who aren’t bona fide geeks and are seen to be interrogating stuff above their station, or asking questions that are difficult. Who knew? Go experts! ;-)

—————-

PS. All of which makes me even more convinced that the questions we asked in London (and the blogosphere – joint blog by Mike Butcher + Deirdre Molloy) in June 2006 at the NMK Content 2.0 conference, which I co-organised with NMK co-worker Nick Watt, still haven’t been seriously addressed.

PPS. So much for the networked age!

PPPS. Buce Sterling on why the interweb’s a mess :-)

SXSW notes: Using RSS For Marketing

I dipped into this session on Sunday 11th March 2007 a little after it began, and the panel was already in full-flow. The session overall was an interesting elision of technology and marketing, and drew a 200-strong audience – pretty good going for a 10am slot!

While I left knowing feed adoption was certainly on the up, a strong sense prevailed that the technological and design issues around it were also hampering its growth.

Anyway, onto the report. Discussing the uses of and issues around RSS for marketing were a very insightful and affable panel…

PANEL
Emily Chang – IdeaCodes / EmilyChang.com
Bill Flitter – CEO, Pheedo (blog)
John Jantsch – Duct Tape Marketing (blog)
Greg Reinacker – CTO & Co-founder, Newsgator (blog)
Chair: Tom Markewicz – EvolvePoint

Difficulties around tracking RSS user statistics and data were first on the agenda, and Greg Reinacker of Newsgator was stressing that they do have good data, but that what they don’t have is data on people using Firefox and Outlook for their feeds.

John Jantsch said their clients and prospects are getting information in lots of different ways. There’s a segment that want it in RSS and he wasn’t worried by the adoption rate. The trick is to easily enable all the ways people want to get information.

Emily Chang countered that we don’t get good data. However NBC are already using RSS internally to send out information; and many people may be using RSS without being aware of it.

Bill Flitter of Pheedo said that last year (2006) saw a huge spike from clients and brands in the automotive industry; there was a 500% increase so it is going towards the mainstream via these hobbyist channels. Last year when Google Reader and some Microsoft products launched, he added, there was another big spike.

It’s the plumbing stupid…

The moderator asked if RSS will remain a specialist term like POP Server, etc, or will it go mainstream like “email”? And if there’s a difference between RSS and Atom, can we use RSS as a generic term?

As browsers and other products integrate RSS into the toolset we will need the term less, reckoned Chang. It’s about receiving information by subscribing to content, Reinacker added, “RSS is just plumbing.” Just like no-one knows what SMTP is, he observed, RSS is under the hood and will stay there.

If you look at things like Pageflakes, there are widgets pulling information in. What excites him is the example of a publishing site that is putting all the content reconfigured for RSS through XML mark-up [not sure that I noted this correctly - will check podcast and amend if required].

RSS moves to enhance your marketing

What marketing is being done, Markiewicz asked the panel. Jantsch noted that on Pageflakes you can set up RSS feeds on different topics and areas around news stories. Reinacker observed that you don’t need to build your own RSS reader; rather, there’s a big cloud of content out there and you can access everyone’s content the same way using a desktop aggregator to tap into the cloud and pick stuff out of it.

Or if you’re in an industry sector for example, Reinacker continued, look at all the content specific to your area and pull bits of it into your site [eg. via a widget]; this way you can become a thought leader by leveraging others content.

Ford are doing blogs for auto shows (eg Detroit, NY), Flitter explained. They’re sending a person there to cover the show, not just to write about Ford but to write about what’s happening in the industry. They’re creating content on their blog and then looking to get that content syndicated elsewhere, leveraging the written word to build affinity with customers. Understand the power of content, Flitter stressed.

Markiewicz reflected that as with any aspect of marketing, you need to measure it. With marketing as a discipline there are no pre-defined answers, but with RSS you can know instantly if people are paying attention.

Search, SEO and indexing content

Jantsch added that you can use RSS to get better search results. It’s very easy now for a company to build upon their content to get better search results by having themed pages that are re-published as feeds – a really powerful way to get some nice rankings and hopefully some traffic!

Chang concurred – if you have your pages optimized, Google is rapidly indexing all feeds already. Flitter agreed – better indexed content begets better found content than all the merely beautifully designed sites out there.

You can repurpose content from your own site, Jantsch interjected. You don’t have to go out to the world. Markewicz took it a step further positing that you can use RSS as a content management system.

The truth about full versus partial feeds

So what mistakes are being made? What are publishers doing wrong, Markiewicz wondered. They’re being too stingy with their information, Flitter reckoned, by putting just the headline out, or a partial feed.

But are their audience ready for full feed content? The difference in response on full feeds and partial feeds is marginal, Flitter argued. There’s something inherent in the way we interact with feeds in that people want to poke around and see what else is there. So for response rates and marketing / branding impact, think about being more generous.

If you want to secure your feeds, Reinacker said, http authentication works across the board; secret URLs don’t work, because Google, Newsgator, etc will index it anyway! Jantsch added that as marketers we have to make it easier to subscribe. He’s been using AddThis which means he can avoid using all the little chicklets [the little branded buttons for Feedster, Bloglines, Netvibes etc].

Covering all the bases

Markiewicz said we should be consistent if we want subscribers because an RSS subscriber is going to be a lot more valuable over the long term than an email subscriber – so make it so that you can auto-subscribe.

Chang commented that the problem is where people think that your RSS strategy is something different from your overall content strategy.

Flitter raised the instance of where the reader is just looking at lines of text; they may open all their feeds in one long river of news, but then it all looks the same. How then does your information stand out? For every article, start it with your company name at the start of the headline so when it’s syndicated your brand will be visible there too and you’ll also benefit in the search realm too [this idea did not appeal at all to me, but that's the dormant journalist thinking, I guess ;-) ].

Tracking, content and objectives

The question was raised as to regularity of feed posting by an audience member. Markiewicz stressed consistency. Chang said if your company is doing product updates, then at least make it once a month, like an email newsletter.

Jantsch argued that it all comes down to goals. Reinacker said put quality before quantity; you can’t put garbage out there with the occasional nugget. Jantsch disagreed – get a PDA and note down everything interesting you hear, it’s not that hard!

Are there tracking tools other than standard web tracking, someone asked. This can get done in-house, responded Markiewicz but there are services like Feedburner that can package that data for you.

Approaching it from a marketing perspective, remarked Flitter, it’s all about how to leverage feeds and what to do with them. Do you have campaign-specific objectives and data needs, or overall objectives? Feedburner is good for general and publisher feeds; Simplefeed is good for the enterprise; and Pheedo is suited to marketers. Is it impressions, views or clicks that you seek? These tracking packages are just a guideline for measuring feeds.

From chicklets to auto-discovery

If you have a built-in fanbase, an audience member asked, and they’re mostly not technically skilled, how do you make RSS easy to use if it’s positioned as plumbing?

If you have a large target group you know how to speak to them, Markiewicz replied, and you need to make that effort. Customise your language to your audience, said Chang. So if it’s a cookery site, say “get a daily recipe”. People should also be able to subscribe to your feeds by email, Jantsch suggested.

Reinacker differed regarding the orange RSS button. If you don’t need it that assumes that your site supports auto-discovery. But major aggregators like Google, Newsgator and others don’t support auto-discovery, so leave the chicklets and the orange button there, and also support auto-discovery.

You should probably do your first reach-out via email, added Chang. The orange button was created to remove the need for multiple chicklets. It was created for the early adopters – to get them to use RSS and spread the early adoption take-up. From a marketing perspective, Flitter said, keep testing to figure out what is the best way to get uptake.

Video descriptors in feeds & breaking the US stranglehold

Dealing with video was the next question raised from the audience. If your content has a lot of video, and you have a one minute or thirty second spot, would you recommend a short description of it that’s not actually visible on the site but is to aggregators and search engines?

While you don’t have to transcribe every word, Flitter reckoned, you should have a summary of the content, both from a marketing standpoint and from an indexing standpoint.

Use Flash or an embedded YouTube / other trusted player, recommended Reinacker. Make sure you see how your feeds render in all the top news readers; so be careful of putting shiny little objects in the feed.

A French man in the audience got the last word in. He remarked that all this stuff about plumbing is just a big turn-off; we should be talking about stories, not the technology. He said that he used Feedburner and that all the stats are very US-centric, but in the morning you get more RSS readers from abroad. With services like[Vancouver-based] NowPublic, he observed, you actually get a different audience.

—————- 

This is the first of my reports from SXSW Interactive 2007. No doubt, like last year, it’ll take me another 10 months to get all these babies written up! In the meantime, here’s some other good coverage and commentary on this session:
http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/sxsw_using_rss_for_marketing.php
http://www.darowski.com/tracesofinspiration/2007/03/11/sxswi-using-rss-for-marketing/
http://christopherschmitt.com/2007/04/03/sxsw07-rss-for-marketing/

UNSUBTLE HINT…
If you found this report of interest, then can I (Amazon-stylee) suggest that you might also like these upcoming events…

Chinwag Live Media Widgetised – 16 May 2007, London
http://live.chinwag.com/mediawidgetised
“How will the growth of widgets, aggregators and web-feeds effect the online media landscape?” Speakers from eBay, BT Retail, nooked and Eircom / Sleevenotez [disclosure: I've organised this event]

Widget Week! – 14-22 May 2007, London
Chinwag Live: Media Widgetised on 16th May is part of the inaugural Widget Week – the world’s first co-ordinated cluster of events to focus on the widget phenomenon and explore its business, marketing and cross-platform potential. Move over Silicon Valley – the UK and Ireland is where the best of media and technology intersect! Brought to you by Chinwag, NMK (Beers & Innovation) and MoMo London

Upcoming listings:
If you like to watch, share or just aren’t sure yet, your needs are catered for on these Upcoming pages:
Chinwag Live: Media Widgetised – 16th May 2007
Widget Week 2007 – 14th – 22nd May 2207

Why Widget Week?

When I said May 2007 is going to be the month of the widget perhaps I was over-stating the case.

But let’s face it, the fact is that in our attention-strapped times we’re all dependent to a degree on a bit of hype to get our notice.

As a very few of you might know, I have very definite views (for once!) about what it is that companies of Chinwag‘s ilk are doing (or aiming to do) for the industry. I’m not talking about notifications by RSS or any of the other delivery mechanisms or software apps for structuring and sharing information. No, that’s just the plumbing, and it’s on it way.

What I’m talking about is the purpose of what we do. To me it seems two-fold – firstly, to provide support and a vibrant community space for people working (at the broadest level) in the digital media and technology industries; secondly, to be a viable business. The two are interdependent.

The networked ecosystem

Other digital networks, communities and businesses exist and have similar purposes, though the details may vary; others still are run as side-projects for no immediate finacial gain; but IMHO (at least in theory) we share a common purpose – supporting success and understanding in this dynamic and innovative media/technology sphere.

So, if we’re to look at it from that meta-perspective, collaboration is surely the way forward. There are competing agendas, and there is competition from larger media companies. But there are also things we can do together that benefit all our respective communities and networks. Not everything we do will fall into this category, but sometimes it’s just obvious.

Events are a key element of this equation. When I saw that Paid Content were having their first mixer in London last October on the same night as both Swedish Beers Mobile Networking and Beers & Innovation 5 (both of which had already been announced and were looking busy) I contacted Paid Content publisher Rafat Ali to let him know. He hadn’t been aware of these events and in a reasonable (and gracious) move, shifted his to the next night. The night after that was the TechCrunch UK lanuch party. It was a busy week in London.

Acting together – for everyone’s benefit

Things have cranked up a gear since then eventwise and that’s a sign of our industry’s recovery so I’m not complaining. But I also feel that when we’re focusing on early-stage innovation it makes sense to support each other and join forces where possible and appropriate. It mightn’t work out perfectly every time, but if we collaborate intelligently we can all have successful events, and the industry as a whole can benefit and be advanced.

So I’m sad that Chinwag Live: PR Unspun this Tuesday 24th April clashes with mashup* Identity 2.0 (and not just because I’m very interested in the online identity issue and the work being done by the OpenID community). However, by the time I heard about it – a week after we announced the Chinwag event – it was too late for either party to change their arrangements.

But I’m very pleased to say that three events addressing the widgetisation phenomenon are taking a broader view and joining together for the world’s first Widget Week (14-22 May – disaggregated weeks last 9 days dontcha know ;-) ). And for just £43.50 you can partake of all of them [*]. Given the range and calibre of these events, that’s more than equal to some big conference, and hugely cheaper.

Widget Week 2007 calendar:

Mon 14th May – Mobile Monday: Mobile Widgets (MoMoLondon) – sign up here (focus – mobile tech and UI)
Wed 16th May – Chinwag Live: Media Widgetised (Chinwag) – info & bookings here (focus – media and marketing implications)
Tues 22nd May – Beers & Innovation 10: Widget Nation (NMK) – info & bookings here (focus – business models)

It might seem full-on to the weak-hearted (or the remote, but that’s excusable), but when is the UK going to get events on this topic happening again? Probably not for several months, at *least*. But the subject is rapidly evolving and potent. So to get a complete update of all issues widget-related, sample 2 or 3 of these events. I believe you won’t regret it.

Marc Canter posted something just yesterday that is relevant by way of inspiration (even if we’re not there with meshed content just yet):

“Next step is to keep the conversation persistent and create ‘aggregated conversations’ – which theoretically could bridge between different vendor’s conferences. So a discussion on DRM could start at the econSM network, get trashed by the end-users at Gnomedex, lauded by the copyright holders at Supernova, circumvented by big shots at Web 2.0 and end-up as a best hit at the Calacanis-Arrington show.

Connecting networks together takes on many guises and shapes and its gonna take ALL these different techniques to provide the open infrastructure we need to move forward – together.”

[Note: I wanted to get the developer side of the community involved too but it was just too short notice. I approached BBC Backstage but they're all tied up over at Xtech then (Backstage's Ian Forrester is doing a talk on 'Pipelines: Plumbing For The Next Web'). But if any developer group want to do something relevant in London that week in a free time/day slot - get in touch, we'd love to co-ordinate!]

So Widget Week might be a tad hectic, but at least no-one can accuse us of bad faith ;-) We do have some freedom after all, and we’re not playing a game here, are we?

My personal motivation for making this happen derives from my view that we’re best-placed to make this kind of thing work. Silicon Valley may be geek-heavy and VC-happy, New York is advertiser-central in the shape of Madison Avenue, Korea and Japan may be furthest ahead in consumer uptake of gadgetry, and China and India may simply have numbers to die for, but the UK is where the best of media and technology intersect.

Widget Week is the world’s first co-ordinated cluster of events on things widget-related. It’s not heart-stopping news for sure, but I hope it will be a catalyst for broader and better understanding.

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[*] Mobile Mondays are free but have a massive, event-hungry audience on their mailing list and usually book up within 1-2 hours of announcing, so sign-up now to the MoMo London Yahoo Group if you want to be notified of when bookings open and have a chance of attending! There’s usually about 150-200 spaces available, but they get snapped up pronto).

[UPDATE: Chinwag Live Media Widgetised is also here on Upcoming]

[UPDATE 2: The Media Widgetised panel has a welcome additon in the person of Kaj Häggman, Business Develoment Manager and Inventor of WidSets, born out of Nokia's Emerging Business Unit]

Attention economy up for grabs?

Big-red-shiny-flashing-light regarding one branch of my erstwhile NMK gig. Yes brothers and sisters, this here is an old skool Beers & Innovation alert!

Tomorrow night (Tuesday 6th March) you can catch Beers & Innovation 8: The Attention Seekers as there’s a few tickets left.

Although I see it’s been re-named ‘Beers & Innovations’.

I guess the extra “s” means that it musta got betterer lately ;-)  [UPDATE: Ye olde title has been reinstated!]

All the more reason to make that last-minute booking and whisk yourself down there! [having noted details of the new venue, of course]

Attention makes its UK live debut?

Other reasons include the fact that this is, I think, the first opportunity for folks in the UK to settle down in a comfy bar and collectively grapple with the Pandora’s box of issues that are unleashed by the ideas of the Attention Economy and Attention Economics.

Is there mileage in these concepts and will they ever get traction beyond certain circles in the blogosphere? What of the measurement and metrics issues around attention? Is it just another way to aggregate eyeballs? And does Doc Searls‘ notion of the “intention economy” get a look in?

In turn, you get to chew the attention fat with some interesting panellists – Chris Seth, MD of social network Piczo; Sam Sethi entrepreneur and co-editor of Vecosys; and Alan Moore, co-author of ‘Communities Dominate Brands’ and CEO of engagement marketing firm SMLXL. Chairing is George Nimeh, MD Digital at Iris.

I’m very intrigued to see what comes out of this one.

Book your tickets here.