Category Archives: Recommendation

Mobile search and location reshaping the digital space

Locative media first came onto my radar in 2005 when notice of a collective called Proboscis and their Urban Tapestries initiative hit my inbox at NMK. Excuse me, geotagging the city you say? My curiousity was duly piqued…

Looking into it, I discovered an intriguing creative underground of technologists and artists doing some rather facsinating things with urban geo-mapping, robotics, storytelling and locative media. They even released a limited edition downloadable book about their work.

This was definitely a fringe phenomenon but the Social Tapestries project followed, and along with PLAN (Pervasive and Locative Arts Network), a 2-day globally-framed conference on wireless locative media at the ICA I was lucky enough to attend, it was clear this was coming out of obscurity. Augmented reality was coming to a place near you and me…

Courtesy of Chinwag Live: Search & LBS. L-R: Plazes, Taptu, The Cloud, Rummble, MSearchGroove, Jo Rabin

Courtesy of Chinwag Live: Search & LBS. L-R: Plazes, Taptu, The Cloud, Rummble, MSearchGroove, Jo Rabin

Jump forward three years, and while things haven’t exactly moved at light-speed, the calibre of people and companies we invited to speak at Chinwag Live: Search & Location Based Services on 8th October bespoke a phenomenon that is now unstoppable. Moreover, we’re now witnessing the birth of its business development phase…

PANEL:
Felix Petersen – Co-founder, Plazes / Head of Product Management, Social Activities, Nokia
Chris Moisan – Product & Market Development Manager, Taptu / blog
Andrew Scott – Co-founder, Rummble
Peggy-Anne Salz – Chief Analyst & Producer, MSearchGroove
Adrian Drury – Head of Commercial Strategy & Business Development, The Cloud
CHAIR: Jo Rabin – Consultant & Co-Founder of MoMo London

When an articulate line-up of some of the global leaders in mobile search and LBS are giving their best right in front of you, it can be hard to keep up. So I decided to change tack in my note-taking habits for our events series. I focused on listening to the panel discussion, and then took sporadic notes of points that struck me in the later discussion with the audience.

And boy, it was a conference-load of information packed into 100 minutes. But I needn’t have worried, because not only do we have the fantabulous podcast (coming next week), there have also been some superb write-ups from delegates including Mjelly, Cogapp and Mido.

Privacy’s endless permutations

Privacy and security are big issues stalking this space. If your location is being tracked – sure, that’s a technical achievement. But why would you want your friends to know you’re in a work meeting, or your employers to know your nocturnal movements, or your ex-partner to know you’re in a nearby restaurant with your new flame..? The permutations are endless.

Plazes CEO and product honcho of Social Activities at Nokia Felix Petersen stated that the privacy issue is threefold – firstly: tracking (passive / implicit) versus publishing (active / explicit). But there’s the mental transaction cost of changing your presence status all the time. The second aspect of privacy is time; for example, is it okay if people see me after 8pm? Also, the kind of place. There are complexities to sharing and personal relations in real life that need to be addressed, and as far as I’m concerned slicing them by “my friends only / family / everyone” barely scratches the surface.

The challenge is how to bake in these options without making it too complicated, Petersen reflected. That’s the third aspect – people want privacy options but they won’t use them much. In reality, Plazes have found 90% of the people don’t use it, but that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t need to be there, he stressed.

Andrew Scott of Rummble told a similar tale. They have these privacy settings and only about 5% of their users use them; on the other hand, 25% of photos (on Rummble or Flickr) are geotagged.

Who owneth the data, maketh the sale..?

Adrian Drury of The Cloud remarked that there’s an interesting question about who owns the data when lots of different players are coming into the value chain, for example Skyhook, and ad-serving platforms. How do we protect the user from their data being abused? The people that own the brand relationship aren’t usually the same people that own the geodata.

As talk turned to the topic of monetising LBS and mobile search, Andrew Scott said media buyers needed to be more flexible about the stock they buy, in order to make relevant advertising work. Adrian Drury brought it back to the inventory question and where the money is; he stressed it’s about scale, scale and scale.

At the point where the LBS industry can deliver enough volume of users, volume of available devices and consistent platforms, then we can actually go out to groups of people or industries that are marketing and advertising and have an interest in doing that on a location based basis, and who can actually build campaigns around stuff that is location-based; then suddenly you bring another element to this industry. Today there are X-thousand iPhones in the UK, in 24 months there will be a multiple of that. That’s another consistent platform, and offers advertisers the availability to push campaigns out to that platform.

Interactive billboards – poised to pounce?

Interestingly, Adrian cited the billboard industry as ones to watch – the JC Decaux and Viacom’s of this world. They are one enormous advertising inventory industry that is yet to converge with the digital world in any significant way. But obviously location-based services bring them immediately into the digital world, Adrian observed, and they will be – and are – thinking about that quite heavily.

If it’s pull it might work, Felix countered, but he reckoned its niche. What doesn’t scale is the example of a billboard pushing something to you. It’s either too small an audience (one person on holiday walking across a bridge in Istanbul) or it’s just super-spam.

Billboard advertising (via Bluetooth I assume) won’t work if it’s done in a spam like way, Felix continued. The alternative? Either you start profiling (very time consuming, not very attractive) or you have socially relevant check-in points, for example being checked into a relevant wifi network (in Starbucks, or a hotel or an airport) – that’s the closest model to what we have on the web right now. Banners don’t work, he elaborated, but ads that react to your interaction with a location are going to be received differently (like Adwords react to the content of the page you are on and the history of your searches), and that’s what we need to crack.

Recommendation and discovery – playing the long game?

In this vein, Peggy was far more excited by content recommendation and discovery. She mentioned ChangingWorlds – a server side solution that does the profile building and what Xtract has done with Blyk. Granted, it involves heavy-lifting and mega-crunching of data, but it’s a much more exciting opportunity and potentially *far* more lucrative.

Claudia Poepperl from Mobile People (mobile local search) noted that the Yellow Pages industry is $30billion industry, that’s where the money is. How much are the panel partnering with Yell or Yellow Pages in order to tap into that massive revenue stream? Andrew Scott said it’s too complicated for local advertisers – it’s the heavy lifting that stopping them getting it right, and Rummble simply won’t carry these ads until they are personalised and relevant.

Intermediary quandaries and scale

Chris Moisan of Taptu said, as a mobile search engine, if you know someone’s location and there’s an intention then having Yellow Pages content where there’s a relevancy is a no-brainer. But the issue for them as a start-up is that to index that much local content isn’t possible yet.

Felix observed that the key intermediary is who whoever bills and owns the namespace for the small retailer. As yet, there’s no unified scheme comparable to phone numbers that allow the small to medium sized local retailer to claim this space that someone else has built.

Qype and Yelp are trying, but they’re rather small, he explained. Whoever will own it can unify it. Yellow Pages are in a good position to do that but they don’t. At the moment it’s the preserve of Google and Nokia.

Scope for location based advertising?

Joel Brazil from Tipped asked how many local search services would you expect an average local retailer would buy advertising from annually; and how would they actually engage in the sales transactions? How many different sales reps could they entertain and buy advertising from?

Adrian replied probably not a lot. At the minute you have a brand relationship or a portal relationship – Yell, Google etc, and they will give most advantage. Felix simply said it’s whoever owns the namespace, whoever drives the traffic. Peggy Anne Salz of MSearchGroove explained that she was doing research for NearbyNow, looking at special offers and exclusives for location based advertising. One major benefit might be in stock replenishment.

Andrew Scott reiterated that companies need scale to make these marketing campaigns work; and the most relevant and least intrusive ads work best. In the future there will be mobile, geocoded ads, remarked Felix later in the debate.

Platform wars: telcos v operators v digital media decks

Adrian situated the fragmentation and user experience issues more broadly. The mobile network operators are old fashioned telcos, and do things very slowly. They have this GPS platform; they’re all able to do this and none of them have productised it particularly well at all.

They did a very bad job in their media deck and they had years and years lead-time to get it right! Then along comes Apple, puts a good media deck on their network and gets it right, with Nokia following close behind them. That will change things and there will be a real fight, Adrian predicted. Who owns the location data – is the operator or someone else? Whoever controls the location data will be the one who wins the war and takes the margin on this, he predicted.

Technically it’s been possible for over ten years for the operators to know where you are, by triangulation and other means, Felix concurred. But the operators just saw it as a way of retaining customers, which totally misjudged the nature of this kind of service which grows in value when you can use it with all your friends, not just your friends on the Vodafone network. That was their fatal mistake.

Power moves to the edge…

But new technologies have changed this, Felix said. Now the power really is moving to the edge: with GPS phones, with third-party providers like Skyhook who provide the wifi databases, and you now have the crunching power in the phone itself. The context is really here in the phone, not in the network – calendaring, who is close by, how many of your friends are in the room.

Like with Nokia Maps, he explained, you don’t need to build something into the *highways* to see if there’s a traffic jam, because if you have enough people using Nokia Maps you can see how fast they move and if they’re all slowing down, then there’s a traffic jam..

Andrew remarked that on a recent trip to the States, he discovered that AT&T were considering scrambling their user cell ID info so that Google couldn’t use it. But Rummble use Skyhook, Google Gears and Google Maps, so they’re not dependent on the operators. Adrian added that wifi networks are also distintermediating the operators. Yet more mounting evidence of the coming battle in this space…

Business in the here and now

Dan from Sponge wasn’t convinced the pot of gold is Yellow Pages. But, he asked, how can the fragmented world of location based services present something simple and attractive to the Slug & Lettuces and Heinekens of this world? Adrian replied there’s a massive difference between whether you’re doing search or display advertising.

With talk turning again to marketing budgets, Adrian encapsulated the barriers currently facing marketers in the location-based space – you need to give media campaign planners enough scale so that they can organise their budgets. In turn, he asked, what premium is there on location?

Such scale in location based services has not currently been achieved, the panel agreed, and clearly no one had all the answers. But I’ll wager some of the companies involved in this absorbing discussion will play a part in changing that.

Merging physical and digital space

While the business development side of LBS is getting interesting, it’s all a million miles from the work of Proboscis and their ilk. But Felix Petersen said that truly locative media will facilitate some amazing things; people will not change, but outcomes will. And this very week (until this Sunday Friday 24th October!) another quite remarkable London-based urban mapping and discovery project is underway.

This time locative authoring and the “public based commons” is getting an accessible game-play twist, with the individual (but collective) mapping out of the answer to a question that players must solve by getting involved in discovering hidden objects and mapping them by GPS.

Utilising Twitter, mobile blogging and GPS, it’s the work of Moblog co-founder Alfie Dennen (in association with Demos, HomeMadeDigital and TED), whose objective is to unlock the urban “noticer” in all of us within a fun, engaging scenario, whilst also raising awareness of the XDRTB campaign started by photographer James Nachtwey which is highlighting the ravages of drug-resistant tuberculosis. As it happens, Alfie is also speaking at our next evening panel ‘MoSo Rising’ on November 11th.

The occurrence of these two separate events in the same fortnight in London was not consciously pre-planned, I promise. But it’s certainly something to be noted, or should I say “noticed”. One thing’s for sure – Felix Petersen was dead right to say the merging of real-life and digital location is starting to move in from the edges. The clue is in the patterns emerging. Better watch out…

—-

[NB: Really, this is just a fraction of what was covered in this event. I especially recommend Mjelly's post for coverage of the event's first half. I'll update this post next week with a link to the podcast when it's released]

[NB 2: cross-posted on my Chinwag blog]

SXSW notes: What People Are Really Doing On The Web

This session at SXSW Interactive on Monday 13th March 2006 attracted an audience of over 200 to the main auditorium.

The big hitters of web stats and consumer / user analysis were there on stage, and there were a few nuggets amongst the factoids pumped out, but overall the session felt a little tame and the insights sparse. Guess that’s what happens when you parachute your stats and trend mavens into a conference of innovators  ;-)

PANEL:
Holland Hofma Brown (Harris International)
Dr Michelle Madansky (Yahoo! Inc)
Max Kalehoff (Nielsen Buzz Metrics – also own Blogpulse)
CHAIR: Joel Greenberg (GSD&M)

Establishing the types of market research deployed, Holland Hofma Brown of Harris International cited asking people, and “lead user theory” (Professor Eric Von Hippel, MIT ‘Democratizing Innovation’) as the primary methodologies (eg. power bars; Camelback; RSS usage). The lead users are solving the problems so look at them.

Hofma Brown of Harris International polled over 2,300 respondents between 16/2/06 and 23/2/06. Over a third would rather email a friend than call them on the phone he revealed; 55% won’t buy a product without first checking prices and researching online. Still, we’re not sure we trust the internet.

Catching the blog bug

How do we use the internet to connect to others? 10% of respondents had posted to blogs (contrast with 60% of SXSW attendees who were posting to blogs). Who is reading blogs? 54%/46% men to women. Young males dominate blog readership.

How many blogs are they reading? 61% have cited 1-4 blogs in the last year. Why do people read blogs? For most part it’s a passive activity.

What kinds of blogs are people reading? Personal diaries top the charts with 45% (compared to the SXSW audience, 70% of whom read tech blogs). What makes for a good blog? The way a blog looks is less important than what the writer has to say. Who is writing? Men and women bloggers are now equal in that respect.

The connected populace: US vs UK

We’re using the internet to connect and stay in touch with others. So what aren’t consumers doing online, asked Michel Madansky. Yahoo! Get 2 terrabytes of data a day, she explained, citing the ‘Truly, Madly Deeply Engaged Global Youth, Media & Technologies‘ report (summitseries.yahoo.com – all studies are posted there).

Computer – US 86% UK – 92%

Mobile – US 72% – UK – 97 %

MP3 – US 28% – UK – 63%

Email – US 68 % – UK – 86% (at least once a day)

IM – US – 49% UK – 63%

Search – US – 45% UK – 66%

Blogging – US – 17% UK– 20%

Texting – US – 49% UK – 95%

Games – US – 49% UK – 68%

Photos – US – ?? – UK– 75%

Search, peer recommendation and beyond…

Music, sex, shopping, others are the top searches in order of user preference. Search terms are consistent over time, Madansky explained, with MySpace (number 2 term), Limewire and Facebook being the big new entries. Music is the biggest search area for teenagers. Madansky also noted upcoming new arrivals podcast (podcast.yahoo.com) and Yahoo Answers (social search).

Max Kalehoff explained that Nielsen Buzz Metrics help marketers by analysing consumer generated media. Underlying factors he highlighted – media fragmentation, the erosion of trust in traditional institutional information sources, and the rise of interactive media, democratized publishing and social networks.

Consumer generated media upends marketing’s worldview

We’re moving into a phase of consumer generated multimedia – blogs, vlogs, podcasts, etc. Peer recommendation and consumer generated multimedia are by far the biggest referral source. Consumers (92%) now say they prefer or rely on word of mouth, they trust fellow buyers before they do other marketers.

The culture of information seekers and speakers, for example IAMs on Google two days ago – the third and fourth results were serious consumer critiques of IAMs. A new washing machine manufacturer looked at consumer evangelists. Surprisingly, 49% were men when 99% of their marketing had been aimed at women. Marketing programs that amplify word of mouth buzz can also be incorporated into sponsorships and event demos, he added.

Mistrust of UGC in the educational sphere

Kalehoff said we could look up his blog at maxkalehoff.com and the Nielsen SXSW 2006 surveys at (http://go.hpolsurveys.com/sxsw). He also noted the issue of lack of trust in consumer generated media (CGM) as regards to academia and how to counteract it. Edelman PR did a trust barometer study [PDF].

Michelle Madansky was asked how Yahoo use their research in the innovation process. She replied that they have a piece of software called ‘The Idea Factory’ that anyone in the company can input to – new ideas to improve current products. They have also used research to develop the Yahoo Podcast beta.

Kalehoff observed that the food industry is currently being more impacted than any other by consumer power and CGM.

Trends to look out for

What’s the difference between a snapshot and a trend another audience member asked. Brown of Harris International responded that we should watch what the 12-21 year olds are doing.

What’s coming next trend-wise as indicated by the panel’s data another delegate asked. Buzz Metrics said we’re reaching a tipping point from an era where most content was produced by corporates to a point where the majority is produced by ourselves. As search spreads and becomes more advanced this will only increase, so it’s more of a discovery process. Proliferation of multimedia is another trend.

Madansky replied that “my media” is the next big thing as consumers are in control with TIVO etc. Cellphones are becoming more important she continued, with media moving across every device. The social web was an important trend, as the sterility of being served up with yet more questions becomes more acute, and Yahoo Answers was one of the answers to this, she reckoned.

Kalehoff noted that one of the emerging trends in the Web 2.0 space was that there are so many companies doing each thing that a lot of them won’t be around in 5 years.

All SXSW Interactive 2006 panels:
http://2006.sxsw.com/interactive/programming/panels/

My other SXSW Interactive 2006 session write ups:

SXSW notes: What’s In A Title?

SXSW notes:  Beyond Folksonomies – Knitting Tag Clouds For Grandma

SXSW notes: Book Digitisation & The Revenge Of The Librarians

SXSW notes: James Surowiecki on The Wisdom Of Crowds

SXSW notes: Running Your New Media Business

SXSW notes: The Perfect Pitch

The craic with social media

In the course of Beers & Innovation 6 Meg Pickard elaborated a little on the motivations to create social media.

Staking a claim, and staking out your territory, in other words expressing, defining and developing your identity, are the principal spurs for younger people, Meg said. But these needs are not so prevalent for older people, because they (mostly) reckon they know enough people and have enough friends (with the exception of the Linked In professionals’ network).

But once you’ve amassed all your friends and acquaintances on your digital social network, then what? What follows that, and the reason social media excerpts an ongoing pull, is what Meg termed as “web craic”.

Celtic connections

Right across Ireland, where I’m from, craic is a malleable term that means, fun, excitement, good times, but also stories, news, the latest gossip, the general state of affairs.

“What’s the craic with her?” means what’s the story / context with the girl/woman in question. “The craic was great” translates as “it was brilliant”. Its meaning can also be as general (as in “what’s the craic?”) as “what’s happening?” or “how are you?”

But enough digression for one post. It’s not my fault that the Irish have the best version of the English language going  ;-)

“Web craic” (broader than just chat or banter, as we’ve established) is what enervates and gives legs to the likes of MySpace, Bebo and Flickr, Meg stressed.

Social by accident – context is king

Topic-based social networks, in turn, revolve around social experiences. Here, the person isn’t at the front. The topic is the important thing; sharing stuff is the way that you create relationships. Hence it’s popularity with older people, Meg continued.

She went onto explain that the topic – photos with Flickr, music with Last.fm – provides the context to get together and talk about everything and anything. Context is king, and the users bring and make their own content through the context of the topic (whether that’s sneaky, collaborative or selfishly motivated).

Hence with delicious, its incidental that making my bookmarking tasks easier has a community impact. So it’s social by stealth, and that’s common across the board – whether via ratings, what’s hot or interestingness permutations.

Delving deeper

The recent Financial Times profile of Danah Boyd gives a good introduction to research into and analysis of social networks that was broadly referenced in the course of the event. But John Hagel’s 29th October post on social networks and urbanization raises a bunch more interesting questions, specifically his view that:

“Social network sites are more often a supplement to physical space relationships.”

and:

“A lot of forces are at work on a global scale that increase the need for us to both broaden and deepen our network of social relationships.”

[I’ll revisit this later]

Given the proliferation of social media sites in every niche: social bookmarking, communities, to do-lists, web analytics, news aggregation, social shopping (see also, Stylehive, Kaboodle and others – ref: Pete Cashmore – as well as speaker Philip Wilkinson’s own Crowdstorm), video storage sites, calendars and more, who has time, Philip reflected, to register and look at all these regularly? Will it turn into a Darwinian survival of the fittest contest, he wondered.

I listed Philip’s tips on how to get attention in this crowded sphere in my last post and he’s recapped his talk here.

Attention, presence & data portability

The potential of Second Life to supersede the likes of MySpace and Bebo was queried by Meg on the grounds that Bebo et al thrive on asynchronous communication. Second Life hasn’t cracked that yet, but presence is something that we are going to see a lot more of in our world.

Mike Butcher raised the issue of other technologies that will allow us to network independent of the portals (verily, Mike was listening to Marc Canter’s talk at Content 2.0 back in June ;-)  )

Philip agreed insofar as we will see data follow us around via web widgets etc, so if things go pear-shaped and you want to take all your data out, data portability is the answer.

Digital natives

Responding to the observation that this will make the content and value of social networks ephemeral, one woman in the audience commented that emphemerality is a good thing, because when I leave Bebo and joined My Space I don’t want my Bebo profile be associated with my Myspace profile anymore.

This dovetailed perfectly with the thoughts of 18-yer-old Dot and 19-year-old Rory in the Invisible Culture session at Content 2.0 in June 2006. They in turn embody what Gary McClarnan said about digital natives at NMK’s In The City Interactive conference in June 2005:

communities are migrating across platforms which are not “mass” as such. What’s missing here is the technology to support the taste makers, he reckoned. The music industry has done this for years with street teams and suchlike. “Now we need to allow people to migrate around their blogs and communities.”

Among the many opinions and questions coming from the floor, Alan Patrick wondered is the social network hit-based or long-tailed? Rob McKinnon has summarised his question about the role of social media in socially-motivated public actions with more observations here, and Meg’s responses about using social media for mobilisation are here.

Jamie Kantrowitz of Myspace highlighted the mobilisation potential towards the end of the Marketing 2.0 forum at Content 2.0. But even simple text message and email-based networks fulfil this function, in the form of flashmobbing.

Is tagging worth the time, wondered Sue Thomas from De Montfort University. For a comprehensive update on developments (but not statistics) checkout Niall Kennedy’s 27th October post on bookmarking and social sharing trends.

Media’s ingrained campaign mindset

I asked about the campaign mentality of brands who are launching themselves into the social networks sphere in increasing numbers if not always with a long term perspective. The issue of (Mint Digital created) Islandoo’s future after the next series of Shipwrecked is populated with participants (the initial rationale of the network) and then broadcast (they have to keep it going at least that long) is very much apropos of this issue.

Is it any wonder consumer trust is declining and their attention turning to P2P networks for recommendations when brands treat them as campaign fodder and ultimately disposable?

Clashing with structural barriers

It’s something that not only confronts the challenging idea of brands and corporations truly adopting policies of engagement and valuing attention and feedback (ie. rather than cost-per-click, cost-per-conversation) that Meg noted.

It also betokens a structural barrier in media planning and buying which Nicolas Roope of Poke (and Hulger) noted, in economic terms, underwrites the short-term campaign format that typifies marketing and advertising today and is deeply embedded. James Cherkoff is also on the case with this infrastructural stumbling block.

This latter territory is ripe for discussion at the next Beers & Innovation in January. See you there [and my first post on Beers Innovation 6 here].

Long tail of Content 2.0

At NMK we like to do things back-to-front, that’s part of what makes it (and us?) interesting (yes, I’m still taking the tablets).

We have a conference about the future of content but don’t yet have blogs or RSS on our own site.

So we (ie. me and m3m media) build another website for the conference – with blogs & RSS – but of course barely anyone looks at it once the conference is over… Yup, gotta love these hoop games!

Which way is up anyhow?

This is all my convoluted way of reversing up to the announcement that the written reports of all the Content 2.0 sessions are now available (I know, it’s incredible how quickly they’ve followed the conference, I mean, in 70 days no less!).

So, not all strictly B&I, but how would the blogosphere ever have a whiff of them unless I post about it here..? (apart from via Marc Canter who posted when I put up the first batch last month – we need mensches more like him).

Anyway, after this lightning blitz of content, I need to go and lie down. Here’s the links:

KEYNOTE: Mesh Up – Connecting Content To People

SCENESETTER: Goodbye New Media Hello Social Media

FORUM: Marketing 2.0 Forum

DEBATE: Can Brands Be Trusted?

KEYNOTE: The Future Of Web Search

SCENESETTER: Folksonomies – What Are They Good For?

FORUM: Search & Enjoy Forum [with much ado about microformats ;-) ]

YOUNG PEOPLE & MEDIA: The Invisible Culture

BEERS & INNOVATION @ Content 2.0
Featuring Robbie Williams’ manager Tim Clark (BTW, i didn’t take notes or record this last session and relied on our events assistant Dawya Sadani to note things down)

Yell leans on Yellowikis

This is a turn up for the books: traditional business listings service Yell has threatened legal action against UK start-up Yellowikis.

Their stated reason? “Misrepresentation”, “passing off” and, they suggested, using the name Yellowikis could “constitute an ‘instrument of fraud’.” [see the Wikinews story, 5th July 2006]

Which got me thinking – firstly, this is this slightly insulting to the majority of adults. I go to the Yellowikis homepage and I can’t see how anyone would think this was the wiki version of Yell. Granted, this is just conjecture and my opinion, and I believe previous similar cases have gone in favour of the plaintiffs. That’s how the law works. But still…

Panic stations?

Secondly, and more interestingly, this speaks volumes about the defensive responses emanating from (some) large media and business enterprises in the face of the internet’s rise to dominance. Lots of smart people work at Yell. But this action does not bespeak foresight or the greatest self-confidence.

This is an irrational response because Yell could yet reinvent itself as a totally digital and still more attractive enterprise to clients and consumers – its online directory is already hugely popular and well known.

Yell made $2.4bn in 2005. It has the resources and ability to forecast and strategise, to innovate on a larger and more commercial scale. Enterprises like Yellowikis occupy a different space to Yell in my opinion.

Search has transformed listings in the web space

As Yellowikis co-founder Paul Youlten notes: “Small and medium sized businesses are beginning to notice that their customers are ringing them up and saying ‘I found you on Google’ and not ‘I found you in the yellow pages'”.

Precisely. The problem – if you want to construe it as a problem – is more Google, search, and the internet in general, not Yellowikis. But as Yell knows full well, Google and the internet are not going to go away (plus you can’t sue the pesky internet). So you force Yellowikis to change their name – then what? What do you do about Craigslist, Adsense, Yahoo Directories..?

Brand sense?

Thirdly: what is this action going to do for the Yell brand? Nothing positive I’d wager. Yell may think they are protecting their brand, but at a time when mistrust of brands is a huge issue and more and more people are chattering away about poor service, ethical flaws and other brand inadequacies in blogs and other online communities, threatening a start-up that has yet to turn a profit seems…

Well, what do you think it seems like – does it look good and make you want to use Yell and recommend it to all your friends?

[Disclosure: Paul Youlten is a professional aquaintance of mine. Some of you may also have seen him speak alongsde Richard Sambrook at Beers & Innovation 2: User Generated Content on 30th March.]

My Content 2.0 blog – a full confession

Okay, time to come clean. Websites and blogs seem to attach themselves to me like lost puppies.

But – I must confess – I have not perfected my own cloning technique to date, so don't be surprised if postings here scale back for a little while.

Why? Becuase I've got two other websites to tend – www.nmk.co.uk and www.content2point0.com – and now the latter has gone and delivered me a fresh new blog to care for – http://www.content2point0.com/2006/blog/2 – another little blogette if you like ;-)

As the subject matter of my other blog is not at all disimilar from the doings talked about here, you shouldn't be too ticked-off if I occassionally point out what's over there in the coming weeks. Perhaps you'll even be curious.

The Content 2.0 conference is only a month away now and we want to connect it with the broader debates going on about these topics – the future of marketing, brands, search, recommendation, and folksonomy and tagging. There's little point to conferences that operate in a vacuum and keep their discussions to themselves. I've been to too many of those. Forget about it.

Get in on the Content 2.0 action

So for an overview, check out the Content 2.0 Conference Schedule and the Speakers Page. Many of our speakers like Bradley Horowitz, Shel Isreal and Alex Barnett are coming over from the States, so I'm really excited about meeting them!

And whether or not you can make it to Content 2.0 on 6th June in London, feel free to put in your comments and questions for the speakers and panelists on either my Content 2.0 blog or that of my colleague Zoe Black.

Gotta go now cos' it's late and the other blog's crying for my attention. Cheers!

SXSW Notes: Beyond Folksonomies – Knitting Tag Clouds for Grandma

I joined this session late on day one, Saturday 11th March, as I had to queue for 40 minutes to register. The crowds overwhlemed even the plentiful organisers!

The session‘s obvious premise was to examine how we move beyond the simple folksonomy / taxonomy debate and look at how tagging could and will impact the wider public. Other blog coverage to fill in the gaps is listed at the end… (thanks Technorati!)

Event page on SXSW Interactive 2006 site

PANEL:

Mary Hodder – CEO Dabble and Napsterization.org
Liz LawleyMamamusings.net , Rochester Institute of Technology, Corante contributor & visiting Microsoft Researcher)
David Swedlowmetastorming.com
J Wyniawynia.org

As I came into the session, having missed the first 20 minutes, David Swedlow brought up the concept of the “attention tracker”

Mary Hodder brought to our attention the fact that she’s on the Attention Trust board (which I first heard about from Marc Canter at the Mash Up*  event in London in February – Marc is also speaking at Content 2.0 in June BTW!). She talked about their Attention Recorder – you voluntarily download it. She feels strongly that people shouldn’t have to give away the information it gathers.

The Attention Recorder (AR) is very interesting – and a new AR plug-in allows you to visualise what you do online (what you search for / what sites you visit).

She’s not a fan of automated tagging, but Hodder is creating a company called Dabble that allows you to bookmark videos online and save them (still in Beta) – there are over 10,000 videos saved by Beta group users so far.

There’s a big difference in the type of media that’s tagged so far, she revealed. Their video searches and bookmarks are tagged, and people don’t even use the video title to choose what to watch. The two things that matter to users on Dabble searching for content are
(1) the length of the video clip
(2) the tags.

The human input creates better information and text – the quality for non-automated tagging is much higher, Hodder extrapolated.

Swedlow noted that as James ‘Wisdom Of Cowds’ Suroweiki (more on James’ Sunday session soon!) says, if you can get people to give authentic information and answers that is very different from getting them to say what is expected.

Each of us is an expert filter (implicit and explicit tagging…) and mass authenticity allows another level of meaning to form on top of that. Implicit tagging is also about creating and maintaining context. Everyone is an aficionado of some sorts, so why can’t we tap into their expertise?

Liz Lawley interjected that most people do not use tagging-enabled sites (eg. Flickr, Technorati, Delicious).

On the last count there were 44 social bookmarking sites, she continued. We have to start integrating bookmarking and tagging into things we already use, and this is just starting to happen. Microsoft Vista is going to start to incorporate tagging into al lot of things.

How is it going to help teachers get stuff out to their pupils? One of the reasons Liz has started to use her Delicious (social bookmarks) is for her students as using it saves them writing down all the URLs for the class the next day.

The wisdom of crowds can be overstated Lawley reckoned – it’s god for some things but not for others. Sometimes I just want a particular subset, and she’s not just referring to friends, but to expert information filters…

People will do a lot of things that aren’t effortless every day if there’s a return or perceptible value for them, she insisted.

Swedlow then concurred that tagging also has to be experienced as useful.

A guy in the audience wondered if it’s an unspoken thing that when you tag, it’s like you’re also doing it for a community. Plus he liked the idea of being able to search the content of your bookmarked sites…

Liz Lawley countered that you need to have a lot more user scenarios. Of course there will be serendipitous uses that you can’t plan for but they also were – like Delicious – more commonly built to solve a problem for a reason.
Someone else asked what is the tag for the conference? Liz replied “SXSW”.

Another guy in the audience reasoned that folders are hierarchical but tags cross-reference (or are heterarchical as another blogger termed it).

Tagsonomy.com – You’re It! was mentioned. The idea is to build tags into what you use, but you don’t have to share it.

Someone in the audience said Apple has a taxonomy which is political. But Last.fm (who spoke at the first B&I), on the contrary, has groups. And in Ann Arbor University a fan club formed in Last.fm around a group and the record label they were signed to didn’t know what to do about the fan club…

Swedlow responded that groups do make a big difference but that we are entering a time where boundaries are fluid and ambiguous.

Hodder added that she has been working on a project called itags.net which was deeper, combining identity and tags, and if you publish through it you can build a Creative Commons licence into the object. We need, she stressed, much more usability from the beginning.

Other blogs of this session include:
Scott Hacker  http://birdhouse.org/blog/2006/03/11/sxsw-notes-beyond-folksonomies/
Squidoo – SXSW Folksonomy session resources http://www.squidoo.com/sxsw-2006-beyond-folksonomies/
Power Of Many – Cristian Crumlish’s SXSW session notes: http://x-pollen.com/many/2006/03/11/beyond_folksonomies_at_sxsw.html