An Embarrassment of Riches in Digital Content

As I get ready for a trip, I found myself in front of my computer this evening picking-n-choosing podcasts to subscribe to and load on my iPod. Since I’m so busy and have so much content to prioritize and consume — and generate myself with my blog and podcast — that it’s been a few months since I really took the time to poke around iTunes and see what’s there.

Holy Schnikey! I hadn’t realized that there was such an enormous wealth of new stuff. TV news, public radio and more has flooded the iTunes podcast section. Though I should probably pay closer attention, I hadn’t and was a bit stunned.

Since I usually like thought provoking podcasts, public radio is more to my taste than alot of other content. IT Conversations is another favorite as is the Social Innovation network.

This reminded me of my post from January of last year entitled, “Information Overload: Can You See What’s Coming?” that said in part:

The river of content is flowing faster and faster. This river of content available on the internet is reaching flood stage and is in a variey of media types. As newspapers, magazines, radio and television lose eyeballs to the internet and become ever more desperate to cling to their advertisers, they are finding increasingly garish and dumbed down methods of getting the attention of the eyeball owners back (which, in my view, will only push people away faster).

As broadband continues its adoption and more people get on the internet and attempt to connect their own dots, it’s becoming exponentially more difficult to see or tap in to the collective consciousness and stay on top of changes in an industry, area of interest, or even to stay relevant in the workplace. Primarily it’s more difficult to understand change and to see disruptive technologies or business models coming…and having time to act.

Even entertainment options are accelerating. There are more DirecTV channels than I could ever watch. I’ve pared down the number of shows I TiVo since I could barely keep up with what I really wanted to watch. I recently took out a machete to my RSS aggregator to cut down the number of blogs I track (currently over 200) and news sources (35). It was becoming too much and I just felt anxiety over all of it.

In his book “The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less“, Barry Schwartz argues that the proliferation of choices essentially causes us to be paralyzed with indecision.

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Gorillapod: A useful tool for you content creators

Over my lunch hour I stopped at Best Buy and picked up a Gorillapod for $20. I normally don’t play fanboy and gush about products on this blog, but this little product instantly met a need: steady low light photography with my new Lumix as well as being able to place the camera in places to snag video…and I’ve fallen for it.

The Joby Gorillapod firmly secures your camera to just about anything- anywhere and everywhere! Unlike traditional tripods, the gorillapod doesn’t require an elevated surface for you to take the perfect shot.

On the way back to my office from Best Buy, I attached my camera and wrapped the Gorillapod around my rear view mirror and grabbed some video. It was shaking a bit and there was some rattle being picked up (I hadn’t secured it very well) but I shot 10 minutes of video of me talking in the car. While not useful for anything but ridicule (which is why I’m *not* posting it), it did allow me to test a quick proof of concept and it worked!

It’s so laughingly lightweight that it’ll fit in my briefcase alongside the tiny Lumix camera and I’ll be able to capture steady video and low light snapshots easily. They also have beefier models for prosumer and heavier SLR cameras if you need that capability.

Print Publishing is Dead…Or is it?

Friday’s post by IDG SVP of online, Colin Crawford, was one that hit my radar and I immediately forward his permalink to my bride (with whom I co-own a small publishing company) as well as several other senior level people in publishing I’m involved or acquainted with so they could see what he revealed…and think about this piece of evidence with respect to their own businesses.

Then Scott Karp posts about Colin’s writing and goes further to discuss the rapid acceleration in the death of print publishing. When I posted back in October about one clear death rattle for the printing industry — namely prepress behemoth Banta closing a big shop four minutes from my offices — it was interesting to me that it had taken roughly eight years for their business to downtrend as prepress activities migrated to the desktop and online increasingly became more important to their customers delivering content.

Though I’m still a consumer of print newspapers (Minneapolis StarTribune, New York Times, Wall Street Journal) I’ve let most of my magazine subscriptions to Forbes, Fast Company, Fortune and others lapse, keeping only BusinessWeek and Wired. Most of the 60+ trade publications I used to receive in print (e.g., Computerworld, eWeek, CIO Insight, Information Week, et al) I now read skim through an RSS reader.

For me, I find that the #1 issue with print publications is cycle time and the inherent inefficiency and time lags this creates. The number of cycles it takes to gather, edit, and decide what should be published in the limited real estate on a printed page means that I’ve already exhausted the topic by the time the print version appears.

Case in point: When Steve Jobs put up his public manifesto entitled, “Thoughts on Music” discussing digital rights management (DRM) in the music industry,  there was an absolute explosion of conversation in the blogosphere which I watched unfold on Techmeme…and read several perspectives from blogger’s I trust. By the time more traditional publications weighed in with their perspectives, I’d already formed my opinion and no longer cared what they thought. Instead I looked online for what reactions might emerge from the music industry which were forthcoming pretty quickly…and the story continued to unfold.

So is print publishing dead or not?

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Video from digital cameras…

My new toy is the Panasonic DMC-FX50. Though I love my Nikon D70 digital SLR for ‘serious’ photography, this slim, small camera has allowed me to have it with me all the time. I toss it in my briefcase or in my pocket…no muss, no fuss.

Where I’ve developed a shine for this little wonder, however, is with its high quality, 30fps video capture. I bought a 4GB SDHD card for it and can snag about 44 minutes of 640×480 video and store it. As a Mac user, I appreciate the Quicktime formatted output as it helps streamline my personal workflow.

I’ve been in three situations where someone has demonstrated a technology, process or service and I *knew* that I needed to grab the demo in order to show it later to a client. Asking the person if snagging some video would be OK, I’d proceed to take out the camera and shoot. A little technique and a steady hand helps, but a moving picture is worth 100,000 words in many instances. As more and more of us collaborate on the Web and participate with our own generated content thus communicating in a richer and deeper way, the ability to quickly grab good quality videos is only going to increase in value.

My first night with the camera I grabbed the following in the car as I went to pick up my son at a local coffee shop where he was doing homework with others. The quality — transcoded here to Flash and delivered via my Brightcove channel — is pretty good but the original in Quicktime is, in fact, qualitatively better and Flash means virtually everyone can view it. The video this camera takes is certainly not high definition nor even digital video dimensions, but for most presentations or Web communications I do, it’s absolutely perfect.

NOTE: for some reason in this video, there is a slight warping of my head making it look a bit convex. While my head probably is warped and that explains why my kids say “You don’t get it Dad” fairly often, it’s the fact that the camera is in my slightly outstretched left hand two feet from my head as I’m driving (and yes, I’m demonstrating a couple of the techniques taught at the “Steve Borsch School of Dangerous and Aggressive Driving” in this video).

Update 6/27/12: Brightcove nuked the old video so I uploaded it to my Vimeo account to display it again:

Web 2.0: Are you in the top 5-10%?

Why does it seem that — regardless of the endeavor, employee base, or community — such a small percentage of people seize opportunity?  A buddy of mine once said (horribly twisting a crass old adage) that “ideas are like a#&holes…everyone’s got one.”  Though this is a sweeping generalization, my experience has been that roughly 5-10% of any body of people will actually DO something about their ideas and the other 90-95% will come up with a million excuses as to why they cannot.

Macro-level excuses include “everyone is doing it” or “there are probably patents out there already.”  Carl Jung, the eminent psychiatrist and founder of analytical psychology, was a proponent of the collective unconscious which, “refers to that part of a person’s unconscious which is common to all human beings. It contains archetypes, which are forms or symbols that are manifested by all people in all cultures. They are said to exist prior to experience, and are in this sense instinctual.”  It’s been one explanation as to why ideas seem to popup simultaneously…sometimes in different parts of the world causing great consternation amongst venture capitalists and entrepreneurs.

Some are worried about the land-grab occurring in intellectual capital and use that as an excuse not to move forward on their idea. I’ve written about the acceleration in intellectual property capture by Intellectual Ventures (post here) and how even an exchange traded fund, Ocean Tomo, (post here) has recognized this momentum and is trading on it. Google is obviously taking steps to capitalize on this global trend too (post here). The kicker? It’s easier than ever before to discover patents, applications and prior art of spontaneous and simultaneous ideas from those who’ve seen them early on and find your entry point that’s relatively safe and secure.

So who is in the 5-10% of Web 2.0, what are they building and what should you do?

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iPhone: Changing the paradigm of connection

There are dozens of thoughts swirling through my head after Jobs’ keynote at Macworld, but there is one that is uppermost in my mind and, perhaps, is a slightly different perspective than others about the amazing package Apple has delivered with the iPhone.

The accelerating human-to-human connection that a global internet and mobile telephony provides is astounding. But when you think about the implications of the world’s knowledge AT YOUR FINGERTIPS with extremely powerful handheld devices it gets even more interesting, lifechanging, and truly an enormous catalyst to drive interactions online.

Not that smartphones haven’t existed before…it’s that they’ve been “just OK” since they’re replete with compromises. I love my Treo 700p and think it’s cool…but the operating system and applications on it (I use the PalmOS version) feels like the old, shaky, MacOS 9 instead of the robust, unix-based Mac OS X operating system (which the iPhone is based upon). The Windows Mobile version of the Treo is worse since Windows Mobile feels like Window98 stuffed into a phone and has a PC-centric user interface.

The iPhone is a reinvention of the concept of a portable, rich, elegant, comprehensive communications device for your hip or purse and if the keynote or Apple web site animations are any indicator, this is going to be one phenomenal device. Are there tradeoffs and compromises? Probably…but sitting on my desk right now is the first generation iPod which looks laughingly clunky right now even though it was launched in October of 2001. My…how things have changed with the iPod devices in that short time. We can expect the same with this class of device from Apple and others.

Now think about the trends in social software; in Web applications; in video, audio and animations; in education. How cool is it that you could easily and seamlessly interact with them all from wherever you happen to be at the moment?

I can only imagine the possibilities of searching Google and having location-based advertising show up. Or being able to grab a picture and moblog on the spot. Or working on some machine and quickly looking up the manual online (I do so now but go to my computer, find the PDF, print the page and take it with me). Learning (education and training) is the category that promises to be changed the most since why bother to memorize tons of information and data when you can just look it up? Having the world’s information at your fingertips will have profound implications and I’m already experiencing many of them today via my Treo and the fast Verizon EV-DO network.

I have one year left on my Verizon contract with my Treo 700p but will undoubtedly buy one of these anyway and sign up for Cingular. Wow.

Value 2.0: Your Value in a Box?

Wikinomics just arrived and I’ve leapt into reading this new book by Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams — and am already 25% of the way through it. It’s a very good book for those needing context about the accelerating change occurring with an increasingly connected globe and the disruption, changes — and exciting opportunities — being enabled by the Internet and the emergent culture of participation.

I’ve been thinking deeply about — and searching for thought leaders discussing — the non-monetary, non-barter value exchange accelerating globally (or what Tapscott calls “non-market production”). Wikipedia, open source software and even cooperative non-profit efforts are manifestations of the phenomena. Mass collaboration fostered by a globally connected consciousness is certain to exponentially increase it and is at the core of Tapscott/Williams argument.

Though 1/4th of the way through it, Wikinomics has already crystallized my thinking on one, key point imperative to all of us if we intend to be a marketable commodity in a globally connected world: how can we put our value in a box? How can that value be encapsulated so it can “plug in” to strategies, projects, and efforts where mass collaboration is required? How can others trust that the value is real?

I’ve written before about extreme specialization and clearly mass collaboration will allow each of us to more narrowly focus our personal value propositions and deliver our value if a way emerges to offer our value into a marketplace and plug-n-play it into a larger effort. Step #1 is identity management, but my thinking is expanding:

  • What if there was an agreed upon microformat or profile (LinkedIn has the closest thing to what I’m describing) that would telegraph to others our capabilities, experience, strengths, knowledge and, especially, our availability to be hired?
  • Who would be the trusted authority to certify that our stated value representation was authentic? Or would it be as simple as a reputation system and a trusted authority would be unnecessary? (e.g., eBay’s seller feedback/rating). (In my view, reputation is where LinkedIn falls down since most “recommendations” are from friends or close colleagues and are thus tinged with too much positive and is more evident of the effort someone has put into LinkedIn and harnessed others to recommend them).
  • Or perhaps it could be as simple as participating in a value marketplace. “This work is worth $X” and “you need reputation Y to bid on it” so teams would be self-assembled and willing, available participants could come together to mass collaborate and receive monetary value in return equal to their effort and merit.

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Microsoft to own RSS?

Some have predicted 2007 will be the “year of RSS“. I view it as the “lubrication” for internet delivered content and it clearly is what enabled the podcasting phenomena to happen, was key to the rise of blogging and memetracking, and is vital for all of us to collect and aggregate the exponentially rising amount of information coming at us from every corner of the ‘net.

So what if Microsoft owned RSS and made everybody pay for the privilege to use it?

Reading Dave Winer’s blog just now I came across this post with some intrigue over questions of his involvement in RSS (which I won’t comment on since I don’t have any facts) but included a *very* disturbing link to a patent filed by Microsoft on RSS! So much for them hiring Ray Ozzie and ostensibly embracing the Web-centric ecosystem.

I just skimmed the patent and will read it in full tonight. At first glance it simply appears that they’re positioning it as a platform and all processes central to that RSS platform are within the patent itself. I expect that much smarter and more experienced corners of the internet are going to shout this one down. If not, 2007 will be the year RSS was co-opted and became yet another choke point for innovation owned by our pals in Redmond.

Time: Bloggers react to *It’s all about You*

I probably shouldn’t be stunned that the LARGEST number of links and blog discussions I’ve yet seen on Techmeme were when Time magazine set their “Person of the Year: You”.

For most of us in the Web 2.0, internet and participation culture (the basis of my Rise of the Participation Culture report), most of what this article said was obvious since we’re living it. The important thing, however, is that the mainstream press is bringing it to the attention of the masses who are still amazingly clueless.

A year and a half ago I was talking to a C-level executive at a company about blogging, podcasting and virtual worlds. I admitted that the virtual world thing was a little far out…but then he looked at me and said, “What’s blogging?” This man headed marketing.

It wasn’t until BusinessWeek did a cover story on Second Life that senior executives and my close colleagues and friends stopped looking at me like I was some technoweenie goofball out of touch with reality or far too strategic to be practical.

To see participants (i.e., bloggers) participate in the Time magazine discussion seems appropriate, but if you read some of the perspectives it proves how people leap into the discussion and mold, shape and change public discourse. At least I hope the Time magazine folks are reading bloggers writings as I have. Some…not all…of bloggers’ perspectives have deepened my understanding of what Time published.

Friday evening I was at a gathering where two people (my wife was one of them) vociferously railed against the alleged inaccuracies of Wikipedia and “all those bloggers whose opinions I don’t care about” intimating that all of us out here were just ill informed spewers of opinion with little regard to facts.

Others there didn’t seem to see much import to the whole participation thing. During the discussion, I politely pointed all those places where I begged to differ, but realized that these people were still up in the stands watching (instead of on the field playing like we who participate) and are distracted and only peripherally watching the game. Unfortunately, these are people who are involved in trend, marketing, product and service ideations (though all 40+ so maybe it was age-related) and should’ve been right next to me pushing on the membrane of the future instead of fearing it or minimizing its import.

So it’s good to see bloggers react like this but then all of us — those who “get it” and those yet to — need to understand that 98% of the world is still unaware, doesn’t care, sees it as noise and inefficiency instead of what it is: connecting humankind to the next level of social, fun, creativity, problem solving and efficiency. Just like the train, car, and airplane transported our bodies, the internet is transporting our minds.

Will RSS wither and die?

I’m getting a bald spot on the area of my scalp I keep scratching trying to figure out how RSS will remain viable for those trying to monetize content and drive people to their respective sites.

Steve Rubel at MicroPersuasion — in a post today entitled, “Why Yahoo is Backing Away from RSS” — examines some recent moves by Yahoo deemphasizing RSS feeds and asks one pertinent question along these lines: “Could this be the beginning of a larger trend?

I think it is.

In the last year I’ve seen data that 1% — and as many as 6% — of internet users read through RSS readers. I’d agree that reading feeds is still in the early adopter, technoweenie stage and few people may even be aware that they’re using RSS when reading feeds in a personal portal, on a web page or on someone’s blog where content syndicated feeds can be displayed.

We’ve seen few copyright problems yet though I’ve been expecting some media company to go after smaller players that display the former’s RSS-fed content on the latter’s site as though it was their own. I’ve also not seen much push-back from companies who’d be much better off to have all internet users appear at their Web offering instead of having their content appear elsewhere (so as to sell advertisers on unique visitors/pageviews, etc.). RSS is still too new and underutilized and it seems as though everyone is still trying to figure out how to build an audience that is sustainable, so it’s all offense right now…but the defense (like lawsuits) will come.

Even though ad insertions have been filtering into RSS feeds, they’re few-n-far between and most content companies are ad-funded. I’m also very aware that — when I read RSS-fed articles in my preferred reader — all content is equal. They all look the same and I sometimes find myself having to look to see where the feed has come from in order to have some context. This is a bad thing for media companies or anyone else trying to build a brand, a customer experience or momentum as a destination for online participants.

I’m going to bet we’ll see more and more companies controlling their RSS feeds to make 100% certain that anything offered has a compelling reason to click-through. Fast Company magazine does this with intriguing article headers and a one sentence abstract. 90% of the time I’m interested enough to click through and read some of the articles they offer. I end up seeing the context of the article, photos and, of course, all the ads that surround it.

So maybe this will lead to better content as media companies, bloggers and others invest in better-n-better content? Maybe. Could also end up like Digg right now where it seems *everyone* is creating provocative, compelling headlines that lead to almost always disappointing content…but the goal is to get people to click on a submitted article and get it promoted to the home page.

The marketplace will find a sweet spot where people like me can read FAST by aggregating hundreds of feeds into an RSS reader yet still snag me frequently so I click-through and receive ads. Better ad insertion technology will appear. I’ll bet too that there will be good technology fixes like web bugs that will help identify, track and measure RSS-feed-to-click-through so everyone will be happy and content can be monetized.