Last night at the RSA, Nicholas A. Christakis was giving a talk called “Connected: the amazing power of social networks and how they shape our lives”.
I missed it, unfortunately, due to work commitments, but as is the nature of the modern age, you can never truly miss anything any more… Simon Kendrick has constructed this excellent post about the event (though he wasn’t there either, but followed it live online)…
For the time being, something in Simon’s post made me think about the frailty of how we tell people about social networks….
“He believes that we should look at the networks, rather than the
individuals, when formulating policies and strategies, because
properties aren’t understandable when just looking at individual
components. He used the (excellent) example of carbon.
atoms are linked together in one way, they form graphite. When linked
in another way, they form diamond. Two very different structures, with
very different properties“
Now, whenever we talk about networks, it isn’t usually that long before a drawing not entirely unlike the carbon lattice above comes along to try and describe the network…
We’ve all done it, I’m sure. Because if you’re writing a presentation, or a paper, or a book, then it’s the best way you’ve got to describe what’s going on.
Now, Nicholas says there are three ‘dimensions’ that matter (again, from Simon’s post):
The number of friends/connectors per person/node
The interconnectedness of friends – are the nodes I am connected to also connected to one another?
The position within the overall network – is my node in the centre or towards one of the edge?
So you’d probably create a ‘three dimensional’ shape to try and describe a better network…
Max from here at PHD (who was there last night, the lucky blighter) pointed me to this video of an example used last night on the spread of obesity…
But I’m wondering; are we missing the dimension that’s perhaps most important of all? The one that Doctor Who would remind us to look at…
…the dimension of TIME.
Think about it; over time, people move in the network, relevant to each other. If you take a snapshot of the network at a give period in time, sure, it’ll look like any of the models above.
But if you then take a picture even a day later, the network will have changed. Our snapshot will be out of date.
So I wonder if we should we be trying to look at a different visual model to try and explain networks?
If you watch the first twenty seconds or so of the video below, is this a better way of thinking about networks…
…all part of the same flowing, living organism, fulfilling different roles at different times?
It’s not quite right, perhaps, but it makes a lot more sense to me than thinking about a static network.
So what you get with the multiverse is a character who exists in each version of Earth, but who is different from their other world counterpart. For instance, this is Earth-One Flash…
…and this is Earth-Two Flash…
Different circumstances on different worlds means that each counterpart is different; attitudes, relationships, history, perception etc.
Which actually sounds a little like the way we act in different networks we exist in; work, home, friends, clubs and so on… we’re not always the same type of person, we will undoubtedly flip between different states depending on the network we’re in, and the subject matter we’re talking about.
Each of us has different personalities within the Social Multiverse.
For me, it achieved what great science fiction should; no matter how far the story goes, it’s rooted in something entirely plausible & believable. I’m currently reading his novel Makers too (which Faris sent me after my social production thingy), which pulls the same trick of expertly extrapolating a future from things currently happening in technology.
I’ve talked about Sci-fi before, of course, but in the context of ‘Story’, I think there’s two interesting things that happen in technology because of science-fiction
Firstly, both writers and engineers start in the same place (what HAS happened, and IS currently possible with technology).
But the writer is then free to speculate about the future without being held back by the real world constraints the engineer faces. They’re both heading in similar directions, but it takes the engineer longer to get there…
Secondly, it becomes a bit of a self-fulfilling prophesy…
…the engineers of the future, just by dint of who they are (geeks) what they like (geek stuff) and so on, grow up reading the science-fiction of the present. They get ideas and inspiration of the path to travel from the writers… and so naturally follow that path.
…but just reading a few pages of the stories is teaching me more in a sticky way than endless Wikipedia or lectures would about the same subject.
Comics like this should be on the curriculum. And my mum’s a teacher, so I’ll sort that out then, yeah?
5. Audience participation is all about clapping & chocolate
Russell Davies was an excellent host; genial, funny, generous, and most crucially of all, he knows the power of interaction… especially when it comes to throwing out chocolate treats into the audience (which brought back memories of being at the panto)…
I caught a Kinder Egg, which is why I’m now the proud owner of an ISG (Interplanetary Space Gallivanter)…
6. Some stories stick with us for a long time
Now, Kat Akingbade (co-star of C4’s The Science of Scams) was there talking about how a lot of people tell stories around the occult for quite selfish and nefarious purposes, because the stories resonate with a lot of people in a certain way…
…and the photos she was using to demonstrate this though were a series of the ‘classic’ ghost photos:
…which to be honest I’d forgotten all about, but on seeing them again remembered that as a kid I’d absolutely pored over books like this Usborne one filled with these photos, stories and more…
…which now, thinking about it, is probably where a lot of the inspiration for the Gamages Model Train Club stories I write comes from. I’m not weird; just conditioned…
So, some stories can stay with you and act as a formative force on your life for a long time it seems.
Which is maybe why one of the most powerful forces at play in marketing at the moment is nostalgia; reminding people of something in their past is easier than trying to get them to believe something completely new in the present.
7. I’ve utterly wasted my life (compare to Jody McIntyre)
Sam Coniff from Livity didn’t tell his story, but that of Jody McIntyre – who, after going travelling around South America on his own, scaling Machu Picchu solo, and winning acceptance to Oxford, has now decamped to Palestine to campaign and report on everything that’s happening there.
Oh, and did I say that he’s got cerebral palsy, and his parents were told when he was born that he would never walk, and probably never talk?
When the podcasts are up, I’ll post Sam’s telling of Jody’s amazing tale (so far)… in the meantime, follow Jody here and here
8. All the great storytellers need is the suit of clothes they’re standing in…
Last up, David Hepworth of Development Hell (who produce Word & Mixmag) stands up and tells us the most wondrous, evocative tale of suits, fathers, styles, eras and generations…
David was a brilliant mix of entertainer, sage, comedian, co-conspirator, humble, confident… he just stood on a stage for twenty minutes and took the audience with him on the journey.
But something he referred to himself helps the rest of us… he’s been telling and retelling the story, working out the moral, the important bits (and no doubt the bits where he gets a good laugh).
It’s only when we practice telling stories that we get better at telling them.
So there you are, The Story.
The post is rather a long one, I know… so, if there’s a shorthand version, it’s this:
1. Tell stories that inspire others to do great things
2. Build depth into your stories, so people can dive deeper
3. Use your story to push against the expectations of the audience
4. Educate through entertaining stories
5. Get the audience to participate in the telling of the story
6. Tell stories that resonate with things from the past
7. Tell the stories of others generously
8. The more you retell your story, the better it’ll be…
As we can see, the touchscreen is about to get huge (it’s not just an Apple thing, of course, all manufacturers are developing touchscreen devices of all shapes and sizes)…
Interesting to see categories that are not really making use of it yet… sports especially.
Well, I think sports is ripe for a bit of touchscreen interaction. Especially when you think of Andy Gray standing in front of his digital touchscreen to explain tactics on the fitba’…
Now, with the touchscreen device gaining in popularity, what if you could download your own version of this? And use it to send into the studio where you think the players should be standing, making runs and so on. A kind of crowdsourced tactical analysis. You versus the experts.
That’d be kind of cool, I think. And another interesting way to use touchscreen devices alongside watching ‘event’ TV.
The what? The Apple whodjimmy? The iPad? What, you hadn’t heard? Oh, they did some launch thing over in the States on Wednesday…
OK, so you can hardly have missed it, but here’s what I think are the headline points to bear in mind…
…but firstly, a quick overview of the device itself:
It weights 1.5lb (680g or so) so it’s pretty light, it’s half an inch thick, 9.5 inches high, and 7.5 inches wide…
…it comes with either a 16gb, 32gb or 64gb solid state drive, all models connect with Wi-Fi, you can upgrade to 3G (so you can use a phone network, though you don’t need to have a contract, it’s pre-pay)…
…it runs all the existing iPhone apps, there”s a bespoke version of iWork (Apple’s ‘Office’ equivalent) you can buy as apps too…
…and it works just like a big iPod Touch or iPhone, really.
Seriously though, of all the things mentioned yesterday, this to me is the thing that makes me think it’ll take off.
At a mere $499 for an entry model iPad, it’s already positioning itself as a device between a smartphone and laptop.
It’s not aiming to replace more expensive laptops, but to do something different in between. And I think that $499 is low enough for people to go and get one ‘just to see’.
Of course, netbook manufacturers, who led the way in producing small cheap machines whose purpose of existing was the access the internet wherever and whenever, are sitting this morning wondering where to go now.
Intel doesn’t yet have a proven track record in mobile chips currently (though have just contributed to their first Smartphone, the LG GW990), so Apple needed another option for the launch of the iPad…
However, it’s interesting news that the chip was made in-house, rather than sourcing another supplier. Yet perhaps it’s a move as you’d expect would have been the eventual step for a company who likes to do it all in-house.
Maybe at some point in the long term, they expect to make all of their own chips… which might cause a wee headache to some chip manufacturers…
3. Bye bye e-books
…though not as much of a headache as the e-book boys have right now.
But to save you the trouble, the reasons ‘not’ are pretty lame. So the future’s not looking great for the Kindle, but what about the much vaunted thought that…
4. “…it’ll save the newspaper industry!”
Let’s be honest; Apple haven’t exactly made it their mission to save the existing media industries.
Just look at music… it’s not like the iPod & iTunes did anything to preserve the existing model for the music industry; if anything, it hurried the mass population into a new way of behaving that could only hasten the industry’s model decline…
“I can pay much less for music, and only pick the songs I really wanted”.
In that light, can you really see the iPad preserving the income levels that the newspaper industry like to imagine a daily read of their paper is worth?
No, neither can I.
Sure, there will be a subscription model that’ll make a little money. Micropayments too, maybe, through iTunes.
But it won’t be anything near the level that newspaper owners think it should be; people will think…
“I can pay much less for news, and only pick the bits I really wanted”
5. It’ll have a big impact on TV
We like having lots of TVs in our home. Living room, then bedroom, then kitchen… the family could quickly disperse to the different rooms around the house to watch whatever they wanted.
The iPad is reportedly an excellent TV & movie device (it’s HD quality, of course). You can sit with it on your knee wherever you are (at home, on a train, in an airport, in the back seat of a car)…
…so watching content will be great; using a service like the iPhone TV Catchup anywhere you’ve got wi-fi would be a joy, much more so than it is on the iPhone.
But despite the ability to watch live TV like this, I think it’s still bad news for traditional linear TV viewing, and advertising by implication.
People will have another option to watch whatever they want wherever and whenever. It’ll encourage more use of downloading programming, which may have all the pre-rolls and whatever you like, but will not replace the money brought in by the traditional ad-break on TV.
And if content creators think they’ll switch to a revenue stream funded by ‘pay-per-show’, then they better be prepared to sell it cheap; already Apple clearly want to half the price of TV content on iTunes.
Finally, of course, we know that ‘two screen’ viewing is really coming into it’s own of late; sitting on the couch with your smartphone or laptop, with the TV on at the same time.
But if the device you hold is bigger. brighter, better, easier to surf… then less of your attention is going to be pointed at the screen in the corner of the room. The TV may be on, but the advertising will be increasingly ignored.
6. A new era of gaming
The iPhone was a huge success when it came to games. So much so, that it kinda caught Apple by surprise (they’ve never been that good on gaming, let’s be honest).
What was apparent that people really did want to play more intricate, complex games on a touchscreen platform…
…but in such a cramped space such as the iPhone, that made it hard; at times it seemed half the screen was taken up by virtual buttons.
But with a bigger device, you get more ‘game’ screen, and less pressure to squeeze in fiddly virtual buttons. Control gestures can be bigger, more natural.
And of course you’ve still got the accelerometer to control things by tipping and turning the device.
When the first iPhone launched, sure, there where a few things you could do with it.
But it was only when the thousands of developers populated the iPhone with the 100,000+ apps that everyone’s really been able to make it their own personal, perfect device. And now you can get all the iPhone apps on the iPad.
(BTW – Letting those developers in, whilst maintaining a level of control to keep quality at a decent threshold, was the smartest thing Apple may have done with the iPhone, IMHO)
But now there’s a whole new device to play with.
The gestures are based on hands, not thumbs. The viewing can be for many eyes, not just yours. The holding position is more book & magazine, less phone and iPod.
As Bryce says here, the iPad is about “packaging a new user experience which really comes down to the
software’s gesture interface, the SDK and the underlying hardware that
powers it all.” (HT David Cushman)
It’s not just a ‘big iPhone’; I think that’s just a lazy (if not snarky) observation to make.
When the developers are let loose on it in anger and start releasing proper iPad apps will we understand exactly what it’s capable of…
…and where it’s going to be of most use, like in…
I think there’s terrific opportunities to adopt the iPad (and the new generation of devices it will no doubt spawn from competitors) more in a work scenario.
Which Apple do too, given that they’ve launched special bespoke versions of the ‘iWork’ tools (Keynote, Numbers and Pages) as $9.99 apps for the device.
Now, as John Griffiths points out here it’s really at odds with the Microsoft Office charging model (who every time charge hundreds of dollars to upgrade to the next version of Office).
Though Apple of course want you to buy the new sausage, so give you the sizzle for virtually nothing.
But I was talking to Mike at Made by Many about this, and we agreed there’s huge potential for a device like the iPad to move into healthcare, education as well as traditional business.
It could represent a new way of accessing, creating and sharing information. Of course, you wouldn’t expect to walk into an NHS hospital and see all the Doctors accessing patient information on iPads, but there will be alternatives that are cheap enough to make widespread rollout possible.
The iPad will change the perception of what is possible & desirable from a device in the workplace, creating opportunities for many other manufacturers too.
9. Some folk are pretty disappointed
It’s well known that techy, bloggy types want the moon on a stick. For over six months, speculation has been rife about what the iPad ‘may’ be able to do.
Of course, when it doesn’t arrive, people get all disappointed… and start making (inevitable) Downfall versions of Hitler being told about it…
Sure, there’s no camera, no Flash support (Apple are clearly trying to kill Adobe’s Flash too, just for kicks), no multitasking (so you couldn’t run Spotify at the same time as a Keynote app, for instance)…
…but the overall disgruntlement is, I think, misplaced. Take this for instance…
“I still can’t believe this! All this hype for something so
ridiculous! … I want something new! I want them to think differently!
Why oh why would they do this?! It’s so wrong! It’s so stupid!”
It’s not a reaction to the iPad this week. But to the original iPod, back in 2001 (via ReadWriteWeb). The first generation iPhone, when announced, faced similar disappointment and derision from within the techworld.
And look how they turned out…
10. The Market and Stephen Fry are impressed
Have a look at the Apple Share price over the last 6 months or so, ever since the rumour machine really started cranking up…
Not bad, huh? The market clearly thinks Apple are onto a winner…
“There are many issues you could have with the iPad. No multitasking,
still no Adobe Flash. No camera, no GPS. They all fall away the minute
you use it. I cannot emphasise enough this point: “Hold your judgment
until you’ve spent five minutes with it.”
No YouTube film, no
promotional video, no keynote address, no list of features can even
hint at the extraordinary feeling you get from actually using and
interacting with one of these magical objects.”
I can’t wait to try it.
So there you have it, the Apple iPad. Personally, I think it’s going to cause big ripples across many markets, and you know what, that’s how I like things. Change is good. The iPad is great. ]]>
“…you go around collecting useful information for them (the location of
restaurants, houses, and so on) and they “reward” you by letting you
claim to be the mayor of Nonsuch. Except that if someone else comes
along and checks in more frequently, they can become the mayor of Nonsuch. Oh noes! Oh, who cares.”
“…web and mobile stuff lowers so many barriers. It’s lowered the cost,
effort and skills required to build tools, express yourself, connect to
people etc etc. All that.”
“It’s also lowered the amount of point
something needs to have to be worth playing with. It’s lowered the
point point. Using Foursquare or Gowalla represents such a minimal
amount of effort and energy – normally in a moment of your day when
you’re not doing anything else – that you only need a tiny amount of
reward for it to be worthwhile. And, actually, for quite a lot of
people, quite a lot of the point is in seeing how much point there is.”
I think that sometimes you’ve got to look past the ‘why would people do that..?’
It doesn’t matter why they would do it. If they are, and there’s something interesting there, then ask a better question…
“…what can we do that would interest people who do that..?”
Now, I’m a big FourSquare fan…
…not necessarily just because I like finding out about stuff, but because I (think) I can see a world ripe with potential.
(Which is what we agency folk do: we go hunting for potential, in lots of interesting places, because ‘potential’ no longer just lands on a media agencies doorstep in nicely defined lumps of TV advertising)
And it occurs that there is a terrific amount of space in FourSquare at the moment to “do things that interest people who FourSquare”.
But even wandering around Central London, where you’d expect to find the greatest density of useful and interesting activity, the offers and tips you can find are pretty few and far between.
Yet unlike a lot of other creations in the social space, FourSquare has lots of convenient brand & company shaped holes in it.
Free Friday coffee for the Mayor.
10% your trainers here if you’re Mayor of your local gym.
Visit five of our stores, check in, and get a ‘superfan’ reward.
Whatever you come up with.
Because then, I think it hits the point Charles sums up his article with…
“Location-based services are really important, and they’re potentially
the source of substantial revenue-making opportunities. But only the
ones that are grounded in the real world, and things you can do with
that real world.”
Mashable brings us some lovely juicy yearly growth of social networks figures (for the US, I may try later and get the relevant UK stats)…
The winner, as expected of course, is Facebook, who just keep piling on those numbers. And on the face of it, Twitter’s had a great year too…
…but there is a continual whispering about Twitter, a nagging piece of gossip, a little tittle-tattle…
…it’s stopped growing. Indeed, the stats show that unique users is falling, even…
But the thing is, the stats tell only half the story. Again from Mashable, we learn that the figures don’t include any of the use via a third party twitter client; the likes of Hootsuite, Tweetdeck, Tweetie, Echofon…
…anything that actually makes the rich information on Twitter more malleable and usable for an increasing number of people.
Vijay has pointed me to this, which is excellent… an actual estimation of the Twitter ecosystem, rather than just Twitter itself:
Personally, I visit the Twitter site very infrequently, as I find it impractical as an interface… something that offers you the chance to route different feeds into different columns and presents them as an overview is much more useful:
But as was touched on back in The Social Lego Principles things like Twitter only works when you start assembling the building blocks together in interesting ways; just looking at one tweet, or one account, is a bit dull, unmanageable and uninspiring.
Which is I guess what a lot of people have been initially turned off by, just staring at a torrent of information in one linear delivery.
If you’re one of those folk, think of it this way: You’re an idea farmer. Your twitter account, with tweets from all the people you follow, is like a huge flowing river passing through your farm.
Now, you can try and just grow all your idea crops around the banks of that one river. But it’s not very efficient.
So, instead, why not try a little irrigation:
Using something like Hootsuite, spread out the flow into lots of little channels… base it on hashtags you’re interested in, words of interest, a certain set of people.
Split the flow out into manageable little rivers, so you know where to go for what.
Because Twitter’s just the water; the more efficiently you can channel it, then the better it’ll be at growing lots of ideas for you…
It’s going to revolutionise computing. It’s going to come packed with a free spaceship. It’s a window to peer backwards through time and alter the present. It comes with Wonkavision, so you can reach in and grab anything off eBay you fancy. It’s actually built from Sport Billy technology, so it shrinks to become a regular iPhone…
Well, no matter what it can do, a lot of the conversation so far has been about where it fits into folk’s lives. Would it replace the desktop computer, or the laptop, or the TV… or just aspects of all of these, but not as well..?
Well, here’s a thought; what if it took a trick out the Lego book, and the device as you see it above is just one brick… that can connect up to other bricks.
What do I mean? Well, take the MacBook pro below…
But don’t think of it as one whole device, but two blocks.
The first block is your Apple tablet. It can operate on it’s on, with the touchscreen, but you can then just slot it together with the keyboard element, and hey presto, you’ve got a laptop again.
Or think about a small television on a stand, like you might have in a bedroom or kitchen…
Again, the stand, the receiver, the hard drive with all your stored programmes are just other ‘blocks’ that you click a screen onto.
Of course, the laptop ‘docking station’ approach has been around for a while, and while I was looking around on t’net for an image, I found this patent filed by Apple back in 2008 (via Cybernet News, specced up by Gizmodo).
The supposition at the time was that it “looks like a typical Apple iMac screen base in which you would be able
to dock one of those ultra thin and light laptops rumored by sliding it
in right through the side of the screen. It would presumably fit
completely inside of the monitor.”
But what if it was never meant to ‘fit completely inside of the monitor.
…if the world does go 3D bonkers, and wants to watch everything in 3D from now on in, what would that do to commercial television?
Firstly, new content would be more expensive to create… by about 20%, a well informed colleague tells me. So not horrendous, but still no-one wants an extra 20% loaded onto the cost of what they produce.
But then there’s what to do with all the existing content… the repeats that make up a large proportion of TV viewing?
If people suddenly decided that they wanted to watch EVERYTHING in 3D, then TV channels would be pretty screwed as people stopped watching ‘normal TV’ in favour of the immersive 3D version…