Archive for May, 2010

One-to-Some: A New Mode of Communication

May 20, 2010

This is not a post about Facebook; plenty of thoughtful folks have already covered it, danah boydTim @ Made By Many, and Gavin Heaton to name a few, and I agree with pretty much everything they’ve written. This post is about the future of communication.

We’ve had one-to-one communication forever. Mass-media created a revolution in one-to-many communication. And the internet has shown us the power and possibility of many-to-many communication. We are slowly starting to see the formation of a new kind of communication, which – for lack of a better term – I’m calling one-to-some communication.

The promise of the social web is a fundamentally new form of communication in which each of us can move fluidly between one-to-one, one-to-many, and many-to-many communication with each bit of information we share.

Imagine the drawing above scaled to thousands of connections, within an endless network of other thousands of connections. All constantly adapting intelligently to the information that is being passed.

As our connections to each other become constant and pervasive, the ability to dynamically access different groups of people from our network and seamlessly control the information we pass on to them on the fly, will create a radical transformation in our society’s relationship to information.

We’ve already seen a glimpse of it on Twitter. Look at how information spreads through Twitter. It spreads faster, to more people, and more efficiently to the people who consider the information relevant to their interests, than any method of communication we’ve ever seen.

Here’s how I define social media: the enhanced experience of all media in the context of a self-authored digital network of personal relationships, i.e. a Social Network.

Consider how we currently pass information through our networks. Information comes in to us from any of the hundred or even thousands of sources that we continually monitor across multiple channels, and some of it is deemed worth passing on to other people we’re connected to through digital technology. Sometimes we may only want to share it with one person and we turn to email or perhaps IM. Sometimes we want to share it with a small group and we turn to a group email, or a closed forum or message board, or even a closed chat room. Sometimes we want to share it with a broader audience, and we use tools like Twitter or Tumblr. Sometimes we’re not really interested in who we’re sharing it with, but we appreciate the added value we can create by sharing in a public place like Delicious, Reddit, or Digg. We may want to add our own opinion and share it with the world, and we use our blog or maybe another medium like photos on Flickr or videos on YouTube.

Our ability to control who we share things with in this scenario is a complete mess. There are massive redundancies, as connections are repeated and reestablished on each platform, and through different means. And often the method that’s most convenient for us to send information out is not the preferred method for someone else to receive the information, so the communication fails. And most importantly, we have no good, clear, reliable way to even see what our entire network looks like. We don’t even really know who we’re connected to.

Now imagine that just as there is a standardized method of publishing information, i.e. the internet, there was a standardized method of managing our network. If there was a universal open standard for our identity (which has been toyed with, but not widely adopted yet) and for our connections, then the world of developers could begin building all kinds of ways to help us understand and navigate our constantly changing networks.

In our existing digital world, moving information from Point A to Point B is easy. The internet has done a fantastic job of creating an open and adaptable system on which brilliant people have developed a zillion different ways to share information.

As the social web matures, the challenge we face is no longer how to share information more easily, but rather how can I more easily control whom I share information with.

This is the need we have that Facebook should be addressing. We don’t need their help to share information. We need help managing our connections and how we control the flow of information through that network. Ironically Facebook is in a commanding position to lead and dominate this crucial emerging service need, and, yet, it’s the aspect of their service that they’ve either done poorly or actively avoided.

As David Weinberger put it:

The social networking site that will do for the connections among people what the Web has done for the connections among sites is awaiting its own Tim Berners-Lee.


Designing For Networks

May 18, 2010

If you  only use the internet in order to raise awareness, and perhaps to influence perception, then you are missing out on what the web was made for: to enable large networks of people to come together for effective purposes through sharing, cooperating, and organizing collective action.

Next Thursday, May 27th, I’ll be speaking at AdBite in Bend, OR (get info and tix here).

The subject of my talk will be Designing for Networks. In a digital world, the effectiveness of your marketing efforts is dependent on your ability to engage and empower a network of individuals connected by a shared interest.

It is time for marketers to stop thinking of consumers simply as groups of individuals, and to start thinking of the people they hope to connect with as a powerful network tied together by shared goals and aspirations. It is the marketers job to figure out how the brand can support and work together with this human organization to create an experience that is mutually beneficial to both the brand’s business objectives and the desires of the network.

Throughout the history of traditional advertising all most marketers could hope to accomplish was to capture a consumer’s attention. If you were particularly lucky or talented you might persuade a consumer to favorably consider the product or service you were trying to sell. These accomplishments, necessary as they may be, were limited by the capabilities of the media used to deliver the messages. As marketers transitioned their practices to the Internet, they brought all of their same assumptions and limited vision with them to this revolutionary new medium. For over a decade now, most marketers have yet to see beyond the boundaries of traditional advertising, and have only focused their online efforts on capturing attention, influencing perception, and occasionally gathering especially loyal customers.

During the same time period, digital technology has invaded every corner of our lives. It has become an integral aspect of how we access information, how we communicate, how we entertain ourselves, how we document our lives, and how we organize collective action. The Internet has fundamentally altered not only how we behave, but even how we see ourselves as a society. As Yochai Benkler, author of The Wealth of Networks, said at MIT’s Futures of Entertainment Conference in November 2008, “the increasingly widespread practice of people coming together for effective purposes” is changing how audiences or crowds perceive themselves and what they’re capable of. Consider how a generation of people who have grown up taking Google, Linux, and Wikipedia for granted see themselves differently. They recognize the power in many people coming together, each making small contributions, and the potential of their collective work adding up to something huge and meaningful.

In his 2008 book Here Comes EverybodyClay Shirky argues that while more familiar technological advances like the printing press, telephones, radio and TV enabled revolutions in one-to-one and one-to-many communication, digital technology has created a revolution in many-to-many communication. This means that groups of individuals are coming together to share, cooperate, and even to organize collective action in ways we’ve never imagined before.

Consider this a call to action, and a strong warning. Getting consumers’ attention, changing opinion, and even managing relationships is only the tip of the iceberg. Digital technology has created an incredible opportunity: the ability to collaborate with a powerful legion of people waiting for the tools to empower them to realize a shared vision.

New Blog, New

May 17, 2010

At long last (why do these things always take so long?!), I’m happy to announce that the new and improved is up and running (or walking at least).

As usual, there’s plenty more that I’d like to do with the new site, and I will continue to tinker and make small improvements over the next several months. As old readers will notice, I’ve moved my blog off of my home domain, and over to One of the main reasons why I decided to do this was to give myself a place to play, a site that it would be easy to tinker with and keep my novice development skills in shape, without worrying about screwing up my blog presence.

Whether anyone likes it or not, I’ve become a fairly prolific content sharer over the past couple years. I now have personal outgoing content streams across 6 profiles: Twitter, Tumblr, Google Reader, Delicious, Buzzfeed, Facebook. And I publish original content on my blog, on Slideshare, and on Flickr.

This latest iteration of my web presence is an attempt to make it easier for people to connect with me and follow what I’m up to on whichever platforms or type of content they prefer.

For my blog, I wanted to focus on the writing again. When I look back over the past few years of blogging, the posts I like most are the ones that went deep. The ones that took the most thought. The ones that I took the most care to write well. I want to do more of that kind of blogging. And I wanted the environment where it lived to reflect that focus.

With all that in mind, thanks to everyone who’s stuck around through all of this. And if you dig the new site and the new blog tell a friend!