Nov 13

Why I don’t like ‘The Internet of Things’

The Internet is permeating everything. It’s already in our clothes, in our homes, in our cars. In a short number of years we will think of the Internet in the same way as we currently think of electricity. Something that is always there, invisible, but powering almost everything. Something we don’t consciously think about unless it doesn’t work.

We’re already starting to think of the Internet this way. We’ve swiftly moved from thinking about ‘going online’ just a few years ago to opening apps on our phones many times a day and not thinking about the fact that they are connected to the Internet, that they are constantly online, updating in the background.

We’re also starting to see the Internet embedded into hardware where the product is part hardware, part software, and the experience is the magical seamless integration of those things. Examples include Nike+, the Nest thermostat, Square. I think this marrying of hardware and software is where most of the most exciting things will happen in the next few years.

This idea that the Internet is like electricity, and that hardware and software seamlessly interact, explains why I don’t like the phrase ‘The Internet of Things’. To me it’s just the Internet.

Dec 12

Three trends to watch for 2013

I’m starting to think about next year, what I want to get done, what I want our team (join us) to accomplish, what I’d love to see other companies build on our platform. Here are three trends I’m generally thinking about.

Mobile. Obvious – but stop thinking about devices. That’s completely missing the point. Mobile is about access to any information anywhere in the world. When you think about it that way it becomes clear that it will fundamentally change commerce. The automobile led to big box retail (took the store to the edge of town, made the shopping experience more anonymous), the internet led to e-commerce (no physical store needed, completely anonymous as you don’t interact with anyone), mobile will lead to _______ …we don’t know yet. Personally I think mobile will lead to a resurgence in physical stores, non-anonymous customer interactions and integrated offline/online experiences.

Small networks. Many start-ups are building products/services for small groups. That could be small groups of very close friends, or a group of people who don’t know each other who are into a niche activity/hobby. This is a huge opportunity, huge growth area. It’s what my book is about and it’s exciting to see it emerge.

Aggregation of data. We’ll see a shift as people think not only about individual stories as the focus of what is being published and consumed, but also towards powerful aggregated experiences that tell a bigger picture. Don’t think about what song I listened to, think about my favourite music this week, this year. Don’t think about yesterday’s 3 mile run, think about my marathon training. Don’t think about the shirt I pinned, think about the fashion trends I’m following, the styles I like. Don’t think about the flight I took, think about all the people and places I visit.

It will be a very exciting year for people building things!

Jan 12

Why the Olympics social media ban for volunteers is idiotic

Earlier on Twitter I posted that the social media ban on volunteers at the Olympics is idiotic. Let me explain why:

1. It’s a huge missed opportunity. Imagine if the organisers had decided to embrace social media from the volunteers. Imagine the moments that would be captured that couldn’t have ever been captured by the official TV crew. The best moments will be spontaneous and serendipitous. TV cameras won’t be there. Athletes winning, athletes losing. This highly emotional, and therefore engaging, content would have driven huge increases in interest because it would make the athletes more human, more like you and I, and would bring plenty of people in who will be on the fence about the Games. Many people in the UK are opposed to the Games. Many people globally have no interest in the Games. This increase in interest would create huge increases in viewership, and would build strong emotional relationships between ordinary people and the Olympics as a global event.

2. It’s not enforceable. People post under pseudonyms all the time. People can easily post anonymously to their friends who will then share the content. Loads and loads of content will leak out. Some people may be tracked down and fired, but most won’t be found. Remember, this is a group of 70,000 people who have no vested interest in TV rights, athlete rights, etc. They will be much more interested in sharing one of the highlights of their life with their family and friends.

3. It’s based on an understanding of a world which no longer exists. Any PR firm who believe that they can carefully control brand messages are deluded and are going out of business – slowly but surely. The role of PR has changed from command and control to engaging in conversation, and encouraging positive debate.

This is a really short sighted plan. I don’t buy that they are trying to protect the safety of athletes and VIPs. Are they also banning the Paparazzi? Are they worried that social media helps terrorists? In my opinion, this move is motivated by protecting the rights of those who paid extreme amounts of money to broadcast Olympic footage. It’s keeping all the major broadcasters happy. And maybe deep down they know the rule is not enforceable but have to toe the right line in public. But I worry that some people in the IOC with a lot of power have absolutely no idea how the world of media is changing.

I predict that we will see tons and tons of footage leaking out from the 70,000 volunteers, and that the best footage from the Games will come from regular folks, attendees and volunteers, and not from official TV crews. I also think that by the time the 2016 Olympics rolls around, this decision will be laughable, and the enforcers of this rule will look like dinosaurs.

Jan 12

Five major shifts

Lately, I’ve been talking to people about five major shifts that I see happening. Each is big enough to warrant a post of its own, so over the next few days I’ll write about each individually, and then write a post about what it means to think of them in combination. I’ll link to all from this post. In the meantime, here are the five major shifts:

1. The amount of information we can access is increasing exponentially.

2. The web is being rebuilt around people, rather than being built around content.

3. For the first time in humanity, social interaction, and influence, are measurable.

4. Technology is driving a large increase in understanding how we make decisions, and it’s not how we assumed.

5. Mobile technologies (phones, tablets, etc.) will change society in ways we can’t yet predict.

Oct 10

What do early adopters of social web applications look like?

I’m sure we’re all familiar with the model that includes early adopters and laggards. Some people embrace your new product early and evangelize it to their connections. Others wait, and adopt it once there is a critical mass.

Many think of early adopters as having certain characteristics. We think of them as people who have a tendency to embrace new ideas early, people who look for new product announcements, people who are recognized by others as trendsetters. They tend to be young and male. They like technology.

I’m beginning to wonder if this model breaks down when we think about the social web. One of the first activities one undertakes on many social systems is to add connections. But early adopters on new social systems don’t add others because they are also early adopters, they add people because of an affordance set by the service. For example, on a music sharing service people add others who they want to share music with. On a family connection service, they add their parents and relations. On an event planning service they add people they want to meet face to face. Their first degree connections are people they want to communicate with.

The likelihood of early adopters’ first degree connections having the classic early adopter characteristics listed above are low. We probably need a complete rethink of Everett Rogers’ model for the diffusion of innovations.

The two people who adopted on day 2 have very different characteristics. You can imagine how this effect would cascade.