Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Summertime - Time for Fun

And this summer I have a few fun projects to invite you to. I'll be working on these so come join me!

First up we have one you can do from where you are sitting right now. It is the 100 Comments Project that Chris Brogan has launched. Right now we are talking about how do you make consistently excellent video. Well, I suppose the question is phrased a bit different, so head on over to check out the post and add your comment. I want to know what you have to say.

Secondly we have a very cool video project. Jeff Pulver has some great ideas and great ways of looking at things. I really enjoy reading his blog as he asks the reader to get involved. The summer project he's writing about now is "The Everyday Heroes" Project. I recommend reading what he has to say, but the short form is:

Go out with your camera and/or microphone and interview the everyday heroes in your life, the people around you and share their story with the world. Or if going out doesn't appeal, invite them over and get their story.
When you post it, tag it with the tag everydayheroes and share with us the wonder in the "ordinary" people around you.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Rez Day Writings

Eric Rice just twittered about it being rez day for when he first joined Second Life (SL), and that reminded me that today is my rez day too. One year ago today I joined SL. So what prompted me to join SL. Well, Robert Scoble had been blogging about SL so I had a bit of curiosity. What finally tipped the scales was when I heard that they were having a Barcamp in SL (which I later found out Eric Rice had something to do with). I figured that if there are having conferences in SL it was high time I figured out how to use the tool.

Of course, that's what I thought I was joining SL for. In truth I think I was joining for other reasons. I am a rather social person. Right now I work from home, and at the time I was in serious pain and not leaving the house for anything, except maybe a doctor's appointment. SL gave me the opportunity to meet people again. It also gave me a way to rethink movement. Even though movement in SL can be a bit wonky compared to how I was moving in real life it was a big improvement, and there was no pain when I walked.

So far I've only gone to a few conferences here and there. I tend to spend my time role playing, dancing, building, and getting to know people. I've been adopted as mom, been the one to talk to about problems, planned and executed a coronation, and done a whole bunch of fun stuff in a year. And the friends I made gave me the courage to go through with two hip resurfacing operations, go to England (6 weeks after one and before the other) for my graduation at the University of Liverpool, and think a lot about who I am and what I can contribute.

And now, here I am wandering the web2.0, social network, blogosphere, virtual and real worlds one year later.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Tools and their Use

This past Monday I decided to poke around Linked-in and find people that I knew that I hadn't connected with. I sent out more than 20 link up requests. What I thought was interesting is that a good half dozen or so wrote me back and say "Hey how are you doing. I was wondering what you were up to." Now I'm in Linked-in by the name they all know me by, (with a couple of exceptions of people who knew me by my maiden name) and I'm the only one in Linked-in by that name, yet we hadn't made contact even with all the "Here are people you've worked with" features of Linked-in.

It just made me think, how well do we really use these social networking tools?
Are we using them to their potential, and do we see their potential? Of course, I must admit it wasn't until Monday that I actually went through my address book and added people in. Perhaps my playing with social networks has increased the value that I see in them. So what is a network worth to you?

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Innovative Media 30 Years Ago

On one of the shows Chris Brogan hosted on Blog.tv he invited me to co-host with him. We talked about security, Jewish mysticism, and how I might use this new media for the things I teach and do. When he asked I was struck a bit by how much of this "new media" has been used, in the past 30 years, for spreading Jewish mysticism and the like. I was going to email Chris some thoughts on this, but I decided I would put this here and share it with everyone.

Right now there is a project going on called The Living Archive where they are working to digitize vast stores of magnetic media from 12 to 30 years ago. These are videos and films of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Now what ties this to the new media theme is the following. Although some of the film is from professional recordings, a large portion of the film is from individual people making their own recordings of something they thought was significant in their life.

Even more relevant to the new media is that talks that the Lubavitcher Rebbe gave were broadcast over an improvised phone network (I think it may have been a call in line) not unlike the live podcasts of today. There were also real time translators who translated from Yiddish and Hebrew to English. (In the videos you can see people listening on earpieces to the broadcast translations as they watch). For some events, like Menorah lightings they did at an international satellite linkup of live Chanukah Menorah lightings around the world. This was done in the 1980's.

So many of the features of the "new media" have long been used, but only recently have the tools been developed that enable anyone to implement global broadcasts at the push of a button.

I'm still working out what I can contribute to the video podcasting/new media trend, but I found reflecting on what has already been done an interesting exercise to determine what of what are we doing is truly new and what is the democratization provided by new technologies.

Thoughts from a power outage

Last night we had huge winds around here, gusts up to 100 mph. As you might guess quite a few power lines were knocked down, including ours. I had wonderful surprise as I went downstairs and looked over towards our addition and noticed the lights on. When we added on to our house we put in a redundant 24 volt DC solar power system. We have a fairly small system, but it is enough to run a few led lights without a strain. So while everyone else was by candle light we had regular lighting in parts of our house. Unfortunately that didn't include our kitchen. So we cooked and dined by candle light.

The Gaming/Social Industry

I was reading W. James Au's article on the gaming industry as well as Joi Ito's article and I was struck by two things.

The first was the irony of the fact that if the gaming industry really is as James Au describes it "young gamer dudes, serving an audience of young gamer dudes" that they would not "get" that their audience would have a desire to create their own worlds just as much as the producers of the games do.

The second thing that struck me was actually tied into something I had been thinking of earlier. The social aspect of gaming, and the popularity of networks in general strikes me as being a reflection of the society we live in.

My mom likes to talk about the "front porch" of her childhood where kids would just play in the neighborhood and neighbors would sit on their porches and socialize and keep a general eye on the kids. I am sure there are some places where that still happens but I think more and more people find their social circles based more on interests than on location. With longer commutes and frequent travel it is harder to build a relationship based on physical location alone. When physical space becomes somewhat more irrelevant I think it is natural that we, the social beings that we are, would see a virtual location where we can be together.

Thus even as WoW has its gaming and adventure aspects it also has its social aspects. Second life and There and quite a few others are even more about having your place or hangouts and getting together. It isn't just that gaming is changing but that gaming is replacing a part of culture that was lost when commuting and travel became the norm.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Folders of a Life

I am sorting through my late Mother-in-Law's folders and papers and such, and this is a bit of a capture of my thoughts:

Folders of a life
Stacked up and emptied
Scrap by scrap.
Ages of paper sorted through:
Letters home,
And subscriptions.
Now all empty of meaning
Except in the memories of those left behind.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Out of the Fishbowl, or Are We Ready for the Middleman

I've been hanging out on twitter and on some of the BlogTV and Ustream live broadcasts put on by Jeff Pulver and Chris Brogan and one of the popular topics has been how do we get podcasting and videocasting out beyond the fishbowl . There are a few thoughts and ideas I have on this, and of course please share your own - this is best done as a conversation. (I have a few ideas specifically for how to get listeners to podcamps as well, but that is another post.)

So the first way to get beyond the fishbowl is the slower technique. Talk to people. No, I don't mean talk to other podcasters and techies, I mean talk to people outside the fishbowl who you interact with. Talk up your podcast, or your favorite ones, to your dentist. (My dentist bought an iPod because he thought mine was so cool.) Talk to the cashier who rings you up at the grocery store. If you feel really adventurous walk up to someone on the street and strike up a conversation. You could even throw in a "man in the street" interview as part of the pitch. As these folk outside the fishbowl find the podcasts they like they will spread it onward, slowly, and only as fast as the non-technical grasp and find their podcasts.

The other way, the one more likely to succeed, is building the new middleman. It is funny that each time we destroy the middleman - no more big networks, no mainstream media, we can do it on own - we rediscover the purpose and need of the middleman. This isn't to say we shouldn't periodically blow away the middleman. A complacent middleman can become selfish and greedy. There is a reason why independent music labels have sprung up. But even as it is necessary to wipe the slate clean there comes a time when we need to build the new middleman, or curator as Chris Brogan posted today. So why the middleman?

We talk about how great the new media is because we have the freedom and power to chose whatever we want. This is incredibly powerful from a creative perspective. However, from the consumer end, those who would be only listeners, choice can be highly overrated.

Think about some product that you consume that isn't your passion. Lets say toothpaste. So you can have mint, wintermint, ginger, fennel, bubblegum, tutifruti. And in each of these flavors you have, plain, with fluoride, with baking-soda, with baking-soda and fluoride, tartar control, fluoride with-tartar control, and whitening. And this is all one brand, there are also 5 other brands on the shelf. I don't know about you, but I usually settle on a flavor and feature combination and that is what I buy unless I'm feeling like trying something new, which isn't every shopping trip. It works, why change it?

Now apply that to podcasts. Even if they are free they still cost, they cost a person's time and attention. Why should they seek them out instead of some TV show they can buy in the iTunes store? Even worse, they don't even know what to do with it. I know I need toothpaste, what I use it for and why I might or might not want fluoride in it. What do I do with a podcast? How do I know I'm interested in it? How do I know what is any good? Sure people may try out a podcast here or there, but if the first one they pick isn't remotely what they are interested in they'll go back to their pre-packaged TV. This is where the middleman becomes useful.

The middleman can provide a categorization and winnowing of podcasts into podcasts that meet a standard. The middleman can then speak to the potential listeners and tell them why they would be interested and what they would do with it. They can curate for the listeners to the pod/video/livecasts they are interested in. They can be the trusted introducer. This is what it will take to bring this new media to those non-early adopter listeners.

One thing to note, even with the introduction of the middleman it does not mean every 'cast needs a middleman. Once listeners find out that they have a use and desire for these casts they will look around and try an occasional independent cast. In a sense the middleman develops the market, but everyone can benefit from the market being developed.

I know there are some networks out there that cull and categorize podcasts, but I think we are still at the preliminary stages of the development of the middleman role. The mainstream listener still doesn't understand why they should seek out the podcasts. When they see the value to them, they will come to listen and the 'casts will become part of the new mainstream. Are we ready for that?