Posts with tag "web 2.0"

Are We Short-changing Ourselves With This Attention Economy Idea?

When I was a few years younger; well okay maybe more than a few, the hot thing for kids was MTV. Everyone wanted to be able to watch MTV; except maybe for those cranky old farts who didn’t like anything new coming along. From the very first broadcast of MTV the whole music industry changed. No longer was music just something you heard on the radio, went to a record store to buy your very own copy or go to concerts so you could actually see your favourite artists. With MTV you could do all of the above; especially if you had a VCR and quick fingers, and not even leave the comfort of your living room.

Something else happened as well when MTV started broadcasting that a lot of people didn’t catch on to at first. As well as changing our music habits MTV also changed the way we heard news and information. Granted it was only news about music but it wasn’t very long before both advertisers and other types of news and entertainment media that used television started doing the same thing. What MTV did was deliver this news and information in short staccato bursts. In essence what they did was provide shorter bits of that information at a faster tempo. This is what became known as the MTV Sound Bite and it was soon being emulated across the television landscape.

The first to follow MTV’s example were the advertisers. Commercial actors started saying their lines faster cramming more crap in that 15, 20 or 30 seconds. Following close on their heels was the television news media as you could noticeably hear the increase in people’s speech. Even shows like Friends and Seinfeld employed this technique so they could shorten the actual time of the show and then cram in even one or two more commercials. I remember when my father was writing the Canadian T.V. show Adventures in Rainbow Country that the showtime ratio then was for a half hour show the actual script time was anywhere between 20 and 25 minutes. Now it is more like 15 to 20 minutes.

MTV’s reasoning behind this was that the audience demographic they were going after was the teenager to young adult and the belief was (is) that this age range has short attention spans. So the concept of short burst of information followed by either commercials or a music video came about. The idea being to grab their attention as quickly as possible and switch to new things as quickly as possible. In the following years we have been trained to accept less and less real information as being okay. After all we all have such busy lives so the more that we could cram into short spaces of time the better.

This idea of being able to grab a person’s attention as quickly as possible and provide them with the most concise amount of information as possible while still making money from that short attention span is nothing new. However as Alexander van Elsas points out in a post today the whole Web 2.0 and social media movement has taken this idea of the Attention Economy to heart and refined it even more

It’s the rat race for attention that makes soundbites more important than substance. Media need soundbites to get the attention of the consumer. And it seems all we care about is to listen to soundbites. The complexity of everything is reduced to a one-liner.

The fact is that blogs with short and snappy posts will do better than blogs like mine or Alexander’s. Chances are that I probably have already lost more than half the people who started reading this post because it is too long winded or is in need of an editor to make it short and snappy. I’ve lost count of the number of comments I’ve had on past posts that say almost those exact words. Everyone wants the TechCrunch and Digg style synopsis posts because they are too busy to take time to worry about in depth or wordy posts. If we can’t cram everything we want to say within a single paragraph the majority of readers won’t bother than doing anything more than skim the first couple of paragraphs, form their opinion and then be on their way to the next snappy post.

One has to wonder though if we aren’t losing something in this hyper-reading. Alexander says in his post

We haven’t become any dumber than we used to be? If anything, we can and should be better informed in this information age. Are we really that busy that we can’t find any time anymore to digest anything? Somehow I doubt that. It seems that interaction has become more important than what you’re interacting about. Form over substance. If the habits of the early adopters are at al predicting what we are heading for then it will only get worse. There isn’t time to read a long blog post anymore, because everyone is so busy aggregating content and having “discussions”  over it. No need to fully understand the issue at hand, just read a TechCrunch headline and you are fully informed of today’s reality. Breaking news is reduced to 140 character Tweets. The shorter the better.

Shorter is better. If this is indeed the case then I think we are really losing something very valuable – the ability be a truly knowledgeable society. When this happens I believe there is indeed a dumbing down of our society. If we are really happy being fed smaller chunks of information we are removing the ability to make real value judgements. It also becomes much easier to manipulate us, to polarize us, to trivialize even the important news in our day to day lives.

Do we really need for our attention to be manipulated this way?

Do we really not have enough time to let our attention be grabbed by something more than single paragraphs?

Citizen Journalism: The Legitimation of Gossip

What do you mean gossip? This is citizen journalism at its bestDue to a knee jerk reaction on Wall Street because some idiot posted about Steve Jobs having a heart attack on the CNN iReport site there has been an a growing discussion – again – about the concept of citizen journalism. Now just to clarify for those folks coming late to the Web 2.0 and social media game this concept being bandied about is the idea that regular type folks can be an integral part of our news delivery system.

This citizen journalism is the idea that the more eyeball you have on any given subject will inherently make it more reliable because there are more people checking to make sure what is being said it actually true – or not.

While this might be a great ideal to strive for in practice it is really nothing more than a warm and fuzzy Web 2.0 term for something mankind has been doing since the first time they said “Ugh” in a cave. It’s called gossiping folks and it doesn’t matter how many ways you want to couch in cutsy Web 2.0 or social media buzzwords that is exactly what citizen journalism is.

Today Chris Brogan had a post about how all this bad talking of citizen journalism (I am really beginning to dislike that phrase) has to stop

Here’s a magical truth: information isn’t always accurate. NASA once made an inches/centimeters error that cost billions. I live in Boston, where the Big Dig was loaded with mistakes, miscalculations, and billions of dollars in rework. Airplanes are off course 90+ % of the time. Most of the flight is a course correction. Practically nothing in our day is 100% accurate all the time, not even ourselves. Did you know that your body has no way to accurately report thirst, so it reports hunger, hoping that you’ll wash down the food with a drink? Your own body doesn’t accurately report things.

Let’s put down the torches and pitchforks. Citizen journalists can be inaccurate, too. The beauty of the web is that multiple news sources and communications channels hopefully help us sort this all out faster.

Just to make it clear before anyone suggests that I might be bashing Chris in this post I think Chris is one very smart person who has; in my estimation, done more to move social media along than anyone else. However, with that said Chris’ post points out just how ingrained this idea that citizen journalism being a valid form of news authentication is.

Come on people let’s get real here. Just because somebody can post about something that they heard or think they heard doesn’t make it anything even closely resembling journalism or even simple news reporting. The problem with Chris’ analogies is that in none of his examples are we talking about anything even closely resembling news or the reporting of it.

In a court of law you can’t use what some third party might of said because it is really nothing more than unsubstantiated hearsay or opinion; and unless that 3rd party is in the court to verify it there is no way it is allowed in. The same idea applies to journalism or the reporting of news – if you can’t back it up with verifiable facts then it is nothing more than opinion which is really just a nice way of saying gossip.

So if you are suppose to be reporting news on your blog or in your social media weapon of choice then you had better make sure you link to your proof because otherwise it is nothing more than rumour or gossip – it is not citizen journalism.

Have I got a really cool news tip for you that I heard about from Aunt Mable who heard it from ...We are forever hearing the term of around the water cooler when we describe discussions on places like Twitter or FriendFeed. I would suggest that places like iReport are no different. It is all a case of a bunch of people with the same dislikes and likes passing around tidbits of information that they have been told or heard somewhere else. It is the electronic hen party. It is the cyber quilting bee. It is for the most part nothing more than gossip.

I say for the most part because while I might be seeming to suggest that everything we throw into the citizen journalism catch phrase is really gossip the fact is that it is; or can be, a valid news source. However if it to be a valid news source that means that there is an implied trust factor that comes with it.

It means we have to try even harder than mainstream media to have all our ducks in a row before we hit some publish button. If we want this idea of citizen journalism to be taken as a serious alternative it means we must try harder to make sure we aren’t just echoing the gossip from around some Internet water cooler. As long as we don’t we trivialize everything that those who are trying to make citizen journalism the new journalism.

Pipeline:Knowing What’s In It For You

Just a bit of a note about what I use to to call From The Pipeline posts which I tried to do every night with stuff that I had found during the day on FriendFeed. I’ve decided to revamp the idea to be more of a short form blog post with snippets of thoughts about other blogger’s posts that I have read during the day. I am doing this because I began to feel that just doing one line link type posts of things already on FriendFeed was narrowing my focus too much. This way posts that I have read that don’t really spark a full post treatment because of what they are talking about can still be passed as something still worth you having a read and why I might think so. Hopefully this will widen the perspective of things to talk about rather than just repeating links which really doesn’t expand the conversation. So with that here we go ……

This one is a little bit old; if you count a couple of days as being old, but this post from Mark Evans is still one that I have flagged to think about further because he raises some really good points in it. In the post Marks asks what is really a deceptively simple question – What’s In It For Me? – which is directed at social media and Web 2.0 developers.

It is actually a two pronged question that suggests that developers need to really look at their products from the user’s perspective and be willing to admit that the idea really might not be all that terrific. I’m still thinking about this idea.


Just in time for the weekend Jason Calacanis’ non blog email got posted to several blogs and Alan Patrick over at BroadStuff gives it the reality check it deserves. I tried reading it – really I did but gave up after the third or fourth paragraph. Alan notes in an update that the original post has been pulled from Silicon Valley Insider which he says wasn’t really that bad.


Paul Glazowski over at Mashable had a post about how Lawrence Lessig of Creative Commons fame has a book available via Amazon’s Kindle storefront. Besides the obvious humour of a free book on Lessig’s site being made available as a paid download there’s the matter of the Kindle DRM that’s a part of downloading books. Anyone else get the rib tickler here?

Wakie Wakie Web 2.0, Daddy Says It’s Time To Earn A Living

Tim O'Reilly at the Web 2.0 ExpoWeb 2.0, social networking and social media have been riding an almost tsunami like wave of VC and Angel dollars. It diesn’t matter if they are a knock off of yet another VC and advertising backed web service or some stupid ass application for Facebook the fact is that we have been living in a technological world of pretend valued companies. Everything we use on the web these days has been built with only the vaguest of business models; or none at all, but they all come back to the idea that everything should be free to the user and supported by advertising.

However how many Twitter clones can this questionable pretend business model support when it isn’t even supporting the original. How many social network knock-offs of Facebook can survive when even the original can’t get an advertising model in place that doesn’t piss of the million or so users it already has. This whole idea of building stable companies upon a foundation of advertising dollars is the shakiest proposal of all. Incredibly it is only within the technology sectior; or more specifically the Web 2.0 and social media world that this building on the wuicksand of ad dollars could happen.

This was made clear during the keynote address of the Web 2.0 expo by the father of the whole Web 2.0 idea Tim O’Reilly. In this address which could almost be a bucket of cold water thrown on the idea of Web 2.0 he said

“(These are) pretty depressing times in a lot of ways,” O’Reilly said in an address that first had looked like it would simply be a starry-eyed discussion of enterprise opportunities for Web 2.0. “And you have to conclude, if you look at the focus of a lot of what you call ‘Web 2.0,’ the relentless focus on advertising-based consumer models, lightweight applications, we may be living in somewhat of a bubble, and I’m not talking about an investment bubble. (It’s) a reality bubble.”

Global warming. The U.S. losing its edge in science and technology. A growing income gap. “And what are the best and the brightest working on?” O’Reilly asked, displaying a slide of the popular Facebook application SuperPoke, which invites you to, among other things, “throw sheep” at your friends.

“Do you see a problem here?” he posed, showing another slide of the popular iPhone app “iBeer,” which simulates chugging a pint. “You have to ask yourself, are we working on the right things?”

Alan Patrick from Broadstuff added this in his assessment of what Tim O’Reilly was talking about

There is a limit to Ad funding for Web 2.0 businesses. Allow me a little fag-packet analysis here. The total global Ad industry is c $0.5 trillion, the online biz globally is about 10% of that at most, and the 80/20 of that goes to Google, Microsoft, Yahoo and AOL. That leaves about $10bn for everybody else, and much of that (say 80/20 again) is being hoovered up by existing high quality and/or high volume existing web assets, leaving in the order of $2bn for everyone else. Assuming every Web 2.0 startup wants to be worth at least $100m, and assuming that is on a 10x multiple of revenues, that means every successful company is running at $10m ad revenues pa. Thus, $2bn / $10m = c 200 startups can live on Ad funding globally on average. Even if I’m 10x out, so its 2,000, you can see that 100% Ad supported business models are not a majority play. And Advertising overall is likely to be in the decline for a few cycles now.

As much as the freetards like to believe than that advertising is what is paving the yellow brick road forward the fact is that advertising money at some point not going to be the end all be all for startups trying to get enough under their feet while they wait for a bigger company to come along and buy them up. I wouldn’t be at all surprise to start seeing an increasing number of so-called brilliant and revolutionary and life changing web services showing up on eBay or Sitepoint.

I have heard so many people say that bloggers who expect to be able earn a living from running ads on their sites are living in a dreamland. Well I would suggest that the same thing could be said to all those repetative Web 2.0 startup and the VCs who are doing nothing more than playing a very expensive game of craps.