Age of Conversation Makes Cover Feature

Originally uploaded by servantofchaos

Arun Rajagopal has been a tireless promoter of the Age of Conversation. With the assistance of some friends, he has single handedly run a strong promotional campaign bringing the book to the attention of mainstream media in the Middle East. This weekend, The Age of Conversation is the cover story of the Dubai-based Khaleej Times’ Weekend magazine.

The magazine’s feature writer, Pratibha Umashankar, interviewed both Drew and I and also features Arun, "the blogger in our backyard". Some of the images from our Flickr group were picked up for publication as well.

You can read the feature here or see some scans of the magazine at Arun’s blog.

Embodying “Happy”

Happeh Years ago, when I was studying performance and movement we were given small, concentrated workshop tasks. One of the most difficult was the be "happy". Despite how this sounds, it is not a simple exercise (as anyone who has seen the word "happy" in a brief will understand). First, I would start with my breathing, emptying myself of breath and then slowly inflating myself. Next I would lift my posture, straighten my spine and raise my head. I would imagine and feel the way that my breath would inhabit the far recesses of my body … reaching to my fingertips and out to my eyelashes. Sometimes I would smile, othertimes, not. But time and again I would find that my "happy" would not quite make it … it would fall short somewhere … somewhere short of "being" or "embodying".

My teacher, the lovely and quite scary, Leisa Shelton, would always want more … would want us to push this small performance closer to life — so that the distinction between the performer and the performed would collapse. While I could intellectually understand this, I found it was difficult to achieve in practice. You see, there is a vast difference between the way that you will experience something and the way that another person will perceive it — especially in performance. In performance, the body needs to appear 25% larger to give the impression of being 100% real (this was the realisation of Leisa’s teacher, Etienne Decroux while observing Rodin’s The Thinker) … these days I am always drawn to images of happiness (hence the image here courtesy of Suzanne G).

But, take a look at this challenge for a second. What does it mean to be 125% more real when translated into digital identity? What does this mean for digital storytelling … and perhaps, most importantly of all, what does this mean for personal brands and naming? Jeff Pulver has been looking at the intersection of names and personal branding for the last couple of days and is convinced of the need to have a single name across all of our social media haunts. But, apart from the challenges of having a unique name (luckily I don’t think there are too many Gavin Heatons in the world), is it necessary or is it even desirable?

I have had a connection to the digital identity "servantofchaos" for many years now, and one of the things I like about it is its potential. For example, servantofchaos has the opportunity of being 125% Gavin Heaton — it can be an oversized version of my own self, multiplied and amplified by the digital array and power of the network. It can also serve as the persona through which I can project and connect to the world in a way that my personal traits, inhibitions or even time restrictions can prohibit.

When I first started this blog and began commenting on others, I did so under the name servantofchaos. And while I no longer feel the need to do so (or have the desire to play with the identity), after all this time, I would be reticent to relinquish it completely. It has become something more than just a name … I have, in a sense, embodied it. What do you think?

Moveable Feast

M&M’s Colorful World
Originally uploaded by ♥babybee

Richard Huntington posts a timely reminder that good ideas don’t age with the soon-to-be-published collection of Stephen King’s writings (the god father of strategic planning). If you need a primer on planning or just want to understand the link between brands, strategy and execution, then download King’s JWT Planning Guide from 1974 (courtesy of the generous Staufenburgers). Goes to show that for all we have learned about planning and its impact on advertising and brands, there is still much to (re)learn. This is a great starting point for all DIGITAL strategists — remember the media may have changed, but the concepts remain true.

Also on the reading agenda today is Stephen Fry’s blog. And wouldn’t you know it, he is arguing for an iPhone killer. Not only that, he colourfully writes about the importance of design:

I accept that price is an issue here; if budget is a consideration then you’ll have to forgive me, I’m writing from the privileged position of being able to indulge my taste for these objects. But who can deny that design really matters? Or that good design need not be more expensive? We spend our lives inside the virtual environment of digital platforms – why should a faceless, graceless, styleless nerd or a greedy hog of a corporate twat deny us simplicity, beauty, grace, fun, sexiness, delight, imagination and creative energy in our digital lives? And why should Apple be the only company that sees that? Why don’t the other bastards GET IT??

Wish I had said that!

Google Gets Some Air

Adobeairanalytics I guess this is where I get a little geeky … but I am very excited about this (via Techcrunch). No, it is not a great collaboration between tech giants Google and Adobe. It is a great example of Web 2.0 — building an API on Adobe’s new Air platform to make a web application like Google Analytics behave more like a desktop program.

So, if you are like me and love the idea of tracking your various websites … then this is a great application to have sitting on your desktop — just a click away. Enjoy!

Planning Success with Plan HQ

Plan HQ end of year bash
Originally uploaded by natfergster

It is great to see the folks from Decisive Flow getting some kudos for their Plan HQ business plan builder software. It just goes to show that a great, niche product, a solid business plan (surely they use their own tool) and a "no-brainer" pricing model ($9-$45 per month) can prove to be a recipe for success.

But, of course, there is more goodness from Nat and Tim — be sure to drop by their blog, Simple and Loveable — especially if you run a small business and want to understand how Web 2.0, social media or new technologies apply to your business. It’s gold.

Facebook and the Platform of Influence

I have been thinking over Microsoft’s interest in Facebook … and wondering what it is that is driving their strategic decision making. Sure there are strong customer acquisition drivers which become even more compelling when you consider this post by Charlene Li (explaining that this acquisition price is LIFELONG rather than transient — but how long is "lifelong" in a Web 2.0 world?).

But the more I think on this, the more it makes sense. You see, Microsoft are not really buying customers, they are buying a PLATFORM OF INFLUENCE. The Platform of Influence is a precondition for what Ross Dawson calls "attention profiling" (one of his six trends tranforming living online). Ross explains attention profiling in this way:

4. Attention profiling We are moving to a world of infinite content. The proliferation of blogs, online publications, podcasts, and videos means we are swamped with information. The first phase of the response has been user filtered content or collaborative filtering on sites such as Last.FM and, giving us personalized recommendations. The next phase will be to develop detailed profiles of our interests and behaviors across different categories of content, so that we can access or be presented with content in a way that matches our available attention relative to the relevance and interest of the content. The two most promising initiatives in this space – Particls and illumio – have both been launched in the last couple of months. We can expect it to become a completely seamless process to find or be given what we want from an infinite landscape of content.

While I see the value in attention profiling, the very concept raises many questions. You will, no doubt, have others, but mine are:

  • Discovery — there are some things that I like about being pre-emptively supplied with information, services or even products based on my past usage and predictive usage patterns. However, this removes the enjoyment of discovery — something that is the reward for my curiosity. Is it possible that a by-product of this predictive sampling is the dampening of curiosity — or will this human trait simply find a new outlet?
  • Privacy — how many of us will be happy to sign-up for personal profiling? It sounds great in theory, but it presumes integrity and security on the part of the service provider.

I think this is where Facebook comes in and precisely where there is potential value for Microsoft. Not only does Facebook already perform low level personal filtering, it already enables some of the collaborative filtering that Ross discusses. For example, I am much more inclined to join a group, read a post or attend an event that is already on the list of my influencers. This means that the distinction between decision and action is compressed and accelerated — mostly thanks to the influencing power of my personal/professional network. Microsoft has wanted to bring its brand into our lives more seamlessly for years … and this may well prove to be its best opportunity yet.

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Facing Up To Microsoft

Sam Face
Originally uploaded by Sammylee1

A couple of weeks ago I tried to "friend" Bill Gates on Facebook. Unfortunately, thus far at least, he has not accepted … but what surprised me about the "Microsoft Network" on Facebook was not that Bill Gates was there (fake or otherwise), but the NUMBER of Microsoft folk who were participating. A quick troll through the list of members shows some fairly senior folks who, by all accounts, are actively using the Facebook tools and widgets.

So it comes as no surprise to learn that Microsoft is interested in taking a stake in the Web 2.0 darling. Techcrunch has some great comments and commentary about this … but there is one interesting comment that set off some light bulbs in my head. Startup News suggests:

The company is barely making any money …
For $500 million you can buy another social network and still have chage left to buy your own customers …

To me, this is EXACTLY the reason that Facebook is a compelling acquisition target. Microsoft clearly have the technical ability to build a Facebook competitor should they wish … it is not the technology that they are after. With 66 million registered users, Facebook is a bargain $7.50 per user, making it a very cheap way of acquiring customers. I am being a little simplistic here, of course, but the decision to purchase Microsoft products for work or home is completely different from the thought process undertaken to join a social network. Microsoft already have a hold over our computers and office applications … now they are making a play for our hearts — moving into the space where we play. Makes for interesting times!

Say Hello — Z-listing and My Heart Skips a Beat

Like many bloggers I have a healthy curiosity about how and where links come in to my site. But for me, the fascination is to do with the apparent randomness of events and connections — what prompts someone to link to my site, why do they choose that particular post … and for the readers — which links are popular and why. Then, of course, there is the strange world of Google search (I am sure that the person searching for “presentation” and “porn” is hugely disappointed to arrive here).
It was all this randomness that originally interested me in the Z-list. It single-handedly achieved its creator’s intention — to turn Technorati’s system of ranking authority “on its ear”. And, if you are one of the many hundreds who benefitted from the Z-list, then you will know that it has had a number of incarnations — including this effort that was compiled by Becky Carroll, Sharon Sarmiento and myself.
I have noticed over the past couple of weeks that there are a few new inbound links courtesy of a “new” Z-list. But then, today, while checking out one of the new additions I found that it was not just me noticing this. You see, many sites have installed the MyBlogLog widget that shows the photos of recent visitors. So here I was reading a recipe for Creme Caramel and there was a photo of David Armano. I was literally following in his hypertext footsteps. Another pattern in the chaos.
So it seems that, once again, the Z-list is starting to ramp-up — this time in the food and fashion category … and I have a feeling that if it takes off again, this category shift could generate even more links and traffic than all the previous efforts. But is this a good thing? Do we really want more links?

The challenge, of course, is to have already existing content on your site that is going to make new readers return (check out this recipe for Mint sauce). So, if you are new to THIS blog, here are some of my favourite posts (though not necessarily the most popular):

Oh, what made my heart skip a beat? Recognition. It’s not WHERE we go on the web that is most interesting … it is where we find our friends. The Internet is still a growing and changing landscape which can be fun to explore — but the more we seek, the more we also secretly desire connection. It is the reward for exploration and risk. And on the web, the symbolism of tools like Twitter and MyBlogLog are not to do with the inanities of everyday life — they are the visible traces that we leave in our wake (or as Katie would say, the digital footprints) and they provide another means to connect the ambient dots of our everyday intimacies — giving substance to our thought and communication patterns.

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Shift Happens 2.0

Now, I am sure that I had posted this great presentation previously, but I can’t seem to find it here! For those who have not seen it, the presentation entitled "shift happens" or "did you know?" provides an eloquent overview of the many forces of globalisation that are shaping our world.

Interestingly, in the time between when I first saw this and now, the presentation has gone through a metamorphosis complete with animation and a support wiki. Is it better? I will leave that to you to decide, but I must admit there was more immediacy to the storytelling in a simple Powerpoint format (check out all the versions and formats here).