Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Social Media - it's not the Wild West after all.

If there is one good thing to come out of the Newsnight fiasco, which resulted in the irresponsible and inaccurate smearing of Lord McAlpine on social networks, it's the challenge to the long-held assumption that Tweeting or blogging defamatory or libellous material cannot be policed, and that those who propagate and repeat such mis-information cannot be held to account. As Lord McAlpine's lawyers prepare their legal case against the BBC and those considered to have been responsible for incorrectly identifying him on social networks, it may cause quite a few people to reflect on their behaviour. This is the moment when it can be clearly shown and understood that people cannot be libelled or harassed with impunity just because the defamation is published online and by individuals rather than on paper or by large organisations. The idea that the world wide web is the Wild West and immune from the law is - at long last - being seriouslsy challenged.

I think Sally Bercow should be particularly worried, since her tweet on 4th November: "Why is Lord McAlpine trending? *Innocent face*" was deliberately meant to start a feeding frenzy, which it did. I hope she's got some good legal insurance (actually, on reflection, I hope she hasn't!).

What many people seem to forget is that having a social media account, e.g. on Facebook or Twitter brings with it a certain responsibility. After all, these social networks bring incredible reach and potential access to an audience of billions. Other than age restrictions imposed by some vendors, you don't need any special skills, no training, no licence and you don't have to demonstrate any competence before you can establish an account and begin pumping out your message to the world. This is all well and good, and re-inforces the democratisation of voice and freedom of speech. But this doesn't mean you can say (write) anything you want. Yes, there will always be trolls, but that doesn't mean we have to accept them or to not pursue them through the courts if they harass, incite hatred or libel people. A few short sharp shocks, as is promised in the pending legal action brought by Lord McAlpine, will perhaps remind social media users that they have moral and legal obligations and cannot sit behind a computer screen detached and immune from the consequences of their actions.

Think twice before you post that blog, or tweet/re-tweet that message! Do you trust your sources?

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Reflections: Online Information Conference 2011

Pretty exhausting, incredibly insightful and hugely enjoyable: that would sum up my three days as Chairman of this year’s Online Information Conference 2011, held at the Olympia Conference Centre between 29th November and 1st December. The last time the event will be run at this venue, but more about that later.

It was impossible to be everywhere and hear all of the presentations, so my reflections are by necessity limited to what I personally heard, saw or facilitated. To provide some overall context, the conference provided a forum dedicated to learning, debate, professional development, technology reviews and assessments, expert discussion and case-study presentations on what I would broadly describe as the ‘Information Professions”. There were four themed tracks:

  • Going mobile: Information and Knowledge on the move
  • Social Media: Exploiting knowledge in networks
  • Building a framework for the future of the information profession
  • New frontiers in information management
  • Search and Information Discovery

The conference opened with a keynote presentation from Craig Newmark on the topic “Effective Social Media: Past, Present and Future”.

Craig is possibly best known as the founder and inspiration behind Craigslist, the largest online local classifieds and community moderated forum service in the world. He modestly refers to himself as a “Customer Service Manager’ for Craigslist, which he himself describes as diminishing role. His time is increasingly devoted to his philanthropic efforts, as defined by the Craigslist Foundation (“….a connector to bring together nonprofit leaders, business, government, philanthropy and craigslist community members to take greater responsibility for where they live, play and work”), and the recently launched Craigconnects (“Using technology to give the voiceless a real voice, and the powerless real power”).

Craig covered quite a lot of ground in his presentation, from the earliest examples of “social media” as defined by Gutenberg,Luther and the role of the printing press in achieving massive social change, to today’s use of social media and the internet to engage with and connect people and groups with similar interests.

His focus is now very much on the nonprofits sector, where he spends about 60 hours of his working week. He referred to the scope and depth of the nonprofits sector as a “sea of help”, but pointed out that many of these people and organisations need help themselves in making more effective use of social media. He identifies Craigconnects as being a “hub”,  helping nonprofit organisations that have similar aims and objectives to connect and collaborate together. He also sees social media as a way of getting more people involved in legitimate nonprofits, and to maybe identify the fake nonprofits, i.e. those that spend most or all of their income on themselves.

Another key theme to emerge from Craig’s keynote was the issue of fact-checking in the news business.  Craig was keen to emphasise that he was not a journalist or an expert in the news industry, but felt that the disinvestment in investigative reporting and fact-checking had eroded the trust in news media. Craig was no doubt referring to the US press, but it seems to me there is some resonance on the issue of trust with the UK press, as reported via the Leveson inquiry . In fact, “trust” was a recurrent theme in both Craig’s keynote, and the keynote for the second day of the conference by Rachel Botsman (see later reference), and as Craig noted: “Trust was the new black”.

The key elements of the fact-checking debate is described in more detail in this article by Craig, recently published in the Huffington Post.  However, perhaps more memorable and particularly poignant is one of Craig’s remarks I noted from his keynote: “The press should be the immune system of democracy”.

A pre-conference podcast by Craig is available from the Online Information website.

Rachel Botsman was the keynote speaker on the second day of the conference. Rachel is a social innovator who writes, consults and speaks on the power of collaboration and sharing through current and emerging network technologies, including how it will transform business, consumerism and the way we live. She is the co-author with Roo Rogers of: What’s Mine is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption. TIME magazine recently called Collaborative Consumption “One of the top 10 ideas that will change the world.”

Rachel is based in Australia and couldn’t be with us in London, so we had a 35-minute video that Rachel had produced especially for the conference, followed by 20 minutes of questions and answers via a live link-up with Rachel in Australia.

The keynote was broadly based on the book (a highly recommended read). It gives a stark perspective of western societies’ 40-year addiction to hyper-consumerism, and the impact this is having on people, society and the planet’s resources. The key question is whether we can continue as we are for the next 40 years or more, or whether we have to consider other economic models. I’m guessing that the broad vote is for the latter, which is why we’re witnessing the explosive growth of what Rachel refers to as “Collaborative Consumption”

Collaborative Consumption is the process of sharing, bartering, lending, trading, renting, gifting and swapping, reinvented and massively scaled using internet and social network technologies. Rachel described three main systems:

Product Service Systems

Based on the idea of paying for usage of a product without needing to own the product outright.  Car sharing or bike sharing are typical examples. Witness the huge success of bike sharing schemes such as London’s Barclays Bike Hire.

Redistribution Markets

Redistribute used or pre-owned goods from where they are not needed to someone or somewhere where they are. Examples of this type of market  include Freecycle and Craigslist .

Collaborative Lifestyles

It's not just physical goods that can be shared, swapped and bartered. People with similar interests are forming groups to share and exchange assets such as time, space, skills and money.  Examples include The Tuttle Club ,  The Cube and Landshare.

Rachel was keen to emphasise that these new and emerging peer to peer (P2P) models, utilising the power and reach of the internet and social networks to massively scale, can and will co-exist with the traditional business to consumer (B2C) services. Though there is evidence that some B2C corporates are adapting their services to deliver the same sort of flexibility offered by the P2P market. For example BMW’s recently announced car sharing scheme.

Rachel’s video included a few case studies of how “micro-entrepreneurs” are creating products and services by renting selling or trading “idling time” – i.e. the time that a product or service is not being used. This could be the car that sits on the driveway for 22 hours out of every 24, the spare room that only gets used when there are visitors, or that power-drill in the tool cupboard that has only been used for 3 minutes. Services such Airbnp (room renting), Zipcar (car renting) or TaskRabbit (paying for someone to do a chore) were all mentioned. Rachel had asked the founders of TaskRabbit what was the most requested task. The answer – perhaps unsurprisingly – was assembling IKEA furniture! So, if there are any budding IKEA experts reading this – get yourselves registered on TaskRabbit and start earning some extra money!

Inevitably the issue of “trust” came up, as in who would we trust to drive our car, or stay in our house? Evidence from the many P2P services that have sprung up over the past two years would indicate that broadly speaking, people are good and considerate and that there have been very few instances of theft or vandalism (though not to trivialise the impact this may have had on the victims). Rachel went on to say that we will increasingly come to rely on our “Reputation Capital”, as an indicator of trust when transacting products and services in this emerging (and potentially huge) P2P market.

Reputational Capital might typically be defined or influenced by our engagement with online and offline communities and marketplaces. As such (and as I noted in my closing remarks), we’re increasingly familiar with “social media”, “social networks” and “social business”, we now need to seriously consider “social reputation”, i.e. how we act and behave online. Our own Reputational Capital will be a valuable commodity that we all need to nurture and protect as we become increasingly reliant on the internet as a marketplace.

I’m not sure if Craig or Rachel will be reading this blog, but if they are, grateful thanks from me, the organising committee and the delegates for your excellent and inspiring keynotes.

In the interest of brevity, I will limit the remainder of my reflections on the overall three days of the conference to a few bullet points. These are based on my personal observations or comments from the delegates.

  • There was a huge volume of “tweets” on Twitter – more than I’ve seen at any previous conference. The conference hashtag was #online11. Twitter was used by the conference delegates to share what they were hearing and seeing, and as a channel for raising questions to the presenter (there was a Twitter Moderator at all of the sessions to ensure any questions were picked up and answered).
  • We wanted to encourage more interaction with and between delegates at this conference. There was a “speed networking” event, facilitated by FutureGov Consulting and utilising the Simpl.co website for submitting new ideas or offers of help. This didn’t quite go as planned, mainly because it was scheduled against too many other events. A lesson learnt for next time.
  • Some great audience participation at the “Essential Competence – Demonstrating Value” session facilitated by Ian Woolerand Sandra Ward, where delegates were given real coins of the realm (pennies) to vote on a range of options for measuring the value of information and knowledge services. All of the coins were returned afterwards (clearly an honest crowd!).
  • David Gurteen ran one of his eponymous Knowledge Café’s. It was well attended and we received some good feedback. Speaking to a few delegates afterwards I was just slightly surprised that none of them had previously attended a Knowledge Café – which is a fairly well-established process for encouraging conversations and networking. At least they will now be able to take this process back to their respective organisations. Some photos from the Knowledge Café.
  • The was a lot of interest in the “Going Mobile” track. Maybe these statistics from a recent article in The Wall go some way to explaining this:
    • 35% of UK mobile users access social networking sites on their phones (European average is 23%)
    • Mobile social networking use in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK nearly doubled in the last year, with 55m mobile users accessing Facebook, Twitter, etc., in September alone.
    • 26% of mobile social networking users reported receiving coupons, offers, or deals on their phones.
    • Growth in the number of mobile users accessing social networks on a daily basis has surpassed the growth of total mobile social networking adoption
    • 71% of the European mobile social networking audience, accessed Facebook via a mobile device in September—the largest mobile audience of any social network—and an increase of 54% in the past year.
    •  47% of UK mobile users are using smartphones (European average is 40%)
    • 45% of the UK mobile users are using apps, (European average 35%).
  • There was a lot of interest in “Big Data” (part of the New Frontiers in Information Management Track). I moderated a number of these sessions, and came away with the impression that there is a lot of ‘activity at the coal-face’ in this field, but still relatively few examples of how business or user value is being created or delivered. For me, still on the hype curve, but some promising developments on the horizon.
  • Digital content (presentations, video, audio) from the conference is gradually being uploaded to the Online Information website and a live stream at Wavecastpro – so keep an eye out for new content appearing.

I’ll just round this off by mentioning that next year Online Information will be moving to a new venue at ICC London at ExceL, scheduled for 4-6 December 2012. This offers state of the art conferencing facilities, a much improved delegate experience, and better integration between the conference and exhibition elements. Something to look forward to in 2012.

I hope those who that attended the conference found it as informative and exhilarating as I did – I await to see the feedback with some anticipation.

For anyone else, I hope this brief summary might give a taster of what it was all about, and perhaps you might be tempted to attend next year’s event.

Until next year – have a great Christmas and a happy New Year!

Stephen Dale

Chairman, Online Information Conference 2011.


Friday, 2 March 2012

Future trends in social media and social networks

Cross-posted from Collabor8now blog

I recently co-presented a session for NetIKX on "future trends in social media & social networks" with Geoffrey Mccaleb, with a solo follow-up Webinar for the Knowledge and Innovation Network (KIN). The content for this presentation was gleaned and curated from numerous sources, including books, white papers, vendor websites, industry reports and numerous blogs. In other words, not an insignificant research project in its own right.  I only mention this to illustrate one point - whether or not you agree with the content of the presentation, the data and trends described have - where possible - been validated against at least three different sources, and have not been artificially manipulated or otherwise obscured by personal opinion. Facts (if they are facts) on numbers of users for each social network are based on data made public by the vendors themselves, and oft-repeated by the industry press. It's difficult to challenge this data where there is no independent reference source.

The Slides

The slides are available on Slideshare and embedded at the end of this blog. The following points provide some additional context to each slide.

  1.  Cover slide - The Future
  2. Wordle picture of the overall content.
  3. Let's start with some statistics
  4. Big numbers with a common trend - they're all getting bigger! Two thirds of the world's population visits a social network at least once a month.  Facebook has 800 million users and is projected to reach 1 billion users by the end of 2012.  With the rollout of its Timeline feature, and the development of apps that integrate with it, Facebook's strategic focus is now to encourage users to spend more time on the site, sharing more information with their social contacts. Data mainly sourced from  http://royal.pingdom.com/2012/01/17/internet-2011-in-numbers/
  5. At present, Google+ reaches 90 million global visitors, accounting for 5 percent of the global social networking audience. While this early adoption bodes well for Google+, whether or not the network can sustain this growth and a strong level of engagement among users will be better indicators of its success in the future. Google+ might emerge as a social networking leader in its own right in the years to come, but exactly how big it will be remains to be seen. Twitter reports 225 million accounts (note that an "account" might not be a physical person; bots make up some of this number). LinkedIn reports 132 million users (mainly B2B). Data sourced from Comscore , CNN and phill.co . There's some interesting commentary about the accuracy of Google's data at Venturebeat.
  6. With more than 800 million users, Facebook is running into a nice problem to have: There are only so many more people to add. While the site will continue to grow in emerging markets that are only now getting online, Mark Zuckerberg has shifted the conversation to sharing and engagement, arguing that sharing on Facebook grows exponentially and that users will double the amount they share each year. That sharing is driving users to spend more time on site — the average Facebook user now spends nearly 7.5 hours on the site each month, up from 4.5  hours just two years ago. With the arrival of Timeline, increased focus on media and entertainment consumption, and continued growth in social games, engagement will surge even further in 2012. Also see: “Facebook adds Pinterest + 59 new apps
  7. New models for engagement. Based on an original ideas by Dion HinchcliffeAmbient communication – Today, everyone can talk to anyone, just about anywhere for nearly (thought not at) at zero cost. Global information flows – The largest, fastest growing, and most freely flowing source of information available is the Internet. This trend will only continue into the future as all information platforms move online. Social computing – Social models for communication, collaboration, and business are proving to be more effective and fundamentally better than non-social ones. Market discontinuity – There is both space and demand for major changes in the way we do things in business today.
  8. Nearly 1 in every 5 minutes spent online is now spent on social networking sites – a stark contrast from when the category accounted for only 6 percent of time spent online in March 2007. Time spent on social networking sites gained ground during this time by taking share predominantly from web-based email and instant messengers, reflecting its emergence as another primary communication channel for users. Ornoklassniki is a Russian Social Networking website. Sina Weibo is a Chinese site. Data sourced from Comscore.
  9. While sites like Digg and Reddit have been around for years, a new crop of sites like Polyvore, Svpply and, most notably, Pinterest are allowing people to organize their favourite discoveries from around the web into themed collections that friends and contacts can follow. Pinterest has seen phenomenal growth over past 12 months, proving that social media continues to evolve, bringing new opportunities for multimedia social platforms. It appears that sites that offer new and personalised user experiences can have a major influence on social sharing and internet traffic. There's a very useful introduction to Pinterest in this Slideshare presentation from the US Army (yes, surprising who's using this stuff!).
  10. Content curation is the organising, filtering and “making sense of” information on the web and sharing the very best with your network. Examples include paper.li, scoop.it, Flipboard and Storify. If you want to get further information about content curation, read this article by Robin Good - What Makes A Great Curator Great...
  11. Collaborative Consumption describes the rapid explosion in swapping, sharing, bartering, trading and renting being reinvented through the latest technologies and peer-to-peer marketplaces in ways and on a scale never possible before. Examples given included Barclays Bikes, Zipcar, Airbnb and TaskRabbit - but there are many hundreds of other P2P services out there, and growing exponentially. Incidentally, the most requested task on TaskRabbit is for assembling IKEA furniture, so if you're an expert on that, go earn yourslef some money! Specifically, much of the material originates from the book "What's Mine Is Yours" by Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers. Reputational Capital (i.e. who can we trust) will be increasingly important the more that we use the internet for transactional services.
  12. Big Data - ok, not specific to social media or social networks, but big enough to impact both.
  13. Big data are datasets that grow so large that they become awkward to work with using on-hand database management tools. Difficulties include capture, storage, search, sharing, analytics ,and visualising. This trend continues because of the benefits of working with larger and larger datasets allowing analysts to spot business trends, prevent diseases and combat crime. Though a moving target, current limits are on the order of terabytes, exabytes and zettabytes of data.Scientists regularly encounter this problem in meteorology, genomics, connectomics, complex physics simulations,  biological research, Internet search, finance and business informatics. Data sets also grow in size because they are increasingly being gathered by ubiquitous information-sensing mobile devices, "software logs, cameras, microphones, RFID readers, wireless sensor networks and so on. One current feature of big data is the difficulty working with it using relational databases and desktop statistics/visualization packages, requiring instead "massively parallel software running on tens, hundreds, or even thousands of servers."The size of "Big data" varies depending on the capabilities of the organisation managing the set. "For some organizations, facing hundreds of gigabytes of data for the first time may trigger a need to reconsider data management options. For others, it may take tens or hundreds of terabytes before data size becomes a significant consideration." NB. Bus stop photo:  Bus users in Blackburn can now receive up-to-the minute information on the whereabouts of their buses following the launch of a pilot project by Blackburn with Darwen Council and bus operator Transdev Lancashire United.
  14. The increasing use of visualisation techniques,  infographics and smart analytics that enable complex data to be presented in new and interesting ways.
  15. Some people – wrongly - see gamification simply as the process of adding points, badges or rewards to the learning process and instantly creating engagement, interactivity and motivation for learning. When done correctly, gamification provides an experience that is inherently engaging and, most importantly, promotes learning. The elements of games that make for effective gamification are those of storytelling, which provides a context, challenge, immediate feedback, sense of curiosity, problem-solving, a sense of accomplishment, autonomy and mastery. Examples here include Big Door, Gamify-it, Scvngr and Badgeville.
  16. It would be remiss to say nothing about the trend towards mobile platforms. People are now free from the shackles of the office PC.
  17. We're now at least 3 years into the next major technology trend - mobile.
  18. Morgan Stanley made the prediction in 2010 that mobile platforms would outstrip sales of traditional desktop systems within 5 years. The enormous success of Apple's iPhone and iPad may even have accelerated this timescale.
  19. More people own mobile phones than toothbrushes!  There will be 7 billion mobile phones by 2012 – more than the global population. More than 4 billion people around the world now use cell phones, and for 500 million the web is a fully mobile experience.
  20. Apps - not just for gamers any more. Apps offer an entirely new business model. Users are now far more comfortable using apps for solving business problems and organisations are developing apps that are providing a richer experience for users of their on-line services. Also an opportunity to lower transactional costs (e.g. when compared to telephone or F2F support). Users have no particular loyalty to apps, and will discard the ones that no longer serve a useful purpose and download or update the the ones that do.
  21. The traditional vendor software development priorities of designing for the PC with (maybe) the mobile platform in mind are being reversed; any new product or application must work (and be optimised for) mobile platforms, with (maybe) the PC in mind.
  22. The trends reinforce the view that apps are becoming ubiquitous in how we work and play. Users are comfortable with the software distribution and update models offered by app stores.
  23. Location-based services (LBS). Product and service providers are realising the value and potential to make information services highly personalised. One of the best ways to personalise information services is to enable them to be location based. An example would be someone using their smart phone or tablet to search for a restaurant. The LBS application would interact with other location technology components to determine the user's location and provide a list of restaurants within a certain proximity to the mobile user. Services such as Foursquare go one step further and link location with your social network, so that you can see if you have any friends within your vicinity. Other examples include using a GPS-equipped smartphone to reveal your location and in return offered special promotions from nearby businesses, or the Easy:park – smartphone app, which enables payment via smartphone and a countdown timer showing how long is left. A future release will find an available parking slot based on your GPS location - a must for the city motorist!
  24. Augmented reality (AR) is a live, direct or indirect, view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data. It is related to a more general concept called mediated reality, in which a view of reality is modified (possibly even diminished rather than augmented) by a computer. As a result, the technology functions by enhancing one’s current perception of reality. Examples shown here include New York Nearest Places,  Golfranger GPS Rangefinder, Cyclopedia, Panaramascope, Theodolite, Starchart.


The remaining slides summarise the overall trends:

•Social Media is ubiquitous. More businesses are adding social media links and information to their websites; consumers now look for these links. Visiting a company's Facebook page or Twitter profile has become as important as reading reviews on the business.
•Facebook will have 1 billion users by end 2012 and will continue to dominate the social network space. More apps and integration with external services will encourage shift from conversations to sharing and engagement = users spend more time on site.
•Rapid growth of companies/services offering new and interesting ways for people to share information (e.g. Tumblr, Pinterest)
•Help with content overload. More apps and services providing knowledge and information curation, aggregation and filtering.
•Apps will inherit the earth! Users more familiar (and trusting) of software distribution channels (app stores). Users happy to discard old/legacy apps and download new ones that meet changing needs and requirements.
•Gami-ificaton techniques will find their way into more social networks and corporate websites in order to engage and retain users/customers.
•Augmented reality apps will offer an awesome user experience. Location-based services will thrive and provide new, more compelling, more efficient services with lower B2C transaction costs. Privacy issues will deter some users.
•More opportunities for micro-entrepreneurs. Peer to peer on the rise; more lending, sharing, bartering and recycling opportunities offered via ‘Collaborative Consumption”.
•We’re going to continue to generate data faster than it can be consumed or understood. Most of it will not be held inside the enterprise. Information visualisation techniques and intelligent analytics will aid user’s interpretation and understanding. Opportunities and challenges for knowledge & information professionals.
•Mobile platforms will soon overtake the desktop PC as the preferred interface to the Internet and www. Software being designed for mobile, with consideration for PC, not the other way around.
The final take-away from this session were the points made by Geof Mccaleb as a challenge for everyone to take back to their respective organisations:
  • Users want their data everywhere - what is your cloud strategy?
  • Users want simple tools and products - what is your app strategy?
  • Users want to see what is relevant to them - what is your graph strategy
  • Users want the same experience regardless of which device they are using - what is your mobile strategy?
  • Users want social experiences - what is your social web strategy?

Bookmarks associated with the presentation can be seen at: http://groups.diigo.com/group/ki-network/content/tag/webinar06jan12 Other blog posts from the session:

I hope this information is of some use - whether you're dipping your toes into or fully immersed in the Social Web!