The new Bing Maps geotargets Twitter tweets.
Supernova roundup: Media, real-time services — and ‘the end of the Web era’
I spent Wednesday at the Supernova conference in San Francisco, which has morphed over the years from a gathering about mobile and telephony into one that addresses the larger themes sweeping through society: Social media. The real-time Web. Public policy in a connected society. New technologies that rewire our culture.
Given the enormously impressive attendee list, Supernova may now have the highest signal to noise ratio of any conference in the tech galaxy. I’ve written about Supernova in 2004, 2005 (here’s Caterina Fake and a Flickr set), 2006, 2007, and have spoken there twice — and, indeed, it was at Supernova 2004 that Marc Canter and I hatched the plan for Ourmedia‘s launch in March 2005 as the first video hosting and sharing site.
But this year’s Supernova may be the best one yet. It concludes this afternoon.
Please read on — you can skip the next six months of conferences, saving thousands in registration fees, just by reading this blog entry. Some Supernova highlights:
Is media getting more … feminine?
The “Is There a Media Business?” panel provided a lively give and take with the 75 or so participants in the session, and it focused less on the travails of the news business than on the larger forces churning through the media landscape: music and movies as well as news. I found it interesting that I had profiled two of the three participants, Jim Griffin and Cory Ondrejka, in my book Darknet. (You can read the chapter on Griffin at Pho, Cole Porter and Tarzan economics.)
The highlight for me came when Jim Griffin alluded to traditional media as quintessentially male in nature — pushing out product through blunt force and “the need to consummate a relationship without even getting your name” — while Lisa Stone and the panelists agreed that there may be a “feminization of media” underway, where the value comes from creating a relationship that never ends. Lisa called it the “coopetition” model of media, mutually cooperative and competitive.
I think there’s something to this: Social media is all about relationship building, about giving more than taking, and women still top men in that department.
After Lisa cited news publishers’ criticism of Google and the Huffington Post as “technological tapeworms” of the Internet — a few hours earlier Google announced it would restrict access to fee-based news sites — Cory quipped: “Google is handing a gun to mainstream media, ‘Here, go shoot yourself.’ Do you want your customers not to find [your articles]? … Making your content more obscure does not seem like the right approach.”
Griffin said more companies were in effect becoming media entities — like J&J, which purchased and is running BabyCenter.com for new and expectant parents (I used to run its editorial department).
Midway through I made the point that the music companies and Hollywood studios deserve some credit for not cracking down on the literally millions of copyright violations that are appearing on YouTube every day. And I argued that the marketplace — we, the people — have indeed moved the goal posts over the past three years without the need for Congress to act.
I predict that it will take another three years for Google, the music companies and Hollywood to come to an arrangement that pays the various stakeholders a share of revenue derived from ads on YouTube, some of which will go to the musicians, some to the songwriters, some to the studios and so on. But rights are an enormously thorny bramble bush, and the lawyers and suits will spend years trying to figure out the new rules of the road in the digital age.
Let’s hope that Google will map the way for creative mashup monetization, just as Apple pioneered the way for music companies to enter the digital era after Napster. One hopes that the mashup artist gets a slice of the pie, too.
Real-time Web — or the end of the Web?
Some fascinating insights during the afternoon session “Going with the Flow”:
• Our information flow is becoming more personalized. “We don’t need firehoses any more,” J.P. Rangaswami of BT said at one point.
• From the stage, Web 2.0 impresario Tim O’Reilly asked the roomful of 350 people: “Is there anyone here who doesn’t use Twitter?” One person raised his hand.
• O’Reilly again importantly raised the specter of “a battle going on for the soul of the Web”: the Internet’s original decentralized architecture, based on open standards and open formats, vs. a new oligarchy of silos — proprietary walled-garden approaches we’ve seen to some extent by companies like Facebook with its social graph, Google with its search algorithm and Microsoft, whose rumored deal with News Corp. is madness.
• O’Reilly sitting next to Twitter COO Dick Costello: “Does Twitter want to be Google or does Twitter want to be Tim Berners-Lee? We won’t know the answer till Twitter knows what its business model is.”
• Costello announced that Twitter was in the process of reengineering its code to give people archived tweets and “much deeper search” capabilities. So that, for example, years from now we’ll be able to call up the tweets around the Iranian street protests. Twitter is looking to work with companies and the Internet Archive as trusted sources to be used as a permanent archive.
• O’Reilly sensed the emergence of “a transition yet to come, taking us away from status updates consumed by humans and toward status updates consumed by machines” — particularly devices that know your physical location and then act on it.
• Brett Slakin of Google: “On the consumer side, hyperlocality is the coolest thing ever” — geotagging so that I can find out, what’s going on at this block right now?
• Here’s one answer. Barney Pell of Microsoft showed off the beta of Bing Maps (see image at top — you may need to download Silverlight to see it in action). For instance, you’ll be able to see who else is tweeting from a particular city, or even from the same street corner.
• What will Web 3.0 be about? Nobody thew out that term, but Slakin and several others suggested that the Next Big Thing will be software and services that help us filter (a better term: funnel in) relevant, meaningful data. Helping us “parse the stream,” in Slakin’s words.
• O’Reilly cited software mashups as showing us “a lightweight preview of where we need to go” by pulling together data from multiple sources.
• “We’re exiting the Web era,” O’Reilly declared. “It’s still the Internet, but not necessarily http: based.” Many of us now access Twitter through mobile devices that use non-Web protocols.
• “I think we’re working toward the Internet OS,” O’Reilly added. It could turn out to be a Google OS or Facebook OS or Apple OS — or an open source Linux-style OS. He said he’d like to see players cooperate to build services that they couldn’t build alone.
• Geek humor. O’Reilly: “Somebody said to me, what is cloud computing except a bunch of virtual machines twittering to each other?”
• From the floor, Oliver Marks argued that Ashton Kutcher (@aplusk on Twitter) was using an outdated mass media paradigm because he follows 274 people and has 4 million followers.
Nonsense. Even Twitter’s founders have said that following everyone who follows you is a foolhardy approach — you should only follow those whose tweets bring value into your life. Anyone who follow more than 1,000 people knows how difficult it is to keep up a genuine conversation. Now, multiply that by 4,000 times.
• I missed John Hagel’s appearance but will catch it today on uStream.
• Funny back and forth. Jim Griffin: “We’re embracing the channel Me, where all of us have our own channel.” Lisa Stone: “I’m so not interested in that.”
• Catharine Hays: “Television isn’t what it used to be, so it’s not old media.”
• Deb Schulz beautifully addressed the role of advertisers in the new world (call it the Participatory Era, or perhaps the Sharing Economy). She called for “the death of the grand gesture” by marketers — that is, “Ignore me, ignore me, ignore me — flowers on Valentine’s Day. Ignore me, ignore me, ignore me — big Super Bowl ad.”
The once-in-a-blue-moon parachuting into your life is a dying model. The new model: More interactivity. Ongoing conversations. Intense participation.
• Flickr co-founder and Hunch founder Caterina Fake, who’s one of my favorite people (and speakers) in the tech world: “Through overpromiscuous friending, I’ve had to sift through vast amounts of data, and I’ve become my own computer.”
• More Fake: “Every single one of us is a special snowflake. But in other ways we’re very predictable. How many of us have iPhones?” A lot.
• 70 percent of Twitter use in the U.S. is still via the Twitter website (instead of via an app), says Jason Shellen, a fellow SF East Bayer who heads up ThingLabs.
• Laura Fitton: “More productivity has been lost by doubt and mistrust and hostility than by not having the right tools.” The key is to get people to trust one another.
• Anna-Christina Douglas of the Google Wave team: “Communication and collaboration aren’t different. Whenever you communicate with someone, you’re building something.” She said they’re working to make it possible to embed waves (still invitation-only ) in other sites.
• Kevin Marks: “With Google you get a machine response. With Twitter you expect to get a human response.”
• Deb Schultz: “Talking with a human voice doesn’t go away just because you work for a corporation.”
Some of the participants on hand
I love attending gatherings like Supernova because it’s my chance to catch up with people I haven’t seen in ages. Among those I chatted up or saw from yesterday’s who’s who of attendees:
Esther Dyson, John Hagel III, Doc Searls, David Weinberger, Caterina Fake, Rashmi Sinha (founder of Slideshare), Mark Drapeau, Dan Fost, Scott Rosenberg, Josh Kinberg, Hugh MacLeod, Denise Howell, Heather Gold, Cathy Brooks, Deb Schultz, Scott Kirsner, Howard Greenstein, Chris Carfi, David Spark, Gary Bolles, Dave McClure, Christine Herron, Andrew Rasiej, Tantek Celik, Dick Costello, Supernova organizer Kevin Werbach, Tim O’Reilly, Shannon Clark, Kaliya Hamlin, Mary Hodder, Kristie Wells, Kimberly Lembo, Monica Carrillo, Barney Pell, Rohit Khare.