Always On vs Sometimes off… again.

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I met Marko Ahtisaari, former manager for Design Strategy at Nokia but now part of Blyk, in early October 2005 as he was a guest speaker at my fellowship at Stanford. He had written a blog about Blogging over Las Vegas which brings up the future challenges for the next generation of cellphone technology. The blog is still very much well-worth reading. Interesting enough I stumbled upon a blog entry by Justin Oberman. The blog entry points to a Forbes article “Can you hear me now?”.

My personal opinion is torn here. I do believe technology can solve a lot of issues and be an incredible tool when executed well. I however do believe that we sometimes rush into the solutions and do not well enough specify the problem we aim to solve. I daily see a lot of startups here in the valley with solutions that I cannot imagine we need. I see people who get almost obsessed by Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and the very much over-hyped Twitter. In Sweden, there has been reports of teenagers showing signs of depression and stress symptoms because of social communities.

Is this really sane? Not at all. Who is to blame? We all are. We let the technology control our lives. I can just look at myself. I spend way too much time in front of the computer (even though there are obvious reasons for it). I have begun to more frequently call the person up rather than to email or IM him or her. I very early wrote two longer pieces on the subject in October 2005  – Going offline with future cellphones and Romeo and Juliet – the virtual version :).

I think we all should try our best to take the control back from our technology intense society.

Is all technology socially disruptive in a bad way?

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Ken Banks, an old friend, send me a Skype message tonight that he had mentioned me in his blog. Thanks Ken! You can read his entry here.

It got my mind starting to think about technology and the impacts of technology on communities. Is all technology socially disruptive in a bad way?

The importance of interfaces between humans and technology has grown tremendously lately and, regardless how strange it might sound, in some ways too much. Everyone is talking about the user centric design. Companies are popping up all around the globe specializing in this very mysterious design. As with Web 2.0 I think this is hyped and the term is overused, but maybe there is a need for this hype. I don’t know. What I do know is that very few really fully grasp what it is all about. Drawing cool diagrams on a whiteboard and using hyped language don’t count, nor does only talking about it. It is simply to provide a solution that makes sense to a human being and not the technologist solely.

Yee, wiz. Not that chocking right?


For me the more important aspect is that the (technology) society is starting to realize that the any technology introduction into any community is disruptive to the social pattern in whatever shape or form you introduce it. Here the community aspects of the social web has had good impact and accelerated this discussion. To make a very long story short: We should always try to foresee parts of the disruptive behavior or make the technology as adaptive as possible for the end user (community). The importance of this only becomes more important when talking about introducing technology in the less fortunate societies of this world.

I am always extremely chocked when I hear people talk about the mobile web in the developing world. Of many reasons of course but two main ones can be identified: first there is no mobile web (yet), and secondly people discussing the mobile web don’t talk nor invite people from those regions to seminars and conferences on the same. I have written about the first aspect before and please read my friend Ken Banks reflection on the absence of a whole continent in the discussions on the mobile web.

The people I have met so far who grasp the social disruptiveness of technology the best have all done something in the real world whether that is built houses in their spare time, taken care of real animals on there own 24/7 365 days per year, or lived in a developing country. Pick your flavor there. Just do something that is real. Be a farmer for one day and learn from the experience. The importance is that they have experienced the reality, not read about it in a book…

It shouldn’t be a surprise… It just shouldn’t. 

The media landscape is changing…

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If anyone doubted that the media landscape is drastically changing and that we will see new outlets should definitely take a look at the article in todays Guardian – We all helped to speed the demise of professional photographers. I don’t fully agree with the title of the article as the future media scene will be a symbiosis between what we not call traditional media and specialized user contributed media sites.

Clearly Web 2.0 is not sufficient and we need to create more intelligence in the business logic of the future online media sites to take advantage of the power of the loose publishing model of social media and counteract the problems with it. Also the future media is facing issues both on the business model side as well as the legal side too. I prefer to start to explain by brushing up everyone on the true intention of the web and one of my favorite quotes from Tim Berner-Lee explaining his ideas behind the web:

“Suppose all the information stored on computers everywhere were linked… Suppose I could program my computer to create a space in which anything could be linked to anything…”

I do believe that this idea is lost to many times in the current debate on the web and the future of the web. I have written about this issue before – In the Wake of the Birth of the Web and The Social Web also known as Web 2.0.

The underlying idea of the web directly implies that philosophically it should be perfectly fine linking to other sites, thereby directly or indirectly giving them the credit for the content. If you are not storing their content, I will have a very hard time understanding why that would mean infringement of copyright. If that is copyright infringement then isn’t just telling it to my friends about the content also be copyright infringement? I know I am totally over exaggerating and the examples are not really compatible as the nature of broadcasting in the two different cases is very different. However online it is sometimes very hard to tell the two cases apart. I do believe we instead should try to adapt to the situation and find new ways to deal with copyrighted material and in particular how to make sure that the creators get credit and money for it. I do believe by letting them be part of the creation they will help us find a solution which will satisfy all parties. I would like to emphasize that I do not in any way – directly or indirectly – encourage copyright infringement and you should always respect copyrighted material.

The previous and ongoing disputes with Google News will also shed some light on the problem with linking to sites and how you can do that. From the case in Belgium, it is clear so far that you are allowed to link to the sites and even store a small snippet, but not store the full article. If someone disputes even that, we might as well start to think about banning search engines as they then also would be illegal – they link to sites and store a short snippet for each link. It opens up for a very interesting discussion which basically means no one can do anything with any content of the web if you do not ask them. To me, the whole thought behind the web is then completely lost and I certainly don’t believe that is the right way to go.

As for the business model, I do believe the outcome of the case between YouTube and Viacom will give guidance to the IT industry on how to treat the copyright issues online in a monetized environment (especially how to judge when a video clip becomes a copyright infringement and when it is not). The future advertising is definitely moving towards online video or IPTV (pick your flavor) so the case is highly relevant and timely. (The outcome will probably also impact the other available distribution channels too though.) The industry is in definite need of some guidance to handle these issues when you have advertising as a business model and it is still very much an unknown territory. What does the law really mean as for which solution is the right one? No, it is not very clear today.

My intention with this blog is to emphasize that the media scene is changing and will continue to change if yet only faster. Unfortunately the business models as well as the legal models have not evolved to match the development. The entrants, who best understand how to take advantage of all the different available distribution channels – offline, online, broadcast – the evolution of the media as well as the flatness of the world, will become huge hits. I have a bet on which site will be that, but that is a later question.

$100 laptop now only $175?!

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I just read that the OLPC now is 75% more expensive than planned. It will be very interesting to see the reactions from the countries who signed up who now will need to cough up 75% more in costs. It is also an adjustment of $25 since only a month ago. It is also interesting that the Intel Classmate PC is only $75 more expensive. It seems to me that the visionary project underestimated challenges of the project.

You can read more about the changes of prices here.