Get your users hooked: How to design addictive products and services

Negative emotions are the most powerful inner trigger for habit-forming actions: «When we're depressed we go to Facebook. When we’re bored we go to YouTube. When we’re stuck, we Google it – these are all responses to internal triggers.»

So, how can we design for it?

The sentiment above belongs to behaviour design consultant and author Nir Eyal, who opened the show at this year’s Webdagene, an annual Norwegian web conference organised by Norwegian UX-company Netlife Research.

In his talk, Eyal went on to to provide a step-by-step guide to how to design what he calls «habit-forming products» (addictive is my term) – such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

At the start of the conference I instinctively started taking copious notes, but then I had to remind myself I was there to listen, as a paying member of the audience, not to report, and I promised myself to only blog about what really stuck, what really stood out for me after the conference was over (I've blogged more about the conference here, in Norwegian).

And Eyal's talk certainly gave me lots of food for thought.

During the talk he quoted Ian Bogust that «our technology is quite possible becoming the cigarettes of our time», admitting that designing habit-forming products is a form of manipulation, but saying we should use the psychological insights that allow us to create habit-forming design as a force for good.

You can check out the highlights from his talk on Slideshare here  or see his talk on video here.

At the start of the talk, I must admit I found myself wondering how far we’ve travelled from the days of Cluetrain (when social media very much were portrayed as tools for democracy, creating a new more democratic public sphere), to Gluetrain (an excellent parody on Cluetrain) to social media as some kind of addiction machines.

Was that development inevitable? Describing Eyal's book Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products, Forbes writes:

«Making products habit-forming, and the behaviour design that makes it possible, has gone from being a nice-to-have to a need-to-have in the ultra-competitive world of apps and digital services. There are so many things screaming for users’ attention that only the things that they whisper to themselves about have a chance of sticking around for a while.»

Do you remember back when revealing an opinion could get you fired?

A decade or two from now I suspect people will look back with amusement and incredulity on how once upon a time revealing online that you had opinions or flaws could get you fired.

In a world where most everyone who is someone has said and done plenty of stupid things online, revealing their most awkward traits or most foolish decisions, it will be those who have no online history to speak of who will come across as suspicious.

While thinking about how social media has changed, some would say blurred, the lines between private and public, between work and play, for an op-ed published yesterday (in Norwegian) it struck me that what we're experiencing now is just growing pains, a temporary phase while we transition from old to new ways of thinking, or perhaps we could even speak of paradigms. And when I say temporary it may be that we're speaking of a generation or two, Roland Inglehart's Silent Revolution also springs to mind.

But already the two mindsets I'm thinking of, the old buttoned up professional aspiring to reveal as little as possible about him or herself, and the new, open culture of sharing, some would say oversharing, and transparency exist side by side.

As the op-ed was written just after the Octavia Nasr affair, I used hers and Dave Weigel's case to say that neither revealed something all that surprising: Nasr revealed she had sympathies and Weigel an arrogance which is far from uncommon among up and coming journalists who's had great success very quickly. In other words, they revealed themselves to be human. Their timing and sense of judgement may have been askew, but both explained the reasons for these lapses well, and the instant firing of the two seemed to me like knee-jerk reactions.

After I submitted my op-ed, I came across this brilliant piece by Thomas Friedman for New York Times (worth reading in full) on the Nasr-affair:

"What signal are we sending young people? Trim your sails, be politically correct, don’t say anything that will get you flamed by one constituency or another. And if you ever want a job in government, national journalism or as president of Harvard, play it safe and don’t take any intellectual chances that might offend someone. In the age of Google, when everything you say is forever searchable, the future belongs to those who leave no footprints."

I agree with most of what Friedman has to say in this piece, except I don't believe the future belongs to those who leave no footprints - quite the contrary. Two other recent NYT-articles, both well worth the read, Bent Brantley's Whatever Happened to Mystery and Jeffrey Rosen on How the Web means the End of Forgetting, serve to illustrate how increasingly unrealistic leaving no footprints has become.

Friends and acquaintances who teach in junior and upper high school tell me that these days even some of their best and most ambitious students keep blogs where they frequently err on the side oversharing, divulging personal, sometimes very private, things which may come back to haunt them. But seeing how widespread this "oversharing" on blogs and social networks is, as more and more people steeped in this culture enter the job market and eventually gain power, I think this will soon start to be seen as quite normal.

That is not to say that I think we'll end up with an anything goes kind of mentality, or that good sense of judgement won't be recognised and awarded also in the future, but I think we'll learn to live with how much more of our personal histories are publicly available at the click of a button. And I do think the buttoned up journalist, clothed so as to reveal as little as possible of who he is, will come across as a stranger in a strange land in this type of environment. In fact, is already doing so when dealing with the social web and its inhabitants.

So I think we'll see the end of the cult of objectivity that media has worshipped for so long. That is not to say I think objectivity as such is unattainable, or that striving for impartiality necessarily is a bad thing, only that the idea that a journalist should be like a mirror, an inanimate object with no opinions or personal history, reflecting his or her surroundings objectively, is long overdue for a reality-check.

Journalists are not inanimate objects, we're human beings who, under constant deadline pressure, make, and are required by our employers to make, decisions about what to cover and not, and how to cover it, all the time based on editorial values - or sometimes on which glasses we see the world through. The only way we could just objectively mirror the world around us would be to set up a surveillance camera and stream the video from it online, and even then we would only be streaming a (geographical) selection of reality.

I'm not even so sure this whole idea of just mirroring the world is conducive from a journalistic point of view. Reuter's David Schlesinger has talked about how (financial) journalism at its best should be as a mirror (scroll down for English version). However, I think it's fair to say that as long as that mirror only was turned towards a bunch of experts who mostly said the same, there's no wonder financial journalists couldn't see the financial crisis of 2008 coming. Schlesinger called it unreasonable to expect journalists to predict the future, but I think, in this increasingly complex world of ours, spotting the connections and making sense of the world, is one of the most important ways the media can add value.

Also, the people we are supposed to serve, our readers, do not see us as objective or think we have no political or business ties. They're just not quite sure what those biases which they feel must be dictating the news agenda are, so we often find ourselves accused of being racists and cultural relativists, or socialists and conservatives in the comment section of the same article.

Even more frequently, commenters don't even see us as persons at all, but synonymous with the institution we represent, and will attack us in the comment sections based on this. Incidentally, that is often a rather difficult position from which to nurture a constructive and healthy online debate.

If we then compare and contrast the media's "objective approach to covering an issue to that of bloggers, we see something really interesting. Namely, that looking at successful niche or issue bloggers – such as e.g. Jeff Jarvis, Guido Fawkes, Karl Denninger, Mark Horvath – they gain credibility and influence by doing the exact opposite of what media always has held up as the key hallmark of credibility.

They gain credibility not by pretending they have no ties, as the media, but disclosing those ties openly; not by pretending they have no personal history, but by using their own personal histories in ways which make other people share their own stories - thereby creating a critical mass highlighting a particular issue.

All of which is a very roundabout way of saying that I think it's about time the media industry wake up to the fact that we live in a transparent society, and that insisting on staying fully dressed and buttoned up in this environment won't do us any favours.

I agree with David Weinberger that yes, transparency is the new objectivity – at least in the respect that transparency is the only way to make our journalism more credible in today's increasingly transparent society. That does not mean that, as was suggested on Twitter, I think media organisations have to become more like Fox News. I don't think journalism necessarily needs to become more opinionated – opinionated journalism has pros and cons depending on the editorial format – but it desperately needs to become more honest.

For the record I should perhaps say that I ruined my back on the way home from London late June and ended up confined to bed for a few weeks, which gave me a lot of time to think about the changing media landscape. I'm somewhat shocked at the verbosity of this post, but suspect I might be back with more on this and other related topics soon....

Do we need rules for journalists’ use of social media?

Are you a journalist 24/7? Does the company you work for own you? Does it harm your credibility as a journalist if you share personal opinions online? Are some opinions more appropriate to share than others?

These are just some of many questions raised by the recent debates on journalists and social media. Some companies, such as Bloomberg, have very strict policies on how journalists may or may not use social media, but in Norway such rules have been absent until now.

However, it was recently brought to my attention that several of the country’s biggest media organisations are working on social media rules for their journalists, which caused The Norwegian Online News Association (NONA), an organisation I’m heading, to host a debate on this last week.

The reason? We thought it was much better to get such a debate out in the open than have it confined by the walls of each individual media company. If Norwegian is not Greek to you, you’ll find video and notes from the debate over at NONA’s blog, but as these are questions many media organisations are discussing these days, I’ve also translated some key quotes and questions here:

"The home alone party is over"
'The home alone party is over, now the adults are back and they want rules,' said Jan Omdahl, internet and technology commentator for Norwegian tabloid Dagbladet. He said Dagbladet’s journalists had been playing around with social media from an early stage, but now the media executives had entered the arena, demanding rules.

'It’s very typical that those who don’t use social media, or have started using it very recently, want rules, whereas those who have used social media a lot take the contrary view,' said Nina Nordbö, a social media advisor at Norway’s public broadcaster (NRK) and NONA board member.

'It is perhaps our smallest problem that we lack rules for social media. At the same time one of our biggest problems is that we are part of a tradition for one-way communication that makes us ill-equipped for exploiting the social web,' said Espen Egil Hansen, editor-in-chief of and NONA board member.

Grey areas
He felt it as important that we learned how to utilise this arena, and make our mistakes now rather than later. He also emphasised that had strict rules on ethics and he couldn’t see that they needed any more rules than these.

However, Omdahl also pointed out that journalists encounter a whole new set of challenges online. ’Even if I as a social media user think we can just continue as we always have done, I do see that we can benefit from raising awareness about these challenges. For instance: should I reply when I get questions on Twitter about why Dagbladet has used five different angles on that sex podcast on Should I confer with my bosses before I reply? Is it appropriate that I share my opinions on one of our most heavily criticised front pages?'

Guidelines or rules
Hanne Kirkenes from pointed out that in their organisation it was not the editors but the journalists who had asked for rules.

'In my experience, our journalists are divided: those who take to social media very naturally and those who think journalists should not be using social media at all,' she said, explaining that as a result of this they had a few simple guidelines on social media. They also had held internal discussions on this and would continue to do so.

John Einar Sandvand, a digital strategist with Aftenposten, Norway’s newspaper of record, explained that his company was in the process of implementing rules for how their journalists use social media, but suggested three very simple ones:

'For social media I would start with three very basic principles, and then one can elaborate on each of these according to specific issues:

1) The media company should be genuinely positive to its staff being active in social media

2) Social media activities must be done in a way which maintains the professional integrity of journalists

3) Stay loyal to your employer

You can read more about his thoughts on this on his excellent blog Beta Tales (in English).

Impartiality, sources and PR
We touched on several other issues which tend to come up in one form or another whenever journalists' use of social media is up for discussion, hence I'll just mention three of these briefly here: 

Impartiality: Can a blogger with a strong political agenda or view on a particular issue work as a journalist? Or would it be more useful to ask if a journalist or commentator can do more credible journalism when we know his our her agenda? Espen Egil Hansen suggested that bloggers were blurring the lines between reporting and commenting, that commentators like Omdahl could still do credible journalism and that we in the future would see more journalists becoming individual brands .

Consensus: Is it a problem that journalists and commentators mostly just talk to their peers online, and does this not exacerbate media's herdlike behaviour? A Norwegian editor recently argued this was the case, that discussing their ideas on Twitter created a consensus among the country's commentators, and therefore we need rules to regulate media's use of social media. To this it was pointed out that hacks and columnists have always associated mostly with other media folks, but that at least on Twitter they do so openly and not behind closed doors in the press club - and on Twitter they also have (an opportunity) to engage with their readers and can make an effort to expand the network of people they talk and listen to.        

PR: Oh, and somebody asked if it wasn't problematic that marketeers and academics could get to know a journalist's interests so well on Twitter that they would know exactly which journalist to pitch a certain issue to. My answer? No, no, no: I would LOVE more targeted pitches, if all PRs and marketeers would make the effort to figure out what my beat is and what issues I'm likely to write about I would be absolutely delighted....

Update 23/11-09, 21:59 CET: see also Think Before You Re-Tweet: L.A. Times' Updates Social Media Rules for Journos.

Twitter mishaps and netiquette for journalists

Evidence suggests navigating the social web can be a bit of challenge for journalists, but does that mean we need a new set of ethical guidelines to safeguard their conduct?

Last week, while organising a debate on whether we need rules for journalists’ use of social media, I asked friends, colleagues and Twitter-followers for examples of journalists’ missteps and transgressions on the popular micro blogging site. My question threw up some interesting examples, and I’ll highlight some of those here.

Digital Doorstepping
But first I feel I should point out that, even though Twittiquette is the hot topic these days, it would be wrong to single out Twitter: these examples are very similar to journalists’ "missteps and transgressions" on other social media sites such as blogs and social networks.

For instance, only two years ago we had a similar discussion after bloggers and others reacted sharply to how some journalists solicited comments from bloggers who themselves experienced, or had friends who were caught up in, the Virginia Tech Massacre – leaving blog comments like "I would love to chat with you about this horrific event."

"Journalism has a long and dishonourable tradition of doorstepping the victims of tragedies. But in the digital age, the communities around the victims have voices to express their outrage at the media's behaviour - and that's what we're seeing here," said Adam Tinworth in a blog post.

Bullying your sources
Now, I’m not so sure it would not be entirely far-fetched to say that journalist have a long dishonourable tradition for bullying their sources either. However, it does look rather embarrassing when the bullying is conducted in a public place like Twitter, such as in this exchange between former National Post technology reporter David George-Cosh and marketing consultant April Dunsford earlier this year.

After Dunsford tweeted an observation from being interviewed by George-Cosh, leaving his name out of it, he identified himself when he answered back with some very aggressive tweets. You can read the whole exchange here. Ouch. There are of course situations where journalists feel bullying, e.g. politicians, is entirely legitimate, even create TV-shows devoted to it, but here?

Twitter reveals journalists have opinions
An entirely different kind of example is that of Odd Myklebust, society editor for Norwegian regional newspaper Drammens Tidenede, who, two weeks before this year’s Norwegian parliamentary election, tweeted that this year’s regional political candidates were the worst ever. This created an outcry and spurred a debate on journalists and social media, and Myklebust later apologised saying the statement was too tabloid.

This incident reminds me of the Washington Post’s new, much ridiculed social media policy which came about after one of its managing editors, Raju Narisetti posted a few tweets that revealed he had opinions on issues such as health care, deficits and term limits. Impartiality is crucial to the WaPo policy, and Techchrunch has a ball with it in Twitter Unearths A Secret: Journalists Have Opinions:

"When word leaked out that he had his own opinions and was sharing them on Twitter, apparently the WaPo top brass scrambled quickly to get this under control. That included Narisetti deleting his Twitter account. Pathetic."

On the Norwegian incident, Per Valebrokk, editor-in-chief of business news site E24, wrote: "If Myklebust really means what he said on Twitter, why doesn’t he write it in his newspaper? What is really the biggest problem? That those working in the media have opinions, or that they’re not clear enough in their newspapers?"

Now, I can’t get myself worked up over these incidents revealing journalists to have opinions, but I should also, for the record, mention, that I know Myklebust from my time as a columnist at Drammens Tidende (where I effectively started my media career).

Making offensive remarks, then deleting them
I think a worse case is that of The Daily Telegraph’s former technology blogger Milo Yiannopoulos. I remember reacting to the tone of several of his tweets when I followed him on Twitter, but one incident in particular was later brought to my attention by someone who followed the situation more closely.

"Back when he was @yiannopoulos rather than @nero, Milo Yiannopoulos tweeted that he hoped the police 'beat the shit out of those wankers', referring to the G20 protestors. Then he deleted the tweets when one was killed," this person said, and described how @yiannopoulos also made aggressive remarks to some tweeters and deleted the tweets once they had been seen - adding that unpleasantness seemed not to upset people so much as deleting your remarks once they had caused a stir.

What a lot of this comes down to, especially Yiannopoulos’ and George-Cosh’s cases, is bad editorial judgements. If editors see one of their reporters or commentators make such ill-informed judgements repeatedly online, I imagine they would question how well this person is suited to represent the media company and at the very least have serious talk with the person in question. Also, we can all make gaffes, say things that are not well thought through, but most people recognise this - and apologising for it makes all the difference.

Personally, I don’t think a whole new set of rules is called for, but I organised a debate on this issue last week for The Norwegian Online News Association (NONA) as it had been brought to my attention that rules are under way in Norway’s biggest media organisations. It proved a very constructive and useful debate, and I’ll get back to some of the key points raised in a separate post.

Essential Advice
Still, this debate reminds me of something I copied from my friend Adriana’s blog several years ago, in 2006 I believe, and have often used when explaining netiquette to various audiences:

"On the internet you are not an institution. If you want to be and behave like one, you get isolated and bypassed... It's back to communication between human beings, communities and sometimes mobs. The rules of social interactions apply - if people challenge you on something you have done or said and you don't respond, expect a commensurate impact on your reputation or credibility.

"If people make fun of you or try to embarrass you, the choice is to remain silent in hope of appearing dignified or to shoot back, with indignation or with humour. It depends. Different responses will be appropriate at different times and different circumstances. That is why etiquette is so complicated. Media and communications strategies don't even come close. The main difference is that you don't need to be 'trained' for online communication; it's the one that you already know. And whether you are good at it or not has nothing to do with communication skills but with respect for others and some good manners."

This post has been edited following Milo Yiannopoulos' objections in the comments.

Six quick social media lessons from the Obama campaign

Jodi Williams from the Obama Campaign Team was in Oslo last week to talk about lessons learnt from the 2008 presidential campaign. Here's a few quick highlights I took away from her talk (I'd have posted this sooner if it wasn't for ongoing computer trouble):

Picture of Williams by Tord Nedrelid published under a CC-license
  • Social media turns out to be very crucial these days for reaching out, not only to younger demographics, but quite widely - especially for reaching the demographic that’s really busy and not home to sit down and watch ABC News at six
  • The Twitter effect will play a much bigger part in future elections along with texting. We could have used texting and twitter much more effectively
  • Really excited by how mobile networks will change campaigning and reporting
  • No longer one way comunication but a two way coversation that can turn into a movement
  • It’s about giving people the opportunity to organise themselves. Social media offers good tools to organise people and to help them find each other
  • The Clinton-campaign was stuck in the past. We had younger people who were not stuck in ideas on how to do and organise things and were free to look ahead
These notes are taken from a talk Williams gave at a seminar on politics and social media organised by The Institute of Journalism 05.06.2009. My write-up of key headlines from the Norwegian talks are here (in Norwegian)

Top social media strategists put their time up for auction on eBay

Here's a golden chance to get two hours of consulting services from social media veterans Adriana Lukas and Chris Heuer for a bargain.

Adriana emails to say they are currently auctioning two hours of their time on eBay. I'm a bit late to this story as I've been on the road for a few days: the slot is for tomorrow, in London, but at the time of writing the only bid submitted is on $50 - so still possible to get an amazing deal.

"This is a low cost way for a smart company to take our minds for a test drive, to see if what we know, and to improve what you are doing with social media, marketing and web strategies to make your organization more succesfull in these effort," writes Adriana. Read more on why the two have decided to put their time up for auction, in what is a one time opportunity so far, on eBay here.

Now, at this point I should tell you that Adriana is the woman who kicked me into the blogosphere in the first place. After listening to her musings on social media, and reading the books she recommended, with fascination for years, but always blaming my deadlines for why it was never the right time to have a go at blogging myself, in the end she just set up this blog for me in 2005 and told me to get going.

It was a big white canvas for me, and I was quite surprised by how, after a few months, I revealed myself to be a media junkie... ;-) Of course, blogging changed my world, my focus and opened up new previously unthought of opportunities for me. Still, even after immersing myself in social media for years, had I been in London tomorrow and had I the time, this would have been an opportunity too good to miss....  

Update 14:25 CET: Message from Chris Heuer on Twitter just now, saying "unfortunately I glitched & UK folks werent able to bid, so am taking it down :( #lessonlearned". Still, seems some lucky person might have secured those two hours with Adriana and Chris after notifying Chris about the glitch - see more in his comment on my post here.

Using social media to change the world

Here's something which, despite all the current doom and gloom, makes me both hopeful for the future of the world at large and despondent about my own industry (and if you'd rather focus on the former, feel free to jump past my chronology of frustration:-) )

A chronology of frustration:
Mainstream media discovers Twitter and moves en masse there. Incidentally, politicians discover Twitter about the same time and follow suite. "All of a sudden" everyone that is someone is talking about Twitter, hence media commentators are ordered to write about it and conclude - surprise, surprise - it's the social network of the elites.

Now, this secenario is taken from Norway, where journalists and politicians have really only discovered Twitter's potential over the last few months. Since I do my share of talking about why journalists should be on Twitter, and how they can use it in their work, I'm hardly going to complain that a much larger contingent of Norway's hacks have finally started using the microblogging site, but the scenario in the above paragraph is a potent reminder that our understanding of social media is defined by how we use it.

It's not the technology... As a result, our arguments about what social media is often become circular, and categorisations such as "it's the network of the elites" or "it's just people sharing trivia" will often reveal more about how people making those statements use or don't use Twitter than about the site itself. I am, of course, fully aware that sites such as MySpace, Facebook and Twitter have different demographics, but, at the end of the day, it's neither the technology, nor the individual social media brand as such I find interesting: it's what it enables us to do.

And since commentators, in Norway and elsewhere, have been so busy analysing what they and/or their colleagues talk about on Twitter lately, let's instead look at a compelling way to use the site to raise awareness of a social issue. I've been followingMark Horvath for a few weeks now, after a shout out from Tim O'Reilly alerted me to his Twitter profile:

Giving a voice to the voiceless
"Mark Horvath was a top TV executive in Hollywood and then lost it all. Out of work and with a home going into foreclosure, Horvath quickly became homeless. With no income or a roof over his head, Horvath still had to do something. So he started, a personal first account video blog designed to give homelessness a face and voice," Mashable wrote in March.

Or to use his own words from 1 April this year: "Fifteen years ago I was a TV executive. Fourteen years ago I ended up homeless on Hollywood Blvd. I now am 14 years sober and am rebuilding my life but homelessness is once again a very real possibility. I lost my job in St Louis over a year ago. I took a job here in Los Angeles, moved here, and was laid off. I lost my house to foreclosure last week. With $45, a small camera and a laptop I started, a homeless awareness vlog. I had to do something.

"Every week I take a few minutes to get to know a different person without a home. I learn how they survive, how they came to find themselves homeless, and who they call friends. I ask them about their biggest wishes, their greatest hardships and their plans for the future.

"Then, I introduce them to the world via social media. My video blog is a testament of the character and strength of people living on America’s streets. It gives them a voice and a chance to tell their story and become more than a coat sleeping on a park bench. To get the word out about my vblog, I began using twitter ..." (full post here, follow Horvath at @hardlynormal ).

Now, you may fault me, of course, for citing a former TV exec as an example, but his forceful example of being 'the change he wants to see in the world' somehow gives me more faith that we will find our way through the current crisis - and doing what he does while facing homelessness and personal ruin is truly something...

Here's video clip from The Berkman Centre, about The New Change Makers which is also well-worth checking out (via Paul Bradshaw on Twitter)

Media and disruptive technology (or why change is so hard for entrenched companies)

What if we were to look at mainstream media's response to social media, such as blogging, thorugh the prism of disruptive technology?

This is an issue I've been mulling over since I heard Espen Andersen's talk on disruptive technologies, open source and mobile at Open Nordic conference in May: how does this apply to media?

Diverse 041

It occurs to me that looking at media and social media through this prism must have been done before - but I haven't come across any such analysis, and, regardless of whether or not such analysis already exist, I think looking a the changing media landcape this way is a very useful thought experiment for trying to understand how big media companies tend to approach disruptive innovations, such as social media. Now, feel free to join me in this thought experiment, I'm just playing around with ideas here, but I think it's a very useful exercise.

What is a disruptive technology?
Espen quoted Clayton M.Christensen's book The Innovator's dillemma (which I haven't read) when describing disruptive technology:

1) your best customers don't want it,
2) it gives poorer performance,
3) if you did it you would loose money.

Core attribute: the incumbent market leader is the least suited to adopt it.

Two examples on disruptive technology listed in Wikipedia:
- Early desktop-publishing systems could not match high-end professional systems in either features or quality. Nevertheless, they lowered the cost of entry to the publishing business, and economies of scale eventually enabled them to match, and then surpass, the functionality of the older dedicated publishing systems.

- The music and movie industries see file-sharing as a very real threat to their livelihood. With technologies like Bittorrent becoming part of pop culture the current business model for these industries, selling physical units, has been completely shattered.

Seeing MSM/social media through this prism
I think sharing news via social media such as blogs, social networks, and microblogging sites also fit the bill here, because

1) your premium subscribers are unlikely to be the first to jump the ship

2) social media, like say blogging platforms and twitter, are often, especially in the first stage(s), less reliable than the big expensive content management systems mainstream news sites tend to run on/ it's cruder and gives less functionality

3) big MSM players are often hampered by their own size, prestige and institutional slowness (for lack of a better word) and utilising these tools effectively from an early stage is easier for a small nimble start-up with nothing to loose.

Also, according to Wikipedia:
"Disruptive technologies are not always disruptive to customers, and often take a long time before they are significantly disruptive to established companies. They are often difficult to recognize. Indeed, as Christensen points out and studies have shown, it is often entirely rational for incumbent companies to ignore disruptive innovations, since they compare so badly with existing technologies or products, and the deceptively small market available for a disruptive innovation is often very small compared to the market for the established technology. Even if a disruptive innovation is recognized, existing businesses are often reluctant to take advantage of it, since it would involve competing with their existing (and more profitable) technological approach."

The Entrenched Player's Dilemma
The latter point leads to The Entrenched Player's Dilemma, which is featured in Wikinomics, as the authors attempted to find out why corporations resisted crowd sourcing and mass collaboration.

"The problem with mature companies is that the very commercial success of their products increases their dependency on them. Making radical changes in the product's capabilities, underlying architecture or associated business models could cannibalize sales or lead to costly realignments of strategy and business infrastructure. It's as though popular and widely adopted products become ossified, hardened by the inherent incentives to build on their own success. The result is that entrenched industry players are generally not motivated to develop or deploy disruptive technologies."

I think we can even take this phenomenon down to the indivual level, rather than look at abstract entities such as companies: "People who have built up power and status in a particular specialty are scared of change that calls the knowledge and experience that got them there irrelevant," says Carrie Lisa Brown in this brilliant post (I'm not so interested in the Jarvis/Rosenbaum dustup described in the intro, but the last five paragraphs give a great description of some of the reasons change in the newsroom is difficult and often met with resistance)

There: I think this is a pretty useful prism for decribing why change is so difficult for many media companies. It's also interesting because describing the obstacles is often the first step towards finding solutions. Most notably, I can think of one media company that has been successful perhaps exactly because, at least to some extent, it has managed to break away from The Entrenched Player's Dillemma - I'll return to that in a separate post later.

Media & The Credit Crunch; Media Industry Outlook 2009

Catching up with some of the many unread posts in my newsreader yesterday (busy days), I found this interesting Bloomberg-interview with ContentNext founder and publisher Rafat Ali, well worth listening to.

Paidcontent sums it up neatly as as Ali "giving a frank forecast of the climate for media and the economy in the next few months. It boils down to: layoffs, consolidation and pay-back time for social media.":

Using the social web, Oslo 25/10 - live notes

Happy to see so many find there way to #socialweb so early a Saturday morning (see previous post for twitter feed). Note to self: don't put yourself up for the opening talk for seminar you're also organisning next to working full-time as a journalist.

As expected, kicked off 10:30, took some extra time to fix web connection etc, as always, but everything seems to be working and had planned for 30min of fumbling at the start so we're on schedule. Must be my most rambling talk ever, but will sum up neatly, and add lots of links, here later.

Using Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 tools for investigative and in-depth research

Colin Meek: Web 2.0 tools fantastic tools for journalists to monitor their beat, especially Not like Facebook where you can only network with people who'll accept you as friends, with delicious you can follow all people whose bookmarks you like. You effectively create a network of experts who monitor your beat for you (see Colin's slides on this here)

Furl: archives copies of entire page, delicious saves links, furl saves entire pages. 

Track breaking news with Twitter. People often twitter about events as they happen or straight after, remarkable tool. California wildfires a breakthrough for twitter coverage of events. Covered this here

# developed as way of tracking an issue on twitter. Twine and Twemes add additional functionality.

As a reporter you should really use all of these tools to help monitor your beat

Colin: I'm getting fed up with all this fuss about information overload. What's the fuss? Yes, there's information overload, deal with it. If you feel overwhelmed you're not using RSS - and if using RSS you haven't set your filters properly.

Search social networks

Use advanced Google operaters to refine your Google searches. Use Google to search socialnetworks such as Beebo: site:Bebo inurl:memberid inurl:Bebo (see Colin's slides on this here)

When using advanced operators you have to think differently, have to think like the documents you are trying to find, do what some call forensic surfing. Big privacy issues connected to all the info you can find using these search techniques, but we can do it because we are professional journalists, can use this information responsibly - but big concerns related to this.

The Semantic Web

"Social media sites are like data silos" said John Breslin  when Colin interviewed him for . Semantic web about linking up different clouds of information, has profound implications for journalists. Practical consequences of semantic web: can search Twitter, Facebook, Technorati, Bebo etc simultaneously. Will be like a snowball, once people get used to this, will come to expect it and think what's the use of say twitter if it doesn't allow you to do this.

Twine makes searching much easier, just released from beta

(Note to self: this is why I'm uncomfortable with the new Typepad composer, have to set it up differently. Of course I should have started typing in Html mode, not Rich text as I did without thinking. Now its adding all sorts of errant formatting, like addional spaces, I have to go over and fix afterwards.)

Semantic Radar is a free Firefox plugin to alert you when you come across a website where the metadata underpinning the semantic web exists. Headup another application that layers useful information on top of the page you're using.

Indice and SWSE search engines worth knowing about, but need to be semantic web expert to use them really efficiently. Don't know of anyone using this for search yet, but think it will come. Open Calais another interesting application, a smart way to tag (or keyword) your archive in a way that makes sense to the web (developed by Reuters). Search Monkey is Yahoo's foray into the semantic web. These kind of sites and the technology underpinning it is something we'll see more and more of, but the privacy issues connected to it are huge. Do people know that some of their information may end up on the semantic web, say if they choose the wrong privacy function on Facebook? Journalists need to keep talking about the implications of this (See Colin's slides on the semantic web and journalists here)

Anders Brenna to Colin: isn't one of the biggest problems that media is so far behind on everything that's happening, so behind the curve? Colin agrees completely, says: What sets journalists apart from citizen journalists and bloggers is a certain skillset: like investigative skills, training in ethics etc, that's what sets journos apart. I believe this is what can save the newspaper industry and something the industry should invest more in.

See also Ingeborg's comprehensive bilingual notes from the first half of the seminar here.

Okay, that's the first half covered in brief. My brief notes from the second half, in Norwegian, are here. 

How web 2.0 creates new opportunities for journalists

I came across two posts today that brilliantly spell out how web 2.0 is a blessing for journalists


Of course, those of you who've spent a lot of time using social media might be familiar with a lot of this, but the posts summarise the headlines of just how useful these tools are expertly. And I do wish these things were more widespread knowledge: it would make our industry more interesting.


First, Alfred Hermida lets Scott Elliot explain how he benefits from blogging about his beat.


Scott is a former education reporter with the Dayton Daily News who's just taken on a new role as columnist for the same paper.  He started a blog about his beat, Get on the Bus, three years ago:


"Here's what I quickly learned - readers are interested in knowing more about education, particularly the behind the scenes information or data that is not widely reported. My blog quickly and consistently became the newspaper's best read blog, even as bunches of new ones launched, often doubling the page views of the next best read blog..." (full post here).


Next, I stumbled across Alison Gow's post comparing the life cycle of a news story web 1.0 with web 2.0 (via one of Jemima Kiss' tweets). Do check out the full post. Here's Alison's conclusion:


"I had no idea when I started doing this how thin the 'old' opportunities for investigative stories would look compared to the tools at our disposal now; it's quite stark really. It drives home just how important mastering these tools is for journalists as our industry continues to develop and change."


NB: due to formatting problems on my blog when I first posted this, I had to delete my original post and retype the text in a new post (changed the text a wee bit in that process).

Let's hear it for the IKEA community

In this day and age it sometimes feel like every website, product, gadget is being communitised, that community is the marketing bandwagon of our time.

Still, some attempts at making "community" part of ones marketing strategy are arguably braver than others.

One of the very bravest I've heard of in recent times must be the new Ikea community Nils Larsson, the company's Swedish marketing boss, is promising will be a new feature at apparently it will be a place where users can upload their own home decoration videos and share their decoration tips.

Interior design and home makeover are of course quite hot topics these days, certainly on TV, but Ikea does have a certain ... reputation.

In my experience, shopping there can be a bit of a nightmare, as I believe many people who've gone shopping at Ikea Brent Cross in a car can testify to (admittedly it's four years since my last ordeal there, but most other Ikea stores I've been to have been a logistical challenge to shop at). Besides, Ikea furniture can be a bit of a nuisance to put together.


Now, don't get me wrong, I think Ikea is a brilliant idea, and it has saved me on many occasions, but my natural urge would be to do videos of how insanely difficult simple things can be when shopping at Ikea (like the bed it took us four Ikea-trips, with hours of queuing each time, to get all the right parts to). It could make for great comedy I guess, but not sure about how good marketing it would be.  


In this video Larsson talks to Dagens Media about the community, and Ikea Sweden's new marketing campaign on plurality (in Swedish), and shares his ideas on how such a community enables users (his word) to show who they are and what interests they have.


(Hmm... that almost sounds like it has the potential to turn into a dating site - as in 'hi, I'm Jasper and have thing for black leather', or 'I'm Ethel and I really like the solid look', could be fun watching even for those who just think Swedish is a fun language - but perhaps I'm being too cynical).

Your grandchild: "Did people just sit there?"

I have to confess that I've shamelessly ripped the headline of this post, as well as the first quote, from a post on NRKbeta, but it all serves a larger purpose.

You see, NRKbeta brought my attention to this thought-provoking quote from an article by Douglas Adams, which, when I read it, was a bit like a missing piece of a jigsaw puzzle falling into place, as I've been thinking quite a bit about how people use social media, and how the way they use it defines their understanding of it recently. I'll return to those thoughts later, but, first, here's Adams:

During [the twentieth] century we have for the first time been dominated by non-interactive forms of entertainment: cinema, radio, recorded music and television. Before they came along all entertainment was interactive: theatre, music, sport—the performers and audience were there together, and even a respectfully silent audience exerted a powerful shaping presence on the unfolding of whatever drama they were there for. We didn’t need a special word for interactivity in the same way that we don’t (yet) need a special word for people with only one head.

I expect that history will show “normal” mainstream twentieth century media to be the aberration in all this. ‘Please, miss, you mean they could only just sit there and watch? They couldn’t do anything? Didn’t everybody feel terribly isolated or alienated or ignored?’

“Yes, child, that’s why they all went mad. Before the Restoration.”

“What was the Restoration again, please, miss?”

“The end of the twentieth century, child. When we started to get interactivity back.”


Which brings me to a quote from The Cluetrain Manifesto (2000), to my mind, the book that best describes how the (social) web has changed business as usual.

In fact, if we are to imagine how the world may look like a decade or two into the future, I think this might be the book professors in intellectual history will use to introduce their students to how the interactive web, or social media, changed people's mentality, the way they communicated, what they came to expect of the world etc. (that is, if the age of mass media isn't treated as just an insignificant aberration as Adams suggests):

In many ways, the Internet more resembles an ancient bazaar than it fits the business models companies try to impose on it. Millions have flocked to the net in an incredibly short time, not because it was user-friendly – it wasn't – but because it seemed to offer some intangible quality long missing in action from modern life.

In sharp contrast to the alienation wrought by homogenised broadcast media, sterilised mass 'culture', and the enforced anonymity of bureaucratic organisations, the Internet connected people to each other and provided a space in which the human voice would be rapidly rediscovered.

Though corporations insists on seeing it as one, the new marketplace is not necessarily a market at all. To its inhabitants, it is primarily a place in which all participants are audience to each other. The entertainment is not packaged; it is intrinsic.

Unlike the lockstep conformity imposed by television, advertising and corporate propaganda, the Net has given new legitimacy – and free rein – to play. Many of those drawn into this world find themselves exploring a freedom never before imagined: to indulge their curiosity, to debate, to disagree, to laugh at themselves, to compare visions, to learn, to create new art, new knowledge...

...or simply to communicate, as Global Voices co-founder Ethan Zuckerman's 'The history of digital community, in less than 7 minutes' (via Sambrook) so aptly shows we've been doing 'literally from the moment people started connecting computers to one another':