Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Video production for online continues to grow

The bear rouses, from his slumber... yes, it's been a while between posts, but hopefully you can excuse me!

I've read a number of articles this week that have driven me to post again, and surprise, surprise, its another post about online video production (I just can't get enough of it!).

Here's whats got me all excited...

MangnaGlobal, media strategists and forecasters have predicted that online advertising will overtake newspapers as the second largest advertising medium by 2013.

ComScore, have released the latest online video consumption figures with stating, "In Australia, 10.3 million unique viewers consumed online video content during the month, averaging nearly 8 hours per viewer."

And finally, here's another example of big brands taking to the Internet with custom videos designed for the online world... Kevin Bacon for logitech and Google.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

TED on why web video powers innovation

Hot on the heals of my last post, here's another great example of web video powering innovation, from one of the Kings of web video innovation - TED.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Online video innovation from catwalks to tennis courts

Credit: Jim O'Connell
Two great articles in the New York Times have again highlighted how much online video is driving innovation and, "has democratized the access to excellence."

First up is New York Fashion Week and the Times' analysis of how fashion labels are now skipping the middle-man and using the web to take the catwalk to the customer. Livestreaming fashion shows straight into retail stores or websites, many brands from Burberry to Marc Jacobs have embraced online video. The integration of live event and retail mediums means that these labels are now ready to make sales as soon as the new design hits the catwalk.

Second, the Times hits the tennis courts and shows how everyone from the juniors to the agents are using online video to study the professionals and find out what it takes to be the next Nadal. Juniors are using online video to study the techniques of the professionals, searching for videos of today's pros when they were juniors. Talent agents are also scouting the web, taking a short-cut to the courts by scanning highlight reels of juniors from across the globe.

As I've said plenty of times before, we're a visual society, we obtain so much meaning from what we see and I think these two examples further prove how online video is driving innovation across the board.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Online communities for accountants

So, the time has come that I finally get my name into the press (the printed press I mean...). Here is the article from CPA Australia's InTheBlack magazine (circulation 124,858).

Read it online here.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

3D Projection Mapping

Every couple of weeks a new example of 3D projection mapping is filmed and amazes me. Known also as architectural projection mapping and event outdoor amongst other terms, it is developed by mapping a real-world object with 3D animation software and creating artistic projections within and around the constraints of the real-world object.

It's an awesome example of augmented reality and from the examples below you can see it can be used for advertising, story-telling, live music, outdoor events, gallery spaces... so many incarnations of this fascinating cross-over art.


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Can we have our 21st Century public infrastructure now?

Flagman standing behind his train to flag oncoming trains at a small siding between Laguna, N[ew] Mex[ico] and Gallup, N[ew] Mex[ico]. Sant Fe R.R., Santa Fe trip (LOC)

How refreshing to read an article about the NBN that links the roll-out of this infrastructure to broader economic and social policies.

Throughout the whole federal election campaign punters were subjected to red-herring analysis showing us how much it is going to cost us to get broadband in our home - $150 p/m!! $5000 per household!! We'll be broke!! All misleading, all missing the point.

When rail lines are built what unit of measure do we use? Is it cost per user? But what about the vital role rail plays in moving freight? Perish the thought the miners would be without rail line access to ports (well, that's a whole other infrastructure argument). When a (public) road is built do we measure it by how many mums take their kids to school on it? No, because these roads are also used by public transport, businesses, workers, and so many more people.

Fibre-optic broadband connectivity is the 21st Century's vital public infrastructure, it is not just another Foxtel or Bigpond. With even a casual look past this scaremongering it is pleasing to read commentary that actually identifies the following iniatives:
  • The linking of all schools to the network 
  • The Smart Grid/Smart City project in Newcastle 
  • Telstra and NEC have signed agreements with medical organisations to deliver e-health services to 17,000 GPs and 28,000 retirement villages (and through them to patients via broadband-based monitoring services) 
  • Medicare services will be provided to regional Australia, including video-based medical consultations.
Finally an article that shows that the economic benefits of the NBN will be spread throughout all industries, and more importantly throughout an individual's life (not just their home internet connection).

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Contact you, but who?

E-Mail MeOK, I'm writing this post as if I'm writing about the last living dodo huddled in my hutch on a blustery deserted island, but I still feel it is important to write about. This near extinct creature that I write about today is your website's Contact Us email address.

Over the years I have been amused by some, delighted by the simplicity of others and shocked by the sheer randomness or internal focus of a few.

It might seem like a small point, but I think in the eyes of someone seeking the right information, the email address can say a lot.

If there is a specific purpose to the email address its great to somehow capture that purpose within the address, maybe something like Tumblr's support@ email address - it gets to the point. If there may not be a specific reason that you're contacting the business then something nice could be called for, I really like the welcoming nature of UBank's hello@ email address. Or if you'd like to reflect the nature of your business, maybe do something like creative agency, Breakfast, their email address is tiffany@ (get it?).

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I'm optimistic about AR

credit: jntolva
Long time between drinks, I know, but I've now forced myself to get on with blogging about something that has been nagging at me for weeks.

Augmented Reality. There I said it. I've said it before too, and I'll say it again and again.

I want to keep saying it because I was very disheartened when watching this video by recruiter La Volta in which many of Australia's leading digital figures deride augmented reality (AR) as a gimmick or fad. Summed up, I think this is un-imaginative.

Sure, if you're trying to create a snappy campaign for the latest Hollywood blockbuster the ideas to hook an AR app into the campaign will run dry pretty quickly. But if that's all you're thinking about when discussing AR, then you've kinda missed the point altogether.

AR provides a very real tangible layer between the physical world, its objects and locations, and the meta-world with its information and vast possibilities. Taking these meta topics, let's look at AR again.

Objects, information and vast possibilities
Getting further information regarding real-world objects is now within the capacity of AR. An example being the Metaio museum app, without needed to create those odd black and white objects, AR apps can now recognise detailed images such as paintings and overlay or direct you to web-links with info on that painting. The uniqueness of objects in the real-world shows us that AR might even be an alternative to QR codes in non-logistical industries.

On the vast possibilities end of the spectrum you have bright sparks thinking up uses such as the US Postal Service virtual box simulator. For real-world objects it just goes to show that AR can have tangible and practical applications, you just need a real-world problem to solve and a bit of creativity.

Location, information and vast possibilities
Just like objects, places have info we need to know about too, so it comes as no surprise that two of Australia's largest banks have released AR property-finder apps. Both Commonwealth Bank and St.George Bank now let you see real-estate information in situ.

More practicable, are examples such as the one pointed to me by Pete Williams by Open Australia Foundation. Called, this AR layer takes local council planning permits (high-rise apartments, anyone?) and overlays the information in the real-world. Used in conjunction with one of the property-finder apps, I can see a really good case forming for AR in what is one of our biggest lifetime purchasing decisions.

Going down the vast possibilities path but sticking with the home, GE has created an AR app that let's you form the mood of your home using lighting but without needing to spend a cent on light-bulbs until you've got it just right. Using the GE Moodcam you can take a photo of a home location and modify the lighting quality until it's right, then the app will point you in the right direction as to which lights will get you in that mood.


Australian's are so good at creative problem-solving so I am sure that any cynicism towards AR will pass as soon as the right problem is found - much like the examples above. I'm really optimistic about AR, I hope that the Australian digital industry will jump on board too.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Things that get me down about Australia

Each day when I flick through the newspaper (those old things!) I like to form my own narrative around what the day's stories mean in the wider picture.

In today's Australian two stories, put together, really show to me what is wrong about Australia's current economic policies.

Picture one: Hoards of coal carriers parked outside Australian ports waiting to run-off with their fill of Australian coal. I have no doubt that the coal they just ran-off with was sold to them by a partly, if not wholly, foreign owned miner.

Picture two: Avaya closes their Australian R&D lab in a global consolidation. And dedicated local researchers get retrenched and probably move overseas.

This is what gets me down - Australia sitting back comfortably reaping the rewards from rock-kickers and hole-diggers while important industries like innovation and manufacturing gets shipped overseas.

When will the Australian government really act to retain and encourage the building of an innovative and highly-transformed economy?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Start-ups and reassurance for the client

As a client that uses a number of new technology businesses that could be defined in the 'start-up' vein one of the things that I constantly look for is reassurance that there is sustainable substance behind the beauty parade and that the business will keep pace with industry and client demands.

There are a number of variables that I look for all of which I portion a weighting to, this then helps me form an overall level of reassurance for the business. Here are a couple of the variables that I look at:

Industry speed: In technology there is a big risk that businesses won't keep up with changes in technology standards or client demands, the faster the industry moves the bigger the risk. For this variable you have to know the industry back-to-front or, like me, read as much research and keep up-to-date with industry blogs.
Competition: Especially in tech companies the barriers to entry are very low so it is important to view the landscape for competitors and get an understanding for the sustainable competitive advantages of each. Forrester and Gartner research really helps for this variable.
Funding: This is a tricky one as you'd think News Corp buying MySpace for $580m would give you reassurance that it's a safe bet, alas... But still, looking at the funding sources for start-ups does give some level of reassurance. Look at the funding sources to see if they align with your business, eg Microsoft or Cisco capital investments in start-ups might align with your long-term infrastructure aims
Customers: Another tricky one, especially in tech start-ups. Look at how MoveNetworks lost Fox as a customer and saw the decline of a $70m business. Still, portioning some of your reassurance to existing customer relationships is worthwhile.

Now I know whole libraries have been written on this subject and from a Venture Capital or M&A perspective my analysis would probably not even get me a janitor's job in their marble-lined offices, but from a customer point of view it is these basic steps that has helped me sort out the hundreds of vendors out there.

What other variables should I add to my vendor scorecard? It'd be great to beef up my scorecard with more analysis.

Image credit: archangel12

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Non-linear video consumption and other fancy terms

A big hat-tip to the folks at Viocorp for pointing me towards a blog post on Glee's new Superfan video player.

The player has been designed for watching re-runs and has some pretty swanky functionality, none-more-so than the ability to drill down into non-linear content. For content producers and marketers alike I can see the salivating already occuring.

From a content producers point of view imagine that a bit-player in the show walks into shot and the fan isn't quite sure of the back-ground of the character - one click and it brings up a bio with background story of how they fit into the show.

From a marketers point of view, those product placements really can work for the money. Context sensitive links will now allow you to click on those sweet kicks the star is wearing and find out where they're on sale.

The other social functions of the player including Facebook and Twitter connections I have already written about previously and more and more these are a given with video consumption.

Truly social and interactive video consumption is coming very very quickly.

Image credit: Glee on Fox

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Chinese youth culture today

One area of marketing that I would love to study further is youth culture throughout Asia. Below is a great presentation on Chinese youth culture. It shows the evolution of Chinese youth to an individual yet inclusive culture, where millions of youth are facing similar societal pressures. It shows that when the youth do not find the cultural values they seek within China they will turn to international cultural consumption from Taiwan to Thailand and Japan. This is in-turn feeding new cultural industries within China melding external influences with local Chinese culture.

There are too many insights to summarise here so I suggest you view the presentation to get all the great information!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Continued socialisation of TV

NewTeeVee has reported that a new service called Tunerfish via Comcast is emerging and it's being billed as Foursquare for video.

While I'm a little ambivalent towards Foursquare (mostly because of its hijacking of Twitter feeds) I do really like that Foursquare is using gaming mechanisms to build community and this is what Tunerfish will supposedly do for TV.

To understand the potential for a service such as Tunersfish take the example of the Lost finale and its corresponding Twitter-stream (graphic on right from NewTeeVee). For Australia the TV show Q and A has ridden the Twitter-stream well incorporating the #qanda hash-tag into its show each week.

You can see that by combining Twitter and TV the once solitary act of watching TV by yourself is becoming a much more social affair. Tunerfish aims to tap this social wave and amplify its effect by game-ifying (I'm gonna TM that!) it.

Like browsing my Twitter feed to find out what people I follow are watching, Tunerfish will aim to be a social discovery mechanism where you find out what your social circle is watching. Now, for myself, I don't have Pay TV so I only have a limited number of channels to watch, but even still the idea of finding our what shows are popular and then watching them by totally legal and broadcaster friendly means is a good one.

Tunerfish is in private Alpha at the moment so I don't know how it really works but the idea of adding game functions to a solitary/social activity is a catchy one.

From a personal perspective the only question I would have is that will it be service agnostic? Because it is being developed by Comcast will someone need to watch TV via a Comcast service or will it be a generic web app for all to use?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

User ratings and its influence on consumption

Along with all the cosmetic changes going on at YouTube at the moment one of probably the most symbolic changes has been the removal of 5-star ratings and addition of like/dislike buttons.

The change is for the most part unsurprising, the majority of YouTube clips probably only require a like or dislike, critical reviews of videos are not generally a done thing on YouTube.

The symbolism of the change shows that YouTube's two major stakeholders - publishers and consumers - are not interested in monitoring ratings or worrying whether a video is 3 or 5 stars. This acceptance of a lack of critical consideration of videos on YouTube is essentially an admission by YouTube that it is a 'fast moving video portal' - users consume high volumes of short videos with little consideration in-between.

If this is the way that YouTube is going then good for them on selecting such a model. The only problem I have with this is that it totally dis-regards its whole YouTubeEDU educational portal. YouTubeEDU was created largely in response to the likes of iTunesU and Academic Earth, video portals for long-play academic presentations.

Academic Earth for its part has taken a very definite line in its user ratings that sets it way apart from the new YouTubeEDU. Academic Earth users get to rate the presenters as if they were students, with typical A to F academic gradings.

iTunesU is a little more varied in its approach and from what I can understand individual users can rate academic presentations via their 5-star iTunes rating system they use for all iTunes media.

As can be seen though, the user ratings system you choose for your media can inform the consumer how they are to consume and consider their consumption. Give a consumer a throw-away ratings system and they'll follow suit.

I may be making a mountain out of a mole hill but I really think that the YouTube user rating changes has signified the wane in its experiment in long play educational videos. It will be interesting to see how it continues.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Taking science to the people

I was never a big science student in school - my young brain just didn't compute maths, physics and chemistry. So for me, and this is in the late 90s - not long ago - that's pretty much where science ended (apart from stats which through marketing I learnt to lurrrv).

Back in the day that's all that Science had to offer, there was science hard-core or science fiction and that was it. Science fiction was fun but as the plot was based more around impending alien death, the science of the story never really came through

But what I'm seeing more and more today is that science is learning how to open the door to the lay-people like me and expose a whole new generation to the wonders of science without the need for PhDs or mammoth left brains.

For me two examples really stand out. The first example is the socialising of science for the masses. NASA has been an excellent exemplar of this through its pro-active use of social media and willingness to share discoveries. Probably the most famous example of this is the Mars Phoenix Twitter account where in plain English first-person prose the Rover narrates its discoveries to all who want to listen. To see the extent to which NASA shares its discoveries see their Connect page. Another example of taking real science to the masses in much the same way is the CERN laboratory and the implementation of the Large Hadron Collider, you can follow the world's biggest laser beam on Twitter.

Secondly, social creations of science theory have really stepped up in the past couple years though with concerted efforts to build engaging and accessible ARGs and serious games.

Alternate Reality Games (ARGs) with a science bent have brought the real world of science into an intriguing new realm that is part science fiction but with science squarely the focus of the narrative. Examples of recent implementations include World Without Oil  and an ARG currently running in Australia called Bluebird. Bluebird is an ARG developed to further the understanding of Climate Change and the role that Geo-engineering might play in combating it. It's a great concept and by bringing real-world science and debates into a fictional narrative it exploits all modern-day engagement techniques for the youth demographic but firmly puts science as the main character in the story.

Lying somewhere left of ARGs comes serious games. With less narrative and more emphasis on game-play, serious games are attempting to both teach participants information while in a role reversal of sorts, many serious games also try and learn from the experiences of the participants too.

Two examples of serious games that came to light today, that both strangely have similar plots, are Participatory Chinatown - a 3D immersive game aimed to improve the master planning process for Boston's Chinatown precinct; and CityOne - a Sim-city like game developed by IBM to teach people about real world city planning problems (it's fixing leaky pipes time - no more aiming for the ritzy hotel on your block!).

In summary, science doesn't need to start and end in the text-book and many organisations are learning that some of the biggest scientific wins can be made simply by getting lay-people to understand concepts and actively participate in their solutions.

While I can leave many of today's complex theorems to the real boffins, I'm happy that I can now participate in science on a social level.

Image credit: nasa1fan/MSFC

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Myth versus reality

I picked up this book, World's End, today from one of my favourite haunts, Basement Books. It's a diary/recollection of Captain J.R Grey living in Fiji and Tahiti during the 1930s and 40s.

I've always been a big fan of Tiki pop culture and the idea of escaping suburbanism for exotic adventures, but of course that is exactly what Tiki is - a fantasy, an elaborate story.

This book, I hope, will shed some light on what it really was like to live in the South Pacific during such transformative years. I go into it holding in one hand the fantasy of Tiki and in the other the reality of European colonialism.

Should be a great read!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Integrating your loyalty program into your customers communities

So you're a retailer and you have a customer loyalty program, nothing new there, everyone does. But until now this has been a mostly one-to-one relationship. Maybe you're a forward thinking company like Sears and have built a community for your loyalty program or like Best Buy and built a youth community for a specific segment of your customers. Breaking the one-to-one mould and exposing loyal customers to each other, great.

This means big bikkies to create a community platform from scratch and one of the down sides of this is that your brand is essentially insulated within its own community boundaries. For smaller retailers there is an alternative that can generate exposure as well as community.

I originally got on this train of thought when I read a blog post by platform vendor Lithium and their integration of Foursquare into their platform. This was more of a comment on bringing outside community mentions into an enterprise community, but the concept of blending inside and outside communities is essentially the same.

And now I have come across Tasti D-lite, a US ice-cream chain that has really taken social media integration to the next level for small business.

You can read more about how Tasti D-lite have brought social media into their loyalty program here, but essentially what they have done is leverage the power of their customer's existing free and public networks to promote their own loyalty program.

For USD$10,000 Tasti D-lite integrated Twitter and Foursquare into their loyalty program and POS system so that when a transaction is made using the loyalty program card a Tweet is sent with how many points were awarded and a check-in is made in Foursquare for the customer.

Setting aside the mammoth amount of small business activity in Facebook, this example shows how for relatively small amounts of money small businesses can leverage the power of their customer's existing networks to build brand and loyalty together.

Monday, March 15, 2010

modern living

A house nearby recently had a syntheic lawn installed in the front yard (not the one pictured) and it made me contemplate how far, or how little, we have come in adapting to the realities of today's climate.

It would seem that in society today we are happy fantasize about green lawns through synthetic dreams in the vain hope saving precious drops of water.

One might be tempted to link this to notion that says Australians are not yet willing to drink potable recycled sewage.

How vain we must be that we would rather live in a synthetic dream than adapt to the realities of today.

In Victoria today we are building a de-salination plant to supplement our thirst for water which, if recycled, we would have in abundance. Houses across the nation are installing water tanks to 'do their part' in capturing rainfall for use on the garden.

It makes me wonder, what do Victorians treasure more, their vanity or their gardens? It would seem that if the we reject recycled water and prefer synthetic gardens then our vanity wins out.

(image credit: Aquafornia)

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Online video: Amateur supply fuels professional demand

It might just be because I'm the guy within my company that is most frequently using video services, but I'm predicting that over the next five years the need for professional video services will grow sharply.

Here's how I have arrived at this prediction . . .

Without a doubt increasing bandwidth capacity is seeing the phenomenal growth of videos online which in-turn is fuelling more demand for video delivery of content, from news and sports to entertainment and education.

From my own personal experience, the demand for access to conference sessions via streaming video increases with each event. With conference producers like TED leading the way, all other conference producers are recognising that the potential numbers of conference attendees don't end when the bums on the seats are filled - there's a world of other potential virtual-attendees out there.

Online video interviews included in advertising and marketing industry blog, Mumbrella, shows another example where the need for video services is expanding. The delivery of content online is seeing new and old media sources (even Fairfax is included here!) use a mix of written and video news, whichever is most appropriate for the story.

Now, some might say that the You Tube phenomenon means that this increased demand for online video content is being supplied by amateur producers and that traditional video services will wither against the rise of the professional amateur. I think this argument is short-sighted. Yes, amateur video is a factor in the growth of online video, but at the same time as supplying the sector with content it is also creating a larger demand than it can supply.

Case in point are the events that I work on. Up until now we have filmed, in-house, a small number of sessions to be delivered live and on-demand to expand the reach of our conferences. But this type of amateur filming is un-scalable. I can only ever film in the one place at a time, and editing in-house takes time. To meet the increased demand that the initial videos created I need to be able to scale the filming of events to a national and international level. This is where the initial amateur supply has created an out-sized demand for educational video and has in-turn fuelled demand for professional video services that are scalable.

And this is what I predict will be the next five years for online video and its associated services: a small supply of amateur producers creating a larger demand for scalable professional producers.

(image credit: tjmiller)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The good company

What makes a company good? And by 'good' I mean good for everyone, the world, the whole box and dice. Talk to some economists and they would say the only responsibility a company has is to its shareholders. Make sure the shareholders get as much cash as possible and let the individual make the decision. Talk to others and they'll say a company can be good only by being a good corporate citizen. This is more ill-defined, but generally one would say this means ethical business practices, giving back to the community, lowering carbon emissions and the like.

I've been put on this train of thought because of an article written by Umair Haque on the HBR blog. The Great to Good Manifesto largely explains this phenomena and picks out Pepsi's latest 'Refresh' campaign as a key example.

While the scale of this good company principle varies immensely, especially from industry to industry, it would seem that at least in the FMCG and bulky-goods industries, the more holistic style of good company is rising.

Examples of how these FMCG companies are becoming good companies seem to be coming through more and more frequently. Using the criteria of ethical business, giving back to the community and lowering carbon emmissions we see that industries are increasingly seeing the commercial benefits of being good companies.

From an ethical point of view green is the new black and companies far and wide are both promoting their green credentials and giving customers the option of greening their products (a la carbon offsets for flights and car-hire). In the FMCG market one of the highest profile decisions has been Cadbury's decision to become Fairtrade certified in its Dairy Milk branded chocolate. You can read more about their efforts on the Cadbury Fairtrade blog.

By far the hottest good thing companies are doing at the moment is giving back to the community. The idea of integrating good corporate citizenry and marketing promotions is really taking off. You can debate whether this is opportunistic or not until the cows come home, but there is a clear trend towards customer purchasing decisions being made based on a company's propensity to 'give-back'.

FMCG organisations are going on the 'give-back' offensive across the board and it has started in the tween and teen market. Social networking is increasingly giving tweens the power to decide en-mass and their role in purchasing decisions cannot be under-stated.

Examples of the tween community offensive include the Pepsi Refresh campaign, Best-Buy's @15 community, and closer to home Starburst has teamed up with Camp Quality.

A third good company criteria is the company's carbon reduction actions. This strategy, partly driven by legislation and probably more focused at the adult community, is more prominent in essential FMCG goods and shareholder information. Woolworths in Australia has committed to reducing CO2 emissions through improvements in store operations (example: refrigeration) and logistics. In the UK Tesco now identifies the carbon footprint of its milk products on the product label.

What is a good company? It would seem the days of measuring how good a company is solely by shareholder return are numbered. If the promotions by Pepsi, Best-Buy and Starburst are anything to go by the holistic good company is on the rise.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Convergence culture

I've started reading Henry Jenkins' Convergence Culture and even though I'm still just on the introduction the story that he's telling really resonates with me. The convergence, as I understand it, is that a story is its own self and is not beholden to a delivery medium. The story will reveal itself to you in the most appropriate manner to have the biggest impact. Thus, the delivery medium/s of a story converge to become a single ecosystem in which the story unravels. Today, more than ever, this convergence is available to the story-teller.

I'll get back to you with more stuff that I learn from Mr.Jenkins, but for now I'll leave you with some fun convergence you might be familiar with...

... Amazon reviews!

I love comedy, I love it even more when it is set in a context that you just wouldn't expect it. The lampooning of products on Amazon is some of the funniest stuff I've read on teh Interwebs. And what's more, Amazon, with its 'helpfulness' ratings for reviews, is complicit in helping these reviews be just as popular, if not more so, than the products themselves.

Crap Amazon products and comedy, there's convergence for you!

Here's some of the classics, please comment with more if there are!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

What's the use of social ratings?

Welcome to 2010! Bad Religion may have been a couple of billion people off predicting 10bn in 2010, but we'll let that one slide.

One of the other things that is upon us in 2010 is the long tail of social media ratings and measurements. My previous post started a list of ways online communities and websites are now managing a measuring reputation and community involvement. Now what I am finding is that, like many ideas on the Web, the long tail of obscure and sometimes half-baked ideas is stretching the usefulness and relevance of community input variables.

I mention this because today Jeremiah Owyang pointed towards the KickApps mood widget (right) on the NBC New York news site. You can now rate how an article on the news site makes you feel. Based on a pre-defined set of moods you can help define how the city of New York is 'feeling'.

This made me recall the Yelp review widget where you can say whether a restaurant review was useful, funny or cool (below). These 'mood' or semantic ratings seem a little odd to me. There are two reasons for this feeling. One, as a reader or community member I do not see value being created by defining articles by semantic terms unrelated for the most part to the actual article. In Yelp's case, would I choose to go to a restaurant because a reviewer the reviewed the restaurant is considered funny? Or will I post more restaurant reviews because people think my reviews are cool? I dunno.

As for the moods on NBC New York, do I get value out of the fact that readers are thrilled about an article on Marijuana and bored about an article on politics? As a rating it does not make one thing more valuable than another because the variables are nominal. Possibly I might want to search for 'thrilling' articles, I probably wouldn't search 'boring' articles.

Which brings me to point two, browse-ability and search-ability. Presumably these ratings/variables have been created to be useful for website/community users. But if you cannot filter any of the variables then how can they be useful? A good rating or social measure in a community should both provide value to the content creator (people think this is great!) and value to the rater (that article is great! I'll rate it 5 stars so more people can see it). Update: Thanks to reader JZ, they've pointed me to the NBC Mood Board where you can filter based on mood.

Both Yelp and NBC/KickApps have gone half way with their semantic ratings, and there is nothing wrong choosing nominal variables to try to define a mood or a feeling, but thats only the half of it. The other half is the usefulness half, ask, "how will other people find this useful?"

Ratings, reputations, rewards, and now feelings, are all ways communities are trying to promote the value community members receive from the community, but for these things to catch on the members need positive and tangible results from their interactions that can further deepen their connection with the community.