Elsewhere

Karen McGuane, Don’t Let Paper Paradigms Drive Your Digital Strategy

It’s not just paper paradigms we need to avoid, it’s the paradigms of the pre-social web. Here’s a talk I gave in 2010, anticipating liquid media’s future dominance: Social Media Blur | Blogs, Networks, Streams. A quote:

Now, we are headed into the fourth phase of social media, where the growing market impacts of streams will begin to impinge on computing in general, so we will see streams become primary design elements of operating systems for computing and mobile devices. As this advance spreads, the premises of the earliest phases of social media can begin to be considered as layers in an architecture. Old school blogs and other publishing models that create static web pages will increasingly be treated as an archive, or as a source for social objects referenced by URL, but where the URL is used to fetch the content and display it in the stream, just as today photos are being resolved in Twitter clients. In the near future, all media types will be resolved in place, in the stream. This will create interesting issues with advertising revenues and other media control issues, but in the long run, ads and other metadata will be pulled along with the context-free slow media into the socially-embedded context of streams.

These are the chunks McGuane is alluding to, and the OS-based streams are finally appearing in iOS 7. It’s coming on.

Twitter is heading in a direction where its 140-character messages are not so much the main attraction but rather the caption to other forms of content.

Interview of CEO Dick Costolo, Los Angeles TimesTwitter is building a media business using other people’s content  (via courtenaybird)

Totally.

Stowe Boyd, Social Media Blur: Blogs, Networks, Streams (May 10 2010)

Now, we are headed into the fourth phase of social media, where the growing market impacts of streams will begin to impinge on computing in general, so we will see streams become primary design elements of operating systems for computing and mobile devices. As this advance spreads, the premises of the earliest phases of social media can begin to be considered as layers in an architecture. Old school blogs and other publishing models that create static web pages will increasingly be treated as an archive, or as a source for social objects referenced by URL, but where the URL is used to fetch the content and display it in the stream, just as today photos are being resolved in Twitter clients. In the near future, all media types will be resolved in place, in the stream. This will create interesting issues with advertising revenues and other media control issues, but in the long run, ads and other metadata will be pulled along with the context-free slow media into the socially-embedded context of streams.

That’s where Twitter is headed.

(via courtenaybird)

Feeling Most Centered In The Fastest Current?

Jenna Wortham discovers that throwing herself into the fastest currents of a liquid web is where she feels most stable and centered. Contrary to conventional wisdom, moving your distractable self into a torrent of distractions may be the background white noise we have more than learned to live with: now, it nurtures us.

When Internet Distractions Make Us More Efficient - Jenna Wortham via NYTimes.com

[…] sometimes I’ve found that losing myself in the Web can be invigorating. Instead of needing to turn off the noise of the Web, I often use it to calm my nerves so I can finish my work.

It seems that instead of fracturing my focus and splintering my attention span, digital distractions have become a part of my work flow, part of the process, along with organizing notes and creating an outline for each article I write. Perhaps it’s possible to master the demands on my attention by figuring out a way to juggle the multitude of apps and services that beg to be looked at, clicked on and answered.

If my brain is learning how to cope with distractions, is it possible that others are, too?

Of course, the consensus among scientists and researchers is that trying to juggle many tasks fractures our thinking and degrades the quality of each action. But understanding the plasticity of the brain, or its ability to adapt and reorganize its pathways, is still in its early stages.

Adam Gazzaley, a neuroscientist at the University of California, San Francisco, who studies the impact of interruption on performance and memory, says it’s possible that our brains are adapting to handle the many inputs of digital stimulation. He and his research team are using interactive video games to observe how the brain adapts to multiple tasks that increase in difficulty over time.

“We can train ourselves to get better,” he said. “We’re studying the plasticity of the brain so we can understand how abilities can improve.”

It may be that the brain — or some brains — can handle certain levels of multitasking and not others, he said. Surfing the Web and talking on the phone may not place the same demand on available cognitive resources as, say, cruising down the highway and sending a text message. It’s an area of research that scientists and psychologists are just starting to explore, he said.

“We’re pushing the brain to master switching between tasks,” he said. “But if abilities can actually improve, the question is, by how much?”

Wortham and Gazzaley don’t explictly mention the work of Watson and Strayer  on supertaskers — people who really suffer no degradation of performance when doing two difficults tasks at the same time. It is not some statistic fluke, either.

But the naysayers will continue prattling about the impossibility of multitasking, that it is dehumanizing, and degrades our thinking, and even makes us less connected to other people. This is ideologically motivated, just like the scare tactics about comic books leading to crime, or video games inspiring violence, or rock-and-roll making teenagers promiscuous.

Most important is the fact that the human mind is plastic: we can learn new skills, and that changes our thinking. Trained musicians, for example, use more parts of the brain than non-musicians when listening to music.

And we know that mastery is different from learning. It takes a long time before our first efforts at playing the piano or studying karate are rewarded.  It might be that Jenna Wortham has been living in the stream long enough that she has developed new cognitive skills that both help her do her work and make her feel more centered, at the same time.

MixMedias - Montreal

I’m doing the closing keynote at MixMedias - Montreal next week: Curation In A Liquid Media World

Curation In A Liquid Media World

The rise of several mutually-reinforcing trends — ubiquitous connectivity, mobile devices, web-oriented operating platforms and apps, and the explosion of the social revolution online — are converging to transform the fundamentals of media. I characterize that as the transition into liquid from solid, and so, we are seeing the emergence of liquid media. This will change everything, and will raise the role of curation to a new, central importance. We are seeing this first in the open web, in blogging and other media forms. But the greatest impacts will come when media companies adapt to these changes, and then, subsequently, as curation within the business becomes as critical as external community management is now.

Twitter’s New Discover Is Working

Twitter releases a new Discovery tab — yes, the tab you never click on because it is basically useless. Is it still useless? Mathew Ingram says its been despammified, but not much else:

Mathew Ingram, Twitter’s big problem: It still needs better filters

In my initial use of the upgraded one (which is being rolled out to all users over the next few weeks), I found things somewhat improved, but only in the sense that the obvious spam was gone.

The twitter Engineering Blog spells out what is supposed to happen:

Behind the scenes, the new Discover tab is powered by Earlybird, Twitter’s real-time search technology. When a user tweets, that Tweet is indexed and becomes searchable in seconds. Every Tweet with a link also goes through some additional processing: we extract and expand any URLs available in Tweets, and then fetch the contents of those URLs via SpiderDuck, our real-time URL fetcher.

To generate the stories that are based on your social graph and that we believe are most interesting to you, we first use Cassovary [Cassowary?], our graph processing library, to identify your connections and rank them according to how strong and important those connections are to you.

Once we have that network, we use Twitter’s flexible search engine to find URLs that have been shared by that circle of people. Those links are converted into stories that we’ll display, alongside other stories, in the Discover tab. Before displaying them, a final ranking pass re-ranks stories according to how many people have tweeted about them and how important those people are in relation to you. All of this happens in near-real time, which means breaking and relevant stories appear in the new Discover tab almost as soon as people start talking about them.

My take?

At this moment nearly all the stories in the Discover tab make sense. I wrote about American Football yesterday (see Should College Football Be Banned? Or Just Ban The Armor?) so the sports story about Eric LeGrand, a Rutgers defensive tackle who was paralyzed by a game injury is reasonable. But the Montreal Canadiens getting a new manager, no.

All the tech stories — Spotify, Caterina Fake, iPad, Pebble Watch, Moz — fit my profile, and so does the story about sardines, because I write a lot about food and the environment at Underpaidgenius.com. Online black markets? A good fit. Even the story about London mayoral elections fits because I wrote about Boris Johnson a few times (like this freakish accident video, showing a truck almost killing the mayor).

I will now officially look at Discover daily, like I do Flipboard, News.me, and others.

I wish there was a way to help it learn faster, though, like voting a la Zite and Prismatic.

For many, email is now the master communication channel. But it’s actually a pretty poor one in this age of mobile computing. Email needs to beaten down into just another channel of flowing information.

- MG Siegler via parislemon

Siegler is wising up to my desire for liquid email, although he doesn’t call it that. What do I mean by liquid email?

Liquid Email, Stowe Boyd

I am using the term liquid media to represent this new soupy, swirling, turbulent cascade of various media types being pulled into the streaming mess of today’s social media. We see images resolved in Twitter clients without leaving the Twitter stream, and Flipboard yanking articles free of their moorings on the NY Times or Wired, and previewing them for us in the article stream. Every sort of media will be pulled into the flow: soon, television will be repurposed as yet-another-media-type and played in the stream like audio is now.

This is all happening because we will naturally gravitate to the place with the fastest tempo, because the best stuff appears there first. Paradoxically, the places with the strongest flow will seem the most calm, because we won’t be jumping from the stream to the browser and back again a hundred times a day: we will stay in the stream: media content will be harvested, and pulled into context for us.

I think this is going to happen next with email.

Email has its own context: the inbox, the email apps, Outlook. The metaphor is now second nature to us: email comes in, from anyone having our email address, maybe is filtered and categorized, but mostly is shown as a chronological list of discrete messages. If we are lucky, our email tool ties together email threads, although that mechanism is semantically flawed, because a single email can deal with many topics. As a result, email is as messy as we are. But more structure won’t help email. The problem is the metaphor, and as a result, how the metaphor channels our thinking about communication.

Using a beta version of Nimble has caused me to think about a fusion of Twitter and email. That product manages to support both email and Twitter, but not in the way that I am envisioning, although the app is inventive and likely to be a good social CRM offering.

Imagine a liquid model of email, based on Twitter being my preferred context for communication:

  1. I receive email in Gmail. 
  2. A new Twitter client (or a new version of Twitter) — let’s call it Liquidate — captures all my incoming emails from Gmail, and drops a shortened link into my stream for each, with the subject line as the tweet, and associating the email address of the sender to their Twitter handle, if known.
  3. The fact that this is an email would be made obvious in the UI, and I could open the text of the mail — and bring it right into context — by clicking on a link.
  4. I could read the email text, and then respond to the sender either by a Twitter message, direct message, or another email, depending on the circumstance, and based on various criteria, like whether the sender has a Twitter account.
  5. If I opt to reply by email, the client would send that into Gmail, and I would always have Gmail as a repository, if I want to search there.

In essence, I would be treating email messages as just a long format tweet, and using Gmail as an appliance to carry that message from my streaming context out to a world that has not completely switched to Twitter or liquid media. But the activities associated with ‘email’ would be carried out in the streaming context, and the email would be just another sort of media pulled into and then pushed out of the stream. And again, I would always be able to go to Gmail directly, if needed.

I have other thoughts on this, based on using Sparrow recently, which I will have to spell out in the next few days or weeks.

Magazine Group Offers Guidelines for Tablets - Tanzina Vega via NYTimes.com

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/02/business/media/magazine-group-offers-guidelines-for-tablets.html?ref=todayspaper

Confusion in the way publishers report readership on tablet publications is being reduced by new standards:

Tanzina Vega via NYTimes.com

On Monday, the Association of Magazine Media will announce a set of voluntary guidelines developed by representatives from the magazine publishers Bonnier, Condé Nast, Forbes, Hearst, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Meredith and Time Inc.

The guidelines will cover how magazines measure their tablet editions, the vocabulary used in those definitions and time frames for when reader data will be released. The measures include the total number of a publication’s digital issues and the number of readers by issue. They will also count the number of times a reader opens a tablet issue (called a session), how much time that reader spends reading each issue and the average number of sessions per reader per issue.

And readership is going up, so we can expect ad rates to do so as well.

Technology’s disruption of traditional forms of media has led many to believe that independent, thoughtful media institutions are on the decline and that there are not enough readers to support serious reporting and analysis.

But in 1914 the founders of The New Republic chose to strike out and pursue their vision in spite of the prevailing opinions of their time. They saw a need for a magazine of informed opinion and insightful, thorough reporting.

I share their vision. It seems that today too many media institutions chase superficial metrics of online virality at the expense of investing in rigorous reporting and analysis of the most important stories of our time. When few people are investing in media institutions with such bold aims as “enlightenment to the problems of the nation,” I believe we must.

Many of us get our news from social networks, blogs, and daily aggregators. The web has introduced a competitive, and some might argue hostile, landscape for long, in-depth, resource-intensive journalism. But as we’ve seen with the rise of tablets and mobile reading devices, it is an ever-shifting landscape—one that I believe now offers opportunities to reinvigorate the forms of journalism that examine the challenges of our time in all their complexity. Although the method of delivery of important ideas has undergone drastic change over the past 15 years, the hunger for them has not dissipated.

In the next era of The New Republic, we will aggressively adapt to the newest information technologies without sacrificing our commitment to serious journalism. We will look to tell the most important stories in politics and the arts and provide the type of rigorous analysis that The New Republic has been known for. We will ask pressing questions of our leaders, share groundbreaking new ideas, and shed new light on the state of politics and culture.

The New Republic has been and will remain a journal of progressive values, but it will above all aim to appeal to independent thinkers on the left and the right who search for fresh ideas and a deeper understanding of the challenges our world faces.

A Letter To TNR Readers From Chris Hughes - Chris Hughes via The New Republic

Chris Hughes, co-founder of Facebook, and Obama advisor, has purchased the majority stake in The New Republic, and has some very smart things to say about the role of long-format wiring in the context of open social discourse ins our increasingly liquid media world.

I may have to subscribe.

(via underpaidgenius)

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