Working with device manufacturers, the goal is to provide knowledge about connected devices, a sort of real world API meets the Wikipedia of connected devices.
By using WDF (Wolfram Data Framework) to connect to the devices and get data from them, Stephen Wolfram is dreaming of future of true Internet of Things, where Wolfram language is the lingua franca.
“A free and open world depends on a free and open Internet. Governments alone, working behind closed doors, should not direct its future. The billions of people around the globe who use the Internet should have a voice.”
A free and open web depends on taking a stand against governments who try to filter and censor content. And maybe the people you elected are using a closed-door meeting to regulate the Internet, where regulators try to change one of the most remarkable inventions of humanity.
The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) only listens to governments, with no place for engineers, companies, and people like you to have a saying on the future of the web. A secretive and bureaucratic organization were we, the users, are not welcomed.
The past few months already, the term digital has mostly left my vocabulary as an advertising professional. Instead, the preferred word is interactive. Not only because words matter, but considering computational ubiquity is just a few years away (from TV to nano sensors), saying a media is digital is almost an oxymoron.
Interactive goes beyond online communication and starts to explore new frontiers, from outdoor advertising to context sensitive ads (Minority Report, anyone?). Take for instance a shopping center in Portugal, promoting a witchcraft fair with an outdoor taking sensors and measuring the amount of people who walked underneath the ladder.
Would you call this digital? maybe. But interactive it definitely is.
If Leo Burnett did the above being a somewhat traditional agency, you can expect digital agencies to do the same. R/GA is breaking down walls, exploring new areas such as event marketing or data visualization, while creating and producing commercials. But they surely kept their interactive background.
It’s the evolve or die time for digital agencies, and they could start by dropping the digital.
On a side note, the same thing happens regarding ‘social media’. Even if the most experienced web professionals call it ‘social web’, the former has become so popular with the press, that it’s hard to escape from this broadcast view.
Digital or social is not about the media. It’s about how people behave on those channels. Or as it’s often called, culture.
Cross posted at Osocio.org
In one more example of multiples or synchronicity of ideas, today i tweeted an idea for turning 404 pages into a charity opportunity. Well, a few hours later i found out a campaign by Fischer+Fala for AACD (The Brazilian Handicapped Association).
When browsing to a partner website with an incorrect URL (which have over 17million of uniques), instead of the usual “Page Not Found”, the user is surprised with a plea for help by AACD, inviting donations on AACD’s website. And if your organization wants to do the same, just download the 404 page assets on the website.
Turning a browsing error into a charity opportunity is a great example how we don’t always need big budgets, but rather be ingenious with what we have available.
The beginning of this decade witnessed the Mass Customization trend, of which are prime examples TV shows like Pimp My Ride or marketing campaigns such as Zune Originals, thus trying to embed personal beliefs into mass consumption goods and services.
On the web, this trend was assimilated by popular websites like MySpace or Yahoo allowing customized homepages where registered users could setup their own layouts and snack-sized information blocks. On MySpace, this feature reflected a desire for self expression, even if the features and technology were rather limited. The liberal customization eventually caused the downfall of MySpaces popularity, a rococo of visual design and high signal/noise ratio not very friendly to ensure loyalty amongst visitors and seduce newcomers to the service.
Personal aggregators become popular around 2005 with the launch of Netvibes, later followed by iGoogle, structured around the key concepts of data syndication and widgets. Similar models emerged such as PopURLs, which led do Guy Kawasakis internet newstand AllTop.com, that act more as filters than customizable services.
From 2008 on, with the growth of lifestreaming services (Friendfeed, Twitter and Facebook), social profiles become themselves information filters, both personal (social recommendation) and public (e.g. CNNs @breakingnews), with users shifting their media consumption habits to where their friends were. Personal aggregators at the time had almost no social features, targeted for a tech savvy audience, who used them as a start page but choosing to read information on Google Reader or dedicated apps and services (caveat: this is mostly anedoctal evidence gathered from my circle of friends and some web analytics data, being my blog one of the default subscriptions on Netvibes for portuguese users).
Referrals from Netvibes to this blog
Google trends for Netvibes, PageFlakes and PopURLs
With the launch of OpenSocial and skins, iGoogle tried to innovate, but this space reached maturity, and as with most technologies, were now witnessing the decay. Users started to choose a different kind of aggregation and knowledge management services, based on different platforms such as Tweetdeck (desktop) or Instapaper (mobile). Social filtering also kicks in with web services like Digg, Reddit or the more recent Paper.li.
If things look harsh for personal aggregators, it doesnt help that RSS subscription isnt in a good shape either, not being understood/used by the early and late majority. It should suffice as evidence the shutdown of one of the most popular subscription services, Bloglines. Information consumption shifted from push to pull, and were in the real time age.
The biggest challenge facing personal aggregators is to limit themselves to a classic customization and not a true, valuable personalization: focusing on the superficial (colors, layout, widgets) and not the essntial (information filtering, personal recommendation). While customization is easy to achieve with current technology (cookies, personal settings), personalization is a whole different game. Some notable exceptions come from Google: Priority Inbox on Gmail or More blogs like this on Google Reader are only possible thanks to network effects, by aggregating behaviors of millions of consumers and learning from daily habits. Photo by Jinho Jung, under a CC license
The way i see it, for personal aggregators to survive, they need to evolve from classic Lego to Mindstorms.
For many years Google was one of the last companies avoiding mass media advertising (though they’ve done it outside the US). That stronghold ended the last SuperBowl, with the now famous (and parodied) Parisian Love ad:
Even web companies with true fans reach a point when branding becomes necessary to grow a market that’s getting crowded. With many people starting to explore Google’s products and services, an ad that is relevant and tells a powerful story only helps to conquer more users, responding to needs that later get extended to their professional choices (think AdWords or Google Apps).
This need for branding for web companies will become even more evident the next few years, as startups try seduce advertisers by getting more reach and visibility. But instead of using the eyeballs approach, we’ll have a more combined branding approach.
Foursquare, the location based game, and their recent partnerships with Zagat or Marc Jacobs is an example of this sponsorship leveraging a web brand, . Other examples include ExecTweets with Federated Media and Microsoft or even more tactical approaches like the Let It Shine commercial for Honda and Vimeo.
Larger brands should take notice of these opportunities, by teaming up with web brands on relevant, win-win partnerships. As for web companies, Branding, even on a different form, is one step to leave their Beta label behind.
Being lazy on a rainy Sunday has its payoffs, like finding these two great documentaries:
Also engaging was BBC’s 3D Documentary Explorer for “The Virtual Revolution: How 20 years of the web has reshaped our lives”.
Even with the 3D eating the CPU, the videos (with plenty testimonials of key web figures) are worthy of your next lazy Sunday. Beats watching American Idol anytime.