Curating Connected Devices

Wolfram joins the Internet Of Things party, bringing together connected devices and their Wolfram Language on a dedicated site.

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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.

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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.


The Internet is (still) yours

“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.

Pledge to support a free and open Internet and invite your friends to #takeaction. Join this Google initiative at:

Digital out, Interactive in.

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.

404 may not be an error page

Cross posted at

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.

Crossing the Media: from Mass to Social, from Social to Personal

For those who’ve been around before the dot-com crash, you’ve probably remember those first days, with portals, vortals and the whole remediation of mass media to the web was dominant. Brochureware (brochures repurposed as websites) and directories were abundant and brands began a gold race to a different medium, expecting the masses would follow along.

That didn’t work, as McLuhan’s “the medium is the message” was mostly fit for a broadcast age. Enter the Cluetrain Manifesto, Tim O’Reilly’s web 2.0 and a new conversation age: from mass media to social media.
With this new communication paradigm, people shape the medium: from Twitter lingo to collaborative platforms, media became social, with many online citizens entering the conversation.

cross media
Photo by purplemattfish CC BY-ND 2.0, The Daily, Flipboard or even your regular iGoogle are the first wave of personal media, with users and algorithms adjusting the media stream. These new personal media platforms draw upon mass media and social media (our social graph to be more precise) and combine them to create personal dashboards with our own set of preferred media.

We’ve come a long way, from blogs to new forms of publishing such as Storify. To truly become the media, both producing and curating our own content, a new kind of service that adjusts the output to our media habits should appear.
Update: it’s rather telling than one of the few ways of making something go viral is to make it personalized. From Elf Yourself to Uniqlo’s UTweet, there’s plenty to choose from.

The question these days is: will it come from Facebook or from Google? Considering that we’ve been crossing the media the past decade, I for one would appreciate that publishers took the lead. Both the Guardian and the New York Times have been brave enough to experiment, but considering the mass media potential for online video and the upcoming TV platforms, i wouldn’t be surprised if some major network decides to take a radical leap for the next decade. If they don’t, Google will disrupt as usual.

Personal media and the platforms to aggregate/create it are worthy of more attention than the social media echo chamber. Yes, we’re social beings. But we’re also individuals, searching for better ways to cope with our desires, interests and yes, media. And as we cross our media, we atomize it: more personal, smaller but always part of a bigger system. So, where’s my media microscope?

The slow decay of personal aggregators

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 MySpace’s 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 Kawasaki’s internet newstand, 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. CNN’s @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, we’re 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

If things look harsh for personal aggregators, it doesn’t help that RSS subscription isn’t 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 we’re 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.

From Beta to Branding

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.

Digital Documentaries

Being lazy on a rainy Sunday has its payoffs, like finding these two great documentaries:

PBS Frontlines’ Digital Nation: from information overflow to virtual worlds, Rachel Dretzin and Douglas Rushkoff do a great job on highlighting some of the challenges of the Millennial generation.

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.

The B2B Social Dilemma

When discussing social web and how it relates to marketing, the focus is mostly on consumers and the communities formed around products and services. Engagement, immediate feedback and responsibility, empowerment of fans, flexibility and having a human voice are the blueprint for companies when interacting with consumers.

Photo by Julia Manzerova, under a CC License

The discussion on how these values translate on a Business-To-Business scenario is quite recent, with companies like Dachis Corporation or recent initiatives by SAP exploring these brave new waters. But one thing is to have a 10000 feet view on social business, another is having to deal with day-to-day operations, from procurement to human resources.
We all have heard stories about greedy managers or other forms or corporate assholes, that don’t care about the latest social technologies and are usually control freaks, oblivious about our oh-so-noble concepts of social capital, long tail or crowdsourcing. And worst, they push businesses into a new form of Prisoner’s dilemma.

The prisoner’s dilemma is a fundamental problem in game theory that demonstrates why two people might not cooperate even if it is in both their best interests to do so

Even if we have the best intentions and try to collaborate with other business, the fact is that the amount of effort we put on using social technologies isn’t returned with the same level of commitment by other companies which we deal on a regular basis. Much to blame is the selfish need for maximizing shareholder value that still prevails on many companies (despite having caused the recent economic crisis), forcing stakeholders not to invest in values and technologies more supportive of innovation and social responsibility.

Unlike Business-To-Consumer markets, the reason why i find this dilemma still stands on B2B is because of low adoption of public publishing platforms. Even if we consider Yammer or Linkedin, most of business conversations are shielded by corporate guidelines with a veiled interest on lack of transparency.
When will we see the corporate equivalents of Facebook and Twitter? Where companies cooperate in their best interests, with no hidden payoffs and in a transparent market, where the conversations are regarded with the same importance as in consumer markets. It’s time to replace the traditional industrial complex of pushing goods for the markets with a more design and socially responsible model, where hidden agendas are hard to maintain under public scrutiny.

Yes, i know it’s a dream. But so was landing men on the moon.

ComScore measures Internet Audience in Portugal

Just noticed today that ComScore started measuring Internet audience in Portugal, and the numbers do look solid.

Top 15 Online Properties in Portugal
Total Portugal – Age 15+, Home & Work Locations
September 2009
Source: comScore World Metrix
Media Sep-2008 Sep-2009 % Change
Total Internet : Total Audience 3,665 3,816 4%
Google Sites 2,959 3,570 21%
Microsoft Sites 2,816 3,397 21%
Portugal Telecom 2,125 2,398 13%
Hi5.COM 1,986 2,329 17%
Yahoo! Sites 1,066 1,422 33%
UOL 971 1,254 29%
Grupo Impresa 1,086 1,215 12%
Wikimedia Foundation Sites 1,012 1,148 13%
Grupo Brasil Telecom 863 1,119 30%
WordPress 860 1,058 23%
OnLine eXchange 625 930 49% 771 914 19%
Terra – Telefonica 655 890 36% 756 852 13%
CBS Interactive 394 643 63%

The study points to more than 3.8 million people age 15 and older, spending an average 1.9 hours online per person during the month, numbers that will probably be discussed the next 26th November at CAEM i-com National Roundtable (on Twitter @icomglobal).

The last few months i’ve also noticed a renewed interest on giving solid data about Internet behavior, as the market grows bigger with droves of new users consuming more bandwidth (either broadband or mobile).

The data on social networks is finally shedding some public light (disclaimer: Fullsix Portugal has also some panel data on user behavior), with no surprises on the top place for Facebook numbers show some solid growth, but i’m still a bit far on my prediction that Hi5 would be surpassed by the end of 2009 (even if i seriously suspect that already happened in terms of active users). Twitter is a lot bigger than i expected, and something that most marketeers in my country have been ignoring.

Top 10 Social Networking Sites in Portugal
Total Portugal – Age 15+, Home & Work Locations
September 2009
Source: comScore World Metrix
Media Sep-2008 Sep-2009 % Change
Total Internet : Total Audience 3,665 3,816 4%
Social Networking 2,585 2,992 16% 1,986 2,329 17%
Windows Live Profile N/A 1,225 N/A 113 639 463%
MySpace Sites 267 289 8%
Orkut 170 256 50% 26 249 842% 204 244 19% 8 238 3,018%
Windows Live People N/A 218 N/A 94 156 67%

Source: ComScore