Thursday, February 23, 2006

Plugged in: Out with old media; in with... what? - Jan. 19, 2006

Nice look at where we are going in media land. I love blogs, blogging and the independent nature of the whole thing. The theory is that with so many different voices out there, people have the opportunity to access many different points-of-view.

Well, they may have the opportunity but they don't do it. The decay of the MSM is I fear leading to a balkanization of thought on the net.

Here is the money quote... ready both paragraphs:

But it [loss of MSM] can also mean a loss of shared experience, of common reference points for a society. This has to be part of the explanation for the increasingly polarized state of political discourse in the United States: Partisans of both left and right are now able to assemble media diets that almost never contradict their preconceived views.

This is not an unprecedented state of affairs -- big American cities used to have lots of different newspapers, each with pronounced political leanings and articles explicitly shaded to reinforce those leanings. There is nothing natural or inherently superior about the monolithic media institutions of the mid-to-late 20th century.




Plugged in: Out with old media; in with... what? - Jan. 19, 2006

Monday, February 20, 2006

Moksha: Belated goodbye

With Cisco investing in MovieBeam, acquiring Scientific Atlanta and making other pretty exciting moves into the world of networked home entertainment, I think it is appropriate to take a momeent and not talk about video as a "market" or a "technology", but actually as what is is, an art.

The missus says farewell to Nam June Paik, an influential video artist who recently passed away. I've seen Paik's work at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis (a surprisingly good modern art gallery considering it is in the mid-west) and have been fascinated by video art since I took a course on it at college. (FYI--SF MOMA has two fantastic pieces on display now … run, don’t walk)

So why do I bring this all up now? As amazing as all the new technology surrounding video, IP TV and home networking is, we can't lose sight that these are all transport mechanisms and while they enhance the viewing experience, they are not the experience itself.

The experience is what we watch, not how we watch it.

Valley smarts to stop pollution

I've yabbered-on yabbered-on about how the sense of innovation in Silicon Valley can play a key role in reducing the threat that humanity faces from global warming. It doesn't need to be a big idea, but it needs to be a good one that can inspire people to pollute a little less, and even to come up with their own novel "green" idea.

Here's an idea that I love and I think highlights how a simple business model can do something about complex issues as global warming.

The idea is TerraPass and basically it is a voluntary fee you pay on your car to offset your car's greenhouse emissions. The money collected then goes into funding various greenhouse reducing initiatives

Internet and development

Looks like Nicholas Negroponte has left the MIT Media Lab to concentrate on his One Laptop per Child (OLPC) initiative.

I've been following the story of OLPC's $100 laptop and while I'm not 100% convinced that the $100 laptop is all it is cracked up to be (can't really picture kids in school hand-cranking these things all day) I think the project is interesting because it opens up the debate on what sort of tools are needed to bring the benefits of networking technology to developing countries.

Mobile phone companies are a leading voice in this debate as they have been rolling out low-cost versions of their products with great success. But mobile phones are just one part of the equation. In terms of basic communication and some functions, they are fine, but for more complex applications, I feel you need some sort of PC device just because the interface is easier. Even if the PC-like device is completely dumb and reliant on the network, the fact that is have a bigger screen and a more easy to manage keyboard makes it the right format for uses such as education and information kiosks set up in villages.

But the common refrain is, when people are dying of diseases and don’t have access to clean drinking water, why on earth do they need the Internet? That is a totally valid question and the answer is that like food and water, communication is a basic human need. I spoke the other day to Cisco’s Jim Forster who is currently working on a project to help people learn to set up wireless networks in in developing countries and he highlighted that people in these countries often walk for days from one village to the next just to inquire about family members or find out what has happened to friends and relatives. Social and family bonds are important and people with very little in the world often pay a premium in time and effort just to maintain those bonds. If the Internet could save people from making a day’s trek just o find out simple information, and they could then use that gained day to find another way to better their lot, then it seems to me that the Internet has a key role to play in development.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Broadband's Utility Player

Nice story in Business 2.0 about City Telecom and rapidly emerging broadband player in Hong Kong. Their goal is 1 million customers in 5 years and they are well on track.

They use mainly off-the-shelf Cisco Ethernet gear to provide broadband services at about US$6 month.

Greenwashing the Valley

Well it seems everyone is jumping on the environmental bandwagon now. If it just “greenwashing” marketing, then I think it is a pretty lousy ploy just to get green-brownie points with the general pubic. If, however, it represents an actual shift in the way a company looks at its products and its environmental footprint, then I’m all for it.

I saw a Sun Microsystems billboard on the 101 touting its “green” servers and on their website they talk about different pieces of gear sunning cooler and using significantly less power. Making things not just faster or with more capacity, but cooler and more energy efficient is a huge opportunity for Silicon Valley.

I hear a lot about “tele-commuting” and how that is taking cars off the road, and is therefore an example of how Silicon Valley is helping the world live a greener life. I suppose there is some truth to that, but I don’t put a lot of value in “tele-commuting” as conservation practice. When people tele-commute, it just means they are out of the office, not necessarily off the road. And I suspect the actually people who stay at home (ie, who are really off the road) really has a less then minute impact on traffic/smog/road rage etc. Until I start seeing serious double digit percentage of people going off the road and staying off the road because of tele-commuting, I’m just going to put as much faith in that as a conservation initiative as I will in a Cheney energy bill.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Wank 2.0

The Sleuth casts a much needed critical eye to the Web 2.0 phenomena. I added my own thoughts on this a while back. Love the Wankr Beta.

Medium is still the message

I get my breaking news from the web, my “feature” type news from a hard-copy news magazine or the occasional newspaper, and I get my laughs from blogs.

So why am I going on about this? Well because I had an interesting conversation with a colleague of mine the other day who was commenting on what she perceived as the lack of coverage of the Egyptian ferry disaster on TV and major news outlets.

I was actually surprised to hear her say that, because the disaster got top billing for 2 or 3 days on Google news, so from my perspective, the story was pretty widely covered.

A common refrain is that the content of the media has a profound influence on the way public opinion is shaped, indeed if that wasn’t the case (or the perception at least) then as a PR manager I would be out of a job. But what is interesting in this case is that it was not the content that informed a particular opinion of a story, but how that content was accessed.

Yeah, I know… the medium is the message, welcome to media theory of the 1960s, Penguin. I guess it is just interesting to see the theory in action.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Doing Business ahead of the curve

Nice quick take on "American parochialism in Forbes. It isn't anything you haven't heard before, but it is good refresher. (I know what Tintin, but I've never been a big fan...click the link to see what I mean.)

Anyway, I point this article out not in a smug way, but to highlight that actually American business is very globally-savvy I think. US companies know that some of their toughest competitors, and some of their most talent employees, will come from places outside of the US (or even Europe.)

Business is very much ahead of the curve in terms of globalization, so it is curious that other elements of society are not (as pointed out in the article).

This may be a strange parallel, but even in terms of environmental reforms, some US businesses are way ahead of the curve. True, many of these are in Silicon Valley which traditionally has had a certain granola crunchiness about it, but these companies rubbish the imagines tension between economic success and environmental stewardship.