In Defense of Social Media (at least some of it)
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This is a cross-post of a recent Radar piece I wrote
Scott Berkun just posted a great rant titled, Calling Bullshit on Social Media. I suggest everyone read it. Berkun raises good points – and I agree the hype around social media warrants taking a critical look. Despite being in general agreement, there are a few areas I can’t abide. The first is this bit:
social media is a stupid term. Is there any anti-social media out there? Of course not. All media, by definition, is social in some way.
Railing against the popular lexicon is always a losing bet. Language is formed by collective agreement and it sticks because it resonates and serves a purpose. The words we use to assign to concepts can reveal quite a lot. Rather than dismissing it, we should try and learn from it. I have written before that I believe the term “social” is a new metaphor for understanding how we will transact business and conduct government. As Lakoff and Johnson so aptly pointed out in Metaphors We Live By, metaphors play a crucial role in shaping our very thought and action. We should take the “social” in social media seriously.
Second, Berkun writes:
We have always had social networks. Call them families, tribes, clubs, cliques or even towns, cities and nations. You could call throwing a party or telling stories by a fire “social media tools”. If anything has happened recently it’s not the birth of social networks, it’s the popularity of digital tools for social networks, which is something different. These tools may improve how we relate to each other, but at best it will improve upon something we as a species have always done. Never forget social networks are old. The best tools will come from people who recognize, and learn from, the rich 10,000+ year history of social networks.
Well yes and no. The problem is this. Communication is the foundation of economies, government and business. When you scale up communications you change the world. It is that simple. When you radically accelerate or democratize a means of communication (I would include physical transportation in this category too) it is not a change in class (as Berkun argues) it is a change in kind.
By way of analogy, the railroad did not invent the wheel nor did it invent locomotion or steam power. In fact the train did not create anything particularly new. What it did was massively accelerate the ability to move people and goods across land. That acceleration changed everything… In the U.S. it standardized time, it nationalized commerce. Around the world it broke the lock of power on maritime cities that used to control commerce… and on and on.
Similarly the Internet, and social technologies in particular, do not create much that is new in the way of content (or even human interaction as Berkun notes) but the medium massively accelerates our ability to create, share, connect and collaborate. That acceleration of our innate capacity and desire to be social is exactly what makes social technologies transformative. Where I agree with Berkun’s statement above is that the same rules of social etiquette will apply in this media. That is exactly what stuns so many corporations believing they can migrate essentially antisocial behaviors (hack PR blogs, social media gimmick campaigns etc.) into “social” media.
Lastly Berkun writes,
Be suspicious of technologies claimed to change the world. The problem with the world is rarely the lack of technologies, the problem is us. Look, we have trouble following brain dead simple concepts like The Golden Rule.
Agreed. People can really suck. But “change” is a value neutral term. It doesn’t imply good or bad and while it is true that many negative human traits will accompany these technologies, it is hard to overstate the magnitude of the changes that are taking place as a direct result of social media – new ways to communicate, stars (including academics finding an audience) born from YouTube, bloggers redefining journalism and science, open source software dethroning traditional players, the demise of established industries like publishing, music and entertainment, with other industries like telecommunications and manufacturing, retailing queuing up for their turn. We see social technologies organizing spontaneous rallies in California, Moldavia and most recently Iran. That is change. I would also argue that the democratic promise of these tools – the promise that people can connect with each other without an intermediary (I know all of the ways that this may not turn out to be the case – but still…) holds the possibility of distributing power more evenly. If there is one root problem in much of this world – it is the concentration of power wielded by a small minority.
Social Media Blurs the Lines between Business Functions
It has become fairly obvious to state that Social Media blurs the lines between business functions – but sometimes I encounter such a clear example that I want to share it.
<– Take a close look at this sequential set of Tweets from Peets Coffee and answer the following question. Is this
(A) a marketing effort
(B) a customer service effort
(C) a PR effort or
(D) all of the above.
If you answered D, all of the above – you are correct. This single screen capture is a great example of how Social Media blurs the boundaries between business functions. In one short period of time Peets is answering questions about where muffins at a specific store come from and affirming that their plastic tumblers are BPA free… (customer service). Peets is also letting people know about new store openings, linking to their Facebook page to let people know about how to meet their tea master, Eliot Jordan (Marketing outreach, events promotion) and finally, doing a bit of PR on how small scale farmers in Rwanda are breaking the cycle of poverty through growing coffee. (causal marketing / PR).
Disclosure – Tina – who runs Peets’ Twitter presence is a good friend and we had casual discussions about how to use Twitter effectively when she took Peets onto Twitter. She is doing a fantastic job.
Establishing Your Corporate Social Media Policy
Recently I wrote an article for Forbes magazine entitled, A Corporate Guide to Social Media. It struck a nerve. I have received a lot of direct email from executives asking questions and providing some of their own experiences.
I am reposting it here for the record. I will running a webcast on the same subject July 30 and likely doing a video series on the subject — I will post the links as they become available.
A PC in every home and workplace, a smart phone in every hand, all connected 24/7 to the hundreds of millions (and growing rapidly) of other people actively participating online via blogs, social networks, Twitter and multiplayer games.
Whether you call it Web 2.0, the social Web or any other neologism, the new network economy is about communities, collaboration, peer production and user-generated content. It is a place where business reputations are defined by customer opinions and ratings, where press is delivered by independent bloggers, and product development and insight is driven by customers. As digital natives–those who have grown up with the Internet–flood the workplace, your employees will expect to be part of the social Web and they’ll have a lot to contribute.
Does this sound like business as usual? It shouldn’t. Social technologies turn many corporate policies upside down.
Big corporations are scratching their heads trying to figure out how to harness the benefits of increased employee participation while mitigating the risks. Clearly there is no one-size-fits-all: If you are in financial services you have unique concerns for privacy, if you are part of the YMCA, you must be aware that having counselors “friend” teenagers is not appropriate, etc.
That said, here is a set of guidelines for corporations considering how to integrate social media in the workplace.
If you are an executive, keep in mind two points as you gear up your social media strategy: First, social technologies including blogs, social networks and Twitter are communication tools. That means a company’s social media approach must integrate with its existing communications channels and goals. Second, if you think these guidelines don’t apply to you, you are probably already on the endangered species list.
Social Web Guiding Principles for Employers
Lead by example.
Rules aren’t enough. Leaders should model the behavior they would like to see their employees take. Chief executive Jonathan Schwartz of Sun Microsystems set a standard on blogging. Chief Executive Tim O’Reilly has established the bar on Twitter. A corollary to this rule: don’t delegate social media to interns or people who can’t possibly represent your culture and brand.
Build your policies around job performance, not fuzzy concerns about productivity.
If your employees are using Facebook at work, they are also likely checking work e-mail after dinner or at odd hours of the day. Don’t ask them to give up the former if you expect them to continue the latter. If you have good performance measurements, playing the “lost productivity” card is a canard.
Encourage responsible use.
Encourage employees to use social tools to engage and interact with one another and with customers. In all likelihood they are already using the social Web. The difference is that currently they are using these tools without any guidance. Company’s like Zappo’s encourage using social tools. Check out http://twitter.zappos.com/.
Grant Equal Access.
Don’t block your employees from any site that is already talking about your products or that you would like to see talking up your products (YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, blogs and so on.). I have had many experiences sending instructional material to clients and having them tell me that they can’t view the video or site at work. Enough said.
The social Web is a cultural phenomenon; don’t go there without a guide. Consider providing some form of education for your employees (including discussion about what tools are available, how to use them and what are the prevailing cultural norms for use). You can use one of your own employees (a power user) or bring someone in–but get educated.
Begin from a Position of Trust.
While there are possible negatives involved in having employees on the social Web, most employees have common sense. Begin with a set of possibilities first (increasing awareness, improving customer service, gaining customer insight and so on) then draw up a list of worst-case scenarios (bad mouthing the company, inappropriate language, leaking IP, to name a few). Modify the guiding principles for your employees below to help mitigate the risks you’ve identified.
Once you embrace having your employees participate in the social Web, give them a few basic guiding principles in how they conduct themselves. You can start with these:
Social Web Guiding Principles for Employees
Listen before you talk.
Before entering any conversation, understand the context. Who are you speaking to? Is this a forum for “trolls and griefers?” Is there a good reason for you to join the conversation? If your answer is yes, then follow these rules of engagement:
Say who you are.
In responding to any work-related social media activities always disclose your work relationship.
Show your personality.
You weren’t hired to be an automaton. Be conversational while remaining professional. If your personal life is one that you (or your employer) don’t want to mix up with your work, then consider establishing both private and public profiles, with appropriate sharing settings.
Respond to ideas not to people.
In the context of business, always argue over ideas not personalities. Don’t question motives but stay focused on the merit of ideas.
Know your facts and cite your sources.
When making claims, always refer to your sources, using hyperlinks when possible. Always give proper attribution (by linkbacks, public mentions, re-tweets and so on).
Stay on the record.
Everything you say can (and likely will) be used in the court of public opinion–forever. So assume you’re “on the record.” Never say anything you wouldn’t say to someone’s face and in the presence of others. Never use profanity or demeaning language.
If you respond to a problem, you own it.
If you become the point of contact for a customer or employee complaint, stay with it until it is resolved.
Has your company crafted a social media policy? If so, please share your thoughts here – or email me at josh (at) jmicheleross.com If you are grappling with issues, what are they? I will respond to all comments. In the meantime you can catch me on Twitter at @jmichele.
Relationships Beat Transactions
Here are four key principles for creating a better business in the network economy:
· Listening beats Talking
· Open beats Closed
· Relationships Beat Transactions
· Questions beat Answers
I have been going into details on each (very slowly if you have been paying attention). If you have questions or other examples to put into the posts – please add them into the comments. This is the third post in the series:
Relationships beat Transactions:
Most companies are structured to talk and not listen (marketing, PR, tradshows and events etc.). Similarly, most companies are structured to reward transactions (the sale, the time it takes to process a support call etc.) as opposed to relationships. This is in large part due to the fact that relationships are more difficult to measure. However in the network economy it is strong relationships that insulate a company from price sensitivity, create word of mouth, and foster collaboration (see Open Beats Closed). Just because it is harder to measure doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be working hard on building stronger relationships. (and just to be clear – relationships beat transactions doesn’t mean giving up core skills on managing operational efficiency. It does mean that those core skill no longer differentiate you from your competition).
Here is how:
Engage the Community beyond your borders
There is a world of conversation taking place about your company. I have long wanted to write a post titled, “Your Company Sucks – But Don’t Take My Word For It….” About how many Facebook groups are solely organized around how your company sucks (If you don’t believe me – just start searching for your company + “sucks” in Facebook or Google. If you are in a company of good size, prepare to be appalled.) There are tons of good ways to get started listening to what people are saying about you on the social web. You can get started here. Once you are tuned in – you can start participating in some form. Since the web is essentially an emergent (bottom up) force – it is best to think about responding in a similar way. Consider how you might empower your employees to adopt social tools. At my employer, O’Reilly Media, Tim O’Reilly has led the charge by blogging and avidly using Twitter. He models the behavior, tone and manner of how these social technologies are used at O’Reilly. This goes a long way. There are dozens of O’Reilly employees listening, responding and posting to the social web everyday. This far exceeds what any single, top-down strategy could get done – which leads me to the next point.
Mobilize Your Workforce
As the number of customer-to-company interactions increase – it is hard to scale relationships through traditional, narrowly-controlled broadcast channels. Customers expect some level of interaction if not intimacy with the brands they are engaging with and five people in marketing aren’t going to get you there… Digital outreach should no longer be the sole domain of marketers. In other words, the whole workforce can be motivated to participate. The key is appropriate training. Intel is doing a good job by providing a Digital IQ workshop. This is also the idea behind the innovation labs I run.
Start Operating within the Social Contract
We have many years of refining a martial model of management that centers on routinization of work and command and control hierarchy. We have extracted as much productivity as we are likely to get from these techniques. We are entering an era when the more fluid, open models of collaboration and cooperation will be the ground where competitive advantage is won and lost. But playing on this field has different rules. It requires operating under a social contract – social contracts are very different from business contracts that dominate the 20th century organizational mentality. In the business contract the basic metaphor is the binding, legal contract. The basic metaphor for the social web is relationship. The building blocks are trust, reciprocity and authenticity. This is the hardest change for companies to make because it involves a fundamental shift in culture. For more on this – see my Forbes post – Why Business Needs to Get Social.
Realize that Customer Service is the New Marketing
In an always-on environment companies need to stay engaged on a personal level with the people they interact with. Customer Service is the New Marketing simply because every customer is now a broadcast tower and their opinions carry a whole lot of weight. It also means you should probably stop looking at your call center as a cost center and more like a public relations department (though I dread the connotation of that word).
Examples of great relationship companies – The Ritz-Carlton hotel where every guest is recognized and remembered and where every employee is empowered to solve any customer issue they encounter (‘If you find a customer problem, you own the problem” is one of their mantras), Zappos, where every first customer is surprised by an upgrade to overnight shipping and the customer service is legendary. And I humbly submit my company O’Reilly Media – where we constantly have our ear to the ground. If we find an unhappy customer on the web – we try and fix it. When your problem gets fixed without you ever directly contacting customer service – that can be a conversion moment.
For more on this subject see my post on Emotional Transactions or “Moment of Truth: We are all Marketers Now”
Masters of Media: It’s all about intimacy
Bing Crosby was the first person to use a microphone to croon. Bing realized the microphone allowed the performer to deliver an intimate performance. You didn’t need to shout to be heard at the back of the hall. Tone trumped volume as Bing sang like he was in your living room.
FDR harnessed the power of the radio and the “fireside chat” to bring intimacy and a new connection to your government.
Brando was the first actor to embrace the medium of film (contrast with the early talkies who simply shouted vaudeville style into the camera.). Brando delivered intimacy and dramatic range.
Barack Obama’s YouTube weekly address, not to mention his social network and Twitter account brings another level of intimacy with an on-demand relationship with your government.
A Really Goode Job Gone Bad? Murphy Goode Learns a Hard Lesson in Social Media
Murphy Goode, a Sonoma County winery, set up a promotion that looks great on paper
We want to hire a social media whiz (your title will be “Murphy-Goode Wine Country Lifestyle Correspondent”) who will report on the cool lifestyle of Sonoma County Wine Country and, of course, tell people what you’re learning about winemaking.
Did we mention that the compensation was $10,000 per month Plus accommodations in a beautiful home in picturesque Healdsburg, a popular vacation destination in our neck of the woods. Working hours are flexible. And all you have to do is experience wine and good living, and then tell people about it.
MG then set about having candidates publicly apply. The whole world was invited to vote on potential candidates. The campaign seemed to be doing well in terms of attention and media and candidate interest. Then yesterday Twitter lit up. Not Good(e). Bad. Apparently the top vote getter by a 2:1 margin (@martinsargent) wasn’t included in their first cut of 50 candidates. Voters felt robbed – and said some nasty things…
It is hard to get clear about what actually happened. I didn’t call Murphy Goode and their website isn’t very helpful in helping understand the terms and conditions of their selection process. What is interesting to me is how yet again, if the general circumstances are accurate, this whole situation could have been avoided so easily. The operative word in the term social media is “social.” When you get engaged in social media you need to abide by a simple social contract. A contract that is so simple in fact that many people engaged in the complexity of business tend to overlook it. What is this divine mystery?
Respect people’s time and attention the same way you would if you actually knew them in a social context.
People feel cheated because Murphy Goode asked for their time and attention – solicited their opinion – then seemed to ignore the overwhelming majority of opinion. Boil this down to a social context. Would you have a few friends spend a lot of time debating and then voting on which movie to see and then ignore the major vote-getter completely? I don’t think so. Remember, the stakes weren’t even as high as a movie here. This was the top 50 — not the final winner.
So where next for Murphy Goode? Will this damage the campaign or their brand in any significant way?
I don’t think so.
The Social Media crowd tends to see itself as the center of the universe. And gets quite giddy during any flexing of its (admittedly rather small) muscle. It is also a pretty self-righteous group of lumpen-digerati. I don’t think this maneuver will have a major impact on the bottom line. That said it must be a bit painful and surprising to those at Murphy Goode. I am sure they are having anxious meetings over how to respond. If they are trying to reach influencers now via this 6 month campaign many of the same people they wanted to have spread their message (social media infuencers) will either obstruct or ignore them. Also, in the search driven world, this has the potential to generate a permanent, findable record of discontent when searching for Murphy Goode. Mostly, this is just a simple lesson in common sense. I suspect it will be forgotten fairly quickly – but was eminently avoidable.
Michel Foucault and Social Media Group Think
“We know what we do. We know why we do what we do. What we don’t know is what what we do does” – Michel Foucualt*
@lucatoledo reminded me that it is the 25th anniversary of French Philosopher Michel Foucault’s death. I have been sitting on this short post that was originally going to cap my series on The Digital Panopticon. So, on the occassion, and a bit unpolished, here it is.
Discussions about technology largely focus on immediate utility. They rarely address the larger effect that technology might have on the individual and society. So it goes with the social media phenomenon – we are absorbed in very granular discussions of use (what it is, why it matters for commerce and how to gain advantage from it) and abuse (Twitter addiction leads to the break up of Jennifer Aniston and John Mayer etc.) while a much larger drama is unfolding as a consequence of these technologies – the changing notions of identity, society and government.
We need to get better at figuring out “what what we do does”. What are the consequences of living in a totally networked society? What will be the new equilibrium we reach on identity, privacy rights, work-life boundaries etc?
The Social Nervous System we are building makes it possible to create a smarter world. From sensor based infrastructure management like the smart grid, to deep text mining to assess market sentiment (what the cloud of conversations means for your company) and the social graph. But smarter is not necessarily better. Better is a blend of technology with foresight and ethics.
As I have written before, “It is very possible that just as the development of the neuron enabled a proliferation of new, sophisticated life forms we are developing the next equivalent, the social neuron that binds us into a new, larger social organism.” I believe the Social Nervous System spells profound and protracted changes to every aspect of society, economy and government. We should be asking questions that live up to the scope of the change we see around us. We should not limit this conversation to academia. This conversation should be social (pun intended).
This is my biggest argument around social media commentary– there is not enough critical questioning – it is one giant echochamber of early adopters focusing on a narrow set of issues – New marketing, new PR, or better business as usual… Most of those talking (myself included) are also making a living doing the talking so the deck is a bit stacked (see – The Evangelist Fallacy for more on this).
At bottom, no one is quite sure of where things will shake out – what the benefits and consequences will be. While I am generally optimistic (see Why Business Needs to Get Social) I am aware that the theory of things (what I believe a thing is for) often misses the effect those things have in the world… We should always have one eye on “what what we do does” for therein lies the true significance of any technology or institution.
In the meantime you can catch me giving it up on the Social Web (@jmichele)…
(Image from @schuschny’s blog post on Foucault)
Twitter, Iran and the Social Nervous System
Today Ken Majer
– change-agent and leadership guru to many large corporations - asked for my opinion on why Twitter was receiving so much attention – how much of it is well deserved, how much PR hype. While the new media aspect of what is happening in Iran has been well covered and I generally avoid current events, I thougt I would share my response here.
The chatter about Twitter is well deserved and a core example of what I have been calling The Social Nervous System - a system that uses Internet communication technology to coordinate events in the real world. Twitter is a decentralized messaging system with an incredibly low barrier to entry in terms of ease of use and single-purpose functionality… Each of these factors help explain its rapid growth as a tool for socializing and answering its default question “What are you Doing?” Twitter reached its watershed moment during the Mumbai attacks last November when the answer to “what are you doing” became urgent and important news. it was used as a real-time news service and was running 10 minutes ahead of CNN…. Its utility as real time news during a breaking situation is what is driving the press now… not PR. Iranians on both sides have been using it to push information out… Since it is decentralized you are not dealing with the leadership of these factions but actual citizens engaged in struggle…. That direct, emotional, on-the-ground connection in combination with the real-time nature of the story as it unfolds is truly compelling.
Let me break down these elements individually.
Twitter is Single Purpose - Twitter only really tries to do one thing – a simple, character-constrained messaging service. It asks one question, “what are you doing?” It provides you one window in which to enter your text and one button to publish. This single purpose design creates two critical side effects: 1. It lowers the barrier to entry and is incredibly easy to use. 2. it creates myriad opportunities for others to build on top of (see Platforms beat Applications) – Currently I believe there are over 2000 services that help you manage your Twitter presence. For example, I use Tweetdeck to aggregate and publish Tweets, bitly as my URL shortener, MrTweet to find people I might be interested in and Twitterific as my iPhone client. A radically simple tool for socializing explains how Twitter got liftoff – but not why it is being used in situations like Iran….For that you need to consider that…
Twitter is Decentralized – Anyone can create a Twitter account. Tweets can be authored, published or consumed easily from laptops or mobile devices. Twitter is a radically democratic medium allowing anyone, anywhere to connect.
Twitter is Direct - When you search on Twitter, or follow – you are hearing directly from a human being. There is no PR layer (usually). In Iran this means that you are hearing directly from people in the street. This direct, human connection is powerful.
Twitter is Real Time - Twitter runs in real time. When you search Twitter it is all about now. The enforced brevity of 140 characters further accelerates the speed of communication. These are dispatches with a lag time of seconds – not even hours.
Twitter Allows Asymmetric relationships (or Twitter Works Like a Populist News Service) : Unlike Facebook – you can follow anyone you like (unless they have protected their profile – which very few ppl do). This means that Twitter can replicate the way influence works in society — meaning, human attention can be directed to whatever person “earns” that attention. That attention doesn’t “cost” the influencer anything because Twitter is asymmetric — you can follow me — I don’t need to follow you if I do not choose to. I don’t even need to know who you are…. In this regard it is more like a broadcast tool. This asymmetric property also accelerates the diffusion of information since there is much more cross-pollination of followers/followed than in a more symmetric model like Facebook where both parties must agree to be friends…. All of this to say – Twitter is structured to be function better as a new service than other social technologies.
Twitter is now part of the revolutionary’s toolkit just as Mumbai made it a part of the emergency response toolkit. What happens next is anyone’s guess.
Name, Rank and Serial Number. Managing Online Identity – and Just who is Joshua Ross anyway?
People don’t call telephone numbers – people call people. (ripped and reapplied from the NRA slogan
) Despite that truism, numbers have historically been the most convenient way to designate the people we want to reach. I may know you as Jim – but if I want to call “Jim” I better get way more specific… Numbers do the job quite nicely. In the beginning telephone numbers were short (2 or three digits)- because there weren’t a whole lot of people who had a phone. As the number of telephone owners exploded – the digits increased in order to accommodate the unique endpoints.
Just like the telephone there has been an explosion in the number of people online (1.7 billion and adding about 100 million every month) many of whom are establishing their identity on the social web with blogs, social networks, Twitter etc… Unlike the telephone system, we are far from working out how to create unique identifiers for these identities. It’s a mess.
I have four active email addresses, accounts on three social networks (that I remember), two telephone numbers, a Google Voice number (to bind the former two) a Twitter account and at least three username/password combinations to log in to the myriad services that I subscribe to (from banking to Netflix and well beyond). More broadly, I have an abbreviated name (Joshua Ross) that was quite unique when I was growing up but today a search on “Joshua Ross” brings up an Australian Olympic Athlete, a Rabbi and a recent felon convicted of marijuana possession in the U.S. South (it wasn’t me, I swear…) There is even a Joshua Ross on MySpace who is a musician (my band is on MySpace and I once had a semi-professional career as a musician) – That is pretty close to home. There are a lot of Joshua Ross imposters up to all kinds of no good. I am nowhere in the top 10.
Somewhere along the line I got wise. My full name is Joshua-Michéle Ross. Now the combinatorics begin to work in my favor. I can’t find a single contender for that Jewish-Italian hybrid. While this helps me establish my identity online – it makes me unfindable to old high school friends looking me up since the “michéle” is a new development. But just like the phone number I needed to add digits to get a unique designation. When it came to Twitter however, where each character counts, my name became a liability so I am @jmichele…. Solving one problem begets another…
Platforms Beat Applications
Platforms beat applications. OK - So what is a platform? The nomenclature of platforms and applications arise from technology but I will use a low tech retail metaphor. An application in this analogy is The Foot Locker (let’s just say) while the platform is the Mall. The mall is a platform in that it provides many of the conditions necessary for The Foot Locker to exist; physical infrastructure, foot traffic (no pun originally intended) etc. This allows The Foot Locker to focus its attention on what it does best – market and sell shoes. They don’t need to allocate finances towards owning the building and all the hazards that entails. If Foot Locker is unsuccessful, there are other small business owners that might be eager to make use of the space in the mall. The mall is a platform that allows myriad small/large businesses to flourish.
The best exemplar of the platform recently is the iPhone. The iPhone allows developers to build applications that reside on the iPhone (the mall if you will). These applications can take full advantage of the iPhone’s physical infrastructure (sensors like the accelerometer for games, microphone, GPS chipset etc.) and reach (37 million iPhones to date). This is a compelling proposition. There have been 35,000 applications developed – and 1 billion application downloads. iPhone is now opening up its hardware to allow people to develop physical devices… (I imagine my iPhone as a netbook in the near future).
Platforms can be a powerful concept for re-imagining your business and is part of what I talk about when I say, Open beats Closed. There is more talent outside your walls than within — find a way to tap into that creative potential. Platforms are also a way of reimagining our government….
This is the heart of Ed Felten’s recent post, Government Data and the Invisible Hand, on how to make government more transparent. The genius stroke is right here at the beginning,
If the next Presidential administration really wants to embrace the potential of Internet-enabled government transparency, it should follow a counter-intuitive but ultimately compelling strategy: reduce the federal role in presenting important government information to citizens. Today, government bodies consider their own websites to be a higher priority than technical infrastructures that open up their data for others to use. We argue that this understanding is a mistake. It would be preferable for government to understand providing reusable data, rather than providing websites, as the core of its online publishing responsibility.
Beautiful… Felten is telling Government to build a platform that leverages citizen engagement. It is an interesting notion to think about how new technological advancements (namely, the Internet) will reconfigure our very notion of democracy. My Society and Frontseat (see my interview with founder Mike Mathieu here) already take available data for citizens to remix. Imagine how powerful this can be if government saw itself as a platform rather than owning the whole mall.