The Web and Society

Post ImageThe second keynote of the morning is with Rob Hyndman and Dr. Michael Geist, who will be chatting about the web and society. Here are my notes, with my comments again in italics. I think Michael looks a little like Billy Crystal.

  • Oooh a slidedeck! Michael Geist is opening with a presentation, and he’s using pictures on slides just like we saw at Northern Voice. Seems to be a popular format. He’s talking about Sam Bulte and the copyright fiasco that happened over the holidays. He’s an excellent speaker. I guess the bloggers defeated Bulte in the last election. Or did they?
  • Three lessons we can draw: new voices, new stakeholders, new copyright.
  • There is a tendency at times to focus on the negativity of what’s taking place (spam, porn, etc). There is some remarkable stuff taking place: content creation, content sharing, good news story.
  • Readership of papers is flat in Canada, in decline in the US.
  • Canadian retail sales of books remain constant. Records for vide games. Declines for music.
  • “What is more long tail than Canadian content?”
  • Michael’s question is what’s the policy to ensure this great stuff continues, and in fact, to encourage it?

Now we’re getting to the conversation.

  • Rob says “after hearing Michael speak, I feel like going out to run a marathon, the world is gonna be okay.” Agreed.
  • We’re looking at new legislation being introduced probably this fall. Michael says that US-style law is protection for things like DRM. The tools and laws don’t work.
  • What about iTunes, it requires DRM, doesn’t that tell us something? Michael says it tells us something about the labels, only willing to do it when DRM came around. It will be unfortunate if we end up in a world with only iTunes.
  • Where is the Canadian content? Apple doesn’t need to negotiate deals with the smaller companies, so these things are missing.
  • We saw some movment in France to try and rollback DRM, are there signs that there is some flexibility? Michael says users already have control over content, the question is whether we’re going to lock them up for it. A growing number of countries are recognizing that policies put into place in the 1990s are outdated, and don’t reflect the current state of the web.
  • We’re seeing a move to a more collaborative method of content creation. What does this tell us about the ideal model of intellectual property protection? Rob says he isn’t anti-copyright, but we need to understand that some of the reforms are not about copyright, but protecting markets. DVD region encoding, for example, has nothing to do with copyright.
  • Question from the floor: do we need new copyright policy in Canada or not? Michael says the starting point is “do no harm.” There are some opportunities: we have a fairly limited fair use right, which is stifling to new business, for example. There is an opportunity to do good, but we can do a lot of harm along the way.
  • What is the current political reality? The Canadian Recording Industry is about as good a lobbying group as there is. When musicians finally speak out, it’s a breath of fresh air, but you can’t undo twenty years of lobbying in two weeks. Matthew Good and the Barenaked Ladies are leaders in this space. There’s a new coalition of artists.
  • Question about the SOCAN levies: Michael says their vision of levies really went to liabilities. It’s unlikely we’ll see a lot of people push in that direction.
  • Another question: Do you see young people getting more politically active if their fun is limited? Michael says it is tough to say, but if there is an issue, this is it. More and more people are starting to see this as their issue, for example, the musicians.
  • Michael says there will unquestionably be infringements, but that’s why we have a system, so that we have a set of rules and we have certain abilities when someone clearly violates. This may be a very smart room, but none of us is smart enough to see what the world will look like in a few years. But I would argue that all of us is smart enough, the wisdom of crowds!
  • This is not just a copyright issue, net neutrality plays a big role. Michael says it is absolutely an issue here in Canada, for example, what happened with Telus during the lockout. If you have economic incentive to block content, and no laws in place to say you can’t use market power to do that, then we’ve got problems.
  • Michael says we need to rethink policies that are developed with the idea that everyone will want incentive (say getting paid for blogging).

The Future of Media

Post ImageHere are some notes from the first keynote of the day, featuring Om Malik and a discussion between Om and Mark Evans of the National Post. Items in italics are my thoughts and comments. They are discussing the future of media:

  • Kind of cool, two green couches up on stage for this conversation.
  • Can the old world of media survive, and if so, how do they adopt? Om says he doesn’t see the difference between old world and new world at all. As long as the information is delivered.
  • Traditional media faces challenges because some people simply shouldn’t be in the traditional publishing business Om says. He thinks it would be impossible to replace things like the NY Times or National Post or WSJ.
  • Are bloggers journalists? Om says people in that debate have too much time on their hands.
  • Mark says a lot of newspapers are still struggling with the online business model. If they haven’t been able to embrace the web, how can they embrace blogs and podcasts and things? Om says if they don’t, they face a bigger problem, which is a whole new generation that only consumes their news online (sounds a lot like me).
  • Om says that Forbes.com is really saving Forbes’ bacon right now.
  • The hundreds of newspapers that will disappear are probably bad newspapers, Om thinks. It won’t be papers like the New York Times – “that said, I’ll be glad to see a lot of newspapers go.”
  • Om says blogs are killing off the trade press more than anything.
  • Mark asks about television, watching what you want when you want? Om says the mainstream market doesn’t really care, there haven’t been that many Tivos sold. He says TV is still a passive medium, people just want to sit there and watch whatever’s on, for the most part. Regular people don’t care about Tivo’s.
  • Apparently Mark Evans likes The Sopranos, and has a bunch recorded on his PVR, ready to watch. I’ve still never seen an episode of that show.
  • Mark asks about the Three C’s – credibility, content, and cash.
  • Om says getting discovered is harder than attaining credibility. People can make judgement calls if they find the blog. Credibility comes from the content you create, and in the end, people recognize what’s good and what’s bad.
  • Mark thinks newspapers can survive in local markets, for local advertisers. Om thinks there is an opportunity for local-focused startups.

And now, some questions from the floor.

  • Are we underestimating the capacity of the day-to-day world of print, where you basically have a free license to spam?
  • What about Craigslist? Om says the newspapers are up against free classifieds, but otherwise, Craigslist is a different kind of beast.
  • “When information is free, the only thing of value is point of view.” Do you think that’s a helpful paradigm? Om says context is more valuable, you have to put everything in context, and most of the time, people fail to do this. People confuse opinion with context. Om says context is the single biggest thing missing in the news today.
  • Imagine a future in which you get the news on a digital paper. How far are we from that world? Om has no clue.
  • About the economics of blogging – how is one to establish themselves financially? (Boris Mann beside me says, join a network, next question! Agreed.) Om says he is part of Federated Media, which is an aggregated network. What we need is a new kind of advertising paradigm. Om says advertising is seriously lagging in the blogging space. Mark remarks that many reasons people blog now are not financial, they just want to get their point of view out there.
  • Question about net neutrality. Om says from a blog publishing point of view, its not much of an issue. Mark wonders if it is a way for traditional media to protect themselves online, because they can pay. Om says there is room for independent media, they don’t need to be streaming high def!
  • Question about transitioning from tradtitional newspaper to online. Om says lifestyle, sports, and business support the paper. In the online world, you can finetune things, maybe using AP or Reuters for international news instead of your own team. Om says the concept of magazines is not going away anytime soon.
  • How do we effectively change that paradigm of advertising. I can turn off my ads on a website using Firefox – how do advertisers deal with that? Om: Internet Explorer, 85% market share. I would say that since Google pretty much owns Firefox, and their business is advertising (not search!), I wouldn’t expect it to get any worse than it already is. Om says he can’t believe the number of people that click on his Google ads. Mark: “who are these people?!”
  • Om says the blogs that provide value with stick around, and the ones that don’t will go away. “Every user comes with their finger poised on the back button.” Boris remarks that RSS hasn’t come up once yet. How many people in this audience visit Om’s blog on the web? Probably most use RSS.
  • Ah what do you know, the next question comes up, and Om answers with RSS. The question was about monetizing information, can we actually do it? Om says in reality, there is a fundamental change happening, with a new format of information distribution and consumption, and the business model needs to be worked out.
  • What does it look like in three years? Om says it will look pretty similar. NYTimes or WSJ might hire some bloggers, but things aren’t moving as fast as people think. You will see the biggest media experiment.
  • Boris gets to ask a question: he says he only uses RSS, he never visits the websites. Blogs are conversations, Boris can’t have a conversation with the National Post! So no question, but just comments, but he made a good point, and Om agrees. Om says RSS is a challenge, but its a huge opportunity. Whoever can figure out a new advertising model right now stands to make a lot of money. Mark says old media is failing miserably at creating a conversation.
  • Om says Web 2.0 is a new way of thinking, not some fancy new javascript bits. Is it really all about advertising? I think there’s so much more to Web 2.0.
  • Seems people get their news mostly from the same services. Are you concerned about how that affects the conversation? Om says the real intelligence of blogs is in the comments.

Not surprisingly, this session went slightly over time.

Opening Remarks

Post ImageStuart MacDonald is on stage welcoming everyone to the conference. He says they want the event to be a two-way conversation, full of meshing, instead of the typical “we talk you listen” kind of conference. “Think of yourselves as participants, rather than attendees,” they say.

Introductions to the organizers, thanks to the sponsors, etc, etc. Housekeeping stuff, there is free WiFi, and there is power in the floor (though we can’t figure out how to open the panel). Please turn off your BlackBerry’s (apparently they make a clicking noise?). On with the show!

Let’s Mesh!

Arrived at Mesh

Post ImageJust arrived here in the auditorium for Mesh 06, and I’m ready to go! I’ve got my Oilers jersey on, sticking out like a sore thumb amongst all the khakis and dress shirts, but that’s cool. I’ll have lots of pictures to post throughout the day, so check out Flickr. There’s lots of people here already, with more and more coming in.

I haven’t seen as many people I know as I did in Vancouver yet, but that’s to be expected, as most of the attendees here are probably east coasters.

It wasn’t looking good last night after I went to sleep – I woke up coughing and ended up being seriously ill. Fortunately it only lasted for about an hour. I felt fine before, and I felt fine afterward, so maybe it was something I ate? In any case, I’m back to normal.

St. Valentine's Day

Post ImageToday is Valentine’s Day, where everything you see and everywhere you go is red, pink, white, or some shade in between. I remember giving cards to classmates when I was in primary school, and I remember candygrams in high school, but that’s about when my mass valentine sending stopped. As you get older, you send less and less valentines I guess! From Wikipedia:

The day is now most closely associated with the mutual exchange of love notes in the form of “valentines.” Modern Valentine symbols include the heart-shaped outline and the figure of the winged Cupid. Since the 19th century, the practice of hand writing notes has largely given way to the exchange of mass-produced greeting cards. The Greeting Card Association estimates that, world-wide, approximately one billion valentine cards are sent each year, making the day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year behind Christmas. The association also estimates that women purchase approximately 85 percent of all valentines.

I wonder how long it will be until this text is updated to say that the practice of sending greeting cards has largely given way to the exchange of email or IMs or blog posts or something! And on that note, Happy Valentine’s Day – I’m back to mass valentines!

Northern Voice 2006 Finished!

Post ImageThe conference ended almost six hours ago now, but we just got back from dinner. We went to Moxies with Robert Scoble, Maryam, Rob Greenlee, Eric Rice, Alex Williams, and a bunch of other really cool people. Dinners are always interesting, because things are a little more casual than at the conference, so you get a better chance to chat. Eric told us all about Second Life, so I am going to have to check that out. Robert commented that everyone is playing either World of Warcraft or Second Life!

I think the conference itself went very well. It had the same feel as last year’s, which is much less tech oriented and more social-impact oriented. Still lots of great people, with great ideas and some very interesting presentations, which is what makes Northern Voice great. There was a similar mix of males and females as last year, though I get the feeling that there were far more Americans this year.

I wasn’t surprised to see so many Apple laptops in the crowd (there usually are at tech events) but I was surprised to see so many people using Microsoft Word for taking notes. That just demonstrates to me that not enough people know about OneNote. And of course, there were still lots of pen and paper people.

I’m not sure I learned anything really new at the conference, but I definitely gathered a good list of things to think about and consider, and that’s probably more important anyway. I’m already looking forward to next year’s! If you’d like to check out my pictures from the conference, I’ve created a photoset at Flickr.

Thanks to Darren, Boris, Roland and all the other organizers and volunteers for a great conference!

Notes on how your blog can change the world!

Post ImageWe’re into the last session of the day now, this one on the five ways your blog can change the world. Here are some notes:

  • Sounds like we’ve gone from four presenters down to one due to some family issues that have come up. I didn’t catch his name though.
  • Yes! He asked what kind of change we want to see in the world, so I stuck up my hand and proclaimed my well-worn mantra, wireless everywhere! Seems as though people agree.
  • There are lots of ways you can take part in some effort to change the world, using things like badges (graphics) or common tags.
  • Seems if you really want something spread quickly, get it on Boing Boing! That’s not the point of the example he is currently sharing, but it is remarkable how that blog can spread information.
  • This is kind of funny, he’s got one of the other presenters on the cell phone with the device held up to the microphone! This is because she didn’t have a microphone to use Skype. Sounds like a telephone interview or something you might see on CNN, kinda neat, and yet pretty low tech!

Lot’s of examples of different projects, like that We Are Sorry campaign after Bush was re-elected, etc. I haven’t been paying that much attention, so I am sure I missed a few things here and there – be sure to check out some other posts on the aggregation servies. I think the links mentioned will be posted on Northern Voice too.

Notes from the Geek Out panel

Post ImageHere are some notes from the Geek Out session administered by Robert Scoble, Will Pate and Kevin Marks:

  • Sounds like they have some topics to discuss at first, followed by some good questions at the end.
  • Kevin is talking about microformats, specifically tagging. We’re also getting a demo of the Blog Finder and Explore features on Technorati. Microformats can be used for tags, events, names, addresses, etc.
  • Kevin just entered “canada” into the Explore feature, and every post on the page was from my blog. Something cool about seeing your blog appear on the big screen in a presentation 🙂
  • Scoble is talking now, about sharing information through del.icio.us and using other Firefox extensions.
  • We’re going around the room sharing favorite Firefox extensions, some of which include: Session Saver, Fangs, PDF Download, Download Status, Signatures, Fasterfox, Web Developer, Firebug, etc.
  • Will Pate is talking now about his blog, and how he uses Drupal for customization. Specifically he is focusing on the aggregation of content capabilities.
  • Kevin just showed an awesome animated graph of the long tail of posts in response to a question about the A list and how to break in. Basically if you get a single inbound link, you’re above average!
  • Scoble reiterates that he’s interested in mapping, and thinks that within a year someone will have “put this room up on a map”. He’s talking about taking the basic mapping capabilities and making them extremely relevant and useful.
  • Will wants better tools for “normal” people, things like posting from within Microsoft Word, etc. He also says user interface is very important!
  • Scoble is interested in the photo sites like Riya and Bubbleshare.
  • Someone asked about Web 2.0 and all of the new products we’re seeing, and both Scoble and Will seem to think we won’t really see a slowdown of new ideas, even though the big three pick up companies along the way.
  • Scoble says the new advertising based business model will allow a lot of new companies to grow. Sounds a lot like the idea behind Live.com if you ask me!

Notes on Everything Casting

Post ImageBack from lunch (we went to Quizno’s in a nearby mall) and I am in Eric Rice’s session titled Everything Casting. Here are some notes:

  • “everything”casting: doing whatever you want, for whatever reason, in whatever medium.
  • your thing, your product, your “it”, your epsilon
  • Four primary elements or categories: content/concept/purpose, medium/materials, audience/behavior, sustain/making money.
  • Content: personal/intimate, art, informational, performance/rock star. You need to have at least one, sometimes you can do all four!
  • Medium: text, audio, video, photos. For all the religious opinions on the medium, it doesn’t matter. Some are better than others, depending on the context, sometimes you can mix them together!
  • Audience: passive, active passive, participatory, active participatory. You can be in any of these moods, and it depends on where you are, the type of medium available, etc.
  • Sustain: zero, fame, barter, cash. It’s perfectly okay to not make money, and in fact, it’s usually hard to make money from things you love doing – think of sports, or playing video games, etc.

More good discussion! Eric will be posting the audio of this session, as well as the slides. Everything is licensed under Creative Commons, so you’re encouraged to use it!

Notes on The Changing Face of Journalism

Post ImageStaying in the same room, where Mike Tippet, Mark Schneider, and Robert Ouimet are talking about the changing face of journalism. This probably going to be similar to what was talked about yesterday during Moosecamp. Here are some notes:

  • We are experiencing an existential moment in the news.
  • Readers can now make their own news, and they are going online to consume news.
  • Michael Tippet essentially gave an overview of NowPublic and the circumstances that allowed it to exist.
  • Robert Ouimet is from CBC, and is talking about how news is changing.
  • He asked how many people in the room watch the 6 oclock news – very few hands went up!
  • Mark Schneider is now sharing his journalistic background. He says the truth of the matter is, the news is really sick. There’s a toxic quality about what we are consuming. The news organizations themselves have been tainted.
  • Now we’re on to discussion. Not many notes on this session – it was very interesting, but much harder to write stuff down. I am getting hungry for lunch too, maybe that has something to do with it!
  • Mark says there is something called NewsML (markup language) in the works.
  • Robert: focus is important, and is taught to journalism students and employees, but is an exercise in rejecting everything else.

Really great discussion in this session!