Daily Archives: December 29, 2013

The Essence with No Substance


The history of science is marked by the assumption of substances that were not there. Ether was a substance we assumed was needed for light to travel in space, just like phlogiston was a substance that 18th century scientists assumed carried heat. Yet, from all the substances we have ever assumed to be there, but are not, there is hardly one with a larger social impact than the substance known popularly as the human soul.

The idea of a soul, as a substance, is an attractive idea. It is the idea that the human experience is made of something extra. Yet, the idea of the soul as a substance, as a ghost, as a phantom, is an idea that—although more humanistic than scientific—is not only ready for retirement, but ready to be replaced.

The soul, as a substance, is nowhere to be found. Bodies are by all means material and there is no reason to believe that there is anything in them that is not biological. Yet, we are often afraid to lose the idea of the soul as a substance because we fear that with it, we will lose the mystery of the human experience. A naïve interpretation of our material nature can leave some of us feeling empty, and this anticipation of emptiness can cause restraint. My contention, however, is that the mystery of the human experience is ill served by the assumption of substance-like soul, since the mystery of the human experience hinges in a reality that is unsubstantial, yet more mysterious and profound. That reality is the duality between matter and information.

Consider a deck of cards. Now consider shuffling them. Shuffling a deck of cards changes the information that is embedded in them, but not its weight. The information that is embedded in the deck of cards is unsubstantial, but nevertheless real. Yet, the information that is embedded in the deck of cards cannot exist without the cards. After all, information cannot exist if it is not physically embedded. This duality between matter and information, but more precisely between information and physical fields—that can also be massless—is the essential duality needed to explain the mystery of life. It is the duality between matter and information gives the human experience the gravity that is absent in stones, and the complexity that is missing in the sun. It is this duality the one that endows the universe with much of its mystery.

Our bodies are pregnant with information, and are also hungry for it. Genes are not carriers of matter, but carriers of physically embedded information. Yet genes—although important in determining our hardware—are hardly the ones responsibly for the entire mystery of the human experience. Our constant engulfing, processing and regurgitating of non-genetic information populates much of our “unsubstantial soul”. Our eyes sit proudly in our faces, not to eat photons for energetic purposes, but to capture the information about our surroundings that is carried by them. Our mouths are used for talking more often than for eating. Our ears are finely tuned to absorb the information carried by the immaterial ghosts that people exhale as they speak. Our hands have evolved to become input output devices, which we use to build the objects begot by our imagination, and to learn about the world as we fidget with other people’s creations.

And it is by noticing that our essence is literally insubstantial that we recover the mystery of the human experience, but also the mystery of our collective experience, since information is not exclusive to humans, but something that transcend us. Your clothes, car, and home are not made merely of atoms, but primarily of information. It is not the economic value of objects, but the humanity of the information embedded in them what makes these extensions of our humanity, and transcendental links between each other. The objects that populate our world embody the “substanceless souls” of others, since they are made of information begot by humans and carry with them parts of our existence, bringing transcendence to our lives.

Yet our collective experience is not limited only to our ability to deposit parts of us, as information, into objects. Because we are made of information, and the soul is not a fixed ethereal substance, is that we can so effectively combine in our bodies the essence of others. It is because I am made of information, and of a body that can engulf and process information, that I can absorb the ghost of a language that my parents did not speak, and the ghost of scientific ideas and concepts that I did not imagine. It is because I am made of information, that I can be possessed by the ideas of Boltzmann, Darwin and Prigogine, and I can regurgitate combinations of the information they begot, and once deposited in matter. It is because we exist in this duality between matter and information, that we can deposit parts of us in our environment, literally not metaphorically, by doing something as simple as writing a book or building an object. It is because we are made of information that we can have parts of us leave our body to be later re-embodied in the flesh of someone. As bodies we are mortal shells, yet as information we can live forever.

So when we understand life as information, we understand that the idea of a substance like soul is ready to retire. Like phlogiston and ether, we now know that the substance like soul is not there. Yet its absence does not leave a void. The substance is not needed once we begin to understand the beautiful duality between matter and information, a duality so ancient and profound, that even though real, is nevertheless a source of endless mystery.

Written by

Making The Invisible Visible. MIT Media Lab Faculty. http://t.co/s8zeV4PA07 http://t.co/YrTgeWKvK2 http://t.co/AGNbDqTbTQ https://t.co/b6VvZGdPeF

Published December 28, 2013]https://medium.com/p/6d28c6a631b

 

Microsoft post-Ballmer: the future is open


I immediately remembered Microsoft’s 2010 slogan “Be what’s next“ when I heard the news that Steve Ballmer had been fired, the man responsible for its declining influence and leadership, the man who missed each and every technological revolution of the last decade.

An article in the MIT Tech Review called “Why Microsoft’s next CEO should break up the company” argues that a company that has become a bureaucratic monster no longer capable of innovation should be divided up, and speculates on the future of a series of mini-Bills or baby-Bills working separately on the operating system, desktop applications, server applications, entertainment, and online activities.

One of the open questions at the major field exam that I had to answer while preparing for my doctorate at UCLA was exactly about that hypothesis: the break up of Microsoft. A that time, there was much speculation about the possible impact of the United States vs. Microsoft monopoly suit, but many of the conclusions I drew then are still applicable. From what I know about Microsoft, I don’t think we are talking about a company yet unable to innovate. It is undoubtedly mired in red tape overweight, and in need of new leadership and a culture change, but I don’t think that a series of spin-offs is the way to solve those problems in a company that is fantastically well capitalized, and is not exactly lacking in the economic resources that kind of process might create.

My impression is that the main thing that has held Microsoft back over the last decade have been the excesses derived from a culture that has been overly concerned with proprietary issues. The Microsoft mentality is focused on what is happening within the company, based on the belief that anything it needs to do can be done with its own resources. This outlook closes the door to innovation from outside: the company doesn’t learn from its users, because these have been held at arm’s length behind myriad resellers, partners, OEMs, integrators, etc. Getting and staying close to the customers is essential in an era when so much innovation comes from studying use models and the way that clients adapt to innovation.

The world has changed completely. The companies that lead in terms of innovation do not use their own resources, instead they work on building platforms that feed into and off the innovation of third parties, either through development communities or structures that integrate others’ creativity. Being open is a key process in developing quality products, an indispensible part of the process of reacting rapidly to problems and mistakes, and a guarantee of the right attitude.

What Microsoft needs to ask itself is how it can compete in this changed world where open structures have won decisively over closed ones, and how to make this reality impact on its development philosophy. Something as simple as thinking about opening the code of its products is not just a way of improving them, but also one of showing a new attitude, a different image: one of the key problems Microsoft faces is the negative image, due in large part to Ballmer himself, that many of its customers have of it.

Competing with products that have been developed in this increasingly more open world requires a more open approach: Microsoft must begin a process of genuinely opening up, one that is capable of initiating a positive dynamic within the company. This is a process that requires not just adequate leadership, but a combined effort on the part of each and every Microsoft division. And for this to happen, it is very unlikely that the company would be better off being broken up. The philosophy that led Bill Gates in 2006 to link his foundation’s support solely for research projects that worked with open source projects should now spread throughout the company that he created. Microsoft was one of the companies that helped encourage the open code mentality through an action-reaction process. Now it is time for it to embrace a philosophy that quite simply is the zeitgeist.

How to go about creating a Microsoft that is focused on innovation and, above all, openness? That is the only question that the next CEO of the company should be asking him or herself. And it is a challenge that few will be able to rise to.

Written by

Professor at IE Business School (Madrid, Spain) and blogger at enriquedans.com

 

Why Conferences Should Have an Expiration Date


I’ve been involved in designing, marketing and managing events — mostly conferences in the management, technology, design and creative sectors — for more than ten years now, and I’ve come to the conclusion that conferences need to have an expiration date, like food. A sort of “best before dd/mm/yyy”.

What Does It Mean

This means that when you decide to run a conference with specific goals (or if you are currently running one), you also set a date by which you will cease such event because you consider that by that time its mission should have been achieved or that a stop should be made to reassess the future steps.

Of course, it could happen that after a first edition the deed proves unsuccessful and does not go on, that the goal is achieved before the deadline or that when the date comes the motivations to organize it are still valid and you decide to endure for one or more editions.

What an expiration would prevent is that you go on out of inertia while the experience and significance of the gathering dilutes into irrelevance, waning into a shadow of what it used to be.

Why Have An Expiration Date

Events are a product of their time. The good ones catalyze a particular mood in a group of people, be it in a specific industry, sector society or what not, and offer something that that people find valuable. But as with physical products, events follow cycles and what is novel, interesting, useful, relevant or entertaining today might not be so tomorrow.

When an event goes beyond its expiration date one of two things can happen: One, it is still relevant and can go on for a bit longer. Two, it starts to decay despite the passion, energy, resources and effort of a great team. In this second case, I believe that it’s healthy to take a break and decide wether it’s better to insist or rather apply that passion, energy, resources and effort to something else.


Thinking about my own professional career, I’ve gone through that kind of cycle a few times:

I was involved in the organization of big — now you would say rather traditional — management congresses (think 3,000+ attendees) where we brought together an at the time never heard of roster of academics, industry and world leaders who offered their vision and ideas in 1,5 hour long sessions each, for two days. I still can’t believe how much money we generated with the first editions in cities like New York, Milan, Buenos Aires and other major business hubs around the world. It felt fresh in 2004, in a pre-social media and startup craze world. I left in early 2008 and now, in 2013, this series of events still exist but are no longer perceived as the must-attend for the business community, at least not that under 40 y.o.

I’ve also worked in an amazingly creative and experimental event that had as a goal to transform a particular city into a creative hub, a point of reference for the creative industries in Europe. It had the financial support of the city (plus other industry sponsors) and pioneered a set of formats and interactive installations that were among the most original I’ve ever experienced. In my opinion, after 5 editions (I was involved in n. 4 and 5) the reason for which this event had been created had been grandly achieved and following that its originality reached a peak and the following ones were still good but felt direction-less, became smaller and — again in my very own personal opinion — less relevant to the local and international community.

Barcamps had all the buzz back in 2006-2007 and gathered droves of people interested in the exploration of the nascent space of social media (at least the first bunch of them, later the un-conference format was applied to many other topics and industries). Back then the conditions were just right for them to happen. However today you barely come across one (as a community thing, not as a format).

Another example that comes to mind is the Universal Exposition, which started in the mid-19th century and was considered a driving force to expand international industrial and cultural exchange. Nowadays it still takes place but it’s hardly such a relevant occasion anymore, especially for the Western countries. Nonetheless, if you consider the influence of time and location, the “expo” that took place in Shanghai in 2010 had a majority of the attendees come from mainland China, and for most of them it was the first time visiting Shanghai and being exposed to other international cultures.

Effects of Having an Expiration Date

The effects of having an expiration date would allow you to:

  • Break hype cycles —  there’s an expectation that an event should be always better than the past edition, which at a certain point becomes hardly sustainable.

Take for example the presentation of the iPhone 5s in September 2013. Several analysts considered it a boring event and featuring an unsurprising product, albeit an excellent one. Well, we’re no longer in 2007 when the introduction of the original iPhone was revolutionary and launched the era of the modern smartphones with touch screens. And that’s ok.

  • Avoid diminishing returns beyond a point were it somehow damages the event, the credibility of the brand or the relationship with the community.
  • Prevent from wasting resources (financial, human resources, etc) on a cause that no longer has a meaningful impact, whatever that used to be.
  • Create time to think, re-focus and plan what comes next without the pressure of the inertia created by a cycle that is no longer relevant (e.i. the next edition).
  • Find new goals and have the freedom to decide what instruments are needed.
  • Prevent the exhaustion of the experience, limited by the formula (format, content, city, etc) used in the past, even if it was a successful one.
  • Keep the memories of past editions high.
  • Avoid decadence: All that rises must come down.
  • Move on, because that’s life.

Change Is The Only Certainty

Surprise, originality and excitement only last for a certain period of time, and the same can be said for impact and relevance. It’s not easy to detach yourself from a successful conference. It takes courage, vision and the understanding that everything in life moves in cycles. People, things and habits are born and die. It might also create uncertainty on what comes next. That’s normal and must be embraced.

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t invest in the longevity of the brand. The biggest asset of an event is (or should be) the relationship with the community of attendees, sponsors, partners and other stakeholders that it has — hopefully — created during its existence.

Yes, it’s a valid alternative to try to milk the most value out of a specific conference and figure out what to do next later. It’s surely the most reasonable thing to do purely from the Return-On-Investment (ROI) point of view. But you’re not running an event just for the ROI, or are you? ;-)

Written by

@gchicco A nomad on a serendipitous walkabout. Interested in digital-physical experiences. Marketer, Storyteller, Event Organizer, Runner, Traveler, Engineer. 

Updated September 29, 2013

 

This Is What Rap Genius Is Really Like


Jillian D’Onfro, provided by
Published 9:23 am, Sunday, December 29, 2013

Rap Genius Founders Tom Ilan and Mahbod

Rap Genius, a community site where members can leave in-line annotations analyzing song lyrics, literature, speeches, and news items, recently let us inside its operations.

Rap Genius rocketed to notoriety after raising $15 million from Andreessen Horowitz a little over a year ago.

The company is known for a few things. For one, there’s the controversial statements of its Yale-grad founders Mahbod Moghadam, Tom Lehman, and Ilan Zechory. But on the plus side, Rap Genius has a roster of supporters like Nas and Kendrick Lamar. But it recently made headlines when the National Music Publishers Association called it–and other lyrics sites–”blatantly illegal.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Rap Genius’ office is as non-traditional as its public image.

The company’s 40+ employees work in the seventh-floor penthouse suites of an apartment building on Kent Street in Williamsburg (the building used to be the warehouse of a large grocer). In total, the company works out of nine different offices.

Each of the suites has a kitchen, bathroom, common area, and several bedrooms turned into offices. In some ways, it feels more like a giant collegiate crash pad than an office.

When you arrive on the seventh floor, you’re in Rap Genius territory. I spotted several employees walking through the halls with bare feet.

Although there’s no reception desk, the company proudly touts its logo on the wall in the main suite.

This space hosts the offices for the Rock Genius and News Genius sections, and the main common area where the company entertains guests.

See the rest of the story at Business InsiderSee Also:

 

WordPress: the way forward


Tiger Global Management’s $60 million investment in Automattic, the company behind WordPress, has prompted discussion about the tool created by Matt Mullenweg, which many of us see as the web page content manager of the future.

In the old days, content management systems were enormously complicated and sophisticated; beyond the reach of most of us. Today,WordPress is behind around 20 percent of web pages, a significant increase on 2010’s 12 percent, with Joomla, another open source tool, with 3.3 percent, bringing up a distant second. Around 65 percent of pages do not use any type of content manager, a percentage that has decreased from the 80 per cent of 2010.

WordPress, which has a workforce of around 200 people, has a “work where you want” policy and a business model based on “many little things”: it offers users a wide range of free services, backed up by premium products such as an anti-spam filter for companies, or simple tools such as a domain redirector, all of which are the basis of its significant growth.

The growth of WordPress’ market is not just based on blogs and personal sites, but is increasingly rooted in its use to manage corporate sites. While the presence of individuals on the web has grown and simplified, thanks mainly to the development of the social networks and dead simple tools such as Tumblr, more sophisticated personal pages are still a segment largely limited to advanced users. Corporate website managers, on the other side, are becoming increasingly aware of the advantages that using a content management system can bring, and WordPress is being increasingly seen as the way forward.

Have a look at your company’s web site: you’ll probably find some kind of “electronic brochure”: out of date, and not terribly attractive; or maybe some kind of useless advertisement from the days when people believed that the web was going to follow the lead of television. In many cases, creating a new web project means starting from scratch, or redesigning a page based on the old principle of form follows function. In reality, these types of projects are falling into misuses in the face of what seems to be a new focus based on more appropriate parameters for a social-media led web.

Increasingly, a web site should be a showcase for up-to-the-minute information about a company, as well as a way to get to know it: laid out clearly, relevant, easy to update, and fostering interaction with social networks. Websites are more and more like magazines, offering content about the company, its products, and anything that might affect or interest its potential followers. From a static focus based on the idea of somehow “impressing” the visitor, we have moved toward the idea that visitors will return frequently to the page, monitoring content in the context of a company that tries to become referential for a specific area.

From its beginnings as a simple blogging tool, WordPress is increasingly becoming the core for a growing number of web projects and sites. If WordPress is not on the radar of your company’s technology department, it is very likely that your company’s web site will be overly complex and inefficient. The vast majority of information that a company needs to manage on the web is done so best via a content provider like WordPress: in the case of complex, or unique projects, using WordPress is almost a therapeutic exercise, an opportunity to rethink from the very beginnings just what having a presence on the web is supposed to mean.

Static pages linked to sections that are regularly updated, along with a growth philosophy subject to the discipline imposed by the permalink philosophy, a resource that will always be available, despite whether it is being actually shown or not. The task of deciding on the source, production and development of this content is much more important in itself for a company now than that of managing, which should reduced to the simplest tasks possible.

The blog format as an accompaniment to other pages and modules is increasingly being chosen by companies that want to project a fresh, simple, and modern image, at the same time as offering a wide range of possibilities: being open source from the get go means that WordPress has been able to attract a huge number of developers that in turn are generating tools, templates, and functionalities of all types.

The result is websites that are cheaper and simpler to create and manage, and that at the same time are more powerful and efficient as a communication tool. More and more companies are reflecting the current spirit of the web rather than trotting out old-hat ideas that miss the point: minimalism applied where it needs to be applied, and rooted in a philosophy that allows for effective search engine access. If your web is not working the way most other webs do, then you’ve gone wrong somewhere. The new web presence model means that managing through a tool like WordPress is now a more than reasonable option.

Written by

Professor at IE Business School (Madrid, Spain) and blogger at enriquedans.com

Published September 19, 2013

 

Smart is new sexy


Knowledge. That’s the primary factor, that enlightened the progress of the humankind. The caveman, gazing at the burning fire, wondering, by the will of what fickle god was it shining. The long-bearded philosopher, asking himself whether parallel lines intersect somewhere in the continuous space. Or the blind astronomer, who still could see that “yet it moves”. It took them years of hard work to understand bases, known by any tenth grader. Moreover, now even a third-rate tenth grader knows about nature and its laws much more then Galilei, but is he capable of similar agility of thought?

We live in the amazing time when, we have an unprecedented privilege of the unlimited access to any knowledge, so carefully gathered by the humankind throughout generations. It’s all there. Seek and ye shall find.

Whenever you need anything, just google it. Wikipedia will give you the hint. Still have questions? Try to ask someone on Quora. Want more systematic approach? There might be some great course on Udemy or Coursera. Oh, and there are thousands of those super useful blogs with amazing insights. Forget about classical education – it’s broken. Constant self-education is what will make you competitive and successful. Staying ignorant just won’t work in the long run.

The world becomes more and more intolerant to people, who ignore those opportunities to learn. You have no excuses not to self-educate. Smart is new sexy. Flexibility, readiness to learn fast and sometimes to learn something completely new are new trends. Humankind is moving, taking baby steps by now, to the new level of intellectual potential. To the world of incredible inventions, of scientific and social advancement, which would make, not just the caveman, but even us stand motionless and wonder, by will of what fickle god was it created. The basis for the progress is already prepared. And now each one of us is responsible for that leap forward. So, are you ready to be the new sexy?

Written by

Dream-pursuer, co-founder and CEO of Loum (@getloum). Brining people closer to each other in their local communities.

 

I Choose to Hold on to Classic Country Music


Because when you love something, you grasp it, you advocate for it,you hold on to it…

Eric Church Album

While doing homework at my friend’s house a couple years ago, I heard my first Country song. Eric Church with his hit Springsteen was next on the playlist.As I scrolled up and down, looking for interesting music, Eric Church’s voice sang “To this day when I hear that song,I see you standin’ there on that lawn. Discount shades, store bought tan, flip flops and cut-off jeans”. At first, it was all pure curiosity, however, I must say, that those lyrics combined with that specific rhythm, dramatically impacted me in ways that I never imagined.

Photo Credit: Indulgy.net

Country Music, is now one of the few things that I never reject. It doesn’t matter how many hours of Country/Folk I listen to,at the beginning of every song I still feel the same captivating interest. Yes. For many people this might be tiring and monotonous, but remember, we all have our own little special things that others may not like, but we still love.

Because we are all different, in our own perfect way. Photo Credit: wehartit.com

Every morning of everyday, I faithfully follow my routine. I wake up, play some Country Music, and start getting ready for a new day. Back in the day, I never payed much attention to a specific style of music. I didn’t have a specific favorite musical style that I felt completely identified with.However, Country Music came along and somehow changed my perspective.I suddenly began to research and ask people about Country, just to know and learn little by little. As you might imagine, I ended up learning a lot more than I thought I would.

Just to give give you a little taste of what kind of impact I’m referring to, I encourage you to look back into your life. Imagine that one song that makes you smile no matter how sad or down you are feeling. Isn’t it pretty special when you can connect in such way with one specific song? Don’t you feel as if you were completely and helplessly in love with it? You keep replaying it over and over again, just because each time you listen to it, the lyrics somehow become more real.

Country Fever/Photo Credit: weheartit.com

This is the kind of feeling I encountered when I first started to explore the Country genre. Country singers like Johnny Cash and Luke Bryan, Country covers by Tim McGraw and Josh Turner, and even Country lyrics themselves, all somehow added up to form what today I call my personal joyful noise. It never even mattered what the situation was/is about. As long as I can listen to a good Country song, focusing on the positive side and in the things that truly matter becomes so much easier.

Photo Credit: wigflip.com

I won’t tell you to hold on to Country Music specifically, but I will encourage you to hold on to whatever it is that makes you smile even in your rough days. Just stop and look around. What about the little things you’ve been taking for granted? And what about the great things that evidently matter, but you choose to leave behind?

Make sure that you never abandon the little or big things that provide a simple smile to your monotonous days. Or else you’d be abandoning a part of yourself. If you don’t hold on to the things you love and appreciate, why should others do so? Why would other people hold on and appreciate Country, when I, feeling deeply identified and interested in Country, decide to let go of it?

Photo Credit: weheartit.com

Sometimes we actually need to be put in situations like this so we can realize how important some things are in our lives. I honestly never thought I would care so much for music and look where I’m at.Just keep in mind that when you care enough for something, you are willing to defend it until the end.To help me out a little think about this, would you ever defend the little things that you love? How efficient would you be when it comes to defending that one thing that interests you the most? How would you feel if suddenly the little things that made your rough days a little brighter were taken away from you? (feel free to leave comments)


“Beginnings are usually scary and endings are usually sad, it’s everything in between that makes it all worth living” This blog post is the result of arduous wok for a Communications Class Project. Feel free to comment suggestions,thoughts, or concerns.

Thalia Tiburcio is a high school senior at Doulos Discovery School in the Dominican Republic. Lover of anything that involves physical activity and music,especially Country/Folk.

Communications Student 2013

Written by

Bonjour! I’m a high school senior at Doulos Discovery School in the Dominican Republic. I love music, especially Country/Folk. Jesus is the King of my heart! <3

View story at Medium.com

 

How Being Social Has Made Me A Better CIO


tweeting at the 2013 CAMPUS ALBERTA TEACH ing summit, Olds College, Alberta Canada

tweeting at the 2013 CAMPUS ALBERTA TEACH ing summit, Olds College, Alberta Canada

Tweeting from the C-suite

When I began using Twitter on 2011 I was just like every new egghead user. I had no idea how this new medium would enhance my ability to excel at my profession. I must say I was more than a little skeptical. I am proud to admit that I was dead wrong.

I would like to share my direct personal and business benefits that I have reaped by being a social CIO.

The pulse of the industry — Build your Personal Learning Network (PLN)
If you are using Google to research emerging trends in your industry, then every single twitter user has an advantage over you. Within social networks, news and information moves at the pace of innovation. By building a personal learning network (PLN) of like-minded (better yet, not so like-minded) colleagues you will extend your vision into a wealth of recommended information on just about any topic you wish to research.

Turbo charging your curiosity engine
One of the best pieces of advice that I have ever received came from Mr. Rogers. Be Curious. I learn by being curious about things. That’s been my learning style for my whole life, so Twitter fits right into my mode of learning. This medium gives me the ability to search out information, engage with colleagues (or complete strangers), and ultimately create relationships. Curiosity might have killed the cat but it is fostered by a little blue bird.

Leveling the playing field
I work for a small liberal arts university in rural Pennsylvania. My ability to participate in the conversations at the highest levels in my industry was limited by the size of my organization and by geography. To fly from Pittsburgh to almost anywhere in this country is trying at best. By engaging on Twitter I can have the same access to industry leaders that my colleagues in much bigger institutions enjoy.

Every get, starts with a give
We have all heard the phrase, you get what you give, and in the world of social media that phrase takes on a much more weighty meaning. Go ahead, prove me right, create a twitter account and follow 100 or so people. Just read, don’t interact. You will receive some benefits but the true value in this medium comes by giving. Freely sharing your views and beliefs adds value to your network, and in turn your network will repay you 100 times over with different contexts, opinions, and advice.

More time to be ‘human’
Being connected via a mobile device, for me it is an iPhone or iPad, gives me the ability to make the most of those wasted moments in my day. I can jump into the ‘flow’ whenever I have a few moments. These ‘flow moments’ add up over time and give me pause at the end of a busy day to enjoy my life, to enjoy being human. When people approach me saying that social media will be the end of ‘personal’ contact I always disagree. I argue that it is the exact opposite.

Becoming a social reader — it’s a knowledge multiplier!
Before twitter I may have read 2-4 articles a day on different aspects of the industry. I would search out information in the conventional ways, from the web to trade magazines. After I built about 1000 users into my PLN, all I do is open twitter and start reading. Due to this my consumption of info has increased tenfold. More importantly I am able to engage with thought leaders, colleagues and friends about the reading in almost real time. This adds additional insights from varying contexts, some of which would not be visible without this social reading component. Ultimately adding depth and additional value to every article I read, and multiplying the knowledge that take away.

Death to email
If you receive 1000 messages a day you are well aware of the inefficiencies of email. Spam, spam, and more spam. Not the spam that Gmail regularly deals with and categorizes as ‘spam’ for me daily (~150/day), I’m talking about the unsolicited email from vendors, sales people and others. By using the Direct Message feature on Twitter I can only receive messages from people that I have a vetted relationship with. You would not believe how a short, 140 character message always suffices. There is no need for a TL;DR (Too Long Didn’t Read) function in Twitter world. To stay in the flow, everything has to be succinct and to the point.

*This article originally appeared in the Huffington Post Tech Blog of Vala Afshar, a mentor and friend. He is personally responsible for my use of twitter. He showed me the way. I have repurposed it here to get feedback from this community.

Further Reading

140 Character Hitchhike

 — 

My husband and I left work early on a Friday to drive four and a half hours north on Interstate 85 through rural North Carolina.

Written by

VP/CIO at Seton Hill University. Mobile, Social and Cloud. All views are my own. #EduPunk

 

The future of Google?


Forget content. Data is King.

Over the past few years Google have moved into many different markets, innovated in many new ways and, in terms of products, have made more adjustments than Joan Rivers’ plastic surgeon. With the torrent of projects coming out of the Googleplex all seemingly heading in different directions, it’s difficult to see where Google’s business strategy lies as a whole.

A few months ago I read an article outlining “Google’s master plan” which outlined how the search giants’ overall business strategy was immensely simple:

“Get people to use the Internet more.”

The post was written by AJ Kohn and to this day is one of my favourites; not just because of its cynical outlook on the dystopian world of search but also because it’s actually a valid point.

“Google’s Evil Plan”

Believe it or not, despite the almost constant badgering about our digital economy in the information age, some five billion people are not connected to the Internet. To put it in another way; two-thirds of humanity are being denied online connectivity and the “economic promise” that comes with it.

Following this trail of thought, Google has much to gain from wider internet adoption. It means more users on its social network to help build the world’s most comprehensive database. It means more time browsing Youtube, more time using their search engine and ultimately more ads being served, clicked and paid for.

The way Google executes on this strategy is to improve speed and accessibility to the Internet by shortening the distance between any activity and the Internet. For instance, commuting to work by car can add an equivalent of up to five extra years’ worth of shifts at the office over the course of a working career.

That’s a lot of time to be offline; so Google are creating Driverless Cars to connect us. According to Nielsen, time spent on PCs and smartphones was up 21 percent from July 2011 to July 2012; Android and Google Glass were created to help us browse on the go. They made Chromebooks and services such as Google Drive for us to work with. Chrome to help us browse faster. They have even become an internet provider both in the US and in developing countries.

Sounds like a good plan but there is a major flaw in this theory. Competition.

Fly in the Ointment

The web is a wide and varied place and yet we seem to gravitate towards a relatively small set of websites time and time again. Social networking websites are a huge sector where we spend hours of our lives. The bad news for Google is that every second spent on these sites means lost ad revenue.

Despite the hype Google+ has not (yet) become the game changer it was touted to be. Facebook is still the world’s most browsed website regardless of whether people use a desktop or mobile device.

Google still faces stiff competition within search too. A recent article (and infographic) I wrote for Box UK highlighted the current marketplace showing growth for alternative search engines and offering a promising outlook for Bing in coming years.

There are a number of alternatives to Google products across the board, and whilst in search they are a dominant force, they are not so lucky in other product areas such as cloud storage.

What is interesting is how Google have begun to diversify the way they gather and store open data and user information to create a closed data system that is not only seemingly unrivaled, but also an extension of their monopoly on search and potentially the killer tool they need to gather more global impression share online.

Google doesn’t just want us online. They want us online and signed into a Google approved product to harvest, manipulate, sell and innovate on our data.

This really is beginning to make me feel like Winston Smith peering into the inner party, how about you?

Further Reading

Connecting the 5 Billion

 — White Paper from Internet.org

Jaron Lanier: The Internet destroyed the middle class

 — Jaron Lanier is a computer science pioneer who has grown gradually disenchanted with the online world since his early days popularizing t…

Written by

Work at Box UK. SEO Strategist. Cardiff City fan. Sarcasm enthusiast. Blogger at www.andrewisidoro.co.uk. Google+ — https://plus.google.com/11346006539005468937

 

What Games Are: Games And Money Are Still Weird


Posted 3 hours ago by , Columnist
Next Story

Editor’s note: Tadhg Kelly is a veteran game designer and creator of leading game design blog What Games Are and manages developer relations at OUYA. You can follow him on Twitter here.

Suppose you have a passion-project game, an interactive story you want to tell or something similar. You want to develop it for iOS. You want it to be “console quality” by which you mean rich in graphics and sound and with a lengthy amount of gameplay. You want it to be cool. Given how everything has liberalized in the gaming market over the last few years, and how many million devices there are out there that play games you would think that it would be much easier to get a project off the ground than it used to be.

You’d be wrong. It’s still something of a minor miracle that games like that manage to get made at all, even with the availability of cheaper tools and better distribution. It’s still often a story about how a team worked evenings and weekend for two or three years just to get a demo version of their game made so that they could go to Kickstarter, or speak to a publisher.

Getting an original game started is just not a straightforward process.

Disconnected Ambitions

Games and money have long had a weird relationship. Many studios have found financing but lost the rights to their work. Many are the studios who found themselves working as de facto service departments for larger entities. Many many are the studios who have been told over the years that there simply isn’t any of that kind of money to be had for the kind of game that they want to make, and they should focus on something else.

Sometime there have been viable publishing layers, other times not. The AAA console-game market, for example, used to feature third-party development deals between studios, publishers and platforms. Nowadays most of the publishers simply do the development in-house, leading to a closed culture.

Sometimes financing has mandated creative control, or even commissioned projects. In the web portal business, for instance, many platform holders dictated what games they wanted to fill certain slots and farmed them out cheaply. They had very little interest in creativity and often the scale of what they paid made little or no sense for medium-sized studios.

At other times the floodgates have opened. 10 years ago the notion that venture capital would invest in games was laughable. Then Zynga and Playfish happened and piles upon piles of VC money flooded into the social game sector. Something similar seemed to be happening in social casino until relatively recently, and still does with high end deals like for Supercell. But still few would invest in making a graphical adventure game, say. Those are still thought of as weird.

A lot of the reason why comes down to creators and financiers having very different priorities. Any financier wants to “invest” in the truest sense of the word. It’s not the attraction of an individual game or celebrity designer that makes up their mind, but franchise or exit potential.

They see investment in a game as a long-term thing, a way to build up something that will last 10 or 20 years and make billions in the process. The game itself becomes a kind of market of play, sometimes actually so, and in that model the developer is a kind of play-provider. Fundamentally the idea from the financier’s perspective is to keep players playing and extracting value forever.

Whereas many game makers don’t care about that. They want to be successful, but in the eyes of the community and the press. They want to be getting the plaudits and the game-of-the-year awards. And they don’t want to get trapped into making sequels to that one game they invented one time. They basically have artist mentalities, and their more story-driven games especially are intended to be consumed more like books. Once done, the game maker wants the player to move on to his next project.

And that’s why passion projects are such a difficult sell. Investors tend not to want to fund them because they’re just lottery tickets. Investors prefer platforms and platform-like propositions that have prospects. Games where revenue and long-tail opportunities abound, or services that support games. In a sense artistic ambition is nice, but the opportunity may not make sense for them.

Patrons

Various parties have recently attempted to square the games-vs-money weirdness. In the wake of the end of third party publishing at scale, various boutique publishers have arisen in mobile and other markets (for example: Tilting Point). Their mission tends to be to provide financing for developers while at the same time maintaining their creative rights, although exactly how viable that proves over the long term is unknown.

Others (such as Standfast Interactive) have attempted to use a mezzanine financing model, or to provide a semi-freelance publishing-as-a-service model. In that model the financier uses systems similar to the bond system found in the movie industry to ensure completion and provide a sense of security for investor and game maker alike. None of those schemes have really taken off though because they tend to be complex and the relationships that they set up can be adversarial.

In all honesty the problem tends to be that most such schemes require that a game maker has at least a conversational knowledge of how finance works, which they often don’t. Although they are both in technology businesses, game makers aren’t usually startup-founder types and commonly know nothing about what convertible debt is, or how financing options can be beneficial or no.

They tend to need financing to be much simpler. Many indie developers, for example, prefer to work in ad hoc arrangements where team members all get paid simple revenue shares because that makes sense to them. They don’t really expect to be successful at scale and often don’t understand what exactly scale would bring other than headaches.

Fundamentally the developer just wants a check to fund making their damned game, and to not get screwed. They want patrons and supporters rather than investors as such. Patronage with a significant possible upside, but more importantly no hassle. For most financiers that’s just not an inviting proposition.

Crowd As Patron

That’s why crowd funding is so much more attractive to many game makers than any kind of professional financing. It gets the middlemen out of the way, leaving the maker to focus on just the product and the audience. And with little chance of getting screwed over.

Yet does crowdfunding really offer the scale that many passion projects need? For a game like Republique $555k has been enough to fund an initial episode, perhaps two, yet its developer still needs a lot of people to buy season passes to fund its completion. For a game like 1979, $300k wasn’t enough given the graphical ambitions for the game, and even despite a lot of press attention urging readers to back the game about the Iranian revolution there wasn’t enough support.

The difficult truth is that while there are many game makers out there for whom passion-filled story-led games are the future, the crowd may simply not be big enough. Their ambitions to go all big-console-style still need considerable financing, yet at the same time the market for that money is just as awkward and strained as ever. Here’s hoping that it starts to resolve itself in 2014.

http://techcrunch.com/2013/12/29/games-and-money/