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“A camera on a phone has only aided the perverted, the nosy, the violent, and the bored.”


Thus proclaimed Michael Agger writing for Slate in January 2007, just as “cameras on phones” had really begun to hit the mainstream.  


Adding video capability simply increased the “madness,” according to Agger. The most prominent uses of these devices that he could dig up at that time included “happy slapping,” “streetkissing,” and “old-fashioned humiliation,” leading him to conclude that “In glorious retrospect, it seems like a terrifically bad idea to give the world a spy camera that looks and functions like a cell phone.”


Even as he wrote that, YouTube, as the platform that made it easy to actually share camera phone video content, had been blocked in Thailand. Since the platform’s launch in 2005, it has been taken seriously enough to be blocked in at least 12 countries – not to mention by corporate firewalls and in school districts across the USA.


So many of us now produce and consume camera phone content as a matter of course and hardly think of it as “madness.” Yet if Agger’s swift dismissal of the camera phone strikes you as silly today, try this trick: substitute the words “Google Glass” (or maybe even “dashboard camera”) for “cell phone camera” in that Slate article. It works.  And will probably continue to work, every time a disruptive new technology is introduced.


I’ve had a keen interest in the transformative power of being able to create and share content easily -- equally relevant inside an enterprise such as SAP as out.  In 2010, I conceived and managed a project that made it easy for anyone to share a video inside SAP. That project achieved astronomical success and came to be known as Media Share, now formally “productized” on our corporate portal.  Yet we also had our naysayers from the outset, insisting we would get in trouble for allowing people to share whatever content they pleased.


This was in fact the thing I liked best about working on Media Share: helping people represent themselves who could not before. You could always publish a video and share it – if you had funding and your content was vetted.  To be sure, we’ve seen slick promo videos, formal training courses, official communications and corporate advertisements alike (not to mention our powerful and meticulously produced It Gets Better: SAP Employees) – all of which stand to gain from the ease of distribution on video platforms such as YouTube and Media Share. These things of course have their place -- but sharing raw footage from your hand-held device cuts more profoundly to the bone.




  • It’s ok to be an amateur.  It might even make you more credible.
  • You don’t need to be a corporation or have funding to create content. You don’t even need a fancy camera.
  • You don’t need anyone to tell you it’s ok.
  • You can – in fact, you probably will -- easily share your content, whether or not your content “goes viral.”
  • As you take your hand-held device around the world with you, you are a witness, a reporter, a human.
  • This changes EVERYTHING.


Agger did concede in Slate in 2007 that some camera phone videos can “testify to the power of first-person witnessing, and how a digital copy of that witnessing can upend neat narratives and certainties.”


What Agger failed to contextualize is that this “upending” is more than just bored hooliganism.  This is “Truth 2.0.”  When you represent your world by sharing your camera phone video, you do more than put the You in YouTube – you MAKE the news.


Sure – with over 60 hours of videos uploaded to YouTube every minute, there is more footage than anyone will ever see and perhaps care about, but you need the dinner parties, the elephants, the fire-breathing kittens, the everyday moments of life to have the really big moments that shake the world.  In short: You actually need to be human.


And if you still doubt that the camera phone has changed the world (and not just for perverts and the nosy, violent, and bored), or rather - that you can change the world because you are a human using your camera phone, browse the list and remember the moments below, listed in the order in which the events they recorded occurred.


As beloved San Francisco Bay Area radio personality Scoop Nisker used to say: “If you don’t like the news…  go out and make some of your own.”



December 26, 2004
Indian Ocean Earthquake & Tsunami

This is just one of many videos about this event, which was “the first global news event where the majority of the first day news footage was no longer provided by professional news crews, but rather by citizen journalists, using primarily camera phones.” 




April 23, 2005
Me at the zoo

YouTube co-founder Jawed Karim in the first YouTube video. Ever.

“Elephants have really, really really long trunks!”

Because... without elephants we would have no YouTube.  Or something.





July 7, 2005
London underground bombings
Perhaps the first major news event captured by ordinary people using their cell phones. Changing news forever.”   (Despite Wikipedia already calling it in 2004, above). “CNN executive Jonathan Klein predicts camera phone footage will be increasingly used by news organizations.”



April 29, 2006
The Hong Kong “Bus Uncle” video

"I face pressure. You face pressure. Why do you provoke me?"

It’s not only famous people and world leaders who face pressure.  Every-day “normal” people, all around the world, face pressure. Whatever our differences, we are united by this common thread: We Are Human. Respect your fellow travelers.


January 1, 2009
Oscar Grant – police shooting at BART
I almost included this Rodney King video in the list. Since the videographer, George Holliday, used a Sony Handycam, it violated my rules.  But this was 1991 – years before camera phones.  In many ways, the Rodney King video set the stage for much of the citizen journalism that was to come.

Oscar Grant’s story is a good companion story.  Like Rodney King, Oscar Grant was shot and killed by a police officer

Unlike Rodney King’s story, in a chilling difference:  With improvements in technology, the Oscar Grant video was easily more viral. And the officer involved was convicted.



June 13, 2009
Iranian election protests

Before Egypt, before Syria – there were the Iranian election protests. This was one of its first viral videos.
There are too many videos to list here (see Mashable’s list of 10), and many are more graphic than we can ever hope to experience, including the precedent and inestimably earth-changing recording of the death of Neda Agha-Soltan.
If you look at the footnotes at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2009_Iranian_election_protests there are countless citizen-generated videos bearing witness to police gunshots into crowds.  Not only did “Major news outlets, such as CNN and BBC News, gained much of their information from using and sorting through tweets by Twitter users and videos uploaded to YouTube,” but this galvanized and sparked a “Persian Awakening.”



January 18, 2011
Meet Asmaa Mahfouz and the vlog that Helped Spark the Revolution

I realize this may not be a hand-held camera phone, but at the very least the revolution this sparked was propelled by camera phone witnessing.  “As one Egyptian activist succinctly tweeted during the protests there, ‘We use Facebook to schedule the protests, Twitter to coordinate, and YouTube to tell the world.’”
More on the story: Asmaa Mahfouz & the YouTube Video that Helped Spark the Egyptian Uprising 




November 18, 2011
Police pepper spraying and arresting students at UC Davis

Not only is this another in a series on the watchdog capability of camera phones , but to many, the incident became the iconic badge of the Occupy movement itself.



People & Power : Syria: Songs of Defiance

User-generated content becomes mainstream and goes underground at the very same.  This is a remarkable compilation of footage from an Al Jazeera journalist’s cell phone camera.  “An unusual but compelling first-person account of a country in turmoil and a revolution in progress”




November 6, 2012
2012 Voting Machines Altering Votes

Never again should the validity of your voice and your vote be subject to doubt.



PS: Compulsive Disclaimers:


I’ve been working on this list for a long time. Above are just some of countless examples. Since I began thinking about this, there are other such lists – including an excellent compilation from linktv of Top 10 Raw Videos that Changed the World (which contains many images too rough for me to stomach on a work forum) – and the 15 YouTube Videos That Changed The World (deliberately not all camera phone footage).


I’ve left out incredible historical videos of events that changed the world way before camera phones and YouTube. And clearly I’ve omitted many other notable social movements including Pussy Riot, Gangnam Style knock-offs, and “the funniest kitten you will ever see!”


Have I left out something important from your camera phone? Share it with me!

Moya Watson

Meet Five Humans of SAP

Posted by Moya Watson Jan 9, 2013

One of the things I like most about Jim Snabe's part in It Gets Better: SAP Employees is that the first thing you hear him say is that he is a parent -- even before the caption rolls that explains that he is also co-CEO of SAP.


Of course, most of us know him as co-CEO but I'd guess much of the actual audience of the film didn't. That label of co-CEO sent a powerful message in the film as he stood as equal next to the SAP colleagues who related their personal stories, but for this once he got to position his role as parent as even more powerful.


Labels can clarify the content of a container, but I find they tend to restrain imagination and potential when applied to humans. And SAP is actually made up of humans.


It's with that spirit that SAP has published a series of films about real humans who also happen to work here. Without furher ado, meet some of the real people who make SAP tick -- you may already know them by their titles, but get to know them as humans here first:



Peter Graf (Chief Sustainability Officer)



Brigette McInnis-Day (VP, Human Resources)



Carmen O'Shea (Head of Talent Marketing; Interim Head of Diversity)



TK Rengarajan (EVP, Technology Innovation Platform)



Janet Wood (EVP, Global Strategic Service Partners)



These five videos are just the beginning of a series planned for 2013 by the global diversity office under the mantra "inclusion inspires innovation." Keep a look out throughout the year for more stories directly from the humans who power SAP.  And in 2013, care about all the precious individuals you meet along your way.

SAP is, by all accounts that matter, a highly social company. We have the most social CIO, we're active externally on social channels, and we talk avidly internally about how to use these channels, personally and for work.  So we know, and talk a lot about, what's good about social media -- especially for business.


But social media can hurt.  In Be the one that helps:  SAP Employees Release "It Gets Better" Film, I wrote about some of the pressures facing youth online that can lead to bullying -- and in the worst-possible scenarios, suicide. Recently, The Advocate released an infographic called Cyberbullying: By The Numbers which called out staggering statistics like these:


  • 7.5 million Facebook users are under the age of 13 (despite the minimum age requirement being 13)
  • 800,000 kids report being bullied on Facebook
  • Bullied kids are twice as likely to commit suicide as non-bullied kids
  • 1 in 5 cyberbullied teens think about suicide
  • 1 in 10 attempt it
  • 4,500 teens succeed in killing themselves every year


Sadly, SAP's own Steve Fehr lost his son Jeffrey to suicide after years of relentless bullying, and it was to him that we dedicated the It Gets Better: SAP Employees film that premiered on June 7. 


Today SAP releases highlights of this premiere night:


Whatever your role in social business and social media, watch and share these highlights of anti-bullying leaders talking about the newer dynamics of bullying with the advent of social media, especially for our youth. As It Gets Better Project board member Seth Levy says:

"Bullying happens in a way that is intense, and you can't go home and just cry on your pillow at night. It's there all the time; and not only that, but bullying happens in a much more public way than it does when it's just you and a few people outside the school.  If somebody posts something on your Facebook wall, it's there for the universe to see -- and it doesn't go away."


Prominent Tweeter Karoli shouted out to SAP's It Gets Better film and addresses other types of heinous online assault happening recently in From The Bully Files, 2012 Edition, in which she also makes it clear that the industry needs to find a way to develop verified online identities.  Notice that the "easy" targets of online bullying in these instances are women and LGBT people -- but non-minorities are not immune.  None of us are.


So in addition to walking the talk about the benefits of social business, as long as these types of situations persist, SAP - at least from my vantage point - will also continue to seek out how to help make it better.  Please consider joining.

The theme of this year’s Web 2.0 Summit 2011   officially was "The Data Frame" (SAP take note!). But take it from me -- the unofficially real themes are these five   unstoppable trends that, were they a person (taking a cue from Genevieve Bell's talk "The secret life   of data" -- "who is data and if it were a person what would it be like?") would look exactly like: "You, as a Platform,   Friending Your Social Car and its Music, and Thereby Completely Transforming How We Buy Things." I will explain ... in this   fully subjective list of five of the top tech trends that are unstoppable disruptions at the Web 2.0 Summit   2011.


facebook business

facebook business by Sean MacEntee, on Flickr


Trend One.  It's nothing new.  But Facebook continues to be a top trend at the Web 2.0 Summit. Chatter about being "friends"   with Facebook was in the background of many of the sessions - and *everybody* - except maybe Google - is friends with Facebook   (and now Facebook doesn't even have to friend you back). 

This is not a surprise -- as KPCB's Mary   Meeker put it in her always fabulous Internet Trends   report, "There are as many people using social networking sites now as there were Internet users in 2006." From what I   could tell from my seat in the third row back at the Palace Hotel, at least in the US, Facebook is still winning the social   game -- despite Google taking pains to talk about how great Google+ is doing and even trotting Sergey Brin out in a surprise   appearance together with Vic Gundotra to say so.

The balance of power in social seems to be between the "caution to the wind" nature of existing social tell-alls, and   Google -- which is taking a specifically cautious approach to social -- contending that this is what people want. Google is   not only trying to win on these more conservative terms ("There's a reason why every thought in your head does not come out of   your mouth," said Vic Gundotra, and maintaining somewhat vehemently that Google is "taking a cautious approach to releasing an   API") but also could be preparing to bet the farm on tying Google's offerings together with Google+, at least by later in the   year, if I caught the hints.

But the Facebook party is full-swing. Everyone from Microsoft ("Facebook defines the word social and we work with them   closely -- combined with Bing" -- Steve Ballmer) to eBay ("We're bringing the open graph into the eBay experience, and bring   the eBay experience into the Facebook environment" -- John Donahoe) to Salesforce ("Facebook is eating the Web. People are   spending much more time on Facebook than on the Internet.  It's a social revolution" -- Benioff at Web 2.0 Summit: Social is the most exciting opportunity for enterprise software) to beyond reports that   Facebook is hot.

For Facebook's part, Bret Taylor, Chief Technology Officer, didn't just rest there: "Google+ to me is validating to   what we at Facebook have convinced the world of: Products are better when they're social," he said.

It continues to be a virtual Facebook lovefest.


Saving the world one email at a   time

Saving the world one email at a time by Ryan Vaarsi,   on Flickr


But "the problem is that my data is somewhere else..." was a common refrain during the data frame discussions, and Facebook   and Google got no free pass here.  "When are you guys and Google gonna get over it and start sharing," sparred John Battelle to Bret Taylor, to audience   applause. "Why can't I use Facebook Connect to populate my circles or lists? Isn't that data that is ours and should be simple   to move?" 

Although Battelle meant this as a serious question, there was no serious response to be heard. The fact is,   data -- our data, data about us and from us -- is still what's worth the bank to social companies.

Many speakers however echoed a fresh refrain about data and your personal identity -- and whether your personal data   belongs to you or at a minimum can be portable to whatever (social) network you want.  Chris Poole of 4chan/Canvas kicked off   this identity crisis with an excellent talk, concluding that as far as online identity goes, "Facebook & Google do it   wrong; Twitter does it better; I want to think about a world that does it right."

Beyond straight social networking technology, personal identity took a stunning turn with Anne   Wojcicki's talk about 23andMe -- the "retail DNA testing service   providing information and tools for consumers to learn about and explore their DNA."

23andMe straddles biotech and Web   2.0 with the powers of a huge genetic dataset that can, in combination with its growing passionate community, go beyond   straight ancestry queries to help identify individuals that have variants and prevent disease or identify genes that look like   modifiers - just for a couple of examples. "The community has been so successful that in such a short time we found something   that could be a modifier that leads to a druggable target," said Wojcicki.

One big question this begs is whose data is this genetic information? Is this owned by the pharmaceutical companies?   The community itself? Individuals - in so far as you "own" pieces of yourself?

It was Mitchell Baker (Mozilla Foundation) that took the next step that started to put a finger on the actual idea of   person as platform:

We create data online but we have little control. We can turn privacy up and down but that's it. We have   essentially giant data factories -- it is at heart an industrial era process. The core process of my data footprint lives as   part of the data factory's process. The customization all lives within a single model. Let's think differently about data for   a moment - what could data be? In that world, I am the platform for my data, and you are the platform for your   data.

Baker's bottom line: "If I become the platform, that allows the big data providers to continue to operate at scale (provide   experiences we like with customization at edges but not core) and allows economic generation."  Do we have this yet? "We don't have all this infrastructure today but at Mozilla we're building blocks of where I can be the   center of my life."

Brilliant future, with Baker as our guide and person at the center.


Buy More Stuff, Black Friday 2009

Buy More Stuff, Black Friday 2009 by Michael Holden, on Flickr


We're still buying.  People can log on to 23andme.com and start exploring their DNA today, for example. We keep buying more   and more stuff -- but the message was clear at the Summit: the way we buy is undergoing massive disruption.  Analogous to what   was happening outside a few blocks away with the Occupy Wall Street movement hitting San Francisco streets with #OccupySF, and   referenced obliquely by Benioff as the "Corporate Spring," I think it's the disruption of the way we buy, right down to the   very the payment itself.

During the conference, John Battelle made sure to ask most speakers what they thought of the Occupy movement. For their   part, Visa president John Partridge and American Express group president Dan Schulman echoed that there's "a concern for   what's transpired around the world economically... and significant pent-up anger about how did we end up in this situation" --   but seemed eager to allocate blame towards the federal government or elsewhere for the debt crisis, rather than, of course,   looking inward. And to John Battelle's question whether Visa and AMEX are afraid of eBay now that merchants, frustrated with   transaction fees, are is implementing direct payments, we of course heard non-answers.

But there were dramatic backdrops to that perspective, with not only eBay (and the demonstrations themselves), but with    Alex   Rampell's TrialPay -- which makes the excellent point that there is so much to be gained from the data in online payments   that it makes no sense whatsoever to charge consumers a transaction fee just to pay. "At TrialPay, we think payments should be   free" -- because the underlying data that happens in a transaction is worth more, is the disruptive point behind the service.

It makes it look like credit card companies, despite their protesting otherwise, have to be worried about going the way   of the record industry.

Mary Meeker also echoed an impression of Occupy that was equally affirming yet implicated:

I think people are angry -- everybody's angry and deserves to be angry. Finger-pointing is not good. I look at   it in a holistic way. Over last 40 years, government has been pretty loose with spending and interest rates have been at low-  level, so people were looking for places to invest and went to houses. Credit was easy.  Government sets up a situation where   it's easy to borrow. Wall Street was giving instruments to trade and they traded it like crazy.    ... The way out? We all   have a problem and we all have to sacrifice.

(Spending five minutes a day on (the hugely hyped) One Kings Lane five days a week, as Meeker admitted to doing, seems a bit   like a strange sacrifice.)

If you are making sacrifices, you can look forward to what can be known in the future as "Web 3.0” -- and we   don't mean the Semantic Web.   As Tim O'Reilly said in the conference introduction, "Now we know what Web 3 will be -- Web 3   will be whatever pulls us out of the economy now" (since Web 2.0 is what pulled us out before).


Tenha medo

Tenha medo by jampa, on Flickr


This leads me to two more fairly unconventional top tech trends to personify. Did you know Sound is the Next Big Thing? "Sound   is going to be bigger than video. Record is bigger than QWERTY," said Mary Meeker, quoting Alexander Ljung from SoundCloud, and then she rattled off a number of sound technologies from   bluetooth devices, headsets, SoundCloud, Spotify ("which changed way I listen to music), connected car audio, sound   recognition -- all ready for and undergoing massive disruption.

Both Pandora and Spotify were there to speak at the Summit, though "Pandora doesn't compete with Spotify," Tim   Westergren insisted, "It competes with radio -- and radio is where people just want to turn it on and play."  Sound will be big not only on our devices but in our cars.  Says Westergren, "One half of radio listening happens in the car.   The smartphone is your modem, bringing it into car.  In the future, the car hijacks controls of Pandora into the   dashboard."


Driving into the Andes

Driving into the Andes by Stuck in Customs, on Flickr


Which leads me to the last big trend to notice.  Cars -- clean fuel cars, electric cars, social cars, apps for cars, connected   cars -- Google cars.  Cars are big.  On the apps side, from Waze -- with which 7 million users in Israel beat traffic -- to Pandora to many other apps, lots of   lonely commuters driving solo in cars aren't so much a plague for sustainability, but create in fact a huge whitespace.

Part of the reason cars are such a rich whitespace for applications right now is because of The Data Frame. We're realizing   that there is much data to be harvested from cars themselves in the Big Data Frame view.  From David   Hornik at August Capital:

We figured out about six years ago there lots of systems creating data exhaust. If we harness it, that's big   value... Cars are reporting a lot of things -- from how fast the car is going, to the temperature outside (is the road about   to ice over?), to exactly where they go (so maps can be way more accurate), to whether the windshield wipers are on - are they   high or low? This allows our cars of the future to say "here's the right driving route for you today based on all this factual   data.

It seems to me that one of the biggest future disruptors of the Data Frame just might be the coming of broadband in cars.

On the side of the cars as platforms themselves, we see a trend towards both social cars -- as Marc Benioff wants a car he can   friend -- to electric vehicles with ventures such as Fisker, Tesla, and GE building factories here in the US.

As if that's not enough going on, Sergey Brin said Google is building an "autonomous car" - a self-driving car that he   says will be cool. "There is a tremendous opportunity to improve the world with advanced research projects like this," said   Sir Google.

This led Battelle to say: "I'm going to start a conference about cars."  I believe it, too. And if he does, I hope to be there   to write way too much about it yet again.

Maybe I'll ride there in my all-electric Tesla while listening to Pandora, connecting with friends online, and talking   with my car (let's call her "Sira"), about the latest deals on One Kings Lane.

Or maybe, like the fact that we   predicted the flying car but not the Internet, the future will look a lot different than any of us know now.  Because trends may be unstoppable, but data is feral, says Genevieve Bell. "Data keeps it real -- physical objects resist   being digitized. There's something about data that will resist being incessantly digitized."

The wildcard is the person in the platform.

(lousy picture of) Benioff and O'ReillyAt the Web 2.0 Summit yesterday in San Francisco's epic Palace Hotel, big man of Salesforce Marc Benioff likened the "social revolution" in enterprise software to the Arab Spring movements of 2011, referring to an "Enterprise Spring" even as Occupy SF demonstrators continued their tussle with the police not far away.

"Social is the most exciting opportunity for enterprise software," said Benioff in conversation with Tim O'Reilly. "Facebook is eating the Web. People are spending much more time on Facebook than on the Internet.  It's a social revolution. You don't see signs saying 'Thank you Microsoft, IBM...' -- you see 'Thank you Facebook.' That's a pretty big shift."

This social revolution is disrupting enterprise software because it enables "the empowerment of customers and employees in a way not before possible," Benioff explained. This affects not only how customers learn about and learn to use complicated software, but also the software itself. And the revolution is not confined to just software, he continued.

"You should have a car called the 'Toyota Friend,'" says Benioff, suggesting a future of social cars. "I want to have a conversation with the car."  While current economic news is bleak, the future according to Benioff is also bright in terms of employment and opportunities for huge growth in the auto sector, with innovative ventures such as Fisker, Tesla, and GE building factories here in the US. "There are a lot of things going on -- we need to amplify and illuminate that." 

He also cited gamification as "a huge massive step for all of us in how we're writing software."

While heaping praises on Facebook and these other social opportunities, O'Reilly didn't let him leave the stage without getting a few jabs in at presumed competitors. In response to O'Reilly's question about "the false cloud," Benioff responded that some enterprises contend "We have cloud computing, virtualization, software as a service -- and here it is on a disk."

Here on the SAP Community Network, of course, we've known about the power of the online community in software and beyond for years now, of course.  Online comrades: how are we leading the way for the future of all enterprises?

"Video is now over half of all traffic on the Internet," said Brightcove CEO Jeremy Allaire in his keynote at the recent Online Video Platform Summit, sister-conference to Streaming Media West. "Everyone is an online video publisher." But not everyone can get into your living room, onto the family's "premiere device" - otherwise known as "the television set" -- yet.

Family watching television 1958
By Evert F. Baumgardner [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Hollywood's Shadows

It was November 3, the day after Election Day in the United States. From my seventh-floor Los Angeles hotel window, I looked out at the city sprawled beneath to the ocean and to the south until the bend of the Earth, basking in the shadows of the nearby Hollywood Hills. It was my last day there, and since video has been a recent departure for me technologically - and very key to an internal video sharing project I'm leading - I was trying to assimilate what I'd learned.  The powerful influence of TV and its growing challenger online video were both paramount at the conferences, but the intersection between the two is still a matter of murky alchemy.

When Rishi Chandra, Product Manager for Google TV, took the stage the day before to keynote about Google TV ("TV, apps, search, and the web... together at last. Your TV just got smarter"), he began with the story of recently trying to convince his son to watch him on TV in an interview. His son was unimpressed: "I see you on TV every day, Daddy."  To kids, television is YouTube, YouTube is TV, and anyone can be there (and increasingly is there), anytime. From any place.

"My son has no concept that his dad might NOT be on TV -- he's got his own YouTube channel and sees us 'on TV' all the time," he said.

Chandra then traced the history of the "long-tail" of TV content, explaining that when cable hit broadcast TV, it essentially blew open a while new distribution platform.  Now, "The internet will do to cable what cable did to broadcast - many many times over. We're at the beginning of a revolution where TV content can be personalized - the web is a channel on your TV," he said.

Through all of this, he took pains to insist that Google is not, however, posing a threat to cable TV (see the Variety article written by my table neighbor for a recap on that slant). According to Chandra, TV should make the Web better, and the Web should make TV better. "We are not looking to replace cable -- but to add to it." In Google's world, the distinction between online video and TV video goes away. "You're just watching TV."

However, at the end of the presentation an audience member asked what I took to be the Question of the Hour and a whole lot longer: "So how do you define 'television' in this new world?" Is it just video content in your living room? Or a whole lot more? Chandra said he didn't know the answer but was pretty sure it's a revolution. YouTube is phenomenal, he said, but "TV is the premiere device in your living room, and if Google's having trouble getting into your living room, EVERYONE's having trouble."



The Answer Is Mobile

The answer may lie in the device itself, if you study the overriding messages from major players at the conference.  Chandra hinted at this, and certainly Adobe was on-hand to talk about how, current politics aside, Flash really is "device-anywhere."   Senior Director, Product Management Jennifer Taylor did a bang-up job live-demoing Flash video on a variety of different devices, nevermind that the conference connectivity did not support her in the endeavor. 

First, she demoed a movie from YouTube about HTML vs. Flash on a Google TV box. Then she went on to pull up Flash video on her Droid. As to how Adobe feels about HTML5, their main talking point is that HTML5 *is* HTML, and "Adobe has always been an HTML company," said Taylor.  Elsewhere at the conference we heard the sentiment that Flash not going away for the foreseeable future:  "For the foreseeable future, we're going to be seeing hybrid Flash / HTML5 applications," said Kaltura's Zohar Babin at an earlier HTML5 workshop.

And Back To My Living Room

Finally, Taylor talked about a partnership between Adobe and HBO GO, continuing the theme of wanting to get into our living rooms.  Friends, everyone wants into your living room: Perhaps TV IS your living room.  Or perhaps the new TV is really the iPad, if my six-year-old daughter and Rishi Chandra's son are right.  Because who can pick up a television and touch it and swipe it and tilt it to get it to work?

Nobody drove the case home better for the amazing growth of online video and its venture into my living room than Jeremy Allaire.  His keynote was called New Video Landscape: Multi-Platform Distribution, Monetization, and Fragmentation - and it should be online here sometime soon. From his richly statistically-backed presentation, these were some of the key "wow" points for me:

  • Video is now over half of all traffic on the Internet
  • Vevo and Facebook are 4th and 5th for video consumption
  • But the "rest of the web" for video is still nearly half the providers - companies like his Brightcove
  • Use cases of online video are becoming as broad as use cases for the Web
  • 60% companies plan to spend MORE on video initiatives in the coming year
  • Lots of growth and enhanced sales traced by using video marketing / commerce applications
  • Problem: platform / device fragmentation
  • Social growth of video content discovery -- discovering content by virtue of who you know (Facebook / Twitter) - big driver of video growth
  • 120 million US homes will have Internet-connected TVs by 2024 according to Screen Digest 2012. "And that's conservative."


These messages are so universal to business that any enterprise can hardly afford to ignore them. Content growth is exploding and mutating in the real world at the intersection between TV and the Web. Video platforms need to be sophisticated machines in any enterprise.

You Can Lead a Television to the Web, but ...

The final key point for me came from Chandra: In world of unlimited content, "Programming and curating content become more important because sometimes people don't know what they want." I can't help but wonder if this is what the masses really *want* from their TVs. Isn't part of the TV phenomenon just sitting and consuming?

In my room that night before after thoroughly scouring my Twitter timeline for election returns, I did something I never do at home, since I don't have cable TV: I switched on the TV, and just watched. I had had enough of the "real-time" world from my other channels, and I was ready to switch it off. Will I make the flip to look to my television device as the interactive real-time sensor I count on in my hand-helds? Will your content be there when I do?  I drifted away; my sleep was disturbed.

If you're looking for a broad overview of current cloud-enablement topics in the enterprise, I invite you to check out this new white paper by Michael Klimentiev, Frank Stienhans, and me.

Here's the abstract:

When it comes to cloud computing, the enterprises of today tend to invest in a hybrid approach that allows customers to provision software on on-demand infrastructures which are at the same time hosted on the premises. We refer to this on demand/on-premises hybrid approach as "cloud enabling," with which the focus is on realizing all the benefits of cloud computing – including zero installation, automatic configuration, cost-savings, and immediate access in scalable data centers – while also preserving the benefits of on-premises hosting. In this paper, we talk about the current state of this research and development and its potential for enterprise products and service offerings in general.

In this paper we take you through a broad market overview, discuss challenges and market drivers, and examine some of the technical and educational barriers to overcome when tackling cloud enablement in the enterprise.

For bonus points, we cite external sources from current thought leaders including a few of my personal favorites Jonathan Zittrain, Tim O'Reilly, and, of course, Vishal Sikka.

On an editorial note, regular cloud connoisseurs among you will no doubt notice my (stubborn?) usage of the term "on-premises" based on the actual grammatical differences between the words "premise" and "premises."  I invite discussion!

Of course I've known Marilyn Pratt, self-described in her Twitter bio as "SAP Community Advocate working to be a sustainable citizen of the world," for many years, and yet we only just met this week. I'd never even so much as exchanged email with her until this year, but we've had a hearty online relationship. She's been a big advocate for me - for my blog content (both personal and on the SAP Community Network) and on Twitter. If you've been active on the SAP Community Network she's probably been an advocate for you too. She has been omnipresent and synonymous with online community at SAP, and so it was both stunning and unsurprising when I met her in person to find just how much more she is.  Did you know, for example, her first computer language was Assembler, or that she directed IT for a kibbutz? Have you heard about her husband and five children, who are obviously as dedicated to her as she is to them? Did you know she came to SAP, in a roundabout way, as an escape from a truly (literally) toxic situation?

The second I found out Marilyn was visiting Palo Alto from her hometown New Jersey during Ada Lovelace Day, my schedule turned upside-down. She arranged for me to participate in an awesome interview with Marge Breya. She set aside precious time to meet me -- out of so many on her schedule -- and, most profoundly, she let me show her my home.

I was honored to be able to drive down the road with her, introduce my family to her, take her to the top of my city San Francisco, dine with her, get a chance to sit and share with her, and follow her in her (tireless, and often sleepless) work dedicated to advocating for others -- indeed, to "amplifying the voice of the disenfranchised." She would find spotlighting herself the least worthy cause of all, and it was only under great collective pressure that she finally cracked and allowed me to allow her to -- although she would not say so herself -- let her tell it the best.

Ergo -- in honor of Ada Lovelace Day 2010, I dedicate this to Marilyn Pratt, a true technology heroine who honors us all and makes advocating for the community her (dare I say our) core business. Without further ado: Marilyn Pratt


Bonus Video -- Catch Marilyn as she visited Palo Alto this week to record and tell stories of other technical heroines at SAP:

School budgets are in terrible shape in the United States. Recently I attended a protest that gave voice to the littlest victims of this situation -- elementary school children. Watch this short video clip of inspiring kids who stand to lose the most in this budget catastrophe:


As a parent of a kindergartner newly enrolled in public school, it's hard not to feel completely helpless in the face of such massive budget shortfalls, while at the same time knowing how important this is to our children's -- our own -- future on this planet.

Looking through the budget handout information at a school meeting last night -- figures printed on various pieces of reused paper from whatever scrap the school could gather, sometimes in tabular format, sometimes hand-scribbled -- I was hopelessly confused. Then someone brought up the idea of making a pie chart that could help visualize key areas for funding -- and cutting. Then I got to thinking: Isn't that the business we do at SAP?

Is there a way to provide accessible analytics for cash-strapped schools to help sort through this mess? Does BOBJ Explorer already do this -- or do you still need the respected talents of consultants to rig it all up? Is there someone or something that SAP can offer in its vast community passion and wisdom that can help? There must be parents out there who have used or know how to use SAP tools to help struggling schools -- or non-parents who know how and have the time. It's got to be lightweight and agile for a school that has about $-350K to spare.

If there is an answer, I'm certain it lies within the SAP Community Network.

SCN itself was recently lauded by an Aspen report that cited the SAP Community Network "as illustrating perhaps the most extensive use to date of social media by a corporation" with its "power to give employees at all levels of the company real-time insights into customer needs, interests and problems." [Aspen Institute Report Cites SAP(R) Community Network as Social Media Forerunner]

This is a question of corporate social responsibility -- but also of human and civil rights at the deepest core of our community and communities around the world. Can we help?

In 2006, two years after the convening of the O'Reilly Media folks at the first Web 2.0 conference, my boss Guido Schroeder loaned me a pass to the exclusive Web 2.0 Summit. I spent one day at the Summit and came back with my head spinning with all the latest ideas from the wild wild Web.  I have not missed a Summit or Web 2.0 Expo since -- I just spent last week at the 2009 Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco  -- and I'd like to offer a perspective on SAP and Web 2.0 through the ages.

In 2006, though Web 2.0 was two years old and the term Enterprise 2.0 was coming into play, SAP was hard to find at the conference. There were a few fellow SAP attendees, but most people seemed to wonder why SAP should have anything to do there -- and likewise, my badge label "SAP" mostly made people think of trees. This doesn't mean that SAP was not relevant content. When Don Tapscott came on stage to talk about open source, I remember writing down his quote (Twitter was yet on the verge of creation or else I would have tweeted it) "If you're Oracle or SAP, you're looking really hard at how this stuff was done."  We were also treated to Marc Benioff -- SalesForce had been a top conference sponsor. Jeff Bezos was on the scene saying "The biggest cost of the infrastructure is lack of use" -- but nobody yet was talking about The Cloud.

2007 was a catalyst year.  Amazon S3 debuted ("Think what you're good at -- then package it," Bezos said), everyone wanted to know about Facebook, Twitter was emerging, mobile was taking off, Microsoft dangled Popfly and mashups were the rage, but still: Where was SAP?

By the end of the year, SAP seemed to hit the scene big-time.  Tim O'Reilly keynoted at SAP TechEd, and then sat on a plane with Denis Browne -- which led to this hallmark post on the O'Reilly Radar: SAP as a Web 2.0 Company? 

In 2008 the Web turned to Cloud Computing, sustainability and geopolitics, and by the end of the year, Obama had "Won the election because of the Internet" (Arianna Huffington) and Shai Agassi, who had left SAP for Better Place, dropped a few sage mentions of SAP while in conversation with Tim O'Reilly. 

Marge Breya at Web 2.0 Summit 2009

Finally, in 2009, SAP's docupedia has launched, you can hear people talking about business collaboration using SAP and Google Wave almost as a matter of course (see Timo Elliott on the Gravity prototype), and I'm pleased to say that SAP sponsored the Web 2.0 Summit and was highly visible there. Check out the picture above of Marge Breya doing a tremendous job with her live demo of the emergent SAP interface at http://beta.12sprints.com.

"In the enterprise today," said Breya, you know all kinds of information is there, but have to go through 'sneakernet' to get it... Now we can have conversations with the information. We've never had this before in enterprise software." She went from the Web 2.0 Summit directly to TechEd Vienna where you might have seen her do the same demo there.

So it seems that SAP has finally arrived on-stage at Web 2.0.

Or hasn't SAP has always been there, from the beginning? Before Web 2.0 was even a word (well, two words), in 2003, I put my first content up on the emergent SAP Developer Network.  Back in those days, our good folks like Mark Finnern worked the blogging platform with the amazing foresight to make sure the platform was open to any blogger, and that anyone could comment. In some sense, this growing community of developers in fact paved the way for what we now know as Enterprise 2.0.

Perhaps the point is that Web 2.0 is in fact catching up at last.

In partnership with the BusinessObjects Innovation Center, the Business Solutions and Technology (BST) Innovation Center has launched its XBCML Widgets prototype on the SAP Community Network today.  We invite you to download it and let us know what you think!

UPDATE 2011: XBCML widgets are no longer downloadable from the original trial site and they have officially been productized.  See the Productized Prototypes page here:
SAP Research - Productized Prototypes

What are XBCML Widgets? "XBCML" stands for Extensible Business Client Markup Language, and a widget is - in this case - a portable chunk of an SAP application that you can embed in your choice of widget hosts. The XBCML Widgets prototype that we offer today can make SAP applications a permanent part of your desktop, providing you with always-on, up-to-date views of the data and metrics from the SAP backend systems you're most interested in.

The BST Innovation Center team kicked off this project in order to create a prototype that demonstrates how the Web Dynpro programming model can be used to create widgets on your desktop. Since we're in prototyping mode, this is where your feedback plays a key role.

Here’s what we set out to provide with this prototype:

  • Re-use of SAP's programming models for a new way of consuming SAP functionality
  • Seamless transformation of a chunk of an SAP application through your choice of channel, such as browser, desktop, or mobile device
  • High impact on end-user productivity and experience
  • XBCML adoption in the SAP UI stack, which allows for widgets creation with no code changes to the delivered applications

Please let us know your thoughts: How'd we do with our project goals? Is this what you've been needing?  What can YOU use it for?

Looking forward to hearing from you.

PS: Check out this demo of XBCML Widgets using the Universal Worklist:

Community: "An embryonic mass movement for change"

[Web 2.0 Expo 2009:  Web comes to its senses] | [Web 2.0 Expo 2009 - Part 1: Sense of self] | [Web 2.0 Expo 2009 - Part 2: Sense of presence] | [Web 2.0 Expo 2009 - Part 3: Sense of place] | [Web 2.0 Expo 2009 - Part 4: Sense of governance] | [Part 5: Sense of community]

Despite the plethora of sessions let by brightly skilled community managers at the Web 2.0 Expo 2009, the point still has to hit home time and again that you can't just stick an online community out there and expect it to automatically come.  Community managers are keys to success of online communities.
Many community luminaries were on hand at the Expo and they tended to have the most packed sessions, so people are listening to and learning about these keys. Though I couldn't be in all places at once (you can watch the amazing Tara Hunt's "Whuffie Factor: The 5 Keys for Maxing Social Capital and Winning with Online Communities" in full, and read coverage of the Owyang - Li - Kim #smfail session on Jeremiah's blog - for just a couple), I offer key points from a combination of four great sessions below, and then look back to the birth of Web 2.0 itself for a little perspective on how we've evolved, in the following sections:

  • "Simple (hard) social steps" -- Christina Wodtke
  • "You are what your customers say you are" -- Ford
  • "If your brand was a person, would you be friends with it?" -- The online arts and crafts world
  • "Secrets of Obama's New Media Juggernaut"
  • And in the end ...

"Simple (hard) social steps"

simple (hard) social stepsChristina Wodtke, Principal Investigator at LinkedIn, inspired and entertained a packed and enthusiastic session on Designing Social Websites. In great community fashion, I sat two rows back from a guy from the venerable Instructables and also got to meet community visionary Shara Karasic because it turned out we were co-tweeting the session.

LinkedIn itself has been growing a lot on the social front lately. Taking a page out of Facebook's phenomenal traction with applications, they opened up application development on their platform last fall, and status updates are also becoming more common on LinkedIn. Shortly before the conference, I configured some RSS feeds using new functionality on a group I manage, which was an easy task and invigorates the group. One key here seems to be that LinkedIn recognizes groups as key "social objects:" "Groups are both part of identity as well as part of conversation," said Wodtke during her session. A dynamic speaker and clear communicator, the company clearly benefits from having Wodtke there. 

Along the lines of taking the complex and making it simple, Wodtke shared the simple (hard) steps involved in building online community (pictured above). Why are these so simple, yet so hard? It may sound simple to for instance "have a compelling idea," but it means everything to the success of your endeavor. You can't just create a community just for the sake of it or for your marketing department. For one thing, you need to consider the pivotal role of your social objects themselves.

Jaiku-founder Jiri Engestrom developed the theory of social objects (read more about Engestrom's theory) playing the pivotal role in the seeding of community and Wodtke drew on that during her presentation. "Social objects are the reason people connect," said Wodtke. By interacting via social objects, people meet others they might not otherwise know.

What constitutes social objects runs a wild gamut. They're pictures (Flickr), t-shirts (Threadless), tea (Adagio), a tiny 14-character piece of text (Twitter), a song (Blip), a decision (Hunch), a piece of documentation (SAP's new docupedia) -- and more. They're "the reason people connect with each particular other and not something else.

Once you isolate a compelling social object and begin to build around it, another simple-hard step is to make sure that someone "lives on the site." "Knowing there is a community manager around keeps your community alive," said Wodtke. Your visitors think: "There are people here! They could be listening if I actually said something!"

And the simplest hard step of all, in one of my favorite quotes from Wodtke, is this: "People want to find each other and talk to each other. It's really that simple. Support that. Start there, with conversation."

Lastly, Wodtke also iterated one of the key conference themes, especially in this year of "the power of less" -- when she reminded us that "software is there to help, not shape or create. Launch the smallest simplest thing, then measure whether the community asks for something else."


"You are what your customers say you are"

ford: setting content freeIn Ford's Case Study: Setting Content Free at Ford Motor Company, Maggie Fox (from Social Media Group) and Scott Monty (from Ford Motor Company) talked about their successes in "setting content free" at Ford.

Surprising dare-I-say everyone in the crowd by saying that there were no legal hitches to overcome in their quest to "liberate content" at Ford, they ventured that their role is as partners in a revolution, and "with any revolution, either you get run over, or you change," said Scott. Not to imply that the road to liberating media was easy, Maggie Fox pointed out that "in essence, the Ford media site was previously in lockdown because Ford was afraid of their own marketing department," in other words, they were afraid that they might actually use social media that might not be approved messaging. 

"Making people less afraid of social media is critical to your success," Monty underscored, but he urged to not make it an all-or-nothing play. Keep offering "traditional" and new media in tandem -- "give people a choice, and let people consume the media they prefer.  Social media is an "add on" -- not a replacement for but a complement to traditional press releases."

Other signs of apparent change in attitude and liberating message control at Ford include these observations:

  • Ford uses Yammer -- an "internal Twitter"
  • Ford embraces Twitter -- @scottmonty is active; #fordw2e was the hashtag employed in the session
  • Ford not only uses YouTube, but also showed off a Common Craft video. "DRM has been an issue with Ford's video usage on YouTube," said Monty, "but what's to stop people from scraping the video and using it anyway?"
  • Ford integrates "social media press releases" into their official PR regimen -- in fact, they said they were among the first to pioneer the "social media press release" for a large brand
  • Ford uses Creative Commons to license this content (which means anyone can take it and reuse it / mash it up *legally* -- for certain purposes), in the fairly profound acknowledgement that "journalists are not the only game in town anymore."

stop pretendingSince everyone wants to know "the goods" -- the details on how successful social media can actually be -- Ford provided a slide with the below information -- which might be helpful metrics to community managers that are asked to quantify success:

Ford's Tangible Results of Social Media Press Releases

  • Content has been used in over 5,000 posts since Sept 2007 - meaning that journalists, enthusiasts and others are telling richer, better-informed Ford stories online
  • Social media press releases (SMPRs) are regularly used as a source of news and assets by Autoblog.com (Technorati Top 50), Wired, NYTimes, ABC News & many others, both traditional & "new" media
  • Approximately 1.2 million video views on YouTube, 499 channel subscribers, 120,000 views on Flickr images
  • Enthusiast communities are embedding SMPR RSS feeds into their sites as a credible source of Ford news

To the audience question of actually measuring ROI, though, there was no straight answer.  Community managers continue to suggest not to replace one form of media with another, but use all types together in support of all your channels.

The key for Ford according to Monty in the end and a sentiment we see echoed across social media channels is that "we stopped pretending" that we have control over brand anymore, which, if true, reflects a sea-change. "You are what your customers say you are."


"If your brand was a person, would you be friends with it?"

What I think of as the online arts and crafts worlds featured creatively in a panel called Corralling the Crowdsourced Community. Moderated by conference co-chair Jen Pahlka, panelists Jen Bekman of 20x200, Matt Stinchcomb of Etsy, and Treadless's Jeffrey Kalmikoff shared secrets to successful community, some of which I'll include below:

  • How can you tell if you have online community? Answer "yes" to "If this brand was a person, I'd be friends with it" - Jeff Kalmikoff / Threadless
  • Writing newsletters or sending Tweets is broadcast-only; remember that it doesn't replace in-person interactions with people who actually collect art - Jen Bekmann / 20x200. All panelists actually mentioned the importance of mingling with people in-person and offline in building online community
  • And yet, "Twitter and Facebook help me to interact with the artists; they know that I value their feedback because I can actually write back again," -- Jen Bekman / 20x200 
  • If you're going to moderate (edit or remove a post or comment), it's key to explain that you did it and why you did it - Matt Stinchcomb / Etsy. "Walmart added comments and they moderate them like crazy -- why take people's opinions away from products?" - Kalmikoff / Threadless
  • You can't have a community that's motivated only by money -- "Passion is one of the only reasons community happens" - Jeff Kalmikoff / Threadless -- which echoes the concept of uniting social objects

Such a broad diversity in online communities turns up a broad diversity in opinions and creative, crowdsourced solutions to a variety of problems.


"Secrets of Obama's New Media Juggernaut"

obama by the numbers -- and shara karasic's head!Which brings me to the last session I cover. In my.barackobama.com: The Secrets of Obama's New Media Juggernaut, Jascha Franklin-Hodge from Blue State Digital gave one of the best and most crowded sessions I attended at the Web 2.0 Expo, which was also the very last session I attended on Friday afternoon. It was part of the free Government 2.0 track, and as far as I could tell generated tons of enthusiasm just like every other session in that track.

The "Secrets of the Juggernaut" included community basics such as:

  • Drive Action
  • Be Authentic
  • Create Ownership
  • Be Relevant
  • Create a Strong, Open Brand
  • Measure Everything

Some of the key ways the campaign drove action included "matching the action to the medium" -- for example, creating an iPhone application and using it to drive calls. Pointing out that social networking is no secret magic bullet, "in a campaign, the last thing you want is everyone spending all their time online," said Franklin-Hodge. You need to "make the action you want people to take clear."

Interestingly, "traditional" channels like email were still seen as the key drivers of action. "For all the value of Facebook, Twitter, etc - email was still the thing that had the biggest impact as far as donations."  There's apparently "no such thing as 'too much email' - only 'too much unwanted email'" -- though you do have to give people value in return for your donation pitch.

Other ways the campaign created ownership included again such "simple but hard" tactics as inviting people's opinions and ideas -- and actually using the good ones, collecting content and reflecting back, and connecting people with each other.

One key community organizing tool the campaign pioneered was called "Neighbor to Neighbor" - which Franklin-Hodge described as a kind of an online self-help package for door-to-door offline canvassing. Neighbor to Neighbor drove 6.1 million knocks or calls. The key here is that "managing large number of volunteers can be hard," and the solution is to empower your audience and create ownership.

The results?  You can see in "Obama '08 by the Numbers" how successful the online campaign was in driving traction both online and offline -- and also, Obama won.


And in the end ...

In the end, themes across all communities -- online or offline -- center around empowerment, not just of the few but across the citizenry.

For a little retrospective before I wrap my series on the Web 2.0 Expo 2009 and how Web 2.0 has "Web 2.0 Expo 2009:  Web comes to its senses," let's go back briefly to Web 2.0's embryonic stage -- if you will. I found the following article linked from coverage of the *very first* Web 2.0 conference  in 2004 -- called Power to the (wired) people:

"Howard Dean's presidential campaign, which ended all too soon, and other new political organizations such as MoveOn.org, represent a first generation of powerful Internet-based communities in which the collective power of a mass of people makes a difference. Conventional politicians think the lesson of the Dean campaign is about using the Internet to raise money. While it's true and remarkable that the Dean campaign raised more than $50 million via the Internet, much of it in small contributions, it misses the larger point that the Deaniacs represented an embryonic mass movement for change."

It's easy to say in retrospect that this author had it right five years ago, and also compelling to note that this was part of the official coverage of the nascent "Web 2.0" platform. Remember that Blue State Digital -- the people behind my.barackobama.com -- came out of the Howard Dean campaign itself. It took awhile before they matured, just like the platform itself, into a successful "mass movement for change." And embryos don't make it alone.

WE together create the meaning in all of these cases: we embody the Web 2.0 Expo 2009 - Part 1: Sense of self, Web 2.0 Expo 2009 - Part 2: Sense of presence, Web 2.0 Expo 2009 - Part 3: Sense of place, Web 2.0 Expo 2009 - Part 4: Sense of governance, and community components that taken together represent the mass movements. And that, in the end, "is a prospect that invites our close attention and dedicated participation as technologists, businesspeople and -- most of all -- as citizens."

Thanks - most of all - for your attention.

Government 2.0 and the new sunshine kids

[Web 2.0 Expo 2009:  Web comes to its senses] | [Web 2.0 Expo 2009 - Part 1: Sense of self] | [Web 2.0 Expo 2009 - Part 2: Sense of presence] | [Web 2.0 Expo 2009 - Part 3: Sense of place] | [Part 4: Sense of governance] | [Web 2.0 Expo 2009 - Part 5: Sense of community]

Government 2.0 has been a hot topic since before Obama used it so adeptly during the last US presidential election, and the notions of open government data, crowdsourcing government, and turning government into an (actually!) innovative platform itself make it clear this is the part of the next biggest "Web 2.0 thing." This is in fact so key to the O'Reilly folks that they dedicated a whole series of (free) sessions at the Web 2.0 Expo 2009 to Government 2.0 and have also announced a conference spinoff around the Gov 2.0 theme itself.

In fact, said conference co-chair Jen Pahlka, "Several of the top-rated sessions were in our Government 2.0 track, so increasingly it’s about applying the principles of Web 2.0 to governing."

Let's not forget that the Web -- even the unordered folksonomous Web -- is based on the (government-created) Internet, so sourcing government data should be right at home on the Web. As the Web grows up, what's new is that we have access to more and more of it -- and hence can do and are doing more and more with it, including surfacing and making sense of more data in new ways. What's also new is the apparent disruption of the government behind that data itself.

Ellen MillerIntroducing his keynote conversation with Ellen Miller, co-founder of the Sunlight Foundation, Tim O'Reilly referred to Sunlight as "one of the biggest disruptive forces in Government." The foundation is guided by Open Government Data Principles created by a collection of open government advocates (including Lawrence Lessig), and O'Reilly says these principles "mean to government what open source meant to software."

It turns out that making data public is a political act in the first place. "The notion that government's data is our data is a belief that crosses all political lines," said Ellen Miller, and "information is not public unless it's online." Although, she said, "that's common sense to everybody in this room, but it's a radical sentiment for government."

Now that the access to the data is improving, that means new opportunities to do something with it -- to synthesize it - to build new "Government 2.0" applications.  "If you're a vendor," Miller encouraged the crowd, "grab our data at Sunlight Labs and do something interesting with it." In fact, I learned via @ellnmllr while I was writing this of yet another source of open raw data at blog.politicalpartytime.org: "Starting today, the Party Time website will include a new feature: this spot where you can download all the underlying, raw data that form the basis for this website."

kiwitobes - a network graph of corporate americaSo what *can* you do with all this open government data? How does government become "an open platform that allows people to innovate"? Throughout the Web 2.0 Expo 2009, I collected lots of real examples:

From the mundane --

  • Apparently the government has a hierarchical classification clip art! Metaweb's Toby Segaran let us in on this fact during his murder-mystery-detective-story-via open government data session

To the fantastical --

  • The fact that Segaran took us through a murder mystery using only public data sources was pretty fascinating (if contrived)

From the expected --

  • The ubiquitous map mashup continues to demonstrate the value of government data mashed up through maps 

To the disruptive --

To the cool -- 

To the local --

To all of the above at once ...

Not only is there a virtual treasure trove of publicly accessible real-time data (Segaran also mentioned this Site dedicated to freeing Government data: http://public.resource.org/), but also a wealth of possibilities to build upon them.

To more of what Ellen Miller referenced: "What about matching up when candidates report their contributions with the timing of party events? How about mooshing it with new data on the first quarter of 2009 as it soon becomes available from the Federal Election Commission? Certainly there must be many fun ways to visualize this party data that we haven’t tried yet at the Sunlight Foundation."

Open data is not the only way the Web is opening up to "Government 2.0." Government is also opening up to the use of the Web itself like never before. Elections were of course a huge topic in the Blue State Digital session on my.barackobama.com: The Secrets of Obama's New Media Juggernaut, during which we learned great stories on engaging community (see my forthcoming fifth and final in the series, on community).  Blue State Digital explained how they used the Internet in all the steps along the way of the campaign to "drive action, be authentic, create ownership, be relevant, create strong, open brand, and measure everything."

In addition, Google talked in a keynote about Google Moderator being the engine behind http://www.whitehouse.gov/openforquestions/, and released numbers on the phenomenal uptake of this tool, with many taking advantage of the opportunity to ask and rank questions for Obama that he later actually answered.

Of course, there are flipsides to watch out for while using and designing for all of this open data, including such topics as privacy, security, credibility, and not least -- message control. Opening government up to that kind of direct public questioning has huge ramifications for how official communications are handled and messaging vetted. This sort of feedback loop has the potential for massive change.

Google for its part tried to downplay privacy concerns: "When you're a market leader like Google, you have a disproportionate amount of social responsibility," in response to which, "We limit some of our activities in China -- for example, we don't have the ability to log in on Gmail in China," Said Vic Gundotra.

Other complications include the challenge of innovating at such massive scale of data. "We've always been better at managing data than innovating with data," said Google's Andrew McLaughlin, who is one of the large quantity of silicon-valley exports working in DC on tackling these new opportunities.

What's clear is that these are challenges to be tackled, rather than ignored. Not only is the opportunity to build on the platform of open government data apparently here to stay, but in a symbiotic relationship, we're also in a new age of "applying the principles of Web 2.0 to governing." There's clearly much more ahead. "Pay attention..." as Tim O'Reilly might say. 

PS: Check out my final installment on the Web 2.0 Expo, up next. Hint: Web 2.0 Expo 2009 - Part 5: Sense of community.

The Last Mile: "Local is the new global"

[Web 2.0 Expo 2009:  Web comes to its senses] | [Web 2.0 Expo 2009 - Part 1: Sense of self] | [Web 2.0 Expo 2009 - Part 2: Sense of presence] | [Part 3: Sense of place] | [Web 2.0 Expo 2009 - Part 4: Sense of governance] | [Web 2.0 Expo 2009 - Part 5: Sense of community]

Despite this downturn, there still seem to be travel budgets (last month, at least!) and I loved all the accents I heard at the Web 2.0 Expo 2009. Before the first day had ended, I had heard a combination of Spanish and Portuguese, met 2 Canadians, and sat next to a guy from Stockholm.

Though global awareness makes all the difference, an interesting juxtaposition came to light in the emphasis on "local" across many conference sessions.  While global geo-location remains hot, and co-location is still smart, it's your personal location and what is directly around you at any given time that is rapidly gaining in prominence and business opportunity. This is called "local." So is it a small world after all?

Zvents - Discover Things To DoEarly in the conference, Tim O'Reilly nodded to the local evolution of Google's search results, pointing to the top-of-page local listings in search results that had just launched that day. Turns out that Google, recognizing "local" as a trend, now endeavors to return local results if you don't put in a geo-modifier when you search. O'Reilly cited this as an example of how Search has evolved through its senses - its paying attention to its vast data -- "similar to the kind of thing a baby does by learning from things."

Hidden inside this trend may be a parable of survival for small, local, and sustainable businesses -- not to mention neighborhoods and in the ultimate example, people -- in the global age. As Tim O'Reilly asked Google's Vic Gundotra: "Will Google help small businesses?" Answer: "Yes, but we're very early in that process."

The survival of the small *and* the local is what I thought about while watching the intriguing panel called "Why Local is the New Global." The panelists represented four different local search services -- one for local events and three for products which you could locate locally. They brought compelling numbers for the local opportunity:

  • LESS than 4% of retail sales are online (Forrester says 4%) -- Local purchasing still trumps
  • Fully *92%* of people that looked online wound up buying offline -- No one is buying a major appliance online and having it shipped to their home -- they research online, and buy it locally today
  • On one panelist's mobile search site, users were 17x more likely to click "find nearby" than "buy online"

The Find: Shopping Search - Every Store. Every Product. All At Once.The opportunity they foretell is all local. By poll of the audience, one panelist demonstrated with a sizeable show of hands that "this weekend, you're likely going to spend money, and you don't know where it's going to go yet. You're at the beginning of the local search / sales experience." One of the panelists expressed his company's business model thusly: "We get paid by Nordstrom for all the people we drive into the store."

There's clearly great long-tail business potential in tackling the challenges in surfacing local results and serving the local demographic. For example, "Most of the search sites find only biggest stores. Search engines need to modify so small businesses can prosper."

Other opportunities to serve small, local retailers include better systems design. "Small retailers have great people but not great systems" -- and hence are happier if you come into store rather than using Internet, the panelists said. But could they have it both ways? How could they both serve and be better served both on- and offline?

In addition, it's a retailer's challenge to make it clear that by buying locally at perhaps a smaller business, you offer a better experience overall -- be it better coffee, better service, a better atmosphere or community.  How can communications be leveraged to help bring this message "home"?

It's already happening: social networking is providing this long-tail feedback via Yelp, Twitter, Facebook, and soon MySpace and countless others. During the conference, MySpace and Citysearch were in fact reputed to be "teaming up to challenge Yelp."

If you combine this with the mobile-device-driven experience, we see mobile "intent to purchase" as a ripening business model. "If you've got your mobile phone, you're out and about and ready to shop and buy, and you want it NOW." There are plenty of ideas surfacing in that area to really serve and influence mobile commerce users as we speak, such as "here's a coupon via your mobile phone that's only good for 4 hours."

One slide from TheFind.com comparing consumer Web vs. mobile usage divulged the following information:

Top-3 popular types of searches - From your computer - http://www.thefind.com/:

  1. Product types - one shoulder dress, gladiator sandals, chandelier earrings
  2. Branded products - Betseyville bags, Ed Hardy clothing, Burberry trench coat
  3. Brands - Puma, Converse, Marc Jacobs, Tony Burch

Top-3 popular types of searches From your mobile device -- TheFind iPhone app or http://www.thefind.com/:

  1. Categories of products - shoes, boots, jeans, dresses, books
  2. Brands - Coach, Nike, Gucci, JuicyCouture
  3. Stores - Macys, Target, Walmart, Best Buy, Forever 21

Thus, in Web search, it's still all about researching "what to buy," while in mobile search, it's "how to navigate" - you're still looking for products, but you are in fact looking for nearest store to buy them in.

I walked away feeling like the four companies participating in this panel session were on to something really intriguing. Here they are:

(I'm sorry I couldn't always determine who said what in the above - note to organizers: large name tags for panelists, please?)

seeclickfixThere were other examples of "the local opportunity" and local services that I became aware of during the conference. Just a few of these examples:

  • Sarah Milstein in her panel on using Twitter suggested we'd be wise to dive deeper into Advanced Twitter Search - especially "Near this place"
  • Jeff Veen during his keynote gave a shouts-out to EveryBlock - "Big Data is great, but the Web is personal." Check out the latest news in my personal neighborhood in San Francisco
  • I "met" via Twitter the founder of Troovy, Don Ambridge, who described Troovy as a "Yelp meets Brightkite meets Everyblock"
  • There was also at least one shout-out to SeeClickFix -- for the community to report non-emergency issues in their neighborhoods

For a hyper-recent reason why "local" matters, you need look no further than the plethora of recent swine flu map mashups.

"It is possible to follow the latest worldwide news about the swine flu outbreak on the excellent HealthMap," this blogger says.

swine flu on the mapThe bottom line is that on the globally inter-connected Web, it's our local coordinates that matter more than ever. While we want to know what services we can buy from around the world and what's happening with a life-threatening global pandemic, more and more what matters personally is where we can get that product in our city today -- or avoid that outbreak.

These services and themes impacted me so profoundly, that I toyed around briefly with the idea of trying to make sense out of all the Web 2.0 Expo key themes from a "local" perspective -- community, human presence, government, the self. While I gave up on that, I can't shake the feeling that a "sense of place" matters now more than ever. Getting to know better our local neighborhoods and our neighbors may be a key to global sustainability, and together with our neighbors, we need to be able to support each other in community when it all comes down to "the last mile."

PS: Only two left in my series on the Web 2.0 Expo 2009. Hope you join me for the next installment on why Web 2.0 Expo 2009 - Part 4: Sense of governance.

Going mobile AND real time: We are the sensors

[Web 2.0 Expo 2009:  Web comes to its senses] | [Web 2.0 Expo 2009 - Part 1: Sense of self] | [Part 2: Sense of presence] | [Web 2.0 Expo 2009 - Part 3: Sense of place] | [Web 2.0 Expo 2009 - Part 4: Sense of governance] | [Web 2.0 Expo 2009 - Part 5: Sense of community]

In my last piece on the Web 2.0 Expo 2009, we looked at the "Web 2.0 Expo 2009 - Part 1: Sense of self" --particularly as made important on the Web via self-presentation, and using the tools of Nancy Duarte. Now we take our "selves" on the road: We go mobile AND real time at the same time -- and it makes ALL the difference.

I call this a "sense of presence" because the mobile component, particularly as combined with the recent super-emphasis on real-time communications, turn our very individual presence into a source of the most compelling data on the Web today. As Mitchell Baker said at *last* year's Web 2.0 Expo, "I am the mobile component in my life -- I do not want my mobile devices out wandering around without me."  The combination of our presence as humans with the capability of networking ourselves around its essence is nothing short of profound.

nokia: new behavior requires a new deviceIf that sounds dramatic, consider how Nokia's Anssi Vanjoki characterized this combination in his keynote The Year of the Mobile Computer: "We are going to bring the net to everybody at every time everywhere." On how this new kind of "social location" data raises the stakes, the keynote talked about how "A user's immediate location and social network can transform mobile Web services into personalized, unique experiences. Imagine the map on the device becoming the user interface for search instead of a text box or search results based on the physical world and augmented by the digital world."

Not only do "we" become the net with our devices, but our devices themselves continue to transform. Vanjoki showed off a cool "wearable devices" video (a future we keep awaiting), while in addition talking about the "map" becoming "The Interface." "Why did we pay $8B for mapping company? It can form a database for *everything.* Everything on this planet can be described in coordinates," he explained.

"The question 'Where are you?' becomes irrelevant," he continued, "because we have chosen to share our location, and it is *all* about location - social location."

Meanwhile, Microsoft for its part downplayed the primary importance of the mobile device. "The device, combined with service, combined with software on the device - all rolled together is key," said Stephen Elop in his keynote conversation with Tim O'Reilly.  "Clearly the best user experience is going to come from a combination of software plus service," he continued, predicting the continued importance of the Microsoft Office suite of software.

vic gundotraYet even if it doesn't all come down to one device in the future -- and it's the one we carry around with us or wear -- we are at the least going to continue to be doing more things with our mobile devices than we've ever done before.  Google's Vic Gundotra demoed an early technical prototype of Gmail written as a Web app on the iPhone, and also talked about voice search being a "core area" for Google going forward. "We'll build it internally; it's technology we want to have entirely in-house."  

In the article Google Maps Out the Future of Its Mobile Apps Gundotra underscored, "These devices will become our agents and friends, support us with advice, be our friends."

We're also participating in a generational evolution, not just for evolving devices (all these mobile apps for blackberry and iPhone -- while I keep carrying my old Treo, hmmm) but for us evolving humans ourselves.  I liked that Gundotra emphasized implications of mobile for children, since our nearly five-year-old daughter already considers the iPhone "her iPhone." Likewise, Gundotra told a story of 4-year-old just knowing you go to a mobile device if you don't know answer to a question.

moya twittering at the web 2.0 expo 2009Now: Enter the real-time component. In perfect manifestations of what Nat Torkington calls "continuous partial attention," with my device(s) by my side, I not only Twittered widely but also crowdsourced via Twitter to see which session I should attend after I tilted during a VC money session.

Twitter's influence was as omnipresent as caffeine, and though I'm pictured here (thanks to Linda Bortolus breathing down my neck!) Twittering with my Mac, my mobile phone Twitters too -- and goes more places with me, most all of the time.

Rather than the odd new technology, Twitter has grown to be the actual focus of presentations in conferences this year, such as the "Effective Twitter" session from self-described early Twitter adopter Sarah Milstein -- but the true impact of real-time microblogging is demonstrated in its ubiquity at the conference. Speakers provide their Twitter names as contacts now and many sessions provide a Twitter hashtag to both crowdsource questions and session feedback -- in real time. Also, the real-time online interface means people who might not otherwise stand up at the mic get a voice and a response, having a chance to participate under the cloak of anonymity.  See this recent piece from Pistachio Consulting for more about presenting while people are Twittering.

It wasn't just Twitter -- often a Meebo chat room was used instead of Twitter. Nancy Duarte offered live Meebo chat rooms during her workshop, in order to "brainstorm an audience."  The conference itself was said to have "ditched Twitter for Google," citing Google Moderator as a better environment in which to crowdsource - and rate - audience questions - see for example an instance of Google Moderator for of the keynote sessions at http://bit.ly/askellen.

Sharing status and even using it to ask questions is all not really new, as we're reminded in the recent Mashable piece A Brief History of the Status Update. Though thanks to Twitter it's more hyped than ever before, the "status update" and short-form messaging has been around in various manifestations since the 1960's. Even its ubiquity is not new. "Status is ubiquitous, but in fact chained to a specific moment in time," says the Mashable piece.  So what is new?

twitter and real-time presenceThe way we look at it is changing, for one thing.

As Twitter co-founder and Web 2.0-rockstar-of-a-sort Evan Williams said of Twitter during Wednesday's live Tekzilla filming in the keynote hall at the expo, "the product itself has changed very little; it's how we think about it that has changed."

This again echoes one of the key messages of this year's expo and its theme itself - the embodiment of the power of less. Twitter, built within "the inherent limitations of SMS messages," has used its ubiquity to learn what's important to the people using it, and then built on top of that.

It could hardly have been a coincidence that the conference ended on a note of Twitter/Google  rumors, with many speculating that the threat Twitter poses to Google, particularly with search.twitter.com, is in its owning of the real-time search market. Recognizing the importance, Twitter in fact began parsing out new search-focused interfaces to its application during the conference. Build something small, they've learned; listen in to tons of data; let it evolve.

twitter's evan williams If those businesses that are listening in and are responsive to change prove "the survival of the fittest," this translates to device innovations, accessible ubiquity, and effortless interfaces (right? someday?), and with our devices at hand, we are the sensors.

Now that the Web is both porting to our five-year-old's hands and growing up into a mature application at the same time, what does the mobile, real-time component mean for Enterprise applications?

As SAP's imagineering luminary Denis Browne pointed out in his session Enterprise Assets are Going Virtual, "Tracking enterprise assets remains a challenge for many companies. Emerging solutions to address this challenge include sensor networks that provide "last mile" information on almost every imaginable detail of physical assets.  New integration technologies now connect these sensor networks with enterprise applications to enable more responsive monitoring, reporting, and tracking of physical assets – carts, forklifts, palettes, computers, tools, mobile machinery, and even people – near real-time."

Not only are the ramifications to the Enterprise of the whole world turning into a series of inter-connected mobile sensor components huge, but also traditional media are already feeling the pinch, and politics and human rights violations will never proceed the same way in the inter-connected world.  Current TV referred to the 2008 election as the "pundits vs. the people" in their session TV & Radio with an API: Stories from Current and NPR.  Recall that Current famously paid attention to what was going on live, real-time in order to "hack the debate" during the US presidential election in 2008. A whole new front-line of editors triage the firehose of user-generated and submitted raw-material, deciding what goes on to TV on election night. As NPR also agreed: "What we're most excited about is the thing that surprises us most: the Twitter mashups - what are people talking about?"

The result is that the key new question any business needs to ask itself is "Who bears more and more of the key data to running the business -- at this moment?" Answer: You hold this future in your hands right now: presently.

PS: Next up in my series, we "go local" and see how it all comes down to Web 2.0 Expo 2009 - Part 3: Sense of place


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