Archive for October, 2006
October 31st, 2006
For those of you familiar with technology news website ZDNet.co.uk, you’ll have noticed the massive redesign that has gone live this morning.
The site has received an extreme Web 2.0 makeover, and is crammed full with social media functionality. ZDNet has truly embraced the transformation in media and journalism that has taken place over the last year in particular, and is now offering readers a far more interactive and democratic news service.
Matt Loney, site director of ZDNet, told Liberate Media exclusively: “The redesign of ZDNet is a significant and fundamental leap in thinking for large editorially driven sites.
“With this redesign we wanted to move away from what I call ‘print think’ – the practice of simply posting article after article on the Web. Journalism has always been about creating conversations, but in print, and many online versions of print publications, these have always been confined to the limit of the article, and been controlled by the author. We wanted to break away from those artificial limits, so we think of the site as a place where we can tell readers what is going on and what they need to know, but also as a place to stimulate conversation.
“We’ve put a lot of thought into search with our redesign, because in addition to encouraging user generated content, we want to give readers a way to discover eachother based on the content they and their peers are creating as much a on who knows whom. That requires a whole new approach to search, and we think we’re way ahead of the field here. One small illustration of our new search is the tag clouds in our ‘News and Reviews’ sections showing what companies, people and terms are being written about and discussed at any instant.
“Of course this is only the beginning. Now that we’ve built the platform we’ll continue to tweak and improve it, so watch this space.”
The new platform requires free registration in order for users to benefit from the range of personalised and community services on offer. From the short taster that I’ve had this morning, I can see that this is going to be a great networking opportunity for business people in the IT and communications space, to rival services such as LinkedIn and Soflow.
All news stories offer blog functionality, and it’s easy to see at a glance which stories are generating the most buzz. From a PR perspective this provides great new opportunities for clients.
A nice feature is a panel in the left hand nav which shows how ‘active’ a user you are. This should help to encourage readers to participate in blog discussions and the community as a whole.
The profile section in particular appears very well designed and useful, enabling users to generate their own mini-blog from comments that they’re posting elsewhere on the site.
Go and register and have a play yourself!
As a former ZDNet journalist, I’m disappointed this didn’t happen while I was there…
October 30th, 2006
The IGF was established by the United Nations at the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) in 2005. As a multi-stakeholder group, the IGF includes 1,500 delegates from governments, organisations (public and private) and individuals, who will debate current and emerging issues on a global scale.
The four main agenda points are: security, diversity, openness and access.
It is hoped the forum will move forward with the varied discussion areas of Internet Governance and stimulate separate debates. Although it has no decision making powers, I think this is an excellent idea to get a real global perspective on how the web is evolving.
If you would like to keep up to date with the discussion, the BBC is running a reporter’s log from the forum here. Furthermore, if you would like to get involved, you can access the IGF’s discussion space here.
October 26th, 2006
Mike Butcher, co-editor of Techcrunch.com, has today made an interesting post about the future for open source social software, which would create interoperability between MySpace, Second Life and blogs etc.
As the phenomenon of Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (MMORPGs) and virtual worlds increases, the open source debate is bound to escalate, as it did with instant messaging. Linden Labs has already said that it plans to open up Second Life, while maintaining control of the brand.
Interoperability would create the ability for users to move their avatars and personas across different virtual worlds. I can’t comment on the technical requirements for this to be possible, but it certainly seems in line with the trend that is taking place now.
In many ways, quite a scary proposition when you think about where this leaves our real life personas, but also inevitable.
October 25th, 2006
News was coming through yesterday afternoon that editorial staff at the Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph have voted to go on strike, including this from the Press Gazette.
The action follows months of speculation on strike action, which originated from a series of changes including relocation to new offices in Victoria, different shift patterns and more than 130 redundancies including 54 journalists, such as foreign editor Alan Philps and former deputy editor Neil Darbyshire.
The NUJ has confirmed 76% of members who voted were in favour of strike action. A date for a strike has not yet been set.
NUJ General Secretary Jeremy Dear commented: ”Our members at the Telegraph have had no choice but to take the ultimate step and vote to strike.
“Management have only themselves to blame. They should have seen this coming months ago and done something to reassure staff rather than high-handedly pushing on with painful and unpopular changes.”
October 24th, 2006
This week’s Springwise newsletter, which is great for finding out about new business ideas, carries news of the first travel organisation to offer tours of virtual worlds such as Second Life, The Sims Online and Everquest.
Synthravels has been set-up by two Italian entrepreneurs, Mario Gerosa and Matteo Esposito, who are hoping to cash in on the popularity of online virtual worlds. As the worlds increase in complexity, the entry threshold for newbies rises, particularly for those who are new to online gaming.
To benefit from a tour, customers must register with Synthravels, pick a destination and preferred day and hour for the trip. Within a few days, he or she receives an itinerary by email. To prepare, a visitor has to download any software needed for the virtual world and create an avatar. Synthravels guides are experienced gamers and programmers, and claim to be able to train new users in the tricks of the trade.
The timing of Synthravel’s launch is perfect, and it will certainly be a company to watch over coming months. I’m not entirely sure of the revenue model as the tours appear to be free, but with brands such as Toyota, American Apparel and the BBC investing in Second Life alone, there is plenty of money to be made in this area.
I hope they’ve patented the idea, as it’s a perfect bandwaggon for others to leap on!
October 24th, 2006
Further to my post last week, calling for the UK Government to embrace social media as a communications tool, an excellent piece by Richard Wray, the Guardian‘s communications editor, got me thinking about the need for political representation for the Web.
The article focused on Google’s registration as a political action committee (PAC) with the US federal election commission.
Google’s NetPAC will enable it to enter the often murky world of corporate donations to support candidates seeking elected office.
In a quote from the article, Ricardo Reyes, Google’s senior manager of global communications and public affairs, commented: “We started this NetPAC in order to be able to support office-holders and candidates who share our vision of promoting and preserving the Internet as a free and open platform for information, communication and innovation. Google has thrived thanks to the opportunities of the free market so we believe it is important to look at policymakers as they make decisions that impact our users and businesses.”
Initially alarm bells started to ring, but hang on, who is going to represent the interests of the Web as an open information platform?
The move makes absolute sense for Google, as it needs political representation to fight increasingly hefty battles on a global scale. The first target of which will be Net neutrality.
I’m not naive enough to believe Google is doing this solely for the good of us all, and of course I can already hear the arguments about the web being a Google dominated medium, but who better to fight the good fight at a political level right now?
I hope this move will assist the safeguarding of the evolution of the web. You can guarantee one thing, Google has the power to be influential on a political stage.
Let me know your thoughts on this issue.
October 23rd, 2006
An opinion piece entitled “Isn’t it time we ditched the newspaper leader writers?” by Jeff Jarvis editor of BuzzMachine, has caught my eye in The Guardian today.
To quote straight from the article:
“The irony of leader writers is that they commit the sins usually attributed to bloggers: they rarely report and mostly just opine and pontificate – that is, they leech off the work of other journalists. And they work anonymously. Leaders speak as the voices of institutions, issuing opinions from the mountaintop, hidden by the cloak of distance. Yet today, in our connected society, we do not trust institutions. We demand transparency. We expect conversation.”
As a former journalist with friends still in the trade I feel a traitor supporting Jarvis’ opinion, but I have to admit I agree. Blogs in particular have raised the bar for quality comment and analysis, and as media becomes more and more ‘social’ and discursive, leader writers in particular are going to have a tough job hanging on to their position of authority.
It would be great to have some leader writers commenting, but as Jarvis concludes:
“So perhaps leader writers should not lead, but instead should become moderators and enablers of the democratic discussion, no matter where it occurs: in newspapers, on blogs, on television, and now on internet talk-shows like the conservative network 18 Doughty Street.”
Update: Guy Kewney’s response on The Register is also worth a read.
October 20th, 2006
The boardrooms at Google and Yahoo! are two very different places today, and that may offer some insight into why the recent financial results for these companies are so far apart.
For those that didn’t catch Yahoo!’s Q3 results, the figures may come as a surprise. The company posted profits of $155m (Â£83m), sounds good, but this represents a 38% decline on the $253m Yahoo! recorded in the same period last year.
However, Yahoo!’s figures were really put into perspective last night by Google’s massive Q3 results, which reported $2.69 billion (Â£1.43 billion) worth of earnings, a massive 70% increase from last yearâ€™s Q3 results ($1.58 billion). This was also a 10% increase over Q2 revenues of 2006, which totaled $2.46 billion.
So 70% up v 38% down. There aren’t many positives for Yahoo! on that scale.
Many would say Yahoo!’s results are a reflection of its cautious approach to development and while stock options (Yahoo! did add an $80m charge for the cost of handing out stock options to staff) detracted from Yahoo!’s figure, Google’s considerable market leadership and investments are looking more impressive than ever.
Trip Chowdhry, Global Equities Research analyst, overviewed the situation perfectly in the International Herald Tribune: ”The difference between Google and the second and third place players has become enormous. This definitely shows that Google is going to own the next generation of the computing environment.”
The final words should go to the guys at the top, as you will see, the statements are quite different:
Terry Semel, chief executive, Yahoo!, commented: “I am not satisfied with our current financial performance, and we intend to improve it. We are not exploiting our considerable strengths as well as we should be and we are committed to doing better.”
Eric Schmidt, CEO, Google:â€œOur third quarter results are a testament to the strength of our network of advertisers and partners, as well as our continuing focus on users. We were particularly pleased with the contributions of our international business in a seasonally weaker quarter. In addition, we continued to forge significant partnerships with companies such as eBay, Fox Interactive Media, and Intuit that will be of great value to all involved.”
October 19th, 2006
The FT is launching a live financial markets blog on Monday, which will be edited by the Guardian’s former financial editor Paul Murphy.
A beta version of the Alphaville blog is already live at http://ftalphaville.ft.com/.
The blog will offer rolling news and commentary through the UK and European trading day, and guidance on where to go for quality comment and analysis.
A message on the site is telling of how this blog will feed into the FT’s overall editorial direction: “The editorial thinking underpinning this new service from FT.com is that in a world where market professionals are inundated with information there is a pressing need to edit and filter, and hopefully sow a few ideas along the way.”
Blogs have certainly given rise to a greater emphasis on comment and news analysis. Flick through any trade magazine, and there will generally be one page devoted to analysis and a couple of columns of comment from industry insiders. Blogs have shifted this balance, and it’s interesting to see how the FT is responding to this.
October 18th, 2006
Speaking at Tuesday’s public symposium in Washington, hosted by the National Academies’ Computer Science and Telecommunications Board, Google chief executive Eric Schmidt said: “The average person in government is not of the age of people who are using all this stuff. There is a generational gap, and it’s very, very real.”
The day’s discussion was focused on how aspects of computer science and telecommunications will look in 2016, and made some interesting points into the convergence of media, net neutrality and copyrighted content.
However, the online generation gap is something we have been discussing at Liberate Media this week, and that’s the point that hit home. As we discovered, the UK evidence proves the generation gap is actually shrinking, but Mr Schmidt’s point about the average person in government not using ‘this stuff’ has been evidenced recently in the UK. Or at least not using social media to its full potential.
Not forgetting Mr Cameron’s (leader of the Conservative party in the UK) exploits, and related opposition spoofs, government is certainly missing a trick when it comes to communicating with the electorate.
Can we see better use of social media coming out of the UK Government as well please? I’m sure there are a range of people willing to show the way…if only there was a way of contacting them…