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I feel the earth move under my feet October 28, 2009

Posted by David Gillespie in business strategy, intent, social networks, strategy.
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There’s so much talk about platforms – Facebook-this, Twitter-that, more specific but no better than loose conversations about blogging or podcasts. I overheard someone say “It’s OK, there’s a slide on Twitter in the client deck”, which stopped me in my tracks. These tools are not the kinds of things that make sense when being described; who in their right mind would want to tolerate 140-character updates among a sea of people you barely knew? It in no way describes the vibrancy of using Twitter, nor the opportunities inherent in it.

Your friend and mine Tim Beveridge has a great saying: in order to understand change, you have to be part of it (it probably isn’t his saying, but I’m not sure where he got it from, so it’s his now).

The point is the best way to explain Twitter to somebody is to take 30 seconds to sign them up, another two minutes to follow some people they might be interested in, and then sit back and let them have at it. On the (often false) assumption you have a strategic reason for using Twitter, if your client doesn’t already use it then paying it lip service is not going to get you anywhere. Only by engaging  do people actually understand, or as I just commented over at AVC, being heard is not enough, you must also be understood.

Starting a strategy conversation by talking about a platform is a recipe for disaster. It is like deciding what kind of house you are going to be build based whatever hammer you have handy. It needs to begin with intent. Every. Single. Time.

For those who’ve just joined us here by way of Digital Strangelove, thanks so much for stopping by. We’re going to keep talking about intent for a bit, at least until the rest of the world starts to understand the power of it.

Image courtesy of onkel_wart, with thanks to compfight.

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You gave you away October 21, 2009

Posted by David Gillespie in business strategy.
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A few days ago I posted a presentation on where I think this space is headed. On slide 191 (yes 191) I mention something called The Three Musketeers rule, All For One or One For All. The former is siloed value creation, the latter creates value for an ecosystem.

I realised in the shower last night (keep it clean people) I had actually been thinking about this since November when I drew the below image:

I believe the Internet is, on a DNA-level, structured to create value for an ecosystem, and I believe this is why we’re seeing traditional business having a hard time playing in the new landscape, with models being destroyed and a new kind of value creation making waves.

This is also why I’m still on the fence about Facebook over the long term. Nobody can deny their growth or do anything other than applaud getting to profitability. But I feel on an instinctive level the model is All For One, it’s old media dressed up in shiny new threads, it’s a system that creates value for Facebook alone, and it’s questionable if any value is created outside of its walls.

In the presentation I included a slide of companies who are operating with a One For All approach:

Looking for a model?

Looking for a model?

If over time it transitions into One For All it will be interesting to watch. As it stands now, I can’t help but feel it is organised against the natural order of the Internet, which is open and connected. We’re seeing what happens when you do that across all kinds of industries, and it being an Internet darling does not exclude it from the same principles.

Even Rome fell people.

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Standing on the rooftops, shouting out June 4, 2009

Posted by David Gillespie in blogging, branding, conversation, digital strategy, technology, work/life.
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I think I need to start a competition amongst readers to see who can pic the song each post’s title is from. Here’s a hint:

Anyway, your friend and mine Tim is fond of saying “To understand change, you have to be part of it.” Now, he perhaps didn’t come up with that himself, but I am always reminded of him whenever I think of it, which is as good an exercise in branding as you’ll find.

With this in mind, I have spent some time this morning trying to bring my own silos of conversation together. My marketing self tends to exist only on this site, but my musician self is spread across Facebook, MySpace, iLike, YouTube, and God knows where else. Oh, not to mention another website of his own. Now, I do my best to keep my two selves separate, but bear with me for the purposes of this conversation.

It goes without saying that nobody working full time has the means to update all of the above sites, let alone engage the way we all insist we should. On top of that, there’s a requirement for authors who establish these sites to get a little more versed in the nuances of the technology than they’re otherwise compelled (or able) to do. What it means is more time spent tweaking the various underpinnings of a site or service and less time doing the things you started a site for in the first place. Cue frustrated creators and audiences in silos.

David Jones (a person, not the store) is a guy I’ve come across here in Canada. I spotted him tweeting one day “Don’t tell me what you would have done, tell me what you did.” – and that really struck a chord. Talk of best practices is all well and good, but evidence of how you’ve implemented it for yourself and others is much better. For the time being, until the big players in this space decide to make their platforms talk to each other, we all get to take part in a zero-sum race to a dead end.

Now I can understand each platform’s desire to control the artist dashboard, as the eyeballs are currently what gives them value. The reality however is if the smaller players don’t make it easier to pick up syndicated content, they’re going to see a reduction in usage.

I want to make it easy for people to consume my content in whatever manner best suits their existing habits. Turning that into a reality however currently means an ultimately unsustainable adjustment to my own. Something’s gotta give.

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Strategy for the next revolution November 26, 2008

Posted by David Gillespie in business strategy, digital strategy, strategy, technology, web 2.0.
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At the risk of this becoming a Fred Wilson love-in, I’m catching up on my unread items and he mentioned a conference coming up focused solely on creating add-ons for browsers. I’m a BIG fan of add-ons that make it easier for what I’m trying to do – as I’ve said before this revolution we’re going through is based around making it easier for the majority to express themselves (which is subsequently why there are now businesses around organising information – see what we did?).

What is happening in this space though is people are harnessing the notion of the web as the platform and getting away – slowly but surely), from operating systems as we knew them.

The moves that Microsoft, Google and Mozilla have been making though are ones towards the inevitable (and closer than you think) point where there is no such thing as an offline experience. At that point the browser is the experience, with different plugins and views for different things (word processing, spreadsheets, etc.).

Where we’re also headed is the recovery of our personal data away from the social networks and back to a central repository, one we are in control of. I wrote the following for Marketing back in May this year:

(Facebook are) desperately trying to maintain hold on user data, under the daft assumption it was somehow their’s to play with in the first place.

That idea, and the moves MS, Google and Mozilla are making, brings the online experience back to the user, it takes the data back to the source, rather than downstream where it currently resides. Facebook exists as a repository for personal data, wrapped up in a layer of communications software that shares it with your friends. Nothing more, nothing less. Facebook gambled – and rightfully so – on that information being worth something; they’ve made a fundamental mistake though in attempting to build a business around something they do not own or control: your information.

So, in playing the game of would-be gate-keeper, distracting you long enough with werewolf bites and status updates, Facebook are trying to build a profitable business around supplying access to the owners of the information.

…stop me if you’ve heard this one…

Meanwhile, people innovating in the browser space are building out their own platforms – ones that exist at a pre-site level. By doing this, they will tap the water supply at the source and not down-stream, and while yes we will still be the ones handing over the information, they know we need software to facilitate interaction with the web, that isn’t changing any time soon.

Facebook’s strategic advantage could be in opening up its system and allowing people to build Facebook applications that reside in the browser and not on their website. But in order to do that, they have to make some fundamental shifts in strategy and philosophy, and move from a siloed-mentality, the kind that built businesses in the 90’s, to an open one – the kind that builds businesses today. They have the scale, what I doubt they have is the will to become, almost overnight, one of the largest publishers of web applications on the planet and give a massive boost to the fledgling economies of browser plug-ins. In Facebook Connect they half-heartedly attempted to extend the reach of their platform beyond their own domain, and it plays like it is: an attempt to be a little bit open, but not too much.

Meanwhile companies like Zemanta, and like Adaptive Blue with Glue, are building businesses for the next revolution by creating technologies that do not require something as decidedly old-fashioned as a website to exist. Indeed they more than anyone recognise there is limited value in pushing a destination, but endless value in pushing content.

As soon as the hardware conversation goes away, the website-as-destination will quickly follow as we embrace the distributed web. So too, I imagine, the gross over-valuation that came and went with everyone’s favourite social network.

This year’s one anyway.

Props to Alisa Leondard who got me thinking about this, you should go and read Socialised. Wait, she’s American, so it’s SocialiZed. Dig.

Image courtesy of Digger Digger Dogstar, with thanks to compfight, who’ve just had a facelift. Go tell them they look pretty – they’ll put out. Promise!
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