Andy Swindler

February 24, 2008

Chez Pazienza on traditional media

I found this post from a former CNN producer fired for writing a blog to be quite enlightening. I feel very close to this issue. As a student of journalism at Medill, it took me nearly three years to realize that the field of mainstream journalism had lost the appeal it had held for me in my childhood. And at the time (late nineties) smaller news organizations simply didn’t have the reach horsepower to affect the kind of change I believed journalism was all about.

So I found a home studying communications, which is at the root of all journalistic intent. It has been difficult for me to articulate any specific complaint about mainstream journalism, but I have for years felt an overwhelming sense of disappoint with the establishment and the marginalized voices through which it speaks. Pazienza speaks eloquently to this issue and I hope that mainstream media takes note.

This is what social media is about. More than power of the people. Power TO the people. I was quick to dismiss blogs in the early days as well, finding it difficult to imagine they would ever break through the veil of relevance. Moreover, I believed that blogs weren’t the answer to the broken system of credibility and filtering since they seemed simply to do away with these factors. And they have, to a limited degree. But when you look at the statistics it’s hard to believe now that this form of expression isn’t well on its way to revolutionizing all the media channels, and perhaps all corporate attitude and infrastructure for that matter.

The tug of war between mainstream and social media will lead us to something better. They are not at odds, however, and in fact form a symbiosis where each relies upon the other. But I’m not sure either realizes that, or if they do what it will take to admit it. It will take more than rampant adoption by the tech community, who are first out of the gate for any new technological form of expression, and topical nepotism (social media blogs) to break through to the masses. Most of the people in my life aren’t touched by blogs at all, and that’s the simple truth.

It was once the case that journalism had a type of integrity that did require an institution to maintain. But now that institution is built without rules and walls. Society dictates it as a whole. It is etiquette for effective communication rather than self preservation that makes it all work. Let’s see how long this lasts.

Andy Swindler

February 17, 2008

More on Less

After writing that last entry I happened across a post from Steve Rubel last week on Micro Persuasion. It touches on a tangible and measurable loss of productivity due to the all the interruptions in modern life. In The New Influencers, Paul Gillin mentions cell phones as freeing people from having to make appointments to talk. While this is true, I tend to think that appointments organize time and the agenda of those conversations much more effectively. Paul also talks a lot about these new tools that are emerging, and I think that’s the relevant point here.

We are exposed now to more information tools and means than have ever existed. It’s overwhelming everyone. The marketers, the consumers, the channels themselves. We hardly have time to get our fingers around one tool before another one emerges. The tech world has turned this to advantage for years, creating tools that don’t really stand the test of time, but need to be recreated and reinvented, ensuring job security for the tool inventors and technicians.

But I can certainly see people who are new to this world or even like myself, who have been immersed in it or decades, begin to show signs of resistance to the new and untested. Perhaps we’re already beginning to see this, as Steve indicates. There will also be people out on the front line testing and commenting, but we might see more and more technically sophisticated people taking a step back to see what can be made of using the tools rather than talking about them. Perhaps all these people are really looking for is a new filter for information.

Andy Swindler

February 3, 2008

What a world

I’m in Fayetteville, AR, coordinating production resources in Chicago and Seattle to launch a project in New York City. This seems like nothing compared to the global flattening of the workforce, but perhaps it is. The whole point is that you don’t have to send jobs around the world, but rather than you send jobs where they can be done most efficiently. In this case, that keeps me within the U.S., but reaching out to all the corners of our great country.

Andy Swindler

January 14, 2008

Scrabulous

You can’t really feel sympathy for two guys siphoning off the intellectual property of Hasbro for years, just because they finally got enough attention to become newsworthy.

Nor can you feel sympathy for Hasbro or any other mega-corporation too slow-moving to take advantage of the evolving trends in social networking and Web 2.0 technologies.

So where does that leave us? Instead of coming up with a creative solution or way to incorporate a successful web entertainment application (Scrabulous) with an entrenched and tremendously loyal and ever-growing user base, Hasbro tossed it to their lawyers.

Bravo.

Let’s do everything we can to squash innovation and tighten our reign of Scrabble copyright exclusivity, see how that goes over.

I’m reading people talk about boycotting Hasbro. Now that’s something I never expected to see.

What might be a more prudent, progressive, Internet-age way of thinking about this?

Hasbro could bring the developers in-house, re-brand the initiative as Scrabble Online, or something to that effect, maintain the user base and Facebook exposure, not have to start from scratch, and wind up owning a thoroughly developed, well-conceived implementation of their game.

I know that’s oversimplifying something things, but fundamentally it would be a better place to start than with the lawyers.

So what is it about big business that prevents them from thinking this far ahead and taking a chance? Well not all big businesses are stuck in the dark ages, and I think more and more we’ll begin to see the Internet populace drawing lines of support between the ones that make decisions for the common good versus corporate greed.

I’m a businessman. I understand that companies exist to make money. What I’m saying is that at the end of the day there will be even more money to be had by businesses that can get creative, put something out there that is more interesting and that involves more people. Particularly the applications that allow people to use the Internet as they want to. That’s the gimmick of Web 2.0. Modular applications that allow you to build and use the Internet as you see fit.

This scares the hell out of corporations. Lack of control. All of a sudden Hasbro isn’t able to count the number of boxes sold at Target. Things are more complex, less tangible. But it’s the way everything is headed. So get on board or let someone else take over, because you’re heading out of style.

Here are some bits from emails I’ve been shooting around on the subject:

***

I understand where Hasbro is coming from but it’s really just another example of a giant dinosaur company coming late to the party and rather than coming up with a creative solution to maintain the user base, they just call the lawyers. It’s their right, but like the music industry, I don’t think they understand the kind of blowback they’ll get from this. Nor do they likely care. These guys have been flying under the radar for years, it’s only when they have 2 million Facebook users on the hook that Hasbro takes notice. It’s as much an opportunity for them to gain access to those users as anything. And this happens to be the best online implementation of Scrabble ever. What can you do?

***

Yeah that’s true. Facebook is clearly getting revenue off all their applications. I think in this case that Facebook is a true innovator and in my mind that means that they have more license to do things and try things. Facebook has a pathetic ad click-through rate and aren’t really making much revenue overall. That didn’t stop them from turning down a 1-billion dollar offer from Yahoo! a few months back. It’s more about the individual innovators in this situation that seem to get the pinch, which is fine since they really just ripped off someone else’s intellectual property (Scrabble). Innovation not in concept but in implementation. Facebook still innovates conceptually, and they get burned by things that don’t work (e.g. that whole system that lets friends know what you purchase).

Friend response:

Frankly, I see where Hasbro is coming from. Facebook is the 800 pound gorilla in the social networking game now. I would be annoyed if I were Hasbro and Facebook was making millions, possibly billions, off of their intellectual property. (I’m anticipating a massive sale of Facebook to some Rupert Murdoch type entity before too long.) Its not so much about the individual users, I imagine it has more to do with one corporation going after another.