to-letImage by steelmonkey via Flickr

Our heads are in a new space. Literally: we have a new office that’s conducive to rolling around while thinking. Figuratively: We’re rolling around hot ideas in our heads.

Here’s what’s been wheeling around: All digital content needs a unique identifier that shows who made it, when, on what equipment, and what it’s about. How else are we supposed to find relevant content no matter the venue? How else is the original author going to get props/cents?

Currently, there is a standard called DOI (not to be confused with DOA or DWI). Digital Object Identifier. Seems like it’s mostly used for academic papers so that they can be found even if the location (website) changes. But are lomediaco’s using it? Is there a way to embrace and expand the standard to include the myriad UGC and Pro content out there? Make it all relevant?

If you know about this kinda stuff, we’d love to hear from you. We think it’s a necessary piece of the relevant web.

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Cover FlowImage via Wikipedia

If I didn’t have the nagging voice in the back of my head to make headlines search engine optimized, I would have made the headline Visualate and Objectiveize the Interwebs for Happifying User-Types. For some reason, I enjoy making convoluted non-words that demand a certain level of focus to understand.

So, why am I stoked for a future web of visual objects? If you don’t get my meaning, go try Searchme.com and you will know. Searchme turns the search engine experience into an iTunes coverflow experience. It’s beautiful and changes the way I choose websites. Their tag line is “You’ll know when you see it”, and how true it is. Instead of slowly skimming the familiar blue text on other search engines, I can fly by a bunch of drab web pages and quickly land on one that is catchy/familiar/not-riddled-with-ads.

Although it’s beautiful and simple, Searchme is obviously slower to load and doesn’t provide as many quality results as Google. In fact, Searchme couldn’t even find this Wedia Up blog. The concept is stronger than the execution, which means there is plenty more room for innovation.

Bravo to Searchme for co-opting an amazing user interface. But there is no way that Searchme could rival Google Search for accuracy and relevancy. The only way Searchme could get my daily eye-balls is to have an aggregating function that lets me see all the biggest websites in a given category. Show me all of the LoMediaCo sites. All of the Airfare sites. All of the Music Review sites. All of the Motorcycle sites. I’ll flip through them quickly, knowing that although it’s not deep content, it’s the most-common content.

With content becoming more recycled, amplified, and easily found, the venue that content exists in starts to matter more. People love visual web objects that move and feel like real things. I think there is a future for websites that incorporate visual browsing, minimal scrolling and clicks, and even real-world physics.

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Taking it off-line

April 23, 2008

Chefs in training in ParisImage via Wikipedia

So the big hubbub in computerland is taking cool, spiffy web apps and allowing them to work on and off line.  This is a pretty cool concept really – because we all love our gmail, but it’s hard to connect to the net when we’re on a plane.  But it would be nice to write email and then send it once we connect again (like traditional email) but with all the coolness of web based email.  Goog is using a tool they developed called Google Gears to help out.

A post (or really a slide deck) over at Ajaxian describes this:

We also discussed reasons to be excited about Web development, some of the ideas that are out there in the community, and how AIR and Gears can be seen as complementary.

So, what’s that got to do with me!  If you take that concept and apply it to social networking – you get what we’re calling wedia here at wediaup.

We want to combine all the coolness of web based soical networking and mash that up with the standard, “old school” soical stuff we all do with out friends and family – then, to spice it up…we add some wholesome media to taste.

What do you get?  Wedia – or community base, information, cooked the way you like with special sauce and extra cheese!   See, its all in how you prepare it – if you want the same old froze, “go to the freezer and get the box”, we’ve been fed for a while now…forget about it, its still there.

But if you want fresh, organic news and information – you want wedia.

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Riders waiting at a U.S. bus stop with a shelter.Image via Wikipedia

Taking my familiar walk down Ashland Ave in Chicago, barely noticing the familiar Taquerias and boutiques, I passed scores of newspaper boxes. They were all at intersections, bus stops, and coffee shops. I walked confidently, knowing that at any point I could pick up the same content that was on the previous corner. At some point, my brain fired up it’s desire engine, focused in on the need for some El reading material, and propelled my hand towards a couple boxes containing the Chicago Journal and the RedEye. Thanks be to the person who invented the newspaper box and the method of placing them ubiquitously in high-traffic areas (a quick wikipedia search failed to tell me who that person was, and then I gave up).

The newspaper box was a successful attempt at distributing newspapers everywhere. And now, in our crisp new digital world, a similar innovation must be spun up. The makings are already there. We’ve got digital high-traffic areas, we’ve got links and widgets, we’ve got RSS Feeds, and we’ve got people who like fresh/relevant content. What we don’t have is a reliable way to monetize all of the grabbing and reading.

The game today seems to be “get the reader to come back to my controlled site so I can pop some ads up and monetize their pretty blues.” But, truthfully, I don’t want to read your content on your site. Just as much as I don’t want to go downtown to the Chicago Tribune to peep some news. I want to grab a tiny slice of your content in places I’m already walking past.

More and more, my digital walk takes me past Google Reader, WordPress, Technorati, the NYTimes, EveryBlock, Twitter, and Facebook. I don’t walk past the LoMediaCo Daily News very often, so it needs to place it’s content at the high-traffic intersections of the web. Don’t lock me in to your user interface. Don’t interrupt my EveryBlock experience by making me open a link in a new tab. All of the mechanisms exist to provide me with a great content experience, but the business model for using them is nascent. It’s gonna be all about aggregating content and sharing benjamins. And that’s gonna take a beautiful database that knows about content ownership (no matter how atomized), place of viewing, stats, revenue generated, and algorithms for how much value the venue brings to the table and how much value the content brings to the table. Some will make money by making super-boss venues (e.g., Google), and some will make money by pumping out the freshest (e.g., TechCrunch) and best (e.g., NYTimes) content.

I’m not asking for anyone to give up their desire to place the “I Made This” stamp on their content. I’m asking you to give up your desire to make me see your content in your house. I’m asking you to give up your desire to be the only one to distribute your content (i.e., let it go viral).

I’ll be happy when my digital-walk content grabbing is as simple as my Ashland-walk content grabbing.

Thanks to Jeff Jarvis over at BuzzMachine for writing many thoughtful posts that got me thinking about this.

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Ford Five Hundred interior focused on the automatic transmission.Image via Wikipedia

New Media Bytes has a sweet tutorial on how to auto-update Twitter. If only there was a way that LoMediaCo’s could use this functionality to their benefit….hmmmm. Maybe sending out headlines and quips automatically to all the neato early-adopters on Twitter? Gaining some street cred? Did I mention it’s automatic, so no need to have someone sit all day re-typing headlines?

The functionality grabbed me, but I must admit I haven’t tried it yet. Give me some time and I will update this post with my thoughts on setting up Auto Twitter here on Wedia Up.

UPDATE: Auto-update Twitter IS for real. It takes a whole 5 minutes over at Twitter Feed to get rolling. No need to watch a 10 minute tutorial to get the gist on this one. It looks like this thing will work for any RSS feed, grab the headline, and add in some stock text at the beginning (like “Headlines from WediaUp”). Choose how often it should search the rss (from 30 min to 24 hours), and how many posts it should capture. Now I just have to see if it’s consistent. Anyone use this for a real news site?

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Graffiti with MeaningImage by David Reece via Flickr

Over the past two weeks, the e-Me team has been giving me flack about the notion that ideas are cheap and that it’s all in the implementation: this is where it gets hard and expensive. During a recent conference, Tom sent the tweets, Nick was all over it, and I was having loads of fun with overpriced accountants trying to close my books for the year. Nice!

To be fair, there is some truth to this notion. It’s just that the truth, like most things, is in the context. Morning epiphanies in the shower always feel world-changing when you’re lathering and singing. But you get to the office, you chase it for a bit and get far enough to learn that you don’t know squat. Now you have to do work. Assuming your smart enough to socialize the idea, you learn that there are lots of great ideas about your ideas that better inform your ideas – but you still don’t know how to pull it off. In this context, yep, you betcha, ideas don’t take you far. What you need is all the stuff that comes after: a formed concepts, a basic design framework, some development tools, customer testing and feedback, yaddah, yaddah, yaddah. Damn! It really is hard! So yeah, splat! The idea dies.

But imagine that the tools, how-to knowledge, and related piece-parts were available; at minimal to no cost. And what if you had a sandbox to develop and test. Then what? Know what you need then? Yep, IDEAS. And not the flippant garden variety of idea (those are opinions, and like that hidden orifice, everybody has at least one). What you need is that vetted, socialized, scrutinized idea that is the basis form a good concept. And once you have a decent concept – well, you can start doing stuff. Because, it just so happens that more and more, the cloud offers lots of options.

On Nick’s post, he noted that “we can crawl the web, pick up on good ideas and tweak them to our needs. After all, ideas are cheap and it’s no biggie for us to steal them”. But you know, the iPod is not completely original. Portable, personal, music was invented by Sony. When we can borrow, tweak, edit and improve, we move the big ball forward. As easy as this is to say, it’s difficult for a guys, like me, who grew up building technology in labs and development “centers” in a race against time and the other guys who are trying to take you out. I learned (mumble-mumble) years ago that, as the renown philosopher, Austin Powers, would say “that’s just not cricket, baby”.

Today, it’s all about the great idea, great (and cheap) implementation (i.e, it ain’t great if it chokes your cash flow) and fast deployment. So if the process, tools, platforms and pieces are now cheap, what isn’t? Great ideas, from great people with huge passion and awesome skills to manage great (fast and cheap) deployment.

To all the great thinker-uppers out there: Rock On!!

Fools for Rules

April 7, 2008

étudiants en journalismeImage from Wikipedia

It’s hard to follow the rules if you never read the rules. That’s what’s happening over at Consumerist.com with their 26 year old Editor who never worked a day in journalism prior to his current gig. Read all about it over here at the Newspaper Death Watch.

This is the kind of mentality we’re shooting for here at Wedia Up. Letting Media Outsiders (such as my humble self) take some stabs at the big problemo in conjunction with Media Insiders. Having not read the Rules of Journalism, I’m gonna take out my little paring knife and make a stab. Apologies if I hit an artery.

Step 1: Give people what they want to see/read/hear right now and let them interact.

Step 2: Something something something, so you can make money.

And now for the breakdown:

  1. “Give”: Make the presentation of content like a little personal gift. If at all possible, make it free. Hopefully people will ask for another gift later.
  2. “People”:  Please don’t write off a certain demographic of people as “non-consumers”. To steal from my good friend on the Nickel, “All consumers are created with equal information needs.” Just because I want more info about my friends and less about a house fire doesn’t mean I’m a non-consumer.
  3. “Want”: Let people self-identify, explore, show preferences, and be geographically diverse. Pretty soon, wants will become fairly obvious. A lot of people don’t know what they want until they see it. Don’t assume that everyone wants fact-checked, edited, impersonal, objective content all the time. There’s a bunch of relevant info that people want that will never win a LoMediaCo a Pulitzer.
  4. “See/Read/Hear”: Content should know no distribution borders.
  5. “Right Now”: Give as much content as you can whenever it is available. Link to all related articles, a deep archive, and outside sources so I can drink until I’m not thirsty. If everything is online, it doesn’t eat-up space on a 22-minute broadcast or the front-page of a daily newspaper.
  6. “Interact”: Let people mash-up the content, share it, comment on it, and start a conversation. Allow them to say when it’s bad and when it’s good.
  7. “Something Something Something”: I don’t think anyone knows exactly how to make consistent money in a Wedia setting. This is gonna take some massive innovation. It’s very possible that the current LoMediaCo business model will not function in a Wedia environment. Through collaboration, small tests, frequent stabs, and a tolerance for risk, I bet someone figures it out.

What percentage of this sounds familiar? If it’s over 90%, I’ll try harder next time.

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