FreakonomicsImage via Wikipedia

One line from a recent entry on the NYTimes Freakonomics blog struck me, and it is the title of this post. Freakonomics explains why innovation is so vital, and yet so difficult to measure. We often strive for the big event of a successful innovation, but the event only happens if the process is sound. Innovation isn’t reducible to quarterly forecasts like revenues. Innovation takes patience and failure, and will every once in awhile yield big successes.

The process of innovation does not guarantee success, but success is only repeatable (i.e., not a fluke) if there is a sound innovation process. This is what we’re striving for at Wedia Up and e-Me Ventures. We’re finding our innovation process in order to have a shot at the big event.

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Our friends and colleagues over at Wedia Buzz are at Web 2.0 in San Francisco. They’ve been posting as frequently as a fence-builder. What’s even cooler is that they work for a LoMediaCo that understands it’s worth the hours and benjamins to send out 4 of their brightest to a conference on the future of web technology. And instead of bringing home brochures, typing up notes, and preparing internal PPTs, they’re sharing their knowledge and thoughts in the blogosphere. Right on. Here at Wedia Up, sometimes we share our ideas on pizza boxes we get so excited (see photo)

You could go peruse their blog, but here are some of my fav recent posts from their Web 2.0 trip:

  1. Micromedia and Microblogging – people like bite-sized info that gives you a sense of things even when you’re not paying close and detailed attention.
  2. Fail Fast and Often – Hard to accept in a culture driven by success, but very necessary in a competitive environment that demands speed.
  3. Enterprise Mash-ups are coming – get ready.

Thanks for the great updates, Wedia Buzz. Keep it coming.

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Shifting the Square

April 21, 2008

Rubik's cubeImage via Wikipedia

In keeping with my nascent blog style (see here and here and here), I just had an experience which I will now weave into a Wedia concept/metaphor/idea.

Abe was out at Nexpo the other week and picked up a 3D Rubiks cube from the folks at Dario Designs. Now, you might think that a traditional Rubiks cube is 3D, but instead of only twisting, this Cube unfolds so it’s like a herky-jerky pixelated snake. Arriving at the office today, I found it in pixelated snake mode instead of the end-game cube form. I quickly realized why Rubiks is practically synonymous with Frustrating. The intended pictures on each face were obvious enough, but putting them together so the whole thing made sense was not about to happen. And then it did happen, and there were copious fist-bumps in the office.

Wedia is much like this little unfolding cube. Plenty of people can see how the pieces should fit together, but actually fitting them together incites head-meets-wall behavior. Plus, Wedia is not even a pixelated snake type of thing, it’s a 4D cube that has pieces pulled in and out over time, layers added, and colors changed. In order to bring Wedia together at a LoMediaCo, Content Provider, or Web Portal, it’s going to take many perspectives from many angles.

Here at Wedia Up, our goal is to form one (or three) of those perspectives. On top of that, we’ll move around and listen a lot in order to gain as many angles on Wedia.

From where we are now, it looks like we need better ways to collaboratively and semantically leverage all of the great content/ideas out there. If I post an idea, I want an engine that instantly serves up all of the relevant things that touch my idea. From patent filings, to message boards, to press releases, new stories, economic data, and grant solicitations. I want to give up on an idea that is already established, augment an idea that is relatively novel, and find opportunities to take on ideas that are unique and actionable. I want to hear from the thumbs-up crowd and the thumbs-down crew.

Filtering/mining/narrowing ideas semantically and collaboratively is the future of innovation in both established communities like LoMediaCo’s, or nascent communities of tinkerers. If we can come to quicker decisions about what to pursue and what to leave on the shelf, we’ll be more efficient in the decidedly inefficient realm of innovation.

The trouble is, many ideas that are “new to us” will be exposed as “old to them” (thereby making us feel less-than-unique). The cool thing is, we can learn from those who were ahead on the bell curve. It’s a bit tough, but I’ll gladly swallow my pride for an advanced learning opportunity.

Feel free to take a crack at my pride the non-semantic way in the recently opened comments below. No more WordPress user account needed.

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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Tapes 'n Tapes performing at the Siren Music Festival.Image via Wikipedia

I love how two disparate things can converge so nicely. Thing #1: Great post over at MediaShift calling out Newsrooms to “Walk the Talk of Change”. Check out some great examples of Talk and Action over there.

Thing #2: My favorite band, Tapes ‘n Tapes, released their 2nd Album today entitled “Walk It Off”. Take a listen over at MTVU. It’s piping hot if you’re into the independent rock.

I hope you agree that these are disparate things. Now comes the convergence.

Instead of Walk the Talk, I like the concept of Walk It Off for LoMediaCo’s. Walk the Talk connotes some blustery guy saying all the right words and pretending to know precisely where he’s going. Walk It Off is saying, “I think that ‘it’ is over there, and instead of measuring exactly where it is, I’m just gonna approximately walk towards it. If I’m close, great. If not, I’ll have a better viewpoint to walk it off again.”

Wedia Up is an exercise in Walking It Off. Tom and I thought it’d be great to do something in the Wedia community, so we got on WordPress in an hour. We’re walking towards where we think Wedia should be.  It may be an imprecise innovation method, but we think it will get us where we want to be more quickly.

Walking It Off is great for the innovation muscles.

As Nick said – Jason (another dude who is diving into the whole wedia thing) and I were at Iowa State University yesterday and today at a conference called ETC2008.

It was a cool little conference over at ISU in Ames, Iowa put on by the HCI/CompSci people.  (HCI = Human Computer Interface)  It was very refreshing to see these college students so fired up about some of the topics.  I spoke to a cool guy named Matt Heying who is working on a neat project about mashing SaaS, Web 2.0 and research – cool stuff.

The Innovation keynote was giving by a guy named Michael Schrage.  It was a great talk on innovation and here are my notes.

  • innovation is the transformation of novilty to value
  • good ideas are cheap – good implementatiosn aren’t
    Tom’s Comment: How true, and something Nick keeps telling me!  🙂
  • a model is a relevant approximation of reality (models are social constructions)  that we cost effectivly use.
  • what is simple?  simple is a social construct.
  • “home made simple” is a site by procter and gamble – almost 100% concept testing online @ literally 1/100 of the cost and 1/100 of the time
    Tom’s Comment: Michael had a good bit for information here – it just makes sense…too much almost.  But with the power of the internet and computers – we are silly not to do this.  Add in the power of Facebook and we have a test medium which can really reach people under 30 years old!
  • 80/20/20 vision
    80% of the necessary information
    20% of the time
    20% of the resources
  • google is not a seach engine – they are an instant search engine, it’s about how fast they can do it.
    Tom’s Comment: The point here is if google could double your search’s effectiveness – but it took 1 minute for the results…people would not accept it.  They are INSTANT SEARCH – not search.
  • resistance is by far the clearest window into understanding an organization’s internal economics of innovation – the reason they give for not innovating is the innovation culture.
  • how to provide:
    more accessable models for cost-effrective ROU (reduction of uncertainty) that boost value from use
  • we are over weighted in ideas and under weighted in implementations
  • not anti idea, but pro-idea and testing
  • refuse to talk about good ideas unless there is a testing routine
    Tom’s Comment: This was very clear after Michael’s talk.
  • do not try to implement and idea without testing.  refuse
  • layers of digital infrastructure allow us to itereate cheaply

Falling in Streams

April 3, 2008

Citizen mediaImage from WikipediaI’ve got three thought streams that are about to flow into each other. Gotta get ’em out in the open before I get flooded.

Tom and I were talking about News Gatherers and News Producers and how they are two fundamentally different jobs. News Gatherers should have the freedom to go out into the community, write as many in-depth stories as they like, reflect, dig, and update their stories. News Producers should take the output of News Gatherers and package it for each distribution method and audience a LoMediaCo wants to reach.

And then I saw a summary of the 2008 State of the News Media from The Project for Excellence in Journalism. One of the key points is that each headline should have it’s own homepage. This allows for the proper depth of reporting big stories need, and can connect readers to outside resources that augment the story (tweets, blog posts, other news sites, youtube vids). It would allow LoMediaCo’s a safe way to use the full power of the web. I think this follows from the idea that aggregators win on the web. The twist is that instead of the National Aggregation that Google does, it would be Local to National Aggregation. Assuming that people would like to start with some local flavor, see what the neighbors think, and then temper it with some national scope.

On top of all this, I’ve been noodling on Citizen Media sites like NowPublic. It covers a lot of news stories, but the problem is that all writers are not created equal. When I have a choice, I’m always gonna go read an article written by someone with a unique voice and peppy writing style who had some time to reflect. No amount of news quantity will ever assuage the human need for story quality. However, a large quantity of news data coupled with a good amount of story quality seems like the ideal mix.

Here’s the point of these three thought streams.  LoMediaCo’s should:

  1. Let News Gatherers run wild writing quality stories of direct relevance to their audiences. Let them get into the Why of things. Let their outputs be articles, blogs, video, podcast, and pics….whatever is good for the story.
  2. Help citizens gather and post relevant news data (like little league scores, neighborhood initiatives, community stats, comments, photos). 1% of citizens are great writers, but 90% know how to gather data and comment. Help the 1-percenters set up their own blogs to give them a voice.
  3. Post everything from Citizens and News Gatherers into an open Wiki-type space where each story has its own home page. Let it be raw and deep.
  4. Charge News Producers with packaging all the info into relevant sizes for every single distribution method. Splice it with outside content from other sources on the web. Distribute just headlines for the Twitter crowd….Basic quick-read stories for commuters…..In-depth stories for movers and shakers. And bring everyone back to the web for a deep archive that connects everything to something else.

Now I would be engaged by that. And I bet it wouldn’t be too hard to make money off engaged consumers.

What would it take to actually do something like this? Have I ideologically fallen and can’t get up?

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