Philip Sheldrake

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Category: Website/New Media (page 1 of 7)

The unfreedom of filter bubbles – let’s pop the bloody things

bubbles
We could see it coming. Sort of.

I wrote a post titled myChannel back in 2005, a time without smartphones, Facebook, Twitter and news aggregators like Flipboard. YouTube was 17 days off launching. Reviewing the tech landscape I concluded:

... mass personalisation has become a ‘qualifying’ rather than ‘winning’ criteria. The advantages to the user include choice (of the most apt personalisation), collation, and access in their own time and filtering. ...The user, the recipient of news and information, the listener, the viewer, the inter-actor, has been empowered to set the schedule. It’s what they want, when they want it and how they want it. They have one channel ... and they own it. It is myChannel.

Seems I got some part right. Two thirds of Facebook users and 59% of Twitter users in the US get their personalised news from the social network. Facebook counts a quarter of the world's population as users.

Seems I got some part wrong, to our collective misery. My post referenced user choice of personalisation service, which is of course absent under monopoly conditions. And alarmingly, my assumption that the individual would own their own channel was way off target.

The Internet and the Web have been radically centralized in the intervening years. The network effect has left many abdicating their choice of media, exposure to ideas, facility to corroborate stories, and the opportunity to debate different points of view, to algorithms written by distant employees of centralised and centralising services whose commercial motivations do not necessarily extend to ensuring you get anything other than the instant gratification that your current viewpoint is spot on. You are right. They are wrong. Empathy be damned.

We've seen this with Brexit and during the US election this year.

Since 2011, the effect has become known as a filter bubble – automated information separation that isolates each of us in own cultural or ideological bubbles.

The hi:project intends to help sort out this mess by re-establishing each and everyone of us back in the driving seat of our own lives. I like this metaphor because driving entails responsibilities as well as rights.


Image source: By Jeff Kubina, BY-SA 2.0

The quantified self, the quantified organization, and the organized self

quantified org self

The diagram here portrays where I'm going with this post, so let's dive in.

The quantified self

The current Wikipedia entry for quantified self (QS) describes it as "a movement to incorporate technology into data acquisition on aspects of a person's daily life in terms of inputs (e.g. food consumed, quality of surrounding air), states (e.g. mood, arousal, blood oxygen levels), and performance (mental and physical)."

And it doesn't stop at mere data acquisition of course; as the strapline for a major QS community puts it, we're looking at self knowledge through numbers. Adriana Lukas, founder and organiser at London Quantified Self Group, proselytizes self-managed QS, a future in which “expertise is supplied rather than outsourced”, where each of us acquires “agency as sense-maker”.

That's certainly a powerful and possibly quite natural vision, and one I wholeheartedly embrace. Yet it's also counter to the branded data siloes many a purveyor of QS gadgetry would, it seems, have one locked into. Adriana employs a turn of phrase, which may well be riffing off Doc Searls:

We can’t treat individuals as data cows to be milked for the data bucket.

The quantified organization

Lee Bryant, founder of PostShift, describes their take on 'quantified organization':

... a framework of organisational health measures, informed by theory and company goals, that can guide ongoing change in an agile, iterative way and assess the success or failure of change actions against a desired future operating state.

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Taxi! Hailing a ride, but not too far into the future

yellow cab new yorkThe controversy Uber is causing right now prompted me to delve into the archives. Way back. Back to March 2000 when I was pitching a proposition called Peoplestaxi to the likes of 3i and Avis. It got selected for First Tuesday's "Wireless Matchmaking" events too. Here's a quick extract:

Peoplestaxi leverages the latest technologies and customer-centric e-business philosophy to deliver the ubiquitous, convenient and intelligent taxi management service for business and consumers.

... Bookings are accurate and quality is assured. Punctuality, customer relationship management, personal safety, event critical booking, full account management, multi-payment methods and community grouping are all delivered automatically, seamlessly and brilliantly.

... As Peoplestaxi restructures the taxi market, existing taxi firms will have to affiliate, find some niche or eventually die.

I'm chuffed that I managed to reference the future collaborative / sharing economy in there – "community grouping" – but perhaps that last sentence was the choicest bit of crystal ball gazing.

So how come this didn't become Uber? In short order:

  1. Smartphones hadn't been invented
  2. GPS units still cost a thousand US
  3. Oh, and the dotcom bubble burst just then, spectacularly.

I learned that the first aren't always first. The timing of disruption is a function of the disruption.

Likes and dislikes of curating Social Business Design magazine for Flipboard

Social Business Design magazine for Flipboard 18 Feb 2014
Social Business is such a nascent, deep and wide topic that I couldn't do my thinking or clients justice without reading a lot. Everyday. So it occurred to me that if I'm taking the time to do this, then it makes sense to take a few seconds more to act as a filter and pass on the best bits to others.

Social Business Design _ Flipboard magazineI began curating a Flipboard magazine at the tail end of 2013. Flipboard tells me that the resulting magazine, Social Business Design, currently contains 210 articles and has attracted 128 readers.

Here's what I like and what I don't like about the process. Perhaps the upsides might prompt you to curate one yourself, and perhaps the Flipboard team might take note of the downsides. They do listen – Flipboard CEO Mike McCue (@mmccue) has taken the time to respond to me via Twitter, as have several of his colleagues.

I like

Flipping

I like the simplicity. Drag the "flip it" bookmarklet from the Flipboard website to your browser's bookmarks bar and you're all set up. When I'm reading an article I decide to flip, I just click the bookmarklet and a little window appears, just like this: Read more

Why I self-published this time

Having gone down the traditional publishing route with The Business of Influence (Wiley, 2011), I decided for a number of reasons to try a different route in 2013 with Attenzi – a social business story. Most of those reasons boil down to one simple fact, the publishing industry isn't yet embracing social business principles. In fact, it's perhaps a prime example of an industry continuously trying to manipulate the application of 21st Century technologies to maintain the 20th Century status quo.

Attenzi - a social business story, book coverI appreciate that cannibalizing ones own livelihood is never an easy journey (heck, even management consultancies find it tough), but I figure it's got to be worth attempting when the alternative is so bleak. I'm hardly the first to levy such criticism (crystallized beautifully in The Innovators' Dilemma of course), but here's a prime example in my particular case.

Quite clearly, I'd love to stimulate conversation and debate about social business – after all, collaboration and co-operation cannot spring forth without first conversation and sharing. So the ebook formats of Attenzi feature hyperlinks at the beginning of each chapter taking readers from the ebook to the HTML version where they can coalesce to comment, to ask and answer questions, to share resources, as they wish. And share hyperlinks to pages of the book wherever they hang out.

That means the whole book needs to be available in HTML – the global, open standard for the presentation and mark up of documents, <sarcasm>lest anyone from the publishing world require an explanation here</sarcasm>. This in turn means traditional copyright terms would be violated, which means I couldn't work with traditional publishers.

I appreciate the economics here don't apply to all authors or all published works, but as both Doc Searls and JP Rangaswami note, I will derive more value personally "because of" the ebook than "with" the ebook. I have secured two projects during the past six months on the back of releasing Attenzi unfettered, creating revenues far in excess of any I would have derived from traditional royalties. (Note: my writing doesn't achieve Harry Potter levels of readership!)

So I have lived up to the principles of social business, and profitably.

Should any publisher wish to have a conversation about business models for B2B publishing, please get in touch. My network of associates and I have plenty to contribute.

How dare they!

[Written originally for the CIPR Friday Roundup.]

You should not make edits to a Wikipedia entry when you have a conflict of interest, as any PR practitioner does in relation to their employer or client. Simple.

CNET screenshot BP Wikipedia

This Wikipedia rule is reflected precisely in the CIPR's Wikipedia guidance, published by the social media panel last summer and supported by PR bodies in Canada, Australia and South Africa. (Although not yet in the US.) Read more

Destroying the web

[Written for the CIPR Friday Roundup.]

The Internet is the most powerful, flexible and critical infrastructure ever invented. Every aspect of our daily lives is supported by this wondrous invention.

But here's the important thing.

We've passed the point where the fabric of our societies is supported by the Internet – the all pervasive Internet increasingly defines that fabric. Its architecture is becoming our architecture, and that is why any motion to challenge or change the way in which the Internet is governed must be subject to the most critical eye.

I've been on tenterhooks the past fortnight watching the deliberations of WCIT play out – the World Conference on International Telecommunications. WCIT is a UN body that has played a vital role over nearly one and a half centuries coordinating telecoms standards and interoperability and radio spectrum and satellite orbits, and it has tried once again to wrestle Internet governance from the hands of the open community that has shepherded it so beautifully to date. Read more

The CIPR Friday Roundup +/- 5 years

[Originally written, obviously, for the CIPR Friday Roundup.]

The Kardashians first appeared in October 2007 just as it was becoming difficult to get a mortgage. I don't believe the two were related. I also sent out the first Friday Roundup... to eleven recipients.

Five years and 250 editions later (missing out the festive seasons), it's gone out to 9345 of you, which is fantastic. But let's look at some more interesting October 2007 facts, spanning the full gamut of topics we've covered here for PR professionals.

Facebook had just passed the thirty million user mark, approaching half that reported by MySpace. There were 350,000 of us on Twitter and ten million odd on LinkedIn – now half a billion and 175 million respectively.

There was no Kindle, no Android, no tablets, and no Justin Bieber. Nokia was number one in mobile phones, bigger than numbers 2, 3 and 4 combined. The Blackberry 8800 and the very first iPhone were the executive must-haves.

There was no FourSquare, Groupon, Pinterest, Instagram, Angry Birds, Prezi, Quora, Spotify, Mendeley, Blippar, Dropbox, Tweetdeck or Google+. And these were pre-Chatroulette days too, and pre-Barcelona principles come to that.

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Who are you?

[Originally written for the CIPR Friday Roundup.]

Identity is not a black and white thing. Sure, at one end of the spectrum anonymity reigns. This is the world of 4chan, the popular image-based bulletin board from which famous memes such as lolcats and Rickrolling emerged. At the other end of the spectrum we have passport border control.

And in between we have many shades of identity.

Nightclub handstamps for example are needed only to ascertain who has already paid. Many a website cookie serves just to determine if you've dropped by before. A supermarket loyalty card serves just to build up an understanding of your shopping habits, and may be associated with a bank card proffered for payment.

OK, so what has this got to do with marketing and public relations?

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Share This: The Social Media Handbook for PR, by the CIPR Social Media Panel

Share This book cover

After three months of social collaboration involving two dozen authors, we're just a few days away from publishing Share This: The Social Media Handbook for PR (Amazon UK). The authors, all members of the CIPR Social Media panel or friends of, decided that that there was a need for a handbook that covers the full gamut of issues facing the PR practitioner in 2012.

Incredibly, Lord Sugar provides the endorsement for the front cover :-)

I'm delighted to have authored two of the chapters, Chapter 17 on real-time public relations, and the final chapter looking at the future, beyond social media.

Here's the introductory video featuring CIPR CEO Jane Wilson, and then the Table of Contents. Read the CIPR's press release here. Pre-order your copy today!

 

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