Protecting an area of rainforest the size of Wales

We are helping the Size of Wales with their environmental campaign. Check out the video to find out more. Our work is focused on using social media to raise awareness and money.

Please leave a comment on the YouTube vid which will help to boost its ranking. You can also like the Facebook page to follow the latest news. For each Like, Size of Wales’ partners will contribute £1 to the fund.

More info on this project to follow shortly.

NativeHQ on LinkedIn

We’ve just started a NativeHQ page on LinkedIn. We’re still testing the service as a business in order to figure out its value. Do subscribe if you want to follow our posts on the use social media in the real world.

Think Digital Cardiff: some notes about Platforms & Practices

Here are my slides from my talk entitled Platforms & Practices at the first Think Digital Cardiff event.

This was a bit of a freeform talk about social media. There are no bullet points! Its purpose was to inspire people to think about creative use of digital media. Some quick notes follow.

Platforms & Practices: the general point was that it’s not enough to say you’re using tool X, a platform such as YouTube or Twitter or the web itself. I want to highlight the question of practices – what are you doing and how is it benefitting your work? If there is no practice then you are just playing with the platform, which is fine as long as you’re aware of that. The two need to be there together if you have a hope of any work-related strategy.

Collaboration: I deliberately began with Google Docs as a suggested improvement over email attachments for some situations. It’s an example of online collaboration with colleagues on documents, an easy thing that gives us a hint of what could be possible with bolder forms of collaboration. (At the bar afterwards someone mentioned that true collaboration is about working with people from different disciplines which was a good point. I could have added here that it’s about the practice as well as the platform of Google Docs. But we had to start somewhere.)

The cloud: it just means servers. I’m personally uncomfortable with the term ‘cloud computing‘.

Wikipedia: another glimpse of what is possible when people use social software to collaborate. Also available in Welsh, Spanish, German, Japanese, etc.

Ravelry: a social network for knitting enthusiasts. But we know that hobbies are big on the web.

Here Comes Everybody: recommended book by Clay Shirky, about easier group formation

giffgaff: just one example of a business which nurtures an online ‘community’ to fix problems and cut customer service and marketing costs. Some of the community members know more than the staff about aspects of real world use. I really wanted to emphasise that this is not merely Social Media Marketing. Mobile phone networks are an interesting area – they play to the network, including friends and family deals. The network effects keep people using the system and give value to people according to their connections/friends/etc.

National Theatre Wales Community: we worked on the strategy and trained the team. A very interesting project, with some unexpected outcomes in terms of how people participated.

1 / 9 / 90 guideline: there are wisdoms around online communities and participation. You can gather metrics on many things that are important to you, much more than just member count.

OnePeople documentary: commissioned to celebrate Jamaica’s 50th anniversary of independence. A superb example of remix and social video. Maybe the fact they’ve booked Kevin MacDonald to edit the DIY videos is the most conventional

Remix by Lawrence Lessig, another recommended book

YouTube: there is a culture of YouTube. It can be about you and your DIY video, made on a phone camera or Flipcam. It can be a mistake to hire an expensive crew with professional editing. It doesn’t have to be about broadcast quality or production values.

It’s all about your second video: just a thought that you should probably go through the process of making a short video (maybe just a conversation about your subject or industry, forget about overt marketing pitches) and uploading it. Then you have gone through the ‘initiation process’. It’s the beginning. You might get a comment, etc.

Platforms & Practices is also about play. You can experiment on a personal account. This informs your practices as a company.

There it is, there wasn’t much time to elaborate further but a lot of hints that people will have found useful – I hope.

Talking about digital media at Think Digital Cardiff @tdcardiff

Next week I’m doing a talk about digital media.

I thought I’d put the emphasis on what I think of as ‘all the other important applications’ of digital media like collaboration, online communities, forming groups, user-generated content and so on. If you want an accessible introduction to some of these things then you should consider coming along.

It seems to me that sometimes people automatically associate digital media and social media with publicity, PR and marketing. I think marketing is a legitimate use of digital media, depending on how you do it, but it would be limiting to think of it exclusively as that wouldn’t it? What about all the other useful stuff people are doing online?

So hopefully the talk which I’m working on now will complement the talks by the other speakers. And I think I have a way to tie it all together.

The event is primarily aimed at business owners in south Wales who want to know more about online. It’s called Think Digital Cardiff and is organised by Big Eye Deers who specialise in creating ecommerce sites and web stores for people. Now, there are probably loads of companies who claim to offer these services. Big Eye Deers, while well established, are new to me and would be the Highest New Entry on my chart of favourite companies – if there were such a thing. What I like about them is their eye for detail and their use of open source software.

At the time of writing there are still spaces at Think Digital Cardiff for small business owners and all proceeds from the event go to charity.

A musicians’ intro to digital media

On 2nd July 2010 I did a presentation to some Wales-based musicians about digital media, online and music business. The host was the Welsh Music Foundation (thanks to them) and our venue was Chapter in Cardiff.

It was an introduction to digital/social media with some practical tips and points for discussion.

Here are some notes which summarise my presentation and our discussion. These are mainly aimed at the musicians who attended but you might get benefit from this if you’re a musician who earns from your music.

Definitions

What do we mean by digital media?
“the creative convergence of digital arts, science, technology and business for human expression, communication, social interaction and education”
from Digital Media Alliance Florida / Wikipedia

I’ve purposefully used the umbrella term digital media, which covers social media, social networking and categories like live streaming. An expert may quibble with my definitions here but let’s say we’ll err on the side of the practical.

A useful metaphor is:
People having conversations online

This takes place with text, video, photo, audio, slides and other images. Because of the public nature of these conversations it’s important to note that it is:
People having multi-way conversations online

Examples of digital media

Technologies include:

Blogs, e.g. WordPress, Posterous, Tumblr
Social network services, e.g. Facebook, Myspace
Wikis, e.g. PBWorks
Link sharing, e.g. Delicious
Collaboration tools, e.g. Basecamp, Google Docs (a very important use of digital media)
RSS (allows you to subscribe to multiple blogs and other time-based feeds and read them all in one place)
Live streaming, e.g. Ustream.tv
Streaming/hosting services like YouTube for video and Flickr for photos

History of media and media revolutions

Printing press
Telegraph
Telephone
Photography
Film
Radio
Television
Internet and web

The main point here is to think about how society, culture and business changed as a result of these new technologies being widely adopted.

Characteristics of digital media

It is easier to form groups online, according to shared interests, campaigns, fans and so on, with all kinds of fascinating outcomes.
Recommended book: Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky – about the ease of forming groups online

People like to remix, re-use, re-create, re-version their culture, not just music. Go to YouTube and look at fan videos as just one example. Some musicians release their music under a licence which allows this to happen legitimately, within the normal legal framework of copyright.
Recommended book: Remix by Lawrence Lessig – about the culture of the remix and challenges to our traditional ideas of copyright

“Every company is a media company”
Rick Burnes, former NYTimes.com editor

Online tools every musician should know about

YouTube

I call it the most popular online music discovery service – because it can stream music in video form. Are you on it? If not, why not? There may be a legitimate case for not being on YouTube but you need to at least consider its potential reach.

When I mentioned this at the session several people complained about YouTube’s royalty rates. While true YouTube doesn’t pay much, the main advantage could be in people discovering your music and raising revenue from other sources. Video embedding is a key feature which helps bloggers to introduce their readers to your music.

Ideas: music videos, interviews, tour diaries, live performance footage

Flip have many affordable portable video cameras.

Your blog

A blog is a set of posts organised by time. Every artist and band online should probably have some sort of blog, even if it’s just a news feed of your latest gigs, releases and media appearances.

The way musicians express themselves through a blog varies wildly. Some like to post diary entries and reveal things about their life and work to various degrees, others do not. Both are fine. Some have elaborately designed blogs and others choose minimal design. Either way or something in between is fine. Be yourself. But don’t ignore it – having a blog is like having your own media channel that you control. This is pretty much vital.

Your website

A musician’s website and blog should be on the same domain – in most cases.

Adding a blog post or news item to your website should be painless. If updating your current website is a chore it may be worth spending some money to make it smoother. You’ll enjoy it, which is how things should be.

My favourite website software is WordPress. It was originally conceived as blogging software but has been extended and adapted to run full websites. Many websites around the world now run on WordPress.

Two main ways of running WordPress
wordpress.com
You get a free blog with the name yourbandname.wordpress.com
You can choose different themes.
You can pay fees for extra services, e.g. to have it redirected to yourbandname.com seamlessly

wordpress.org
WordPress is open source so you can download the software for free, run it on your own hosting and publicise yourbandname.com
You have total control over its behaviour and appearance. You can choose different themes or design your own. You can extend its functionality by installing plug-ins. In practice you’d probably ask a designer with the technical knowhow to install it and design/build the theme.

Other people’s blogs

Being featured on blogs can be a key way of growing buzz around your band. Use Hype Machine and Google Blog Search to find blogs already featuring similar artists or your genre. Start reading them and get in touch if you have something relevant.

Facebook

There are three kinds of presence on Facebook.
– individual user profile
– page
– group

The page is Facebook’s offering for brands, companies and organisations. Usually the page is the correct one for a band, artist, label or venue.

Do not get an individual user profile for a band. Facebook may take a dim view of a non-person having a user profile. Even if you’re a solo artist, it pre-supposes a two-way friend relationship which exists in the offline world. So consider having a profile for friends and a page for fans.

In general Facebook’s customers are its advertisers and you play in their garden and by their rules. Be careful about how much time you invest and be sure to evaluate if you are getting value back.

Myspace

In general its value for reaching fans is diminished because attention has gone elsewhere. It’s worth having a page for your music and photos because agents and other music industry people are in the habit of using it. Most bands should not spend too much time on it. Certain genres are stronger on Myspace than others. Know your genre!

Twitter

Some artists are good on Twitter and can use it to update fans.

It’s far more proven as an excellent place to keep up with news, including music industry news.

Don’t necessarily believe what anyone says about it – try it yourself.

Email lists

People still use email. Its value is diminishing, again because of fragmented attention. But it may be worth running one.

Make sure anything in the email address is also on your blog or elsewhere online. People want to search for it and link to it. Don’t limit the audience to the mailing list!

Recommendations: Your Mailing List Provider and MailChimp (both slightly different)

Don’t send email to people who haven’t opted in. Never spam people. Never ever.

Some thoughts about business models

Record business is not the music business

“Disruption” – technology companies like it, record companies don’t necessarily like it

In the 1980s certain parts of the record industry were extremely concerned about home taping – imperfect analogue copies. Now we have perfect digital copies. What now?

Copying is not the same as stealing – they are covered by different laws.

Throughout history, forms of copyright infringement have become licensed uses, e.g. public performance, radio. What we now think of as illegal may become licensed. Whether or not this is true, people WILL copy your music. They might use filesharing networks, they might use the web or they might use memory sticks. But only if your music is good enough.

What could you do if you knew 1,000,000 people had shared your music?

Some will still buy the CD or the vinyl. Some will attend your gigs and buy your merchandise.
Some will buy the digital files because they value the convenience or because they want to pay out of gratitude.

“Obscurity is a far greater threat to authors and creative artists than piracy.”
Tim O’Reilly, technologist and publisher

Examples of perfect digital copies in other industries

Software companies make their source code available for free under open source licences and sell what can’t be copied – services, consultancy, customisation, support, advertising/sponsorship and premium paid features. Examples are IBM, Mozilla, Red Hat and Automattic/WordPress. You could go into competition with any of these companies using their own software.

Consultants and experts are blogging their advice for free. Again, you could go into competition with any of them using their own material and (what were formerly known as) trade secrets. But often these consultants and experts are accruing MORE reputation and MORE work through the ease of access and widespread distribution of their advice.

Despite copying of films, cinema has large screens, good sound and the experience – all of which are uncopyable. Compare watching a laugh-out-loud comedy at home to being in a big audience at the cinema. Recently cinema has been adding 3D to the large screen experience of many films.

2009 poll: people who admitted unlicensed downloading spend an average of £77 a year on music – £33 more than those who claimed NOT to download.
Poll by Ipsos Mori for Demos think tank

Kevin Kelly says “A creator needs to acquire only 1,000 True Fans to make a living.” (Discuss…)

Male-female ratio on social network services

Here’s a chart of the male-female ratio on different social network services – including Facebook, Twitter, Ning and so on.

(I don’t know how reliable the figures are.)

Why Facebook has never listened… (via Scobleizer)

Good conversation starter about Facebook’s long term business plans written by Robert Scoble, in case you missed it.

Cafe-shaped conversations – for the rest of us

Tom and I meet a lot of people asking:

“OK, so what’s this social web all about?”
“Is it all a bunch of hype?”
“What about software tool or gadget abc or xyz…?”
“I don’t need to know about it! Isn’t it just for nerds and tech whiz kids?”

This blog post for Pop!Tech by Chris Brogan is an instant classic. Mass communication through TV and the like is a fairly new idea in the history of humanity but we can’t let it constrain us in how we converse with people. He gives some potted examples from the nascent social web across business, charity… and the unseen world of virtual graffiti.

Here’s the key paragraph for me.

Business at the speed of the web is now a human game. I’m not Googling these relationships. I’m finding them online in social spaces. Facebook and LinkedIn and Twitter aren’t just marketing channels. They aren’t places to swap resumes. Instead, these new tools empower rapid connection, and allow people to feel heard.

I recommend reading the whole thing. His analogy with a French cafe holds well.

Additionally, I find it interesting how a lot of the technological innovation that supports these shifts is coming from USA, specifically California. (The history and culture of California and how it relates to these issues is a whole different blog post – which I’ll leave to someone else.) Although of course it’s not uniformly the case that USA is driving these shifts. Nevertheless this is insightful:

In America, everything is big, everything is repeatable, everything works on the “it looks like the one in my town, so I know how it will operate” perspective. We know how to order at any McDonalds. We understand how the Wall Street Journal will look from day to day, no matter where we pick it up or on what day. In other countries, small and personalized businesses are more obvious.

As much as I’m a fan of American culture in all its forms, having earlier had my lunch in a local independent cafe instead of a chain, I love this.

If you live in Wales like me, you will instinctively understand this and grasp hold of it.

Substitute UK, Europe or “outside the USA” into that last sentence if you want. Although I’ve lived in Wales a long time. It’s March and we’ve just recently had our national day, St. David’s Day. He was the one who popularised the slogan Gwnewch y pethau bychain mewn bywyd (Do the little things in life). That’s another hypothetical blog post, where in among the hard observations I might risk indulging in some blatant sentimentality!

The focus on “doing the little things” is not to say we don’t try to build our projects to make big successes. It just means that we’re tuned into to the subtleties, nuances, eccentricities and character traits that make up individuals. That is increasingly the future of how we will approach working as well.

The Inauguration of Barack Obama – Online Perspectives

Barack Obama’s inauguration as President of the USA takes place on Tuesday 20th January.

Techcrunch have a wideranging list of a plethora of online sites and applications related to the event. These cover where to watch it, where to respond to it, approval ratings and more.

My favourite is probably the Obameter which tracks the status of 500 promises made by Obama during the USA election campaign.

I’ve previously mentioned Obama’s use of social media to gather supporters and communicate. If you’d like to read about that, here’s a good start.

So online media can assist politicians in gathering supporters. Can online media assist the electorate in holding politicians to account – and thereby improve the democratic process as a whole? It’s a huge question, I know. We can but hope. Actually it’s not just about hope – people have to USE these tools.

I hope you find these links useful. Although Native is based in Cardiff, Wales, I’m very guilty in this blog of being US-centric in my link recommendations. Although I will continue to reference useful US-based pages where relevant, I’ll also make an effort to redress the balance from now on!

In the meantime, if you’re interested in online tools related to politics and democracy in the UK then check out the various projects of mySociety. Game-changing stuff.

Introducing Trydan – a Cardiff meet-up for people into social media – and our reasoning behind it

We’ve started a series of social media cafe events in Cardiff called Trydan but first, some background…

Tom and I thought it would be interesting and profitable to get together with other people in Cardiff who are interested in similar things.

“Social media” is the closest generic term for what excites us, it’s our area of expertise.

Some examples of social media tools are blogs, wikis, Twitter, social networking platforms like Facebook, search engines (to an extent), collaboration systems like Google Docs and many other examples – including things currently being developed.

Often the term “social media” is conflated with the term “web 2.0” which itself has a related meaning along the lines of “systems which get better when more people join”. (We have Dale Dougherty and Tim O’Reilly to thank for that particular term! Although, to be fair, it was more akin to a remark to be understood in the context of the dot-com collapse of the late 1990s. Web 2.0 covered all the platforms and services that were able to provide enough usefulness to survive.)

We also want to avoid the hot air and wishful thinking that goes along with any new technology. Real benefit is the key. Enthusiasm for shiny tools and gadgets isn’t intrinsically wrong necessarily. But it can easily become a needless distraction from whatever you’re trying to achieve, which is why it’s important to measure the outcomes.

This stuff is real. We get excited about using these new tools and platforms for measurable benefit to the individual, company or organisation.

Our emphasis would tend to be on outward-facing stuff, which includes your blog, your website and your web presence. This intersects with what’s traditionally known as marketing and public relations.

That said, social media can have a great effect on your collaboration and interaction with colleagues as well.

Anyway, social media have somewhat disrupted the strict boundary between the external and the internal – but only for those brave enough to seek the benefits.

In other words, the philosophy of having a strict wall around your company, or your company as “black box”, is often not the only way or even the best way.

We’re not journalists but crowdsourced video for news is one good example of this. However much the BBC’s Jeremy Paxman may dislike it, people are not content merely to be passive viewers anymore. They now expect some element of interactivity with media.

This movement towards interactivity started with so-called new media and is trickling into established media. Of course, people hardly ever use the term “new media” any more. Especially not the young.

The chef Gordon Ramsay is another example from TV, inviting viewers to contribute recipes via YouTube. He’s supposed to be the expert, right? But now he’s become even more expert by opening up and responding to his fans.

The other Gordon in authority, Mr Brown, who has a blog and has also chosen YouTube to communicate with voters in both directions. And of course Barack Obama used a combination of Twitter and his blog to reach out to voters, in tandem with his supporters on the ground to secure his place at the White House.

Those examples hint at some of the well known stories and there are many more. There are many more abject failures as well. But you can expect to fail when you try these things. Fortunately, social media is cheap and pretty comfortable with an iterative process. Just adjust things as you go or replace them with something better.

But still, we like to get good results as quickly as possible. We had a sense that other people were thinking along similar lines – and thought there could be demand in the Cardiff area for a place to swap ideas and practices. Social media is about sharing after all. So we’re starting a series of regular coffee events in Cardiff where we can discuss this stuff – what works and what doesn’t and why.

The event is called Trydan and we’re co-founding it with two of our friends: journalism tutor Glyn Mottershead and journalism researcher Andy Williams, both of whom are based at Cardiff University.

The four of us are also co-founding it with everyone who turns up for the first meeting.

For inspiration, we’re giving more than a passing nod to other social media meet-ups we know about or have attended – Tuttle in London, Social Media Cafe in Birmingham and Social Media Cafe Manchester (#smc_mcr)

So that’s some of the thinking. You are invited to join us if any of this interests you. The event is set up as a separate entity – just head to the Trydan wiki on which you can read more, add your name to RSVP and also edit.