It's been a long slog, but the site is now as tweaked as it can get, so we removed the password protection and we're off on a new journey.
As with any site, we'll be adding and removing things as folks give us feedback. And I know you all will have plenty to say.
I want to thank everyone involved and those who laid the ground work for me.
Now I need to get dinner ready.
ESPOO, Finland - Welcome to the Conversation. This one, though, is unlike any you'll have seen before. It's being written, presented and hosted by people in and around Nokia and pulls together all the conversations going on around the Nokia neighbourhood.
Ok, so it's not a revelation when I say that you don't need to make money off your core service. Your core service drives the interaction with the customer, but the money can come from some other area.
But, be careful where you _think_ you can get the money.
I've never been a fan of ads as a mean to make money. At least not for someone who is just displaying the ads. The real money maker is the one who _sells_ the ads.
But, for most services, it's the best we got.
I've never been satisfied with folks trying to build services that generate 'eyeballs' just to 'monetize' that traffic with ads. I've been even less enthused by social networking services that try to convert what is a personal interaction between the users of the service into a chance to score advertising views.
Online social networking services thrive because they are a form of social lubrication. They are a means to an end, but not the end. We're social grooming to _do_ things together - learn, invent, trade, strengthen trust.
Then make money by promoting the activity, not by having folks mill about. Yes, social network is the concentrator, but what the folks end up doing is where the money's at.
One good example is O'Reilly. Is it a social networking service? Sure is. Where do they make money? Selling info to the network, the info the network trades in when within the O'Reilly social network. For O'Reilly, it is the social network that differentiates them from just another publisher.
So, now I'm wondering about social networks overlaid on top of interest domains.
Social networks, such as Facebook, which do not have a focus for the _why_ people come together, might never gain the proper traction to make money beyond a few anemic ad clicks, or, like Facebook, will have to contrive sleazy ways to get money off the social network.
Someone like Facebook should optimize the service around the key reason folks use the service, rather than crate gimmicks to just keep folks around.
Just thinking out loud. These thoughts arose from noting that Google and Facebook are seemingly slowing down, and observing the interactions happening in my Twitstream. For some of you, I am sure this line of thinking is nothing new.
Loïc wrote a great article (with video) on global thinking for start-ups, with a ton of great tips (link below).
But, I think he's being a bit narrow-minded about the death of local internet services.
In many ways he is right that being a copy-cat who makes a localized version of a global service is not an easy task anymore. Nonetheless, I do think there's a future for local startups. Indeed, I think hyper-locality is the where a lot Web growth is. Much like social media is breaking down the power of Mass Media, I think we need to realize that in some segments, it pays to be local.
For example, a yellow pages or classified service, really does best with a local presence. A media service that is local would do better than some global service.
Just as mass media no longer is for everyone, not every service is at its best if global. Yet, it's just hard to scale globally with a local business. Web-heads like to add servers, not people, to grow the company.
I know some people who are creating great local services that are not copy-cats and will do well specifically because they are local. Do you know of any?
My friend Loic Le Meur wants to convince startups to avoid the lure of focusing only on local markets. He asked to write the guest post below, which I think is worthy of debate.
*Also, Loïc's a great example of someone who realizes the tyranny of Silicon Valley, that the Valley really is the only place in the world to run a tech business. I've railed against that tyranny, me not being from the West Coast. But, the past few years has shown some growth in cities like New York and Boston in the mobile and Web space. Also, I don't know if it's just because I have so many tweeps from there, but lately a lot seems to be happening in London, too. That's good.
Eh, I know they don't think it's that simple, but it sure can be misleading what they are trying to do.
These folks are characterizing biological parts and creating a catalogue from which to plug and play and mix and match to create circuits that do something. They are looking to establish standards, construction tools, and some abstraction to make it easier to build synthetic systems. And that's all fine and good. It's like the early days of electronics. And they have done some amazing things, light replicating photography with bacteria, some cool circuits, and more.
But, in my biomedical-scientist eyes, I just wished they would think more than just creating digital circuits on analogue systems. Also, I feel that biology doesn't gate well, I mean, it's very non-linear and hard to do on-off 'mathematics' with biological components. And by trying to build digital stuff, they lose the value of analogue.
In short, I think the questions they are asking are not the right ones for the system.
And thinking back to Craig Venter, moving forward, synthetic biologists are going to have to think of analogue, of biological answers to questions. We are so accustomed to neat and clean binary fixes to things, but seem to forget that in biology, so much is probability, fuzziness, and selection, and failure is so much more nuanced.
I've designed many macromolecules and expression systems, grew all sorts of micro and macro organisms, and dealt with all sorts of biological systems. In so many ways, we were not far from the brewers of Mesopotamia, coaxing and praying for a healthy growth and production of the right enzymes.
Yet, we have had in the past 30 years, and even more so in the past 5, a deeper understanding of the mechanisms. But, we mustn't just translate that all into our digital minds, we need to think of these organisms and molecules on their terms.
When I was a grad student, my advisor was a physical chemist doing biochemistry. To him, DNA wasn't just A T C and G, but a chemical entity. I came out of there seeing proteins and DNA in a way that my molecular biologist colleagues did not, and a deeper understanding of the complex interactions in biological systems.
In the same way, synthetic biology is going to have to go beyond linear circuit building, but take advantage of the strength of these marvelous billion-year evolved systems.
Here's a video of Drew Endy, a leader in this field, putting synthetic biology in perspective:
BONUS: If you really get a kick out of visualizations, the Machinery of Life, by David Goodsell, is a really neat peek into the molecular world at the scale of proteins and bacteria.
I was playing with Six Apart's Action Streams. It allows me to put a lifestream of all _my_ activities across all _my_ social networks into a single stream I can display on my blog.
Eh, that's not what I want.
Friendfeed, the poster child of 2008, is similar to the Facebook newsfeed. It turns my _selected_ friends' _selected_ (by them) feeds into a stream. This is almost like a stream of others' Action Streams.
Eh, that's not what I want. All these use _my_ stream or someone else's stream that was consciously _assembled_, or these aggregate a collection of streams I need to actively collect into a new interface.
SocialThing on the other hand is more what I am looking for. It turns my existing _service streams_ into a stream.
How is that different?
Well, I use particular social services for a particular reason. Each service has optimized how I follow my network. Hence, for each stream produced at each service, there is an optimized interface for following and interacting with that stream. And each of those streams are set up in terms of privacy and access between members of that service.
Also, my networks in those different streams are not identical, since a different network emerges on each service due to the actions on those services. For example, my LinkedIn network is very different from my Twitter network.
SocialThing aggregates those separate streams using the logic that I set up in the service itself, connecting me to the folks I have already connected through those services, unlike Friendfeed, where I need to invite people all over again and see services of theirs I do not want to see.
How it should work is I identify the services I use and the streams from those services show up in one interface from which I can not only follow all these streams, but even allow me to interact (say, upload) with these streams. Also, with a bit of smarts (and maybe some help from me), it can make correlations between services, knowing who are the same folks in each (the overlap).
Either there is a service that does this or there is one in the making. It _is_ the year of the lifestream.
Other related articles from more accomplished people:
I finally got to listen to the Long Now seminar by Craig Venter. And, wow, was it great.
If you've been a regular reader of mine, you know that I think Venter deserves the Nobel many times over. He's been the big disruptor in genomics for decades, taking technological risks that made the industry jump forward farther than our prejudices would have expected.
The talk followed a thread through his disruptions, providing a foundation for why he's doing what he's doing now, which is to define the genome of an organism for practical purposes, such as creating biofuel.
One thing that he made me think about was bacteriology. When I was a scientist, we studied mammalian genes, proteins, and diseases. A bacteriologist always felt like someone from the distant past, with a lab full of smelly slimy plates, studying a 'boring' organism. A real microbiologist was studying fungi, like brewer's yeast, the laboratory workhorse and a model system for mammalian genetic and cellular processes.
Well, after listening to Venter, and aligning my perspective with his, it's clear that bacteriology is the domain to be in.
His recent Sorcerer II expedition has re-ignited interest in bacteria and bacterial ecology. With the recent rise in metabolomics (the analysis of all the metabolites in the body), we're starting to realize that our mammalian cells are an even smaller part of the body functions we have than we previously suspected. And as, I hope, the antibiotic era starts to wind down and people start redefining our relationship with bacteria, understanding bacteria has become ever more important.
That makes me think that the kinds of professions that will be on the rise in the post-genomic age are bacterial ecology, bacterial genomics, bacterial virology (phage therapy to replace antibiotics, is a new one for me), and bacterial biochemisty.
Questions I now would like to see answered: what are there bacteria who are exclusive inhabitants of humans, what is the total genomic signature of a human (the sum of human and microbiological), how can we live in a sceptic world (the rise of super-bugs is partly a consequence of our cleanliness).
I don't know if it's just me, but it seems like there's been a phase shift in biology on the order of the early days of molecular biology, with the excitement and promise of a very interesting future.
BONUS: One thing that I heard about that was intriguing was the Personal Genomics project, an open source community kind of project to not only get more genomes to sequence and analyze but also to drive the technology to cheaply sequence genomes (see X Prize, too). Indeed, I've been reading about the biological parts registry and wondering weather we are at a stage of garage molecular biology. But that's a later post. :-)
Heh. My Dad also had some of these types of clunker calculators. Uh, I was curious to see how it worked and opened it and, well, destroyed the whole thing. It was expensive, but my Dad was kind.
Funny, also, to see these photos today. Earlier I was wondering what would be the 'steampunk' version of my grandchildren's generations, as they look back at how backwards were were.
What got me thinking was a segment from Science Friday about folks who are reviving a pre-antibiotic anti-bacterial treatment (bacteriophage).
It also dovetalis with a recurring thought of setting up a bio-lab at home and trying to remember all I learned about early genetics labs and such. That's my 'steampunk' - milk bottles with fruit flies (I used to use them), capillary tubes with rubber hoses to measure microliters, funky autoclaves, light microscopes, different stains, and ... ah, it's so cool.
If we can toot our own horn, Ewan at SMS Text News gave Nokia kudos for our blogger outreach work. He's written an article about how different device manufacturers deal with bloggers. And it ain't pretty.
Nokia is the run-away leader in mobile blog relations. They’ve two main setups that I’m aware of. There’s a Nokia USA blogger program and a WOMWorld offering. As far as I’m aware anyone, whether you’re writing about mobile or otherwise, can talk to the leaders of these two operations and, provided you meet certain criteria, get admitted and in the door, to receive test devices and so on.
With the recent formation of our Social Media team, it's sure to get better.
I also left a comment there as a thanks and an elaboration of what we're doing:
Thanks for the kudos. I (with boss, Christian Lindholm) was the first in the company to start reaching out to bloggers, back in February 04, with Lifeblog. If you knew of Lifeblog in 04-05, it was because of me and and the bloggers that helped me.
WOM World and the US loaner program was set up, I think, in 06, and was Nokia trying the waters in social media relations (I was not involved, ironically). As you comment, the focus was not well balanced.
This year I was called back to join the newly formed Social Media team. My first task was to get a basic (modest) blog up and running for the communications team (a few more weeks if all goes well). Of course, we do have a few blogs existing (the S60 and Betalabs blogs are the most prominent) and we have a ton of employees who have identified themselves as employees publicly on their personal sites (like me) and occasionally participate in the conversations about Nokia. But my site will cover stories (not specs and tech) that are about the people and companies who use, are affected by, or are related to the products and services from Nokia.
While I might be setting up a Nokia-wide blog, that's not going to be the only place my team will be (I'm not trying to control the conversation, just add to it). We've set up channels in Flickr, Share on Ovi, YouTube, del.icio.us, and may set up more, so that we not only participate where people are, but provide media that folks can play with, forward, comment on, and basically follow.
Yeah, Social Media finally is official at Nokia and we have a ton of people who actually know it. This time around, we are trying to set up a coherent, consistent, and for the long-run strategy to participate in the conversations happening around the Nokia neighborhood.
What do you think?
Ping me in a few weeks to see where I'm at. If we're not public with the (damned) blog by then, I might be able to give you a peek.
Cheers and keep up the good work!
PS The site is called Nokia Conversations. Watch my blog for any further comments on it <http://cognections.typepad.com/lifeblog>
image from caseywest
I haven't been paying much attention to 23andMe. I heard about them, but have yet to dig deep into what they are up to.
To me, it's bringing genetics to everyone. Michael Arrington did a nice post on what you get for a $1000.
Well, for starters, his DNA didn't get sequenced (that would be much more expensive). It was passed over a chip to detect hundreds of thousands of known DNA segments that as a whole determine some of his genetic make up. But, it seems like the set of DNA segments chosen are enough to create a relevant and interesting genetic profile (Mike goes over his a bit).
What seems interesting is the genealogical aspects. If 23andMe get enough people, might it start dong the 'friending thing' of 'oh, this person shares your haplotype for soft-earwax Bretons', would you like to add him to your watch list?
What strikes me is that nothing has changed - people are still racking up the social networks (any one for FriendFeed?) and adding folks in a frenzy. Indeed, I would say since the article was written folks have been trying to get a grip on ring-fencing their networks, getting a handle on the purposes of different social networks, and trying to balance close ties and weak ties.
I'm not the only one saying that the brain evolved to handle large social networks and that social software should step out of the way and let the brain manage these connections. Indeed, Chris lists many ways that people manage large social networks outside of social networking software (go read about it).
Two things are bubbling in my head that relate to this.
1) We do maintain social networks by doing what social creatures like us do: meeting folks, writing, calling, and so on. The contact reinforces the bond. And our brains juggle all the level of relationship, the connections wearing a path in our synapses. What is the equivalent of wearing a path through our social network, without the software trying to be too smart (BASAAP)?
2) And speaking of paths worn down: I think this ties into what I think is the part of the next wave of the Web* - semantics. I've mentioned before that I am not into a priori addition of semantics in a librarian kinda way. I believe in our usage pattern establishing the semantics (heh, one of my triumphs of 'show vs. tell'). For example, the best way to decide where to put the paths on a commons (I'm from New England) is to wait a few months and see where the grass has been worn down. Another example, sort of, is when trying to understand tool needed during a repair, imagine painted hands marking every tool being picked up.
Ultimately social networking services -- be it LinkedIn, Tribe.Net, Orkut, or LiveJournal -- are making the problem worse, not solving it. Any engineer or information theorist can tell you that a system that only has amplifiers will be out of balance, and that you need attenuators in the system as well. Our current breed of social networking services have focused on amplifying our contacts not only because it serves us, but because it serves them. The more contacts that you make, the more people they potentially have in their service. However, in the long run this is unsustainable -- a social networking service also has to be useful -- merely amplifying your contacts isn't enough.
BONUS! If you think the Dunbar Number is bullocks, read this and this by Chris. He looked at the distribution of guild sizes in World of Warcraft and Ultima Online. Hm, what do you think was the average guild size? And under what size were most of the guilds? Eh, go read it yourself. The graphics say it all.
*Oh, and if you wonder what else I see as part of the next wave of the Web: machines as part of our 'social' network. See infovore for more.