Tag Archives: allthingsd

When Does Communication Become Information?

9 Feb

Virtually immediately. But — this just in — not all interesting communication is valuable information.

I’ve been thinking about this question as I have gotten increasingly involved with Twitter (and its various plug-ins, cousins and competitors). Use is growing fast of the status message (Facebook) or its real-time Twitter-ish equivalent (Tweets, etc.). These messages are rapidly transitioning from quick update resource (“So-and-so just arrived @ ATL”) to headline alert (“USAir 1549 ditched in Hudson; photos here“).

What got me thinking about this issue of the value of these updates is the current debate over whether the rise of this communication is a ‘Brave New World’-ish event that puts at risk the very mission of a current leader of the Web world (Google) and its very mission: “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.” Or whether something a little less earth-shattering is at work.

Here is the debate: Google and other search engines are great archival resources, finding all the information one could want; but they are not doing such a comprehensive job with the real-time, “crowd-sourced” web, and searchable Twitter, Yammer and FB status updates are the next new thing and the incumbents will fail to get a grip on the new ‘borg-sourced hivemind” of the distributed internet. Etc., etc. (Note: I just saw Kara posted on this at allthingsd.com).


It is an interesting argument. But so far, the rise of the status update feels ‘more, better, faster’ to me. In the news business, the same challenge of tapping the value of real-time information has been around for generations: Baron Paul Reuter’s famed carrier pigeons bearing news of Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo were an earlier form of ‘tweet.’ The information carried by those birds was actionable financial intelligence that made some folks wealthy, and in many respects created the Reuters news brand.

If the pigeons had simply been carrying word that ‘Wellington arrived Waterloo’ there would have been less value.

There is often a bit of a feeling of deja vu. Only a few years ago, there was some enthusiasm that blogsearch (Technorati. Sphere) would help with monitoring the real-time web. While no doubt helpful, they did not exactly set the Earth spinning on a new axis.

The value of real-time status will be a function of the value of the content of the update, I suppose. Until we come up with some new tools to better infer content, and context, from those updates by some other means, we are going to have to rely upon one another to make sure we are providing some real information in our communication.

As it has always been…..


Kara on the clash of technology engineering and media cultures…

31 Jan

Kara had a very interesting post today from the SIIA conference where Gordon Crovitz and others were due to speak. The post, here : http://kara.allthingsd.com/20080131/engineers-are-from-mars-media-moguls-are-from-venus/#comments focuses on the skills gap between technology and media executive leadership.

There is a lot of evidence about this gap, but as I mentioned in my comment on her post, it is being bridged by 1. diligent attention to the underlying core innovation and skills that build the products that work, 2. a fundamental understanding of the blocking-and-tackling of consumer engagement and managing large-scale consumer technology supply/demand and 3. real understanding of the ROI and IRR on investments required to take something new and innovative and make it a business success.

It’s hard, but I believe since the mid-1990s and my first foray into Silicon Valley (Infoseek – ah, those were the days) we have come a long way, Baby!

Bill Gates and Steve Jobs onstage….

31 May

….was the highlight of the ‘D’ Conference in Carlsbad, Calif…lots of folks are blogging the conference, including Rafat at www.paidcontent.org and Om at www.gigaom.com, and of course hosts Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher of The Wall Street Journal at their new site www.allthingsd.com.

I just want to add how impressive it was to see Gates and Jobs in a moment of reflection. This duo has collaborated and clashed for 30 years – substantially all of their professional lives. But they know each other well and were charmingly authentic about the issues that drive their passion and energy.

Gates said he views the development of the personal computer as the driving professional accomplishment of his lifetime. Nothing that he achieves will ever mean as much to him (which is saying a lot for such a philanthropist.) “Cut open my head and you will find software,” he joked. Jobs, who has struggled with serious illness in recent years, acknowledged Gates’s generosity by saying his longtime collaborator and rival had learned it is no accomplishment to “be the richest guy in the cemetery.”

Jobs added he felt lucky to have found the work he loved “at the right place at the right time.” Jobs said he wished Apple had known better how to partner with people – a lesson it might have learned from Microsoft. Gates indicated he envied Jobs’s “taste” in product design and in people issues.

There was much more give and take about the current times being “very healthy” for innovation and creativity in the technology world, and that continuing advances such as touch computing and 3D displays will continue to dramatically change the landscape over time.

It was a charming and revealing session – and a real accomplishment by Kara and Walt.

Walt also failed to mention his own tiny role in the personal computer revolution: During the summer of 1982, The Journal got its first PC, an Apple II-E running a small software program that helped us write headlines that would fit the Journal’s column widths (a task that previously was a laborious manual counting exercise).

Walt, then a defense reporter in the Washington Buro, was among the few folks in the newsroom agitating for the purchase of the computers.

I know because I was there – a pup copy editor just starting my career and benefiting from the timesaving new technology.

Thanks, Walt. You were a pioneer even then….