All 7 entries tagged Nokiaopenlab08

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October 13, 2008

Twitter starts to make sense

Follow-up to Thoughts from Open Lab, part 1 – or, why I don't get Twitter from Steve's blog

After persevering with Twitter for a while now it is starting to make sense to me. The first piece of the puzzle came from a comment from mike bradshaw – “Jaiku is for conversations, and Twitter is for broadcast”. I had been puzzled by how conversations happened on Twitter and this made me stop thinking about it, because they don’t! (Aside: if anybody can throw me a Jaiku invite, I’d like to try that out too!)

Of course, you can have conversations on Twitter, but they aren’t easy to follow unless you follow everyone involved – conversations don’t exist as entities in the twitter-stream.

The second piece of the puzzle came from a blog post about Enterprise Twitter by Jay Cross on the Internet Time Blog. The interesting concept here (to me at least) is this one:

Twitter operates in real time. It’s like a stream going by. It’s only a distraction if you’re watching it. It’s not something you go back to. It’s now or never. Unlike blog posts that will live online forever, Twitter is written in disappearing ink.

This is where I connected Twitter with the “Big Now” idea in my original post

After getting the Twitter concept straight in my head, putting Twitterific on my iPhone so I had constant access to the twitter-stream is the thing that finally made it work for me. If you are only exposed to twitter when you are sat in front of a computer, the “now or never” nature of it makes it less useful. Being able to check Twitter at will makes a big difference to how you relate to it.

I’m still not sure I’m much of a “Big Now” person, but maybe I’m less of a “Small Now” person than I thought, or maybe my “Now” is growing:-)

September 30, 2008

Degrees of friendship

Follow-up to Nokia Open Lab 2008 – Social Media Workshop from Steve's blog

Something that I’ve been thinking about since the social media workshop at Nokia Open Lab 2008 is the issue of degrees of friendship, or different communities of friends that people need to keep separate. The obvious example is friends (in the traditional sense) and work colleagues. Several people at the Open Lab used different services for different communities (Facebook for friends and LinkedIn for colleagues, for example), so that they could say different things, or present a different persona even, to the different communities.

This is one of the reasons I have so few Facebook friends. They are all people I interact with socially (or have done in the past and want to keep in touch with). I have some work colleagues as friends, but that’s because they are friends. I want to be able to not worry about who sees the stuff I put on Facebook. Some stuff in Facebook you can control using groups of friends, but some stuff you can’t.

Now I’m playing a bit with Twitter I have of course hit the same concern. There’s little control over who sees the stuff you post. You can make it all visible to followers only, and individually approve everybody that follows you, or it is all public. In my mind, Facebook makes some sense as a controlled community in the way I use it, but Twitter doesn’t. If you keep it all private you’ll have few followers and you’ll miss much of the point. But it does make me think carefully about what I tweet about, and that gets in the way of using it properly. I’m beginning to get it, and can see how well it would work if everybody twittered pretty much freely, but I can’t do that. Is Twitter just for extroverts?

I do wonder if that’s a general problem with these services, actually. That they tend to be designed and developed by people who are more likely to be extrovert in nature and so they just don’t think about this sort of issue. It would be relatively easy to build something like this into Twitter, I think, in a way that wouldn’t detract from its simplicity, but would make it more useful for people like me who don’t want to broadcast everything to everybody, but would like to broadcast everything to some people.

I don’t expect it to happen, though. I don’t think there’s enough demand for it. I think people who have such concerns simply avoid using these social media services, which is a shame because I can see ways in which they would be useful to many people. I have friends would would benefit from, and even enjoy, a controllable Twitter, but wouldn’t go near the current one.

Or is this all just me still not getting it?

September 22, 2008

Nokia Open Lab 2008 – Social Media Workshop

Follow-up to Nokia Open Lab 2008 – Overview from Steve's blog

This was the first workshop, and, at least in the group I was part of, the least forward-looking of all the workshops. Most people used several social networking services, including some I’d never heard of. Almost everybody (except me, maybe, which apparently means I’m no one) was a twitterer. But people also use flickr, qik, seesmic, jaiku and others for sharing information in text, photo and video formats.

As a result, much of our discussion was about aggregators (like friendfeed) and broadcasters (like twitterfeed) so that people have fewer places to look and fewer places to update. Also, though, people deliberately use different services for different communities so that not everybody sees the same information about an individual. Some stuff is just for friends, and not for colleagues. There’s no concept yet in any of these services of levels of friendship, and so no way of presenting different views of yourself to different communities. The reverse is also true, of course – you don’t always want the same level of detail about all of your friends. You want more information about closer friends. Again, social networking services don’t seem to provide that either. Well, Facebook used to, but it doesn’t any more.

There was also a big discussion about data portability. When you switch from one service to another, which early adopters tend to do at frequent intervals, you want to be able to get your data out of the old service and put it in the new one. That’s generally not possible. You also want to be able to take your community with you, and that’s even harder. Many people talked about using aggregators just as a way of dealing with old accounts left lying around because of a few friends that are still using the service.

There was one dissenting voice in that discussion, though. Micki thinks most people (i.e. not the techies & geeks) don’t care. They use social networking sites for now stuff, and the history really isn’t important to them. I can relate to that when talking about twitter and similar services. For others I’m not so sure. I can certainly believe most people don’t care now, but maybe they should? Maybe in the future they’ll realise they do? What if Facebook went away today and everything in there was lost?

One final thought is that many people at the workshop were already into this stuff in a big way, twitter in particular, and there was clearly a virtual community overlaid on the physical community of people at the meeting. There was a build up as people travelled, a bit of a twitter buzz in all the breaks and during the evening entertainments, and there were people not at the meeting that were following it anyway through various social media sites. It has encouraged me to explore these things a bit more and see if I can “get” them. In particular I’m going to have another go a twitter and see if I can go from a nobody to a somebody!

September 19, 2008

Ambient computing

Follow-up to Nokia Open Lab 2008 – Overview from Steve's blog

One theme that cropped up in a few of the workshops at the Nokia OpenLabs was the notion of “ambient computing”. That is simply the idea that the environment around us, the things that we interact with every day, have some digital intelligence and are able to react to things we do. A simple example. My phone has a GPS receiver in it and so knows where it is, and generally therefore where I am. When I leave the house it knows, and can turn off the lights and TV that I left on. Obviously it isn’t quite that simple, and since a lot of the applications for this sort of thing are location based I’ll discuss it more in a post to come about the geo-location workshop, but that gives you an idea.

I wonder how far we are from being able to implement such ambient (or perhaps another term is pervasive) computing? It seems like technically much of this is doable today, at least as far as the devices themselves are concerned. There are definitely some services and infrastructure required that will need careful thought. What does my phone communicate my location to? How do I know I can trust it not to reveal my location to others? Who/what do I trust to control my house? Where are the standards that allow such disparate devices to talk to each other?

Practically, this has to all be some way off still. Again, though, it is interesting that Nokia are thinking this way. And surprising, to me at least.

September 16, 2008

Thoughts from Open Lab, part 1 – or, why I don't get Twitter

Follow-up to Nokia Open Lab 2008 – Overview from Steve's blog

I don’t get twitter. I’ve tried. I’ve signed up, I’ve posted the odd tweet. I’ve followed a couple of people. But frankly I don’t get it. I don’t feel I have anything interesting enough to say to tweet on a regular basis, and if I follow too many people the tweets get disruptive and annoying. Of course, none of the people I know in person are twitterers, at least not that they’ve told me, so finding people to follow is challenging anyway, and that’s the first clue to what I’m missing.

The second clue came in a talk given at Open Lab 208 by Adam Greenfield, the recently appointed Head of Design Direction at Nokia. He titled his talk “The Long Here and The Big Now”, in reference to Brian Eno’s The Big Here and the Long Now. What he said about the Big Now is what struck me about my reaction to Twitter. The point is that now is a single moment in time, but it is happening right around the world. So many people are experiencing so many different things now, and that’s what Twitter is about. It is about what is happening now, everywhere. Yes, people use it to keep up with what their friends are doing, but they also use it to find out what is happening around the world. Proper twitter users will follow all sorts of people, from all walks of life, with the only constraint being that they have something interesting to say.

And that’s why I don’t get it. What people I don’t know are doing in places I’ve never been is just not appealing to me. Following the tweets of strangers isn’t interesting. I’ve always said I’m not a people-person, and this is a perfect example of that. Similarly, I’m not one of those people that collects Facebook friends. I have about 20. I know them all in person, and mostly interact with them regularly in person (except for one or two who have moved away and I’m trying to keep in touch with). There are lots of people I know vaguely in real life and who are on Facebook, but who I don’t intend to send friend requests to. If they asked me I wouldn’t refuse, but I’m not doing it pro-actively. I’m just not enough of a social (or maybe sociable:-) person.

So, Twitter is a “Big Now” thing, and I’m a “Small Now” person. I think.

There was lots of other, similar, stuff in Adam’s talk, and that gives you a flavour for how Nokia are thinking about the future and how society is going to evolve digitally over the next few years, and therefore what mobile devices might need to do 5 years or more from now to support that. It isn’t the sort of thinking I would have expected in a mobile phone company.

Nokia Open Lab 2008 – Overview

Follow-up to Nokia Mobile Workshop from Steve's blog

I got back from Nokia Open Lab 2008 late on Saturday and did intend to write about it before now, but it has taken a while for my brain to recover from the experience! I have now just about finished processing the ideas that were discussed in the various workshops, at least enough to write something coherent.

Overall, the even was meticulously organised, from transport to/from the airport to local SIM cards for the E71 trial devices we all hard (of which more later), to the workshops and evening entertainment. Everything was organised and timed to perfection. That, for me, was actually a small problem. The 5 main workshops were:

  • Join the community – social networking and media
  • Join the journey – navigation and geolocation
  • Join the fun – entertainment (film, music, games, etc.)
  • Join and collaborate – enterprise issues
  • Environmental workshop – being nice to the planet

The discussions were very “blue sky” – stuff that the people in the room (generally quite serious techies or “geeks”) would find fun, but that would never be of interest to the general public. At least not today. At that was where I struggled a little. I wasn’t prepared for that and I needed more time that was available to get my brain in gear for each topic. My overwhelming feeling at the end of the first day was that the workshops were generally not very useful, and some others I talked to felt the same.

Then I realised my mistake. Mobile devices take years to design and develop. Nokia are trying to discover what services people are going to want to use 5 or more years from now, in order to start designing now devices that will make those services accessible on the move when they become mainstream. And so they collected together a bunch of “early adopters”, people generally already on the bleeding edge of mobile services, to see what we would do differently. In hindsight that’s exactly right. It just took me a while to realise it. And once I’d got my brain around the whole concept it was all over.

People were invited to the Open Lab from around the world, as far West as California and as far East as Tokyo. Some people knew each other already, many had never met before. For me, at least, I have to get to know people a little before I can start having serious discussions and openly expressing my opinion about stuff that’s new to me, and in particular disagreeing with people. There were others who felt the same. Several people said to me that they felt discussions were just starting to get interesting when we had to leave for the airport to come home. If the event had lasted another couple of days it would have been much more interesting.

This was the first such event Nokia has organised. They seemed happy with the results of it, and are definitely planning another. My suggestion would be to make it longer next time, and to give a little more of a hint of what will happen so we can be mentally better prepared for it. I’m not sure how useful my contribution was to the whole event, but I’d love to take part in the next one and if many of the same people are invited again next time, I for one will be able to contribute more just through not having to spend so much time getting to know people first.

On a lighter note, it was quite amusing to be in a group of people in which, at any one time, at least 25% were staring at a mobile phone checking email, surfing, twittering, or whatever, even during the discussions. Much of this was done on the E71s we all had, but there were a lot of iPhones about. Some people were using them a bit sheepishly, but most were quite open about it. I even spotted one Nokia employee wielding one!

I’ve not yet written about the content of the workshops. I’m still thinking about much of it, but I’ll try and write something soon, just to give a flavour of what was being discussed and the sort of things Nokia are thinking about.

September 02, 2008

Nokia Mobile Workshop

Writing about web page

A little while ago I got a curious email from the folks at WOM World. They are the people that sent me a Nokia N82 and an N810 to try at the start of the year. The email was an invitation to a workshop being run by Nokia to look at some aspects of the future of mobile devices. The email said:

It aims to involve everyone from creative’s, designers, video producers to open source software bloggers and mobile tech pioneers in a thorough discussion. Including, what the future holds for everything from mobile tech to media creation.

A subsequent email clarified things a little:

... the point of these workshops is to look into the future of the mobile phone, what possibilities lie within it and what people want out of it. Topics will revolve around subjects including; Navigation, people and places, neighbourhood, collaboration, music and games through to working life, email and how to improve upon what we already have.

I was somewhat surprised to be invited to such a thing, not being involved in the mobile industry at all, but WOM World insisted that they wanted me along, and they did originally find me via this blog so they know what my interests are, so I agreed. The fact that the workshop is in Helsinki, and that Nokia are paying for flights, accommodation, food, entertainment, etc. had absolutely nothing to do with my acceptance!

One ironic thing about this is that the email arrived while I was on holiday, and I picked it up on my newly acquired iPhone, which I’d only had a couple of weeks at the time. I hope I’m not banned from the event when they see it:-)

Just to make the event a little more fun, I’ll be getting a Nokia E71 to try out for a bit. It should turn up this week sometime. It’ll be interesting to compare it to the iPhone…

So, I head off next Thursday for three days in Helsinki, talking to Nokia and others about what mobiles should do for us in the future. I’m not sure what to expect, I’m not sure what I’ll be able to contribute, and I’m still a little surprised I’ve been invited. But it is quite exciting to be given the opportunity.

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