An experiment 

Just wrote my first post on Medium. While I had read articles there regularly, I hadn’t ever written there. My instinct is to write here and nowhere else. But maybe I’m wrong.

The only way I can find out is by writing on Medium and seeing what happens. So I did. Today. I shall watch with interest.

Here’s the post:
View at

The power of TED

Right now there’s a lot of buzz about Davos, both pro- as well as anti. Part of the anti-buzz is generated by the “artificial scarcity” of the event, its inaccessibility.  And talking about inaccessible events, that brings me on to TED.

I love TED. Even though I’ve never been. [I have actually paid out of my personal pocket to go to TED, it was TED Africa last year, but a heart attack made sure I couldn’t do it].

So. My experience of TED has been restricted to watching the videos. Which I do, religiously. I would encourage everyone to take a walk around the videos, they’re excellent; easily accessible, appropriately short, superbly produced.

It will give you an idea as to why TED is such a hot ticket. Which might explain this: a TED main hall pass is available for purchase on eBay; the auction price is currently $32,100; with nine days to go, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it pass $100,000, somewhat too rich for my blood.

It’s for a good cause, Architecture for Humanity, so if you can afford it, go for it. If you’re not sure, sample the videos, available here. There are over 180 of them so far, I’ve personally watched over 170 of them; it’s easy to get them on to your iPod and to watch the videos while you travel.

It’s that time of year

It’s been an eventful year for me, what with changing jobs in March, changing firms in October, nearly moving house and then not, and finally having a heart attack a few weeks ago.

It’s been an eventful year for me, what with starting this blog in late February, and really feeling part of a small but close-knit community ever since.

It’s been an eventful year for me. I’ve learnt a lot, and you guys have been instrumental in that.
Thank you.

Have a great New Year.

Four Pillars: Time for a Jailer’s Dilemma? Let the Games begin!

Wish I was a Kellogg’s Cornflake/Floating in my bowl taking movies
Relaxing a while/Living in style
Talking to a rais’n ‘cas’nally played LA
Casually glancing at his toupee

Simon and Garfunkel, Punky’s Dilemma

Love those lyrics, the meaninglessness of everything they portray. I have this image of the cornflake wearing sunglasses and a beret and a loud red shirt while floating in something that looks suspiciously like a director’s chair. And I really have no idea where the image came from, whether I’ve actually seen something reflecting this song graphically. But the image is there and real. As is the toupee on the raisin.
Good for Punky, whoever he may be.

Now. To more important (and potentially even more enjoyable) Dilemmas.

I think we’re fast approaching a time when we’re all going to have to learn about The Jailer’s Dilemma. [When I first wrote this I used “Gaoler” and then decided it was needlessly affected, would only reduce the number of people I communicated to, while “Jailer” conveyed the same meaning without the fuss and affectation. Was I wrong?]

Try and imagine a lock-in-practicising vendor. It’s not really that hard to do. Who is he locking in? You. Me. Us. So, at least for the sake of this argument, let me call such a vendor a jailer.

We have many jailers. And there are many of us jailed. The walls of the jails are made up of silo bricks, of IPR and DRM, of historical monopolies, of incompatible formats and standards and protocols. I’m sure there are more types of brick and of wall, but you get my drift.

We have many types of jail, with the type dependent on the nature of the brick. And we have the dubious distinction of being in multiple different jails at the same time. One of the unforseen consequences of digital jails is that you can be in more than one at the same time….

There are some forseen consequences as well. Moore’s Law and Metcalfe’s Law and Gilder’s Law and globalisation and disintermediation and the internet and the Web and telephony becoming software and commoditisation and virtualisation and collaboration and democratised innovation and opensource and The World Live Web and the Writable Web, all this has meant that the walls are less threatening than they used to be. There are holes and escape tunnels aplenty.

That’s why it gets interesting. There are lots of new dilemmas around. And they are different from the classic Prisoner’s Dilemma.

First, it’s not a zero sum game any more. The total number of potential prisoners is an increasing number.

Second, both prisoners as well as jailers can choose to defect or cooperate.

Third (and this is in common with more modern approaches to PD) memory is guaranteed and a core part of the game. What is different is that this memory is open and transparent and shared. An efficient market.

Fourth, there are different dimensions to cooperation or defection. Prisoners can choose to cooperate (or defect) with each other. Jailers can choose to cooperate (or defect) with each other. And prisoners can cooperate (or defect) in conjunction with jailers. And vice versa.

Fifth, we have external influences. Lawyers and regulators and governments are also in the game, inaugurating new jails (often) and shutting down old ones (occasionally).

Sixth, there’s a lot of money involved. A lot.

So where’s the payoff? What are the rules of the game? How do we get to equilibrium? What is the optimal strategy? Does Apple win by releasing their iTunes prisoners and going all the way with FairPlay? Does Microsoft win by providing Firefox and OpenOffice pre-installed? Can Sun do a Lazarus?

I have news for the jailers. The prisoners are cooperating. They are a market and a voice, a movement and a nation.

We may not have all the rules understood, we may not even understand the game.

But one thing is clear. Our intentions are known. The prisoners are going to win. Community-grown standards in a live ecosystem where freedom of speech and movement and exercising of intellect are sacrosanct.

So jailers beware. You can choose. Cooperate or defect. Don’t land up being the only ones in your jail. It gets lonely.
Suppose they gave a jail, and nobody came?

More later.

Four Pillars: On usability

I’m slowly coming to the conclusion that the first law of usability is “Words matter”.

The kernel for this post was a piece in Ed Cone’s Know It All blog, pointing me at an interview with Jakob Nielsen in the Wall Street Journal today.

Now Nielsen is someone I like and trust, but the tone of the article surprised me. It is almost as if the article was summarised and quotes taken out of context in order to provoke and excite comment. Well, if that was the case, the article succeeded.

Read the article for yourself. My takeaway is simple. Don’t say blogs and wikis and IM. Say conversation. Say chat. Don’t say RSS. Say syndication (or in Nielsen’s preference, news feeds). And so on.

Largely I agree. Four Pillars is based on using more consumable terms. But I’m happy with Syndication Search Fulfilment and Conversation.

Where I disagree is that RSS is just for news. Or that blogs are the playground of those on the edge. Syndication is the disaggregation of publishing, and not just about news feeds. And I meet people every day who read blogs (including, occasionally, mine :-) ). You can characterise me as edge if you want, that’s your prerogative. But that’s not a reasonable stance to take for blog readers in general, not even for bloggers.

Today, generation M blogs. They needed Flickr and MySpace before they took to it, but blogging is now part of what they do. I expect to see that within six months, Pew Internet reports that fully half of all new blogs are authored by Generation M. And they’re not one night stands.

Calling bloggers “edge” is unreasonable, does not reflect reality.

More later.

Thanks to Ed for the pointer.