Thoughts on Clay Shirky’s concept of “Cognitive surplus”

I recently came across various reviews and marketing for Clay Shirky’s new book ‘Cognitive surplus‘.  While deceptively simple, I love the “concept” of ‘Cognitive surplus’ – in two words it sums up intellectual and creative potential, and the question as to what we do with that.

One of the key points of Clay’s argument is the disparity between time spent watching television (‘consuming’) and time spent ‘creating’ / ‘contributing’, and the consequent waste of our intellectual and creative potential during this time (he compares the “200 billion hours spent by Americans annually watching TV“, and the “100 million hours so far invested in creating Wikipedia“).

David McCandle has a prepared a brilliant, simple visualization of this on his excellent website ‘Information is beautiful’ (which I see as a sort of artistic version of my thoughts on ‘Killer charts’, which I blogged about a while ago).

It was that graphic, sent to me in a link in an email from a friend, that prompted me into this post, and the following thoughts.

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‘Location’ is where it’s at – my take on location-based services.

In the retail trade they’ve long said that it’s about location, location, location. The advent of GPS, and the incorporation of GPS into affordable, handheld units (starting with car navigation units, and more recently smartphones) has meant that location tracking is now possible for individuals.

It has recently also become possible to share, or publicly broadcasting this data, via Twitter, Facebook, or other internet based platforms, with friends, or indeed, the whole world. It is of course a fair question to ask why one would want to do this.

I’ve recently started to try out Foursquare, one of the most popular location-based services, in an attempt to better understand what it’s all about. In doing so, I’ve also come up with a few thoughts about the potential for such services, beyond what seems to be being done so far.

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Searching for company names/references/tweets on Twitter

I was recently interested in searching for references to the name ‘Ernst & Young‘ (the accounting firm) on Twitter (ie, within tweets). Obvious? Just type ‘Ernst & Young’ into the box on Twitter Search?  Yes, of course. … But that’s not the end of the story.

Getting the right search results on Twitter can be a little more tricky than that, but as I show below, not entirely impossible. I have set out a few hints and tips as to how to ensure you can increase your chances of finding references to any company name in Twitter.

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How developments in social media might impact internal corporate communications

Internal corporate communications often put a positive spin on news stories, and often include only stories which portray the organization in a positive light and highlight recent success stories. Reasons for this can include thee organization’s leadership wanting to motivate staff, emphasise strategy, and direct the development of the corporate culture, as well as possibly also highlighting successful leadership.

As such, the style of presentation and choice of content can include an element of bias, and in some cases might even be factually inaccurate or misleading (eg, if the leadership feels that this can be in the best interests of the organization, or if the leadership is dictating the internal communications in order to justify it’s own existence or overstate its own performance). This is natural – in any communications or discussion, most people tend to put a positive spin on their own performance.

Recent technological developments, in particular Web2.0/Social Media, are however limiting the effectiveness of what can essentially be ‘corporate propaganda‘.

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Thoughts on privacy versus disclosure in today’s society

It seems that the last few weeks/months a number of media stories have raised an intense discussion around public privacy and social responsibility.  Some examples include:

Such discussions, while appearing on one level to be independent, and unconnected, also appear to me, to revolve around a central theme of ‘public privacy rights and the individual’s right to choose what to disclose‘.  While the first two examples relate to high-profile individuals, the latter example, as well as similar discussions around Google’s use of internet users’ information, and other trends (such as the rapidly increasing number of bloggers), shows how the topic relates to the general public also.

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Where next for language translation? A ‘universal translator’ is probably closer than you think …

I recently posted an article on my blog titled ‘Free online translation websites tested – guess who the winner is …‘, where I commented on the recent developments of free online translation tools, together with some ‘test results’ comparing the translations performed by the first ten translation websites identified by Google search for ‘online translation’.

My research for that article showed that, in particular, a couple of websites, including Yahoo Babel Fish, and Google Translate, are introducing powerful tools to aid not just language translation, but also web search. This made me wonder, ‘Where next for language translation?‘.

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Google Wave – the future of communications, or just another social media tool?

Google_Wave_logoYou’ve heard of Facebook and Twitter – next up is Google Wave. I recently received an invite to join Google Wave, Google’s new social media/collaboration tool.  Since it is still in a limited preview phase, the only way to join Google Wave is via such invites (read on if you are interested in getting an invite – I have three to give away). I’ve now had some time to play with it, and thought I’d add my thoughts to the growing number of reviewers and critics.

According to the Google Wave ‘About’ page:

Google Wave is an online tool for real-time communication and collaboration. A wave can be both a conversation and a document where people can discuss and work together using richly formatted text, photos, videos, maps, and more.

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