Interviews


Interviews by Stephen Ibaraki, FCIPS, I.S.P., DF/NPA, CNP, MVP

Richard Giles: Noted Expert and Pioneer in Blogging, Podcasting and New Media (Web 2.0)

This week, Stephen Ibaraki, has an exclusive interview with Richard Giles, founder of Clique Communications.

Richard GilesRichard has been in the technology industry for more than 15 years. He started his career in the early nineties with the largest cell phone provider in the UK, and he was one of the first to demonstrate that thieves could steal people's phone numbers to make free phone calls.

When he returned to Australia in 1992, Richard discovered the Internet and worked with organizations to build intranets and extranets before most knew what a Net was. After working for Sun Microsystems for almost 10 years, Richard set up his own consultancy, Clique Communications (www.cliquecomm.com), to focus on authoring, consulting, and entrepreneurship.

 Richard now specializes in online social software, like Flickr, weblogging, and podcasting. He consults with many organizations, explaining the ramifications of technology on society and business.

He is the author of How To Use Flickr: The Digital Photography Revolution, and a coauthor of the Podcasting Pocket Guide. He also produces The Gadget Show podcast (gadget.thepodcastnetwork.com), which was voted Best Australian Podcast in The 2006 Australian Blog Awards, and is a founding member of 2web, a group of Australian bloggers and entrepreneurs who are passionate about Web 2.0 (www.2web.com.au).

The latest blogs on the interview can be found the week of August 3, 2006 in the Canadian IT Managers (CIM) forum where you can provide your comments in an interactive dialogue.
http://blogs.technet.com/cdnitmanagers/

Index and links to Questions
Q1   What attracted you to the conference?
Q2   Name your top five favorite featured speakers, and what specific and useful gems you took away from their talks. What will be the impact on business?
Q3   Which sessions were the most illuminating and why? Explain the value.
Q4   Which five technologies will have the greatest future impact and why?
Q5   Which event was the most surprising?
Q6   You have a new book. Can you provide some best practices from the book?
Q7   What are the pros and cons for corporate blogging?
Q8   What are the best resources for those wanting to start blogging, podcasting, ?
Q9   Which are your favorite blogs, vlogs, and podcasting sites?
Q10   What are the biggest challenges to this online revolution, and their solutions?
Q11   What are the biggest issues facing bloggers in 2006, and in 2007? How can they be addressed?
Q12   What are the biggest issues facing technical communities today and what are your recommendations for meeting these challenges?
Q13   Provide your predictions of future trends and their implications to bloggers?

Discussion:

OPENING COMMENT: Richard, we thank you for sharing your deep insights and passion about "new media."

A) It's a pleasure. It's changing so rapidly these days it's a fascinating area to discuss.

These questions (Q1 to Q5) revolve around your US trip to O'Reilly's Emerging Technology Conference.

Q1: What attracted you to the conference?

A) I became aware of the conference at about the time of the 2004 event, which happened to be the one where Flickr launched their public beta. Emerging technology was such a fabulous way to sum up my areas of passion, and the attendees and presentations all focused on the future. So many conferences focus on the past, present, or simply product announcements that I felt an affinity straight away for O'Reilly's concept.

I decided during the 2005 event, (while reading blog posts and watching the Flickr ETech photostream), that I would ensure that I attended the 2006 conference. Not only did I believe I'd learn some valuable information, but I knew I'd have the chance to network with some of the world's thought leaders in new Internet related technology.

Personally I'm on the verge of launching a new service online and I also thought both the knowledge and the contacts would come in mighty handy.

Q2: Name your top five favorite featured speakers, and what specific and useful gems you took away from their talks. What will be the impact on business?

A)

SPEAKER 1: Danah Boyd, (a PhD student at the School of Information (SIMS) at the University of California, Berkeley).

Gems: Danah looked at some of the current social networking trends online, but came at it at a very user-centric point of view, which I think in today's web world can be a very fresh perspective.

Her main focus was designing through embeddedness, and she summed it up in 8 key points:

  1. Passions is EVERYTHING.
  2. Protect from burn-out.
  3. Diversify your staff.
  4. Enable and empower, don't control.
  5. Do not overdesign!
  6. Integrate designers and customer support.
  7. Stay engaged with the community.
  8. Document cultural evolution.

Impact: Many companies in the technology industry are creating roles with titles like Community Manager. Their main focus is to stay in touch with the company's community, so that they don't lose touch. No more corporate walls. In fact Danah seemed to suggest taking the next step and immersing the whole company in "customerness" (my word).

SPEAKER 2: Charles Armstrong

Gems: Charles is an anthropologist. He spent 12 months on the Isles of Scilly, and set up a social entrepreneur consultancy to ensure he was part of the culture, not just an observer (sounds like immersion in "customerness" right). He discovered that semantic triggers activate relaying behaviour.

Several major points:

  • The further away two people or groups are in a social network, the higher the threshold the relay behavior is.
  • Electronic information systems are crippling useful social mechanisms.
  • Collaborative scoring is good in groups of experts, but not in heterogeneous groups.

Impact: His company, Trampoline Systems, produces a "a technology that helps groups of people connect, collaborate and manage large quantities of information." It looks like a fascinating system, but the main business impact is the way the Internet is now changing the way we collaborate. In some areas the result is closer to a small Island community than a dispersed global population.

SPEAKER 3: Amy Jo Kim

Gems: Her theme was to encourage greater use, or addiction (my word), in services by using gaming concepts. For example:

  • Collecting
  • Points
  • Levels (like World Of Warcraft)
  • Feedback (Karaoke Revolution)
  • Exchanges (like gifting)
  • Customization (game characters or web page look and feel)

Impact: People love playing games, and applying it to a business can make a customers experience fun, or even addictive.

SPEAKER 4: Jeff Han

Gems: Jeff presented his research into a physical user interface. He'd developed a table that reacted to gestures, really similar to the board in the movie Minority Report. You can find a video of the technology at http://mrl.nyu.edu/~jhan/ftirtouch/

Impact: I spoke with Jeff at an evening event, and his next focus was on creating real tactile responses. He was explaining this to me as he was moving and flipping cards on a coffee table. I got a real sense that he aims to make computer user interfaces as simple to use as every day objects, not by inventing a new alien device.

SPEAKER 5: Ray Ozzie

Gems: Ray demonstrated something he's currently calling liveClipboard. It eventually enables a web user to cut and paste details between online applications. For instance, if you see an event on a web page that you'd like to attend, it should be as simple to copy and paste into your calendar, and the two applications will provide the right information in the right fields.

Impact: If Ray gets his way in Microsoft, we're going to see some very intuitive applications begin to populate our computers. Rather than us work around their features, the features will work around us.

Q3: Which sessions were the most illuminating and why? Explain the value.

A) A theme that developed for me personally throughout the whole event was that technologists are now the wrong people to be dealing with the high-level operation of the Internet. Hard core techies should seek out intelligent people in anthropology, sociology, artists, etc. to help them build meaningful systems. Leaving it to technologists is just going to make for a complex environment, where I think we're now at a point in its evolution that we can start making the interaction simpler.

Q4: Which five technologies will have the greatest future impact and why?

A)

Attention: Enabling systems to monitor what people do, so that it can predict successfully what you might like later. Google is already trying this with search history. You can turn on a feature in the service to monitor the web searches you undertake and which results you select. It can then later refine your search results with web sites it thinks you are more likely to be interested in.

Location awareness: A system that knows where you are will be a valuable item. Tack on attention information, (so that a personal device knows where you are and what you do), and you've got a valuable service that can make recommendations based on place.

Massive group correlation: The Internet now enables low cost, high speed, communication. By linking millions of individuals around the world we can get a better view of people. It sounds like big brother, but if you turn this on its head and enable individuals to access and control this information, then we'll see the power shift from a few, (such as major corporations or governments), to individuals. Tags and folksonomies are a great illustration of this.

Virtual worlds: I attended the Linden Labs party, the crew that has created the online world called Second Life. They've taken some interesting steps by providing ownership to the world residents. So if you create something in-world, you own the rights. This enables you to sell this object for Linden Dollars, which has its own exchange rate. Some residents are making real world salaries by working in world selling objects or virtual land. If you use SL, my virtual name is Rich Neurocam. Make sure you message me.

Media distribution: With the ease people can create and distribute content, we'll see a major shake out in media. Television, radio, news, and entertainment like movies are seeing the biggest changes in their industries since their inception.

Q5: Which event was the most surprising?

A) I think networking in halls was at times the most eye opening. It was fun to see geek celebrities, but it was also fabulous to chat with some very inspirational people and to hear some of their ideas. It's always the people behind the technology that make it interesting.

Q6: You have a new book. Can you provide some best practices from the book?

A) The book is essentially a book on how to use Flickr: How To Use Flickr: The Digital Photography Revolution. As such, it's not really one to contain best practices. However, in the book I try and capture a sense of the community that is evolving within and around the service. Other than the general tip of using Flickr if you like to take or share photographs, I'd say it's to pay attention to the many online communities that are springing up. I covered some interesting stories that have happened, because Flickr was designed to encourage social interaction.

Q7: What are the pros and cons for corporate blogging?

A)

    Pros:

  • A blog provides a human voice, which after hearing stale corporate voices is a fresh change that everyone appreciates.

  • It encourages the writer and the reader to be involved in conversations. For a company that's invaluable. Being able to speak directly to customers can assist in many different instances.

  • It makes the company-person and the corporation more approachable.

  • It provides the author and the company greater visibility, which even in bad times is a good thing.

  • It provides a mechanism for a faster response. If you're using a weblog as a real communication tool, then you'll hear and respond to situations faster than through traditional corporate channels.

  • It's unfiltered. Jonathan Schwartz at Sun Microsystems enjoys having the population hear what he has to say, unfiltered through the media, or even PR.

  • Increases a company's Google rank. Being near the top of a Google search is as important, (if not more so in instances), than being listed in the Yellow Pages these days.

  • Cost effective, because it can be started for free.

  • Great potential to be seen as "an expert."

  • Great networking tool. You'd be surprised how many people you can meet through a weblog.

    Cons:

  • Potential for legal liability (however, the same can be said for many other communication methods).

  • Time invested in writing. For a busy person, it's difficult to keep a blog updated on a regular basis.

Q8: What are the best resources for those wanting to start blogging, podcasting, ?

A)

  1. A book called Naked Conversations by Shel Israel and Robert Scoble. That sets the scene nicely.
  2. A news aggregator, to keep up with what the rest of the blogosphere thinks.
  3. Wordpress.com, which offers a free weblog platform, to start your own.
  4. Willingness to be yourself.
  5. Great content.

    Podcasting:

  6. Microphone and headphone (both don't have to be expensive).
  7. Recording software.
  8. An original idea, to cut through the chaff. There are still many areas open for people to podcast.
  9. Willingness to be yourself.
  10. Great content.

Q9: Which are your favorite blogs, vlogs, and podcasting sites?

A) I currently read 152 weblogs, using a news aggregator, but one of my current favourite blogs would have to be http://reverseswing.livejournal.com/ , which is run by a marketing expert who is venturing into the virtual world of Second Life. Not only is it interesting watching a person enter the world, it's often a great laugh.

My favourite podcast of the moment is The Web 2.0 Show. For someone involved in starting a new Internet service, the people they speak to offer some fabulous insight.

Tiki Bar TV has to be my favourite vlog. Other than being very funny, I think it also demonstrates the potential for video on the Internet. A few friends creating a video, publishing it to the Internet, and recent reports suggest it attracts 200,000 viewers.

Q10: What are the biggest challenges to this online revolution, and their solutions?

A)

CHALLENGE 1: Telecommunications companies exploiting the law to co-opt the Internet. Read Doc Searl's article for examples, http://www.linuxjournal.com/article/8673

Solution: Everyone should use resources like the EFF to protect our rights online.

CHALLENGE 2: Government myopia, not understanding legal ramifications of some laws on technology.

Solution: Everybody should be aware of their government's actions, and how it'll affect their use of technology. The EFF is a great resource for this.

CHALLENGE 3: Geek-speak

Solution: We're at the cusp of introducing a new way to build global communities, but we as technologists have a way of making it sound intimidating for the majority of the world to use.

CHALLENGE 4: Greed

Solution: But that's been around since the dawn of time and we seem to work around it eventually.

Q11: What are the biggest issues facing bloggers in 2006, and in 2007? How can they be addressed?

A)

ISSUE 1: Censorship, especially in China. However, we need to be diligent, because there are other aspects to censorship. There are plenty of people being sued for blogging (possibly the wrong thing).

Solution: Be sensible about what you blog, but also pay attention to what laws the government is proposing. Again, the EFF is a great resource.

ISSUE 2: Spam, or as they call it splogs and comment spam.

Solution: Some measures have been taken to stop splogs, or spam blogs. Splogs are essentially blogs that are used for affiliate marketing. They either increase another sites page rank or they make money from advertising, but no real content is produced. In many instances they are automatic. The search engines devised a nofollow html tag that stopped their systems indexing referrals and hence no benefit from a search perspective is achieved. However, like all spam, we haven't yet figured out a way to completely eradicate it.

Anyone starting a blog should look to something like Akismet to help comment spam issues. When a weblog becomes moderately popular, it is certain to encounter comment spam.

Q12: What are the biggest issues facing technical communities today and what are your recommendations for meeting these challenges?

A)

  1. Being too insular. It amazes me when I attend certain conferences and the discussion mostly centers on the technology, and doesn't bridge the gap to the rest of the population. We technology folk need to continually consider what it is like for the general population and hopefully help them to use the technology to better their lives. If we can accelerate that, we'll all be better off.
     
  2. The law and governments misunderstanding of the implications. As I mentioned earlier, the government is constantly demonstrating it's misunderstanding of how certain laws will affect our rights - everyone who understands technology need to be diligent about communicating the repercussions.

Q13: Provide your predictions of future trends and their implications to bloggers?

A)

TREND 1:
I think there will be a lot more advertising that shifts to the Internet.

Implication: Many companies are predicting a large growth, but I think all the numbers are underestimated. When video and audio shifts online the Internet will become people's primary source of entertainment. The only issue is making this simple for the general public.

Blogging is rapidly becoming a business model, and I think we'll see that trend strengthen when more advertising dollars shift online.

TREND 2:
Bloggers will increase their collaborative power.

Implication: Currently the mainstream media has the largest share of the communities' mindset. This is set to shrink when more people look to bloggers to provide news, views, and opinion.

TREND 3:
The lounge room will connect to the Internet, probably through something like the Xbox 360.

Implication: People will begin to see the Internet as a method of distribution and communication, and less as a technology. Hopefully this will see a growth in consumer products, making it easier for everyone to connect. Blogging will just be a way for people to interact and the focus will shift away from it being just for techies and more for the general population to interact.

TREND 4: Attention

Implication: What people pay attention to and for how long, will play an important part. This means that people won't have to sift through endless streams of information; the most relevant things will be presented. Google is already doing this with its search history feature.

FINAL COMMENT: Richard, we will continue to follow your many significant contributions to the business and technology community. Thank you for taking the time to do this interview.

A) Thanks very much for the opportunity.