Laurie Lock Lee on Governance in an Networked World


Laurie Lock Lee is one of the top practitioners globally in network thinking. I first came across his work in the mid-1990s, when he was one of the first people in world applying social network analysis approaches to organizations, for his then-employer BHP. He moved to CSC with the acquisition of BHP’s technology group, and last year set up his own firm Optimice with Cai Kjaer. I have featured some of Laurie’s work in the last two Future of Media Reports, including a high-level view of media industry networks, and a detailed analysis of the impact of a large acquisition on the Australian media industry landscape. Many other great reports and industry network maps are available from the Optimice website.

Laurie has just launched a new blog on Governance in a Networked World. He notes that it’s important to find the right scope and topic for a blog, and I think this is a fantastic one. As I wrote in releasing Chapter 3 of Living Networks, governance is perhaps the most important perspective on how organizations need to deal with a networked world. There are certainly risks to be understood and dealt with, but there are also opportunities that must be recognized and addressed. Business and government leaders are abrogating their responsibilities if they do not engage with the issues raised by our hyperconnected, networked world. Laurie says on his inaugural post:

Now to the governance bit. The old conglomerates grew up in an era when hierarchical control was the order of the day. Decision making necessarily travelled up and down the chain of command. Governance was all “top down”. Today many of the conglomerates have largely disappeared. Organisational structures have been flattened to facilitate agility and faster decision making. And governance systems have done what? Have they changed substantially at all? The focus is still top down control. The expectation is that senior management can “control” everything. In my view the networked business environment has worked against senior management’s ability to “control” the business. I believe the paradigm has shifted from one of “control” to one of “influence”. Until governance mechanisms are adapted to this change I believe they will continue to add cost and reduce value to the very organisations that they are trying to help.

I look forward to Laurie’s insights on his blog.

Interview: The future of media and entertainment in 2020


Today’s issue of The Australian has a special section on the media industry in 2020, to coincide with the Australian government’s 2020 Summit to be held this weekend. I was interviewed for a feature article titled Watch this space as sector goes on move (together with a nice pic of me in the print edition). The article follows:

AUSTRALIANS will double their spending on media and other entertainment by 2020 as the proportion of people’s income spent on “weightless” products and services increases, according to futurist Ross Dawson.

Mr Dawson predicted the media and entertainment industry would double in size during the next 12 years and have a 60per cent larger share of the global economy than at present.

“One of the things (that) is going to grow rapidly is the way we consume media … when we’re moving around,” Mr Dawson said. “The weight of goods produced in the global economy, while it doubles in size, will stay the same.”

Mr Dawson, chairman of the Future Exploration Network, which takes the pulse of the global industry in an annual study, said the media would offer “infinite choice” for consumers by 2020.

In a wide-ranging interview about the changing media landscape ahead of the Government’s 2020 Summit, he predicted:

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Insights into the Australian search and directories market


Vishal Sharma of Startups Carnival fame has just released a nice review of the Australian search and directories market. It pulls together data from the recent BRW Digital Generation edition and PricewaterhouseCoopers, and perhaps most interestingly reviews 18 players in online search, looking to tap a market estimated at A$254 million currently, and A$532 million in 2010.

Google is even more dominant in online search than in the US (86% vs 60% for the US March 2008 figures from ComScore), while Sensis hs 98% of the local directories market.

In the local directories market, one of the interesting players is Hotfrog, which was established by Reed Business Australia in 2005 to diversify from its core print operations . Its local success has led to Hotfrog being replicated in 18 other countries.

Boston Globe covers the Extinction Timeline


Alex Beam, the award-winning writer for the Boston Globe, has written his latest column about the Extinction Timeline, which was co-created by Future Exploration Network and What’s Next (and displayed below – click on the image for the full timeline as a pdf). Alex interviewed me last week, and extracted from our wide-ranging conversation thoughts on the demise of newspapers, national currencies, public libraries, butchers, British royalty, and far more.


Alex concludes his analysis of our timeline by examining my penchant for robot pets, and concludes that “I have seen the future, and it may need oil.”

Automated content creation: pushing the boundaries of human value


The history of human society has largely been about replacing human work with tools and machines. From the plough to the spinning jenny to the computer, people have stopped doing tasks because machines can do them better. In most cases we are getting rid of things that we don’t particularly enjoy doing anyway, and it’s hard to take pride in doing work that can be done by a machine. In a way, humanity can be defined by what it is that humans can do that machines can’t do. That boundary is continually being pushed further, and in coming years we will need to move to increasingly complex and imaginative tasks of synthesis and creativity that computers cannot do.

Philip Parker, a professor at INSEAD, is probably doing more than anyone else to push this boundary. An article in the New York Times titled He Wrote 200,000 Books (but Computers Did Some of the Work) describes how he has automated the process of creating books and econometric reports, and has built a solid book business on top of this. A YouTube video by Parker (see below) reviews his patent on automated content creation, and describes in detail how this kind of report is automatically generated. It also shows how Parker is automating video and game creation, for example creating educational programs and interactive language teaching tools, which appear at first glance to be very good.

Part of the implication of this is that, if so much content creation can be automated, what will people need to do to create value moving forward? In Parker’s example, an industry forecast report of 250 pages is created in 13 minutes. He sells these kinds of reports for good money, and does well out of it. In many cases the market is too small to justify a person writing the report. However there is no question that a significant part of an analyst’s work can be automated. The boundaries of human value are being pushed further, and this is just the beginning.

The information processing view of humanity


I have just returned from a round-world trip, passing through Singapore, London, New York, San Francisco and back to Sydney in slightly less than two weeks. The trip was centered on speaking, client work, and meetings to prepare for the Future of Media Summit 2008. However a fair chunk of my time was catching up with extremely interesting people such as Sheen Levine, Euan Semple, Dean Collins, Mike Jackson, Napier Collyns, Eric Best, Shannon Clark, JD Lasica, John Maloney, and Ben Metcalfe.

We now all know that the economy revolves around conversations. The insights I got from my unstructured conversations with these people was immense. Yet the nature of conversations is that they are – largely – evanescent. At the same time, the extraordinary rise of social media means that the thoughts arising from millions of conversations are now available to the world at large. In fact, many bloggers say that they write mainly for themselves, in capturing some of the interesting things they are seeing and thinking. Trevor Cook is just one example of a blogger who writes notes from all of the conference sessions he attends (including his reflections on our Enterprise 2.0 Executive Forum) for his own sake, making his blog a repository for personal reference, by the by creating something that others can find useful.

The trouble was, I didn’t find time in my intense travel schedule to blog about all of my interesting meetings and conversations. I will probably post a few thoughts on these meetings over the next week or two if I get the chance, but the reality is it’s hard to do in a very packed schedule.

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Industrial policy in the global media economy


Japan and Singapore are examples of nations that have had highly interventionist industrial policies and industry support through the second half of the twentieth century, with great success. However once economies become developed, the key issues are far less about manufacturing prowess. Today the buzzwords in national economic development are knowledge, creativity, media, content, entertainment, design, and the like. All of these flow easily across boundaries. Moreover, the educational and social structures required to support them are dramatically different to those that support the creation of an industrial and manufacturing powerhouse.

When I was in Singapore this Monday I met with the Media Development Authority, a government agency devoted to building Singapore’s capabilities in the media and content space. Among other activities, it actively encourages interactive media companies, gaming ventures, and content development. Initiatives include media education, supporting PC games, and developing a research ecosystem .

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Live on Today show: how the relationship between people and machines is becoming emotional


This morning I was interviewed on the Australian national breakfast television program the Today show, together with our new family pet, the robot dinosaur Pleo. The video is below.

[UPDATE:] This TV segment is also available on the NineMSN website in better quality.

While it makes for a nice fun TV segment, I actually think that there is something fundamentally important at work here. As a futurist, one of the most important issues I consider is the evolving relationship between people and technology. Throughout history, that relationship has often been problematic, with notably the Luddites smashing machines, and more recently just about everyone having experienced immense frustration with their computers not doing what they’re supposed to do.

Following the ground laid by Sony’s robotic dog Aibo, Pleo is the first generation of commercial robotic pets that acts so we can form genuine emotional ties with it. I’ve written before about emotional robots such as Paro the seal and been interviewed in Newsday on how emotional robots are used to great effect in therapy and aged care. Pleo has reached the threshold of being a fun and interactive “lifeform” (as the manufacturer Ugobe describes it), and also is highly affordable at US$350 (which may seem expensive for a toy, but is very cheap compared with for example visits to the vet for real live pets).

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FriendFeed has the potential to transcend social networks and catalyze collaborative filtering


Over the last week FriendFeed has being the hot topic of the online world, soaring in popularity after an already strong start from its launch on February 25. FriendFeed allows you to see all of the online activities of the people you like or admire, who choose to share that data. So for example I have created a FriendFeed for Ross Dawson that brings together a summary of blog posts I’ve written, what I’ve bookmarked on, shared on StumbleUpon and Google Reader, videos I’ve posted on YouTube, pictures on Flickr, profile changes on LinkedIn, and songs I’ve loved on Last.FM. There are currently a total of 28 services that people can include in profiling what they are doing online.

On one level, this provides a quite staggering depth of visibility into what people are doing, and ultimately who they are as people. I’ve written before about the role of exhibitionism in allowing Web 2.0 to flourish, and this is evident once again in FriendFeed. Of course, it is supposed to be primarily about keeping track of your friends’ rather than strangers’ lives, and the reality is that all of this information is available anyway. It’s just that it has been brought about into one place. Not just that, it is a community itself, allowing comments and other ways to respond to people’s content directly, rather than going back to the source.

While there are other competitors in this space, including SocialThing! (see ReadWriteWeb’s comparison), the availability – and success – of these services is a fundamentally important transition in the online world. The reason why Facebook has been so successful is that it allows people a quick way of keeping in touch with what their friends are up to. Once either all the feeds are available from people’s current social network activities, or people start updating their profiles and activities in a more open format, social networks will be a completely different space.

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Adtech Sydney: Innovation in the Digital Marketplace


A few days ago I attended a morning of the second Adtech Sydney, after last year chairing the keynote panel on the new media mix and the panel on blogs as a marketing tool last year. The event has progressed over its very promising start last year, with apparently around 30% more attendees, and an exhibition sprawling into new rooms. It is certainly a major convening point for the industry in Australia, with most of the major players involved or attending.

I spoke on the panel session on Innovation in the Digital Marketplace, together with Karim Temsamani, General Manager of Google Australia/ NZ, Simon Smith, Managing Director of eBay Australia, and Warren Lee, CEO of APN Online. Matt Whale, Director of ?WhatIf!, moderated the panel. I think it was a good session, with us managing to address some of the important points in what is a rather sprawling topic, though perhaps we agreed a bit too much…

A few of the points that I made were:

* Levels of innovation. There is much focus on innovation at the product (new services) and channel (new uses of combinations of digital channels for marketing such as Coke Studios, linking outdoor with SMS, Dell’s Ideastorm etc.) levels. However all of this happens in the context of business model innovation, and ultimately industry structure innovation (for example the shift of the primary platform to social networks). While only a few are able to play effectively at the industry structure level, actually changing the game, any innovation at lower levels needs to take into account the state of industry structure or platform innovation.

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