Hello, it’s US again!

statueofliberty-copyYep, it’s that time of the year again. The time you realize you already worked your butt off during the first half of the year but that you have to work even harder the second half of the year. And that you won’t survive without a mental break if you don’t refill on time. Don’t get us wrong, we love our jobs and we regret everyday we didn’t start DigiRedo earlier. But everybody needs a break, so now and then.

So what do we like when we take a break? Relax, enjoy different cultures, amaze ourselves, learn new things but most of all, have fun. We at DigiRedo think we have found our perfect break. Like last year, and the year before, the New Media Expo (NME) is around the corner. And we are ready to go! 150This year however, the NME is bigger than ever. In 2008 Tim Bourquin, founder of the NME, decided to merge ‘his’ conference with the BlogWorld Expo, resulting in the -rather creatively entitled- BlogWorld and New Media Expo, the singlelargest congress about all things new media on this planet, and no doubt on any galaxy far, far away. In three days, 6 simultaneous tracks and more than 150 speakers this congress will for sure blow our minds. And the fact that it is in Las Vegas is of course the icing on the cake.

So in October we’re off to the US. But going to a congress alone can not be considered ‘relaxed’. Even not for NewappleMedia Nerds as ourselves. That’s why we decided to extend our trip to California a few days and head over to San Francisco as well. We always wanted to go to this supposedly laid-back city, and while we’re there visit the cradle of modern computer-technology: Silicon Valley. Visit the Mothership of Apple in Cupertino is every AppleFreak’s wet dream and obliterates any other attempt to impress other AppleFreaks. Like going to the Apple Store in Japan for example.

people blogworld

And while we are in the US, why not attend the next congress? Or even present on that congress? Indeed, coincidentally the US version of EXL’s Digital Pharma is just two days after the BlogWorld & NME. We have been invited to give a new preso on Enterprise 2.0 in pharma, and we will be sponsoring the event with video coverage. So after the 39 degrees Celcius (102 F) environment of the Nevada dessert we’ll fly back to the East coast to participate in the 3rd Annual Digital Pharma Congress in New Jersey. My talk will be an extension of my Barcelona preso, of course with new information.

Preso bulletpoints

But the good thing is that EXL has decided to put the ‘S’ of Social in this congress and wants a more ‘unconference’ approach. Spearheaded by our friend Shwen Gwee who will be chairing the conference, EXL hope to achieve more participation, engagement and dialogue. It’s up to the presenters and moderators to achieve that.

It’s ging to be an exciting trip. Leaving on October 8 to New York, stay one day in the Big Apple. Fly to SanFran on October 10 for our Silicon Valley trip, and arrive in Las Vegas on October 14 for the BlogWorld and NME Expo. Four days later (October 18) up in the air again to New Jersey and participate in the Digital Pharma congress. Finally returning to base on October 22.

Obviously we will be providing plenty of blogposts and video coverage of our trip, like you’re used to from us.

Facebook acquiring again

logo_reuters_media_us

Just in from Reuters: Facebook acquiring FriendFeed.

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Facebook, the world’s largest social networking site, said it will acquire FriendFeed, an up-and-coming social media startup.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Facebook said that FriendFeed would continue to operate normally for the time being as the teams determine long-term plans.

Friendfeed lets people share content online in real time across various social networks and blogs.

FriendFeed’s four founders, former Google Inc employees who started the company in 2007, will hold senior roles on Facebook’s engineering and product teams.

Facebook has more than 250 million registered users. In May, the social networking company announced a $200 million investment from Russian investor Digital Sky Technologies that pegged the value of its preferred shares at $10 billion.

Original post here.

My two cents on Google Wave

imagesWe all face the same challenge: too much communication. E-mail overflow, status updates on Facebook, Tweets, blogs, RSS. All scattered around on the internet. We might have embraced these new communication technologies a bit too much. That it what Google might be thinking when they started the development of Wave almost two years ago.

Wave is supposed to solve the ever increasing tsunami of data. Being active in the introduction of an internal social network I whole-hearted agree with these imputations. One of the main topics of discussion there is the fact that people do not want to have more tools to communicate, they want less. So obviously I was eager to find out what Google Wave has to offer. And let’s face it, e-mail is soooo 1995…

First let’s have a look at what Google Wave actually is. I couldn’t find ‘Google Wave in Plain English’, so I’ll give it a try myself (alternatively you can watch the entire keynote -1 hours, 27 minutes, see below- looking at two dreadfully bad presenters in which they explain the entire thing. Recommended for New Media Specialists or if you want to play guru at parties).

In the basis Google Wave is a centralization of all forms of communication. Because of this centralization you can do cool stuff, as we will see later. When compared to ‘traditional’ e-mail (see picture 1) which is basically a copy of the snail mail concept, Google Wave connects everybody on one server (see picture 2).

Picture 1 - The traditional way e-mail works (courtesy of Google)

Picture 1 - The traditional way e-mail works (courtesy of Google)

Picture 2 - The Google Wave way (courtesy of Google)

Picture 2 - The Google Wave way (courtesy of Google)

What is Google Wave?

The information Google is providing is not too much, mainly because Google Wave is still in development. The keynote presentation (yes, I did watch it) reveals the following features:

A Wave can be compared to a sort of e-mail message on steroids. Looking at the interfce of Wave, you see a navigation on the upper left side (with inbox, archive, etc), Contact list on the lower left side, A pane in the middle with your ‘Waves’ and on the right side the selected Wave.

ss1

Plain vanilla e-mail is done by creating a new Wave, dragging your contact in the wave and start typing. When the recipient receives the Wave it can reply. Nothing new here. But the cool thing is that one can reply on paragraphs within the mail and start a conversation based on this specific paragraph. So you get a conversation within a conversation. All visually stunning and easy to see. But now the cool part comes: whenever the sender is typing her message, the recipient, if online and looking at the same Wave, can actually see the sender typing. Sort if instant messaging, but without the message ‘xxx is typing….‘. Of course, if you want to give your love message a bit more thought you can switch this off and use the traditional ‘send’ button.

Dragging pics into your Wave is as easy as drag and drop. Also here the recipient sees the pictures arriving the moment the sender drags them into the Wave. Impressive stuff, also if you realize that all is done within the browser. No additional software is required.

If you want to name the pictures, you can of course do so. And again, whenever you add text to a picture, the other person can watch it ‘live’. But Google has built in an even neater trick. The recipient can start adding text too, and then the sender sees it automatically. In this way you can really work collaboratively on a document (as opposed to the dreadful way Microsoft has implemented this in Word).

Sometimes e-mail threads can become pretty long. Ever received an e-mail of twenty pages, where you have to scroll all the way down to start reading? With Wave, where people can start a conversation within a Wave, things don’t get any clearer. Fortunately Google has thought of that too. There’s a playback button on each Wave, and a timeline. Just press the ‘Play’ button or drag the timeline and see the Wave being build up from scratch. See who replied on who, and when. Handy stuff.

A Wave can be embedded in a blog, wiki or any other website. So when you embed your Wave, it’s there to see for the world. Basically you can take your conversation public, viral. Whenever people react to your Wave on the embedded website it is shown on the website itself, but also in your original Wave. Same goes for Twitter. A nice integration with our all time favorite microblogging platform makes it convenient to have your tweets together with your e-mails…eeehh… Waves. Just imagine what this could do for enterprises, building up a massive knowledge database automatically.

Another nifty feature is autocorrection based on Google’s language database (should be pretty big by now) and, guaranteed WOW effect, autotranslation. Somebody is typing in French and it is automatically –on the fly– translated in English. Google Wave, where were you when I was on High School? Using these features involves including a ‘Robot’ in your Wave. Just like including people in your Wave you can add these Robots (little pieces of software) which enhances your Wave. A bit scary may be for novel users but -depending of the Robot’s feautures- proving very helpful eventually.

Wave is open source, so all can start making applications. Next to that companies can install Wave software independently from Google so that communication never has to go through Google servers and stays within the group you decide to share. Clever, Google, clever.

There is much, much more to tell about Wave, but I suggest you grab some popcorn and a bottle of beer and start watching the presentation:

So, will Google Wave have a future?

From a collaboration point of view I certainly saw some very nice features. Collaboration within a Wave, dragging just another person to the Wave if you want to get involvement, conversations within a Wave, adding features with Robots, taking the conversation outside the Wave. All features which will bring a rich user experience and endless possibilities. But the main challenge will -in my opinion- be twofold:

1. User adoption
2. Lock-in by Google

1. User adoption
Google Wave has a strong competitor. A competitor which is so adopted within society, from a cultural as well as a technological point of view: e-mail. And why is e-mail so strong? Simply because we all have it, we all know how to use it (which is obvious when I look at the number of e-mails in my inbox) and because the technology is not owned by anybody. So the success of Wave -any new technology for that matter- depends on the adoption and thus on the number of people using it. If nobody has Wave, with whom will I dance the Wave? Google of course realizes this, hence the decision to make it open source. They want as many people as possible to try, build and embrace it. Hoping for a tipping point.

But will my mother use it? Will she see the benefits of online collaboration? Will she take effort to go through the rather steep learning curve? I just don’t know. For the average Digital Native this won’t be any issue. But mind you, there are still a lot of Digital Immigrants out there, and they feel perfectly okay using e-mail. Even so, it is not too long ago that they mastered e-mail and I’m not sure whether they want to go through that again.

And what about corporations? More efficient communication, building up knowledge collectively, online collaboration. Which CEO doesn’t want that? But what a minute… this is technology from Google, isn’t it?

2. Lock-in by Google
In a recent Wired article (August 2009) it is explained why Google is set on a collision course with the US antitrust division. Being seen as the ‘new Microsoft’, the recently appointed head of Justice Department’s antitrust division Christine Varney is sure to investigate the accusations Google has received from various parties. According to Varney “[Microsoft] is not the problem. I think we are going to continually see a problem, potentially with Google”.

Whether these accusations are all true or not, nobody can deny that Google has gotten some power over the years. And in general society doesn’t like such powerhouses. I can imagine that also companies are reluctant to use technology which on paper might be open source, but you just never know.

In conclusion I think Google Wave could potentially be very big. It certainly has all the ingredients to become the next iteration of online conversations. I’m not so sure about adoption, which is the main critical success factor. I will certainly give it a try when it becomes available later this year, and I advise you do the same. If it was only for playing the early-adopter guru amongst your friends.

Additional reading:

First Impressions of Google Wavers, by Dion Hinchcliffe

What works: The Wave Way vs. the Web Way by Anil Dash


Augmented Reality: the future is getting closer

In our New Media Masterclasses people often ask how how the future looks like. Things are happening so fast nowadays, one can only dream of the possibilities lurking at us in the next few years. Many people can’t grasp it today, let alone tomorrow.

One of the things always good for a few ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ is Augemented Reality. But what is it anyway? According to Wikipedia, Augmented Reality is:  a field of computer research which deals with the combination of real-world and computer-generated data (virtual reality), where computer graphics objects are blended into real footage in real time.(see full article here).

In plain English: enhancing images (through your phone for example) with computer-generated information linked to the object in the picture. So if you walk in a supermarket and you meet an old friend but forget what his name was. Just look to him through your phone and his name, hobbies, latest tweets, Facebook profile and blogposts pop up, around his head.

Still a bit vague? Just watch this short videoclip:

Check more cool stuff from them here.

So Augmented Reality looks pretty SciFi. But will we actually find a use for it? I certainly believe so. How about the ingredients and nutritional value of stuff you buy in the supermarket? Or showing you the way to your location? Or what about gaming? And the funny thing is, Augmented Reality is closer than you think. Just check out here. Print out the Solar Panel Marker, hold it in front of your webcam and amaze yourself.

Rumor has it that Apple is working on Augmented Reality for the iPhone as well. If there is one platform which could create a truly amazing user experience it certainly is Apple. At this moment Augmented Reality apps are being rejected rom the App Store, and being told that they have to wait for iPhone OS 3.1. That people can’t wait is obvious, looking at the below video:

It’s a small start, but it’s there. It’s coming to an iPhone near you soon. And if that happens, the beginning could look like this:

I can’t wait…

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