Posts tagged ‘change’

old school

So why don’t you meet me, down behind the old school
We’ll waste away the weekend, with perfect regard for how
Cavalier we used to be, that beautiful insanity
The apathy’s surrounding me
Don’t close your eyes or we’ll fade away

A funny thing about the digital age — the more information we have access to, the more misinformation we embrace into our zeitgeist. In the not-so-long ago days when the Internet was mainly for e-mail, and facebooks were made of paper, items were mostly advertised in newspaper ads or classifieds.

It turns out that there was a well-known shorthand language in the newspapers. While we didn’t read OMG or ROFL, we did understand that TLC meant you needed to be handyman and that “efficient layout” meant you’d better like living in small spaces.

I once read an article about how we’ll inevitably catalog our lives with documents, audio, chat logs, blogs and video. Then along came MySpace, Facebook and Twitter.  The thesis was, that, taken to the extreme, there would be more hours of content created per person than we lived. Add in video surveillance from several angles etc. Clearly, we need to summarize, else the person reviewing our lives in gruesome detail would require too much time and possibly waste their own lives trawling through the mass of digital data that we elect to store on cloud storage farms. But what do you leave out, and what do you keep for posterity?

Does this mean that we all need to develop some editing skills, and apply them to our new way of living, else we’ll forever be hoarding irrelevant digital fodder?

Coincidentally, this theme recently emerged in President Obama’s commencement speech at Hampton University where he relayed,

“You’re coming of age in a 24/7 media environment that bombards us with all kinds of content and exposes us to all kinds of arguments, some of which don’t always rank that high on the truth meter. And with iPods and iPads, and Xboxes and PlayStations — none of which I know how to work — information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation. So all of this is not only putting pressure on you; it’s putting new pressure on our country and on our democracy.”

When is too much of something irrelevant? And, by what measure?

I agree with the President.

My digital colleagues smile at my usage of an old school gold fountain pen complete with blue Sheaffer Script ink and my Moleskine notebook. Want to really interact with your thoughts in the most intimate way possible? You don’t need an iPad and a finger. Here’s a thought, focus on what takes real effort to craft before committing it in writing. It provides clarity of thought. The distractions of digital immediacy and it’s associated ADHD vanish into deep thoughtful consideration.

Yes my friends smile and joke about my retro-technology quirks, but when I lend them my pen, and give them a precious piece of acid free paper, they just love the smooth feel of the nib and watch the ink flow…

I just sit back, watch and think that some of the old school stuff makes sense, at least to me.

Tell me it isn’t so… I’m listening.

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May 13, 2010 at 10:00 am Leave a comment

changing behaviors

We’ll make a movie, you’ll play the staring role
and I’ll direct you on where to go
We’ll make a movie, up & down and roun’ & roun’
baby just you follow I’ll show you what to do

Before the advent of digital content production, files were limited to dog-eared manila folders filled with copious production notes. And long before videotape, everything was about film, and many of the same workflows remained in place.

Enter digital workflows.

Actually, digitizing the content value chain has started at different points, depending upon the media type. Print was a direct function of the desktop capabilities resulting from the mac platform and the Apple Laserwriter. It was not until later that print facilities moved from film to ‘direct to plate’, or on-demand printing. Radio focused on automating the play out facility, leveraging digital audio files to files integrated with playlist management. Studios digitized their raw film footage, and enhanced the available digital video desktop technologies for editing, and edited the content before mastering back to film. Today, they have moved to capturing digitally, and now distributing to digitally enabled cinemas. What a good colleague of mine calls “Glass to Glass. Forever”. More on that in a subsequent blog.

But the behaviors of content creation have really changed beyond just folks working out how to manage digital content files and integrate them into their current business workflows.

Consider the following.

The economics of a film shoot was centered originally on the cost of the film (the celluloid) itself. In the early days, cameras, film and subsequent processing were more expensive than actors’ time – at least when actors were owned by the studios. At that time, the practice of a clapboard was instantiated, as was the stereotypical “action”. The emphasis was on minimizing the wastage of film. The camera was already a sunk cost. Consumers demanded more interesting perspectives, and eventually cameras and film became more affordable, and so multi-camera shoots prevailed.

When Videotape came along, the clapper’s role was less focused on saving film (or videotape), but more on ensuring the documentation of scenes for subsequent editing. Tape was cheap, make more shots, keep doing it again and again because ‘video’ actors were generally paid less than ‘film’ actors. Film still held premium production qualities that audiences craved but by the 80’s video was ‘best’ for TV.

Then a funny thing happened on the way to digital cameras… with the introduction of 2K/4K cameras that rivaled film quality, finally the clapper truly became a mechanism for scene/take separation. In fact, anecdotally, I have heard that due to the relative low-cost of digital compared to actors and production, the camera in many instances was just left running. This practice captures ‘behind the scenes’ content, notes, exchanges between actors, directors, writers and bloopers etc. This content used to end up on the cutting room floor, now it can be valuable extra content on a DVD or a Blue-ray.

Economics driven by technology has changed the behavior of how stuff is made. Apart from the time used to plan content and shoots, the time to turn around rushes has shrunk along with the behaviors, which have become the typical unintended consequences.

Now managing that digital content from glass (at the camera) to glass (at the consumer device) faces another problem… how do we handle, tag and forever secure this content? Not very well I’d say.

Tell me it isn’t so… I’m listening.

May 6, 2010 at 10:00 am Leave a comment

nab 2010

It’s the same old story
Same old song and dance, my friend
It’s the same old story
Same old song and dance, my friend

I love NAB, it is a great place to catch up with colleagues, see the new developments and occasionally stumble upon a seismic shift… but where is the really cool new stuff that is going to drive the industry back into high growth?

Is it 3D?

I don’t know, the jury is out, but the marketing folks and just about every booth rendered the 3D story in some respect. What I do know, is that there is only one company that I saw, that actually converted 2D to 3D – and it was good. It was in real-time, and it provides a really interesting path to monetizing ‘old, really long tail content’ and making it a new experience. I don’t promote companies or technologies in this blog, not my style, but if anyone is interested, drop me a line…

Is it ATSC M/H?

On April 9, the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) threw its hat into the mobile TV broadcast ring with word that it has begun developing ATSC-M/H, an ATSC-backwards-compatible transmission system to reach mobile viewers via broadcast DTV transmissions. With ATSC-M/H, broadcasters can use their excess DTV broadcast bandwidth to provide new services directly to small hand-held receivers, laptop computers and moving vehicles. It all sounds great, and it will be – if a couple of things happen:

  1. Where are the handsets to drag a compelling business model? Can I get them at my local cell-phone store?
  2. Where is the content to drag the manufacturers to make the handsets to drag a compelling business model? Will the consumer really care about “yet another video service”…?
  3. How do you hand off from one broadcaster to another (like a mega cell)? Well, this problem has been solved technically and that is a seismic shift… problem, who gets the money in this multicast model?
  4. Will the telco’s have enough incentive to let this happen i.e. support a multi-protocol handset, with the vision that this will save precious unicast bandwidth from multicast-affinity content e.g. real-time news/sports?

It’s the economy?

Personally I perceived attendance was down. Floor-space was certainly down, with large curtained-off sections, and the registration are moved to fill hall space in a veiled attempt to prevent booths from rattling around in otherwise less than occupied halls. However, business activity was up… my friends and colleagues told me of a more qualified attendee, with a higher likelihood of decision-making authority, and there was certainly many discussions covering pent-up demand and a perceived relaxation of previously frozen budgetary constraints.

It was a good show. Tiring as usual, but as is so often the case, the same stuff re-packaged differently.

Tell me it isn’t so… I’m listening.

April 15, 2010 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

who’s getting it?

Someone who gets me
Someone who lets me be who I am, not who I’m not
And never gonna be
Who won’t misdirect me
Someone who gets me

Who in the world would ever have thought that one day Google would give the keynote address at Mobile World Congress?

It’s not just about apps.

Recently it has become very clear to me that the core of the Telco’s SDP infrastructure is becoming very IT-centric. It is also being integrated very effectively into the business and marketing functions of the enterprise. This is a radical departure from the days where internal communication was via job-tickets etc. It is almost getting to the point where Telco’s are becoming very large IT-network infrastructures that are exposing their capabilities for other organizations to use. Telco’s have embraced IP and IT and are searching for ways to increase their value. They’re doing it with an integrated business infrastructure that increasingly controls the underlying network core. And their business models are moving to realtime bandwidth and topology arbitrage. As I have long said, it’s not just about the cornflakes, but it’s about getting them to the customer in the cheapest manner possible. It would appear that retail distribution is coming to telco in more ways than originally expected.

Now Google is trying to create an industry wide infrastructure, which is almost the next generation of abstraction beyond the efforts of the telcos.

And as the cost of IP content delivery approaches parity with multicast RF distribution schemes – game over.

Contrast this to the newsprint, cable, satellite and broadcasters. What many call the ‘traditional’ mediums. Many are still debating the fine line which separates IT from the ‘content’ side of the business. Their obsession with control seems to be inhibiting the innate desire for bits to flow seamlessly through the business. Why the difference? More importantly, how are these entities going to compete in a world where the primary game in town is a mobile-oriented, increasingly cash-rich generation of audience. Of the media-types previously listed, it would appear as though the print industry may have just been given a reprieve – a gateway into that mobile audience.

Tell me it isn’t so… I’m listening.

March 11, 2010 at 9:13 am Leave a comment

the value of experience

Downsized I guess I shouldn’t be surprised
Two faced the time has come to be replaced
Betrayal, tiny minds
Something sinister’s going on behind

Before economic rationalism took a stranglehold on the global economy, and the labor market started becoming deregulated, there was a time that management experts did not write textbooks for dummies. In fact, although businesses were generally less efficient, they were inextricably linked to the overall well-being of a country’s economy, and the prosperity of its citizenry.

When up-, down-, right- and optimal-sizing became the vogue for  business narrative, they came with their alter-ego of poorer service, lower quality goods, stakeholder marginalisation and shareholder intrusion. Somehow, balance was lost. In fact, much knowledge and equity in each individual was also lost.

The Media Business was not immune against this backdrop of free-market fundamentalism.

In fact, the corporatization of media has manifest itself as:

  1. Bland, formulaic content production. Safe investments in block-busters, special effects and ‘easy-listening’ radio stations. All under the seemingly prudent guise of giving the audience what it wants while preserving cash flow… what would have happened if the audience had been ‘trained’ differently by the media? Not possible? Then I guess you’re telling me that advertising and promotion don’t work (!)
  2. Ruthless focus on the bottom line. An essential factor in successful businesses. However, this has not only stifled self-motivated innovation, but has mortgaged the future to preserve the present cash-flow. What would have happened if the print media had actively embraced the web and truly found ways for people to pay? What would have happened if local TV stations didn’t ‘give away’ web advertising as part of a bundle in order to maintain broadcast margins? Not possible? Essential. By not actively engaging in change, that change has been thrust upon those very same businesses in a very ruthless fashion.
  3. Devaluing the core value proposition of media... Huh? Media is in the news and entertainment business. The medium is the message for dissemination of information, entertainment and experiential pathos, with clear deference to Marshall McLuhan. Moving away from this precept has affected the core equity of media, the medium is “not the message” when it comes to business.

So, where are the experienced executives leading us through this change? My guess is that many are securing their bonuses, before the next re-structure kicks-in. Till then status quo.

Tell me it isn’t so… I’m listening.

March 4, 2010 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

history repeats itself

History repeats itself
I didn’t learn, I wouldn’t listen
I couldn’t see the books were on the shelf
For my good sense, I never missed ’em

In the early 1800s newspaper production was extremely slow. They received news by post. Some were reports from correspondents, but most stories were copied from other newspapers as part of an exchange system.

In may of 1845, James Gordon Bennett, the editor of the New York Herald predicted with some gloom, that the telegraph would put many newspapers out of business. “In regard to the newspaper press, it will experience to a degree, that must in a vast number of cases be fatal, the effects of the new mode of circulating intelligence.”

While entrepreneurs and commerce at large created the demand for ‘fast news’, prompting Bennet to pay one of his sources $500 for every hour by which he beat other papers in getting news from Europe, he also once declared that “speculators should not have the advantage of earlier news than the public at large.”

Then along comes the telegraph… with its promise of instant information.

The following dreaded scenario was painted among the publishing Technorati of the day…

Raw news and market information arrived first at the telegraph office. Newspapers, along with merchants and everyone else, queued for it. Telegraph firms established a monopoly over news delivery, selling early news access to the highest bidder.

In this environment, papers would be unable to compete. Circulation would decline and advertisers would flee. Benett’s democratisation of news would be undone.

There was hope. Bennett believed that those few papers which provided commentary and analysis would survive. The proverbial ‘value-add’.

The telegraph did reshape newspapers and the outcome was different to the prognostications. It was a simple result of the technology itself. Although the telegraph could deliver news more rapidly than ever across the backbone, they had a “last mile” problem. Messages were point to point – unicast as it were. The telegraph was not a broadcast medium, it could not disseminate news quickly to thousands of ‘subscribers’. Instead  of putting papers out of business, the telegraph actually made them more attractive and increased their sales. The role of newspapers became focused on delivering the latest news.

As the speed of information increased, there were growing concerns that the freshness of news, and its abundance from far away places, was saturating column inches and decreasing it’s relevance to the consumer.

Writing in the Atlantic Monthly in 1891, W.J. Stillman lamented the changes in his profession. “America has in fact transformed journalism from what it once was, the periodical expression of the thought of the time, the opportune record of the questions and answers of contemporary life, into an agency for collecting, condensing and assimilating the trivialities of the entire human existence,” he moaned. “The frantic haste with which we bolt everything we take, seconded by the eager wish of the journalist not to be a day behind his competitor, abolishes deliberation from judgment and sound digestion from our mental constitutions. We have no time to go below surfaces, and as a general thing no disposition.”

Add about 160 years to these dates, replace the names of the characters and technologies; except for the money part, the story and the apprehensions remain the same. But let us be very careful. While we may see the demise of printed media, we will not see the decline of the ‘news business’. We may be simply seeing the transfer of information from ink and pulp to another medium.

Tell me it isn’t so… I’m listening.

February 25, 2010 at 1:00 am 1 comment

the user

No praise or crowd
No sound of thunder
No hero’s tale
No sign or wonder
With all I’ve known
And left behind
I find my place
In serving You

Remember the IT user? Those people who the IT department initially served? Those subject matter experts within the business. Those people who usually know best what is needed to make their daily job, business functions and therefore, by extension, the business?

Whatever happened to them? Does anyone actually listen to them anymore?

Remember the constant tussle between in-house development and packaged software? I have no intention of re-litigating that debate, but I do think, that of late, the industry has increasingly paid more attention to ‘new trends’ and ‘new products’ than on the fundamentals.

We’ve gone top down. Big picture will ultimately solve the business problems? The focus is now on the company and shareholders, rather than the stakeholders whose knowledge and effort is the driving engine of the company. Is not a balanced approach far more sensible?

This is dangerously similar to the transformation of the accounting profession. Their constant focus on moving up the corporate food chain and becoming Financial Advisors, instead of Accountants. On telling the business how to grow beans, instead of counting the beans of the business.

And so it is with IT professionals. As we look across the business landscape with our ‘Technology Focus’ we are starting to move beyond advising the CEO how to leverage technology for better business, but have promoted the notion that good technology = good business. This might be true in a technology-centric business like media, or the technology business itself, but not in general.

The ‘Financial Advisors’ ran wild with growing beans and precipitated the global economic disaster… will our love affair with all things technical, promoting technology above business interests result in tears? I think it is time to get back to serving the business…

Tell me it isn’t so… I’m listening.

PS. How many IT shops out there are cost-centers vs the profit centers to which you would seem to aspire?

February 12, 2010 at 6:58 am Leave a comment

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