Nokia held its second Mobile Mashup on Thursday. The theme for the event was "the future of mobile social", and we had a series of conversations on and off stage about how social software is and will be mobilized, as well as how mobile software (and devices) are being socialized. [Disclosure: I work for Nokia, but nothing I write on this blog should be construed as representing the official views of the company.]
The first conversation was between Tero Ojanperä, EVP & CTO, Nokia, and Seamus McAteer, Chief Product Architect, M:Metrics. The "fireside chat" (there was no fire, but it was a relaxed discussion) started on the topic of Tero's new role in heading the new Entertainment and Communities business unit of Nokia's new [re]organization (effective January 1), where he will seeking new ways of unleashing the creativity of content developers (formerly known as consumers) through services such as MOSH, the recently released content sharing service we were promoting at Pop!Tech 2007, where many of the attendees interviewed - and videotaped - each other using Nokia N95 multimedia phones, and posted the interviews in a special PopTech 2007 collection (a fabulous mashup - or montage - of which, created by my colleague Nils Huehnergarth, is highly recommended (I just watched it again, and had yet another Pop!Tech-induced whole body experience watching the continuous partial conversations (but I digress))).
Other topics Tero and Seamus covered included the origins and goals of Ovi (Finnish for "door", Nokia's recently launched Internet gateway service), our increasing focus on developing regions (or emerging markets (or, as I was told is the latest term by another attendee, "growth economies")) and our recently launched proactive displays research prototype (woo woo!). Near the end of the conversation, when asked about the recent acquisition of Navteq, Tero noted that one of his goals is not just to bring the web to mobiles, but to co-create a context-sensitive web. Emphasizing that the key to the future of mobile social software is openness, Tero closed with the challenge "rather than sharing a pie that does not exist, can we create a new
industry that will serve everyone who participates in its creation?"
Next up was the first of a series of 5-minute "fast pitch" presentations by companies who are developing mobile social software:
- Brring offers a service where subscribers can earn money by incorporating advertising in their ringbacks (what calling parties hear when they dial the subscriber's number), and can earn even more money if they personalize ringbacks (advertisements) for their friends by creating profiles of them (which raises some privacy issues, though I suppose subscribers need not create accurate profiles of their friends ... and I can imagine interesting network - or perhaps, cyclical - effects arising ... "you profile me, I'll profile you").
- MyKidIsSafe offers a service that will monitor a child's use of SMS, email and Internet browsing, and alerts parents (via email or SMS) if any of 1500 objectionable words is detected. The speaker led off with some statistics - 1 out of 4 girls and 1 out of 6 boys will be molested by age 18, 50% of victims are under the age of 12, 30% never disclose the abuse, 75% of disclosures happen accidentally, and 50,000 sexual predators are online at any given time. I admire the presenter for his courageous disclosure that he and eight of his friends were sexually molested as children (such public disclosures are likely to reduce the number of nondisclosures). But I will also note my skepticism about the 50,000 online sexual predators statistic and my general belief that fears over online sexual predation are vastly disproportionate to the actual risks.
- Tapatap offers an online "social contest community" service through which users can create online contests - typically involving photos that people can vote on - in which people can participate by voting on their mobile phones or other web browser platforms. Contest sponsors can add a badge or widget to any major social networking service - of SNS - page (e.g., MySpace, Facebook, etc.). What most appealed to me about this service is that it represents a kind of Manhattan Story Mashup for the Masses (MSM was a Nokia-sponsored one-time event co-created by my [now] colleague Ville Tuulos that I mentioned in a blog post on Pervasive 2007 - a contest involving large screens, mobile phones and the web)
- Vello is a service that lets you schedule a conference call through a web interface that will send out invitations to participants (as Outlook Calendar items) and then call the other participants at the scheduled time. This was demonstrated in real-time for attendees at the Mobile Mashup, who were asked to [temporarily] change their mobile phone settings from silent to loud, creating, in effect, a short, impromptu telesymphony.
- Vyro Games demonstrated their Personal Input POD (PIP), a mobile stress management tool that uses a small wireless device that measures stress via electrodermal activity (EDA) in a fingertip and transmits the data via Bluetooth to a nearby mobile phone running their software. Nokians Doug MacMillan and Ashley Walker participated in Vyro's Relax and Race game onstage, in which the more relaxed person wins the race; the winner, Ashley, who was at the center of the storm in the planning and execution of this event (and our participation at Pop!Tech) then further demonstrated remarkable relaxation prowess in the single-player Storm Chaser game.
Next up was a panel on Community Building moderated by Serena Glover, founder of Twango (recently acquired by Nokia); panelists included Matthew Rothenberg (representing Flickr, a photo-sharing community), Kevin Yen (representing YouTube, a video-sharing community) and Jessica Alter (representing Bebo, a multimedia social networking community). I see that Alex Pang has posted pretty comprehensive coverage of this panel on his End of Cyberspace blog, so I'll just note a few highlights here.
- It's all about self-expression, people having something to say ... and having people to say it to (Jessica)
- Our goal is to make it as easy as possible for any Flickr user to get their data into or out of Flickr (Matt)
- The value proposition is key: people will invest time to learn something if they see it as really useful (Kevin)
- The next generation services will be based on augmenting experiences in the real world (Matt)
- Today it's all about camera phone photos taken & posted form events; in the future, it will be streaming video from events (Kevin)
- There's no way to make a service just mobile or just web anymore (Jessica)
The last panel before lunch was on the Millenial Mindset entitled "Schooled by the Next Generation – Today's Youth on Mobile Social", moderated by Ben Bajarin (Creative Strategies). Ben led off with some statistics about four categories of Internet users - Silver surfers (55M, age 65+), Baby boomers (77M, ages 40-65), Gen X (49M, ages 25-40) and Millenials or Gen Y (79M, ages 12-24) - and noting that every generation has a world view. The millenials' world view includes assumptions about connectivity and control - users control their media, media does not control them (although I wonder about the addictive nature of some online media sites, e.g., MySpace and Facebook, with respect to control or at least discipline issues) - and the need for speed (processing information up to 5 times faster than earlier generations ... Robert Scoble's recent demonstration of live linkblogging comes to mind, though Robert is not, technically, a millenial).
Panelist Ben Keighran, founder of Bluepulse (a video interview with whom was recently podcast by Scoble), noted that there are two categories of social networking services (SNS) for mobiles: chasing after MySpace vs. improving communication among real groups of friends ... and Ben's choice of words probably makes it clear which group Bluepulse falls into (the latter). Jon Lunetta, Director of Worldwide Sales for mywaves, noted that many millenial users are becoming CTO's of their own household and their network of friends. Ben also noted a "party host" phenomenon, where approximately 1 in 10 Bluepulse users become primary content creators for their circle of friends.
The panel also included two millenials, Andrew (a college freshman) and Christina (a high school student), who shared some of their first hand experiences with mobiles and social software. In the mobile world, both prefer texting over talking (for time, energy and/or multi-tasking or multi-channeling reasons), but differ in their favorite SNS - Andrew prefers Facebook (now that he is in college) and Christina prefers MySpace. For that matter, Ben (a Gen Xer, by my estimation) also said he has found Facebook very helpful in his recent move from Australia, and Jon (also a Gen Xer, I think) said he has increasingly been using Facebook for business contacts. Hmmm ... it's too bad Reid Hoffman (from LinkedIn) wasn't able to attend the event (due to illness), as it would have been interesting to discuss Facebook vs. LinkedIn for business-oriented social networking ... leading me to wonder about whether the famous quote from The Godfather - "it's nothing personal, it's just business" - applies to the world of social networking (or the world of business) [anymore].
After lunch, we started off with a panel on "Business Models for Mobile SocialCasting" moderated by Tim Chang, a Principal with Norwest Venture Partners. Rob Trice, a Partner with Nokia Growth Partners, started off drawing a two-dimensional graph representing growth areas for social software (Tim remarked that the traditional after-dinner activity at Rob's house is to go to the whiteboard): one dimension is existing vs. new, the other dimension is PC vs. mobile, noting that the disruptive opportunities lie along the horizontal line (spanning PC and mobile). Vineet Buch, a Principal at BlueRun Ventures, noted that the three main ingredients (and stages) in a successful SNS are vitality, engagement and monetization (in that order). Michelle Law, a Principal with Greylock Partners, noted that in the US, due to its high penetration of PCs, mobile SNS will primarily be extensions of PC-based SNS, and will based on one of three primary business models: subscription, advertising (impression-based), or virtual goods / virtual currency. Daniel Graf, CEO of kyte.tv, started out with a Kyte.TV video created and posted by Robert Scoble using an N95 while driving (Scoble has also created and posted a video about Daniel Graf and Kyte.TV ... focusing on it's use on a non-Nokia phone). Daniel noted that SNS are all about sharing relevant moments with your friends ... and - hopefully - most of those do not take place when you are in front of your PC.
There was another Fast Pitch session next, but I was out in the hallway, going over last-minute preparations with the moderator and panelists for the next panel (which I'd organized).
The panel, on "The Future of Connected Communities", began with moderator Alex Pang, Research Director at the Institute For The Future and author of 3 (!) fabulous blogs (Relevant History, The End of Cyberspace and IFTF's Future Now) introducing the panelists - Scott Golder (Researcher, HP Labs); Andrew Fiore (Ph.D. student, UC Berkeley); Marc Davis (Social Media Guru, Yahoo!) and Eric Paulos (Senior Research Scientist, Intel Research Berkeley) - and asking them to comment on concepts or technologies in the research on connected communities that had not yet been discussed during the day. Scott warned of the incipient dangers of information overload, and noted that "if all my FB friends updated their statuses 5 times a day, I’d cancel my account." Marc observed that we tend to overload "social" when talking about social networking, distinguishing between social networks (where people generally know those they link to) and attention networks (where people follow someone else's media stream, whether or not they really know them) and said that mobiles will increasingly become not [just] windows into the web, but part of a massively connected network that connects people to each other and to resources in the physical world. Andrew raised the question "What is a community?", noting the negative reaction of many Facebook users to the news feeds "feature", and said that SNS designers have to be sensitive to different levels of boundaries and the shared sense of symbols or meanings people create within those boundaries. Eric predicted that mobile and situated sensors - beyond cameras and microphones - will be a big thing, and that the enhanced ability to collectively sense and make sense of our environments will enable people to come together and promote grass-roots change. As an example of this, Marc noted how the use of mobiles to track the news on the London Bombings shows how the nature of news is being transformed (the recent "Twitterquake" is another recent example, closer to home).
Observing that in the near future, we'll have not just 4 billion people, but lots of other things connected on the net, Alex asked "What then? Will my refrigerator be on Facebook, and will it be offended if I don’t friend it?" Eric noted that this will create more opportunities for awareness of your everyday environment; Scott predicted that things like being able track physical events like what I've eaten and spent will help people improve their lives; Andrew noted that expanding awareness into, for example, what my friends are eating, will amplify the impacts of the tracking of personal events; Marc warned that as more real data about real people in the real world become available on mind, we have to be careful about structuring boundaries and relationships so that people feel safe (and thus, willing to share their data).
Scott then interjected that one of the important business (vs. social or technological) questions is “Who owns that data? Can your neighbor say 'Can I borrow a cup of sugar, I see you have plenty of it?' Can Safeway say 'You can’t have accesss to the data we have on the contents of your refrigerator'?" Marc agreed, adding a legal dimension to the discussion by noting a privacy bill introduced by John Edwards, and observing that well architected systems incentivize participation and protect privacy at the same time. Eric mused "I’m thinking of really bad DRM [Digital Rights Management] on your refrigerator."
Marc then turned attention to the audience, and asked "How many people out there who are working on mobile social software have an anthropologist / psychologist / sociologist on your teams?" Unfortunately, but hardly surprisingly (given my own experience), only about 5 hands went up. Mark then warned that "people have been studying these issues for hundreds of years … you’re hampering your efforts by not tapping into that."
The conversation among the moderator and panelists was flowing so smoothly that we were getting toward the end of our scheduled time without having opened up the floor to questions from the audience. Fortunately, Robert Scoble was there, and toward the end of the panel, he stood up and interjected a comment and a question (again demonstrating the changing nature of "news"): "I was just with Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google, and Chris DeWolfe, CEO of MySpace, where they announced they are going to work together on the open social platform. Do you have any comment?" [Unfortunately, my attention shifted from offline to online, and I started browsing around for more information about this - finding, among other things, the video interview that Robert had just posted with Eric and Chris - and so I didn't catch the responses from the panel.]
The next (and last) question was asked by my colleague, John Loughney, having to do with the risks of posting half-naked photos on MySpace that come back to haunt people during subsequent job interviews. Eric boldly opined that we are the last generation who will care about that. John started to ask another question about the tradeoffs between real time vs. virtual time together, but Valerie Buckingham, the overall organizer of the event, intervened to try to get us back on schedule, wryly noting that "I think I just heard that young people today don’t know what they’re doing".
Unfortunately, due to my engagement in the preceding panel and subsequent conversation with the panelists immediately after, I cannot report much on the next panel, on "Open Innovations - Communities of Developers that Create Communities of People", except to note that Valerie had another pithy assessment to offer at the end: "You know how once you decide to buy a certain car you see that car everywhere? Once we decided to embrace open innovation, we started to see that everywhere."
I did catch bits and pieces of the next (and last) Fast Pitch session:
- Mig33 is a mobile software service that is like MySpace, Email, Skype all rolled into one [mobile] platform.
- Mozes enables anyone to create a mobile promotion campaign (e.g., using SMS) that is also accessible through a PC browser.
- MyStrands offers a mobile social [music] player that bridges the gap between the web, the desktop and mobile devices, enabling users to play music, receive recommendations and connect with a community of friends and other music lovers. In the spirit of open innovation, they have recently announced an OpenStrands public API for their media and community services and are looking for sponsorship and distribution deals.
- Social FM is a social music service that offers discovery, sharing and recommendations, synching over home wireless networks, and "the fastest codec" for music in the business. The slide deck used images of very attractive performers Nelly Furtado and Fergie, which I noticed seemed to rivet the visual attention of large segments of the audience (um, not that I was in any affected, of course).
Whew! It was quite a day, and these notes only cover some of the highlights. It is always useful for me to go back and review my notes from events like this, doing a little more research on what was presented and discussed, and digesting it all in a somewhat more accessible way (than scattered notes in a Word document). As usual, I don't know if any of this is useful for anyone else, but it will at least provide a useful future reference point for me.