Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Let's do some quick research on people's attitudes to privacy and consent

And just to make sure we have a reasonably big sample, let's get the data from one million people.

Before the digital economy, that would be the sort of ambition that would probably get your funding proposal filed in the circular basket. But now, those sorts of data sets are readily available. In fact, Yahoo Research conducted a very interesting study on the topic, very recently. You can read about it here.

So, to paraphrase Microsoft, "what interesting questions might you like to ask today?"

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Obtaining user feedback in the digital age

Google's email program is flawed. One of the labels in the 'labs' section says Enable, when it really should say Enabled (the meaning is reversed). Granted, this could hardly be considered a show stopping bug, but I felt the urge to point this out, and so I clicked on their 'give us feedback' link. A few moments later I was signed up to the Google Group for the Gmail product. Two minutes after that, my feedback was posted, and I went back to work.

What I hadn't realised was that I was about to receive a major insight into just how powerful Open Innovation can be. Five minutes ago, I received an email, from the Google group, containing a digest of the suggestions that had been submitted. There were 25 of them. Out of curiosity I scanned through them, and found that they were all useful contributions. Not one of them was enticing me to buy a time share in Vanuatu, or some dodgy pills. But that's not the amazing part. The truly astonishing part about this email was that it was very similar to the one I received an hour earlier, and the one before that. In fact, as far as I can tell, Google is receiving dozens and dozens of useful suggestions every hour.

Obviously, a company of Google's size is likely to attract a lot of feedback, but I simply hadn't realised just how much they receive. It would seem as though a key problem for many organisations will be how to make sense of the huge amount of feedback that is available to them, and how to integrate it into their design process.

How can they identify priorities from the fire hydrant of comments, and how can they evolve their products fast enough to take advantage of the stream of ideas?

Friday, 24 October 2008

There is a time and a place ...

The use of technology is not always appropriate - there is a time and a place!

The question arises, how might we stop people using technology, stop them making use of the always-on nature of the DE? Which comes back to the theme of work/life balance.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Economit Intelligence Unit reports on the Digital Economy

The EIU has released a couple of, survey based, reports on the Digital Company in 2013. You can download them here.

As I was reading them, I was struck by the difference between my experience of the digitial economy, and the one that CIOs were describing for five years hence. Practically everything they discussed is available, and in use, right now. By way of example, I learnt about these reports, not through a flyer arriving in my post box, but via David Gurteen's Knowledge Newsletter. Having read the story, I looked over at my Skype contact list and noticed that David was still in Australia, and so not available for an instant (and free) video conference. And, the surprising part, of course, was that this way of working is completely normal for me, and hundreds thousands of other people.

So, what is holding these, predominantely larger, companies back? Perhaps, the technology just isn't simple enough to implement and integrate. If so, the real challenge for digitial economy researchers may be about making existing technologies simple enough to facilitate their widespread adoption, at an acceptable cost.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Now everyone is a fashion designer

The Finnish company, Vallila Interiors, has opened a, crowd sourced, fabric design site called Bon Bon Kakku. The site's welcome page nicely captures the mission.

Bon Bon Kakku is pioneering net store where you can design your own fabrics. If your design is a success, it will be also sold on the site. Every fabric designed on our site will be published on our site for viewers to see and vote for. We will choose the fabrics to sell on our store based on the results of viewers voting.

For a fashion designer, this would seem to offer instant market research for free. However, the moves to crowd sourcing also raise large questions about IPR. The future of design looks exciting and potentially quite messy.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Will young people watch television anymore?

I have to confess that, until recently, I hadn't paid much attention to youtube. I knew it was there, and had visited it when I was looking for something specific - my most recent occasion was when I wanted to know how to cook an omelette. Thank you, no need to share your comments on my culinary skills!

Anyway, the point is that I saw youtube as a video streaming site for short, and discreet videos of variable quality. That was, until I watched my nephews, one evening. They were bored, fed up with their video games, and couldn't go out. So, they turned to youtube. For the next hour, they built their own customised TV show, simply by searching for topics of interest - in their case, it largely revolved around people engaging in various escapades that were clearly going to end badly, and did.

They were untroubled by the lack of plot, the variability of quality, and the fact that they had to stitch it together themselves. In fact, this latter point was a major positive. And, at no time during the this event, did any of them think about turning on their humungous TV, to see what the channels were broadcasting.

This shift away from mainstream media has important implications for how people co-create their digital lives. Demos, the think tank, has just published a report on this topic. Understandably, given their background, they are exploring the idea from a more political perspective.

Cheap digital technology and broadband access have broken the moving-image monopoly held by production companies and broadcasters. In its place a new theatre of public information has emerged.
It is a messy, alternative realm of video creation and exchange that extends across the internet, television, festivals and campaigns. This report charts the rise of the ‘Video Republic’ across Europe, a new space for debate and expression dominated by young people.

Is mainstream media a dead zone for the next generation? What do you think?

Monday, 6 October 2008

The call is open!

The call document for Expressions of Interest should be going live at overnight. The deadline is 4pm, Thursday 6 November 2008.

And why is this one different - part 2

When it comes to innovation, we believe it is essential to practice what you preach. So, given that this event is all about digital design, and the new modes of collaboration, we are hoping to explore all sorts of internet technologies before, during and after the event.

If you have any suggestions of tools we should consider, please add them in the comments.

And why is this one different?

Normal sandpits last a week.  They are intensive and tightly focussed.  This is the first one run in an experimental format known (internally to the EPSRC) as 1-5-1.  The 5 is the normal sandpit, but the first 1 is a "scoping workshop" held with a wider community to help pre-form the ideas that might be explored in the sandpit.  That workshop was held on 24th September in Canary Wharf and we are getting to the end of the analysis and discussion that generated.

The final 1 is a feedback meeting, where the projects are played back to the wider community to validate their goals and make sure we take the community with us.


Sunday, 5 October 2008

But what is a sandpit??

This is taken from a review I wrote of a sandpit on nanotechnology I took part in a couple of years ago.  I am sure all of our thinking has moved on, but it's a good starter!!

Ideas Factories, or Sandpits as they are also called, are a novel way to define research programmes. The EPSRC has run something like 15 over the last two years, ranging over a wide variety of topics. The premise is disarmingly simple. The academics compete to be part of the event, demonstrating a knowledge of the area under consideration and a commitment to team working.
Once there, they have to all agree about the best projects and how the money is spent. The EPSRC call this real-time peer review. In practice the Director and the mentors, and the EPSRC personnel, all take part in the development of the ideas, but the scientists have to be the core of the ideas – for it is they that take forward the work.
The premise of an Ideas Factory is simple to state and very difficult to implement. No matter how hard they try, every participant will come to the event with an idea of what the outcome should be and how they can contribute to it. The first day is dedicated to assembling these ideas into the first round of potential projects. Once they are derived, the groups are hybridised in order to disrupt these pre-existing ideas and networks. The second day is therefore concerned with rebuilding potential projects from pieces of the first day’s projects. Just as everyone is beginning to get comfortable, an external speaker is brought in to give a totally different viewpoint of the problem – and the teams are once again scrambled. That means that the third day is once again taken up with building projects – but this time with a doubly mixed-up set of experiences and prejudices. The experience in the room was such that many things had to be discarded through these first three days – not because there were not interesting or challenging research projects, and not because they were not valuable areas to explore. What survives this process are ideas that everyone thinks are challenging and that (probably) would not have evolved in the course of normal academic discussion and interaction. The fourth day is then taken up with developing the ideas and presenting them back to the wider group.
It is worth noting that the concept of real-time peer review can be inhibited by too much politeness, or the sense of fair play that the English often prize too highly. At this point, the projects – and the teams that have assembled to develop them – are in competition with one another for the funds. The EPSRC nominally allocates an amount of money at the start and unless everyone agrees (including the EPSRC sponsor, the Director and the mentors) that the projects are of real value, then no money is spent. There is a ‘‘dragon’s den’’ at the end of the fourth day where the teams present to the Director and mentors – it is not always a cordial affair!! The final day is for costing out the agreed programmes and the tailoring to fit the available budget.