Category Archives: lifestyle

Digital Tourettes

What a joy and how peculiar are the serendipitous errors of predictive texting!

Boris bike becomes virus bike, my cube becomes my vine, etc.

Who is communicating with whom here?   Are our devices becoming ineptly articulate beneath our very fingers?

Are they in fact emerging with a kind of half-learned Tourettes syndrome, from an algorithmic, primordial swamp to roar incoherently in the background of our misspelt, misread communications?

“Swing by my vine on your virus bike and can ketchup on earth thing”.

 We start to question whether what we intended to write in the first place is as good as the word the predictive text system thought we had mistyped.  We start to wonder whether the digital Tourettes offering isn’t in some strange way more poetic, more suggestive than what our banal brains had initially inserted.

We’re in danger of becoming over-sensitised to the mistakes of language that our mechanical failings engender.  We might almost begin to wonder whether these machine interventions might have a superior, almost spiritual dimension beyond their dumb machine origins.   These are no longer mere typos, but ontological dilemmas which go deep into the very wiring of our brains and the coding of our algorithms.

This is how we become linguistically more enmeshed in our technologies, just as we are becoming more physically enmeshed in the web, our apps and our devices.  Of course the military already has applications so that soldiers get  to kill people remotely using networked devices.  Hopefully we can start to use drones and robots to live more positively too.  What intrigues me is not so much the big immersive experiences but the more subtle enmeshing.  There is an emerging vision of a human prostheticised,  life extended  through artificial components inserted into our bodies, remotely monitored or even remotely controlled. This is no longer science fiction, it’s already normal and accepted.  I’m lucky enough to have my father still with us due to phenomenal non-invasive heart surgery.  As far as I know, his new heart valve is neither remotely monitored nor controlled, but that’s not for lack of available technology. The site of runners in marathons with foot or leg prosthetics is now commonplace, however much it still commands our respect.

So when the tech starts to offer us, plausible alternative views through our digital camera implants, compared to what our eyes naturally see, and our verbal choices start to be influenced by our predictive speech algorithms to make us appear more articulate, what will we end up seeing and saying about our world? And who or what will determine our word choices then?

Quotable quotes from TED Global 2010

“Power is no longer a zero sum game”  Joseph Nye

“I’ll simplify a lot of tasks you never had to do before” Patrick Chapatte on Steve Jobs

“The slow hunch – great ideas fade into view over long periods of time” Steven Berlin Johnson

“Re-implement biology but inorganically, so we can grow technology like an organism” Neil Gershenfeld

“Businesses today are built on how you add value not on how you control limited information” Neil Gershenfeld

“Telling me your goal makes it less likely to happen because the mind mistakes the telling for the doing” Derek Sivers

“In order to do good, you have to do something.” Emily Pilloton

“My subject is food, which concerns everyone, it is health which concerns everyone, it is soil which concerns everyone, although they may not know it” Lady Eve Balfour, 1946 quoted by Adrian Dolby

“Personal debt has grown massively because people buy things they don’t want, to create impressions that don’t last on people they don’t care about.” Tim Jackson

“Don’t let life de-genius you.” Buckminster Fuller

“A teacher that can be replaced by a machine, should be!” Arthur C Clarke quoted by Sugata Mitra

“The average cat in Europe has a larger carbon footprint than the average African” Jason Clay

“You cannot wake up a person who is pretending to sleep” Jason Clay

“Images with straight lines in them create a sense of fear in the brain” Alex Kelleher

“Schizophonia – a dislocation between what you see and what you hear” Julian Treasure

“Extracting ice for analysis from Antarctica – each cylinder is a parfait of time” Lee Hotz

“Have a cup of coffee, act fierce and keep on dancing” Andrea Lucard

“If you meet the expectations of women, you exceed the expectations of men” Marti Baletta

Quotes from TED Global 2009 – Oxford, England

spreading ideas worth spreading

quotes from speakers at TED Global

“Globalisation will lead to a new Renaissance, a huge opportunity for innovation. But there are also two huge problems. Firstly, those who are left out and excluded. Secondly, managing growing complexity which leads to systemic shock (eg current recession, swine-fever, etc).” Ian Goldin

“Afghanstar, Poet of the Millions, the unintended consequences of Britain’s got Talent, in Asia and the Middle East, Reality TV is driving reality.” Cynthia Schneider

“Sound can be like a bowl of spaghetti,  sometimes you just have to eat it and see what happens.” Julian Treasure

“Regret factors associated with cyber warfare threat could be equivalent to weapons of mass destruction.” Guy-Philippe Goldstein quoting US military

“It is better to be sometimes cheated, than not to trust.” Samuel Johnson quoted by Susan Kish

“Today, the information monopoly is broken, so brands need to find a place for themselves in this swirling mimetic environment.” Andy Hobsbawn

“The pain of psychological death + the pleasure of beating yourself = hunger in paradise.” Rasmus Ankersen

“The opposite of snobbery is your mother.” Alain de Bothon

“The trouble with our meritocracy is that in the 21st Century people own their own success, but they also own their own failure.” Alain de Bothon

“Obsession made my life worse and my work better.” artist quoted by Stefan Sagmeister

“Super massive black holes represent the breakdown of our understanding of the physical universe.” Andrea Ghez

“I found a dead fly and plucked a hair off its head to make a paint brush. I would never do that to a live insect.” William Wigan, micro sculptor

“Mirrors would do well to reflect a little longer before sending back images.” James Geary quoting Jean Cocteau

“In Mexico, the Indians played music to stay in touch with their ancestors, but in Africa they play to stay as far from the grave as possible.” Mark Johnson

“The internet can be characterised as random acts of kindness by geeky strangers.” Jonathan Zittrain

“Work places and institutions are preventing our efforts to use technology to create greater intimacy between ourselves.” Stefana Broadbent

“What’s wrong with placebo’s? They have very few side effects and most of those are purely imaginary.” Rory Sutherland

“As an adman, I think of saving as consumerism needlessly postponed.” Rory Sutherland

“Bio-diversity is collapsing, mass extinction is taking place in our fiels without anyone noticing. You don’t look a corn seed in the eye, as you might a panda bear, but we still need seedbanks.” Cory Fowler

“Leaving something unfinished makes it incomplete and gives one the feeling that there is room for growth.” 14th Century Japanese essay on idleness quoted by Marcus Du Santoy

“Some stars have swallowed their planets.” Garik Israelian

“People could stroll and get their learn on. People could come to this sidewalk garden and chillax.” Candy Chang

“What do scientists do if paradigms fail? They carry on as nothing had happened, saying yes I know it’s wrong, but if it were right…?” Elaine Morgan

“African students study under streetlights at the aiport because they have no electricity at home.” Paul Romer

“3% of arable land is taken up by the world’s current cities inhabited by 3bn people.” Paul Romer

“80% of traded food is controlled by 5 multinational companies.” Carolyn Steel

“40 cities represent 90% of the world’s wealth.” Parag Khanna

“Dry areas cover over 1/3rd of the earth’s surface.” Magnus Larsson

“In India, 62% of all injections given are unsafe.” Mark Koska

“90% of the feature requests for features in Word – are already in Word.” Aza Raskin

“Organised crime represents 15% of global GDP.” Misha Glenny

“40bn batteries are disposed of every year.” Eric Giler

“Only 3% of GDP is invested in technology R&D annually” Geoff Mulgan

“Life is a series of things you’re not quite ready for.” Rob Hopkins

“Design is a priesthood wearing black polo neck sweaters and designer glasses. Design is too important to be left to designers.” Tim Brown

“I wanted to know what had turned my best friend into a terrorist and why she had not tried to recruit me.” Lorreta Napoleoni

“The music makes my therapy, I have no advisor, no one to talk to, music helps my imagination.” Emmanuel Jal

“To change the world, using no resources, use music.” Ross Lovegrove

“Tritium is bred from lithium, using the neutron.” Steve Cowley

“In ballooning we understand that winds, at different altitudes,  blow in different directions. So in life, if we want to change direction, we need to reach different levels and to do this we have to throw things overboard, we have to get rid of a lot of ballast, certainties, dogmas, paradigms.” Bertrand Piccard

“The empires of the future are the empires of the mind.” Winston Churchill quoted by Richard Bernstein

“Always take ‘no’ as a question not an answer.” aphorism quoted by Geoff Mulgan

“We are here on earth to help others, what on earth the other are here for I have no idea.” John Lloyd quoting W H Auden

“Ice is the canary in the global coal mine.” James Balog

“If we refuse a single story and know that there are many stories, then we regain a kind of paradise.” Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

“Roman military expeditions were just one long shopping spree really.” Carolyn Steel

“Architecture is retrofitting the world to our needs.” Bjarke Ingels

“There is a severe mismatch between what science knows and what business does.” Daniel Pink

“The musical work is in your head, conductors are building the roller coaster with sound as the orchestra plays.” Itay Talgam

“We are doing nothing, because we want to see what is the inner point of all the difference.”  Brother Paulus Terwitte

Quotes from CISAC Copyright Summit 2009, Washington DC

“The degradation of the quality image is the only thing I fear from the digital age.” (Frank Stella, artist)

Frank Stella

“How do you value consciousness?” (Frank Stella)

“Artists are lazy but they are capable of being mobilized. But they won’t organise around financial things but more about moral protests and causes.” (Frank Stella)

Paul williams

“In 1967, I turned up at A&M Music in a stolen car. I looked like a kid until you put me next to a real kid. Then I looked like a kid with a hangover.” (Paul Williams, songwriter)


milos

“The Internet is like a supermarket shopping bag with all the things in it for free too.” (Milos Forman, film director)

Richard Feynman – the orange juice song

Sometimes you have to just let go –  sit down on that back step and start talking in tongues or singing with drums or whatever it is that you feel the need to do – just to let that precious brain relax awhile.

Boing Boing just highlighted this fab extract from a great documentary on the legendary scientist and eccentric Richard Feynman. I was inspired by his song to encourage my children to drink orange juice (fortunately no video of my orange-juice remix has been preserved) –  you can use it to let it take you to whatever destination you choose! In Feynman’s words it’s Tuva or Bust! Enjoy!

The Featured Artists Coalition

The Featured Artists Coalition got off to a roaring public start this week. I had the honour of presenting the first general meeting of the organisation and introducing the key speakers Billy Bragg, Ed O’Brien, Kate Nash and Dave Rowntree. They each spoke from their individual experience and with great personal passion about how much freedom they felt in being able to create their own direct relationships with their fans and audiences, and make their own decisions about how to release their work. The meeting started with this video and it was clear that they each felt the incredible degree of change in the world has to be a source of excitement and opportunity for forward-thinking artists. The FAC is a reflection of that.

No one knows yet exactly where the focus of this new organisation will be exactly or what direction it will take, but the vibe in the room at Heaven was energised and hugely optimistic. There was a real sense that this was a historic moment in the development of the music industry, that this was the day when artists finally were acknowledged as being at the centre of the industry – and not a peripheral asset to be bargained down and exploited – the day when the record companies joined the ranks of suppliers to the artists – alongside collecting societies, publishers, digital delivery platforms, social and mobile network operators – and even gasp – managers!

Of course, the range of opinions among different artists about how to respond to technological and business challenges will be as diverse as are the artists themselves. But the underlying principles of a desire for transparency and for fair-dealing in the commercial aspects of making and selling music – and the desire to maintain personal ownership of their creative output –  are incredibly strong unifying factors which bind together the interests of new and established acts.

There were unsigned bands who expressed real concerns: “If we sign up for the FAC, will that put our relationship with a major label under threat?” asked one new act about to sign a  recording deal with a major.  From the organisers of the FAC that was certainly not the intention and by the sounds of the welcoming comments from the BPI, it was not the view of the labels either. But there was also a real hunger for guidance and advice on a wide range of topics from navigating the digital landscape to contract reviews to advice on selecting a manager. The arrival of the FAC will be a tremendous enlightening and progressive force in the industry and should quickly be able to get to a point when it can act as an authoritative guide and give bands a chance to take a step back and reconsider their options.  The FAC has the opportunity  t0 offer real advice on approved alternatives to artists so that they can make informed choices about whether they want to sign to a label, go via digital distributor platform or set up their own site to sell to their fans.

Much has been said too about how the FAC will negotiate rights for its members and seek to take a seat at the table with the major players when deals are being struck. It will be interesting to see how the strengths of the organisation can be directed to best use in this area. Some companies like Myspace Music have been cautious in their response to first soundings, while others like Nokia welcome the direct involvement of artists and the creative community in what they’re doing.

There is lots of work for the FAC steering committee to do right now, including hiring a staff to turn these aspirations into reality. So wish them well on this journey, music should be the better for it!

Quotes from TED 2009

“There will come a time when you believe everything is finished – that is the beginning.”

Juan Enriquez quoting Louis L’Amour

“Is it our machines or is it us that are wired for war?”

P W Singer on military robots

“Oh how’s your economy falling apart? Oh Ok, that a little different from how mine is!”

Bill Gates reporting on conversations this year at Davos

“English was the language of colonists but it has become the language of entrepreneurship.”

Nandan Nilekani on India growth

“Leaders are heretics not sleepwalkers.”

Seth Godin on creating tribes

“Follow the speed of the animals to understand how they live.”

Jacques Perrin on the making of his movie Oceans

“All of us has the exact same percentage of salt in our blood as does the water in the ocean. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch – we are going back from whence we came.”

Jacques Perrin quoting JFK

“It’s too late to be pessimistic – we are all part of the solution.”

Yann Arthus-Bertrand – photographer and film-maker

“Seeing with the brain is often called imagination.”

Oliver Sacks

“We have built the Allo Sphere – a three story high sphere in a building – visualisation as virtual reality.”

Joann KucheraMorin – University of Santa Barbara

“All seagulls look as if they’re called Emma.”

Christian Morgenstern quoted by Golan Levin

“To those who have to go without two meals a day, God can only appear as bread.”

Mahatma Ghandi quoted by Louise Fresco

“American poet, Ruth Stone, perceived her poems as storms rolling across the landscape towards her and if she caught one she could write it down. But if she missed it, it would barrel on through the landscape until it found another poet who could capture it.”

Elizabeth Gilbert – novelist

“It is now possible to conceive a child who is to be borne two hundred years from now.”

Juan Enriquez

“Between stability and instability, in every public space, there is a desire to communicate something that is memorable.”

Daniel Libeskind

“It is important to remember that we are not at the pinnacle of our own evolution.”

Jill Tarter

“This is a nightmare, which will pass away with the morning. For the resources of nature and men’s devices are just as fertile and productive as they were. The rate of our progress towards solving the material problems of life is not less rapid. We are as capable as before of affording for everyone a high standard of life…and will soon learn to afford a standard higher still. We were not previously deceived. But to-day we have involved ourselves in a colossal muddle, having blundered in the control of a delicate machine, the working of which we do not understand. The result is that our possibilities of wealth may run to waste for a time—perhaps for a long time.”

John Maynard Keynes from his essay The Big Slump, 1930 quoted at TED by Chris Anderson.

“Larger markets increase the incentive to produce new ideas.”

Nate Silver – economist

“When people say that’s impossible, they’re confused because by impossible they simply mean they don’t know to do that yet.”

Bruce Buenode Mesquita

“Wisdom is moral jazz.”

Barry Schwartz

“We must not just ask is it profitable, we must also ask is it right?”

Barak Obama quoted by Barry Schwartz

“If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.

Thomas Jefferson quoted by Liz Coleman









Data-mining Consumers – The New Land-grab

Consumer data is emerging as an unspoken battleground among the many emerging routes to the digital music market place.  New models for making money out of recorded music continue to grow and proliferate, and no single model yet seems to be winning out.  But lurking in the digital undergrowth,  the recurring theme of consumer profiling is cropping up all over the place.  It’s not surprising, given the long hazy years of little two-way relationship between recording artists and their fans, that in our new data driven day businesses are rushing to try to fill the gap.

Interestingly in the music space, there is little open talk of CRM yet,  most are still experimenting with how to make new distribution or aggregation models work and with trying to create consumer offerings that are more compelling than p2p.  The focus is still on trying to monetise the transaction at the front end securely, on how to reduce friction and margin-slicing in the transfer from final mix to consumer or on trying to substitute the consumer transaction for an advertising based solution.

And yet lurking in the business models of many of these new players is a growing sense that data about consumer behaviour is going to be a driving force and a most valuable one. And it is massively needed by the marketeers. Anything that can help bring down the cost of launching a new artist will be hungrily received by the artists themselves, their managers or the labels they might consider signing to.  Of course, the unpredictability of fashion and of the “kids on the street”, means that risk will never be eradicated from this story, but that only serves to increase the value of anything that can reduce it.  Intuition, street awareness, being “one of them” – and occasionally actual market research –  have been the main ways that labels have understood the interests and behaviour of their fans in the past. But as that behaviour has migrated more aggressively online, so it has become more trackable and potentially much more valuable – even if it’s never ultimately second-guessable.

Understanding the different paths that fans take to different pieces of digital content alone starts to help, understanding everything about what they buy and do online would be even better. Connecting that with their real world actions would almost complete the picture. It might well be that dubstep fans in London tend to be quite eclectic, sample clips but rarely buy except ring tones which they use for mashups and then maybe buy a few psychedelic wallpapers. Conversely, grindcore fans in Milwaukee might well turn out to be more encyclopaedic in their purchases of everything available for a much narrower selection of acts. Matching these behaviours to digital interactions, digital purchase data and to concert attendance will be a compelling means to closing the loop. Knowledge of this kind will be a powerful driver in honing new marketing campaigns, customer acquistion and retention programs based on more than just a product manager’s one or two painfully hip factors.

Once you have access to data of this kind on a statistically meaningful scale and if you also have access to the individuals, then you start to know much more precisely the manner in which you should most successful reach out to them. You’ll know if they are the kind of fan that wants to engage in an interactive, blog driven dialogue with an artist or a community around a band – or if they just prefer to be told when the new stuff is coming out and then they’ll just go buy it.  In this kind of environment, the more permission-based access to highly profiled music fans you can assemble, the more powerful a marketing tool your business can become.

Forrester Research forecast sales of generic CRM process software will reach $2.7 billion by 2009 and that of course is an estimate focussed largely on the trending sales of the big players like Siebel, Peoplesoft, Salesforce, etc. Music related software sales would only be a small portion of that, but the real value of developing a business around this data driven model is to be derived from the other businesses that implement it and sell on their aggregated knowledge to artists, managers and labels.

The new mobile services from Nokia and Sony Ericsson are going to have pretty tight data-lock in with their customers as they accumulate ownership of music on their system. Combine that knowledge with the new mobile phone based ticketless concert-entry purchase systems and the potential is rapidly apparent. No doubt the deals the major labels have just all done with the mobile operators includes a high degree of data sharing in the aggregate. But of course even as Europe continues to lead in developing sophistication of its mobile consumers’ behaviour, the tightness of consumer data protection legislation here means that the mobile operators will have a signficant benefit over the majors – they will know who the customers are – and where they live – not to mention the destinations of the phone calls they make.

Interesting questions start to arise as we see the massive and diverse proliferation of products, services, platforms and widgets that each are capable of generating customer data in different formats across different but frequently not matching areas of consumer activity. And so right now, every business that is even thinking of signing up fans and artists is also dreaming, if not salivating at the prospect,  of the ability to deliver this kind of data to a massive degree. The question will be who can get the best qualified profiles and the most responsive permissions.  It will also be about who can effectively aggregate and match the data sourced from multiple sources across multiple geographies to define profiles and data even more precisely. The battle is truly on. And of course, all these guys are thinking, if we can make this work in music just think how many other verticals we can apply it in!

The real unknown in this though is how susceptible music buyers are to this kind of relationship management. Undoubtedly there will be some sectors and some musical genres that will demonstrate much more predictability than others. Music fans’ relationships with their favourite bands and artists are not based on some rational set of statistical metrics, but on emotional, cultural and above all transient characteristics which might just mystify the best of algorithms – what we can’t yet tell is just fickle they turn out to be.

Further thoughts on Broadband TV and Music

The irony of the current parallel engagements of the UK ISPs with both the film and TV industries and the music industries is that their conversations are coming from completely different directions. The ISPs are running to the broadcasters and complaining about the BBC’s iPlayer and the imminent Kangaroo player which will have ITV and Channel 4 content on it as well. The complaint is very clear – you are soaking up all our bandwidth and gaining revenue at our expense. In the case of the BBC – the argument is uniquely British – you are fulfilling your Public Service Charter by reaching more people in the community at the expense of commercial service providers who are having to “subsidise” the additional bandwidth usages. In the case of the commercial broadcasters, the argument could be even simpler, but equally difficult to resolve: you are raising ad revenue through programs transmitted not on your broadcast network but on our broadband network – we want a piece of that.

In the case of the music companies the argument is the exact opposite. The music folk are going to the ISPs and saying – you are making money out of our content. All this p2p activity on your networks is illegal and it’s not yielding us rights owners a penny, while you continue to compete with each other on better bandwidth for your buck packages. We want some of your money.

Seems to me, given the size and health of the respective industry sectors and the general balance of power in the cultural stakes, that the music companies might be a lot better served trying to persuade the p2p folk to go legal and share the ad revenues accordingly – or to try to persuade the ISPs that only legal, ad revenue or subscription revenue bearing schemes should be allowed on their networks and illegal p2p should be closed down – and then negotiating for the right splits.

That would of course require that the music companies be prepared to license a few services to show the ISPs that they mean business. At the moment, they seem very concerned about doing that. Let’s hope that the majors don’t go try to down the usual control and command route and offer some home-brewed service of their own, but act on some of their words and collaborate with some of the new businesses out there that might just add value to the whole sector  – given the right licensing terms.

Perhaps for the first time, the Music industry could be unified enough and easy enough to deal with so that it might make common cause with film and tv – rather than lagging behind them in the commercial stakes. But even so, it will need to back some players – wether they be last.fm or playlouder in the UK – to be the added value providers on top of the network capabilities of the ISPs. That means new players in a new value-chain and margins that might be not end up being all that different from the old distributor and retail cuts…

TED 2008 – Quotes from speakers

“The cave drawings at Lascaux are postcards of nostalgia”

“All peoples are cultural options – simply differing visions of life”

“Western life is a major response to minor needs”

“Tibetan monks say: we don’t believe that you went to the moon, but you did. You don’t believe we can achieve enlightenment in one lifetime – but we do”

– Wade Davis

“The first thing we do in life is breathe and then cry. The last thing we do in life is breathe and make other people cry.” – Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

“I follow people because they look interesting. Once I was accused of cruising someone, but I was just following him because he was wearing great shoes.”

“Style is great because it takes your mind off the fact that you’re going to die.”

“Do many things in order not to feel bad about just one thing.” – Isaac Mizrahi

“Advertising is the price companies pay for being unoriginal” – Yves Behar

“All science is either physics or stamp collecting” – Ernest Rutherford (quoted by Brian Cox of CERN)

“50% of the US lies beneath the sea and we have better maps of Mars than of that 50%” – Bob Ballard

“Children have a great delight and skill at climbing trees and they don’t seem to share the same fear of heights that humans do.” – Richard Preston

“What’s a surprise for the turkey is not a surprise for the butcher – so don’t be a turkey.” – Nassim Nicholas Taleb

“The future isn’t what it used to be” – Paul Valery (quoted by Peter Schwartz)
“Getting in touch with … the reptillian core of the brain” – Helen Fisher

“Anything a man can do – I can fix.” – Chris Abani’s mother

“In Rwanda, before the genocide, the words for marriage and rape were the same.” – Chris Abani

“There’s an old African proverb: If you want to go quickly – go alone. If you want to go far – go together. We have to go far quickly.” – Al Gore

“Go to the place of the person that you are becoming – not just what you have become.” – John Francis

“Sport is to war as pornography is to sex.” – Jonathan Haidt