The web

If Facebook And Twitter Are Today, Is This Tomorrow?

Real time communications are increasingly seeping into our world and the era of ubiquitous web is upon us.  Twitter allows us to disseminate comments and links at the speed of bits, creating a whole new way of discovering information.  Facebook keeps friends and family updated with the latest thoughts and images from our life.  Yes, even the use of email is changing.   We still send emails and that will not change for a while, but how many times do you engage in an “instant email” conversation with a friend or co-worker.

This begs the question:  What will we be using tomorrow?  What new types of technologies will disrupt new industries to create unthought ways in which we will use the our devices?  Here is my quick thinking on four emerging ideas as I gaze into the web tonight.

Real Time Local Information Platform

Imagine a twitter like experience, including relevant informational updates from around your local city/town/village, from people and places you chose to stay connected to, delivered to your mobile device in real time.  This will happen sooner than you think…  Some might say “well Nick, that sounds a lot like Twitter, I don’t believe another platform will replace Twitter.”  Great, me neither.

I think Twitter will continue to grow and mature into a different set of protocols and essentially replace certain information hubs we still use today.  But Twitter cannot be ubiquitous worldwide and at the same time incredibly strong on a local level.  What I think will be different is exactly how the “local” community uses technology to disseminate information.  I am hedging my bet on it not being Twitter proper as we use it today.  I believe a new player will emerge with specific value propositions set for the local merchant/community/consumer.

Social Search and Discovery

I have written extensively on the concept of Social Search, you can find them here on Business Insider.  My main theory is around the fact that in the not-so-distant future we will discover and find relevant information not from a traditional Google search but from leveraging our network of contacts.  Think about how much information your network of twitter followers, Facebook friends, and linkedIn contacts interact with on a daily basis.  I believe new platforms will be built to collect, organize and disseminate this information to you exactly when you need it.  No more 10 links per page with 1,000,000 results crap.  If you think about it, why do  search engines even tell you about a million results anyway?  That doesn’t mean anything to us as users.  Whatever….  My point is the forefront of social search and discovery will come from some surpassing players, no doubt.

Mobile Commerce

In less than 5 years, there is no doubt your commercial experience – especially around your local community – will be tremendously different than it is today.  Paying with cash… gone.  Calling in an order on the phone… forget it, so last century.  Waiting in lines to be seated… a thing of the past.  Being called Sir or Madam from the restaurant owner…. probably not any more when they now can identify you.  With the use of new mobile commerce technologies, all this will be unified within a local commercial network, encompassing orders, payments, communications, social sharing opportunities, offers, marketing messages, etc… and all this will be personalized to the individual so no two people have the same experience.  It will be amazing and all driven through your mobile device of choice. Someone should be work on this…

Auto-web

What if cars could talk?  No, not to us… to each other.   Web enabled cars will fundamentally transform our world.  I am not referring to cars having internet screens in them, which some do today and will in the future as a standard feature. More specifically, Google is not too crazy to be working on a self driving car.  If an automobile is connected to the web and in constant communications with all the other “devices” on the grid, theoretically there shouldn’t be any more accidents or fatalities due to automobiles.  Each car would travel at a certain speed, maintain a certain distance from another, roll along on a set route and never veer from the predetermined destination.  It will be transportation 2.0.  I believe that day is not too far off the radar and would be a great time to invent or invest in this area.

These are just a few of the things I thought of tonight when I asked myself… man, if Facebook and Twitter are today, what is tomorrow?

@jnickhughes

Dear Advertiser: Please Do Better

This post was originally published on BusinessInsider.com.

 

Dear Advertiser,

We haven’t formally met but we have had an ongoing relationship for quite some time.  I am a consumer; you are an advertiser trying to sell me something.  Our Love/Hate relationship goes something like this: I love to use my internet but hate to be interrupted by you.  I know you are the one I should actually thank for my ‘free’ usage of all the websites and applications on the web, but deep down in my heart I am finding it hard to thank you.  You see, I just want to go about my day and easily use the mobile apps I enjoy, listen to my favorite music on Pandora, search on the topics I need to know about and read interesting articles.

But here is what I don’t think you fully understand.  You make my life worse.  You interrupt me in every possible way you can think of and believe just because you “got  in front of my eyeballs”, I will make a purchase.  The thing is, I cannot easily use my mobile apps, since you jump right in as I load it up and steal another 5 or 10 seconds of my time.  I hate this!  When I listen to Pandora, between every 2 or 3 songs you shout something I don’t ever pay attention to, so you are wasting your money.  I bet you didn’t know that as I listen to Pandora when drive I turn the radio off or the volume down for about 10 to 15 seconds so I don’t have to hear you freaking annoying voice for the 10th time this hour.  You are just an annoyance and I despise you more and more as this goes on.  When I search on Google, there you are… trying your hardest to sell me something I don’t want.  Even though when I search I type in a keyword, most of the time I am looking to be informed on a topic not buy it.  And what makes me the most frustrated is when you cover the screen the instant I hit a website like Forbes, basically witholding me from my very intent.

Do you realize how rude this is?  I don’t walk up to your desk as you are working and put my hand right in front of your screen, and hold it there for 15 seconds – smiling like I am doing something nice for you.  If I did, you would probably hit me.

I understand it is you who underwrites our “free” access to information so I am not blindly telling you to go away.  All I ask is please make my life better, not worse.

Know my preferences.  Better yet, let me tell you what I like and what I don’t like. 

All the spying, cookies and social data mining in the world will not come nearly as close to knowing me as good as I know myself.  Please allow me to tell you what I like and what I don’t like so when you do step in to talk to me I am actually interested in what you are saying.  (Would someone out there build a platform where I can input my 15 category interest and allow only those advertisers to reach me on every interactive media in the world?  Come to think of it, I just might.  If you are interested in helping, give me a shout.)

Know when I want to interact.  Never interrupt me.

Interrupting is one of the rudest forms of communication in the human race.  Maybe this is your problem: since you are not human you don’t realize you are committing one of the biggest faux pas out there.  If you were to start your strategic alignment with more of a human perspective you would better position yourself for me to receive your message.

Make my life better.  Add value to me and my life

Hindering my internet viewing, making me wait to watch a video or jumping in the middle of a conversation does no make my life better.  It only creates frustration.  Correct me if I am wrong, but I assume you want to create value for the brand or company you are representing?  Okay, if that is the case… I will value any company who makes my life better.  And since we naturally associate the Brand of the company with the mode of advertising … any Brand who rudely interrupts me is instantly placed in the LAME bucket.  Sorry, that is the truth.  On the contrary, any Brand who slides naturally into a position to add value to me and make my life better –  pure GOLD.  Loyal.  They got me for life.

Look, I know this is going to be a life long marriage so can you please start to see things from my side of the bed for once?  If you do, I guarantee you will get more than you ever imagined.

Prediction: There Will Be No Bubble

Update: This was republished on BusinessInsider.com.

You do realize it’s us, with our words, who actually create the Bubbles we will then loathe.   Yes – you, me, all of us… we create the hysteria and the irrational exuberance necessary for a “bubble” to actually form.  If we can just refrain from the word this time, maybe better things will happen.  Plain and simple.  I know the conspiracy theorists out there will indeed flame up the comments with a variety of criticism – and that’s fine, commentary is a good thing.  But I argue we are not going to see a bubble since we just entered the Golden Ages of the Internet.  Don’t want to take my word for it?  Let’s go ahead and use some logic backed by historical analysis to peel this onion a bit.  We’ll see what can come of it since I think it’s better than just running around yelling BUBBLE every time a round of funding is raised or a new company rings the opening bell.

In my recent article, The Evolution of the Tech Bubble, I referred to the book Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital by Carlota Perez.  I have to say again, quite an amazing book.  On a surface level I described the general phases of each cycle (Irruption, Frenzy, Synergy, Maturity) and laid out a nice framework to grasp the magnitudes and movements of the cycle.  I will now go deeper in an effort to bust this silly Bubble talk.

As you can see, our economy has gone through 5 major cycles since the late 1700’s.

1) 1770s through the 1820s – water power and introduced factories and canals, primarily in Britain.

2) 1820s to the 1870s – the age of steam, coal, iron, and railways.

3) 1870’s through about 1910 – steel and heavy engineering.

4) 1910 through 1980 –  the rise of the automobile, petroleum-based materials, the assembly line, and the motion picture and television.

5) Our current cycle began around 1970 – based on silicon: the integrated circuit, the digital computer, globaltelecommunications and the Internet.

These are not my opinions, Perez illustrates through factual analysis each cycle lasted roughly 60 or 70 years.  I argued we have just entered the Synergy phase of the fifth cycle, probably sometime in the mid 2000’s.  Like it or not, this means the core paradigm (the internet) is about to spread into every corner of your life.  This period is pleasantly referred to as a Golden Age.  The image to the right provides a view of the Synergy and maturity phases, which together last 20 or 30 years.  There’s the internet, going into everything around you.  One thing to note here, the financial recession we just experienced is not directly correlated to these cycles.  I am not passing off the idea that sometimes things rise and fall unexpectedly.  It happened, and will happen again.  The image used in my previous post illustrates the  rate of diffusion of a technology into a society, not the rise in markets or a bubble, per se.

Here is what I think will happen next and why it will be mind blowing.

Fred Wilson recently stated at TechCrunch Disrupt we will very soon experience an incredible cultural revolution on a level we might not realize yet.  Many things will be created to challenge the establishment (think Egypt) and new applications will change your life in very profound ways.

How do I know?  Take a look at what happened the last time we were sitting in this position.

 The car was at the heart of the last technology surge, based on mass production, which started in 1908 with Henry Ford’s Model T. The installation phase was about increasing car ownership and building road networks. The crash came quite early, and the deployment phase was delayed by depression and war. But the deployment phase was the period in which the suburbs evolved and supermarkets became the dominant mode of food distribution and retail.

Looking back, we realize it was because of the automobile (transportation) we now have suburbs, supermarkets and shopping malls.  Now think of the Interstate network, and how important it was to connecting our country.  Thankfully, this is how you can easily have food on your table…  which you bought from the supermarket… which you drove to in your automobile.

Yes, it is amazing.  And it’s all small potatoes compared to what is going to happen next.

Applying that perspective to today’s environment you can now start to grasp the notion we just entered the Golden Age.  Mass adoption of the internet, real time communications and real time data will create adjacent industries we haven’t even thought of yet.  Just ask Reid Hoffman what he thinks about this subject.  For the first time in human civilization 2 billion, maybe even 3 billion people will all be connected on one platform.  Almost a third of our world population is online or using some sort of connected device.  This is even more moving: in the emerging markets of China, India, Brazil, Russia, and dozens of smaller developing nations, a billion people will soon enter the expanding global middle class.

Do you even realize the magnitude of what this will do to our global society? Place communication technologies on that platform.  Include a way to exchange currency and do commerce.  Find a way to locate a mobile device, right down to a 10 foot radius.  Now imagine three billion people using this each day!  Not everything will be rosy, but I argue it will be golden.  For a little economic context, in the year 2000 the AOL/Time warner merger was at the time valued at $350 billion with AOL having roughly 30 million subscribers.

If you look back at the previous 4 cycles, it’s important to keep in mind how little of role communication technologies played.  This is not something to overlook.  Until the fourth phase (early 20th century) people were isolated on their own continents, lest they endured a few months boat ride to a new world.  They were also confined to their local flea market if they couldn’t snag a horse ride.  And information was short supply, limited to neighborhood gossip and a letter which mostly arrived too little too late.

Today, only 1oo short years later, I am theoretically one finger swipe away from anyone in the world (or 2 billion at least).  I can video chat with someone in remote Africa, literally seeing them as we talk while they are on another continent.  I can learn about an earthquake that hit another part of the world less than one minute after it happened.  If you are reading this on your mobile and wanted to buy Perez’s book right now from a random person on the East Coast, an Amazon transaction will take you less than 30 seconds and you will be back reading this next sentence before you know it.

Take a step back and juxtapose those last 2 paragraphs.  This is why I recently quit my job and finally got serious about building something.  I am pretty excited to see what this synergy phase will bring out from within us.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t pretend to know the future. But I am using solid facts from the past to help me gauge where things might be going.  If you are not serious about doing something amazing, now might be the time to reconsider.

Referencing my last article on the Bubble subject, the Frenzy period was characterized by individualism, excessive investment and miraculous manipulation of wealth.  These ridiculous actions create Bubbles.   Since the foundation of the web is already in place, this Synergy period is a time of Production.  It is because economies of scale, maturation of the core technology and a new understanding of our global network we will not see a bubble burst.

I will leave you with a thought from Perez:

Whatever time it takes to set up the framework to overcome the recession, the beginning of Deployment is usually characterized by synergistic growth, extension of markets and increasing employment.

Bubble schmuble…  can we just stop saying that word?  I suggest we start using the words Internet Golden Age.

Image courtesy of Flickr user timtom.ch

Bubbles and Golden Ages

Update: This post has been republished on www.businessinsider.com.

I once watched an interview where angel investor Fred Wilson offhandedly noted reading a book which transformed the way he looked at markets and the web in general.  I instantly went to Amazon and ordered it and spent the next week reading it front to back.  Whew… it changed my life as well.  I up and quit my job the next month.  Thanks Fred.

Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital by Carlota Perez is one of the greatest overviews of the incredible economic phenomenon known as the bubble.   What we are currently going though – recessions and expansions, bubbles and bursts, highs and lows, whatever you want to call them – they are inevitable.  In fact, the history of the entire world economy is one big cycle which repeats itself over a period of about 60 years.  I cannot do this entire book justice, just take my word for it, go buy it and read it yourself.  You will publicly thank me later just as I just thanked Fred now.  But I will introduce the general phases a new technology (paradigm) encounters so the “layman” technologist, marketer, social media guru or business person can start to see a clearer economic picture.

I hope I am not being too being blunt, but without grasping this concept you are swimming with your cap over your eyes.  You need to understand what is actually going on in this crazy economic world.

Irruption

As a new technology is developed and deployed into our society, it will enter a cycle of adoption.  Interestingly, Perez notes new technologies are created during the maturity phase of the last great technology expansion.  So although we are starting with the irruption phase, let us take for granted the specific technology has already been created and diffused through very early adopter communities.  During the irruption phase, we see a slowing or declining of the old industries and an early adoption of a new technology.  Carlota notes:

The very intense activity of the new paradigm carriers contrast more and more with the decline of the old industries.  A techno-economic split takes place from then on, threatening the survival of the obsolete and creating conditions that will force modernization.

Old print media anyone?  This irruption phase is started with a big bang (invention and initial diffusion) and will propagate within a small community of early adopters.  Note the image above, depicting very low diffusion, even to a point the general masses dismissing the technology altogether.  Amazingly it is contained within this tight group of people and industries for some period of time.  That is until a tipping point is hit.

Frenzy

Frenzy is a period of massive growth for a new technology.  It is a time of new market creation as well as for rejuvenating old industries.  Once a critical mass of consumers have been hit, the diffusion of the paradigm takes center stage.  Individualism rules the land, as does speculation, wealth creation and ultimately resulting in over-investment flooding the market.   

Frenzy is the later phase of the installation period.  It is a time of new millionaires at one end and growing exclusion at the other, as in the 1880’s to 1890’s, the 1920’s and the 1990’s.   In this phase, financial capital takes over; its immediate interests overule the operation of the whole system.

Notice the part about the growing polarization between the rich and the poor.  Sound familiar?  Capital investments soar during this time, creating a false sense of wealth creation.  This craze attracts more and more individuals wanting to get a piece of the action; so late frenzy is financial bubble time.

Turning point

At some point, the bubble has to burst.   Things that go up must come back down.  Interestingly, the turning point is neither an event or a phase, rather it is a process of contextual change. 

The turning point has to do with the balance between individual and social interests within capitalism.  It is the swing of the pendulum from the extreme individualism of Frenzy to giving greater attention to collective well being, usually through the regulatory intervention of the state and the active participation of other forms of civil society.

The turning point is a space for social rethinking and reconcidering.  It is, in fact, the time when the mode of growth that will shape the next few decades is defined.  I would argue we have been in this phase for a while, maybe starting 5-8 years ago After picking up the pieces of the crash of the early 2000’s we are now starting to see realignment in almost every industry known to man.  Name an industry that is not currently being touched by the internet?  Exactly.



Synergy

This is a time for production.  Since the foundations and infrastructures were laid out during the previous phases, conditions are there for dynamic expansion and economies of scale.   The diffusion of the new paradigm now reaches far and wide, is accepted as standard, and now governs supreme.  It is a time for promise, work and hope.  For many, the future looks bright.   

Synergy is the early half of the deployment period.  This phase can be the true ‘golden age’.  It is likely to be the closest the system ever comes to convergence within the economy of the core countries of the system.

Mary Meeker anyone?  She has identified this expansion phase quite eloquently, particularly in the mobile space.  I would argue we are still at the turning point but on the cusp of this synergy phase.  We should expect to observe massive expansion and economies of scale in almost every industry imaginable for the next few decades.  New industries and markets will emerge.  Old ones will finally die off.  Will it be all golden?  I am not so sure.  But if history is any indication, we shall see an expansion of scale only experienced once every 60 or 70 years. 

It was this exact point in the book which urged me finally jump off the fence and into my entrepreneurial pursuits full time.      

Maturity

Once again, the cycle continues.  Every paradigm has a shelf life and can only survive so long.  As it enters maturity, deep questions are asked about the system and the climate is favorable for politics and ideological confrontation.  Markets are saturating and technologies are maturing.  

Gradually the paradigm is taken to its ultimate consequences until it shows up its limitations... yet all the signs of prosperity are still around.  Those who reaped the full benefits of the ‘golden age’ continue to hold onto their belief in the virtues of the system and to proclaim eternal and unstoppable progress, in a complacent blindness, which could be called the ‘Great Society Syndrome’.

During maturity, the stage is set for the decline of the whole mode of growth and for the next technological revolution.  Since we are entering a synergy phase, I will not spend much time on maturity.  According to Perez, the next maturity phase should not be entered for quite some time and the decline of our current paradigm should not influence ones innovation or investment perspective.  Yet it is always smart to keep an eye on something like this.  Interestingly, it is in this period inventors and innovators are tinkering with what will eventually become the next great paradigm.  This begs the question:  What will supplant the internet?  I would suggest not worrying much about the answer to that question and take advantage of the current conditions.  According to Perez, it should be quite good for years to come.