The Next Great Debate? Or A Sign of the Times?

teens-staring-at-phonesI’m not a massive fan of the humor/satire site The Onion, but an older video from their site recently made its way to my Facebook timeline – and I was thinking that could easily be me (maybe without a discussion on euthanasia of course).  The surgical attachment of devices to the hands of my teen-aged girls – is this the next great debate? Or a sign of the times?

From The Onion archive story tells the story Caitlin Teagirt a 13-year old who is reduced to simply rolling her eyes and grunting because of digital addiction.

To be fair to 15.5 and 13.5 – I am perhaps guilty too of being over connected (but that’s also how I pay the bills).  But at this point, it’s generally easier for me to communicate with my kids via text – or if I really want to capture attention Snapchat.  Shame on me for getting to this point.

At the same time, I also see technology is the equivalent of making phone calls and gathering up with my friends when I was their age.  For both girls, there is a constant flow of group texts, group Snaps and group Chats – it’s not a lack of socialization.

To me the issue is the dynamic within the house – and the rolling eyes and the ever-present mobile phones.  It’s an uphill battle and one I’m not entirely sure I want to take on – after all I’m not contemplating euthanasia and it’s not getting in the way of the important aspects of home life.

When thinking about the question of if it’s the next great debate, or just a sign of the times – I’ll fall to the latter and accept the present.

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It’s A Generation Thing

It's a Generation ThingAs quickly as it’s gone by, my girls have had cell phones for two years now, and by and large have lived up to their commitments in mobile responsibility.  So, with the start of the school year upon us, knowing Chanukah is coming early this year and acknowledging it was time for an upgrade, my girls go back to school with new iPhone 5’s.  It’s a generation thing, and I am mostly OK with it.

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Based on what I do for a living, it makes sense that my kids are over-connected.  In fact while away for a few days at the end of the summer, I met a nice grandfather trying to send a video to one of his grandchildren via his iPhone.  He did not realize how truly simple it is. My girls could have just as easily helped him out.

When you look at the generations, and I’ll go back to my mother (the girls’ grandmother), through me and to them the shifts are amazing.  From the emergence of TV in a radio world, to the downfall of print in a computer world to the rise of mobile in a connected world-from generation to generation the change is astonishing.

While getting my hair cut today I was chatting with the stylist, and we were talking about our kids (all have iPhone’s).  I commented my kids would not even know what to do if they had to make a call from a pay phone.  Her response was even more stark, “They would not even know the number,” she said.  And that is right.

It’s a generation thing.  I can remember memorizing phone numbers.  Mine, my friends, the places I worked and more.  Today, more likely than not I am not making a call.  If I do make a call, the number either needs to be in my phone or in a click to call on a website or in an app.

I don’t lament the changing times at all.  Print is going the same way as LP’s and CD’s-industries that just didn’t adapt to the change around them.  Generally, I don’t think I am that type, and I hope to instill that in my kids.

While I may a child of the digital revolution, I think for me and the girls it’s more about being part of the change and adopting generation.  It’s a generation thing for sure.

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Old School-For Now

Since the beginning of my cell phone time I’ve always carried two cell phones.  One personal and one for work.  Initially, having a cell phone was a big deal and since I got a great price through work, I figured why not.

Through the years, it’s been nice because as jobs change my phone number stays the same.

Another compelling reason to carry two phones is when you carry a phone for work-its theirs.  That means at any point in time, they can say I want it back.  Well, if you have another phone, which you use for personal matters, great.  Here you go.

I would say since somewhere in the late 80’s I’ve carried a phone that also had my work email on it.  In the early days it was a Blackberry-you remember the ones with the wheel on the side.

Last week, I became victim to one of the fastest growing crimes in New York City-theft of a cell phone.  My work cell phone (a HTC Incredible 3) was taken off a table where I was eating a salad.  Now I still have my personal phone, so not a huge issue.  I’ve moved a lot of my work stuff (temporarily) to my personal phone.

But what I can’t move is access to my work email.  There are lots of security rules when working for a big company, and it’s just not going to happen.  So now, I am kind of working “old school” where I have to log into my computer, do a VPN connection and check my email.

I can’t really remember the last time I walked into work and had no idea what was in my email box.  More than that, connected to email is calendar, where my day, the calls the meetings and places are all laid out.  I’ve forwarded those to my personal mobile, but still it’s not a great system.

But it’s also been pretty refreshing.  It’s a good reminder that not every email needs to be answered in real-time regardless of day and time, the world will go on.

I expect tonight my new phone will be waiting for me.  By sometime tomorrow I will have my email back up and running-and once again I will be über connected.  But for now, I’ll get back to you soon, promise.

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The Mobile Lesson In Responsibility

As 9.0 said this morning-my girls are getting a little spoiled this year at Hanukkah.  And given all that has gone on-I think it’s OK.  Or at least it’s not the worst thing that can happen.

By the way that declaration came after the first night-because they got their big present, the cell phone.

Neither of my kids had any idea a cell phone was coming their way this year.  In fact, I had told them talk to me when you are 13, but a variety of things have gone on over the last few months that made me re-think my position.

But that’s not to say it did not come with strings.  You see before being allowed to explore the features and functions of their Droid X (pictured) phones they had to sign a contract of responsibility.  Yeah, I”m like that.

Basically the contract points out what I am committed to paying for and clearly states overages are out of their money.  It also puts the onus of maintaining the device on them as well as using it responsibly.

They both have experience with losing iPod’s and DS’s devices for significant chunks of time for not following the rules and not being responsible-so they know there are consequences.  The contract though is a first.

Here’s a look at the contract:

Contract of Cell Phone Ownership and Responsibility

As part of my ongoing policy with them of teaching them social responsibility in the connected world I thought in this case it was important for them to know the rules, know what they were getting and put consequences in writing for them.

We’ll see in six months if this works-but at least they know for now what the ground rules are and they know that if there is a problem, the phone is a privileged that can be rescinded at any time and not a right of passage.

In the immediate future-look out for a text from one of both of my kids-they are slowly working their way through every mobile number they can find.

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24 Hour News Cycle to Never Ending Cycle

In many circles, cable news, and specifically CNN are credited with creating the 24 hour news cycle.  This is something I am a part of, and understand it.

For discussion sake, lets call the 24 hour news cycle: reporting an event, reporting reaction to an event reporting repercussions of an event, onto the next event.  realistically there is more nuisance to it, but in essence that is the 24 hour news cycle.

With the advent of social media-the time from event to reaction is shorter-there is now instant analysis and instant reaction of events.  Want to track events in Egypt in real-time? Follow the #Jan25 hash tag. Want to go back further, see how the crash of an Air France Jet in Brazil played out in real-time in June 2009. Or think more contemporary, and the fate of Justin Beiber and perhaps the cooling of Beiber Fever?

The point is-for these events (and any others you like Esperanza Spalding, the fallout of the Islanders/Penguins brawl play out for days and months on Twitter and Facebook.

It’s almost quaint to say there is a 24-hour news cycle, when the reality is there is constant reaction and analysis in real-time 24/7 on events days and weeks after they occur.

While it’s still critical to manage the first 24 hours of an event, more and more its being broken down into hour-long cycles.  It will be interesting to watch how this plays out.  2012 will be an interesting campaign cycle–as seen in Egypt, the power of the masses all shouting out at once is tough to manage, and even tougher to silence.

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Identity as the Holy Grail

Despite my early tempestous relationship with Quora, I have found some great insights and moments to think and contribute.

One of them occurred last night as Quora’s designer posed an interesting thread (I am not sure it was in the form of a question but I supposed that’s OK for an insider) about identity-and specifically mobile identity.  You can read Rebekah’s thoughts here or follow her on Twitter here.

Rebekah poses that identity is more than just your email, or your pictures or your Twitter stream for that matter.  Your digital identity is how you manage access to your attention.  Will you read your Twitter or your Facebook wall?  Will you update your Tumblr or your blog?  How you manage external access to that attention is your identity.  The other pieces (email, SMS, Facebook etc) are all components.

Rebekah believes (and I largely concur) the battleground is your mobile device.  This is the access point to your attention, thus the access point to your identity.

Rebekah and I diverge on one point-which is neither huge or insignificant in that I include tablets as part of that access point.

When talking about the consumer experience in digital media and roadmapping over the next five years, the central figures are your cell phone (the assumption being the curve of feature phone to smart phone conversion holds) and I believe the tablet.  The two devices as Apple has shows work together in a lot of ways, and we’ll see that in 2011 from the likes of Samsung and others who merge the Android OS on phone and tablet.

The reality is, chances are if you read this blog you never leave your house without at least one cell phone (the assumption being that readers of this blog probably carry more than one) and more than 90% of the time the tablet it with you as well.  The laptop is easily forgettable, and the desktop is a distant memory.

When thinking about capturing and holding attention-designers need to think about utility and IA.  Content folks need to think about real estate and connection.

I am convinced the way I got my job at CBS Mobile more than 5 years ago was my understanding of the personal nature of the mobile experience–which means that as a product person I need to be able to clearly make the experience sustainable across devices and across OS experiences.

Understanding the way consumers take in data and control their data intake is at the heart of understanding identity.  In context, a news organization can have this generations equivalent of the Pentagon papers.  Unfortunately just having them is less than half the battle–presenting it to a highly connected audience that demands personalization is the key.

Watch as Faebook, Twitter and products that we don’t know yet introduce new ways to access information-that access point will become the key.  It’s a way to sync your self to your data and your phone (and tablet) are at the hub.

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EMail, Spam and What Me Worry?

Its been a while since I was able to update this blog–a time when real life gets in the way of theory is the best way to explain it I guess.

Anyway, today an interesting confluence of events happened which prompted this–I was reading with some interest the New York Times write through on the updated Facebook email.  As Quincy used to tell me regularly when we were at CBS, I should not get my tech news from the NY Times.  But in this case, because of the aforementioned real-life stuff, I am a little behind, so I read the times.

As this was going on, I got a daily email from a company called Gilt Groupe which I can thank my 10-year-old for signing me up.  And then the final piece to this puzzle–one of the LIRR warriors I follow on Twitter, @hfleming checked in via FourSquare to Gilt Groupe.

So, this was a reminder to me that I needed to find out more about Gilt Groupe–since I am getting their daily emails, and since I have at least exchanged Tweets with someone who I think works there, I figured why not go to a source, rather than surf around?

I sent @hfleming a tweet (she does not follow me) with my email address in it, and I instantly got back a spam tweet from @emailbot telling me I just potentially opened myself up to spam email.

So, first-spam in my Twitter stream is far more annoying that spam in my email in box, or more likely in my spam folder where I will NEVER look at it.

Beyond that, I would think anyone on Twitter has a “social media” email account–where they expect to get spam, am I wrong about this?  In my case I use my itsonlytv@gmail.com email address.  Now, I still get that email to my iPhone, iPad and BB–after all it also has some useful communication on it via my social networks.  But it also has pretty aggressive spam filtering in place.

So spam away to my email–but leave my Twitter alone.

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The Front Door to the Information Superhighway

I am willing to admit to being old enough to remember the promise of “the internet” as promoted by AOL

Or even before that Prodigy

Those early “web” services provided access to a vast array of information–some of it cataloged, most of it untapped.  Along came independent browsers and broadband at that pretty much all but killed the relative beauty of the dial-up service provider:

For those who did it–who can forget that pleasure of surfing looking for dial-up ports that would work, the second number and more….

As what one of those companies promised “the information superhighway” evolved–along game our friends first at Yahoo then at Google who were able to bring order to the relative chaos.  (Yes, I am leaving out the likes of AltaVista, Lycos etc)–you know the search engine.

Open up the page, type in some keywords and you have a menu of options to choose from.

But as technology improved, so did the capabilities of the information providers.  No longer was having a lane on the great information superhighway enough–we needed attention.  So came the skill of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and SEM (Search Engine Marketing). In essence rigging the system–making my content the top of the search returns, after all we all know no one scrolls.

But alas, internet time waits for no one.  The AOL commercial at the top of this post is from 1995.  A mere 15 years later, and that front door to content has once again morphed.

Think about the way you discover things on-line (if you are even still using a computer or laptop).  Yes, search engines still have their place.  And yes you still have that Yahoo email, but how do you find things?

My bet is more than 70% of the time its through your social networks.  An interesting link on your friends Facebook wall like this one?  Maybe something from your Twitter stream that looks like this?

The reality is we are so connected to our networks, that search engines are a secondary source.  Case in point, over the weekend when Fox Networks and Cablevision settled the two-week imbroglio (it’s the NY Post headline writer in me-sorry) about retransmission, it was on Facebook I found out.  My confirmation was from Twitter, before I hit Google to find out the details.

{Couple of interesting asides here:  1-nornally I get this information first from Twitter, but on an early Saturday evening, my Facebook network was right on it.  2-the email from Cablevision came 5 hours later (a comment on email as a point of dissemination)}.

Our social networks are the touch point we use between information and our day-to-day–and its possible that the front door to the vast reaches of the information superhighway have changed again–from 256k dial-up–to 140 characters.

Where we get and share information is an evolving point of contact, and very individualistic–because it has to serve our needs.  I know 90% of my Twitter is mobile, and less than 5% of my computer based Twitter is on twitter.com.

Think about where and how you get information–and see if perhaps its time for a tune up, or realignment.

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From Film at 11 to We are Here Right Now

I don’t consider myself to be old, however, my daughters (the older one especially) likes to remind me that I am creeping up there in years.  So it’s with that backdrop perhaps that I got a little nostalgic as I was watching the live video of the miners being pulled safely from their underground home of more than two months.

I am old enough to remember the tag line “Film at 11.”  Now I don’t remember it in my professional experience–but growing up I can remember Chuck Scarborough on WNBC (Channel 4 in NYC) or the late Bill Beutel on WABC (channel 7 in NYC) saying that line during what I later learned was the :57:30 cut-in.  You know it as a tease for the late news that comes during primetime viewing.

For those without the reference–here is a one time ABC News colleague of mine Christina Lund with the familiar tagline (this one delivered on KABC-Los Angeles in 1976)

And that’s what happened.  If you wanted to see the story you waited for the news to come on.  In talking to some of the long-timers at places I work or have worked, by 1976 the conversion to videotape was well underway-but the myth of film at 11 lived on for years beyond that.

Fast forward to Tuesday night into Wednesday and the miners.  Gone was the quaint notion of video.  Obsolete the idea of waiting 10 minutes, much less until 11.  This (like so many events) played out in real-time in bits and bites transferred in real-time around the world–with instant commentary from Twitter, blogs and news organizations like CBS (where I work) CNN, NBC etc.

And as all of this was going on — generally in that lull when the rescue capsule was being sent back down to the miners and being reloaded and resurfacing — I was able to think about the change I have seen in the news model both as a consumer and a professional.

I did wait for film (or video) at 11.  I can remember when a reporter going live was a big deal.  I’ve sprinted across snow-covered fields in New Hampshire to a feed point to make slot.

I’ve also pulled out an air-card or MiFi and upload a video file, used QIK to send breaking news video back and updated a story via Twitter using my smart phone camera.

I am not sure I know the “tipping” point in all of this-when the idea of waiting became quaint, but its a good thing.  News  is a commodity as is information.

While I truly do not think “back in the day” that information was being hoarded and doled out–there was a certain eloquence to it.  I also would not have been subjected to Ali Velshi on CNN cramming himself into a model of the rescue capsule.

And that’s not to pick on Mr. Velshi (whom I do not know). It’s the rest of the story.  Because we demand to see these things unfold in real-time and unedited, the ability to package and present may be a victim.

Flashback to January of 2010 and the Miracle on the Hudson.  Gripping pictures, a story with a happy ending–and miles of instant analysis.

Even when the news is bleakest–9/11 is the moment that leaps to mind the need to “fill the void” was evident.  I can even think back to the crash of TWA flight 800 off the coast of Long Island–and the long night I spent on a boat listening to coverage that did not equate with what I was seeing (my Nextel died so I was on my own until the boat came in)–but it’s not all bad, it really is not.

Because all of those sources, all of that information–gives us the power to be the packager.  Yes, news organizations need to be the gatekeeper.  But I can be my own editor and decide what makes sense.

So turn to Twitter, see what your social network is sharing via Facebook–check the blogs watch the video–its part of the human experience and its the job of my colleagues and me to make sure its there for you with context.

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Social, Gaming-There is More, Right?

In what are probably equal parts of influence between work, my kids, curiosity and boredom I have been spending time in the social game space lately primarily on the iPad, and I have to admit I am hugely underwhelmed.

For a bunch of reasons, Farmville never clicked with me on Facebook, I tried it–I was even one of the early players but I just never was able to “get into” the game.  There are friends in my feed who are on the game more than 12 hours a day.  In fact, it got so bad, I have actually hidden Farmville and its related links from my feed.

<Note to Facebook-it would be nice to be able to similarly hide that content and manage it from apps and mobile web.>

However, I completely understand the importance of “game mechanics” as a driver for engagement.  Hell, for really no apparent reason I manage check-ins on Foursquare and Gowalla regularly and BrightKite and Loopt with less frequency and I really can not give you a good reason for it.  There are aspects that are engaging.

1. The Work reasons:  Taking those aspects and building them into the broader experience–the so-called real-time web is a driver.  So, since this is my business I need to be in the space.

2.  The Kids excuse:  My kids are becoming voracious in social gaming–and since I need to be a good parent in 2010–and know what they are doing and provide guidance to safety and best practices, I am out there with them.

3. The Curiosity factor:  I still wish I could figure out the compelling parts of Farmville or even the ones I do play like We Rule (I am esd714)

and City Story I am esd714).

4. Boredom is a driver:  I have an hour-20 each way each day on the Long Island Rail Road.  Tack on up to 10 minutes to at least half of those trips each week for random “only on the LIRR” issues, and I have time to kill.

Even with that, and the connections to Facebook and Twitter there just is not anything overly compelling that draws me into these games.  The element of success in the game just does not carry enough excitement.

Of course, there are Second Life like experiences, and not really integrated into my daily web or consumption pattern–which probably helps make them less desirable to me.  If there were a way to hook this into my daily reading on hockey, or baseball or politics it may work better.

But still, there has to be more, right?  There is a bustling business model of selling for not a little money game components for these virtual world–north of $5B in 2010 so there should be a way to make this ring a little more indispensible, isn’t there?

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