The Future and Social Networks

Social networking is an interesting concept in todays society – I guess like most people who use the internet it’s become part of my everyday life. The question i’ve been asking myself recently though is why? It seems that once everyone you know is a friend on facebook it somehow looses it’s appeal – anyone else with me on that?

In the early days part of the fun was finding people who you knew or had known in the past. Now that this novelty has worn off is there a point to FaceBook? I certainly don’t update my status 20 times a day like I did when the site was first launched.

Part of the problem with social networking is that brands like FaceBook and Twitter seem to own the concept. I said FaceBook and Twitter as though this were the only form of social networking – and to many this really is the case. Most people have heard of those brands and have an account on those websites ….. how many other networks do you regularly use? Are you part of the “technorati” for example? Has “pinterest” grabbed your attention? is there room for another brand or is the market now saturated? Is it even possible that people are starting to get board of the concept and look for the next new thing?

It seems to me that the primary function of social networking is marketing and in my view this will be short lived as internet users will begin to turn their back on brands such as FaceBook as the appeal starts to wear off and they slowly become desensitised to the promotional adverts. The idea of sponsored stories which is currently common place on FaceBook is certainly clever but do people want to use a website that consistently asks them to engage with and “like” new things?

In many ways the social networking boom could be compared with the .com boom in the late 1990’s; the .com bubble eventually burst and maybe this will also be true of the social networking phenomenon. I’m not sure if the recent FaceBook stock market floatation can be seen as a true indicator of the future for social networks but it certainly does make you wonder if social media has peaked – controversial? Let me know your views.

How “social” is “social media”?

It occurs to me that the world seems to have become obsessed with “Social Media” – but what does the term actually mean?

Websites like FaceBook and Twitter seem to have coined the term for themselves in such a way that the brands are used almost interchangeably when discussing social media but the idea of media being social isn’t a new concept.

If I read an article on a website or in a newspaper that interests me then at some stage I will bring it up in conversation and i’ll discuss it with friends. Traditional media in this context is social and arguably more social that FaceBook and Twitter because it generally necessitates an actual social interaction in the real world.

This had led me to question how “social” is “social media”?  What are your thoughts?

 

Automation

Bill Gates Once Said

The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.

Over recent years automation has become a feature of day to day life and our lives are now often assisted or even controlled by technology.

A prime example of this is an automatic toilet found on many high streets. After each use the toilet is programmed to clean itself saving thousands of pounds on maintenance and is arguably more hygienic because it is cleaned after every use.

It occurs to me that automated systems are no longer reserved for the world of the production line and that the general public are now the largest consumer base for automated systems – how many things are automated, for example in your house? Central Heating? Oven Timer? Lights? ….. if you think about it you can probably compile quite a long list.

My favourite example is Auto Cleaner – the automatic vacuum cleaner (iTorchless 2009). The robot can be placed in a room and periodically will detach itself from the base unit, vacuum the floor taking care to go round corners and avoid obstacles. When the task is complete the machine will re-dock and perform the task again a few hours later.

The question that I think we must ask ourselves is what would happen if some of this technology went wrong? I guess an automated light failing to switch on wouldn’t be particularly drastic, but what if your heating failed to switch on in the middle of winter leading to a burst pipe?

This begs the question ….. are we becoming too reliant on technology to assist with our every day lives? What do you think?

Great Devices

Over the past few days i’ve been giving a lot of consideration to what makes a device a “great device”.

Take the concept of a mobile phone; I got my first mobile in 1998, to be blunt, it was a BT cellnet brick. At the time I thought it was the best thing in the world and that I would never need another phone ….. less than a year later I was back in the phone shop looking for a better device.

This trend continued until 2007 when I got my first iPhone. Now don’t get me wrong i’ve upgraded my device every 12 to 18 months since then, but this time something has changed. I’m no-longer looking for a “new” mobile phone, instead i’m looking for a new “iPhone”.

It would therefore be reasonable to assume that I consider the iPhone a “great device”. Over the last 15 years not many devices have had that same effect on me – the iPad being the other notable exception.

So what is it about these devices that make them great? Why is it that I no-longer feel I need to be constantly searching for a better mobile phone or a better tablet device?

If i’m honest i’m not sure I have the answer ….. at least not the full and complete answer. Just as I was pondering this earlier in the week a friend of mine visited me with her two year old daughter. I’d left my iPad on the sofa and as we were talking I noticed the inquisitive child pick up the device and after a couple of minutes work out how to switch it on. The child didn’t know what she was doing, but she did manage to “swipe to unlock” and a few minutes later had managed to launch the app angry birds.

Now I don’t believe that Leila is an unusual 2 year old, she may well grow up to be a genius but right now she is just an ordinary child. Something about the “i” range of are intuitive and easy to use. It occurs to me that with these devices Apple haven’t developed some technology that they want to bring to the masses, instead they have started with what people want from a device and then made the device insanely intuitive. So intuitive that a 2 year old can work out how to use the technology.

This is the clever bit ….. they haven’t “dumbed it down” – the devices can do extremely complex things, they just do those complex things in such a way that anyone feels comfortable “giving it a go”.

To my mind it is therefore the fact the the “i” devices do everything that a user wants in a “friendly” and “intuitive” way that encourages users to want to use them and as a result makes these devices great!

Other views on “i” device greatness can be found at these links:
http://www.phonebuff.com/2011/10/what-makes-iphone-great/
http://www.ipadfb.com/ipad-why-people-love-it/

Re-Revolution

Einstein's Big IdeaaSo this is the first blog post of the all new, revolutionised, WestgarthsWeb. I’ve attempted blogging a number of times in the past and have failed miserably predominantly because i’ve never given the blog a focus. I’ve simply dipped in and out of whatever I might be vaguely interested in at the time.

Well this time WestgarthsWeb is different; the concept of the site has undergone a revolution! WestgarthsWeb is now all about what i’m interested in most in the world, and, put simply that’s technology, and more importantly how technology fits into everyday life. I’ve always been fascinated by how technology is able to site at the intersection of “techie” and useful; it’s the point that Technology meets Social and impacts upon our identity; in my view it is this that causes some great ideas take off and often causes even greater ideas to fail.

We’re back to that concept of how to start a revolution ….. Consider for a moment those people in history that you would consider revolutionary. Perhaps you considered ancient philosophers – Plato, Aristotle, Pythagoras? Or maybe you thought of scientists of more modern times, Einstein, Galileo or Darwin. No matter who you have chosen I would consider it a fairly safe bet that the people on your list devoted their life’s work to creating whatever mark they left on history.

So now to consider a modern revolution. Surely the word revolution means the same though? Be it modern or historic. Google ….. Define: Revolution ….. “A forcible overthrow of a government or social order for a new system.” I’m sure we would all agree that the development and growth of the internet fits this definition. What is perhaps extraordinary is that internet revolution is providing a platform for the revolution to be re-imagined, re-invented and consequently revolutionised. A good example of this is the explosion of “Social Media” over the last 10 years; arguably this has revolutionised the internet. In this context the idea of revolution certainly isn’t new; what is perhaps new is the speed with which the “internet revolution” has been “re-revolutionised”.

Back in the year 2000 internet penetration in the UK was around 26%, by the end of 2010 that figure had doubled to 52% (http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats.htm). When you consider revolution you expect change, but in history it is questionable whether anything ever changed the world so radically. To put this in context we are talking change in a 20 year period that has impacted more than 2,000,000,000 people or more accurately 1/3 of the worlds population. Revolution on this scale is much bigger than the English Civil War, arguably bigger than both the first and second world wars and has effected more people than were part of the British Empire. Am I exaggerating? I guess that’s a judgement that you need to make ….. but consider this …..

Virtually every new website changes something about the way we interact with the world around us. The internet “revolution” is not a one off event. It’s a revolution that keeps on giving “re-revolution”. Some of these mini revolutions have bean hugely publicised and attracted huge amounts of media attention, you only have to think of Google, FaceBook, and Twitter to see how mere mortals have created things for society and left an impact that has literally defined modern history.

In years to come it will be interesting to see if the impact of the likes of Google’s founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin will be immortalised alongside great inventors like Einstein; but you have to admit that the impact of revolutionaries such as these individuals has been great.

To my mind this is the power of the internet …. once inventors required huge amounts of money, state backing, and years, often lifetimes of painstaking hard work. In this day and age it is possible to create a revolution that has great impact from your back bedroom; or as Zukerberg demonstrated from a dorm room at Harvard. The internet has made it possible for anyone to literally change the world on the back of new, often incredibly simple idea …..

This, however, in my view is the key – in order to change the world the masses have to like to your idea; it is at this point that Technology meets Social and it is this concept that is the new focus of WestgarthsWeb.

So over the coming weeks and months expect posts about new ideas, technologies and things that I find interesting and that I believe have the power to change the world. Maybe along this journey some of you will get in touch, drop me an e-mail and let me know about how technology has impacted upon your everyday life.

My aspiration is that in years to come I can read back over these posts and track the development of a revolution that to my mind is only just beginning, a revolution that that I believe will keep on re-revolutionising for years to come.