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June 26th, 2007

Is the BBC platform agnostic?

Is the BBC platform agnostic?

The Open Source Consortium (OSC) is threatening the BBC with referral to the European Commission because the BBC’s forthcoming iPlayer will only support Microsoft Windows. The OSC argues that the move is anti-competitive, and since the EC is no friend of Microsoft, this could be one that runs and runs.

The BBC says it has a remit to reach as many people as possible with its content, and implies that this means they should use Microsoft because it’s the dominant operating system. But the demand for software is derived from the demand for content. If the BBC exclusively supported open source software and formats, people would switch to them to access the content. If people want to get BBC content and don’t have the supported software, it’s going to be a massive (and expensive) change to switch to Windows. If open source was supported, they could just download a compatible player for their operating system (including Mac OS, Linux and Windows) without cost. That would surely be the best way to make content as widely available as possible, and to be ‘platform agnostic’, which the BBC claims it already is.

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June 7th, 2007

PR professionals absent from social media forum

PR professionals absent from social media forum

UPDATE 2: Thanks to Stuart Bruce for pointing out in the comments that the reason PRs were absent from this event may be that they were all over in Regent’s Park for the Delivering the New PR 2.0 event (can’t find a URL, but it’s blogged very nicely by Rob Skinner). And of course there’s also PR Week’s PR and New Media conf coming up later this month and again in Oct, so perhaps in the near future we’ll start to see less of this sort of thing. Thanks Stuart!

[Original Post]:

Of all the interesting things about Tuesday’s Blogs and Social Media Forum, perhaps the most striking was that the PR community was practically absent from the event.

Only three of the 110 attendees were in PR roles, and one of those – Mark Monseau, director of media relations at Johnson & Johnson – was a speaker. That left an account manager from JBA Public Relations and the PR manager of an academic book publisher to make up the numbers for the profession.

With many blogs having achieved quasi-mainstream media status, and online chatter increasingly influencing public perception of organisations, I found this absence genuinely perplexing.

Personally, among the many fascinating topics covered at the event, I welcomed the opportunity to learn how major media outlets are addressing social media. I was heartened to find that even the best minds at these organisations are still uncertain about how to go about it. The BBC’s Jem Stone said that the broadcaster no longer expects people to come to bbc.co.uk to talk about BBC content, but admits that ‘we don’t monitor conversations very well‘ on the wider internet, and that the Beeb is ‘bad at engaging in those [non-BBC] spaces‘.

This will be partly addressed by a new bbc.co.uk feature that will pull in BBC-related content from the blogosphere to show what people are blogging about, he said.

At the Economist, online publisher Ben Edwards is planning to make his first moves into social media by launching a ‘publisher’s blog’ to inform readers of new developments and solicit their feedback. He is also creating a section on economist.com where all readers’ letters will be published, and readers will be able to comment on them, form communities of interest and network with each other.

Edwards did not say whether Economist journalists would join in the debate.

So if PRs were conspicuously absent, who *was* there? The delegate list has job roles ranging from knowledge managers to digital strategists, marketing executives and IT folk, from blue-chips, publishers, government, law firms and charities.

While UK organisations seem keen to get to grips with social media, it looks like PR might be getting left on the sidelines.

UPDATE: This may go some way towards explaining why PRs are having difficulty engaging with journalist-bloggers in the era of social media, to Charles Arthur’s frustration (via TWL).

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June 6th, 2007

Geeks to inherit corporate world?

Geeks to inherit corporate world?

Ever led a loyal band of dwarves and night elves into victorious battle? If so, IBM may be interested in employing you.

Leadership skills demonstrated inside the massive multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) World of Warcraft are just as valid as leadership skills demonstrated in the ‘real’ world, according to IBM UK’s ‘metaverse evangelists’ Ian Hughes and Roo Reynolds.

Leading an ‘open space’ discussion about the business value of virtual worlds at yesterday’s Blogs and Social Media Forum in London, Hughes said that IBM was just as likely to consider graduate job applicants’ skills with online worlds and networks as it was their real-life achievements.

“If people have natural leadership skills they will demonstrate them no matter what they’re doing,” he said. “Leading a successful guild in Warcraft is no different [in terms of management potential] from running a successful trading card operation, or selling cans of Coke at a festival.”

I asked Hughes and Reynolds if this meant that a different sort of person – one more used to socialising online than in the real world – was now starting to rise up the corporate ladder at IBM and elsewhere.

Hughes says not, but believes that social media and virtual worlds are giving people more and different opportunities to prove themselves in the corporate environment.

“Presentation skills are no longer simply about being able to get up and talk in a departmental meeting,” he said. “Someone who can make a great podcast, or run a successful event in Second Life, has equally valuable presentation skills.”

While Hughes maintains that leaders are all cut from the same cloth, no matter how they choose to demonstrate their abilities, I’m not so sure this is the case. IBM’s valuing of skills gained in arenas traditionally associated with ‘antisocial loners’ may be an early indication that people who were written off in the past as ‘geeks’ and ‘losers’ are now actually shaping the future of business.

IBM, of course, is a natural habitat for geeks, which may be why Hughes doesn’t see anything especially remarkable about his attitude. When the likes of Merrill Lynch and Pfizer start fast-tracking mages and paladins to the upper echelons of management, we’ll know the geeks have truly inherited the earth.

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June 1st, 2007

CBS gains 15m 'earlobes' with last.fm acquisition

CBS gains 15m 'earlobes' with last.fm acquisition

Very mixed feelings here about US broadcasting giant CBS’s GBP140m acquisition of London-based music community site last.fm.

On the one hand, I’ve loved last.fm since joining it in 2005. Unlike other social-networking sites, it’s always put the user first, keeping advertising to an understated minimum and providing its community of music fans with useful tools and features that always seem to work effortlessly.

It’s also the best-looking social networking site I’ve seen – its stylish modernist interface a refreshing contrast to the garish clutter of MySpace. In the last year it’s gone from strength to strength, striking deals with EMI and Warner Music to enable it to stream songs online, introducing an ‘events’ function that lets users socialise around gigs, and providing ‘widgets’ that allow users to customise their blogs to show what music they’re listening to right now.

For many people, it’s also a useful recommendation engine, analysing the music that they listen to, cross-referencing it against other users with similar tastes, and providing recommendations accordingly.

And therein, for me, lies the problem. Last.fm has been outrageously good at gathering personal data from its 15 million users. In the last 18 months, the details of every single song I’ve listened to on iTunes have been uploaded to last.fm, thanks to the Audioscrobbler plug-in that I willingly installed on my laptop. I’ve provided an incredible amount of data about my listening habits, my musical tastes, gigs I’ve attended, who my friends are, and where else on the internet I can be found.

I was happy to give that data to last.fm, because I found the site useful and fun, and I liked the fact that it was independent and put users first. I wasn’t so happy to read that new owner CBS considers these same users simply as ‘earlobes’ (the audio equivalent of a web marketer’s ‘eyeballs’) for its ad-driven radio channels.

As far as I’m concerned, last.fm has just sold me to CBS’s marketing department, for a mere nine pounds*. From a business perspective, I’m impressed. But as a last.fm user, I feel, well, just a bit used.

I deleted my account. Sorry, CBS.

* Hat tip to Andrew Smith for working out the maths.

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