Wednesday, June 20, 2007


So what comes next?

Defining Web 2.0 is very simple, but it requires us to get rid of the divided world mentality. For example, as a professor at Radford University put it, in grade school we were taught that the playground was a social space and that the classroom was only a learning space. Including media in education only meant putting instructional messages into the media and displaying them in the class room.

But now with the advent of the Internet, we are more connected than ever. The World Wide Web made it possible to connect pictures, text and content from millions of users who had an Internet connection. But then not only content began connecting, but people too. Developers began including human interaction into the functionality of web-based computer applications. People could comment, tag, post and edit the content however they liked. The human experience rather than file content became the value of the media. That is what Web 2.0 is—people connecting.

The Internet is people driven. It is opinion based. It is a collective. It is immersive. It is participatory. It is growing at tremendous speeds.

If anything, I have tried through this blog to open my own eyes to social media. I am still learning, but now I am aware of what is going on. Many new developments are on their way.
Google Labs is at the forefront of the Web 2.0 trend. But to end this blog, here is a quick video on Web 2.0 that summarizes many of the technologies I have learned in the past two months.

I would also include delicious tags in the list of things to know in the future.

But I would also like to offer a counterpoint to this entire blog. Yes, Web 2.0 is amazing. The buzz surrounding it is enormous, with corporations spending millions in order to keep on top of it. I am part of that trend. But I question how many people are actually participating.

In a recent
article in TIME magazine, Bill tanker commented that Internet traffic data suggests that only a “very small percentage of Internet activity is related to users creating and publishing content.” He states that less than 1% of visits to most sites that focus on user-created materials are participatory, meaning that the remaining 99% of visits are passive and non-participatory.

Here are a few simple statistics about major social Web sites:

  • 0.2% of visits to YouTube are users uploading a video
  • 0.05% visits to Google Video include uploaded videos
  • 0.16% of Flickr visits are people posting photos
  • 4.5% of visits to Wikipedia resulting in content editing

It seems that most people are only watching and not participating. What type of a user are you? Are you a contributor or a leech?

And finally, is it really important to keep on top of the Internet trends that are happening so quickly? It can fast turn into an obsession. My reply is to be aware of what is going on, especially in the PR world. Be a contributor. As communicators, we are in the special position of having much information to share, and we need to know how to connect with people.

It seems almost counter intuitive that as we increase the number of connections online, the number of personal, real-life conversations are dwindling. As we have discussed before, technology seems to have eliminated human interaction on a physical level. Robert Putnam wrote on how society is becoming an individual experience because of technology in his book, Bowling Alone.

Putnam talks about the decline of “social capital” and how important it is to American culture to combat it. Unlike Postman’s argument that a technopoly must be thwarted, Bowling Alone alludes that more studies technology can also help revitalize the personal connectedness of Americans.

I have personally concluded that technology did not kill human interaction and conversation. It just shifted it to a different medium. Technology enabled human connectedness around the records of life we all create, namely visual, audio and written media. Simply put, Web 2.0 is the modern record of human interaction.

For my fellow bloggers and social media users, here are two tools that have helped me immensely stay in touch with this living archive. The
Blogger’s Toolbox and the RSS Toolbox both have quick summaries of the technologies and the many tools available to utilize them.

I would also encourage you to watch the
Photosynth video I have posted in this blog. They have found a way to connect all the different elements of the living archive in order to form a more purposeful outcome than just an information glut.

At this instant, Web 2.0 is in the early adoption phase. But like most products, it is well on its way to being generally accepted. We must participate. We must contribute. Can we afford to be silent and not have our views included in the great debate that is the Web 2.0? If we don’t do the talking then who is?

We must participate because we cannot afford to lose this wave. If we do, we will be forever trying to catch up with it.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


Portable projections are now a reality

Have you ever had to set up a projector for a conference? Besides being unwieldy, you have to get it power with extension cords running all around the place, you need a screen, and also a computer that has the ability to show the image reversed so the projector isn’t placed in the middle of the audience. They get hot, are dependant on light bulbs and have noisy fans to cool them off. Projectors were not a portable technology…until now.

Explay recognized the need and developed the first nano-projector. This projector needs little power, does not generate heat because it is laser based and is always in focus, no matter the distance from the screen. Heck, you don’t even need a screen. A piece of paper or a white wall will give you the clarity of a plasma TV! It is also small. So small, in fact, that it could have a thousand potential applications.

Just think, you could have a projector built into your video iPod, laptop, cell phone, digital camera or camcorder, or PDA. Just imagine, with the advances in cell phone technology and wireless power combined with the mini projector, it is possible to now have a fully functional device that does everything. Take the
iPhone. It already has a camera, internet access, phone capabilities, PDA capabilities, camcorder, etc. Imagine adding a projector to that for whenever you need it. Such a device would be small and could still do about anything.

My mouth is watering just thinking about it. Many times, I have to give presentations and worry about the setup of the event. All too often, public relations professionals are at the mercy of the technological god who deems whether or not we are worthy any particular day to have our computer tools functioning properly. But soon I can just load it all into one device.

I do foresee a few issues that could be brought up with this technology. At my university, officials don’t let you watch any projected movie on public property because it is against copyright regulations. But what if you were to project a movie inside of a bus, on an outside wall, or even onto a piece of paper in a park? Some privacy issues will also have to be considered. But overall, I still can’t wait to see the projector.

Monday, June 18, 2007


No more charging, no more batteries

A team from MIT has demonstrated wireless power. I was so excited hearing about this because it is a frequent topic of conversation between my roommates and I. I remember about a year ago we were thinking of the possibilities of wireless energy transfers. One roommate (an engineer!) said it was impossible. I maintained that someone would be able to figure it out, and it turns out MIT did.

This development means so much to the communications industry. It now means that everything is portable. Laptops, phones, MP3 players, everything! We will no longer be regulated by the regular pattern of charging batteries. Unfortunately for battery companies like
Duracell and Energizer, this is a potentially lethal invention.

Yes, I know that the implementation of this technology is a far way off. Who knows what kind of regulation will be put in place. Just think, if you are broadcasting energy, how do you prevent people from taking it? Also, if we are still arguing over whether cell phones cause cancer or not, what kinds of ailments would power transfers cause?

Still, the benefits outweigh the consequences. From a public relations perspective, not needing power cords changes our work quite a bit. When a computer is standard in the industry, as well as media rooms, presentations and conferences, it would be pure bliss to not deal with wires and cables.

Wireless power transfers would make the technology we use now self-sustaining. It would take one more step to becoming an invisible technology, like Postman states. Overall, wireless power would transform the way we think about electronics. Essentially, it would change the definitions in our mind about old technology.

Personally, I can’t wait.

Sunday, June 17, 2007


People making a profit off of virtual gold

There was a fascinating article in the New York Times today that talked about online virtual worlds. If you have time, please read the story because it is quite good. It is also quite long, but I couldn’t stop reading it. (Its over 5,000 words long!)

Basically, the story focuses on the daily pursuits of Chinese gold farmers in World of Warcrft, an online space where you can be any “Tolkien-ish” character you prefer (wizards, orcs, elves, etc.). The object of the game is to advance to the next levels that include difficult tasks and missions and cool objects to collect. However, getting there is the difficult part. More often than not a character runs out of gold coins in the world and must “farm” for more, by tilling, fighting and stealing from others.

The farming process can be long and tedious, so some companies have set up online gold plantations, where workers do nothing but farm for gold and then sell it to players for real world money. Sounds insane, doesn’t it? Paying real money for a virtual benefit?

In fact, a simple search for “World of Warcraft” and “buy gold” returns well over a million and a half results in
Google. The article I mentioned documents the pursuits of Chinese laborers who work getting the online gold to sell. It is an amazing look at how something that was originally intended for playing around has transformed into a way and means of sustaining life.

The economies of World of Warcraft and other online virtual realities such as Second Life, rival those of developing countries. Each world has its own economy and currency. It is amazing to me that the online world and reality are colliding and people are using physical means to obtain virtual dreams.

So how does this relate to public relations?

If the over 50 million people who are participating in online worlds are willing to pay real money for virtual benefits, would they also pay virtual costs for physical benefits? In other words, can a PR firm establish itself in the online world? I definitely think we should, if not us definitely getting our clients to open shop. We need to take advantage of the growing opportunities in the online space before we are running to catch up.

One of the continually changing challenges in PR is to be able to connect with our audiences. And if they are in online virtual realities, we must be also.

Saturday, June 16, 2007


Communicating vocally without talking

Have you ever wanted to say something to a friend, but were afraid you would be overheard by someone else? Well, because of some incredible research by NASA, that could soon be a matter of the past. They are in the process of developing a technology that would recognize the sub vocal speech that occurs when one “talks” while reading a book or thinking. The ramifications of such a technology are awesome to behold.

With a few sensors picking up nerve activity that the brain sends, keyboards would become obsolete because you could just tell your computer to enter text and words. NASA already did that. You could communicate with others as long as they had a receiver implanted in them. Honestly, this is the closest to telepathy we will ever get. Even personal prayers said to yourself could be recorded. This technology borders on recording thoughts.

What impact could it have on the communications industry? Well to start off, privacy becomes a major issue. Who monitors sub-vocal speech and are defamatory laws ruled only to words that are spoken or words that are thought? Technically, things you say in a dream could be recorded and played back later. This technology could also potentially be taught to recognize music as well, allowing people to compose in their minds. It could allow a deaf person to talk aloud if the receiver were connected to a speaker of some sort.

Sub-vocal speech would make us as a society much more controlled with our thoughts and also allow us to overcome the obstacles of manual entry of communication. I could dramatically alter the way we teach, learn, play, and think. It is scary, yet amazing what a technology like this is capable of.

Friday, June 15, 2007


Creating the perfect experience is the key

One thing I have noticed in both academic and corporate worlds is that a good presentation can work wonders. I have seen (and regretfully been part of) a few presentations that were lauded because of the technical level of the presentation, the skill of connecting with the audience and simply telling a story, without, however, much substance to back up such a display. The presentation is essentially advertisement for an idea.

As part of a public relations firm, we are constantly trying to create presentations for conferences and new business pitches. However the technology available is not yet what it could be. Let me explain some of the changes I would like to see in the next generation of the presentation standard—PowerPoint.

Currently for conferences, video data must be sent to creative and production firms in order to overlay text into a video format. Thins then plays on a continuous loop and must be timed exactly with the presentation. However, this would not be a problem if PowerPoint could display text over a running movie clip or animation. Then dynamic background could be incorporated and used in a presentation that acts like a movie but is used like a standard deck.

As exciting as this would be, it would move PowerPoint into the position of being the foremost teaching, presenting and media management tool available. If you could edit movies and clips together in PowerPoint, it is conceivable that standard editing software would no longer be necessary. The benefit would be enormous if PowerPoint only had this one additional capability.

Soon, we will see programs that make this process easy. Hopefully then, the battlefield will be normalized and presentations will then be judged by its content rather than by its bells and whistles. But for now, on with the noise.

Thursday, June 14, 2007


The death of the standard press release

This week I went on a tour of Reuters and Business Wire in New York.

For those of you who aren’t sure exactly what these companies do, let me summarize. Reuters is a news service that provides worldwide news coverage, especially in the financial market. Their greatest asset is getting the news out faster than anyone else. Business Wire is a company that can disseminate information for clients very quickly, including press releases and photos. Most major new outlets get their information on what is happening in the world most likely from at least one of these sources.

One of the questions I asked at Business Wire had to do with new media. I asked him what the company was doing to address the electronic media and the average consumer. He mentioned
smart news releases that they provide their client, already imbedding smart tags, links and photographs into the press releases they sent out.

It made me think of the emerging trend that to captivate peoples attention, you simply cannot throw information at them—it has to be packaged. It has to be an experience. The highest ranked Web sites not only offer information but additional activities to enhance learning. People stay longer on sites that provide more than just text.

In public relations, more often than not we get into ruts by arguing over wording for days on end, getting ready to release a piece of paper with text on it. We should be preparing packages that contain audio files, short videos and interactive elements to capture people attention. Perhaps the distribution and hosting systems are not quite ready for this, but it is fast approaching. Who knows?

Maybe in a few years we won’t have to write press releases at all. That will be the day.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


Making use of the information glut

There is, by far, too much useless information in the world. (And in my brain.) Just think of all of the digital pictures you have stored on your computer from last Christmas and the Father’s Day before that, just sitting there eating up your memory. Yes it is nice to have the archive, but normally, the information just sits there.

Well, the people at Microsoft have overcome the information glut and made it possible to connect all of this stagnant information to make something magnificent. It is called Photosynth. Basically it connects the vantage points of thousands of photos to recreate the virtual space. The same technology applies to journalism as well, as you will see in the video below.

Here is a fantastic example of how some very innovative thinkers are making use of all of the seemingly unimportant information. By combining information and breakthrough zooming technology, they have truly made the parts greater than the whole.

I, for one, love reading the newspaper on paper. But being able to read the paper online, seeing the entire original layout on my computer and then being able to enhance that experience by diving into the layout for more information or greater clarity excites me more than anything. It could potentially save the newspaper industry. Yes, the copy desk would have their hands full with the layout and reporters would have to produce more, but which is better? No job or too much to do?

Check out the site. Watch the whole movie. It is simply amazing what this technology can do. I love the commentary he makes near the end. Truly, now one information glut has a distinct value.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


Why online communities are important to PR

I love this graphic showing most of the social networking sites and virtual worlds like a map, enticing you to explore new lands while subtly showing who the major players are right now. Social media is the heart of Web 2.0. It is about people connecting and sharing information. So I ask the question, “What is the relevance to public relations?”

Let me give you some statistics I found on social media:

  • 80% of internet users will use virtual worlds by 2011
  • US ad spending on social networks will top $2.5 billion by 2011

Now, don't ask me why the year 2011 is so important, but at the Gartner Symposium 2007 (where the statistics came from), the following comment was made about social media:

“The collaborative and community-related aspects of these environments will dominate in the future, and significant transaction-based commercial opportunities will be limited to niche areas, which have yet to be clearly identified,” said Steve Prentice, vice president and analyst at Gartner. “However, the majority of active Internet users and major enterprises will find value in participating in this area in the coming years."

Prentice said the key word--niche. It will be how money is made online, and it will be how public relations reaches out to people. They are already congregating in self-identified interest groups for us. We just need to be sincere and approach them as people and not as a simple target groups. We need to add digital elements into our campaigns and realize that most people get their information from friends and online.

Now that friends and online mean practically the same thing, we can't ignore the powerful combination of online communities.

Monday, June 11, 2007

WEB 2.0

The rise of social media

The internet has changed life. As a technology, it redefined the way we think, the way we research and the way we relate. The World Wide Web made it possible for us to connect. That is what the Web 2.0 is--a collection of personal connections. As we share more insights and publish our thoughts, we relate to each other as well as expose ourselves. Certainly the issues of privacy, censorship, copyright and other hot topics will have to be addressed in time, but we will take it as it comes.

To inaugurate this blog of media tips, technology and trends as they relate to public relations, I have decided to begin with a conceptual view of the Web 2.0. Instead of just using it as a buzz word, let's understand it. The following embedded video is from a professor at Kansas University. It does a wonderful job at describing the Web 2.0 and highlights the power of digital text over its handwritten counterpart. So, sit back and enjoy as you learn about the rise of social media.

So, what effect will the Web 2.0 have on the public relations industry? Only time will tell, but we can infer some conjectures. With the possibility of the death of the press release and the breaking of audiences into niches, public relations professionals need to become communications experts. We need to connect people and be able to find a common base, establish a relationship, offer benefits and then continue the conversation. Simply put, we need to build rapport.

The computer changed public relations forever. Now we just have to adjust before we become extinct.