Mass collaboration on the Internet is shaking up business.
Currently, government technology often quarantines its data from other agencies and its own citizens. While sensitive government data must be protected, there are many ways that citizens would be better served by making specific public content available through open services.
Web 2.0 applications lean towards making small pieces of data available to users in such a way that the data can easily be married to other small pieces of data from disparate sources. If government is to succeed in serving its citizenry and engaging civic participation, government technology decision makers must find a way to resolve the dissonance between the flexibility of Web 2.0 in the private sector and the legacy of restrictive monolithic applications in government.
It is simply unacceptable at this point in history that a citizen can use web services to track the movies he is renting, the weather around his house, and the books he's recently purchased but cannot as easily monitor data regarding the quality of his drinking water, legislation or regulations that will directly impact his work or personal life, what contracts are currently available to bid on for his state, or what crimes have recently occurred on his street.
Mastercard and Warillow International have just published a research study on a new class of small business: the "Web-Driven Entrepreneur". The study estimates that there are 5 million of these businesses in the United States and they represent 25% of all small businesses.
...Two companies; Google and E-Bay have been fundamentally responsible for this new market by creating dynamic access points for these entrepreneurs. These companies provide small businesses with instant scalability and the chance to compete with their larger competitors, by giving them the opportunity to advertise and sell to massive markets.
... The idea that everyone can be an entrepreneur is a powerful one. For banks, web hosting companies, insurance companies, lawyers and a yet to be dermined class of middlemen, this could be huge. The secret will be to understand that this new world will not be about segmenting people into neat boxes, those who are small businesses and those who are not.
The 23.7 million U.S. small businesses are seen as prime candidates for the expansion of search marketing beyond the roughly 200,000 now using it. According to The Kelsey Group, the market for local search marketing could reach $2.5 billion in 2008. Jupiter Research, however, thinks it will grow much more slowly, anticipating $824 million in 2008.
In 1997 I coined the phrase "continuous partial attention". For almost two decades, continuous partial attention has been a way of life to cope and keep up with responsibilities and relationships. We've stretched our attention bandwidth to upper limits. We think that if tech has a lot of bandwidth then we do, too.
With continuous partial attention we keep the top level item in focus and scan the periphery in case something more important emerges. Continuous partial attention is motivated by a desire not to miss opportunities. We want to ensure our place as a live node on the network, we feel alive when we're connected. To be busy and to be connected is to be alive.
We've been working to maximize opportunities and contacts in our life. So much social networking, so little time. Speed, agility, and connectivity at top of mind. Marketers humming that tune for two decades now.
Now we're over-stimulated, over-wound, unfulfilled.
... We're shifting into a new cycle, new set of behaviours and motivations. Attention is dynamic, and there are sociocultural influences that push us to pay attention one way or another. Our use of attention and how it evolves is culturally determined.
... So now we're overwhelmed, underfulfilled, seeking meaningful connections.
... Attention captured by marketing messages and leaders who give us a sense of trust, belonging in a meaningful way. Now we long for a quality of life that comes in meaningful connections to friends, colleagues, family that we experience with full-focus attention on relationships, etc.
The next aphrodisiac is committed full-attention focus. In this new area, experiencing this engaged attention is to feel alive. Trusted filters, trusted protectors, trusted concierge, human or technical, removing distractions and managing boundaries, filtering signal from noise, enabling meaningful connections, that make us feel secure, are the opportunity for the next generation. Opportunity will be the tools and technologies to take our power back.
Every website has parts of your personal information: your name, your address and phone number perhaps, and often your credit card number. Some allow you to send messages, some are just for checking your 401k balance. Many have information about you that you wish they didn’t have. And if you and I meet at a party tonight, it’s just about impossible for either of us to find each other again in cyberspace because, well, while Google is good at finding Amazon, it is very bad a finding you. Because there isn’t a place on the internet where you can be found.
Digital Identity technologies intend to change all of this. Instead of having multiple personality disorder on-line, these technologies promise to give you a digital identity that is the same everywhere. Instead of having to update dozens of websites with your new address – if you can remember them all – you’d have to update it only once. Instead of being spammed or phished because somebody got a hold of your e-mail address and pretended to be somebody else, you could set your communications preferences once and technology would enforce it for everybody.
I believe Malta is currently witnessing a silent revolution through a growing number of Internet users who are coming to realize that they can have their voices heard without a controlling intermediary. This major paradigm shift is silent because those most active in it are yet to realize the true potential of digital communities and still see themselves as isolated individuals.
Although Malta is a tiny nation dominated by majority rule, embodied in the major political parties and the Roman Catholic church, a small digital community is about to embark on a path of social change which potentially has a much larger effect than any other effort the same social network could attempt without the benefit of the electronic networks of digital telecommunications.
Identity and self-image play an important part in the formation of digital communities. All identities are filtered through the personal experiences and the emotional ups and downs that flow through our interactions with and in everyday life. The Internet goes beyond all other media formats in altering a person's relationship to the so-called 'real' world of everyday life. It offers more possibilities than any other single-medium satellite communication. I don't say this hypothetically or from a position of utopian desire. I've lived on the frontline of Malta's cyberspace for over 10 years.
... Digital communities enable group action and interaction. They also engender constructive contexts and social capital. Reconfiguring the power relationships between ordinary citizens and traditional institutions, digital communities can give a voice to marginalized individuals providing peers who listen and contribute to the development of their unpopular ideas.
This is precisely what many Maltese Internet users are on the verge of discovering.
Vast new urban communities is the main event in the world for the present and coming decades. The villages and countrysides of the entire world are emptying out. Why? I was told by Kavita Ramdas, head of the Global Fund for Women, "In the village, all there is for a woman is to obey her husband and family elder, pound grain, and sing. If she moves to town, she can get a job, start a business, and get education for her children. Her independence goes up, and her religious fundamentalism goes down."
So much for the romanticism of villages. In reality, life in the country is dull, backbreaking, impoverished, restricted, exposed, and dangerous. Life in the city is exciting, less grueling, better paid, free, private, and safe.
The original premise behind the initiative is that SMBs are at a great disadvantage when it comes to online search engines and directories because they don't have the expertise to ensure that the best information is provided to the search and directory services organizations (Google, Yahoo, etc.). In turn this means that potential customers are frustrated in attempts to locate businesses when they're in need of services. Trying to find, for example, the closest dry cleaner that does on-site leather cleaning can be a frustrating experience with today's Web search and directory tools.
But in reality, it can be just as time-consuming and frustrating to find big businesses also - especially bricks-and-mortar locations that are close to where you live or work. Here's just one example. Suppose you're away from home (at a trade show, for example) and you'd like to pick up a copy of a newspaper that provides daily IT news in its business section (for example, the "San Jose Mercury News" or the "Austin American-Statesman") - where would you go to find one? Neither the Merc nor the AAS Web sites will tell you where to buy the paper in Chicago or New York. The concierge at your hotel might know of someplace that sells papers but if only there were a listing you could find of retail businesses within a mile or so of your hotel that carried out-of-town newspapers. You could then quickly find out (by calling) which ones had the papers you were interested in and pay them a visit.
Here's another example. Same situation, you're out of town at a trade show. You want to pick up a quick lunch so you'd like to find a fast food place within a block or two of the show venue. You could visit mcdonalds.com, wendys.com, jackinthebox.com, and burgerking.com and enter the show venue's address to find the closest shop, write them all down and determine which is the shortest walk. Or you could go to an SMBmeta-enabled online directory and find all the fast-food places within two blocks of your current location - and probably see them all on a map.
... Now, that being said, equally important as the ongoing conversation is that same past record of conversations. Why? Because that conversational record may be important to other members of the network. An example, from the Long Term Communications paper:
"We had a housewarming party where we sent out an invitation and gave everybody three by five cards, and they had to come back with a recommendation. Because we moved into the new neighborhood and we didn't know plumbers or dentists or doctors or anything... All the recommendations are in here. And people know we have this list now, and so they call us up to recommend an X. And so we're becoming sort of a local knowledge group because we did this at our housewarming."
So, in this case, the fact that these participants held onto the conversational record transformed the newbies in the neighborhood into the neighborhood experts for all things domestic.
What does this all mean? Once the conversation's started, keep it going (and know if you have the responsbility to do so). And as it unfolds, know where it has been, as that knowledge can easily be the basis of the next conversation.