The future of social networking, with augmented reality: Slideshare version

Due to the great response to the original blog post, here’s a powerpoint version of our concept investigation into social networking with augmented reality on your mobile phone. It sums up the key points in a more succinct and visual manner than the original blog post. It’s a fascinating and scary glimpse of what social networking may look like in the future.

Future media, Future net, Future mobile: 2010 and beyond

Here is a presentation/prezi I delivered for Jeremy Maggs’ The Annual Conference in Johannesburg last week. It has a 2010 theme: Both in terms of the FIFA Football World Cup and what the web landscape could look like in 2010. I cheated a bit and looked beyond 2010. At the end I included some random ideas off the top of my head for the 2010 world involving the web along some general themes. A broadband connection is advised.

The presentation is an update and slightly less media-centric version of an earlier presentation I did for the National Arts Festival ThinkFest!: You can’t wrap fish & chips in pixels.

Les Geeks de travel @ le web

6a00d83451c79e69e20120a6c6ca99970b-320wiI’m off to Paris this weekend to attend Le Web (agenda here). I also need to come clean about something: I’m part of a top secret, Illuminati-type organisation known as the Traveling Geeks. The TGs know everything about everything. They knew you were going to read this post, and have also just taken your DNA sample (Sorry, company policy). They invented the Interwebs back in the 1920s, but decided to keep it quiet for a while to focus their energy on fighting off an impending alien invasion. You of course don’t know about this because the TGs were successful in repelling the attack.

No really. The TGs are a group of bloggers and techheads formed by Silicon Valley entrepreneur Renee Blodgett (who never sleeps and uses email like IM) where more than a dozen tech bloggers attend tech functions and report on the event. Previous trips have gone to London, Israel, and South Africa. This year, I’m honoured to be part of the French trip and representing (favicon) after briefly being involved with the local chapter here last year. Previous geek tours included the likes of Howard Rheingold, Craig Newmark and Robert Scoble. On this tour we have bloggers from Techcrunch, ReadWriteWeb, Silicon Valley Watcher, and Ubergizmo.

The team includes myself favicon, Robert Scoble, Eliane Fiolet, Tom Foremski, Robin Wauters, Kim-Mai Cutler, David Spark, Frederic Lardinois, Sky Schuyler, Jerome Tranie, Ewan Spence, Olivier Ezratty, Cyrille de Lasteyrie, Renee Blodgett, Amanda Coolong, Beth Blecherman, and Phil Jeudy. You can also meet the geeks here,

The goal of the tour is to collaborate with innovators and influencers, and then share that knowledge and insight to a collective global audience through blogging, video, social media tools, traditional media and meet-ups. Le Web is billed as Europe’s number #1 internet event with speakers like Jack Dorsey, Inventor, Founder & Chairman, Twitter, Loïc Le Meur, Michael Arrington, Joi Ito, Andrew Keen, Jeremiah Owyang, Steve Rubel, Brian Solis, Brent Hoberman to name a few…

I’ll be blogging about Le Web and the TG tour here, on the 20fourlabs‘ blog and another place I’ll announce soon.

Follow it all here: Facebook Fan page | Twitter (#TG09) | Flickr | Web

Sports, celebrities, politics & recession top Google trends list

The local Google branch, this side of Africa, have certainly been very communicative. And this time they’re giving us insight into the country’s Zeitgeist.


As part of its year-end Zeitgeist trends results, which monitors search trends around the world, Google has released results of what South Africans have been searching for this year in the categories of politics, sport, celebrities and recession related queries.

In the political arena, some of the most popular searches included firebrand ANC Youth League President, Julius Malema, who pipped Helen Zille of the Democratic Alliance and Mvume Dandala of COPE as the third most searched for politician. Despite having a high volume of searches to his name, the Youth League president had to make way for his seniors, Jacob Zuma and Nelson Mandela who demonstrated their staying power by leading the rankings.

Former Springbok Joost van de Westhuizen had us all scrambling for our keyboards and heading for the Google search box when he released his biography. Joost’s relatively late entry into the gossip columns meant he was no match for perennial celebrity, DJ Sbu from youth radio station YFM who led the ‘most for searched for celebrity’ category. He was followed by socialite Khanyisile Mbau. The Benoni-girl done good, Charlize Theron, was not to be outdone coming a close third in the rankings.

In the sports category, the Super 14 rugby was the most searched for item, followed closely by the Indian Premier League (IPL) cricket, which was quite an achievement as the event was moved to South Africa from India at a late stage in the planning process. Surprisingly, the Confederations Cup was fourth in the rankings despite it being a prelude to the 2010 World Cup, following the third placed Cape Argus cycle race.

This year’s Zeitgeist also reflects important South African concerns, such as understanding how the recession has impacted the local economy. In addition, recession-related keywords such as ‘recession jokes’ showed that not everyone was taking the recession so seriously. South African consumers have also adapted to the recession by being on the lookout for a good bargain, reflected increasing searches for goods in the second hand market on website such as Gumtree and Junkmail Cars.

You can see what the popular search terms are in other countries at Google’s Zeitgeist.

This year’s global fastest rising searches show interest across pop culture (with the King of Pop at the helm, followed by searches for movie New Moon and singer Lady Gaga), social networking sites and new technologies such as Windows 7 and Torpedo Gratis.

Global Fastest Rising Queries

1. michael jackson
2. facebook
3. tuenti
4. twitter
5. sanalika
6. new moon
7. lady gaga
8. windows 7
10. torpedo gratis

South Africa’s Top Searches

Fastest Rising
facebook login
gumtree cape town
absa internet banking
yahoo mail
standard bank
junkmail cars

Most Popular

Most searched for politician
nelson mandela
jacob zuma
julius malema
helen zille
robert mugabe
trevor manuel
mvume dandala
jackie selebi
patricia de lille
ian khama

Most searched recession queries
what is recession
credit crunch
surviving the recession
double dip recession
technical recession
recession cartoons
recession over
recession jokes
causes of recession
recession sa

Most searched for celebs
DJ sbu
khanyi mbau
charlize theron
oscar pistorius
gareth cliff
trevor noah
joost van der westhuizen
danny k

Sixth Sense future computing

(Updated with recent TED Talk by Pranav Mistry)

Forget cellphone cameras — future interfaces and the future web will be interactive projections. It could also mean the ultimate “convergence” of devices. For example, if the projection is simulating hardware — such as the buttons on your cellphone, a keyboard, a screen or watch interface — you could project multiple device interfaces from just one device, the projector. This could bring the cost of computing down even further, because interfaces become dynamic projections rather than physical objects. Perhaps a further stride against the digital divide?

It’s what Pranav Mistry from MIT’s Medialab calls “Sixth Sense technology” and it’s fascinating. His prototype device that makes it all happen is comprised of a pocket projector, a mirror and a camera. At this stage it’s bulky and crude, but imagine when the thing is small enough to fit on your glasses or is just clipped to your top pocket. The device is essentially a wearable gestural interface that augments the physical world around us with digital information, bringing the physical world and the digital world closer together.

Here is a recent talk, by Pranav himself (November 2009):

And then an older — the original — TED Talk, from earlier 2009:

(originally sourced here)

The future of us

One of the reasons innovation — true innovation — is so difficult to achieve, is that we’re trapped by legacy. It’s the key criticism of so-called old media companies. They’re so culturally and institutionally programmed to work a certain way and protect old assets, that “innovation” in some contexts is merely tantamount to rearranging deck chairs on the titanic.

So how is it that a wood pulp and boot manufacturing company dramatically changed their course to become one of the global cellphone giants? At most companies I’ve worked for, you often hear refrains like: “Ahem — we shouldn’t venture there, let’s play to our strengths” or “Let’s stick to core”. Well, not the kind of core Nokia decided to stick too.

The Way We Live Next 3.0
A few bloggers and industry people were invited to the posh One & Only Hotel to hear Nokia’s vision. As interesting as it was, there wasn’t anything particularly jaw-dropping about any of the innovations mentioned. (And it seems the international experience wasn’t too different). However the event was marked by a fascinating and funny talk on “what’s next” by Missing Linking entrepreneur Richard Mulholland.

The hilarious, truly brilliant Mulholland spoke about his vision of the future, which began with flying cars. (Where else?) And he asks the question: Why are we agonising over flying cars? Why are we even thinking in terms of “cars”? We should be coming at the problem with a fresh approach and discard legacy (the car bit) that actually constrains thinking. As futurist Alvin Toffler once said: “The illiterates of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” (On a side note: Rich’s presentation was one of the first I’ve been to where the audience was treated to a brief, live and pretty good mime of the act of fellatio. Somehow he made it feel relevant.)

So where’s it all going? Well, computers and laptops are old hat. I agree with Richard when he points out that in fact it will be the cellphone (or mobile computing device) that will replace computers as we know them. Your cellphone will be the great connector, the central connectivity point connecting cloud, applications and accessories. The full-size keyboard and mouse connects wirelessly to the phone, and the phone projects a screen on a wall, in mid-air, or wirelessly to any screen near by. What more do you need? You don’t even need to take it out of your pocket. (Is that the internet in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?)

Another interesting point: Technology companies should opt for a developer-centric approach rather than one focused entirely on the customer. It’s nothing new, but I liked the way it was phrased. It’s a philosophy that drives the open source movement and it’s why App stores everywhere are such successes.

Nokia N900 mildly disappointing
We were also treated to a demo of the Nokia N900. There was quite a bit of crowing and whooping over it, but I didn’t really understand what the fuss was about. It looked rather like a slightly slicker, thicker HTC TYTN of three years ago. The interface layered over open source OS Maemo is better than many phones I’ve seen, but it was still just ok. Not quite the game changer we’re hoping for and still, in my opinion, behind the iPhone (and Android to some extent) on both a hardware and software count.

Nokia Booklet 3G great, but could have gone further
A Nokia Booklet 3G was then passed around for inspection. It’s a slick little beast with something like 12 hours (yes, twelve) battery life, plus integrated connectivity and phone (as you would expect). What I found disappointing however is that this amazing piece of technology runs Windows. Here we are talking about Alvin Toffler and flying cars — and this nifty innovation by Nokia… runs windows.

I think it’s an opportunity missed to create a symbian-come-cloud-based OS and really refresh our thinking around the netbook-notebook class of computing. Surely this is the perfect opportunity: Nokia have the OS experience, the booklet is an integrated 3G internet device, and Google has showed us how feasible it is for applications to be based online. You’d think here’s an opportunity to come at computing from a fresh, new angle and really break new ground.

In all fairness though, perhaps it’s that the broader market isn’t quite ready to evolve there yet. But for a first stab outside the small screen arena, it’s not a bad start.

SA study: More people banking with their mobiles than PCs

According to respected market research organisation World Wide Worx, the number of people banking from their cellphones has exceeded that of people banking from their PCs in South Africa. More than a quarter of bank customers are turning to their cellphones for services ranging from informational transaction types such as balance enquiries to financial transaction types which include account payments.

This was one of the key findings from the consumer phase of the research company’s Mobility 2009 research project. The study was backed by First National Bank (FNB), leaders in cellphone banking in Africa, and Research In Motion (RIM), the company behind the BlackBerry solution.

“It is encouraging to see that not only in FNB, but across the country, cellphone banking is now part of people’s lives,” says Len Pienaar, CEO, FNB mCommerce.

The study revealed that, while 16% of banking customers in South Africa use the internet for banking, 28% use their cellphones. A total of 34% of banking customers use one or both of these channels. Outside of the branch and ATMs, only 6% relying exclusively on the internet, while 18% rely only on cellphone banking.

“The fact that services like cellphone banking are taking off so strongly shows that consumers no longer see their cellphones only as voice and text messaging devices, but use them stay in touch with everything that matters in their business and personal lives,” says Deon Liebenberg, Regional Director for Sub Sahara Africa at RIM. “With a device like a BlackBerry smartphone, you have immediate access to financial information, your accounts and banking services while you are on the go, wherever you are.”

The study revealed that the main services driving cellphone banking were balance enquiries and notifications of transactions, with three quarters of cellphone bankers using these features. Just under half view statements on their cellphones, 35% transfer between accounts, and 28% pay accounts on their cellphones. In contrast, only 8% add beneficiaries via the cellphone, indicating both security concerns and set-up issues.

“Our research shows that South Africans are becoming comfortable with cellphone banking, but precisely half of general banking customers are still nervous of it, citing trust as their major concern,” says Arthur Goldstuck, MD of World Wide Worx. “However, this concern must be seen in the light of 34% also saying the issue is not knowing how to use the service.”

“Although we have made great inroads, two-thirds of banked people still don’t use electronic channels, other than an ATM,” says Pienaar.

At the same time, two thirds of cellphone banking users were satisfied with the security of the channel. This suggests that, once customers start using cellphone banking, they grow increasingly confident in both security and usability aspects.

“We have seen this rapid adoption driven by our USSD menu service, although I believe that WAP will start to play a more important role in future,” says Pienaar.

Liebenberg adds: “The success of cellphone banking shows that there is a strong demand in South Africa for powerful and easy to use mobile data services and applications that help people to save time and stay in control of their lives at all times. With mobile penetration at more than 114% in South Africa, we can expect to see the adoption of mobile banking and other personal services and applications ramp up quickly.”

The study also shows purchasing via the cellphone beginning to take off, with 24% of cellphone banking customers purchasing prepaid electricity and 21% making general purchases like movie tickets and flowers. Purchase of airtime still leads the way here, accounting for 61% of cellphone banking users.

Invictus trailer

Hollywood seems to be loving the tip of Africa. It’s great to see yet another high quality movie made about South Africa (I was all over District 9). I’ve been waiting to see this movie ever since Matt Damon wizzed passed me in Hout Bay, about to tackle Suikerbossie on the Cape Argus Cycle tour earlier this year. It looks inspiring. After all this is an inspiring country, with inspiring people and an inspiring story to tell.

Mac vs PC: Windows 7


The Hub: Social networking on a publishing platform

The Hub, a key 20FourLabs project, changes everything. To some extent, it’s the realisation of of these thoughts I had in 2007 that all websites, all businesses, and in fact all things are social networks. It’s an obvious point in many ways, but then again not so obvious in others.

theHUB_signup_02Wrapped up in the Hub is an element of Disqus and an element of TimesPeople and elements of a pre-existing comment aggregation strategy. There are also new elements and features we workshopped internally with Labs’ product managers Alistair Fairweather and now Stefano Sessa — now being interrogated by developerguru Ronny Srnka and the rather talented 20FourLabs dev team.

The theory behind The Hub is that online publishing sites like (and pretty much all others) have natural networks around them. Now what these sites, in particular, do badly is formalise and realise those networks. Some do it better than others. For example, user comments below articles are a crude form of social networking in a publishing context. Social networks on a basic level would also include a user submitting and publishing stories or photos to a website. These create small, crude and “unrealised” networks.

Publishers do this badly. Very badly. Publishers are good at connecting with users, but could go further when it comes to connecting users with each other. I always use the example of CNN and Facebook. Obviously these perform very different functions (at the moment), but it’s interesting to point out that Facebook and I have a sophisticated relationship. The site knows all about me. In contrast, even though I’m a regular reader of CNN — it knows relatively little about me, perhaps apart from the cookies its adserver drops on my computer.

So this where The Hub comes in. The idea is to inject a layer of social sophistication into the key areas where users are commenting, debating and interacting. Then it takes things further and enriches user interaction: users are profiled, they can see activity feeds, they can follow each other, then can IM each other, they can create dynamic groups or “Hubs” to take the debate further and network some more. A spinoff to this will also result in personalised content, services and advertising to users.

It also removes a key issue that publishers tend to agonise over — whether to moderate comments and how to moderate comments. I believe in ruthless moderation. There is no other way to ensure quality in large-volume public areas. But here is a way to serve this but also simultaneously give users more ownership over the content they create on a publishing site. Content appears on user profiles regardless, but is also aggregated to the publishing brand, depending on quality or relevance. (Anonymous comments are also supported for those that want their identities hidden).

Most importantly, The Hub is independent. It plugs into other sites. It will not just be a service, but a key to making any site it plugs into social. The grand plan would be to connect those sites.

Opening speech @ #SiliconCape

Here is the text of the speech I gave at the opening of Silicon Cape in Camps Bay. I’m not alone in saying that this was an inspiring and well-supported event.

Welcome everyone and thank you all for coming. A special welcome to the Western Cape Premier, Helen Zille, Dr Mamphela Ramphele and Mr Johann Rupert. It’s an absolute honour and it’s humbling to be speaking in front of such an important gathering of tech people in this country.

I think we all realise that we’re part of history here. Here, today, history is being made. There are some powerful and influential people in this room – and I think that underscores the seriousness of this event and what we are trying to achieve. Today we have the opportunity to raise the profile of our industry, of our city, of our country, and even our continent. The stakes are this high. Continued reading >

Silicon Cape a trending topic on Twitter


Enter the Silicon Cape

SiliconCapeFinalLogoWebSmallI’m honoured to have been asked to MC the Silicon Cape launch next week. When Vinny Lingham asked me to do it a few weeks back, I said yebo gogo without hesitation. It’s a brilliant initiative. And it’s possibly going to be one of the most important and powerful gatherings this country has seen of just over 400 local technology and web workers and entrepreneurs, interested parties and all-round geeks from the Western Cape and elsewhere. The event already appears to be oversubscribed and bursting at the scenes. It’s proved popular.

Further adding weight to the launch will be the attendance of Provincial premier Helen Zille (and another important dignitary yet to be announced).

The idea is to try capture even a fraction of the savvy, concept, excellence and enthusiasm of that well-known Silicon Valley further up North. It’s no secret that Cape Town is one of the most beautiful places to live in the world. Africa’s most visited tourist city is regularly rated around the world as one of the top tourist destinations. As a recent emigre, I have to agree. It’s also no secret either that many online companies and start-ups are based entirely here or partially here (MXIT, Mweb,, Zoopy, Yola, IOL). Amazon have some presence here too. I’m sure there are other examples.

The concept is the brainchild and being spearheaded by well-known web entrepreneurs Vinny Lingham and Justin Stanford who have spent some time in Silicon Valley. Justin explains the concept further on the official website here. Importantly, they’re not claiming ownership over the concept — they’re pushing the community to run with it.

There are always sceptics. And we acknowledge tough challenges: socio-economic, bandwidth, and funding. But if you’re an optimist like me, you believe these are being tackled, and will be overcome. This initiative galvanises the right ideas, people, passion and energy.

It’s a good place to start. It’s a rallying call for action. And it should be supported.

Some more from Finweek here. Silicon Cape official web site here.

Which type of network suits your business?

Prosumer is one of those horrible words. But it does encapsulate an ethos sweeping through online business today (particularly media), where the audience/readers/viewers/consumers are no longer treated in a passive way but actively brought more into the business or publishing processes. It’s also known as crowd sourcing.

To understand exactly what this means, here’s a great framework for understanding it. The clever people at the Harvard Business School (HBS) have defined four types of collaboration: open-hierarchical, open-flat, closed-hierarchical and closed-flat. I’ve been meaning to blog this for a while: It was one of many fascinating things we studied on a short HBS course a few months ago.


Depending on your need, or the type of business you are, any of these network types could apply. Businesses often make the mistake of choosing an inappropriate network type, which causes the proposition to fail.

For example: Wikipedia, a wonderful phenomenon, is an example of an open-flat (all participants are equal, publishing open to anyone – arguably no explicit hierarchy). The open source movement also applies here too. It’s a brilliant model that may or may not be appropriate for your business.

For example, you may want to still engage the audience/consumers, but still hold on to a measure of control for economic reasons. For this you would look at a open-hierarchical network. Threadless (or local Springleap), which outsources T-shirt design is an example of an open-hierarchical network: Anyone is able to submit T-shirt designs, vote, but then the business owners ultimately decide which make it through. Open-hiercarchical also describes the comment facilities below articles on most publishing sites.

A closed-hierarchical network could be a site like Thought Leader: it’s only open to a select group of people and not everyone gets to be published. Typically non-profit industry bodies tend to be closed-flat: Only members of that industry may join, and everyone is equal. It’s a closed version of Wikipedia’s model, if you like.


Oh Peter! You're just being sentimental

Duncan McLeod, former associate editor of the Financial Mail, recently burst onto the scene with a great new addition to my regular daily reads. On his new Techcentral site there have been two articles that caught my attention — the first being a fiery piece by former Vodacom CEO Allan Knott-Craig, and now an interview with respected local newspaper editors: SA editors mull the future of newspapers in a digital world.

I’m familiar with print-online politics: I’ve had the benefit of working in an online role for a progressive print company, the Mail & Guardian, for more than seven years. I’ve also had the benefit of studying new media — and never working in any medium but online. I just don’t get sentimental about newspapers the way many print people seem to.

This sentimentality was none so evident than in Business Day editor Peter Bruce’s interview. I was trying to understand where he was coming from and what his argument was — and then it struck me: There is no argument. He’s just sentimental. He’s clinging on to a comfortable way things have always been done and what he knows.

‘Stop subscribing to newspapers’
The TechCentral interview was sparked by a comment by First National Bank CEO Michael Jordaan that Bruce took umbrage to. In an FNB newsletter Jordaan wrote that we “should simply stop subscribing to newspapers” because the news is now available online. It prompted an indignant retort from Bruce — a retort that demonstrates a mindset thoroughly out of step with the changes sweeping across the world we live in.

Who is Bruce to prescribe how his readers (including the employees at FNB) get their news anyway? It’s a controlling attitude that belongs to an era where things were simpler and more predictable for media.

Confusing journalism with newspapers
Bruce also muddles “newspapers” and “journalism”. Journalism exists without newspapers, not because of newspapers. Newspapers were the medium of the day. That day is passing. It so happens that most quality journalism still comes from newspapers because that’s where the revenues are at the moment. Those revenues, however, look increasingly unimpressive in the face of crippling print and distribution costs — the albatross around many print businesses’ necks.

It’s also got relatively little to do with internet penetration. Publications like Business Day play in markets with internet penetration upwards of 90% (or higher). The key reason we’re seeing advertising revenue continue flowing to newspapers, I’ve argued elsewhere, are institutional biases preserved by a generation in both the media and advertising industry who have lost touch with the pace of the new digital economy.

Most local newspaper companies have sizeable sales staffs all geared to selling one thing: That newspaper. Online is “added value” and the handful of online sales staffers (handful because there is no money in online, you see) are low priority. And yet newspapers wonder why their online publications aren’t bringing in the bucks?

How Bruce should have responded
So the response to Jordaan should have been “fine, read our website or our mobile edition because that is what you prefer — but then support it with online advertising the way you supported my newspaper”. But Bruce doesn’t think like that. His first love is his paper. Websites appear to be that furtherest blip on the radar.

Bruce’s ambivalent attitude towards online is strangling his publication’s digital strategy. Online to him is not that important because he probably reasons that his site (unlike some others) doesn’t bring in significant revenue or readership. What he doesn’t realise is that he’s part of the problem and may be holding his digital property back. It’s not making real money so it’s dependent on his print title, the online staff are junior (because it’s not making money you see) and the quality of content is low. It’s not given the room or investment to breathe in a suffocating museum-like atmosphere. It’s a catch-22, a self-fulfilling prophecy if you like. And it keeps the website right where it belongs.

Far from the bleak times Bruce implies we are headed for (because newspapers = journalism), the internet is creating an abundant supply of journalism. What an irony then, Mr Bruce, that your very interview was published on an online-only publication of a journalist who has walked away from the print magazine he used to work for. Let’s also not forget about the “fifth estate” — the millions of bloggers, small website owners and “citizen journalists” offering commentary and news on a daily basis.

Progressive print operations
I’ve had the benefit of working for a print operation with a different take on online strategy. It’s an attitude that saw the Mail & Guardian website achieve profitability and significant advertising revenue — and a relatively small media company became one of the top ten websites in the country. This was because visionary Mail & Guardian CEO and now frequent Tweeter, Trevor Ncube, supported a strong, independent online operation. And under him it flourished, punching way above its weight. The defining moment came when the head of online stopped reporting to a print editor, but directly to the CEO. The online strategy was afforded priority and authority — ambivalence was replaced by an uncompromising focus and determination.

Another progressive print operation is run by The Times editor Ray Hartley. Hartley is possibly the most innovative print editor this country has ever seen. His comments in that same article are more on the mark: He sees change coming. Journalism will thrive irrespective of medium. In fact it will thrive on multiple mediums.

Yes, newspapers will never die
And I’m not a newspaper doomsayer. In fact I believe newspapers will never die. I think they will niche and become lifestyle items — valuable off-time in an invasive, busy, noisy digital future.

In fact, saying newspapers will die is akin to us saying in the 1960s that we’ll no longer have fireplaces in our houses because we’ve invented electric heaters. Yes, electric heaters come on at the flick of a switch and are less messy — but they just don’t have the charm and feel-good feeling of a roaring fire. It’s an irrational lifestyle thing. Just because the digital medium is more efficient, it does not automatically mean people will ditch papers for it en masse.

We also need to realise that newspapers will be around in emerging markets for many years to come. I’m sure Daily Sun publisher Fergus Sampson must think most “print is dead” commentators are on crack, considering that his newspaper is booming, breaking circulation records on a monthly basis. But that’s just a timing thing, because eventually this market will feel pressure too.

Newspapers are just one of many mediums, Peter. There’s nothing to be sentimental about: The future is exciting.

Exclusive – Hot new local tech launch: The TwitterStick

Well, not that exclusive actually. This dates back to May, but Brendan Jack (of MTV Footskating fame) just brought this to my attention via his blog, starring the brilliant Rob Van Vuuren and his Hot New Tech Launch: The TwitterStick. LOL.

They’re looking for an angel investor. I know you want it Vinny.

The model social media consultant

Just when the web was starting to get boring: Along came Nadia van der Merwe. Nadia’s video proclaiming herself to be a lingerie model-come-social media rockstar instantly went viral. It was a funny video, but also well put together.

The world is a cynical place, and you’ll find cynicism with an extra bit of nastiness and cliquishness in this small, self-promoting world people occupy when they refer to the social media and digital marketing “scene”. Naturally, then, Nadia’s blog and video was met with some derision on the twittersphere in particular. Have to admit that I initially didn’t know whether this was truth or fiction, incorrectly surmising (in part because the video was so well put together) that this may be another Bolton De Venter.

Nadia has succeeded
So here’s another take on it: Nadia has succeeded. She’s attracted attention, she’s captured imagination, she took initiative, she stood out, she was honest, sincere — and she went viral. People are blogging about her (I can’t be the only one), many want to meet her. Her words have become a self-fulfilling prophecy: She’s already that rockstar she talks about in her video. All publicity is good publicity. I’m surprised that Nadia removed her video and posts (possibly due to the criticism?). I think she should re-instate them and stand by them: They’re great.

Nadia should take the criticism in good humour, in tongue-in-cheek, and learn from the constructive criticism — and continue to be herself. The video may be a bit earnest, but well put together and funny. She’s created her own social media phenomenon. My advice for Nadia is to ride the wave and go with it, maybe adding a touch more subtlety in the future. And then take things to the next level. Harness what you’ve created. Well done.

A short word on innovation

Innovation in a business context is one of the most misunderstood concepts around. I have to admit that I’ve misunderstood it for most of my life too. I’ve grown to realise that ideas by themselves are pretty much worthless — and innovation really arises out of a process of execution of those ideas that tests and combines other ideas, technologies and theories. It’s common sense really.

It’s why Venture Capitalists will rarely invest in ideas (or even a track record), but rather need some evidence of execution (focus and passion help too). Of course there are always exceptions, but the above tends to hold for most web businesses. It’s why most non-disclosure agreements (NDA) for that so-called unique “big idea” are a bit laughable. I generally don’t sign NDAs and I’ve never met someone who was really offended that I didn’t. I’m not sure if this is myth or truth: but there apparently isn’t an example of an NDA that has ever been successfully contested in any court anywhere in the world. Unless you’re working at MIT and have made a scientific breakthrough, it’s unlikely your idea is original in the way you think it is. For the most part, an un-executed idea is practically worthless.

An innovative web business is the sum-total of its execution: the myriad features, the quality and unique combination of those features, and the web of business decisions built around it. Skill, courage, timing, luck, personalities and pure randomness behind the project all play a role in sculpting that innovative business or feature.

Take Google. What’s innovative about email and search as broad ideas? The innovation lies in Google’s unrivalled execution of these businesses rather than the broad ideas themselves (Search: Pagerank, unique server infrastructure, ad networks; Email: Ajax based, discussion-based, fast & reliable). Even the iPhone — the uber example of innovation — is a combination of pre-existing ideas (we’ve seen iPhone like functionality on Minority Report and countless other places) applied to a new context (mobile phones), and applied really well.


Mobile strategy for publishers

Here’s an edited presentation I did a while ago on mobile strategy at If you’re not a handset maker, a mobile operator or MXIT, then you face some tough challenges in the mobile web environment. The business environment of the mobile web is dominated by a few proprietary players and is not open season like the desktop web. It means your approach needs to be different and involve heavy business development if you want to see big numbers.

The presentation covers the basics, and then looks at the latest bit of buzz: Augmented Reality (AR). It’s a technology using your cellphone’s magnetometer and GPS that nestles neatly inbetween virtual internet worlds (eg: Second Life) and the internet as we know it via the browser. It sees the web as a data layer over reality, helping us understand and interpret. Most examples you see now are crude, but the potential is simply astounding.

To the 27 Dinner, James

Today the topic is transport. Chris Rawlinson, networker extraordinaire, of the 27Dinner, Stormhoek and Huddlemind, seems to be taking care of my transport needs these days — and this time he delivered a big car. For this 27Dinner we (Bridget, my other half) caught a limo (wot, wot) together with WebMovieStars The Perels (speaking about online marketing) and ad guru Alex Van Tonder (speaking about slippy slurpy or whatever) and partner. Wonder what the next one will be, Chris? 🙂

Thanks to 00heaven for organising the limo. I’m usually sceptical about these services because they generally entail a smelly, beaten up old Mercedes, made longer. But this was a pleasant surprise: they pulled round in a new, sleek Chrysler decorated hiphop style. These are apparently for the speakers at 27Dinners — a whole new reason to be a speaker, actually.


You can also see us hamming it up on video that the Perels took for their web show, From the Couch. They’re funny guys. Someone should give them a TV show.