Steve Grossman

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Information in the information age

People + Questions = Social Media

Despite their status as a pseudo-competitor to my sister company (how’s that for an opening line?), I have to hand it to Cars.com for a new feature that perfectly explains “Social Media” and why most explanations are wrong.

AutoRemarketing.com reports that “Cars.com rolled out a new sharing tool that basically can
push out potential vehicle selections through Facebook and Twitter.”

“”Before making a purchase, car buyers often turn to the people they
trust most to help them with this important decision. We wanted to make
it easy for shoppers to share cars of interest with their friends and
family,” explained Bill Swislow, Cars.com’s senior vice president of
product.”

Why the “perfectly explains” comment? Because there’s no mystery to social media – it is and will ALWAYS be people interacting. Anything that encourages or empowers interaction will succeed and the opposite is true as well.  In this case there are people who want help to turn to their friends for help with the important question of “should I buy this car?” Nothing new about that.

Filed under: Life_technology, Social_media, Trends

Too much stuff = confusion = opportunity

More evidence found today about what I believe we’ll see next online – acquisitions, mergers and convergence. Why? There’s too much information in the world, and it’s growing everyday. As Steve Rubel says here, “more information will be created in 2009 than all prior years.” Not prior years online, or prior years in your life, ALL PRIOR YEARS.

So how are you keeping up? You’re not.

But don’t worry, no one else is either and the need will bring the next wave of opportunity online.

Curation
The Steve Rubel post correctly describes one of the growing trends dealing with this overload: curation. He sites several examples of sites that are designed to find, sort and deliver relevant information to interested niches. Give it time, there will be niches of every sort and variety.

Social Media
And then there’s the six trends in the Social Media space described by David Armano. The two that stand out to me are his take on “serious play” – game based services that reward participants – and the growth of mobile. Both of these will sort and filter content: “games” will give us what other people in our network deem relevant and mobile will, by it’s nature, deliver information filtered by proximity.

But these will only be steps towards where we’re going as long as all the services remain disconnected and focused on THEIR interests. For example: I’m interested in Marketing, Social Media, the music business, auto industry (mostly wholesale) and my friends in TN and across the world. Some of my friends are on Facebook, others are on MySpace and still others are on LinkedIn. American Express’ Open Forum covers many of the business topics I mentioned and so does BusinessWeek. The problem is they also cover all other aspects of business and industry. So on any given day I have to sort through these curators to find what I want as well as the three Social Network sites named above.

It’s doable, but how much am I missing? Lots.

The coming years will see the acquisitions, mergers and convergences of all these services into hubs. Hubs that will be customizable and powerful in the way they’ll pull (and push) information based on detailed preferences.

What do you think? Would that help your life?

Filed under: Business_models, Life_technology, Social_media, Society, Trends

Unrelated stories = future

Three unrelated BusinessWeek stories caught my eye today that pointed to a future I’ve written about here and here.

First, a report on Microsoft’s decision to give external programs access to Outlook’s e-mail, calendar and contacts. It is an unusual move for them, but one that clearly speaks to the move towards fewer walls and more data integration despite software programs and web domains. It’s a smart move.

Next is a story about Jaguar jumping to “Google Mail and other cloud software – saving millions of pounds.” The story outlines the difficulty in making the switch, but also mentions that it is a strategy “of simplification, standardisation and modernisation”. Um, yeah. It’ll also give them access to integrations and mashups that haven’t even been invented yet.

Last, a report on Twitter’s Business Model. No really. David L. Smith presents the best article on the subject I’ve read as he presents a number of possible revenue streams for the micro-blogging site. The one that stood out was this one:

Network marketing

The larger Twitter grows, the more the connectivity between users benefits all. But there is gold beyond the conversations that are going on. The pure connectivity in itself is valuable. While Twitter may not run advertising, many companies would love to license the right to target people using what is called “birds of a feather” targeting: identifying a group of people with a common interest and then expanding that target by finding others with similar interests. A number of companies are doing this right now, while honoring privacy; they don’t have to know who the people are.”

Though I’d not thought of it in terms of Network Marketing before, this is exactly where I believe we’re heading and I don’t believe Twitter will be the only one. We’re about to see a huge movement towards consolidations and acquisitions and the beginning of scalable revenue streams. One of them will be co-branding between users and companies.

Think I’m right or wrong?

Filed under: Business_models, Life_technology, Society, Trends, Work_technology

Blog Action Day + Climate Change = No Worries

Today I am writing in tandum with thousands of bloggers around the world taking part in blogactionday, an annual event powered by Change.org. I don’t agree with everything they do, but like the opportunity to discuss this years topic, Climate Change, and why I’m not worried about it.

I’m not worried about Climate Change because people smarter than I are inventing things like these:

– Vehicles: Suzuki, for example, will preview three fuel cell concepts at the upcoming 2009 Tokyo Motor Show. The vehicles themselves are interesting, but the neatest thing is they each represent a different technology. There’s a plug-in electric car with a small generator motor for longer distances. A hydrogen fuel cell powered scooter and a sort of wheelchair like “personal mobility vehicle” that uses replaceable methanol fuel cell cartridges.

Yeah, I know we’re a ways away from sustainable alternatives to gas engines, but they’re coming.

– In the mean time, there are companies like Zipcar and  Gettaround.com, two companies in the growing short term rental industry. I’m particularly impressed with Gettaround because it seeks to repurpose existing vehicles that would normally sit dormant during the day (meaning it facilitates the short term rental of YOUR car. And yes, you share in the revenue).

– On a completely different note, Slate brings our attention to garbage in the form of the BigBelly solar-powered trash compactor. It runs off the sun, provides a 5-to-1 reduction in volume which translates to less frequent pickups – saving fuel and labor costs in the process. And oh yeah, it can send a txt message when full, eliminating wasted trips.

And finally, my favorite:

– London’s Club4Climate disco features an electricity generating dance floor. And while the linked article only talks about the club, other places under consideration for the technology include airports and malls.

So I’m not worried because people much smarter than I are figuring out how to make zero-emission, zero fuel vehicles that will get us to malls, offices, schools and airports powered by our foot traffic.

What a wonderful world it will be.

Filed under: Life_technology, Smart_technology, Society

Internet + users + needs + me = random thoughts

So my mind’s full of random thoughts tonight.

That the internet and computers are far from done. We are still in the beginning phase, a phase dominated by the fact that our technology doesn’t work for us, we mold ourselves to our technology. Nothing we have is intuitive. I mean, we still shut down PCs by clicking on the start button. Yes it’s a funny line in a joke, but it holds much truth too.

And this truth means that the majority of users do not yet interact with the internet and computers. Everyone reading this is the exception. Imagine what happens when there are no exceptions.

Imagine that the internet and computers actually meet needs. Intuitively. Easily. Seamlessly. Whoa.

I imagine when I – me – will have appliances at work, home and with me that allow me to:

  • Access news that I need. And by need I mean need – information that helps me live productively, informed and aware. This means that my online world (the appliances will do nothing but access what we are starting to call “the cloud”) is set-up to deliver from sources I know AND from sources I don’t know based on my desires, responsibilities and cares. For instance, I wouldn’t knowingly subscribe to disease warnings but I’d need them when they are vital to the survival of my family.
  • Interact with family, friends, associates and acquaintances appropriately. In the same way that I have “news that I need” functionality, my writing/thoughts/posts/statuses/photos/rants will go to only those truly interested in the topic(s) being addressed.
  • A fully functional online hub: what I’ve just described won’t happen without acquisitions and mergers of what we see today. The biggest challenge to the use of the myriad of online aps is the myriad of online aps. The masses will never sign up for g-mail, Twitter, Zoho docs, WordPress, flickr, Facebook and Pandora much less some service that links them together. Web and computer development is about to enter a phase of consolidation similar to the American automotive industry over the early part of the 20th Century.
  • And the online “Big Three” (four or five) will charge a fee – real or sponsored. I know everything on the web is “free”, but this will not last. We will someday pay for a service that assists us in living our lives and we will do it one of two ways: literally paying or by merging our interests with sponsorship. Sure some will pay, but the majority will be a part of the “influence economy” we’re already seeing develop. Countless studies are showing that the number 1 factor in purchasing decisions is the opinion of a friend. Couple that with the fact that people are excited to include brand support in their personal profiles (Facebook fan pages) and I beleive we’ll soon see personal sponsorship arrangements paying for online services.

internet + users + needs + me = random thoughts = more to come.

Filed under: Life_technology, Trends

Where I’m hoping to point

I started this blog because of my deep interest in the birth of the information age and the way it will affect business. I’m not the only one writing about these things of course, but I do offer a unique perspective combined with personal beliefs that empower my goal – that you be motivated to join this economic and societal revolution too. It is a time of great change – and great opportunity. We need you – your ideas, thoughts, passions, dreams.

As I just said though, I’m not the only one writing about the core topic of information and business. Another such writer/speaker is Gerd Leonhard who I first ran across through the blog “Future of Music” because it often pertains to my other blog, Why I Failed.

I say all this because of the post that appeared there on May 10: 8 Key Trends for the Next 5 Years. It’s one of those posts that I wish I had written. It captures much of what I too see coming and yet so much more.
It’s the so much more that’s so important. For instance, in talking about netbook-like devices he says:

“They will be touchscreen, zoom-interface enabled, cloud-computing, speech-controlled, location-aware, mobile-money equipped, socially hyper-networked, always-everywhere-on, HD-camera equipped and possibly project images and audio or even support basic holography”

And about business and marketing:

“UGC or UGDC (user-generated content or user-generated & derived content) may make up to 50% of the global content consumption by 2015. Consumers will be (co)-creators, marketers, sellers and buyers, and come in a hundred variations, from totally passive to totally active. Then, indeed, filtering, culling and curation will be the key to success.”

Please read the whole thing. No matter what you do, there are ramifications to you in this post. Enjoy and dream big.

Filed under: Business_models, Life_technology, Work_technology

Me + Vision = Future Part 1

So in my last post I spoke about my online presence – complicated – and my belief that I don’t want to sit out on something this big and “it will all come together one day.”

In the early days of the automobile industry, there were thousands of manufactures.

It reminds me of today.

At this moment in the dawn of the information age, there are hundreds of thousands, if not millions of websites, online tools, technologies and ideas vying for your attention. It is not sustainable. Just like the dawn of the industrial age – 100’s of years before cars, btw – brought tremendous upheaval to the economics, education, politics and society of it’s time. It is happening again before our eyes.

And there’s a lesson to be learned in the story of those thousands of auto companies that eventually became less than 10. A lesson that involves acquisitions, bell curves, adoption rates, consumer tastes, supply and demand, intrigue and a host of other factors. I’ll leave out the intrigue.

The lesson is that we’re about to see mass acquisitions as companies increasingly vie for attention (bell curves and adoption rates). Consumer tastes appear fickle, but look deeper. MySpace was hot, then Facebook, now Twitter. You’d be right if you think the driving factor is consumer tastes, but you’d also be wrong.

Wrong because they actually fit different needs. The driving factor for consumer migration is frustration not boredom.

I used to be on MySpace and I do still have a site. But it is very “arts” oriented as exemplified by their huge music business. It’s flashy and larger than life. It’s also very walled off and didn’t allow me to do certain things I wanted to do.

Facebook is more straightforward in design without a lot of bells and whistles. Additionally, it beat MySpace to more openess. You can bring stuff in and out of it more easily. And that’s improving everyday.

Then there’s twitter, which in my opinion, meets a different need altogether. Where MySpace and Facebook are online photo albums, journals and message boards, twitter is a megaphone. It’s a place to say “hey, check this out” or “hey, I’m over here if you’d like to meet.” It’s interactivity with mobile devices increases this power.

And to top it all off, twitter’s now going after Google’s market.

The truth of the matter is that you and I need a Mybookwittoogle. We need one site that enables a us to live online.

One site.

Enabling

Life online.

Which is of course no different than the fact that we need a car with oil pan lubrication, headlamps, windshield washers, seat belts, overhead cams, fuel injection, air conditioning and an mp3 player. All inventions of what were at one time completely different companies.

And that’s what we’ll get.

You will one day interact with a screen that will do two things very effectively:
1 – It will deseminate everything you wish to share about yourself to people that are a) people who you want to have the information and b) people who want to have the information. This will happen effortlessly and perfectly for everyone involved.
2 – you will receive the exact information you desire and need from the people that a) are people you’ve selected and b) have produced information that you are interested in (not everything they’ve produced).

This will take a radical shift in technology. A shift from people centric programming to interest centric programming.

More about that in Future Part 2

Filed under: Life_technology, Trends

A Foundational Post

I launched this blog about a month ago and have posted random thoughts since then. I’ve also tried different themes, configured twitter to auto-post here (and vice-versa) and thought about writing a foundational post about why I launched this blog.

It’s time to write that post:

First, I am fascinated and dissatisfied with the web. Fascinated because it is the outward and interactive manifestation of the greatest global transformation of the last 400 years: the birth of the Information Age.  Dissatisfied because I can’t wait for it to get where it’s going.

And I have ideas about that.

Second, I am fascinated with business models and in light of this global transformation fully expect them to change dramatically too.

And I have ideas about that.

Third, I am immersed in the world of Social Networking or Social Media. I have multiple blogs, web pages, wiki’s, RSS feeds, integrated services and assorted other freely available web 2.0 tools. And all of them are pieces in an as yet unfinished web that I call online me.

And what’s unique about that?

Nothing except for the fact that I’m not a Gen-Y’er, I’m a 47 year old husband/dad/businessman/boomer. And that gives me a unique perspective on all the above.

And so I have hopes for this blog. Hopes that I can have an outlet for my ideas, concepts, observations and thoughts on the Internet, business and life at the dawn of the Information Age. And hopes that I can help other non-Gen-Y folks grasp the significant and life changing opportunities that are all around us.

And so I offer a blog about ideas, concepts, observations and thoughts on the Internet, business and life at the dawn of the Information Age.

It’s time to get excited.

Filed under: Business_models, Life_technology, Smart_technology, Social_media, Trends, Work_technology

The problem as I see it

In his post An Important Conversation About Conversations | chrisbrogan.com Chris Brogan asks for input about what “you (in this case, “you” equals me and you and everyone when we’re on the “customer” side of the wall) want from interactions like blog posts and the like.”

Chris is a thought leader and expert in the Social Media space and he never ceases to bring insightful ideas and questions about this evolving area of marketing. This question is no exception and I appreciate the discussion he’s starting. That’s his specialty.

What jumps out to me though, is the word interactions and my immediate thought is “what interactions?”

With the possible exception of twitter, specifically @comcastcares, BankofAmerica and others that have nailed it, I can’t classify my experience online as interactive. I’ve had some conversations and rare moments of interactions, but on the whole, I have not been able to truly interact to the level I desire and the reason is tools. Or lack there of.

Take blog posts for instance. They’re only interactive if I a) come back all the time to see where the conversation is or b) subscribe to the comments feed (another option is to get e-mail updates). But I don’t have time for either one. Add in the fact that I often follow links to sites I’ve never been to before (isn’t that the point?) and I end up leaving a comment and never knowing what transpires next.

And blogs are just one example. Social Networks are even worse and news sites are the worst.

There are two fundamental problems with the current state of affairs online. Problems that will continue to keep the internet from it’s full potential.

The first is the fact that the current explosion is being driven by geeks: people that have a lot of time on their hands and are completely and hypnotizingly fascinated with all things web. I’m ALMOST one of those people except for the fact that I’m not. I’m a middle aged, businessman who loves learning and information.

Yes I’m fascinated by the web, but only so far as it actually helps me get things done – quickly and efficiently. Visiting 100’s of blogs can’t be done realistically if I’m to keep my job and stay married. Yes, I know what an RSS feed is and I use one to track the blogs I regularly read everyday. But that doesn’t help with the aforementioned linking and commenting on sites and the resultant tracking that I don’t have time to do. And oh, did I mention a lot of comments are useless?

Which leads to the second problem: we do not yet have the tools for true web interactions. We need tools that notify us when the interactions are actually of interest to us. Our comment, our topic, our…well…tags.

So what if we had an online identity that was truly an online identity? One that, just like in real life, had attributes, characteristics and traits – the very things that make us us? And what if everywhere we went and everything we did left these attributes too?

If that were the case, these attributes could also facilitate notifications when something relevant to us occured online. Anywhere. Anytime.

Which would mean that after leaving a comment on Chris Brogan’s blog saying “loved the post, but think it misses the point that we don’t have sophisticated enough tools yet” I would automatically get a message in my online hub (e-mail, IM, txt, whatever) anytime a relevant comment was posted.

Now THAT would be cool.

And it totally relates to Chris’s question too because these tools would allow for life changing interactions with companies. I’m not being overly dramatic either. What would life be like without the need for customer support because I would simply “get” the info I needed when it became available. Nothing less. But also, nothing more.

And I know that day is coming.

Filed under: Life_technology, Social_media, Trends

One of many uses for twitter

Sarah Evans – if you’re not following her somewhere, you should be – has a comprehensive and enlightening article on Mashable about using twitter to find your next job.

HOW TO: Find a Job on Twitter

Lots of tips, links and ideas to look into even if you’re not in the market. I particularly like the background creation link and information about VisualCV.

I came across VisualCV, an online Resume site, some time ago but never pursued it. Even though I’m not in the market, I think I’ll give it a try now. It’s exactly what’s missing from my online world. I have a bio, multiple blogs, twitter, presences on multiple social networking sites, but nowhere that simply and clearly shows me like a resume does.

I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Filed under: Life_technology, Trends, Work_technology