The web wasn’t designed to be made of pristine brochure pages. If you’ve ever tried to manage a web project, you’ll know that each version of each web browser displays pages just a little bit differently, making perfectly-rendered designs impossible. What’s less obvious is that the web’s style system was designed to be separable from the content on your website. Anyone can choose to view your site in the style of their choice. A website is not a publication: it’s living, breathing content.
To an arts professional or marketer used to the fineries of print publishing, these aspects to online life might sound scary. Instead, I’d argue that they’re an opportunity. The web, unlike any other communications medium, is endlessly remixable, reprogrammable and reshareable. There’s no doubt that your website should be the centre of your digital presence. But for your audience, it’s not the destination; it’s an information source that feeds into their notification stream. Users want to find, share, discover and remix your content – why fight them?
I wrote a post – okay, a rant – over on Google+ about sexism in the software industry:
Tim O’Reilly had to post a code of conduct for his conferences, which made immediate waves. (Quite a few of the women I know who aren’t in the tech sphere shared it with me.) I’ve heard accounts of women having to deal with all kinds of come-ons, and being physically assaulted as if it was nothing, at tech events. Even in the comments to his post here on G+, people were suggesting that their Asperger’s Syndrome meant that they didn’t understand how to deal with social situations, and should be excused from this kind of thing. Bullshit: none of the aspies I know are misogynist pricks. That’s because, while they are awkward in some social situations, they have at least half a brain.
Together with today’s Mac OS X Lion release, Apple also released a set of server extensions in the App Store for $49. To run Lion Server on your machine, you make sure you’re running Lion (available from the App Store for $29), and then buy the server upgrade. Like all of their new offerings, this is for less-technical prosumers rather than professionals – so while the hardcore technical set will complain about lack of features (as they’ve done with Final Cut Pro X), consumers can run an easy-to-use mail, file, web and wiki server via the app store.
The ability to install other networked apps via the App Store could change enterprise networks forever. Imagine installing a social networking platform, a Virtual Learning Environment or a conference call bridge via one click in the app store, and configuring it via a visual wizard. Not necessary in sysadmin-equipped environments, but in SMEs and even homes? Huge.
Google+’s combination of streams and circles works. So here’s something I’ve been mulling over for a while:
I really like Patronism‘s central idea. Rather than buying an album, you subscribe to an artist’s feed, and get access to songs, photos etc as they’re produced. That makes a lot more sense to me as a 21st century model for music.
I also follow a lot of writers that I admire, mostly over on Twitter. They don’t post their work there, of course, because there’s no revenue stream for it. But I do get to see what William Gibson, Margaret Atwood et al are thinking on a daily basis. Awesome.
What if I could pay a subscription to the writers & artists I admired, and see their latest content as part of my stream? Short stories to peruse offline, songs to pull to my iPod, and so on. Not to mention academic articles from journals, mini-games from indie developers and so on.
This works best on a decentralized web of nodes. The artist has their home base, eg at artistname.com. They then push out their content, and people can subscribe on Google+, Facebook, in their RSS reader, in a specialized app, from their WordPress dashboard, and so on.
And suddenly you have a monetized decentralized social web. Paid licenses are just one of many kinds of access controls on stream content; circles and access control groups are certainly another. And of course, content can be made available publicly too.