Fergus Kelly: Storify – A Tool for Communicators

Curation is one of the buzzwords surrounding the online future of news. It’s been hailed as the ‘new journalism’, but I don’t think that’s right. It will not replace journalism, it’s simply another communication tool in the online jounalist’s box. Storify is a brand new curation tool makes it simple to create, curate and embed stories in any web page.

It aims to provide a simple tool to help manage information on the social web. It offers to help us derive meaning from all the information that comes our way daily and make it practical and accessible to use.

I’ve been waiting for Storify for months. I first heard about it via Robert Scoble in an obscure tweet what seems like an age ago. The service moved into beta at TechCrunch Disrupt and I finally got a chance to explore what Burt Herman and the team had created.

At its core, Storify allows users to collect web pages, tweets, Facebook status updates, Flickr images and YouTube videos into a handy container. Each of these individual items can be annotated by the user, building up a story. The backend has a search engine and a simple drag-and drop interface, allowing the creation of the story in a vertical, top-to-bottom format. There’s also a handy bookmarklet to add and comment on web pages as you browse, though everything can be edited at Storify.

Once you’ve got your story saved there’s a handy option to tweet the people you’ve quoted to let them know about your story. Storify stories are hosted on its website but they can also be embedded in any web page and the result looks very, very good.

To make it easy to distribute the story, the embed includes Facebook Like, Tweet and email buttons and a button to let the reader share the story on their site.

The stories are what this tool is all about. Other services allow the collection of updates but Storify is focused on the story. It’s an alternative way to narrate current or past events, giving the user a means to “quote” the web.

It is one of the first in a new range of curation tools that we’ll see more and more of unless the CMS (content management system) giants or bedroom coders add the functionality directly into WordPress, Joomla or Drupal.

Storify is one of the best of the story curation tools I’ve had access to so far. It opens up a huge number of possibilities for the creative online journalist or blogger. The more information startups like these can get about their creations the better they can make them.

As more and more information is created we shall need more and more tools like Storify to help us to both manage it and make sense of it. We communicate by telling stories to each other and these technologies are vital to help us in sharing our understanding of the world around us.

You can read more articles by Fergus Kelly at ferguskelly.net

ITLG: Pointing the Way Forward

A delegation from the Irish Technology Leadership Group came to Ireland this week. Their mission was to offer support to young Irish entrepreneurs, and facilitate access to the skills, experience and wisdom of those who work in Silicon Valley. They did the latter by bringing over more than twenty seasoned Silicon Valley leaders from California to meet face-to-face with the Irish business community.

In amongst the many private meetings, there were public talks given in Dublin and Galway, and an all-day event took place at the Kemmy Business School in the University of Limerick.

A crowded house had the opportunity to listen to three panel discussions; Ireland and the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead; mobile and the vast possibilities that are available in that space; and a discussion by VCs on how venture capital works.

Craig Barrett was a member of the first panel, and the context of the discussion was centered around the subjects he spoke about in Dublin and Galway and which are laid out in greater detail in this article, “Technology Only Moves Forward“. Essentially, the challenges that we face are really our opportunities. Corporations by their very nature are not set up for innovation. Their primary R&D spend is on extending their product lines. Innovation comes from research universities, and the two sectors need to come closer together. As Craig said, ”There is no point in being depressed. We’re all in this [global economy] boat together. Let’s row for shore… It’s not so much a time for depression as it is for action.”

Other key takeaways from this discussion were:

  • Results matter, not meetings.
  • Don’t expect too much help.
  • Entrepreneurs don’t wait.
  • Most importantly of all: take action.

After lunch we had the mobile panel. It would be the easiest thing in the world to fill the rest of this post with amazing statistics such as, “Four out of five phones are not smartphones,” and sobering statistics like, “More people have access to mobile phones than clean water,” but I don’t think that is necessary – the message was clear.

Mobile is where future development and opportunity lie. The playing field is wide open – go for it.

The final panel consisted of a group of VCs talking about their work. All (except one) were engaged in the same business of investing money in risky ventures in the hope of a substantial return. An essential observation to be had from having them all seated together was that their differing personalities, tone and demeanour indicated that there was no one catch-all approach when going to call on a VC for funding. You have to do your research and know who you are going to be talking to.

Apart from being sure that the VC is right for you in terms of being able to work together, you have to bear in mind that something that would intrigue one VC would make another’s eyes glaze over. “They [VCs] tend to stick to their knitting”, said Robert Simon from Ariva Partners.

The ITLG delegation led by John Hartnett were energetic, focused and organised. They covered a lot of ground and got a lot done in a very short time. It is impossible to predict what the results will be of all this concentrated effort, but I suspect that if even a tenth of the passion and enthusiasm that the delegation exhibited for what Ireland has to offer rubs off then we have a great many positive outcomes to look forward to.

Technology Voice is primarily about making new technologies accessible and relevant, but we make no secret that we also wave the flag for Irish tech. The future is technology and the only way forward is to have greater investment in innovation and greater opportunity to exploit those developments.

Two final quotes to leave you with:

  • “Think big, go big” – John Stanton
  • ”We have to compete with our brains if we want to get paid” – Craig Barrett

Craig Barrett: Technology Only Moves Forward

Craig Barrett joined Intel in 1974 and was its CEO from 1998 to 2005. As part of a trip organized by the International Technology Leadership Group (ITLG) he gave a short public talk in Dublin. The mission of the ITLG is to encourage young Irish entrepreneurs and bring the skills, experience and know-how of Silicon Valley back to the people of Ireland.

When Craig began at Intel the company was making forty million dollars a year. By the time he left it was making a hundred million dollars a day. He helped manage Intel through eleven recessions and in his talk he made some interesting comments and observations on the current state of economic affairs. He particularly addressed the relationship between research Universities and the private sector. His suggestions on how we can move forward are unconventional and run contrary to some widely held beliefs. We have abridged the speech and added our own comments where appropriate.

“There’s not much secret to any of this. It’s really hard work and implementation that takes things forward. We like wealth creation, we like the high paying jobs and we like a growing economy. The only way you can keep that is by the constant creation of new companies, new wealth, new products, new ideas. That requires a continuous stream of investment.

“That investment in new ideas comes in two parts; public sector and private sector. The public sector, for historic reasons, invested in basic research which usually takes place in research institutes. There is also a private sector in R&D but typically it is more development based. It is more about the development of existing ideas.

“You can for example look at a company like Intel which invests six or seven billion dollars a year in research but it is mostly in the development of next generation microprocessors or some extension of the current Intel business line. A company like Microsoft will invest eight billion dollars a year in basic development and extension of its existing product line. Whether it is the operating system, the application suite or maybe some of the other programs that Microsoft has.

“The interesting thing about major corporations’ research budgets is that they are not particularly entrepreneurial in their nature. They are extensions of existing product lines.”

If we look at a large company like Microsoft, it can be seen that it has had three main challenges over the years. All of which have been derived from University research projects made up of one or two researchers.

  • Netscape: An internet browser which came out of work done at the University of Illinois
  • Yahoo: An internet directory which came from work done at Stanford University
  • Google: An internet search engine which also came from work done at Stanford University

Craig says the question that needs to be asked is, “How did two graduate students with a research budget of a fifty or a hundred thousand dollars challenge a major corporation with a research budget of more than seven billion dollars? The only conclusion that you can arrive at is that the idea, the individual idea, is immensely powerful and immensely valuable.”

Another issue with startup ideas is that very often there is no apparent way of monetizing them and Chief Financial Officers in many companies prefer to see money being spent in a tangible manner on existing product lines.

“There’s a huge role here for research Universities to move forward, to bring new ideas into the marketplace, to feed the entrepreneurs of society and to create wealth and jobs. Frankly that is the only way that Ireland, the United States, Japan or Western Europe…will compete in the future.”

This implies a new way of doing things and Craig went on to lay out some fundamental principles that could help guide the way.

  • Substantial investment in new ideas: Ten years ago, 3% of Gross National Product devoted to R&D was considered ample. For investment to be considered substantial that figure should be 5%.
  • Sustainable investment: Competitive ideas can take longer to develop and bring to market than the electoral cycle in most democracies. Politicians have an inbuilt resistance to others, particularly opposing parties being seen to benefit from their ideas and the decisions they make.
  • Synergy. Bringing the private sector closer to Universities is absolutely key.
  • The acceptance of failure: In Silicon Valley you are not considered experienced unless you have had two or three failures. Without those sort of lessons learned first hand in the only way possible then what gives you the idea that you can be successful?

Craig sums this up, “If you look at those four general areas which are; the magnitude of the investment, the sustainability of the investment, the synergy of the investment between the public and private sector and then also the societal aspects, you get the basic fundamentals about what is important about entrepreneurial activity.”

Gordon Moore, one of the founders of Intel has a famous much cited law that implies that computing power doubles roughly every eighteen months or two years. He based this on his observation that the number of transistors that can be placed inexpensively on an integrated circuit had doubled approximately every two years.

Gordon Moore also has another much less famous law which Craig reminded us of, “Technology does not recognize recessions. It only moves forward.”

“If you are a corporation working in the tech sector your only option, to stay abreast with technology and to stay in a competitive position, is not to slow down investment in technology.

“The only way to get out of recession in a stronger fashion than when you entered recession is to invest your way out and not to save your way out. This is absolutely contrary to any advice you may receive from investment bankers, the press, or a Wall Street broker that deals in stocks.

“Those companies and those countries that invest their way out of recession will come out the other side in much better condition. Don’t try and save your way out of a recession – invest your way out.”

Women in Tech: The Link to the Future

In the last year, I have been to three major conferences and numerous smaller gatherings and meetings. The one thing they have all had in common is that women were completely outnumbered by the men. The amount of women attending never exceeded the 30% mark and was often much lower. An essential ingredient for a successful gathering of the talented and the interested is good coffee and good wifi, but I would argue that the most vital ingredient would be a greater amount of women in attendance.

The question has to be asked why there are so few women in technology? In societies all around the world, women are seen primarily as the home-builders, so it is not expected for them to run their own businesses as well as run a family. They are the CEOs of the home and it has been determined that they should rule no further.

It all starts at school. Women don’t choose science subjects at school because maths and physics are not presented as being relevant. The problem is that neither technology nor science are made to seem appealing as subjects to study or careers to pursue. They are not hard subjects. In fact they are fun, but it is rare that they are portrayed in an attractive light from a female point of view. Science is clean, logic-filled fun and isn’t owned by anybody. Of course, you could argue that it is for women themselves to cast the obstacles aside and stride forth unimpaired. But for many women who also want, and have the right, to have a domestic life, it simply becomes another battle on too many fronts.

The role models are there but there are few and far between; Caroline Porco, Gina Trapani and Marissa Mayer are a few of the more well-known. Also, there are women like Jenny Rohn, whose work on fighting cutbacks in government spending by being the organiser and energiser behind the campaign “Science is Vital” have been featured in a previous article, “Scientists Take to the Streets“. But it’s not enough, and we shouldn’t be assessing accomplishment in terms of gender anyway. There is much more that needs to be done.

Of course, not all men are unsympathetic to the difficulties that women face in the workplace. However, we all operate under cultural assumptions about gender roles that constantly need to be challenged. Nevertheless, you would not think that in the highly-educated science and tech community that you would expect to see anything like the cover of last month’s edition of Wired.

The image on the front of the magazine only serves to add insult to injury. As a woman working in the tech sector, you get used to things and there is just no point in whining: no one is going to listen anyhow. However, this current cover takes the biscuit and it is disappointing that Wired magazine would want to alienate one-half of their potential customers. A stupidity, actually, from a business perspective. Their sheer arrogance is reflected in the publishing of a cover that looks like a soft-porn magazine. Fine if they are selling porn, but they are selling tech. This is just one of the reasons why so few women stay in or pursue work in tech. There seems to be a blur now between the tech and porn industries, neither of which treat women suitably, favourably or fairly.

Cindy Royal also makes some great points in regard to Wired’s poor treatment of women in her article “An Open Letter to Wired Magazine“. The most telling failure of Wired’s unjust behaviour is that it has been fourteen years since they had a woman on the cover that actually featured in an article. A lot of things can change in a decade and a half, but unfortunately it has not been the role of women in the workplace or in science and tech.

It is not just Wired magazine who are guilty of ill-treating women in this respect. Facebook itself is a platform that was built on rating females – not unlike the rating system that seventeen male accountants at Price Waterhouse Cooper used which leaked via email to the press recently.

If we start to tolerate the behaviour towards women and accept it and say it is OK for them to be continued to be objectified, what does this say for future possibilities and equality in the workplace? Will it become only further out of reach? Is the possibility of equality an illusion – a myth in the workplace?

There is somehow the perceived notion that women are less valuable then men in the workplace – that maternity leave is seen as “time off” and men seen as superior. That deep down, women are only really as valuable as good as they look on their ‘hot or not’ ratings. It is ironic that women not only have to work twice as hard – but they get paid less for it. Women in the workplace also come under more scrutiny than their male peers, especially if they are in top positions.

I have given talks to girls at high-school level who are starting to give serious consideration to what they are going to do with the rest of their lives. When I advocated science and technology as a possible career path, their responses were impassive at best and rarely enthusiastic. It simply was not on the agenda. Since we know there are no intellectual reasons why women can’t succeed in science, the answer has to be in the culture that surrounds us. The problem is that computer science is not made to seem an appealing subject to study or career to pursue.

If there is to be a fundamental shift towards an increase of women in tech it needs to start at the primary school level. The negative associations of tech and women need to change – unfortunately the woeful current Wired cover doesn’t help much. What younger girls need is more influential role models – either male or female – and also all the support and encouragement that they can get.

The big loser in all this is human progress. We have so many challenges facing us and so much to do, and it needs all of us – men and women – to make as much of a contribution as possible in order to come up with the solutions we need so urgently. A lack of diversity always causes problems in the end. It will take both genders to make a difference. Men need to learn to share and women need to step forward and claim what they have a right to. It is the impact of all contributions that will help make the world a better place and have a positive and constructive impact on society.

Interview: Krishna De – Perspectives on Having a Social Media Presence

Krishna De was a speaker yesterday at the “Turning Online Networking into Real Business” conference organized by HPSU Skillnet. Krishna has been working in the Social Media field for the last six years. Before that she has worked at senior levels with Guinness and Diageo. Her talk was a step by step guide to developing a Social Media laid out as a 30 day strategy to make it convenient to understand and easy to remember.

Krishna has been working in the Social Media since its earliest days and we took the opportunity to ask her how things had changed since she began.

“It’s great to see so many more organizations looking to embrace it and use it. If I look back about three years ago the organizations that were making most use of it were small businesses. One of the reasons we saw smaller organizations use it was very often they had recognized they needed to market their businesses for the recession. They had limited budgets, they didn’t have to have lots of forms of approval to be able to do it. [Social Media platforms] were free and they were easy to use and had a very low barrier for entry.

“Larger organizations at that time, and some still are, were nervous around things like, “What happens if people say negative things about us?” and “Not sure how we get started,” and so on.

“Platforms changed and became easier to use. When things like twitter became available you started to see journalists using it and the media using it and it became more mainstream. That got more people starting to think about it. What we see now is that a lot more organizations use these platforms, embrace them and put them in as part of their communications engagement plans and marketing plans.”

Has people’s approach to Social Media changed?

“It’s all about telling a story. I think we are going back to some core roots. There is a lot we can learn from story-telling. That’s what effective communication and marketing is. We remember the stories. I guess some of the people attending today would have remembered the stories today rather than the facts.

“What we need to do is go back to is, “What is the message and what are we trying to communicate and who with and how are we going to make this of interest to other people?” Then, “How might we use these different platforms to be able to do it?”

“The big questions are, “How does this make a difference to my business in terms of my communication, my engagement, my PR or whatever their measures are?”

“I wouldn’t disregard good old traditional media at all and that is why I like to think about Social Media as an integrated three hundred and sixty degree marketing approach because social proof is hugely important. We are influenced by our friends and we are influenced by traditional media. I wouldn’t forget those things. They are hugely important and we should integrate them where we can.”

How do you see the things developing and changing in the future?

“I think it is becoming much more simple for us to use these technologies which is fantastic particularly for somebody like me who is not a highly technical person. I think the way we can publish content so quickly and so easily is fantastic.

“There’s a few things I see happening. A lot of us have got smartphones now and we can search for information on them. We are kidding ourselves if we don’t consider the web as mobile. From a digital perspective you have to know how your core website renders for people looking at it on a smartphone of some description.

“I think the thing that is going to grow in the year ahead is video. It is becoming easier and easier to do. People will always cite YouTube but there are many other sites you can syndicate your content to and of course host your own content as well.

“Podcasting seems like a forgotten thing but a lot of people do love audio. I can multitask with audio. If I were driving and watching a video I would be in trouble.

“How do we build longer term relationships? If I look further forward there’s a couple of things I would look at like social commerce and social customer relationship management. The smarter companies are already moving into that. Anybody can get a coupon once but they may never come back to you. “How do you build a lifetime relationship with that person?” I think that’s a question for us in terms of marketing, engagement and communication.

“One the areas where Social Media is hugely under utilized is to enable better engagement inside the organization. The first people to use it were the marketeers but now you are starting to see other functions of the organization using it and it is now being linked into the sales processes and so on.

Employee engagement is absolutely critical in terms of making sure your people know what they need to and how to represent your brand. They are your brand as well. I think there’s a huge opportunity to get your organization to be more efficient inside.”

You can catch up with more of Krishna’s activities at BizGrowth News

Cisco’s Carlos Dominguez: “Cooperation Is The Killer App”

The most remarkable thing about meeting with Carlos Dominguez, Senior Vice President at Cisco Systems, was how we met. I was in Galway, Ireland and Carlos was in New Jersey in the United States, but it felt as though he was sitting across the table from me.

The technology we used for this meeting was called Telepresence. The experience was overwhelmingly real but at the same time so natural and unobtrusive that minutes into the interview I had quite forgotten that we were, in reality, separated by thousands of miles of Atlantic Ocean. At one point I became concerned that should I jog the table I might knock over a coffee cup (visible in the picture above) which Carlos had placed close to his computer. There was nothing to fear as the cup was empty but the feeling that I could have a direct physical effect on someone else in another country remained.

Cisco has over 900 of these Telepresence sites across its network and they are starting to appear in locations where members of the public can have better access to the technology. The JW Marriott Grand Marquis has recently opened a Telepresence site in its hotel in Miami which it rents out by the hour. A major advantage of Telepresence technology is that it saves travel time, airfares and room rates – which for a team of people can mount up very quickly. It also saves on travel induced stress.

This is something Carlos knows about from personal experience, “If I go back to 2006. I travelled almost a million miles on airlines and if you do the calculation that’s almost traveling every single day for 365 days. Some days I traveled more than once. It took a tremendous toll on me.

“In 2010, I’m traveling 70,000 miles maybe 75,000 miles but here’s the punchline; I am seeing two to three times more customers and it’s the technology that’s enabling it.

“The question that comes out all the time is, “Oh, well, but nothing replaces a face to face meeting.” Well, true, it’s great to see you to shake your hand or maybe we’ll get a cup of coffee, a dinner, a lunch or maybe a glass of wine or a beer… and nothing replaces that bonding. But the experience of doing [Telepresence] is very, very different.”

Video and video-conferencing are not exactly new technologies so we asked Carlos what had changed?

“As a young man I remember going to the 1964 World’s Fair in New York and AT&T had the Picturephone. A telephone that had video on it. I remember being amazed and that was fifty plus years ago that they demonstrated that technology. In the eighties there was video-conferencing everywhere but the challenges there was that the quality of the video wasn’t very good. It was very hard to operate. You needed a whole staff of people to do it. People were zooming in and out, the quality of the audio was horrible. It was horrific.

“So when we set out to design this we said, “What are all things about video[-conferencing] that we dislike and how do we change it?”

“We took all the bad things away. We have super high quality video. We’ve taken into consideration the lighting, the colour… We spent months just analyzing the colour of the wood so it gives you a very natural reflection. We went to Hollywood to work with designers and lighting designers to make it all very simple.

“But I think the reason why it is so powerful has to do with physiology. We had body language before we had language. I spend time with people, coaching them, and I know exactly what they are thinking. I can see every little part of your face so I know if you are connecting with me or you are not. Those are the things that I think are really transformational in the way we are doing this and why this technology is so powerful.”

Telepresence is scaled for different price points with different unit sizes and is available for different budgets and different needs. There is even a Telepresence system for the home called Umi which is being rolled out in the US at present but should be arriving on European shores soon.

A very useful facility that Umi has is the ability to email you when a video voicemail has arrived. All you have to have with you is the ability to run Google Video. You can check your video message while in a cafe or a bar or while in transit.

“It’s all about video.” Carlos says, “In order to collaborate you have to have the underlying technologies to collaborate with and I think video is one of the really strong enablers that allows that to happen. Now we see dramatic changes inside the company on how we do things by leveraging video and cooperating differently.

Cisco also has a service called WebEx Connect which gives you the ability to have online meetings where you can share your presentation via a small video window.

“Cooperation is the killer app.” Carlos explains, “One of the challenges right now for Social Media is when you are talking about Facebook and Twitter and large corporations. Last number I read is that 54% of Fortune 500 companies block Facebook and Twitter. It’s alarming to me that such a powerful tool is not being embraced. But I hope that with technologies like Quad we can bring them into businesses and show them that there is extreme power in doing it.

“We’ve been using a lot of social media technology…If you look at the power of Social Media and those technologies and what it allows you to do – to be able to share and to be able to communicate with people – they are better tools than most enterprises have. Most enterprises are very reliant on email. Email is very antiquated. 90% of email is spam.

“So, what we started thinking about three years ago is, “How do we leverage the power of Social Media and bring it into the enterprise where it is safe and secure. And also put on some bells and whistles which are very pertinent to a business user.””

Cisco Quad is an internal social media service that allows for collaboration within a corporate structure. It was developed by an R&D team led by Mike Conroy working out of Galway, Ireland. We plan to devote a subsequent article to talking to Mike and finding out more about how Quad works.

In the final part of the interview we asked Carlos about his views on future developments.

“Technologies allow a vast majority of people to really collaborate on something. The more diverse a group of people that are collaborating is; by age, where they live, religion, culture; the more varied those dimensions are – the better the group is at solving complex problems.

“Information evolves with the tools as one person sees it and someone else from a different background sees something else. That information, every time it goes through a person with a different background becomes more and more valuable.

“The pace of change is going to accelerate. I think in a world that is moving so fast I think embracing change is very, very important and I think experimenting is very, very important.

“I talk to a lot of CEOs and really senior people and they always ask me, “How do I keep up with everything? What do I do?” I always tell them you have to experiment. You have to set up a culture that is constantly trying all these things.

“When you experiment you learn what works and what doesn’t. And when you learn you eventually get to Utopia which is [where] you get leveraging.”

It’s a four step process:

  • You embrace change
  • Experiment
  • Learn from the experiment
  • Leverage.

“You can’t get the leverage unless you go through the process. In a world that is changing rapidly you have to start being open to all the things that are going on.

“The good news is that as technology gets more and more sophisticated it will get much easier to use. The technology will learn how we operate.”

Results of Prize Draw for Museum of Communications and Computing, Galway, Ireland

A couple of weeks ago we did a short blog and made a small video which previewed the opening of the Museum of Communications and Computing at the Digital Enterprise Research Institute located in Galway, Ireland.

As a means of raising interest Brendan Smith very kindly put an ipod up as a prize in a draw. Contestants simply had to identify the computer (above seen from a less oblique angle when originally presented,) and email in their answers.

Out of nearly thirty participants only three got the right answer which is the Dragon 32. The name, Dragon, refers to the fact that the computer was built in Wales.

If you would care to know the identity of the winner and the extremely fair way we went about making the choice please watch this short video.

Thanks to everyone who sent in their entries and also a special thanks to all those people who contributed their old and computers and other bits of gear to enable the Museum of Communications and Computing to provide as comprehensive a timeline as possible in its exhibition.