Friday, November 21, 2008

NextMEDIA Conference

My intention to live blog and microblog the nextMEDIA conference were dashed by the almost total lack of Internet connection and only one power outlet in the place. The venue CiRCA, is not appropriate for a conference. I've been here before for a conference - or rather unconference, CaseCamp - and the novelty of being in a trendy nightclub (complete with S&M figurines) was cool but the novelty wears off when one is spending an entire day here, let alone two days in a space designed for clubbers to bump and grind rather than sit and learn. Symbollically, the S&M figures were covered up today so as to not offend the less-hip conference go-ers. Waiting almost an half an hour in the cold to get in to then register started the day out for me in a grumpy mode, but fortunately I was able to recover due to the caliber of speakers. Grade A line-up of speakers with reps from YouTube, eBay, Google, CBC, Nokia, Rogers, Canwest, comScore, the infamous SuicideGirls.

The conference was sold out, so much so that quite a number of people didn't even get a seat. There seemed a better mix of people - young and old, content creators and marketing types, men and women - than at most Toronto Internet or tech events.

The theme of the nextMEDIA conference is monetizing digital media . A great topic as having lived through the first dot com bubble I was wondering how these web 2.0 darlings were going to make some money. As the opening keynote speaker, Shelly Palmer, declared the Internet is good at creating value, but not so good at creating money from that value. (There did seem consensus that no one could figure out how Twitter was going to make money.)

If there were common points from today's presentations, it would be that it is possible to monetize digital media and industry-standard metrics for digital media are needed. Regarding the latter, the term engagment was used a lot. While most bandied it about as the holy grail of digital media, Palmer pointed out that this terms means different things to different people due to various ways of measuring this and until we can agree on a common definition it is hard to sell deals based on engagement. Thus we are left with metrics such as impressions or click-throughs that may not work for us.

Some of the tips for monetizing aren't that earth-shattering: affiliate marketing, storefronts, transactions, corporate sponsorship, advertising.

Interestingly, the keynote was to be "Economic Meltdown: Will 'Free" Save the Future" but Palmer changed topics as that one was "too depressing". While some of the digital media projects presented today, whether cool mobile apps or online television, are really excited both from a consumer and insider perspective, I would have like Palmer to have addressed the topic. Having lived through a collapse of online advertising dollars, I am curious who and survive and how.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Types of Internet Media

Every time I need to think of how communication is different on Internet media I keep needing to make a mental run-through of all the various distinct Internet media. So to save time next time, here is a list of Internet media. Please let me know if I missed something or included something that should be rolled up.

I'm defining media as a unique form of communication between humans, (so FTP is more of a file exchange than a communication medium). Some mediums blur the distinctions by merging or hosting other mediums.

Typology of Internet media:
  1. Website (includes publicly available websites, and private such as intranets & extranets )
  2. Mobile website (a website optimized for viewing on a handheld, mobile device)
  3. Internet telephony (i.e. Voice-over-Internet Protocol, such as Skype)
  4. Internet television (both television channels delivered by the Internet, such as the Bell Fibe service, or individual tv shows offered via the websites of channels)
  5. Email
  6. Instant messaging and chat (I might include Twitter here)
  7. Forums/message board (allows threaded text-based conversations)
  8. Streaming audio (includes podcasts & Internet radio)
  9. Streaming video (includes webcasts, podcasts, YouTube videos)
  10. Games (includes console-based and online-only)
  11. eBooks
Within mediums there are genres, so website would have some of the following genres:
  • social networking site
  • blog
  • e-commerce site
  • online gambling site
  • news
  • informational
  • wiki
I'm not sure I got this right and I found anyone else that has tried to categorize all Net things like this, so I'm curious what others have to say.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Nonverbal Communications Online

I was searching for a definition of nonverbal communication for a recent school assignment and couldn't find one. As I learned, academics disagree on a definition, in part as the term is applied to a vast array of human and animal phenomenon, encompassing everything from architecture to extra sensory perception and from dance to fashion. I think a useful definition is that nonverbal communication is communication that goes along with words but does not use words.

In face-to-face (F2F) encounters one may observe various nonverbals, such as facial expressions, gestures (e.g. waving, nodding, winking), haptics (e.g. touching, kissing, holding), involuntary sounds (e.g. coughing, gasping, yawning), paralanguage (e.g. non-words such as umm and eh, inflection, intonation, accent), posture, proxemics (e.g. personal space, seating position), and silence.

Considering the oft-heard report that found that in any F2F communication the majority of the message is communicated nonverbally, so it is important to consider this in online communication. Interpreting nonverbals adeptly can reveal emotion, deception, agreement, sensitivity, etc. thus giving us greater insight and depth into those we're communicating with.

Most of the research I found focused on nonverbal communication in F2F and not online (Wikipedia being the only exception). I'm sure there is research out there but it's buried deep in the academic walled garden - plowed under perhaps. This got me thinking of the various ways we can communicate nonverbally online as individuals (opposed to how websites communicate nonverbally, e.g. through design).

Virtual worlds or MMOG, by simulating real life mimic the use of real life nonverbals, such as facial expression (of avatar), proxemics, and gestures.

A VoIP call will have the same nonverbals as a telephone call, e.g. paralanguage and silence, except that with my connections and microphone/speaker set-up some subtleties of intonation and inflection can be lost and dramatic pauses can just be the connection crapping out.

For text-based online communication, nonverbals can be seen in the use of fonts, text embellishment (e.g. bolding, italics), letter case (e.g. BLOCK CAPS), punctuation (!!!), spacing, and emoticons. I'm sure I'm missing stuff, so please let me know of any others.

That said, there still isn't the same array or degree of nonverbals online. I was thinking about some of the problems I have encountered with email. Email is such a lean medium in that it doesn't offer much ability beyond those listed above to add clarity, emphasis, or depth to one's message. Plus being asynchronous, it doesn't give as much chance to clarify on the spot. I think we have all encountered emails that people inferred things we did not intend. Humour, particularly sarcasm, is really difficult in email.

What's the solution? It seems to me that people use sarcasm much less in emails nowadays than they used to. Emoticons were helpful, but it seems like the happy face and sad face are passé and the many others never caught enough to be widely understood. On a personal level, I take more time to compose and double-check my emails than I used to, so I can compensate for otherwise lacking tone.

To further complicate things, when interpreting nonverbal communication F2F or online one should be aware that there are cultural, context, and individual differences. So there's no easy solution for adding clear nonverbal communication offline or online.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Online TV Saves My Life

I’m almost finished my on-campus time at Royal Roads University. But as the program is general communication, with a focus on professional communication, there is almost no discussion of Internet topics and I’m in serious withdrawal!

In addition to the classwork, there’s an overabundance of after-class team work and “reflection” papers. Yes it’s meaningless academic busywork. So they keep us busy. During the scant free time, the campus is stunning beautiful so it’s been a treat to just walk around here.

Still there are moments when I need a break and need the refreshing mindless entertainment that only TV can offer – mental candy. As my room does not have a television, I decided to see what fun video stuff I could get online for the first time. As I have television and nearby DVD rental place at home, I’ve never ventured to explore streaming television available in Canada.

First stop: YouTube
Over the last year or so YouTube has grown on me. Its short videos ranging from the cute to the bizarre, are great but aren’t really suitable for extended viewing.

Next stop: American TV network sites
The United States has a lot available but due to copyright restrictions they are blocked in Canada.

Canada’s main stop:
I tried and enjoyed some Fifth Estate documentaries and Rick Mercer Report (although Rick Mercer is best when viewed contemporaneously) otherwise CBC doesn't have much in the way of comedy or drama. But after a hard day of listening to research methodology or talking about my feelings in interpersonal communications class, I need the relief only trash TV offers

Next stop:
Thankfully, provided me the medicinal TV, I needed to heal my academia-addled brain. Due to my wife and my busy schedule we tend to watch DVDs of tv shows we already know we like. CTV’s Broadband Network (including MTV, Discovery, Comedy Network) has a plethora of shows available to watch on demand – some even have all episodes of prior seasons. I should be ashamed to admit that the direness of my academic experiences drove me to repeat viewings of Gossip Girl & Paris Hilton’s BFF.

Recommended stop: Global TV
I Twittered my dire straights and asked for help and was referred to GlobalTV. I saw they had The Office and Heroes. Line-up is ideal for me, but after three attempts to watch an episode of The Office and was repeatedly either shut out or had an episode switch to the start of another episode. Global does allow one – in theory, if it worked for me - to access an episode at various points inside, which is great if you don’t have time to watch an entire episode.

Best stop: is undoubtedly CTV's Broadband Network as it offers a lot of good shows and has no technical problems.

I also noted that Bravo and Showcase have a lot of good shows on their site again. I may never need to buy an over-priced TV show DVD set ever again!