On Friday 27th March 2009 I was given the go ahead on a new and very exciting project – the Betavine Social Exchange (BSX).  The project is funded as part of the Vodafone Group Social Investment Fund, which seeks to enable access to communications in emerging markets.

The approval follows months of discussion around the concept culminating in a series of meetings in Cape Town with NGOs and in Johannesburg with Vodacom.  Whilst in the Cape Town area I had the great honour of being invited to speak at the launch of Living Labs in Southern Africa – which exists to ” support the growth of a community of Living Lab researchers in Southern Africa and ultimately, in Africa.”  A living lab is about working with local people to solve real world problems.

LLiSA Launch in Stellenbosch, SA

The BSX concept is simple enough, creating a space on the web where problem owners can meet solution providers from the mobile space.  However, I am anticipating many challenges ahead with defining the requirements and building a website (part of Betavine) that meets the users needs and encourages participation.

I have decided to try something new … to blog about the project as it unfolds.  This is a little scary as I do not know how the project will run or whether it will ultimately prove successful.  What I do know is that the concept alone has ignited a great deal of interest and passion around Vodafone and its partners and so I am confident that we will deliver something of value.

During the research phase of this project we have already gathered some key requirements and so next week we will start by pulling these together in some coherent form.  We will also work with the Living Labs in Southern Africa community to test our ideas and requirements with those that will be piloting the concept in South Africa.

Crowdsourced Thinking

March 23, 2009

Blogging is a form of crowdsourced thinking.  Posts set out ideas, views and opinions for others to read and comment on.  These comments can lead to the further development of ideas or dismiss misunderstandings or take the blogger off on a completely new direction.

Is this not crowdsourced thinking?  Crowdsourcing is a new term and helps when explaining observed behaviour on the web but is it a new concept?

In the past people may not have had access to countless unknown blog readers but could spout forth in front of a small group of friends in the pub on any topic and likely get a good few comments back.  You may not consider this activity as crowdsourced thinking but what is the difference?

As social interaction moves online we are seeing many traditional activities take on new forms, blogging being one of them.  I often hear people saying that the youth of today are not anti-social as some suspect but they are merely social online in a way that their parents do not understand.  Instead of going down the local park and hanging out with their mates from the same area they are going online and hanging out with the mates from school or from other schools or other town or countries.

What was the offline equivalent to blogging?  Publishing or expressing my opinion to a group of people (may only be a few) and hoping for some comments and feedback – well that could have been considered a conversation?  But the guys down the pub do not work in my industry and do not understand what I am talking about!  So the conversation has to take place at work or at the local club where specialism can be indulged.  However, it is very convenient to be able to locate an almost infinate variety of specialism from the comfort of my home PC. 

Now we are talking about the long tail of interests that can be found on the web.  More about that another time.

Blogging allows specialist conversations to take place with a potential audience of millions but with a likely audience of a few other specialists.  With the aid of a web search engine a small “crowd” of specialist can find a blog and comment on it in a meaningful way … crowdsourced thinking.

Why blog?

March 13, 2009

Well, I have been blogging a bit at work already but not my own personal blog. 

The main thing is whether I have something to say that my fellow man would find worth reading / listening to.  I have been enbolded recently by a few public appearances, e.g. the Betavine 2nd Birthday Party and the MoMo London “operator” panel.  I am fascinated by the web, commonly referred to as the internet and all the changes it is bringing to our lives and societies.  Crowdsourcing, open and collaborative innovation, the long tail, wikinomics … what does it all mean for the corporate company? particularly operators?

So, with these words I am starting my first personal blog and, like with the launch of Betavine a few years ago, I do not know how it is going to pan out but I am full of expectation.  I will take a little time to collect my thoughts and some more material on these topics and then move ahead with an open conversation – at least I am hoping it will not just be a monologue.

Do I need to say “comments welcome” on a blog?

Steve [signing my name … that may be a little too email like?]