Clog with me! The future of websites.

Last fall when I revived Igniter I did the standard setup of website, tumblog and twitter account all of which have remained mostly untouched.  They didn’t feel right at the time, but it wasn’t until I read this post about the future of USV.com that it clicked. We didn’t need a website or a blog, we needed a “clog”!

clog |kläg, klôg| noun

1 a shoe with a thick wooden sole. <- all sorts of awesome!

2 an encumbrance or impediment. <- totally not this.

3 a collective log to gather online content from multiple people for discussion in common community <- kinda like flipboard meets hacker news

Increasingly, organizations are about a collection of people who gather to passionately pursue a common purpose… people who are increasingly publishing content across many places on the web. An authentic online presence should gather those voices and nurture the community and conversation they attract. This is what I wanted for Igniter.com.

A clog could begin simply as an aggregation of posts and tweets from the core contributors of the organization. Tighter curation could be based on #tagging and intelligent promotion of certain content. That content could be presented through a theme-based interface taking inspiration from any number of the news curation services and apps. Adding more functionality like ‘job listings’, ‘investor relations’, ‘customer service’, could be handled as plugins of the online services you are probably already using to support that function.  This is less about creating something new than it is about repackaging what we’re already doing and using. So far, so good.

But what about the community and the conversation? While applying Disqus to the content that’s curated might be a simple start point, is there a problem with fragmenting the conversations? Is there an opportunity in meshing them between the source and clog? Are the communities at each destination separate or similar? Is there opportunity in the overlap? I’m not sure, but I have a feeling there won’t be a simple answer.  This will be the tricky part.

This doesn’t exist yet, but I want it to. If it did I’d be getting clogs on for a handful of organizations, projects, and groups.

What about you? Would you get a clog on? What would it look like? How would you use it? What would you add?

Like those good old wooden ones, I’m betting the beauty will be in the simplicity of the foundation and the awesomeness of the customization.

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The evolution of civilization and social innovation

Humanity is in a chaotic phase, evolving from a civilization born of the industrial revolution to a civilization emerging from the digital revolution. As the pace of this evolution increases, so does our effort to direct it. That effort is called social innovation and it too is evolving.

From revolutions in music and media to the uprisings of the Arab Spring, Occupy movement and even Wikileaks, we can see a common pattern. Each is enabled by digital technology and the result of a complex social process comprised of many individual actions. Often they are user-driven, unfold rapidly, and challenge or circumvent a system that no-longer works they way its participants want.  Ultimately, this is about people and the way they want the future to work, for them. It is the evolution of our civilization.

Social innovation describes what is happening in more detail.  According to Social Innovation Generation:

“Social innovation is an initiative, product or process or program that profoundly changes the basic routines, resource and authority flows or beliefs of any social system (e.g. individuals, organizations, neighbourhoods, communities, whole societies).”

Going a bit further, the Social Innovation Exchange and Young Foundation describe:

“Social innovations are innovations that are both social in their ends and in their means. Specifically, we define social innovations as new ideas (products, services and models) that simultaneously meet social needs (more effectively than alternatives) and create new social relationships or collaborations. In other words they are innovations that are both good for society and enhance society’s capacity to act.

Keying in on the challenges of dealing with complex systems Tim Draimin observes that “As today’s problems evolve from ‘complicated’ to ‘complex’, the expert-led approach falls short.”. In response to this challenge, leaders in social innovation are turning to Innovation Labs for their core capacity to: “Perceive and articulate a common understanding of a challenge; Creatively identify possible solutions; Experiment, prototype, test, outreach; and Implement”. While the concept of these labs borrows loosely from the scientific version of laboratory, it firmly recognizes the increasing importance of social technology in innovation.

The design of these labs are also being influenced by the iterative, human and user-centred design practices gaining prominence in the digital revolution. A definite response to the increasing personalization of digital technology and the accelerating pace of development, these practices fit particularly well with social innovation and its focus on the needs of people in general and vulnerable populations in particular.

Take Tyze for example. From years of experience, PLAN knew that the  key to quality of life for people with disabilities was the quality of their personal network. Combining that insight with the concept of social networks, PLAN created Tyze to help strengthen the networks around its individual members.  Centred around people with disabilities the site grew rapidly and is now starting to influence the way health-care services are provided to its members. While Tyze was an early pioneer in employing digital technology for social innovation in this way, the understanding of its role is becoming more widespread. As Annika Small, director of the Nominet Trust describes, “Technology gives us the opportunity to think differently, develop new social connections and reorganize resources across communities.”

Beyond these types of direct applications, digital technology also has a deeper connection. Like social innovation, digital technology is about connections. The web, or as Tim-Berners-Lee recently described, “Humanity linked by tech”, is a rapidly expanding, interconnected network of people, places, things and data that effectively contains an actionable model of every social system one could aim to affect or create. It is the ultimate social innovation lab and carries unprecedented potential to observe, experiment, develop, and diffuse social innovation. Indeed, as the digital revolution unfolds it becomes increasingly difficult to imagine any social innovation independent of the context and application of digital technology.

As we navigate this transition, social innovation is emerging as a key enabler of our resilience and our future. At the same time, social and digital technology are emerging as a core foundation for social innovation. And while innovation labs appear to be a cornerstone of that foundation, it’s clear that we’ve only just begun building. As our civilization transitions we can expect our challenges to deepen and the pace of change to accelerate. As daunting as it can seem, this emerging model of social innovation offers hope for what’s possible and reminds us that now, more than ever, we are building it together.

Related posts:

The nature of digital technology

Digital technology is not about circuits and wires, it is about data and connectivity. In the Nature of Technology, W. Brain Arthur explains:

“Digitization allows functionalities to be combined even if they come from different domains, because once they enter the digital domain they become objects of the same type – data strings.”

Data also has another property. It is intangible. Where physical materials are limited by scarcity, data thrives in abundance, able to replicate freely without diminishing the original.

In fact, systems of digital technology look a lot more like living systems than the material bits they are made of. Comprised of people, things, interfaces and data, they are connected, interdependent, and evolving at an accelerating rate. For example, when AOL was first introduced it took 9 years to reach a million users. For Facebook it was 9 months. And now, a simple social drawing game called DrawSomething crossed that milestone in a mere 9 days.

At the same time, digital technology is racing towards ubiquity. From nanotech to GPS. From Angry Birds to deciphering the human genome. Digital technology is a part of it all. Individually, 1 billion of us are connected with broadband while a whopping 5.6 billion are connected by SMS. And to accommodate the growth of the Internet of Things we’re working on IPV6 which would effectively allow every grain of sand on the planet to have a unique address on the Internet, 340 billion times over. Everything will be connected.

But that’s not all. Digital technology is also becoming more personal. As it evolves to serve more and more of our everyday needs it winds its way ever deeper into our lives. And because our participation is interactive, we ourselves, become a part of the system. We are no longer just passive consumers, as Time Magazine observed in 2006 when they named ‘You’ it’s Person of the Year. Since then the degree of ‘personalization’ of our digital technology has only accelerated.

Tim Berners-Lee recently said it best: “The web is not tech. It’s humanity linked by tech.” Built on top of data and connectivity, digital technology is becoming the foundation of our civilization, a foundation whose nature brings an accelerating capacity to evolve and adapt the systems of our future.

Further Reading:

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The revolution is digital

The industrial revolution began with technology that allowed us to manipulate our world in an entirely new way. As it developed it began to shape how we organize ourselves and even what we thought.  Over time it shaped civilization as we know it. And now, as we reach the limits of that civilization it appears history is about to repeat.

In his 2001 book Macroshift, Ervin Laszlo observed that new civilizations begin with “technological innovations that destabilize the established structures and institutions of society.” In the last decade, we’ve seen digital technology enable revolutions and uprisings around the world and trigger exisistential crises in the industries of music and media. Indeed, there is virtually nothing that digital technology has yet to impact. As W. Brian Arthur describes in The Nature of Technology:

“This is because a new domain of significance (think of the digital one) is encountered by all industries in an economy. As this happens, the domain combines some of its offerings with arrangements native to many industries. The result is new process and arrangements, new ways of doing things, not just in one area of application but all across the economy.”

Like in the industrial revolution we’re also already starting to see the effect of digital technology on our models of organization. In The Future of Management, Gary Hamel put it bluntly. “Argue with me if you like, but I’m willing to be Management 2.0 is going to look a lot like Web 2.0“. Hagel, Seely Brown, and Davison take it further in ‘The Power of Pull’:

“Using pull, we can create the conditions by which individuals, teams, and even institutions can achieve their potential in less time and with more impact than has ever been possible. The power of pull provides a key to how all of us- individually and collectively – can turn challenge and stress into opportunity and reward as digital technology remakes our lives.”

Finally, back in Macroshift, Lazslo considered mindset the deciding factor for the trajectory of the new civilization. In our case, he projected that successful transition would be marked by a shift in mindset:

“from competition to reconciliation and partnership; from greed and scarcity to sufficiency and caring; from outer ‘authority’ to inner ‘knowing’; from separation to wholeness; from mechanistic systems to living systems; from organizational fragmentation to coheren integration.”

While it’s too early to tell, digital technologies do seem compatible with that shift developing and I think it could be argued that there is movement along some of those dimensions.

So, if it is true that history repeats, it would appear that we are indeed in the midst of a transition from one civilization to another. While our success is anything but certain, it is helpful to understand the context of the changes we are experiencing and see the full potential of our future. The revolution is digital.

Sorry about the hangover

Hey there,

Sorry about the hangover.

It was a great party.  Never thought it would end.

Left a couple bucks on the table. Hope that covers the booze.

Oh, and I think the freezer thawed and someone puked in the well.  Might want to double-check before you cook up those last burgers or take a drink.

Also noticed there seems to be something wrong with the air conditioner. Think some of us were using it as an ashtray last night and it started making some weird sounds. Anyway, might want to take a look at that too. Heard it’s going to get hot today.

We had a great time. Sorry it didn’t turn out that way for you. Looks like flaw in the model.

Better luck next time!

Us

Backstory

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Irrationality required. No substitutions.

Clash of the Titans 01

Art and engineering. Intuition and intelligence. Heart and mind. It’s at the intersections that our future manifests.

Lately in entrepreneurship, design, and social innovation there’s a definite leaning toward the rational side of this balance. A big part of that is the availability of measurable data. Because if we can measure, we can test. We can optimize. We can iterate. We can improve.

This is good.

The ‘irrational’ side of things on the other hand taps into another set of data. The data from the fullness of human experience… the data from each individual’s life full of experiences. It’s the data that informs our intuition for where to head and our instinct for what to do.

This too, is good.

Good however, is not great. On their own, the rational is doomed to incrementalism just as the irrational is doomed to irrelevance. Perhaps that’s why, in the face of the rational movement I’m beginning to hear more about ‘getting rid of the experts‘.

Without the irrational, we’ll never find ourselves doing anything great and without the rational, we’ll never make much of our greatest opportunities. They go hand-in-hand. No substitutions allowed.

Humanity is conversation.

Calcutta Coffee House -  5

Markets are conversations”.

While on a long run yesterday along the Thames (yes we have one here too) I got thinking about the Cluetrain and that core thesis.

Yes, and… “Humanity is conversation”.

Conversation is a human thing. We can’t help but have it, with others, and with ourselves. Whether we have it or not it keeps happening all around us.

If flows like water, sometimes fast sometimes slow. Sometimes it eddies and looks like there’s no place to go. It can’t be stopped, for long, and it can’t be forced, for long. It just flows, whether we’re part of it or not.

Conversation is what ‘separates’ us from other living organisms. At least, our own technology of conversation does. It started with language, and after the awkward evolution of mass media, has blossomed with the adoption of the web.

But really, if we look a little deeper we can see conversation is what life is all about. Our bodies are bundles of conversation among physical processes. Our environment is an extraordinarily rich and dynamic web of conversations. Everything is conversation.

And so, in a way, I am really a set of conversations, a participant in many more, and an observer of ‘others’. But really, it’s all just conversation flowing.

Sometimes it’s nice to sit on the shore and watch it go. Sometimes it’s nice to get naked and dive in. Whatever I do, and however it happens, it’s nice to know it’s all a part of this great conversation we we call humanity.

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Your Activity is Your Currency

Standard Catalog of World Coins
Image via Wikipedia

At Epic we’re introducing Epicredits as a currency to help you reward and accomplish what matters to you. You can signup now to start collecting and get notified when it’s live later this year.

For those who want to learn more, read on…

Epic is based on the realization that more and more of what we do produces a signal in the cloud. Whether it’s a tweet, a document update, a blog post or a bookmark there’s a record of it somewhere. In fact, when someone is trying to get your attention, even if it’s a simple as clicking a link, it’s a share of your activity that they want.

Of course, not all activity is of equal value. We believe it’s most valuable when it helps accomplish something that matters or when it leads to more activity in the future. In other words, it’s most valuable when it helps build a better future, sooner.

Epicredits wrap those two threads into a single currency, like this: 1) As you do your work on the web, you’ll collect Epicredits for your activity; 2) You’ll earn more for activity that’s related to something that matters or leads to more activity in the future; and 3) You’ll get to use your Epicredits to reward and encourage others to accomplish what matters to you.

While we’re still in development, if you are interested, you can get a headstart building your currency at http://makeitepic.com. We’ll also notify you when the currency goes live later this year.

Our activity is our currency. Let’s invest it in building a better future sooner. Let’s make it epic!

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Summit on the Future

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The future of organization has arrived. Like with sustainable coffee, cleantech, and the social trifecta (entrepreneurship/finance/innovation) before,  I’ve noticed the shift in conversation from “no that will never happen/it must be stopped at all costs” to, “it’s happening or inevitable/how can I play”. It’s the shift from an avoidable future to an inevitable reality.

Historically for me, this is a time to shift fully from thinking to doing. And yet, I know it is the time when the opportunity for understanding really begins. So, as I sit here in the wee hours of the morning wondering why I am writing this post, I realize that I’m hoping for someone to hold the space for this thinking to shift to the next level to. While I’m not sure exactly what that is, Jean Russell seems to capture the direction in her post on integration.

Whether it’s a conversation, a summit, a series or something other… here’s a few people I’d love to see carrying it on, together.

While I know it’s not me to hold this space, I hope someone sees the opportunity in making it happen. We’re at the front of generation of opportunity with an opportunity that will shape our civilization into the future.

Epic.io in Context

Epic.io is the latest in a series of research and experiments at inspiring a better future sooner. It is designed as a product at the intersection between the evolutionary change in how we, as humans, come together and the pains of collaboration overload we experience from that change.

The root discoveries of this journey over the last 4 years boil down to the fact that purpose is what motivates us to step up to something greater, and progress is what fuels us to keep going. There are no two more powerful ingredients in making great things happen.

It is around these two principles that Epic.io is designed. If we are able to connect the progress people make with their purpose for making it, we can’t help but think that people will feel good and focus more on what matters. On Epic, we’re already seeing it happen with projects, strategies, and even the personal missions in life people are trying to fulfil.

Personally, it has quickly become the place I turn to focus on what matters, check-in on the latest progress and reflect where best to spend my time. It’s also becoming the best reminder of the progress I am making, as opposed to the tasks I have yet to accomplish. And that feels pretty good.

We’ve got a long way to go, but it feels like we’re on the right path. A path that leads to making purpose a platform. A platform where people connect by making progress on what matters. And that, to me, is the best thing I can think of to inspire progress towards a better future, sooner.

If it matters, make it epic.