(Above pic: Thousands of HK protesters link their phones together using Bluetooth to become their own internet –overcoming the government ban on social media sites. Photo credit: Alex Hofford)
If you thought peer-to-peer-based Uber, Airbnb, Lyft and Lending Club were disruptive, you haven’t seen anything yet.
People are empowered –through commonly used technologies
Previous revolutionaries have used pitchforks, wagon barricades, pamphlets, signs and drums. Today’s revolutionaries are using Firechat. It’s not just for revolutionaries, as I just downloaded Firechat. If you want to communicate during an emergencies, in the subway or on a plane, you can download Firechat too.
Seven month old app enables the crowd to become the internet
Seven month old Firechat enables people to become the internet themselves by turning their phones into a network, bypassing access to the worldwide web. The preceding picture shows Hong Kong protesters “armed” with smartphones, using their devices as a single, united network to communicate, call in resources, talk to media, and tell their story globally – even when the government had shut down many internet services. This video tells first hand.
Firechat enables the crowd to connect to each other as one resilient network
Meet Firechat, the app for crowds, communities, and revolutionaries. Downloadable for free, Firechat enables you to chat with other people around you WITHOUT the internet. That’s right, it uses Wi-Fi and Bluetooth signals to create a “mesh network” where individuals can pass messages to each other on a peer-to-peer basis. It can also be used on the grid for further access. When it was first launched in March, Taiwanese protesters quickly adopted Firechat.
When would such a use case be common?
- With friends are on a plane that doesn’t offer Wi-Fi
- Camping with a troop of scouts
- In the desert at Burning Man when the weather goes bad
- In the subway with a group of colleagues
- At a concert or sports event when cell infrastructure overloads
- Austin during SXSW as cell networks are crammed from selfies
- At a protest when a government disables social media or the internet
- On a cruise ship in the middle of the ocean with your extended family
- For victims and first responders after a natural disaster
- In a foreign country where you’re concerned that someone might be sniffing your data
- In a village in an emerging country, where people have phones
Firechat enables P2P communication, bypassing centralized powers
Firechat enables people to connect to each other, peer-to-peer, without relying on a central telecommunications source, like an ISP, a government, or other system. In fact, in the last few hours, Firechat has been reported to have been downloaded 100,000 times, especially by Hong Kong protesters who are demanding people’s democracy after the government shut down the internet. Bruce Schneir, a top electronic security expert, writes the following:
“Firechat is theoretically resistant to the kind of centralized surveillance that the Chinese government (as well as western states, especially the US and the UK) is infamous for. Phones connect directly to one another, establish encrypted connections and transact without sending messages to servers where they can be sniffed and possibly decoded.”
Part of a broader suite of products – nearly impossible to stop
I had a chance to get some answers from Christophe of the Firechat team. The parent company is called Open Garden, which has the mission of: “…helping build a new decentralized mobile Internet.” The only way to stop Firechat is: Forbid people to download it (impossible through P2P file sharing), disabling power to a phone, or confiscating the phone. When it comes to speed, he told me that news broke of the closure due to weather at Burning Man on Firechat before it hit Twitter. In a remote area, the P2P network was stronger and faster.
Security and identity still questionable
I asked the team, how safe and secure is it, really? They responded, “Firechat is a public chat app. Everything that you type is public. Our mantra is, ‘do not use your real name or type anything you would not want someone else to read,’ But give us enough time and you’ll see what we come up with…” They mentioned that, in the future, they may be able to develop new forms of verified identity. I’ve seen these emerge in now defunct apps like Honestly, which verified if you had a real LinkedIn account without disclosing your name or identity.
Requirement: Adoption and Proximity
It’s also key to note that Firechat requires density and velocity to work well, adoption strategy is key. Also, users must download the app –before a severe outage –meaning adopting is required. There’s two scenarios: People anticipating to connect while going off the grid while traveling, or two: in response to an emergency, opposition from powers. The software worked well in dense SF (the second most dense city in USA) but when off the grid in the suburbs there were not folks in immediate proximity available to create a mesh network, see screenshot.
Forward looking thoughts:
- Expect Facebook, Twitter and Google to acquire or build these mesh technologies. Expect Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, each of which has been blocked by various governments, to develop this same P2P technology, enabling their experience to be shared all the time, regardless of a central power.
- A distributed network puts centralized telecom players on notice. This poses interesting questions to governments, internet service providers, telecommunication companies, and even marketers who rely on platforms like Facebook or Twitter. We’ve already seen the rise of FON, a peer-to-peer Wi-Fi device that enables people connect. This is more of the same.
- This is part of the continued trend of the crowd-based collaborative economy. I’ll likely include Firechat in some aspect of the next iteration of the Collaborative Economy honeycomb framework, as the next step is enabling people to share the physical world with each other using this P2P communications network.
The bottom line: People are empowered to get what they need from each other using commonly available technologies. It means the crowd is becoming like an organized company – and that they will bypass inefficient institutions. Get your organization ready now.
This was originally posted on VentureBeat, with a wide array of comments and reactions. Silicon Valley has been espousing sharing, making, community through the latest startups like Lyft, Airbnb, LendingClub and more. Yet is Silicon Valley really leading the example? While generalizations can put people off, I wanted to take a stand on some broader trends we see. I’ve received reinforcing and disagreeing feedback, all which I’m open to learning more from.
Photo by Adam Foster
Here’s what Silicon Valley can learn from good old Midwestern values
Silicon Valley startups like Uber, Lyft, Airbnb, Lending Club and others that empower people to get what they need from each other command extensive market attention and sky-high valuations. This Collaborative Economy prospers on the rise of local neighborhoods in home-sharing, friendly human connections with fist bumps in peer-ride sharing, and the ability to share money with each other at better rates than banks.
A year ago, I spoke with an insurance company in Iowa. They shared with me that, while these new startups are interesting, they aren’t really anything new. They reminded me that the Midwest has been participating in these friendly behaviors for a century and a half. They said “Jeremiah, this isn’t new. It’s called being a good neighbor.” What they said stuck with me for months until I decided to understand how Silicon Valley is trying to emulate Midwestern values.
Being a Silicon Valley resident, I asked my Midwestern friends to share with me what Midwestern values mean to them. I tweeted a call for responses, then graphed how people responded. While there was always some variation, a major theme developed around a strong work ethic, modest integrity and helping others. These three tenets formed a common thread: I heard from my colleague, Angus Nelson of Wisconsin, about “the value of working hard”; and from Ben Smith, a Kansas City resident, about the classic Midwest value of integrity: “Your name and reputation are your most prized possessions.” From Zena Weist of Kansas City, I learned about helping others, “A stick of butter and a smile, and no need to pay me back.”
So, how are Silicon Valley’s latest Collaborative Economy startups stacking up to these Midwestern values?
To start with, both the Midwest and the Silicon Valley share a similar work ethic. While Silicon Valley workers start the day later than Midwestern farmers, who are up and at it hours before dawn in the heartland, they do work well into the evenings and even on weekends. Tech startups offer many employee benefits to keep people on campus, enabling satisfying, round-the-clock environments. Despite different working hours, both Silicon Valley and the Midwest share the same ethic of hard work.
Yet, while folks in the Midwest take pride in their individual integrity and humility, Silicon Valley has some lessons to learn here. From ride-sharing companies fighting dirty to unethical executive behavior, from a self-righteous 1 percent viewpoint to the further divide of the rich and poor, Silicon Valley’s meritocratic culture means those that win win big — and think they have a divine right to flaunt it. I’ve seen many a roaring Ferrari or whirring Tesla in front of makeshift homeless tents in San Francisco’s tech neighborhood, the SoMA district, where I often work.
The Midwestern value of helping others without expecting reciprocation is best summarized by the “stick of butter and a smile” axiom when a neighbor is in need. Silicon Valley’s traditional come-get-mine attitude rewards the disruptors and the fiercest competitors. While San Francisco boasts that nearly one of every eight residents are millionaires, a vast majority are not living at middle class standards and are struggling just to get by. The potential for a backlash is rapidly increasing.
When it comes to the three major Midwestern values that Collaborative Economy startups are enabling: Strong work ethic, modest integrity, and helping others, Silicon Valley, as a whole, still has a lot to learn.
But with that, we should acknowledge that the new technologies that enable ride-sharing, home-sharing, and money-sharing are built on powerful platforms like social networks, mobile devices, and apps can extend the barn-raising spirit to all cultures beyond the Midwest.
These new technologies are enabling us to connect to strangers in a human way, as trust data is collected from ratings and rankings features, from social networks for verification of social circles and from mobile devices to help us navigate and find idle cars, homes, and goods.
Remember that Iowa insurance company who appropriately corrected me for glowing over the new Collaborative Economy as just being a “good neighbor”? I responded that these new technologies enable all of us “to be good neighbors to strangers.” They agreed.
We can all benefit in this Collaborative Economy, enabled by both empowering Silicon Valley technologies and Midwestern ethics, leading to further integrity and neighborliness.
Jeremiah Owyang is the founder of Crowd Companies.
Crowd-based business models and marketing are no stranger to the Web Strategy blog –and now we’re seeing the same effect impact non profits, including the much discussed (and debated) ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. I was curious on the actual impacts of this controversial crowd challenge, and decided to tally up some of the numbers. In this above embedded slideshare, you’ll see facts on buzz, assumptions on water usage, influencer impact, money raised, and bottom line of total donated dollars.
Also, in case you’re wondering, I was challenged by Scott Monty, I accepted the ice shower (over my garden –in a nod to our drought) and also donated to ALS —you can enjoy my washed up video, here. Lastly, top non profit thought leader Beth Kanter has questioned if this effort can be replicated, and even found other non-profits are emulating or “charity jacking”.
Cruise through the embedded slides above –to see some of the stats of this crowd based effort.
Update: Over the last few days, I’ve started to think about the causes of this blue moon event. I put together this handy guide, so if your boss, client, or charity wants to create their own, they have a simple ten step guide.
Thanks to you, last week’s Report on the Collaborative Economy was readily received, and has been viewed over 26,000 times. The media and bloggers alike have picked up on it. As we digest what it means, it’s important to recognize that this is the next phase of the internet and the next phase of social business. An interesting finding is that the second era (social) and the third era (Collaborative Economy) use the same social technologies but, instead of sharing media and ideas, people are sharing goods and services. This is all part of a continuum. We need to understand how our careers will progress as the market moves forward with us.
[Social technology enabled the sharing of media and ideas called social business –The same tools enable sharing of goods and services called the collaborative economy]
Internet Phases: Past, Present, and Future
||Brand Experience Era
||Customer Experience Era
||Collaborative Economy Era
||CMS and HTML
||1995: Internet had 14% American adoption
||2005: Business blogging disrupted corporations
||2013: AirBnb, TaskRabbit, Lyft, gain mainstream attention
|What is shared
||Personal Ideas and Media
||Goods and Services
|What it looks like
||Brands and media talk, people listen
||Everyone talks and listens
||Buy once, share many, need to buy less
|Who has the power
||Brands and publishers
||Those who use social
||Those who share goods and services
|Who is disrupted
||Traditional mediums: TV, Print
|What must change
||Communication and marketing strategy
|How corporations responded
||Created their own corporate website
||Adopted social tools internally, externally
||Learn to share products, enable marketplace
||CMS and design tools
||SMMS, monitoring, communities
||Marketplace, ecommerce, communities, SMMS, Monitoring
||User Experience, Design, Content
||Social strategy, community managers, communicators
||Agencies that help with trust, customer advocates, ?
||Those who adopt
||Those who adopt
||Those who adopt
What it means to your career, clients, and company:
Change in our careers is good. It leads to new opportunities, growth, and even fun. It often requires us to step out of our comfort zones and be prepared to adopt new paradigms. With that said, here are three insights to remember as we enter into this next phase.
- Prepare for the next phase in your career as we shift eras. The internet continues to evolve and, with, that our careers do as well. The mid 90s saw the blistering heat of the “dot bomb” era. As the internet became a dominant force, it subsided with the global recession and industry implosion until we saw the second phase emerge. We dubbed it “Web 2,” where information creation and consumption was democratized by all. The next phase uses the same principals of sharing and democratization, but involves goods and services.
- Take what you’ve learned in social business and apply it to the Collaborative Economy. If you’re in social business, you’re in a good spot. The same rules apply about letting go of control, shifting to engage, and connecting with customers. Learning to listen for understanding, engaging with customers, developing programs where customers become your advocates, and applying scalability, all topics I’ve researched deeply, will apply to this next phase.
- Change is in inevitable. Prepare for this next phase now. The next phase has already begun. Last week’s LeWeb received international acclaim, and funding to sharing startups is on rise. Even cities like Amsterdam are opening up to the potential of companies like AirBnb. Mainstream media is covering this movement. We must prepare for the next phases of our careers now. We can and will do this together.
I hope this graphic and matrix help to clearly articulate our next phase. Save it, share it and activate on it now. If you’d like to join me on a webinar to learn more and ask questions, you can register on this page.
Remember, those who adapt, win.
Above Image: Headcount of social business (circled in orange) slightly decreases before large growth.
Social Business Headcounts Change as Programs Mature
Like the calm before the storm, your social business headcount is likely to decrease 10-20% before it radically expands. Altimeter found through two independent surveys to enterprise class (Companies with over 1000 employees) survey respondents in different years that they both have a drop off in headcount at year 2-4. We’ve survey corporations both in 2010, as well as in Q4 2012 to find out how social business programs are structured. Much of the research was recently published in the report, the Evolution of Social Business. So why this change?
- After experimentation, unchecked programs get sanitized as a central body takes control. Many companies I’ve seen inside of have often experimental programs occurring for the first 1-3 years. Labeled skunkworks, rogue, or sandbox programs, this “wild west” grows out of control, sometimes causing stress or resulting in a social media crises. Often corporate communications, marketing, blessed by an executive sponsor seeks to wrangle control of these programs, by anointing a working team to build a strategy. In short, the wild wild west moves from unchecked teams in outposts to a new centralized model.
- A core team consolidates, finds efficiencies in a hub and spoke model. We often see companies emerge in a hub and spoke model, where a core team is serving the rest of the company in a coordinated fashion. This leader, the Corporate Social Strategist, leads the charge, often reducing excess headcount deploying social and along with it, rogue efforts. Interestingly, the data shows this happening in the 2010 early market at year 3-4. Yet fast forward two years to 2012 and we see the consolidation happen much earlier, in years 2-3, as companies have gotten wiser from their peers.
- Explosive growth occurs as team scales in “dandelion”, multiple hub and spoke model. After the consolidation occurs in both program strategy and the headcount as illustrated in the above diagram, companies see explosive growth as the company “gets the social religion”. If the core team has structured their program up for scale, they will have invested in social readiness, as well as have a strategy to avoid massive proliferation.
Social business follows a cycle expansion, contraction, then explosion before maturity. Two data distinct data sets helped to tell this story. Expect to see social business programs hit maturity to consistently spread across the enterprise in a safe manner after 5-6 years with proper care and planning. Watch the patterns in your company, after rapid consolidation and program efficiency occurs, be prepared for radical growth as the rest of the enterprise business groups start to adopt social, including their own social leaders in business lines, departments, geographies and product units.
Brands Focused on Managing Social Proliferation
For those that like to be where they money be, this data is for you. Altimeter’s research continues to survey buyers of disruptive technologies, and continues our coverage on social technologies. In our recent Q4 survey to enterprise buyers, focused on marketing business decision makers, which are global national corporations with over 1000 employees, we posed a series of questions in our survey battery. In particular, we wanted to find out where decision makers are bullish on investing and found the following trends on marketers with intent to increase spending:
- To manage proliferation in enterprise, marketers purchase social media management systems. Altimeter has been covering this software category since March 2010 (see all posts), and has published reports on how companies are managing social using software. These social media management system tools, which allow brands to manage marketing, support, and employee interaction of social continue to spread throughout the enterprise (data). We’ve also seen deal size for this specific market on the increase over the past few years, some deals crossing over the six figure dollar range. We’ve also found that companies are straddled with a number of social accounts (on average, 178 social media accounts) as social strategists struggle to avoid being constantly reactive in a role of social sanitation.
- Insufficient tools means investments in education programs key for employee masses. A solution requires a strategy, education, business processes, then with software to facilitate. While most marketers realize that technology is a key method to achieving their goals, they know that education within an enterprise is required for social business success. Marketers invest in educating various business units (departments, regions, and product groups) to ensure they properly know how to use these technologies and avoid risk. Yet, in our previous research, we’ve seen that brands are eager to educate, they don’t put large dollars against this investment. To help corporations solve this need, we’ve launched our own Academy offering, and are working with large brands, agencies, and consulting firms to roll-out.
- Surprise! Marketers “volun-told” as system integrators of fragmented software. The opposite of volunteering is being volun-told (credit: Zena Weist). Marketers have been VolunTold that they are unwilling system integrators in the era of VC funded startups who’ve created clones serving similar use cases. As a result, brand side marketers and their agency and consulting partners are investing in integration disparate software together to commonly share data, in order to manage a single customer journey, or obtain data on one persona or customer type. While Oracle, Adobe, Salesforce, IBM, and others offer suites, don’t expect this trend to go away anytime soon, as the proliferation of new web tools means that brands will forever be rushing to catch up.
Summary: Companies seeking to scale social in their enterprise.
So there you have it, today’s buyers are investing their resources and time on scaling social within their organization before it spirals out of control. They’re deploying software, coupled with internal training, and then trying to glue together many pieces into one system. While I’m not going to provide insights to each one of bullets, here are a number of other trends from this data that we can discuss in the comments.