Posts about mobile

The challenge of live search

As the web turns live — with broadcasters streaming and with anyone carrying a mobile phone broadcasting — the next big challenge for search will be how we can find what’s going on while it’s going on. How can we search the live web?

I’ve written here before that witnesses sharing what they see via video from their mobile phones will change the essential architecture of news. No longer will CNN tell witnesses to send things to them that they then vet, package, and present to the world. When a Qik or Flixwagon user sees live news and broadcasts it on the web, it won’t be through CNN. CNN’s challenge will be to find it and its choice will be to link to it or embed it or not. That changes the role of a news organization in the ecology of news. It might even take them out of the flow of much of live news unless they can come up with systems to find and recommend what’s happening now.

Even when dealing with known, branded sources of live broadcast, there’s a challenge. I want to see whether anyone — TV or radio network or citizen armed with a Nokia — is going to broadcast Barack Obama’s speech about race from Philadelphia today. But I can’t find that.

Google is not prepared for the live web. Google values pages that grow links and clicks over time. It understands the permanent web. Of course, that is a protean thing, a growing brain. But it’s not live. Technorati likes to think that it gives us the live web but I’d say that instead it gives us the dynamic web, the latest static pages. It also doesn’t give us live.

How can you find and value live? Looking at links will make you too late. Traffic might tell you something — why are people swarming around this video stream? — but that, too, will be unreliable and probably too late. Brand won’t be a help because the witness will almost always see and share news before a reporter can get there.

Nobody would have had any reason to know that I was on the last PATH train into the World Trade Center on 9/11 but if I’d had the phone I had now, I would have been broadcasting the news from eye-level — not from rooftops three miles away — as it happened. How could you have known that?

There will need to be a new system where, Twitterlike, he who’s broadcasting live can alert the world about what he’s sending and others — audiences or armies of interns monitoring these feeds — help the good stuff bubble up and quickly.

If this doesn’t exist, the live web’s value will be as perishable as smoke. If it does exist, we’ll probably find what’s going on — what’s news — around the present news architecture. And then we’ll have to wonder how we vet and confirm that what we see is real.

Live changes everything — again.

* * *

Seconds after posting this, I see Dave Winer — who else? — at the start of such a structure of leading us to the live web. He Twittered: “I’m making an MP3 of Obama’s speech. I’ll publish it a few minutes after the speech is over, 15 minutes from now.”

The human satellite truck

Visionary network news photographer Jim Long is gleefully putting himself out of business. Well, actually, he’s expanding his own business, for network executives should be plugging into his brain. But he’s reducing the need for that gigantic camera he lugs all over the world. While in Africa traipsing after George Bush and company, Jim turned on his mobile phone and hooked it into Qik.com and broadcast Sir Bob Geldof speaking. No big camera. No satellite uplink. No editing into packages. No b-roll. Just the news now.

But this is more than just broadcasting live from anywhere — that’s important enough. It’s also interactive: we can ask the correspondent to ask the subject questions: live lets us in on the conversation.

I’ve also been playing with Flixwagon, a Qik competitor that powered MTV’s Super Tuesday mobile coverage, and it’s dead easy: one click and you’re broadcasting. This is hugely changing.

: Also note from my friends at the Guardian that one of the paper’s still photographers won a Royal Television Society award for best international news. Repeat that: a newspaper photographer wins a TV award. TV’s not TV anymore.

(Disclosure: I write for the Guardian and consult for them and Sky.com, also an award-winner at the RTS.)

Davos08: Wireless

“If you defend the status quo when the quo has lost its status, you’re in serious difficulty,” says Sony head Howard Stringer in a panel on the future of mobile. “It’s a most exhilerating time” because it’s all up in the air. A year ago, he says, cable companies were negotiating from a position of strength. But look at their stock prices now; they reflect the walls falling around them. This has made them nicer to deal with. But he’s not saying he’s sitting in daisies himself. “It’s going to be hard to hold onto the price of content.” Then again, he turns to a Chinese mobile phone mogul and says that if Sony could sell just one song to each of his 500 million users, his music company would be instantly (and apparently finally) profitable.

Stringer, the funniest man at Davos (far funnier than Al Gore), says out of nowhere that he likes Google. Why? asks moderator David Kirkpatrick of Fortune. Because Google’s going to buy wireless spectrum and they’ll be in his business even more. The only reason he came onto the panel to be close to Google’s Eric Schmidt.

NBC’s Jeff Zucker says mobile is not that important to the network. Nonetheless, they’re going to put out 2,200 hours of programming on mobile from the Olympics.

Stringer says young people will drive usage in ways we can’t predict. The hot fact passing around conferences this week is that novels written — written — on mobile phones are selling like crazy in Japan. Stringer says mobile will be the platform for everything.

Google’s Schmidt asks what’s new “and I think it’s the arrival of short-form video as a category.” He says it’s not a replacement for a prior form but an entirely new form.

He also says he is so bullish about mobile as a business because he believes the players are motivated to make sense of the current lack of standards and create a unified platform.

There’s much discussion about openness from regulation to devices to business models. From the audience, Jonathan Zittrain asks about whether an open system will bring us viruses on our phones and a new frontier of unreliability. Schidt responds: “Open platforms are like Linux, not like Windows.” Oohs from the geeky audience.

Michael Arrington asks FCC Commissioner Kevin Martin about the open letter Google wrote requesting openness in the upcoming spectrum auction, wondering whether this made the decision harder — as pressure — or easier, as covering fire with the other commissioners. “The open letter is nothing like the pressure that others can put on in more private ways. I actually appreciated the openness of it,” Martin responds.

Somebody asks whether any of the companies represented planned to include scent — olfactory functionality — in phones since it’s the only sense not addressed by the internet. Gawd, and you thought it was irritating to hear other people’s mobile phones. I dread having their smells waft my way. Another person from the audience whether anyone is working on holographic images to replace the tiny screen on mobiles. That doesn’t seem to be in the works, either.

With beans, please

It was thanks to Yelp on my Treo that I had a good burrito in Austin last night. Now if only it worked with GPS to find me the nearest burrito (having no idea of my damned zip code). Still, this is what mobile and local and the internet are supposed to be doing. Why’d it take so long? Why isn’t it there yet?

The river of news

Dave Winer is up to something important… again. He has been talking about wanting “rivers of news” — that is, headlines stripped of the packaging around them to give him a constant flow of what’s new. And he just created a few to feed his — and our — mobile phones.

What’s fascinating about this is that while consultants and think tanks aplenty are still running around trying to come up with fancy applications made just for mobile but Dave shows that the best application is simplicity: Just the news, sir. And keep it flowing.

He created rivers from The New York Times and the BBC and while he was at it, he created no-ballast versions of a handful of blogs (what about me, Dave?).

Note that the only graphics on the pages he created are an orange question mark that leads to an brief explanation page with a picture of Dave. That’s it. Otherwise, it’s just information. In a sense, it’s like RSS, except it’s even simpler, even dumber: just a page with an address that has the latest from a source. I’ve been using them today and they’re quite compelling just because they are so simple and fast and to-the-point.

At some point, I’ll want to customize them; I don’t want sports. And the sources will have to figure out their ad strategy for the mobile world, but they’re doing that anyway. (He points to Times printer pages, which are sponsored.) But they should take the example from this simplicity.

(Full disclosure: Dave is an investor in Daylife, where I’ve been working; that was where I first heard him push his demand for rivers of news.)

: LATER: Ewan MacLeod explains why this is better than the state of the art.

Mobispam

I don’t know why I would ever sign up to have GQ magazine send me mobile spam. What of value could they possibly say in an SMS: “Remmber your collar stays today”?

Be the DJ of the future

PaidContent has details for a job overseeing Verizon Mobile’s music strategy.