David Weinberger’s Thoughts on Local and Social

On Monday, I probably watched the best keynote I’ve ever seen at BIA/Kelsey conferences. David Weinberger, co-author of The Cluetrain Manifesto, author of Everything is Miscellaneous, and Senior Researcher at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University gave us his thoughts on local/social.

I will never be able to capture his whole speech in this post but here are some of the thoughts that blew my mind.

Talking about networks and markets, he obviously said the very famous “markets are conversations”, describing them as being connected, real and out of control but he also added “markets are networks”. People are shopping for things (like  a new car) and this base of shoppers is changing every minute as people drop out of that process and new people come in.

Talking about huge networks like Facebook and Twitter, he explained to us why these networks happened so quickly. He told us the web is made of interests, people talking about stuff. They have an interest and they’re meeting with people with similar interest. meeting of interest. If we engage on the Net with other people online, it’s because we share the same interest. The big question is what happen when companies arrive and want to have a conversation. Traditionally, businesses have a single interest: profit. Consumers are weary because interests are not necessarily aligned. Why would I engage on the Net with companies if we don’t share same interest?

He said he didn’t like the expression “social media” as media has traditionally stood between people but that’s not happening with social media because “we are the medium”. We are a medium that passes things along. We move it because we found it interesting and thought that you would find it interesting as well. The stuff we share is so compelling that we put our reputation on the line to pass it along.

He also talked about the impact of social media on our sense of time. It used to be, when you graduated, you lost track of people. You only saw them again when you went to your reunion. If you left a job, you lost track of your former colleagues. Our kids will have their friends/colleagues/contacts with them for the rest of their lives because why would you push someone outside of your memory, delete them, unless they’ve done something bad?

And with mobility, we get ubiquitous connectivity. We can connect with any of our contacts at any time. We’re now filling “moments” all the time, for example, when we’re waiting. We’re filling up everything, with no empty time. We’ve reached plenum, a plenum of interests, filled with what we care about.

Talking about “local”, he said it’s becoming embedded in the Net more and more but that when we get to ubiquitous access, things will change. The Internet will match our real lives. We are inventing the “blur” between online and offline (the real world).

As for things that are challenged by social in the local space, Weinberger mentioned pricing. Owners were used to set their prices but with daily deals, for example, they’re losing some of that pricing power. The notion of inside and outside the store is also blurring. We want to know everything about a business. The outside is becoming the inside. The shared common space where we engage with one another is becoming the inside of the store. A good example is the mayorship in Foursquare.

He concluded by mentioning three imperatives for local media companies (and merchants): Align, add, and get out of the way. It’s not about you. Consumers know better than you what they need, what they want.

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