Thursday 30 November 2006

What I love about BitTorrent and Wikipedia

They’re just so cool. Just so ‘collective’, so Borg-ish, so community based. They make so much common-sensual and are so effective. They are where Seti@home met Napster and they had babies. Where the bluffers guide to the life the universe and everything, met the Vatican Library, and they decided to open a hippy cafĂ© where we could just sit down and talk it through. They signify a paradigm shift in the way we’re allowed to look at the world, and who says. The way we share information, and with whom.

First BitTorrent. What problems does it solve? Well, bandwidth, file size, time, cost.

Bittorent is a technology which permits people to share entire files, and bits of files with each other online When you sign up for Bittorrent, you permit others in the community to download directly from your own hard drive the files you’ve downloaded… with a .torrent suffix. As you are downloading a bit of information from other hard-drives in the community the community is downloading bits from you.

The genius of it is, all of these little bits, are neatly knitted together to form the file you are later on, once all of the bits are downloaded. The beauty of it is, the file could be huge −100mb, 1gig… bigger. These are the types of file that would destroy a server’s bandwidth. The sort that would be just too big, would take too long, that would make your browser time out. The sort of file you’d have to post on a CD or DVD or use The file could be a whole music album, 10 of them, a film, a word document or a PowerPoint presentation.

The genius with BitTorrent, is that the software designers recognise that people do not need to download a whole file in one go. So, I might select a few files I want to download, and over the course of 10 hours, over 3 days… the total file will arrive to my hard drive in time, depending on how many people I’m downloading bits from. During that time, I’ll have also permitted others to upload bits of the other BitTorrent files I downloaded in the past. All of this is done in the background, while you’re working, when you’re computer is idle, when you don’t notice it. Does anyone remember the Search for Extra Terrestrials at Home, or SETI@home project? It’s a bit like that. You computer is processing information behind the scenes for a greater good. It’s also like Napster, in that people are sharing bits of files for free, but not like Napster, in that these files need not be music, or any type actually. And, they are bits of files… rather than the totality. Its free, that’s true. But the technology may not be free for long, and will be used by large media companies to distribute their content. It’s illegal too, like Napster was, but again, not for long. BitTorrent recently announced that it would soon launch an online video store selling movie downloads and TV shows from brand names as Twentieth Century Fox, Warner Bros, Paramount Pictures, Lionsgate and MTV Networks. This ‘going-mainstream’ strategy will make BitTorrent the friend of everybody with intellectual property to protect, and movies to sell, and will ensure a much broader dissemination of legal, large-file, video content online. There will also still be free content and delivery some of which will remain illegal.

So, an example: I was downloading an audio book recently. About 100 megabites worth... It happened over two days. I checked now and then, and at one stage I was downloading from 66 peoples’ hard-drives. 66 ‘seeders’ as they are called. At the same time I was up-loading bits of two files on my hard-drive to others in the community. When I looked I was downloading at 73 kilobytes per second. This would drop to 20 kbps, and then 0kbps, and then up to 17kbps… depending on the number of seeders, bandwidth available and other factors. Did it matter? No… This was a free file. It was also great fun to watch. Most of the seeders were in the States, but there were two in France, one in China and one in Australia, and one in the Czeck republic. BitTorrent, is so far away from the thinking of expensive, one to one, peer to peer connections of only a few years ago. I also love the fact of BitTorrent. It’s the way the net is going. As someone said; ‘data inside’ is the new ‘Intel Inside’. The software’s value is not the software itself, but the community of people who use the software and the data they provide. Understanding BitTorrent, is like comparing motorways to minor roads, only more so. It’s as if the Eurotunnel magically turned into nine million bicycles overnight, and they turned out to be quicker, cheaper and more efficient. Surprise, surprise.

Next, Wikipedia. The value of Wikipedia is not a static database of information, but the users of the Wikipedia community who contribute to that database. Again, it’s the data, not the Inter. It is not just another Encyclopaedia Britannica online. Yes, Wikipedia and Britannica are both encyclopaedias with lots of information, but that’s where the similarity stops. The paradigm has shifted because the provider of the information has shifted. With Wikipedia, anyone can contribute, and edit the encyclopaedia. Absolutely anyone. Believe it, or not, it works and it changes information provision forever.

People used to actually sell Britannica door-to-door and other people used to buy it. 20 or so huge books written by god-like professors of truth who knew everything, and worked for their entire lifetime on a single letter. The people who bought them felt that they had access to all of the information they’d ever need, all the learning they’d ever be able to absorb. Today, we’d correctly feel, the information is out of date very quickly. I mean; what if you buy Brittanica in 2000 and they crack the human genome in 2003. Oops. Or worse, you buy Britannica in 2004, but it was printed in 2002, so the genome news still didn’t make it in. Yes, the train left the station two years before you could even buy a ticket.

Also, what happens if the group of professors who write the bit of Britannica don’t agree, (like in the ‘God’ section for example), or get it wrong, or miss something? Well, Wikipedia will never suffer from these problems, but it will suffer from others. Yes, the information is less reliable, but its there, and its current, and actually, a lot of the people who write for it do know what they’re talking about. It’s also true, that there is no one truth. There are always perspectives which are lost in encyclopaedias. I mean, I’d love to have read a history of the Second World War written by the current staff of Al Jazeera. I’m sure it would have had a different slant on the Turks, the war in the east, and the Nazi pogroms. While encyclopaedias try to be balanced, too often, one perspective or group of them, the ‘western’ perspective for example, becomes the perspective. And that’s not a good thing

To be honest, I’ll use Wikipedia for very technical information and for the facts and background that don’t require considerable expertise, and will go to mainstream publications where I feel I require informed opinions or for information of a less technical, more general or opinion based in nature. So, a bit of both might work best for you too, but Wikipedia is amazing, and many of the descriptions in it I find refreshingly un-guarded by academic qualifications or jargon, while being clear and to the point. It’s also got news, the picture of the day and links to other projects, like the Wiktionary (you guessed it), the Wikiversity (free learning materials), Wikibooks, Wikinews, Wikiquotes and even WikiSpecies… a directory of guess what − species!

Wiki is also so quick; where it got its name − ‘wiki-wiki’ being Hawaiian, for the word ‘quickly’. Wiki refers to the speed the resource is being written, over a few years, rather than 10s of years, and the speed you can look something up. I used to absolutely hate looking something up in an encyclopaedia, where you’d have to go to yank out an ancient tome from the dusty shelf with the correct letter on the spine, and then search through hundreds of the floppy pages all stuck together, and then you’d have to yank out another three books in the series to understand the article you were looking up in the first place, and find the dictionary, and call your Mum who’d have to ask your Dad when he got home, who’d then tell you to ask your teacher who shouldn’t be setting such difficult homework in the first place for a boy your age in any case! ‘I mean, what are they thinking. Are they mad?’ At least in Wikipedia, you can just click on a word and concept if you’re either out jargoned, un-informed, or just ignorant. Up the answer pops in plain English with several other sources to click on if you’re still confused. All the writers are just ordinary people who want to help. Just what you wanted in the first place. And, if you can’t find the information… well, your Dad was right. The teacher has set you homework that is just too hard for a boy of your age. Happy days.

So, Wikipedia and BitTorrent share this ‘data inside’ collective wealth and so much more, like speed, efficiency and cost for example. This is the shift from Web 1.0, to Web 2.0 I’ve discussed in other blogs. It will never go away, and adds so much to people’s lives, learning and experience… But, you also have to recognise when looking at BitTorrent, and Wikipaedia. They are just so cool. You have to try them. Both of them. Today! Now! Go and download… Wiki-wiki!

Friday 17 November 2006

Buzz Marketing

I've been working on a presentation about Web 2.0 for the last while, and wondered if anyone had any insights as to what they think Web 2.0 means. Extensive research is pointing very much to the power of new participatory Internet us, and there are sites out there specifically to discuss the topic, (when they can agree what it is). But my question is, what does all of this mean for Internet advertising?

We already advertise extensively on MySpace, YouTube, and Bebo, and work closely with Google moving with the developments in pay per click and placement and we do ongoing viral and buzz marketing for some clients (it doesn't suit everyone yet), but I feel that this way of getting a clients message out there has only just begun.

The seed in this country, was Bebo. Suddenly, every kid could have their own website, and swarms of these gathered around the concept of schools and colleges. In a year there were 500,000 users of Bebo. The consumer had definitely caught up with business when it came to web development and activity, and passed them out.

But now, I think the sheen has gone off Bebo. It is still as popular and effective an advertising medium as ever mind. More so in fact. We've been optimising our spend accross a range of websites, and those, including Bebo, are continuing to improve month on month. No, I just think the faddishness has gone out of it. Viral campaigns abound now, and use YouTube and Bebo as their communication medium, their channel, rather than advertising specifically to users of these sites. Shamrog City, for Funda, is a great example. A great idea, carried out well, with fantastic results. This has been reported in all media, a first for the web I think. TV, radio, press and trade magazines, and lauded by all as a turning point in Internet advertising. NB helped seed this creative throughout the web, on video sites like YouTube, blogs, bulletin boards and everywhere else that such a concept can be linked. We learnt a lot, and its been fun.

Quo Vadis? Where to now? Well. I think this type of conversational activity and marketing is where. Where it leads us? Who knows... but we're going anyway.

The First Post

Hello to new readers, and welcome to the Net Behaviour blog.

Emmet Kelly here, Operations Director of Ireland's newest and largest, Internet media buyer.

Myself, Justin Cullen, and Sinead Morris set up Net Behaviour a year ago now. It is about twice as successful as we expected and we've carried out at least 100 campaigns in that time.

But, even in a year's time, the Internet, and Internet advertising has changed considerably. From banners and sky campaigns, we now carry out film advertising, viral and buzz marketing, lots of pay per click advertising and much much more. Every day brings a new request from a client, a new problem that requires invention, innovation, explanation, delivery and reporting.

However, as with any good web related company, we feel that this blog can act as a means for us to talk openly with our customers, and learn from them. To get feedback, and to inform. In the end of the day, a blog is just an open-ended conversation.

So, thanks for reading. Please partake and post, and talk to you soon.