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February 26, 2009

Some amazing thinking to learn from

ESPOO, Finland – I know folks like our roundups of stuff we find interesting. Alas, video production, events, travel, and the like, all seem to get in the way. Also, we dropped our bookmark list from the main page, and have still to figure out where it should go (we were not sure how many folks were actually following our delicious feed).

Nonetheless, I would like to highlight two people who have written a few things that currently have captured my thoughts and I feel compelled to share with you. So read on to be enightened.

Yes, but no – a list
Ken Banks, who we have profiled before, inspires me by his mix of tech, mobile, and desire to do something meaningful. He recently kicked off an interesting discussion about the myths in the social mobile space. What I find interesting in the list is that he’s not so much busting myths as trying to redefine a misconception to be more inclusive, usually more inclusive of the issues he deals with on a daily basis. For example, when discussing scaling of services, he points out that bigger may be better, but that sometimes “replication,” multiple copies of a small deployment, might be more appropriate.

Ken deals with challenging conditions on a daily basis, applying as appropriate a tech as he can, to deliver something simple, that helps as many as he can. While we here in the cushy world think the battle is done and debate if we want to throw sheep or pull a finger, we forget that a huge chunk of the world is still to be brought into the Hyper-connected Age, and that the tools we take for granted can go a long way in helping folks come out of poverty, be safe, build businesses, or learn.

Where are you? Who are you?
Matt Jones has filed me up with so many idea and sent my thoughts reeling in various interesting directions. He has long lived at the confluence of the physical and digital, often with his thoughts bent on that little collection of plastic and metal we all seem to be excited about. When the Guardian asks what the hot ideas in mobile are, it was no surprise they asked Matt.

He recently was working with students in the Design Interactions course at the RCA in London, focusing on ways to “support, subvert and celebrate our tribal connections.” Looking at what the students discussed and came up with, I see they clearly and happily wallowed in Matt’s deep thinking of place, location, cities, and surroundings.

But what really precipitated my post today was a long and thorough thought-piece Matt wrote on the past and future and place and time and people. He lays down all his current thoughts on location-aware social services (such as the one he co-created, Dopplr), granularity, plausible deniability, connecting the future and the past, and people he knows working and thinking as hard as he in this space.

I’ve heard him speak about this topic a few times and each time the thinking gets richer, more nuanced, and more layered. But also, I always go away with a greater alertness to what it means to be Here, either Now, or Before, or Later.

Matt used to work with Nokia, and has imparted many of these thoughts on us during his tenure here. As Nokia gets all wound up around context and social location, I hope that Matt’s thinking (and the thinking of folks he mentions who still work here) filters through and help us create an elegantly layered and respectful, yet exhilarating, collection of digital services strongly rooted in the physical and social world.

Image from Jacob Bøtter