Mash 2011

I spent a couple of days in Dublin this week for the Mash 2011 conference. 20 speakers (including me), three workshops and a whole lot of really nice people.

Here are some patchy notes from what I saw.

Nathan Hull, Penguin – The future of digital storytelling
Nathan took us through Penguin’s approach to eBooks, enhanced eBooks (EeBooks?) and apps. Examples included Fry Paper, Where’s Spot and many more. [I didn’t take notes because at this point I was already sitting on stage waiting to go up and speak.]

Hilary Perkins, Channel 4
Hilary talked about the importance of story-telling and how to use UGC in a way that doesn’t treat users as unpaid labour. [Again, no notes here. Do try to see Hilary present though, she’s great.]

Roo Reynolds, W+K London
That’s me! I somehow managed to show 68 slides (!) in 15 minutes to illustrate how the Cravendale ‘Cats with Thumbs‘ campaign worked as an example of advertising and engagement. I still didn’t cover everything I would have liked, but people were very kind about it afterwards and seemed to enjoy it.

Evan Ratliff, Wired USA
Having long been interested in the phenomenon of people who fake their own death, Evan and Wired set up a challenge. He would attempt to disappear and Wired would give a $5000 prize ($3k from Evan’s own pocket) to the first person who could hunt him down. In assuming a new identity he took the battery out of his mobile phone, rented an office in an fake name, used cash and cash-cards to buy disposable ‘burners’, used Tor to protect web visits and lots more. How to build a realistic looking FB profile? Find people who will friend anyone (people who do multi level marketing). A community of people looking for him quickly coordinated using FB, websites, Twitter (#vanish), chat rooms etc. 26 days later he was tracked down, partly via a Facebook app which logged users details into a database (tracked IP address, profile, number of friends etc) and trawled through lowest number of friends. Brilliant story.

Mark Rock, CEO of Audioboo
Product demo. When asked about monetisation, Mark said there will always be a free version. Possibility in future of paying to subscribe to users, with revenue sharing model.

Burt Herman, CEO of Storify
Storify lets you curate content: search, pick, add text to give context and Burt showed lots of great examples. “Social media makes everyone a reporter” [but not, I could feel the journalists in the room thinking, necessarily a journalist]

Edouard Lambelet, CEO of let’s you showcase content based on lists/search/friend networks. Already up to 1.5M regularly active users (5M total). Being used for marketing by Game of Thrones apparently.

Marek Walton, The Mustard Corporation
‘The lessons learned from social games’. Marek shared some great examples of the real world value of virtual goods. Did you know the Entropia space station which sold in 2005 for $100k was sold again in 2009 for the equivalent of $330k?

Nicolas Lovell, Games Brief
Did you know there were 89M Cityville players last month, 11M yesterday? Publishing adds value through content distribution, but Internet has made content distribution easy. Which is great for content creators. Some (v few) people are prepared to pay a LOT of money. People will pay to: Fit in, Stand out, Fit in to a sub-group while standing out from the crowd, Build friendship, Flirt. Micro transactions: you can charge for status, emotion and identity rather than content. ARPU is not enough to know. What % of revenue comes from top 1% of users? SocialGold model of peasants, commoners, knights, lords, kings. Free users are really important; they’re the eyeballs, influencers, gawkers, leads and potential converts. Your job is to grab people with free stuff, and move them up the curve. Bower bird analogy: the Bower bird builds highly decorative nests decorated with blue things they’ve found: “look at how much surplus energy I have”.

Aidan Kelley, Candy
In a gorgeous and refreshingly simple presentation, most remarkable for its visuals, Aidan shared his long-running independent PDF magazine Candy with us. (Also referenced Issuu).

Nora Casey, Harmonia
Couldn’t have been more different from Aidan, and you almost got the impression the two of them are like positively and negatively charged particles; I was anxious they not touch for fear they would annihilate each other. Nora is a Dragon (in the Dragon’s Den sense of the word) and very well known in Ireland. She started off by saying that “My whole future is about digital” but appears confident about printed magazines and very dismissive of anything replacing them. We’ve been reading for 25,000 years [Bill Thompson would later point out it was actually 6,000], “Print will survive because it requires no electricity or machinery”, “Magazine readers will be around for another 20 years at least”, “If online works so well, why are so many tech and games magazines printed on paper?”. Bonus fact: 70% of revenue in womens monthly magazine comes from ads, apparently.

Next up was a panel discussing Wikileaks and Julian Assange. Despite being very happy to never hear that name again, this was a particularly interesting and enjoyable panel because intelligent people were actually discussing and arguing rather than agreeing with each other. Very unusual at conference, and very welcome.

Vaughan Smith, Founder of the Frontline club and associate of Julian Assange
“Julian Assange stays at my farm in Norfolk”. “I remain as committed to Julian as I was in November”. “i saw a man who was courageous, principled and frightened and had not been treated fairly”. Traditional journalists do not like dealing with J.A. because he [like them] is “a strong opinionated character”. Insistent that the rape allegations from Sweden are “a smear” and “a sideshow”. “Most people in Britain believe he is innocent”. How you do know? “I speak to a lot of people.”

Fintan O’Toole, Deputy Editor of The Irish Times
“Our instinct as journalists has to be in favour of publication of all information unless there’s a very good reason not to” But… “You cannot set yourself up as a force for liberation unless you are personally accountable”

Sarah McInerney, Political Correspondent at The Sunday Times
There is a problem in being too reliant on Julian Assange. He has an agenda, he controls the access. “I think he has too much power for one individual”

Christian Payne, Bill Thompson, Nik Butler
The three chaps (with Nik joining via Skype) conducted an informal and wide-ranging discussion covering closed platforms vs the open web, what happens when bandwidth increases and the possibilities of IPv6.

John Mulholland, Editor of the Observer
John introduced a series of film clips (in what amounted to a documentary and would make a very good one) about ‘the paper’s biggest story’, former Observer editor David Astor who used his position to bring injustices in apartheid era South Africa to light. First paper “to cover africa in a post colonial manner”.

Bill Thompson, head of partnership development for BBC archive development team
We want to believe things won’t change because it’s comfortable. Language is mind, culture is society. We are now living in a digital culture. The world itself is not digital, and the real world has not gone away, but it’s no longer wholly analogue. Digital data is everywhere. Revolutions on this scale are rare (think: writing rather than printing press). Not adapting your thinking will make you functionally illiterate. But we need to ensure we don’t forget the past, and take it with us. Digitising a book doesn’t mean we then shred it afterwards. It can mean visiting the relevant physical book becomes easier. BBC working with institutions to define a ‘Digital Public Space‘.

A day to make your head spin. Wonderful stuff.

My notes barely scratch the surface though. To get a much better idea of what happened at Mash, take a scroll through this collection of photos, video clips, interviews and attendee tweets curated by a team of students using Storify (of course) while the conference was taking place.