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A Drunken Night With Wikipedia's Jimmy Wales In Davos.


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March 21, 2007

A Drunken Night With Wikipedia's Jimmy Wales In Davos.

Bruce Nussbaum

There is a lot of important analysis of "conversation" going on today, as social networking and social media evolve to the next level of analysis. John Battelle's series on The Conversation Economy and David Armano's incredible blog post on Designing Conversations in Beta open up a new line of discussion on the "conversation."

Which brings to mind my one hour with Jimmy Wales in Davos. It was late at the Hotel Belvedere, and we were toasted. Yet I distinctly remember him saying that Wikipedia-land was no nirvana. Wales said that the Wikipedia space is like a small village--it has social patterns and political rules, rogue elements, a police force and an evolving set of regulations. Wikipedia isn't a pure open-source utopia where the best rises simply as the result of interaction among the many. By now, we kind of know that but hearing it from Jimmy on a cold night, it stayed with me.

And informs my thinking on The Conversation. If we are to take the conversation and make it our open-source, social networking paradigm, we have to understand what it means. Conversations have shapes, leaders, followers, threads. Someone starts them, someone stops them, someone molds them--or rather someone or some ones--many.

As companies, advertisers, marketers, bloggers, politicians journalists--you name it--become curators of conversations, they should be aware of all the anthropology and sociology that goes into a conversation. Armano is starting to talk about conversational architecture. A nice term. To him marketing is increasingly about experiences that are built and bolstered by conversations and community. Think about that and what it implies. Maarketing is not about the message but about the experience that derives from the conversation. Getting that conversation right in some fashion is key.

But how do you get the conversation right? And what do you do when people try to hijack your conversation. When consumers do your ads, when they are asked to participate in your design and development, stuff happens. More and more companies--and individuals will have to deal with these issues.

The conversation is the conversation.

08:25 PM

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Tracked on March 23, 2007 02:06 PM

Bruce,

Many brands already do an excellent job of curating conversation. Often non-verbally via "experience spaces". After work, take a stroll into the Apple store and interpret the experience through the "conversation filter" as you've articulated in this post. It's all there. The space is having a merry old conversation with your eye and ears (have you noticed Apple stores even smell good?).

Careful, conversation economy has a bit of old wine in new bottles about it. Something to keep in mind as the meme gathers steam.

-Doug

Posted by: Douglass Turner at March 22, 2007 07:16 PM

Doug Turner makes a good point about how Appple stores have a great "conversation" with consumers. Fact is, really great brands already have great "conversations" with their consumers. Web 2.0 and other technologies allow that conversation to be extended, deepened and made more intimate--emotional. Although I have to say, smell is the most intimate of things and Apple stores do have an interesting smell. So does the interior of an Aston Martin.

Posted by: Bruce Nussbaum at March 22, 2007 10:47 PM

As Duke Ellington so wisely said, "Words stink up the place."

Conversation requires quiet, stillness, listening and more listening. This is unfortunately a skill that too few marketers possess. But they must learn to cultivate it. Or hire it.

Posted by: Crawford at March 23, 2007 03:27 AM

Bruce,

The degree of freedom of interaction that is offered to the consumer influences the nature and complexity of their interaction.

In a social networking application like Wikipedia, users are generating and modifying content and so we see more complex social patterns, while on an application like del.icio.us, where users are just interpreting content and applying tags based on their understanding, it comes closer to the "pure open-source utopia where the best rises simply as the result of interaction among the many". The emergent behavior in an application like del.icio.us is much more apparent.

- Noel

Posted by: Noel Titus at March 23, 2007 05:02 PM


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