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Phone Cameras + Social Are Expanding the Historical Record

"There's a plane in the Hudson. I'm on the ferry going to pick up the people. Crazy."

In a critique of the rise of Instagram (current photo sharing app du jour), Laurie Voss argues that the rise of cheap, low fidelity cameras on phones is undermining the data contained in them. And it’s not just that these pictures are lower quality now, it’s affecting their value for future generations:

With these rubbish phone cameras we take terrible photos of some of our most important moments and cherished memories. I am not complaining about composition and lighting here; I’m not a photographer. I am talking about the quantity of meaningful visual data contained in these files. Future historians will decry forever the appalling lack of visual fidelity in the historical record of the last decade.

I read that, and at first though, “Yeah, that could be an issue.” But then I realized that, well no, it’s actually the opposite. The rise of cheap phone cameras is actually increasing the historical record. This even has disruptive innovation undertones to it.

Why?

Picture = Moment + Equipment

When thinking about recording data for history pictorially, I consider two elements:

  • Moment
  • Equipment

"The line at 9 am at the Pleasanton @sfbart stretches for blocks. Huge crowd downtown today for #sfgiants parade."

Now moments are always going to arise. They may be significant moments, such as Janis Krums’ iconic picture above after a US Airways plan crash landed on the Hudson. Recently, the San Francisco Giants were celebrated for their 2010 World Series title with a ticker tape parade in downtown San Francisco. When I arrived at the Dublin/Pleasanton BART the morning of the victory parade, I was shocked by the number of people waiting in line for get to SF.

Just as important as the moment is the equipment. I’m not talking about the quality of the photographic equipment. I’m saying, “do you have something to take the picture?”

Before I got a phone with a camera on it, I had no way of photographing any moments. I could tweet about them, email a description of them and tell people about them. But there was no visual record at all.

I wasn’t carrying a camera around with me. Just not something I wanted to deal with as I also carried my ‘dumb’ phone.  And wallet. And keys. Just too much to deal with.

But a camera included with my mobile phone? Oh yeah, that works. I’ll have that with me at all times.

Which is a much better fit with the notion of capturing moments. They are unpredictable, and do not schedule themselves to when you’re carrying a separate camera.

As for the “quantity of meaningful visual data” being reduced, I think of it mathematically:

The X/Y variable represents the decrease in data per picture. If Y is the “full” data from a high resolution photo, then X is the reduced data set. The loss of scene details, the inability to discern people’s expressions, etc. Yeah, that is a loss due to low quality cameras.

The B/A variable represents the increased number of pictures enabled by the proliferation of convenient low quality cameras. If A is the quantity of photos with high resolution cameras, B is the overall number of photos inclusive of the low quality cameras.

Multiply the ratios, and I believe the overall historical record has been improved by the advent of phone cameras. In other words, “> 1″.

Sharing Is Caring

Something the higher quality, standalone cameras have lacked is connectivity. They miss that aspect we have to share something in the moment. The fact that I can share a picture just as soon as a I take it is extra incentive to take the picture in the first place.

I share my kids’ pics with family via email, and other pics end up in my Twitter and Facebook streams. You know how painful it is to upload photos from the camera and share them? Very.

Standalone cameras are like computer hard drives, locking data off in some siloed storage device somewhere. Good luck to historians in extracting that photographic data.

Convenience Wins Out

This is the disruptive innovation of convenience. People are swapping the separate cameras for the all-in-one mobile devices. And like any good low-end innovation, the quality will increase. Meaning more pictures with better detail and fidelity.

I mean, imagine if there were a bunch of phone cameras at Gettysburg?

Only known photo of Abraham Lincoln (center, without hat) at Gettysburg

We’d have thousands of pics, and it’d be a Twitter Trending Topic. As for the lower data per picture, damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead. Phone cameras will enrich the historical record for future generations.

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My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 111909

From the home office in the restarted Cern Large Hadron Collider along the French-Swiss border…

#1: What Shaun White & Snowboarding Can Teach You About #Innovation http://ow.ly/E8h7 Get exposure for ideas early, so others can digest impact

#2: Managing Employee Innovation Communities (via Spigit blog) http://bit.ly/3SREBr #innovation #e20

#3: City of Manor’s “citizens’ innovation” project (using Spigit) is featured on WhiteHouse.gov blog: http://ow.ly/DURl #gov20

#4: RT @CarolineDangson #IDC Social Survey: workers say they use IM for ‘collaboration’ & social networks for ‘sharing’ – thinking about diff

#5: RT @rotkapchen: RT @wimrampen Social Media Disrupts Decision-Making Process http://bit.ly/2KTUIz (via @GrahamHill)

#6 RT @tjkeitt Starting the process of researching #e2.0 technology pushed into business processes (CRM, ERP, project management, etc.). This is the future.

#7: RT @kevinmarks says @Caterina “Google never got social software – Knol means you have to write a whole article; wikipedia combines tiny contributions” #w2e

#8: Pitching Sequoia? They want to know which deadly sin your company lets customers indulge in http://ow.ly/DGn1 by @glennkelman

#9: Checking out: The Awesomeness Manifesto http://ow.ly/DmID by @umairh Much to love in that one #innovation

#10: Time Magazine is apparently torn between naming Twitter or the Economy as its “Person” of the Year http://ow.ly/CRbB

Louis Gray branches out into his own start-up – Paladin Advisors

On his blog, Louis Gray spills the beans on stealthy start-up work he’s been doing the past few months. He is a Managing Director of New Media for Paladin Advisors. Here’s the description of Paladin Advisors:

Paladin Advisors Group is a strategic advisory firm for startups and enterprise companies who are looking for guidance in their marketing, public relations, sales processes, customer influence, Web and social media.

While Louis focuses on web-based social apps in his blog, his work with Paladin includes the enterprise.

For enterprise companies, my focus has been on integrating social media and blogging into their strategies, aligning on messaging with PR, marketing and customer service.

Congrats to Louis, and I love to see him diving into the start-up world himself. The Paladin site is under development, but you can follow Louis (@louisgray) and Paladin (@paladinag) on Twitter.

My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 103009

From the home office, waiting for the Great Pumpkin in the pumpkin patch…

#1: NIH grants $12mm to create a national, Facebook-like social network for scientists http://ow.ly/xtAD Goal? Find collaborators

#2: RT @jowyang Ritz Carlton’s mktg chief says hotel mgt at each property spends 1 hour reviewing online convos each am –even tweets #forbescmo

#3: The Time I was Written Up for Blogging http://ow.ly/x3ph by @tacanderson Lesson on employees and social media

#4: Skating to where the puck will be – Apple & advertising http://ow.ly/xnXJ Apple has offered to rebuild a Chicago mass transit stop?

#5: Very cool: Los Angeles adopts Google e-mail system for 30,000 city employees http://ow.ly/x3hP Cloud makes inroads #saas

#6: 84% of firms say #innovation is important to firm success. 51% of firms do not have anyone who is steering the innovation ship. #iai09inno

#7: 10 examples of minimum viable products http://ow.ly/xbi1 Cool list of minimalist approaches to engage customers & build product

#8: Stuck trying to write that next blog post? 100 Ways to Find Ideas for Your Blog Posts http://ow.ly/wA1T from the LifeSnips blog

#9: Geek alert! RT @PaulSloane: @DougCornelius RT Awesome T-Shirts for twins: http://bit.ly/14LYeI

#10: OK, figure this one out. @gaberivera created a tweet that links to itself. See for yourself: http://bit.ly/2IIkJG

Bonus just for this week…

#11: Small change to my Twitter bio…I’m now VP of Product at Spigit. Carry on…

My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 102309

From the home office in Kabul, Afghanistan…

#1: Twitter’s Web Traffic Flatlines http://ow.ly/viH9 …while Facebook continues to grow.

#2: Initial take on MSFT’s Twitter integration (http://ow.ly/vLGF)…that is sweet! Now will they show tweets beyond the last 3 days?

#3: RT @danschawbel REPORT: 65.6% of CMO’s feel that social media should be done in-house http://tinyurl.com/ygdjtfb

#4: If the Enterprise 2.0 crowd wanted to share a link, my guess for the top 5 services: Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Posterous, Yammer. Agree?

#5: Study – Collaborative Networks Produce Better Ideas (via Spigit blog) http://bit.ly/3xoPM5 #e20 #innovation

#6: Interesting point from #spc09 – SharePoint is a critical driver of MSFT’s future growth. #e20

#7: Two SharePoint 2010 articles – RWW http://bit.ly/1zjI49 | @olivermarks http://bit.ly/4f9en0 – paint a good picture of its #e20 initiatives

#8: Southwest Airlines is running a “test lab” of ecofriendly products on its new Green Plane http://ow.ly/w3fR

#9: RT @Cubba: @bhc3 I thought this was timely based on our conversation at Patsy’s; http://bit.ly/1WQGwH = “10 Tips for Retrosexing on FB”

#10: http://twitpic.com/m13gk – It’s pumpkin patch time! Kids have their own. #halloween

My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 101609

From the home office in a balloon 7,000 feet above Colorado…

#1: Well, this was unexpected. The Spigit funding news has hit Techmeme http://bit.ly/3ETPFp #e20 #innovation

#2: LinkedIn: 50 million professionals worldwide http://ow.ly/uq7s “Last million took only 12 days” Wow. Tipping point?

#3: RT @mwalsh: Seth’s best post of the year – get over yourselves…you’re not that cool, interesting or smart. http://bit.ly/3HwrV6

#4: Is Social Media the New Cigarette? asks @billives http://ow.ly/u8IY Looking at social media addiction

#5: RT @nyike First Jive, now Spigit building #e20 and collaborative functionality on top of Sharepoint http://bwbx.io/hina

#6: Within firms, collaboration technologies are dictated by most powerful person involved in the collab http://ow.ly/tJgf by @amcafee

#7: Just as interesting as this WSJ piece is, Why Email No Longer Rules… http://ow.ly/tZpj are the skeptical cmts left by readers #e20

#8: If companies like $GOOG and $MMM excel and incl employee 15-20% personal time for innovation, why haven’t others adopted same?

#9: Wind farm firm makes sure its wind mills are 30 miles away from nearest Starbucks. http://ow.ly/tRQP Why? Best way to avoid NIMBY’s

#10: When a company gets funding, all sorts of interesting “opportunities” emerge. Just got a solicitation for Spigit to sponsor a NASCAR driver.

Greece’s Incumbent Party Leans on Social Media Ahead of Oct 4 Election

Greece holds national elections for its Prime Minister on Sunday October 4. This is a “snap election”, called by the incumbent Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis in what is regarded as either a savvy play to get a mandate, or a suicide electoral mission. This election was only called on September 2, giving the political parties only a month to get their candidates air time. ΝΕΑ ΔΗΜΟΚΡΑΤΙΑ (New Democracy) is the party of the incumbent, Karamanlis. Polls suggest his more conservative party will have a tough fight with the Socialists.

Walking through Athens, I was impressed by the display set up by the ΝΕΑ ΔΗΜΟΚΡΑΤΙΑ party. It was nighttime, and the ND party station was bright with blazing lights, blaring music and a modern look. Included in the station was this wall:

Greek New Democracy party social media

Check out those social media chops! Blog, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube. The URLs are well-done. They redirect to the actual social media site account for the ND party, while making it easy to remember them.

And these aren’t “ghost town” accounts. The party’s Facebook page has nearly 9,300 supporters, and each entry in its news stream receives dozens of Likes and Comments.

I don’t know if Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis will regret his decision to call a snap election this Sunday October 4. But I’m impressed with his party’s use of social media. Perhaps they’re taking a page from Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.

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