myskypephone

Skype, the internet phone service, is all about disruption.

I remember thinking, when I first started using Skype back in 2004, that here’s a small, nimble company that will drive a massive wedge into traditional telephone service business models.

From a user perspective, the model is dead simple and highly compelling – free phone calls via your computer to other users of the service, and very low cost calls via your computer to ‘normal’ telephone numbers, literally anywhere on the planet.

Skype (and its later competitors) has changed the way millions of people around the world communicate where prohibitive costs of using a phone service are no longer a huge barrier – a barrier erected by the big telecommunications operators.

Arguably, Skype has played a not insignificant role in the changes we’ve seen in the past few years in many countries, notably in Europe and North America, with those very same telecommunications companies, what they offer, and how they price it.

Parallel to all this are continuing advances in technology, especially the rapid growth in broadband internet penetration in many countries and changes in people’s behaviors in terms of what they want, how they want it and when they want it.

This is especially the case with the so-called digital natives, the younger generation who dictate change through their own insistent and influential behaviours.

There’s no better way at the moment to drive this point home about changing behaviours (and expectations) than The Rise of the Mobile Super User, a thought-provoking 49-page white paper written by Will Harris and available on free download from Edelman.

These reflections were going through my mind yesterday during the press launch of the Skypephone (pictured above), a joint offering from Skype and UK mobile operator 3, which I attended.

It says to me – this changes everything.

We’re moving up a big notch, from broadband tied to computers and so the geographical restrictions on the things you can do (like make and receive free phone calls), to broadband untied, on mobile devices.

Some would argue that this isn’t new – you can get net access on mobile phones already, and have been able to for some years; and, depending on the device, install and use Skype.

True, but not like this.

cascadesinblogs

If you had to pick just 100 blogs that would provide you with all the content you need to stay informed on everything that interests you, which 100 would you pick?

And by which criteria would you determine that 100?

Some clever researchers at the Carnegie Mellon University in the USA have done the work for you with the publication of a ranked listing of 100 blogs.

This is not just any old list – it’s been arrived at through a complex scientific analysis involving outbreak detection, submodularity, node selections and sensor placements among many other things.

If that and the image above – taken from a presentation the researchers prepared – don’t give you a sense of the complexity of the research, how the abstract in the published research paper (PDF) begins ought to:

Given a water distribution network, where should we place sensors to quickly detect contaminants? Or, which blogs should we read to avoid missing important stories?

The 10-page paper, entitled “Cost-effective Outbreak Detection in Networks,” is a detailed reporting of what the research aimed to achieve, the methodologies employed and the findings that resulted.

Here’s the researchers’ rationale:

[…] Our goal is to select a small set of blogs which “catch” as many cascades (stories) as possible. A naive, intuitive solution would be to select the big, well-known blogs. However, these usually have a large number of posts, and are time-consuming to read. We show, that, perhaps counterintuitively, a more cost-effective solution can be obtained, by reading smaller, but higher quality, blogs, which our algorithm can find.

A very long tail approach.

I should mention at this point that my blog is in this list, at number 84. Actually, as far as I can tell (I haven’t checked every single blog), only one other UK blogger is in this US-focused list: Hugh MacLeod, at number 76.

So two Brits cut the mustard of blog indispensability :)