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Chromecast – Barbarians at the gate

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If you haven’t been living under a rock for the last five minutes (in Internet time), you probably know about Google’s Chromecast.

Chromecast is a $35 HDMI dongle that hangs off the back of your TV set.  It allows you to stream YouTube, Netflix, and just about anything you can view in your Chrome browser to your TV.  This is nothing new.  A modern TV with wireless can do the same thing.

I am not going to review the Chromecast – there are already hundreds or thousands of those.

But I am going to tell you what I thought about when I hooked mine up.


A television is an end device.  By this I mean that a traditional television set has been a specialized device that only certain content can appear on.  In the old days, about five or so years ago, you had to be someone special to get content to a television.  You had to be a “Network” (CBS, NBC, ABC, etc) or a cable provider delivering content such as AMC, CNN, CNBC, and so on.  To have content on a television, you had to have millions of dollars.  Development of television programs was done by professionals and it cost millions of dollars to produce and distribute.

The same was true with books.  In the old days, before self-publishing and easy global distribution on if you picked up a book you kinda knew that someone (the author(s)) probably spent a year of so researching and writing the content.    There was a tacit assumption of professionalism.  We had corporate entities called “publishers” that filtered the good from the bad.

What about radio?  The physical end device called a “radio” was like a television end device.  To be heard on a traditional radio station meant that you had hundreds of thousands of dollars and the value of the content was somehow commensurate with the cost of the broadcast capability.

Assembly of the Hordes

Anyone can offer an e-book on Amazon and get global distribution.  And anyone can put a video on YouTube and get global distribution.  If you listen to “radio” as Internet streams you know that anyone can be a broadcast radio station with global distribution.  The cost of the global distribution of content is approaching $0.

What has changed, is that there is no longer a vetting process for what we have traditionally understood as books, radio, and television – and lets add journalism to this as well.  The Wall Street Journal web site can appear in a tab in your browser next to any blogger on the Internet.


So when I hooked up the Chromecast to my television I knew that the Barbarians were at the gate.  My television end device is no longer a gatekeeper on the quality of content (with all respect to Newton Minow) and now a video of “a cat flushing a toilet” can appear on the same device as AMC’s Mad Men.

The Take

It may be an odd thing to say, but I think it’s true.  The traditional role of radio, television, and books was to serve as a coherent guideposts for the culture.  In a certain sense, before all this new media, we (the society and the culture) were “all on the same page”.  We all watched, listened to, and read the same limited variety of content on the television end device, the radio end device, and books and newspapers guarded by publishers distributed on paper.

But now, these “filters of coherency” have been breached by modern technology.  Content from everyone and everywhere washes over us like a tsunami on all devices.

With no gatekeepers there will be a chaos.  And in chaos, people wander aimlessly.

At $35, Chromecast has breached the walls of my television set.  The last bastion of protection is your own mind and decision-making.  There will be no “cats flushing a toilet’ on my television anytime soon.  Hope I can say the same about you when you hookup Chromecast to your TV.

Read More…

FCC Chairman Newton Minow 50 years later: a vaster wasteland


Written by frrl

September 29, 2013 at 5:51 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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The Future: Hidden in Plain Sight

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“‘All right,’ said the Cat: and this time it vanished quite slowly, beginning with the end of the tail, and ending with the grin, which remained some time after the rest of it had gone.  ‘Well!’ I’ve often seen a cat without a grin,’ thought Alice: ‘but a grin without a cat! It’s the most curious thing I ever saw in my life!’”  Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

If you go wandering around a typical Fortune 500 company chances are 100% that there will be a “Diversity Program”.  By Diversity program the majority of organizations implicitly and unthinkingly understand this to be – primarily and exclusively – diversity around ethnicity.

What about generational diversity?  What we should all know for sure,  based on simple observation, is that in any large organization there are individuals representing 4 distinct generations.  It would be easy to say that these 4 generations are easily mapped into age groups –    but I won’t as this is sometime not nearly the case – depending on the organization.

For those organizations that are in the path of the increasingly velocity of technological change and which must adapt to survive and prosper then making some sort of assessment of who you have in key positions becomes important.

There is a tremendous amount you can learn about people by having simple casual conversations.

In plain sight

Individuals differ widely in what they notice and what escapes their notice.  People differ widely in their level of curiosity.   People differ widely on what drives them into discovery.  If you had the opportunity to have a simple informal conversation with someone how would you get a handle on the above?

Comments on the content of television aside, everyone watches television.  You might watch the nightly news, a reality show, PBS or whatever.  No matter the category of the television programing something pervasive is going on.  Did you notice it?

Ask someone if they saw the “hash tag” on the nightly news, the reality show, or the PBS show.  Maybe they don’t know what you’re talking about.  Ask them if they see that word beginning with the # mark at the margins of the video image.

It’s a valuable observation to make note of the diversity of the answers you will get if you ask people about hash tags as part of an informal conversation.

  • Some people, even though they watch a lot of television, will tell you they have never seen these hash tags even though they did.  That is, they are not overtly conscious of seeing them.  Their eyes saw them but it was not raised to a level of consciousness.  The hash tags are there – but not there.
  • Some people will tell you they saw those tags.  But they won’t know what they are.  For these folks, they see the tags, know that they don’t know what they are but don’t have a level of curiosity to find out what they are, what they mean, and how to use them.
  • Some people know what those hash tags are and tell you they have them as pre-defined search terms in Twitter.

So, if you were to wander around an organization, in sort of non-threatening way, and have a simple informal conversation with people in different parts of the organization and at various levels of the organizational hierarchy – what would you expect to hear?  From what parts of the organization, from who in the organizational decision-making hierarchy.  Who should know what and should you be surprised by the answers you get?

If you were to ask those responsible for new product development about hash tags and they didn’t  know what a hash tag was (didn’t see ’em (but yes they did); saw them but didn’t have the curiosity to find out) what would you think?  What about those folks in engineering – does it matter if they know what a hash tag is?  And heaven help you, if someone in the marketing department doesn’t know what they are.

It is easy, and an oversimplification to make a projection (hypothesis) that those who know and those who don’t know are easily segmented into age groups and into levels of the organizational hierarchy.  That is, young people know, old people don’t know;  those in higher levels of an organization know – no matter their age; people near the bottom of an organization don’t know – no matter their age.

Try it. You might be surprised at what you discover.

But clearly, if your VP of product development or someone in the marketing department doesn’t notice these sorts of remnant grins of the Cheshire Cat marking the future in plain sight at the margins of the television screen then perhaps you need to make a more detailed assessment of how well your organization is positioned to recognize the future with such people in place. 

So, when it comes to strategic direction and strategic priorities, it’s not so much about ethnic diversity as it is about generational diversity and the advantage some generations have in seeing what other generations can not – even though it’s in plain sight.

Read more…

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Why Every Social Media Manager Should Be Under 25

Written by frrl

January 14, 2013 at 4:38 pm

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