Well, what a week that was. Trafigura, Jan Moir and Ian & TFL: three separate incidents, all unrelated other than the fact that, to greater or lesser degrees, mobiles & Twitter played a large part in their being resolved/gaining mainstream coverage.
In the case of Trafigura, Carter-Ruck almost certainly caved more quickly than they would have done otherwise; The Daily Mail was forced to pull advertising from an article which was, let’s be honest, no more horrible than many of the other hateful things they publish on a daily basis; and Ian, the TFL worker, finds himself sitting at home this morning wondering if it was such a clever idea to suggest throwing a customer under a train (with someone actually claiming I helped it hit the big-time. Blimey). Then again, anyone who, in this day & age, thinks it’s cool to wear fingerless gloves and have a pony-tail probably isn’t going to be battering down MENSA’s door demanding membership any time soon.
Many people have written about all of these events already, and with much more insight than I could hope to provide. However, one thing has kept popping into my mind again & again over the last few days: Forrester’s ladder is broken; the ladder is now horizontal, not vertical.
For anyone not familiar with it, the ladder (above) is Forrester’s way of categorising the different types of users of social media. I use it a lot when talking to clients and think that it makes a reasonably complicated topic quite simple to explain. The reason that they chose a ladder is obviously because the idea is that it takes more effort to be a creator than a spectator, hence Creators being at the ladder’s top. And, in the days when creating a web-page, or filming & uploading a video, or even just writing a blog post, took a vague amount of effort, that was a valid metaphor.
But, as we’ve seen over the last week, all you need to be a Creator now is a half-decent camera phone & a Twitter account. This trend can probably be traced back to the London bombings back in 2005, when most of the iconic images came from the camera phones of people trapped in the Tube tunnels, rather than the professional camera crews ‘trapped’ outside, away from the story. But now, with the exponential improvement in the quality of camera phones, especially video ones, and the ease with which Twitter allows someone to ‘upload’ that content, the whole game has changed.
So, to paraphrase Clay Shirky if I may:
So forget about mobiles and Twitter and tweeting and focus on this — the cost and difficulty of instantaneously publishing absolutely anything, by anyone, into a global medium, just dropped as close to zero as makes no difference. And the effects of that increased pool of potential producers is already proving to be vast.
Ladder image by Bohman on flickr