Last year, the Arab Spring, Wikileaks, and the Occupy Movement came to fruition thanks in part to the widespread availability of social media. Status updates allowed people to organize flash mobs and protests while Twitter and Ustream allowed people to watch and comment on the action from anywhere around the world. The survival and success of many large scale initiatives, political or commercial, now hinges in part on how they exploit web-based technology and reign in user-interaction.
All sorts of real-time collaboration tools have been steadily rising in popularity. My Dropbox account has been near it’s limit for months and Google Docs continues to obnoxiously insert itself in between me and the documents I so desire. Collabedit, a tool for working on bits of code together and evaluating programmers, has definitely found it’s niche. Etherpad and Pastebin have allowed groups like Anonymous to share all sorts of critical (and controversial) time-sensitive data. And the ever-so anxious publishing industry probably has something to gain (or fear) from services like Storify and Submittable (though only the former fulfills any sort ‘real-time’ criteria).
The iPhone 4s’s Siri (Speech Interpretation and Recognition Interface) has familiarized the public with real-time voice call-and-response. It’s a neat little personal assistant but in terms of interactivity, it’s a blackbox for user-to-Apple communication (as the Apple business model dictates).
I expect we will see more customized services like Food52′s real-time, crowd-sourced food Hotline service. There are certainly a lot of services offering variations on this sort of functionality (c.f. the countless ‘rate my outfit’ services), the challenge will be in teasing out clever and concise user interaction for more niche target markets and use-cases (that can generate revenue as well use).
So, what else?
Well, more video, duh.
All sorts of video streaming services are popping up. Westerners keyed in on Tim Pool’s UStream of the Occupy Wallstreet protests and Noisey has streamed six Special Engagements from all over the world through Livestream. Real-time streaming of protests and violence here and afar brings to mind the role of conflict photography during the World Wars and the role of cinematography and broadcast TV during the Vietnam War.
Wirewax‘s video tagging service recently got big press with this (obnoxiously oversized) shoppable video …
A definite improvement over Youtube’s annotation feature and it really makes you wonder about the potential of real-time video tagging.
A few months ago, Interlude.fm introduced the media-savvy to their choose-your-own-adventure video platform with a promo for Fox’s New Girl. Since then, Brooklyn-based Chairlift made a similar but decidedly cooler (featured above). I should just mention the word gamification. Gamification.
Yet another service called OnTheAir promises to provide a talk-show style platform that could yet further democratize the news media business … at least if they can prevent users from devolving to ChatRoulette levels of anatchy. Streaming video services
A few months ago, I half-jokingly predicted to a colleague that 2012 would be the year of ‘real-time’. Yes, this prediction is decidedly late, fuzzy, and unoriginal, but I have been happy to see my prophesy fulfill itself. Technologies like Websockets/Node.js, geolocation, and near-field communications all promise to disrupt again and again our sense of normalcy as computing becomes ever more pervasive (and invasive). We will get more and more productive with multi-touch libraries, tablet-based video editors, and intent-reading interfaces. And we will be more informed with detailed infographics, real-time engagement metrics, and big data analysis. But if the varied reactions to Google’s Project Glass are indicative, it’s going to be a wild ride.
For now though, here’s a live stream of some baby eagles.