Friday, December 5, 2008

Thank you Finland

The work we are doing at Zipipop is intimately and symbiotically tied to the thesis research I am currently undertaking as the final part of my MA in New Media at Media Lab (University of Art and Design, Helsinki).

Finland may not have the most investment opportunities; however, for a startup like ours, it has offered us a unique opportunity to undertake the initial development of our company under the protective wing of Finnish higher education.

Finland does not charge tuition fees (even for foreigners) and local students even receive student benefit; however, this is not sufficient for living, so most students do some supplementary paid work. And currently there is considerable flexibility in combining studies with external work. This is partly the reason why Finnish youth stay in school longest in the OECD countries: with 43% of all Finnish 20-29-year-olds enrolled in education (highest among OECD countries, average 25%). (OECD’s annual Education at a Glance report)

I met my co-founder Helene Auramo on a creative management course in Media Lab. At the time she was taking part in the cross-institutional International Design Business Management course, while studying at the Helsinki School of Economics (from where she has now graduated). Within no time we realized that we had a shared passion for all things entrepreneurial and – with an enthusiasm only the naïve can possess – we decided to start Zipipop.

From the outset, we were then able to tailor our studies directly towards the development of Zipipop, eg – I did an extensive personal study project on Zipipop and Hele did considerable social media marketing research. So, although we were studying, we were almost working full-time developing the Zipi World. In addition, we benefited greatly from the bright, passionate and informed people at Media Lab and the Helsinki School of Economics.

In June 2007 we moved into our first office and started officially working full-time with the occasional 'relevant' course to sustain our student benefits – this was the same situation for the first four Zipipop partners. To pay company costs and supplement our income, we started doing some external 3rd party work and were fortunate to receive some governmental development grants.

Zipipop, however, has now become a fully-fledged company with a growing international reputation and additional non-student partners – so the time to cut the university umbilical cord is nearing. Therefore, we are approaching, and have been approached, by a number of potential angel investors.

That said, we will continue to cultivate our ties with the universities since, apart from enjoying and benefiting from the relationships we have there, student groups have been proven time and again (think Facebook) as one of the best ways to secure uptake of new internet services.

But on a personal level, I would like to thank Finland for offering me this unique opportunity to learn, grow and – fingers crossed – develop a company of international significance. Of course I had to win my privileged place at Media Lab, however, how many other countries would provide such no-strings-attached opportunities to a foreigner?

Much thanks indeed, Richard

Friday, November 28, 2008

Intention sharing makes us unique

As part of my thesis research I have a number of search terms logged into Google Alerts,including: "Intention Broadcasting" (a term coined at Zipipop) and the more general term "intention sharing". Google Alerts can be frustrating since it continually throws up old links; however, it does keep you up-to-date and occasionally produces some gems you could easily miss. Not so long ago it throw me a link to an article entitled: The Role of Cultural Transmission in Intention Sharing.

It argues that our relatively high-level ability to communicate shared intentions is a uniquely human attribute that has helped us to develop languages. Conversely, a low level of it has restricted language development in animals. It also simulates how cultural transmission effects our intention sharing abilities.

And since we are producing an Intention Sharing platform this obviously struck a chord in me. Human communication, intention sharing, and coordination skills have resulted in our current world dominance (if you ignore those cockroaches who will most likely out survive us). But, at the same time, a huge chunk of the world's problems arise from a failure to communicate and coordinate intentions.

Therefore, if Zipipop can continue to develop services that vastly improve our abilities to share and coordinate intentions, then … we really can change the world :)

* (image sources unknown – I did try to trace them back. Let me know if they are yours)

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Sharing Life

Zipiko has on a number of occassions been compared to Dopplr. Take this Techruch entry for example "Zipipop (from Finland) is a start-up that is developing Zipiko, a mobile service for sorting your social life on the go, as in, broadcast where you’ll be at a certain time in the day. Think Dopplr, but on a much more granular level perhaps."

And according to Dopplr's latest press release it “is leading the way in intention sharing services online." This is interesting to Zipipop, since we have previously blogged about Dopplr being an early example of what we are calling intention broadcasting systems (IBS). However, Dopplr is not a fully-formed IBS, since it lacks the fundamental 'coordination' phase; which means that you can easily end up getting too much direct and sometimes intrusive calls/messages. A complete IBS should be handling and coordinating the meetups more passively – something that Zipiko does well.

However, the Zipiko system is not able to let you know which city your buddies are going to be in until they have already arrived and shared an event. So it dawned on us that there is a good potential here for cooperation
– especially since we are both in the business of intention sharing and we also happen to we live in the same neck of the woods.

So in the spirt of Zipiop's first official slogan 'Sharing Life', this is how it could work:

Dopplr allows people to know when they will be in the same city and then Zipiko allows them to easily arrange their get-togethers – kind of a Blogger/Twitter, macro/micro relationship.

@Dopplr posse – Let's meetup at somewhere, sometime soon: As Bogie says, "This could be the beginning of a beautiful relationship."

Thursday, September 11, 2008

An Intention Broadcasting Model: Preliminary Thoughts

I have recently been developing our Intention Broadcasting (IB) concept into something approaching a more fully-fledged theory. My first objective was to come up with a model of how an intention broadcasting system (IBS) should work in a general sense. The second was to identify existing and future implementations of IBS-based services.

I initially studied some Situated Cognition theory to see if there were useful correlations and, out of the key principles, the following were of particular interest: affordances, problem solving, goals and intentions. And The Young-Barab Model (1998) of Dynamics of Intentions and Intentional Dynamics.

In any environment there are different kinds of affordances (possibilities for action) that allow us to carry out intentions to achieve certain goals. However, the process of reaching these goals is hindered by contextual problems that can only be solved on the fly and through interaction with the real world.

Intention Broadcast Systems – Key Phases

The key phases that I have identified in the dynamics of an IBS are as follows:

Intention: the agent has an intention to do something
Goal Adoption: agent sets out on a particular path to achieve the intended goal
Affordances: agent adopts an IBS as the best method of achieving intended goal
Broadcast Transmission*: agent passively broadcasts intention to target audience (avoiding multiple intrusive communications)
Reception: the target audiences tune into to receive relevant intention via streams (channels, groups, etc)
Censorship: a collaborative rating system is often required to help protect both the broadcaster and audience from bad intentions.
Coordination: systems for involved parties to overcome contextual problems though interaction and collaboration.
Outcome: Goal accomplished

*Ideally the target audience would all be actively using the service and receive the message passively or through system-based notifications; however, in the real world some people will need to be contacted via more conventional methods, eg – SMS & email; however, the IBS can at least automate the sending and collating of the messages and their responses.

First Sketch of the Dynamics of an Intention Broadcasting Model

First Sketch Comparing Conventional Strategies with the Dynamics of an Intention Broadcasting Model

The sketch above shows an example of how intention broadcasting is much better at solving some real-world problems. In this instance I have chosen to use organizing a get-together as an example, however, I will later go on to explain how it can work in other situations.

Agents A & B both intend to have a party and they adopt this as their Goal:

Agent A goes conventional and uses a combination of affordances (calling, SMSing and emailing) to let the audience (friends) know that he is planning (intends) to have a party. All these methods are intrusive and can make the receiver feel under pressure. The replies have to be manually collated, adjustments made, and updates sent multiple times. This is a laborious process and Agent A will eventually succeed in concluding the situation or the frustration will become overwhelming and the goal abandoned.

Agent B, however, opts to use the Zipiko intention broadcasting system. Agent B broadcasts the intention to have a party and her Zipiko friends can passively see the plan on the listings page and click to join. Friends can also be sent free SMS invites, even if they are not registered on the system. The system then automatically and instantly updates attendees on who is coming, sends reminders and informs about cancellations. Using the Event Messaging Board collaborative adjustments can be made right up to the last-minute.

So the benefits are clear, however, if a theory is to be successful it has to be proven to work in many different contexts.


IB systems can utilize any method of one-to-many combined with one-to-one ICT broadcasting strategies and almost any situation where you can define a clean intent/desire/need you can build an IBS to help out. And already aspects of intention broadcasting are appearing on the web. Here are some current examples:

Travel: Dopplr allows you to broadcast your intention to travel to a particular destination so that friends and colleagues can know where you are and 'serendipitously' meet up with you.

Real Estate: Igglo enables potential customers to broadcast their intention to live in a particular neighbourhood or even block and attempts to match the desire. Also, potential sellers can advertise their intention to sell their property (secret selling) in order to gauge the real market value; and if they see an offer then can’t refuse then all the better.

By shear chance both these services have also been developed in Finland. Finns are famous for not talking so maybe this more passive way of communicating is appealing to them ; )

Micro-lending and Peer-to-Peer Banking: is an organization that provides micro-lending to entrepreneurs around the globe. The entrepreneur will post (broadcast) how much they need and what the loan is for (generally from $250 to $500); you can select (tune into) the person, gender, country, type of business and elect to assist this person. Could this phenomomen could spread to conventional banking.

(Note: I am aware that there is a Finnish organization also involved in micro-lending but can't remember the name. If you know please add it to the comments).

In light of our open attitude (see previous entry) you will now be privileged to read, for the first time, about some complete IB-systems currently being concepted during Zipipop's 10% time. We reserve all rights to implement any of these ideas and if any financiers are interested in helping us we are all ears:

Buying/Selling (project codename: Share Swap): The customer broadcasts an intention to buy a product (either new or second-hand). Sellers see this intention and make direct offers. Buyers benefit in having to do no legwork, can see and compare offers in one place, and get more open independent expert advice.

Sellers benefit from the direct contact to active customers, a better understanding of customer needs, and save money on inefficient, and often unwelcome, general marketing. Both benefit from the collaborative feedback censorship system that rates people (as in Ebay); and transactions can easily be resolved in the coordination phase.

This can also be used to buy/sell trade or consultancy freelance work, eg – people always need skilled labour and organizations often need freelance work, but it is not always clear who to contact or what is a fair price. So they could broadcast their need for some freelance work. Freelancers could then tune into (via channels, groups, etc) the offers that are best suited to them. And the censorship filter helps customers avoid the cowboys (British slang for incompetent workers).

(13/09/08 - Check out for

Personal Opinion Polls (codenamed: POPs): You intend to do something but you want feedback before doing so, eg – you want your friends to advise on which wedding dress you should buy; or which guy you should date.

The need for this kind of service is just starting to express itself on micro-blogging services. See here for an example.

Baby-sitting (codename Baby-sitting Project): Broadcast your need (intention for finding) a babysitter. Use the collaborative censorship rating to evaluate trustworthiness.

In fact, I have been playing with the concept of an Intention Exchange System that could encompass many IB needs in one service: like a stock exchange but with the trading based on intentions. Interested bodies could tune into all the different kinds of broadcasted intentions that are relevant to them and make offers. The exchange could be facilitated by swapping items/services of similar value, system credits (that could be exchangeable for real money), or via real world credit systems, eg – Paypal, etc.

(Relevant Off-Topic Sidetrack: Many years ago, when I was in the film business, I remember reading about a young filmmaker who had been touring his award-winning film around the world for a year. He consider the period his reward for all the hard work, but, just when he was getting all the attention and offers of more financing, he suddenly realized he could not answer the "What next?" questions that were flying at him. We are sure that Zipiko is going to be a big hit, and, therefore, we are already preparing to make the most of the opportunities this will bring our way; however, we are fully aware of the tremendous concentration of will and effort still required for many years to come to take Zipiko to where we want it to be.)


So we can see a familiar pattern arising that can affect huge sections of web activity. IB essentially farms out (crowdsources) the work of searching for things on the web by matching needs with solutions in a much more efficient manner.

As I have demonstrated, aspects of intention broadcasting have been developing in a fragmented way for a while, however, with this new model it is now easier to identify and develop fully functioning IB systems. The next stage is to see how IB fits into the bigger picture regarding the emerging practices related to the semantic and pragmatic web.

And then that little question of making sure that 'ordinary' everyday people see the benefits and make the switch to such systems.

Zipiko will be the first full-on 'proof of the pudding'.

Startup Ideas and Painting

'Fecundity' by Richard von Kaufmann (2004)

During the first year at Zipipop we constantly debated how open we should be with our ideas. At the very beginning we even made people sign NDA's and this had some benefits: people realized we 'meant business'; they (maybe) felt privileged being invited into the inner circle; and it forced us to think hard about how we wished to present ourselves to the world.

However, since ideas are only valuable if they can be implemented, we soon realized that fast implementation, and accredited distribution, are by far the best way – in an industry that moves at breakneck speed – to protect a web-based idea.

By freeing up and putting our ideas 'out there', we were then able to more effectively garner input from the bright and busy intellects that flock around Zipipop; enabling us to refine our ideas faster and thereby making the implementation stage quicker and more efficient.

There are some that say that ideas are cheap and to some extent that is true. However, I really like this article about startup ideas by Paul Graham because it distinguishes between good ideas and valuable ideas: valuable ideas being great ideas that people want and are willing to pay for.

He also shows that great ideas come out of a long process of trail, error and adjustment. Zipiko has only been in development for less than five months, however, the fundamental idea came after more than a year of brainstorming and 'do-search' within Zipipop.

First we developed the idea of POPs (personal opinion polls), one of which was a date-picker, this then inspired us to work on a more full-on event organizer designed to cope with every imaginable scenario. For a small company (only three partners at the time) we clearly, in retrospect, bit of more than we could chew. But then we got hit and carried along by the mighty Facebook wave.

As a 'test' (or a subconscious excuse to deviate from the 'monster' project), we decided to do a couple of Facebook applications to see how we could later integrate our services into the exploding platform. We caught the tail end of the wave as it swept over Finland in the summer of 2007, and we soon became know locally as the Facebook company. For many months the event organizer was put on hold as we implemented a whole bunch of in-house and third party Facebook apps.

However, right from the beginning we had a conscious plan to develop for mobile platforms, and in light of this Facebook was a good playground for us: the discipline of delivering apps with a clear purpose, inside a restricted screen space, has prepared us well for small screen challenges. And it was our Going for One? Facebook app that was the direct predecessor to Zipiko.

The Paul Graham article also makes some nice analogies to painting and it reminded me of one of the greatest things my high school art teacher would constantly tell us; "Don't wait for inspiration, just start painting and the ideas will come." This method is almost infallible, however, there are times when you will spend months fiddling on a large respectable oil painting that people might – if you every finish it – smile upon approvingly; and then there are those rarer – more valuable – works, produced in a flurry of inspiration – usually as a break from that never ending project – that people will rave about.

This last phenomena has parallels with many famous web services, for example: flickr – the photo sharing was just part of a bigger game project; PayPal – the service was originally supposed to be a way of exchanging credit between handheld devices; and closer to home there is Habbo Hotel – started as a project to help promote their friends' band.

So far we can propose that: Great ideas come form an abundance of mental doodling, brainstorming and 'do-search'; great ideas are worthless if left in the dark; and for a startup, great ideas need to come with commercial value.

In light of all this we have decided to publish some of our ideas, since even if we fail to implement them before competitors, we can at least gain some beneficial recognition from exposing them to the light of day.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Organizing Get-togethers: Zipiko vs Micro-blogging

At the Mobile 2.0 conference in Barcelona, we were asked by an investor group why users could not use Twitter and other micro-blogging services to organize get-togethers. We have been asked the same question a couple of times since. Here is the answer:

The screen shot above shows Jyri Engström talking about how to use micro-blogging to get your friends together for a last-minute beer. However, the likes of Jaiku/Twitter are not ideally suited for this purpose, since they cannot: reach everyday friends, automatically collate responses, send reminders and inform about cancellations.

Needless to say Zipiko can and is doing these things. In addition, we have recently added event messaging boards, so that collaborative fine-tuning can be made right up to the last-minute, eg - the plan was to picnic, but it is pouring down, so invite them to your flat instead (a real-life example). We are currently considering the implications of allowing update comments to also be sent to attendees via SMS - but this will probably have to wait until we have sponsorship.

However, you can watch the video and listen to Jyri's many pearls of wisdom. Below I have outlined his key ideas in relation to Zipiko:

1. Define the social object round which your service is built:


2. Define the key verbs for that object:

see, join, share (11.9-2008)

3. Make the object shareable:

We already have perma-links to events past and present, we already have a prototype Apple Widget and are planning others, and are working on a strategy to link to Facebook Connect.

4. To grow your userbase, think about what can you provide in terms of a gift users can offer their friends:

more fun together / time / free SMS

5. Work out a business model where you charge the publisher, not the spectators:

Intention Ads / Pro Services / Sponsored SMS

Friday, August 22, 2008

Why Did Twitter Win the Race?

I’m a fan of Jyri Engström’s theoretical work. And, although Jaiku (as we know it) has lost the race against Twitter, his experience helming a startup at the sharp edge of web development definitely enhances his insights. And I will be comparing his recommendations to Zipiko in my next blog.

I used to say that Jaiku was the best service I never used. However, I have recently rediscovered its joys. One feature that we prefer is the way that Jaiku streams the comments into conversations; whereas you can’t see all Twitter comments in one page. Now that Jaiku is currently closed (now open again, 27/8/2008) - to new users, I feel very lucky to have an account.

The Jaiku-Twitter battle is of great interest to us since Jaiku, like us, had Finnish roots and we must try to avoid the pitfalls that they fell into – but what are those pitfalls? We have been bouncing some ideas around the office and these are currently the most likely contenders: location, mobile app v. web-based/SMS, API and name.

Location: Twitter, being based in San Francisco, was able to generate buzz in the industry that spread out to the public; whereas Jaiku generated interest in Finland – but it kind of stopped here. Twitter was also used extensively at the crucial South by Southwest festival (Austin, Texas) in 2007 – we hope to do something similar.

Finland is an excellent place for doing controlled launches, since there is a small tech savvy population and the language naturally restricts growth. However, once we have ironed out the Zipiko system, we must immediately start doing some old fashioned legwork promoting the service in English speaking counties.

At the end of this month we are doing our first marketing campaigns at some key Helsinki universities, which we will then try to replicate abroad. And we will be looking into the possibility of a San Francisco foothold when we go there for the Mobile 2.0 conference in November.

Web-based/SMS v. Mobile Apps: Twitter put more emphasis on developing a web-based service using SMS to link to mobiles, whereas Jaiku initially put more emphasis on its mobile apps. However, Twitter has suffered recently from having to make some severe cut backs related to its SMS service due to high costs.

We are currently focusing on the web-based/SMS approach and, in regards to SMS, we are fortunate that our system will only generate a fraction of Twitter’s SMS load (one Tweet can generate thousands of SMS). However, we are aiming to put discreet sponsorship messages at the end of our SMS invites, which should appeal to advertisers and users alike since we can match both their needs more closely thanks to our knowledge of user intentions, eg – going shopping, see a great offer. If this proves successful then the more SMS the merrier.

API: Twitter had a more straightforward API from early on.

Name: This one is still being debated, but to my English ear Twitter not only matches the activity perfectly (birds and people twitter) it is more ‘sticky’, whereas people can’t even decide whether to say (Y)jaiku or (G)jaiku.

We thought very hard about the name Zipiko, which so far seems to being doing the trick. To zip somewhere is to go quickly and k looks good with z and ko rhymes with go. But you will decide. However, if Google had been a useless service would it be such a great name? After all:

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose. By any other name would smell as sweet." (William Shakespeare)

We welcome your advice on these issues so please do comment – especially Jyri.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Communication, Collaboration, Coordination

In this entry I wish to build on the hypothesis that the development of the Internet started with communication, then came collaboration, and we are now moving into a third phase related to coordination. I first elaborated on this idea with Peggy Anne Salz a couple of weeks ago.

The first evolution of the Internet was concerned with communication; which primarily took place via email, Usenet groups, Chat rooms. Later, with the introduction of the Web, came hyper-linked websites with limited interaction. As the amount of information grew exponentially, it quickly became apparent that new tools, such as search engines and sophisticated email clients, were required to retrieve and filter the data.

More interactive rich media developments later brought about collaboration possibilities in the form of Web 2.0. This collaboration was primarily concerned with web-based activity related to knowledge sharing, generation and refinement. New opportunities were created for web users to generate even more content; however, interaction also allowed the development of collaborative editing (eg - Wikis) and review systems to help people refine and filter data. User recommendations are now ubiquitous and help us choose which YouTube video to watch, which watch to buy, which book to read or which hotel to book.

Collaboration possibilities and efficiencies naturally started having an effect on real life habits – most notably on consumer activity with the introduction of such services such as Amazon, Ebay and Netflix. Then the explosion in social networking services, such as Facebook, brought web activity right to the edge of our everyday lives.

The concept of everyday life in relation to the web is often overlooked but it is the battlefield in which most web services either live or die. If users do not find a place for a service in their everyday lives it will either stay niche or slowly die away.

The Facebook Events app has shown the potential for the web services to start coordinating real life activity. However, the fact that not everyone is on Facebook quickly blocks the full impact of this potential: Organizing Granny's birthday party is a classic example.

Other web-based coordinating services, such as Google Calendar, Meetup, Evite and Doodle, are making strong inroads into how we manage our lives and give a taste of the next stage in web development – coordination; or to be more precise, the enhancement of our everyday lives through web-based coordination services and tools. However, the full-impact of coordination possibilities is yet to be felt, since these services need to connect to a more readily available and established technology – the mobile phone.

The rapid development of smart phone technology is producing internet-enabled, contextually aware mobile devices. At the most basic level, a mobile integrated service can potentially make use of the following information: who is the user; the country he/she is currently situated; their most important daily contacts. In addition, GPS (Global Position System) technology is now being integrated into mobiles and services are rapidly being developed to eventually take advantage of the geographic information they will provide, eg – real-time maps showing the location of your friends.

However, the provision and adoption of internet enabled mobiles and unlimited Internet data services is not going to happen for some time yet, so it is important that developers tap into one of the most established coordinating technologies – the humble SMS. And it could be argued that the early integration of SMS into Twitter's marco-blogging system helped it gain ground over its arguably more sophisticated competitor Jaiku; which somewhat prematurely relied more on web streams.

Therefore we took the decision to put SMS at the heart of our Zipiko live social coordinating service. We saw that SMS has the potential to be more accessible and immediate than emailing. Of course in years to come free internet-based notification systems will take over, but in the meantime the SMS avoids uptake resistance and is almost ubiquitous – you will probably even reach Granny with it.

As Peggy Anne Salz wrote; “It’s early days, but services like Prompt and Zipiko change the rules. It’s no longer just about connecting people; it’s about connecting features and functionality to create a long tail of services capable of helping us make a better judgment about future events and experiences – if not predict them.”

She also wrote; “Granted, we require services that tell us how things are (weather, news); where things are (maps, directions); and what everyone we know is up to (Twitter, Buddyping and a slew of social networking apps). However, my take from a string of conferences and speaking engagements – industry events that covered topics ranging from social media to location services, and exposed me to super-cool companies just coming out of stealth mode in the process – is that the real revenue may be in providing services that connect the dots in our daily routines to help us manage our lives and express our intentions.”

We are sure she is right but we will make sure the money goes into giving you guys a great experience. But we might have a glass or two of sparkling along the way ; )

Monday, July 21, 2008

Zipipop Do-search

Do-search is research with the emphasis on finding things out by just doing things and then learning from the feedback. They should be fun projects, with just sufficient implementation to test the key ideas; however, there should always be a good feedback system.

Zipipop has made numerous Facebook apps to sketch and test out the potential for more thorough implementation. A good example of this is Going for One? which we used to help develop Zipiko.

Do-search is Zipipop's equivalent to Google's 20% time.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Zipipop & The Pragmatic Web

At a Helsinki Opencoffee Meetup I was talking with Teemu Arina and he introduced me to the concept of the Pragmatic Web (prostelyzed by Stephen Downes); and it was a little revelation for me, as here was a theory that fitted perfectly with Zipipop's activities and our "making everyday easier" mantra.

Here is an extract taken for Stephen Downes's "Reflecting on 10 Future Web Trends":

1. The Pragmatic Web

"Forget about the Semantic Web. Whether or not it ever gets built, you can be sure that we will be complaining about it. Because while the Semantic Web gives us meaning, it doesn’t give us context. It will give us what we can get from an encyclopedia, but not what we can get from phoning up our best buddy.

The pragmatic web, by contrast, is all about context. Your tools know who you are, what you’re doing, who you’ve been talking to, what you know, where you want to go, where you are now, and what the weather is like outside. You don’t query them; they carry on an ongoing conversation with you. The pragmatic web is chock-full of information, but none of it is off-topic and none of it is beyond your understanding (and if you need to know more, it will teach you). The pragmatic web isn’t just a web you access, read to and write to, it’s a web that you use every day."

At Zipipop we are concepting a number of services that will put into practice many of the ideas related to the pragmatic web; however, I will now briefly discuss how Zipipop's own Intention Broadcasting and our current flagship service Zipiko fit into the picture.

Intention Broadcasting is tied into the concept of the pragmatic web in that it provides a system for making existing information more relevant to the everyday life of users. It provides a system of communicating intentions together with a feedback loop that directly affects the intentions.

Zipiko uses Intention Broadcasting to provide a service that takes contextual and personal information into account to facilitate and coordinate social interaction to produce consensus and commitments to meet up at a particular place and time in the 'real' world – in other words, it makes getting together with friends easier.

Once Zipiko is running super smoothly and the multitudes of users are contented, we will then set about implementing some of our other pragmatic web concepts. The common thread being that they all know about and facilitate your everyday life.

Eventually these services will be united in what we are calling the Social Submarine. But until then we will meet up with you in the social sea using Zipiko.

Zipiko – let's go see

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Intention Broadcasting

Read published short paper on Intention Broadcasting

How an intention broadcasting system works compared more conventional forms of organizing


Social media innovations, together with rapidly improving data sharing methodologies, are enabling individuals and groups to instantly disseminate, or ‘broadcast’, messages across many diverse networks. This phenomenon, combined with the growing use of social media services for sharing and coordinating intentions, led me to develop the concept of “intention broadcasting”.

(Blog revised: 10 December 2009)

Intention Broadcasting is the process of sharing and coordinating intentions via computer-mediated systems.

It has similarities to status messaging but with the emphasis on the future.

A fully-functioning Intention Broadcasting system should also enable the intended audience to directly respond via a feedback loop that can directly affect the intention. For example, in relation to organizing an event the recipient should be able to indicate their intention to join up.

Intention Broadcasting – A Model for Computer-mediated Intention Sharing and Coordinating

In order to help make the following key phases easier to remember I have decided to run with the “broadcasting” metaphor and use related terms:

Goal: the agent has a need or desire that necessitates a desired outcome.
Options: the agent has various options based on the combined knowledge, skills and the perceivable affordances in the given environment.
Intention: the agent selects an intention towards achieving the goal.
Broadcast: the agent passively broadcasts their intention to a defined target audience (broad or narrow) via computer-mediated networks, e.g. social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter.
Tuning: the targeted audiences are “tuned in” to receive relevant intentions. The tuning is done using any method or technologies that can help filter the intentions: groups, RSS, “constant searches” , API connections, etc.
Rating: if necessary a collaborative rating system can be used to help protect both the broadcaster and audience from bad intentions and potentially unreliable people, e.g. a bad plumber.
Coordination: systems for enabling the parties to overcome contextual problems though interaction and collaboration.
Outcome: Goal accomplished.

In light of the clear interest in this blog post by Jeremiah Owyang about the Intention Web, I thought I should start promoting my short paper on Intention Broadcasting that was published as part of the Proceedings of I-KNOW ’09 and I-SEMANTICS ’09 Conference 2-4 September 2009, Graz, Austria. It is basically a summary of my final MA thesis that I undertook at Media Lab, Helsinki, which is now part of the new Finnish Aalto University.

Read it here in Scribd or Download the PDF

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Two Great Nations Divided by the Same Language

An Introduction to The Zipipop Style Guide

Every organization should follow a style guide to promote consistency, efficiency and clarity in the production of written material. I have developed this style guide after many years of copy-editing experience working for European-based NGO organizations (e.g. CMI). Since my clients have been requesting a style guide, I have created The Zipipop Style Guide partly as a gift to them; which explains the emphasis on words commonly used in text concerning development issues.

The development of a language is driven by the need to communicate and its effectiveness is achieved via consensus. However, this consensus must be allowed to be in a state of flux otherwise a language will lose its ability to evolve: hindering its effectiveness and future relevance.

The Internet has become both a powerful tool for speeding up linguistic consensus, while conversely, providing vibrancy and innovation. Therefore, it has become the ultimate editorial resource – particularly with the advent of services like Google, (the lexical companion to Wikipedia) and Wikipedia's own Manual of Style.

"Britain and America...two great nations divided by the same language." – Winston Churchill

"We have really everything in common with America nowadays, except, of course, language." – Oscar Wilde, The Canterville Ghost

When choosing to write in English one has to decide whether to follow the British or American traditions. The trends are definitely favouring American English – since any quick 'Google Fight' will result in an American spelling being overwhelmingly victorious (go to and try out color verus colour, or, center versus centre, or, organization versus organisation). However, this is biased towards centres of web content production (namely the USA).

It is not yet, however, a clear cut case of which tradition to go for as many millions around the world are not yet ready to give up using British English. This is largely due to identity and tradition, but there are also some practical considerations. British English and its variants, sometimes referred to as Commonwealth English, are wide spread across the world in influential countries such as Canada, Australia and India, and it is the preferred choice of European organizations, such as the EU and many international bodies such as the UN.

What many people don't realize, however, is that in both traditions there are still surprisingly many options for exercising choice in both spelling and style. Here are some examples in the British tradition that are 'officially' recognized: organize, organise; learnt, learned; co-operation, cooperation; I have a car, I have got a car; and the list goes on.

The American tradition is much stricter but will still 'officially' recognize, for example, both: canceling, cancelling (Wikipedia link to Differences between American and British English). However, by looking for situations where there is opportunity of agreement, I have created a British-based style that allows for increased harmony between the traditions. And I have called it The Zipipop Style Guide.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Zipipop Style Guide

Narrowing the Divide between British and American English

The Zipipop Style Guide takes Oxford spelling as the starting point since it is more harmonious with American spelling. Oxford spelling is used by most UN, and many international organizations, Oxford University Press and some other highly-regarded UK publishers, such as Dorling Kindersley.

The other main reference point is Wikipedia's Manual of Style, which is clear and to the point with the wiki advantage of being consensus driven.

Online Dictionaries:

The Cambridge Online – Clearly shows the differences between British & American spellings but can be slow to integrate new words. – Cluttered but otherwise good (with audio pronunciations). – A very well organized wiki dictionary.

Online Theasaurus: – Clear and thorough.

Dates: (without "-th" ordinal suffixes in line with Wikipedia guidelines and using the international format)

14 February 1990; between 10 and 14 June 2007; on 14 and 15 December

To ise or to ize: Although -ise endings are more common in British-based publishing, it is still correct to use the -ize forms (Oxford spelling), which are more in line with American spelling. Please note that this does not include words ending in -yse, eg – analyse, paralyse and catalyse. However, there are certain words that must always take the -ise in both traditions, however, no need to worry as your spell checker will pick up on those.

To oo or to o-o
: Use cooperation and coordination.

Learnt or Learned type words: Use the -ed versions.

Use: peacekeeping, peacebuilding, statebuilding

Programme/Program: In British spelling a program is something your write for your computer. In all other contexts use programme.

British Words: Click here for a list of British words that should be used carefully since they might not be commonly understood by Americans.

Quite: To be used carefully since in American English it retains its original meaning of 'very'. The following transcript from a high-profile interview with Bill Clinton and Sir David Dimbleby on BBC television says it all:

CLINTON:  Well, first of all I support John Kerry. He’s
a good man, he’s a good senator and I believe he’d be
quite a good President.


CLINTON: Very very good President. Quite a good
President, you don’t say that? I think he will, I think
he’d be an excellent President.

Spelling and grammar checkers have become surprisingly effective, so pay attention to what they suggest (even if they are not right all the time). For everything else consult the web and make your own decisions. Happy writing!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Topic Walls

At Zipipop we are currently in the process of adding Topic Walls inside most of our apps. These walls allow for instant discussions on specific topics within the relevant contextual spaces.

See them in action inside our new release of Going for One (Mennäänkö yhdelle?) app, which makes it easier to get your friends together for a drink. No matter which city you find yourself in, the appropriate City and Bar Wall will appear automatically – allowing for non-stop bar banter.

We have added Eco Confession and Good Deed Walls to our Ecometer app and we will add Baby Topic Walls to our Baby Status Diary.

These walls should greatly enhance the campfire effect of our apps, since they provide on-the-spot communication channels. We will let you know how they work out in practice.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

How to Make a Campfire

At the Helsinki Open Coffee with Arctic Startup Meetup a couple of weeks ago, a friend asked me to explain how to make a good 'social media' campfire – so here are some Zipipop suggestions.


Wood: Social Object (the thing that people are discussing about, through or around, eg – product, application, cultural phenomenon, etc)
Place: Where best to attract the Target Audience, eg – social network site, standalone website, mobile)
Benches: Communication Channels (facilitate communication, eg – forums, walls, group discussions)


Tinder/Lighter Fuel: Early Adopters (take them personally to the fire)
Paper: Advertising (guide them to the fire: ads, stickers, flyers, banners, etc.)
Matches: Publicity (blog reviews, news articles, seminars presentations, search engine optimization, etc)

Get the mix right and the flames should be roaring in no time; however, there are many campfires in the big internet forest – so the bigger your fire the more likely it is to attract those happy campers.

Updated: 26/03/08

Friday, March 7, 2008

Zuckerberg Slaves

Are you a Zuckerberg Slave?

We know of someone who has had a top 50 Facebook app for a considerable amount of time and, by all accounts, he is barely getting a sub-atomic sized crumb of that 15 billion dollar pie. Somehow that doesn't seem right.

Of course one needs to have an effective business model on top of a popular app; however, there still appears to be many willing slaves to row the mighty Facebook galley.

We have come to accept that, to some extent, we are indeed Zuckerberg slaves and we worship Master Mark most fervently. However, we are regularly looking out over Facebook's garden walls, keeping a close eye on the other gardens (Orkut, Bebo, etc.), as they proceed to take down their walls. And we are now planning an escapade to taste some of their delicious looking fruit.

Zipipop's ultimate aim is to focus on delivering interactive social media to mobile platforms, and in light of this Facebook has been a good playground for us: the discipline of delivering apps with a clear purpose inside a restricted screen space has prepared us well for small screen challenges. And we have now started developing our first mobile centered service that we hope to make work together with Facebook.

For the time being, however, we will fight courageously in the FB arena and win our place in the hearts of the people and one day gain our freedom to roam wherever the fancy takes us.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Why Campfires are better than Social Objects

The term Social Object—in the context of social media—is gaining popularity; however, the term still causes difficulties for the general public and many social media professionals.

Many of us have a basic understanding that a social object is something that gives a focus to social interaction, but the word object—in its everyday sense—obfuscates* the meaning and can even throw the uninitiated off the path completely.

Few have the time or inclination to delve deeply into the intricate work of John Searle or Bronisław Malinowski. And, even through the likes of Jyri Engström have done a sterling job in communicating the essential aspects, the inherent problems remain.

In order to overcome this we have chosen to use the campfire analogy instead. The concept is not entirely new, but for the purposes of explanation, it is much better. People can immediately grasp how an internet service can act as a campfire: bonding users together and giving a focus for communication and interaction.

So whenever we create a social media application, we are very concerned as to the nature of its campfire: how will the dancing flames attract users, keep them warm and encourage social interaction.

* Obfuscate is a great word that delightfully demonstrates its meaning: "to make something less clear and harder to understand, especially intentionally" (Cambridge Online Dictionary)