Saul Kaplan: Coming To You Live From Everyone

Tuesday, March 31, 2015


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In case you missed it, the next salvo in the social media revolution is underway. The release of two live video streaming apps within weeks of each other, Meerkat and Periscope, have my attention and should have yours too. Think about it, now everyone with an iPhone (soon any smart phone) can broadcast and receive live video anywhere, any time. We now have the capacity to share, not just tidbits from our experiences on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, but to stream our actual experiences live in real time. We can now experience together. So what, you ask? Well just like with any new human capability, the most important and valuable uses are never what you think they are initially. The real impact and value of new capabilities always emerge over time and in surprising and serendipitous ways. Don’t fall into the same trap, so many have, by dismissing social media saying, who cares what someone has for dinner! Don’t throw the signal out with the noise. My instinct tells me that democratized live streaming is a big deal.

I am playing with both Meerkat and Periscope because it’s too early for me to choose. They’re both cool and the competition will be fun to watch. As an innovation junkie I can’t resist the Wild West feel of new social media platforms as they try to establish a toehold in today’s tumultuous social ecosystem. I love wallowing around in the noise initially to go to school. It’s a strange land indeed, but exploring it for myself is the only way, as a dinosaur, I can wrap my mind around the possibility frontier for live streaming. Early adopters are doing the predictably silly stuff. Think selfie mania on steroids, ranging from random to power users streaming themselves doing nothing in a social media land grab for followers and likes. Both apps allow viewers to comment during live streams so be prepared for an engaged and vocal peanut gallery. There’s clearly a “fridge” meme raging through the early days of live streaming where broadcasters and commenters alike seem to be fixated on live video reveals of refrigerator content. Quite bizarre. Must be a riff on the Twitter meme about people posting their dinner menus.

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Just when you’re tempted to write the whole thing off as yet one more fad or way for self-absorbed people to amuse themselves and distract those around them with useless content up pops live streams from people in your network that might actually matter. The first content I saw that took my breath away and got me to think that maybe democratized live streaming matters is when I received notifications that several people in my network who either live or were visiting New York City were at the site of what would become a seven alarm raging fire. I experienced it not only through tweets and photos but with actual live feeds of the tragedy while it was happening and before any traditional media outlet sent “professionals” to the scene. Now that’s an experience of a different color, and worth thinking about. I felt like I was there.

Another example I experienced was a live conversation between popular tech pundit Leo Laporte and Ben Rubin, the founder of Meerkat. I’m sure the conversation was also being taped and a more polished version, complete with ads, will be published at some point but I was able to watch and remotely participate in the uncut version streamed live. I was able to engage directly in a steady flow of commentary about the conversation with similarly interested geeks from around the world in real time. I appreciate Leo’s comment at the start of the conversation, “I spent a million dollars equipping a live streaming studio and then along came Ben Rubin with Meerkat”.

I also tried my hand as a broadcaster. The stuff in our refrigerator is pretty boring so I thought people in my network might welcome an opportunity to experience a BIF Design Jam. We have a crazy cool project called TD4Ed going on in the Student Experience Lab at BIF, supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to enable teachers with design tools and process to transform student experience within their classrooms and schools. Imagine that, putting teachers at the center of the ed innovation conversation. We had 25 teachers in our office this weekend going through the program. What a perfect opportunity to welcome others to participate remotely via live stream. So I did and a few participated. I don’t have Leo Laporte’s market cache and installed follower base but the potential was obvious. We will do better next time and even better the time after that.

I’ve also been thinking not only about the use cases but also the non-use cases for live streaming. If you think people and organizations range from uncomfortable to pissed off now when we pull out our cell phones during dinner, class, events, and interactions of all kinds add live streaming capability to the mix and watch what happens. I’m sure the full range of reactions will be live streamed! Get ready for the proliferation of No Live Streaming signs to be posted everywhere. Get ready for new social media policies to specifically address the use of live streaming by employees, visitors, vendors, customers and anyone that touches and tries to share the experiences organizations create and offer. IP lawyers will have a field day. It will also be interesting to watch how social norms evolve. It’s one thing to tweet or snap a picture for Facebook or Instagram, it’s another to stream social interactions live.

I have no idea where democratized live streaming goes or how fast it happens but I do know that capabilities are the amino acids of new business models to create, deliver, and capture value and solve the real world challenges we face. Live streaming capability is here to stay. It belongs in our capability sandbox. The use case may be as simple as learning and engaging out loud to get better faster. Live streaming enables more random collisions of unusual suspects to unleash the adjacent possible.

Coming to you live from everyone.

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Saul Kaplan is the Founder and Chief Catalyst of the Business Innovation Factory (BIF). Saul shares innovation musings on his blog at It’s Saul Connected and on Twitter at @skap5.


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