Mobile Phones and (mental) health

After the impact of mobile phone signals on the brain, scientists are studying our favorite companion’s effect on mental health, and the first reports paint a not so rosy picture.

New research suggests excessive use of mobile phones can hinder sleep, trigger fatigue and stress and cause mental problems like depression and lack of concentration. […]

The correlation between phone use and mental state was shown by a study published in the Korean Journal of Epidemiology in 2005 and conducted by a team led by Prof. Kim Dong-hyun […]. The team studied 501 high school students in four groups according to their cell phone use. Those who used them the least scored below 35 points on depression, while those who used the most scored above 51. The latter group also scored over 61 in terms of impulsive behavior. “We can’t generalize that cell phone use causes depression or impulsive behavior, but at least we proved there’s a connection,” Kim said.

Full article on Chosun (Korea’s biggest daily newspaper)

When I read these studies I sometimes feel like Steve Rubel who wonders if wireless radios could become the next tobacco… Are mobile phones really the largest biological experiment ever?

Korean “well-dying”

Faking death to force a better valuation of life, that’s the recipe a Korean entrepreneur has found to help prevent suicide among his stressed compatriots:

courses in dying a good death are the latest thing for KoreansIn a country infatuated with “well-being” […] training companies are now offering courses on dying a good death.

“Korea has ranked number one in many bad things such as suicide and divorce and cancer rates, so I wanted to run a programme for people to experience death,” says Ko Min-su, a 40-year-old former insurance agent who founded Korea Life Consulting, which offers fake funerals as a way to make people value life.

Korean corporations […] send their employees on Mr Ko’s courses regularly, partly to encourage them to question their priorities in life and partly as a suicide prevention measure.

Link (thx Michelle)

The FT describes the whole experience, one nobody will ever go through as it is a funeral from the first person perspective.

Mr Ko […] begins the course with a motivational presentation that includes a “life calculator” counting the time until one’s death down to the millisecond.

Then participants are led to a dark room where they are told to sit at candlelit desks and write their wills, prompted by some sample questions. If you died today, what would you tell your family? What would you say about your job and your life?

As they start to write, the room becomes filled with sniffing, women in particular struggling to hold back their tears.

Will completed, they collect their funeral portraits – participants are asked to pose on the way in – and enter the “death experience room”, a large, dark space containing a series of open coffins and decorated with posters of famous bygones such as Ronald Reagan, Diana, Princess of Wales, and Lee Byung-chull, Samsung’s founder.

In front of an altar covered with flowers and his funeral portrait, Mr Ko instructs his trainees to choose a coffin, put on a traditional hemp death robe and then read out their wills one-by-one.

Next, it is time to be buried. Participants lie down in their coffins, while a man wearing the outfit of a traditional Korean death messenger places a flower on each person’s chest. Funeral attendants place lids on the coffins, banging each corner several times with a mallet. Dirt is thrown down on the lid, as loud as stones on a tile roof. The attendants leave the hall for five minutes – but it seemed like 30 minutes to those taking part.

Once the lids are lifted, Mr Ko asks the trainees how they felt. “When they were nailing the coffin and sprinkling the dirt, it felt like I was really dead,” Ms Baek says. “I thought death was far away but now that I have experienced it, I feel like I have to live a better life.”

How long until we have such courses in Europe? Is playing death acceptable in western societies?

Why (most) online communities fail

After “portal“, “extranet” or “web 2.0“, “community” became the favorite buzzword of web agencies sales teams, a sesame to convince clients to sign for expensive developments based on the magic user generated content formula. Give a toolkit to your clients and they will do the work for you they say.

Unfortunately reality is very different. In a world saturated with solicitations where people have less and less attention available, most communities fail because they bypassed a few important questions, like “what are we offering users?”, “what is differentiating us from other communities?”, etc…

This phenomena is finally getting noticed and studied:

Wall Street Journal:Why Most Online Communities Fail (via LOIP)

One of the hot investments for businesses these days is online communities that help customers feel connected to a brand. But most of these efforts produce fancy Web sites that few people ever visit. The problem: Businesses are focusing on the value an online community can provide to themselves, not the community.

[…] Thirty-five percent of the online communities studied have less than 100 members; less than 25% have more than 1,000 members

Businesses launching online communities repeat a series of blunders. First, they have a tendency to get seduced by bells and whistles and blow their online-community budget on technology. Moran suggests that businesses spend resources identifying and reaching out to potential community members instead of investing in software that makes predictions, or even social-networking technology.

Moran also recommends that businesses put someone who has experience running an online community in charge of the project. This doesn’t sound particularly earth-shattering, but consider that about 30% of the businesses Deloitte studied have only one part-time worker in charge of their communities. Most other businesses put a single marketing pro in charge of their sites.

Why would anyone think that, because a site is a community, common mistakes like developing the wrong things, bypassing users needs or hiring the wrong people (or good people in a wrong way) would still produce positive results? Right here we are seeing the power of a buzz word. Do a community and life will be easy! No no.

Video game sells more music than itunes

The music business is finally getting headlines through innovation instead of legal actions. Motley Crue sold more tunes in the Xbox game Rock Band (a total blast, I can’t wait for it to be available in Europe!) than on iTunes (and therefore, than on CD).

According to data provided by the band’s management […] the track was downloaded more than 47,000 times via the Xbox 360 version of the game alone in the first week after it became available. […] By comparison, the same track received slightly more than 10,000 downloads via digital services like iTunes and Amazon

Link

A business based on something fundamental like music will always find a way to make money. It is all about following consumers, like Amazon and Rockstar Games who combined their efforts to offer players a seamless way to buy tunes from GTA4’s soundtrack:

As players cruise around the world listening to the in-game radio, they can at any point ‘mark’ a song by opening their [in-game] phone and dialing the number ZIT-555-0100. Gamers will then receive a text message with the song and artist names, and if they’re registered at the forthcoming Rockstar Games Social Club community site, they’ll find an e-mail waiting in their inbox with a direct link to a custom playlist on Amazon.com. All songs tagged “ZiT” will be stored here, available for preview and purchase at Amazon’s going rate of $.89-$.99 per track.

Link

After relying on one of the world’s most outdated and boring business model, is the music industry becoming a place for killer innovation?

3% of users create 50% of content

Chang-Won Kim – who writes one of the great Asian blogs on the web industry – got some numbers on the participation of Korean users to online forums during the recent US beef crisis.

It turned out that the top 3.3% of the users contributed for nearly half of the whole posts; top 10% accounted for 71% of the entire postings.

This is a (rather dramatic) case that shows there are so few content creators (as opposed to content consumers) on the web. So forget about 20/80 rule – it’s more like 10/70, or even 3/50.

[…] The top 10 users logged whopping 21,180 posts during the last two months or so, averaging nearly 30 posts per day/person. Remember we’re talking about long articles, sometimes really really long. And most articles are well-written, as the authors are well aware of how much of hateful comments they will get if they do a crappy post.

Link

The barriers to entry and regulatory mechanism are different in online forums but the result is the same: a little number of people making a lot of noise. Another case where online ends up mirroring offline.

Internet access “is almost a human right”

Estonian flagInterview of Lauri Almann, part of the Estonian team that was in charge of the governmental response to Web War I. His perspective is quite different from what I heard about the events so far (see Bruce Steling’s presentation at Korea University) as he sounds like everything was handled quite easily by an over-prepared group of fonctionnaires.

Mr. Almann explains that the internet is almost a human right that the government has to guarantee”. With so many vital things happening online in developed countries, governments are getting ready to handle increasingly complex threats:

There are a lot of lessons to learn from the attacks. One is that we were able to come up with a team of people that was able to start working on the attacks very fast. Although we have excellent relations with the United States and all the EU countries, having an international preparedness to deal with an attack like that is something that we are now paying more attention to. [Time for a UN body dedicated to collaboration against online threats?]

The right to use the Internet is almost a human right that the government has to guarantee. […] We shouldn’t let the attacks affect our way of life. But we need to deal with those threats and learn from them.

Link

M. Almann also talks about the personal computer:

The fascinating thing about [botnets] is that the people who owned those computers actually had no idea they were attacking another government. The notion of a personal computer is really counter intuitive. There is no such thing as a personal computer. Everyone’s computer can be used to attack another country.

Computers can very easily be hacked and turned into ghosts used to launch large scale attacks. The Estonian government knows this, and we can only hope that they will meet with French officials at the next European summit and show them how unrealistic and irresponsible the Hadopi law is.

The 7 GPS guy

No idea why this guy, seen in Milano, has seven GPS in his car. Has he a very, very bad sense of orientation? Is this a secret Google project? Or simply an italian cousin of Dan Dubno?

gps_closeup.jpg

LIFT Asia update

LIFT Asia 08In seven short weeks the whole LIFT team will be in Korea for our first major Asian event, looking forward to welcome the community to the world’s most beautiful conference center for three days of discussion, inspiration and networking. Under the sun of Jeju Island, right in the heart of the world’s most dynamic continent and only 90 minutes from Tokyo, Seoul or Shangai, we will gather to ask a big question: what after the web?

At the end of a decade during which the internet revolutionized our lives and organizations, the network is now moving beyond the browser, invading objects, cities, toys, cars or medical devices. Where will the next big changes happen? What are the world’s most innovative people working on right now?

We built a program with seven sessions covering topics like urban technologies, online worlds, virtual money, new lifestyles, robots, featuring a mix of Asian and international speakers like:

• I-mode inventor Takeshi Nastuno and fellow innovator Tomoaki Kasuga who works on the robots of the future.
Joonmo Kwon, CEO of the world’s largest (300 million users!) online games company, who will explain why they are now moving beyond gaming.
• Networked cities visionaries Jeffrey Huang (EPFL), Yang Soo Yin (The Living) and Adam Greenfield (Nokia design)
• Gadget loving, Emmy award winning American guru Dan Dubno who will present on the latest findings he made around the world
• And of course some LIFT legends like Bruce Sterling, Bruno Bonnell, Frédéric Kaplan or Jan Chipchase. We wanted to give our Asian audience a chance to meet some of the past LIFTs best speakers and here they
come!

The full program is available on liftconference.com/lift-asia-08/program

Registration is still at early bird price, starting at only 250$ (Students/Startups/NGO) with a normal price of 650$. Save your seat now, it only takes a minute on liftconference.com/lift-asia-08/register

Going to Korea costs approximately 1300$ from Europe, with hotel between 100 and 180$, and the Seoul-Jeju trip only 150$ for a return ticket. That is around 2000$ to discover one of the most innovative and mysterious countries in the world. There are so many things happening there you will not regret coming. Guaranteed.x

“Call me” to fight “flashing”

Here is an interesting example of customer driven innovation. Vodafone invented “call me” to answer the network congestion generated by people flashing others. Flashing is when you call and hang up immediately – leaving a trace in the missed calls list –  to tell the other person you want a call back.

‘Call Me’, which allows Vodacom subscribers in South Africa to send up to five messages per day, free of charge, requesting a call back from the receiver. Services such as these have emerged in response to consumer behaviour, users who would have previously ‘flashed’ the person they wished to speak to by ringing their phone once and hanging up. ‘Call Me’ formalises the process, helps minimise network traffic through fewer prematurely disconnected calls.

Link

All those companies who hired researchers like Jan Chipchase, Genevieve Bell or Younghee Jung to study customers behaviors around the world are now able to innovate much more easily. It might have been hard to justify hiring an anthropologist inside big companies a while ago, now it is an indispensable part of product or service building teams.