The Unconditional Blog

The impartial voice of the industry

 

Archive for the ‘social media’ Category

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Real estate, revolution and robots

Posted on: July 9th, 2013 | Filed in International, Market News, social media, Technology, The lighter side

Realestate.co.nz’s Acting CEO, Phillip Dunn, is currently in San Francisco to attend Real Estate Connect.

The way we live has undergone massive transformation in recent years. I love using technology and digital tools to help with the simple stuff such as scheduling appointments and staying in touch with friends, to the previously impossible – such as using insights gained from the website to compile our monthly property report.

With how we live changing so much, it makes sense that the way we buy, sell, find and research property is also continuously evolving. The game of real estate is not static. As a web-based company, we’re acutely aware of the need to stay up-to-date with not only our core business, but also with how you want to connect with us, talk to us and what you’ll want to know down the track. Luckily, the future excites us.

San Francisco’s Real Estate Connect Event is the ideal opportunity to learn about, the “trends that will shape our world and business: robotics, crowdfunding, big data, and machine learning”. I, for one, am looking forward to learning more about the connection between robotics and real estate! I intend to connect with like-minded industry colleagues and bring key insights back to realestate.co.nz.

The conference will run from 9 – 11 July. If you’re interested in following the conversation, you can use #ICSF  to stay up-to-date on Twitter. I’ll be posting from my own account  and on behalf of realestate.co.nz.  Follow me now to get the inside view right from day one!

I look forward to keeping you updated during the conference.

Cheers, 

Phillip Dunn

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Specialised real estate search – Farms / Business / Commercial

Posted on: July 21st, 2011 | Filed in Businesses for Sale, Commercial, Featured, Online marketing, social media

Real estate as an industry is a large and diverse business employing over 15,000 people and transacting over 60,000 residential properties per year. As well as the residential sector the industry undertakes extensive activity in the transaction of commercial properties for lease or as investment, the negotiation of business sales and also the transaction of farms and other agricultural businesses.

Such diversity and specialization requires a different approach to web marketing, than a simple one-size-fits-all solution. That is why last year Realestate.co.nz took the decision to establish separate websites for each specialist category of the industry. These websites – the farming site of nzFarms, the business broking site of Prime Business and the commercial property site of Prime Commercial have ably and professionally represented the interests of the specialist agents in each category and their respective clients.

These websites have just gone through a major redesign – a design which reflects the successful re-design of the main realestate.co.nz website which was released in May.

nzFarms.co.nz provides the most comprehensive selection of listings by licensed rural agents for all types of farms and agricultural businesses as well as lifestyle properties around NZ.

The site currently displays 4,621 farms and agricultural business, with a further 11,807 lifestyle properties and lifestyle sections.

There are 9 categories of farms covering dairy farms, specialist livestock farms, grazing land, bare land, horticulture and viticulture as well as forestry.

 

Prime Commercial provides the most comprehensive selection of listings from licensed commercial real estate agents for all types of commercial property around NZ. The selection includes both property for sale as well as for lease.

The site currently displays 7,663 commercial properties and land for sale, with 18,613 commercial premises for lease.

There are 4 property types for leasehold premises covering office leased space, retail premises, industrial premises as well as hotels and motels for lease. The selection of properties and land for investment covers office buildings, retail property, commercial land and well as industrial land and buildings.

 

Prime Business provides the most comprehensive selection of listings from licensed business brokers for all types of businesses for sale across the whole of NZ.

The site currently displays 4,033 listings of businesses for sale from over 1,500 licensed agents providing services to business owners looking to sell and investors and business managers looking to take that first step on the ladder to owning their own business.

There are 12 specialist categories of businesses to search for on the site, from retail businesses to tourism, from age care facilities to hotels, motels and lodges. Whatever the type of business from just $5,000 to over $16 million!

 

The re-design of these sites is however not just cosmetic. We have added features and enhanced the presentation to make these sites even more effective as a business tool to these key audience groups.

More extensive search filters

There’s a property finder tool bar now located at the top of every page, which allows you to define your criteria. The selection is targeted to recognise the unique and specific types that exist within the farming sector, the business sector and the commercial sector. We’ve also extended the price range options and the ability to select surrounding suburbs by ticking a box.

Advanced search

This is an enhanced capability found on the Prime Commercial and nzFarms sites. Whilst it has always been a part of these sites it has now been upgraded to include much more advanced search criteria. You can now select multiple districts and regions. For example, searching for within the Canterbury region for Ashburton district, as well as Waikato region for the Matamata district, together in one search.

Other very useful new advanced search options are the ability to type in an exact price range (i.e. $740,900) and search by pricing method (i.e. Auction, Display price, etc.), as well as search by properties with a displayed address.

Larger images

The new sites display larger property photos on both search results and listing page. You can also view the properties in a full screen overlay, which shows off the listings to the maximum. You may notice that some listings have very different image sizes to others. We are constantly working with our customers to secure from them the largest available image which we process to give you the biggest and best impression of the farm, commercial premises or business you are interested in.

List view or gallery view

In addition to the standard list view of search results we also now provide a gallery view, which presents property purely by first image. You will also notice that all listings now have the ability to view all the photos from within the search results, making for a far more efficient process for browsing the property or business on the market.

Social share your listing

Located on the listing page, there is now the option of socially sharing your listing on Twitter, Facebook and Google+1. This feature enables any user to these websites to recommend a property to their peers and the rest of the world.

We plan on adding more enhancements throughout this year and next to these websites and will keep you updated. We hope you are as excited about these new redesigned websites as we are!

 

 

 

 

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CEO’s who Tweet

Posted on: February 17th, 2011 | Filed in Featured, social media

I was recently invited to speak at the Auckland Social Media Club monthly gathering on the subject of Twitter.

Twitter is something that I have grown accustomed to, closely bordering on addicted to over the past 2 years. I see it as a valuable business tool and this is the approach I took in sharing my 15 minutes of thoughts about Twitter and how I use it to enhance our brand, engage with our consumers and customers and establish our position of thought leadership in the real estate market.

The assembled audience were fortunate to not simply hear my perspective on the subject of CEO’s who tweet, but were also able top hear from Chris Quin, the CEO of Gen-i who hosted the evening in the fantastic new Telecom Head Office in Auckland.

I think on reflection of viewing the 2 presentations we complement each other pretty well. We share somewhat different perspectives and insights. There was some challenging discussion and debate after the presentations on the night. Should any further questions or discussions flow from watching these videos I will very happily engage on this blog to answer such questions or challenges.

I am conscious that the video does not capture the slides I used to support my presentation so here they are:

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The great tour is done!

Posted on: December 16th, 2010 | Filed in Featured, social media, The lighter side, Website news

Queenstown stopover airport 3

Tuesday the 14th December 2010 may not go down as a historic day is the same manner as the First Moon Landing or the invention of the Guttenberg Press, but in its own way it was a significant day.

It was the day of the Great New Zealand Property Tour – a fun and unique event to showcase the capabilities of the new iPhone app from Realestate.co.nz.

Air New Zealand Bookings - Multistop Search for FlightsWe wanted a means by which we could show off the extensive coverage of the app around NZ. So rather than invest in world leading advertising campaign featuring international TV stars to showcase the extremes of NZ coverage; we in typical kiwi style grabbed a couple of flights to set off around the country and try and get to 6 locations across the North and South Island in a day – only using scheduled flights.

14 hours after we set off from Auckland we returned home having taken 6 flights and seen 5 locations around the country and more importantly demonstrated the app at each location.

Due to the vagaries of the weather we had to unfortunately skip the stop-over in Blenheim. We did however touchdown at Napier, Wellington, Christchurch, Queenstown and Auckland.

Elvis- smallThrough the day we encountered some really great people – Elvis (aka Brian Childs) in Wellington, Louise McLeavy in the Garden City and Mark Martin in Queenstown – all great real estate agents and all passionate about the new app for their clients. It is great to see the way the real estate profession is adopting new technology and demonstrating to their clients the power of open accessible data.

We actively used social media during the day – employing both Twitter and Facebook to engage the growing audience with the fun and appreciation of the app. We created a unique Twitter page which captured 171 followers during the day, this was supported by tweets from key people in our team with their own tweets and also the Realestate.co.nz twitter page. On Facebook we created a special section on the Realestate.co.nz Facebook page to profile the tour and gained over 200 new fans on the day – come and join us and follow us on both now! We also added all the videos we produced on the day tracking our path round the country.

Prizes were flowing thick and fast with vouchers, a Foosball table and 2 iPhones – thanks to the great team at Westpac. These prizes were given away to fast fingered tweeters who decrypted the clues sent out when we landed at each location.Queenstown villas small

We had a chance at each location to launch the app and examine the market and in some cases we chatted to the agents to get them to give us a perspective on the property market. Our time at most locations did not allow us to check out any property with the exception of Queenstown where Mark Martin showed us this amazing Alpine villa property perched magnificently high atop Queenstown Hill. The property was easily found via the app with some awesome photos. We did our own checks on the home, storing images and making notes on bedrooms, bathrooms and gardens.

Credits:

Starring in order of appearance

Brian Childs (aka Elvis) – Professionals Hutt City

Aaron Davis – apologies from 16,000 ft over Blenheim

Louise McLeavey – Harcourts

Mark Martin – Harcourts Queenstown

Original concept – Bullet PR

Screenplay – Nicholas O’Flaherty

Script – done on the fly productions

App design and build: Cactus Lab – Karl, Matt and the team

Prizes :

Mitre 10

Endemicworld.com

Urbis Magazine

Hire a Hubby

Westpac Bank – Adrian McCaffrey : Marketing Manager – Housing

Production:

Video camera operator – Tammy Smith

Video equipment – Flip camera : Barnacle Barnes

All technology used in this production of this blog post and the whole of the NZ Property Tour was courtesy of Apple Computers

Make up – not enough time to apply any!

Facebook pages – Skinny marketing – Andrew & Anthony

Video upload – Skinny Marketing

Catering services – Air New Zealand Koru lounges

Tweeter – @nzpropertytour : Robyn Ellson

Tweeter – @realestateconz : Kerry Kissane

Tweeter – @bulletpr : Alex Erasmus

Tweeter – @alistairnz : Alistair Helm

Ground Transportation – Christchurch : Jackie (Christchurch Blue Star Taxis)

Flight planning co-ordination : Air New Zealand excellent online booking

Flight rescheduling : Adrian – Air New Zealand Koru lounge concierge

All flights – Air New Zealand

Special thanks to Westpac bank for being a great partner in developing and promoting the app

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Great NZ Property Tour

Posted on: December 13th, 2010 | Filed in Featured, social media

iStock_NZ beach with caravan 000008468379XSmallThe launch of the new iPhone app late last month left us with an interesting dilemma – how to promote the app to an audience who were clearly “in-touch” with technology as users of the latest smart phone technology.

We wanted to leverage our knowledge and experience of social media and at the same time not cross over theBus shelter adverts Nov 2010 (1 page) excellent marketing campaign currently underway by Westpac covering TV and the new outdoor poster campaigns on Bus Shelters.

We wanted to do something to promote the app – something a bit different and something which could have an element of participation, most of all something that could show off the app to our diverse customer base of home buyers and agents around the country.

The off-the-wall idea we came up with is The Great NZ Property Tour, as reflective of the great tours of Europe and Asia, we decided we would challenge ourselves to get to as many places in NZ in one day using scheduled Air New Zealand flights.

Starting from our home base of Auckland we will undertake a frenetic schedule that will see us traverse both islands and take in 6 locations before arriving back in Auckland the same day. Air New Zealand did undertake a roadshow by plane last year involving Opshop playing gigs at 10 locations around the country in a day – they did though have the advantage of a chartered plane – we are sticking to scheduled flights on a variety of planes.

During the somewhat short stopovers at each location we will be meeting local agents, checking out the available properties on the market via the iPhone app and then hopefully seeing a few properties on the market.

To add interest to the tour which is happening on Tuesday 14th December we will broadcast live via social media platforms of Twitter and Facebook. We will be posting updates as well as images and videos – capturing scenes and a hopefully a few off beat events.

We have secured some great prizes which will be given away on the day. All you need to do is follow us on Twitter or Facebook on the day when we will be sharing clues and announcing prizes.

twitter-logo-1facebook_logo

The routing is not disclosed at this time, but I can tell you it covers some of the most beautiful parts of NZ and hopefully with a good weather forecast we can capture some great scenes and some great properties.

So join us and have some fun!

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Insight into online real estate marketing

Posted on: November 24th, 2010 | Filed in Featured, Online marketing, social media

marketing words croppedI was recently asked to do an online interview (they asked questions and I wrote a response!) for Property AdGuru on the subject of online real estate marketing. Whilst the focus of my response was addressed to the customers of realestate.co.nz – real estate agents and companies, I was conscious that the responses might well resonate with buyers, sellers and those who have a general interest in real estate.

Here are the full written responses.

What are the top three things you think agents need to include in their listing to get it noticed?

1. Photos

Magnificent Mission Bay - Realestate.co.nzSeems so simple, but in NZ as in so many countries the art of taking / commissioning photos of a property seems to be forgotten at best and completely ignored at worst. I still to my horror, see listings with no photos or photos of the bathroom or the couch as the first photo. So little time taken to make such a major impact. It really frustrates me to see the abdication of responsibility. I often see better and more insightful photos taken for a $20 item on e-bay than I see for a $300,000 property.

Having said all of that we do see the average number of photos per listing growing all the time, back in 2006 it was less than 4, by 2008 it was just under 10 and today it is over 16. Many are taking advantage of our policy of no restrictions and we have many listings with in excess of 80 photos for a single listing.

Not only that, the property and thereby the agent’s client is being poorly represented, but the agent is doing themselves such a disservice – a smart vendor checking out the capabilities of prospective agents will make fast work out of eliminating agents that fail at this very first huddle. The sad truth is these agents get away with it because they will spend proportionally more time composing, reviewing and proofing a single half page advert in the newspaper – an advert potentially seen by a fraction of the audience of the online advert.

2. Address

It’s a property they are trying to sell! – so why not share the most basic of information!

Only 60% of all listings on realestate.co.nz show the address on the website – often this omission by 4 out of 10 listings is not because the respective agents don’t want to display it, but rather as we found out the other day there are still offices and companies that have a policy that the default for upload of listing data is to not display the address (even though in the data file we have the address).

The history of this tactic has been shared with me, as I am sure all in this industry will know, in that no address is thought to encourage the prospective buyer to contact the agent to find out the details. Well the world has moved on, and the consumers of today have a higher threshold expectation of transparency and so feel that the address should be there. Just as in the case of the photos, a prospective buyer not seeing an address will undertake to identify the address using whatever online tools they can – mostly Google maps and StreetView; if they through this super sleuthing find the address – the question will be – how will that reflect on their estimation of the agent?? – not that good!

3. Community information

Agents are flush with a wealth of information and knowledge. They are by the very nature of this industry, local experts. Their niche is the very small geographical boundaries that define their business area. They know so much about the houses, the schools, the transportation, the shops, the cafes (they are certainly experts there!) and the local amenities. This information is so vital for prospective buyers. It is valued and respected if the agents can get it across in a compelling and transparent manner.

The best advice is for agents to include snippets of this info in listings as sound bites and morsels that attract buyers to check out richer information curated on a personal blog. With websites allowing embedded html in listing details for blog links, this opportunity is a gold mine for agents that is seldom utilised.

What is the biggest mistake agents tend to make when listing a property?

Simply put; ignoring these key three points above!

- its a bathroomTo be more specific the critical importance of the first photo for a listing cannot be underestimated. It is the hero shot and has to work hard to really sell the appeal of the listing. As with poor quality photos, insufficient photos or no photos, choosing the wrong photo for the 1st place can be, and is often the case is the criminal mistake agents all too often make.

I have seen some horrible examples – photos of toilets, kitchens, untidy bedroom, couches – you name it we have seen it. Even the use of an image of the landscape view from the property can be poor choice. The mindset of the searching buyers is typified in having a brain hardwired to be evaluating property design types and looks. To throw in a view from a property is confusing.

Some agents tell me that this disruption to the regular type of photo is very successful in getting people to be inquisitive and get them to check out more photos. I cannot deny the logic of their argument, but as a marketeer I disagree as intrusive, out-of-context images tend to allow the viewer to eliminate; as that is the core task of a search / refine process – people need to eliminate to refine down to a meaningful number of properties to evaluate in detail.

image coming soonAnother appalling error (which I am glad to see declining in incidence) is the tactic of posting a new listing with a heading “Just listed – too new to photograph”, often accompanied with insufficient or no information. The logic for this behaviour from those agents is the desire to “get the listing online” as fast as possible – of course not appreciating that no content means no value to the target audience and going back to an earlier comment – blows the credibility of the agent. Added to the negative impact on the searcher online is the fact that all new listings are featured in the daily email to hot prospects – this one time medium is so powerful to target the listing to the right audience. As I say to agents, miss that first day and you have almost blow the campaign.

We did research recently on a sample of over 1,000 listings and found that over 40% of viewing for a property occur in the first week with the majority of that on the first day. So it comes down again to “proofing” a listing with comprehensive information before posting it to the web.

Besides creating high-quality listings, what else should Australian and New Zealand real estate agents be doing to market themselves online?

Every agent has to have a profile page on the web. This page must be the #1 link on a Google search for their name (with or without the reference to real estate in the search term – depending on the uniqueness of the name). Every agent needs to own this space. This is their reference tool 24hrs a day. Ideally the profile should be hosted on their own domain name, if not then on the domain of their company or as in the case of our site we offer profile pages on our site. The benefit of a profile page on realestate.co.nz is that if the agent changes offices/ company, the day of that change the profile page on our site changes, and maintains the same Google search page ranking, whereas the old profile on the old company website will still be there until the new profile gains ranking.

Step 2 after the basic web page is a web site, this is the opportunity for richer information to profile the agent and feature all the success and unique proposition they offer prospective clients. A natural evolution to the website is a blog. Today the lines between blog and website have blurred to the extent that they are one of the same. The feature set of being able to add dynamic content to a website is critical for an agent to build a profile as a local expert – or as a subject matter expert. This is or rather should be the ambition of every agent, this is their calling card, their prospecting tool, their letterbox drop all rolled into one.

As ever building the website is only the beginning – it needs nurturing and growing to attract an audience, it needs referral links in both on an offline references. This requires work, the use of social media tool such as Facebook and Twitter as well as outreach to establish back links to other relevant and contextual sites in their community or business area. It take time, but as with anything the investment will pay back – and the beauty of the web is that it keeps paying back 24hrs a day.

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How marketing has been transformed in the past decade

Posted on: November 23rd, 2010 | Filed in Online marketing, social media

Social Media JunctionLast week I spent 2 days in the company of close to 200 people in Auckland, attending Social Media Junction #2. I reflected during the closing sessions on the transformational impact that the web has had on business in the past decade; and marveled, as I am sure many of my fellow attendees did,  as to what the business world might look like 5 or 10 years from now.

It is often said that things seemed so much simpler back in the 80’s or even the 90’s. In the case of marketing, I would have to say that view would be correct, especially as I grew up in brand marketing in those decades.

In those days the complexity of marketing revolved around the options of what was, by today’s standards, a limited range of media – TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, outdoor and cinema. All provided a stimulation (visual or audible) which was as we now call it “interruption marketing” although at the time we called it “cut through advertising”. The task was to allocate and prioritise the budget and ensure that the timetable for such advertising was scheduled well enough in advance. All done; we would then wait and watch to see the consequential impact on product sales or market research stats some months down the track.

Today we inhabit a vastly different world as has been ably demonstrated by this conference. We fully appreciate that the impact of “traditional media” has been blunted and today’s reality is that it simply does not deliver as it used to – added to which consumers can and do “tune out”.

To be effective in today’s world of marketing, requires so much more of a hands-on approach. You have to engage with your customers, you have to be social (as opposed to “doing” social) and you have to listen – all of which cannot be a part of interruption marketing. Added to this opportunity to better engage with your customers, is the challenge of a myriad of channels to utilise and the fact that largely most of what needs to be done, needs to be done by you! – the role of advertising and marketing agencies has similarly changed as marketeers can and need to engage more directly with customers.

That is why these style of conferences are so much more important. Marketers today need to not only learn the tools, they importantly need to share and discuss experiences and tactics with their peers. Such conferences are not about sales pitches for products and services; but critically are about good honest ideas and guides of what to do in a variety of situations; situations that those who present have actually experienced and learned from.

The great thing is that this new social media marketing transformation is not a winner-takes-all scenario, as a marketer you can learn and share good ideas with colleagues, you can be more open – even with competitors as in  this world driven by social media there is not a single successful strategy that beats all others, there is just good execution of many strategies. You have to be prepared to fail fast, pick yourself up and try something else.

I could not possibly do justice to the full range of content from the conference, so I would recommend that you read the summary of the event from Alex Erasmus on the StopPress blog and keep an eye open for a future Social Media Junction conference next year.

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Social media – return on investment ?

Posted on: November 9th, 2010 | Filed in Featured, social media

Social media croppedSocial media is here – that is a fact; and as more and more of us incorporate it into our everyday lives (personal and business) the key question as ever is – is this a good use of my time?

Running the website of Realestate.co.nz and writing this blog – (which is now celebrating its 3rd birthday with this the 503rd post written!) has given me a perspective of how to evaluate the ROI for social media.

The judgment I make is based on objective and subjective insight. Objectively, I can look at the value of social media in terms of search engine optimisation (SEO) and the value of incremental web traffic. Coupled with this is the more subjective value of the deeper and richer loyalty of engagement with our customers. This has been achieved by providing the Voices blogging platform for real estate agents.

Overall social media has been a excellent vehicle for developing and hosting a valuable portfolio of statistics and analysis which has been leveraged through the media to build the profile of the brand and establish the company in a position as a knowledge leaders in the market.

A core part of embracing these new technology and media formats is keeping informed of developments and learning from others. This year has been notable for the value of conferences I have attended, not by their abundance but by their content and presentation, and also more importantly for their interactive ability. In years gone by conferences tended to be dry and laboursome – today through the interactive ability, especially of Twitter, it is possible for all conferences to become highly interactive events.

I have attended quite a few conferences this year from the Inman Connect conferences in the US to the Social Media Junction conference, to the first of our own Future of Real Estate conference. All have been past fast paced with a wealth of domestic and international speakers, and all have leveraged the power of live tweeting to allow questioning, feedback and interaction so that as a participant or a speaker you can truly sense the feedback and if necessary modify the delivery.

So just as the year draws to a close I wanted to highlight a further opportunity of a conference coming up in the next week, which is a second Social Media Junction conference put on by Bullet PR. The first conference back in May attracted over 200 attendees from across the spectrum of NZ business and such was the appeal that the event is being put on again, this time in an extended format. This time the event covers 3 days. The first day is a specialist day for the public sector, this being a clear demonstration of not only the feedback from the first conference attendees but also a realisation of the engaging opportunities of social media for this sector.

The main conference is on the Tuesday and Wednesday the 16th-17th November and incorporates a range of new media visionaries from the US, UK, Australia as well as local practitioners who will offer their insights into how to ensure time spent on social media has a positive impact on the business’ bottom line.

The second day is what is described as a social media content masterclass with Lee Odden from the US, CEO of TopRank Online Marketing Blog. Lee sessions are designed to provide insight into how to deliver online content, how to build a community and how to drive your company’s SEO.

Both days are designed and structured to get to the heart of what works and what doesn’t in the world of social media and online marketing and what can be done to improve business performance as a result. The speakers will cover all the current trends in the market and really look at why you should invest in social media into what you can do to link everything to tangible outcomes.

Social Media Junction is a must-attend event for anyone interested in securing ROI from Social Media marketing.

Thanks to the generosity of Bullet PR they have given me a ticket for the 2 days of the conference to give away to a reader of this blog. The ticket covers entry to the sessions on the 16th and 17th – only, not travel, accommodation or other costs – just the sessions!

The lucky winner will be the first to post on this blog as a comment the answer to this question:

The film “The Social Network” comes out at cinemas on Thursday this week and charts the story of Facebook and its founder Mark Zuckerberg. The question is “what was the original name (full web address) of the website that later on changed its name to become Facebook?”

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21 years and the internet comes of age

Posted on: October 18th, 2010 | Filed in Featured, social media, Technology

Computer mind explosion1989 – just 21 years ago. How different things were then. I was not living in NZ at the time so I was not here to witness the birth of the internet which is being so beautifully documented this month by the Wellington digital agency Heyday.

They have created an online visual calendar of the past 21 years of the internet’s birth, adolescence and maturity with a single day spanning a year. They are calling it “Down to the Wire“. Started on Monday 11th October and due to conclude on Monday the 1st November. The project is a comprehensive visual history of the internet. I commend them for their execution which has become addictive daily viewing.

1989_ The Story of New Zealand_s InternetAnother compelling piece of viewing has been the superb BBC documentary series “Virtual Revolution” which has been aired on Sky’s Living Channel for the past 4 Sunday nights. This is a series of unprecedented richness and insight into the impact the web has had on our lives over the past two decades. I was somewhat surprised to see it air on Sky as opposed to TVNZ – a sad reflection of the output of formula-driven, mass-market, mind-numbingly repetitive crime dramas that seem to proliferate the TV screen these days. This is in the classic form – a great documentary.

The series is energetically presented by Aleks Krotoski who has had the opportunity to interview some of the great luminaries of the technical world – Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, Al Gore (the man who claims to have invented the internet – as opposed to the person who did invent the web – Tim Berners Lee, Steve Wozniak, Eric Schmit as well as a host of other key people – the only conspicuously missing individuals would be Larry Page & Sergey Brin and of course Steve Jobs.

If you have missed watching the series I recommend you at the very least watch some of the online videos on the website and hope some time soon another channel broadcasts it or see if you can download it on iTunes. It is incredibly good, not so much as a chronological history of 20 years of the web but more as a forward looking discussion of the impact that this digital revolution has had and will continue to have on our daily lives.

I reflect on the past 20 years and consider myself fortunate to have been a witness to this period of history and further to have had the opportunity to have participated in some of these technological advancements. I have to confess to being defined by sociologists as a late baby boomer (although someone very kindly called me the oldest Gen Y’er), and as such am judged to be a digital immigrant, despite this tagging I am passionate about what the future holds through yet further technological advancements; the scope of which we may not yet have even conceived.

Indulge me if you will, to allow me to share some of my personal highlights of the early years of the web!

  • I first came across the principle of the web in 1989 when I was in France on business and discovered Minitel – a private web which allowed Parisians the ability to order stuff through a modem connected terminal in home.
  • I first used email in 1994 with communication between London and LA during my time working for a movie company. I felt trepidation in sending an email direct to a studio exec, somehow I judged in those days that a fax message was in someways less intrusive than a message flashing up on a PC screen.
  • I first discovered the web through a hideous website for Village Cinemas in 1995 through a Netscape browser – I recall the experience of blue and red font on a black screen as being really straining on the eyes!
  • I logged onto the web for the first time from my first home computer in 1996 – I recall unpacking that Xtra box allowing me to connect up to my then new PC Direct PC to the web and establish my own personal email address.
  • In 1999 I managed the design and build (or to be correct had built for me by the amazing guys at Webmasters) my first website – www.mode.co.nz (sorry no longer there!) – it was a site to compliment the specialised service of new home building of masonary constructed houses that I was involved with at the time, as part of Fletcher Building.
  • In 2000 I undertook a study tour of the US with a team from Fletcher Building to investigate e-Business (this was the term of the day then). We visited some great companies (Cisco / GE / GM) and some great dotcom hopefuls (Ariba / Buildnet / Webvan). The latter company – Webvan was my favourite – delivering home grocery shopping via the web. It was probably the most expensive dotcom crash ever taking over US$1,000,0000,000 of investors money with it as it crashed, a very small piece of which was my own money!
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