I am used to the questions . Many arise from a need to challenge or or a need for re-assurance or a fear of silence . So the person who asked , this week , ” what is the technology launch that is the best indicator of media futures ?” ,  wanted , I think , something like      ” iPad , or , err , something else mobile-ish….”.This would have helped her view that she is afloat on a sea of uncertainty , but bobbing in the right direction .

My answer is the Cisco CRS-3 , the newest router which really equips the internet as an integrator of digital video (http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/businesstechnology/2011300638_cisco10.html) . It could , say Cisco , move the entire Library of Congress in one second , or the entire archive of every film ever made in four minutes . But the thing that fascinates me at the moment is the way in which networks with embedded technologies like this will remove the volume/speed excuse that has traditionally lain beneath the reluctance of niched information providers to give whole solutions to user problems/demands . This is no where more obvious than in STM , which is where my second question arose .

“Well, ” he said , ” you clearly took a shine to Globalspec : what is the equivalent in STM  and why are they any better than we are “. I ignored the challenge implicit here , and replied that my pick in STM over a decade had been Nature Publishing , and this was about attitude . ” Full of geeks and nerds , eh ? ” Not at all , I replied ( mentally writing the title to this piece as I did so),

but it is certainly true that they are very quickly responsive to change , and experiment publicly in beta and in conjunction with their users until they find useful combinations that fit . Clearly therefore the new Nature iPhone App ( http://www.nature.com/mobileapps/) is not the end of the story , but it demonstrates Nature’s keen concern to get involved , early on and with an open mind , and strive to create utility for their users . This was the case with Connotea , their ground-breaking social tagging environment , with Scintilla , their news-tagging activity , with Nature Networks and with the network local hubs . It seems to me that the attitude here is service -orientated and not product -centric , and that the logic says that users who are involved in service developments and have a stake in them are less likely to go elsewhere , especially if they started with Nature as grad students .

This does not mean that more traditional business development activities can be ignored . Nature has to be top of the heap in quality terms . Over a decade its content coverage has improved mightily and , through its associated publishing , it is now well on the way to core coverage across the “hard ” sciences . In one sense nothing is more traditional than recruitment advertising : once an area of neglect this is now a keystone of the arch and a factor which helps cement the Nature community together . I predicted to my interlocutor that I thought education would be a continuing interest , and that I was vitally concerned to see how Nature was able in time to make rafts of multiple media experimental evidential data available to users . Their Gateway strategy , from Cell Signalling and Neuroscience , had led the way in this field : when , I wondered , would it become the norm for research published by Nature to be linked to the evidential databases behind the work .

He leapt upon “education “. ” You mean Second Nature on Second Life – if we had all gone there we would be bankrupt “. Well , I have no idea what Nature has spent with Second Life , but I do know that when people like me stop writing about things , then other people tend to think that they have ceased to exist . Plainly wrong . Traded revenues on Second Life in 2009 totalled , in real world dollars , 567 million , a 65% increase on the previous year . And in December , with  770,000 unique users during the month , residents/users  checked out $ 55 million in earnings converted into cash . Not centre stage , but certainly not dead ( see also  .http://lindenlab.com/pressroom/releases/22_09_09 )

And no doubt Nature will be pursuing other educational initiatives : pulling Scientific American under the same management is undoubtedly a step forward in this regard. While continually consolidating and refining their offerings through the lessons taught by their users , I have also no doubt that  their tradition of experimentation will continue to thrive in a company increasing divergent from its peers in this respect . Elsewhere  the impact of technology , while far-reaching , has often been isolated from the thinking about editorially constructing a research journal . But then , Nature was always more than just a research journal .

Last word with Google . In the week of the Cisco announcement , they  indicated an experiment with Dish to create Google TV-Search (http://news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-10465956-93.html ) , a way of intercombining a Google search and a set-top box , while TiVo announced new digital video recorders which bring back video from the Web . This is the next New Frontier : we need to calculate the impact on the expectations of users in B2B, STM or other areas of business and professional information now , while we are at the on-ramp , not when we are facing new competitors . This is what Nature have done so well .

PS In my note Viva , Las Vegas , and here  , I have tried to emphasize the continuing importance of virtual reality , so it was good to see  UBM relaunch the Comdex compueter show as VR only(.http://news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-10463726-93.html )

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