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The CN Interview with Robin Good

10 September, 2004

Rome-based Robin Good - AKA Luigi Canali De Rossi - is a new media communication expert, an award-winning information and identity designer and an independent analyst in the field of online collaboration, Web-conferencing and live presentation technologies.

CN: What's up with the hat? Is that a beret with an army camouflage pattern? Robin, what are you hiding from and trying to blend into?

Robin Good: I am hiding away from blue buttoned suits and camouflaging myself into a new kind of analyst who is available to effectively try out, test and experiment in first person before judging and recommending. A Robin Hood for the end users wanting to learn how things are without the veils created by PR and marketing pieces. And a Robin Hood for the new, enterprising, agile and open minded companies who have entered these industries. I bring to both something that they could otherwise not see easily. Honest and truthful advice to the users and cutting-edge feedback for product development and marketing to the companies themselves.

I am an explorer, and as such my hat reflects the roughness of the places I venture to discover. The Internet is turning itself into a real "jungle" and if you have been spending any serious time doing business out there, you know well what I mean.

I am also trying to blend myself into becoming a new type information expert, a curator, a news dj, a newsmaster, a techno-slanted social nurse of the many individuals wanting to leverage new media technologies to make a difference: for themselves as independent publishers or for this world at large, as change agents of some kind.
CN: Tell us about IKONOS and When did you start it and what is its purpose?

RG: IKONOS New Media is the business company I have directed for over 15 years and which I continue to run. This is a small company based in Rome but with a very international outlook. I have chosen early in the game to serve only international organizations. I wanted to specialize in a market that leveraged my familiarity with other languages and cultures and that was ahead of Italy in appreciating new media technologies and their potential applications in fields that provided a social good (e.g.: education, development, research, etc.).

MasterNewMedia is my new online publishing enterprise and it reflects in full my long standing desire to work independently of major media and to create an ethical, sustainable business built around the idea of knowledge sharing, independent reporting and genuine passion.

MasterNewMedia was born circa 1998 and it started as a project site devoted to collect information resources that would support effective communication with new media technologies.

Around 2000 I started publishing systematically all of the news and reviews that I had been posting in my very special newsletter called MasterMind Explorer. At the time, this was a 40+ plus pages monthly report covering multiple interest areas and with many in depth reviews and articles.

The newsletter breathed a new life into the MasterNewMedia site and after multiple experiments with the early blogging tools Manila, Editthispage and I decided to move the site to a full personal publishing system and finally settled in 2002 on Movable Type.

This choice proved to be a fundamental turn in my publishing career.

Robin Good from Sharewood was born a few months after, just around the end of 2002. With it, the blog Sharewood Tidings, my flagship online communication channel was started. Today the Sharewood Tidings have been complemented by the Robin Good Latest News,, and are followed by over 5,000 daily readers utilizing Web, email, and RSS newsfeeds to stay in synch with my own discoveries and reports.

CN: What is your background, and how did you get into these web publishing endeavors in the world of collaborative media?

RG: My background is in communication arts. I did the classical studies here in Italy and have been the son of a fashion designer and an (classical) art photographer. Before starting the university I got involved with radio broadcasting which was moving its first commercial steps around the mid-seventies. I had been a professional DJ since 13 and radio opened a whole world of creative opportunities for me. Music direction, radio format programming, station direction, content production and syndication.

I then headed for the West Coast where I spent just about four years in studying experimental and interdisciplinary arts with a strong focus on audio, video and film production. I graduated from San Francisco State University with a Magna Cum Laude degree earned in good part also by taking some great courses at the famous SFAI (San Francisco Art Institute).

After a few documentaries and video clips I was back in Italy working for Berlusconi's own Canale 5 TV Network as online identity producer of all of the on-air promotion. After that was RAI News where I worked to research and study how to improve the information design aspects of television news making and reporting.

Finally, in the summer of 1988 IKONOS (from the greek "images") was born as a private commercial company devoted to electronic publishing and computer graphics. It was the time of desktop publishing, the Mac, and of the first imaging applications for personal computers.

We did a lot of pioneering work in design, presentation work, institutional identity (Alitalia Group, European Space Agency), technical illustration, digital imaging and advanced simulation, computer graphic animation, special effects. IKONOS has always been an experimental research laboratory with very hard and highly challenging projects to be executed.

The first seed of my desire to capitalize on the "sharing" part of our work was the early realization that our work provided ample opportunities for being re-used by many more people through workshops, seminars and training courses.

And so IKONOS became a unique communication agency providing both advanced consulting support to complex information projects led by international organizations, as well as the custom provider of unique courses, seminars and workshops devoted at facilitating the effective use and adoption of new media technologies for communication and learning.

CN: What's a day in the life of Robin Good like? What time do you wake up in the morning? Just what goes on there in Rome for you?

It's a very hectic, and intense life. In a typical day (there are no two alike, really) these are some of the things I end up doing from the moment I wake up:

Check sales and site traffic stats.

Read and annotate the latest news articles, reviews and essays I printed the day before.

Select, edit and write news for the day.

Write one or more reviews for clients or other sites I publish.

Coordinate site revisions, improvements and daily new additions.

Test new software tools or online services.

Talk to new people.

Contact companies to learn more about their technologies.

Help out some of my publishing partners in their daily efforts.

Reports errors, technical problems and other issues.

Talk to new people who have new projects and ideas and that would like to collaborate in a way or another.

Listen to a lot of music.

Scan news sources, RSS feeds and other personal channels for breaking news to cover or to research further.

There is no opportunity of getting bored, believe me!

CN: Tell us about your new site called What is this all about?
RG: Kolabora is an experiment in collaborative newsmaking and in creating a participatory community that shapes and determines the design and characteristics of future online collaboration tools.

I am unhappy with the state of information and news in the conferencing and collaboration industries. All of the information circulated is in the form of hyped press releases that offer little to no value to the end user or active researcher.

Companies are entrenched in a buttoned-up approach to marketing, strong on words but weak on direct communication, customer support and newsmaking.

Kolabora is trying to gradually bring together a set of new voices and approaches to creating valuable content and news in this sector.

My initial attempt at giving a personal voice to many of the "minds" behind the companies in these industries has resulted in a beautiful silence from the blogs made available to them. Companies are not ready for it, but they do feel the need to do it.

Conferencing and collaboration companies need to talk, in their own direct, personal voices to the end users, and need to show their genuine efforts, their research stories, their errors and improvements as they take place. We need no more of the pre-packaged PR releases polluting our inboxes. Give us some real news. Some tangible, truthful, honest, believable information.

Kolabora wants to be a vehicle for those companies and users who have a personal voice about conferencing and collaboration and want to make it heard.

This is what Kolabora does in the marketplace.

It bridges what users think and want and what vendors and developers can do to meet those needs. Hey, this is a users-market. Companies HAVE TO listen to the preferred uses and applications from users while learning from them how to create extremely effective communication/collaboration tools.

It is in this equation, in this information osmosis between vendors and buyers that there is space for the development of truly useful tools.

It is by open, direct, communication that we can empower both customers and vendors to bring together their mutual know-how and abilities.

Kolabora is here to give voice to both, in an open-access mode and with the best support we can offer. Nothing to pay, all to gain.

CN: Where do you see conferencing and collaboration services going in the next five years?

RG: Conferencing and collaboration services will greatly change in the coming years.

First of all they will differentiate in a much more defined set of industries: large conferencing (top down - one-to-many), live presentation, full collaboration, videoconferencing and many more other kinds. More specialization and diversification will emerge.

The most important new event that will go unnoticed for some time is the strategic emergence of shared secure virtual spaces. These are what you would call true virtual offices. They will contain aspects of web conferencing, video, presentation tools, collaboration facilities, while providing certified, secure, private persistent spaces in which to carry out real work. The implications are simply amazing and you will be hearing a lot of good news from me on this in the coming months. For now keep under your radar and The leader and the very first contender in this new cutting edge market.

Open standards will pay an ever increasing role and interoperability will be sooner or later on the map of every company operating in this space. You can already see that the young, slim new players in these markets are all embracing this trend. Take SightSpeed, Wavethree, Trillian, Convoq ASAP just to name a few of small companies moving ahead of the group on this fronts.

Ease of use will emerge as being the resolutive force in gaining serious market adoption for many of these technologies. Human factors specialists, usability engineers, interface/interaction/information designers should be witnesses of a growing demand. As obvious as it appears, the importance of effective interface design is still way underestimated and underdeveloped. We are still left in the hands of a bunch of cheap graphic designers unduly assigned to an enormously challenging task which is not part of their natural skillset. Those who awake to this simple realization (and some already have) will be the first to reap some substantial benefits.

CN: What's the most fascinating aspect of these technologies beyond the technical realm?

RG: The fact that they bring us together in new, fascinating, novel ways.

The fact that they allow us to reach out and touch people that would have been impossible to work with, communicate to and collaborate with just a few months ago.

The fact that these new technologies are facilitating the gradual but unstoppable demise of the telecom monopolies and the rapid emergence of new forms of much cheaper communication channels, bringing within the reach of everyone the ability to communicate live with anyone connected to a phone line on this planet.

The interconnectedness of it all.

The speed at which is happening.

The new dialogs that are being created.

"Dialog is the means by which people express who they are. It is the means by which they become 'present' in the group. By 'listening to people', rather than 'hearing ideas', we allow a shared space of openness and trust to emerge. As people express their concerns, in an atmosphere of respectful listening, the space expands and everyone's presence expands. The group becomes a 'We' rather than just a cluster of individuals. Not a manufactured, compromise We, where diversity is submerged, but an empowered, alive We, where diversity is embraced -- all of it adding to the collective experience and insight of the group. In this space, diversity brings synergy rather than conflict."


Thanks, Robin. Good luck with IKONOS and Kolabora.


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