The New Microtrend: Microwork

Earlier this year Chris Anderson of Long Tail fame wrote a post that’s been sitting in the back of my head for a while. The concept is about what he calls “spare cycles”.

“Spare cycles”–the human potential that isn’t tapped by our jobs, which for most of us is a lot of it. People wonder how Wikipedia magically arose from nothing, and how 50 million bloggers suddenly appeared, almost all of them writing for free.

Who knew there was so much untapped energy all around us, just waiting for a catalyst to become productive? But of course there was. People are bored, and they’d rather not be.

Where are your spare cycles? For most people it’s in the car, it’s spent waiting for the next meeting and it’s especially spent waiting for the next flight. I would argue that most of those spare cycles, almost all of that time is spent not at work or at home, it’s spent being mobile. Even when you’re in a meeting, not paying attention to a PowerPoint presentation, it’s more discreet to work off a phone than a laptop.

It is a widely held belief that large documents like PowerPoint, Excel and Word, might be edited on a smart phone, but never created. Most of us find it hard to imagine doing most of our work on a phone.

A story about a new trend in Japan of best selling books being written on mobile phones makes me believe that smart phones will soon replace the laptop as the main work appliance.

Koizora (Love Sky) by Mika has sold more than 1.2 million copies since being released in book format last October.”I typed it all on my mobile phone,” Rin explains matter-of-factly over the same device. “I started writing novels on my mobile when I was in junior high school and I got really quick with my thumbs, so after a while it didn’t take so long.”

So successful that one volume of her book, which began its life in a series of installments uploaded to an internet site and sent out to the phones of thousands of young subscribers, has sold more than 420,000 copies since it was converted into hardcopy format in January.

Wired also has a similar story that ads some perspective to the technology being used to publish these mobile stories.

A mobile phone novel typically contains between 200 and 500 pages, with each page containing about 500 Japanese characters. The novels are read on a cell phone screen page by page, the way one would surf the web. Magic iLand began as a community portal where users could create personalized homepages from their cell phones. In March, the company launched a free novel library where readers can download text and link to blogs by select authors.

“A mobile phone novel boom is definitely in place,” said Magic iLand spokesman Toshiaki Itou. “And these are people who hardly ever read novels before, never mind written one.”

Next summer, the company will debut software that allows mobile phone novelists to integrate sounds and images into their story lines.

The phone is quickly become the center of our work and personal life. Moves that Microsoft is making with Windows Office Live lead me to believe that they’re getting ready for this shift. We know Google is also getting ready to compete in this space.

The real effect this will have, which no one can completely predict, will be the *way* that we work. The 8 hour work day will continue to fragment. If we’re not careful our work and personal life will continue to merge.

If you haven’t read Chris Anderson’s work yet, I highly recommend The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More

About Tac Anderson

Social media anthropologist. Communications strategist. Business model junkie. Chief blogger here at New Comm Biz.
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  • Ryan Ackley

    I’ve seen this mentioned before. One thing you should keep in mind is that Japanese writing uses much fewer characters for their words.

    From wikipedia: The japanese translation of
    “Radcliffe to compete in Olympic marathon, also implied to appear in the 10,000 m”

    is

    “ラドクリフã€?マラソン五輪代表ã?«1万m出場ã?«ã‚‚å?«ã?¿”

    I didn’t feel like counting but it looks like around a 7-to-1 ratio and a little easier on the thumbs.

  • http://www.newcommbiz.com Tac

    Thanks for the comment Ryan. Actually, if I did my math right it’s more like 3 or 4 to one.

    I’m not predicting anyone’s going to write out the next Crime and Punishment on their Blackberry.

    I just think that over time we’ll see a shift. I’ve typed out some pretty long emails on my phone. With the right interface I could see putting together a PowerPoint while waiting at the airport.

    With the right phone I could probably go most of the week without my laptop. I don’t think that phone exists yet but I think companies like Nokia and Apple are getting close.

    And I know Nokia’s planning on this shift.

  • http://www.newcommbiz.com Tac

    Thanks for the comment Ryan. Actually, if I did my math right it’s more like 3 or 4 to one.

    I’m not predicting anyone’s going to write out the next Crime and Punishment on their Blackberry.

    I just think that over time we’ll see a shift. I’ve typed out some pretty long emails on my phone. With the right interface I could see putting together a PowerPoint while waiting at the airport.

    With the right phone I could probably go most of the week without my laptop. I don’t think that phone exists yet but I think companies like Nokia and Apple are getting close.

    And I know Nokia’s planning on this shift.

  • http://www.righteousrodent.com Brian

    This is going to spawn an entire set of new businesses and opportunities like – thumb rehab specialists for carpal tunnel and other extensive hand issues from too much typing on the phone.

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  • http://www.righteousrodent.com Brian

    This is going to spawn an entire set of new businesses and opportunities like – thumb rehab specialists for carpal tunnel and other extensive hand issues from too much typing on the phone.

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