Blogs and Cities

An interesting discussion by Steven Johnson at the O’Reilly Emerging Technologies conference, according to Rael:

What are cities good for? Clusters. Public Spaces/Diversity: you need to plan that these spaces will remain public; you need those unexpected, entertaining things to happen; top-down planning and bottom-up participation. Optimal Density: short blocks (related to the small pieces, loosely joined idea); not have areas be too hot or too cold; Chelsea, NY’s long blocks funnels the vast majority of the foot traffic to large avenues and limits this ways you have of getting from one place to another.

So how do cities do it? Bottom-up interactions. Strollers create as much as shopkeepers: analagous to blogging. Passive organization. The swerve.

The Blog Predicament. Problems forming higher-level groups: if you follow links, you can just start to see how they’re related to one-another, but it’s not obvious. Managing overpopulation: pretty soon I’ll have 500 blogs I follow and have trouble managing that.

This is a follow-on from Johnson’s article in Salon, which I discussed earlier.

These are very interesting ideas. If you, like me, believe that blogs are the start of something new and big on the Internet, then it will need a different set of tools, search engines and navigators. For the first time, we have tens of thousands of people talking about what they like and dislike, acting as filters on the web, putting forth their interests, and making connections — just like our brain does.

Word Processors

Three articles on Word Processors, following on yesterday’s announcement by Sun on the USD 76 pricing for Star Office.

News.com writeson Microsoft’s plans to incorporate .Net elements into MS Office. Writes News.com:

For the next version of Office, the company is considering an optional subscription version tied to Web services based on Extensible Markup Language (XML). Those services, which could include some of the online calendaring and collaboration features envisioned for .Net My Services.

One new Web service being considered by Microsoft would provide customers with Web-based e-mail capable of connecting to multiple services and linking to Outlook. Another service would take a similar approach to calendaring and online collaboration. The service would, for instance, allow online calendars to be updated and linked to a wireless handheld. Another service would provide online data storage for documents.

A separate article on MSNBC talks about AbiWord: “It works on most major OS platforms and supports many languages; its able to read and write most documents in Microsoft Words .doc format, as well as twenty others; its authors claim it can do most of what Word can; and best of all its free.”

Walter Mossberg reviews Star Office in the Wall Street Journal. His conclusion: “I’d recommend StarOffice 6.0 only for light-duty work, and then only for people on a tight budget, or who just can’t abide Microsoft’s licensing and activation policies…StarOffice 6.0 has a long way to go.”

TECH TALK: A New Mass Market (Part 4)

The first of the new WWW elements mentioned by Kevin Werbach comes in: Web Services is what can be used to build the next generation software. The thick server in the enterprise needs to run all the software. Software for the thick server has to be architected using the standards of XML, SOAP, WSDL and UDDI. Make the software as Lego blocks which can be combined together from different vendors and even across the network. Instead of developing monoliths, developers can do what they are good at, based on their domain knowledge Web Services, for the first time, fulfills the vision of interchangeable software components.

From the enterprise point of view, this means that if there is a better accounting component, it should be possible to replace it. Think of it like going to a restaurant. For Rs 250, you get a full complement of food (basic enterprise applications). But, it is possible to replace the roti with a naan or order the chefs special for a small incremental charge for those who want to do so.

Software developers in India should start putting together the building blocks based on the Web Services standards. Do what one is good at, publish the interfaces, so others can leverage them. This is akin to what Google has done by publishing its API so that developers can write applications to leverage its huge database of documents.

Think of the East Asian economies and their manufacturing prowess. India can become the software factory to the world. The opportunity here is to not just create the components which can be branded by others, but as some companies in China like Huawei are doing, to actually go out and build their own brands.

A similar revolution can be enabled in Communications using the second of the W elements WiFi. The 2.4 Ghz and 5.7 Ghz bands can unleash innovation, provided we are willing to let it happen. The government in India needs to allow the use of these open spectrum bands without restrictions. This will spur their use for the creation of public community wireless networks. India did a similar thing a decade ago with the cable industry. By not regulating it substantially, we have now created a base of nearly a hundred television channels and over 30 million cable households. In just a decade, TV has had a huge impact on the society and the economy. Our evenings are no longer the same (and for many of us, neither are our lifestyles!).

Parts 1, 2, 3 | Part 5 will be published tomorrow.