Online Communities

Internet navigators think small: An article on MSNBC.com which talks about the formation of web communities. One of th questions it tries to address: “The Web follows a power-law distribution meaning there are a lot of sparsely connected sites and a very small number of highly connected sites. Can the rise of small-scale communities, such as those that grow up around Weblogs, change that picture?”

The web communities are already there…its just that we cannot see them, because we are at “street level”. Rise up a little, and we’ll already see the pockets existing, exemplified in the weblogs, their blogrolls and links.

Emergic – Simplified

I was drawing out the picture in my book today, and its falling nicely into place (the thinking part). I’ll make it into a Visio picture sometime soon. For now, here’s the text:

Objective
– create low-cost technology solutions for SMEs in emerging markets
– a computer on every desktop (courtesy: Bill Gates)

Messaging (what we currently do)
– Mail, IM, Firewall, Proxy, Anti-Virus on a Server on the LAN for companies — this is part of our MailServ product [on a Linux platform]
– extend to add Calendaring, Scheduling, VPN support

Thin Client-Thick Server
– second hand PCs as thin clients (USD 100 / Rs 5,000)
– extend the server to manage files, preferences, printing, etc.
– run a limited set of apps on the thin clients from the server (KDE Desktop, Mozilla for browsing, Evolution for mail/calendar/contacts, OpenOffice (word processor, spreadsheet, presentation), GAIM (Instant Messaging), GIMP (imaging) and a PDF viewer

Digital Dashboard
– a new read-write environment
– combine outlines, blogs and RSS syndication
– emphasise sharing, collaboration, narration, story-telling

BlogStreet
– a blog directory and search engine
– apply the tech within enterprise on the blogs

Enterprise Software
– integrated eBusiness suite
– ERP+CRM+SCM
– Website, Intranet, eCommerce
– visual business process development environment
– build using Web Services
– build to business process standards (eg. ebXML, RosettaNet)

Content and Community
– Emergic.org (my blog)
– an Enterprise “reader’s digest”
– Slashdot-like community blogs of SMEs in verticals
– SME Marketplace

Visual Biz-ic

As part of our Enterprise Software components, I was thinking of a Visual business-process development environment. Imagine if a company could (a) define its business “algorithms” and processes as business rules, and then (b) use a visual charting tool to “code” it up. This obviously is too simplistic for the big companies, but may actually work well for the SMEs, most of whose business processes have nothing really proprietary about them.

Take this idea further. Once enough SMEs put together their business processes into this, then we can even recommend (like Amazon’s Book Recommendations) what processes and software to use provided you can say that your company is like which other (or identify the industry).

Most SMEs dont need very fancy enterprise software, they need the basic stuff, but it should be cost-effective (cheap) and integrated. Today, little enterprise software falls in that category. There’s an untapped mass market waiting if we can simplify for the lower-end.

Am waiting to read Wolfram’s “A New Kind of Science” if it solves our problems!! I say this only half in jest — the book’s ideas of building complex components from simpler ones makes sense to me in the business process context. It’ll also test out Wolfram’s claim that his science has answers to everything. If 4 lines in Mathematica may be enough to code up the universe, then surely a few lines in “Visual Biz-ic” should be enough to make me get a consolidated view of all our disparate business information!

TECH TALK: Can We Change?

What India and other emerging markets need is some out-of-the-box thinking , some Disruptive Innovation. It is hard to say if it will ever happen, but as I have said before, as an Indian, one becomes an optimist tomorrow will always be better than today! Emerging markets like India cannot do with sustaining innovations; they need to imagine new markets, create new business models, think entrepreneurially, leverage the technological discontinuities and build the future. It is a task at which we in India have for the most part failed in the past 50 years. So, is there hope for India? Can India become a role model for other emerging markets? Here are a few ideas. Some may seem whimsical, others too dreamy. But as I said at the start, the need is for disruption, not incrementalism.

Elect a New Set of Leaders: The problem with Indias politicians is just that they are politicians. Weve seen the past in their hands. India needs professionals at the helm. One person whose been doing wonders in the Indian government is the Disinvestment Minister, Arun Shourie. Hes making sure the government gets out of the public sector units. Shourie is a journalist, author and intellectual. Anything but a politician. Heres a thought: Ratan Tata turns 65 this December, and as per the Tatas policy, will probably retire. Make him Prime Minister for 5 years. If he can turn around a ship as massive and with as much legacy as the House of Tatas in the past decade.

Envision a New India: What appalls me is that few of us even dream of a New India. What do we want the India of tomorrow to be? What are the areas in which we want to achieve world dominance? What is our vision for India in 2010 or 2020? If we have one, why arent we sharing it? Why have we stopped dreaming? Surely, not all of us have given up. We are still a democracy.

Live in the Future: The present sucks, and we all know that. The past lives only in memories. What matters is tomorrow, the future. One simple approach stop reading the daily newspapers and watching TV, and stop discussing whats happening around us. We know it is grim, and talking about it wont make much of a difference. As an alternative, start reading some of the technology weblogs they can open our eyes to the new world that is being created. We are smart enough to do value-added aggregation of ideas. Enough of us need to be driven enough to decide that we are going to emerge on the forefront of tomorrows technology pioneers. A few months living in different surroundings will change our thinking, and inspire us to stand up and be counted among the best. And once, we start doing it, others around us too will. One person can make a difference. Think Frodo in Lord of the Rings.

Play To Win: Learn from Kumble. How many of us would have expected him to come out there and bowl with a broken jaw and bandages wrapped all over his face, leave alone get Laras wicket? We all expected him to be on the next flight to India. Because thats what we would have done. We need that killer instinct. We need to believe that we can be the best. Tomorrows world is a knowledge-driven world. Lets put our thinking caps on, and play to beat out everyone else. Good is the enemy of Great.

Tomorrow: Can We Change? (continued)