Blogs and News

Technorati Current Events bridges news and blogs. When I saw it, I thought to myself: “Vow! This is something we should have thought of and done in BlogStreet, especially given that we are in th midst of the Internet’s first war and interest in news sites and alternative opinions is at an all-time high.” Hats off to David Sifry for moving quickly and putting it together. He explains:

It is a list of the top links to “professional” news sites by bloggers in the last two hours, along with comments and analysis. I created it because, like most people, I’ve been following the progress of the war, watching and reading the mass media, and I wanted to know what people out there were saying about the news. What are the most important stories? What is real, and what is propaganda? What is not being reported, or is being underreported? These were the questions on my mind when I created Technorati’s Current Events.

I’m constantly amazed by the collective wisdom of a huge number of individuals, each publishing their thoughts, and voting their attention by linking to things. I wanted to tap into this collective brainpower, organize it, and present it back to us all.

Here’s how it works: Since Technorati is already keeping track of 150,000 blogs every hour (wow, we hit 150k today!), I tuned the engine to spot trends in recent events by only looking at blog posts in the previous two hours. This helps to increase churn on the page, as only articles and links that are immediately relevant will stay on top of the Current Events page. By the way, I’m not sure that two hours is the best balance of immediacy versus trivia, so I expect that I’ll play around with it a bit as I have time, perhaps over the weekend, to tweak the settings to get things just right. The good news is that as more people take up blogging, the results should get better and better even as they get fresher and fresher. The page data is refreshed every 15 minutes, so one eigth of the links are always new, and one eigth are removed. The number in parentheses net to each result is the number of new links to that article in the previous two hours. Clicking on the (Cosmos) link shows you all of the bloggers who have linked to that article since it was published. And underneath each article is a set of short descriptions or context, written by bloggers in the past two hours.

Doc Searls has a quote by David on the differences as compared to Blogdex and Daypop: “There are three: 1) The number of blogs we watch what in the search world we call “completeness”. 2) Freshness indexing as often as possible, which in our case is in thirty minutes or sixty at the most, for any weblog. Plus we update every fifteen minutes. We also only track links made in the last two hours. So we have a lot more churn. 3) Context. We have as many different contexts as there are weblogs. We also put them together on the same page. In current events we have three links, and they’re all as authoritative as possible, over the last two hours. If Glenn Reynolds posted about the same link a day ago, it doesn’t show.”

The one thing for us to learn from this launch and what Scott Johnson has been doing with Feedster: Innovation in the world is very much alive and kicking. One person with ideas can make a difference. And yes, ideas and speed matter. Its a great time to be doing things in the world of technology.

RSS and Blog Post Search

RSS Search is garnering an increasing attention of late. Dave Aiello compares two RSS search engines:

Unique rssSearch features:
– visible relevance scoring
– detailed “Search Report” for each search, including: database statistics, equivalent search parameters, result summary for each part of the search term
– similarity searching based on key attributes of one indexed document

Unique Feedster features:
– “filter out” capabilities, to remove a given blog from search results
– dynamic RSS generation, based on search parameters
– visible display of number of links in article
direct link to comments on articles in search results, in some cases

At the moment, rssSearch appears to be the more statistically-oriented of the two pure RSS Search Engines. But, Feedster seems to have an edge on Blogosphere-integration with its dynamic RSS feature. This looks like it is definitely worth an experiment or two.

I think more than RSS the focus needs to get to the blog post. RSS is just a proxy for the blog. In most cases, the RSS feed is a abridged version of the post. But there’s enough information in there to get to theactual blog post.

Google’s granularity of search is a page. It does not separate a page into its components. That is what is needed. That is what we need to look at in BlogStreet. Blogs have a specific structure. The RSS feed can help in componentising the web page, which can make it possible to extract and then search the posts.

Open Source Plan for CIOs

CIO Magazine writes:

It’s now clear that within five years, open source will transform how software is developed, sold and supported.

When CIOs need help with their systems and software, they don’t have to depend on vendors with their own agendas because when an open-source app doesn’t work, administrators can look at the source code, figure out why and write a fix themselves. If they’re having trouble, help is just a newsgroup away.

Open source is helping turn significant chunks of the IT infrastructure into commodities by offering alternatives to proprietary software.

Free is good. CIOs who don’t come to terms with this revolution in 2003 will be paying too much for IT in 2004.

Magic of WiFi

WiFi is getting industry and consumers all excited. BusinessWeek has a set of stories on it. Writes one of the stories:

What is it about Wi-Fi that’s setting hearts aflutter — and not just at Starbucks, but at tech giants such as Intel, who want in on the action? For one thing, the technology is easy to understand. A recent study by polling firm Ipsos-Reid reveals that 41% of Americans are aware of Wi-Fi — an impressive demonstration for a technology companies began marketing to consumers just two years ago.

“Wi-Fi is a combination of high-speed Internet access and cell phones,” says Mark Laver, a senior analyst at Ipsos-Reid. “It’s an adaptation of other technologies we already know and love.” That makes Wi-Fi akin to two of the fastest-growing technologies in recent memory: Cell phones, which offered portability, and DVD players, which proved superior to VCRs thanks to clearer images and lots of extras.

Even better, Wi-Fi is easy to use. “With no wires, it seems like magic,” muses Ezra Goldman, a venture capitalist who used early incarnations of Wi-Fi as early as five years ago.

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WICE from Divinet

Slashdot discusses a story about WICE, a product from Divinet, describing it as India’s Tivo++. It “plays video cds, offers sms, email, chat, plays mp3s, acts as a game box, has a web cam, video on demand, and a digital VCR, and has a multilingual interface.”

Good to see innovation coming out of India. Wonder if it can be used as a thin client for computing.

Desktop Environment Comparison

OSNews compares Windows XP Luna, BeOS 6 (Dano/Zeta), Mac OS X Aqua and Unix’s KDE and Gnome. Eugenia Loli-Queru’s conclusion: “I much prefer overall the Windows XP experience with a close second the ones of MacOSX and BeOS. In fact, a Desktop Environment that could have the best values found on these three operating systems, plus the power of Unix underneath, would make my utopian desktop environment.”

There is definite room for innovation on the desktop. Little has changed for most users in the past decade. The focus should be on (a) targeting new users (b) learning from video games to create more interactive interfaces (c) having a digital dashboard to integrate all the information flowing in.

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Abundance of Opportunities

I couldn’t agree more with what both Jeremy Allaire and Kevin Werbach say:

Allaire: “I’m more optimistic about opportunities for innovation and growth than I was in the early 1990s when the commercial Internet entered its first generation.”

Werbach: “I remember thinking in early 1995 that the great Internet business opportunities had been occupied. I was spectacularly wrong. Yet that makes me more optimistic today. With the past decade of perspective, I can see now how much room for innovation remains. Recognizing how long it always takes for technological seachanges to reach their maturity, I know how much opportunity stretches in front of us…For me, it’s like walking into a beautifully decorated room, only to find, after a while, that the furniture you admired is actually somewhat tacky and cheap. But then you notice a door at the other end of the room. Opening it, you find a whole house to explore.”

There are plenty of interesting things happening on various fronts, there are so many markets to explore, so many new users to sell to. According to me, much of the next set of opportunities lies in targeting the bottom of the pyramid in the world’s emerging markets. That is where there is little legacy. Users need affordable computing solutions at a fraction of the existing price points. This is what we want to do in Emergic. The more I think and meet people, the more excited I get. The game is afoot!

TECH TALK: Transforming Rural India: More Rural ICT Projects

There are many other technology-related projects for Rural India and eGovernance going on across India. Here is a summary of some of them:

Warana Wired Village: The Wired Village Project (WVP) implemented at Warana was conceived as a pilot project to bring benefits of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to rural India. Warana is a cluster of seventy villages, forty-six from Kolhapur and twenty-four from Sangli district, in the Western State of Maharashtra, India. There are several cooperative societies actively working in Warana complex like Sugar Cooperative, Dairy Development Society, Cooperative Bank, Womens Cooperative Society, Super Market, Educational Institutions, etc. Sugarcane is the major crop of this area and most of its production in Kolhapur and Sangli districts is processed at the Warana Sugar Co-operative factory. Each village has about 200-300 farmers registered as members of various cooperative societies. (More, from a discussion paper by DP Bobde, A Deb, RR Rane.)

Media Lab Asia: MLA, a joint iniitative of MIT Media Lab and the Indian Government, is doing a number of projects in the areas of World Computer (A computer for the illiterate, for communities, for everyone. Language, electrical power, literacy, and personal wealth are some of the problems that prevent participation in the digital revolution. We are creating computers that transcend these barriers to bring digital services to everyone. The design goal of the world computer is a locally localized, grassroots interface.) and Digital Village (Realizing Gandhi’s vision of a sustainable village through culturally appropriate use of new technologies. Our goal is to create a sustainable digital ecology that maintains traditional values and community while opening economic and expressive opportunities. The twin themes of the Digital Village projects are tools that empower invention and expression, and advanced financial tools for rural markets.)

Sustainable Access for Rural India: SARI is a project in the villages of Madurai district in Tamil Nadu to offer voice and Internet services. IIT-Madras; MIT Media Lab; Berkman Center for Internet and Society, Harvard University Law School; and the I-Gyan Foundation. It is carried out jointly with n-Logue Communicaitons Pvt. Ltd., a rural ISP. Here is a note from the project plan: A kiosk will be set up in each village to service the needs of the people in that village. Separate connections will be provided to schools, colleges, primary health centres, etc. The project aims at identifying and providing appropriate access technologies and applications that will be of use to the local community. Possible applications are school education, farmers’ commodity market information, e governance, local commerce, etc. The project will receive initial funding from outside for procurement of equipment as well as paying for its operation, but will eventually become self-sufficient and pay for itself. The pilot project aimed at setting up 1000 connections in 350 villages.

FRIENDS and Akshaya: Keralas FRIENDS (Fast Reliable Instant Efficient Network for Disbursement of Services) centres accept all utility bills, taxes and fees pertaining to the participating departments and offer quality services to the citizens. FRIENDS has been launched in all 14 district headquarters in the State. Akshaya plans to develop Kerala’s first comprehensive digital network to train at least one member in 64 lakh families in the basics of Information & Communication Technology thus opening a hotline between the citizens, the government and the world.

Mahiti Shakti Kendras: Started in the Panchmahals district of Gujarat, the Mahiti Shakti Kendras become a single-window clearance for forms and other information that people in small towns and villages may require. All forms of various district level offices with a checklist giving details of required documents at the time of submission are provided. As many as 200 forms have been made available on-line. Information pertaining to ongoing schemes like those under the District Rural Development Agency and District Planning Board have also been made available. The web-enabled version of the Gujarat Geographic Information System (GGIS) giving details of the resource availability in terms of 95 parameters of every village of the district is available on a query-based system, according a report in Times of India (Oct 2002). About 80 such centres have been set up so far.

Tomorrow: More ICT Projects (continued)

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