A New News Architecture

Dan Gillmor points to Jeff Jarvis who discusses a recent talk given by Martin Nisenholtz of New York Times Digital and writes:

I’ve been talking lately about using feeds and RSS as a new architecture for the content on my news sites. I can create a town page using feeds of paper headlines, internal and external blog headlines, forum thread heads, weather, classified listings, restaurant specials, video reports…. It’s all just feeds.

It’s more than that, of course. I’ve been thinking about how I’d architect news if I had a clean slate. This gets down even to the level of how you’d write a news story. There’s no longer any need to write in the background; you can link to it. Ditto analysis. There’s no such thing as a deadline or an edition; you add to the story as you find out more. It’s friendlier because it’s briefer and easier to consume. It’s better organized. It’s more informative because it can include reports and photos from witnesses in the audience. It’s more accurate because you can include fact-check-your-ass challenges from readers. It’s more compelling because it includes interactivity. It’s better presented because it can include video or audio or programming, whatever it needs. It’s more responsive because, well, finally the audience can respond.

That’s just the architecture of presentation. That also affects the architecture of storage: Each element — each news post — is identified and linked to related items by the writer and by the audience. And, obviously, this affects the way the news is gathered, by whom, with what.

We too have been thinking about this, and working on an extension to BlogStreet codenamed NINE (New Indian News Ecosystem).

The Best Business Ideas of 2003

[via Fast Company] Dave Pollard outlines what he believes were the most important ideas in 2003 in the world of business:

– Profit needn’t be the bottom line
– Bigger is worse
– New Market Disruptions could slay today’s business giants
– Viral marketing is soaring in importance as trust in business tanks
– A business is nothing more than the sum of its people’s productive efforts
– Innovation only flourishes in an environment that is open, collaborative and agile
– Stories are subversive, and far more persuasive than presentations, prescriptions and reports
– Business will evolve into a World of Ends, with federations of small, specialized, networked enterprises replacing hierarchical, vertically-integrated conglomerates
– When a business’ relationship with its customers is adversarial, it’s in its death throes
– Developing ‘Purple Cows’ – Innovations that are truly remarkable, is the best way to break out of the pack

Microcontent World

[vua Roland Tanglao] Steve Gillmor writes:

In a micro-content world, business documents are broken down into their constituent elements: notification, transaction, context, priority and lifetime. IM traffic, Weblog posts, breaking news, appointments, alerts and good old e-mail comprise a dominant percentage of micro-content traffic. Managing the real-time flow of information becomes Job One, followed closely by archiving and publishing snapshots of the data as “documents.”

The traditional productivity applications become rendering engines for various end-stage documents. Word produces spell-checked, formatted pages; Excel produces reports, charts and graphs; PowerPoint produces presentations. In its current incarnation, Outlook renders messages. FrontPage — well, FrontPage is being sunsetted by Weblog-authoring tools.

social software spaces and link cosmos engines such as Technorati are becoming mission-critical repositories for maintaining secure communications. As RSS information routers reach the critical mass of persistent, searchable storage, feed-tunable preferences, embedded browser rendering, and attention data mining, the motivation to store data in licensed document silos will flatline.

Mobile Interface Myths

Boing Boing lists out 12 myths about mobile interface design. Very little to argue about!

Myth: Users want power and aesthetics. Features are everything.
Myth: What we really need is a Swiss army knife.
Myth: 3G is here!
Myth: Focus groups and other traditional market analysis tools are the best way to determine user needs.
Myth: If it works in Silicon Valley, it will work anywhere.
Myth: The killer app will be games, er, no, I mean, horoscopes, or
Myth: Mobile devices will essentially be phones, organizers, or combinations, with maybe music/video added on.
Myth: The industry is converging on a UI standard.
Myth: Highly usable systems are just around the corner.
Myth: One underlying operating system will dominate.
Myth: Mobile devices will be free-or nearly free.
Myth: Advanced data-oriented services are just around the corner.

VC Term Sheet

Tim Bray explains the terminology. “Suppose the VC likes the pitch and reads your business plan and likes that too, and you have a couple more talks and it all goes well. The next step would be whats called a Term Sheet; this is an outline, in fairly human-readable terms, of the deal they propose. Ive seen them as short as two pages and as long as fifteen. The key points in the term sheet are the amount they propose to invest, the Valuation, i.e. how much of the company they get for their money, and the Terms, what else they get beyond some shares.”

VCs play a critical role in the innovation process. In my decade-long entrepreneurial career, I’ve talked with various VCs in the past, seen more than a few termsheets, but for various reasons, never ended up raising venture capital. I think its important for entrepreneurs to understand the venture capital process well, especially the fine print.

Halsey Minor’s Grand Central

While I never met Halsey Minor, I did visit the company he founded (CNet) once in search of a potential partnership many years ago. Have been curious about his ventures after that for some time. Grand Central was one of the early start-ups in the web services space. John Battelle spent time recently with Halsey at Grand Central and reports:

The company is in a really interesting space, essentially providing the glue that allows for innovative companies to create really cool tools through web services…When the web is viewed as a platform, individual services can be snapped together to make for powerful and previously unthinkable solutions to common problems. Grand Central is something like a big Lego board, a common interface where corporate IT guys, web developers, and publishers can think up and build cool new hacks.

Imagine you’re using Salesforce.com and your CRM system tags a bunch of potential leads. With Grand Central as the intermediary, your company could write a process that goes out through Grand Central to a bunch of disparate web services – Dow Jones, Dun & Bradstreet, Google, the SEC – and compiles a dossier of competitive information for your salesforce to use when it calls on that client. Grand Central negotiates with each of the databases and/or websites, organizes all that information into a format Salesforce.com understands, and then pushes it back into the system.

Not convinced? How about this: I think it’d be really cool to use such a system to hack together an index for the internet economy (or anything else) via dozens of feeds, integrated into an online application showing the health of the sector in real time, with various knobs and buttons you could tune. We tried to do this at the Standard, but it would have taken too many engineers too long. With web services and Grand Central, the idea may be possible to execute. Still don’t see it? How about an application (perhaps integrated into your calendar) that knows when you have to go to the airport for a flight. It asks you for your flight number and your location (if it doesn’t already know), then runs a process which queries online traffic information sites, MapQuest, and SABRE to determine when you need to leave for the airport. It determines which route is the best, then sends you an email with a map and the optimal time to leave.

using web services to open up previously dark and deep databases of corporate information is a very interesting aspect of the search story. These databases require many levels of access control – many require fees and security/querying protocols, and many are not HTML compliant. Until the web weaves itself into more of a platform, and companies like Grand Central allow for business models to develop which make them available to the masses, those corporate databases will remain unsearchable to most. Halsey commented that the massive amount of useful, structured data that is in fact NOT available through Google et al is an extraordinary problem/opportunity.

TECH TALK: Technology and the Indian Elections: Emergent Democracy

Joi Ito explored some of the ideas on how new technologies can make democracy a much more participative and bottom-up process in a paper entitled Emergent Democracy:

In complex systems the role of the leader is not about determining the direction and controlling the followers, but about maintaining integrity, representing the will of the followers and influencing and communicating with peers and leaders above. The leader becomes more of facilitator and a custodian of the process than a power figure, and is often the catalyst or manager of a critical debate or the representative of a group engaged in one. The leader is often the messenger delivering the consensus of a community to another layer or group. Indeed, some leaders in a representative democracy act in this manner. And as leadership becomes necessary to manage the development of an opinion or idea about a complex issue, information technology could enable quick and ad hoc leader selection and representation of that opinion or idea in a larger debate.

The world needs emergent democracy more than ever. Traditional forms of representative democracy are barely able to manage the scale, complexity and speed of the issues in the world today. Representatives of sovereign nations negotiating with each other in global dialog are very limited in their ability to solve global issues. The monolithic media and its increasingly simplistic representation of the world cannot provide the competition of ideas necessary to reach consensus. Emergent democracy has the potential to solve many of the problems we face in the exceedingly complex world at both the national and global scale. The community of toolmakers should be encouraged to consider their possible positive effect on the democratic process as well as the risk of enabling emergent terrorism, mob rule and a surveillance society.

We must protect the ability of these tools to be available to the public by protecting the commons. We must open the spectrum and make it available to the people, while resisting increased control of intellectual property, and the implementation of architectures that are not inclusive and open. We must work to provide access to the Net for more people by making the tools and infrastructure cheaper and easier to use.

Finally, we must explore the way in which this new form of democratic dialog translates into action and how it interacts with the existing political system. We can bootstrap emergent democracy by using the tools to develop the tools and create concrete examples of emergent democracy. These examples can create the foundation for understanding how emergent democracy can be integrated into society generally.

Just as sporting events like the Commonwealth Games or Olympics offer an opportunity to build out the physical infrastructure for cities, the elections offer an excellent opportunity to create Indias digital infrastructure and lay the foundation for an emergent democracy. This change will not happen overnight, but if we can use the 2004 elections to start building the platforms, we will have succeeded in moving towards ensuring that democracy and the elected representatives work for the greater good of the nation.

Tomorrow: Key Technologies

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