Web2.0 as Jeeves!

[via Anish Sankhalia] USA Today writes about the next Web: “Instead of having to find information or entertainment, it will find you and be exactly what you want or need at that moment. The network becomes a butler.”

The Web is over. Now comes the next big thing, growing out of the primordial soup of wireless and wired networks, gadgets, software, satellites and social changes created over the past decade.

The Web is becoming the first piece of the bigger network as it meshes with new technologies that started from disparate corners of the industry such as Wi-Fi wireless broadband connections, the Global Positioning System (GPS) and radio frequency identification tags (RFID).

The technologies are becoming a network of networks, enabled by a sea of powerful new devices and databases, all interlinked and talking to each other. To some extent, these are the “Web services” and .Net that Microsoft and other companies have tried to encourage, but broader and better.

Web creator Tim Berners-Lee has been talking about a version of such a system for a couple of years. “The Web can reach its full potential only if it becomes a place where data can be shared and processed by automated tools as well as by people,” Berners-Lee said.

On that world network, companies will build services only dreamed about during the Web mania. In the Web era, you went on the Internet to find something you sat down at a computer and tapped into search engines or shopping sites. In the new era, the network and the information will give you, unprompted, what you want depending on where you are and what you’re doing.

One other factor makes tech experts optimistic about this next phase: The economics in place are 1,000 times better than 10 years ago, says Internet pioneer Marc Andreessen. “If you launch an Internet business today, it’s probably going to cost you about a tenth of what it would have cost five years ago, but you’re going to have 10 times more consumers you can address and probably 10 times the ad revenue,” Andreessen says. “And people are going to be 10 times more willing to buy online. So you have this big economic swing” in favor of a next wave.

How to Write a Column

[via Atanu] Hal Varian has an essay on “how I came to be a columnist, and how I go about writing the columns.”

My view is “Power corrupts, and Powerpoint corrupts absolutely.” I generally avoided Powerpoint unless I really needed it. The way I see it, Powerpoint is fine for presentation. But if you are just going to give a talk then you should do it without mechanical aids. I found that people paid a lot more attention to what I was saying when I just spoke.

The great thing about writing the Economic Scene column is that you can avoid Baker’s panic-if you can’t think of something to write about yourself, you can just write about someone else’s ideas.

This is a fantastic help, since there is no end of interesting economic material being written. Since essentially no one reads those papers-except for other economists-there is a vast reservoir of untapped material.

What I try to do is to take some current event-Social Security, or drug prices, or technology-and find some relevant work in economics. Sometimes it is recent work, sometimes several years old. And then I try to explain how this economic thinking casts light on the issues being debated.

It doesn’t always work like this. Sometimes I come across an interesting working paper or recent publication and I use that as the basis for the column.

Sometimes someone (usually a non-economist) will ask me about something and this will inspire me to write a column explaining the economists viewpoint.

And sometimes I even have an idea of my own.