Remixing Applications

Robert Kaye writes:

At first, I didn’t really understand the Remix theme for the conference, but after listening to Stewart Butterfield talk about Flickr and Brendan Eich talk about Firefox things started to click. The key to remixing these two different applications comes from the customizability and openness. In Flickr’s case, Stewart attributed the success of capturing the imagination of it’s users to Flickr’s web service. The 62 functions that make up Flickr’s web service allow thrid party developers to create custom applications that extend the functionality of Flickr, which in turns build a community around the company.

Flickr fans have written tools to upload pictures from Linux and a cool color viewer that shows Flickr images that have the similar overall color. There are two applications that map where pictures have been taken to a map of the world. All of these applications were created by third parties and didn’t involve Flickr other than using the service. These third party developers are in essence remixing Flickr from the outside. This is cool stuff that is part of an enlightened business model — Flickr has more buzz and mindshare than their competitors because of their open strategy.

While Flickr shows off a web service model, the suddenly popular web browser Firefox shows how end users can remix a desktop application. Brendan Eich presented a quick overview of Firefox’s component architecture and techniques for extending and customizing the browser. Firefox was designed to be flexible and extensible by using the XUL XML/JavaScript framework that allows the user to create customized applications with Firefox — not only extensions for the web browser, but whole new applications. XUL hacking is limited to techies that like hacking/programming and not the actual end user — but it is clear that starting with a flexible base allows you create a flexible application.

Nokia’s Local Marketing Solution

The Mobile Technology Weblog writes:

The system works by allowing users to set their preferences as to the sort of advertising they’ll accept on their phones. Then, when ever they’re in range of a special Service Point, they get the ads they’re interested in by Bluetooth.

The most exciting thing about this for me, if it can be made to work, is the long tail angle. Much of Google’s success is via the Adsense and Adwords concepts, that allows small companies/advertisers to place highly targeted ads which work. This has allowed Google to access the long tail of advertisers or make sales to millions of first-time advertisers.

This Local Marketing Solution is the same – potentially. It allows small corner shops and retailers to plunge into low cost, tightly targeted advertising and CRM programmes, for the first time.

How Important is Real-Time?

Mobile Enterprise Weblog writes:

I’ve been thinking a lot about push vs. real time, as I’m at the beginning of a media campaign for the MEA. Starting with the success of RIM, it’s easy to see how valuable near real-time applications can be.

As I go through the seventy mobility case studies we’ve collected, I find that real-time access to enterprise applications is the exception, not the rule. Following the cue of RIM, there are vendors like Intellisync (below), Visto and Antenna Software whose role in mobile applications is to mediate between a back-end enterprise application and a host of mobile devices.

There is significant value in being able to schedule, coordinate and manage information between mobile devices and enterprise applications.

The primary reason for this is that mobile connectivity is not guaranteed, even in Europe, a continent well-covered by GSM 1800, GPRS and UMTS signals. Regardless of how much bandwidth is available, the fact remains that no single wireless operator offers a service level agreement (SLA) for mobile data services.

Wireless networks are both ubiquitous and unpredictable. There will be dead spots. There will be congestion. There will be high latency and slow response time for enterprise applications. Even after we resolve these issues within the network, many enterprises will choose the times when communications must be immediate … and the times where it’s equally cost-effective to wait.

Economics of Abundance

Chris Anderson writes:

The Long Tail is all about abundance: the economic effects of infinite shelf space. Unfortunately, neoclassical economics has virtually nothing to say about abundance. Indeed, the economics of abundance is almost exclusively the domain of extropians, a few other transhumanists, and science fiction writers. How can this be?

Well, for starters the classic definition of economics is “the science of choice under scarcity”. That’s a warning sign right there. From Adam Smith on, economics has focused almost exclusively on behavior within constraints. My college textbook, Gregory Mankiw’s otherwise excellent Principles of Economics, doesn’t mention the word abundance. And for good reason: if you let the scarcity term in most economic equations go to nothing, you get all sorts of divide-by-zero problems. They basically blow up.

But clearly abundance (AKA “plentitude”) is all around us, especially in technology. Moore’s Law is a classic example. What Carver Mead recognized in 1970 when he encouraged his students to “waste transistors” was that transistors were becoming abundant, which is to say effectively free. The shift in thinking from making the most of scarce computing resources to “wasting” cycles by, say, drawing windows and icons on the screen led to the Mac and the personal computing revolution. To say nothing of the scandalous profligacy–a supercomputer used for fun!–of a Playstation 2.

Atanu Dey has posted a comment:

I believe that the essential confusion is between the abundance of the products and the abundance of the *factors* of production. Economics deals with the real scarcity of factors of production so as to maximize the production. The end result of that exercise may be an abundance of products (and consequently an abundance of choice) but that does not argue against the basic reality that factors of production are scarce and choices need to be made in allocating scarce resources for various (often conflicting) purposes.

Information is a public good (non-rival in consumption, etc.) but the production of that public good requires private goods (rivalrous in consumption) which have competing uses. This is well within the purview of standard economic theory. So while you see an abundance of digital products which increases the set of choices, the production of these require (at least some) non-digital factors that are limited.

Attention.xml and PR

Micro Persuasion (Steve Rubel) writes:

One of the questions I get often is “how can I tell how influential a blogger is/isn’t?” As Scoble says, you can look at how many subscribers they have on Bloglines, how many in-bound links they have on Technorati, etc., but we need more. Now imagine for a moment you can look at an RSS feed on My Yahoo and see how many people have read the same post youre reading or how many page views it is getting, etc. What if you could get an RSS feed that notifies you every time there are blog posts that are read by more than 100,000 people? Attention.xml as I understand it could make that possible (correct me if I am wrong please). I dont know about you, but I would subscribe to that feed.

It is conceivable that if there is a groundswell of love for attention.xml from the blogosphere, it could tip the hand of the big guys towards adopting it.

So, go with me for a moment. Let’s say this happens in a year or two’s time. Imagine how valuable this aggregated information would be. PR professionals and marketers could spec out the exact number of people who saw an article online including both the site that generated it and the blogs that linked to it. There’s no guessing. Attention.xml or whatever becomes the standard would go a long way to helping the public relations industry measure the value of media placements, but it has to get off the ground first.

TECH TALK: The Future of Search: Attention

The Reference Web is common for all of us and that is where we use todays search engines. It is only now that tools are available to search a part of my space Google Desktop and Furl are some examples. Search is one of the tools we now use to tackle the challenge of information overload. So, as we look at next-generation search, what we are really trying to think about is how we can manage the continuous datastreams that we are immersed in.

Look at a typical day in our lives. We have a steady flow of emails and IM messages. To reply to some of the emails, we may need to do a search across other emails or documents that we may have written earlier. We also browse the web going to some sites that are our favourites, and other sites on an as-needed basis, possibly spurred by a thought or a pointer from someone. Increasingly, some of us are setting up subscriptions to sites via RSS. This provides us the incremental content published by those websites. Taken together, there are many events that take place in a day which are either delivered to us over email, IM (and perhaps on the mobile) or are sought by us (news, cricket scores, stock quotes) on a need basis.

Over the past few years, the quantum of information that we are expected to process has gone up by a magnitude and the time available hasnt changed. We are expected to be much more efficient in our transactions and yet the tools available have remained nearly static. The email interface is much the same whether it is an email client like Outlook or Evolution, or web mail via Yahoo or Hotmail. To its credit, Googles Gmail has tried to innovate on the interface using ideas like labels. The web interface has remained the same a browser. Most of us now also carry a mobile. We also have access to computers at work and at home. Our data silos have increased. The flow of events has increased. The tools available have not adapted.

The next-generation search engines need to morph into information dashboards with centralised data stores accessible to us on any device at any time. Think of this as the next version of MyYahoo understands our context (location and time of day), is built on our preferences (subscriptions), leverages the wisdom of crowds (tags), and allows for serendipity (discovery). There is seamless mobility as I can access this event store and flow from not just any of the computers but also my mobile device.

The commodity that the information dashboards seek to optimise is one that has not increased and will not increase Attention. Alex Barnett quotes Michael Goldhaber: ..ours is not truly an information economy. By definition, economics is the study of how a society uses its scarce resources. And information is not scarce – especially on the Net, where it is not only abundant, but overflowing. We are drowning in information, yet constantly increasing our generation of it. So a key question arises: Is there something else that flows through cyberspace, something that is scarce and desirable? There is. No one would put anything on the Internet without the hope of obtaining some. It’s called attention. And the economy of attention – not information – is the natural economy of cyberspace.”

To build the new generation of search engines and information dashboards, we need to combine interface innovation with mobility integration and centre them around Attention.

Tomorrow: Events

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