Changing Media

[via David Weinberger] Dan Bricklin writes:

The “media” of yesterday were producers of broad content. The “media” of today are really tools for individuals to communicate with few or many people — the tools scale and the thresholds are very low. The tools assume a long tail and are not area-specific for “broad interest content”. So Google (and others) with search (a “newspaper” or “book” with very narrow grained material that has more or less whatever you want to read, not just what someone decided you want to read today), email, and blogging (a newspaper that’s as easy to maintain as sending email to one person so it’s worth it for one or ten or a thousand readers) is a new “media” company in that media means a way to read or hear what we want from others. Wikis are “books” that are easy for a group to write, either very small or large.

Online Movies and Netflix

The Economist writes about the efforts by Netflix’s CEO Reed Hastings’ efforts:

Mr Hastings is…betting that by the time movie-download technology becomes more mature and online titles more widely available, his subscriber base for DVD rentals will be big enough to put Netflix in a strong position to prosper in the online marketplacewhere he is likely to face new competitors such as Yahoo!, Microsoft, the studios themselves and, no doubt, many start-up firms offering rival download services.

Netflix uses 35 distribution centres within metropolitan markets to help it meet its aim of overnight delivery. Yet when online delivery of movies, in whatever form it takes, eventually starts to take off, that legacy infrastructure will count for nothing: warehouses will be replaced by huge computer servers that can be based anywhere. This will not happen overnight, however. And in the transition we can do mixed mode, says Mr Hastings. If a movie is not available for downloadas many classics may not be for some timethen Netflix can still pop a DVD version into the old-fashioned mail.

Long Tail Filters

Chris Andersen writes:

One of the themes that I’m developing in the book is the notion that “a Long Tail without good filters is just noise.” But what are good filters?

To begin, I’m using the catch-all term “filters” (which I’m not crazy about; anyone got a better word?) to describe the tools that help you find what’s right for you in the massive variety of the Long Tail. The examples I use most often are search and recommendations from either people (be they influential bloggers or just friends) or software, such as Amazon-style collaborative filtering (“people like you bought…”).

when you think about it, the world is already full of a different kind of filter. In the scarcity-driven markets of limited shelves, screens and channels that we’ve lived with for most of the past century, entire industries are created around finding and promoting the good stuff. This is what the A&R talent scouts at the record labels do, along with the Hollywood studio executives and store purchasing managers (“Buyers”). In boardrooms around the world, market research teams pour over data that predicts what’s likely to sell and thus deserves to win a valuable spot on the shelf, screen or page…and what doesn’t.

…The ones I’ve been focusing on is that they filter before things get to market. Indeed, their job is to decide what will make it to market and what won’t. I call them “pre-filters”.

By contrast, the recommendations and search technologies that I’m writing about are “post-filters”. They find the best of what’s already out there in their area of interest, elevating the good (relevant, interesting, original, etc.) and ignoring or downplaying the bad. When I talk about throwing everything out there and letting the marketplace sort it out, these post-filters are the voice of the marketplace. They channel consumer behavior and amplify it, rather than trying to predict it.

Microsoft, RSS and Attention

Nick Bradbury writes:

What was interesting about Microsoft’s announcement was that they didn’t talk much about search, which is surprising given the huge competition they face from Google and Yahoo. In my opinion, a big part of the growing interest in RSS is about how search can be improved by watching what you read via RSS.

One of the most powerful things about RSS is that it breaks information into individual items – bite-size chunks, if you like – which theoretically enables tools and services to find out what you’re paying attention to. The more that’s known about what you’re paying attention to, the more relevant information the service can automatically provide for you (and the more irrelevant information the service can automatically discard).

This may sound Orwellian to some, but it’s actually very useful, and it’s already widely-used. Think of the books that Amazon recommends to you based on previous purchases, or the DVDs that Netflix recommends based on past choices. They do that by looking at what you’ve paid attention to in the past. I like this, and I want more of it – especially if what I pay attention to in one service could help me find relevant information in another service.

Now, Microsoft plans to add a common RSS feed list and feed store to Longhorn, which means that instead of requesting feeds via HTTP, aggregators like FeedDemon would request them through Longhorn’s RSS APIs – enabling Windows to find out what you’re paying attention to. That sounds incredibly useful for developing personalized search, doesn’t it?

Greasemonkey

Nivi writes: “Greasemonkey is a Firefox extension which lets users add ‘user scripts’ (DHTML, technically) to any web page. These scripts can change any aspect of a web pages behaviour, interaction, or design. This little baby is going to blow up business models.”

TECH TALK: South Korea’s IT839: Prologue

Deciding on a Tech Talk topic is always a challenge. While I do have a list of dozen or so topics on hand, it is not until the Saturday night before the Sunday morning when I actually start writing out the Tech Talk that I actually make a decision on what to write. I will then mull over the various topics and pick one of them. To make things easier when I actually start writing, I create an outline of the various ideas that I want to cover. All of this makes sure that when I sit to write on the Sunday morning the words flow out smoothly.

So, where do the actual ideas for the Tech Talks emerge? There are many sources a conversation I had with someone can spark off a thought which could later grow into a Tech Talk, something I read which I feel needs more detailed thinking (so writing becomes one way to do that), or a random thought which seems interesting enough to explore further. Keeping a list of topics handy also ensures that as I come across thoughts or ideas related to these topics, I can file them away (mentally) or abstract them on the blog for later reference.

I also try and make sure I write the Tech Talks at least a week in advance else the pressure of the last-minute can become quite acute. On most occasions, I have managed to do this. This ensures that should something urgent come up on the Sunday, I am not caught in a situation where I dont have any Tech Talk to post on a Monday morning.

When I started the Tech Talk series just under five years ago (November 2000), I had always worried that one day Id run out of topics and ideas to write on. But luckily, that hasnt happened yet. I have kept a diverse set of readings and interests, and at any point of time, there is a list that has never come down to zero. So, I think Ill be going on and on! All in all, the writing of Tech Talks has been a great experience and looks likely to continue. There is enough of action happening in the world of technology and emerging markets that one needs to keep the cycle of reading-thinking-writing continuing.

So, it was on a Saturday evening that I found myself reading Business Week over dinner (I am one of those people who just have to be reading something while eating) that I came across a story that caught my attention. South Korea has, over the past few years, emerged as a cradle for new technologies. So, keeping an eye on what is happening there is important to get a glimpse of tomorrows world. This Business Week story on South Korea was all about emerging technologies and a government plan called IT839.

Tomorrow: The Context