Release 1.0 on Seraja

The December issue of Esther Dyson’s Release 1.0 is on When 2.0. “Time is all we’ve got. Our challenge is allocating that time, intersecting our time with that of others, managing the disposition over time of the resources we control. Time itself is abstract, but it takes on value as a measure of unique, un-tradable things: Juan’s presence, the use of Alice’s spare apartment, the time of a particular doctor or the attention of a specific audience. But computers know nothing of this, even though time is intrinsic to their operation and they can measure it with precision. They don’t understand how people value time, nor how time changes value – both its own value, and the value of the things it measures. Now at last we’re getting better tools to help us manage and allocate our valuable time.”

It also has a write-up on Seraja (which I have co-founded with Ramesh Jain, with Arun Katiyar as CEO).

So far, [Ramesh] Jain points out, most calendars are devoted to planning.He wants to use the calendar as a high-level index and create something he compares to Pensieve in the Harry Potter books: You take out someones memory, put it into Pensieve and everyone can share it.

The idea is to index and display content by time and place i.e. to index events.And then heres the magic EventWeb will process the content it finds or gets from users using the sorts of pattern- and object-recognition tools that characterize much of Jains previous work.What makes it interesting is that it will can process video objects as well as text-based event information. The service relies on indexing, classification and recognition algorithms. . .and people. As a service, it will both host its own content and object recognition, annotation and editing tools, and let users use the tools to manage and host both shared and their own content, with links to EventWeb. Imagine Wikipedia-style collaboration to generate metadata for any event-related content anyone can find.

I was delighted to see my name in Release 1.0. Its one of my favourite publications and a must-read for anyone interested in knowing future trends in technology. Well worth the subscription.

Banks and Online Security

WSJ writes:

More banks, driven by rising online identity theft and regulators’ concerns, are shopping for security technology to help ensure those logging into accounts are the customers they claim to be.

But while banks want security that is stronger than standard user names and passwords, they also don’t want the technology to turn off customers by diminishing the convenience of online banking.

Industry analysts think banks will employ several techniques to weigh risk and verify identities. One way is to halt any transactions from certain computers or countries with a high fraud risk. In addition to a user name and password, some of these new security systems add a fairly obscure personal question, such as “What was your high-school mascot?” Some also allow banks facing a suspicious transaction to send an extra four-digit security code for use online to a customer’s cellphone.

P2P Air Travel and Electric Power

Jon Udell writes:

Although the internet seems to touch every aspect of our lives, its network effects have yet to transform two major infrastructures: electric power and air travel. In earlier items — The energy web and Peer-to-peer air travel — I wrote about how we’ll expose these infrastructures to the kinds of network effects that we now take for granted when we use services like craigslist and eBay.

The visions are spelled out most clearly in the EPRI (Electric Power Research Institute) roadmap, a lucid prescription for an intelligent power grid, and in James Fallows’ Free Flight, which chronicles the efforts of Eclipse Aviation and others to create air taxi services that leverage thousands of regional airports like mine.

In the Web 2.0 era, we’re learning how to build and use software that enables us to collectively manage information resources. Those skills will serve us well in Web 3.0, when we expose other kinds of resources — power, transportation — to the same network effects.

Competing with Google

Umair Haque writes:

One way to qwn Google is through connected consumption. Google has proven time and time again that it doesn’t have a real competence in community. Most of it’s community-based initiatives are also-rans (Orkut, News, etc).

But communities are huge sources of value creation in a post-network economy – especially when they scale. That is, they realize increasing returns via viral and network economies of scale. So, for example, rather than Yahoo (etc) trying to roll it’s own communities, a much smarter play would be to begin acquiring vertical communities and build nonlinear returns to scale, because each acquisition price won’t reflect network benefits.

Vertical communities create value in two ways. First, they’re hyperefficient attention allocators. Second, that’s because they’ve built huge knowledge pools about their verticals. Check out Basenotes for a quick example. The trick is that few of them realize much value now, because their networks haven’t reached scale.

But the economics are clear: both of these sources of value creation are deeply disruptive to traditional consumer-facing industries. Where newspapers are today because of micromedia and ambient media, so tomorrow most consumer-facing industries will be because of communities – think magazines, department stores, and other mass players. And that means that a community roll-up player can exert huge market power over complementors – like Google – because it will own the edge of the value chain.

TECH TALK: Trains, Planes and Mobiles: Memories

When I think about train journeys, there are a few experiences which come to mind. First, the journeys between Mumbai and Pune that I did as a child and teenager. My grandparents live in Pune. In fact, I was born in Pune. Every vacation, Id go to Pune. Most often, we would take the Deccan Queen. It is a train I still love if one can love trains. The first thing that would strike you about the train was the blue-golden colour of the train most other train were a rusty brown. Then, there was the speed. It was the fastest train between Mumbai and Pune, covering the 192 kilometres distance in 3 hours 10 minutes. Finally, it was the food. Going on the DQ meant that I could eat the cutlets which were so yummy!

Ive done the Mumbai-Pune journey countless times. I knew I was a grown-up when I was allowed to travel on my own and didnt need an adult to accompany me. I always wished for a window seat because that meant that I could look out and get lost in my thoughts. The window seat also meant that the breeze would blow right in my face which I quite liked. Sitting at the window, Id also see the kilometer markers go by.

In the past decade, the Pune visits have became less frequent maybe one a year or so. When I have taken the train, it was in the air-conditioned chair car. The tinted glasses of the compartment disconnect one from the world outside. So, it didnt really matter whether I was in a train or not I was in my own world, cut-off from the outside. It was only when I sat in the train to Surat that the Pune train memories started coming back. There were lots of people all around and the world outside was so alive.

There are three other train journeys I remember and all were one-time experiences. In the late 1970s, my family and I took the Jammu Tawi express to Kashmir. I was about 11 or 12 years old then. It was the longest train journey I had taken then. It took 28 hours or so and we travelled across many states to reach Jammu. It was my first real glimpse of the vastness of India.

The other long Indian journey that I undertook was in 1988 just after I had graduated from IIT and before I left for the US for studies. I went to Madras (now Chennai) to meet a friend who lived in Pondicherry. The Mumbai-Madras journey was a long one almost 30 hours if I remember correctly. It was my first long journey down south.

My love affair with trains travelled with me to the US. But the New York Subway and Metro-North were just not the same! Once, when I had to go to California from New York to attend a conference, I decided on a whim to take the train cross-country. It was a few months before I was planning to return to India and I knew Id never do it later in life because three days in a train would probably be a luxury I couldnt afford once I began life as an entrepreneur. My manager agreed to let me take an extra day off, and so on a Thursday evening, I boarded the train from Grand Central in New York. The journey to Chicago was quite uneventful. But the California Zephyr that takes one from Chicago to Oakland is an out-of-the-world experience. The beauty of America comes out so well through this train ride.

Since then, most of my life has been in airplanes. Not quite the same thing, but the pressures of time mean that trains have taken a backseat in life. I still long for that long train journey. I hope Abhishek has inherited my love for trains it will give me an excuse to rediscover my own childhood.

Tomorrow: The Journey

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