Harnessing Collective Intelligence

Tim O’Reilly writes:

A true Web 2.0 application is one that gets better the more people use it. Google gets smarter every time someone makes a link on the web. Google gets smarter every time someone makes a search. It gets smarter every time someone clicks on an ad. And it immediately acts on that information to improve the experience for everyone else.

It’s for this reason that I argue that the real heart of Web 2.0 is harnessing collective intelligence.

The world of Web 2.0 *can* be one in which we share our knowledge and insights, filter the news for each other, find out obscure facts, and make each other smarter and more responsive. We can instrument the world so it becomes something like a giant, responsive organism.

Betting the Company

Tom Evslin writes:

If youre the one who makes strategic decisions, youre betting the company every day whether you choose to acknowledge that youre putting the chips down or not. Doing nothing is a bet on the status quo. Usually thats the wrong bet in the long term but its an easy one to sell in the short term since you dont appear to be making a bet at all.

If youre a CEO no matter what size your company ask yourself each morning when you brush your teeth what youre betting your company on. If the answer is nothing, it means youre betting on the status quo without even making that decision explicitly. Very bad idea. Not why you get the big bucks.

Also read Tom’s follow-up post.

Microfinance in India

WSJ profiles SKS Microfinance:

Vikram Akula runs a company that doles out loans of $100 or less to desperately poor villagers so they can buy a water buffalo or a bicycle. But he’s hardly a typical do-gooder.

Mr. Akula, the 37-year-old founder of SKS Microfinance Pvt. Ltd., is at the forefront of the latest trend in “microlending,” or making tiny loans that help entrepreneurs lift themselves up from the lowest rungs of poverty. Long the province of charitable institutions, microlending is starting to attract the attention of big business. Intrigued by India’s red-hot economy and potential market of more than a billion consumers, financial giants such as Citigroup Inc., ABN Amro Holding NV and HSBC Holdings PLC have already provided millions of dollars for SKS to lend out. SKS, in turn, says it has notched up healthy profits for the past three years.

Dell’s Problems

The New York Times writes how the tide has turned for Dell:

The growth market, for one, is no longer in the United States, but in China, India and Eastern Europe, where it is harder to reach a mass market online. Retail sales of desktop PC’s now outpace laptops, which consumers are more likely to want to test the heft of before they buy.

More than anything else, Dell’s competitors have changed. In particular, Hewlett-Packard is no longer the bloated and slow-moving company it was six years ago. Mark V. Hurd, Hewlett’s chief executive hired in early 2005, has cut costs and focused his company on profitability while speeding its growth in printing and corporate data centers as well as personal computers, which in 2002 lost the company $400 million. Last year, it made $660 million selling PC’s.

MSN Spaces Mobile

Wap Review writes: “So what’s new with the mobile version of Spaces? A major change is that if you have a photo album on your Space it now also appears in the mobile version. Also new is keyword searching of all of Spaces. Search, which was added to mobile at the same time that the full web version got it, is helpful in finding blogs and items that match your interests and is also the easiest way to jump from one Spaces blog to another. The appearance of blog posts has been improved – more of the formatting is carried over to the mobile version.”

TECH TALK: Four Blog Years: Looking Ahead

The past four years have seen significant change in blogging and the future will see more. The number of people blogging continues to grow rapidly. Technorati tracks nearly 40 million sites. It is estimated that China alone will have 60 million bloggers in a few years. Podcasting is taking off in a big way, as is blogging from the mobile. Sites like MySpace and Facebook have integrated blogging into social networks and self-expression pages. In India, blogging is still small in its use and impact, but will grow in the coming years.

I see blogging evolving in three different directions in the future building on the themes that we have seen in the recent past:

  • Mobile and Multimedia Blogging: This will be driven more from users in emerging markets like India and China. Empowered with phones which serve as digital cameras and voice (or video) recorders, mobile phones will widen the circle of bloggers. Not everyone wants to (or can) write, but anyone can take a photo and share it. Nokias recent campaign for its N-series mobile phones (or multimedia computers, as they aim to term the phones) is focused around moblogs. High-speed mobile data networks will bring alive the world of our friends and family on a device in our hands.
  • Corporate use of Blogs: This has been slower that I anticipated. Blogging is a great way to capture the tacit knowledge in people and an alternate to the cc/bcc email virus that we are all plagued by. But it is happening and will continue. It is less visible from the outside because it takes place behind firewalls. Blogs (along with wikis) are a nice way to capture internal information flows and build a repository of what people know and think.
  • Topic-based Public Aggregators: I may be biased here, but I think that the use of public aggregators like our MyToday will grow. Not everyone wants to create their own collection of feeds and then track them on an ongoing basis. I would much rather leave that work to experts and then follow the collective output of their writings in a river of news.

    Personally, my blogging will continue. I feel more comfortable writing than speaking, so podcasts from me still are quite some time away! The look of the blog has remained pretty much the same over the past four years that is perhaps the only thing Id like to change. All in all, it has been a fascinating experience blogging, learning and meeting people I otherwise would probably never have come in contact with. Thats one thing Id like to go on and on and on.

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