Social Web Apps

Bokardo writes:

In general, computers and software are taking an increasingly social role for us. Our behavior hasnt become all that much more social (although it certainly has for some) but were learning how to effectively model our social needs in software. Three years ago the social aspects of software was email and chat messaging. Now, its forging online identity as profiles and embedded messaging within applications. Its become always-on, which means that there is no distinction between offline and online anymore. We are not just modeling messaging, were modeling presence as well. This is a big shiftand our language reflects it. Im on MySpace means that we are figuratively and literally on the site.

I quoted Wil Wright recently, and I think hes (pardon the pun) right on. First thought of as super calculators, computers are now part of the social fabric of our lives. They are becoming integral to how we communicate with our family, friends, and colleagues. Theyre still doing calculations of course, but the software that weve designed for them is all about human-to-human contact. Social contact. And since were social animals in the end, the trend of modeling this in software wont be reversing any time soon.

Amazon’s aStore

ZDNet.com writes:

The service creates a dedicated retail environment that anyone can use to sell stuff in the Amazon catalog.

Everyone has something they want to recommend to others, and a lot of folks want to find ways to display their Amazon Wish List without looking too much like they are addicted to the idea of maintaining a permanent wedding registryit’s so unseemly to always be telling people what you want from them. The system was easy to understand and the product, a multi-page store with a front door consisting of feature products to which I was able to add my own descriptions, much more inviting than the typical list of Amazon links a blogger or Web site might display.

Saying No to School Laptops

WSJ writes about the US:

Now, some parents and educators are having second thoughts over higher-than-anticipated costs and the potential for inappropriate use by kids. At the same time, there is a sense that the vaunted benefits of constant computer access remain unproven. The programs are increasingly under attack — and in a few cases are crumbling.

Newspaper Websites

Todd Zeigler writes how newspapers can improve their websites. One of the nine ideas:

Link to Relevant Blog Entries. Sites like the Washington Post are already partnering with Technorati to show “Who’s Blogging” about the story you are viewing (see left). Why bother? If I’m a blogger writing about a news event, I’m going to link to the Post story as a way of promoting my entry. It is a great way to facilitate discussion about (and links to) your content. In addition, the “Who’s Blogging” feature serves as a real time letters to the editor page.

Mobile Ad Targeting

MediaPost has an interview with Tom Burgess, CEO of Third Screen, the largest mobile ad network. Excerpts:

Burgess: We see the industry as being at a critical threshold. Specifically, we see 4Q06 and 1Q07 as a time when advertisers will, for the first time, be able to track unique users. Carriers never had a reason to track user behavior except for billing purposes. Over the past month or two, there’s been the beginning of what feels like a sea change. We now are seeing tier-one carriers ready to leverage unique user ID data to collect information about content usage… by unique user number. So for the first time [there’s] data about exactly where and how mobile users are spending their time, information carriers have had but never aggregated in advertiser-friendly form. If you’re tracking by unique user ID, you now know when and where you’re reaching a specific consumer, so can begin to use frequency caps so advertisers can better target timing and avoid extraneous placements.

TECH TALK: The Now-New-Near Web: India Scenario

In countries like India, however, even the Reference Web hasnt been created well. There have been three problems. The first challenge has been that the existing Internet players havent really made the investments to build out this Web focusing instead more on communications-oriented services like email and IM. The second challenge has been the diversity of India itself especially, the languages spoken. English is not good enough for the mass market. Finally, the user base so far has not demanded an India Reference Web primarily because access to the Web has been limited on account of both the low computing penetration, and the limited and expensive communications options. All of this has resulted in a Web that, from the perspective of Indian users, has excellent global information, but very limited local information.

This is not to say that the Indian Web is doomed. There have been a number of success stories jobs and matrimonial sites have thrived, as have online trading and ticketing sites. In the first two cases, the Web serves as an information marketplace connecting people much more efficiently than is possible through print-based classifieds. In the latter two cases, the Web is making commercial transactions much more efficient bypassing traditional intermediaries.

In this context, Search on the Reference Web has obvious limitations since local content is still quite limited. Rediff has tried to provide an alternative to the single web search box with options to search for airfares, jobs, ringtones, classifieds and product prices.

All of this is just the start. What India needs is a grassroots revolution in the way publishing takes place. Users will come once they find the right information available online. The pain points in India are about finding the locally relevant information. Given the time that has passed, I cannot see this process being centrally driven. No single entity can make this happen. Also, building complex websites for consumption on the PC is going to be quite limited in its adoption as we have seen. A large number of Indian websites that exist are not updated as often as they should be. No surprise because the users arent really going out there and looking for them anyways!

Indian content creation will need to be focused differently. Instead of assuming consumption on PCs, the baseline should be that the content is more likely to be consumed on the mobile. Instead of trying to focus on static, reference-based content, the focus should be on whats new, whats happening now, and what is contextually relevant (near) the users. Another way to look at the N3 Web is to think of it as the Incremental Web for space, time and topics. Now is the Incremental Web centred around time. New is the Incremental Web centred around topics. Near is the Incremental Web centred around space.

Tomorrow: The Opportunity

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Return of the Platform

C. Enrique Ortiz writes:

Two things define the essence of Web 2.0: 1) social network software, and 2) services on the web. And the common denominator between these two is collaboration.

At the center of social networks software are human relationships and interactions that are facilitated through web portals, providing easy access and sharing to/with others – the ability collaborate with others. “Social networks” is the power behind the successes of virtual communities such as MySpace, Facebook and others. “Social networks” is also at the center of how services on the web are being produced and consumed, as seen by the current number of Mashups, and the new ones that come into existence almost on a daily basis.

Services on the web is the foundation, the engine, the platform that fuels today’s (and the future) web – this is software developed as services. And these services are the new platform…

Outdoor Ads Enhanced

WSJ writes:

Outdoor advertising, one of the oldest forms of advertising, is reinventing itself. The $23 billion industry is introducing digital technology to change ads faster, new ways of measuring viewers, and billboards that beam information to cellphones. As a result, outdoor advertising companies — which provide billboards, posters and video screens in public places — are now seeing bigger gains than many competitors.

Because outdoor advertising is much less expensive than TV spots, it still accounts for a smaller part of overall ad spending. But it has become the second-fastest growing form of advertising, behind the Internet, according to market-research and media-buying firms.

The Importance of Demographics

[via Sadagopan] Malcolm Gladwell writes:

The relation between the number of people who arent of working age and the number of people who are is captured in the dependency ratio. In Ireland during the sixties, when contraception was illegal, there were ten people who were too old or too young to work for every fourteen people in a position to earn a paycheck. That meant that the country was spending a large percentage of its resources on caring for the young and the old. Last year, Irelands dependency ratio hit an all-time low: for every ten dependents, it had twenty-two people of working age. That change coincides precisely with the countrys extraordinary economic surge.

Demographers estimate that declines in dependency ratios are responsible for about a third of the East Asian economic miracle of the postwar era; this is a part of the world that, in the course of twenty-five years, saw its dependency ratio decline thirty-five per cent. Dependency ratios may also help answer the much-debated question of whether India or China has a brighter economic future. Right now, China is in the midst of what Joseph Chamie, the former director of the United Nations population division, calls the sweet spot. In the nineteen-sixties, China brought down its birth rate dramatically; those children are now grown up and in the workforce, and there is no similarly sized class of dependents behind them. India, on the other hand, reduced its birth rate much more slowly and has yet to hit the sweet spot. Its best years are ahead.

Mobile Web Usability

Wap Review writes:

My fellow mobilist and host of this weeks Carnival of the Mobilists, Daniel Taylor at Mobile Enterprise Weblog has posted an interesting piece on mobile web usability or lack there of. Daniel’s article, Who Designs This Stuff? describes the difficulties and frustrations that he experienced trying to accomplish something on the mobile web that should have been easy – getting the arrival time of a airline flight.

The problems Daniel experienced are typical of the frustration that many users experience when they first try to use the mobile web. The good news is that the causes of some of these difficulties are relatively easy to fix.

Education and the Web

[via Smart Mobs] Judy Breck writes:

Education practice today does little more than toy with the emerging innovation of digital connectivitywhen, in fact, a new knowledge ecology it causes will have to become central to global learning for education as an institution to remain relevant into the future.

You may believe that education does not belong in the open chaos of the emerging Internet. But thinking that misses a wonderful new cognitive order of learning that emerges from the chaos of connected knowledge. Education should be right in there with the other major elements in the ubiquitous mix of the Web world. The openness of the content within the Internet is a change for learning that is as complete as the invention of phonetic symbols was for language.

TECH TALK: The Now-New-Near Web: The Potential

This is what David Beisel wrote in March 2005:

For the past ten years, the web has been filled with static content using the HTTP protocol. Search engine relevance from for the past five years was derived from link analysis how many pages have linked to a particular page. The offline model equivalent of this structure is a yellow pages or encyclopedia.

Now, the web is becoming dynamic and ever changing. RSS is a more appropriate protocol to deliver this information. Relevance of content isnt just about how popular it is its about timeliness. So traditional search relevance is turned upside-down. The offline model equivalent is a newspaper.

The opportunity is so much greater than just blogging-related RSS and the Incremental Web will transform the way that all information is created, aggregated, and delivered. Individuals and corporations alike are now able to RSS anything. The key question: what does this mean for the creation of new content and the new enterprise value associated with that content?

Another related post in this context is one from Bob Wyman from February 2005:

The basic idea is to go beyond “mere” text in blogs and include structured XML that describes job-openings, events, new prices, press releases, updates to phone numbers and contact info, requests for proposals, etc. i.e. Using the now almost ubiquitous content syndication network to broadcast useful business *data* — not just prose or text commentaries. Blogging, or the more general idea of “syndication”, will have its most important and profitable impact on business by providing a new and effective way for businesses to broadcast data. The result is that in the future, we’ll see “blogging” built into corporate systems (ERP, CRM, etc.) that process data — not text.

Let me give just one example of structured blogging or syndication in business: If your business relies on building things with electronic parts, one of the problems you have is that the parts on your Bill of Materials (BOMs) are constantly being updated, repriced, replaced by new parts, etc. Today, it is very hard to keep track of all the announcements concerning parts that might impact all the BOM’s that your business produces. However, in the future, it is likely that what will happen is that parts suppliers will have “blogs” into which they will post “Change Notices” (using a structured form with fields for ‘part-number’, ‘Change-type’, ‘replacement-part’, etc.). Your company will then “subscribe” to the feeds generated by these blogs (either directly or via PubSub) and will send you notices when the Change Notices apply to BOM’s that your business relies on. As a result, you’ll be able to do a much better job of maintaining up-to-date BOMs and preventing production problems that result from parts-availability problems. The result is that some of the promise of EDI will, in fact, be accomplished via “blogging” or the use of syndication formats and systems. The future of business blogging is more than just text…

Astute readers would have noticed that most of the posts and thinking happened quite some time ago. Whats the connection between them, India and the present?

Tomorrow: India Scenario

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Web Platform Primer

Alex Iskold writes: “I’ve categorized the Web platform into 6 infrastructure building blocks and I will briefly outline some of the products that define each one. The common thread is that each product mentioned has an API, which means it can be integrated as a part of other services.”

Pinger for Voice Mail

SiliconBeat writes about a US-based service:

Here’s how it works: Pinger gives you a local number that you store in your phone under “speed dial.” Whenever you want to use the service, you press “p”, and it dials a local number. So far, you have just pressed one button.

Pinger then gives you a prompt, and then you simply say the name of the person you want to call (your phone must have the person’s contact details stored, such as email address and/or phone number). Pinger uses voice recognition (from Tellme) to look up their details. Pinger then gives you a second prompt, and you speak your message into the phone. Pinger then sends the audio message to the person’s email account, or to their phone via an SMS audio file. So the person on the other end can listen to it immediately or later — but the main point is, you’re not locked into actually talking with them.

Next Billion Mobile Users

David Kirkpatrick writes:

Despite the fact that more than two billion people worldwide already have cellphones, everyone agreed the growth opportunities are massive. “Most people are still not connected,” said Padmasree Warrior, CTO of Motorola.

The design challenges to reach the unconnected are great, she said. “The next billion are in China and India and places like that. And many of them can’t type or even read.”

Kamal Qadir is CEO of CellBazaar, a Bangladeshi company which operates an online Craigslist-like buying-and-selling service that rural businesspeople access exclusively over mobile phones. His company charges nothing for the service, making its money by sharing the revenues that cell carrier Grameen Telecom, the country’s largest, gets from carrying the calls.

Ramesh Jain Interview

DevSource has an interview with Ramesh Jain, with whom I have co-founded SEraja:

We’re all slaves to the keyword, Jain says. “This is a very primitive and poor mechanism” for finding information, he believes, and our understanding of what people are looking for is still very poor.

Today’s Web, says Jain, is a document Web. Everything is presented as a page. Yet, audio and video are becoming easier to store and disseminate, what Jain describes as an “event.” Figuring out how we’ll search through “events” is only one small piece of the problem. For example, as mobile phones become the primary client, people will use the devices to look for information: how do you design search tools for that platform?

TECH TALK: The Now-New-Near Web: Reference and Incremental Webs

It is important to first understand the different between the Reference Web and the Incremental Web. This is from a post by Rich Skrenta of Topix.net from February 2005:

Search has become the dominant navigational paradigm for goal-directed reference queries. But search is a poor way to stream new developments around a topic.

Google searches the reference Internet. Users come to google with a specific query, and search a vast corpus of largely static information. This is a very valuable and lucrative service to provide: it’s the Yellow Pages.

Blogs may look like regular HTML pages, but the key difference is that they’re organized chronologically. New posts appear at the top, so with a single browser reload you can say “Just show me what’s new.”

This seems like a trivial difference, but it drives an entirely different delivery, advertising and value chain. Rather than using HTML, the delivery protocol for web pages, there is a desire for a new, feed-centric protocol: RSS. To search chronologically-ordered content, a relevance-based search that destroys the chronology such as Google is inappropriate. Instead you want Feedster, PubSub or Technorati. Feed content may be better to read in a different sort of client, such as Newsgator, rather than a web browser.

While there’s been considerable deployment of goal-directed services, there has been little technology development around automated aggregation of relevant topic streams. Until now, this hasn’t been a problem. Most of the growth on the web over the past 10 years has been reference services. But now we’re seeing an explosion in the number of sources publishing new incremental content every day. Blogs certainly — but other sources too, such as news organizations, companies, and our increasingly web-enabled governments are pumping out gigabits of fresh news online every day. There is a vast proliferation of new incremental content underway.

The Reference Web started off more than a decade ago. Various publishing tools made HTML publishing easy. It took a second-generation search engine like Google to convert the publishing that had taken place over the years into rich material that we could browse on-demand. One can thus think of Google as an information refinery for the Reference Web. This Web has grown to billions of pages and has all kinds of stuff that one could spend a lifetime looking over. This Web is now going multimedia with broadband networks now supporting the transmission of video.

Tomorrow: The Potential

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Inside Amazon’s EC2

ZDNet (Dan Farber) writes:

Call it “utility computing” or “Web-scale computing” or “on-demand infrastructure.” Whatever the case, Amazon is hoping that its new EC2 (Elastic Compute Cloudwhy not just S4?) Web service (in the larger sense, as both an interface and an on demand platform) will turn into a big business. In effect, Amazon is leveraging its massive infrastructure investment, providing it as a publically facing service for a variety of applications, first with S3 and now adding the server component.

I talked to Peter Desantis, director of EC2 about the target market for the service. “EC2 is aimed at developerseveryone from the developer in a dorm room rapid prototyping and wanting access to highly scalable computing capacity to see if an algorithm scales to 1,000 node to the fledgling startup without capital to pre-buy capacity for a spike that may happen or the established company looking for a novel way to increase flexibility of using computation or storage and to reduce cost,” he said.