PC Forum Memories

Kevin Maney reflects on a future without PC Forums:

The tech industry has suffered a death in the family. PC Forum is no more.

Which is a terrible blow because PC Forum was the industry’s most influential annual conference of the past 30 years. Uncountable careers were made and companies conceived there.

Best of all, though, are the stories: billionaire charade games, hot tub meetings, impromptu hotel room jam sessions.

I attended the last PC Forum in March and this is what I wrote.

RSS Topic Subscription

Read/Write Web writes about ZapTXT:

With the messy demise of PubSub, I’ve been looking for a decent keyword and topic subscription service to replace it. ZapTXT could very well meet my requirements, except for the odd fact that it doesn’t output in RSS (more on that below). You can currently only receive alerts as an email, IM or SMS.

Other than being sans RSS, ZapTXT’s latest release does offer a range of good features. You can now create a monitoring task across multiple feeds or URLs for specific keywords – they call this “task monitoring”, as opposed to per feed monitoring. It also enables you to refine your feedset for any given keyword search, there’s a Zap It! bookmarklet for your browser, a publisher ‘chicklet’ to allow bloggers to let their users receive notifications on interesting topics, nice OPML import/export options, a tag based system around feeds, and more powerful search (for example create a ZapTask using your trusted feeds with Apple, Cisco, Microsoft AND upgrade, downgrade, merger as keywords. You’ll get an alert every time any of these companies make the headlines for an upgrade, downgrade or merger).

Math Teaching

The New York Times writes in an editorial:

One of the most infamous fads took root in the late 1980s, when many schools moved away from traditional mathematics instruction, which required drills and problem solving. The new system, sometimes derided as fuzzy math, allowed children to wander through problems in a random way without ever learning basic multiplication or division. As a result, mastery of high-level math and science was unlikely. The new math curriculum was a mile wide and an inch deep, as the saying goes, touching on dozens of topics each year.

Under the new (old) plan, students will once again move through the basics addition, subtraction, multiplication, division and so on building the skills that are meant to prepare them for algebra by seventh grade. This new approach is being seen as an attempt to emulate countries like Singapore, which ranks at the top internationally in math.

Mobile Ajax

Ajit Jaokar writes in the context of SoonR:

This week, SoonR launched the first true Mobile Ajax application. Based on the Opera platform, SoonRs service truly leverages the power of Mobile Ajax.

I believe Mobile Ajax applications are a new and emerging class of applications, and this service is a trendsetter of a new wave of Mobile Web applications.

Here are some of the aspects of the service which showcase the power of this new class of applications:

a) The application is completely browser based no software to install on the client
b) It uses the power of Ajax to manage data, reducing latency , loading time and increases response time
c) It provides a better user interface using a web application that is closer to a native/PC based application than a typical web application
d) Distribution is via the web (but the application can also be distributed by the carriers)

The application itself provides a simple but useful service. In a nutshell, the SoonR service lets mobile users access their computers from any Internet-connected mobile handset.

TECH TALK: The Now-New-Near Web: River of News

Dave Winer created the river of news concept and has been talking about it for many years. He explains why it is so significant:

Here’s a scenario. Taking a trip. The plane lands, out comes the Blackberry. Check the voicemail, check email, then… What’s next? For me it would be to check the news, find out if anything happened while I was in the air. Did a scandal break? Another terrorist attack? Any interesting Apple rumors?

But there’s a lot of navigation involved, I call it the “hunt and peck” style of news-gathering, because I feel like a chicken in a yard, looking for a seed to eat. All that navigating is too much work on my desktop, but on a mobile device, that doesn’t have a mouse, or any kind of pointing device, not even arrow keys, it’s way to much work. But, my Blackberry has this wonderful scroll wheel, which is really all you need to read the news, if you arrange the information in the right way on the screen, and that way is the River of News.

Dave goes on to explain how it works:

Take a set of RSS feeds. Read them in random order, different every time. When you spot some new stories in a feed, ones that haven’t appeared before, add them to the flow, at the top of the page. Repeat until you’ve read all the feeds. Do it again in ten minutes.

This really isn’t new, it’s a variant of how blogs work, it’s a last-in first-out approach. As Paul Kedrosky points out, it’s even older than blogs, it’s how news wires work in the old teletype days. Want to find out what’s new, go into the TTY room and watch the stories scroll in on the typewriter.

Many people have never experienced this style of news reading, but it can be fascinating, even mesmerizing, and in my humble opinion, it’s a perfect fit for the mobile devices we carry with us these days.

If we think a little about it, watching the River of News is a bit like watching TV or listening to radio with one key difference. The River of News can be customised with our feeds. Looking ahead, I believe that there will be RSS feeds everywhere from people, from cameras on street corners, from business applications. We will set up our subscriptions to these feeds based on our interests. The mobile will be the primary consumption device in emerging markets like India for feeds. This will see the emergence of the New Web.

Next Week: The Now-New-Near Web (continued)

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