New Age Digital Culture

Arun Katiyar (CEO of Seraja, in which I have an investment) writes:

Capturing events is becoming simpler every day. Today, digital cameras and MP3 recorders, web cams and mobiles, have become so pervasive that practically anything we want captured, can be documented. Kids have begun to use these devices as if they were born with it.

The problem is exactly this: what does one do with the vast amount of unstructured data being thrown up by digital recording devices and sensors that all of us own?

Essentially, what we are looking at is this: People are willing contributors of knowledge and their time. They need a simple system that helps them contribute when they want, from where they want and how much they want. And, more critically, if they need to stay anonymous, that need must be respected.

Mobiles and the Internet are making this possible. There are a number of event entry mechanisms which are coming up that help make sense of the unstructured data that digital devices capture.

Jimmy Wales on Search Wiki

SearchEngineLand has an interview with Wikipedia cofounder Jimmy Wales on the new search engine he is planning to launch:

There are a lot of things that we’ve learned in the wiki world on how to get communities involved and engaged to build trusted networks in communities.

A lot of the people who have tried to do this in the past have stumbled not on technical issues but on community issues … dmoz [The Open Directory] was too closed … that was their response because of the pressure of spammers … others have thought in terms of ranking algorithms. That’s not the right approach. The right approach allows for open dialog and debate and discussion.

If I had to speculate about it, I would say it’s several of those things, not just community involved with rating URLs but also community rating for whole web sites, what to include or not to include and also the whole algorithm … That’s a human type process that we can empower people to guide the spider.

Breakthrough of the Year

From Slashdot: “Last year, evolution was the breakthrough of the year; We found it full of new developments in understanding how new species originate. But we did get a complaint or two that perhaps we were just paying extra attention to the lively political/religious debate that was taking place over the issue, particularly in the United States. Perish the thought! Our readers can relax this year: Religion and politics are off the table, and n-dimensional geometry is on instead. This year’s Breakthrough salutes the work of a lone, publicity-shy Russian mathematician named Grigori Perelman, who was at the Steklov Institute of Mathematics of the Russian Academy of Sciences until 2005. The work is very technical but has received unusual public attention because Perelman appears to have proven the Poincar Conjecture, a problem in topology whose solution will earn a $1 million prize from the Clay Mathematics Institute.”

3-D Map of the Globe

SPIEGEL ONLINE writes: “Google and Microsoft are racing to provide computer users with a virtual world tour. Who will be the first to offer its readers a 3-D map of the globe?”

Gates and Google founders Sergej Brin and Larry Page know perfectly well that their digital maps represent the key to a future market potentially worth billions. The 3D Web, as Internet experts call it, could be a platform for new forms of advertising, social networking and online trading. Google Earth and Virtual Earth are like “a seed being sown,” according to Internet analyst Greg Sterling, who adds that he has “no idea” today what exactly will grow from that seed.

Amazon’s Best of 2006 List

Here. Among them:

# Books: Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap … and Others Don’t by Jim Collins
# Music: Taking The Long Way by Dixie Chicks
# DVD: Pirates of the Caribbean – Dead Man’s Chest (Two-Disc Collector’s Edition)
# Software: World of Warcraft
# Electronics: Apple iPods (various)

Web 2.0 Bubble Discussion

WSJ has a discussion between Todd Dagres and David Hornik:

Mr. Dagres begins: Web 2.0 is a bubble for 3 reasons: 1) There is far too much money chasing Web 2.0 deals. Too much money means too many companies getting funded at higher valuations. 2) There are virtually no barriers to entry in Web 2.0 and therefore the ability to develop a unique solution and sustain a competitive advantage is virtually nil. Therefore, it’s difficult for Web 2.0 companies to build long term value. 3) There is very little liquidity in the market for Web 2.0 companies.

Mr. Hornik responds: I do not believe that the existence of too much venture capital money chasing too few interesting ideas constitutes a bubble. The Web 1.0 bubble inflated because the public markets were willing to bet on unproven ideas. Public markets are ill suited to evaluating such risks. On the other hand, the venture capital community exists precisely to take on that risk. While many Web 2.0 companies will fail, they will not likely fail in significantly greater proportions than has been the case with other venture investments historically.

Social Networking and Healthcare

WSJ writes: “The social-networking revolution is coming to health care, at the same time that new Internet technologies and software programs are making it easier than ever for consumers to find timely, personalized health information online. Patients who once connected mainly through email discussion groups and chat rooms are building more sophisticated virtual communities that enable them to share information about treatment and coping and build a personal network of friends. At the same time, traditional Web sites that once offered cumbersome pages of static data are developing blogs, podcasts, and customized search engines to deliver the most relevant and timely information on health topics.”

Mobile Data

Michael Mace thinks much more than just flat-rate data pricing is needed to make mobile data usage take off. Among them:

1. Provide a consistent architecture that works offline. This is probably the most critical need. Web applications depend on having a constant connection between the user’s computer and the Internet. That’s not practical for the mobile Web. Even in countries with heavy 2G coverage, there are lots of gaps in the 3G network, and will be for many years. Mobile Web apps need to work like RIM’s e-mail client, which stores both the program itself and the user’s data locally and then sends the data to the network when a connection is available.

That means just bundling a browser is not enough. The phones will also need software installed on-device that can manage applications and data when the user is offline. That could be an operating system like Windows Mobile or Palm or Symbian, it could be an applications layer like Adobe Apollo or Java, or it could be other software that the web community will create if given the chance. This software layer will need to be consistent across phones, just as HTML is consistent across all browsers.

Phones and Privacy

Michael Mace writes about a comment made by Palm CEO Ed Colligan: “The phone is one of the few private spaces left. People may resist intrusions there. The ads will have to be incredibly creative in order to be accepted.”

TECH TALK: The Best of 2006: 5. Widgets

If 2005 saw the rise of Ajax and mashups, then 2006 was the year in which Widgets started coming into their own. David Beisel summarised this nicely:

The real (and largely uncovered) story of 2006 is the emergence of online syndication widgets. I didnt see the importance of a few simple lines of portable HTML code affecting the online space so dramatically, and I suspect most others didnt either.

First, it should be said the rise of online video was fueled in part by widgets YouTube built a good portion of their own traffic through the syndication of their player throughout the net (and especially on MySpace). Many photosharing sites (like Photobucket and Filmloop) similarly based their viral expansion on syndication of their hosted content through widgets on MySpace and other social networks. The success of these services spurred Fox Interactive Media into launching TheSpringBox, a widget platform for MySpace users that also works on the desktop. Similarly, Google released Google Gadgets in May, and Yahoo released the long-awaited Universal binary of the Yahoo! Widget Engine version 3.1.4 that month as well. In my own daily consumption of information, blogs like Widgify and Flying Seeds became staple reading.

Of course, numerous startups got into the mix rising social networking star Bebo launched Bebo Widgets last week, Widgetbox/PostApp provides a directory of widgets, and most of the social shopping sites leverage them for user-expression. Widgets are now the building blocks of the emerging set of personalized start pages. The Chumby promises to expand the reach of our widgets from our computer screen and into the rest of our homes.

Monday: Mobile Web

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Free SMS Greetings on MyToday

We have launched a free SMS Greetings service from MyToday.com for Indian mobile users.

MyToday SMS Greetings allows you to send free greetings via SMS to any mobile in India. You can type 110 characters worth of message while the remaining 50 characters are used for MyToday ads.

Visit www.MyToday.com from either your phones or computers browser. Please check the cost of GPRS data with your operator, if you are using the on-phone browser. [You will need to register by sending an SMS from your phone, if you are not already registered with MyToday.]

Have a wonderful New Year!

Evolution of Computing

VNUnet has an interview with Vint Cerf (now with Google):

We have gone from simple switching in the phone

system to tubes to transistors to integrated circuits and that has had a profound effect. It has produced powerful, small devices using very little power.

Some people think Moores Law has been outgrown, but we keep finding yet more ways to tweak CMOS chip technology to make it run faster with less power, and its potential is not exhausted yet. We will eventually run out of capacity for that technology, of course.

The other dramatic change is in widespread high-capacity networks.

Today, we have computers in our pockets, embedded in cars, in the house and so on. The internet has 400 million machines connected to it not including laptops, PDAs, and the 2.5 billion internet-enabled mobile phones.

So we have two billion devices on the internet, but only one billion users. If we extrapolate that, we will have billions of devices interacting with an unpredictable effect on the network.

Two 2007 Trends

HipMojo writes:

First, it should be noted that video consumption amongst users will become even more commonplace. Smart media companies like News Corp. are putting a lot of their good stuff online, even those who do not put it all out there and experimenting, like Walt Disneys ABC.

But, what I see becoming more and more mainstream is something that has been brewing louder and louder this year. People will begin to increasingly get their virtual newspapers (proverbially speaking) delivered to them; via RSS (Real Simple Syndication) and other means, be it in their inbox, on their blogs or social network profiles (see how everything gels?).

Mobile Marketing Challenges

MocoNews blogs about a WSJ interview with Courtney Jane Acuff, an associate director at Denuo, the Publicis Groupe consultancy:

The number one obstacle is privacy. Advertisers must be doubly careful their mobile campaigns are not intrusive. And even if they manage this, they face their second biggest challenge: lack of inventory. Certain content providers are offering inventory, such as ESPN, which has advertising opportunities that can include banners and logos. They offer the ability to sponsor text messages. Fox also has opportunities, and it has taken off a bit, where advertisers can create unique content for the mobile device. But there is still a long way to go to having traditional media embrace putting content on cellphones. Finally, there is the third barrier which revolves around consumer education or more specifically a lack of it.

Education 2.0

Alan Moore points to a story in eSchoolNews:

Within five years, Hirsch predicts, not a single desktop in this 52,000-student school system in metropolitan Dallas will carry the image of a proprietary school software program. Gone will be the familiar Microsoft applications and desktop icons that over the years have become synonymous with document creation. In their place will be a suite of lesser-known, but equally capable alternatives–or, what Hirsch likes to call “open technologies.”

Though some might see his plans as ambitious, Hirsch is hardly alone in his dreams. Plano ISD is part of a fast-growing cadre of school districts across the country actively exploring the use of free web-based services and open-source school software alternatives.

Last summer, the state of Indiana announced a plan to deploy more than 24,000 computers with Linux operating systems in its schools. At the time, the project–called inAccess–represented the largest single distribution of Linux-based technology in U.S. K-12 schools (see story: Desktop Linux rolls into Indiana). Experts estimate the deployment could expand to more than 170,000 desktops across the state by the end of this year.

Blackberry Pearl

The Raw Feed writes that the Pearl is the future of phones: “Like today’s best smart phones, the pocket communication gadget of the future will be an ‘everything device.’ At a minimum, it will function as a laptop, digital camera, video-capable media player, voice recorder, handheld, speakerphone and more. But unlike today’s bulky, boxy, bloated Treos, BlackBerries and Windows Mobile smart phones, future offerings will be as tiny, thin, light and sleek as the smallest of today’s not-so-smart phones. Don’t look now, but the SMART PHONE OF THE FUTURE HAS ARRIVED. RIM’s BlackBerry 8100, the Pearl, is the first of a radical new generation of smart phones.”

TECH TALK: The Best of 2006: 4. Persistent Search

The Search box has become the window to the world of the Internet. And with it, Google has become the centre of our lives. But what comes after search? While there are plenty of variations on search itself (local, classifieds, video), Bill Burnham suggested that it will be persistent search. [Or as I like to think of it, subscriptions.]

Simply put, Persistent Search allows users to enter a search query just once and then receive constant, near real-time, automatic updates whenever new content that meets their search criteria is published on the web. For example, lets say you are a stock trader and you want to know whenever one of the stocks in your portfolio is mentioned on the web. By using a persistent search query, you can be assured that you will receive a real-time notification whenever one of your stocks is mentioned. Or perhaps you are a teenager who is a rabid fan of a rock group. Wouldnt it be nice to have a constant stream of updates on band gossip, upcoming concerts, and new albums flowing to your mobile phone? Or maybe you are just looking to rent the perfect apartment or buy a specific antique. Wouldnt it be nice to get notified as soon as new items which roughly matched your criteria were listed on the web so that you were able to respond before someone else beat you to the punch? Persistent search makes all of this possible for end users with very little incremental effort.

Persistent Search presents search companies with the opportunity to build rich, persistent relationships with their users. The search engine that captures a users persistent searches will not only have regular, automatic exposure to that user, but they will be able to build a much better understanding of the unique needs and interests of that user which should theoretically enable them to sell more relevant ads and services at higher prices. They will also stand a much better chance of capturing all or most of that users ad-hoc queries because they will already be in regular contact with the user.

Tomorrow: Widgets

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Internet of Things

The Pondering Primate links to an article from ARNnet:

The RFID market has passed through the hype stage and is now coming of age in the channel, according to a Victorian pioneer in the technology.

“The real opportunity in the channel is around asset management because it’s a closed system,” Unique Micro Design’s Geoffrey Ramadan said. “Supply chain, meanwhile, has a more collaborative nature and you really need a mandate to push it through the supply chain.

“The mobile phone is converging into a general access terminal and there are a number of new compact devices coming out with bar-coding, GPRS, GPS, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth that are going to be very versatile.”

Ramadan predicted 2007 would be the year of mobility and ubiquitous computing and that RFID would take on a significant role.