Inside-Out Web

Forbes has an essay by David Gelernter:

The next Web–the Worldbeam, we call it–will resemble today’s Web imploded or, if you prefer, turned inside out. It will be a single global “information beam.” Every Web page ever posted is in this beam. Whenever someone updates a page or designs a new one, it is added to the end. The Worldbeam is a stream of many separate documents–or a beam with many documents dissolved in it, held in suspension. Both metaphors are useful.

The Worldbeam is a constantly growing journal or time line of electronic documents. Its storage is dispersed over many machines for reliability and safety, but to users the Beam looks like one structure. Like so much contemporary software, it is created by two programs working together, one on a server (or many servers) and another on your own machine; these programs allow your machine to be an “empty” computer most of the time. Information is downloaded automatically and fast when you need it, and erased when you don’t.

Ultimate Travel Community Site

Brad Feld writes:

Im looking around for something like is the intersection of a deep content site like Yahoo Travel with a real social network / UGC site like the stuff at YourRunning.com. There would be a couple of pivot points: the user, the trip, a group around a trip, and groups of interests in trips. Each user would be able to generate a blog and other user generated content (video, photos, comments) around a specific trip. Groups would be able to communicate with each other (via whatever the appropriate messaging is – including real time stuff like Twitter.) All the data would be persistent so someone interested in a specific trip could see what was good and what was bad. Search would be pervasive and accurate across all the content on the site.

Online Advertising

Fred Wilson writes, following Yahoo’s purchase of RightMedia:

Clearly the online ad market is hot, particularly the “display” side of the business. Both Right Media and Doubleclick are in the “infrastructure” part of the business. Doubleclick leads the market in ad serving, the most basic online ad function. And Right Media leads the market in the exchange side of the business, bring buyers and sellers together and providing transparency to everyone involved.

I think there is a lot more that can and will be done around exchanges. To date, Right Media has operated at the low end (remnant inventory) of the market. That’s because the low end of the market benefits most from the efficiencies that come from an exchange. But over time I believe the entire online ad market will become exchange driven and everyone will benefit from that.

So I don’t think these transactions mark the mature/consolidation phase at all. I think there’s tremendous opportunity ahead in online advertising. But entrepreneurs and investors should learn the lessons of Doubleclick and Right Media. Build a dominant position in a valuable sector of the business and you’ll be rewarded handsomely.

Mobile Social Networking

The New York Times writes:

The social networking phenomenon is leaving the confines of the personal computer. Powerful new mobile devices are allowing people to send round-the-clock updates about their vacations, their moods or their latest haircut.

New online services, with names like Twitter, Radar and Jaiku, hope people will use their ever-present gadget to share (or, inevitably, to overshare) the details of their lives in the same way they have become accustomed to doing on Web sites like MySpace.

Unlike the older networking sites, which are still largely used on PCs, these new phone-oriented services are bringing the burgeoning culture of exhibitionism to more exotic and more personal locations. They are also contributing to the general barrage of white noise and information overload something that even some participants say they feel ambivalent about.

TECH TALK: Doing Education Right: Changing Objectives

By Atanu Dey

The education system is embedded in the bigger socio-political order of the economy. To a large degree, the larger system dictates the characteristics of its subsystems. In its broadest terms, the government of India is an extractive and exploitative system created specifically for that purpose during the hundred years of its existence as a British colony before it became politically independent. The British, as a colonial power, created a system designed to control every aspect of the economy to maximize their extraction. The challenge of administering such a large population required a certain small percentage of the native population to be educated in a very specific way. Therefore the total and absolute control of the education system was a necessity.

Even after British left, the structures they had created for controlling the economy in general, and the educational system more specifically, remained intact. The new political leaders saw it was beneficial for them not to deviate from the old colonial goal of imposing an extractive and exploitative government on the people. By continuing to control the education system, they were able to impose a degree of control over the population that would be unthinkable in a free society.

Universal primary education was especially neglected because it would have given rise to universal literacy. Universal literacy is not a good thing if the status quo is to be maintained in a regime which allows freedom of the press. It is safe to allow a free press if two out of three people cannot read. Freedom of the press is not meaningful in a society of illiterates. We should note in passing that whether literate or not, people can hear and speak. So while the press was allowed freedom in a largely illiterate society, radio was absolutely government controlled, consistent with the aim of an exploitative and extractive system.

To be perfectly clear, whether a system is judged to be a failure or not depends on the objective that the system was created to serve. The Indian education system is definitely successful because it does meet the objectives that the British created it for, and which the successive Indian governments have implicitly endorsed: control the supply of education and dictate to the finest detail the nature of the education provided and to whom. Universal primary education, or even universal literacy, was never its goal. To fault the current educational system on its inability to meet the needs of a developing society is to miss the point that it was meant as an instrument for extractive purposes.

If the preceding picture painted hastily with broad brush strokes is reasonably accurate, then it implies that for the education system to serve the needs of a developing nation, the objectives of the system will have to change. Since the same structure cannot serve an orthogonal set of objectives, the whole system will have to be redesigned. If there is one thing I would like to convey in this brief series, it is this: change the system radically if it has to serve a different objective. It should be evident that anything less than a radical re-thinking of the system would be a pointless waste of time.

The current educational system has an objective dictated by the British and which the governments of independent India inherited: To choose from within the huge population a small subset and educate them so that they will serve the needs of the government. That objective should have been replaced with something like this: To develop the human potential of every citizen in the broadest sense, so that the individual is best able to serve his own interests and the interests of the world he lives in. In other words, the citizens are not seen as serving the interests of the government but instead the governments objective is to serve the people.

The alternate objective would require liberalizing the education sector from government control. We will go into some specifics of the liberalization of the sector later in the series.

Write to atanudey at gmail.com if you have questions or comments.

Tomorrow: Thinking ROI

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