New Portals

David Sacks writes:

The core question a portal needs to answer for a user is How do I find the information I need?

In the early days of the web, the answer was browsing, which made sense when there were a limited number of useful sites. (Remember when it was a big deal for Yahoo to put the New! or Recommended icon next to a websites name in their directory?) But as the number of websites became infinite, search replaced browsing as the dominant paradigm for finding new sites, and Yahoos failure to keep up in this area allowed Google to take the lead.

Facebook has a new answer to the portal question. The social graph, or your network of relationships, will push information to you. Youll learn from your friends. Thanks to Facebooks new developer platform, the types of information being disseminated now include not just news, photos, events, and groups but also music, videos, books, movies, causes, political campaigns and the list is rapidly growing into almost every conceivable category.

Mobile Advertising

RCR Wireless News writes: “Like many new mediums, mobile is a stand-alone channel for many advertisers and vendors at the moment, but wont be for long. The longer-term vision for mobile marketing includes integration with Internet, TV, radio, print, outdoor, product packaging and in-store, to name a few of the obvious options being explored today. Advertisers will use the phone both as a direct response mechanism (e.g., voting, sweepstakes from product packaging) and as a tool for delivering personalized ads. Direct response will also be a component of the advertising as it is online.”

Changing Industries

Tomi Ahonen writes:

In our book we talk about the 4C’s: Commerce, Culture, Community & Conectivity as a means to reliably map whether a commercial initiative will succeed or fail in todays world. We believe you need all 4.

I was asked, what comes next? The 2.0 question. And It was a good question.

My view is that, we are just about witnessing the dramatic reordering of the media industry, and in fact many other industries driven by the falling cost of technology, the fact we are a We species, and the fact that today we are all capable of creating and distributing, knowledge, information and culture.

So what next? The next is the reordering of Medicine Education and Politics. No aspect of what makes our civil society tick will be left untouched. Darwinism is upon us. Forcing us to adapt or die.

Newspapers Future

Andy Kessler wrote in the Wall Street Journal: “Rather than just charge for content, I’d be licensing every type of newfangled software and Web service until I could come up with a tight community of interest around my newspaper, local or national. Don’t just start the discussion, keep it. This means comments, reviews, personalized newsfeeds, social networks of like-minded readers, whatever. Give advertisers a little “link love” so they don’t stray to generic search engines. Google, Microsoft and others dropped over $10 billion to buy online ad-delivery companies in the last few weeks alone. The value is there: Newspapers aren’t in the printing business, they’re in the ad business.”

Adobe and Mobiles

Knowledge@Wharton has an interview with Adobe’s Shantanu Narayen:

Our core strategy in the mobile space is, first, to make sure we have the Flash user environment available on as broad a set of handsets as possible. Flash is being used for a couple of different purposes on those devices today — to browse the web and to create a compelling new user experience. Increasingly, it will be used to deliver services with a TV-like metaphor or a channel metaphor on these particular devices.

The good news is that we have relationships with most of the major handset manufacturers. As you see new handsets being introduced into the U.S., I think you will see the volume of Flash-enabled handsets increase year-in and year-out. We just announced at [the] 3GSM [conference] that we have over 200 million alternate devices that are now shipping with Flash. A lot of that was driven initially by Japan, but now over 70% of that volume is being driven outside Japan. You are seeing the new generation of phones shipping with Flash.

TECH TALK: Black Swan: Definition

One of the books I have been eagerly looking forward to reading is Nassim Talebs The BlackSwan. I first came across Nassim Taleb in one of our Book Club meetings, via Chetan Parikh. I then read Fooled by Randomness, Talebs first book. I also have made references to the Black Swan in a number of my blog posts and Tech Talks (here is one) in the past. And so, it was with great eagerness that I picked up Talebs new book. I recommend you do the same. In this Tech Talk series, I will take you through what various people (including Taleb) have to say about Black Swans.

Lets start with a definition of Black Swan from the book: What we call here a Black Swan (and capitalize it) is an event with the following three attributes. First, it is an outlier, as it lies outside the realm of regular expectations, because nothing in the past can convincingly point to its possibility. Second, it carries an extreme impact. Third, in spite of its outlier status, human nature makes us concoct explanations for its occurrence after the fact, making it explainable and predictable[It can be summarized as a triplet]: rarity, extreme impact, and retrospective (though not prospective) predictability.

Business World spoke to Nassim Taleb. Excerpts from the interview:

What is a Black Swan?
Medieval Europeans had only ever seen white swans. In fact, any impossible event was termed a black swan. So, when the first settlers reached Australia, they were shocked to find black swans all over! Taleb’s black swans are those events that were once thought impossible, but when they occur, hit hard. In this extract, he writes about how we create narratives after black swan events; making them seem predictable after they occur.

Why are black swans important?
People say Taleb wants us to worry about meteorites hitting Earth. I want to help people navigate in a world where we dont have a clear understanding of reality. Black Swan is essentially a map of how to deal with such a reality. The book distinguished between [two imaginary places] Mediocristan and Extremistan. In Mediocristan, variations in any sample do not result in large deviations from the average. The question, then, is which domains or areas have highly consequential variables? These places are Extremistan.

What are some of the classic examples of black swan events?
A classic black swan event is the First War (World War I). It was not as predictable as people believe it was. Then you have all this technology computers, lasers. Their future uses could never be predicted when they were invented.

Wired also interviews Nassim Taleb:

With better models and more computational power, won’t we get better at predicting Black Swans?
We know from chaos theory that even if you had a perfect model of the world, you’d need infinite precision in order to predict future events. With sociopolitical or economic phenomena, we don’t have anything like that. And things are getting worse, not better, because the growing complexity of the world dwarfs any improvement in sophistication or computational power.

So what do we do? If we can’t forecast the really important things, how do we act?
You need to ask, “If the Black Swan hits me, will it help me or hurt me?” You cannot figure out the probability of a Black Swan hitting. But if you’re in a business that’s prone to negative Black Swans, like catastrophe insurance, I advise you not to take your forecasting seriously and to think about getting into a different business. You don’t want to be a sucker. What you want are situations where you can have as much of the good uncertainty as possible, where nothing too bad can happen to you, and where you have what I call free options. All of technology, really, is about maximizing free options. It’s like venture capital: Most of the money you make is from things you weren’t looking for. But you find them only if you search.

Wikipedia has more on Nassim Taleb.

Tomorrow: Book Excerpt

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