Friday, 30 March 2007

On Danny Hillis, eLearning, Freebase, Metaweb, Semantic Web and Web 3.0

A highly recommended and very long post from Edge on Danny Hillis and his view on the future evolution of the web with interesting comments from leading thinkers like Stewart Brand (GBN), Jaron Lanier, Douglas Rushkoff, Marc Hauser, Bruce Sterling (Wired, WorldChanging), Esther Dyson, Freeman Dyson and Howard Gardner. It touches many, many emergent web trends.

Semantic Web or Web 3.0 is about the World Wide Database instead of WWW. It is about structured, more machine readable data and information on the web. It is about advanced and accellerating eLearning, the next phase of the web after the current entertainment and community phase within Web 2.0. Focusing in factual and procedural knowledge. There are many interesting and current case studies integrating some aspects or technologies of the semantic web. Examples: FreeBase, Hakia, Radar Networks, MetaWeb, Joost and RealTravel. While I am not 100% sure about this at this moment, I do believe Google Base can be included in this space as well. It combines structured data with bottom-up, collective tagging systems.

What does this all mean ?
- Machine learning -> more outsourcing of (factual) tasks to bots and agents -> people will devote more time towards local low-end services, higher-level (symbolic) thinking and other human-specific skills/talents like soft skills (intuitive creativity, communicative/emotional/social skills). 
- Better search engine results/experiences -> higher productivity and more innovation
- More self-aware/correcting nature of online articles/posts dynamically integrating feedback loops on predictions in their texts. This allows for more easily deciphering the true nature of experts making future claims in their fields. This is a boost for reputational systems. Think more structured Wikipedia self regulation.
- Better data remixes/mash-ups -> higher productivity and more innovation
- Less impact of SEO (spam) tactics due to rise of structured and verified (!) data (formats) like PICS, Content Labels and microformats. The content of (commercial) websites will be indexed more authentically bringing back a better search engine experience for end users
- Deepens the impact, breadth and relevance of Mixed and Augmented Reality (AR) applications

Most importantly in my view is that a Knowledge Web has to take into account the mental, evolutionary state of the recipient as to be truly effective. Communication and learning is a two-way street. How does the Knowledge Web know about this mental state ? Through personalization ? Behavorial, contextual, profiled, social networked history ? Through emotional sensing ? MIT and DARPA (Pentagon) are working on these (recipient) items as well (Emotional Computing and Cognitive Augmentation).

"As useful as the Web is, it still falls far short of Alexander's tutor or even Vennavar Bush's Memex. For one thing, the Web knows very little about you (except maybe your credit card number). It has no model of how you learn, or what you do and do not know—or, for that matter, what it does and does not know. The information in the Web is disorganized, inconsistent, and often incorrect. Yet for all its faults, the Web is good enough to give us a hint of what is possible.

It is changing the way we learn. For example, one topic in the knowledge web might be Kepler's third law (that the square of a planet's orbital period is proportional to the cube of its distance from the sun). This concept would be connected to examples and demonstrations of the law, experiments showing that it is true, graphical and mathematical descriptions, stories about the history of its discovery, and explanations of the law in terms of other concepts. For instance, there might be a mathematical explanation of the law in terms of angular momentum, using calculus. Such an explanation might be perfect for a calculus-loving student who is familiar with angular momentum. Another student might prefer a picture or an interactive simulation. The database would contain information, presumably learned from experience, about which explanations would work well for which student. It would contain representations of many successful paths to understanding Kepler's law.

In retrospect the key idea in the "Aristotle" essay was this: if humans could contribute their knowledge to a database that could be read by computers, then the computers could present that knowledge to humans in the time, place and format that would be most useful to them.  The missing link to make the idea work was a universal database containing all human knowledge, represented in a form that could be accessed, filtered and interpreted by computers.

One might reasonably ask: Why isn't that database the Wikipedia or even the World Wide Web? The answer is that these depositories of knowledge are designed to be read directly by humans, not interpreted by computers. They confound the presentation of information with the information itself. The crucial difference of the knowledge web is that the information is represented in the database, while the presentation is generated dynamically. Like Neal Stephenson's storybook, the information is filtered, selected and presented according to the specific needs of the viewer.

Most search engines are about algorithms and statistics without structure, while databases have been solely about structure until now, Esther Dyson said."In the middle there is something that represents things as they are," she said. "Something that captures the relationships between things." That addition has long been a vision of researchers in artificial intelligence. "It's like a system for building the synapses for the global brain," said Tim O'Reilly."

Wednesday, 07 February 2007

On Branding = PR = Search = Wikipedia = Loss of Control ?

Modern marketing, branding and PR is more about how a company is ranked in different (blog) search engines, especially Google and Technorati due to their market share and impact. However, more and more searchers on the internet skip Google and Technorati alltogether and go directly to Wikipedia. Why ? Because Wikipedia is in most cases in the top 5 results of a search query anyway and so the searcher can be more efficient by going directly to Wikipedia as a starting point for discovery. And this is where very interesting (legal, philosophical and commercial) issues come to mind:

If Wikipedia becomes so fundamental to PR, branding and marketing, how can a company prevent and correct false statements from third parties when one can not afford an effective lawyer ? What is the impact of false statements - after being approved by the (social, cultural and technical) reputational systems of Wikipedia - on PR as the entries increasingly are distributed by means of RSS, SMS and/or e-mail ? Who is the real owner of Wikipedia entries ? Wikipedia, individual contributors, the topic item itself, none ? Is there a key difference in legal and non-legal claims ? What is acceptable diversity and what is unacceptable diversity of views ?

And how does this relate to the value and impact of tagging ? If people perceive and label you (collectively) one way but you see yourself in different (commercial) terms, how does this play out in terms of branding and PR ? Does this mean the advertising one-liner or positioning statements can be elusive or democratized ?

Can companies ultimately only accept the current policies of Wikipedia and tagging services and influence the Wikipedia results/pages and tagging effects by giving input themselves, albeit anonymously ?

Jimmy Wales talks about neutrality (NPOV policy; Neutral Point Of View) as a social (not legal !) concept and sharing the different views side by side when truth or objectivity can not be guaranteed. In the case above, this boils down to the situation that a false statement from a journalist in some media will be juxtaposed in a Wikipedia article with the 'correct' version(s) from the brand / company. As a result, this might dilute the brand value and equity. This is different from the situation in which there is a non-legal issue concerning a brand or company. This is about legal mistakes and the follow-up procedure within user generated content sites in general. This is about online identity and control. This is about the scope of your online identity. This is about BrandGossip, about BrandLies and about media relations. This is about the drawbacks of Digital Maoism as stated by Jaron Lanier in Edge.org in 2006

Sunday, 03 December 2006

On Google Your Life, Total Recall and Creativity

This article from Fast Company shows us a very broad and deep overview of the topic of digitization of our lives (Flickr, YouTube, geotagging, blogs etc.). It is a great story about a.o. Gordon Bell, total recall, the sources of creativity and daydreaming, search engines, agents, LifeBrowser, MyLifeBits, SenseCam, FacetMap, DevonThink and Remembrance Agent. Strongly resonates with my postings on Augmented Reality and Steve Mann from MIT as a first cyborg. New concepts like Bliin might be a new way in this respect to present and organize the different LifeBits content on a global scale.

Recommended reading even though this article is quite long.

"This turns out to be the central question behind MyLifeBits: Yes, it's possible to store a lifetime of memories, but what do you do with them? To figure that out, I made a visit to Mary Czerwinski, a principal research scientist at Microsoft Research Labs whose team has developed "Facetmap," an audacious piece of software designed to visualize the contents of Bell's cybermemory.

When I meet the energetic, hyperverbal Czerwinski, she pulls me over to a massive 3-foot-by-3-foot LCD monitor on her office wall. On-screen there's a collection of colorful blobs representing different parts of Bell's life. There's a blob for people, another for calendar dates, and a bunch for different types of documents like email or Word files. She shows me how it works: If you click on any blob, it instantly expands to show you everything it contains. Click on the blob for "Jim Gemmell," Bell's main collaborator, and you'll see a blob containing all their email traffic, another with documents that mention Gemmell's name, and a third with events where he appears. The more data in each category, the bigger the blob, "so you can quickly see which area has had the most action," she notes. But the truly intriguing part about Facetmap is that it shows how Bell's information is connected."

Thursday, 16 November 2006

Time-Based Tag Cloud: Evolution of Popular Words used by US Presidents

This one is special to me. It is about time-based tag cloud overviews on a particular topic. This link will give you an example using the popular words from US presidents. This evolutionary, dynamic view of a topic is so much more interesting than a static view. It gives clear insights into the relationship between particular personalites, economic circumstances and popular tags or words. E.g., I invite you to use the slider in the above link to look at the Reagan period.

Highly recommended. Looking forward to see time-based tag clouds in scientific journals/disciplines, song texts, movie texts, words during TV programs etc. etc.

Later on, I will elaborate on the strong and logical rise of time-based concepts and concepting in digital media in general ranging from evolutionary layered Google Earth/GeoWeb content, time-based e-mail capsules, DNA profiling to pre-eCommerce and much more...

Monday, 09 October 2006

Evaluation of Filters like Recommendations, Cross/Up Selling, Search and New Releases

A new insight from the blog The Long Tail in this post by Chris Anderson. My experience resonates strongly with the quote below. Recommendations are the best social filter in most cases leading to the highest satisfaction level. More about software-based, mobile and/or personal recommendations in my own musings on this topic.

"DVD renters are much happier with the DVDs they get from recommendations (which tend to be to older DVDs) as opposed to new releases, as shown by the following slide from a presentation that Netflix's Jim Bennett gave at the Recommenders06 conference in Bilbao last month.

Additionally, search, recommendations and other filters tend to drive demand down the tail, from the hits down to the niches where minority tastes are often better satisfied. Aside from happier customers, this also has some clear economics benefits for Netflix. It so happens that older titles, well down the Long Tail of time, are both cheaper to acquire and tend to get higher ratings than new titles (mostly because they've passed the test of time and have moved beyond the fog of hype that accompanies new releases). Not only that, but Netflix can also buy fewer of them, since as you go further down the curve the demand is spread out over more titles and there's less of a need to buy stacks of expensive new blockbusters to satisfy the rush of rentals requests around the release date."

Monday, 25 September 2006

The Future of Tags and Tag Clouds

Some fresh perspective on the future of tags and tag clouds. In summer of 1996 I saw a program on Dutch TV (VPRO) on a particular MIT initiative focusing on how concepts are processed by the brain and how this can be visualised using computers. This was an epiphany moment that has been materializing increasingly ever since. My realization was primarily that to boost user experience, creativity and user satisfaction to the maximum level, we need to emulate the exact brain processes in their respective software systems. Neuroscience driving usability. More in this post from Joe Lamantia, especially the control features related to tag clouds.

"To date, tag clouds have been applied to just a few kinds of focuses (links, photos, albums, blog posts are the more recognizable). In the future, expect to see specialized tag cloud implementations emerge for a tremendous variety of semantic fields and focuses: celebrities, cars, properties or homes for sale, hotels and travel destinations, products, sports teams, media of all types, political campaigns, financial markets, brands, etc.. In the first instance, tag clouds will continue to become recognizable and comprehensible to a greater share of users as they move down the novelty curve from nouveau to known. In step with this growing awareness and familiarity, tag cloud usage will become:

1. More frequent
2. More common
3. More specialized
4. More sophisticated

In the second instance, tag cloud structures and interactions will become more complex. Expect to see:

1. More support for cloud consumers to meet their needs for context
2. Refined presentation of the semantic fields underlying clouds
3. Attached controls or features and functionality that allow cloud consumers to directly change the context, content, and presentation of clouds

From a business viewpoint, these tag cloud implementations will aim to advance business ventures exploring the potential value of aggregating and exposing semantic fields for a variety of strategic purposes:

1. Creating new markets
2. Understanding or changing existing markets
3. Providing value-added services
4. Establishing communities of interest / need / activity
5. Aiding oversight and regulatory imperatives for transparency and accountability."

Monday, 21 August 2006

Most Popular Web 2.0 Sites by Seth Godin

Seth Godin understands that we are unable to watch all Web 2.0 companies out there. This post from his blog sets us free by giving us a chart of rising stars measured by traffic numbers. A must read !

"There are literally thousands of "web 2.0" companies, and until now, there's been no easy way to compare which ones are getting traffic. The list of 937 sites below was inspired by the list started by Bob Stumpel and then added to by many others. For our purposes, my definition is that most of these companies are, as the wikipedia says, sites that "let people collaborate and share information online in a new way." So, Google doesn't make the cut, because most of their traffic comes to their search engine. eBay is an "old" company, but the many-to-many nature of the site means that they do. If you have a site you'd like to add, please visit Chris Mayaud's All Things Web 2.0 site and leave your ideas there. We'll do at least one update to this traffic rank list, in October. "

Sunday, 09 October 2005

Flock, a new open source browser

Mosaic, Netscape, Internet Explorer, Firefox and now.....Flock? Seems like a home run to me ;-)

"Flock advertises itself as a "social browser," meaning that the application plays nicely with popular web services like Flickr, Technorati and del.icio.us. Flock also features widely compliant WYSIWYG, drag-and-drop blogging tools. The browser even promises to detect and authenticate all those user accounts automatically. It's a clear attempt to be the browser of choice for the Web 2.0 user. "The browser has not evolved all that much," Decrem says. "The basic concept or vision has not changed." He says the web was until recently conceptually conceived as a big library, a collection of documents to search and consume. Browsers were all about navigation. Now, he notes, "Web 2.0 is a stream of events, people and connections." A better browser is one that will understand this new user environment."

Digital maps: an update

Key overarching trends in general and withing digital media in particular are:

  • Visualisation (multimedia web, 3D, data modelling, mapping, Kartoo search)
  • Personalisation (historical/transactional (DNA, genealogy), browsing/actual, predefined, recommendation engines, social networked personalisation (Eurekster search for example) etc.)
  • Localisation (MoSoSo/dating strengthening this trend for example)

This post digs into some recent issues and applications concerning digital maps taking these 3 trends into account. Google Earth is pivotal in this case. I believe there are 2 routes to the search: first textual information, followed by visual information (standard/classic route information). Alternatively, you browse visually from the start, followed by textual information. I strongly believe this is the real revolutionary impact of Google Earth and similar Augmented Reality and GeoWeb applications as human beings tend to prefer visual information above textual. Google Earth above all in my view is about changing search habits. It is more fun and intuitive than traditional textual search.  And it is more functional as you can SEE immediately the recommendations and locations of your personal network as well as real-time public overlayed information concerning particular locations. In my view this is one of the reasons why Google is valued at 91 billion dollars market cap at this point. The upside potential and business value of Google Earth combined with the other Google innovations is immense and at this point it seems as though AOL, Microsoft and Yahoo lack behind.

"In 2005, anyone can have a god's-eye view. MapQuest began doing rudimentary online maps in 1996. Google acquired digital 3-D mapmaker Keyhole in 2004, and with the resulting Google Earth, explorers are able to find the nearest dry cleaner or tapas joint anywhere on the planet, a capacity that corporate advertisers are bound to exploit. But maybe that's not what maps are for. At their best, they're user interfaces to the world, connecting places and people. Google has figured this out - the company knows its maps are only as good as the refinements made by users. In June, it gave away the code to its maps, as did Yahoo! Now an army of amateurs is flooding the Web with map-based analyses. ChicagoCrime.org lets users evaluate Windy City neighborhoods based on police data. Gmaps Pedometer lays out distances between any two points. And Squid Labs is working on augmented-reality screens that embed tags into 3-D space so you can tour a museum or battlefield and readily footnote what you see. And what's more brilliant than those open source subway maps optimized for an iPod screen?"

Tuesday, 26 April 2005

New advanced RSS reader: Rojo

Within the space of new RSS readers a service called Rojo impressed me. Social software, tagging, recommendations. Highly recommended. Backed financially by among others Marc Andreessen.

Rojo offers these free services:

  • FEED READING & DISCOVERY. Find, track and read RSS feeds from millions of sources around the web, including major news outlets, blogs, discussion boards, email groups, and ecommerce sites.
  • SEARCH. Search millions of RSS feeds for the latest news and information.
  • SHARING. The only social network for content, with Rojo you can connect with your friends and colleagues to help discover what you should be reading.  
  • TAGS & COMMENTS. Tag and comment on stories for yourself and for others. Use others' tags to find stories that matter to you.
  • ROJO BUZZ. Find Recommended Links based on the feeds you subscribe to with Rojo's proprietary link analysis.

Saturday, 23 April 2005

Internet video and film update

The multimedia era is arriving big time on the Internet...on a broader scale than ever before. Generation Content delivers home-made movies shot increasingly with their mobile phones. This article from Wired News digs into the competitive landscape of video/film service providers and search engines. Expect the rise of websites with recommendation engines, search, RSS, tagging and blogging for videos, social software, reviews and ratings on video/film all combined. And expect a short list of successful videos to be delivered on and through P2P networks (even paid in some cases), DVD, mobile portals, WISP portals, DTV and IP TV in the near future. And expect cross media formats to use the quality videos and films. And expect some videos to be used in commercials for advertisers (see this post on Open Source Marketing). AtomFilm and iFilm were the pioneers in this respect but this market will fragment increasingly before consolidating. At this moment the leading portals Google, MSN and Yahoo seem to have a strong edge while rising stars like BitTorrent, MySpace, Friendster, OurMedia, Flickr/Yahoo and LunarStorm are on the radar screen as well for collecting all this material.

"We want to make uploading a video as easy as blogging," Cheng said. Participatory Culture, she said, plans to make a publishing tool integrated with the file-sharing network BitTorrent available in a few weeks. Ifilm's Harrison also envisions strong demand shaping up for services that will help people navigate a seemingly bottomless supply of video content. "If I'm faced with a programming universe of literally thousands of channels, it becomes effectively useless to flick through a channel lineup. People will develop guides and bookmarks to navigate from their own perspective," he said. Harrison says it remains unclear who will provide the guides and bookmarks. The big portals, with their vast reach, are well-poised to help internet users navigate the video universe. However, it's also quite possible that a "small, smart newcomer" could take established players by surprise."

Wednesday, 13 April 2005

Tagvertising: new trend?

In my earlier post on the rise of tagging we mainly saw the impact of tagging on search engines. In this new post we can see the impact of tagging on eMarketing in terms of market research, search engine marketing, viral marketing and ad networks. In a sense an extraploration of the uses of blogs in eMarketing. Just like my earlier post on a case study on blogs as a eMarketing tool, tagvertising (as this all below is called) might be a low cost and effective way to track new uses and usage of your products as a result of the market research part of it. Business development ideas on the fly? ;-)

"Here are three ways in which tagging will create new opportunities for marketers. Some are applicable today while others are on the horizon in the near future:

  • Although tags are far from perfect (they generate a lot of false/positives), marketers should nevertheless be using them to keep your finger on the pulse of the American public. Start subscribing to RSS feeds to monitor how consumers are tagging information related to your product, service, company or space. These are living focus groups that are available for free, 24/7.
  • Folksonomy sites can be also be carefully used to unleash viral marketing campaigns -- with a caveat. Marketers should be transparent in who they are, why they are posting the link/photos and avoid spamming the services
  • As tagging grows and the search engines begin adding this feature to their sites, Google and Overture will allow advertisers to buy keywords across certain tags. Watch for this later this year.
  • Last but not least, one or more entrepreneurs will launch a tagvertising network that facilitates a keyword buy across all sites that use folksonomies."

Thursday, 31 March 2005

Mobile search and P2P

This article from Russell Beattie makes me wonder if and when this will really take off in the mobile space. I wonder about how many mobile users will 'tag' all their own (individual?) user generated media as it will take quite some time. And as we all know time is a scarce resource these days. Additionally, the bandwidth costs on mobile networks at this moment are too high to make this a big market. But in the long run I do see value in this as it is effective shortcut to getting specific media from your friends in your social network (MoSoSo). That special picture or video from the wedding, party, event, birthday, holiday trip, etc. And this might be valuable in tandem with the upcoming tangible interfaces. Mobile P2P search in case you missed sharing on the spot when the media was created and tangible interfaces for sharing that immediately.

"This would be so easy to mock up with Series 60 phones: Create central index site "neatomobilesearch.com" and then whip up a Python script that goes through the normal data repositories (image, video, messaging, documents), indexes what it finds and periodically connects to the server to upload its results, and also see if there's any pending requests that it needs to fill. If the script connects, and it sees a few requests for files (from a search), it then uploads those files as well. And like I said above, the search interface could be based on some sort of social network or it could just be based on what I decided to make public or not."

Sunday, 27 March 2005

OurMedia: Personal Media Revolution

In this website called OurMedia we can witness the future of blogging or personal media in broader terms. Highly recommended. This website can be one of the highlights of this year I guess. A blog syndication tool would be a good add-on though ;-)

"OurMedia encompasses among others:
Podcasting: free hosting, bandwidth and storage for personal audio broadcasts.
Videoblogging: free hosting, bandwidth and storage for videoblogs.
P2P: Support for BitTorrent as a legal way to share each others’ works (soon).
Fair Use Zone: for discussions about how and when students and others may borrow copyrighted music or images to incorporate into their own works.
License searching: allows users to search on every piece of media available for remixing. Ourmedia will serve as an enabler of legal remix culture.
RSS: automatic subscriptions available to every media category on the site."

Wednesday, 23 March 2005

Consensus Based Location: mobile tagging the world

GeoWeb (or locative media) and tagging meet in this article. Interesting, also the comments. Tagging the physical world with your mobile (or PC?) might be of interest to users for their own use (see the LifeBlog from Nokia) or by looking at the tags of others, preferably their (close) friends. I believe tagging will be restrictively presented to the end users as to avoid clutter and waste. In that sense an eventual convergence of different memes of trends is likely in this respect: mobile social software (MoSoSo), locative media with their searchable tags. Practically, this means that a friend of mine in my mobile social network leaves an interesting note or tag on a club or restaurant for example. This might be personalized (even a surprise tag?), for his network or for general public. It might be on the map closeby only (as to tease) or on a broader map (as to inform). I see value in that and the operators will benefit as this might stimulate conversations/calls based on the tag. 

"Although modern mapping systems depend heavily on computers, some of the most fundamental maps we use daily are drawn and redrawn on an ongoing basis by our own wetware. From the moment we become aware of spatial relations, we begin a complex process of constructing personal thematic maps. Maps of our mommies, daddies, bottles, favorite albums, movies, books, food, friends, pets, conversations and experiences -- anything to which we can attach associations, meaning and relationships. But these maps live on an almost subconscious level. My map of, say, the best shopping in Stockholm or the spiritually resonant zones of cyberspace, may look very different than yours. That's why the people involved in open-source mapping and locative media are so committed to helping us make our associative maps more explicit and geospatially representative. If we could only collaborate on our mapmaking, these visual aids may just help us communicate better, and start to see some of our collective challenges from a shared frame of reference."

Tagging, search, indexes, RSS and sharing

Very good article from News.com on the impact of 'social tagging' or 'free tagging' or 'folksonomies" on the Web. Wiki definition on tagging can be found here. Put into historical context. I strongly believe many large web services will be impacted by this trend as the scale of Web usage is large enough, both on the fixed Internet (online dating, anyone?) and mobile Internet (as witnessed by the WaveMarket application and other upcoming LBS based tagging services). And what about all those P2P tagging possibilities? And what will be the impact of tagging on The Long Tail? Tagging is all about emerging concepts, discovery, serendipity and emotional/social connecting with others. In my view, the latter aspect is neglected in most discussions on tagging, especially the emotional part of it. Bottom-up tags convey more emotion and identity than top-down categories or indexes. It is in a sense an extension of companies like Autonomy (bottom-up knowledge management) but then human-like and socially more impactful (Kevin Kelly's network effect or Metcalfe's Law). This brings to light some risks: spam and the (necessary) time invested in tagging.
Highly recommended reading.

"The democratization of information is the real interesting thing about this, said Bob Rosenschein, CEO of GuruNet, an answer search engine. They're messy and noisy and they're not always accurate, but they're people talking about real subjects; and in that manner they have tremendous statistical interest when they get to scale. There's a wisdom of the crowd. The most interesting applications are before us. It's a deceptively simple premise that holds enormous consequences for information management, boosters believe, provided the stars align properly. In addition to Flickr, up-and-coming communities at Wikipedia, Del.icio.us and others have many people pondering the future of free tagging, as some call it."