Current Events

Netbooks and Smartphones Converging

Cell phones are getting larger to accommodate a larger display and laptops are getting smaller and more portable. As the cellphone gets more expensive and the laptop gets cheaper there will come a time in the not too distant future where they will cross. Which device will it be? The netbook or the smartphone? Who’s going to make the first bookphone?

Which would you buy? The Asus Eee PC Netbook [225mm x 170mm x 34mm] on the left or the HTC 4G Tablet with WiMax [113.5mm X 63.1mm X 13.9mm] on the right?

Add VOIP software and all you need is a Bluetooth headset to make your calls. What’s a carrier to do? Will they offer netbooks on subsidy to get you to commit to their dataplan? It’s already happening.

Image captured on US television
Image captured on US television
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Spin the Bottle 2.0

Jan Chipchase is a research anthropologist at Nokia who travels the world and studies how people interact with technology. His blog (future perfect) is a fascinating stream of one off thoughts and observations which twist your mine to look at the everyday world around us with a new sense of wonder.

In the photo above he writes about how patrons at a bar in Tokyo use a cellphone’s timer to update an age-old drinking game:

A game of spin the bottle updated for the digital age – gather a crowd, take one digital camera, turn on the flash, wind the strap taut, set the timer and let unwind – as the camera spins, whomever is snapped when the timer runs out takes a shot

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Track Me Panel at Web 2.0 Summit

Sharing location has become much easier but it brings up a lot of new questions. Who owns the data, what can you do with this data? Brady Forrest of O’Reilly Media has been exploring these issues with the Where 2.0 conference and brought together four people at this year’s Web 2.0 Summit to discuss the state of the technology.

April Allderdice from MicroEnergy Credits – they connect micro-finance loan officers in the third word with first world companies that want to buy carbon offset credits. Using GPS with their mobile devices, these loan officers can monitor when someone switches from a coal stove to a solar panel and make available those credits in aggregate for bulk offset purchases.

Rich Minor from Google Android – G1 phone can report location via GPS, Cell Tower ID, and Wifi. The Wifi location services is provided via Skyhook. Unlike the iPhone, the G1 phone can run GPS tracking as a background process.

Ted Morgan from Skyhook Wireless – they have a map of wifi access points (70 million) around the world. This allows you to get maps of physical locations, even inside a building (i.e. 4th floor). Skyhook is the wifi locator on the iPhone – there are over 500 apps on the iphone that use location. They also offer an API for web apps (see Loki API documentation). Not covered in the presentation but I just noticed that BrightKite has a Guess My Location feature which uses Loki and Mozilla’s Geode service to determine location based on your IP address.

Greg Skibiski from Sense Networks – the same way Google analyzes links across the web, Sense Network looks at the way people move about in the geo-world to track past behavior to predict future behavior. (i.e. people that sleep in the Noe Valley neighborhood tend to go out to eat in the Union Street area).

Both Twitter and Facebook are missing integrated location information. People are just starting to realize the power of location. For example, on the Android app Cab4me, you can push one button to request a taxi – location is automatically forwarded to the taxi companies. Yahoo’s Fire Eagle platform broke a lot of ground when it launched but it hasn’t really baked itself into the developer ecosystem (yet).

Skyhook has My Loki but the gave over the storing of location to Fire Eagle. They don’t want to create the impression that they are tracking individual users because of the freak-out factor. Verizon delayed enabling location chips for two years while they were writing their privacy policy on location data. Governments can subpoena this information which gives most companies pause on storing this kind of information. Fire Eagle’s privacy policy is quite good with explicit controls over how your data is shared with third parties. Fire Eagle also, by default, send an email reminder indicating your privacy settings to remind you of your settings.

CitySense from Sense Networks – Featured at the top of this post, this app aggregates personal location information with anonymous location data from other members to show activity on a city map. Currently available on Blackberry (iPhone coming soon) and only for San Francisco. Similar in approach to Nokia’s Friend View application.

MacroSense from Sense Networks – they buy taxi cab location data and match it up with zip code (block level) info to get wealth indicators and try and draw correlations with other indicators to try and predict financial indicators. They sell this data to financial firms and do custom analysis for hedge funds.

Output from a MacroSense report such as the Nightlife Activity Index which shows that many people tended to stay out late right before the recent market crash. Other graphs include the SF Morning Arrival Index (concluding that people in the Financial District get to work early when the market is booming, and later when it’s down) and the SF Taxicab Demand Elasticity Index (indicating middle income people tend to order cabs just prior to market downturns).

For more on Location Based Services such as these, see LBS Zone newsletter and O’Reilly’s Where 2.0 conference in May.

Current Events

A Proud Day for All Americans

I flew back from Denver last night on a plane full of Obama volunteers who were working Colorado to get out the vote. The pilot reported during the flight that McCain had conceded and the entire plane erupted in cheers the same way it did in the hotel bar when CNN called Pennsylvania and at the airport bar when Ohio went for Obama.

The excitement is palpable – electricity in the air stuff. Dan, one of the volunteers on the plane, came down the aisle to get everyone’s email address so he could start a mailing list of those that went through this experience together. When I asked him what it was like to knock on doors for the past few days, he said without any hint of sarcasm, it was a “religious experience.”

You never know what you’re going to get when someone opens up that door. Some give you the brush-off, some you need to tell them to put down their beer. But when you tell them that you travelled 1,000 miles because their vote is more important than yours, they listen.

In the end, there are the ones that can’t make it to the polls, their mother isn’t home from work yet, whatever. To those you say, “You know what, I’m going to make this fun for you, this is going to be a fun night.” In the end, they thank you for looking out for them. I don’t care who they vote for, it’s just the act of bonding with a fellow citizen that made it so worth it.

Two buddies of mine went to Nevada to volunteer and one of them, Jonathan Strauss, made a very good point in a post he did on his Blackberry, before the polls even closed. In a post titled, Why we’ve already won, Jonathan said that Barack Obama, even if he loses, has brought us all together in an important way.

I am so glad that we collectively feel this way – Barack has inherited a mess that is going to take everyone’s help to haul us above water again. To be walking into the Oval Office now is more challenging today that it’s been in a long while. But I can’t think of a better person than Barack to represent us abroad and lead us domestically to make things happen. If anyone can call on us to trust him to while we make individual sacrifices for the greater good, it’s Barack Obama.

I read somewhere that what we’ve done by electing a minority as President is the equivalent of the UK electing a Jamaican to lead their country. In one fell swoop we’ve pulled a rabbit out of the hat and shown the world that we really do stand by our creed that all men are created equal.
I’m really proud to be an American today.

Religion and Politics

Wow, and I thought California’s Proposition 8 was a bad idea, check out what folks here in Colorado have to vote on in Proposition 48.

Current Events

Election Day

I’m traveling today so I mailed in my absentee ballot weeks ago. Without a real pin, I’ll sport a virtual one.

Current Events

Defrag 2008 – Flow Apps, Best Practices

A recurring theme at this year’s Defrag conference is the concept of a flow app (see Stowe Boyd post from last year) which I loosely define as an aggregator that brings together multiple information streams into a single view. More broadly known as lifestreaming, these applications are still very basic and only being used by a niche audience of the hyper-connected. Brad Feld said that we live in a world stuck in “manual configuration mode” where the pruning and tuning of our filters is too crude. Call it the Facebook news feed or FriendFeed, these apps are great at bringing together information but are starting to grapple with the problem of how best to filter out nuggets useful information from the collective noise.

In a world where the daily newspaper is a day late, bloggers and the twitter masses filter through the flow and make decisions of what pieces to pass on to their audience. Whether we acknowledge it or not, we are stepping in to fill the role of the editor or journalist – we pick and chose from our own personal newswire to decide which bits are worthy of passing on, with or without our own editorial color.

During Dick Hardt’s demo of his sxipper firefox add-in, someone asked what one would consider the feature set of a flow app. Here’s a running list of what I noted. Please add more in the comments.

  • Flow apps are complimentary to existing apps, they monitor activity that takes place on other applications. I take this to mean that the tools are not up to the level where they could replace the raw information flows.
  • A good flow app doesn’t demand completion, it doesn’t provide an unread items count.
  • Default ranking should be on something more like relevance, not straight reverse chronology sort. I would love to see a social sorting algorithm that took into consideration the popularity of an item within your social network (look at subscriptions, in-links, comments, trackbacks) and the freshness of an item.
  • Real-time scrolling. MyBlogLog’s New with Me pages has updated in real-time since it launched. FriendFeed also added a real-time scroll with a helpful pause button. People love ambient animation.
  • Provide visual queues for items that match specific contexts. Is there an item that is from someone you’re meeting with today? Is there a restaurant review about someplace close by? Is there an item from an old friend that hasn’t posted in a long time? Highlight those items as “must reads.”
  • Collapse frequent items from people in your list on media that tends to generate lots of activity. If someone just listened to every track on the Beatles White Album, do you need to know each track? Summarize it intstead (“Chris Law listened to the White Album by The Beatles”).
  • Fade activity that is over 24 hours old into a graphical representation that lets you easily pick out spikes in activity. You shouldn’t care that you missed everything while you were away for the past week while you were away in the Bahamas but it would be nice to know that a ton of activity came through around a particular tag that broke through the baseline.
  • Provide a preference page similar to Google Reader’s Trends view which reflects back your activity and allows for manual tuning and override. I love the fact that Trends has a “most obscure” tab for the feeds you subscribe to that have few readers and provides a helpful trashcan icon to clear them from your subscription list.

Any others?

Can you embed your social network onto a chip?

So I’m really excited because I scored a free pass to this week’s Web 2.0 Summit based on a comment I left on John Battelle’s blog where he asked his readers for questions for executives he is going to interview on stage. My question was for Paul Otellini, CEO of Intel:

Do you forsee a time when Intel will embed social features into its hardware? Microsoft tied it’s activation to Windows activation. Would Intel ever offer the ability for users on Facebook and other social networks be able to uniquely identify itself to a social graph and the associated permissions via the Intel chip?

Besides the v-chip (which embedded the parental rating system into televisions) and the Windows activation  mentioned above, are there any other instances where hardware embedded a social action or social rating into hardware?