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Current Events

Raw vs. Polished

Eric Berlin writes about the differences between Friendfeed and TechMeme.

Therefore, perhaps we can say that Techmeme aggregates what’s important about tech and Internet news and easily provides links to surrounding conversations. It’s really a new kind of online newspaper, and a pretty terrific one. And Friendfeed is an aggregator of lots of stuff, of what people are reading and writing and sharing and looking at and listening to.

Friendfeed is the modern version of a newswire while TechMeme is a constantly updated newspaper. If you have the time to scan through the real-time updates of everyone’s lifestream, FriendFeed is going to get you the news faster. If you’d rather let the editorial algorithms do the heavy lifting, TechMeme is the way to go.

Which do you prefer and why?

Cognitive Surplus will free up time to

One of the best talks at this year’s Web 2.0 Expo was Clay Shirky on Cognitive Surplus. In it he suggests that modern television is a, “cognitive heat sink, dissipating thinking that might otherwise have built up and caused society to overheat.”

He concludes after describing how a child spent a few minutes looking for the mouse connected to her living room television;

Here’s something four-year-olds know: A screen that ships without a mouse ships broken. Here’s something four-year-olds know: Media that’s targeted at you but doesn’t include you may not be worth sitting still for. 

The ironic thing is that I was stuck in the hallway and missed this talk. I read Clay’s transcript and was moved. But watching him deliver his talk on video was even more impactful (for instance, listening to the collective, “Ahhh!” from the crowd when he delivers the lines quoted above).

As with many involved in the tech industry, I watch very little television but when I do, it’s mediated by timeshifting technology that lets me watch it on my own terms. It’s either on Tivo or filtered through social pointers such as Jeremy’s blog post which determine which videos I invest time to watch.

“The web is in its infancy,” says Tim Berners-Lee and looking at the tools available to manage information flow it’s easy to see why. We’re shifting from a time of channel surfing to web surfing but the evolution from web portals to something more dynamic and efficient has only just begun. The vast wealth of information is still intoxicating and we constantly jump around afraid we’re going to miss something. What’s going to happen when we wake up from this second, “collective bender” and use our spare time to improve the world around us.

Then we will have the capacity, as Tim O’Reilly challenges us, to “wrestle with angels.”

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Current Events

Over-clocking your friendships

A common complaint overheard at the recent Graphing Social Patterns, ETech, and South By Southwest conferences has been that increased friend invites on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter has devalued the word friend. Today, this condition is unique to the the early-adopter, hyper-connected crowd at tech conferences but as social networks replace our broken email inbox as the primary tool for communication, there is no reason this problem will not impact everyone who uses these platforms.

“Not a day goes by when I get invited to one more social something or other.”

Two things will change:

Management of friend requests will become such a chore that Twitter’s unrequited “follow” command or Doppler’s “Other’s you might know” method of building your social network will become the norm. Asking for an email username and password will be phased out as bad practice at best and a security risk at worst. Thingfo, a new social network service around objects, is doing cool things with the MyBlogLog API to jumpstart it’s community based on your existing social network on MyBlogLog.

Tools will evolve to slice and filter your social networks for greater relevance. One unexplored vector is filtering by physical location. A conference hack that the MyBlogLog team put together that experiments with location-based relevance is at m.mybloglog.com. This hack allows you to claim your unique laptop or cellphone bluetooth ID and bind it to your MyBlogLog ID. Once you’ve done this, the polling app at this site will periodically scan for other bluetooth devices in your area and when it identifies another opt-ed in MyBlogLog member nearby, their avatar will show up on your dashboard.

MyBlogLog Meetspace

At a panel discussion this afternoon, Ben Cerveny threw out the concept that with all the tools for managing our friend networks at our disposal, we will have varied “focal depth” to our online and offline friendships. I look forward to the next round of tools that will act as temporary lenses on our world. It’s not as simple as an algorithmic keyword search engine – this new set of tools will need to leverage inputs such as location, time, and interest. The technology is in place but, as with all new technologies, the social norms need to catch up and inform future development of these tools.

Mary Meeker Tidbits from Web 2.0 Summit

I always enjoy Morgan Stanley analyst, Mary Meeker’s view into the internet industry. Her presentations are chock full of facts and figures and it’s the closest thing to a Harper’s Index for the Internet that we have. Here are some highlights from her list:

91% of mobile users keep phone within 1 meter reach 24×7

Market Cap of Chinese Internet companies is projected to grow from $5B in 2003 to $50B by the end of 2007. That’s 76% CAGR.

A total of 21 billion minutes were spent watching YouTube, that’s just in August! By contrast, people spent 15 billion minutes in Facebook and 3 billion minutes on Wikipedia.

Technology/Internet Trends, October 18, 2007

Related Posts: Mary Meeker at AdTech, April 2005 

The Web as a loose federation of contractors

Matt McAllister has a great post about the dangers of taking taking the label of Web OS too literally. He writes that an operating system is about “command and control” while the loose collection of services that make up the internet is more like the network of vendors that a contractor might call in to build your house.

Jeremy Zawodny shed light on this concept for me using building construction analogies.

He noted that my building contractor doesn’t exclusively buy Makita or DeWalt or Ryobi tools, though some tools make more sense in bundles. He buys the tool that is best for the job and what he needs.

My contractor doesn’t employ plumbers, roofers and electricians himself. Rather he maintains a network of favorite providers who will serve different needs on different jobs.

He provides value to me as an experienced distribution and aggregation point, but I am not exclusively tied to using him for everything I want to do with my house, either.

Similarly, the Internet market is a network of services. The trick to understanding what the business model looks like is figuring out how to open and connect services in ways that add value to the business.

I like Jeremy’s illustration – an OS gives you the impression of an integrated stack which leads to strategies which favor things like user lock-in to guarantee performance and consistency of experience. If you think of the web as a loose collections of services that work together on discreet projects, then you start to think of value in other ways such as making your meta-data as portable and accessible as possible so it can be accessed over and over again in many different contexts.

read on: The Business of Network Effects

Closed Social Networks as a Gilded Cage

There’s been a lot of talk about the limitations of closed social networks. Jason Kottke kicked it off when he described Facebook as a more updated version of the AOL walled garden and others such as Jeremiah Owyang and Robert Scoble calling it a black hole because all your data goes in but there’s no RSS out.

I totally see where they’re coming from. Heck, I just spent the greater part of a day pulling all my data out of various blogging systems in order to bring them all together here on this new domain. I’m happy to say the text of the posts was not the issue, that’s portable. It’s the meta-data associated with the images that is causing me problems and I’ve resorted to a manual pull of everything in order to make sure things look just right.

The next step is resetting all my pointers. It seems that every web 2.0 beta that you sign up for has a place in its profile for your blog URL. What happens when you change to a new domain? You need to go back to each one and update it. Your blog URL is an updated version of your email address, an important part of your address card. Feedburner saw the writing on the wall and effectively serves as a .forward file for your RSS feed, maybe MyBlogLog can step in and solve the other part of the equation which is your static URL.

But step back a minute. As often happens in the Valley, we, the hyper-connected few are the vast minority. How many actually would use a Facebook RSS feed if it was available to them? How many people really need a service that points them to their latest blog URL? How many even know of services such as pobox.com that can forward your email address to your most recent address?

Playpen

Sure it’s hard to get your images off of TypePad and it’s impossible to pull your mini-feed out of Facebook but do the vast majority of people really care? What’s more important is that the system they use works in an integrated way and they don’t have to fiddle with it to get results. iTunes/iPod, Microsoft Windows/Office, and Quicken/TurboTax pairings all work together in tightly bound ecosystems because to do so allows them to guarantee a level of stability for their customers. As much as they might want to be open, Facebook limits what you can do using proprietary subsets of HTML and SQL in order to lock things down and keep things neat. It doesn’t hurt that it results in user lock-in but their challenge is to provide maximum flexibility within the constraints that they lay down.

There are several noble attempts to build outside the box. People Aggregator, Ning, and Profile Builder come to mind. Yet the problem here is flow. The flow of readers across a profile out in the wild is so hard to build up. If you update something in Twitter or Facebook the closed network will channel that flow strong and fast so you’re bound to get a response. As anyone who has hosted their own blog can tell you, it takes a long time to gather an audience of regular subscribers – post something pithy in a closed network like Vox and you’re bound to get a reaction – their broadcast signals are much stronger.

So the challenge to anyone building an open social network, one that overlays the existing networks, is to locate and connect people of like interests and maintain a quality of decorum so it continues to be worthy of their attention. A fair bit of community editorial is required because anything totally open is going to be overrun by spammers if no one tends the garden. On top of that, it needs to be dead easy to understand, can’t break, and be immediately valuable to the casual browser just poking around. Think Soccer Mom. What’s going to compel her to create a universal profile? What’s she going to get out of it? What problem are you going to solve?

I don’t have all the answers, I’m still thinking them through. I think there’s a need for a service that connects you to the people and sites that are important to you in an interactive way. People search engines such as Spock only get us halfway there. They just crawl what’s out there but don’t really have a sense of the user doing the searching. The right answer for what you’re looking for depends entirely on who you are. I’m looking for a service that will take what I invest into it, not just the one -time editing of my profile but my ongoing interaction with it, either directly or via an API, and pay me back in spades when I turn around and ask the service for guidance, again, either directly or via my UI of choice.

As Dave Winer so aptly put it last week:

It’s the basic trust proposition of the Internet. People will only trust a service that gives them complete freedom to come and go as they please. Further, they’ll want to come back if you send them to cool places. It’s why people like Facebook today, and why they’ll be tired of it tomorrow, if it only sends you to places within the Facebook silo.

What do you think? Would you find such a service useful? Would the Soccer Mom?

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Office

What will Web 2.0 do for my neighbor Ron?

remotecontrol.jpgOne of the coolest things I brought back from the recent Web 2.0 Expo was this t-shirt that said “Web 2.0 is – – – ” with a big blank box for you to write in the definition of your choice. People at the show got into the spirit of the occasion and used Sharpies to fill in their own definitions. I spotted Ross Mayfield on stage wearing his t-shirt with the “made of people” scrawled in bright red.

I chose to leave my t-shirt blank so I could ask people around town what they thought as I ran errands around town. The responses have been enlightening. To be blunt, no one really gives a damn.

I think about all the whiz-bang tools that are being released on a weekly basis, the latest additions to the scene jumping up and down for our attention. How are these sites going to improve the lifestyle of my neighbor and his beloved rose garden? Sure, he’s got always-on broadband (his wifi Linksys router blinks at me each evening) though he doesn’t really need it. Broadband just happens to be the best deal in town and it allows him to be online while his wife is on the phone. Yeah, it’s nice to be able to comment on the latest blog postings about his favorite ball team but he would rather debate stats face to face with his mates at work, it’s a richer experience. He likes to keep in touch with his kids via email but has no need to IM them or (god forbid) get their latest Twitter updates. The acceleration of the news cycle has done little to improve his quality of life.

The popular media has attempted to bring meaning to this flurry of activity but they can only do so through an old familiar lens which paints the Web 2.0 revolution in terms of teenage millionaires and insider techno-babble. Most people dismiss Web 2.0 as another self-important bubble of exclusive back-slapping.

The bigger challenge we need to tackle is how to transform all the great work being done today as something that has an impact on the broader world. The stage is set – all the foundations are in place – everyone who is interested in web-enabled this or community-powered that are already wired up and connected to each other. The trick is bringing all this connectedness to bear on greater issues in the world around us.

I think it was Kevin Lynch of Adobe who said at one of the “high order bits” at Web 2.0 Expo that the first phase of computing was driven by the need to make individuals more productive and produced applications such as Word & Excel. In the Web 2.0 phase we’re now making groups more productive in their collaboration via community-driven applications such as wikis, social news sites, and socially driven television shows such as American Idol which is basically a crowd-sourced hit machine. The more difficult but ultimately more rewarding challenge will be bringing the benefits of participation to the masses in a way that is intuitive and baked into the way the rest of the world lives their daily life.

History is instructive here. The introduction of a free press must have felt just as liberating back then as it does today to anyone who has interacted with a blog or social networking site. The power to reach and influence a broader audience is a thrill. When, for better or worse, the press evolved into the fourth estate, the rules around participation were codified and now most people do not enjoy ready access to the media. Today we all benefit from the (relatively) open exchange of ideas that the free press has given us. When Ron gets his daily paper delivered to him, he gets a snapshot of the best of what this ages old platform has to deliver.

The next great opportunity is to package up and deliver to the Rons of the world the best of what Web 2.0 community has to offer in a format that is as integrated and easy to consume as his daily Chronicle. We’re seeing bits and pieces of this poke through the topsoil. I’m looking for a radio station that features the best podcasts of the day, a terrestrial TV station that streams the most popular clips on YouTube, a version of Upcoming embedded on my refrigerator door.

Everyone that attended the Web 2.0 Expo is a member of the creator class – we enjoy the ability to interact and control the world around us. But most people would rather come together around someone they trust to deliver the world to them. They’ll vote with their attention and get strength and conviction from their chosen community. No matter how cool and shiny we paint this our ever-customizable Web 2.0 nirvana, we cannot ask them to change their habits and join us in our medum – we need to meet them using tools they understand.

Where’s the Web 2.0 universal remote?

UPDATE : Daniela Barbosa points to a flickr thread where people are posting photos of their Web 2.0 t-shirts. Add yours to the cloud!

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Office

Digg 3.0 – stats and cool visualization

diggvizmodel1.jpg

I missed the Digg 3.0 launch party earlier this week where they previewed a cool new visualization tool that will be launching later this month. I was alerted to it because of the Diggnation podcast and am thankful to the infosthetics.com site for pointing me to a video which shows this new visualization.

More details on Digg 3.0 with some interesting stats from the TalkCrunch interview with Kevin Rose and Jay Adelson. Notes from the podcast below.

Digg prototype built back in October 2004 in 2 weeks for $1200.

Launched December 5th, 2004. First big story on Digg was about Paris Hilton’s cellphone getting hacked. Both Yahoo & Google pointed to Digg as the nubmer one source of information on this story bringing down their servers.

Digg 2.0 launched in July 2005.

As of today, 1500 – 2000 new stories submitted each day. Between 30 – 50 stories make it to the front page.

700-800k unique visitors/day, 8.5 million unique visitors/month, doubling every two months. Adding 1,000 to 1,500 new registered users/day. On the average day, anywhere from 1/5 – 1/3 of the users are active on the site.

9.5 million pageviews/day – bigger than slashdot, maybe even bigger than the New York Times. A majority (95%) of this traffic is from the US with most of the non-US traffic from the UK and Japan.

Majority of traffic to TechCrunch come from Digg. More than Google.

Some interesting perspective of digg v. the new Netscape.com and Reuters’ view of blogs in general and social news sites in particular.

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Office

Ergo Sum in the Digital Age

Steve Rubel calls it Picture-in-a-Picture marketing, Fergus calls it widget marketing. As the traditional walled garden web blows apart, more and more small, loosely joined pieces are made available to re-configure themselves into new combinations.

Call it mashups for the rest of us – your blog or MySpace profile is a platform where you mix & match services like an events badge and content such as your linkroll. Mix it all together and add a spice of CSS for your new digital persona.

In the future, will we be defined by the services running on our pages? Will these pages continue to update even after we’re gone taking on a life of their own?

UPDATE: Sue Mernit and I were laughing. We both came up with almost the exactly same meme but she added a biblical spin also adding the exciting and important development of Yahoo Local’s support of Microformats. 

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Current Events

Masher Defined

Hi Matt. I was going to post a comment on your post but your blog provider seems to be down for maintenance so I can’t seem to open up an account on their system so I’ll post on my blog and trackback to you.

You might want to step away from using the term “masher” to identify someone that puts together mashups of web APIs.

mash•er

Pronunciation: (mash’ur)

n. Slang.

a man who makes advances, esp. to women he does not know, with a view to physical intimacy.

Random House Unabridged Dictionary, Copyright © 1997, by Random House, Inc., on Infoplease

On second thought, maybe if you swap out “man” for “developer” and “women” for API, then it does work.