Archive for the ‘IT Conversations’ Category

Little Brothers and the Rebels’ Island

December 15, 2006

*Update*: There’s a long and interesting discussion in the comments’ section, including Jamais Cascio, the man behind the Mic

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“Soon, probably within the next decade, certainly within the next two, we’ll be living in a world where what we see, what we hear, what we experience, will be recorded everywhere we go. There will be few statements or scenes that will go unnoticed or unremembered; our day to day lives will be archived and saved. What’s more, these archives will be available over the net for recollection, analysis and even sharing. And we’ll be doing it to ourselves”

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So starts a daunting yet highly important and certainly interesting lecture by Jamais Cascio, who describes a future where everything will be not only recorded but also verified, a future governed not by a single “Big Brother”, but rather by billions of little brothers and sisters that will voluntarily and eagerly capture, upload, share and explore sights, scenes and conversations using their ubiquitous multi-modal, nomadic, capturing devices (and see the previous post on Anina and the Nomads).

As Jamais Cascio points out, this is a world where lies are almost impossible, and errors are detected on the spot, hence dramatically reduced. How can you lie if you are constantly recorded by multiple devices? How can the recordings be tempered if hundreds of different recording devices are creating hundreds different representations of the same event? It’s practically impossible. You can temper one or two, you can destroy another couple, but you cannot fight the statistics of an infinite number of recorders.

In other words, we’re creating a world of timeless (real-time) truth, which is what we’ve always been after, at least since Plato.

Personally, I think it’s the right moment for a Cyberpunk time-out (more to be posted soon in my alter-blog, and seeds could well be found already here)

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podcastIcon.gif Jamais Cascio: Participatory Panopticon, 37:09 min, May 2nd, 2005

Original Podlink: Jamais Cascio: Participatory Panopticon

technorati1.jpg Technorati Panopticon, Technorati the Podlink

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I, Leftover

July 6, 2006

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Web2.0 gives power to the people, but those who talk about it are mostly interested in how the newly empowered people could be re-tamed and harnessed (what a horrible word) into a huge, faceless mass of buyers.

How do we make money from Open Source? When will Jimmy milk the Wikipedia cow? How do we harness the billion 50 cents? In other words, the mainstream discussion is always evolving around the “show me the money” and “where’s the business model”, with the underlying assumption that the right to exist (and to be empowered) should only be granted to money-generating objects.

Somehow, Prof. Benkler succeeded in discussing Grid, Wikipedia, Skype, Open Source and Citizen Media without falling into the “show me the money” trap. There was a different, human undertone to his lecture and I think it’s the first time I heard a web2.0 talk that really empowered me for what I am, i.e. a leftover.

I, Leftover.

The leftovers are taking over; the residuals and the idles are beating up the stronger and the brighter. It’s the time of the “Ordinaries” (and some are absolutely abhorred by that).

This is the real change, as so far the leftovers were only valuable because of their money. No one expected nor wanted them to contribute. “Contribution” has always been institutionalized, and research was always funded by econo-political interests.

But now the power to decide is at the hands of “I, Leftover”. When “I, Leftover” downloads a SETI@Home screensaver, she’s not only contributing processing power to a noble cause, but also making the SETI@Home project possible. When “I, Leftover” uses Skype, he’s not only saving money, but also helping to bring free voice to everybody, by making Skype possible (because of Skype’s p2p nature).

My point is that great things are now dependent on individual, layman decisions. I, as a leftover, find it encouraging.

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podcastIcon1.gif Yochai Benkler – Participation Revolution, 33:32, 15.3 mb, Oct 21st, 2005

Original Podlink: Participation Revolution

technorati1.jpg Technorati Yochai Benkler, Technorati the Podlink

Voice 1, 2, 3…

April 27, 2006

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I blogged in the past about how Web2.0, which pretends to be the incarnation of the personal, social, human, interactive web, is lacking the most fundamental human protocol – Voice. I'm not talking about Voice as an application – Skype, or Gtalk, but rather about voice as a mean for communication – with people, humanoids and applications alike.

Well, Yahoo!, so it seems, is going this way (and Google is undoubtedly going there just the same). Jeff Bonforte, Senior Director of Voice Product Management at Yahoo!, described Yahoo!'s take on Voice 1, 2 and 3:

Voice 1 – the hundred years old, boring yet highly successful (business-wise) dial tone.

Voice 2 – Voice as an application: Skype, Messanger. Voice is Data.

Voice 3 – Voice as an invocation protocol – an interface to Yahoo!'s vast amount of content.

Rest the never ending problem of voice recognition. And here Bonforte describes a brilliant bypass to the problem: instead of trying to figure out what the speaker really said, Yahoo! sends the transcription to… their search engine. The search engine returns the "Did you mean: ___" which is the outcome of a machine-learning, based on the next thing users are searching (when users are mistyping their search query, the next thing they usually do is to re-type the correct string). So just like the search engine is "learning" over time what is a real search string and what is most probably a typo, the voice recognition engine will learn what a meaningful interaction is and what is not.

These voice advancements are highly symbolic. They represent a change in the current Browser paradigm, and they are the first steps toward a physical integration of human beings into the World Wide Web, an inevitable outcome of the technology that shapes up our lives.

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podcastIcon1.gifYahoo! and Emerging Telephony 00:19:38, 9 mb, Jan 25th, 2006

Original Podlink: Yahoo! and Emerging Telephony

technorati1.jpg Technorati Voice Telephony, Technorati the Podlink

The Browser As a Platform

April 27, 2006

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I was listening to Phil Windley's AJAX Progress and Challenges when the bells rang. While describing the JavaScript programming that is taking place inside the Browser's guts, Windley pointed out that browser-based client applications have become O/S indifferent. Operating systems have been finally abstracted out from the entire transaction chain.
And then the inevitable metaphor of the Browser-as-a-Platform was mentioned, triggering a bunch of thoughts in my head on the Browser-as-a-platform interfacing the Internet-as-Platform, and how RSS is disrupting these two platform metaphors. But to get more details on that, you'd have to jump over to my alter-blog and continue reading over there.

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podcastIcon1.gif AJAX Progress and Challenges 00:50:27, 23.1 mb, March 1st 2006

Original Podlink: AJAX Progress and Challenges

technorati1.jpg Technorati Ajax, Technorati the Podlink

The Long Tail of the Power Law

March 10, 2006

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Finally we, the users of Userland, have found our home, our place. It’s somewhere on the Long Tail of the power law distribution. The distribution qualified as power law presents the following pattern: small number of HUGE hubs with an endless other nodes connected to them. That’s how most complex, organic systems are built and that’s also the structure of the soon to be organic Internet: some relatively few sites are those which are most linked to (as demonstrated by A.L. Barabasi, Linked).

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Traditionally the Long Tail has been ignored. Focusing on the pareto, the 80%-20%, has been the rule. If 20% of my customers are responsible for 80% of my revenues – that’s where I’m going to spend my attention. That was true in the Brick and Mortar days – the time of no access or a highly limited one to alternatives, when one was entirely dependant on “what’s in stores today”.

But nowadays, the ubiquitous broadband Internet provides us with an ACCESS to an endless number of possibilities. The Long Tail of the power law can finally express itself and name its heroes. More importantly, the Long Tail can be monetized.

What Chris Anderson, the Editor-in-Chief of Wired magazine, showed in his research was that:

1. When ACCESS exists, the Long Tail of the past is no longer a Long Tail. Money – great deal of money – can be done by monetizing the Long Tail. From an economical perspective it is no longer a pareto, 80-20, but rather 50-50: revenues are almost evenly distributed between Hubs and Long Tail (endless nodes).

2. The Long Tail itself has its own power law distribution – it is an endless recursion. So if the traditional news providers – NYT, Le Monde, Der Spiegel etc. are the News Hubs of the World and the Blogosphere, on its 30 something million blogs is its Long Tail, this doesn’t imply that the Blogosphere has random distribution of popularity. Technorati’s Top 100 are the Huge Hubs of the Blogosphere. The rest of the blogs are this 100 Long Tail. Anderson provides one more statistic – an encouraging one: any dot on the Long Tail is approached if there’s a way to access it. Translation: any blog (pot) on the blogosphere will find its reader (cover), with a viable opportunity to become, one day, a mega-pot-hub on its own.

3. Finally, web2.0 is the technology of the Long Tail. Google, Amazon and eBay have all made their money by creating a formidable infrastructure that digs into the Long Tail and accumulates the insignificant cents into multi-billions of dollars.

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podcastIcon1.gif Chris Anderson: Economics of the Long Tail 00:38:30, 17.6 mb, March 17th, 2005

Original Podlink: Chris Anderson: Economics of the Long Tail

References:

Chris Anderson’s article on the Long Tail

Chris Anderson’s Blog: The Long Tail

technorati1.jpg Technorati the Long Tail, Technorati the Podlink

“One Sheet, Only Foldings, No Cuts” – The Origami Behind Microsoft’s Ultramobile 2007 Buzz

February 28, 2006

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The Blogosphere is excited about Microsoft’s Origami Project, which promises full-blown functionality with spatial cost-efficiency to the future Ultramobile 2007 gadget.

Microsoft will reveal “something” about this project on March 2nd, which leaves you with a two-days catch-up on what the heck is Origami and how it is related to gadgets. Fortunately, Dr. Robert Lang, who is “one of the foremost origami artists and theorists in the world”, gave an excellent 16 minutes introduction on Origami at OSCON 2005.

With “One Sheet, Only Foldings, No Cuts” as the leitmotif, Dr. Lang explains what Origami is and how it has evolved from a paper folding art into an applied science. One of the amazing origami-designed projects is the EyeGlass (see picture): “a space Telescope with some 100-meter lens in the form of a thin membrane. The origami-folded lens fit into a small rocket in such a way that the lens can be unfolded in space without suffering from any permanent marks or creases”.

Microsoft’s Origami project is, undoubtedly, an interesting approach to solving the handheld device limitations.

lang.jpgPrototype Telescope

Technopod Rating: 9
podcastIcon1.gif Robert Lang: Computational Origami 00:16:07, 7.4 mb, Aug, 4th, 2005

Original Podlink: Robert Lang, Origami Artist and Theorist: Computational Origami

References:

Robert J. Lang – Origami
technorati1.jpg Technorati Origami Project, Technorati the Podlink

The Power of Default in the Land of Endless Possibilites (A Catch-22 Stewpod)

February 27, 2006

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This one is a “Catch-22 Stewpod”. Stewpod – because I gathered here, under a single theme, two unrelated podcasts; Catch-22 – well, you will have to keep on reading.

If you take any subject in life you would normally find yourself with many possibilities to pick from. Here are some technological examples: RSS feeds? – Feedburner‘s official numbers are ~250K; Blogs? Technorati‘s official is 27M; Linux Distros? Distrowatch‘s is 370~ ; Thinking about implementing SOA? Well, think again – there are so many different interpretations to what’s SOA; Forced to implement SOA with IBM? Hmm, there are 13 different products under the IBM’ SOA umbrella; which one do you need, or maybe do you need them all?

The point is clear – there are always too many possibilities, options and choices. But unlike the conceptual illusion that the more options one has, the more “free” (as in freedom), rich and significant his/her life would be, the lecture of Prof. Barry Schwartz – “Less is More”, demonstrates that the opposite is actually true: endless possibilities mean endless angst. Too many possibilities could well lead to paralyzation, stress and despair. Constraining the number of alternatives is, therefore, an existential necessity. Barry Schwartz suggests having a predefined default whenever possible.

Whoever used any RSS Reader knows they are coming with a predefined subscription on some selected, highly popular feeds. That’s a default. In the Enterprise world, the default’s equivalent might be a Technical Reference Model (or Manual) listing all the vendors, products and technologies authorized for use; or, as it’s usually the case, IBM is the de-facto default for practically anything.

The “Default” as a mean to regain happiness in a re-constrained world raises some evident moral questions (i.e. socio-economic and political :)), such as who’s responsible for setting the default value, for the “power of default” and its economic gains are invaluable.

Have a look, for instance, at the following Sys-Con SOA Awards. There are 21 categories related to SOA, and IBM, though never a winner, is a runner-up in 20 out of 21 categories! I would argue that this is an amazing demonstration of the power of default.

Another well known demonstration of the Default’s Power is Microsoft, with IE, Media Player, shipped as part of their operating system.

So who’s setting the default? In progressive Enterprises I assume that the Enterprise Architecture Office is in charge of the defaults. But in most Enterprises, it’s undoubtedly fear that determines which vendor gets this invaluable label. And here IBM plays, again, a major role, for “No one gets fired for buying IBM”. This axiom is a late adaptation of Keynes‘ famous remark: “It is better to fail conventionally, than to succeed unconventionally” (as quoted by James Surowieki, the other half of this stewpod). Yet, conventional failures might lead to disastrous outcomes (and see Tristan Yates: How IBM Conned Our IT Execs Out Of Millions, for an example).

Unlike the Enterprise, in the Web2.0 sphere there’s no fear, and out there the default is determined by the people’s attention. Technorati Rank, del.icio.us’ popular, digg etc. are all manifestations of the public attention. The public elects its defaults.

This leads us to the second lecture by James Surowieki – “Independent Individuals and Wise Crowds”. Humans are not ants, maintain Surowieki, and “the wisdom of crowds” is nothing but a myth. Too often the crowd is wrong and less intelligent than a single individual. Surowieki gives many amusing and interesting examples, as well as one practical advice on how to increase one’s independence in the face of the Web2.0 herd: keep your (social, intellectual, commercial, computational) ties loose. In other words – increase your options, possibilities and choices! “Inject randomness”, concludes Surowieki (Oy! Do I hear Grazing Lists?).

References:

On the Power of Default

Linked: The New Science of Networks, Albert-Laszlo Barabasi

Web2.0 Herd Criticism

Andrew Keen: Web 2.0 Is Reminiscent Of Marx

Enterprise Defaults and Pressure

Muli Koppel: Pressure (The first article in the Pressure trilogy)

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Technopod Rating: 9
podcastIcon1.gif Barry Schwartz – Less is More

Original Podlink: Barry Schwartz – Less is More

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Technopod Rating: 9
podcastIcon1.gif James Surowieki – Independent Individuals and Wise Crowds

Original Podlink: James Surowieki – Independent Individuals and Wise Crowds

technorati1.jpgTechnorati Wisdom of Crowds, Technorati Less is More Podlink ,Technorati the Wisdom Podlink

Scripting and the Real-Time Enterprise – Scott Mace and Peter Yared

February 23, 2006

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The social network of “scripting” (Ousterhout, Dave Winer, ScriptingNews, Open Source, Wikipedia, Tagging, Ruby, LAMP…) has a compelling, seductive power in an era where there’s no Time, as it offers means for rapid creation and assimilation of ideas (through the Blogosphere), standards (micro-formats), tools (open source) and products (mash-ups). And while not everyone of us is a code scripter, many of us are content-taggers, which is an equivalent to “Ontology-scripting”. So we’re scripters.

Yet, when it comes to the Real-Time Enterprise, a conflict emerges between the Quicky Culture of coding and the Managerial Culture of operating the code (as manifested in two similar design-principles: “Design for Operations” and “Design for Failures”). Scripts and Enterprise-Grade Products & Services are, therefore, considered antipodes.

ActiveGrid, an Enterprise-Grade scripting IDE and run-time environment, aspires at mitigating the gap between these two cultures. Without judging the quality of ActiveGrid development and runtime environment, nor its positioning compared to roaring ROR, I think the behind-the-scenes philosophy of this environment, as presented by ActiveGrid’s CEO, Peter Yared, is fascinating.

Scott Mace, Opening Move’s host, leads brilliantly Yared in the garden of today’s memes, J2EE and .NET vs. scripting, ActiveGrid vs. Vista, scale-out through utility computing; dynamic, ad-hoc, distributed, transaction-level policy, logging & auditing; the reality of 2PC (two-phase commit) in J2EE AS; freedom of languages’ choice on the LAMP stack vs. Java’s write one, run anywhere; and much, much more!

Enjoy.
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Technopod Rating: 9
podcastIcon1.gif Scripting and the Real-Time Enterprise 59:07, 27.1 mb, recorded Apr 20th, 2005

Original Podlink: Opening Move with Peter Yared

References:

John K. Ousterhout – Scripting: Higher Level Programming for the 21st Century

activegrid_home_logo.gif ActiveGrid

technorati1.jpg Technorati ActiveGrid, Technorati the Podlink

Overload

February 20, 2006

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Robert Scoble, Microsoft’s Blogstreamer (and see also Robert Scoble has a twin! :)) , chaired a session on Information Overload in BloggerCon III, an annual conference organized by Dave Winer, with the sub-motto of “A users-only conference” (aka, Unconference) – vendors are kindly requested to remain silent (you got to admit it’s refreshing. And when one of the vendors tried to sneak a word, he had to face ranting “take no prisoners” Winer who stopped him at once).

In this Overload session we can listen to many requirements evolving around RSS readers, aggregators and filters. Users want their content to be filtered geographically; based on their social networks; based on authority – to give just a few examples. And so it goes on and on – Interesting.

But what I liked more was the between-the-lines of this session.

Information Consumers: Addicts (like Scoble, who’s subscribed to more than 1000 feeds) vs. the controlled, i.e. those who open their RSS reader after dinner, scan briefly the bolded headers (indication of new stuff) and go on with their other (!) business.

Web2.0 startups: There’s an endless list of requirements for the RSS-related tools, which means there’s a place for many more startups. Just a thought I had after so many ideas I threw away because there were “already” five companies doing similar things.

Meta-Data: Filters, aggregators, feeds, and reading lists – are all meta-data organizing this endless river of Information, enabled through RSS. Meta-Data tends to organize itself in networked graphs. Efficiently storing and retrieving graphs that points to this endless river is something of a challenge (and listen to Adam Bosworth on that).

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Technopod Rating: 8

podcastIcon.gif Overload 01:15:16, 34.5 mb, Nov 6th, 2004

Original Podlink: Overload, Robert Scoble, session leader, Bloggercon III

technorati.jpg Technorati Overload Bloggercon, Technorati the Podlink

Dave Winer – Behind the Mic

February 19, 2006

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Dave Winer deserves respect. I might be suffering from Scripting News blitzing (and I therefore unsubscribed; tech.memeorandum will dig out Winer’s good stories anyway), yet I think we owe this man a lot – if I’m reading tech history properly. For Dave Winer is, in a way, Tim-Berners Lee successor. While TBL created this World Wide Platform for storing Information, DW “let this Info go”. Being the creator of RSS, and/or member of the teams that created the different RSS versions, DW could well be named the Liberator of the World Wide Information, liberation which gave birth to the interactive web 2.0.

After this intro, I should set your expectations right away: Dave Winer is not as philosophical as TBL, nor as visionary as Tim O’Reilly… 🙂 He is, in a way, a symbol of simplicity: in his tools, in his standards, in his posts and in his thoughts. He’s the K.I.S.S. man, and that’s what’s so remarkable.

Final note: Winer was among the co-authors of the early SOAP, but as things have become too complex he left. Yet, here’s a surprise: Winer never meant SOAP to become what it is today. Application integration? Business Transactions? Not at all. For Winer, SOAP was meant to be an easier standard for… publishing content over the web.

p.s. Winer is behind many things, not just RSS.

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Technopod Rating: 9

podcastIcon.gif Dave Winer 01:09:05, 31.6 mb, Oct 27th, 2004

Original Podlink: Dave Winer – Behind the Mic

References:

RSS History (as told by no other than… Dave Winer) 🙂

Wikipedia: Dave Winer

Scripting News

technorati.jpg Technorati Dave Winer, Technorati the Podlink