31 December 2004
30 December 2004
Dina Mehta has been tracking the situation on her blog Conversations with Dina and helped set up the SEA-EAT blog. She reported that they should have set it up as a wiki. As it is, they have over 28 bloggers contributing.
CyberJournalist.net has modified the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics for the Weblog world.
A BLOGGERS' CODE OF ETHICS
Be Honest and Fair
Bloggers should be honest and fair in gathering, reporting and interpreting information.
• Never plagiarize.
• Identify and link to sources whenever feasible. The public is entitled to as much information as possible on sources' reliability.
• Make certain that Weblog entries, quotations, headlines, photos and all other content do not misrepresent. They should not oversimplify or highlight incidents out of context.
• Never distort the content of photos without disclosing what has been changed. Image enhancement is only acceptable for for technical clarity. Label montages and photo illustrations.
• Never publish information they know is inaccurate -- and if publishing questionable information, make it clear it's in doubt.
• Distinguish between advocacy, commentary and factual information. Even advocacy writing and commentary should not misrepresent fact or context.
• Distinguish factual information and commentary from advertising and shun hybrids that blur the lines between the two.
Ethical bloggers treat sources and subjects as human beings deserving of respect.
• Show compassion for those who may be affected adversely by Weblog content. Use special sensitivity when dealing with children and inexperienced sources or subjects.
• Be sensitive when seeking or using interviews or photographs of those affected by tragedy or grief.
• Recognize that gathering and reporting information may cause harm or discomfort. Pursuit of information is not a license for arrogance.
• Recognize that private people have a greater right to control information about themselves than do public officials and others who seek power, influence or attention. Only an overriding public need can justify intrusion into anyone's privacy.
• Show good taste. Avoid pandering to lurid curiosity.
Be cautious about identifying juvenile suspects, victims of sex crimes and criminal suspects before the formal filing of charges.
• Admit mistakes and correct them promptly.
• Explain each Weblog's mission and invite dialogue with the public over its content and the bloggers' conduct.
• Disclose conflicts of interest, affiliations, activities and personal agendas.
• Deny favored treatment to advertisers and special interests and resist their pressure to influence content. When exceptions are made, disclose them fully to readers.
• Be wary of sources offering information for favors. When accepting such information, disclose the favors.
• Expose unethical practices of other bloggers.
• Abide by the same high standards to which they hold others.
By John Blau, IDG News Service
Dutch authorities have issued their first fines for spam originating in the country.
The largest fine, €42,500 (US$58,000), was slapped on an individual who was involved in four spam runs, according to the spokesman.
A second fine, amounting €25,000, was issued to a one-man printing company, called Gorenendaal, which was soliciting orders for the book Mein Kampf, written by Adolf Hitler. "Apart from the fact that the company was sending spam, this publication is banned," the spokesman said.
The third fine for €20,000 was issued to a group called Yellow Monday, which sent spam to mobile phones via SMS (Short Message Service). "This spam was the nastiest of all because consumers who opened the spam were automatically billed €1.10," the spokesman said.
29 December 2004
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia is covering the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake.
It is live and completely explains the the quake charateristics and countries involved with continually updated casualities, damage impact and relevant information listed per country.
28 December 2004
Other highlights include evidence for ancient water on Mars, advances in low-temperature physics and the world's smallest atomic clock.
1. Pure and applied quantum physics
2. Putting general relativity to the test
3. Good year for planets
4. Supersolid helium
5. Ultracold Fermi gases
6. Physicists target viruses
7. Electrons in a spin
8. Liquids go against the flow
9. Smallest atomic clock
10. Particles and prizes
Click here to read PhysicsWeb - News - Highlights of the year (December 2004)
You might be surprised just how interesting this is!
26 December 2004
It's fun! Who knows what might happen.
The first prize is three nights accommodation and breakfast for two people plus one dinner for two at your choice of one of four exclusive Orient-Express Hotels. Choose from the following hotels that have been selected from the Orient-Express’ magical collection of luxury hotels, resorts and restaurants:
• Hotel Splendido in Portofino, Italy
• Copacabana Palace in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
• Mount Nelson Hotel in Cape Town, South Africa
• La Residence d’Angkor in Siem Reap, Cambodia
25 December 2004
23 December 2004
What happens around this time of year is that people from home - New Mexico - start sending photos...of snow and, of course, the unique way we decorate the pathways, walls and roofs with luminarias and farolitos.
Several years ago I decided not to travel home in the winter - the snow storms in NM can ground you for weeks! The downside is...no biscochitos, no posole, no farolitos and no family.
Merry Kisses to my very wonderful family - and, oh, by the way, Happy 81st birthday, Dad. (Go play your sax for me!)
22 December 2004
Amsterdam is one of the best places on Earth to celebrate New Year's Eve. We have fireworks that seem to last forever and the streets and canals are filled with people celebrating amidst the foreworks.
December 22, 2004: No Rudolph? No problem. This year there's going to be a full moon to light up the nights around Christmas. The smallest full moon of 2004 will brighten the nights around Christmas.
So... to those of you who don't believe in Santa, here's the proof:
Look out the window Christmas Eve at the moonlight on your roof.
The apparent size of the moon at perigee
(top) and apogee (bottom).
Rudolph coughed and sneezed.
Ahh-choo! His nose was really red.
The doctor nodded ruefully.
"He has to stay in bed."
Rudolph had a cold,
a bad one, plain to see.
He wasn't going anywhere
with Santa Christmas Eve.
Rooftops dark and tricky.
(Hey ... where'd the chimney go?)
That's what Santa has to deal with
absent Rudolph's rosy glow.
But Santa is a cheery soul
and a smart one, too.
He quickly had a bright idea:
"I know what to do!"
Using special Santa-magic,
he conjured up a moon,
a full one, round and shiny.
Who needs Rudolph? That old prune!
So... to those of you who don't believe
in Santa, here's the proof:
Look out the window Christmas Eve
at the moonlight on your roof.
It's a special full moon, too: the smallest of 2004. Soaring high in the sky, it might remind you of a shiny white Christmas ball for your tree. Don't bother reaching for it... it's 406,700 km away!
20 December 2004
Google Inventions of the Future (4 of 10)
Number 4. Google AdWalls. Inspired by a scene in Truffaut's "Fahrenheit 451," a Google engineer in 2028 creates Google AdWalls. Like a living poster on the wall, they display a variety of items to shop for. The spin here is that AdWalls listen to what people in the room are talking about, managing to display context-relevant information only. If they hear a "Honey, where's the toothpaste?" in the morning, they will instantly display the fitting spot advertising toothpaste and talk the viewer into buying it.
What went right: Lonely people realized they could talk to their walls to suppress boredom. While not exactly intelligent, the algorithm always managed to stay on topic.
What went wrong: Landlords installing AdWalls could lower the rent because they'd get a commission for items bought. The idea was this way everybody would benefit. However after the first wave of suicide attempts caused by annoying, ever-talking AdWalls, Google felt forced to shut down the program.
19 December 2004
18 December 2004
Are you willing to listen to others to gain a fresh perspective on life? Can you offer other people the space to think the way they want to? Can you give someone else the experience of changing their mind much in the way you would give yourself the same experience?
Perhaps there is one path, one way, one truth. Or...maybe, truth is the sum of all parts. Perhaps each of us can only see a small part of the whole. Without each of our individual truths, the whole as we know it would not exist.
This is a good time of the year to expand your thinking, your beliefs and your horizons.
Stretch your mind to make way for your heart.
14 December 2004
First thought - Balancing What Customers Value With What Businesses Value
"In recent years, many businesses - many entire industries, in fact - seem to have lost their sense of balance in this regard. In trying to maximize the value of customers to their businesses, they appear to have lost sight of the need for their organizations to create value for their customers. "
Second thought - Reorienting Priorities
"The question of how to balance the value of the experience to the customer and the value of the customer to the company leads to an opportunity to "value engineer" the relationship between organizations and their customers, thereby making any market segment profitable. "
I could not find it for sale on any of the usual sites. If anyone knows where to buy it, please let me know.
22:00 13 December 04
NewScientist.com news service
" The shift from nomadic life to settled village life can lead to a rapid development of religious and social complexity and hierarchy, according to a detailed chronology of the Valley of Oaxaca in Mexico. Only about 1300 years separate its oldest ritual buildings - simple ‘men’s huts’ - and the first standardised temples of the Zapotec state, an archaeological study suggests.
“This is the first study to show how the co-evolution of social and religious complexity occurred, and what steps were involved,” says Joyce Marcus at the University of Michigan, US, who led the work."
9 December 2004
A captivating speaker from the Edward de Bono Foundation on Malta led one of the groups in lateral thinking. A warm-hearted Professor from Mumbai, India gave another group insights into HR. A retired specialist from the Space Agency in Bremen, Germany offered a working platform about private space travel as business. Two wise and charming Parisians opened the minds of another group and gathered their collaborative contributions for the U.N. An Armenian yoga instructor from Los Angeles opened the minds of another group to the wonders of wholeness through eating and meditation practices. A dedicated British economist shared his accounting tools with a different group. An enterprising Netherlander took a group of young entrepreneurs through the rigors of a start up company.
I made my group of 46 students crazy! They had to grasp concepts larger than life, understand how they impact the dynamic network structures of organizations, realize that the brand identity - and ultimately, the reputation of the company - is created through the behavior of the people in the business delivering the promise of the brand. That's a lot to ask from people without little or no management experience.
By the end of the week, they amazed me. We struggled with cultural differences, different maturity and respect levels, and language difficulties. What they delivered through presentation of self-created brands integrated with these concepts demonstrated to me that they got it.
I am not even sure if they realize yet that they did get it. But, one day they will.
By the way, they selected a theme themselves - Sex & Humor. From that they had to develop a brand out of their own human content. That required identifying their vision on how to deliver this, the values they would stand for and mean, what performance differences would set them apart and establish their mission to deliver, and what would endorse them as proof of this. While doing this, they also had to identify the alignments and the dependencies necessary to make this come alive. So, you can see that this was a lot to absorb in 5 days.
They taught me a lot, too.
17 November 2004
netObjects. Hector Serrano and Victor Vina. Collection of everyday objects for the home which present real time information from the networks.
16 November 2004
This bit of insight from Michael Schrage (MIT's Tech Review) over at Techdirt's blog may go a long way in explaining our weakness in innovation here in Nederland.
He claims that innovation is much more important - and more importantly - is entirely separate from invention. According to him, inventors were historically innovators. It's only the distance of history that has rewritten their stories as if they were inventors.
Scrage points out that invention has nothing to do with commercial success - whereas innovation has everything to do with it. Furthermore, this ties into the ongoing debate over patent reform: "If you want to learn about the importance of "invention" over the past 300 years, talk to the lawyers. If you want to hear about the importance of "innovation," however, talk to anyone else."
So, the real question then, is whether or not our intellectual property system should be encouraging invention or innovation? I'd vote for innovation - innovation drives the economy. We need fewer lawyers involved with the patent system, and perhaps more innovators.
"The technical excellence of an invention matters far less than the economic willingness of the customer or client to explore it." In other words, any system designed to encourage innovation needs to encourage actually making use of the innovation - and not, for example, sitting on a patent and doing nothing with it.
We're about to hold a Pow-Wow tomorrow about this very issue. Our new initiative - "Innovation is a culture" - builds a path from mind-set through understanding the processes and procedures needed to grow innovation as a culture inside the organization.
10 November 2004
10 X 10 ('ten by ten') is an interactive exploration of the words and pictures that define the time. Every hour, 10 X 10 collects the 100 words and pictures that matter most on a global scale, and presents them as a single image, taken to encapsulate that moment in time.
At the end of each day, month, and year, 10 X 10 looks back through its archives to conclude the top 100 words for the given time period. In this way, a constantly evolving record of our world is formed, based on prominent world events, without any human input.
You can find Jonathan J. Harris work at Number 27.
Theo was assasinated last week by a young Morrocan, educated and raised here in Amsterdam. He murdered Theo for his outspoken and controversial dialogue about fundamental religious impact on women and the community.
Almost immediately, Nederland found itself facing focused terrorist activities - the bombing and burning of an islamitic school for children and booby-trapped building that police are investigating.
The Netherlands is known as a country of tolerance. People can pretty much do what they like and it goes relatively unpunished compared to other countries. Last week changed the dialogue in this land. People are engaging in heated and emotional conversations about their feelings, opinions and most of all, their desire to see a big change in how multi-cultural integration will be handled in the future.
9 November 2004
A cool site - Metroblogging.com - has city blogs from many places, mostly the US of course but also in Europe: London and Vienna.
What a great idea. But no Amsterdam! One of Europe's great cities!
To start an Amsterdam metblog, we need 10 bloggers. I've signed up, so 9 more are required. Is this something you'd be interested in? If so, just sign up HERE.
If you think it's a good idea, would you promote this on your blog? See my blog
If you're interested, sign up. We need a minimum of 10 bloggers. Would be great if we could gather a whole force bloggers with a wide range of interests and contacts for people.
I've also posted it on the club forum for
7 November 2004
They acknowledge that engaging in relationship with the customer is the core focus in marketing. About time! Now how long do you think it will take to convince business units that a relationship with their customers is top of the list?
"The American Marketing Association is a respected organization of 38,000 members that has been around for more than six decades. Many in the industry see it as setting the standards of marketing practices and education.
"Marketing is the process of planning and executing conception, pricing, promotion and distribution of goods, ideas and services to create exchanges that satisfy individual and organizational goals."
The new definition of marketing, unveiled at the AMA's Summer Educator's Conference in August is:
"Marketing is an organizational function and a set of processes for creating, communicating and delivering value to customers and for managing customer relationships in ways that benefit the organization and its stakeholders."
Jack Hollfelder, Senior Director of Publishing, American Marketing Association, describes the definition change as moving from a transaction orientation to one that focuses on the customer. "Technology and marketing have been changing quite rapidly over the last five to 10 years. The 1985 definition was not encompassing enough. The new definition more clearly infuses the customer into marketing."
Adam Herman, Senior Vice President and Integrated Media Director at ad agency Beyond Interactive, says that the new definition is a reflection of what's already being done. "The new AMA definition of marketing is very appropriate for most brands, in that marketing should be customer-centric, and not brand-centric," he says. "This renewed focus on the customer, which successful brands have been doing anyway for years, puts the proper emphasis on the group that has the real power in the sales equation -- those that buy the products, not the sellers."
Jeff Weiner, head of the Relationship Marketing Research Practice within Measurement Strategy Consulting at Carlson Marketing Group, sees the AMA definition as a major shift in acknowledging the power of the customer. "The new focus is now on 'managing customer relationships,' which is a huge shift from the previous definition," he says.
Now, let's see if those of us involved in marketing here in Europe can actually convince our clients that the customer is King!
6 November 2004
I have thousands of pictures and just as many sounds in my mind. I keep hearing Mikey telling me to "land it, Colby - just land it!" I see his round face and watch him pace while he imitates the Dutch or the Norwegians struggling with concepts larger than their language!
Mikey danced through life with his wicked sense of humor, mimicking accents while he shared the cultural hiccups that brought us all to tears laughing. He had a brilliant mind that structured frameworks for assembling even the most complicated thinking...and helped each of us become more of ourselves by engaging with him that way.
What Mikey brought to each of our lives was a real sense of presence. Be here now. Deal with reality and the consequences of your choices. He was not a man to run naked through an emotional landscape. He preferred to celebrate life with a great bottle of wine (or preferably several!), really yummy food, and the company of those that shared the enjoyment of one another's company. That is how Mikey showed his love
for us - he gave us his precious time.
I remember him telling me about Sarah - now his wife - when we were working together in Oslo for the client Nowegian Railroad back in 1998. He did not hesitate for one second as he detailed the research efforts of her company, and then slipped in the
notion that he was sure he was in love. His sense of honor forced him to tell his wife immediately - while we all ducked knowing the cascade of fire that would follow. He carried the responsibility of his choice for Sarah like a badge of honor in a war that he knew his former wife would never let end. He knew it beforehand, but was not willing to risk losing Sarah - his chance of having real love in his life. He was willing to pay dearly for that. He never looked back and never regretted that decision. You've got to love a man like that! Talk about standing for what you believe in.
During his funeral, his brother Peter said that Mikey "fostered the promise" in people. He was a man driven by ethics, fueled with creative spirit and following a path that fed so many others.
We miss you, Mikey. We will do our best to foster the promise in ourselves.
23 October 2004
Yesterday I participated in a seminar for children's documentary film-makers, hosted by Cinekid and the Dutch Cultural Broadcasting Fund. Jonathan Marks, who led the seminar, invited me because of Kids 2020.
Not only did I meet other directors and producers from other countries, but we got to see some of their most recent documentaries.
What I learned is that the content and subject matter of each documentary in each country is limited or expanded by the freedom of children to express themselves and explore boundaries. It seems that countries like The Netherlands and Denmark have much more freedom to make and show films for and about children that include subject matter not necessarily approved by parents or the distribution laws in other countries.
We covered a great deal of issues facing documentary film-makers today.
20 October 2004
Even in business, creativity has its place...inside the mind of every person.
Innovation is all about accessing that creative and playful part of your mind and giving it a collaborative playground with some structure. This is how we begin to grow conceptual thinking inside business and then anchor it in something that binds all those wonderful ideas together.
Here is The Netherlands, we are known for logistics. We are currently looking at how to get back into the top 10 economically and innovatively. One key might be to bring in processes and methodologies that enhance more conceptual thinking - rather than just remaining focused on moving things around.
This difference is strategic, and requires a creative mind. Conceptual thinking is about objective strategy, defining the drivers and the playing field. Logistical thinking is about planning and moving those strategies into play.
Wouldn't it be wonderful to explore a more conceptual process with all the social media and tools of technology currently at hand?
Play with your mental fireworks and get out there and play a bit. Who knows where it might lead you.
19 October 2004
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Friday, July 26, 2002
August 2009: How Google beat Amazon and Ebay to the Semantic Web
By Paul Ford
A work of fiction. A Semantic Web scenario. A short feature from a business magazine published in 2009.
Please note that this story was written in 2002.
Googlebot Controls the Earth! Illustration by Rebecca Dravos.
It's hard to believe Google - which is now the world's largest single online marketplace - came on the scene only a little more than 8 years ago, back in the days when Amazon and Ebay reigned supreme. So how did Google become the world's single largest marketplace?
Well, the short answer is �the Semantic Web� (whatever that is - more in a moment). While Amazon and Ebay continue to have average quarterly profits of $1 billion and $1.8 billion, respectively, and are successes by any measure, the $17 billion per annum Google Marketplace is clearly the most impressive success story of what used to be called, pre-crash, �The New Economy.�
Amazon and Ebay both worked as virtual marketplaces: they outsourced as much inventory as possible (in Ebay's case, of course, that was all the inventory, but Amazon also kept as little stock on hand as it could). Then, through a variety of methods, each brought together buyers and sellers, taking a cut of every transaction.
For Amazon, that meant selling new items, or allowing thousands of users to sell them used. For Ebay, it meant bringing together auctioneers and auction buyers. Once you got everything started, this approach was extremely profitable. It was fast. It was managed by phone calls, emails, and database applications. It worked.
Enter Google. By 2002, it was the search engine, and its ad sales were picking up. At the same time, the concept of the �Semantic Web,� which had been around since 1998 or so, was gaining a little traction, and the attention of an increasing circle of people.
So what's the Semantic Web? At its heart, it's just a way to describe things in a way that a computer can �understand.� Of course, what's going on is not understanding, but logic, like you learn in high school:
If A is a friend of B, then B is a friend of A.
Jim has a friend named Paul.
Therefore, Paul has a friend named Jim.
Jim has a friend named Paul.
Therefore, Paul has a friend named Jim.
Using a markup language called RDF (an acronym that's here to stay, so you might as well learn it - it stands for Resource Description Framework), you could put logical statements like these on the Internet, �spiders� could collect them, and the statements could be searched, analyzed, and processed. What makes this different than regular search is that the statements can be combined. So if I find a statement on Jim's web site that says �Jim is a friend of Paul� and someone does a search for Paul's friends, even if Paul's web site doesn't have a mention of Jim on it, we know Jim's considers himself a friend of Paul.
Other things we might know for sure? That Car Seller A is selling Miatas for 10% less than Car Seller B. That Jan Hammer played keyboards on the Mahavishnu Orchestra's albums in the 1970s. That dogs have paws. That your specific model of computer requires a new motherboard and a faster bus before it can be upgraded to a Pentium 18. The Semantic Web isn't about pages and links, it's about relationships between things - whether one thing is a part of another, or how much a thing costs, or when it happened.
The Semweb was originally supposed to give the web the �smarts� it lacked - and much of the early work on it was in things like calendaring and scheduling, and in expressing relationships between people. By late 2003, when Google began to seriously experiment with the Semweb (after two years of experiments at their research labs), it was still a slow-growing technology that almost no one understood and very few people used, except for academics with backgrounds in logic, computer science, or artificial intelligence. The learning curve was as steep as a cliff, and there wasn't a great incentive for new coders to climb it and survey the world from their new vantage.
The Semweb, it was promised, would make it much easier to schedule dentist's appointment, update your computer, check the train schedule, and coordinate shipments of car parts. It would make searching for things easier. All great stuff, stuff to make millions of dollars from, perhaps. But not exactly sexy to the people who write the checks, especially after they'd been burnt 95 times over by the dot-com bust. All they saw was the web - the same web that had lined a few pockets and emptied a few million - with the word �semantic� in front of it.
. . . . .
Semantics vs. Syntax, Fight at 9
The semantics of something is the meaning of it. Nebulous stuff, but in the world of AI, the goal has long been getting semantics out of syntax. See, the trillion dollar question is, when you have a whole lot of stuff arranged syntactically, in a given structure that the computer can chew up, how do you then get meaning out of it? How does syntax become semantics? Human brains are really good at this, but computers, are dreadful. They're whizzes at syntax. You can tell them anything, if you tell it in a structured way, but they can't make sense of it, they keep deciding that �The flesh is willing but the spirit is weak� in English translates to �The meat is full of stars but the vodka is made of pinking shears� or suchlike in Russian.
So the guess has always been that you need a whole lot of syntactically stable statements in order to come up with anything interesting. In fact, you need a whole brain's worth - millions. Now, no one has proved this approach works at all, and the #1 advocate for this approach was a man named Doug Lenat of the CYC corporation, who somehow ended up on President Ashcroft's post-coup blacklist as a dangerous intellectual and hasn't been seen since. But the basic, overarching idea with the Semweb was - and still is, really - to throw together so much syntax from so many people that there's a chance to generate meaning out of it all.
As you know, computers still aren't listening to us as well as we'd like, but in the meantime the Semweb technology matured, and all of a sudden centralized databases - and Amazon and Ebay were prime examples of centralized databases with millions of items each - could suddenly be spread out through the entire web. Everyone could own their little piece of the database, their own part of the puzzle. It was easy to publish the stuff. But the problem was that there was no good way to bring it all together. And it was hard to create RDF files, even for some programmers - so we're back to that steep learning curve.
That all changed - suprisingly slowly - in late 2004, when with little fanfare, Google introduced three services, Google Marketplace Search, Google Personal Agent, and Google Verification Manager, and a software product, Google Marketplace Manager.
. . . . .
Google Marketplace Search
Marketplace Search is a search feature built on top of the Google Semantic Search feature, and it's likely nearly everyone reading will have used it at least once. You simply enter:
to see a list of people buying Martin-brand acoustic guitars, and
to see a list of sellers. Google asked for, and remembered, your postal code, and you could use easy sort controls inside the page to organize the resulting list of guitars by price, condition, model number, new/used, and proximity. The pages drew from Google's �classic,� non-Semantic-Web search tools, long considered the best on the Web, to link to information on Martin models and buyer's guides, as well as from Google's Usenet News archive. Links to sites like Epinions filled in the gaps.
So where did Google Marketplace Search get its information? The same way Google got all of its information - by crawling through the entire web and indexing what it found. Except now it was looking for RDDL files, which pointed to RDF files, which contained logical statements like these:
(Scott Rahin) lives in Zip Code (11231).
(Scott Rahin) has the email address (email@example.com).
(Scott Rahin) has a (Martin Guitar).
[Scott's] (Martin Guitar) is a model (245).
[Scott's] (Martin Guitar) can be seen at (http://ftrain.com/picture/martin.jpg).
[Scott's] (Martin Guitar) costs ($900).
[Scott's] (Martin Guitar) is in condition (Good).
[Scott's] (Martin Guitar) can be described as �Well cared for, and played rarely (sadly!). Beautiful, mellow sound and a spare set of strings. I'll be glad to show it to anyone who wants to stop by, or deliver it anywhere within the NYC area.�
What's important to understand is that the things in parentheses and brackets above are not just words, they're pointers. (Scott Rahin) is a pointer to http://ftrain.com/people/Scott. (Martin Acoustic Guitar) is a pointer to a URL that in turn refers to a special knowledge database that has other logical statements, like these:
(Martin Guitar) is an (Acoustic Guitar).
(Acoustic Guitar) is a (Guitar).
(Guitar) is an (Instrument).
Which means that if someone searches for guitar, or acoustic guitar, all Martin Guitars can be included in the search. And that means that Scott can simply say he has a Martin, or a Martin guitar, and the computers figure the rest out for him.
Actually, I just lied to you - it doesn't work exactly that way, and there's a lot of trickery with the pointers, and even the verb phrases are pointers, but rather than spout out a few dozen ugly terms like namespaces, URIs, prefixes, serialization, PURLs, and the like, we'll skip that part and just focus on the essential fact: everything on the Semantic Web describes something that has a URL. Or a URI. Or something like that. What that really means is that RDF is data about web data - or metadata. Sometimes RDF describes other RDF. So do you see how you take all those syntactic statements and hope to build a semantic web, one that can figure things out for itself? Combining the statements like that? Do you? Come on now, really? Yeah, well no one does.
So Google connects everyone by spidering RDF and indexing it. Of course, connecting anonymous buyers and sellers isn't enough. There needs to be accountability. Enter the �Web Accountability and Rating Framework.� There were a lot of various frameworks for accountability, but this one was certified, finally, by the World Wide Web Consortium, before the nuclear accident at MIT, and ECMA, and it's now the standard. How does it work? Well:
On Kara Dobbs's site, we find this statement:
[Kara Dobbs] says (Scott Rahin) is (Trustworthy).
On James Drevin's site, we find this statement:
[James Drevin] says (Scott Rahin) is (Trustworthy).
And so forth. Fine - but how do you know how to trust any of these people in the first place? Stay with me:
On Citibank's site:
[Citibank] says (Scott Rahin) is (Trustworthy).
On Mastercard's site:
[Mastercard] says (Scott Rahin) is (Trustworthy).
And inside Google:
[Google Verification Service] says (Scott Rahin) is (Trustworthy).
[Citibank] says (Kara Dobbs, etc) is (Trustworthy).
then you start to see how it can all fit together, and you can actually get a pretty good sense of whether someone is the least bit dishonest or not. Now, this raises a billion problems about accountability and the nature of truth and human behavior and so forth, but we don't have the requisite 30 trillion pages, so just accept that it works for now. And that a lot of other stuff in this ilk is coming down the pike, like:
[The United States Social Security Administration] says (Pete Jefferson) was born in (1992).
Which means that Pete Jefferson can download smutty videos and �adult� video games from the Internet, since he's 19 and has a Social Security number. That's what the Safe Access for Minors bill says should happen, anyway. And don't forget the civil liberty ramifications of statements like these:
[The Sherriff's Department of Dallas, Texas] says (Martin Chalbarinstik) is a (Repeat Sexual Offender).
[The Sherriff's Department of Dallas, Texas] says (Dave Trebuchet) has (Bounced Checks).
[The Green Party, USA] says (Susan Petershaw) is a (Member).
Databases are powerful, and as much as they bring together data, they can intrude on privacy, but rather than giving the author permission to become a frothing mess lamenting the total destruction of our civil liberties at the hand of cruel machines, let's move on.
Anyway, when you think about it, you can see why Google was a natural to put it all together. Google already searched the entire Web. Google already had a distributed framework with thousands of independent machines. Google already looked for the links between pages, the way they fit together, in order to build its index. Google's search engine solved equations with millions of variables. Semantic Web content, in RDF, was just another search problem, another set of equations. The major problem was getting the information in the first place. And figuring out what to do with it. And making a profit from all that work. And keeping it updated....
. . . . .
Google Marketplace Manager
Well, first you need the information. Asking people to simply throw it on a server seemed like chaos - so enter Google Marketplace Manager, a small piece of software for Windows, Unix, and Macintosh (this is before Apple bought Spain and renamed it the Different-thinking Capitalist Republic of Information). The Marketplace Manager, or MM, looked like a regular spreadsheet and allowed you to list information about yourself, what you wanted to sell, what you wanted to buy, and so forth. MM was essentially an �logical statement editor,� disguised as a spreadsheet. People entered their names, addresses, and other relevant information about themselves, then they entered what they were selling, and MM saved RDF-formatted files to the server of their choice - and sent a �ping� to Google which told the search engine to update their index.
When it came out, the MM was a little bit magical. Let's say you wanted to sell a book. You entered �Book� in the category and MM queried the Open Product Taxonomy, then came back and asked you to identify whether it was a hardcover book, softcover, used, new, collectible, and so forth. The Open Product Taxonomy is a structured thesaurus, essentially, of product types, and it's quickly becoming the absolute standard for representing products for sale.
Then you enter an ISBN number from the back of the book, hit return, and the MM automatically fills in the author, copyright, number of pages, and a field for notes - it just queries a server for the RDF, gets it, chews it up, and gives it to you. If you were a small publishing house, you could list your catalog. If you had a first edition Grapes of Wrath you could describe it and give it a lowest acceptable price, and it'd appear in Google Auctions. Most of the smarts in the MM were actually on the server, as Google interpreted what was entered and adapted the spreadsheet around it. If you entered car, it asked for color. If you entered wine, it asked for vintage, vineyard, number of bottles. Then, when someone searched for 1998 Merlot, your bottle was high on the list.
You could also buy advertisements on Google right through the Manager for high-volume or big ticket items, and track how those advertisements were doing; it all updated and refreshed in a nice table. You could see the same data on the Web at any time, but the MM was sweet and fast and optimized. When you bought something, it was listed in your �purchases� column, organized by type of purchase - easy to print out for your accountant, nice for your records.
So, as we've said, Google allowed you to search for buyers and sellers, and then, using a service shamelessly copied from the then-ubiquitous PayPal, handled the transaction for a 1.75% charge. Sure, people could send checks or contact one another and avoid the 1.75%, but for most items that was your best bet - fast and cheap. 1.75% plus advertising and a global reach, and you can count on millions flowing smoothly through your accounts.
Amazon and Ebay - remember them? - doubtless saw the new product and realized they were in a bind. They would have to �cannibalize their own business� in order to go the Google path - give up their databases to the vagaries of the Web. So, in classic big-company style, they hedged their bets and did nothing.
Despite their inaction, before long all manner of competing services popped up, spidering the same data as Google and offering a cheaper transaction rate. But Google had the brand and the trust, and the profits.
It took 2 years for over a million individuals to accept and begin using the new, Semweb-based shopping. During that time, Google had about $300 million in volume - for a net of $4.5 million on transactions. But, just as Ebay and Amazon had once compelled consumers to bring their business to the web, the word-of-mouth began to work its magic. Since it was easy to search for things to buy, and easy to download the MM and get started, the number of people actively looking through Google Marketplace grew to 10 million by 2006.
. . . . .
Google Personal Agent
Now, search is not enough. You need service. You need the computer to help you. So Google also rolled out the Personal Agent - a small piece of software that, in essence, simply queried Google on a regular basis and sent you email when it found what you were looking for on the Semweb.
Want cheap phone rates? Ask the agent. Want to know when Wholand, the Who-based theme park, opens outside of London? Ask the agent. Or when your wife updates her web-based calendar, or when the price of MSFT goes up three bucks, or when stories about Ghanaian politics hit the wire. You could even program it to negotiate for you - if it found a first-edition Paterson in good condition for less than $2000, offer $500 below the asking price and work up from there. It's between you and the seller, anonymously, perhaps even tax-free if you have the right account number, no one takes a cut. Not using it to buy items began to be considered backwards. Just as the regular Google search negotiated the logical propositions of the Semweb, the Personal Agent did the same - it just did it every few minutes, and on its own, according to pre-set rules.
. . . . .
Google Verification Service
Finally, Google realized they could grab a cut on the �Web of Trust� idea by offering their own verification and rating service, $15 a year to answer a questionnaire, have your credit checked, and fill in some bank account information. But people signed up, because Google was the marketplace; the Google seal of approval meant more than the government's.
. . . . .
A Jury of Your Peer-to-Peers
Since all the information was already in RDF format, Google's own strategy came back to bite it. Free clones of Google Marketplace Manager began to appear, and other search engines began to aggregate without the 1.75% cut, trying to find other revenue models. The Peer-to-Peer model, long the favorite of MP3 and OGG traders, came back to include real-time sales data aggregation, spread over hundreds of thousands of volunteer machines - the same model used by Google, but decentralized among individuals. Amazon and Ebay began automatically including RDF-spidered data on their sites, fitting it right in with existing auctions and items for sale, taking whatever cuts they could find or force out of the situation.
In 2006, Citibank introduced Drop Box Accounts for $100/month, then $30, then $15, and $5/month for checking account holders. The Drop Box account is identified by a single number, and can only receive deposits, which can then be transferred into a checking or savings account. They were even URL-addressable, and hosted using the Finance Transfer Protocol. Simply point your browser to account://382882-2838292-29-1939 and enter the amount you want to deposit. There's no risk in giving out a secure drop box number, and no fee for deposits. Banks held the account information of depositors in federally supervised escrow accounts. Suddenly everyone could simply publish their bank account number and sell their goods without any middleman at all.
Feeling the pressure, and concerned, just as the music companies had been ears before, that their lead would slip to the peer-to-peer market, Google dropped its fees to 1%, allowed MM users to use Drop Box accounts, and began to charge $25 a year for the MM software and service for sellers, while still making it free for users. After a nervous few months, Google found that the majority of users who sold more than 10 items per year - the volume users - were glad to buy a working product with a brand name behind it; the peer-to-peer networks were considered less trustworthy, and the connection to Google advertising. Google also realized that they could also offer Drop Box accounts, and tie them to stock and money-market trading accounts, which opened a can of worms that we'll skip over here. If you're interested, you can read The Dragon in the Chicken Coop, by Tom Rawley.
Google's financials can, of course, be automatically inserted into your MM stock ticker; right now they're trading at 25,000 times earnings, heralding news of the �New New New New Economy.� You'll get no such heralding here; while they've pulled it off once, the competition is fierce. Google was the dream company for a little less than the last decade, but they're finally slowing down, and it's high time for a new batch of graduate students too itchy to finish their Ph.D.'s to get on the ball. And I'm sure they will.
. . . . .
A Semantically Terrifying Future?
The cultural future of the Semantic Web is a tricky one. Privacy is a huge concern, but too much privacy is unnerving. Remember those taxonomies? Well, a group of people out of the Cayman Islands came up with a �ghost taxonomy� - a thesaurus that seemed to be a listing of interconnected yacht parts for a specific brand of yacht, but in truth the yacht-building company never existed except on paper - it was a front for a money-laundering organization with ties to arms and drug smuggling. When someone said �rigging� they meant high powered automatic rifles. Sailcloth was cocaine. And an engine was weapons-grade plutonium.
So, you're a small African republic in the midst of a revolution with a megalomaniac leader, an expatriate Russian scientist in your employ, and 6 billion in heroin profits in your bank account, and you need to buy some weapons-grade plutonium. Who does it for you? Google Personal Agent, your web-based pal, ostensibly buying a new engine for your yacht, a little pricey for $18 million, sure. But you're selling aluminum coffeemakers through the Home Products Unlimited (Barbados) Ghost Taxonomy - or nearly pure heroin, you might say - so you'll make up the difference.
Suddenly one of the biggest problems of being a criminal mastermind - finding a seller who won't sell you out - is gone. With so many sellers, you can even bargain. Selling plutonium is as smooth and easy and anonymous (now that you can get Free Republic of Christian Ghana Drop Boxes) as selling that Martin guitar. Couldn't happen? Some people say it can, which explains the Mandatory Metadata Review bill on its way through Congress right now, where all RDF must be referenced to a public taxonomy approved by a special review board. Like the people say, may you live in interesting times. Which people? Look it up on Google.
Googlebot Controls the Moon! Illustration by Rebecca Dravos.
. . . . . . . . . . . .
17 October 2004
"I feel I am closer to nature if I apply its algorithmic quality than if I just copy its appearance. My work is quite literally algorithmic because I calculate my cuts from scientific protein data using a computer program I wrote. Beside this deterministic side of my work, there is an equally strong intuitive and irrational side, where my pieces stop working as scientific models and become pure art objects.
An example is my Tall Fir Alpha Helix, 2003. I consciously diverge from making an accurate model of the spiral protein element of the same name by shortening the pieces proportional to the tapering of the 26� Douglas fir. The accumulation of small errors in combination with the organic shape of the tree caused the piece to have a striking resemble to a human spine. That unexpected new level of meaning is highly welcome and one of my driving forces for creating such sculptures."
Check out Julian's website and read his papers as well as see his work. If you get a chance to visit some of his exhibitions, make the effort. His work is impressive and very different.
13 October 2004
Here's a slice from this that touched on collaboration and innovation with such poignance.
"Darwin, in a lovely phrase, called it "philosophical laughing," which was his way of saying that those who depart from cultural or intellectual consensus need people to walk beside them and laugh with them to give them confidence. But there's more to it than that. One of the peculiar features of group dynamics is that clusters of people will come to decisions that are far more extreme than any individual member would have come to on his own. People compete with each other and egg each other on, showboat and grandstand; and along the way they often lose sight of what they truly believed when the meeting began. Typically, this is considered a bad thing, because it means that groups formed explicitly to find middle ground often end up someplace far away. But at times this quality turns out to be tremendously productive, because, after all, losing sight of what you truly believed when the meeting began is one way of defining innovation."
Gladwell's whole piece is worth a read.
11 October 2004
10 October 2004
We can chose one flower in a garden as a metaphor to help relate a difficult concept in our business or learning practices. What we share is our story from our own perspective. When we ask someone else to share their perspective or their version of this metaphor, we begin to learn how important perspective is.
Each of us has a different perspective - a different viewing point - so how do we begin to see the real picture?
This is my answer to a very difficult question posed to me recently. Look deeply into a garden and really try to see the whole. Mark the difference between what catches your eye and what you see when you really look and walk around and see the whole garden. Now have a conversation with someone and ask them to do the same. What would you do to sustain that garden - what would they do? Compare notes.
A business is not much different.
19 September 2004
What do I want from you for each of them? Please describe the role that purpose plays in your life. Just post your thoughts here and leave me your email address and name.
I am looking for those defining moments that have helped you transcend and evolve your purpose.
I will respond to the 6 most interesting stories about the role that purpose has played in someone's life.
Be wild. Be crazy. But, be real.
14 September 2004
The amazing 4096 Color Wheel lets you hover over the color wheel and magically the perfect code appears below. You can choose web safe, web smart or unsage color codes.
I get this thrill moving my mouse around until I see the perfect color with the just the right nuance I'm seeking. This is sublime. I click, and - voila! - it adds that color to a column on my left. Another color, another click, and I see the color palette I'm building.
It's fluid, sexy and purposeful. This particular color wheel is the sleek top of the line model. Search no further, you've landed in the right space. No mistakes, no guess work.
Give Jemima's 4096 Color Wheel a try. You'll never look back!
13 September 2004
Hundreds of stands, almost 50,000 people mulling about, a conference schedule filled with speakers sharing their version of new completely connected world and all the toys and infrastructure to support it.
Saturday's keynote speech was delivered by Shayne Robinson, EVP of HP, Chief Strategy and Tech Officer for Hewlett Packard.
Robison: "We're here to help"
His core message was that HP is a utility (we got a glimpse of their storage building - shades of the film Matrix!) with virtual studio technology which will enable collaborative environments on a global scale. It's built on an open source Linux platform. HP is the driving force behind an open source industry platform called digital media platform, which is hoping to standardize and bind consumer electronics and the entertainment industry together. I wonder how this will impact Apple.
He demonstrated this new transforming technology in a short clip about the virtual teams that worked on the film Shrek 2. Suddenly, we found ourselves watching virtuals teams connected by a screen the size of a wall, conferencing across continents and collaborating on content development visually. They were using work stations and meeting spaces designed and powered by HP technology and their joint venture software partners.
They plan to make these Digital Media Work Stations available and affordable for everyone.
HP has also anchored a joint venture with Starbucks and T-Mobile to bring personalized entertainment content into a new context.
Now you can bring your laptop to Starbucks, access HP's new music library through T-Mobile's WIFI, select the tracks you want and burn a customized CD. Wow...coffee, music and something to do! This is cool content in a hot new context, and it's called Hear Music. This is the new music store - and it just opened in Santa Monica, California. Wonder how long it will take to roll out into Amsterdam and the rest of Europe?
What I never realized was that HP technology powers the stock exchanges and ATM's too.
I'm learning lots at this IBC.
Many thanks to Jonathan Marks for opening a special door for me there. Jonathan is the wizard of trends and media - and gave a whazzo presentation on practical gadgets that have caught his eye.
30 August 2004
Several emerging trends have floated to the surface repeatedly with substantiating evidence that they are already integrating and shifting the paradigm for how we do business. Look at how the reduced cost for communication and all the available tools, interfaces, and platforms have drastically changed our communication practices. And those new communication practices are evolving the hierarchical power structures of the corporate organization into more democratic and collaborative networks.
These new assets in human communication and interaction are democratizing the kingdoms of corporations and publishing, and creating whole new industries and sectors that are completely networked. Individuals – we – are gaining more voice and finding channels and shared platforms for our collective voice. Business is becoming more people-centric and less process-centric.
Co-creation is no longer the domain of artists and writers, it is the collaborative space created by giving old ways new context. Individuals are feeling empowered by their connectivity to others as well as by having access to information and ways that were previously inaccessible to them. They are reaching for what they previously thought was unattainable – doing what they love with personal choices now for who, what, where and why.
We see more and more one-person business hubs pulling together dream-teams to handle projects. Employees feel more secure now in leaving the big corporations after a few years because they can continue to serve their prior employer in a much more personalized way and with greater freedom. Within companies, older employees are feeling the freedom created by all the new ways to communicate and share ideas. Collaboration and social networking are the new buzzwords in the hallways. Younger employees don’t know any other way of being except technology-enabled, connected, and accessible with 24/7 integrated communications.
Are we finally headed into an age of innovation and creativity?
I highly recommend reading Tom Malone’s new book “The Future of Work” and Dan Gilmore’s “We the Media”. If you have time, add Richard Florida’s “The Rise of the Creative Class” and James Surowiecki’s “The Wisdom of Crowds”.
28 August 2004
Is it the impact of our behavior on the world around us?
Is it the impact on our lives of what we believe and therefore continually act out?
What if organizations explored their brand purpose from this perspective? This would mean exploring the impact of not only the human effect of each employee, but exploring the impact of every customer, client, user, distributor, and any person who came into contact with the brand in some way.
I think that we would then pay much more attention to our touching points in the brand organization. This would make the brand very physically aware of its connections. We could begin to sense and register the touching points, aware of what transacted and ready to capture the value of that exchange. I am not talking about the exchange of currency, but the readiness to identify whatever the real value of exchange was.
If we began to try and capture the human effect on brands, could we harness its true cost and true value to create a new accounting methodology within our way system of valuation?
My thinking is following this path because of a conversation that I had last week with Arjan ter Linden from the group called The Human Effect. They work with companies on building innovation into the system by clearing the way for individual’s to find their purpose driven path and discovering what that could mean for them in terms of innovative potential and contribution to their companies. They called these workshops “Being Extraordinary”.
The essence behind The Human Effect fascinated me because of the work I’ve been doing on profiling methodologies for one of the business models I developed called The Evolutionary Brand Called M.E. – My Emergence. Maybe we can take this one step further and develop a tracking system to capture the cost and value of the human effect and not just account for financial profits and losses. That would be a brand enterprise dynamic.
We use money as our currency of exchange in worldwide accounting because we can count it. When, in fact, humans play a greater role in business and economic frameworks than money. What if we could develop a way to track the human effect on our businesses, networks, governments, and organizations of all kinds?
What is the cost of the human effect? What is the value of the human effect? If there a way to define it and track it? Can we build software systems to capture the cost and value of the human effect?
The human effect is powerful and holds a wealth and abundance that money cannot touch. The human effect is also costly and can break the bank.
If you have any further input, ideas or suggestions on how to further this thinking and land it into something more concrete, please share your thinking with me.
24 August 2004
I found the maps measuring psychological distances of countries interesting. Wonder if he can do this with company organizational networks - or map the people politics in organizations?
Check out Douwe's maps:
Physical distances are not the same as psychological distances. Physical distances are easy enough to measure, but how do we go about measuring psychological distances? The Mapped Web does this by taking the chance that given a page contains the name of one country it will also contain the name of another country as a measure for psychological distance. The resulting images show us how close countries are to each other in psychological terms.
This procedure can be extended to create maps for specific areas by including extra search terms. Look at all the pages on the Internet with the word War on them, which countries correlate? Probably countries that have something to do with each other in wars. The images below picture some of the relations between countries in this way.
A 200x200 matrix with the relative frequencies of country name combinations represents actually a 200 dimensional space with the countries as dots in between them. The trick is to reduce this amount of dimensions to two so we can actually plot something. This is usually done by a technique called Principal Component Analysis, where two new axis are constructed that represent the lot in the best possible way. The program here uses a different technology, the sammon algorithm. Here we just start with a random initial configuration. Over a number of iterations, we move the countries in the directions where they want to go, i.e. they are attracted to countries which they are closer to according to the matrix than according to the configuration and are repulsed by countries are too close to.
The results are the maps below. You can download two scripts, generateMatrix, which takes one parameter, the keyword, and generates a text file with the distances matrix for that keyword and stressOptimize, which generates the map. The latter uses the brilliant VPython visualization. The nice thing is that it is animated during the iteration, so you see what goes on. This project was largely done together with Ernst Wit, a fellow Savage Minder, who also came up with the initial idea.
The World Map according to the Web
The upper part of the map is dominated by the Anglosaxion countries; To the right Europe sits, with Germany and France in ever closer union. The lower part of the map is Asia, with Japan the most central because westernized nation.
Economics relations in the world
In the middle, the powerhouses of the world, the US, Japan and Germany, with China and its two satelites Hong-Kong and Taiwan waiting in the wings. What about the cluster India, Russia and Israel? I don't really know, but they do correlate. May because they are relatively poor countries that do well on technology?
Wars of the world according to the web
The war map is spread out and tense; so many wars, so little space on this bitmap. The second world war axis are visible in the right corner, as are the axis of evil in the lower right corner. Russia, China and Japan form an uneasy triangle of historic conflict. The US is in the middle of everything.
Ireland and Germandy are in the middle, as large contributors to American immigration, but destinations themselves nowdays. The big immigration countries keep their distances from the others and warp the map a bit; immigration isn't that much an issue there as it is for the exporters of people in Asia, who are much closer to each other.
You can reach Douwe by email: firstname.lastname@example.org
23 August 2004
ChangeThis launched last week as one of the hottest new sites on the internet. It proposes a new form of media using existing tools to challenge the way ideas are created and spread. Seth Godin thought up the original idea and then wrote the first draft of the business plan for ChangeThis. He inspired five people - Amit Gupta, Catherine Hickey, Noah Weiss, Phoebe Espiritu and Michelle Sriwongtong - to build ChangeThis during the summer of 2004 .
They believe in Manifesto-thinking, and launched with the new manifesto from Gary Kawasaki - The Art of the Start.
Gary Kawasaki opens up our minds and pours in some valuable insights that we can apply to starting up businesses in his new book The Art of the Start. Download his The Art of the Start manifesto from the newly launched ChangeThis site. I enjoyed his FAQ's (Frequently Avoided Questions) in particular.
They had another manifesto that caught my attention. The Customer Evangelist Manifesto discusses building the kind of relationship with your customers where they go out into the world and praise your brand for all the right reasons. This is one manifesto that should be shared with everyone working for those large companies with call centers.
Take the time to read through the rest of manifestos and some of the proposals. Consider sending them one of your own.
18 August 2004
In her elise.com: On the Job blog from August 6, 2004, Elise Bauer compiled a comprehensive overview of the weblog tools market. She has managed to inventory the tools with links, identify the market share and use index, and shine the light on this emerging business sector. If you want to quickly get up to speed with weblogging, Elise's blog from August 6th is a perfect resource.
For example, here are some of the links to weblog tools mentioned in her article:
Hosted Blog Services
Hosted Blog Communities
Open source and free:
Blog Indices and Search Resources
Websites Focused on Blog Market Sizing
If you read through the posted comments, people have also built on what Elise has listed.
Definitely worth a read.
17 August 2004
The Science of Getting Rich
From Wikibooks, the free textbook project.
This book was written in 1910 by Wallace D. Wattles, one year before his death. According to United States copyright law, it is now in the public domain.
The Science of Getting Rich provides an unusual method for gaining wealth: It preaches against competitive economic practices, instead concerning itself with the betterment of the world.