Friday, June 08, 2007

Douglas Adams bats for Web 2.0, posthumously

You need to turn to the late and great Douglas Adams to find ammo to quiet down the anti-Web 2.0 mob led by the likes of Andrew Keen who believe that this wave of masses using the internet to express themselves is nothing but amateurish bullshit.

Presaging the rise of user-generated content, in 1999, Douglas Adams wrote in How to Stop Worrying and Love the Internet,

Because the Internet is so new we still don’t really understand what it is. We mistake it for a type of publishing or broadcasting, because that’s what we’re used to. So people complain that there’s a lot of rubbish online, or that it’s dominated by Americans, or that you can’t necessarily trust what you read on the web.

Imagine trying to apply any of those criticisms to what you hear on the telephone. Of course you can’t ‘trust’ what people tell you on the web anymore than you can ‘trust’ what people tell you on megaphones, postcards or in restaurants. Working out the social politics of who you can trust and why is, quite literally, what a very large part of our brain has evolved to do.

For some batty reason we turn off this natural scepticism when we see things in any medium which require a lot of work or resources to work in, or in which we can’t easily answer back – like newspapers, television or granite. Hence ‘carved in stone.’

What should concern us is not that we can’t take what we read on the internet on trust – of course you can’t, it’s just people talking – but that we ever got into the dangerous habit of believing what we read in the newspapers or saw on the TV – a mistake that no one who has met an actual journalist would ever make. One of the most important things you learn from the internet is that there is no ‘them’ out there. It’s just an awful lot of ‘us’.”

At the end of it all, the internet is just something that people use to do what they have always done – talk, fight, talk back, write, indulge in the art…conversing to a bigger audience than the average barnyard.

Lesson for Keen and the argumentative ‘Expertologists’: There will always be Experts just like there will be the solitary blogger, untrained editor, photographer, amateur Auteur.

Let a million voices bloom.

We will have hits and we will have the long tail.

The best content on any given day will stand out.

The ‘Expertologists’ know that they have a better response with the mainstream media than online – unlike the reasoned and informed technology reading you get on the blogs on a daily basis, lazy reporters and editors in the papers and New TV stations are only happy to cover an half-assed anti-internet hokum.

Why fear the Amateur Wave other than,
1. To write a book and make money
2. Appear on TV and panels and stroke your fragile ego.

Douglas Adams excerpt found Via Bokardo via Kevin Marks

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Thursday, June 07, 2007

So, how many friends you got?

The rise of social networks makes it possible for us to have friends and contacts in all parts of the world. We may never have met those faces in real world, but we have seen their photos on Flickr, browsed their bookmarks on, commented on their blogs, and sent them a twitter or two.

In office, you might come across people boasting about having 50 friends on Orkut. Interacting with this new friend circle which puts a heavy premium on constant interaction, takes up much of the modern worker’s time but the joys of having made a connection is perhaps reason enough to defy office rules.

Victor Keegan says that collection friends is the new philately – your friends are stamps bearing insignias of their environment, their country, their upbringing – creating a throbbing, raucous presence in your contact book.

Many of my friends have spoken about the joy in finding new people as browsed friends of their friends, about getting to the page of one’s favorite school teacher, the sadness of reaching a page of a school principal who has just died of cancer.

There are downsides to it too – most important of which is spammers sending ‘friend request’ emails, in-your face intrusive advertisements on Myspace.

However, people who have fallen in love with social networking seem to be willing to put up with these irritants just so that they are able to find out what the latest buzz, what a world greater than their own is talking about – we never had these freedoms before.

We are frogs who just got out of the well.

P.S. I have 3 friends on Orkut and I have never bothered to find and get in touch with lost friends from school days. I use Gtalk on a need-to-use basis. I long held this belief that social networking is a time waster, useful only to marketers and rabid self-promoters including politicians. Hell, I even wrote about it before here.

I am a frog who is happy to stay in the well.

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

How low cost sub notebooks can bring affordable computing to the masses

Asutech, which was earlier going to manufacture Intel’s much-hyped OLPC competitor, the Classmate, has introduced its own range of sub notebook PCs priced between $199-$299.

The Eee PCs carry the same configuration as Intel’’s announced Classmate PCs.

Earlier, Via launched the Nanobook, which is priced at $600 and uses iPod Nan0 sized plug-in USB modules which will support applications such as VoIP, GPS, #g Broadband Wireless among other things.

The Nanobook is more in the traditional Notebook style, aligning itself to the expensive tentpole of Ultra Mobile Personal Computing - containing hard drives, almost full-sized keyboard and all.

To make low cost computing a success, manufacturers have to answer two very important questions:

1. What shall be the optimal cost of a low-cost computing device and what margins are deemed ‘comfortable’?
Margins in traditional PC business are low anyway, and I guess manufacturers would go for low margins, which are offset by volumes.

2. How do you develop a low-cost PC, without compromising on important computing functions?

Starting with an almost normal keyboard size, designers of the OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) project incorporated a number of innovations that others can follow and improve upon – low-energy, low cost and smaller screen, flash storage, USB, wifi, crank recharging, and other innovations.

A: Manufacturers should also bundle 2-8 GB USB drives with something like a Portable Apps Suite – containing Firefox, Openoffice, and other essentials, leaving space for users’ data.

B: It would be handy if Manufacturers sold Low-cost PCs without any OS, or with Linux at best, giving users detailed instructions on how to uninstall Linux and install any other OS of their choice.

These are still early times.

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Niche search 2.0: Startup Search, Techcrunch database and other possibilities

While covering StartUp Search, I mentioned that niche searches could achieve what broad human-search services couldn’t do.

I forgot to mention the soon-to-be launched Techcruch Database, an excellent database of detailed information about Tech startups, covering products, people, financials and more…

Techcrunch database can do it because it has a huge, almost unparalleled database of write-ups on Web 2.0 startups.

Next up
I envision Engadget and Gizmodo do something with Gadget databases, aggregating reviews, ratings, and news – these sites are in a position to channel their hue user base towards additional services.

Also up: Game database from Joystiq, Environmental Friendly product database from Treehugger…

Interesting possibilities. indeed.

Example of a Techcrunch Database entry can be found here.

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Monday, June 04, 2007

Can the iPhone rescue the mobile phone industry?

A while back I read an interesting article about the state of mobile industry as an entity trapped in the doldrums - the phones are cool but slow (e.g. Nokia's N series), phone carriers are acting out a scene from a Shylock cum Goebbels play.

The writer ended by saying that although iPhone might not solve the mobile industry's problems, let alone consumers, it might be the bright light, or a kick in the pants for everyone in the industry, propelling phone makers to go back to the drawing board.

I have seen the new Apple ads for iPhone - as usual they are cool.

The launch date is confirmed - June 29.

I am sure people would find the iPhone cool, just like the iPod, but one hopes that someone finishes the hegemony of phone carriers. The iPhone, in its present format is not that device.

Related iPhone and Cellphone innovation coverage on MediaVidea:
6 Reasons why the Googlephone is a good idea
What's next in mobiles
Apple's iPhone: & important issues
Notes on the ideal cellphone

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