connecting


 

As usual, loving the interstices of this envizualization – of the disciplines of User Experience Design:

 

envizualizations.com – The Disciplines of UXD

 

 

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Crowdsourcing

Crowdsourcing (Photo credit: cambodia4kidsorg)

Back in college (and we’re talking about the early ’80s), I’d thought little about crashing at someone’s pad – even someone I didn’t know when backpacking around.  You meet some people you like, and you’re somewhere you’re not too familiar with – so what better way to get to know the place than hang out with some “locals” (even if they too were visitors to the place) – and take advantage of the convenience of being able to flop somewhere and leave your backpack while you’re out investigating.

Nowadays I can’t imagine doing that – and I chalk it up to aging and parenting.  Enter AirBNB. This is the peer-to-peer service you’ve heard about whereby you can rent a spot on someone’s couch for the night. Would I do this now?  Probably not – but apply that concept to using a car, and maybe I would.

That’s what Getaround is about. Need to use a car? There’s a car rental (peer-to-peer sharing) option that’s essentially a network of personally owned vehicles wired to be accessible for procurement via their smartphone app.  Think Zipcar, but in a form that lets car owners leverage the downtime of their own car.  Also in the space is Wheelz, which is similar to Getaround, but is focused on sharing within a known community (i.e. students on a campus), and now has Zipcar as an investor/partner.  Yet other geographically focused services are RelayRides and Car2Go.

Somehow I see myself more likely to be a user of the crowd-car before the crowd-couch. I guess I’m just more comfortable with the concept of peer-to-peer in this form – perhaps because I’d be awake, conscious and on my own (versus asleep and vulnerable).  Call me old fashioned – but I’m trying.

What’s next?  Renta-potty?

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google search results

google search results (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)


You say “Semoogle”, I say “Goomantics”. Two made up words; one meaning. Map the terms to one another, and associations to one can be related to the other.  Do that within the house that Google built, and you can really traverse the knowledge graph (that was MetaWeb’s Freebase).

Keyword matching is just part of what happens inside the Google machine – and more and more, sense is discerned from context – in aligning content (search results or ads) with the searcher’s intent (their meaning, in terms of identifiable entities and relationships).

Read more, from a Mashable interview with Google’s Amit Singhal [1]

[1] http://mashable.com/2012/02/13/google-knowledge-graph-change-search/

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Español: Delfín nariz de botella English: - Tu...

Image via Wikipedia

Our latest Semantic-Link discussion was interesting in that it touched on some distinct but deep topics that tend to recur in our discussions, namely: usability, privacy and the old standby – the definition of semantics itself.

I won’t spend any more time on the definition of semantics beyond that the consensus (for purposes of this discussion) was that it means “meaning”, with contexts including: linguistic/NLP related word-meaning semantics; and the other being compliance with W3C standards – or architectural Semantics.  In essence, the latter is what enables a machine version of the former.

The focus was actually a conversation with guest Nova Spivack, and his more current efforts, including Bottlenose and StreamGlider. (Next time we’ll have to let Nova do more of the talking, as we only really had time to dig into the first of those.)  Bottlenose is intended to help people manage and interconnect their interaction across the multiple electronic realms in which they operate.  While Nova mentions that the system doesn’t currently make use of W3C standard architectural Semantics, it does use ontologies to relate topics and navigate meaning.  This is particularly visible in Bottlenose’s Sonar – which renders a visualization of the active topics, hash-tags, and people around you, with adjustable time-horizon.  If you’d like to try it out during the private beta, visit Bottlenose.com and you can Sign Up using the Invite Code: semanticlink.

Listen to podcast here: Semantic Link Podcast – January 2012

As mentioned above, two key items arose from the discussion – the matters of privacy, and the question of transparency.  In the case of privacy, would it become an issue, from a business intelligence standpoint, that others could more easily see the topics that someone is discussing or investigating – especially if such a tool could cross multiple networks/platforms in finding patterns.

As is often the case in these Semantic-Link discussions, the question of “how much should be exposed about the use of semantics” arose.  There is of course a balance between active vs viral evangelizing of semantics, and the cost of exposure is simplicity and usability, while the benefit is flexibility and control, for those who can handle it.

The answer itself is complicated.  On the one hand, technologies need to evolve in terms of leveraging semantics in order for people to really benefit from the underlying semantic capabilities.  At the same time, those same people we’re talking about getting the benefit shouldn’t have to understand the semantics that enable the experience.  Paul Miller, host of the podcast, also wrote about this issue.  I’ll add that Investors do to like to hear that their company is using unique and valuable techniques.  So too, though, is it the case that any company making use of semantics likely feels it is a competitive advantage to them – a disincentive to sharing details of the secret sauce.  .

As mentioned during the podcast, this is a matter of which audience is being addressed – the developers or the masses.  And in terms of the masses, even that audience is split (as is the case with almost all other software users).  There are the casual users, and there are those who are hardcore – and when we’re talking about masses, there are many many more people would fall into the casual camp.  So from a design standpoint, this is where usability really matters, and that means simplicity.

So in the case of Bottlenose, for the time being they’ve chosen to hide the details of the semantics, and simplify the user experience – which will hopefully facilitate broader adoption.  There may too be room for a power-user mode, to exposes the inner workings of the black-box algorithms that find and weigh associations between people, places, things… and let users tweak those settings beyond the time-frame and focus adjustments that are currently provided.

Mentioned by Nova was the LockerProject in which personal data could potentially be maintained outside any one particular network or platform.   This of course helps on the privacy side, but adds a layer of complexity (until someone else comes along and facilitates easy integration – which will no doubt chip some of the privacy value).

Personally, I’d love to see the ability to combine slices of personal activity from one or multiple platforms, with tools such as Bottlenose, so that I could analyze activity around slivers or Circles (in the case of Google+ usage) from various networks, in any analytical platform I choose.

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Marbles - Schulenburg, Texas

Image by adamj1555 via Flickr

While I’m still actually waiting to get “in”, I have a couple of comments regarding Google+, from outside the Circle.

From descriptions of this Google Social Networking effort (following Orkut, Wave and Buzz), key elements as of now are: Circles (think of them as groups of people within your network); Sparks (which are topics or areas of interest); Hangouts (video chat rooms); Huddles (group chat); and Instant Upload (automatic mobile photo syncing).

Considering potential for integrating capability across product areas has always been most intriguing to me.  In serving them up “together”, G+ makes it that much more likely for capabilities to be used together.

First, and I think most interesting, is the way that the concept of Circles melds the idea of a network of friends/connections with tagging/categorization so that, without having the clunky thinking of classifying or inviting people to groups, the user is able to achieve the elusive sense of having multiple personas representable within one system.   Some people maintain their professional network in one system (LinkedIn, for example), and their personal network in another (e.g. facebook).  Others maintain multiple accounts in a single system in order to segregate their “work” online presence from their “family” or “personal play” selves.  For those who already maintain multiple Google accounts, G+ lets you log into multiple accounts at once.  I have yet to see how well you can interact in ways that cross over account lines.
Image representing Twine as depicted in CrunchBase

Image via CrunchBase

The second area of note is the way that Sparks re-frames the idea of Alerts in a way that subtly shifts the nature of the material that results from them from being one-off emails or links — that you might dig into or forward on — to material that relate to particular areas of interest, which presumably parallel or align with groupings of people you associate with around those topics.  Twine had used the approach of integrating topic areas and social groupings for alerts – but these were groups that potential recipients would have to join.  In G+, the “proximity” to the Circles aspect, and the fact that those Circles are unique to the individual, and don’t require reciprocation, make for a compelling scenario for the “push” side of the equation. (At the same time, I see some potential issues in terms of “pull” and management by those on the receiving end).

Together, Sparks and Circles could take us a lot closer to a dream system I yearned for a few years back, that I referred to as a Virtual Dynamic Network.  In this, rather than having defined groups that you would need to join (which would send you related material along with much you would prefer to do without), material you both receive and send would be routed based on what it is about and how it is classified. I would love to see distinct sets of controls for in-bound vs out-bound content.
I won’t know until I get to try it, but ideally G+ will enable you to tie Sparks to Circles for you.  I’m also hoping you’re able to group your Circles – to relate and arrange them even hierarchically (consider: a large Circle for your work persona, which might contain multiple Circles for various client or team categories; or a large personal Circle, with sub-Circles for family, local friends, remote friends, classmates – all with overlap management to avoid multiply-sent content).

Hangouts and Huddles are by nature “social” already, for which you’ll presumably be able to seamlessly leverage Circles.  As with topical material, Instant Upload brings your photo content automatically one step closer to where you are sharing.  Success of all this as a social platform depends significantly on integration between the parts for seamless use by a user across capabilities – for example, adding someone who is participating on a video call or chat right into one or more of the Circles touched or represented by the other participants on that call or chat.

Ripples

Image by Bill Gracey via Flickr

Leveraging other capabilities such as linguistic processing of AdSense (and G+ may already have this in the works) it would not be a stretch for the content in your interactions to generate suggestions for Sparks which you could simply validate — places or people in photos, words in chats, terms that show up in content within Spark items.  From there, it wouldn’t be far to being able to interact with your life through what I might call a “SparkMap” — reflecting relationships between terms within your areas of interest.

 

UPDATE: I’m now in, as of Friday afternoon, July 8. So now I’ll be playing, with more ideas to come…

Additional links:

  • How to Get Started with Google+… (socialmediaexaminer.com)
  • A good ScobleEncounter listen (scobleizer on cinch.fm)
  • Quite a collection of tips growing on this public google doc
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    Image representing WebMediaBrands as depicted ...Image via CrunchBase

    Today, WebMediaBrands announced that it acquired the Semantic Technology Conference (SemTech) and Semantic Universe.  SemTech has been the main non-academic annual gathering for the Semantic Technology space for six years thus far.  In the past few years, WebMediaBrands has also been active in the space, with its SemanticWeb and MediaBistro arms, and its organizing of related events including the Web3.0 Conference and before that, LinkedData Planet.

    Semantic Technology ConferenceImage via Flickr

    W3c semantic web stackImage via Wikipedia

      The combination of WebMediaBrands’ year-round focus on the space (through regional and sub-sector targeted events), with the annual convention that SemTech has been, should result in driving the space forward.  Together, their now complementary efforts should facilitate momentum on the commercial side of the space.  Perhaps we’ll also see the development of some useful industry-wide resources, as a result.

    Update: Press release from Semantic Universe

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    Sand Hill Road sign from 280 north. Image via Wikipedia

    Earlier this week, I attended the VANJ Entrepreneurs Expo & Elevator Pitch Olympics, (VANJ stands for the Venture Association of NJ) primarily to explore paths for a current client. This was a healthy mix of education and marketing, from multiple perspectives including: business and entrepreneurship support entities and associations; professionals; consultants; investors; and early-stage startups and some ventures a bit futher along.  Among the support entities was an alphabet soup of communities, associations, publishers, and institutions such as NJBIN (a network of 12 incubators), NJTC, NJEF, NJSBDC, NJBIZ, NJ Entrepreneur, FDU’s Rothman Institute of Entrepreneurship and NJIT’s Enterprise Development Center, and NJ Angels.net (among others).  There was a helpful panel comprised of professionals and investors (both VC and angels) – each of which first provided an overview of their perspective on what they look for in a pitch and investment opportunity.  They then judged the 20+ pitches which followed, judging them on pitch presentation and their sense of the fundability of each opportunity.

    Diagram of venture capital fund structure for ...Image via Wikipedia

    I won’t go into the individual companies that presented, but their presentations each consisted of a brief (2 minutes), clear and concice explanation of what they do (in terms of the problem they seek to solve and how they solve it), the challenges they face and how they intend to overcome them, the success they’ve experienced thus far in a quantifiable form and where that is relative to the size of the opportunity, how much they need to get there, and how they intend to use the funds they seek in order to get there.

    In addition to being informative, it was a good opportunity to self-assess in the terms that the other startups were looking to satisfy in their own presentations, and to exercise some proclivities – which for me, includes naming and word play…  (I was, after all, sitting next to the person who came up with the name for Viagra!)  The atmosphere certainly got the ideas flowing – yielding my own suggesting to VANJ president, Jay Trien, a phrase for describing their efforts: that “VANJ is doing a service by being an eVANJelist for business and entrepreneurship in the state”.

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    Day 191: Sticky Notes Mean ProductivityImage by quinn.anya via Flickr

    If you haven’t already encountered Google’s newly released Sidewiki, it is a web annotation feature accessible via browser plug-in or their toolbar – and is essentially a means for people to comment on pages and, unlike tools for making notes for just yourself (like sticky notes on your screen, or the electronic equivalent), these comments are visible to others who use it and visit those pages – right on the page with the content.  This isn’t a new concept, but one that gives cause to consider the “traditional” dimensions of web experience.Generally speaking, users of web resources have typically thought of the pages they view as being depicted in the way intended by the owner of the domain (or page).  If we want to get philosophical, ownership of the rendering of the page, it could be argued, is the user’s – and plug-ins empower such customization, as this is referred to.

    Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...Image via CrunchBase

    Similarly, functionality of a site is has typically been considered by users to be provided/delivered by, and/or controlled by the site owner.  In the context of beginning to think of rendering as being other-webly (i.e. from other than the provider), the same holds true with respect to functionality.  The functionality being added to the experience here is around the ability to comment, and to see comments of others, about the page.

    This starts to bring home the concept that the browser is acting as the actual platform, rather than the page/site itself.  In this case, we’re talking about the bringing together of the page’s content with toughts or opinions about the page – or about things that are on the page.  So in essence, what sidewiki adds is a virtualized forum – where the forum content is in the hands of Google rather than those of the owner of the site – but is displayed alongside the content itself.

    Image representing AdaptiveBlue as depicted in...Image via CrunchBase

    This is not altogether different from what AdaptiveBlue’s Glue does – though there are a couple of key difference.  In both cases the user must be using the plug-in in order to see or add content – akin to joining the community.  And in both cases the comment / opinion content that is generated as a result, is in the control of the plug-in provider.  The first, and most notable difference (for now, at least) is that sidewiki “acts” as if the user generated content is about the page which it annotates, while Glue’s emphasis is on the asset to which the page refers.  The key benefit of the latter, in the cases where the commentary relates to an asset referenced on the page, is that it decouples the item referred to from location which makes reference to it.  This translates to Glue displaying  the comment on any page in where the same item is found, as opposed to just being seen on the same page where the comment was made.  This difference won’t likely persist, and seems more a matter of emphasis/focus and positioning.

    Since the annotations are only visible to users making use of the particular service used when making the annotations, the more of these services we see, the more fragmented the sea of commentary.  The next level may be about “aboutness”, and differentiation by the ability to determine relatedness of otherwise unassociated commentary and content – and making the virtual connection between the two for the user.

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    Created by :en:User:Fcb981Image via Wikipedia

    The potential impact on the economy from removing burdens around health care should not be underestimated as a means of stimulus.  For many, fixing the system could mean enormous savings, if not just improved quality of life and perhaps care.

    The solution to our health care situation goes beyond regulation; it lies in changing the focus.  The intention should be about “well-being”, and all measurement and compensation for parties to system of “well being” should be driven by the success of the program.  The parties include not just the doctors, but all those engaged in the health care processes: the medical insurance companies, malpractice insurers, the pharma and device companies, and extending all the way to those providing therapy and fitness services.

    Differing time horizons need to be aligned.  Insurers may currently find it beneficial to make decisions based on short-term exposure, regardless of potential longer-term costs that could result from those decisions.  After all, it isn’t likely the patient will still be with the same insurer when the longer-term result is encountered.  The relationship (or at least the impact of it) needs to be made permanent.

    Medical and life insurance should be integrated so that the insurers’ interest in sustaining you is aligned with their interest in maintaining you.  The medical portion of premiums should be driven in part by your relative wellness (not just relative to where you should be, but to where you’ve been) and in part by the risks you take and the choices you make about your wellness.  Participation in activities that are shown to improve health and reduce risks should be rewarded, while costs should be attached to lack of participation and to risky activity.

    Doctors who participate in this wellness driven system would benefit from streamlined  administrative processes, not having to process and re-process while fighting for payment.  For their participation, they will also have access to more reasonable malpractice coverage.  Beyond the direct impact on the medical process, these changes alone should make it attractive again to pursue careers in medicine.

    Compensation under this plan would be based, in part, on relative wellness achieved – the wellness performance of those under their care.  This is in contrast to payment based on Relative Value Units, which is similar to the way your auto mechanic gets paid.  Objectives of insurers too need to be redefined to be driven by wellness in this way too – particularly at the outset of the plan.  Over time, as the balance of costs shift as a result of preventive care generating longer term savings, artificial incentives should become less economically important for proper motivation.  Treatments will be driven toward solving problems rather than addressing symptoms, and away from allowing perpetual treatment and profit from such.

    There are many aspects beyond these to be considered, but only through  review of the full spectrum of the roles in this dynamic, with consideration as to how to achieve some of the objectives for each – and with agreement as to what problem(s) we’re trying to solve, can interests be aligned – not just on a particular purpose, but with a long view.

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    El Temple I (Color)Image by gabirro via Flickr

    I’m not generally one to comment on political matters (ok, I never do, other than this this month, for some reason) at least not for political purposes.  The linkage here to my typical areas of discussion should soon be readily aparrent.  Feel free to comment or email me if not, and I’d be glad to elaborate.

    We are at an amazing point in history – and not just because Barack Obama is about to become the first African American president.  He is, thanks to his charisma, drive, eloquence, perspective… representative of the transition point we’ve reached.  This period of change has been brewing since 2000, and was set in motion in earnest in 2004.  His success in getting to this point has been both a catalyst for, and the result of, Americans being ready for what Obama has called “The Change We Need”.

    This change is about transcendence, repair, and to borrow from the technical lexicon – interoperability – domestically and internationally, philosophically, infrastructurally.  Not to imply that there aren’t still dark days ahead, but we’ve already seen movement across party and racial lines, and participation, if not enthusiasm among the previously non-voting or heretofore politically and/or socially indifferent (- the numb or perhaps even the resigned or capitulated).

    In these economic times, and while the world’s perception of the U.S. is at a low, we could ask for nothing greater than the combination of an energized and informed nation with an administration tuned to leveraging and guiding this  enthusiasm – to rebuild.  Interoperability – between the government and the people, between departments, programs, institutions – connecting the moving parts necessary – is the technology of this new era, to make this change work.

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