analysis


A friend pointed me to an interesting post in the Atlantic today, called “Take My Money, Please! The Strange Case of Free Web Services“.  It makes the interesting case that “many companies don’t want to take on the obligations to the customer that come from selling a service” as a basis for their not charging for services.  This is not to say companies don’t want to provide support for their services, but rather that they don’t want to have to heed to end-user demands for features, functionality, policies…

Banksy in Boston: F̶O̶L̶L̶O̶W̶ ̶Y̶O̶U̶R̶ ̶D̶R̶...

Banksy in Boston: F̶O̶L̶L̶O̶W̶ ̶Y̶O̶U̶R̶ ̶D̶R̶E̶A̶M̶S̶ CANCELLED, Essex St, Chinatown, Boston (Photo credit: Chris Devers)

While avoidance of answering to end-users may well be a factor in the decision to provide services for free, I would argue that this is a manifestation of another driver, which highlights the complexity involved in today’s business models:  Offering services without charge is also a strategy for addressing the risk that another provider will undermine the hold on a user-base simply by offering a free substitute for it – where the new provider derives value from another constituent (most basically, the ad-driven model).

So, by not charging their end users for use of the service, they are in a sense pre-emptively “leveling the field” for themselves.  In so doing, they compete on what they determine to be in best satisfaction of a balance of the constituencies of the particular engagement scenario (users, advertisers, customers…).  This raises the bar for any competitors by forcing them to create a better service or a new value-model to justify engaging that user-base.

Translating value across constituencies — i.e. leveraging a user base for the knowledge derived from their traffic — is always a balance.  This can be seen, at the lowest end, in the context of freemium models where, for example, a paid user may be ad-free.  Having many masters can be a complex and conflicted existence.  Ask any publicly traded company.  Not taking payment from one constituent (end-users, in this case) allows a company to prioritize more clearly and stay truer to their mission than they might otherwise.

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IMG_0589

IMG_0589 (Photo credit: mmmmmrob)

Talis Group, long at the forefront of Semantic Web and Linked Data efforts, announced that it has decided to pull the plug on Talis Systems, with its Consulting and Linked Data platform Kasabi – and will focus just on their education arm.  Their own words echo those of many others in the space, when they noted they have “invested an incredible amount of time and effort in playing its part to help foster the vision of a web of data.”

As a result of such efforts “… many more organisations are now seeing the benefits of applying semantic web technologies to help publish, share, and create value from data.”  Their release goes on to say “… there is a limit to how much one small organisation can achieve…” and that “… the commercial realities for Linked Data technologies and skills whilst growing is still doing so at a very slow rate, too slow for us to sustain our current levels of investment.

Many are quick to assume that this is an indicator that Linked Data and Semantic Web are being relegated to the same pastures as AI, or are making other sweeping comments.  Instead, I would argue that this is more an indicator of two other things.

First, it is a commentary on the success of their evangelization — with their being somewhat a victim of their own success.  As a result of all the noodling, sharing, teaching, pushing of Talis and others who took the early risks and made early investment, the “big guys” (while saying they weren’t interested) were observing and the evolution of the space.  As such, they have made acquisitions (think Powerset, Metaweb and Siri, among others) and have openly embraced what Talis, for one, has been promoting (think schema.org).  In so doing, they have moved the game to another level.  In that regard, it is not an abandonment of the capabilities, but a business decision as to the way forward for them – as a product versus service.

Image representing Powerset as depicted in Cru...       Image representing Siri as depicted in CrunchBase       Image representing Metaweb Technologies as dep... (images from CrunchBase)

Google Flavored Knowledge Graph

Google Flavored Knowledge Graph (Photo credit: inkdroid)

Secondly, it points to the difficult and ongoing question as to where motivation lies for businesses to expose their data.  In a business context, controlling one’s data is (like it or not) power.  And APIs have been a means of opening up bits that a company deems in its interest to make available.  In the same way that Web2.0 essentially facilitated the masses having their own voice, in their own control, RDFa, GoodRelations, and schema.org are examples of that happening for businesses and their data as well (think Best Buy).   Mind you, the rendering of the Knowledge Graph on any particular subject/search demonstrates just how simple it is now (everything is relative!) to structure what you want to expose, for the consumption by others.  This begs the question: Do we need another platform?

The Semantic Web and Linked Data are not going away.  It is all just getting more usable (though there’s quite a ways to go), and the the concept of linkages does not stop at the firewall – but rather at whatever limit is set by those deciding to expose.  (Note, this can also be phrased as “the limits chosen by those who control the particular data in question” – but that introduces another discussion topic entirely, which is whose data is it anyway).

 

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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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silver balls...

Image by play4smee via Flickr

The December episode of the Semantic-Link podcast was a review of the past year, and a look forward.  The framework for the discussion was:

  • What company, technology or issue caught your attention in 2011
  • Are we “there” yet?
  • What are people watching for 2012

Notable attention grabbers were: schema.org and its impact on who pays attention (i.e. SEO space); linked data (and open data); increase in policy maker awareness of the need to pay attention to interoperability issues; commercial integration of technology (ontologies plus nlp capabilities) to leverage unstructured content; and of course Siri (a key example of such integration…).

In terms of where we are in the progression of the semantic technology realm, the general sentiment was that Siri represents the beginning of inserting UI in the process of leveraging semantics, by making the back end effort invisible to the user.  And looking forward, the feeling seems to be that we’ll see even more improved UI, stronger abilities in analysis and use of unstructured content, greater integration and interoperability, and data-driven user navigation, and Siri clones.

Give a listen, and be sure to express your opinion about a) topics that should be covered in the future, and b) the ways you would like to interact or participate in the discussion (see dark survey boxes).

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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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    'Ida' fossil - the Missing LinkImage by Ragnar Singsaas via Flickr

    What do you get when you cross a set of technologies with an evangelist, a community activist, a business strategist, a Hungarian from the W3C, an ontologist / library scientist, a standards expert, a seasoned Internet executive, and a Slovenian entrepreneur?

    Hopefully, what you get is an interesting discussion.  Eric Franzon from SemanticWeb.com and Paul Miller of  Cloud of Data have organized just such a cross-section of participants for a monthly discussion – The Semantic Link podcast series – on things Semantic and/or Linked – from multiple perspectives.

    King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table...Image via Wikipedia

    I had the honor of being included at the table, and at this week’s inaugural conference call and Semantic Link podcast, we covered our different thoughts on the highlights for the space over the past year, and our hopes and dreams for the year to come.

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    AULogo

    Every now and again, I’m asked why one post or another of mine seems to be off on a tangent from “the usual”.  In these cases, it seems that while I’ve stayed true to the theme of connecting ideas to create value, the exchange for that value isn’t as obvious or direct.  To me, these are the times that are most interesting – involving translation of the currency, whether to or from knowledge, experience, or goods.  It is that value translation that is at the heart of the Second Integral.

    I’ll speculate now that this will likley prove to be one of those times.

    While walking through Maplewood, NJ last weekend, I came upon a new store in place of one that had recently closed.  I ventured in to see what it was about, and discovered it to be an art/craft boutique, with lots of hand crafted and nicely made/decorated items.   A woman approached me and asked if I needed any help, and I asked if these were all things made by people locally.  She was Cate Lazen, and she turns out to have been the founder of Arts Unbound, the organization that opened this “pop-up” store.  She answered my question, saying “well, yes, and everything in the store was made by people dealing with a disability of one sort or another.”

    With a part of my brain dedicated full time to triangulation, I found myself automatically thinking about the coalescence of purposes here.  On the one hand, people with disabilities, engaging in artistic work as physical therapy, an expressive outlet, to perhaps generate income, while gaining pride, satisfaction, experience… all through their creative art.

    Art as therapy itself is clearly valuable – but what struck me as particularly interesting was its combination of it here with (at least) two other constituencies.  According to Cate, the shop also employs people with disabilities, so it satisfies many of these same therepeutic purposes for the workers as it does the artists.  And of course, being a shop, it brings customers into the mix.

    The simple combination of manufacturer + shopkeeper + consumer may not, on the surface, seem so interesting – it is just how a business works.  But the dynamic in this case yields some additional benefits beyond the traditional.

    Along with the direct purposes noted above, for the artists and workers, and obviously filling customers’ needs, there are some more subtle byproducts as well, and they’re accentuated by the season’s spirit, due to the timing of the shop’s materialization just in time for the holidays.

    Those who find their way to the shop will undoubtedly gain awareness of the overall purposes being served by the organization.   Additionally, buying a gift from this store provides the giver the satisfaction of giving twice (at least) – to the recipient of the gift, to the artist, to the shop worker, and even the good feeling of having contributed in some small way.  All this can even make you feel a little better about buying something for yourself.

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    This post is an update relating to a few of my other running-form related posts during September of this year.  The subject has been about shifting form.  After some time off for an unrelated injury, getting going again has prompted me to again focus on how best to “think about” this targeted form:

    My left footImage via Wikipedia

    a) toe-heel foot strike, rather than heel-toe, just toe, or even flat
    b) stride shortening
    c) foot plant is below, rather than ahead of, center of gravity

    At the outset, I primarily focused on the plant being toe-first, but noticed that this was difficult to do with a typical reaching stride.  This led to focusing on shortening stride in order to enable the toe to plant more easily.  This too felt odd until adding to the mix a slight shift forward in the center of gravity, and it all seemed to come together.

    An illustration of the process of finding the ...Image via Wikipedia (finding center of gravity)

    With these three things in mind, along with a 180 stride per minute cadence as a guide, the new form has been feeling more natural.  To keep things interesting, I am still alternating between my normal (Asics) treads and my newly acquired Newtons (Sir Isaacs).

    The question then becomes whether one needs the altered shoe, if the mind can be trained to follow the more barefooty form.  Ultimately, perhaps not – but that remains to be seen.  For now, the Newtons allow doing it with much less thought.   With all else being the same, there is still an opportunity for subtle differences (and a mental leap) in the plant – just slightly flatter than toe-heel – even if ever so slight.  And it makes a very big difference.

    When things become more second nature, I may throw in some focus on how the height of knee-raise, as well as of heel kick, impact how the form feels and performs.

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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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    Statue of Isaac Newton at the Oxford Universit...Image via Wikipedia

    The plan for Newton run #3 was to just “not think about it, and just let the shoe do the work”.   The reality was that I ended up focusing on how the strike compared to my normal one – and since, as I’ve mentioned, I’m not much of a heel striker anyway, it felt almost normal.  A little too normal.  So I became more deliberate about the toe-heel plant sequence.  Near the end of this run too, I was getting the moonwalk / wheels spinning in reverse sensation.

    As with my other Newton runs, I followed with a few Asics Cumulus miles, intentionally trying to keep the same toe-heel strike order.  This wasn’t all that difficult to do, (at least relative to being deliberate about it in the Newtons).  The real test will be what happens in the Asics after this placement is more the norm in the Newtons, and happens without thinking.   This, of course, prompted some wondering about whether the change will really come from the focus, or from the shoe.

    Run #4, though, was to be all about short stride length and increased turnover (to 180pm), with the only attention on plant to be about its location – directly beneath me, and not at all in front (with zero attention on the strike order).  The result, because of the mechanics of this movement, was that the strike was more toe-first, regardless. Followed again with a few non-Newton miles, continuing to focus on stride and plant-location, the strike did continue to be in the forefoot.  I’ll keep up the comparison to see what happens.

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