Algorithms and Sensors – web 3.0 services abound

Its been a while since my last post – I’ve been consumed at my work ( which I have been really enjoying) . However, I felt compelled today to write a bit about algorithms and sensors, which are creating some GREAT services now and even better in the near future. We are watching web 3.0 ‘blossom’ right now. Here is what I mean.

Ever since I’ve gotten my hands on Apple’s new iPhone 4Gs and Siri, my mind has never been the same. Not that Siri is the end all and be all. It has its drawbacks and in fairness, Apple has always and still does call it a ‘beta’.

But the mere presence and interaction I’ve had with Siri signaled something new to me on the internet was really happening – and in a very subtle but meaningful way.

Siri is learning – yes, she really does learn. “Artificial Intelligence” – no one seems to think that the machines are actually intelligent, but they can certainly do a lot of things that used to be hard for computers. Clearly Siri is an ‘AI’ that is programmed to adapt in certain ways and modify its behavior according to how I or what I would request of Siri. Fascinating really.

The real thing to keep your eye on here is that sensors plus big data algorithms are leading us from today’s world where content considered king to one where content is simply one component of a service. Content is becoming secondary and the service and platform primary. There never used to be 13 different ways to rent’ the same movie before. Content is becoming commoditized.   When Siri was first introduced, its creators called it a “do engine.” that is, rather than retrieving a web page (media) that you consume to make a decision, it just does things for you. “Find me a restaurant near here.” “Make me a reservation.” Media will become part of a database back end rather than a media front end.

Some examples of sensory algorithms that in effect build a network-mediated global mind are (this is really us, just augmented):

–          Mobile cell devices -we are augmented with cellphone cameras (electronic sensors again), the ability of events to become a shared experience is has become vastly increased and more so now with social media connects.

–          Smart Parking Meters – In the city of San Francisco, you’re seeing something similar, where all the parking meters are equipped with sensors, and pricing varies by time of day, and ultimately by demand. In effect an “algorithmic regulation” – they regulate in the same way our body regulates itself, autonomically and unconsciously.

–          Predictive AdWords -Google’s Adwords were always more effective than competitors because Google was better at learning from human input – instead of selling ads to the highest bidder as competitors such as Yahoo did, they used machine learning algorithms to predict which ads were more likely to be clicked on. They might choose an advertiser who only wanted to pay half as much if their ad was 3 times as likely to be clicked. Google was the first to harness the collective intelligence of their users to improve ad results. Just like the social media platforms we use to disseminate events and other digerati it’s important to understand just how much this is man-machine symbiosis.

–          Large connected networks – it could be Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or G+, but any one of them connects to most of us somewhere at some point. The massive sharing of data and thoughts, the crowd-sourcing of opinion and the collective conclusions we draw are all kept and logged, improved upon and progressively mature and evolve. Here and on these massive giants, nothing stays the same for very long. The mere platforms themselves have spawned other interconnected platforms like Zynga.

The Internet as a whole is a mirror image of us  – a thriving interconnected network. It improves with knowledge and data and learns 24/7. It’s the community that creates content. Its about how you engage people and who you engage, not the number of followers.  It’s about the collective impact we make together. The Internet is an architecture of participation, interconnected, open source and open protocols. It really is our global brain. Look at the ‘picture’ of the network. It is no coincidence that it looks the way it does.

the internet

Google also thinks about this. Their key business model depends on the success of others – driving traffic to their sites, and producing ad results. Google only does well if their partners do well.

Contrast this with how the dwindling and toxic financial firms, who once positioned themselves as the enabler of the economy, creating liquidity and trading on behalf of clients, began to trade against them, and increasingly created products – from the mortgage backed loans that brought down the global economy to even more reprehensible trading practices that have driven up the cost of food for starving millions and was directly responsible for not only our economic collapse, but the ripple effects that are being felt worldwide. This is capitalism gone wrong. Occupy Wall Street’s fundamentals are not incorrect.

In the end, a company is most successful when it makes all of its stakeholders successful, not just its shareholders – a good example of this is Apple.

Which brings me back to algorithms and sensors. Soon, Apple will release an API for Siri. Many businesses’ that can use it will use it and the revolution will progress in earnest. As Siri learns what I do the most on my mobile device, she will also begin to learn my doctor’s and dentist’s name, the nearest hospital to me and map, my grocery list and cost and what I’ve run out of in my house, the type of movies I watch and music I listen to and where to find the content. In short, Siri will make my life a little more convenient and predictive. It will combine my habits with my surfing activities on the Internet and will suggest based on location where to buy items that interest me conveniently and cost-effectively based on my location.

'Things to Come' 1936

Just think of the services that will come…H.G. Wells would have had a blast.

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Is Google + deflating Facebook’s IPO ?

First there was usenet, arpanet, listserve and BBS’s, AOL, Prodigy, CompuServe, theGlobe, Tripod, Classmates, Homepage, then Homestead, GeoCities, Friendster, Sixdegrees, mySpace, Bebo, Orkut, Facebook and now we have Google +.  All of these services at one point or the other were the AlphaDog of their time. Each of them for some period of internet time shared the limelight as THE ‘hot’ spot site to be seen and heard on.  I had a block in GeoCities, used many a BBS (I dreamed in green and black back then), had a HomePage not a Homestead (disclaimer: I worked at HomePage.com) threw the most ridiculous backgrounds on my mySpace page with all of the ugliest stuff I could find on the planet, used Friendster, never did try a few other the others ( Sixdegrees, Bebo or Orkut). And of course have had a Facebook page since the ‘edu’ days when I tried to get in by using my old ‘edu’ email address from the University of Wisconsin (but that didn’t work for one reason or another I can’t recall).  I’m not including Twitter in this post as I don’t consider it to be a place where you have a page that you call and fashion as your own – rather it’s a fire hose of information to share.

What’s interesting to note here is that nearly all of these early services back then lacked 2 major components unlike today – the addition of the mobile phone coupled with leveraging the GPS in phones to create a location-based user experience.  This component has allowed all of us to extend our online personas to outside of our homes and desks where our main computer is.  And, because of this, the use of  these services and the traffic they generate like Facebook wouldn’t be possible.  It has been said that over 100 million people access Facebook using a mobile phone every month (http://on.fb.me/rmoDN1).  And that is just today.  And about 300 million access Facebook on a computer monthly (http://tcrn.ch/owiarn).

 

Its been just about 1 month since Google + opened their doors to a select group of people. Invites now are beginning to trickle out, and it seems that Google + has over 10 million users thus far. That’s not bad. At that rate and when the general admission doors open up, 100-200 million users should be easily possible. By years end, I think we will see just those kind of numbers. And perhaps in 2 years, double that, say 400 million or more. Flash forward to the end of this year and the impending Facebook IPO. Now if you are on the Facebook IPO train, you’ve got to look hard over your shoulder and realize that it might be very possible that a few people who now use Facebook will begin to use Google + as more and more friends try the service.  It’s not like this hasn’t happened before. Precedent has been set already.  Look what’s happening to mySpace now? People who use and who have used all of these services are like minnows or lemmings – they all flock together and this happens quite quickly.  There is no ‘loyalty’ I ever had to Classmates, AOL, mySpace  and other sites I used like these.  And today, given the proliferation of mobile phones and the ease at which we can access these sites along with the ‘notifications’ that come along with the mobile web apps we get, interacting and trying out any new service like Google+ is easier than ever before.  So that’s what get me to think that the bankers on Wall Street are all smoking crack! Is Facebook really worth $ 100 billion dollars given the fact that Google + will more than likely have half the user base Facebook now has in a short 2 years? Does that mean that Google + just added $ 50 billion to the bottom line of Google?  Perhaps Facebook valuations might stick to the wall a whole lot better had Google + not just launched, but given the history of these sites and the rapid following and user base Google + has already, the only ones that will make money from the FaceBook IPO will be the underwriters and Zuck.  And if you haven’t tried Google + yet, run and get an invite from someone you know – it a breath of fresh air.