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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Interesting bitsandbytes – celebrity data, new search engines, Disney’s views on content

Interesting bitsandbytes:

Celebrity Data:

images
*Ken Sonenclar, managing director of DeSilva+Phillips, opened the media investment bank’s Future of Celebrity Media conference, by pointing out that entertainment mags are down 18 percent, not as bad as magazines in general. And as more bloggers create their one celeb-focused sites and media stars like Ashton Kutcher and Martha Stewart are reaching to fans directly via Twitter, bypassing the traditional avenues. It’s getting so bad, Sonenclar said, “Even paparazzi aren’t being paid well anymore. They’re competing with too many so-called amateurs.”

As for online, Yahoo’s OMG leads by far when it comes to uniques, Sonenclar said, showing a bar chart of celeb sites. OMG is distantly followed by TMZ and People, and Microsoft’s Wonderwall, which has come out of nowhere. However, 90 percent of Wonderwall’s traffic comes from people clicking on the “celebrity” channel on MSN’s homepage. The same is true for OMG’s success. While that may skew those sites popularity, versus celeb mag sites run by People and Entertainment Weekly, advertisers don’t really care, Sonenclar said. Still, whether those sites can create brands as well known as People and EW, remains a very open question. Ultimately, the power of celebrity brands still make it possible for established media to hold their own in terms of attracting users and sponsors.

A Studio head that gets it:

disney
*Less than a week after the announcement that Disney (NYSE: DIS) was taking an equity stake in the News Corp-NBC Universal (NYSE: GE) joint venture.  Iger told analysts: “We believe that broader distribution of our content makes sense given the growth in online viewing,” adding, “New media isn’t going away.

“We absolutely must be where our consumers are going.”  One reason: if Disney and others don’t make programming available on a well-timed, well-priced basis, consumers will find it anyway. Iger said going with a service like Hulu helps fight piracy by offering better alternatives.

But avoiding piracy isn’t the only rationale. Iger wants to be where the audience is and, so far, the demographics for Hulu are younger than those for broadcast television. Just as he has with iTunes sales and ABC.com VOD, Iger stressed that cannibalization isn’t a concern. Instead, Disney sees a way to expand its reach to views.

Search Engines –2  NEW TYPES:

# 1- Systemic Knowledge – meaning its not searching but computing the answer (think Spock from Star Trek). Visit : http://www.wolframalpha.com/  wolfram
# 2-  And Real-Time search – is the second. They are: one from OneRiot  oneriot_logo.new and one from  Tweetmeme tweetmeme. Real-time search also can be found here: Twitter Search, , FriendFeed and the recently launched Scoopler. But for the most part, oneriot, tweetmeme and scoopler all are designed from the get-go as ‘real-time’ engines.

*Wolfram Alpha is a search engine that you can use to compute systematic knowledge immediately. You can put in anything you would like to know and you can compare multiple results with each other. There is no need to know how to search; just type in what you want to know.

This is significant in that real-time search s now becoming more important from a ‘social’ perspective than before. First and foremost what emerges out of this is a new metaphor — think streams vs. pages. John Bothwick describes it like this:

“In the initial design of the web reading and writing (editing) were given equal consideration – yet for fifteen years the primary metaphor of the web has been pages and reading. The metaphors we used to circumscribe this possibility set were mostly drawn from books and architecture (pages, browser, sites etc.). Most of these metaphors were static and one way. The steam metaphor is fundamentally different. It’s dynamic, it doesn’t live very well within a page and still very much evolving.

A stream. A real time, flowing, dynamic stream of information — that we as users and participants can dip in and out of and whether we participate in them or simply observe we are a part of this flow. “

Voice without Voice, now this is so cool!

Its what the internet is all about. Imagine walking down the street and wanting to know where a the local Starbucks is? So, you ask yourself, and your thought is processed into a search engine on the web and the answer gets sent to you?? What? How?  “Audeo” can  “with careful training a person can send nerve signals to their vocal cords without making a sound. These signals are picked up by the neckband and relayed wirelessly to a computer that converts them into words spoken by a computerized voice.”

Watch this…

What’s really behind Microsoft’s proposed takeover of Yahoo?

A long time ago, in another galaxy far, far away (1997), before there was a popular engine named ‘Google’ there was a search engine called GoTo.com. gotologo1.gif GoTo was one of the dot-com’s that idealab! idealab_logo.gif started in the early days of the internet, pre-March 2002 meltdown. GoTo occupied office space right next to the lab where I was working at the time, in young and fashionable downtown Pasadena. A lot of people scoffed at Bill Gross’ notion of using a bidding mechanism for advertisers within a web search engine when you entered a search term. The notion that you could ‘buy’ your ad placement to be displayed when users searched for something was totally out of line with the norm of the time. AltaVista, Lycos, and the other big search engines that dominated the landscape then did NOT use this new-fangled algorithm that GoTo adopted to allow what amounted to a virtual bidding war in a cloud for the top spot where your ad was seen when you searched for ANYTHING. GoTo basically did a ‘branding’ act for its first year. Didn’t really have too many advertisers and no one really looked at what they were doing seriously. Then, to increase its mass, it landed a deal with then search giant database Inktomi in June of 1998. Now when a user searched for something, many more listings would appear and many more paid listing could appear as well. In the summer of 1999, they offered an online set of tools for advertisers. These tools allowed advertisers access to keyword bidding and basically was a switch from a system that required reps to sell space to a self-serve model online (sounds a lot like Google huh?). In 1999, GoTo went public and later that year changed its name to ‘Overture’ overturelogo.gif . The rest you can probably guess. In 2003, Yahoo bought Overture for $2.2 billion. Then, Overture bought AltaVista, AllThe Web and FAST adding to its number of pages crawled or searched. Yahoo/Overture and Google now had the lions share of the search business. And that’s the way its been. Unless the Microsoft deal goes through. You can see that combining MSN Search with Yahoo/Overture (Yahoo Search Marketing) would vault MS to second place in the search biz and puts the combined entity a lot closer to Google’s share of the search market quicker than nif they tried to grow thier share over time online. Here are some stats from ComScore just last November:

November U.S. Core Search Rankings

In November, Google Sites share of core searches stood at 58.6 percent, virtually the same level as in October. Yahoo! Sites ranked second with 22.4 percent, followed by Microsoft Sites (9.8 percent), Ask Network (4.6 percent) and Time Warner Network (4.5 percent), which had the largest share point gain during the month (up 0.3 points).

comScore Core Search Report*
November 2007
Total U.S. – Home/Work/University Locations
Source: comScore qSearch 2.0

 
 
 
 

Core Search Entity

Share of Searches (%)

 

Oct-07

Nov-07

Point Change Novt-07 vs. Oct-07

 

Total Core Search

100.0%

100.0%

0.0

 

Google Sites

58.4%

58.6%

0.2

 

Yahoo! Sites

22.8%

22.4%

-0.4

 

Microsoft Sites

9.8%

9.8%

0.0

 

Ask Network

4.7%

4.6%

-0.1

 

Time Warner Network

4.2%

4.5%

0.3

 

* Based on the five major search engines including partner searches and cross-channel searches. Searches for mapping, local directory, and user-generated video sites that are not on the core domain of the five search engines are not included in the core search numbers.

That’s the golden fleece that MS wants from the Yahoo deal. Sure, part of it is the traffic, but the real crown jewel is paid search. Bill Gross got the last laugh. Congrats Bill!

(logo courtesy of AdAge)  mycrosoft-logo020108.jpg