Archives for September 2008

Time to extend the idea of bookmarks?

What is Bookmarking – , the simple act of storing a URL, whether in a personal store or on a cloud, revolutionizes our online participation. From being passive consumers of information, the act of bookmarking turns us into collaborators in extending this information. Those that we liked, that evoked a reaction in us, something that we could identify ourselves with, something that we would like to keep track of are all transformed by the expression of our interest in it. Especially when the bookmarks are centrally stored on a server somewhere.

Current Services – Online bookmarking services are dime a dozen. I use del.icio.us for all my(user name maheshcr) bookmarking needs. StumbleUpon is another popular service.

What is wrong now – However most of these services allow bookmarking of URLs and nothing more. Of course the URLs themselves could point to literally anything that could served on the Internet. These include text, images, audio, video etc.  But the URL that points to rich media, say audio or video files cannot pin point a location beyond the start. Let me elaborate.

What would be ideal– How about a particular riff within a song that I want to highlight? Or a quote within a video? Currently the best that we can do is to mention the time when the point of interest starts, and optionally ends. So we say, ‘watch at 1:10mins’ or ‘hear at 2:29’. As much as these are useful the fact is that user attention is not a decently engineered mechanism, accuracy and consistency is seldom guaranteed. If we could delegate this task of highlighting something in a larger body of work, to a machine, we should be better off.

Some compromises that exist today – To be clear some of this is done in latest video players where specific time points are highlighted on the timeline. This though is done by the producer of the content and does not allow the user to participate by marking areas as they see it fit.

Google’s ‘answer’ to this problem – Google seems to have attacked this problem with its Google Elections Search Video Gadget. Where a certain video is mined for text by recognizing audio and the resulting content attached as metadata. This comes very close to the problem I have discussed but feel it does not go the full distance. More could be done.

Wrap up – Has this problem been solved already? If not, would solving this add value to how we consume, discover and remember online information? What do you think?

[Update: The very next day I posted this entry a new service gets profiled on LifeHacker called Splicd. It lets one mark a specific portion of the video within YouTube. Interesting service. Have not played in detail yet, will keep you posted on how it turns out.] 

Who/What/How am I, with MeeID

http://www.meeid.com/maheshcr/

Within us, there are many selves. The web reflects each.

MeeID is a static representation, constrained to 10 statements, of what we are.  Not a stream of content from all our online interaction, not even a pointer to all the locations we play in..just abstract space to represent what we are, with a means to provide a URL to de-reference as needed.

I don’t see this taking off at the grassroots but still a small interesting idea executed well. I think of this as Twitter for the idea of multiple online identities.

What do you think?

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Thomson Reuters Sues Zotero

[Disclaimer: This is strictly my personal opinion on this matter]

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This is like the eternal conflict between Gollum and Smeagol, perhaps this pair exists in each individual and organization!

TR giveth with one hand and taketh away with another! In suing Zotero TR takes a step backwards, I feel its good moves with OpenCalais has been diluted somehow.

The time of proprietary file formats, with locked in data, is over.

Even the mighty Microsoft has opened up file formats, server protocols, source code for a ton of their products.

To be honest I know little of what the original terms were, but of course licensing terms can made to be whatever the software vendor wants. But this does not seem right. Regardless of what the precedents were in similar situations.

What if a bunch of Amazon Mechanical Turks had done this task of reading from EndNote file format and converted to Zotero format? Assuming they had EndNote licenses of course. What if an Offshore service provider had used EndNote and coverts them for a fee to Zotero? One time translation and dependency on End Note can vanish in no time.

Vendor lock-in assumes many forms, the most insidious of which is the one where the customer’s data is locked into a proprietary file-formats.

All said, I do understand the challenges of monetizing IP that a company holds but still…

Also, can’t help but note the ironic ring to the name of the product ‘EndNote’!

Would be interesting to watch this. What is your take on this?

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And Apple Can Get Away With This? WTF!

Well, it goes like this. A commercial product goes to sale, say people call it the iPhone. They have an SDK.

An enterprising publisher sees a legitimate opportunity for a book on the SDK. Publisher goes through all formal processes, or at least I guess so from the description provided, by signing NDA and all.

Now the hitch is the book is blocked, because the NDA is not lifted.

Are these guys serious?

[Update: Today, the 3rd October IST, I read that Apple have lifted their NDA. Good for them. The walls keep away innovation on their own platform. Without innovation, even Apple will turn out to be a commodity platform. And that cannot be good for the industry!]

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We don’t need you Mr.Terrorist – An Open Letter

To Mr.Terrorist

You have kindly consented to spread our lands with the terror and blood and followed up your willingness with action. No doubt immense co-ordination, effort and dark expertise has been expended in this matter and the fruits are apparent for all to see. However I wish to point out that all this effort is not necessary and I shall provide the necessary information to make my point.

India, my vast country, is populated with very small men

All of her heritage, culture and ancient spirit has been reduced to a footnote in history text books. We have enough malice and violence in us to inflict untold harm on ourselves

Take, for example, our response to the hordes of invaders who plundered our land

We have adopted their language, ‘culture’ and even their religion. We stood by, meek like sheep, while all of what we were was being ripped apart. Perhaps it is the pent up rage that makes us throw stones at any damn thing when there is a general strike? Or burn buses, uproot railway tracks? Am sure that injustice is not forgotten, hence our present reaction. Don’t you think this behavior is consistent with the goals that you and your leaders have set for yourself?

Or consider our comrades who look to the east

While the sun of their aspirations rises in fully deserving glory, completely shedding the ideological sheaths of its past, our comrades still worship the image of their deity as it was before. National pride, security, the continued livelihood of our people are of no concern. As long as they can spout the virtues of poverty and open their large magnanimous hearts for the protection of the poor then all is fine.

Or take our practice of subsidies, reservations etc.

By artificially propping up a segment of people they ensure that the very same people are robbed blind of their skills and initiative in the long run. By taking a legitimate means to alleviate social imbalances we have turned it into a means of gathering votes. If there are no poor then how the hell would the politicians display their compassion? Don’t you think this retrograde mindset would keep us materially poor for a long long time, and ensure there is sufficient bitterness for an uprising. Which by the way would be completely impotent to solve the social imbalance problem anyway. Do you still want to add to this list of woes?

Or take our caste and creed system

Which by the way is wildly different than what its creators conceived it to be. We still have this evil prevalent in our towns and villages. The crude accident of birth renders a set of people wise, another set courageous and willing to stand up for the weak and oppressed, yet another set of people sharp with money and the rest mere serfs. I heard you there..it is a load of shit and utter bollocks.

Biology determines some of our traits, you say, and the rest is environment, opportunity and the inborn tendency of the individual. And I agree with you. But reality is that we still have people who proudly display their caste on the back of their cars and suffix it still on the names of their offspring.

We as a race, it seems, have so little self-respect that we need to depend on social systems of religion, caste, creed etc to give us a sense of identity.

Mind you each of these is by the accident of birth and has got nothing to do with what the individual accomplished in this lifetime.

Little matter all this. We still are proud to defend our temples from the serfs who want to pray inside, what deviant attitudes!! Am sure your rage will be better used elsewhere, we have our people to rage on your behalf.

And of course our behenjis, banerjees and lalilthas are capable enough to bleed the nation dry by either taking what is there or preventing the growth of anything.

If all these are preoccupied then our language bigots always rise up to the occasion. And don’t discount our regional chauvinists!

Or those who seek to convert the spirit of this nation towards an alien system of thought and living that has its roots in the remote tribes of the middle-east region?!

Who lure the soul with material rewards, as an advance to the later rewards in heaven? Or even those who take offence at art? Or those who seek to attack an idea by going after the most external edifices, like churches?

This, of course, is only a brief list of items and we have a ton of these weirdos and have not need of you anymore.

Our deviance and capability for self-harm far exceeds your limited imagination and malice. Please leave us alone and in due time we shall have destroyed ourselves.

Regards

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A Thought – The Cheap and The Free

Cheap is a mindset.

Cheap is not producing the best for the job. It is merely acceptable, what will pass the most superficial tests.

Cheap can scale only at the cost of its own sustenance.

Cost arbitrage as the key, or the only, element of a business strategy is a sure fire route to disaster. Much of the offshore sector serving the financial services industry will be squeezed out, due to the recent economic turmoil in Wall Street.

Those with no clear value propositions beyond cost savings will have the Beijing’s and Manila’s snapping at their heels.

Cheap is not the same as free.

Contrast this with those that have free product/service/whatever as their pricing strategy. They often seem to have a much deeper understanding of the marketplace, a very clear strategy for revenue, even if it just says a million hits to pay for the hosting costs.

Cheap has no design.

Anything cheaper is only the first step to enter a marketplace. To retain it as the cornerstone of a modern business is to be exposed to the vagaries of economic fluctuations.

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A Thought – On the Ordinary

The mundane and ordinary only appears to be so. View without prejudice and you might catch a glimpse of its mysteries.

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Quote – On Collaboration

Collaboration around information is more valuable than the information by itself.

– John Roese, CTO Nortel @ Mobilize 2008 from here

Just think about that quote for a while.

If you are in the business of producing information, any information, or in the transmission of information this has big implications. Say you are a Bloomberg, or Factset or even ThomsonReuters!

Its not just about latency now.

The ticker plants and milli-second thresholds for information delivery are not so exotic anymore. The know-how to build and maintain large super-efficient data centers and data delivery infrastructures will be a commodity skill. Take Amazon with its AWS, to use it is now just a moderately complex exercise, look to that threshold reducing by every day.

The tools, hooks and enablers you build around your information will determine if your data survives the information jungle.

Not exotic terms applied to your old tool set. But genuine enablers based on open data formats and open APIs.

The tipping point where stale data + superior analytics beats super new data with outdated analytics is fast approaching.

What should the biggies of financial information do to survive the bleak times? What role should collaboration tools play in it? What do you think?

A Quote – On Brands

Your brand is the sum of its interactions.
– By David Armano, taken from post by Marianne Richmond.

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