Thursday, December 31, 2009

Social Networking: the new e-Bubble?

Are the new social networking applications creating an economy short-term bubble?

What is currently happening resembles what we saw nn the first internet bubble, in 1999-2001: a sudden peak of interests about new tools and technologies.

Are we to expect a dark-age after the initial enthusiasm?
I think that this will not be the case, for the following reasons:

1) We are emerging from a deep economic crisis. The first internet bubble is still fresh in our memories. Investors are now extremely cautious. For this reasons they are not going to embark in the "fund everybody" craziness that characterized the first internet bubble.

2) Social use of the internet was gradually taking off in the last two years, as people massively signed in to Facebook, Myspace and the like. Definitely this is not a bottom up process, like the one happening in 2000. Big social network companies are profitable.

3) Business models of current social companies is more clear. Extracting social data from the masses. Drive their expenses. Map their relations. Influence. Build for future power moves.

4) Internet presence is built using names. Anonymity is not cool anymore. People blog and partecipate using their own names. Avatar identity merges with personal identity. Aliasing and nicknaming is out of trend. Digital reputation is converging and merging with true personal reputation.

Marco ( @mgua on twitter )


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Information Overload

This is cross posted from a comment of mine to David Weinberger's blog post "[2b2k] Notes on the history of information overload"

Very interesting material. And very clever organized.

Indeed, progressive overloading is happening in many fields. And it was happening also in the past. (O tempora O mores!)

Overloading is actually produced by our inability to deal properly with too many incoming information streams. We try to keep up as we can, usually becoming inevitably less accurate in judgment and in quality of our attention.

Let’s simply consider the communication channels we currently have to deal with: classic books and papers, computer notes, emails, blogs, websites, phone, sms, chat, twitter… you say it.

Information cycle is also very fast. In my childhood I had pen pal friends all over the world, and it took months for us to exchange some message.
Now it takes seconds.
And this is amazing.

Our words were more carefully studied, slowly digested and consumed. Tiny non-explicit bits were decoded and ripped from pen tremblings. We were actually interpreting and creating inner meaning. (Was it useful?)

Alas, not that time anymore. Let’s not regret. World changed. We changed too.

Now our messages are swallowed and maybe digested (mostly un-understood) in a handful of milliseconds, decoded by hurry eyes scanning remote flickering screens.

And we are getting and filtering more and more, and each channel is full of noise. Overall Signal/Noise ratio is -probably- going down. But it is addicting.
(Oh yes, it would be nice to follow this and that.)

Simultaneous channels usage is currently happening to me everyday: reading or composing emails while writing a spec in another window, then answering to the fixed phone, and receiving another call on the mobile, and getting crazy, while people around me laugh.

But do not worry
It will get worse.

Let's enjoy it, and get organized.

Marco ( @mgua on twitter )

PS: David Weinberger is @dweinberger on twitter


Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Building a Bot-Net Brain: Easing the way to Singularity

Here is a list of important concepts and ideas that could help in accelerating the progress towards Singularity.

I want to work with such a list, so to distribute practical operative load to many people, working in many areas, and willing to dedicate time to the project, following a model similar to Open Source Development, that showed great effectiveness.

EEE Engage, Explain, Educate
Engage and excite
Explain clearly what we need and why
Educate to collaboration
Promote Social Peer-Peer Learning, and give practical assignments, with some kind of level gaining (like role based games or like wikipedia hiearchy)
Ask teachers to collaborate (see howard reingold great thoughts)
Develop needed new tools
Create a global social consciousness of a future we build together
Promote DIY, open source mentality

Experiments and Simulations
(many specialist things here)

Architectures fot the Bot-Net Brain
Base Systems and modules
Networking and protocols for the different levels
Basic Node to Basic Node (BN-BN)
Basic Node to Aggregation Node (BN-AN)
Aggregation Node to Interface Node (AN-IN)
Basic Node types: (Storage, Sensory, Processing, Actuatory)
Mutiple distributed reasoning engines
Distribution servers for code and tasks
Multi peer-peer node communication (twitter like)
Each user node execute a module (see seti or boinc)
Collective emerging features

Main components
Basic Node (1' level)
Aggregation Node (2' level)
Interface Node (3' level)
Goal Nodes (4' level)
Areas: a subset of nodes in a specific layer
Modules: sets of areas (spanning different layers)
Knowledge representation
Hierarchical Decision System (democratic, weight based, with weight is function of age, and # of connections)
Management of internal conflicts (tradeoff, reward, punishment)
Interaction Manager
Evaluation functions
Perception functions
Linguistic Functions
Innate Knowledge
Basic Goals (instincts)
High level Goals
Low Level Control Systems (vital functions, omeostasis)
High Level Control Systems (more abstract)
Feeling representation
Consciousness as overall emerging property
Self observation and self perception: multi-level Feedback
Self Evolution Engine, with nodes independently rebooting into autodeveloped new versions with similar interfaces

Knowledge access
Search Engine interfaces
Internet Access Interfaces (read)
Synthetic World Interfaces (read)
Social Network Interfaces (read)
Internet Active Presence (Interaction manager)
Robot Interface (proprioception)
Human Interfaces
Lab Interfaces

Creating a sense good and evil
Goal definition
Dealing with unanswerable questions

I would like to:
  1. improve, correct, rewrite and complete this list
  2. for each of its elements write a % to see how far we are from the target, and set of links to relevant documents and references
  3. define workgroups and managers taking care of each area of development
  4. leverage open source disrtributed development, but centrally leaded and very well targeted
  5. raise money from investors (government, privates, foundations)
  6. earn money selling modular operational subcomponents
  7. earn money selling botnet processing time

What do you think?
Can you take this list, improve it and re-share it?

Marco ( @mgua on twitter )


Monday, December 21, 2009

My personal Twitter experience

After @VenessaMiemis request, "this post is a group Twitter experiment – link to similar articles at bottom & share your own experience on Twitter with hashtag #MonTwit"

I registered a Twitter more than one year ago, did some tests, then put it aside, having judged it as something silly and of zero practical use.

I was wrong.

Currently I am using it since a couple of months, and I am discovering great value into it.
Maybe my opinion changed due to a critical mass effect.

Here are some considerations:
  1. I tweet in english and not in my mother tongue: this gives broader audience and allows me to interact with far more people.

  2. I consider Twitter a new communication tool. It goes side by side with the many other I use and I am accustomed to: phone, email, cellphone, sms, mms, cellphone email, webmail, videoconferencing, skype, istant messenger, voip phone, blog, gmail/gwave, facebook, flickr, twitter. It is just the youngest one in the collection.

  3. I carefully select the people to follow, so to have a minimum impact on the time used for reading tweets. I like to follow people who produce their own contents. I  quickly unfollow people just retweeting someone else all the time (I call them bouncers or reflectors).
    I do not like situational tweets like "going home now, I am tired" or "waiting for my flight in SFO" or "it is now raining in Berkeley".
    I also do not like tweets containing uncommented urls (this is usually enough for me to trigger unfollow).
    I would like to select people basing more on geographical and country location, but this information is not always available (for example people like to write "Anywhere" or "Theran" to convey their global presence or a specific political meaning).

  4. I access Twitter mostly from my mobile phone (currently using Ubertwitter on Blackberry Curve 8900). I simply can not use any Twitter client while working on my office pc, because it is extremely distracting. I find great to use it from the phone because I can use it in free moments, wherever I am.

  5. I try not to waste other people bandwidth. I am sorry I had to unfollow a lot of people who simply tweet too much. This was one of the biggest problem I had to face in the beginning, when I tried to follow too many people, since it seems that many people actually use it for typing whatever they consider interesting.

  6. I try to keep up with the streams of my contacts, without losing their words. I currently follow about 180 people, but I need to reduce them. My good number is probably around 150.

  7. I do not follow automatically any of my followers, but I check daily if I have any of them, to see if their activities could be related to mine. I judge to follow after checking their stream, and checking the number of their updates. I decided not to consider people with empty profiles.

  8. I decided not to thank publically people who retweet my contents. I do not like to see empty thanking messages. My time is precious. And my followers time is precious too.

  9. I found that many users tend to "tweet for themselves", so producing too many tweets in the desire of being retweeted and gain more followers. This phase usually lasts for a while, then the user starts behaving better, and produces much better content.

  10. A lot of the currently most active Twitter users are social media professionals, or marketing people, web 2.0 entrepeneurs, sociologists and communication researchers. In most cases, to me, the opinions are just not enough different to ignite a productive debate. I hope that Twitter user base will broaden involving people from every field of business and culture.

My benefits from using Twitter
Overall, my Twitter experience is good. Here is a list of the benefits that I got from this tool.

  • Increased awareness about what is happening. Early trend detection. Since I do not watch any kind of TV. I occasionally read newspapers. I get the news from the radio, while driving, or from some minutes spent on news agency site and google news every morning.

  • Personal Enjoyment and Culture.

  • I find absolutely fascinating to be here and now with you, witnessing the development of thiis new great communication and groupware tool.

    Marco ( @mgua on Twitter)

    Sunday, December 6, 2009

    IT evaporation: cloud computing and how it will affect corporate IT strategies.

    Thinking about corporate IT evolution, it is a quite established trend now to have virtualized servers. Virtual servers are independent from their storage, and can be easily imaged and disaster recovered.

    Current corporate networking now decouples server address space from client address space, and this means that servers can be easily relocated elsewhere.

    Soon huge virtual server farms will be created. Customers will be allowed to move there their virtual servers, and have them managed by remote datacenter operators. These datacenters will be connected with very high performance links to the corporate headquarters and to the places where corporate employees are.
    What is currently blocking this is the lacking of sophisticated features for managing really huge virtual server farms keeping logical groups of servers separated from each other, so to allow effective multi-customer management. Also sophisticated billing features are lacking.
    These missing features will emerge, and then customers will relinquish their servers making them virtual and letting them evaporate in the clouds.

    The datacenters will be huge, google like, modular, container based. Many of them will be built in cold places, so to save cooling energy expenses. Some design are to be built underwater.

    And after this, as soon as broadband access will grow of at least an order of magnitude, when we will have really easily available gigabit wan links, it will be the client turn, to evaporate.

    People will then easily be allowed to work from home, accessing remotely the corporate desktop and applications, thru suitable encrypted links.
    Corporate desktop computer will dissolve and evaporate, becoming simple remote access terminal. Many applications will be accessed from mobile devices too.

    Then it will be our turn, to evaporate...

    Marco ( @mgua on twitter )

    Saturday, December 5, 2009

    Online lives

    Online lives.

    We are
    from reality to fiction,
    gradually shifting
    real life to ethereal existance
    flesh to bits
    mud and sweat to cleaner
    pixel presence.


    And I am sure
    I will rewind to this very moment,
    re-evaluating the loose
    of tastes, sensations, feelings
    searching, in hunger
    stinky memories
    too heavy and dirty
    for non-fading bits.

    Marco (@mgua on twitter)

    Did you know, version 4:

    Friday, December 4, 2009

    We are made of time


    That is what we are made of.
    In any possible way.

    Time makes us grow. Makes us better, improves us. Gives flavor to our
    life. Because it is always scarce and never enough, and forces us to have
    a goal, to be synthetic, and limited.
    We should not waste our time, given its value: we are not given that much.

    Time. Time and information. Time and meaning.
    Meaning comes with time.

    And as our sands flows thru the hourglass, we realize that we actually
    build meaning.

    We are meaning constructors.
    We put meaning into what we see. We cloth reality with meaning.

    And we wear our meanings, and use them as flags.
    Each of us decodes reality, and writes some of its secrets. We read
    nature's book doing science. We crack reality, we analyze behaviors, we
    discover, identify. We hack, we provoke, we stimulate, we *cause*

    We dream, we fight.
    We sometimes win.

    And ultimately we hack our life, making a sense out of it, for the
    people we walk along with, for our spouses and children, and for our

    Always we are
    fighting and dreaming.

    Always busy
    squeezing out meanings from reality.

    it is a damn tough task
    but well worth to be done



    Need of filters, and why undirected croudsourcing is not going to work

    Here is a quote of a comment exchange between me and Venessa Miemis, on her Blog: Emergent by Design:

    Marco writes:

    As expressed in previous comments of mine,
    Twitter is developing interesting features, like a brain.

    Here are some thoughts of mine that could be suggestions for improving persistance of valuable informations, and also for creating a forgetting feature.
    As in biological systems, selective forget is a fundamental necessity in developing selective attention, which in turn is one of the fundamental necessities of consciousness.

    marco (@mgua on twitter)

    Venessa writes:

    Hi Marco,
    I read your post, and I agree that those features would greatly help with search and filtering content.
    The only thing that I keep going back and forth about with filtering is, will too much of it make us miss something?
    For instance, I still can’t figure out who to follow back. Some people have content that interests me, but is not related to understanding emerging media and technology trends, which is my focus. So I don’t follow them because I don’t want to be distracted, but at the same time, sometimes you get valuable insights from areas outside of your field of interest.
    If I surround myself with information that’s self-reinforcing, will I be a victim to groupthink? I don’t want to lose my focus, but I also don’t want to miss the opportunity for a-ha moments.
    what do you think?

    Marco writes:

    Excellent point, Venessa

    Personally, being very involved with my job, I feel worry not to have enough time to investigate and follow and learn and enjoy what I like.
     Oh, yes, I would like to devote time to Artificial Intelligence, Life evolution, Science, and future studies, as well as philosophy and psychology…
    And it is really difficult to choose, because every choice you make determines forever your future.

    Maybe we will develop faster clocks, or larger sensing bandwidths, but the fundamental problem will remain. Selective attention is needed for whatever useful and successful result.
    We need to focus our lens, to really heat our target.

    It is nice to work social, and to romatically think that future will be crowd-sourced, but I am sufficiently old to know that really hard work is needed to build something. And undirected people do not work.

    To put it hard way: A bunch of bored people tweeting about the last juicy website they found is not going to actively build something. Scientists and entrepeneurs are needed for this. People who actually likes to invent and make and get their hands and minds dirty with details.

    Self contemplation is risky, as well as pure philosophy. We need to find the right balance between the introverse attitude, like Leonardo Da Vinci, a great mind working alone – centuries in advance of his times, and a perfect orchestra of performers holistically directed.

    Directors are needed.
    In most cases, sadly, crowds are sums of zeroes.

    Directors needs to be protected and heavily filtered, to be proficient.

    my 2c.

    Thursday, December 3, 2009

    Giving Twitter a Social Memory

    Twitter is a great tool for spreading news.
    But it lacks a social memory. Its search functions are not so powerful yet. It also lacks a way to selectively forget what is not important.
    It is a young protocol.

    I am collecting here some ideas that could be useful for improving it.
    Needless to say, these ideas have emerged from my experience in using the tool, and generated basing on my specific experience, as a technical manager, chronically in lack of time.

    One of the most fascinating features of the whole twitter community is its similarity with a living brain. Users can be imagined as the neurons, firing tweets at each other and to their downstream followers. Retweets are short time reverberation loops that could reinforce a message. And when we start following someone, we create a new synapse.

    The whole thing is changing, quite fast, and neurons develop quickly a meshed network of connections, in relation to their specific interests and skills.

    1. I would like to be able to read my incoming twitter feed from where i left it the last time. This for not losing information from my friends.

    2. I would like to be able to develop incoming filter features in reading my incoming twitter feed. Most of the tweets are not that interesting for me, while there are some very interesting nuggets of information that I like and do not want to miss. The time I can devote to reading tweets is limited. Currently I do filter out the retweets of some people I follow, and I find this option useful, because some people tweet simply too much. Some nice filter features are also obtainable thru lists, so to quickly be able to read just the new information related to a specific list. Maybe some keyword filters could be nice.

    3. To keep it quick, i would like to improve the favorite feature, to mark the interesting incoming tweets. In later review I would like to categorize these preferred tweets attaching labels (business, leisure, music, learning,... etc), and additional notes. This feature would allow to create reputation functions basing on the number of favorite marks a specific person or tweet gets.

    4. I would like to have a mark, in my incoming tweet feed, notifying if I am following the author of each tweet.

    5. Maybe when someone post a tweet, some important flag could be added to mark important issues? Some people tweet a lot, and I can not follow them. Maybe they could mark in some way the tweets they consider very important.

    6. Additional value would come from searching the favorite tweets repository, for a specific user or for a whole subset of the community, with geography filters, or business type filters, or whatever. This searching would benefit by people categorizations of specific contents.

    7. Twitter needs a way to forget the old unimportant information. We could study a progressive decay of old unstimulated synapses connections (with people whose tweets are never favorited by me).
      Also I would like a "wash" feature, to wash out from my feed the old tweets coming from people that are not in a specific selection list.

    Will keep this post updated with new ideas.

    Marco ( @mgua on twitter )