Looks like a bunch of ex-Googlers are building the 'Liquid email' product I've been writing about and dreaming about:
Ben Grubb via Sydney Morning Herald
One thing Fluent aimed to change about email was presenting it in a stream that lets one action items as quickly as possible, Adams said.
"So rather than having to receive a message, look at the subject, click on it, read the conversation, and then decide what to do, we sort of present you with the information that you need to immediately action on it."
Other features of Fluent include letting users quickly browse attachments such as images in a slide show format, the ability to search for emails as one types - something Google’s search engine pioneered with “Instant Search" but is not available in Gmail - and the ability to pinpoint emails one has sent to a specified email address on a timeline.
Another feature in Fluent, which Adams said most webmail clients were “pretty horrible” at dealing with, was its focus on letting users access multiple email accounts under one log-in.
"The market that we’re going for initially is sort of independent professionals and small businesses that tend to have personal accounts [and] maybe several work accounts," Adams said. "It’s quite important for them to be able to check their multiple accounts at the same time."
What I want to know is, are they going to support an ‘open email’? Where I can publish email to all my followers, whoever they are? Are they going to support an open follower model?
- Tom Gerevan, Some best-guesses about what BuzzFeed is up to, and why it is in fact about Arianna, a little via Capital New York
Buzzfeed is trying to live in the stream, a liquid media play.
Mathew Ingram builds on the Sky News Twitter Policy story, injecting some much needed cool-headedness:
Mathew Ingram via GigaOM
Although it doesn’t link to an actual document, the Guardian story quotes from the Sky News guidelines, which tell reporters not to tweet about stories if they are not “a story to which you have been assigned or a beat which you work,” and says that anything approaching breaking news must be sent to a Sky editor first before being posted. The policy says that retweeting other Sky journalists is fine — provided they are posting updates about a story to which they have been assigned — but it says Sky staff are forbidden from retweeting anything that hasn’t been posted by a Sky News account:
Do not retweet information posted by other journalists or people on Twitter. Such information could be wrong and has not been through the Sky News editorial process.
Twitter is the newswire now, for better or worse
This is even more draconian than the most recent example of a news outlet trying to lock down Twitter use — namely, the Associated Press newswire, which came out with standards for retweeting that not only mis-stated how the process works on Twitter, but also forbade journalists working for the newswire from retweeting anything without adding a comment to make it clear that they were not agreeing with the person being retweeted. The AP rules also strictly forbid breaking news on Twitter, which ignores the fact (as I pointed out at the time) that for many people the real-time information network has become the newswire.
In the long run, Sky News won’t slow the move to liquid media — where all the most important information is experienced in the locale of greatest flow, first — but it’s fun to watch the media giants stumble over their own feet.
James Bridle, “Encoded Experiences”
[Originally published on I Read Where I Am]
(via John Borthwick)
Tim De Chant comments on a 2009 research paper by Marcus Hamilton and colleagues which explores the mathematics of population density when humans first started moving out of Africa, around 50,000 years ago.
Tim De Chant, Density solidified early human domination
Our predisposition to living densely, they suppose, may have contributed to our stunning success beyond the savannas of Africa.
A sublinear relationship between population size and home range size—meaning that larger groups live at higher densities—imparts special advantages for species that can deal with the twin burdens of density, overshoot and social conflict. Overshoot describes a population that overwhelms its habitat, devouring all available food and otherwise making a mess of the place. Social conflict is as it sounds, where tight proximities provoke fights between individuals. Together, those snags can bring a once booming population to it’s knees.
But social animals are uniquely adapted to cope with those problems. For one, social behavior soothes tensions when they do rise. And when it comes to the necessities of life, density conveys a distinct advantage for social species—resources, chiefly food, become easier to find. Larger, denser populations squeeze more out of a plot of land than an individual could on his or her own.
Density itself wasn’t directly responsible for the first forays out of Africa. Those groups were were too small and dispersed to receive a substantial boost from density. They faced the worst the natural world had to offer, and many probably couldn’t hack it.
Where population density conferred its advantages was when subsequent waves of colonizers followed. Density allowed those people to thrive. They joined the initial groups, growing more populous and drawing more resources from the land. This made groups more stable both physically and socially—full bellies lead to happier and healthier people. As each group’s numbers grew larger, their social bonds grew stronger and their chances of regional extinction plummeted. In other words, once people worked together to establish themselves, they were likely there to stay.
It’s a heartwarming story the scientific paper tells in the unsentimental language of mathematics. It implies that the essential success of our species can be boiled down to one variable, β, and one value of that variable, ¾. The variable β is an exponent that describes how populations scale numerically and geographically. Its value of ¾ is significant. When β equals one or greater, each additional person requires the same amount of land or more—the group misses out on density’s advantages. But when β is less than one—as it is in our case—then a population becomes denser as it grows larger.
The degree of our sociality has allowed us to bend the curve of population density in our favor. If early humans had been an entirely selfish species—each individual requiring as much or more land than the previous—β would be equal to one or greater. We wouldn’t have lived at higher densities as our populations grew, and early forays beyond the savanna might have petered out. Instead of conquering the globe, we’d have been a footnote of evolution.
And here is where we can consider how this affects our modern lives. Population density may have aided our sojourn out of Africa, but it’s clear there are limits. Hunter-gatherer populations appear to be limited to around 1,000 people, depending on the carrying capacity of the ecosystem. Technology has raised carrying capacities beyond that number—as evinced by the last few millennia of human history—but we don’t know it’s limits. A scaling exponent equal to ¾ may have helped our rise to dominance, but it also could hasten our downfall. Technology may be able to smooth the path to beyond 7 billion, but what if it can’t? What if ¾ is an unbreakable rule? What happens if we reach a point where density can no longer save us from ourselves?
I am betting that social tools — based on liquid media — and new levels of urban living will enable us to push β past 3/4. My prediction is that we will pass over a new threshold when 90% of the world’s population is living in urban settings, and 90% of the world is cooperating and collaborating through online social tools. In effect, we will change the equation by allowing higher degrees of social density while managing contention for resources through lower cost cooperative techniques.
- Josh Quittner, cited by Laura Locke in Flipboard editorial chief on how magazines are flipping out
So I think that as we move from a Twitter or news-feed sense of news to a restoration of relevance it becomes a lot more interesting. So, if I only have five minutes, I would love to see the most important things, not the most recent things. That’s an interesting direction for us.
Nicholas Kulish digs into the rise of civil unrest in recent months, and finds decentralized, bottom-up, and spontaneous resistance to established order, even those parts of the establishment that theoretically represent the interests of ‘the people’, like political parties and unions:
Nicholas Kulish, As Scorn for Vote Grows, Protests Surge Around Globe
Increasingly, citizens of all ages, but particularly the young, are rejecting conventional structures like parties and trade unions in favor of a less hierarchical, more participatory system modeled in many ways on the culture of the Web.
In that sense, the protest movements in democracies are not altogether unlike those that have rocked authoritarian governments this year, toppling longtime leaders in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. Protesters have created their own political space online that is chilly, sometimes openly hostile, toward traditional institutions of the elite.
The critical mass of wiki and mapping tools, video and social networking sites, the communal news wire of Twitter and the ease of donations afforded by sites like PayPal makes coalitions of like-minded individuals instantly viable.
“You’re looking at a generation of 20- and 30-year-olds who are used to self-organizing,” said Yochai Benkler, a director of the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. “They believe life can be more participatory, more decentralized, less dependent on the traditional models of organization, either in the state or the big company. Those were the dominant ways of doing things in the industrial economy, and they aren’t anymore.”
Yonatan Levi, 26, called the tent cities that sprang up in Israel “a beautiful anarchy.” There were leaderless discussion circles like Internet chat rooms, governed, he said, by “emoticon” hand gestures like crossed forearms to signal disagreement with the latest speaker, hands held up and wiggling in the air for agreement — the same hand signs used in public assemblies in Spain. There were free lessons and food, based on the Internet conviction that everything should be available without charge.
Someone had to step in, Mr. Levi said, because “the political system has abandoned its citizens.”
The rising disillusionment comes 20 years after what was celebrated as democratic capitalism’s final victory over communism and dictatorship.
In the wake of the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991, a consensus emerged that liberal economics combined with democratic institutions represented the only path forward. That consensus, championed by scholars like Francis Fukuyama in his book “The End of History and the Last Man,” has been shaken if not broken by a seemingly endless succession of crises — the Asian financial collapse of 1997, the Internet bubble that burst in 2000, the subprime crisis of 2007-8 and the continuing European and American debt crisis — and the seeming inability of policy makers to deal with them or cushion their people from the shocks.
Frustrated voters are not agitating for a dictator to take over. But they say they do not know where to turn at a time when political choices of the cold war era seem hollow. “Even when capitalism fell into its worst crisis since the 1920s there was no viable alternative vision,” said the British left-wing author Owen Jones.
Protests in Britain exploded into lawlessness last month. Rampaging youths smashed store windows and set fires in London and beyond, using communication systems like BlackBerry Messenger to evade the police. They had savvy and technology, Mr. Jones said, but lacked a belief that the political system represented their interests. They also lacked hope.
“The young people who took part in the riots didn’t feel they had a future to risk,” he said.
I will leave aside the political and economic motivations of the folks involved in these anti-establishment movements worldwide (if you’d like my views on that side of things, take a look at Underpaid Genius). However, as a student of social tools it is obvious to me that liquid media are so low-cost, ubiquitous, and social, that resistance movements will take on the shape of the tools that inform them.
And it also seems likely that the organizations that these activists oppose won’t adopt social tools to rally their supporters. They will use conventional media and communications. The establishment organizations are massively solid, and threatened by the apparently anarchic resistance that is popping up. But it will be like a bear trying to fight a swarm of bees.
Again, leaving aside my feelings of whether the resistance is justified, and simply accepting the premise that these protesters will continue their actions until dramatic changes take place, it seems obvious to me that this unrest will continue and it will grow.
Why? Liquid media provides a matrix in which the disaffected can easily come together around short-term and unmanaged activities. These activists don’t have to share long-term goals, pull together a complete platform, grow a large base of financial supporters, or even collate a list of all the participants of the action. There is no control, there is no organizing committee, there is no leader. This is loose alignment: cooperation.
These are the same reasons that business is moving toward a rōnin economy, based around short-term projects, leveraging freelancers and outsourced work groups. The efficiencies that arise when business politics are put aside and people simply focus on contributing to the immediate and clear-cut goals of a near-term project. I don’t have to agree with the long-term strategic goals of AOL, for example, if I come aboard for a short-term engagement. We just have to agree on highly constrained tasks for the project, and then go our own ways a few weeks or months later. I’m simply cooperating, while full-time employees of AOL have to get into line on the long-term strategy there: they have to join the collective, and collaborate consistently and over time.
So, we can expect that both sorts of pressures will impact our society. On one hand, organizations see the benefits arising using the rōnin workforce in short term projects. And on the other, the realm of social discourse is moving past talking toward outright civil unrest, leveraging the same sorts of efficiencies latent in loose cooperation.
Expect to see civil unrest increasing, directly in parallel with the adoption of these open social tools, and as the world slides into a more liquid configuration.
Deb Lavoy shows that she is a humanist, and her fascination with what she’s calling Enlightenment 2.0. I agree with everything except the 2.0 meme. Just replace ‘Enterprise 2.0’ with ‘social revolution’, and ‘Enlightenment 2.0’ with ‘the Liquid Economy’. She’s not talking about spiritual enlightment, but the outgrowth of the Renaissance in Europe.
Deb Lavoy, Could E2.0 really mean Enlightenment 2.0?
The enlightenment was characterized by an intellectual elite that saw the opportunity for a better world. It gave us the tools to re-explore the world from a rational, reductionist perspective using scientific principles – predictable consequences of any action – to transform everything from navigation to technology and society itself. It was hastened on its way by the invention of the printing press, Newtonian math and science, Liberalism, and the work of philosopher scientists who were frequently excommunicated.
Rationalism lead to a massive diffusion and expansion of scientific knowledge, math and technology. in this mindset, the perfect system, the perfect business structure, was one where every variable was known, every detail calculated. Whether consciously or un, we tried to model our organizations after these ideals. When every variable was known, we would have complete control. Henry Ford capitalized (so to speak) on this principle with his famous assembly lines. Things became fast and consistent – a fundamental enabler of the industrial revolution and mass production which allowed for the creation of an educated middle class. [This TED talk which looks at how the invention of the washing machine lead to the modern concept of parenting, seems at first blush silly and then absolutely profound. Imagine if women in developing countries didn’t have to carry water - but I digress (and you should too - the TED talk and water stats are worth seeing).]
Enlightenment 2.0, which we could argue is what’s happening now, has been catalyzed by quantum mechanics (you really can’t know it all, sister), complexity theory, and social media technologies, is leading us from the age of reason to the age of – emergence (?!?) – where we will start to understand that while we cannot predict or control what will happen, we can surf it. It is enriched by humanist thinking and a general increase in the global standard of living that allows people to care about determining their lives, rather than simply surviving. We are again seeing the rise of the polyglot – the person who knows some science, some philosophy, some business, some politics and is taking control of producing their ideas. (Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson are as well known for their contributions to science and technology as to politics). This is a time when we are again inventing, acting, doing as well as learning. This will change the way we think and act as dramatically as the first Age of Enlightenment, though it may take as long to unfold. It takes a while to re-wire the human psyche.
Human behavior is one of the most non-deterministic, irreducible forces we deal with in day to day life. The Enlightenment respected that, at the same time as it created the paradoxes of command and control and mechanistic views of the world. We’re now able to come back and reevaluate the role of human complexity in society. Enlightenment 2.0 is causing Enterprise 2.0 to embrace complexity and human behavior.
A Social Business is a business that respects and profits from the complexity and unlimited potential of people.
The best is yet to come.
Amen, sister, amen.
There is a huge swirl of innovation going on in the liquid media central to people’s lives: managing the torrent of links coming at us, storing, sharing, collating, and curating. The founders of YouTube, Chad Hurley and Steve Chen, have acquired Delicious as the launchpad for their take on that:
Jenna Wortham via NY Times
At heart, they say, the revamped service will still resemble the original Delicious when it opens to the public, which Mr. Chen and Mr. Hurley said would happen later this year. But their blueprint involves an overhaul of the site’s design and the software and the systems used to tag and organize links.
The current home page of Delicious features a simple cascade of blue links, the most recent pages bookmarked by its users, and it tends to largely be dominated technology news. But the new Delicious aims to be more of a destination, a place where users can go to see the most recent links shared around topical events, like the Texas wildfires or the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, as well as the gadget reviews and tech tips.
The home page would feature browseable “stacks,” or collections of related images, videos and links shared around topical events. The site would also make personalized recommendations for users, based on their sharing habits. “We want to simplify things visually, mainstream the product and make it easier for people to understand what they’re doing,” Mr. Hurley said.
Mr. Chen gives the example of trying to find information about how to repair a vintage car radio or plan an exotic vacation.
“You’re Googling around and have eight to 10 browser tabs of results, links to forums and message boards, all related to your search,” he said. The new Delicious, he said, provides “a very easy way to save those links in a collection that someone else can browse.”
They say they decided to buy Delicious rather than build their own service for a number of reasons.
“We know how hard it would be to build a brand,” Mr. Hurley said. “Delicious lets us hit the ground running with its existing footprint.”
A number of sites already have Delicious buttons as an option for sharing content — right alongside Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr, Mr. Hurley said.
But Mr. Chen said the team also “liked the idea of saving one of the original Web 2.0 companies that started the social sharing movement on the Web.” He added: “There was some sense of history. We were genuinely sad that it would be shut down.”
As an experiment, I am going to switch back to Delicious from my haphazard collection of partially unsatisfying services, and see where they take things.
The ‘post-pc’ phrase has gained a lot of traction, by which most mean a world awash in tablets and ‘genius’ phones, and in which PCs are also supported as a sort of umbilical back to the pre-tablet past.
Personally, I think its the wrong term. We are moving to a world of liquid media, which is the confluence of a number of trends (ubiquitous connectivity, genius devices, touch/gestural interfaces, tablets, social operating environments, and others): a world where the PC desktop metaphor is passé, but still full of laptops for decades to come.
Given that, I am leery of products being touted as part of a post-pc world, like the new Jux tool. I took a short walk through Jux today, which is a relatively recent entrant to the personal publishing (or ‘blogging’) marketplace. I read some fairly hyperbolic praise about the tool (see Jux learns from the rest to create the most beautiful blog platform yet), so I wandered over to take a look-see.
Jux does produce very pretty output, based on tablet esthetics: edge to edge photos, automatically generated semi-transparent overlays, slideshows, and arresting graphics and typography. All nice. And if you’d like to post in a tablet-friendly way, I can see the attraction, especially compared to old school approaches like WordPress.
But I fail to grasp why Jux opted to not to create an internal social dimension: where’s the following semantics that have made tools like Tumblr and Instagram so viral and engrossing?
Jux has gone paleolithic, providing only a ‘share’ capability, so I can’t follow others’ work, except by manually returning to their pages, or through the ‘explore’ function, which looks like a curated stream.
And perhaps even more revealing, there is no ‘reblogging’ built into Jux.
My sense is that the founders behind Jux are uninterested in the torrent of reblogging that makes up Tumblr’s core. But if they rejected that as excess, why not at least the basic social gestures like comments or likes?
There is basically no social dimension in Jux, so I can’t imagine using it myself. I can imagine some publishers might, at least the ones that don’t really want social interaction, and who would like passive readers, and not active participants. But the sociality of the web is one of the major threads of liquid media, and it’s ridiculous to ignore it they way Jux has.
One thought: perhaps the Jux folks expect that our social interaction will remain in the services that they support through the ‘share’ capability, notably Twitter and Facebook. Perhaps they hope that Twitter’s management will see the obvious complement of a lightweight and beautiful blogging tool, and want to more tightly intergrate that into the Twitter constellation of products? Perhaps.
My bet is that they will add these features, be acquired and integrated, or die. There is no future for web media tools that are deliberately asocial.