Elsewhere

Tim O’Reilly on The Endarkment

Tim O’Reilly is a very smart guy, and even though he is a dyed-in-the-wool technophile, he hasn’t let that blind him:

Tim O’Reilly, The Rise Of Anti-Intellectualism And The End Of Progress

For so many in the techno-elite, even those who don’t entirely subscribe to the unlimited optimism of the Singularity, the notion of perpetual progress and economic growth is somehow taken for granted. As a former classicist turned technologist, I’ve always lived with the shadow of the fall of Rome, the failure of its intellectual culture, and the stasis that gripped the Western world for the better part of a thousand years. What I fear most is that we will lack the will and the foresight to face the world’s problems squarely, but will instead retreat from them into superstition and ignorance.

[…]

Yes, we may find technological solutions that propel us into a new golden age of robots, collective intelligence, and an economy built around “the creative class.” But it’s at least as probable that as we fail to find those solutions quickly enough, the world falls into apathy, disbelief in science and progress, and after a melancholy decline, a new dark age.

Civilizations do fail. We have never yet seen one that hasn’t. The difference is that the torch of progress has in the past always passed to another region of the world. But we’ve now, for the first time, got a single global civilization. If it fails, we all fail together. 

Yes, we’ve become entangled, and our fate will be shared. To avoid the endarkment will require a great deal of hard work, and the hardest part might be the necessary first step: realizing that we are at a pivotal moment, and that just about everything must change.

So Is Web 3.0 Already Here? - Sarah Lacey

http://techcrunch.com/2011/04/18/so-is-web-3-0-already-here-tctv/

Oh god, not another attempt to label something as Web 3.0’! Reid Hoffman and Tim O’Reilly are smart guys, but why flog the Web 3.0 angle?

Back a few years ago, Jason Calacanis tried to dub what he was doing at Mahalo as Web 3.0, and I wrote this:

Personally, I feel the vague lineaments of something beyond Web 2.0, and they involve some fairly radical steps. Imagine a Web without browsers. Imagine breaking completely away from the document metaphor, or a true blurring of application and information. That’s what Web 3.0 will be, but I bet we will call it something else.

The new new deserves a good name. This new world arising from the collision of a number of semi-independent trends:

  • social as the primary mode of human-computer interaction (meaning that human-human interaction is primary, not human to computer),
  • ubiquitous connectivity,
  • touch mobiles,
  • and post-desktop, internet-based operating systems.

So, I will start referring to this as SoCoMoIO (pronounced ‘so-co-mo-eye-oh’). But that’s just shorthand, not a sweeping terminological handwave.

And I think the meme of using ordinal numbers is generally tired, and never has caught on for any number past 2.0, anyway. By the time we get to what might realistically be a third generation, no one remembers what preceded 1.0.

Whatever this new new winds up being called, I don’t think it will be defined by mounds of data being pored over by algorithmic ‘engines of meaning’ (as Bruce Sterling said).

The next decade will be defined by the enormous social leverage cracked open by SoCoMoIO: this will dwarf the the rise of the web to date, and it will make what we are doing today look like the foothills overshadowed by the Rockies.

But no one will call it Web 3.0.

Zuckerberg’s Washington Post Piece Is Pure PR

Theoretically, Mark Zuckerberg wrote a piece for the Washington Post responding (at last) to the privacygate furor that has been raging for weeks, since the latest turn of the screw when Facebook revised their terms of service once again. I don’t think so: this looks like a very crafted PR piece.

Mark Zuckerberg, From Facebook, answering privacy concerns with new settings

The challenge is how a network like ours facilitates sharing and innovation, offers control and choice, and makes this experience easy for everyone. These are issues we think about all the time. Whenever we make a change, we try to apply the lessons we’ve learned along the way. The biggest message we have heard recently is that people want easier control over their information. Simply put, many of you thought our controls were too complex. Our intention was to give you lots of granular controls; but that may not have been what many of you wanted. We just missed the mark.

We have heard the feedback. There needs to be a simpler way to control your information. In the coming weeks, we will add privacy controls that are much simpler to use. We will also give you an easy way to turn off all third-party services. We are working hard to make these changes available as soon as possible. We hope you’ll be pleased with the result of our work and, as always, we’ll be eager to get your feedback.

We have also heard that some people don’t understand how their personal information is used and worry that it is shared in ways they don’t want. I’d like to clear that up now. Many people choose to make some of their information visible to everyone so people they know can find them on Facebook. We already offer controls to limit the visibility of that information and we intend to make them even stronger.

Here are the principles under which Facebook operates:

— You have control over how your information is shared.

— We do not share your personal information with people or services you don’t want.

— We do not give advertisers access to your personal information.

— We do not and never will sell any of your information to anyone.

— We will always keep Facebook a free service for everyone.

"We have also heard that some people don’t understand how their personal information is used and worry that it is shared in ways they don’t want." and "Simply put, many of you thought our controls were too complex. Our intention was to give you lots of granular controls; but that may not have been what many of you wanted. We just missed the mark." just demonstrate that they aren’t really listening.

The statements made above are counterfactual: Facebook users do not have full control over their information, since a lot of it is shared with the world and there is nothing users can do about it at present.

A number of people are taking the tack that Facebook is too ingrained in our web lives to be dropped (see danah boyd’s most recent piece, for example), or that the benefits outweigh the negatives (like Tim O’Reilly’s Contrarian Stance on Facebook and Privacy). I don’t buy it. If enough people howl, and enough of Facebook’s partners begin to question their motives and policies, things can be changed.

I don’t think Facebook is the future but it may take a few years for that to be obvious.

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Web 2.0 Expo: Open web, content strategy, privacy/identity and of course, karaoke

[This is a guest post by Deanna Zandt, author of the forthcoming Share This! How You Will Change the World with Social Networking.]

Web 2.0 Expo wrapped up in San Francisco on Thursday last week (see my coverage of the opening days with this post), and while the depth I was longing for still never quite manifested, breadth of topics were aplenty. Keynotes covered everything from culture shifting with Clara Shih’s talk on “The Facebook Era," where she noted that social capital is strongest and most important at the fringes of our social graphs, to hardcore nerdery with Stewart Butterfield and Cal Henderson presenting "A Web Nerd’s Approach to Building a Massively-Multiplayer Game.

Then there was the man himself, Tim O’Reilly, giving his 2010 salvo on the state of the Internet operating system. Perhaps most important from his keynote was how strongly he came out against data silos and social graphs as walled gardens. Referencing his 2005 paper on what comprises web 2.0, he said,

"You own your own data" was one of the core pieces of positioning. I think this one of the areas where I was wrong, because I think we’re seeing that we’re being increasing owned by big providers, and I’m not sure that’s the way we want it to go.

O’Reilly went on to push back on the idea that developing on someone’s platform means that they own that work, data or service. “It’s crunch time,” he said. “It’s time to start thinking hard about keeping the web open. Don’t take the open web for granted.” Especially poignant as we see more and more people grumbling and leaving Facebook for reasons that fall under this umbrella.

Speaking of privacy, ahem, there was a fine workshop geared toward entrepreneurs on how to avoid the pitfalls of #privacyFAIL. Based on the primer by the California ACLU, “Promoting Privacy and Free Speech is Good for Business," and populated by a lawyer, an ACLUer, an entrepreneur, and a VC, the panel offered a variety of case studies (many of which can be found in the primer) showing the do’s and don’ts of this part of business. I nearly "hallelujah’ed" when Lauren Gelman ranted a bit about how unreadable privacy statements and TOS’es are, and why this needs to change immediately.

Other workshops that caught my eye were:

Of course, get-togethers and parties are half the conference fun, and I do want to give Bing big ups for the great TechKaraoke night we had on Tuesday at Jillian’s. The excellent KJ — that’s karaoke jockey— Roger Niner carried us through a fierce competition, and despite the fact that even though no one sang “Sister Christian" yet it became stuck in my head for days, it was still one of the highlights for me. Also fabulous was the book party for Brian Solis' “Engage,” where a beautiful view atop the Marriott and good friends created an intimate and spirited atmosphere.

See you next Expo!

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Tim O’Reilly: Fishing With Strawberries

Max Chafkin, The Oracle of Silicon Valley

Tim O’Reilly is Silicon Valley’s leading intellectual and the founder of O’Reilly Media, a steadily growing $100 million company. His life is a vivid demonstration that interesting things can happen when you are working for more than money.

[…]

Over the years, O’Reilly has written many influential essays, which are available on his blog, O’Reilly Radar. There is “Watching the Alpha Geeks,” which argues that most important new ideas come from hobbyists rather than from companies or research labs; the essay helped to popularize the theory of user innovation. There is “Piracy Is Progressive Taxation,” an argument against the strict enforcement of intellectual property laws. There is “The Open Source Paradigm Shift,” which helped catalyze the movement toward free software.

These essays, and others like them, are interesting as artifacts, but the real wisdom in O’Reilly’s work is found in the company newsletters he wrote when O’Reilly Media was still small and its influence still slight. The best of these is a short meditation on the nature of business, published in February 1995, just as excitement about the Internet was heating up. Back then, everybody O’Reilly knew was getting rich, and he had been talking to investment bankers about a possible sale or initial public offering of GNN. During a particularly memorable meeting, a banker advised him to focus less on work that was interesting and more on work of the moneymaking kind.

As O’Reilly tells it, the banker chastises him with a metaphor. “You don’t fish with strawberries,” the banker says. “Even if that’s what you like, fish like worms, so that’s what you use.”

At first, O’Reilly accepts this advice. Who can argue with the idea that customers should get what they want? But as he thinks it over, he begins to see things differently. “[A] small voice within me said, with a mixture of dismay, wonder, and dawning delight: ‘But that’s just what we’ve always done: gone fishing with strawberries,’ ” he writes. ” ‘And it’s worked!’ “

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Tim O’Reilly on Techmeme

Tim O’Reilly has a great post, finding a synthesis between Facebook app uptake, the recent Quant meltdown, and Techmeme piling on behavior. It is only the latter that I will touch on here:

[from Facebook, the Quant Fund Meltdown, and the Techmeme Leaderboard]

[…]

When reviewing the Techmeme leaderboard, and then bouncing from there over to Techmeme itself, I was struck by the fact that the surest way to stay up on the leaderboard is to make sure to comment on stories that are currently appearing on the front page of techmeme! This is a self-reinforcing system, where all of the major tech blogs end up covering the same stories. Yes, someone always breaks the news, but you see this amazing pile-on effect. I’m not sure it’s healthy.

In thinking about the future of collective intelligence, we need to make sure that we not only think about systems that lead to convergence of opinion, but also ones that ensure divergence, and fresh inputs. The surest way I know to get this is not to pay attention to the breaking news in your own pond, but to find the next community over, and to create new cross connections. Once the connections are well established, move on.

[…]

One of the tensions we struggle with all the time is how much energy to put into following areas we’ve uncovered that are now well known, and how much to spend on exploring the unknown.

This observation has to be considered from both macro and micro perspectives:

  • On the personal level, an individual only has to spend some amount of time wandering around the web, staying away from the groupthink that emerges at sites like Techmeme. This is one of the reasons I don’t like sitting in an RSS reader, too: I want to travel the sidelinks, the trackback, and errant pointers that increase the incidence of bumping into something truly novel, or some new unique perspective.

    (It’s a side note, but I was struck by Matt Biddulph’s (from Dopplr) recent use of the term ‘Coincidensity’ to denote (I think) the fact that the likelihood of bumping into interesting people goes up as the people are closer together. I think I want to extend the term in this context, to assert that to increase the coincidensity of novel ideas bumping into you you have wander around to increase your chances.)

  • On the social level, if people opt to game the system at Techmeme, and the system rewards that, you will see piling on. Sometimes piling makes sense — as when some new shiny tool is released and everyone fools with it or opines about it. Other piling on behavior is linkbaiting: a half-baked observation couched in incendiary prose, leading to a bar fight. In the latter case, the tool maker should be interested in countering the likelihood that such behavior leads to uppage on the list. Digg spends a awful lot of time countering nefarious schemes, and ultimately, Gabe Rivera will have to decide how to shape the culture at Techmeme.

Twitter / Matt Biddulph: calculating coincidensity. ...

I recently agreed — more or less — with Jason Calacanis that Techmeme is reflective of the way popularity works in general, which is not “fair” in an egalitarian sense, but which works, more or less. At the same time, I lust for a lot more random input, and strongly suggest that people only treat Techmeme as one food group in a healthy web diet: go forage for more roughage out past the top 5000 tech blogs in the world, or read the stuff that’s not on Techmeme today.

I personally hanker after the tool I designed for AOL — a project that has been sidelined based on the politics and downsizinggoing on there. Nerdvana is an application that memetracks what your trusted sources are commenting on. I could care less about the opinions of many of the folks that are the in-crowd at Techmeme, while many of them are wonderful. And I trust a number of people who aren’t included as sources there.

Anyone who is interested should ping me, because I would still like to build Nervana. It solves a real problem.

And it might take the pressure of Techmeme: in a world where people could balance the supposed wisdom of the technorati with the opinions of those they trust, the power of Techmeme — if that’s what it is — would be diluted in a very grassroots and social way.

Tim O’Reilly on Web 3.0

Tim O’Reilly, one of the fathers of the Web 2.0 meme, joins the fray on Web 3.0 by debunking the heavy-handed efforts of Jason Calacanis to align the meme-from-hell with his Mahalo startup, and Nova Spivack’s more altruistic attempts to link the meme to something meaningful:

[from Today’s Web 3.0 Nonsense Blogstorm]

Nova Spivack started it by describing the as-yet-to-be-revealed Radar Networks as Web 3.0, but now Jason Calacanis has his competing definition, neatly tailored to fit his own mahalo.com. The resulting storm of derision is entirely to be expected.

[…]

I’d say that for “Web 3.0” to be meaningful we’ll need to see a serious discontinuity from the previous generation of technology. That might be another bust and resurgence, or more likely, it will be something qualitatively different. I like Stowe Boyd’s musings on the subject:

Personally, I feel the vague lineaments of something beyond Web 2.0, and they involve some fairly radical steps. Imagine a Web without browsers. Imagine breaking completely away from the document metaphor, or a true blurring of application and information. That’s what Web 3.0 will be, but I bet we will call it something else.

I’m with Stowe. There’s definitely something new brewing, but I bet we will call it something other than Web 3.0.

Well, leaving aside all the folks sharpening their knives to butcher the fatted calf that they all long for Web 3.0 to be, there still might be something worthwhile in wondering about what is over the far horizon. Hey, Tim, let’s do a conference on that!

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