My friend Jia Jiang, currently working for LinkedIn on its China marketing strategy, visited me recently. In his visit, we shared how LinkedIn might enter China---the largest growing market in the world. Linked into China, how many opportunities and challenges the company will face?
Social Network, the difference between Chinese and western culture
In western culture, social is part of the life. In Chinese culture, however, social is the life.
I have been at United States for more than 10 years. Before it, I was in China. For years I have observed the cultural difference between the two countries. Certainly in both countries social networking is a very important part of normal person's regular life. There is, however, some subtle but critical difference. United States encourages individual heroism. Social networking is thus auxiliary to this general goal. China, on the other hand, encourages collaboration but discourages individual heroism in general. In China social networking is thus the goal. When facing a problem, a typical American thought is to solve it by oneself or otherwise engage his social network under his direction to solve it. By contrast, a typical Chinese thought is to engage one's social network to solve it and make himself be a member of the collaborative team.
Philosophically, Chinese style social networking is based on the Doctrine of the Mean (Chinese: 中庸; pinyin: Zhōngyōng). Chinese people believe in that if one tree is higher above all the others, wind will destroy it first (Chinese: 木秀于林，风必摧之; pinyin: mù xiù yú lín，fēng bì cuī zhī). Hence the principle of surviving but also living well is to follow Doctrine of the Mean---be neither too outstanding nor too insignificant. This philosophy is the basis of Chinese social networking.
Such a subtle difference actually indicates some fundamental difference between Chinese social networking and western social networking. If a western social networking company wants to enter and make itself succeed in the Chinese market, it must not only understand the difference but also know how to adjust their particular marketing strategy and even technological user interface design respectively.
LinkedIn, strengths and weaknesses with respect to Chinese market
LinkedIn, as well as all the other western social networking companies, advocates individual-centric social networks. In particular, LinkedIn makes much effort on composing individual's professional profiles in order to strengthen formal business connections among its users.
The strengths of LinkedIn with respect to Chinese market are obvious. In general, western software companies have advanced technologies better than their Chinese competitors. As one of the early adopters of Web 2.0, LinkedIn has strong technology team as well as excellent management team who really understand Web 2.0 in principles and technical details. LinkedIn has successfully branded itself to be the leader of professional social networks. In its particular domain, LinkedIn profile is more effective than either Facebook profile or MySpace profile.
Lack of the elements of Chinese culture is an immediate weaknesses for not only LinkedIn but also all the other western social networking sites which plans to enter Chinese market. No western companies can succeed in China by simply translating their sites into Chinese, especially if they are the social networking sites. (Hence I don't expect the recently reported Facebook's initial plan of entering Chinese market would be a success.) My friend Gang Lu recently wrote at Read/WriteWeb a post about the Facebook clones in China. One reason that many of these Chinese clones of Facebook are expected to grow better than Facebook China is that every one of them has customized their sites with certain unique Chinese cultural elements that the official Facebook China does not have. If LinkedIn expects to enter China, the culture customization is the first crucial barrier it has to overcome.
Another specific problem of LinkedIn entering China is its requirements of filling in detailed career information in profiles. Certainly this requirement represents the value of LinkedIn services. Such a request, however, could be seen as a serious thread by the Chinese government. Many foreign observers are surprised that there are much fewer LinkedIn copycats than the Facebook copycats in China. Indeed, it is not surprising at all from a native Chinese's eye. The Chinese government would simply not tolerate any private company to collect sensitive employment records of all Chinese people, let it alone a foreign company. In tradition, (due to the so-call "national security") only the government or certain authorized public organizations may have the privilege of owning personal profiles with detailed career information (Chinese: 个人档案). This is why even Chinese people feel difficult to copy the business model of LinkedIn in China. This issue might be a killer for the future of LinkedIn in China.
Can LinkedIn succeed in China?
Despite of all the problems, LinkedIn still has its chance to succeed in Chinese market. The key of success is, however, a point I mentioned at the beginning---Doctrine of the Mean (中庸)! The following are several particular suggestions for LinkedIn to enter China.
1) Never ever claim itself to be the leader of professional social networks in Chinese market.
2) Narrow down its domains of professional social networks to only the insensitive realms. Explicitly prohibit the adding of career information from such as army, nuclear plants, police department, and various other sensitive, national security related government departments. Narrow the use of LinkedIn China to pure business, especially on the realms such as the Sino-American exporting business.
3) Change the individual-centric LinkedIn profiles to group-centric LinkedIn profiles. Intentionally decrease the significance of individuals in the LinkedIn network of China. By contrast, significantly increase the weight of groups in the LinkedIn network of China. Such a change may require a major re-design of LinkeIn China user interface.
4) Add the unique Chinese cultural elements to the LinkedIn China site.
I must say that some of my suggestions are indeed controversial. But they are critical for western companies to succeed in China, not only just about LinkedIn.
First of all, any attempt of monopolizing Chinese market on information management may not survive long, even if it would succeed once. Chinese government had tolerated foreign companies to monopolize the TV set market in China for many years, and it is now even tolerating the foreign monopoly of gold mines in China. But it would never tolerate foreign monopoly of information access or information management in China. Neither TV set nor gold mine is directly about people. But information management is directly about people. Loss of a few money would not be pleasant but it is tolerable. Loss of the control of people, however, would be a disaster in the present China, and thus it is absolutely intolerable. LinkedIn must abandon the unrealistic dream of being the leader of professional social networks in Chinese market.
By not being the general leader does not mean it would not be profitable. Due to the large population in China, LinkedIn China in vertical could be a great success. By narrowing its realm to several most profitable realms, LinkedIn may have more focused design of its Chinese user interface with unique cultural elements and improved the quality of its services that are then more focused.
Furthermore, by emphasizing the group-centric in contrast to individual-centric LinkedIn may help its Chinese subscribers release the pressure of disclosing information for a foreign company. Actually, it has been a general law of 中庸 in China since ancient time. Let LinkedIn China be in a chinese-style infrastructure of group guiding individuals in contrast to in the western-style infrastructure of individual composing groups. I guess the same philosophy may even be helpful for re-modeling many of the current Chinese social network sites too, if they want to get a break out of the highly competitive SNS market in China.
The last question: what is group-centric with respect to individual-centric in social networking? I may write another post dedicating to this topic later.
Monday, June 30, 2008
My friend Jia Jiang, currently working for LinkedIn on its China marketing strategy, visited me recently. In his visit, we shared how LinkedIn might enter China---the largest growing market in the world. Linked into China, how many opportunities and challenges the company will face?
Saturday, June 28, 2008
Social networking is a fascinating topic on Web 2.0. Despite of the various social network sites, there are still open questions about social networking in general. Vladislav Chernyshov, one of the co-founders of Genome along with Andrew Chernyh and Dmitry Gorpinchenko, discussed several of these issues in his blog.
In the post, Vlad argued five major problems in the current social networking practices: (1) the lack of sufficient privacy protection, (2) the overflowing of social message, (3) the low quality friendship maintenance, (4) the poor performance of advertisement filtering, and (5) the lack of identity management. Nevertheless are all the issues critical to the future of social networking, Vlad and his peers founded Genome to solve the problems. The company is at Novosibirsk, Russia. Invited by Vlad, I am a member of the advisory board.
The Genome service aims to solve the problem of identity management first. From the solution it will gradually cover the other four issues as well. The essential Genome service well integrates social networks, instance messagers, contact managers altogether and makes the integrated individual identity be accessible anytime from anywhere in the world. In person, I call the service a real Web-3.0 effort since it directly addresses the primary Web evolutionary issue at the level of Web 2.0---the contradiction between unstopping quantitative increase of Web 2.0 resources and the short of managing personal resources cross various Web-2.0 sites. Thus, Genome is not another Web 2.0 service. By contrast, it will be a real Web 3.0 service once it is fully developed.
In summary, Genome shows that we really need to start rethinking social networking to its next generation. The flood of social network sites has gradually made us more trouble than benefit. As Vlad pointed out, with more social networks, the quality of friendship decreases, the individual privacy leaks, the personal identity is under risk, and let it alone the distraction of increasing pokes and advertisement from all kinds of "friends". Genome will help solve all the problems. Just keep on watching.
It is now the time to say goodbye to a legendary person who has made our world be different. Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, left his Redmond office (possibly forever) at Friday, June 27, 2008. I could not help myself picking up an old book written by him---The Road Ahead. What would be the road ahead of what Bill had already accomplished? I would like to ask this question.
Bill is a great visionary. Along with Paul Allen, he imagined a time when computers would be affordable to most of the people and software would do amazing things. From 1970s to early 1980s, such a dream "seemed very crazy." But Bill realized it through Microsoft. When we are now talking about how World Wide Web is bringing human society a great new transition, we must not forget that it is Bill Gates who has made computers be personal. Without the prevalence of PC, there would be no World Wide Web.
What was the road ahead? In his book, Bill told us that he had dreamed of the question "What if computing were nearly free?" Microsoft Windows was his answer. By providing users affordable and easy-to-manipulate operating system, the use of personal computers entered normal people's life. Also in the book, Bill asked the second question, which was his road ahead at the meantime, "What if communicating were almost free?" From the time to now, Microsoft was trying to make itself the leader of the so-called information highway. Unfortunately, however, after more than 10 years we have to say that Microsoft has not been so successful on this goal as it had succeeded in the previous one. An important reason of this failure is the imprecise vision of Internet. Primarily, Internet is an information net in contrast to an information highway system. Due to this confusion of Internet modeling, Microsoft missed the timing of Web 2.0. Google, instead, stole the oppotunity. Now, Gates and Ballmer have to confess that Web search would be the future of the company. This statement finally exclaims that Microsoft no longer seeks for the role of highway patrol but to look for the new role of librarian.
In Bill's two questions, he has particularly emphasized a word---"free". Unquestionably, free is a great feature especially when we would try to engage as many users as possible for a new product. After the product being popular, however, things start to change, especially when the product itself becomes the base of new production lines. The role of Web users is in a transition from mainly as consumer and viewer to be also as producer and publisher. The ones who consume a publisher-oriented Web are information consumers. The ones who consume a viewer-oriented Web are information producers. This important switch of roles appeals a new trend on the Web---"paid" instead of "free".
This switch of roles is actually easy to explain. When you are a consumer, you expect products be free. Once you become a producer, however, you expect your product not to be free. In fact, you expect to make profit out of your knowledge and your hard work. Hence when normal Web users start to realize that they are producers in addition to consumers of information on the Web, they will gradually accept the concept of "paid mind" (not free) on the Web. Web resources thus become mind asset.
Farewell, Bill. You have done excellent work and you will always be remembered as one of the greatest visionaries ever in human history. But there is still much road ahead of the road you have already walked. We will continue the journey and make our world be better and better.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Mind asset measurement is a novel and non-trivial issue. I have a few conversation of the topic with Michel Bauwens at P2P Foundation recently. It seems, however, that we only get more confused after the talk than at the beginning. Hence I feel the necessity of writing another essay dedicating to the topic. I believe that well understanding of this topic might be critical especially to new Web startup companies.
Asset Measurement in a Nutshell
In feudal society, value of land asset is measured by how much more land asset could be produced by possessing the land asset. In capitalist society, value of capital asset is measured by how much more capital asset could be produced by possessing the capital asset. Similarly, in harmonious society value of mind asset is measured by how much more mind asset could be produced by possessing the mind asset.
Value of Liability and Value of Asset
Before discussing measurement, we need to distinguish two types of personal belongings---liability and asset.
Liability is anything which only produces expense. Typical examples of liability are such as car, TV, computer, food, etc. Liability has its purchasing value when it is purchased. The real value of liability, however, only decreases with time after it is purchased.
Asset is any item which produces income. Typical examples of asset are such as rental real estates, stocks, bonds, etc. Asset also has its purchasing value when it is purchased. The real value of asset, however, may increase or decrease with time after it is purchased. The real value of asset is based on the real-time mutual consent of sellers and buyers.
The value of asset is primarily measured by its marketing value in contrast to that the value of liability is primarily measured by its purchasing value. For a liability such as a TV set or a car, more expensive means more valuable. For an asset such as a stock or a bond, more expensive per share does not necessarily mean more valuable at all.
For instance, at January 2004 the stock of Apple Inc. (AAPL) was about $11.28 per share in average while the stock of Yahoo Inc. (YHOO) was about $23.49 per share in average. After four and a half years, at June 2008 Apple stock is worth of $175.27 per share in average and Yahoo stock is worth of $21.99 per share in average. Were we able to be back to measure the value of stocks of the two companies in January 2004, which one would be more valuable? Certainly the answer must be Apple though its purchasing value at the meantime was less than the value of Yahoo stocks. This example shows that the real value of capital asset is about its ability of producing higher value capital asset in the future rather than its purchasing value at the meantime. This is a typical asset measurement in the form of capital.
Measurement of Land Asset
We have been familiar to capital asset value measurement since we are currently in the stage of capitalism. In consequence, however, we have forgotten how to measure the value of asset in the other types besides capital. For example, when we think of land, we immediately think of land as real estates---a particular form of capital. We have simply neglected that the value of land asset in feudal society was not measured by its capital value. On the contrary, capital in feudal society was measured by its land value since it was land but not capital that was the key asset of the feudal society. By going over the measurement of land asset in the past age of feudalism, we are going to understand the measurement of mind asset in the coming harmonious age.
The following is a few facts about key asset in society. Land was the key asset in feudal society. Capital is the key asset in capitalist society. Land was the primary input resources of traditional agriculture---the fundamental form of economy in feudal society. Capital is the primary input resources of modern industry---the fundamental form of economy in capitalist society. The class of people in a society is determined by the amount of key asset they own. Respectively, in feudal society the class of people was determined by the amount of land they owned, and in capitalist society the class of people is determined by the amount of capital they own. Due to this distinction, the measurement of land asset in feudal society is essentially different from the measurement of capital asset in capitalist society.
Let's take another example to show the difference of value measurement between land asset and capital asset. In the capitalist society a small penthouse at Manhattan is generally more valuable an asset than a several-acre-large plain land at rural Iowa. The reason is that we compare the two assets by their capital value. In other words, the two assets are only compared as two pieces of real estates---a typical form of capital asset. Now let's turn our clock back for two thousand years. In the ancient Rome Empire, would a small penthouse at Rome generally more valuable an asset than a several-acre-large plain land at Galilee, a far away rural province from Rome? The answer is no, while the reason is not that the land at rural Galilee would be more capital-productive than the penthouse at Rome. Instead, the reason is that a small penthouse at Rome is less land-productive than a several-acre-large plain land at Galilee discarding their capital value. The difference between land-productive and capital-productive is the key of the answer.
Land productivity is a central issue in feudal society. Large size of land and greater land productivity means that the landlords can raise more people under their leadership. By owning more people, the landlords may assemble a force to occupy more land. Hence it shows a fundamental economical cycle in feudal society---land to produce more land.
By contrast, capital ownership was not as essential as land ownership in feudal society. It was not straightforward to convert capital to land. Most of the time, money meant little simply because no land was on sale voluntarily even if someone had offered a large amount of money. On the contrary, it was always easy and straightforward to convert land to capital since nobody would worry of the lack of land buyers. Land, instead of capital, was the fundamental circulating asset in feudal society.
These discussions explain that value of land asset is measured by how much more land asset could be produced by possessing the land asset.
Measurement of Capital Asset
Measurement of capital asset is what we are familiar. Basically, we convert everything into its capital value and compare the amount of converted capital to each other.
What I want to emphasize is some fundamental revolution in human society that causes the change from land as key asset to capital as key asset. In a previous essay, I have discussed the impact of the invention of Watt steam engine. Due to this invention, the rate of capital production the first time in history was above the rate of land production. Industry replaced the agriculture becoming the foundation of modern economy. As the result, capital replaced land becoming the basic scale of asset measurement.
Because of this transformation, the wealth in society is measured by the capital ownership instead of the land ownership. By owning capital, people can buy anything that includes land. On the contrary, owning land does not necessarily mean owning capital because it is possible that nobody would be willing to buy it since land is not the essential input resources of industry. Therefore, land in capitalist society gets a new name---real estate. Land is only considered to be a special type of capital.
In summary, value of capital asset is measured by how much more capital asset could be produced by possessing the capital asset.
Measurement of Mind Asset
What we are facing now is the rise of information industry. Information industry is different from the traditional industry. Information industry takes mind as its primary input in comparing to that the traditional industry takes capital as its primary input. This change has been overlooked by many people until now because we have been used to think of mind also as a special type of capital---similar to simply take land as real estates. It is such a narrowed thought of mind that causes the difficulty of understanding the measurement of mind asset.
Mind essentially is different from capital, which is the same as that land essentially is different from capital. We may evaluate both land and mind in their capitalized value only if they are freely acquired with money or financial capital. When they are essentially more crucial in society than financial capital such as land in feudal society, however, they are not capital any more. By contrast, themselves become the scale of measurement about wealth in society.
Capital is not the natural scale of asset measurement and it will not be the scale of asset measurement forever. If the wealth of feudal society was measured by land but not capital, why can't the wealth of the new coming age be measured by mind instead of capital? We may apply financial capital (money) to measure wealth in any time period. But it does not necessary mean that financial capital is the ultimate scale of asset measurement. There is something money cannot buy, especially within certain particular time period.
Certainly, however, there are many technical issues we need to solve before mind indeed replaces capital to be the measurement scale of wealth. It also took many years for capital completely replacing land being the key asset of society, let it alone that such a replacement be eventually understood and adopted by the general public. (My grand-father-in-law still did not understand it until the middle of last century in China and thus he and his family paid a great deal on this misunderstanding in the rest of their life.)
In the history of capital, the invention of stocks was a landmark. Stock reveals that capital is liquid in contrast to that land is solid. We may look for a similar invention on mind presentation to prompt the adoption of mind asset. Obviously, however, the invention is not ready yet. We still need more patience for the coming new age of human society. (By the way, I will join Adam Lindemann at Imindi. We expect to not only produce novel mind product but also be end up with a few creative improvement on mind asset presentation as the Dutch East India Company did in 1606.)
Michel in his response also has addressed two specific questions of the value of mind asset: (1) the monetary value of mind asset, and (2) the mind asset protection from illegal copies. The following is my answer to the two specific ones.
I agree to the following argument made by Michel.
"There is no one to one relationship between the 100 million downloaded YouTube videos, and the income it can generate. The ratios are very low. This is what the crisis of value is about. Google may make a lot of money, but only a marginal number of websites makes money!! Most use value that is generated, even by high quality mind assets, does not generate a lot of monetary income."
But I have different thought on these facts.
The difference between my thought and Michel's thought is that Michel takes YouTube videos to be mind asset while to me they are more about mind liability than mind asset because (as Michel discovered) people can hardly use them to produce more mind asset. In other words, that until now it is still so difficult for mind product to be asset is because the general lack of production line of mind.
We have YouTube videos, and they are at the end of the current production line of mind. If they are not input resources of some other Web industrial companies, these videos can only be liability but not asset. Moreover, their purchasing value is also low because their producing cost is low (don't count the producing cost of shooting the films).
Such a problem is a generic problem in the current Web industry. The reason that Google makes money is that Google has a well developed production line of mind asset. Google can continuously produce higher quality mind asset by converting the low-quality mind product to be the input resources. Hence Google knows the secret of mind as asset (no matter it is by real understanding or by unconsciousness). By contrast, that many other Web companies can hardly make money is because they don't understand mind asset and they are also not lucky enough to unconsciously catch mind as asset. To the end, they only produce mind product as liability and they do not have the knowledge to design a production line of mind so that their produced liability might be a new form of asset. If Web industrial companies may learn the spirit of mind asset and learn how to make themselves produce asset but not liability, many of them will start to make money.
Why is it hard for us to make money from mind liability, at least at present? The answer is related to the second question we mentioned---the mind asset protection from illegal copies.
Until now, many mind products on the Web are easy to be copied since they are in digital forms and they only describe static content. But things are changing with the progress of Web evolution. The emergence of Web widgets is a typical example.
Web widget is a special type of Web services that service providers implement portable client-side plug-in for users to enjoy the services in their own sites. The difference between Web widget as mind asset and normal Web content as mind liability is that the service providers have the full control of their mind product. Although it is free for users to plug in the client-side widgets, the service providers can subjectively decide whether to continue the service or update the content of the service from time to time. It is generally hard for users to "copy" the server-side program since it is intangible for the client-side users. Hence Web widget is a typical example of mind asset that can produce more mind product and it is not easy for people to steal illegally.
In summary, the production and formulation of the Web-age mind asset is still at its beginning. We still have a long way to go to eventually make the public realize the value of mind asset and understand the measurement of mind asset. However, whoever may catch the spirit of mind asset first would be able to make profit from the knowledge. It is similar to the old day when pioneers got to understand the magic of capital. We are entering a new realm of economy in which we are employing a new form of asset. The entire world is changing gradually in this process.
Saturday, June 14, 2008
Is Yahoo dying? A recent post by Michael Arrington has caused fierce debate among readers. Firm supporters such as Jason Kolb agreed that "Yahoo is now a dead company." Optimistic analysts such as Tim O'Reilly disagreed by accusing Michael to be too narrow-minded to having overemphasized the importance of Web search. I believe, however, that Yang's decision about dealing with Google or Microsoft is his tough swing between passion and reality.
Jerry Yang has his passion that has led him found Yahoo and also keeps him on the position of Chief Yahoo at present. Yahoo's mission statement tells the passion being to connect people to their passions, communities, and the world’s knowledge. This is what Yang wants Yahoo to be and he has done all he could to keep Yahoo on this direction. A very recent action on executing the passion is the announcement of SearchMonkey, the center of Yahoo's newest Y!OS effort. Surely, I have argued whether such a Y!OS effort is realistic enough on the basis of the current status of Web evolution. Unquestionably, however, the dream is beautiful and it is worth of trying.
In comparison, what is the passion of Microsoft? Bloody money. Bill Gates steps down and rumors tell that he would never come back to Microsoft administration again. After the leaving of its visionary founder, Microsoft has become a giant machine of money maker and only a money maker. It may not be a bad news for Microsoft stockholders. But it is a bad news for passionate Web innovators.
The deal with Yahoo and Microsoft would sentence the instant death of Yang's passion for the company from the beginning. It is something intolerable for long-sighted visionary leaders. Yang is willing to be the CEO of Yahoo with $1 annual salary because of his passion. Hence he will never allow the passion being a joke, at least not a joke when he still has the controlling power.
The Google-Yahoo deal is a different contract. By this deal, Yahoo reserves its right to continuously look for its dream (though for limited time period) by formally surrendering to Google on the current Web search market.
There are two critical keywords I emphasized in the previous sentence. The first one is surrendering. Michael Arrington has ceaselessly addressed that the difference between Microsoft-Yahoo deal and the Google-Yahoo deal is only the difference between instance death sentence and suspended death sentence, and he does have overemphasize the term "death" but forgotten the meaning of "suspended". To me, the suspended death sentence means more about "surrender" than about "death". By either "surrender" or "suspended", Yahoo still has its chance to come back. By "instance sentence", however, Yahoo will not have any more chances at all.
The second keyword I want to address is current. As I always advocate and I advocate it once again, the Web is evolving and it evolves faster than many of us think. Google may not be the leader of Web search forever. The SearchMonkey and Y!OS are Yahoo's announced strategy to come back. But Yahoo needs time to execute the strategy. The suspended sentence brought by the Google-Yahoo deal provides the time. Though we don't know whether the length of time might be long enough, at least the passion and dream of Yahoo have survived from the instant death at present.
Is Yang's passion unfair to Yahoo's shareholders, especially to Mr. Carl Icahn? In short term, definitely. In long term, we do not know. As I said before, "capital is near-sighted." The lack of short-term profits can easily kill a long-sighted visionary capitalist without a question. Jerry Yang is current taking this pressure. As a peer thinker, I sincerely wish him the best of his luck to be able to survive from the crudeness of capital.
In summary, Jerry Yang is taking a swing between his passion and the crude reality of capitalism. The swing is currently on the side of passion and Yang has done all he could to protect the dream of Yahoo. Be honest, it is also the dream of any free thinkers on the Web. Let's pray for Yahoo and Yang.
Friday, June 13, 2008
Invited by Stephan Osmont, co-founder of YokWay, I did a try on this new service about collaborative bookmarking.
In the few months, we have seen several new services on bookmarking and online data management. The hottest buzz right now is Twine and FriendFeed. The less known YokWay, however, has the potential to be a serious competitor.
The YokWay service allows people to share their bookmarked items with friends. Yokway adopts the Digg fashion that requires users to post items one at a time instead of the fashion of FriendFeed that automatically pulls items for users through subscribed RSS services.
Once an item is posted, it is categorized into "What's Yoking?", which is similar to such as "What's dugg?" or "What's twined?" Users can conveniently switch the viewing perspective among the Yokings made by themselves, by their specified friends, or by the general public. YokWay allows users to add comments for an item and to vote for the items based on an scale up to five stars.
One thing that sets YokWay apart from Digg is to organize stored items with topics. YokWay calls them "My Sharing Circles". Anybody can create a new "Sharing Circle". And anybody can choose to "subscribe" to an existing circle and/or "join" an existing circle. By "subscribe", readers choose to follow the topic without the privilege of posting on the topic. By "join", readers ask for the right of posting on this topic. The request of "subscribe" is granted immediately when it is asked. By contrast, the request of "join" must be approved by the owner of the circle.
The sharing circles in YokWay is semantically identical to the twines in Twine. But the implemented functions of sharing circles is weaker than those of twines. By using Twine, we can flexibly specific tags in various categories and easily share items among twines. YokWay has not provided such a strong flexibility. In fact, during my test it is even not straightforward for me to add an existing item to a newly created circle. YokWay must need to enhance the implementation of these functions in order to engage more users.
In the email, Stephan emphasizes to me that YokWay is "sharing information relies on a best of breed semantic engine that will make Yokway a potential leader in the Web 3.0 era." I am impressed by the claim but the beta service has not clearly illustrated how the new semantic technologies have been engaged in use. For example, tagging is weakly supported by YokWay. Automatic machine tagging is a particular demonstration of performing semantic technologies in a Web document management system. But I cannot find this demonstration in the current YokWay beta service, let it alone the other more complicated use of semantic technologies.
As what I have suggested for Twine, new service providers must think of innovative ways to illustrate the use of new technologies through creative user interface design. Otherwise, users can hardly be impressed by the new technologies when they cannot feel. Twine has this problem in this architecture. YokWay, however, has even more problems on this issue. It seems that YokWay tries to produce a better Web-resource-management service by mixing several of the good design issues made by Digg, Twine, and FriendFeed altogether. This type of mixing is a good strategy unless the designers themselves already have a unique vision over the topic. Otherwise, it is easier to be a compromise that the service itself loses its identity. Such a problem of losing identity is a deadly issue for any new service. Unfortunately, however, I feel that YokWay has this problem in serious.
In summary, YokWay is a new service for managing data on the Web. It tries to integrate many handy existing Web services into a uniform platform so that users can get the best experiences on organizing their Web resources through the service. I must confess that the service is so far so good on its main goal and it actually provides several really impressive features such as the integration of Google Map service within comments.
Besides all the good things YokWay provides for users, the most severe problem of YokWay at this moment is the lack of identity. The service is not impressive in its architecture comparing to its direct competitors such as Digg, Twine, and FriendFeed. YokWay tries to include all the good features of its competitors but eventually it loses its own uniqueness. When I use YokWay, I can see that this feature likes Twine and another feature likes FriendFeed. But I would like to ask what the identity of YokWay is.
The most crucial thing for YokWay at this moment is to hire a truly visionary thinker to direct the design of a new architecture. Through my testing, I am certain that YokWay has good enough technology to support its growth. A visionary thinker may immediately leverage the service to a distinctive level by forming an impressive identity for the service.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
QDOS is a new online service for people to briefly measure their influence on the Web. In short, the service asks users to specify their names on the Web as well as the profile locations of their subscribed popular Web services such as Facebook and Blogger. Then it computes the influence of a Web user in four categories, which are popularity (who you know and the extent of your online network), impact (how much people listen to what you say online), activity (what you do online e.g. shop, chat, blog), and individuality (how easy you are to find online according to your name, your age etc). Combining the values on the four aspects, the service calculates a final score starting with a "Q" (hence I call it Q-value) followed by a number. The number of Q-value thus shows the relative influence of the person with respect to the other people subscribed to this service.
The figure above shows my Q-value, which is Q4056 that ranks 5,436 out of 61,589 registered users up to the date. In comparison, James Simmons, my friend and blog partner at Semantic Focus, is reported to have Q3844. Tim Berners-Lee, the father of World Wide Web, has a convincible Q7292 that ranks No. 135 at the meantime. Another Semantic Web celebrity, James Hendler, however, only has Q2507, which is lower than my value. This result shows that we might not take the number too seriously.
No matter whatever, however, QDOS is an interesting application and the value is useful especially for people who want to brand themselves.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
is about you.
The government of The Republic of Montenegro thinks of a new way to make money. The nation interprets its ISO-assigned country code to be about YOU!
As we know, ISO used to assign a unique two-character country code abbreviation for every nation. For example, United States is us and China is cn. The ISO 3165 Maintenance Agency assigned the country code me to Montenegro shortly after it gained its independence in June 2006. Then IANA approved it to be a top level Web domain, which represents the nation of Montenegro.
The government of Montenegro, however, made an interesting decision. It explains that .ME is not just about Montenegro, it is actually about YOU. By setting up an ordinary .ME site, you are not describing your relationship to The Republic of Montenegro. By contrast, you are declaring a site about yourself. By this strategy, the government of Montenegro wants to gain the maximum benefit for Montenegro from this luckily-obtained country code.
Although Larry Dignan seems shrugging off this little trick, I think the decision is smart. The strategy helps not only "a little revenue generation" (Larry's words), but also the national security of Montenegro. The intensional ambiguous interpretations of .ME between the nation of Montenegro and ordinary YOU immediately bind every Web user who subscribes to the domain extension to the virtual nation of Montenegro on the Web. Considering that in the real world Montenegro is just a small nation with few people, this ambiguity strategically binds the national interest of Montenegro to the individual interest of many more people in the world. Through this implicit interest binding, Montenegro may gain more chances to speak louder in world politics. Hence it enhances the national security of Montenegro. This is indeed a great example of exploring the value of country code.
If Montenegro may utilize .ME, why can't United States utilize .US? If .ME is interpreted about individuals, .US can certainly be interpreted about groups. Or is United States too great to play this little trick?
Anyway, the following is the timeline for this .ME release.
June 6 to June 26: Landrush. This is the first opportunity for the public at large to apply. Anyone who doesn’t have a trademark, but is interested in a specific .ME domain, can apply during this period. This is also when Sunrise challenges commence.
June 26 to July 15: Quiet Period. During this time, the registry is closed to registrars. Names for which there was only one application during the Landrush Period are allocated. Landrush auctions will begin for names that received multiple applications.
July 17: Open Registration. Domain names are registered on a first-come, first-served basis.
Saturday, June 07, 2008
Jason Kolb is a wise thinker. I often read his blog and today there is a wise quote that hits my heart. I have to share it with the readers of Thinking Space.
Don't worry about keeping your great idea a secret, if it's good enough you will have to beat people over the head with it.
Many times, I hear people saying that they want to keep their "brilliant" idea as secret so that no one else may steal it before they figure out how to make profit from the idea by themselves. Actually, an idea could not really be brilliant if somebody else may steal it by just hearing it once. In the other words, great idea never needs to be a secret because nobody can steal it without intensive thinking.
I was authoring about human mind in the past few days and so I have thought much about human mind. Human mind is such a beautiful thing that sharing only improves its quality. At the same time, mind embodiment is so difficult that nobody can do it well if the embodied mind is brilliant, i.e., with high quality. Without a well embodiment, how could a person steal a mind from another's brain? Speaking is simply not good enough for embodying a brilliant mind. Therefore, we may have only one conclusion. If somebody says that his "brilliant" mind is stolen by discussing it with another person, it only tells that the shared mind is actually shallow and inferior.
Jason said that he had many experiences of how sharing improves his mind, and so do I. I have authored many novel thoughts in this blog (Thinking Space) and I have never worried that somebody may steal them from me. There could be three consequences. One is that the reader cannot understand, and hence the idea is safe from being stolen. The second is that the reader reads and takes it, and hence the idea is shallow (I do not lose anything from a shallow thought). The last is that the reader reads and thinks and takes it. At this situation, the readers must have thought of this issue before and most often they have thought even more than what I have authored. Otherwise, it is impossible for them to grasp the spirit of a real brilliant thought. Hence to the end I still does not lose much, if I lose something. In any other cases, people must get to touch with me to consult about the thoughts because actually nobody can steal brilliant ideas.
I have just authored two posts about "we are in a new transition" in which I have discussed a phenomenon that mind is substituting the position of capital in our society. When I wrote the articles, I noticed that there is a fundamental difference between capital asset and mind asset. When someone shares capital asset, the amount of his asset decreases. It is similar to that if one has only a cup of water, the more he shares the less water in his own cup. By contrast, however, when one shares mind asset, the value of his asset will not decrease but often increase instead. It is like that if one has a can of air, the larger room he gets the greater space his air can fill.
I believe that this is why we often says that it is a beautiful mind.
Friday, June 06, 2008
By two parts, I response to the Harmonious Age suggested by Adam Lindemann. In the first part, I describe its philosophy by civilization evolution. In the second part, I explain the impact of this theory to Web industry. This is the second part of my response.
World Wide Web, the new-age Watt steam engine
At the end of the 20th century, an Englishman Tim Berners-Lee invented how information could be transferred easily over the Internet by using hypertext. The invention is named World Wide Web. This invention is bringing human society to a new age.
Two centuries ago, another Englishman James Watt invented a machine called Watt steam engine. The machine made use of steam at a pressure just above atmospheric to drive the piston helped by a partial vacuum. This invention is more than another technological innovation. By contrast, the invention is a formal mark in history that capitalism had replaced feudalism. Because of Watt steam engine, industrial production was upgraded from the traditional, low-quantitative handicraft work to the modern mass production. Modern industry started emerging above the surface. Also due to this upgrade, capital (the base of modern industry) replaced land (the base of traditional agriculture) becoming the key asset in human society. Human civilization thus evolved from feudalism to capitalism.
World Wide Web is the modern-time Watt steam engine. Due to WWW, information industry is upgraded from handcraft, low quantitative production, elite-conducted work (by professional journalists, photographers, software programmers, etc.) to machine-powered, mass production, plebeian-conducted work (by every regular Web user). Information industry is evolving to its postmodern stage---Web industry. With this upgrade, mind, the base of information industry, is replacing capital, the base of traditional industry, to be the key asset of human society. Human civilization is evolving from capitalism to a new age.
Mind asset, the essential issue
Mind is always an asset. The potential productive power of human mind is known to be overwhelming. Nearly none production could be done without the participation of human mind. Furthermore, people has realized the power of mind for long time. Modern education is a typical effort that people are trying to make a product line of high-quality mind asset.
On the other hand, however, we often experience difficulties when trying to effectively use mind as asset. Unlike land or capital, individual mind is essentially intangible except for the owner of the mind. Presenting mind explicitly in formal ways is a long-time hard problem. Without explicit, formal presentation of mind asset, we cannot efficiently connect and compose varied mind asset and we cannot well measure the value of mind asset. The issue of mind aggregation is particularly critical because individual mind is often too shallow to be high quality.
Among all the others, the issue of mind-asset presentation is the central one. A formal, tangible presentation of mind asset is the key to let mind asset be circulating. Circulating mind asset is then the basis of the new civilizational transition.
Web resource, new presentation of mind asset
In tradition, we have developed varied forms of mind presentation. For example, books, tapes, drawing artifacts, buildings, etc. Through these forms, humans embody mind and preserve the embodied mind to be asset.
There are, however, at least four common problems in these traditional forms of mind asset.
(1) [cost] It is costly to produce mind asset in these presentations, and it is generally more expensive to share mind asset in these forms. In consequence, only the mind asset produced in superior quality (such as best books or artifacts) can be widely spread and shared.
(2) [strength] None of these presentations last long time. They can hardly survive from various natural or man-made disasters such as earthquake or war.
(3) [quality] By adopting these traditional presentations, we may embody mind in its static and passive aspects. But the forms are not good enough to embody the dynamic and active (which is the more valuable) aspect of human mind, let it alone some deeper implicit aspects of human mind such as self.
(4) [measurement] We do not have generic, objective methods to measure the value of mind asset in these traditional presentations.
If an asset is costly to present even in its low-quality form, with weak strength to survive longer, and unable to be measured objectively of its actual value, surely it is not a reliable asset for public to own and share. This problem is fundamental to information industry since mind asset is actually its base. The invention of World Wide Web solves the problem.
W3C defines World Wide Web to be "the universe of network-accessible information, the embodiment of human knowledge." This specification expresses three facets of the Web. First, the Web is a place for people to embody their mind. Second, the Web is a network of embodied mind. Third, through the Web people may access each other's embodied mind.
In particular, the mind asset on the Web is presented by Web resources, which are independent pieces of embodied human mind that can be used for producing. Note that this definition of Web resource is not a common one. In common (such as the one in Wikipedia), a Web resource is any object on the Web that is referenced by an URI. Such a definition has not precisely described the essence of Web resources if we compare it to the W3C definition of World Wide Web. By contrast, my new specification is directly based on the W3C Web definition. A Web resource may be a collection of Web data, a Web service, a Web link, or a mixture of them. A Web resource could and should be referenced by an URI, but a Web object referenced by an URI might not immediately be a Web resource unless it may produce. (more descriptions of my interpretation of Web resource are at here.)
the issue of cost
Comparing to producing the traditional forms of mind asset, Web resource production is cheap. The Web is a free and open place for everyone to embody mind. Web resources are presented in digital form, and digital form consumes very few natural resources. Hence in total Web resources are inexpensive to produce. Moreover, sharing Web resources also costs little. In consequence, we can now afford spreading and sharing the embodied mind even if it is in inferior quality.
the issue of strength
Web resources can last long time. Due to the low cost of digital copy and the flexibility of resource transmission on the Web, we may ideally preserve any piece of embodied mind nearly forever. In addition, World Wide Web is a virtual world. Hence it has great strength to survive from most of the real-world disasters, either natural or man-made.
the issue of quality
The most important improvement Web resources have made beyond the traditional forms of mind asset is their presentational quality.
In the traditional forms such as books or video tapes, we can introduce a mind as well as how it works. For example, a stock-market expert may write a book about what stock is and the timing of buying and selling stocks. But the book would not (if ever possible) tell the mind-asset consumers (the ones who read the book about stocks) the exact judgment of stocking selling the author would do in real time cases. The book readers have learned from a book the general principles. But it does not mean that the readers can consume the mind asset as well as the author does in real life. There is a natural gap between the presented value of the mind asset in the book and the real value of the mind asset in real world. This gap of knowledge understanding is a typical difficulty of mind asset measurement.
To solve the problem, on the Web people can program their mind (a typical dynamic mind asset) so that the production of their embodied mind could be precisely predictable by adding real-time parameters. In our example, stock-market experts can program their thoughts so that the program always produces the identical decision in the same real time case no matter who use it. This type of mind asset thus has higher quality than the standard static mind asset because it is more productive in use.
Moreover, on the Web we may embody a special type of mind asset that we rarely have successfully expressed before. It is self.
Self, self-consciousness, or self-awareness, is "a personal understanding of the very core of one's own identity." Due to self everybody is unique. By self, different people may develop varied use of the same knowledge. We thus have the variety of human mind. Self is so unique that nobody can embody the self of the others. The embodiment of self shows the ultimate value of a person, and hence it represents the respect of humanity. As a typical mind asset, self plays a critical role in many fields of World Wide Web, such as the implicit Web and Web evolution.
the issue of measurement
By presenting mind in Web resources, we are able to objectively measure its value as if we measure the value of capital asset. As we know, though there is a large variety of capital asset (such as stocks, real estates, etc.), we can uniformly measure its value by testing the capital asset in free market. In the similar way, we may objectively measure the value of a mind asset presented by Web resources. On the free Web, the value of a Web resource can be arranged completely by the mutual consent of producers and users.
Web Industry, platform that mind flows
While World Wide Web is a network of embodied mind, Web industry is the platform that mind flows. In the real capital world, modern industry (represented by the manufacture industry) takes capital as input and produces capital with greater value. In the virtual mind world, postmodern industry (represented by the Web industry) takes mind as input and produces mind with greater value. This analogue tells the essence of Web industry.
Web companies are the factories that produce Web resources. They may primarily produce data resources such as Amazon, or service resources such as Facebook, or link resources such as Google. Discarding all the superficial distinctions between each other, all Web companies are taking a few mind assets as input and producing a few mind assets as output. Ideally, the value of the output mind asset must be greater than the value of the input mind asset. Mind is the blood flowing around the system of Web industry, which is similar to that capital is the blood flowing over the system of manufacturing industry.
Web companies also partition their work load and cooperate to each other the same way as the other industrial corporations do. Take the traditional manufacture industry as an example, some corporations (such as iron puddling factories) pretreat crude materials and produce refined materials or parts while some other corporations (such as automobile manufactures) take refined materials and parts to produce further manufactured products. In similar, some Web companies (such as Blogger) are to help people embody their mind into Web resources from scratch while some other Web companies (such as del.icio.us) are to take the already embodied mind as input (such as a blog post in Blogger) and to produce higher quality mind assets that can be consumed better by end users.
There is, however, a unique restriction of Web resource producing and consuming in Web industry. Due to Web evolution, neither the production nor the consumption of Web resources may beyond the evolutionary stage of World Wide Web at the meantime.
Web resources produced in quality higher than what can be efficiently consumed at the meantime is overqualified. Yahoo! Directory is a typical example. The quality of link resources produced by Yahoo! Directory was generally beyond what Web 1.0 users could efficiently consume. Hence the service became very expensive to maintain. Eventually, Google Search replaced Yahoo Search being the leader of Web search industry thought the actual quality of link resources produced by Google Search is lower than the quality of link resources produced by Yahoo! Directory. (This is, however, not necessarily the end of the story. Y!OS is the newest step Yahoo is taking for Semantic Web. Will Y!OS eventually tend to produce overqualified Web resources again? We have this concern.)
On the other hand, Web resources produced in quality lower than what can be efficiently consumed at the meantime is underqualified. The examples in this category are plenty. In the age of Web 2.0, many Web-1.0 companies have to update the quality of their produced Web resources to the level of 2.0 or otherwise their market share is quickly taken by their Web-2.0 startup competitors.
Because of Web evolution, mind asset production is so dynamic that no company (including Google) can stick to one product quality for long. Web companies have to upgrade the quality of their produced mind assets with the progress of the Web every few years in order to just survive. Hence Web industry is indeed a business type with high risk and high payback.
We are in a new transition
We are in a new transition. The widespread of World Wide Web is the trigger of the transition. Because of the Web, the first time in history human mind becomes a critical circulating asset in society that ordinary people can buy, sell, produce, and share. The rise of mind asset will eventually push the human civilization evolving from the age of capitalism to the next.
We are still at the early stage of this transition. In similar, the Web is still at an early stage of its evolution. The Web companies that lead the progress of Web evolution will simultaneously be the leaders of human civilization in this transition. Until now, we have seen a few of these leaders such as Google and Facebook. They have led not only new technologies, but also the change of culture in our society.
Based on what we have analyzed, to be a leader of Web evolution is actually less about doing business in a particular realm such as "Web search". By contrast, the success is primarily determined by whether the founders of company have (either actively or unconsciously) well foreseen the quality of Web resources (or mind asset) in the next generation. Google approaches the quality through Web search while Facebook approaches the same quality by social networking. Neither of the success is due to the path they choose to take because at the same time many other companies were taking the same path as they did. The key of their success is the distinction of the quality of Web resources the two companies produce.
Which companies may be the next in the list of success? Though we don't know the names, one thing is certain---the ones understanding the resource quality upgrade of Web evolution may get the better chance to be the winners. Such a successful company might be another Web search company, might be another social networking company, or might be a company with a brand new focus. As we have said and I emphasize it again, the particular path taken by a company is not the deterministic factor. Different founders may have their preferred realms of interest. To the end, the variety of human mind allow us to approach the same goal in various paths. The actual key to the success is whether the founders are capable of foreseeing the progress of Web evolution, especially the progress of Web resource (mind asset) quality upgrade. Neither over-qualification nor under-qualification may clinch a winner. It can only be a perfect hit of the right quality.
Sunday, June 01, 2008
Obama for America is looking for exceptionally talented web developers who want to play a key role in a historic political campaign and help elect Barack Obama as the next President of the United States.
In my personal political viewpoint, I am pro-Hillary. I believe that Hillary Clinton would be a better president for America to solve the problems left by the Bush Administration. However, it does not avoid me from admiring Barack Obama, especially for his recognition of the power of World Wide Web and his ability of engaging the new Web-age generation around him. Isn't the Obama phenomenon another evidence that we are in a new transitional period of civilization? Yes, we are in a CHANGE! This is what Obama tells us.
Now the Obama campaign is looking for talented Web developers to help him towards the presidency. I would recommend any of the Thinking-Space readers that if you are good at Web design and have passion on leveraging the influence of World Wide Web in global politics, you need to apply for this oppotunity discarding your particular political bias at this moment. You may have the chance to let the world see the civilizational transition that is caused by the Web evolution.
For more details of the job requirement and how to apply, here is the link.