Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Twine went public

Finally, Twine went out of beta.

To introduce this service, in Thinking Space I had written two pieces (first impression and second impression) of post that were synchronized with Twine's steps of going public. I am interested in this service because it is a representative Semantic Web application until now. After talking and debating Semantic Web for so many years, Twine is among the very few successful (or at least workable) real-world Semantic Web applications. Just by this mean, it deserves our special attention.

For readers who are still not familiar to Twine, Paul Miller had a fairly comprehensive discussion of the service at ZDNet that is worth of reading. Also, you may directly go for Twine.com to try the service by yourself. In this post, however, I continue my style of service analysis following the first impression and second impression.

The up side of the public version

1) from producing knowledge networks to producing interest networks

I vote this update of mind to be positive. Knowledge network is a great concept. Producing knowledge networks is probably the ultimate goal of Semantic Web. However, this intent is too broad to manage. How to project this broad concept of knowledge network onto a narrower and easier-to-manage alternative is a challenge. I am glad that Nova seems figuring out one---interest network.

Personal interest is a subset of personal knowledge. Moreover, personal interest is probably the most heavily cared portion of personal knowledge. By reducing knowledge network to interest network, it decreases the amount of potential information processing and narrows the size of the application domain. Hence it could significant improve the performance of the service if the service designers truly understand the meaning of this change.

2) emphasized personalization and privacy

Nova has emphasized that "What Twine will be doing will be to make excellent PERSONALIZED AND TOTALLY PERSONAL AND PRIVATE recommendations to users." Moreover, Nova mentioned that Twine would monetize its service through the coupling of recommendation and privacy protection. I agree to Nova. This is the right direction.

3) enthusiasm of the users

Nova reported that at present Twine users spend 12 minutes per session on average. This is a very encouraging number. It means that the service is sticky in some sense, or at least among the ones who really use the service it is sticky.

4) good quality of content

I use Twine regularly. Based on my experience, the quality of bookmarking service Twine currently performs is fairly good. When I search information inside a twine, the quality of searched results is satisfactory in general.

The down side of the public version

1) move towards 2.0 rather than to 3.0

I was said that Twine was likely a Web 2.5 application in its beta. Then I expected that Twine would gradually move towards 3.0 when it went public. However, my prediction is wrong. By inspecting this public version Twine, it is more similar to the other Web 2.0 applications than becoming a revolutionary new service. In the other words, Twine is moving towards 2.0 rather than to 3.0.

At the beginning we might instantly tell the difference between Twine and another standard Web 2.0 service. But now it has been very hard to tell why Twine is not another Web 2.0 application. By just adding a few semantic computation is not enough for Twine to claim Web 3.0.

Twine needs to hire some visionary service manager in contrast to (or in addition to) the experienced service manager it has now. By experienced Twine could only go for what is popular now. Only by visionary Twine might lead the trend into the future. Twine is losing innovation.

2) too low traffic flow in monthly visits

Based on the information provided by the CrunchBase, the number of Twine.com's monthly unique visitors at the past September is only about 50K. Be note that Thinking Space has monthly unique visitors in the same September more than 5K. In this month, the unique visitors at Thinking Space is close to 10K. But Thinking Space has no invested money at all, with respect to Twine.com has $13 million only in its series B round of fund raising. Isn't it a serious problem of Twine?

Referenced resources:

Monday, October 20, 2008

Build new centrifugal momentum on the Web

Nicolas Carr shared a keen observation of a present trend on the Web---the centripetal force is currently driving the progress of the Web. An invisible force is pulling Web users away from the comparatively smaller Web sites and towards the bigger nodes sitting on the center of the Web. For instance, more Technorati blog search users now adopt Google blog search, and more users of Bloglines now switch to Google Reader. In short, the effect of Long Tail is decaying.

Nick's observation is illuminating. Innovation is the centrifugal force on the Web. Due to innovation, new Web sites can attract more users away from the large existing sites on the center of the Web. The more innovation the Web has, the stronger the centrifugal force is.

On the contrary, when the centripetal force starts to dominate, Web innovation is at its downturn. In particular, this time the downturn tells that the principles of Web 2.0 may no longer keep on generating the centrifugal momentum great enough to sustain the high-speed expansion of the Web. The Web evolution is entering a comparative contraction process (i.e., still expanding but in the low-speed mode).

Be note that this is the second time the Web enters a comparative contraction process. The last time was during the period of the dotcom bubble in which many small Web sites went out of business and the majority of Web users flowed back to the few major sites on the Web. After the dotcom bubble, however, the Web expansion re-accelerated in a new stage---Web 2.0.

Based on all the analysis, we should be confident to expect another new round of rapid Web expansion ahead despite of the present contraction. Now it is the time for us to build new centrifugal momentum on the Web.

Virtual economy calls for new institution

The financial crisis is an inevitable result of the conflict between the economic form and the economic institution.

A market is a fundamental institution relevant for economic growth. The crash of a market often synchronizes with the beginning of an economic crisis. By contrast, the recovery of the broken market shows the end of an economic crisis.

We are at present experiencing a severe economic crisis whose symptom is the crash of the financial market. At January 2008, George Soros predicted that this crisis would be the worst one since the World War 2. Until now every evidence, unfortunately, supports the claim.

Despite of the human nature of greed, the crisis happens due to the conflict between the virtual economy and the present economic institution that was designed to support the "real" economy.

A comparison may help us understand the conflict better.

Back to the ancient time in the agricultural society, the logic of keeping the stable development of society was to well feed the general public, especially the slaves. The fundamental of the feudal economic institution was to control the level of laborers' consumption to be low. Therefore the landlords could maximize the share of profit from labor work.

This old logic continued to the early time of the industrial society. The newly risen capitalists tried to grasp their greatest benefit by minimizing the wages of the workers. Such a policy suppressed the majority of people's power of spending. The consequence was the economic crisis of overproduction because the general public was lack of enough income to consume the rapidly increased amount of product.

The overproduction crisis forced people to restart with the principle of supply and demand balance to manage the economy. The capitalists realized that to maintain a stable and sustainable growth of economy they need to let their workers have more money. The more money the workers have, the more product they can consume, and thus eventually the more money the capitalists may gain. This new logic constitutes the fundamental of the modern economic institution. A significant consequence of this new logic was the invention and prevalence of credit.

Now we are standing at the door of another great transition. This time the economy is transformed from the "real" economy to the virtual economy.

In this crisis, many people complained the virtual economy and believe it was a poison. Indeed, however, the virtual economy is an inevitable consequence due to the growth of the capitalist economy. In this world, product and service are no longer restricted to be the traditional "real" and tangible ones such as car or in-store customer service. By contrast, now they include new components such as currency and Web services, which are virtual and intangible (explanation shortly later in this post). The percentage of these new components is increasing abruptly. The main body of the economy is shifting from the "real" domain to the virtual domain.

The price of a product/service in the "real" economy is based on the meantime supply and demand market requests. There is an important assumption behind the valuation of a "real" product/service: a "real" product/service has an equivalence to a certain amount of mass/energy. To produce the same quantity of product/service output, people would have to consume the equivalent amount of mass/energy. This hypothesis is crucial because it defines a baseline value for any "real" product/service. The existence of the baseline protects the integrity of valuation in the free market.

Things, however, become very different when entering the realm of virtual economy. No matter are they currency transaction or Web service consumption, virtual product/service mainly consumes information instead of mass/energy. Therefore, it generally does not exist an equivalence between a virtual world product/service and a certain amount of mass/energy. The previous hypothesis fails in the realm of virtual economy.

In the virtual economy, we may arbitrarily overvalue or underestimate the price of a virtual product/service if we perform the same economic institution as we have applied in the "real" economy. There is no bottom line to protect the integrity of the valuation. And this is the intrinsic reason behind this financial crisis.

On currency transaction, we may estimate the cost of risk high or low arbitrarily because there is no equivalence between risk and mass/energy. In similar, on Web service consumption we may value a service in any value because at any time an illegal copy of the service could make it be totally valueless according to the market institution in the "real" economy.

All the discussion discloses one thing: the present economic institution does not fit for the rising virtual economy. It is not that the virtual economy is wrong. It is the present economic institution that is out of date. In similar to that our ancestors had updated the old labor economic institution to the modern market economic institution, it is the time now for us to design a new economic institution that fit for the new virtual economy.

Monday, October 13, 2008

More private, more focused, survive the economic downturn

Today at ThinkerNet, Mike Moran had an interesting post about virtual worlds going private. It reminds me a few thoughts in my mind for quite a while: is the Web industry moving to a sector that is more private and more focused (in contrast to more public and more general)? Moreover, is it the way that IT companies may survive through this economic downturn?

What is the difference between Unisfair and Second Life? Or what is the difference between Yammer and Twitter? Private versus public, target-focused versus general-purpose.

During an economic upturn, free, public, and general-purpose services could be great in revenue generation. The model maximizes the door to allow as many users as possible. The service providers may then monetize the traffic flow in a decent way.

However, the former model could be dangerous in an economic downturn, such as at present.

By nature, we humans would like move closer to our family or close friends when a danger is coming. In an economic downturn, people become less interested in casual social activities. By contrast, they want to make their actions more focused and more private. Either may they get comfort from the relatives, or they may obtain serious help by communicating with particular groups of people. As the result, the small private and target-focused social sites might become more popular than their general-purpose and much larger competitors, even if they may ask for a small amount of subscription fee.

As a brief summary, World Wide Web and the Web industry are still new. There are so many new phenomena that need us to think and discover the new regulations. A crisis is indeed a terrible thing to waste.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Save the eleven troubled companies

Yesterday at CNet's Webware, Rafe Needleman posted 11 troubled companies in his mind. Nevertheless do I agree to his analysis in general, I want to share a few my own thoughts on the eleven ones. That is, what we/they need to do to save themselves out of this period of crisis. To make a little bit fun, I will list the companies in the reverse order as they are in Rafe's post.


Unlike many of the other companies in the list, MySpace does generate quite a decent trunk of revenue until now. Therefore, Rafe primarily complained its momentum of growth into the future in contrast to the ability of money making at present.

My word on MySpace: do not be a portal!

MySpace is losing its momentum of growth because it is now a 2.0-age Yahoo. By trying to embed everything into itself, nearly nothing in MySpace is significant. New users of MySpace are likely to get lost (such as myself) because the site is a mess of everything.

There is a great metaphor for MySpace---a chicken rib. For anyone eats chicken he must know: a chicken rib is something that not tasty at all if you eat it, while it is a waste if you throw it away since there is still meat on it.

Cut the number of services and make the remained ones focused. This is the way to save MySpace.


The central idea of Web 2.0 is community. To construct a community, there must be a focused domain of interest. Then by providing irreplaceable commercial information for the people who are interested in the domain, it comes the model of revenue generation. This is the common paradigm of Web 2.0 business. Netvibes, however, misses the point from the beginning because building start pages does not construct a community.

My word on Netvibes: complementing instead of aggregating.

Netvibes is not a Web 2.0 site despite of its heavily Ajax-based implementation. In essence, Netvibes is a 2.0-like but indeed Web 1.0 site. It build 2.0-like Web-1.0 homepages. This intrinsic conflict inevitably leads to its failure on pursuing successful Web 2.0 business model.

Refocus the service from aggregating varied Web services to complementing varied Web services. This is the way to save Netvibes. If Netvibes may successfully make this transition, it would be one of the first adopters of Web 3.0. Otherwise, as Rafe predicted, Netvibes' end is foreseeable.


Video sharing is cool, but to make it a successful business is another story. DailyMotion, in similar to all of its peers including YouTube, suffers this problem.

My word on DailyMotion: help video loaders to make money.

Just a hint for DailyMotion as well as to all the other video sharing Web-2.0 sites. Don't just think of making money by yourself. Greed is often the killer for setting up real successful business. Think of helping the video loaders to make money, and then you are going to make money.


In this age of Google, no other Google-like search engines have future. Ask, despite of its good quality (actually Ask.com is the most favorite search engine to my 7-year-old daughter, she is not a Google-fan yet), is not the only search engine suffering.

My word on Ask: merge with a social search site.

Either buy a new social search site and convert itself to it, or sell itself to a social search site, Ask must do one. Otherwise, I am wondering either why Ask.com is still not dead yet.


A bad transaction may destroy an innovation. Has anybody said it before? Anyway, I think at least on Skype we have seen it.

My word on Skype: well, it's not your problem.

It's eBay's problem.

Second Life

Maintaining the running of a virtual world must be a costly business.

My word on Second Life: deal with Facebook.

Why? I have shared the reason one year before.


Copyright, it is a problem.

My word on Pandora: move to China.

It is not kidding. Though copyright is something we should protect, innovation is a more valuable thing we must protect. Please remember, the reason of copyright protection is to encourage innovation instead of protecting income for greedy people! Therefore, if copyright begins to kill innovation, we throw away copyright but embrace innovation. China will be a great place to incubating new-age innovations.


Poor site, it is now a real estate winter.

My word on Zillow: develop new buyer side services.

The focus of the real estate market has changed. Now it is buyer's market instead of seller's market. Hence the seller-oriented advertisement model would not generate enough revenue to support the site as Rafe predicted. It is the time to call innovation.

Inventing and developing new buyer side services (and indeed there should be quite a few, in my mind I can think of several immediately) would save the site from this winter.


Another site is going to suffer this economic downturn.

My word on TripIt: focus on local.

Economical crisis does not mean that people are less willing to travel. It only means they have less money to travel. Therefore, think of their likely budget and plan local travels for them within their affordable budget.

Again, this is the time calling for really innovation. Or, this is the time to demonstrate the power of human thinking.


Unquestionably, Meebo is cool. But, as Rafe said, its service is too narrowly focused. Therefore, its sustainable growth is doubtful.

My word on Meebo: try the best to last through this crisis.

Meebo would be a successful business on the new Web after this crisis, if it survives.


Finally, we come to a real hype. Twitter is great, but it is also troublesome on making money. Comparing to Kozmos, yes, Twitter is very likely to be the 2.0 stage Kozmos.

My word on Twitter: seeking collaboration with Imindi.

Imindi is the piece Twitter is missing, though actually Imindi has more potential than Twitter in long term. This collaboration can solve the main problem in the present Twitter as well as bringing Twitter a brilliant business model of success.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

The Web is Expanding

Today's ThinkerNet has a post of mine on "a closer look at the expanding Web." It is a summary of my recent thoughts on how the Web is evolving.

In the post, I discussed four simultaneous trends of Web expansion---in the physical world, in the computational world, in the network communication world, and in the financial world. Based on the discussion, here is a few more thinking of the topic I want to share exclusively with the Thinking Space readers.

(1) Mobile computing could only be more and more popular in normal Web users' regular daily life. The data transmission rate through wireless network will increase tremendously in the near future. It represents a great opportunity on investing wireless communication. It might also mean that we are looking for a "healthy" bubble of wireless communication (as if the bubble of the optical network) so that eventually normal users could have cheap but also fast enough wireless connection everywhere.

(2) User-centered control gradually becomes an essential issue. In the physical world, we will have more variety of computational devices; in the virtual world of the Web, we will have many more choices of Web services. The merge of the two trends demand actually one common thing---enhanced user-centered control. The question is, however, how we may really approach this goal.

The only right solution in my mind is to turn the site/service-centric Web 2.0 structure back to the traditional user-centric Web structure we had experienced before Web 2.0, but certainly it would be at a higher level. It thus immediately means a brand new stage of the Web, i.e., Web 3.0. We need to build up a new form of online individual that matches the requirement of the new age. Human mind management services such as Imindi (or services like it) would be a critical component in this new identity formation process.

Coincidently, Trend Adams posted an article about randomness and user-centered control today. I would recommend that article to be a complementary reading to this post.

(3) Mind reading devices have great potential into the future. This research is still at its very early stage. By the trend of Web evolution, however, this type of devices seems inevitable in our future life.

(4) From the financial point of view, mind asset is in its process of formation. I have discussed this issue many times at Thinking Space.

In short, the Web is just becoming more and more exciting.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Fear and Leadership

Fear is reality when dealing with tough times, but how you manage it is the measure of effective leadership.

I learned it from today's Twitter. The statement was to advertise a new post at Harvard Business Publishing telling about managing your own fears.

Nevertheless is the post worth of reading, I particularly love this tweet more than the post. Yes, many of us have the feeling of fear at this tough time, even if one might be a CEO. But being fear should not lead to being panic. It is the time to look for hope out of the fear.

When a danger is coming, the cowards would see nothing but darkness. The true leaders, however, will see one opportunity after another chance. This is the real leadership is about.

The financial crisis: who will be the winner?

The financial crisis at Wall Street seems to become more and more severe with the plunge of Dow Jones in recent days. A question is, however, generally overlooked by many people---who will be the winner in this financial crisis?

Some people may answer by no winners and we are all losers. But it could not be true. Whenever there are losers there must be winners. For example, is Warren Buffet a winner? Many people may say so since Mr. Buffet is likely to gain more than he loses in this crisis. So will the winners just be a small group of the Buffet-like people? The answer might be surprising to many people. Believe it or not, United States of America as a nation could possibly be the biggest winner of all!

A private Chinese economist, Junluo Liu (Chinese: 刘军洛) published recently a brilliant analysis on the eventual effect of this crisis. If you may read Chinese, I would strongly recommend you going to read the original article yourself. Otherwise, I am briefly introducing his analysis here and add a few of my own comments at the end.

Crisis: rebuilding the foundation of USA

Crisis, its Chinese translation says "danger and chance" (Chinese: 危机). Unlike the western tradition that favors precision and strictness of the meaning of words, the oriental tradition (especially the Chinese tradition) respects broadness and thoughtfulness of the meaning of words. Hence when we translate the English "crisis" into Chinese, it becomes "extreme danger but with lots of chances." This is exactly what Junluo shared.

Junluo claimed that this crisis to USA might be a great chance of reformation while to the rest of the world (especially China) would be a true disaster. This claim is quite a controversy to the present mainstream opinion that China might replace USA being the leader of global economy after the crisis.

Who will be the winner? It would be the United States of America, Junluo answered.

There is one common character between Junluo and me. Both of us like to discover the essence of a present event by historic comparison. This time, Junluo carefully compared the present financial crisis to the financial crisis at the late 80th last century when USA eventually defeated Japan's challenge on gaining the power of economic leadership. Based on the history, by using nearly the same strategy the Wall Street stock market dropped 20% in short time of period. The result was, however, that Japan fell into a 19-year-long recession while USA rapidly regained the power of economic growth after just three years. This history is repeating. The only difference is at this time the victim becomes China.

There are some simple (but easy to be overlooked) facts we must be aware. Everybody knows that the root of this financial crisis is the loss of control on the real estate loan. In short, many low-income, poor-credit people got the loan (which they should not get) to buy houses they could never afford. One consequence is, however, that at USA real estate investors were able to build many houses in these years despite of the fact many of the new house owners actually could not afford these houses.

This story has two effects: (1) the break of the credit system (nearly everyone is experiencing the pain now), and (2) a huge amount of new houses have built all over the United States (few, however, are considering this fact now). If we take a look at the two effects closely, the new houses will be on the land of USA forever (nobody can move them to China) while the whole world (especially China) is now paying for the credit disaster. When Dow Jones dropped 20%, the stock market at Shanghai has dropped over 70%. This fact identically matched what had happened at Tokyo 20 years ago.

If this time USA could execute the successive strategies as brilliant as the last time when handling Japan, USA would recover and gain a even stronger momentum of economic growth in three years. China, however, will be the next Japan, which inevitably falls into a long time recession. The final winner of this financial crisis thus could only be---the United States of America.

My comment

Certainly this summary I shared is oversimplified. Junluo's original discussion is much more complicated and delicate. However, I want to share a few more of my own thoughts by comparing the consequence of this financial crisis to the consequence of the last IT crisis at the beginning of this century.

By studying the dot-com bubble, researchers have found that the optical network built during the hype period had become the foundation of the following economic boom at the Web industry, namely the Web 2.0 hype. Without the investment of these optical networks and without the bankrupt of the original optical network investors, we were not able to obtain the cheap price of network usage which is an essential reason behind the Web 2.0 hype. By this mean, it was the IT crisis that constructed the foundation of the new Web-based industry.

However, such a foundation is still not enough to boost the full-scale rise of Web-based industry. Another obstacle is the price of real estate. In order to boost a new form of industry, we need to have a large amount of small businesses in this type. High price of real estate, however, is a deadly killer for the blooming of small businesses.

This financial crisis solves the problem. There are now more new houses than they could be properly consumed. As the result, the dropping of price at real estate market is inevitable.

Combining the two effects, the Spring of Web-based small businesses at US is coming. In the next decade, we are going to see that USA again becomes the base of innovation and the leader of the new industrial revolution.

In comparison we may watch China. The future is, however, not optimistic at all because of this financial crisis. The deep drop of the stock market will greatly hurt the industrial innovation. Moreover, western investors are going to invade China on its debt market and real estate market to cause severe economic inflation in China. As we have discussed, the high price of real estate in China will hurt the formation of Chinese Web-based small businesses. As the result, the technological distance between USA and China will not decrease but increase. As a Chinese myself, I am quite sad on this prediction of the future. However, be honest I would say that it is the future most likely to happen.

I have predicted several times in this blog that a great economic, technological, and even social transition of our human society is happening right now. USA is actively facing this challenge while many of the rest of the countries are still unaware of it. I have to say that the age of United State has not passed yet.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Cartoon 2.0

The Can from Carlos Lascano on Vimeo.

Yihong's comment: everything could be 2.0. And here are another one:

Inspiration (stopmotion) from Carlos Lascano on Vimeo.

And here is Allan's pick, another fascinating and moving clip.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Revisiting Web 3.0, When Web Sites Become Web Services

Today I happened to revisit a popular post written by Alex Iskold at March 2007. In the post, Alex claimed that Web 3.0 might be realized when the major Web sites have transformed themselves into Web services. After more than one year and a half, it is interesting to check how well this claim is realized in the real life.

From one aspect, the prediction is becoming true. During this past one and a half year, many Web sites have started to reform themselves into Web services. One typical example is Yahoo. Yahoo was the representative of the traditional Web portal philosophy. By the most recent Y!OS proposal and the release of SearchMonkey and BOSS, however, Yahoo has rapidly transformed much of its original site into Web services. If even Yahoo has made this change, it is convincible to tell that the transformation is close to its successful ending.

In the original post, Alex has worried about the legal issue of Web scraping that may be a result of this transformation. The real world practices show that this worry is probably unnecessary. By transforming a site into services, the site owners actually often gain more (instead of less) control over the site content. Through service design the site owners may more actively prevent external users from illegally copying the information that is not free for sharing.

On the other hand, the Web is still at its 2.0 stage though all the predicted changes are happening. Even after the major sites have already transformed themselves into Web services, Web 3.0 is still an unknown future.

We must have missed something. By just transforming sites into services, the original Web sites actually have not provided anything significantly new to the users. Therefore, how could the Web be entering a new age without a new revolution? This is why the transformation, despite of its inevitability, is not enough to trigger the transition into Web 3.0.

We are still waiting.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Wall Street, Fall 2008: crisis, capital, risk, computation, and information

Crisis is an unstable situation of extreme danger or difficulty. This term precisely describes what is happening at Wall Street now.

The Wall Street banks, especially those investment banks, claimed to have produced capital more than (a lot more than) the capital they indeed have produced. This unbalance between the real output and the claimed output leads to an unstable situation. When the unstable situation has lasted for years without proper fixing, it accumulated and finally grew to be extreme danger or difficulty. Hence we have the financial crisis now.

Capital is cash or goods accumulated and available for use in producing more cash or goods. Capital is the trouble maker in this crisis.

Capital represents wealth; and everybody likes wealth, hence everybody likes capital. So far there is no trouble.

In order to produce more wealth, a straightforward way is to produce more capital. Now the trouble starts. The trouble, however, is closely related to another essential character of capital---capital is a type of matter. Both cash and goods are matter. Although by the nature law the total amount of matter never increases, the value of the total amount of mass could increase. In order to produce matter in higher value, however, we have to at the same time consume some matter or energy (by Albert Einstein, there is equivalence between mass and energy). Ideally, to produce the same amount and quality of output matter, the less value of input matter/energy we consume the more wealthy we produce. This normal formula of wealth generation becomes the origin of all the troubles.

The Wall Street bankers have had a brilliant idea. How about we embody risk/security to be a type of mass and consume it to produce wealth? This idea is indeed brilliant because we can barely objectively measure the actual value of the embodied risk. As the result, the bankers may arbitrarily undervalue the input cost to claim a huge amount of newly produced value by subtracting the input from the output. Then the real-world trouble begins---the unbalance-based unstable (seed of crisis) is generated.

Risk is a possibility of incurring loss or misfortune. Risk is the central problem in this crisis.

The opposite side of the possibility of incurring loss or misfortune is the possibility of incurring gain or fortune, i.e., chance and opportunity. Gamblers love chances and opportunities, and so do the wealth tracers, and thus reasonably we have the bankers/capital-producers in the list.

In order to perform the arbitrary undervaluation of risks, the gamblers (i.e., the Wall Street bankers) hired top mathematicians (or they were themselves) to have created very complicated mathematic models of risk computation (such as the one in the right figure) that few people in this world (I doubt whether including themselves) truly understood. There is only one goal in all of these math models---to minimize the value of input (i.e. undervalue the cost of risks) so that the increased value of output is maximized.

However, computational sound does not necessarily represent in-reality sound. This is thus the problem.

Computation is a general term for any type of information processing that can be represented mathematically. Computation is the most tricky part in this crisis.

Computation is information processing. This recognition is critical because we have mentioned a little bit earlier that capital production is matter processing. Then we are facing one of the most tricky questions in this world---is information a type of matter?

The importance of this question in our situation is in three folds. First, if information is matter, the bankers are not cheating us but they do have miscalculated (if intentionally then they must have legal issues) the real value of information as matter. Second, if information is not matter and it could not be measured as matter at all, we are completely deceived by the bankers and all of the bankers should be put into jail since they literally robbed all of us. At last, if information is not matter while there is some unknown equivalence between information and matter, the bankers could be excused (but still need to be blamed).

Personally, I lean to the third facet. It is the unknown transformation between information and matter that causes this crisis. Certainly, however, without human's greed we would have never trapped into it either.

Information is a numerical measure of the uncertainty of an outcome. Information is the hope that may save us from falling into the crisis again.

Because of the crisis, US government has requested the remaining two major investment banks to transform themselves to be commercial banks. Will this political order eventually solve the problem forever? I don't think so.

This crisis happens due to the greedy nature of human beings beyond the danger of risk computation. In contrast to challenge the nature of greed, I would suggest a more pragmatic solution to the problem---start to study the real value equivalence between information and matter. That is, start to research the asset of mind.

Based on Seth Lloyd's discovery, information is actually another fundamental element of the universe that is the same as mass and energy. Hence it is reasonable to assume the existence of equivalence transformation between information and mass as we have proved the existence of similar equivalence between mass and energy. In fact, we even do not really need such a great scientific discovery in order to solve the immediately faced problems. What we are looking for now is only a measurement of the value equivalence (in contrast to the fundamental equivalence) between information consumption and mass consumption. Encapsulating human mind in a way that it becomes exchangeable in the market might be the straightforward answer.

If numerical measure of the uncertainty is the essence of information, we may solve the valuation of risk in the free market rather than handing the issue to the few smart people in dark room. This picture might represent the future of financial production.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

A metaphor why cloud computing is inevitable

Cloud computing is an infrastructure that collaboratively computes any user-assigned task through all available Internet services. The name "cloud" is a metaphor for the Internet. Cloud computing is also the Internet-based computing.

There are many skeptics of cloud computing. Nicolas Carr mentioned a few in one of his recent posts. Within the comments of Nick's article, however, there are more. Some people believed cloud computing to be nothing more than a marketing term (and they talked about Web 2.0 the same way until now, didn't they?), while some others doubt whether cloud computing could be realistic since "If you use a proprietary program or somebody else's web server, you're defenceless. You're putty in the hands of whoever developed that software." Does this last accusation sound familiar? I bet.

History is repeating itself now and in the following let us see how.

From manorial economy to modern economy

Once upon a time, manorial economy was dominating. The manorial economy or the style of economic self-sufficiency was popular in both of the western and oriental feudal societies. Under this type of economy, people produce and then consume the stuff they produced nearly all by themselves. Goods exchange happens rarely in this type of economic system.

Then there is modern industrial economy, in which nearly no one may survive solely independent to the others. The input of one company is generally the output of another company unless it takes pure natural resources as the input. In the latter case, however, the company must produce something that is needed by another company or the end consumers (people) in contrast to self-sufficiency. Otherwise the company still cannot survive in the modern economy. In general there is no economic self-sufficiency in modern economy because everyone depends on somebody else.

Now here comes the question: how could this change occur? By revising the previous accusation for cloud computing just a little bit, we may get the following one.

If you use a trademarked product (proprietary program) or somebody else's product line (web server), you're defenceless. You're putty in the hands of whoever developed that product (software).

This is right. When our ancestors were trying to abandon the manorial economy and enter the modern economy, they were accused by the exact argument before. So nothing is truly new.

If we take this great transition of economic forms that had already happened in history as a metaphor, it is much easier for us to see the inevitableness of cloud computing. Moreover, this metaphor should have been strong enough to claim that cloud computing is way beyond a marketing term; it is a revolutionary CHANGE.

Lessons learned

So what do we have learned? Change is uneasy, especially to the ones who have benefited from the old format.

Actually few companies is actively anticipating this change now. Traditional firms such as Microsoft and Oracle still are living in their old dream of dominating the market through the proprietary standard policy. They are the old-style manor owners. Newer companies such as Google are acquiring every profitable new innovation into their own territory though they claim to support open standards. They are the new-style manor owners. Therefore, despite both Microsoft and Google speak about cloud computing, what they are doing is enlarging their manors, either in old style or in new style. They are pushing modern economy under the cover of manorial economy. By this mean, it might not be wrong by saying cloud computing to be just a "marketing term." None of the big players at this moment are sincerely preparing for the coming of the true cloud computing because it violates their present interest.

However, history never lies. If only we go over the history of the break of manorial economy in western society or the failure of economic self-sufficiency in China, we must have learned that this change is inevitable disregarding the willingness of the big players at the meantime. Resisting on the change will only lead to the ineluctable failure of the once-glory big names themselves.

Second Year Anniversary (3)

The summary of Thinking Space from October 2007 to September 2008. The posts are organized in three major categories: Web evolution, industrial actions, and instant thoughts.

Web Evolution

1) Web Science

Invariants on the Web: what are the invariants on the Web? The answer may affect how we approach the next generation Web.

Online Identity: is OpenID the eventual solution to the online identity problem? By answering it, we should first take a look at the essential characters of identities.

2) Web 2.0

What is Web 2.0? my explanation of Web 2.0.

Macroscopic regularity over microscopic Brownian motion | the secret beneath the wisdom or crowds: the wisdom of crowds and Brownian motion, combining the two we may learn some secrets behind Web 2.0.

Resource portability: resource portability, a superset of data portability, is a key to study Web evolution beyond Web 2.0.

Data Portability: The Next Great Frontier for the Web: my explanation of data portability.

3) Semantic Web

Abandon Babel, Welcome Society (the philosophy behind Semantic Web approaches): the first of the two main essays of my Semantic-Web vision. A realized Semantic Web must be more like a dynamic society of knowledge (a web of agents) than the knowledge Babel Tower (a web of data). The full text is at Semantic Focus.

Metadata or Hyperdata, Link or Thread, What is a Web of Data?the second of the two main essays of my Semantic-Web vision. The coexistence of a "web of data" and a "web of agents". The full text is at Semantic Focus.

Talk with Talis: interviewed by Paul Miller, I shared my thoughts of how to initiate Semantic Web in a practical way. The plan was executing. Unfortunately, however, due to some non-technical reason the execution paused .

The Curse of Knowledge and the Semantic Web: the curse of knowledge and a potential solution for ontology mapping. The full text is at Semantic Focus.

How to achieve the Semantic Web: a point of view based on Web evolution.

Building Semantics is Different from Building the Web: to build Semantic Web? Please think of it again. Are you actually constructing semantics or building a web? They are not the same.

A quick thought of semantic web: Is the W3C interpretation of Semantic Web realizable according to the second law of thermodynamics?

4) Transition to the next stage World Wide Web

Current Status of Web Evolution by Watching Web 2.0 Summit: my thought of Web evolution after watching the 2007 Web 2.0 Summit.

Multi-layer Abstractions: World Wide Web or Giant Global Graph or Others: in which role do we think of ourselves with respect to the Web? Purely as a reader, half reader half publisher, or mainly a publisher. Be note, the distinction of these answers is critical.

The emergence of social graphs: the emergence of social graphs and its impact to the Web evolution. This is my first article at Internet Evolution.

The Web is dynamic: how the Web is evolving from static to dynamic.

Upgrade RW to RWR: if Web 2.0 is the Read/Write Web, Web 3.0 might be the Read/Write/Request Web. This is my thought last year, which has been slightly different from what I am thinking now. The original full-text article is published at Semantic Report.

Evolution of Web Business: a few of my initial thoughts on the relationship between Web evolution and Web business. It is not a well written but some of the thoughts might still be interesting. The full text is at Semantic Report.

The initial signal of Web 3.0: probably it was the initial sign that the transition to Web 3.0 started.

Is Web 2.0 cycle coming to its end? yes and no: my argument to both Chris Shipley and Richard MacManus about the Web 2.0 cycle.

Web search in evolution: my viewpoints about the issues that drive the evolution of Web search. The full text is at Alt Search Engines blog.

Radar themes: my brief comments on several future trends declared by O'Reilly Radar.

Industrial Actions

1) Google

The Age of Google: a 4-installment series, my thoughts of Google, for celebrating Google's 10-year birthday.

The Revolution Behind Google Knol: Google Knol and the formation of mind asset.

Start to customize a new world: Google Chrome and its revolution.

2) Yahoo

In the past year, Yahoo started to revise its search engine and stepped into the realm of Semantic Web. This is, however, unsurprising. Despite of the loss to Google Search, Yahoo search was born with ranking by semantic understanding (though by humans at that time) rather than ranking by link popularity. This action is back to its origin at a higher level.

Yahoo updated its search: Yahoo's initial sign for embracing semantic web.

The Difference between Yahoo and Facebook: my prediction on the difference between Yahoo's open strategy and Facebook's open strategy. It is exciting that my prediction actually went true when watching Yahoo's later announcement of Y!OS, though at the meantime I had totally no clue at all about SearchMonkey and BOSS.

Y!OS, a new start of Yahoo? an ambitious but exciting Yahoo remodeling starts. Though doubtful of its scale, I do wish Yahoo's success.

Enough ants may bite an elephant to death: Yahoo BOSS is brilliant in its concept.

A swing between passion and reality: my support for Jerry Yang's mission. Jerry is a visionary, who often has to suffer much of the struggle between passion and reality.

3) Microsoft

Microsoft Windows: more than operating system: does Microsoft really know the potential of its Windows at this new Web age? Besides the post, I had tried to share more with Microsoft individually but failed. I start to understand why new companies may always have chances to defeat a giant.

Pay you to Live Search, brilliant? will the pay-to-search model succeed? I doubt.

Ahead The Read Ahead: Farewell, Bill, and we have learned from you both great experiences and precious lessons.

The secret behind Powerset acquisition: my thoughts about Microsoft's acquiring Powerset.

4) Facebook/LinkedIn

Social Network: devoting to plebeians or elites? my first post about Facebook and LinkedIn, apparently I favored Facebook more than LinkedIn at the beginning.

LinkedIn to Chinese market, oppotunity and challenge: taking LinkedIn as an example, some suggestions for US IT companies to enter China.

Facebook Paradox: real social or unreal social: it seems Facebook is contradicting to itself. Will this contradiction eventually hurt the company in long term?

5) Imindi

What indeed is imindi? a great new startup, brilliant idea and excellent service. This post is a shallow introduction of the service at the current stage. Way more future of the service is undisclosed. After the hostile reception at TC50, however, the startup is now fighting hard on improving the service and seeking for financial fund to keep on going. If it could survive, this company will be a representative of new generation business many investors are seeking in this financial crisis period.

Improve Human Intelligence: the opposite to Artificial Intelligence: instead of making computers smarter because of human beings, why not making humans smarter because of computers? The full text is at Internet Evolution with a varied title: A New Take on Internet-based AI.

6) Others

Twine: the first impression: my impression of Twine before it went public.

Twine: the second impression: my impression of Twine after my first test of its beta service.

ZCubes: towards Web 3.0: a brief analysis of ZCubes, an extraordinary multi-functional platform that brings users flexibility of mixing various Web formats.

YokWay moves forward: an introduction of YokWay, a collaborative bookmarking service.

Genome: rethinking of Social Networking: Vladislav Chernyshov's mission for creating a 2.0 social networking service.

Cuil Search: Cuil, novel in its resource production but not-good-enough on the search performance.

yourBusinessChannel, the Web 2.0 marketing: yourBusinessChannel, a typical example when traditional marketing meets Web 2.0.

Instant Thoughts

The Implicit Web: beneath the Web we visit daily, there is the implicit web that consists of a greater volume of delicate connections among Web resources.

Blink: an embarrassment of collective intelligence: my thoughts after reading Malcolm Gladwell's Blink.

Collectivism on the Web: a thoughtful list of many variations of collectivism that might (and probably also should) be implemented on the future Web.

Thinkers and The New Web Age: the role of thinkers in the coming new Web age, an extension of my post "Thinkers in the New Web Age" at Internet Evolution.

World Wide Web is not just for browsing, it is for branding yourself! as the title.

The Harmonious Age: introduction about Adam Lindemann's vision about the future.

We are in a new transition, Part 1: my vision of human society evolution.

Great thought may not be a secret: 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.

Measurement of Mind Asset: a discussion with Michel Bauwens, exploring the new concept "mind asset".

Failure and Success of Web Startups: make others be better, this is a key of surviving.

Programming the Universe, Part 1: quotes and thoughts about Part One of the book "Programming the Universe", many insightful claims made by Professor Seth Lloyd.

Programming the Universe, Part 2: my thoughts of information, energy, and mass based on Professor Seth Lloyd's discovery on quantum computation.

Quantum universe, mind, and idealism: a few more discussion after the review of "Programming the Universe."

Why do we bookmark? to predict the next generation online bookmarking services.

The future of email: to predict the future of the email service.

Blogging: to predict the future of blogging.

China, how to understand this country? introduction of China, for readers living at the western world.

Marketing strategy in social networks: business thought, analysis of a common misconception of marketing online social networks.

Modern management and creativity: business thought, the relationship between management and creativity in corporations.

New generation business demands new DNA: business thought, mind asset and the new DNA in new generation business.

Second Year Anniversary (2)

Until now Thinking Space has more than 160 posts. In this post I introduce three particular ones. Two of them are selected by the Thinking Space readers such as you, and the last one is picked by the author, i.e., me.

The all-time most popular post at Thinking Space

There is a Thinking Space post consistently having 20 or more visits nearly everyday after its first release more than one and a half years ago, and the record is continuing. This is an uneasy accomplishment even for the top news or blog sites. Few articles might be consistently interested by the public for more than a few weeks, let it alone lasting one and a half years already.

Web Evolution and Human Growth: a view of Web evolution, series No. 4

This post expresses the central point of my Web evolution theory. World Wide Web is primarily a society (in contrast to a brain, a machine, etc). Moreover, the evolution of this Web society is synchronizing with the growth of virtual individuals on the Web.

The visiting record shows that "Web evolution" remains being the No. One issue that Thinking Space readers care.

The best post of the last year, reader's selection

In the last year, the following post was visited the most heavily and also was the most popularly linked on the Web (over 300 external links up to the date recorded by Google).

The Age of Google (4): the future

Google search is probably the most popular and well-known Web service at the present Web. Hence any rational analysis of its weaknesses immediately causes great interest among readers. In the post, I predicted that some critical changes were about to happen.

Remember how Google has replaced Microsoft being the leader of IT industry. Microsoft was seemly unbeatable because of its dominating operating system. Isn't OS so fundamental that the leader of the OS market automatically must be the leader of IT industry? Well, OS remains to be critical but Google is ahead now.

In similar, isn't Web search so fundamental that the leader of the Web search market automatically must be the leader of IT industry?

Not necessary; history will repeat its answer. Web search will continue to be critical but the position of Google will be replaced. Due to Web evolution, new fundamental is going to emerge in similar to the relation between Web search and operating system. Some new company (unknown yet) will fade off Google (possibly in just a few years) the same way that Google has shadowed Microsoft.

The most recommended post in the past year, author's pick

This selection is very hard since all the posts are my babies. Behind each article, there is a story of thinking. If I have to choose one, however, it has to be this one.

We are in a new transition, part 2

The post expresses an aggressive vision of the future---the emergence of mind asset. I predict that the evolution of Web resources (the fundamental of Web evolution) would inevitably lead to the formation of modern mind asset. This emergence could bring so significant impact to our society that it would be comparable to the invention of stocks---a sign of the rise of capitalism. This is a trend the entire IT society must actively be aware. Moreover, it is not just about the future of IT companies, it is about the future of our society.

Second Year Anniversary (1)

thinking spaceThe keyword of this blog is "think."

Think is an inalienable right of human beings. One could be poor, one could be weak, one could be ill, one could be laughed and humiliated, and one might be deprived of all of the other rights such as speaking, hearing, reading, writing, or walking. But as long as he breaths, he thinks.

Think is also the most beautiful thing of human being. Through thinking we learn and create. Learning allows us to discover the beauty of the world. Creating then enables us daring to realize beyond what we can see.

Think assigns us humanity.

Thinking Space, The Second Year

Today is the second-year anniversary of Thinking Space. I sincerely thank all the readers who have supported the blog so far.

The number of visits at this blog has grown tremendously from about 8,600 to over 45,000 in the past year. This number does not include readers who read through RSS subscriptions. If we add both of the regular on-site readers and the RSS readers altogether, Thinking Space is reaching 2,000 visits per week and the total number of visits has been over 70,000.

As a normal single-person, part-time blog site without any sponsorship, I am honored by this accomplishment. With neither money nor fame, distinctive thinking is the only gift Thinking Space brings. Thank you for loving it!

Here in a three posts I summarize the accomplishment of this blog during the past year.

Sites I recommend

Good thinking originates from reading high quality materials. The following are the sites/persons that I have particularly learned during the past year. I would like to express my special thanks to them.

1) General:

TED: learned a lot from great speeches.

Read/WriteWeb: a well balanced site mixed with instant news and insightful analysis, I personally like all of its major bloggers such as Marshall Kirkpatrick, Alex Iskold, Sarah Perez, and certainly Richard MacManus, the founder.

TechCrunch: probably the most popular blog on Web technology and Web industry, breaking news and wide coverage.

VentureBeat: leading discussion on cutting-edge technology and business news.

Internet Evolution/ThinkerNet: not for breaking-news readers, however, if one looks for in-depth articles written by true domain experts and field thinkers in their professional areas (in contrast to reading news reports from journalists), this is the site.

2) Specific:

O'Reilly Radar: Tim O'Reilly and others, a site bringing thoughts about the most frontier of World Wide Web.

Alt Search Engines: the best site to broaden the knowledge of Web search, Charles Knight is a true knight on broadcasting Google-unlike Web search tools.

Read/WriteTalk: hearing insightful thoughts spoken by industrial Web evangelists.

Nodalities: watching and hearing insightful thoughts by primarily academic (also with a few industrial) Web evangelists, especially recommending the Talis Talk podcast series and the Semantic Web Gang series moderated by Paul Miller and the "This Week's Semantic Web" series written by Danny Ayers.

Semantic Focus: for some reason James Simmons was too busy to keep on his blogging in the past few months, but this site remains to be a premier source to learn novel thoughts on Semantic Web.

3) Individual:

Tim Berners-Lee: you know the reason to read this site, don't you?

Nicholas Carr: great writer and thinker, sharp, insightful, and often illuminating.

Kingsley Idehen: practical, real, and visionary, demonstrating the way to practice Semantic Web/Linked Data concepts in the real-world business.

Nova Spivack: an example of being a visionary thinker and a pragmatic entrepreneur simultaneously, watching his thoughts and his recommended reading.

Tim Finin: no inspiration? UMBC eBiquity tells what a leading Web scientist thinks and recommends. You will be recharged.

Jason Kolb: thoughtful, in-depth, and great writing, Jason is surely one of my most favorite thinkers.

Allan Cho: compact, new Web-age style brief thinking, but unquestionably insightful.