Monday, June 29, 2009

Also, Consciousness vs. Memory

"Real time taps into consciousness, search taps into memory." Erick Schonfeld's recent TechCrunch post is illuminating. Beyond what Erick discussed of the real-time search, however, there is some more subtle distinction between the two that is worth of being thought. Hence here are my two cents.

Memory is the reserved and refined consciousness. Unlike consciousness that is often fuzzy and even pointless, memory generally has its definite theme and well-organized. We remember for a reason. The reason thus forms the backbone of memory. To search a particular piece of memory out of many, it is possible for us to figure out the algorithms disclosing the backbones. This is what the search engines have done and continue to improve.

Since real time message is indeed about the genuine consciousness in contrast to the refined consciousness (i.e., memory), the previous matrix of Web search no longer sustains. The genuine consciousness itself often lacks of reason. Most of the time it simply tells the undigested truth and the unconscious feeling. Therefore, it is impossible to "rank" the genuine consciousness the same way as if we have ranked (successfully?) the refined consciousness.

The thinking we have done points us to a new hint of effective real-time information search. In fact, we might not call it information search, but information refining. In contrast to search the real time messages, what the engine really needs to do is to refine the messages with respect to the pre-defined channels. By squeezing the water out, the refining process can eventually bring the high quality search results back to the information seekers.

The traditional/standard Web search delivers the direct access to the embodied, refined-already human consciousness. The real-time search then should direct the access to the procedures of refining the embodied, genuine human consciousness. This might be the intrinsic distinction between the two.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Innovation: discover the profoundness behind simplicity

From Google, Facebook, to Twitter, the innovative businesses start with simple idea, but are developed in profound way. A secret of innovation is thus to discover the profoundness behind simplicity.

Above all, every great Internet business begins with a simple idea. The idea must be so simple that it requires less than 30 seconds to explain and the listeners get it and agree to its reality of value.

A sophisticated, profound idea may be a great science but it is unlikely a great business, especially a great Internet business. A great Internet business must engage at least millions of the ordinary Web users, who are often thought to be dumb, lazy, and possibly stupid (indeed, however, they are not, but they do seemly be so when they are not interested in some "smart" thought). If an idea is too complicated to be explained in 30 seconds, it cannot engage the "stupid" majority. Hence the service built up the idea (thought itself could be as great as the theory of relativity) cannot sustain.

But simplicity is far less than enough to assure success. A simple idea is easy to be copied, especially in the cyberspace. Hence simplicity by itself does not bear great business. The real thoughts behind the great innovative Internet services are the ones that can not only be "understood" immediately in 30 seconds by the ordinary listeners, but also be expressed further in another 30 minutes and still not totally understood by the same listeners. This is the profoundness behind simplicity.

Google was created on a simple idea---search information in the Web. Everybody seems "understand" the idea and agree to its reality of value. Indeed, however, few truly understood it before Google. Google discovered that the Web search was not just about finding answers, but more about to enable the information producers to produce the answers to be asked. The best search business is not the one that does the best on finding answers, but the one that allows and helps the information producers to directly produce the answers to be asked. Therefore, it bore the AdSense and AdWords, which directly connect the information consumers and the information producers. This is the profoundness behind simplicity.

Facebook was also based on a simple idea---make friends online. Everybody seems "understand" it and agree to its reality of value. But again, few truly understood it before Facebook. Facebook discovered that friend making was not just about allowing friends writing each other messages, but more about to explore one's self-potential in all of his social extents. The best friend-making service is thus not the one that does the best on communicating friends, but the one that allows a user to display all of his social abilities. Therefore, it bore the open platform, which transformed a friend-making board to a self-extending space. This is again the profoundness behind simplicity.

Twitter is the newest member in this innovative club. The service is based on a simple idea too. Instant messaging! Everybody seems "understand" it and agree to its reality of value. Still, few truly understood it before Twitter. Twitter saw that instant messaging was not just about sending a message from one to another instantly, but more about producing a network of real time information. The best instant messaging is not the one that can deliver messages the quickest, but the one that can weave all the instant messages to leverage their collective power. This is still the profoundness behind simplicity.

Do all these visionary founders pre-know the profoundness from the beginning? Actually, very likely the answer is no. For example, the Twitter founders still have not thought out their business model yet. These founders are not prophets. But what distinguishes them from the others is that they can sense, even it is unconsciously, the crucial profoundness behind the seemly simplicities. And thus they succeed.

Tell an idea to somebody. In 30 seconds he gets it, but in 30 minutes he still does not really know. This is thus an innovative business.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Internet, a bordered or borderless world?

I have just finished reading Who controls the Internet?: Illusions of a Borderless World written by Jack Goldsmith and Tim Wu. The book addresses a serious question---does the evolution of the Internet make itself be more bordered or more borderless a world? The authors then answered it by leading the readers' attention to a traditionally overlooked side of the Internet, i.e., the physical coercion by the local governments to the Web resource producers. The book is very well written and I recommend it to not only the ordinary readers who are curious on how the Internet grows, but also the entrepreneurs who plan to start up a Web company.

"... physcial coercion by government---the hallmark of a traditional legal system---remains far more important than anyone expected." This is the central point of the book.

The Internet, more precisely the World Wide Web, is not a self-governing society. Without the coercive power by all kinds of the local authorities at the invisible (or watchable) back, the seemly self-organizing Web may actually not sustain any longer. Anybody, especially the Web businessperson, who misses the point will eventually pay for the misconception.

When I was starting to think of the evolutionary model of the Web, I envisioned the Web being an actively growing extension of our real society in contrast to a passively progressive product of human beings. By this mean, the Web naturally must have inherited all the major factors in our real human society instead of being a counter force to fundamentally rebuild the world. The revolution brought by the Web is primarily on how the real world is extended to the virtual worlds. With the virtual extensions, we humans could duplicate the existence of selves in arbitrarily many times and thus might multiply the production of the individuals indefinitely. In spite of the revolution, the Web only gradually evolves in contrast to substantially rewrites the basic structure of human society.

We will continuously live in the bordered world into the foreseeable future of the Web age.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Five Web Trends Into 3.0 (5)

5) Mind asset, formulating

The evolution into Web 3.0 is in the mean of not only computation, but also economy. That we appreciate Web 2.0 is not only because of the new technologies and the new services. More importantly, it is because What Web 2.0 produces has greatly stimulated the growth of the global economy. If there is an era of Web 3.0, it must show us its comparable impact on the global economy as Web 2.0 did. Hence there must be a trend describing the economic potential of Web 3.0. Such a trend, as I interpret, is the beginning of formulating the formally exchangeable asset of the embodied human mind, or the mind asset.

Web 3.0 is to Web 2.0 will be a marketplace to a social playground.

"Free" and "open" are the keywords of Web 2.0. Free user generated content and open platform/open API compose the foundation of the Web 2.0 business models.

In contrast, "paid" and "protected" will become the main melody of Web 3.0. The Web resource producers will no longer freely contribute their knowledge unconditionally. They will start to think what they contribute as private asset---the mind asset. In consequence, the Web service providers will no longer be able to distribute the user-generated Web resources unconditionally free either. They thus have to protect certain portion of their services, particularly the portion that uses the non-free user-produced resources, by charging the users when they consume it.

A preliminary example of this Web 3.0 style model is Apple's iPhone application store. The third-party iPhone application developers are the resource producers. Although some of them produce for free, many of them do not. As the result, Apple cannot freely distribute all of the user-generated resources since the company has to pay these non-free resource producers. Apple thus must "protect" this portion of the services from free distribution unless their usage is paid properly. By studying this iPhone business model from the view of Web evolution, we can tell that the Web is no longer a free social playground as Web 2.0 advocates. In contrast, the Web is becoming a super marketplace.

I would say that the iPhone model is just the beginning. With the evolution into 3.0, we will see more sophisticated and more profitable models utilizing the mind asset. But this type of business model migration is truly the most fundamental change happening underground. By witnessing more innovation of formulating new types of mind asset, we will eventually admit Web 3.0 being a completely distinct era of the Web in history!

Wrap Up

Very important, it is all of the five instead of any one of the trends that are driving the Web into 3.0. The following short list can thus be used to check whether a service is ready for entering the new era of Web 3.0.

(1) Is the service feasible to support the trend of home space converging?
(2) Is the service producing new type of Web resources and consuming the newest available types of resources at the same time?
(3) Does the data produced by the service machine-understandable?
(4) Has the service been ready to embrace the new data input matrix?
(5) Is the asset produced by the service exchangeable in market?.

If a service may properly answers all of the five questions, unquestionably it must be in Web 3.0.

Previous installment: Five Web Trends Into 3.0 (4)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Five Web Trends Into 3.0 (4)

4) Voice/touch navigation, prevailing

The mouse/keyboard combination has been the dominant method for navigating the Web. The monopoly is, however, about to be ended. The voice/touch navigation matrix is prevailing to the mainstream.

The touch screen monitors and the touch screen computers have been in the market for a while. Rumor was told that Apple planned to add multitouch-enabled displays to its MacBook Pro laptop computers. Although it has never happened, the value as well as the market demanding of the multitouch-screen computers are unquestionable. Jeff Han had once demonstrated in a TED speech about not only the compelling flexibility but also the amazing computational power the multitouch-screen computers would bring.

When being questioned about the drawbacks of the touch-screen computers, people often mention the screen protection/clean and the price. Many people also believe that the reason the multitouch-screen MacBook Pro does not happen is only due to the price. There is an important issue that also hinders the prevalence of the touch-screen computers but generally overlooked---the input device.

With a touch-screen (especially the multitouch screen) computer, it is awkward to still use the traditional keyboard for input. A straightforward solution is thus to use the on-screen keyboards replacing the physical keyboards. However, this straightforward solution would not work.

The real problem here is that to type on a mobile phone is totally different from to type on a large-screen monitor. The users are supposed to be physically very close to their mobile phones whenever the phones are used. Hence there is no problem for them to use on-screen keyboard. In contrast, the users are supposed NOT to be very close to their large touch-screen computer monitors. By this mean, whether or not to type on screen becomes a very tricky question.

A way to solve the dilemma is to embrace the voice/touch matrix. The users may use the voice input devices for the long-distance data input, while the touch-screen input adds the additional capability for handling the complex input requests. To the best of my knowledge, several companies have already started to implement this matrix and planned to demo the matrix no later than the next year. This is another definite trend that we must not overlook when entering Web 3.0.

Previous installment: Five Web Trends Into 3.0 (3)
Next installment: Five Web Trends Into 3.0 (5)

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Five Web Trends Into 3.0 (3)

3) Semantic Web, emerging

The third Web trends into 3.0 is Semantic Web. Or more precisely, it is the emerging of machine-understandable resources in the Web.

Quite a number of people believe that Web 3.0 is the Semantic Web. Cautiously, however, I doubt it. The Web is evolving towards the Semantic Web. But the evolution is a lasting process. To say Web 3.0 is the Semantic Web is the same as to tell a 6-year-old child that he will be an adult immediately after the seventh birthday.

The center of the Semantic Web is a web of machine-understandable data. By machine-understandable machines knows how to process an arbitrary input data based on the semantic meaning of the data.

After more than a decade in struggling and debating, recently we have seen more and more new services starting to embrace the Semantic Web technology, or something similar. Google declared its support for RDFa, an essential Semantic Web technology. Moreover, the new Google Squared is another evidence that Google is diving deeper and deeper into the realm of semantic search. Although Walfram Alfa claimed not have used the standard Semantic Web technologies in its implementation, its general philosophy is the same as the Semantic Web. Based on the pre-constructed machine-processible knowledge base, Walfram Alfa computes the knowledge systematically and make the results accessible to everyone.

Again, the crucial point here is not on which technologies these new semantic services have embraced. It is on what kind of new data these semantic services are producing! The resources that are produced by these semantic services are indeed more critical to the Web evolution than the services themselves. By using the Semantic Web technologies, the services certainly provide us advanced options to explore the Web. But more importantly, these services are gradually transforming the ordinary Web data to the machine-understandable Semantic Web data when we use them. Hence silently the Web is evolving to the Semantic Web.

Previous installment: Five Web Trends Into 3.0 (2)
Next installment: Five Web Trends Into 3.0 (4)

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

President Obama's Vision

In China, Liu Junluo (Chinese: 刘军洛) is well known on his extraordinary analysis on the global and Chinese economics. Several months ago, I posted his prediction on who the winner of the financial crisis would be. With time, more and more likely his prediction is indeed sound, again!

Recently, Junluo had another insightful posts titled President Obama's Vision and Mr. Bernanke's Regional War. The thought in the post is very sharp and farsighted. I cannot help myself from sharing the mind to the Thinking Space readers. However, I only translated the first part of his post. The full article in Chinese can be found here.

President Obama's Vision

The Bogeyman of thinking is to tell that the earth is round when everybody else says it is flat. This is called vision.

If Mr. Obama had agreed to spend 200 billion U.S. dollars on saving the largest U.S. automobile manufacturer, the world might not have thought that the U.S. industry was decaying indefinitely. In fact, the 200 billion U.S. dollars is totally incomparable to the speed of money-burning in Iraq and Afghanistan. The problem is, however, why Mr. Obama chose to let the whole world think that the American industry is dying.

In October 1999, the entire human population global wide exceeded six billion. By 2020 the number will exceed 8 billion. 8 billion, however, is about the maximum number of people our Earth may safely sustain.

In two years, i.e. 2011, in United States the baby boom generation will start to retire. In the next 20 years, this 78 million American baby boomers will retire completely. They are the world's richest generation ever and they are the generation the most willing to spend. What will the world be when all of them are retired?

By 2030 the proportion of the aging population in United States and Germany will rise rapidly to around 26%. In Japan it will reach more than 30%. What will these senior people demand after the retirement? Medical care, nursing, recreation, pets, religion, and blue sky! At the meantime, they will consume less on many of the industrial products including particularly such as automobile, and they will save more money in bank.

Now in United States a senior over 65 is supported by 3.9 members in the young labor force. By 2030 the ratio will become 2.4:1. The same average ratio in all of the world's developed countries at the time will be 2.5:1. In the next five years, the tax burden of the ordinary labor force in all of the developed countries will substantially increase. If the total demand within the emerging countries especially such as China and India could not substantially increase, (i.e., the average wage of their main labor force is not increased substantially), in the next five years, by 2010 at least 50% of the automotive business and the iron and steel manufacturers will be eradicated by the sharp fall of the global demand in general.

Therefore, Mr. Obama chooses to force the largest U.S. automobile manufacturer to enter the age of small batch production. At the same time, the saved labor force will be redistributed to produce America the bluest sky, the clearest water, the best health care system, and the most superior legal system in the world. Since 2010, in every developed country all over the world a greater and greater force of the rich and retried people are looking for the best living environment, the best medical care services, and the best legal protection for their retirement life. This is a trend irresistible.

Now China has exclaimed to invest 900 billion U.S. dollars in the auto industry, boating industry, iron and steel industry, and cement manufacturing industry during the first half of 2009. Moreover, there are ongoing government projects in such as the road, bridge, and railway construction in no less than one trillion U.S. dollars. In southern China, a bridge-construction project leader excitedly announced to the people around that the 10-billion U.S. dollar new bridge will be completed in 2015, and it will shorten the time of cargo transportation in the region from the current 4 hours to about 40 minutes. The same excitement was also among the people surrounding him.

In 2015 the tax burden of the ordinary workforce in all the developed countries will be increased, which inevitably will lead to the substantially reduced rate of consumption among this workforce.

In 2015 a large percentage of the baby boomers in United States have already retired at home; and they will reduce the rate of consumption.

In 2015 the labor cost in India and Vietnam will be more competitive than in China.

In 2020 the most popular job in the world will be pension agents, who restlessly run among the richest generation of the retired people and sell them where the bluest sky is, where the cleanest environment is, where the clearest water is, where the best medical services are, and where the most superior legal protection is.

If an elder couple generates in average five million U.S. dollars in consumption after the retirement, and in the next two decades the United States attracts three million couples global wide to consume its best environment, best medical care, and best legal systems, it is a 15 trillion U.S. dollars business!

In 2010, the poor sells automobile; the rich sells medical care and law protection; and the wealthy sells clean air and water.

Mr. Obama is among the few first ones who know how to act properly when our earth is OLD, and when the 78 million U.S. baby boomers are also OLD.

In summary, the greatness of mind is that the monopoly of wealth stands opposite to the mass thinking.

Five Web Trends Into 3.0 (2)

2) Web resource, diverging

Divergence is the act of moving away in different direction from a common point. The continuous divergence of the Web resource types is ineluctable when the Web enters 3.0.

One way to evaluate Web resources is to measure their ability of productivity, i.e., how feasible a resource can be manufactured to produce information asset. In essence, any Web resource is a combination of data, service, and link. By divergence it leads to the newer ways of resource representation so that the represented resources become more productive for further information manufacturing. This progress is a consistent process in Web evolution.

A question is, however, that which new types of Web resources emerging would be essential to foster Web 3.0. In the other words, which of them would be the fundamental building blocks of Web 3.0 as if the manual tags and the RSS of Web 2.0.

Although no conclusions yet, there are a few interesting candidates. For example, the mobile data representation formats such as the iPhone data structure. By storing data in these transportation formats, the data becomes universally mobile computable. Though it is still fairly a distance from the real ubiquitous computing, the advancements increase the productivity of the mobile Web data, a particular portion of the Web data.

Another example is Google Wave. Google Wave shows a new type of service resources that can effectively consume many typical Web 2.0 resources by allowing these Web 2.0 resources running on top of it. When we say the revolutionary change Google Wave brings (or will bring), it indeed tells that Google Wave examples what the services in Web 3.0 might be looked like. Its real innovation is not how the service works, but what it consumes!

By Wikipedia, the divergent evolution is the accumulation of differences between groups which can lead to the formation of new species, usually a result of diffusion of the same species adapting to different environments, leading to natural selection defining the success of specific mutations. This definition is indeed also applicable to the ongoing divergent evolution of Web resources into 3.0.

Previous installment: Five Web Trends Into 3.0 (1)
Next installment: Five Web Trends Into 3.0 (3)

Monday, June 08, 2009

Five Web Trends Into 3.0 (1)

It is said that Web 3.0 is coming. I agree to the point. However, what is Web 3.0 indeed? Few people have the answer. But there are five Web trends that may help us peek into the core of this next generation Web. In a five-post series I am glad to share my thinking of the five trends in this blog.

1) Personal space, converging

From homepage to site profile, the evolution from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 is also a process of the divergence of the personal home spaces. In Web 1.0, a Web user generally uses a homepage to claim his Web existence. In Web 2.0, however, a Web user often have varied profiles in multiple Web sites, while each of the profiles may (nearly identically) claim his Web existence. Intuitively the progress likes that a single, uniform homepage has been transformed respectively to multiple, varied personal accounts, each of which is settled with respect to a particular Web site. The personal home space diverges.

This personal space divergence was necessary for fostering Web 2.0 because it allowed the Web 2.0 entrepreneurs the flexibility of creating the variety of social networking products. Hence it facilitated the growth of Web 2.0.

On the other hand, the divergence also leads to a few problems. With the mature of Web 2.0, Web users are required to remember more pairs of the login/password for their registered sites. In addition, if there are Web 2.0 sites functioning similarly and the users want to use both (a common case in Web 2.0, for example, to use both of and Twine for bookmarking), it is uneasy for the users to synchronize the same information in the varied sites simultaneously. The barrier becomes especially severe when the users try to update some basic information in the profiles (such as change an address), despite the message is common to all the sites. In short, Web 2.0 has inevitably led to producing a huge amount of duplicated information fragments in the Web and it is very hard to synchronize these fragments.

To solve this problem is thus a major request for Web 3.0. OpenID is such an attempt by unifying the logins in the Web. We can predicate that the adoption of OpenID must prevail continuously in the age of Web 3.0.

But OpenID is not the whole solution. The ideal solution to the problem is to have the diverged home spaces be converged back to a new form of the unified personal spaces as if the Web 1.0 homepages. Yet we still have fairly a distance to implement such a solution, it is the first trend into Web 3.0. Only through this transformation, we may eventually declare Web 3.0, a new stage of the Web that is essentially distinct to Web 2.0.

Continuing the series The Path Towards Next Generation, No. 2
Next installment: Five Web Trends Into 3.0 (2)

Sunday, June 07, 2009

It is the free choice that produces the value of mind

A computer can execute a program and output a result. What does the asset of mind generated by a computer different from the mind asset produced by a human being? The difference is the free choice. A human can make free choices upon a request that are beyond any sophisticated program can make. It is thus this freedom bringing the value. This distinction could be essential when we think of producing the mind asset for the coming next-generation World Wide Web.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Inherent Complexity

A breathtaking picture, compound intent, inexhaustible extension. Does it tell the beauty of the nature or the beauty of the mind? Or it actually reveals the both. If a tiny simple water drop may disclose facts in such a greater scale, how great may an already big complex being such as a person disclose? It is the compound me that matters.

The picture is from Flickr. At here it is the original link to the photo.

June 4th

June 4th, 1989, I was in China. It is a date that had changed the history of modern China, in many aspects. In particular, it drew a line between an idealist China and a materialist China.

The picture on the right is a perfect illusion of the distinction. In the middle there stand two Premiers in Chinese history. The one in the front is Zhao Ziyang (Chinese: 赵紫阳), a Pre-June-4th Premier. Behind Zhao it is Wen Jiabao (Chinese: 温家宝), a Post-June-4th Premier (actually Wen is the current Premier of China). The picture was shot at the night of May 19th, 1989, when Zhao was trying to comfort the students in Tiananmen Square. At the meantime, neither of them was the Premier (Li Peng was the Chinese Premier in 1989). But Wen was the director of Zhao's office.

Zhao and Wen had very different personalities. Zhao was more or less an idealist that was similar to Mikhail Gorbachev of Soviet Union. In the mind of Zhao, China might not rise again until Chinese people could gain the political freedom. The thought liberation must be prior to the flourish of economy. In contrast to Zhao, Wen is more a materialist. Wen believes the economic growth be the first and the political freedom be the second. In his mind, it is fine to ask people to temporarily scarify their various freedom to exchange a better life in material satisfaction. The right of living is above all the other human rights, including the freedom to think; a typical philosophy of the extreme materialists.

It is not my duty to judge the correctness between the two thoughts. (The reader might judge it yourself.) Inevitably, however, this philosophical distinction significantly reformed China.

The majority of the youth generation in China before the June 4th were eager in fighting for gaining more freedom in all aspects of the nation. They were interested in national politics and dreamed of China to be an ideal society that might be governed by leveraging the collective voice of its people.

The majority of the youth generation after the June 4th, however, abandoned the former seemly intangible dream. They started to pay the most of their attention to earning money and enjoying the material life. They care less of the national politics but care more on individual interest. China does have achieved breathtaking progress in economy since then, while it has also paid heavily on the loss of morality national wide. On one hand, this period of Chinese history is a legend of economic growth. On the other hand, in the same period the nation had sold its soul. The absolute truth in China disappears. All truth becomes conditionally right.

Is this China what we expect? Is this China the best interest of all the Chinese people? The only thing that I can tell definitely is that China really could have been a totally different nation if there were no June 4th, 1989.

Monday, June 01, 2009

A great discussion about Imindi

Thanks to François Dongier, who gave a fairly insightful discussion of the pros and cons of Imindi in the current stage. I think that it is definitely worth of being shared to more readers. Here is the link.

In particular, I quote the conclusion section of the article in the following.

"Lost in the ocean of distracting facts and contingent news, thoughts are rare and indeed very precious. There is an important sense in which they are what really matters to us, as an essential aspect of our human nature. They are also important in a more "practical" sense, playing a central role in the economy, as the major source of all the inventions that lead to new products. There are now new web applications like Imindi, Primal Fusion and, maybe to a lesser extent, Twine, that really focus on thoughts and try to isolate them from the stream to make them more visible and reinforce their efficiency. My view is that such applications will have a great impact on how the web evolves.

I personally find extremely attractive the fact that this project is very ambitious. It's got the nice A.I. feel that you also find in projects like Wolfram|Alpha and Twine. It's not just an ordinary web app: it wants to be disruptive and revolutionize the way we communicate and think together. Maybe it will fail, if the problem of efficient thought-modeling and thought-merging turns out to be too complex for the current technology. But it certainly looks worth giving it a try."

UPDATE: here is rancois`s thoughts on Imindi. A graph itself is better than 1000 words.