The world according to algorithms

I wrote this post over three years ago! Gosh – kinda of more scary now. Yikes.

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My personal, trusted search agent, my husband, cut out an article for me about DemandMedia, an innovator in offering a service for web owners to pull algorithm driven, highly moentizable content – fast and cheap.

Then a few minutes later I read about Cheaptweet.com and how it uses an algorithm to mine Twitter feeds for deals on clothes, electronics and services.

I began to notice a pattern.

The next day I read about new search methods that were smarter because of, you guessed it, algorithmic technology.

Now with a thud, I realized, a bit to my horror, that algorithmic logic drives a big part of our lives. It drives our searches and, as a result, what we learn about. It drives which ads we see and crunches through a formula to present us with the most relevant, contextual based ad possible. It filters what offers we see or don’t see online.  And the ever iterative algorithmic engines can even choose our future mates.

I even think some algorithm predicted the end of the world to happen sometime in 2012 *sigh*.

It then blindingly dawned on me (better late than never) that my perception of the world was being shaped by algorithms – aggregation of data points. I was taken aback by the fact that my world perception was not formed as I thought by my experiences with real people – but by mechanical machines spitting out numerical answers to questions I had not yet asked.

I realize I see the world through number colored lens. I am not sure I like the effect.

This shouldn’t be bothering me – but it does.

Judy Shapiro

http://twitter.com/judyshapiro

Crystal ball was not needed to predict Google Wave would fail

Forgive a momentary “I told you so” outburst because back in October 2009 as the tech world was dazzled by the Google Wave launch, I somewhat singularly wondered publically about whether it would succeed in a piece in Ad Age entitled:  “Google Wave should beware of the Communications and Collaboration Pitch”

It was an unpopular position to take at the time; after all, Google “Anything” was considered magic.  And after less than a year, being right like this is no fun actually because behind the failure are real people who invested a lot of heart and soul. It is a bitter pill to swallow.

History is a great teacher and in the Ad Age piece, I provide a history lesson on how “communication and collaboration” failed commercially utterly in the 1990s:

“Looking back at it now, I realize what we failed to do last time around is to symbiotically couple this whiz-bang technology with fulfilling a fundamental dimension of our humanity. Technology by itself is sterile and a communication and collaboration play was pretty sterile sounding.”

I also generously give them the secret of how to get it right given what we learned in our previous failed attempts to market unified collaboration platforms:

“This time round, though, Google Wave really has a chance to get it right if it forges a tight symbiotic link between this technology and a core element of our humanity.”

Finally, I gave them what I believed to be the secret to success with Google Wave. Clearly they ignored my sage advice (even if I do say so myself):

“It all comes down to understanding that Google Wave should be about the creation and management of our trusted communities. And if it can take those bonds and marry them with real-time, unified communications, the product has the makings of a technology milestone. But without the human dimension of community, “communications and collaboration” are just technologies. And technologies alone will not “connect” with Judy Consumer. At least it never has before.”

Never to put too subtle a point on it, I expanded my arguments and provided even more detail in a post here entitled; “What might Twitter and Facebook teach Google Wave about market success.” I fully explain why Google Wave has the potential to be a paradigm shift:

“Now I think Google Wave has the potential to be a technological milestone because it merges unified collaboration and communications (not new) within the fertile soil of a trusted community (this is new). “Pull” models coming online now enable this combination of dynamics to “gel” into a platform that can be vibrant and paradigm shifting. …”

I ended this piece in October 2009 hopeful; “I suspect that if anyone will know how to use this treasure it will be Google. I am rooting for them.”

So much for a happy ending :( .

Judy Shapiro

“Look up in the sky – it’s a bird, it’s a plane. No it’s an iPad.”

I was listening to my 14 year old son discuss the relative merits of an iPad versus his iTouch with a buddy of his. Now my kid is Apple’d out – MAC, iPod, iTouch. No wonder he was intrigued by the iPad as all things Apple is inherently good in his world view.

“It makes no sense”, I hear my son saying”, “why would Apple want people to think of iPad as a computer – it would kill their other business”. He then declared; “To me, this is a bigger and better iTouch that I would use at home.”

His friend thought for a minute and replied simply; “Yeah, but Steve Jobs thinks this is the new way people will use computers. Maybe, Apple wants to be the Microsoft, Dell, AT&T and Google all wrapped up in one.”

At first I was surprised at the thoughtful way these kids were getting right to the business heart of the matter. What is an iPad anyway? More interestingly though, as a marketer, I was eager to ponder what implications the iPad’s “position” might have on its astonishing 1MM sell through.

Clearly, the physical sleekness of the device drove a big part of the sell through. Surprisingly though, the huge gap in how “Junior Consumer”  was interpreting iPad’s main function, a.k.a. hyper cool entertainment device versus Jobs’ declaration that this is “the most important thing he has ever worked on” usually spells D-I-S-A-S-T-E-R, but that seemed not to matter in this case.

This disconnect is amplified when one realizes that the iPad may well be the computing version of a wolf in sheep’s clothing because it becomes the gate/ portal and police of what services or apps or content comes out of that portal. I kinda hope my son’s friend was wrong and Apple is not interested in displacing other devices and services providers from Judy Consumer’s world. Uh – no – that’s not likely. So it seems to me that the shiny iPad Apple carries a time delayed poison within that will, ultimately, bind Judy Consumer to the Apple franchise with little hope of escape.

OK – I admit – I am playing drama queen here. But it seems in maybe 5 years, our digital world will be defined by a few major players – maybe a handful – who will deliver all information, content, communications and commerce to us.

The “so what” of all this mega aggregation of services is that Judy Consumer will have fewer choices and higher prices. In the future world of information services wars, over time, Judy Consumer will lose out just like she ultimately did in the telecom wars of the past (I am battle hardened veteran of those wars). The final result being that, in fact, when choices go down, pricing goes up.

If iPad is meant to be the point of entry for a new way of computing that inextricably ties hardware to services – I worry (yes – I am a Jewish Mother and we worry.) I worry that it will be harder for competition to evolve and over time we know without competition, Judy Consumer pays more for less.

So I wonder – do you think the iPad is a merely step up from an iTouch as a hyper cool content consumption device or is the iPad Steve Jobs’ attempt at creating a new computing paradigm (hence explaining his sentiment that this is the most important thing he has ever done)?

I fear my son’s opinion on this matter is borne of youthful naïveté. I think I’ll go read Snow White again … at least that has a happy ending.

Judy Shapiro

Google-lanche

It would be impossible to read all reviews and POVs on Google Buzz. I have not read any of them. This post is about something entirely different.

This post is about what Google Buzz symbolizes for me. Google Buzz is the ultimate evidence for the deepest fears I expressed about Google last July as I wrote in Ad Age (Why Google Voice reminds me of AT&T and Google, AT&T and the DOJ: How to avoid History’s mistakes)  In these two different articles I argued that AT&T’s downfall started the moment it made the decision to dominate the information highway. Google’s march towards digital dominance seemed to be echoing that history for me and in the AT&T case it ended in divestiture. I wondered out loud whether Google headed toward the same unhappy end.

In the articles I challenged people to look at the big picture and see how similar their positions are. Many people disagreed with me. I understand why. The companies are quite different – literally speaking. But I am looking beyond the technology details to the heart and soul of the matter. The two companies are far more similar than one may expect. Their cultural context was similar and each held their company’s performance as a public trust, as a noble mission.

And this noble mission justified decisions made that were  necessary  to maintain brand position including creating products that served corporate needs first and customer needs second.  Google Buzz is an example of this line of thinking. It so clearly serves Google’s needs first and that of end users second that only a strategy borne of dominance could have stumbled so badly.

This is why the announcement of Google Buzz is so sad for me. It marks the precise moment when Google succumbed to the mistake of creating products designed first to maintain their market dominance over creating stuff people would really need. Some future business book will peg this as the moment when the tide turned and Google lost its grove.

Nor do I think this just another corporate misstep — but this causes me to imagine (and I shudderto think of it) that in 36 months Google will begin the process of being “dismantling” either by their design or by some other mechanism. I shudder because I know the personal pain that will be caused in the “reductive” process.

The launch of Google Buzz – whether it turns out to be a good or bad product is beside the point. IMHO, it represents the end of an era for Google and beginning of a much less certain future.

“Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat them.”

George Santayana; B: December 16, 1863 Madrid:  D: September 26, 1952, Rome; Philosopher

Judy Shapiro

Postscript – I wrote this post last at night and the next morning I wake to see this article from CNET:  Google gets go-ahead to buy, sell energy. ‘Nuf said.

http://news.cnet.com/8301-11128_3-10456435-54.html?part=rss&subj=news&tag=2547-1_3-0-20

Does technology makes our lives easier?

Nope and here’s 10 ways technology actually makes our lives harder.

A while back, I wrote in Ad Age an article entitled; A Digital Myth: Technology Doesn’t Make Life Easier , http://adage.com/digitalnext/post?article_id=136533 where I explain that while technology makes tasks easier – it really does not make our lives easier. As an example, I compared the task of washing clothes in a machine versus a rock. Sure – a machine is far easier than a rock in the actual washing of the clothes. But if you add up all the other things that you need to do to make the machine work (the water infrastructure, the cost of repair, buying laundry detergent), we see that doing laundry via the trusty, highly reliable rock was far less complicated.

Since I wrote that article, I notice that the technology wars race are going as fiercely as ever, with techno-titans Google, Microsoft and Apple waging their epic battles for the heart and mind of Judy Consumer.

So, for a quiet moment, I wanted to share the 10 ways that technology most decidedly does not make our lives easier. I present this list, friends, knowing full well that I will be subjected to the inevitable backlashing  from tech fanboys. I have run afoul of them before – so gentlemen (I am being generous) – I’m ready — bring it on.

1) Harder to remember the everyday stuff of life.

This is a pet peeve which continues to drive me nuts because people don’t even try to remember the little mundane things of life anymore. With auto dial, auto login and “history” functions that tell you where you’ve been, our minds have devolved so that we can not easily remember these things.

I recognize we have more passwords, logins etc to remember than just 5 years ago but still – our ability for retaining simple little things seems gone. In the past, I made it point to know the phone number of my kid’s pediatrician and my immediate family. Now I don’t even know the cell phone number of my kids.

“Ok – what’s so bad about that?” you may ask. “Why waste those little grey cells on mundane memory tasks that our devices can do better and more conveniently?”  Good question – UNTIL you lose your phone or you have to change PCs – then you are in communications hell until you sort it all out.  My remedy is to force myself to recall key numbers.  As to the rest – oh well.

(Historical sidebar. Before the innovation of printing, our brains were capable of far greater acts of retaining information, as demonstrated by ancient Greek orators capacity to recite thousands of lines of poetry. Books, over time changed our biology so that our capacity to remember large quantity of information was diminished. So while I bemoan the loss of memory – I know it has happened before.)

2) Harder to keep your communications world “synced”.

I am going through this right now. I am working at a new company that is virtual. I now have 3 email accounts which are so cross forwarded to each other — it is a webmailtangle. I will figure it out but not without more pain that I think I should have to endure. I do not want to have to understand what POP or STMP or incoming or outgoing server configurations are.

And that just covers email! Now add the additional layers of IM, mobile, Google Voice, Blackberries, and all the identities we use to communicate in our social networks and you have communication complexity comparable to what a mid-sized company might have had 20 years ago.

It’s great that we are reachable 24/7 – but no one can seriously contend that all this connectivity makes our lives easier. In fact, it has become so complex, that new technologies are built to manage all these communications touchpoints.

Well that just about left “easy” in the dust.

3) Harder to dive deeply on any subject

A CEO I knew was very diligent about buying any book on marketing he thought would be useful. He himself never read any of them. Rather he had his people “summarize the book into key points”. I am sure if he read any of them, he may have gathered some insight that was lost on his people – but I understand the appeal of getting fed small info bits that are easy to snack on. So we take shortcuts. We scan text, we read extracts, we use twitter because 140 characters does not take long to absorb.

In fact, the attraction to digi-bytes has spawned new strategies in how to write as little as possible and still get the “a” message across. I am all for a Zen approach to content – simple and lean but it seems that content has become anorexic.

Business books tend to be written with very short telegraphic chapters with pithy titles like “The top 7 ways to [fill in the blank]…Try getting anyone to read an article that is more than a few paragraphs (and thanks to any of you who got this far on this decidedly non quick article).

Worse, far worse, I find myself getting impatient with writers who might, heavens, might take a few paragraphs to get to the point (the irony of this is not lost on me). The glorious joy of reading something with depth and substance seems to be on the endangered list.

4) Harder to be efficient

I think no one can deny that technology allows us do more things, usually at the same time. Talk, IM, tweet, web browse – all while driving (OK kidding- sorta).

My point is that new studies reveal that multitasking ain’t all it was cracked up to be.  Here’s an article from Wired that makes the point well; http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2009/08/multitasking/ (I write this as I have music blaring in my ear and I am IMing with two different colleagues. I notice how my typing deteriorates in direct relation to how many tasks I am trying to do at the same. It is not a pretty picture.)

5) Harder to get face time

Any parent out there knows what I am talking about here. Even Whoopi Goldberg observed (in a TV special) that while our children are smarter than we are, we are raising a generation of “barbarians”; children who are proficient tweeters, and IM’ers but who have too little interaction with real people in the real world. They seem almost out of place in the real world.  I am convinced that in 20 years, the lack of face time will have repercussions as these techno-savvy but socially naive children start having children of their own. Technology will take center stage in the training of their children. That can’t be good.

But it doesn’t stop there. In the business world, lack of face time has real costs today. Leaders spend less and less face time with their people often using cryptically crafted emails tapped out on a Blackberry’s to give complex instructions. That leaves a lot to the imagination – again – not always a good thing.

6) Harder to learn appreciation

I remember a few years ago I bought a traveling DVD/ TV player for the car (my kids were at the irritable age when car trips were tedious). Anyway, this device had wireless earphones, wireless controls with a luxurious 12” screen and detachable speakers. I was loving it. So much technology in such a compact, tidy device.

My kids were rather underwhelmed. For them, it was a convenience not in any way deserving of the reverence that I seemed to bestow on the thing. It takes A LOT to impress my teenage kids. It takes a lot to impress any teenager nowadays. What happens when they hit 30?  I guess to get a gee-whiz out of them might require a trip to the moon. And even then I wonder….

7) Harder to be loyal

Today, loyalty seems to be a quaint, sentimental notion that seems old fashioned. There is scant loyalty to be seen in relationship, jobs, brands, technology, geography.

We are comfortable meeting our “soul mate” online and with the powers of technology there are probably a few candidates who qualify. We are easily seduced to change brands with the scantest of promises. We don’t even remain loyalty to people within our newly created social networks bouncing from one network to another as easily as one changes a password.

Loyalty is out of fashion because maybe it is not really expected anymore; so much is so replaceable so easily. I miss loyalty in others and I make it point to practice it as actively as I can. In fact, people are often surprised at the loyalty I show to previous employers. From their perspective, it is so unexpected and unnecessary. I show loyalty as a way to express my gratitude to employers who enriched my career. It seems very necessary to me.

8 ) Harder to stay current and actually find the information you need

If anyone asks me why Twitter took off, I’d say it is because it gives people who want to stay current a convenient way to do so. That about sums it up for me.

Yet despite all the digi-byte ways we can get information, staying up to date seems to be getting harder. First to explore any subject online, you have to wade through digital stacks of garbage data. You have make decisions about what to information to trust or not. It sometimes feels like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack.

Then, once you have to figured out what information is worth keeping, you have to spend a heck of a lot of time connecting the dots because as we said in point 3, no one writes meaty articles much anymore. It feels more like a scavenger hunt where one gathers little info bits and then from these obtuse clues we hope it adds up to something substantial.

Staying current was something that always required a certain dedication and investment of time. It seems now though the sheer deluge of data (good and bad) makes this so much harder on everyone.

9) Harder to gain perspective

Context makes all the difference when you are trying to understand the truth of a topic or controversy. That is becoming more and more of a challenge because of the difficulty of vetting trustworthy information. It is harder to know which person has the credentials to back up information they disperse.

Yep, gaining perspective through online information can be like making your way through a maze – fraught with dead ends and frustrating misdirection. Someone should come up with a GPS system for data navigation. I would buy that in a heartbeat.

10) Harder to establish trust – the online kind

This should come as no surprise to anyone. In the beginning, before social media became such a dominant marketing tool, customer reviews had power to influence, people you knew were trying to friend you and online connectivity was a joy because it could help you stay connected on a global scale.

But with the commercialization of social media, one consequence has been that trust has plummeted. A recent Ad Age article ; In Age of Friending, Consumers Trust Their Friends Less, explains that; “Only 25% of People Find Peers Credible, Flying in Face of Social-Media Wisdom” according to an Edelman study http://adage.com/article?article_id=141972. Simply, trust diminishes in direct proportion to the growth of social networks because it is hard to authenticate the identity of people online. This trust gap makes many online interactions harder to conduct.

To sum up, lest I leave you with the wrong impression — the upside of all this technology is amazing – in every respect. But it comes at a price that is perhaps more dear than first realized. So I advocate a new techno consciousness that doesn’t fall for the promise that “technology makes our lives easier”.

At least not on my watch.

Judy Shapiro

Congratulations CES for becoming the hottest, consumer advertising buy on the planet

CES has descended upon the psyche of the tech world so that it dominates most reports and tweets and attention.

We all wait with bated breath for the declared best new product, most innovative game, most outrageous consumer electronic gadget. We are, in effect, like kids with our noses up against the window pane of the biggest toy store in the world.

I should say that the hyper cool nature of CES is a fairly recent phenomenon. Back when I worked at AT&T, CES was an annual ritual that, frankly, rather inconveniently put a crimp on holiday festivities since many of us had to go the Las Vegas a week before to setup. There went New Year’s plans *sigh*. Sure it was fun to see what ingenious gadget was coming into the market, but make no mistake about it; CES was a serious B2C trade show where manufacturers worked hard to woo retailers into carrying their stuff. While there was some consumer coverage, mostly it was confined to the B2B press.

Then, somewhere in the last 4 years, I think driven by the gaming industry, Google, Apple and social media, it took on the glamour of the Oscars for tech set. If a product was even mentioned in a “from CES” report, that was cause for celebration (“I am so honored even to be nominated” kind of thing). CES went from being a B2B event to the event that plays itself out directly to consumers. That shift, in effect, caused CES to become the biggest consumer trade event of all time – even if every consumer is attending by proxy via social media.

But there’s more to it than that because at the current level of consumer exposure to the show, CES has transcended the trade show segment and was elevated to become a premier consumer media buy, kinda like SuperBowl. Think about with me. A media buy in SuperBowl was a strategy companies used to catapult themselves – think GoDaddy. This media buy cost a few million bucks, but if played right – you were made. I think CES has taken on that same level of media potential if you account for all the primary, secondary and tertiary coverage that live streaming and social media provide. And instead of a few thirty second spots, you get three days to strut your stuff. Make no mistake about – doing CES right is a multi-million affair. But the pay-off could be huge. In fact, it would not shock me if I learned that CES exceeded SuperBowl in the number of impressions delivered.

That’s awe inspiring. Never before has a trade show had that kind of reach and coverage. It seems cosmically fitting that new technology, e.g. social media, would elevate the very essence of CES itself.

Welcome to the year of living intelligently with technology.

Judy Shapiro

My top 10 New Year’s “un-resolutions” for 2010

We all know about our New Year’s resolutions. We make them with all good intentions to keep them. But we also know that what usually happens is that, inevitably, one by one our resolutions go by the way side. So I stopped making those New Year’s resolutions years ago because it seems to be a recipe for failure.

Instead, this year for a change, I have started to make “un-resolutions” – things I am determined NOT to do. Here’s my top 10 un-resolutions. Take care – this may become a new tradition.

1) I will not get seduced by any new digital marketing toy just because some industry pundit thinks it’s the coolest thing to hit the street. Nor will I believe every promise made by every new marketing technology company.

2) I will not abandon common sense in digital marketing and be blinded by digital agencies promises that their “new” campaigns will go viral and get the attention of millions of people. I will continue to listen to my gut and if it sounds to good to be true, I will let skepticism drive my decision.

3) I will not abandon newspaper, magazines, radio and other forms of traditional media if it is the right vehicle. No matter how sexy digital media may seem because of the perceived lower cost, I will continue to create integrated programs that weave together the best of both the traditional and digital worlds.

4) I will not give up my attachment to email marketing. Sorry folks – but email marketing, well done, drives real business results. If your email campaign did not work – either you had a bad list or an inadequate call-to-action or maybe your agency did not know what they were doing.

5)  I will not be fooled into thinking that the ad market is going to rebound in 2010. Nope. The ad market will continue to be buffeted by the tides of an evolving economic landscape and by consumers’ ever fickle attraction to new tech toys like mobile devices.  These trends will continue to dampen ad revenue for publishers for some time to come.

6) I will not get excited about cloud computing – at least not yet. I do see how it is going to dominate in the next 5 years – but there are real security problems to solve before everyone can get into the clouds. Conversely, I do get excited by all types of ASP offers as that is a steady business model that offers real value to consumers.

7) I will not blindly follow Google as they chow down every tech industry from telecom to digital publishing. Ever one loves to love Google. Me too. But that does not mean that I have to support every initiative as Google relentlessly marches toward digital dominance. In the process, they stifle competition and kill real innovation by companies who deserve to succeed. Now here’s my one New Year’s prediction (for 2012) – I predict that Google will have to break themselves up to avoid the growing recognition that Google is really a monopoly, albeit a new kind.

8 ) I will not diminish my slavish devotion to data driven marketing no matter what new platforms come out that can behaviorally target any audience any way I wish. I know I know – the BT folks can slice and dice an audience so many ways that it makes a marketer salivate. But unless I can see, touch and feel the data – I will pass for now.

9)  I will not start following every Tom, Dick and Jane to gain more Twitter followers. OK, so I only have about 175 folks following me but at least I know they read what I tweet. Quality – not quantity is what drives social media.

10) And my final un-resolution. I will not try appear to be “30 something” just because I love digital marketing. I know that the average age of people in digital marketing tends to be 27 – but my depth in this space has yielded real world, hard won recognition. And while I am at it, will not submit to peer pressure to use more “hair product” than one can find in a Duane Reade store so I can appear suitably young as a digital marketer. What you see (grey hair and all) is what you get :)

There you have it. My top 10 un-resolutions for 2010. If you have your list – feel free to share it here.

Judy Shapiro

A digital fairytale

Once upon a time, there was a king that owned lots and lots of content. Now this king, let’s just call him King M, controlled how the people got his content. They had to pay him a content tax or sit through commercials. Either way, the people all had to pay him and he was very very happy. And very very rich.

But then one day, the Internet threatened his kingdom because people could get content lots of ways and did not have to pay King M his due.

He was very very unhappy.

So to fight the evil Internet and it’s main warrier, Google, King M tried to make all his pages seem invisible to Google. King M hoped that the content would be safe behind his gated sites.

Alas, King M underestimated how determined people would be to get his content. And while this tactic may work for a bit – this strategy can not win the war. Content, like water, will ooze through the cracks on the Internet, and find its way out.

King M would do better to understand that content simply attracts – yes better content attracts better – but that’s all content can do in the digital world – attract audiences. No longer would people will be willing to pay for content – no matter how much King M raged.  The people will pay for interesting, new ways to engage with the content – like in rich community places or new ways to access the content. People will pay for new ways to consume the content.

But King M did not see the wisdom of this tactic. Unfortunately for the people living in King M’s kingdom, they will have to bear the brunt of King M foolish battle strategy. Hopefully, King M will learn his lesson before too much digital blood is shed.

One can only hope.

Judy Shapiro

http://twitter.com/judyshapiro

The centralized search model is over. Welcome to your personal search.

I was having dinner with a dear colleague one night after a long day. He was trying to explain how uTube will become the video search engine in the future and that fact was key to understanding a new way to optimize search in video. “Nothing will come close” he said.

Rather impolitely, I kept saying, actually insisting, “No – they won’t be”. He looked at me rather incredulously and not without good reason. He was well ensconced within bosom of the techno-glitteri and he moved in the high-glam world of high tech. He knew stuff about uTube that most people didn’t. I was not just challenging him; I was challenging most of the accepted wisdom of the techno Silicon Valley world; that in the internet game there will be a few search winners, Google and uTube. Game over. That belief was required for the rest of our conversation to continue.

Poor man. He could not get me to agree to that simple, well understood principle.  I could not buy into a monopolistic search belief system. I sense the centralized search model is ready to fall apart. I was not just being argumentative or combative, but I sensed a “new” trend that has been operative for 20 years was starting to asset itself and only few people seem to see it.

I call the trend, “the techno-edge effect” and the main principle is that new technologies migrate from the enterprise level to the consumer level, to the “edge”, at some point. Some simple examples to illustrate my point:

  • Corporate Audix systems (messaging systems) evolved to become consumer answering services and ultimately devices (1980s)
  • Desktop PCs became personal PCs (1990s)
  • VoIP for enterprise migrated to consumers via services like Vonage (2000s)
  • Centralized software development to crowd sourcing (2007)
  • Podcasting was a corporate activity, now anyone with a webcam can be a broadcaster (2008)
  • Centralized news service to citizen journalism (2008)
  • “Cloud” computing would have only been contemplated for business a mere few years ago – now the model of the new Netbooks is that your data is “in the clouds” (2010…)

(Enough yet? If not email me, I can send you about 2 dozen more J)

The point is that the march to the technology edge is unrelenting and undeniable. The only question is how fast a particular technology will move to the edge. One could argue that Twitter became so successful so fast because it encouraged a high level of customization and personalization – it moved out to the edge really really fast.

Very interesting, but what pray tell, does this have to do with the entrenched and well accepted belief that search will be dominated by a few centralized companies?

Everything! Because I believe technology has reached the point where we will be able to create a totally personal web not through some centralized company, but through the transformative ingredient of trust. Now that people are creating trust for themselves (via communities, blogs etc) the power is shifting relentlessly from centralized search providers, (like a Google or uTube) to distributed power of the Trusted Web.

The model of the Trusted Web and decentralized search

Instead of semantic search or intelligent search agents from big companies driving the web’s evolution, I contend that each person’s ability to drive trust into every web action will be the animating force that moves us from centralized search paradigms to a new, decentralized one. In the new model, we will be able to search better because our trusted communities are doing search for us. We can better trust sites, because people we know had good experiences and we will learn about new things on the internet with services like Twine or HopSurf that gives us ideas based on people who are similar to me.

In the future, we will rely on the power of our networks to inject trust into our search – we won’t go to Google first. If some specific event requires that I get search help from a diverse set of backgrounds, I can create a virtual, new trusted group from all my networks. We will still search internet, but we will start with our trusted network first moving out only as the need requires.

This new proactive model of creating trust is not some future, far off concept. It is happening here and now. We now use trust based content rating systems to determine what content is more trustworthy. Reputation systems allow us to better trust verified SMEs (subject matter experts) versus just any reviewer. The explosive growth of communities demonstrates how people are proactively creating trust through shared interests. Twitter, Comodo HopSurf and Twine are interesting in this decentralized model because they provide an individualized community-based “trusted information filter” to help sort through the deluge of relevant data. Forums are yet another mechanism for people to create individualized trust by letting users share experiences.

All this adds up to the inescapable trend that the techno-edge effect for the Internet is that trust will be dismantling the centralized search monolithic model we have today. We are now moving to this new trust decentralized model. A model I call the Trusted Web.

Watch this space.

Judy Shapiro

http://twitter.com/judyshapiro

Brilliance without wisdom is like fire without a hearth.

                                  

It was inevitable.  

Today I read that Twitter is vulnerable to a cross scripting attack. Forgetting the technical jargon for a moment, it is continued evidence of the overall state of social marketing … it is brilliance without wisdom.  

The innovation and brilliance of newer companies like Twitter is that they allow us to connect in diverse and wonderful ways, which underlies the truth that these are brilliant companies. Yet, their relative business “youth” suggests that wisdom is yet to come.  

They are creating huge networks of interconnected people who will become the key filter for how we see our online world. Yet, even as their influence grows, there is no ability to create an environment of trust. There is no ability to authenticate the person you are looking for or who has found you. There is no ability to efficiently harness the brilliance of your social networks to provide you with trustworthy information. Worse, the new social openness that these social networks enable can either be like a fire that can warm since it connects us so easily or, it can burn as in the case of identity theft, if not properly managed or contained.  

This is a tough balancing act to pull off (remaining open and connected yet secure) but I believe the introduction of trust into the web (via an authentication layer) will create the wisdom that lets the brilliance of social networks to fully emerge and warm the digital planet. 

That is what the next generation web should be about. Not just intelligent agents (courtesy of Google) or intelligent computers that understand context or some other “hot” technology that can burn if not well applied. But the next generation web should be about how to apply human wisdom (in the form trust) into the online world.  

We should not call this next generation web, Web 3.0 (after all – that refers to a software release). We should call this next generation web, The Trusted Web. 

Human wisdom — well applied in the digital world.    

Judy Shapiro

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