Contemplative Silence

September is a time that evokes contemplation.

It is a time of new beginnings; kids start school, college or their first jobs. September is the beginning of the critical 4th qtr business cycle. And in September the Jewish New Year process (all 8 weeks of it starting with Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippor 10 days later to the final capstone of the New Year’s process with the 8-day holiday Sukkoth) occupies a fair amount of one’s waking time.

All this change and transition drives contemplation. Hence my silence for the last few weeks. But with contemplation comes inspiration and new potential to drive progress.

So what have I been thinking about?

I have been thinking about connections and how people connect in today’s super-hyped connected, digitized, info  Judy Consumersaturated world. I have been thinking about how Judy Consumer within a mere few years has had to absorb an astonishing amount “new” connection possibilities … from friends finding her (many of whom she would have rather not found her), to strangers claiming to be her friends to insta-info with Twitter and so on.

How does she think about all this connectivity? Who does she trust to start a connection with? Which connections are helpful or dangerous? When should Judy Consumer be visible to the open, social world and when should she guard her privacy?

It seems that communications innovation engine is coming at Judy Consumer at an accelerated rate – kinda like a mini version of Kurzweil’s “knee of the curve” principle outlined in the book, The Singularity is Near. In communications technology, we ain’t seen nothing yet. The new, mobile applications or the new expanding lifecasting capability from the social networking folks open a whole new horizon of connection capability for Judy Consumer.

New beginnings – you bet. But “fasten your seat belts – it’s going to be a bumpy ride”…

Judy Shapiro

www.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

Enough already! We’ve been here before.

I can’t believe the media frenzy around how, according to “everyone”, Twitter virtually single handed heralded a new era of citizen journalism. This little 140 character wonder is able to leap tall political buildings in a single bound …

From all the reporting you would think never before in the history of man has broadcasting ever had a more profound impact on the political landscape.

How ridiculous.

One only needs to look back over the years – these “media game changer” moments happened again and again. From the impact TV coverage of Vietnam war had on the American psyche to the availability of bandwidth for public access to the ability of anyone to broadcast via the internet – whether it be Twitter or any number of other video based chat rooms.

These all share one fundamental trait – they allow the one:many broadcast model. Technology just made this capability available to almost everyone … whether a news station or a civilian broadcasts a riot on his cell phone.

The opening up of a broadcast platform to so many more people is not without significant issues. It is not hard to fathom how, a particularly clever influencer, could recruit an army of citizen journalists to broadcast a particular version of a story. The lack of credentials and accountability is a startling development that should not be ignored.  

It’s one thing for anyone and everyone to become a mini broadcast network – the question then becomes which broadcaster can we trust.

Unfortunately, now you’re on your own, my friend.

Judy Shapiro

“It’s good to be open minded, just don’t let your brains fall out.”

I was reminded of this line, credited to my Grandmother Margit, when I spent a very interesting day last week at the Web 3.0 conference. So many smart people talking about how smart the Web will become.  I was overwhelmed at how little I really know about semantic technologies and data architectures.

But despite my infantile level understanding of these emerging technologies, I was struck by the seeming gap in all the talk. Nowhere could I find anyone talking much about how to make the next web more human by being more trusted.  Trust is the glue that holds society together in the real world and it should be the same in the web world too. But in the conference, you would be hard pressed to hear more than a passing homage to the idea of trust vis-à-vis the next gen web.

My Grandmother’s expression popped into my head probably because staying open about technology is easy for me. What’s harder is staying wary enough to maintain perspective to challenge the technology if/ when it veers off course or worse does not serve humanity. In the case of Web 3.0, I am trying hard to maintain perspective and not be seduced by all the glitz of the technology because our human need for things like trust could get sacrificed on the altar of technology if we are not careful.

Whew! Talk about being a drama queen. But it’s true. I see lots of great technology revolving around the evolving web without a lot of humanity factored in yet. There’s a lot at stake for all of us.

“And what”, you must be wondering at this point, “has this got to do with your Grandmother?” Simple. When I start to contemplate heady stuff like that, my Grandmother’s image usually makes her way into my mind because she was always able to inspire greatness in others. Therefore, permit me a brief digression so that  I can tell you a bit about her which will help you appreciate the power of her words.

My Grandmother was not typical in any way fathomable. She was a Chassidic Rebbetzin (rabbi’s wife), but if any of you think you have an idea of what an ultra-orthodox, rabbi’s wife might be like – I suggest you suspend those conceptions right now. She would blow them away.

For a starter, she was, without a doubt one of the most open minded people I ever knew. She was also, without a doubt, the spiritual leader of the community.  Her husband (the Rabbi) was the final authority in Jewish legal matters, but in every other way, my paternal Grandmother, Margit, was the pillar upon which the community rested. And we all knew it.

Second, one would think she be fairly limited in scope as to who she would interact with. On the contrary. She was the confidante of business leaders, heads of hospitals, politicians, entertainment personalities, religious leaders of all faiths.  She stayed open to all lifestyle and ideas.

Third, she was truly blind to a person’s background in every sense of the word. Everyone was equal in her eyes and the one who needed her help the most was the one that got her attention … every time.

Fourth, through sheer force of personality was able to save all eight of her children and herself while in the Bergen Belsen death camp. Her youngest child, my uncle, was only 3 years in the death camp and is only one of ten babies known to survive the camps.

It is hard to put a finger on her power, but it rested in the simplicity of her world view which rested on trust. She trusted in people. She trusted her God. She trusted her instincts. She understood that people come before religious dogma. She saw the best in you even when you had just done your worst. But mostly she understood that the weakness of the human heart can be strengthened through trust.

The power of this woman shaped many generations after her, myself included. From her I learned to give everyone the benefit of doubt. From her I learned how to refine my ability to grasp the essence of someone quickly and correctly. From her, I began to understand how precious life really is when she told a sad, bitter man who barely survived the war why she did not hate the world, it was because; “Mer hut niche kan berara” – Yiddish for “there is no choice”. She could not fathom a life filled with hate – it was simply not an option for her so she chose to have no choice in this matter. That is an act of will few are capable of. These were the lessons I learned from Margit.

So I am inspired by her to dedicate this effort to rename the next gen web, a.k.a. Web 3.0 etc to the Trust Web in dedication to hearts world over that understand the power to transform rests with the power to trust. The next gen Web can transform us in ways are truly paradigm-shifting and we must stay open to those possibilities.

Judy Shapiro

 

Multiple Digital Personality Syndrome (MDPS)

                                           

I can hear some techno-therapist reassuring his reclining client that Multiple Digital Personality Syndrome (MDPS), while serious if not properly managed, is a perfectly normal response to our unending ability to become anyone we want – whenever we want — in cyber space.

 

This new techno-malady started innocently enough about 5 years ago when we all needed to create zillion of different accounts with different emails and passwords for the sites we wanted to enter. To organize this potentially chaotic situation, we evolved different personas.

 

I, for one, have my generic email, my personal email, my work email, my linkedin and so forth. This seemingly innocent fracturing of our digital personality driven by a short term need has mutated into this new syndrome, MDPS, so that now, many of us have complex multiple personalities reflected in well designed profile pages on multiple social networking sites.

 

Now while many would look at this MDPS as a slightly amusing by-product of Twitter, LinkedIn, FaceBook, MySpace et al, I see danger lurking in these multiple profiles.

 

If I want good advice about a computer problem from someone I met online, it would be useful to know if this person has credentials to warrant my trust. If I enter a chat room to discuss a topic that I am passionate about, I want to chat with real people – not bots.

 

I wonder how will we learn to balance the need for accountability with the right we have to reveal only as much about ourselves as we choose. I see that this issue will play itself out over and over again in the next few years as social networks dominate how we search, how we shop, how we even meet other people.

 

Perhaps, we must create a new type of balance that starts with the human element. We must start by introducing mutual trust and authentication into the digital ID environment. Much as we have it in the real world where, dependent on the circumstance, different types of identification are used to gain different levels of access. We must translate that model into the digital world too.

 

The technologies are here … now. Web 3.0 needs to become The Trusted Web; otherwise the web will soon feel like what today many experience in inferior, bot filled chat rooms – a pseudo experience meant to emulate real interaction between real people.   

 

Let’s keep it real people. Let’s create the Trusted Web.

 

Judy Shapiro

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