Blackberry – my technology line in the sand

I feel like Don Quixote from Man of La Mancha – tilting at windmills.  And I know, that sooner or later, the windmill will win (for those of you who never read the play – hint – it does not end so well for Don.)

But for now, I have drawn this technology line in the sand and have not procured the requisite Blackberry. My reasons for resisting this technology are numerous despite the clear and compelling benefits:

  • I am not that important that I need to be reached within 20 seconds. As it is, I check email with a frequency that is akin to an addiction anyway. If there is a real emergency, then my ever ready cell phone is my safety net.
  • It seems that a Blackberry seems to give permission for people to be rude, as in, “I am so important that instead of listening to you in this meeting, I will check to my Blackberry to see if someone more important than you have contacted me”.  I dunno – it seems the self grandiose nature of this is rather irksome.
  • You can not give good direction to a team using a Blackberry. The best you can use a Blackberry for is a; “yes”, “no”, “I don’t know” or I will get back to you later” type of answers – nothing more. It makes me crazy when I see junior managers trying to tap out a cohesive and meaningful set of directions using Blackberry. Please, please stop it. It does not work, but I see the seduction of it. With our trusted Blackberry you can answer quickly and you can mark that item off your “to do” list. It may be efficient for you – but I can guarantee you that your team probably has no idea what you wanted.
  • Finally, as it is, too much of my day is spent fielding people trying to reach me. I resist being that in contact with everyone for so much of my day. ‘Nuf said.

So there you have it. My list of why I won’t get a Blackberry. I say this with some irony, since some of the reasons I gave above were not dissimilar to the reasons I may have given about 10 years ago when I resisted getting a cell phone. Obviously, that line in the sand was crossed within months and I suspect this one will be too.

While I don’t know how long this line in the sand will hold (and I am unfortunately not optimistic), I intend to hold the line as valiantly as Don Quixote. A quote in the play comes to mind and seems pertinent; “When life itself seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies? Too much sanity may be madness! But maddest of all – -to see life as it is and not as it should be.” I know Blackberry makes total sense … but I choose “madness”. At least for now.

Judy Shapiro

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

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