The Future: Findability

We only noticed three months later, but we passed something of a milestone last December. I’m hoping it might, finally, wake us up to the real power of the Web: findability.

According to Ericsson, a mobile network company, in December we exchanged more data over our mobile devices than we talked on them. In short, we now do more email, social networking, all that stuff, on our mobile phones and mobile-connected laptops than we do voice.

Quite a turning point.

But a turning point of what, exactly?

Well, the conventional wisdom is that we will use our cellphone (or a netbook with a cellphone connection) to do all the things we used to do, or still do, on our desktop tethered laptop or PC. According to a report by Sandvine, another network company, released this month, one in five of us mobile data subscribers are using Facebook and video sharing website YouTube accounts for at least a 10th of all traffic.

But the conclusions they draw from this are wrong.

The thinking is that we’re somehow interested only in doing things that we did at our desk, even when we’re in the open air. Or on the couch.

Well, OK, but it betrays a lack of imagination of what we’ll do when we’re really untethered.

When we have access to everything the Internet has to offer–and when the Internet has access to us. Then we’ll have findability. By that we mean we can find the answer to pretty much every question we ask, from where’s the nearest 24-hour pizza place to what’s the capital of Slovakia. Or who was in that movie with John Cusack about a hit man returning to his high school prom?

We know that we know all this, even if we don’t know it. Because we have all this at our fingertips, because we have the Internet. No longer do we care about hoarding information because we know the Internet’s hoarding it for us, and Google or someone, is there to help us find it in a microsecond.

That’s one bit of findability. But there’s another bit. Connect all this to other bits of information about ourselves, drawn from sensors and other chips inside the device: where we are, what time of day it is, what that building in front of us is, who we’re with, what language they’re speaking, our body temperature, whether we’re moving or stationary, whether we’re upright, sitting or laying flat, whether our eyes are closed, whether we used voice, touch, eyes, keys or gestures to pose whatever question was on our mind.

All that adds extra layers of information to findability, by giving context to our search for information. Only our imagination can tell us how all these bits and pieces of data can be useful to us, but if you’ve used a map on your smartphone you’ll already get a glimpse of its potential.

Last December, we passed into this new era. The era when the potential of the Internet to move beyond the desk and lap, and start to mesh with our lives so that it is all around us. Where we, where everything,  can be found.

How Reliable Is Google Maps?

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Was looking for a Singapore hotel this morning on Google Maps, which would seem to be a good place to start, and was perturbed to find it flagged in five different places, most of them several streets apart (above). These are all links from companies advertising rooms. So you’d think they would try to get it right. (Amusingly, the sponsored link at the top is for a hotel of the same name in Vancouver, which is slightly further down the road and across several oceans):

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So, some ways to go, I suspect, before the era of ubiquitous searchability and and mobile findability, or whatever it’s called.

India Embraces Blogger Reporters

The Indian government, The Times of India reports, is planning to open doors to blogger reporters:

India is in the process of framing rules for granting accreditation to Internet journalists and bloggers for the first time, taking a reality check on an evolving world of net writers who could shape opinion and who have already been granted access to official corridors in countries such as the US.

“We are framing the rules for giving accreditation to dotcom journalists, including bloggers,” Principle Information Officer Shakuntala Mahawal said.

Good news, and is it worthwhile for other blogger reporters to try to get together to offer guidance to governments and would-be blogger reporters about how to convince officials on this kind of thing? Getting a journalistic visa is a nightmare in a lot of places, requiring extensive documentation and sponsorship. How can bloggers fit into all this?

Another Mind Mapper

Here’s another addition to the directory of mind mapping software I’ve been building: Mind Pad, launched today by AKS Labs. I haven’t played very much with it, but while it starts out as a straightforward mind-mapping program, it offers more:

Creating and linking text blocks is easy with Mind Pad. But it can do more. Mind Pad allows you to organize in mind map objects with any properties set. With Mind Pad scripting you can create your own rules for data management and representation.

Mind Pad suggests a new approach to mind mapping. Now, mind map is not just a lot of linked text blocks. Mind Pad allows to create your own frame objects with unique properties that are most suitable for your business. You can organize those objects into some hierarchy or map.

For instance, with Mind Pad Model Editor you can easily create an object called “Contact Person” and assign to it some really useful properties, such as Person name, Company name, Next time to contact date. Then you can create a mind map using “Contact Person” frame object and link new objects with each other showing the relation between your contacts.

Check it out. There’s a trial version, a full copy costs $60.