Software That Plays Tag

This week’s WSJ.com column (subscription only, I’m afraid) is about Jiglu, a sort of automatic tagging service you can see in action somewhere on this blog:

If you’re a writer, you hope your words will be etched in stone for eternity. If you’re a blogger, you’re happy if someone stumbles on your writings a few days after you posted them. Blogs, partly because they often consist mainly of commentary on things that have just happened, and partly because of the way they are structured (most recent postings first, making it easy to ignore everything you wrote before), are a transient medium. Rarely is a blog post treated as permanent. We write, then we forget.

The problem, I conclude, is that amidst all the writing, and despite the power of tagging

Blog posts, left to themselves, tend to have a short shelf life.

Briton Nigel Cannings thinks he has the solution to this: automatic tagging. He sees value in all those old blog posts of mine (he may be the only one) and reckons all that old content out there is a repository of wisdom that just needs to be sorted out better. Tagging it ourselves, he thinks, just isn’t enough because we don’t always see what we’ve written in a broader context. “Manual tagging is the first step” to sorting and storing blogs and other online content better, he says, “but it still relies upon people understanding themselves, whatever they’ve already written about, and how their content fits in with other people’s content.”

More at Loose Wire – WSJ.com.

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At Last, a Zoomable World

sd6

It’s sometimes hard to get my friends excited about the technology I’m interested in, and that’s often down to the fact that a) the exciting stuff is often a big shift in what that technology can do and b) I’m not good at explaining these things to people, especially in wine bars, for some reason.

Last night, for example, I was trying to get someone excited about the Nokia N95. It’s a good phone, but the thing that most gets me excited is the ability to take good photos (5 megapixel camera) and then immediately upload them to Flickr (or anywhere else) via ShoZu, with a GPS tag attached. I just love that idea because it pulls all these technologies together (camera, phone, GPS, 3.5G connection) and makes something of them:

  • it’s seamless. I don’t need to do anything except say yes when a message pops up answering if the photo I just took should be uploaded
  • it’s instantaneous. As soon as the photo is uploaded it’s visible on Flickr. Anyone who wants to can see what I just saw.
  • it’s physical. Now my photo can be seen in geographical context, or seen on Google Earth, or whatever.

But this is just the start. We’re getting closer to a zoomable world, as imagined by the likes of the late Jef Raskin. Images will become the way we transfer, navigate and access all sorts of data: it’s often easier to navigate through thumbnails than it is through filenames. Think Google Earth using 3Dconnexion’s SpaceNavigator but applied to information. The closest I think we have at the moment is TopicScape. For a sign of what this might look like, check out Microsoft’s photo-based acquisition, SeaDragon, which will make viewing everything, from maps to newspapers, something that we can do on more or less any device. (See Long Zheng’s blog post for a demo at TED, and tools like Widsets for pushing the boundaries of what can be viewed on a small screen.)

The other big change coming that appears in the demo above is that this data will become more meaningful as it’s incorporated into bigger arrangements of data. Instead of us just uploading and tagging/geotagging photos, those photos will help make up 3D maps of the world– check out the BBC/Photosynth gallery in Long’s excellent post on this. Imagine that tied to Google Earth-type environments, and then imagine it time-tagged as well as geo-tagged, and you can see the possibilities. Suddenly every photo we take will fit somewhere into a greater mosaic:

ps1

This is why I think people should buy phones like the N95, because I think these tools — camera, phone, fast connection, GPS, editing features — are going to make ordinary folk much more excited about the content-creating revolution that started with blogs.  

Some Tools for the Productive

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m a big fan of tools that help sort through your stuff, or at least help you keep it orderly. TiddlyWiki is one of them, but it’s often just sat on the wrong side of the line in terms of easily getting stuff into it while you’re doing something else. You know the situation: You’re browsing, you like the look of something and you want to put it somewhere you can find it again, but you don’t really want to start moving around into other programs. TiddlySnip, in this case, might provide the answer:

TiddlySnip is a Firefox extension that lets you use your TiddlyWiki as a scrapbook! Simply select text, right click and choose ‘TiddlySnip selection’. Next time you open your TiddlyWiki file, your snippets will be there, already tagged and organised.

It works well. On the same subject, I’ve heard from the PR folks involved with EverNote, the scrolling toilet roll of stuff that works not unlike TiddlyWiki, but now, in its 2.0 beta,

allows users to search for text within images—the first time such a product is available to the public.

What this means, apparently, is that you can search images for embedded typed or handwritten text. There’s also a portable version of EverNote that you can put on your USB thumbdrive. Both versions might be worth checking out.

What Probably Won’t Happen in 2007

The BBC has asked me to make some predictions about the coming year, something I’m always loath to do because I seem to get it wrong. Anyway, here are my notes. They’re based in part on my own bath-time musings, and partly inspired by the thoughts of others (tried to credit them where relevant.)

1999 just took longer than we thought, that’s all

Web 2.0 is not just about AJAX, mashups, blogs and all that. It’s about building a platform. That’s now been done. All we need to do now is let people use it. That is already happening, but it will REALLY happen in 2007:

Delivery will get better

RSS will stop being something we have to keep explaining to people, because they’ll be using it. It will be seamless — a way for anyone to join something, whether it’s a newsletter, a service, a MySpace group. It will stop being known as Rich Site Syndication or Really Simple Syndication and be Really Simple, Stupid.

Content will get better

The real improvement in computers will be the rise of the dual- and four-core processor, i.e. one that uses more than one chip. Think of it as the computer having more than one brain. This will speed up, and make easier, the editing of video and other multimedia content. Our computer, in a word, will no longer be an expensive typewriter. With faster connection speeds, too, video will be the thing that really makes the Internet compelling to people who were previously uninterested. What we watch on YouTube will get better. Individuals will have their 15 megabytes of fame. But this will couple with a rise of content generated specifically for the Internet, further blurring the lines between TV and computer viewing. Silicon Valley is no longer a tech center, but a media one.

The demise of big software

The rise of online applications will in turn blur the distinction between what is going on in your computer and what is going on at the other end of the line — the server. Vista will seem more like a farewell than a big hello, as big software from big companies locking in users to specific ways of doing things will give way to open source alternatives like Ubuntu. Microsoft will fight this tooth and nail, but I’m sure they already know it.

The mainstreaming of social media

 Web 2.0 is really all about breaking down barriers by making it easier to do stuff, and to mix it up with other people doing stuff. In a way what the Internet has always been about. Expect the influence of blogs to further pervade those last few citadels that have been resisting it, breaking down walls within organizations — internal blogs that flatten hierarchies and build up feedback mechanisms for employees to talk back to their bosses. Think government departments. Think universities, schools and anywhere else where hierarchies exist. This won’t be a one way street: anonymous bloggers in places like Microsoft and China may find themselves outed and lynched.

The rise of the maven

As the Web gets bigger, Google will need to reinvent itself to keep up. Web 2.0 offers some great ways to find stuff through other means, leveraging the knowledge of others who have gone before. We will acknowledge the contribution, and marketers will acknowledge the power, of the maven: the person who seems to somehow know stuff, and is ready to share it. Tagging, blogging, and other social tools will be recognized as extremely powerful ways to do this.

The demise of the big computer

The cellphone will get better at what it does, and we’ll grow to trust it more. We’ll stop calling it a cellphone and just call it a wearable device, or something snazzier I can’t think of right now. One day we’ll think it quaint that we had to sit in one place to do stuff, or near an outlet, or within range of a WiFi signal. Cellphones don’t have those limitations and this will start to hit home in 2007:

Teenagers will show us the way. Again

They’re already sharing everything via Bluetooth, creating networks on the fly (that, incidentally, fly under the radars of commercial networks and marketers). They share videos, ringtones, songs, games, either by exchanging content or playing against each other.

Space-shifting

The cellphone has already redefined what space is, and that will continue. Sexual liaisons involving public figures will be recorded by one party as insurance against future hard times. Cellphone television will become more popular, not just because it’s mobile but because it’s personal, a time to be alone under the sheets, on a bus, waiting for a friend, stuck in traffic. Maybe not this year, but soon they’ll be pluggable into the hotel TV. This is tied into the idea of personal space being something you control, either through presence, or through intermediary services where you only ever hand out personal details of your virtual self.

The End of the iPod

The iPod will decline in importance as the music-phone takes center stage. I didn’t think this would happen because cellphone manufacturers mess up the software on the phone, but they’re getting better at it. Even Nokia. So expect most people, starting with teenagers who don’t want more than one gadget and probably can’t afford them, to switch to one device. This will again throw open the mobile music/MP3/DRM debate, and iTunes will start to look a bit wobbly until Apple gets something sorted out so non-iPod users can download from the site easily and cheaply.

The downsides

It’s not all fun and games. Bad things are going to continue to happen, and there’s not much we can do about them. It’s partly just the normal process of utopians being pushed aside by realists, but it’s also about an ongoing debate about how to, or whether to, police a space that seems largely unpoliceable.

A dual identity crisis

Mainstream media’s identity crisis will be compounded by an identity crisis among bloggers. The rise of pay-me blogging, where bloggers get paid for writing about specific companies or products, will lead to some scandals and make people explore more deeply the ethics of blogging, and how they’re not that much different to the ethics developed by journalists over several hundred years. This won’t however, lead to the demise of blogging, but the rise of a sort of online press corps, with its own associations and rules, both written and unwritten. Many bloggers will end up being journalists, and the best journalists will move effortlessly and happily through the blogosphere. Many already do.

Keep up, grandma

Things are moving so fast the slow will look like they’re running backwards. If 2004-6 were anything to go by, 2007 will move quite quickly. Some folk I spoke to said that not much has popped up this year that’s exciting, and that’s true, in a boiling frog type way. It’s the earth shifting that is changing, and we need to change with it. Young people just get it, but us digital immigrants need to not just learn the lingo but keep up with the fast-changing slang. Oh, and MySpace won’t be the place to hang out in 2007; it’ll begin to look like a sad school hall dance arranged by the teachers.

The Rise of the Snoop

We tend to make a distinction between these things, but they’re actually all part of the same thing. Spam is getting worse, and it’s not just an invasion of privacy but an invasion of our productivity (91% of email is spam.) Music and video files will also rise as vectors of trojans, malware and other PUPs. GPS devices married to phones will enable people to track their employees, spouses or offspring, and further empower stalkers. Cellphone monitoring devices like FlexiSpy will get better at distributing themselves, and will be powerful not just in the hands of eavesdropping acquaintances but identity thieves. The rise of virtual worlds will also lead to the rise of virtual identities and virtual identity theft, along the lines of CopyBot. Expect to see cellphone eavesdropping and data theft from cellphones to surge. And we’ll start to realize that Google isn’t as cuddly as it looks; it’s a snoop, too.

What Probably Won’t Happen in 2007

The BBC has asked me to make some predictions about the coming year, something I’m always loath to do because I seem to get it wrong. Anyway, here are my notes. They’re based in part on my own bath-time musings, and partly inspired by the thoughts of others.

1999 just took longer than we thought, that’s all

Web 2.0 is not just about AJAX, mashups, blogs and all that. It’s about building a platform. That’s now been done. All we need to do now is let people use it. That is already happening, but it will REALLY happen in 2007:

Delivery will get better

RSS will stop being something we have to keep explaining to people, because they’ll be using it. It will be seamless — a way for anyone to join something, whether it’s a newsletter, a service, a MySpace group. It will stop being known as Rich Site Syndication or Really Simple Syndication and be Really Simple, Stupid.

Content will get better

The real improvement in computers will be the rise of the dual- and four-core processor, i.e. one that uses more than one chip. Think of it as the computer having more than one brain. This will speed up, and make easier, the editing of video and other multimedia content. Our computer, in a word, will no longer be an expensive typewriter. With faster connection speeds, too, video will be the thing that really makes the Internet compelling to people who were previously uninterested. What we watch on YouTube will get better. Individuals will have their 15 megabytes of fame. But this will couple with a rise of content generated specifically for the Internet, further blurring the lines between TV and computer viewing. Silicon Valley is no longer a tech center, but a media one, as Andreas of the Economist told the .

The demise of big software

The rise of online applications will in turn blur the distinction between what is going on in your computer and what is going on at the other end of the line — the server. Vista will seem more like a farewell than a big hello, as big software from big companies locking in users to specific ways of doing things will give way to open source alternatives like Ubuntu. Microsoft will fight this tooth and nail, but I’m sure they already know it.

The mainstreaming of social media

 Web 2.0 is really all about breaking down barriers by making it easier to do stuff, and to mix it up with other people doing stuff. In a way what the Internet has always been about. Expect the influence of blogs to further pervade those last few citadels that have been resisting it, breaking down walls within organizations — internal blogs that flatten hierarchies and build up feedback mechanisms for employees to talk back to their bosses. Think government departments. Think universities, schools and anywhere else where hierarchies exist. This won’t be a one way street: anonymous bloggers in places like Microsoft and China may find themselves outed and lynched.

The rise of the maven

As the Web gets bigger, Google will need to reinvent itself to keep up. Web 2.0 offers some great ways to find stuff through other means, leveraging the knowledge of others who have gone before. We will acknowledge the contribution, and marketers will acknowledge the power, of the maven: the person who seems to somehow know stuff, and is ready to share it. Tagging, blogging, and other social tools will be recognized as extremely powerful ways to do this.

The demise of the big computer

The cellphone will get better at what it does, and we’ll grow to trust it more. We’ll stop calling it a cellphone and just call it a wearable device, or something snazzier I can’t think of right now. One day we’ll think it quaint that we had to sit in one place to do stuff, or near an outlet, or within range of a WiFi signal. Cellphones don’t have those limitations and this will start to hit home in 2007:

Teenagers will show us the way. Again

They’re already sharing everything via Bluetooth, creating networks on the fly (that, incidentally, fly under the radars of commercial networks and marketers). They share videos, ringtones, songs, games, either by exchanging content or playing against each other.

Space-shifting

The cellphone has already redefined what space is, and that will continue. Sexual liaisons involving public figures will be recorded by one party as insurance against future hard times. Cellphone television will become more popular, not just because it’s mobile but because it’s personal, a time to be alone under the sheets, on a bus, waiting for a friend, stuck in traffic. Maybe not this year, but soon they’ll be pluggable into the hotel TV. This is tied into the idea of personal space being something you control, either through presence, or through intermediary services where you only ever hand out personal details of your virtual self.

The End of the iPod

The iPod will decline in importance as the music-phone takes center stage. I didn’t think this would happen because cellphone manufacturers mess up the software on the phone, but they’re getting better at it. Even Nokia. So expect most people, starting with teenagers who don’t want more than one gadget and probably can’t afford them, to switch to one device. This will again throw open the mobile music/MP3/DRM debate, and iTunes will start to look a bit wobbly until Apple gets something sorted out so non-iPod users can download from the site easily and cheaply.

The downsides

It’s not all fun and games. Bad things are going to continue to happen, and there’s not much we can do about them. It’s partly just the normal process of utopians being pushed aside by realists, but it’s also about an ongoing debate about how to, or whether to, police a space that seems largely unpoliceable.

A dual identity crisis

Mainstream media’s identity crisis will be compounded by an identity crisis among bloggers. The rise of pay-me blogging, where bloggers get paid for writing about specific companies or products, will lead to some scandals and make people explore more deeply the ethics of blogging, and how they’re not that much different to the ethics developed by journalists over several hundred years. This won’t however, lead to the demise of blogging, but the rise of a sort of online press corps, with its own associations and rules, both written and unwritten. Many bloggers will end up being journalists, and the best journalists will move effortlessly and happily through the blogosphere. Many already do.

Keep up, grandma

Things are moving so fast the slow will look like they’re running backwards. If 2004-6 were anything to go by, 2007 will move quite quickly. Some folk I spoke to said that not much has popped up this year that’s exciting, and that’s true, in a boiling frog type way. It’s the earth shifting that is changing, and we need to change with it. Young people just get it, but us digital immigrants need to not just learn the lingo but keep up with the fast-changing slang. Oh, and MySpace won’t be the place to hang out in 2007; it’ll begin to look like a sad school hall dance arranged by the teachers.

The Rise of the Snoop

We tend to make a distinction between these things, but they’re actually all part of the same thing. Spam is getting worse, and it’s not just an invasion of privacy but an invasion of our productivity (91% of email is spam.) Music and video files will also rise as vectors of trojans, malware and other PUPs. GPS devices married to phones will enable people to track their employees, spouses or offspring, and further empower stalkers. Cellphone monitoring devices like FlexiSpy will get better at distributing themselves, and will be powerful not just in the hands of eavesdropping acquaintances but identity thieves. The rise of virtual worlds will also lead to the rise of virtual identities and virtual identity theft, along the lines of CopyBot. Expect to see cellphone eavesdropping and data theft from cellphones to surge. And we’ll start to realize that Google isn’t as cuddly as it looks; it’s a snoop, too.

Getting on the Social Trail

More reports of social annotation tools — services that allow you to not just bookmark sites but share those bookmarks, and other bits and pieces with them. This one from the highly readable Read/Write Web, just down the road from me in NZ:

There are a plethora of bookmarking sites out there and only a few of them have become very successful – del.icio.us and Stumbleupon are two that spring to mind. Trailfire is a bit different from your average bookmarking site, because they don’t just allow you to share bookmarks – they make it easy for you to share ‘trails’, which are “annotated navigation paths”.

I haven’t had a chance to try out trailfire, and I’m not quite sure how well it works, mainly because it won’t load (it’s been telling me to stand by for nearly 15 minutes now, which is as Bob Geldof would say, a quarter of an hour too long. It has, however, been added to my directory of such tools, which is looking quite big now.

What Goes Around…

I’m belatedly playing with Microsoft’s new Windows Live Writer. I like it, but then I’ve always been a fan of blog writing tools. Here’s a list of them I started keeping, although I’m pretty sure it’s out of date by now.

But does it not strike you as somewhat strange that we’ve gotten to this point? I mean, those blog writing tools were available nearly three years ago, doing pretty much what Windows Live Writer does now — WYSIWYG authoring, HTML source code editing, Web preview mode, adding photos, compatibility with different blog services, some weird formatting and error messages, etc etc. In fact the only thing it’s got the others don’t have, map publishing, doesn’t yet work. Oh, it’s free. But otherwise Dmitry Chestnykh of BlogJet seems to have a point when he claims Microsoft has ripped off his software.

So is this where Web 2.0 has taken us? All the way back to a small software tool that lets us write our blog postings offline so we can upload them later?

What Goes Around…

I’m belatedly playing with Microsoft’s new Windows Live Writer. I like it, but then I’ve always been a fan of blog writing tools. Here’s a list of them I started keeping, although I’m pretty sure it’s out of date by now.

But does it not strike you as somewhat strange that we’ve gotten to this point? I mean, those blog writing tools were available nearly three years ago, doing pretty much what Windows Live Writer does now — WYSIWYG authoring, HTML source code editing, Web preview mode, adding photos, compatibility with different blog services, some weird formatting and error messages, etc etc. In fact the only thing it’s got the others don’t have, map publishing, doesn’t yet work. Oh, it’s free. But otherwise Dmitry Chestnykh of BlogJet seems to have a point when he says Microsoft has ripped off his software.

So is this where Web 2.0 has taken us? All the way back to a small software tool that lets us write our blog postings offline so we can upload them later?