John Markoff’s recent article in NY Times has generated an interesting discussion about Web 3.0 being the long-promised Semantic Web. For instance, a short post on Fred Wilson’s blog had a lot of lengthy comments attempting to define Web 1.0, Web 2.0 and Web 3.0. Some people think that the Semantic Web is about AI, some claim that it is more about semantics, while others say that it is about data annotation. All agree however, that we will all be wonderfully more productive and simply happier when it arrives. Lets take a look at the ingredients, definitions and approaches to the Semantic Web so that we can recognize it when it is finally here.
What is the Semantic Web?
The Wikipedia defines the Semantic Web as a project that intends to create a universal medium for information exchange by putting documents with computer-processable meaning (semantics) on the World Wide Web. The core idea is to create the meta data describing the data, which will enable computers to process the meaning of things. Once computers are equipped with semantics, they will be capable of solving complex semantical optimization problems. For example, as John Markoff describes in his article, a computer will be able to instantly return relevant search results if you tell it to find a vacation on a 3K budget to take with an 11-year old.
In order for computers to be able to solve the problems like this one, the information on the web needs to be annotated with descriptions and relationships. Basic examples of semantics consist of categorizing an objects and its attributes. For example, books fall into a Books category where each object has attributes such as the author, the number of pages and the publication date. The basic example of a relationship comes from various social networks that we are part of. In one network the relationship might be a friend of, in another a family member and yet in another network people are related via works with relationship.
RDF, OWL and the mathematical approach to annotation
There are billions of fairly unstructured HTML pages which contain no annotations and meta data. The fundamental engineering question is how can we go from today’s unstructured web to one rich with semantical information? W3C consortium authored specs for RDF (Resource Description Framework) and OWL (Web Ontology Languages) which collectively capture the description of information, the ontology and the relationships with other pieces of information in a rigorous, mathematical way.
RDF is a XML-based language which enables description of relationships via predicates. The Wikipedia explains: The subject denotes the resource, and the predicate denotes traits or aspects of the resource and expresses a relationship between the subject and the object. For example, one way to represent the notion “The sky has the color blue” in RDF is as a triple of specially formatted strings: a subject denoting “the sky”, a predicate denoting “has the color”, and an object denoting “blue”.
OWL is another XML-based language used for describing and reasoning ontologies. In a nutshell, these languages facilitate semantic descriptions such as Dog is an animal or Dog has four legs. There are three flavors of OWL: OWL Lite, OWL DL and OWL Full, each flavor capturing a different side of a trade off between expressiveness and computability. This RDF/OWL framework is comprehensive, but is difficult for people without a background in mathematics and computer science to understand. Given that this is a bottom up approach, it is clear that if it is to succeed, there needs to exist an automated mechanism that takes existing HTML content and turns it into RDF and OWL meta data. This, however, is a chicken-egg problem because if we could already do this, the problem would not be there to begin with. Still we can envision tooling which does 80% of the work automatically and then interacts with the person to complete the other 20% of the work.
Recognizing the complexity of RDF and OWL, a group of people are trying a different approach called Microformats. The goal of microformats is to embed the basic semantics right into HTML pages. It is not as expressive right now as RDF and OWL, but it is very compact and uses available XHTML facilities to add semantics to the pages. For example, there is a microformat for describing contact information called hCard. Using hCard it is possible to annotate the HTML so that a microformat-aware browser or a search engine can deduce the information about a person such as first and last name, a company or a phone number. Another mature microformat called hCalendar enables page authors to describe events. Many popular event sites, such as Facebook and Yahoo! Local use this format to annotate events in their HTML pages.
Leaving the aesthetics of the representation aside, the microformats approach is clearly simpler than RDF and OWL. And even though it is less powerful, it is becoming very popular. Many site authors are starting to embed microformats into their HTML pages. We are also seeing some early examples of the search engines based on microformats, like this one from Technorati. The simple gain in using microformats and doing search is removing ambiguity. In a way, it is similar to the vertical search engine, which knows which vertical you are searching. With microformats inside the pages, the data is also no longer ambiguous, so the search results are more precise.
Still there are some issues with microformats. The first one is the same as with the previous bottom up approach – people have to do the work to annotate the pages. The good news is that since the format is simpler, more can be done via reverse engineering and automation. The second issue is that the current set of microformats does not cover many things that we encounter online. For example, we are not aware of a format that would help represent a book or a movie. Many more formats need to be created before they can really “cover” the web.
Semantic Web is Personalized Web
The problem of annotating the data is very complex and is far from being solved completely. But let’s leave it aside for a moment and think of what we can be doing once all the data becomes annotated. The promise is that we will be doing less of what we are doing now – namely sifting through piles of irrelevant information. Given that the amount of information is growing exponentially and our tolerance is shrinking, this is a very intriguing proposition. If the computer can return relevant results instantly, we can potentially save a ton of time.
But having semantics and knowing all relationships between the data is not enough to do that. Take the simple example of a travel agency. When you show up there for the first time, the agent does not know what to offer you, even though she knows the semantics of travel, the relationships between things and the prices of everything. In order to be effective, she needs to know where you’ve been already and what kind of destinations you like. That’s why she asks you questions. All services that we receive work this way and the results are better and more refined over time, because service people have time to learn what you like.
So the second important ingredient of the Semantic Web, the one that will facilitate productivity, is a set of persistent personal preferences. Once the computer knows your preferences and has a semantical representation of it online, it can then run an algorithm to deliver you precise, personalized results. To put it differently, your personal preferences is the filter that needs to be applied to the results that the computer returns in response to: Find a vacation with an 11-year-old for under 3K. And when this happens, then we can claim that the Semantic Web has arrived.
So will the Web 3.0 be the Semantic Web? Probably. But are we there yet? Not quite. It will still take some time to annotate the world’s information and then to capture personal information in the right way to enable the kinds of applications that we have discussed. We are certainly getting close and it will be interesting to see how things unfold over the next few years. If you would like us to write more about the Semantic Web please let us know and we will do follow up posts.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
This week the spotlight is on Firefox as it launches its milestone 2.0 release. We’ve covered the launch with a Firefox 2.0 product review, an interview with Mozilla exec Chris Beard and a Firefox marketing discussion post. Today we bring you a review of the top twenty add-ons (aka add-ons) selected by Mozilla for the Firefox 2 launch. We’ve categorized the add-ons and analyzed them, to bring you what are hopefully the pick of the crop.
Since its inception, Firefox has been a great platform on which web developers can build on top of. Recognizing that the core browser must be lean, the Mozilla team put together the infrastructure for creating add-ons. In this single decision, Mozilla created not just a fine browser – but a thriving community and a free marketplace, which links add-on developers directly to browser users. The developers are free to be creative and the users are free to choose the add-ons that they like. Such an ecosystem gives rise to innovation and helps Mozilla shape the future of web browsing.
Add-ons point to the future of the web browser
Looking at the add-ons that were selected for the Firefox 2 showcase, in some ways they show us what the browser of the future may look like. Indeed that is something that Chris Beard himself alluded to – they view add-ons as a kind of test bed, pulling ideas from the best of them into the core product over time.
The majority of add-ons are focused on integrating web services into the browser, to boost user productivity. In a nutshell, add-ons are about shaving off clicks – but to be fair they do so much more. They create an enhanced, smarter, better browsing experience and ultimately save users’ time.
Music, Weather and Maps
The FoxyTunes add-on integrates with your favorite music player and allows you to control the music you are listening to, right from within the Firefox status bar. There are a lot of handy features, my favorite being the ability to change the language and encoding – so that if you are listening to music in a language other than English, the title and the artist are displayed correctly.
Forecastfox brings the weather channel right into Firefox. On the install you select the zip code or city and the add-on does the rest. It relies on AccuWeather.com to bring you the latest current weather conditions, as well as a forecast of the upcoming weather. It is highly customizable and just perfect for the status bar.
Maps+ uses the Yahoo! Maps API to help the user look up addresses. To see it working, highlight any address – we tried a restaurant on this page – then right click and select View map from the context menu. The layered popup with the map appears right next to the address. You can control the zoom level of the map and customize the add-on in various ways.
Storing and sharing web content is one of the most fundamental online activities. del.icio.us started the web 2.0 revolution by introducing tagging and social bookmarking. Since then del.icio.us itself and many other companies have enhanced bookmarks in many different ways. Let’s look at the latest add-on advancements featured in the top twenty add-ons – and note there are a lot of bookmarking services amongst the add-ons.
Yahoo! released an updated version of the del.icio.us plugin, which replaces browser bookmarks with a view of del.icio.us posts. The StumbleUpon add-on is essential for fans of this service – it features a handy toolbar that lets the users rate and discover web sites. The Clipmarks add-on lets you clip pieces of the page, instead of bookmarking them. This is useful when you are not interested in the entire page but just want to store a paragraph or an image.
The Foxmarks add-on is seemingly simple – it synchronizes your bookmarks between all your Firefox browsers. What’s great is that it works in the backround and does not require any input from the user, beyond creating an account. The JetEye addon in some ways is similar to Clipmarks, because it allows the user to collect clips. But it also enables arranging these clips by topic. Yoono is a social recommendation engine for discovering interesting or related sites. The BlueOrganizer add-on, developed by my company AdaptiveBlue, helps users to interact with books, music, movies, restaurants and other everyday things.
The developer add-ons
The showcase also contains three add-ons that help Firefox developers.
Blogging and RSS
Performancing add-on is a fully fledged blog editor built right into Firefox, which integrates with TypePad, Blogger, WordPress and LiveJournal (amongst others). Sage is a powerful feed reader – with the ability to subscribe to feeds, manage them and import/export via OPML.
There are some very nifty utilities that can be integrated into Firefox:
- FireFTP integrates FTP into Firefox
- ChatZilla integrates IRC into Firefox
- Download Statusbar helps you manage downloads right in the status bar
- FlashGot is another download productivity add-on
- Adblock Plus lets you do away with advertisements
Other add-ons in the showcase
- Pronto is comparison shopping add-on which alerts you to potential price savings
- Jaja wires telephony right into the browser
- LinkedIn integrates the popular professional social network into the browser
- Cooliris lets the user preview a page by hovering over links
- Answers is a time saver add-on that lets you lookup information on Answers.com
Fun, useful and exciting
This Firefox showcase is full of interesting and useful add-ons that focus on helping users save time, by integrating web services into the browser . These add-ons point in the direction of smarter, better browsers – that will be more aware of the patterns and use cases of interacting with information online.
So that’s our take – let us know which of these and other add-ons you use and recommend!Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
With this article I hope to reach out to the companies and thought leaders working in the attention space and start the dialog on the infrastructure for the Attention Economy. Note that the views presented in this article are my own and do not represent the views of the AttentionTrust organization.
I have previously discussed here the exciting developments happening in the attention space. The Attention Economy and Attention Architecture are in the early days, but there are clear indications of growth. Ever since Steve Gillmor and Seth Goldstein co-founded AttentionTrust, the topic of attention is getting, well, a lot of attention. And very rightly so – AttentionTrust created principles that put the user in control of the data and open the door for new, exciting set of personalization applications.
The AttentionTrust was created based on the four core principles that guarantee that the users are in control of their data and that the privacy is always respected:
- Property: You own your attention and can store it wherever you wish. You have CONTROL.
- Mobility: You can securely move your attention wherever you want whenever you want to.
You have the ability to TRANSFER your attention.
- Economy: You can pay attention to whomever you wish and receive value in return.
Your attention has WORTH.
- Transparency: You can see exactly how your attention is being used.
These foundational principles embody the spirit of the Attention Economy and provide the rules and philosophy for building out the Attention Marketplace. In this article we will focus on exploring additional technical infrastructure that might be beneficial for enabling the users and companies to participate in an open Attention Ecosystem. In particular, we will discuss the format for storing extended attention information as well as the generalized interface for the Individual Information Storage Service. (Note that in previous articles I referred to this as AttentionVault and changed the name to remove any possible associations with AttentionTrust and RootVault)
The first blocks of the attention ecosystem infrastructure have been mapped out since AttentionTrust created an add-on to the Firefox browser called AttentionRecorder.
The recorder in its current form, provides basic, yet encompassing and essential function of capturing timestamped click stream, otherwise known as implicit attention.
The Diagram 2 shows the XML output of the AttentionRecorder, which is essentially a set of HTTP transactions.
In accordance with the Property principle the recorder offers the user a choice to either store these attention records in a local file or to direct them to one of the approved attention services. If the user chooses a remote storage, the records are sent via HTTP.
The current infrastructure facilitates capturing and storage of the implicit attention. In a way, it defines the interface for storing this type of attention, but it, intentionally, does not focus on the interface for accessing the stored attention records. Also, the format that AttentionRecorder uses today is not generic, but rather specific to the click stream. In the following sections I will discuss how the current infrastructure can be extended to accommodate additional types of attention and will discuss the interface for reading/writing the data from/to the Individual Information Storage Service.
The types of Attention
As we discussed, currently the AttentionRecorder captures implicit attention. There are also other types of attention. For example, bookmarks are a variant of explicit attention. The difference between implicit and explicit attention is that the user makes an explicit effort to store the information.
We can gain further insight into explicit attention by looking at the famous social bookmarking service called del.icio.us This services has popularized the notion of tags – the labels or attributes attached by the user to a piece of information. Seth Goldstein told me that del.icio.us’s founder, Joshua Schachter, thought of tags as a crystallized attention. The tags illuminate the personal angle on the information – what exactly the user is paying attention to here?
Like tags, the rating captures another aspect of attention. For example, the services like BlinkList and Ma.gnolia include the rating information in addition to the URL information. By rating an article the user specifies the attitude or the outcome of the attention. Recognizing the importance and the value of the rating, the sites like Netflix and Amazon have always allowed the users to rate movies, books , music, etc.
And there is yet another type of attention – explicit semantical attention, that is the attention related to objects like books, movies, music, wine and restaurants. The blueorganizer that we are developing at adaptiveblue focuses on capturing this kind of attention. Here is the XML illustrating how the blueorganizer represents books:
Abstracting Attention format
As shown in Diagram1 the Attention Economy brings together the users and the services creating an ecosystem where the users choose what attention services they want to receive. From the examples above it is clear that there are different types of attention: implicit, explicit, tagged, rated, semantical are just a few that we looked at. So to enable a flexible ecosystem, where the services can harness a variety of attention, we need to extend the current attention format to encompass the different types of attention.
Looking at the current format of attention recorder and the format used by the blueorganizer, we note that they are quite different except for the URL, title and the timestamp information. But really, the blueorganizer’s format just extends the attention recorder format, by adding semantical information about the object, in this case, a book, contained in the page. So what should the generic attention format look like? To answer this question we observe that it is not necessary to enumerate all possible types of attention in advance. Instead, we need to capture common aspects of different attention types and then provide a room for extensibility.
Since this an informal article, I will just give you a flavor for what this format will be like. At the same time, more formal specification will be emerging via discussions and feedback from the companies working in the attention space.
The format is very simple. The common attributes are grouped under the recordHead, while specific attributes are placed into the recordBody. Note that this format immediately facilitates decoupling and flexible paring of attention types and attention services as shown in the Diagram 5.
For example, a personalized recommendation service might take advantage of bluemarks, while personalized news service could leverage a combination of the user’s click stream, OPML and bookmarks. The generic attention format allows the user to be in control of different types of attention, and at the same time facilitates flexible attention services.
Abstracting the Individual Information Storage Service
Another piece that needs to be in place in order to make the Diagram 1 a reality is the interface for accessing the Individual Information Storage Service. Having this service is central to the Attention Economy, because it puts the user in control of the information. Without this storage, each personalization service would have to capture the user data separately and create, effectively, an information silo.
For example, the sites like Amazon have a rich history of the user interests, which can not be utilized anywhere but on Amazon. Clearly, Netflix recommendation engine could give better suggestions if it had knowledge of the data in the Amazon Wishlists.
The API for the information storage puts the user in control and solves the attention silo problem. The question is what should this interface look like? It needs to be simple (think del.icio.us) and include just the essentials to enable reading and writing the attention records. Here are the key operations:
AddRecord – adds the attention record to the store.
DeleteRecord – deletes attention record from the store
UpdateRecord – replaces an attention record in the store
ListRecords – lists the user records updated or added since given time
LastUpdated – returns the timestamp when last add/update/delete occurred
The current attention infrastructure laid out by AttentionTrust is a major step towards enabling the Attention Economy. However, its primary focus is the capture and storage of the user’s click stream. To facilitate truly open ecosystem, this infrastructure needs to be augmented with generic attention format, allowing the other types of attention, and Individual Information Storage API for both reading and writing the records. With these two pieces in place, not only the users will be in control of their information, but they will also be able to receive wide range of attention and personalization services. The chosen service providers will be able to utilize a variety of attention data and make their services more agile, but more importantly better and more relevant to the end user.
Last week I wrote here about the need to work out the “architecture of attention.” This week I will focus on a specific application attention platform – personalization. My article last week generated really interesting and important discussion about the the value of attention capturing. We questioned the utility of attention and concluded that using attention to fuel personalization would be a great service that a lot of people can use.
You can watch the screencast to get the details, but the basic idea is that their software turns attention and rating information into a personalized filter. This filter is then used to discriminate between interesting and not so interesting information.
I thought a lot about this problem for the last two years, particularly before I started adaptiveblue. So I’d like to share with you my thoughts on how personalization would actually work, and explain why the “attention information” is the necessary building block of the personalization.
We are running out of time
I am sure you feel this every day too – we have less and less time to get done more and more. The dilemma is how can we accomplish things and what we should be focusing on? Prioritizing becomes ever more important since we are constantly making tradeoffs between doing one thing and another.
Right now we do this manually. Everyday, for example, we sift through tens, if not hundreds, of news articles, trying to find the ones that matter to us. So far we have been fairly successful, but we are getting tired, because everyday we start from scratch and the amount of information keeps on increasing.
I have a simple metaphor for what we have become: we are information filters. Of course evolutionarily speaking we have always been that, but now the information filtering have moved from deep subconsciousness to the forefront of our mind. We think about information explicitly all the time. We are aware that we are information filters.
HAL, are you there?
Computers have been always bad at what we are good at and vice versa. One thing that computers are great at, is running the same algorithms over and over again. Computers are very good at data crunching, so whenever we encounter a problem of sifting through a lot of information, we generally tend to bring computers in. The question is then: why can’t we make computer choose what is important for us?
Well, to begin with, we can’t even trust our friends and family to do that, why would we trust a computer? This problem is tricky and sensitive, there is little tolerance for false positives here. But even though we are all very particular about bits that we choose to digest, we know deep-down that computers can help us be more effective, so then the question is: how?
Experience is the king
How do we ourselves choose the information? The magic in our heads does it based on what we have encountered in our past – 10 years ago, a year ago, a week ago, yesterday and 10 minutes ago. The wonderful interplay of neurons creates a dynamic, evolving, intelligent filter that helps us decide what is important for us today. The key observation is that the filter evolves based on our experiences with the world.
So to succeed in building a computer program that can help us make decide what to pay attention to, we need to have this program experience, at least to the extend possible, what we are experiencing. It needs to know what we like and what we do not like, otherwise it just can’t do the job. The idea that we will spend time telling this program what we like is not going to work. We are way too busy to constantly update and correct the computer, we just do not have the time.
Instead, the ‘learning’ of our likes and dislikes needs to be integrated into our daily life. As we interact with the information, with every click we reveal our preferences. The successful personalization technology needs to understand that and seamlessly plugin into this process. Instead of continuously ask us what we like, it then can infer and clarify through every day interactions. Now lets turn these observations into practical, executable diagrams.
The Attention Architecture
In the last article, I talked about the architecture of the attention platform. This platform is designed to bring together attention capturing services, attention storage and attention applications that deliver end user value. The key aspects of the platform is decoupling between the services allowing various vendors deliver different implementations, yet communicate via common protocols.
Let’s take a look now at how this platform can facilitate personalization applications such as Idiomag
From attention to personalized news
As we discussed in the article last week, there are different kinds of attention – explicit and implicit. The implicit attention is simply the click stream with timestamps. The explicit attention are bookmarks or, in case depicted above, semantically rich bookmarks, captured by the blueorganizer. Note that in this example both attention sources are browser based. This does not need to be the case. Attention information can come from your interactions with e-mail, desktop application and many other sources.
The job of the personalization engine, in this example it is the Touchstone engine, is to digest all attention information and produce the AttentionFilter. The filter is basically a discriminator that can assign a ranking to a set of documents. The documents that are highly relevant based on the user experiences get higher score than the ones that are not as relevant.
In case of personalized news, the documents are RSS feeds. The Idio service applies the AttentionFilter to the set of your RSS feeds and then ranks them. Based on this ranking it can either sort feeds for you or it can even filter things out. The resulting new set of articles is packaged in the form of a magazine and delivered to the end user.
Note the interesting feedback loop in this diagram. The magazine is shown in the web browser, and so the user attention will be again captured via explicit and implicit attention collection mechanism. This feedback loop will allow the user’s AttentionFilter to be refined and evolve as user’s attention evolves and changes.
We are not quite there in terms of the personalized news service discussed in this article. The blueorganizer and attention recorder are not storing information into the same Attention Vault. And Ideo today does not use Touchstone engine as a service. Instead it cuts through this diagram and asks the user to specify initial set of interests. It then evolves the preferences based on the implicit attention – articles that user clicks on. But this does not matter, because fundamentally, today, we already have examples of turning attention into personalization.
In the coming months we will be seeing more of these examples, and hopefully, we will together build robust attention platform that will fuel more and more interesting personalization services like Idio magazine.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
This post was originally written for Read/WriteWeb.
DEMO conference – the premier launchpad for new technologies – has unveiled its list of companies selected to launch at DEMOfall ’06. For the past sixteen years this event, produced by Award-winning executive producer Chris Shipley, attracted premier journalists, venture capitalists and corporate executives. The demo has been a sought after stage by many technology startups; just recently it featured BiggerBoat, Blurb, Kaboodle, Krugle, Kosmix, RawSugar, Riya, Six Apart and TagWorld just to name a few.
The DEMOfall ’06 will take place in San Diego, September 26 – 26, in Sheraton San Diego hotel. I will be attending, since my company adaptiveblue was selected to participate. Richard asked me to send a few live updates from the conference, so stay tuned for interesting presentations and breaking news. In the mean time, here is a chart of all the 67 presenting companies – with a brief description of their products. These are startups presenting their products to the world for the first time. Please let us know which of these companies look intriguing to you.
|Group text messaging||Staying in touch with friends is everything, and text messaging is a great way to do that. But regular text messaging doesn’t let you easily send a message to a group of friends. And there is no way for your friends to reply-all. Now, 3jam makes it fun and easy to coordinate and connect with your friends. And it works on any kind of mobile phone.|
|Mobile search||4INFO is a mobile search service for live sports, business, travel, local, and entertainment information on your cell phone.|
|Smart browsing||With the blueorganizer Firefox extension, your browser becomes smarter. It helps you personalize your web experience based on what you already like. It harnesses your information to help you discover relevant new information and save time.|
|Content distribution||An easier way to distribute and collect things online!|
|Be Here||VoIP collaboration phone||TotalView combines audio conferencing, videoconferencing, and data collaboration in one compact and affordable center-of-the-table device. With TotalView, the time is now, and the place is wherever you are in your business day – at home base or on the road, in your office, conference room, or across the globe.|
|BriteSoft||Application developement tools||BriteWorks is a development environment which enables you to create enterprise class applications without writing a single line of code. The result – unprecedented productivity and time-to-market, 20 times faster, 10 times cheaper and with improved quality.|
|BuzzLogic||Social marketing||The BuzzLogic service is built around an intuitive, easy-to-use dashboard that quickly guides users to the conversations, influencers and content they need. Easy-to-set up alerts notify practitioners (via email) when the volume around a conversation suddenly increases or other variances are exceeded, or even when a specific blogger joins a conversation.|
|Cascada Mobile||Social marketing||Cascada Mobile helps wireless carriers and content publishers to overcome their largest obstacle to revenue growth by providing a revolutionary distribution system for their products. Our unique distribution solutions combine the power of word-of-mouth endorsements and the reach of viral marketing, turning your existing customers and subscribers into your biggest promoters.|
|Managing home life||New technologies are working their way into all aspects of our lives. Yet these technologies are typically designed with office workers in mind, and are often disappointing in other contexts. At Cozi, we believe that people want and require a new generation of technology that meets their unique needs in the home.|
|Online video||Cuts is building a new video platform that will empower you to watch your video your way. Cuts.com will not be yet another site to upload and share your home movies. Our goal is to do a really great job of helping you view all the video you paid for and own the way you want to. That’s what we’re working on.|
|Dash||Auto navigation||Dash Navigation, Inc. a Silicon Valley start-up, emerged from stealth-mode today. The company is developing a new consumer product and service that will, for the first time, give drivers timely and relevant local information on their dashboards. Backed by venture capital firms Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Sequoia Capital, Dash will unveil its first product on Sept. 26 at the DEMOfall conference.|
|Data Security Systems||Internet authentication and security||DSSS, as a leader in the Authentication Security space, consistently strives to be in the frontier of the technology. Our state-of-art technology serves to provide enterprises and organisations from different arena protection against compromising of security|
|Social marketing||Eluma is the only brandable desktop application that drives customer loyalty and incremental revenue through the power of communities. Eluma enables marketers to create an always-on connection to their users, and to leverage the best aspects of social networking in order to provide users with the ability to collaborate with their most trusted source of information – their peers.|
|Online sharing||We created eSnips while thinking about how YOU would want to share your stuff. We believe that just like us, you have lots of things to share online. And just like us, you probably want to do it all in ONE place, to have the freedom to share ANY type of information, and to have control over what you share and how you share it.|
|Video editing and sharing||We set out to build a site which makes it easy to upload, organize and share all that video, photos, and music. Interact with the community, collaborate, and get some great content to work with too.|
|Email on any cell phone||Introducing flurry – free mobile email for everyone. With revolutionary ease of use, you can access your email from your mobile phone anywhere and anytime.|
|Fonpods||Podcasts on cell phones||The easiest way to join the podcast revolution! Put away your iPod and MP3 player, Fonpods transforms your cellphone into a mobile entertainment and information system. Fonpods is a free, on-demand service that brings podcast listening to any phone. There’s nothing to buy and no computer downloads to worry about.|
|CRM||SalesGenius lets individual Sales Professionals track how prospects respond to your e-mails. There’s no programming or IT help required — you simply send e-mail, and the Genius Tracker — alerts you when your e-mail is opened and when your prospects visit the web site.|
|Consumer communications||GrandCentral Communications is developing next generation consumer communications applications and services.|
|Headplay||Unclear||Hard to tell, but here is one thing they say: If you prefer to live in the Headplay world ensure you drink a lot of liquids.|
|Local events||HeyLetsGo: we now have hundreds of events a day and thousands of people who are up for doing fun things.|
|Online media re-mixing and sharing||Fully personalized multimedia and game experiences that you can easily share with family and friends. Create your own customized experience using your content or ours. Pull together photos, video, and music from your big party last weekend, or customize a game with music and photos. Then, share your creations with the click of a button. Our goal is to provide you with the easiest way to make a unique statement about yourself and share it with others!.|
|i-Lighter||Online research||i-Lighter is an exciting new venture that will simplify your online life whether you are researching information, preparing a report for school or work, reading an online article, looking for the best deal on a trip or shopping for a gift.|
|Imaginestics||Shape search engine||Imaginestics, developer of world’s first online shape search engine, 3D-Seek.com, connects suppliers of manufactured parts or custom services to potential buyers globally using innovative search technology.|
|Web telephony||JAJAH is dedicated to bringing the world vastly improved telephony solutions at a fraction of the traditional price. Whenever possible, we want to provide basic phone for free – and we truly believe it’s possible. We believe that by bringing together the best of the internet with the best of the traditional telephone industry we will be able to provide our customers with unique new solutions, solutions never before possible, at a price they’ll find irresistible.|
|Koral||Content management||Smart and easy platform for managing business content.|
|Lirix||Music advertising||Lirix, Inc. has invented, patented and developed the technology of on-device dynamic ad insertion with recorded or downloaded music. Delivered through the Lirix® Media System, this technology makes ad-supported recorded or downloaded music possible.|
|Business servers||With MindTouch Managed Office Server (MOS), you create an environment in which information is up-to-date, free flowing, easily accessible and always available.|
|Mobile Sphere||Wireless communications||MobileSphere is a leading provider of global wireless communications solutions leveraging the migration from fixed to mobile telephony. Based in Boston, Massachusetts, MobileSphere serves MVNOs, wireless carriers, medium-to-large enterprise, universities, and consumers.|
|Moixa Energy||Rechargable battery from USB ports||This revolutionary rechargeable battery can charge from any USB port without the need for any recharging devices, cradles or cables. Simply pop the lid to reveal a built in connector and charger, plug into any powered USB port on your desktop, laptop, keyboard or games console, to charge the battery.|
|Mvox||Speakerphones||vox is at the forefront of enabling hands-free communication, having launched the industry’s smallest Bluetooth/USB dual-mode speakerphone in 2005.|
|Internet authentication||We’ve developed a system that makes it easy for you to add secure, hardware-based authentication to your website with minimal effort and minimal cost.|
|NanoLearning||Content remixing||You will be able to incorporate NanoLearning objects into your blog, website, or business process. You can even recombine and aggregate NanoLearning objects into a NanoList.|
|NComputing||Network computing||Turn 1 computer into the equivalent of 30(up to 10 with Windows XP Home/Pro/Media Center, Windows 2000 Professional) PCs!! No Hard Drive, CPU or CD ROM ; yet each NStation functions as an ordinary computer.|
|Social networking||The openBC networking platform provides its members with innovative networking and communication technologies for professional and secure contact management on the internet.|
|PhotoCrank||Mobile entertainment||PhotoCrank, Inc. designs and delivers services for the mobile entertainment market|
|Voice messaging||Pinger is instant voice messaging for your mobile phone. With Pinger you send voice messages directly to someone instantly—no ringing, no greetings, no lengthy prompts. Pinger is fast and efficient like email, but with your voice. It’s mobile like text messaging, but with more personality.|
|PixSense||Photo and video sharing||PixSense takes a holistic approach to managing the entire lifecycle of each digital photograph. Our patent-pending technology bridges the technology barriers between camera phones, carrier networks, and personal computers. The PixSense solution involves native camera phone client software and server-side software that work seamlessly together to give users all the functionality they want, in exactly one click.|
|Podcast directory and sharing||Discover podcasts based on your interests and the interests of others. Listen to podcasts online, download them to your PC and listen to them, or download them to your MP3 player (e.g. iPod, Creative Zen).|
|Linux email server for enterprise||A Linux-based email and collaboration server that is the only drop-in alternative to Exchange. It provides granular backup and restore, on or offsite redundancy, 5X Exchange performance, and AJAX web access. The result: powerful, easy-to-operate, low-cost infrastructure.|
|PrefPass||Online authentication||Prefpass offers a service that will ease your pain when it comes to registering on websites.|
|Online community for families||We’re developing a unique digital delivery service that will enable families and friends to stay in touch, without the need for a computer or Internet connection. So everyone—even those who don’t have or know how to use a computer—can stay connected.|
|RealEyes 3D||Mobile applicatoins for camera phones||Realeyes3D has the ambition to become the leading provider of advanced image processing applications for camera phones.|
|Vertical search engine for electronics||The Ultimate in Consumer Electronics Search|
|MojoPac||Mobile gaming for USD and iPods||MojoPac allows your USB drive or iPod to become your own personal game cartridge like device. You can install any PC game or application to the USB device using MojoPac and play the game from anywhere.|
|Digital solutions for cameras and phones||Copy and fax with your camera phone or digital camera|
|Online blogging and photo sharing||Like most people, we love to share our photos. Online sharing has improved exponentially in the recent years and even months, but it’s time to start having fun with your pictures online. Enter Scrapblog! The only site that merges the creativity and storytelling capabilities of scrapbooking with the publishing and sharing functionality of blogs.|
|Online media re-mixing and sharing||Simple Star provides consumer software and services to help people manage and share their memories to PCs and TVs.|
|SiteKreator||Online web site tools||SiteKreator is the Web’s most complete and easy-to-use solution for building and maintaining impressive, Web 2.0-ready business or personal Web sites.|
|Solid state networks||BitTorrent – based content delivery||The company was formed specifically to exploit opportunities in the commercialization of BitTorrent technology. The Company’s focus is on providing software solutions for content publishers by providing lightweight, portable, high performance core technology based on the BitTorrent protocol (the Solid Core) for use in next generation content delivery systems.|
|Sports Statz||Sports communities||Real-time statistics and sports community for high-schools and colleges|
|System One||Online collaboration and research tools||System One unites the best concepts for communicating and collaborating, as they have surfaced independently from each other on the internet, in a business-ready software package for organizing your information- and communication processes. System One actively helps the right people to find each other and to work together more efficiently.|
|Mobile multimedia||Tao has created ‘intent’ a seamlessly integrated, high-performance multimedia software platform for embedded, mobile, consumer electronics and automotive solutions.|
|Teneros||Appliance for corporate email||The Teneros Application Continuity Appliances for Microsoft Exchange enable small-to-medium-sized businesses to deploy a comprehensive, cost-effective continuity solution for mission critical Microsoft Exchange. With a simple 15 minute installation using the web-based interface, the Teneros appliances require no intrusive software installations or configuration changes on the Exchange server.|
|Online office||ThinkFree is the leader in next-generation office productivity solutions for platform independent, anytime, anywhere-computing. ThinkFree usability extends beyond PCs and is perfect for Internet-connected devices, including thin client and mobile computing platforms.|
|Security solutions||Trend Micro is a global leading provider of comprehensive antivirus, Internet content security, and outbreak management software and services. Our products and services are designed to deliver coordinated protection at application and network layers to proactively manage the outbreak lifecycle – from vulnerability prevention to malicious code prevention and elimination.|
|Tribeca Labs||Imaging solutions||Full spectrum of colors support for digital cameras.|
|Application virtualization||Trigence AE is application virtualization software that turns legacy and production applications into highly moveable, manageable IT assets.|
|Home security||Austin-based uControl was born of a desire to move home security beyond the stagnant offerings of traditional systems and into the future, with the hopes of giving consumers something they didn’t even know they were missing – true connected security|
|Violet||Smart objects||Founded in 2002, the vocation of Violet is to develop products and services based on calm and emotional technologies.|
|W5 Networks||Wireless retail solutions||W5 develops wireless system optimized for retail industry.|
|Wallop||Social networking||New approach to social networking and expressing individuality online.|
|Widget portal and tools||Widgetbox is on a mission. We want to give everyone the power to assemble, share and integrate everything that’s good on the web.|
|Yoriwa||Unclear||We are building an exciting application that will change the way you work on the Internet.|
|Zing||Music||ZING lets you discover, play, and collect music wherever you go, whenever you want. ZING gives you the freedom to stay tuned.|
I had an interesting chat last night with Chris Saad of Touchstone about their platform and the attention market. The conversation was prompted by the announcement on TechCrunch that one of the leaders in the attention space, RootMarkets, received funding from Chicago Board of Trades. This conversation with Chris and post on TechCrunch got me thinking: we all agree that we are heading towards the attention economy, but what does the “architecture of attention” look like?To make the concept of attention compelling and to prove to the consumers that their attention information is important, we need to build applications that provide useful services. And to build these applications we need a platform for the attention players to plug into. In short, we need attention ecosystem, where application providers can interplay and deliver definitive value to the end users.
The Roots of Attention
It may not be widely known, but the foundations of the attention economy and architecture have been already laid out. Steve Gillmore and Seth Goldstein established AttentionTrust.org – a non-profit organization with a mission to both educate the people about the value of their attention and to establish the infrastructure for capturing individual attention.
The AttentionTrust serves as a forum for discussing and establishing principles, values and rights of consumers. The founders have outlined the following principles for its operation:
- Property: You own your attention and can store it wherever you wish. You have CONTROL.
- Mobility: You can securely move your attention wherever you want whenever you want to. You have the ability to TRANSFER your attention.
- Economy: You can pay attention to whomever you wish and receive value in return. Your attention has WORTH.
- Transparency: You can see exactly how your attention is being used. You can DECIDE who you trust.
These founding principles capture the essence of the attention economy. With every click, with every look at the computer screen you are paying attention. This attention information has a huge value, and it can be used to provide you back with valuable services.
The Foundations of Attention Architecture
AttentionTrust.org and RootMarkets, the attention company founded by Seth Goldstein, worked out an architecture for capturing and storing the user attention shown in the Figure 1 below.
The attention is captured by the browser extension, called AttentionRecorder. The recorder simply records which URL the user went to and when. With the recorder the user has an option of either storing the click stream locally or directing it to an AttentionVault.
The vault is essentially a remote database of the user click stream. Since AttentionRecorder defines HTTP-based API for communicating with the vault, their can be multiple implementations.
As shown in the Figure 2 below, the user can configure the AttentionRecorder to send the data to one of the vaults approved by AttentionTrust. This approach facilitates competition between the vault providers and, as advertised, puts the user in control. That is, the user can decide the most trustworthy, fastest, cheapest vault. Another big benefit is that consumer is explicitly part of the attention recording process. So the consumer has to understand how the system works, and so the consumer is more likely to trust the system because of that.
Beyond the basic attention
The initial version of attention architecture is simple, but it is not complete. As the attention space evolves it becomes clear that there is a need to expand it and to re-conceptualize how various applications and services fit in. Lets consider a few examples. The most obvious thing that is not being captured is whether the user liked what she saw. While it is certainly possible to build a good prediction model based on the time that user spent looking at the information, no such model will be complete or exact. In other words, current version of AttentionRecorder captures only implicit attention, but there are also rich variety of explicit attention.
Consider the popular social bookmarking sites like del.icio.us. We can think of them as vaults for the explicit individual attention. As a step up from implicit attention, when the user bookmarks a site and sends it to the del.icio.us we know for a fact that she liked the site. We still do not know how much she liked it. This information would be captured by another system – the one that also allows ratings. At adaptiveblue we are developing a higher level attention capturing service called blueorganizer. Beyond the basic URLs and ratings the blueorganizer captures the semantical information contained on the page, such as movies, books, wines and cars, creating basically a vault for semantically-rich attention.
So since there are different kinds of attention, the current architecture needs to be expanded to accommodate them. In particular, we need to recognize that:
- Attention can be captured by different sources
- Attention can come in different formats
- Attention can be stored in different ways
By focusing on these issues, we can extend the current architecture to a flexible and rich attention platform.
The key next step is to redesign the protocol to ensure that any kind of attention data can be stored. The types of attention data would need to be established and then each attention source can be paired with one or more attention vaults, again putting the user in charge of her data. Also, since attention data can be of different types, it might be beneficial to have different kinds of vaults. Some data would naturally lend to the choice of a relational database. At adaptiveblue we built the vault using Amazon S3, which I reviewed for Web 2.0 journal earlier.
Factoring in the services
So far the old and the new attention architecture has been focused on capturing and storing the user attention. These are of course important, but the least exciting aspects of the attention platform from the end user perspective. After all where are the end user benefits? The benefits must come from the plethora of services that analyze the user’s attention and do something interesting with it. Personalized recommendations, personalized alerts, personalized news filters, personalized search and personalized shopping are just a few exciting services that can be build on top the attention platform.
The user will sign up for a subset of these services and point them to her AttentionVault(s). The services will then utilize the user attention information and seamlessly plugin into various aspects of on-line and off-line life to deliver huge productivity boost and time savings. For this to happen, the attention vaults need to offer the standard access API in addition to the standard input API. The actual format and the protocol for the attention data should be the same as for storing the data in the vaults.
The recent explosion of quantity and types of information puts us on the very fast track to the attention economy. Now more than ever before it is critical to understand and harness the value of individual attention information. AttentionTrust organization is the forum for discussing attention issues from privacy, business and technical perspectives. To truly harness the value of the user’s attention, the players in attention space will need to work together and extend the existing implicit attention architecture to include wider variety of attention data and to create the standards-based infrastructure for attention services.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 4 so far )
Through this transition, I am continuing to have a feeling of deja vu. I write code thinking – ‘Hey I’ve seen this before or I’ve done this before’. In software engineering deja vu is called ‘design pattern.’ If there is a good way to do something, we discover it, add it to the patterns catalog and apply it again and again.
I remember being very impressed with elegance and simplicity of JavaBeans framework. This was one of the early naming-convention based patterns introduced by Java designers. The bean pattern was simple, but very powerful; it showed that a simple naming convention can go a long way. Naming conventions fuel automation, lead to reduction of code and save time.
The application that we are developing at adaptiveblue, is called blueorganizer. It is smart browsing extensions for Firefox, which brings semantics of everyday objects into the browser. Among key concepts of the blueorganizer is the concept of collection. The users are able to collect objects like books, movies, wines, restaurants or cars from blogs and web pages.
The idea that we came up with was to have each collection defined in a separate file and loaded via XMLHttpRequest. We also have a master file in the well known location that would list all available collections. At startup, the collections list is fetched and then all collections are loaded one by one. We needed a mechanism for instantiating the collection from the XML file, and thats when we naturally thought about beans.
Here is the simple example of what we had in mind as an input file:
To handle the deserialization we create BeanUtils.js with the following main interface:
We can now write code like this:
The import directive implies that specified file needs to be loaded, and so the DynamicValue now can be defined in the DynamicScript.js file. Here is the code that does the import:
Making it flexible
First, we’d like to have an ability to handle arrays. We can do this in several ways. First, we could require that objects pre-declare all array properties in the constructor like this: myArray = .
So when the new object is instantiated, the property would set. Then when we are add bean property, we can check and see if it is array and handle it appropriately. Another idea is to specify that a property represents arrays in XML file. This can be accomplished with array=”true” property.
Other things that you might want to add include the handling of maps, ability to define variables and referencing them so that you do not need to create more objects than necessary.
In this post, we survey a range of client applications which utilize the new web platform. This is a follow-up to our Web Platform Primer post a few days ago, in which we explained the building blocks of the new Web infrastructure:
The Web Computing Platform
Essentially the building blocks are foundational services from Internet companies such as Amazon, Google and Microsoft – which combine to form a Web development platform. Indeed a couple of days we saw Amazon add to the platform with a limited beta ‘Compute’ service, called Elastic Compute Cloud. All of these services facilitate a new breed of software: smart desktop and browser applications that use the Web Platform as their backbone.
In this category there is Amazon S3 and openomy. Amazon S3 has a wide variety of clients using it. Firstly, there are personal backup applications like Jungle Disk and Elephant Drive. Another common use case for S3 is storing large media files – the Amazon S3 success stories page features MediaSilo video storage and SmugMug on-line photo sharing. A webtop application called YouOS is also using Amazon S3 to store user information. Finally, there are two other applications listed in the success stories section: MyOwnDB, which allows users to define and store their personal information in the form database tables; and the blueorganizer smart browser extension for Firefox, developed by my [Alex's] company adaptiveblue.
Messaging and Compute Services
In the previous article we gave an example of a Messaging service: Amazon Simple Queue Service. There are no success stories listed on the Amazon site for this service but – as we noted – it is likely that Amazon.com itself utilizes this service.
After our previous article was published earlier this week, Amazon released the first example of a black-box compute service – called Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud. The service is currently in limited beta, but we are likely to start hearing of success stories soon.
We start this broad category with the applications that use Amazon eCommerce Service, one of the most widely used APIs on the web. Among the success stories listed on the Amazon’s page, most fall into the category of shopping and store fronts. For example:
- ActionEngine and ScanBy use the Amazon API to enable wireless shopping.
- Associate-o-matic uses the Amazon API to help its customers create store fronts.
- Inside C uses the Amazon API to bring shopping into the instant messaging space.
There are other interesting uses of the API as well. For UNIX lovers there is the Amazon Command Line interface, marketed as 0-click shopping. Also there is RightCart, which enables a web-wide shopping experience on blogs and regular sites.
Note that adaptiveblue also uses the eCommerce API, to dynamically look up product information – when a user selects the title of a book, or the name of a gadget.
The most popular information API is Google Maps. A comprehensive list of usages can be found at the Google Maps Mania blog. They range from housing market sites to travel logs. These, however, are more mashups or utilities than applications – because they do not provide an end-to-end user experience, but rather provide a solution to a particular information problem. In general, we are seeing a big surge in so-called mashups fueled by Information Services and Web 2.0 APIs. A comprehensive list of these mashups, along with APIs and other great information, is maintained by John Musser at Programmable Web.
The Alexa Web Search Platform was launched in December 2005. At the time Richard wondered if it would make Amazon a major search player. As of now there are no references to a major vertical search engine built on top of Alexa. The Alexa web site features a few applications – a Camera search and Zip File search – but that just scratches the surface of what is possible with the Alexa platform.
I still think that this platform will pick up and we will see some really interesting vertical search applications built on it. In the meantime, the blogging community does not live a day without checking the Alexa Information service for traffic rankings: alexa.com and alexaholic.com.
Web 2.0 Services
Thanks to del.cio.us, APIs are back in style. So-called Web 2.0 companies rush to open up their information, in order to enable cross-pollination of data and mashups. Here is the current chart of Top APIs from Programmable Web:
Google Maps is a clear front runner. Among other popular APIs are Flickr, Amazon, YahooMaps and del.icio.us. Also according to the ‘last 14 days’ chart, the YouTube API is on the rise.
It is exciting to see this new wave of applications developed on top of the emerging Web Platform. As the platform matures, we are sure to witness more and more applications using it as their primary infrastructure. This allows businesses to focus on innovation and domain knowledge, rather than worrying about the scalability of their backend systems.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )
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