Archived entries for attention

More small pieces fit together more ways

In early February Todd Sampson wrote that The API is the Product. I think he’s right on. Behind the exciting buzz of sites and services that make getting bits of info online easy are some very cool APIs that let anybody and everybody create entirely new ways to input or output that same data. (The apparently trend to smaller pieces of data is interesting too, and part of the ease.)

Here are a few of those sites: FireEagle for location data (a single geocode), TripIt for travel data, Delicious for links data (a single URL+ tags), ThingFo for experience data (in 30 chars), Twitter for vitality data (140 chars).

These APIs make possible an undeniable wave of creative hacks within the small orbit of any of the services even individually. This growth testify to the mass variety of niche needs and personal priorities. It seems the ocean of data is really a petri dish.

When these hacks cross-pollenate — when the ins and outs of the data sets start sharing and talking with each other — things get even more interesting.

Those that dismiss mashups as simply “things on a map,” “widgets on a blog,” or “applications on facebook” don’t see the full power. I don’t claim to either, but important coolness seems inevitable when data becomes small and abundant while APIs become prolific and potent. More small pieces fit together more ways.

(Perhaps this is a small part of why Douglas Crockford says that “Mashups are the most interesting innovation in software development in decades.”)

Data Ocean vs Document Lake

Friend and Yahoo! Developer Network (YDN) Director Matt McAlister has a good post today on Creating leverage at the data layer.

Matt cites Tim Berners-Lee from a recent interview saying that the future of the web is one where we and our agents “can access all the data” via a “much more seamless and much more powerful” interface and experience made possible “because [of] integration.”

That’s different than how it’s been. Documents are a subset of Data. The Web has been a lake of Documents. It is becoming an ocean of Data.

We’ve surfed the lake of documents with a web browser. But a web browser is not always the right tool for the ocean of data. One of many examples is that many people consumer Twitter via a desktop client like twitterific or twhirl. In fact only 45% of recent messages (of people I follow) were posted via the web interface. It’s not a stretch to conclude that a majority of twitter users have determined that there is a better way to interact with twitter’s data than with a web browser. (If not the stats, then certainly the trend.)

I see that as evidence that A) some new interfaces are required for some new types of data; and that B) the web has interesting data to consume outside of a browser.

In the same vein, Matt writes that “Social networks are a good user interface for distributed data, much like web browsers became a good interface for distributed documents.” He’s right: social networks are a great way to consume the so-called vitality stream.

Moving on he writes that the markets and technologies supporting this new world “are still in very early stages.” His notion that “there‚Äôs lots of room for someone to create an open advertising marketplace for information, a marketplace where access to data can be obtained in exchange for ad inventory, for example” is important.

There’s more good stuff in his post, but I gotta get back to my other work. I didn’t even mean to write this much about it — so i’ll stop now and let you head over there if you want – but I’ve got a bit more that I’m mulling that I’ll try follow up with.

Down to 22,490…22,491

Spent a bunch of time in the past few days pruning and organizing my feeds, and catching up on some blog reading. When I started, my feed inbox was at about 65,000 unread items. I’ve got it down to a much less daunting 22,491 unread items now.

I read about 400 feeds (well, the 65k unreads number tells you that I don’t *read* them all). If you’re interested in my reading list, and you don’t mind how dated, ugly, and messy it is, then by all means take a look. (Im working on improving it, and will post as update when it’s better.)

Video: Information R/evolution

Information R/evolution is a five minute video telling the story of the transformation from a world of categorized information to a world of living information the we all enrich continually. It’s from the same guy (Michael Wesch) and in the same style as "Web 2.0 … The Machine is Us/ing Us."

When his "Web 2.0," video came out I wrote that

Perhaps the so-called ’social web’ isn’t about connecting people, but about information conservation: If a person chooses to do something — no matter how small — it’s inherently interesting, precious, and valuable.

I still think that’s true, and I find more support in this new video:

Here is "Information R/evolution" by Prof. Michael Wesch:

Hap tip to the information aesthetics blog which is a great source for "data visualization & visual design."

teaching the machine

A video called “Web 2.0 … The Machine is Us/ing Us” is an engaging and enjoyable 4.5 minute non-verbal documentary taking us from ‘pencil’ to ‘Web 2.0′. It adds context to the advances that got us here, and suggests what might yet be in store. At about 03:40, highlights from an August 2005 Wired article, “We Are the Web,” are used to suggest that we are “teaching the machine.” I’m afraid that that notion is still inadequately understood and appreciated.

Perhaps the so-called “social web” isn’t about connecting people (not about helping people socialize), but about information conservation: If a person chooses to do something — no matter how small — it’s inherently interesting, precious, and valuable. We’ve barely started to figure out what to do with this second-generation information. Where we have it’s been exciting, useful, and successful: Flickr’s Interestingness and Clusters, the notion of “watching” on Upcoming, the newer “people who looked at this ultimately bought that” in Amazon, and of course Google’s PageRank. The idea isn’t new, but it’s still under appreciated.

Here’s the paragraph from Wired that surrounds the words used in the video:

And who will write the software that makes this contraption useful and productive? We will. In fact, we’re already doing it, each of us, every day. When we post and then tag pictures on the community photo album Flickr, we are teaching the Machine to give names to images. The thickening links between caption and picture form a neural net that can learn. Think of the 100 billion times per day humans click on a Web page as a way of teaching the Machine what we think is important. Each time we forge a link between words, we teach it an idea. Wikipedia encourages its citizen authors to link each fact in an article to a reference citation. Over time, a Wikipedia article becomes totally underlined in blue as ideas are cross-referenced. That massive cross-referencing is how brains think and remember. It is how neural nets answer questions. It is how our global skin of neurons will adapt autonomously and acquire a higher level of knowledge.

Here’s the video, which was created by Michael Wesch, Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Kansas State University:

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