Narain is the founder & CEO for 360 Degree Interactive, a web services firm based in Chennai, India. This blog is about his personal views on Web 2.0, RoR, Social networking,Digital media, interactive advertising, SaaS, Service Oriented Architecture, India Inc, rural education, Web standards, mobile 2.0 and more.

Tuesday, December 26

Wikiasari mania roundup

Jimmy Wales, the founder of wikipedia is launching a search engine powered by people. The new wikia search engine project is named 'Wikiasari' and will apply 'crowd sourcing' features to search engine results, letting individual users rank sources of informatin and their relevancy to a particular query. Dave Winer has some good logic in his post congratulating Jimmy. O'Reilly talks about this as artificial artificial intelligence. To me it makes sense, but again, the marketability needed to be tested. Wikipedia in years have gone from nothing to something to reckon with. Every possible search for a query, wikipedia entry comes in the first page of search result, showing the enormous potential and content rich information it provides. SearchMarketingGurus has slammed this as a wikisari mania. Niall Kennedy has the most sensible article in this mania rush.

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Sunday, December 24

Claim your OpenID

Get your OpenID first. Then go about read this post. OpenID is an open, decentralized, free framework for user-centric digital identity. Someday back, when i was researching on the Technorati & other things for work, i stumbled across OpenID, and din't take much time for me to claim my identity in a minute. This was one of the few things the real "web 2.0" should provide, along the lines of Semantic Web. Off late, i am a firm believer that if not 2007, the near future is going to be of more semantics in the web and the way we interact with the web.

The option of OpenID also introduces a lot of web-native things for us. First and foremost, you don't have to remember all the user names & passwords which we encounter with plethora of websites / applications we are working with. Sorta single sign-in like Microsoft Live ID or Google Account ID to sign respective services. What is a distinguishing feature with OpenID is that, it is application neutral and YOU OWN YOUR IDENTITY, not Google, not Microsoft and not some Web 2.0 sites out there to catch your attention.

There are already many sites start supporting OpenID login including Technorati and Wikipedia. Learn more about OpenID here. With OpenID, there are lot of things opening up for us in our digital identity. I have written about FOAF, and OpenID is a logical, if not the bigger step in the right direction of semantic web. What i am looking at now is if Visa or Mastercard or any other neutral organisation can create a Open account number, something similar to Paypal account, then it would be a bigger logical step. The account number can be integrated with my OpenID and anyone with an OpenSearch API, should be able to add meta data on top of it. With this, the problem of working with multiple bank accounts is solved.

With this integration, it is easier for us to map the credit worthiness of the digital identity, and the payment gateway integration should be much easier and need not be as complicated as it look today. This also provides, like in the physical world, people will pay more attention to their digital identity. I think, with semantic web around the corner and multiple data delivery options like RSS are going to mainstream, its time to think afresh about the way we interact in our daily digital life. Things aside, I urge open standards to be put across the web for people to take the best advantage in terms of distribution of information, content and commerce.

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Tuesday, December 5

Economy of abudance & distributed product//service architecture

Om Malik points out to an excellent article written by Kevin Maney for USA Today. Kevin argues about a new world order, taking Amazon's web services (AWS) as an example. Although to me, i am unsure, whether the other companies listed there will take up this suggestion and execute things like in "Web services", it makes a good reading & a pointer to a "Longtail" world, neatly summarized by Chris Anderson.

It makes a lot more sense today, since with a 6 Billion population, and an average of about 0.01% of people sharing a particular interest, than we have a user base of around 6 million people for that product or service. Distributed products/services, based out of existing infrastructure is a new way of looking at creating 'market niches' for a generation, which is born with mobile, web and sensors around. Creating 'platforms' as against stand alone products are going to be the rage for the next generation of mankind. Web creates the headway first, than probably will be followed by other industries in the due course. Sharing ATMs in India, can be talked upon as a tiny step taken by non-web industries to "create, share & use" philosophy. If Amazon web services (AWS) created the "virtual startup, virtual entreprenurship" era, YouTube created the "distribute anywhere, everywhere media, Gmail created "no inbox full ever, creeping storage data", as Chris Andresson, clearly puts we are entering an "Economy of abundance".

Kevin for his part, neatly summarized some of the ideas, which is worth looking at in a way AWS does for the web.
if executives at Hormel Foods thought about their business the way Bezos thinks about Amazon, Hormel could create a meat platform. If I have a great idea for a new kind of sausage, I could use Hormel to make it, store it and ship it, while I sold it from a website. I could create a sausage company and never step foot in a rendering plant.

Maybe this trend would not be such bad news for GM. It has excess capacity and nearly 100 years of manufacturing expertise. If it created a car making platform, GM could enable the creation of dozens of new niche-market car companies, all using GM to make and distribute their designs.

I'm not saying the Hormel or GM examples are likely to happen, but some company will do something along those lines. It's not that far afield from today's contract manufacturers in Asia, which make batches of cellphones or toys or shoes on demand. Except Amazon's concept suggests a new level of sophistication and ease-of-use. Point, click and make a product to sell to the world.

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Google's 5 products

Nick Carr has beautifully summarized the "art of simplicity" from Google.

Google Search ("Google" goes back to meaning just search: for all information types, on all devices, personalized)

AdMarket (a unified market place for buyers and sellers, spanning web text, web video, web banners, print, radio, TV)

YouTube (YouTube expands from video to become the common interface for all media sharing)

YouTools (what Apps for Your Domain morphs into, with different tool sets for businesses, families, universities, and hospitals)

YouFile (a personal information management service, covering health data, finances, etc.)

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Monday, December 4

In praise of the third place

James Surowiecki's great piece of wisdom about what is important - No.1 player in the domain and hurting your profitability or No.3 player yet make decent enough profits. James incidentally is the author of "The Wisdom of Crowds". Link via Bokardo

A recent survey of the evidence on market share by J. Scott Armstrong and Kesten C. Green found that companies that adopt what they call “competitor-oriented objectives” actually end up hurting their own profitability. In other words, the more a company focusses on beating its competitors, rather than on the bottom line, the worse it is likely to do. And a study of the performance of twenty major American companies over four decades found that the ones putting more emphasis on market share than on profit ended up with lower returns on investment; of the six companies that defined their goal exclusively as market share, four eventually went out of business.

The point is that business is not a sporting event. Victory for one company doesn’t mean defeat for everyone else. Markets today are so big—the global video-game market is now close to thirty billion dollars—that companies can profit even when they’re not on top, as long as they aren’t desperately trying to get there. The key is to play to your strengths while recognizing your limitations. Nintendo knew that it could not compete with Microsoft and Sony in the quest to build the ultimate home-entertainment device. So it decided, with the Wii, to play a different game entirely. Some pundits are now speculating,ironically, that the simplicity of the Wii may make it a huge hit.Nintendo wouldn’t complain if that happened. But, in the meantime,third prize is looking a lot better than steak knives.

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Saturday, December 2

FOAF: Step in Semantic Web

As a Web 2.0 junkie, there are many things we can speak about loud. There buries the truth of "realistic web" but verbal skyscrapers of what's possible with Web 2.0, and how Web 2.0 will change the world. Today's web is a massive network of disgruntled pieces of information. We have just started to assemble the vast information and data in varied structures like XML,RDF, Wikis and more. Semantic Web is the realistic, true genuine answer to the growth and potential to web. Semantic Web as a concept which is detailed in this TR Article, goes beyond traditional way of connecting networks to machines, but moves beyond to make some "real smart meaning" out of the network. MIT is working on this interesting concept of 'Piggy Bank'.

While reading this article [What comes after Web 2.0 - Technology Review] , i bounced upon FOAF, and really is impressed with the direction it takes towards 'Semantic Web'.
FOAF (Friend of a Friend) is a project for machine-readable modelling of homepage-like profiles and social networks. At the heart is a schema for defining relationships between people, and various attributes such as name, gender and interests. To enable linking, each record includes unique identifiers for each friend.
Instead of breaking your head on the markup, schema part of it, there are already neat FOAF-a-matic auto generators available to create to publish FOAF profiles in your blog. This to me looks like what XFN, which was taken seriously couple of years before by Jeffery Zeldman and other designers, whom i know. Closely coming to the same is Microformats hcard.

FOAF, XFN, hCard among other things are needed to create a larger, dataset of information portability on the web. There will definitely be issues like privacy protection. To be fair and honest, the moment you install, Google Desktop, your privacy is already been sold to Google :) What is needed is a structured, disciplined way of sharing information across multiple systems and mediums. Semantic web should be taken as a concept, not just pertaining to the "browser-centric" version of the web, rather it's a larger-than-pc-enabled web to a more detailed distributed databank. There will always be debates, arguments for and against for everything of this sort. But what is more important is that there can be a universal identifier for information, enabling true, real semantic web, where the web will be smart enough to understand about "Me" and deliver relevant results to my contacts. It also needed to be considered seriously to make Web 2.0 applications, more 'web native' and deliver better communication, than merely an Ajaxified user interaction.

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Friday, December 1

Heads will be raising!

These heads are our rebranded logo for TracBac. TracBac is a web-based visual collaboration application which allows visual designers, creative professionals to collaborate with their clients visually. Having been in development for months, we are unveiling it slowly with an invite-only signups with selected designers. So, if you are a designer, working for an advertising agency, creative professional, UI designer, web designer and whatever you do with Photoshop, Illustrator, Paintshop Pro, Coral Draw, GIMP and so on, sign up for an invite.

I promise, you won't regret for giving away your email ID :)