Newer posts are loading.
You are at the newest post.
Click here to check if anything new just came in.

October 07 2011

Looking for the future? Watch the "crackpots"

Attention in the tech space is generally bestowed upon massive incumbents or hot new startups. The small teams and lone enthusiasts rarely get a mention, let alone major media coverage.

But if you're looking for what's next — the envelope-pushing stuff and the tech that will shape our world in years to come — you need to expand your field of vision to include the "crackpots."

This point was the crux of an energetic discussion between Tim O'Reilly and Charlie Rose at the IAB Mixx Conference & Expo.

"The future often happens with crackpots who are pre-startup," O'Reilly said. "By the time the venture capitalists and the startups arrive, the technology is in full swing." [Discussed 21 seconds in.]

The interview touched on a number of related topics, including:

  • The evolution of Maker Faire and the arrival of the VCs. [59 seconds in]
  • Who knows the enthusiasts driving new technology? The other enthusiasts. [1:34]
  • The convergence of "patterns in technology and patterns in people." [2:00]
  • What qualities do enthusiasts share? Disregard for convention, independent thinkers, passion, and they want to make the future happen. [3:41]
  • Asking who will be the next Mark Zuckerberg is like asking "who will be the next person to win the lottery." [4:35]

A portion of the interview has been made available in the following video:

You'll find comments and additional discussion about this interview in this Google+ thread.


August 19 2011

Go inside Google+ with Tim O'Reilly and Bradley Horowitz

Inside Google+ free webcastGoogle's past data efforts were largely tied to the discovery and categorization of information, but Google+ adds a new component to that mix: people.

This shift raises a host of important questions:

  • How will the social data from Google+ be put to use?
  • Is social data critical to Google's mission of organizing the world's information, or is it more aligned with the company's advertising model?
  • What long-term value does this data bring to users and Google itself?

Tim O'Reilly and Google VP of Product Management Bradley Horowitz will explore these questions and others during a free webcast on Tuesday, August 23 at 10 am PDT / 1 pm EDT.

Register to attend this free online event.

The webcast offers an extended preview of another conversation taking place at O'Reilly's Strata Summit, Sept. 20-21, in New York City. Part of a week-long series devoted to data, Strata Summit offers two days of high-level strategies for thriving in "the harsh light of data," delivered by the business and technology pioneers currently leading the way.

Strata Summit New York 2011, being held Sept. 20-21, is for executives, entrepreneurs, and decision-makers looking to harness data. Hear from the pioneers who are succeeding with data-driven strategies, and discover the data opportunities that lie ahead.

Save 35% on registration with the code STRATA
(Offer expires 8/22)


December 31 2010

What lies ahead: Gov 2.0

Tim O'Reilly recently offered his thoughts and predictions for a variety of topics we cover regularly on Radar. I'll be posting highlights from our conversation throughout the week. -- Mac

Is open government moving from theory to practice?

Tim O'ReillyTim O'Reilly: The initial rush of interest in open government and transparency is wearing off and people are getting to work. Gov 2.0 startup founders are figuring out business models -- such as advertising and providing back-end services for cities -- and the first crop of startups are being funded. Early entrants, like SeeClickFix and CrimeReports, are growing. I think we'll see a number of new startups in this space. [Disclosure: O'Reilly AlphaTech Ventures is an investor in SeeClickFix.]

Open government's transition is also leading to practical applications. The Blue Button initiative from Veterans Affairs, which allows veterans to easily download their medical records, is an idea that's bound to spread. Blue Button is a direct outcome of the Open Government Initiative, but that connection probably won't be recognized. As is so often the case, the things that really make a difference get put into a different category than those that fail.

Along those lines, people might say that open government failed because many of the items on the punch list didn't happen the way they were originally envisioned. When we look back, we'll realize that open government is not just about transparency and participation in government decision making, but the many ways that open data can be put to practical use.

There are profound open government projects taking shape. For example, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) could transform our healthcare system through open data and medical records. HHS Connect and The Direct Project are all about creating the standards for interoperability between medical records. We'll eventually see and benefit from larger efforts like these.

Another open data project that I'm fond of that started very early in the open government process is GTFS, the General Transit Feed Specification. That's the data standard that lets transit districts feed their bus and train arrival times to applications like Google Transit, or any of the many smartphone apps that help you plan your trip on public transit. This standard started as a collaboration between Google and the city of Portland, but is now available from many cities. It's a great example of how governments can think like platform providers. They have to equip their buses and trains with GPS, and report out the data. They could report it just to their own bus stops and train stations, or they could make it available to third parties to deliver in a hundred ways. Which is better for citizens? It's pretty obvious.

And of course, this is government data following in the footsteps of great open data projects of the past, such as the satellite weather data released by NOAA to power the world's weather forecasters, or even the GPS signals that were originally designed only for military use but then released for civilian use.

Much of what you're describing sounds like the Web 1.0-to-2.0 trajectory. Do you see similarities?

Tim O'Reilly: At the end of the Web 1.0 era, some people claimed the web had failed because banner advertising, pop-overs, pop-unders and all the increasingly intrusive forms of advertising didn't work. Then Google came along with a better idea. I think something similar will happen with Gov 2.0. Many of the things people label as "Gov 2.0" are really the early signals and efforts of a "Gov 1.0" period. Important shifts will eventually occur, and they won't have anything to do with government agencies putting up wikis or using Twitter. We will see many unexpected outcomes over time.

A collection of posts that look ahead to 2011 can be found here.


December 30 2010

What lies ahead: DIY and Make

Tim O'Reilly recently offered his thoughts and predictions for a variety of topics we cover regularly on Radar. I'll be posting highlights from our conversation throughout the week. -- Mac

How is DIY connected to industry?

Tim O'ReillyTim O'Reilly: When you look at any enthusiast movement where people are playing with something just for fun, there are deep tech trends hidden inside that movement.

"DIY" itself is a general term for the early stage of a technology revolution. The Homebrew Computer Club was a DIY effort, and then it turned into an industry. The web was a DIY space, and then it turned into an industry. The same thing is happening with the Maker revolution.

We noticed six or seven years ago that groups were playing with hardware in many different ways, and there was new interest in robotics and programmable manufacturing. At one of our early peer-to-peer conferences, a conversation about swapping songs on Napster expanded into a discussion about how people would eventually trade object designs for 3D printers. The hackers were thinking about these things years ago, and now we are closer to that reality.

Another example: Jeff Han of Perceptive Pixel demoed a big-screen multitouch display at ETech in 2006. Multitouch on the iPhone arrived a year later. That technology moved from an engineering hacker community to a mainstream product.

We discussed sensors before, but they apply here as well. When O’Reilly published "Learning Open CV" a few years ago, I was struck by how algorithms discussed in that book are similar to those in our other title, "Programming Collective Intelligence." I realized sensors and machine vision are both performing predictive analytics. That insight led me to write the Web Squared paper, which explored the potential impact of cheap and ubiquitous sensors.

Applications like RunKeeper, Foursquare [disclosure: OATV is an investor in both], Instant Heart Rate, CabSense, and Shazam all rely on sensors. When you connect the dots you see the DIY movement is telling us about sensors, and sensors are telling us about data. The people who understand the sensor-data relationship are the ones building innovative businesses that are ahead of the curve.

How do you see the Maker movement changing in the near term?

Tim O'Reilly: The next phase of the Maker movement is going to be marked by the emergence of new kinds of businesses. Adafruit Industries, DIY Drones, MakerBot, Instructables, iFixit, Etsy and other companies in this space have all tapped into new business models. Some sell kits, tools, and parts. Others provide a discovery and sales platform.

What's interesting is that many of these types of companies don't need a lot of venture capital -- if any -- to get started. In the years ahead, however, I imagine we'll hear about this trend hitting the radar of VCs.

Next in this series: What lies ahead in Gov 2.0
(Coming Dec. 31)


December 29 2010

What lies ahead: Net Neutrality

Tim O'Reilly recently offered his thoughts and predictions for a variety of topics we cover regularly on Radar. I'll be posting highlights from our conversation throughout the week. -- Mac

Is mobile creating a new digital divide?

Tim O'ReillyTim O'Reilly: Many people are fretting that limited access to smartphones is creating a new digital divide. I think that’s a misplaced worry because all phones will be smartphones before long. That problem will take care of itself.

If we assume that all phones are smartphones, what happens at that point? First off, we’ll have major capacity problems because a lot more data will go over the airwaves. That's why some of the FCC's efforts to free up spectrum are so critical. We can’t keep using spectrum inefficiently and hope to have enough.

There will be spectrum congestion and various problems related to that in the near term, but eventually it will get sorted out. The telecoms will need to make investments, and application developers will have to get smarter about how their apps use data. Apps that are bad network citizens are going to stand out.

What will happen with mobile and net neutrality?

Tim O'Reilly: I used to be in the religious net-neutrality camp, but the realities of capacity mean quality-of-service prioritization has to happen. To be clear, I'm still strongly against discrimination that targets a particular company or application.

I see the idea of "absolute" net neutrality going away at some point. Eric Schmidt made an important point at Web 2.0 Summit: There are two concepts of net neutrality. One is you can’t discriminate against any particular company or any particular application. But on the other hand you can discriminate against classes of applications. You could prioritize video lower than voice, or a bulk download of data lower than something that requires real-time communication. Prioritization will be contentious, but capacity limitations will make it clear why it's necessary.

Note: Video of Eric Schmidt at Web 2.0 Summit is posted below:

Next in this series: What lies ahead in DIY and Make
(Coming Dec. 30)


December 28 2010

What lies ahead: Publishing

Tim O'Reilly recently offered his thoughts and predictions for a variety of topics we cover regularly on Radar. I'll be posting highlights from our conversation throughout the week. -- Mac

How will ebooks change publishing?

Tim O'ReillyTim O'Reilly: Andrew Savikas, our VP of digital initiatives at O'Reilly, likes to make a distinction between "formats" and "forms." A hardback, a paperback, an audiobook, and many an ebook simply represent different forms of the same work. New formats, on the other hand, represent deeper changes in how authors develop content and readers consume it. The graphic novel is a recent format innovation in the West (albeit one with deep antecedents), as are the cell phone novels that have become popular in Japan.

People think of ebooks as simply another format, but ebooks actually represent an opportunity for a change in form. For example, you used to buy a printed atlas or a printed map, but now you have a dynamic, perpetually-updated, real-time map that shows you where you are. The old paper maps aren't very useful anymore. Applications from Yelp to Foursquare can be seen as elaborations of the potential of the map in its electronic form.

Or look at Wikipedia. As an encyclopedia, it's actually pretty close in form to what it replaced, but there are important layers of reinvention. A printed encyclopedia doesn't have articles on breaking news; it can't be a real-time encyclopedia in the way that Wikipedia now is. Notions about what an encyclopedia can do have changed.

Changes in form have significantly affected O'Reilly's publishing business by providing new kinds of competition. Our bestsellers are now tutorial books. The old reference-based books have been cannibalized by the web and search. This is why we try to define Safari Books Online as a library of content that people can search across. Reference material now carries an expectation that it will be searchable. And our tutorial books are increasingly challenged by other forms of tutorial, such as screencasts and online video.

O'Reilly may appear to be in the same category as HarperCollins -- we both put ink on paper and sell products through retailers -- but in other ways we're not even in the same business. HarperCollins publishes literary fiction, serious non-fiction, biographies, and other popular literature. We publish technical how-to and reference material. Their competitors include other forms of entertainment and erudition; ours include other forms of teaching and reference.

Does the definition of "publisher" need to expand?

Tim O'Reilly: Publishers think way too narrowly about what kind of business they are in, and as a result, are blind to how the competitive landscape is changing under their feet. If someone has roots in ink-on-paper, they are a publisher, but if they are web- or mobile-native, they are not. But this is wrong-headed! Put another way: Why would you think Zagat is a publisher but Yelp isn't? They both perform similar jobs. Competition should be defined by the jobs publishers do for users.

That being said, curation and aggregation are among the core jobs of publishing, and it's clear to me these jobs still need to be done. There is a real need for someone to winnow out the wheat from the chaff as more content becomes available online. (Of course, Google is also in the curation business, but they do it algorithmically.) Eventually, there will be new ways publishers get paid for doing these jobs, but there are also going to be new ways to do them.

TOC: 2011, being held Feb. 14-16, 2011 in New York City, will explore "publishing without boundaries" through a variety of workshops, keynotes and panel sessions.

Save 15% off registration with the code TOC11RAD

Does a focus on infrastructure block adaptation?

Tim O'Reilly: I gave a Publishing Point talk and someone in the audience asked how new publishing models could pay for "all this," and they pointed around to the lovely room and by reference, the building we were in, the headquarters of a storied publishing company. It was as if maintaining what they already own is the heart of the problem. That's like Digital Equipment Corporation asking, back when the PC era was just beginning, "Will the personal computer pay for all of this?"

HP and IBM figured out how to make the transition to the personal computer era. Digital didn't. Now, Microsoft is struggling with the transition from the PC era to the web era. Could you imagine somebody at a Microsoft conference asking, "But will the web pay for all of this?" You would think that was ridiculous. In technology, we understand the reality of competition and what Schumpeter called the "creative destruction" of capitalism. Why is it when somebody asks that same question in the context of publishing it's treated as a serious query?

How can publishers adapt to digital? What mindsets should they adopt?

Tim O'Reilly: Publishers, including O'Reilly, need to ask themselves: How can we make our content better online? How can we make it better through mobile?

In non-fiction, there are simple improvements to be made in the form of links -- after all, what is a link but a better version of the footnote? There are also ways to add more content, in much the way that DVD publishers add deleted scenes, director commentary, and other extras to the original movie. Other times, "better" will be defined by making something smaller -- at least from the user's point of view. For example, Google has more data than any print atlas, but the user sees less. Consumption is defined by the user's particular request: show me where I am now; show what's around me; show me how to get from where I am to somewhere else. There’s a huge opportunity for books to be reconceived as database-backed applications that show you just what you need to know. Former computer-book publisher Mitch Waite now publishes a fabulous birder’s guide for the iPhone, iBird Pro, demonstrating the power of this model.

Books give people information, entertainment, and education. If publishers focus on how those three elements can be performed better online and through mobile, innovation and business models will follow. If we don't innovate to do those jobs better for our customers, it's only a matter of time before someone else steps in.

Next in this series: What lies ahead in net neutrality
(Coming Dec. 29)


December 27 2010

What lies ahead: Data

Tim O'Reilly recently offered his thoughts and predictions for a variety of topics we cover regularly on Radar. I'll be posting highlights from our conversation throughout the week. -- Mac

Are companies catching on to the importance of data?

Tim O'ReillyTim O'Reilly: For a long time, data was a secret hiding in plain sight. It became clear to me quite a while ago that it was the key to competitive advantage in the Internet era. That was one of the points in my Web 2.0 paper back in 2005. It's pretty clear that everybody knows about it now. There are "chief data scientists" at companies like LinkedIn and Data and algorithms are at the heart of what so many companies are doing, and that's just going to accelerate.

There's more data every day, and we're going to see creative applications that use data in new ways. Take Square, for example. It's a payment company that's hoping to do some degree-of-risk mitigation via social network analysis. Will that really work? Who knows? Even Google is struggling with the limits of algorithmic curation.

There was a story in the New York Times recently about a guy who figured out that getting lots of negative comments led to a high Page Rank. That raises new questions. Google doesn't like to do manual intervention, so they're saying to themselves, "How can we correct this algorithmically?" [Note: Google responded with an algorithmic solution.]

I'm not privy to what's happening inside Google's search quality team, but I think there are probably new sources of data that Google could mine to improve results. I've been urging Google to partner with people who have sources of data that aren't scrapeable.

Along those lines, I think more data cooperation is in the future. There are things multiple companies can accomplish working together that they couldn't do alone. It occurs to me that the era of Google was the era in which people didn't realize how valuable data was. A lot of data was there for the taking. That's not true anymore. There are sources of data that are now guarded.

Facebook, as an example, is not going to just let a company like Google take its data to improve Google's own results. Facebook has its own uses for that data. Meanwhile, Google, which was allowing Facebook users to extract their Gmail contacts to seed their Facebook friend lists, responded by setting their own limits. That's why I see more data-sharing agreements in the future, and more data licensing.

The contacts battle between Google and Facebook is an early example of the new calculus of data. I don't know why Google didn't stand up sooner and say, "If you're scraping our data to fill out your network, why can't we do the same in reverse?" That's a really good question. It's one thing if Facebook wants to keep their data private. But it's another thing if they take from the "data commons" and don't give anything back.

I also anticipate big open data movements. These will be different from the politically or religiously motivated open data movements of the past. The Google/Facebook conflict is an example of an open data battle that's not motivated by religion or principle. It's motivated by utility.

Strata: Making Data Work, being held Feb. 1-3, 2011 in Santa Clara, Calif., will focus on the business and practice of data. The conference will provide three days of training, breakout sessions, and plenary discussions -- along with an Executive Summit, a Sponsor Pavilion, and other events showcasing the new data ecosystem.

Save 30% off registration with the code STR11RAD

How will an influx of data change business analytics?

Tim O'Reilly: Jeff Hawkins says the brain is a prediction engine. The reason you stumble if a step isn't where you expect it to be is because your brain has performed a prediction and you're acting on that prediction.

Online services are becoming intelligent in similar ways. For example, Google's original competitive advantage in advertising came from their ability to predict which ads were the most likely to be clicked on. People don't really grasp the significance of that. Google had a better prediction engine, which means they were smarter. Having a better prediction engine is literally, in some sense, the definition of being smarter. You have a better map of what's true than the next guy.

The old prediction engine was built on business intelligence; analytics and reports that people study. The new prediction engine is reflex. It's autonomic. The new engine is at work when Google is running a real-time auction, figuring out which ad is going to appear and which one is going to give them the most money. The engine is present when someone on Wall Street is building real-time bid/ask algorithms to identify who they're going to sell shares to. These examples are built on predictive analytics that are managed automatically by a machine, not by a person studying a report.

Predictive analytics is an area that's worth thinking about in the years ahead: how it works, how you become proficient at it, how it can transform fields, and how it might conflict with existing business models.

Healthcare offers an example of the potential conflicts. There is no question in my mind that there's a huge opportunity for predictive analytics in healthcare and in the promise of personalized medicine. Certain therapies work better than others, and those conclusions are in the data, but we don't reimburse based on what works. Imagine if Medicare worked like Google. They would say, "You can use any medicine you want, but we're going to reimburse at the rate of the lowest one." Pretty soon, the doctors would be using the drugs that cost the least. That's opposed to what we have now, where doctors get drugs pushed on them by drug companies. Doctors end up recommending particular therapies that the data says don't work any better, but cost three times as much. The business models of pharmaceutical companies are all dependent on this market aberration. If we moved to a predictive analytics regime, we would actually cut a lot of cost and make the system work better. But how do you get there?

Predictive analytics will chip away at new areas and create opportunities. A great example is a company we had on stage at Gov 2.0 Summit, PASSUR Aerospace, that has been managing predictive analytics for airline on-time arrival. For 10 years or so, they've been tracking every commercial airline flight in the U.S. and correlating it with data like weather and other events. They're better than the airlines or the FAA at predicting when the planes will actually arrive. A number of airlines have hired them to help manage expectations about flight arrivals.

Mobile sensors have come up in many of your recent talks. Why are sensors important?

Tim O'Reilly: Recently I was talking with Bryce Roberts about how sensors connect a bunch of OATV's investments. Path Intelligence is using cell phone check-ins to count people in shopping malls and other locations. Foursquare uses sensors to check you in. RunKeeper, which tracks when you run, is another sensor-based application.

The idea that the smart phone is a mobile sensor platform is absolutely central to my thinking about the future. And it should be central to everyone's thinking, in my opinion, because the way that we learn to use the sensors in our phones and other devices is going to be one of the areas where breakthroughs will happen.

(Note: Tim will share more thoughts on mobile sensors and the opportunities they create in a post coming later this week.)

Next in this series: What lies ahead in publishing
(Coming Dec. 28)


Older posts are this way If this message doesn't go away, click anywhere on the page to continue loading posts.
Could not load more posts
Maybe Soup is currently being updated? I'll try again automatically in a few seconds...
Just a second, loading more posts...
You've reached the end.

Don't be the product, buy the product!