Monday, March 24, 2008

Yet Another Culture War Rant on the Internet

I normally don't comment on the rants of Robert Cringely because I find his rhetoric to be too "over the top" manipulative for my tastes.

However, a recent piece of his, entitled War of the Worlds: The Human Side of Moore's Law motivated me to blog about it here.

Not that I actually agree with his main premise which is that the Internet is going to replace primary education. It's not going to replace schools anymore than it replaced any of the other institutions that pundits have predicted it would replace including newspapers, television, or the family unit. It has and will, however, supplement, augment, and transform all of those institutions.

My experience working with offshore software development houses and in discussions with my peers in academia regarding distance learning lead me to the conclusion that the Internet cannot replace the psychological need to relate to humans in close physical proximity no matter how much money is saved by not having to have everyone together in the same room.

The Internet can, however, reduce these location driven costs because you can have a very effective group even when everyone isn't in the same room all of the time. They need to get together to meet periodically. They need to hang out a little bit. Then they can go back home and continue to work together over the Internet. Productivity can be higher than when they never physically meet at all.

What is your opinion? Are we "under attack" in some kind of culture war or is this just the next phase in human development?

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Cell Phones and the World Wide Wireless Web

I recently ran across an article on the Ten Most Disruptive Technology Combinations which included the combination of cell phones and wireless internet access as the number one combination. The article mentions how this convergence blurs the lines between work and play and that is forcing telecom monopolies to open up their networks.

Within the past year, I upgraded my cell phone which included an Internet package. I thought that I would cancel the package pretty soon but I am still willing to pay $20 per month per phone for the privilege of unlimited web and email. I must admit that this is a compelling technology.

So, compelling that I added a mobile edition to my online publication about what affects that technology and the media have on culture.

Authoring web pages for mobile devices is sort of a Back to the Future experience for me. It's all about a small download to a device with limited interactive capabilities. The version of HTML is hyper modern but there are a lot of elements that you cannot or should not use including script, tables, and images. You should also limit links to the navigation within your site.

Summer Update: I have started a new technology company which also includes a mobile edition.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Return of the Semantic Web

About a month ago, I blogged on how the semantic web was having a hard time getting any traction. I mentioned then that the Reuters News Agency was starting to endorse it. Now it appears that Yahoo is also starting to embrace the semantic web through the announcement that they will begin to parse certain microformats with their search engine. Perhaps it is premature to count the semantic web as DOA. I hope so.

Some of you may have noticed that, technically speaking, microformats are not really a part of the semantic web specifications. To me, the semantic web is all about marking up content in a machine understandable way such that the semantic context of searchable content is also specified and searchable.

As the project leader for an open source content publishing system, this is great news for me. I would love to add RDF Site Summary and microformat support to improve the SEO features of this project. There is no reason to add these features unless the popular search engines start using them. I wish that Google would make a definitive announcement of what microformats and/or RSS modules that their search engine would support. Right now, it appears that they are supporting hCard, hAtom, XFN and FOAF.

What is your opinion on this? If you are a content publisher, then what SEO enhancement features and formats would you like to see in your software? The most viable contenders seem to me at this time to be hCard, hCalendar, FOAF, and DC.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Metcalfe's Law

A friend of mine recently emailed me this announcement with the comment "use this with idea and get rich." Although the announcement of an iPhone SDK is new, this is not a new trend. Companies such as Facebook, Google, and Yahoo have all signed up to a degree to the following model.
  • Technology company reinvents itself as a technology platform company.
  • Productizes its application tier with a public facing API.
  • Markets to developers encouraging them to consume their API and "get rich."
  • Takes advantage of subsequent buzz to build brand.
It's Metcalfe's Law all over again which is actually just a variation on the simple market forces of supply and demand. Leveraging developers to increase demand of the data that you supply is a straightforward way to increase the value of your services.