Thursday, December 14, 2006

Blogs blogs and more blogs!

Do you have the feeling all of us bloggers fit in two distinct groups? The MySpace kids who want to be seen and shine in front of their friends, and the passionate activists or professionals who publish to be noticed and get a job! All post information to self-promote and some go to extensive efforts to be linked everywhere just to be found on search engines beyond their little social networks. Despite this self-indulgence what we write has value, perhaps not on its own but collectively! A kind of collective voice or pulse that goes far beyond Google capturing our queries and behaviors to guess intent and trends. Are we also so eager to be noticed that we ignore that we are exposing our life to the world to see, evaluate, judge and discriminate against when we apply for a job? I have a friend in Montreal that posts the most absurd and often vulgar pictures on his blog. I told him that recruitment agencies and employers search the web more and more to profile the characters of their employees. Alas my friend ignores this new reality and continues to expose his poor sense of humor next to his picture and curriculum vitae. I guess the two groups referenced above do not mix well. This is why blogs offer a wealth of content to better understand what matters to us and what malaise is present in our society. So let’s blog-away on the Internet’s immaterial cloud but let’s remember that we are grounded on earth and that our actions on the web have more chances to be noticed and captured than a loud voice in the corner pub!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

WEB 2.0: A Collective Conscientiousness Platform?

I have been exploring the role that the WEB 2.0 can have as platform for the representation of Collective Conscientiousness. With blogs, wikipedia, wikinews, social networking, MySpace, LinkedIn, YouTube and other highly interactive and social network-enabled features, we are starting to see popular themes and sub-culture groups emerge to the mainstream. With the interaction between people’s interests and the need to express themselves (their lives) with these systems, we are providing our society with near-real-time awareness of what matters to people. I believe that we will be able to harness the commonality of the expressions found across these systems and be capable of viewing the expressions of the Collective Conscientiousness. I think that this awareness can influence actions towards the evolving Collective Conscientiousness that can be of use to market analysis, political campaigns and governance.

Please comment and let me know if this is a topic of interest and if you would like to join a focus group to further discuss and explore the possibilities of a visible collective conscientiousness.

Friday, December 01, 2006

My 1994 spark!

Over the last ten years my friends and colleagues have asked me what was the spark that lead me into structuring collaboration and social network information. Here it is. I found the bar napkin!

Just before being acquired by Lotus in 1994, I was hired to help solve the problem of the collaboration breakdown emerging from too many Lotus Notes applications at Lotus, each with a different design and team practices confusing the users that belonged to many teams. It was then that I discussed the issue with Peter Rothstein, at a well-known bar by Lotus employees, and wrote this model on the bar napkin.

My idea was simple; if the information is the unpredictable variable, can the structure that wraps it be structured? I then proposed that information in context needed to be associated with four vectors that will be the foundation for organization, reporting and access. The assumption and vector analogy was particularly provocative when one or more vectors were left undefined, thus causing the information to be out of context. It is with this model in mind that I created TeamRoom, a standard template for collaboration where each team would define their terminology in these four dimensions (what we describe today as taxonomy and tagging). I later used the same inspiration to create a Contextual Navigator in InterCommunity in 1996. The object tags where used to assemble a portal designed to support collaboration and communication for communities of interest. The model was then recycled in IBM's Websphere in 1998.

Today I am still inspired by this initial model and continue to build solutions that leverage tag clouds with multiple dimensions. But to be completely honest the inspiration of the napkin came from my understanding of a brilliant product that died by 1990; Lotus Agenda. Thanks to Mitch Kapor!