December 27, 2007

The Semantic Web

I watched three very smart, hard-working high-tech colleagues have a discussion this week about what "Web 3" really means.
- One said it means "finding middle ground" (i.e. we had top-down content from the same old media empires and corporate boomboxes with Web 1.0, bottoms-up, user-generated everything with Web 2.0, so something in between had to be Web 3.0. )
- The other one said that it was all a myth, just like the Web 2.0 is just a bubble, (in the good scenario) and all bull (in the worst case.)
- The third one had absoltely no idea what the other two were talking about, and stayed silent.

All three could be right. Just like all three could be wrong.

I was always assumed that it was a synonym of The Semantic Web. Here's a short intro by Digital Bazaar to get the conversation going.

December 26, 2007

Thanks, and Goodbye

It was after many, many months of deliberating that I reached decision to stop my active involvement in ResearchTrail. Many factors argued for and against staying, but two won out:

  • Evolving professional interests (more on that later...)
  • The juggling got too heavy to remain enjoyable, especially since there were far more important things I feared I was just about to "drop"
Letting go of your "baby" is very hard, but I'll always remain a proud parent seeing it flourish. ResearchTrail continues as strong as ever, and I look forward to see it launch very soon.
So to Judy and David, thank you for your trust and openness and friendship.
And to the regular readers of Creativivi, thanks for accompanying me in this rollercoaster. You can certainly expect more life juggling, idea bouncing, and Web & Work 2.0 explorations going forward.
In other words, stay tuned for part 2.

December 20, 2007

What frozen peas can teach us…

If you’re in the twittersphere lately, you will have noticed that some of the most prominent 2.0 figures have traded their traditional photos for… well, peas. Peas as wigs. Peas as backgrounds. Pea pods as dresses. Peas as their profile photo altogether.

To me, the mystery was solved thanks to a twitter question, and subsequent answer, by Dave Weiner yesterday

Here’s the story:

Susan Reynolds was, until earlier this month, an artist and media consultant from Washington DC. Some two weeks ago, she found a lump in her chest and found herself undergoing numerous tests (including biopsies) that would later tell her she had breast cancer. To cope with the immediate pain of the scars those tests left, she grabbed a bag of frozen peas and stuck them into her bra.

She very candidly began blogging about her experience in, which has, two weeks later, she has generated somewhat of a cult following.

As she writes in her blog,

- A bag of peas was something
everybody could relate to.
- Some people love them,
some hate them, some use them for their own injuries.
- A bag of frozen peas was a
vehicle for conversation and let people tease me instead of having to cry.
- It let people share
instead of bemoaning.
With the viral spreading and speed that only Web 2.0 can offer, today there’s a group in Flickr where you can upload your own FrozenPea “pea-vatars.” There’s also a FrozenPea Fund for cancer research started by her friends (which is due to launch tomorrow, Dec 21st).

So in just a little over two weeks, a growing list of little known and well-known bloggers alike have taken the “pink ribbon” cause and given it a funny, personal, whimsical makeover. And people are buying into it.

Case in point: Robert Scoble (Scobleizer blog) thinks about the Davos question " how to save the world?" His answer: Peas.
(photo credit: Goldie Katsu )

December 19, 2007

Time waster of the day: Dumbest Moments of the Year

It's that time of the year again. Somebody on an email listserv (yes, despite Twitter and RSS, some of us still get old-fashioned email digests with post by people we'll likely never meet face to face), sent me a link to a news story by the editors of Fortune magazine "the 101 Dumbest moments in Business"

After reading about executives who play golf for 3 weeks days while their companies are in deep sh*t from the subprime crisis, and hearing more "shocking confessions" from so-called celebs, and then worrying sick about the lead paing and date-drug-like substances that my kids might have been exposed to in the 2 and 4 years I've surely endangered them by buying them toys, I felt nauseated.

Was I the only one? What were others thinking?
I can just hear their voices...

- The Israeli: If that punk can be CEO, so can I. In fact, I already know I'm better.
- The religious extremist: Told you so.
- The Latin American Macho: Idiots. The idea is not to get caught.
- The Latin American with "Marianismo": It's the poor who always get scr*wed.
- My Jewish Mother: See, that's why it's better that we're not millionaires.
- My friends' Jewish Mother: Told you so.
- The writers of the piece: Checkmark. Now let's start our filler on "New Year's Resolutions." so that we can finally go on vacation.
- The execs, celebs and other (in)famous people covered by the story: Hurray! My name is at the top of the blogosphere/mediasphere/noiseland for today!

December 16, 2007

Feedback for Loic: Top (and bottom) five from LeWeb3

BEST of LeWeb3 this year.

  1. The caliber of the people. Big names not just for the sake of their names, but for their wit and influence and variety.
  2. More on the people: The openness of Martin Varsavsky, the cleverness of The Guardian’s Emily Bell, the charisma of Jason Calacanis & Ev Willams, plus, Jeff Pulver and Scoble popping up everywhere.
  3. Presentation fun: Jacob Share’s DIGGs live; Robert Scoble replying to TechCrunch announcement live, and good improvisation by several presenters in light of technical glitches.
  4. Israeli startups (and fellow iDrink members) take silver and bronze in the Startup Competition
  5. Blogger friedly: The networking lounge, the Ad-Click booth with seats and power outlets, the guy from Google who helped me find the nearest store to get a new power supply for my dinosaur laptop, and WiFi after they fixed the first day's glitches.

And now, some suggestions for next year

  1. Did you notice that none of the names I mentioned before were women? Except for a couple of presenters (and our host, Cathy), there were no women spekers (and a very small percentage of attendees).
  2. Please ban “advertorials” from the keynote presentations. Some really went overboard in trying to promote their companies when they should have made it more generic.
  3. Day 2 ended in what was perceived as rushed improvisation and with very few people in the room. Better call it quits at 4 and then have people mingle for coffee downstairs if they want to stay until 5 or 6. (On a positive note, I glad they gave the stage to
  4. Parties are a place where people want to mingle and dance. LaScala was loud & awkward, and as somebody pointed out, they finally got around to playing tood music, but "have you ever tried to dance to Led Zeppelin?"
  5. Online updates: many people didn’t know about the wiki or official site until late in the event, and then, it was not really participatory. Would have been great to follow changes in the schedule live throught these sites.

We know Loic and Geraldine and Ouriel and the rest were stretched to the limit, but still, appointing someone else would have been great. (ehem, if iDrink sponsors me again, or ResearchTrail takes off as we'd like it to, or if I'm invited as a speaker or otherwise find a creative way to get there next year, I officially volunteer :-) )

December 13, 2007

Instant dose of culture – The Refill

Thanks to an airport strike in Athens, I got to spend an extra night in Paris. Luckily, it’s on a Wednesday, when the Louvre is open until late (10 PM according to the tourist guides, more like 9:30 PM in real life, when le-guards start to kick you out)

This night was a treat. I had just come from two mind-guzzling days where “dudes” and a few “dudettes” from 40 countries and inflated egos spoke about collaboration, communication, design, and technology - and I needed to get away from WiFi and let it all start to sink in. My first encounter with hieroglyphics and a Sphinx and the Venus de Milo (and yes, Raphael and Delacroix and the others again), finally drove home the point:

I can relate to this. This object is trying to engage me, to have a dialogue, to have me participate (or reject it). It goes well beyond the artistry and tools (the technology and skills). It’s –you guessed it- trying to tell me a story.

After walking up and down Denon (and Sully too this time!), I went back for a final dose of chic from the Gioconda. Unlike my visit Monday, the crowds around her were gone. I followed the famous gaze, reminding myself that it wasn’t enough to just stand there and listen to the audio guide or take another pic. Perhaps there was something I could understand about the Mona Lisa by myself?

And then her smirk turned into a full blown smile.

Thank you Paris.

On changing the world

At LeWeb3, basically everybody in the room thinks they can change the world (and most want to get filthy rich on the way). There’s a lot of emphasis on change and inspiration and dreams. But what impact are they really having?

After Hans Rosling’s talk, I felt moved. I wanted to continue to act, to make a difference in one of the “220 varieties” of countries he was referring to. But then, something started to bother me: as much as Gapminder brings alive otherwise very dry facts and statistics, the access to these graphs requires certain basic level of background/education to understand (as well as the means to see them).

I tracked Hans Rosling at the coffee break to ask him about the “lowest common denominator” of the people who use these graphs. His answer, tongue in cheek, was, “kids under 12 and Heads of State.” And added “This is because neither group wants to be told what to do. They want to explore themselves.”

Hans is a good conversationalist. People burst out laughing. Then somebody jumped in with a stat on the low ratio of CEOs with MBAs, and the high correlation of CEOs with MBAs that end up in jail. More laughs.

But Jonathan Mark, who was standing nearby, understood what I had in mind. Yes, the issues in so-called “third world” countries are important to raise. But by doing this on our own, with our own language and without giving others the chance to join the conversation (or create and preserve their own), we’re just imposing our own views on the subject. We’re not attempting to share (or listen to) the voices from those we’re trying to “help” in the first place.

Jonathan is trying to change this. He’s involved in projects in Africa that teach villagers, and especially women in these villages, to continue sharing their stories, their memories, their problems. The technology is simple, and most importantly, using a medium they’re familiar and feel comfortable with: voice. Radio is the solution.

Grass-roots radio stations are popping up everywhere. Women are communicating their issues, their hopes, their solutions, their dreams. And thanks to these projects, they’re preserving their stories, their memories.

Now that’s impressive.

The New World of Personalization, and what Philippe Starck didn’t get

Jonathan Medved from Vringo built a nice case for the personalization of technology. As a presenter, he made a very nice use of slides (featuring everything from Crocs-ware to Phone-ware.) He also had some memorable quotes:

  • (Quoting Efuse): “A web site is your personality in pixels”
  • As an investor, I wouldn’t have given money for companies in the ringtones business 5 years ago. That's unfortunate, because now it’s a $6 Billion business” (Jon's background is in VC)
  • Mobile personalization is behind the web. But it’s about to catch up.
  • The phone is really a fashion statement. [Vivi’s comment: my Nokia, by this definition, en is more like a 1987 Volvo station wagon: looks old and box-like, but sturdy and safe with kids…]

The second half of the presentation was, unfortunately, solely devoted to promoting Jon’s startup, which, marketing oriented as I am, was bit over the top. But I forgive him given the intro he gave on stage when he politely disagreed with design genious Philippe Starck after the latter’s (politically incorrect? shallow? even-for-this-audience disrespectful?) comments on God and stupidity earlier that morning.

December 12, 2007

Monetization dilemmas? Stay in the middle.

A note from a packed panel this morning on "Monetization" at LeWeb3.
For the most part, the answers were pretty much the expected ones (no, nobody has found the magic formula):

  • Bloggers & Content providers? Be among the top 5 in an industry in your country, or carve a big piece of a (tiny) niche. Otherwise, don't expect to make any money for blogging (or maybe enough to pay for BigMacs).
  • Others? Draw users in. Keep them there. Try subscription. And of course, various forms of advertising. And remember, Ecommerce is not making a profit from the commerce itself because the logistics are so expensive; they're good for being in the middle. Try being an intermediary - to offer serivces that either don’t produce the content or don’t do the selling part.

The one piece of advice I don't necessarily agree with: sell virtual products, like that website where 13-year-old girls purchase pixelized clothes for each other. I find it rather depressing. Maybe someone will show me something that will convince me of the viability/usefulness of such?

On European Entrepreneurs, or Robin Hood 2.0

One of the highlights today was Loic Le Meur's "conversation" with Martin Varsavsky. Unlike the self-perpetuating Sarah Lacy/Kevin Rose "conversation" yesterday or some of the impolite remarks to the audience during Dave Winer/Loic Le Meur's "conversation" this morning, this was one conversacion I wished could have gone on much longer.

Martin Varsavsky, entrepreneur, investor and Spanish speaker (no bias here, of course) struck a cord when he spoke about the change in Europe's perception of entrepreneurs. Before, he said, entrepreneurs were considered thieves, bandits. Nothing more than "Ricos, llenos de mierda" [his words].
Things are changing in today's Europe, where the entrepreneurial spirit is taking off (I take his word for it; he's also a lecturer at the Instituto de Empresas). Varsavsky says that their new image is much more positive, to the extent that some consider them the new saviors of Europe. They've gone from robbers to job creators, from outcasts to cultural icons.

Reminds me of Robin Hood.

Saluting the people formerly known as "consumers"

After getting bored with LeWeb3's own version of Buzzword bingo during a couple of the sessions this morning, I was very much drawn into what Gerd Leonhard had to say about the future of media.

Not that his session wansn't peppered with some of the terms of BS Bingo, but unlike some of the others presenters, he actually used these to add to the conversation something more than fluff.
Some of the highlights:

  • You don’t make money with protection. You make money with engagement.
    In other words. We’re all pirates.
  • Control – the most crucial subject for the future of media. The distribution channels are changing. [Remember Porter's Five Forces?]
  • Radio was illegal for 15 yrs in Europe and 20 yrs in the US. The solution? Change the law. This was catalyzed by none other than the people... that is, the people formerly known as consumers
  • User generated really, user generated context

Israeli startups win second and third place at LeWeb3 startup competition

Congratulations to and PLYmedia (with prize, below) for being the runners up at LeWeb3's startup competition this year. You make us all proud!
The other winners: SplitGames, Erepublik, and the first-place winner, Goojet.

My Buzzword (or Bull?) Bingo for LeWeb3

Note the prominence of the word storytelling: a concept I strongly believe in, but am disappointed in its lack of use during presentations by the speakers who promote the idea in the first place.

Finally, what's missing from the picture? "Bubble." Interestingly enough, I have not heard it mentioned thus far (26 hours into the conference).

The side feature bears a Company

Twitter's Evan Williams got top marks for an early-morning presentation today. Simple. Short. Fun. Memorable. Come to think of it, many of the same principles he applied to Twitter.

The essence is simple. Pull out features, leave only what you absolutely need. But, as the Scobleizer asked, how do you know when to stop taking out features?

"Don't know when," Evan Williams answered, "but carefully and slowly." When they felt they needed them, the users themselves returned more features (the Hash/tags, the @/link, Twitterific, etc).

The interesting part of the features is the idea that each one can be turned not only into a separate product, but into a separate company. Twitter started from the "status" line of instant message clients. Feedburner is another example - and now a $100 M company.

(photo: the main conference hall before it filled up this morning)

December 11, 2007

Chag Chanukah Sameach from LeWeb3

Thanks to Corey and Jeff and Amber and Sarah and the others who came together to light the eight candle at LeWeb3. Chag urim sameach from the City of Lights.

More on the the power of storytelling

An inspiring lecture by TED’s June Cohen focused on behavior, not technology. Only downside - she didn't tell it as a story, unfortunately. Still, some good points:

  • We are living through a profound shift in the way people consume and provide media. But we're not really evolving. We're actually reverting to the natural media.
  • A campfire: this is actual media. It's where people interacted. Passing on gossip. Passing on stories. Media has always been social, participatory.
  • From that standpoint, the idea that media is created from up high and it’s dictated to you is depressing. Americans over the age of 50 watch an average of 40 hours a week. That’s isolating. That’s a full time job
  • In the last 50 years, "Speech" has become boring. Not inclusive, not engaging as the 1960s media that Marshal McLuhan gave.
  • But we're now re-discovering the participatory nature of media. It's personalized, not just broadcast from the high towers of the majority. And it's going on without media conglomerates. And with tremendous impact.

Go to the TED site to see June Cohen's presentation notes for this keynote.

P.S. My version of the personalization of technology: at the Nokia stand in LeWeb3, they give you a day's test drive of the new Nokia internet tablet (so what if it's also a phone) for free. First thing I loaded? My blog, with the pics of my kids.

Lessons on Innovation from Google - CCS

What does Google have to say about Innovation? Here's a Google product manager's view:

  1. Culture: this is the most important one. According to Nelson Mattos, Google puts users first; profitability is "an afterthought." Also in the Google credo: create a global skills base, as only local engineers will be able to understand the nuances of their geographies (Orckut big in Brazil, blogging big in France but not Latin America, etc) Finally, maintain a non hierarchical structure
  2. Collaboration: Some secrets are more valuable when shared
  3. Speed: Fast is better than slow. Big will not beat small anymore. It will be fast beating slow. At Google we absolutely encourage people to move at high speed, build a prototype, launch immediately and get feedback directly from the users. And improve over that.

Beyond Red Wine/ White Wine geography - or storytelling in a tech world

Just finished a fascinating lecture by Hans Rosling (founder of Medicine Sans Frontiers, and now, Gapminder) on technology, culture, diversity and storytelling. Lots of thougths to ponder:

  • "We thought we’d produce pages where people would lean forward and click.
    That does not work. You need to tell stories."
  • "There are 10 thousand watchers for each clicker"
  • "Every country that has gotten richer and healthier has done it at the expense of CO2 emissions. It’s you, the OECD that has destroyed the atmosphere. But we forgive you. Nobody knew what they were doing. But on the condition that we now count per capita. How can we make Chinese public perceive it as a problem when we are emitting so much more per capita?"
  • But we need the storytellers on top of this. It’s the storytellers that work.
  • "Start to look at the world as the place where all humans are equal – in choices, in opportunities
  • "We don’t want everyone to eat camembert in this world, to eat big macs. Bloggers, consider how all these blogging communities may enforce the ethnic homogeneity of Western Europe, NA. Create contacts elsewhere."
Take Hans' neighbor. He knows all about wine: temperature, food that goes with it, regions, taste. But he also only knows two only types of countries: “western” and “third world”
Now take Hans. He knows two types of wine: red and white. But he knows over 200 countries.
The main problem, says Hans, is that too many people that know wine, and too few people that know the world. Come study the world.

December 10, 2007

Instant Culture

What does one do on a cold, rainy Monday afternoon in Paris? After the compulsory Eifel Tower 5 min Kodak moment from Trocadero (and souveniers for the kids), it is de-rigeur to hop onto Line 1 of the Metro, straight to the Louvre.

Don't care that they're closing in 60 minutes. Doesn't matter that they won't rent me a guide at this hour, or that I can't waste time to drop 3 extra layers of clothing in the cloakroom. I'm in Paris and I'm entitled to pay my 9 euros and get my guaranteed dose of instant refinement.
So yes, I managed to catch a couple of Raphael and Delacroix and even a sneak peek at the Crown Jewels as I whisked through the halls of the Denon Gallery following the hordes. And when I finally reached my destination, I felt a sense of accomplishment.
The Mona Lisa. Right across the room, peeking at me from amongst the sea of tourists snapping from every angle.

Now, my turn... Click! I have a "real" snapshot of the Gioconda, flash reflection and all. This proves it, I'm uber chic now. Effect should last a full 72 hours.

December 07, 2007

To "Hal" With Privacy

Scott McNealy's utterings caused a stir back in the late 90s when he declared that privacy is dead. Almost a decade later, we hold this truth to be self-evident...

At one of the sessions at the Online Information conference in London today, Invisible Web author Chris Sherman shared the association of HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey and Google's privacy "control" button.
One is green. One is red. Both watch and learn all the time. But we hope that the former, unlike its movie-like counterpart, does not end up killing anybody.

For the record, Chris is one of the least paranoid among the search gurus. He believes that the benefits gained from personalization (which can be as mundane as typical Amazon recommendations) far outweight the threats. Or continuing McNealy's reported quote, "get over it."

December 06, 2007

The thrill of the chase

One byte from Marydee Ojala's talk yesterday at the Online Information 2007 conference in London:

Information professionals get a kick out of the scavanger hunt. They enjoy the thrill of the chase, the process of finding the structure in the unstructured.

There is a lot of training that goes into this - taxonomies, search techniques, specialized search engines, tons of commands, and of course, interviewing skills. But the basic quality is there: loving the process that leads to the aha moment.

Well, apparently the conference organizers at the Olympia have taken this a little bit too seriously when they planned the maze of corridors and elevators that lead between the conference session rooms and the exhibit floor :-) But other than the lack of proper wireless internet connection (basically, forget it), a pretty enjoyable experience. More coming soon.

December 02, 2007

Social Graces 2.0


I need your help. I don’t think I’m doing things right. The more time I spend online, the more confused I get about social norms 2.0.

For example,

- Am I expected automatically connect in LinkedIn or ning if somebody responds to a post on a professional mailing list? Or should I save those only for facebook or myspace?
- And will people be offended if I add them to my “limited profile” list? Or don’t allow them to see my LinkedIn connections?
- Maybe that explains why I don’t have enough friends. My facebook stats say over 70, but hey, my (20-year old) sister has 632 friends, and counting. Is my social life over at 31?
- Maybe I should be a better friend. Am I the only one not throwing back friendship balls, traveling bears or playing Texas Hold’em?
- I got “accepted” to Pownce the other day! But then I didn’t find any friends there. Does that mean I don’t have cool friends?
- And a web 1.0 question that still puzzles me… When in doubt, should I break the chain? My friend Esther Solomon published a nice op-ed piece in Haaretz today against automatic chain mail forwarding (“England wants to ban Holocaust studies!”) But what if I’m responsible for not helping find a lost child’s parents or passing on a warning about cancer and deodorants?

Thank in advance,

A very confused Vivi

P.S. Just occurred to me… wanna be my friend on Pownce?