Thoughts on a VTC

Many of you know that I am now deeply involved in Federal Green IT. Add that in with my personal nonprofit work on Food/Obesity/Recycling and I’m all ears for video conferencing.

Which is why I’m a bit wry in these thoughts scrambled on sheets during my first VTC:

Sitting in two separate rooms. Two different groups. A Turing test – feeding voice info through the mic to the other group. Like Turing would think, if the message is delivered and a smart reply ensues, we have an intelligent VTC.

The atmoshpherics of the VTC are such that any delay in transmission can fail the whole operation. The faces on the screen are cold, flat, and the size of a penny on a screen far away on the wall. Wait! There is a third interloper, a single person, in a dark room. Is that big brother? Did he see me writing these notes and now going to take me to secret prison number 72?

Papers are everywhere. We have video screens of each other and a million printouts. Separate notes being taken on each. Lots of writing. Redundant. Scattered. Back to their individual desk and then…lost.

Why not a single note taker – entering notes digitally – on the scene = available instantly back at my desk for free!

Is the whole point of a video conference saving time and money, with lowered stress? Appears to work but still seem so awkward. How to improve? Does the new meeting format ask corporate servants to learn new meeting skills – like muting the box, waiting for the delay to pass, squinting at the screen to see their faces?

Maybe its just me and Im now old. Used to my physical “warm” meetings…or maybe im not using the top of the line technology…what is that like?

Can I just sit at my desk and play/enter Second Life and sit at virtual desk?

Don’t deny it, Obama is all Web 2.0

I have been telling friends this for a while: Obama (his campaign) is the most powerful and far-reaching Web 2.0 business in the world.

The fact that he has gone from a virtual nobody to a near land slide presidential victory (typing this at 10:45 EST on election night) is absolutely transformative. He is reported to have raised 150 million dollars in one month. Which includes 632,000 new donors, added to his three million established donors. These are transformative feats, game changers.

An article in NY Times explored this issue by interviewing some of the Obama campaign officials.

“Mark McKinnon, a senior adviser to President Bush’s campaigns in 2000 and 2004…”(this) year campaigns leveraged the Internet in ways never imagined. The year we went to warp speed. The year the paradigm got turned upside down and truly became bottom up instead of top down.”

That’s right, hyper speed and bottom up. Sounds a lot like the Wikipedia cycle and a lot less like the cable/news cycle. Though, to be honest, Obama charted a road in the middle. Able to reach voters where they were are give them what they want. For me it was my cell phone and youtube. For others it was door-to-door, and still others was on tv and through debates.

Most of the time it seemed as if the McCain campaign just ignored this sound advice “reach voters where they were and give them what they want”. As if the Internet and its various capabilities is still a side show. Even after months of Obama turning the tide first against Hillary Clinton and then John McCain, they still refuse to accept.

Accept it or not. It’s here and its happening.

Computer Troubles

Is it possible that computers are just too hard. That they are just so complicated that it requires a degree to understand them. Yes.

Is it also possible that we have been turned off by computers. They prevent us being outside and experiencing things. They make things harder instead of easier. They are just not that important to our lives. Yes.

Those are the two most important problems I see in our culture. We are afraid of computers and turned off by them. It goes deeper than that though. They challenge our basic beliefs about the value of things like books, one on one encounters, and more.

Most believe its just not possible be into computers and have a healthy lifestyle with a balanced family and outdoor activities. In our minds computers and technology have ceased to make things easier and become a burden on us.

Most of us take a half-n-half approach. We will invest some time in computers to get our jobs done and then go home and stay away from them. Yeah we know email, but when we get home email is business and we want to play. News is easy to get on the internet but we still like the paper. We want to have keep a sense of nostalgia and intimacy with our world that computers just can’t provide.

Its too bad really. We can have the best of both. It is possible to be completely invested in computers and have the life we want. The trouble is that no one’s really doing it. Not that it can’t be done, just no one’s doing it.

It takes a new approach to our thinking and our methods. It takes change. Not dramatic, deep change like a political campaign would spout off. Just tweaking of your lifestyle. Subtle tips that can make it happen for you and even bring you back to the simple lost traits of our culture:

  • Community – technology is now social and you should look to friends and family for new tools, tips, and uses. Ask friends what they like and don’t like. Share with them what you have learned.
  • Fresh Perspective – not every new tool is amazing and a good dose of skepticism is good, but that can quickly cloud your judgment. In today’s rapidly evolving market new and amazing tools that can make your life better are constantly coming out. Your skepticism could prevent you from finding them or being open to the ways they could improve your life.
  • Research – research is one of the basic fundamentals of learning in our lives. Learn how to do research on the internet. Start with search engines like Google. They are so advanced at this point that your query can simply be your question. Then take some time to browse the answers/results. Learn how to differentiate quality from conjecture. After a certain point you will notice patterns and can develop routines that allow your research to be fast and effective (and on any topic you want).

Finally, its all about fun and making our lives better. I recommend that everyone look to their future and notice our impending alliance with technology and computers. They will be a part of our lives, forever.

The best thing you can do is enjoy it. Watch a cute video on YouTube, laugh at silly photos of cats, form a “fan of Indiana Jones” club on Facebook, or just post pictures of your Halloween adventures.

Thanks for reading and please share any subtle tips you have found.

Vidcast of day 1 from Web 2.0 Expo

Well, day one came and went. We had some fun, some disappointment, and a little hangover this morning. Luckily enough we put our thoughts to video before the after partying took are brains away. Check it out and send any questions.

Also, here is Andrea’s blog-up of day one. Especially check out her links to the twitter acct, flickr group, and hash tags for this exposition.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EWNd38mBDiI[/youtube]

Library of Congress Partners with Flickr

There is a quite a hubub about this new partnership and its well worth it. Everyone needs to take a look for themselves. The Library of Congress (LoC) is not only releasing their photos on Flickr. They are also providing context about the photos, links to the full URL, blogging about this, and being honest about the copyright restrictions. Most of which so far say “no none copyright restrictions”.

Beyond the basics they are also tagging the heck out of each photo. Inviting the community to comment, tag, and add value to the photos. See a missing fact, add a comment about it, notice the location is wrong, comment it. Take a read about what Matt Raymond from the LoC had to say about this initiative:

“The real magic comes when the power of the Flickr community takes over. We want people to tag, comment and make notes on the images, just like any other Flickr photo, which will benefit not only the community but also the collections themselves. For instance, many photos are missing key caption information such as where the photo was taken and who is pictured. If such information is collected via Flickr members, it can potentially enhance the quality of the bibliographic records for the images.”

This is like a breath of fresh air in an age of constant battles over sharing, transparency, and public data. Here is a group of folks that are trying something new, building closer relationships with their customers, and finding new ways to make themselves relevant. Thank you Library of Congress.

Now I’m off to see some amazing photos and join the worldwide community in this amazing experiment.

Netflix…baby steps: unlimited instant viewing

Netflix did it. The finally gave me unlimited access to their library (see official announcement below). I now have unlimited hours of viewing from their “instant viewing” site. The library they have is growing and the player is decent. The only problem is having to view content on your laptop or hooking the ‘puter up to your tv.

I love this feature. In fact, I called Netflix and asked to cancel the mailing of DVD’s and just use the instant viewing. Made sense to me as I watch most of my stuff through instant viewing, and I figured I would reduce my carbon footprint a little too.

Customer service agent told me that is not possible. You have to subscribe to the mailings to receive the instant viewing. Seems kind of silly and so I hope the next move for Netflix is to give us a instant viewing only price.

Anyway, Im going to enjoy the unlimited viewing for now. The idea of being able to watch any movie, anywhere, at anytime is absolutely amazing. Now that it is unlimited I can just throw it on like a tv channel. I can feel the future of tv and internet streaming getting closer.

Thanks for the competition Apple and keep it coming.

—-

My official email from Netflix:


Now you get even more

Dear steven,

As part of your current Netflix subscription, you have the option to watch some movies and TV episodes from the Netflix library instantly on your PC at no additional charge. Now, we’ve made it unlimited!

So watch instantly on your PC when you want, and as often as you want. Select from our separate, smaller library of over 6,000 familiar movies and TV episodes available to watch instantly.

– Your friends at Netflix

Senate Hearing Discusses Web 2.0 to Improve our Democracy

Wow, I am really excited. Something amazing happened yesterday, Dec 11, 2007, for the American people, democracy, and my work. I will try to break it down for you in a simplified way. The story is pulled from several statements, 60 plus pages, and a Senate Hearing. Here it is:

A Congressional Hearing was called by Senators Joe Lieberman and Susan Collins to discuss the state of the web, our government, and web 2.0. They invited Jimmy Wales (founder of Wikipedia), Google, the OMB, and the Center for Internet and Democracy.

The session was all about opening up our government websites to the people of America (and the world) by introducing collaboration and transparency into the process of democracy. Senator Susan Mullins, in her opening remarks, states that the internet has been around for 20 years, but the “federal commitment to the web…is only 5 years old” (see E-Gov, 2002). Meaning that they have a lot of catching up to do.

First on the agenda was search engines. A Pew study conducted in 2004 shows that 77% of Americans get information about their government via search engines [1, pdf]. Furthermore JL Needham, of Google, stated that, “we can assume that this already impressive number has risen farther” since 2004. I can easily imagine this number today being in the 90th percentile.

The speakers go on to demonstrate that a surprisingly large amount of publicly available government information is not searchable. They cite various reasons, one being that websites are using *robots.txt* files, which prohibit search engines from “crawling” the data. The conclusion and recommendations from all was that this needs to change. Senator Lieberman, even questioned whether this was an accident or just simply “not going the extra mile”.

Imagine what resources could be made available to anyone using a search engine once this issue is resolved. We are talking about science reports, emergency information, available grants, and much more.

The second recommendation was for the government to embrace collaboration and openness. Not only within the government but with the American people. In the words of Senator Lieberman,

“Today, we will also examine how new collaborative technologies can strengthen interaction among government agencies and the public. Jimmy Wales – the founder of Wikipedia, the most thrilling example of what collaborative technology can produce – will walk us through the concepts behind Wikipedia and how similar technologies can be applied to government for greater information sharing, collaboration, and communication both within government and with the public.”

That was his opening line! To his credit, Mr. Wales impressively laid out the business process and features of Wikipedia in a clear and simple way. Making sure to answer some of the more controversial aspects of the online encyclopedia, while also providing examples of how the process can be used for government agencies.

His prepared speech impressed me the most and I recommend reading it (pdf). In it he discusses how the First Amendment, freedom of speech, is being both protected and fulfilled in Wikipedia, and how this very same process can,

“…improve our government’s ability to gather and share information for increased security, for increased governmental responsiveness in our open society, and for the preservation of democratic values.”

His final recommendation was for the American government to use wiki’s, both internally and for the public. The public wiki angle excites me the most as this is something I have been asking for and speaking about for a while. Engaging the American people in a dialogue about our laws, amendments, problems, programs, and more using a wiki can have a tremendous impact on democracy in America. I can imagine our laws being drafted in a public wiki, and citizens can directly edit, discuss, and impact the laws of our federal, state, and local governments.

Forget, “get out the vote”, lets go with “wikify the government”.

I know things like this will definitely take time, but this is an important first step. Having the right people, saying the right things also helps too. What an exciting moment and an invigorating era to be alive in!

Reference Materials:

Further interesting observations:

Who knew lobbyists, or rather Google lobbysits, would be pushing for this?

Even more so, who knew that in 6 years a little known project called Wikipedia that called for “free access to the sum of all human knowledge” would be before Congress asking them to join in?

Senator Lieberman – Both the Legislative and Executive branches must “increase its transparency and expand its interactive relationship with the public “ [2, pdf]

JL Needham – “Making publicly available government information more accessible and useful to citizens…makes our democracy more transparent, accountable, and relevant to its citizens.”

Mr. Needham, again – “In the Web 2.0 world, where more and more citizens are using blogs, wikis, online mapping, video sharing services, and social networking sites to communicate and collaborate with each other, there will be even more demand for government to bring information to citizens where they are through these new platforms. This information will also help serve as a core component of the user-generated content that is driving the deeper engagement of Americans with each other, and with our democracy, through the Web.” [3, pdf]

President George HW Bush – “…expanding the use of the Internet and computer resources in order to deliver Government services, […] for a citizen-centered, results-oriented, and market-based Government.” [4]

Jimmy Wales – “it is important that governments use technology wisely to communicate with the public, and also to allow the public to communicate with the government.” [5, pdf]

My Community

Many thanks to Stowe Boyd, Lars Trieloff and Emily Chang for this post.

Inspiration strikes in the weirdest places and for the weirdest reasons….I’m at an Enterprise 2.0 conference (E2.0) talking about the development of Web 2.0 and what happens? I get inspired to start an art blog. Who knew…

But thanks to the power of laptops (which I can’t stress enough: “everyone needs a laptop”), networking, and the intertron, inspiration has come. Let me tell you how this happened and maybe give you a little insight into the world of Web 2.0.

On day one of the conference I had lunch with Lars and he introduced me to Roller. A blog software that can host multiple blogs. One of my holy grails for blogging. Allowing you to build a community around your blogs and avoid the mass crowds on the popular sites. I hope to eventually use this to unite my multiple blogs together.

Next, I saw a presentation at E2.0 called “Social = Me First” by Stowe. It was a really good presentation that covers the philosophy of this movement, but I was really interested in something else. I wanted to know what is next? (blogs and wikis are already years old after all). Stowe’s answer was “flow app’s“. I delved into them a little bit and it appears that he is right. (sorry, but explaining more would only cloud up this little narrative and I haven’t gotten my brain around in yet, so click the link for more).

Learning about flow app’s led me to Emily’s site. She has created a myriad of sites, including ones for reviews of web 2.0 technology, a personal blog, an art blog, and a flickr profile. Bang, that is where inspiration struck. I am used to single sites like MySpace, where you have one huge page for all of your interests. Emily has taken that a step further establishing multiple sites where each one utilizes different aspects of the web and social dynamics. For example, her flickr account is just for her pictures and other pictophiles, and then on her artcodes blog she hosts individual photos that express some artistic interest.

It is this online portfolio or personal ecosystem that I like. In fact, what struck gold with me is the way that I can take previously personal and private interests and get them published. I can carve out my own home on the web, except instead of it being a homepage it is now a diverse ecosystem where my thoughts and interests can interact with millions of other folks worldwide.

Getting to those millions is the next step…maybe I will start with just bugging my girlfriend to visit them for now….

For those of you new to the web 2.0 world, these tools are easily available, mostly free, and easy to use. If you are interested here are some good ones: flickr, picasa, blogger, vox, 1& 1.

Enterprise 2.0 Conference – Boston

Well…here I am sitting in a grungy boston-style hostel, getting all excited for the Enterprise 2.0 conference. With sessions like the ones listed below, I have high hopes.

  • Social = me first
  • Collective Intelligence: Monkeys or Memes?
  • Social Project Management: Everything Big Is Small Again
  • Leveraging Your Community as a Competitive Weapon

With attendees like Andrew McAfee, Ross Mayfield, Don Tapscott it is sure setting up to be interesting. I hope to hear their innovative insights into the Enterprise 2.0 world. Some pertinent questions I hope to get answered:

  1. What exactly is Enterprise 2.0?
  2. What tools does it utilize?
  3. Which companies are leading this innovation?
  4. How much of this is open and transparent to the public (i.e. will the rest of us benefit from it)?
  5. Philosophical – what is this doing to the corporate structure?

Stay tuned and I will post the answers I get throughout the conference. As well as more blog posts about some of the conference’s interesting points.

Anyway, some other thoughts about the conference…I am worried that the conference planners will focus too much on introducing these tools to a fresh audience, rather than delving into some of the growth and middle to post maturity questions that arise when implementing Ent 2.0 tools. We’ll see…the track I am interested in attending Social Tools for the Enterprise.

Finally, let me send off with a mention to my new reading interest:

The book was recommended to me by a colleague, one of those “you need to read this right now” statements. You know where the conversation gets very serious and you take it like gospel. Well I picked it up and it is a compelling read so far. In fact, I can’t help but think that Web 2.0 is a natural progression to the singularity. I mean the information that is coming out of wikipedia, digg, delicious, the blogosphere is putting so much information and knowledge at our fingertips. The next logical step is to design software to cogitate it all.

So far that is what the book is about and especially how that software will eventually be able to “cogitate” it 100 times better than our brains can. Then the singularity has come and past and robots are officially here…Roy (the author) is predicting this to happen by 2050. I think Web 2.0 will make that date come sooner. A recommended read definitely.

Thanks for the read and happy wiki days to you.

Steve