Thursday, August 6, 2009

Smart Digital Books Metadata Notes #2

No time for an involved post today. Just want to get some links down.

What is a Platform?
A platform must have potential, or open space. I call this blue sky. The platform's API must show thru enough power so you can do *anything* on top of it. That's a very elusive idea, hard to define. You want an API to put limits on the problems it deals with, but you also want to leave open the possibility that any developer could pervert the API to make it solve problems that the inventor couldn't imagine. The author of an API is offering a challenge, saying "blow my mind," to everyone who might take a stab at implementing something on top of the API.

Want to understand the Internet? Once you understand the platform concept, you now have all the concepts you need to understand the Internet. It's just a system for inventing new platforms. You could call the Internet a meta-platform, or a platform machine, because it contains all the collaboration tools a platform proponent needs to define and deploy new platforms. Got an idea that no one has thought of yet? Put out a RFC paper. Boom. It's a platform!

Emphasis added by me.

That's Dave Winer. Who everyone should start really listening to.

Evolution's third replicator: Genes, memes, and now what?
In all my previous work in memetics I have used the term "meme" to apply to any information that is copied between people, including stories in books, ideas embodied in new technology, websites and so on. The reason was that there seemed no way of distinguishing between "natural" human memes, such as spoken words, habits, fashions, art and religions, and what we might call "artificial" memes, such as websites and high-tech goods. So on the grounds that a false distinction is worse than none I stuck to the term "meme". Yet an email encrypted in digital code, broken into tiny packets and beamed around the planet does seem qualitatively different from someone shaking hands and saying "Hi". Could there be a fundamental principle lurking here? If we ask what made memes different from genes, would that help us decide what would make a new replicator different from memes?

Putting it that way makes the answer easier to see. Memes are a new kind of information - behaviours rather than DNA - copied by a new kind of machinery - brains rather than chemicals inside cells. This is a new evolutionary process because all of the three critical stages - copying, varying and selection - are done by those brains. So does the same apply to new technology?

Metadata memes?

my next book: "evil plans"
Illustration #1
Illustration #2

Browsing for Godot
By keeping potential customers away from the books they're looking for, sloppy categorization can kill bookstores. So why must everything be so needlessly confusing? Don't stores want to connect their customers to sales? I decided to ask around.

Orlean says she's found The Orchid Thief shelved in fiction, true crime, current affairs, and gardening, the victim of an ongoing literary identity crisis that rankles her to no end. (Before our interview, she said she hoped that this article "started a movement.")

cognitive m-app-ing which ties into writer Christopher Fowler: Bryant & May’s Mystery Map and Bryant & May’s London Map Starts Here
Pay attention to that, especially in light of a note here later on.

Making The Web Smarter
I spent Monday morning talking to the engineers at Zemanta. It was a great discussion and I learned a lot about how their system works. I learned some interesting facts, like how reliant the “semantic web community” has become on Wikipedia. Zemanta and many others use Wikipedia as a kind of expert system. For example, if a page is linked to from a Wikipedia page, you can be pretty sure that page is relevant to the topic of the Wikipedia page. That kind of approach can be used for many different tasks, all with the goal of making the web and web services smarter.

Tagging up pages, posts, videos, images, and other objects on the web is a critically important part of making the web smarter. Thanks to google and the SEO industry many web services have gotten religion about tagging. But tagging is not a simple problem either. It reminds me of speech recognition in some ways. If you are working in a specific domain, auto tagging is easier to do. Infongen does it well in the financial and pharma verticals today and will be adding more. does it well in the geo domain with help from Zemanta and Calais.

But my experience suggests that humans are still better at tagging than machines. One important development is the idea of "recommended tags". Zemanta provides this to users of its blogging add-on tool. I never used to tag my blog posts. Then I started using Zemanta. It does not auto tag my blog posts, but it does give me about fifteen recommended tags and it’s simple for me to select four to six of them that are the most relevant. That’s an example of a hybrid man/machine approach that works really well.

Emphasis added by me.

Open data is the future of web discovery
Think about the data that represents everything you do online, including web visits, searches, ads clicked, purchases, time spent, location, etc. Web products like the Google browser toolbar return data to Google about the websites you visit. Browsers like Chrome, Firefox and Internet Explorer can get even more data about what you do. For this piece, I’m referring to all this toolbar, browser, search and email data as “toolbar data” for short.

What you typically discover on Twitter and Facebook is limited to your connections and what you search. More, better data is needed to learn about what you’re missing. You might have a lot of interests – sports, music, technology, books, movies, TV, food, travel, etc. – and things happen around you and around the web related to them that you probably want to know about. Surprise concert by your favorite band tomorrow night? New travel website? Cutting edge phone being released? We don’t even know how much we’re missing until we see it.

With more data, developers could build services or apps with toolbar data to see what’s hot now, this week, month or year for any thing broken down by age, location and more. One app might focus on the most popular content about travel to Asia based on unique visitors to specific web pages and the number of links shared by email or social networks. Another app might cover the most engaging communities online based on growth in time on particular parts of each website compared to peers. The data could look at user session activity across sites and specific content on web pages. In contrast, Google Hot Trends only reports on search terms and typically free data from analytics services like Compete report only by website unless you pay for web page level reports. Entrepreneurs could use the toolbar data to identify unmet needs, then build products and services to meet them. Without a more complete picture of the data, it’s hard for entrepreneurs to know what users really want.

“Books: The Liquid Version” — Kevin Kelly
What Happens When Books Connect? - This is the title for one of the sections of Kelly’s article from which most of the quotes above are taken, and it is really an overriding theme for all of the them — The digitized books of the future will talk easily to each other, which will transform books in the same way the Web has already transformed other aspects of culture.

The digital transition really IS harder for trade publishers than for other publishers
Trade publishers, much more than their counterparts in school, college, academic, and professional, are bound to the format of “the book”. That is partly because the “value adds” that other publishers can use to justify different (higher) pricing are not natural adjuncts to trade books. Trade publishers can’t boost prices and margins by adding homework helpers as is done for school books, self-testing as is done for college texts, and value-added aggregation, searching, and productivity tools as is done for academic and professional publishing. So the lessons being learned by other publishers just don’t port to trade, any more than the new paradigm for music (give away the content to sell concert tickets) can transfer to books.

This from someone who is putting on a conference next year. Get out of the way. You have nothing to say.

The Impact of the Digital World on Cataloging Systems
These are some of the impacts that the digital world is having on library systems. I am looking forward to the library systems of the future: interactive, mobile, and easy to use. I am intrigued by the possibility of a new information profession that invites the user to participate in information creation, organization, and discovery. If this is not where we are headed then we may be left behind.

TILE: Text-Image Linking Environment
Text-Image Linking Environment (TILE) will over two years develop a new web-based, modular, collaborative image markup tool for both manual and semi-automated linking between encoded text and image of text, and image annotation.

Why Cloud Computing is the Future of Mobile
Saying that "mobile cloud computing" is the future doesn't mean phones will be filled with links to websites that work in any browser instead of special, downloadable applications, some of which you can even purchase. Instead, mobile applications will exist in both formats. As for the downloadable applications themselves, they will still appear to be your typical mobile app - end users won't even notice a difference. However, there will be a difference - it will just be on the back-end. Mobile applications will begin to store your data in the cloud as opposed to on the mobile device, and the applications will become more powerful as processing power is also offloaded to the cloud.

Emphasis added by me.

Yes! So will smart digital books.

Some people have expressed concern over the complexities of smart digital books metadata linking. This is how to think about it:

People tend to think linearly: Start at A, and end at B. Technology doesn't work like that. After you begin at A, there's a time interval that can change which B is the final destination. Think of the quantum physics experiments with photons. Everything is entangled. Initial conditions do not predict outcomes. (I will have quantum physicists after me for those abusive analogies.)

I like to remind people of Ken Kutaragi, father of the PlayStation:
The management meeting on June 24, 1992, was critical. The fate of the project would be decided at the meeting, which was chaired by Sony president Ohga. The situatIon seemed hopeless. Nearly everyone present argued that Sony should pull out of the games market. Kutaragi thought the situation had reached a critical juncture and said: "Having listened to what everyone is saying, I can see three options. First, to continue indefinitely with the traditional, Nintendo-compatible 16-bit game machines. Second, to sell game machines in a format proprietary to Sony. Third, to retreat from the market. I believe Sony should choose the second option of selling proprietary-format machines."

"What reasons do you have to justify pursuing that option?" Ohga demanded.

As if on cue, Kutaragi explained, "We've been secretly developing a new format using 3-D computer graphics separately from the Nintendo-compatible machine. Using this technology, we can produce astounding 3-D graphics that the Super Famicom can't hope to compete with."

"What scale of LSI Chip do you need?"

"In terms of gate arrays, about one million."

"What? A million gates?"

"We already have a basic design concept, though it's still at the architecture stage."

Suddenly, Ohga burst out laughing. Kutaragi had shaken Ohga's composure by citing a figure beyond his comprehension. "You're dreaming! A million gates is impossible! The best we could do is twenty to thirty thousand, a hundred thousand at most" Ohga's estimate was based on figures he had heard from Sony's semiconductor division. With Sony's capabilities at the time, the best LSI chip it could hope to build was one with 100,000 gates.

But having done his own research, Kutaragi knew that the figure of one million gates would soon be an achievable target in the industry. "lt's by no means impossible to integrate one million gates on an LSI chip. Unless we can do that, we can't produce three-dimensional computer graphics. Are you just going to sit back and accept what Nintendo did to us?" He appealed intensely and repeatedly to Ohga in this manner, provoking the Sony president. Finally, having reignited Ohga's rage against Nintendo and stirred up his emotions, Kutaragi demanded: "PIease make a decision!"

Unable to control his fury, Ohga replied, "lf you really mean it, prove to me that it's possible." Then he formed a fist, pounded on the desk, and shouted: "DO IT!"

-- Revolutionaries at Sony: The Making of the Sony Playstation and the Visionaries Who Conquered the World of Video Games by Reiji Asakura; hardcover printed pages 36-37

Emphasis added by me.

He didn't wait. He began.

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