The WAVE Report
Issue #0708------------------5/18/07

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0708.1  Emerging Technology 2007

0708.1  Opening

0708.2  Soundpaper

0708.3  Open Content

0708.4  Amazon Launches Web Services

0708.5  Jeff Hawkins on the Human Brain

0708.6  Creating Alternate Realities

0708.7  Adam Greenfield on Magic as a UI

0708.8  Magic is Only a Metaphor

0708.9  Blending Creativity with the Corporate Culture

0708.10  Mozilla Lays out its Foundation for the Internet

0708.11  Adobe Apollo

0708.12  WAVE Comments

0708.1 Emerging Technology 2007
By John Latta

San Diego, CA
March 26 – 29, 2007


This is the second O’Reilly event in a month being covered by the WAVE Report. All these events have an underlying theme that is summarized in the following.

Openness brings forth creativity and innovation in technology based on fun.

Emerging Technology is the 6th event of its type put on by O’Reilly.

As quoted in Wikipedia, based on statements by Tim O’Reilly, the key principles of Web 2.0 applications include:

-  the web as a platform

-  data as the driving force

-  network effects created by an architecture of participation

-  innovation in assembly of systems and sites composed by pulling together development

-  lightweight business models enabled by content and service syndication

-  the end of the software adoption cycle ("the perpetual beta")

-  software above the level of a single device, leveraging the power of The Long Tail.

-  easy to pick up by early adopters

Put in another way, Web 2.0 is the cumulative effect of open source and the Internet. This has some profound impacts.

There is a level of excitement around technology we personally have not seen since the West Coast Computer Faire (Guess how old I am.). This is certainly reinforced by the magazine Make also published by O’Reilly.

Pride in hacking to create something new and different.

The power coming from the use of an extensive software foundation in open source which, in a commercial context, i.e., using software such as from Microsoft, Oracle and others, would be impossible due to the high cost of entry.

Creative thinking. Tim O-Reilly certainly pushes this with his Radar site

and other products of his company, especially the conferences as a forum.

The net effect is that one sees, at a conference such as this, concepts and expressions of technology which are different. Most of it is software centric. In a commercial context one has to put a filter on realism and practically but that is a small price to pay.

But we cannot pass up one other observation – the crowd seems old. Having gone to conferences and events for over 30 years and also watching eras of excitement come and pass Web 2.0 certainly fits the bill of being at the center of excitement. But we would have expected more youth here. Maybe it is the cost of admission. This is not SIGGRAPH which brims with students and market presence in one event. But from the dark side, it concerns us that maybe the US is losing its technology edge with a dwindling supply, relative to the rest of the world, of technology trained graduates.


0708.1  Opening

Tim O’Reilly gave his opening salvo to start the conference.

Hackers are business innovators.

Make: technology on your time – is our publication to show how technology can be creative and fun.

The production capabilities in China with their rapid response and quality prototypes make possible the creation of hardware products in incredibly short time. One example cited were the prototypes for the power supply for the One Laptop per Child project which flow from China on a weekly basis. Another is the level of design variation and choice coming from the motorbike and motorcycle industry in China.

Last year’s theme for Emerging Technology was “The Future of Attention” and since that time we have seen the emergence of technologies which support attention on the Web. Cited was a Firefox add on as an attention recorder. Another is twittevision which is a geographic based attention illustrator.

In his comments and in a panel discussion Tim O’Reilly sought to show how Web 2.0 could learn from the innovation taking place on Wall Street and how the web is being used. This included Lime, inkling and TradeStation Securities.

It was also speculated that the value of Google Ad Words would not remain static and would get traded as a commodity just like a stock including shorts and futures. The potential of this was further supported by the notion that search on the Internet has been transitory with the leaders in search shifting every few years.

To reinforce the notion that Web 2.0 is about magic Arthur Benjamin gave a magic show called the Secrets of Mental Math. It was compelling and very entertaining.


0708.2  Soundpaper

Ken Berkun, of Labels that Talk, presented on Soundpaper, a simple concept which could be profound.

Objects can have associated with them a 2D bar code which is easily read that encodes recorded audio. This is an audio label which can be attached to many everyday items.

One of the primary items that can benefit from this technology is personal photographs. By recording annotation audio about the photograph it is possible to create a 2D bar code, which is 6” long, and attached directly under the photo. This becomes a permanent record of the content of the photo. There are two items which support the product: remote control device which will record the audio and read the bar codes and a printer. The intent is to keep the cost low and make it very easy to use.

But as Ken stated his is not a hardware company – no VC would fund a hardware company. Thus, the play to market is based on the software and its licensing. If this technology is to be ubiquitous it must be in everyday devices and they propose this be a part of the processing of photos from cell phones. Everything is already present in cell phones to support Labels that Talk but the software from his company. A key to the technology is the ability to read a 2D bar code which extends beyond the field-of-view of the camera. The camera can read the bar code from any angle and collect and assemble the bar code by imaging only segments.

Applications cited for the technology include:

Audio labels for prescriptions
Elevator instructions
Annotations of photographs

The company has been self funded, has made considerable progress but is looking for next stage financing.


0708.3  Open Content

Inspired by the success of Wikipedia and the vision of Jimmy Wales, a repository of open content called Wikia has been created. The analogy used is that Wikipedia is to a library what Wikia is to the magazine rack. Just as there were those that said Wikipedia would not work many, including Cnet, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, see that open content will fail. So far, this prediction has not proven accurate.

The principles around open content include:

Contributors are volunteers
Consensus driven model
To rely on trust

The business model at Wikia is ad based. The service and publication is free.

Examples were cited of open content on the site:

Travel Guides
Star Wars
Armchair – sports fans

One of the most interesting is the effort to create an open source search engine. As said, they are looking for a few thousand volunteers.

Graffiti is an issue, coming from Russia and Rumania, but this has largely been controlled and less and less management time is being spent on this.


0708.4  Amazon Launches Web Services

Building on its infrastructure as an e-commerce site Amazon described its web services. This is attempts to go beyond a hosting service by adding two key components of

Pricing – based on use only
Scalability – resources on demand both up and down

The three components are EC2, compute, S3, storage and SQS, messaging. The pricing is:

S3 - 15¢/month, 20¢/month GB transfer
SQS - 10¢/1000 msg, 20¢/month GB transfer
EC2 - 10¢/server hour, 20¢/month GB transfer

EC2 is in beta and will likely not launch for 6+ months. Amazon wants to make sure it can respond to what appears to be a very high demand when launched.

Amazon is all based on open source software and the computing element is the Amazon Machine Image (AIM) which uses these components. Amazon web services uses dynamic IP addresses but there are services which can make sites persistent. Third parties have already begun to offer services to help organizations manage and use Amazon Web Services. Some include Right Scale and weoceo.

Amazon Web Services has defined a product family that includes Infrastructure, web search, e-commerce and workforce/workflow.

As stated in the presentation, it is their intent to let companies focus on the business and not the infrastructure of their web presence.


0708.5  Jeff Hawkins on the Human Brain

Taking on no less than the challenge of creating a computer which models the human brain, in the company Numenta, Jeff Hawkins presented a summary of the significant progress that has been made. Jeff began by dashing the notion that the brain is so complex that it cannot be modeled as garbage. Using Hierarchical Temporal Memory (HTM) as the foundation of how the cortex operates, Numenta, is building models of how the brain works. Their initial model is called NuPIC was released open source on March 2007. Numenta has 8 companies in its partner program.


0708.6  Creating Alternate Realities

Jane McGonigal, of the Institute of the Future, presented her view of how games can improve the quality of life. At the center of her concepts are both alternate reality and the science of happiness. This latter science has come into vogue and has three tenants:

Engagement and

Part of the expression of alternate life games is ubiquitous games, of which Jane has been a part of several. One was Tombstone Hold’em Poker. Another coming up is “WorldWithoutOil.”

This seemed self-centered. It denies the existence of family and broader personal relations.


0708.7  Adam Greenfield on Magic as a UI

Invoking the work of Mark Weiser, fairy tales and Greek mythology, Adam Greenfield, sought to show how magic or animism would become the basis for future interfaces to technology. Adam cited many sources as justification for his views. For example,

Aleister Crowley stated “Magick, is the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with will.”

Adam also stated that “Magic is the discourse of seamless interaction expressed maximally.”

Where is the substance? Concepts clouded in cute word expressions are garbage without depth. Babble Babble Babble.


0708.8  Magic is Only a Metaphor

Mike Kuniavsky, of Think M, examined the coming age of magic. It was a more pragmatic view of the future of computing than heard yesterday. Mike put a framework around the notion of magic as metaphor for the user interface and a way to satisfy consumers.

The ability realize ubiquitous computing is a direct result of Moore’s Law. But it is not the fact that a billion transistors can be put on a chip but that the equivalent of an Intel 486 processors today costs $.50. This makes it possible to put information technology in many devices with very low costs.

When thinking of magic do not associate this with stage magic but the magic of being enchanted with something. There are enchanted objects and the wand is an example. Magic is a useful abstraction.

Ambient Intelligence is more like artificial intelligence. It is everywhere. But what is missing is that one should do something with it – being enchanted with something has a more active involvement.

There are different stages of magic and mythology. When present is should make everyday objects live. But over time we will take magic for granted, in the same way that we take everyday objects in our environment today. Cited were the escalator and elevator as something to be enchanted with if they have never been used before.


0708.9  Blending Creativity with the Corporate Culture

Free and Fun and the market forces to evolve the Internet seems contrarian. Yet, Chad Dickerson, Yahoo, described Hack Day which happened on September 30, 2006. Yahoo practices internal hacking events to expose their APIs and allow for expression of creativity. Yahoo already has an extensive developer network supported by APIs in messaging, Flickr, User Interface, authentication and content feeds.

The decision was made to hold an open hack day on campus. This is very much against corporate culture – such as legal wanting to own everything created on the corporate campus. Further the rules for hack day were open to surprises:

Build something in 24 hours
Present the results in 90 seconds
No prior review – everything goes

Chad said that this latter factor gave the most pause.

The process to participate at Hack Day was bounded by only 400 slots, that something had to be built using a Yahoo APIs and participation would be outside of just the San Francisco Bay Area. Yahoo also invited Microsoft, Google, eBay, AOL and Adobe – its competitors.

The event was simple: on Friday Yahoo leaders gave talks, there was a kick-off party including music by Beck who also participated in hack day with his puppet videos. 24 hours of hacking and then the presentations on Saturday afternoon.

The result was significant. It was compared to an early rock event. Individuals got emotional from what they did. Yahoo staff responsible for the APIs participated and stayed up all night to work with hackers. Examples of items created were a blogging in motion purse which took a picture every 100 feet of walking and uploading the pictures to Flickr and ybox a hack to an old television to show weather from the internet.

The result was 50+ demos, extensive API feedback, 4000 flickr photos, CNN coverage and 32 press in attendance.

The WAVE asked Chad what has been the developer network impact. The hits on the developer network web site is up 150% since the event and continues on a sustained basis. It takes a lot of courage to do such an event. The corporate legal forces alone can kill it.

Yahoo is working on another event for 2007.


0708.10  Mozilla Lays out its Foundation for the Internet

Mike Shaver provided the manifesto which has been developed internally for the company. It includes the following principles

The Internet is an integral part of modern life - a key component in education, communication, collaboration, business, entertainment and society as a whole.

The Internet is a global public resource that must remain open and accessible.

The Internet should enrich the lives of individual human beings.

Individuals' security on the Internet is fundamental and cannot be treated as optional.

Individuals must have the ability to shape their own experiences on the Internet.

The effectiveness of the Internet as a public resource depends upon interoperability (protocols, data formats, content), innovation and decentralized participation worldwide.

Free and open source software promotes the development of the Internet as a public resource.

Transparent community-based processes promote participation, accountability, and trust.

Commercial involvement in the development of the Internet brings many benefits; a balance between commercial goals and public benefit is critical.

Magnifying the public benefit aspects of the Internet is an important goal, worthy of time, attention and commitment.

These provide a foundation for the actions of the Mozilla Foundation but they seem too general for broader adoption. For example, where would Net Neutrality fit?


0708.11  Adobe Apollo

The premise is simple – bringing RIA (Rich Internet Applications) to the desktop. Adobe showed an eBay application which emulated much of eBay including the creation of a sale with photographs from a web cam. The intent is to extend the web development environment into applications that can be delivered to any computer and on the desktop. Adobe uses an open source web rendering engine WebKit.  Adobe stated its objectives for the product are:

To create a cross-operating system runtime that allows developers to build and deploy desktop applications using web technologies (HTML, Ajax, Flash and Flex).

Apollo allows:

Local disk access
Desktop integration including drag and drop, clipboard, file extensions and more.
Background processing
System notifications and alerts
Network status detection

The application stack uses an Apollo runtime which runs on the native OS and executes the native Apollo .ice file.

The product is in Alpha and will ship the 2nd half of 2007.


0708.12  WAVE Comments

The theme of this event is Magic. It is a metaphor for Web 2.0. But this is only a representation. This conference is really about the future of computing. Predicting the future is usually wrong. Therefore one should take the extrapolations in these talks with considerable skepticism. But there is still a theme across many talks – it is about the role of ubiquitous computing. There are many terms for this but most speakers have cited the work of Mark Weiser as the foundation of their assumptions. The difficult part is predicting what this means. It is here where the details are missing. Without substance, the predictions rely on magic, in part, because this is the theme of the conference. But magic is only a criteria for the initial user experience. The role of magic is also ill-defined in that there are many different views of what magic is. Think of magic as an aura which is metaphor for what is to be accomplished. Interesting but not substantive.

Another missing element is the connection between Web 2.0 and ubiquitous computing. It is possible to build an ambient intelligent environment in the home with no connection to the Internet. Just because it is ambient, pervasive or ubiquitous does not mean it is automatically connected outside of its implementation environment.

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