Friday, 31 December 2010

Living Earth Simulator aims to predict everything that's happening on our planet

I thought I had stumbled across an old Goodies script, or a pilot episode for Dr Who, but no, this is real. As ambitous projects go, this one must be right up there alongside making Heathrow a world-class airport.

The Living Earth Simulator will collect all the data in the entire world, to predict everything from the next major disease outbreak to the next financial crisis. And taking a leaf from the Large Hadron Collder - we now have the concept of a "knowledge accelerator that can collide different fields of knowledge" - i.e. a "knowledge collider". (Note to self: must add that term to my repetoir of knowledge management jargon).

Call me an old sceptic, but I've yet to see any evidence that collecting more and more data makes us better at predicting the future, or that it is even possible to accurately capture social trends as a mathematical model.

With fairly limited data at my disposal, I'm willing to predict that the UK will come to a grinding halt with the first flurry of snow and ice next December 2011. Of course....lessons will be learnt (maybe from LES?)!

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Living Earth Simulator aims to predict everything that's happening on our planetThe Living Earth Simulator is quite possibly the most ambitious computer project ever undertaken. This all-encompassing simulation will collect all the data in the entire world, to predict everything from the next major disease outbreak to the next financial crisis.

The Living Earth Simulator could do for our modern world what the Large Hadron Collider has done for the early universe, says project chair Dr. Dirk Helbing. He calls the LES a "knowledge accelerator" that can collide different fields of knowledge to produce a far greater understanding of what's going on in the world around us.

Such a program, he says, could help show us the next epidemic before it starts, illuminate better ways to deal with climate change, and predict when the next recession will hit. According to Dr. Helbing, the answers to all these mysteries can be found by examining the sum total of human activity:

"Many problems we have today - including social and economic instabilities, wars, disease spreading - are related to human behaviour, but there is apparently a serious lack of understanding regarding how society and the economy work. Revealing the hidden laws and processes underlying societies constitutes the most pressing scientific grand challenge of our century."

So where would they get all the data from? Lots of different organizations are already compiling massive amounts of data, and these would help feed into the Living Earth Simulator. Possible sources would include NASA's Planetary Skin project, which tracks climate data on every corner of the globe, as well as more everyday sites like Google Maps and, yes, Wikipedia. Helbing and his team also plan to incorporate medical records, the latest financial information, and, most frighteningly of all, everything that's going on in the world of social media.

Of course, once all that data is together, there's still the question of what to do with any of it. Helbing says this will require cooperation between social scientists and computer scientists to create the rules and programming that the LES needs to interpret the data and create an accurate model of the Earth as it is today. We've only now got the technology advanced enough to pull off such an endeavor, and it will still be very tricky.

Part of the solution, Dr. Helbing explains, is the rise of semantic web technology. This simple but powerful concept makes a computer see information not just as a set of numbers but as specific data in a specific context, meaning computers will be able to tell the difference between the seemingly random numbers making up, say, financial markets and weather reports in much the same way humans can.

An obvious question to ask is just how much the LES will be able to learn about particular people. On this point, Helbing argues that the vastness of the project should protect everyone's privacy, as the LES's aggregative strips out all individual data in an effort to create an overall picture.

Once you collect all the data and program the simulator, actually running the LES is relatively simple. Yes, the project will need huge banks of supercomputers to run the entire program, but the processing power required isn't beyond what we're currently capable of. Computer expert Pete Warden says that, in all probability, we do have the processing power to handle what the LES requires. That said, he's skeptical about whether the LES could actually produce useful results:

"Economics and sociology have consistently failed to produce theories with strong predictive powers over the last century, despite lots of data gathering. I'm sceptical that larger data sets will mark a big change. It's not that we don't know enough about a lot of the problems the world faces, from climate change to extreme poverty, it's that we don't take any action on the information we do have."

To this point, Dr. Helbing argues that the LES will offer predictive far in advance of our previous models, as it would be able to see global recessions and disease outbreaks coming before they really get started. It's a bold claim, and we won't know for sure what the real capabilities of the LES are until the day that it's up and running.


Thursday, 30 December 2010

Top 10 Semantic Web Products of 2010

This seems to be the time of the year for top tens. Semantic in the context of this list is any product that adds meaning and context to data.

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Top 10 Startups of 2010

Seems like a good way to round off 2010 by looking at some of the startups that have identified their niche market and USP. Will these still be around in 12 months time? Who knows, but all credit to them for addressing important consumer and business pain-points in particularly innovative ways.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

The deep, profound allure of the beta test

"If it’s new, unproven and likely to be out of business before dinnertime, I want it. If it requires a hefty capital investment, great. If it locks me into a proprietary system that the market is likely to reject, leaving me high and dry, even better. What I’m saying is, bring the shiny, because I really like the shiny."

If this appeals to you (as it does to me) head on over to right away!

Friday, 10 December 2010

Communities of Practice in Public Service

Just a blatant bit of self-promotion really. Details of a presentation I did recently on how to create a trusted environement for sharing knowledge. Focus was primariliy on Communities of Interest or Practice, and aimed at third sector organisations. Please also check out the other presentations at this link.

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Managing User Generated Content



This seminar looked at the challenges and opportunities of user generated content.

The level of engagement with user generated content across the third sector is highly varied. Some organisations have thriving online communities, others have made costly investments which have failed to live up to expectations, and some have yet to dip their toes into this area.

The seminar, held on 24th November 2010, looked at the practicalities organisations face when implementing user-generated content and the dangers of choosing not to engage at this level.

Steve Dale – Encouraging communities to share knowledge and creating a trusted environment

  • The difference between a Community of Practice (CoP) and social media is that a CoP has a defined purpose

  • Social media sites such as Facebook are not trusted, so people are considerably less willing to share knowledge on social media sites

  • Creating an initial "critical mass":

    1. Hold an initial physical launch in which potential contributors are invited and can register

    2. Use facilitators (different from moderators) to drive the CoPs, these should be selected from active participants

    3. Mix online activity with offline e.g. if no one is responding to an particular thread contact them physically (e.g. by phone) and ask them to contribute


Wednesday, 8 December 2010

How Google can thrive in the age of Facebook

Some good points here about the dangers of adopting a 'me too' strategy as opposed to amplifying your own strengths. Maybe Google should stop trying to be a social network and look to providing better integration between its myriad products (vidoes, maps, books, blogs, news, docs sites....etc.). Not forgetting the ace in the pack - Google is an open web environment, whereas Facebook is closed, i.e. information you put in is held hostage forever. Once users' realise that their information has value, they might begin to think more seriously about where they want put it.

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By some measures. we're hitting an Internet age that leaves Google behind. But here's a prescription to keep search relevant in the face of Facebook's social empire.

Google and Facebook logosBeing king of the web is a short-lived gig. Only several years ago the web was navigated by search and Google was the clear king of innovation. Now, as the web takes on an increasingly social structure we seem to be heading into the Age of Facebook.

By some measures, it will be an age where Google isn't welcome. The company has long been seen as a one-trick pony, gifted at search and little else. It's stumbled again and again in social media with Orkut, Buzz and Wave – efforts that were at best mixed successes. Increasingly, executives and engineers in Silicon Valley openly declare that Google can't beat Facebook at its own game. Underscoring the pessimism, several key employees have bolted Google for Facebook in recent months.

Meanwhile, Facebook is expected to earn $3.2 billion in revenue next year, mostly from online ads – which is more than Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) makes on display ads alone. Time is running out for Google to find a way to keep its revenue and profit growing. Doing that will mean thriving in social media. While there's not a single strategy that Google can use to reach that goal, there are several approaches that can help. And early signs are that Google is busy taking those steps.

1. Don't copy Facebook.

Copying Google's search engine didn't work for Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO), or Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) – it only made clearer that they were laggards. Besides, Orkut was Google's attempt to copy Friendster and MySpace, and while Orkut was popular in India and Brazil, it never gained traction elsewhere.

Instead, Google would be smarter to study how people are behaving as the web evolves and then anticipating how the social web will operate in the future. Google hasn't offered too many details on what kind of social features it's building, but CEO Eric Schmidt has said it won't be a full-on social networking site but a social component built into existing Google products.

This approach has its risks as well. Google has a large installed base of users with, for example, Gmail. Google Buzz, a second-generation social network, failed in good part because of how Google handled the importing of Gmail contacts into Buzz connections.

Since Buzz, Google went back to its drawing board. Since then, one of the worst-kept secrets in Silicon Valley has been what a project called Google Me, an ambitious effort not to launch a new service like Buzz, but to incorporate a social element into all the services associated with a Google account – documents, calendars, photos on Picasa, videos on YouTube. Throw in the Google Music store it's long been planning as well as the ebooks for sale on the newly announced Google Editions and there starts to emerge a critical mass of services that a social layer could be built upon.

2. Focus on Facebook's weaknesses.

A few months ago, a 224-page Powerpoint presenation by a member of Google's user-experience team made the rounds. It thoughtfully made the case that our online identities aren't one-dimensional, that we all interact differently at work, with family, with friends, etc., and that social networks don't reflect that complexity. The presentation was seen as a vulnerability of Facebook that Google could attack.

Facebook responded quickly with Groups, which lets users share different content with various groups of friends. But Google had made its point: Facebook can't do everything, and there is room on the web for different approaches to social media. It made clear that Google would try to focus its strengths on Facebook's weaknesses.

It also explains why Schmidt takes every opportunity he can to swear that Google takes privacy seriously. He's not just regretting the privacy brouhaha that greeted the launch of Buzz, he's taking aim at the loudest and most consistent complaint about Facebook – its cavalier attitude toward privacy.

Facebook has pushed our comfort levels on privacy for a long time. Zuckerberg has argued that in time we'll all grow to accept that there is no privacy anymore on the web. But the reality is, as I've argued before, Facebook can't make its social ads pay without collecting and sharing as much personal data as it does.

3. Invest in a customer base.

So what does Google do if it builds a social component throughout its myriad products and nobody uses it? That was the problem with Wave, a well-designed tool for real-time collaboration that Google quietly killed this summer.

In fact, it's the Catch-22 that fells many social sites: Nobody wants to sign up unless their friends sign up, and their friends don't sign up because their own friends haven't signed up...

To start a fire under its social offerings, Google may become aggressive in buying startups with a strong social bent. It approached Yelp with little success, and is often mentioned as a suitor for Twitter. This week, Google is reportedly talking with Groupon, a deal-of-the-day site with a loyal customer base.

Viewed from one angle these deals don't make sense because many users of a site bought by Google are already Google users. But from another angle, that's the beauty of it. If Google owned Twitter, say, then users might start interacting with each other in Picasa, or documents. Google has the cash to keep buying other startups – a music site with social connections like Spotify or Mog, for example – until it can nurture a viable user base for its social layer.

It's too early to count Google out of the social web. Its failures in the field to date are ominous only if Google hasn't learned from them. It needs to do a lot of things right to succeed, but if it does, then we may not be calling this the Age of Facebook for very long.


Impact of the new Facebook Profile Page on business social media - San Diego online marketing |

Some useful information about the Facebook Profile page changes. One of the big changes to all this is a change to the way Facebook will roll the change out. Often criticized for making wholesale changes, Facebook will allow uers to opt-in to the new profile page.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg - a conundrum

Facbook - you either love it or you hate it. I hate it - but Mark Zuckerberg does at least seem a nice sort of chap. Maybe he'll settle down and get married soon - that will add a sense of reality to his life!

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His face pale and shining with sweat, words stumbling out in a voice pinched with anxiety, Mark Zuckerberg appeared on the verge of a panic attack in June at the All Things Digital conference, as he fumbled to explain his mistakes in college and in building Facebook.

Less than six months later, in front of some of the most influential figures in the Internet industry at the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco this week, Zuckerberg looked like a different person -- relaxed, thoughtful, even funny -- as he talked about his shortcomings.

"Ah man, I've made so many mistakes in running the company so far," Zuckerberg said, answering a question from an audience member who called him a "celebrity entrepreneur."

"Basically, any mistake you think you can make, I've probably made" -- Zuckerberg paused to smile -- "or will make in the next few years. But, I think if anything, the Facebook story is a great example of how, if you're building a product people love, you can make a lot of mistakes."

Facebook's reach continues to grow. Experian Hitwise said Friday that nearly 1 in 4 Internet page views in the U.S. last week were on And despite his unflattering film portrait in "The Social Network," Zuckerberg in recent weeks has appeared comfortable talking about his personal life. At a Nov. 3 product announcement, Zuckerberg started out with a story about an exchange with an elderly neighbor

as he walked to work in Palo Alto.

On Monday, with more than 100 journalists massed at the St. Regis Hotel in San Francisco to hear Facebook unveil its new Message service, Zuckerberg talked about hanging out with his girlfriend's family in Boston last Thanksgiving. Recounting conversations he had there with high school students about e-mail that "make me feel really old," Zuckerberg said they influenced his view about how Facebook should build its Message service.

On stage at Web 2.0, Zuckerberg spoke slowly and thoughtfully, making eye contact with the audience, his palms open with fingers extended as he talked.

Zuckerberg said he thinks "every day" about

building a unique culture at Facebook, and talked about one internal yardstick the company uses -- the number of Facebook users, divided by the number of engineers who work there. For some time, that formula has yielded a number greater than 1 million. The size of that number, Zuckerberg said, indicates that Facebook is in a "golden period" where it has the influence of a big company and the creativity and agility of a startup.

His response to a question about criticism leveled by Jobs that Zuckerberg's demands were "crazy" in negotiating a deal between Facebook and Apple: "It's fine." His take on how big tech companies need to think about social media: "Get on the bus!" He even laughed when co-interviewer John Battelle said, "you're gonna want to stay away from those movies," referring to "The Social Network."


Saturday, 27 November 2010

Five Simple Steps To Improve Your Facebook Site

Facebook fan pages are a great way to promote your business or organization, are easy to maintain and they keep your personal profile separate from your business page. To its credit Facebook has done a lot lately to make pages more brand-friendly, even website-like. Here are five things you can do to improve your fan page

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Facebook 'threatens' web future

Some interesting and pertinent points made by Sir Tim Berners-Lee, regarding the 'coralling' and siloing of information on the web. He cites Facebook as a particular example of how they capture user-generated information and hold it hostage. I also think he makes a good point about the increasing and pernicious development of smartphone apps that don't work as web apps - i.e. limited to a vendor's closed operating system, such as the iPhone. I think TBL has a right to be considered an authoritative voice on these issues - he not only invented the world wide web, he's one of the few leading figures who isn't trying to make a fast buck out of it!

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Tim Berners-Lee has dubbed Facebook a threat to the universality of the world wide web.

Next month marks the twentieth anniversary of the first webpage – served up by Berners-Lee at the CERN particle physics lab in Geneva – and in the December issue of Scientific American, he celebrates the uniquely democratic nature of his creation, before warning against the forces that could eventually bring it down. "Several threats to the Web’s universality have arisen recently," he says.

He briefly warns of cable giants who may prevent the free flow of content across the net. "Cable television companies that sell internet connectivity are considering whether to limit their Internet users to downloading only the company’s mix of entertainment," he says. And then he sticks the boot into social networking sites, including Mark Zuckerberg's net behemoth. "Facebook, LinkedIn, Friendster and others typically provide value by capturing information as you enter it: your birthday, your e-mail address, your likes, and links indicating who is friends with whom and who is in which photograph," Berners-Lee writes.

"The sites assemble these bits of data into brilliant databases and reuse the information to provide value-added service—but only within their sites. Once you enter your data into one of these services, you cannot easily use them on another site. Each site is a silo, walled off from the others. Yes, your site’s pages are on the Web, but your data are not. You can access a Web page about a list of people you have created in one site, but you cannot send that list, or items from it, to another site."

This echoes the complaint Google made earlier this month as it banned Facebook from tapping Gmail's Contacts API. Mountain Views won't allow netizens to export email addresses to Facebook unless it reciprocates. But Berners-Lee goes further.

"A related danger is that one social-networking site—or one search engine or one browser—gets so big that it becomes a monopoly, which tends to limit innovation." The threat here is not Friendster. It's Facebook, which now boasts over 500 million users worldwide.

Berners-Lee urges the adoption of more democratic services, including Facebook alternatives GnuSocial and Diaspora as well as the project, which gave rise to a decentralized incarnation of Twitter. "As has been the case since the Web began," he says, "continued grassroots innovation may be the best check and balance against any one company or government that tries to undermine universality."

"You can’t make a link to any information in the iTunes world—a song or information about a band. You can’t send that link to someone else to see. You are no longer on the Web. The iTunes world is centralized and walled off. You are trapped in a single store, rather than being on the open marketplace. For all the store’s wonderful features, its evolution is limited to what one company thinks up."

He also bemoans the proliferation of net-connected apps on the Apple iPhone and other smartphones. "The tendency for magazines, for example, to produce smartphone 'apps' rather than Web apps is disturbing, because that material is off the Web. You can’t bookmark it or e-mail a link to a page within it. You can’t tweet it. It is better to build a Web app that will also run on smartphone browsers, and the techniques for doing so are getting better all the time."

Dredging up Comcast's BitTorrent busting, he then warns against threats to so-called net neutrality. This includes Google for the FCC filing it laid down this summer in tandem with US telco giant Verizon. "Unfortunately, in August, Google and Verizon for some reason suggested that net neutrality should not apply to mobile phone–based connections," he says.

He also warns against Phorm-style snooping and governments that restrict free speech on the web. But ultimately, he's optimistic. "Now is an exciting time," he says. "Web developers, companies, governments and citizens should work together openly and cooperatively, as we have done thus far, to preserve the Web’s fundamental principles, as well as those of the Internet, ensuring that the technological protocols and social conventions we set up respect basic human values. The goal of the Web is to serve humanity. We build it now so that those who come to it later will be able to create things that we cannot ourselves imagine." ®


Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Ten Principles of Communities of Practice

Thanks to Bill Ives for the blog and to Stan Garfield for defining the ten principles. Great stuff!

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My KM World 2010 and Enterprise Search Summit 2010 Notes: Stan Garfield on Communities of Practice

Here are the ten principles: One - Communities should be independent of organizational structure. They should be based on the content.

Two – Communities are different from organizations and teams.  People are assigned to a team. Communities are better with self–selection for joining and remaining.

Third – Communities are people and not tools. You should not start with tech features. A platform is not a community. Readers of the same blog are not a community but that might be a byproduct. 

Fourth – Communities should be voluntary. The passion of members should be what drives a community.  You should make the community appealing to get members and not assign them to it.

Fifth – Communities should span boundaries. They should not be for a particular group likes Sales or IT. There is a lot of cross-functional or cross-geography learning that would be missed then. Diverse views help communities.

Sixth – You should minimize redundancy in communities. Consolidation helps to avoid confusion by potential members. It also reduces the possibility of not getting a critical mass. Reducing redundancy also enables more cross-boundary sharing.

Seven - Communities need a critical amass. You need at least 50 and likely 100. Usually ten percent are very active so you can get sufficient level of activity with 100 people.

Eight – Avoid having too narrow of scope for the community. Too much focus can lead to not enough members. Stan advises people to start broad and narrow if necessary.  Or start as part of broader community and spin off if needed.

Nine – Communities need to be active. Community leaders need to do work, often in the “spare time” at their regular work. This means that the leader needs a passion for the topics so he or she will spend this extra time. There needs to be energy to get things going.

Ten – Use TARGETs to manage communities. TARGET includes: Types, activities, requirements, goals, expectations, and tools. Each of these issues needs to addressed and explained to prospective members.  Tools are necessary, but the least important component, so they are placed last.


Tuesday, 16 November 2010

A great example of ROI using the Social Web

We're getting familiar with the mantra about the need for efficiency and cost savings in the public sector. We also hear about the difficulty in measuring the Return on Investment (ROI) for use of Social Media. Well, here is evidence of both; how an online conference 'attended' (in a virtual sense) by over 1000 delegates over 5 days, saved around £280,000 when compared to running a standard (real) conference.

But apart from the cost savings identified here, we shouldn't forget that the other key differentiator with an online conference is the almost instant access to a considerable volume of knowledge assets, e.g. the forum conversations, blog posts, uploaded documents and presentations, etc. - all available as a permanent digital reference of the event.

Surely some lessons here for anyone thinking of running a conference? Maybe this will be the benchmark for future online events - it certainly demonstrates what can be done with a bit of organisation, and the 'glue' provided by the social web!

36 presenters over 5 days, that sounds like a big event.DSCF2023

Well it was the Local by Social Online Conference ran from the 3 to the 9th of November…  And this has been our most ambitious online conference to date, not only in time but the amount of presenters and participants to the online conference.

One thing to point out is that we encourage participation.  It’s not like a face to face event where you are an attendee.  And going back to the 1% rule or the “90-9-1″ version of this rule.  This states that 1% of people create content, 9% edit or modify that content, and 90% view the content without contributing.

The online conference did a good job.   With 242 out of the 1123 participants, making a contribution. Totalling 21%

And a total of 1123 contributions over the 5 days.

I’m not going to forget the Lurkers out there.  Because between you and the contributors you viewed 27,360

That’s the equivalent of reading the original War and Peace 22 times

Also the average time spent in the online conference was 14m 20s per day.

When it comes to unique visitors by day we averaged at 427

  • Wednesday 518

  • Thursday 455

  • Friday 341

  • Monday 415

  • Tuesday 406

That would have had to be a large conference venue to hold that many people.  More than what we could hold at the Local Government Improvement and Development with our maximum of 60 people.

When it comes to travelling to the Online Conference, you probably only had to go to work. Or if your like Ingrid, and mentioned in her blog in her Jim Jams

But what if you did have to travel?  Well looking at the Map. I picked the 141 locations that people visited from in the UK.  All the way from Stornoway in the North to Truro in the South.  Belfast in the West and Norwich in the East.

As a rough estimate the travel distance to Layden House EC1m 5LG if you just calculated it for the 141 locations on a once only return travel it would have been 52008 miles.  That’s twice round the World and would have left a Carbon Footprint of 4.55 tonnes of CO2

Twitter was used quiet a bit over the conference with 457 tweets that used the Twitter hash tag for the Local By Social Online Conference #LBYS

And if you’re interested, if this was run as a 5 day Face to Face Conference the cost could have been around £293,000 not only to host it but to get to the venue.  This does not include other cost e.g. time away from the office etc.

Estimated cost comparison with a face to face Conference

Five Day Face to Face Conference (estimated costs)

  • Delegates = 400

  • Venue Hire = £2,000 x 5 = £10000

  • Audio – Video for venue = £2,250 x 5 = £11,250

  • Marketing Materials = £800

  • Advertisement = £1,500

  • Delegate Rate @£65 per person = £26,000 x 5 = £130,000

  • Conference Team Accommodation = £600 x 5 = £3000

  • Conference Team Travel = £400

  • Speakers Travel = £200 x 5 =£ 1000

  • Conference Team (11 days @ £500 per day) = £5,500

  • (Includes before, during and after)

  • Speakers time (average 2 speakers) = £2,000 x 5 = £10000

  • Couriers = £300

  • Delegate Accommodation (est. £40 per person) = £16,000 x 5 = £80,000

  • Delegate travel (est. £50 per person) = £20,000 x 2 = £40,000

  • Total Cost = £293,70

5 Day online Conference (estimated costs)

  • Delegates = £100

  • Venue Hire = £0

  • Audio – Video = £250

  • Marketing Materials = £250

  • Advertisement = £250

  • Delegate Rate = £0

  • Event Team Accommodation = £0

  • Event Team Travel = £0

  • Speakers Travel = £0

  • Conference Team (15 days @ £500 per day) = £7,500

  • (Includes before, during and after)

  • Speakers time (average of 8 speakers) = £4,000

  • Couriers = £100

  • Delegate Accommodation = £0

  • Delegate travel = £0

  • Total Cost = £12,350

Maybe with these types of events and with the Knowledge Hub coming along next year.  We will still be able to share and transfer our experience and knowledge virtually with the restraints on the budgets across the sector.


Friday, 12 November 2010

Apple’s Ping Social Network Gets Social with Twitter

Like it or not, we have another social network to embrace in Apple's Ping. The good news is that it integrates with other networks, except (as usual) Facebook, which continues down it's own information cul de sac. I haven't tried Ping yet, but it is installed on my version of iTunes so will give it a whirl. I guess we can anticipate a significant burst in (trivial) Twitter traffic as we discover what music the people we follow are listening to. Oh joy!

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Apple’s Ping Social Network Gets Social with Twitter

Back in September, everyone gasped as Apple launched the social network Ping, built inside of iTunes. Of course, the excitement quickly dissipated as everyone realized Ping wasn’t social at all. It was an information silo and didn’t even appear ready for the masses. Facebook and Apple even got into it, resulting in Facebook blocking Ping from full integrating with Facebook. A block that is still in place to this day.

All is not lost, though. Ping is finally starting to show itself to be somewhat social and possibly even useful with deep Twitter integration. From the Twitter Blog:

Starting today Ping, iTunes’ new social network for music, and Twitter are making it even easier for people to share music discoveries with their friends by putting Ping activity, song previews and links to purchase and download music from the iTunes Store right in their Tweets on

The integration goes both ways. Once you connect your Twitter account to Ping, your activities in Ping will be automatically tweeted to your Twitter followers. I put “automatically” in bold to remind you to check your settings in iTunes and adjust accordingly. You may not want every minute activity you do broadcasted to Twitter.

On the Twitter end, these tweets from Ping will include special links that show you more detail about the song or album right alongside your Twitter stream. You can view the details and even play previews without leaving the Twitter website. I knew this new Twitter was going to end up being useful for something.

What do you think about Twitter integration in Ping? Will it prompt you to give Ping another look? Are you already using Ping? Tell us about it.

See more at

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Transparency |

I applaud the initiative behind this new website, clearly in line with the gov's transparanecy agenda. But how much better is would be if developed as a dashboard showing a graphical representation of Key Performance Indicators (KPI's) rather than just blocks of text. Even just showing a trafiic light system of red, amber and green to indicate which targets are being met would be an improvement. Add your comments to the Transparency website if you have an opinion

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Google bars data from Facebook as rivalry heats up

So, it seems a walled garden is being erected around Google services (it's always been there for Facebook). I can't really see this hurting Facebook very much. The loser is (once again) the user who will no longer have the facility to easily join up address books between networks. I think we can look forward to these two heavyweights continuing to slug it out over the coming months. An interesting spectacle since both are too big to fall.

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SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Google Inc will begin blocking Facebook and other Web services from accessing its users' information, highlighting an intensifying rivalry between the two Internet giants.

Google will no longer let other services automatically import its users' email contact data for their own purposes, unless the information flows both ways. It accused Facebook in particular of siphoning up Google contact data, without allowing for the automatic import and export of Facebook users' information.

Facebook, with more than 500 million users, relies on email services such as Google's Gmail to help new users find friends already on the network. When a person joins, they are asked to import their Gmail contact list into the social network service. Facebook then tells the user which email contacts are also on the social network.

In a statement, Google said websites such as Facebook "leave users in a data dead end." Facebook did not immediately provide a comment on Friday.

While Google framed the move as an attempt to protect its users' ability to retain control of their personal data on the Internet, analysts said the move underscored the battle between Google, the world's largest search engine, and Facebook, the dominant Internet social network.

"The fundamental power dynamic on the Web today is this emerging conflict between Facebook and Google," said Gartner analyst Ray Valdes. "Google needs to evolve to become a big player in the social Web and it hasn't been able to do that."

"If people do search within Facebook, if they do email within Facebook, if they do instant messaging within Facebook, all of these will chip away at Google's properties."


Google said that while it makes it easy for other Web services to automatically import a user's contact data, Facebook was not reciprocating.

"We have decided to change our approach slightly to reflect the fact that users often aren't aware that once they have imported their contacts into sites like Facebook, they are effectively trapped," Google said in an emailed statement.

"We will no longer allow websites to automate the import of users' Google Contacts (via our API) unless they allow similar export to other sites," Google said.

Some technology blogs were reporting that Facebook still appeared to be allowing users to import their Google Gmail contacts into Facebook as of mid-day Friday.

A Google spokesman told Reuters that the company had begun enforcing the new rules "gradually."

Google also stressed that users will still be able to manually download their contacts to their computers in "an open, machine-readable format" which can then be imported into any Web service.

Google has coveted the wealth of information that Facebook's half-billion users generate and amass. Having access to that data could be especially valuable to Google, whose business model is based on allowing its users to find any information anywhere on the Web.


Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Google sues US govt for Microsoft-only policy

I have every sympathy with Google. Hopefully a lesson here also for the UK public sector - there are other (and better and cheaper) products than MS Oulook, MS Sharepoint and Internet Explorer 6. Whatever happened to that level playing field?

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Web giant claims Department of the Interior unfairly mandated that an email procurement project should only use Microsoft products

The US Department of the Interior told potential suppliers of a new email system that it will only consider tenders based on Microsoft products, web giant Google has alleged in an lawsuit against the government body.

The lawsuit alleges that the Department sent ‘requests for quotation’ (RFQs) to IT service providers that specified that only offers based on Microsoft’s Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS) would be considered.

Google demands that a more competitive procurement process is introduced.

If Google’s claims are true, the Department of the Interior’s procurement process would appear to contravene a 2004 memo from the Executive Office of the President. The memo asserted that “policies and procedures covering acquisition of software to support agency operations” should be “technology and vendor neutral … to the maximum extent practicable”.

Microsoft-only procurement projects are not unheard of in the UK’s public sector, despite the fact that the EU Directive on Public Procurement asserts that “contracting authorities shall treat economic operators equally and non-discriminatorily”.


Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Knowledge Hub at Local by Social Online Conference (3rd Nov)

I will be running a session on the 'Knowledge Hub' at the the Local by Social Online Conference this Wednesday 3rd November, 3pm to 4.30pm (GMT).  See more details below about the Online Conference. A brief synopsis of the Knowledge Hub:

Knowledge Hub will support service improvement, efficiencies and innovation across local government. It is a “Web 2” social media development and offers opportunities to foster greater collaboration across the sector and wider use of digitally based information such as open and linked data. Knowledge Hub builds on the successful Communities of Practice (CoP) space with over 75,000 registered users and is considered the most advanced online practitioner group in the public sector. Access to the new environment will allow councillors, officers and practitioners across the public sector to take advantage of new media tools and techniques for knowledge sharing and improvement.

More than just an IT solution, the KHub is a far-sighted social media resource that could lead to a major cultural change in the public sector.

The Local by Social online conference is just part of a wider strategy to support local government and its partners in using social media to improve services and knowledge sharing  across the sector. The following abstract from Ingrid Koehler explains:

The Local by Social online conference is showcasing a range of digital innovators in local public services.  Social media: Citizen and council strand has a range of brilliant speakers covering the breadth of how social media is being used to innovate and improve local public services and engage citizens more broadly and deeply.

And this is only one strand of the conference!  The other cover the use of social media for better knowledge sharing and practice development within the sector and the use of open data for transparency and improvement.

How does this work?  ‘Speakers’ will provide material in advance and will then be available to answer questions and engage in discussion.  But really they’re only there to prompt discussion.  This conference is about you! Your experiences, your challenges and your solutions to share with colleagues across the country and around the world.   Or you can just listen and learn. Sign up to the conference and you’ll be alerted to speakers who interest you and round-ups of key content, so you never miss a thing.

The Slidecast presentation below has been posted to the Online Conference website. If you'd like to participate in an online discussion about the content then I'll be happy 'see' you at the online conference on Wednesday 3rd November. This particular session runs from 3pm to 4.30pm (GMT).

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Sunday, 31 October 2010

Flickr embraces OpenID

Great news for anyone who supports open standards and quite a brave move for Yahoo (parent company) who have recognised that having a proprietary login process (you need a Yahho ID in order to sign-up for Flickr) may be a disincentive to setting up a Flickr account. OpenID will be one of the standards implemented for the Knowledge Hub ( - the first implementation of OpenID in the public sector?

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Flickr (Flickr) announced today that Google (Google) would be its first partner in its introduction of OpenID for new account signups. Starting today, anyone can sign up for a new Flickr account using their Google account.

Existing Flickr users will still have to use their Yahoo (Yahoo!) identities to login, but Flickr says they’re working on making that easier and less frequent, too.

This is great for Flickr and parent company Yahoo, as it makes it easier for current Google users to use the former photo-sharing site as opposed to Picasa (Picasa), a Google-owned competitor. But it’s not exactly a loss for Google, since it removes a big reason to establish and use a Yahoo account.

Of course, the real winner here is the OpenID community. Eric Sachs is on Google’s Internet Identity Team. He wrote today on the Google Code blog, “Google and Yahoo! are two of the many companies who have been involved with the OpenID community’s efforts to improve the process for how users log in and sign up for online services… While Google doesn’t yet support the use of OpenID for replacing passwords on its own sites, we’re involved in the OpenID community’s efforts to research how to best implement that type of support.”

Interestingly enough, last month Google announced it would be using OpenID to allow Yahoo users to signup for new Google accounts, a clear swipe at Yahoo’s userbase.

According to data gathered this summer, Google is the single largest “identity provider” across the Internet (Internet); Google represents the preferred sign-in option for 38% of users on sites with third-party sign-in options. Not surprisingly, Facebook (Facebook) holds second place, with 24% of users choosing that identity as a login option.