Marshall Kirkpatrick, PDX rockstar, has a great piece at RWW on Google's new "Knols" project. It's worth reading his full post, especially his conversation with wiki inventor (and Aboutus CTO) Cunningham. Kilpatrick's source was Google's own blog post, also worth a read.
Knols = "Units of Knowledge".
Imagine if every page in Wikipedia was its own freestanding page - or in Google parlance, a "Unit of Knowledge". And anyone could create any page, not subject to any editors. Or fact-checkers. These pages would come up in a Google search, and the Google users base would (by clicking) vote the most relevant to the top - as they do with current search results as a part of Google's overall algorithm.
How will you know whether what you read is accurate or unbiased? well, you won't. According to Google:
"All editorial responsibilities and control will rest with the authors. We hope that knols will include the opinions and points of view of the authors who will put their reputation on the line. Anyone will be free to write...once testing is completed, participation in knols will be completely open, and we cannot expect that all of them will be of high quality."
To ward off ill-intentioned knols, it appears, we'll have to count on the social commons:
"People will be able to submit comments, questions, edits, additional content, and so on. Anyone will be able to rate a knol or write a review of it. Knols will also include references and links to additional information."
What gets really interesting is that as Doubleclick info gets melded with Google's own library of your search results (which they have never said they would delete), aren't we going to be getting more customized (that is, better targeted to our preferences) information (and ads)?
One result may be that depending on what your search results and browser habits say about your potential proclivity for a particular flavor of knol on the topics of "gun control","abortion", "immigration", or any presidential candidate may generate results that hew to your algorithmically pre-determined skew.
Imagine a universe where everyone can read an encyclopedia tailored to them and their viewpoints? Where extremist views can be reinforced, walls maintained? Google suggests cross linking to opposing viewpoints, but don't most folks want reassurance that what they already think is right?
The good news?
"At the discretion of the author, a knol may include ads. If an author chooses to include ads, Google will provide the author with substantial revenue share from the proceeds of those ads."
Phew. That'll help me get to sleep at night. Here's a sample page from Google's post:
Slide.com has risen to prominence on the shoulders of their incredibly successful Facebook apps, one of which includes the "Fun Wall" app, where you can share media. A neat little functionality they've added is called 'Fast forward', where a piece of media embedded in this wall can be shipped off to your entire friendlist in a heartbeat.
Interesting bit of functionality that will no doubt fuel mind-numbingly broad propagation of some real garbage, but interesting in what it points to from a sociological standpoint.
When old 'what's his name' wrote Tipping Point (trust me, he doesn't need my PR - and btw - was everyone as disappointed as I by 'Blink'? couldn't pawn that sucker off fast enough) he talked about the power of the subset of individuals that act as influencer nodes on larger human networks.
To a degree, though I have 'close friends' and 'less-close' friends on my Facebook friend list, by virtue of that list, I have as immediate access to my primary friends as to my secondary, tertiary and 'oh hell, alright, I'll friend you" friends. At the push of a button my extended network of 'ambient intimates' gets the same piece of info. And then what happens?
While it's become trivial to distribute minutea (and there is probably a reason why I have fewer twitter followers than Facebook friends), it's non-trivial to parse it. "You're updates concern me less, as they concern me less", if you follow. Because what makes a connector valued is not the quantity of information they transmit but its quality, and perceived relevance to the recipient.
Slide.com's 'Fast Forward' feature allows ideas to spread quickly, like WOM on digi-crack. But for everyone who's wall has been choked with 'Muhammed' the f-ing bear or gotten that '6 degree' group sign up request (last count, 2MM members and counting), it may or may not be a good thing.
For marketers, before you try to get everyone 'Fast Forwarding' your latest legal-approved marketing blurbs, please ask yourself, "would I forward this delightful tidbit if it wasn't from the company that pays me?"
Atlanta's hartsdale airport's burger king features a digital ordering kiosk with nice flashy graphics/animations and best of all, an animated coke spot that plays while you wait for your payment to process and your ticket to print.
Gotta tell you - never has ordering at a fast-feeder felt more like playing a video game.
If you haven't seen Jonathan's work over at Number27.org, go now.
I'll wait for you to come back.
Just got a note about the launch of his latest piece, Whale Hunt.
Here's how he describes it:
"Last May I spent ten days with a family of Inupiat Eskimos in Barrow, Alaska, during their annual spring whale hunt. I documented the entire experience with a plodding sequence of 3,214 photographs, beginning with the taxi ride to Newark airport, and ending with the butchering of the second whale, seven days later. The photographs were taken at five-minute intervals, even while sleeping (using a chronometer), establishing a constant “photographic heartbeat”. In moments of high adrenaline, this photographic heartbeat would quicken (to a maximum rate of 37 pictures in five minutes while the first whale was being cut up), mimicking the changing pace of my own heartbeat.
Tech may lower the barriers to human interaction in the real world, but it sure doesn't make us honest online. Here's a quote from a study of online dating...and deception:
"In another attempt to collect objective data on deception, economists Guenter Hitsch and Ali Hortaçsu of the University of Chicago and psychologist Dan Ariely of M.I.T. compared the heights and weights of online daters with the same statistics obtained from national census data...they found that online height is exaggerated by only an inch or so for both men and women but that women appear to understate their weight more and more as they get older: by five pounds when they are in their 20s, 17 pounds in their 30s and 19 pounds in their 40s.
For men, the major areas of deception are educational level, income, height, age and marital status; at least 13 percent of online male suitors are thought to be married. For women, the major areas of deception are weight, physical appearance and age. All of the relevant research shows the importance of physical appearance for both sexes, and online daters interpret the absence of photos negatively."
[full article, from Scientific American, here]
One way to get around the fake photos and "nuanced" descriptions? Go real world.
Thanks goodness advertising as an industry has never had to stoop so low as to use gratuitous nudity to sell products or drum up attention.
NATO is acknowledging YouTube as its new battleground in the six-year war on Taliban fighters in Afghanistan, as the military alliance posts formerly secret surveillance and attack video. CNN reports.
"The strategy aims to counter years of propaganda video posted on the Internet showing Taliban attacks on NATO forces which fighters use to claim that NATO's position in the Afghan war is deteriorating.
"The Taliban, who are literally cave-dwellers, are doing better than we are on a key battleground -- and that's video," said NATO spokesman James Appathurai. "They deploy with videographers. We don't. They have DVDs out in an hour, we don't."
Wielding video cameras like weapons, fighters quickly upload images of their attacks and create a valuable morale booster for their supporters.
Now, after much internal debate, NATO has begun declassifying and posting top secret combat video on YouTube and other Web platforms to try and beat the Taliban at its own game."
Wandering the Tate, I came across "Tate Tracks", an inspired program where artists find a piece that inspires them, then create a track to accompany the piece. The music debuts in the gallery for 30 days, then appears on the Tate Tracks site. From the site:
"Tate Modern invited Union of Knives to walk around the gallery and find a work of art that would inspire them to write a track.
It was Cy Twombly's Quattro Stagioni which blew them away. It's a series of four vast paintings about the cycle of the seasons. They chose it because they 'liked the feeling that it gives of the earth just being one great big creature and the seasons are merely this creature breathing.' The result is their latest track, Four Seasons.
Had a conversation with folks railing against the degradation of the term 'Friend' in our Facebook-era.
The general theme was "I feel guilty declining a Facebook 'friend' request, so I've accepted them from people who aren't really my 'friends'."
But the issue here isn't Facebook (or MySpace, etc.) bleeding out the vitality of Friendship per se, it's that we haven't yet found a seamless way to dynamically recalibrate our virtual personae the way we do so fluidly in real-life social situations.
Remember when kids' online management of multiple IM names was going to lead to dysfunctional lives? Now we realize they were just using convenient tech tools to do what we've always done: adopt /adapt and use the personality/speech mannerisms/tonality most appropriate to the image we want to convey with the folks with whom we are interacting AT THAT MOMENT.
We are finely tuned social adapters. Our internal wetware can spit out situation appropriate behaviour on the fly, whether we are with our kids, co-workers, parents and telemarketers who call during dinner...and we can toggle back and forth (between the bartender and our date, for instance) effortlessly.
Perhaps the sense that "friendship" as a social construct is being "degraded" comes from the discomfort of being made actively aware of our natural force-ranking of individuals and social relationships, a clumsy klieg light shone on our autonomous social nervous system.
Our biologic software affords social flexibility interactive, non-biologic software can't. Yet.
For now, carbon apps trump silicone apps for emotional depth and connection.
But try this on: while online social interaction lacks most 'presence' cues (body language, tonality, cadence, emotional state), aren't twitter/jaiku/facebook conceptually closing that gap (Clive Thomas's 'Social Proprieception')? Put another way, is it farfetched to equate our sum total perception of a friend or stranger to a dynamic, internally-generated "wiki" where we blog/update/revise our cumulative sense of that person via body language 'tweets', podcasts of their conversations and YouTube videos of their walk/talk/interactions?
The day we can read people online the way we read them in the real world is coming. For now, we can revel in:
They had to go there, didn't they?
Facebook's $15B valuation needed some real revenue behind it, and Beacon looked like one sure ticket.
Smart marketers like Coke wisely stepped out of the initial effort when they learned the process was opt-out rather than opt-in, and they equally wisely noted that they aren't dropping out of the effort entirely, because the program (properly gated to allow consumer choice in what they share or don't) is pretty darn compelling.
The real lesson from the Beacon' flap Scott Karp nails in his recent piece over at Publishing 2.0:
"Traditionally what happens is a technology company matures and becomes vulnerable to an upstart innovator leap-frogging them in the marketplace...[but] Facebook is too easily to replicate. It only has one real asset — people. What Facebook critics see is not the risk that another social networking company can do a better job with the technology — it’s that one could do a better job with the people.
The next great internet company will not be one that makes a breakthrough with technology — it will be one that makes a breakthrough with people."