Archive for the ‘off topic’ Category

Wikipedia - The Central Source For All Human Knowledge?

Wednesday, August 15th, 2007

Wikipedia logoWill Wikipedia one day be the central hub for all human knowledge? This may sound crazy, but I’m not so sure that it’s as far-fetched as it may seem. The site has developed a loyal following and continues to generate an unprecedented amount of traffic. Founder Jimmy Wales always had a vision “to create and distribute a free encyclopedia of the highest possible quality to every single person on the planet in their own language”. In other words, if someone wants to learn something about anything, they can find it on Wikipedia in their native language. This seemingly unrealistic goal is now within reach.

This is where the nay-sayers step in. Many discount the credibility of the site, stating a lack of accuracy and accountability. Some refute the reliability of sources. Others even claim that the ‘mediocrity of the crowds’ depreciates the quality of articles, arguing that a single, expert voice can provide a more clear, authoritative perspective. These are the critics of social media.

One thing is for sure: most numbers, measurements, dates, and quantitative data cannot be argued. It’s fact - it’s indisputable. Qualitative data, however, is a whole different story. Biases and opinions can creep into articles at any given point, subtlely manipulating the thoughts of the reader. Though Wikipedia users and editors do a good job of controlling this type of behaviour, it will always be present. When disputes arise, authority must be present. A moderated system such as Wikipedia can create bureaucracy and formalization, but it also helps to deter potential gaming.

Wikipedia has also successfully opened the playing field. Transparency and accessibility are key. Anyone can access all information in all languages without the need for a login or special permissions - this even includes all edits. A by-product of this is that information inefficiencies are eliminated. It is well known that many companies and organizations profit from a lack of information distribution. The introduction of such a system levels the playing field for all.

The concept of a free service also eliminates another tall barrier to entry: price. Historically, people had to purchase books or other learning materials to educate themselves on a particular topic. Now, this can be done at no cost. Anyone can view all information without paying a cent.

Finally, anyone can edit any article at any time. This is probably the most important feature. Furthermore, it probably carries the heaviest weight outside the walls of the site as well. Though there is a level of moderation, anyone can provide input, information, details, clarification, or data to further enhance the quality and depth of articles. The potential effects and widespread reach of this function simply cannot be articulated.

Obviously I am a big fan of Wikipedia. But it’s not so much the brand I’m a fan of, as the idea behind it. The principle is what interests me. Creating a free learning network for all mankind in every language is not an easy task. It’s not about Wikipedia, or competition, or brand names, or fames, or eyeballs. It’s about human knowledge. Once we can all access all information, the potential is only limited by our own creativity.

Disappointment in Jason Calacanis

Monday, August 13th, 2007

Jason CalacanisI’m not a big fan of Internet soap operas or gossip in general, although I do find the odd Valleywag headline quite amusing. In any case, there comes a time when a soap opera deals with real issues and real people. On rare occasions, respected individuals cross the line and push the boundaries. Only at this point do I feel the need to participate in the discussion and articulate my views.

This weekend I attended Gnomedex 2007 in Seattle. Friday evening Jason Calacanis stepped onto the stage and began speaking about Internet spam and disorder. His thoughts and insights were valuable and much appreciated. Having said that, he began promoting his new venture, Mahalo, half way through his presentation. This caused quite a stir among the audience, myself including. Gnomedex presentations are meant to spur discussions and conversations around trends, standards, principles, ideas, and concepts - not specific companies. In other words, this wasn’t the right time and/or place to engage in such an act. Dave Winer called it “conference spam”. I would have to agree with him. So did everyone else I spoke with.

With all due respect, this isn’t the first time I have disagreed with the actions of a so-called A-lister. Late last year, Jeff Pulver pulled a similar stunt that really pissed me off and left me questioning his credibility.

Both Jeff and Jason are well-known individuals with remarkable track records. They are admired among many, and regarded as pioneers in their respective fields. That is why it is so befuddling and perplexing when situations like these arise. These guys should know better. Suspect intentions and profit-seeking motives often get the best of everyone. Perhaps it was their turn.

The subsequent series of events from this episode on stage caused quite a stir in the blogosphere. Jason Calacanis was very upset by the backlash, most notably from Dave Winer - although I felt it was deserved. Dave Winer further expressed his views, only to apologize later. Aaron Brazell of Technosailor expressed his frustration with the whole situation, while Loren Feldman brought some humour to the ordeal.

Let me say this: I do not dislike Calacanis. I was actually looking forward to meeting him, even after this on-stage episode. I think that he is a smart guy with some smart things to say. However, he is living in a prominent role and must watch what he says sometimes. In this case, I disagreed with the way he went about presenting and/or promoting Mahalo. In the future, I think he needs to consider the consequences of his actions before acting upon them. Nevertheless, I wish him all the best with Mahalo and his future endeavours.

What Would You Rather Acquire…

Wednesday, August 8th, 2007

I’ve been pondering the following question for quite some time and I’d like to get some reader feedback. What would you rather acquire?

  • A) A start-up with a killer product and a mediocre team, or;
  • B) A start-up with a mediocre product and a killer team.

It is a very hard decision if you consider both sides. Both have their advantages and downfalls.

Initially, I (and many others I am guessing) immediately chose B. After all, the team is absolutely critical to success. Human resources are at the focal point of the new information / knowledge-based economy. How could you not choose B? 

But consider a revolutionary product or service that sells itself. Assume that barriers to entry have been set in place. Regardless of the team, one is certain that this product is going to take off and eventually reach widespread adoption. Is there really a need for a strong team if the product sells itself?

If you had to put your own money on the line, would you opt for the killer team or the killer product?

Does Facebook REALLY Have Any Competitors?

Tuesday, July 31st, 2007

Facebook new logo

With all due respect, I have used to have accounts at hi5, Friendster, MySpace, Orkut, and several other social networks, but I found them obsolete. Facebook is the cream of the crop - by a long shot. Second place is miles behind.

Now, I know many of you are sick of hearing about Facebook (as am I). But there are very important lessons to be learned from this social network that cannot be overlooked. The insights and knowledge are priceless. Therefore, I proceed…

Although Facebook does get grouped with the other social networks (SNs) above, are they all really in the same league? I mean really… none of the other SNs make sense like Facebook does. The proof is in the pudding: it seems that the other guys are now copying Facebook and/or trying to become more Facebook-esque. It was bound to happen.

Why is Facebook unrivalled?

  1. The people on my ‘Friends’ list are actually my friends. The same cannot be said for the other SNs.
  2. The Facebook interface is intuitive and easy to navigate. I get lost on the other SNs. The clutter gives me a headache.
  3. The other guys try to do too much. If I am looking for scrapbooks or comedy, I’ll look elsewhere. Facebook has focused on connecting people and ignored superfluous features.

There are other factors that play into my decision, but these are the most important. Facebook really has created a “social utility that connects you with the people around you”. Amazing concept? Not so much. Brilliant execution? Absolutely.

Enough said.

“Akismet” is an Anagram of “Mistake”

Monday, July 30th, 2007

Akismet logoIs this a startling revelation or do I just have too much time on my hands? For those of you unaware of Akismet, it is Automattic’s comment spam killer. For those of you unaware of Automattic, it is the company behind Wordpress. And if you don’t know what Wordpress is, well then…

Was this coincidence planned? If that was the case, it wouldn’t be a coincidence I guess. Has anyone else noticed this? Probably not. Perhaps the creators classify comment spam as a karma ‘mistake’ on behalf of the spammer. Or perhaps I just need to get out of the house more often. Probably the latter.