I've seen a bunch of posts bubble up over the past few days that are really sparking my curiousity about what is really going on with Twitter, so I need to do a little brain dump. Bear with me.
An article by Rosabeth Moss Kanter was just published today on the Harvard Business Review website, titled On Twitter and in the Workplace, It's Power to the Connectors. In it, she highlights the fact that there is an organizational trend moving away from the hierarchical networks of the 20th century, and towards complex, distributed, non-hierarchical structures of business organization and leadership. She also points out that success today is based on a person's ability to leverage power and influence within their social networks, to act as "connectors" between people and information, and in turn build social capital. She leaves the evaluation of the significance of Twitter open-ended, but she lays out a few characteristics of Twitter that I found most interesting:
In the World According to Twitter, giving away access to information rewards the giver by building followers. The more followers, the more information comes to the giver to distribute, which in turn builds more followers. The process cannot be commanded or controlled; followers opt in and out as they choose. The results are transparent and purely quantitative; network size is all that matters. Networks of this sort are self-organizing and democratic but without any collective interaction.
(just keep those points in mind, I'm going to come back to it)
It's rare that a broadly disruptive, industry shattering/accelerating technology sneaks up on you, much less everyone else all at the same time. But according to Dean Takahashi at VentureBeat, a Gaming as a Service (GaaS) company called OnLive appears poised to launch services that will enable much more robust applications (the current focus is on video games) to be retrieved from the cloud in real-time.
The secret? A new form of robust digital compression that requires just one megabyte of additional software on the web client end.
For years, decades, data compression has formed a frustrating bottleneck for the development and diffusion of not only rich video games, but also more broadly important communication technologies such as virtual worlds (Second Life, Multiverse, VastPark), mirror worlds (Google Earth, Open Street Map) and high definition streaming Web TV (You Tube HD, Hulu) - just to name a few. A breakthrough in compresssion of this magnitutude (which Takahashi says owes its thanks to the discovery of smarter algorithms) is tantamount to throwing more broadband piping at the web and could result in 1) massive acceleration of VW, MW and WebTV adoption, 2) increases in the resolution of these Cloud-based systems.
Iow, it's a big freaking deal.
DISRUPTIVE POTENTIAL: Stated super-compression could/will quickly put a damper on industries such as thin client web browser development, used video game sales, and non-rich virtual worlds. It could/will quickly enbolden virtual video editing, online collaborative Photoshop, robust distance meetings/conferences/lectures, online video game sales (the main thrust of OnLive's efforts), graphically richer websites, and cloud computing efforts in general.
President Barack Obama's video/web overture to the Iranian people marks not only a strategic shift in U.S. policy toward the country, but also a fundamental change in tactics better-suited for an increasingly connected world.
Now let's see how Iranian leaders Mahmoud Ahmanadinejad and the Ayotollah respond.
Edging out the forthcoming Singularity Movie (not to be confused with this web version), here comes Transcendent Man, a new documentary film that portrays Ray Kurzweil and his vision of a, well, transcendent future for mankind. The film appears to be packed with star-power and will debut at the Tribeca Film Festival in NYC this April. The trailer below indicates 1) a focus on universal human transcension (a positive expansion of human perspective, imho), and 2) an attempt at objective framing by allowing in some critical voices, but none of the heavy hitters - appears to be mostly straw men. While I am optimistic the film will represent a socially necessary forward push of philosophical futurism, many futurists and I will ultimately judge this work on its analytical and objective qualities. That said, I'm hoping it delivers and eagerly await its broader release (probably via a cable network).
Some choice excerpts from the producer's press release:
It's part of human nature to label, classify, and quantify the world around us. We feel empowered when we're able to create structure and meaning out of our surroundings. Maps have been used for thousands of years to that end; enabling us to plot a course, make informed decisions of paths to take, and decide which trajectory will give us desired results. In today's modern culture, digital media has taken mapping to a whole new level, giving us the ability to visualize our world in 3D, and on a global scale
So what do maps have to do with social change?
Potentially, everything. A map is a tool, and historically those that have the best maps win. Several digital and social media tools are in the process of converging to create unprecedented platforms for sharing information in real-time. Whereas software like Google Earth allowed us to visualize on a macro scale, these new tools map information on local levels. GPS software, location based tracking, souveillance, and geotagging are coming together to produce information-rich maps that can be visualized in both space and time. Powered by social media, a space is being created where real-time maps can be used to empower communities to connect and collaborate instantaneously.
France-based Easy Web develops 3D video projection systems for 'monumental architecture', but could they be developing new cultural expectations for human-city interfaces where everything becomes a template?
During the next decade we are likely to see commercial products that will start to define the 'Post PC' Era of smart, networked objects that follow a new path of product development. Users will interact with embedded devices beyond the keyboard and mouse. We know that OLEDs offer a clear path to flexible, transparent display screens, but what about the combination of sensors and low power chips that make the 'screen' irrelevant for new applications. If it is hard to imagine commercial Post PC applications for enterprise sectors, what about designs for education and entertainment markets based on visions like Impress project from Sillenet [via Vimeo]
Will OLED screens kill paper? Or converge to strengthen the human cultural bond with paper?
What if the future 'death' is not paper, but book inventory?
That is what 'on demand' printing businesses hope will be true. Their strategy is to target the problems of inventory (e.g. excees; 'long tail' demand), not paper.
The OnDemandBooks Espress Book Machine (EBM) can operate 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, and produce over 60,000 books per year with minimum supervision. And HP is reported to be developing a massive MEMS printer that can deliver thousands of book pages per minute.
The key question is: when will 'on demand printing' come up from the bottom of the Hype Cycle.
For those of you still wondering about the awesome power of open-source software and web apps, which some forecasters believe will comprise 40% of all IT jobs by 2020, the Open Street Map (open version of Google Maps) editorial timelapse above is an illuminating demonstration of how individuals scattered across the globe can work together to quickly assemble a complex information graph.
Still doubting the power of digital altruism? Consider that over the next few years we'll move closer to always-on, hi-def, GPS-enabled life-logging devices, which will make contributing rich information to such 3D wikis much easier, if not nearly automatic. Mix in some smarter software that understands where to contextually arrange data and we're likely looking at serious acceleration of open-source graphing projects, which would help explain why the % of open-source jobs is expected to rise so significantly.
The Global Brain is hard at work. Emerging technology, software, information and social norms are speeding up its top-down, bottom-up and hybrid knowledge generation.
How long before President Barack Obama refers to social media as the Fifth Estate?
When I sat down to write this timely piece about the role of social media in government I was hopeful that by calling it "The Fifth Estate" I was about to be somewhat clever and original. Sheesh, was I wrong. A quick search revealed that many bloggers and pundits have in fact been calling social media The Fifth Estate for a while now:
There are in fact hundreds, if not thousands, of references to social media as The Fifth Estate that go back many, many years.
This of course has once again got me thinking that 1) there is truly no such thing as an original idea, especially on a planet inhabited by billions of meme processors all hooked into one global web, and 2) as innocuous as it may seem to us at any given moment, social media is truly a breakthrough phenomenon that is absolutely critical to convergent acceleration.