Open Social – The Next Big Leap Forward?

Marc Andreessen certainly thinks so. How can you fight a name like that? It is an API for building social networking containers and applications. From Marc’s Open Social: a new universe of social applications all over the web

In a nutshell, Open Social is an open web API that can be supported by two kinds of developers:

  • “Containers” — social networking systems like Ning, Orkut, LinkedIn, Hi5, and Friendster, and…
  • “Apps” — applications that want to be embedded within containers — for example, the kinds of applications built by iLike, Flixster, Rockyou, and Slide.

That is cool. It can expand the platform for social networking applications, sparked by Facebook’s API. While reading Marc’s blog, I also noticed that Ning has over 100,000 social networks (not applications, but actually networks). That is amazing.

The next few months will be very very interesting since the industry pundits all agree that it is a great idea.

Open Social Web

Google Open Social: The Third Place

Google to Out Open Facebook

Google Transforms into… from Dare

Code as Data

An extension to the Google Site Map to allow your public code to be searched. This is a cool idea. It is taking the philosophy of distributed data one step further. In this case we are treating Code As Data for the purposes of Search. It is just a little innovation that makes it easy for Code search engines to locate code.

From Code Search Site Map:

We’ve heard from a number of site owners who want to make sure their public source code is searchable via Google Code Search. To help with that, we extended the Sitemap Protocol to support code files. This makes it possible to specify all the code files on your site, as well as the programming language and software license for each file.

To get started, check out the new Code Search tags for Sitemaps. For complete software packages that are archives (.tar, .tar.gz, .tar.bz2, or .zip), you can create a packagemap file to describe all the individual code files in each package.

The benefits go beyond Google Code Search. The concept can be used behind the firewall for enterprises to share code and detect duplicate code inside an enterprise as well.

Combining Code Search with AIML may be used to produce an interactive code finder for open source.

Links: Emerging Technologies and Innovation

I enjoy reading about how technology enables innovative solutions. Here are a list of some interesting links

E-textiles to Monitor Your Health 

Virginia Tech (VT) researchers have been busy developing efficient e-textiles — electronic textiles and clothing with embedded wires and sensors — for six years now. Their computerized clothing can monitor your movements, sensing if you’re walking, running, standing, or sitting down.

Bridge Traffic Powers Its Monitoring Sensors

Researchers at Clarkson University, NY, have developed wireless bridge sensors which work without batteries. Instead, they are powered by the vibrations caused by passing traffic. This is good news for all the people in charge of maintaining bridges, who will no longer to have to replace batteries installed in hard-to-access locations.

Self-powered Nanowires

Many research teams around the world are building nanodevices of some kind. But these very small devices need very small sources of power to be fully functional. Now, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) have shown that a single nanowire can produce power by harvesting mechanical energy from its environment. ‘Made of piezoelectric material, the nanowire generates a voltage when mechanically deformed.’

Blogging Has Changed My Life

From Vaibhav of Technofriends in a Blogr Tools interview.

Definitely blogging has changed my life a lot. My blog is like a baby to me. After starting this blog, I have kind of started being more research oriented. The vital questions which I ask myself have made me become more focused in my approach. It clearly helps. Apart from all this, its also about a brand image called YOU. I have also got more focus/attention from open communities / individuals because of my blog.

I connected with Vaibhav only a few months ago when I saw a link to my blog from Technofriends. Nice to see that his efforts getting some visibility.

Blogging has changed my life too.

  • It gave me a way to share what I know
  • It got me an anchor on the web where I can point other people to when they ask me what I do
  • It let me keep track of topics I learn and am interested in
  • It got me lots of friends around the world
  • It made me introspect a lot more than I used to

Innovation – The New Currency of Global Competition

Google Alerts on Innovation brought a gem to my inbox today – The Innovation Game Notes from the article:

  • Freedom to move, freedom to think, freedom  to create spurs innovation – from the article in economist
  • “Creative people like to challenge constraints and authority – and very scared people are not very innovative” – from Tim Brown the head of Ideo.
  • In today’s knowledge economy, innovation is the new currency of global competition
  • “Innovation is no longer about money, it’s about the climate: are individuals allowed to flourish and take risks?” – William Weldon, chairman of Johnson & Johnson

This article provides a very interesting perspective on why top down innovation may not work. I wonder whether there is a concept of Innovation Quotient and how you would measure it for an organization, community or nation.  Googling a bit, I see the following useful links:

What is your organization’s Innovation Quotient?

Developing an Innovation Quotient

More links

Corporate Social Networks

If you are a member of any type of social network, you probably understand the ease with which you can stay connected with friends and colleagues. In addition, you can discover new groups, communities and applications. This is exactly what is happening to me in Facebook. I see the applications they add, the communities they join and even people they connect to. Within less than 10 minutes a day, I can get a bird’s eye view of what is going on in my network of family, friends and colleagues.

How can we take this effect and translate it to our organization? How can we stay connected with our customers, employees (present and past) our advisors and partners. How about deploying a corporate social network?

In 5 Reasons to Deploy Corporate Social Network, CIO Insight highlights the opportunities and challenges of deploying corporate networks. From improving knowledge management, to increasing business opportunities, this presentation covers several benefits of corporate social networks.

I think there are a couple of other intangibles. First of all social networks are fun. Knowing a bit more about my colleagues is more likely to make my interactions with them better. Second, social networks may make hierarchical organization look flatter. Informal networks will blossom given the opportunity for interaction. Finally, I think social networks are great tools for harnessing collective intelligence.

Solve the meta-problem

I keep getting links to cool articles, blogs and essays. Sometimes I just mark them to read later. Some times I just dive in, sample them a bit. What excites me, may not excite you. But if you are in the software industry and share some of my interests, you may just want to take a look.

My sources of essays are links on Digg, doggdotus, slashdot, reddit. There is a bit of overlap there (doggdotus is an aggregator of digg, slashdot and del.icio.us). Here is an essay that got me started for the day.

How To: Be More Productive

Aaron is accomplished. Long before I read anything he wrote, I knew him for his software contributions. He describes himself as an Activist, Writer and Hacker. I knew about reddit and web.py and his contributions to semantic web and Python communities. I recently started reading his Raw Thought

This blog post is a gem. Like many other posts of his, it makes you reflect. If you are a software developer/software entrepreneur you can relate to this essay . For me, there is one thing that stands out more than anything else:

Another way to make things more fun is to solve the meta-problem. Instead of building a web application, try building a web application framework with this as the example app. Not only will the task be more enjoyable, but the result will probably be more useful.

Yeah. That is what it is all about. If you are a software developer, you can be an order of magnitude more productive, if you can take the approach of solving a meta problem. Some times this method of solving produces a tool. Some times it produces a design pattern or a framework. But almost, always, it produces one of the most elegant, reusable solutions.

Here are a few meta problems and the solutions that software pioneers invented. Some times they are so beautiful, you are sit in amazement at the mind that created them.

  • Parse different formats – Build a way to describe a parser and build a parser-generator (lex/yacc)
  • Find a way to describe a database – Recursive use of the concept of relationship to describe themselves. The metadata in an RDB are just tables like any other (with some special privileges)
  • You need a way to build different markups – Build a makup meta language (like XML)
  • You need to describe a set of resources and relationships and make statements about them – Create RDF/RDFS

Need I say more?

Importance of Startup Hubs

From Paul Graham’s The Future of Web Startups:

t might seem that if startups get cheap to start, it will mean the end of startup hubs like Silicon Valley. If all you need to start a startup is rent money, you should be able to do it anywhere.

This is kind of true and kind of false. It’s true that you can now start a startup anywhere. But you have to do more with a startup than just start it. You have to make it succeed. And that is more likely to happen in a startup hub.

I’ve thought a lot about this question, and it seems to me that the increasing cheapness of web startups will if anything increase the importance of startup hubs. The value of startup hubs, like centers for any kind of business, lies in something very old-fashioned: face to face meetings.

When you spend some time in Silicon Valley and go to Bangalore or Chennai, (I alternate between bay area and Chennai every few months), you notice significant differences. There is no SDForum with 15+ SIGs or ACM talks or other types of seminars and conferences. But slowly these things are starting up.

Paul talks about a lot of startups. It follows that these may require several startup hubs around the world and there may be an opportunity there.