Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Social Networks are not new or the rage of Web 2.0?

Social networks have been around since we have had societies. Everyone has a social network. Even if you have no friends or contacts with anyone else, you still have a social network (in this case of one person - yourself).

So why do people think Web 2.0 is social networking? The epiphany I had is that "declaring" our social networks is what is really new. This is done via a variety of platforms for various types of relationship circles. MySpace, Plaxo, Facebook, LinkedIn, and so on are ideal platforms for these declarations. Each platform has its unique appeal.

What is leading to the end of this phenomena is that people are tired of having to redeclare every relationship every time a new platform comes out. It is long overdue that OpenSocial becomes the lasting monument whereby we can create our declarations once and have them syndicate outwards based on a permissions-based system. So what is stopping this from happening? Simple - a general lack of understanding of binary and n-ary relationships. Here is what I mean.

Here is a declaration: I am friends with Dave Watson.

So what does this really mean? In short, the truth is plain and simple - I have made a unilateral declaration that Dave and I are friends. Why is this potentially errant? Pragmatics and inference errors are abound. We don't know if Dave reciprocates that statement. Is the relationship asymetrical or even traversable? Is it reflexive? Do Dave and I have the exact same definition of "friend"?

You can see how this quickly becomes ambiguous. The solution is to use an upper-level or mid-level ontology to help people understand the nature of these declarations and guide them to correct use. I wrote about this two years ago after a Web 2.0 conference in Berlin here.

James Governor wrote about this pattern of declarative living in a chapter for our upcoming book on Web 2.0. He realized this concept more than two years ago. I guess it took me a while to figure out what he was talking about but the genius of his thinking is still bringing new realizations on a daily basis. Just like I am declaring in this blog article today!

Is IBM buying Sun a good move or bad?

There are rumors about IBM perhaps negotiating to buy Sun Microsystems. They are nothing more than rumors at this point yet one cannot help but ponder if this is in fact a good move for IBM. Java, ODF, *nix based operating systems galore are all commonalities. On the other hand, what revenue stream does Sun have? How much redundancy is there? Who will now keep Java from forking?

What do you think?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The dangers of Wikipedia

Wikipedia is a collectively authored work purporting itself to be an accurate depiction of our history. What I am seeing more and more is that Wikipedia is a dangerous tool whereby a handful of editors can singlehandedly rewrite major portions of our history. It is often cited as a reference of absolute truth, which compounds this danger.

I have personally encountered several instances of having truth censored by editors. One such case was ebXML. I chaired the Technical Architecture group and also helped write several of the specifications including the Technical Architecture, Registry-Repository, and Core Components specifications. Wikipedia reported as fact that ebXML had only 4 parts when it in fact had 6 parts. When I changed this to reflect what actually happened, some editor (who shall remain nameless) removed my contribution and changed it back to 4. Only through perseverance and pushing the issue was I able to succeed in a compromise. It now reads:

"The original project envisioned five layers of data specification, including XML standards for:

* Business processes,
* Collaboration protocol agreements,
* Core data components,
* Messaging,
* Registries and repositories

All work was completed based on a normative requirements document and the ebXML Technical Architecture Specification."

This is still obviously errant as these are not and were never considered "data" specifications. There were 6 parts to ebXML plus the normative Requirements document. The page is riddled with errors. I cannot change it as my IP has apparently been suspended for "vandalism" (I guess that is what they call "writing the truth" in Wikipedia language). Yes - I could easily use another computer or IP address via VPN to change it but why bother?

The real danger here is that people who lack any reference to ebXML and use this as the single authoritative source for knowledge will leave with the wrong impression. What happens when those people turn out to be university professors, scholars etc? Simple - history is rewritten reflecting non-truth.

Wikipedia is one of the most dangerous institutions in our time. As people such as myself gradually concede and give up trying to make Wikipedia accurate after being whittled down by years of naive editors who think they control their petty fiefdoms, the truth becomes lost and replaced by the editors' version. This reminds me of a quote from Randy Rampage, the front man for a band I play in called "Stress Factor 9":

"you're getting what you pay for when your info is free"

Of course, you cannot look up Stress Factor 9 on Wikipedia as it was deleted. The reason was explained as follows:

23:42, 7 December 2007 Marasmusine (talk | contribs) deleted "Stress Factor 9" ‎ (CSD A7: Article does not indicate subject's importance or significance: content was: '{{db-band}} {{Copyedit|date=September 2007}} :''For other uses of the acronym, see DOA''. {{Infobox musical artist | Article does not indicate subject's importance or significance"

When I helped contribute to this page, we noted that the singer for SF9 was Randy Rampage, one of the founding members of DOA. DOA is a legendary punk band that influenced a huge section of modern music including everyone from the Red Hot Chili Peppers to Bif Naked. They are often considered to be the founders of the "Hardcore" sound. Also of note in SF9 was drummer Ray Hartman, the first drummer for the premier metal band Annihilator.

Note that on Randy's personal page, there is a link to Stress Factor 9 including my stage name "Duane Chaos". The link to my band's home page has also been removed as it was deemed insignificant. I wonder how that should be explained to the 100,000 + people who have downloaded our music or come to see us live?

The short end of this stick is that we (society) are having our collective history rewritten by a handful of editors who make decisions about what is important and what is not, what is truth and what is not. Even when confronted with facts, they are often unwilling to accept defeat and allow their own personal views to be recorded as fact.

I am not alone in this criticism of Wikipedia. They are many like me who have had our voices silenced including university professors and many more.

The press and media are watched by watchdog agencies. I think it is time we do the same with Wikipedia.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Epic day skiing!

I've been working like a dog (more like a dog that only works and never plays) so today I took off to grab some fresh powder at Cypress Mountain, only 35 minutes from my Vancouver home near the beach. This was an epic day. Snow was being puked out of the clouds, not bad visibility, and no one on the mountain.

I tried out my new Head Xenon Xi 10.0s. They are simply an amazing ski. In deep powder you can close your eyes and carve, even in semi tracked-out conditions. I found myself jumping quite a bit higher as confidence was way up. This is a shot taken in the air (super fast f-stop).

This shot was on the chair lift. I am smiling although you cannot tell.

Sunday, March 15, 2009