Monthly Archives: April 2011

On Curation

Nice post on content curation by Martin Zwilling – Entrepreneurs Need to Find the Best Curators.  I follow most of the curators Zwilling mentions, but I would add to the list Jason Hirschhorn’s daily aggregation of the most relevant technology-media stories, Media ReDEFined.

While curation is a hot topic these days, particularly as it relates to the ever-growing legion of aggregation websites, the technology of content curation has advanced little in recent years.  The Flow plans to push curation technology  forward in a number of ways.

The Flow (www.flow.net) intends to deliver a powerful new weapon to professional and amateur content curators, including manual and automated tools for individual and group participants.  We will offer drag-and-drop goodness with fingertip access to real-time content that goes well beyond social feeds and traditional media content – to include commerce, services, classifieds, research and local content.   Granular permissioning, built in commenting, ratings and a deep set of developer APIs will enable a range of new content experiences.  In addition we plan to offer a subscription-based marketplace for proprietary data that will extend to curated content.

Coming soon to http://www.flow.net.

The Trouble with APIs

I meant to comment earlier on Stacey Higginbotham‘s Are APIs the New Black? but got distracted with our upcoming Flow beta release.

Stacey emphasizes the very real problem of what’s an app to do when an API provider changes its terms of service?  It’s not very pretty, and it’s unclear whether there is legal recourse.

But there’s another problem with traditional APIs.  What happens when many apps want to share real-time data with many apps?  Who has time to wire up so many API connections?  How can any app in the ecosystem guarantee a quality of service with so many dependencies?  How do app developers even find each other, let alone establish so many business and technical relationships?

One-to-many is pretty easy in that respect – we can all wire up to Facebook or Twitter.  And one-to-one can also work.  But many-to-many is a practical impossibility and that precludes meaningful data sharing between a large number of apps.

Think of the disadvantages faced by a real estate broker that doesn’t subscribe to Multiple Listings Service (MLS)?  His inventory includes only his own listings and he gets no help selling those listing from other brokers.  The same is currently true for every mobile app (or website) that’s trying to move inventory (whether coupons or pickup trucks).

The Flow is here to help.  By inviting any number of app developers to share very granular sets of real-time data using a single set of XMPP/REST APIS, data sharing finally becomes easy and scalable with predictable quality of service.

Sets of real-time data (each a “flow”) can have many or few required and optional fields.  Permissions can extend usage of a given flow to all apps (or end-users) or to defined number of apps.  Individual flows can be fully public when created by a Flow librarian, or entirely private (or public) if created by an app developer or individual.

Check out Flow.net and sign up for our beta program if this all sounds interesting.

The way it is

What’s coming soon

Who Owns My Data? A Lesson on Sharing

Check out the Tim Chambers’ post, Who Owns the Digital You?

On the subject of data ownership there’s lots to talk about – from Facebook privacy settings and commerce to cookies and safe browsing. The piece that the Flow takes on has to do with giving developers the ability to provide their end-users genuine co-ownership of the data they contribute.

Currently, even apps that fairly make use of user data have no easy way to allow users equal control of that data. The Flow gives developers an opportunity to offer consumers the ability to view, edit, delete and share their own data in a “data locker” that lives independent of their apps.

Our belief is that consumers will dramatically favor apps that give them equal access to their own data, combined with the ability to invite other applications to make use of that same data. This functionality is amazing with relatively “soft” data (coupons, check-ins, golf scores, photos, ratings), but is absolutely essential with more private information (financial, family, medical).

The trick was to make it VERY easy for both app developers and consumes to effectively share control of data.

The other piece was to make it VERY easy for an app developer to discover other apps using related data. With an end-user’s permission, new apps can continually add value to the same consumer data. For example, if I rate a restaurant with one Iphone app, a new Android app might come along and provide me a coupon every time I rate a restaurant in the first app. A third app might provide me a restaurant review of the second apps’ coupon recommendation, and so on. Wow.

Time to Read?

Check out The Information: A History, A Theory, A Flood by James Gleick or, better yet, grab  Jeremy Campbell’s Grammatical Man to learn more about how (and why) we technology people do what we do.  Hint:  It begins and ends with Claude Elwood Shannon