Tag Archives: Google

Staying In The Flow

It’s been quite a while since my last blog post here–even forgot the password. But it feels good to be back, even to just browse through my earlier posts.

Long before I launched my most recent company, Flow, I’ve been curious about the importance of contextualizing information–hence, the name of this Blog. It may be that “putting things in context” is the art of being human: “this is a lot like that” or, on the other hand, “one of these things is not like the other”. I’m no neuroscientist, but I suspect most of the higher level work of the brain is about contextualizing new information–and insight has something to do with “likening” things that have never been likened before. Maybe this is obvious.

Even more obvious is the the importance of the “social context”–streams of information contextualized by “who” you care about. Still, there are infinitely more unexplored contexts (beyond the social context) for many-to-many data sharing.

My early startups (MILCOM, Meshnetworks, Triton Network Systems, TeraNex) had no particular theme. But with KnowHowVideo.com, HowCast.com and KnowItAllVideo.com (all YouTube precursors–too early for anyone to care), KickApps (one of the earliest social media platforms) and Flow I’ve circled around a number of ideas associated with contextualizing information in new ways.

My grand plan for KickApps was to provide a white label social experience on many websites that would all be confederated by what I called an “open portal”. My assumption was that if social sharing began in the context of specific websites (where audience already existed), a larger context could be created from the aggregate sharing across many websites–I started with the spokes before building the hub. Building the hub before the spokes was the better idea as it turns out–Facebook Connect proved that, damn-it. But still, it was pretty cool that it happened in such a big way, even if we didn’t get there ourselves. Back then (2005) the resistance was that nearly every major website brand thought it outlandish when we suggested they share user-generated content and feedback with a central hub. We even tried to talk AOL and Yahoo into teaming with us for instant scale. But in reality, it took the overwhelming reach of Facebook for brands to concede control to a central hub.

Flow is a different take on a similar idea, but with implications more far-reaching. It’s all about data in motion.

What if any mobile app (or website) could simultaneously share real-time data (structured data, not just “likes” and media) with thousands of other mobile apps and websites within millions of highly contextual streams. What if companies and industries could share real-time data with their ecosystems, connecting all those data silos and disconnected applications. Flow presents a different way for apps (and people) to “search for data” as information is explicitly published (by apps, brands, people) into finely grained contexts. And if a particular context doesn’t exist, it can be created and share in seconds by anyone. Equally important, information can intelligently route (we call them “tracks”) between and of those contexts (I’ll talk more about that in another post).

By comparison, apps cannot “post” into Google search indexes and Twitter hash tags contextualize only unstructured data within lawless tributaries of noisy commentary. It’s not the same thing.

So Flow is a “real-time data exchange” designed from the ground up (unlike the internet) for information sharing in many-to-many fashion. Our belief is that following “what” you care about will one day soon be more important than following “who” you care about. Stay tuned.

Wolframalpha – not a great name

Wouldn’t it be fun to see Google get its ass kicked?  Nothing personal, just good fun seeing the big guy knocked down.  Well, it’s not happening any time soon, but what goes around eventually comes around.

Check out:  www.wolframalpha.com/screencast/introducingwolframalpha.html

Wolframalpha (annoying name, isn’t it?) makes use of contextual algorithms as compared to Google’s general keyword and link-based algorithms—so it’s pretty smart if you ask it something it knows.  Wolfram might say about Google, “to a hammer everything is a nail.”

[As a reminder, context is always king—the evolution of the web is about narrowing context to create more and more relevancy and engagement—see the name of this blog if you need proof.]

The first public version of Wolframalpha is more about discovering specific information than it is about discovering websites that contain specific information.   Of course, one of Wolframalpha’s subject-matter domains could easily be website discovery—that is, the entire business of  website discovery could be just one of the many domain-specific algorithms Wolframalpha offers.  On the other hand, what Wolframalpha provides is already a small subset of what Google currently provides, to a degree, so long as the questions posed to mister Google aren’t too tough.

It can be said that Wolframalpha is just the latest flavor of directed search with a few semantic chops on the side.  But this time around I believe there is real potential to cover much more domain-specific ground than previous efforts—wikis have taught us much.  Can Wolframalpha (or similar efforts) adequately cover what most humans currently discover via traditional keyword search?   The current “social search” efforts (let’s leave Twitter et al out of it for the moment) may be irrelevant, but there’s no doubt that capturing the world’s knowledge with domain-specific algorithms will take the work of many hands.

It’s  obvious that domain-specific algorithms are more interesting (provide more relevancy) than generic keyword algorithms.   Isn’t that why search within Twitter has everyone aflutter?   But we’ll all get over the novelty of social discovery and the real-time web soon enough because I believe something much smarter is coming, and on it we will flow.