Tuesday, September 28, 2010

The magnificent evolution of blogging

Dave Winer’s ability to peer into the future is uncanny. He was talking about a river of news long before the current activity streams became popular. He was evangelizing RSS long before there were blogs. I could go on and on about his prescient observations, but it’s his warnings that are especially prophetic.
For as long as I can remember, he’s been warning that users of new social web technologies need to be in control of their own destiny. He sounded the alarm about Feedburner and how it was hijacking an open standard, RSS, and inserting itself between content creators and consumers. And he’s long cited the need for open social communication platforms, often voicing his displeasure with newer services such as Twitter.
People have ignored Winer at their own peril, as two events over the last week have made clear. First was the shutdown drama around a little-known URL-shortening service called Tr.im. While it’ssince been resurrected, the incident showed me how by championing these URL-shortening services, we’re essentially putting the entire link economy in the hands of companies that are skating on thin ice during the peak of summer.
Second was FriendFeed becoming a Mark Zuckerberg Production thanks to a $50 million buyout by Facebook. The likelihood of Zuckerberg & Co. shutting down the upstart social aggregation service has brought into the spotlight the misalignment between the needs of online communities and the companies that provide them.
The cynical me believes that it’s foolish for any of us to expect that Web 2.0 companies be in the business of providing services for charity. They are, after all, for-profit entities and when opportunity arises, everyone looks out for themselves. That’s just the way of the world. But somewhere between my cynicism and people’s Utopian desires lies a happy place. It’s called the blog.
Blogging: The Evolution
Late last year, following the Bombay terrorist attacks, I wrote about Twitter’s growing influence as a source of breaking news and how, in order to make sense of it all, we need more context. The best place to provide that context is now in blogs. To be sure, most people view Twitter as a microblogging service, but I’ve always seen it as micromessaging service — and the more I used it, the more I realized what a disjointed conversation it can produce.
As Twitter has become increasingly ingrained in our everyday lives, its value as as source of information tidbits has become clear. Think of it like that plate of chips and salsa you get before the entree arrives: tasty — spicy, even — but not entirely satisfying. Meanwhile, blogging has become the main course — the source of context. And the evolution into that role has injected new life into the blogosphere.
Earlier this week, while at dinner with Matt Mullenweg (Disclosure: Matt, a close friend of mine, started Automattic, whose WordPress platform powers our network. Both Automattic and the GigaOM Network are backed by True Ventures, where I am also a venture partner.), we talked about how many amazing blog posts we’ve read in just the past month alone, such as:
And these are just the ones that I hastily jotted down on the back of the dinner receipt. Now it would be easy for “blogging” to be satisfied with this information-sharing role. But that won’t be enough. Blogs need to evolve even further.
Blogging needs to be social. There are many reasons for this, but the most important one — in my mind — is the changing nature of content. “We will all be streaming life moments as more and more bandwidth is available both at home and on the go,” I wrote two years ago. It’s already happening. Today most of us walk around with newfangled smartphones that are nothing short of multitasking computers, essentially content creation points. And they’re networked, which means creating and sharing content is becoming absurdly simple to do. With the increased number of content creation points –- phones, camera, Flip video cameras, Twitter -– we are publishing more and more content.
Most of this content is disjointed, like random atoms. In the past, I (and others) have referred to this as the atomization of content. These atoms need to be brought together in order to make sense. But while many have argued that self-hosted Facebook- or FriendFeed-styled services could fill this role, I disagree. As I’ve said in the past, “We have two choices in order to consolidate these — either opt for all-purpose services such as Facebook (as tens of millions have done) or use our blogs as the aggregation point or hub for all these various services.”
The Next Step
Millions of Facebook users will have no reason to use any other service for the foreseeable future. And even when they decide to leave, they’ll realize they can’t, for they’ll have stored their photos and videos into the service, which has no visible way of exporting such data. It’s the ultimate lock-in: control consumers’ data and you control everything.
For others — whom I would loosely define as “power users” — today’s blogging software and services are the best option for becoming a repository of our digital creations, because they are more open, more extensible and at the end of the day, give us more control. Chris Messina, a technology evangelist, has been promoting this vision for nearly two and a half years, including starting a project dedicated to it called DiSo.
What Facebook and FriendFeed have shown is that people want to consume and publish content in a more dynamic fashion — more in real time, so to speak.
At the risk of repeating myself, I will quote from a previous post. “As a society, we are entering an increasingly narcissistic phase, enabled by web technologies…The evolution of blogging platforms needs to match these societal and demographic changes.” What I meant was that blogging platforms need to evolve from the hierarchical content-management systems of today to more fluid, free-flowing, more socially relevant and real-time lifestreaming systems.
Two services — Posterous and Tumblr — are taking a shot at this. WordPress, with its P2 theme, has showed that it’s thinking along these lines as well; we tried it out with the GigaOM Daily plugin. But these are not enough. There needs to be more real-time collaboration built into these systems. They need to become socially relevant. They need to take into account that today, consumption and creation happen not just on traditional computing systems like a laptop, but also on highly mobile devices. Imagine the volume of information we’re going to create and consume when we have broadband speeds on our on-the-go devices.
The next generation of blogging systems needs to account for the fact that information — and most importantly, conversations — flow via email, Twitter, instant messages and other formats. In order to do that, the innards of blogging systems need to be rethought. Perhaps the older, relational database models will need to be replaced by more nimble data stores. We may see XMPP become the layer that facilitates collaboration and real-time communications. But these are complex topics for my more esteemed colleagues to tackle, the ones who are builders and creators. I am merely a thinker, who is firm in his belief that this real-time social collaboration is a powerful force, and blogging, if it wants to move further forward, needs to embrace it.

Have fun with blogging, friends!


Thursday, September 23, 2010

How to Find ANYTHING on the Internet (and MORE)

09/23/10  Print This Post Print This Post    6 Comments      Post by René Volpi via Jason Wire 
vintage google
Photo by Dullhunk
Tips, tricks and resources to help you find that digital needle in the huge cyber-haystack.
Learning to navigate the World Wide Web effectively is an important skill, and there are lots of different ways for you to find the information you are looking for. Whilst the following list of tips and websites is by no means exhaustive – and we’ve missed out some massive topics such as travel, which deserve a post in their own right – they should be enough to get you started.

Read about Real Estate in th world for under 150K after the break

Monday, September 20, 2010

Gurus, Gods, and Camels: A Photo Journey

Posted by René Volpi on Sept. 20th, 2010

Special thanks to Daniel Patitucci and wife Janine
I STRUGGLE WITH INDIA. While there, I’m disgusted by the poverty, sickened by reality, angry at the absurdity of it all. Inside my head are dueling desires: leaving vs. staying. It helps to laugh, to let yourself go a bit, to not think and instead try to accept it for what it is: India.
India is often described as extreme. Extreme poverty and disease side by side with extreme wealth and opulence. And most extreme, perhaps, are the feelings inside a traveler’s head while trying to come to terms with it all.
This is what makes India like a drug. For some personalities, it’s addicting. You swear off it when you’re there, but once off it you desire more.
We made our first visit in 2004. One of my closest friends,Jonathan Kingston, was teaching at a photography institute and continually trying to get a group of friends to come visit. Together with Jonathan and Paul Liebhardt, a professor from our own photography school, we decided to cover India’s Thaipusam Festival.
Travel is glamorous only in retrospect. — Paul Theroux
During previous travels, Paul had stumbled onto this festival in a remote southern village. It was not in any guidebook. In other words, it would potentially be our own to experience. We made the journey, spent a month photographing Indian life, and in the end had experienced something sublime.
But when it was all over, I was pretty sure I would never return. India had worn me out.
A few years later, with the same people, we began to hatch a new plan. This time it was the opposite idea. Every savvy traveler has heard of the Pushkar Camel Fair. It’s crowded with travel groups and photo workshops, hardly the experience we’d had on our first trip. But based on photos we’d seen, along with tales of all kinds of mayhem, we were sure India would put on a show like only India can.
Joining our little gang was a group of Jonathan’s former photo students, all Indian, all now working professionals. With such a motivated posse of talent, we thought: “let’s do a book.”

Photo by Jonathan Kingston, www.kingstonimages.com.
Pushkar is a remote village in the northern Indian state of Rajasthan. Each November, it becomes the venue for a massive gathering of camel traders, nomads, gypsies, Hindu holy men and tourists. And being India, it’s a spectacle.
Not only do western tourists arrive en masse, so too holidaying Indians. There’s entertainment for all: a carnival, contests (best mustache!), balloon rides, food sampling, and so on. For a photographer, the stage is set.
En route to the dry, hot, dusty village of Pushkar, we saw endless caravans of camels, nomadic groups and barefoot holy men. Upon arrival, the usually sleepy town was buzzing with anticipation for its two weeks of glory, two weeks where all the year’s rupees need to be made.
We’d arranged lodging on the edge of town in what we’d hoped would be a quiet complex of tiny individual bungalows. Of some concern, upon checking in, were the workmen rigging loudspeakers on the power poles behind the property.
Yes it is a country, a destination, a place. But much more than these India is a state of mind. — Paul Liebhardt
Outside our gates, the pilgrims settled on any available square inch of street, where they would sell things, beg, pray, sleep and eat for ten days. Through them we would thread our way to the mayhem each dawn.
For a travel photographer in India, dawn is the key period. India coming to life is India at its most beautiful. It’s a time to be alone, observing, ready to make images.
In Pushkar it’s not so difficult to wake for a pre-dawn stroll. The low-quality loudspeakers outside our bungalows had been installed in order to broadcast — at full volume, static and distortion — a nearby Yogi’s endless praying and chanting. We didn’t sleep.
One night Jonathan and I resolved to cut the power line to the poles, but were ultimately thwarted by our own fear of electrocution. So each morning we rose at 4:30, bleary eyed and sleepless, and headed for the streets.
Making good photos in a group is not possible. In a group, you’re distracted, not focused on the task at hand. You’re intimidating to the subjects. So immediately upon departing our little compound, we’d split up, each with a separate idea for what he or she wanted to document.
My usual destination, after first stopping at a tea stall, were the nomads’ camps. On the outskirts of the village are the sand dunes where the camels are kept. Here, I would stroll the cool sands observing women gathering camel dung for fires, men making tea, the gypsy camps coming alive. I would study life as it happened and make my images as I saw them.

PatitucciPhoto, www.patitucciphoto.com
Toward late morning, as the light grew harsh, our gang would come together at a tea stall in the middle of the dunes. Here we would share our morning’s experiences, debriefing each other, discharging overburdened senses.
Back home, the images we make appear on our computer screens, full of color, life, and emotion. Those who’ve been to India know that these images are everywhere. There’s little new to say about India. One way or another, it’s all been said — and has probably all been photographed.
Still, it’s left to each traveler to ask himself the question, “Have I seen and felt these things?”
What’s new in India — what will always be new — is in the unique experience of the individual. And it starts by saying yes — yes to going, yes to the experience.

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