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CTD for December 11, 2005

Quick discussion of choosing our path in life as well as organizing the tsunami of data and content that threatens to drown us all. The tool Devonthink is discussed.

Link to the podcast

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Choosing the path…

Every day you may make progress. Every step may be fruitful. Yet there will stretch out before you an ever-lengthening, ever-ascending, ever-improving path. You know you will never get to the end of the journey. But this, so far from discouraging, only adds to the joy and glory of the climb.Sir Winston Churchill

It has come time for me to ascend to the next level of my journey and re-discover the joy and glory of the climb along my path once again. Yesterday I intentionally stepped off one path and gently closed the gate behind me on my way out. Today is the start of the next phase of my life adventure, and I’m eager and excited for it to unfold and the next path upon which to walk become clear. [Read more...]

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One year anniversary of Connecting the Dots

Today is the one year anniversary of my first blog post in 2004 (and nearly 7 months of podcasting). Thought this week was time too for a re-design…and what you see now (mainly a new header, new podcasting page, new about page) is an attempt to freshen it up.

My purpose with diving in to the blogosphere, becoming a podcaster and totally and completely immersing myself in this next phase of the Web (of which the acceleration and momentum is becoming palpable) was to figure it out, be in-the-game and gain an intuitive understanding of what’s happening as the collective consciousness of humankind gets connected. The only way to understand a paradigm shift is to live it and what’s happening right now is the most fundamental shift in communications I’ll see in my lifetime.

As a way to explain why I started blogging and podcasting, this snippet (which is my favorite and I have it framed and in my office as a constant reminder) is from our former president, Teddy Roosevelt, who said this in a speech to the Sorbonne in France in 1910:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.

The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

I’ve tried to be in the arena with Connecting the Dots instead of observing in the stands as this communications shift unfolds…mostly being in awe and appreciative of the others in this space striving valiantly, erring, coming up short again and again, but most often putting forth their best. Sometimes I’ve been embarrassed when friends and colleagues say, “You’re doing a what? What’s a blog? What’s a podcast?”, often been criticized, but mostly enjoying the weekly growth in readership and personal connections which have come about as a result. It’s been very worthwhile. Thanks to all of you who read this blog…I appreciate it.

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Google & Yahoo new services…

Two new services hit my radar screen this morning: Google Transit and Yahoo Answers. The innovation with these new services is quite nice though I had puzzled reactions to both.

Google Transit is, as they say in their FAQ, “Do you live in or near a city? Want to go someplace to the airport, to dinner, to work every day and not worry about the hassles and expense of driving and parking? Google Transit Trip Planner enables you to enter the specifics of your trip where you’re starting, where you’re ending up, what time of day you’d like to leave and/or arrive then uses all available public transportation schedules and information to plot out the most efficient possible step-by-step itinerary. You can even compare the cost of your trip with the cost of driving the same route!

At the moment we’re only offering this service for the Portland, Oregon metro area, but we plan to expand to cities throughout the United States and around the world.”

My take? Scheduling is a fine service but I’d rather sign up for a route to work and have Google email me (I have a Blackberry) or SMS me if there was a traffic delay…and suggest another route. THAT would be useful ’cause I can figure out the public transportation easily by myself. Yes, they’ve got some useful features (and Transit could be helpful if a person was traveling to another city and wanted to use public transportation) but seems like a nebulous value proposition to me.

Yahoo! Answers is a place where people ask each other questions on any topic, and get answers by sharing facts, opinions, and personal experiences.” Yahoo! Answers bugged me for two reasons:

1) I had to sign in using my Yahoo account before posting a question. This makes sense since it minimizes goofballs from asking inane questions…but the purpose of Answers is to get answers…not spend a bunch of time asking questions (or answering them for others) and hope that someone, at some point responds to the question you asked.

2) Yahoo! Answers kind of reminds me of the issues with adoption of open source software in the enterprise before support organizations began cropping up a couple of years ago. CIO asks the VP of I.T. what he/she is doing about the mission-critical system that crashed and how they’re fixing it. “I’ve sent an email to the community,” responds the VP. “You’re fired,” says the CIO.  Waiting around isn’t an option and I don’t think Yahoo! Answers will get traction. What are profound or valuable questions? Will the “community” even care to provide answers?

Yeah I know…both of these services are “in beta” and I do enjoy companies tossing stuff like this out in to the world for us to critique, hammer on and make better through feature recommendation. So maybe my $.02 will help since these both feel like alpha releases (not a technology alpha…but a feature alpha that’s barely baked).

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Web 2.0 Infrastructure: No longer a “dirty little secret”

One primary cause of the dotcom crash was caused by a tsunami of content and offerings that — at the time — were being consumed by thirsty consumers who were sipping it through a straw (i.e., a modem) and couldn’t possibly access all that good stuff. Forgetting the infrastructure lessons of the crash (or just not talking about them) is the dirty little secret of Web 2.0.

My last day at Web 2.0 in San Francisco, I wrote a post called, “Web 2.0 Conference: The Dirty Little Secret” about the surprising lack of discussion about the scaling that would be demanded of startups offering web hosted applications. This scaling is not just more servers and data center bandwidth…but scaling that includes dealing with latency over the internet.

Just read both Jeremy Wright and Om Malik‘s posts about this exact issue.

Wright says, “Maybe I’m just spoiled, having worked in high performance, high availability apps before, but it constantly astounds me what some folk consider ‘scaleable’ and ‘available’ applications.” Having just lived through the Typepad scalability hiccup (and I must admit being very impressed by how they handled it), this is just one example of a high profile “Web 2.0″ company that just experienced the lack of infrastructure and its negative effect on their users.

Malik says, “However, the lack of planning for scale is a clear sign that we are living in a “built to flip” age. No one, is thinking (or planning) about long term business models!

It’s not just servers and bandwidth that are required for scale. It’s dealing with latency over an increasingly fragmented and geographically disbursed base of people consuming web applications. As I mentioned in the post linked to above, “This (latency) is a technical problem. Imagine you have a portal that is “consuming” web services from a bunch of different sites. You’ve undoubtedly experienced ONE web service in the past (DoubleClick ads) where the web page “hung” (didn’t parse) waiting for the DoubleClick service to deliver the ad. Now imagine that your blog or web page is grabbing photos, catalog items, maybe audio or video, blogrolls, calendars ALL from different web services, and you end up with one incredibly horrible user experience!

There’s a reason, for example, why Akamai exists and why they offer *both* tagged media files *and* transaction/session management: it’s all geared toward a balanced, relatively equal experience for users wherever they reside on the planet.

I use Typepad, Newsgator, Gmail, Audioblog, and a plethora of other hosted offerings. I must admit spending a lot of time waiting for the data to travel the client-to-server-to-client round trip.

Marc Canter and JD Lasica hosted a panel discussion about Open Infrastructure at Web 2.0. While mostly focused on open formats, personal ownership of attention and other metadata (and ownership of data you can move from service to service at will), little time was spent on bandwidth and internet infrastructure (disclaimer: I’ve been involved peripherally advising JD on proposals surrounding open infrastructure and leveraging current for-profit company offerings).

I fear that the server in the basement to start and we’ll add racks ‘o servers later mentality will guarantee that the user experience with Web 2.0 applications will start off enjoyable and quickly turn in to a negative experience…and potentially kill the acceleration of this next phase of the Web.

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CTD for December 5, 2005

Morning Storm Approaching

Gadgets are discussed but mainly meditation, science and Steve’s pending next step. This photo (one of my favorites that I call “Morning Storm Approaching”) is a metaphor for where my head is at right now: a beautiful sunrise means a new day is dawning; clouds are rolling in meaning the day may be turbulent; but above all it is peaceful and serene — and I find storms are amazing and beautiful too.

Link to the podcast

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Meditation and Western science

My bride convinced me about a year ago to try meditation. Initially resisting it, I finally gave in and started. It took me about 7-10 days of continuous trying to finally begin to understand and achieve the benefits from this practice. It felt so good and I was able to get in to such a calm state, that I didn’t want to drag myself out of it. (Though like anything else in life, I struggle with shutting out the daily noise of life and carve out the time to meditate daily).

Being very interested in the practice of meditation while being rooted in science — and that it just so happens I’m currently reading a new book by the Dalai Lama entitled, The Universe in a Single Atom: The Convergence of Science and Spirituality — I instantly noticed when my news aggregator scraped this Wired article about “Dalai Lama Gets Meditation Lesson” and I immediately pounced on it:

Scientists present at this month’s meeting included Richard Davidson, a Harvard University-trained neuroscientist who has done pioneering research on Buddhist monks, and Robert Sapolsky, a Stanford University professor who studies the effects of stress on the body. They told the Dalai Lama, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, and an audience of 2,500 about recent experiments showing meditation can strengthen the immune system, prevent relapse in people with depression and lower cortisol levels. Cortisol is a hormone associated with stress.

All this is pushing the envelope of contemporary neuroscience. “It came as a great surprise to (scientists) that there were such clear neural correlates of meditative states,” said Wolf Singer, the director of Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Brain Research in Frankfurt, who also addressed the conference.

There are an increasing number of articles — including this fabulous one at Wikipedia — that discuss real, demonstrable and quantifiable benefits from meditation that Westerners can believe in if scientists do. Look at this article, and then read this Psychology Today article that says at the end, “Through the deeply meditative practice of Tum-mo yoga, Tibetan monks are able to dry wet sheets placed on their bodies in near-freezing temperatures by raising their skin temperatures 17 degrees.

So it’s not just stress reduction that could or should be a goal of achieving higher states of consciousness from the practice of meditation. It makes me wonder what other meditation benefits we’ll discover as researchers probe our optimal mind/body states and the practices, medications and hacks we learn about and perform provide us with more knowledge.