Mashup Camp and Convergence08

Looking forward to two upcoming conferences – Mashup Camp and the very first Convergence 08 conference.

Mashup Camps have been coming to Mountain View for over two years, bringing great startups for their product launches as well as lively discussions about innovations and new products to help the mashup community. There also will be mashup experts from Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Amazon, and many more key players. Programmable Web has the best coverage of the Mashup topic.

Convergence will have even more provocative content as the first conference to address the intersection of four technologies likely to shape the world in extraordinary ways: Nanotechnology, Biological technologies (gene splicing, stem cells, DNS mapping, life extension) , Information technologies (internet and computing) and Cognitive technologies. This last would, I think, broadly include everything from brain enhancing drugs and devices to artificial intelligence. AI is the most exciting category for me, and I remain convinced that we’ll see conscious computers within about 20 years – hopefully and very possibly less. Conscious computing is likely to change the entire planetary game to such a degree it’s nearly impossible to predict what will happen *after that*, which is one of the issues that will be discussed at the conference.

My main concern is that proponents and predictions keep things real and this does not become a sort of brainstorming session for half-baked ideas and ideologies.

After millions of years of very slow biological evolution we’ve now entered a new age where technology is likely to eclipse most and probably all of our human abilities. Even that fairly obvious idea – which simply is an extension of current developments – leaves many people skeptical, cold to the idea, or even antagonistic about the changes that are coming. Like it or not … we are all in this together and it’s best to keep it that way as much as possible.

Programmable Web continues to rock

If you are interested in how mashups are shaking up the web world, or interested in mashing up your own content, John Musser’s Programmable Web is the best place to start.    This is a  very well-designed website with enormous content depth.   John’s listed thousands of mashups and APIs and categorized them in helpful ways.

Mashups are reshaping the internet in very interesting and dynamic ways and will continue to do this for some time.    For me it’s interesting to see the model of the early internet kind of “swing back” and again be characterized by information sharing rather than the “closed walls” that came about when big money started to flow into the system.  However this poses a challenge for new companies based on mashed up content because ownership of the content that results from a mashup is not always easy to define.   At Mashup Camp 2 I remember talking with Venture Capitalist Peter Rip who at that time felt that mashups *of themselves* were not the key value proposition, rather how the mashup might enhance the prospects of an existing company.   I’m still digesting his notion because it may lie at the heart of how most websites will shake out in the future.

As a user I’m inclined to want an internet that is free or very cheap, very open, very rich with content, and has few restrictions on the use or mashing up of content.   However as a travel website entrepreneur I don’t relish the thought of creating a great site only to have it’s content and ideas nabbed without any compensation.

Public Speaking Tips from Brett

Brett Tabke is the excellent owner and “last stop” moderator of WebmasterWorld, the largest forum in the world dealing with Search Strategies and SEO. “PubCon” is the WMW conference and is held annually in Las Vegas and at other cities during the year.

The PubCon blog has Brett’s excellent article that is suggesting detailed tips on Public Speaking and preparing a good presentation.

Unfortunately for all of us even good advice goes largely unheeded by speakers for reasons I’ve never understood. Part of the problem is that self-confident, smart folks often are poorly prepared, thinking they can “wing it” because they’ve seen other self-confident smart folks *look like* they wing presentations when in fact really good talks are usually canned and focused more on entertainment than education. I often want to gag when I hear people rave about an entertaining talk as if they learned something, only to 1) note that the talk probably was not really about anything of much substance and 2) watch the raver’s future behaviors change NOT A WIT.

I’ve given several travel technology presentations and I’ve sat through *a lot* of conference presentations over the past ten years or so and it’s pretty clear to me that speakers are more born than made, and they are entertainers not educators. Real learning can be fun but it takes brain work most conference folks simply don’t want to do. This is why the unconference is so effective.  I noted that my “popular” talks tended to deal very simply with complex topics and not go very deep, which just confused people.  Also I’d throw in fun or intriguing items to keep people interested.  Unfortunately this made it tough to really “dig in” and talk about the intricacies of the topic.

For every Guy Kawasaki there are a hundred regular folks and another hundred lousy speakers. Guy is a superb speaker with – I think – a lot of canned presentations that “feel” spontaneous. He injects some anecdotes to shake it up a little, but the one time I heard him talk it was just too polished to be “real”, and I was told after that somebody had seen the same talk before – I think more than once!

Blogging Revolution – Mashup Camp blogs

Hey Scoble!

Here are some good bloggers you may have missed though I’m sure you know some of them. The list is from the Mashup Camp conference series run by David Berlind ( a very good blog there as well) and Doug Gold who do a great job showcasing some of the new mashup companies and mashup providers like Google, Yahoo, MSN. I’m sorry to miss the one coming up in about a week in Mountain View but I’ll be in Philadelphia wondering how the founders would view the current state of our their great American experiment.

Mashup Camper Blogs:

Adam Trachtenberg

Adrian Blakey

Raining on the Gadget/Widget parade, Jeremy?

When Yahoo’s Jeremy is concerned about something technical you *always* need to pay close attention, as he’s one of the most knowlegeable observers of the internet landscape as well as a key driver of Web 2.0 innovation over at the unrivaled Yahoo Development department.

Today Jeremy listed several concerns about the challenges of widgets (aka Gadgets) including security and bloated websites.   Considering that many, including me, see a coming gadget revolution where our desktops will become littered almost beyond recognition with site gadgets, desktop gadgets, and more, it might be a good time to listen to Jeremy and solve some of these problems or at least standardize things, especially to reduce spyware and malware issues which will likely become even worse as users become less sophisticated and gadgets become more complex.

Nomenclature Primer aka Yahoo and Apple say WidgeTomato, Google and MSN say GadgeTomatoe:
Yahoo still calls gadgets widgets as does Apple, but Google changed widgets to gadgets to be consistent with Microsoft which, at MIX06, was heavily promoting desktop gadgets as one of Vista’s strong suits and website gadgets as a key web innovation.   Google leads the Gadget pack now thanks to Adam Sah and the excellent gadget team.

I think everybody should rename all these things “Little boxes made of Ticky Tacky”.

Who, what, which Wiki?

There’s a new search in Internet Town called WikiSeek that is creating a search within Wikipedia and sites linked to by Wikipedia. It’s an excellent idea though I’m not clear it’ll lead to better results than a normal search engine query. Wikipedia is generally better than the snail paced DMOZ at reflecting “related sites”, but like DMOZ the politics and anti-commercial concerns of Wikipedia often get in the way of good articles. Wikipedia is notoriously sparse when listing “related” sites. Like many open source driven projects there is a “NO COMMERCIALIZATION WHATSOEVER” bias that gets in the way of providing the best available information which is increasingly found on commercial sites and blogs, which are not treated favorably enough by DMOZ or Wikipedia.

As TechCrunch noted today WikiSeek is going to get confused big-time with Jimmy Wales Wikimedia Search project which is destined to become a huge addition to the search landscape. Formerly known (well – sort of formerly known?) as the Wikiasari project and still called that by most, it’ll be a robust, community driven search that used human editing to keep out the junk and bring in the jewels rather than the algorithmic approaches taken by Google, MSN, Yahoo, Ask and most other major players. Confusing things further is the fact that projects like WikiSeek above are not primarily a Wiki, they are, wishfully, a way to work with Wikis.


I think somebody might want to clue in the Wiki crowd to the following challenge:

Few people, even total immersion code crazed onliners, are really comfortable with Wikis. Most pretend to be but when it’s time to collectively participate in a wiki I’ve *never* seen it work nearly as well as the collective results from blogs, which reward individuals with attention rather than reward the collective with information. MashupCamp1 and 2 were filled with very capable internet programmers. In fact even the *inventor* of the Wiki, Ward Cunningham, was there (he’s a great Oregonian fellow who invented the Wiki as a collaboration tool for on computer projects). Yet even in this potentially Wiki-rich environment the lack of updating of the Mashup Camp Wiki was conspicuous. Rather it was blogs, Flickr, and huge sheets of paper that kept people well informed during these intense and infoManiacal extravaganzas.

So, I think big Wiki projects like Wikipedia and the upcoming Wikimedia search have huge potential, largely because they constrain the organization of things such that the big project benefits from huge community participation.

Little bitty Wikis? Let’s just scrap them and have everybody crosslink the blogs, OK?

Danny I was hoping for more – how about a Search UNconference?

I don’t know Danny Sullivan personally aside from comments at his blog and forums, but all reports say he’s a fine guy and easily one of the top search specialists in the world.

When it looked like Danny would be leaving Search Engine Strategies earlier in the year I was optimistic that he might break those of us in the publishing and search marketing fields out of the ‘same old speakers’ and ‘same old pitches’ one tends to hear at the two main search conferences: SES and WebmasterWorld’s “PubCon”.   However he’s not leaving yet, so I’m happy for him I guess but disappointed he won’t come up with something new.

I think many would agree that Danny’s the guy who could bring something really new and powerful to the growing, global, search marketing human (and information) network. Something that would capture the spirit of “Web 2.0” which is far more collaborative, information rich, virtual, and unstructured than the internet of the 1990s.   Also, there are a HUGE number of case studies now that reflect all the common problems websites have.  Simply examining all these in a conference environment would be far more helpful than listening to yet another SEO guy talk about how he gamed Google’s Algo five years ago.

I don’t want to be too critical of SES and WMW because these are good conferences all things considered. However after attending some UNconferences such as MashupCamp I’m convinced that the UNconference format (or things like Yahoo’s Hack Day) are vastly superior to the old standard where speakers, often with less experience than many in the audience, struggle to speak clearly and make with their weak powerpoint presentations relevant.

UNconferences, like Startup Camp in a few weeks, tend to unleash the power of the audience and ironically the lack of structure creates far more cohesive sessions. I think this is because your brain goes into active vs passive mode.

So Danny after you make your deserved big bucks back at SES over the next year, how about shaking things up for 2007?

The Gadget Revolution. Gadgets of the world, UNITE!

A nice ZDnet interview with Google’s Adam Sah suggests the increasing importance gadgets will play in the online landscape. I met a brilliantly enthusiastic Adam at Mashup Camp back in February when all this was just starting to take off and it’s great to see Google is now allowing the gadgets to be used on any website.

In March, at Microsoft’s MIX06, the innovative LIVE team was also very bullish on their LIVE Gadgets which clearly are destined to become a major focus over there as well.

Gadgets create some very interesting complications in terms of website stats and monetization. Google has not focused on monetizing this environment yet and it will be interesting to see how they approach that, though it’s easy to predict they’ll create some revenue share with the gadget publisher to keep everybody happy.

The legal fun may come from compatibility issues with IE7 and Vista. Microsoft would have some incentive to prefer their own sidebar gadgets, which will run on the Vista Desktop, to whatever Google gadgets are developed for that same niche. Yet Google as always is ahead of the marketing curve. Pushing gadgets to be compatible with websites, and not just those with Google desktop installed, may diminish what would have been a big MS advantage with Vista.

Hey – that’s a bit too cynical on my part – I think as they often have done Google is just expanding on a great concept that happens to be a good marketing route as well.

Online News Association to Arrington: Hey, let’s get Mikey!

Poor Mike Arrington. From his blog it sounds like Mike was the token sacrificial lamb at the recent Online News Association conference where his comments were not taken well by the crowd of what sounds like mostly conventional journalists (or conventional *thinkers*) hoping to get a grip on the sea change going on, and going online, right now. They should listen to Mike carefully, because he’s been good at seeing the future. (ummm except Edgeio, which probably won’t fly).

There’s a lot of news in the news business but journalists are often missing the critical factors which include blogs, user interaction, and emphasis on real time reporting in real time from real people who are making that news themselves or direct witness to that news (e.g. who really wants a journalist in the middle when you have webcams on all the parties in the dispute?)

I remember how intense Mike got at Mix06 in his remarks about the future of offline Yellow pages, telling them “You are DEAD!”, and I can only imagine how the ONA folks reacted to his insights about the future of news and media in the online world.

His real sin was to become an expert early on in the Web 2.0 world and to profit from that expertise. Nothing pisses people off like somebody figuring things out early and profiting from that knowledge.

Good for him, but he better stick to events like Yahoo Hack Day or Mashup Camp if he wants a warm reception from like minded folks….folks who also understand that the changes are only beginning and will rock the news world like it’s never been rocked before.