Posts Tagged Nova Spivack

Searching for Answers in Search

There has been an influx of announcements in the search world lately – Wolfram Alpha, Bing, and Siri among the most high profile – so our upcoming panel at SemTech 2009 really couldn’t come at a better time. Set for next Wednesday, June 17 at 8:30am at the San Jose Fairmont, our Executive Roundtable on Semantic Search will pick some of the biggest brains in the business to share their insights on where search is now, where it should be going and what role semantic technology should play in this complex sector.

With both Microsoft and Google represented, we’re sure to discuss Bing and its new place in the search game. Yahoo and Ask.com will share their experiences as legacy sites that must constantly innovate to stay viable. And up-and-comers True Knowledge and Hakia can give perspective on what it’s like to battle the behemoths in a space that is always hungry for more. In short, we’ve got every aspect of the search game covered so you won’t want to miss it.

If you’re not already registered for SemTech, do so now. Friends of Guidewire Group get a $300 discount on a full-conference pass. If you’re only interested in semantic search, the conference is offering a special Semantic Search Day pass for $195. This gets you access to our panel, a one-on-one Wolfram Alpha interview by Nova Spivack, and access to the exhibit hall.

Hope to see you all in San Jose next week!

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Up the Stream Without a Paddle

There are many big brains in the tech industry but one of the sharpest is Nova Spivack’s. He is one of those people who has so many concepts banging around in his head that you can literally see the neurons ablaze as he talks. I’ll admit that I sometimes fear conversations with him, lest my ignorance quickly be revealed. So I was happy to read about his latest concept, The Stream, as it dovetails perfectly into something I’ve been noodling on lately.

The theory behind The Stream is that the next phase of the Internet lies in “the collective movement that is taking place across” sites and services. That the ideas and conversations occurring on Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed and the like are a new layer on top of the existing Web. As Nova puts it:

The stream is our collective mind, what the Web is thinking and doing right now… a world of even shorter attention spans, online viral sensations, instant fame, sudden trends, and intense volatility. It is also a world of extremely short-term conversations and thinking.

His concluding question is, of course, how users are supposed to cope with the stream. And that’s where I’d like to step in. I’m all for the idea of a dynamic stream. But it’s time the rest of my online tools caught up.

The camel’s back broke for me last week as I was going through my RSS feeds. Keeping up with individual items has been a thorn in my side for months now. I can never manage to check them daily and inevitably end up reading only the first few dozen, then deleting the rest. So I was already cranky when I came across an item touting the latest social profile aggregator (I honestly can’t remember the name now). I almost threw my laptop out the window. I have no desire to 1) aggregate everything into one place or 2) visit a Web site to do this. That’s when the light bulb came on: I no longer want to visit Web sites. I want pertinent and relevant information delivered to me on a desktop app and on my Facebook feed. I just don’t have the time or inclination to click around anymore.

I’m not the only one in this mood. Webgiftr, a reminder/recommendation service for gift giving, recently announced that it is shutting down its Web service and migrating all user data to Facebook.  The company clearly saw dwindling site visits combined with increased Facebook activity and did the math. One of our Innovate!Europe finalists, Mixin, is integrating event information into the Facebook feed, making it easier to determine where your friends will be this weekend. This shows foresight on their part and I hope other services begin to follow suit.

I agree wholeheartedly that the stream is a smart – and potentially lucrative – concept on which to place your business bets. The trick now will be two-fold: integrating it into the necessary, high-traffic sites and applications and homing in on the content streams that will matter most to consumers. FriendFeed hits closest to the mark currently; it’s key problems are an unpopular interface, difficulty integrating real-world friends, and too much noise. But if it can face down those challenges, it seems to me a relatively seamless way to insert the stream into everyday consumers’ lives.

In short, I love the idea of The Stream. It’s time to think about content, and our relationship to it, differently. The age of the frequently updated Web site is over. Thinking about content, in all its forms, as an ever-shifting overlay to our time online should be our key focus in the months ahead.

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The Continuing Evolution of Twine

By now, you’ve no doubt read multiple posts on Twine opening to the public with version 1.0. Though breaking news isn’t my strong suit, I have a special affinity for Twine and had to put in my two cents.

I’ve been using Twine for over a year now and wrote about its beta launch back in March. In that post, I called it “an incredibly deep, incredibly smart app that hasn’t yet found its ultimate form,” and said that “in order to ‘get’ Twine, you need to jump into it with both feet and play around.” The former statement still holds true, though version 1.0 takes several big steps in a positive direction. The latter, though, is completely off the table with this launch, a fact that will no doubt take the product further into the mainstream.

There is no longer a barrier to entry with Twine, as there is with so many other online services. I mentioned in a recent unrelated post that “users don’t get the value [of a service] without a large circle of connections and you don’t gain connections without a deep level of involvement.” There is no such problem with the new Twine, which shows you value almost immediately, without signing up. Just plug in a few interests on the homepage and Twine builds your interest feed. Theoretically, one wouldn’t even have to sign up for Twine to get some value out of it; use it as a search engine on steroids. But that would leave its real value on the table, ignoring its ability to organize your content in ways no other service today can.

Chris Morrison at VentureBeat wrote an excellent piece on Twine today, calling it a “modern-day Dewey Decimal System.” For a detailed description of how exactly Twine works, I recommend Chris’ piece, but his Dewey Decimal label gets right at the heart of the site’s real potential. Yes, at its most basic, it’s a bookmarking service, but the broader view reveals a mass categorization and organization system that requires little effort from the user.

Ultimately, I’d like to see Twine as one giant repository for online content – almost another level of the Internet. And that’s not unachievable either, when you consider the services that could plug into Twine. Let’s say that Twine develops plug-ins/partnerships with Facebook, MySpace and other walled-garden environments. You’d still interact socially on Facebook, play your Scrabble games and write on walls. But you would also have at your fingertips in Twine every note, status update, photo, and chat, automatically tagged and categorized and easily searchable. Say you’re planning a trip to Italy and are able to use Twine to find relevant content submitted by other users, alongside personal anecdotes from your Facebook friends. Read the travel article on top restaurants in Italy and see your best friend’s pictures from her Italian honeymoon, all in one place. I’m getting a little ahead of myself here, as walled-garden integration is obviously not available in Twine’s current version. But I’m trying to lay the groundwork for where I think Twine could go, an important point for many who still don’t ‘get’ the service.

The path to an “a-ha” moment in Twine looks different for each user. Mine came with my private Twine, into which I dump notes on startups I meet with. I need to recall companies, people and technologies quickly in daily conversations and there aren’t any services that know my content as Twine does. My key complaint here is that I want the search refinement to improve. It’s not wholly intuitive, can be a bit slow, and I’d like more filter choices. But even with those nits, I’m still able to zero in on the precise information I need. And as a bonus, I also get other applicable articles, comments and conversations from which to draw.

Twine continues to innovate on an impressive trajectory and even more feature upgrades are planned for the next several months. As you delve further into the service and watch its tagging capabilities, think about the other online services you use frequently and what that content would look like in Twine. It could mean a whole new era in information interaction online.


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We May Not Know Where the Web is Going But These Folks Sure Do

As reported in ReadWriteWeb last month, we’ve been working on a fantastic roundtable for DEMOfall and I’m thrilled to finally be able to reveal details. Nova Spivack, the session’s moderator, and I have worked overtime to secure a stellar and diverse line-up of thought leaders to answer the very tough question:  Where the Web is Going?

Though everyone can agree that we’re on the cusp of the next Internet revolution, its exact definition is one of frequent and vigorous debate. Is Web 3.0 about semantics or user-generated content? Innovate search engines or cloud computing? Where does the enterprise fit in all this? And what about big media; are they adapting sufficiently and flexibly?

To address these issues for and with DEMO’s business-minded audience, we thought we’d go straight to the big guns. As Nova says,

My goal for this panel is to find out where the major Web incumbents think the Web is going. If their stock valuations do not fluctuate one way or the other by at least a few hundred million in market cap after this panel then I have failed.

He sets manageable goals, no?  Without further ado, our lineup for ‘Where the Web is Going: Web 2.0, 3.0 and Beyond.’ There is sure to be lively debate with this group, so make sure you’re registered for DEMOfall 08; you won’t want to miss a thing.

Moderator: Nova Spivack, Founder and CEO, Radar Networks

Panelists:

Ross Levinsohn, Partner, Velocity Interactive Group

Howard Bloom, Author, The Evolution of Mass Mind from the Big Bang to the 21st Century

Peter Norvig, Director of Research, Google Inc.

Jon Udell, Evangelist, Microsoft Corporation

Prabhakar Raghavan, PhD, Head of Research and Search Strategy, Yahoo! Inc.

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Twine is Lifeline for Semantic Tech

It’s always fun to watch the evolution of a great idea. I first talked with Radar Networks, Twine’s creator, a year ago, in January 2007. In fact, Radar’s was the inaugural profile of The Guidewire Report, kicking off our in-depth look at up-and-coming companies with a bang. Unable to speak specifically to the Twine application (which wasn’t even named at that point), I mixed my praise for the idea with a bit of skepticism.

A Web that learns from its users and manages the infinite amount of knowledge available, in a unified Web-based environment, is without question where technology must head in the next few years….Convincing set-in-their ways consumers that a new form of communication, collaboration and information management is needed is perhaps the biggest challenge. Educating users on the semantic Web and why it should matter to them may require more effort than is reasonable.

It’s surprising that not much has changed in a year. The landscape in which Twine launches is just as undefined, if not more so. The chatter is rising to louder levels, as I mentioned in a recent post on semantics, making it that much harder to clearly define this important but hazy sector. Even worse, any application tied to the semantics label these days carries a heavy weight. So many are touting the life-changing aspects of semantics that disappointment is all but inevitable. By the time you’ve read dozens of articles on the brilliance of semantic apps, you half expect these programs to answer your email and write your blog posts.

It’s into this environment that Twine is finally opening up more – to the press, as of this writing – with 30,000 people on its waitlist and arguably an entire market sector watching. So…. what’s the verdict? Read the rest of this entry »

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