February 6, 2014

InContext: The coming onrush of contextual devices

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VCs Josh Elman, Charles Hudson and Bubba Murarka (the three gents at center) were among the speakers on hand at InContext 2014 (Photo by JD Lasica).

Will contextual data create better user experience that drive more engagement?

Target audience: Tech professionals, SEO specialists, PR pros, brand managers, businesses, nonprofits, educators, Web publishers, journalists.

JD LasicaWe all know that the rush toward the mobile Internet is the mother of all megatrends. Less well known is a fascinating, still nascent subset of mobile: contextual mobile devices. That was the topic of an afternoon gathering yesterday called InContext 2014, hosted by EverythingMe yesterday at Terra Gallery in San Francisco’s SoMa district.

(It’s a crazy week for me. Here are the Flickr photos I shot Monday and Tuesday at Startup Grind in Silicon Valley. Yesterday, InContext. Today, attending CMX Summit to hear about community building.)

At InContext, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, mobile analysts and journalists exchanged views on what looks to be the Next Big Thing in mobile: contextual awareness. The idea, in short, is this: You give people what they want when they want it without them asking for it. Continue reading

September 25, 2013

Book review: ‘Age of Context’ captures the pulse of new tech

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Robert Scoble, co-author of “The Age of Context,” wearing Google Glass at the 2013 Startup Conference (Photo by JD Lasica).

New book, out today, identifies ‘five forces’ animating modern culture

JD LasicaEvery few years someone comes along and pulls the camera back to reveal a wider view of the technological changes coursing through the business world and larger culture. Robert Scoble and Shel Israel have done just that with their new book, “The Age of Context: Mobile, Sensors, Data and the Future of Privacy” (paperback, self-published).

The authors nicely contextualize what they call the “five forces” in what amounts to a technology megatrend: mobile, sensor devices, social media, big data and location-based technologies. These forces add up to a formidable package, one that deserves scrutiny far beyond the boundaries of greater Silicon Valley, where much of the action takes place.

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The book goes on sale today on Amazon (though Amazon lists its release date as Sept. 5).

Scoble and Israel (both friends) convey their thesis – generally about the public good that will be served by the new contextual technologies, accompanied by the occasional caveat or warning – by stringing together short anecdotes about how people are adopting and adapting to this quickly emerging landscape.

Throughout the book, the authors raise provocative questions about how society should navigates an era of pervasive data: Who owns data being collected on individuals? How are the rules of privacy being reshaped, and who gets a say?

As someone who is immersed in Silicon Valley culture, I found myself nodding along more often than not, bemused by some of the bouts of optimistic boosterism and skeptical of some of the more grand claims. But that’s precisely why “The Age of Context” works: It raises the right questions and takes square aim at many of our cherished beliefs. We all have opinions about the effects that these transformations are casting on society, and you’ll have your own chance to cheer or jeer at the conclusions the authors draw. Continue reading