July 6, 2011

What kind of Web 3.0 world should we make?

Reid Hoffman
LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman (photo by JD Lasica)

Reid Hoffman on pervasive data and how it will impact business in the future

Christopher S. RollysonIn addition to being the founder of LinkedIn, Reid Hoffman is a Silicon Valley insider with rich insight into technology trends, markets and building companies.

I attended his presentation at SxSW, where his main message was that the future was bearing down on us, and he prophesied that it would “arrive sooner and be stranger than we think.”

  • He painted the context for his theme, “Web 3.0 as data,” with this timeline:
    • Web 1.0 was a low bandwidth environment in which individuals searched for files online (and on demand). The concept of “cyberspace” was separate from the “real” world. It was an anonymous world in which many people participated as animes.
    • Web 2.0 was a shift in which people increasingly participated with their real identities (MySpace notwithstanding), and the online world became increasingly integrated with the offline world. Social networks mapped social graphs (again, with real people), and most people blogged as themselves. Online became firmly embedded in offline life, as a way to help manage and navigate by using reviews and other buying tools. Wikileaks and the current revolutions in the Middle East are part of this larger trend.
    • Web 3.0 is mostly to do with the massive amounts of active and passive data we are generating. An example of passive data is phone calls from mobile devices. Bandwidth is increasing, which enables video, audio and graphic sharing and data. Hoffman advocates thinking hard about it and acting to protect data. Think about what kind of future we want to create.
  • Web 3.0’s data introduces significant risks to privacy because every transaction, passive and active, is linked to our real identities. Mobile device transactions are constantly tracked, and this is relevant because they are tied to real identities.
  • Hoffman’s biggest fear is how governments could use information to control people. Governments are organizations that are closest to what he called “pure power” (because they integrate information, legal authority and military/police power). They can mine email, text and all other digital data to learn anyone’s social graph.
  • Unlike corporations, government is not incented to care for citizens; he implied it is less accountable. Continue reading
May 5, 2010

The untapped power of APIs

The power of APIs from JD Lasica on Vimeo.

How you can let outsiders mine your data for gold

JD LasicaIn tech circles, the importance of APIs are a given. Flickr, Twitter, Google Maps and Facebook all became dominant in their sectors partly through the genius of releasing open APIs to outside developers.

I’ll let our sister site, Socialbrite, handle the definition of APIs, but here are some examples to put it in concrete terms:

See the Flickr widget there in the sidebar to the right? It contains an API that allows this WordPress blog to display the images from Flickr in a certain way.

See the Twitter conversations widget there on the right? It contains an API that allows this blog to pull and display Twitter tweets containing certain keywords.

See the Facebook and Twitter logos at the bottom of comments on this story page? It contains an API that lets people log in via those social sites to leave a comment on this blog. Same for the Social media jobs widget and Upcoming calendar widget in Socialmedia.biz’s sidebar.

Over the years, I’ve come to understand that almost nobody in the media world (outside of the techies), nobody in the nonprofit world and few in the business world understand the importance of this — and the untapped power that lies in creating your own APIs. In my talk at NewComm Forum 11 days ago I included a discussion of how news publications should get their hands on public data related to public schools, public hospitals, Census figures and the like — and release the raw data, not just the resulting stories, to the public.

A well-structured API can let outsiders:

• create a tool or widget that slices and dices public data in surprising new ways, bringing additional meaning and value to information that your own staff may not be aware of;

• create an app that displays specific sets of your content in interesting new ways — say, optimized for a mobile device;

• bring greater context to your data or content, comparing it to data provided by others in your sector;

• do lots more. But let Greg Elin tell it.

I’ve bumped into Greg often over the years during his tenure at the Sunlight Foundation. Now he’s chief technology officer of United Celebral Palsy.

APIs: When simple is better

At a recent retreat in Marin County, Greg and I started chatting about APIs when I whipped out my Kodak zi8 recorder (on loan from Kodak) and captured this high-quality video of him explaining the value of APIs and how organizations and businesses can put them to good use.

“You’re turning your assets into little tiny Legos that other people can use to build new things.”
– Greg Elin, UCP.org

Greg gave one of simplest definitions of an API I’ve heard: An API is a “remote control for a piece of software or a computer. … I can write software that has remote control over another piece of software that has an API.”

An API can supply answers to questions like: Where’s a good restaurant in town? What’s the latest stock market quotes? By providing an API, Greg says, “you allow other people to add value to your content and your information. … You’re turning your assets into little tiny Legos that other people can use to build new things.”

Watch, download or embed the video on Vimeo Continue reading