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Crowdsourcing for a Billion Dollar Business – Cisco I-Prize

Crowdsourcing continues to grow in popularity and importance across a number of industries. Tac Andersen, at the South by Southwest Interactive event in Austin, took in the buzz there, and notes that crowdsourcing is heating up. Digital strategy, marketing and design firm Last Exit called crowdsourcing a top digital marketing trend for 2010.

With that as context, let’s discuss the Cisco I-Prize. What’s that? I-Prize is an open innovation competition where anyone from around the world can propose ideas. Specifically, ideas that can be $1 billion businesses. This is the use of crowdsourcing to find major business units. Winning team earns $250,000.

Submission of ideas to the I-Prize site, which is powered by Spigit, runs through April 30, 2010. There are already 597 ideas on the site. Anyone can post an idea, and other people discuss it. You can even request to join someone’s team if you like a proposal enough, and the idea owner thinks you can add value. 32 ideas advance to the semi-final selection round.

One note about how the I-Prize works. Participants get virtual currency to buy and sell shares in ideas. Like a stock market. And 8 ideas with the highest price per share (“People’s Choice”) will advance to the semi-final selection round, along with 24 ideas hand-picked by Cisco officials (“Judge’s Choice”).

So the idea trading will matter.

I wanted to write about five ideas that I found interesting. Will they be $1 billion businesses? I don’t know for sure. But these ideas address current markets that reach into the billions of dollars. And I like some of the edgy thinking that goes into them. Along with descriptions, I’ve included their share price performance charts. Note that to view the ideas, and to trade them, you need to be registered on the I-Prize site.

The E-Learning Revolution, by Patrick Mellacher

Patrick’s idea is for students to collaborate and teach one another. Any student can record a lesson on any subject. Other students find this recording, view it and rate it. Top rated tutorials rise to the top.

A key element of his plan is closing the feedback loop. Specifically, how did those who viewed the tutorial perform on their tests? If their performance was above average, the student who uploaded the tutorial gets extra credit.

Because they’ve shown good mastery of the subject, and helped others learn as well.

In a discussion around the idea, Patrick comments:

The other main difference is that my system wants to encourage students to teach each other, not to force them to do so. Not every student is a good teacher, and it should also be possible to achieve the highest possible grade by only learning for yourself. There are, however, students that are very well prepared but fear to be unlucky and therefore want to secure a good grade. In the current system, they mostly try to learn even more(even if they don’t have to) and are not interested in teaching other students. My idea could change that dramatically.

This would be a big help in the education system, distributing the teaching load beyond teachers.

Webcam Game Show Network, by Philip Palmieri

Yes, you read that right: a game show network. Believe it or not, this idea has the highest price per share right now. Let’s find out why.

Game shows are a staple of networks, and they continue to get good slots in prime time. Why not port this experience over to online participants? The basics of this idea are:

  • Everyone logs in at the regular time for the game show
  • People have their web cams fired up (which chatroulette shows is a growing trend)
  • Someone logged in to the game show site is selected at random to play

Right now, you can watch a game show, enjoy the contestants’ fumbling around and wonder if you could do better. With this idea, you just may get the chanced to find out. No flying to an L.A. studio to participate. Just sit in front of your PC at home.

This concept wouldn’t need to be limited to game shows. In response to one commenter on his idea, Philip wrote:

Fantastic, i love the idea about real pundits talking about live events..  this could be huge…  Post-sports games, let the community be analysts, or political events too…

Man, I could see the sports talk after a game. People would love that.

The Cisco Home Energy Mediator, by Robert Dziekan

Cisco currently has technology that helps companies mediate the energy usage of their facilities. What Robert proposes is to extend this into the consumer home market. We can see the power usage, by appliance, at any time via a web interface. And control it accordingly.

Here’s how Robert describes it:

This would give the users who elected to use this service the ability to manage their electricity usage, and truly see what devices in the home were using the most electricity, allowing them to run reports that show historical usage, and the option to set policies that would throttle usage in certain areas, or at least alerting a user if they are going to violate policy (for instance, by virtually running a laundromat in their home one week, exceeding their normal laundry device usage by 300 percent and increasing the high energy usage of devices like the dryer).

Aside from these reports and controls, the home mediator could send alerts when something is amiss for an appliance. I like this idea, and it’s something that’s being discussed out there. Tim O’Reilly noted this at the Web 2.0 Summit last year:

Consider the so-called “smart electrical grid.” Gavin Starks, the founder of AMEE, a neutral web-services back-end for energy-related sensor data, noted that researchers combing the smart meter data from 1.2 million homes in the UK have already discovered that each device in the home has a unique energy signature. It is possible to determine not only the wattage being drawn by the device, but the make and model of each major appliance within – think CDDB for appliances and consumer electronics!

If the cost of the system was relatively low, there seems to be a strong ROI for this. And there are a lot of homes out there.

Touch Immersion VR: A wearable device for physical interaction within a virtual environment, by Benjamin Rafael Intal

Virtual reality holds a lot of potential, providing a user with the simulation of experiences beyond her physical location. Estimates put the market size well into the billions of dollars. Areas of growth for virtual reality include:

  • Healthcare
  • Defense
  • Gaming
  • Learning
  • Construction and infrastructure

This idea is for a device that provides sensory stimulus in a virtual environment. Combine the physical with the virtual to improve the reactions people have when using virtual reality environments. It envisions delivering these touch sensations: movement restrictions, temperature, pressure, shock. The proposed technology involves servo motors and solenoids, and small cavities with a viscous fluid.

Making what’s virtual more tangible for users strikes me as a really good idea.

EmoTransmission: Transmitting Emotion in Multiplayer Gaming “Feeling Transmission On Games”, by Ali Khalil

I like the way Ali introduces this:

Internet protocols now handle many different types of data, information, voice, and video…etc. But what about feelings like anger, happiness, satisfaction, fear, hate or sadness?

The framing of emotions as data to be captured and transmitted. Definitely edgy. And not out of the realm of possibilities. I mean, who would have guess checking in our locations would be so popular?

Ali envisions emotions integrating into the game experience. Imagine you’re playing one of those multiplayer online games. As you see others, you can get a read for the emotions they are feeling. Which is something that would occur in “real life” if you were engaged in fighting a big battle on your imaginary dragon beast.

There is technology out there which can enable this idea. Here’s how Ali describes it:

There are many types of biofeedback sensors available, able to detect such conditions as skin temperature, muscle tension, and pulse. Analysis of a persons voice could be done with a voice analyzer, as a persons voice is rich with information about a persons emotional state. These sensors and other input devices could be integrated into a device that would cover part of a persons body, like a glove or vest. This device would then be connected to a hardware input device and the software that resides on it would perform the necessary analysis and conversions, tying the detected emotions to the character in the game or simulation.

Good stuff, and something I can see the gamers liking a lot.

Crowdsourcing’s Many Flavors

I wrote previously about crowdsourcing and its effect on the design industry. Well, this is an entirely different approach. It rests on the ideas of others. This does not run into the spec work = free work controversy seen elsewhere. Someone might argue, why not start your own company off these ideas? Well, anyone is free to do so, and not propose them here.

But not all of us are itching to shuck it all take on the risk of entrepreneurship. Mortgages, kids, success in current careers…these are factors that would limit one’s interest in striking out on one’s own. Sometimes, you just have a good idea.

There are 592 other ideas on the I-Prize site currently, beside these five. Go see crowdsourcing in action.

My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 012910

From the home office at the annual retreat of Republican members of the House of Representatives in Baltimore, where I’m taking questions on my blog care plan…

#1: RT @cbneese My coworker: “Hey everyone I got the iPad, only I got the smaller, more portable version, with internet, a camera, and a phone.”

#2: RT @dhinchcliffe The PC officially died today: http://bit.ly/aATwBS Nick Carr probably does the best sum-up of the week.

#3: RT@ jbrewer RT @fchimero: Headline: “Tech nerds everywhere pissed Apple made a product for someone other than them.”

#4: Cisco’s I-Prize – the Next Wave of Open Innovation (via Spigit blog) http://bit.ly/bKq9vI #innovation #openinnovation

#5: RT @IdeaSandbox Don’t Demolish Your Own Innovation http://bit.ly/9hTRiw

#6: Nice post on HuffPo by @craignewmark about City of Manor’s citizen innovation site http://bit.ly/c4JOYQ (using Spigit) #gov20 #innovation

#7: Sketch, sketch, sketch http://bit.ly/djKsgE by @jbrewer “The end goal of the drawing process is what you learn while sketching” #innovation

#8: “I hate cynicism – it’s my least favorite quality and it doesn’t lead anywhere.” Conan O’Brien http://bit.ly/66vppK > amen

#9: Nice response to the Westboro Baptist Church protest http://bit.ly/dteuTf > @meganphelps you did have donuts there, didn’t you?

#10: Stars Wars “6-pack” arrived today in the mail. Prequel Trilogy & the Original Trilogy. Got to get my 5 y.o. son up to speed. #lifelessons

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Open Innovators Outperform the Market by 16.9%

At the Open Innovation Summit last week in Orlando, there were a number of companies there discussing their various initiatives for open innovation. What is open innovation? UC Berkeley professor Henry Chesbrough, perhaps the father of the movement, formulated this definition several years ago:

Open innovation is a paradigm that assumes that firms can and should use external ideas as well as internal ideas, and internal and external paths to market, as the firms look to advance their technology.

At the Summit, several companies expressed their growth related to and/or impact of open innovation:

Cisco: Cisco’s internally generated growth is at 5%. Its partner-based growth is 10%. #ois09

Clorox: Clorox target for growth from innovation is 4%. Last few years around 2.5% to 3.5% = significant portion of growth. #ois09

Royal Dutch Shell: Conser: About 40% of projects in Shell’s R&D program come from GameChanger. #ois09 [GameChanger is its open innovation program]

Rockwell Collins: Aggarwal: 75% of firms expect 40% of innovation to come from external sources by 2012. #ois09

Hewlett Packard: McKinney: 60% of ideas generated internally. Via HP Garage. Use employee crowdsourcing to filter and refine these. #ois09

Given the way these companies described their open innovation efforts, I decided to check out their stock performance. Hat tip to Jackie Hutter for suggesting this idea.

The table below compares the 5-year performance of the companies presenting at the Open Innovation Summit against the S&P 500:

It’s not a clean sweep, but most of the companies have outperformed the S&P 500 handily the past five years. While it’s not all due to initiating open innovation, it appears that you can’t rule out its influence on company performance.

Here’s how industry consultant Stefan Lindegaard describes the open innovation landscape:

I also argued that only about 10% of all companies are adept enough at open innovation to get significant benefits today. Another 30% have seen the light and are scrambling to make open innovation work and provide results that are worth the bother. I call them contenders.

The other 60% are pretenders—companies that don’t really know what open innovation is and why or how it could be relevant for them.

Looking for growth ideas? See what the firms in this open innovators stock index are doing right.

My Ten Favorite Tweets – Week Ending 120409

From the home office in the middle of the road by my smashed up SUV with a nine-iron imprint on my face…

#1: RT @parkerlsmith Foursquare: Democratizing the Loyalty Program http://post.ly/Dpfx > SMBs can use @fourquare as a loyalty program

#2: FT.com – We’re all selling now: the evolution of online reputations http://ow.ly/Izba #socialmedia #e20 #reputation

#3: What can email interfaces learn from Twitter clients (e.g. Tweetdeck) to manage the overload? http://post.ly/Dlww

#4: Collaboration Is Hot: Why Now? > Forrester survey shows idea mgt tools are a top 2 #e20 priority http://post.ly/DuBB

#5: IT@Intel Blog: All I Want For Christmas is my #E20 > ideation was the one measurable ROI #innovation http://post.ly/E8Nt

#6: Fox: Cisco has a product ideas wiki for employees. Dedicated VC funding for ideas. Similar to what AT&T is doing w/ Spigit. #ois09

#7: Lasher: Innovation lever = do small thing w/ big result. Avoid going right for big bang. Otherwise corp antibodies kill you #ois09

#8: McKinney: 60% of ideas generated internally. Via HP Garage. Use employee crowdsourcing to filter and refine these. #ois09

#9: RT @AndreaMeyer: HP Labs saved $2 bln $ from its supply chain through internal innovations #ois09

#10: Just started a posterous account: http://bhc3.posterous.com/ Collect stuff I find along the way. FriendFeed meets Evernote meets blogging.

Breathe: Reflections on the Cisco Fatty Story

And I feel like I’m naked in front of the crowd
Cause these words are my diary, screaming out loud
And I know that you’ll use them, however you want to

Anna Nalick, Breathe (2 AM)

Earlier this week, I wrote the post How to Tweet Your Way Out of a Job. As it seems like much of the online world now knows, it told the tale of how a young woman tweeted her reaction to a Cisco job offer.  If I get a post that pops 2,000 views, I’m ecstatic. What happened with this particular post defies anything I’ve ever experienced.

But that feeling is tempered by an awareness of what @theconnor must be feeling.

Things are returning to normal here on the blog, and I wanted to record a few thoughts for posterity.

Original Incident

I don’t catch every tweet of the people I follow on Twitter. But I happened to be on the Twitter home page when Cisco’s Tim Levad responded to the following tweet by @theconnor:

Cisco just offered me a job! Now I have to weigh the utility of a fatty paycheck against the daily commute to San Jose and hating the work.

Tim’s responded by calling her out for this message. She had just summarily dismissed the job, and by extension, Cisco. I’m sure Cisco employees take pride in their work, and here’s an outsider dismissing the prospect of working there. So Tim responded in kind, telling her that her hiring manager would be interested in knowing her attitude before she’d even started the job.

Right there, terrible move by @theconnor. And she was penalized for it.

If this had only been the tweet by @theconnor, I wouldn’t blog that. I don’t follow her anyway, and people can tweet what they want. It was Tim’s reaction that elevated this to newsworthy status. A parallel can be drawn with the case of the Ketchum PR guy who tweeted a disparaging remark about Memphis. That by itself wasn’t newsworthy. What made it newsworthy was the reaction of his Memphis-based client, FedEx.

It’s not the original tweet. It’s the reaction by an offended party.

Viral

As I mentioned, this post far exceeds anything I’ve even seen. It seemed to get early traction on Twitter. Then it got picked up on Reddit. Then, TechCrunch’s Michael Arrington tweeted about it, which spread on Twitter. Before you know, the post goes viral on both Reddit and Twitter. It then hit Techmeme.

As of the time I’m writing this, the post has been viewed 102,000 times. Here’s what the traffic graph of my blog for the last 30 weeks looks like:

im-not-actually-a-geek-weekly-trafficI doubt I’ll ever see a post go this viral again. It’s hard to describe your feelings as you watch this happen. Incredulous is a good word.

I learned the power of reddit.com. If you hit the front page of that site, the traffic is huge. I also ended up as the Hawt Post on wordpress.com, which also has a lot of traffic. Little things I didn’t know.

Cisco Fatty

This was really interesting. The story took on its own descriptive meme: cisco fatty. Where did that term come from?

In the post, I needed a reference to @theconnor’s tweet about the Cisco offer. But she had taken her account private, so I went to Twitter search. I figured a simple search query for cisco fatty would do the trick, and it did for a while. Her tweet was the only thing that was returned.

What happened though, is that as people clicked that search link to see her tweet for themselves, they saw a search page with the words cisco fatty. And some wags began to refer to it as the “cisco fatty” incident. Soon, that term was all over Twitter. There are also blog posts that refer to the cisco fatty.

I have to admit, I chuckled at some of the tweets where the term was used. This was one of my favorite meta tweets about the meme:

bah. “cisco fatty” is no “I KISS YOU”, Kids on the Interwebs will meme anything these days. When I was young, we used to meme uphill…

If you don’t know what I KISS YOU is, click here for info.

Opportunism

Some guy sensed the meme potential “cisco fatty”, and set up a site called ciscofatty.com, complete with Google ads. Little more than a splog initially, the dude didn’t have the courtesy to link back to my post. He then has been thoughtlessly adding details about @theconnor from her now-removed personal website.

The guy was clever enough to see the potential of the term. But then he blows it by going overboard. As one person tweeted:

The dude who put up the Cisco Fatty website, plastering personal info about the Twitterer at the center of this debacle is a total douche.

The unfortunate thing is that articles and posts have linked to his site, and folks are tweeting links to it.

False Privacy of Not Being Well-Known

I can see how one could slip into an overly comfortable feeling that Twitter is like email or IM. You tweet things and get positive reactions from those with whom you interact. Or more likely, a lot of what you tweet gets no reaction. You slowly get more comfortable with the medium, and notice the wide variety of personal information are sharing on Twitter.

I can very easily see someone developing a false sense of privacy in this realm. After all, there are millions of people tweeting, and nobody and watch all that they post.

But public tweets are not email. Twitter search and the retweet protocol make anyone’s tweet accessible everywhere. With Twitter, you have to keep your guard up. It’s unfortunate, but I look at it as a small price to pay for the self-expression, learning, interacting and connecting you can do via Twitter.

The thing is, I’m sure every few minutes someone somewhere tweets something that crosses the line of propriety. The vast majority of these are never known. But as this case shows, the potential is always there.

Thoughts on @theconnor

The young woman at the center of this is laying low, waiting for of this to pass. And it will. It’s already slowing down a lot here at the end of the week.

She has achieved something she didn’t want, a measure of Internet notoriety. I’m not expert in these matters. But I’ve seen how people handle these things, whether it’s Internet fame or incidents that occur in business, Hollywood, professional sports, etc. She can embrace or refute her notoriety.

If she wanted to, she could embrace this. Here’s how I mean. She’s part of Gen Y. This is the next generation coming into the workforce. Her tweet about “hating the work” may actually be a rallying cry for many of her peers looking at their future.

She could write a very persuasive article about the feelings of her generation. Not that she hates Cisco, or the job she was going to do there. Rather, she was expressing some of the frustration of her generation. My guess is that she could actually write her essay on a widely-read site of some type (e.g. TechCrunch, Time, etc.).

I can see why she might not want to do this. She may not want any more limelight, and have concern about what employers will think if she did write such a piece. There will be plenty of people that will be critical of her if she did write anything.

But she does have the opportunity to channel the interest in the story and her own notoriety into something she didn’t have at the start of this week. My sense is that she has a platform right now.

Regardless, I wish her the best.

I’m @bhc3 on Twitter.

How to Tweet Your Way Out of a Job

oops

Photo credit: Victoria-Ann

I saw this exchange on Twitter, which is a painful lesson in how NOT to use Twitter in this tough economy.

A lucky job applicant tweeted the following:

Cisco just offered me a job! Now I have to weigh the utility of a fatty paycheck against the daily commute to San Jose and hating the work.

This tweet caught the attention of Tim Levad, a channel partner advocate for Cisco. To which he responded:

Who is the hiring manager. I’m sure they would love to know that you will hate the work. We here at Cisco are versed in the web.

Ouch! The person who dissed the Cisco offer quickly took their Twitter account private. But Twitter search retained the record.

Remember a couple months ago when the PR guy’s tweet about Memphis came back to bite him? This is another example of the need to be careful with what you post on Twitter, and social media in general.

I’m @bhc3 on Twitter.

Defrag 2008 Notes – Picasso, Information Day Trading, Stowe “The Flow” Boyd

defrag-logo

One of the most consistently provocative conferences I attended last year — my own Money:Tech 2008 aside, of course — was Eric Norlin’s Defrag conference. Oodles of interesting people, lots of great conversation and all of it aimed at one of my favorite subjects: How we cope with the information tsunami.

Paul Kedrosky, Defrag 2008 Conference

I spent two days out in Denver earlier this week at Defrag 2008 with Connectbeam. As Kedrosky notes above, the conference is dedicated to managing the increasing amount of information we’re all exposed to. Now my conference experience is limited. I’ve been to five of them, all in 2008: Gartner Portals, BEA Participate, TechCrunch50, KMWorld, Defrag.

Defrag was my favorite by far. Both for the subject matter discussed and the attendees. The conference has an intimate feel to it, but a high wattage set of attendees.

In true information overflow style, I wanted to jot down some notes from the conference.

Professor William Duggan: He’s a professor at Columbia Business School. He gave the opening keynote: “Strategic Intuition”, which is the name of his book.  Duggan talked about how studies of the brain showed that we can over-attribute people’s actions as being left-brained or right-brained. Scientists are seeing that both sides of the brain are used in tackling problems.

He then got into the meat of his session – that people innovate by assembling unrelated data from their past experience. For example, he talked about how Picasso’s style emerged. Picasso’s original paintings were not like those for which he became famous. The spark? First, meeting with Henri Matisse, and admiring his style. In that meeting, Picasso happened to become fascinated with a piece of African sculpture. In one of those “aha!” moments, Picasso combined the styles of Matisse and African folk art to create his own distinctive style. He combined two unrelated influences to create his own style.

Duggan also described how all innovation is fundamentally someone “stealing” ideas from others. In “stealing”, he means that people assemble parts of what they’re exposed to. This is opposed to imitating, which to copy something in whole. That’s not innovation.

Re-imagining the metaphors behind collaborative tools: This session examined whether we need need ways of thinking about collaboration inside the enterprise. The premise here is that we need to come up with new metaphors that drive use cases and technology design. I’ll hold off on describing most of what was said. My favorite moment was when Jay Simons of Atlassian rebutted the whole notion of re-imagining the metaphors. He said the ones we have now are fine, e.g. “the water cooler”. What we need is to stop chasing new metaphors, and execute on the ones we have.

Rich Hoeg, Honeywell: Rich is a manager in Honeywell’s corporate IT group (and a Connectbeam customer). He talked about the adoption path of social software inside Honeywell, going from a departmental implementation to much wider implementation, and how his own career path mirrored that transition. He’s also a BarCamp guy. Cool to hear an honest-to-goodness geek making changes in the enterprise world.

Yatman Lai, Cisco: Yatman discussed Cisco’s initiatives around collaboration and tying together their various enterprise 2.0 apps. I think this is something we’ll see more of as time goes along. Companies are putting in place different social software apps, but they’re still siloed. Connecting these social computing apps will become more important in the future.

Stowe “The Flow”: Stowe Boyd apparently gave quite the interesting talk. I didn’t attend it, because Connectbeam had a presentation opposite his. But from what I gather, the most memorable claim Stowe made was that there’s no such thing as attention overload. That we all can be trained to watch a constant flow of information and activities go by, and get our work done. I think there will be a segment of the population that does indeed do this. If you can swing it, you’re going to be well-positioned to be in-the-know about the latest happenings and act on them.

But in talking with various people after the presentation, there was a sense that Stowe was overestimating the general population’s ability and desire to train their minds to handle both the work they need to do for their employers, and to take in the cascade of information flowing by (e.g. Twitter, FriendFeed). Realistically, we’ll asynchronously take in information, not in constant real-time.

We’re Becoming Day Traders in Information: I heard this quote a few times, not sure who said it (maybe someone from Sxipper or Workstreamr). It’s an intriguing idea. Each unit of information has value, and that value varies by person and circumstances. Things like Twitter are the trading platform. Of course, the problem with this analogy is that actual day traders work with stocks, cattle futures, options, etc. Someone has to actually produce something. If all we do is trade in information and conversations, who’s making stuff?

Mark Koenig: Mark is an analyst with Saugatuck Technology. He gave the closing keynote for Day 1, Social Computing and the Enterprise: Closing the Gaps. What are the gaps?

  1. Social network integration
  2. Information relevance
  3. Integration with enterprise applications
  4. The culture shift

Mark also believes in the enterprise market,  externally focused social computing will grow more than internally focused. Why? Easier ROI, more of a sales orientation.

Charlene Li: Former Forrester analyst Charlene Li led off Day 2 with her presentation, Harnessing the Implicit Valkue of the Social Graph. Now running her own strategic consulting firm, Altimeter Group, Charlene focused on how future application will weave “social” into everything they do. It will be a part of the experience, not a distinct, standalone social network thing. As she says, “social networks will be like air”. She ran the gamut of technologies in this presentation. You can see some tweets from the presentation here.

One thing she said was to “prepare for the demise of the org chart”. When I see things like that, I do laugh a bit. The org chart isn’t going anywhere. Enterprises will continue to have reporting structures for the next hundred years and beyond. What will change is the siloed way in which people only work with people within their reporting structures. Tearing down those walls will be an ongoing theme inside companies.

Neeraj Mathur, Sun Micro: Neeraj talked about Sun’s internal initiatives around social computing in his session, “Building Social Capital in an Enterprise”. Sun is pretty advanced in its internal efforts. One particular element stuck with me. It the rating that each employee receives based on their participation in the Sun social software. Called Community Equity, the personal rating is built on these elements (thanks for Lawrence Liu for tweeting them):

Contribution Q + Skills Q + Participation Q + Role Q = Personal Q

Sun’s approach is an implementation of an idea that Harvard Professor Andrew McAfee put out there, Should Knowledge Workers Have Enterprise 2.0 Ratings? It’s an interesting idea – companies can gain a lot of value from social computing, why not recognize those that do it well? Of course, it’s also got potential for unintended consequences, so it needs to be monitored.

Laura “Pistachio” Fitton: Twitter-ologist Laura Fitton led a panel called “Finding Serendipitous Content Through Context”. The session covered the value of serendipity, and the ways in which it happens. The panel included executives from Aggregate Knowledge and Zemanta, as well as Carla Thompson from Guidewire.

What interested me was the notions of what serendipity really is. For example, Zemanta does text matching on your blog post to find other blog posts that are related. So there’s an element of structured search to bring related articles.

So I asked this question: Does persistent keyword search, delivered as RSS or email, count as “serendipity”? Carla’s response was , no it doesn’t. Serendipity is based on randomness. It’s an interesting topic worth a future blog post potentially.

And of course, Laura encouraged people to tweet during the session, using the hash tag #serendip. The audience tweets are a good read.

Daniela Barbosa, Dow Jones, DataPortability.org: Daniela works for Dow Jones, with coverage of their Synaptica offering. She’s also an ardent supporter of data portability, serving as Chairperson of DataPortability.org. Her session was titled Pulling the Threads on User Data. She’s a librarian by training, but she kicks butt in leading edge thinking about data portability and organization. In her presentation, she says she’s just like you. She then pops up this picture of her computer at work:

daniela-barbosa-laptop-screen

Wow – now that’s some flow. Stowe Boyd would be proud.

Wrapping up: Those are some notes from what I heard there. I couldn’t get to everything, as I had booth duties for Connectbeam. Did plenty of demos for people. And got to meet many people in real life that I have followed and talked with online. Looking forward to Defrag 2009.

*****

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