Bitcoin – what is it? Think of it as a video game. It has rules but, unlike video games, Bitcoin is “distributed”. This means that the rules cannot be changed without every participant of Bitcoin agreeing. This means that the rules won’t change – ever. If there are better rules then a new Bitcoin will develop.
The rules say that Bitcoins can be exchanged, can be created and have a limit – they cannot exceed 21 million. They can be created by “hard work”, called “mining”. Basically anyone who has the funds can invest in computer hardware to create Bitcoins. The more that are created, the more difficult it is to create new Bitcoins. The return on investment, i.e. the return on investing time and money in “mining” Bitcoins, is high at the beginning and lower towards the end (on the basis of today’s technology).
What is great about Bitcoins is that they can be exchanged without banks, Governments and regulators. It is akin to barter and brings power to the people not to the institutions.
Note that should you buy Bitcoins then changing them back to “country currencies” is under attack by Governments. This is Bitcoins vulnerability but also it’s strength – if Bitcoin takes off, why would you ever want to exchange it for another currency!
This is quick post on an issue that has been with us since telecoms companies and other major utilities first gained then maneuvered to retain their cozy oligopolies. The story so far in recent web history Continue reading “A few are holding the hostage the many or it’s our data stupid!”
www.fluidinfo.com is a new database where anyone can add data – hence “a writable world”. Think of data being the underlying data and the meta data – in Terry’s world the two are dealt with the same way – an article and a rating, a film and a comment. Anyone can write to the database and if that data is public then anyone can search on it.
The big difference here is that the database does not have complex tables and schemas – any filds can be added and then searched upon. In a typical database the developers have to design the schema to be able to anticipate what you will be adding or searching for.
Show me all the web articles that I have liked that my Facebook friends like? Facebook would need to update their database, expose this information through their custom API and then another developer would need to create a database of information ralating to your favourite articles so that the search query could combine and search across the two sets of data. Data would sit in proprietary silos and our freedom to connect information would be limited to what was exposed via the applications various customer APIs.
Terry’s approach allows all applications to use the same API (Fluidinfo’s) and for us to search across this data in ways that don’t have to be anticipated in advance!
Sounds great – watch the video – http://www.kyte.tv/ch/6118/284808
The battleground today is for users’ data. Google uses this to great effect and has now made a grab for users’ browsing data with Google Chrome.
The various rumours about social networking sites sharing data have proved unfounded. The data is core to their business model and not for sharing!
How about a product that is open source and captures data on the community for the community. A product that is entirely open and transparent about what data is captured and how it is used? What if this product allowed users to determine how they shared their data? What if this product charged commercial vendors for use of this data with the money going back to the community? Watch this space!
Reading through a piece about Microsoft’s SaaS initiatives I couldn’t help thinking of the great book from the mid 90s written by Christensen called The Innovators Dilemma, When New Technologies Cause Great Firms To Fail.
The only way for Microsoft to counter the threat of a new technology like software a a service (“SaaS”) is to create a separate division with transparent licensing over the Office suite and a lot of autonomy to go make it work! I would prefer a model where Microsoft supports partners to provide MS under a SaaS model with MS providing these partners with integration for users across products and services and a certification program rather like Salesforce with its App Exchange. A business with Google Email would ask its MS partner to easily integrate this with the Corporate Wiki, MS Calender and Push Email product. This would hurt Google more than MS by ruining Google’s “suite of good enough products” strategy but more on this later. Best of breed will beat best of suite.
Back in 1992 David Gelernter wrote a wonderful book entitled “Mirrors Worlds”. Gelernter’s work influenced the Sun team and the creation of JavaSpaces (technology that I based my first start-up on).
In this book Gelernter talks about “plunge and squish”. Imagine you have a huge vat of data that from a distance appears homogeneous but upon close inspection is a massively heterogeneous, some structured, some unstructured. You wish to know what data in this vat has a strong relationship to something or other, a particular thought, question or subject that you have in mind for instance. How do you find this related data? Gelernter imagined a system that allowed you to plunge your “something” into the vat of data and see the related data attracted or squished towards your “something” allowing you then to extract that related data to find the answer to your question. This is all very theoretical but still important in that to find a solution to a problem it helps to imagine what your solution looks or feels like. Gelernter didn’t stop there but went on to create Scopeware which was the equivalent of Google Desktop however launched well before Google’s product. Scopeware then disappeared from view (purchased by some group and the technology integrated into their product set) being faced with the competition from Google’s and Microsoft’s products in this area.
Scopeware was a first step in the road-map to solving the problem of data mining in that data was pre-searched during computer downtime and the user then used keyword searches to search across all document types desired. This is a first generation solution with the pre-search facility clearly helping in speeding up the searches. A second generation solution to this problem has not yet, as far as I am aware, been launched but I believe it is now worth investigating. BTW if anyone feels that second gen solutions are here already then do let me know.
One area that I am interested in and have been brainstorming with a friend of mine is in the area of knowledge management. How sensible is it to spend time researching a topic when someone maybe only two-steps down the office has done this research and has done so from within a similar context to your own? It is only sensible if the person is not able to be found by you simply and rapidly. If an enterprise system could quickly and efficiently find the person within the enterprise with the some or all of the knowledge that you are seeking to find this would potentially be of significant value. The identification of the person is the key to finding the information. Sometimes simple answers to simple questions are the most tricky to solve.
An article yesterday in The Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,2184032,00.html by John Harris suggests that we will somehow suffer from the demise of the labels stating that “Witness the Jam in 1978, commanded by a young Paul Weller, on their third album and floundering. The man from Polydor paid them a visit in the studio and curtly told them their new songs were “shit”. They regrouped, wrote some better ones, and released the superlative album All Mod Cons, which kickstarted their spell as Britain’s pre-eminent guitar group, and with it Weller’s three-decade career.”
In the new digital arena, live music becomes a more valuable revenue source as does radio (internet or not). Bands make less moeny from recording songs and more from other activitties that I would argue get them off their arses and back where they should be – playing live. Let’s get back to the man from Polydor. In the new business model, the man from Polydor would still be interested in finding new bands and helping them as those bands would still be making money. Just because the value chain changes and there is no room for labels doesn’t mean that bands don’t make money. Maybe they make less than they did! Maybe there is less dosh to spread around the groupies! Maybe they have to play more live concerts! No tears!