Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Cyberport of the Future?

The Web 3.0 craze has already hit the shores of Hong Kong. Although Cyberport was meant to be Hong Kong’s version of Silicon Valley, it has a reputation for being a ghost town. The 95,000 square meters of office space on the west side of Hong Kong Island is a 15.8 billion Hong Kong dollar (US$2 billion) government-owned project criticized by some as being an unsustainable venture.

In a first of its kind Web 3.0 conference took place at Cyberport. As the organizers put it,
in the world of Web 3.0, the Internet should know I won’t be able to watch my favorite TV show. It should automatically record it and book a time slot for me to catch up on this show. This is an example of how the Internet and Web will become smarter. What is an example of Web 3.0 with today’s technology? Earlier this year, we transmitted live and in 3D the World Cup from South Africa to cinemas in Hong Kong with the help of the Internet.

In essence, Cyberport organised Web 3.0 Asia as part of its commitment to establishing itself as a leading information communications technology (ICT) hub of the Asia, region, pushing Hong Kong's creative digital enterprises and start-ups to prepare for the next version of the web.  What struck me was the depth of speakers for the programme, including: Simone Brunozzi, Technology Evangelist at Amazon Web Services; Jon Leland, President and Creative Director,; and Kaiser Kuo, Director, International Communications of Chinese search enginge, Baidu.

With this conference, it's becoming clear that the next generation of the web will not be limited in geography, but will be a multiversity of ideas and concepts.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

If you want to work in libraries

I've always asked colleagues why they ended up where they ended up. Each time I get fascinating, but very different answers from the next one I hear. Here's an excellent explanation and reason to be a librarian.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Multi-Touch Technology

Named as Time Magazine's 2008 listing of the 100 Most Influential People in The World, Jeff Han is one of the main developers of "multi-touch sensing," which unlike older touch-screen interfaces, is able to recognize multiple points of contact. Although the use of touchscreen technology to control electronic devices pre-dates multitouch technology and the personal computer, IBM began experimenting with touch screens as early as the 1960s. Over the years, multi-touch technology has seamlessly seeped into popular culture, with Star Trek and Tron being the most prominent. (The Day the Earth Stood Still was the most recent movie which used Microsoft's Surface program). Currently, CNN has been the most innovative user of multi-touch with its "magic wall," which received most of its publicity because of its use by news network CNN during its coverage of the 2008 US Presidential election.

What does this mean for the future of information technology? Let's take a look at Han's use of the keyboard. With new technologies such as augmented reality and locative media, human cognition itself may revolutionized and re-engineered.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Zero History

While much has been attributed to Tim Berners-Lee as the father of the Internet, Vancouver-based fiction writer William Gibson is actually behind many of the ideas behind "cyberspace." Often called the "noir prophet" of the cyberpunk subgenre of science fiction. While the term "cyberspace" was first coined in his short story Burning Chrome, the concept was only later popularized in the 1984 novel, Neuromancer.

Gibson's works have influenced cyberpunk and postcyberpunk writers such as Cory Doctorow. Gibson is renowned for his visionary influence on and predictive attunement to technology, design, urban sociology and cyberculture. While Johnny Mnemonic is the only direct attribute to Gibson's works, many of the ideas he presents in his novels have shown up in movies and popular culture. Yet most ironically is that he had completed his first novel, Neuromancer in 1983 on a manual typewriter. In a recent interview with the Georgia Straight, two points jumped out a me which I think is important food for thought:

(1) Immersive Media - Nearly all of the characters in Zero History and in the previous books in the series are totally at home in this message-soaked environment—not just with all the branding and marketing but with the multiple streams of information from wireless devices and RFID tags and GPS systems.

(2) Twitter Streets vs. Facebook "Malls" - As Gibson asserts, social can be overly structured. However, as he sees it, there is a difference between Twitter and Facebook.
Facebook and MySpace seemed like malls to me, as opposed to the street—whereas Twitter actually seems like the street. There’s no architecture within the template other than a limit on the length of a given post. And anyone can turn up and address you directly. It’s exactly like walking down the street. You might meet someone who’s really charming and intelligent, or you might meet a total malevolent idiot.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Linked Data at IFLA 2010

IFLA 2010 has come and gone. Although I did not go, the presentations are now online, and some are outstanding. Richard Wallis, Technology Evangelist from Talis, had a very interesting take on the semantic web. It's quite the package, with 194 slides altogether. Wallis' presentation examines some of the innovative examples of open data that such companies as the BBC is already experimenting with. Wallis argues that if libraries are to participate in the Semantic Web, MARC records will need to be the first type of library data to be shared with the open web concept.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Using Social Media Sites For Self Promotion

The rise of social media sites, such as Facebook and Digg, has presented publishers with an opportunity for self promotion that has never been seen before. Due to the popularity of social media sites, publishers have a huge group of people to promote their sites to. Using social media sites to promote blogs and websites can be accomplished with no money and just a little time.

Using sites like,, or to push traffic to a person’s blog or site can cause huge increases of traffic and readership. Simply posting a link to a website or blog post on one of these social news sites will cause a large spike in traffic to the link posted. The key to using social news sites correctly is to post quality content. Quality content will quickly become popular on these social news sites and will push nearly 100 times the amount of traffic to a person’s site than would be pushed by simply adding a random, low quality link.

Social networking sites, such as and, are another avenue that publishers should take advantage of. By creating a Facebook or Twitter page for their blog or site, publishers can use the social network’s services to update readers about any updates, start discussions, and increase overall reader activity. Using these social networking sites can also help increase traffic, as people often view things that their friends talk about and are members of.

With a little practice, publishers will find the tricks needed to successfully use all social media sites to their advantage. Becoming an active member on any of these sites for a short time will give publishers a feel for the site and a better understanding of what’s needed to successfully use the sites for self promotion.

About the author: James Mowery is a computer geek that writes about technology and related topics. To read more blog posts by him, go to LED TV.

I enjoy thoughts and ideas from innovative web experts. James Mowery is one of them. A technology and social media journalist currently residing in Windsor, VA, James has been awriter for Mashable, CMSWire, and Performancing. I'm fortunate to have him as a guest blogger. If you're interested, please drop me a line, too.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Web Is Dead. Long Live the Internet?

Since the time of Alvin Toffler, there have always been futurists who predict the paradigm shifts of technology and society. Recently, Chris Anderson (author of the Long Tail), challenged conventional wisdom of the web, arguing in the Wired article, The Web is Dead. Long Live the Internet, that the web will become obsolete as it is replaced by newer technologies, namely mobiles such as the iPhone App.

1. Web is a shared memory -- We shouldn't see it as a technology, but more of an experience. Arguing for the death of the web is akin to record is dead, long live the cassette. It's rather shortsighted to view one format as the be all of anything. - and I don't think the app is the answer. It's the music that we're after, not the format.

2. Data is the Web - Anderson seems to suggest that the mobile is the is the way to go. Unless phone and internet companies are willing to lower the costs and expand to unlimited bandwidth, most people are still going to have to rely on the web to surf and to download. The web is more than just an "application." It's the circulation system that allows for exchange of information to happen.

3. Ubiquity of the Web Experience - If Anderson is to suggest that the web is dead in the sense that users no longer need to sit at their desks in order to enjoy the web experience, then it's a foregone conclusion. We already are mobile with laptops and similar social devices. Web 3.0 promises to open up for a ubiquitous experience in which the web is that underlying layer of technology that ties physical real world objects together into an 'internet of things'. If anything the web will be more important than ever in this development. Certainly Anderson makes strong points about the new directions that web has taken us; but for us to claim its demise and irrelevance is bit of a stretch!

Monday, September 06, 2010

Introducing Community Informatics

The application of information and communications technology (ICT) to enable and empower community processes, the goal of Community Informatics is to use information communication technologies (ICT) to enable the achievement of community objectives including overcoming “digital divides” both within and between communities. However, community informatics goes beyond discussions of the “Digital Divide” to examine how and under what conditions ICT access can be made usable and useful to the range of excluded populations and communities and particularly to support local economic development, social justice, and political empowerment using the Internet.

Community informatics as a discipline is located within a variety of academic faculties including Information Science, Information Systems, Computer Science, Planning, Development Studies, and Library Science among others and draws on insights on community development from a range of social sciences disciplines. It is a cross- or interdisciplinary approach interested in the utilization of ICTs for different forms of community action, as distinct from pure academic study or research about ICT effect on the elderly, or those living in remote locations in Developed Countries.

At the forefront of this new field of research is Michael Gurstein, Director of the Center for Community Informatics Research, Training and Development in Vancouver, Canada, which works with communities, ICT practitioners, researchers, governments and agencies as a resource for enabling and empowering communities with Information and Communications Technologies. In community informatics, the past decade has also seen conferences in many countries, and there is an emerging literature for theoreticians and practitioners including the on-line Journal of Community Informatics.

What is intriguing is that in a recent ReadWriteWeb article outlining Gurstein's thoughts, community informatics takes a micro-analytical approach in studying how information affects communities. In this instance, it's found that opening up data freely on the web actually had adverse effects. In one informatics study called Bhoomi: ‘E-Governance’, Or, An Anti-Politics Machine Necessary to Globalize Bangalore?, digitization and related digital access to land title records in Bangalore had the direct effect of shifting power and wealth to those with the financial resources and skills to use this information in self-interested ways. This type of study is a counterbalance to what many have proposed for the open data movement. Will opening up information benefit society or just a segment of society of the wealthy? It is these types of questions which will be important for the next version of the web.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Web of Things

The Web of Things mean different things to different people. Some argue that the Web of Things will be the crucial ingredient for the realization of Web 3.0. Dominique Guinard is at the forefront of this cutting edge technology, and is researching on the very idea of connecting people and objects on the web. Keep an eye out for him. You might hear about him one of these days.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

What's In Store for Web x.0?

The definition of Web 3.0 is as elusive as it gets. However, it's getting much clearer than it was one year ago. Many of the technologies in the Web 2.0 world are paving the way for the next version of the Web. The elements of augmented reality and locative media that the iPhone has shown us in its brief history is indication that the web extends beyond the digital world.

Some web experts believe that combining the digital and physical worlds requires the help of hardware devices that can layer on top of the reality the information retrieved from the cloud to a user’s accounts on various sites. Whereas the social web exists in a predominantly digital atmosphere, Web 3.0 extends to a physical realm where Internet-connected “social devices” faced with a local problem can “talk” with other artifacts that can provide their experience about that situation, or likewise offer information that may help to come up with a solution to the problem.

What does this all mean? More to come in upcoming postings.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Introducing The Social Network

"You don't get to a 500 million friends without making a few enemies."
With those epic words, the tone has been set for this what must be the most enigmatic movie of the summer. What does the world really think of Mark Zuckerberg? Adapted from Ben Mezrich's The Accidental Billionaires, The Social Network adds an element of mystique to the rise of Facebook. It's been six years since the release of Facebook, so what have we learned about it? What are your thoughts about Facebook? Here are mine:

1. Socializing Has Changed - "Friending" has evolved from merely adding friends and strangers. It's changed the way we make communicate, the way we talk, email, instant message, even our phones. How do you find someone? You don't - you Facebook them.

2. Business Is About 'Stickiness' - Entire businesses have been built on Facebook. Think of the social graph, and how it's leveraged the idea of 6 degrees of separation into a new entrepreneurial paradigm. Applications like Faceconnector integrates CRM and the data produced by Facebook into entirely new social tools for business. In less than 5 years, Facebook has indirectly helped many businesses earn a lot of money; if that isn't making friends, what is?

3. Software Is Lighter - Cloud computing and software-as-a-service have forever altered computing. While the cloud has provided over-the-Internet virtual resources eliminating many services, SaaS has similarly afforded inexpensive way for businesses to use software as needed rather than license devices with applications. Why settle for a hard drive when you can upload to Xdrive? How about Gmail on the go? Facebook is not only a social network, it's an entertainment and social service.

4. Privacy Has Changed - Things have never been quite the same after Facebook. Whereas before, one had to create a homepage to get noticed, Facebook has made everyone a celebrity. This commodification of status has its drawbacks though: you no longer can hide yourself, and whatever we, where we go, has its digital traces. Sometimes, it's just better to block it out.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Digital Roadmap Comes Undone?

In a recent Atlantic Monthly article, Michael Hirschorn proposes in Closing the Digital Frontier that we are close to an era of the "digital Wild West," that vast electronic ecology where everything that roamed online was designed to be free of charge. This has all changed, as we have entered a shift of the digital frontier from the Web, where the browser "ruled supreme," to one where the smart phone, the app and the pricing plan now increasingly controls the digital world. There are signs that this is coming to be; however, if this is fully realized, then this is nothing more than an enormous radical shift from openness of the knowledge web to a closed system of entrepreneurial reign.

Digital freedom, of the monetary and First Amendment varieties, may in retrospect have become our era’s version of Manifest Destiny, our Turner thesis. Embracing digital freedom was an exaltation, a kind of noble calling.

Hirschorn makes a good case, and the facts are there to back up the concept of a digital frontier slowly being shaped into something capitalistic. In the U.S., there are only three major cell-phone networks, a handful of smart-phone makers, and one company that has essentially endeavoured for the entire life of the Internet to combating the idea of open, or as Chris Anderson hailed, the revolution of "free." It's true - just think of how difficult it is for one to move legally purchased digital downloads.

Perhaps Apple has subtly taken on the digital battle that Microsoft had badly bungled when Google came along. We are already witnessing media companies pushing content through apps alongside (or even instead of) their Web sites. Netflix plans to send movies and TV shows directly to TV sets, making their customers’ experience virtually indistinguishable from ordering up on-demand shows by remote control. The web has truly moved to the living room TV, as Bill Gates had once predicted (although accidentally and largely incorrectly before the Web) in the Road Ahead.

This is an unnerving proposition. Is this the end of the era of browser dominance? Hirschorn points out that Twitter, like other recent social networks, is not even bothering with its Web site, choosing to instead focus on its more fully-featured smart-phone app. TweetDeck, which collates feeds across multiple social networks, is not even browser-based.

Have we truly entered the age where apps will compete and ultimately win over the web, as more authors and companies put their text, audio, and video behind pay walls? Google is endeavouring to find ways to link through pay walls and across platforms, but this model will clearly will be challenged by the upcoming changes to the web. Its long standing neutrality and impartiality regarding Adsense and Adwords has already been upended; advertisers now can choose where to place and pull their ads from websites. Google's slowly becoming the advertising matchmaker in the process. If this is really the beginning of the end for free and open access, then the digital wasteland has become undone. Will Web 3.0?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Race to the Past

Although Read Write Web calls it the ongoing game of cat and mouse between China and Google, in my opinion, this hearkens back to the long history of colonialism in the 19th and 20th centuries. Much of this tension stems from the Chinese government's suspicion and fear that Google is essentially bypassing Chinese firewalls and spreading Western influence into areas beyond Chinese control. Certainly, from a Western-centric viewpoint, this has always been about democratization and intellectual freedom. However, the same could be said in 1839, when the British aspired to open the doors to China for trade. Hence, the Google vs. China standoff is very much a commercial venture could very well be more about commerce than democracy. Instead of pulling out of China, Google certainly realizes the enormous wealth and lucrative markets of the Chinese, and it simply can't continue as a multinational giant by bypassing 1.31 billion of the world's population.

For that reason alone, rather than pulling out altogether, Google sidestepped any potential conflict this past winter by automatically redirecting its users from to, its Hong Kong search engine. This redirect, which offers unfiltered search in simplified Chinese, has been working well for its users and for Google, as it reports on its latest blog entry.

However, the PRC has stepped up its firmness, as government officials have made it clear that the automatic redirection to Google Hong Kong is no longer acceptable. Google's solution? Instead of redirecting users directly from to, the Chinese homepage will now simply link to its Hong Kong counterpart, which allows users to search free of censorship. As many have commented, the best Google can hope for is to find an acceptable middle ground so that it can honor its own commitment to unfiltered search results while working within the rules set by the Chinese government. And Hong Kong's Google site seems to be that solution, if not long-term, then at least temporarily.

It's interesting, and perhaps historically relevant that Hong Kong is the compromise. A landing spot for much of its history until its recent commercial success this latter part of the 20th century, Hong Kong has always been an entrepot, an entry point where migrants, travelers, and traders stationed temporarily to either evade state authorities or build support for political upheaval. In fact, Hong Kong is where the seeds of Sun Yat-sen's 1911 revolution had taken place. Almost 100 years later, Hong Kong finds itself enmeshed again between the two powers which divide the orient.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Googling for the News

In a recent article in the Atlantic Monthly, Google is intriguingly portrayed as both the destroyer and saviour of the news industry. Certainly, while Google has forever changed the way users access the news, and practice journalism, Google also realizes it needs to salvage the industry as it is crucial to its own survival as a business.

Google's goal is to reinvent business model to sustain professional news-gathering, particularly as “crowd sourcing” and citizen journalism has transformed news coverage. As one of its executives argues, newspapers never made money on ‘news' coverage, Hal Varian argues, automotive sections, real-estate, gardening, travel, or technology had drew profits where advertisers could target their ads -- not serious journalism.

What Google (and the Web) has been done is level this into one giant system for stripping away these "cross-subsidies" current, up-to-the-minute information can be searchable. (Who searches for latest movie listings from newspapers anyways?) This type of "unbundling," as Google puts it, allows users to find the one article they are looking for, rather than making them buy the entire paper that paid the reporter, "all the while allowing advertisers to reach the one customer who is searching for their product, rather than making them advertise to an entire class of readers."

In fact, as Eric Schmidt forecasts:

It’s obvious that in five or 10 years, most news will be consumed on an electronic device of some sort. Something that is mobile and personal, with a nice color screen. Imagine an iPod or Kindle smart enough to show you stories that are incremental to a story it showed you yesterday, rather than just repetitive. And it knows who your friends are and what they’re reading and think is hot. And it has display advertising with lots of nice color, and more personal and targeted, within the limits of creepiness. And it has a GPS and a radio network and knows what is going on around you.

This is already what many pundits say the next generation web, or Web 3.0, will look like. I'm wondering if Google is just holding back on the good news.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Henry Jenkins' From Youtube to YouNiversity

Henry Jenkins is the creator of the Comparative Media Studies (CMS) graduate program at MIT, and can be considered an innovator in digital culture. At its core, his MIT program has encouraged students to think across media, across historical periods, across national borders, across academic disciplines, across the divide between theory and practice and across the divides between the academy and the rest of society. Although he has moved on to being Professor of Communication, Journalism, and Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California, his blog entries continue to be as interesting as ever.
Blogs represent a powerful tool for engaging in these larger public conversations. At my university, we noticed that a growing number of students were developing blogs focused on their thesis research. Many of them were making valuable professional contacts; some had developed real visibility while working on their master's degrees; and a few received high-level job offers based on the professional connections they made on their blogs. Blogging has also deepened their research, providing feedback on their arguments, connecting them to previously unknown authorities, and pushing them forward in ways that no thesis committee could match. Now all of our research teams are blogging not only about their own work but also about key developments in their fields.
As Jenkins argues, academic programs are only starting to explore how they might deploy these new media platforms -- blogs and podcasts especially -- to expand the visibility of their research and scholarship. Watch Jenkin's ideas in this intriguing video - it certainly adds flavour to the argument of the participatory culture of learning.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Wolfram Alpha and Year One of the Shroud of Turin

One year after the release of Wolfram Alpha, the hoopla has come and gone. It just seems as if the world wasn't quite ready for Wolfram to come and grab the spotlight away from Google. Heavily weighted toward computational queries, with blended tendency of manipulating its data sets as opposed to simply retrieving what is actually available on the Web means its results can be more authoritative than a list of links.

As a result, Wolfram has "sold out" in a way, as it plans to make over its home page, and will start adding data for more pop-culture-friendly information such as sports, music, health information, and even its own take on local mapping. The problem is that Wolfram just doesn't know what it's for: as one pundit puts it, "Wolfram Alpha is like a cross between a research library, a graphing calculator, and a search engine."

Another challenge for Wolfram is that unlike Google, Wolfram expects to cash in on its enterprise: let's put it this way, it isn't doing this for knowledge dissemination. It plans to sell subscriptions to advanced users who want to do thing like blend their own custom data with Alpha's engine. The question remains: who's going to use it? Its business model is incumbent on a smaller, elite set of expert users. Google, on the other hand, has a business model that's shown a way to work based on use by just about everybody. There's a neatly aligned financial alliance between more users and revenue.

It's unfortunate as Wolfram Alpha came out with a great deal of anticipation and hope. Stephen Wolfram's presentation was very much as if he was uncovering new findings from the Shroud of Turin. Audience members anxiously waited their turns to throw questions which Wolfram easily captured with his new search engine. Unfortunately, for the past year, it appears as if much has come up short.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Copyright Wars

William Patry, author of Moral Panics and the Copyright Wars and blogger on the Patry Copyright Blog, poses some interesting food for thoughts. The "copyright wars," as he puts it, is an archetypal response of outmoded businesses who not only fail to innovative, but use the innovation of others to succeed. The lawsuits and the lawyers hired to manage them, are signs that companies lack such commitment; in other words, litigation is reflective of this failed business model, not its success.

Just look at the decline in sales of CDs, DVDs, and software piracy- they are all results of the copyright industries' failure to satisfy consumers' desires as opposed to stifling those desires out of a woefully misguided view that copyright is control and control means profits.

Intriguingly, Patry believes that Japan and South Korea are role model countries for the copyright wars. Both countries reveal the win-win situation that can occur when government takes innovation policy seriously and where publishers go with the technology and youth, rather than the need to declare war on them as is the case in the United States (and by extension, Canada). In South Korea, the availability of such inexpensive, super-fast broadband as well as the communal nature of digital connectedness has led to the phonemena that exist on a scale in South Korea unimaginable in the US.

Cyworld is one example. According to Patry, 43% of South Koreans use and maintain profiles in Cyworld, which is a social networking community. A combination of social websites like MySpace, a virtual world like Second Life, a blog-hosting site like Xanga, as well as a virtual shopping mall where music is legally downloaded. Korean corporations use Cyworld for product launches. It is part of the social fabric, as youths are associated by their cyaddresses.

Yet, this is a state-sponsored initiative. South Korea has come a long way when internet first appeared in 1995. It has modernized the country's infrastructure in contrast to the regulatory entanglements that has stunted the development of the US telecommunications industry. Impressive considering South Korea had fewer than 1% of its population using the Internet while by 2004, it had over 71% of its population.

It was a concerted effort by the South Korean government in the midst of an economic turmoil of the Asian Financial Crisis in 1997. Rather than folding under pressure, Korean policy makers instead used technology as a key sector in restoring the nation's economic health, providing not only fiber connection to all big office and apartment buildings, and households (more than 80%) access to fast DSL or cable connections -- but also a national highspeed backbone network linking government facilities and public institutions.

Of course, there is always a drawback: and that resulted when unauthorized downloads or streaming of movies occurred frequently. Instead of shutting down operations, TimeWarner decided to defy its past business model and began releasing its films online in South Korea before they were released on DVD. Not surprisingly, South Korea is a digital culture, one where music sales are done digitally, much more so anywhere else in the world.

In Japan, whole novels are sold via cellphones. Japan's cellphone novels are not a craze, but a norm. Can you imagine where entire novels are read via cell phones? Only is it possible with such amazing broadband connections. In a country in which wireless connections have been common for at least the past decade, this is not a surprising cultural and literary feat. What can be learned from this? Certainly, for the West, open source and open access continue to face alarming distrust and misunderstanding, particularly in the publishing establishment, where copyright and corporatism rule both the digital and print world. It will be interesting to see in the next few years whether the West has caught on with the rest of the world.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Open Access & The Pulitzer Prize

The awarding of the Pulitzer Prizes to a a cartoonist for, the online arm of the San Francisco Chronicle, and an investigative journalist at ProPublica are in many ways a paradigm shift in the literary, publishing, and the age of the internet. Their award is historical as it's the only time an online-only publication has won such a prestigious award for editorial content.

An independent journalism outlet that syndicates content to various traditional news organizations but itself operates solely on the Internet, ProPublica specializes on investigative reporting who had won the award along with the Philadelphia Daily News. Competing against multi-million dollar New York Times, ProPublica still managed to win. A non-profit organization, it offers a resource for struggling news organizations that can't afford to focus human resources on investigative reporting.

In the other award, Mark Fiore won the award for his editorial cartoon work, a series of web videos on Competing against the likes of established The Philidelphia Inquirer and Politico, this is a huge feat. Although it has only been two years since the Pulitzer Prize board first began permitting online-only publications, ProPublica and SFGate's achievements have significant implications in both the publishing and literary world.

Of course, with the ubiquitous availability of Internet access, it has become commonplace for academics to publish a scholarly article and have it instantly accessible anywhere in the world where there are computers and Internet connections. The possibilities of open access comes at a time when the traditional, print-based scholarly journals system is in crisis, as the cost of publishing can no longer match the demand of subscribers. As the number of journals and articles produced has been increasing at a steady rate, the average cost per journal has been rising at a rate far above inflation.

As a result, this all indicates that the web has become the great equalizer for publishers and writers. Until recent time, both academics and publishers have been skeptical about the quality and legitimacy of web publications. Perhaps the latest winners of the Pulitzer Prize by two creators of online content is an indication that open access is slowly making its way into the public consciousness.

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Gladwell on Social Media

In a surprising splash of cold water, Malcolm Gladwell dispelled the anticipation and excitement of social media enthusiasts at the F5 Expo in Vancouver, BC. As a conference that converges interactive exhibits, peer idea-collaboration amongst fellow entrepreneurs and executives, and "edge-of-your-seat conferences into one explosive day," on topics such as mobile apps, search marketing, business blogs/webinars, social media, and web 2.0 . . . Gladwell came, and Gladwell left, with a debris of ideas for us to take home.

Gladwell took to the stage at a Vancouver conference on online technologies Wednesday to dismiss the opinion that social media will change our society. He believes that trust -- or the lack of it -- is the main reason why the social web offers weak connections rather than strong. While the Internet offers anonymity and a broad reach, it fails to deliver trust.

Intriguingly, he thinks social media is still in its experimental phase. For someone as observant and bright as Gladwell is, he certainly makes a good point. In the brief history of the internet, it builds something up up only for it to be toppled later. Perhaps Facebook is just a flavour of the month. The web is not a world that respects loyalties and longevity. . . Will Twitter?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Google Vs. The Great Wall of China

I'm really enjoying the latest row between Google and China as it's pits two giants against each other despite the fact that both are battling it out in different contexts. For all the talk about the Google Book Project or the DMCA, Google's pulling out of China has seemingly deserved little attention from Western media. Google is certainly pulling no punches as it has decided to monitor the status of Google in China. Google has launched a website that makes it easy to see how things are going down -- and it's not very pretty to be honest.

Instead of simply withdrawing from China, Google has decided to redirect traffic from to — their site hosted out of Hong Kong. This version of Google hosts unfiltered results — something that likely isn’t too popular with Chinese officials. Moreover, Google stopped censoring its search services—Google Search, Google News, and Google Images—on Users visiting are now being redirected to, where it offers uncensored search in simplified Chinese, specifically designed for users in mainland China and delivered via our servers in Hong Kong. Users in Hong Kong will continue to receive their existing uncensored, traditional Chinese service, also from Essentially, Google has decided to let China make the call — instead of shutting down the service themselves, it’s now going to be up to China to pull the plug.

As a snapshot in historical context, this is very much a tense standoff between multinational corporatism and state nationalism. As a result, Google Inc. partners in China are said to follow billionaire Hong Kong Li Ka-shing's lead and cut links with the U.S. Internet company after it defied the nation's self-censorship rules. Li's Tom Online Inc. has already stopped using Google's search engine on its portal and media buyer Zenith Optimedia; advertisers it represents may also switch to rivals after Google began this redirection of its mainland users to an unfiltered offshore site. Not surprisingly, China Mobile Ltd. has a deal with Google to provide mobile and Internet services. What is going to transpire? As we said earlier, this is a game of chicken, with both sides fairly rigid in its position and solidified in its respective empires.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Hong Kong Central Library

When I first stepped foot into the Hong Kong Central Library, I had immediately realized had entered the library of the future. The Central Library, the largest of the 76 public libraries in a city of 7 million people, is the main library of Hong Kong. Located at the intersection of Moreton Terrace and Causeway Road in Causeway Bay, the Central Library is a 12-storey high building in with an area of 9,400 sq. metres plus a floor area of 33,800 sq. metres, built at a construction cost of HK$690 million. What are some of the features which make HK Central Library on par with the best knowledge institutions of the world? Here are just a few:

(1) Intelligent Building - The Hong Kong Central Library is an intelligent building, using the most advanced architecture. Intelligent Buildings concepts include a purpose is to control, monitor and optimise building services, (eg. lighting, heating, security, CCTV, and alarm systems, access control, audio-visual and entertainment systems, ventilation, filtration and climate control, and even time & attendance control and reporting (notably staff movement and availability). This is also called building automation, which is essentially a control system using a computerized, intelligent network of electronic devices, designed to monitor and control the mechanical and lighting systems of a building

(2) State-Of-The-Art Multimedia - Called the Multimedia Information System, the MMIS is an example of all-embracing use of information technology and computer application in the Hong Kong Central Library. As such a three level audio-on-demand and video-on-demand system are set up. In order to enable more public use of the first level video and third level audio and video of the AOD/VOD system, about ninety Asynchronous Transfer Mode terminals are installed in the library. In other words, the library allows its users the most advanced technologies available.

(3) Global Repository - has been designated as the legal depository library in Hong Kong for nine global organizations: Asian Development Bank, European Union, International Labour Organization, International Maritime Organization United Nations, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, World Bank, World Trade Organization; and World Food Programme.

(4) Looking Back, Moving Forward - Because of the Central Library's sheer size coupled with its unique facilities, it even hosted the Hong Kong Library Association's 50th Anniversary conference. HKLA held the international conference in 2008, called "Looking Back, Moving Forward: Asian Libraries in the World of Information" which focused on the key issues and challenges which face libraries in Asia.

(5) History & Culture - Very much an educational institutional as it is a technological masterpiece, cultural symbolism is highlighted throughout the building. In particular, memorial plaques dedicated to famous modern Chinese writers in the library emblazon the library, one of them was for the witty and erudite scholar-novelist Qian Zhongshu (錢鍾書).

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Vancouverism and 2010

The 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver has come and gone. It has forever changed the city. Vancouver is also known for its unique Vancouverism. Characterized by mixed-use developments, typically with a medium-height, commercial base and narrow, high-rise residential towers to accommodate high populations and to preserve view corridors, Vancouverism is an urban planning and architectural technique pioneered in Vancouver, Canada.

Vancouver is somewhat unique among large North American cities with such a large residential population living in the city centre, and no expressways connecting the core to the suburbs, and still being able to significantly rely on mass public transit for its citizens. It these reasons contribute to the fact that it is consistently ranked among the most livable cities in the world. Not to mention its gorgeous landscape during the spring, summer, fall, and winter seasons. Perhaps Vancouver should also be known in Vancouverism for its knowledge capital. Why? Here are some main features:

1. Libraries - If anything, Vancouver has some of the most gorgeous libraries in the world. Its Central Library in Library Square occupies a city block in the eastward expansion of downtown Vancouver. Centred on the block, the library volume is a nine-story rectangular box containing book stacks and services, surrounded by a free-standing, elliptical, colonnaded wall featuring reading and study areas that are accessed by bridges spanning skylit light wells. The library's internal glass facade overlooks an enclosed concourse formed by a second elliptical wall that defines the east side of the site. This glass-roofed concourse serves as an entry foyer to the library and the more lively pedestrian activities at ground level. Public spaces surrounding the library form a continuous piazza with parking located below grade. The building's exterior is often said to resemble the Flavian Amphitheatre in Rome

2. Social Media community - Vancouver has one of the most vibrant, trendiest Web 2.0 communities in the world. An urban city, the majority of these companies are clustered around downtown. Some of the best Web 2.0 writers and bloggers hail from Vancouver, BC. Mitch Joel's 6 Pixels of Separation, Miss 604, Stephen Hui, Rob Cottingham, and the Search Principle are but a few examples social and semantic media trendsetters.

3. Open data / Open Access initiatives -Some of Vancouver's public institutions are progressive minded. Just take a look at the Vancouver City Archives. It's been luring open-source and open-data enthusiasts to a meet-up in January with the promise of free coffee, free Wi-Fi, and free information. Holding such an informal social and coding session is not only a logical fit for the direction the archives is taking, but certainly opens up new opportunities for what the Semantic Web is going to look like.

4. Multiculturalism 2.0 - One of the most culturally and ethnically diverse in the world, almost 60 per cent of people in Vancouver are expected to be a visible minority by 2031. As such, Web 2.0 has changed the way multicultural citizens perceive, interact, and communicate - particularly so in the city of Vancouver. In fact, it is often new immigrants who arrive in Canada that have better survival skills and have used the Web extensively for research before arriving in Vancouver. These immigrants tend to be urban, wealthy, and the most technology adept and often ahead of the trend. As a result, in multiculturalism 2.0 city, one's individual online identity is replicated like one's cultural identity, which is fluid and not limited to “websites about websites."

Friday, March 05, 2010

Bibliothèque nationale de France

This is one of the most historic, most beautiful libraries in the modern world. Tracing its origin to the royal library founded at the Louvre by Charles V in 1368, the Bibliothèque nationale de France expanded under Louis XIV and opened to the public in 1692. With library's collections swelling to over 300,000 volumes during the radical phase of the French Revolution when the private libraries of aristocrats and clergy were seized, the library became the Imperial National Library and in 1868 was moved to newly constructed buildings on the Rue de Richelieu following a series of regime changes in France. At one time or another - 1896 to be exact - the library was in fact the largest repository of books in the world.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Boston Public Library

Historical Boston is one of the most beautiful, but underrated cities in the world. Likewise its library system. Founded in the mid-19th century, the Boston Public Library (BPL) is strongly associated with the emergence of education for the working class. Its unique architectural style was maintained when Philip John designed an additional section in 1972. Serving as both a research library and headquarters for Boston Public Library's 26 branch libraries, the main library branch also holds a large collection of rare books and manuscripts and musical scores.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Semiotics and the Semantic Web

. . . when computing entered the realm of images, a new dimension was added to cyperspace (taking it literally from 1D to 2D) and the term 'virtual reality' started to be more than a daydream. (Cadognety, 2002).

According to Wikipedia, semiotics is the study of sign processes (semiosis), or signification and communication, signs and symbols. What is interesting is that there is currently a great deal of research on semiotics and the Web, and a result, have an important natural link to the semantic web. Anything intended to signal meaning of some kind, signs on websites are especially important. Various kinds of meaning can be transmitted or 'signalled' by using an image, icon, label or a hyperlink of some fashion -- signs. According to the semiotic theory, signs have a significant (e.g. link label), a referent (e.g. actual page the link points to), an interpretant (e.g. the concept it signifies), and even a behaviour (e.g. the link mechanism itself). Signs of all types leverage existing content to express some kind of function (e.g. a thumbnail image used as link to a product) or affordance.

Philippe Codognet has been one of the preeminent researchers in the field of the semiotics of the web. In his article in 2002, Ancient Images and New Technologies: The Semiotics of the Web, when the web was still in its infancy, Codognet points out that indexical images, which we use in navigating the multimedia documents which make up the web, can be based on the study of semiotics, and can be traced back to the classical thinkers such as Gottfried Liebniz and C.S. Peirce. In other words, instead of viewing the Semantic Web as something entirely novel, we must look at the core roots of the web, which is really just an organization of data, documents, and images - conceptually meshed in contemporary computer-based communication.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Horizon Report 2010 - Changes to Come?

The Horizon Report 2010 has come and gone. Reactions? What's most noticeable is that there are a lot of repeating themes to previous Horizon Reports. Perhaps this is due to the reality that there just aren't that many technologies to go around. My interpretation is that certain themes are emerging as this decade comes to a close. As the Web continues to grow, its supporting technologies are emerging to support its growing veins and organs. As a result, we aren't just seeing a few new technologies popping up here and there annually; rather, we're witnessing the growth a layer of technologies that form a foundation for moving our physical world more aligned to the digital realm. Here's a look at the 6 key technologies from the Horizon Report:

1. Mobile computing - This is not a surprise as the iPhone has entered our lives as seamlessly and ubiquitously over the past couple of years. Handheld tools such as smart phones to netbooks are portable tools for productivity, learning, and communication, offering an increasing range of activities fully supported by applications designed especially for mobiles.

2. Open content - Although the open content movement is a response to the rising costs of education, it has been around since the open source and freeware movements in the software and gaming industries back in the 1990's. In the open content (also known as open access in the publishing and academic world), the desire for access to learning in areas where such access is difficult and an expression of student choice about when and how to learn battle against the corporate for-profit universe which for years has seen growing textbook prices, hefty rising student fees, and the ivory tower image of the babel of academia. The digital world is attempting to fight back, be it free online courses or video webcasts open to the world.

3. Electronic books - Going hand in hand with open content, electronic books promise to reduce costs, save students from carrying pounds of textbooks, and contribute to the environmental efforts of paper-conscious campuses. As pblishers are raising the costs of printing to justify the costs of doing business, the digital world is paving the way to break down those barriers and allow for portable, compact, and inexpensive options for all.

4. Simple augmented reality – This is the technology that has subtly entered into our daily lives with little notice or fanfare, but will ultimately change the way we interact with the Web. AR is the concept of blending (augmenting) virtual data — information, rich media, and even live action — into our physical world – with the purpose of enhancing the information we can perceive with our senses is a powerful one. This is what some predicts as the next generation 3D web (or Web 3.0).

5. Gesture-based computing - Allows our natural movements of the finger, hand, arm, and body which can recognize and interpret body motions. As we work with devices that react to us instead of requiring us to learn to work with them, our understanding of what it means to interact with computers will have a paradigm shift.

6. Visual data analysis - An emerging field, a blend of statistics, data mining, and visualization, that promises to make it possible for anyone to sift through, display, and understand complex concepts and relationships. Visual data analysis may help expand our understanding of learning itself. Learning is one of the most complex of social processes, with a myriad of variables interacting in highly complex ways, making it an ideal focus for the search for patterns. Indeed, Chris Anderson has argued in Wired Magazine that the explosion of data spells the ‘end of theory.’
Sensors everywhere. Infinite storage. Clouds of processors. Our ability to capture, warehouse, and understand massive amounts of data is changing science, medicine, business, and technology. As our collection of facts and figures grows, so will the opportunity to find answers to fundamental questions. Because in the era of big data, more isn't just more. More is different.
What does this all mean? We're moving (albeit slowly) into an exciting era of cultural, social, and technological transformation. This has greater implications than just surfing the Web.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

How the Mighty Fall

After Jim Collins' landmark Good to Great, now an essential for most organizations, the collapse of a number of those 'great' companies made Collins re-examine, how companies can fall after decades of unshakable excellence.

What began as a journal article eventually expanded to How the Mighty Fall, which confronts these questions with some answers to how even the best can succumb to decline and collapse. One thing is even more true about the recent financial collapse: all organizations are prone to vulnerabilities, regardless of how well crafted and seemingly operated they appear. Collins' research project--more than four years in duration-- reveals five stages of decline. It's an excellent guide to libraries and information centres, particularly those nestled in the guise of large budgeted institutions. All organizations run by humans face mortality one day or another - it's important that we recognize its symptoms and confront the brutal realities of decline. And perhaps step in if it's not too late. Here are Collins' five stages:

Stage 1: Hubris Born of Success - All success depends on hard work and luck; however, success does not guarantee perpetuity. Every decision needs to be continually re-examined.

Stage 2: Undisciplined Pursuit of More - Success often breeds greed, which often leads to straying from the original elements which produced success.

Stage 3: Denial of Risk and Peril - Greed leads to blindness that there are signs of hazard, until it's too late.

Stage 4: Grasping for Salvation - Signs of failure arises, but blindness to reality reinforces the need to look for miracles. Often, the organization looks for a messiah from outside the organization to lead it back to the promise land.

Stage 5: Capitulation to Irrelevance or Death - Nothing is done. Demoralized, the organization accepts its fate of a slow death.

Collins' research argues however, that these are just five stages. Indeed, they are reversible. Some companies do indeed recover--in some cases, coming back even stronger--even after Stage 4. In fact, this is because decline is (believe it or not) self-inflicted, and the path to recovery lies largely within the organization's own hands. As long a company is not entirely knocked out of the game, hope always remains. The mighty can fall, but they can often rise again.

Collins' book impressed me as a book that can be applied to all organizations, profit and not-for-profit - technology or customer-service. Regardless of what sector, when large numbers of people work together to achieve a common goal, they are bound to irrationality and group think, politics and human egotism. The five principles of decline are a good reminder that nothing is indestructible if pushed to its limits.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Seattle's Central Library

Here is a library that I is close to heart, literally and figuratively speaking. I heart Seattle, one of trendiest urban living spaces in the world. Its Central Seattle Library also ranks as one of the most beautiful architectural spaces in the world, with state of the art technology. A remarkably postmodern rendition perhaps, even the floors have a classically labeled Dewey Decimal system as markers of shelf sections.

Designed by Rem Koolhaas, the Library is award-winning in architectural style, modern on both the inside and the out. The library uses RFID that allows patrons to check out their own materials. Its former city librarian Nancy Pearl even had a few books under her name and a figurine, too. So grab a Starbucks and your MS Windows laptop, and take a plushy seat in one of the world's most interesting libraries.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Is it Google? Or Is it Information Imperialism?

Google's threat to withdraw from China over censorship and cyberspying is a sign of a growing willingness among foreign companies and governments to overturn the conventional wisdom that has defined decades of engagement by the West: that China is so big that it must be accommodated. Or is it simply Western hegemony? Or is it "information imperialism?"

In a recent posting from the Google Blog, Google has announced that it will be adopting a new strategy in China after facing cyber-attacks in which Gmail accounts were hacked into. In mid-December, it had detected a highly sophisticated and targeted attack on our corporate infrastructure originating from China that resulted in the theft of intellectual property from Google. Google would have an easier time quitting China than other companies. Although its business there has been growing, it is estimated to be only a few percentage points of its total revenues. That's a sharp contrast to companies like General Motors Corp., for which China is a crucial market.

What's interesting is that the US government has taken a stance in this growing situation, turning it instantly into a political issue, as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently pointed out China as among a number of countries where there has been “a spike in threats to the free flow of information” over the past year. She also named Tunisia, Uzbekistan, Egypt, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam. In response China called the US of practicing "information imperialism." Viewed from this angle, information is no different than economic and cultural imperialism. Looking at it in this light, Google's strategy might have both political and business implications.

Let's take a look at the the Global Search Report. The report indicates that even as far back as 2007, Google's reach into the web has not been as extensive as we think it might be. Not only did Google have only 21.7% of the market share compared to Baidu's 55% in China, it had only 24.7% compared to Seznam's 65.5% in the Czech Republic. Google didn't even rank top 3 in South Korea (Naver is number 1, with 72.7% of the market share). If we look at Google as a multinational corporation, perhaps its strategy isn't one of intellectual freedom, but one of consolidating market share. As it has no dominance in certain regions, why would it want to move into China in the first place? English isn't everything you know.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Libraries of the World - One Google Streetview At A Time

Launched in May 2007 to allow its users to explore the world through images, Google Maps' Street Views' coverage was limited to just five U.S. cities. When Street View first launched, the platform used to capture images was a van. Since 2007, Street View has expanded to include cities, streets, national parks and even some biking trails throughout the world. (And it's still capturing streets as we're talking). Currently, Street View is available for almost a dozen countries around the world in North America, Europe and the Asia-Pacific region.

Interestingly, scaling the project to this level required more lightweight and high-quality technology. Not only was the van replaced by a car, Google had to use different vehicles in different regions around the world to collect tens of millions of images. (Just think of those small alleys in London or Barcelona).

For the upcoming months, we will be travelling together throughout the world, starting in North America, to some of the most innovative and interesting libraries of the world. How are we going to do that? Google Maps. Our first stop? One of the largest libraries in the United States offering patrons access to millions of books, periodicals, and CDs, the New York Public Library also offers a large number of digitized collections that include images, prints and photographs. Interestingly, NYPL was one of the first to collaborate with Google to create a selection of online digital books as part of the Google Books Online Project. Not only is the library is also highly tech savvy with an active RSS feed as well as podcasts on iTunes U, patrons can download ebooks, video and audio directly from the website or video storybooks, video on demand as well as webcasts.

I like travelling.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Steve Jobs, Computers, Technology -- And How to Present Them

Steve Jobs will forever be one of the icons of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. He's helped shape not only technological and business landscape, but the cultural agenda as well. His pitching of the PC vs. Mac debate has split the world into two camps. As one likes to describe him, Jobs doesn't just sell computers; he sells an experience. A new book which has just come out is worth a read. The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs argue that Jobs' successful not only because of his visionary appeal of Apple's products, but ultimately his ability to create elegant presentations that are meant to inform, educate, and entertain - his ability to sell himself as a brand. An Apple presentation has all the elements of a great theatrical production—a great script, heroes and villains, stage props, breathtaking visuals, and one moment that makes the price of admission well worth it.

Take a look at Jobs' presentation of the 2001 iPod, long before it gained the foothold of our musical and cultural lexicon - Jobs doesn't just deliver, he performs. His words dances across the stage like an actor's - and we all know he's having fun doing it. Carmine Gallo's book is an addictive read after the lull of the holidays. Perhaps it is as important for librarians and information professionals as any, as presentations form the crux of their work. Steve Jobs' skills at articulating himself is a defiant reminder to how we can all work on effectively communicating to our audiences what we really need to say.

Act 1 -
Create the Story

Scene 1 - Plan in Analog

Scene 2 - Answer the One Question That Matters Most

Scene 3 - Develop a Messianic Sense of Purpose

Scene 4 - Create Twitter-Like Headlines

Scene 5 - Draw a Road Map

Scene 6 - Introduce the Antagonist

Scene 7 - Reveal the Conquering Hero

Intermission 1 - Obey the Ten-Minute Rule

Act 2 - Deliver the Experience

Scene 8 - Channel Their Inner Zen

Scene 9 - Dress Up Your Numbers

Scene 10 - Use "Amazingly Zippy" Words

Scene 11 - Share the Stage

Scene 12 - Stage Your Presentation With Props

Scene 13 - Reveal a "Holy Shit" Moment

Intermission 2 - Schiller Learns From the Best

Act 3 - Master Stage Presence

Scene 14 - Master Stage Presence

Scene 15 - Make It Look Effortless

Scene 16 - Wear the Appropriate Costume

Scene 17 - Toss the Script

Scene 18 - Have Fun

Encore - One More Thing . . .