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I Want To Save The World

I’m feeling frustrated today. Why? Because I want to save the world but I feel so helpless. With Hurricane Katrina’s aftermath getting worse and not better, I’m reminded again by something that has been nagging at me for a very long time relating to the subject of technology. Basically I’m sick of people talking about how technology is making it an exciting time to be alive because it is making the world better (especially now that we have 65-inch Plasma TV’s). Well if technology is so great why do I feel like I can’t do that much with it to help these people?

Don’t get me wrong though, as technology is helping out to some degree (or maybe it is more of a change of culture). Due to the severity of the events, more and more organizations switched to blogging/human mode (instead of the typical edited news or formated press releases) so that they could get information out faster to others. Yet why I’m so frustrated is because after disasters such as these strike, technology still doesn’t appear to be doing much to effectively mobilize and organize the masses to the degree I would like to see it. Yes, people are donating in droves (so much so that donation sites are being overloaded) but what else are we doing to directly help those in need besides monetary assistance. If they say information is power, what the hell are we doing to pass on information to assist and empower the people on the ground in Katrina’s wake?

A perfect example of this is the frustration of a mechanical engineer who wants to help on the ground but can’t seem to contact anyone via the Red Cross or Salvation Army. Yes obviously there are communication problems going on but even if the lines were open would it make much difference? What the hell I am getting at here is the difficulty of trying to grasp what the hell is going on down there (i.e. lack of information) and also how to coordinate such a large scale recovery operation (i.e. project planning complexities)? And yet don’t diverse groups of people from all around the world collaborate on large projects, sharing tons of information, on the Web everyday? If so, what the hell is stopping us from getting together and collaborating on such a vital project such as this? Remember, the beauty of the Web is about everyone doing their own small piece in small groups to collectively help the overall greater effort because, when disasters of this magnitude strike, having a centralized command site to control and organize everything can actually slow things down instead of speeding them up.

So this is what I’m wondering (and I just posted this as a comment on David Weinberger’s blog). What would happen if groups of people starting getting together into "cells" (i.e. like a "terrorist cell") to do good (like the cells that comprise your body’s immune system)? Imagine samaritan cells of small groups of people working together with other cells to help people in the wake of the Katrina disaster? What would these people need to work autonomously instead of through a central command center? I’m assuming a communications network (i.e. the Web) that would provide them with information and lots of it. More importantly, they would need the ability to gather this information from different sources (i.e. web services) as well as filter the vast amount of information so that it could be usable to their locality (even down to their neighborhood).

The question I’m pondering today is do we have the technology to do this? If so, why isn’t anybody doing this? Is it because no one has had the idea to utilize the existing web services (i.e. Flickr, Google Maps, Technorati, etc) in this way yet (i.e. tagging real life objects and locations, such as a neighborhood or quarter of a city)? If we don’t have the technology today to do this effectively, will the Web 2.0 architecture give us this ability in the future?

I know one things for sure, I’d rather see more people working on technology that enables small groups of people to collaborate collectively with other small groups on a world cause or project than see people working on the next generation Uber 100-inch Plasma TV set that will make my life "so much better" and make me feel "excited to be alive".

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I Work For The Web

If the Web was a business, what would it’s culture be like?

I work for a daring, imaginative, adventurous, sharing, caring, diverse, open, trusting, honest, flexible, responsible, and connected company.

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Topic Aggregator?

The words "Web Neighborhood" in one of Jason Kottke’s posts got me thinking. David Weinberger posted the other day an apology to his friends because he was "unable to read all of their posts". I thought this was strange because he obviously would like to keep on top of everything his friends (in his "Web neighborhood") talk about but he can’t because he doesn’t have time to read all of their sites or RSS feeds. Yet I’m sure he would love to hear what they are talking about, especially if it relates to something he is talking about on his site.

So it dawned on me, why hasn’t anyone created a news aggregator that collates and groups news feeds based upon topics in the newsfeeds (I’m assuming determined by grabbing the keywords from the title or tags from the post or maybe even by looking at the links the post is pointing at like Technorati does?). For example, if there were a bunch of posts that had the word "Google OS" in them, couldn’t an aggregator gather those all under a similar heading? And even more so shouldn’t the aggregator be able to list these groupings in order from most items grouped to least so that in effect you get a  "most talked about headlines of the day" at the top to "side stories of the day" at the bottom, almost like you get in a newspaper? I mean you could go farther from there even. If you had a lot of items under one grouping, couldn’t the aggregator grab the PageRank of the site for each post within that group and list them from highest to lowest, so theoretically you are seeing the best site for the topic listed first while the others are listed below (which of course may not always be the case and maybe you could sort the list in other different ways)?

What do you think of this? I mean I know aggregators can do this do somewhat right now in that you can put in your own tags to search for specific things from your feeds but why not let the feeds sort themselves out instead of having to manually enter and look for specific topic keywords? I mean wouldn’t it solves "David’s Dilemma" because then he could just look at the topics / headlines of the day in his RSS news/topic/tag aggregator and easily see if any of his friends in his "Web neighborhood" are talking about the same thing he is? Or is there a news aggregator that does this already that I’m not aware of?

Actually taking this to the next level would be actually embedding this topic feed list below a post on your own site. So if you were talking about "Web OS" then below your post would be a "Related Feeds" list of all the other people on your feed list talking about "Web OS" as well. That way as soon as you finished adding your post, it would immediately show who else was talking about the same topic as you in your "Web Neighborhood"!

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What Do We Care About The Most?

More and more people always say that the Web is conversations about things that we care about. I wondered today what is the thing that we care about the most. My answer was that I thought that we cared about each other the most.

I found this quite ironic though considering how much we as a society are pushing each other apart. We all seem to be screaming for comfort and companionship from each other and yet, at the same time, we are yelling at each other to be left alone.

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Forest, World, Web

Tree -> Forest
Person -> World
Site -> Web

Walking through the UBC Endowment Lands today, I had a strange vision. Each tree in the forest in front of me was replaced by a person and all of those people together were the world. Immediately the vision changed again, instead of trees in the forest in front of me, I saw each tree as a website which together made up the Web. Everything seemed connected in small pieces loosely joined and yet this loose union enabled some pretty amazing things.

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Yentl Is So Wise

Hehe, ok this is hilarious because I found this bit of information off of a joke link on Boing Boing that said if you don’t like the content matter on their site then just go read Barbara Streisand’s news statements. Hilarious I know but I found this quote below by her which I found quite relevant to what I’m talking about.

I love information, but I’m afraid of the information age – too much information and not enough spiritual growth to handle it. I’m still afraid our technology is more advanced than our hearts. There’s something lacking now – this gap, this void between technology and compassion.

I’m hoping that our cultural values, the things that we care about the most, can hopefully change this and give our technology the heart it needs.

Anyways I’m off to watch Yentil, The Way We Were, Hello Dolly!, Funny Girl, and A Star Is Born. Laters! 🙂

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More Realizations of Small Pieces

It’s strange. I’ve been thinking more about David Weinberger’s book title of Small Pieces Loosely Joined and its relationship to other things I’m observing and realizing. I’ve already mentioned that I think posting small pieces of thoughts loosely joined initially is a better approach to take in this journal because it keeps my thought flow going, whereas if I focused on organizing a solid idea it would take longer to structure properly and thus slow me down. It is interesting that a lot of writers today are also using this same approach very effectively (including David with his book).

Now here’s where it gets slightly strange. I’m noticing comparisions to other things that emulate this same approach. A person could be no better of an example of this. So many people today in social settings are asked what they do for a living and then others define that person by their job. This couldn’t be further from the truth. A person is defined by many things, not just their job. I think this causes stereotyping too much and yet it always interesting to see peoples shocked reaction when they notice a female store clerk reading The Prince by Machiavelli instead of reading People magazine. People are diverse beings. Never underestimate them and what they can offer you and the world.

Nature is another perfect example of small pieces loosely joined. Diversity is natures greatest attribute as it allows it to sustain itself and grow. I remember watching a show by David Suzuki where he stated that the areas of forest with more diversity of life (i.e. animal, plant, insect) within it always regrew faster after a fire compared to areas that were less diverse. It makes a lot of sense though as it follows the don’t put all your eggs in one basket approach. The more diverse your assets and abilities, the more likely you’ll survive and overcome obstacles that may come your way. It is kind of strange though that we avoid using our collective diversity as a way of overcoming the world’s problems though when it may actually be our greatest strength.

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Random Thoughts on a Web-like Business

So how would a business work and act if its culture matched that of the Web? Let’s see if I can dump some of these ideas down.

Some people (aka “management”) decide to create a business to pursue an idea that they are passionate about. They look for other people (aka “employees”) who are as passionate as they are to help them achieve their vision. Everyone cares about everyone else in this endeavour because they are all passionate about the idea which unifies them.

People are found who are as passionate and have excellent ideas to pursue the idea. They are treated as equals and trusted because they share the same passion about the idea.

No matter what a person’s background or knowledge, everyone’s diverse input is valued and appreciated.

The business is the collective idea pursued by the people. The people represent the business idea instead of the business idea representing the people. Therefore, in communicating with the business, people talk to other people (not to the “business”). These people pursuing this idea have diverse backgrounds and interests just like you and me. People outside of the business see those inside of the business as real people and trust them because they have shared information with them as well. The business website just describes the collective idea that the people of the business are working upon. People outside of the business can discover more about these people by visiting their individual sites.

Each person pursuing this business idea may be pursuing other business ideas at the same time. Each person shares and helps not only each business idea they are pursuing but the entire world as well because they share their ideas with everyone. Therefore, no single business idea benefits at the expense of another or can be controlled. By sharing, all benefit together and all collectively “own” the idea so that others can experiment and build upon it.

More to come but going to take a break for a bit.

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The Web as a Business

Feeling, Caring, Loving, Passionate, Open, Trusting, Flexible, Equal, Whole, Connected, Shared, Diverse

The Web is successful as a business because it is a system which workings are rarely seen. Instead what is seen is the people and their creations which make the business so successful. The Web is like a coach on the sidelines providing support to the team to help it achieve its goals. The collaborative effort of the people and their content, however, are what are seen the most. Most important of all though is that the realization that one cannot exist without the other. Leaders need followers just as much as followers need leaders. Both have a common vision, dream, or goal that they wish to achieve and by working together collaboratively as equals and trusting one another, they can achieve it.

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Small Thoughts Loosely Joined

Haha, I can’t believe this! I just realized something else in creating my last post. I was getting frustrated because I was having these other ideas but wanted to get my last post finished first before I continued on. This is very linear thinking and makes it difficult to progress before gathering and structuring your thoughts.

What I realized I was doing wrong though was that I was taking too big of a bite with regards to what I was talking about. Instead I realized, I should be focusing on and posting my thoughts as they happen, without expanding on different ideas. For example, my last post focused on three different groups of ideas. I really should have broken it down into three posts so that I could interject other posts in between them that deal with other topics. Instead though, I felt I had to finish all three posts before I could proceed.

In other words, smaller is better (i.e. baby steps). Or put in more relevant words, small bite-sized pieces of an idea can be loosely joined one after the other and then later organized into a more structured cohesive idea. Quite appropriate considering David Weinberger’s book of the same name.