Curating Connected Devices

Wolfram joins the Internet Of Things party, bringing together connected devices and their Wolfram Language on a dedicated site.

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Working with device manufacturers, the goal is to provide knowledge about connected devices, a sort of real world API meets the Wikipedia of connected devices.

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By using WDF (Wolfram Data Framework)  to connect to the devices and get data from them, Stephen Wolfram is dreaming of future of true Internet of Things, where Wolfram language is the lingua franca.


Crossing the Media: from Mass to Social, from Social to Personal

For those who’ve been around before the dot-com crash, you’ve probably remember those first days, with portals, vortals and the whole remediation of mass media to the web was dominant. Brochureware (brochures repurposed as websites) and directories were abundant and brands began a gold race to a different medium, expecting the masses would follow along.

That didn’t work, as McLuhan’s “the medium is the message” was mostly fit for a broadcast age. Enter the Cluetrain Manifesto, Tim O’Reilly’s web 2.0 and a new conversation age: from mass media to social media.
With this new communication paradigm, people shape the medium: from Twitter lingo to collaborative platforms, media became social, with many online citizens entering the conversation.

cross media
Photo by purplemattfish CC BY-ND 2.0, The Daily, Flipboard or even your regular iGoogle are the first wave of personal media, with users and algorithms adjusting the media stream. These new personal media platforms draw upon mass media and social media (our social graph to be more precise) and combine them to create personal dashboards with our own set of preferred media.

We’ve come a long way, from blogs to new forms of publishing such as Storify. To truly become the media, both producing and curating our own content, a new kind of service that adjusts the output to our media habits should appear.
Update: it’s rather telling than one of the few ways of making something go viral is to make it personalized. From Elf Yourself to Uniqlo’s UTweet, there’s plenty to choose from.

The question these days is: will it come from Facebook or from Google? Considering that we’ve been crossing the media the past decade, I for one would appreciate that publishers took the lead. Both the Guardian and the New York Times have been brave enough to experiment, but considering the mass media potential for online video and the upcoming TV platforms, i wouldn’t be surprised if some major network decides to take a radical leap for the next decade. If they don’t, Google will disrupt as usual.

Personal media and the platforms to aggregate/create it are worthy of more attention than the social media echo chamber. Yes, we’re social beings. But we’re also individuals, searching for better ways to cope with our desires, interests and yes, media. And as we cross our media, we atomize it: more personal, smaller but always part of a bigger system. So, where’s my media microscope?

The slow decay of personal aggregators

The beginning of this decade witnessed the Mass Customization trend, of which are prime examples TV shows like Pimp My Ride or marketing campaigns such as Zune Originals, thus trying to embed personal beliefs into mass consumption goods and services.

On the web, this trend was assimilated by popular websites like MySpace or Yahoo allowing customized homepages where registered users could setup their own layouts and snack-sized information blocks. On MySpace, this feature reflected a desire for self expression, even if the features and technology were rather limited. The liberal customization eventually caused the downfall of MySpace’s popularity, a rococo of visual design and high signal/noise ratio not very friendly to ensure loyalty amongst visitors and seduce newcomers to the service.

Personal aggregators become popular around 2005 with the launch of Netvibes, later followed by iGoogle, structured around the key concepts of data syndication and widgets. Similar models emerged such as PopURLs, which led do Guy Kawasaki’s internet newstand, that act more as filters than customizable services.

From 2008 on, with the growth of lifestreaming services (Friendfeed, Twitter and Facebook), social profiles become themselves information filters, both personal (social recommendation) and public (e.g. CNN’s @breakingnews), with users shifting their media consumption habits to where their friends were.
Personal aggregators at the time had almost no social features, targeted for a tech savvy audience, who used them as a start page but choosing to read information on Google Reader or dedicated apps and services (caveat: this is mostly anedoctal evidence gathered from my circle of friends and some web analytics data, being my blog one of the default subscriptions on Netvibes for portuguese users).

Referrals from Netvibes to this blog

Google trends for Netvibes, PageFlakes and PopURLs

With the launch of OpenSocial and skins, iGoogle tried to innovate, but this space reached maturity, and as with most technologies, we’re now witnessing the decay. Users started to choose a different kind of aggregation and knowledge management services, based on different platforms such as Tweetdeck (desktop) or Instapaper (mobile). Social filtering also kicks in with web services like Digg, Reddit or the more recent

If things look harsh for personal aggregators, it doesn’t help that RSS subscription isn’t in a good shape either, not being understood/used by the early and late majority. It should suffice as evidence the shutdown of one of the most popular subscription services, Bloglines. Information consumption shifted from push to pull, and we’re in the real time age.

The biggest challenge facing personal aggregators is to limit themselves to a classic customization and not a true, valuable personalization: focusing on the superficial (colors, layout, widgets) and not the essntial (information filtering, personal recommendation). While customization is easy to achieve with current technology (cookies, personal settings), personalization is a whole different game. Some notable exceptions come from Google: Priority Inbox on Gmail or “More blogs like this” on Google Reader are only possible thanks to network effects, by aggregating behaviors of millions of consumers and learning from daily habits.

Photo by Jinho Jung, under a CC license

The way i see it, for personal aggregators to survive, they need to evolve from classic Lego to Mindstorms.

Creative coding with Cinder

Andrew Bell, Robert Hodgin, and The Barbarian Group just released LibCinder, a creative coding framework in C++.

It’s a cross platform, open-source project, very similar to Processing or OpenFrameworks, but with better memory management and OpenGL support. Features include standalone applications and screensaver creation, Cocoa touch support (iPhone, iPad), OpenGL texture classes, webcam capture support and full Quicktime support. Besides the tech specs, what can it really do?

The most famous example is probably the Augmented Reality cover on Esquire but there’s lot of video goodness by Robert Hodgin (aka flight404) below.

Continue reading Creative coding with Cinder

Do It Yourself at SHiFT 2010

We’re almost there: the 2010 Do It Yourself SHiFT conference is starting this week. The next 16th and 17h at Teatro Aberto, Lisbon,  we meet again to discuss and share Social and Human Ideas For Technology, after the 2 previous successful editions.

Tinkerers, thinkers, hackers, technologists or curious people by nature can find something of their interest on the several talks and workshops. Here’s a preview:

The 2 day event is more than a tech conference: it’s about how technology can be used to be achieve a positive change in society. The casual setting is a great chance to meet other people and learn about new things. Better yet, not only learn, but Do It Yourself.

Come and meet us in Lisbon next Friday an Saturday, as tickets are still available !

Disclaimer: i’m a  symbolic last minute helper of the fantastic team organizing the event.

Profiles of Generation M2

Cross-posted at The Trendwatch

If it is not texting and looking and TV, it’s computer and listen to my iPod (…) If i know i’m gonna miss a show i record it.

I have facebook on my cellphone. I could research a word, do anything on my phone.

— Diamond, 14

The Kaiser Family Foundation released today a report on Generation M(2), a research on media habits of 8-18 year olds, with a sample of more than 2,000 young people across the US. Impressive how this 100% connected generation is using mobile as the main gateway to digital content. Not to mention the multitasking habits. But you knew that already, right?

Key findings of the report include:

  • Over the past five years, Young people have increased the daily consumption of media from 6:21 to 7:38


  • An explosion in mobile and online media has fueled
    the increase in media use among young people.


  • Youth who spend more time with media report lower grades and lower levels of personal contentment.

For a short overview of what kids have to say, follow the video below: