Pairing with Google for its online mapping technology, New York City has (at last!) launched a state-of-the-art information center and comprehensive website to help visitors and others obtain the data they need about the city. The new platform serves up important information by category (i.e. hotels, dining, shopping, nightlife, arts, entertainment) and through Google maps seamlessly embedded into the site. (Here's NYC Mayor Bloomberg's version of the announcement)
Really a Mirror World: The result is a not only a successful city navigation platform, but also a big first step toward an official municipal mirror world through which people can interact online.
Predictions: Though it presently offers up only select slices of the NYC mirror world that exists as google maps, I expect that to change over the next few years as 1) the site integrates Google Earth, Street View and other apps, 2) the sites adopts community-related technologies and becomes an essential hub for advertising products, services, events, 3) the resolution of Google's NYC geo and info graphs increases, and 4) NYC and its citizens realize the power of a centralized, publicly owned mirror portal and demand its rapid development.
It simply makes sense that municipalities themselves should seize control of their own increasingly rich geo-info-social hubs and use them to drive value creation across a variety of domains.
The Race to Quantify Cities and Be the Prime Directory: Accordingly, I find it very likely that upon the successful Googlization of NYC many other cities will increasingly demand similar Google Worlds to boost their own commerce, public services and brand. And it's possible that Google could derive a significant amount of revenue by helping to deply these services, though they may also be glad to suffer the cost in exchange for the deluge of 1) geo-related information that would subsequently pour in as cities convert to Google as their official Directory, and 2) the additional advertising that would pour through such an official platform. -- Realizing this, my bet is that Google is gearing up to conquer the world city-by-city.
With the steadily worsening economic climate taking a toll on most large technology companies, IBM is a rare exception to the rule. Just yesterday the industry stalwart announced an impressive (especially under the circumstances) 12% rise in net Q4 profits, the bulk of which can be attributed to CEO Sam Palmisano's strategic transition to cloud computing and software-as-a-service (SaaS), both of which were initiated years before these sectors grew hot.
The New York Times attributes this to IBM's "global reach and its mix of businesses", reporting that "about 40 percent of its revenue and 60 percent of its profit come from products and services sold on a subscription basis as licenses or contracts that are renewed every year or so." This means that IBM can charge higher prices for its work while former head-to-head competitors like Intel, Sun and Seagate are caught up in hardware price wars that drive down prices - no surprise as chips and components are commoditized.
This belief is further reinforced by IBM's intelligent use of web communications (blogs & easy to follow videos, an expertise that Google shares), its vision of planetary technology and information development (see the video below)...
How long before President Barack Obama refers to social media as the Fifth Estate?
When I sat down to write this timely piece about the role of social media in government I was hopeful that by calling it "The Fifth Estate" I was about to be somewhat clever and original. Sheesh, was I wrong. A quick search revealed that many bloggers and pundits have in fact been calling social media The Fifth Estate for a while now:
There are in fact hundreds, if not thousands, of references to social media as The Fifth Estate that go back many, many years.
This of course has once again got me thinking that 1) there is truly no such thing as an original idea, especially on a planet inhabited by billions of meme processors all hooked into one global web, and 2) as innocuous as it may seem to us at any given moment, social media is truly a breakthrough phenomenon that is absolutely critical to convergent acceleration.
Upwards of 50 million people have access to web video through their televisions today thanks to Google, Sony and Nintendo, who have collaborated to bring YouTube videos to the Wii (50 million units sold by March) and PS3 (12 million units sold) through a custom version of the popular site modified for larger home screens.
From the YouTube blog:Currently in beta, the TV Website offers a dynamic, lean-back, 10-foot television viewing experience through a streamlined interface that enables you to discover, watch and share YouTube videos on any TV screen with just a few quick clicks of your remote control. With enlarged text and simplified navigation, it makes watching YouTube on your TV as easy and intuitive as possible. Optional auto-play capability enables users to view related videos sequentially, emulating a traditional television experience. The TV Website is available internationally across 22 geographies and in over 12 languages.
Many bloggers, including this one, have been anticipating this moment for some time, speculating that 2009 will at last be the year of Web Video on TV. Today's mostrous event clinches that moniker, making it extremely likely that by year's end upwards of 100 million game console viewers will have access to YouTube and other web video broadcast platforms through their traditional televisions. (Simply factor in the XBox reaction and ongoing Wii and PS3 sales.)
On January 29 at 6pm, Carnegie Council Senior Fellows Joshua S. Fouts and Rita J. King will present findings from their Understanding Islam Through Virtual Worlds project. After a year of exploring digital Islamic communities, Fouts and King conclude that engaging with people in virtual worlds who self-identify as Muslim can be part of a broader public diplomacy strategy to foster inclusive perspectives on religion, society, and coexistence.
How can virtual worlds serve as new windows of insight into real life social dynamics?
Harvard education professor Daniel Koretz says we're not doing a good job teaching our children how to solve complex problems, thus failing to raise a generation possessing the new mandatory level of cognitive ability.
Koretz argues that we're teaching too much memorization and not enough "complex application of knowledge" and that "we need to back off the lower level skills to make room for the higher ones".
With the Obama administration gearing up for action, the Fall stock market crash fading from memory, and a new year underway many economists (especially most of the folks I regularly watch on CNBC and Bloomberg) are predicting recovery to commence in the second half of 2009. Having noted the slow spread of the mortgage crisis, which some predicted several years before it ever began to look serious, I am more than a bit skeptical about their underlying assumptions and the likelihood of a near-term turn-around.
Fortunately there are some economists like Condé Nast Portfolio contributing editor John Cassidy who agree that economists may not be the best predictors of things economic. Pointing out their poor track record in 2008 (live by the Greenspan, die by the Greenspan), Cassidy now contrasts their 2009 forecasts against those of the general public and of finance professionals, revealing that the economists are far more optimistic than the rest.
He then asks the obvious question:
So who are we to believe: the experts who failed to predict the current crisis or the great American public? With due respect to my fellow dabblers in the dismal science [economics], I share Joe the Plumber’s queasy feeling. Unless something miraculous happens in the next few weeks, the new inhabitant of the Oval Office will inherit an economy flailing under the weight of record debts and rising unemployment. If a depression is defined as a deep, extended recession of a severity that nobody under the age of 75 can recall, then it is quite likely that we are already in one.
In his first ever post on the NYTimes' The Wild Side blog, biologist Aaron Hirsch describes what he sees as the increasing centralization and decentralization of scienctific processes. These new approaches, he argues, are driving larger and more complex efforts to generate more useful useful data in different ways.
Centralization: Across many different fields, new data are generated by a smaller and smaller number of bigger and bigger projects. And with this process of centralization come changes in what scientists measure — and even in what scientists are.
Hirsch attributes this to the high cost of powerful machines and technologies that can quickly generate results that otherwise would take far longer to discover. This new dependence on massive facilities or operations, he argues, is changing the nature of the scientist.
It’s not only scientific instruments, but also the scientists themselves who are transformed by centralization. If the 19th century was an age of far-flung investigators alone in the wilderness or the book-lined study, the 21st century is, so far, an age of scientists as administrators.
Decentralization: Simultaneously, we are are experiencing a huge decentralization of much of our scientific process through projects such as SETI that tap the distributed power of personal laptops. Hirsch labels this "Citizen Science".
Spurred in large part by Barack Obama's unprecedented and extraordinarily successful new media campaign, other national politicians are quickly following suit by embracing YouTube's new dedicated channels for U.S. Senators and House Representatives.
Here's the official word from the YouTube blog:
As the 111th Congress kicks into gear, many of your elected leaders are starting their own YouTube channels. They're posting videos direct from their Washington offices, as well as clips of floor speeches and committee hearings alongside additional behind-the-scenes footage from Capitol Hill. And in conjunction with both the House and Senate, we're launching two new platforms that will help you access your Senator and Representatives' YouTube channels: The Senate Hub (youtube.com/senatehub) and The House Hub (youtube.com/househub).
Though this may not seem like something altogether world-changing considering the explosive use of YouTube, even among politicians, this transition to web content is a rather big deal for several reasons:
1. Selection of the Savvy: Just as the transition to television helped bring telegenic communicators like Kennedy to power, the transition to web video and social media will negatively impact those politicians that are slow to understand, adopt and maximize the use of new technologies. Suvival of the fittest politician will now require new media aptitude and staff atmposphere.
2. More Powerful Communities: National politicians have already figured out how to take advantage of fleets of interns (last time I visited The Hill on a video shoot Blackburn seemed to have 20+ interns at his disposal) that will work for reputation. Now imagine how that will scale online. Candidates who figure out how to build large communities of powerful supporters, idea generators and viral content drivers will have a big edge in campaigns and also in the governing process. Those that can grow the largest, most effective team (we're talking thousands of hard core supporters and interns) will first win the media wars and then the overall effectiveness wars.