Sunday, June 22, 2008

Paradigm shifts in thinking

Biology has shifted from an art to a digital information science to an engineering problem.

Medicine has shifted from treatment to prevention and from normalization to enhancement.

Health has shifted from passive response to pro-activity.

Scientific method has shifted from hypothesis and experiment to simulation and empiricism.

Literacy has shifted from reading and writing to being able to express ideas in different forms of media such as software, 3d printing, virtual worlds and synthetic biology.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Social media and Enterprise 2.0

There is a much deeper application of Web 2.0 technologies and concepts possible in the enterprise than is currently being contemplated and implemented. Some companies have an early effort to use some of the tools but have not noticed that the concepts themselves can be applied to generate significant benefit. Worse, misapplication is also occurring such as the creation of Social Media Officers oblivious to the bottom-up rather than top-down property of social media.

Future of social media
The long-term future of social media is lifelogging - the auto-capture and permissioned auto-posting or archiving of every person’s every thought and experience. Feedhavior’s digital footprints continue to drive individual actions. The corporation goes away. Artificial intelligence becomes the most efficient form of outsourcing. People and organizations spend more time in simulation worlds than physical worlds. Entrepreneurs and organizations provide goods and services by making offerings proactively to groups of potential customers aggregated through their web-based interest communities. Marketing must be relevant to avoid being perceived as advertising.

Applying Web 2.0 Technologies to the Enterprise
There is no part of the firm at present that cannot make use of Web 2.0 and social media technologies. There are two dimensions for application:

External and Internal
Externally, a firm can use Web 2.0 and social media technologies for branding, re-inventing and testing business models, product and service sales, customer relationship management (CRM), partner ecosystem management, R&D outsourcing and recruiting. Internally, firms can use Web 2.0 and social media technologies for communication, collaboration, work assignment, task and project management, resource allocation and performance feedback.

Tools, Concepts and Values
Some examples of the direct application of social media and Web 2.0 tools are using blogs to supplement or replace marketing, APIs to supplement or replace business development, and crowdsourcing ideagoras to supplement or replace R&D. Applying concepts is for example not just using Digg for the firm’s industry news feeds but Digg functionality to bid up and down work assignments or performance feedback. Using Web 2.0 in the enterprise is not using mash-ups but mashing up internal applications, putting a virtual world front-end on any data application to represent the information in a high-resolution way. Internal trainings and meetings are conducted as open space unconferences. Everyone can participate in everything.

The values of social media are also applied internally and externally: authenticity, openness, transparency, participation, creativity, perpetual beta, new linkages, asking the wisdom of crowds (web, twitter), acknowledgement that everyone can have good ideas and contribute and using freemium and open-source business models (free + fee-based).

Sunday, June 08, 2008

21 century skillsets: the new literacy

Almost no one in the traditional education world, in both K-12 schools and higher educational institutions, has noticed the new literacy.

Not only is there a necessity to be more generally technically literate, but

the educated person of today must be able to read, write and express thoughts in a variety of technology-based media

MIT’s Neil Gershenfeld notices “From a combination of passion and inventiveness I sense that students are reinventing literacy. Literacy has been boiled down to reading and writing, but the means have changed since the Renaissance. In a very real sense post-digital literacy now includes 3D machining and microcontroller programming.” (Source: a paraphrase of Gershenfeld's Edge interview)

This should really be extended to say that the new literacy includes expression in traditional writing and in computer software, 3d printing, virtual worlds, video games, synthetic biology and visual storytelling.

Does everyone have to excel at expressing themselves in each of these media? No, but the most effective people are able to communicate through multiple forms of media.

An interesting analysis would be in evaluating the types of expression that are possible in each of the media. How is the same idea different in writing, in software, in 3d animation? Which media are better in which cases? Imagine the assignment to create a representation of yourself through biology, by assembling DNA sequences for different actions from the Registry of Standard Biological Parts database.

There has never been such an explosion of venues for creativity and self-expression. The result is very exciting – a richer interconnectedness of humanity and a new level of collaboration opportunities as more people can now connect through their user-generated content.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Next steps for virtual worlds

Interest in virtual worlds is growing, platforms are proliferating and virtual commerce continues to rise but there are several key steps needs to reach the next level: expanding awareness of virtual worlds uses, providing technical interoperability and establishing a financial payment network.

1. Marketing - virtual worlds are not just for recreation
Conceptually, there is a marketing problem. The popular belief, even by technology professionals, is that virtual worlds are exclusively for recreational use, and even more narrowly, that they are children's video games. This stems from three factors: the vast popularity of teen and pre-teen virtual worlds, the fact that this market segment is making the most money in the virtual worlds space and some high profile acquisitions like Club Penguin by Disney in Aug. 2007 for $700m. Maybe this is what happened with the wheel in Peru; it got defined as a children's toy early on and the greater extensibility of the technology went unrealized.

Enterprise Virtual Worlds
Virtual worlds are the natural evolution of the Internet and one of the biggest potential uses is for enterprise applications. Enterprise virtual world killer app #1 is videoconferencing. Companies spend hundreds of thousands of dollars annually on video-conferencing. This can all be replaced with the free infrastructure of virtual worlds, and even improves on the traditional methods as participants have higher levels of engagement and use virtual world workforce collaboration apps.

Enterprise virtual world killer app #2 is the application presentation layer. Virtual worlds are the obvious next generation front-end to any data application. Exponentially more information can be seen at a glance and perceived immediately through visual image rather than read and processed (example: Bashiba). Problem drill down and resolution is also quicker and more effective. Many companies are moving to virtual control centers as the front end to their data applications. IBM features green data centers for both internal and client use to provide lower-cost improved control over nationwide data centers and remote process administration (SLurl). Facilities manager Eolus integrates SAP in the back-end with virtual world platforms in the front-end, representing multiple dimensions of information in a 4-tier virtual map for optimized management of global operations.

Enterprise virtual world killer app #3 is eCommerce. Virtual worlds are the obvious next generation platform for eCommerce, with detailed visual representations of products available for inspection and avatar-based navigation instead of locating items through menus. This trend will strengthen as more cell phones are smart phones and mobile virtual worlds clients are available.

For more information and images of Enterprise Virtual Worlds applications, please see Slides 16-22 of this presentation.

2. Interoperability
The 60+ existing virtual worlds platforms are isolated silos (lists of virtual world platforms: Virtual Worlds Review and VirtualWorldsNews). It is as if every website used a different flavor of html and required a separate login identity. There are two levels of the interoperability challenge. First, export and import functionality needs to be standard between 3d modeling software programs (3DS Max, Maya, etc.) and into virtual worlds platforms. Second, avatars and inventory need to be portable across worlds. One idea is to have a namespace registry system and avatar servers like DNS servers. Open-source platforms like realXtend and OpenSimulator are starting to emerge but do not have the traffic of the vast established worlds like Second Life, There and Entropia Universe.

3. Micropayment Network
The third vital step in moving virtual worlds forward is the establishment of a micropayment network. The breadth and amount of activity could be substantial. The network would be like PayPal, spanning any and all gaming and virtual world platforms, and could also handle web-based and brick-and-mortar transactions. The regulatory hurdles are sizable particularly given the international dimension but one possibility could be harnessing the emerging cell phone payment networks for virtual world micropayments.