Getting Gamed

There's a hole in GlobeAlive. It's in the rating system and needs a patch. The ratings are too easily gamed, so our search results aren't valid. We've mulled over several solutions. Kaolin, in an email to me, as well as a detailed analysis on LiveJournal, suggested that only members be allowed to rate experts. At the conference, Peter Jones of (temporarily down, so link might not go through yet), strongly suggested employing a p2p "web of trust" reputation system. Many others supported the web of trust solution, including Lee Doolan of Affero.

But Kaolin and I were making a distinction between member users and member experts. This might be a necessary distinction, but then again it might not. Presumably, most member users want to be found in some capacity, just as they want to be able to find other people. So as part of the member sign-up process, not only could they choose how they will find people in the GlobeAlive database, but how they themselves want to be found-- by what keywords, etc. If indeed we can eliminate the distinction, at least upon sign up, than the web of trust may be more complete, given that the member users get to participate. Furthermore, the member could also choose not to be on the listings. Just got an email from Kaolin. He thinks it may be more trouble than it's worth. So I'll continue to search for a solution. Suggestions welcome.

Conferences are Conversations

For me, anyway. The keynotes were terrific, but the conversations were what I'll remember a year from now.

Affero was there. Henri Poole, CEO, was kind enough to hang out with me by the Affero booth for the better part of an hour. He explained to me how Affero was positioning itself in the new gift economy of the web. He explained that when someone gives you something of value on the Web, whether it's access to their online book, art, blog, etc, something that you appreciate, you find yourself indebted to them. And Affero helps you pay them back, whether it's by contributing to their favorite charity, or contributing to them more directly. Either way, you get to rate them. It works mostly with authors at the moment. Their rating system is very attractive, and GlobeAlive is trying to learn from them. There may be some partnership possibilities. We talked about the social software alliance and how great it would be if we could have a single sign-in web. Partnerships would be made infinitely easier and one could come and go to Affero and GlobeAlive and all the other member (or perhaps non-member) communities on the web that you wanted. Also had a chance to talk to Lee Doolan, the Affero programmer, who taught me about the intracacies of "trust metrics," "the web of trust," "reputation systems" and really strengthened my awareness of the need for systems of trust on the web, and more specifically at GlobeAlive.

Also met Al Chang, who runs He was the one that told me about Affero and what they were doing. We were talking about the power that having the web at your fingertips wherever you are brings to conversation. As we talked he would surf the web to enhance the conversation. I mentioned GlobeAlive, he went there. I mentioned problems with our rating system, he went to Affero to help me find a solution. When I asked what he did, he mentioned, and went to the site. Having his live laptop right there enriched the conversation in a way that had never occured to me.

Speaking of laptops as conversation tools, I met Kevin Marks from Apple. As an amateur philosopher of science, I had lots of questions for him when I learned he studied physics at Cambridge. As we talked at a dinner party, he mentioned Wolram's theory of "computation." I didn't understand at first, so he reached below the dinner table and pulled out his apple laptop, pushed his plate aside and launched a program demonstrating Wolfram's idea. The idea fleshed out showed patterns of unpredictability that helped reconcile models of free will versus determinism and I realized there would be no hope of my understanding if he hadn't brought out his laptop and shown me. He suggested I read Wolfram's A New Kind of Science and The Blank Slate.


Here is the first example I've seen of someone seeing GlobeAlive as a synthesis of instant messaging, identity management and personal interest profiling. Thanks to Stuart Myles for the insight.

"Ambiguity is Good!"

I went with Blogger, I believe, because I found it first and it was easy to start. I may go to moveable type soon. It seems to offer more for prolific bloggers. But for beginners, as I still am, Blogger seems the easiest. Ev Williams, founder of Blogger, proved this to me at the Google booth at the ETCON conference. He setup Esther Dyson with a new blog in what seemed like two minutes. Here's a pic Doc took of the newborn blog. He also set me up with a more fully-featured blog and solved my Blogger issues with permalinks in a matter of seconds.

Interestingly enough, looks like Esther's very active with her 48-hour old blog. Already she's blogged a philosophical breakfast she had with David Weinberger, who I met for the first time at the conference. In the blogged breakfast, Weinberger starts out "Ambiguity is good!" Wish I could have met Esther for more than the split-second at the Google booth. Weinberger was a fascination.

Social Software Getting Press

Looks like the buzz is getting around about social software. Nice to know that GlobeAlive is being associated with them. Didn't know we were on the SocialText mailing list, but glad to be. Looks like Cogworks found us there and checked us out.

Social Search

Ross Mayfield of SocialText, who I met at the conference, used the term "social search" when I mentioned GlobeAlive. I asked if I could use that term, because it's exactly the idea and he was fine with that. I'm thinking of integrating the term into the language of the site.

The Technorati Phenom

When I first saw Technorati, I thought it was a household name site, since there was so much talk about it and it was such an ingenious method. Turns out it just got started just a few months ago, but David Sifry, founder, told me at the conference traffic doubled last month. Really down-to-earth, authentic guy. Very vocal at the social software BoF. He didn't want us to talk too much about the project, but to get it started now, start doing it now. His urgency was contagious.

Kaolin has a Blog

I just suggested Kaolin, the GlobeAlive programmer and part-owner, start a blog. He replies that he's had one for two years. Here it is. I'm going to go check it out.

Real People Genius

There was a lot of genius at the conference. But mostly, these guys were real. I can only remember one guy in a suit, and he really stuck out. People wore whatever, and just said what was on their minds, which was a lot, and that was the idea. Part of my fear going was that no one would talk to me because I didn't know anyone. But that didn't happen, the opposite happened. Everyone wants to know what you're all about, what's your idea. And I like that.

I got to have real conversations without about 10 people, but that was perfect.

All about ETCON

Christian Vladimir talks about the conference. So many are talking about Clay Shirky's keynote, including Christian, that I really regret not being there for the whole thing. I think I was there for five random minutes of it. Marc Canter was really taken by it. And I'm sure what he had to say, based on what I'm reading, has implications for the SSA.

The Social Software Alliance BOF

Possibly the most exciting hour or two for me at the conference was spent in the Social Software Alliance group. Mitch talks about it. I agree that hype or no hype, it's probably a good thing.

The strange thing about it was that there seemed to be no substantial agreements made, no consensus, no breakthroughs. I know of one person who even slept through part of it. What I found striking was actually not what was said, or any progress that was made, but the feeling that I had, and that hopefully some others had, that they were in the presence of something brewing, something still nebulous but that would be profound once concrete. I can't remember who it was, but someone made reference to the Manhatten Project. The reference was actually something of an attack, and the attack, I felt, and most others did too it seemed, was absolutely silly. Moreover, I don't think anything scary would come out of the whole thing, so the connotations of the reference should be categorically discarded. At the same time, the feeling of magnitude of what everyone is hoping to build is something that seemed very real in the room. I hope GlobeAlive can participate, and can't wait to see what comes out of this.

The most vocal were probably Marc Canter and David Sifry. I'll have to check the wiki. One guy got passionate: "we've only got one chance at this, let's not fuck it up!" Well, many people got passionate, can't find the bof online right now though, so can't go through the people, although I'd like to. Anyone have a commentary/transcript on the bof?

The Big ETCON Blogathon

The O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference is just wrapping up today. Heavily blogged, and rightfully so. Laptops, mostly macs, filled the conference rooms and people were blogging and wikiblogging the events and quotes as they happened. Live blogging, really. The ETCON gave me a chance to keep quiet and listen to people much smarter than I'll ever be. Here's Doc's initial link list.

"Open Source Never Had a Meeting"

Britt talks about why meetings are more problem than solution, and why. His actual quote is "Do you suppose that explains the success of Open Source? It's a huge operation that never holds a meeting."


Cop Sees the Light

Two days ago the King County Sherrif pulled me over and gave me a ticket for going 30 in a 25. Then at 7am yesterday morning I get a call that wakes me up. It's the sherrif. He says he feels bad about the ticket and says he's not going to submit it, and tells me not to pay. "I really feel kind of weird about it," he says, "it was kind of an arbitrary ticket. Sorry about that. My bad." Or something to that effect. I hope this man teaches at the police academy.


XpertWeb Explained

Here's a solid technical and practical description of XpertWeb, Britt Blaser's emerging enterprise.

What's the Web For?

Doc talks about The World Live Web, an idea largely inspired by Cluetrain and his "markets are conversations" thesis:
I've become convinced, just in the last few days, that we've been limited in our understanding of the Web, and of the Net, by the real estate metaphors we use to make sense of it: site, address, location, home, delivery... Even commons. Those are all necessary yet insufficient to a full understanding of what the Web is for.

Yes, the Web is a place. Sure. But what do we do there? Is it just a place to put up sites? A place where we store and forward messages and publications to each other? Or is it a place where life happens? Is it a place where we can truly live?
The World Live Web first came to me as a one-liner from Allen when he was describing GlobeAlive (an idea he'd developed over the last two years without me knowing a durn thing about it). The idea of a search engine that would let you find people rather than sites — real human beings and not just their addresses — at first seemed audacious in the extreme.

But then I thought about the centrality of search to everything we do — not just on the Web but in life (from white pages to directories in the lobbies of high rises). And I thought about how the concept of a live Web brought together a whole pile of allied concerns and development efforts: digital identity, instant messaging and presence, markets for expertise, syndication, mobile messaging, social computing, P2P, directory and metadirectory services, strip mall infomediaries, weblogs... It put all these emerging technologies in a single new perspective: a live one. (Even if a lot of what happens is archived or stored and forwarded.)

XpertWeb & the Reputation Engine

Britt Blaser , founder of XpertWeb, blogs about his new partner Kulikauskas Andrius, who is working on a reputation engine and "web or references" running on "kindwords." Britt likes the idea, but emphasizes the importance of a required rating system over and above a reputation engine:
If I'm looking for a Java programmer for a particular solution, and I need it by Tuesday, how do I use the accumulated kindword entries to find the perfect programmer? I want the kind words, of course, but I need quantitative ratings and average rating reports and numerical comparisons that act as pointers to help me get to the these little blocks of text. All of that info might be available elsewhere, but surely it will be captured on the site of the person with the reputation, (or in an RSS feed) so, that I can click on a link to an order form as soon as I'm satisfied that I've found what I need. The Xpertweb approach is to require the buyer to provide the kind (or not) words and a number grade (01-99%). Then we can look at all the Java programmers who have sold n or more tasks involving, for example, graphic representation of numerical data.


The Simplest System

If The World Live Web were to reduce itself to its core conceptual foundation, the searchable live database, it would look something like this: To sign up, experts/participants would state their keywords and their handles for one or more instant messengers, or any other contact information. Users would run a search and all experts/participants who signed up for that keyword/phrase would show up in the results. Beside their listing would be their handles at various IMs, contact information, etc. The user would then have to plug that information into their own instant messenger, or make the phone call, etc.

The advantage to GA is obvious-- no chat software to create. The problem with this idea is that it's not anonymous, there is no rating system, it requires more work on the user's side and once the user and expert/participant connect, they no longer need GA and will bypass the engine in the future. So right now I feel that road is probably a dead end, but still fascinating in its simplicity.


GlobeAlive may have something to learn from the Principle Of Good Enough, found at Doc's blog and commented on here. Mainly it appears to apply to protocols, but certainly could be applied to The World Live Web as a whole. We are constantly considering ways to add-value to the system, but we need to approach tantalizing new features with caution. The value is really in the "live search engine." Everything else has been done. So if we start adding live cams and white boards, push-paging, file-sharing, and so on ad infinitum, we run the risk of obscuring the invention in value-added features.

Ideally, GA is the live engine, and everything else is left to the parties on either side, who can use their messengers to interact any way they please, with the cams and IMenvironments and so on.

On the other hand, unless the model is changed, The World Live Web is still responsible for both the quality of the listings and the user's experience, so for now we still need to look for the point of diminishing returns when it comes to features that will entice experts/participants to add and keep their live listings, as well as entice users to prefer GA over conventional search engines.


Scott Knowles suggested I post the following question on my blog:
"How can p2p file sharing translate to GlobeAlive?"
Any takers? Scott likes the decentralized aspect of Gnutella. I'd never heard of them and will be sure to check them out.

I have just had a look, and it' s a very interesting concept. File sharing is certainly part of the long-term GA model, but I always assumed it would just be a natural extension of the instant messenger interaction, such as the "Send File" button on Yahoo messenger. But perhaps there is far more to it. Gnutella is anonymous, for one, which is a difference they emphasize.

Jish is Back

Jish is back blogging again and has helped me with my blog problems via Doc.