LeWeb10 and the curation topic

December 13th, 2010

Looks like curation has been one of the keyword of LeWeb10.

Exactly one year after Pearltrees beta release, the activity we used to call human organization of the Web has not only find its word but also its way. Sure, Pearltrees is steadily growing, reaching 100.000 uniques and more. But it goes far beyond that: masses of new startups are quickly populating the curation field. Bloggers, thinkers and journalist begin to frame, to question, to define the curation topic.

Outside the circles of early adopters, people “get it” even quicker. A very deep human need support the development of curation: the need to give a meaning to its own world, to keep at hand, organize and share the stuff one likes. It looks like LeWeb10 was the time and place where a critical mass of internet professionals realized it.

What’s more on LeWeb? Is that all, folks?

Hell, no. So much more happened at LeWeb, so many talks, stories, meetings, ideas… So many stuff that it would require a whole team, just to collect, organize and share the thousands of small events which made up the larger one. Well, I guess you got it, it has required a team of curators to do it properly…

… so here is their great pearltree!

Web visionnaries

August 26th, 2010

Web visionaries

Why should you start-up?

May 24th, 2010

“Wondering whether I should go?”, “should I launch my own business?”, “yeah, will definitely do it… one day”. All those familiar questions revolve around a single core question : “why should you / we / I start-up?” and its old companion “what will happen when I get there?”.

I get so much answers to this question everyday. Some old answers just stick there again and again. Some new ones, sometimes even greater ones, continue to flow after several years as an entrepreneur. In fact, there are so much answers to those simple questions that I would not capture them in a blog post…

Better share my main resources on the topic, the one I preciously curated for month. Not only the why, but the how, the high level answers and the small details, all of which make the bread and butter of an entrepreneur:

The Apple vs Flash Controversy

April 30th, 2010

Looks like the controversy turned into a real fight between the two companies. Steve Jobs is now trying to give it a new spin. Is Apple fighting for its interests only, or is it also aiming to make the Web a better and more innovative place?

You may find a couple of answers in the following pearltree…

The Web’s third frontier

March 11th, 2010

Everyone realizes that the web is entering a new phase in its development.

One indication of this transition is the proliferation of attempts to explain the changes that are occurring. Functional explanations emphasize the real time web, collaborative systems and location-based services. Technical explanations argue that the interconnectivity of data is the most significant current development. They consider the web’s new frontiers to be closely related to the semantic web or the “web of things”.

Although these explanations are both pertinent and intriguing, none of them offers an analytical matrix for assessing the developments that are now underway. Some ideas are too specific. The “real time web,” for example, is one of the clearest and most influential trends right now. But once this observation has been made, it provides no insights into the usefulness and impact of the “real time web,” or, more importantly, how it fits into the web’s overall development.

In contrast, other explanations are far too broad to serve any useful purpose. The “Web 2.0″ concept, despite its limitations, demonstrates the relationship among innovations as varied as Wikipedia, You-Tube and blogs. Web 2.0 serves to summarize a stage in the web’s development. The expression “Web Squared,” sometimes used for the next phase, incorporates a heterogeneous grouping of functionalities and uses. It does not facilitate an understanding of the nature of the changes that are occurring, and thus does not allow us to infer their actual impact.

How can the web’s development be understood?

The web represents a compendium of technical resources, functionalities and usage practices, and it cannot be reduced to just one of these dimensions. The success of technical innovations hinges on the ecosystem of existing products. The development of products is tied to changes in usage patterns. Usage patterns in turn only develop based on technologies and products.

The development of the web thus does not arise from technologies, products or usage patterns alone. Each of these dimensions is inextricably intertwined with the other two, and innovations affecting one can have a decisive effect on the others. The web’s development no longer depends on the isolated efforts of an individual, company or organization. Even the largest industrial groups, as well as still larger government entities, have only a marginal influence when the issue is coordinating the multitude of people and things that constitute the web.

If the development of the web cannot be directly attributed to technologies, products or usage patterns, and if it cannot be reduced to the efforts of a small, identifiable group, how can we hope to understand where it is going? More precisely, how can we establish a simple model that will serve some practical purpose?

In fact, it is the decentralized nature of the web and the infinite diversity of the projects developing on it that allow us to answer this question. The web has no central management or external regulations, and it lacks internal rules – or, more precisely, it operates under numerous rules, none of which is uniformly applied. The only ideas that are truly capable of coordinating the activities of the web are its own founding principles.

The founding principles

These principles are simply the initial objectives that Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Caillau stated for their project. Eliminating technical jargon, these objectives can be broken down into three general, universally applicable propositions:

1-    Allow anyone to access any type of document

2-    Allow everyone to disseminate their own documents

3-    Allow everyone to organize the entire collection of documents

These concepts guided the development of the technologies, functionalities and uses at the origin of the web, which was initially made available to CERN scientists and subsequently to related research communities.

Due to the limited number of initial users, and the very specialized population to which they belonged, the original web had a property that has never recurred since: every user at that time had sufficient technological competence to access and create documents, and, using HTML programming, could participate in the organization of the entire collection of documents. Every user was a reader, creator and organizer, in accordance with the three founding principles.

The web, initially a micro-democracy where everyone had access to all aspects of the medium, charted the course for its own development and established its long-term direction. Its objective as a project was clearly defined: to allow all users to become complete media, i.e., able to read, create and organize the collection of documents they desired.

The objective was both grandiose and straightforward. Grandiose because the goal was the complete democratization of the medium’s activities. Straightforward because the utopia offered to all was actually already a reality for a small group of pioneers. The founding principles were thus the basis for the web’s system of regulation and development.

The web became a universal open source project without an acknowledged leader, comparable to what was to become Wikipedia, although on a different scale. Its founding principles facilitated the integration of innovations into the ecosystem. They naturally fostered innovations that corresponded to those principles, while automatically restricting others, thus providing sustained direction for the development of the entire project.

The two initial phases of growth

Let us now consider the twenty years that have elapsed since the web of those pioneer days; we will see that these founding principles not only assured the cohesiveness of the entire project, but also structured its phases of development.

The principle of “allowing anyone to access any document” established the web’s first frontier and gave direction to its initial stage of development. For the most part, this phase ran from 1994-95 until 2003-2004. It corresponded to the massive development of a pyramidal web, with a small number of players creating, organizing and disseminating content, which was consumed by the majority. Portals and search engines were the key products at this stage; HTML and PHP were the main technologies; accessing information was the primary use. It is worth noting that this model still applies to most current web activity, and it continues to grow at the same pace as the internet.

The second phase of web expansion began in 2000-2002, driven by projects such as Blogger, MySpace and, later, Wikipedia. Soon identified as a major turning point, Web 2.0 simply represents the popularization of the second founding principle: “allowing everyone to disseminate their own documents.” Technologies such as AJAX and RSS will make creation and distribution functionalities, which were formerly reserved only for developers, available to a very broad audience. A vast array of programs allows everyone to post all kinds of content on line. The early web’s success and the strength of the entire project are finally allowing related uses to expand on a massive scale. Blogs, social networks, and wikis are becoming icons of the democratization of speech and open debate.

Today, it is estimated that the participative web community is accessed by 200 to 300 million people daily. In its turn, the web’s second founding principle has also extended beyond the small circle of original pioneers to transform the usage patterns of a broad audience. Technologies, products and functionality modes are now well established so that web participation will gradually become available to everyone. Its continuing development does not require any further radical innovation and will continue naturally over coming years.

The third frontier

As briefly summarized above, the first two phases make it very clear where the web’s next frontier lies. Although an abundance of innovations and new applications are extending already established product types, one of the web project’s three components, “allowing everyone to organize the collection of documents,” is still far from reaching a broad audience.

Has it not been observed that the HTML language, the essential link in the web’s technological fabric, the technical vehicle for the third principle, is both the most significant contributor to the availability of the web and the one that is least changed from its original technical form? That the creation of hyperlinks, which interconnect the web’s actual structure and site architecture and act as the departure point for search engines, remains complex, very remote from day-to-day activities, and ill-adapted to the multitude of uses that could develop from it?

Now that the web allows everyone to read and disseminate everything, it should also allow everyone to do what its first users were always able to do, the feature that lies at the heart of its radical originality: organize everything. The web’s ecosystem should progressively build technologies, invent products, and develop methods of usage that will allow everyone to manipulate content created by others, gather material, edit it, prioritize it and give it meaning. The web should allow everyone to become a complete medium.

Are we talking about a wish? A bet? A hypothetical future? It is really much more. If the practical directions for the future of a system as complex as the web are to be mapped out, they would have to be organized around the only coordinating points possible among players who are too diverse and numerous to coordinate the situation themselves. They must be based on the only elements that are universally shared: the project’s founding principles.

To state that the next step in the web’s development is the democratization of the capacity to organize is simply to state that this is the only one of the web’s three initial DNA strands that has not achieved the level of development achieved by the other two. Thus we can correctly speak of the project’s next frontier.

Toward a complete web

If this is the case, now that the successive developments of the first and second principles are assured, could we not speculate that innovative techniques, products and uses will now converge in the direction of this new frontier we are anticipating? This development is actually occurring before our eyes: the web’s third phase is already underway.

Conditions, needs, and capabilities have aligned so that the web’s third principle is now reaching out beyond the small, original group of professionals and pioneers.

Among users, social networks are now making instantaneous exchange of content possible. Almost 20% of tweets sent contain URLs. Facebook puts sharing links at the top of its hierarchy of functions. For many web enthusiasts, reading content provided by a community is replacing information from automated aggregators.

On the technological front, collaborative systems and the “real time web” allow everyone to coordinate their views with various communities, organizing data as it is received. The trend toward opening up data and semantic technologies is broadening both the web’s basic organizational structure and the means of accessing it. Rich interfaces offer ways to radically simplify editing and organizational activities so that every user can manipulate complex data in a way that is intuitive, entertaining and natural.

In the area of products and functionalities, web giants, as well as the most advanced startups, are gradually pointing toward a user-organized web. What are Google’s latest innovations? A system of open collaboration, Wave; a system for public discussion on the entire content of the web, SideWiki; and the opening of its search engine to explicit opinions and grading from its users.

Furthermore, the organization of the web by its users will soon call into question the hierarchical, automatic model for search engines. Wikia was the first significant attempt to develop a search engine using a collaborative algorithm. Mahalo is now enhancing the human side of search engines by orchestrating questions from user to user. Pearltrees, which is specifically described as a network of interests, allows its community members to organize, connect and easily locate all the content of interest to them. Foursquare, in contrast to earlier localization systems, applies not to people but to things: on this network, players acting together can organize all the places they regularly visit.

The technologies, products and uses originated in the first and second phases will not disappear. On the contrary, the next phase will combine the three principles that are the basis of the web’s history and originality: each user will be a spectator, a creator and an organizer.

The Web will thus become for everyone what it once was for only a happy few: a medium that is complete, democratic and democratized.

How does its community use Pearltrees?

April 14th, 2009

With the development of its core communities, the main uses of Pearltrees are emerging.

I will regularly discuss the various innovations Pearltrees users bring to the community: I expect them to surprise us a lot, to find new ways of using the tools, to trigger the development of new key functionalities, and of course to disappoint us sometimes… In one word to make Pearltrees platform their very own place and Pearltrees vision their very own project.

For now on, three main usages are emerging, which structure day-to-day life in Pearltrees:

1- Using Pearltrees to organize one’s Web.

Users collect new content while navigating. They progressively build their maps, modify them, group and ungroup then to retrieve their contents of interest. Is it still bookmarking? Probably much more than this: by building content maps and putting then in other maps, users deal with much more contents than in traditional bookmarking services. In few weeks, some users put thousands of pages in their account while still making the maps understandable. With Pearltrees, a content is no more a carefully picked website : it is an element of a broader story.

2- Using Pearltrees to communicate.

Becoming a communication tool is one of Pearltrees’ core objectives, and many users have indeed began to use Pearltrees’ maps to communicate. Thanks to their maps, they guide their friends or readers through the Web, support their points, report and summarize discussions… They progressively demonstrate the power of maps to broadcast simple and complex stories, thus truly becoming a Web editor community.

3- Using Pearltrees to discover new horizons on the Web.

This is the less obvious and maybe the less widespread of the three main usage yet. As the collective map of Pearltrees, it may nonetheless become the most powerful. Certain parts of Pearltrees are already dense enough, so users can jump from their maps to other interesting maps that cross then, find interesting contents, and continue to jump from map to other maps, either discovering more on the same topic or finding related but completely different themes. They are navigating the interest graph which is the very nature of Pearltrees.

Something else? Well you may have notice a few stuffs on the right column. It is now possible to embedd your maps on a site or a blog. You just need to clik on the pearl to see and navigate those maps. You just need to use the “share” tab of a pearl’s window to get the embedd code and export your Web on your blog or website….

… and a first step toward living maps as a fully open communication format.

Pealtrees is open!

March 6th, 2009

Pearltrees alpha has just been released a week ago.

For sure, it is only a first step toward the large community of Web editors I was trying to describe in the last post. It is only a first step, but in my opinion, it is truly a step.

A couple of hundreds users are now building their own Web. It can be a funny, usefull or thoughtfull Web, about the present or about the past. It just looks like those who are building it: their tastes, their values and their striking diversity.

I will often discuss the large living map made of each individual map in the future: both its meaning and the way it may contribute to the Web. However, since pearltrees has just opened, since it is now there, ready to be used, I will first talk about its immediate benefit for you: I mean a pionnering pearltrees user.

There are 3 things you might immediately get in pearltrees:

1- Organize the map of your Web.

By using peartrees’ plugin, you will turn your navigations into content maps. Drawing a map enable you to store and find back much more content than traditional bookmarks, to organize them much quicker (you don’t need to tag them, just to put them in the order you like) and to use them much more intuitively. When you want to know where you are in real life you use rather a map than a list. Your mind work just the same way on-line. That’s the reason why pealrtrees will help you organize your web much more efficiently than bookmarks.

2- Guide your friends and readers through your Web.

By sharing your maps with your friends or your site audience, you will guide them through your Web navigations. Do you want to relate a discussion across blogs, comments and news-sites? Do you want to tell what happened, who answered what to who? Do you want to prepare a trip, to tell where you will go, what you will see, how to buy tickets in order to help a friend to come with you? Do you want to lead someone to a series of funny videos or through breaking news events? You can do all this just by sending a content map and letting people play this map.

3- Let yourself be guided through the Web

By playing the map of other pearltrees’ users, you will browse the Web in an entirely different way : not randomly, not through search engines, but by following a path organized by someone. You will discover the Web as if this someone was guiding you. It will not be the average someone actually, rather someone who know it, someone who has something to tell about it, or just someone who will likes it. By going from guide to guide, from map to map, you will discover an entirely new, humanly edited Web…

… An edited web I can only invite you to contribute to!

The community of Web editors

February 25th, 2009

You would probably have guessed from a previous post that Pearltrees aim is to fill a gap of web democratization : the edition of the web by and for the users of the web.

Pearltrees wants to build the participative community of web editors.

Why such a community? Because the number of contents available on the web goes far beyond the edition capability of any individual. Only a large community would be able to manage them properly.

Why participative ? Because we want to move from content aggregation to content edition. An aggregation is never as meaninful as a real edition: it dilutes the specific value of the individual voices. Participation  means much more than vote, or bookmark, it means giving a specific meaning, that may be discussed but not averaged by other participations.

Moreover, why should we work on a specific project? Why not to continue to use the existing platforms? Wont’ they already help us to be editors? Why should one single initiative gather an almost- infinite number of points of view?

To answer these questions is key.

They are two complementary dimensions in social medias: the diversity of contributions on the one hand, and the uniformity of formats on the other hand.

Wikipedia was born from the diversity of wikipedians but would not exit if not vehiculated inside the same wiki format. Youtube has an extreme variety of video contents but a single downloading and sharing process. Bloggers are all different in the way they contribute to the blogosphere, but they are all using very similar platforms and discussion rules.

There is a real taste for editing the web today. We all know blog posts only made of links to other post, twiterers that mainly retwitt, or link-based plateforms. Those are web editions already!

The only reason why a real open and participative editors community does not exist yet is the lack of a common editor format.

The ambition of Pearltrees is simply to provide this common format.

The missing link to Web democratization

February 15th, 2009

While the development of content creation, sharing and discussion sites has radically transformed the practice of Web users, it has not led to the democratization of access to this content.

Search engines and major portals still guide and direct users – rather than Web users themselves. Social bookmarking sites and other voting systems do not resolve this issue. By aggregating individual views rather than extracting specificities, they produce the same kind of results as the search engines.

This imbalance between democratic content creation and centralized access to content poses one of the main barriers to the development of the Web. It has two parallel effects:

-        As spectators, Web users cannot find their way through the mass of content that is of interest to them

-        As creators, Web users are obliged to engage in disseminating and referencing activities, far removed from their real interests, if they want to attract the audience their content deserves.

In practice, therefore, the Web’s democratization potential remains unfulfilled.

There is one missing link to a fully participative Web: user’s ability to guide and direct other users through their own Web.

The pace of media revolutions

February 13th, 2009

There were only three types of medias across history:

1 – Media where discussion was driven by a project. They are basically the organizations, such as schools, churches, armies, political institutions …

2 – Media where discussion was driven by a small group of people. They are the hierarchical medias which have appeared since the print revolution: printed books, newspapers, cinema, radio, televisions, …

3 – Media where discussion was driven by the community of users : the internet, social medias, web-based social apps…

The first category has always been there. The second grew a couple of centuries ago. The third exists for decades at best. If the development of radicaly new media types was continuing at this pace, wouldn’t we be close to a new media revolution?

Thanks to Barberousse