Tag Archives: foldier

Data — or is it content? — bouncing around the blogosphere

Well, all the goings-on related to data this week have been exhilarating.  And exhausting.

Read Chris Saad, one of the founders of the DataPortability Project, for his personal take on the actions of the goliath players this week.

And thank you, David Recordon, for pointing your Twitter followers to Dan Farber's column about whether Google, MySpace and Facebook are really making their platforms more open.

As much as I'm an active laborer in the DataPortability Project, after reviewing the comments of a beta user in a startup, it hit me that I'm not satisfied that we know everything we need to know.

Aren't we taking it for granted that the mainstream Internet user wants an open ID that takes him from site to site — or the ability to move her data from one site to another?

And aren't we being just a little too tough on the goliaths? 

OK, maybe they are jumping on the data portability bandwagon purely to protect their market share.  But isn't it at all possible that there is something we can learn from how they choose to wade into these waters?

I know we're inventing marvelous ways to make things open and movable — shameless plug here for foldier — but it was one of foldier's beta testers that made me stop and remember that we really need to think about the user when we're inventing stuff.

"Privacy is a big deal – I read the terms of service for the sites I use, and if one said my data could go anywhere without my knowledge or consent – I don't care what the benefit; I'm not using it."

Maybe the goliaths know something we don't.

Then again, maybe they are eating Wall Street's dogfood by now.

Data portability has captured the attention of the tech world and is emerging as an area of interest in mainstream business.  For good reason — it's where technology and engineers have taken us so far.

Still, it's a good time for all of us to check our assumptions. 

And to be clear about what we really know.

Data portability, anyone?

As part of my work with foldier, we are volunteering with dataportability.org — a global group of technology industry people and companies dedicated to researching current standards for giving individuals control of their digital content/property.

When you visit the site, you'll see all the different aspects of portability that the industry must consider.  Our participation has been a real learning experience for me.

And since foldier is all about helping people manage their digital content, our participation is helping us to clarify the features we want to provide and emphasize on foldier.

Click here to read the February activity report — things should really start rolling, now that the collaboration platform is set.

Understanding clutter

A couple of posts ago, the topic was clutter and I said more was coming in the next post.  Then NEW YORK magazine did its issue on belt tightening, and I had to share that.  Back to clutter.

Until a little more than ten years ago, my work was in and around professional and financial services.  Helping to execute to brand messages, often helping to create them.

Then I decided to come out west to Silicon Valley.  Which meant a whole new layer of important clutter.  Namely, periodicals and books and newspapers.  I’ve always felt most comfortable walking into a project having done some secondary research and when possible, having had some conversations with people in the field.

Now that I’m in essentially two different fields, the amount of research I must do has exploded.  Since I’ve always been a structure nut, my world has imploded with the expanded reach afforded by the Internet.  While I’ve become expert at printing only when necessary and stuff is not piling up on my desk anymore — there is work material on different websites and in my laptop, scattered in every program.  I now read the newspapers online and live for my RSS feeds, delivered through my growing Netvibes account.  [They’re in beta — I hope I’m not taxing the servers.]

So when I came across the Unclutterer website and found this post on how to retain more of what I read, I jumped on it.  The post has some useful tips.

But I think the biggest change has come through my work with foldier, a startup in which I’m currently the only purely business-tasked person.  Everyone else is a technologist or computer scientist.  Besides liking it that way, foldier has introduced me to what I believe will be THE way for me to de-clutter my work life.

We’re in private beta, but I can tell you this:  foldier is going to be nirvana for three types of people.  [If you’re like me, you have a bit of each type in you.]  And I can say this because I didn’t invent it.

First, foldier makes it possible for me to collect my content from wherever it is on the Web or on my hard drive — simply by tagging it.  This means no more files, no more remembering where I put stuff, no more making multiple copies for multiple files.  I don’t even need a filing system.  If I’m looking for something on data portability, for example, I just search my foldier account under that phrase.  Everything I have on the topic pops up.

Second, foldier makes it possible for me to search my content under any word or phrase — whether or not I tagged it as such.  The technology is intelligent — it does its own tagging in addition to mine.  This means I might be able to find new subject matter in content I already have.

Third, foldier gives me a new way to share information with clients and friends.  Until foldier, the only way I could share important articles or news releases with clients was to send them the link in an email.  When we are in full public beta, I’ll be able to share any kind of file — video, blog post, newspaper, etc — comment on it and hear comments back.  And, foldier automatically adds it to my virtual filing system.  All in a few steps.

There is more — and it’s not just about aggregating, organizing and sharing.  However, that would be enough for me.  Because there is nothing like having command of all the information you think is essential to your work.  Except for maybe cleaning out a closet.

The problem with the semantic web: Semantics! The solution: foldier!

On November 19, VLAB, the MIT/Stanford venture lab, held a panel discussion on what was categorized as a Web 3.0 concept:  the semantic web.  It was excellent.  Thought provoking.  And between the audience and the panelists, the conversation could have lasted well into the evening.  [For Silicon Valley and nearby, this is a strong series on where technology, startups and the market intersect.  Sign up.]

The discussion was perfectly timed.  We’ve had a great deal of talk around here about the semantic web

It’s actually a new-century successor to the artificial intelligence topic that fascinated so many business and technology types in the 80s.  Nearly everyone on the panel agreed that the big difference between the semantic web and artificial intelligence — hence the Web 3.0 classification, I guess — is the impact of the Internet-as-a-platform on both the gathering and morphing of collective intelligence.

The scientists behind "the semantic web" moniker clearly value marketing.  To avoid putting people off with "artificial intelligence," they’ve decided to build interest in the topic by attaching themselves to social networking and online products and services the public is beginning to demand.

Also, to succeed, the scientists need good, old-fashioned traffic.  Because they need to gather the intelligence of the masses and track how they share content and change it.  Because the scientists must be able to manipulate the underlying data if they want to create a huge base of knowledge, or intelligence.  Since the Internet has opened a comprehensive, infinite number of knowledge exchanges, it is the perfect place to chase and capture content.  Today’s scientists know that the Internet is the promised land of intelligence.

Somebody has advised some of the semantic networks to adopt the
behavior and use patterns of Facebook and the like.  Employing marketing tactics targeted to the masses would be fine, except that when the masses get there, they find a serious science project suited — by design and interface — to what I call "high knowledge holders."

I’m actually pleased about this, because I’m working with a company that really does all the stuff the semantic networks understand people want.  And we do it in an accessible way.

Yes, we have a significant point of "competitive" differentiation.  But before I go there, I want to say first that the semantic thing is terrific for all of us, so I’ll catch a ride on their coattails any time.  The semantic scientists deserve praise, support and a lot of attention.  And we’re getting closer to clarity on the whole subject.  [Read this post by Richard McManus, linking to an article by Tim Berners-Lee.]

Eventually, our startup — foldier — will incorporate intelligent, or semantic web, technology.  But first, we’re focused on people and content.  It’s where we believe all of this intelligence, artificial or not, begins.  With people and what they’re reading and doing on the Internet.

For people to gain supreme command over their digital content, whether it’s on their own computers or all over the Web, we have to get in the habit of reaching beyond email programs, instant messaging and social networks to communicate … of using search to use and organize our own data … of thinking of the Internet as a distinctly separate entity.  To gain digital control, we have to integrate our digital actions and sources.  This requires sophisticated technology, yet you can’t lose sight of why you’re doing it:  for private individuals to use among themselves.  This has been foldier’s balancing act.

When the semantic web buzz heated up over the past few months, I would read what the semantics sites said they would do for people and shudder.  We had been keeping a fairly low profile at foldier as our programming team massaged the code, but we had come up with a description for what we’re doing.  Search.  Share.  Relate.  The semantics folks were using similar language.  Plus, they do have dough-re-mi.  That means sponsorships of high-visibility conferences and the like.  Lots of attention.

Since I’m big on differentiation, I began to dig underneath everyone’s market positioning to find what we are doing differently.  Here’s what I found. 

There is some wonderful technology in the wonderful world of semantics, but when you really read what some of the semantic scientists are saying, and when you see demos of their networks, there is a bit of a disconnect between the message and the functionality. 

The scientists are already aiming at the creation of a database that stores our collective intelligence.  They’re way beyond searching, sharing and relating one-on-one.  Note:  this is NOT deception on their part.  It’s semantics!

It may be that the marketing folks throw the messages at the scientists and since they sound good, the messages stick.  Or, the scientists really want their technology to do this stuff — but on the way to building that collective intelligence.

Foldier came from the opposite direction.  It was created purely to enable the founder, and now those of us in the company and our beta users, to search, collect [aggregate], organize and share our content — our digital stuff.  Our revenue model:  a new kind of advertising network.  Right now, though, we want to attract people to foldier so we can see how it works, make it better and entice investors who see that we have something here to offer to people and the advertisers that want to reach them.

We have a blog over at foldier, too.  We’re writing about the many aspects of personal digital content — and showing folks how they can use foldier, too.  I also have a guest essay on FoundRead.  More coming there, too.

The great thing is, foldier is pretty much what you make it.  How you use it.  Some people focus on sharing, others on aggregating and others on searching and organizing their content.  The latter is going to be my favorite, I think. 

On foldier, you can tag your items and never file them.  When you go back later to find an item, you just search by a tag or even just a word that’s in the item. 

For me, no more trying to remember which folder has that article on semantics in it.  Just search for semantics and find all the ways it’s being used this week!