Ideas

Merging Social Networks

Social Software is the in thing these days. Among the sites mapping the social networks of Internet are Friendster, Tribe.net and LinkedIn. Following their success we have less known services such as Ryze, Everyone’s Connected, MeetUp and tons of others. It even seems they are running out of catchy domains with names like itsnotwhatyouknow popping up!

As for myself I’ve watched the development for a long time as I joined sixdegrees.com in 1997 or 1998. It was a different service then than it is now. Actually sixdegrees original patent is still a piece of the action in the race for the throne of the social software world.

Today I’m registered at several of those, but I only maintain my profile on one of them: LinkedIn. It’s simply too much trouble to maintain more than one and LinkedIn has served me fine in so far. But the whole point of this all is kind of lost with all these separate networks. Could there be a way to make these different networks interoperable, so I would only have to maintain one profile?
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Interesting Content Indicator

Every day I read a lot of news, articles and other information online. Most of it I read through a news aggregator (have tried a few, currently evaluating NewzCrawler), but I also visit a few websites regularly (that don’t have RSS feeds) and people send me interesting links via Instant Messaging or email.

The tips I receive from friends and Wetware readers and the links I find on my favorite blog sites tend to be the most interesting material. The reason is simple. These are hand picked links from people that share (or know) my interests. If I receive a link from a friend via IM, I will always read it. I know they wouldn’t “interrupt me” unless it was something that they knew I would find interesting.

With the sea of information out there, we will increasingly need better mechanisms to make sure that the interesting content “floats” to the surface and using some sort of collaborative filtering seems like a good approach. Obviously several such solutions have been attempted, but none of them has really done the job. Here’s my suggestion:
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The Lowest Integer Number not Found on the Web

A long time ago I heard about a funny paradox. The paradox was about the lowest integer number that was not special in any way. “Special numbers” were defined by certain rules. Even numbers were special, so were prime numbers, any multiple of 5, 2 in any power and any number with two digits alike. There may have been a few more, but they all made sense in the way that the numbers they defined somehow “felt” special.

Finally, the lowest number that was not special, is of course special for the very reason that it was the lowest number that was not special, so in turn we would have to look for another number that would be the lowest number that was not special and so on ad infinitum.

I don’t remember the source of this paradox, but I’m going to suggest another similar one. What is the lowest integer number that can not be found with Google? When you find one, you must post it on the web (e.g. in a comment to this post). It will then be indexed on Google and is no longer the lowest number that can not be found on Google, so that the hunt continues.
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The Needs and Rights of Humans and Robots

In the Wetware post last week on “A New Way to Fight Blog Comment Spam” I proposed methods that would prevent robots from posting comments. Kalsey commented that there are clear indications that many spam comments are actually posted manually, rather than by robots, rendering my proposed functionality obviously useless in these cases.

The day after Kalsey’s comment, I was reading a paper by Richard Gatarski called “Artificial Consumers: A Role for Computers as Subjects in Consumer-Related Marketing“. In the paper Richard makes convincing arguments that computers are in fact consumers in our world, as they – among other consumer characteristics – consume bandwidth, processing power and information and interact with humans and each other. Richard’s presentation slides give a quick overview of the main concepts.

These two accounts had me thinking about the role that robots play on the Internet. Even more than Richard I’m now not only convinced that robots should be considered consumers, but that they are arguable the most important consumers that visit many websites.
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A New Way to Fight Blog Comment Spam

Spam in blog comments has become a problem in the blogosphere lately. Bloggers have been busy manually deleting entries, blocking IP addresses and some people have come up with comment spam filters that use keywords and such in a similar way as spam filters do.

Now here’s a thought: Comments are sent using forms on web pages and these pages are controlled by the blog owners – right? This means it is radically different from email spam, where the sender’s only connection to the recipient is knowing (or guessing) his or her email address.

I believe a solution to the problem would be to require the sender to do something “uniquely human”, similar to the image identification methods used by many free email services to fight of robot registrations.
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When People are Cheaper than Technology

Technologically minded people tend to look for technological solutions to the problems they face. Naturally so, but every technological solution can be improved. There is always another solution, simpler and better than the current one. Most inventors will admit that they know a lot of ways to improve on their solutions – an optimization here a redesign there, etc. The solutions in use are comprimises between the optimal and the practical. Necessarily so, to keep down cost.

But the improvements the designers know about are usually still within the framework originally proposed by the inventor. He or she is too involved in the work to be able to see the big picture and think of a radically new way of attacking the problem. One often overlooked solution: Use people instead of a complex technological solution.
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Mapping the Networks of Business

Through the years, I’ve seen more “value chains” than I care to remember. “Where do you see yourselves in the value chain?”, is a VC question ranking up there with “Are you burning enough?” and “Would you people consider yourselves to be a [fill in the blank: infrastructure, content-only, aggregator, consolidator, etc.] company?” in a series that look even more amusing in hindsight than they did at the time (BTW. the correct answer to the last question is “Yes” regardless of everything. You’ll just have to find a way to rationalize it later on in the conversation.)

But in reality, there are no value chains. Every single company in the world is a part of the same, huge, value web. And it’s not only money that makes such connections, so does the flow of information and ideas, staff recruitments and mutual board members or financers.
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Google miner

Google is an extremely powerful tool. Don’t worry, I’m not joining the “Google is too powerful” debate, it’s outside Wetware’s scope anyway. But Google is more than just the simple text search. One of the brilliant things here being Google’s web APIs. That’s right; Google is allowing us – the nerd herd – to use its powerful search engine and database to make apps of our own.

I wish I had had the time to play around with this somewhat, but a lot of people have with very interesting results. See for example some of the clever Google hacks from Douwe Osinga. One of his projects, Google History, inspired the following idea for a information mining tool using the Google APIs…
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Grand Challenge: Journeys in Non-Classical Computation

The fourth and last review of Wetware related Grand Challenge proposals; we take a look at the ‘Journeys in Non-Classical Computation‘ project. This proposal differs from the rest of them in that it does not propose any direct goals, but rather journeys down some of the less traveled roads of computer science to see where they lead.

The proposal has a range of suggestions but in essence, it encourages computer scientists to take an out-of-the-box approach when seeking solutions for problems in computer science. This includes taking into account a lot of things that Wetware discusses, including: genetic algorithms, biomimickry, DNA computing, nanotechnology, chaos theory, quantum computing, fuzzy logic, cellular automata, parallel processing, artificial immune systems, evolving hardware and emergent properties.
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Grand Challenge: Architecture of Brain and Mind

Third in Wetware’s line of Grand Challenge reviews, we take a look at the ‘Architecture of Brain and Mind project‘ proposal.

This proposal, moderated by Mike Denham, Professor of Neural and Adaptive Systems at the University of Plymouth, draws from a number of similar original Grand Challenge submissions. The proposal is to create a computational architecture of the brain and mind on both neuronal and cognitive levels.
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