Thursday, September 22, 2005

An Evening with Ray Kurzweil

Ray Kurzweil
Originally uploaded by Richard Treadway.

This evening I attended the SD Forum Event "An Evening with Ray Kurzweil" at SAP in Palo Alto.

You can see my photos from the event here. You can get the slides from Kurzweil's presentation here.

Ray has a new book coming out soon called THE SINGULARITY IS NEAR - When Humans Transcend Biology.

Kurzweil's ideas are facinating and he is plugged into the center of so much innovation. Here are my main take aways.

Advancements in human intelligent thinking follow a straight line on a logarithmic plot. The first advance took hundreds of millions of years the last one took 10.

As advances are exponential, by 2013 computing power will surpass human intelligence and we will be able to model the human brain.

These advances happen incrementally and it won't become a human vs machine fight. The machines will be a part of intelligence - the assist we get from computers will become us. This is like all innovations that have changed us and become a part of everyday life. Computational power will be so small and available it will become part of our brain assisting our thinking in many ways.

If we can model human intelligence then we can separate our memory (software) from our brains (hardware). Just as you back up your data and programs and can move them to different processors you will be able to back up your memories, beliefs, and thoughts and load them into another brain. Wow imagine Douglas Adams idea of the "point of view gun" if we could load it with the real data.

The final thought... If we can live another 50 years then maybe we can live another 300.

Richard Treadway

Sunday, September 18, 2005

The Power of Tagging

I just read that BusinessWeek online selected as best of the web.

I discovered last year and have been using the service ever since. It really changes the way you view the web. As BusinessWeek points out tagging is one of the essential tools that make it possible to listen to the web as a conversation. Being able to see what people are reading and how they categorize it provides a wealth of information for brand managers.

Email and a browser are being replaced by the new tools of the trade:, PubSub and Bloglines.

The blogosphere conversation is based on a Publish and Subscribe model. The loose coupling of that model means that publishers and subscribers don't need to know anything about each other. If you find a blog you like you subscribe. The publisher doesn't need to know or take action to let you subscribe. The the power of the publish subscribe model is why RSS has become so popular. Before RSS the only way to get alerted when your favorite site was updated was to either check regularly (polling) or to sign-up for an email notification (asynchronous alert). As email has become spam infested, email alerts look like just more spam. Furthermore email is designed as a communication model where publishers and subscribers do need to know each other. With email the publisher owns the subscriber list making getting on and off the list problematic.

In the publish subscribe model tags can be created by both publishers and subscribers. Of the two alternatives the more useful to brand managers is subscriber based tags. The reason is that publisher based tags are completely susceptible to spammers. The best know tagging service, library of congress doesn't rely on the author to categorize its book. The library does it after careful analysis. As such tags (subscriber based) are infinitely more useful than Technorati tags (publisher based) for understanding what's being tracked in the blogosphere .

An interesting tag space where both publishers and subscribers meet is Flickr. I switched to Flick recently because I wanted to integrate my photos into my blogging. I had been using Webshots. Webshots uses a the photographic paradigm of "albums" to organize your pictures. With the album approach a given picture is in an album. With that approach you're left with the question, "should albums be organized by media, events, places or subjects"? The reason that Flickr tags are so useful is that the answer can be all four. For example this photo was tagged "SantaTeresaPark SanJose California Landscape Poppy NikonN90-Agfa 2003-03-15"

What you want from a photo organizing system is something that lets you find pictures at a later date no matter how you happen to remember them. Flickr tags do just that.

Here is the tagging system I use.

The interesting thing with Flickr is that subscribers can also tag your photos. This gives you the unique perspective of seeing how others categorize your pictures.

Richard Treadway

Friday, September 16, 2005

Viral Marketing

With blogs implementing the idea that the web can become a conversation, the concept of providing personalized badges that let you express your character are having visible viral effects. Well known examples include Flickr Zeigeist, Feedster top 500 and Bloglines shared subscriptions.

One such site I recently found is the Cyborg Name Generator. You choose your name and your graphic and it gives you the HTML code to insert into your blog. According to the creator Lore Sjöberg the details matter as he describes on his blog he made one small change and it really took off especially among live journal users.

Richard Treadway

Transforming Robotic Entity Assembled for Destruction, Warfare and Accurate Yelling

Thursday, September 01, 2005

I'm a Recovering Programmer

Car with 4 Steering Wheels

I'm a recovering programmer. It has been 785 days since I wrote code. I’ve learnt to deal with it. Now I'm in marketing.

I discovered a great blog the other day called Creating Passionate Users, by Kathy Sierra. Her post makes an insightful point - Programmers should get over their distain for marketers and realize they are marketers. Anyone who is passionate about their product is really a marketer.

As an engineer and programmer of 20 years I've crossed over to the dark side of marketing on numerous occasions to evangelize the products I’ve built. I never saw marketing and engineering as opposing camps but I personally know the pain of being mistrusted by the technical community. In a world where marketing is all too often driven by technology, telling a consistent simple story about complex enterprise software is a never ending challenge.

Complex enterprise software is like a car with 4 steering wheels - it can go anywhere, in circles, at a diagonal, sideways, and more... Wow, let me delight in the beauty of your design but it's still a bitch to drive and what is it really?

In the end creating passionate users is what it's all about and no product will be successful without the viral effects of that passion. Kathy has another great post explaining the dynamics of passionate users called the Koolaid point. You know you have arrived when you have as many people that passionately hate you as passionately love you.

Thanks Kathy for your insights and for such an entertaining blog.

Richard Treadway