Saturday, October 03, 2009

How to cheat the beaters!

Somewhere in the Netherlands, there's a group of teenagers having fun on Monopoly City Streets. Something special about this? There are thousands of people having fun out there. There are also thousands of people who don't have fun anymore on Monopoly City Streets. Many have quit playing because all the hours spent on the game were devastated by groups of rampart teenagers like this one.

They play in gangs, handling multiple accounts and moving in on serious players. They have fun in destroying other players. It's a group of 4 to 5 players who have multiple accounts:

There is:
  1. Janneke (accounts Jannek1 to Janneke9)
  2. WZ (accounts WZ1 to WZ9)
  3. Alenka (accounts Alenka1 to Alenka9)
  4. Woody (accounts Woodski, Woodsky6 and Woodyho and probably a few others)
  5. Bl0ggertje (Account Bl0ggertje -with a zero) and Bloggertje1 to Bloggertje9)

Mind that last one, the main account is Bl0ggertje with a zero, Bloggertje with an ooh is my account! Everyday at least 20 attacks by these accounts landed on my streets. Of course, I've got another account with which I still am going strong in the game, but I've kept this one off their radar. Today I was doubting. Should I stop with this account or not? It is frustrating to work with this account everyday just to clean up the hazards and build new parks. Sometimes even selling houses just to get another chance card...

Well, today is not a good day to die. I sold every street 'Bloggertje' still owned and bought me a nice 3 Million dollar street in the middle of Oklahoma. Armed with 7 Million dollar to build and an autobuild script I set to work, cuz today is Payback Day!

I speedbuilt 140 green houses and received a stunning load of chance cards and went back to taking on all of these accounts. Mind you, in Monopoly City Streets a rampant account has an enormous destructive power. With just 10 million dollar to spend I've managed to wreck over a billion worth of streets. Here's some of today's harvest:

I really must say, I've refound the joy in the game. The sole purpose of keeping this account alive is to strike back and let them experience what they are doing to others. Anyone in for game?

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Your Guide to Monopoly City Streets

It's that time of year again when the days shorten and the evenings are covered in darkness. Curtains drawn and the lights on. It's weekend and the kids are finishing washing the dishes. Now the table is clear and we get out that famous old square boardgame: Monopoly by Parker Brothers. A sure guarantee for long hours of family entertainment.

At least, that's what it was when I grew up. Especially during the long winternights we spent hours of playing games (when there was no homework to do), so when Hasbro launched Monopoly City Streets, its online version of the game September 9, it was perfect timing. It's game on!

However, it turned out to be a little more complicated to get that old 'family entertainment' thing into the gameplay. This is what I'll cover in this article. For a basic howto of the game you can check out tons of websites, ranging from this blog to the respectable Mashable.

Monopoly City Streets - first release

The online game released by Hasbro was a massively multiplyer online game (mmo) in which the classic boardgame was set up on a worldwide scale using Google Maps technology. As a player you could buy every street in the world and earn rent, buy complete cities and turn into a real estate mogul.

The burdens of success

Monopoly City Streets was a big success from the start. Hasbro and their agency Tribal DDB must have been overtaken by surprise. They were handling pure gold, and that's where the danger is. Least of their worries would have been that the servers strained under the onrush of real estate brokers worldwide. Servers are pretty easily upscaled these days. No, the danger was in cheating.

It didn't take long for Hasbro to reset the game, which happened on September 17th. There have been a number of adjustments to the game, but those did not solve the cheating problem.

Hasbro has taken hardly any precaution to making the game cheat-proof. The terms and conditions do not specifically mention it is prohibited to creating multiple accounts and their is no email verification on creating an account. More specifically, they have said to allow up to five accounts per pc! The reason for doing so is that they want Monopoly to be a family game, the way it should be. Sadly, that is a little naive. Extremely sad, as cheaters are now ruining the game for tons of sincere monopoly-loving gamers like me. I know several pretty fanatic gamers who can stand a bit of trouble having given up on the game as it is almost impossible to beat the cheaters, but I will tell you how!

So as it is possible to have multiple accounts, what happens? Tons of frustrated teenagers sit down behinbd their computer and create dozens of accounts and start nagging people by making their streets worthless by destroying bonus buildings and building hazards like prisons, sewers and plants on your streets. One of my accounts was spammed severely by cheaters as well. Here's a little naming and shaming:

The bizarre part here is that my account is called bloggertje and that it got spammed by another account called bloggertje. So apparently, it is possible that an account name is registered more than once!

This particular account is now worthless, I don't get any rents on these streets, as it got spammed by bloggertje (and his doubles), janneke (and her doubles), WZ2 (and his doubles) and so on. I have reported the names to Monopoly, but although they promised to take action on the cheaters, no news so far. They are still active.

Fortunately, not everyone is hampered by these multiple accounts. I have three accounts myself (now four, as I started a new one to prove my theory, so still under the 5 per pc rule). I have noted they are regions in which the nasty little critters are more active. I had two accounts in my hometown, Ede, Gelderland, and both were severely attacked by these spammers. I have an account somewhere else, and that hardly got spammed, even if it did grow bigger in the shadows. So here's how to beat them!

How to beat the cheaters!

Before the cheaters can target you, you have to be noted. If you're a bit serious and have bought some good streets, there's a good chance that you'll turn up in the local top 10. If you're unlucky like me and tons of other players, you're in an active cheating region and you get attacked pretty bad as they see your name appear on the leaderboard. If you're very good, you'll end up in the National or Worldwide rankings, but that's probably far off.... Although, with my prime playing account I'm just under the national top 10 at 450M$ without cheating!

Which roads to buy

The trick to grow and avoid being noted is to stay below the radar, and here's how you do it. Many of us have the urge to start in our own hometowns, like I did. The Netherlands is crowded with early adapters. A lot of players and cheaters live here, so towns get crowded fast and good streets are hard to find.

Especially in the Netherlands, but probably in the US and UK there are tons of small and cheap streets in the towns, but you have to stay away from streets below 1 Million M$. Streets prices 1M$ and up give you a return of 100% on the investment for the cheap houses. A 50K$ house will bring a 50K$ rent. Cheaper streets will have lower returns.


Just after the reset, it exponentially grew on the other end as well, so a 50K$ house on a 6M$ street would give a rent of say 250K$, but that's off now, sadly as it made quite a few good bucks. One of the changes during the reset was the introduction of taxes, which means the more streets you have, the more taxation you'll get. First 5 streets are free, every other gets billed 3% in taxes, meaning if you have over 38 streets you will have no income.

The long and winding road

So the trick is to find the longest road possible and build as many houses as possible on say just 5 to 10 streets, without being noted! And that's what you see happening with the top Dutch players as well. On the leaderboard below, each of these top players has one or more long streets somewhere in Australia or Canada which are way less populated and have longer distances to cover than in the Netherlands.

NOTE: To find long roads the best chance you'll have is to find one in big, scarcely populated countries, such as Canada, Australia or in Africa. However, please note that quite often only the major roads, Highways and such are up for sale here. Lots of city streets are just not covered by the game in these areas.

And that's still possible! But you have to...

Stay below the radar

This will take some time, but scroll over the world map to lowly populated areas and look for a good street. As you start with only 3M$ (3 million monopoly dollars) you have to find a street prices just a little over 1M$ to get the best return and still have money to start building the street. There are still pretty good streets out there, just like the one below, which is priced 6M$. If you find one like this and it's still available, keep close tabs on it!

If you zoom out one level you will see 'for sale' signs popping up, scan them to see if any good street is available.

The best streets are the hidden ones. Long streets often are much longer than they appear. On the road below, somewhere near Durban, South Africa, you see the Outer Ring Rd, which seems to be uninhabited and not up for sale.


A lot of scrolling learns that it is bought by a player, but you don't see the overlay appear on the map and the street popping up in the property list as you hover over the edges of the street. So keep looking and scrolling!

Now, I've done some good business. I found a new street for 1.035 M$ and bought it. Back to the leaderboard you'll see it's empty! Only one other person has registered in this area! I've blanked out his name to protect his and my own privacy off course, but this is a spot to grow. No one will notice you growing on the local leaderboard and it will take some quiet growing to get up on the national leaderboard. Meanwhile, you have time to fortify your long and winding roads with plenty of parks, schools and stadiums to withstand a pretty severe hit later on in the game.


Strategic Roads

A long road is not only good for building, it is also good for staying below the radar. As I said, it will take some time to find out if it's built or not and harassment comes in a hit and run strategy. But there's even a more suitable road to avoid this, and that's what I call a strategic road.

I can blog this one since I sold it at a good profit a few days ago for 50M$. This road is split up into three segments. The top one appears on the radar, the bottom two stretches fall off the screen if you're in the closest zoom.


There's three ways in which you can find a street like this:
  1. Know such a street in your area
  2. Take hours or days of searching
  3. Dumb luck
The last one was the case for me when I bought this one. It was a good priced street, at 4M$ so I bought it. When I built the street one by one the pilons were replaced by houses, until there were no pilons left. Somehow, I could still built houses, but I did not see any markers left to build on! It took me several hours to find the third stretch! I had to take three different roads to get there! Now build your bonus buildings on that stretch of land and it will take time for the critters to find it. Hopefully they grow tired and move on to their next victim.

Finally, to help you find a good street, use the tool by Monopoly Street Clans and read blogs like Monopoly City Street Secrets or Monopoly City Street HeadQuarters to get some more hints on strategy. If you find the right street in the right neighbourhood and can stay below the radar long enough to grow strong, this game is perfect. It is a fantastic game to play -as long as it's played fair!

PS. The world didn't change over the past decade or so. To be honest. When we were playing the board game as kids, we were cheating as well. Who didn't slip 50K notes under te table?

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Monopoly Reboot

"We're in the process of resetting the game. We're busy behind the scenes making changes and testing. We'll be back soon." (MCS Blog)

Today is the day that one of the hottest hypes in online gaming is down for a cold reboot. It's been just over a week since Monopoly City Streets first saw it first dawn. Launched on September 9th, Monopoly City Street is a

massively multiplayer online strategy game based on the classic Parker Monopoly Game. The online MCS has started as a mere promotion for the new edition of Monopoly but has become an overnight smash hit on the internet as it puts the classic gameplay onto the real world using Google Maps.

MCS allows you to buy almost every street in the world (excluding entire North Korea and Israel and the usual backroads) and build appartment blocks to receive rent.

An overnight success it has been indeed.

"At launch, we were blown away by the sheer numbers of people who wanted to try their hand at global real estate domination (1.7 million in day one alone!). We made headlines all over the world and this resulted in even more MONOPOLY fans rushing to be a part of the action." (MCS Blog)

Success did kill performance though. Monopoly Old Style has probably been played by millions of people all over the world, all those are now flocking to the online game to build their real estate empire, based on their own turf.

In one of my previous posts I did look into the possibilities for cheating, as there were a few. We like it fair though, so I'm quite happy that they've decided to bring down the game for a full reboot. Servers are up and ready for good performance and some tweaks have been made to the gameplay. I for one am looking forward to the new MSC coming online very soon. A new round, new chances, and hopefully, less subject to cheating.

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Saturday, September 12, 2009

Monopoly City Streetwise

In my previous blogpost I described the new online Monopoly Game, Monopoly City Streets, based on Google Maps. I described my basic first seps and gameplay, and pointed out some possible way to cheat. Now, although that option apparently exists, I will not try to take advantage out of it. But I did create some extra accounts to see what could be different strategies to the gameplay.

Terms and Conditions

One of the first things to check was if the Terms and Conditions said anything about creating muliple accounts. Well, strangely enough, they don't. So apparently it is allowed to create more than one account.

Okay, a few accounts created and time to dig into strategy and get Streetwise.

First Time around

When you're first time around, you'd probably start buying a street near where you live, or would like to live. If the street is available, you'll purchase it and put a nice big appartment on it to get a lot of income from rents. As you build your appartment, you'll see that (especially in long streets) there are a lot of spots to place your appartment.

When that's done, and you're lucky you will receive a chance card to build a stadium or a park to protect your propert. So, I put the park into place. Then you'll probably buy some streets around your first Headquarters, because the game says connecting property is worth more. By following this strategy though, you'll leave your defenses wide open. A lot of construction sites on your property will not be filled, and they're just begging to be spoiled by Prisons, Sewers and Plants to ruin your income.

If you're lucky, you'll have a chance card to raze a building so you can take away the pollution from your neighbourhood. If not, no rents today!

Fill her up!

A different approach is to buy a pretty neat street and fill her up by building slightly cheaper appartments. That's what I did in this place. I bought a long street and filled it up. In the process I also received a bonus building to protect my property.

Hot Property Sales

A street in densely populated areas should get higher renting prices. If you turn to Monopoly City Streets now, you will find that most city centers of large, popular cities have been totally sold out already. Anyway, I did manage to find a few streets up for sale in downtown Amsterdam. The theory here is that people who've invested big time to create a hot property spot here will probably be looking forward to expand. If you manage to get a street in such an area, you will have to wait and see if you'll get offered a good price and sell your property with a huge profit.




A few tips

The more expensive an empty street is, the more you will get from rents. For example a Grid Building built on a 1M street brings in 550K per day, whereas the same building on a 150K street only brings in 65K per day.

Chance Cards are dealt pretty randomly (sofar I could find a pattern), but the more actions you perform, the more cards you'll get. So if you buy one expensive street and build two expansive appartments, your money is up and you've only performed three actions this turn. If you buy a slightly cheaper street and fill her up with 10 small appartments,, you've done 11 actions and the chances of getting a chance card significantly goes up.


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Real Estate Business Booming Again

In the last two days we have seen an enormous surge in the Real Estate business with thousands of new appartment blocks, parks and businesses being commisioned and built. It's not that the credit crunch is suddenly over, no it's the birth of Monopoly City Streets.

Monopoly City Streets is a flash based online game based on the legendary Monopoly board game we all used to play when we were kids, but immensely upscaled. Instead of the board Hasbro now uses Google Maps and you are able to build everywhere we like.

It's been two days since the launch of Monopoly City Streets, on 09-09, and I got online yesterday to check it out. Basic gameplay is quite easy: You get a stash of M 3,000,000 and you start clicking away. Buy streets and build houses to earn rent. The more streets you have connected, and the more densely populated the area is, the higher the income you get from rents.

I picked out a little old town in the Netherlands to start my real estate empire. I've bought a few streets and a couple of houses to get going and collect my rents. Basically, the game is turn based and gets updated daily. After my first day I was able to triple my networth from 3M to 9M.

As with the board game, you have chance cards; some for good, some for bad. With the chance cards you will be able to build bonus buildings, like sewers and plants that kill rents on a street, or parks and stadiums that will prevent others from placing sewers and plants on your streets.

Cheating

When looking at the world rankings you see that only after a 4 days of gameplay there are people with a networth over 2 billion, so the first question that comes to mind is: How to cheat? You are able to make bids on streets owned by other players. The minimum bid you have to do is the current value of the street, so it's not possible to create multiple accounts and sell good real estate for peanuts... but, the other way around probably does work: Create multiple accounts and offer 3 million M's for a street worth 100K for instance, feeding the main account with tons of money, and I think this is what's happening. It's impossible to go from 3M to 2B in 4 days.

Top accounts are obviously the most obvious candidates to target with sewers and plants. If you receive a bonuscard to build a plant, just build it on the street of a big spender in your region so he won't get income from these streets.

Big Cities

If you start building, you obviously want to be a big real estate tycoon at a top location. Forget it. Cities like New York, Paris, Barcelona and Amsterdam are already taken. Well, not all streets are sold yet, but it is getting pretty crowded here. Below you'll see an overview of New York and Paris, with a detailed shot of both as well.



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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Stalking made Easy

As the social web continues to grow, and more and more people are filling in their personal details everywhere, it is no wonder specific social search engines start to pop up, which can actually turn up all kinds of embarrassing and potentially invasive information about you.

Besides making online stalking easy, specialized search engines are making it increasingly easier to combine socially shared information together into a highly detailed profile of our virtual lives. These specialized search engines go by a variety of terms such as "social search" utilities or "people search" utilities and many of them brag of their ability to search deeper than even Google. [InfoPackets]

We all see it happen, but sofar I have not seen any serious attempt at redesigning the identity management and privacy issues on the web. It will take years untill we will figure out how to tackle this problem as it will probably take a full redesign of the entire internet architecture at base level. For now, you have to take charge of your online identity. Tips and tricks on how to regain some control can be found at PC World, The San Francisco Chronicle and The Electronic Frontier Foundation.



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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Google unfit for Social Web

Over the past years we have seen two major trends on the internet; one is the so-called web 2.0 stuff, social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace etcetera and the second trend is Google taking ousting one rival after the other, gaining dominance on the web. Today a new study says these two trends are incompatible:

"NEW YORK Google doesn’t care about social networking. But perhaps it should, since social-networking platforms are gradually making search less relevant.Those are just two of the more pointed conclusions found in a report issued today by Pali Research analyst Richard Greenfield, who examined MySpace’s business and its long-term ad relationship with Google. In the report, Greenfield reiterated a contention he made last July that the underperformance of search ads in MySpace is not simply a product of the non-responsive nature of these sites’ users. Rather, according to Greenfield, Google’s algorithm isn’t well-suited to social-networking sites -- and that’s something Google isn’t necessarily concerned with."

I'm not sure Google isn't concerned with social networking sites, but it certainly is an interesting statement. What is particularly interesting is why Greenfield things Google is not suited for Social networking;

"The reason the company doesn’t care, said Greenfield, is that the basic functionality of social platforms like MySpace, Facebook and Twitter is "diminishing the importance of search.” He points to users’ growing inclination to search for specific information by tapping into friends’ and colleague's knowledge through platforms like Twitter’s own search product, as well Facebook’s status update tool."

The rise of the social web brings people together. Friends and professional networks are the way to provide the necessary information, as these are sources you trust and value.

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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Microsoft takes Kumo for testdrive

In previous blog entries I've written about Microsoft loosing the online battle to Google and why they desperately need to team up with Yahoo. Google offers a whole suite of online applications, but at the core is of course Google's searchengine and this is where Microsoft wants to take the battle to in launching their new searchengine 'Kumo'

Earlier this week Microsoft announced that the company had started testing the new service, which is supposed to be much more intelligent that Google's. It is supposed to understand syntax and the relation between queries. Last monday CNet reported :

"Word that Microsoft was close to launching the new search tool began with a Twitter posting by Powerset co-founder Barney Pell, who now serves as a "search strategist and evangelist" for Microsoft. In the posting, reported by enthusiast site LiveSide, Pell did not mention the Kumo name, but said that the site was getting an updated user interface and new brand.

"Barney was referring to our internal testing environments," the Microsoft representative said, adding that the company had nothing to announce today. "We are not in a position to confirm what will come to the market or when." Microsoft acquired Pell's Powerset in July. "

According to yesterday's news at CNet, Kumo is a rebranded version of Microsoft Live Search. However, to stand more than a snowflake's chance in hell, Kumo needs to be a whole lot more than a mere revampt of the Live Search, which is the 3rd largest searchengine and currently has a marketshare of 8,5%, trailing Google (60%) and Yahoo (21%) by miles.

In yesterday's article at CNet they also laid hands on an internal Microsoft email calling out for testers. Here's a wee bit from the article:

In spite of the progress made by search engines, 40 percent of queries go unanswered; half of queries are about searchers returning to previous tasks; and 46 percent of search sessions are longer than 20 minutes. These and many other learnings suggest that customers often don't find what they need from search today.

We believe we can provide a better and more useful search experience that helps you not just search but accomplish tasks. During the test, features will vary by country, but you'll see results organized in a way that saves you more time. An explorer pane on the left side of results pages will give you access to tools that help you with your tasks. Other features like single session history and hover preview help accomplish more in search sessions.

Also from the same CNet article, a first screenshot of Kumo

For now, Kumo is the projects codename, but the blogoshere doubts it will be the final brandname. Officially, Kumo is Japanese for 'Cloud' and 'Spider' but sounds a little too much like that crazy dog, Cujo, from a Stephen King novel (according to ZDnet)

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

WYP taking over the world

A virtual world from Germany is taking over the real world. What's Your Place (in short WYP) is not exactly a virtual world, but more of a mirror world, one that reflects our own space and time. It is not a replica of Berlin, like Twinity, but a Google Maps Mashup that lets members own and showcase their favorite places.

Yesterday I received the press anouncement that is released today. In Germany WYP has been up and running for more than a year, but today WYP has launched the English language version to target the global market.

People with an emotional attachment to any spot on the earth can now stake a virtual claim on it. Each place has its own URL and profile page („land register records“), and the land owner alone is entitled to edit that unique place profile. Hence, virtual land ownership is an exclusive way for expressing attachment to a place and to showcase that spot to the world. Editing means include picture upload, tagging, geo-marking, adding notes, or adding time stamps. As these features are embedded into a social community environment, other members will bookmark a parcel, comment on it, or even share their own pictures or related experiences with the land owner. More advanced community features include grouping places and inviting residents to a private area.

Membership to the community is free of charge, virtual land ownership comes at 9.95 USD an acre. Ownership is without time restriction and entails full reselling rights. All features bound to land ownership can be tested for free buy obtaining a “trial parcel”, which will be removed after 30 days. So far, over 25.000 acres have been sold. The entire world is for sale, the only exception being parts of the globe that Google Maps does not yet cover well. It is the philosophy of WhatsYourPlace that places must be absolutely unique, such that per place, there is only one owner worldwide. What sounds natural entails that English speaking users may see German content when visiting places owned by German members. We strongly believe that language diversity enhances the cosmopolitan aspect of WhatsYourPlace.

Full press release at the WYP website.

The two images I used in this blogpost come from the promotional folder, which explains a bit more about owning your virtual speck of land in WYP and other features. Especially the combination of Google Maps, Facebook functionality into a social world looks an interesting format.

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Monday, February 09, 2009

Google tracks Victorian Fires

Whereas part of Australia is really going down under in heavy rainfalls and floods, other parts have suffered immensely under strong winds and extremely high temperatures. The south eastern province of Victoria has been devastated by immense forest fires, which seem to go on and on. Fortunately the temperatures and wind have dropped a little, but firemen still can't control the infernos.

Yesterday a team from Google Australia made up a flash map of the area to track the fires. On the official Google Australia blog they write:

We've today pulled together a Flash Map, containing the latest up-to-date information about fire locations and their status from the Country Fire Authority (CFA). The Flash Map is updated in real-time from the CFA website via an RSS feed. We hope that it's of some use to people who may be affected, to emergency services personnel, and that it takes some load off other websites which are being inundated. The map certainly makes the scale of this disaster immediately apparent.

Update at 6:10pm Victoria time: To explain the map, the number in each marker shows the number of fires at the location. A green marker means the area is called "safe" by the CFA. Yellow means "controlled". Orange means "contained". Red means "going".

To view the map of the Victorian fires: here.

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Saturday, February 07, 2009

Google: Put your money where your health is

Creditcrunch or no, Google keeps unleashing new products by the day it seems. Better said perhaps, keeps adding new threads to its web to pull you in. Just today I came across an article on one of the top 10 Dutch weblogs, Hyped, and noticed an article on Google Health.

Together with IBM they've worked on integrating Google Health with lots of medical appliances. Late last year I blogged about Google tracking the flu worldwide, but now they're monitoring your heartbeat as well.

In demonstrations, IBM and Google fitted Wi-Fi radios to gadgets like heart rate monitors, blood pressure cuffs, scales and blood-sugar measurement meters, allowing the devices to communicate with a PC and feed real-time medical information directly into Google’s online records. [Forbes]

When looking at the service in itself, it could definately be added value to patients and help reduce cost in healthcare. The problem I have with this service is Google. The Mountain View corp is a technology firm and a commercial one at that, regardless of all their free services and open source thingies. Google is about making money and this money making machine is getting into our lives in a pretty scary way. They know everything about you and are able to connect everything together with all their services.

I blogged about this before (In a World...), and that was even before Google Health, their flu tracking and the privacy law violating Google Latitude I haven't gotten round to blog yet. One thing is clear though; Health will be one of the money making machines on the internet in the coming decade.

In the past months there has been a huge discussion in the Netherlands about the Government and the Healthcare industry implementing the EPD, the Electronic Patient Dossier, a system in which patient files are linked together. Especially the privacy of patients has been the volatile issue in this experiment. With Google Health this conversations is outdated, as Google -oblivious of privacy rulings - makes it work.

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Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Microsoft losing online battle

Microsoft is loosing the online battle. First and foremost, they're losing it to Google but (maybe a wee bit of a surprise), Apple is regaining authority on the web as well. A recent stat analysis by Net Applications showed that the Internet Explorer marketshare has dropped to an all time low of just (cough) 67,55% amongs the surfing crowd.

Most notable online competitor of course is the Mozilla Firefox, with a 21,53% market share. Take heed, Firefox is not the adversary from the old days, Netscape (which is down to a mere 0.57%), but a Google funded open source community thingy, which is rapidly reaching its end of life status. Chances are it will eventually be replaced with Google Chrome, which is up from nowt to 1.12%. As said in the introduction, Apple is slowly gaining weight again, with its popular iPhone and iPods, more and more people start the like the Apple way of life. In the last year, the Safari webbrowser increased it's market share from 5,82 to 8,29%.

Mind you, we're talking percentages here of web broswer users, so every percent counts for tens of millions of users. The image below is a summary of the first and last line of the Net Application results, showing the statistics for January 2008 (topline) and January 2009 (bottom line).

The upside of losing millions of customers

What we're looking at is a bunch of statistics, numbers and percentages. However, when you translate it, Microsoft has lost millions of customers on the online market in the past year. However, this loss may hold a bright spot for Microsoft in the European Union.

Microsoft and the European Union have been clashing heads over Microsoft's market dominance for years on end now. The EU has been investigating to see if the company has taken advantage of its position by offering the Internet Explorer as an integral feature of its Windows OS and deliberately straying away from internet standards making other browsers to work incorrectly.

Microsoft has noted that it's marketshare is going down and isn't as oblivious as it was before, hence there can be no talk of unfair competition.

Dominance or Survival?

Well, we've taken out a few million IE users, so what? Microsoft still is the preferred supplier to the vast majority of websurfers. What's the big deal?

The big deal is that we're seeing the first signs of Microsoft loosing the online battle, the war of the web. And they're loosing it to Google. I've written a few blogposts on this before (see referal list below) as I wrote that Microsoft desperately needs the cooperation with Yahoo to strengthen its online position.

More blogposts on Google, Microsoft & Yahoo:

Beware of Snakes dressed as Spiders

A lot of people I know are welcoming the downfall of Microsoft and Internet Explorer. Throughout the web we're familiar with the anti Microsoft campaigns, the Bill Gates parodies and we all cheer the efforts of the European Union to crack Microsoft's market position, but in the mean time, Google crawls its way to the top. Just earlier today I wrote how Google teamed up with Nasa to get Mars into Google Earth and in November I blogged the Google Flu tracker, which they'd developed in close cooperation with the government.

Whereas Microsoft seems to get the full load from Governments, they're actually helping Google to take over the position...

and worse.

More blogposts on Google's rising dominance:

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Google Earth 5 Beta Release

Google has just released version 5 of its sucessful Google Earth yesterday. New features include:
  • Historical imagery from around the globe
  • Ocean floor and surface data from marine experts
  • Simplified touring with audio and voice recording

Of course, Oceans are not new to Google Earth of course, it has always been a virtual replication of our own world . The old oceans were simply big blue expanses and a wee bit of low resolution shadings to make the suggestion of depth. Since yesterday, the new release has a much more detailed bathymetric map (which means ocean floor), which makes it possible for us to submerge and explore the deep blue seas.


While you're there you can explore thousands of data points including videos and images of ocean life, details on the best surf spots, logs of real ocean expeditions, and much more.

We were joined at the Academy by many of the dozens of ocean scientists and advocates who helped make this project a reality: friends from National Geographic, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, the US Navy, Scripps Oceanography, and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, to name just a few. Above all, I would like to acknowledge the work of Dr. Sylvia Earle, who cornered me at a conference three years ago and told me that Google Earth was
great but that it wasn't finished (you can read more about that encounter on the Lat
Long blog
). As much as I hated to admit it, she was right. We on the Google Earth team had been working hard to build a rich 3D map of the world, but we had largely ignored the oceans — two thirds of the planet. Inspired by Sylvia, the team got to work. I hope you are as excited as I am to explore our new Ocean and all of the fascinating stories and images our partners have contributed.


A second interesting addition is Google Mars, which was created in cohoots with NASA. You can get to the 3D Map of the Red Planet by selecting "Mars" on the toolbar. It features high res imagery, 3D terrain, landing sites and more.

Read more on the official Google Blog.

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Monday, February 02, 2009

Google blocks World Wide Web

Last saturday an error at Google led to blocking the entire World Wide Web. Well, not exactly, you could still surf directly to any site you wanted to, but every search result made through Google returned an error message reading "This site may harm your computer".

The error lasted about half an hour, but led to a lot of mishap. Marissa Mayer, VP, Search Products & User Experience explained what happened on the official Google blog:

What happened? Very simply, human error. Google flags search results with the message "This site may harm your computer" if the site is known to install malicious software in the background or otherwise surreptitiously. We do this to protect our users against visiting sites that could harm their computers. We maintain a list of such sites through both manual and automated methods. We work with a non-profit called StopBadware.org to come up with criteria for maintaining this list, and to provide simple processes for webmasters to remove their site from the list.

Here's the StopBadware.org explanation.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Ballmer-Bartz Tango

The buzz has been on the street today, but it took Yahoo a little while to confirm it has appointed Carol Bartz as its new CEO.

Yahoo! Inc. (NASDAQ:YHOO), a leading global brand and one of the world's most trafficked Internet destinations, announced today that Carol Bartz, a veteran technology executive who was most recently Executive Chairman of Autodesk (NASDAQ: ADSK), has been named Chief Executive Officer and a member of the Board of Directors, effective immediately.

Prior to becoming Executive Chairman of Autodesk in 2006, Bartz, 60, led Autodesk as CEO for 14 years, transforming the company into a leader in computer-aided design software. During her tenure as CEO, revenues increased from less than $300 million to more than $1.5 billion, and the company's share price increased nearly ten-fold.

[image Autodesk]

It takes two to tango and Carol Bartz will be Ballmer's counterpart in the dance called the MicroHoo soap. Last week Ballmer said it was time to strike a deal with Yahoo whilst both companies were in a management transition phase. 60 year old Bartz brings in a wealth of boardroom experience, but one can question if that's what Yahoo needs right now.

Bartz is a capable manager. She led Autodesk for 14 years between 1992 and 2006, keeping it from the PC software graveyard by focusing on CAD software for architects and builders. Autodesk, however, is an old-school software company. It is not exactly a great training ground for running an online advertising business attached to the most popular destinations on the Web. And as far as applications go, they are all Web apps and Yahoo gives them away for free.

I think Techcrunch has a point in questioning the suitability of this appointment, yet in the quote above I see no valid argumentation to support that question mark. Questioning the appointment would be the current lookout for both Yahoo and Microsoft.

I can understand Yahoo wanting a steady hand at the helm, a firm CEO with enough experience to take on Microsoft, but that would be a shortsighted deal. One way or the other Microsoft and Yahoo need to look beyond eachother and face Google in the coming net-war. With Microsoft bringing in the boardroom weight, Yahoo's chances would have been better with a visionary innovator, a charismatic passionate CEO, a young dog ready to take on Google where it hurts. If Bartz is strong enough to keep Ballmer at bay, Google will be the third dog walking away with the bone. They've already upped the ante in appointing former Yahoo genius Schachter yesterday and look primed and ready to face the MicroHoo challenge.

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Google Emissions Crunched as Kincaid gets it straight.

Half a forest was burned on the printing presses and a ton of CO2 blasted into orbit as the Times reported yesterday that "Two Google searches needed the same amount of energy to boil a kettle of water." Tons of blogs and newspapers worldwide dove at the news like hungry vultures to dig this story, like I did in the article "Plant a Tree and get a free search" yesterday.Google immediately denied the alledged amounts of pollution, but it was Techcrunch blogger Jason Kincaid who actually managed to get the facts straight.

The quintessence of the story run by the Times was young Harvard physicist Alex Wissner-Gross, who was quoted in saying “that performing two Google searches uses up as much energy as boiling the kettle for a cup of tea”. Kincaid received the article very sceptical and did some proper research.

"Unfortunately, according to Wissner-Gross he never said anything of the sort. For starters, he says he would never refer to any sort of measurement having to do with tea (he’d go with coffee). But his findings have nothing to do with Google as a company, either - they’re concerned with much more generalized stats, like your computer’s rate of CO2 production when you look at a
webpage.

Wissner-Gross says that the widely circulated 7 gram/search figure came from some other source (he’s not sure where), and notes that if you read the article carefully it only makes it sound like it’s from his data. He has confirmed that he did make some vague statements regarding Google, including “A Google search has a definite environmental impact” and “Google operates huge data centers around the world that consume a great deal of power”. But the “tea kettle” statistic that has been repeated ad nauseum simply isn’t his. After learning of the misleading story, Wissner-Gross says that he contacted The Times and was assured that it would be fixed by Sunday morning. No corrections have been made.?

Kincaid also states that this isn't the first time the Times has gone awry;

This isn’t the first time in recent memory that The Times has been mistaken about a tech story - in late November the newspaper incorrectly reported on a complicated and fictional Yahoo/Microsoft search arrangement.

I remember touching this topic earlier this morning as I wrote that the credit crunch was a healthy wind passing through the traditional media landscape;

The credit crunch might be a blessing to shake that old tree (and save a rainforest in the proces) and force the old newspaper industry to innovate. The world of news and information has changed with the arrivel of web 2.0, called the social web, or conversational web by others. The most heard argument in this case is that bloggers are not trained journalists and are living the fastlane without time to do thorough research and taking time to write indepth stories. Well, there are a few out there that prove you wrong. And if that's the case, why not skip daily newspapers and let the bloggers and televesion do the daily news and create more indepth research magazines?

I think the research by Kincaid proves the old media wrong. It's bloggers who get the facts straight and not trained journalists with years and years of field experience and editors to double check.

In short, we all stand corrected. Google's footprint is down a little bit, but the main focus of my article yesterday still stands:

The only problem is.... Google and every other major player on the market is either American or China based, which means they don't really give a **** about the environment. Despite Al Gore and every greenie in the States, every environmental deal is blocked by the United States in favor of economic growth. Where did that bring us? It only brought global crisis. America has blocked deals like the Kyoto protocol so it could continue to produce supersized cars. It has only killed innovation and the United States are now putting billions of dollars into an outdated automotive industry. Cars are too big, engines to polluting for the present day world. No wonder nobody's buying anymore.

Read the full Techcrunch article here.

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Google ups the Ante in MicroHoo soap

Google just upped the ante in the MicroHoo soap. Just two days ago I commented on Microsoft's Steve Ballmer saying "Now is the time to strike a deal with Yahoo." In my blogpost I wrote that the teaming up of Microsoft and Yahoo would be their only chance to stand a snowballs chance in hell against the rise of Google.

First one to act on Ballmer's remarks is not leaderless Yahoo, but the upperdog, Google as it appoints former Del.icio.us founder Joshua Schacter.

Joshua Schachter, the creator of one of the most important consumer web applications in recent time, has joined Google, according to venture capitalist Josh Koppleman. Schachter's social bookmarking service Delicious was acquired by Yahoo! three years ago last month. Schachter was required to spend 2 years at the company after the acquisition but has now been a free man for six months. Schachter was working on some sort of secret project and worked with Upcoming.org co-founder Andy Baio, also rich and free years after a Yahoo! acquisition of his site, on one of the coolest Greasemonkey scripts we've ever seen.

Apparently all that innovative energy will now go into Google. Schachter was vocally frustrated in his final days at Yahoo! with what a drag it was to try to innovate inside that company - we hope he finds a more supportive environment at Google. We assume he doesn't need to work, so he must have gotten himself a pretty sweet gig there. We are excited to see what Schachter and his new friends at Google come up with together.

We've asked Schachter for details about his new job and will update this post with anything we learn. (Updated: Schachter stopped by here but didn't have anything to say other than telling us to spell his name right.) TechCrunch smartly noticed that Schacter's LinkedIn profile now says that he's a "member of the technical staff at Google." Congrats on the new Job, Josh!

(Source: Read-Write-Web Jobwire)

As the article reports, Schachter has the inside info on Yahoo where he got frustrated. Microsoft might be looking to get a frim foothold on the search market by acquiring, or teaming with Yahoo, but Google is changing the ballpark instantly. Adding a social heartbeat like Del.icio.us to searches might lead to interesting ventures.

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Monday, January 12, 2009

Plant a Tree and get a free search

If you're reading this, There's a good chance you've wasted enough energy to boil a kettle of water to get here. A recent study by Harvard shows Googling is putting tons of CO2 into the air.

Below a copy of an article in the Telegraph.co.uk which describes the Harvard findings:

Googling has 'a very definite environmental impact' according to research conducted by a physicist from Harvard University

A typical search through the online giant's website is thought to generate about 7g of carbon dioxide. Boiling a kettle produces about 15g. The emissions are caused both by the electricity required to power a user's computer and send their request to servers around the world.

The discovery comes amid increasing warnings about the little-known environmental impact of computer and internet use.

According to Gartner, an American research firm, IT now causes about two per cent of global CO2 emissions and its carbon footprint exceeded that of the world's aviation industry for the first time in 2007.

Dr Alex Wissner-Gross, a physicist from Harvard University who is leading research into the subject, has estimated that browsing a basic website generates about 0.02g of CO2 for every second it is viewed.

Websites with complex video can be responsible for up to 0.2 g per second, he believes. On his website, CO2stats.com, Dr Wissner-Gross wrote: "Websites are provided by servers and are viewed by visitors' computers that are connected via networks."

"These servers, clients and networks all require electricity in order to run, electricity that is largely generated by burning fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas. "

"When fossil fuels are burned, carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere, which contribute to climate change. " Dr Wissner-Gross believes that Google's unique structure - which sees it send searches to multiple servers around the world and give which ever response is returned quickest - causes its searches to produce more emissions than some other sites.

He told a newspaper: "Google operates huge data centres around the world that consume a great deal of power. "

"A Google search has a definite environmental impact. "

"Google are very efficient but their primary concern is to make searches fast and that means they have a lot of extra capacity that burns energy,"

A separate analysis by John Buckley, of carbonfootprint.com, a British environmental website, put the CO2 emissions of a Google search at between 1g and 10g. Chris Goodall, the author of Ten Technologies to Save the Planet, said that assuming the user spends 15 minutes on their computer, the carbon emission of a Google is between 7g and 10g.

Google claimed that the number was "many times too high" and one Google search is equivalent to about 0.2 grams of CO2.

A spokesman for Google said: "We are among the most efficient of all internet search
providers."

Does it matter how much grams it is, it is not helping the environment, but what are the alternatives? Cut down the rainforest to satisfy our information needs by distributing all the blogs on paper? I guess not. You might encourage a lot of writers to just stop blogging and the world would be better off.

I doubt we'll see that happening. Perhaps it's better to think how we can compensate. Have Google plant and other big spenders plant a forest to compensate, just like we've got to pay an additional tax for flying in the Netherlands. The only problem is.... Google and every other major player on the market is either American or China based, which means they don't really give a **** about the environment. Despite Al Gore and every greenie in the States, every environmental deal is blocked by the United States in favor of economic growth. Where did that bring us? It only brought global crisis. America has blocked deals like the Kyoto protocol so it could continue to produce supersized cars. It has only killed innovation and the United States are now putting billions of dollars into an outdated automotive industry. Cars are too big, engines to polluting for the present day world. No wonder nobody's buying anymore.

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Droids set to invade Holland

Google released its Android platform a few months ago but it wasn't untill last week that you could actually get your hands on an Android phone in the Netherlands. Telecom provider T-Mobile, who also has the exclusive rights to Apple's iPhone in the Netherlands is the first provider to put the G1 on the shelves in Q1 this year.

Aside from its slick looks, one of the driving forces behind the iPhone success has been the option to create applications yourself and no doubt this will even be more true for the Droid as Android will be an Open Source platform. Marketing Director Bart Weijermans of T-Mobile Netherlands said that the Android will be a force to be reckoned with on the mobile market because it is widely supported by the Open Handset Alliance, which can boast a host of Telecom providers. Last one to join the alliance was Vodafone early December 2008.

Small wonder T-Mobile launched last week with a Developers party in the 'De Zwijger ' warehouse in Amsterdam. About 250 software developers and companies were present at the afternoon session which lasted untill way past bedtime. To spice up the launch of the Android, T-Mobile organised a development contest. Untill january 26 developers can submit applications to Android DevCamp and win a trip to San Francisco. The winning entry also receives the opportunity to ride along with the national Android marketing campaign of T-Mobile.

Just like development of Native Applications for the iPhone, the main skill required to fiddle with the Droid is Java. To get started download the Android SDK here.

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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Ballmer: It's time to strike a deal with Yahoo


If there has to be made a deal between Microsoft and Yahoo, now is the time according to Steve Ballmer. The Microsoft CEO who recently visited and commented on this blog sat down for a talk with the Financial Times yesterday to put the pressure back on the MicroHoo soap which started nearly a year ago.

Both companies are in a management transition phase these days. Microsoft hired Qi Lu, a former top gun at Yahoo to reposition their online business, whereas Yahoo is on the lookout for a new CEO after Jerry Yang stepped down. Ballmer said:

"If a search deal is to be made, it's probably to be made in the interim period for new leaders in both places."

The MicroHoo soap started last year with Microsoft placing a full take over bid. After that was dropped, a Search deal was worked out, but once more it failed. Now Steve Ballmer is putting the pressure back on. After the last deal fell through, Jerry Yang's position at Yahoo was severely compromised as Wall Street analysts have estimated that a deal could add more than $12bn to Yahoo's value. In hiring Qi Lu, Microsoft made a tactical move to pave the way for a new deal.

I've never regarded Microsoft to be tactical, but they're getting smarter. Ballmer's timing this week is impeccable as well. Yahoo is said to be closing in on a replacement for Jerry Yang, but closing in on them while Yahoo is without a strong leader and the current credit crunch sentiments is once again a smart move.

They have to get smarter, because Microsoft is no longer the leader of the pack. They've been moved into the underdog position against Google and Microsoft needs to make the online transition in order to survive. The internet is the frontier as more and more activity is done webbased. Everything is moving from home computing to cloud computing. In the near future, hardly any application will be run from a pc, nor will any file be stored on a pc. It will be webservers that run the show. In this outlook, Microsoft is losing a business case in Operating Systems. It needs to step up their online activity. Microsoft and Yahoo will both loose the online war to Google if they remain independent.

You know what. Probably a year ago I would have written a very negative story on Microsoft. We still have a tendency to hate that money making machine to a certain extend, and we've all been cheering time and again as the European Committee fined Microsoft for gaining undisered monopoly positions on the market. That sentiment is slowly changing. Very slowly. More and more Google is crawling into that dominant position, although this dragon doesn't have a head to slay as Microsoft once had in the days of Bill Gates.

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Friday, January 09, 2009

Authority Search and Social Webdesign

Loic Le Meur wrote an interesting article last week on filtering by Authority to which I fully disagree:

"There were more than 7000 tweets posted during the two days of LeWeb, no way anyone can read them quickly. We need filtering and search by authority. We're not equal on Twitter, as we're not equal on blogs and on the web. I am not saying someone who has more followers than yourself matters more, but what he says has a tendency to spread much faster. Comments about your brand or yourself coming from @techcrunch with 36000 followers are not equal than someone with 100 followers. Most people use Twitter with a few friends, but when someone who has thousands, if not tens of thousands of followers starts to speak, you have to pay attention.

Brands do pay attention and already start understanding the difference. We made the experiment with Ben Metcalfe. I started complaining that Sprint was not offering the new Blackberry (they still don't, I want a BB Bold with worldwide unlimited data) on Twitter and minutes later a Sprint representative contacted me and offered me VIP customer service. I loved it. For the experiment, @dotben started also complaining about the same issue (and really would love a Bold too, it was true) but nothing happened for Ben. Why not? Sprint understood that I have nearly 10x the number of followers of Ben so I had to be answered immediately, even with my weird last name no one can pronounce. Ben has almost 2000 followers, I think Sprint should actually pay attention too.

What we need is search by authority in Twitter Search. Technorati had nailed it years ago by allowing searches filtered by number of links the blogger had. It would be very easy for Twitter to add an authority line in their search criteria, with the number of followers so that you can search for say, only people who have more than a thousand followers and see what they say. React as fast as you can for criticism from them. It is not a criteria for being smart or not, but clearly a criteria for how fast something can spread."

I fully agree with Loic that the amount of information we spread out nowadays is too much. If you pick up a saturday issue of the New York Times you'll be getting more information than a person would get in his whole life say 200 years ago. Every year we see a stellar growth in information. The information poured onto us in the last five years through the internet is more than the information mankind has produced in the 5,000 years before.

No wonder we get lost along the way, and you've got a hell of a job in finding out who really does know something about the issue you're pondering. I don't have Loics reputation, so I don't count as an authority here, but I dare say Loic is wrong. He's off by miles.

In his blogpost he pleas to have a twitter search by authority, just like technorati who worked out an algorithm to define the authority of your blog. I'll walk a mile with him on this path as the algorithm to define authority by number of citations or links is much better than counting sheer numbers of followers. However...

There's a catch.

The catch is in creating an elite layer, the twitterati, the digerati, or whatever you'd like to call them. While reading Loic's blogpost, two things came to mind. First a conversation I had past New Years'Eve and a blogpost I wrote about half a year ago on the Social Web.

The New Years Eve conversation I had was a conversation with my neighbour and my Sister in Law who has recently received her PhD at the Oxford University. She graduated in the interaction between insects and how that would affect a Ecological systems or something like that. Fact is she worked at the same department as Dawekins (the Evolution theory zealot) and the discussion went into Evolutionism vs. Creationism. On both sides you have zealots and with neither you can have a normal scientific, fact based discussion. Evolutionism is the dominant philosophy in Science these days and to most people it seems like the case has been closed. Evolution has been scientifically verified, beyond doubt. Well, it isn't. I didn't see a video on YouTube to prove it (nor did I see a video on YouTube to prove Divine Creation) and if you would conduct objective, unbiased science, you would have to conclude that the evolution theory has gaps. In a scientific setting you'd count on educated minds questioning these results, but in the way it is presented to our children who do not have the cognitive skills yet to analyse results, we are brainwashing them. If you look at how the scientific scene works it explains a lot. Authority in Science comes from the number of publications you have in a major magazine. Every paper you submit is reviewed by an editor who likes it, or not, regardless of the argumentation to your findings. Let's say you write an article about how Evolution sucks, no matter if you include 100% proof, if the editor doesn't like it, you're out. Next step is the peer review. Every paper, once it has passed the editorial selection, is sent to peers, colleagues and the same selections starts over again. Let's say my findings are solid and proves the previously published research of one of my reviewers wrong, he won't like that as it will make him lose his reputation, authority or stature. Case closed. No publication.

Selection and authority in this process kill Science as it should be unbiased and objective. It isn't. I think the same would count for authority based filtering. The key issue here is in automation. Google and other search engines have worked out algorithms, as well as technorati who put auhority to blogs. No matter how much intelligence you put into these intermediates, they cannot compete with the selection capacity of the human brain. These selection mechanisms will undoubtedly produce a prevailing elite, just like in the science case above and smart, intelligent and argumented opinions to the contrary will be neglected.

This made me recall a post I made several months ago on the social web called "Power to the Community" In this blogpost I discussed how my colleague defines social webdesgin. This is way more than defining the social web. It is about desinging your websites to create emergent behaviour. In extremis this could lead to Isaac Asimov's foundation series in which he presents the Psychohistory.

The basis of psychohistory is the idea that, while the actions of a particular individual could not be foreseen, the laws of statistics could be applied to large groups of people and used to predict the general flow of future events. Asimov used the analogy of a gas: in a gas, the motion of a single molecule is very difficult to predict, but the mass action of the gas can be predicted to a high level of accuracy - known in physics as the Kinetic Theory. Asimov applied this concept to the population of the fictional Galactic Empire, which numbered in a quintillion. The character responsible for the science's creation, Hari Seldon, established two postulates:

  1. That the population whose behaviour was modeled should be sufficiently large
  2. They should remain in ignorance of the results of the application of psychohistorical analyses.

In creating automated intelligent interfaces to filter through the inprocessable amount of digital information we might just be on our way to do that...


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Friday, December 05, 2008

Is it Web 3.0 time?

Aside from Pownce shutting down , today looks a pretty fine day as both FaceBook Connect and Google Friend Connect emerge from closed beta into the wide public. Both these projects will undoubtedly boost social networking immensely. John McCrea of Plaxo posted quite a nice blog today on "the birth of the Social Web" as he called it:

December 4, 2008. Today may be remembered as the birth of the Social Web, as two major projects aimed at turning the Web social emerged from their restricted beta periods for general availability, Facebook Connect and Google Friend Connect. Together, these two major events sound the death knell for the walled garden phase of social networking. Early reactions to the news are quick to frame this as a head-to-head battle between Google and Facebook, but the truth requires a look at the details…

read full article here.

But, does today live up to its outlook? One the one hand I welcome these projects as they may bring some sync into the countless social networking accounts I have, but on the other hand I fear the widespread grip Google is starting to gain on our digital identities (see this blogpost for instance).


The image above is from Jonathan Swift's "Gulliver's Travels" and depicts Gulliver being tied up by the people of Lilliput. As their ropes are mere strands of hair to him, he would have no trouble whatsoever in tearing these ropes apart.... at least, one or a bunch at a time, but the vast amounts of ropes will hold him tied down, captive.

This analogy was used by professor Vincent Icke in the Dutch talkshow "De Wereld Draait Door" yesterday on how the government is getting a grip on our online identity with all sorts of new files and registrations, but I think this is even more true for Google. It is time for a new web, and yes it is time for the Social Web, but that would require a thorough redesign, a proper 'new web' with a different architecture supporting it; An architecture which can provide privacy and security when it comes to Identity Management

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Thursday, December 04, 2008

Pownce goes Bownce

I gues it's been a little more than a year now since I happily blogged the arrival of Pownce, a flashy new microblogging tool that would heat up competition for Twitter and Jaiku (before it got assimilated by Google).

I was quite excited when I got my invitation to the alpha version on the 1st of July last year and reviewed:

In my twittergroup it kinda hyped and everyone was screaming for invites. Why?
I think two reasons:

  1. One of the makers of Pownce is KevinRose (from Digg) and
  2. Robert Scoble (Scobleizer) is on it as well.

The early signs were promising, but over the weekend Pownce saw an onrush of new users resulting in scalability and stability problems. The slick looking Adobe AIR driven client crashed several times.

We're a year and a half onward now, and the curtain falls for Pownce. From December 15 on you'll get bounced on Pownce according to the short email notification I received:

We are sad to announce that Pownce is shutting down on December 15,2008. As of today, Pownce will no longer be accepting new users or newpro accounts.

To help with your transition, we have built an export tool so you cansave your content. You can find the export tool at Settings > Export. Please export your content by December 15, 2008, as the site will not be accessible after this date.

Please visit our new home to find out more:http://www.sixapart.com/pownce

Our thanks go out to everyone who contributed to the Pownce community,

The Pownce Crew

I still think it wins 99 out of a 100 times over Twitter when it comes to presentation and when it comes to functionality, I guess it may still beat the crap out of Twitter.

So when it tops Twitter, why did Six Apart tear it apart? Why did the curtain fall? Did the Credit Crunch, or Techcrunch, or whatever you want to call it dry up the wells of green and caused the bailout? Perhaps that may have been the final pushover, but let's face it. It lost competition to an inferior platform, just like Philips' Video 2000 and Sony's Betamax lost to the lousy VHS back in the 80's in a fierce format war.

Pownce wasn't stable yet, as the initial review showed. It crashed. But that isn't uncommon. I regularly get the message that the "Technorati monster escaped" or twitter hiccups. Seems like it comes as a standard feature of services like these. That didn't kill Pownce. It's the buzz that did, rather the lack off. I liked it better than Twitter, but rarely used Pownce simply because all my friends were on Twitter.

Twitter aleady had the crowd, and though better, it wasn't good enough to start another tiresome tribal migration from one community to the other and rebuild your contact list. Twitter is sustainable by sheer numbers only. Pownce would have needed an ecosystem to support it, a tie in with social networking sites in which is messaging capacities could be leveraged. It could have been done, as Six Apart is one of the prime ecosystem contributors for LinkedIn for example.

I guess that's settled than, one less account to worry about, one place that holds yet another part of my digital identity, my humoungous digital footprint down. Just hope they'll do erase their databases thoroughly and not use it for a new startup.

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Entering the 4th Dimension - by Google

In the past months I've blogged quite a few times about the use virtual worlds in visualising and understanding history. One of these examples was IBM's recreation of the Forbidden City in China and I also blogged how cool it would be to walk more of these Ancient Sites.

One of the things I wrote when speaking of these ancient sites was;

"From about the day I signed on to Ancient Sites I've had the believe that this had the potential to change our Educational system in the way which students could globally interact, learn languages, geography, history, art and you name it."

There are many ancient sites I would like to visit. In real life I have walked across the ruins of Olympia, of Mycaena and Sparta but one place I like in particular is ancient Rome. Currently I act as a Gladiator in the online game Gladiatus (by the way, I changed my handle from VeeJay to Verritus in this game) so Iam pretty excited of yet another Google thingy. Although I got pretty negative on Google yesterday in their quest for world dominance, this is a cool thing as they bring the 4th Dimension into Google Earth. Here's the full story from Thomas Clayburn at Information Week.

The mayor of Rome, Gianni Alemanno, on Wednesday invited the hoi polloi to visit Rome in Google (NSDQ: GOOG) Earth.

Not modern Rome, but the Eternal City as scholars believe it was in 320 A.D., based on the Rome Reborn model constructed by the University of Virginia's Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities.

"What fascinates me most about this project is the accuracy of the details of the three-dimensional models," said Alemanno in a guest post on the Google blog. "It's such a great experience to be able to admire the monuments, streets, and buildings of Ancient Rome with a virtual camera that lets you go inside and see all the architectural details. From the Colosseum to the Ludus Magnus, from the Forum Caesar to the Arch of Septimius Severus, from the Rostra to the Basilica Julia, you can get up close to them all."

To view the new Ancient Rome 3-D layer in Google Earth, open the "Gallery" folder in the "Layers" panel and select "Ancient Rome 3-D."

This marks the first time an ancient city has been incorporated into Google Earth. "Going back in time presented some new challenges, such as how to handle the ancient terrain which was clearly different than modern day," explained Google Earth product manager Bruce Polderman in a blog post. "We needed to ensure that modern day imagery, terrain, and buildings didn't interfere with the ancient Rome model so we opted for a simple overlay."

In conjunction with the debut of the Ancient Rome 3-D layer, Google is sponsoring a curriculum competition for K-12 educators. Teachers interested in participating can sign up, waive assorted rights, and submit a lesson plan and supporting materials in the hope of being among the top six entries. Prizes include an Apple MacBook laptop, a digital classroom projector, a digital camera, a 3-D navigation mouse, $500 in gift cards to Target or Office Depot (NYSE: ODP), and an engraved Google "Top Educator" plaque.

Below is a video demonstration produced by Google:

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Scienta est Potentia, Google est Scienta

Does Tessier Ashpool SA ring a bell? Well, it should. It is the name of one of the mega corporations in William Gibson's "Neuromancer" In a quite dystopian setting it is mega corporations that have real power on earth (and beyond).

In our present day we also see the rise of mega corporations, large industrial conglomerates spreading their tentacles into this world. For now, they are just companies, focussed on profits, but according to trendwatcher Adjiedj Bakas who predicts the future will see global mega companies turning into sovereign states.

Google Flu Trends

With the above in mind, I just came across a report on a new Google service which kind of scares me.

GOOGLE will launch a new tool that will help federal officials "track sickness"."

Flu Trends" uses search terms that people put into the web giant to figure out where influenza is heating up, and will notify the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in real time!

GOOGLE, continuing to work closely with government, claims it would keep individual user data confidential: "GOOGLE FLU TRENDS can never be used to identify individual users because we rely on anonymized, aggregated counts of how often certain search queries occur each week."

Engineers will capture keywords and phrases related to the flu, including thermometer, flu symptoms, muscle aches, chest congestion and others.

Dr. Lyn Finelli, chief of influenza surveillance at CDC: "One thing we found last year when we validated this model is it tended to predict surveillance data. The data are really, really timely. They were able to tell us on a day-to-day basis the relative direction of flu activity for a given area. They were about a week ahead of us. They could be used... as early warning signal for flu activity."

Eric Schmidt, GOOGLE's chief executive vows: "From a technological perspective, it is the beginning."

Thomas Malone, professor at M.I.T.: "I think we are just scratching the surface of what's possible with collective intelligence."

Read Full Report at Drudge Report.

Scientia est potentia

In plain English this means knowledge is power. The Google octopus is slowly speading its tentacles into every corner of digital data, creating access to unprecedented amounts of corporate and private knowledge. Creating access, not only opening up access to this knowledge to the public, but also acquiring this knowledge itself more or less, comprising it into a collective intelligence.

Does this mean that when Google holds the key to the knowledge of the world, Google holds the key to the seats of power in this world as well?

GOOGLE, continuing to work closely with government, claims it would keep individual user data confidential:

This specific sentence should turn on the alarmbells. We've fought so hard to tear down the walls of domination from Microsoft, sueing them in every way to prevent them from gaining market domination. Yet when Google is working closely with governments, will it make those governments blind to the level of domination Google already has?

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Google G1 Android

Yesterday Google presented it's iPhone competitor, the G1, which basically is a very ugly HTC phone and is running on shabby T-Mobile network. Nothing spectacular.

The phone features a 480 x 320 HVGA display, sports 3G, GPS, has a (lousy) 3.1-megapixel camera, supports up to 8GB of memory (of unspecified format), and batteries powering 5 hours of talktime with 130 hours of standby. It doesn't do video capture, stereo bluetooth, requires a Gmail account (fortunately I have one since I use blogger) and won't be sold at stores outside of a 2-5 mile radius of T-Mobile's 3G coverage areas (which basically limits the market severely)

And yet we all do believe it will actually be competition for the iPhone and a possible threat to other large phone-factories all because of it's OS. It's operating system is called Android and is Open Source software. It's kind of a revival of the Mac - Windows - Linux battle we had in pc-space. Open Source means it allows you to put new applications into your phone for free, instead of doing some heavy account upgrading.

Google Android has the potential to take on any competition, or rather facilitate competition as it allows anyone to quickly start your own (e.g.) Nokia. The only thing you need to do is to design a slick phone and put the Android in it.

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Monday, September 08, 2008

An Avatar, By Any Other Name...

... might be a lot happier with Second Life.

Most of us who came into Second Life out of curiosity, and have stayed ever since, are probably happy with our avatars. We instinctively associate our avatar name with ourselves - regardless of where we sit in the 'Spectrum of Involvement' that goes from the fully-immersed digital beings at one end, to the augmented reality users at the other. Incidentally, if these terms mean nothing to you, then I'm afraid you will have to Google them if you want to know more. The subsequent romp across the blogosphere makes for a long and interesting diversion!

For the more prosaic purposes of this post, I want to consider names. It hadn't really occurred to me just how out-of-step Second Life is, compared with other virtual worlds. Everywhere else - as far as I know - you are pretty much free to select your own avatar name. OK, it may need to be unique in the World, which can be a challenge. But in principle, you have carte blanche. For example, I am used to a semi-digital existence thru' my avatar, Aleister Kronos. Therefore, in all the virtual worlds I am signed up to - and there are many - I am happy to use this name, or variants that may be forced by a local naming constraint (like no spaces in the name). Importantly though, I could instead have opted to use the name I was given in the atomic world, Tim Kelly (again, subject to some basic constraints). I'm hardly blowing away any great atomic/digital divide here, since anyone who was remotely interested could have garnered this information in about... ooh... one Google hit.

So where am I going with this? Oh yeah...

Second Life marches to a different tune. It forces you down a path of pseudo-anonymity by compelling you to select a surname from a predefined list, rather than allowing you to elect for anonymity or openness. And what a bunch of surnames you get! If your aim in Second Life is to have a laugh, muck about and generally use it as a purely social environment then the disproportionately high ratio of "wacky, zany" surnames may be just the ticket. It means you don't have to employ too much brainpower of your own in order to appear interesting, when you can get instant charisma, off-the-peg, just by choosing a suitable surname. Maybe most Second Life regulars are happy with this arrangement. Personally, as a resident, I'm perfectly happy with my avatar name.

But it is as a corporate resident that issues arise. I have recently been hosting or assisting with a number of internal presentations for various company folk. The aim of such presentations is to show that you don't need to waste time and money travelling to meetings when they can be done, at least adequately, in a virtual environment. And virtual meetings are far better than the other alternatives: video and teleconferences. Most of the attendees are not out-and-out Second Lifers, but rather casual visitors, looking at the potential for using the environment as a work tool.

Now then - in proper Blah 2.0 fashion I have been eliciting feedback, to understand their experiences and see how I can help to improve them. Oddly, the recurring concern was not the awkwardness of the user interface, or the lag, or indeed any of the technical issues that I had anticipated. Instead, it was the avatar naming constraints. The general view was that the absence of real names lead to confusion and lack of clarity, while the names that were used could not really be characterised as 'professional'. When you have large numbers of colleagues using virtual worlds on an occasional basis, for specific activities or events, they are not likely to know each other's avatar names - leading to confusion and lack of effective communication. While this will change over time, the process is unnecessarily slow, when all you ever wanted was to use your own name in the first place.

There are cumbersome ways around this, usually involving a dumb-ass surname but putting your full name (without spaces!) as your avatar's first name. Don't get me started on the ludicrous costs associated with having a user-defined (in this case, corporate) surname. The point is, it should not be necessary to go to these lengths.

Second Life is coming across as somewhat antediluvian, a primitive throwback to a time when early adopters were happy to look funny and have hilarious names. While I accept that many, more recent residents also share these aims - it is time for Second Life to grow up, grow out and make better provision for those who don't share these aims. I am sure that it is not just business users who have this frustration.

So a note for Linden Lab: if you are still trying to be taken seriously by the business world then changing the naming system would be a small, but non-trivial step in the right direction.

(And God knows... it seems that right now Second Life could do with all the help it can get)

this post first appeared at Ambling in Second Life.

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Thursday, September 04, 2008

In a world...

"In a world where man fought machine... and machine won...".

Imagine this to be the opening line of a movie trailer, with the voice of Don Lafontaine, the king of voice-overs who just passed away, and you'll be sitting up straight, ready to watch a blockbuster movie, like Terminator - Judgement Day. Well, maybe you are. We're watching the Terminator-Google Mashup.

The Google Empire

Yesterday I blogged about the newly released Google Chrome browser ready to take on Internet Explorer and Firefox. I'm noticing I'm using Google products more and more often. It almost scares me how much I like Google products. It probably started because of my dislike of Microsoft, being too big and too dominant, but now Google itself is becoming such a monolith. Google gets into your life.

  • Google Search: They know what you do on the internet, know your interests (even your most private ones).
  • Google Mail: They get into your email, know your contacts and the contents of your mail.
  • Google Docs: Now they know even the things you don't mail and it won't be long untill the Google writer and spreadsheets move into the office space.
  • Google Android: Has the power to compete with the top producers of the mobile phone market. Now they can also follow your phone conversations and know where you are.
  • Google AdSense: They try to gigure out what you do, add sense to it and create desires in you to buy. It won't be long untill AdSense gets into your banking account to cross-advertise on every purchase you've made.
  • Google CheckOut: Now they're not only advertising you tyo buy products, they actually start making the transactions too.
  • Google Maps: Along with their mobile technology they know where you are, and where you wanna go. project this into...
  • Google Earth: and they'll have a 3D rendering of you and everything around you. It's Big Brother watching you.

It's SkyNet

Is Google turning out to be the Skynet of the present, moving towards domination? In Science Fiction and Cyberpunk novels (such as Neuromancer) we see that massive companies rule the world and have taken over command from national governments, often creating a dystopian society. The question is: "is it Science Fiction, or is it becoming reality?"

If you read Adjiedj Bakash, Hollands premier trendwatcher, it is becoming reality. he observes the birth of a new economic world order as one of the big megatrends of the next decade. I'm not sure if we're there yet, but it's starting to look very creepy with Google at the helm. Maybe it isn't Paradise lost yet, but it sure is Privacy Lost.

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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Google Chrome: Less is More but also more is less

Less is more

Back in the old days of the internet you had search engines with gigantic amounts of search categories and click by click by click you narrowed your search. These old dogs -like Yahoo, Alta Vista and Lycos- are still around, somewhere in the dark corners of the net but driven away by a search engine everyone ridiculed at first: Google.

Opposing the enourmous yellow pages of the web, there suddenly was a company that brought to you an empty screen with a single textbox to search. No way this would work. Well, Google is one of the Titans now, hungry enough to take on the world. It's picking on Microsoft now. Their first shot was Google Docs and stuff, taking on the Microsoft Office suite and now there's Chrome.

Chrome is Google's new webbrowser, released for download just yesterday and it bears the same marks as the Search Engine that shook the world: It's minimalistic. Whereas the Microsoft family tries to offer you dozens of features you'll never use (but put a pricetag on them anyway), this Chrome webbrowser is lean and mean.

"Google Chrome is a browser that combines a minimal design with sophisticated technology to make the web faster, safer, and easier."

Mmm... safer, I don't know. Heard they already found its first leak, but faster is always welcome.

More is less

Right now, Microsoft's Internet Explorer holds about 70% of the browser market, 20% is up for Firefox and the last 10% divided over the others, such as Opera and Safari, but no doubt this new browser will take a big chunk out of IE's marketshare and could well mean the end of Firefox. The development of Firefox is mainly open source, Google Chrome will be open source as well, which means you -as a consumer become a prosumer and build the product you want yourself. It makes the product better, and gets you addicted to it in the same run. The other part of the Firefox development is Google funded, so that's a well soon to dry up I guess:

Mitchell Baker, chairperson of the Mozilla Foundation admits it herself on her blog:

Another important element is the financial resources Mozilla enjoys. We’ve just renewed our agreement with Google for an additional three years. This agreement now ends in November of 2011 rather than November of 2008, so we have stability
in income. We’re also learning more all the time about how to use Mozilla’s financial resources to help contributors through infrastructure, new programs, and new types of support from employees.

Okay, so that propably means Firefox is going to pull the plug in 2011, after Google has had time to establish itself and suck out every usefull Firefox option.

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Saturday, August 09, 2008

Linden Lab Appoints Frank Ambrose as SVP Global Technology

Through Bloomberg.com


"Linden Lab has hired Frank Ambrose as SVP Global Technology, according to CEO Mark Kingdon in a Bloomberg.com article this week. The move reportedly comes as part of Linden's efforts to ramp up in the face of competition from the recently launched Google Lively. Although Second
Life
is increasingly being used for collaboration and Lively seems, initially, like a social play, Linden is still hiring for competition. In addition to Ambrose, who previously oversaw network and technical infrastructure services as an SVP at AOL, taking over computer systems, Kingdon said the company would hire new sales staff to bring in more businesses to Second Life.


"Who wouldn't be concerned when Google comes after their business?" Kingdon told Bloomberg. "We want to supercharge that growth by making it more accessible."

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Google Lively

Through Bloomberg.com



"Google introduced a program last month called Lively, designed for users who want to mingle online. Unlike Second Life, which is one big world, Lively lets customers create many smaller chat rooms that can be linked to blogs. The service allows users to post YouTube videos and connect to other rooms and Web pages.

``The idea is to enhance the Web experience that you already have, as opposed to creating an entirely different life,'' said Niniane Wang, an engineering manager at Mountain View, California-based Google.

Wang, 29, created Lively about two years ago, starting it as a '20 percent' time project that engineers work on one day a week. She declined to say how many employees are devoted to the project. Google isn't making money from the service, and Wang wouldn't discuss whether Lively will show advertising -- the company's main source of revenue. "

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Sunday, January 27, 2008

Geekend, Backend & Open-end

Orange Geekend.

Trough Ogoglio Trevor Smith's twitter stream I noticed phone company Orange had organised an interesting meeting on Scalability and called it the ‘Orange Geekend’. It was a rather interesting technical update by PhD John Plevyak on scalability. The obvious thing in the future of Virtual Worlds is in cloudcomputing but Plevyak suggested some of its load will go back to the user in peer 2 peer sharing of CPU power. The meeting was interesting, yet a little out of place. It would have sutied better in a natural habitat, like Intel...

Xeon 5148 upgrade for Linden Lab

... but Intel was celebrating a nice new deal as Linden Lab purchased a nice load of new Xeon 5148 servers. Starting February 1 you can upgrade your sim from class 4 to class 5. Upside is you get better performance, downside is rentals go up from $ 195 to $ 295 monthly (US Dollars).

Residents didn't take that rise very well and reacted heavily on the Linden Blog, and dearly want Linden Lab to open the source of the servercode shortly. This will make islands a lot cheaper and will give users and companies alike better opportunities to experiment with Virtual Worlds.

Linden loves Open Source

Linden Lab did react to the user comments by stating:

‘we’d dearly like to open-source the servers’

Which sounds pretty hopefull, but...

‘The big problem is that in the current architecture, servers are trusted. Identity information, ownership information — all that is stored on the servers, and in a closed-source, behind-the-firewall environment, we can communicate between the servers securely. Trust, identity, connectedness — all of these are huge problems.’

However, I've already seen infrastructure designs that would make this possible. The plan is on the table, so please don't hesitate to make it happen.


(The Grid Now - Tao Takashi)


(The next Grid - Tao Takashi)

... we'll have to be patient though. I remember Linden Lab's Joe Miller stating that Second Life has no future as long as there's only one company controlling the grid. Outsourcing or Opensourcing seems to be question for Linden Lab as it is said that Linden Lab does want to open up its sourcecode --but only to a select group of companies (often mentioned names include Google and IBM).

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Vesuvius Group

A little while ago I blogged Google in Second Life, which was created by the Vesuvius Group. I hadn't run into them before, but today I ran into their Executive Director, Jeroen Frans. I've known Jeroen through twitter and other sites for ages, but never knew he was part of the Vesuvius Group. Here's a little slideshow of their portfolio:



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1st Metaverse Meetup - Amsterdam

At exactly 0.00 I returned from Amsterdam where I attended the first Metaverse Meetup (Amsterdam Edition) in "De Balie" which was initiated by Joja Dhara and Ze Moo.


As this was a first meetup, apropriately themed "Meet the Avatar", the most timeconsuming event was the introduction round, but on the other hand it was nice to know who was who. We saw representatives from several MDC's such as Jeroen Frans, Executive Director of the Vesuvius Group (the guys that brought us Google in SL), Damian Simmons of Lost in the Magic Forest (Content, Essent, Aegon) and Up the Vortex (blog), and on the corporate present there was 'moi' for Sogeti, and people from ING (Our Virtual Holland), KPN and Philips Design, researchers from EPN, bloggers like Roy Cassini from Digado and excellent freelancers such as Ollie Kubrick from Unreal Design.


And off course, Bart DutchX, Founder of the Dutch Echange was present. I seem to run into him at about every metaverse related event these days. The Linden Lab banking ban doesn't seem to affect his business, as it is still expanding and they're hiring new people and adding new payment methods continuously.


As it was the first meetup I won't do an assesment of the contents of the meetup, as it was primarily a networking event tonight. I hope we'll get to discuss hot metaversal topics in the future.

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Friday, January 11, 2008

Widgetting at Google SL

Real life has been very busy in the past weeks. Holidays, and now a busy project and trying to redecorate the house in the evening hours have kept me away from blogging. It shows though. Sad to say my ratings dropped drastically.


Before I went to work this morning I noticed a blogpost over at KZero's; Google Island now open to the public….but not for long which drew my attention. I jumped in and took a look and a load of snapshots before I went to work. Now I just washed off the plaster from my hands and am picking pieces of stucco from my hair and sat down to blog this build.

Here's Nic Mitham's (KZero) pick:

"Built by the Vesuvius Group for Google as part of their Zeitgeist bi-annual event, Google Island opened for the public today. The island has been up since October, just for some Google employees and attendees of Zeitgeist.

The island was actually spotted by a few people several weeks ago, some assuming it was an unofficial build. Well, the mystery has now been revealed.

The venue is based on the real world Google campus and focusses heavily on interaction and socialising. Various Google products and apps such as Earth, Checkout and Analytics are on show - visualised where appropriate. Speaking to the guys from Vesuvius Group, the island has been sold already and is coming down tomorrow. So, here’s some images and the SLurl if you’re quick."

In itself the build does raise a couple of questions, which probably makes it the pick of the day for a lot of bloggers. As Nic said, the build is based on the Real Life Google Campus, but the official reading that it has been intended for internal use only doesn't fit the build. It's got a promo feel all over it, or as Aleister Kronos puts it:

The one thing I found strange about this build is: Why furnish it with all manner of models and links to existing Google products when the sole users of the island are Google employees - who should know all of this already? Indeed , time has been spent constructing working models of some of these - such as Sketchup and Checkout.

Perhaps the answer is a simple and prosaic: "because they could."

Maybe the answer is just as simple and prosaic, but there's more to this build. First, let's take a look on the Google campus, if the sim isn't down yet, grab yourself a Segway to move around

The central plaza has the typically Google-colored tables and is lined with several event pavillions, each with a different theme such as 'collaboration' or 'networking'.



Perhaps the most interesting part on the plaza is the Google Garage which shows the first signs of serious Widgeting with links to Google Analytics. Inside the main buildings it gets more interesting though:

In one of the halls you'll find a number of celebrity photographs with links to bio's and the option to message these people. Another room shows a cartographers table with a Google Maps interface, further on you'll pass file cabinets with links to Google Docs and a counter representing Google's new Checkout.

Of course, Sketchup is a must for the SL community, to prove it works as good as any other 3D designer and finally Google Earth rounds off Google's widgetting in Second Life.


Like Aleister said, it might be just a thing for Google to prove it can interface like this with Second Life and that this build served no other reason than to offer a place for the Google employees for the Zeitgeist celebrations but I personally find this build very attractive. Not because it's a high quality build though.

The most attractive point in this venue is the widgeting. Probably unintentionally, I think Google did the SL community a service: Many people and companies do not deem Second Life fit for business. One of the reasons is it is too open and too less secure an environment to do serious business.

However in interfacing with Google Maps and Google Earth (as a Paraverse) it opens up opportunities for integration with GIS data (geospatial information system), i.e. integration with Real Time Real World data it puts Second Life forward as a serious option in disaster training (like play2train) or as base for a virtual control center (see Ugotrade).

On the fun part, you could start using GIS information (e.g. Traffic Information) to simulate traffic in Real Life Cities in Second Life, or use Damanicorp's Weather Station to let your sim use actual weather data.

SLURL: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Google%20Island/128/128/0 (as long as it lasts).

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Your expectations of the Metaverse in 2007 (2)

Yesterday I blogged about my expectations for the Metaverse in 2007 in answer to Rick's question. His reply to my answer (part of it) was:

"My problem is that, imho Second Life isn't a business platform at this moment
in which these goals can be achieved."


and

"Then it comes to waiting for the next 'killer app' which really draws the
crowd into the metaverse. However, I'm having difficulties in formulating the
needs in which this 'holy grail' should provide. Is it mass collaboration, the
digital long tail, outsourcing or will the virtual economy grow to such an
extent that retail goes 3D because of efficiency? In other words, what is your
vision of a businessmodel that goes beyond the limitations of Second Life, which
added value can a 3D environment have for entrepeneurs and how will crowds be
involved?"


These are easy questions, much like "Why are we here? How does the universe work?" The answer is similarly hard. If I had a straightforward answer, I'd probably be a millionaire soon.
It's the X-million dollar question.


As a Metaverse Evangelist, or sr. Networked Virtual Environment Consultant I could talk about the potential of metaverses forever. To be honest though. We have to be realistic.



  1. We're at the early stages of the industry. Many companies are still having difficulties in understanding web 2.0; seeing blogs and wiki's rise but don't know how to implement it in their corporate strategy, let alone we can convince companies to adapt to the Metaverse overnight. It's a process.
  2. There's a couple of industries that can make quick wins with metaversal presence (like real estate), but not every product is suitable for a 3D environment (like mortgages)

Desinging the Metaverse Killer App

When it comes to designing the metaversal killer app I'd say it's too early to tell. We still don't have a web 2.0 killer app. Every day new sites, new worlds and new functionality emerges. The killer app will have to be a mashup of the best of both worlds; 3D Facebook, Google virtualisation or whatever. I've got tons of unformulated thoughts on this but what it comes down to is that we have to move from technology driven design to social design; step out of the binary limitations and explore the realms of psychology and communication to understand human needs for interaction and information and only then move on to functionality on demand. 2007 is a year of options. We see variation, we see diferent platforms, technologies and cultures emerge. Now is the time to explore, the time of veni vidi vici. Observe, Asses and Implement (though by by trial and error). To Incorporate, that's 2010 and beyond for the majority of companies.

Time for bed now. A few more points need to be addressed tomorrow...

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Does Robbie Rock?

There's a platform out there that has some attraction to corporations, but hardly known in the regular Virtual World Business, named Why Robbie Rocks.





Now it's pretty hard to define what exactly is a virtual world (see this discussion at Metaversed), but I think Why Robbie Rocks should be considered one, except... it doesn't really show. There's quite a bit of preformatted avatar pimping, but that's about it.



A feature on the website is the Elle Girl shop / site which uses WRR. As for serious business, also Dutch banker Rabobank (one of the few triple A rated banks in Europe) runs WRR and the latest is the Dutch One Campaign version.




The fun parts though is that there's web 2.0 integration. You can put your avatar on the (Google) map, push it to MSN spaces, MSN Messenger or embed it on your website or as a gadget on the ruling Dutch social network site hyves.

I haven't been able to see the full potential of Why Robbie Rocks, so tell us, why should we sign up?

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Googlemap pinpoints locations in SL

Today I stumbled upon the Sunverse blog which happens to have a really nice gimmick up.
A google map with pinpointers to RL locations in Second Life.

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Metaverse news august

Last week has been very busy with pressing Real Life projects, so I've not been following the news properly. Here's a round up of some interesting news from the virtual world blogoshphere:



Ambling in Second Life:


  • Brand Protection in Virtual Worlds

    The topic of branding should be close to the heart of any organisation setting up in a virtual world. In theory, this new environment should not pose any greater problem than existing communications channels, such as the web, TV or the printed word. However, there is one key difference between this and existing channels: it is an unknown.
  • Another Second Life Conference is Cancelled

    I have just received news that SLCC 2007 - Deutschland, due to be held from 21st to 23rd of September in Dusseldorf has been cancelled.

Virtual World News:

Metaversed:

  • 15 Things You Should Know About vSide, The New 3D Facebook

    The Grid Safari group got the grand tour of recently launched vSide today by Doppelganger founder Andrew Littlefield. We took a long look around the entire system, and learned a whole truckload of new tricks in what has to be one of the best looking 3D social environments, if not the best, I've been in. vSide is a beautiful space for teenagers to hang out, socialize and listen to music. As Littlefield puts it, if Second Life is Myspace, then vSide is Facebook.
  • Google Earth + Skype + Multiuser = Unype

    Created as a free project by Holoscape Inc. founder Murat Aktihanoglu, Unype allows multiple users to interact with the Google Earth API together and speak to one another through Skype. While there has been much speculation about Google's plans for future virtual worlds, Unype demonstrates how easy it might be to put something really interesting together. It's in a very early beta stage, but at a tiny 210K download it's definitely worth taking a few moments to look at. (Unfortunately, Windows only at the moment.)

3PointD:

  • Conduit Social Gaming World Gets $5.5m Round

    Susan Wu, who was instrumental in arranging the Virtual Goods Summit I moderated a panel at in June, emailed me some embargoed news earlier today, and though I begged and pleaded, she asked me wait until midnight to post it. However, I see that the news is already out there, so I have to apologize to Susan and jump the gun, if only slightly: The news is that Charles River Ventures, where Susan is a partner, has just co-led a $5.5 million Series A financing of Conduit Labs,
  • Metaverse Roadmap to Singapore

    The fifth annual State of Play conference on legal and social issues in virtual worlds is under way this week in Singapore. I had to cancel my trip out there, which is a shame, since SoP is consistently one of the most interesting gatherings of VW thinkers. Jerry Paffendorf is there, though, and reports that the chin-wagging is already gathering steam.

KZero:

  • Beastie Boys live in There

    Beastie Boys live in There. That’s live as in appearing in real-time as opposed to living in There, just in case you were wondering. As part of their recently agreed partnership, Capitol Music Group and There.com brought The Beastie Boys in-world on Monday night to hang-out with the residents. Other planned event sclude Korn, Yellowcard and Lily Allen.
  • HiPiHi announces global strategy

    HiPiHi announces global strategy. The Chinese 3D virtual world HiPiHi announced its global strategy on 20th August 2007 in Singapore,and has confirmed their strategic investors, including ngi group.


Ugotrade:

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Friday, August 03, 2007

Intergalactic News update

Time for another blogosphere-update of the metaverse. Some nice newsbits passed by last week. So here's another hails from the VERSE

KZero reports:

Secondlife Blogo gives a nice addition to the metaversemap with an overview on VW's 4 Kids:


They also report on the article from the New York Times saying that Club Pinguin has been sold for 350 Million USD, with another 350 Million to follow after certain requirements are met.

Nick Wilson over at Metaversed reports:

  • Multiverse v1.0 Released!
    The long wait is finally over. After years of planning, volumes of hype, and the input of thousands of beta developers, Multiverse has finally released v1.0 of its platform. The Multiverse Platform is "a comprehensive software solution that gives development teams the technology, tools and assets to create virtual worlds for almost any purpose, including games and business tools." Basically, you can make worlds with it...
  • The XTR 3D Human Machine Interface
    A company called Extreme Reality (XTR) announced last week the creation of XTR 3D Human Machine Interface, an advanced motion tracking software designed to work with a regular commercially available webcam. Head and arm movements would be tracked automatically, and no more complicated equipment is needed other than a relatively blank wall behind the user. It even detects when the user reaches forward, toward the camera...

3PointD reports:

Last but not least the Belgian Second Life Crew reports that where Linden Lab bought Windward Mark to boost graphics, they're outdone by MindArk, producers of the Entropia Universe who incorporated the CryEngine2.

Here's the Mindark press release:

"Entropia Universe, the safest virtual world utilizing a real cash economy, has signed a license agreement to use the stunning high-tech game engine CryENGINE 2®, from German developer Crytek, creators of “Far Cry®” and upcoming “Crysis®.” This will make Entropia Universe the closest-to-reality looking massively multiplayer online game ever seen. The transition to an Entropia Universe platform built around this new technology is expected to be finished by mid-2008, and will be available to all Entropia Universe partners. Creator MindArk PE AB’s CEO Jan Welter Timkrans explains, “The upgrade of Entropia Universe will be built around the spectacular features supplied by CryENGINE 2®, offering a complete and immersive experience to Entropia participants. It will create synergies between the proven and safe Real Cash Economy backbone, the Entropia storyline with colonists fighting to establish a new world, and the very life-like visuals supplied from CryENGINE 2®.” He continues, “When we saw what the engine was capable of, we immediately understood that it would be perfect for Entropia, as both MindArk and Crytek are pioneers in their respective fields.”


Avni Yerli, Crytek’s Managing Director says, “We are thrilled to have been chosen by such a well regarded and successful industry leader as MindArk to be their future engine provider for Entropia Universe. We think the combination of our CryENGINE 2® technology and their extremely popular virtual playground will result in a new kind of rich and immersive experience that has not been possible until now. It will also expose a wide new audience to the stunningly realistic graphics, environmental physics and believable animations which are made possible by the award winning CryENGINE 2® together with some of the most recent advances in PC hardware and operating systems.”"


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Saturday, July 14, 2007

Metaverse Map

The metaverse rollercoster keeps on rolling. Next week I've got to do a presentation on Second Life and the metaverse. I've been looking around a bit and decided to throw in a few logo's of Web 3D / Metaverse initiatives.
Which ones did I miss?

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Friday, June 29, 2007

Geek Meet Gadgeteers

Fridaynight - Geek meet time. This time not at the Metaversed home but at Dr. Dobbs Life 2.0 island where hip and techsavvy things are as common as bugs in Microsoft. This week brings something new to the Geek Meet as it's the first time it gets sponsored by Information Week.

First off, some snaps of the Dr. Dobbs island.
This weeks line up as announced by Metaversed:
"Alidar Moxie of Mechanized Life, makers of the popular Calendar Cogs Google API integration app for Second Life as welll as the new StatsCollector RSS app, and Vincent Shore, creator of Squawk, the Second Life Twitter / Jaiku presence and bookmarking app, will be joining Mystical Cookie, creator of the MystiTool, who we confirmed earlier at this week's Friday Geek Meet. Our regular Friday tech forum in Second Life is co-sponsored by Dr. Dobb's Journal, InformationWeek and of course Metaversed, and has quickly become the virtual worlds top regular technology and business networking event, where bloggers, journalists, new media types and tech heads of all kinds come to talk about the business and technology of virtual worlds. "

Vincent Shore - Squawk
Vincent created the popular Squawk app that that incorporates twitter, jailku and delicious into SL.
"Squawk is essentially a tool for connecting your Second Life experiences up with popular web services. It began as just a presence client for Twitter but has progressively grown in scope as time has gone on. Today, Squawk supports Twitter, Jaiku, del.icio.us and Ma.gnolia, with more services on the way.
In terms of presencing, Squawk can do anything traditional clients can do, and a bit more. Squawk can attach a geocode to your updates, allowing friends to see where you are in SL, or teleport in to check out something cool you microblogged about. If you visit Squawknest.com, those geocodes are used to visually place markers on a web map. Squawk also automatically builds your Nest profile and tags based on what you like to microblog about."
The latest addon to Squawk is social bookmarking, or gridmarking.
"Squawk is a combination of LSL scripts (housed within the virtual Squawk bracelet) and a number of intermediary PHP scripts housed on Vincents web server, which translate API calls and make the response data easier for Second Life to handle."

Alidar Moxie - Mechanized Life
Alidar received a great welcome by Nick Wilson:
"Next I'd like to introduce you to a great scriptor, one I think of as an "integration" specialist. She deals mostly in API's and RSS and other ways of bringing our 2D stuff into SL. She's famous for Calender Cogs, a Google Calendar API implementaion, but recently has released StatsCollector, which I think you'll find even more intriguing. Please welcome Alidar Moxie!"
On Calendar Cogs:
"I have two real lines of things I've worked on the first was 'Calendar Cogs' I wrote it because I was literally writing on post its on my monitor when I wanted to go to events then I said 'why not use Google's thing to do this for me. I wrote 2 objects, a Hud for personal reminders and a Kiosk for people to place on land and tell others of their events both pull events directly from the Google calendar and use them in world and Huds talk to kiosks. I think I had a similar issue to Vincent in that the API for google had SO MUCH information that I had to write a ton of scripts between the Google Stuff and LSL."
On StatsCollector:
"It simply records who comes in contact with it but then allows you to subscribe to an RSS feed of those visits and recently allows you to find out if they are credit card users, how old they are
what time of day is your busiest, etc. At the moment you can pull either graphs or HTML versions of the data in the near future I plan to allow XML downloads and I am working on my own API so that others can make their own objects to 'talk' to the systemso to speak"
The statcollector could be a breakthrough in Inworld purchase history as a vendor could be written to record who purchased an item and when. Transaction history in Second Life is only kept for 30 days, the default for the current version of Statcollector as well, due to server capacity in logging.
Mystical Cookie - MystiTool
The Mystitool app was named Metabrand no. 1 by KZero a few weeks ago and is classified as an essential tool for Second Life survival.
"After my first month in SL, i had several things on my hud.. a spatial radar, a popular "shield" after being attacked on my own first land, ao, and a few things i was playing with ..."
"...Anyway, I was learning lsl and I wanted to keep all of my toys in one place.. i also did not like having so many hud attachments, and i wanted to learn how they worked.. so i started writing my own replacements for things. i started giving copies to friends.. as time went on, i added things.. av scanner, non-physical vehicle (a pseudo shield), etc. Mystitool has several privacy and convenience features in a single hud attachment.. all easily accessible by hud menus, it was designed to consume the least possible hud real estate to keep the screen clear for play and provide certain basic functionality which is missing from the SL client.. things such as knowing who is near you.. a quick "favorites" list of locations, teleport history, and basic anti-stalker and anti-griefer tools. Mystitool has grown in features as friends and customers suggest new things to be added or improved.. i also add things as i need them and with the latest update, there is now a plugin system in place to allow other scripters to write their own mystitool plugins, which will place buttons into the main mystitool hud menus :)"
The above parts are the introductions to the products, for the tech-talk I'd advise you to read the transcripts that will be on at Metaversed soon.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Sketchup: Sculpties 2 Go

Well, we've reported on Sculpties coming to Second Life, as part of the 'advanced 3D modelling' things to invade Second Life. One of the questions was if this would set homegrown primbuilders back and give professional modellers an edge in using expensive 3D suites, like Maya or 3D Studio Max.

Well, here's the good news: You can start for free! I found out at the Eightbar blog that you can export Google Sketch-up as well: http://eightbar.co.uk/2006/09/29/google-sketchup-second-life-export/

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

Googlephonics

Google is looking for the next level in their Search Engine development. They have started an experiment with voice recognition, enabling people to search Google by telephone when you don't have a computer or internet connectin at hand. Google does the search and gives you the results, if so desired per sms.

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