Release 4.0

Friday, April 25, 2003

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posted by Esther 2:20 PM

Breakfast w David Weinberger

I had breakfast – by explicit prearrangement – with David Weinberger this morning. He’s a longtime friend whom I haven’t talked with in a while. He’s giving a speech this afternoon that I will have to miss (because I am going to see Alien Technology to learn about RFID).

So I asked him to give me a sneak preview. It’s about ambiguity and explicitness. …and in the context of this conference, it explains the problems – and the allure – of social software. Then ensued a conversation, with both of us trying to divine the implicit issues around ambiguity and render them into explicit words. [not to worry; this doesn't steal his thunde. he sent me an outline of his talk, which is much more about groups.]

DW: ambiguity is good!

ED: you mean the richness of human interaction, etc.

DW: yes, but I want to get beyond that. Examples: In politics, you’re with us or against us. Friendster, making friendship explicit? You can’t. there’s also an ethical aspect.. In the list of possible situations [single, married, etc.] “open marriage” is a dead giveaway.

ED: Ethics! Yes, it’s the most interesting question left [after technology, strategy, policy]. Without ambiguity, there is no free will.

DW: Explicitness is an act of violence. You think it’s archeological: You take something and dust it off, but in fact explicitness reduces things; it destroys. ….That’s why groups stay away from constitution writing.

ED: But they don’t stay away from constitution-writing. It’s more like moths to a flame. They can’t stop it. But they can’t handle the explicitness. It’s like pre-nuptial agreements.

DW: And the same with digital ID, Web personas. We’re drawn to them, but they’re destructive.

DW: But I’m ending with hope. That there’s now hope for social software to move from its past – harsh and glaring and topdown – to a new, emergent, bottom-up form that preserves the ambiguity. There’s an art to doing explicitness well, so that it’s not destructive.

ED: And it’s that possibility of artfulness that keeps drawing us – techies and would-be techies – to it.

posted by Esther 11:30 AM

Thursday, April 24, 2003

test [sorry, just fooling around!!]
posted by Esther 10:26 AM

Day 2 -

Second lesson: If you're going to start a blog, it helps to have friendly, helpful people around. Sam Ruby of Intertwingly (and IBM and Apache) kindly set up an RSS feed for me. Thanks, Sam!

Now on to substance:

Yesterday Google announced that it has acquired Applied Semantics. The network here at O'reilly is down right now (yikes!) so I can't get a link, but here's an excerpt:
"Applied Semantics' products are based on its patented CIRCA technology, which understands, organizes, and extracts knowledge from websites and information repositories in a way that mimics human thought and enables more effective information retrieval. A key application of the CIRCA technology is Applied Semantics' AdSense product that enables web publishers to understand the key themes on web pages in order to deliver highly relevant and targeted advertisements."

Clearly, if you can do it to match to ads, you can do it for other things... I visited this company in January, and was intrigued by what they are doing... though at the time, they were focused on ad-serving plus domain-name generation - i.e. instead of generating a random new name such as or, it would come up with or Hardly a great contribution to the welfare of humankind, but it enabled AS to get revenues rather than [further] equity investment from VCs.

Now I guess they're selling equity after all - but in exchange for the ability to apply their technology in one of the world's largest content sandboxes.

From Google's side, interesting too! Last month at PC Forum I was pestering Sergey Brin about whether Google would move beyond mostly abstract algorithms to more explicitly semantic analysis... watch that space! (or I'll watch if for you.)

posted by Esther 10:25 AM

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Well, there's no time to start a blog like when you run into Ev Williams at a conference (thanks, Tim O'Reilly) and he offers to help personally to set you up with your very own blog.

As I was saying to the bloggerati this morning (Doc & Allen Searls, the Davids of all persuasions, Richard Soderberg, Geoff Cohen, et al.), a lot of what I do is stuff I simply can't write about: internal meetings with portfolio companies, corporate regime change, private briefings and such. This blog will be an experiment covering the things I *can* talk about. But now I need to give this machine back so they can close the exhibit....
posted by Esther 4:18 PM

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