WWW versions

Posted October 21, 2008 by amitgohil
Categories: Technology

Tags: , , , ,

There is so much written, discussed, and argued about the web versions all over the blogosphere – web 1.0, 2.0, 3.0 and so forth. There are at least two schools of thought regarding the nomenclature. One (the puritans) that accurately defines the version, presents strict guidelines for a website to belong to a certain version and lays down well defined frontiers within which each version resides. The other takes a less pedagogic view, dismisses these versions as buzz-words, and questions whether these can be used in any meaningful way. You can argue ad infinitum about the rationale of this nomenclature but you cannot ignore it completely. If anything, the versions help us nail down those attributes that make a website attractive in all respects – aesthetically, functionally, and above all economically.

Well, to be precise these are the versions of the world wide web (hereto forth referred to as www) as there is a difference between the internet and the www. Here is an assimilation of the past, present and future state of the www using the versioning system mainly because of its intuitive and chronological appeal.

Web 2.0 conference

Here is a little bit of history to get us started. We cannot talk about www versions without mentioning the Web 2.0 conference held in 2004. Here leaders of innovative startups and internet industry titans came together to discuss the theme – “the web as a platform”. This was the first ever second generation internet business conference. The term web 2.0 gained wider popularity and acceptance as a result of this conference and web 1.0 is a retronym referring to the state of the www maybe before the internet meltdown of 2000-01.

Web 1.0

Lets start at the beginning – the seminal ARPANET of 1969 (the famous year when people were singing “Hello Mrs Robinson” and cheering Apollo 11 on its way to the moon) evolved into the internet as we know it. The www not only gained wide acceptance but also became extremely popular. People discovered new ways of leveraging its appeal. The first movement – Web 1.0 – was to move knowledge, information, data, etc online. In other words, a lot of content was being brought online. There was commerce also – but again it was like taking a static catalog and publishing it online. Then people could use a shopping cart  as they would in real life to pile items and pay for it online. There were search engines too like yahoo (yes, it was one of the first and earliest), altavista, opentext, infoseek, lycos, excite, hotbot, askjeeves just to name a few! There were also some budding communities like geocities, icq, slashdot, among others. Geocities as it originally existed was a webhosting service that let users create content but also had community characteristics like bulletin boards, and chatrooms. Icq was an internet wide instant messaging website. Slashdot was the precursor to present day blogging.

I came across a harmless and hilarious rendition of a web 1.0 website and I am sure it is a joke. If you want to get a taste of it, you can get it here! This was the past and now lets move on to the present – web 2.0. Web 2.0 seems to be all about communication – networking (if I may say so) amongst humans and computers.

Web 2.0

Lets investigate the human angle of Web 2.0 first. Social networking sites are immensely popular as they make it so easy to interact, connect, and communicate. Weblogs (blogs) have revolutionized conventional journalism. Before the advent of blogs, an army of journalists covered events, voiced opinions, and chronicled history as it happened. Now you don’t have to be a journalist to get the right to write history!! Ok, I got a little carried away with my affinity for assonance here, but what I mean is that the layperson can now publish online about current events, or about events that are going to happen (and get sued if you are the blogger spilling the beans about Apple’s latest product launch). I think blogging is the most potent online revolution that has happened in the recent years. Wikis are another great product of human interaction that leverages such interaction to produce the greatest encyclopedia ever and that too so quickly and so efficiently. Above all its free to the public!

Now the technology angle of Web 2.0. The web Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) and web services are the means by which computer-to-computer (C-to-C) interaction becomes possible. APIs are just programming interfaces that lets a web application interact with a site or service – like the Digg API that lets web developers retrieve Digg data that can be used by their sites. RSS is the other tool for C-to-C interaction. This is a multicronym (if I am allowed to coin a new term here) that has many long-forms like Really Simple Syndication, or Rich Site Summary, or RDF Site Summary. The pictures that you see on the side bar of this page are just an RSS feed from my Flickr site. If you are a content provider (blogger, for instance), then syndicating your content to RSS aggregators (like My Yahoo which is also a great example of personalization), is not only a great way to reaching a wider audience but also an efficient means of search engine optimization (SEO). For instance, you are Joe the plumber and own a plumbing business. If you have a dynamic website that offers visitors bookmark tools for StumbleUpon, broadcasts RSS feeds (maybe articles about benefits of repiping or bathroom fittings product reviews), offers comment threads to readers for asking questions or posting comments, categorizes and archives content by tags/categories, then you can be sure that a Yellow pages site won’t rank above yours in the search results served up by an internet search engine.

Here is a great directory of cool Web 2.0 sites.

Web 3.0

Moving on to Web 3.0. Here things get interesting as Web 3.0 seems to be in the budding stages now so we can safely say it is the version of the future.  I have to admit that it was Sramana Mitra’s blog that got me first intrigued by the www versions. It is an excellent way to classify Web 3.0 and it has a lot of intuitive and conceptual appeal and makes for a very compelling read. She says that the recipe for web 3.0 consists of content, commerce, community and introduces a fourth “C” – context. It is context that would drive Web 3.0 in addition to vertical search (a great example is the travel site kayak) and personalization. Personally, I feel the semantic web in which computers become more human like and are able to analyze data and instructions (not only low level readable by computers but also high level semantic understood by humans) is the version of the future. This may not be as hard to achieve what with artificially intelligent agents already in existence.

While the concept of making computers more human-like does evoke disturbing images of machines taking over the world as depicted in innumerable sci-fi flicks like Terminator, it is not too hard to imagine that it will take decades if not centuries for this to happen. So instead of a single Web 3.0 version there may be several versions in the interim. Before I go into a new way of keeping track of what these versions would entail, let me say a little more about personalization.

Amazon shopping experience

Amazon is a great example of a website that incorporates commerce, community, and personalization among other things. We will focus on personalization. Most of you would be familiar to the amazon shopping experience. Lets say you are looking for books on enterprise risk management. You sign in and you search for risk management books. You find one that looks interesting and you click on its link. Then you are presented with the book price, details (it lets you look inside the book at the table of contents). If you are unsure of what you want, it offers invaluable options, like other books on the same topic, or what other people are buying or end up buying eventually (community). If you are like me, you want to read reviews before you buy anything and amazon offers just that – invaluable previous customer reviews of the product, and discussion threads that may eventually influence your decision one way or the other (community). The best thing is that the reviews are rated as being helpful by other readers and amazon displays these ratings which again is invaluable because you don’t want to be swayed by a vested interest but rather want a good unbiased review. If you just go to the homepage, amazon lists the New for you and the Latest from authors you may like sections, which have newly published books that you may like (personalization).  This is remarkable as you don’t need to explicitly indicate your preference. Like a human, it figures them out based on your past browsing or buying history. I also think that this personalization, rather the degree of personalization may well become the preferred benchmark against which the future versions will be evaluated.

Degree of personalization and future www versions

Let me expound upon what I mean here. When I searched for the term www versions on Google, its search engine returned about 116 million search results – try it. Now what I don’t understand is – Why is google so proud of the fact that it found 116 million in 0.17 seconds?! All I asked for was one page that had the information I need. Ok – granted the search term was a little generic but how many of us actually look at the next page (beyond the first 10 results) of any search we initiate unless we are desperate for the information and the first ten results just don’t serve up what we were looking for? Will any one of us ever go through all the 116 million results?!! It is inconceivable even to think of it!! I would hope that this would change as the degree of personalization increases. As your artificially intelligent personal Google search agent gets to know you better after learning about your personal preferences, habits, dispositions, needs, etc maybe able to cut down on the irrelevant results of your search. So with every www version it gets better and serves you fewer and fewer pages but these are more relevant and you don’t have to waste time sifting through the irrelevant information overload. Until your search agent knows you completely, maybe even better than you know yourself, at which time it will need to present only one page with exactly what you need – this page may not exist but it may have been customized by the agent to get you exactly what you need. At this point you would have lost all your privacy – but isn’t that a small price to pay for the perfect search engine?! Here is a graph that charts the course of the future versions.

Google Search Results vs www versions

As the www versions progress, the search results produced by google, or any search engine for that matter, will tend to one.

A brief history of time

Posted September 25, 2008 by amitgohil
Categories: Science Fiction

Tags: , , ,

Back to the future – one of the most innovative science-fiction flicks put the time machine in the mainstream. You can trace the concept of a time machine at least back to the novel of the same name published in 1895 by H. G. Wells. Time travel has not only been the object of many a fiction book/movie/TV series but Einstein lent it some scientific credibility. See this fun video.

This video is supported at least in theory – may not be practically possible with our current technology. If you get into the physics of time travel, it very quickly gets extremely complicated and theoretical.

Here I propose a very simple way of travelling at least to the past. And let me say this at the very outset that this proposition is fictional and not scientifically supported – at least not yet!

Lets assume you are floating in space near earth – with Einstein. Imagine there is a giant dish antenna on earth that continuously beams – say scenes from the most watched TV show in the world of all time (source wikipedia) – none other than the famous Baywatch. Also assume for the purpose of this discussion that the universe is at a standstill – this is just to keep things simple. In the space ship you are lazing (more likely floating) on the couch watching Baywatch. The TV waves travel towards you and away from earth at the speed of light. Now here you are watching your favorite life guard running on the beach and the scene is breathtakingly beautiful!! You could pick up the remote to pause the scene OR you can speed the spaceship away from the earth at the speed of light at the instant the particular frame reaches the spaceship TV reciever. This way the frame that you wanted to pause and the spaceship are travelling at the same speed in the same direction and the frame will appear to be frozen on your TV. Isn’t that a cool way of pausing!! Now if you accelerate so that you are moving in the same direction but faster than light you would catch up with the previous frames that were telecast. On the TV you would see that your favorite life-guard who was frozen until now is slowly moving backwards. If you accelerate further the life-guard moves backwards even faster. If you keep going faster you can see that the show starts being rewound as you keep catching earlier frames. You gain speed and you end up at the beginning of the show!!

Now imagine that instead of Baywatch .. :-( all the world events are beamed and you are watching these world events unfold (or refold).  You go faster than light and you see Sarah Palin saying, “I can see Russia from my backyard!”. Faster and you see George Bush getting elected the second time (as if the first time wasn’t enough). Faster and you see Bill Clinton with none other than you-know-who!! Faster and you can get back to the 2nd world war, 1st world war, American revolution, ….. faster and you can reach the birth of civilization, or when dinosaurs roamed the earth (maybe you can actually find out why they are extinct), to the birth of earth itself roughly 4.5 billion years ago. If your spaceship still has fuel or you the money (at todays gas prices!) to fill her up, you can go further back to the birth of our solar system, our galaxy, or to our universe!! Thus you would have reached the beginning of time itself!!!! I am not sure about you but Einstein in your spaceship would be one happy dude!!!!!!

Perception is reality

Posted September 22, 2008 by amitgohil
Categories: Philosophy

Tags: , , ,

What is more important – the rigid unchanging reality or its fluid perception?

I call perception ‘fluid’ because each individual’s world view is deeply influenced by her beliefs, opinions, values and its very likely that two individuals may see the same thing in a different light. To take an ancient yet relevant example, the universe was believed to be geo-centric. In other words, earth was believed to be at the center and the sun revolved around it. It was Copernicus (1473-1543 AD) who challenged this idea with a heliocentric theory stating that it was the sun and not the earth at the center. Although Copernicus is widely believed to be the first proponent of this theory some theosophists believe that the idea of heliocentrism can be found in Vedic texts written in ancient India as early as 9th-8th century B.C. Nevertheless, the point is quite clear that the perception (geocentrism) was far removed from reality (heliocentrism). Thankfully, as time passed and with various technological advances, the reality has been proven beyond doubt. In this case, it took centuries for perceptions to converge to reality.

Sometime ago, I read an interesting article on consumer behavior or rather consumer confusion. A quick google search yielded the author to be Professor Joe F. Alexander of the University of Northern Colorado. The author proposed a very interesting experiment to prove that what you see isn’t always what you get. The presentation (packaging, advertising, marketing) of a product can be quite deceptive and may or may not represent the true quality of the product. The act involves holding up a carton of eggs for everyone to see clearly. The carton has 11 fake eggs and only 1 real egg. The presenter picks up the real egg and breaks it into a bowl to prove to her audience beyond doubt that it was a real egg. Having done that, the presenter tosses the remaining eggs up in the air in the middle of the audience. Amidst gasps and giggles, the presenter asks, “What determined your reaction – the perception of the 11 eggs or their reality? What was more powerful – the reality or its perception?”

For the purpose of this discussion, we can divide our world into two convenient albeit simplistic forms – the physical and the non-physical.

Reality in the physical world is relatively easy to perceive and the two converge, sooner or later. Like everyone perceives that diamonds are hard, that carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere traps heat and the world (our planet earth) to be round! The ancients were convinced that you would fall off the edge when you get to the end of the world. But as new knowledge, facts overshadowed old beliefs, later generations scoffed at this belief.

Things are not so straightforward in the other realm – the non-physical world. Everyone agrees that diamonds are the hardest natural mineral known to man, but not everyone may agree on what constitutes a perfect diamond ring. From a variety of diamond rings in a store, each guy who wants to propose to his girlfriend may pick a different ring. Personal tastes, opinions, perceptions are going to influence the choice of the perfect diamond ring. What is the reality here? Or is there any reality at all?!

Lets take the litmus test. What is the reality – is this blog any good? If enough people think it is then the perception will become reality!

Can you waste something that is free?

Posted January 26, 2011 by amitgohil
Categories: Philosophy

I posed this question “Can you waste something that is free?” on facebook and some of my friends responded with replies like – “time” and “cell phone minutes”!

Here is my take – Anything of any consequence already has a price attached leaving things that are either useless or infinitely available. Wasting such things actually defeats the very purpose of wastage – there is no sense of outrage! You could waste time since it is extremely valuable and you can certainly waste cell phone minutes since you paid for them!!

Dirty Assets

Posted January 8, 2009 by amitgohil
Categories: Business, Entertainment, Finance, Satire

Tags: , ,

Now its the porn industry’s turn to ask for a bailout! Hustler publisher Larry Flynt and Girls Gone Wild CEO Joe Francis recently said they will request that Congress allocate $5 billion for a bailout of the adult entertainment industry.

Unlike the ‘dirty assets’ (read mortgage backed securities) that sank the finance industry, the ‘dirty assets’ of the porn industry might just help it to stay afloat.

It remains to be seen if Larry Flynt and Joe Francis will be successful even if they carpool to Washington in a hybrid! My only advice to them is to take some of their ‘dirty assets’ along!!!

Secularism

Posted December 8, 2008 by amitgohil
Categories: Philosophy, politics, Religion, Satire

Tags: , , ,

What is the similarity between a secular Muslim or a secular Hindu and an unbiased opinion?

All the three are oxymorons!!

Gateway Of India peace march in pictures

Posted December 5, 2008 by amitgohil
Categories: politics, Satire

Tags: , , , ,

The recent acts of terror in Mumbai have sparked strong emotions of indignation in Indians world wide. At a peace march at the Gateway of India, Mumbai on Dec 3rd, 2008, Mumbai-kars voiced their resentment in their signature satirical style.  Here are some images (courtesy my friend Mr. Sanjeet Hegde-Desai) that tell the tale of ire that the people of Mumbai feel against Indian politicians.

Refer to the glossary below for explanation about people, events, terms shown in the pictures.

Glossary

  • Raj: Raj Thackeray is the founder and president of Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (Maharashtra Renaissance Army), which is a regional party in the state of Maharashtra in India.
  • Mr. Deshmukh: Vilasrao Deshmukh is, now former, chief minister of the state of Maharashtra. Mumbai is the capital of Maharashtra. He was widely criticized for taking Ram Gopal Varma to the Taj Mahal Hotel in the aftermath of the terror acts.
  • Achuthanandan: V.S. Achuthanandan, Kerala’s Chief Minister, who remarked that even a “dog” would not visit the house of NSG commando Sandeep Unnikrishnan after being denied entry into his home by the late commando’s father.
  • Ram Gopal Varma: A famous Bollywood film maker fell from grace lately after his lame attempt of remaking one of India’s cult classics – “Sholay”. The remake is called “Ram Gopal Varma ki aag” and has been widely lampooned by media and the public at large.
  • Sena:  A reference to “Shiv Sena” – a regional political party of India. Sena is the Hindi word for army.
  • Deshmurkh: A purposeful misspelling of the former chief minister’s last name. The 2 parts – “Desh” is Hindi for country and “murkh” is Hindi for unwise , or dim-witted.

A refreshing waft of “outdoors” indoors – II

Posted December 3, 2008 by amitgohil
Categories: Technology

Tags: , , ,

Earlier I wrote a post on the Tree theme in gmail. Here is a sample when it was foggy in San Francisco.

Foggy outside

Foggy outside - Top

The bottom screen shot tells the tale!!

Foggy outside - Top

Foggy outside - Bottom

Sleepless in Santa Cruz?

Posted November 26, 2008 by amitgohil
Categories: Business

Tags: , ,

Recently I came across a phenomenally innovative and extremely cool business – Nite Owl Cookies. The three young founders made a business out of delivering warm freshly baked cookies and cold milk at night – from 9 pm to 1:30 am. Their clientele is mostly young UC Santa Cruz students who are up at night doing things that young students generally do – of course studying!!

Nite Owl Cookies is co-owned by Gray Graziani, Neil Cohen and Henry Colton– friends since high school. Their website says,

We don’t use preservatives or additives because we aren’t sure how to do that. We just bake cookies that we love, and keep things simple and delicious.

That is what their patrons love too!!

A refreshing waft of “outdoors” indoors

Posted November 26, 2008 by amitgohil
Categories: Technology

Tags: , , ,

Today, the day before thanksgiving, is a typical November day in San Francisco – cloudy and rainy. I opened my gmail account and saw some drops on the screen that appeared almost real. I actually tried to wipe the screen off. Here are some screen shots – not very good but adequate. Click on the image below and see the almost real and life-like droplet on the word “Unstarred” or the one on the word “Oldest”!!!

Tree theme in gmail

Tree theme in gmail - top

This is the “Tree” theme of gmail in action. Recently, as many of you may have noticed, Google introduced “Themes” to gmail so users can personalize the look and feel of their email client. More out of curiosity than anything else, I started playing with the various themes. I chose “Tree”  and I was surprised when it asked for the city I was in. I typed San Francisco. The theme reflects the weather outside so you can get a refreshing waft of “outdoors” indoors.  

Tree theme in gmail

Tree theme in gmail - bottom

More power to google!

Also see my post on the look when it is foggy outside (or your reference city related to the theme).


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