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Predicting 2010: Wisdom of Sheep or Silence of the Crowds?

December 31, 2009 Leave a comment

“The wisdom of crowds” is a phrase that often evokes lofty thoughts of how collective wisdom and collaborative effort can be harnessed to achieve truly remarkable outcomes. However, like most things, there is a fine line between hype and reality, especially when it comes to online content and social networking.

The Wisdom of Crowds concept does not purport to be a cure for everything, and even its most ardent supporters will readily admit that sometimes the crowd can get it wrong, but it is a proven phenomenon that crowd wisdom can make far more accurate predictions, and better decisions, than the typical individual or expert. Such is the popularity of the crowd concept that it has spawned other related neologisms like “crowd-sourcing” and “crowd-funding” which both have key elements of social networking.
However, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing, and it easily gets to the point where such crowd-based allusions start to resemble the bleating of sheep, or the rush of cliff-bound Lemmings. With that in mind, I wonder what the crowds, (wise or otherwise), will make of the following predictions for 2010, and beyond:

  1. Privacy is a luxury that the Internet Age can ill-afford. Openness will be the new private, and hopefully soon this tired generation of privacy-sensitive individuals (including yours truly), will either learn to accept this fact, or eventually die off, in order to realise the enormous potential and necessary mind-shift of a truly-connected world, populated with privacy-desensitised social networkers.
  2. Speed is of the essence. Ideas are a dime a dozen and failed ideas are worth much more. The increasing trend for most ventures to learn fast and fail quickly, (i.e. on Internet time), only lends credence to the emerging school of thought that an ever-accelerating pace of innovation will bring us to that tipping point in the near(er) future.
  3. Mobility is the way forward. The humble mobile device will continue to evolve into its rightful place as the key device through which people around the world will access digital content and interact with each other. It certainly appears that the approaching decade will be all about mobile, location-based / contextual services. Period.
  4. Economic evolution. The sharing economy (i.e. of content and information) will continue to grow in parallel with existing commercial money-based models for a while yet. Piracy, or what is currently regarded as such, will eventually decline, but only perhaps with even wider acceptance of a more flexible and open access and usage models (i.e. think evolved global copyright scheme).
  5. Money is so yesterday. The underlying system of values we currently use to judge success and failure of a venture will undergo drastic re-evaluation, especially in the face of continued challenges to extant economic models. Money may no longer be the best yardstick to measure wealth in the world of tomorrow. There, I said it!

Ok, that ought to be enough to start a minor stampede among the traditionalist, just-say-no-to-change, crowd, and a chant of “yes-we-can” from the ne0philes among you, but what about the rest? Do they even care? I suspect that this silent majority will decide which side emerges victorious from this debate; therefore it would be most interesting to understand what they think of it all. Perhaps we ought to run a Yes / No poll on the above five predictions, in order to gauge the response from the silent crowd, but the key challenge would be how to go about it given that they are so damned quiet.
PS. Just out of curiosity, what do YOU think about the five predictions and why?

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Merry Xmas, I’ve Just Hacked Your Kindle!

December 24, 2009 Leave a comment

And all it took was just eight days and a challenge on an Internet forum for two hackers to do just that. I wonder what’s next. Are we likely to witness the rise of mainstream hacking contests, perhaps a “Hack Idol” type reality show hosted by characters like DVD Jon?

The target, Amazon’s proprietary DRM protection for the Kindle device, effectively prevents users from accessing their ebooks on other devices. Therefore the motivation for this hack may have arguably come from a desire to enable interoperability and access to Kindle content on competing devices, (which perhaps understandably runs against the wishes of the device maker). According to this post on The Register, this just shows “the futility of digital rights management schemes” as something that doesn’t succeed in preventing unauthorized copying, and only inconveniences paying customers.

In any case, the key point is the apparent ease with which this contest harnessed the collective power of individual effort to achieve and deliver results in a relatively short space of time. It seems we have just witnessed another blow to DRM based content protection, and this time in another industry outside of the traditional music or film business targets. The common theme, as ever, is protected digitized content; which leads one to the obvious conclusion that just as technology giveth, so doth it taketh away, (or some such line).

Have a Happy Festive Season, and no more hacking please.