Monday, May 05, 2008

I Need Information…

Whenever you need information to help you make a decision, wherever you are, that is an opportunity for and computing technologies and the Internet to help provide the answers. This basic premise underlies much of the computing revolution over the past few decades, although in recent years much emphasis has shifted toward the wherever you are aspect, as students and business professionals embrace mobile Internet-enabled devices. What sort of information are we talking about? Of course there’s plenty of well-structured “data” like information to be had- everything from stock quotes, product prices and information, sports scores, weather, and descriptions about people, places and things in the world, to name a few examples. As the relative cost of storage and computing has plummeted, rich multimedia content is now commonplace- images, audio, and now videos are ubiquitous on the Internet. But our most recent Internet developments have encouraged broad-based publication of more information of the “knowledge” sort. As a society we are increasingly valuing news, blogs, messages between friends, about people and events, and social commentary that the masses themselves are generating. We refer to this as the long-tail effect in media production [1]. I was struck by the statistic Akshay Java cited earlier this week- that publicly generated text content dominates professionally edited text content by a factor of four or five to one [2].

Today and tomorrow’s Internet capabilities are truly dependent on wireless communication technologies and inexpensive electronics- those of us in the software business should not forget that. Computer electronics products allow us to consume all kinds of information in a multitude of forms to suit our lifestyles- some of us sit at our computers reading e-mail, web pages, blogs and videos; others listen or watch streaming multimedia on their home entertainment systems; still others listen to podcasts portable audio players; and the mobile computing crowd does all of this and more on their computer-enabled phones (or are they cell phone-enabled computers?). In the next five years we will see all of these modalities grow in popularity- as home computers blend in with entertainment systems to support diverse sources of streaming audio and video (TiVo, Sling, Roku, Apple TV), and we take the most miniaturized forms of these electronic capabilities with us everywhere (even on highly active excursions like hiking, climbing, running, boating & swimming!) [3]. Mobile devices will be made tremendously more effective and convenient with Internet sites, services and applications geared toward convenience- beyond local content (traffic, shopping, weather, news, and events) and multimedia playback to include diverse communications- phone, messaging and even social networking [4,5].

When looking five years ahead, however, the most notable theme I anticipate is a simple twist on the long-standing premise that I began with: Whenever and wherever you would like to produce information, that is an opportunity for and computing technologies and particularly the Internet to help provide the means. We’ll be doing more than taking some geo-referenced pictures and uploading them- we’re talking about providing the context and commentary; micro-blogging on a massive and distributed scale; crowd-sourced coverage of live events; and even organizing flash mobs to create the events [6]. We will not just be consuming the information out there- we will be interacting with the world, and each other, and literally making the news.

I need information… and I need to produce information!


[1] Akshay Java, class lecture on 2008-04-30

[2] “The Long Tail” described on Wikipedia

[3] Travis Hudson “All Nike Shoes to Become Nike+ Compatible”, article in Gizmodo 2007-03-26

[4] Ellen Uzelac, “Mobile Travelers: Wireless devices, such as GPS units and cell phones, are transforming the way we vacation”, article in Baltimore Sun 2008-05-04,0,7453953.story

[5] "Mobile Social Network" described on Wikipedia

[6] Madison Park, “At harbor, 80s-tinged flash”, article in Baltimore Sun 2008-05-04,0,4649727.story

No comments: