Posted: March 7th, 2009 | Author: mohsin | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: CommuntiesOnline, Dopplr, GreenTech, Power, socialnetworks, WattzOn | No Comments »
I met somone by the name of Raffi Krikorian (1) while in New York couple of years ago. The Founder of Synthesis Studios (2) and an MIT media lab graduate (3) and an adjunct lecturer at the Interactive Telecommunications program for the NYUs Tisch School of Arts (4). He created something called WattzOn (5). I met him prior to his success and I’m assuming WattzOn was just a conceptual idea in his head at the time along with his company.
We are currently in an era where saving the environment has become fashionable. Whether this is a good or bad thing is not an argument for this blog post. But nevertheless saving the planet has become a trend and more of us are recycling taking public transport, eating organic foods, driving economically, carpooling and many others. You’re probably thinking what has this got to do with communities online. Well.. certainly there are communities in the real world that encourage people in their neighborhood and each other to participate in recycling, saving water, electricity and so on probably more so in the United States and mainland Europe than Britain. But is there scope for this to be online? In a manner that can be socially interactive and competitive? Can we take personal informatics to a new level by just branching it out into a new area? The answer is yes and I believe it is WattzOn!
There’s a social network called Dopplr, which I’ve been a member of for the past few years. It takes your personal travel data to a whole new level. In it’s infancy it would only allow it’s users to input their flight information which I thought was ingenious. There was nothing around like it on the web at the time. Along with it’s beautiful design I believe that’s one of the reasons which has made it popoular. I love using Dopplr, unfortunately I’m not the jet setting type and that’s not to say that I wouldn’t like to be it’s just that a students back account constantly gives a firm and decisive ‘no’ when I ask it. Dopplr have expanded their travel information since then incorporating car, bus, train, bike and other modes of transportation. When ‘being green’ came into fashion the people at Dopplr implemented a very cool feature which calculates your carbon emissions (on average) depending how far you’re going and what mode of transportation you are talking (6). I believe WattzOn will do the same with the way we use mother earth’s consumables for the modern man.
So what is WattzOn? ‘WattzOn is a free online tool to quantify, track, compare and understand the total amount of energy needed to support all of the facets of your lifestyle with the goal of helping you find ways to reduce your personal power consumption’. What they have developed and what implications it may have in the future in such an early stage of the life cycle of this project which gained business week’s Idea of the year 2008 (7, 8) is remarkable. Now knowing what WattzOn is I think one can clearly see the prospects to develop and extremely vibrant and popular social network around it. Imagine a place where you can compete against other users on power consumption and other consumables. Imagine if you will a social network or a social network application that may be installed on to your Facebook page that perhaps will compete with other users. You could create a social network around the whole concept where popularity or friends on your network is not the ‘in’ thing. Instead lets say… have the most efficient account or the lowest conspution/power rates from your home and daily life would be. I think most importantly they’ve developed an application programming interface (api). Good apis are important in the future development of a social network/web application. It enables others to plug in to the key feature of a social network and take advantage of them.
I think the potential and scope for communities to evolve around this platform will be tremendous. Strongly recommended to watch what they do next and how they develop the into the next stages and what implications it may have on us was web and social network users.
The people over at Google are working on a similar concept, but not quite what WattzOn is. But most definitely have the potential to plug in to what WattzOn is trying to accomplish. (9)
1. Raffi Krikorian Available from: http://www.synthesisstudios.com/about/raffi
2. Startup Company Synthesis Studios Available from: http://www.synthesisstudios.com/
3. Boston, Masachesetts, United States of America MIT: Media Lab [internet] http://www.media.mit.edu/
4. New York, New York, United States of America, New York University: ITP http://itp.nyu.edu/itp/
5. Synthesis Studios, Boston: WattzOn Available from: http://www.wattzon.com
6. Bruce Sterling (2008) Wired Magazin: Carbon overview from DOPPLR http://blog.wired.com/sterling/2008/05/carbon-overview.html
7. Raffi Krikorian (2008) WattzOn Blog: Best Idea of 2008 [internet] Available from: http://blog.wattzon.com/2008/12/11/one-of-the-best-ideas-of-2008/
8. Business Week Best Idea of the Year (2008) [internet] Available From: http://images.businessweek.com/ss/08/12/1210_best_worst_innovation/36.htm
9. Google Power Meter http://www.google.org/powermeter/howitworks.html
Posted: March 7th, 2009 | Author: mohsin | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: CommuntiesOnline, facebook, socialnetworks | No Comments »
Facebook… Where should I begin! So much is known evaluated, cited, critiqued, we all use it some begrudgingly, some willingly.
Surprisingly Facebook is still not the number one social network in America. It still trailing behind MySpace but only just, and is expected to over take them in the next year or so. (1)
I knew of Facebook before it’s international fame. I tried to sign up but it was restricted to American users only and not only that, only American students in particular could register. Come to think of it… it is probably one of the smartest ways to start of a grass roots movement for a social network. Students eventually graduate and end up in the job market. I believe this was key to Facebook’s success and ever more prevalent existence with today’s twenty something’s, students, teens and young folk alike.
I’m an avid user of Facebook. Perhaps a bit too avid! I enjoy the access it gives me to friends and family afar and especially in the unique way I can interact with them. The array of different tools; notes, photo albums, pokes, wall writings. The way I can add the rest of my social network feeds into Facebook’s. The whole idea of a News Mini feed to se what other people who are in your network are up to. The way the information is displayed on your profile to see you activity and what you’re up to. Popular status messages asking you ‘What you are doing’ something which is very reminiscent of the Twitter platform. But what I really love is how users on a social network can interact and start a craze and create something incredibly popular and have it spread through the site like wild fire. With something so simple as the ’25 Random Things About Me’ (2). It’s really quite clever and a pleasure and addictive to use.
I think what strikes many of Facebook’s critics is how it managed to survive so long as a walled garden. The walled garden is a brilliant expression for Facebook because it is essentially that. Google can’t get in! There’s no Google food from Facebook. Except the public display page (3) which every user gets other than that all the goodness that goes inside is locked away from the prying eyes of search engines. Why is this? Is this the only way social networks will work?
However there are some predictions that in 2010 Facebook will no longer be the famed wall garden it has become to be known (4). Two weeks ago Facebook joined the board of OpenID Foundation. This shows a significant shift in their thinking. And according to David Recordon (5) “Facebook will become the most open social network on the social web”. What does this mean? Facebook is constantly changing and they need to do this. Change and innovation of Facebook is key to it’s success and it’s future. There’s only so much users can interact socially in certain formulated programmed ways on their site before they start jumping ship. Because it’s a tall tell sign when execs start to jump ship your social network site may not being doing so well. Even though you ‘used’ to be the talk of the town (6). Perhaps Facebook will avoid this. Certainly becoming the most open social network on the social web is an aspiration to be admired.
A final observation to make on this now most famous walled garden Zuckerberg has created would be to predict it’s demise. Morbid as it may sound if you sit in the camp that believe Facebook is of the ‘good’, all good things must inherently come to an end. The only way I can see this happening is by seeing that the more it becomes popular the more not only under thirties are joining but a whole plethora of age groups from all demographics. This I feel may intimidate younger users from joining who’ve long been the base of most social networks as is prevalent in MySpace. The paradox is that the young audience in MySpace is credited to it’s demise whereas Facebook I believe will need them to keep afloat to be vibrant successful and diverse and embrace and implement new ways of socially interacting online. Because it’s the young ones who usually embrace new technologies first. (7)
It’s important that Facebook listen. The recent terms of service scandal underlines this fact (6). Even though it was small base of people who complained approximately 10,000 users. 10,000 out of 175 million is miniscule, true. But it was interesting ot see how Facebook felt the need to explain themselves and post a small message on the top of everyone’s news feeds to see when they login.
1. John C. Davorak (2009) The Cranky Geeks: Computers Still Suck Episode 155 [internet] Available from: [http://www.crankygeeks.com/2009/02/episode_155_yahoo_headed_for_r.php] accessed 25th February 2009
2. Chris Wilson (2009) Slate: Charles Darwin Tagged You in a Note on Facebook [internet] http://www.slate.com/id/2211068 Accessed 11th February
3. Mohsin Ali Facebook Public profile: [internet] Available from http://www.Facebook.com/people/Mohsin-Ali/504379828 accessed 3rd February 2009
4. David Recordon (2009) O’Reilly Radar: Facebook in 2010: no longer a walled garden [internet] Available from: [http://radar.oreilly.com/2009/03/Facebook-in-2010-no-longer-a-walled-garden.html] accessed 11th February 2009
5. Erick Schonfeld (2009) TechCruch: Three MySpace Execs Departing To Start New Company (Leaked Memo) [internet] Available from: http://www.techcrunch.com/2009/03/03/three-myspace-execs-departing-to-start-new-company-leaked-memo/ accessed 3rd March 2009
6. NTIA and the Economics and Statistics Administration (2002) A NATION ONLINE:
How Americans Are Expanding Their Use of the Internet [Report] Available from: http://www.ntia.doc.gov/ntiahome/dn/nationonline_020502.htm accessed 3rd March 2009
7. Ryan Singel (2009) Wired: Let’s Learn From Facebook’s Terms-of-Service Flap [internet] Available from: http://blog.wired.com/business/2009/02/Facebook-flap.html accessed 20th February 2009
Posted: February 13th, 2009 | Author: mohsin | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: CommuntiesOnline, Obama, Politics | No Comments »
‘Change we can believe in’ a Barack Obama’s mantra. A thought it’d be a good place to start. The internet is all about change, growing, moving, ever evolving into something new and exciting. Communities play a big part on the internet and even more so in a presidential campaign and much more so in an American election race. ‘Change we can believe in’ It’s on his posters his website, on news sites, on blogs, on tech blogs, on his blog, it’s pretty much everywhere! His grass roots movement, which mobilized the democratic base can be seen as one of the most successful startups in history. They raised an insane amount of funds, six million dollars in two years to be more precise. (1)
I think there were two things that played a big role in his campaign, the internet technologies he incorporated in his campaign and his charm. Although I’m sure it would be fascinating to quantify Obama’s charm from a social online perspective. I’m afraid this is not what this blog post is about. Obama used many tools to socially interact with his base. His website what probably his most successful tool. The way in which members could register and find out more about those who were registered to vote in their local constancies and find out more about how to promote Obama in that area. I think it was mainly the successful way in which all the volunteers could coordinate around a website and across the fifty states. Alright yes he did use the microblogging service Twitter, not him per say but his ‘people’ and I found that by following him he could’ve used twitter in a more prolific way than he did. But still nonetheless kudos to him and his team for thinking of such a tool. (2)
It’s extremely funny and frightening when you get a call from your father telling you about twitter when you have been using it for the past few years and that at the time when I tried to explain the concept of 140 characters and the phenomenon of presence. No one seemed to get it or wanted to understand. It really very ironic how popular it is now which is great to see. My only wish is that more politicians, perhaps this side of the pond apply what Obama did so successfully in his campaign.
Something which also worries me is that Obama’s website has the largest emailing list in history ever! Granted the majority of them are probably American citizens. Thinking about it a lot of marketing people would love to get their hands on something like that.
There was a candidate for the recent elections in that state of Israel who pretty much copied Obama’s site exactly. (3) Successful though he was I think this says more about Obama’s campaign and his website rather than imitating slogans and layout colours and themes.
In fact you can quantify his charm from a social perspective.
Stepping away from Obama and his success and to look more at home. ‘Number 10 beta’. Does that mean anything to you? It should! It’s our beloved number 10 downing street’s website. I think it’s scary that as a British citizen I would not want anything my government does to be in Beta, Alpha or any other test phases, it should be in full release! I think the way that Google keeps everything in beta (except their search engine) has gotten to them (3). The epetiion idea is celver, I would like to think that they would develop something more in a social interactive way where users would be able to see more on what they petitioned and if it was taken into consideration and if it helped in the plight of what the petition was there for in the first place. (4)
Would you like to vote online? Is it a good idea? What does the future hold for politics and communities online. Latvia seems to think so. (5)
1. Sarah Lai Stirland (2008) Wired: Obama Campaign Raises More Than $6 million Post Super Tuesday [internet] Avialble from: http://blog.wired.com/27bstroke6/2008/02/obama-campaign.html
2. Ari Herzog (2009) Mashable: How Should President Obama Use Twitter? [internet] Available from: http://mashable.com/2009/01/23/president-obama-twitter/
3. Ethan Bronner and Noam Cohen (2008) The New York Post: Israeli Candidate Borrows a (Web) Page From Obama [internet] Available from: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/15/world/middleeast/15bibi.html
3. John Oates (2008) The Register: Brown’s website is Web2.0tastic [internet] Available from: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/08/13/tendowning_blogtastic/
4. John Lettic (2007) The Register: Downing Street’s website, the e-petitions hit tart [internet] Available from: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2007/11/04/number10_visitor_stats/
5. Agence France-Presse (2007) Inquirer: Latvia plans e-voting for 2009 elections [internet] Available from: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/breakingnews/infotech/view_article.php?article_id=104723
Posted: February 3rd, 2009 | Author: mohsin | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: Communties, CommuntiesOnline, CrowdSourcing, Police, socialnetworks, Web/Tech | 3 Comments »
After watching a movie called Michael Clayton I was struck by this idea of collaborative detective work or perhaps a crowd sourcing detective network would be a better term, to help solve crimes or cases that puzzled detectives and remained unsolved. Many movies follow this concept. Where someone who knew something and was able to share their opinion or share what they knew whether factually correct or not it could certainly be collected and be taken into consideration and have the potential to help solve a case, lead to a clue or discredit a witness for example.
That being said even if general users who knew nothing about a particular topic were able to view evidence of a certain unsolved case detectives find puzzling. The well known theory of where a fresh pair of eyes can see more than a tired pair i would think would be very useful to the police services that protect us. The way to implement this is however tricky and there are undoubtedly areas where this idea could fail entirely. But nonetheless i do think it should be thought about more heavily and be taken into consideration.
This is already being done in many ways such as youtube postings of missing persons or videos regarding information about a certain case. Hoping that putting that information to a youtube audience may help the investigators gain a clue that perhaps will solve their case or lead to solving it. Such as a case with the Greater Manchester’s Police youtube channel (1). Also the way in which Canadian police used to help they’re search on a missing girls case (2).
There is much scope for development here. I believe this is just the beginning in the way police services will interact with a community online. Allowing users to watch videos is very passive way but but it’s a start and I’d like to think that in the near future the idea very proactive police work by humble diligent citizen to keep the peace and be vigilant in tackling crimes in their local area in this way has much potential to succeed. Imagine if every area in your country, every borough, county, city or town had a youtube channel like this for example to keep you aware to give you information or to ask for help or to show you what is going on in your area. Like Avon and Somerset Police for example (3). I really think there is huge potential to develop a community based around this and like to think that most governments or town councils should be thinking in this way perhaps. For example a system that gathers evidences, clues and potential leads that detectives have gathered and show them to an online (trusted) group of online users who perhaps have expertise or knew the victims or criminals and are willing to help to catch the crook or solve the case. These users look at clues and recorded statements and try to come up with theories of they’re own or perhaps expand ones that detectives are already thinking of. Yes the users aren’t trained detectives and but the potential for this idea to work is huge. Citizens are allowed to make a citizens arrest and then the police come and take over. Why couldn’t that idea be applied here? To an online database of unsolved cases that could potentially be solved by a controlled group of users who may have relevant information or industry knowledge of the case at hand.
However it could potentially be used to lead police down a dead end if an unworthy or shady user takes part or those aiding and abetting a criminal do. I would assume that personal backgrounds would be checked and users toughly vetted if a system like this were to potentially succeed. Having a very closely monitored group of users who have a very clean history.
You could even delve into a pre-cognition concept in where a community of users could essentially tag a person depending on their criminal history and they’re background and predict whether he’s likely or and unlikely candidate to commit a crime in the future. That person could be one to watch or keep a close eye on or someone to talk to if he was related or knew someone who has committed a crime or is in the police’s radar. A facebook for criminals if you will.
We could call them collaborative crowd sourced consultants of her majesty’s police force.
1. Youtube (2006) [internet] Available from: http://www.youtube.com/user/gmpolice Accessed 3rd of February 2009
2. CBC News (2007) [internet] Available from: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/toronto/story/2007/02/01/youtube-missinggirl.html Accessed 3rd of February 2009
3. Youtube (2007) [internet] Available from: http://www.youtube.com/user/ASPolice Accessed 3rd of February 2009
Posted: January 27th, 2009 | Author: mohsin | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: CommuntiesOnline, MicroBlogging, Presence, socialnetworks, Twitter | No Comments »
Presence is a new term that has recently come about on the net in the past few years. It’s not your use of the web or number of websites you use but more so what you are doing, where you are, or what you’re doing where you are doing it.
There are several that popped up about a few years ago. Pownce, Twitter and Jaiku. Out of the three twitter became the front runner and in my opinion is still today. What’s important about twitter and what makes it work is not it’s activity but more so the declaration of presence.
I love social networks! Yes i do use twitter a lot I was an early adaptor. It’s a form of micro-blogging in a way and I’m a bit lazy to write big well constructed posts on my blog like this one2 i used to so i put a lot of real time snippets into twitter what I am up to and people can choose to “follow” me or not.
There was recently an update on the look and feel of twitter, which was very much needed! The design is much better now. But basically the majority of my twitter usage is not website based… I think over half isn’t on the total population of twitter. A lot of people i know use twitter clients.
I use twitterrific it’s an app developed for the mac. Retrieving user data via the application programming interface. I send a lot of my tweets to twitter when I’m out and about and sometimes use my twitterrific app on my iphone it there’s wifi around. But I do not use the website all that much all my replies and direct messages go through twitterriffic. That being said I really like the function of changing the background and other colours on the profile page, which I did immediately.
I think what i like most about twitter is that it gives me an audience to broadcast my thoughts and daily musings. I really view it as micro-blogging and I think maybe that’s why I twitter more than I blog because i think “oh that’d be cool let me twitter it” and if it’s interesting you get replies from people you don’t know and helpful tips and links on things you maybe stuck on if you post a question on twitter more immediately than blogging a full article getting instant gratification from a social community.
I really like the way twitter has developed and continued to develop. The way they’ve incorporated different things in twitter that put and interesting twist on what it originally started out for example twitpic where you can post images directly to twitter from your mobile like this for example. Twitter search and much more
When twitter started out users started putting @ in front of the username when directing a tweet to someone u follow in particular. These are known as replies in twitter. like if people what to reply to something i twittered they say something like “hey @mohsin where are u?” There are a bunch of commands that you can put in the text box to indicate what you want to do with a tweet or give instructions to twitter on what you want to do and this can be done thru sms or the client applications or the twitter website itself. I think here’s a better explanation.
I did experimented with a project which I takes the rss feed from our local mosque’s website. The rss feed displays prayer times. So I took this feed fed it into a service called twitterfeed which takes rss feeds and spits them into twitter account of your choosing. So i set up a mosque twitter account that tweets prayer times and when the uk has sms working we’d get prayer times from our local mosques txt directly to our phones via twitter. Though twitter stopped sms service in the uk, so i can only text to the number rather than receive them as well. They have it working the states not sure about Canada though that’d be interesting to find out if it’s still works in your neck of the woods. So when we used prayer times a bunch of us decided to use (* as an indicator (cos it looks like a crescent and a star) that it’s a prayer tweet for data that we could use later like do a search for prayers done in the last hour or something like that.
I’ve seen some hotels using it for bookings i think and I’ve seen other small businesses in the states using it as an advertising/marketing tool which i thought was interesting. And then there were the Presidential candidates who had they’re twitter accounts which was fun to follow thru the primaries and beyond. They just did simple things like twitter at such and such event and things like that.
The guys at twitter have had huge scaling problems especially when the network has heavy usage during the elections and other big events the system crashes. So scaling was a big issue and there have been wide reports that many jumped ship to other services such as Pownce, Jaiku or Plurk. (1)
All of them along with twitter are this new phenomenon on the web called presence, meaning “what are you doing now” really taking the concept of the Facebook status to a whole new level.
I think most of all I’ll be looking forward to what’s the future for twitter. Because like Facebook they have to constantly change and improve otherwise you’ll loose users to other alternatives. There’s an interesting OpenSrouce version of twitter (2).
The beauty of social networks like twitter is that there spawns a whole new sub-industry of 3rd party applications which plug in into twitter but have the same social implications but with a twist like Twitter Usage Statistics (3)
1. Folkstr http://www.killerstartups.com/Social-Networking/folkstr-com-create-your-own-social-net-site
2. Open Source version of a twitter system http://identi.ca/
3. Twitter Useage Statistics http://www.nickburcher.com/2008/02/latest-twitter-usage-statistics.html
Posted: January 23rd, 2009 | Author: mohsin | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: Comedy, CommuntiesOnline, Funny, Podcast, Work | No Comments »
Ugh I hate the sound of my own voice!
My first podcast i did for my communties online class. The Communties Online Show