betaworks / offsite


I did the betaworks off-site this week.  Good discussions, many of which couldn’t run to completion given time and setup constraints.   Decided to use an un-conference format, seemed to work fairly well — the topics people wanted to discuss were good, but hard to determine if anything was really concluded on any one topic,  sometimes the questions are more informative than answers.  We covered many aspect of social media sparing ourselves the overarching discussion defining social media — from reputation systems, trust, to agents to simplicity in design to many a questions about what causes interaction and what interactions matter we covered a lot of ground.

Some of the interesting questions I heard are below, commentary in []’s:

– In five years, when you wake up what will the device you turn first?  what will it look like and who will own the data you are looking at?  [the last part of this question is particularly interesting, I suspect the answer will be your own data.   And many of the tensions emerging today between users vs. content/IP owners, users and content/IP owners vs. search engines and monetization platforms — in general open and transparent systems vs. open vs. closed system will emerge as a central issue]

– Given the personal relationship people have with a phone (vs. a pc) what services will emerge as core?   [People are willing to share and store personal data of a very different nature on the phone vs. the pc, interesting when you consider how much time and effort is meant to harmonize data across these end points / devices]

– Think about pagerank as a reputation system?    [Someone also referred to pagerank as an agent, which was interesting, we had a good brief discussion about agents, havent done that in a while.  Someone also referred to Fred Wilson as primary information agent, agents are complex, maybe we end us the agents]

– Designing for simplicity … how does less become more? [good discussion here re: Fotolog’s one picture a day restriction and what it yields, and how simplicity as an over arching design principle is hard to execute in our medium and why]

– Is the US falling behind Europe and Asia in terms of infrastructure and innovation?  [the group had a real rant about broadband deployment, wireless access and restrictions placed on devices by connectivity providers, wireless and wireline.    I was surprised at the frustration level — hopefully it will begin to spread to DC, where the effectiveness of US policy vis broadband deployment is still, seemingly , a debate??!]

– What is it going to take to get tech and tech vc’s to enage in what is happening in DC, the incumbents are driving the DC agenda and wild eyed techno-optimism isnt going to save the day?

– Where is your company going to be in 25 years?  [Push to think about the long term, beyond the cycle of pumping and selling companies — how can we build sustainable innovation cycles, real innovation that over time, significant time not just a few years or the next turn of the screw]

– How does the advent of people centric interactions and data exchange effect the evolution of the internet? [more than crowdsourcing, which is already becoming a blurred meme, we are seeing the importance of human interaction and human brains to the network, as human intelligence becomes wired into the network does it make us more network dependent or the network more human, both?]

– Why would most people in the world, pretty much all of them have little idea about what we are talking about? [I hear this at many meetings like this, good grounding statement but then we all trudge back into our technosphere’s]

Other findin(.)gs were:

– People care enough about international and GTD as issues to put it on the white board but not enough to participate in a breakout group!

– Introductions always, always, take tooo long

Participants included people from:

TsumobiWhat is everyone looking at?
Im in like with you
Index/Seed Camp
Center Independent Media Public Square
Social Media Club
Next New Networks
Time Warner
β etaworks team

thank you to all and to

Close digital

  • Gen Kanai

    John- would have loved to have participated if you would have had me join (albeit I’m still in Tokyo so I doubt I could have.)

    re: “Is the US falling behind Europe and Asia in terms of infrastructure and innovation?”

    Those are two separate discussions. Wrt infrastructure, the US is way far behind. In Japan and Korea, new buildings come default with 100 Mb/sec fiber optic connections. Even DSL over POTS is up over 50 Mb/sec. in Japan (Japan’s urban geography helps.)

    Wrt innovation, the West, the US, Silicon Valley (and your efforts on the East Coast) lead by leaps and bounds. Asia often merely copies business models and Internet services from the West and launches them in Asia.

    Mobile is the differentiator. Mobile in East Asia is far and away beyond the US to the point where young kids in Japan spend more time on their phones than on their PCs (to their own detriment, as mobile phones are still walled gardens.)

    I see Asia leading in Internet infrastructure for some time to come. Heavy broadband applications and mobile will innovate in Asia whereas technology innovation will continue to be lead from the West (these are very broad general brushstrokes but that’s my take.)

  • John

    Gen / Next time would love to have you join. I do think product and services in Europe and Asia are starting, just starting to evolve independent of US based innovation. The lack of true broadband in the US — vs. the proliferation of a middleband (3-5mbs) — is effecting the innovation cycle. Cyworld, Tencent, Mixi, Item Mania, Habbo Hotel are displaying content, services and community models that are very different to what we see in the US — even monetization models, beyond the US.

  • Resumes

    Sadly, we are indeed falling behind Europe and Asia in terms of infrastructure and innovation, but on the brighter side, if we consider this as a challenge and strive to do better, we will not only emerge stronger, but also much more wiser. Experience is the best teacher, as we have learned from the trials of life itself.

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