Feb 15, 2007

EPIC 2014: A conjecture not too far off

Epic 2014 was suggested to me by an an intern of ours. Well, as I watched the flash movie based documentary produced by Robin Sloan and Matt Thompson of the Poynter University, it occurred to me that the future might not be too far off from how they conceive it.

Watch the movie on:
You can find the summary / time line of the movie at:
When I watched the movie, there are few things which struck me as being completely in line with the academic research / ideas that are being pursued today. I shall highlight them in the following paragraphs.

Grid Computing

Grid computing is a concept in computing where by resources are distributed across a cluster of computers connected together. These computers solve problems by distributing computational and storage load across the nodes connected to the cluster.

Google's applications run on the Google Grid. Google's search queries are broken down, processed by several inexpensive PCs simultaneously, and then combined to create the search result we see. On this distributed infrastructure (Grid), Google runs GMail, Google Docs, and many other applications of their own.

If you come to think of it, it is almost like the mainframe days, where many people would use a single powerful computer with using multiple terminals. Only now, the single large powerful unit has been replaced by a farm of inexpensive PCs, and our terminal to the grid is the browser.

My networking professor used to say that we might see a day when we plug our terminals into the wall and use computing resources like we used power from the sockets today. That day may not be too far off.

Semantic Web

Semantic web aims to represent the information on the World Wide Web so that the meaning of what is represented can be understood by machines.

Today, almost all web content is designed to be read by human beings. The technologies like Google News, and other automated information compilers use linguistic heuristics to process textual information, without having any understanding of what the information means.

When the Semantic Web comes to life in its full glory, machines will be able to process linguistic representations in a more meaningful way than it is conceivable today. Searches will be more focused and even ads will be more directed! Computers will be able to assimilate information from disparate sources and compile them into meaningful information and analysis.

Newsbotster (as conceived in EPIC 2014) will not be too far from reality then.

User Generated Content

With the advancements in web technologies such as AJAX, CSS 2.0, Web Feeds, and Flash, new websites have sprung up which provide rich user interfaces. These applications allowe the user to easily create content, and share them with individuals and communities.

Websites like Blogger, Flickr, Facebook, YouTube, Digg, Newsvine are examples of Web 2.0 applications. These applications have revolutionized how online users perceive content altogether. During the London Bombings, the latest images of the scene were shot by the people in the vicinity with their mobile phones, and were available on Flickr, even before the traditional news media covered it.

These empowered users of today will shape the online content of the future. It is, therefore, absolutely conceivable that among these users/consumers will be content creators, content editors, supported by automated content filters and aggregaters. They will be the brains behind the information available to us tomorrow.

Online Identity

When the internet was founded, users accessed the information online anonymously. When content was designed to be made available to users, the concept of credentials came into picture to give users identity.

Since then, we have seen the standard registrations and logins on websites. Microsoft attempted to create a single identity for each user which could be shared across applications. It was called Microsoft Passport, which now, has evolved into Windows Live Id. Google has integrated its services and it lets the user access all its services using a single Google Account. This could easily be extended beyond to other application providers.

Dick Hardt, the found and CEO of Identity 2.0 suggests an open source initiative to approach the idea of online identity. I recommend you to watch his keynote speech at OSCON 2005.

We now see that more and more information is being captured about our usage patterns - likes, dislikes, interests, etc., and often, this information is being used to deliver relevant advertisements, search results. Soon, all kinds of content that we reach out to will be customized based on our profile and usage pattern information.


The strive for relevance is on in a big way. We want to find what is important to us and we want to find it fast. We will soon be delivered exactly what we need, and will hear exactly what we want to hear. EPIC (Evolving Personalized Information Construct), as suggested by EPIC 2014 is likely to emerge if we follow the chain of developments in technology and media online.

Like the documentary had mentioned, there are always two sides of the coin. The trade off will be that with increasing depth, we'd lose breadth. The onus now lies on each individual to decide how personalized their outlook to be!


Feb 14, 2007

A leap of faith...

An actor leapt out of the moving frames, and joined the audience. He examined the screen with woe and disdain. New to the world he had stepped into, all he knew was that he had tried.

The world in the frames was drafted in rules scripted by an author. The world was meant for a purpose of representing an idea that belonged to the author, and the actors were created with the sole purpose of living that script for as long as the world of the film rolled.

On every run, the actors got better acquainted with the script and internalized the character he depicted beyond separation. He assumed the identity of the character, and lived (happily) as that persona as long as the film lived.

Winston Smith could never understand why no one ever challenged the idea. After all, it seemed ridiculous to repeat the same mistakes again, commit the same crimes again, or have a heart-break the same way again!

He had, on several occasions tried to improvise on his role, to make a better persona, to influence his world to a state of greater well being, but they all had been in vain. He had been punished and penalized on every such occasion, but his determination grew stronger with every disappointment.

Many screenings and unsuccessful attempts later, he realized what the other actors were not at fault. They were simply following the mandates of the director and the script writer. They had internalized their characters too deeply to sense an identity of their own; a thought of their own, which was different from that of the character.

And with this realization, he leapt out of the frames to reach out to the director and the script writer. He knew nothing of the unknown world he had stepped into. All he knew that he had tried, and that he will keep trying till the very end.