Same as it Ever Was


I’ve yet to read Nick Carr’s latest, The Shallows, which takes a pessimistic view of the effects of writing and scanning  tweets, SMSs, IMs, etc. on our neural wiring.

It’s on my reading list. Certainly his claim that our attention spans are being stunted, which may ultimately degrade our overall ability to follow more complex, non-shallow arguments when needed, has made its way into our public arguments on the Internet and always-on digital technology

In his Rough Type blog, Carr recently responded to an essay by Justin Smith that takes an opposite view. Smith, writing for Berfrois, points out that transient, non-deep relationships have been  with us since the first “have a good day!” was uttered.

The Internet just turns what were trivial, meaningless interactions within our own small social groups into trivial virtual interactions with our friends, along with a much larger network of  “friends”.Continue reading’s P3 Platform

I was finally able to spend quality time with the Reader, an app designed to show some of the capabilities of the underlying platform, called P3, which is currently in beta. To be clear, unlike many other players in the recommendation patch (GetGlue, Xydo, Hunch, etc.), this NYC-based startup is not in the business of providing a direct service to users.

Instead they give access to their cloud-based recommendation server through a set of RESTful APIs. The Reader app is just a demonstration of what can be done with their technology.

So what can be done?

After reading through the P3 reference documents and interacting with the Reader, you quickly see that P3’s aim is to reproduce formerly expensive, proprietary technology mastered by a few players (Netflix, Amazon) for businesses in general— most likely, those in the small-to-medium bins.

It’s another Nick Carr moment for me, in which technology has turned a previously mysterious application, recommendation algorithms in this case, into something closer to an appliance meant for wider usage. Continue reading

NSF Funds a NeuroPhone

Here I’ve been getting excited about  new user interface niceties such as voice rec in Windows Phone 7 and Android, while completely missing the bigger picture. The National Science Foundation has announced it will be funding a NeuroPhone, “the first Brain-Mobile Interface (BMI).”   This “high risk, exploratory research,” to be conducted at Dartmouth College, involves developing a consumer-level wireless EEG (electroencephalography) headset to interface with a mobile device.  From what I can decipher from the proposal abstract, they will study ways to digitize and interpret brain wave activity.

Does this mean in the future I’ll be able to directly think my emails, SMS, and tweets to a super smart phone?  (Hat tip to Nick Carr.)Continue reading

Researchers Give Up Google and Discover Single Tasking

You know it’s August when The New York Times makes front pages news out of five brain researchers taking a rafting trip in Glen Canyon, Utah. It was really a working vacation, as these high-powered scientists, accompanied by a Times’ reporter (great gig, Matt Richtell), pondered how our brain changes when disconnected from Google, email, and the whole darn Internet.

Leave it to brain scientists to discover that they feel different and better after three days of vacationing with nothing to do but row, chat, and drink Tecate beers in the evening.  Of course, this group’s idea of hanging around the camp fire involves light banter about  brain chemicals in the bloodstream, the neuroeconomic value of information, and a famous University of Michigan study showing that people are better learners after a walk in the woods than maneuvering a busy urban street.

Fortunately, Nick Carr was not on vacation and read the same article.Continue reading

Twilio’s OpenVBX: Open Source Attendant

I downloaded OpenVBX, Twilio’s bendable, programmable cloud-based unified communications platform, tried out a few call control flows, and then drifted off into a reverie about telecom start-ups before the crash.

When the CLECs and ASPs first came on the scene in the 90s, they were offering hosted personal attendants (or assistants)—which was the term used before “Google Voice-like”—that allowed subscribers to configure find-me/follow me schedules for cell, home, and office numbers,  set up voicemail notifications, and craft simple IVR menus. They would often  throw in  speech rec, and support virtual presence through local phone numbers.

Maybe $30 per month, with a cap on minutes. These personal auto attendants were  tasty telecom appetizers and considering what was available from incumbents at the time, practically disruptive.Continue reading