Wednesday, January 31, 2007

YouTube and TV

When comparing the usage of (traditional) TV and YouTube, Harris Interactive observes that one third of frequent YouTube users are watching less TV to watch videos online. On the other hand, digital video recording, combined with harddisk storage, allows end users to become more and more time-independent when it comes to broadcast programs. Personalization of electronic program guides and online video recording as well as IPTV and triple play offers will finally lead to internet and broadcast services to merge. Time dependency seems to be only relevant for events captured live and, perhaps, news.

There is still some distinction between the type of content YouTube has to offer (mostly user generated content) and the broadcast and video world. However, as Google is expanding their collaboration with music labels and broadcasting companies (involving a share of ad revenues), we may see a further decline in TV usage among younger users.

Interestingly enough, users seem to strongly vote against the idea of airing ads before the actual video. As YouTube usage is greatest among the group hardest to reach through TV advertising, the question is how to monetize video display in the long run.

On the other hand, TV channels are expanding on delivering content online that had been broadcasted previously in an attempt to reach that part of the population that is likely not to spend their free time watching TV. I am curious who will win in the long run when it comes to collaboration between online services, telecommunication providers and content producers.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Twitter - who needs that?

Sending SMS to friends is ok, but who would want to send to Twitter what they're doing currently (limited to 160 characters)? This seems like one of the craziest collaborative services that I found recently. Or maybe I'm getting old.

Instead, I just signed up for beta-testing Joost, a client-based P2P entertainment service. Formerly, it was called The Venice Project. Not after the italian city of that name, but named after the conference room where the idea for this service was born.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

COMPASS as a multimodal tourist guide

Many contextual services (and this means mobile as well) seem to be the result of research projects. One example is COMPASS 2008 aiming to support the non-Chinese speaking tourists that come to see the Olympic Games in Beijing. Core ideas seem to be profile-based recommendations and on-the-fly translation on a mobile device. According to Professor Wolfgang Wahlster from the German Research Center on Artificial Intelligence (from one of his presentations, a core requirement is that

human users should not be forced to adopt to the language of technology,
but the technology should adopt the language of their human users.

Sounds ok to me. But do we really need machine translation for that? If I assume that, as a tourist, I need a couple of typical phrases in order to get around, I might as well buy a phrase book and get around well.

Other question is whether these prototypes are really easy to use for anyone. For instance, how much effort is involved in creating personal profiles? Another question would be who is taking care of managing these multilingual ontologies? And what is the business model behind this? How about latency time (between a user query and a response)? Was there a field test conducted with average users under real-world conditions? How about end user acceptance?

These are just a couple of straightforward questions that need to be asked when considering a real-world use. Can all these wonderful ideas stand the test of reality?

If this sounds like me being skeptical about artificial intelligence, you may be right ...

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

What will be the future of news?

Lots of people are blogging about Daylife with mixed interpretations. As news aggregation seems to be a somewhat hot topic, while on the other side I see lttle media convergence here, it might be worth taking a step back and re-thinking what an innovative news brokering service might be like. Let me start by a few observations.

  • News are fast (as the name already shows). Old news is an anachronism, so one requirement to deduce is that the brokerage should be fast, reaching the potentially interested reader without delay
  • Content creation has changed from a world of identified news creators / authors (working for newspapers, magazines, TV stations etc.) to almost anyone commenting on most anything nowadays. This raises the question of who will judge the quality of a news contribution. In the old days this was identifiable by a news brand (e. g. USA Today, or Washington Post, or BBC) - on the Web this is not clear at all.
  • With a multiplication of news contributions from all over the world (including their visibility) on almost anything you could think of, the need of filtering arises. The easiest way is to combine a news aggregation with search technology.
  • How to reach the masses. A lot of news services have some technology- or economy-oriented focus, as they are more likely to quickly gain a large readership that is likely to use Web sources as their first approach to news (instead of buying newspapers or magazines).
  • Expansion of news publishers from print into other forms. Most news publishers started early to also post a selection of the news articles that would appear in their publications in online form. In parallel, an expansion into online journalism was started so some news contribution only appear in online format. Last, the brand was also expanded into television, so many news contributors also produce their own magazines, focusing on specific topics that are of interest. So, we see a media diversification, but not necessariliy a media convergence.

Most of the news aggregators are into filtering, but not really into personalization. Thus, in the following, I would just like to list a few requirements that I consider important for the world of news in mixed formats.

  • Double localization. As a reader, I most likely have a relatively static location, i. e. where I live (and work). On the other hand, I may change my location (business or holiday trip). Thus, I not only have the need to be informed what is going on where I live, but also where I currently am.
  • Focus on specific topics require intelligent filtering, involving context. Topics that are of interest to me evolve in a mostly linear manner. New topics related to older ones that are of interested to me will be added, others that are of temporal interest only will fade away. One strong benefit that the online world can provide is that it puts news articles into personal context by considering what I have read in the past (related to topic, sources etc.)
  • Communities are important. If I know what other people I know are interested in, I am able to suggest them articles that I read. Likewise, recommendations from other readers connected to me can be valuable. Thus, adding a people networking service to news aggregation is valuable - if semantic indexing of relations is available (e. g. person X I am related to is known to give good pointers to sports-related news. Also, rating mechanisms might be valuable.
  • Aggregation of news for an overview on a topic. If I start to get interested in a topic, I might be interested in reading a number of more general articles first, before reading specialized articles later. Aggregation of articles sharing the same topic plus filtering and linear ordering, combined with an editorial selection of articles to be showcased, may be an additional value.
  • RSS for specific topics. While this is mostly related to a single site where headlines are aggregated, for some topics that are more specific, it might be worth getting informed (e. g. via email) in a kind of personal newsletter.

I am not sure if annotation is the right thing for news services. First, it is common to blog on topics that raise interest (as I am doing now), which involves the possibility to annotate them. Second, reading annotations for contributions is certainly interesting to see what others have to say, but it is time consuming. Thus, I am leaving out this issue for now and welcome any feedback on the ideas mentioned above.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007


Just found out about a new collaborative service named newstube, which appears to be some kind of digg clone. The idea is to contribute links to news articles related to IT with a short comment. These are first added to a queue, which they exit as soon as there are at least five favourable votes, to be shown on the frontpage.

Sounds like a pretty decent idea in order to avoid junk messages to flood the officially displayed news. But I am wondering who would take the time to actually rate news they read? Usually when I find something interesting, I will take some time to write a post for my weblog, which is first of all like a way to remember interesting things. If other people stumble accross that and benefit from what I write, even better.

The other problem is that just anything which can be referenced via a link and has to do with computers (well, most anything nowadays has to do with computers) could be considered news. Is there anyone who will check if the contributed links are really news or not? Hopefully yes, but until then let's wait and see.

And of course, they're not the first to come up with such a service, not even in the german-speaking market - yigg has been around for somewhat longer. Time will tell whether they're going to make it or not.

My personal opinion is that Google will try to expand their news gathering service with enhanced aggregation and personalization features, either on their own or by continuing to buy innovative service platforms.