Alex Barnett blog


November 2006 - Posts

CopyBot and Napsterization of Matter

Last year I wrote up a post called 'Napsterization of Matter - A Thought Exercise'. The point was to consider the social and economic impact of a technology could allow real world objects to be copied and rendered by anyone without restraint.

It seems that this scenario is being played out the Second Life virtual world. 'CopyBot' is the culprit:

"CopyBot allows the user to create a replication of an object, including textures, that is fully permissive. Needless to say this product has caused tremendous worry among content creators who want to understand how its use may possibly affect their business. In particular, they are concerned about theft of their creations, and the potential for unscrupulous people to undercut their prices and essentially take away their business."

The discussion goes on regarding the impact to the Second Life ecomony and the analogies to the real world. Ralph Koster' take is interesting (via TechMeme). In fact, this paragraph sounds an awful lot like the advice one might have provided traditional software vendors and content businesses a few years ago given the advent of the internet (i.e. build Software and Content as a Service):

"Microtransactions for digital assets and virtual goods is a rising, potentially multibillion dollar industry. To succeed, entrepreneurs who are building networked systems based on user content (be they citizens of Second Life or the makers of virtual worlds themselves) must realize that anything displayable is copyable; the value lies instead in service and in server-side functionality. Content is like songs around a campfire: destined to be enjoyed for free. Those who build businesses around hosting campfires would be wise to focus on making the campfire experience great, rather than charging listeners by the song."

And so the Ashes begins

And so the Ashes begins. Watching it live over the web Redmond, WA on Willow.TV, I needed to get the right config to get it really working for me. Leaving it on 'Default' setting it gets choppy. As soon as I selected 'HTTP', it streamed nicely.

217 for 3 on the first day at tea, we need at least a couple of wickets in the last session to call it an even day. If we get Ponting's scalp by the end of the day I'd say the boys will be happy with the first day on a batter's track. Without him out, we could be looking at a big score tomorrow.

Pietersen's bodged slide was nasty. I've done that myself where the knee doesn't slide as it should and you come to a shuddering halt instead. Botham thought it had to do with the sand base of the ground and some aussie (it sounded like Tony Gregg Greig) responded by saying that cricketer's shouldn't try it - "it's for baseball fielders, not cricketers". What crap. But hey, he's an aussie.

A bit of turn for Giles. He looks like he's giving it more air than usual...getting good flight on the ball, nice to see.



Ricky Potning sweeps a ball from Ashley Giles 

Ponting's 32nd hundred of his test career and not out at the end of the first day does not bode well for tomorrow.  With a test average of 100 in the last year, he looks set to cause us lots of trouble for the rest of the series.

Posted: Nov 22 2006, 09:58 PM by alexbarnett | with 9 comment(s)
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Tagging behind the *firewall* - a case study

I've written about 'Enterprise Tagging' or 'tagging behind the firewall' before, but haven't come across any case study material in this area, until yesterday that is. In his latest post, Andrew McAfee has written up a short report on the intranet used at interactive agency Avenue A | Razorfish (AARF):

"What I found most interesting about the company was its own Intranet.  To hear David, Ray, and Amy tell it, the company's traditional static Intranet --  the place where an employee would go to look up benefits information or peruse the latest press releases --  still exists, but has been marginalized by a suite of Enterprise 2.0 tools."

What content shows up?

"AARF has built interfaces to the bookmarking site, the photo sharing site Flickr, and Digg, a site where members vote on the importance of news stories.  All three use tags, or something close. 

AARF employees have learned to add the tag 'AARF' when they come across a web page (using, a photo (Flickr), or a news story (Digg) that they think will be of interest to their colleagues.  Shortly after they add this tag, the bookmark (look at the top of the box), thumbnail of the photo (middle) or headline and description of the story (bottom) show up within the AARF E2.0 Intranet.  So AARF has found a fast and low-overhead way to let its employees share Internet content with each other.  It's also free; these interfaces with, Flickr, and Digg require no fees and no permissions.  I find this simply brilliant."

Corporate Attention Data Needs to be Secure

A potential issue to point out here. Since employees are using the AARF tag to share content with other employees and they are doing so on public sites such as, I can also see what AARF employees are bookmarking and sharing with other AARF employees. Is that a good thing? We'll, it's good for me :-). But is that good for AARF? Look, here is a sample. From a cursory look at the AARF tagged bookmarks, I can tell:

  • Someone is probably lobbying HR for Starbucks coffee machines at the office (I can't blame them...)
  • Someone is studying Second Life's audience size, probably as an opportunity to either establish their own presence for the agency, or collating info so they can advise clients
  • Someone is trying to figure out the ROI on blogging (rather you than me...)
  • Someone is interested in mobile social software apps

Are they giving away company secrets? Lobbying for Starbucks coffee machines, er, probably not. Corporate Second Life plans for AARF? Maybe...

Whoever is responsible for this approach at AARF has probably considered the risks of making this kind of corporate attentional data potentially public (I hope). This level of corporate transparency might be a deliberate decision, but then again, it might not. Either way, companies need to be aware that if they are going to use public tools as a way of sharing content and data in this way, there is the potential to have their corporate attention data tapped into. Today, there is nothing to stop non-AARF employees and competitors subscribing to AARF tag feed and thereby tapping into a thread of AARF's collective thought processes.

(btw, before you point this out, I do realise there is a 'don't share' checkbox in, so it might be the case that what I can see on the AARF tagged content in might only be a subset of content that AARF employees have tagged, and what I'm seeing is what they and feel is OK for the likes of me to see. Even if this is the case and I were the person in change, I'd still be nervous - someone forgets to check a box and well, you get the picture.)

This IP / corporate privacy issue is the precisely the reason why I felt sometime ago that new commercial offerings would emerge to enable corporate tagging be done securely and behind the firewall. That's the 'firewall' bit of 'tagging behind the firewall' idea. (and that's why last year's Mind Camp session was called Inside). This secure dimension would also allow to internal resources (URIs) to be bookmarked securely...Would you really want competitors to know that you've got a whitepaper written up on the next big thing for your company, with a url: "blah/why_we_will_invest_Xmillion_in_Y_in_2007.html?

Putting this implementation and security issue aside, I believe there is huge potential upside for using social bookmarking and tagging tools inside the firewall, if done right (and that means securely, amongst other things). The pioneering approach by AARF is giving us a glimpse into the future of intranets. I'll give McAfee the final word:

"It gives them 'the latest' about their work environment.  And it does so in a bottom-up and egalitarian fashion.  This page doesn't contain the latest information that the company's senior managers, or its IT staffers, think employees should know about; it contains the latest information that employees think employees should know about."


P.S. I'm going to bookmark this post 'AARF' on This should guarantee that it'll appear on the AARF intranet ;-)

P.P.S. If you are at all interested in 'Enteprise 2.0', you really should subscribe to Andrew McAfee's blog. He's associate professor at Harvard who regularly posts on the topic of social software behind the firewall.

JavaScript crazy talk!

Mike Dierken pointed yesterday to this 1998 article by Greg Travis where Travis proposed that we look JavaScript at in a different way to how it was popularly used at the time, and argued that JavaScript had the potential to provide a more responsive experience over the web:

"In particular, we are going to forget the assumption that a Web page is loaded directly from a Web server. Instead, we are going to use the request/response structure of the Web in a slightly different way. We are going to have the server script send the browser a page that is nothing but JavaScript code. This code, when executed, will stuff new information into data structures which can be used and displayed by the rest of the program. That is, the purpose of the server call is to simply to get raw data from the server."

Crazy talk? No, no, this is crazy:

"Admittedly, this is an unusual use of JavaScript. But all we have done is to treat JavaScript like the thing it is -- a fully functional programming language. If JavaScript doesn't have what you need -- threading, or remote procedure calls, for example -- you can always create it yourself."

Posted: Nov 18 2006, 08:36 AM by alexbarnett | with 2 comment(s)
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Nobody knows how to make a pencil

I watched an excellent 1994 interview with Milton Friedman earlier this week, a day or two after the news of his death. In it, the Nobel Prize winning economist retold the story of how the pencil is the quintessential example of free markets at work, Adam Smith's Invisible Hand and Friedrich Hayek's understanding of the power of dispersed knowledge, the role of pricing as information and emergent, spontaneous order.

Friedman originally introduced the pencil story to popular public consciousness in his 1980's television series 'Free to Choose' (You can watch the clip here):

"Nobody knows how to make a pencil. There's not a single person in the world who actually knows how to make a pencil.

"In order to make a pencil, you have to get wood for the barrel. In order to get wood, you have to have logging. You have to have somebody who can manufacture saws. No single person knows how to do all that.

"What's called lead isn't lead. It's graphite. It comes from some mines in South America. In order to make pencils, you'd have to be able to get the lead.

"The rubber at the tip isn't really rubber, but it used to be. It comes from Malaysia, although the rubber tree is not native to Malaysia. It was imported into Malaysia by some English botanists.

"So, in order to make a pencil, you would have to be able to do all of these things. There are probably thousands of people who have cooperated together to make this pencil. Somehow or other, the people in South America who dug out the graphite cooperated with the people in Malaysia who tapped the rubber trees, cooperated with, maybe, people in Oregon who cut down the trees.

"These thousands of people don't know one another. They speak different languages. They come from different religions. They might hate one another if they met. What is it that enabled them to cooperate together?

"The answer is the existence of a market.

"The simple answer is the people in South America were led to dig out the graphite because somebody was willing to pay them. They didn't have to know who was paying them; they didn't have to know what it was going to be used for. All they had to know was somebody was going to pay them.

"What brought all these people together was an enormously complex structure of prices - the price of graphite, the price of lumber, the price of rubber, the wages paid to the laborer, and so on. It's a marvelous example of how you can get a complex structure of cooperation and coordination which no individual planned.

"There was nobody who sat in a central office and sent an order out to Malaysia: 'Produce more rubber.' It was the market that coordinated all of this without anybody having to know all of the people involved.".

Friedman's story of the pencil is inspired by the 1958 essay, I, Pencil, by Leonard E. Read. Read's essay concludes:

"The lesson I have to teach is this: Leave all creative energies uninhibited. Merely organize society to act in harmony with this lesson. Let society's legal apparatus remove all obstacles the best it can. Permit these creative know-hows freely to flow. Have faith that free men and women will respond to the Invisible Hand. This faith will be confirmed. I, Pencil, seemingly simple though I am, offer the miracle of my creation as testimony that this is a practical faith, as practical as the sun, the rain, a cedar tree, the good earth."


Posted: Nov 18 2006, 08:18 AM by alexbarnett | with 1 comment(s)
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Warning Signs

Warning Signs.

Via JD Lasica.

Rainbow Six Vegas - Multiplayer demo

Via Major Nelson:

"Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Vegas - Multiplayer demo is now available on the Xbox Live Marketplace for all Xbox Live Gold members"

Thankfully, the gameplay has returned to the Rainbow Six 3 format - I really didn't like the Lockdown multiplayer style. From the IGN review (they gave Vegas a 9.3):

"For a while, it looked as if Rainbow Six was in danger of losing its identity, thanks to screaming message boards proclaiming, "It's too hard," "It's too slow," and "I want an energy sword." The result was 2005's Rainbow Six Lockdown, a run-and-gun arcade game take that would make Tom Clancy blush. With Ubisoft Montreal back at the helm, Rainbow has been reined in to pay homage to its roots -- squad-based combat with a healthy dose of slow and deliberate room-clearing tactics. At the same time, Vegas has been infused with some new, more mainstream elements like a regenerating health system, streamlined controls and open, sprawling environments. The result is the most accessible and among the most satisfying Rainbow Six titles yet -- a treat for former Delta Force operatives and acne-ridden Halo gamers alike. If only there were more strippers.

What Vegas lacks in lap-dances though, it makes up for in hard-as-nails realism."


I've played the single player demo for the Xbox 360 and it convinced me to lay down the $5 to reserve a copy for me at my local EBgames (arrives 20th November).

The Rainbow Six Vegas Forums are already buzzing. Viva (and die!) Las Vegas!!

Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six® Vegas

I must not use GPL software

I must not use GPL software.

I must not use GPL software.

I must not use GPL software.


Posted: Nov 16 2006, 09:35 PM by alexbarnett | with 2 comment(s)
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Windows Vista and Office 2007 now on MSDN Subscriber Downloads
If you are an MSDN Subscriber, come and get your Vista and Office 2007.
Getting StumbledUpon

Just peeked at my referrers for my 2007 predictions post and amazed to see the amount of traffic the StumbleUpon service is driving in. In the last couple of hours I've clocked around 300 page views directly via SU. I've been StumbledUpon before, but I've not seen this kind of traffic come in before.

More on StumbleUpon here and here.

A new kind of Tagcloud

Dire O'Banjo Dare Obasanjo::

"It seems some people have decided to invent a third kind of tag cloud; one where the size of the font is chosen at random and has no relation to the popularity or number of items with that tag."

I did a check to make sure I wasn't one of the nameless not mentioned and, to my relief, I can confirm I am not an innovator in this regard.

Posted: Nov 14 2006, 07:31 PM by alexbarnett | with no comments
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Mind Camp 3.0 - Singularity Session Video

I love Mind Camp. When I'm asked what Mind Camp is I answer that it is what ever you want to make it. (more on the unconference format here). When I arrived on Saturday morning I browsed the sessions that other attendees had proposed and there a number that I wanted to attend.

(pic by ario)

I popped out to get a coffee from Starbucks and on the way I asked myself the question: what session isn't there that I would turn up to if it was proposed? My answer was a session on Ray Kurzweil's book 'The Singularity is Near'.

So I got a hold of session submission form when I got back from Starbucks, filled it out and the next thing I knew I was in a room moderating a discussion with 20 smart people disucssing the idea of the Singularity for an hour.

Lazy me: no preparation (could you tell? ;-), no slides, no objective of the session other than to discuss with others something that interests them and me. Most people in the room had either already read the book or were some way through it, so I started by asking the group which questions we should have a go at discussing and writing these up on the chalkboard (what are the risks? what about individual identity? what would 'its' motivation be if a collective intelligence emerged? would 'it' care about us? would we retain 'free will'? etc). And we went from there.

Thanks to Bryan Zug Vids who recorded a video of the session and has posted on to The video starts about five minutes into the session.

Web 2.0, Tech and Online Media - Predictions for 2007

It's only mid November and I've found plenty of opinions already predicting 2007 trends for the web (2.0)  / tech / online media markets. I've listed some of my finds below. No doubt I'll come across few more before the end of the year and so as per last year, I'll update this page from time to time as I find more (updated December 20 2007, see the end of this post)

My own predictions coming soon, in the meantime feel free to share your 2007 predictions here too!

Web 2.0, Tech and Online Media - Predictions for 2007

Web 2.0 Predictions, by dtelepathy: "You should iterate, not pontificate."

Web 2.0 Summit Predictions, by Ian Kennedy: "My prediction is that next year's Web 2.0 Summit will be much more a deal-making platform for the VCs and tickets will be in the neighborhood of $5k - $10k and will feature a select group of startups and executives invited in by the organizers to talk about the latest trends."

Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies, 2006, by Gartner: "Ajax is also rated as high impact and capable of reaching maturity in less than two years. Mashup is rated as moderate on the Hype Cycle (definition: provides incremental improvements to established processes that will result in increased revenue or cost savings for an enterprise), but is expected to hit mainstream adoption in less than two years. Location-aware technologies should hit maturity in less than two years."

Web Development in 2007, by Read/WriteWeb, Sitepoint and Ektron: "Most web technologies will apparently be used more - in particular Ajax, which next year is predicted to surpass Flash for the first time."

Online media predictions for 2007, by Cory Treffiletti: "Google’s technology will be applied to UGC and we’ll find ways to ensure brands are being shepherded through this type of content. Archive television catalogues will go online with burn-to-order biz models. Social networks will embrace the long tail. Personal start pages will rise in importance again (with behavioral targeting)."

Video Ad Spending in 2007, by Jimmy Lim: "Online video advertising spending in the US will nearly triple to $640 million in 2007, surging way past this year’s $225 million mark, according to a report by market research firm, eMarketer."

Media Predictions in 2007, by enigma_foundry: "the use of DRM will still fail to stop widespread copyright infringement."

Top ten alternative marketing trends for 2007, by Drew Neisser, CEO of Renegade Marketing: "In 2007 marketers will enhance their ability to defend against potentially ruinous blog attacks by dedicating resources to blog monitoring and blog response. The role of Blog Monitor will finally become a full time position in the communications department, as opposed to the occasional activity of a lone blog enthusiast."

Small Business Technology Trends for 2007, by Hoovers: "Beyond maintaining a perfunctory website, the biggest must have for a modern small business is a search engine results maximization strategy."

RSS in 2007, by Elie Ashery: "Toward the end of 2007, traditional batch and blasters will BEGIN to consider RSS on a mass scale for marketing purposes in addition to using email."

More RSS in 2007, by Read/WriteWeb: "Any way you look at it, 2007 is shaping up to be a BIG year for RSS!"

Microformats in 2007, by Alex Barnett :-) : "2006 will be a hot year for microformats, but 2007 will be even hotter."

Web Analytics Spending Trends 2007 by Forrester's Megan Burns: "We expect spending to continue to grow next year, although more modestly than in the past, with A/B testing seeing a bigger lift than other categories and licensed software starting to slow. The most interesting change came in plans to increase analytics headcount."

Memory Trends 2007, by DocMemory: "Looks like the mainstream will be DDR2 and DDR3 memory...Overall, we predict that 2007 will be a good year for memory vendors and consumers."

PC sales in 2007, by Eric Cheshier: I believe that analysts are underestimating the number of customers waiting for the release of Windows Vista, and margins won't be as low as they have been in the recent past thanks to high demand. We should see some huge numbers coming from PC makers in Q1 2007."

Top Enterprise Security Trends for 2007, by Burton Group: "Another tipping point in the industry is application security. SOA heralds a sea-change in software deployment and efforts are underway to secure web services."

Data Storage Predictions in 2007, by 300 storage industry professionals: "De-duplication will be a customer requirement in more than 50% of new deployments sometime between now and the end of 2007."

7 Predictions about Macworld 2007, by Michael at applegazette: "I think Macworld 2007’s “One More Thing” will be the long rumored Apple iPhone."

Bonus Predictions for 2007

US growth in 2007 , by First Berlin: "analysts expect households to opt for savings rather than spend in 2007 on account of declining house prices and a weaker labour market."

2007 NFL Super Bowl Predictions by Mike Hayes: "Based on odds from Pinnacle Sportsbook, the Colts at 5/1 and Patriots at 8/1 are the favorites to emerge from the AFC while the Seahawks and Panthers share the NFC honors as co-favorites at 9/1."

Hair Trends Predictions for 2007, by Hairfinder: For Women: "Color trends will feature a general shift to lighter and warmer hair colors." For Men: "Men’s hair styles will act nearly opposite the way women’s hair trends go."

Fashion Trends 2007, by AsahiKASEI Group: "Allure, class, elegance and style are keywords for 2007!"

Fidel Castro in 2007, by the US Government: "U.S. officials believe Castro may not last through 2007, and would live up to 18 months if he undergoes chemotherapy, and three to eight months without it."

Weather in 2007, by Climate Prediction Center: "El Niño conditions are likely to continue into early 2007"

The Middle East in 2007, by Syria (the country): "We hope to have in 2007 a peace process to settle the (Arab-Israeli) issue" 

TV Predictions for 2007, by Bob Sassone: "Paris Hilton will be either arrested, get into a car accident, or say something something really stupid. Probably all three, at the same time."

US Housing Market in 2007, by Harold Deonarine: "Thousands of agents will disappear from the business all together, because it will be a tough market. We have entered into the end of the 10 yr cycle, prices of real estate will drop significantly, and will be a market for Investors."

Bonus Bonus Predictions for 2007

Levi's Predictions 2007, by a Psychic Tarot Reader: "2007 will see more simultaneous volcano eruption than ever recorded."

Annual spa trends 2007 unveiled, by Spa Travel News: “Social spa-ing” will emerge as an exciting new term, describing the emphasis on opportunities to connect, converse, and play in the spa environment."

Update: December 20 2007:

Global IT Spending in 2007, by Forrester Research: "global purchases of IT goods and services will slow to five percent growth in 2007, reaching $1.55 trillion in sales"

5 Top Business Ideas for 2007, by Matt McAlister: "Pay-as-you-go storage, computing, whatever"

Geek Predictions for 2007, by Channel 9 users: " wins a Vloggie."

2007 Programming Predictions, by Jason Kolb: "AJAX will be fleshed out and new development models will emerge that make the division between browser and server more seamless"

Big in 2007, by 'Dennis' in NYC: "Mainstream acceptance of design"

Content in 2007, by "GENERATION C(ONTENT) is joining GENERATION C(ASH). If consumers produce the content, if they are the content, and that content brings in money for aggregating brands, then revenue and profit-sharing is going to be one of 2007’s main themes in the online space.

Browser War in 2007, by Alex Iskold and edited by Richard MacManus: "the innovative Semantic Web, Smart Browsing and Attention technologies that are in the spotlight for 2007 - are paving the road for Microsoft to control the browser"

Blogging in 2007, by Gartner: "the number of bloggers will level off in the first half of next year at roughly 100 million worldwide."

Gartner in 2007, by Jason Wood:  "My prediction for 2007...Gartner will dramatically re-assess its understanding of blogging and social media (0.99 probability)."

Our Media in 2007, by Jeremy Wagstaff: "The iPod will decline in importance as the music-phone takes center stage."

Influence in 2007, by Steve Rubel: "if you read the tea leaves behind some key statistics, the intensity of blogging may be plateauing."

Yahoo in 2007, by Paul Kedrosky: "Yahoo will outperform Google (and the market) in 2007"

Open Source in 2007, by Robert Mullins: "The pace of change in the open source software business is likely to accelerate in 2007 as developers climb up the software stack from the operating system and databases to applications"

Web Trends in 2007, by Read Write Web team: "the Semantic web is coming...We think companies like that will come up with the plumbing to help generate RDF based on HTML."

Web and Software in 2007, by Don Dodge: "Browser based applications - JotSpot, SocialText, WikiCalc, Zoho, ThinkFree, and others released first versions of Office like productivity applications. Expect to see these apps get better and the competition to heat up.

Semantic Web on 2007, by Dan Farber: "the Semantic Web is going to be an important element in the evolution of the Web, but next year will still be about planting seeds, not harvesting crops"

Alex Barnett in 2007, by Danny Ayers: "Alex himself will predict that 2008 will be a foo year for bar."

RIA in 2007, by Ryan Stewart: "Alex Barnett says, 2007 is going to be a big year for Rich Internet Applications. Hopefully we'll even be able to say it without quotes Alex .;)"

Vista start up sound
Here's a short NPR segment on the new Windows Vista start up sound. The story includes playbacks of the start up sounds from Windows '95, Windows 2000, Windows XP as well as the new Vista sound that was whittled down from some 2,000 candidates.
Posted: Nov 13 2006, 03:24 PM by alexbarnett | with 1 comment(s)
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Mind Camp 3.0 sessions

Here are some of the sessions that caught my eye at this year's Mind Camp. I couldn't attend these all, but those I could attend were great. I especially enjoyed the Living the Second Life session, learning loads about this upcoming nation.

Real World Software Development using Ruby on Rails (by Laurel Fan)

Building Seattle's Ad Hoc Community (by Stuart Maxwell and Justin Martenstein)

The Online Toolkit for the Modern Web-Savvy User (hosted by Blue Dot)

IGNite in Seattle (by Brady Forrest)

Coffee Hacks III (by Jack William Bell and Chris Burns)

Lucid Dreaming (by Jesse Ferguson and Nate True)

The World is Flat = Gospel? Hype? (by ?)

Startup Pitch (by Justin Laing)

The Myths of Innovation (by Scott Berkun)

Living the Second Life (by ?)

The Singularity is Near (by Alex Barnett- of course, I didn't miss this one ;-) 

More Mindcamp pics here.

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