Tag Archives: activity streams

The consumer tech Megatrend for 2012: Pervasive Personal Clouds

It’s once again time for making predictions for the coming year. Here I go (with thanks to all who contributed thoughts on key trends in recent weeks via Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, and face-to-face)…

Expect four big waves to smash together in 2012 to create a single megatrend that will rock the consumer tech sector for years to come. The familiar waves of Cloud, Mobile, and Social will fuse with a new, but rapidly emerging wave of Connected Devices to unleash a virtual sky-full of “Pervasive Personal Clouds.” These clouds will enable the delivery of radically smarter, more adaptive consumer services that will delight you in unexpected ways by knowing way more about you: who you are, where you are, your history of usage, your tastes, who your friends are, what they like, and more.

Privacy may not be dead (yet), but you will find yourself increasingly happy to hand over your personal information in exchange for better service, more control, or both. And if you’re a service provider, you need to think about how you can tap these new capabilities to meet a competitive bar of personalization that will be rising rapidly.

Pervasive Personal Clouds

Before bringing it all together, let’s first look at each of the four component waves:

Cloud. What’s exciting about cloud computing in the consumer landscape is its duality: not just all of your data and content “up there,” safe, secure, and accessible to you anywhere/anytime; but also an ever-growing mountain of data about you and your usage of any given service. Together these lay the foundation for “Personalization 2.0,” a complete rethinking of what service means.

Mobile. Smartphones move the liberating power of your personal computer off of your desk and into your hands, and that is a game-changer. But there’s more to come, as your smartphone becomes your all-in-one, always-with-you device, gaining capabilities well beyond that of a PC. Already, this location-aware, networked-computer-in-your-pocket has taken on the functionality of phone, web browser, Walkman, game system, camera, camcorder, television, nav system, watch, and more. More recently, it has started to become your wallet and your cash register. And in 2012, it should start become the authoritative, automated, device-based form of your identity that will unlock an amazing world of truly personalized experiences in your home — or wherever you go.

Connected Devices. Ironically, as the smartphone subsumes the capabilities of ever more standalone devices via its expanding sensor payload, Moore’s Law enables an explosion of other, smaller/embedded devices, previously not possible to manufacture. Digital, Internet-connected devices are popping up around our houses (for example, Nest, disrupting the sleepy thermostat market)  and on our bodies (Fitbit, Jawbone Up, Zeo sleep monitor, etc.), able to interact with the cloud and our mobile devices. The combination of Cloud, Mobile, and Connected Devices signifies a tectonic shift to the “post-PC” era. Expect surprises in 2012 and beyond, as connected devices get small enough to fit into the buttons on your shirt or jacket.

Social. The last of the four waves (and historically the main topic of this blog) is less a technology trend and more a major cultural shift in attitudes and behavior toward sharing and privacy. It was fascinating to watch, when a few years back Facebook went from a college-only community to something accessible to adults of all ages. It could easily have gone wrong — with the adults coming in and spoiling all the fun. Instead, they adapted and embraced sharing in a way they never had before, and the party just got better. Over the years, Facebook has continued to move us all toward ever-more-open sharing — and they’re not done with us yet! Watch as “frictionless sharing” in 2012 goes from something only young folks think is normal to a mainstream behavior.

Pervasive Personal Cloud megatrend. Together, these four elements form the Pervasive Personal Cloud, a radically better way of delivering consumer services by knowing way more about you than was ever possible previously. This approach to consumer services changes the dynamics of how information is gathered (taking out all of the friction), how user experiences are personalized, how content/features/products are discovered (social vs. search), and how that discovery turns into consumption.

And these changes will play out across every major vertical and horizontal market — and invade or create a wide variety of niches. You will have your entertainment cloud (comprised of your music cloud, your video/TV cloud, your news cloud, and more), your communications cloud, and your personal productivity cloud, of course.

But you will also have your personal health cloud, which will shift the balance of power from the medical establishment to you. Your personal health cloud may include your running cloud, your sleep history cloud, you blood cloud, your genomic cloud, and, ultimately, your human biome cloud, and more. (For more info on this trend, see Larry Smarr’s 10-year quest for quantified health. And, yes, Larry’s the father of my former partner-in-crime, Joseph Smarr, and he has inspired me to get my own personal health clouds up and running. More on that in an upcoming post.) BTW, do you know how much of your typical night of sleep is comprised of the mysterious, dream-filled, learning-and-memory-enhancing REM phase? I do:

Hey, hey, you get off of my cloud! (Or not.)

But in what other ways will these Pervasive Personal Clouds impact the balance of power between vendors and consumers? Expect to see very interesting tension between two opposing forces: cloud lock-in and cloud disintermediation.

One the one side, Apple, Google, and Amazon, among others, will seek to habituate and addict you to their various cloud services. My favorite Steve Jobs quote from the recent Isaacson bio is, “I’m going to take MobileMe and make it free, and we’re going to make syncing content simple. We are building a server farm in North Carolina. We can provide all the syncing you need, and that way we can lock in the customer.” (“Maniacal laugh. Maniacal laugh.”)

The opposing force is Facebook, likely to surpass 1 billion active users in 2012, and aiming to be a new kind of middleman, helping consumers discover and connect with the various cloud services through frictionless sharing. In that model, companies like Spotify, Hulu, and Netflix can enjoy hyperviral growth in exchange for piping all of their users’ activity streams into the Facebook data vault. What happens if Facebook decides to use this data to make it easy to switch from one cloud vendor to another?

It will be fascinating to watch. Hmm, now that I think about it, maybe we should all pipe more and more of our personal cloud services through Facebook, in order to minimize vendor lock-in.

What do you think? Exciting or creepy?

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New Episode of The Social Web TV: “We’re Back (Really!)”

The fans demanded it, so we got the band back together! Chris Messina, Joseph Smarr, and I shot an episode of The Social Web TV at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View during this week’s Internet Identity Workshop. So much has happened since we last shot that this is our most jam-packed episode ever!

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From the Latest ActivityStrea.ms Meetup — “Toward a Distributed FriendFeed”

Today I went to the Stanford campus for the latest ActivityStrea.ms meetup, as we work toward an first implementor’s draft. There were folks from Facebook, MySpace, Microsoft, Google, Plaxo, Netflix, and Six Apart, among others, with grass roots/DiSo community leader, Chris Messina informally leading the discussion. It was a truly awesome event, much like ones that came before it in January and April 2009. No invitation was needed to attend; anyone with a passion for an open, interoperable Social Web was welcome to join, to help converge on a candidate open spec that could become a standard element of the new “Open Stack”.

ActivityStrea.ms meetup

One of the early topics was whether/how the spec should handle ratings. Joseph Smarr, of Plaxo, pushed for testing from various pairwise interactions between publishers and consumers. In particular, looking to get the Netflix feed currently implemented in Plaxo to be compliant with the draft spec.

That raised the broader question of who is already supporting the draft spec with live implementations. Facebook and MySpace are both publishing Activity Streams, and Plaxo and Microsoft are both consuming Activity Streams. There was encouragement for Plaxo to take the next step and go from consuming/aggregating to also publishing. The more major consumer Internet sites that implement the draft spec, the easier it will be to see where it falls short.

ActivityStrea.ms meetup

There was a desire to codify some unit tests. Rob Dolin of Microsoft volunteered to draft a wishlist of implementations in the wild that would validate the spec.

After a lot of early discussion, we did an around-the-table of introductions; participants in the meeting included:

Kevin Marks, BT
Jyri Engstrom, Google
Jerry Caine, Facebook
John McCrea
Gerard Capiel, MySpace
Joseph Smarr, Plaxo
Adina Levin, SocialText
Dmitri Volkrann, Sybase
JR Conlin, Netflix
Chris Messina, DiSo
Ryan Boyd, Google
Martin Aktins, Six Apart
Monica Keller, MySpace
Rob Dolin, Microsoft
Phil Wolf, Data Portability

ActivityStrea.ms meetup

Chris Messina shared that the vision for this effort was to enable the development of a “distributed FriendFeed” (and pointed out how the need for that is even greater now that FriendFeed has been acquired by Facebook).

A fun quote (that sent me in search of an online dictionary, I confess), in the debate on whether location is properly an attribute of the actor, the event, or something else, Joseph pre-pended one of his comments with, “I don’t want too get to epistemological…”

There was a lot of discussion and debate over a nested or flat data model for representing activities. Adina Levin of SoxialText, an advocate for a flatter model, lobbied for use of tags to establish context. Some of the examples being debated were “mood” and “location”… JR Conlin of Netflix argued for another model, with machine tags that are extensible.

Joseph asked the group to keep in mind three tests: 1) Can a dumb feed reader read it? 2) For a consumer doing no customization, can you get a enough for free? 3) When you want to do a richer implementation for a given publisher, do you have sufficient flexibility to create something high fidelity?

Chris Messina cautioned that requests for extensibility will come early, citing reactions to the first incarnation of microformats spec, with people saying, “I want to create a microformat for my butterfly collection.”

ActivityStrea.ms meetup

Joseph, Chris, and I decided to shoot a down-and-dirty episode of The Social Web TV on location, so we grabbed Martin Atkins of SixApart, the author of the draft spec, and headed outside to shoot with my Flip Mino HD. Here’s the special episode:

I think it should be clear that something truly awesome is happening, as the Web goes social, the Social Web goes open, and it’s all being driven through non-corporate collaboration between smart, passionate individuals, rather than through cumbersome, bureaucratic processes. Open Stack, FTW!

Update: Here are more extensive notes from the meetup.


Photos from the “Birth of the Social Web” at Facebook This Evening

Wow! I am damn near speechless after an amazing evening at the Facebook “Technology Tasting,” for the launch of the new Open Stream API and the announcement that Facebook will soon be an OpenID Relying Party. Today really marks the birth of the Social Web. If you’d like to know my coherent thoughts, at least on the Plaxo integration I was involved in, see my official post on the Plaxo blog:

At Plaxo, we believe we’re on the cusp of a major transformation – the biggest change to the Internet since the birth of the Web 15 years ago – as the Web goes social, and the Social Web goes open. For that dream to be realized, we need to address the pain currently associated with using multiple social websites. We need true interoperability and true data portability, with users in control.

Today, together with our friends at Facebook, we are excited to deliver on that promise, with the roll out of an integration of Facebook Connect that demonstrates an unprecedented level of interoperability between two social networks (while preserving fine-grained control of privacy).

But here, for posterity, let me share some visual impressions of this historic event, via some photos I snapped from my front row seat at the action. 🙂

Mark Zuckerberg
Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook

Dave Morin
Dave Morin, Facebook

Chris Messina
Chris Messina, Vidoop, OpenID Foundation, Citizen Space, and DiSo Project

Robert Scoble
Robert Scoble, blogger, early adopter and Jason Kincaid, TechCrunch
(be sure to check out Jason’s video of the event)

Joseph Smarr

Joseph Smarr
Joseph Smarr, Plaxo, OpenID Foundation, OpenSocial Foundation

Luke Shepard
Luke Shepard, Facebook and OpenID Foundation

David Recordon
David Recordon, Six Apart and OpenID Foundation

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A New Episode of The Social Web TV: “Starting 2009 with a Bang”

We delayed last week’s shooting of the Social Web TV by a day, so that we could discuss Thursday evening’s Activity Streams Meetup. The episode is now up, and it’s practically bursting at the seams with open Social Web goodness. Chris Messina, David Recordon, Joseph Smarr and I are all on hand to discuss lots of recent news, doing mashups right, and the Activity Streams Meetup. Check it out:

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Live Blogging from the Activity Streams Meetup

Up in San Francisco for another open spec community gathering, this one focused on working toward standardization of “activity streams,” the flow of user-generated content which is the lifeblood of the emerging Social Web. This Activity Streams Meetup is being hosted at Six Apart, with David Recordon guiding the event. As Plaxo’s Joseph Smarr tweeted, we hope this all leads to “more structured metadata in feeds”.

As usual, I’ll sprinkle in a mix of photos and observations, but not attempt to take anything approaching full notes. In addition to Six Apart, there are folks here or from Facebook, MySpace, Google, Yahoo, Plaxo, among others. That means there’s representation for projects that span DiSo, OpenSocial, Open Stack, Facebook Connect, Y!OS, MySpaceID, among others. Sweet!

Microsoft’s Dare Obasanjo has a nice post describing the problem we need to solve, entitled, Representing Rich Media and Social Network Activities in RSS/Atom Feeds. Also recommend this post from Chris Messina, Where we’re going with Activity Streams. And for more background, here’s Chris Messina’s talk on Activity Streams at the pre-holiday Open Stack Meetup:

And now, some photos of the Activity Stream Meetup:

Activity Streams Meetup

Activity Streams Meetup

Activity Streams Meetup

Activity Streams Meetup

Lots of good discussion, trying to get everyone on the same page about the problem we’re trying to solve and what we can hope to accomplish today. As people are sharing all sorts of stuff from a rapidly growing list of services (examples just for photos: Flickr, Picasa, Smugmug, etc.). Every social network is either a webwide lifestream aggregator today (early examples: Plaxo Pulse and FriendFeed), or are becoming one quickly (examples: Facebook and MySpace). And every aggregator faces the same set of challenges that arise from the chaos of there being no standard for how to format the feed of user-shared content. No common convention for naming of objects or verbs. This is the classic problem space for the Open Stack of OpenID, OAuth, XRD, Portable Contacts, and OpenSocial.

Great to see the active participation from Luke Shepard from Facebook, who just shared some of the problems of complexity they experienced by having too much flexibility in the verb space. I think he just said “combinatorial explosion” to describe it.

Cool, just noticed that Ian Kennedy is live streaming the event via his mobile phone and Kyte. So now you can watch it so you don’t miss anything!

Chris Messina takes to the white board:

Activity Stream Meetup

Activity Streams Meetup

David Recordon of SixApart, who is running the Meetup, with Joseph Smarr:

Activity Streams Meetup

Okay, now we’re about to go over a draft spec… Martin Atkins of Six Apart is now going over at high-level a review of a draft spec.

Activity Streams Meetup

Activity Streams Meetup

Now, Monica Keller of MySpace is jumping in, showing an alternative proposal and getting lots of feedback.

Discussion of reviving Media RSS vs. starting with Atom Media.

David Recordon is showing a demo of a Six Apart implementation done against the current draft spec in answer to a question from Joseph Smarr about how firm the draft feels, and whether we have any good insights from early implementations. It’s a demo of an API which transforms existing Atom and RSS feeds from sites like Flickr, Twitter, Digg, and blogs into new feeds (which can also be aggregated together) that include markup from the draft Activity Streams specifications being discussed. Along with the work from MySpace, this constitutes one of the first two implementations of the draft specification.

What a great working session! We’re two-and-a-half hours in an still going strong. Good discussion now about the importance (and complexities) of handing “friending” events, whether those are bi-directional or “follows”. Some differing thoughts here from the DiSo folks vs. the big social networks. Good sharing of insights from Facebook and Plaxo.

Activity Streams Meetup

It’s after 6:00, and we’re wrapping up. Great session. Great participation from sites large and small and from folks just looking out for the open Social Web at large.

UPDATE: Check out Marshall Kirkpatrick’s excellent piece on the event on ReadWriteWeb (which also was syndicated to the New York Times) and Marc Canter’s thoughtful post, DiSo Activity Stream Standard.

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