The Future As Seen By Me In 2010

Well looky here, things one has scanned in eh. (ignore the photo, that's some guy that made some accounting software, not sure what became of him ;) MIKE RIVERSDALE is fuming. The expensive headphones he bought in Sydney three weeks ago have just died. His first reaction is not to randomly spill expletives into his coffee, but to use his iPhone to vent his frustration to his Twitter con- tacts, under the moniker Miramar Mike. "I will also put, 'What should I do?' It's a conversation. I'm reaching out to the people following me." The council predicts hand-held digital devices such as smartphones will rule the world in 2040. They already rule the life of Mr Riversdale, whose company WaveAdept helps businesses adapt - their computing sys- tems to allow staff to work from anywhere - and with anyone. In order of fre- equency, he uses his iPhone to tweet (1136 followers; 8363 tweets since joining), e-mail, make phone calls and use online services, such as checki

Open, The Word Of The Moment

Actually "open" isn't the word of the moment, it's "collaboration" which I seem to stumble across in every business conversation I have - at a recent conference it was used a total of 71 times and by every speaker (myself included).

However, collaboration is nothing if the bases it builds upon are not open.
How can you collaborate if the information is closed, the functionality ("tools") is only given to a select few, the connections between the people/information/tools are controlled or communications are betwen slecet people in secret places. Nope, for true collaboration you MUST have an open environment.

Whlst open communication is something that IT can assist with it is more of a cultural issue and so let's look at three of these core components separately - tools, connections and information ("data").

Open tools - nearly done
This is the area which has seen the most progress. In the past the best tools were expensive, installed within corporate walls and controlled by Nazi IT Departments - this world is rapidly changing. Having an accounting system that any sized organisation would be proud to have is no longer out of the reach of the one-man band (think Xero). The ability to have your own website, professional documents/spreadsheets, email and calendaring system is something we all take for granted (think Google Apps).

And if you require the ability to have local tools the open source industry has now caught up with and rapidly passing proprietary software in a lot of areas.

The tools are rapidly becoming consumer products which is making the open to all.
They are not, however, all able to operate across "open data", more on that later.

Open connections - the early days
This is still in it's infancy in the electronic world and to be fair no-one has cracked it.
To manage my connections at the moment I rely on one source (my GMail contacts) and hope that any information and/or tools that I use can participate with these contacts.

Some systems will use the Google Contacts API (Zoho for instance) but most expect me to supply my GMail username and password for them to screenscrap the information in an "import" manner. Not really that satisfactory.

As for connections between people there are, of course, many options out there Facebook, MySapce, Bebo (check out how they are being used around the world on this great map). Trouble is they are all closed! I cannot set-up my professional connections on LinkedIn and then have those same connections appear in Facebook. Some might say that's because LinkedIn has a different purpose/audience than Facebook but I say that's merely a reflection of the current situation and not how real life works - I have friends that are both personal and professional and I am not required to operate two black books to keep their contact details!

My great hope is the Open Social platform as proposed by Google but the money is in knowing stuff about you and who wants to give away money? Far better that Facebook (say) forces/encourages you to come to them and kep you there.

Open data - THE issue
Late last year I posted, "1 reason not to worry about file formats", which I now take retract!
I am especially swayed by the points made by Matthew on a related post and in particular:
2) If you ever want to switch between providers in the future then the providers will need to agree on some kind of format (Eg. standards). If they don't then you may be putting your content in one company's proprietary format, with all the same issues that we have now (interoperability, portability, competition through standards like we have in web browsers).
Having my data in the cloud* is all good and well UNTIL I want to either move it somewhere else and/or interact it with it using a different toolset.

Once the data is "in" something it generally has to stay "in".
My photos are all "in" Flickr. But how are they "in" there and how, if I wanted to, could I get them "out"?

You could say that Flickr (say) is making the data open by publishing an API*** but that's not the same as having data stored in an open format. Each and every service will have to publish an API to their data.

There are others talking about this - the following were one after the other in my reader this morning (funny old world isn't it):
The Richard Stallman's stance is particularly interesting as here in New Zealand he seems to have hit a nerve amongst certain people (notably the open source cognoscenti) about Google being "evil". I'm not so sure though as Google seem to have gone out of their way to let you get your data out into what ever (open/proprietary format) you want. What I would ask though is how I would do this in bulk, ie all of my documents out of Google Docs and into (say) Zoho?

Another good read on Google's stance is Matt Cutts', Not trapping users’ data = GOOD

Whatever your standpoint I agree with all that this is an important subject that needs addressing so get educated and involved:
Further articles on this blog:

Other views around the world:

* cloud - hip way of talking about the interweb**
** interwb, silly name for the internet/world wide web
*** API - Application Programming Interface, a way of hooking separate programmes together - needs geekery


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