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Entries in Google (5)

Breaking the 'net

January 18, 2012 will be best remembered for the “blacking out of the web” as several of the core business of the Internet have either decided to blackout the site (e.g. reddit.com) or black out their logo (e.g. google.com). The focus of the black out has been the Stop Online Piracy Act or SOPA, the Protect IP Act of 2011 or PIPA and the Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act or OPEN. The problem with all of these bills comes down to one repeating issues associated with piracy. An action designed to prevent piracy does little to stop the textbook definitions of piracy and does more to harm the everyday customers.

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Is "Google Plus" the Black Box Social Network?

Google working within the realm of social networks is not a foreign concept. Google has attempted to purchase its way into the space with Orkut, attempted to redefine the space with services like Google Wave and Google Buzz & even provide support for connecting user between the different social network and the rest of the web with their support of the OpenID Inititave. However, this week Google attempted to carve their space within the online social network world with their introduction of Google Plus.

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The Big Evil?

Net neutrality has been called the "free market issue" of the Internet. It also represents an issue with a lot of discussion and few rational solutions. Proponents of this issue (e.g. Google) who want all bits of data to be given equal weight are weary of the agencies that could regulate such protection. Wireless carriers (e.g. Verizon) and Internet service providers have claimed that the Internet will be overwhelmed sooner rather than later.

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Google Wave and Turn-Taking

Google Wave has been touted as "equal parts conversation and document."  And while it certainly shows promise as a collaborative tool, I and others have been struggling with the conversational element of wave. If you have tried to 'talk' to someone on a wave, with its character-by-character updating and ability to edit others' comments, you soon realize that actual conversation is difficult.  At first, I thought it was because of my unfamilarity with the platform and the amount of information coming in, especially if there were multiple people working simultaneously on the wave.

Then it occurred that the problem may be one of turn-taking.  Turn-taking refers to conversational gambits that indicate to co-participants that one contribution has ended and the next may start.  These may be explicit ("So, what do you think?"), related to volume (ceasing talk), or tied to body language (physically shifting to indicate a shift to the next participant).  Using google wave, structured as it is, it is difficult to find and react to these markers of turn-taking.  Rather than a conversation, a wave becomes confusing as people stop and start, struggling to find a consensual rhythm to the conversation in a new virtual environment.

In previous CMC tools such as IRC and chat programs like AIM, turn-taking was somewhat indicated by the 'silence' and 'talk' simulated by the posting of complete messages.  Some programs even had status bars noting with the other participant(s) were typing, creating the illusion of a social cue for turn-taking (like volume).  But in a busy wave, the ability to see comments as they are being typed doesn't indicate turn-taking so much as talking-over and other similar strategies of communicative dominance. 

Like many other tools for communication, the solution to this difficulty in turn-taking may come about socially rather than through changes in technology and software architecture, as participants figure out consensual markers for turn-taking and develop their own mores for polite wave-based conversation.

 

WolframAlpha's Future

I was made first aware of the WolframAlpha project by a couple of colleagues who were looking into artifical intellgence and were really impressed with this new search engine that could understand questions and respond back with natural responses. As of right now, all search engines have a tough time with translating nature language questions into data from analysis. A typical search can be tripped up with the choice of words used by an individual and may get the individual user incorrect results to their search query. This can make search for the correct information on search engine especially difficult to those who do not have the background in library and/or information sciences.

A real language (as opposed to a search language) method of finding information on a search engine would be extremely handy and would advance how the Internet could be used. This would make WolframAlpha a “computational knowledge engine” for the Web. Because of its ability to go beyond the simple regurgitation of documents that contains parts of the answer. If Wolfram Alpha can actually compute the answer to a posed question in the time it takes a user to scan through the other open frames on their web browser, WolframAlpha could redefine how we interact with the Internet.

If we are to believe that the web is a conversation from one-to-few or one-to-some, then the design and organization prevents an interactive conversation between the two parties. Web artifacts are framed in a context in a similar nature to the traditional publishing of a book or a magazine. The difference is merely the addition of other forms of media (audio, video, animation). To create a conversation, one must have (surprising enough) two parties communicating with each other. Since WolframAlpha should have the ability to answer certain kinds of questions in a form that is close to natural communication, it could be the starting point to the "Web as Conversation."

It is important to note that this is not the first attempt at such a service. Cuil was designed based on the same principle early and really was considered broken as it could not handle the strain of a large group of individuals using the site at the same time. If WolframAlpha can support being Dugg or SlashDotted or even an onslaught by the Twit Army and can maintain the same level of service, it will be huge.