Is the person and technology becoming one?

Learning to live with a pervasive internet

Have just spent a couple of weeks on vacation – without broadband access at my fingertips.  Continued to monitor email and SMS – from my phone.  Probably online three times over the fortnight – had to make an effort.  Posted a few photos to facebook from the phone.

Real difference was not interacting with twitter and other social networks on a regular basis throughout the day.  Also – listened to the radio for news and read a few newspapers.

Just watched Kevin Kelly video/ presentation on future of the web.  KK (of Wired) sees the internet as one computer.  We use various devices to access the one computer.  ‘Things’ e.g. cars, clothes, devices which incorporate chips (e.g. RFID) are effectively part of the one computer.  And, indeed, we are in many respects sensors for this one computer – as more and more information ends up in the one computer.

This is enough to scare off a lot of people.  In the Q&A session KK fields a number of interesting questions, including what are the opt out options, is the one computer and the human race in conflict?  Interestingly seems that most people are happy to go along with what’s happening.  He has a great line ‘No personalisation without transparency’.  Effectively you have to open up, provide information about yourself, your business, whatever, if you want a personalised experience.

This morning read a posting about Gordon Bell – a Microsoft researcher who is attempting to record everything in his life digitally.

Interesting line in this from GB: ‘By using e-memory as a surrogate for meat-based memory, he argues, we free our minds to engage in more creativity, learning, and innovation (sort of like Getting Things Done without all those darn Post-its)’.

I have often thought that this is the case.  An example being that sometimes overprep for a meeting (reading all the material, anticipating the questions, etc) results in a less creative, open discussion.  Another example would be whether examinations are still bogged down in being largely tests of memory rather than tests of reasoning.

All of this relates closely to one of my own areas of primary interest – linked data and the semantic web.  Linked data requires entities to share more data – for the benefit of being able to correlate this with other shared data.  The semantic web aims to enable ‘intelligent’ processing of data by computers – ie the one computer referenced by KK.

I think KK is right.  The one computer is more and more a fact of life.  There are many benefits – and a number of threats.  While there are opt outs – and ways to escape e.g. go and live on a deserted island off the west coast of Ireland – inevitably the internet continues to be more pervasive (and invasive).

Looking forward to another few days of restricted broadband access.  And then back to life interacting with the one computer.

What a nice video on why we need semantics

Great video explaining the challenge posed by the internet – where it’s going in terms of volumes of data, things being on the internet and services operating across the internet.

Brought to my attention by @gregboutin on twitter.

This video should help anyone to understand the need for semantics.

Ireland – leading the way in eLearning and semantic web

Spent the morning at a workshop run by DERI (Digital Enterprise Research Institute) at Enterprise Ireland.  If we spent more time focusing on what we can achieve through the likes of DERI and the Irish Learning Alliance (ILA) we might begin to dig ourselves out of our current difficulties.

Excellent presentations by Johnny Parkes, Bill McDaniel, Liam Moran and Mark Leyden.

Web 3.0 – in terms of getting at the data across the web – has great potential.  Poses interesting challenges/ questions for organisations traditionally obsessed with confindentiality of their data.  However for those who understand and resolve the connundrum (sharing their data) web 3.0 offers the potential of much greater insights and decision making.

case study – social networking in travel industry

Contributed to a case study in the Innovation section (pp42 – 44, Experts’ Advice – P44) of  today’s Irish Times  – looking at how a ski adventure company could use social networking to market their business.

Text of my advice in the case study:

BlackRun: Online for off piste

This is a typical 2009 scenario in Irish business – someone from the Facebook generation (‘gen f’) bringing ideas about social networking to the owners. The concerns are classic: fad or not, geeky or not? Simone is right – at least half BackRun’s target audience is social network friendly. So it’s a ‘no brainer’ – need to get on board. The good news: with some upfront planning this can be achieved, without swamping the team.

BlackRun needs a basic web site, optimised for search – integrated with a blog (could use software such as WordPress). Ruth & Simone need to set targets for blog posting frequency e.g. 3 times per week. Team members should be profiled in the blog and encouraged to post. Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook accounts should be established – using auto notification of postings on the BlackRun blog. Worthwhile Twitter accounts should be identified and ‘followed’. BlackRun should aim to tweat daily – ask questions, answer queries, use hashtags. Facebook advertising should be considered.

There are great tools available to assist in managing online presence e.g. google webmaster, WordPress utilities, Tweetdeck, Nexus (Facebook). BlackRun needs to avail of these.

Finally, management should commit to measuring the effectivess of these initiatives on a weekly basis.

Barry O’Gorman consults in social networking, collaboration and semantic web.

twitter v. google for (re)search

Where would we be without google (search)?  It has opened up a world of information for all of us.   But what now as twitter gets a real foothold.  It feels a little like the difference between listening to an hourly nes bulletin and reading a daily newspaper.  Perhaps with Google I can find the more comprehensive and more considered answer.  But with twitter I feel like I ma getting the current answer – like a news alert.

Interesting times.  Particularly becasue the nature of search/ research is changing – as web 3.0/ semantic web emerges.  Google, as expected, has been quick to look to leverage more effective ways of searching/ indexing data.  But these techniques are also availabel to twitter.

Semantic web in Ireland

Web 2.0 to Web 3.0 and then some!

On a day of doom and gloom – the emergency budget in Ireland – was lucky enough to spend a couple of uplifting hours in the Institute of European Affairs, Ireland (

I was listening to and interacting with Liam Moran, business development manager, Digitial Enterprise Reseach Institute (Galway, Ireland).  DERI ( is the type of thing this country needs (‘The vision of the Digital Enterprise Research Institute is to be recognised as the leading international web science research institute interlinking technologies, information and people to advance business and benefit society’).  Set up with some real foresight, backed by the Irish government and Europe, real leadership (including Tim Berners Lee) and lots of brilliant minds.

Very exciting applications emerging from the research – the latest being SIOC to be adotped by the US government.  Visit the site ( for a better insight.

Liam gave a comprehensive review of Web o, 1, 2 & 3 and painted some great images of what could happen.

One particular observation caught my attention – how do we avoid getting bogged down in simply copying (even plagiarising) others to the exclusion of original, creative, thought?  Not being a music composer I often wonder where song writers continue to come up with new ideas?  Reminds me in some wasy of being back in school – when you were studying Shakepeare did you try to understand Hamlet for yourself and provide your own analysis/ commentary or did you simply buy ‘Coles Notes’ and regurgitate the standard bumph?

challenges for newspaper industry

In my recent post I commented on my ongoing experience of reading the news online (  Broadly it’s positive todate.

As in any economic downturn the newspaper industry is being hard hit by significant drops in advertising revenue.  However there is a wider debate taking place about the future of newspapers – free papers, local papers, online news services.  Yesterday’s FT article, ‘When newspapers fold’ brings much of this together in one place.

I do not think there is any doubt that we continue, for now,  to need a vibrant, stimulating, well informed newspaper industry.  Obviously the web has changed things – in terms of work methods, speed of dissemination of information (e.g. twitter), availability of video, podcasts, etc.  And newspapers have not been slow to engage with the technology – providing current news feeds, quality web sites, personalised feeds, etc.

The challenge though now is how to build out a business which leverages these options/opportunities/ risks – providing a quality product, employment for news producers/ analysts and a reasonable return for the investor.   The industry seems to have flipped from charging for its online offerings to giving them away back to charging again. I do not think ‘news’ per se will command much in terms of income – there are too many ways for news to get around the world (as evidenced by the growth in mobile phones).  Indepth analysis, commentary, a particular slant/view – people may pay for this.  But is it a case of turning newspapers into magazines – where the timeliness is not as important?

Blogs such as this one are of little threat to the newspaper industry.  But as the semantic web advances we will begin to see the web providing a platform whereby individual users can gather all they are interested in through a portal. provides an early insight.  But this is a long way short of what will be delivered – with each of us using a range of ‘agents’ to track/analyse/ present news/ research/ entertainment of interest to us.

Interesting times.  Newspapers who have great editors, journalists, photographers, researchers, producers must have a good future, if they can figure out the business model.  But everything goes into the melting pot.

Microsoft and the semantic web

Microsoft and Creative Commons announced last week the release of the Ontology Add-in for Microsoft Office Word 2007 that will enable authors to easily add scientific hyperlinks as semantic annotations, drawn from ontologies, to their documents and research papers.