Starting from about 19:00 into his talk, Larry Brilliant expresses his TED Wish: to build a global system, an early warning system to protect us against pandemics. He calls it International System for Total Early Disease Detection, and proposes to grow it from GPHIN (Global Public Health Intelligence Network) to make it a tool available to everyone in every language.

There is a web site that does something very similar: Whos is Sick?
From their about page:

“Who Is Sick was started in 2006 with a mission to provide current and local sickness information to the public – without the hassle of dealing with hospitals or doctors. With a strong belief in the power of people and a faith that user generated content can be extremely valuable, our team set out to create an entirely new system for tracking and monitoring sickness information.”

The information are displayed on a Google Maps mashup. The reports cover already all of the continents.


Inspired by all this, I have created a Twitter bot that listens to your health status reports. Think of TwitterVision and of WhoIsSick?, and imagine Morbus as a vehicle for early detection of pandemics.

Maybe Mr Brilliant can find something of his idea being implemented here.

[via information aesthetics]

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The One Machine Epic

April 7, 2007


Few thoughts while and after watching it.

  • About the new Google.zon algorithm that can edit information sources into new stories for every user (from 5:23 to 5:40):
    The One Machine does not need to be conscious and free will to actually influence the behavior and thinking of the people connected (feeding on and/or feeding) to it.
    Note that the canonical fictional fears about the machines taking control of us, envision their self consciousness and determination.
    I call it The One Machine, assuming it will be the same things Kevin Kelly reasons about in this talk (which was at Google, btw) starting around 35:27 into the video.
  • When something along these lines will eventually emerge, Google.zon (or whatever it shall be) itself will be part of it: partly making it and partly being driven by it. In other words, there can be no puppeteer for this thing.

Anyhow, such a development will build on our choices; choices we are making already, as the video suggests up to around the Microsoft Newsbot release, in the early fictional 2004.

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Preserving Ideas

March 8, 2007

To build future-safe archives for preserving idea we need to be able to transfer those ideas, not merely store them. Like in the old times with oral traditions knowledge have been passed from generation to generation, now and in the future we should think of ways to transfer our digital archives, blogs and so forth, from storage to storage: from our hard disks to the cloud, from tumblr to WordPress, from Flickr to Zooomr, and so on. Transfer data from today’s services to tomorrow’s.

There are many services available for hosting our data and our thoughts, but transfering those data among services is complicated and partial, if even possible.

Who knows about ways to operate such transfers?

I was here photo by metropol

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PodZinger (see also here for a past link to it) has a section dedicated to TED Talks. There’s no real landing page, and it looks like a specialized search. With no keyword there are 56 search results, apparently covering up to last year’s edition, TED2006, though the collection doesn’t quite cover the full list you can find at the TEDTalks page.

With TEDTALKSSEARCH is possible to search the Talks by keywords and jump to the parts of the talk where the keywords are used (spoken). Read here for more information about how PodZinger makes it possible (speech recognition).

Most of the Talks I’ve watched so far are definitely interesting, and what is expressed is something you may want to listen to more than once. Being able to directly search by text instead of fastforwarding and rewinding the audio/video in search of the spot of interest is of great help (and saves battery on the iPod) to access the data I am interested in.

An innovative technology put to good use.


The Trust Factor

February 27, 2007

A couple of recent posts about the coming of an age.

The Yourdon Report » Blog Archive » Google Apps:

At the moment, we use Microsoft Word, but there are times when we both want to edit and revise different parts of the same document at the same time; maybe it would be easier with Google Docs. But I only managed to think about this for a second or two before a practical concern raised its ugly head: what about security? Two of the projects we’re working on have a price-tag, from the clients’ perspective, of tens of millions of dollars; and one of them has a price-tag of a couple billion dollars. Do I really want to trust Google’s assurances that its servers are secure, and that hackers won’t be able to see what we’re working on? I don’t want to be the guineau pig on that one, and I suspect that a lot of Fortune 500 IT professionals feel the same way. On the other hand, the proverbial college professor, and his class full of feisty students, probably don’t have the same perspective.

Micro Persuasion: Why the Trust Factor Will Inhibit Web 2.0:

[…] consumers are always wary about who to trust. My feeling is that when it comes to critical “high risk” data, they will trust the big players – Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, etc.

So, until [small companies are] acquired by a larger player, they can’t earn enough of my trust for me to give them the keys to what’s most valuable for me. So, their ultimate utility hits a wall with me and I bet it does for lots of others.

Net, as the value of the data we have rises, so does the level of trust we need to give it to someone to hold.

Spent few minutes on thinking of a name for the coming age, but it didn’t fire. However, looking for an analogy I thought (imagined, really, as I wasn’t there) of the times when people started wondering if they could trust banks to keep their money.

~ Secret Formula ~ photo by Qatari Mother

Thanks to Robert Scoble for pointing us to an interview John Battelle did with Micheal Wesch.
I want to take note of some parts of that interview; italics are mine.

So if there is a global village, it is not a very equitable one, and if there is a tragedy of our times, it may be that we are all interconnected but we fail to see it and take care of our relationships with others. For me, the ultimate promise of digital technology is that it might enable us to truly see one another once again and all the ways we are interconnected. It might help us create a truly global view that can spark the kind of empathy we need to create a better world for all of humankind. I’m not being overly utopian and naively saying that the Web will make this happen. In fact, if we don’t understand our digital technology and its effects, it can actually make humans and human needs even more invisible than ever before. But the technology also creates a remarkable opportunity for us to make a profound difference in the world.

I did not know it would reach so many people, but I had hoped that for those it did reach it would spark some reflection on the power of the technology they were using. Because without proper understanding and reflection, “the machine” is using us – all of us – even those that don’t have access to the machine at all.

I like to learn these technologies on my own through trial and error, because sometimes the errors turn out to be new uses for the tool that I might not have discovered through formal training.

Students are already frequently visiting Facebook, so we can bring our class discussions to them in a place where they have already invested significant effort in building up their identity, rather than asking them to login to Blackboard or some other course management system where they feel “faceless” and out of place.

Interconnected red 1998 photo by Feltbug

Marshall Kirkpatrick at Techcrunch nicely summarize a trend recently emerging among large companies to leverage their real and potential customers bases to help drive in-company decision making.
In practice, some companies are opening up structured conversations with whoever cares to join them to try to understand what they can do to try to match what’s best for user to what’s best for their business (that is loveocracy, as

Nothing really new here, but for the size of the company involved and the businesses they are in. Meaning they are in a position to really listen to what people want and to actually provide them with that.

It may well be that some of the companies are not seriously interested in what people have to say, and they are just trying to give a better impression of themselves by dressing some fashionable web 2.0 accessories, but that would be a wrong and risky strategy.

Below is an excerpt.
Dell Pays Tribute to Digg with New IdeaStorm Site:

Users can submit product and feature requests, policy changes or whatever else they care to share with the Dell community. Those submissions are then voted on Digg style. Dell’s move follows just one day after Yahoo! unveiled a similar site.

I think it’s more a testimony to the usefulness of paradigms made popular by Digg and YouTube.

These types of sites are just plain smart. If web lovers are critical of big companies trying to patent processes that are logical and widespread (like social networking or mash ups), isn’t it unfair to turn around and criticise them later for humbly following the lead of trailblazing startups?

I think Dell’s new sites are a brave move that many more companies will follow. Hopefully they’ll push this trend of online two-way communication to the limit and listen to what their users have to say.