It's Really Official

Let the Flickr record show that on Thanksgiving Day, 23 November 2006, Laura Lane and Lyndon Wong ran across the Golden Gate Bridge and got engaged at Kirby Cove.

Flickr's geotagged photo map provides a satellite view of where I presented Laura with a ring:


and displays some photos capturing the occasion.


Rodrigo y Gabriela, Oct 24, 2006 at The Independent
Originally uploaded by Lyndon Wong.

An intimate sell-out crowd gathered tonight at The Independent in San Francisco to hear virtuoso acoustic guitar duo Rodrigo y Gabriela perform. Most of us heard about them the same way... some radio airplay on KFOG or word-of-mouth supported by audio and video snippets on YouTube and MySpace. Social media clearly helps new ideas spread fast with minimal advertising spend, especially when it concerns music.

My personal highlight from tonights performance had to be the guitar duo's rendition of Dave Brubeck's Take Five. RodGab, as they label themselves for short, will go far. Thanks to social media, even a middle-ager like myself, unconnected to the latest in music, quickly recognized their talents.

Fans may appreciate Mike Peyzner's excellent photos from the concert, including the shot of Gabriela above.


Flickr geo-tagging

Flickr geo-tagging
Originally uploaded by Lyndon Wong.

Finally, this weekend I had a chance to try out Flickr's relatively new geo-tagging feature, using images taken on a recent visit to the Grand Canyon in Arizona. I could zoom-in to specific satellite views of the canyon, and place photos from my trip onto specific segments of hiking trails visible in the satellite map imagery. Despite the high number of photos already available for the Grand Canyon region, I applied the world's first Flickr geo-tags for photos of the Indian Gardens and Plateau Point, both well-known hiking destinations accessed via the Bright Angel Trail below the South Rim. In a modest sense, I felt the joy of a pioneer :-).

Flickr geo-tagging is a fascinating social media user-experience for both the content tagger and the viewing audience. Andy Laakmann, founder of Webshots, actually discussed a very similar notion around the year 2000. But at that time, sateliite-image enhanced maps were not readily available, nor were the rich browser UI capabilities and mapping mash-up API's that enable a compelling no-install user experience.

All goes to illustrate that every good idea has a proper place and time. Flickr turned out to be the right place, and August 28, 2006 the right time. For the curious mind, this approach surly beats spinning a plastic globe and flipping through textbooks. Variants of the Flickr geo-tagging experience could be of great value for identifying lodging and dining options, submitted either by the user community or advertisers, preferably an orderly combination of both.


Free coffee at Dunkin Donuts

Some friends at extremebumming.com put together a reality video bit on Dunkin Donuts' recent free-coffee promotion with Yahoo.

Hillarious. Gosh, I envy today's young-at-heart! What fun they can concoct! And all this is a compelling demonstration of how social media changes the nature of marketing goods and services.


HackDay 2006

Cool and genuine, this Sept 29 - 30, 2006 HackDay event hosted by Yahoo. Here's what the Sunnyvale HQ campus looked like, complete with overnight guests:

Flickr photo by laughingsquid

And here's a funky video commemorating the event by the musician Beck, who performed Friday evening for the assembled crowd of 500 or so:

Thousands of photos on flickr tagged hackday06.

I must concur with Michael Arrington of TechCrunch... "something special happened at Yahoo".



Web 2.0 Business Models?

Spending this early Sunday morning catching up with blog activity from various former colleagues. Especially like thoughtful posts from Adam Wolff, Narendra Rocherolle and Raj Kapoor - all gifted digerati actively grappling with the future of software. They comment on aspects of Web 2.0 that many find befuddling. Why is this important? How does it make money? What is the basis of recent valuations of acquired applications?

The new services seem destined to be free, and to generate economic value only as potential ad media placements or as acquisitions. Presumably, all those teenagers and young adults reveal enough via their open communications for marketers to instigate a stampede to various products and services. And the economic opportunity appears confined to serving the young audience, because older generations do not adopt these Web 2.0 services in sufficiently large numbers to support significant advertising business models.

Interesting riddle.


Funtwo's Canon: Digital Media Tipping Point

I was struck by recent New York Times coverage of a mysterious virtuoso electric guitar rendition of Johann Pachelbel's Canon that has become the sixth most popular video of all time on YouTube.

Quoting from the article:
This process of influence, imitation and inspiration may bedevil the those who despair at the future of copyright but is heartening to connoisseurs of classical music. Peter Robles, a composer who also manages classical musicians, points out that the process of online dissemination — players watching one another’s videos, recording their own — multiplies the channels by which musical innovation has always circulated. Baroque music, after all, was meant to be performed and enjoyed in private rooms, at close range, where others could observe the musicians’ technique. “That’s how people learned how to play Bach,” Mr. Robles said. “The music wasn’t written down. You just picked it up from other musicians.”
At a moment in pop history when it seems to take a phalanx of staff — producers, stylists, promoters, handlers, agents — to make a music star, I asked Mr. Lim about the huge response to the video he had made in his bedroom. What did he make of the tens of thousands of YouTube commenters, most of whom treat him as though he’s the second coming of Jimi Hendrix? Mr. Lim wrote back quickly. “Some said my vibrato is quite sloppy,” he replied. “And I agree that so these days I’m doing my best to improve my vibrato skill.”
A complete chain of digital media creation, publication and appreciation technologies have at last been made accessible to non-specialists, to stunning effect. Do those enjoying the fruits of the Internet revolution fully appreciate how fortunate they are?


Rare Sunset at Baker Beach

Sunset at Baker Beach
Originally uploaded by Lyndon Wong.

Tourists and locals alike can appreciate the rarity of this moment captured in a photo. Baker Beach in San Francisco is warm enough for shorts, and the horizon is sufficiently clear to allow a setting sun to cast a warm glow on happy faces. The norm is coastal fog, wind and sub-60 temperatures by this time of day.


YouTube Outage Announcement

YouTube System Diagram
Originally uploaded by Lyndon Wong.

While trying to upload some video on YouTube yesterday, I got the above message screen. They've got a great sense of humor!


Geared up for SF Marathon

Organized for the 2006 SF Marathon
Originally uploaded by Lyndon Wong.

Gathered up some key items on the evening before the 2006 San Francisco Marathon, and found the montage of gear and fuel rather eye-catching, so I caught it for posterity.

The event was great fun, shared with various SFRRC running friends under beautiful weather conditions. I came in around my goal, completing the 2nd half course in 2:01:33, beating my time in the first half of the 2005 SF Marathon by nearly 10 minutes.


Leo Hindery Issues Fatwa on Portals

Hindery Fatwa on Portals
Originally uploaded by lyndon.

After the final demise of ExciteAtHome in 2002, I reflected a bit on my experience with the Internet Bubble, and among other things, read "The Internet's Coming of Age" a 2001 publication of the U.S. National Academies drafted by a committee including ExciteAtHome CTO Milo Medin and future Google CEO Eric Schmidt. This monograph outlined how the architects of the Internet foresaw the relationships between content (data), services (software applications) and distribution (network connectivity). One key attribute of the Internet architecture is the separation between the network layer and the application layer, deliberately putting the 'intelligence' of new services at the edges of the network (where servers executed software), and keeping the pipe 'dumb' (see CSTB 2001). The architects expected this would make innovation on the Internet easier, by eliminating any network dependencies when deploying a new application. If Internet application developers seem to be eating the lunch of the cable and telecom companies, it's in some respects a natural consequence of how the Internet was designed to work. Had the arrangements been different, the concept of "Internet-speed development" would not have arisen, and today's Web would have evolved for the worse.

Because each of these three legs - content, applications and distribution - requires substantial investment in capital, human or otherwise, I find rather comical the recent remarks by former @Home board member Leo Hindery on the impending death of the major Web portals. The economic role of portals is more accurately reflected by the Web applications they host than by the content they present. The expertise required to conceive of and deploy these software applications is quite distinct from the talent to create content (merely data to a software developer) or the logistical muscle to build physical networks (all those truck rolls for installing broadband access everywhere). The disparate nature of these talents contributed to the failure of convergence via vertical integration at AOL-TimeWarner and ExciteAtHome.

But there's no need to belabor the point further. The reaction of the blog-o-sphere (e.g. TechDirt, John Battelle) makes better reading. Twenty years from now, we'll all share a good laugh, because these bits will still be around for everyone to read with bemusement. In the meantime, let us hope that only a minimal amount of investment capital will get mis-allocated along the way.

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SF StadiumToStadium Run, Sunday, 13 August 2006

Here's an interesting new civic-minded recreational run, set along San Francisco's eastern shoreline:

StadiumToStadum Run/Walk
Sunday, 13 August 2006
San Francisco, CA
Start: 8:45am at Monster Park (SF 49ers stadium)
Finish: ATT Park (SF Giants stadium)

From the event web site:
"Join San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, Supervisor Sophie Maxwell, and world class runners Dean Karnazes and Marian Lyons in Shape Up San Francisco’s first Stadium to Stadium Run/Walk for Health. From Monster Park to AT&T Park with a “Keep it Movin’ ” Health Fair at the finish line. Get in motion today! The purpose of the Stadium-To-Stadium Race/Walk is to raise health awareness in the southeast sector of San Francisco, especially among youth. The proceeds will benefit sports, health and educational programs for children."

The event is a nice idea, addressing important social issues at several levels. Along with many members of the San Francisco Road Runners Club, I plan to participate in a show of support.

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Cooqy: another glimpse of Web 2.0

Cooqy Screen Shot
Originally uploaded by lyndon.

Just discovered the Cooqy environment for eBay shoppers this weekend while catching up with Sarah Allen's blog. Very inviting environment built with the eBay developer APIs and OpenLaszlo. The project is still very much in progress, but already gaining some attention ( ZDNet | GigaOM | web search).

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YHOO and the 'user-generated' look

If we drink the current digerati kool-aid (e.g. The Economist New Media Survey, 2006), user-generated content will inherit the Earth, and everything will look like it came out of the living room of Wayne Campbell and Garth Algar. Yahoo co-founders Jerry Yang and David Filo try the approach with their own product plug (Announcing the new Yahoo! homepage ), perhaps not nearly as funny as the beloved Wayne and Garth, but still impressively charming for a couple of billionaires:


Ironman in Action at Wildflower 2006

Tom Knauer, a Hawaii Ironman qualifier and tireless evangelist of the triathlon sport, generously led over a dozen friends on a weekend RV trip to Wildflower 2006. He showed us all a wonderfully fun time, no matter what event we took on.

Here's a much-deserved digital media toast to Tom:

May your pre-race bike tuning always go without a hitch:

Race prep at Wildflower 2006

And may you always finish with cheering crowds (note: video requires broadband connection and contains VERY LOUD crowd noise - adjust your speaker volume before play):

Thanks for sharing the joy of the sport , coaching a few of us through our first tentative steps, and for suffering all the unforseen headaches of pulling together this road-trip.


If we are what we eat...

Lunch 2006 May 3 Wed - sandwich
Originally uploaded by lyndon.

... then this flickr feed is my self-portrait in the making:


I recently volunteered to subject my eating habits to analysis as part of a sports nutritional study. I've never known much about the topic, other than the notion of fueling up on carbohydrates before endurance activities like long runs.

To minimize the tedium of recording every little thing I ate, I had the brilliant idea of photographing my food (...a picture can capture a thousand calories in an instant, and digital cameras make it viable to record everything). Of course, vanity quickly set in, and I started to:

1. adjust my eating habits to make the photo stream look more flattering

2. leave out photos of some between-meal snacks

OK, so I cheated, just slightly... but overall, my little experiment hints at one of the many potential benefits of leading a transparent life, aided by social software. Imagine if all of us had photo streams of our daily food intake... and concerned friends, strangers, and nutritionists weighed in with comments.

Since the public appetite for 'reality media' seems quite high, this could one day trump watching silly television shows. I personally would love to follow what Lance Armstrong eats week-in and week-out.


Transparent or Opaque: a generation gap in progress

My new homepage, 2006 Apr 23
Originally uploaded by lyndon.

Over the weekend, I re-organized my homepage and briefly mulled over whether to incorporate a 30Boxes calendar badge. Was I comfortable with anyone being able to see my calendar? My little dilemma seemingly frames the new generation gap, between the young who eagerly live their personal lives transparently on the Web, and the old who cautiously debate what to make private or public.

The new applications categorized under the "Web 2.0" moniker cater to a willingness to be open about one's opinions, travels, schedule and interests. The old, especially outside of software-focused fields, find these 'digital life' sharing applications of limited relevance, and even caution the young to beware of the consequences of public expression when seeking future employment.

But how carefully groomed and scripted should all of us be from the moment we exist on the Web? What should a prospective employer, customer, friend or romantic partner think of any person who surfaces nothing authentic from a Web search? Whom should we trust? In the Internet Age, the important choice facing all of us is not whether to be digital or analog, but whether to be transparent or opaque.

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Wildflower For A Cause


Friend Mika Hirota is training to complete the long course (1.2 mile swim, 56 mile ride, 13 mile run) for this year's Wildflower Triathlon , in part to raise several thousand dollars for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. She has set a wonderful goal on multiple fronts, and I've contributed via her donation page.



Creator of "Beijing or Bust" documentary detained

Free Hao WuThe disappearance of film-maker Hao Wu has been brewing in the blog-o-sphere for a few weeks, with requests by some concerned individuals to minimize publicity while Hao's family quietly communicated with his detainers. But Web-savvy sympathizers have quickly mobilized. Reuters reported two days ago on Hao Wu's detention by Chinese police, and Reporters Sans Frontieres reported earlier on efforts by Hao's sister to secure his release.

I simply know Hao as a former colleague from Excite@Home who was justifiably proud that his first documentary film was aired on PBS station KQED in December 2005. I hope for Hao's speedy release.



Photo by The Jud

Fascinating to witness the Tom Cruise visit to Yahoo spin from an internal speaking engagement into a mass-media event through a chain of digital transformations from employee camera-phones to blogs to network television (see "Inside Edition" coverage using Yahoo employee-posted media). If nothing else, this rapid metamorphosis and associated public debate demonstrates the growing impact of user-generated content. Or, consider it a "Web 2.0" style buzz-marketing stunt. Either way, very impressive :-).


OpenLaszlo Meetup

Originally uploaded by PTWithy.

Thanks to Tucker Withington, I finally got a peek at the OpenLaszlo Meetup last week in San Francisco. Rain and traffic conspired to delay the return of my Yahoo commuter shuttle back to the city in time for the meetup. As a result, I missed free beer, free pizza, demos of exciting multi-runtime AJAX technology, and what was undoubtedly a cool party as well (see flickr photos).

It's Tom and Jerry

It's Tom and Jerry
Originally uploaded by maidelba.

Referring to the men rather than the mice, caught this morning at URL's Cafe on the Yahoo campus either debating the future of the Web, or just looking for some good cheese .


In What Language do Deaf People Think?

Thanks to the innovative social software application, Digg, I discovered this interesting post on how the prelingually deaf think since they've never been exposed to spoken language. The article notes that the gestural/visual nature of sign language makes it conceptually closer to written Chinese than English. DIGG readers may be naturally drawn to the article because of the implications for the cognitive and computer sciences...

read more | digg story

... this brings to mind a book I'm currently reading, Noam Chomsky's "On Nature and Language", as well as a favorite read from several years ago, John Searle's "Mind, Language and Society". With the Internet getting better at revealing so much worthy of my curiousity, I am humbled by the saying, "Life is short."


Now I Yahoo

Yahoo HQ Sunnyvale
Originally uploaded by lyndon.

Well, after commenting back in November 2005 that three capable competitors may have a lock on the future of consumer software, here I am at one of them -- Yahoo. My mission here is to help software remain free for end-users by improving Yahoo's already formidable targeted advertising solutions.

I am among many old friends from the former ExciteAtHome, and I see from Y!360 that fellow OpenLaszlo proponent Marc Canter makes the rounds here as well.


Will all software really be free?

Hanakapiai Beach


Red Hot Mama's

While taking a short break on the island of Kauai, I've reflected a bit on my experience within the software sector, and reached a dozen conclusions. At risk of stating the obvious to some, and positing absurdities to others, here they are:

  1. The shrink-wrap desktop software and licensed enterprise server software markets are now mature, consolidating, and in decline.

  2. Open source platform software will power the overwhelming majority of Web applications.

  3. As Web 2.0 gains momentum, the most innovative and valuable applications will emerge on the Web rather than the desktop.

  4. Web applications with broad appeal are destined to be acquired by the major consumer portals, and offered as free services under the ad revenue model.

  5. As with Web 1.0, most aspiring creators of a new application category see acquisition by a major portal as the best-case business scenario.

  6. Advances in software development technology enable the above, with small teams or individual developers now able to rapidly develop and deploy substantial software applications with minimal funding.

  7. New categories of software are primarily works of creative authorship rather than 'design and construction'.

  8. The 'interactive' results of programming gain audiences of application users, just as 'narrative' works of authorship gain readers or viewers.

  9. Web 1.0 proved that the ad media model can support some categories of Web information services. Web 2.0 hints that more advanced versions of the ad media model will sustain sophisticated software applications as well.

  10. As Web applications continue to evolve as 'creative' works, the major business opportunities involve service infrastructure. Businesses providing this infrastrucutre enable the creative programming teams to efficiently reach audiences and sustain a living from their efforts.

  11. The major Web portals will be the dominant 'publishers' of Web 2.0 applications.

  12. The distribution of economic rewards for creators will follow the 'rock star' pattern, with inordinate levels of compensation accruing to a relatively small number of programmers who attract the largest audiences.

The above trends stray from the original vision of Richard Stallman, founder of the Free Software Movement. Beginning in the late 1970's, he observed that software code was a work of creative expression, and that intellectual property laws hindered the ability of software authors to advance their art, to the ultimate detriment of society. Stallman thus forcefully argued that software should be free, as in 'liberty', so that software authors could learn from each other.

Now, software is free as in 'beer', and much like works of creative authorship under the old media, it attracts audiences of value to advertisers. So, while the few may continue to advance free software in the name of liberty, the many will advance free software in the name of marketing.

The above leaves me with a few questions to ponder in the months and years ahead.

1. Will software follow older 'narrative' publishing industries in the sense that fee-supported works should be of generally higher quality than ad-supported equivalents?

2. Will new portals, or a new generation of software 'publishers', emerge that address the interests and needs of niche audiences? Or will a few existing portals dominant the entire sector for years to come?

3. What categories of software will be best supported by the different business model options?

Well, the sun is starting to emerge from the rain clouds here on the north shore of Kauai. It's time to return to the beach.



Oliver SteeleLife is simply more fun with cohorts like Oliver Steele. His latest hack-in-all-seriousness is Expialidocio.us, a witty extension of the social bookmarking application del.icio.us, created in response to a blog post by Jon Udell. Oliver elaborates on this and a few other recent 'short-form' programming projects on the openlaszlo blog.

Interest in del.icio.us has surged since their recent acquisition by Yahoo. I find the bookmarking service quite useful, as it helps me to assemble a personalized library of online content, organized via labels (tags) of my choosing. Friends, colleagues, and in this increasingly open world, even complete strangers, can follow my interests via an RSS feed of my bookmarks.