Kevin Rose, of Digg fame, is thinking about the fourth wall of blogging: we can’t know very much about the author behind the post. With Tiny, a prototype blog platform, he is experimenting with showing the reader what’s happening in real-time at the author’s laptop, via video stream.

Actually fairly creepy.

However, I’m interested in related ideas, like a system where readers’ and authors’ interests – as determined by AI – lead to creation of tiny, human scale, thematic communities. 

For example, recent posts of mine relevant to the ‘new aesthetics’ (like glitch art, blurred people in architecture project drawings, drones, robots) would be pulled into such a community, and I would learn who is interested in such topics, and we could all would learn the reasoning behind anyone’s inclusion in the community, based on the AI bots’ analysis and the thematic autobotically-generated bio for each 'coincident’.

This would be what I am going to codename Coincidents: a spectrum of identities, a constellation of communities, and an AI-based replacement of following. Maybe Kevin Rose, in his new gig at Google Ventures, ought to fund that idea.

We could all use an increase in coincidensity.

rosemarycountess asked:

How did Erik noticed Christine in your version? :)

Hi rosemarycountess

This is a development I show rather early in the story. So I hope you don’t mind if I do not reveal it now. But I say so much that it is some sort of coincidense that leaves Erik feeling blessed and cursed at the same time. :)

anonymous asked:

really?? you reblog a sexy pin up of a women the same day that gay marrage gets legallized?? i know thats not a coincidense you bigotted shitstain.

What the fuck?

We Are The Woods We Wander In

I find it odd that we never have to be lost anymore, or even uncertain of where we are, as we wander around holding our mobile devices before us, looking at the GPS-generated maps like tarot cards.

But there’s something lost when we never simply wander around, exploring a new neighborhood, or talking to strangers. So I am fascinated by the notion of apps that help us wander instead of finding the most direct route.

Catherine de Lange, Let’s get lost: Apps that help you wander to happiness

Following random strangers to see where I end up is not the way I usually choose to spend my Saturday afternoons, but maybe it should be. With the rise of technologies designed to streamline our lives - from GPS devices to recommendation services - little need now be left to chance. But an emerging body of research suggests that chance is a vastly underappreciated ingredient in human happiness. Now, new apps called serendipity generators are encouraging us to buck the ultra-efficiency trend by putting some whimsy back into our lives. Can they help us overcome our inherent fear of uncertainty?

The rise of these new apps echoes a much earlier protest against the tyranny of modern efficiency. In the mid-19th century, the order brought about by the revolution in France gave rise to a cultural phenomenon known as flânerie. Dissatisfied with the urgency and alienation of the modern-day city, Parisian flâneurs hoped to encourage a certain kind of aimlessly enjoyable wandering in city life. A century later, cities became even more predictable as planners increasingly built them to conform to rigid grids, and maps became ubiquitous. Artists and activists once again resisted the orderly pragmatism, this time by using those maps to go nowhere in particular. For example, a collective known as the Fluxus artists created tongue-in-cheek instructions to “step in every puddle in the city”.

The early internet wouldn’t have been a target for the disaffected flâneur. When it took off in the 1990s, it was mainly populated by people sharing things they liked with people they didn’t know; it was a way to engage with people we wouldn’t normally meet. In other words, it was a pretty good serendipity engine.

Then something changed. “Coming out of the 20th century and into the 21st the rhetoric changed to one of optimisation,” says Mark Shepard, an artist who designs serendipity apps. “Making things more efficient has dominated the way we think about what tech should do for us - it’s the idea of machine as humble servant that makes life easier.”

With that shift came the rise of recommender systems, algorithms that use your purchases, likes and browsing history, as well as those of other people, to work out what future purchases you might be interested in.

Every smartphone now has GPS to guide you to almost any destination. From choosing what to buy in the supermarket to finding your way without getting lost, the device in your pocket can make sure you’ll never have to rely on chance again. We are optimised to within an inch of our lives.

As if on cue, apps have arrived that echo the flâneurs and get you lost on purpose. Many are a direct critique of the recommender systems they spoof. “These always send you to the safer options, at the expense of the more interesting places,” says Ben Kirman, a computer scientist at the University of Lincoln, UK, who specialises in social games.

That’s why Kirman created Getlostbot, an app that encourages users to break out of old routines and try different places. Download it, and it will silently monitor your Foursquare check-ins. When you become too predictable, always going to the same bar on a Friday night, for example, Getlostbot will send directions to one you’ve never tried before.


This is why I find myself stalking a complete stranger through north London on a rainy afternoon. I am testing Serendipitor, a satellite navigation app that augments your directions with small suggestions that introduce minor slippages, detours or distractions.

Designers of such apps straddle a thin line between convincing people to take a risk and invoking the ire of people who think such apps are absurd. “Serendipitor was an ironic approach to saying: what does it mean when we’re living in a society in which we need to download an application for serendipity?” says [Mark] Shepard, who designed the app. Unlike simple chance, however, serendipity-generating apps weight the dice to ensure a positive outcome. Graze, for example, lets you opt out of foods you genuinely hate. Serendipitor gets you lost even as you are plugged into the reliability of Google maps.

Having made lunch plans, I use the app to look up the route. The walk to the restaurant should take just 6 minutes, and my phone shows a predictable route down the main road. As soon as I set off, though, Serendipitor sets me my first challenge: pick a person to follow for two blocks (Shepard says he borrowed many of his off-beat instructions from the Fluxus artists). Singling out a woman with a wheely suitcase, I fall in behind, and before long she crosses the road and leads me to the park I had never known was there. The advantages of the app are now starting to become clear, and I can’t stop thinking about the fact that had I picked anyone else, I would have remained ignorant of this place.

De Lange mentions many fascinating psychological studies that link uncertainty with happiness, but I am simply focussing on her use of serendipity apps, here. Anything that helps increase the likelihood of serendipity – the coincidensity of life – is good by me. Remember, as Tolkien said, not all who wander are lost.

Oh, and the title of the piece is lifted from Richard Wilbur’s Ceremony:

But ceremony never did conceal,
Save to the silly eye, which all allows,
How much we are the woods we wander in.
Why I was Wrong About SxSW

I wrote a post a few weeks ago – it seems so long ago – entitled Why I Am Not Going To SxSW. I was all wrong. Let me explain.

SxSW ia a petri dish for the social, mobile future.

My piece was primarily oriented to the event – the SxSW Interactive conference – and my past experiences as a participant. You know, ‘the rooms are too crowded’, 'uneven sessions: some great, some terrible’, that sort of thing. I kvetched about the size of the town, everything too cramped… basically treating SxSW as a conference, and comparing it to other conferences.

Again, I was wrong.

SxSW has conferences embedded in its writhing chaos, but they are – sorry, conference organizers – the sideshow.

I wound up being in Austin during SxSW – various clients asked me to meet with them there – and so I wound up being at SxSW for a few days (catching a few meetings here and there) without attending even a single session of the event. So instead of watching people talk about where tech is going, there I was watching tech going.

And I realized that I should have come like an ethnographer, watching people and seeing what they were up to. SxSW ia a petri dish for the social, mobile future.

What did I see? Mobile, mobile everywhere. Much fewer PCs, smart devices, iPads, mobile social apps of all stripes (like Jyri Engstrom’s Ditto). Caroline McCarthy seems to have had the same experience, and she wonders what we can learn:

Caroline McCarthy, At SXSW, a peek at the post-laptop age?

How will this all translate to the “real” world? At SXSW, attendees are social-media lab rats, running around the maze of Austin bars, hotels, and conference rooms equipped with strange, glowing sensors that give them ambiguous signals about where to go and what to do at all hours of the day and night. Most of their quotidian professional routines–which, for most, would involve being at a full-size keyboard at a desktop computer–have come to a standstill. The city’s collective blood alcohol level, I’m willing to wager, is unusually high.

At SXSW, a case could be made that we are, indeed, living in a post-PC world. But SXSW isn’t how the real world runs. When Twitter captured the attention of the tech world at SXSW in 2007, it took well over a year for even the fringes of mainstream culture to catch on–mainly when celebrities realized that it was a great platform for self-promotion. And there, we’re talking about a free Web service, not a major change in the purchasing and productivity habits of millions of people.

The PC isn’t dead. But at SXSW, it’s moribund. And if you consider the annual festival to be a prognosticator of what the digital lifestyle will eventually be–well, then, maybe it’s time to make some predictions for a few years out.

SxSW is an artificial urban experience, with enormous social density, and a population with nothing on their minds but social connections and coordination of activities. It’s a hothouse, an artificial ecology where the number of connections that can be acted on – for meetings, suggestions, introductions – are at something like a human maximum. SxSW is coincidensity raised to its logical extreme. Like a swarm of mayflies flying in swarms, mating, and with nothing else on their minds. Except SxSW a mini-city of technoids with nothing but connection – and its uses – in mind.

Sure, don’t get me wrong. People are there chasing their personal goals – making deals, showing off software, hawking their newest book, looking for work – but the underlying ground that they are standing on is something from the near future, a combination of more connected urban experience and the mediated social experience of ubiquitous computing: mobile and social.

SxSW has done us all a great benefit, but seeding Austin with a tech salt lick – the conference – that acts as the beacon, rallying some initial core group to come to town each year for the conference. But the outliers who come for the circus and who never go into the tent to see the clowns and the trapeze, those twinkling, shifting hipsters who throng the streets, clubs and lobbies of Austin during SxSW are not just tech faddists: they are visitors from the future, a future with fewer old school PCs in it, and where everyone is rejinkulously connected.

Over 50% of the world’s population is now urban, and that is expected to rise to over 60% by 2030. The cities will not only be bigger, but increasingly dense, so what we learn from SxSW today could shape the social, mobile, urban landscape of the near future, since many of the architects of the future were there, taking notes.

So, again, I was deeply wrong. I’m glad now that circumstances brought me there, and in this different role: outside the conference, out in the messy, powerful flow of the SOMO (social, mobile) world.

Related articles

Tim O'Reilly on Techmeme

Tim O'Reilly has a great post, finding a synthesis between Facebook app uptake, the recent Quant meltdown, and Techmeme piling on behavior. It is only the latter that I will touch on here:

[from Facebook, the Quant Fund Meltdown, and the Techmeme Leaderboard]


When reviewing the Techmeme leaderboard, and then bouncing from there over to Techmeme itself, I was struck by the fact that the surest way to stay up on the leaderboard is to make sure to comment on stories that are currently appearing on the front page of techmeme! This is a self-reinforcing system, where all of the major tech blogs end up covering the same stories. Yes, someone always breaks the news, but you see this amazing pile-on effect. I’m not sure it’s healthy.

In thinking about the future of collective intelligence, we need to make sure that we not only think about systems that lead to convergence of opinion, but also ones that ensure divergence, and fresh inputs. The surest way I know to get this is not to pay attention to the breaking news in your own pond, but to find the next community over, and to create new cross connections. Once the connections are well established, move on.


One of the tensions we struggle with all the time is how much energy to put into following areas we’ve uncovered that are now well known, and how much to spend on exploring the unknown.

This observation has to be considered from both macro and micro perspectives:

  • On the personal level, an individual only has to spend some amount of time wandering around the web, staying away from the groupthink that emerges at sites like Techmeme. This is one of the reasons I don’t like sitting in an RSS reader, too: I want to travel the sidelinks, the trackback, and errant pointers that increase the incidence of bumping into something truly novel, or some new unique perspective.

    (It’s a side note, but I was struck by Matt Biddulph’s (from Dopplr) recent use of the term ‘Coincidensity’ to denote (I think) the fact that the likelihood of bumping into interesting people goes up as the people are closer together. I think I want to extend the term in this context, to assert that to increase the coincidensity of novel ideas bumping into you you have wander around to increase your chances.)

  • On the social level, if people opt to game the system at Techmeme, and the system rewards that, you will see piling on. Sometimes piling makes sense – as when some new shiny tool is released and everyone fools with it or opines about it. Other piling on behavior is linkbaiting: a half-baked observation couched in incendiary prose, leading to a bar fight. In the latter case, the tool maker should be interested in countering the likelihood that such behavior leads to uppage on the list. Digg spends a awful lot of time countering nefarious schemes, and ultimately, Gabe Rivera will have to decide how to shape the culture at Techmeme.

I recently agreed – more or less – with Jason Calacanis that Techmeme is reflective of the way popularity works in general, which is not “fair” in an egalitarian sense, but which works, more or less. At the same time, I lust for a lot more random input, and strongly suggest that people only treat Techmeme as one food group in a healthy web diet: go forage for more roughage out past the top 5000 tech blogs in the world, or read the stuff that’s not on Techmeme today.

I personally hanker after the tool I designed for AOL – a project that has been sidelined based on the politics and downsizinggoing on there. Nerdvana is an application that memetracks what your trusted sources are commenting on. I could care less about the opinions of many of the folks that are the in-crowd at Techmeme, while many of them are wonderful. And I trust a number of people who aren’t included as sources there.

Anyone who is interested should ping me, because I would still like to build Nervana. It solves a real problem.

And it might take the pressure of Techmeme: in a world where people could balance the supposed wisdom of the technorati with the opinions of those they trust, the power of Techmeme – if that’s what it is – would be diluted in a very grassroots and social way.

Blogrovr and Feedcrier

Platial and Blogrovr, originally uploaded by Stowe Boyd.

I have recently given the Blogrover RSS plugin another try. Candidly, I did it because Blogrover’s product team included me in a bundle of tech blogs they recommend, and that has led to a big spike in RSS subscriptions.

But I have subscribed to a number of feeds through the plugin, and I am starting to enjoy the ‘coincidensity’ of converging post jumping up when I land somewhere. The screenshot above shows two blog posts that talk about Platial appearing when I am on the Platial homepage.

I couple this with my ongoing use of Feedcrier, which serves up my RSS feed subscriptions via IM. I generally leave a chat session with Feedcrieer open wnever I am online. every few minutes, new posts trickle across my screen.

Somehow, the intersection of these tools suits my peripatetic style better than a stable fixed 'inbox’-metaphored RSS reader.

Dopplr Case Study From Building Social Applications Workshop

At the recent Web 2.0 Expo in Berlin I presented a revamped version of the Building Social Applications workshop that I had previously given at Lift in Geneva and the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco. I have touched on parts of the workshop in other posts (here and here), but this post focusses specifically on the case study and group exercise.

[I guess I have been flapping my mouth too much in Europe… starting to be strange when I am used as the example of what a conference is not going to be:

[from European Tech Tour: Web and Communities Event in Montreux by Fred Destin]

ETT is not meant to be leWeb3. Or LIFT. You won’t meet Stowe Boyd doing a podcast about lifestreaming :-). It is a venture focused conference designed to put venture capitalists and local entrepreneurs in touch, and it did that extremely well.

The Case Study

So, the case study walks through Dopplr, a social travel web application. Dopplr is the perfect sort of beast for this kind of dissection, because it doesn’t do very much – at least not yet. It’s like a microbe with only 27 genes.

We walked through the entire app, and then – applying the tools that we discussed earlier in the workshop (see Theory And Practice Of Conceptual Design) – we broke into groups, acting more or less like design consultants, and formulating recommendations for Dopplr.

I love the pixelated picture that Dopplr uses when someone who doesn’t have access to your info (or hasn’t logged in) looks at your Dopplr page.

Once you login to Dopplr, you see your ‘trips’ page. This is shown in the figure below in the right hand side. Because the page has so much on it, I have zoomed in on just the top part in this slide.

Note that the page doesn’t have a title on it, so it is possible get fall into a 'where am I?’ mode in the app once you wander around a bit. There is no obvious navigational cue that you are even on the 'trips’ page.

The top of the page has a number of major navigational titles, which we will return to. Then there is a list of upcoming trips in the 'Where Next?’ section, which has an 'add a trip’ controller. Just below that is a search area, that displays its purpose only by the “Type the name of a city or a traveller” text.

Below these areas is the profile area, with photo, home city, and other information. My feeling is that this information would be more senibly displayed at the top of the page, above the 'Where Next?’ and search box.

This region of the page seems a bit confused:

  1. Why are upcoming trips not part of the other profile information, like home city or where I am scheduled to be today?

  2. I would make search more obviously a navigational tool, like 'manage connections’ or 'your trips’.

The middle section of the 'trips’ page has the actual list of upcoming trips, displayed in list (here) or map (not shown). The various trips can be edited or deleted. Adding a new trip is (strangely) buried at the bottom of the list, and this is also a duplicate of the 'add a trip’ functionality of the “Where’s Next’ list at the top. On reflection the 'Where’s Next?’ and the trips list are actually two views on the same thing, which is perhaps how they should be set up, instead of two things on the same page that do the same thing.

There is a 'subscribe to your trips in iCal’ lurking at the bottom of the bottom of the list, too.

At the bottom of the 'trips’ page they is a mosaic with the avatars of all my friends. This should be on the 'trips’ page? There is a 'Where Next for them?’ (badly capitalized) controller with associated RSS feed: note that there is no corresponding RSS feed for the 'Where Next?’ capability.

The bottom of the page also has a number of navigators to various Dopplr related pages, like FAQ, Terms of Service, and About.

When you add a trip, the 'add a trip’ window opens. Pretty straightforward, although the 'add a note’ falls short of writing blog entries. And it’s not at all evident, here, that the notes are accessible through the 'journal’ tab. Shouldn’t it be 'add a journal entry’?

When you click on a trip, you see the controllers at the upper right that allow you to 'edit this trip’ and 'delete trip’ [shouldn’t it be 'delete this trip’ to be symmetrical?]

What you quickly realize is that a 'trip’ is actually a pastiche of your trip and the city where you are going. You see who else will be there (Berlin, in this case, during the Web 2.0 Expo a few weeks ago). I love the term 'coincidences’ to represnt who you overlap with. And the little seismograph that indicates 'coincidensity’ – a term that Matt Biddulph of Dopplr coined.

At the top under the name of the city you see the 'notes’ that you have associated with the trip. Are they linked to the trip or the city? Both, I guess, but it still seems a bit confusing.

There is a place where – if you set it up – pictures you take and post (to Flickr and other sites) will be pulled automatically, which is cool. But they are not part of the journal entries?

The socialistic 'fellow travelers’ tab opens the travels (if any) of your various friends.

One of the fuzzy areas in Dopplr is that travels do not have hard start or end times, so you don’t know if your buddy will be available for lunch on his first day in town, or if she is leaving too early to get a last breakfast.

I find the map view useless, because (I think) it shows where they live, not where they are, which is contrary to the whole point of Dopplr.

Here’s a 'note’ (better would be 'entry’) in my journal. A lot of areas for improvement here.

If you click on the 'Your Account’ navigator at the top of the page, you get this page which lists all sorts of things you can do. Let’s touch on some of them.

I dislike the notion that you can only have one home city. I have two. This is just like the same stupid restriction in Facebook, where you can only belong to one local network.

There are a number of notification options.

Adding trips by text message? Maybe, especially if you are on the run. Haven’t used it myself. Might be better to set it up to get notified when new coincidences occur, like a friend decided to come to town today.

There is a way to associate an OpenID with your account. Haven’t tried it.

Managing the visibility within Dopplr is interesting. There is an interesting asymmetry allowed. If I let you see my trips, that does not necessarily mean that I get access to your trips. You could decide to reciprocate, or not. This asymmetry is just like that we find in streaming applications like Twitter, where you could be followed by many more than those you follow. There is an upstream and downstream asymmetry. However, with the exception of RSS, iCal, and various email and SMS notifications there isn’t anything that feels like a stream in Dopplr.

Here we see the list of travelers whose trips I can see. The title might be a bit misleading, because you don’t really have control on the visibility of individual trips, as the tab might suggest.

There is a corresponding 'who can see your trips’.

New people are joining Dopplr all the time, and you might know them (or the friend that invited them), so the 'New travellers’ tab displayes them, so you can hook up.

I really like the 'Who you might know’ tab, which guessed correctly that I might know Jyri Engestrom, Dave Sifry, Tim O'Reilly and Catarina Fake.

I can invite people to join Dopplr; in fact, I have infinite invitations.

Dopplr has a pretty neat integration with Facebook. This shows the main canvas there.

This shows the Friends canvas. Basically these allow me to access all the most critical info from Dopplr without leaving Facebook.

I subscribe to my Dopplr in iCal on my Mac. I had already been using a single iCal (and Google) calendar for the cities I was going to be in, so now I just enter that info in Dopplr, once, and subscribe to it in iCal. (I use Spanning Sync to sync between Google Calendar and iCal.) At any rate, as long as I am willing to open Dopplr to create and edit trips, all works in a reasonable fashion, although it would be nice to be able to make changes in iCal and sync back to Dopplr.

RSS sort of works, although the dates aren’t shown, which makes it useless. Why don’t they order by date? Shouldn’t the 'notes’ be included?

Here’s the interface to get pictures from Flickr pulled into trips.

And a recent trip – Tel Aviv – with some photos from Flickr.

[At that point, I broke the group into something like 8 or 10 groups, and suggested that they try to use some of the techniques we discussed in the earlier part of the workshop (see Theory And Practice Of Conceptual Design), and try to apply those ideas to the next hypothetical version of Dopplr. It was interesting that approximately 30% of group just opted to read email, surf the web, or wander out of the room. A cultural difference?

Each of the groups dubbed someone to be the spokesperson, and to make recommendations. There were a lot of good ones.]

My first observations are based on making Dopplr a preeminent place to get high quality advice and recommendations form heavy-duty travelers. To this they need to beef up and rethink the entire 'notes’ and 'journal’ angle. In particular it should be more like a blog, and probably should supplant what is currently being displayed on each person’s profile. They also need to incorporate tagging, and perhaps some sort of karma system, so that people can determine whose advice is worth taking.

Given a real focus here, there is a path to money: advice and recommendations on restaurants, hotels, and so on would lead to possible revenue from reservations and/or advertising. Remember, the whole point is to have an application that makes money.

The nest observation has to do with the basic purpose of Dopplr: hooking up with friends once you are in the same place. Except that Doppl does not actually allow you to invite people to have dinner: in fact, there is no messaging in the system at all. No events.

The thrust here would be to compete (or integrate) with existing invitation/event services. My suggestion would be to implement something very basic, which might be sufficient to accelerate interest in Dopplr, and then see if Yahoo or Google wants to buy.

The traveler is traveling, and needs to get acommodations. Air travel, train, hotels. Integration or competition with existing services is an obvious need and/or direction.

Where’s the streams? I would like to see more of a streaming model, where I would be getting updates on my fellow travelers, their notes, their recommendations, and so on.

I have mentioned the notion of a common service for applications – a shared stream architecture – and perhaps Dopplr could get together with folks like Twitter and Facebook on that?

I would really like to see a finer grained geography in Dopplr. I am not just staying in London, I am in Shoreditch; I am not in San Francisco, I am in SOMA.

Also, when I am visiting Geneva, I am interested who is in Lausanne, with is only 30 minutes away by train. So, larger and finer grained notions of 'locale’ are needed.

One of the most direct competitors to Dopplr is TripIt (see TripIt), which does a great job of importing email itineraries from the various airlines and travel services, and automatically generating travel portfolios. Dopplr could at least allow me to capture the time of my flights.

I have already mentioned the need for finer grained notions of time: what time someone is landing at Heathrow or Oakland, for example.

There is also the need for larger grained notions of time relative to travel: when I plan a trip to Europe, for example, I might visit three or four cities. In my mind, it’s all one big trip, with various segments.


Dopplr has a lot of potential, and many potential paths. It’s obvious that they can’t stay where they are: they have to do something that makes money, and they need to stay away from services that will become commodities in the near term.

I don’t think they have exploited all the touch points surround people’s interactions around travel. In particular, the coordination of travel – what days are good, based on the schedules of the people you are trying to visit – is a thorny, fuzzy area. At the very least, exploring the many unexplored touchpoints, like inviting people to dinner, would be smart, and most likely necessary for long-term success.

My guess is that the notion of premium intelligence from the business travel elite is a winning plan, and could lead to a clear and defendable niche, supported by advertising and perhaps various premium (for fee) services.

We’ll have to see.

I enjoyed the workshop. Now that I have written it up, though, I guess I will have to use a different guinea pig the next time I do it.

Dopplr Cluster Cities

The Dopplr guys have listened to the users, again:

[from More Dopplr Raumzeitgeist detail: Cluster Cities]


What we are showing are what we call ‘Cluster Cities’ which is the basis of some new functionality you might have already noticed if you’re a Dopplr user that’s been studying their journal feeds/emails closely.

Rewind to Reboot, Copenhagen at the end of May 2007.

We’re sitting on the grass in the sunshine with a bunch of early Dopplr users, including Stowe Boyd and Stephanie Booth - when Stephanie is the first to voice something we’ve heard a lot from Dopplr users since: “make my trips more ‘fuzzy’”.

By which, she and others meant that they would like to see coincidences in the surrounding area of ‘social spacetime’ to their trip - i.e. “show me if there are going to be people I know nearby the stated destination of my trip when I’m going to be there, as I’d probably like to change my plans a little to see them.”

This is a cornerstone of our goal to help optimise travel for Dopplr users - surfacing information about such near coincidences to let them judge whether to alter their plans to make their trip more worthwhile.

We’re going to be releasing a lot of functionality to exploit fuzzy, social spacetime through the early part of 2008, but the first part of it has leaked out into the journal.

More coincidensity!

School of Everything Boing Boinged

Cory Doctorow likes School of Everything, which just launched:

[from School of Everything: eBay for knowledge - Boing Boing]

Last night, I attended the launch of School of Everything, a new web service that acts as a kind of eBay for people who have something to teach.


this is the kind of thing I mean when I give lectures about “profiting from the information economy.” Historically, the “information economy” has been assumed to be about reducing the supply of information so that only paying customers get it, and only on the terms that they pay for – for example, the record companies would like an Internet where the only music that’s available costs money, and once you buy the music, you can’t sell it again or give it away.

But School of Everything turns this on its head. The economic proposition is simple: you know something I want you to show me, and School of Everything will make it easy for us to meet and transact commerce to make this happen. It doesn’t depend on no one else being willing to do this for free, nor does it control what you do with the information once you learn it. Indeed, this is a service that benefits from the wider spreading of information: the more information there is about knitting, the more knitters there are, the more knitters there will be clamouring to learn knitting from an expert retained for this purpose. A knitting teacher doesn’t want you to hoard what you learn: she wants you to tell everyone about it.

I am equally happy with the simplicity of ‘I have something I want to learn’ matched by 'I have something I want to teach’, and the directness of SOE’s model. [Disclosure: I serve on SOE’s advisory board.]

Here’s the Teacher profile of Paul Miller, the CEO of SOE:

Paul Miller | School of Everything, originally uploaded by Stowe Boyd.

And my Learner’s profile (yes, I do want to learn how to can veggies):

Stowe Boyd | School of Everything, originally uploaded by Stowe Boyd.

And I searched nearby San Francisco area looking for cool things to learn, but no one is teaching cheesemaking!

People near you | School of Everything, originally uploaded by Stowe Boyd.

As more people join, a greater coincidensity will lead to increased likelihood that someone in the Bay Area will offer to teach mushroom foraging or one of the many other things that occurred to me that I would like to learn while I was wondering around in the site.

I also see that other ways to interact around topics of interest could enrich SOE, while keeping it close to the original vision of the founders.

I will be working with Andy Gibson, the CTO, and other folks at SOE next week, so I bet I will have more to report on my return from London.

Bluenity: Air France Gets Social Travel All Wrong

In principle, a company like Air France might figure out an interesting angle in the social travel space, competing with Dopplr and TripIt. Consider the value that Sabre has provided to American Airlines. However, they make a big toestub that suggests they just don’t get it.

Here’s the screen for adding a trip to the new social travel site that Air France and KLM have developed, called Bluenity. One small problem: the only input for travel is importing from the Air France frequent traveler site, which means travel is limited to Air France and KLM.

Bluentity, originally uploaded by Stowe Boyd.


Their come on was good: suggesting that it would be nice to hook up with friends that might be traveling where I am, which is the core ‘coincidensity’ notion behind Dopplr. But they get paraochial and screw it up.

Anyway, it would make sense for some aspiring American Airlines of this century to see the handwriting on the wall – namely, than more (and soon, all) travel will be arranged through social commerce – and to set up a platform on which all the airlines could play, in a simple way.

Not this one though.

If I were Virgin, I would buy Dopplr, and push in that direction as fast as possible, though.