Context is King

IYOUITOne of the area’s of research from Telematica Instituut is using technology to determine the context of people. For example where you are, who you are with, what is your mood, what are you doing. This context is very usefull input for a lot of other things like recommendation (when you search for a restaurant to dine with you new girlfriend and value my opinion you do not want to use my recommendation of a restaurant I liked because it is so nice for the kids). So context is king for lots of new “social” applications.
For this we have created a new application called IYOUIT (meaning I, You and It). This is an application for mobile phones (Symbian S60) and constantly monitors your context and shares this with your friends. Recently this tool is made available to all. Have a look at it. It uses only the standard phone sensors (GSM signal, Bluetooth, WiFi, GPS if available) to determine things like location, who is close and such.
One of the things this also shows is the power of “mashup programming”. The application uses all kinds of readily available applications. Google Maps of course but also weathersites. Why measure local temperature (and be dependent on extra hardware sensors) if you can find the local temperature based on your location data on a existing weather site?


MeIt is amazing how fast social networking is growing. Every time I am giving a presentation I always ask my audience how many people use one or more social networking sites like Facebook, MySPace, Hyves, LindedIn or another. Since a year this percentage is growing from 20% to more than 70% nowadays. I think especially business oriented sites like LinkedIn made social networking more “salonfähig” than before.
Social networking is I think an area where the idea of “the rich get richer” is especially true. After all, once you have many customers you tend to have more people sending invitation and there is more chance that people send invitations to you. One would expect that only some big sites remain and that newcomers have a hard time growing.
Therefore it is surprising that a new one, Plaxo, is really flooding my e-mail box. Many contacts have send me an invitation. After 10 invitations I decided to take a look, make an account and start using it too. I was a bit weary for this since using lot’s of sites is awkward, I thought.
But I must say this is a sticky one. Firstly they are very easy to link to your existing social networking site like LinkedIn. Secondly they use something they call “pulse”. On plaxo you can fill in the blogs you write, the photo sites you use and all other exhibitionist’s methods and they are shown in a log to all your contacts. This resulted in several comments on the photo you see above, I did not realize that it would be shown to all (welcome to the world of total transparency). Before I wrote about small world networks. One of the effects I see by using Plaxo is that you can see that lots or your contacts make contact with people you also know (and since you see this in the “pulse” you immediately connect to them too …).
One of the interesting developments in social networking is OpenSocial from Google, used by Plaxo too. Google failed miserable with Orkut and other social tools they developed. So they decided to create an API that makes it possible to integrate all social sites in an easy way. And thereby minimizing the advantage you have by having lots of members since everything integrates easily. And thereby minimizing your disadvantage when you have failed miserably in creatign you own social site. You have to admire them…

Addtention economy

I came acros this interesting article about the value of clicks on adds on the Internet. Since advertising is beginning to look (Seem) like the holy grail to keep the Internet free for use it is amazing how little data there is on how and why people click on adds and what the real effects are. The following result out of the study is interesting:

What did we learn? A lot. We learned that most people do not click on ads, and those that do are by no means representative of Web users at large.
Ninety-nine percent of Web users do not click on ads on a monthly basis. Of the 1% that do, most only click once a month. Less than two tenths of one percent click more often. That tiny percentage makes up the vast majority of banner ad clicks.

Seems a lot of research is needed to really understand how the relation between audience, click rate and real economic effects will be clear.

Surfing the beat

two-men.gifI came across this post from David Cohn about crowdsourcing beat journalism. Local journalist of course normally have their network within the area they publish about. But how much more interesting might this become if you know how to make this network much more involved in the news and each other.
The same, in a way, counts for policemen. Especially community policeman need to have a strong social network in order to receive the subtle but important Continue reading “Surfing the beat”

Some things never change

Some times it surprises me in a way how little things have changed. This week we had our network event where many of our customers join us for dinner and some interesting conversations. This time we organized it in the museum of communication. Before the meeting they gave a short tour and showed us an old telephone switchboard. You know, where they had to connect phone calls by wiring connections by hand.
Funny thing is , there were two features that already existed for a long time: voicemail and teleconference. When somebody was not reachable you could leave a message at the operator who would call the person at a later time. Also creating a teleconference call was easy but just wiring the different connections together. Pretty impressive 😎 .
Other functions that caught my attention: they checked if a line was busy by touching the connection in the switchboard with a plug: when they saw a small spark the connection was busy. Connecting somebody from Groningen to Maastricht worked a bit like a router through gateways: they connected to the next switchboard, they connected to the next switch board etc. Pretty failsafe since switches could easily fall while other routes could still be used. Though it did take half an hour to setup this connection, more than 8 hours for a foreign connection…


Rogier sent me this link. Especially this part was kind of icky:

The man made a note, did some clicking. “You see, I ask because I see a heavy spike in ads for rocketry supplies showing up alongside your search results and Google mail.”
Greg felt a spasm in his guts. “You’re looking at my searches and e-mail?” He hadn’t touched a keyboard in a month, but he knew what he put into that search bar was likely more revealing than what he told his shrink.
“Sir, calm down, please. No, I’m not looking at your searches,” the man said in a mocking whine. “That would be unconstitutional. We see only the ads that show up when you read your mail and do your searching.

“We do not look at your searches but at the add”. Somehow this statement gives me the shivers.

Knights in Licra

Sometimes you do things that energize you. Sometimes you meet people that, through their drive and energy, lift you up and give you energy. Even wish you could do more.
As Telematica Instituut we are working together with the people from Alp D’huZes to improve the life of people with cancer. About two years ago some people, among them Coen van Veenendaal en Peter Kapitein, started to think about ways to improve the life of people with cancer. Peter has been diagnosed with cancer in 2005. Their goal is to become the largest sponsor of the KWF, the Dutch cancer fund. Their means: by cycling up and down the Alp D’huez paid for by sponsors. Not once but six times in a row. The first year they gathered € 350.000. The second year, 2007, they cycled up and down the Alp D’huez again with 140 people, 7 times in a row. I think something you can only do when you are really motivated through and through. This year they gathered more than one million euros for the KWF. The project we are setting up with them is to monitor and support people with cancer after treatment. Since cancer more and more becomes a chronic disease it is becoming important to support the people that live with cancer. Sport is a good way to feel better and stay active. Goal is to activate people by improving the communication between the patients and people treating them through, amongst others, virtual communities.
It is not just the fact that they are crazy enough to go up and down a considerable mountain but it is the drive and energy they have to accomplish their goal. On the mountain and towards the companies that sponsor them. Listening to their stories I think everybody feels compelled to contribute. The motto is “giving up is not an option”. Heroes…
All people are created equal, but some make a difference.


I read this post at salesforce: is considering bringing to market a new service enabling companies to share leads, opportunities and custom objects with each other (assuming both are using What would you call this service?
If you have another name suggestion please post it in a comment.

This seems a rather interesting application of Web 2.0 sharing of information. Companies sharing leads in a network through their CRM system. There are of course a lot of questions like how do you protect your leads against competitors, how easy it is to create rules how to share and such. But still, the idea has a huge potential I think.

Google, formerly known as the NSA

I am member of a guidance committee for Rathenau instituut in the Netherlands for a project about privacy. In this project we deal with the changing concept of privacy in our society. I talked about it some time ago in this post. It still amazes me how much people put on the net (including what I put on the Net, look at the sidebar of this Blog).
In this project a special website has been developed that invites people to comment on privacy, discuss and share all kind of ideas in a creative way around this subject (the website is The information on the side ranges from exhibitionists to people putting an image of their passport on the web to people completely hiding how they look in real life. In the end a television documentary will be made out of it.
There is one item on the site that is I think very interesting. A colleague of mine, Rogier Brussee, has a conspiracy their for some time that Google is in fact a front for the NSA. Funny thing is if you look in the history of Google that they got quite large initial funding in order to pay for all the servers they needed to store all their data. Without it Google would not be able to show how good they are. But at this moment there really was not even a beginning of a business model. So his theory is that the NSA is the one that funded it (this is the organization with one of the largest budgets in the USA so funding 30 million dollar is mere noise to them). Their strong emphasis on “Don’t be Evil” of course fits nicely into this idea…
Just look at what Google knows of you:

  • It knows what you are interested in based on your searches as well as what link in the search results you clicked (the link you click on is not the real link but links to Google and than transfers you to the site you wish to go. Also you can save bookmarks, the kind of information on your iGoogle page, Google reader to show what blogs you are interested in (subscribed as well as the one you click on to read). The list goes on: adds you click on, the spell checker I use to check this blog so they already know I am writing about this before I post it …)
  • It knows what you are going to do based on your calendar info. The one thing that really surprises me is that Google does not yet have a tool to store your to-do items since this is a much better way (finer grained) for predicting what people are doing than your calendar).
  • It knows with whom you communicate and about what, based on your Gmail.

An of course, items like google apps enhance the knowledge about you by knowing what you are writing (though you would have sent it out with Gmail so they would have known anyhow.
Looking at this amount of data they have about a lot of people must the the ultimate dream of the NSA. Looking at the video below it is clear that more people are beginning to be suspicious.

Though I must say that I am totally addicted to Googe: Gmail, Calendar, Apps, Psearch, Scholar, and probably lots of others I use but do not know they are Googles (I use a very nice ToDo app that for all I know may be a front for Google (who is a front for …). I use them all because I like how they work (Hey Google, when are you going to develop this ToDo application, and when you are at it, why can’t I synchronize with my phone through SyncML…. If you do that you also know who I am calling).
I just hope they are not Evil…..