I’m surprisingly busy this summer. Since the Semantic Technology Conference 2 weeks ago in San Francisco, my phone has been ringing off the hook. I’ve realized I need to work on starting the personal data locker company before trying to raise a fund to support it. If the personal data locker gets off the ground well, it should take me a few weeks to raise a fund around it. I’ll talk more about that next week, but today I have a few random things to share.
After a bit of research, it turns out that I may be the fifth person to start blogging, back in 1995.
I want you to see a deck of slides by a guy named Paul Adams at Google. He’s starting to explain how complicated our real-life social interactions are, and why Facebook doesn’t really address them (this is what the identity gang have been saying for years). There are rumors that Google will launch something in this area. If you’re interested in social networking, this is an important deck of slides. You can either see the short version or the long version:
SAI Business Insider has the short version. I recommend signing up for their newsletter.
Some of you know I was at the SemTech conference in San Francisco last week, where a lot of things came together for me. I gave a keynote and hosted a panel session on the personal data locker (see my book for more on this topic), and it was, i think, a watershed moment for the future of the web and the way we use it. This short note explains how I plan to accelerate the emergence of the open web and the personal data locker by raising a venture fund to address the opportunity that has recently opened up.
We all know that the practice of visiting web sites, logging in, and collecting usernames and passwords broke years ago, and that some day we’ll do things differently. At the moment, Facebook wants you to log in using your Facebook credentials, but those of us working in the online identity movement and semantic web know something bigger is bound to emerge. We now have the pieces of the puzzle to create a place, or at least a framework, where you can have your identity, your credentials for using sites and services, and your personal data all in one place online, regardless of how you access it. Some of the pieces of this puzzle:
You may also know I’ve been thinking about raising a venture fund. My goal is to build a fund around the “personal data locker” concept I describe in chapter 8 of my book and start related companies to build out the necessary infrastructure and services. This will be the very last time you transfer your contact information, because your contacts will stay in one place and never move again. But for that to be true, your phone, your email system, and all your contact-related tasks (like finding and making new friends, participating in social networks, etc.) will need to use your single contact list for everything. Likewise, your calendar will be in the center of your universe and communicate with all the other calendars you want it to. Your bookmarks, your personal data, your photos, tickets, passes, keys, and all your other personal information will live here in your personal data locker (see my book for more). It sounds Utopian, but the building blocks really are falling into place now, and not a moment too soon – I don’t think anyone wants to build another profile or join another social network.
The only problem with my dream is that a) I don’t have a track record as an investor (my angel investments were mostly in 2000-2002, and others haven’t found liquidity yet) and b) it’s an extremely difficult funding environment, to say the least. However, I’ve recently been able to solve the second problem. Without giving away too much, I believe I can fairly easily raise the $100M+ I’m looking for if I can just find a credible west-coast partner. This fund will need a west-coast office, and I’ll have to go back and forth often. I don’t want to spill everything in this message, but suffice to say I’ve already had a few conversations with strategic funding sources and they are very, very interested. It is much more downhill fundraising than uphill. I have visibility to around $40M right now and hope to have some of those key starter conversations with potential companies in the next several weeks.
The key to success here is people. I now have access to the people who can help make this happen: people at Google, Facebook, and other companies that can help integrate all these ideas into a buildable framework consumers will adopt and other companies will want to connect to.
The final person I need is a west-coast partner. If I can find someone who’s an experienced VC looking for his/her next thing, reads my book, likes the premise, and wants to join me, I believe the fundraising will go quickly. I’m reaching out to you to ask you to forward this to friends and colleagues, mention something to your followers, and ask people to help me network to find a good partner who wants to join me. I’m happy to discuss the details with anyone but would rather not make them public. Please forward this toward people you know in the west-coast VC community and ask people to pass it on.
If you want to refer to this note in a tweet or blog post, please use one of the following URLs:
Last week I went to freezing San Francisco to speak at the SemTech conference. I had a great time and met most of the movers and shakers in the world of the semantic web at this incredibly well run conference. It was gratifying to see so many people speaking enthusiastically about my book. In fact, the bookstore sold more than 50 copies and I signed dozens of books. I even signed 3 iPhones! My keynote talk was very well received, and thanks to the people at Atigeo, the panel on the Personal Data Locker was said to be one of the best of the conference. I met several people from big companies and had interesting discussions with many entrepreneurs. So after 3 days and 3 nights, I was full of semantics and very energized about the prospects of my book and the ideas it contains.
Don’t forget: I’ll be at #SemTech next week and will give a keynote speech at 08:30 on Thursday, June 24th. Come!
I got this in my in-box the other day. People often think authors don’t want to hear from readers directly, but I can tell you that in nonfiction it’s not true. We love getting emails from readers. It’s been about 10 years since I got a “you changed my life” email, so I thought I would share this (with permission of the author):
It’s taken 30 years, but Steve Jobs is finally kicking your ass, and you are starting to look like Wile E. Coyote chasing after the Road Runner. Soon, Apple will own the consumer and drain business accounts away from you faster than you can say Windows Phone 7 (“meep meep”). You’ve spent $2 billion on cloud infrastructure and the Azure platform, and you haven’t come close to what Google offers. You think tablets are the next big platform. That’s three app platforms, Steve, and now you are planning to open Microsoft Stores as well? You are letting Apple and Google show you what to do next, you’re about three years behind both, and most of your products suck. You’ve dug the hole so deep it’s going to be difficult for anyone to save the company. It won’t be Ray Ozzie, and it isn’t going to be Andy Rees, that’s for sure. And, as you must be increasingly aware, Steve, it isn’t going to be you.
Rather than selling you more Acme gunpowder for your latest me-too scheme, I’m here to offer a solution, one the company has enough cash to adopt, but one that will go against your corporate culture so much that you won’t recognize the company when I get through with it. And not a moment too soon.
I’m traveling this week, so I’ll take this time to right a serious wrong that has gotten out of control. If you use Keynote, chances are much of the text in your slides is in Gill Sans. Why? Because Gill Sans, named after Eric Gill, is the default font for Keynote (possibly chosen by Steve Jobs himself – he likes to get involved in font decisions). Unfortunately, Gill Sans looks really bad in lower case. Gill Sans caps, properly spaced, look elegant and museum-like. Gill Sans lower case pretty much never looks good in any application. It’s too wide, it’s too decorative, and it gets in the way of your message. I love Keynote, and I think anyone who likes Powerpoint will really like Keynote much better, but I want everyone to switch default fonts. Continue Reading
I’m off to ThinkingDigital for a week next week and am focusing on getting ready for my talk there. I would like to share this incredible video by Dan Pink about what motivates people. If you manage people, especially if you manage knowledge workers or creatives, this is a must-see video. I’ll be back next week with a fun piece on Apple Keynote. If you’re looking for more semantic web thoughts, come back in early June.
Some 47% agreed with the statement: “By 2020, the semantic web envisioned by Tim Berners-Lee will not be as fully effective as its creators hoped and average users will not have noticed much of a difference.”
Some 41% agreed with the opposite statement, which posited: “By 2020, the semantic web envisioned by Tim Berners-Lee and his allies will have been achieved to a significant degree and have clearly made a difference to average Internet users.”
What should we make of this? Is it optimistic or pessimistic?
Today I am pleased to announce the launch of a new video I spent two months creating. It’s launching on The Economist ideas blog, sponsored by Sean McManus. I’m very proud that the Economist has asked to debut my video and help bring the concepts of pull and the semantic web to the mainstream business public. I want to ask your help today in getting as many people as possible to see my video.
For those of you coming here from the Economist, thank you for visiting. This is a huge web site with a lot of content. It would take several days to see it all. So here’s a quick guide:
Go to the Getting Started page, which will give you an overview of the principles of pull and the semantic web.
Please buy my book and read it. It will take a weekend, and if you don’t think it’s worth your time, I’ll buy it back from you. I can guarantee you won’t read this material in any other book. It’s aimed at business planners, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and those who want a solid look at the future of information. That’s why I made a video on the history of information, to put it all in perspective.
Hire me to consult or give a speech at your next big conference.
Tell others about the book and this web site. The more people in your industry who start to understand the shift from pushing to pulling, the better.
Leave a short comment about the video on the Economist web page – the more people who comment there, the better.
Help me reach business journalists. The Harvard Business Review gave my book a glowing review. The Economist has put my video on their blog. Now I need more business journalists to understand how important the material is. Most business journalists are consumed with Google, Facebook, and Twitter issues. They don’t have time to think or write about the future of information. I think they should. If you can help me reach any business journalists, please contact me directly.
I had a chance to talk with Jay Myers of Best Buy the other day. Jay works on the retailer’s web site(s), and he’s one of the people on the front lines of the semantic web. Jay has two interesting problems: he wants people to find product information much easier than they do today, and he wants the Best Buy stores to have their inventory found more easily, to make a tighter connection between buyers and sellers. Continue Reading
On April 12, 1961, Yuri Gagarin became the first man to go into orbit around the Earth. The very next day, the U.S. House Committee on Science and Astronautics held an emergency meeting and recommended to President Kennedy that the United States dedicate its resources to putting a man on the moon ahead of the Soviets. On May 25th, Kennedy announced his intention to fund the Apollo space program, which had the goal of “landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to earth” before the decade was out.
Last Wednesday, Facebook launched its “Open Graph” campaign to let Facebook members tag web pages and tell their friends what they like on sites anywhere around the web. Now that it’s Monday, I’m pretty much the last person in the blogosphere to have something to say about it. Or maybe one of the first to put some perspective on it.
News flash: my book isn’t selling very well. I put two years of my life into researching and writing it, and so far only the few semantic web people are buying it. The problem isn’t that it’s no good. In fact, the reviews are all much better than I expected. Those who have read it say it’s remarkable and just what’s needed. One person said we’ve all gotten used to going to the outhouse, and my book describes the future of indoor plumbing, where the water (information) is delivered to us so we don’t have to fetch it or go to it.
Congratulations to John Hagel and John Seely Brown, who have just launched The Power of Pull. Like my book, this one has been in the works for more than ten years. Unlike my book, it’s coming out with the kind of fanfare and marketing push it deserves. John Hagel, author of the excellent Net Gain (which came out a bit before my last book, Futurize Your Enterprise), has been crushing it the last several years with more books, lectures, and thought leadership than most people pack into a lifetime. He and Seely Brown (former director of Xerox Parc) have been hard at work defining new paradigms for institutions and individuals. As they say in the promotional piece for the book:
I caught up with Kaliya Hamlin (AKA Identitywoman) the other day. She, along with Doc Searls and a handful of other identity pioneers, are working to make secure identity management a reality. If you’re interested in identity, you should definitely go to the upcoming 10th Internet Identity workshop in Mountain View, May 17-19. Like most events Kaliya attends these days, it’s an un-conference: a conference where everyone shows up and they decide each day’s agenda together that same morning. In fact Kaliya could write the book on un-conferences, and I hope she does.
If Vinod Khosla recommends [your book], then I’m not interested. — Curt Monash
Cheetah, Namibia. Photo by David Siegel
An Open Letter to Canon and Nikon
I’m a Canon photographer, but what I’m about to say also applies to Nikon, although more generally. I have purchased 8 Canon bodies in the past five years, and I can’t count how many lenses. At the moment, I’m shooting a Canon 5D2, which I can’t wait to trade for a full-frame camera that can actually autofocus. Canon and Nikon are in a never-ending arms race to dominate the 35mm and sub-35mm SLR markets. Serious photographers who own Canon bodies have to settle for Canon lenses. Why? Not because they are the best, although many of them are excellent and a few are remarkable, but because they are the only high-end lenses Canon bodies can autofocus. Canon keeps this interface between body and lens proprietary, to keep Canon owners buying more Canon lenses and prevent them from using third-party lenses. A company like Sigma, which makes lower quality lenses, can get a license from Canon, because as Sigma sells more lenses, Canon sells more bodies. But Zeiss makes better lenses than Canon does, and Canon won’t license the autofocus codes to Zeiss at any price, because Canon executives know that many of their customers would switch and buy Zeiss lenses and they would sell fewer Canon lenses. The same goes for Nikon. And it’s true – we would.
Siegel deserves great credit for getting his arms around the vast scope and depth of change that is currently underway in how humans interact with data and tying it together into a compelling vision that one can start to prepare for in a practical and strategic manner.
- Jeff Stein, Internet Data Registry
A quick trip for all you computer science geeks: The XML spec was written by Tim Bray, Michael Sperberg-McQueen, and Jean Paoli between July, 1996, and the ratification of XML 1.0 by the W3C on February 10, 1998. I remember giving a full-day seminar at Stanford sometime in 1998, in which I explained to the audience that if everyone in a given industry would use XML in the same way to mean the same thing, we could put the data online, rather than in a database, and “the web becomes the database.” Unfortunately, I don’t have the date for that seminar. I do know, however, that on March 10, 1999, Tim Bray hosted an XML Standards conference in San Jose, and I said the same thing then. I think everyone agrees now that this is what is generally meant by the semantic web and linked data, if you leave out the implementation details. I know that in 2001, Tim Berners Lee wrote the kick-off article of the semantic web in Scientific American magazine. (You can read it on the Scientific American web site simply by subscribing, or you can search online for a bootlegged version I won’t point to here.) So I wonder – did I have this idea before Tim did? I would love to know. If you know Tim personally, please email and ask him, and I’ll put his response here.
I caught up with W. David Stephenson, a guy who’s very excited about government open-data projects, as he was on his way to see a publisher about his next book on the same topic. One of his recent speeches was entitled, “Let my Data Go: the Case for Transparent Government.” You can find him at Stephenson Strategies. I was excited to ask him about open data for government. Here is our interview.
What democratizing data efforts have you worked on?
I got a chance to be in on the ground floor of democratizing data, when Vivek Kundra was the District of Columbia’s CTO. He had already established their “Citywide Data Warehouse,” which released nearly 300 data streams, many of them on a real-time basis. That was the model for thedata.gov site that he launched when he became the US CIO. I was brought in to help design a strategy to make the District even more transparent, and, most important, to make these data streams really helpful to people. Continue Reading
Note: I’m looking for a volunteer to help build out the resource section of this web site. Someone who wants to help us build a definitive list of all companies involved in pull and the semantic web. Database experience not required – we’re going to do it by hand using WordPress pages.
Also, please join us on Twitter. We have decided to scrap the news page and just do everything using tweets. We’re @PullNews – please follow us. If you want to help us get the news feed out, please contact me.
A company called Jess3, headed by Jesse Thomas, released a video last month that has gotten a lot of notice. It’s about the size and scale of the Internet and what we’re trying to do with it. Since I’m working hard on my own video that I hope to show you soon, and since the two are strongly related, I want to ask you to spend three minutes and fifty three seconds watching this. You can see it below or on the Jess3 home page, where you’ll see it bigger and better. I hope it proves the rule that you get ten times more back than you give, because this group has given a lot to produce this excellent video. Please hire them to design your next semantic web project!
No matter what business you’re in, whether it’s rice farming or computer programming, you must use information. If use of information accounts for 40% of average world economic activity (a reasonable assumption, I think), then humans generate about $32 trillion worth of information every year. If we could all adopt the principles of pull and the semantic web over a ten year period, say at a cost of $1 trillion per year, I estimate we could save at least $12 trillion per year worldwide by using information smarter. IBM agrees. IBM thinks we should be using information smarter, and so do most people working in the semantic web.