Knight News Challenge Pitch Video

As part of the final requirements for our DME capstone experience, the News Genome Project (formerly Project Fidelity) was asked to pitch our project to the Knight Foundation’s News Challenge program. We will update our text application with the final version of our proposal soon.

Until then, please check out this five minute video presentation explaining the News Genome Project and head over to our application on the News Challenge’s site.

view this video on vimeo

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Merlin Mann on email, attention and existence

Image representing Merlin Mann as depicted in ...
Image via CrunchBase

At the Arizona Entrepreneurship Conference I had the fortune to catch a presentation that turned out to be much more interesting than I gave it credit for upone reading the title: “Inbox Zero.”

Merlin Mann is an interesting character. He’s sharp and funny. He chuckles and makes others chuckle with his insightful skewering of the quotidian noise of modern life.

“Inbox Zero” sounds like a book about email, but it’s actually much more. Mann was originally going to give his regular speech, describing key points of his book, which describe how to minimize the role of email in daily life, ways to stay focused on the most important tasks and why these are virtues.

Instead, Mann led a meandering conversation with the crowd. He talked more about the deeper implications of — the larger picture that his prescriptions paint.

I’ll skip to a few pillars of what Mann had to say.

“Attention is existential currency.”

This statement struck me. If we choose to see life as a the sum of our experiences, than we must value our attention above all else. Now, not everyone will agree with these premises, but for those who do this has serious implications.

If our attention is the most valuable thing we have, then deep, prolonged attention that produces satisfying experiences is most desirable. Multitasking is nearly antithetical and the cheapest form of attention.

Once accepted, this means we must make some serious observations about our attention habits. And if we want to truly achieve that greatest form of existential currency, most of likely need to make some adjustments to the way we conduct ourselves.

For most people reading this, there’s a device about the size of a pack of baseball cards within arms reach that can send and receive audio and video, stills images and textual information to and from millions of people all over the planet in the blink of an eye. It’s within reach at almost any moment, and they’re becoming  What a revolution in communicative ability. But what a detriment to our ability to create high-value attention.

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GeekWeekAZ: Sharing the love with valley tech community

In an economy like Phoenix‘s, the prospect of a burgeoning and vibrant start-up community might seem unlikely. But the valley’s underground tech community has some advantages.  Entrepreneur and author Pamela Slim says, “There is a real spirit of cooperation and collaboration here.”

The author behind Escape from Cubicle Nation, Pam spoke at the 2009 Arizona Entrepreneurship Conference this past Thursday.  The event was part of Arizona’s GeekWeekAZ.  GeekWeek consisted of a series of conferences focusing on the tech, start-ups and personal publishing communities.

The Project Fidelity team attended almost all of the week’s major offerings covering them for both our blog and cross-posting for The Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship’s site StartUpMedia.org, housed at ASU’s Cronkite School.

  • Ignite Phoenix 5 – Open mic night for Phoenix’s creative community, Ignite serves as a platform to share new ideas.  Each of 18 presenters gets five minutes to share inspirational insight.
  • Tedx Phoenix – An offshoot of the TED program, Tedx Phoenix brought intellectual and motivational speakers from Arizona together.
  • Arizona Entrepreneurship Conference – AZEC09 sought to help foster the spirit Pam Slim mentioned earlier. In it’s forth year running, the conference choose, “Bright Spots in the Recession,” as this year’s theme.
  • WordCamp Phoenix – WordPress allows both easy publishing and rapid development. WordCampAZ aimed to put these communities in the same room to foster collaboration on what has become the world’s largest blogging tool.
  • PodCamp AZ – With the myriad of options available, self publication hasn’t just become easier, it has become unavoidable. Podcasting is a great way to share ideas and foster relationships with people who care.

All these events underscore and emphasis the point Pam Slim made, there is still life in Phoenix.  More coverage from the Project Fidelity coming soon.

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If only there were a way for computers to understand meaning…

Literally almost a verbatim from a middle-aged gentleman at PodcampAZ, an event Project Fidelity attended this past weekend.  The man was attempting to articulate how fantastic it would be if machines could gain a deeper understanding of the meaning of the words it was using.  I tried to explain the concept of the semantic web to him, but I don’t think it came through clearly enough for him to grasp what semantic technologies are capable of and what they aren’t.

PodcampAZ

PodcampAZ brands itself as a "relevent media unconference"

At the Podcamp, Paul Kenjora – CTO for Arkayne – spoke about the powers of cloud computing. This technique involves breaking down enormous tasks into slices and assigning huge numbers of computers to small parts of the overall task.  Performed simultaneously, this can dramatically reduce the amount of time needed to finish any given task.

Paul Kenjora, CTO of Arkayne

Paul Kenjora, CTO of Arkayne

Cloud computing, Kenjora said, can help us solve problems previously beyond the realm of possibility.  With the cost of cloud computing continuing to fall, the feasibility of accomplishing overwhelmingly complex objectives requiring massive amounts of processing power is within reach.  Kenjora explained it is all a matter of scale.

“When you have 100 million points which need to be computed, why not take 1000 computers and give each of them 100,000 points?” Kenjora said. “What can be done on one machine can be split up and done on many.”

Paul believes there is no computation problem too large, but we must figure out what problems are worth solving.  Cloud computing can figure out every word, in every Tweet, ever.  But why would we do that? Maybe researchers, social scientists and pollsters  could gain insight into the pulse and sentiment of our country in a level previously unimaginable.  Maybe some connection we don’t even know between the stock market and Twitter.  Who knows?  The point is, as Kenjora points out, is to find applications people are willing to fund. Problems people want and need solving.

Explaining the value of a semantic web has been a challenge for Project Fidelity. For those who are baffled by the abstract nature of problems bigger than our heads can hold – such as explaining the relationships between words, content and value online – perhaps it is best to start small.  Often, however, Project Fidelity explains things to people, such as the gentleman I alluded to earlier, in a far too technical manner.

This Quick Intro to RDF explains how the semantic web works on a simple, but technical level.  This approach makes sense to us, but it is perhaps akin to explaining how a to drive a manual transmission car by describing how it works rather than how to operate it.  The W3 consortium provides its own introduction to web 3.0.  While slightly less technical, it is still difficult to glean the express value of realizing the untapped potential of linked data for someone not immersed in the subject.  One of the paramount challenges Project Fidelity – and the semantic tech field as a whole – faces is communicating why the semantic web is a more valuable one. Especially to media companies.

Hopefully, we can get to know Paul and Arkayne a little better and give some more insight into another exciting start-up, located right here in the Phoenix valley.  Because if we can’t convince people the semantic web is a problem worth solving, it will never happen.

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hNews: AP goes for microformat

A couple weeks ago, ReadWriteWeb (@RWW) reported the Associated Press were rolling out a meta-data tagging schema called hNews. Here is the gist:

“At its most basic level, hNews, just like other microformats like hCard or hCalendar, allows search engines spiders to identify and read semantic information that would otherwise be buried within a text and would be hard to identify for search engines.” – Via RWW

The hNews Schema

  • source-org.
  • dateline. optional. Using text or hCard.
  • geo. optional. Using geo.
  • item-license. recommended.
  • principles. recommended.

Note: the meta-data adds scarce depth to the richness of content itself besides the geo-tagging. Three out of the five tags seem to be exclusively geared towards ownership.

The article goes on to note the controversy surrounding the purpose of this system. Is this a push by AP to tighten its grip on AP content? To us, hNews appears to be a tool for being able to catch illegitimate use of AP content, not a way to embed deeper meaning into AP content. Nothing we’ve seen suggests an API or any open access to the data. This probable makes sense based on AP’s business models.

If you agree with this move or not from a business stand point, microformats in general seem to push against the philosophy of linked data as Tim Berners-Lee sees the endeavor.

He spoke earlier this week at the International Semantic Web Conference outside Washington, DC. According to Government Computer News, he suggested without commercial and government entities making the shift to standard semantic data formats, the true potential of the semantic web will remain locked.

 

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Blog hiatus: We can rebuild it. We have the technology.

Our podcast is certainly going strong. Last week we hosted Si Robins (@sirobins) of Downtown Phoenix Journal and Liz Smith (@theeditress) of The Watchtree – two indie local media outlets in the Phoenix valley area. We chat with them about the difficulties facing local media and the potential to use semantic tech to better connect disperate communities with relevant news in local geographies.

Newest episode is up, so go subscribe and if you listen already please review and rate! (search pennycook or wyloge via iTunes or get the direct feed: http://web.me.com/pennycook.jeremy/fidelitypodcast.xml)

We haven’t payed nearly as much attention to the blog as the podcast, but will post a couple things today and rejuvenate.

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Powerset: Confusing Football Players and Search Engines

While using Powerset‘s semantic search technology – used by Microsoft’s new “decision engine”  Bing – some seriously ambiguous connections arise.  I attempted to use the sample queries for Bing designed to  located on the from Bing’s blog and did not receive the reference tab options as promised.  These reference tabs essentially embed wikipedia entries into Bing, saving you from clicking the often top search result from that exact wikipedia page.

Frustrated by the less-than-astounding results, we tried Powerset’s own search feature with a different question; “what is bing?”  This query came back with ‘Factz’ from wikipedia.  Including this ambiguous gem:

Bing went to Polytech

Bing went to Polytech

Hopefully, Bing’s developers intend to further develop their product, as it seems to have trouble distinguishing Microsoft’s Bing to Darnell Bing – a back-up NFL linebacker.  Apparently, by decision engine, Microsoft means you need to decide if using Bing is any better than just Googling.

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