by Adam Skikne
Hatching Twitter by Nick Bilton tells the true story of Twitter’s four co-founders (Ev Williams, Noah Glass, Biz Stone and Jack Dorsey) who transformed a small side project at a failing start up into to a multi-billion dollar company that literally changed the world. Basically, the book is to Twitter what The Accidental Billionaires (the book that The Social Network is based on) is to Facebook.
And it’s awesome (#justsaying).
One of the most interesting things in the book is that the idea for Twitter didn’t just come from one person. Each of Twitter’s co-founders helped shape Twitter in their own way. Jack Dorsey came up with the initial idea about creating a product around status updates. Ev Williams wanted to provide people with a tool to express themselves and used his own money to finance the business. Noah Glass championed the idea and came up with the name for Twitter. And Biz Stone? Well Biz just generally rocked, eventually sticking up for his best friend by telling the Board of Directors at Twitter to go fuck themselves when they fired Ev Williams as CEO of the company.
Like I said, the book really is awesome.
Each of the Twitter co-founders had their own vision for what Twitter should be. This ultimately led to a number of power struggles for the control of the company – mainly between Noah Glass, Ev Williams and Jack Dorsey. These power struggles are really what is at the heart of the book with each one being fueled by Twitter’s staggering growth and the need for the company to become profitable for investors.
In the book, Bilton points out that no one could have predicted Twitter’s success or have had the experience to cope with the chaos that would come along with it. Nevertheless, Hatching Twitter is a fascinating look at how the politics within a business changed the lives of four friends. It’s a book that is not only incredibly well researched but also well written. I would recommend it to anyone interested in business or tech.
by Adam Skikne
Age of Context is a new book by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel that is a must-read for anyone who is interested in the future of technology, social media, digital and business. The book details how companies are using the convergence of five key forces (mobile, social media, data, sensors and location) to create a new wave of smarter products and services.
The book is literally fascinating and should get you excited about how technology is going to change our lives in the near future. Here are a few key trends that we can look forward to once we enter the Age of Context:
The Rise of Wearable Devices
Wearable devices such as Google Glass and the Nike Fuelband are one of the biggest trends within the tech industry at the moment. Scoble was one of the first people to receive a pair of Google Glass outside of Google and is incredibly bullish about the future of these types of devices.
While it is still early days for wearables, Scoble and Israel argue that these devices will only get smaller, cheaper and more powerful over time. In fact, the wearable market is expected to grow to an estimated $50 billion in the next 3-5 years.
While smartphones are currently our primary mobile device, it will soon be normal to carry around multiple mobile devices with numerous smart sensors. While we may scoff at the current iteration of a device like Google Glass, younger generations will embrace them and may not be able to live without them as contextual technology creeps into more areas of our daily lives.
Pin Point Marketing
The problem with marketing and advertising today is that is creates more noise than signal. In the near future, companies will be able to use contextual technology to create right-time experiences based on a consumer’s needs, what they are doing and what they are going to do next. Companies are already experimenting with contextual marketing through a combination of online monitoring, social CRM and geo-fencing.
Business will become “Uber-ised”. Products and services will come to you when you need them. When you don’t, they will disappear as your context changes.
Another interesting company worth mentioning is Shopperception. The company creates 3D sensors for shopping aisles that measure what consumers look at, what they touch and what they place in their trolleys. These sensors will give merchants unprecedented data and real-time analytics of what happens at the ‘point of touch’ in stores.
According to Scoble and Israel, the cars will be as much of a contextual device as a smartphone, only a lot bigger. The entire auto industry is focused on using sensors to improve safety and security of drivers.
Google, Tesla and Audi are just a few of the companies that are working on self-driving cars that help people save time and money, as well as dramatically reduce the number of accidents on roads. As Marc Andreessen says: “People are so bad at driving cars that computers don’t need to be that good to be much better.”
But there are a number of other interesting ideas in this field. Tesla has developed an alarm system that only unlocks the vehicle for recognised drivers. OnStar is a vehicle tracking company that disables the gas pedal of a vehicle once it has been reported stolen. GM is investigating a sensor that can detect if drivers are falling asleep at the wheel Another company is developing wristbands to monitor a driver’s alcohol levels in order to prevent them from driving drunk.
Health in the Age of Context
Health care is another industry that is set to be transformed by contextual technology. Health care encompasses two elements: prevention and treatment, and there are a number of examples of how technology is being used to treat and prevent illness.
Researchers are already testing pills containing smart sensors. Once consumed, a patient’s condition can be tracked and monitored. If a patient’s condition changes, both the patient and the doctor can be instantly notified. This might sound like science fiction, but these pills could come to market as early as 2015 or 2016.
There are a number of examples of how data, sensors and location are currently being used in medicine. One study crowd sourced the location of asthma attacks to identify asthma hotspots. Smart masks have been created help create heat maps that measure air quality. A bra has been created that is able to detect the early stages of breast cancer.
Scoble and Israel predict that, unlike in science fiction, humans won’t become part of computers but computers will become part of humans. The two authors have also met with company’s developing the next generation of smart prosthetics as well as bionic suits designed to help paraplegics to walk.
The Connected Human:
The pair also write about Personal Contextual Assistants (PCA’s) like Siri and Google Now. Scoble and Israel believe that these PCA’s will evolve into anticipatory systems for every aspect of our lives thanks to the Internet of Things. According to the authors, there will be 3.5 billion networked products by 2015.
The home will be just one of the spaces that will be transformed by contextual devices. Houses will soon be fitted with smart windows that can change properties based on weather conditions – thereby eliminating the need for blinds and saving energy costs by up to 25℅. Smart glass and smart mirrors will soon come with facial recognition so you’ll be able to check the weather and read your messages while you brush your teeth.
The Cost of Context
The Age of Context promises to improve our lives in a number of ways, but these benefits will come at the cost of personal privacy. The extent we allow contextual technology into our lives will depend on our own comfort levels. Trust will become an increasingly important factor in the relationship between companies and consumers as we tackle issues relating to who owns our data, who can access our data and how our data can be used.
But once we find that balance, there is no doubt that the Age of Context will be an exciting time.
In The New Digital Age, Executive Chairman of Google, Eric Schmidt, and Director of Google Ideas, Jared Cohen, look to the future and try to predict what implications technology will have on a world that is becoming increasingly connected. The New Digital Age was one of the books I was most looking forward to reading this year and I enjoyed it immensely. If you are interested in technology in any way, this book is a must read. Here are just a few predictions from The New Digital Age:
The Next 5 Billion
In the next decade, 5 billion new people will join the Internet. Many of the people will be from the developing world and will be accessing the Internet for the first time from cheap smartphones. The impact of this shift will be huge, with the majority of the world’s population having gone from having no access to unfiltered information to accessing all of the world’s information in the palm of their hands. All in one generation.
But this shift will not take place in a vacuum. While the majority of the developing world will come online for the first time, the developed world will benefit from a number of new innovations; including self-driving cars, photo-realistic 3D holograms and robots. Let’s not forget the robots.
In the words of the authors: “Everyone will benefit from connectivity, but not equally”
For nations, governments, people and governments, it is becoming increasingly clear that we live in two worlds. One physical and one virtual. But while people are embracing the digital world, governments are still trying to find (in their opinion) the best way to regulate it.
Regulation may change from country to country which may lead to a “balkanization” of the Internet, allowing each country to filter and control what information is accessible online. This would most certainly suck and not be a good thing.
News and Journalism
Due to an increase in connectivity, the ability to “break news” will be left to luck and chance. To demonstrate this point, the authors refer to one unwitting civilian in Abbottabad Pakistan who unknowingly live-tweeted the covert raid that killed Osama bin Laden. But while some new digital platforms like Twitter will break news, people will still refer to traditional media organisations for commentary and analysis.
It should be noted that many of the next five billion people who will join the Internet live in impoverished, censored and unsafe conditions. But despite this, safer reporting backed by encryption and wider reach due to advances in connectivity will help expose corruption and wrong doing.
The Future of Conflict
While technology will help improve the world, it will also make it more dangerous. Cyber attacks and incidents of hacking are on the rise and we may soon see conflicts from the digital world spill over into the physical world.
Connectivity will make it easier for terrorist groups to recruit and train members, but by being online, their activities will also be easier to track. Once again, one of the things that tipped off the U.S. Government to Osama Bin Laden’s location was that his compound was completely disconnected from the outside world.
Another interesting potential trend is that rebels may begin virtual kidnappings, as stealing people’s online identities may be more lucrative and less risky than actual kidnappings. Additionally, advances in technology may also lead to the world’s first “smart” rebel movements who will aim to topple regimes through virtual means.
According to the authors, warfare will also become automated. Robots and drones will increasingly be used in combat operations in order to help minimise combat deaths, civilian casualties and collateral damage. While the use of drones in warfare is currently being debated, a report published by Wired in 2012 stated that drones now account for 31%percent of all military aircraft—up from 5% in 2005.
Overall, the authors believe that more connectivity will ultimately be a good thing. Here is one final quote from the book to give you something to think about while we approach the new digital age:
“Every two days we create as much digital content as we did from the dawn of civilization until 2003—that’s about five exabytes of information, with only two billion people out of a possible seven billion online. How many new ideas, new perspectives and new creations will truly global technological inclusion produce, and how much more quickly will their impact be felt? The arrival of more people in the virtual world is good for them, and it’s good for us. The collective benefit of sharing human knowledge and creativity grows at an exponential rate.”