Saturday, May 28, 2011

Twitter is closer to emulate a Neural Network than Facebook

When we think of Twitter and the innovation behind it, the first thing we all think is 140.
140 characters is without a doubt an amazing innovation that Twitter introduced which makes communication flow faster, forces twitters to summarize a piece of news or information, or an idea or an opinion and allows followers to get information or an idea faster as well.

Also, after the introduction of url shorteners (tinyurl,com originally and many others later on such as an emergent property of Twitter came to life: the linked web. Any blog post or news article out there could be potentially linked multiple times in Twitter with quick summaries and opinions.

Other emerging properties or elements in Twitter are:
. Tags, early on twitters started using tags as a way to group events or themes together and follow them separately.
. Curated content appeared more recently in an attempt to organize tweets in channels like mode.

There is one more original Twitter property we don't hear much about and I believe it's a key element to the Twitter success.

In the world of two way communications, Twitter is one of the first Social Networks that works asymmetrically versus working symmetrically like Facebook.
In Facebook, you are my friend at the same time I am your friend (with the exceptions of some of the user types). We could call that a Symmetric Social Network. Other previous successful examples of Symmetric Networks are Skype and Instant Messengers.
In Twitter, there's no implied/automatic relationship between those that I follow and those that follow me. We could call that an Asymmetric Social Network. Other previous successful examples of Asymmetric Networks are phones, cellphones and emails, the linked web.

When you look at a Neural Network, you'll find that it is also an Asymmetric Network. Neurons have their axons that allow them to connect to other neurons, at the same time, other neurons have the freedom to connect their own axons back to the neurons connecting to them or choose other not connected neurons to hook up with.

It seems like Twitter is imitating nature's success in implementing this type of social network architecture.
The most common neurons in the brain (called multipolar neurons) process their in-coming and out-coming connections separately. On a neuron, dendrites are receptors for in-coming connections and the axon branches out-coming connections.

On a simile between the Twitter and the Neural Network model we would see the following:
. The Twitter accounts that follow me would be like the Axon connections on a neuron.
. The Twitter accounts a person follows would be like the Dendrites connections on a neuron.

Thinking of the advantages of connecting Asymmetrically you could find a few:
. More flexibility and plasticity on the resulting graph.
. Easier to detect Hubs and greater influence of Hubs on the Network.
. More independence (freedom of choice regarding incoming communications) in the level of the individual cell or network node.
. Loose (light weight) connections.

Advantages of a Symmetric Network:
. Greater Trust in the Network Connections.
. More back and forth, one to one Communications.
. Tighter connections.
. More room for reciprocity to occur.

Different Networks do have different purposes. Like this article states, Facebook is more of an Identity Platform while Twitter is more of a communication platform.

As a conclusion, Bio-mimicry is big nowadays as a source of innovation and ideas for the technological world we're creating to learn and be inspired on the biological world leveraging its millions of years of evolution.

I'm sure there are more implications in the end graph that either Network type generate that would be interesting to research.
I wonder if we would see different levels of complexity on the resulting graphs.
I also wonder what other properties we could mimic or learn from the Neural Networks to apply into our Social Networks.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

TEDx American Finest City: Get your fix!

This TEDx event is being broadcasted live at:

The event harvested social networking from the beginning. They opened with an image saying: turn your cellphone volume off but leave the phone on because we want you to tweet!

Wonderful ideas delivered! Some notes on the talks:

Howard Blackson
Building Community Character

His idea is to add neighborhood nodes: find those centers and build paseos, plazas, combining the informal eclectic model with the formal. The juxtaposition adds value to the surrounding.
Building for city of vilages with 10 minutes distance among each other.
Build for social and cultural value which brings tremendous economic value.

James Brown
Design for intent

Buildings have intentions (Tells the story of a house to die).
A house is a sign, gives a description of the inhabitants.
Houses that tell stories.
Design: pushing for awkwardness, looking for discomfort.
Example the longest kitchen on the world.
Project, Friendship Park: San Diego - Tijuana.
Double fence at the border, US border built a second fence and broke this space of encounter.
Friends of Friendship park made a proposal to build a park between the two fences: send a message of unity instead of division

Scott Silverman from Second Chance
Compelling personal story:
Speaking about his miss-fortunes at school.
Was advised to be the best failure he could be.
Scott Silverman moving story from Second Chance: recycling human beings.
He believes in building human capital.
Never accept no for an answer. Tell me no, I dare you!?

Serge Dedina
Used different strategies to keep the oceans clean conveying the message through:
Sex it up!
"My man doesn't need to eat Sea Turtle eggs"
Figure out how people are communicating and infuse the social campaigns with feelings.
Punk it up!
Clean water now campaign example.

The orginal beat joins all beats and becomes whole.
Amazing trance dance performance.
Dance is a Universal language
The bodies have wisdom.
Since the beginning of time, we have danced to heal our community.
By expressing our individuality with movement, we know our story, we show our story.
There's a dance that lives inside of all of us.
Dance is healing, magic, communion.

David Lecours
"The Power of Story"

Be the change you with to see in the world.
If you pull from one source you;re copying, but if you're pulling from multiple sources you call that research.
Stories connect with the subconscious mind, the emotional mind.
You must connect in an emotional level, not only intellectual level.
We are drowning in a sea of facts, facts became a commodity and are not as valuable as they used to be.
If you torture numbers long enough they'll confess to anything you want them to.
When you weed stories on those numbers that changes all.
I am moved, therefore I am! Descartes, take that!
Story model behavior:
. provides simulation. how to act
. provides inspiration, motivation to act
. story encourages participation, call to action
Neuro-science is showing that when you're hearing a story you fire the same neurons as living story.
Stories are like mental software.
To tell your story, tap into that personal thing that can move somebody else.
On telling a company's story, three elements:
. foundation story, how organization came to be
. customer story, how it made a difference for somebody that can tell the story for you
. future story, where is it going

Larry Rosenstock
High Tech High

There's a therapeutic value to paradox, we need to integrate dualities.
Integrate head and hand.
Make students perplex.
Integrating school and community: interns, kids called into community to see what they make.
Higher for disposition, train for change
Model and Example, duality
Thomas jefferson: the purpose of public education is to create the public.
By larry's mom: there's two kind of people on this world, those who think there are two kinds of people and those who don't.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

The New Education

We all know something is broken with our Education System.

Do you want proof?
“In any field but education, if you fell asleep 50 years ago and woke up today, you’d have no clue what was going on. Things have changed, but in education we seem stuck.”
Joel Klein, Former Chancellor, NYC Dept. of Education
From Waiting for Superman.

Victor Hugo said: "There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come."

I'm starting to think this is the case with "The New Education". Even if yet controversial the subject is out there, people are talking about it, and some visionaries can imagine how it might look.

Mark Randall is clearly such a visionary, as proved by his "humble suggestion" as he called it, or more truthfully a call to action to the Web Entrepreneur Community on his keynote at the Next Web Conference, Amsterdam 2011.

(if interested specifically on The New Education portion of this talk tune into minute 19:00)

Some thoughts in relation to "The New Education":

We desperately need a technology that allows "The New Education" to revolutionize the way we teach our kids: an education about ideas and thinkers, artists and creators.

When kids are following their curiosity and they have a question is when they're ready to be matched with a teacher and learn. The matching could be based on a Pandora Style DNA of both teachers and lessons. If a kid has certain interest and likes certain teacher or lesson, that will mean they're likely to learn from these other teachers and lessons. Also, a system such as Netflix "because you enjoyed ... we suggest you'd like ..." would be very beneficial in this kind of environment.

When kids play freely they have the concentration, focus, passion, perseverance that makes learning and creativity flourish. There's no replacement for motivation and there's no way that a kid can link to information if they don't have the questions already in place on their own minds or the open links waiting for a connection.

I imagined the education system of the future to be like a game, where kids get points/badges/stickers/privileges according to the activities they perform (foursquare or getglue style).
Students teaching other students with a system of rating and rewards should be a key part as when we teach, we learn and there's great satisfaction when you can help your peers.
It's be hard to imagine the education system of the future not being embedded in a social networking environment, with friends, follows, walls, status shares, and the whole enchilada.

There's the Khan Academy project, by Salman Khan and Bill Gates, that could interlock or be an antecedent in many different ways to a project like this.

Recently, I've been looking at the Sudbury Model also called Democratic Schooling and the Unschooling movements, and I think there's great lessons that can be included in this mix coming from their decades of experience with an alternative education. They also have succumbed to the pace of time and technology seems to be the glue that they're missing, which would tie everything together.

I'm sure there's a long but exciting road ahead!

A Summary on Mark's talk:

In the name of Education, a battle we're losing according to Mark Randall, in the next month Earth will spend $2 Trillion on Education and it's still a battle we're currently failing.

He does a little history:
. 18th Century, we prepared students for an agrarian/rural society.
. 19th Century, we prepared students for an industrial economy, a model we're still using today.
. 20th Century, education to produce good citizens, outstanding, productive contributors to society.
. 21st Century? the rate of change is accelerated, reaching the knee of an exponential growth curve, we need to prepare generations for an unknown future. This is scary!

Questions he asks himself and to the entrepreneur crowd:
How can we teach kids when the important questions are changing?
How can we teach kids when you can reach all of man-kind assembled knowledge on the palm of your hand?
Thinking becomes far more important than knowing. It's not about pouring facts into kids' heads.
It's about teaching:
. Reasoning (Logic)
. Creativity (Flow, play, free time)
. Curiosity (Innate)

And then, the humble invitation:
"There's a million dollar opportunity!" A hundred million reasons! And, by the way, a hundred million Euros!

Regarding the specific mechanics that Mark imagines for "The New Education" he proposes we match levels and learning styles/speed. We need to match students trajectories, in the same way we match dates and relationships on the web today.

This is not a hard problem when you look at it from a web technology perspective. We already know how to take millions of gamers and match their levels on real time from around the world.
Why can't we use students and their learning styles and match them together? We don't necessarily need more teachers but we need better ways of matching them together.

An implementation question: "How could we deliver video of the best teachers on Earth, giving their finest performances of their lives, at the right moment, at the right time, when that student is exactly ready for this lesson?"

Of course, video technology will not replace the need for caring teachers. Mark proposes we use voice over IP, and we make scarse teachers resources accesible as Live Help using the same model as Online Customer Support.

I couldn't agree more with the fact that, leaving the controversy aside, games are basically simulations. Your mind does not differentiate between you doing something on a game or in real life. Mark says "Simulations are experience in a bottle." So, games/simulations would be a big part of the plan.

On the prominent role of games in "The New Education":
"We've become very good in building addicting games, users are playing 3 billions hours a week of collective game playing online.
Imagine if we were to turn those coordinated multi-player experiences into something a little more productive. Imagine users being able to now shape their educational experience and staying with them in that constant state of flow as they get better and better, it gets harder and harder.
We can take the same technology and apply it to get meaning!"

Mark goes as far as providing a business model that would sustain profitability by catering the North American, European and Australian markets while contributing for free to the rest of the world.
He suggests we go straight to the end-user and cut out the middle man, a clear tendency of the whole market: newspapers, music, services, products, used goods.

He points to her daughter and says: "This is your end user." Then, he points to his wife and says: "However, this is your customer. And this customer is obviously one of the highest motivated customers that there are."

More on the implementation, he boldly states: "I believe there are 10 million potential customers that will gladly pay 10 Euros a month for a solution that is radically better and shows proven results, gives constant feedback, where's the child, how are they growing, what skills do they need. A text message: a kid plays a game, encounters new challenges, conquers them and has new skills they need to learn. Diiiing! parent gets a text message. You really should talk to Johnny today about judgement, he did some poor judgement calls."