Wednesday, June 25, 2008

On Free

In todays Web 2.0 there is asymmetry in place:

People that contribute are not paid for their value generation, but the platform provider is.
In this case its - Google but not me.

You only need 1% of the visitors to contribute to create a community. That community is making money in the 6 ways mentioned in Chris Andersons Article on Free (, but we are not paid for doing the work and creating the value, anywhere today.
Amazon, facebook, wikipedia, you name it.

I believe this will be the next paradigm shift in the networked world although it remains to be seen if people ever realize they are exploited...

Sunday, June 22, 2008

On Innovation

Do we invest mathematics or do we discover it ?

“Mathematical objects are just concepts; they are the mental idealizations that mathematicians make, often stimulated by the appearance and seeming order of aspects of the world about us, but mental idealizations nevertheless.” (Roger Penrose)

While the mathematical language is a human invention, the objects it describes seems to have an existence of their own.

Examples are the phenomenon like the Laser and Black Holes that were calculated and predicted to exist by Einstein and Schwarzschild decades before they were actually found in the real world.

Mathematics base on pure logic and there is reason to believe mathematics maybe true without any dependence on Universe. That means one has only to uncover it using the state of the body of knowledge in a given field and bring some predisposition, manifested in his experience and personal knowledge as well as the scientific principle.

In my opinion the same holds true for any kind of invention.

One can think of any body of knowledge as the area inside a rubber band, where the rim limits everything we know on a given topic at a certain time.

So if we discover things around us, we push a little lump into the edge of the rubber band based on the knowledge we acquired, increasing the area just a notch. If we publish it, this becomes then the new area of the rubber band. Rubberband 2.0 so to say.

If we look into the last 2000 years, we can see that access to knowledge was limited but that access to Information and Knowledge has been steadily increasing with Gutenberg, Radio, Television, and finally the Internet.

So in short: Cultural Advancement has been heavily depended on the speed of information diffusion. And the groundbreaking Inventions have always reduced the time a process needs to produce the wanted results and be consumed by an individual, whether it was bookprinting, ginving more people access to knowledge and education, the light bulb increasing time to produce and consume, the steam and combustion engine, extending the radius of operation, telegraph and telephone diffusing information almost instantly, reducing the time to make decisions, or the Internet, where anyone can consume information on anything. But that evolution is not yet complete, to the contrary if you take the work by Ray Kurzweil it is gaining speed fast.

I believe innovation works much the same way. You start with the body of knowledge on any given topic and then you connect some dots, that were disconnected at first.

Example (I could have thought of that)

If inventions are discovered not invented, it is only a matter of time until someone will invent something. It is not the matter who will invent it, as it will be invented anyway.

A nice example is that many groundbreaking inventions have been invented around the same time by different people. And there is the saying that “no invention is named after its original inventor (###quelle)

The more people collaborate on innovation, the faster it output will be produced. I you cant think of it, maybe someone else has the winning idea.

If you add that the human knowledge is available to you, that puts any individual with access to that knowledge into a historically unique position.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

On Google IO, San Francisco

Back sometime around 1997 Mr. Brin and Mr. Page apparently told Mr. Bechtholsheim: „we would like to download the internet.“ Mr. Bechtholsheim laughed and signed the first check for 100.000$ to buy some servers for Google.

I remember back then SUN was big and anyone who could afford it, would buy some SUN servers. Only 100k$ didn't buy a lot of SUN’s back then.

So I assume they got the idea of building Google on consumer motherboards and hard drives, with the first Google FS on top of linux and mysql. It had to be cheap, so Windows and Oracle was out oft he question. This decision eventually lead to three distinct approaches contrary to what datacenter people and admins of mission critical hardware would advise in those days.

1. The software was free, no license fees attached.

2. Failure (of Hardware) is acknowledged as something that happens regularly

3. Redundancy is not bad after all (despite what you learned about normalization in college)

As we all know automating the handling of failure without disrupting service lead to the Google cloud, which today could be the largest (rumors go Google handles about 200 Petabytes of data today) and most robust database in the world.

On top they parallelized mysql with big table and map reduce, making it also the fastest database on the web. According to Jeff Dean around 1000 servers are hit in parallel whenever they receive a query. One half of those servers looks up the links, the other the documents and assembles the query with the text snipplets based on that query, the first 10 hits are returned in a quarter of a second.

So what do you do if you have the largest, fastest and most robust database in the world ? You apply the same principles that made you successful with hardware in the first place to software.

These are

1. Its free (open source) Google has a marginal cost of zero for additional query execution and hard drive space.

2. Redundancy – There will be a lot of projects around the Google offerings (api, app engine and google apps) that basically do the same thing.

3. Failure – With a lot of those open source projects being abandoned after a while, only a few will make it, but you only need a few big once like Google earth or Gmail.

Any project based on Google open source makes Google stronger.

According to an analysis by Don Dodge of Microsoft and Bradley Horowitz, of AltaVista (, for every active contributor of a network-effect participation site only one percent oft he visitors actively contribute over a longer time. 10% chip in a little effort like commenting and the vast majority only consumes. That’s all you need to have a globally successful web service. According o him those numbers are consistent across Wikipedia, facebook and others.

If you assume that every Google developer is a member oft he 1% keeping the important projects alive, the open source community would be the 10% with a spill over into the 1%. That is a leverage on 1 to 100 for Google at zero cost to fuel the ad engine.

16000 developers at Google core

160000 developers working with it

1600000 consumers.

Google needs to fuel the ad engine so anything that serves ads will do.

You have two options to extend your reach. Build new channels for users to consume the offerings, that is what happens if you add mobile (android), offline capabilities and translation.

They also extend their reach within each channel with earth, apps, api, and all those google labs contenders. Now that Google has opened all the apis for read/write access, the community will do the permutations of coupling each service with each other service. The growth is exponential.

So if that bet wins, we can only imagine where Google is headed. If they can keep up their logistics and HDD latency with the upcoming flash drives I predict that the first functional AI on earth will rely on Google. So Mr. Kurzweil scores again.