On Tuesday, I'll be at Esther Dyson's When 2.0 conference, which will explore the meaning and use of time in the digital universe of software and services. As Esther explains it, "Time is an important organizing principle and dimension in many applications, but it’s often ignored or underexploited by the software tools and services we use to manage our lives and businesses." Among the practical facets of time under the microscope are scheduling, events, sequencing business processes, face recognition, responding to security threats and behavioral targeting. I'd throw attention in the bucket as well and a dose of Stephen Hawking's "A Brief History of Time," perhaps linking my calendar to string theory. Esther explains why I should spend my time contemplating time at When 2.0:
In short, the real world is dynamic. At When 2.0, we will bring together the investors, entrepreneurs, policymakers and customers wrestling with these issues. Participants will consider how to use time to add richness, specificity and context-awareness to a broad range of next-generation applications. Time can be useful in a variety of applications, from clustering photos for tagging, to establishing appropriate timing for information services: when to show ads, send invoices or warn people of impending disasters.
And then there’s the future. We can use generalized models to predict "appropriate" timing, or we can start paying intelligent attention to particular users’ stated intentions, in the form of alerts and other forward-looking requests. Likely to be a huge factor in e-commerce going forward, alerts allow vendors (or intermediaries) to aggregate demand rather than try to predict it.
More metaphysically, how does online time differ from offline time? You can grow up online in a few weeks, virtually. But - in virtual reality - teenagers can lead teams, create real relationships and earn real money. The Net has made it possible for the little guy to start a business with almost no capital and no resources. But many of these companies are "body-part" companies, designed to be grafted onto, say, Google or Yahoo!. They sell functions, not solutions, and they often lack seasoned management. But perhaps the Net is offering a solution to this challenge, too: a cohort of seasoned managers, used to organizing teams, making decisions and setting and meeting goals online. The old computer games taught physical skills; the new massively multiplayer online games teach social and managerial skills.
Among the speakers are Microsoft CTO Ray Ozzie, EVDB CEO Brian Dear, Technorati chief technologist Tantek Celik Chief Technologist, Will Wright of Maxis and Mitchell Kapor the Open Source Applications Foundation. Stay tuned for my blog posts from the scene. ---