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The Minnick Test for the Future

Happy New Year. As I’ve done every year since 2000 I hereby declare that I am hopeful that the future is officially started. I would also like to announce a new test for whether it is actually true. I’ve humbly named this test the Minnick Test of the Future. The test is quite simple: when an article about speech recognition software that aims to be funny or make a point about how speech recognition software doesn’t work correctly yet isn’t funny then the future has officially begun. The idea is that if the raiders attempt to score some shuttles distorted by O. well the software works then the technology for talking directly with their computers rather than using keyboards is here and the future along with the.

With the release of windows vista upon us and it’s integrated speech recognition capabilities I was hopeful that this might just be the year for that start of the future that I was looking forward to as the child.

As the future rather? I suppose that. I mean that I suppose knocked. Both Reagan. I’m going to try one more time. The future has not yet arrived. Of the understood that Simpson’s just five.

I’m using Microsoft’s speech recognition software and I suspect that it would work much better if I didn’t write or call so smoothly and was frequently in middle of sentences.

One of the problems with replacing keyboards with speech recognition software is the many writers are notoriously careful and will cause for several minutes in the middle of sentences while they are dictating. Computers have no way of knowing this and speech recognition software often uses context two were improved accuracy. This results in some sentences that were spoken quickly being perfectly readable but other sentence is that may have taken longer to construct being completely garbage.

Another problem the speech recognition is that other people are listening and is not so easy to just dictate something stupid as to see if it works. Speech recognition seems to be in direct conflict with the latest thinking about open offices and may actually stifle creativity.

However speech recognition may also result in more polite comments on blocks and fewer flame wars. In the same way that the anonymity of the Internet makes people feel comfortable with saying things that they normally wouldn’t say, the public nature of speech recognition could have the effect of artists is talk to Peter Davidson, like like the proposition as it is the topic is writing down everything and people are wrong you’re listening and every call for her for whatever gets written down right now it’s even writing down to write down everything them saying his home and the eighties microphone by two. Also, I tend to mumble.

Despite his perfect this 5/8 product got damages but he’s really talking perfect. Certain frequently used words in blog comments don’t seem to show up very well and speech recognition text for instance: that should or you got him of the Fokker.

So what does it take for us to achieve this glorious future of reduced carpal tunnel syndrome and improved human computer interfaces? Apparently, the cost of a keyboard less computing environment is a new computer capable of running windows vista high quality microphone a private office and membership in your local toastmasters.

Long Live The King

A good place to start looking for clues into what the future of the Web will look like is in the historical record and memories of the time before Web 2.0.

I call anything pre-97 the “Long Public Beta” phase of the Web. This stretches back to Tim Berners-Lee’s first demo version in 1990. Berners-Lee’s original vision for the World Wide Web was as a Semantic Web, in which all of the content on the Web was descriptively tagged and computer-processable. We’ve come a long way since then—both towards and away from the Semantic Web. It was during this phase that HTML, HTML extensions, CGI, JavaScript, and most of the Web-specific technologies still in use today were created. (note that I’m excluding Internet protocols such as TCP/IP and so forth, which were invented long before 1990).

I personally define Web 1.0 as the time between 1997 and late 2000. These were the years during which I had all of my stereotypical “dot-com” experiences (except without the stock options, IPO, and insane wealth). My wife and I were running our small Web development and programming firm in the San Francisco Bay Area and later Austin, TX, and we did a lot of work for a lot of soon-to-be failed start-ups. Here’s an actual email I received in early 2000 (it was a joke, but it’s an important artifact nonetheless):

I am working to integrate a B2B strategy that moves away from “bricks-n-clicks” and towards a homogenization of broadband interconnectivity. The site design is in beta stages and I need to redo the look and feel – I want to present allot of low lying fruit and allow people to drill deep for content. As a member of the new economy, the digital economy, generation E, etc…I am sure that you will agree with me – Content IS King.

During the period between 2000 and 2003, interesting things were happening, but unfortunately for that period, the only catchy marketing term being used to describe the Web at the time was a negative one–“dot-com bust”.

The term “Web 2.0” was coined by Tim O’Reilly in 2003 or so. Today, it’s not uncommon to hear people talk about how great Web 2.0 is, and the great things that are now possible with Web 2.0.

If you’ve been working with this stuff since the mid-90s, you know that the exact same protocols and languages are being used now as were being used during the dot-com era. The most significant recent events leading up to what we now call Web 2.0 actually had nothing to do with Google. They were JavaScript (1995), XML (1998), and the gradually increasing familiarity of Web developers with these and several other technologies. However, if you write a long manifesto packed with jargon and you have enough clout, suddenly the world is speaking your language.

Besides the core technologies, the single thing that’s remained the same throughout my entire Web experience is this: the marketing people always win. This is frustrating for fundamentally technical people like myself, because we so rarely understand what all the fuss is about.

This is my problem with Web 2.0. I have nothing against rich user-interfaces, community-created content, syndication, or large databases. I do have a problem with buzzwords being used as substitutes for substance and comprehension.

When someone asks me if it’s possible for me to build them a Wiki, a podcast, and a Blog, it takes me back to the low-lying fruit and information superhighway days of yore and I tell them “of course”, but I follow it with a reminder that creativity, passion, knowledge, and dedication to doing quality work haven’t been superseded in this version of the Web–and content is still king.

My New Column: Web 8.0

I’m pleased to announce that I now have motivation to write something coherent on a regular basis. As of last week, I’m writing an approximately weekly column titled “Web 8.0” for Waterside Syndication. Here’s the marketing blurb about it:

Chris Minnick discusses the future of the Internet with his unique brand of humor and insight. See his predictions for Web 2.0, 3.0 and beyond.

I’m excited about the possibilities for this column and I’m thrilled that I’ve managed to turn what was originally a joke (Web 8.0) into something “legitimate”. I’ll be reprinting my columns here, but you can also read them on the Waterside site, and hopefully in many other places soon.

Wednesday is Suit Day

Strange things are afoot at Minnick Web Services.

I came to the office slightly better dressed than normal today to try to cover up my hangover from Sunday night’s festivities. Basically, instead of wearing jeans and a dress shirt, I threw on a sportscoat and went for the whole “tech company executive” look. At our monday morning meeting (MMM), I got a couple compliments and questions about the jacket. Next thing I knew, someone suggested that we have a “suit day”, and I blurted out that it should be Wednesday. And so it is.

If you’ve ever been to our office, you’ll understand how strange “suit day” will be. I’m actually excited about it, and it seems like everyone else is too. Could it be that everyone is burned out on new economy office “fun” ideas like loud music, strange lighting, sleepover-casual dress code and free moutain dew? This has got me thinking about what other “outdated” business standards might present the next kick for our post-dot-com office….suggestions?

Bruce’s Things

For the last few days, I was on sort of mountain retreat (it wasn’t really that glamorous), during which I listened to a LOT of podcasts and a lot of audio books and audio book summaries.

One of the most interesting and entertaining things I listened to was Bruce Sterling’s presentation from one of those goofy O’Reilly conferences.

Some of you may be aware of my nascent efforts to ridicule the Web 2.0 hype while provoking some actual thought about what the future of the Web might look like. Bruce Sterling expresses very well some of what irritates me so much about “Web 2.0” and also quotes extensively from an interview with Alan Liu, author of The Laws of Cool, who is highly critical of “Web 2.0” as a way to describe the current state of the Web. This is all great stuff.

Another main topic of Bruce’s keynote was the idea of “The Internet of Things” — the term he uses to describe a future time when physical objects are tied into the Internet. The standard example used to explain the benefits of this is “imagine using google to find your shoes in the morning”. Bruce says that he thinks it will take 30 years for the “Internet of Things” to truly arrive. I disagree. I predict that it will take 1/3 as long. I suspect that even my estimate is too pessimistic, though. I also predict that it won’t be google that people are using, but something much better.

Me? Overextended? Nah.

I’ve been an insane ball of energy lately. I’m reading about 20 books and 10-20 magazines now, I’m learning 2 different programming language, making wine, planning events and more events, blogging and updating a lot of personal sites, running a growing business and a couple fun businesses, taking golf lessons, planning to start making cheese, swimming, practicing chess, trying to get a band together, trying to learn guitar, and some other stuff I’ve forgotten about.

I often enjoy having a million things going on. I’ve been trying to move at least one thing measurably forward per day. This isn’t always easy, especially with things like learning guitar where measuring progress is sometimes very difficult from day to day. But, that’s my strategy.

Lately I’m a bit worried that I’m not paying enough attention to my health, though. So, that’s the thing I’m starting to think about now. Now, here’s the big catch…I think I’d be healthier and less stressed if I worked just as hard as I do now, but on a lot fewer things. Is there anyone out there in blog-reading land who has gone from being a scatterbrain to being a focused person and found it less stressful? Can it be done?

What is Web 8.0?

As some of you might be aware, I’ve been planning a conference which will hopefully take place in Sacramento sometime within the next 12 months. The basic idea of the conference will be “Ideas (mine in particular) about the future of the Web, and also ridiculing the concept of giving version numbers to the Web”. The name of the conference is Web 8.0.

While thinking about what I see as the steps between now and Web 8.0 (and beyond), I’ve come up with a few different theories about what makes the Web change and I’ve tried to oversimplify my ideas so that they’ll seem brilliant enough to warrant a conference. Well, the problem now is that I have a few theories that all seem fine, but what I need is a single theory that’s so simple that the people who think “Web 2.0” means anything will buy it.

In very short and simple bullet points, here are my current theories:

1. Every Web version is a reaction to the previous one.
example: “bottom up” Web 2.0 is a reaction to “top-down” Web 1.0

2. Web versions happen when people stop worrying about the things they worried about in the previous one.
example: Ruby on Rails, the programming language of Web 2.0, won’t work without cookies.

3. Web versions happen when people start adopting the technologies they made fun of in the previous version (but give them new names)
example: everyone is using “Push” technology now. Just don’t tell them that.

4. Web versions happen when the technology advances beyond the understanding of the previous versions’ creators.
example: some knowledge of shell scripting and apache just won’t cut it anymore if you want to develop serious Web apps.

So there you are. By using any one of these theories, you can predict the next several “versions” of the Web. I’ll post more theories as I come up with them.

Doing something part II

You’re all insane!

Not really, I just wanted a snappy title. My post from yesterday has generated quite a firestorm of controversy. Not really, but hey, I can dream. Anyway, in my dream, I’m responding to my critics:

I’m not calling you lazy. I’m saying that you’re hung up on one aspect of starting a business (start-up money) and you’re neglecting the important parts–namely, that you don’t have a plan.

To the person who told me that I should take my own advise and start that bowling alley that I mentioned 5 years ago (see this), I say this:

It’s ok to forget about things you used to be obsessed with and even to drop them like hot potatos. If you keep hanging on to old stuff, you’ll be afraid to have new thoughts. I don’t care that I thought it might be a good idea to start a bowling alley once (and even did some research). Today, I know that running a bowling alley is something I don’t want to do and I’m ok with the fact that I probably never will. I’m also ok with getting interested in it again if I want to.

I used to do Kung Fu, take pictures, make movies, and lots of other stuff…but I don’t do those things now and I don’t consider myself to be someone who does those things anymore. To call myself a photographer or filmmaker or Martial Artist when I haven’t done any of those things seriously in years would just make me stressed out.

It’s the same with business ideas. If you get some new information that makes owning a record store/book store/cafe seem like a childish and dumb idea, just forget about it…even if all your friends think it would be really cool.