Stretching collaboration with Embodied Social Proxies

My wife and I are spending Christmas this year at home in Montross, and I’m sad that we’re not visiting with family in North Carolina or California.  But I’ve been looking at some new Microsoft research efforts on how to keep in touch with people in more natural ways, particularly valuable for teams working across geographic distances, which is how our Microsoft Institute works.

The question of how distributed teams can work collaboratively is only going to get more challenging, with out-sourcing and crowd-sourcing. Last week the Institute had a great visitor to our Reston digs: Tony Hey, Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President of External Research.  Tony’s bio on Wikipedia mentions his thirty years as a leading European academic (particle physics was his game), along with the excellent books he’s authored: Einstein’s Mirror, and Feynman and Computation.

Continue reading

Several new Microsoft advanced technologies

Fact: As reported in TechCrunch and other sites today, “Microsoft’s Live Labs has just released Thumbtack, a web clipping service that allows users to compile links, media, and text snippets into online storage bins for future reference. Users can also share their Thumbtack collections with their peers, allowing them to collaborate by adding new clips and notations… The service works fine on IE7 and Firefox, and isn’t OS dependent. Each of these clippings can be sorted into folders called ‘Collections’, which can be published to the web via RSS, embedded in blogs, opened to friends for collaboration, or kept private for safe keeping.”  [There’s also a good Ars Technica review of Thumbtack here.]

Continue reading

Hiding new technology in plain sight

If I’m giving a private demo of an advanced technology or piece of software that Microsoft is cooking up, I often encounter the response, “Yeah, but we’ll probably never see this released, will we?”

Continue reading

Institute for Advanced Technology in Governments

Channel 10 podcast

Channel 10 podcast

I’m a big fan of the cool site Channel 10 and its podcasts and blogs (“a place for enthusiasts with a passion for technology. Through a world-wide network of contributors, Channel 10 covers the latest news in music, mobility, photography, videography, gaming, and new PC hardware and software”).

So I was chuffed when the ubiquitous Jon Udell interviewed me a week ago for Channel 10 (“Lewis Shepherd discusses the Institute for Advanced Technology in Governments“).

Continue reading

Data Centers and Aircraft Carriers (and Google)

FACT: Information Week has a solid story today, “Inside Microsoft’s $550 Million Mega Data Centers,” with a tour of the new San Antonio data center under construction.  It’s of the “Quincy-class” (our term in homage to Navy lingo, meaning big, but not the biggest of aircraft carriers; that would be the Chicago-class data center, see below).  The reporter writes: “By September, it’ll be the newest star in Microsoft’s rapidly expanding collection of massive data centers, powering Microsoft’s forays into cloud computing like Live Mesh and Exchange Online, among plenty of other as-yet-unannounced services.” 

ANALYSIS: I get asked about “the new way to build data centers” more often than any other question but one by government technology professionals.  The most popular question, and it’s related, is about cloud computing.  They both came up today during a meeting with one of the National Labs.

Continue reading

Microsoft May Have a Killer Cloud App – Live Mesh

Microsoft Mesh LogoGot a technical briefing on Live Mesh today in Redmond, and I’m impressed – particularly by the demonstrated commitment to interoperability through adhering to web standards – and the very cool Live Desktop giving you remote access to all your files and folders from any device (work computer, home laptop, mobile phone) with  the new Microsoft Device Connectivity Service.

This is what will bring Cloud Computing down to earth.

Continue reading

Intriguing Politics – Social Media Discussion

FACT:  The second International Conference on Weblogs and Social Media (ICWSM) wrapped up yesterday in Seattle. It was organized again by the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (or AAAI), with co-sponsorship by Microsoft, Google, and several universities and Web 2.0 companies. The papers are already being posted online here, which is great as there were some very interesting topics explored. 

ANALYSIS:   One really thought-provoking theme was proposed by Matthew Hurst, a scientist at Microsoft’s Live Labs (and co-creator of BlogPulse), who was a participant on the “Politics and Social Media” panel.  He’s summarized his points on his own blog, but it’s definitely worth pointing out the key distinction he posed:

Firstly, politics is about scaling social organization. A premier can’t talk to every citizen, so s/he has lieutenant’s. They have their own underlings, and so on in a typical hierarchical/departmental structure. Social media, however, is all about individuals – we read entries in weblogs, etc. So, if a politician wants to connect via social media, isn’t there some sort of fundamental mismatch? Obama may have 20, 000 followers on Twitter, but how many comments has he left on blog posts?

Secondly, there is the issue of social media amplifying the polarization (or homophily) found in any topical community. Thus, individuals look around at their neighbours in the social graph and see much of what they themselves are made of.

This bottom-down, top-up dichotomy has been discussed more generally about social media and social networks (often drawing a sharp distinction between “old-media” and “new-media,” or more colloquially if imprecisely as between “the media” and “the web.”)

Continue reading

%d bloggers like this: