[bag] The Networked Nonprofit

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The LEGO of The WEB

This is a white paper I wrote for BagTheWeb in 2010.

Part 1: A Web connector to link information islands

The Web is a network of nodes (webpages) connected by links (hyperlinks). These nodes evolve with user-generated content. Enriched and enhanced by user-generated content and user actions on websites, the Web has entered a booming era nicknamed Web 2.0.

Links, however, remain unchanged. Websites are still linked by hyperlinks as they were in the early 1990s. RSS, tagging, and mashup are the only emerging technologies improving the Web’s linking structure. Hyperlinks are static because only webpage builders can create them. Ordinary users cannot easily do so.

In 2008, Nicholas Carr said in his book The Big Switch, “The World Wide Web has truly turned into the World Wide Computer.” But that is not quite true yet. Links serve only limited linking needs between websites, but cannot satisfy the linking needs of ordinary users. Websites remain primarily separate information islands. People rely on search engines to locate information.

BagTheWeb offers a new way to democratize the information architecture of the Web for ordinary users. As a Web connector, bag releases the power of hyperlinks to everyone. Even though you are not an editor or a registered user of a website, you can still link content on any websites together by using bags.

At TED 2009 conference Tim Berners-Lee said, “It’s not just about the number of places where data comes. It’s about connecting it together. And when you connect data together, you get power in a way that doesn’t happen just with the Web with documents. You get this really huge power out of it.”

When the user-generated links become as popular as user-generated content, the user crowd will be editors of the Web. Consequently, the Web will become smarter with its information islands connected by bags.

Part 2: A new approach to organizing information

Organizing information is an important and common task in the lives of human beings and in the life of a society because we organize to understand, to explain, and to control with order. People have used three approaches for organizing information on the Web: classification systems, chronological order, and folksonomy (a.k.a. tagging).

People use classification systems in both the physical and virtual worlds. For example, classification is the main method to organize books in libraries or categorize living things in biology. The hierarchical tree structure of a classification system is also applied in designing the information architecture of individual websites.

Chronological order is a classical approach for organizing information in human society. This approach is also a common method used in the design of Web applications. The email system was created using chronological order. In the late 1990s the blog system was designed with reverse chronological order. As social network sites became popular, chronological order has been applied to feed readers, micro-blogging sites, lifestream sites, and other web applications.

According to the “Folksonomy” entry on Wikipedia, “Folksonomies became popular on the Web around 2004 as part of social software, such as social bookmarking and photograph annotation. Tagging, which is characteristic of Web 2.0 service, allows users to collectively classify and find information. Some websites include tag cloud as a way to visualize tags in a folksonomy.”

Basically, BagTheWeb not only creates a platform to enable people to organize information easily but also organizes information using an innovative approach: relevancy linking. The new approach surpasses chronological order, classification, and folksonomy.

Relevancy linking is our approach to developing the bagging platform. A bag is a collection of grouped Web links and bag links. Our bagging system involves two-level architecture. On the first level, any webpage can be linked into a bag and connected to other Web links based on the theme of the bag. On the second level, the group of links in a bag can be connected to other groups of links in other bags as bags are linked.

By arranging the relationships between Web links and bags, people can organize online information in a new way, different from traditional approaches.

Our bagging system is not designed by using the chronological approach. Instead we focus on the relationship between items because we learn by connecting.

The bagging system has no categories and subcategories. Any bag can be a starting point on the information path. People can arrange information in a free structure and can design their bag’s network in any format. Imagine a bag as a Lego block that can be assembled and connected in many ways to construct such objects as vehicles, buildings, and even working robots. People can arrange bags to construct their personal information networks in any way they desire.

Tagging and bagging differ. Tagging is used to archive individual resources for re-finding, but bagging is designed to collect individual resources to create new contents with new meanings. A bag is not a simple aggregation of individual resources but a new creation that has its own theme resulting from ordering and editing. In addition, the semantics of the connections between bags is richer than that of tags.

Part 3: A new Web utility

Bagging will soon become as common a Web utility as information finding, blogging, and information sharing are today. It empowers users with a new capability—collecting and assembling webpages. Bags built by users are immediately useful for them and for the Web community.

Bagging is expressing
Social bagging is a new type of personal publishing somewhere between regular blogging and microblogging. It can also work in concert with regular blogging and microblogging within your daily Web life.

Microblogging has been a popular online utility. As people become active on microblogging sites, they spend less time on regular blog sites. We are not sure whether that is good or bad. If you are worried about which tool is a better choice for your personal Web life, you may like bagging as the third option.

Regular blogging requires a significant amount of time to write a meaningful post. Microblogging is usually used for communication and sharing links instead of for providing meaningful content. Social bagging provides something in between. It is easy to build a meaningful content bag in a short time through bagging.

An easy-to-use Web utility, bagging saves time in contrast to regular blogging. We know that when many people blog, they merely want to express their opinions on what they read or encounter. On BagTheWeb, you can save Web links on a topic to a bag with your personal opinions expressed as bag descriptions. You can even write posts to express your thoughts and put them in a bag. Our post feature is similar to the regular blog post but easier to use. It is organized by bagging, not reverse chronological order, which is used by regular blog software.

You can also use bags to store reference links for your regular blog posts. If you just want to comment on a topic that emerged from related web links, it is enough to build bags. If you have further thoughts on any topic, you can go ahead to write a regular blog post.

Bagging is sharing
Sharing is the soul of Web 2.0 and more and more sharing tools are coming to us everyday. Most people use microblogging sites to share Web links. One-click sharing tools are also popular. We have so much fragmented information but not enough filters.

Bagging is a simple filter that uses an easy approach—sharing after bagging. If you want to be a good sharer, don’t share anything too hastily. Just put the information into bags and build connections. Then share your bags with your friends.

Bagging is collaborating
People can build bags for business and personal purposes, including learning, activities, and projects. Domain experts can build bags around their expertise. If you are working with a group of people, your group can build bags and link them together to form a useful information reference pool.

Bagging is contributing
Bags benefit the whole Web community. One by one, bags created by users will connect the Web more meaningfully. Self-motivated users will enthusiastically create bags to link related webpages to benefit the entire Web community, similar to their participation in writing Wikipedia entries.

Part 4: The shared brain of the planet

A lot of people believe the Internet is similar in structure to the human brain. In October 2003 Barrett Lyon started the Opte Project, aimed at providing a useful Internet map employing visual graphics. The following image was the project’s first full Internet map.

The below image represents the neurons of the human brain (courtesy of Paul De Koninck from www.greenspine.ca).

The brain has neurons and memories. Connections among the neurons of the brain are very important to human beings. Michael Merzenich, professor emeritus of neuroscience at the University of California, said at TED 2008: “There are 15 or 20 cortical areas that are changed specifically when you learn a simple skill like this. And that represents in your brain, really massive change. It represents the change in a reliable way of the responses of tens of millions, possibly hundreds of millions of neurons in your brain. It represents changes of hundreds of millions, possibly billions of synaptic connections in your brain. This is constructed by physical change.”

The Web is similar in structure to the human brain. The webpages are like neurons and the links between webpages are like synapses. According to Wikipedia, an adult human brain is estimated to contain from 100 to 500 trillion synapses. In December 2009 a Netcraft Web server survey revealed about 175 million Web sites. In July 2008, the folks at Google said their systems hit a milestone: 1 trillion unique URLs on the web. Jeffrey M. Stibel, a brain scientist and serial entrepreneur, said in Wired for Thoughts, “To be sure, it would have to grow much more to catch up with the brain’s 100 billion neurons and 100 trillion connections, but the Web is on track to grow much faster than the human brain.” We agree with his viewpoint.

BagTheWeb will make a significant impact on the Web by opening a new way to form inter-webpage relationships and enhancing the fundamental structure of Web linking.

Bag is an easy-to-use tool for presenting your mind. When you collect and link relevant webpages together, you are thinking about some topic. When you add a webpage to an existing bag, you activate your memory about that topic. The bag can be updated any time. Imagine a bag as a mirror to a part of your brain that expresses your thoughts.

Your network of linked bags is a mirror of your brain because your bags can connect just as your neurons link together. Each bag expresses part of your memory and thoughts. Your entire bag network presents the big picture that is your mind.

Your bags can link to the bags of others. It’s difficult to imagine your neurons linked to others neurons, but it is easy to imagine people connecting their minds by linking their bags.

Finally, let’s say, “If we had a billion users, that will be the shared brain of the planet.”

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Say Everything Again

In 2009, Scott Rosenberg wrote a book titled Say Everything which covers the blogging revolution. Scott tells us the history of blogging and the stories of blogging heroes.

The social media landscape has changed tremendously in recent years. People said that blogging is dead just like the web is dead in 2011. A New York Times story says that blogging is on the decline, especially among young people, who are using social networks like Facebook instead.

A recent hot trend is content curation. As a content curation researcher, I believe that the “publish – share” model is not enough to describe the complexity of various content creation activities. I made a new analysis framework called web content creation spiral to capture the rise of content curation in 2011.

We saw the first group of blogging pioneers became new content curators. For example, Mashable, a personal blog media years ago, has become a powerful content curation machine.

The most interesting thing happened in 2012. Developers started a new revolution to reinvest almost everything of expressing online:

- Newsletters (tinyletter)
- Blog (Svbtle, Medium, Linkedin Influencers, Quora Blogs, Findery.com)
- Reader (Twitter as a Reader)
- Forum (Branch.com, Discourse.org)
- Chat rooms (Mightybell.com)
- Loading page (Strikingly.com)
- Self-publishing (APE, Lean Publishing)
- Teaching (MOOCs, Udemy.com, Hack Design)

The future of the new movable type is still unclear. But I definitely believe that it is time to upgrade Say Everything to version 2.0.

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#DESIGNx: Turn TED/TEDx ideas into real actions

DESIGNx is a personal challenge aims to turn ideas from TED/TEDx into real actions. I use the following six steps to achieve the goal.

1. Get inspirations by watching TED/TEDx talks.

2. Naming the inspiration. Give it a hashtag.

3. Visualize the inspiration. Create a visual identity image or a logo.

4. Blog on the idea.Spread the message.

5. Discuss the action plan with like-minded people.

6. Release the beta version of the action plan.

If the idea can attract people’s attention through social media, it can grow into the second phase I called BUILDx.

At the BUILDx phase, you are going to build a team to implement the plan.Then, you will establish a community with a sharing vision. Finally, you will reach the third phase: IMPACTx.

Ideas don’t change the world. The Plan, Team and Community change the world.

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Open Idea: Build Peer-to-peer Incubators In Your City

The peer-to-peer incubator has become more and popular in startup trend. The Unreasonable Institute emerged as a major figure in the movement.

If you want to build something, or you are on the way of turning great ideas into reality, join the movement to build peer-to-peer incubators in your city!

1. Grab this name and the design. It’s free.
2. Invite 6 people to form your group.
3. Keep in touch with your peers with deep conversation online and offline.
4. Use hashtag #Build+ to connect with other groups around the world.

What do you want to build today?

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Startup Weekend Next!

How to design and develop an experiential entrepreneurial education program to teach people building startups?

Today I get the answer from Steve Blank’s new project: Startup Weekend Next!

Steve Blank is a Silicon Valley-based retired serial entrepreneur. He spent several years to develop a new startup methodology called Customer Development. He wrote a book, taught classes in universities, and up graded his idea to the second book The Startup Owner’s Manual. Then, he published his traditional class lecture videos, quizzes and homework assignments on Udacity, a popular MOOC platform. But the MOOC platform is not enough to teach entrepreneurship, so he decided to launched a new offline/online hybrid learning model – Startup Weekend Next.

The goal – to inspire, educate and empower hundred’s of thousands of entrepreneurs and help create 10,000 startups.

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The Web Content Creation Spiral

Thoughts on essential factors of web content creation spiral which is a new model for understanding information flow in the social age. The “publish – share” model is not enough to describe the complexity of various content creation activities. I am thinking about a new analysis framework to capture the rise of content curation.

1. Publishable: Publishable means you can put your thoughts out in public
2. Findable: Findable means your audience can find your published contents easily
3. Curateable: Curatable means you allow your audience to do more curating work than one-click sharing
4. Shareable: Sharable means you audience can share your content to their friends easily

Sharing has more wider meaning that Isaac Mao described in his excellent essay on Sharism. You can write a blog post to share your ideas or a local news story. But I’d like to use the term Publish to refer to this kind of sharing of original creation.

Most of people just share contents with their friends by clicking the Facebook Like button, Tweet button, or “share this” grouped buttons on the webpage they are currently viewing.

Curating contents is not original content creating, it means recreating new contents based original creation. Curating contents requires more time and skill than simple one-click sharing. As I wrote a post here early, there are at least eight kind of actions of curating: translating, highlighting, editing, ranking, re-formating, collecting, embedding, and designing.

Then, let’s think about how content publishers can make curating contents possible, efficient, and meaningful. Curateable leads us to drill down on several issues including copy right (adopting CC), Social Curation Optimization (SCO, compared with SEO), technical side (Friendly URLs, metadata, Open APIs), community engagement (special programs to drive content curating) and etc.

For example, both articles on New York Times site (nytimes.com) and TED talks on TED.com are shareable, but only TED talks are curateable because you can translate them to your language while you can’t translate New York Times articles for public usage without copyright permission from them.

First, the TED’s adoption of Creative Commons license is an important step to made TED talks curating possible. Second, the TED Open Translation Project is a special community engagement program which made the curating work efficient.

Also, publisher need to take care the metadata of their contents for both sharable and curateable. Many bloggers don’t care their blog’s metadata. The result of empty description of blog posts is lot of sharing tools and content curation tools display the shared/curated links with tons of key words for all webpages from same blog. When you share these kind of webpage links in Google+ stream, you need to remove the description. It’s doesn’t make sense!

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What’s Curation Commons?

Web curation has been a hot topic since last year. More and more people start to use web curation tools for difference purposes. After blogger, there is a new term called web curator. Andy Carvin, who is from NPR, is aggregating and curating many streams of information about the protests in Tunisia and Egypt. Ethan Zuckerman published an excellent interview with Carvin exploring why he’s been posting an average of 400 tweets daily for the last month. His story is a great example of how web curators can make a difference.

Ethan’s post inspired me to think the idea of Curation Commons, a term coined by me.

Basically, Curation Commons means people curate public web content to build a CC licensed content network that anyone can access on the Web. Curation Commons is inspired by Creative Commons. The Web has a lot of contents. Now we need curators to re-organize these original creations. People can choose Creative Commons licenses for their curated contents to form a new content network anyone can assess on the Web.

Curation Commons content network can be formed by the following eight ways of curating.

1. Translating:
Offer you contents in 100 languages, here is an example from TED.

2. Highlighting:
Pick several sentences from an article with three thousands characters, so that the core idea will be more powerful to spread.

3. Editing:
Put pieces of contents together to form a new content with new meaning. Express your opinions by organizing them.

4. Ranking:
Put similar contents together and rank them by importance.

5. Re-formating:
Transform contents from one medium format to another, such as from text to video, from audio to presentation etc.

6. Collecting:
Collect contents from difference sources to present a new picture on the topic.

7. Embedding:
Embed original contents to a blog or a site, then ask readers to embed them to their sites.

8. Designing:
Change the font size, use different font, match the words with pictures to highlight the theme of the topic.

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Relevancy linking: a new approach to organizing information

Note: This is a test post. I am testing BagTheWeb.com’s POSTS feature. Check here to view this post’s comparison version on BagTheWeb.com

Organizing information is an important and common task in the lives of human beings and in the life of a society because we organize to understand, to explain, and to control with order. People have used three approaches for organizing information on the Web: classification systems, chronological order, and folksonomy (a.k.a. tagging).

People use classification systems in both the physical and virtual worlds. For example, classification is the main method to organize books in libraries or categorize living things in biology. The hierarchical tree structure of a classification system is also applied in designing the information architecture of individual websites.

Chronological order is a classical approach for organizing information in human society. This approach is also a common method used in the design of Web applications. The email system was created using chronological order. In the late 1990s the blog system was designed with reverse chronological order. As social network sites became popular, chronological order has been applied to feed readers, micro-blogging sites, lifestream sites, and other web applications.

According to the “Folksonomy” entry on Wikipedia, “Folksonomies became popular on the Web around 2004 as part of social software, such as social bookmarking and photograph annotation. Tagging, which is characteristic of Web 2.0 service, allows users to collectively classify and find information. Some websites include tag cloud as a way to visualize tags in a folksonomy.”

Basically, BagTheWeb not only creates a platform to enable people to organize information easily but also organizes information using an innovative approach: relevancy linking. The new approach surpasses chronological order, classification, and folksonomy.

Relevancy linking is our approach to developing the bagging platform. A bag is a collection of grouped Web links and bag links. Our bagging system involves two-level architecture. On the first level, any webpage can be linked into a bag and connected to other Web links based on the theme of the bag. On the second level, the group of links in a bag can be connected to other groups of links in other bags as bags are linked.

By arranging the relationships between Web links and bags, people can organize online information in a new way, different from traditional approaches.

Our bagging system is not designed by using the chronological approach. Instead we focus on the relationship between items because we learn by connecting.

The bagging system has no categories and subcategories. Any bag can be a starting point on the information path. People can arrange information in a free structure and can design their bag’s network in any format. Imagine a bag as a Lego block that can be assembled and connected in many ways to construct such objects as vehicles, buildings, and even working robots. People can arrange bags to construct their personal information networks in any way they desire.

Tagging and bagging differ. Tagging is used to archive individual resources for re-finding, but bagging is designed to collect individual resources to create new contents with new meanings. A bag is not a simple aggregation of individual resources but a new creation that has its own theme resulting from ordering and editing. In addition, the semantics of the connections between bags is richer than that of tags.

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The Memories of Independence Day Holidays

Two years ago, I was an active user on SlideShare.net, I am now working for a new web curation platform BagTheWeb.com. It is a new and exciting experience for me.

Yesterday I created a unique bag to share my memories of Independence Day holidays during past three years. It records the tracks of my career as well as my interests and activities. I now clearly see the fragments of these memories remixed into a big picture I call Curation Commons. The idea of Curation Commons is a dream that might change, but it reveals an exciting view toward the future. The process of building this bag has also inspired me to think what happiness is. Here comes its blog version.

2008

In 2008, my girlfriend lived in New York, while I stayed in Houston. During holidays, I often flew to New York to visit my girl friend. In that time, I was an active user on SlideShare.net. During the Independence Day holiday of the year, I created the a slideshow called Fireworks Commons with photos under the Creative Commons license to share my experience.

This is not for a presentation — it is a story slideshow. By using CC-licensed photos, you can create amazing slideshows to express your emotions and opinions. In fact, this is web curation.

2009

In January 2009, I married my girlfriend. She moved to Houston from New York in March. On the night of July 4, we went to watch fireworks together. During the holiday, we read the book Outliers together.

In July 2009, I was busy on the TEDtoChina project during my spare time. I designed pictures for the TEDtoChina.com site by using CC-licensed photos, and required bloggers to republish their posts on the site.

Talent is Overrated

The main theme of the first week of the TEDtoChina site is the logic of success and the essence of effort. First, we introduced Pop!Tech, which is a conference similar with TED. Second, we published a review on TED speaker Malcolm Gladwell’s new book Outliers accompanied by a video of his speech on 2008 Pop!Tech conference. Third, we published another review on the book Talent is Overrated, which is related to Outliers.

Again, this is web curation. Designing and editing are part of Curation Commons.

2010

In July 2010, my wife is seven months pregnant, and we are expecting a son in September. She has been in Houston for one and half years. We enjoy our life together and eagerly await the arrival of the new member of our family.

I have been working as an information architect and a user experience designer on BagTheWeb as my day job. The project remixes my day job and my leisure-time interests. By curating web creative contents, people can form a new layer of open contents based on original contents. This is not only a new tool but also a new approach to create the future of free culture.

What Happiness Is

One of my most favorites TED talks is Martin Seligman on three kinds of happiness: “The first path, positive emotion. The second path is eudaimonian flow. And the third path is meaning. This is the most venerable of the happinesses, traditionally. And meaning in this view consists of — very parallel to eudaimonia, it consists of knowing what your highest strengths are and using them to belong to and in the service of something larger than you are.

p.s. The below is the embeded bag, you can click its title to view the whole bag.

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