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Tag: track

Track: The Future Tense of ‘To Search’

NASA Tracking Dish

Trying to understand what track might become if it emerges again. Every time I start to deepen the question, a new train of thought is unleashed. Track is not a well known gesture on the Network, but its potential value is unlimited.

A glint in a riverbed, images of the goldrush, Das Rheingold and Deadwood rush through my mind’s eye. Certain basic commodities are so rare and valuable that men are moved to desperate action to acquire them. Track is more like water or search, it’s rare now, but will eventually be as common as clicking on a link. It will be a primary mode for hunter-gatherers on the Network trying to find something in this particular moment. And in this moment, the glint remains obscured from vision.

Walking down the street with an economist. I spot a twenty dollar bill on the sidewalk. “Hey look,” I say, ” a twenty dollar bill.” My friend the economist snorts, “don’t be ridiculous, if it really was a twenty dollar bill someone would have picked it up by now.”

Karoli Kuns says “I’ll drop a link in Twitter” as part of a live conversation across the Network. I’m listening on time delay via RSS/Sync/iPhone. It’s just a casual gesture, no one questions what she means. Think about the ripple effect of really simple publishing, and the simple findability of the item.

A commercial rolls across the television screen in the background, a bank commercial:

Real-time info matters.
Chase what matters.

Certain elements of the periodic table only appear under very special circumstances, they’re called transuranic elements. They don’t appear naturally, to the extent they exist they’ve been artificially produced in nuclear reactors or particle accelerators. Track only exists in a rarified air, a particular set of environmental conditions had to occur. The basic requirement is the real-time web, where there’s enough volume of traffic to allow track to return valuable results. Twitter is relatively small, but it has established itself as a primary gesture market with enough data structure to allow for some interesting queries to return satisfying results.

Given the general instability of Twitter, one assumes the staff there is concentrating on the basic publish and subscribe capabilities. As they discuss the new architecture, they’ve made mention of messaging rather than a traditional CMS. That suggests that track could be meaningfully supported, but they don’t seem to have an expansive understanding of what they’ve enabled.

The gesture space around track is completely new. While it’s difficult to explain what Twitter is, a solid definition of track is even more elusive. The initial use case is the extension of a directed social graph through keywords to create a listener in the live web’s primary gesture market. This creates opportunities for interactions in real time.

While chat might be the obvious first interaction, there are others that will emerge:

  • A clarification
  • Extension of a concept
  • A negotiation
  • Relaying a message to a different social graph
  • An agreement on a transaction

Complex structures can be built from simple gestures. A primary market for gestures combined with track could be the primary mechanism to enable VRM. When connecting customers and vendors in real time, it will be easier to filter a single stream of gestures rather than the whole web. Now some might argue for a special stream just for VRM transactions, but I disagree. When thinking of categories, I tend to agree with that guy who said something like — categories are important, but “everything is miscellaneous.”

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@SteveGillmor : Plan B, and Playing ‘Dealer’ in Real Time


There are moments when a crucible unleashes both light and heat. In Michael Hiltzik’s book Dealers of Lightning there’s a description of a weekly meeting run by Bob Taylor at Xerox Parc’s Computer Science Lab in the 1970s. The meeting was just known as “Dealer.” The name was derived from the book about blackjack called  “Beat the Dealer,” by an MIT Math professor named Edmund O. Thorpe.

In casino blackjack the dealer plays against everyone at the table. In Taylor’s variant a single researcher would propose an idea or project, then stand alone to defend it from dissection by his peers. …The pitiless judgements dispensed at Dealer derived from the ethos of the engineer, who is taught that an answer can be right or wrong, “one” or “zero,” but not anything in between. It was felt that if you were wrong you were done no favor in being told you were right, or half right, or had made a decent try.

The output of Xerox Parc and Bob Taylor’s meetings was nothing short of personal computing as we know it today. Every element of the graphic user interface, networking, social behavior over electronic communication media, the laptop, the Macintosh, object oriented programing, ethernet — found its origin in that fertile period.

I thought of ‘Dealer’ while listening to the Gillmor Gang talk to FriendFeed co-founders Bret Taylor and Paul Buchheit. The Gang was trying to teach Bret and Paul the old lesson that the street has its own uses for things. Feeding friends is one thing, but understanding that you have an opportunity to tap into a strong current of the zeitgeist is another.

You can listen to Dealer Live here:

To understand the show’s theme of Plan B, you sorta needed to be listening all along. The writing is a sound check of the ongoing jam session, the riffs are well established and the players all have distinctive sounds. It’s a textual interlude in the orchestral maneuvers of the fierce urgency of now.  If you have an “A,” it’s the “B” that creates the positive bid-to-cover ratio. The basic idea is that markets create the demand for common technical standards. And there’s an irresistible movement of the Network toward the real time flow of interactions. Real time interactions on the Network have had a limited scope. The “track” function in Twitter has opened a window to a powerful set of new interactions. “Track” works because Twitter is a primary market for gestures, but if @Ev, @Biz and @Jack don’t understand the lightning they’ve unleashed, those of us who’ve had a taste will need to consider Plan B.


Twistori Evokes Listening Angels and the Wings of Desire

Looking at Twistori roll by on the screen reminds me of the film Wings of Desire. Think of the moments when the angels walk through the city listening to the thoughts, hopes and fears of the people they meet. The words that Twistori has chosen to track get to the heart of what it is to be human.

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