Fractious Friday: Platform Stewardship – from Kindling to Ignite in Twenty-Ten

"If I had to choose one word for 2010 it would be Stewardship. Stewardship made possible by open platforms on reliable infrastructure."

These are the closing words from J.P. Rangaswami's closing blog post of 2009. Rangaswami is an "accidental technologist" who works for BT (British Telecom) and writes about information, with a keen eye on the enterprise software big picture.

His wisely titled post, Year in Transit, is illustrated and enhanced with a wonderful selection of model railroad photos from Orin Zebest on Flickr. Rangaswami (he's @jobsworth on twitter) thinks about platforms and openness from a generous and affirmative, glass-half-full perspective.

For him, platform refers to any enabling environment where others can build and make things: device, software, standard, company. It's any place or space. It needs to be easy enough to use. It needs a commercial model. It must interoperate and play well with others. And, without trust, it neither works, nor flows, nor grows. (The goods don’t move).

Several items that caught my eye this week, culled from the "best of" lists of others, are tangible proofs of concept for Rangaswami's harmonious vision of what stewardship of platform, data, interoperability, openness, and infrastructure could deliver in the coming year. They are iphone apps, web apps, and events that aren't apps at all, but they seem to be the result of platforms, dependent on the distributed real-time web.

Two iPhone Apps

Trees Near You is an iphone app by Brett Camper, developed for New York City's BigApps competition. It uses street tree census data from the city government to show you all the trees in your New York City neighborhood on a map. This walking augmentation of street-level reality shows how new modes of manipulating data can alter and quietly enliven our experience, rather than clutter or disrupt it.

Another iphone app offers a different sort of reality augmentation/intervention. Discovered via BoingBoing and Gizmodo, Type n Walk lets you see where you're going when you're walking and texting on your iPhone. It turns the display screen into a camera view of what's ahead, so you don't walk in to that "tree near you" or trip over that small dog.

A Browser App and a Web App

Arc90, a web strategy, technology and design firm, is the source of two interesting web apps: Readability runs on the browser as platform to make the experience of reading longer stuff online easier and more pleasant, stripping out the web page distractions. (A clean well-lighted page to read is never out of fashion). I discovered the Readability app via David Pogue's NY Times list of great tech ideas from 2009.

A trip around the Arc90 website led me to an app called Kindling, developed for sharing and acting on ideas. This is a bulletin-board where teams, workgroups, and organizations can post, comment and vote on, react to, assign, discuss, and implement ideas. Kindling bubbles up the most popular ideas and brings collaborators together. Oh, and it's being used as a part of the President's Open Gov initiative over on the White House Blog.

Into the Real Time

Meantime, looking backward, over on NPR's tech blog, longtime digital activist and media watcher Andy Carvin solicited one word reviews of 2009 from followers on Flickr and Twitter. The crowd-sourced collective result is pure reality bytes: change challenge tumultuous bittersweet exhausting awesome take the foreground in the Wordle histogram that the 5000 replies created. Another view of the one-word meme is here.


The real-time web makes possible an almost endless continuum of social interactions. So, it's not really surprising that the scope and boundaries of events are stretching to encompass more of the space-time continuum. Here are a couple quick examples from Q1, 2010.

Two Events at Scale

On Monday, January 4, World Hypnotism Day, a guy named Chris Hughes is hosting an event named #socialtrance. Participants hope to set a new world record for "mass online hypnosis." (Hmm, I think television holds the current record.)

If you'd rather Ignite your imagination than trance-ify your mind, check out Global Ignite Week, March 1-4. From Ann Arbor to Waterloo, from Auckland and Sydney to Paris and Pune, forty cities will host five hundred 5-minute/20-slide talks, and some ten thousand Igniters. Originally conceived by Brady Forrest and Bre Pettis in Seattle in 2006, the Ignite talk "platform," with its attention-bargain promise, "Enlighten us, but make it quick," has caught on in communities worldwide. So, be ready for an Ignite event near you in March, and stay tuned for more info from us at YDN. We're big fans.

A final, useful note on the new year, then I’m off to the movies. It's "twenty-ten," not two thousand anymore. Don't believe me? Here's a website to set the record straight. Happy new year!

Havi Hoffman
YDN Blog editor