Framing our future: SoCap09

socap09_150px_wI’m looking forward to this year’s Social Capital Markets conference. Last year I came way with a sense of a movement – a long term movement that was working with the balance of social and financial objectives in service of a better world for all. I’m sure this year will do much of the same – bringing the best of the movement together to share their progress and inspire those who are looking to explore ‘the intersection of money and meaning’. If you are interested in this space, it’s the place to be.

This year though, I’m going with a more ambitious agenda. Jessica Margolin hit on something in her SoCap09 post – encapsulated in these 2 quotes:

“For me, the debate question was upside-down. It should be: How can we maximize financial returns given our drive to maximize social returns.”

“The question isn’t how to fit what we love into the structure of our money-making, the question is how to be productive given our need to engage with our lives.”

Since the last conference we’ve seen the depths of shifts underway in the financial system come along with continuing instability in our political and ecological systems. If we weren’t clear last year the core systems of our society are in transition. And since last year’s conference, we’ve seen the birth of the most accessible, participatory medium in history and the start of what Om Malik calls an interaction society. While it’s great to see people working on shifting our existing institutions and systems, we’re coming to this conference with a capacity for reinvention unlike any time in history.

The opportunity to me in this gathering is to create a space for a new conversation… a sub-track for folks interested in hacking new systems that support a civilization founded on the answer to more human questions than how do we maximize production.

This week’s #SoCap09 twitter chat should help kick that off. We’ll be looking into the question of how is social media changing change? I’m curious to see what threads emerge and what we can take into the conversation at the conference.

The game is changing more than we realize and in ways we don’t yet understand… so let’s ask some questions… let’s hack some solutions… let’s get to it.

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The real-time web. Game on!

Popularized by Twitter, the public micro-messaging medium is leading to a major evolution of the web and society.

Twitter is just the beginning of this real-time internet – the simplest manifestation of this long term trend – that spells the end of communications and start of an interaction society. ~ Om Malik, What Twitter and Broadband Mean to Me.

The public micro-message medium represents the potential for a 4 billion person global message board, where anyone can share their interests, ideas, and actions real-time, and where every message can be seen, referenced, and responded to by anyone directly, person to person. This is nothing short of monumental.

What’s more is that people love it. It’s easy to do, nothing more than typing a short message, and can be done from anywhere via computer or mobile phone. This makes it real.

The result is streams of succinct, interest-driven messages that create relevant, real-time context around every account, topic, and object they reference… which effectively means anything and everything. With that comes an increasing expectation that the web will orient itself around each person, topic, or object based on it’s history and real-time context. Already for me, I  follow fewer blogs, spend less time in any single site, and instead find more of what’s interesting to me coming to me through real-time messages from the people and topical threads I follow. This reorientation is what is changing the web.

To me it’s clear that we are entering into the biggest transformation of the use and form of the web since it’s creation. This is not an incremental improvement but rather a fundamental evolution that requires a whole new set of applications, services and ways of interacting.

Cool.  So now what? For me, there are 2 things.  First, for the real-time web to reach its full potential we need a neutral, platform-independent application infrastructure and public dataset. Second, this will be the fastest evolution we’ve ever encountered and with that comes an unprecedented opportunity to seed a whole new wave game-changing ventures.

A neutral, platform-independent application infrastructure and public dataset.
Anyone who has built something on the Twitter API knows of the challenges and limitations. Processing real-time public micro-messaging data is a big challenge and one that is only going to get harder as more people and more services publish public micro-messages. This challenge could seriously stunt the growth of the real-time web and lead to a fractured future. What it calls for instead is a neutral, platform-independent foundation that hosts and provides the real-time dataset and a robust and reliable application infrastructure to build upon. Such an approach is also more compatible with the essence of the real-time web which is fundamentally a public resource created by people for public consumption. This is what we are working on through SVC.

Seeding a whole new wave of game-changing ventures.
It’s just beginning. Betaworks investments for example shape an early ecosystem of some of the most relevant ventures in this area and Collecta and maybe Ginx are two ventures that I think are getting right to the core of the real-time web. It’s also never been easier to launch a web service and with new application infrastructures it will only get easier. The key challenge, aside from the infrastructure issue, is being first to market  with applications that work with how the real-time web really works. I expect development, capital, and management talent are going to flock to the opportunity. Giving those resources a jump-start with proven prototypes of services that layer community and collaboration into the real-time web is a huge opportunity. This is what we’re working on through Shouldless Inc.

There’s never been a better time to start something and never been a better opportunity to change the game. Exciting times to say the least. Game on!

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