Many people who come to visit San Francisco also have a special interest in technology. While travel guides will offer many suggestions of walking tours in the city or day trips to Monterey and the Wine Country, you won’t find a good tour of the Silicon Valley.
So, after taking many friends to see great Silicon Valley titans, I’ve built this map and step-by-step directions, so you can see several sites (Palo Alto, HP Garage, Stanford University, Tesla, Facebook, Museum of Computer History, Microsoft, Google, NASA, Yahoo!) in a very efficient way.
This can be done in half day at a quick pace or a full day at a slower pace. It can be easily extended to include Intel/Cisco by adding a couple more miles South on Hwy 101. It doesn’t include Apple (further South in Cupertino).
To see the map with the step-by-step instructions and descriptions of the sights, click on the “See Larger Map” and look at it from the Google Maps site (you will also be able to download/print it).
The history of human civilization is tightly connected with our ability to use language to organize groups of people to tackle complex problems and projects that are beyond the abilities of a single person.
Today, most organizations in our society (governments, armies, companies) structure themselves in a Hierarchical Pyramid, with knowledge and power concentrated at the top and segmented visibility of smaller decomposed tasks distributed along its base.
In this post, we argue this will change, that we will start effectively using less structured and specialized organizations (let’s call it Unstructured Crowd) to solve complex knowledge problems through Crowdsourcing Technology.
Crowdsourcing is not a cheap way to outsource work to volunteers. When done right, it is an entire new form of knowledge production with the potential to revolutionize our approach to solving simple and complex problems.
The Long Tail of Knowledge
The anonymous Open Source Software Community (producing the software that runs the Internet) and the volunteers of Wikipedia (have you consulted the Encyclopedia Britannica lately?) show that in at least some knowledge domains, Unstructured Crowds of regular people can effectively compete with Hierarchical Pyramids of professional experts.
How does that happen?
To understand, let’s look at how knowledge distributes among a population. The picture above shows a Long Tail distribution. “Long Tail” refers to a statistical property of a distribution where its “tail” is larger than in its “head”. This concept was made popular by Chris Anderson in a Wired Magazine article that applied it to the retail business.
If we agree that knowledge exits in a long tail distribution, the group at the head of the curve (“experts”) accumulates personal knowledge that is individually higher than the average person. But the total knowledge held by the experts is still relatively small compared to the knowledge held by the broader population.
The Medium is the Message
Differently from rich face-to-face interaction, the printed word imposes an uni-directional form of communication, where someone who knows something communicates information to someone who knows less, with little opportunity for real-time interaction.
Because we have used primarily books, documents, e-mail messages to accumulate and transfer knowledge, the voice of the expert became the voice of knowledge. We have built a segmented-knowledge society where each of us is specialized on a narrow domain (be it tightening a bolt, writing software, doing tax returns, or defining strategy). In this environment, collective intelligence does not have channels of expression.
But if there were technologies that lower the friction and cost of collaboration and co-creation, there is a point where the long tail of knowledge is tapped to produce concrete results. Digital technologies, the Internet and Social Media are starting to do just that.
The emerging Internet-based social medium emulates some of the characteristics of rich direct interaction. It is real-time (not linear), it links peer-t0-peer (not hierarchically), and it is interactive. It is creating the low-friction conditions for true co-creation to emerge.
So, if that is true, why don’t we see the effects of co-creation emerge in the most popular social (Twitter, Facebook, Google+) and Q&A websites (like Quora)? It is a new medium, but it takes some time for people to fully utilize it and the old model based on individual ego and segmented knowledge to fade.
Also, we are already using medium interactivity, but not yet created the mechanisms behind the interaction to allow for true co-creation and collective intelligence to emerge and be expressed. That back-end infrastructure is still emerging in the form of new Crowdsourcing Technology.
In domains being affected earlier by he digital medium, (e.g. software development and publishing), the long tail of knowledge held by the Unstructured Crowd is now able to express itself in ways that are competitive with Hierarchical Pyramids.
As Crowdsourcing technologies evolves and the adoption and application of those technologies spread over other domains, more and more complex problems can be tackled using a new form of human organization.
We will be able to solve problems not by analytically decomposing big problems into smaller ones, but by presenting complex problem to the collective intelligence and let it holistically express the solution.
Marcio Saito’s (@Marcio_Saito) interest in Collaboration and Co-Creation originates in his early involvement with the Open Source Software community in the early 90’s. He writes about Social Media and Collective Intelligence and is a co-founder and advisor to Ledface, a startup using Crowdsourcing to create a new kind of Intelligence.
Parallels between Individual Privacy and Company Transparency
Until a few years ago I kept my life relatively private. Not only in the sense of keeping personal information from the public, but also by segmenting my social circles. I had multiple personas, with clear boundaries between information I would share among “family”, “friends”, “co-workers”, or “acquaintances.”
When I started using social networking sites a couple of years ago, I initially transposed my segmentation to the virtual life (I communicated with family by phone and e-mail, Facebook is for friends, LinkedIn is for professional connections, etc). But it became increasingly difficult to manage all those groups and the leaking of context between them (despite the efforts of social network websites to help you manage “circles” or “groups”).
There was a point where I gave up maintaining those personal circles. It is just too difficult to keep track of who is in which group and what are the overlaps. I still try to route content that is relevant to each group, but I assume that what I say online can and will be seen by everyone. To a large degree, I gave up my privacy as most people understand it.
While it was initially difficult to make that leap, I eventually found the experience to be liberating. Once I internalized my newly found transparency, I did not need to think twice about who was the audience before writing or saying something. I can say what I think, as long as that was something I am willing to share with the world.
Of course, I do not advocate the end of the rights to segmentation, privacy or secrecy. On the contrary, I think those rights become even more important to freedom in a more social world. What I am saying is that, from a personal perspective, refraining from exercising those rights in excess for the illusion of privacy can be a very liberating experience.
I think the same applies to companies and social organizations. Advocating organizational transparency might trigger skepticism among people used to functional segmentation, but we are going from communicating only in a “need to know basis”, to the “public by default” era. With more organizational transparency, perhaps we sacrifice some focus and accountability, but if vision and strategy is shared effectively, we gain in execution and don’t need to spend as much time in management and alignment.
If companies are to engage with customers using social media, they must be more transparent and less controlling in that interaction. They also need to transform themselves from the inside-out. Employees must be trusted and empowered to help the organization engage satisfactorily with customers.
When companies go through that transformation, I suspect their experience will be similar to my personal evolution from a “private” to a “social” person and they will find that it is easier, not harder, to conduct business that way.
I took 10 days of vacation in October 2011 and visited Western Canada. My itinerary went like this: Vancouver (1 night), Squilax (1 night), Banff (2 nights), Jasper (2 nights), Lake Louise (1 night), Squilax (1 night), Vancouver (1 night).
Here is the slide show with the travel highlights. Scroll down for my thoughts on how the experience of travelling alone is changing because of technology.
Yes, I agree I am bit too old to stay in hostels, but I still find this is the best when solo (which is how I have done most of my travel). You meet interesting people, have the opportunity to share experiences, offer and get help, make new friends.
Hosteling International (HI) is clearly changing their target audience. They no longer call themselves “Youth Hostels” and most facilities have been upgraded to combine the advantages of a hostel (common areas, communal fully-equipped kitchens, Internet connectivity, etc) with the comforts of hotels (towels and linen, decent hot showers, 24-hour reception desks, etc).
Think about it, if you charge $30 per person and put 6 people in a dorm bedroom, that is equal to running a $180/room hotel. So there is nothing surprising about finding hostels that are better than the average tourist hotel (Banff and Lake Louise easily pass that criteria).
Some hostels are still basic like in old times, but those tend also to be interesting in some other way (e.g. the hostel in Squilax is a set of old train cars, still on the rail tracks by a beautiful lake, that have been converted into dorms).
If you have not been in a hostel in the past 25 years, I recommend you try it again, just for fun (even if you are paired with someone).
Photography and Social Media
This was the first time I did “backpack” traveling carrying an iPhone (and an iPad) with its two cameras. That was in addition to the pocketable point-and-shoot (Canon Power Shot) I carry for convenience and agility and a SLR (Canon Rebel) for telephoto or a special scene.
Rather than replace one of the other cameras, the iPhone broadened the subjects I would photograph. I was sharing what I was experiencing (rain, interesting food I was eating, a special view of the mountains, etc) in real-time instead of seeing through an analytical eye of a photographer thinking what is the most “representative” image to share later.
So I was using the compact camera to document the trip, the SLR for creative photography, and the smart phone to socialize in real-time. It deeply changed the experience of travelling alone (several of my friends at home were there with me through the comments and responses to my posts).
Internet, Social Media and Travel Planning
On my last night in Vancouver, I went to the Gastown district for some end-of-trip bar hopping. Instead of looking up my travel books, I posted “Going bar hopping in #Vancouver – any suggestions?”
My friend @krcraft (who is in Toronto) responded and immediately connected me with a Vancouver local I did not know. I got a short list of “must see” bars in Gastown, in real-time, literally as I walked along Water Street and stopped in front of a Starbucks WiFi hot spot.
As I enjoyed my Elk tenderloin, paired with a great local IPA at “Alibi Room”, I twitted again about and how much I was enjoying Vancouver. Another local Twitter friend picked up that and helped me to select the next place in the short list (another hit, “Chambar”, specialized on Belgian Ales).
Social Media was giving me real-time, authoritative advice on every step along the way.
Earlier, I had met Liz in front of the fireplace of the hostel in Banff. We both had iPads and both had identical red covers. So I did not have to think too hard about a good pick-up line :).
As we talked, we used the tablets to look up maps (she is from Jersey, a small island off Normandy, but part of the UK), continue to socialize our conversation with others, change future reservations and travel plans based on input from the other, share photos from family and from the trip.
Rather than negatively interfere with the conversation, I found the iPads to enrich the interaction between two travelers meeting along the way (maps, photos, plans, Wikipedia). We learned more about each other than if we were just talking.
Then she opens her backpack, gets a bottle out and asks. “Would you want to share this BC Cabernet with me?”