Friday, April 25, 2008

Rise of the P2P Economy

Peer to Peer (P2P) systems, where computers (or nodes) are linked up within a network into a mesh like configuration, have its beginning in newsgroup for spread of news. Subsequently P2P is used for sharing of music, video, and even voice data in real time. There have been many controversies involving P2P, where companies are sued, and network providers like the ISPs decide to 'manage' traffic for P2P. This even resulted in some suggestion of a legislation just for P2P, i.e. the P2P Bill of Rights.

Interestingly, the evolution of P2P has reached a new level, and now the concept has even evolved to include direct e-commerce. We have the Havard Business Review listing P2P Economy as one of the breakthrough ideas for 2008. The HBR listing feels that P2P economy has come, when consumers become consumer-producers that transact on a micro-scale with micro-incomes for individuals.

Personally I feel this trend has existed before 2008, since we have already heard of the term 'pro-sumers' sometime back. The only addition is the use of P2P concept, and the direct involvement of micro-income streams. Micro-income stream as a business model, is made more popular with Zilo. Zilo allows individuals to easily add a shop front on their blogs and websites, and essentially acts as the middle man between the actual goods manufacturers and the 'pro-sumers', i.e. retailers. Individuals are now retailers, with their own peers, e.g. blog visitors,as the consumers. Zilo offers over 6 million products for 'sale' and each sale results in about 10% commission for the 'pro-sumer'. Not bad, I bet the 10% commission paid is cheaper than what an actual shop rental would have cost.

Is this trend going to continue? I bet it will, and I think the industry knows this as well. Seems like Amazon banned Zilo. Not too surprising. Would this invite more 'protest' and barriers from those who feel threatened or who want to have a share in this new revenue pie? Yes again I think.

At least I think the ISPs who want to 'manage' P2P traffic will have greater justification now to charge more for P2P traffic, since the P2P traffic is used to generate income by the subscribers. Since ISPs generally charge different broadband rates for consumers and businesses, they will want to charge some 'P2P rate' in-between these normal rates for the 'pro-sumers'. If they cannot charge the individuals directly, they will want to charge the service providers, i.e. Zilo.

Next would be the tax authority. Individuals selling small items online at auction sites are not big worries for the tax authority, since how much could they make? A few thousands per year for the minority of successful sellers? If the amount is significant, the authorities can easily track the individuals down. However, using such P2P economy concept, the manufacturer of goods / products could be overseas, while the 'local' shopfront of 'pro-sumers' are technically not subject to any tax. Traditionally the wholesale providers who bring in the good have to declare and pay tax. The retailers who sold the products have to pay corporate income tax. 'Pro-sumers' belong to neither categories, and it is almost impossible to track the transactions of 'pro-sumers' nor are the 'pro-sumers' require to maintain accounting books. This would be an interesting mess.

Despite these 'barriers', I still think P2P economy is the way to go. Maybe Zilo wouldn't be the most successful case, but there will be others. Napster failed (in a way) but Bittorent came along and now it is a mainstream activity. There is no way for any corporates or government to stop Internet development driven by the whole of Internet users. They can stop one or two, but others will spring up. Internet users would embrace such P2P concepts for the simple reason that they can participate in these activities, and also cut down the middle-men (for the commerce part) for better profits. Since there is a demand from the Internet users, someone will come in to fill the gap.

As for how far such a concept of P2P economy would go, and what forms it will take in the years to come, it is anyone's guess. Those who ride this tide early will be the next successful Internet icon. :)

Friday, April 18, 2008

Google Sky Maps

The Google Sky maps are sort of old news since it is made available since last year on Google Earth (Google Earth just released the latest version 4.3 with a lot of features, e.g. integrated streetview & more realistic buildings). You could also get the html version via the Playing around with the site is quite fun, since it simply reveals the view of whatever you can see in the sky. Search for a planet, or constellation and you can get it easily. Once you are bored with looking at the sky, you could also view the moon and Mars. The 'About Google Sky' page also gives you a lot of interesting information about how the pictures are obtained...etc. Looking at Google Sky is like experiencing another different world.

So far so good.... and here comes the not so good part.

I want to look at what is happening to the sky right above me! Using the html website, I can't! Or at least I need to get some 'Right Ascension and declination' thingy figure out first. Now that is the difficult part. I know using Google Earth will solve the problem, but realistically I don't really want to load that software just to see my sky (and the objects) right? zzz.

Did some search using Google hoping to find a conversion tool or something so that I can find out the exact "right ascension and declination' but couldn't. Found this YouTube clip instead, that makes me more irritated actually. If anyone knows of such conversion tool, drop me a comment k? Thanks!

For those interested in Google Earth 4.3, where Google Sky is already earlier integrated inside, you could have a preview of it on YouTube:

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

A Singapore Mirror World (not yet but coming)

Imagine a virtual world that parallels the real world. This virtual world will have buildings, streets, objects that exist and are located at exactly the same reference as the real world. This virtual world will have an Orchard Road, a Suntec City, a Junction 8, with shops, walls and objects just exactly as the real Orchard Road, Suntec, and Junction 8.

Fantasy? No, it's actually an old concept.

The concept was first explored in the book "Mirror Worlds" by David Gelernter in 1991, i.e. 17 years ago! Back then technology can't put such a concept to reality.

Today it can. Yes, it can! Look at Google Earth. The software already allows a full rendition of good satellite maps that allow for zooming. Add 3D buildings to it, and viola there you have it! There is at least one such city around, i.e. Berlin.

In Singapore, we also have a group of people trying to put virtual buildings that match the real ones. The group discuss their findings (and offer many other mash-ups) at the SinGeo website. Of course, having a rendered object doesn't give the same feel as the real ones, i.e. some features (like botched paint job, or faded tiles..etc) wouldn't be reflected. But technology is improving, and there are other initiatives around that could help. There is Google Street View, but that's only street level view of real world. Google Street View is not the only initiative around, there are others, e.g Microsoft's similar project.

Personally what I feel is lacking is the interactivity between these Mirror World objects and their real life counter-parts. I don't think there is any actual example yet of a Mirror World avatar shopping through, say, Borders, browsing a virtual book at a book launch, and be given the choice of either a) purchase a digital copy (e.g. pdf format) of the book, or b) order a real hard copy that will be delivered to a physical address. In such an example, the book launch could take place simultaneously in both real and Mirror World, with the latter reflecting the buzz and happenings in real-time. I reckon the 'feel' will be very different than watching a real broadcast of the event. You can't interact in the broadcast at least, and neither can you 'move' and view the event from multiple angles. Such a Mirror World service will allow for many more people to be present and interact at the event, a value proposition that is both commercially as well as socially appealing.

I guess the developments in these areas still need time, and I wouldn't be surprised that Mirror Worlds become as common place as existing virtual worlds (e.g. 2nd Life) in 4-5 years time. In the mean while, here's a YouTube video of a virtual F1 race through a somewhat Mirror World area of Singapore, done by Earth@Sg folks. Enjoy!

Here's another version done using Google Earth. Heh... eh both done by same group of people?

Afternote (23 Apr): SingTel released a plyable F1 simulator, which could be downloaded here. So you need not just watch the YouTube, but you could play the simulator and experienced the night race yourself!

Friday, April 4, 2008

What type of a MMORPG gamer are you?

Sometime back a friend passed me this website done by the Daedalus Project, where after going through 39 questions, a profile of the gamer could be generated. An analysis of the profile is done against 3200 MMORPG players. Profile includes Achievement, Socializing, and Immersion with 3-4 subcomponents and there is this chart that marks out the component:

gamer personality radar

The Daedalus Project is interesting because it also showcases the preference of many MMORPG players, which I feel maybe a subtle reflection of how they may want themselves to be seen in real life. Example, many players reflect an average height or slightly taller height for their avatars, and they choose average or attractive looks for their characters. The site has more opinions by the organiser.

Worth a read, some of the comments (for example role reversal) are especially interesting.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Population of Online Gamers in Singapore

I am very curious just to find out how many online gamers are there in Singapore, primarily because I'm one of them. After attending the Cabal event at Suntec, and also other previous online games events, I do think there is a sizeable online gamers population here.

So I do a simple search, and got some statistics from the Infocomm Development Authority website, which gave only percentage figures. These are what I got from their survey done in 2006. Still not used to making tables in blog, so the centre figures I'll fill in brackets instead.

Age (Internet Users) % of Users who use Internet for games
10 to 14 yrs (84%) 58%
15 to 29 yrs (81%) 40%
30 to 44 yrs (66%) 24%
45 to 59 yrs (46%) 26%
60 yrs and above (21%) 0%

But these are just percentage terms. So I went to the Department of Stats and drew out the population figures for 2006. The figures for the 5 groups are 134.3k, 362.7k, 462k, 407.7k, and 166.2k respectively. So I multiplied them together and got this:

Age Online Gamers (sort of) (in thousands)
10 to 14 yrs 65.4
15 to 29 yrs 117.5
30 to 44 yrs 73.2
45 to 59 yrs 48.8
60 yrs and above 0

Total of 304.8k online gamers in small population of 4.5 millions! Wow!! Heh heh heh, so I can tell people that online gaming is indeed a culture now, especially with more generous government fundings to create virtual worlds for us the online 'residents'.