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Why I Think (And Hope) Qwiki Will Fail (brianstorms.com)
40 points by skbohra123 on Oct 2, 2010 | hide | past | favorite | 23 comments

I haven't been given an account on the Qwiki beta yet, so I haven't actually played with it. However, any time someone tells me I'm "drowning in data" I get ready for a fight.

Quite simply, we're not drowning in data. Data is the best hope we have to save us from the rise of multiple-choice questions at the college level.


I'm all for tools that make data easier to find, tame and publish. Yet, spoken word generated by a computer is an incredibly low bandwidth way to learn anything. Those of you with accounts, what am I missing?

I believe you are looking for the difference between information and data. Not worth fighting over.

Data is raw material, information is data put into context.

I suspect/hope that Qwiki is trying to do the later. We are over our heads in data, but at the same time we are suffocated by what poses as information. I would argue that we need the ability to turn data into information which suits our purposes.

I think good examples are 'What's the weather for the next 4 days in the places I'm going to be. ' or products like flighcast which tells you if the airline ticket you are looking at buying is likely going to do up or down in price.

Only the mind itself can process data into information - we apply a relevance filter to our perceptions and link related concepts together. That means that exposure to more data gives us better-trained filters and more, deeper connections between concepts.

In other words, we become better at thinking and making judgments when we are exposed to more and more data.

To say that "we are over our heads in data" is to see value in only in the the consumption of static, general knowledge, rather than in the ability to synthesize specific and relevant information.

What is a Qwiki anyway?

It's probably not this Quantum Physics Wiki: http://qwiki.stanford.edu/

What some deem "useless" or "bad" ideas can evolve to become very useful. Twitter, is a great example. Very few thought they'd succeed. Now they're huge and growing and I bet 5 years from now, they'll be doing things even their founders can't imagine.

Likewise, whether Qwiki survives is independent of their idea, but rather their ability to adapt their product to customer needs and above all, their ability to execute.

I thought Qwiki isn't meant to replace Google. And yet it can make certain kind of information retrieval sexier and very helpful - esp. when you might be multitasking. It can very well focus in a vertical markets where it solves the problem well. It doesn't have to fail. Or it might fail but the idea will prevail.

Why would you hope a startup fails?

Exactly. There is a big difference in saying, "i wish they fail" and "this is an idea that will probably fail". The author is lacking the humility to be aware that his analysis might be wrong. I thought twitter would fail and I was proven wrong. This is because I analyzed it from my personal perspective for witch twitter doesn't fit. But undoubtfully twitter provides a significant added value to many other people. Good for them and I still don't use twitter. But i would never say "I hope they fail". If all humains thought this way we would still be carving stone to get tools (tailler des cailloux).

Text (occidental) is not an efficient information channel. Why do all companies have a logo or distinctive simple image ? Because people can't read ? No beause one gets the message in the same time and effort it takes to read one letter.

So ther is definitely an added value to gain in this direction. It is not sure yet if Qwiki is the best way, but it is surely worth exploring and testing this. We underuse our visual and auditive senses in actual software. Technology capability has apparently evolved faster then our User interface exploitation.

I was quite conscious of what I said and what I meant: based on my 30 years experience doing software and online apps and startups of my own, and based on what the Qwiki guys actually claimed and showed on stage, I think the service will fail, and I hope the service fails, and I worry if it succeeds.

Sure there are compelling ideas there, absolutely. Sure, used in moderation, some of the capabilities demoed would be beneficial.

But I maintain that their "information experience" hype is a hustle that has not been well thought out.

"I hope the service fails, and I worry if it succeeds."

Why? What is the point of hoping it to fail? And why would you be worried if it succeeded? If you could answer the latter questions with any sort of logic I would be impressed.

If Qwiki succeeds, some number of people like their product. If people like their product, than Qwiki added value for those people.

So the question is, are you against Qwiki's intrinsic value proposition and offering, even though people might find it valuable? Or are you just against it because you don't think people will find it valuable?

If it is the latter, you should reword your story, title, and comment.

I explain all this in my blog post. My beef with Qwiki is that it dumbs down comprehension, critical thinking, analysis, and learning. It multimediaizes Wikipedia, an unreliable source. If it succeeds on a large scale, it and the inevitable copycats will all combined contribute to hurting society more than helping it. This has nothing whatsoever to do with whether people like it. Of course people will like it. Just like they like 4000-calorie fast-food meals. Doesn't mean it's good for humanity.

People learn and analyze in different ways. Many sources cite three: auditorily (sp?), visually, and/or kinesthetically.

Could people who think better visually be underserved by text-only sources?

I think the fear you cite is too early to substantiate. I'd equate it to the fear of facebook/aim/texting destroying face to face (or voice to voice) communication.

It's quite possible for someone to rationally think that an action / service / startup is bad for humanity in general. How this interplays with humility is somewhat more subtle. People write what they believe. If you had written a blog post about twitter being a service that shouldn't exist (which you apparently thought), how open would you be to someone asking, "Who do you think you are to have an opinion?" He had clearly written out reasons for believing as he did. Agree or disagree with them, don't try to attack the person.

I don't even think it is logical to hope a direct competitor fails. There are two possibilities:

1. If you are out-executing them and they fail, you would have won anyway.

2. If they are out-executing you and they fail, it signals very bad things about about the sector/business model.

Am I the only one who saw this, went over to Qwiki and started drooling at how sci-fi it is?

Nope, but then I saw them do the live demos from the audience and was pretty disappointed. The canned ones performed significantly better.

I have no real opinion about Qwiki yet, but that was an awful awful article. And he hopes it'll fail because it might not meet his perceived standards?

My Grandma will love Qwiki

Ugh!!!! This guy is so full of stupid it hurts. Ok, let me not fall into rant mode and just be nice and logical.

The fallacy some people fall into when presented with a new product or service is to make an assumption that this new product or service is meant to replace current methods......entirely. It's a black or white world to these people. What you should be thinking instead is how this service could e utilized in a more useful way than SOME current methods of doing things. This is the same crap I read when augmented reality was coming about. Stop thinking A versus B and start thinking A + B!

Regarding the authors rant, of course a wikipedia type page of text has huge advantages when wanting to learn about a subject. But there can be times when Qwiki's method will be advantageous too! For example, what if Qwiki became embedded into interactive TV products. I'm sitting on the couch, watching Mythbusters, nowhere near my computer, and a term is brought up that I'm unfamiliar with. I could pause the tv and initiate Qwiki through a voice command and, still in my sunken-into-couch-ain't-willing-to-move-an-inch position, I can sit through a quick brief on said term before continuing with the show. That's just one example and there will be many more.

So again, stop it with the this versus that thinking!!!!! It's so simple- and single-minded! See the pluses and minuses with every solution and consider how each can serve in different scenarios!

I based my critique on what Doug Imbruce and Louis Monier actually said and showed in their brief demo.

You should re-read my piece. The whole thing. It's actually full of the appreciation for nuance and shades of gray. My worry is that Qwiki will not be.

By the way, your couch potato scenario makes me wonder if you have seen "Wall-E" and "Idiocracy". While you're in your couch there, check 'em out.

Sorry, I don't care about all the downvotes. I did in fact read your entire article. Your quote:

"It needs to fail. This is not the right way for us to go forward."

You're basically hoping completely that this will in fact fail entirely, without understanding how it could be useful for some people in some scenarios.

Attacking me on a personal level in your comment is also very simple-minded. You have no clue about the kind of person I am, what kind of activities I'm involved in, yet you've already made the assumption that I'm a lazy-ass fat person as portrayed in Wall-E. I'm the exact opposite. I run. I bike. I go to the gym very often. But there are indeed times in some days where I'm tired and want to veg-out, and in those times, I will want to plop on a couch and just watch some television.

Go ahead and downvote me all you want. For your sake, you should at least allow the possibility that you're thinking is wrong. By stating "it needs to fail", you basically hope no one will ever find their product useful, without seeing how people in the real world will react to it in the first place.

If you can, please give me some feedback on the A versus B / A+B thinking that I hope people practice, rather than trying to compare one thing versus another, choose the one that is mostly better, and hope the other goes away. The world is full enough for people to make use of a multitude of products and services to fulfill their needs and desires, and the way you choose to do so isn't the holy grail of how to live one's life.

You're probably right. In the second presentation[1], Mayer (Google's VP of Search prod. and UX) pointed out some problems users who search might experience: 1 of them being the serial presentation of information, and not a full set of information at once (eg. Google presenting you only 1 result at a time, or Wikipedia 1 fact at a time).

[1] thank jeromec: http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/9900486

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