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An Interview with Knovel Board Member John Patrick

Neil Schulman, Editor in Chief at Knovel Blogs interviews John Patrick about the 16th Annual Genesys Partners Venture Dinner — Gen XVI– which was held at the Union League Club in New York.
Date: Feb. 3, 2010


Last week I spoke with John Patrick after reading a post on his blog regarding Genesys XVI. I got in touch with John to get more insights into the past, present and future of the internet.
John is a former Vice President of Internet Technology with IBM, and currently serves as president of Attitude LLC. John is also the author of Net Attitude, an essential primer on e-business strategies. John has served on Knovel’s Board of Directors since 1992.
K Exchange: First off thank you for agreeing to interview with us. To start with, I have to get your impressions on the topic-of-the moment, the Apple iPad. To me, it seems way more evolutionary compared to the then-revolutionary iPhone. By extension, is the iPad just a larger version of the iPod Touch but with more bells and whistles? Will this device ultimately mean anything?
John Patrick: I am quite enthusiastic about the iPad and can’t wait to get my hands on one. Some people are saying the iPad is just a big iPhone. Yes! I can’t wait and it is much more than an iPhone. It has applications galore. On day one it will run 140,000 iPhone applications plus significant upgrades to calendar, contacts, mapping, and email. I see the iPad lightening the load in briefcases when travelling. It will also take up a lot less space on the kitchen counter and while resting there in the new iPad case it will double as a picture viewer. (See complete review by John on his blog here
KX: In conjunction with that, do you see mobile devices becoming more important? Or do the limitations of 3G/4G speeds and device memory mean people will be relying more heavily on computers for the time being?
John Patrick: Mobile is taking over. There are hundreds of millions of PC’s. There are billions of mobile phones. Today most of them are “dumb” but soon most of them will be “smart”. Most people in the world will access the Internet from their mobile device. The PC will become less and less relevant, accelerated by the iPad and the flood of tablet competitors who will follow.
KX: You mentioned in your blog the massive disparity between public WiFi in the US and overseas. Does the possibility of widely available WiFi (or WiGig, as you posited for the near future) make the question moot, and suggest that netbooks will be preferable to mobile devices?
John Patrick: WiFi is growing all over the world. The netbook is just an inexpensive Windows PC. The only thing it has going for it is price. Do we really need another Windows PC? There is no innovation in netbooks.
KX: Switching gears, you also believe that social networking is going to be crucial to collaboration in the future. Are you talking about public social networks? Or about private intra-company or intra-industry networks?
John Patrick: Both. All of the above. The days of just “plain” content are over. People expect to be able to compare notes on things. Inside or outside the firewall. The number one source that people use to pick a doctor or a hospital is not a website per se, it is asking their friends and family. Social networking is a tool to do that. In a corporate sense, the most valuable source of information on a topic may be somebody down the hall but again, social networks is a tool to reach them. Collaboration is not new but the social networks provide enhanced tools to make collaboration work. It goes deeper than writing on someone’s wall. Specialized tools are emerging such as Kindling to make social networking concepts into serious business tools. The largest source of content is user generated content. That is part of social networking too.
KX: Along those lines, we have statistics from Outsell that suggest that while 40% of engineers are on Facebook, only 4% are on Twitter. An interesting fact that may make more sense when you consider the recent stats suggesting that Twitter’s growth is stagnating. Why do you think Facebook’s adoption has been so much stronger among the engineering community?
John Patrick: They are totally different types of social networking tools. Facebook is a people oriented way to establish a presence and connect with friends or colleagues. It is frictionless to achieve. Twitter is more of a protocol — a way to send a message or “tweet”. Twitter as a company may or may not survive but the concept of sending short messages and following companies or people is a fundamental and new “channel” on the Internet.
KX: Finally, I want to end on the question you asked to finish your post: “will we trust the internet?” You were talking in terms of security, but the question brings up an interesting point, do people inherently mistrust information that comes from the internet? Obviously Wikipedia is a flawed source, but does a company like Knovel have to fight the impression of being an internet company rather than an information provider?

John Patrick: The Internet is the communications network. It will be a constant battle against those who want to disrupt it, but I am optimistic that the good guys will stay on top. I don’t think people inherently distrust the Internet — perhaps to the contrary. It is no different than a book. How do you know a book is accurate? The key is to test veracity through cross-checking just like doing any basic research. Knovel has a huge opportunity to leverage the Internet as the delivery mechanism to make engineers more productive. In the long run it will be important to use technology to provide digital signatures and authentication of data.
John’s post on Genesys XVI can be found here

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