Hodgepodge of Web Innovation, Politics At AlwaysOn

UPDATED: PALO ALTO, Calif. — A grab bag of Web services and technologies took the stage here at the AlwaysOn Conference at Stanford University. There was no real theme to yesterday’s opening, but there was plenty of new fodder for the technorati in the audience to feast on.

Former Senator John McCain was given a featured spot near the end of the day to make a pitch for his presidential candidacy and answer questions from potential supporters.

McCain said the biggest challenge facing the U.S. is radical Islamic extremism that “will be with us for a long time.” He said the extremists are taking advantage of cyberspace to spread their message in a dangerous way “that we better stop if we want to protect what we believe in.”

McCain appealed directly to the Web entrepreneurs in the audience to create tools that will help the U.S. promote democracy via the Internet.

Addressing several other tech-related topics, McCain said he was concerned about restrictions put on the Internet and “the free flow of ideas” by the government of China.

During a Q&A session McCain was asked about the U.S.’s low rate of broadband penetration, estimated at 15th in the world.

“We should make greater broadband access a high priority,” he said, noting that, while he wants the U.S. to be first, the relative geographic compactness of some countries makes it easier to deploy new telecom technologies.

Earlier in the day, various tech companies showed off new and recently introduced products and services.

A number of presenters derided Google and other major search sites for not providing the information users want efficiently. “It’s a content problem and a navigation problem,” said Ali Klinger, director of Wookah. “There’s an ongoing battle between searchers and marketers, which leads to a lot of irrelevant results.”

Wookah provides multi-search results for each inquiry from what it says are the best sites on the Web. The company said it’s also employing Web 2.0  principles to get users involved in enhancing the platform.

There was a fair bit of hype in some of the pitches. Paul Pluschkell, CEO of a company called spigit, said its Web service is “one of the most disruptive technologies you’ll see here.” The first incarnation of spigit, available now in beta, is an interactive professional network of innovations.

The company said spigit is the first “socionomic” platform to capture, analyze, and aggregate targeted social participation and contributions to help develop new ideas and professional relationships.

Based on feedback and ratings broken down into hundreds of dynamic events, spigit’s simulation engine computes an array of metrics, including “reputation index” for each user and a virtual price for new ideas. “We truly measure the wisdom of crowds,” said Pluschkell.

GroupSystems CEO Luis Solis introduced a new buzz term, noting his company’s ThinkTank technology represents Human Collaboration 2.0. While other collaboration systems require a leader or leaders, ThinkTank is designed for groups to collaborate more directly. You can, for example, use ThinkTank to brainstorm ideas, include anonymous comments, vote and get instant results to help plan out who will do the work.

Solis said the company has over 250 customers for its browser-based collaboration system, including such big names as Intel, P&G, NASA and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

“This is about flat teams instead of hierarchies,” Solis told internetnews.com. “Meetings take too long; we help you reclaim your life.”

Another company called LongJump demoed its product to internetnews.com ahead of its presentation scheduled for today. The LongJump platform is actually a spin-off of Relationals, an on-demand CRM system used by many media companies.

“We realized we had a rich platform that could serve applications to other markets like SMBs &Nbsp;and departments in large companies,” said CEO Pankaj Malviya. LongJump is in private beta now with several dozen companies; a public launch is set for this fall.

*Similar in concept to Salesforce.com’s AppExchange model, Malviya said LongJump will provide an online catalog of hosted applications at a lower cost.

“About the price of a monthly Netflix subscription per user,” said Malviya. LongJump apps share a similar user interface and data can be easily exchanged between them.

Pointing to enterprise apps like CRM, Malviya said user adoption is a major issue because of complexity. He said LongJump will feature easily customizable applications that address specific problems, such as a prospect manager for salespeople. LongJump apps share common features including an audit log, report writer and compatibility with Google widgets.

Clarifies LongJump has no plans for an on-premises version.

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