Site Meter

May 31, 2009

Audio: SXSW 2009 Panel on Beyond Aggregation


Although it has been a few months since SXSW 2009 came and went, rich media from the event is continuing to trickle forth. The major reason I even attended the annual tech shindig was to participate on a panel discussing the issue of going "Beyond Aggregation", sitting alongside other folks you might know, including Marshall Kirkpatrick of ReadWriteWeb, who moderated, Gabe Rivera of Techmeme, Melanie Baker of PostRank and Micah Baldwin of Lijit.

Melle helpfully found an MP3 Podcast file from the panel, and posted it to her site today. Still no video, but at this pace, it could be another six months or so for that to leak out, although 100 interviews posted a short video piece with me just after the panel had concluded, and it got written up by Phil Glockner that day.

Our discussion ranged from how to discover new data, to whether communities are growing outside the world of tech, and whether you can measure influence. You can download the 1 hour long audio clip and listen at your leisure here:

Download MP3 File (20 MB)

10 People To Follow On FriendFeed For May 2009

Ninth Edition Of a Monthly Series (combined with Mike Fruchter's efforts)

FriendFeed would simply be a quiet network featuring a mess of links and no interaction if it were not for the "Friend" portion of the service's name. With hundreds of thousands of known users, it can be hard for some to break through and become visible, beyond bringing a brand name from previous activity. But, with participation, many do, and we are more than eager to highlight them in this monthly feature, our ninth. As always, we strive to not miss anyone, so if you believe you or others should be included, you know how to reach us - in the comments, via e-mail, and of course, on FriendFeed.

May 2009's featured FriendFeeders are:

1) Mark Evans

Short Bio: Mark Evans is Managing Principal at Bancroft Research Group, where he develops competitive intelligence products and services for startups and Fortune 500 companies. He is also the President-elect of the American Marketing Association's San Francisco chapter. Mark is also father of four-year-old triplets, two girls and a boy.

What they find interesting: Marketing, Technology, Productivity

FriendFeed: Subscribe

2) Sheryl Breuker

Short Bio: Sheryl, along with her husband Ken Camp, runs Stardust Global Ventures, a business venture focused on mobile technology, casual computing, social media and how technologies are being integrated both at the office and at home.

What they find interesting: Podcasting, Social Media, Entertainment

FriendFeed: Subscribe

3) Thomas Power

Short Bio: Thomas Power is the Chairman of Ecademy, a business-focused social network, based in the UK. He is a professional speaker, has authored six books and was previously an advisor to BT and Microsoft.

What they find interesting: Google, social networking, startups

FriendFeed: Subscribe

4) Rochelle

Short Bio: Rochelle is the wife of Akiva Moskovitz (who we featured last month), a new mother to Audrey, and a self-proclaimed FriendFeed "superstar". She is an avid photographer.

What they find interesting: Family, News, Photography

FriendFeed: Subscribe

5) Biill Romanos

Short Bio: Bill Romanos is General Counsel at Florida Turbine Technologies, an Aerospace & Defense company. He has experience in corporate and securities law, and is an expert on intellectual property, corporate and securities law.

What they find interesting: Defense, Intelligence, Technology, Security

FriendFeed: Subscribe

6) Anika Malone

Short Bio: Anika calls herself an "opinionated mama". Mother to a young boy and girl, Anika operates in the cross-section of politics, family and technology, one day debating party affiliations, and the next, discussing food or getting rid of baby gear, assuming the family is complete. Anika lives in Southern California, and is married to Adrian Culici.

What they find interesting: Politics, Culture, Family

FriendFeed: Subscribe

7) Rick Bucich

Short Bio: Rick Bucich helps manage the marketing and social media activity for Tiny Prints, a photo card and stationary company based in Mountain View. He is a photography expert, and father to a young boy, JR.

What they find interesting: Photography, Social Media, Marketing

FriendFeed: Subscribe

8) Anne Bouey

Short Bio: If it wasn't for Anne Bouey, it's possible FriendFeed wouldn't exist. Why? Because she is mother to one of the site's cofounders, Jim Norris. Interestingly, it's very possible she uses the product even more than he does.

What they find interesting: News, Politics, Entertainment

FriendFeed: Subscribe

9) John E. Bredehoft

Short Bio: John Bredehoft, based in Ontario, California, is a product marketing consultant for MorphoTrak, having recently joined the company after nine years as a product manager for Motorola, where he was focused on fingerprint identification systems. John runs a blog network called Empoprises, a series of vertical sites with distinct focus.

What they find interesting: Technology, Business, Transportation

FriendFeed: Subscribe

10) Rachel Fox

Short Bio: Rachel Fox is a media consultant for non profits, a hobbyist photographer and a foster mom for kittens in need. Rachel is also married to Kevin Fox, a FriendFeed employee. Rachel's feed, swimming amidst a world of techies, is always entertaining.

What they find interesting: Animals, Photography

FriendFeed: Subscribe

Five Blogs Under the Radar: May 2009 Edition

Fifteenth Edition Of a Monthly Series

One of the more fun things I get to do on this blog is highlight other voices from around the world who crave tech or have insight into the Web we're all weaving. I recognize others made sure to give me airtime on their own sites, and the right thing to do is to return the favor. For the last year-plus, we have hand-selected five new blogs for you to review and, hopefully, subscribe. By following these new voices, you can get additional viewpoints outside the common echo chamber. And who knows, maybe some of these people will eventually become household names?

To get on this list, bloggers need to post regularly, cover something resembling technology, and have less than 1,000 subscribers or so. We are more than happy to take nominations as well, either here, by e-mail, FriendFeed or Twitter.

The May 2009 blogs are:

1) Almighty Link (almightylink.ksablan.com)

Focus: Social networks, hyperlinking, media, search
Three Recent Posts:RSS Feed: Subscribe Now

2) Advocate's Studio (advocatesstudio.wordpress.com)

Focus: Legal, Blogging, Technology
Three Recent Posts:RSS Feed: Subscribe Now

3) Blind Five Year Old (blindfiveyearold.com)

Focus: Google, RSS, Technology
Three Recent Posts:RSS Feed: Subscribe Now

4) Techgeist (techgeist.net)

Focus: Google, Web Browsers, Search
Three Recent Posts:RSS Feed: Subscribe Now

5) Deliberate Ambiguity (deliberateambiguity.typepad.com)

Focus: Search, Microsoft, Technology
Three Recent Posts:RSS Feed: Subscribe Now

It's amazing how more than a year after starting this process, I am still impressed by the high quality writing by some of these lesser-known blogs. Some of those highlighted this month are among the best I've seen in a long time. Want to be on this list? You can catch my eye by posting great information in the field of technology, social media, blogging and the Web. I'll be more likely to highlight you if you blog almost every day, and bring new stories to the table that don't repeat discussions launched elsewhere. And if you have more than 1,000 subscribers, you're probably too big for this.

To see even more new blogs I'm adding to my reader, or get a sneak peek for next month's highlighted blogs, follow my activity on Toluu. If you don't have a login to Toluu, send me an e-mail to louisgray@mac.com and I'll get that set up right away.

Latest Twitter Bug Hides the Use of Third Party Clients

Following Twitter's mid-day downtime and "fatal software error" they reported on their blog Saturday, it looks like the site is no longer displaying what applications its users are leveraging to post updates. Regardless of whether you are using TweetDeck, Tweetie, PeopleBrowsr, Seesmic Desktop, or simply redirecting updates from FriendFeed, Twitter is reporting all updates are from their Web interface.

While a minor issue, tweets from third party clients help to advertise their use. For example, it's a bit disconcerting to check the official TweetDeck account, and see they are updating "from Web", ostensibly not using their own product.



Users Clamoring About Twitter's Missing Info

I first noticed the bug on my own feed, as it said that items I had redirected from FriendFeed, using the FriendFeed URL shortener, ff.im, had originated from the Web. I also couldn't see any use of the desktop application Tweetie, when I know I have been using it. Surprisingly, Twitter showed "from Web" as the only service I had used at all.


This Tweet Originated on FriendFeed, not on Twitter's Web site


TweetDeck Users On Twitter Asking About the Bug

And yes, in a world of 140 characters, even the little things get noticed. Though not the bonfire of recent missteps, this issue has seen many asking over the last five hours why their clients aren't accurately being displayed. (See: Twitter Search "from TweetDeck" for example)

I don't see this being a longtime bug. Twitter will likely figure out the issue, which might have been introduced as a result of their recovering from unplanned downtime on Saturday. But for diehard Twitter client fans, and believe me, they're out there, the disconnect is yet another head-scratcher from a service that's playing a bigger role for an increasing number of people.

May 30, 2009

PR Pitches Promise to Trade Diggs for Coverage

As the blog has gained in visibility, so to have the inbound pitches. Sometimes they're good, sometimes they are horrible - and some are just downright off-topic, and get deleted. But one the more recent trends I've seen is a promise by the PR rep to push the story to Digg "if the review is great". Twice this month, I have received near-identical pitches, ostensibly from two different people at two different PR agencies, ending with the following two lines, after having introduced their new iPhone apps:

"Let me know - I can send promo code right away. If the review is great we will digg it as hell."

Never mind the cookie cutter wrap-up and the substandard English, or even that the pitches have been for less than interesting iPhone applications. Call me snooty or idealistic, but I have a very real problem with the idea that if my review is deemed "great", that the PR team will try and reward me with traffic by manipulating Digg - even if I think they don't have the Digg juice to do it.


An excerpt from one such pitch in early May

I'm not going to stand on a pedestal and make a rant about paid posts, or how bloggers are allowed to curry favor or get bias, but this is a stupid practice I could really live without. Because I'm a nice guy, I won't be outing which agencies, individuals or which products are pitched this way, but I bet some of you reading this have gotten the same template garbage.

Do you really think you're earning bonus points with me because you're Web 2.0 savvy enough to know what Digg is?

If you want to entice me into writing about your product, don't do it with a promise of Diggs. Show me that you know what I usually cover, and that your offer is something my audience wants to know. And please don't send me a link from a top tech blog as evidence that your stuff is awesome, because if somebody else already debuted your story, it's already old. Digg it?

May 29, 2009

Video Snacking 10 Seconds at a Time, On 20 Screens, via Twitter

Combine the elements of your short attention span with the world's hottest little network, in Twitter, and the viral aspects of YouTube, and you've got a fun little site called Veetweet, which as my friend Drew Olanoff wrote me is like "giving a 3 year old a quadruple latte and the TV remote."


Veetweet Randomly Selects the Latest YouTube Videos Shared in Twitter

The premise seems simple. Veetweet finds the latest YouTube videos posted to Twitter, lays them out in a grid on your browser window, and plays them out in an endless stream of 10 second video clips. Should you find any of them interesting, you can click on the history playlist and see where they came from, or open the current video on YouTube.

It's a lot of like channel surfing an infinite number of channels, selected by somebody else. Find something you like? Open a new window. Not finding anything? Keep watching, and maybe something will come along. In my viewing of Veetweet, I went from guitar solos to Mexican stand-up comedy, to an excerpt of Fox News denouncing Mr. Rogers.


My Veetweet History Is Saved If I Want To Find a Video

Your Web browser is all set to play 20 channels at once, but you don't know in which order. As one ends, another expands and starts playing, as the one just watched is replaced by something new, constantly filled by the latest tweets that link out to YouTube.

The project is a showcase for 9astronauts.com, a team of developers marketing their Javascript, Ruby on Rails and iPhone coding skills. (See their other projects here)

Google's Blogger Challenge: Win the Marathon and Don't Bonk.

Sometimes I feel like I am a rarity in the tech blogging world, considering I haven't moved away from the Blogger platform and onto the more frequently celebrated, higher geek cred option, WordPress. In fact, I'm such an oddity that I am not even on the newest version of Blogger. I still cling to the "Old" Blogger and post my stories using FTP, as it's something that has worked for me for the better part of three and a half years. But while I haven't made the switch, many have - falling in love with WordPress' wide array of extensions and open source mentality. I've even had offers for people to help me move off Blogger to WordPress, and have, so far, resisted.

With this going on, there's no question Google's Blogger platform has a perception problem. While it is on record as the largest blogging platform on the Web today, ahead of Six Apart's TypePad, LiveJournal and WordPress, it is largely seen as not leading the innovation curve - even if mommybloggers (like my wife) use it and love it.

Some aspects of Blogger feel like they haven't changed in maybe five years, and surprisingly, that perception is actually true. Today I had lunch at Google Headquarters with Rick Klau, who is a Product Manager on the Blogger team at Google, and we talked at length about the current state of the platform, as well as what is planned in upcoming releases to help the product become even more on par, and in some cases, ahead of the competition. He said that for the most part, Google has just "kept the product alive" in maintenance mode, not adding too many features. Meanwhile a good number of the features being tested in the product's "Draft" area, similar to Google Labs, are unknown to the majority of the product's users.

But even in keeping the product going, there's been a tremendous amount of effort from people Rick said were "working their butts off". He wrote me in an e-mail after our lunch, saying, "There's been a ton of largely invisible innovation over the last few years - things that don't get seen because they just work, but enable the massive scale at which Blogger operates."

Klau joined Google as part of the company's acquisition of FeedBurner in mid 2007, and since that purchase, neither FeedBurner nor Blogger have been spared the arrows from critics who recognize the value of their services, but expect more, myself included. Klau agreed with my comments this afternoon saying that users see Google as having the combination of tremendous brain power and seemingly infinite technical infrastructure resources, making any hiccups practically inexcusable. I've always said I favor the little guy over a large monolith like Google, and users are easily tweaked when products produce incorrect results or have outages that last hours - both of which I've highlighted before in darker days.

But Klau also noted the platform is under a constant around-the-clock battle with spammers and other hackers attempting distributed denial of service (DDOS) attacks and working to find ways to blast spam into comments on the millions of blogs on the Blogger platform worldwide. In fact, the Blogger team has three people in three continents around the world dedicated to keeping the sites up and the riffraff out.

To fully appreciate life as a Blogger user, Klau did the opposite of what many have done of late, moving from WordPress to the Blogger platform with his own blog. He now gets the privilege to see both the good and the bad of his product from the perspective of the company's large user base - and despite the competitive state, he sounded eager at what the future will bring, and the opportunities available, with top resources available from the Mountain View search giant, including potential integration with newly announced products elsewhere within the company.

"I feel like we're in a marathon, and I am beginning with a 10 mile headstart," Klau said. And while it may have been true that in recent years, Blogger had been sitting idly, or jogging in place to hold their position, it is clearly no longer the case now, as I learned during my talk with Klau today. The team is running again.

Today's Real-Time Web Makes Blogging and RSS Seem "Too Slow"

Thursday evening, I had the opportunity to attend one of the semi-regular open houses held at FriendFeed headquarters in Mountain View. (See pictures from Brian Solis, who also attended) While on other occasions, I may have taken the chance to pick the brains of the small team, yesterday I ended up spending the bulk of the time talking to others in the industry, including Edelman's Steve Rubel and TechCrunch IT's Steve Gillmor on what they thought the future of communication, information discovery and blogging would be, amidst the dramatic expansion of microblogging and real-time updates and alerts. And while we all had our own viewpoints on the future of RSS, we agreed that what has been status quo for the last five to ten years is changing underneath us, moving toward a world that is faster, driven as much by what will be our preset queries and searches, rather than through subscriptions and static pages.

Gillmor famously argued earlier this month that RSS should "rest in peace". Gillmor's summary started off by saying, "It’s time to get completely off RSS and switch to Twitter. RSS just doesn’t cut it anymore," and continuing onward, making a case that the immediacy of Twitter made it the source for news discovery, not tools like Google Reader, which I use to find all the data from my sources on a daily basis. As he told Steve Rubel and me yesterday evening, the post "went global" faster than anything he had ever written before, and judging by the more than 500 comments received on TechCrunch, as well as the many follow-on pieces I've seen, it stirred up a great deal of controversy - which is to be expected when making such a black and white claim.

Meanwhile, Steve Rubel, author of MicroPersuasion, who has been blogging on that site since early 2004, said that to him, blogging seemed "slow", when contrasted with the lightning fast communications seen from tools like FriendFeed and Twitter. He made the analogy that when you take the time to compose a blog post and you launch it over the wall, that readers have to look it over and make a choice as to whether they will respond, or if they will simply hit 'J' in their RSS reader and move along. In contrast, he said sending a note to Twitter was like introducing ants in someone's house, making them immediately take action.

Gillmor's unique writing style no doubt stemmed much of the confusion around his "Rest in Peace, RSS" story, which I fundamentally disagreed with the first time around and ignored. But in yesterday's discussion, it became more clear what he was trying to propose - not so much a full-fledged abandonment of RSS readers for Twitter, but instead, pushing for a reader-like tool that would follow microblogging services, decode shortened URLs on the fly, and then deliver the option to read full text of a piece.

In essence, rather than waiting the 20 to 60 minutes it can sometimes take RSS to propagate, thanks to latency from FeedBurner, for the most part, Gillmor's approach would take seconds - where a blog publisher or news distributor could post an update to Twitter or FriendFeed and have the same type of result, only a lot faster. This comes at a time when Gillmor and others are saying that referrals to blog posts are decreasing from RSS readers and increasing from microblogging sites, as readers do their link discovery outside of the reader.

Although Gillmor said we should just "switch to Twitter", he isn't even waiting for Twitter to bring back his much-beloved 'Track' to monitor keywords. Instead, he expects that FriendFeed will more quickly arrive at a tool that delivers realtime alerts to e-mail or instant messaging tools than Twitter - which makes sense as the aggregator has already set up e-mail and IM tools for lists and has delivered saved searches, two of the three components needed to make 'Track' a reality - and not just across Twitter, but across the more than 50 social sites FriendFeed supports.

As Gillmor told us both, he sees posts from louisgray.com "immediately" when I add them to FriendFeed, even if it takes much more time for them to enter Google Reader. And yes, that's because I, as a publisher, follow a specific process when posting, to author it and immediately afterward send it to Twitter and then pull it into FriendFeed, all before I manually ping FeedBurner. It's a conscious decision on my part, but one that helps his case.

RSS is not dead. Far from it. We're all using RSS every day, powering our Web portals, and helping to distribute blog and news content everywhere. But if it is about getting things discovered most quickly, and getting a response from readers very quickly, there's a reason you see people looking elsewhere, just like there's a reason I use a tool that pulls comments from FriendFeed into louisgray.com on my blog posts. I know some people will get to my content somewhere else faster. And if an enterprising software developer, like Nick Bradbury, can make a tool that turns links on Twitter into the same type of tool we see in RSS readers, maybe we'll be onto something new.

May 28, 2009

RakedIn Takes On Portals With Focused Finance Site

Today, a good amount of the news we get about businesses and the individuals at these companies comes from horizontal portals and news organizations that have other priorities - be it search at Yahoo! and Google, or politics and entertainment, like at CNN. Meanwhile, social sites like LinkedIn and business tools like Jigsaw and Hoovers are accruing personal details about many companies. A new site, debuting today, called RakedIn, has launched, trying to interweave the personalities behind the businesses you watch with up to date stock and financial information, as well as company overviews, with key leaders and board members.

RakedIn, launched by Mike Yavonditte, the former CEO of Quigo, who left AOL following that company's $340 million acquisition at the end of 2007, says it now has a collection of more than 200,000 companies and half a million people covered on its site, on day one, a number it anticipates to continue growing over time.


RakedIn's Search Engine Finds Data On LinkedIn



RakedIn's Profile of Twitter, the Company

The site's front page displays featured headlines and an update on the day's stock markets, headlines from across a wide range of industries, and the day's biggest losers or gainers. Aiming to have the most up to date information available, you can dice the information by industry, or even by press releases, company filings, or other news. The site even helpfully tells you if there are more headlines that have loaded as you read the current news - saying they have "raked in" new updates.


A Sample from RakedIn's Financial Data Headlines



RakedIn Also Shows Detail On Individuals Across Companies

Like Yahoo! Finance and Google Finance, you can dive down into any specific company, such as Microsoft, Google, Yahoo! or any of the Dow components. A company page, assuming it is public, will highlight the latest news, insider trades, employee compensation and other personnel highlights - as well as where the company ranks versus its peers. (For example, Microsoft has the highest earnings in Washington State and is the 88th largest employer overall tracked)


RakedIn's Profile of Microsoft's Steve Ballmer

One of the biggest aspects of RakedIn is the benefits of near real-time. During market hours, you can see stocks rise and fall, and headlines slot their way in to company pages. And the site even tracks your most recently viewed pages, giving you fast access should you want to return.


My Recent Activity on RakedIn Is Tracked

And for the largest companies, you can see how their extended families operate. For example, for EMC Corporation, you can see its related businesses, including VMware, Iomega and Documentum, as well as their estimated revenues, profits and employee counts.

RakedIn has a wealth of information, especially for a inaugural debut. And their focus might give people a very real alternative to the portals who are simply aggregating data from everywhere. Check it out at www.rakedin.com.

Omnipresent Omniture Makes Facebook Apps Omnipotent

By Jesse Stay of Stay N' Alive (Facebook/FriendFeed)

The Facebook Platform just got a whole lot more interesting today as the all-powerful Analytics company, Omniture, Inc. released a new suite of analytics libraries for developers writing for the Facebook Platform. The analytics aim to improve, in heavy detail how Facebook developers' apps are being used on the Facebook Platform. What's interesting about the launch though is, in the rumored upcoming introduction of a Facebook Payments platform, the potential implications for e-commerce on Facebook that this brings.


Omniture, a company with probably most of the major online retailers on its client roster, provides Analytics tools for companies such as BackCountry.com (my former employer) and others to be able to track users of their websites. Earlier this year they announced an iPhone Analytics suite, enabling iPhone app developers to track the use of their iPhone applications. E-Commerce and retailers can use the software to track conversions from click to actual purchase within links and ads. At their Omniture Summit conference earlier this year they even showed a demo of being able to track someone who visits an e-commerce site, and then ends up at a physical store location to actually purchase the item. The cross-pollenation of their various stats products to enable companies to know almost everything about their customers is quite honestly, a little scary. That's what makes Omniture so useful and powerful to their clients - it's the breadth of what they offer and the ability to see a customer across multiple products that makes them one-of-a-kind.


This Facebook announcement just made the customers that they track all the more real. With this tracking, Omniture is now able to identify purchasers on the websites they frequent by age, sex, location, network, interests, the demographics of their friends, the number of their friends, and much, much more. It's this user segmentation that will make companies like Amazon and Apple and Wal-Mart want to create Facebook applications to drive users to buy things on Facebook. All of the sudden, Facebook Apps just became very interactive advertisements.

One strategy many Facebook app developers employ is the creation of multiple niche communities under the umbrella of a much larger app company. Such a strategy encourages more wall posts by users from the app and a much more targeted experience within each application the developer launches. In addition to driving and tracking conversion, Omniture has made it very easy, using their SiteCatalyst product, to track and manage multiple Facebook applications at one time. For instance, an example they used was 3 TV Show apps, and the ability to track the number of times images were viewed within the apps vs. times videos were played or stories read. Such a strategy could enable a similar media company to compare various campaigns and determine what was most successful.


The Facebook App Analytics market is ripe with competition right now. With analytics companies such as Sometrics and Kontagent which both have free products at the moment, Omniture may not hit the smaller, core app developers which make up some of the top applications on Facebook. However, with the breadth of information Omniture provides and ability to truly track user engagement and conversion across multiple products, those developers could now seriously have some competition on their hands by much bigger players in the industry that can afford to pay for it. I am told that already at least one major media company has begun to use the product. At the same time, Omniture also provides smaller packages more affordable to the small and medium-sized business, so the smaller developers are not out of luck entirely.

This is a big move for both Omniture and Facebook, and will hopefully bring out some interesting new applications from many of the online retailers which are already using their software to track performance and conversion in their increasingly offsite online presence. In the wake of a coming payments platform for Facebook, Omniture could bring some interesting things to the network. It will be very interesting to watch and see how companies begin to use this and what information comes from the wealth of information Omniture provides.

Read more by Jesse Stay at Stay N' Alive.

May 27, 2009

PeopleBrowsr Opens Up In Public Beta, Unifying Social Activity

In December of last year, we highlighted the introduction of PeopleBrowsr, a Web-based utility to help you follow all your friends across their various social networks in one place, ranging from LinkedIn to YouTube, FriendFeed and Twitter. The product, while very robust in terms of its offerings, also seemed complex, with usability tradeoffs seemingly made for feature introductions. With several months of incubation, the site has now opened up in public beta, hoping to supplant TweetDeck and other multi-column tools, like Seesmic Desktop.

The service, which you can find at www.peoplebrowsr.com, bills itself as a "one-stop solution for managing online activity," and there's no doubt that's exactly what it does. You can add what are called "stacks" or columns from 14 different networks, and have the option to push updates to each from the single browser window.


Click Here for A Larger Image of PeopleBrowsr In Action

PeopleBrowsr's goal, like other aggregation services, is to help you tame the content stream and avoid missing important posts. The service also hopes to make itself the center for conversations by letting you manage multiple user names, and follow anonymously, without the public friending that takes place on practically every network.

As we also have discussed with our recent posts on search, finding your data can be even more important than seeing it as it appears, and PeopleBrowsr has approached that as well, by offering search filtering, and the saving of searches for future use.

Like TweetDeck, the temptation to keep adding "stacks" or columns is tempting. I can follow all friends' updates on FriendFeed and Twitter with PeopleBrowsr, while watching out for updates on LinkedIn, YouTube or even RSS. Really, the only limit to the product now is the width of your screen.

Topsy's Social Search Will Benefit Big Blogs, Influential Tweeters

Combining the world of search and the world of microblogging, including Twitter, is a popular thing to do these days. With Twitter Search having its hiccups, entrants like Twazzup, OneRiot and TweetMeme have all joined the game of trying to find the best content on Twitter, or finding the most influential users. In the last few days, Topsy, which bills itself as a "new kind of search engine" powered by the social Web, has gotten a good amount of visibility, especially due in part to an aggressive recommendation from Michael Arrington at TechCrunch - who is a big fan.

Topsy is interesting in that rather than finding the best result due to external hyperlinks or having "one right answer", as Google and most other search engines do, Topsy instead relies largely on the number of times a URL is shared (or tweeted) around that specific keyword.

For example, while searching Apple on Google sends you to Apple.com, Searching for Apple on Topsy instead sends you to watch Apple's TV Ads for the "Get a Mac" campaign. You can guess that when the new ads debut, they are frequently sent around Twitter, pushing that link to #1.

Similarly, Topsy is influenced by recency, which explains why a similar search for Microsoft has articles on their Bing search product competing with Google rather than the vanilla Microsoft homepage you would get with Google.

But, as with Google, not all things are equal in the world of microblogging. If you have an account with hundreds of thousands of followers, thanks to a position on the site's Suggested Users List, you will no doubt have much more influence on how many times items are retweeted, and therefore, a much higher impact on Topsy. That means then that accounts like TechCrunch and Mashable, who are in the SUL, are highly featured, and other competitors, like VentureBeat and ReadWriteWeb, do not fare as well.

The impact of a big account can be seen both on individuals and topics.

Stories on TechCrunch.com are #1 on Topsy when searching for individuals like Eric Schmidt, Dave Sifry and Reid Hoffman, each a leader in tech, covered by the network. In parallel, Mashable holds the #1 overall position for individuals including Mark Zuckerberg., while ReadWriteWeb finishes #1 for Paul Buchheit.


Top Topsy Results for Eric Schmidt



Top Topsy Results for Mark Zuckerberg



Top Topsy Results for Reid Hoffman



Top Topsy Results for Dave Sifry

Essentially, Topsy is the delivery of "authority-based search" that Loic Le Meur was asking for at the end of 2008, but done so in a way that doesn't explicitly say so.


Top Topsy Results for Tesla Motors

On topics, you can see TechCrunch holds the top position on Topsy for Tesla Motors, as well as the #1 position for LinkedIn, #2 for Socialmedian and Google News as well as #3 for FriendFeed, with Mashable finishing #4 on that search. In each case the coverage of the company trumps the company's site or official comments.


Top Topsy Results for Apple's iPhone

In turn, Mashable holds the #1 Topsy result for iPhone, and the #3 spot for MySpace.

That's not to say there is anything inherently "wrong" with these results, but they are definitely different, and if Topsy should take off, the influence of larger blog networks and the Suggested User List on Twitter will expand further. Should search results lead you to the one true answer that delivers you a bland corporate page, or should they instead lead you to social news impacted by a large community?

May 26, 2009

Qajack Presents Fun Videocentric Social Q&A Service

Advice and answer sites like Yahoo! Answers, and the long-since defunct pioneers such as ExpertCity and EXP.com have served the Web by providing a hub to ask challenging questions and getting answers from the registered community. But they haven't really found a great way to make the process social, with friends you know. Trying to capture that element, and splashing on the fun requirement of video, as well as credits on the service, a new product called Qajack looks like a lot of fun - and might even be useful.

Video plays a crucial role at Qajack. Not only do the questions get presented using your webcam, but so do the answers!


I Post a New Video Question on Qajack

If you have a question you want answered, post where it says, "What do you want to know?" and hit return. Once you've posted your question, you make a short video of less than a minute, summarize it in 140 characters or less, and add tags.

Since you want good answers, and not just any answer, you can post a "prize" of JK dollars to be won by the answer that's most appropriate. And it even costs a fraction of those dollars to answer a question, so you won't get any junk.

For example, I asked: "What are the advantages to living in Britain over the US? If I were to leave the US, why would I go there?"


Top Qajackers (as of today's standings)

You can see the first response from two of the site's three cofounders below it. Since I am offering 25 JK$, it cost him 6.25 JK$ to post his response. If he wins? Good deal, a 4 to 1 return. But if I get 5 responses, I'll actually have made a profit off my question. That in itself makes it fun, and of course, there is even a leaderboard on the site for what it calls "Top Qajackers".


Top Questions on Qajack

Qajack is very, very new, and only has 11 total users (myself included), but it has already seen comments on politics, technology, and even advice for what to do if you're only getting five hours of sleep a night, and need to focus on work. (I dared to answer that one)


My Updated Activity On Qajack

As always, you can find me at my ID of "louisgray". As cofounder Adam Martin said, "If Twitter is about brevity and inanity, Qajack is about authenticity and rich relevance." Looking forward to seeing you answer some of my questions, and don't you worry about how you look on video. I promise not to wear makeup.

MicroBlink Releases Feedstats.info for FriendFeed Stat Fanatics

In technology, if you can measure an activity and compare it with that of other users, it's likely somebody is working on a service to crunch the numbers. Twitter has TweetStats and following counts. FeedBurner shows RSS subscribers. LinkedIn displays the number of connections. And FriendFeed displays following counts, as well as likes and comments activity, on your profile. But the service, in its latest upgrade, removed the ability to analyze your own feed and see which friends were most active on your thread. Into that void walks a new service from the team at Microblink, called Feedstats.info.

Feedstats.info essentially provides the same information that previously was available to all FriendFeed users, but not just for your own account - opening up the ability to analyze anybody's activity, so long as you know their user name.


Entering the ID into Feedstats.info


The data says I use Google Reader, Twitter and FriendFeed most often.

If you enter a FriendFeed user's ID into Feedstats.info, you can see how often they post per day (in the last 1,000 items), what services contributed to that feed (both in bar chart and pie chart form). You can see what days and what times of day the user most frequently uses FriendFeed, and also, who provides the most likes and comments on their items.


FeedStats Shows I Use FriendFeed Least On Weekends, and from 1 to 7 a.m.


FeedStats Also Shows Who Has Activity On My Items

Using this service, you can see which users log in to FriendFeed at specific intervals during the day, and those who are pretty much on the service around the clock, stopping only to sleep (I assume). You can also, if you check enough accounts, get a good idea as to who the most prolific people are in terms of "liking" activity, especially if they lead many different accounts.


FeedStats Takes A Look at Rochelle


Hutch Carpenter Under the Microscope

As with most stat sites, it's easy to start playing with the charts, and equally as easy to ask, "what's the point?" At what point does knowing the data is there start to impact user behavior? Should Rob Diana stop sharing so frequently on Google Reader if he finds out that it's nearly 90 percent of his feed? Should I be using Twitter more or FriendFeed less? Or the other way around?


Rob Diana: Google Reader Expert


Jesse Stay Uses Google Reader, Twitter and FriendFeed.

One of the assumed corollaries offered by Feedstats.info is a guess that those who like your items have a high compatibility with you, making them most "like" you. But what I found is that there is a small subset of users with a tremendous number of likes and comments, far outstripping mine, and they may lead my account as well as others, making our correlation a false one. But other than that, it's still an interesting set of data to play with. You can sign in with your FriendFeed API key, and can check any account, as I have.

May 25, 2009

Amplifeeder to Soon Release Open Source Lifestream Platform


A Screen Capture from My Amplifeeder

Lifestreaming fans over the last few years have found newer and more fully-featured options to aggregate all their online activity. In addition to social networks like Facebook, FriendFeed and other external sites, there are products that let you pull the data into your blog, and there are others that let you host the application on your own server with your own domain name. And each has its own wrinkle - be it a larger array of supported data sources, the ability to post comments, or colorful templates to make the result more inviting.

A new entrant called Amplifeeder is currently available for testing, but won't be available to the general public until it is added to Microsoft's new application store (some time next month). The product is an open source solution that runs on Microsoft's IIS server and requires SQL, but delivers a flexible solution with many preinstalled templates, a wide number of supported social sites, and yes, the opportunity for comments.

While many lifestreaming solutions essentially post all your updates, in chronological order in one section, no matter the source, Amplifeeder's templates can break out the information into different sections, such as "videos" from YouTube, "photos" from Flickr, "favorites" from Digg and Delicious, "writings" from Google Reader shares, and the core "lifestream" of Last.fm updates, Twitter postings and the blog.


Different Channels Pulled Into Amplifeeder

The author, Jon Paul Davies, enabled me to have an account, which you can find at http://louis.amplifeeder.com/.

If you're one of those people who has signed up to many of these similar sites, you probably do get tired of entering your profile information each time. Amplifeeder actually made the process very easy. In fact, if you provide a FriendFeed user name, Amplifeeder will check your profile and match up the services, making the process automatic. You can also make posts directly to your Amplifeeder through what it calls its own "Microblog".

You Can Post Directly To Amplifeeder



Post your FriendFeed profile and pull it into Amplifeeder

There are 14 different templates that come with the Amplifeeder platform, all named after Joy Division songs, from "Disorder" to "Irresistible" and "Transmission". Some are the basic white background with links, and others offer more color.


You Can Choose What to Show or Not Show in Amplifeeder

In addition to setting up your Amplifeeder, the product lets you check each specific update and remove posts you might not want displayed, or even view stats to see what sites are most frequently updated. The result is a preconfigured lifestream you can host on your own site and modify to meet your expectations.


Amplifeeder Shows Statistics In What You Pull to the Lifestream

Once Amplifeeder is out early next month, it should be a good option for those people who want to take all their activity and put it in one place, without sending visitors somewhere else. In addition to my own Amplifeeder, you can check out their demos on the Web site: http://www.amplifeeder.com/demo.html