July 30, 2010

Funneling The Web's Firehose of Data Through a Thin Pipe

For the past several years, much like many of you, the fastest Internet speeds I have enjoyed have been at home. Very often, corporate networks, be they those at headquarters or client sites or shared networks at events and public settings, lag well behind my own home experience. For me, considering my devotion to being always-on, fast Internet is practically as important, if not more so, than good food or other more traditional human comforts, and any interruption of said flow is personally trying.

That would explain why when moving the family to our new house last Friday, getting access to high speed Internet again as soon as possible was a major priority, and finding a stopgap for the interim was just as critical. Luckily, Comcast took care of us Wednesday, bringing fast WiFi to our new home at great speeds, and for the five days previous, the HTC Evo did the very best it could, making the extra $30 a month I pay for its Hotspot capability, powered by Sprint, worth every penny.

In contrast to AT&T's sloth when it has come to empowering tethering and letting my previous smartphone reach its full potential, Sprint has been leading the charge in letting phones be as much about data as they are about voice. In the same month that AT&T eliminated their unlimited data plan and set their highest end plan at 2 GB, I not only flew past that point, but 3 GB as well. This is because, as I mentioned at the end of last month, I am using the wireless hotspot often - at client sites, at cafes, restaurants, shopping centers, and yes, in the last week, as the sole provider for Internet at our home. It might not have been the fastest Web ever, but it sure got the basics going.

If you have experienced full-speed always on Internet, only to have that taken away for a longer period, the available narrowband becomes much like a triage situation. YouTube viewing has to go away (much to my own kids' consternation and much iPad banging). Streaming music services (like Spotify) are a non-starter. Downloading movies or apps from iTunes was a pipe dream, and as great as the Hotspot is, only two computers can share at one time, so we found ourselves disabling one iPad to let another device - be it laptop or tablet - onto the Web. Survival of the fittest.

Sprint reported more than 3 GB pulled down on the Evo in June.

As someone who refuses to be out of the loop on information, despite such data hurdles, I found myself making time to get the most critical data and skipping out on more frivolous activities. I still powered through Google Reader, gnashing my teeth at photo-laden entries, and browsed Twitter mostly by phone, but activity on social networks was reduced - especially on Google Buzz, where the prospect of waiting for Gmail to load before getting to the network itself was too much to consider.

The good news is that Comcast not only turned on our Web access Wednesday, but the speeds are fantastic. After about 5 days of strained narrowband, we were more than happy to turn over our iPads to the twins and have them back to surfing YouTube - and it only took seconds for me to pull down the 40+ megabyte download for Safari 5.01 yesterday. In fact, SpeedTest.net shows 20 Mbps around the clock, so our broadband is back and kicking. I'm glad we have the HTC Evo ready for a backup, but it's not going to replace the full-speed stream any time soon. I love my broadband.

July 29, 2010

iPad Development Paying Off for Friendly App Creator

On Saturday, I highlighted the recent release of Friendly, an iPad-optimized application for Facebook that enhances the world's most popular social network to take advantage of the iPad's screen and touch interface. One of the co-founders on Friendly and Twazzup, its sister product, Cyril Moutran (@mocy), met with me for lunch today and discussed how developing for the iPad presents new opportunities to make a splash in a less-crowded field, and gain real revenue. He also said he believes the launch of more touch-centric interfaces could be as revolutionary as the mouse and hyperlink did with the first generation of the Web.

In a Week, Friendly Is Pulling in iPad/iTunes Dough

Since its launch late last week, it would be safe to say that Friendly is seeing initial success. Despite its $4.99 price, the Friendly app has bumped into the list of the top ten paid iPad applications on the iTunes store, and sits at the #13 position overall right now, and is the #15 most grossing application across all of iTunes' iPad apps, going up against Apple's office productivity apps, and even beating out MLB's At Bat application for the iPad, which is in the #25 position. Just yesterday, Moutran said the application was purchased in 60 different countries around the world. And yes, the app sits in the #1 spot for paid social networking apps for the iPad, as many of the apps are free.

Friendly Sits Atop iTunes for Paid iPad Social Apps

Moutran, who also counts time at Netscape, Schlumberger and Vignette on his resume, believes part of the reason for Friendly's success, as well as that from other iPad apps that have sold well, is their development of a unique experience that takes full advantage of the product's touch-based characteristics. Rather than expand a game to the full screen by doubling pixels, or hoping a more standard interface of small links and pixel-perfect clicks are going to be good enough, he suggests smart developers need to recreate their products for this new experience, and when there is a gap that needs to be filled, as there was with Facebook not having a dedicated iPad application yet, smart entrepreneurs will fill it.

I managed to get Moutran to do a quick interview, which is embedded below. Hope you listen.

July 27, 2010

Hey Foursquare, Let's Discuss a Check-in Exchange Program

Dear Foursquare,

Whether it's a fad, or a trend, or the next generation of the world's currency, location based services are much-discussed these days, and there is no argument that you are in the driver's seat. Barring massive disaster resulting from failure to scale, or the introduction of much-hated new features, the current competitors are not going to shake you from your perch, and the big guys (you know who) don't look like they want to go "niche" but treat LBS as a feature. So you're in a good spot. But... hey. Let's talk.

Here's the issue. I've been "playing" with your service for the last few months, checking it at places both interesting and mundane. I've racked up my unfair share of mayorships of mediocre venues - from Grewalz Liquor & Groceries and Susan's Donuts to Carl's Jr. and the A&D Food Mart. In addition to these crowned venues, I've also racked up stops at businesses from gas stations to post offices, banks and restaurants on the Peninsula. But now we have a problem.

This Friday, I moved. I didn't go too far. Just about 2.3 miles, if Google Maps is to be believed. But this, in terms of Foursquare, might as well have been 230 miles, because now, the old Safeway, where I had 18 check-ins, has been replaced with one where I've only visited a single time. The same issue rings true at the world's favorite mini-mart, 7-11, where I had six check-ins and now have to start over from scratch.

You might have seen CardStar's news of integrating with you. Heck, what am I talking about? Of course you know. Well, they're doing this tie-in with loyalty cards, and as far as these "new" venues see it, I've never been there before. I might as well be some tourist who stumbled over from the airport in a compact Ford Focus that smells like vanilla.

Here's what I want. I want credit for time served. I want to migrate my check-ins from one 7-11 to the other. I want my check-ins from Safeway in Sunnyvale to move to the um... other Safeway in Sunnyvale. I want to move my check-ins from one Burger King to another and from one Wells Fargo to another. I'm even willing to take a hit in the conversion. Maybe my 10 checkins are now worth 6 or something. Put Siobhan Quinn on the case - I know she's smart and the math isn't too rough. I'll even send over an Excel doc if it speeds things up.

It's not that I am a Foursquare addict. Surely I'm not. There's no way. I mean, yes, I did speak at last week's Geo-Loco conference, but that was just a favor for a friend, right?

So pass along a "He's Moved!" badge and let's get this conversion going. Don't make me look like a N00b.

- Louis Gray (@lgloco)

July 25, 2010

Supertrackr Tracks "Anything" on the Web, Instantly

Thanks to advances in the Web's real-time infrastructure over the last few years, our acceptance of latency or delay in discovery has practically been eliminated. We don't want to wait minutes or hours or days for news and information, and the freshness of content is essential. Often, when people want a near-instant reaction to world events, they're not looking to a filtered editorially driven source, such as CNN or Yahoo! News, but instead, they are looking to social networks like Twitter and Facebook, and often blogs, to get the very latest.

This drive to be completely up to date has led to the development of tools that drive instant notification of "matches" to saved queries. Early in Twitter's infancy, one had the option to "track" a word and get instant notification of its being tweeted. But due to Twitter's rapid growth and some infrastructure holes, the feature has long since been dead. In its place has risen third-party tools and products that tap into Pubsubhubbub, a real-time notification protocol powering most of the world's blogs today, and many different content sites.

Among the most aggressive promoters of Pubsubhubbub and real-time notifications has been Julien Genestoux of Superfeedr, an infrastructure for real-time parsing of feeds in the cloud. Superfeedr recently launched a "Track" tool to instantly find Atom-based entries that match keywords pushed to a developer's application.

Chatting With Supertrackr and Tracking Results for Android

One of the simpler and more interesting applications of this tool that I have seen is called Supertrackr. Developed by @Harper, Supertrackr operates within any Jabber-based IM client (or Google Talk), and lets you follow or remove keywords, via something of a command line, and get updates instantly. The app taps into Google's App Engine and Superfeedr to drive results into your chat window as new entries.

Removing Android, and Seeing Updates on Other Keywords

For practical purposes, you probably don't want to "track" popular terms like "twitter" or "android" or "e-mail" because your chat window from Supertrackr would get flooded and you would have new entries before you even acknowledged the last ones. I tried, and it works, as advertised. Operating Supertracker is as easy typing "/track word" to follow a term and "/remove word" to stop. So if you are in a Jabber-based IM client or use Google Talk often, you could be leveraging Supertracker to find all URLs discussing hot topics, or following your company or brand.

Twitter may not have brought Track back, despite Steve Gillmor's insistence they do, but other developers are filling the gap to get us closer to that monitoring utopia of instant notifications on anything from any source anywhere. Check out Supertrackr at http://www.supertrackr.com/ or Superfeedr at http://superfeedr.com.

Blippy Reviews are Crowdsourced Product Feedback Engine

Some of the original feedback on Blippy, the purchase sharing service that tracks your linked spending, said the service was about as exciting as reading old receipts. But as the service matures and gains new features, we are seeing the content expand, making the network a potentially vast repository for first-person reviews of brands, products or customer service. Just as Foursquare has learned, the simple act of a status update displaying one's location or item purchase is not enough to build a community or a company. Instead, it takes personality and emotionally-tinged feedback around that experience. For Foursquare, this content comes in through tips you can leave when you check in to a venue. For Blippy, this comes when you add a purchase and can describe what you bought, and whether you would recommend it to a friend. And if you see these reviews on Blippy, you can let the reviewer know what you thought of their update.

Hover Over the Unicorn and Discover It's Just a Man In a Unicorn Suit

Longer-term Blippy users have no doubt seen the frequent of a new mascot (a man in a unicorn costume) nagging them to review purchases. By heading to http://blippy.com/review/, one is prompted to "tell your story" quickly and move to your next purchase. From here, as with Foursquare, we can learn whether you loved that burger you chowed down, or whether you think you got ripped off by your cell phone provider. And you can see where this is going - massive user-driven feedback, accumulated by individual brands or products, to provide brands with subjective value, and to provide potential consumers with the same, either in aggregate, or from individual friends whose opinions you trust.

My quick review of a U-Haul purchase on Blippy.

The resulting short, public, review on Blippy.

As co-founder Philip Kaplan wrote me in an e-mail tonight after I pinged him regarding the updates, "The idea is to make it both easier for people to interact with each other, and have better "structured" data around which reviews are great, and why (funny/informative/weird/etc). We haven't used the data yet to make the site better, but it should be kind of awesome when we do."

This direction becomes even more clear when you see any specific brand's page within the entirety of the Blippy network. For example, when viewing the Best Buy page, you can "nudge" the 875 people who have entered updates from Best Buy on Blippy to write reviews of their experience. You can also nudge the more than 2,400 who downloaded the Foursquare app or the nearly 300 AT&T Mobile customers to do the same. Not unsurprisingly, companies like AT&T don't fare nearly as well as others, but when an entire community is pointing out issues with similar purchases, it can be used as a warning to future buyers within the network.

Someone Likes Your Blippy Review, Or So Says Your E-mail

Also new to Blippy of late is an amusing way to provide feedback to reviews. Rather than the "thumbs up/thumbs down" or +1 approach seen from many black and white feedback services, Blippy has stayed true to Kaplan's history and kept a humorous edge. One can click under any review to mark it as "awesome", "funny", "informative", "omgwtf", or simply ask to "tell me more". The simple action of clicking any of these options sends an e-mail to the reviewer to show somebody has interacted with their content, and bumps the review to the top of the network's reviewed items list, giving it another shot at people's eyeballs.

The move to highlight reviews is such a big deal for Blippy that only shared purchases with reviews show up on the service's home page. No longer will you see a stream of non-active updates (as is often the problem of real-time services like FriendFeed or Cliqset), but instead, your entire feed will be made from updates where users have taken the time to tell you more.

"We just launched this new design yesterday and expect to continually tweak the algorithm to show the best stuff on the homepage." Kaplan said. "Right now it's pretty simple -- the last review to be "acted upon" (commented, awesome'd, etc) shows up on top -- kinda like a message board where the thread with the most recent comment shows up first. But we may move to a more Digg-like feed, where the "most interesting" items show up first."

Whether it be due to the highly-visible security bug that hit a small number of accounts a few months ago, one met with rapid response, or due to "Yet Another Social Network" fatigue, talk amongst industry watchers says the site has had less traction than originally anticipated, considering its market leadership and feature set, but Kaplan correctly says that a "ton" of purchases have been shared, and "the numbers look great".

Site-wide data is now accumulated not just for brands, but users as well. For example, my Blippy profile highlights how often other users have tagged my reviews as "awesome" or "funny", and shows my engagement with the site, as the number of updates I've posted with reviews is shown alongside those without. No doubt the most engaged users who update their reviews more frequently with value can gain the visibility of the community and grow in stature.

So too can Blippy grow in stature if the site's newest features are adopted by users, driving promote greater utility, engagement and community. For me, the combination of Foursquare check-ins, followed by Blippy updates, and now reviews, gives people a full circle view into where I am going, where I am spending my money, and why I am making those choices. If Foursquare is the first step to say you have arrived, then Blippy is the next step to show what you did there. Blippy may be the less understood of the pair, but the latest additions bring it ever closer to a powerhouse of real responses to real actions. It's not just that I "like" something, but that I paid for it. Now I am even more likely to tell you why.

You can find me on Blippy at http://www.blippy.com/louisgray.

July 24, 2010

Friendly: The Best Facebook Experience for iPad

Facebook is the most popular social networking site in the world. The iPad is probably the hottest gadget in the world. It makes sense that the two products are on a collision course, as an increasing number of mobile Web users experience Facebook through their tablets and touch screens. But so far, Facebook has not yet debuted an iPad-optimized experience, relying on its solid iPhone application and its mobile Web site to make do. In this vacuum comes Friendly, from the team that brought you Twazzup, the innovative Twitter Web client, and the results, as you should expect, are very good. The experience is optimized for touch, and takes full advantage of the iPad's screen real estate. If the app were available free from the iTunes store, I would encourage everyone to switch immediately. As it is, its $4.99 pricetag is still alluring for those tired of compromise when it comes to Facebook and the iPad.

The Facebook Feed Experience Through Friendly on iPad

Cyril Moutran, cofounder and CEO of Twazzup, and previously the founder of Yokway, said in an e-mail yesterday that over the last few months the company has shifted its development efforts to the tablet format, and Friendly is the first major launch bearing the fruits of that labor.

As you can expect, thanks to the nature of the product, Friendly brings all the major elements of Facebook directly to the iPad, including browsing the news feed, full of updates from your friends, and enabling you to take actions on those items, or update your own status. The application is delivered in a very clean way, with tabs for "Live Feed", "Events" and outstanding "Requests".

My Facebook Profile Tab in Friendly On iPad

This tabbed model trumps the button selections on today's Facebook for iPhone offering. In those cases, selecting a section (like Photos) siloed your activity, while Friendly keeps you one click away from all major parts of the site. Atop the application are quick links to "Home", "Profile", "Friends" and your Facebook in box. As you navigate the product, you can hit any of these options, or click the back arrow to return to the previous page - just like a real browser, which is how the product is described.

Like Twazzup, Friendly Gets Rich Media Right

Like a real browser, Friendly does not compromise in its capabilities either. Clicking a YouTube ,video displays it in full glory on the iPad's screen, and you also gain the opportunity to edit Facebook fan pages, if you are an administrator, an increasingly important position for the network as activity morphs from being completely casual to more professional.

Editing a Facebook Fan Page on Friendly

There are some who may balk at putting down five bucks for a network which itself is free, but it seems the company has delivered a premium app for a premium product in the iPad. The product is built from day one for he touch-driven experience, and is certainly worth looking into. You can find Friendly on the iTunes store here: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/friendly-facebook-browser/id382011064?mt=8

July 23, 2010

textPlus Boosts Popular Texting App With Communities

textPlus, the popular application for iDevices and Android that lets you text or group text for free, launched version 2.5 of their app on Thursday with a major new enhancement that delivers a pinch of nostalgia, thanks to the debut of communities based on topics that are reminiscent of the Web gone by - harking back to early AOL and Compuserve forums when "A/S/L?" meant a lot more than DSL. The searchable communities database brings with it the potential to connect people of similar interests across the Web - to chat, via text, in real time.

Just like the AOL chatrooms of old, practically any sensical term searched already has results, initiated by textPlus users fanatical about any topic - be it to discuss television shows American Idol and Glee, to adore cute little puppies in the Dogs room, or the mainstays of public forums, sports, technology, and yes... porn (although I assume text porn is pretty tame).

textPlus Finds Your Contacts in Your Address Book for Texting

textPlus has gained a significant following for its free alternative to carrier-based texting, and the option to carry on conversations with a group of friends through the app - something US telcos have not yet solved, even as international carriers have. The company's move to create topic-based discussions, no matter the source, helps transform the product to a portable community for any Apple or Android mobile device.

Becoming a Member of a textPlus Community

Since I first tiptoed into textPlus last year, the product has added several new features that provide serious polish. You can opt out of its add-supported model for a full 12 months by paying $2.99 (which I did), and you can even scan your local address book (at least on the iPad version) to find which of your friends are already using the app, making them very easy to send texts to. The iPad app is especially sharp, bringing text chats into both portrait and landscape modes in full screen.

One Popular Group Has 100 Members and is Full

If you find communities in textPlus that strike your fancy, click "become a member" and you will be following that community's updates. You can also leave any community by swiping left to right and choosing "Leave". The product's simplicity was welcome, and might even be too easy to join or start communities, as many rooms feature just the initial creator, while others, like one on "Dogs" was at its limit of 100 registrants. I would be intrigued by textPlus opening the option to more than 100 active users for hot topics, and seeing the conversation blossom.

A Hot Community in textPlus

You can find more about textPlus' new app and its free texting communities at http://www.textplus.com/ or on iTunes and the Android Marketplace. textPlus is a product of Gogii, a Kleiner Perkins-funded startup based in Southern California.

July 21, 2010

Video: Five Myths About LinkedIn You Need to Get Over

After last week's post showing how many people use LinkedIn as a stale resume repository and are not tapping into the business network's many benefits, a follow-up video has surfaced from YourBusinessChannel highlighting common myths about the network.

Have you run into the issue where you think you have enough connections on LinkedIn and don't need any more? Ask yourself a follow-up question - does your business have so much revenue you could not possibly need another dollar?

Mark Perl, a renowned LinkedIn expert, and I talk about the value of the network, contrasted with other sites, including Google and Facebook, and how you can take your static profile and make it an active one with new connections and recommendations.

July 20, 2010

Flipboard Unveils Social Magazine for iPad, Buys Ellerdale

The iPad played a major role in today's record-setting earnings from Apple, and strong sales of the device are helping developers find new ways to leverage the product's screen and form factor, at the intersection of the portability of the mobile Web and the power of a desktop. Tonight, a new company called Flipboard debuts with an iPad app that brings your social streams into a completely new light - no longer the world of chronologically ordered status updates and one-liners, but instead, rich graphical pages, which can be flipped, like a magazine from one screen to the next as you go further back in time. The result is a highly compelling way to consume the news your friends share, and it immediately trumps all other RSS-based solutions for the iPad in terms of user experience.

Flipboard emerges tonight after lifting the shroud of secrecy on the project. The company has raised millions from VC firms including Kleiner Perkins, and the company has already made an acquisition, that of the Ellerdale Project. The Ellerdale team will be leaving their Menlo Park offices and joining Flipboard in Palo Alto at the combined companies' new headquarters, as they work on the new app. As I met with the team today, they described the fit as a perfect combination of Flipboard having an amazing front-end with Ellerdale providing strong back-end data. Ellerdale, if you may recall, was among the first partners to gain full access to Twitter's firehose of data.

A Full Flipboard With Nine Tiles

You Can Add Twitter Lists to Your Flipboard

Upon downloading Flipboard to the iPad, users are prompted to follow a number of curated collections of news sources, supplied by the app, or to connect their social streams, starting with Twitter and Facebook, to one of 9 squares, aligned in a 3x3 grid. You can even add Twitter lists you have made, to see a subset of those you follow in a new way.

Future versions of the app are expected to offer more than nine tiles, and will also see support for new networks, likely including Google Buzz.

After years of getting used to paging from the top down to see one-liner updates with a URL that launches a Web browser, Flipboard brings us back to the more traditional days of a cover page and flipping casually left to right to get to later pages of a magazine. Rich media from Twitter, Facebook or any other feed is displayed in line, including photos and video, and Web links are displayed with a preview excerpt of the story - while clicking out takes you to Safari on the iPad.

A Page on Flipboard Covering My Twitter Stream

In the past few years, we have seen the debate rage of whether Twitter has surpassed RSS readers in terms of finding the best content on the Web quickly. Flipboard helps make services like Twitter and Facebook much closer to RSS readers, with a much friendlier UI that makes sense even to the most casual non-geek.

Browsing Facebook on Flipboard is Actually Enjoyable

As the company described a meeting I had with them earlier today, this is the first "social magazine" for the iPad. The first page shows the most recent items from your stream, diving into the links shared from all those you follow, and as you flip the page left to right, you go back in time. Every person using the application has a different set of content and a personalized experience, based on their own social network.

Browsing My "MyFavoriteGeeks" List In Flipboard

While the application itself is downloadable for free, Flipboard is already thinking about rich ways to receive revenue. They explained their plans for full-page high quality ads, much like those in print magazines, and used similar language to that of Apple and iAds. But they didn't talk about a way to reward original content creators, or their downstream sharers, for their work. Theoretically, as third-party ads against RSS feeds have raised concern, this move may as well, unless it is assumed that third-party ads against excerpted articles is within the gray area.

A New Way to Read Hacker News!

In addition to browsing the articles themselves, you can see downstream conversation around the original content - be that comments on Facebook, or tweets from your friends that contain the specific URL. You can engage in that conversation from Flipboard by replying to Twitter shares or adding your own comments to Facebook, but it isn't aiming to be yet another Twitter client, so a TweetDeck or Seesmic killer this is not.

With Flipboard's unveiling, this closes the door on Ellerdale outright. Their site is expected to be made end of life as soon as tomorrow.

Twitter Ramps Up Sales Team, Hiring from Yelp, YouTube

With sponsored trending topics and tweets becoming more accepted and mainstream within the popular microblogging service, it's no surprise Twitter is expanding its sales ranks to drive more business. After years of users and armchair quarterbacks questioning how the popular service could ever make money, the company certainly looks to be graduating from the realm of venture capital bringing in the dollars and more to one targeting true income. A few of this week's newest hires demonstrate growth in the sales department, with titles that point to structure similar to established firms - much like others that have hit the 200+ person plateau as they have.

Twitter's closely-watched Employee List has now grown to 239 people. It's assumed nearly all are employees of the company, with some contract employees. Ten more were added to the company rolls on Monday, including former employees of Ning, Yelp and Google, with total hires in 2010 approaching or just passing 100 on the year.

In past months, the plurality of new hires at the company have seemingly been engineers focused on helping the company expand its offerings or scale with continued growth, intermixed with the occasional UI expert or HR person. While those hires continue (see: Scott Smith, former Sys Admin for Ning @ohlolohlol and Alan Liang, formerly of Yahoo! @mixmasteralan), the more interesting new employees are those focused on revenue, including Amanda Levy (@amandalevy) and Josh Grau (@grauface).

Amanda was most recently director of sales at Yelp, after 4 years at the company, where she started as an account executive. Her LinkedIn profile claims her new title is Director of Sales, West at Twitter. Having a Director of Sales, West indicates similar positions at other regions, as the team builds. Josh was previously the head of business development of branded entertainment at Google's YouTube, and now bills himself as Program Sales & Marketing at Twitter. Not the only YouTuber to join team Twitter of late, Josh is joined by Sara Mustin (@saramustin), previously a partner technology manager at YouTube.

In addition to the publicly expanding sales staff and YouTube alumni, also joining Twitter this week are Terra Craig (@terrabirdy), Dan Coughlin (@DanTCoughlin), Justin Chen (@leftparen), Shane Connor (@shanecon123) and Pat Chan (@patc888). Given the low tweet numbers for some of the new hires, it's likely these are not primary accounts or are work friendly and not their personal streams.

July 18, 2010

KickPost Predicts Popular Posts for Top Tech News

As technology news sites have proliferated in the last few years, so too have technology news aggregators looking to find the best of the Web and surface it quickly - either through social voting mechanisms, insightful editorial picks, or complicated algorithms. In addition to the Diggs and Slashdots of the world, one finds Hacker News and Techmeme as the gold standards offering the front page of today's tech news. Now, there is a new site that has entered the fray - though minimalist for now - armed with what the founder calls a predictive algorithm which just might find top stories faster than anybody else.

The site is called KickPost (http://www.kickpost.com) and it comes from the hand of Caleb Elston @calebelston, the vice president of products at Justin.TV, who is also known to frequent blog readers here as the man behind Toluu, the RSS discovery site, and the gift recommendation site, Kallow.

One Item from KickPost Shows The Time of Post, Source and an Excerpt

In a discussion on Hacker News about the launch of KickPost, Elston describes the site as a "new tech news aggregator that uses a predictive algorithm based on historically popular stories to predict which stories will be popular in realtime." He adds, "We are about 20min faster at predicting hot stories than Techmeme."

Another Top Story on KickPost

The site displays the headlines of predicted top stories, as well as a short excerpt, the author's name and the post source - with the headline linking to the original story and the source to the blog's main page. Stories are ordered chronologically, with the most recent at the top, and older ones below, with a time stamp showing how recently the posts entered KickPost's index, and the page automatically refreshes when new stories enter the index.

From a quick perusal of the site, it's clear that top tech stories are making it into the index - and they are being found fast. But the site sources are very common to so-called A-List blogs that dominate many other sites, including VentureBeat, Gizmodo, TechCrunch, and Lifehacker. Where more editorially-driven sites, including Techmeme, have an advantage is through manual discovery - something a purely algorithm-driven site like KickPost can't catch. The one-off top stories from new sources will have a tough time making the index, from what I can tell, even after scrolling back 2 days into past KickPost content.

Given Caleb's history for parsing RSS feeds and finding how your own likes intersect with those from the community, I would anticipate where KickPost would really gain value over the competition is through personalization and building the top stories in near real-time based on individual's preferences, not just through beating Techmeme and others by a handful of minutes with headlines from top blogs. But it's a site we'll be watching.

Find KickPost at http://www.kickpost.com/ and on Twitter at @kickpost.

Could You Replace Facebook.com With a Desktop Client?

Even as many desktop applications are migrating to the Web in the form of Web services and Web apps, some popular Web services are going the opposite way, as desktop clients are created for popular social networks, or to bring alerts to changes on the Web outside of your browser. From the seemingly-ancient desktop RSS readers to the more mainstream Twitter clients, we have seen the migration is bidirectional. But what about Facebook? The site considered to be the second-largest by some measures and the largest overall by others on the entire Web, jousting with Google, doesn't seem to have the groundswell of development focused on bringing updates from the site to the PC as Twitter does, but there are options.

The easiest route to getting Facebook to the desktop for the most connected social media users is through existing Twitter clients which also support Facebook. TweetDeck and Seesmic let you add your Facebook account as a supported account, as does Brizzly for the Web. In the cases of Seesmic and TweetDeck, Facebook updates scroll down in a single column alongside other services you have connected - from Twitter, of course, to recent adds, including Foursquare, Google Buzz or LinkedIn.

But in addition to these Twitter clients who give Facebook a passing nod, there are a few dedicated Facebook desktop apps that leverage Adobe AIR, bringing the network to you.

Facebook for Adobe AIR In Action

Similar to the Twitter clients, the simply titled "Facebook for Adobe AIR" shows all news feed activity in a single column stream, and lets you comment or like from within the app, while any links take you the Web browser. It's basic, but does what you would expect. As you have to visit the app to see updates, the benefit to running the client on its own is minimal over the Web experience, unless you just don't want your browser to be on constantly.

Facebook Desktop's Startup Experience

In contrast, a much newer app, called "Facebook Desktop", which has the somewhat enviable URL of www.facebookdesktop.com, eschews the column and stream format, simply showing you alerts, which if they gain your attention, are a click away. This is much like the FriendFeed Desktop Notifier, introduced before SXSW back in 2009. While it is an AIR app, like the others, it doesn't have that heavy feel on your laptop, and doesn't demand any screen real estate.

A Sample Update on Facebook Desktop

Once you open Facebook Desktop, you get instant updates to messages you have waiting, whether you have events pending, or even if you have been poked. As new entries on your friends' feeds are added, they pop up to the foreground and melt away if they don't draw your interest. You might find yourself looking around for the app window, but the minimalist approach doesn't have a central node at all. As ephemeral as some social updates can be, this isn't necessarily a bad thing. So you can be working on whatever other app you want on your desktop and still have Facebook notifications float to you.

Clients for Twitter have often been at the foreground of innovation for the service's platform. In this case, that fact has not been true for Facebook. Maybe their Web site is good enough. But if you want something else, there are alternatives.

July 15, 2010

Ecademy Co-Brands my6sense App for Business Network

my6sense, the company focused on digital intuition and hyperpersonalization of streams, including RSS and social streams such as Facebook and Twitter, has added a new partner in Ecademy, the UK-based social business network. Today, leveraging the company's API for content relevance and filtering, the two companies introduced a co-branded application in Apple's iTunes store that prompts Ecademy users to connect the network as an addition stream, bringing the individual personalization and relevancy filters my6sense is known for to a new community - much like they did when first tackling Twitter and Facebook after starting with RSS feeds at its core.

My New My6sense Stream With the Addition of Ecademy

The co-branded application behaves and looks much like the standard my6sense application, highlighting the feeds you pull into the program, and sorting them in order of assumed priority based on your own implicit activity. Over time, thanks to what articles you read or skip, among many other factors, the program continues to modify its algorithms to match you, bringing the assumed "most important" and most relevant content to the top - no matter their source. The Ecademy my6sense application, available here on the iTunes store for free, adds blogs from other Ecademy users to the mix, giving them an equal shot at your attention to streams from any other source.

Top Blogs Float to the Top of the Ecademy-My6sense App

In my testing of the new product, my6sense recognized my personalized profile from their database, and once linked to Ecademy, it was clear that the same process which has cleaned up my feed reading on the mobile phone works on this new source. Intriguing blog posts on technology companies I follow closely, like Google, Apple and social networks, rose to the top, and those that were less targeted were well below the fold.

The co-branded application is a good test case for my6sense's promise of filtering any streams on the Web that can be sorted by relevancy based on user behavior. Ecademy's broad base of users with wildly varying interests will probably find the product a welcome introduction that brings relevant posts their way, while reducing the visibility of the rest.

Disclosures: my6sense is a client of Paladin Advisors Group, where I am managing director of new media. I have done previous speaking work and other paid activity with Ecademy, including a social media retreat in February. I did not gain early access to this product, nor did representatives from either company see copy prior to posting.

July 14, 2010

Seesmic for Android Adds Support for Google Buzz

My personal switch from iPhone to Android (much more visible than I ever had anticipated) was made easy due to the existence of high quality applications I already was familiar with from the iPhone platform, enabling me to simply migrate and not lose a step. Among the best applications, one I rely on daily, is Seesmic, which, in contrast to the native Twitter application for Android, comes with multiple account support, and the goal of supporting multiple networks.

Today, the great news comes that Seesmic is adding integration of another one of my most-frequent destinations on the Web - Google Buzz.

Signing In With Multiple Accounts, Including Google Buzz

The new Seesmic, available on the Android Market, adds Google Buzz support, inline preview of images and links for Buzz and photos for Twitter, and also adds OAuth support - the login standard for Twitter.

The Google Buzz Timeline In Seesmic for Android

The launch of Google Buzz's API resulted in multiple applications tapping into the growing network, and making Google's current social offering as easy to access as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other top communities. We saw the debut of Buzz support in TweetDeck and Seesmic Desktop, and Seesmic is the first major Twitter client to bring Buzz support to mobile Android platform - a perfect fit for geeks who are leveraging the Google platform as much as I am.

To aid the onboarding of its newest customers, it makes sense for Twitter to keep its core applications to be single-network centric, but for the rest of us who participate in multiple places, the option to do so in one app, like Seesmic, is welcome.

As for Google Buzz, you know you can find me here: http://www.google.com/profiles/louisgray.