The Social Networker

by Chris Miller at 01:33:59 PM on Monday, July 28th, 2008
When you see one of the previous engineers from Google search, that also happened to invent a search technology that Google bought, state they went out on their own and made a better one, you jump to try it.   Apparently no one said that when I jumped there was no safety net.  Incredibly disappointing to start.  You cannot make such a large boast, open your doors and have empty shelves in the store

Cuil (pronounced 'cool') is currently, appropriately named.  As it is not hot, nor does it give better results so far.  It just opened today for processing searches.  I get that much.  But I did not expect the disappointment I received after reading this:
For starters, Cuil's search index spans 120 billion Web pages.

Patterson believes that's at least three times the size of Google's index, although there is no way to know for certain. Google stopped publicly quantifying its index's breadth nearly three years ago when the catalog spanned 8.2 billion Web pages.

Cuil won't divulge the formula it has developed to cover a wider swath of the Web with far fewer computers than Google. And Google isn't ceding the point: Spokeswoman Katie Watson said her company still believes its index is the largest.

After getting inquiries about Cuil, Google asserted on its blog Friday that it regularly scans through 1 trillion unique Web links. But Google said it doesn't index them all because they either point to similar content or would diminish the quality of its search results in some other way. The posting didn't quantify the size of Google's index.

While I still have hopes that the results will get strong as they finish cleaning and updating, for now you are still getting better results elsewhere.  This is a hard start for anyone wishing to challenge Google in searching.  I did appreciate the limited filter to attempt to provide a clean filter, mainly when doing demos and such on stage and don't like Google surprises.  While not perfect, it did a decent job.

The suggestions of alternate searches was also very welcome and did pen some doors to sites I might have missed with my query.  It was not clear that is what the site did until I clicked around the top some when I first tried searches.

Image:Suggesting Cuil made me look like a fool (for now)

The results are shown in blocks (much like Alltop and any other widget looking site) instead of one long column.  This leads you to see things a bit easier, yet the actual results were highly scattered or missing.  Simple searches for my own names (TheSocialNetworker and IdoNotes) returned some hits, but not even the pages of the sites themselves.   Give it a shot, since I know you will.

by Chris Miller at 04:36:43 PM on Sunday, July 27th, 2008
I ran across yet another site that relies heavily on presence and location.  From their own description:
ZKOUT (pronounced "scout") is the social tool that instantly connects you to the people and places around you. Let your friends know what you are doing and where you are in real time from your mobile phone or computer

From logging in, it looks a bit like BrightKite if you use that service.  A living map shows who is close to you.
  • Registration was quite simple: a username, email and password
  • You can choose a built in image or upload your own
  • Type in where you are by city and state or even closer down to the street address
Updates may be done from the web interface, or by mobile phone at this site.

The  make of the site is Wichro, who stated the following about the site in an article on CNET:
A month later, Zkout has 20,000 users (a third of them with iPhones) and the company is working hard to take the next step this summer--going commercial by getting the attention of carriers.

Quite an impressive start to a new site.  All your previous locations are listed in a nice dropdown list for quick access and you can even use the mobile site.

Your homepage lists where you currently are and let's you post pictures and comments about the location.  The Explore option will show users of the site around you in a Google Map mashup.  Connecting with existing friends is a pull from your address books.  You have about 9 built in choices including Google, Yahoo, Linked and AOL mail systems.

Notifications can be made by email or SMS (you have to authorize and register your phone).  Fire Eagle integration also exists to populate numerous networks.  Notes about your sites can even be submitted to Twitter (as expected)

Overall the UI (based on Flash) was easy enough to use and easy enough on the eyes.  A blue background with big letters made navigation easy.  There were not too many options that I felt over burdened with using the site, nor was there too few that I felt it could do a ton more.

It was simply another location presence site to post where I am and have it blasted all over.  Worth a shot if you don't use one already

by Chris Miller at 10:10:48 AM on Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008
The reports have started coming in already:
That is a pretty harsh list to begin operations with.  I get the feeling Apple was rushed into meeting a hidden deadline for release and the software 2.0 was not fully baked.  The developers were put under pressure to get this new 3G device ready, without proper testing of all aspects.  Having to reset your device to factory defaults more than once to keep it working is a sure way to have them returned right back to the Apple stores.  If you have not totally tested a device that you know will form lines around stores, down blocks and have people standing for all hours to get one, then don't ship yet.  It is funny how often we have to say that to hardware and software manufacturers.  I know the race is on, even though the iPhone still has an insignificant share of the business smart phone market, but they want it.  That is apparent.  However, corporations have high standards in the devices they select and having a phone die on a CEO or CIO will have the iPhone tossed out on it's iButt..

Image:The new iPhone - Did Apple Ship Too Soon? and the new iBat

The numerous posts alone on battery life should have been a show stopper.  Any device that is used to be used as a primary communication device as well as personal smart phone, PDA, butler and whatever else can fit on there better darn well last more than a few hours.  Soon we will see people with large Apple logos on their belts which are extra battery packs just to tote around an iPhone.  Soon to be called the Apple iBat

I will agree with Don in the post I link above, some of the charged rates for applications are a tad bit crazy.  I want a couple of them on my iPod Touch for use around the house on the wifi, and was shocked to see some of the higer end priced ones.

by Chris Miller at 10:49:10 AM on Monday, July 21st, 2008
I recently read a posting on the costs associated with purchasing and enabling your own corporate social network.  After I sat back and put some thought into it, the idea is not far fetched.  How long does it take you to gain any ROI from the effort?  The steps look like this:
  • Generate team (could be one unlucky person which then makes it a solo network, not a social network) to find possible software to test.  Keep in mind this team may never go on the hunt, but might sit through meeting after meeting while they are pitched.
  • Team then acquires the necessary hardware to run the application
  • Team then spends countless hours learning how to install the software so a bunch can get in there and play
  • A whole pilot should be formed, but is overlooked many times.  This now moves beyond a couple people into the tens of people that have to spend time learning and testing the new software
  • The team makes the necessary changes, and has the pilot group test yet again.
  • The above steps repeat, lather, rinse and repeat again
  • After the testing seems complete, then we lok at implementation
  • More meetings on architecture, SSL, load balancing, network placement, directory integration
  • After all this is done, we enter deployment
  • Deployment takes a couple people involved with a few teams to meet the above and then we go live
  • Users can now get in and use it
  • But this means they have to take training, unless they are wizards.  Some area are self explanatory, yet others take some effort
  • Once they get in, how do you keep them in and constantly putting in information
  • Then how long until the info in there is useful
  • Add in software maintenance and support by the way

What we have entered is a world that has a push for companies to draw out information that was never exposed properly.  Numerous employees spend a lot of time on social networks on a personal level.  But is it as entertaining as the Web 2.0 personal apps?  Heck no.  No one wants to share at work as they wish on the open Internet.  So the product either excels or languishes at this point.

Some users will then take to it and constantly update, fill in information and provide links.  Even start little communities.  The rest will sit blindly by since their day job doesn't have a need in their eyes.  Forget expanding what they know about company products, services and what people do.  They have to be taught how to explore outside those bounds.  Then enters the fight of lost productivity on what they were hired to do.  Is a social network something they were hired to do?  No, so where is the community manager?

This person is directly responsible for guiding topics, communities and being the local evangelist.  (See the above RWW article for a great amount of info) How much do they cost to add to the payroll?  Add all of this up, guess how long before you see a ROI benefit?  Does it ever occur?  

by Chris Miller at 05:57:03 AM on Friday, July 18th, 2008
I was shocked to see what Louis Gray reported on his blog yesterday:
They've also visibly tweaked the rate for authenticated API hits, first down from 70 to 20 and back up to 100. But until recently, unauthenticated API requests were unlimited, which all changed Wednesday night around 5 p.m. Pacific Time, when Twitter ratcheted them down to the same 100 per hour per IP address, effectively crushing many external services that relied on Twitter for their data. And this was done without public mention

I immediately see the good and bad movements by Twitter in this regard.  The change on their part was to keep the service alive.  With the increasing number of mashups, applications and tools being built, the servers are being slammed with traffic.  By limiting those unauthenticated applications (usually meaning not a person then) with limited or no access, they are able to survive yet another day.

With this move however, Twitter exposes themselves to losing part of the community and growth if developers are effectively shut out.  Unless you write an add-on client or one that requires a username and password to pull certain data, the current changes break your app down into a non-working webpage.

Solutions
So the solution, create a set of servers that allow unauthenticated access to the data at a slower rate.  API calls in this regard can then be only pointed at these servers instead of the primary 'cluster' that users port their tweets on.  While this may slow down the external apps in getting the most recent data, it will not shut them out completely.  Regular users and direct clients are then unobstructed.  This set of servers has it's own URL as part of Twitter and is segregated from the central user set.  Almost like a gateway.

Also, have developers writing clients retrieve a client id from Twitter themselves and register the client.  Twitter could then watch API traffic from each client type easily to see if it the sheer numbers of users on let's say Twhirl, or is it how the developer wrote the polling against the API. If you do not register to get a client id type, you might be throttled.  I do not see this as any paid move or a hard process, just something that must be presented to keep pulling the amount of API calls, even with authenticated access.

I would go deeper and provide diagrams and such but Twitter doesn't pay me :-)

by Chris Miller at 12:35:35 PM on Tuesday, July 15th, 2008
Twitter has no real revenue model in place.  Money is being brought in from investors still, as they struggle with growth.  Consumers of the service are actually handling business deals and negotiations, while Twitter sits idly by, while not always available recently, helping out.  If we compare how Twitter is going about earning their own revenue, they are almost announcing that they will not be in business long on their current pace.  Even with the current rumblings of it being worth 1 billion dollars.  The company is not worth the suggested market price, it is the users of the service that are being valued.  Let me explain my thought.

Everyone knows by now that Twitter sucked up the powerful Twitter search engine Summize (which kindly goes to http://search.twitter.com now).  I found it interesting this occurred after some more financing took place too.  Let's take a twist on the purchase.  Suppose they did not do it just to enhance their own ability to offer searches of past tweets.  Instead, they are bringing in Summize to augment an ad generated content stream that sees what you talk about and drives you down an ad path.  It sees keywords, topics, meta info and a billion other things.  From there, they sell ad space (in the tweets as short links) to targeted consumer spaces based on this meta information.

Imagine the amount of data you have shared about yourself via Twitter?  Location, foods, travels, friends, shows you attended, books you read, articles you read, music you listen to.  It goes on and on.  Summize has all of this, with your name attached.  You have effectivly opened yourself up to being targeted directly by vendors willing to spend money on 140 character text lines.  There is no TiVo to skip over the commercials, you will get them.  I imagine being able to block them out won't be an option either, unless you go premium paid service.  Also, all those nice little links you place in your tweets, imagine a redirector capturing where you go and what the content was.  From there, you get a small ad pop-up before you get the actual site.  The possibilities are endless, and you gave them the ammo.

Instant messaging clients followed this same trend if you had not noticed.  When the services first came out, providers such as AOL and Yahoo gave the service to members of their network.  AOL was a paid service and Yahoo was ad driven.  Then demand pushed them both into allowing anyone to use just the chat pieces.  It worked well to get their name as the leader until usage out grew infrastructure costs.  So AOL and Yahoo both inserted ads into their clients.  This ad revenue is not only blind, but based on other items of what you have done under your logged in name on their sites.  Twitter now has that same ability.

Doing a search, Aidan Henry on RWW brought this same idea up in May in this article.  He had a slightly different slant, saying maybe every 20 tweets would be an ad, but we btoh agree there would be a premium ad free model that costs users.  Coupled with this would be support for more advanced features.

by Chris Miller at 10:16:23 AM on Thursday, July 3rd, 2008
Corvida and I show off our enjoyment of Feedly, the new Firefox Extension that hooks into Google Reader

  • We will be posting the video capture shortly
  • the new Twitter hot site EverythingTwitter is growing
  • Corvida needs some good housing in Portland, OR








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