Blog posts tagged "collaboration"

Rick Skrenta: What do you do when your success … sucks?

April 3rd, 2007

Stone Cottage pointed to a great post by Rick Skrenta, CEO of Topix (and mad mind behind NewHoo/DMOZ for those who can remember back that far) on the Topix re-launch.

Lot of really interesting stuff about identifying a brand’s core value and putting it into practice. But also a phenomenal laundry for a problem that has stumped a lot of us, how to make a local news site succeed. Including:

  • Anthropomorphize our existing technology into the roboblogger. This was a brilliant idea from one of our lead engineers. It simultaneously solves three problems:

    1. Booting up a new city — you need posting activity to draw the first editors. The roboblogger would give us that. But he is shy and gets out of the way if humans show up and take over a page.
    2. If the community editors go on vacation, the roboblogger can step back in and take over while they’re gone.
    3. People know when a robot is editing the page vs. a human. His profile icon is a picture of a little tin-can robot. His handle is ‘roboblogger’.
    No more confusion.

A project has to already have value to draw a valuable volunteer base, this is the classic and yet fundamentally hard problem with boot strapping all local sites. But as soon as you have volunteers your contract with them is to rain attention and love down upon their contributions. roboblogger is a really neat hack to handle the delicate balance of a site’s lifecycle and mix community and data mining techniques in social software. Looking forward to watching it play out.

On Complexity

December 1st, 2006

On a list I’m on there was a proposal to do a quick salary survey among the members. The proposed solution for handling this was

Everyone say ‘I’m in’ to get onto a list of N people participating. Then write down N numbers, positive or negative, that add up to your salary and send 1 of them to everyone else on the list. Add the N-1 numbers you receive to the number you didn’t pass out, and announce that to the list. The sum of those numbers is the total salary. If N-2 people gang up on you they can’t guess yours. As a bonus, you can always back out at the last minute before divulging your own sum without having given anything away.

Which you got to admit is a beautifully simple, and elegant solution to the problem of sharing sensitive information in a low trust environment.

The solution? A 7 line Perl CGI to just write salaries to a log, and a good faith promise not to track IP addresses.

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Collaboration, an open source CalDav from Apple

August 8th, 2006

I missed it, I’d even seen the inimitable Wilfredo on the lists and it went right by me, but I ran into Nat last night at Buzz’s WWDC party, and he rather riveted my attention (as I think he knew he would), that iCalServer announced yesterday? Turns out its an open source CalDav server, written in Python (Twisted), Apache 2.0 license, with great unit test coverage. (which bodes well for the trial by fire known as interop)

Btw. Collaboration’s homepage seems to be a Trac install which is sputtering, and crying. Under load?

update: Um, and how long as Cyrus Daboo been signing his emails “Apple Software Engineer”? Yup, I was asleep.

update 2: wsz confirms trac unhappiness (and my Twisted inside observation), I guess I just got in in time, if you email me, I’ll send you a tarball of the src.

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Book Mooch

August 7th, 2006

Ah yeah! Haven’t played with it in depth yet, but this is the service I’ve wanted forever (and Carl and I seriously sat down and threatened to build).

From Joi Ito

It reminds me a bit of BookCrossing, but the approach is different. BookMooch is more systematic. On BookMooch, you register your books and others search for books. You use points to get books that you earn by listing books. Unlike many other used book services, they don’t get involved in the shipping and payment. It’s rather peer-to-peer.

Which is all I know so far, but I’m so diving into this tonight. From the creator of Magnatune. (I wonder if they’ve already got selective importing from the various book listing services

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Social Software Needs a “Significant Other” Option

July 4th, 2006

Private, friends|family, do not share, etc. It’s very useful to be able to flag certain data you store as private; links or photos, event attendance, or notes. These simple defaults allow us to manage our data without the complex overhead of maintaining ACLs (a task almost no one is obsessive enough to manage)

But it would be nice if there was a way to re-define privacy on these sites so as to enable sharing among partners without the single account/password swapping solutions. Looking at the statistics I have to think this is not a niche feature.

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Yelp Feature Request

May 25th, 2006

I’d like to be able to filter Yelp reviews to only those by self-identified vegetarians. Yelp could you make this happen please? Or at least allow people to flag themselves as such (I could imagine other categories, like “I keep Kosher”) and perhaps decorate their profile icons with a little glyph.


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SF Techsession, Vast, April 1, and Verticals

April 1st, 2006

SF Techsession 2: Communities and Interaction was a vast improvement over the previous one. Better presenters, better products, better questions, better venue, better food, better open bar.

I confess that I was mildly disturbed that I was able to make it two instances of a monthly even in SF given that I love 3000 miles away, but I can’t imagine there is a third topic as close to my heart as community or calendaring.

Vast on April 1st

Apropos, one of the participant, Vast, the “vertical search platform” has the only funny April Fool’s gag I’ve seen. (I’m not a fan of the holiday) They announced their Credit Cards vertical search today, and its a nicely done implementation. (Vast’s trademark low budget web design adds credibility to the whole gag)

Vast is making noise by “giving it all away”, they’re catchy “Steal this Site” link at the bottom of each page captures the imagination. Except they aren’t giving me the one thing that would be most valuable for both of us. I want to build vertical of data I care about, and Vast wants to learn about new segments, talk about an architecture of participation waiting to happen.

My take away was an idea with the same sense of inevitability that Epinions had, and I worried about similar deep conceptual flaws.

Home Rolled Verticals and Blogs

Speaking of which why aren’t any of the blog search engines distinguishing themselves by providing a search platform ala Amazon’s Alexa Web Information Service? While its relatively challenging to figure out how do something cool with Alexa’s raw index (hence the need for DIY interface to Vast), everybody seems to have a story about what they would do if could convincing crawl the blog/conversation space.

The Others

Skobee is a slick and simple as it seems, built by ex-PlumTree’ers (the folks who also built O’Reilly’s Connection. Also presenting Songbird, and Mozes

Social Search and Aesthetic Judgement

March 29th, 2006

Great quote from Thomas Hawk comparing image search engines

“If I were Google and Microsoft right now I’d be thinking about where I could find about 2 million or so users to rank my pictures on the cheap rather than wasting time on all this other stuff.”.

Still I think 2006+ is going to be about rediscovering that smart computers can help us get value from the rankings of handful of personally relevant opinions as well as 2M strangers in aggregate.

update [2006/4/3]: It was pointed out to me that Google has a stake in von Ahn’s ESP game (not to mention a whole new CMU/Pittsburgh lab focusing on data mining and AI).

Suppressed, an alternative to Private

February 12th, 2006

The “public by default” nature of blogging, Flickr, and has been key to their success where earlier attempts have failed. Still there is a huge amount of info out there that is sensitive. In particular there is a large swathe of it which is time sensitive: research for a present or a presentation, research for a new product or a new job, information which gives away too much information about current intentions or physical location or security vulnerabilities, .

In fact I would argue that there is a significant overlap between the information we’re not yet ready to share, and our best, most in-depth research. The information we’re most likely to make private is the information that would most likely be useful to others.

Opaque, for a little while

So what’s an alternative to making the information private? Suppressing it; push the information down below the transparency level, and let it bob back to the surface at a later date. In 6 months the birthday will be a distant memory and the issue of a present a done deal, your Web2.0 startup will have already launched and been acquired, and so on.

Right now the public/private spectrum is 2-dimensional, if we take the time to build, maintain, and garden our social networks then we can add a dimension of public for friends/family/colleagues, but currently that requires serious investment. Time is a simpler dimension (it progresses largely without intervention), and yet adds a great deal of flexibility.

A Couple of Refinements

Re-suppression. Once information has been made public on the Web, it’s nearly impossible to remove it again. So systems with suppression need to be proactive about notifying before information slip into the public, and giving you the option to push it down for another 6 months.

Variable translucency. Once the rubber ducky of secret information has been pushed down, it might not be seen again until the privacy window expires, but it is also possible that as it gradually bobs it’s way back to the surface it will become start to become visible through the translucent bath water, gradually revealing more over time.

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