Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Flocks RSS Feed Folders

At long last I have started updating my website and my world of it blog, which are both well overdue a face lift and a bit of fresh content. As part of the process of deciding what I wanted to do with these spaces, I've been looking at lots of other interesting blogs and
website. Anyway, I decided pretty early on that I might as well add the rss feeds of the ones I found useful to the feeds tab in my browser as i went along. Pretty soon i'd got quite a selection, so I thought i'd better organised into folders to make finding them for a bit easier in the future.

Quite serendipitously, i discovered that flock deals with rss feeds in a really lovely way. If you have a number of feeds organised into a folder, it aggregates them for you. So when you click on a folder, you see all the entries from all of the sources within it sorted by date/time. This makes it really simple to see whats going on within that whole area, of course if you are interested in a specific feed, go can click on that particular feed and get just the data from that feed.

This may seem a really small thing, but like they say small things, please tiny minds, and i guess given the amount of time we all spend online these days, your choice of browser is a pretty personal thing. As far as i can tell explorer, firefox don't do this.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Introducing the Recommendation Engine

One of the problems with the internet has been that there is so much information out there, and so much being added every second, that its not possible to keep up. So how to you see through all this clutter to the information that matters to you?

Well, the answer is that you use social bookmarking sites like ma.gnolia or or content sharing and discovery site like stumbleupon, digg or mixx. These work by allowing you to see what information other people are looking at, or finding interesting. In effect its like a giant popularity contest the more people recommending a link the more likely it is to be displayed on the main page. Recently Yahoo introduced 'buzz' combining their search analytics with user recommendation.

In recent years there have been all sorts of interesting improvements to social discovery, in terms of the ways that information is displayed digglabs coming up with the stack, swarm, bigspy and arc and most recently pics options. While these are all really fun, they are still more entertaining than labour saving. Sure splitting the information into groups is useful, but its still not accurate enough to make it really useful.

I spend most of my day connected to the internet in one way or another, so its no surprise I have tried most of the social bookmarking and content sharing sites, and one of the things that i have always wished for, was the ability to submit a url to a site and have the site come back with recommendations on related information that i might find useful.

It would seem that this request was at last been answered, just launched a Beta of a service they are calling the recommentaion engine. The recommendation engine works in a quite complex way cross referencing what it knows about you, with what it knows about people with similar tastes to you, and what it knows about the url you submitted to come up with links to relevant information.

Flickr Update Home Page

Ahead of the role out of its new look home page to all users, flickr are offering users to option to opt into the new look design. The new layout is not to dis-similar to the original design, in fact i had to look several times before i could see where the changes were. Some elements have been move around a little, there is a great new stats option (bit more about that in a moment), there is an option to toggle between recent updates and recent activity and there are a couple of sections that display a random sections, so sometimes you'll see group images and othertimes interesting images from the last 7 days etc.

The biggest change that i found was the addition of the stats section, this shows a small graph of the hits to your site on the home page, when you click on the link you'll get an array of stats ranging from a graph of hits per day, to summary of how many images, sets and collections you have, where links came from, which are most popular and how many images have been favourited or are yet to be viewed. All of which I actually found very revealing.

In my opinion while the changes have been nicely done. Because on the surface they appear to be slight, you retain familiarity with the page, but what they have changed has add a great deal to to
the functionality of the page, putting even more information at your fingertips.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Facebook and Live Search

Facebook this week teamed up with Microsoft Live Search, to provide an internet search facility within the facebook platform. The search facility has been in the header since the introduction of the new look layout a couple of months ago, but previously only returned results from the facebook site, friend, group or application information that kind of thing.

Most browsers now have search bars these days, and many sites have a search the internet box somewhere, so why its not exactly heartstopping news. In fact Facebook didn't even make a big this of its introduction, so why have i bothered to blog about it? Well... there were 2 things that interested me, firstly its interesting that facebook chose to go with microsoft, not google when it came to search technology, and secondly was that fact that they chose to provide the results in there standard facebook formating. The implication being that facebook is becoming so large and portal like, that some of its users are more comfortable with their formating than they are with the standard google or msn search pages. In some ways reminiscent of the way AOL presented the internet in the 90's.

I have to admit that i wasn't a fan of the new facebook layout when it came out and I'm not convinced that this is a feature that i'm going to use. But I am beginning to see where they are going with the new layout and little by little, its becoming more usable.