Personalized search from Microsoft

May 5, 2010 by

Lili Cheng of Microsoft FUSE labs has been sharing with the web2.0 world their newest service, SPINDEX.  The goal for the services?  To “.  .help you get the most out of your social activity by exposing the right information, at the right time, in a way that’s meaningful.”

WOW, they don’t do small visions at Microsoft.  I think when you combine the right information and at the right time you are framing context.   There is presentation context and authoring context, really two sides of the same coin.  Its search that brings (Bings) the two contexts together.  Not being in SF this week, I did not get an access token to their site but my expectations are for an activity stream UI with some ‘filtering’ UI tools to make it different from e.g. a twitter or FB news feeds.  Lili concludes her blog post by saying, “There’s still much territory to be surveyed. . ” in these early days on the web.  I agree, this context awareness activity stream web will change the face of search.

Advertisements

Is openess all about monetization?

April 27, 2010 by

I have been reading in the blogosphere for a while now that the drive for website owners to make their users data open is down to monetization.  This assumes they own the individual users data or have given the individual the privacy controls to make themselves open.  Publishing a website is an open action.  Don’t want to be on the web, don’t launch a website.  OK, others will do it for you but web at heart is all about sharing.  In the dot.com era sharing was built around webpages, and the verb of choice was search, latterly renamed ‘googling’.  As all the webpages could be crawled and indexed (creating value in shared connections between the pages, ie. pagerank) meant that users could search across the web and in exchange for that attention a business model based around advertising, adsense or CPC was made real, as businesses saw the benefit of paying cash for ‘interfering’ in the users attention.  Web2.0 shifted the focus from the page to people.

This throws up a problem according to the Semanticweb blog for CPC advertising in a people centric world,

“1. Help me communicate better with people I already know. Facebook does this well but it is does not monetize well. And there are tons of alternatives – texting/SMS, mobile phone, email and Skype for example.

They go on to extend the case to the situation where there is no need to be mutually connected, i.e. twitter, follow people you don’t know but have an interest in.  In this model the whole system is built with open set as the default and in the case of Twitter a revenue stream for first access to that stream.  Both these business models seem limited and The Semanticweb blog suggests FB solution is,

“Consumers pay by buying stuff. And the social media revolution has reminded us that people buy based on recommendation of friends more than they do from ads (whether traditional or search based). That is intuitively obvious to everybody. What is different is a massively scalable way to deliver those recommendations to vendors selling stuff.”

They point out this is the market where Amazon.com rules.  An e-commerce walled garden of information that via FB ‘like’ button could be distributed across the social web, at least via FB and the developers using its API?  Ironically, we potentially have the case where a dot.com era business model is opened up and made distributed by a web2.0 social garden.  It ‘s progress and it is all heading in the direction of openness.  What about the individual users, is this their vision for web2.0 or are they just happy to follow the web visionaries along until they know what they have let themselves in to?

context competition

April 26, 2010 by

Not everyone ‘likes’ the implication foreseen for the Facebook Like button.  Adina Levin’s writes concisely about social context, its benefits, the activitystream standard and competitive forces in the market of context services.   The current paradigm for FB news feeds is to author once and send to all (from F8 a FB solution to this is to introduce Dashboards from different application or likes).  Whereas Adina holds up an activitystream vision for users context to be given the “‘capability to create more refined – and contexually relevant – posting choices and reading filters”.  She makes the case that the ‘like’ button holds to a different social context vision one where “Facebook is your one and only source of context”.

The opensourcers at FB point to their adoption of RDFa and the flexibility this provides, especially when connected to the FB API, including freer access to all openGrapth data types.  Adina makes a call for FB to adopt the Activitystreams standard and to complete on a level playing field with others wishing to specialize in offering such services.  How can you compete?, offer websites an activitystream based services where the users get a better context experience and then let those users spread the word.

filtering social news

April 23, 2010 by

What are the magic ingredients that brings the best information to us in a social context?  A couple of months ago I presented the whole story on the logic going on behind mepath.com.  This week the development team over at facebook partially presented their model.  The techcrunch blog has a great summary.

EdgeRank is the core metric formed and a news feed is a series of Objects prioritied by edgescore.  This can be summarised in the following equation:

The Sum of all Edges = Ue * We * De

where U is the affinity score between the user and Edge creator, W weight for each edge type, D time discount.

U – is real interesting as it is trying to decide how close you, the reader of the news stream is to author of the object.  Now, FB has a great starting point, they know there is a social connection between you and the author as only friend connections are brought back into a new feeds (OK, slightly more complicated as fan pages etc or app. data may feedback object not authored by a friends ie. like a RT of a non follower on Twitter).   By contrast mepath is given no starting relationship connection, it has to decide that itself and does so based on the lifestyle context of an individual over time.

W – applies a weight based on the type of edge e.g. comment, video post etc.  In effect saying the type of media authored can be biased up or down.  That is real interesting but how these weighting are decided is of even more interest?

D – time discounting.  Real time to later time.  Everyone one wants the latest but just in case we are not logged in 24/7 then we can review top news that ‘holds’ on to some friends post for longer, minimizing the chance you missed important news.  From my thinking on time filtering data, it is a deep and complex science all on its own.  The most important information an individual wants may well have happened in the past and well into the past.

While we can segment and split all we like, the simple objective remains, bring back the best information that is possible to have for the individual.  And increasing the will found and be achieved by understanding both the context it is initiated and understanding the context in which is was authored.

open or closed – it is all about data

April 22, 2010 by

The question: to be open or not to be open?  The GigaOM blog is going to be exploring this question in a series of blog posts.  The opening post sets out the scope of the debate from the desktop to mobile, servers and on the web.  For each camp both proprietary and open stance business/organisation have ‘leading’ positions. There don’t seem to be clear answer to the opening question.  But what about the questions itself. Is it the ‘biggie’ out there or is there a different way to look at the world now?

Time O’Reilly has already pushed the opensource movement forward to set the agenda to be about open data, as opensource code is sort of meaningless in a web2.0 world.  Upping the debate to the data level is where it is at.  Big ideas are out there like, VRM an idea focused on the individual and their rights and controls over their data.  If there is demand for this vision from individuals then there will be profound implication for all those, be it open or closed in their software, social connection or data freedom stance.

lifestyle interests

April 20, 2010 by

The thinking guys over at Techcrunch authored  a post entitled, Facebook To Twitter: Back Off, We Own People’s Interests today.  They talk in terms of a ‘battle line’ being made in the cyber sands over the interests of individuals.  Why is it worth a battle? “Whoever knows what your interests are right now and can package them up for advertisers has the chance to make a lot of money.” the articles states.  I am always reminded to start the economic story with the individual, as the article does in talking about the how ‘interest’ posts will be feedback into a FB news stream of each FB user.  Yes, it is great to connect individuals around interest, it is good to be open and to share, the mantra states.  Create value for individuals then you have an opportunity to share in some of it.

The opportunity to view pictures, videos or to read thoughts or feedback from individuals that share a common interest with you, even though you don’t know them through your existing friends (social) network is a great service.  The semantic web community has used ‘interests’ as the starting point to demonstrate their wears.  Twine now part of Evri.com made a spoof video on what exactly ‘interests’ were?  I guess we all know now.  Why have the semantic search businesses used the ‘interests’ area as the place to enter the market?  When you expand the sources of inputs back into an individuals news or activity stream then the potential volume of posts from the interest community can become vast very quickly, any benefits from connection can be quickly lot in the hose pipe of new updates.  Also, an ‘interest’ is a board category, take skiing, down hill moguls, in Scotland or the Alps.  Yes, Interest can be setup or tagged with increasing granularity but then you have a lot of interest to match yourself too.  OK, algorithms can be crunch behind the scene to help discovery.  I think the semantic and next generation search or filtering startups are just saying, we will do that from source.

Back to the economic value to the individual, if ‘interests’ information help them find or go to or buy a better ski resort, accommodation or pair of new skis then the businesses supporting them on that outcome will get to share in the economic value spent.  Advertising income is a real source of income online, main stay for google et al but I am not sure the best or maximum value is being collected.  Advertising is no small market but I think we as an industry are leaving too much value on the table.  How much extra value is there to be had?  All the costs incurred in advertising, selling, marketing, development, research and IT/Online.  Individuals sit at the top of that food chain, they will benefit the most and those best supporting them will have the opportunity profit well.

Social search Q&A

April 1, 2010 by

I picked up this article, The Tantalizing Promise of Social Search from a friend on Twitter.  The discovery of this webpage is a real life example of the future promise of social search as set out in the interview with Alexandra Samuel.  The interview discusses both the technical problems and the social problems to be tackled.  With the social ones predicted to be harder to solve than the technical ones.  Alexandra talks about the integration of search and social networks activity streams, in the context of friends or experts.  I think we are all ‘experts’ and the goal is alway to find the right context be that social or knowledge to provide information that solves our query.  Some times the friends in a social network will have the answers to help and be willing to share but at other times friends won’t know but it is highly probable a group of individuals in the world will have the answer.  I like to think of these as ‘friends you do not know about’, that is people who are really important to you but you have never met or have existing social ties with.  Finding this type of unknown friend is the problem we have been working on at mepath.

footprints in the snow – lifestylelinking

February 11, 2010 by

I am always looking for better ways to explain the ideas behind lifestylelinking.  The other week I was out walking in the snow covered hills and there was lots of footprints in the snow.  At the bottom of the hill the number of footprints were numerous, so numerous they sort of merge into a mass of marks in the snow with bits of unique prints standing out.  As I climbed the breadth of prints narrowed and well into the walk they became so few that you could follow the unique tread marks of the walkers.  Now, I walk for many hours at a time so after a while I was reduced to following just one set of marks in the snow, as it happen, not footprints but those of cross country skier.

Eventually, I diverged from the tracks of the skier but in terms of those out in the hills that day, this skier was ‘lifestyelinking’ with me the tightest.  As I later found it was probably my fiddling friend that had been out the day before.  I thought, at the start of the walk I could not even see the skier marks for the mass of paths in the snow but as I climbed I was linking my walk with fewer individuals but eventually I found my closet hill walking lifestyle match.  The great thing about finding this person is that we can share stories and other experiences.  In this case, I knew the person but most of the time I will not but it is probable that there are lots more stories and experiences to be shared ie. blog posts to read, pictures and videos to view, other places they like to walk or places they travel far and locally.

The snow made ‘lifestylelinking’ possible in this case, the same walk in the summer provides no such obvious footprints, much like our surfing around the web.  However, mepath works to identify the patterns in lifestyles and matching those, I like to think we provide the benefits of the snow online all year round.

wintersports magazine

January 13, 2010 by

We are in the heart of winter, here in Scotland and I am enjoying clicking through the list of winter sports on mepath.  Great to see lots of other winter sport enthusiasts having fun in the wintry conditions.  One of my free skiing photos even made it on to mepath, I was tickled pink to see that!

James