Archive for May, 2007

The new face of Google

May 31, 2007

In Google Image Search Categories Google Blogoscoped announced a slightly hard to find feature: image types, including the ability to just search for faces. For instance, here are some Allenson faces. This is by no means the first face recognition or search software. Polar Rose is notable for promising much more sophisticated face recognition.


Google adds street views and mapplets

May 31, 2007

Google maps now has street views for certain cities, much like has done for a while. The user experience for Google is better. They have released mapplets which are basically **dgets for Google maps. Just as you can add Google gadgets to iGoogle, now you can add Google mapplets.

(via Google Blogoscoped)

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May 30, 2007

Don’t have much of a credit rating and still want a new car tomorrow? Or, have some money over and want a better interest than you get at the bank or in anything but the highest yield junk bonds? There is a great new Dutch site, for P2P lending: Boober. I’d almost like to call it micro-lending, but most of the loans seem to be somewhere in between €500 and €15,000, so it ain’t micro or macro, but maybe medio-lending? Doesn’t really have the right ring to it.

The really clever thing here is that this is true peer-to-peer lending. As started by Zopa that means it’s ‘social’ lending, replacing the middle man — the banks — with a more virtual middle guy, who takes a much smaller cut and enabled a lot more transactions.

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A new white pages?

May 25, 2007

GigaOM has an interesting article about a new social voice service.:
As GigaOM says, image “you meet someone and the only information you have about them, is their email address. You can go to Jangl website, and enter their email address. The Jangl system assigns them a temporary phone number, and allows you to leave them a voice mail message, which is then forwarded to their email inbox. They can choose to call you back, using Jangl assigned temporary number. You can do the same with someone instant messaging identity as well.”

As GigaOM says, this is an interesting way to start building a SIP directory.

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iPhone to be released June 29

May 24, 2007

For those of you, like me, hankering for an iPhone, posts that the likely release date is June 11 (to coincide with the San Fran based WWDC)  June 29. Some AT&T stores are taking pre-orders and have waiting lists despite the official policy denying this.

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Why SaaS needs carriers

May 23, 2007

GigaOM has a great article on how BT is transforming itself from a hardware-based company to a software-based services company. Software as a service is a huge booming market. SaaS is seen a great way for traditional software suppliers to expand their markets from large enterprises down to SMEs, who do not necessarily have the technical or human resources to support their IT needs. However, their IP connection is the weak link.

A small entrepreneur friend of mine recently decided to request two broadband lines into his house — one simply as back-up, because no broadband meant no work. As more and more SMEs start to use web-based tools for their office infrastructure — think Gmail instead of Exchange or Basecamp instead of LAN-based tools — this will become more and more problematic. In addition, as these tools become more network-intensive, small glitches like packet loss or network lag will become bigger business problems.

There are a number of ways of solving this, but carriers are definitely in the right place with the right technology and billing model to step into this niche and grow it.

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What Joost really needs

May 20, 2007

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love Joost. And I sometimes love the promise of Joost even more. What I like the most is the video on demand nature of the programming. If I like an episode, I can watch all of the series that night. My PVR is no slowpoke but even it has problems recording an entire year of episodes after I decide I like the first one. I also love the TiVo-like search (at least I think it’s TiVo-like, because I’ve never owned a TiVo). I can search for any program anywhere and no matter what channel it’s on it’ll appear. i can then just play through my search results.

But I still think there are a couple of things missing. The promise of Joost is all the magical bits of TV and the even better bits from t’ internet. “And it doesn’t stop there” says that wonderfully enticing little ad that drew us all in. Well, the features so far are limited to inviting your mates, rating shows, IMing and reading blogs. READING blogs? Surely it cannot stop there. Joost could allow users to write reviews and brief descriptions of shows and for the user searches to also search these reviews. Or let users to link to shows so that they can blog about them in the same way that they blog about Joost’s site. These are the things that will unleash the deliciously viral nature of the internet.

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Kayak: travel search supreme

May 19, 2007

Kayak is travel search supreme. I think it’s a great example of how well search can work to deliver on intuitive user needs. It’s a travel search specialist that aggregates content from about 120 other travel sites, compares and finds the best for your needs. Technically, I don’t think what they do is tricky, but there is a lot of in page searching for a fantastic search experience. All the hygiene factors that turn me off most airline sites or variants are removed here.

In page, you can choose to not allow 1-stop or 2-stop flights, select or remove certain airlines, choose leaving or return take-off or landing time ranges, airports, flight duration and price ranges.

Once you select a flight, it re-directs you to the partner in question. They make money through PPC and SEA.

They have some nice slightly experimental extensions, such as **dgets, mobile search, APIs for mashups and RSS available through their labs.

Is your site fast enough?

May 18, 2007

SmugMug’s CEO Don MacAskill blogs on how speed gives SmugMug a competitive advantage. He covers off the usual suspects of wiring down HTML, CSS and JavaScript includes and the graphic elements of the site. He also notes that although you can track the time for a page to render from within your server room, once it hits the network, it becomes much harder to track. At the same time, this is precisely when it gets interesting since this is what your user actually experiences.

As a local search provider, we are also pretty focussed on keeping search times low, but that means very little if the rest of our pages take a long time to render.

There are four general types of tools that I’ve looked at to try to track the actual user experience once it escapes the server room:
– Keynote
– Network tools
– Firebug
– Alexa

Each type of measurement has a systemic flaw which stops us from using it as the ‘truth’. Having said that, they are the only truths out there, so we need to work with what we can. As Don says about Alexa “We don’t know exactly what they’re measuring, how much or often they’re measuring it, and how many people are actually measured. But we do know that Alexa’s Speed rating has directly correlated to feedback we get from our customers, and most importantly, our customer satisfaction. That’s good enough for me.”

More on each of the four in later posts.

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Flickr owns up

May 18, 2007

This is a great story of one user being enabled to do something wrong to another by a large web company: someone took Rebekka’s pictures off of Flickr and sold ’em. Yes, she has culpability in that loading good quality pictures without watermarks enables anyone to print and sell them (at admittedly some pretty small sizes). But you can also understand that this could never have happened without Flickr. And although it could have happened to anyone, that it happened to Flickr’s posterchild was particularly ironic.

She was understandably upset and complained to Flickr and the Blogosphere. They responded in sympathy. One of the incensed community then posted details of the offending user and what they’d like to do to them. This went a little far. Flickr pulled her photos and all the accompanying comments from their site.

It is evidence of the immense power of the user community, that a full apology from Flickr did not take very long.

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