Our virtual neighbourhood polarises us further

I was going through my inbox today and came across this gem from Ben Thompson of Stratechery on “The Real Problem With Facebook and the News“. Its about the virtual neighbourhood we create and the news we consume from Facebook. The point of the article is that Facebook’s “trending news” uses a combination of algorithms and manual curation. Is this a good thing?

Facebook’s content team has manual control over trending news and can inject stories in there. This is similar to a traditional newsroom. The issues are that:

1) They have the ability to manually curate and to intervene
2) They have been suppressing conservative news and promoting news with liberal views

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Discovered some old twitter accounts

I found some of my old twitter accounts today. By way of background, I discovered twitter in 2007 via an article and registered an account. But I didn’t understand how to use it. In 2008, when I started using twitter again, I decided to register 15 accounts. It was the vanity twitter handle land grab days. I also saw that @cnnbreak was acquired for $1m so I saw an opportunity there!

I didn’t have time to post to all of the twitter accounts. So I added some RSS feeds to automate the tweets via Hootsuite and scheduled the updates to space them out. However, Hootsuite then introduced a rate limit on RSS feeds. So I mashed them together using Yahoo Pipes and was able to use one RSS feed.

For example, for the @ausgov account, it contained automated info from 3o unique government feeds. I went and found each of the feeds myself from government websites or I created them. The tweets contain information from Media Releases, Smart Traveller, Austrade, ATO, Dept of Immigration, Dept of Health, etc.

I haven’t touched these accounts for several years until logging back into hootsuite again today. Surprisingly some of them are still going and tweeting away, and people are responding to the tweets.

They have these follower numbers:

@austax (3.5k)

@ausgov (1.5k)

@auslegal (1.8k)

@aussuper (500)

@royaleastershow (300).

Its pretty good considering I’ve done nothing except for @austax a while ago where I also created a blog. We were the #1 twitter account for Australian Tax Information. We were also invited to the CPA conference to tweet/blog about it. I also got invited to an Easter Show preview and my fellow blogger @jenius went to tweet about it on behalf of @royaleastershow.

Due to the names that I had, I figured they would be valuable. Also people started thinking that these names were official as well i.e. they thought that @austax was the ATO?! And when people wanted to complain about the government they would mention @ausgov.

I’m not sure what to do with them. I guess I’ll just keep them running!

I’m out like the twitter land grab,

Matt Ho

Color Interview

$41 million. Pre-product. Wow.

Listen to this interview from Robert Scoble talking to Bill Nguyen (founder of Lala.com) and Peter Pham (founder of Bill Shrink).

Its very interesting. It discusses the future of mobile and their plan to build a new social graph known as the elastic network. I think its clear that Sequoia invested in the team and not so much the idea – though the idea is ambitious. Photos is only one part of the app. Also, check out this post from GigaOm.

First Look At RockMelt

Screengrabs of the new RockMelt browser for those that are keen.

I just got it last night thanks to @pkattera. First impressions is that its very google chrome-ish (built on webkit) with bars on the side for social networks. For those that have used the Flock browser, its a similar idea but less clunky and much faster. Easier to share things to social networks, and create quick links to your favourite people on facebook and to pages on the internet including facebook pages.

Oh, and I have no more beta invites left.

Here’s a video you can watch it in action.

I’ll report back when I’ve used it a bit more.

I’m out like Flock,

Matt Ho

The value of pre check-in services

A few weeks ago, I saw an email chain flying amongst my friends. It was “what are you up to on Friday night?” and “where will we meet you?”.  Locations, venues and times were being scattered all over the interwebs. The fundamental problem was meeting up at a similar time during the night, essentially a co-ordination problem as everyone has their own agenda.

As I have gotten older and the use of mobile phones have become more prevalent, there’s a culture of I’m out and about, I’ll give you a call and see where you are. I might have an approximate idea from an earlier conversation of where my friends are. But there’s no guarantee that I’ll stay there because I’ll see where the night takes me. We have more opportunities, more friends and more venues to visit.

An application like Foursquare / Gowalla tells you where you friends are when they have arrived and they decide to check-in. You can also see who else is at the venue. It’s great as post check-in data. However, you don’t know if your friend has left the building and moved on, and where they might be heading.

It would be *fantastic* if you could do a pre-checkin into a venue using a service like Plancast.

This could prove quite stalkerish intrusive, however hear me out.

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Que es Quora?

I try to keep my eye out for new websites and my ear to the ground. However, not all new websites catch my attention. It’s impossible given the cambrian like explosion of new blogs, social websites, and online innovation.

What I look at are websites that are interesting to me or have an interesting/unique concept. Another important factor are the people behind the website.

Now, Quora was interesting because the team is made up of ex-facebookers. Not just ordinary employees at Facebook but “Adam D’Angelo, who was previously CTO and VP of engineering at Facebook, and Charlie Cheever, who led Facebook Connect and Facebook Platform”.

So I signed up to Quora a while back, and one day a beta invite popped up in my inbox.

Beta invites are cool because they are not open to the general public and you need to sign up and register your interest. Websites are in beta for a number of reasons, one of these is that they are still in development and might not be able to handle the load if it was open to the public. Having a beta limits the number of users and allows them to get feedback and develop iterations rapidly. The other thing is that it generates a level of excitement in tech geeks who think they have exclusive access (see @inspiredworlds).

Que es Quora? (What is Quora?)

According to the website:

“Quora is a continually improving collection of questions and answers created, edited, and organized by everyone who uses it. The most important thing is to have each question page become the best possible resource for someone who wants to know about the question.”

The closest analogy I can come up with is Yahoo Answers. Quora aims to be the best place to find answers or knowledge about a topic. They do this by having the community ask questions, and having the community answer it. Sounds like any forum right ala stackoverflow, or a wikipedia or google’s attempt at knol.

A particular feature is that certain people have expertise in an area, so their answer should be given more weight. The analogy Quora likes to use is if Michael Jordan answers a question about basketball, its not the same if you or I answer the question (though I do claim to know a lot about bball!). Clearly, an expert that answers a question knows a lot more about the topic.

In addition, the community can vote up the answer similar to a forum. The community can also edit the question, summarize answers, categorize, etc…similar to wikipedia. Quora tries to use people with real profiles and real names.

Here is an example below of a question about Firefox’s growth:


Right now, there a lot of interesting questions and insightful answers being posed like the above pic. Mostly, they have a tech skew because these are generally the first adopters of these kind of websites. The quality of the answers and the experts answering them are also really good. You can see in the example above, one of the original co-founders of Firefox answered, then the current CEO, and a bunch of people that use to work there or developers that have worked with it.

So much of the web is uncategorised. When you search in google, you are presented with web pages that best match your keywords. It might not actually ANSWER your question or search intent. What Quora is trying to do is create some sense of order in the web by having the community organise it, and giving priority to experts. The community also help shapes the answers by giving feedback.

Here is an example of a question I answered on Yammer. I corrected the person below who answered Blellow as a competitor. Yes, most people would see it as a competitor but its actually a different service.

quora v2

One of the issues that I have is that right now there are a lot of really good answers from credible people at lot of tech companies. What will happen when Quora scales? When the questions drift away from tech, will the quality of questions and answers decline? Will it become like Yahoo Answers?

Honestly, I find Yahoo answers a bit of a hit and miss. It comes up often in google searches, but there are a lot of crass comments as well useless junk in there. Much will depend on the quality and willingness of Quora’s community to curate and moderate the content.

You can find a lot of interesting and insightful comments all over the web. Its buried in blogs, forums, reviews, wikis. A major problem is that you don’t know how authoritative or useful that information is. I mean, you can’t believe everything you read on the web right? You don’t know who posted that information or who answered a question, what their experience is with the subject matter. Maybe Quora will help bring some categorisation + order + expertise into topics.

As of this moment, this website is best described as Yahoo Answers meets Wikipedia, with a dash of facebook engineering =)

I’m out like beta invites,

Matthew Ho.

When all likes lead to Facebook

When all likes lead to Facebook, and liking requires a Facebook account, and Facebook gets to hoard all of the metadata and likes around the interactions between people and content, it depletes the ecosystem of potential and chaos — those attributes which make the technology industry so interesting and competitive

Chris Messina on understanding the open social graph protocol

Empire state of mind spoofs – New Dorks & Sydney State of Mind

Lovin’ these Empire state of mind spoof videos……I can relate to both of them. I love how people can mash up content, remix it, spit it out again and create their own unique versions. More power to the user! It makes the songs more well known, the artists get more plays and fans are introduced to the original song. Its the remix culture!

This is the local version, Sydney State of Mind which my friend Cheryl sent to me recently. I actually heard them mixing / playing it in the Nova station. Check it!

Yeah, Im out a Blacktown, now Im in Maroubra,
Right next to the Seals, Im Sydney forever,
Used to live in Newtown, couldnt dig the people there,
With the crazy coloured hair and you can always see their underwear,

So I hit up Carringbah, did my time at bizzos,
Saw some good bands and did some talking with my fists though
Started work at Panthers, uniforms an insult,
Still remembered as the Tiger Woods of Aqua Golf

I’m out like Empire State of Mind remixes,

Matt Ho.