My Dream Browser! (On a mac)

A frustrated user looking to break the browsing shackles (in the mac world). Most of the suggestions are applicable to windows as well.
As Light as Camino

Is this really too much to ask? I’m not talking about running twenty tabs. I am talking about 5-7 tabs and browser thats open through the day and doesn’t take a gig of memory. A browser thats snappy and NOT a memory hog!

Culprits: Safari, Firefox, Opera

Attribution: bdepardo

As elegant as Safari

Search is paramount! You are searching for something or the other. Safari with Inquisitor wins this one period. I luv the way safari highlights my key that is being searched. I luv the way Inquisitor shows me the results as I type and how most of the time I dont need to wait to open up the search page in google. I wish this functionality was available for any of the custom search engines that I can add in firefox.

Culprits: Firefox, Camino, Opera

Attribution: mac_vegetarian

Attribution:Zephyr1982

Full screen without clutter

This one should be so obvious! Someone you wanna read your long blog posts (Marshall K posts are long) or watch twittervision without the other clutter on your desktop. Opera nails this one! Can the other browser please fall in line!

Culprits: Firefox, Camino, Safari, Flock

Attribution: jsuplido

Most used sites as start page

Opera has this one nailed with speed dial. 9 most frequented websites. Gone are the days where people just visited one site. Depending on my mood I pick one of the 9 sites. Very nifty! I like flock’s streams but more on that coming up soon.

Culprits: Firefox, Camino, Safari, Flock

Attribution: krilli

Favorites, Favorites, Favorites

Every browser fails this test! Flock comes close with integrating delicious & magnolia but is far from nailing this feature. Heres what I would like. I want my browser to import existing bookmarks into delicious and auto tag the sites that it can find on delicious (the delicious plugin on firefox offers default tags) and then from there on whenever I drag and drop a link I want it to pop a window to tag it. Please give me a bookmark toolbar with 2 options .. most recently used tags / most popular tags

Culprits: Firefox, Camino, Safari, Opera

Attribution: e-strategy.com

News Feed / Friends stream

Flock does the best job of this but comes real short of being an usual feature. If there is one thing Facebook has sold then its the news feed. Pls dont make me sign in and out everytime! Pls let me use claimid(Check out Chris Messina’s claimid page) if possible if not save my user id/passwords locally and retrieve the feeds and consolidate my newsfeed! P

Culprits: Firefox, Camino, Safari, Opera

Attribution: Chris

Feed reader Integration

Integration with Bloglines/Google Reader. Please its long over due! I want my browser to be able to sync back to Google reader. Google Gears integration is not what most reader find ideal. Ideally it should be a side bar. Digg spy like feature would be freaking awesome but I know Im getting greedy. Any kind of integration with Google reader would be great!

Culprits: Firefox, Camino, Safari, Opera

Attribution: CaptQuirk

Media Browser

People create audio/video content all the time or link to them. Be it podcasts or videocasts(scoble’s the culpit, LOL) or seesmic (Loic keep up the good work) videos. I want a media browser that I can queue up links for it play on the sidebar as I browse. Right now I download it to my hard disk and then have to play it later Or I have to have have a browser window and an iTunes window open to watch the video and browse the web. Playlists are already being used in web players check out msnbc TV or cnn, how tough should it be? Also Songbird already handles media. And please make the media browser smart enough so that it can extract the flv/mov/avi/mp3 file from the playlist link rather than taking me to that page like the media browser in Flock does today! Credit goes to Flock for getting this started .. A step in the right direction but a long way to go.

Firefox, Camino, Safari, Opera

Attribution: Geek glue

Portable

I luv foxmarks on firefox. I would like the option for a similar service where my browser data / state is encrypted and stored! or let me store the file in a usb drive / ipod / iphone. Please build the client that can upload/download/import data into browser so I can goto any machine and login and start off where I left. Peace and harmony!

Culprits: Firefox, Camino, Safari, Opera

Attribution: Frank Hamm

Microformats Integration

Microformats went main stream when google maps started to support it. I constantly use it to download restaurant information to my address book, sync it up with my iphone and off I go! Please natively support it and make it extensible. Dont make it into a plugin for people to download and tweak! Your never going to get people to use it. Most browsers have plugins to support it and support can be spotty depending on the browser.

Culprits: Firefox, Camino, Safari, Opera

Attribution: David Nemesis

Private Browsing

Sometimes you just need Private browsing.. My browsing is my business! I dont want to be messing around with cookies and removing history, especially when Im at a friends place and having to explain twitter.

Firefox, Camino, Flock, Opera

Attribution: apple.com

APML Integration (Nice to have)

Attention data is going mainstream in 2008. Browser will be foundation for such data. Please work with the APML group (or get Chris Saad to work pro bono LOL) to come up with a tool using which I can export my attention data. Allow me to filter out data that I dont want exported (be it sites or be it time of browsing). People will be more open to exporting attention data if they have a tool that will let them filter stuff out.

Culprits: Firefox, Camino, Safari, Opera, Flock

Attribution: weaverluke

Browsers need to evolve, none of these ideas are revolutionary. If I had all these features why would I ever leave my browser. I have not included features like tab browsing & form filling which most browsers do a good job implementing. What would you like on your browser that you don’t have today that is making your life painful? Let me know your thoughts. I will update this post or followup with another.

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Google promoting blog search on its main page!

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Google appears to have started to promote its blog search on its main page, just like they promoted other properties like google news. The last google promoted google news, here was the effect as Hitwise reported:

when Google placed a link to Blog Search on the Google News home page, causing a 168% surge in market share for Google Blog Search over a two week period”. Since then, approximately 60% of Google Blog Search’s traffic has been coming directly from Google News, compared to less than 1% before the change.

Its only a matter of time before adsense pops up on blogsearch. Meanwhile technorati seems to be enjoying its slumber party!

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Lifestreams – A Primer

What is a Lifestream?

Aggregating RSS feeds is not something new, its been around for a few years. As web users we leave our digital footprints at these services, be it twitter, youtube, flickr or last.fm. A majority of these services provide RSS feeds. An aggregation of  your various digital footprints is your Lifestream. Some people also refer to it as “Life Casting”, “Activity Stream”.

Why on planet earth would one create a Lifestream?

If you are like me when you want to share content that you create and like, then your audience is craving for a Lifestream. Case in point my brother, he has a moblog, a personal blog, a photoblog and a flickr stream. And I for one am tired of checking multiple sites/feeds.

Any good examples of Lifestreams?

Kevin Rose, Fred Wilson (he is a VC), Steve Rubel are good examples. I have a Lifestream as well.

How does one go about creating a Lifestream?

There are several services that allow you to aggregate your life stream. I am currently using tumblr to aggregate my Lifestream.
Here is how I have created mine:

flickr + delicious + blog + twitter + blogroll favorites = my life stream

I have also made a twitter feed for my lifestream using twitterfeed.com this way anybody can follow my lifestream on twitter.

Steve has taken this one step further and integrated what he calls his reply stream: responses to his twitters + inbound links for his blog (I wonder what happened to his blog comments?)

Aren’t you worried about posting some much information online?

Most of the stuff that I post online and made public are things that I want to share with other people. For instance my personal pictures are flickr are protected. But it is a good idea to make sure you are a bit cautious. I don’t advertise my feeds on a network like Plaxo’s Pulse. It aggregates Lifestreams of all the folks you are connected to. My audience is different on here than it is on Plaxo. You could also use some of the other services to protect your life streams.

Other than aggregating feeds is there any other reason to create a lifestream?

One of the exciting things that is happening is APML. It is mark up language that captures ones attention. The idea is to compress all forms of Attention Data into a portable file format containing a description of ranked user interests. Check out an excellent post of Attention profiling written by Marjolein Hoekstra @ Cleverclogs.com here. Lifestreams offer the right kind of data that can be used to convert into APML. So why should you care? Remember every-time you try a new service that ask you to setup your personal preferences be it my.yahoo.com or netvibes or spotback (reminds me of the days where you had to train the computer for text to speech!). In the future you will only plugin your APML. Even better you could  sign in with your openid and authorize access to your APML and voila the service is personalized! A couple of things need to happen for us to get there:

Need a service that convert a Lifestream into APML

There is one such service that does that today, Engagd.com. Check Emily’s excellent post on conversion of a Lifestream into APML. But this service doesn’t seem to be working properly as yet and hence have not been able to review the quality of data that it produces. Dandelife claims to support APML but I have not been able to get it working.

  • Need web platforms/service to support consumption of APML

At the moment there is only one service that consumes APML, Particls. Others such as bloglines, newsgator have promised to support the standard. Please check out the APML workgroup and members area for more info.

You have got me interested in Lifestreams, How do I keep myself up-to date?

Mark Krynsky’s excellent Lifestream blog can be found at lifestreamblog.com. I will make an earnest effort to post my finds and updates on here as well.

Is there a market leader in this space?

There are several services at that provide life aggregation. A comparison of some of them can be found here at lifestream blog (its not upto date). This space is starting to heat up with Google’s acquisition of Jaiku and funding(750K) of tumblr.com, but the fireworks are just beginning! So sit back, relax, get yourself a drink and enjoy!

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The search landscape and beyond …

web30

Photo Credit: Brian Oberkirch

There has been a lot of discussion among bloggers about web 3.0 (Dare I say).. and how search is broken. People are very passionate about what they believe in and so is Jason Calacanis when is he vehement that search is broken and has to be fixed. Here are some of the facts:

  • Google provides decent results for a majority of people.
  • Is it perfect? Absolutely not!
  • Has the quality of these results diminished over the years ? Sure!
  • As search has evolved, people have come up with other solutions.
  • Vertical search engines do a much better job than google.
  • Google recognizes that vertical search engines do better and have come up with their own versions (case in point blog search)

Search is not broken, it needs to be bettered! Google is currently tinkering it! Tinkering is a short term solution!

Lets take an example of the wild fires in california:

  • How many people know to use twitter to get their updates? Very few hundred (According to the number of followers on twitter its about 400+)
  • Given that fact that CNN mentioned twitter.. May be a few hundred or thousand more would join in..
  • Google doesn’t show the twitter updates in the first page for “California wildfires“, even though it indexes Los Angeles Fire Department LAFD’s twitter updates.
  • The key to getting good results from google is knowing which key words to search.. so if I search for “california wildfires” I get a lot more news results and if I search for “LAFD updates”, the twitter feed is right on top. Google doesn’t make the connection.

The question of how good search is really dependent on which vantage point you are looking from! If you are an end user who is technology agnostic you think search is pretty good (Not many end users understand S.E.O and fewer technologists really get S.E.O). But if you are “a power user” of search engines than its pretty apparent to you that you use google as your first line of defense and then venture out on your own. This is Jason’s point and it is well taken .. A year of so from now will “normal people” (as in my uncle or aunt) be as happy with google as they are now? As more people start using S.E.O to game google, the more impact it has on the quality of the results. Its only a matter of time before this happens! What then? Where do we go from there?

Do we use a human search engine like Mahalo.com? or
Do we use out to collaborative search engines like the ones from delicious.com, stumbleupon.com? or
Do we use to generic semantic search engines like powerset.com and Hakia.com? or
A combination of all of the above?

This is where the debate is focussed on! This is where web 3.0 discussions come in play. There is one thing that we all agree upon..

Web 3.0 will provide “better information discovery”

The question is how? I believe it will be a combination of these technologies. A layering of these technologies and techniques!

Human discovery will be better than an automated solution (as it stands today). What Mahalo does is layering “human refinement” over automated search (using google, etc). Mahalo.com shows the fires right on top of the news items. The guide notes definitely are great! The page has news links which is nice and other information, no twitter links. Why not? No links to the LAFD’s site? Also where is a link to the flickr photos or clusters? The page is as good as the person who creates it. Now can you call this an expert page? I don’t think so! Its better for an end user who need not worry about honing it for the right keywords. Wikipedia seems to have an over load of information on the fires.

Will this be sufficient? In terms of quality definitely! In terms of the breadth of things to look for .. No way! As per Jason’s calculations its about 18K terms/SERPs. Thats a drop in the ocean. Jason believes that paying people who provide good information is the way to go. I don’t disagree with the approach, but you are going to need a human army! A really big one! Here’s a suggestion to Jason, there a lot of well educated women in india who are home taking care of their families that would love a part time job. Just sign them up! I wonder why Mahalo isn’t using Amazon Mechanical trunk. Seems like a match made in heaven. There is one thing I disagree with Jason – he extrapolates how Mahalo solves the search betterment problem. But one cant blame him for it, its his passion! I just wish he tempers his argument and his point would be well taken. Lets be honest, Mahalo does not solve this problem. It rather provides one of the pillars for search betterment. And Jason is candid about this:

“One solution isn’t going to solve all these issues, but we’ve done over 18,000 pages so far at Mahalo, each of which serves at least 20 search terms. Over time we’re going to be able to solve the fatigue problem for the first 1/4 to 1/3rd of search terms. If we can do that we will have a really big business that helps a LOT of people–a LOT!”

Lets look at collaborative search engines. Delicious seems to have a good set of links for “California Wildfires” but not very useful for an end user. Moreover this information is not up-to date. Delicious seems to be good at discovering sites on links for topics. I use it extensively to track trends (for example ruby-on-rails). Mahalo does link to a particular search string “California Fires”, but people might be using other terms to bookmark them. It is rather sad that delcious doesn’t have same tag clusters that flickr has. There is lot of work that still needs to be done.

Semantic search engines: Lets look at Hakia. (I don’t have access to Powerset, if you can hook me up please let me know! I have heard a lot of hype about this product but have seen very little. Not a good thing! Trust me I speak from personal experience!) As for Hakia, lets hope that this is not how a semantic search engine would look! Results are disastrous! If this the quality of search results that Hakia or Powerset is going to product then lets all buy google stock! We would have more money saved for a few more generations! Results from 2003?? Are you kidding me? WTF! I would bereally scared if I was a investor! Come On!!! Technologies exist today that do a very good job of understanding semantics! I would have expected Hakia to tell me about the locations, organizations, people and updates. So in the instance of the wildfires I would have expected it to recognize LAFD and hence show me the twitter page for it! These bozos are not even indexing twitter! Hopeless! Lets hope Powerset does a much better job otherwise i may be tempted to throw my hat in!

Web 2.0 has done an awesome job is crowd-sourcing data! Be it videos(from youtube), locations(from wikimapia.org), or pictures (from flickr)! Meanwhile semantic algorithms have made great strides! Simultaneous work has been done on opening data and categorizing them. There is wealth of data in the crowd-sourced data! It is time to enrich this data with these technologies.

“Better Information discovery” will be about combining these technologies and patterns and packaging it together!

This is my take on the next phase, you are entitled to your views. I would be happy to engage in a good healthy debate. Please voice your thoughts below. I have purposely not touched upon the mobile revolution, I will save it for an other day!

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Delicious Library – A must have software for the mac.

Delicious Library

I had read reviews of the Delicious Library for the mac before but never really got around to using the software before. So out of blue of the blue today I decided to get it a try and boy was I blow away! A fine piece of software! Software that actually has an impact to a end user who absolutely does’nt care about buzz words!

So let me get straight to it!

What is Delicious Library?
A program to manage your Books & Media.

What’s the big deal?
You must have seen an associate at borders or B & N scan the price of a book using the barcode(at the back of the book), well this software brings that technology to your laptop/desktop. It displays the books & media nicely like its in a shelf.

How does it do it?
It uses the iSight camera on you mac to scan the barcode and uses amazon API to look for information online about the book/media.

Does it work?
Well it works most of the time! Sometimes the camera doesn’t recognize the bar code you have to move it around or slant the book.

What if the the bar code isn’t recognized?
Then one uses the search functionality (enter title/author/etc manually) and search.

How long did it take you?
For about 60 Books, 100+ DVDs and 5 Games it took about 1-1.5 hours. Its all in organized!

Anything other features of the product that you like?

– Searching for an author or artist or any meta data of the media/book that you have in your collection will be displayed in the results of spotlight.
– There is also a dashboard widget that lets you search.
– The product has the ability to add shelves and assign books the these shelves.
– You can also track the list of borrowers within the software.

What feature is missing from the software?

There is no auto-categorization of media/books. So based on the hundred movies, I would the software to categorize them based on comedy/drama/foreign/etc. It should be a fairly simple thing to do. I have not tested the iPod integration yet.

How much does it cost?

40$ for the mac (Tiger only)

All in all this ones a keeper!

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Twitter: The tipping point!

For those who dont know what twitter is, twitter is a webservice that lets you post short msgs (140) about what you are doing (thinking, writing, doing, etc). I have been using it for a few months. I follow about 35 people and have about 40+ people following me. Here is how twitter grew on me:

– I started out posting msgs about what Im doing (Attending meetings, etc)
– started following twitters from A-list bloggers like scoble, davewiner
– started listening to twittergram’s from scoble @ conferences (on my iphone)
– started posting pictures to flickr using dave winer’s excellent flickrtotwitter service (thanks iphone)
– interesting discussions started to flow between a-listers like steve rubel & scoble

Usually i get more of my breaking stories on techmeme.com (starting to be less of blogtracker and more of major media tracker) and end up saving more favorite stories on google reader but today was a tipping point for more.

I heard about the apple opening up the iPhone sdk on twitter (thanks amit) hours before it broke on techmeme.com! I saved more favorites in my twitter favorites than I did on my google reader! My patterns of consuming information are changing .. Twitter’s limitation of 140 characters is making msgs to be concise, crisp and a whole lot useful! The best part of twitter is information consumption is a whole lot faster!

The problem that I foresee happening like other mediums is that there is going to be over consumption of twitters (just like back in the day of blogs and rss feeds) and we are going to be in twitter hell! We are going to need to fix this problem before it happens. I wish twitter introduces someway of filtering twitters .. for instance .. I might be interested only in consuming twitters from political candidates when they are in NY or when they talk about NY. Either ways these are exciting times! A new medium … I luv the innovation cycle in this country! I wonder why the europeans or the asian didn’t come up with twitter in-spite of claiming to be more mature mobile markets! …

I really need to consume more twitters. Who are you following on twitter? Who am I missing? Please add your comments! Would like to hear from you.

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