signals of noise

Category: web (page 1 of 5)

How Google+ got one more member

Well, not really!

For my work I needed to create a new email id. And so I did with GMail. But even before I could get to my inbox I saw the red notification icon start dancing with 3 new notifications.

And this mail was right on top of my inbox.

How Google conveniently increases Google+ user count

I never logged in to Google+ with this id, and never will. Yet they have one more user. No wonder they are growing so fast.

Yandex’s Facebook Search Cut-off

Less than 2 weeks ago Yandex launched what could have been the search that Facebook lacked.

But soon after Facebook launched Graph Search.

I was right.

Facebook Blocks Yandex’s New Social Search App From Accessing Its Data Just Three Hours After Launch

Yandex begged Facebook not to shut down its social search app Wonder that launched this morning. But the explanation Yandex’s lawyers sent us for why it’s compliant with Facebook’s policies didn’t stop Facebook from blocking all API calls from Wonder, Yandex confirms. Facebook tells me it’s now discussing policy with Yandex. The move follows a trend of Facebook aggressively protecting its data.

Did Yandex discuss this with Facebook when they were working on Wonder and not as an afterthought after Graph Search was announced? That would be interesting to know.

Twitter and Real-Time Search

There are somethings that still needs the good old human brain to work well. Even in the world of search technology.

Human computation solves problems that make algorithms stumble, and matches trending topics to relevant advertising.

Real-time search is hard. With old-fashioned, web-crawling, desktop search, you have fairly stable sets, strong ranking and network relationships that help verify results, and lots and lots of data. You need smart algorithms to bring results up quickly, rank them well, and detect bad actors gaming the system, but mostly you’re relying on the sheer mass of data. Real-time search isn’t like that. You need to find data on the move, with lots of little pieces flying everywhere. It’s like turning a Newtonian physics problem into a quantum one.

via Twitter just told us how cool its real-time search is… and how it makes its money | The Verge.

Facebook’s Potential: Beyond the Billion Users

A fairly pessimistic analyst thinks that there is a chance that Facebook could be worth triple of what it is today if it were to fulfill it’s potential. Most interesting of those potential areas, besides disruptive social advertising and user data based businesses, is this:

Facebook becomes a ubiquitous utility: Facebook has successfully spread “like” buttons, Facebook comments, and Facebook logins around the broader World Wide Web. And its social data is leveraged well by some mobile apps like Spotify. But it has not yet become a true social utility, essential to apps and websites, as Zuckerberg has publicly hoped. There simply aren’t enough sites and apps integrating Facebook data in a deep and meaningful way to make the company a true utility.

This is exactly what I wrote about some time back when they launched the Timeline: What Next for Facebook After the Timeline? Ubiquity.

via Facebook Hits 1 Billion Users, Here's How It Hits $141 Billion in Value | Wired Business |

Facebook Hints at Search

Mark Zuckerberg gives the biggest hint yet of Facebook entering the search space. But methinks when they do it will not be in the same way that Google or Bing does search. That market is taken. It has to be different. And from what Zuckerberg says here it will be. More of a natural language inspired search based on what Facebook knows deeply about – your social graph.

“Search engines are really evolving toward giving you a set of answers,” Zuckerberg said. “It’s not just like ‘I’ll type in something and show me some relevant stuff.’ It’s, ‘I have a specific question, answer this question for me.’ When you look at it from that perspective, Facebook is pretty uniquely positioned to answer the questions people have: ‘What sushi restaurants have my friends gone to in New York in the past six months and liked?’ ‘Which of my friends and friends of friends work at this company I’m interested in … so I can talk to them about what it’s like to work there?’

“These are queries you could potentially do in Facebook if we built out the system that you couldn’t do anywhere else. And at some point we’ll do it…. That’s one obvious thing that would be interesting for us to do in the future.”

via Facebook Search All but Announced by Mark Zuckerberg | Wired Business |

Do You Have Klout?

Klout scores have somehow become a form of social currency to boast about. The more the better. Opens up (or closes) a world of opportunity for people as is evident in this Wired article. But here is the basic problem.

The thought of running on this hamster wheel forever was positively exhausting, and it made me wonder whether Klout was really measuring my influence or just my ability to be relentless, to crowd-please, and to brown-nose. Consider that the only perfect 100 Klout score belongs to Justin Bieber, while President Obama’s score is currently at 91. We might not wish to glorify a metric that deems a teen pop star more influential than the leader of the free world.

I had been narcissistically obsessed with my Klout score for a while before I stopped bothering. That was when I realized people clearly more influential than me had equal or lesser scores. And when Klout thought I was most influential about Instapaper, just because I shared a lot of stories from Instapaper, I had had enough.

What Next for Facebook After the Timeline? Ubiquity.

Will the Facebook timeline soon be our online identity?

Facebook could soon be Twitter, WordPress, Flickr, About.Me, Blogger and a lot more possibly. How?

So Facebook launched the beautiful new profile design – Timeline. I absolutely love it. More for the beauty of it than rediscovering my Facebook past. Which isn’t such a bad thing either.

But the timeline is visible only when you are logged in to Facebook. Now consider that going forward if you are active on Facebook your timeline is just your lifestream. Now consider just the public updates, residing at “”.

Now remove the login friction. So anyone visiting that page can see your public timeline. Kind of like Twitter, right? Right, only a lot more. Of course a lot will depend on how much sharing you are doing publicly, but voila, you have a new home on the web. Kind of what or tries to do. Only better. Or even your blog. Why do you need a blog when your writings are anyway on the timeline.

Welcome to the new personal web space. The Timeline is here. And it is here to stay.

What do you think? Would it be better to just have one place to manage your online life? Or is it plain creepy?

Facebook Photo Tags: Good Riddance?

Last month I complained about tagging useless, spammy photos on Facebook that made their way to my news feed. While Facebook wouldn’t have noticed my complain. They surely going to do something about it.

Facebook photo tags

Profile Tag Review
Before: Photos you were tagged in would show up on your profile as soon as you were tagged. One of the top requests we’ve heard is for the ability to approve these tags before they show up on your profile.
Going Forward: You can choose to use the new tool to approve or reject any photo or post you are tagged in before it’s visible to anyone else on your profile.

Content Tag Review
Before: Anyone who could see your photos or posts could add tags to them.
Going Forward: You have the option to review and approve or reject any tag someone tries to add to your photos and posts.

That’s what they announced in a blog post today. So now people will have to pre-approve those ridiculous tags before they make an appearance on my news feed. And hence the hope that many will choose not to, or will be too disinterested to do so. And those who do will be shown up to the world for what they are.

I don’t like the ‘Approve All Posts’ button though.

Why Groups is a Better Approach to Social Segmentation

This post is a continuation from my post on Circles and Lists and the Problem of Plenty where I argue that putting people into asymmetric circles will not solve the social segmentation problem because it will ultimately overwhelm the user with too many circles to manage.

In this post I am going to justify why I feel groups are a better way to organize social relationships than circles and lists.

Circles and lists are by definition asymmetric. In the sense I decide who to put in which circle or list without the other person knowing such. The asymmetry robs the circle members of a critical piece of information social context. While I may know that I am sharing something with my friends from business school, this fact is lost to them. At least until they actually observe the conversation taking place and the people commenting. Additional burden.

Also I may have two people in my circle who may not be mutually acquainted. This creates another level of detachment from the conversation that I originally believed will draw like minded people. This is the exact problem groups solve.

Every one in a social group knows everyone else and knows the social context that binds them together. Any conversation within this social group removes all the unknowns that circles and lists impose. Since people have more knowledge of what the social context is they are more likely to share in on the conversation.

So even when a subset of people in one group becomes a part of another group, the implicit understanding of the social context removes all barriers in carrying out effective conversations across multiple groups. So a few of my classmates from business school can discuss about our late night assignment submissions on one group with one set of people and the latest happenings in the English Premier League in another group with a different set of people without ever confusing the social context.

It is my feeling that social networks will slowly evolve in this direction where groups become your primary identity in the online world while your individual profile takes a backseat. After all social relationships are not about individuals but a collection of individuals.

Circles and Lists and the Problem of Plenty

This post is not about a comparison between Facebook and Google+, but rather my thoughts on the problem of sub-networks within a social network.

I have been to three schools in life: high school, engineering school and business school. That makes it three networks. Three non-overlapping networks. In each of these networks there are close friends, good friends, friends and acquaintances. So if I were to ever create a list or a circle of one of these networks it would not really reflect my true social associations.

So the next thing I can do is keep all the close friends in one list or circle, all other friends in another and acquaintances in yet another. Solves my problem, right? Wrong. What I share with my close friends from high school may not be what I want to share with my close friends from business school. Well, I could then create lists and circles within each of these networks. Which would now make it at least nine lists to manage. And I have not even considered family, co-workers (and there are three networks here as well) and friends outside of any of these networks.

So when I want to share something with one of my circles it becomes easy. But not quite so. The overhead of managing so many lists, choosing who to share with in the spur of the moment and worrying if I missed out on someone is going to make my life tough. So what is the solution. Public broadcast. And then hope that the right people in your network actually respond to you. That is exactly how things happen today. We basically outsource the job of segmentation to the segments themselves. (While being smart not to broadcast the most personal of thoughts and moments.)

But is this a real problem? The problem of segmenting people online? Absolutely. I just don’t think putting people in circles and lists solves it though. In real life we are very good at this because we do it implicitly without putting much thought to it. We just know what to share with whom. The sheer number of virtual circles this translates to creates a real problem that ultimately makes us revert to the default of public broadcast.

The asymmetric nature of circles and lists creates another very significant problem. That of social context. I have a set of people in a particular circle but they do not know about it. So when I share something with a circle the members of that circle who receive that update do not know who else sees that update. So they may be then apprehensive of sharing back because the social segmentation problem is very real. So what is the solution? The only online social object that comes any close to solving this problem online is groups where everyone knows who else is a member of that group and is, hence, aware of the social context. More on that in another post.

Meanwhile we can continue debating whether circles or lists will solve our social segmentation problem.

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