Thursday, March 19, 2009

Stalking made Easy

As the social web continues to grow, and more and more people are filling in their personal details everywhere, it is no wonder specific social search engines start to pop up, which can actually turn up all kinds of embarrassing and potentially invasive information about you.

Besides making online stalking easy, specialized search engines are making it increasingly easier to combine socially shared information together into a highly detailed profile of our virtual lives. These specialized search engines go by a variety of terms such as "social search" utilities or "people search" utilities and many of them brag of their ability to search deeper than even Google. [InfoPackets]

We all see it happen, but sofar I have not seen any serious attempt at redesigning the identity management and privacy issues on the web. It will take years untill we will figure out how to tackle this problem as it will probably take a full redesign of the entire internet architecture at base level. For now, you have to take charge of your online identity. Tips and tricks on how to regain some control can be found at PC World, The San Francisco Chronicle and The Electronic Frontier Foundation.

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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Microsoft takes Kumo for testdrive

In previous blog entries I've written about Microsoft loosing the online battle to Google and why they desperately need to team up with Yahoo. Google offers a whole suite of online applications, but at the core is of course Google's searchengine and this is where Microsoft wants to take the battle to in launching their new searchengine 'Kumo'

Earlier this week Microsoft announced that the company had started testing the new service, which is supposed to be much more intelligent that Google's. It is supposed to understand syntax and the relation between queries. Last monday CNet reported :

"Word that Microsoft was close to launching the new search tool began with a Twitter posting by Powerset co-founder Barney Pell, who now serves as a "search strategist and evangelist" for Microsoft. In the posting, reported by enthusiast site LiveSide, Pell did not mention the Kumo name, but said that the site was getting an updated user interface and new brand.

"Barney was referring to our internal testing environments," the Microsoft representative said, adding that the company had nothing to announce today. "We are not in a position to confirm what will come to the market or when." Microsoft acquired Pell's Powerset in July. "

According to yesterday's news at CNet, Kumo is a rebranded version of Microsoft Live Search. However, to stand more than a snowflake's chance in hell, Kumo needs to be a whole lot more than a mere revampt of the Live Search, which is the 3rd largest searchengine and currently has a marketshare of 8,5%, trailing Google (60%) and Yahoo (21%) by miles.

In yesterday's article at CNet they also laid hands on an internal Microsoft email calling out for testers. Here's a wee bit from the article:

In spite of the progress made by search engines, 40 percent of queries go unanswered; half of queries are about searchers returning to previous tasks; and 46 percent of search sessions are longer than 20 minutes. These and many other learnings suggest that customers often don't find what they need from search today.

We believe we can provide a better and more useful search experience that helps you not just search but accomplish tasks. During the test, features will vary by country, but you'll see results organized in a way that saves you more time. An explorer pane on the left side of results pages will give you access to tools that help you with your tasks. Other features like single session history and hover preview help accomplish more in search sessions.

Also from the same CNet article, a first screenshot of Kumo

For now, Kumo is the projects codename, but the blogoshere doubts it will be the final brandname. Officially, Kumo is Japanese for 'Cloud' and 'Spider' but sounds a little too much like that crazy dog, Cujo, from a Stephen King novel (according to ZDnet)

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Monday, February 02, 2009

Google blocks World Wide Web

Last saturday an error at Google led to blocking the entire World Wide Web. Well, not exactly, you could still surf directly to any site you wanted to, but every search result made through Google returned an error message reading "This site may harm your computer".

The error lasted about half an hour, but led to a lot of mishap. Marissa Mayer, VP, Search Products & User Experience explained what happened on the official Google blog:

What happened? Very simply, human error. Google flags search results with the message "This site may harm your computer" if the site is known to install malicious software in the background or otherwise surreptitiously. We do this to protect our users against visiting sites that could harm their computers. We maintain a list of such sites through both manual and automated methods. We work with a non-profit called to come up with criteria for maintaining this list, and to provide simple processes for webmasters to remove their site from the list.

Here's the explanation.

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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Ballmer: It's time to strike a deal with Yahoo

If there has to be made a deal between Microsoft and Yahoo, now is the time according to Steve Ballmer. The Microsoft CEO who recently visited and commented on this blog sat down for a talk with the Financial Times yesterday to put the pressure back on the MicroHoo soap which started nearly a year ago.

Both companies are in a management transition phase these days. Microsoft hired Qi Lu, a former top gun at Yahoo to reposition their online business, whereas Yahoo is on the lookout for a new CEO after Jerry Yang stepped down. Ballmer said:

"If a search deal is to be made, it's probably to be made in the interim period for new leaders in both places."

The MicroHoo soap started last year with Microsoft placing a full take over bid. After that was dropped, a Search deal was worked out, but once more it failed. Now Steve Ballmer is putting the pressure back on. After the last deal fell through, Jerry Yang's position at Yahoo was severely compromised as Wall Street analysts have estimated that a deal could add more than $12bn to Yahoo's value. In hiring Qi Lu, Microsoft made a tactical move to pave the way for a new deal.

I've never regarded Microsoft to be tactical, but they're getting smarter. Ballmer's timing this week is impeccable as well. Yahoo is said to be closing in on a replacement for Jerry Yang, but closing in on them while Yahoo is without a strong leader and the current credit crunch sentiments is once again a smart move.

They have to get smarter, because Microsoft is no longer the leader of the pack. They've been moved into the underdog position against Google and Microsoft needs to make the online transition in order to survive. The internet is the frontier as more and more activity is done webbased. Everything is moving from home computing to cloud computing. In the near future, hardly any application will be run from a pc, nor will any file be stored on a pc. It will be webservers that run the show. In this outlook, Microsoft is losing a business case in Operating Systems. It needs to step up their online activity. Microsoft and Yahoo will both loose the online war to Google if they remain independent.

You know what. Probably a year ago I would have written a very negative story on Microsoft. We still have a tendency to hate that money making machine to a certain extend, and we've all been cheering time and again as the European Committee fined Microsoft for gaining undisered monopoly positions on the market. That sentiment is slowly changing. Very slowly. More and more Google is crawling into that dominant position, although this dragon doesn't have a head to slay as Microsoft once had in the days of Bill Gates.

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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Google Chrome: Less is More but also more is less

Less is more

Back in the old days of the internet you had search engines with gigantic amounts of search categories and click by click by click you narrowed your search. These old dogs -like Yahoo, Alta Vista and Lycos- are still around, somewhere in the dark corners of the net but driven away by a search engine everyone ridiculed at first: Google.

Opposing the enourmous yellow pages of the web, there suddenly was a company that brought to you an empty screen with a single textbox to search. No way this would work. Well, Google is one of the Titans now, hungry enough to take on the world. It's picking on Microsoft now. Their first shot was Google Docs and stuff, taking on the Microsoft Office suite and now there's Chrome.

Chrome is Google's new webbrowser, released for download just yesterday and it bears the same marks as the Search Engine that shook the world: It's minimalistic. Whereas the Microsoft family tries to offer you dozens of features you'll never use (but put a pricetag on them anyway), this Chrome webbrowser is lean and mean.

"Google Chrome is a browser that combines a minimal design with sophisticated technology to make the web faster, safer, and easier."

Mmm... safer, I don't know. Heard they already found its first leak, but faster is always welcome.

More is less

Right now, Microsoft's Internet Explorer holds about 70% of the browser market, 20% is up for Firefox and the last 10% divided over the others, such as Opera and Safari, but no doubt this new browser will take a big chunk out of IE's marketshare and could well mean the end of Firefox. The development of Firefox is mainly open source, Google Chrome will be open source as well, which means you -as a consumer become a prosumer and build the product you want yourself. It makes the product better, and gets you addicted to it in the same run. The other part of the Firefox development is Google funded, so that's a well soon to dry up I guess:

Mitchell Baker, chairperson of the Mozilla Foundation admits it herself on her blog:

Another important element is the financial resources Mozilla enjoys. We’ve just renewed our agreement with Google for an additional three years. This agreement now ends in November of 2011 rather than November of 2008, so we have stability
in income. We’re also learning more all the time about how to use Mozilla’s financial resources to help contributors through infrastructure, new programs, and new types of support from employees.

Okay, so that propably means Firefox is going to pull the plug in 2011, after Google has had time to establish itself and suck out every usefull Firefox option.

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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

I, You and Wii trends 2007

It's december now and a spectacular year of booming business is coming to an end. Here and there the first anthologies are starting to appear. You may have guessed; it's been a good year for Apple. No big surprises here, aside from the smash hit "Guitar Hero"

From: The Year of I, You, and Wii
  1. YouTube
  2. Wikipedia
  3. Facebook
  4. iTunes
  5. iPod
  6. iPhone
  7. Nintendo Wii
  8. Xbox
  9. Sony PlayStation 3
  10. Guitar Hero
Another list with no real surprises is the Celebrity Downslide list, also by Yahoo
  1. Britney Spears
  2. Paris Hilton
  3. Anna Nicole Smith
  4. Vanessa Anne Hudgens
  5. Nicole Richie
  6. Amy Winehouse
  7. Rosie O'Donnell
  8. Tara Conner
  9. Michael Vick
  10. Owen Wilson

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Friday, August 03, 2007

Geek Meet - the Celeb Edition?

Another Geekmeet Friday with a show packed with Second Life goodies went down at Dr. Dobbs island again. Tonight's lineup:

  • MSo Lambert and Sensual Casanove from Synthetic speaking on the Subscribe-O-Matic.
  • Navillus Batra, aka Jacob Sullivan of i3D demonstrating the brand new LSL unit testing tech that Linden Lab commisioned his company to build.
  • Felix Wakmann and Diva Canto of the SLBrowser giving a demo of the new 2.0 version.

Since this was a first (full) voice edition, it was a bloggersnightmare, but a great show once more.

The Subscribe-O-Matic is basically tying to work about a couple of problems business owners face when trying to use groups to stay in touch with their customers, or potential customers. It is a networked system of devices that sellers can use in their shops, which customers can simply touch to "subscribe" to their Subscribe-O-Matic list

The best way to say something on the Unit Testing done by i3D is by giving a quote from Metaversed:

"Scriptors will be able to plug individual units of code into the system and stress test and debug with verbose reporting. They'll even be able to track individual functions performance within different units, helping to narrow down bug hunts, and tune performance of complex apps. "

read full piece here

The final stand was made by Felix Wakmann on the SL Browser, which is to some extend a mash-up of the Metamart hud and the Electric Sheep Search Engine.

Perhaps due to the talks on i3D's testing unit the Geekmeet turned out to almost being a celeb-edition with several Linden employees attending and also Aimee Weber was sighted.

Aric Linden, Linden Labs' QA has enjoyed working with i3D pretty much:

"We've really enjoyed working with them and we're very excited to be able to collaborate with folks. We hope to be doing more of it in the future."

Aimee has told me a few weeks ago that she was too busy to keep up with stuff, but has been meaning to come to one of these events for some time now. This time she finally found some time to squeeze it in her busy schedule.

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Monday, July 23, 2007

SLBoutique ReRezzed

For quite some time the SLBoutique has been a topshopping site for Second Lifers next to the SL-Exchange. As the Second Life economy grows, these shopsites grow accordingly. Most started over a private initiative and SL-Exchange evolved into what I'd call a typical Open-Source community design.
The SLBoutique was taken over by the Electric Sheep Company several months ago and was pretty mothballed due to ESC's neglect, and in its latest design it's just pushing the ESC logo and brandname.
Today, July 23rd, the curtain falls for the SLBoutique as it will be taken offline to return in the shape of Shop OnRez come thursday. In the meantime its content will be migrated.
The Shop OnRez previews I've seen look very promising, giving it an overall slick Web 2.0 look and feel. I've never been much of an outworld shopper -primarily due to crappy navigation on these shopping sites - This one I might check out.

Last friday, ESC's Giff Constable promoted the new OnRez shop at the weekly Geek Meet. In the wrap up I've published just a part of Giff's comments on OnRez, here's some more:
"To give you a quick intro, The Electric Sheep company has long been known as a consulting company for virtual worlds, but our business goals always included building a consumer software business. Our goal is to create technologies to make virtual worlds easier to use and make information flow more efficiently.
We are launching a new brand around these consumer technologies called OnRez, with the first step launching next Tuesday. Shopping has always been important to us, which is why we bought SLBoutique in early 2006, but while we focused on our consulting business SLBoutique was neglected.
That changed early this year when we looked closely at the technology and decided we needed to overhaul the entire SLBoutique system. On tuesday we're launching Shop OnRez. Our goal overall is to make shopping easier wherever you are, and to make life a lot easier for the small businesses of SL.
We've made a lot of changes to make the whole thing more robust, to make deliveries more stable, and the whole thing better functioning. SL has some tricky things around object deliveries that took some finagling.
What really interests me though is how we're trying to bridge the Web and SL (as some others are as well). We provide a single place for a seller to load their goods, we now provide scripted vendors so they can sell those goods on the Web or in their stores. We provide search capabilities so that you can walk into a store and search right for the item you want.
The in world shopping can take the form of a scripted vendor specific to a seller, or a general OnRez shopping HUD, or a shopping kiosk you can put up. Frankly I view HUDs as rather crude, so we're also working on the open source SL client to see how we can improve shopping by embedding functionality right in the experience, but HUDs are the best we have right now!
A HUD is built on prims and LSL and it's text display and input capabilities are rough, to be extremely kind, I'd like to see more widget type functionality but that's not a tomorrow thing. we're months away from that but my view of all of this is that we need Linden Lab to improve the SL performance and scalability -- make what we have now better, but we also need to see innovation on top of this platform.

In a few weeks we'll also be relaunching the second life search engine. Linden Lab is also working on one, and I look forward to what they come up with, but we are going to go ahead and try to put out some better Web search capabilities than currently exists right now."

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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The MindBlizzard Crowd

A little earlier I gave you some clinical stats on april's visits to the blog, here's a more personal touch:
When I was checking some things I noticed the MindBlizzard blog was mentioned at the Spotfire site... good to know :)

Aside from that some people like to keep stats of where Business Week is mentioned, this past week I scored 2 points. And there's Reuben Steiger, CEO of Millions of Us who reacted to my blog on his 2007 predictions for Second Life and Paul Verhoeven who turned out to be a well metaversed SL-savvy director and kind enough to take half an hour to sit and have a chat with me on his new movie Black Book and auditioning in SL.

In the past month I've gotten to know Aleister Kronos, who's employed at a competing corp, a passionate blogger at Ambling in SL and 57 miles, professional bloggernaut at Metaversed. A month blogging like a lunatic earned me some nice friends, some scoops, some sleepless nights and some nice credits.

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Sunday, April 15, 2007


Google is looking for the next level in their Search Engine development. They have started an experiment with voice recognition, enabling people to search Google by telephone when you don't have a computer or internet connectin at hand. Google does the search and gives you the results, if so desired per sms.

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