July 29, 2005

Folders versus Tagging and Innovating UI and User Experience

A lot of people are adding structure to the unstructured web, their photo collections, and much more. A short list of tagging uses include Blogs, Yahoo’s MyWeb personalized web search, del.icio.us social bookmarking, Flickr photo sharing, Geotagging to tag items with locations, etc…even Google Mail abandoned folders as a way for organizing mail, instead relying on labels.

Ask, in their latest incarnation of Myweb personalized search has decided to use folders:

Organize your saved results and searches the way YOU want!

The statement above was probably made by Ask in reference to the fact that they conducted usability tests and found folders to be “more intuitive.” Their comments seem to pose a few possibilities on why this is so…my guess is that’s what we’re used to…many of us were introduced to OSes that use folders…doesn’t matter if it was *nix or Windows (BTW, remember the rumors that Apple would drop the “folders” concept?). Instead of tagging the saved sites, you add them to folders and tag the folders (but do not share those tags with others). Afterwhich, they’ll ask their users to transition to tagging.

It will be interesting to see what happens with tags and what users eventually become “trained” to use…just because they use folders now, may not mean they’ll use it later. The Ask people make a good point in addressing the needs of the users but it could keep them from innovating. They lack the social aspect that Yahoo’s Myweb employs to share these tags with others and let the majority decide on which sites are more relevant for which terms…eventually, this could help Yahoo’s relevancy. Ask addresses the users’ immediate needs but the uses of folders/personal tagging would be much more limiting in what they could do with their product.

At times, decisions like these become business decisions. Often, smaller sites, usually dependent on traffic, will wait for the market movers/makers to “train” users to use a technology instead of risk losing their own users/adoption. They could then switch over once these market leaders have trained users sufficiently. It saves them the cost of developing technology which may simply be the current “buzz” and would later need to be supported just to keep additional users in parallel with a new product (or risk losing many users by forcing a switch-over). It saves them the cost of abandonment from their site or their tools. Alternatively, Ask could be trying to differentiate their product the same way they differentiate their search engine. This, of course, is all speculation…but it is interesting to see they have taken this approach.

This reminded me of how I had been involved in a company that made innovative UI changes that were quickly reversed. At Citysearch, in August of 2001, we launched the concept of 2 boxes for local search: Anything/Anywhere (type in a location and a query term). Users didn’t know what to do with it…they had never seen that before. They were used to browsing to a location, then searching for a term…and we learned that the hard way. We had to make a change just a few short months later after really trying to give it a shot (and even trying a few other modifications along the way).

Fast forward years later and Google Local launched first in Google Labs, then in beta in March 2004 (still branded as such) with 2 search boxes labeled “What/Where” and they soon had wide adoption of that UI. Google was much better positioned to play around with this interface…they launched a non-existent product which meant they were about adoption and not about trying not to lose an existing user base…plus they were also of a much larger scale.

What are your thoughts on tagging? How about on innovating UI?

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Map of The Simpsons’ Springfield

I can’t believe someone spent the time to do this.

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Writeup comparing KW search & Link Tracking for Blogs

There is a good writeup on how services linktrack blogs, the first part of a six-part series planned by Mary Hodder.

The second part is on how they handle keyword search.

Nice compare/contrast charts included.

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Windows Anti-Piracy Attempt cracked within a day

After Microsoft released Genuine Advantage, a program they began to combat piraters by identifying them when they do a windows update and prompting them to buy the OS, was easily cracked within 24 hours.

Funny how there is always this arms race between the manufacturers/developers and the end-users/hackers…we’ve seen similar things with Apple’s iTunes and Google’s Video Player, just to name a couple of others.

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July 26, 2005

GeoURL.org + MSN Virtual Earth Mashup

So you may already have seen my GeoURL.org + maps mashup. I’ve been using the Google Maps API for a while with that site. It uses entirely javascript to query GeoURL’s database, grab the RSS, parse it, and display markers on the map.

Well, I’ve made modifications to it so that you’ll be able to use Virtual Earth with it. (Virtual Earth is MSN’s new mapping product.

You can search by browsing to a centerpoint or by providing a URL to a site already in the GeoURL database. more info here.

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Why are they focusing on Maps & Local Search?

I was discussing Virtual Earth at work today and then we got onto the topic of why everyone is putting so much effort (read: $$Money$$) into Maps.

Coincidentally, I came across this post shortly afterwards which seemed to cover many of our discussion points. I’ve seen and run numbers similar to this such as at Kelsey Conferences and some may even call the numbers conservative.

Here’s what the article may imply but doesn’t say: the advertisers simply represent one side of the equation. You need eyeballs looking and clicking on the ads…you need traffic. Building compelling products helps gain that traffic…even if it is at a loss (for now). It’s all about capturing market share and/or building a killer app that increases overall usage (increase total market size). Yahoo!, MSN, and Google have all provided developer APIs which allows their maps to be utilized on others’ sites. Check out what Google states:

Google reserves the right to put ads on the map in the future, and you may not alter or obscure these either.

…and Yahoo’s API basically works by providing them an XML page and they host the end-user page on their own site (which means they control everything surrounding the map as well…including ad placements.

Think about how many sites you visit that are not (at least overtly) local (standard web search, dictionaries, product review sites, and other online/virtual sites). Now think about how many of them are local (especially before these maps products were created) such as maps/driving directions, movie times, etc. How often do you visit each. In my opinion, they are much more heavily weighted towards non-local sites. More traffic needs to be captured by local ad engines in order to deliver locally-targetted ads.

There are many sites out there choosing to accomplish this in different ways. In this case, they want to do this with killer map applications. There is also the possibility of trying to decipher non-local traffic into local traffic…if you search for “chicago weather” in Google, for example, although you have gone to a web search, you have added a location modifier. This could, however, prove to be challenging since location modifiers can be almost anything: cities, postal codes, landmarks, “quasi-cities” (a term I am using to signify a non-official place name such as “west side”), etc. Most search engines have already begun doing this by deciphering city names and providing you weather, for example, in the “chicago weather” search.

This lack of consumer traffic is why you see things like this.

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July 25, 2005

Miscellaneous Links: Create Buttons, Logos, Phone Mnemonics, & Lat/Long to Address Lookups

Just a bunch of interesting/useful links:

Phonespell.org attempts to find text within your phone number.

Create a logo online.

Create those 80 x 15 buttons online.

Lookup addresses near a lat/long pair by distance. I’ll have to come up with a good maps hack for this one. :-)

JSAN: CPAN for Javascript. Check out Digest::MD5 or HTTP::Cookies for javascript! Javascript goodness for perl geeks. :-D more….

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Your Mobile Phone To Track You

I’ve mentioned the role I thought phones would play in local search and advertising.

Well, Wired is reporting on cell phones that track you.

Eagle’s Reality Mining project logged 350,000 hours of data over nine months about the location, proximity, activity and communication of volunteers, and was quickly able to guess whether two people were friends or just co-workers. It also found that MBA students actually do spend $45,000 a year to build monster Rolodexes, and that first-year college students — even those who attend MIT — lead chaotic lives.

It can be considered a privacy problem but, as long as it is optional, it could, instead, be a blogging/diary tool, a marketting tool, a consumer tool (local search), etc.

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MSN deletes Apple

With the launch of Virtual Earth comes the same conspiracy theories that came with Google Maps‘ launch.

Well, here is the first one I’ve seen: Microsoft’s Earth deletes Apple HQ

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Is Your Boss a Psychopath?

Is Your Boss a Psychopath? is a quiz you can take from Fastcompany.

A former boss of mine scored 16 out of a possible 16:

If your boss scores:

1-4 | Be frustrated
5-7 | Be cautious
8-12 | Be afraid
13-16 | Be very afraid

Link forwarded by a friend I’ll keep anonymous (unless they say they don’t care). ;-)

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