Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Dilbert 2.0

So I've been a big fan of the Dilbert comic strips for a long time now. I started to actually understand some of the subtleties after working in the corporate world, which made them even funnier. But now is going interactive. In addition to a nice new blog, you can now add Dilbert widgets toy our homepage/mashup site, including igoogle or myspace, exposing others to the wonderful world of Dilbert.

But I've saved the best for last. has created a new mashup section, which allows you to com plete the punchline for the daily comics. The top user-rated strips get dislpayed in the top 10. Some of the new endings are very funny and creative. So if you like to start your day with a good laugh, check out the Dilbert commic strips.

Sunday, April 27, 2008


The other day a friend told me about reCAPTCHA, a CAPTCHA-based program (attempting to block spam bots) with an interesting twist. The developers (CMU CS students) are combining a web-scale CAPTCHA solution with an optical character recognition (OCR) system. Since OCR systems are not perfect, they have trouble recognizing some scanned words that humans can typically recognize. By combining known and unknown words in their reCAPTCHA tests, they can simultaneously sort humans from bots and enable an Internet-scale crowdsourced OCR solution. They're using the human-provided text answers to help the Internet Archive project with their digitization efforts.

Recaptcha and is available for use on your own site, and they have plugins to make it even easier to add to Wordpress or Mediawiki based sites.

Copyright Easter Eggs

I was reading up on the OpenStreetMap project and other GeoWikis, when I discovered this page describing something known as Copyright Easter Eggs.

In order to defend the copyright ownership of one's map data, some map manufacturers have inserted small errors into the geodata so that if anyone was to copy the copyrighted maps, they could show that the copy was derived from their copyrighted source. Examples of this are streets that don't exists, names of streets that are slightly altered or misspelled. Churches that don't exist are also popular fake errors.

It's an interesting application of digital watermarking. Although the errors are not imperceptible (the errors are easily spotted if the subject viewing the map simply knows what to look for), the fact that the errors are fairly random and interspersed with actual accurate data and that there is no easy way to find all of these introduced errors, it makes it a seemingly fairly effective way to demonstrate copyright.

On Google news Quotes

I've been pondering how google news attributes quotes to people. Matt Hurst points out that only some people have quotes listed in google news and that some of the people who are not listed are important world leaders.

At first I thought they were scanning around quotes to match against named entities. I believed that they used a named entity tagging as part of their quotes feature. But then I noticed this well known quote:
"I remember landing under sniper fire," she said. "There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base."
Which was sourced to Some Article. But in the quote there was no mention of who "she" refers to. Inside the article the nearest named entity to the quote is Sarajevo which is a place (but still a named entity), Hillary Clinton is mentioned by name further up and is the only woman mentioned in the article. This shows evidence that Google news is doing some sophisticated processing to get these quotes. I wonder if Google disambiguates between multiple people of the same gender?

And then Just when I'm starting to get impressed with Google all over again I check out this quote:

"Let me tell you something," she told labor leaders firmly in Philadelphia. "When it comes to finishing the fight, Rocky and I have a lot in common. I never quit. I never give up."

Which they source to The New York Times, but when I follow the link the quotes not there! I'm getting flashbacks to past Google mess ups. I know it was only an estimate... but this little things are starting to pileup. Anyone else noticing that Google is getting a little bit sloppy?

Blog Talk Radio

I enjoy listening to Farai Chideya's radio program News & Notes. While listening to her Blogger's Roundtable discussion last Wednesday evening I learned about Blog Talk Radio (BTR), a web-based service that provides a free solution for hosting and listening to live radio-style interactive talk shows. This appears to be a very effective union of old & new media formats that allows anyone with a phone and a computer to create an interactive call-in talk show. To quote the BTR site, Blog Talk Radio is:
"Internet Radio, Citizen Broadcasting, Social Media Podcasts" ... "Empowering citizen broadcasters to create and share their original content, we can now access a richly diverse, sometimes balanced, often peculiar, mosaic of the Global Human Voice."
The site includes a number of features to support live interactive broadcasts, including web controls to allow the host to activate or deactivate up to 4 call-in guests (via telephone or Skype), a chatroom feature, and music, sound effects or commercials to be played during broadcast. Once completed the programs are subsequently made available as MP3 podcasts, RSS feeds, or via iTunes. Programs are broadcast as Windows Media streaming audio (so on a mac you may need a Windows Media Player program or browser plugin such as Flip4Mac to tune in live). In addition to the live broadcast features, the site also provides profiles and blog spaces for both hosts and listeners. They also offer a flash player widget that hosts can embed within their own blog or web page so listeners don't have to navigate to

The site is free for listeners and hosts, because it is ad revenue driven. BTR offers a revenue sharing program to split the revenues between BTR and program hosts, with rates that depend on who brought in the advertiser. They also provide reporting tools to measure the listening audience and ad revenues.

In my own quick review there appeared to be many interesting programs offered with tremendous diversity, exhibiting a range of production quality. Blogs are reasonable for exchanging ideas casually (asynchronously), but when you really want to immerse yourself in a topic, multi-party interactive programming is even more fun. BTR seems to me to be one of those natural solutions that appears obvious in retrospect, because it makes a lot of sense. For modern, interactive and engaging information sharing, what could possibly beat BTR? (Hmmm... Now I will have to dig deeper into Interactive TV which I learned about at BTR!).

Mashup Camp

I was just reading about a yearly conference called Mashup Camp, or "The Unconference for the Uncomputer". The idea is to bring together a bunch of mashup developers API/technology providers and come up with new innovative creations that really push the envelope in the world of mashups. There is no prescribed agenda in the "Unconference" (following the "Open Space" methadology), instead there are a number of leader-moderated sessions in which attendees drive the discussion.

Mashup Camp seems like an interesting experience, and if I ever end up getting into a Web 2.0 business or project, I would definitely be interested in attending.

Disqus: social commenting system

Disqus is a very good social commenting system that you can integrate with your current blogging system. It lets you to better track comments on your blog posts. Generally, you are required to subscribe to the entire thread. But, most of the times, you only want to see if there are any replies just to your post. So, you usually don’t subscribe to the entire thread and would think that you’ll just come back to the article and see if there are any replies to you. With Disqus, you only get replies to you emailed.
Disqus also provides other useful features, like RSS feeds for comments, building clout based on the votes to your reply comments, and widgets that display top commenters, recent comments, and articles with the most comments on them etc.

Aggregating social network data into single feed

There are various services available out to aggregate data from all the social networks that you belong to, and provide you and your friends with a personalized feed. Examples are, FriendFeed, Plaxo Pulse. Plaxo Pulse allows you to use OpenID for sign in. There are also Adobe AIR applications to receive updates from FriendFeed, Twitter like Alert Thingy, Feedalizr. Moreover, there is that connects all your social networks to your mobile device.
It's interesting to see so many supporting auxiliary applications being developed around social networks. is a website that combines a set of tools like blogs, photos, wiki, forum, chat etc. to overcome the limitation of linking these things together and multiple sign on requirement. You can synchronize your photos from flickr, add/remove modules you want. It does not show ads on your pages nor it shows its own logo. Moreover, you can add your own ads on your group pages and make money.

I don't know how they make money from this service.
Blogged with the Flock Browser

Timeline Mashup

Lifehacker recently posted about Dipity. Dipity lets you pull data from other online applications and RSS feed and presents it in a time line.

Skoogo - Information networking

The web is changing. User contribution is now what makes or breaks a site.But letting userscontribute content can sometimes produce results you did not think of. skoogO is targeted at students who want to share information.It has a question and answer format,just like yahooanswers.Students ask question which are answered by fellow students.But when i visited the sitemost of the questions were non-academic like "I know how to make money online: go to ...""Why are gas prices so high? Is it still the War with Iraq? "

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Groups - A online social group platform

Groups is a social groupware service for online communitiesIt is a platform for social groups to get together.It is very easy to setup and customize your online group by integrating pre-existing modules such as blogs,talks,people,maps,photos, live chats. It has all the features like wiki, photos, links, blogsIt is completely free and does not have any kind of ads.

wickd: "tech fashion"

Found via's April Trend Briefing, a clothing company in the Netherlands will put a ShotCode on a shirt. A ShotCode is a "barcode"-like image that encodes a URL into a small graphic. The website provides a mobile phone application that uses the camera on the phone to read the ShotCode and then open the phone's browser to the encoded URL. What is interesting is that wickd will create a ShotCode for your personal URL and then put it on a shirt of your choice. So you can now take your online social presence offline.

Mash Maker is in public beta

For those that haven't seen it yet, the Intel Mash Maker program is in public beta. You can now download the plugin and try it out. The gallery, unfortunately, has a lot of duplication, no doubt initial users following along with the posted videos and creating the same mashups and publishing them. There are a couple of interesting mashups show charts and calendar/timeline views of Yahoo Finance data. Another cool one is showing Pollstar and Stubhub data for the current artist playing on

Friday, April 25, 2008

Social Networks Mirroring Rality TV

According to a study conducted by University of Buffalo and University of Hawaii, young people who like to watch reality shows like American Idol are more likely to accept unknown friend requests and are interested in social networking. The researchers say claim that "online social networking may not be a fad. Beyond its usefulness for communication, personal expression and directory look-ups, the sites are also working in sync with some of the biggest cultural trends at large"

More information and links can be found here.
Blogged with the Flock Browser


Earlier this month an American student was arrested in Egypt while trying to photograph a demonstration. The student used his mobile phone to send a message to Twitter simply stating "Arrested". His Twitter readers were then able to contact the US Embassy and the media to draw attention to his case.

The TechCrunch article about this has some interesting comments. Everyone seems to agree that this is fantastic PR for Twitter, especially with the outages and personnel turnover going on at the company right now. There also seem to be a lot of Twitter haters.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Bluestring = mashup?

Bluestring is an online photosharing site owned by AOL that allows users to create collages and videos to share. What's really interesting is that you can use media stored on Picasa, Photobucket or Webshots without having to re-upload a copy to Bluestring. It accesses pictures stored on other sites through their APIs. Mashable has an article going into more detail.

Would this be considered a commercial mashup?


Is a website powered by craigs list and google maps. It only works with select cities but it allows you to view housing for sale or rent. You can query by price range and then sort the results by things like pictures being available and number of bedrooms. The description field contains the link to the posting on craigslist. It would be cool if someone made a mashup that could search and map out the various types of things available on craigslist. Links anyone?

Google & Orkut

An article posted on Yahoo news discusses Googles' decision to hand over files on suspected pedophiles on Googles' social networking site, Orkut. Although Google has fought for confidentiality in the past, this is reported to be the first time they have complied. Online discussions are fiercely arguing in terms of greater good vs privacy. What do you guys think?

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Semantic Data Storage

Since we had another lecture delving into the semantic web I thought I would talk about some semantic web technologies, like oracle 11g. The approach oracle takes is to use their existing database technology and augment it to support owl constructs and inferencing. Oracle 11g holds a table for each semantic model, the structure of these tables is always the same. These data tables have 3 columns, one for each part of the triple, in addition to these 3 columns they have columns to provide a unique identifier to triples, a column to link back to the model this triple belongs to, and a bunch of columns that are reserved for future use. Oracle 11g automatically maintains views for what tables belong to what data models, and a view for triples associated with models along with other views.

Oracle 11g supports inferencing using rules and rulebases. Rules are basically if then statements, and rulebases are their containers (implemented with tables). Oracle 11g comes with a set of common rulebases for RDF (and variants) and OWL. Rules can be created and inserted into rulebases. Inferencing is further supported with rule indices that hold precomputed values for rules. Oracle 11g also provides functions like SEM_MATCH and SEM_DISTANCE.

If this brief overview has wet your appetite, check out for more.

Microsoft's Live Mesh

Microsoft will soon debut their new web-based software platform, known as Live Mesh, which is intended to compete with similar offerings from Google and Amazon. Their hope is to blur the line between desktop and web applications (much of the buzz today) and develop software to sew our digital lives together. Their software will "mesh" together your Zune, Xbox 360 and your Windows media into a synchronizing, accessible-anywhere digital repository. Read the full article over at NYTimes.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Missing Link

Okay, so class got me thinking.

Let's go with the idea that semantic is what we described in class. A method of structuring and conveying the meaning of data that is semantic, machine readable, and reusable.

However, that's just the data and information you wish to convey. That is not the display of the data. Part of the weight behind Web 2.0, the web as it today, is the rich, visual experience. People love a rich interface.

The issue with HTML is that people are attempting to structure their data in it and to display it. CSS separates, mostly, design from content. However, the display structure of the document is still tied into the structure of the data.

So to fully reach that metaphorical island Dr. Chen spoke of, we need not only to publish and share our data in a semantic, machine readable and reusable manner, but we also need a new manner in which we create the rich, artistic, and accessible interfaces that is completely separate from how we mark up our information and data.

What the new mark-up or software or technology is that enables this is, I'm not sure. However, I think such a thing, teamed with semantic data, would be a powerful team.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Wikipedia Scanner

I learned tonight (reading on Wired) about Wikipedia scanner which lets you look for Wikipedia posts by organization name. I understand Virgil Griffith (a Caltech grad student) hosts a database of Wikipedia edits by IP, date, topic, comments, etc., including the reverse DNS lookup info for all the IPs from which the edits originated. The site is set up so you can enter an organization name (e.g. Microsoft or Department of Energy) and see what topics someone from those organizations contributed to or commented on, and it then provides specific edits in Wikipedia "diff" form. It can be politically touchy- I guess that's in part why it was set up- to see what organizations are putting shameless spin on what topics. Wired hosts a crowd-sourced "salacious edits" collection that is fun to peruse or contribute to.

This is a great example of combining two distinct sources of public information to make the information much more useful and interesting. Equally interesting would be the Wikipedia scanner's own collection of what IPs and organizations are reviewing what Wikipedia posts...

Social Autistics

We spoke in class about how new Internet technologies can provide critical social connection tools for groups with very specific interests, such as support networks for families with specific medical conditions. I read an inspirational article in Wired about how individuals with autism have been using blogs and even Youtube to to network with other autistics, researchers and the public, and further pursue information campaigns and political agendas. Recent scientific publications are challenging the conventional wisdom that the majority of autistics score in the mentally retarded range on standard intelligence tests. The article makes the point that autism is increasingly viewed as involving developmental differences and not necessarily a disease that results in a defective brain. The opinions on this matter vary greatly, as do the levels of disability that result from autism. Nonetheless, autistic individuals who are able to employ social networking technologies are now reaching out in novel ways and redefining the way we view and relate to them.

The secure social web

How do you know that that person you are talking to on Facebook is really your friend from high school? 50lbs plus or minus and a person can look a might different...

How would a secure social web change how we interact online? Assuming everyone authenticates to a central authority and it works reasonably well, would we change what we do?

You could sign everything you post with your cryptographic signature, so people can trust it came from you. No more hijacking with a simple password to send stupid messages when your friend goes for a snack. You would be held more accountable, but you could hold that same accountability to everyone else. How would treat people that were not properly authenticated? With a level of distrust, questioning what or who they really were?

Granted there are about 300 million implementation problems but it will get here in the end, as it actually helps the **AA companies, not that that is really a plus...

Social Networking in the Classroom

This article talks about how use of the Internet and Web have caused problems in the classroom and how some schools, University of Chicago Law School in particular have taken extreme measures to counter this trend.

What does someone do on their laptop in class? Are they talking with friends, checking email, playing games, doing work for another class or are they actually taking notes, following along in the online slides or some other productive use?

Social Networking works well outside the classroom but there does not seem to be much use of it inside the classroom. One could attribute much of this to the behemoth that is Blackboard. For whatever long list of problems people have with the system, it has remained powerful. Recently, Blackboard lost a patent case which had a great number of its patents invalidated. What is interesting is where social networking technologies could be used in the academic environment. Blackboard has its discussion board but this is not realistically real time and not meant to be used as such.

Merge a technology like Twitter or AIM with Blackboard and bring the students back on topic by allowing them to have backchannel discussions during the lecture. This could lead to new insights, questions and involvement that could not have come about before. The possibilities for both good and bad use of these technologies is quite large.

You can try so hard to stop the future of ubiquitous computing, why not embrace it and make it do something useful?


It is a Web 2.0 style product review site that is driven by underlying social community of its users. " is based on a reputation system that takes the idea of giving and receiving positive feedback as an incentive for increased interaction between users" You get better reviews, create polls. Here is the faq for more information.


WaveMaker is Free Ajax development studio. It is a visual builder that has drag and drop features. It comes with another tool with rapid deployment feature called PushToDeploy. Here is the list of features from the site:

* Drag & Drop Assembly
* LiveLayout™
* Push to Deploy™: One-touch application deployment
* Visual Data Binding
* SOAP, REST and RSS web services
* Leverage existing CSS, HTML and Java
* Deploys a standard Java .war file
* Free

Aviary : Rich Internet Applications for Artists

From image editing to typography to music to 3D to video, Aviary offers tools for artists.
There have been tools by Picnik and Adobe Photoshop Express for photo editing images, but Aviary promises 18 tools (all with bird names) that offer additional features including pattern editing, 3D modeling, andvector image creation or editing. Aviary is a website for artists of all genres to create, edit and share their works directly in their favorite browser.
The most interesting found in their product blog, is called Dodo, a web based time machine!

The service will allow you to upload image of people, places and things, and you can provide the years, it will age or de-age things in the image, using the Astley-Zonday time displacement theorem with accurate results. Below is the Demo video.

NosyJoe - Social search engine

NosyJoe is a social search engine that relies on you to sniff for and submit the web's interesting content and offers basically meaningful search results in the form of readable complete sentences and smart tags. NosyJoe is built upon the fundamental belief people are better than robots in finding the interesting, important and quality content around Web. Rather than crawling the entire Web building a massive index of information, which aside being an enormous technological task, requires huge amount of resources and is time consuming process would also load lots of unnecessary information people don't want, NosyJoe is focused just on those parts of the Web people think are important and find interesting enough to submit and share with others.

NosyJoe applies a semantic based textual analysis and intelligently extracts the meaningful structures like sentences, phrases, words and names from the content in order to make it just one idea more meaningfully searchable.

The information is then clustered and published across the NosyJoe's platform into contextual channels, time and source categories and semantic phrasal, name and word tags are also applied to meaningfully connect them together, which makes even the smallest content component web visible, indexable and findable. At the end a set of algorithms and user patterns are applied to further rank, organize and share the information.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Google maps predict traffic patterns

By analysing the traffic history patern on routes googlemaps can now predicttraffic for any day of the week and time of the day.Click the Traffic buttonon the top of a map and then click the change link to switch between live trafficand traffic predictions. Creating an service on top of this data/service that gives youinformation such as best times to travel from one place to another or suggest alternate routethat won't be so clogged seems to be a possible idea.

How is that job

Taking advice from strangers and making decisions seems a bad idea.But this socialnetworking website has people talking about their experiences with job that includefinancial benefits,work culture,bosses,co-workers, etc does not look all that bad.Ofcurse the reviews you write are anonymous. I think such reviews would be benficial for common people. Similar sites describing experience with graduate schools would also be a good idea.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Internet Activities Aren't Anonymous

As I've said before you are not as anonymous online as you think you are. You can be identified accurately with your gender, data of birth, and zip code (derivable from your IP addr). If you hide your gender, it can be derived by your membership in social groups. Akshay assures me the white-paper will be online soon. Similarly, your date of birth can be derived from your social network. Hiding information from your profile is not as effective at protecting your identity as you might think.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

An article posted on computerworld discusses the current computing world as it stands on accessibility. Among things worth noting is that the article also discusses the current issues with the web and screen reading software. It calls attention to the fact that little has changed in terms of accessibility compliance in almost ten years. I know there are a few accessibility advocates out there in the class. Im just wondering if there are things outside of following the guidelines, that we as current/future CS professionals can do about this?


Has been sued by a woman in texas for reporting movies that she has rented via Facebook beacon. She has filed in federal court and is seeking class action status. She seeks 2500 per violation of the statue and Facebook hasnt commented on the lawsuit. Do you guys think she has a case? Can she win?

social search

Popular Mechanics has an article entitled "How Social Networking Could Kill Web Search as We Know It". It explores the idea that traditional search engines are going to be replaced by search engines that use your social networks to find the information you need.

The first question that immediately sprang to my mind was "What if I have an interest not shared by my friends?"

In a similar vein, the NY Times has an article about how social networks are changing how we consume news. The article had this great quote from a college student "If the news is that important, it will find me.”

People don't just go to CNN and read every article. They read one CNN article that was linked to from a blog or a Twitter and then follow another link to another news site. This isn't that different from how news can be spread via word-of-mouth, but now instead of just hearing about an article you are able to follow a link directly to the original source.

Google Earth adds street view

The new Google Earth beta came out today with some exciting new features. Now you can fly down from space to street level in one seamless swoop. With the new joystick feature, you can virtually visit New York and walk around Time Square. I haven't downloaded it yet (this laptop wouldn't be able to handle it well), but I'm anxious to try it out when I get home. I wonder what Google Earth will be like in 10 years or so. Will we have full blown virtual city tours for every major destination on earth? I would love to visit the streets of Tokyo before visiting Tokyo.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Niche social networks

CNN had an article today about smaller niche social networks. Large social networks like Facebook have groups for just about any interest. But because there are so many it can be challenging to actually find the perfect group for you.

Meanwhile, niche websites like Ravelry, a knit/crochet group, actually have a wait-list to join!

From Ravelry's website:
We're adding people to the site slowly so that we can keep our sanity! Each day, invitations are sent to the next 800 - 1000 people. There are currently 6,755 people waiting for their invites.
Apparently advertisers also love these niche social networks because it is very easy to target your ads to the appropriate audience.

Original site, RSS feed reader or News Aggregator?

I constantly feel torn when it comes to how to get my news fix... And depending on what kind of mood I'm in, I'll handle things differently. Most of the time I'll go to (iGoogle news aggregator), and click on links to interesting articles on Digg, Engadget, Slashdot, Fark, InventorSpot, and the Social Web Technologies blog :-). But on occasion I'll just browse to,,, etc. And sometimes I'll use a dedicated RSS reader (like on my Palm, I use feedm8 to read the aforementioned newsfeeds)... But what is the best way to browse news data? All of the methods have their advantages (aggregator only requires a generic web browser, normal web sites have additional info that might not be in the RSS feed, and RSS readers provide a very concise low-data-transfer-less-junk view of the same data--ideal for mobile devices).

Facebook adds new "Friend List" feature

The other day, while I was responding to some Facebook friend requests, I saw a new option to add these new friends to a "Friend List." I wasn't sure what this meant, and a few days later I discovered more information on the Facebook blog. Apparently the lists allow you to organize your friends 1. to easily keep track of people in different groups and 2. restrict how much personal information friends in certain groups can see. Privacy advocates rejoice, you can add somewhat-sketchy people that you might want to stalk to a restricted group so they can only see your basic profile but not your contact info, and also have a group of all friends who are part of your degree program (or whatever). I don't see any downsides to this feature, and I think the Facebook community will approve of the new feature in general (most other features they add tend to create controversy and usually result in angry groups being created saying that *insert new feature here* is the devil, etc.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Gnizr Project I Should Have Choosen

Akshay's post on vertical searches using tags makes me want to change what I'm doing as my gnizr group project. If instead of using delicious tags (which, as akshay points out guard their data very well) we could use gnizr tags, then his idea might be doable. In fact we could even integrate the feature into gnizr. Oh well looks like it will just be another project I put on the back burners...

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Network Topology

In one of our early lectures on Social Network Technologies Prof. Chen briefly introduced the topic of social network analysis. I have been curious to learn more about network graph analysis and visualization. I read up on network topologies, and in particular the notion of scale-free networks that follow a power law relationship.

Networks in a wide range of application areas have been shown to exhibit scale-free topologies, including social networks, the world wide web, the Internet, semantic networks, and biological networks. Their scale-free nature be driven by preferential attachment as the network grows.

As one example, it is interesting to learn how researchers measure and analyze the topology of the Internet (e.g. the CAIDA, DIMES and RouteViews efforts). The CAIDA mapping/analysis team publishes an interesting Internet network visualization, and even has some older animated graphs illustrating the dynamics of the network over an 18 month period.

Some interesting implications of scale-free networks are that a number of key nodes, known as 'hubs', exhibit a much higher than average connectivity; that the networks are generally very robust to random failures; and that they are particularly sensitive or vulnerable to failures at the hub nodes.

How this general information is put to use depends on the application:
And as our election season nears, I assume politicians are also exploiting this sociologic phenomenon to help spread their messages and entice would-be voters. social features

Andrew wrote a post back in February describing's social features that sounded interesting. I wanted to learn what was going on, socially speaking, at, the web-based customizable streaming audio service. Since I last used them they've added a number of worthwhile social features, including sharing of stations with pre-defined networks of friends, and publishing RSS feeds of your favorite stations and bookmarked songs. They don't seem to be up-to-speed yet with APIs for importing/exporting social network information (maybe soon?). But I did appreciate the 'find other listeners' feature that lets you search for other relevant profiles, stations, and artists.

Friending etiquette

Etan Horowitz recenty wrote about Facebook in the workplace

As sites like Facebook increase in popularity and open themselves up to anyone with an email address, they are increasingly being used by people other than the original target audience. The 25 and over group the growing the fastest on Facebook in particular. Often you may receive a friend request from a co-worker. This can help things in the office between equals, but becomes awkward when it is between a superior and a subordinate. I hadn't heard this before, but it is a good rule of thumb when dealing with Facebook at work, "It's OK to accept a friend request from a subordinate, but it's not OK to send one to a subordinate."

This is a good idea to keep in place as this issue comes up more and more. It could even be applied to parental friend requests, but those are always interesting...

Location Based Social Networking

It would be pretty easy for OIT to track you on campus by your user login to the wireless network, coupled with the access point you are connected to. Make this information available to myUMBC and link it into facebook to see what and where your friends are up to.

The question is, would you allow this, want this, use this actively?

What is your salary?

Interesting how web 2.0 gathers information from users and makes them avaliable to the public for free. For example salary information.Certainly you would be interested in knowing how much Microsoft pays to a software engineer just out of graduate school.Then compare it with IBM, May be your friend got a job and you want to estimate his salary or you are planning to change job and intend to negotiate salary with your new employer . Encyclopaydia allows anyone and everyone to browse the salary database. This is an effort to gather anonymous data from people across the country.

An online career community through social networking

Doostang is a company that began with two alumni from Stanford and MIT who wanted to create an easier way for their friends to share job information. It is an interesting concept built upon the belief that over 70% of recruiting today is done through the personal network of contacts(friends and referrals). Doostang's network offers immediate access to relevant people and opportunities through shared friends. Using your personal network is the most effective way to find the right candidate for a position and to find the perfect job.

An Editor to build your Google Maps

Company called Click2Map is providing an interesting editor for creating mash-ups with Google Maps . You can create maps without any knowledge of programming, and don't even need to know Google Maps API. You can there create fully customizable interactive professional online maps from existing data and the editor also offers database and template functionalities. Check out the free trial version. You can check out the various tutorials on the wiki to get help.

Blog Reading Habits

Researchers at University of California, Irvine have conducted a survey of blog readers and I found the results pretty interesting. What really struck me was their finding that "regular blog reading often becomes more habitual and less content oriented". I find that for a good part of a year, I'll read the same sites every day in my feed reader, without really thinking about whether the content is still useful for me to be reading. The linked article describes this as "fulfilling [my] particular routine". I do find that about once a year I'll go through my feed list and evaluate the content of what I'm subscribed to, deciding if I need to continue reading it or if the blog has lost its relevance to me.

Recently I decided to structure my feeds into 3 folders: "must read", "should read", and "free time". I've discovered that I now don't find myself feeling guilty for reading the feeds, as long as I stick to the "must read" folder and ignore the others and, in fact, I don't worry about not being able to read the other folders, now that I've categorized them based on how much time I have. One of the points the article makes is how blog readers do not worry when they do not "read each and every blog post, challenging a common theory that users tend to feel overwhelmed by the need to remain constantly up to date."

Second Life

Recently blogged about users and copyrighted content. They discuss new implementations that will allow users to settle disputes about which object came first more easily. Do you guys think that user created content should be copy righted? Where does the line get drawn? Does anyone know if these will hold up in court?

2.0 Games

This blog hosted here on blogger has a list of what they consider to be web 2.0 games. A few of them have been mentioned her before like "Google Maps Racing" but others like the "Crowd Chess" are new. The idea of playing chess as a crowd seems pretty interesting. Can you guys think of any other games that might lend themselves to this model?

Poll 2.0

I sometimes used to wonder how much work would it be to organize an online poll even if you have a topic. But web 2.0 has made it easy. Submityourvote has a poll making application that allows you to make polls on whatever topic that interests you.First you must register then create your polls and share it with your friends or publish it.You can add the poll in your web page.Various categories have been defined for polls like history,movies,football,politics etc. You can browse all the polls you would like to vote for and also write comments about it.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Free Photoshop? In the online world, answer is yes.

A few weeks ago Adobe launched Photoshop Express - a free, web-enabled version of Photoshop.  The service gives the user access to a subset of the Adobe Photoshop suite in their web browser, along with 2 gigs of free photo storage.  So beyond being a really cool resource out there, whats the business reasoning here?
One, I think, is that it provides an easy way for artists to make some quick modifications to their photos, even from computers without photoshop on them.  This makes their brand ubiquitous, its on any computer with web access, and its simple to access.  
The other strong reason is this pushes accessibility to every class of user out there.  And this is going to breed further mobility in their customer class.  Someone starts using Photoshop Express and really likes it.  They may have used tools like Gimp, but the user experience in Photoshop, they find, is so superior.  But working in the browser is kinda a pain, so they look into their desktop offerings.  You see Photoshop Elements, its easier, it has more features, and its not prohibitively expensive.  I don't think Adobe is without motive here, and I think this has to be a huge focus of Photoshop Express.
In fact, I think a strong future business model would be to split Photoshop Express into a free version and an advanced version.  With the advanced version, I wouldn't even let users purchase it.  I'd include it with the CD keys for Photoshop Elements and Creative Studio.  But, whatever the path, I think Express is really a neat idea, and it'll be interesting to watch how it develops over the coming years.  

Google App Engine

Google has begun a new venture to try to speed the adoption of advanced Web 2.0 applications by individuals and businesses.  Called Google App Engine, the platform deals with all your hosting needs right off the bat - Google supplies the database, the physical server, the webservers; everything you need to start up a new webapp.
And google isn't skimping with the resources either - for free, you get 500 mb's of database storage and enough resources for 5 million pageloads a month.  This is clearly a good strategy because, other than development time, you're not taking a risk on a flop in terms of money.  Just start off on the free plan, and upgrade when your userbase exceeds the free resources - by that time, if you can't afford it, your business model is not just flawed, its wrong.  
The Application Framework is python based, but google even went further in incorporating Django, a MVC framework for Java with rapid development at it's heart.  They've even built a database connector for django, and really solidified that offering rather than slapping it on as an afterthought.
My take on all this, I was never really interested in learning Django.  The last project I worked on, I was looking at either picking up Ruby on Rails or Django, and Ruby on Rails seemed much stronger a platform, and I never regretted picking Rails over Django.  But now I'm looking at Google's offering and I'm thinking about getting into Django.  Ruby on Rails is great, but one of the biggest pains is the hosting aspect.  Rails is a memory hog, and you end up learning a lot when you try to host an app in a reliable manner.  Now, not only is Django easier, but Google is making hosting as easy as uploading and sitting back.  Whenever you let a developer worry just about their code, and not about the whole infastructure, you're leading the way towards a great formula - and Google may have just pushed out a great 1.0 product.

UN Mashups

Google has teamed with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to create a Google Earth layer that shows refugees and displaced people located in Chad, Iraq, Colombia, and Darfur. There is a ComputerWorld article that links to this page at the UNHCR website.

The ComputerWorld article mentions three layers, a global layer, showing the various regions, a more geographic-specific layer discussing things like "refugee health, education, water and sanitation" and a local third layer about "schools and other infrastructure".

Friday, April 11, 2008


I ran across an article on Mashable about a new website called WhatsYourRecord. This site is trying to create a user-generated version of a records books, similar to the Guiness Book of World Records.

One problem with this site is that it doesn't seem to require any verification of the records. They do have links to "related videos from YouTube", so maybe the plan is to have users post videos online.

There are a lot of unusual records, so if you are awesome at hopping on one foot or have some other hidden talent, go try to set a new record. The user base seems to still be pretty small, so you can probably find some record to break.

Visualizing Wikipedia's change history

Yuriy's presentation on wikis reminded me of a visualization from IBM's Collaborative User Experience Research group called History Flow. This visualization shows how the many different authors of a wiki page collaborate. An example from Discover Magazine demonstrates how the visualization can be used to study the history of an article. I think this is a really interesting way to look at collaboration.

More examples can be found here. The images are most dramatic for articles that are somewhat controversial or prone to vandalism because these articles have a high number of edits and lots of deletions and reversions.


Cooliris presents this browser extension called PicLens that converts your image viewing experience on the web to a 3D experience. Just install the extension, go to one of the many supported sites and on each image you will see pic lens icon. Click that icon and all images on the page will be displayed in a 3D space. I will definitely recommend that you try this out.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Adobe Media Player

Adobe released first version of Adobe Media Player recently. You can grab it here. It needs Adobe AIR installed on your system. It looks like a typical flash application will look like. As expected, it has a really cool UI.

Is Adobe competing with Apple iTunes? It is definitely coming out of the browsers and trying to enter users' desktops with introduction of AIR and this player.
Blogged with the Flock Browser

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

A List Apart Issue 256

Issue 2^8 is right up our ally covering Google Maps and Visualizations. Visualizations are excellent and Wilson Miner's article covers how to make standards based visualizations. Paul Smith's article goes into how you can free yourself from Google's clutches and build your own maps.

Monday, April 07, 2008

Weblogs: Taxonomy, alphabet soup or simply a game of blogger buzzword bingo?

It seems like every week I find a site referring to some new fancy type of something-blog. Today it was Moblog, a weblog that is primarily updated from mobile devices. Not to be confused with Photoblogs, which are weblogs with an emphasis on photos. Apparently though, many moblogs tend to be primarily photo-based, but they don't have to be. And most photoblogs are not uploaded from mobile devices (making them not moblogs). And then there are vlogs, a weblog whose primary content is video. What about combinations of these? What if I have a video weblog that I record "in-the-field" and upload it using my mobile device? Does that make it a mo-vo-blogg-o? Or a vomo-blog-o? Or just a moblog that happens to be primarily video-content based?

Beta blogger features available to try!

Google has made available a beta version of the site where you can try out some fun new features before they are released to the rest of the site. Right now they are touting two new features. One lets you set a post's publish date and time into the future, which will cause the post to not appear on the blog until that time happens. So, if you are feeling really productive one day, you could write a bunch of posts, set them to appear in the future at the right times, and be done with blogs for this class for the rest of the semester ;-) They also have the ability to add a special navigation bar to the side of your blog that is powered by Google's mystical search technologies. It supposedly will find things of interest to readers and link to them, dynamically updating. They even have a button to upload a video attachment to your post, making video-logging (vlogging?) possible through the blogger service. For those who enjoy living on the bleeding edge, this seems like a cool new way to waste time/do neat stuff.

Sunday, April 06, 2008


Revelytix is a company based in Hunt Valley, MD that has created Knoodl, a web-based solution for ontology and/or controlled vocabulary editing. It combines features of vocabulary and ontology editing, interactive visualization, and wikis (which would be useful for annotating ontology elements). They have a community site for maintaining a variety of special topic ontologies and supporting documentation, although the communities vary widely in degree of completeness (many are test stubs, but the Tutorial community provides useful examples). You can also subscribe to RSS feeds to track changes to your favorite ontology. Because ontology editing is typically a community process, it's nice to see progress in establishing tools that provide an improved level of support to the community editing process.

Facebook Launches Chat

Facebook announced that they will be launching Facebook Chat soon.

They will roll out Chat features gradually. It won't require any installation, the new chat bar will appear at the bottom of the browser window, like GTalk sidebar in GMail. You will also be able to receive notifications from your mini-feed and applications if you choose to, in the chat bar. It will provide the common features like maintaining chat history, invisible mode, etc.

But now the question is, does any one really need one more IM? I think it's definitely useful when you don't have all the Facebook friends on your existing IM clients. One more important feature would be allowing chat with people outside of Facebook, that might allow people to grow their social network. Another thing to observe is the reverse trend of social networking website providing instant messaging application.

Media Convert

I found this site when I was trying to find software to convert a wav file to a mp3 file. I was amazed by the wide variety of formats the site supports. You can convert videos and other types of files from virtually any format to any other type. It also lets you split files across multiple parts. And all the service is provided for free!

It does have size limit on the files you can upload. But 150Mb I think is good enough unless you are trying to convert entire movie. After you have converted the file from one format to another, you get a link to the new file. This file is hosted on the server for some period so you can easily share it with others.

Web has already made an attempt to introduce platform independence. Sites like media convert are taking it one step further. The media formats do not matter any more. Effectively, the media is becoming format independent.

Blogged with the Flock Browser

genomic networking

I read an article in the Baltimore Sun today that brought to my attention a novel twist to social networking sites. Many of the new companies that offer genetic screening services (e.g. 23andme,, and African Ancestry) also offer social networking features to their customers, to facilitate connecting with others determined to have a similar genetic makeup. I can imagine this would be a very useful capability for those researching family ancestry, as well as for networking between those thought to have a substantially increased risk of developing specific diseases.

I suppose these services have to have their privacy and information security policies very well thought out, considering common concerns about misuse of personal information (recall Sarah's blog post on this topic). It's one thing to be judged by your web presence and or purported actions, but quite another when they know the details of your genome. (And as a side note, it's interesting to learn about the connections between 23andme and Google... talk about "knowing your customers"!)


Joost is a place where users can watch television online for free. People can view a show and even watch tv "with" other users. There are a few mainstream shows but nothing really new. It would be interesting if stations would embrace these types of websites. What do you guys think?


Biographicon is a website that allows anyone to create biographies. Unlike Wikipedia, Biographicon doesn't care if you aren't at all famous.

A post on ars technica describes some of the features of Biographicon. The sites allows users to create connections between biographies, forming a social network.

While the site is an interesting idea, it's search capabilities are not the greatest. There is no way (that I found) to search for all people born in a certain city or who died in a certain year.

Dodgeball - a graduate project was started as graduate course project by two students.It is a geowebservice that lets users checkin their location at a bar,club etc using a mobile.Dodgeball then broadcasts this information to all your friends or your friend's friendwho are in the vicinity.These users receieve the a message such as "John is at the parkyou know him through Dan" on their mobiles.The service is now avaliabe in 22 cities.
I checked a few profiles most of them had "XX hasn't checked-in anywhere".Looks like location aware social networking is not as popular as I expected. Maybe its missing some cool features which would trigger their growth.


I saw a link up for WeColumn while browsing around and thought it was pretty cool idea.

WeColumn falls in between a regular blog and a micro-blog. You write a paragraph or two about a specific topic that you think others may be interested in and then other blogs or sites can embed the text as a widget on their own sites. For instance, Telligen’s own WeColumn (in Dutch) is about surf conditions in the North Sea. Other Dutch surf sites, such as the Holland Surfing Association re-skins the text and puts it up on their site.

This is the basic idea that they are pushing. I guess the purpose is to build up an audience / reputation as a good writer and eventually start your own gig that can pay some bills... or get picked up as a professional blogger. Anyway, give it a look, its still new so I don't know how successful you'll become at being the next big blogger.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Search the Web with Your Voice

This innovation from Yahoo! and Vlingo has started a new trend. You don't have to type your search strings anymore, just tell your phone what you want to search for.

I am curious however as to how the device will let the users do an advanced search. How do you say something like "social web" -gnizr

Another interesting thing to note: Yahoo has named their application as OneSearch. Does the name have any relation with its merger with Microsoft? (Microsoft has an antivirus called OneCare, a product called Office OneNote)
Blogged with the Flock Browser


EveryBlock is a site dedicated to allowing users to view information about crime and other more useful events in their neighborhoods. The site can be browsed by news types such as building permits, business reviews, property sales etc. Worth noting is the site decided not to use google maps and has instead implemented its own custom map software. Take a look.

Sentiment is a Relationship

For a long time I've thought of sentiment as being about a target. I used to think that things mentioned in text picked up sentiment from the words around them almost as if their sentiment "bleeds into the surrounding space to be absorbed by things around them."

About 2 weeks ago I changed my view. In a flash of realization, after reading a paper about analogy detection by Peter Turney, I realized that sentiment is just another relationship between two things located in the text. Furthermore, I realized that what I should really be doing is figuring out what the characteristics of this relationship are so that I might be able to differentiate it from a host of other relationships.

After seeing a quote in Matt's recent post about Opinion Mining Startups:
Jodange specializes in sentiment mining, deriving tuples of the form <holder, opinion, target>
I was pleased to see that at least someone else holds my newfound world view, but I think that there are other types of tuples applicable to sentiment analysis.

Akshay's Right about CrowdVine

I know I've talked about CrowdVine before, but seeing this:
I found Crowdvine to be a great tool and think that it should be used in every event. A couple of things that would really improve it though:
a) A way for me to add my Crowdvine friends to Twitter, Facebook, Flickr etc. I know there is a way to "import" but most often i meet new people at a conference so what I would like is an "export" functionality.
b) Conferences are about sharing ideas, academic papers and research. What Crowdvine currently lacks is a way to engage its members in discussions around the main focus of the conference -- the papers and presentations themselves.
brought the urge to talk about it again. In fact, this is the kind of functionality one would expect the OpenSocial API to make much less painful to implement. Perhaps we'll even see some big names like Facebook and Flickr adopt it if enough benefits like this keep cropping up...

ICWSM 2008

I've just returned and rested from my trip to ICWSM 2008. I've been very excited about this conference for a bit, posting about work modeling blog links and etc.

I was not disappointed. I almost skipped the tutorials, which would have been a big mistake, thankfully Akshay beat some sense into me. The first tutorial on subjectivity and sentiment analysis by Dr. Jan Wiebe was well worth my entire trip out there. The second tutorial by Mary McGlohon on graph mining techniques was also great.

Then there were the invited talks, of which David Sifry was my favorite. A very good short synopsis of this talk can be found at Akshay's new blog.

We also had some great demos like Microsoft's Blews, which uses both the strength of the opinion and the self reported party affiliation of blogs talking about news articles to help readers find political news articles they want to read. I know MSR was using data provided by Matt Hurst's team (in Live Labs) for something in this product. I wonder if they're using any of the code I wrote last summer to capture twitter posts for this?

Look at all this cool stuff, and I haven't even talked about a single full length conference paper yet!

Friday, April 04, 2008

GeoTree by

It was really fun, doing the geotagging exercise on Geonames. I was just browsing through the website for any more interesting features and found this Geotree service. It's really amazing feature. This service organizes hierarchical structure of geographic places in the continents and other spatial information in a tree view. This geospatial information can be accessed together with a map. It provides further services like CSV Export, different languages, capitals and random view. All locations can be visualized using major web based base map services like Map24, Google Maps, Yahoo Maps, Microsoft, Openlayer, Openstreetmaps, etc. You can see capitals and neighbors of countries. The service can be seen under


Freebase is a free, publicly usable database of information created by Metaweb. All content is user generated. An API is provided for developers to access the data and develop mashups or applications on top of it. A recent post on Programmable Web describes how Freebase can be used to create semantic web applications.

Even though the data in Freebase is user generated, it is very structured, with each piece of information having a "type" that can be used to describe the relationships between two pieces of data. For example, the Freebase entry for Baltimore is of the type "Location". The location type has been defined to have a latitude/longitude field, a "contains" field (for describing things in that location) , and a "contained by" field (ie Maryland, USA, North America, etc).

A lot of the data seems to have been automatically imported from Wikipedia. By using a more structured format, though, Freebase allows developers to do more with the available data.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Chat bots Talk with each other

Alice is a chat bot(short form of robot) that anyone can talk to. It uses artificial intelligence to answer simple questions and have conversation. I have tried this a few times and its fun to cause to fail. Alice basically has a large database of thouands of chat snippets.When we try to chat with Alice it checks for the keywords and tries to reply using its large database of past chats. Jabberwacky is another similar chat bot.

What would happen if the two chat bots talk to each other?

Google Maps Mania

Google Maps Mania is blog that's all about our homework assignment. This blog maintains a list of Google Map mashups and blogs about them on what seems to be a pretty regular basis.

There are some pretty neat ones on the list. Some of my favorites are Wikimapia and LOTRO Game Map. There are some good ones, crazy one, and ones that make me scratch my head.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

The problem with human tagged objects

A post about Libraries and the Occult at MorbidFrog (via BoingBoing ) talks about how occult books are handled in libraries. Further discussion involves how this problem occurs in bookstores, and is even taken online.

Occult books are often put away in many different sections of the library. They are found in religion, psychology, fiction and other sections. This is in part due to the organization of the Dewey Decimal system, but the problem even happens online.

Searching for occult books at Amazon gives similar results, the books are given a variety of labels:
Religion & Spirituality -> New Age
Religion & Spirituality -> Occult
Reference -> Encyclopedias
Books (just books, no category)

With tags and such, one can label something with multiple meanings, but humans can skew these labels according to their own views. Depending on the religious and cultural viewpoint many topics, including the occult, and not, will be labeled differently and cause problems when searching.

It is important to take into account the point of view of the humans that assist in tagging content as we move onto the Semantic Web.

AJAX from the IT perspective

Through digg I stumbled upon a cool article that highlights 10 AJAX facts that IT professional should keep in mind when building their networks for the web. I found myself agreeing with much of the article and discovering things that I knew about AJAX that didn't 'click' as much as they did before. Take this snippet:
"Despite the "x" in the acronym, Ajax does not require XML. The XMLHttpRequest object can transport any arbitrary text format. For many Ajax developers, JavaScript Object Notation or even raw JavaScript code fragments make more sense as a data format, given that JavaScript is the consuming environment"
I knew this before hand, but I hadn't realized it as a fact. Check out the article and it will help you as a developer apreciate what our IT counterparts have to think about as we come up with innovative ways to improve the web.