Monday, March 31, 2008


Cory Doctorow talks about meta data and the inherent problems. Tags and other methods for organizing data have their benefits and downsides. Doctorow talks about all the problems with tagging and how the human element can cloud the data and prevent useful results...

Video Mashups

Seriously, video mashups. Omnisio allows you string together and annotate video clips from YouTube, Google Video, and

Its pretty easy to use and I found it to be rather clever. Here are my favorite dancing robot snippets:

<div><a href=''>Share and annotate your videos</a> with Omnisio!</div>

Adobe joins Linux Foundation

Linux Foundation today announced that Adobe is now joining it with the main goal of strengthening Linux as a platform for Web 2.0 technologies. "Adobe's decision to join the LF is a natural extension of its commitment to open standards and open source, which demonstrates its leadership and foresight in the software industry," said Jim Zemlin. I am curious about exactly which code are they going to make open.
Blogged with the Flock Browser

Semantic Web Enablers

While doing some research I learned about the semantic wiki extension to MediaWiki called Semantic MediaWiki, as well as DBpedia. Both appear to be key approaches to enabling the semantic web. Semantic MediaWiki, described in this publication, describes an approach to eliciting Wikipedia-style knowledge from a broad base of contributors using semantic web W3C standards that permits the factual imormation to be machine processable. DBpedia is a community effort to transform Wikipedia information into RDF triples, rendering Wikipedia knowledge usable for the Semantic Web. These two tools illustrate the spectrum of approaches to populating Semantic Web knowledge stores, ranging from manual to automated methodologies.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Empowering community activism

I read an interesting article today in Wired about a community of sex industry workers, that has been empowered by standard Web 2.0 and mobile networking technologies.
"Using mobile gadgets and Web 2.0 apps, sex workers mounted an internet-enabled campaign to spin the story. Smartphones, RSS feeds and mobile social networks enabled them to pounce on stories as soon as they appeared in the mainstream media, posting comments on news websites and blogging the good, the bad and the even worse coverage as it appeared."

I am curious whether this community uses anonymity features available with certain technologies, or whether they use traditional personal networking to keep employees identities private. The article did not make that clear, but I believe they used a little of both approaches.

Connect to social network via mobile

I recently posted a blog about a new social network on mobile platforms.But instead of creating new social network why not just connect to yourfavorite social network through mobile? This seems to me a better idea..And I found ZKOUT does the same thing. ZKOUT creates a bridge that connects your online and real world social networks. You require a GPS enabled mobile phone to access real time location information.It would be much lighter on the client side i guess.

Concise posting

On a lot of blogs there may be just a short introduction to the blog post, maybe a picture to get your attention, then you need to click through to read the entire post. On most of the postings for class, we don't need this, they are nice and short. Now that I posted a ridiculously long post about a book, I realized this feature was not immediately available on Blogger.

I don't know if I have the permissions to add this to the CSS for this blog, I have not tried. It is available and a help tip from Blogger shows how:

Modifications to the CSS are needed, then tags in the post, which are easy enough to put in, change things between full and summary to keep the front page nice and tidy.

I have put the required HTML tags in this post, they aren't working, so it looks like it hasn't been turned on. This might be a good thing to add in the future if posts are long. It may also encourage posts that are longer or more detailed.

The origin of Google Earth

The Earth application from Neal Stephenson's novel, Snow Crash, while not entirely responsible, was definitely inspirational in the creation of Google Earth.

Snow Crash inspires Google Earth

What other technologies or concepts have been linked to or inspired by this book?

Hackers attack epileptics

Motorcycle airbag

Snow Crash inspired Second Life then comes to Second Life,,1930135,00.html

Sintered Armorgel

Smartwheels -> Michelin Tweel

The Deliverator becomes real

At least we will have a job in the fictional future:

"When it gets down to it
- talking trade balances here - once we've brain-drained all our technology
into other countries, once things have evened out, they're making cars in
Bolivia and microwave ovens in Tadzhikistan and selling them here - once our
edge in natural resources has been made irrelevant by giant Hong Kong ships
and dirigibles that can ship North Dakota all the way to New Zealand for a
nickel - once the Invisible Hand has taken all those historical inequities
and smeared them out into a broad global layer of what a Pakistani
brickmaker would consider to be prosperity - y'know what? There's only four
things we do better than anyone else
microcode (software)
high-speed pizza delivery"

Content suggester for your blogs

Previously reviewed by TechCrunch and ReadWriteWeb, Zemanta offers itself as a useful tool to help bloggers.
It is currently available as a firefox plugin. It helps bloggers find relevant content to their articles by suggesting related content through pictures, links, articles and tags on the side.
On their FAQ page, they mentioned that images are suggested from Wikimedia Commons, Flickr and various stock photo providers, whereas for articles, they index around 300 top media sources and numerous blogs of similar Zemanta users. All the suggested content is copyright cleared - either clearly licenced as Creative Commons, or approved by stock providers. Recommendations are retrieved by statistically comparing the context framework of blogger's post to their preindexed database of other content.
It is interesting to see in future if such a tool will be more often used by sploggers(/spam bloggers).

Freedom & Blogs

When we blog, are we able to say everything and anything we want? What counts as freedom of speech, and where does the line get drawn? When we register to use a blogging service, is there any guarantee that the rules wont be changed at the site owners convenience? Even when the rules have been clearly defined and remain unaltered there are still situations where users have their blogs taken down or edited because of what someone else thinks is appropriate. Can we really expect freedom of speech with arguably public web space hosted on arguably private servers?

Comparison between Asian social networks and Facebook

Benjamin Joffe of Plus Eight Star offers a great summary of leading social network in Asia - namely QQ, mixi, Cyworld in the presentation at Media08 in Sydney. The presentation also gives insightful comparison of Facebook vs Asian SNS as business models.

Editor of ReadWriteWeb - took an interview with Benjamin Joffe following the presentation.
Interesting point is that these social websites are much more profitable than Facebook is, being rated at #4.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Mobile social network

The idea of a location-based social network that works anywhere in the world is nice in concept. GyPSii is a location based social network. They have recently launched an iPhone-friendly version of their application. GyPSii allows you to mark your place,shows the location of your friends,how to reach them,and search for nearby restaturants,ATMS etc .It remains to be seen whether social networking on mobile catches up and whether it provides features that desktop social networks cannot provide.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Get paid for reading emails

I don't know if this is new for you guys, but it is certainly a new concept for me. An Indian company, rupeemail, pays you for each email you read! (rupee is Indian currency: 1 rupee = 2.5 cents).

You sign up for the service, set some preferences and you are ready to go. Rupee mail will send you emails containing relevant advertisements in an envelope. The envelope has a seal similar to Yahoo! sign in seal that ensures that you are receiving a legitimate email. Then it pays you for each email that you read.

The claim is that this avoids advertisers' email getting into spam because you trust rupeemail and ads come via rupeemail. The advertisers are verified by rupeemail so you don't get ads by random people.

I liked the clever model behind this business. These guys will never lose money. They will collect say 1000 rupees from advertisers and send emails to say 300 people. They are surely gaining 700 rupees from this if all readers read these emails. So they have a way to control their profits.

Blogged with the Flock Browser

Blog links - Not Just Simple Pointers

Links have played a central role ever since Tim Berners-Lee created the world wide web in 1989. Yet his vision hasn't fully materialized. Links between documents are useful, but have no meaning. The semantic web, was intended to put the meaning back into those links so that we could pragmatically know what we are pointing to.

Yet the semantic web hasn't really taken off. The current web has a lot of inertia, and works very well. Getting people to switching over both in thought and practice to a web of data is a difficult task. Instead, I'd like to approach the problem from the opposite direction: Let's not create a whole new web, let's augment the old web. Instead of creating a new structure for the web using triples, let's pragmatically annotate existing links using machine learning, natural language processing, and any other technique we can code up. These power granted to us (and our machines) by these annotations should provide us with the leverage to solve an entire slew of problems.

Ranking the influence and authority of a blog is one such problem. This upcoming week I'll be presenting my work on modeling blog links along 3 dimensions to ICWSM. Each dimension tries to answer a key question. Why did the author make this link? What is the link really pointing at? What does the author feel about the target?


Since we've been talking about GIS recently, it's not surprising to me that Geocaching came up in class. A GoogleMaps/Geocache mash-up can be found here. Logging in allows you to filter which types of caches you view on the map.

Also, there is a Geocaching Stats Facebook app. It places a little box in your profile showing how many caches you have found and allows you to view your friends stats.

YouTube is watching...

Google has implemented a new monitoring program called YouTube Insight in an effort to give content providers the ability to gather information on where and by whom their videos are being watched. Information is broken down by day and tracks information such as what state or country is viewing a given video, how many times its been played amongst other data.

Google hopes to use this program to bolster its advertising revenue coming from YouTube. This program helps keep away pesky embedded commercials, a growing source of ad revenue for large media corporations, and instead incentivizes companies to purchase ads that are shaped for a specific audience, much like television commercials.

While similar tools have always been available to paying marketers, this new program will be available to anyone who submits a video. In addition, paid advertisers will also have access to additional tools that keep track of statistics such as how many users stopped the video at a given interval.

I'm glad to see such tracking mechanisms in place, and I hope this pays off for Google. I for one HATE commercials before watching content I request and if Google can make money a different way, go for it.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Google Visualization API

Recently, Google announced their new Visualization API. After Andrew's presentation on Monday, I was curious if it supported RDF data or other semantic web formats. From what I've been able to find so far, it seems to only accept tabular data, like spreadsheets.

This blog brings up the point that even if it's not using semantic web formats, Google can still pull semantic information from the charts and visualizations.

Google gets the raw chart data – the figures, the titles, etc. Google now has an easy way to index that data in their search results, without needing to try to analyse the PNG graphic files. So if you search for "third quarter cheese sales in London" you can be sent straight to the page containing that chart. It's a small but very useful step towards the semantic web.
-Roger Browne

Facebook Holes

Facebook recently upgraded its privacy controls and ironically created a few new exploits. The hole allowed strangers to view photos that normally should be invisible to those who havent been appropriately authorized. Also worth noting are the holes created by inexperienced developers and their Facebook apps. Numerous holes have been reported within them such as being able to re-route gifts, and even change another users mood Will Facebook ever truly get it right? Or are we fooling ourselves when we trust that they will safeguard our information.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Google I/O

Google I/O is a developer conference being hosted by Google about building web applications. The student registration fee is only $50, of course, you have to get yourself there, but I know there are lots of choices for very affordable accommodations around the Moscone Center, googling should turn something up. Perhaps the one drawback is that the sessions all seem to be focused on a google technology of some sort.

Bringing web 2.0 into the classroom

There is an ars technica article about a professor experimenting with Twitter in the classroom. It references an Chronicle of Higher Education article that mentions Blackboard adding micro-blogging features to its software. The ars article also links to a couple of posts about a professor that is using Twitter. Its an interesting concept, even while I continue to see articles about attempts to limit laptop use during class and other meetings. I personally haven't created a Twitter account yet, but this might get me to.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Gewgle Strikes Again

Old way: Users use Google to do a search, see Google ads, and click on a website they believe matches their search. From there they use that website's search feature to proceed.

New way: Users use Google to do a search, see Google ads, and click on a website they believe matches their search. But instead of clicking on a website they can perform another search, using Google, on that search result thus seeing more Google ads, possibly of competitor's websites.

Not really social web news but it is really interesting how hard Google is pushing.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Other Uses for Feeds

Have you ever encountered a situation when you want to use syndication technologies for things other than blogging and news?

I've been working on PolVox for awhile. I'm redoing a massive section of it. Originally it grew out of TREC 2006 when our team competed to do sentiment search in general (Web documents). Now that I look back on it I've noticed that I designed PolVox as a sentiment web crawler, that happened to be crawling blog pages, instead of as a blog search engine.

The problem is that this system is huge. Debugging, even with unit tests, is a nightmare. Factor into the equation that it actually runs in the background as multiple separate applications sharing resources through the file system and things get even worse. What I really want is the ability to see one item run through the entire system, from being discovered while monitoring feeds, to being put into the database for later processing, to being pulled out of the database and processed, to being stored in the lucene index. (And then used by all the helper applications)

Logging to a file, and trying to navigate that file using more and less is a pain. Then it hit me, couldn't I create a feed for debugging and let Rome's syndication technology do the work for me? I could create feeds for what's going into my index, what's coming out of it, query logs...

Google gets it Wrong

In my last post I pointed out how Google queries for a word, and that same word I quotes return different results. I further pointed out that the word in quotes returns more results than without them, and how this makes no sense from an IR standpoint.

Since then I've compared this behavior to other search engines. Live search treats a word, and that word in quotes as exactly the same query (which makes sense). returns the same number of results but ranks then differently. Yahoo returns more results for the item outside of quotes, possibly because the word outside of quotes is being matched with anything containing that stem. I used common words like food, and car for my test searches.

I still have no idea why Google is matching more terms to a word in quotes than that word without quotes.

Monday, March 17, 2008


I have been curious to learn about sites with "currency" based on user's reputations (e.g. ebay or expert forums) since we've not yet covered this topic in depth. I found a good Trust Reputation Systems Survey presentation referenced by a Middleware class at BYU. The presentation describes how different online commercial services and expert forums compute user's reputations, and the various challenges facing such efforts. I was a little surprised to see this was part of an Internet middleware class, but on second thought it makes sense that peer-to-peer and other connected computing systems are built upon a reputation framework.

The course itself is in progress, but there are still a variety of useful references to reputation or trust-based systems on their course calendar page.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

W3C Markup Validation

W3C provides a free web site validator available here that allows you to determine if your site is made up of completely valid XHTML. After running a few major sites through the validator, it appears that many of the popular sites do not actually validate as correct code. It seems that as long as a site looks good in most browsers (hopefully), the content creators don't seem to care very much whether or not the code is correct (standards-compliant). Hopefully in the future, more sites will make use of the validation service in order to ensure correct rendering in all standards-compliant web browsers.

Interesting site

I just found an interesting site, that indexes mashups, organizes them by categories and lets you find new ones. They promote opening up your site's API and listing it on their site in order to promote the development of new mashups. It also lists newly created mashups and popular ones.

Expert Forums and Crowdsourcing

This weekend I had the pleasure of meeting Rob and Heather, CEO and Manager respectively of They and a small support staff operate this popular community forum and store focused on vehicle audio and computing systems. We chatted about all manner of social web site improvements, including community feedback, member rankings, internationalization, text mining, micro-economies and semantically-backed sites. Many forum sites like theirs (e.g. his friend's site BoardGameGeek) are built on the shoulders of a community of subject-matter experts. Once a critical mass is achieved, the community can take on a life of its own. For such sites to succeed, operators need to be attentive to the community and continuously improve the quality and interactivity of the site. Sites like these are fertile grounds for conceiving of and building specific crowdsourcing features to address one or more of the above issues. Rob seemed keen on the topic of our class, and even offered to drop by one evening for a guest lecture.

Web 2.0 marketing

Shoutlet is a powerful web 2.0 marketing tool.Shoutlet can be used to manage social media campaigns.Shoutlet makes it simple to create and send messages in a variety of different Web 2.0 formats such as RSS feeds,enewsletters,emails ,sms.In addition it also helps you track the progress of your campaignby knowing what the customers are more interested in.This is web 2.0 way of marketing your product by word of mouth.

AOL's $850M Bet on Bebo

While reading this news, following thoughts came to my mind:

" Bebo is a relative startup compared with social networking giants MySpace and Facebook. It has grown rapidly, particularly in overseas locations such as the United Kingdom"

Earlier the software giants used to compete using the operating systems and applications they developed. The time has now come that companies will start competing based on the number of users their site attracts. Also, the companies as you can see are targeting global audience now.

Leveraging outside developers has proven an effective way to get users to interact more robustly with social networks. Facebook, for instance, offers hundreds of small plug-ins meant to boost the amount of time a user spends on the network."

Forget the part about outside developers developing apps for these sites. If the amount of time a user spends on the network increases, its a BAD sign. We are already wasting enough time on these sites. Could someone tell me how to be "productive" on social networks? (I do not necessarily agree with everything I said during the class debate :) )

This news may be relevant for social networking sites, bebo, AOL and other companies but it is definitely a BAD NEWS for people like me who are already concerned about the time they "waste" on social networking sites.

Yahoo opening up search platform to developers and semantic web

Yahoo declares that they will be opening up its open search platform very soon to third party developers to build "Enhanced Results applications".
Also, Yahoo search will support semantic web standards like RDF and microformats.
Now, Open search API won't be just a way to customize presentation of their search results, and further support to semantic web standards would be the exact incentive for the websites to use those.

Web Terrorism

I came across and interesting read while looking for things to post about. The article talks about how terrorists utilize the features of web 2.0 sites in order to do what they've always been doing. It seemed objective in that it just points out what they can do with the technology and avoids blaming the issues on it. I remember a similar topic coming up during our debate in class. What do you guys think?

Primary Data

This website allows users to view presidential primary election data that has been drawn from various 2.0 websites. It details various counts on the candidates like how many times they've been mentioned online, and other interesting data. Check it out.

earthmine: redefining geospatial web

Like the Street View feature of Google Maps, earthmine provides the visual map of the real world. But, earthmine is doing more interesting than that. The technology provides deeper level of virtualisation and enables indexation of real life objects found("reality mining" and "indexing reality").

Like Google, earthmine captures 3D data for each pixel by driving vehicles equipped with special cameras around urban areas. earthmine recently received exclusive licence to use 3D image processing technology developed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory that is used on the Mars Rover. That enables to create panoramic imagery with pixel-for-pixel 3D depth information, and hence you can provide more attribute information to each and every real life object.
earthmine gives instant and easy access to most recent, high resolution, accurate spatial information of urban environments which could be useful in many geospatial web applications.
Here, is the demonstration video of earthmine .

social web + charities

More and more charities are utilizing social networking sites. ReadWriteWeb discusses how sites like Facebook and MySpace allow users to donate through their sites and recruit other donors through their social networks.

The top Facebook Cause, Support the Campaign for Cancer Research, has over 3,086,062 members, but only $60,155 donated so far. While $60K is not a trifling sum of money, the average donation per member is pretty small.

FreeRice is taking a more interesting approach. By creating a Facebook app they use Facebook social networks to advertise and promote their site. Instead of asking users to donate, though, advertising revenue is used to support their cause.

profiting from your 15 minutes of infamy

As a follow-up to Mike's post about the media's usage of social networking sites, ArsTechnica has an article about how Ashley Alexandra Dupré is using those social networking sites to advance her music career.

After the Eliot Spitzer scandal broke, Ms. Dupré added a link in her profile to her music on Amie Street, an online music store. Amie Street is interesting in itself for dynamically pricing it's songs depending on their popularity. This page describes Amie Street in more detail.

"All songs start free and can rise in price up to 98 cents. The price of a song depends on how many times it's been bought - if a member buys a song for free, he or she probably got a deal for getting to the song first. If the song is at 98 cents, then it's a given that a lot of people on Amie Street think it's a great song."

Currently, Ashley Alexandra Dupré's songs are hitting the $0.98 maximum. According to Reuters, an estimated 1 million copies of her songs have been downloaded. That translates into more than $680,000! I guess she may as well profit for her "15 minutes of infamy".

Zicasso: Travel Agencies 2.0

Zicasso is a site I recently read about on ars technica. The site basically allows users to create "Trip Requests" and then get 4 "Trip Plans" from partnered travel agents. There is a Community tab that provides some web 2.0-ish things like forums and tag-cloud searching/discovery. The site is an interesting concept which the ars technica article likened to the LendingTree "business model".

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Tracking Shuttle Bus

RSS and Atom is a gaining popularity as a way to publish information.Location information is one of the important information that can be published. This university came up with a useful applicationto track shuttle service in real time. Updates can be received via GeoRSS and information is displayed on Googlemaps.(mashup)

Friday, March 14, 2008

Web 2.0 feeds Infovores

The Wall Street Journal has a very interesting article about people's addictions to the Internet. Comparing our fascination with the novel and new information on the Internet with the fascination of cats with laser pointers, I could not help but to think that Web 2.0 has only strengthened this. Maintainers of websites can only generate content a a certain rate, but with Web 2.0 style communities generating content at an incredible rate, its very easy to see how infovores and similar folk seem to never log off the Internet.

Mash Maker: Web Mashup Research Project

A researcher at Intel is working on making it easier for normal web users to create their own mashups. Named Mash Maker it uses the web browser as a development environment for building mashups using pre-made or community-build mashups, wigets that can be combined into new mashups, or even developing new widgets. There is a good Technology Review article describing the project as well.

Web 2.0 and Journalism

This week's latest sex scandal brought to you by... MySpace and Facebook. Well not completely. Just every piece of information about the woman at the center of the ordeal.

The article is about your standard important government dude + not so important non government woman except this specific article chronicles her Facebook usage. It seems that the social web is one of the first stops for journalists these days.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

What's Wrong with Google

Here is something I just noticed. The search results for a word, and that word in quotes are different. This seems very wrong to me from an IR standpoint. Shouldn't they be the same set of search results?


Unless the search functionality on this blog is broken, somehow nobody has talked about lifestreams. Many people have a personal blog, maybe a professional one, as well as Flickr, and other sites that we update on a daily basis. While there isn't currently a leader in the lifestream business, the concept is rather clear. By taking all of your daily online activities, and putting them into one place, a lifestream is created. You may think that your blog is already doing that, but it doesn't include the data from all your other outlets that you use throughout the day. By putting all this information together in one place, you or your viewers can get a more thorough view of both who you are and what you do.

Some additonal links about lifestreams:

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Microsoft Interoperability

Late last month Microsoft introduced their interoperability initiative, launching a campaign whose mission it is to convince people that Microsoft is committed to openness and standards compliance. This announcement came 5 days before the EU fined Microsoft a record $1.36 billion in an anti-trust lawsuit that has been ongoing for many years.

Microsoft seems to be playing catchup, opening up development and designer tools to students for free, giving away free copies of top software in their heroes happen here campaign. The future is open and we are seeing how it affects business models of even the biggest companies out there.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Open Source Web Crawlers

Lucene is a very popular open source IR index creation package. I was about to post a simple example showing what classes and general architecture you would need to create a spider to crawl the web using Lucene, but then it hit me there are already dozens of open source web crawlers written on top of dozens of open source information retrieval engines.

Sure I could throw out some example code, but why bother implementing your own when there are so many packages out there that can do it for you. Even if they don't do exactly what you want it would still be easier to just modify the source of an existing project than to create your own from a Lucene foundation. Tragically, I didn't realize this before I made my own for PolVox. Still, if anyone wants a tutorial/example just leave me a comment about it and I might throw one out there...

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Moving the Web World to your Desktop

One of the big problems with web applications is that you do have to be connected to the web to update and access your data.  A company named Joyent is trying to remedy this situation with a product called Slingshot.  The idea with Slingshot is simple: Write one set of code for your web app and desktop app, and provide a means for the desktop app to edit and add data when you're not connected to the web, and sync it up when you grab an internet connection again.
The really neat thing about Slingshot is that you are writing one set of code, and you're getting your web application, mac app, and windows app in one felled swoop.  You also get the ability to add desktop-app features to the application, like drag-and-drop file control.  You also get much of the functionality right out of the box - there isnt much you have to do to package an application like this.  Finally, it's sitting on top of the Ruby on Rails web framework, which, from personal experience, is just about the easiest to work with and most feature-rich web framework I've encountered.  
The only question I have is that while an extension like this is certainly valuable now, it comes on the heels of very rapid development of internet connection infrastructure.  So while the development is interesting, I think more valuable will probably be the day when searching for an internet connection isn't exactly an adventure in itself.  

Persuasive Tech

I'm enlightened to learn (again via NPR) of the Stanford Persuasive Technology Lab that studies "machines designed to influence human beliefs and behaviors". While there is a potentially dark side (as with most technologies these days), some believe focused efforts to harness various technologies including web sites and mobile phones can lead to positive changes ranging from better hygiene to world peace. In their Fall 2008 class some Stanford students were challenged to create Facebook applications that would draw millions of users, and they apparently succeeded.

Trust and Ethics in the Web 2.0 World

In the web-driven world of today, we're entrusting more and more of our private data to individuals and corporations, and expecting that some sort of "See no evil, hear no evil, do no evil" law is in effect.  And this is all well and good...well, until this rule is broken.
G-Archiver is an application designed to aid in archiving your web data to your disk.  And well, they seem to have broken the golden rule.  When you trust the developer of the app to not cache your information and phone home with it, well, thats not exactly the case.  The developer has seemingly set up a gmail account, and when you log your username and password into the application, it shoots off an email with your login and password.  
The story is interesting merely due to the developer getting caught - the application is closed source, and the fact that they were able to peak in to see the offending code really is brilliant.  But the bigger discussion to be had is what makes this situation unrealistic?  Luckily this time it was a small time developer, but what happens if some rogue google employee were to do the same?  What if a big company decided to do something similar?  Its unrealistic at this point that we just stop storing information online.  But maybe its time to have a serious discussion of accountability and ethics and establish a baseline policy for everyone to follow - that includes, at the top, a means to ensure accountability for the consumer.

AJAX and Search Engines

As we've discussed before, AJAX stuff doesn't get indexed by search engines. This article has tips to getting your AJAX website indexed correctly.

Basically: Build it so that a user without ajax could still use your site. Noscript works wonders for this. Build the structure first, don't just make it one page with a big honk'in AJAX script. Don't try to fix the problem like a spammer would (or do anything that a spammer would for that matter), Google knows how to catch spammers. Don't use AJAX when you don't have to.

Behavior Modification

I heard an interesting article on NPR this past week, about, a site that lets you create a formal commitment contract with yourself to encourage you to attain some personal goal (e.g. losing weight, quitting smoking, etc.). It's not a novel concept to back a challenge with financial incentives, but this web site appears to be a great enabler to help ensure you've got some skin in the game. Further, they employ social psychology strategies and a community support network feature so that others in a similar situation can help encourage you to stick to your goals. Cool concept!

Choosing your AJAX framework

There are hundreds of Ajax libraries and frameworks out there. Sébastien Just has given few guidelines here.
server independant or not ?

structural Javascript enhancements ?
re-usability of your written components ?
framework current documentation level ?
features you need ?
How long will it last ?
What sort of support ?
How steep is the learning curve for the framework?
Who are my visitors ? "

Additionally, one could consider points like
Cross browser support,
Access to the source code and its quality,
Flexible enough to support easy unit testing and javascript debugging,

For comparison of various web application frameworks, check out Wikipedia .

Accessible Ajax?

There's word of companies try to make accessible browsers that do AJAX. Other people are asking that you take a practicle approach to starting it make it accessible... and usable. Even better would be would be if people actually practiced graceful degradation that provided a site that could be used with or without JavaScript. This would be a great first step. Note that last link was published on 2003. Why are most developers still not doing this?

XML11: A desktop approach to web applications.

We saw that writing JavaScript code can become tedious, especially if you want the application to work on all common browsers the same way.
We also saw that, although Java applets are more elegant in the sense that there is only one language to deal with (Java), whereas in AJAX applications there are (at least) three languages to deal with (JavaScript, CSS, and XML/HTML).
XML11 can be a solution to this: it allows running Java programs in a browser, and it does that by "compiling" the Java .class files into JavaScript.

This video shows how it works:

Web 2.0 Forum?

Is there a such thing as a web 2.0 forum? Once in class the question of whether or not a forum could be counted as a form of web 2.0 or not came up. Many social websites offer some form of forum be it a "wall" or just a regular forum interface. What do you guys think? Does anyone have a solid example of a web 2.0 site that features a forum as its main content?

Web 2.0 and MMOs

Tell me what this sounds like to you. A company offers a service where users create their own profiles and connect to other users over the internet through this service. The service provides an extremely well developed user interface, which allows users to communicate with each other, maintain lists of friends, form themselves into groups/organizations, have meetings, and buy, trade, or auction products. The company that provides this service is making more money than you can shake a stick at.

This sounds like a successful web 2.0 application doesn't it? Yes it does, but what would you say if I told you I was talking about the MMO game Worlds of Warcraft. It wouldn't change the truth of any of the things I spoke about earlier, yet most people wouldn't consider WoW a Web 2.0 application. Also consider that MMORPGs came about before the Web 2.0 concept, by at least a decade.

What is the relationship between MMO games and Web 2.0?

XML Parsing

Xerces and most other xml parsers provide DOM(document object model) and SAX (Simple API for XML) interfaces.While DOM parses the entire xml fileand presents it in the form of a tree,SAX is a event based parser.A novice would like to start with DOM interface which is easier to use.An advantagewith SAX parsers with that the entire document need not be parsed and stored in memory. You instead pass a number of callback routines and the parser will then parse the document and call the appropriate callback when certain conditions occur.(Eg: certain tag is found in the xml document)

Saturday, March 08, 2008

There is something in the AIR!

No, I'm not talking about MacBook Air! Adobe recently launched Adobe Integrated Runtime, or AIR, they also released Flex 3.0.
AIR is "a cross-operating system service oriented runtime that allows developers to leverage their existing web development skills in HTML, AJAX, XML, Flash and Flex to build Rich Internet Applications(RIA) to the desktop."
With AIR, Adobe is targeting AJAX developers to develop applications with AIR, not just Flash developers. Since it combines qualities of the web with a presence on the desktop, AIR gives opportunities to build a new range of more interesting Internet connected applications that run outside the browser. AIR supports most of the major AJAX frameworks including jQuery, Ext JS, Dojo, and Spry. It is based on WebKit HTML engine. Click here to see the list of features for AJAX development.
So users get additional desktop functionalities like starting AIR application from desktop, clipboard access etc. AIR also provides access to local file system. It provides seamless install process for AIR applications and also provides APIs that make application updates easy.
You can check out a list of featured applications that are developed on AIR.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Let's Browse the Web Together provides a plug-in for flock that lets users browse the web together. Once you enable me.dium plugin, you see a pane on the left where you see where you are and what pages other people are visiting. It also provides a chat window where you can describe a web site or chat with other users that are online. You can also sort the pages others are viewing according to categories (music, sports, humor, gaming etc.).

I would definitely recommend giving it a try.

Social Semantic Tagweb Ontology is not a Dewy Decimal System Taxonomy

I stumbled upon a very interesting presentation that Tom Gruber gave at The 5th International Semantic Web Conference about how the Social Web and the Semantic Web are not two opposed visions for the web, moreover, they are so compatible that we can form a Semantic Web that enhances our Social Web experience, and the Semantic Web can be more meaningful with the input (the Collective Intelligence) of people on the Social Web.
He raises many interesting points such as:

  • The difference between taxonomy, ontology, and folxonomy and how they relate. He especially points out that the goal of the Semantic Web isn't to create a taxonomy (a rigid categorization of the web), but an ontology (a means for different data from different sources to be understood, related, and used).

  • He observes that tagging consists of a relationship between an entity (tagget), a URI (what is being tagged), and a phrase (the tag).

  • There are issues that arise in tagging (having to do with each of those entities), especially when one wants to search through tags from different websites:

    • Tag spelling, whitespace, capitalization, and pluralization - which "different" tags should actually be considered the same?

    • What if there are different URI's for the same "thing": How do we detect this? What do we do about it?

    • Different kinds of taggers: What if we let machines tag things - should those be considered to tags by humans?

    • What happens when you change your mind: what if something is un-tagged?

    • Tag polarity: Should users be able to tag things as not-something?

  • Another interesting concept presented is the idea that browsing can be viewed as browsing along the dimensions of a hypercube: location dimensions, tag dimensions, time dimensions, etc.

  • Useful things can be done like letting tags be inherited: if a picture was taken in Paris, it was also taken in France - so we can add the tag "France" to anything tagged "Paris", right? (what if it's Paris, Texas... or some other Paris?).

  • More fun topics like structured data and how with Google we are getting locked into the string-of-words style of searching.

In short, there is a lot of focus on the potential of improving tagging systems, and on the potential of the future of tagging and the web in general.

If you have an extra hour of nothing to do, or if you just want to put it on in the background while you're doing chores, it's definitely worth watching/listening to.
I'd also be glad to hear your thoughts on this.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

The Mashup Business

How does one make money by producing a useful mashup? Right now the answers seem to be limited. Other than being paid through advertising, lead generation/affiliate programs, or a transactional based model. There arent many currently in use. Those that are in use have 1 thing in common. They rely on the some outside party to pay in. And when they dont, they result in lawsuits and/or cease and desist letters. Is this property inherent in a mashup? Or are there other ways to mashup mashups and business.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

What *are* the alternatives to Ajax?

We saw in class how elaborate Ajax code is... at the end of the day, ugly.

The source of the problem is partially the fact that, at the end of it, everything has to turn into the same old HTML and javascript so that the browser will be able to understand it.
So what are the alternatives?

  • Obviously, Flash is a candidate. Here is a short post (mainly about its disadvantages).

  • Sun came out with something called JavaFX. It apparently looks like a new generation of the java applet.

  • Is ASP better? - How can we forget about Microsoft? ASP seems on par with Ajax as far as what it's able to do goes - of course, Ajax doesn't care about the kind of server that is interacting with it, while ASP requires IIS.

  • Others?

All of the above seem to have their upsides and downsides, and there are viable alternatives to Ajax. As to whether they're "better" depends on the goal.

New Acid 3 test available!

In class today we talked about how different web browsers implement either differing subsets of the JavaScript/DOM/XML standards, or in differing, incompatible ways.

The Web Standards Project, self-described as "a grassroots coalition fighting for standards which ensure simple, affordable access to web technologies for all," released the Acid3 test on Monday. Acid3 is designed to test out a browser's implementation of Web 2.0 standards (ECMAScript 262 and W3c DOM2). No current browsers are able to pass the test, there are some hilarious failure screen captures available here.

They previously released the Acid2 test, with similar goals in mind (and as of now, of all the released versions of browsers, only Safari can successfully pass the test).

It just goes to show how horribly non-compliant current web browsers
are in relation to Web 2.0 standards, and how painful it is to write your code so that it looks beautiful across all browsers. Hopefully the advent of strict XHTML will help address this, but until it becomes standardized across all browsers, we will be stuck with crappy workarounds/hacks like:
if ( firefox )
sexyCode() ;
else if ( WebKit )
// else if ( Opera ) # No-one uses opera, lol
shootSelfInHead(); // Internet Explorer catch-all

Ajax + back button

I love how websites made with Ajax look. One thing I HATE, though, is when hitting the back button on your browser causes you to leave the site instead of returning to the "page" you were just viewing. has a great article describing how to combine the best of Ajax with the ability to hit your back button or bookmark where you are.

Mashups and Map

A mashup is a web page or application that combines data from multiple external sources. Mashups are becoming increasingly popular among developers, as harnessing the power of information already available is often far more efficient. According to programmableweb statistics 40% of all the mashups are in someway related to maps and not surprising that map mashup are among the most popular ones.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Social networks, mashups, and... Trademark Lawsuit?

In reading the material for this past class, I saw a link to a mashup that was of particular interest to me (I think on the IBM article). It was called, and it simply mashed together all of the popular stories on Slashdot, Digg and Since I am a regular follower of both Digg and Slashdot, I figured it was worth checking out. After clicking the link, I found out that they were forced to rename themselves, and were now known as Apparently Digg had sent them a cease and desist letter over their use of the name "Digg" in their DNS entry/name. Kevin Rose (Co-founder of Digg) posted on the Digg blog the following:
A while ago our trademark attorney approached us and was concerned we could lose the name 'digg'. I had no idea this was possible as we had already filed for the trademark. Apparently if you don't enforce the TM (meaning not let other sites use it), we run the chance of losing it... which would suck. The last thing we want is to lose our name.

So what to do...

We don't want to shut anyone down (not even the clone sites), all we ask is that you avoid using the name 'digg' in your website names/domains. We're looking to see if we have any other options.

Digg on,

So, in order to protect their trademark, they had to make sure no-one else was using the name "digg?" I've heard of that rule before (you need to show that you actively enforce your trademarks in order to keep them), but this case seems a bit extreme...
I mean, Apple hasn't sent C&D letters to any Mac-related web sites with the words "Apple" or "Mac" in their DNS entry/title (i.e. MacFixIt, AppleInsider, Macworld, HardMac, MacInTouch, etc).
But wait, I do remember something like this involving the "iPod" trademark a few years back...
So perhaps the "Apple" and "Mac" trademarks have become too diluted to enforce, but iPod was "fresh" enough that Apple wanted to fight to keep it?
While not directly relevant to social networking, I find this an interesting and relevant, considering if you choose a name (or even part of a name!) for your site that someone else has already trademarked, and you build up a user base, things could go badly if you happen to fall under the magnifying glass of an over-zealous legal department. Remember the hubbub that happened w/ the naming of the Firefox web browser (formerly Firebird, formerly Phoenix) due to similar issues?
I'm really liking these "wild west" analogies when it comes to how things are right now on the Internet...

Monday, March 03, 2008

Vote for your favorite Web 2.0 app

Each year Webware users cast their vote for their favorite Web 2.0 apps in hopes they make the prestigious top 100 list deemed simply Webware 100. The list is indexed and categorized for easy browsing and analysis.

The list's popularity has soared to new heights this year, with over 840,000 votes recorded (75% increase from 2007, and counting) and over 300 finalists in the running. Visit the finalist page and vote for your favorite Web 2.0 app.

And to avouch it's effectiveness, I signed up for's service after finding it in the list of finalists.

Sunday, March 02, 2008


I tripped over this interesting related word visualization program today... a very interactive and attractive Flash and actionscript based program. Not much to say other than wow, check this out! Perhaps it will inspire others who are creating related tag visualizers.

Web 2.0 Framework Philosophies

Today I read a good article in this month's Wired about the creators of and philosophy behind Ruby on Rails, used to "develop much of the software that has enabled Web 2.0". Not having first-hand experience with Ruby on Rails, I learned that it is "ideal for quickly creating lean, sparsely designed Web-based applications", which co-creator Jason Fried describes as "stripped down to the absolute bare necessities." He and David Heinemeier Hansson promote a "once-heretical vision - that there is beauty and wisdom in Web-hosted, bite-size software built to accomplish narrow tasks." Apparently that vision and Ruby on Rails have become quite popular, as "tens of thousands of programmers have used it to create countless online applications, including podcasting service Odeo and microblogging phenomenon Twitter", as well as the creator's Basecamp online collaboration software.

What I found more interesting about the article is the tradeoff between simplicity and complexity in web frameworks. The creators of Ruby on Rails strongly promote the virtues of "radical simplicity" in many regards- from simple UIs and software installation, to small teams and small companies. But there has apparently been some push-back recently as Rails-based applications such as Twitter grow in scale and complexity. The article sates "industry insiders have begun to question the basic philosophy that Web-based mini-applications are inherently better than their bulkier but more powerful competitors." It sounds like Rails is good at what it was designed to do, but may not be well suited for enterprise-level customers. Further, Hansson and Fried's religious adherence to "keep it simple" seems an imposition to developers that require an expanded set of features, causing some to move to competing, extensible frameworks such as Merb.