Sunday, December 19, 2010

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Reading 2.0

The iPad and a couple of additional tools (not 100% related to it) changed my online reading habits a lot.

Here's my "Reading 2.0" or rather: as of December 2010, it will probably evolve further:
  1. I have Google Reader as the central management point for the RSS feeds (blogs, news, ...)
  2. about 30% of those articles I read online while I'm in front of a PC.
  3. the rest I scan on my iPad using Reeder.
  4. Most of the interesting articles and postings I save for later reading with Read it later, also on the iPad with their app.
  5. Item with more "eternal" value might then get save to delicious, but that's only one or two a week.
So basically I separated the consumption phase (step 4) above from the discovery phase (step 3 above).

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Samsung did well

So, only 5 weeks after its "unbranded" arrival, the Android 2.2 update for the Samsung Galaxy S (i9000) is finally available for the A1 branded version. Quite frankly, not too bad, considering how long it takes Nokia to get the branded versions out.

Then again, the Samsung Kies software is the worst PC Suite type of software I have ever encountered.

Update went well without any errors; just that the home screen was reset to whatever A1 thinks it should be is not really nice, and that all apps/icons are now sorted alphabetically... hmpf... apart from that... fine.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

ATM design flaw

I just noticed at a local ATM that there was a sign right next to the slot for the cash reading:
Don't forget your money!

Though it never happened to me personally, I do know some friends who actually forgot either their bank card or the money in the ATM. So the warning does make sense.

However, isn't there a fundamental design flow in the user interface or process of an ATM when you have to remind the users of the very one thing they came here for in the first place ??

Quite frankly, I'm not sure how to fix this, maybe glue the card to the money?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Sunday, December 05, 2010

The Case for Social Search

An interesting and well written article in the NY Times about the owner of the online shop decormyeyes caught everyone's attention: the owner actually admits to willfully create negative ratings for his shop by actually giving crappy customer service... because this actually pushes him up in Google search results, due to the nature of the page rank algorithm. And thus the bad reputation actually brings him additional business.

Because everytime someone has a problem with him and posts this to a blog or a consumer feedback site like there is a link to his site (with a mention of the product they purchased), and each of those links counts in the PageRank alogrithm, which is primarily based on the number of incoming links to a site. The more links point to your page, the more relevant this page is considered.
Due to the large number of complaints, he actually made #1 for many of the goods he sold on his site.
And shoppers searching for the item were likely to shop there, because it was #1 search result. Organic search result - that is - not a paid ad.

No-one saw all the negative feedback, because Google does not show it (or actually know about it).
However, if you do a search on the site's name you will also see a lot of complaints about decormyeyes on the first results page. So searching for the site/shop does work as expected.

Odd that it took about 10 years for anyone to notice this flaw...

The problem there is, that Google search results are not recursive... i.e. you do not see the results of a result.
(Maybe this would actually fix the problem).

Google is not to blame for this, and the PageRank algorithm is still fine. If Google were to implement some semantic magic in their algorithm that would treat a positive reference different from a negative reference, it would create an altogether different problem: for all the controversial topics (or persons) out in the world, you simply will always find negative and positive references, and in many cases the negative will outnumber the positive. The system would be gamed with as easily as the current.

That's what Google said in reaction to this story:
As it turns out, Google has a world-class sentiment analysis system (Large-Scale Sentiment Analysis for News and Blogs). But if we demoted web pages that have negative comments against them, you might not be able to find information about many elected officials, not to mention a lot of important but controversial concepts. So far we have not found an effective way to significantly improve search using sentiment analysis. Of course, we will continue trying.
Instead, in the last few days we developed an algorithmic solution which detects the merchant from the Times article along with hundreds of other merchants that, in our opinion, provide an extremely poor user experience. The algorithm we incorporated into our search rankings represents an initial solution to this issue, and Google users are now getting a better experience as a result.
In other words, for the time being, Google will - on a very high level - curate the search results.

What worries me (if only slightly) here is that Google will use "their opinion" to determine which merchants (in this case) to filter.

Although I consider this is the right solution for now, it has two flaws:
  1. It can only work a posteriori,
    i.e. only after you find the next merchant (or content provider, or ...) who games the system like this, you can remove him from search results, but this means that they already did damage.
  2. This is the by-far #1 search engine - let's call them a monopoly for the sake of this argument - applying their opinion/judgement....worrisome, isn't it ?

The solution:

Take the opinion out of Google's hands. Crowd-source the opinion.

Let the wisdom of crowds or rather the opinion of crowds do the work.

Which crowd? My crowd of course. For me.
Your crowd for you.

In other words: Social Search

So the decormyeyes incident - apart from being disgusting from a customer care perspective - can finally help make the case for social search.

Did you notice that in this entire post I never linked to the actual site, just to avoid contributing to the problem ;-)

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Blogging from the iPad

I just installed BlogPress in my iPad and will test blogging from the iPad with it. Expect even more typos and strange autocompletion errors from now on.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad