Hecka nice

“He’s an extraordinary player who makes every team a lot better. This guy is hecka nice. . .”

High school coach for Jimmy Rollins who has just been named Baseball’s National League’s Most Valuable Player. Jimmy Rollins is from Alameda, CA where I live. Encinal High School, where Jimmy played, is in Alameda. We’re all really proud and every time the Phillys come to town to play the Oakland A’s at the coliseum, the stands are packed mostly to see Jimmy play.

What really cracked me up about this article in the local paper where I saw this quote is the phrase “hecka” which is a uniquely Bay Area term. My kids have started to use it now so I guess we’re settling in.

Vitality – what’s next?

Back when Facebook announced it’s News Feed (then called the “mini-feed”) which aggregated all your friends activity onto a single, easy to scan page, there was a firestorm of controversy. What upset people the most was that this feed, which consisted of updates that, up until that time, had been scattered across each of your friends pages, now pulled everything together into a page which, at the time, seemed jarringly out of context. A single aggregation point was the right thing to do from a technical standpoint. Much like an RSS Reader made it easier to scan through the latest posts on your favorite blogs, the Facebook News Feed streamlined the process of keeping up with the latest activities of your friends.

What didn’t sit right with the Facebook users was that by making the process of keeping up with your friends easier and more efficient, it crossed an unwritten privacy boundary. It was like that first time you looked up a phone number or someone’s name on Google. It felt like you were looking at something you weren’t supposed to see. Seeing these events spread out over multiple profiles, in context with other activities was normal but to have it all pulled together was almost too powerful and it was a shock.

Facebook News Feed detail

It’s only a few months later and now we think nothing of it. The fact that Facebook can pull this information together for us is nothing special and this kind of aggregation is now, as my colleague Todd Sampson likes to say, “the cost of admission” for any social network site. The one issue I’ve had with closed systems is that you’re limited with what you can do with data that you put in there. As soon as the News Feed was launched, I was poking around looking for the RSS output of the feed. The same when the Facebook API was launched. I was disappointed to find that Facebook did not allow you to pull the News Feed updates out of Facebook.

This is by design of course. The News Feed is much more than a simple aggregation of your friends activity. There’s an algorithm working behind the scenes that calculates the proximity of your friends and does some filtering to show you more events from friends that you may care about and less from friends that are only tangential to you. We now know that the Facebook News Feed is also a key venue for Facebook’s advertising where endorsements and call outs to products are services are beginning to appear inline along with your friends’ updates.

It’s inevitable that other social networks would catch on of course. Reservations about privacy melted away when publishing your profile activity became not only accepted but expected. The transformation was further solidified when Twitter changed the concept of friending into following. No longer did you need to declare someone a friend (which carries a social expectation) in order to follow their updates. It is now acceptable to follow someone’s updates because you trust their taste. You may not know them personally but you could still be a fan.

Now we see multiple versions of the News Feed appearing on the front page of other sites front and center as a key part of what they offer. Plaxo Pulse was the first out the gate and shortly after Friend Feed launched with their simple aggregation. Wink as well and most recently I noticed that even LinkedIn has joined into the game.

winkPlaxo Pulse

Friend FeedlinkedIn

Vitality, as we call it at Yahoo, is nothing new. What is most exciting about the aggregation of events, particularly when it’s done across open systems as it is in Plaxo, Friend Feed, and Wink, is what you can do with that data. If we go back to the RSS Reader example earlier, it’s one thing just to pull together events for your users’ convenience. What is so much more interesting is when you can begin to infer things based on the collective activity that you pull together.

There’s a lot more work to do. In the same way that the MyBlogLog Hot in My Communities feature and the My Yahoo Top Picks module bubble up interests, or the Google Reader Trends page, and Bloglines Beta Top 1000 reflect popularity, the next step is to apply similar analysis to social activity.

What kinds of tools and features would you like to see from an aggregation of your social vitality?

Thanksgiving

Because my parents and in laws live in Japan, we usually spend Thanksgiving with friends in the area. What makes the holiday so special is that we get an intimate glimpse of someone else’s family life and gain a deeper appreciation of our friends when we meet their sisters, parents, and cousins. Conversation flows, we all learn a little more about ourselves, and for that we are thankful.

Last night, after the 8th bottle of wine was uncorked, the conversation gets more intimate and personal. This year we were talking about cultural differences and social norms. An observation was made about how people on the West coast tend to gloss over difficult topics and dance around controversy to avoid conflict, especially compared to what we were used to from our friends from places back East. Izumi, my Japanese wife, is sensitive to this as in Japan the line around what you say to others as opposed to close friends and family is particularly well-defined.

In Japan, directness is a privilege reserved for only your closest friends. This gets Izumi in trouble sometimes because she might say something to someone that puts them off when she was only trying to get a little closer to them. She says she comes off sounding “mean” but it’s not intended and this is especially hard for her to nuance because English is her second language. While explaining this, Izumi blurted out, I’m mean but I mean well!

A perfect bumper sticker is born!

last.fm artist page wiki

last.fm wiki

Tonight I discovered that last.fm has a wiki to store biographies for each of the artists (here’s the entry for Radiohead). They offer a subscription to an RSS feed of recent changes but with a last.fm twist – it limit the feed to updates of changes and edits to only artists it thinks you’ll care about.

I wonder how long this feature’s been there?

Human Flying Squirrels

human flying squirrel

Check out this insane video of nutbags jumping off cliffs and flying down with nothing but a modified bat suit (they call them “wingsuits”) to slow them down. Favorite quote, “At first we used to try and jump as far away from the cliff as possible but that got boring. . . ” Watch when three of them bunch up and do somersaults in mid air!

Whatever you’re doing this weekend, it pales in comparison to this.

credit to Doc Serls for this gem

UPDATE : More craziness (this time with skis) surfaced on this video of wingsuit base jumping

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Sad Cubicles

MyBlogLog world headquarters is in Berkeley which is normally packed with eager young interns brimming over with cool ideas to re-invent the world. But school’s back in session and most of the interns are cramming for their finals so it’s really, really quiet around here. We’ve been busy day-to-day but methinks a half-day of redecoration is in order. I could bring in some posters, there’s also a couch over on the other side of the office that no one is using. . .

At least we don’t have sad cubes!

Billboard Magazine tracking blogs

Billboard Top 100 blogged about artists

I had no idea but it makes total sense. Leaderboards are all the rage so it makes sense that the publication that started it all would track blog post mentions to see which musical artists are getting the most buzz. The site is pretty light on it’s methodology.

The Buzz 100 Chart is currently formulated based on the number of times an artist that appears on Billboard’s Hot 100 singles chart is mentioned in blogs. Each week, as new names appear in the Hot 100, they are added to the pool of artists from which the Buzz 100 is drawn.

OK. But how does Billboard identify that a post that has the keyword, “eagles” is really about The Eagles? Click on each artists’ name and it’ll take you to the blog search and reveal their filters are a little messy.