MyBlogLog as an Interest Engine

I’ve been doing a lot of posting on the MyBlogLog blog lately because the boys have been busy shipping a number of enhancements to the service that have really changed the nature of the product. What started out as a lightweight stats package and later a social network that connected people to sites and bloggers that shared their interests is now beginning to look like a site where you can not only go to learn more about someone but also a place where you can manage your profile and interests and discover new content around those interests.

Todd called me out for going quiet on this blog with my personal take on some of the work we’re doing so this post will be a whirlwind summary of what’s new in MyBlogLog land over the past few weeks and why I think they are significant.

New with Me – MBL’s version of lifestreaming. Our approach is different because we designed around driving the conversation back to the source. We do not capture comments and force people to mybloglog.com to view any comments about updates streaming across our servers. Our focus is on (a) letting you know what other services your contacts on MyBlogLog have so you can connect with them there and, (b) harvesting meta-data on lifestream events which we use to slice the content in interesting ways. We also do not collect any private data so no anti-pattern asking for your password is required.

New with My Neighborhood – an additional tab on the New with Me view shows you the collective lifestream of your contacts on MyBlogLog. Because we collect only public data, anyone can look as someone else’s Neighborhood feed. Interested in what a prominent VC is following? Check out Fred Wilson’s Neighborhood feed. Use people you trust as a proxy and filter for your news.

New with Me widgets – we’re a widget platform so it makes sense that we would put New with Me into a widget. The one twist is that one version of our widget is designed to take up the entire body of a page. As you add content to places like delicious, flickr, and twitter, the New with Me widget automatically updates your normally static About Me page with your latest activity. While people are talking about the nirvana of data portability where decentralized services keep your chosen hub up-to-date, we’re doing it.

EngineTopics – with all the great content flowing across our New with Me servers, it was time to organize it in a way that is useful outside of the context of the MyBlogLog social network. Because we harvest the tags and other meta-data associated with the New with Me updates, we organize these updates into dynamic topic pages that feature the latest news on any tag. If Wikipedia is a relatively stable set of authoritative links around a certain topic, we aim to be the dynamic equivalent – featuring the latest updates from our members around those topics.

Check out the topic page for College Basketball as well as the Related Topics tag cloud in the upper-right to get a sense of how this works.

New in My World – just as New in My Neighborhood is a mixed feed of updates from your MyBlogLog contacts, New in My World is a mixed feed of updates from topic pages that you follow. There is a direct correlation between tags that you’ve applied to your profile and the tags on the updates you see in this area so we’ve bolded those tags for you so you can understand why you are seeing them. As you follow new topics, those tags are automatically added to your profile. In the past, tags were a way to signal to the world your interests. Through careful tuning of your New in My World feed, the accuracy and relevance of this collection of tags will become even more accurate.

Here’s a link to my New with My World page which I visit on a regular basis. It’s a collaborative filter using the MyBlogLog community which is selecting and tagging the content and serving it up for me, cross-referenced against my stated interest.

We’ll continue to noodle on this concept further and have a number of ideas about how this data can be used. The vision is that what you share with MyBlogLog will not only improve the Topics pages for people browsing around, but also that the act of sharing will improve your interest profile and drive further customizations both on MyBlogLog and partner sites that access your interest profile via the MyBlogLog API. Just as the MyBlogLog Recent Reader widget in the sidebar of this blog operates passively, leaving your avatar behind as a recent visitor of sites such as these, the New with Me feature also operates passively, in the background, as you add activity to your various social services across the web updating not only your activity profile but also your collective interests.

Netsquared Mashup Challenge

The Netsquared Mashup Challenge applications are in and now it’s time to vote on your favorite of the 122 that have been submitted. It’s all for a good cause and the projects listed here are good inspiration for those attending Mashup University where I’ll be doing a brief presentation tomorrow morning on the MyBlogLog API.

For more on the Netsquared Mashup Challenge, see the video below:

Over-clocking your friendships

A common complaint overheard at the recent Graphing Social Patterns, ETech, and South By Southwest conferences has been that increased friend invites on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter has devalued the word friend. Today, this condition is unique to the the early-adopter, hyper-connected crowd at tech conferences but as social networks replace our broken email inbox as the primary tool for communication, there is no reason this problem will not impact everyone who uses these platforms.

“Not a day goes by when I get invited to one more social something or other.”

Two things will change:

Management of friend requests will become such a chore that Twitter’s unrequited “follow” command or Doppler’s “Other’s you might know” method of building your social network will become the norm. Asking for an email username and password will be phased out as bad practice at best and a security risk at worst. Thingfo, a new social network service around objects, is doing cool things with the MyBlogLog API to jumpstart it’s community based on your existing social network on MyBlogLog.

Tools will evolve to slice and filter your social networks for greater relevance. One unexplored vector is filtering by physical location. A conference hack that the MyBlogLog team put together that experiments with location-based relevance is at m.mybloglog.com. This hack allows you to claim your unique laptop or cellphone bluetooth ID and bind it to your MyBlogLog ID. Once you’ve done this, the polling app at this site will periodically scan for other bluetooth devices in your area and when it identifies another opt-ed in MyBlogLog member nearby, their avatar will show up on your dashboard.

MyBlogLog Meetspace

At a panel discussion this afternoon, Ben Cerveny threw out the concept that with all the tools for managing our friend networks at our disposal, we will have varied “focal depth” to our online and offline friendships. I look forward to the next round of tools that will act as temporary lenses on our world. It’s not as simple as an algorithmic keyword search engine – this new set of tools will need to leverage inputs such as location, time, and interest. The technology is in place but, as with all new technologies, the social norms need to catch up and inform future development of these tools.

Panel Discussion on Activity Streams

A panel discussion at GSP West with myself, Bret Taylor (FriendFeed), Kevin Marks (Google) and David Recordon (Six Apart) on the rollout of shared activity streams as part of the latest revolution in social network. Moderating was Sean Ammirati of ReadWriteWeb.

Video of my Graphing Social Patterns talk on MyBlogLog API

I gave a talk today announcing the public launch of the MyBlogLog API. The is the only API that I know of that allows you to look-up a person’s identifier across social networks. Read the docs here.

Other URLs from the talk:
Blog Juice – a bookmarklet to look-up social activity of recent reader.
Raven SEO –  a working example of a portable, social network
Meetspace – using Bluetooth to discover which MyBlogLog members are in your proximity

Update: Slides from the talk posted on Slideshare.