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Office

MyBlogLog and Web 2.0 Expo

Todd and I have been busy hanging out over at this week’s Web 2.0 Expo (save one short visit to the nearby Blue Bottle Coffee, thanks Sam!) but the team has been back at MyBlogLog HQ cranking out some cool stuff regardless.

HCard & VCard support – very cool to see these come to light. Todd has the scoop.

MBL Mobile – we brushed off this hack and updated it a bit. Steve wrote a java client (and Chris made a cool Mac installer) that you can download and run on your desktop. It runs in the background and a little bubble pops up when a fellow opted in MyBlogLogger is within Bluetooth range.

Wi-Fi enabled invitations – O’Reilly was kind enough to give us the IP Addresses of the wi-fi routers at the Expo. We now look for any traffice coming from this range and if we see a MyBlogLog member accessing it from this range, we leave them a message on their MyBlogLog profile inviting them to check out MBL Mobile and to stop by the Yahoo booth and say, “Hi”

Collective Intelligence – as we have done before, we use the wi-fi address range to collect a gallery of all the MyBlogLog members that have used the internet via the Web 2.0 Expo routers. We sometimes get around to showing a rank ordered list of the most popular links but didn’t get around to it this time.

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Office

The Lifestream Filter Will be the Next Great Algorithm War

I’m paraphrasing the title of this post from David Recordon who threw this line out following a chat I had with him a couple of weeks back. It’s a very insightful observation that predicts opportunities in the real-time world which lifestream services operate.

It’s now easier than ever to pull together an aggregated feed of content from across the web. Facebook and FriendFeed organize this content around your friends and contacts. MyBlogLog also presents a New in My Neighborhood view which shows a mixed feed of all your contact’s lifestream content. Yet, once you get more than a handful a friends on these systems, the number of updates (especially if any of them are using twitter) quickly spins out beyond what you can handle.

Twitter is often used to announce new blog posts and the new broadcast service from Six Apart, Blog It, only exasperates the problem by spawning multiple posts from a single Facebook entry. We live in a world where finding out what your friends are doing is not a problem. The difficulty is in filtering through the hundreds of updates that stream by each day to those events that are most relevant without losing the sense of serendipitous discovery that we experience today.

So here we are today. It’s like we’re all discovering search engines all over again. In a matter of weeks we’ve gone from “Wow! I can find everything here!” to, “Crap! Over 600,000 results for the phrase Serendipitous Discovery? How can I find the one reference I’m looking for?”

The huge opportunity ahead is a filter to bubble up the things you need to know without missing anything you want to know.

A couple of posts point to this being a trend

We’re trying a few things out at MyBlogLog that vector results based on how you have tagged yourself on your profile. Right now, in a user’s New in My World feed, it’s a straight, chronological feed based on items that match your tags. Also, because it’s based on meta-data, this only means we can present you with items that are tagged so that leaves out plain text updates such as twitter posts but we’re just getting started.

As David’s quote indicates, this is a huge opportunity and something I look forward to working on. I look forward to a robust debate on different approaches in the coming weeks!

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Office

Community 2.0 with Twitter

MyBlogLog just launched an experiment and a shared account at twitter.com/mybloglog. All of us on the team have twitter accounts and have been tripping over each other using our accounts to respond to people and get the word out to our various, over-lapping pools of followers.

The twittersphere is so noisy anyway that when we sat back and thought about it, having a central voice for MyBlogLog the product just made more sense. There are thousands of MyBlogLog users that have added their twitter accounts to their profile and rather than reaching out to them piecemeal, it just seemed to make more sense to have a single account to handle the outgoing communications.

So a single account to broadcast the occasional shout out or service update is a no-brainer. The harder, experimental part is the listening part. We set up a script that automatically follows anyone that has added their twitter account to their MyBlogLog profile. It’s impossible to keep up with the thousands of conversations going on amongst our members so we’re taking the advice of our very own twitter ninja, Todd and are limiting our listening to just the @mybloglog replies and direct messages.

Who knows what will happen, we’ll have to just go with it a bit and see how it goes. It’s just a few hours since we’ve announced this and the replies are already rolling in at a pretty rapid clip. I’m a little worried because we all have a product to run as well and the interruptive nature of twitter brings out my worst ADD tendencies.

One thing is for certain, this channel is an excellent source of real-time feedback. MyBlogLog releases early and often and we thrive on input to tap us in the right direction or smack us upside the head if we’re dead wrong. The early responses to the follow script range from positive to “what took you so long?” so I think we did the right thing.

Some of the followers have let us know about other companies that are playing around with branded twitter accounts. Here’s a running list so far:

Ironically, it doesn’t seem like @twitter is really used in the same way. Curious.

Update: looks like we’re headed in the right direction. Overnight reactions are almost all positive and the Stop Twitter Spam makes me realize we dodged a bullet by posting about why we were auto-following all 14,000+ that have added their twitter ID to their MyBlogLog profile.

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Current Events

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.

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Current Events

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.

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Office

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.

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Office

Launching Products, MyBlogLog style

Sampsons at Sansome

(from left, Manny Miller, John Sampson, Todd Sampson, and Saurabh Sahni)

Yesterday was one of the more exciting days of my time here at Yahoo, and I wasn’t even in the office.  MyBlogLog shipped a significant new feature which required the whole team to knuckle down and work as one. We hate to ship new code on Fridays so yesterday was the deadline to get something done before Todd & I head out to a week and a half of conferences.

While activity levels were high all week, they really broke into a sprint at 9pm when we all logged on after dinner to quash out our final bugs.  I think at one point I had four or five different browser engines running (Firefox, IE, Safari, and even Flock) and next to my Windows PC I was also testing things on my wife’s MacBook.

There was a group chat with all of us on it and, as we ran across things, I would throw them into the chat window to get resolved. A couple of us had other testers out there and they were in other tabs on our IM client so we would throw things between the tabs, channeling the excitement of others too as we sensed we were getting closer to launch.I wish I had saved a log from the running chat session because if you could read it, you would plainly see how closely tuned everyone on the team is to each others style.

It was like a written version of the dance you see that goes on in the kitchen of a very busy restaurant. Everyone is running around but knows exactly where everyone else is, what they are doing and when it needs to come together.  Later in the evening, folks from the Bangalore team logged on and joined the fray. Distance didn’t matter – they were right there with us.

I’m privileged to work with such a great team of talented people and am constantly bowled over by what they can do when they put their mind to it. We’re on a roll folks. There’s even more cool stuff on its way!

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Current Events

Positive Interference

Snowball Rolling Down Snowbank by Rob Casey

Yesterday I commented on Jeremy Zawodny’s blog on a fundamental difference I see between Plaxo Pulse, FriendFeed and MyBlogLog and I wanted to expand a bit further here in the name of thinking out loud and getting a sense of what others think.

As I announced on the MyBlogLog blog a couple of weeks ago, we are getting close to releasing a feature which publishes an aggregated view of all your updates from services such as flickr, del.icio.us, YouTube, twitter, and others. This aggregated event stream has been called a number of things (vitality feed, activity stream, lifestream, mini-feed) but we’re simply calling it New with Me.

As more sites add this feature, there seems to be two approaches to what to do with this data. One the one hand you have sites like Wink and Profilactic which simply pull in updates and republish them. MyBlogLog’s approach is like this. On the other, you have sites such as Plaxo Pulse and FriendFeed which are hosting specific actions such as adding comments around the content aggregated on their sites.

The question is, what is the value of hosting comments on a site that is removed from the place that generated the content? If I’m feeding my updates to a site such as Pulse or FriendFeed, I would rather be able to keep the conversation threads all together on my site or at least tie them together with something like a trackback to pull in threads if the discussion jumps over to another venue. The way Pulse and FriendFeed are built, your readers can never know what additional discussion is taking place which makes it an open loop of dis-jointed conversations that may never come together.

Bret Taylor from FriendFeed responded with a perspective that shed light on his perspective which didn’t occur to me. In his response to my comment on Jeremy’s post, Bret says that FriendFeed is less a distribution platform but more, “a forum for private discussion with people you know.” But why break off what likely to be the most thoughtful commentary and keep it from the others that might benefit from it if they are not your friend?

I look for inspiration from a broad variety of sources and thrive on the serendipity of unintended consequences. This morning I was listening to a podcast because there was a mention of a term I follow that dropped it into one of my tracking feeds. In it, Jeff Schmidt, a bassist that is also quite thoughtful on the latest social media technologies threw out a line that struck me.

I love being open to the possibility of positive interference.

That describes what I most love about the online world in which we live. The way that someone halfway around the world can stumble into your world and zap you with a turn of phrase that crystallizes a new way of looking at things. This happens best in a world where comments are open and thoughts are shared together in a way that everyone benefits. It’s all about Doc Searls’ Snowball.

Bret and I are on a panel together next week at the Graphing Social Patterns conference in San Diego and I really look forward to learning more what others think. It should be a fascinating discussion!

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Office

Hard at Work and Shipping Again!

MyBlogLog Recent Reader widget
 
A quick note to let folks know that the MyBlogLog team made it through the staff reductions at Yahoo intact. Heads down is a common expression around here and it’s apt because we’ve been hammer and tongs on getting things built that we’ve been thinking about for a long time. It’s great to be shipping again!So far, our About Me widget has been getting rave reviews. We also have an API that’s in beta and spinning off some really interesting applications. Finally, yesterday we’ve got our updated Recent Reader widget into the wild and that’s getting great reviews. Congrats to the entire MyBlogLog team, especially Manny Miller who’s been in the weeds with the widget code from the start.

We’ve got more up our sleeves and I’m looking forward to meeting folks at Graphing Social Patterns, eTech, and South by Southwest to talk about it.

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Office

MyBlogLog API in the Wild

mybloglog logo

Thanks to an unsolicited write-up by Marshall Kirkpatrick over at ReadWriteWeb the story about the MyBlogLog API has been getting some coverage. The API is currently an invite-only beta while we get some people to take a look at it and give us some feedback. The API is interesting not only because of the public data such as user & site tags unique to the MyBlogLog index but also because of the ability for the API to act as a pointer to other sources of data.

Each member on MyBlogLog has a “Services” tab which allows them to share pointers to their profile on other sites such as Digg, Twitter, Flickr, del.icio.us, etc. In this way, the MyBlogLog API can serve as a lookup that can tell you where to find someone on these other sites and pull together a more complete view of someone across the web. The MyBlogLog API delivers on a vision we’ve had for the service, a DNS for People.

The web is a collection of digital artifacts. Text, photos, sound files are by-products that are digitized and indexed. We use search engines to locate these artifacts but no one has built a way to tie all these artifacts back to their owner.

Until today. Yahoo’s very own Kent Brewster was quick off the mark with his own hack which surfaced links to these other profiles of recent visitors as well as, if available, the most recent Twitter post. Aldon Hynes posted at length this weekend and I look forward to seeing him explore member relationships using the API as he did so when he posted his detailed images of his MyBlogLog Social Graph.

I’m really happy to see this vision of MyBlogLog API as a building block coming together and am proud to see MyBlogLog play a role in making these connections easier to find making the web a little easier to use. As with any effort such as this, there were numerous people that played a role in getting this off the ground but there are a few key individuals who deserve special mention:

Chris Goffinet was the lead engineer who built the thing over the course of a week and then tuned the heck out of it over its several incarnations.

Todd Sampson & Eric Marcoullier (MyBlogLog co-founders) have been pushing for this API since day one and are basically the API’s patron saints.

JR Conlin & Kent Brewster (from the Yahoo Developer Network) were both invaluable for early feedback, cheerleading, and general code-wrangling.

If you’re interested in getting on the list for the beta, sign up and let us know what you’re working on.