Thursday, June 09, 2011

Quick links

Some of what has caught my attention recently:
  • Oldest example I could find of the "PC is dead" in the press, a New York Times article from 1992. If people keep making this prediction for a few more decades, eventually it might be right. ([1])

  • Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos says to innovate, you have to try many things, fail but keep trying, and be "willing to be misunderstood for long periods of time". ([1])

  • Median tenure at Amazon and Facebook is a year or less (in part due to their massive recent hiring). Also, most people at Facebook have never worked anywhere other than Facebook. ([1])

  • Spooky research out of UW CS and Google that crowdsources surveillance, finding all the Flickr photos from an big event like a concert that happen to include a specific person (no matter at what angle or from what location the crowd of people at the event took the pictures). ([1])

  • You can scan someone's fingerprints from 6 feet away and copy their keys from 200 feet away. ([1] [2])

  • Pretty impressive valuations incubator Y Combinator is getting on its startups: "The combined value of the top 21 companies is $4.7 billion."([1])

  • But even even for some of the more attractive small startups to acquire, those out of Y Combinator, odds of acquisition still are only about 8%, and most of those will be relatively low valuation talent acquisitions. Sometimes it can seem like everyone is getting bought, but it is only a fortunate few who have the right combination of product, team, timing, luck, and network.([1])

  • Someone going solidly for the dumbphone market, which is by far the biggest market still, with a snazzy but simple and mostly dumb phone. That's smart. ([1] [2])

  • Google Scribe makes suggestions for what you are going to type next when you are writing documents. Try starting with "All work and" ([1]).

  • When I started my blog and called it "Geeking with Greg", the word "geek" still had pretty negative connotations, especially in the mainstream. A decade later, things have changed. ([1])

  • Not surprising people don't use privacy tools since the payoff is abstract and the tools require work for the average user to understand and use. What surprises me more is that more people don't use advertising blocking tools like AdBlock. ([1])

  • The sad story of why Google never launched GDrive. ([1])

  • Carriers are going to be upset about Apple's plans to disrupt text messaging. Those overpriced plans are a big business for carriers. ([1])

  • It would be great if Skype acquisition was part of a plan to disrupt the mobile industry by launching a mobile phone that always picks the lowest cost data network (including free WiFi networks) available. Consumers would love that; it could lower their monthly bills by an order of magnitude. ([1] [2])

  • Social data is of limited use in web search because there isn't much data from your friends. Moreover, the best information about what is a good website for you almost certainly comes from people like you who you might not even know, not from the divergent tastes of your small group of friends. As Chris Anderson (author of The Long Tail) said, "No matter who you are, someone you don't know has found the coolest stuff." ([1] [2])

  • Customization (aka active personalization) is too much work. Most people won't do it. If you optimize for the early adopter tinkerer geeks who love twiddling knobs, you're designing a product that the mainstream will never use. ([1])

  • If you launch a feature that just makes your product more complicated and confusing to most customers, you would have been better off doing nothing at all. Success is not launching things, but launching things that help customers. ([1])

  • Google News shifts away from clustering and toward personalization. ([1] [2])

  • Crowdsourcing often works better when unpaid ([1])

  • Eli Pariser is still wrong. ([1])


jeremy said...

Customization (aka active personalization) is too much work. Most people won't do it. If you optimize for the early adopter tinkerer geeks who love twiddling knobs, you're designing a product that the mainstream will never use.

Aren't there two different kinds of active personalization, though? There is the kind where you actively pick and mix your own news sources, pick keywords that you'd like to follow, move sliders that show the relative weights that you want to have between different topics, etc. Let's call this "Type 1" personalization.

And there is the active personalization where you do all that same stuff, but indirectly by saying "more like this source" or "less like this topic". Aka explicit relevance feedback. Let's call this "Type 2" personalization.

That's in contract to implicit relevance feedback (aka traditional personalization) that makes many of these same inferences, only based on passive usage data only. Let's call this "Type 3" personalization.

The article, inasfar as I understand it, only compares Type 3 against Type 1 personalization. Shoot, we've known for over a decade (see Marti Hearst's late 90's IR Interfaces book) that users were unwilling to provide that type of customization.

But the question that remains untested, the one that I'd really like to see an answer to, is whether users would ever use the tools for explicit feedback.

There was a time when the common web wisdom was that users would never do such a thing. Users were too lazy or too unwilling to provide explicit judgments, correct? But now we have the FB "Like" and the Google +1, both forms of explicit judgments.

So hasn't that particular myth (of user laziness/unwillingness for explicit personalization) now been busted? Yes, users might still not want to use sliders to set topic mixture weights. But they still appear willing to engage in explicit interactivity, right?

jeremy said...

Hey, did you see this?

Go to page 5:

See paragraph 10. I quote:

"With Sparks, users consciously specify their interests"

Huh? Isn't this the approach that has been shown to not work? Explicit interest settings?

What's going on here? I'd be interested in seeing your blog post on the topic.