Archived entries for Social Web

More small pieces fit together more ways

In early February Todd Sampson wrote that The API is the Product. I think he’s right on. Behind the exciting buzz of sites and services that make getting bits of info online easy are some very cool APIs that let anybody and everybody create entirely new ways to input or output that same data. (The apparently trend to smaller pieces of data is interesting too, and part of the ease.)

Here are a few of those sites: FireEagle for location data (a single geocode), TripIt for travel data, Delicious for links data (a single URL+ tags), ThingFo for experience data (in 30 chars), Twitter for vitality data (140 chars).

These APIs make possible an undeniable wave of creative hacks within the small orbit of any of the services even individually. This growth testify to the mass variety of niche needs and personal priorities. It seems the ocean of data is really a petri dish.

When these hacks cross-pollenate — when the ins and outs of the data sets start sharing and talking with each other — things get even more interesting.

Those that dismiss mashups as simply “things on a map,” “widgets on a blog,” or “applications on facebook” don’t see the full power. I don’t claim to either, but important coolness seems inevitable when data becomes small and abundant while APIs become prolific and potent. More small pieces fit together more ways.

(Perhaps this is a small part of why Douglas Crockford says that “Mashups are the most interesting innovation in software development in decades.”)

Data Ocean vs Document Lake

Friend and Yahoo! Developer Network (YDN) Director Matt McAlister has a good post today on Creating leverage at the data layer.

Matt cites Tim Berners-Lee from a recent interview saying that the future of the web is one where we and our agents “can access all the data” via a “much more seamless and much more powerful” interface and experience made possible “because [of] integration.”

That’s different than how it’s been. Documents are a subset of Data. The Web has been a lake of Documents. It is becoming an ocean of Data.

We’ve surfed the lake of documents with a web browser. But a web browser is not always the right tool for the ocean of data. One of many examples is that many people consumer Twitter via a desktop client like twitterific or twhirl. In fact only 45% of recent messages (of people I follow) were posted via the web interface. It’s not a stretch to conclude that a majority of twitter users have determined that there is a better way to interact with twitter’s data than with a web browser. (If not the stats, then certainly the trend.)

I see that as evidence that A) some new interfaces are required for some new types of data; and that B) the web has interesting data to consume outside of a browser.

In the same vein, Matt writes that “Social networks are a good user interface for distributed data, much like web browsers became a good interface for distributed documents.” He’s right: social networks are a great way to consume the so-called vitality stream.

Moving on he writes that the markets and technologies supporting this new world “are still in very early stages.” His notion that “there‚Äôs lots of room for someone to create an open advertising marketplace for information, a marketplace where access to data can be obtained in exchange for ad inventory, for example” is important.

There’s more good stuff in his post, but I gotta get back to my other work. I didn’t even mean to write this much about it — so i’ll stop now and let you head over there if you want – but I’ve got a bit more that I’m mulling that I’ll try follow up with.

Live on Yahoo! Live

Down to 22,490…22,491

Spent a bunch of time in the past few days pruning and organizing my feeds, and catching up on some blog reading. When I started, my feed inbox was at about 65,000 unread items. I’ve got it down to a much less daunting 22,491 unread items now.

I read about 400 feeds (well, the 65k unreads number tells you that I don’t *read* them all). If you’re interested in my reading list, and you don’t mind how dated, ugly, and messy it is, then by all means take a look. (Im working on improving it, and will post as update when it’s better.)

Video: Information R/evolution

Information R/evolution is a five minute video telling the story of the transformation from a world of categorized information to a world of living information the we all enrich continually. It’s from the same guy (Michael Wesch) and in the same style as "Web 2.0 … The Machine is Us/ing Us."

When his "Web 2.0," video came out I wrote that

Perhaps the so-called ’social web’ isn’t about connecting people, but about information conservation: If a person chooses to do something — no matter how small — it’s inherently interesting, precious, and valuable.

I still think that’s true, and I find more support in this new video:

Here is "Information R/evolution" by Prof. Michael Wesch:

Hap tip to the information aesthetics blog which is a great source for "data visualization & visual design."

Slipping: TechCrunch Reporting

Over lunch today I was catching up on my reading. I was drawn in by one of their headlines (which I saw on TechMeme.com). My interest quickly turned to disappointment because the article was poorly researched, exhibited nearly zero analysis, and sat under a sensationalist traffic-grabbing headline that it failed to back up. I expect more from TechCrunch, and I think they owe their 598k subscribers – me included — better reporting. The #1 blog should lead us to quality and respect by example, not through sensationalism and hollow reporting.

This was going to be a comment on TechCrunch’s site, but I agree with many recent commentators that posting on ones own blog and letting Trackbacks make the connection is the more respectful, responsible, and effective way. I’m not exactly sure why I needed to get this off my chest today, but here goes:

Mr. Schonfel, in my opinion your article and its headline are bad journalism. I believe the data reported by AddThis is insignificant and an insufficient basis for your broad headline. You provided no context or substantiation. I feel that you’ve done your readers a disservice by publishing this article.

You report that AddThis is used “nearly 2 million times per month.” Does that seem like a lot to you? Significant? Does their data correlate or challenge other available data or trends? What, exactly, gives you the confidence to warrant such a far-reaching headline?

I believe you would have done well to report on the overall market size that they are a niche within. Technorati’s About Us page reports, for example, that there are 1.6mm new blog posts PER DAY (sounds like “nearly 2mm” to me); over 5mm new blogs each month; over 100mm blogs total.

In addition to questions of reach, I have to question the use-case and user profile that AddThis.com enjoys. I know you have the button on your site, but can you report what % of your visitors interact with it? Have you cross-checked your total del.icio.us saves witt the numbers AddThis reports? You have both those pieces of data – so that should be reportable.

I’m given additional pause when I notice that approximately 1 in 6 AddThis users us it save to their native Favorites folder! Really? Why would anybody do that? You don’t need a special tool to bookmark a site in your browser, in fact it’s much slower than any of the other available mechanisms (native menus, keyboard-shortcuts, dragging-and-dropping). There’s nothing wrong with people doing that, but it doesn’t make then seem like trendsetters.

In total, I don’t see any reason to think that this article is insightful or relevant. I’m worried about TechCrunch’s integrity when such poor data and analysis leads to such a presumptuous headline.

I’ve taken the time to write this comment because I expect more from TechCruch. You’re earned my attention in the past, and I won’t let my silence help you short change yourself. I’m a big TechCrunch fan, like most of your (alleged) 598k readers, but I expect you to do much better reporting than this sensationalist rubbish. I’ll be back for your next post, and hope it’s much better.

I have two hopes. First, I hope I’ve misread or misunderstood something, and that I’ll have an opportunity to retract this entire objection. If not, but second hope is that this call-to-action encourages greater journalistic integrity, whether new or old media.

Respectfully,
Nate Koechley

@Dom Vonarburg, comment #25 on TechCrunch and a representative of AddThis, please feel free to provide the answers my comment is hunting for.



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