"Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful." - William Morris

Facebook vs. Your Privacy

Posted: February 29th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Privacy & Security | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

Somehow I’d managed to miss the bruhaha about Facebook licencing its users’ photos to newspapers – as witnessed in this case of the shooting of a 14 year old girl in Toronto this New Year. The situation was that the newspapers needed some images of the girl, and rather than just use the ones given out by the police or from the family, they went to the ‘source’ as it were and used some from her Facebook profile.

Wow. That seems to me to be a pretty blatent disregard for your user’s data privacy, and it’s seriously making me think that Facebook is not a good place to be right now. I understand that when I upload content to a social network that I should expect my friends to see it, and everyone if I’ve set the viewing privileges that way, but I’d never expect that content to get in a newspaper. Knowing what my little sister and her friends post on Facebook I’m sure they wouldn’t want any of that out in the public! I mean, people might not know exactly how much she likes kittens.

Perhaps it’s actions like this that will cause Facebook to lose all their visitors, as seems to be the trend right now. Of course it would require people to go somewhere else, as it’s now part of our modern culture to be connected with our friends and contacts over a social network. There are no outstanding candidates for the ‘next’ Facebook right now, however much some sites might think they are it looks like, for the time being at least, that Facebook is the last of the monolithic social sithttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifes. What’s coming down the line is a mix of personal control via your own website, feeds and posting aggregate feeds from sits like Twitter, combined with niche sites where you can focus your groups of contacts together – such as LinkedIn for business, or Flickr for photo friends.

Whatever happens, Facebook’s strikes seem to be coming hard and fast now which is never a good sign. As a company like that grows they have to maintain something of what made them popular in the first place, evolving it to meet the demands of their new users – not selling their user’s commodities in a fire sale when they get a chance. Imagine if Google started selling your search results – how quickly would you find another search engine? Anyways, that’s enough for now – I have to go build the next big social network to capture all Facebook’s users when they leave the sinking ship.

First to Market, or First to Rate?

Posted: January 29th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Internet Marketing | Tags: , , , , , , | No Comments »

In the world of business the success of your idea depends hugely on word of mouth and feedback, especially with the Internet. The same is true of music, with new bands scrabbling to get any bandwidth with already saturated music lovers. In such a situation we often rely on music taste makers that we know and trust to point us towards new music we might like. This was a subject that Malcolm Gladwell discussed in his excellent book ‘The Tipping Point‘, where he described such people or groups as ‘super influencers’ who have an effect on many people’s opinions and can even make or break new products.

Well it seems not everyone believes Gladwell’s view of how information is dispersed. In a recent article Fast Company talks with Duncan Watts, a Network Theorist, on his own views of how information travels. He feels that information sharing in tightly grouped areas such as music depends much more on who gets the first attention, rather than who is referenced by the most connected people. This was found in an experiment where he set up new songs on a music sharing site, and then asked different groups to rate the music – but some of the groups had a social aspect, and others didn’t. What transpired was that the top rated list of songs was totally different for each group, there was no shared ‘best song’. The result for the ‘social’ world seemed to be driven more by who got the first votes, not who was actually best.

This result has some intuitive merit. In today’s social information networks, information that is tagged most rises to the top of display lists such as ‘Recent Top 10’ or similar. Other people then see these lists and give their own opinions on this music, perhaps biased by its position in the list, instead of going round all available music and seeing what they like. In this case the influencer is the social group en masse, rather than a single super influencer. Either way it seems that getting out there first with your product into a new area is critical, although as Watts says – “In general, the ‘best’ songs never do very badly, and the ‘worst’ songs never do extremely well, but almost any other result is possible&rdquo – so make sure your product is worthy of any attention is receives and you can’t go far wrong. Or if it’s not great, then make sure you can get feedback from this failed attempt to make sure the next one is worthy.

[From Boing Boing]

Be Intelligent… Collectively

Posted: August 16th, 2007 | Author: | Filed under: Social Media | Tags: , , | No Comments »

O’Reilly have just released a new book on harnessing the collective intelligence of the Web 2.0 masses. Founder Tim O’Reilly is very excited about this book, and though you might think he’s biased he’s not one to shout about every single book they release as that would probably fill every day of his life. If anyone has read it let me know if it’s as good as it sounds.

London 2012 Games Design Disasters

Posted: June 6th, 2007 | Author: | Filed under: Graphic Design | Tags: , , , | No Comments »

Well the London Olympic games may still be a few years away, but there’s plenty of controversy to keep everyone entertained in the meantime. Recently the British Olympic committee unveiled the new logo design to immediate, countrywide disdain. The logo cost £400,000 (~ US$800,000) and it’s amazing to see what you get for that money – I’m sure it paid for a lot of focus groups & surveys.

2012 Olympic Logo (Pink)

So now the BBC is asking people to send in their version of a logo – most of which are, frankly, awful – but some of which show promise and are more in keeping with common London design styles (translation: lots of Gill Sans). What amazes me is that, as a country, we didn’t take this change to have an open public competition to create a logo and vote for it. Think of the money you could raise for the Olympic fund running a premium text message vote for ‘Britain’s Next Top Logo’? Unknown British designers could submit their designs and win a top prize plus a place on the design team. It would have been perfect, but old school ‘money for the boys’ thinking reigned supreme – no wonder the Olympic budget keeps getting increased.

Now there’s another uproar; the presentation video developed, I can only assume for even more money, includes a section of flashing lights that has triggered epileptic fits in susceptible people. So our beloved Ken, the Mayor of London, has waded into the fray and demanded that the company responsible not be paid for this “catastrophic mistake”. My feeling on this is that it is a more honest mistake, and I’m sure that plenty of government people reviewed the video first so is it really the fault of the company developing it? Britain has pretty strict rules about limited sighted people being supported on websites, but I’ve never heard of anything regarding epilepsy.

It will be interesting to see how this pans out. I’m sure we’ll hear of more ‘mistakes’ such as these. I can only hope that as a country we don’t mess up by spending so much energy complaining about mistakes that we don’t have any left to make the games the success they should be.

Photosynth Presentation at TED

Posted: June 5th, 2007 | Author: | Filed under: Technology | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Thanks to Mateo for sending me this great presentation of the PhotoSynth work emerging from Microsoft’s Live Labs.

What’s interesting to me about this is that way back when I read David Siegel’s excellent Futurize your Enterprise (from 1999) he discusses many of these kinds of applications made possible by fully described semantic data. This led me to the concept of being able to search the web to pull up all photos from a physical location, say around the Empire State Building, and then stitch them all together into a single interaction point blending everyone’s photos. What really threw me about this presentation is that the way they zoomed round Notre Dame was almost identical to how I’d thought it might work. Now the great thing about this is that they don’t rely on positioning data, but instead visual reference points that they automatically detect and stitch together, so I’m certainly looking forward to the model they create of everyone’s photos from the top of the Empire State.

Update: Having played around with the online demo (which is stunning and intuitive) I was struck by the similarity to the sequence in Blade Runner where the main protoganist Rick Deckard zooms into a slightly holographic photograph of one of the replicants he’s chasing. The way the screen panned as he focussed on sections and ‘looked round’ shower curtains is totally how PhotoSynth feels in use. The future is here again.