The AOL Instant Messenger developers have had some fun with the AIM API, creating a network link for Google Earth that shows live AIM chat activity. It’s interesting to see where the AIM users are, and who they are chatting with.
Archives for May 2007
Have you noticed the search results in Google degrading? I find more and more garbage web sites in the results. Sure the top results are usually pretty decent, but some are way off the mark. The problem is, no matter how often the smart people at Google tweak their PR algorhythm, there is an entire army of SEO experts looking to game the system as they try to get on the first page of results. And many of the web sites playing the SEO game are unfortunately pretty lame.
Enter Mahalo. The Hawaiian word for “thank you,” Mahalo bills itself as a human-powered search engine. The value proposition? The search results have all been screened by human editors, ensuring you get just the really good web sites.
In their own words:
Mahalo is the world’s first human-powered search engine powered by an enthusiastic and energetic group of Guides. Our Guides spend their days searching, filtering out spam, and hand-crafting the best search results possible. If they haven’t yet built a search result, you can request that search result. You can also suggest links for any of our search results.
Mahalo has only just launched their alpha today. According to CEO Jason Calacanis, they served 100,000 pages in the first hour of operation.
The idea is appealing, for sure. I took it for a quick spin, of course, testing to see if any of my web sites turned up. First I tried searching for instant messaging, only to be told ‘Oops! We haven’t hand-written a result page for “instant messaging” yet.’ Instead, I’m presented with the option to be notified when they do create their own results page, and a list of (what else?) Google’s search results. Back to square one.
Okay, next I tried “windows live messenger” with the same lack of of hand-crafted results. Hmmm…
They claim they are starting by going after the top terms. Obviously(?) I’m not hitting the top terms yet.
The results were decent. Without heavy analysis, they seemed to be a streamlined version of what you’d find on the first page of Google’s own search results for skype, plus a few recent Skype news stories (courtesy of Google News).
Each of their hand-written pages also includes a message board, allowing you to discuss what is or isn’t on the page. And you can see who at Mahalo wrote the page. The Skype page, for instance, was written by Dave from Los Angeles. He’s written a bunch of other Mahalo results pages, too. Sadly, Dave hasn’t included a link to BigBlueBall. Fortunately, I can recommend a link, too.
I checked the Skype results message board, but was promptly told that I had to login to participate on the message board. Ok, that means creating an account. So now, I’m User ID 342, a.k.a. Jeff.
What do you think of Mahalo, both in concept and execution? Could Mahalo, or something like it, supplant Google someday? And “Mahalo” for your comments!
One of my personal life hacks for staying well-read on a limited budget of time has been listening to audio books. For a long time, I commuted three hours a day. While I can’t read and drive at the same time, I can listen and drive. Audio books turned the commute into nourishment for my mind.
Now my commute is only five minutes, but I still have limited time available for reading. Of course I still read, but it’s usually limited to late evenings or weekends. Audio books provide a way for me to digest books that I might otherwise not have time to read. Now I listen on my iPod while I’m running.
The one gripe I have about most audio books is the cost. Often they are more expensive than the carbon-based counterpart. So I have a subscription at Audible which lets me download a new book or two every month.
Which brings me to my point. Audible is offering a free, 30-day trilal of their Gold member subscription to “friends and family.” Since you’re reading this, I consider you a friend. If this interests you, check it out at http://www.audible.com/invite. And for every trial that starts within the next 30 days, Audible is donating $10 to the Newark Literacy Campaign.
I get nothing out of this, but I like their service and wanted to share the offer.
Most people agree that we all face information overload. We get more and more emails (via multiple accounts), instant messages and text messages. We subscribe to magazines, newsletters, RSS feeds and podcasts. We are capturing and storing more and more of our own lives in digital form, whether via lifestreams like Twitter and Jaiku, or our digital photo archives (usually both on disc and online). It eats into our personal time as we become available and connected 24/7. And technology does not appear to have a simple solution.
So what do we do? My co-worker Tara recently returned from the GEL Conference in New York City with nothing but good things to say about it. GEL stands for “good experience, live” and is a conference for “…exploring good experience in all its forms — in business, art, society, technology, and life.” The GEL conference is organized by Mark Hurst’s company, Creative Good, and one of the goodies she came home with was a copy of his book, Bit Literacy. And I got to read it this weekend.
The basic premise of Bit Literacy is that being computer literate (knowing which buttons to push to make software do what we want) is inadequate. We need to be bit literate.
What does that mean? It boils down to knowing how to:
- Manage your inbox (or inboxes, as is often the case);
- Managing the various bitstreams vying for your attention;
- Managing your to-do list;
- Getting a handle on file types, file names and folder structure; and
- Managing your digital photos.
Bit Literacy is an easy read. The most challenging advice is to completely empty your inbox at least once a day. Hurst goes into specifics on how-to do this, both for the initial purge that I’m going to have to tackle as well as on a regular basis. And his advice here makes sense.
As someone who regularly scans the Internet for the latest trends, news and technology, it’s also easy to accumulate a long list of bitstreams. They could be email newsletters, Google news alerts, RSS feeds, podcasts or whatever. They all vie for my attention. Hurst likens them to my “trusted advisor.” Interview them for the job, maybe even on a trial basis, but keep that list of advisors as short as possible, and review it regularly as you would with any employees.
While I liked the book overall, I had two gripes. The chapter on managing your to-do list read like a testimonial for Hurst’s online to-do management system, gootodo.com. I looked at gootodo before and was unimpressed. After reading about it, I’m slightly more impressed, but a bit annoyed at the sales pitch. And while I agree with the concepts behind gootodo, I’m not entirely sold on that particular solution. As complex as Outlook is, it works for me, and it syncs with my iPAQ.
My only other gripe was with his advice for file naming. Hurst recommends using author initials – creation date – keyword. This very review, were it a file on my hard drive, might be named jh-0528-bitliteracyreview.txt. First, on my home computer (which only I use), putting in my initials is redundant. Hurst himself admits that it may not be necessary. Second, the date is automatically captured when the file is saved. True, if you open and save the file again at a later date, the date will change, but frankly, I want to know that. In my opinion, embedding the date is a bad idea.
Overall, Bit Literacy is a excellent book and it fills a huge need in the market. Bit Literacy is exactly the book my mom needs. My daughter needs it. Heck, I need it. In fact, most people I know could benefit from it (although for many of the techies it will seem pretty basic). It’s good, common sense advise for getting control over the bitstreams flooding your life and bringing order to the chaos.
Repeat visitors to www.jeffhester.net (you know you are my favorite) will notice I’ve changed the layout a bit. I’m sticking with blue, thanks to the beautiful Mac-inspired iTheme from N.Design Studio.
I’ve also (finally) added real content to the About page, just in case you were wondering what this site was all about, or who in the world that Jeff Hester character is. Let me know what you think.
If you’re new here, move along and pretend that it’s always been this awesome.
P.S. – I’m not sure why, but I can’t seem to turn ON the comments feature on my About page. In the WordPress editor, both comments and trackbacks are enabled for that page. Any WordPress junkies out there who can lend me a clue?
UPDATE: I learned that I needed to add a call to the comments template in the page.php file, thanks to the WordPress support site.
It’s Memorial Day weekend here in the USA. Which mean a long weekend and a chance to go to the beach, lie by the pool, drink your favorite cold beverage… or work on your websites (as I am).
Still, you might find yourself looking for a distraction. If you’re a Flickr fan, look no further than BigHugeLabs’ Name that Contact. It’s only really fun if you’ve got at least a couple dozen contacts, but if you do, it’s extremely addictive and entertaining.
You’ve been warned.
Professor Gervaise Germaine explains the difference between data, information and knowledge.