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Yelp-ing with pleasure February 7, 2009

Posted by cmvlibrarian in Information Sharing, Web 2.0.
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from Yelp.com on Flickr-used with CC license http://tinyurl.com/2dbflr

 

Yelp has been around for awhile so I was hesitant to blog about until something happened to me, twice actually. For those of you, who haven’t used Yelp its own about page does a really good job of summing it up:

Yelp is the fun and easy way to find, review and talk about what’s great (and not so great) in your world. You already know that asking friends is the best way to find restaurants, dentists, hairstylists, and anything local. Yelp makes it fast and easy by collecting and organizing your friends’ recommendations in one convenient place.

I’ve only been Yelping since the 2008 SLA Annual Conference, where a number of professionals that travel often recommended it when in an unfamiliar area. Since then I’ve added about 14 reviews to it; I’ve even been the first to review a few businesses. 

A few months ago I went to my local barber to get my regular hair cut. The owner surprised me by telling me she’d seen my Yelp review. They normally do an outstanding job at this barber shop but to my surprise the owner went all out and gave me even better treatment than I normally get. This is turn prompted me to return to Yelp and give the barbershop and even higher rating. I didn’t really think about it again (except for on hair cut days), until today when I went to FaceLogic. I’d was the first to rate them on Yelp a few months prior and left a glowing review. Sometime in the last month they’d come across my review, so today not only did they go the extra mile during my visit but they gave me bonus loyalty points (which can be cashed in for discounts). Again I went to Yelp and raised my rating for them.

That’s when it struck me that Yelp has worked out a uniquely empowering system. All this time I thought I’d just been sharing information about local resources with other people (what information professional wouldn’t love that?), but the truth is Yelp goes far beyond that. What I was really doing was expressing myself around a brand, and forming and even deeper recipracol relationship with the businesses. There’s the potential for a Yelp user to form the kind of relationship with businesses that a professional critic for a newspaper or magazine might achieve.

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Social Networking for Your Gas Tank August 28, 2008

Posted by cmvlibrarian in Information Sharing, Social networking, Web 2.0.
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Track your fuel economy with Fuelly. Photo by Pal Berge on Flickr. License info at http://tinyurl.com/24xvum

Fuelly is a promising social networking site dedicated to tracking your fuel economy. The site allows you to create a profile and attach your vehicles to it. Each time you refuel your vehicle you can input the amount of gas you bought at what price and your odometer reading to Fuelly via your phone to its mobile web site. Fuelly then tracks your miles per gallons and allows comparison between your actual mileage and the EPA’s estimated mileage for your vehicle. You can also add friends and view the fuel economy for their vehicles.

I just added my second fuel up for my car and with it got my first in depth statistics. In addition to the miles per gallon statistics Fuelly also tracked how much I’ve spent in gas this year and how much money I’d save by getting my miles per gallon closer to the EPA estimates. It might not be Facebook but anything that makes me a more efficient gas consumer is a definite jewel!

Wikipedia vs Google grudge match July 31, 2008

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Google takes aim at Wikipedia. Photo by Djclear904 on Flickr. Used under Creative Commons license http://tinyurl.com/y25aak

In a blow aimed squarely at Wikipedia Google recently announced its knowledge sharing service dubbed Google Knol.

According to Google a Knol “is an an authoritative article about a specific topic”. This sounds surprisingly similar to a Wikipedia article, however there are some major differences:

  • Most Knols only have one author
  • Google registration is required and author’s name as well as any credentials are prominently displayed
  • Users can rate Knols and the aggregate rating is prominently displayed

So Google’s set up a system where some topics are likely to have several different articles that can be screened by users easily via the author’s credentials and the article’s rating. This kind of system is likely to attract people who were turned off to Wikipedia due to disputes over content, as well as people looking to increase their name recognition in a particular field.

While Wikipedia currently trumps Google Knol in sheer number of articles (particularly those relating to pop culture) having to create a Google account seems a small constraint given the Web giant’s ubiquity. Still the critical factor in Google Knol’s success is going to be the quality of articles.

To compare article quality I examined the general HIV article from Wikipedia and the highest rated HIV article from Google Knol by Rick Hecht, a doctor in San Francisco (a search for HIV resulted in 10 Knols of varying quality). Both articles were of decent length, included a number of authoritative references, were organized according to a hyperlinked table of contents, discussed clinical and historical information about HIV, and linked to statistical information from UNAIDS. However some notable differences included:

  • The Knol was written more informally and was easier for a laymen to understand
  • The images in the Knol were incorporated into the article more efficiently to enhance clarity
  • Wikipedia’s article linked to a variety of related material and topics to encourage exploration
  • The references in the Wikipedia article were hyperlinked making their quality faster to evaluate

Despite the hype I’d say Google Knol is a promising complimentary platform to Wikipedia rather than a knock out blow to it. With Google Knol researchers new to a topic can quickly filter for higher quality material and evaluate controversial topics by reading multiple articles on the same topic from different points of view. Wikipedia’s more likely to have material of interest because of sheer number of articles and researchers are more likely to discover new information through serendipity. In short don’t count Wikipedia out yet but definitely add Google Knol to your research utility belt.

The New Facebook July 22, 2008

Posted by cmvlibrarian in Social networking, Web 2.0.
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Photo by jurvetson on Flickr. Used with permission. License information at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5/

Facebook recently unveiled its new look after months of planning. Users can volunteer to try the new interface and offer feedback via a link at the top of the page or return to the old interface. It looks like Facebook’s really encouraging users to transition into the new interface, since according to their update they’ll be transitioning everyone to the new interface.

I’ve scanned the new interface and it looks like it has a number of good features. The homepage boasts a better information architecture that makes it easier to see content of interest. The profile pages have a tabbed design with the option for users to create tabs for their favorite applications. Profile privacy is further enhanced by users’ ability to select one of their friends and view their own profile the way the friend would see it. This makes it much easier for people who want to use their profiles for both professional and social networking to customize their profile’s appropriatly.

The only downsides that I found so far is that the “box” tab (the default location for most applications) seems a little cluttered, but is pretty easy to clean up. A more serious flaw is the merging of the activity feed with the wall. On its default setting what was once an easy place for your friends to write a quick message can become overwhelming cluttered. Hopefully Facebook has the sense to break this into separate tabs or at least distinct areas of the same tab before they finalize their design and move all users to this format.

Playing in the Sandbox June 15, 2008

Posted by cmvlibrarian in Information Sharing, Uncategorized, Web 2.0, Web applications.
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Stephen Abram highlighted SLA’s new Innovation Laboratories for members. This area has a wide variety technologies like Twitter, Second Life, Wikis for members to play and learn with. With this new sandbox area they’re promoting 23 Things campaign. Basically the idea is to spend 15 minutes a day for 9 weeks playing in the sandbox in a structured way. By the end of those 9 weeks you should be able to say you learned 23 things. They even played a catchy theme song for the campaign.

Twitter at SLA Annual Conference June 15, 2008

Posted by cmvlibrarian in Information Sharing, Social networking, Web 2.0.
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SLA is making use of Twitter at its annual conference. For those of you new to Twitter, it’s a microblog cross platform service that  allows users to post  a 140 character message via the web, mobile web, SMS, IM, andmore.

The SLA Conference has its own twitter page where people can go to view updates posted by SLA conference attendees. To post an update to the page members simply begin their message with #sla2008. With Twitter users can important conference updates, fact check a speaker, or give feedback on an event all in real time.

I just reopened my Twitter account and will be posting real time updates in addition to posts here. Feel free to follow me at my twitter page.

Web Surfers of a Feather Can Flock Together March 26, 2008

Posted by cmvlibrarian in Information Sharing, Social networking, Web 2.0, Web applications, Web browsers, Web productivity.
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Let’s face it, Web 2.0 created a new kind of internet junkie, one no longer willing to remain a passive audience. With the rise of sites like YouTube, facebook, Flickr, and many others web aficionados are accustomed to organizing or creating content themselves. Now, there’s a new web browser to make content generation even easier.

Flock is a web browser targeted for Web 2.0 users. It’s actually based off of Mozilla technical architecture so it has a general Firefox feel to its interface and loads web pages quickly. But this browser adds features that Firefox only touched on as an after thought. Flock interfaces directly with Facebook, Piczo, Twitter, YouTube, Ma.gnolia, flickr, Picasa, photobucket, Gmail, Yahoo mail, tons of blogging applications, search engines galore, and del.icio.us for a seamless interactive experience.

Not daring to believe that an upstart could surpass Firefox in terms of user experience I downloaded Flock and in less than three days made it my default browser. The features really do change the way I surf the web and are useful for Information Professionals and internet junkies alike. The features that sold me on the browser are:

  • Social Networking Integration. I’m an avid facebook user and with their new privacy settings, I use it for both professional and social networking. Flock’s easy to follow instructions allowed me to integrate my facebook account into what it calls its “People” sidebar. From here I can view all my friends status’s, any messages, friend requests, pokes, and group or event requests without ever having to visit my profile. To make it even better Flock includes a MediaStream (its like RSS only for videos and pictures) which you can open in the browser to drag and drop media onto your friends’ in the People sidebar. I sent one of my friends a photo of a museum tour we took together and Flock flawlessly attached the photo to a facebook message automatically so I just had to hit the send key. This has great potential for professionals as well as personal use if future versions of Flock enable file sharing (like Google Docs).
  • Photo Uploading. I like to upload my pictures to Flickr so I have them backed up remotely but like to keep them pretty private. Flock’s photo uploader allowed me to add both batch and individual tags to my photos at the same time, set my privacy preferences and then upload them to my Flickr account. This interface was actually much easier to use that Flickr’s own uploader. Furthermore my Flickr account was also added to the People sidebar allowing me instant access to my photos via the MediaStream I mentioned above without ever having to visit Flickr. The photo I shared with my facebook friend was actually a Flickr photo I uploaded via Flock. The MediaStream also let me search for pictures on Flickr, although this search feature searches everyones photos and didn’t let me limit it to my own.
  • Search Engines. Here come the heavyweight features that Information Professionals are bound to love. Flock integrates a myriad of search engines right into your browser tool bar and allows you to set one as default. I’ve loaded Yahoo, eBay, PriceGrabber, Urban Dictionary, Technorati, Wink, and set Google as my default but there are plenty of others to add as well. Switching between your search engines in your tool bar takes two clicks and you can search by your default engine simply by highlighting text on the page and right clicking.
  • Email. I have a Gmail and Yahoo mail account, one for friends/family/shopping and one for professional use. I like to monitor them both pretty regularly and hated having to open a new window/tab just to check to see if I had new mail and then navigate to the actual message. By clicking the Email icon in the tool bar I could see if I had any new mail, what the subject was and who was the sender. To read it I just had to click on the message and Flock opened a new tab for me and took me directly to the message I clicked. This ended up being a huge time saver in navigation and new mail alerts.
  • Blogging. Internet Junkies and Information Professionals should be thrilled by this alike. Flock integrates with just about any major blogging application you can think of. By clicking the Blog icon on the Flock tool bar you open the “Blog Post Window”. This blog editor was at least as good as both Blogger and WordPress and allows users to compose a post complete with photos (can be inserted manually or via the MediaStream), links, and tags. After you complete your post you can choose which blogging application you want it posted to without having to visit the site and logging in. I actually completed this entire post via the Flock interface and was pleased by its usability.

Since its launch in November of 2007 Flock has demonstrated a number of promising success metrics. According to Flock CEO, Shawn Hardin in a Webware interview Flock had a 96% rating in user satisfaction and more than 71% of its current users have already made Flock their default web browser. Even more promising for Flock which makes money via a search based revenue model (where the number of active users is closely tied to profits) is that its active user base has increased by 50% a month since its launch.

There’s plenty of room for future growth by adding more features. The text RSS feed reader included in Flock is nothing special so I’d be interested in seeing if Flock tries to develop this feature the way it has some of its others. It’d also be interesting to see IM functionality similar to Meebo so users could integrate all their IM accounts within the browser. Another feature that would make Flock a surefire success is to allow users to download the Flock software and create user accounts that they can access via any computer with Flock installed. As it stands now, if I wanted to use Flock both at home and work I’d have to download Flock to both computers, sync my bookmarks from Firefox, and then configure my settings on each to get a seamless experience. But even in its version 1 status Flock has the potential to change how we both work and play on the web.


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Blogged with the Flock Browser