News and Noise [Best of May '08 #3]

This week turned out interestingly too (May 12-18 2008):

  • Robert Scoble has been blogging actively recently, and has an interesting post about news and noise. As he says: "The news is in the noise," which makes places like Twitter and FriendFeed interesting for the makers of news. The news items appearing on Google News and Techmeme are filtered out of the noise, which makes these news sites essentially noise free, and in some sense less interesting. Google News only tracks large well-known sites with multiple editors, which further reduces the noise, and also blocks individual bloggers from being covered. Getting on Techmeme is still feasible for an unestablished individual blogger, but it requires several "votes" by elite bloggers, as Scoble explains. On Techmeme's item selection process, Robert writes:

    TechMeme: watches signaling from key members on Twitter and Google Reader. If enough people who are on the TechMeme Leaderboard Twitter and share an item on Google Reader you’ll see the item pulled onto the page.

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  • Calais, the semantic markup service, is out with an improved version that recognizes terms from areas other than business, like media, music, entertainment, sports, medicine and healthcare. Calais also announced the release of WordPress and Drupal plugins.
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  • Robert Scoble also has a recent post stating 9 reasons why FriendFeed won't go mainstream, a few of them being: "Normal people don’t like noise", "FriendFeed doesn’t work well on mobile phones", and "Comments get fragmented, even inside FriendFeed." Honestly, Robert in a companion post states 9 reasons why FriendFeed will go main stream.
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  • The OStatic blog, one of my recent subscribes, tips about the Google Doctype project, an "open encyclopedia and reference library for developers of web applications", with resources on Web security, DOM manipulation, CSS and more.
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  • Yahoo! Search's open platform SearchMonkey is released to developers and site owners. Developers are allowed to create small applications that enhance the info about the URLs returned from a Yahoo search (but are not allowed to reorder the search results). The applications trigger on the returned search URL, e.g. I could build an application that enhance the search results from this domain (http://impl.emented.com). The structured data available to developers for enhancing the results come from core and semantic data gathered by the Yahoo crawler (called Slurp), special data feeds submitted by site owners to Yahoo and custom data services that you could create yourself.

    Once developed, the applications are to be used by people searching the web with Yahoo Search. Obviously, an application that only triggers for a site which seldom show up the search results, will have difficulties to attract users.

    Site owners are allowed to contribute with structured data about their site in a few different ways: By submitting Atom feeds to Yahoo, by using semantic markup or by creating custom web services.

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  • Google Friend Connect was released this week, and caused some controversy about what the service really is. For example, Marc Andreessen thinks it is not a competitor to Ning, but "a mechanism that provides the embedding capability for Open Social gadgets to be used all throughout the web -- with the added benefit that with a Friend Connect-enabled Open Social gadget, the user gets her social context anywhere she goes." Robert Scoble on the other hand thought that Friend Connect could be a competitor of Ning. The Friend Connect site says that the service provides "a core set of social gadgets such as member management, message board, reviews, and picture-sharing." The member gadget is said to provide core social features for the site, like sign-in, invite and activity showing to other social networks, member browsing across social networks, and on-site friend connect. A site owner can also easily add OpenSocial applications to the site.

    Thus, an existing site can easily be socially enabled, and as such potentially compete with a Ning social network aimed at the same audience. Also, someone considering to start a new social network now has the choice of building an own site and using Friend Connect, instead of using Ning. Building an own site is of course somewhat more complicated, but it gives a much greater degree of control. So, in conclusion I think that Friend Connect could compete with some of Ning's audience, and also provide an alternative for some social network builders. Note that for really serious social network builders interesting in implementing OpenSocial, there is still the option of using Shindig.

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  • Jeff Atwood criticizes the frequent use of XML, due to its verbosity and poor human readability. Alternatives could be YAML or JSON.
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  • RSSmeme, an aggregator for Google Reader shared items, has released an API, which makes it possible to get all kinds of specialized feeds out of the service.
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