Integrating Browser and News Reader

Says Dave Hyatt: “It should be possible to make an application for managing a large amount of information flow that is accessible to mainstream users. Browsers are trying to make information easier to manage with smarter bookmarking systems and page management capabilities (tabs), and news readers are emerging that (in effect) push new information to you in as it’s posted and allow you to switch rapidly between different information sets as well.” [via Kevin Werbach]

Dave Hyatt is the lead developer of Safari (Apple’s newly released browser) and former lead developer of Chimera. He writes about the possibility of integrating features between the news reader and the browser. There are some very interesting comments. Padawanhas nicely summarised the agruments for and against the integration.

BlogStreet’s Future

Dana Blankenhorn has a comment about BlogStreet in a post entitled “Opportunity in Blogging Tech”:

Blogstreet measures the “success” of a blog by the number of other blogs with permanent link to it, called a “blogroll.”

This is really quite unfair.

There are other mechanisms that could be used. Total audience, easily obtained through site logs, could be used. But that is also unfair. Blogs run by major media organizations would dominate such rankings, and those are far from the most influential. Even blogrolling sounds good.

There’s another metric, that is the number of total links to a blog there are from other blogs. In particular these would include links to stories on other blogs. So-and-so said something Really Cool, with a link to it.

But even that is a trifle unfair. You may have one really good story, that a lot of blogs link to, and you may quickly fade out.

The best metric would combine all these — blogrolls, links and audience. The aim is to uncover influence.

Anyone care to put something together?

While blogroll analysis may not be the most ideal metric, it is definitely the best available at this point of time and that is what we have used. We do recognise its limitations – it is more of a Popularity index.

One of the things we’ve been working on over the past few days is on weighing the links that link to a blog. For example, a link from Scripting.com or Instapundit would be much more important than a link from say Emergic. So, just adding up the links may not be enough. Giving a weightage to the links is also important. We have done this and are calling this “Blog Importance Quotient” (BIQ). You should be able to see the results from this soon, and then decide for yourself.

Down the line, a question we have been asking ourselves is what do we want BlogStreet to become. Our answer: “a place to find experts” (expert bloggers, that is). My belief is that there will be two types of blogs: those by experts which will have high influence and reading (high in terms of traffic may be only a few hundred pageviews, but its the quality of traffic that matters here), and the others who have primarily their own small network of friends and family among the traffic.

The key in the blogging world is to establish via the blog a “sphere of influence”, where one’s opinion matters and is respected. These are the blogs (and people) one needs to find. And that is what BlogStreet shoud be able to enable. I should be able to type WiFi or Microcredit or Java, and it should point me to the bloggers who are “experts” in these areas.

From there, the rest of what BlogStreet offers will take over – showing me other interesting blogs (via the neighbourhood analysis and blogback). It is the first part that is missing and what we hope to work on in the coming weeks.

So, in essence, we want to make BlogStreet a window to the microcommunities that have begun to form around bloggers. For example, yeserday, I visited Dave Hyatt’s blog for the first time (floowing a link from Kevin Werbach’s blog), and found a wonderful discussion on browsers and news readers. I was amazed by the sheer number of comments that people had left behind. Dave has managed to pull in a community of techies interested in web browsers. This is because Dave is a “hub” – one who knows browsers better than most others. So, the next time, I am looking for ideas on browsers, his is the blog I should be visiting first. And that should happen as easily as typing “browsers” in BlogStreet.

SPOT and FM

From San Jose Mercury News on how used FM for its new smart personal object technology (SPOT): “When Microsoft researchers wanted to know how to bring the Internet to everyday devices like the wristwatch, they turned to the sleepy technology of FM radio. It turned out that the trick to making a smart electronic watch was to put in a radio that could pull bits of data out of the same radio waves carrying Muzak into malls and elevators.”

The impact:

SPOT watches promise to offer users personal data, like the local weather, wherever they are, custom-tailored news headlines, stock prices from the user’s portfolio, personal calendar data and scores for the user’s favorite sports teams.

This type of data could liberate bored employees stuck in meetings, or tell you that you’ve got only 20 minutes to make it to the airport and that traffic is bad on your usual route.

Microsoft found a way to personalize the watches: giving each a unique identification number. The user goes to a Web site and enters the watch number and types preferences into a template. Then, as the watch is receiving the DirectBand signals, it looks only for data associated with the ID number. Hence, your watch only stores data on the sports teams you like and discards the rest.

And because the watch knows which radio station it is receiving the information from, it can use that knowledge to reset itself. For instance, if you travel to Dallas, the watch will pick up signals from the Dallas radio station and reset itself for the appropriate time zone. It can also reset itself with the precision of an atomic clock.

Hosted Software Vendors

InfoWorld gives the world a new 3-letter word: HSV, replacing the much-maligned ASP. It writes: “With enterprises looking for low-cost, low-risk solutions in a tight budget environment, HSVs have started to gain more traction in areas ranging from CRM to human resources. And though they are strapped for cash and staff, just like nearly every other company, HSVs are continuing to push the technology limits of delivering software as a hosted service.”

One of the key challenges faced is cutomisation.

A key objection to hosted software has been HSVs’ inability to customize their wares to the same extent as packaged-application vendors do theirs. So HSVs are working hard to increase customizability while maintaining the cost-effectiveness of a single multitenant code base. “The new model is customization through configuration, says David Thomas, CEO of Intacct in Los Gatos, Calif. You have to design [hosted applications] so they can do extensive customization through configuration, and thats a challenge.

Everybody’s sharing the application, so you cant customize the code, says Employease’s Alberg.

He explains that instead of using programming languages and tools for customization, the best hosted applications use built-in wizards, drop-down lists, and radio buttons. There are an unlimited number of custom data elements you can add, and no software development or database knowledge [is required],” he says.

Separating business rules from the applications base code is also key to “configurable customization,” allowing customers to define and select permissions, role-based usage, approvals processes, and best practices from menus within the system. Finally, customers typically want access to their data via whatever third-party analytics packages they may be using, and this requires a stateless architecture that assures that intensive queries cant adversely affect database performance for any other customer.

These are points we need to keep in mind for building out our enterprise eBusiness suite.

TECH TALK: The Rs 5,000 PC Ecosystem: 10 Ideas to Tap Invisible Markets

Lets see how we can the 10 ideas outlined by Vijay Mahajan, Marcos V. Pratini De Moraes and Jerry Wind in their paper (Marketing Management, Winter 2000) on The Invisible Global Markets in the context of building our Rs 5,000 PC (5KPC) ecosystem

1. Build products to compete against bullock carts rather than automobiles: The competition for the 5KPC is not necessarily the 20KPC. Rather, it is nonconsumption, or in the case of small and medium enterprises (SMEs), the paper-pen approach to writing letters and doing accounts. In schools and colleges, a handful of computers (if present at all) are shared by dozens of students in that case, the computer is not a personal computer, it is more like a TV. By bringing the cost down, we can now create individualised access to the computers, thus making for a learning experience (as compared to a viewing one earlier).

2. Create product and service revolutions that can be exported: India can be the first market, the laboratory for implementing these 5KPC ideas. But that is not the only market. The opportunity lies in replicating these ideas across other markets like India. The language requirements may be different, but the same desires and needs for a connected computer exists across the countries at the bottom of the pyramid.

3. Pay attention to the informal economy: Most of our life is spent in cities. Our friends and family live in cities. Semi-urban areas or the rural villages are alien to us. But these are the places where the next set of opportunities lie. They are not what we come across in our daily life we have to go our of our way to tap into this other economy. Their problems are different for example, uninterrupted electrical supply which we take for granted is a dream for most people outside the major metros in India. This means to make a computer work, we need an alternate and cost-effective power supply.

4. Use global family networks: India has its Non-Resident Indians (NRIs), China has its Overseas Chinese. Can they be persuaded to partake (for profit) in the computing buildout? For example, can NRIs get together and provide Rs 150,000 (USD 3,000) to put together a 10-computer lab for the village/school that was part of their childhood? This microfinance can, in a distributed manner, complement the resources that are available via NGOs and the government.

5. Understand that customers dont know how to be customers: According to me, one of the reasons (besides price) for the poor off-take of computers in the emerging markets is that people and enterprises still dont know what to do with them besides the regular email, browsing and Office applications. Whats needed is the creation of application bundles relevant for different verticals, and appropriate training for end-users on how to make the best use of the computers. A community portal where the users can share experiences and ask questions about computing without being embarrassed about their ignorance would also be very helpful.

Monday: 10 Ideas to Tap Invisible Markets (continued)

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