Searching for the Moon

Shannon Clark's rambles and conversations on food, geeks, San Francisco and occasionally economics

Archive for February, 2010

Curate for me – an idea for a simple web service

Posted by shannonclark on February 19, 2010

As always, I am posting this business idea publicly and “as-is”. Feel free to build it. If you do and want to give me credit that would be greatly appreciated – if you want me to be involved I would likely be willing to be and am always happy to talk further. But I’m not going to sue you if you run with this idea and build something that makes the web better.

Yesterday my friend Marshall Kirkpatrick tweeted about how few pages views a post on Read WRite Web about Google Maps in Africa had gotten. This post in turn sparked a discussion this morning on Google Buzz.

In that discussion I suggested the following:

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to filter content – tweets, blog posts and more. I don’t want “the most popular” (or the most retweeted etc) – that’s the stuff I’m most likely to have already seen, already heard about. Instead I want some way to see what people who’s opinions and views I care about think is the most important stuff they have created recently (and this also includes companies and brands – if I’ve chosen to pay direct attention to them – for example following Ford & Scott Monty on Twitter).

So that is my idea.

Create a very simple web site & service which would build two very simple sets of services.

Service 1 – Very simple tools for people to curate their own content & republish it into a consolidated feed

Service 2 – Very simple tools for people to link up who they follow (across many other services) to these new, curated feeds.

One key to this service would be that it has some real constraints built into it – restrictions that help force people into making real curatorial decisions about what amongst a bunch of content they have created it worthy of making this “must-see” list. I don’t know what the right constraints are – but I’d guess they are something like limiting people to less than 5 items a day (perhaps fewer).

Another key would be to make the process of using this service simple yet not too simple. Again the idea here isn’t to be an automated, full feed of everything you generate but to represent real thought & effort, real decisions about what is truly most important, most worth people seeing & noting even if it isn’t what is “popular” (or most retweeted, linked to by others etc).

Other constraints such as expiration of content might be helpful and important in keeping this service limited to just the most important stuff, just the really useful & interesting items (though I’d also keep this history of what you thought was important at various points in time as I think that too would be really useful and interesting to study).

To launch this it could probably be a web service with linked Oauth (Twitter OAuth, Facebook Connect, perhaps Google’s stuff as well). Ideally the interface would make it really easy for someone to login, see their content from many services and filter upon that content to just the content they most want to highlight to others.

The site/service would grow organically as people then promoted their new, filtered feeds/page out to their current followers across many services (and on their blogs etc). These feeds of “the best, must-see stuff” would make very natural widgets to be embedded across the web in many ways (on people’s blogs & personal websites, in their profiles in Facebook or LinkedIn etc).

I do not know if this service would have a real business model (I have some ideas but I’m not certain). Nor am I sure if it would meet a large demand or need – but I know that I, for one, would really like to see what a bunch of people who I care about, who I deeply respect and am very interested in, would think is the most important stuff at the moment. It might not be what I would think is the most important – but that is the point.

I want to learn what I have been missing, what my friends (and companies I care about) are most passionate about at the moment.

From businesses this might be deals of the day or it might be Haitian relief efforts. From my friends it might be their pending wedding, new job, a great post they wrote or a fantastic deal they found.

It doesn’t have to be web-centric either. My friend Alex Steffen tweeted earlier today about the magazines he bought at the newsstand to read this weekend. That is the stuff that really does interest me (see my post on my Media diet in 2010)

I’m happy if my friends and businesses I choose to follow use this for commercial purposes.

If they start to spam this service I have a simple way to stop that spam, I can choose to unfollow them.

The service should have a “block” or “mute” option unique to the service and could also suggest that you mute/unfollow/unfriend those people on other services where you were already following them (i.e. the services you used to authenticate and link to this new service).

So who wants to help me build this into a real service?

Posted in geeks, internet, networks | Tagged: , , | 4 Comments »

New podcast subscriptions for February 2010

Posted by shannonclark on February 10, 2010

At the beginning of the year I posted the state of my media diet in 2010 and based on that post have received a lot of great suggestions for additional podcasts and other media which I should add to my diet in 2010.  I’ve also found a bunch of new podcasts through searches of iTunes directory and via referrals from other new podcasts which I have subscribed to recently.

Here is a list of new podcasts I subscribed to in January and earlier this month. In each case I have also added the feeds to Google Reader which includes many non-podcast blog posts.

  • Dragons Landing – One of a number of gaming related podcasts which I have subscribed to recently. I’m undecided about this show which while interested and well produced does tend towards being a bit long.
  • Robertson Games podcasts – One of a few podcasts I have subscribed to which are podcasts of live play sessions of role playing games. I really like the blog these podcasts are from, but am uncertain about the live play (in part because it tends to be, so far at least, just a single one-shot game)
  • Icosahedraphilia – a long running live play podcasts of a D&D 4E campaign. Very well produced and the game is interesting, if a bit a tame language wise due to the players & DM’s personal religious beliefs. Really fascinating for the detailed descriptions of the props and resources used in the course of each game.
  • The Tome ShowA reviews and interviews show about role playing games. Very well done though I have only listened to a few shows so far.
  • NPR Planet Money ShowA show I have been meaning to subscribe to for some time now as I have really enjoyed the episodes of This American Life which have featured the team behind the Planet Money podcast.
  • Studio 360 with Kurt Anderson (blog) – One of the two most recommended shows in the comments and responses to my initial post. So far I have enjoyed this show but have found that I listen to other podcasts before catching up with this one.
  • WNYC’s RadioLabThe other most recommended show in the responses to my initial post. A show about science but presented in a very intelligent and engaged way. That said, I also find myself listening to other podcasts before I catch up with this one.
  • Huffduffer (personal feed) – not a podcast in a traditional format but rather a service for handcrafting a podcast feed from audio content available online. My friend Marshall Kirkpatrick at Read Write Web wrote up a glowing review of Huffduffer and based on his recommendation I checked out the service and signed up. I have, so far, found it to be a great way to quickly and easily create a personalized feed of various bits of audio content I find online and want to listen to on my iPod.

So still haven’t found any tech podcasts to subscribe to but I have added a great deal of new content to my podcast listening diet. I welcome suggestions for other media I should add – podcasts, video podcasts, magazines or other media forms & experiments.

Posted in digital bedouin, geeks, iTunes, mobile, personal, podcasts, reading | Tagged: , | 3 Comments »

Does the length of blog posts matter?

Posted by shannonclark on February 10, 2010

Last week I hosted a small dinner party for a bunch of friends who were in town before a conference a mutual friend was organizing. An annual event which I have attended in the past but which due to financial reasons this year I was unable to attend. But I was able to host folks for a nice potluck dinner.

During our wide ranging and diverse set of conversations one comment from a friend stood out for me – she noted that my blog posts tend to be very long – and that even though I am a friend this means that she rarely if ever reads my posts. She suggested that instead of writing long, complex posts with many different points and ideas inside of them that I try to write short, 400 word or less posts with a single idea or observation.

I am resiting this suggestion – though I understand the point and recognize that I tend to write too much (and often could benefit from an editor – even if only myself after a few hours away from a post) I also strongly personally prefer blog posts and articles which are long enough – which are not just some short pithy comment or snarky remark but which make a reasoned argument, which tell a story.

So hence this post and this question does the length of a blog post matter?

(this post, btw is less than 250 words)

Posted in geeks, internet | Tagged: | 4 Comments »

What do you actually use your computers to do?

Posted by shannonclark on February 1, 2010

Last night I wrote about why I think the iPad will be a great device for content creation – and included a number of potential million dollar plus ideas.

Today as I read a bunch of blogs and articles covering the iPad I am struck by how many people who are objecting to the iPad or predicting that it will fail seem to have some idea of computer usage which differs, dramatically so, from how I have used my computers for the past decade and very much from how I use my computers today.

The image that people have of “using” a computer seems to involve lots of overlapping processes, deep customization of the system and a variety of applications running which all push the limits of the system.

My reality?

I usually have one application running on my computers – a browser. On my tablet I currently use Google Chrome as my primary browser (not least of which because it doesn’t have lots of extensions and thus loads quickly and smoothly).

Recently I have been using Mindjet’s MindManager (I have the old 7.0 version installed here) which I enjoy but really only barely use, mostly I use it to capture all my various ongoing projects, to-do lists and the like (in short as my electronic GTD system).

Occasionally I use an IM application, mostly Google gchat – which I could just about as easily just use from within the browser, though I do appreciate the occasional notifications that pop up about new messages in my primary inbox. Though since I have at least three main email addresses and only get notifications for one email address and then only for my inbox and not for the many important messages I get but autofilter into various labels, the utility of this notification service is minimal at best.

And when I sync my iPod and iPhone I fire up iTunes – but since my library is vastly larger than my laptop’s HD, doing so requires that I attach an external HD to my system for the syncing to work. I use a wide array of complex smart playlists to result in every device I own and sync getting exactly the content I want to reside on that particular device – which always includes the latest podcasts I have downloaded as well as any other new content I have recently added to my iTunes library (so if I buy new content, rip a CD or download legal digital content it will get onto my music player automatically and be added to the primary playlists I use to select what to listen to during my walks, waits for buses and other podcast listening opportunities during the day.

But that is about all the applications i use on a regular basis. Sure, I have some compilers installed on my laptop, the full MSFT Office suite and much more but the reality is that I almost never need to run any of these applications. And when I do other than looking up information in my browser from time to time, I rarely need to have multiple applications open at the same time – for one my screen resolution though good for a laptop is still so low that I almost always run every app I use in full window mode.

Perhaps I am missing something major about how people use their computers today – some suite of applications that everyone other than me uses – but I don’t think this is the case.

A few possibilities.

  1. Photo & Video editing. My digital camera died a few months ago and I have yet to replace it (need a camera but don’t have the spare funds to buy one at the moment) so I don’t do a lot of photo and no video editing. But there are some great online alternatives to applications such as Photoshop. Aviary is my personal favorite – they offer a wide range of image and vector art online editing tools along with even some music editing tools. Adobe even offers an iPhone application for Photo editing (limited but
  2. Games. I don’t have powerful enough video cards in either of my computers to do much gaming (definitely not in my tablet, my iMac could handle a bit more though there are far fewer MacOS games to select amongst). But PC gaming is and likely will remain a big deal. But so too is gaming on the iPhone and in the future on the iPad and I suspect very rapidly the iPad will attract games that may be better in many ways (or at least very uniquely different) than games not just on PC’s but even against games on any of the major game console systems. I predict that the iPad will be a gaming platform as big, perhaps bigger, than the current game consoles (not their portable game systems which the iPhone already is a potent competitor to but also the main game consoles – Wii, Playstation3 and Xbox360)
  3. Personal Finance. Here in the US we have started to shift into preparing for Tax season shortly. I know in the past many years I have used TurboTax in some form to help prepare my taxes and that many friends run software such as Quickbooks for their family finances or small business finances. That said, there is a reason why Intuit bought Mint last year. Finance software including tax preparation and small (and large) business bookkeeping is rapidly moving from local computers to web/cloud delivered products.
  4. Customized “run the business” applications. These vary by business but think the Point of Sale systems in a retail shop or restaurant. Even here, however, with the rise of platforms such as Square there are many opportunities for many retail transactions to move to the cloud & mobile applications.

So what uses of your personal or business computers have I missed?

Posted in digital bedouin, Entrepreneurship, futureculture, geeks, internet, mac, microsoft, mobile, networks, tablet pc, web2.0, working | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »