Google Wave Goes Retro

Last night I had beta-testing session with some fellow Google Buzzers of Wavelook. It’s a Microsoft Outlook plugin that bring the power of Google Wave to the inbox, something Google has yet to do in a meaningful way. Side note: I have been told via unofficial Google channels that my Holy Trinity (a Wave, Buzz and Gmail nexus) is in the works. In the meanwhile, the expandability of the API’s have given enterprising developers the ability to build a better Wave interface.

Wavelook is pretty easy to installed and while I hate Outlook I felt it was duty to endure for the sake of beta-testing. I was accompanied by @Tom Awtry and @Alfredo Abambres in this experiment and I have to say it was pretty phenomenal. Once installed simply add a Wave account as an inbox or as part of a unified inbox. Wavelook has the all to familiar Outlook look and fell. I found it actually not as easy to use at first as Wave (which is a testament to the learning curve) and waves with lots of blips looked just as messy and confusing as they do in the Google Wave client.

However, as new waves came in or as waves got updated I could see them go bold in the inbox. It felt very comfortable like how email should be. When at work, I get emails from people all the time and occasionally I would like to strike up a chat session. That use case became very apparent as I messed around with this. With the waves themselves I can see real-time typing as I interacted with all the participants. I could even see attachments other wave participants post, although I could not attach any files from Outlook. I have been promised by Wavelook’s developers themselves that the feature is coming soon.  And developer relations is top notch with someone named Matt promising to be at our beck and call if we have any issues.

Now for those of you that still hate wave this may not be a big deal, but for the rest of us wave fanatics this may start moving the use of wave to the main stream. There are still people that use desktop email clients (I know those people are weird). Lots of corporate IT enterprises use Outlook religiously. If wave federation starts becoming a reality this might be the familiar front end that boosts wave adoption, possibly in the enterprise. Or maybe I just a dreamer? Either way this blast from the past has me bullish again on wave.

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We Are Now On Posterous!!

Now you can follow us on Posterous. In our ongoing efforts to spread the word about Blogs@Relative Progress. Now whenever any of our contributor get wild hair up their ass they can push all kinds of miscellaneous content for your enjoyment. So stay tuned…….

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Facebook Pop. 500 Million

Facebook Logo
Free writing today so bear with me because I wanted to write about the first thing to come to mind. What about? Facebook. Facebook hitting a half a billion people is a milestone to be admired and feared all at the same time. First, to the team at Facebbok congratulations. This is a hell of a achievement for such a short period of time and gives all aspiring internet entrepreneur hope that great companies that change the world can still be built in America. Hell in this economy can still be built at all. When you think of the shear size of Facebook being larger than the entire population of the U.S., one can’t help but to marvel. Facebook is poised to change the world when it starts to make serious moves into India, China and Africa. Ways even Google could only hope to do. On my trip to Nigeria, all my sisters and cousins asked if I was on Facebook. I have my reasons for not joining, but there is increasing social pressure to do so. And that is the power of Facebook (and to a certain extent Twitter) has had on the social norms of our modern digital age. A tectonic cultural shift that transcends tech. Now the hyperlinks that connect the worlds information are being augmented by the likes, dislikes and associations we share. We are now connected more meta-physically than physically.

For all the greatness of this achievement there is a dark side to one service being such a monolith. Facebook is not a truly open platform to begin with. It has played the pidepoiper to get a half-billion people and ogranizations to join up then share their data Search engines can’t crawl it. Its Javascript snippets pollute the web through open graph and likes. I understand the overall strategy for world dominations through the human powered algorithm of ‘likes’. But I am not one who has drunk the kool-aide that the future of search is this but perhaps a supplement to the future semantic dataspaces I envision. Then there are survey’s that customer satisfactions with Facebook ranks no higher than dealing with your cable company or the IRS. So what is Facebook planning on doing with 500 million citizens and counting? Sell ads and their data of course. What Facebook has relalized since its idealism phase is that there is more value in takings that closed network and opening it than keeping it some exclusive club for college grads. Besides that, what other value add is Facebook to mankind? Simply connecting people over a game of Farmville? Not exactly. See I believe Facebook is not only in the race to be the ID card of the web but that human crawlers of information will be the future of discovery. It’s relevancy based on personal relationships with your Dunbar circle of friends. This at best is a short term, if not short sighted, vision. For Facebooks next trick they had better start offering some utility to it huge user base. I mean what can Facebook do on a daily basis to make you productive? Friends and liesure are one thing, but most of our waking hours of the day are spent working, not playing games and sharing stories. Microsoft, Yahoo, Google and Apple do that for us. I use tools from three of the four everyday to get things done. These companies offer some social, but mostly utility. So Facebook needs to get into the game of offering the same things that we take for granted from these other services. Email (to the outside word), chat, docs, News and other essential services that make Facebook more than just a place to play, but to work.

This is only some friendly words of advice and by no means should they take it, I haven’t built a 500 million strong global community so I have no room to talk. I do believe that with this great power comes great opportunity to become more than just the heir apparent to MySpace. The next worry from Zuck and company is staying relevant in a fickle popularity contest that is everything “Social”. Remember Friendster.

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Building Semantic Search One Acquisition at a Time

I have been formulating some thoughts today reading about Google’s huge investment in cloud infrastructure. What are they building? I have my theories, but allow me to expand upon them here. It was learned today that ‘The Goog’ may have had ulterior motives in its recent purchase ITA. Hidden deep within bowels of ITA was a small database outfit out of Boston called Needlebase. Their expertise to quote the site, “a revolutionary platform for acquiring, integrating, cleansing, analyzing and publishing data on the web”. Without the marketing double speak they are in the data organizing business and they provide the tools to make ordered data out of chaos. As the Giga Om story by Liz Gannes describes it as a means or method of giving structure to disorganized and constantly changing data sets based about any topic, think the real-time web indexing. Semantic search is the holy grail of machine learning when it comes to information processing and categorization. For those not too familiar with Semantic data on the web think of it as meta data that gives discrete pieces of information meaning even relationships to one another. Having this power make agents of information processing more intelligent in how it handles the task of parsing and traversing links in data.  Search engines are much smarter now then they have ever been, but implementing the a semantic layer has proven difficult. And just as the likes of Yahoo, Google and Microsoft starting figuring it out the web evolved into a real-time social mess that was increasingly harder to crawl. Add to this the gated garden of its biggest competitor Facebook (and similar data silos) and you get a sense that Mountain View sees a growing threat to its search hegemony.

This explains it purchase of MetaWeb whose business is semantic tagging and organizing data. It also doesn’t hurt that they have quite a huge database of  approximately 12 million Topics or Entities. Expect this to expand exponentially as MetaWeb and Needlebase join forces to tackle this problem with Google’s engine. And what ever happen to Aardvark? Their Quora-like natural language Q & A engine that was acquired in February.  Wouldn’t this be part of their natural language search strategy? You have to read these guys approach to social search. It is mind blowing what they propose.  This proposal was inspired by the Google Founders revolutionary paper the marked the binging of the link economy.  They wish to do the same thing with people not web spiders. In all the hoopla about what Google must do to compete in social we sometimes forget (and I do too) that they are a search company. The fact that they grace us with all these cool tools (I am typing this is Google docs)  is a direct result of search and the advertising model it enables. These are all good moves by Google. They need to get better at what is the core competency of the company, search. Fusing all these things together; the vertical search play with ITA, MetaWeb, Aadvark and increased investment in cloud infrastructure will make for a compelling evolution to their search product.

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