Build your own search robot at Searchbots

· Searching and Finding, Social Design, The Power of Many, User Experience

a searchbot rampantBack in February, Mark Zeman, Lecturer and Subject Director in Digital Media, College of Creative Arts, Massey University, New Zealand, tipped me off to a search agent research project called Searchbots. I tagged it as something to blog about in my email and then, well, I got busy with my new job.
I’ve finally checked it out. Mark was clever enough to give me short precis of the project:
* Experimental social search engine created as a Masters in Design project.
* Build your own search robot and send it out to search on your behalf.
* Search using tags, location, color and mood, or ask a question.
* Get ongoing personalized reports and feeds.
* Talk to it and feed your Searchbot metadata to keep it alive.
* The more you interact with your Searchbot the better everyone’s results.
* Runs on top of API’s from Google, Yahoo, Digg & del.icio.us and more.
* Cross references popular Digg items with del.icio.us tags.
* Building an artificial intelligence using people’s common sense and clicks.
* 34,000+ Searchbots built.
* Interactive tag clouds & other metadata games to play with your Searchbot.
* Get your unique tag cloud plus your Searchbot printed on a tee-shirt.
* Your Searchbots finds facts and entertainment. Mix it up.
* Diligently retrieving the best of the Internet for the good of humanity.
Here are the questions (to users) the research is designed to address:
* Does personifying the search interface increase the motivation of
users to contribute metadata?
* Will users become attached to their Searchbots through ongoing
interaction and therefore be willing to play metadata games to keep it
alive?
* Will using mythology and game theory help make searching an active
give-and-take relationship? Will this sustain an open-content social
search engine?
* Would you rather fill out a basic form or talk to a Searchbot? An
agent that works on your behalf to wade through search results.
* How will users respond to creatively tagging the web? If I search for
the color red will I find a website about tomatoes, communism or angry
people?
* How would you define your ongoing “relationship” with your search
engine? Does it endlessly talk in your ear or just drip-feed you good
clues?
Mark said he was planning to run a survey of users so if he notices this post, he can chime in and let us know “some of the findings on how personifying the interface effects users motivation levels.”

BarCamp virgin here – be gentle

· conventionology, Design, Development, Events, Patterns, Social Design, Teamwork, The Power of Many, User Experience

camplogo.jpg
Two years after the first BarCamp (an ad hoc unconference formed initially in response to O’Reilly’s Foo Camp, I’m finally planning to make it to one, this weekend’s BarCampBlock, headquartered at SocialText’s offices in Palo Alto.
According to what I just jotted on the Sessions page on the wiki, I’ve just volunteered to lead or participate in discussions about portable social networks, identity, design patterns, particularly social-media related design patterns, and the gift economy.
I don’t know if I’m qualified to talk about all of those things but when has that ever stopped me before?
Since the moment that Liz Henry and Tara Hunt tipped me off to this event, I’ve had the feeling that this was an important one not to miss. So soon after my wedding and honeymoon and with a rapidly filling-up fall conference schedule, I could have been tempted to let this one slide by, but I have a strong intuition that many of the people I consider friends, heroes, and inspirations will be there and that I’d be kicking myself if I let another Bay Area BarCamp go by without joining in on the fun.
I’ll blog from there if I can find the time between no-spectatorin’ and schmoozin’ and gettin’ things done.

Sifry steps down as Technorati CEO

· Applications, Searching and Finding, Social Design, The Power of Many, User Experience

Maybe everyone else in the blogosphere knows this already but I just read that Dave Sifry is stepping down as CEO of Technorati: Technorati Weblog: A Change In Seasons
Looks like Tantek’s timing was impeccable.
I first met Dave during the dotcom bust when blogging was booming (again) on the backs of a lot of underemployed folks, myself included. I was working hard, updating Radio Free Blogistan three to seven times a day, hanging out on the #joiito channel on irc, and going to various blogger dinners and shmoozes here in the Bay Area.
I met a lot of folks with interesting startup ideas or who were looking at various ways of turning their passion for blogging and or social networking into businesses or publications or both. Dave’s idea was simple to explain and easy to understand, so I wasn’t surprised to see it get funded and take off.
I’ve got other friends working there now – some of whom I introduced to the Technorati people. I guess I consider myself a friend of the company, if that’s even a possible thing to be, and I’ve hesitated to complain or criticize too much when I’ve found the service sluggish or otherwise frustrating.
I applauded their recent redesign and I still visit the site when I am in the mood for some egosurfing (usually disappointing) or to see who’s been blogging about the Yahoo! Pattern Library recently.
It sounds like Technorati is having a tough time right now. Valleywag reported something like eight layoffs in addition to the CEO vacancy, and people don’t seem to talk about how Google or Yahoo! should buy Technorati so much anymore.
(Disclosure: I work at Yahoo but I have absolutely no knowledge regarding acquisition plans or lack of them for any startup out there.)
I’m sure the next thing Dave does will be interesting and I wish him the best.

Podcast of my SXSW panel now live

· conventionology, Social Design, The Power of Many, User Experience

If you missed Every Breath You Take: Identity, Attention, Privacy, and Reputation last March at South By here’s your chance to hear me, Ted Nadeau, Kaliya Hamlin, Mary Hodder, and George Kelly take on these topics, very early one Sunday morning after an untimely daylight savings change and, for many people, a night of carousing and drinking free drinks sponsored by startups and web behemoths.

Technorati launches new design

· Searching and Finding, Social Design, The Power of Many, User Experience, Web Gossip

Looks like Technorati has reconfigured itself to be less blog-centric and to take a more multimedia look at what they call over there the Live Web (Technorati Weblog: Come check out the refreshed www.technorati.com!):
> First, we’ve eliminated search silos on Technorati. In the past, you had to know the difference between keyword search, tag search and blog directory search in order to make use of the full power of our site. No more. Starting today, we now provide you a simplified experience. Simply indicate what’s of interest to you and we’ll assemble the freshest, hottest, most current social media from across the Live Web – Blogs, posts, photos, videos, podcasts, events, and more.
>
> We’ve also worked really hard at making our user interface simpler, and more intuitive. We’ve been spending months doing user testing, and listening to you, our users, collecting and prioritizing what you wanted, what you liked, and what you hated about Technorati. We haven’t gotten it 100% right yet, and we’re going to keep working hard to improve, but I think we’ve made a big step forward with this launch.
>
> …
>
> With this launch, we also provide you with more context around more stuff like videos, music, and blogs. Over time, these pages will become richer and more comprehensive as we add more information about the thing itself, like where it was published, who links to it, what other things are similarly tagged, and more.