Curation, Algorithmic & Human

Here’s a great quote from Mike McCue of Flipboard in an interview by Robert Scoble at the launch of their version 3:

algorithmic & human curation woven together is extremely powerful

Marcy and Mike McCue, Flipboard’s co-founders, set out to create a personal magazine. The Zite acquisition earlier this year brought them closer to that vision. Now they have a better topic-based model for surfacing the content that people indicate they want to read. The cool thing here is the emphasis on making human-generated data an important part of the mix.

There are lots of flavors of weaving together algorithmic and human curation.

Compare Flipboard to Mashable, which orders itself completely by an algorithm. Well, it kind of does. Its “Velocity graphs” show which content is trending in number of shares. That data is pulled back into Mashable, merged with their predictive engine, and the articles that are likely to go viral are fed to the top of the stream. So you could say that there’s a human metric built into the algorithm: people naturally share what they like, and everyone gets to see more of that sort of thing. Flipboard has a similar feedback process, but they designed it so the pivot of control is closer to the individual readers.

With Twitter, you can already curate your own content, just by following interesting people. It takes more effort, but you can use lists and search to surface the content you want. Twitter is cautiously moving in a more algorithmic direction with their main feed, and they got some flack about it, too. Twitter should start thinking more like Flipboard and give people better tools, to let them curate their own main feeds.

Playlists are a more sophisticated kind of human-curated content, since content is in a specific order, in a context. Humans love playlist features like the ones from Songza (acquired by Google) and Beats Music (acquired by Apple) because we like to tell stories. We also do it better than machines.

Bottom Navs for Large Format Phones

I have tiny hands, so I’m all for Luke Wroblewski’s call for placing navigation at the bottom, especially when a handheld is any larger than an iPhone 5.

I do like the big screen on my iPhone 6 — I wouldn’t trade it in. But I find myself doing this “crawling up the phone” action to reach the navs on so many apps, and then I end up dropping the phone. Bottom navs for one-handed use would make my life a lot easier.

“Finger Crawling” up the sides of the phone to reach the hamburger menu:

Using my pinky as a tray to hold the phone so I can reach the home button:

Flocks Of Drones At Disney?

Check out this report about how Disney wants to use drones in it’s theme park shows.

I imagined drones in theme parks for boring utility purposes. Use your phone to make order a drink while you wait for your table at a restaurant seat and a drone delivers it. Or drones that deliver water and other goodies while you stand in line for a ride. Or they would take tracking videos of you as you scream your head off on a ride.

I hadn’t considered drones as actors on an entertainment stage. These patents from Disney are eye-opening, especially the idea of using “flocks of drones” in a coordinated dance. The word flock makes me imagine drones that communicate to each other as they fly, but even if it’s only a flock that’s controlled by an operator on the ground it’s still awesome.

Glass: A Low Fidelity Prototype

I was fortunate enough to have been recently invited to participate in some early product discussions for a new application Hearst may be working on for Google’s Glass. It’s all very hush-hush, but I think it’s ok to share this much. I haven’t had access to the new hardware, so I did a mockup for myself, and wore it around my house, imagining what sort of messages and images I would welcome if they appeared just above my line of sight. Here I am, in all my serious, scientific goofball glory:

Low fidelity prototype for Glass applications
Low fidelity prototype for Glass applications

Let Me Track Myself, Too

Firefox is introducing this “Do Not Track” preference setting in its new release.

Opting out of tracking may be a solution for some, but it’s not for me. I don’t want opting out to be the only action I can take! If advertisers are interested in people like me, I want to know about it. Maybe they have a product I’m going to like.

I want two things:

  1. Precision. If advertisers are going to run their business around tracking me, at least I want them to count me in the right groups. I want them to know everything they need to know about people like me. But not more. As long as I’m part of a large enough group of people, go ahead and track away. I know that doesn’t give me a guarantee of privacy, but the horse has already left the barn. If advertisers improve their tools, and use larger samples, it’s more likely they won’t be able to tell me apart from the other members of the group.
  2. I want to know what the advertisers know about me. I want to see what exact information I’m giving to advertisers. This is difficult, I know, because where’s the motivation? Advertisers won’t do it unless they’re mandated, and as long as consumers aren’t feeling pain from the lack of transparency, they aren’t motivated to call for it. Instead of only offering an option to hide myself from advertisers, I want my browser to tell me “This is what Google/Doubleclick/some-other-ad-network knows about you, Darlene” and “This is the information that Alexa has gathered about you over the years, Darlene”.

What Could Google Do With Twitter?

If Google bought Twitter, they could start adding some of the Wave features into it. I’d like to see this.

Wave beta was a mess of features, not really a product. It was more of a grand scale focus group than a launch. The Google creators sat behind the glass and watched us as we publicly brainstormed how their new technology could work in our real world. They watched us flail and sink. Most people couldn’t get their heads around it.

Twitter has grown into a nice, searchable neo-public microblogging platform. It was careful, restraining the features, but also trying new things.

Twitter’s threading and messaging are sub-optimal. I wonder what wave-like collaborative threading would be like in Twitter.

I wonder what it would be like to be able to see people composing their tweets in realtime.