Overbrain: Or can the web be “intelligent”?

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I happened to read an editorial in Febrauray issue of Digit magazine the crux of which was “how can the web be intelligent”. And more importantly, the article started of with a familiar example – “Customers who bought this also bought” section in Amazon.com. When I first chanced upon Amazon a couple of years ago, I was drawn to this feature like how . It was a great place for book recommendations, and in many cases it worked out fine for me.

Back then the web wasn’t run by people, like it’s today. There weren’t any web-apps developer or a personal database which is, well, more personal than a website like Amazon. Then slowly blogs and tagging evolved. And to the relief of a lot of people, web-apps can be created in no time. It seems almost true that the internet contains information about anything under the stars.
Which presents the most important problem of Information Overload. A couple of months back, I entered a search query concerning something and got a zilch response. But a few days back, I accidentally stumbled upon what I was looking for. My joy knew no bounds on hitting the jackpot accidentally. But it also made me crib for it had been there all along and I’d wasted a good three months in searching. Not that my search skills are that bad, (even if I enter the same query now, I get no results). They are not what they have to be.

Let’s assume this hypothetical case. I’m looking for information on a particular group who will be performing at the local theatre. I enter their name, I get no results. Not even “are you looking for” suggestion. I tend to feel that their company isn’t adjusting too well to the internet boom. Later on, I almost accidentally stumble upon the group’s blog, and going through their archives, I come to know that they’ve indeed been existing in the virtual world for a long time, that my search query should have landed me here by all means. What happened to me was nearly similar to this situation.

This calls for a need to orgainze content better. The article from “Digit” calls for a “People who visited this website also visited the following other website(s)” method. This is okay as a next step to better search. Like Del.ico.us. But given the number of websites and tag clouds, it is testing the limits of exhaustion on the readers part. Whether an algorithm can handle this or human intervention is required at all stages, only the researches can answer. As a person who searches the web for information almost everyday I’ll get a sense of absolute satisfaction only when I enter a search query like, “Is tomorrow a Friday”, and get a reply, “Yes, TGIF”.

Edited to Add:

(1) In fact I was thinking of Thandora when I wrote this.

(2) TGIF means “Thank Goodness it’s Friday”, which, for most people, is a relief.

Less is More, But people expect more..

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For some people, less is sufficient, less has less confusion, less feels lighter and less is more-than-enough. I agree and for good reason: they’ve been trained to think that way. May be they advocate pareto’s 80-20 rule, just do the 20 percent – the less is more.

But most people want more, they need the extra one feature which may not wanted by most – they really want the long tail of features. The ‘more’ should not spoil the experience they had with ‘less’. Should not complicate the user experience introducing the more. What they really want is More features at the experience of Less – they expect more..

This drives to analogize with the classic example of longtail; Wal-mart and other major retailers don’t carry less popular albums (they carry less, the top 20 percent). The Rhapsody demand, however, keeps going. The rare songs find an audience, there are people looking for more. But impossible for vendors like Wal-mart whose physical inventory business model just restricts, to offer the more.

Zoho..expect more..

Zoho Writer: Post Beta Update – V

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It’s a double treat at Zoho today. Coming close on heels to the Zoho Planner update is Zoho Writer’s with so many goodies thrown in.

- Many of you have been asking the word count feature. Not only the word count but character count is also now available. Just save a document & you’ll get the word/character counts at the bottom-right.
- Auto-saving of a doc happened every 45 seconds. We have improved it even further. Auto-save now happens when you switchto another document & while signing out.
- Maintaining multiple versions of a document? You can now switch to any version now with the single-click ‘Revert’ option available under document ‘History’
- Are you in doubt who all you emailed a doc from Zoho Writer to? No problems from now on. A list of all email IDs a doc has been emailed to comes to your help now.

Happy writing with Zoho Writer.

Zoho Planner changes big time

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We have come up with a revamped Zoho Planner!

Zoho Planner did have a good dose of AJAX thrown in its screens before but the UI now boasts of being completely AJAX-ified. What this translates to is a much improved user experience and all the links you click load much faster.

And great news for the users of non-English speaking countries. Had trouble having your ToDo lists made in your native language? Not anymore. Zoho Planner now supports UTF-8 character set encoding. Have your ToDos made in your native language itself.

Your Free Zoho Planner account allowed creation of just 10 pages. Until yesterday that is. Now everything’s unlimited for Free. You can now have unlimited pages with unlimited reminders, unlimited images & unlimited files as attachments.

Organize yourselves better with the new Zoho Planner

ps : Make sure to clear your browser cache before trying out the new Zoho Planner.

Traditional Spreadsheets in a Non-Traditional way

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During a chat with Gibu this evening, he raised me this question. How my recent initiative, Zoho Sheet, is positioned against Excel? Let me answer it here.

Excel is one of my favourite software. I love its usability. Perfectly designed for its intended purpose and users. But its not friendly now for internet population who want to consume lot of data from internet into their spreadsheets. Time to give it a thought. Listing here some of the shortcomings of traditional spreadsheets. For now, I refrain getting into pricing.

  • Sharing is pain. Not collaboration friendly. You cannot share it online with your friends, colleagues and clients. You might be sending it now as email attachments.
  • Built for non-internet users? Absolutely. You cannot integrate any internet information or mashup with cool web services. How about the spreadsheet integrating sales data from salesforce.com, your yahoo finance data, your favourite books from amazon ? This blog post has captured it nicely
  • Not web friendly. You cannot access your spreadsheet from anywhere, any browser
  • Some internet users are comfortable filling forms than spreadsheet grid. Some may be fine editing as wiki pages. Traditional spreadsheet doesn’t have option to switch between different web app views and spreadsheet view.

Our goal is to overcome such shortcomings of traditional spreadsheets, in a non-traditional way. If this sounds interesting sign up for a sneak peek of zoho sheet and take a ride on it.