Social Networking

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This post’s been brewing for a few weeks now. Google’s acquisition of Writely can be called as a trigger pulse for this post.
Orkut is still a very popular social networking site, atleast among the school and college community (which forms a large group of web users). Since its launch two years back, it has grown in magnitude and it is sort of a social status symbol to have an Orkut Profile, owing to its “Invite only” nature. Although it has grown over the years in terms of the number of users, feature-wise it is still primitive, considering how quickly Google is trying to give it’s products and services a face-lift by using AJAX.

Social Networking sites have a lot of potential, and if only a service with some of the following features were to be introduced, it’ll be a huge success. (Like what Meebo did, and how everyone else was grateful to Meebo for it :) )

Firstly, a strong ‘Search within website’ service. Not only Profile search or Community search, but search for keywords within the Community and Profile – something similar to Blogger Profile Search. The present Social Networking websites do not allow that. For instance, it is not possible to look for all the people who’ve listed ‘Web 2.0′ as an interest in their profile. That should be enabled, for such sites are a hunting ground for people who are looking for fresh talent.

Secondly, a conversation tracker. Newsvine, which was launched recently has a similar feature. A user can find out, which article they commented on recently by a simple mouse-over action on Newsvine home page. Handy. For social networking sites to be useful, there should be provision to find out if anyone has replied to a thread posted (Newsvine does this with a field ‘Comments since you last checked’); also there must be a tracker for all the messages that a user posts a comment.

Although this is quite unnecessary, given the above mentioned two requisites are met, it would be great to have a conversation archiving feature similar to what is offered by Google Talk’s  or Zoho Chat. The archiving feature could store the recent five conversations for easy access and reference.

Probably the poor organization of many social networking sites can be attributed to these reasons.  Many communities contain great resources and not organizing the conversations properly will probably maintain the status of most social networking sites are to be merely a prodigal waste, save for the occasional “stumbling upon a long lost acquaintance” event.

Newsvine

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Newsvine was launched a couple of days back and is running full steam ahead. For the uninitiated, Newsvine is a social News website that features stories from Main Stream Media and amateur writers alike. The best part about Newsvine, apart from the AJAX interface for Seeders or people who submit content, is that it is a comment and chat enabled site. Which means readers can comment, discuss and argue about a news item, apart from contributing their own. Also, using the ‘Link’, option, a person can link to a story from a popular news site or cross-post a blog entry. Tagging is the new web standard, and Newsvine is no exception. They have something called the “Code of Honor” which is a rule book that, apart from the usual instruction, says, “Write descriptive Title” and “Tag correctly”

Clearly, Newsvine is an improvisation of existing News Aggregators. And they are trying to organize News better with current web trends like Tagging. Also, by having both popular news sources and bloggers seed [contribute to] their site, they are having the best of both – the authority and variety. Smart.

Oh, and did I mention that they have web-based live chat enabled to their site? Something like 3Bubbles.(via) So it’s Reading/Writing/Commenting/Arguing/Having a live discussion all under one roof. Now when a popular news source makes a mistake in an editorial, correcting them is a few keystrokes and a click away.

Google Pages

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Google’s AJAX powered Web-Page builder is here. Perhaps the web alternative to Microsoft Frontpage in its Beta, or an AJAX powered Yahoo Geocities, understandably it’s not quite there yet. Upto 100 MB of Free Hosting, this seems to be an early April Fool’s Day present from Google. Fully powered by AJAX and feature rich, the interface is easy to use and folks who wish to build Web pages needn’t suffer from HTML Handicap anymore. Strike one. Now, back to speculating what else could they possibly release on April 1st.

Small Wonders

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An oddity:

With Google Suggest turned on, if “How to” is entered in the search box, the first option it suggests is “How to tie a Tie”.

Now to the post. Ajaxian carried extract from a story about Web 3.0, carrying a couple of puns and names from animation world like Chuck Jones and fantasy things like ACME invisible ink. The author is quite funny, and writing about future or emerging technologies in the manner in which he’s done it is no mean piece of writing. And it’s only essays like these that are pointers to developers “who are toiling over an AJAX- and Ruby-powered social software product”, no matter how sceptical or irritated they feel about it.

“Some small teams of sharp people—people who once, perhaps, worked for those with dimmer visions—are now following their own muses and designing smart web applications.” With each passing day, there seems to be some AJAX powered application or the other hitting the new web, I can’t agree more. It’s actually the liberty that it offers, more people are lured into it everyday. A couple of years back, when sending a batch of image files to a lot of people, was synonymous with attaching every individual file and sending them as an e-mail. And one had to see to it that it wouldn’t exceed their storage limit, which was around 4 MB. Later on, Flickr happened and made the life of a lot of people, especially those people who spend their time distributing those odd and interesting pictures a lot simpler.

I wonder if the idea of a concept such as Flickr would have been a success if a Computer Conglomerate which sells a wide variety of software packages decided to develop such an application. Flickr wouldn’t be Flickr if it were that way. It wouldn’t be human enough. As mentioned, AJAX developers will have to “determine all the things a user might do, and wireframe the blessed moments of each possibility.” All those applications that use AJAX almost understand what you want. The tagging service del.ico.us, for instance, tries to predict what tag you can possibly use based on previous user’s experience. Gmail sorts the e-mails and their replies in conversation view, instead of making people fish around the Inbox or Mail folders. That is the advantage of having smart people who worked previously with boring projects. They’ve made the Web almost intelligent. That, precisely is the difference between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0. While Web 1.0 had answers that cater to the crowd, Web 2.0 has (or will have, in the near future) a solution that suits the individual user.

It will not be long before the Web tries to understand the possible mistakes that happen while tying a neck tie, and display a warning message in the screen that most probably it was wrong, based on the responses obtained from the previous users who tried to do it by the same method.

Link Cloud

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Some good links I came across while reading through my subscription list:

Is it time for Universal Time?

Jason Kottke’s letter to Apple Support. Quite funny.

Guy Kawasaki’s Top ten lies of Entrepreuners. Ditto. Dilbert Principle extended to Entrepreneurs.

iNods. Everything from King Kong to Nike Air.

Fleck and Fleck blog. “patent pending, world changing, paradigm shifting” They promise to cover every “Web 2.0 hype”. A little light-heartedness always helps, even if it is a serious AJAX powered application.