The Afterthoughts – Gmail forwarding and service interoperability – an interesting observation

“The Afterthoughts” is a series where I revisit some of my older blog entries and see how things have changed since the time I made the blog post and now.

The posts that I will choose initially will be from 2004 to 2006.

So here is the first one in the series:

Post: Gmail forwarding and service interoperability – an interesting observation
Originally posted on: 2005-11-21

The entry goes about explaining how when you connect various services together, you could end up with the same information multiple times.

This is increasingly becoming a problem these days. Services like Twitter and Friendfeed are not solving the problem elegantly, so you see more and more duplicates and links to the original post.

Here is a typical scenario today:
I make a blog entry. In order to ensure that my readers see my post immediately, I have a service that automatically posts a message in Twitter. This is like instantly messaging my friends (actually Twitter followers) telling them, “Look, I made a blog entry”.

Now, I use a lot of Web 2.0 services. So, in order to ensure that all my friends have a single feed to follow my activities, I use some aggregator like FriendFeed or Tumblr.

Some friend of yours (let's call him Bob) likes your blog entry and bookmarks it on del.icio.us. Another friend, Andrews bookmarks it in Magnolia.

Let us now say, there is another person Dave, who is a friend of you, Bob and Andrews. He is following all 3 of us in Friendfeed.

How many entries is Dave going to see of the original entry?
6 in total! 3 from you – 1 from your blog post directly, 1 from Twitter, 2 from Tumblr (1 via the blog post and 1 via Twitter), 1 from Bob via del.icio.us and 1 from Andrews via Magnolia.

The screenshot shows duplicate entries from mashable's blog feed and from Twitter:

Now this is real noise. And this is more true if Dave is not even interested in the blog post to begin with.

So the solution?
Friendfeed allows you to hide specific feeds from specific people. For example, Dave can hide all bookmarks from Bob or all Tumblr entries from me.

Now that is not a good solution because not all bookmarks from Bob are duplicates.

Tools like Feedblendr and Blogbridge have solved this problem for simple RSS aggregation. However things are different when it comes to social network and aggregation.

So right now there is no simple way of detecting duplicates and more and more people are complaining about this in the blogosphere explaining how Friendfeed is more noise than information and why the good old Google Reader is still relevant.

Here is one such discussion. As the discussion suggests, it is not just about eliminating duplicates; it also requires you to merge discussions/comments in each of these posts keeping in mind that not everyone is a friend of everyone else.

So what has changed over the last 2 years?
If anything, the problem has become a tougher one. I am sure the startup that does duplicate elimination and gives you a filtered feed taking your social networks into consideration is going to be the next hyped startup in the Web 2.0 world.

I changed my RSS reader

In my recent posts [Maintaining multiple feed lists],[The evolution of the pub-sub model on the web], I have been mentioning about this new trend emerging in the RSS world, where people subscribe to tags rather than specific feeds. This helps in getting all the data related to these tags from the entire index of the search engine (or crawler, or indexer, or whatever). I also mentioned about the problems faced.

Now it should be obvious that I have been looking around for some solution to this problem and my present reader Google reader does not help me in doing this well. The reason is that this reader has been designed for a very different environment and although I was reluctant to switch from it, I had to.

So what did I find that helped me change my mind? Blogbridge.

What's so special about Blogbridge?
Blogbridge has the concept of Smartfeeds, which is not rocket science, but this ability to support tag-subscribes. This shows that they are trying to address the very thing that I am looking forward to. Now the interesting part here is that you can define simple rules to aggregate multiple Smart feeds so that you get all the feeds aggregated into one single feed.

Continue reading I changed my RSS reader

Analysis-Paralysis and Information overload

I had this interesting thought today.

How many times has it happened to you that you come up with a brilliant idea and then after a lot of research you realize that someone else is working on it and are way-ahead?

But what I felt is that if this continues, then you will always be in a state of Analysis-paralysis. With the problem of Information overload, this problem is more intense. (Wanna know more about Anti-patterns?)

It is better therefore, to get into ACTION! This is probably the reason why RSS is a huge success, so is tagging. While there are groups which design standards, there are groups which actually jump into the playground and implement things. Someday the 2 groups converge.

And why did I have this thought? Well, tagging is evolving and you will soon hear about “Tag clusters”. While you might feel that this is normal, the clusters are responsible for giving a context to tags. Now this is where Semantic web concepts help.

The problems of information overload

Have you noticed this? Whenever you write a very long blog in LJ, you never get people to comment on it. And then you wonder what might be the reason. People around are getting so busy that they hardly read all the mails (let alone the spams) in their own mailbox.

I recently gave a seminar on this topic in my class, and people were shell-shocked to hear that new word – infoglut. But it didn't take them much time to realize that they were going through the problem themselves.

And to wind it up, tell me one thing. How many MB's of Pdf's and other files do you have in your systems? And how much of it have you digested? 10% or more is really great…

Any one out there with a solution?