Archive for November, 2001

DuckDuckGo To Google, Bing Users: Escape Them Filter Bubbles!

November 29th, 2001 11:00 admin View Comments

We all want solutions tailored to our needs for a lot of things, online and offline, but does that include a search engine that shows results for queries based on dozens of factors (and more importantly, hides from you certain results based on those factors)?

Well, I’m inclined to think that’s not such a bad thing at all, or at least not that big a deal.

DuckDuckGo, a tiny alternative search engine, begs to differ, and this morning they spread the word about a new website they’ve set up to give home to an illustrated guide of the ‘search engine filter bubble‘ concept and why they think it ducks sucks.

Go visit and please make up your own mind.

For the record, board president Eli Pariser came up with the term ‘filter bubble’ (see his TED talk), and has even authored a book about it.

Also, you can add &pws=0 to any string on Google and it will turn off personalized search results (though there is some debate about if it actually does what it’s supposed to).

(Via Hacker News, where there’s an interesting discussion about the ‘filter bubble’ being complete nonsense or of the utmost importance to mankind)


Escape your search engine Filter Bubble! An illustrated guide by #DuckDuckGo

Source: DuckDuckGo To Google, Bing Users: Escape Them Filter Bubbles!

Thinglink Takes The Fight Back To Stipple With Rich Media Image Tagging

November 29th, 2001 11:00 admin View Comments

Stipple, which thinks it’s a bit original in allowing people to tag images with Twitter names, has some new competition on the block. ThingLink which also lets you tag any image, is now launching Rich Media Tags, allowing anyone to interact with an image tag which might be embedded music, video, words, pictures and tags for people. Publishers simply connect their site, blog or Flickr account with the ThingLink platform and get an embeddable code to make all or individual images taggable.

These tags have now been created for Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, Spotify, Vimeo, Wikipedia, SoundCloud and Twitter. The application is obvious: you can add promotional flyers to a branded product, or anything, thus enabling some kind of engagement of transaction to take place without someone needed to leave a page or site.

Ulla Engestrom, founder and CEO of ThingLink is of the opinion that Rich Media Tags increase the amount of time people spend interacting with an image, and thus on site and can lead to transactions. This makes sense. Canadian pop punk band, Simple Plan, is using it to reveal details of their new album via the album cover artwork for instance. And Berlin’s Morning Post used it to explain the Bin-Laden raid Situation Room in May.

It’s also being used by Savalanche, a Finnish social shopping startup to create ecommerce tags inside images. Last month ThingLink partnered with SoundCloud to add audio tags to images used by musicians on the site. ThingLink claims to be currently serving thirty million image views monthly.

Source: Thinglink Takes The Fight Back To Stipple With Rich Media Image Tagging

Google Instant Mix Just Got Better, But Is It A Genius?

November 29th, 2001 11:00 admin View Comments

Google announced its new beta music service, “Google Music”, at I/O 2011 last month. The service, as it stands right now, is basically just cloud storage for all your music files that users can access through the web app. Users can stream their cloud-based music libraries to any device via a web browser. It even technically works on iOS, though the experience (especially on Safari) is pretty clunky. It’s also still missing discovery and purchasing power, though there’s no doubt that these features are on the way. After all, this is Google, and iTunes is heading to the iCloud.

In the meantime, Google is quietly unveiling the features to its music service, building a full-scale iTunes competitor piece-by-piece (or maybe hastily, it depends who you ask). And yesterday, Google Research officially congratulated itself for making some drastic improvements to “Instant Mix” — the playlist generator that is getting closer to being Google’s equivalent of iTunes Genius.

In essence, Instant Mix is a playlist generator that uses machine hearing to extract attributes from audio which can be used to answer pointed questions about songs, like, “Is this a song I can blog to?” or “Does it have blues guitar?” Not unlike Pandora’s Music Genome in intention, Instant Mix analyzes particular attributes of a song, using its algorithms to compare audio data to information pulled from the Web. Google has done some serious research in the emerging field of machine hearing, which endeavors to teach computers to better process information from audio sources, and it’s beginning to show.

With the combination of this audio analysis and web-crawled artist data, Instant Mix is able to compare songs that are similar in nature and work well together in a playlist. If you pick a quiet song while you’re working, the service will create a quiet playlist for you from your music library. For those not yet tapped into Music Beta, you can go to Google Research’s blog to check out a few sample playlists.

At I/O, Google’s Paul Joyce said that Instant Mix is meant to be one of the new music service’s “killer features”. But, is it? Erick Schonfeld and John Biggs demo-ed Google Music and Instant Mix a few weeks ago and found the service to be pretty hit-or-miss.

After Google Music’s launch, Echo Nest’s Paul Lamere did a deep dive into the comparisons between Instant Mix, iTunes Genius, and Echo Nest and found Instant Mix to be way behind the other two in terms of serving too many “WTFs” — songs that are glaringly dissimilar from the song you choose as the jumping off point for your playlist.

Google has since made several upgrades to the service, and it now works far better than it did at launch. It’s great to see how quickly Google was able to iron out the kinks. And, last I checked (iTunes disabled my account because someone hacked it), Genius takes awhile to incorporate newly downloaded songs into playlists, and whether or not Google Instant Mix intends to or not, it has been previously offering more of a “surprise” factor.

For some people, this will actually be a pleasure. If you have a large collection of music, it’s nice to be reminded of a song you may not have played in awhile. Of course, it would be nice for Google to be a little more open about whether this is something they intend, or whether it just shows that the feature has been relatively half-baked.

I’d like to see both iTunes and Google Music offering some user options in terms of how your playlist is created. One option could be more random, incorporating more surprise, while another might only create playlists of similar songs based on mood, and so on. What’s more, how about an evolving playlist mechanism that allows contextual updating, so that a playlist adjusts slightly to each new song, maybe pulling in different songs as it goes? Now that would be genius. Mensa level even.

It will be very interesting to see which combination of algorithms wins out. Does Google’s collaborative filtering mixed with acoustic similarity data offer a better alternative to iTunes’ collaborative filtering algorithm driven from purchase data acquired via the iTunes music store? Granted, these services are both essentially black box, so I’m glossing over a bit in terms of what I’m sure is more complicated, double secret mechanics on both ends, but it’s always interesting to see what combination of algorithms and data end up serving the best playlists — and recommendations, for that matter.

We can always use more transparency from algorithmic recommendation systems, so it’s good to see Google peeling back the curtain a bit on Instant Mix. Once discovery and purchasing hit Google Music, we may have one great service on our hands. Until then, I’d say Instant Mix is close, but not quite there.

Source: Google Instant Mix Just Got Better, But Is It A Genius?

Docstoc Goes Mobile; Brings Premium Document Sharing To The iPad

November 29th, 2001 11:00 admin View Comments

Docstoc, an online document sharing site that caters primarily to small businesses and professionals, is unveiling its first mobile app today with the launch of its iPad app today—Docstoc Premium.

The iPad App, which is free, includes access to documents that are shared on the platform, including both premium and free content. Users have access to over 10,000 business and professional documents, and can also search and download over 20 million library documents. Content includes company business plans, proposal letters, real estate purchase forms, LLC operating agreements, marketing plans,and more. You can also integrate your saved, bookmarked and uploaded documents from the web on the app through your account.

Within the app, you can upgrade to access premium content (for $9.95 per month) from Docstoc. The startup has been making a big push towards premium content, launching a marketplace for professional documents, as well as books from premium publishers. Docstoc co-founder Jason Nazar says the iPad app gives users access to over 3000-plus high quality legal and business contracts, forms, guides, and templates as well.

This is actually Docstoc’s first mobile app, which is surprising considering that the startup has been around since 2007 (Docstoc launched at TechCrunch40 in 2007). But Nazar says an Android app is currently in the works and the company is ramping up mobile development. And the startup, which faces competition from Scribd and SlideShare, is growing in terms is usage. A year ago, Docstoc has around 3 million users and today the site has 11 million registered users.

Source: Docstoc Goes Mobile; Brings Premium Document Sharing To The iPad

Square’s Disruptive Payment Service About To Get A Huge Retail Boost From Apple

November 29th, 2001 11:00 admin View Comments

Mobile payments company Square has landed a big coup—sales placement on Apple’s online store. And we’ve just confirmed with Square that the startup has a deal for in-store sales as well. Apple will start selling Square devices in all of its U.S. retail stores starting this week.

Square offers both an iPhone/iPod Touch and an iPad app which allows merchants to process and manage credit card transactions with a handy little credit card swiping device that plugs into the headset/microphone jack. Apple has shown some love for Square lately, so it’s not entirely surprising that the payments startup has forged a deeper relationship with the Cupertino-based company. Most recently, Apple CEO Steve Jobs showcased Square’s technology at the debut of Apple’s iPad 2. But to be featured on Apple’s online store and in its brick and mortar operations is a big deal.

This is Square’s first large-scale in-store retail promotion and it landed a huge fish. Millions of consumers visit Apple’s retail outlets each day, and this will certainly translate into more sales and exposure for Square. The device will be only payments product featured in the store, and while display location may vary by store, we hear that Square will be included in the store area where main consumer-oriented accessories are displayed. Apple and Square will also be partnering to host educational seminars at the stores, where consumers can learn how to use the device.

Square’s device is selling at the store for $9.95 but users get a $10 square credit when they sign up for an account and the apps are free. It’s important to note that when sign up for Square on its website, the device is free, and the company only charges merchants 2.75 percent per transaction. You can also purchase the device in black or white (previously the Square devices were only sold in White).

Clearly Square is taking a bit of a bath on the device sales here. Apple is probably taking some sort of cut from the transaction, and Square is giving merchants a $10 credit, so effectively, the company isn’t really making any money. In fact, it appears that Square could be losing money on this. But an endorsement and placement from Apple could boost sales and usage for the payments device so perhaps all will even out in the end. Also, Apple managing distribution and shipping of Square devices means that the startup will be able to give users access to quicker and more efficient delivery operations.

Interestingly, Apple doesn’t use Square in its stores for transactions but perhaps this could change as Square gains more traction and expand with international support.

Square, which was co-founded by Twitter’s Jack Dorsey, has been on a roll of late. The startup just raised $27.5 million in new funding, and is gaining a lot of a lot of buzz, most recently debuting a fairly large billboard in Times Square and announcing that it is processing $1 million in payments per day. Square also announced that it dropped the $0.15 per transaction charge for businesses using the mobile payments service.

COO Keith Rabois told us in January that the startup is expected to process $40 million in transactions in Q1 of 2011 and is currently signing up 100,000 merchants per month. That’s compared to 30,000 monthly signups last Fall.

I think there’s no doubt that with its latest deal, those numbers should multiply pretty quickly.

Source: Square’s Disruptive Payment Service About To Get A Huge Retail Boost From Apple

Gillmor Gang 4.10.11 (TCTV)

November 29th, 2001 11:00 admin View Comments

The Gillmor Gang — Robert Scoble, Doc Searls, Kevin Marks, Andrew Keen, and Steve Gillmor — dive deep into the reasons why Google has its work cut out for it in the fight for social credibility. @scobleizer thinks it’s because the engineers of the search startup don’t understand the value of wasting time. Doc Searls, who arrived late in the show due to a failure to understand how clocks waste time, thinks there’s room for failing at social.

In a week where Netflix paid a million dollars per episode for the full Monty of seven seasons of Mad Men, the new challenger to HBO and Showtime puts a price tag on the value of the model formerly known as the rerun. British philosopher and TCTV interviewer Andrew Keen agrees with In The Plex author Steven Levy that Google’s future lies with mastering Artificial Intelligence. Watch for a secret revealed about new CEO Larry Page. Hint: he doesn’t need a microwave.

Source: Gillmor Gang 4.10.11 (TCTV)

Silicon South Africa: Google Launches Incubator For African Startups

November 29th, 2001 11:00 admin View Comments

Google has announced that it will be launching a startup incubator in Cape Town, South Africa, called Umbono. The incubator aims to support the local tech ecosystem in South Africa by offering local startups access to seed capital, Google mentorship, and angel investors.

Umbono will focus on web and mobile-based startups building solutions to local problems, which also have regional appeal, in an effort to help them “transform their ideas into companies”, according to Google SA country manager Luke Mckend. Fittingly, “umbono” happens to be the very Zulu word for “vision” or “idea”.

The South African incubator will be structured as a 6-month program, in which 5 startups chosen by Umbono’s panel of angel investors and Google representatives will receive a seed investment of $25K to $50K. The teams will also have access to Umbono’s free office space, bandwidth, and a mentorship network of Google experts, ready to advise the startups on issues from “product design and commercialization to legal incorporation and valuation”, Google said of Umbono in its announcement.

Local bandwidth is expensive in Cape Town — so this will likely be very attractive to young tech startups in South Africa. Not to mention the added bonus of $25K.

Umbono’s home city of Cape Town, located on the southwestern shore of South Africa, has for years been attempting to position itself as a hub of innovation and technology in subsaharan Africa. The Cape IT Initiative, a non-profit organization dedicated to developing information and communications technology in South Africa, has been lobbying Google (and others) to locate their incubators in Cape Town for some time.

Along with Cape IT, Cape Town is home to Silicon Cape, a similar initiative aimed at fostering tech entrepreneurship in South Africa, as well as veteran incubators, like the highly-regarded, 10-year-old Bandwidth Barn.

South Africa has also produced its fair share of successful (and well-funded) startups, like Yola, a website creator that has raised $25 million, MXit, an instant messaging app with over 27 million subscribers, and Twangoo, Twangoo, a group buying club, which was acquired by Groupon earlier this year — to name a few. And now the country’s startup ecosystem adds another notch to its belt by luring Google’s business development talent to its shores.

When I asked Umbono spokeswoman Julie Taylor about why Google chose South Africa and whether or not it has plans for incubators elsewhere in Africa, she told me that, at this point, Umbono is a pilot project. The incubator will test the African waters, and if the model proves to be viable — and beneficial –Google will look to expand into other emerging markets.

“South Africa is recognized as one of the innovation leaders on the continent, particularly with tech startups,” she said, “so we are enthusiastic about the possibilities here”.

Source: Silicon South Africa: Google Launches Incubator For African Startups

Evernote Rival Snaptic Switches To A Catchier Name

November 29th, 2001 11:00 admin View Comments

Snaptic, which lets you capture, save and share notes, ideas, imagery, places and whatnot, has changed its company and service name to the far catchier Coinciding with the name switch, the company has released new mobile apps (called “Catch Notes” for Android and iOS devices.

The new Catch apps join the newly released website, which uses mobile geolocation to help sort and find information based on locations sent from a mobile device.

The startup, which is backed by $2.3 million in venture capital and rivals Evernote and others in the note-capturing space, says there are currently 5 million active Catch users.

Source: Evernote Rival Snaptic Switches To A Catchier Name

yaM Labs Secures $500K To Take Meeting Management To The Cloud

November 29th, 2001 11:00 admin View Comments

yaM Labs, a Russian startup not to be confused with Yammer, has secured $500k from Foresight Ventures. The company has developed Cloud-based software to make meetings – both face-to-face and virtual – more efficient by enabling participants to collaborate on the planning, running, and execution of a meeting.

The premise being that traditional offline tools make for a lot of wasted time because meetings lack focus and ‘memory’ – you have to be there to know what went down and even if you were, often the answer is not a lot or there at least exists no actual record. Shifting these tools to the Cloud – the yaM app runs completely in a web browser – and improving them along the way is supposed to help with this. The startup broke cover at our recent TechCrunch Moscow event.

yaM says it will use the new funding to accelerate product integrations with iPad and other tablets, Google App Marketplace, Yammer, Jive Networks. Additionally, money will be spent on marketing the app in the U.S.

To that end, the current yaM app offers a tabbed and notepad-like Interface – not far from being tablet ready, one suspects – to a suite of real-time collaboration tools to let meeting participants take part in trackable brainstorming sessions, SWOT and pro/con analyses, “action item prioritization”, and other meeting techniques and methods – all of which, if utilized, can make meetings more valuable, apparently.

As for the name, yaM actually stands for ‘yet another meeting’. Its founder is Anatoly Gaverdoskiy, a serial entrepreneur, including founding California-based InvisibleCRM, while the business model is a classic freemium play, The free version will be limited to a set number of meetings after which you pay a monthly subscription for unlimited meetings, storage and added security.

Source: yaM Labs Secures $500K To Take Meeting Management To The Cloud Is Quora For Shoppers (Now You Can Find That Borat Mankini You’ve Always Wanted)

November 29th, 2001 11:00 admin View Comments

So now that everyone is pretty much in agreement that Quora was the hottest startup of 2010, we’ll definitely start to see a lot of Quora-inspired platforms and services for niche markets. Like fashion. is a brand new platform launched last week that is essentially Quora for shoppers. And yes, just as the URL indicates, the site seeks to respond to one very simple question: where to get it?

You don’t have to be a fashion expert to appreciate the concept. I’m sure many of us have been in a situation where we’ve seen someone with a nice bag, tie, scarf, etc. and would like to know where to get it. But since it can be hard to approach a random person in the street (or better yet, a photo in a magazine or on a blog), we never find out where to get the item. With, users can upload a photo of the item to the platform and let the site’s community do the work.

Read the rest of this entry »

Source: Is Quora For Shoppers (Now You Can Find That Borat Mankini You’ve Always Wanted)