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July 29, 2005

MyJeeves 1.2: To Tag Or Not To Tag…

Many people think tagging provides an elegant paradigm of organizing information. In addition, we're starting to see the "power of many" being leveraged to build fancy stuff like shared folksonomies where you plug your personal information sphere into the collective mindset.

Having sat through half a dozen usability tests for MyJeeves, however, it is pretty clear to me that foldering is a more intuitive way of organizing, especially to those new to the exciting world of personal information management.  Foldering may be clunky, but it's how people think - at least that's how they think today.  Maybe it's because we are naturally wired that way, or maybe it's because most of us grew up with Windows.  What is certain is that after a while, most users end up with an unmanageable folder hierarchy and start losing track of where things are.

What can be done to take users out of this frustrating mess?  Or more exactly, assuming that tagging is indeed one solution, how can we help users to transition from folders to tags, or at least add tagging to their repetoire?  When we were scoping MyJeeves 1.2 a while back, this was the topic of endless coffee talks…and one or two beer talks.

MyJeeves tag suggestion tool

The first impulse was to blur the line between foldering and tagging by merging them into topics.  This turned out to be too confusing for most people. The second scenario was to overlay tagging on top of foldering, resulting in "virtual folders".  This is the approach Longhorn seems to be taking - sorry, I meant Vista...which sounds far less intimidating - and dagnabit if it didn't work.  So there you have it: "tags as virtual folders" is what we just launched with MyJeeves 1.2.  Give it a try.

In the long term, we intend to provide a smoother "upgrade path" by suggesting the gradual adoption of tagging. As users become more familiar with the process, they’ll be able to explore the collective corpus of information through related tags or their social network, and further refine their taxonomy in some kind of virtuous circle.

Btw, another cool upgrade as part of MJ 1.2 is the ability to upload your personal photos.  No, this is not meant to be competitive with something like photoblogging or social networking sites.  It was simply a user request after the 1.1 release when we added the ability to save, folder and tag photos from the Web.  A lot of people use MyJeeves for personal research or data storage, whether for an upcoming vacation or a homework assignment, and given that they were starting to store pictures on topics, they also wanted to add their personal photos.  We'll see where users want to take it from there.

Samuel Nunez
Product Manager

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July 19, 2005

Which Feeds Matter?

Whether you’re talking about the size of the web or the size of the blogosphere, the whole notion of size can be misleading. People create and abandon new sites, pages and blogs faster than they abandon South Beach diets. Add in duplicates, spam and other assorted junk, and you have a hard time measuring what’s real, let alone what’s relevant.

The more important question is: which feeds matter? Bloglines can add some unique perspective to this question, because we know which sites are compelling enough to attract at least one subscriber, among those that offer feeds. Of course, not every site has a feed or even needs a feed. But among those that do, Bloglines members are choosing to track some and not others. 

According to Bloglines members around the world, 1,121,655 feeds “matter” to date.  Note this includes only content feeds tracked, and not topics tracked via “saved” or “persistent” searches using the Bloglines service.

While this number is interesting to consider in a number of ways, two stand out for me.  First, compared with the millions of blogs in existence, these 1.12 million feeds include the smaller subset that is the most valuable. Secondly, and conversely, when compared with the mere 2500 sites deemed worthy of monthly ranking by Nielsen, these 1.12 million feeds demonstrate a far deeper, richer body of sites that “matter” to Internet users on a regular basis.

Here’s a look at the growth of feeds subscribed to by Bloglines members since it was established in June 2003:

feeds with an audience

The variation among these feeds is significant. The most popular is Slashdot, with 37,400 active subscribers. Meanwhile, sites with only 1 current subscriber include Haag’s Pop Podium and Justin’s Guide to Everything, where the only subscriber is me. I have no idea who Justin is but thought he would appreciate the audience. (Maybe people will start a new game called Bloglineswhacking to find feeds with only one subscriber?)

It’s also interesting to note that these feeds are very prolific and getting more so everyday: In June we surpassed 500 million articles in the Bloglines feed index, and in the next few days we’ll cross the 600 million mark. We’re adding more than 2 million new articles every day. There’s no question that the blogosphere and other sources of feed content are the fastest growing segment of new content on the web.

number of monthly blog/feed articles

We’ll keep you updated on how these numbers grow over time.

Jim Lanzone

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July 14, 2005

A Postcard from Pisa

italy

And here you find the hard working Italian team ...

Ok, ok I confess that I like this working environment.

Someone from U.S/U.K. want to join?

Antonio Gulli

Editor's note: I am pretty sure that is someone's child or sibling in the group shot however he could be Italy's smallest engineer...

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July 08, 2005

London Calling Back

Thanks for the thoughts. Yesterday was a deeply shocking day, but most people seemed to handle it with a pragmatic calmness. We did spend a lot of time listening to the sirens, or catching up on the latest news broadcasts, and some of the AJ staff were shaken up because they were on on the tube station platforms near to where the bombs hit.

Most of us commute by tube or bus, so it really does bring it home that “that could have been me”. But, fortunately for us, we may have been shaken, but we were unhurt.

Our thoughts are with the families of those who died, or those who were hurt.
Hopefully life will go back to normal as much as possible on Monday.

Tony Macklin
Ask Jeeves Europe

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July 07, 2005

Calling London

We wanted to give a little "we're thinking of you" love to the team in our UK office, which is located just a couple of blocks from nearly all of the explosions today in central London. Lots of calls went back and forth this morning when we woke up to the news here in the Bay Area. Though there were some people were close to the blasts, in Tube stations, etc., everyone is ok, thankfully.

Scott Grieder

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July 01, 2005

Happy Canada Day, eh?

I did a word association challenge with some of my colleagues today, for both Canada and the United States. One of those 'name the first word that comes to mind when I say..." excercises. While unscientific and with an admittedly small sample size, the same things kept bubbling up to the surface for each country.

For Canada, it was maple leaf, hockey and beaver.

For U.S., it was big cars, baseball and power.

Very different countries, with very different identities, yet they exist peacefully beside one another. We're talking the longest undefended border in the world. And yet, in the three years since Ask Jeeves has been celebrating various holidays and special occasions on the homepage, there has not been a whisper of the Great White North on July 1st: Canada Day. Until now. Check out www.askjeeves.com.

Now, most people know that Michael J. Fox, Keanu Reeves, Shania Twain, Sarah McLachlan, Mike Myers and Wayne Gretzky are Canadian. But, did you also know that Jack Kerouac, W.P. Kinsella, Nelly Furtado, Mary Pickford, Fay Wray and Linda Evangelista all hail from the land of maple syrup and snow? That's talent, and it's just the tip of the iceberg (no, Canada is not covered by ice and snow year-round, nor do we live in igloos or travel via dogsled).

Here are a few other reasons to give up a hearty 'how's it goin', eh?' to Canada today:

1. Official Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, Ontario
2. Poutine

Poutine from Wikipedia

3. Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone, is Canadian
4. Basketball was invented by Canadian James Naismith
5. Canadians were on the research teams who developed the pacemaker, the insulin process and computerized braille
6. Strange Brew

7. Tim Hortons coffee

So cue up your ipod to a Rush classic, crack open a bottle of Moosehead and practice putting the puck in the top corner in celebration of your neighbours (Canadian spelling!).

Jacquie Harrison
Director of Marketing and Canadian

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