All posts tagged ‘social networks’

File Under: Software

Mozilla’s Raindrop Wants to Solve Your Communication Woes

Mozilla Labs has debuted a new web-based tool for integrating all your online communications — such as e-mail, Twitter, Skype and Facebook — into a single browser window. It uses a series of intelligent filters to highlight what’s important to you, bringing the conversations with people or updates from services you care about the most to the top, and keeping the stuff that can wait out of sight until you’re ready to look at it.

It’s called Raindrop, and it fetches all of your communications from different sources like mail servers, Twitter and RSS feeds. Then, Raindrop intelligently surfaces the “important parts,” giving them priority and allowing you to reply or interact with the communications inside your web browser. Like all Mozilla projects, Raindrop is open-source software — it’s actually a mini web server that you run locally and access through your browser. At the time of Thursday’s launch, Firefox, Safari and Chrome are supported, with Internet Explorer notably absent from the list.

While Raindrop is rough around the edges in this early release, Mozilla is hoping to build a one-stop communication platform that will give you a single place to view all your messages, e-mail, shared photos and other social tools.

The “intelligent” part of Raindrop would allow, for example, direct messages and @replies from Twitter to be highlighted over regular incoming messages not directed specifically to you. E-mails that come in can be sorted to give priority to messages from your closest friends, replies and active threads you’re participating in. The idea is to make Raindrop a people-centric communication tool that emphasizes your friends over mailing lists, rote announcements and other not-quite-spam messages.

That might sound a bit like Google Wave, which is also trying to re-imagine web-based communication from the ground up. But while Raindrop and Wave share some similar features, including the ability to view images and videos inline, Google Wave is a much more radical departure from the status quo. Raindrop is more familiar, since it essentially melds a few things you’re already using — an e-mail inbox, a Twitter client and an RSS reader — into a singular, streamlined interface. Raindrop is also similar to Mozilla Lab’s existing Snowl project, which puts a river of news and e-mail messages in Firefox. But unlike Snowl, which is a Firefox plugin, Raindrop is a standalone system that even features an API that will allow developers to build their own add-ons, extending Raindrop as they see fit.

So, Raindrop will only gain functionality over time through widgets, add-ons and media-specific enhancements for services like YouTube and Flickr. In that sense, Raindrop could be seen as a logical extension of where Google has been taking Gmail recently by letting users add widgets for chat, calendar, RSS updates and other communication tools to Gmail’s browser-based inbox.

At the moment, Raindrop is a developer release, which means there’s no installer to download. The Labs team is making a downloadable installer one of its top priorities for the project. Interested developers can check out the code and run the startup script manually (see the Mozilla wiki for details). It’s not a plug-in or a desktop client — once Raindrop reaches the packaged installer stage, you’d set it up and then visit a local URL to see your messages.

I was able to install the developer code with no problems on my local machine. After telling Raindrop my Gmail and Twitter account info, the script dutifully fetched my messages.

Raindrop’s overview of your Inbox. Click the image for a larger view.

As you can see in the image above, Raindrop retains Gmail’s threaded conversation view, however, in this case Raindrop failed to filter out a message from a local wine shop, which, while not spam, is nevertheless not something I would want prioritized.

Still, Raindrop is clearly a work in progress and despite not being perfect, it did do a pretty good job of filtering out less important conversations.

Raindrop inline e-mail and Twitter messages. Click the image for a larger view.

As you can see, Twitter updates are shown inline with e-mail threads. Other messages, like mailing list subscriptions, are filtered out of the main conversation flow and given their own boxes so you can see what’s new without fully disrupting your more personal communications.

At the moment, any filtering or message deleting in Raindrop does not appear to sync back to your mail server. This is a serious flaw that we expect will be addressed before Raindrop reaches the downloadable stage.

This early developer release of Raindrop isn’t much to look at yet. But I should note that Mozilla has already spun out a new design that looks a bit more like Snowl:

Raindrop’s newer interface (image courtesy of Mozilla). Click the image for a larger view.

The newer look is a bit cleaner and abandons the traditional e-mail-style layout in favor of something more free-flowing.

Raindrop is clearly still very experimental and not meant for even casual usage, but we’re looking forward to seeing where Mozilla Labs takes the project.

Wrapping your head around Raindrop is difficult to do without actually using it and, due to the lack of an installer, using it is beyond most users at this point. Thankfully, Mozilla has posted this video which gives you nice overview of how Raindrop works.

Raindrop UX Design and Demo from Mozilla Messaging on Vimeo.

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File Under: Multimedia, Social

Flickr Adds People-Tagging for Finding Friends in Photos

Popular photo sharing service Flickr added a new feature Wednesday that lets users tag each other in photos. In addition, Flickr has updated its privacy controls, so users can opt out of being personally identified in individual photos.

The new feature lets you tag particular people in pictures by drawing bounding boxes around their faces. Flickr then asks you to ID each person, and if the person is a Flickr member, the system suggests the member’s name to you as you type the tag.

Once people are tagged, it makes finding them in searches much easier. Instead of searching for somebody’s name and only seeing photos blindly tagged with your search term, Flickr now shows you where that person is located inside the photo — especially helpful if you’re looking at a group shot.

Flickr has over 40 million members according to Yahoo, which owns the service.

People-tagging features have long been available to users of other photo-sharing web services like Facebook and Google’s Picasa. And Flickr’s new feature doesn’t go as far as Picasa, which will actually find the person’s face in the picture and take a guess at who it is. Google debuted this technology in 2008 and enhanced its capabilities just last month.

But while Flickr’s new people tags are close to what you’ll find elsewhere, Flickr’s implementation offers more user controls for privacy by letting you opt out of being ID’d.

As Facebook users know, you often get tagged in a photo that you didn’t approve of, isn’t particular flattering or shows you in a, shall we say, “compromising position.” But once you’re tagged in a picture on Facebook, that photo with you in it gets tied to your profile. It shows up in image searches, whether you want it to appear or not.

Flickr’s new face-tagging system lets users opt out of being tagged in individual photos. So, you can pretend that’s not really you holding that bong or shotgunning that can of PBR. You can also set your preferences so you can never be tagged in a photo, or you can determine which users are allowed to tag you and which users aren’t. You can also opt out of the whole face-tagging system in general.

Non-Flickr members can be identified in photos as well, but they’ll need to approve the ID before it appears within the system.

That won’t stop users from adding your name as a tag on the photo. Users can also draw a box around your face and add your name as a note. But neither of those options physically connect the tag to your Flickr account the way the people-tagging feature does. Instead, it’s just another piece of metadata attached to the photo.

For those who want to play along, just watch your Recent Activity page. Every time you’re tagged in a picture, you’ll see a little notifier in your Recent Activity stream telling you who tagged you, and offering a link to the picture.

Once a photo is tagged up with people, the photo page displays a list of all the people identified within the picture, along with links to their Flickr profiles.

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File Under: Software & Tools

Twine Collects and Organizes Your …Stuff

Twine released its bookmarking site Monday to the public after a long private beta. The site takes your interests and combines feeds, bookmarks, and updates together in one large ball of similarly themed updates. From there you can find other people interested in the same items and see which topics overlap.

The site combines themes based on a semantic engine. It tries to understand what the topic is and then bunches it with like topics into other, like twines. As Twine puts it, the site “organizes your shit.” Twine’s introductory video, produced as a joke to its own internal team, says it all (using NSFW swearing. You’ve been warned):

[via TechCrunch]

File Under: Events, Software & Tools

Open Hack Day: New Open Strategy Makes Yahoo Like Facebook

Yahoo is using its developer conference, Open Hack Day 2008, to initiate a new property-wide social strategy, dubbed Yahoo Open Strategy (YOS).

Does this mean one more MySpace, Facebook, Friendster, Orkut, Twitter, FriendFeed, or Pownce (Ack!)? Probably. It means instead of developing one more site to go and see what your friends are up to, Yahoo is basically combining the entire Yahoo property into one gargantuan social networking site.

This means Yahoo’s previous attempts at a social network, namely 360 and Mash, had to be demolished. I suppose it doesn’t make sense to have a social network on top of a social network.

If Yahoo had its way, this will be the last social network you’ll have to sign up for. To prove it, Yahoo also released the Yahoo Application Platform (YAP) to give web developers the tool to create gadgets and sites on Yahoo properties as well as integrate Yahoo’s social platform on their own site as well. API’s and even a YML (Yahoo Markup Language) have been developed to enable access and sharing with Yahoo’s social network. As a partner in Google’s open-social gadget (or widget) platform, the application platform also integrates use of Google’s Open-Social API’s for usage on Yahoo properties.

Developers on the Yahoo campus this weekend are given the chance to get comfortable with, hack into the social network this weekend. Developers will be onhand to answer questions and hear suggestions. However, the tools will disappear on Monday to be released to the public at large “at a later date.”

No matter what side of the fence you fall on in regard to social networks, this might just be good news. Chances are, if you’ve ever used a Yahoo service, you already have a Yahoo profile. In fact, your friends are probably already on board too, which means practically no barrier to entry.

Under YOS, all remaining Yahoo properties (mail, messenger, maps, et al) are to be put under this over-arching social network over the next year — good news for developers itching to tap that gargantuan network.

It also gives Yahoo an altered identity. No longer is it a destination site to grab your data and go. It is now stretching its way to become a facebook-like destination — a way for people to stay and hang out with friends and do things like leave messages, poke and make zombies out of each other. You know, what social networks are for. That, my business-minded friends, is what they in the business call user lock-in.

The obligatory question is, are there privacy concerns? Yahoo’s new strategy is to open this information up to other developers and web users, but under a very thorough administrative process. When Yahoo’s applications, like Mail, MyYahoo, and even search are eventually ported under YOS, administration restrictions allow you to keep your personal information to yourself, share with your friends or share with everyone.

In other words, if you’re wary of sharing personal information with friends, you can opt not to at any time. Whether you’ve known it or not, we’ve seen exactly what this is going to look like with the recent BOSS and FireEagle releases — which are both currently incorporate how this service is going to work.

However, by having and using your new and improved sharable Yahoo profile, it means Yahoo has access to your data, which they promise to use only to improve future services and develop new applications. They also promise to use this information anonymously — third party applications will not have access to your data, unless you allow it.

That “unless you allow it” part is pretty interesting. Other social applications won’t allow third party access to your profile at all. In this way, Yahoo data is largely more open than other networks. For example, where other networks lock your data in, Yahoo has the potential to allow users to download their own data and maybe even convert it to another service in the future.