I Do Not Have an Age, I Have a Version Number

I have a new mental model for my age.

Instead of thinking of it as a traditional double digit number I’m converting it to a decimal version number.

Next year I will be v4.8

Discussion on HN

 

 

TimeWall – A Plan & UI to Innovate the Twitter Timeline

As discussed with my buddies here’s a plan that could helpTwitter revitalize and make it more relevant to many more users.

Twitter’s core asset is the realtime ephemeral nature of the product. Twitter is the platform that topples governments, after all.

However, that same ephemeral nature of the product also stunts its growth. For example, there is no good way for new users to browse the historical record and see what makes Twitter so great and why they should care.

The complaint I get from people when I talk to them about Twitter is “there is no context” it’s “too hard to get into”.

Time

So what makes Twitter different from other social networks? In my opinion it’s the realtime, breaking news nature of the product. No other social network offers that feature quite so well as Twitter does.

But what I’ve been wondering is,  since time is such a core component of Twitter, then why is it paid so little attention in the UI.

And since we’re talking about time… In the general human experience, is time vertical or horizontal? I would argue that time is generally experienced as a horizontal phenomenon.

For time to exist, we need to travel through space, and in most instances that is a horizontal experience. In cars, planes, trains, etc.

Thinking about time as a horizontal, rather than vertical, is not new idea to software. Consider all the audio and video editing software that for the most part renders time as horizontal artifacts.

Scrubbing & Time Zoom

One of the great features of audio and video editing software is the ability to easily grab and timescrub the timeline backward and forwards. Coupled with the ability to zoom in and out to different time resolutions it makes it really easy to navigate around the timeline to the parts you are interested in.

TimeWall

Screenshot 2016-02-08 16.42.22

(Click to zoom in)

Putting this all together it’s not hard to visualize a new way of using Twitter. A TimeWall that is constantly moving sideways “at the speed of time”.

With the ability to timescrub the conversation by throwing it left and right. Also with the ability to zoom-in and out to minutes, hours, days, months, years.

When zoomed to a time resolution the ui and backend simply highlight the most important conversations of that time frame.

Think Minority Report.

Links to Time

This new TimeWall would give users the ability to deep link to “an event in time” and would unlock all of Twitter’s archived content.

Furthermore, Twitter would finally have the ability to have “long term content”. This would be much more friendly for new users who could fully explore Twitter using the new timescrubbing and zoom features.

Long term content could also increases Twitter’s Google SEO surface area. Which means the content is a much bigger fly trap and more people will see twitter content in search results more often.

Mobile

Although the full TimeWall is not appropriate for phones in portrait more, the time scrubbing tool and time resolution zoom in/out tool still work as a core navigation tool, even with a regular vertical tweet list.

Of course, for many mobile devices in landscape mode, there would be no issue.

Conclusion

Obviously, this is just a start, but with more thought and iterations from Twitter’s core ui & ux teams there’s a ton of utility that could be unlocked here.

Who know’s, this might even start a Twitter revolution 😉

For further discussion see Hacker News.

If the iPhone Used Text Labels Instead of Icons

text-icons

Thought experiment in response to: http://thomasbyttebier.be/blog/the-best-icon-is-a-text-label

Fix Samsung Smart HUB Wired Lan Network

Welcome weary traveler.

If you’re like me your Samsung Smart HUB TV wired network stopped working for no sensible reason. Yet your router is working fine, and other devices on the router also work fine. Hmm.

I spent hours trawling the internet and could find no solution. I stumbled on a fix which was to..

1) Open network settings.
2) Click into IP settings.
3) Click set manually.
4) Then change a few settings around a bit.
5) Then click set automatically.
6) Do steps 3 5 one more time.

This forces the system to ask the router to re-provision a DHCP network  ip address, and I believe this fixes the issue.

This also stops the need to reset to factory settings (which BTW doesn’t change network settings anyway!)

My model is UN40ES6500F but I think any UN* will have similar issues.

It’s Time for an Open Twitter (a 501c3)

Anti-Competitive

I like Twitter. I’ve been trying to build a business on Twitter’s platform for the past 3 years. However, their most recent announcement of new rules and regulations has stunned me.

Twitter has the power to topple regimes, but by following advertising dollars they are building a walled garden and making anti-competative decisions. It does not bode well for our world that such a commercially driven company should wield so much power and be the epicenter of global conversation.

Non-Profit

In the same way Wikipedia is a non-profit democratization of knowledge, we need a non-profit democratization of global real-time-messaging.

Dalton Caldwell has an interesting idea, but I don’t think it will end the Twitter monopoly due to being pay-to-play. For example, I doubt app.net will bring free-for-all freedom-of-speech to the third world.

In my opinion, the best scenario would be for a new uncensored non-profit organization to offer a free, global, robust, API for real-time-messaging.

sky.net

For the sake of this article, let’s call this new service, sky.net and assume it has millions of dollars of donations to keep it running (think Wikipedia).

sky.net could quickly win a huge amount of users due to the overwhelming power of geeks and influencers talking about it, blogging about it, building awesome software clients, and letting everyone know that sky.net was the best option for a free global chat stream.

The market segmentation could look much like Android and iOS. Especially because sky.net would be free to use, with no developer restrictions, a new global chat-stream, free/paid apps available on all devices. No restrictions.

Monopoly

The sad fact is that right now Twitter has the right, and the power, to shape global conversation and change our world. Unfortunately their commercial interests are not truly aligned with the responsibility they are entrusted. We need an impartial non-profit company to take Twitter’s place and become the true real-time-messaging backbone of the internet.

The current situation, with Twitter owning real-time-messaging is like saying ATT owns email, or Facebook owns the internet.

Let’s be clear, Twitter created a free ubiquitous protocol for all to use, and then they withdrew access to it and claimed it for themselves. In other words, they created a single protocol and invited the open market to create multi-variant clients to use it (just like email, or http).

How can one commercial company be allowed to own a protocol such as http or email? Furthermore, Twitter’s new terms and conditions have made some astonishing demands and rules that seem to show the true color of the companies leadership. For example they forbid intermingling between Twitter and other social networks on the same screen.

Geeks Have The Power

If we, as geeks, could build awesome apps and use our influence to promote and get a critical mass into sky.net, it could be a defining moment for the internet when free-speech and anti-walled garden ideals won-out.

Interestingly, Twitter’s own greedy move of limiting 3rd party clients to a maximum of 100,000 users ensures that existing (and new) client developers would make every effort to move to a system like sky.net.

Funding

After reaching critical mass (of say 100m users) it would be easy for sky.net to maintain donations and funding. After all, if an API developer was making millions of profit (think Hootsuite, Datasift) they would have a very high motivation to regularly donate to sky.net to ensure its upkeep. However, they would not be unable to alter the non-profit manifesto of sky.net. Philanthropists may also consider donating to sky.net in the name of unbiased and open free speech. It’s also worth mentioning that with new open source scaling technology, sky.net might be comparatively inexpensive to run.

Ecosystem & Investment

If sky.net really existed it would be a more secure option for any company or investor that is doing business with Twitter today. The sky.net manifesto would be rock solid and would ensure that an unbiased free market prevailed. It would also ensure that API capabilities would not be pulled from under any responsible developers feet. The investment surge that happened during early Twitter days could be free to be re-sparked due to renewed investors confidence in an unwavering unbiased platform.

sky.net would have no obligation other than to make a great API for other vendors to capitalize on, and it would not cost users or developers anything.

 

Honor in Business

Have you ever had business dealings with someone who treated you without honor? I personally believe that one does not need to step-on other people in order to get ahead in business.

Both myself, and friends of mine, have been on the receiving end of dishonorable business dealings at one point or another during our career.

Ultimately, how you decide to treat people you do business with is up to you. But remember, as you sail along, you will be leaving in your wake ripples of either honor or dishonor.

Yelp, You Cost Me $2000 by Suppressing Genuine Reviews, Here’s How You Fix It

Dear Yelp,

It’s highly likely that you’re costing your users millions of dollars by offering some astonishingly bad recommendations.

For example, I did business with a moving company based on 5 star recommendations that you presented.

As a result I was strong-armed into paying $2000 more than originally quoted. I spent 40 days without any furniture and quite a few of my belongings have been misplaced – forever.

I’ve always loved your site. I love your startup story. I love your crowd sourcing review model. For years now I’ve been using Yelp to help me make decisions about where to eat and what to purchase. Yelp has never steered me wrong. So what happened this time? How come your reviewers were so far off the mark?

They weren’t.

Your reviewers described exactly what I experienced and warned against this company again and again. But you hid all of those reviews.

Wait, what? Why would you do that?

After Googling the issue I found out that some time back you introduced a very difficult to notice and access filter link (screen shot here) to hide reviews that seem to be fake. You also introduced an automated algorithm that flags suspicious looking reviews and shuffles them into the filtered section.

Your algorithm typically hides entries by people who only post one review and who don’t otherwise engage in Yelp. Your assumption is that if a user only posts one review, posts no comments, has no friends etc. then most likely they are fake and trying to game the system.

Let’s call this “Assumption X”.

In the case of the company that I mention above (the one that ripped me off) Assumption X is exactly wrong at least 10 out of 14 times. Just to be clear, 10 honest one star reviews have been hidden from public view. That’s a 71% false positive hit rate.

So why did Yelp get it wrong 10 times?

In each case the one star review was left by someone who would never normally leave a review… they were simply so outraged that they were motivated to signup to Yelp and try to warn others how bad this company is. None of them ever used Yelp again. Furthermore, they didn’t have the knowledge or inclination to try to make their Yelp profile look acceptable to Yelp’s automated suppression systems.

The Cost of Assumption X

In this instance Assumption X has cost me personally $2000. If you extrapolate my loss to all other Yelp users it would be easy to imagine at least 50 other people per year would make the same purchasing decision I did based on Yelp’s 5 star presentation of this company.

It seems fair to estimate that Assumption X is hurting Yelp users to the tune of $100,000 per year – for this one company. There are approximately 5 million companies in the USA and over 20 million reviews on Yelp.

When I think how many genuine and helpful reviews must be hidden from view due to Assumption X, my mind boggles at how much money is being lost by people who trust Yelp to help them make purchasing decisions.

We’re not only talking about small stuff like restaurants and cafes, we’re talking about large stuff like moving companies, kitchen installation and car dealerships.

I don’t believe you are purposefully trying to cost Yelp users tens of millions of dollars per year by dishing out bad advice, I just think you haven’t tested Assumption X thoroughly enough.

Sockpuppeting

Perhaps even worse, reputation management companies are very familiar with Assumption X and know how to game Yelp. All they need to do is create and nurture sockpuppet accounts that look real. Once a few “real” looking accounts rally round a planted 5 star review by befriending the author, commenting on the review and flagging the review as helpful… hey, presto, it’s out of the filter and onto the main page.

So now we have a situation where Yelp’s automation systems regularly flags real reviews as fake and fake reviews as real.

The Fix

The quick fix is for you to alter Yelps automated algorithms to pick up on pattens of outrage. These kind of companies (the ones that rip you off) will most likely have many long and carefully written one star reviews that are hidden by the filter and will have a few five star reviews that reputation management companies have managed to get through.

However, I don’t recommend that fix, as it would be Assumption Y.

A better fix (a real fix) would be to introduce an optional (yes, I said optional) Yelp verification system that allows users to go through a painless question based identity verification process. This would not be hard to do. Question based identity verification processes are already used and supplied under the hood by agencies such as TransUnion, Equifax & Experian.

Then, when a user joins Yelp and has completed their first review, you can present them with the option of quick and painless question based identity verification. You can explain this will make it very likely that their review will go live.

Question based identity verification can be very painless. I have used systems that confirmed my real identity within less than a minute. The system simply asked my name and address, then it used credit history knowledge (supplied by on of the previously mentioned credit bureaus) to ask a few questions such as:  “When you were living at 123 Main Street, were you living with John Smith?, John Doe? etc”. All I had to do was answer three multiple choice questions and hey presto my identity was validated.

The results of the verification process would not need to be published in any other way than to say “Verified Yelp User”.. oh, and of course, to push the reviews out of the filter and onto the main page.

As long as you only allowed each valid identity to appear once on the Yelp this system would be “very hard” to game. After all, it’s easy to create sock puppet accounts when all you need is an email address… but not so easy if each account needs a unique verified credit history associated with it.

Now that you are a public company and have a market cap of $1.5 billion, I’m quite sure that you have the resources to implement such a system, which will be better for everyone.

Update 1: Some folks have asked me to mention that I originally discussed this issue in a bit more detail here (6 mins in).

Update 2: Some people have said that users might find the proposed solution creepy. There is no reason they would have to. It would be as simple as asking the user a question “Please validate your a real person by answering these few questions”. As far as the user is concerned it’s just a few questions and answers.

Update 3: If you want to see sockpuppeting in all its glory have a look at these two reviews posted by “Bob” (both posted on the same day) about the moving company that ripped me off.

Update 4: For in-depth discussion of this post with ALL the angles explored, please see this discussion thread here.

Did you hear the one about the Irish ATM?

I had a fantastic trip to Ireland for the new year. During my trip I used an ATM machine to get some cash out. I was surprised by the default cash options. I’ve been racking my brains and can’t seem to come up with any sensible rationale for these amounts. Do you have any idea what the business objectives might be here? (See below pic)

Answers in the comments please!

 

The Last Of The “JV Songs”…?

I was rummaging around my Hard Disk and found this song. It’s the last full song that I wrote and recorded before I gave up trying to be a professional musician. It makes me think that one day, if I can get some free time, I’ll make “that album” that I’ve always wanted to make. One day…

Shine (Needs a decent set of headphones to be heard as intended.)

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Download

Vonage Visual Voice Mail

When someone calls and leaves me a message, Vonage tries to transcribe it… and then emails it to me. Here’s one I got today:

Hello this message is for Justin Benson, this is leave it out I’ve been on the eighth seminar from putting shelves in the school. I just called to remind your appointment for today at 145. I’ll do your home 212, 3B Star rolls of how the height, 2123 at least I will know how the heights. Please call me at xxx-xxx and this is for your birthday Michelle, it’s Sharon blood in her urine testing. Okay thank you. bye bye