Marshall Kirkpatrick's Blog Discovering awesome new things on the Internet since 2005.

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Dreaming of the Perfect Friend Adder, MyBlogLog Came Close Today

Filed under: Knowledge Management,My Services,Reviews — Marshall Kirkpatrick @

Super-cookie service MyBlogLog just emailed users to let us know about a new “friend finder” the site is offering. The feature is remarkable because it makes it really easy to add your friends from around the web – without asking you for any passwords! With just a few clicks your friends on services from Flickr to FriendFeed can become your friends on MyBlogLog. I wish everyone did that. Here’s a few bullet points on the implementation that could be helpful for other application developers to consider.

  • This doesn’t just work with early adopters. Most services have you “add friends” by asking for your email password because that’s where most of the online world has most of its friends. It’s creepy though and a bad practice to do that. MyBlogLog can grab the “Friend of a Friend” (FOAF) data from your public profiles at services like Flickr, Facebook and MySpace – hardly a tiny set of bleeding edge users. Your application could consider doing the same. Think also about using the new GMail contacts API.
  • There’s still no “add all” link. In what I assume was a silly oversight, there’s no link to “add all” when you pull up your friends from these networks. You have to add them one at a time. It would be nice to be able to select all and then deselect a few. That’s no small thing, it would make a big difference in growing the service and I assume they will fix that soon. As it is, the list of 20 friends at a time gets mixed up a bit like FriendFeed recommendations. Implementation of both are clunky though and could scale much better by presenting more options at once and displaying more information about users you are prompted to add as friends.
  • Service discovery could be faster. MyBlogLog is “discovering friends” via the public profile pages you filled out in your MBL profile. That process presents you with a long list of services from around the web and asks you to fill in the part of profile URLs where your username goes. Everyone should check out how Lijit discovers new accounts from other sites. It asks you “what is your most common username” and then searches to see where it can find an account with that username. You then confirm or deny each one and can enter exceptions to your standard username on any particular service. It’s really smooth and smart. I wish MyBlogLog and everyone else did it that way.

Almost every service on the web wants to connect users with their friends elsewhere, for aggregate activity feed displays or “viral introductions.” There are some best practices emerging for doing that, though. Companies looking to implement such features should take a look at oAuth and at Niall Kennedy’s recent post on user authentication best practices. If you want to see something cool about MyBlogLog, I’d also recommend checking out the BlogJuice bookmarklet. You’ll like it, I promise.

Testing IntenseDebate Commenting Service – Please Leave a Comment

Filed under: Reviews — Marshall Kirkpatrick @

It’s OpenID friendly, it’s feature-rich, it’s Intense Debate. Check it out, leave a comment, heck leave one comment then leave another telling me how the commenting experience was. I’ll be writing it up on Read/WriteWeb later this morning. Install was very easy, I can tell you that.

Looking for the Best Mind Mapping Tools

Filed under: Knowledge Management,Reviews — Marshall Kirkpatrick @

I’m a very recent convert to the belief that mind mapping tools can be valuable. After years of sneering at them as vague and superflous (without ever really trying them) I did a one hour consulting gig with the folks over at Imindi a week or so ago.

Now I am hesitant to think about anything without the ability to “write it down” in a mind map. The ability to document the free flow of connected thoughts is just too seductive to pass up when thinking through complex proccesses.

I could use some help figuring out what the best mind mapping service is, though. Here’s my criteria so far – above in an image from MindMeister (which is AWESOME so far). Can you suggest anything I’m missing or favorite tools I should evaluate?

5 PR Pitches: The Good and Bad

Filed under: Blogging,Reviews — Marshall Kirkpatrick @

I wear two hats. I consult for companies on usability, market intelligence and launch planning. I also blog about new web applications and internet industry news over at Read/WriteWeb. I don’t write about my consulting clients, but after several years of experience working on both sides of the promotion game – I think I’ve got some pretty good advice. At least on what not to do!

I want to post here about some pitches I’ve gotten from PR people and I don’t need to look back further than 24 hours to find most of them that I want to use as examples. I look at probably 30 pitches a day, sometimes more.

Unforgettable (Usability): The SquidWho Login Experience

Filed under: My Services,Reviews — Marshall Kirkpatrick @

As part of some recent consulting work, I spent some time looking at the new people-search engine from Squidoo called SquidWho (it is not Squidoo I was consulting for). SquidWho is an interesting service that may or may not be worth using (in most cases I think not) but there are a lot of things the team is doing very, very well. It’s worth checking out the site’s user experience and use-flow; it’s all quite well put together.

The one thing I haven’t been able to get out of my head in the weeks that have passed since I tried the service out is how easy it was to get started with SquidWho. It’s simple, really – and I was kind of kidding about using the word unforgettable in the title of this post, but I really do keep thinking about it. It’s more like it’s unnoticeable for once!

Easy login is important because there are so many web applications launching every day that yours should be as pleasing to use as possible at every step or you’ll loose out on the use and advocacy of early adopters – at the very least.

The best investigative journalism in video on the web and how it pays its bills

Filed under: Podcasts,Reviews — Marshall Kirkpatrick @

Cross-posted from the SplashCast blog because I thought it would be of interest to readers here as well.

One of the promises of the internet is to democratize access to both information and publishing. That democratization, in theory, makes voices outside of the halls of power more capable of changing the world than they would be otherwise. The jury is still out as to how real all of that is. There are lots of people and organizations giving it a try. Good deeds alone rarely pay the rent, though, and a relatively small number of people online want to watch often-depressing investigative journalism when there’s so much fun to be had in other media sectors.

Liz Gannes wrote a good article last week about the monetization challenges faced by Alive in Baghdad, a project she called “arguably the best-positioned citizen news video outfit in the world.” AiB is pursuing licensing deals with major media outlets but advertising doesn’t seem to be a very viable option for sustaining this fantastic project.

Who else is doing great investigative journalism in video on the web? I spent a fair chunk of time looking, and asking other people for their favorites. Here’s the best projects that I’ve found so far. Please leave more in comments so we can all be inspired.

Rapleaf and its problems

Filed under: Reviews — Marshall Kirkpatrick @

A long weekend after catching some bad PR (ZDNet) for selling user data to third party companies, reputation management startup Rapleaf now appears to be spamming the emails of long-ago registered users. It looks like a case study of what not to do from a company I’ve been hoping would prove a success.

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