The Future of the Web is not the Like Button

Its encouraging to see some friendly faces next to a product you’re about to buy, and suggested additional purchases and products based on a much larger data set will be quite useful. However, what everyone is really looking for when they are shopping is a quality product or business. A facepile of friends who know nothing about digital cameras is not the best way to help me find the one that best suits my needs. The current like button is not a replacement for the link; its just a temporary filler for user generated content and point of sales information that the market for data is sorely lacking.

In my mind, the best approximations of where shopping and the internet is headed are Google’s Places and Product search pages. That model is the best representation of how an internet of things could look…..individual product and business pages with content, prices, and reviews collected and organized from numerous trusted sources, from experts to amateurs.

There is just one big problem; there still are huge gaps in the data market. Facebook, Foursquare and others have been trying to fill the gaps, or at least many are suggesting that their data can be used that way, but I don’t think anyone has gotten it just right yet. So if the Google Places/Products model is the future, what do they need to be really to fill in the blanks.

1. Verified user generated content.
On most sites anyone can like, review, or write about products or places whether or not you actually ate their or bought the product. I am sure you have seen your fair share of customer reviews out their whose authenticity should seriously be questioned. Currently, I think Google only uses reviews as a another crude approximation for the popularity of a business since they can’t be sure the reviews are authentic. There is a huge opportunity for reservation/appointment booking services, any website with a shopping cart, membership rewards programs, and point of sales services to provide verified content related to products or places.

For instance, Amazon could leverage Rateitall’s API to allow you to review your recent purchases from inside your account or from within a follow-up email. I can’t really speak on the effectiveness of rating products with “likes” versus “stars,” but there could be verified Facebook “likes” too. Opentable had the right idea in combining reservations with reviews.  Other than membership rewards programs, SCVNGR and QR codes are the only examples I have seen of verified check-ins.

2. A hierarchy of trusted content sources and reviewers.
If you are going to develop a product or place rank, not only do you have to verify the authenticity of sentiment and reviews, but you have to rank the trust of the content generators, websites and individuals.

3. Specialization of Places and Product pages.
Using a generalized layout for places and product pages is a sure way of making them ineffective at visualizing information for a sizable number of businesses and products. There are marked differences between service industry jobs, and local stores for instance. Additionally, certifications, honors, and professional affiliations for doctors and dentists are important pieces of information that should be prominently displayed (and ideally should be verified).

4. Manufacturers should be allowed to claim Product pages.
Algorithms collecting product information and features can’t fill in what they can’t find. You need product information that is as complete as possible to enable comparison of features and specification lists. If you can’t pull a complete and accurate list of this information from a trusted resource somewhere, at least allow manufacturers to do it themselves.

I am an orthodontic resident and not some tech expert so leave a comment and let me know what you think.

Twitter Search Results

I am not sure I totally get all the focus paid to incorporating Tweets into search results. Tweets that include images, video, and other links are simply providing attention and some context to pages containing valuable information. With respect to search they are just an additional dataset that can be used to refine results. I could see Google establishing a filter to view results with the most Twitter buzz or link to a list of Tweets supporting the content, but I seriously doubt the value having Tweets presented among traditional search results.

WP Greet Box Fix

As you can probably see this blog doesn’t have a whole lot of nuts and bolts, but I set up a social site for my Father’s office that has some goodies on it. I decided to add in the WP Greet Box plugin to it today. It worked great when clicking on individual posts; however, his blog has the Thesis theme and when arriving at the home page the darn Greet Box wasn’t popping up.

I found two great links (1 & 2) with information about troubleshooting and installation of the plugin on non-WP blogs.

After checking the page source, the solution was to add the following code to the custom_functions.php file:

function greetbox(){
?>
<div id=”greet_block”>
<script type=”text/javascript” src=”http://example.com/wp-includes/js/jquery/jquery.js”></script&gt;
<script type=”text/javascript” src=”http://example.com/wp-content/plugins/wp-greet-box/js/functions.js”></script&gt;
<script type=”text/javascript” src=”http://example.com/wp-content/plugins/wp-greet-box/js/onload.js”></script&gt;
</div>
<?php
}

add_action(‘thesis_hook_after_header’, ‘greetbox’);

Just replace example.com with your domain and add the hook you want and away you go. Maybe I added some extra lines, but it works so I am happy.

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The Problem with Mobile Ads

I wholeheartedly believe in the value of mobile ads, but right now they have one obvious flaw. Without a specific app (or mobile optimized website) the smartphone is not a platform for action.

You’re on your phone, you click on an ad and you end up on some worthless landing page where the font is too small, there is no one-click purchasing, and no icon to immediately chat or speak with a sales representative to answer my questions or take down my information. Congratulations…..I can see that Oracle is the number one business software company, but you really haven’t allowed me to do anything useful with that knowledge.

The only mobile ads I have seen properly implemented are ones for iPhone apps, where I can be redirected to the app store (which has all my payment information already) and I take immediate action with just a few taps of my finger. I think this should be the model for the rest of the mobile ad industry.

Here is how we solve this……….

For God’s sake design the landing pages for action
Make the landing page interactive and informative with just the essentials
Give me a big button allowing me to schedule a time for you to call me
Give me a big button to call, text, or chat with a sales rep….seriously people I am visiting your ad from my phone
Put more simply….design them with the functionality of a specific phone in mind

Mobile ad platforms need to be connected to e-payment platforms
I should be able to buy something simply by entering in my password; although, this wouldn’t be a problem if we had mainstream cell phone based payments

There should be options to share products via text or email
I have all my contacts at my finger tips let me tell them about your product

There needs to be a bookmark/favorite option
If its a book I might want to buy I should be able to save it to my wish list. I can save Twittered websites to Instapaper so why not save things I want to buy for later.

Anyway, that is just my two cents.

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Voice Tagging Images

I find Microsoft Recite very elegant, and it presents an interesting fork in the many applications of “voice recognition.”

At its most basis level, voice recognition software analyzes speech, and matches known words to their distinct set of syllables. Voice tagging is essentially a less precise implementation of voice recognition. Recite doesn’t match sounds to words, it matches sets of sounds to other larger sets of sounds that function like large tag clouds. The result is more available data for algorithms and thus more effective results.

The reason why I enjoy the simplistic approach of Recite, is that there are far more numerous and effective ways to communicate and store information than words. Pictures and other visualizations are the most effective communicators, and contain a large amount of intrinsic data (say a thousand words or so). It is obvious that tagging images with voice (and written words) is advantageous because the tags can be easily generated and recalled since they are based on the image; additionally, the associated voice data is already summarized in the image itself.

For these reasons, I feel that voice tagging is an effective method of manipulating images and visualizations. However, this really is only a valid solution when the cost & effort of creating voice tags is relatively low, or zero if it is part of a naturally occurring process as it is with recorded notes in Recite.

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Access to Dental Care

I had to present on access to care last Thursday, so I put together a stimulating, very non-fascist presentation with the little time I had. The slides could definitely use a lot of work. I wish I had a recording because I had like 7 cups of coffee while I was putting everything together the night before, and I was on fire. A good number of people in the room were offended by my logic, since they felt threatened by the decentralization of professional power, even though it would benefit dentists as much as anyone.

I am embedding the slideshow and my talking points below so you can follow along if you want to take the time. I wish I had planned ahead better, so it wouldn’t be so hard for everyone to view the presentation and the notes. I also had some rebuttal notes, that I used in handling questions and objections, but they are unintelligible and not in any shape to be posted. I hope you all enjoy it. If there is anything you would like more information about, post a comment and I’ll get back to you.

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Growl Notifications

I have been Tweeting a ton lately, and I’d like to encourage everybody who might be curious to check out my Twitter feed. Friendfeed’s recently added Twitter syncing feature allows me to super easily share with my followers all the stuff that I find interesting, along with the rest of my activity.

Laying down trying to go to sleep in spite of the coffee I had around 8PM, I starting thinking about Growl notifications and how no matter what corner of the screen I place them in they never feel quite right. Don’t get me wrong I love Growl, and it makes my job so much easier when I have a ton of different windows open, but I just feel like the notifications should have their own real estate where they don’t cover up my search bar or items on my desktop that I might need to see. It would be fantastic for the Growl team (or anyone) to offer a notification device designated for Growl alerts. You could even make it bluetooth compatible with a touchscreen (or have it as and iPhone app receiving updates via WiFi).

Notifications and activity streams are becoming more and more essential, and numerous people have discussed how OS’s are traditionally document oriented, not stream oriented. Most people’s alerts are pushed to their email inbox, which is underequiped for notifications and is easily cluttered. RSS readers are better, but are also not designed effectively enough. An ideal solution would be something of a hybrid application (web app or browser add-on with a desktop client), that is application oriented like Growl. To me it makes the most sense for this alert system to also have its own monitor and taskbar/dock with updates that don’t get in its own way. Notifications are just one of those things that shouldn’t get buried behind windows, get in the way of taking action (they should empower action), or be too small or out of the way to notice. I’d just like to see something that puts it all together.