Why doesn’t Google Reader support comments or discussions?

There was an interesting article that got linked on Hacker News the other day the asked why comments on news stories couldn’t be drawn to a central location (I read way too many articles and the breadcrumbs in my brain aren’t taking me back to it – can anyone please send me it?). For example, if on my blog I discuss something on TechCrunch. People coming to this blog comment on the story here. The article was asking why can’t the comments from this blog be combined with those on TechCrunch?

Personally, I can’t think of anything worse. Have you tried following a thread on Fark? Slashdot? Slashdot in particular relies on moderation to stay readable, and even then it’s easy to get lost in the sea of discussion.

Personally, I like to know what my friends and associates think of something. There have been “virtual comment boards” that require a plug-in or external software that let you comment on any site you’re at. But that’s a complete pain in the arse. I want something seamless and fits with my existing habits.

Over the last 6 months all of my friends who are interested in reading and disseminating information online have switched to Google Reader for organising all their sites. I am very impressed with it so far, and am amazed at how long it took me to make the switch. I think I’ve narrowed down the two things that (for me) make it a killer app.

  1. The ability to very very easily add new feeds
  2. The simplicity of navigation and reading itself

But I’ve felt like something is missing. Then it clicked. The other thing I’ve really enjoyed doing on Google Reader is sharing articles. I know that my friends will read them, and even my blog readers can pick up on them. However I’ve often wanted to add some commentary or a note to the article when I share it. Speaking with my wife and brother, they have also mentioned wanting the same thing. I had thought that given my wife works at Google she might go hassle the Google Reader team, but no luck. Searching their blog turns up nothing about whether it has even been a considered feature.

Here’s hoping that they really do try and read all feedback on blogs, and add the one last feature that will make it a truly killer app.

Youtube comments versus Metafilter comments

As a follow-up to my post the other day, I found a great mashup highlighting the differences between the two.

What I was served up just then. Youtube:

  • who ever said he was fat, better watch their ass!!!
  • nice song! i like it .. i appriciate it .. i think this one already happen to me ,, well thats life !
  • bastard
  • XD, I was being cliche and ironic, smartaaaass
  • (\__/) (=’.’=) (“)_(“) Most wicked thing from DRACULA’s country >> RadioLynx dot ro ! join now RADIOLYNX . RO >> go to the free chat!
  • dude u realy need to stop being a crack w***er ok and stop being rascist and dude word of advice walk into L.A and say that and u will be shot so wise the f**k up!!! P.S. i can say this im white…


  • When my husband and I first moved to Tucson, AZ – a notoriously low wage town, we used to sit at traffic lights in our third-hand car with no AC and wonder how everyone around us could afford huge trucks and SUVs. Now I know.
  • ackptui: You must be mistaken. Haven’t you heard Treasury Secretary Paulson state that the Bush administration has a ‘strong dollar policy’. I mean he said it so it must be true right?
  • Fight like a viking?
  • I have no idea why I put “laser printed” in that last sentence. It should be “ink jet printed”. Also, Bruce Schneider is much (much much) smarter than me, so I’m loathe to bring this up, but I never got the paranoia about contactless passport chips. If someone goes through a lot of trouble, they can discover, from a distance, without your knowledge … your name, and what city you were born in. Big whoop. And the only place where you can be certain that there are enough passports to make such a process worthwhile is an airport – one of the few places with a major, continuous security presence. There’s just not that much of interest on your passport chip.

People power versus algorithms

Very interesting article from Wired.  This is something I have struggled with personally.  Is it worth investing the time to automate a process, or is it just cheaper to outsource the smarts of up-and-coming countries?  Ultimately I’ve found that not only is it cheaper to outsource the work, but the quality of the results is much higher.  The main problems I’ve found are scalability and training.  Overcome these for your task at hand and the benefits are immense.

The vogue for human curation reflects the growing frustration Net users have with the limits of algorithms. Unhelpful detritus often clutters search results, thanks to online publishers who have learned how to game the system. Users have tired of clicking through to adware-laden splogs posing as legitimate resources. And unless you get your keywords just right, services like Google Alerts spew out either too much relevant content — or not enough.

Again, I have to say, the quality of the work just blows any automated stuff I’ve done out of the water.  However you do have to manage your sources – something like Amazon’s Mechanical Turk is a bit hit a miss, whereas something like Elance allows for a feedback system and a more personal relationship – just not the sheer bulk of work.

What the article doesn’t cover is the fact that most of this type of work is outsourced.  It would be very interesting to see what the demographics of the workers are like for something like Mechanical Turk.  So if this continues to grow in popularity, what are the long term effects of this going to be?  Will this help improve the skills of the contributors or just burn them out with mindless work?  I personally think the former – most of the projects I have seen are actually very interesting.  I know of people who use Mechanical Turk for fun and as a timewaster – certainly not as an income source.

Facebook application development

The company I currently work for, Trovix, is a job-matching company. The short description of our technology is that we have a search engine for jobs that understands concepts, not keywords. For example, when you type “java”, our search engine understands that it means a programming language, that it is object-oriented, that a branch of Java is called J2EE, etc. Keyword matching will simply try to match strings, so “java” won’t match “j2ee” normally, but will with our engine.

At the moment we are working on a Facebook application. Facebook’s API is very interesting from a developer’s perspective. It’s a bit of a mess, and from what I’ve seen not very well documented or updated (although as a product manager, I don’t often get the chance to work directly on code anymore) . That said, the ability to tap into an existing social network and existing functionality makes it very compelling. For our product we wanted to take advantage of existing social networks as a means of sharing the application (and the ability to send jobs to friends who you know are looking).

To make our application a bit more fun than just a “job site on Facebook” app, we calculate a rating for your resume. By looking at your history and skills, we compare them to what is being looked for in jobs currently on the market. We then give you a rating out of 100 as to how closely your resume matches what is out there. Over time we show you how this ebbs and flows. If you’re a great Ruby on Rails developer, you’ll probably have a high career score now. If Ruby ever falls out of favour, then you can sadly watch it decline. If it becomes more popular (due to increased performance and stability perhaps? Any Ruby developers out there know what I’m talking about), watch your career score soar! People who view your profile can see how in demand you’ve been lately.

As for useful functionality, we make recommendations on your newsfeed when we find a well-matched job for you. This is a nice unobtrusive way to be shown potentially interesting jobs, and is great for the passive seekers out there.

The application is in beta, but if you want to give it a try, simply go to http://facebook.trovix.com/facebook/ and add it to your account!

Advertising versus Reality

I always love these sort of things, they never get old. Funtasticus recaps pundo3000.com‘s list of food advertising versus reality. Burgers are an old favourite for these sort of things, and of course the Whopper makes an early appearance. Not much else to say, the pictures speak for themselves. Actually maybe you don’t want to look, as all it does is show how unappetizing almost all processed food is (particularly German processed food apparently).

Processed German Food

(via Museum of Hoaxes)

How to name a startup

Since I started working in the Silicon Valley, I’ve been exposed to a huge number of companies which would not normally show up on my radar. One thing I’ve noticed is the naming conventions seemingly followed by everyone. Startup name choices seem to be strategies to get unique domain names, so I guess it’s not surprising that people are following them, but I did expect a few longer/nonsensical/obscure names rather than the similarity I’ve seen.


You can start with the kind of boring variation of using numbers in the domain. There’s 23andMe (genetics), 30Boxes (calendars), 37Signals (webapps), 280 North (PowerPoint clone), and 1000 tags (tag clouds). Kind of memorable, but meh. Too many of these and it will just end up being too confusing – perhaps 26components.com for a dictionary website? (Apparently available too! My free tip for the day).

Double letters

Of course the original contender in this section is Digg. However I first properly noticed the naming trend on the Freakonomics blog. Steven Levitt was pimping his friends’ (Ian Ayres and Dean Karlan) new site StickK. I’d already read about Mixx on TechCrunch at that point and I knew a new pattern had been born. Since then I’ve also seen Jott, Kwiqq, Pligg and the triple-lettered Spottt.

This is an approach I used when I was 15, and my online nickname stopped being available everywhere I went (I managed to get a 6 letter common word for my Yahoo email account in 1997. That lasted only 6 months before spam destroyed it, even back then). So I started with a double letter. Then that got taken so I tried a triple. That got taken, so I tried a double at the start and end. Boom, gone. My final effort was to mix numbers and double letters – something we’ll no doubt soon see from startups.

Names ending with “o”. Bonus points: ending with “bo”.

I remember discussing Meebo (the online IM solution) with a work colleague who used to work for Migo and laughing out loud at the names (we both currently work for Trovix, which I’ll get to below). Thinking about it we realised we knew Bebo, Akimbo, Ameego, Vimeo, and Quigo amongst others. So I did a quick scan of TechCrunch and found the following honourable mentions: Amigo, Billeo, Eskobo, Pikeo, Quaero, Zipingo, Zlango, Zudeo, Retrevo, Teqlo, and Zoozio.

“-ix” is the new “-ama”.

Like “futurama” and its ensuing effect on naming things with “ama” at the end, putting an “ix” on the end of names is the new way to sound like we’re in the future. I work for a startup called Trovix, so we fit this particular mould (however we are five years old and our naming comes from the French word trouver, meaning “to find”). I’ve recently been interested in what Topix have been doing for providing local news feeds. MeeMix should technically come under the double letter listing given its meaning, but for even distribution I’ll include it here. Other notable mentions are Bix, Blogtronix, Kosmix, Asterpix and Nirvanix.

Nonsensical “b” words

These ones just leave me scratching my head. I saw the Blinkx.com billboard driving into San Francisco one day. The site’s not bad, and I suppose the address is somewhat memorable, if grating. Others include Blyk, Boomj, Buxfer and Buzka.

Verb without the e (or similar variation)

Here we’ve hit the motherlode. I had thought Flickr (2004) kicked this off, but it is likely that they were influenced by the Razr mobile phone from Motorola which was released in 2003. Flickr has to be one of my all-time favourite Web 2.0 apps (and just seem to be getting better), followed closely by Google Maps and Gmail. However the naming convention they spawned is inexcusable. I’m not even going to discuss the sites, just rattle them off so the sheer bulk doesn’t lose its effect.
Ampd, Blogrovr, Bookr, Blufr, Browsr (not to be confused with browzar), Bullshitr, Buzzd, Cluztr, Coastr, Tumblr, dopplr, FiltrBox, Flagr, Frappr, Graspr, Gtalkr, Grazr, Isolatr, Livecastr, Mixd, Wundrbr, Pluggd, Portrayl, Preloadr, Prerollr, Priceprotectr, protomobl, Raptr, Readr, Zoomr, Resizr, Retrievr, Scanr, Scribd, Shifd, Simkl, Skreemr, Socializr, Soonr, Stockpickr, Talkr, Trezr, Twixtr and Wrickr.

Everyone loves Tuvalu

While Tuvalu slowly gets engulfed by waters (thanks global warming!) we can at least thank them for their domain name – .tv. I’ll also include .fm, since Micronesia is close enough. If you have a video-related product, you’d better snap up a .tv domain! The first domain to bring this trend to my attention was Justin.tv. The fantastic last.fm also snagged a great domain to start the music related domain trend. Speaking of last.fm, I have to say – they got this site right. The viral nature of it, the UI, the licensing, everything. The experience is fantastic, particularly the social nature of it. I tried looking up some old bands that I enjoyed and it instantly connected me with some other die-hard fans. Music-lovers’ nirvana. Honourable mentions in this category: Blip.tv, Brightspot.tv, Chime.tv, Click.tv, Cozmo.tv, Tubecast.tv, Fastcompany.tv, Syndicaster.tv, intunes.fm, me.tv, social.fm, syndicaster.tv, tripr.tv, Next.tv and social.im (okay, so .im is Isle of Man, but it follows the same idea as the others).

Let’s split a word (or words) with random dots

What I find incredibly frustrating with this category is trying to remember where the dots go. I’m always scared as to where I’ll end up if I get this wrong. The most famous is of course del.icio.us, and another early entry was grouphug.us. Through TechCrunch I keep reading about more and more that follow this. Some are kind of interesting, like outside.in, while others such as ma.gnolia.com are relatively pointless. Honourable mentions include Co.mments.com, Competito.us, Fav.or.it, g.ho.st. overhear.us and SingleStat.us.

“q” instead of “c” is the new black

On some primitive level this one really bugs me. I guess it’s because it’s hard to automatically read a “q” as a “c” sound. It just looks like something is wrong and makes your brain stop and think for a minute. No matter, it’s an alternative, and the domain names are available, so here we go. Disqus is the one that’s all over the blogs at the moment, although I had previously come across Seeqpod. I was surprised to find the following startups out there as well: eqo, Fiql, Fliqz, Plasq, Qik and Talqer.

Bonus category: “z” instead of “s”

I think I’ve noticed this type of naming pattern because reading the name just jars something in my brain. It doesn’t help that I associate sites that do this with brokennewz.com. Or maybe I unconsciously associate the “z” with amateurism, which is why I was surprised to find out that a competitor to Trovix is Itzbig.com. And maybe sites like Payloadz and Utterz have been influenced by Orbitz. Who can say for sure? All I know is that they still read like names your kid brother might come up with… sorry guys.

The original – <name>ster

Napster came out in 1999 and set a standard for naming that has only been beaten by dropping vowels. Friendster came in 2002, while Jobster showed up in 2004. Since then we’ve also managed to have Feedster, Browster, Dogster, Eurekster, Famster, Flixster, glogster, Jookster, Kluster, Loopster, Snubster and Talkster all show up as well.

My future predictions

So it’s all well and good to identify existing trends, but I’m sure you’re all asking, “but what’s next Tim?”. Well, I’ll tell you. Two categories:

1 – “al” words


2 – Ripping off other names

For the first category, we see distal and drupal as the up and comers, both making decent amounts of noise in the blogosphere. In the second category, it’s been quite quiet, but I was surprised to see Prospero taking on the well-known Prosper (a great idea, and a well-executed site by the way), but at least they were in different industries.

Youtube comments are incredibly homogenous

You can basically pick a Youtube video at random and all the comments will follow a similar line. I was sent a clip to a nature video (kind of gruesome, but that’s the way nature works), and I just love the way the most recent comments are almost identical to every other clip I’ve looked at.

Lucasibby (21 hours ago)
this is supid man BORING!!!!!!!!!!!!!

deghostz (1 day ago)
im going to to assume your a racist ****?

satv365 (1 day ago)
Hahah, Buffalo takes one with him. Buffapwnage!

afzdad (1 day ago)

Adaeze611 (1 day ago)
so ahat would peda have to say about this….would they confront the lion and be like…”that is cruelty to animals”

DreamProfessional (1 day ago)
I find buffalo being eating disturbing but I watch anyway lol.

Bonus link – xkcd.com’s take on this exact problem.

This Internet thing – it ain’t gonna last.

Hilariously off-the-mark article published by Newsweek in 1995 by Clifford Stoll. Some excerpts:

After two decades online, I’m perplexed. It’s not that I haven’t had a gas of a good time on the Internet. I’ve met great people and even caught a hacker or two. But today, I’m uneasy about this most trendy and oversold community. Visionaries see a future of telecommuting workers, interactive libraries and multimedia classrooms. They speak of electronic town meetings and virtual communities. Commerce and business will shift from offices and malls to networks and modems. And the freedom of digital networks will make government more democratic.

I always love a good future prediction, especially when it comes true. The best though is when someone makes an “anti-prediction” that then comes to pass.

Nicholas Negroponte, director of the MIT Media Lab, predicts that we’ll soon buy books and newspapers straight over the Intenet. Uh, sure.

Wait, wait, it gets better! It reminds me of someone who reviewed Wikipedia in 2001. Expecting so much from a nascent product, without any foresight to possibilities.

What the Internet hucksters won’t tell you is tht the Internet is one big ocean of unedited data, without any pretense of completeness. Lacking editors, reviewers or critics, the Internet has become a wasteland of unfiltered data. You don’t know what to ignore and what’s worth reading. Logged onto the World Wide Web, I hunt for the date of the Battle of Trafalgar. Hundreds of files show up, and it takes 15 minutes to unravel them–one’s a biography written by an eighth grader, the second is a computer game that doesn’t work and the third is an image of a London monument. None answers my question, and my search is periodically interrupted by messages like, “Too many connectios, try again later.”

It’s at this point I’m starting to wonder if this is an elaborate hoax. The comments read like parody – the equivalent of the fake “what women were thought of in the 1950s” articles you occasionally see floating around.

Then there’s cyberbusiness. We’re promised instant catalog shopping–just point and click for great deals. We’ll order airline tickets over the network, make restaurant reservations and negotiate sales contracts. Stores will become obselete. So how come my local mall does more business in an afternoon than the entire Internet handles in a month? Even if there were a trustworthy way to send money over the Internet–which there isn’t–the network is missing a most essential ingredient of capitalism: salespeople.

I have enjoyed a virtually salesperson-free existence since 2003 and love it. Being able to research my decision from a wide-variety of products and then choose the best deal is how things should be done.