web 2.0

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Latest from TechCrunch

CrowdEye Adds Location And Sentiment Filters To Realtime Search
  • Oprah Goes Mobile With iPhone, BlackBerry, Palm and Android Apps
  • Workstreamer Is A Realtime Listening And Tracking Platform For Businesses
  • Are Like Buttons Evil? The Open Web Reacts To Facebook’s Not-So-Open Graph
  • New Market Study Shows iPhone Continues To Be Big In Japan
  • Exodus! Movement of G People… From Facebook After F8
  • Nook Update Adds “Read in Store” Functionality
  • Palm Runs Out Of Options As HTC Reviews, Declines To Buy The Company
  • Ron Conway’s SVAngel Closes $20 Million Venture Fund. He Tells Us How He’ll Invest It [Video]
  • Aw, shucks… TechCrunch Europe Shortlisted In Media Awards
  • Fixing Silicon Valley’s Gender Gap One Pitch At A Time
  • Facebook And Microsoft Check-In With Foursquare. Will Crowley Sell?
  • August Capital And CRV Spend $11.2 Million At Blippy. Valuation Now $46.2 Million.
  • One Millionsquare: Foursquare Hits The Big Number
  • EdgeRank: The Secret Sauce That Makes Facebook’s News Feed Tick
  • Kissing The Mark Pincus Zynga Ring
  • Did Someone Finally Pull The Plug On Bloglines Or Is It Just Having A Bad Day?
  • I Hate Computers: Confessions Of A Sysadmin
  • History Channel Turns Foursquare Into A Real World Pop-Up Video
  • Windows 7 Pushes Microsoft’s Profits Up 34.5 Percent; Bing And Xbox Live Kicking It Too (Slides)
  • Oh My God, Apple Just Passed Microsoft In Market Cap!!!! Wait. Nope.
  • Amazon: Kindle Is Still No. 1 Product, Now Includes 500,000 Titles
  • Foursquare Becomes More Business-Friendly
  • CrowdEye Adds Location And Sentiment Filters To Realtime Search

    Posted: 23 Apr 2010 08:50 AM PDT

    Realtime search has come a long way from just a year ago when the only option really was Twitter’s own search engine. Now Google, Bing, and a gaggle of realtime search startups all have products up and running (even Facebook is expanding its own realtime search to include everybody’s public stream). Today, one of those realtime search startups, CrowdEye, released a bunch of new features that point the way to a better realtime search experience. In particular, it lets you filter your search by location and sentiment (expect Google and Bing to copy some of these soon).

    CrowdEye is part of an early group of startups who recently got access to Twitter’s full firehose of Tweets. Today, it turned on that firehose and is indexing a full 14 days of everything on Twitter. CrowdEye returns both links and Tweets as results, and lets you sort by relevance or time. It uses its own CrowdRank algorithm to come up with the most relevant Tweets.

    But the best new features are the ones that let you sort by location and sentiment. The location filter shows only Tweets that come from a particular city or spot on a map (you can literally just place a marker on a drop-down Google Map to choose the location). The sentiment filter is more rudimentary. It only allows you to boost positive or negative results, but it doesn’t show you the overall sentiment for a keyword.

    CEO Ken Moss says he hasn’t built that yet, but it shouldn’t be too hard and could show how sentiment changes over time. Brands would love that, as well as the ability to get an overall sentiment score by location. With CrowdEye’s new features, you can already filter by location and sentiment and read through the stream of results. For instance, here are negative Tweets about Pizza Hut in Chicago (“Why does pizza hut smell like this? How can people really ignore this odor? Why? Why? Why?”), and here are positive Tweets (“Just used the Pizza Hut app for the first time. Overall, great UX and pretty good pizza to back it up. Will definitely use it again.”). Oh yeah, brands are going to be all over realtime location search.

    My one compliant: There are no links back to each individual Tweet, only back to the Twitter account it came from.

    Oprah Goes Mobile With iPhone, BlackBerry, Palm and Android Apps

    Posted: 23 Apr 2010 08:38 AM PDT

    Oprah is going mobile today with the launch of branded mobile applications for the iPhone, BlackBerry, Palm Pre and Google Android. You can download the apps here. Developed by Hands-On Mobile and Harpo Studios, Oprah Mobile offers the ability to access and interact with content from Oprah.com through an app. But these apps aren’t free: the apps range from $1.99 (iPhone) to $2.99 (BlackBerry)

    Features of Oprah Mobile include video clips and previews from "The Oprah Winfrey Show." Users can also participate in exclusive weekly polls, listen to audio clips, read articles and view photo galleries and highlights from Oprah.com, O, The Oprah Magazine and Oprah Radio, and even keep up with Oprah's tweets.

    Oprah has steadily been ramping up her show’s offerings on the web, most recently redesigning Oprah.com with a more streamlined look and feel earlier this year. And of course Oprah took to Twitter last year and quickly amasses a million followers. It’s interesting that the apps are paid, and I wonder if users will be willing to shell out money to access content that is available for free online. And surely, Harpo Studios and OWN must be strategizing their mobile and tech offerings for Oprah’s new network that is scheduled to launch next year. Perhaps these apps are a way to test the waters.

    Workstreamer Is A Realtime Listening And Tracking Platform For Businesses

    Posted: 23 Apr 2010 08:15 AM PDT

    The social web is now an integral part of any CRM or sales operation. Information from blogs, news sites, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, has become a necessary element to help convert sales leads. Companies like Hoovers, InsideView and even Salesforce are now providing businesses with this relevant information. A new product is launching today, called Workstreamer, that aims to be a real-time business listening platform. The web-based application is tailored for business professionals looking to stay informed on customers, prospects, competitors, partners and vendors. Workstreamer, which is free for now, pulls in information from a vast amount of sources; from blogs and published news articles to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Jigsaw, YouTube, Indeed (jobs) and SEC filings as well as account update events from CRM systems like Salesforce.com. Workstreamer then aggregates, filters, processes, ranks and streams that information to business professionals to act on, allowing users to customize their streams and information. Workstreamer also includes a proprietary technology that scores new sources according to relevancy to a keyword search.

    Are Like Buttons Evil? The Open Web Reacts To Facebook’s Not-So-Open Graph

    Posted: 23 Apr 2010 06:05 AM PDT

    The tech community is still digesting the implications of Facebook’s plans to spread its “Like” buttons everywhere and take over the Web with its so-called Open Graph. The Open Graph is a hugely ambitious project to build social hooks into every Website. It aims to add a layer of social connections and instant personalization based on people’s interests and “likes” on every single page on the Web. It is also the basis for a Web-wide identity system based on Facebook IDs.

    The Open Graph is open only in name. It is a Facebook-controlled protocol and set of APIs. Facebook takes the data but doesn’t give back in the same degree. It is open, says Kevin Marks, as in “open your underwear drawer.” All Of Your Likes Are Belong To Us. Already, advocates of the open Web are stirring and rallying against this proposed social hegemony. Hunch founder/seed investor Chris Dixon and a ragtag crew of other New York City technologists are arguing for a counterweight in the form of the OpenLike protocol, which adds like buttons from other sites beyond Facebook such as Digg, StumbleUpon, and Hunch. Dixon Tweets:

    it’s actually open! not open in the opengraphprotocol zuck will decide sense but you-can-do-whatever-you-want open!!

    Chris Messina (aka, Mr. OpenID) explains his objection in a blog post:

    Here's the rub though: those Like buttons only work against Facebook. I can't just be signed in to any social web provider… it's got to be Facebook. And on top of that, whenever I "like" something, I'm sending a signal back to Facebook that gets recorded on both my profile, and in my activity stream.

    Ok, not a big deal, but think laterally: how about this? What if Larry and Sergey wanted to recreate PageRank today?

    You know what I bet they wish they could have done? Forced anyone who wanted to add a page to the web to authenticate with them first. . . . Authenticated PageRank where everyone that wants to be listed has to get a Google account first. Sounds kind of smart, right?

    Except — shucks — there's one problem with this model: it's evil.

    A lot of this boils down to a nerd fight that Zuckerberg is likely to win. After all he has nearly 500 million users on his side, who everyone else wants access to. These open alternatives are starting at zero. However, Facebook cannot be surprised at this reaction. In fact, there is some evidence it anticipated it (one of the color-scheme options for the like button, now since gone, was to set it to “evil”). It needs to tread carefully, though, and make some goodwill gestures to make the Open Graph actually more open in the sense that it doesn’t just exist on its databases.

    We should all be able to take our likes with us to Twitter, or Google, or any of a million Websites. Yeah, we all know the chances of that happening. In the meantime, be sure to hit the like button at the top of this post.

    New Market Study Shows iPhone Continues To Be Big In Japan

    Posted: 23 Apr 2010 06:00 AM PDT

    A lot has been written on how the iPhone performs in Japan, the world's most advanced mobile nation, but the general consensus in this country now is that it sells very well (even though both Apple and provider SoftBank Mobile refuse to break down Japan-specific sales numbers). It's rumored that the number of iPhones sold in Japan has passed 3 million. There are reasons for this success (super-low pricing, aggressive marketing, Apple's pre-iPhone brand popularity in Japan, clever product positioning by SoftBank, etc. etc.), but we're talking about a country in which basically every cell phone is a smartphone, a country where you'd be hard-pressed to find a handset without a digital TV tuner or e-wallet function, for example.

    Exodus! Movement of G People… From Facebook After F8

    Posted: 23 Apr 2010 05:57 AM PDT

    Well I bet they didn't quite expect that. In the wake of Facebook's F8 conference this week, where it apparently bid to become the new Sheriff of the Internet, Facebook's plans to effectively put 'social' into the very structure of the Web has a few people a little concerned. The main issue is that there are concerns that Facebook, by default, now opts you in to allowing third party sites like Yelp to 'personalise' your experience, and there are questions about how much information is given away. The result is that lots of geeks are considering leaving Facebook, and perhaps even more interestingly, veritable droves of Google software engineers are among them.

    Nook Update Adds “Read in Store” Functionality

    Posted: 23 Apr 2010 05:38 AM PDT

    Huh. This is interesting. So Barnes & Noble just added "Read in Store" functionality to the Nook, a feature that allows you to browse any ebook on your Nook while you're in the store. When you leave, the ebook disappears. It's the Brigadoon of ebook reading. The update also adds chess, soduku, and some improvements to speed and UI. However, the Read in Store is the real star. But is it valuable? I mean when is the last time you stood in a store, in front of a book, and then said to yourself "Hey, I'd like to see this on a screen." While I'm totally down with the concept, this doesn't do much for the long-tail books that aren't situated front and center by the doors. If you want to update right now, pop over here. Click through for the press release.

    Palm Runs Out Of Options As HTC Reviews, Declines To Buy The Company

    Posted: 23 Apr 2010 02:13 AM PDT

    According to a report based on a source from an Asia-based Reuters correspondent, smartphone maker HTC has decided not to bid for Palm after looking at the company’s numbers. The source, which reportedly has direct knowledge of the talks, said there “weren’t enough synergies to take the deal forward”.

    That leaves Palm, which has been struggling to boost sales of its new range of smartphones, running out of options fast.

    Bloomberg on April 12 reported that the Pre and Pixi maker had tapped Goldman Sachs and Frank Quattrone's Qatalyst Partners to find a buyer. HTC was cited by a host of industry pundits as the best fit.

    If the Reuters report checks out, this means bad news for Palm, even if CEO and former Apple exec Jon Rubinstein has been telling press that the company could survive as an independent company in spite of disappointing sales of its flagship handsets. Rubinstein has also expressed interest in an alternative route to an outright acquisition, namely to start licencing other smartphone makers use of its webOS operating system in their devices.

    We should note that Palm’s head of software and services has just quit the company to pursue a career at Twitter. More and more, Palm looks to be a sinking ship.

    It makes the company’s new slogan for webOS all the more ironic: “Life moves fast. Don't miss a thing.”

    According to this morning’s Reuters report, the only major Asian bidder now left in the field expected to show an interest in the plagued smartphone and software maker is Lenovo, after HTC apparently declining to bid and Huawei dropping out of the bidding race earlier. Lenovo, the world’s number 4 PC brand, had more than $2.4 billion in net cash reserves at the end of 2009, according to its website.

    Other potential buyers that have been cited by industry analysts in the past include Dell, ZTE, HP, Acer and Nokia.

    Question is: if even the most likely buyer is not pleased with the numbers, who would be?

    (Thanks, NeverKnowTech)

    Ron Conway’s SVAngel Closes $20 Million Venture Fund. He Tells Us How He’ll Invest It [Video]

    Posted: 22 Apr 2010 09:43 PM PDT

    In February we reported that legendary angel investor Ron Conway was raising a small seed fund for SV Angel from outside investors – which is notable because for the last decade or so he has only invested his own money in startups.

    Today Conway came by our studio for an unscheduled talk and right off the bat announced that the new fund is now closed, and that over demand led the SV Angel team to double the size of the fund to $20 million. Around fifteen investments have now been closed in the new fund.

    Conway also spoke about the big trends in tech right now. There are three “megatrends” as he puts it – real time data, the social web and flash marketing. These are all “billion dollar industries” he says.

    Real time data startups “employ crowd sourcing or collective wisdom to create highly relevant and current data.” Twitter, Foursquare, Quora and Hunch are all examples of real time data startups, he says.

    The explosive growth of Facebook and Twitter illustrates that social media is here to stay, he says. And he thinks a lot of new startups will grow and be successful within this ecosystem.

    Flash marketing, or social commerce, startups like Gilt Groupe and Groupon have “come out of nowhere” and are revolutionizing ecommerce. In three years, he says, you won’t think about Walmart, Target and Amazon when you think about ecommerce. You’ll think about this whole new wave of companies doing flash marketing.

    Conway says SV Angel invests in 2-3 startups per month, but 5 qualified deals a day are referred to them through their network. And Conway’s old fashioned human network seems to do just fine in a Facebook world – he says he knows 5,000 or so people who refer deals to him, and that’s pretty much the only way to get to him and his team. SV Angel doesn’t have a website, and if you want to get in front of them you need to be referred by someone they already have a relationship with.

    Sounds hard? It is. But his track record speaks for itself. Proper due diligence is the only way to invest successfully, Conway has told us before. Using a trusted friend network to pre-screen deals allows them to spend their time on companies they are likely to want to invest in. And even then, only 1 in 30 make the cut. Every deal he’s done in the last year at least, he says, was referred in.

    Still, if you really want to contact him, Ron gives his email address at the end of the video. I apologize to you for dubbing that out at his request.

    Aw, shucks… TechCrunch Europe Shortlisted In Media Awards

    Posted: 22 Apr 2010 09:41 PM PDT

    TechCrunch Europe has been shortlisted in the Specialist Digital Publisher category of the prestigious (well OK, we would say that, but it kinda is) UK-based Association of Online Publishers' Digital Publishing Awards. Now in its ninth year, the awards were previously dominated by traditional media companies moving online. But in recent years it's wisely opened up to the new wave of online publishers. We'll, we're happy with that.

    Fixing Silicon Valley’s Gender Gap One Pitch At A Time

    Posted: 22 Apr 2010 09:24 PM PDT

    Crystal Yan, a senior at Monta Vista High School in Cupertino, was actively involved in student business organizations and case study competitions, but she never considered a computer science course, much less a career in programming– until she enrolled in the Technovation Challenge— a program that introduces girls to tech entrepreneurship. “I saw this as an intersection of a world that I knew [business] and technology, it was a chance to learn about the other side.”

    The Technovation Challenge is the Bay area chapter of Iridescent (a non-profit education group that links mentors to students) in partnership with Girls in Tech. Over the course of an eight week program, 45 high school girls and 25 mentors worked in teams to create an Android app from scratch and build out a marketing plan. The program culiminates in “Pitch Night,” an event held this evening at the Microsoft campus in Mountain View. The teams presented their apps and business plans to a panel of business leaders, consisting of Katherine Barr of Mohr Davidow Ventures, Mendel Rosenblum co-founder of VMWare and Adeo Ressi of The Funded. It’s a small program with grand ambitions: to close the huge divide between women and men in Silicon Valley.

    “We wanted to expose them to high tech, connect them to mentors, and help them understand what opportunities are out there,” says Technovation Challenge’s founder, Anuranjita Tewary. “It’s about confidence.”

    For all the progress in Silicon Valley, the proportion of male to female founders remains grossly skewed. According to Dunn and Bradstreet data, of the tech firms founded in 2004 only 3% were founded by women. Unfortunately, not much has changed in the last six years. When you think of the top tech leaders, you think of Steve (Jobs, Ballmer), Eric, Ev— the Carol Bartzs, Diane Greenes are the obvious exception, no where near the rule.

    Talking to students, like Yan, it was interesting to hear how some of the students considered themselves experienced in one field, either technology or business, but were eager to learn about the other side of the equation. Devi Kovi, a sophomore from Monta Vista H.S. who helped create a flash card app called Dotopia, says she has been programming since 7th grade but never fully considered how to leverage those skills into a more entrepreneurial career. “I only had the computer science aspect of it,” she says. “This will help me ultimately start a new company.”

    The pitches overall were far from perfect, some groups had half-baked business models, while others had a hard time defining their target market and competitors. But the sum of their accomplishments was very impressive. As Barr of MDV says, “It was incredible to see them pull all of this together and pull together a business plan in just a short time….It was unbelievably inspiring.”

    The winner of the competition was team Zeal, with an app called Mash, inspired by the classic childhood fortune-telling game, you input potential outcomes and the results can be posted on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. The team won $1,000 per student in college savings bonds, $25,000 to develop the app from MobMark and $5,000 in advertising from AdMob. The second-place winner, which I thought was very promising and well articulated, was team Creanova with Piano Mania. The simple $0.99 application merges education and entertainment by helping users learn how to play the piano through games. The team clearly outlined the competitors, product differentiation and showed the different layers of the app (the first level show the letters of each key, prompting the user to tap those keys, letters disappear as you graduate to the next level) and possible add-ons (two-player games, additional songs).

    All in all, it was one night, a handful of pitches, for many apps that will never reach the market, but its certainly a step in the right direction.

    Facebook And Microsoft Check-In With Foursquare. Will Crowley Sell?

    Posted: 22 Apr 2010 08:31 PM PDT

    There is a lot of action surrounding Foursquare right now. And CEO and co-founder Dennis Crowley has a tough decision to make.

    It’s already been widely reported that Yahoo is seriously pursuing a Foursquare acquisition, but now we’re hearing that at least two other companies are in talks or have been in talks recently with the location-based startup as well. And they’re big ones: Facebook and Microsoft. Facebook, from what we’re hearing, has been talking to Foursquare about a range of possibilities in recent weeks, but seems to have cooled on the idea of an outright acquisition. Microsoft, meanwhile, is likely still thinking about buying the company, according to sources.

    While we’ve already made the case for why Foursquare shouldn’t shouldn’t sell to Yahoo, these other two players offer other interesting options. And, with multiple bidders, the price is undoubtedly going up, probably north of $100 million. One may make an offer that Crowley can’t refuse.

    Dennis is seriously considering his options,” says one source about these new bidders. That would seem obvious, but remember that Crowley has already sold one startup (Dodgeball) to a big player (Google) and it left a bad aftertaste in his mouth. Following that acquisition, he (and co-founder Alex Rainert, who just joined Foursquare) left Google in somewhat of a huff. And that’s probably the only reason that Google isn’t also in the running for the hot startup as well right now.

    And Crowley does have options. There are also no shortage of people just waiting to put money into Foursquare. Last month, we heard that four VC firms, Accel Partners, Andreessen Horowitz, Khosla Ventures and Redpoint Ventures were all in the running to be the lead investor in a new round of funding for Foursquare. A few days ago, BoomTown reported that Andreessen Horowitz backed out. We’re now hearing that Redpoint may be out as well. But BoomTown also noted recently that Russian firm Digital Sky Technologies (which has pumped a ton of money into Facebook and Zynga) is trying to invest as well. We’ve heard the same thing.

    The round, if taken, would probably total $10 million and could value the company around $60 or $70 million. Previously, Foursquare raised a $1.35 million round.

    So why not sell? Well, aside from the bad experience Crowley had selling to a big company, Foursquare has been seeing quite a bit of success recently. While the company isn’t yet profitable, it is already making revenue off of some of its partnership deals. And new deals are seemingly being signed on a daily basis. Also, a strong surge of new users post-SXSW helped the service hit 1 million users today. And businesses are signing up quickly using its newly released tools.

    Foursquare certainly could also opt to take some money off the table in a new round of funding, that would allow its employees to make some money without selling the company.

    So why sell? Well, there’s no shortage of thought that Foursquare’s success may be fleeting. Many think that when Facebook does inevitably enter the location space, it will be game-over for many of these services specializing in check-ins. But based on what we’re hearing, that may not be true.

    Many people wondered why Facebook didn’t announce any location features yesterday at f8, but as we noted the night before the event, their location plans likely aren’t finalized yet, and they’ve been experimenting with a lot of different things. That includes federating check-ins from services such as Foursquare and Gowalla. As Inside Facebook dug up yesterday in Facebook’s new protocols documentation, its looks like Facebook will be open to accepting location data from other sources. So while they’ve talked to companies like Loopt and Foursquare about possible acquisitions, it would seem that this federation model is what they’re going to stick with for now.

    Foursquare and Facebook have also been talking about other types of arrangements, perhaps broader partnerships, according to people familiar with such talks. If that’s the case, maybe Crowley would be crazy to sell to the likes of Yahoo or Microsoft now. If he could leverage the nearly 500 million Facebook users rather than be stomped by them, his service can probably grow even faster.

    But, another source believes that Crowley is leaning towards selling. “Who wouldn’t be? 12 months = $100 million. Assume he had 50% when they started and you’re probably talking $20 million plus for him personally. Not a bad yearly bonus.” Indeed.

    Neither Foursquare nor Microsoft have returned requests for a comment. Facebook will only say “we don’t typically comment on rumor or speculation.”

    August Capital And CRV Spend $11.2 Million At Blippy. Valuation Now $46.2 Million.

    Posted: 22 Apr 2010 06:46 PM PDT

    As we first reported last month, Blippy has raised another round of funding. Following the initial $1.6 million angel round in January, the controversial service has just raised another $11.2 million.

    As we expected, the latest round was led by August Capital and partner David Hornik will join Blippy’s board. Humorously, Hornik shared his investment on Blippy itself, so we know he put in about $8 million 8 days ago (it was hidden until just now). “I think this is my biggest purchase on Blippy,” Hornik quipped. The rest of the money is from Charles River Ventures, which had led the angel round.

    Blippy’s valuation is now $46.2 million post-money, we’re told.

    So what’s the plan for the new money? “Expanding our services, doing marketing, and closing some large business development deals,” co-founder Philip Kaplan tells us. Currently, Blippy has 10 employees.

    Since the service launched in December, it has been a lightning rod for controversy. In a world where some people are hesitant to check-in at places using location services, the idea of posting credit card transactions truly terrifies some. But others seem to love the service, including some retailers. And clearly, investors love it too.

    One Millionsquare: Foursquare Hits The Big Number

    Posted: 22 Apr 2010 06:12 PM PDT

    Congratulations QuakeHOLD I. of Escondido, California, you’re Foursquare’s one millionth user. Or, at least, you’re the user with the one millionth ID. Yes, the much talked-about location-based service crossed the milestone today.

    Yesterday, Foursquare hinted the milestone was coming soon with a tweet saying, “We’re closing in on 1 million users! Current count is 969,775. Looks like that’s we may have something to toast during Friday Happy Hour :).” It looks like the million threshold was crossed sometime in the past few hours, though the company has yet to officially acknowledge it.

    Foursquare has been gaining users at a rapid clip since the so-called Location War at SXSW in March. During the course of the conference, Foursquare signed up some 120,000 new users in just 10 days. Clearly, they’ve been able to keep up those great sign-up rates, and likely even expand upon them. And during peak times they were approaching 400,000 check-ins a day (which also obviously means that not all users are using it on a daily basis).

    It took Foursquare just over a year to get to a million users. By comparison, it took Twitter about 2 years to get one million users. Of course now, two years after that, Twitter has over 100 million users. Foursquare, undoubtedly, would love to see that type of growth — assuming they don’t sell first.

    EdgeRank: The Secret Sauce That Makes Facebook’s News Feed Tick

    Posted: 22 Apr 2010 06:00 PM PDT

    Yesterday at its f8 developer conference, Facebook engineers Ruchi Sanghvi and Ari Steinberg gave what may be the first thorough walkthrough of the underpinnings of Facebook News Feed, the all-important page that users see when they first log on to the site. After giving an overview of the history of News Feed, which has evolved quite a bit since it launched in 2006, they offered some insight into the algorithms that allow News Feed to show you relevant content, collectively called EdgeRank.

    You may not realize it, but News Feed only displays a subset of the stories generated by your friends — if it displayed everything, there’s a good chance you’d be overwhelmed. Developers are always trying to make sure their sites and apps are publishing stories that make the cut, which has led to the concept of “News Feed Optimization”, and their success is dictated by EdgeRank.

    At a high level, the EdgeRank formula is fairly straightforward. But first, some definitions: every item that shows up in your News Feed is considered an Object. If you have an Object in the News Feed (say, a status update), whenever another user interacts with that Object they’re creating what Facebook calls an Edge, which includes actions like tags and comments.

    Each Edge has three components important to Facebook’s algorithm:

    • First, there’s an affinity score between the viewing user and the item’s creator — if you send your friend a lot of Facebook messages and check their profile often, then you’ll have a higher affinity score for that user than you would, say, an old acquaintance you haven’t spoken to in years.
    • Second, there’s a weight given to each type of Edge. A comment probably has more importance than a Like, for example.
    • And finally there’s the most obvious factor — time. The older an Edge is, the less important it becomes.

    Multiply these factors for each Edge then add the Edge scores up and you have an Object’s EdgeRank. And the higher that is, the more likely your Object is to appear in the user’s feed. It’s worth pointing out that the act of creating an Object is also considered an Edge, which is what allows Objects to show up in your friends’ feeds before anyone has interacted with them.

    In other, hopefully less confusing words, an Object is more likely to show up in your News Feed if people you know have been interacting with it recently. That really isn’t particularly surprising. Neither is the resulting message to developers: if you want your posts to show up in News Feed, make sure people will actually want to interact with them.

    Some other interesting points: Steinberg hinted that a simpler version of News Feed may be on the way, as the current two-tabbed system is a bit complicated. That said, many people still use both tabs, with over 50% of users clicking over to the ‘most recent’ tab on a regular basis.

    There were some things that the Facebook engineers wouldn’t talk about — the group sort of punted on a question regarding how stories initially get seeded, explaining that they weren’t going to unveil all of EdgeRank’s secrets. But they did say that there are some signals involved that weren’t detailed during the talk, and that they’re experimenting with more, like analyzing the outbound links users click on.

    If you want to watch the video for yourself, click here, navigate to the Techniques sessions, and click on ‘Focus on Feed’. The talk about Facebook’s algorithms begins around 22 minutes in.

    Kissing The Mark Pincus Zynga Ring

    Posted: 22 Apr 2010 04:53 PM PDT

    Two big stories popped about Zynga in the last 24 hours. Businessweek says Zynga will do $450 million in revenue in 2010, which is actually less than some of the higher end speculation about the company, and quotes sources saying that Zynga spends between $5 million and $8 million per month on Facebook advertising (we have previously reported that Zynga was Facebook’s largest advertiser in 2009, and certainly remains at the top or near the top of the list).

    CEO Mark Pincus remains the center of attention, though, and he certainly doesn’t mind speaking his mind. In a Details Magazine article with an apparently alcohol-fueled interview, Pincus manages to slight Twitter – “They think it’s cool that the State Department asked them to keep the servers running during the Iranian protests” and then showed anger over the media’s coverage of him and Zynga over donations to Haiti: “It’s really reprehensible. I feel morally offended that we get attacked by the media for doing something good and no one else is outraged when these people are wrong,”

    There’s also a hint of insecurity and a cry for attention – “A little gratitude might be nice, he adds. “We invented social gaming. We were the first ones to figure out virtual goods and social pay, and we’ve helped the whole industry. They haven’t thanked us for it.”"

    Pincus also gloats over his Crunchie award as CEO of the year, suggesting that people who criticized him over Scamville, and in particular the “horrible things” video, wanted to “kiss the ring” now that he’s on top:

    Pincus was named CEO of the Year by TechCrunch, startlingly enough, voted in by the very readers who savaged him a few months before. One person, at least, wasn’t surprised: “The same people who called you an idiot will kiss the ring,” Pincus says, downing the last of the sake. “Because we have the chance to make history.”

    Pincus seems to be a man who manages to take both criticism and praise poorly. But there’s no denying that these annoyingly addictive games are making money hand over fist. Silicon Valley has a history of brash and sometimes flawed entrepreneurs doing great things. Sometimes it’s those flaws that drive them to success. So I’ll continue to kiss the Mark Pincus ring, even though he seems to piss everyone off around him every time he opens his mouth.

    Did Someone Finally Pull The Plug On Bloglines Or Is It Just Having A Bad Day?

    Posted: 22 Apr 2010 04:40 PM PDT

    Bloglines, the troubled RSS feed reader, has been down for the past 24 hours. The outage has even created buzz on Twitter (which goes to show some people still use it). When you visit Bloglines, the site has a message up that says it is down temporarily and will be “back shortly.” But with the site’s tumultuous history, you have to wonder how much longer Bloglines has before IAC will finally put it out of its misery.

    Bought by IAC in February 2005 for around $10 million, the site has been in jeopardy ever since the launch of Google Reader long ago, compounded by the shift from RSS to realtime news streams.

    Over the past few years, the site hasn’t launched any new or innovative features to boost usage. And we recently heard that IAC was strongly considering shutting it down. At that point, IAC decided not to shutter the service but was looking for ways to refurbish Bloglines.

    While the site could be on its way to the deadpool, the cause for the outage could also be a product update. While we’re hoping it’s the latter, it’s going to take more than a feature update to revive the dying RSS service.

    We’ve contacted IAC for comment and will update with a response.

    UPDATE: IAC’s PR rep emailed us this response: “Bloglines is down for scheduled maintenance. We regret any inconvenience to our users and it should be back up soon.”

    However, despite it’s being a “scheduled maintenance,” the rep could not provide the time when it is scheduled to be back up again.

    I Hate Computers: Confessions Of A Sysadmin

    Posted: 22 Apr 2010 03:00 PM PDT

    I often wonder if plumbers reach a point in their career, after cleaning clogged drain after clogged drain, that they begin to hate plumbing. They hate pipes. They hate plumber’s putty. They hate all the tricks they’ve learned over the years, and they hate the need to have to learn tricks. It’s plumbing, for goodness sake: pipes fitting together and substances flowing through them. How complicated can it be?

    I hate computers. No, really, I hate them. I love the communications they facilitate, I love the conveniences they provide to my life, and I love the escapism they sometimes afford; but I actually hate the computers themselves. Computers are fragile, unintuitive things — a hodge-podge of brittle, hardware and opaque, restrictive software. Why?

    Continue reading…

    History Channel Turns Foursquare Into A Real World Pop-Up Video

    Posted: 22 Apr 2010 02:44 PM PDT

    For all the talk about Foursquare, one of the coolest features that gets very little buzz is the Tips area. Here, you’ll find suggestions about venues from other users of the service. And if you’re friends with a user who has left a tip, you’ll get a notification with the tip on your iPhone when you check-in somewhere close by. The History Channel has decided to make use of this feature in an interesting way.

    The cable television channel has started populating tips at various venues around the United States to coincide with its new show, America The Story Of Us (starting April 25). When you check-in at one of these venues with a History Channel tip, you’ll get a notification with the tip (see screenshot). But rather than this being a standard tip, it’s a bit of history about the venue you’re currently at. Pretty cool — it makes Foursquare into a kind of real world Pop-Up Video.

    Foursquare has no shortage of mainstream media partners, and History Channel is one of the newest. You can see a full list of their tips on their Foursquare page. Here, they also note that by using Foursquare, you’ll unlock special History Channel badges, and will be entered into a sweepstakes that will randomly give out prizes each week between April 25 and June 6.

    As has been widely reported, Foursquare is currently in the process of deciding whether to raise a new mega round of funding or sell to Yahoo.

    Windows 7 Pushes Microsoft’s Profits Up 34.5 Percent; Bing And Xbox Live Kicking It Too (Slides)

    Posted: 22 Apr 2010 02:03 PM PDT

    Another healthy quarter for Microsoft, which saw a 34.5 percent boost in net income to $4 billion, on top of a more modest 6 percent increase in quarterly revenues to $14.5 billion. (See full slides below). The return to growth was driven largely by sales of Windows 7, which were up 28 percent to $4.4 billion. (Windows Live is included in that, but it doesn’t yet produce much revenue, although Microsoft is about to update the products in Windows Live such as Hotmail and Messenger to make them more social).

    Bing and Xbox Live were also strong growers, although on an absolute basis they weren’t enough to make much of a difference. At least the Xbox division (which includes the Zune and other entertainment products and devices) is no longer losing money, reporting $165 million in operating income on revenues of $1.7 billion. The online division cannot claim the same. Revenues were up 12 percent to $566 million, but It lost $713 million in operating income. That is about $300 million more than it was losing last year. That is okay, though, the $3 billion in operating income for the Windows division is up by $788 million from last year

    Say what you want about Windows, it is still an amazing profit machine.

    Some other stats from the quarter:

    • GAAP diluted EPS was $0.45 (up 36 percent), beating consensus estimates of $0.42
    • Operating cash flow: $7.1 billion
    • Cash: $39.666 billion
    • Xbox consoles sold in the quarter: 1.5 million (down 12 percent)
    • Game software attach rate per Xbox: 8.8
    • Non-gaming revenue (i.e. Zune) up 14 percent
    • Online advertising up 19 percent thanks to search

    MSFT Q3 2010 Slides

    Oh My God, Apple Just Passed Microsoft In Market Cap!!!! Wait. Nope.

    Posted: 22 Apr 2010 01:47 PM PDT

    News is quickly spreading around the Internet today that Apple has passed Microsoft in market cap. The only problem? It’s not true.

    We’ve been following this trend closely in recent weeks. Apple is indeed quickly closing in on Microsoft’s market cap, and we believe will pass it, but it won’t be today. Apple’s stock is at $266, giving it a market cap of around $241 billion. Microsoft’s stock is at $31, giving it a market cap of around $275 billion. Microsoft has just announced its earnings, and the stock is tanking (down almost 5% right now), but that still puts its market cap around $263 billion, over $20 billion ahead of Apple.

    It looks like the source of the bad information is MarketWatch, which posted the headline, “Apple passes Microsoft for second place in S&P 500″ about 30 minutes ago (which is, technically, true — more on that in the update). Digital Daily then ran with the market cap story (post since deleted), then so did VentureBeat. With such a headline, obviously, the retweets spread quickly.

    MarketWatch also humorously first stated that Apple’s market cap was $242 million (cue Dr. Evil).

    If the stock price trends continue, Apple could pass Microsoft in value soon, but again, it hasn’t happened yet.

    Update: MarketWatch has updated their story to say that Apple has passed Microsoft on the S&P 500 because it uses float-adjusted numbers. This method of running the numbers puts Apple’s cap at $241.5 billion while Microsoft’s is at $239.5 billion. But overall, Microsoft is still ahead of Apple.

    Update 2: Digital Daily’s John Paczkowski tells me he only pulled the post down to correct it, which he did. You can find it here.

    Amazon: Kindle Is Still No. 1 Product, Now Includes 500,000 Titles

    Posted: 22 Apr 2010 01:15 PM PDT

    Amazon.com just reported strong earnings for the first quarter of 2010, with net sales increasing by 46% to $7.13 billion in the first quarter, compared with $4.89 billion in first quarter 2009. Amazon says the Kindle remains its bestselling product with the number of books in available for the device reaching 500,000 titles.

    Operating income increased 62% to $394 million in the first quarter, compared with $244 million in first quarter 2009. Net income increased 68% to $299 million in the first quarter, or $0.66 per diluted share, compared with net income of $177 million, or $0.41 per diluted share, in first quarter 2009.

    Amazon is clearly emphasizing Kindle sales and its status as their premier product in response to the potential competitiveness from Apple’s tablet device, the iPad. Amazon subsequently released its own iPad app for the Kindle, to compete with iBooks. For the quarter, Amazon reported that worldwide electronics and other general merchandise sales grew 72% to $3.51 billion. The U.S. Kindle Store now has more than 500,000 books, which Amazon says includes 100 of 111 New York Times Bestsellers, more than 9,000 blogs, and more than 175 top U.S. and International newspapers and magazines.

    Amazon also highlighted the success and international expansion of Amazon Prime, the subscription product that gives customers free two day shipping on everything they buy from Amazon. Amazon was recently reported to be launching a promotion to give all Amazon Prime customers a free Kindle.

    In terms of of total sales, International sales, which include revenue from the company’s U.K., German, Japanese, French and Chinese sites, were $3.35 billion, up 45% from first quarter 2009. U.S. and Canada sales came in at $3.78 billion for the quarter, up 47% from first quarter 2009.

    The e-commerce giant also recently announced that the Kindle would be available for sale at Target stores, which is the first availability of the device in a brick and mortar store. In the earnings call, Amazon CFO Tom Szkutak said the vision for the Kindle was to have every book ever published available in all languages and that’s still the aim for the future.

    Foursquare Becomes More Business-Friendly

    Posted: 22 Apr 2010 09:58 AM PDT

    If Foursquare is ever going to be worth more than $100 million to Yahoo or anyone, it will have to add not just a hell of a lot more users, but also a hell of a lot more local advertisers. Currently, there are only about 2,000 live offers on Foursquare from local bars, restaurants, and stores worldwide. It is not a lot, but Foursquare is taking steps to ramp up that number.

    Now every unclaimed business venue has a link asking, “Are you the manager of this business?” The link takes managers to a page asking them for proof that they are indeed the manager so that Foursquare’s sales team can call them to set them up with tools for claiming their venue and managing offers. There is also a new Businesses page explaining the different tools available to local merchants.

    Businesses who claim their venues on Foursquare get a dashboard with realtime stats on number of check-ins, times of day people check in, most recent visitors, and most frequent visitors. They can also manage the offers and badges people get when they check in. These include Mayor specials, specials for people who check in a certain number of times, or wildcard specials which can be customized. A special can be anything from a free drink to 20 percent off a purchase.

    The more specials and badges people can unlock when they enter a store or restauarnt, the more likely they will be to check in using Foursquare. Once a steady stream of people start checking into a venue, the stats Foursquare provides could start to become a meaningful dashboard for local businesses.

    Other startups, such as Snacksquare, are already using Foursquare’s APIs to help local businesses manage their campaigns and offers on Foursquare and connect directly with consumers. But now Foursquare is getting more serious about helping local businesses itself.

    If Foursquare is going to scale, it needs to be self-serve, which is avery difficult proposition for local merchants who tend to be busy all day running their businesses. But if it means more foot traffic, small businesses will at least give it a try.


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