At the first whisper of school starting, Californians lose their fucking minds during the morning commute. What was a leisurely 20 minute commute to Cupertino turns into an hour of frustration. It’s not just that a large demographic of people are suddenly on the same schedule, it’s that they’re panicking because they’re late for work. This panics results in the inevitable “Hey, I know this secret route” approach which only fills alternate routes with uppity caffeinated yuppies with something to prove.
I am one of those uppity caffeinated yuppies, yet I have nothing to prove. I’m simply frustrated because I’m driving to work blind. I no longer have any no idea what the correct route to work is and I pride myself on either being informed or having the ability to become informed with ease. It’s that NADD thing again. Note to Yahoo: Bang up job on those traffic reports — THEY DON’T HELP ME IN MY CAR.
I feel better now.
Welcome to the Information Report for 2005.
As a NADD sufferer, I’m on a constant conquest to revise the tools I use to find and consume information. There are two general buckets of searching that I perform on a daily basis. The first is Active searching. You’re Active searching when you’re looking for a specific answer to a question. You’re on a mission and you’ll only be happy when the answer is found. Success in developing an Active search tool is measured in decreasing the time one of your users moves from “Huh?” to “Oh!”.
The second type of search is Passive. These are tools which push content your way. Passive searching is done without a mission in mind other than, “I want to learn new stuff.” Success here is measured in a tools ability to rapidly provide original content that is relevant to the user.
The Information Report is a snapshot of my current favorite Active and Passive information tools as well as a round up of tools which have recently fallen out of favor. I’m planning on publishing this report on a year basis, so I also venture an opinion about the tool or company’s prospects in the coming year. Come back next year and see how I did.
It’s hard to imagine that Google’s total active user based hasn’t stabilized or, at least, the user growth has become less meteoric. This would mean that Google would have to focus less on attracting new users and more on increasing the average visit to sites laden with ads. This is what they’ve done whether it’s Gmail, Maps, Homepage or any of the other number of Google properties designed to give you ONE MORE CHANCE to click on an advertisement.
Google remains the best tool for Active searching because it’s gets you from here (I trying to find out about X) to there (Hey, that’s exactly the X I was looking for) in as short a time as possible. It’s seemingly never down and it’s remains blazingly fast.
Still, don’t tell me that every idea that comes out of Google is great. The sputtering Brazilian infested Orkut remains a confusing wart on the Google suite of applications. The jaw dropping coolness of Gmail and Google Maps has yet to make it into the vanilla Homepage offering.
Next year: Yahoo makes all sots of noise about going toe to toe with Google, but does anyone actually use Yahoo! for search? Competition comes from eyeballs being pulled to Passive search tools such as the Del.icio.us and Diggs of world. These are sites chock full of eager folks who get paid nothing to prioritize and tag content. While smaller in scope than Google, these sites give their respective demographics easier access to the latest and greatest relevant information.
From the evolution-of-a-company perspective Google is also overdue for a kick in the shins in the form a significant founder resignation or PR scandal. I’d also expect the irrational anti-Google sentiment to continue to grow as it’s fanned by popular media outlets who appear to be giving Googlers the Microsoft treatment. Sigh.
Rands Advice: Keep sprinting. Look at inventing in Passive search tools. I’m thinking http://wander.google.com is a great idea.
I’m a fan. Del.icio.us represents low-tech user interface, but Joshua and crew makes up for it two ways. First, Del.icio.us appears to be scaling in the face of popularity. There is no quicker way to get a tool or service off my list than having it being down or having the service lie to me (See Below: Technorati). I’ve had the odd Del.icio.us hiccup during the past few months, but these events are sporadic and appear to be fixed quickly.
Del.icio.us also receives Rands kudos for sticking to their guns. I’ve been staring at the site for months trying to reverse engineer a business strategy and I think I’ve figured it out. Del.icio.us is not trying to be a social bookmarking site, it wants to be a social bookmarking platform. This explains the heavy focus on integration rather than dazzling user interface. I’m not suggesting Del.icio.us doesn’t care about user experience, but it’s clearly not job #1.
Next year: Answer me this: Who is paying the bills? I’d like to think Del.icio.us would cut a deal and provide social bookmarking services to various big names, but the competition is heating up in this space and if Del.icio.us is going to take it up a notch, they’re going to need a sugar daddy.
Active and Passive Search
Wikipedia is real competition for Google in both Passive and Active search. It’s replaced a lot of my proper noun searches as well as being a online replacement for my late night History channel excursions. Who cares if it’s written and edited by amateurs? It reads well and I leave feeling informed.
Next year: A buy-out of Wikipedia by anyone is a bad idea and they know it. Wikipedia needs to remain independent in order to maintain the appearance of objectivity and a lack of a corporate agenda. This means they’ve got to get creative about figuring out how to extract cash from me.
Rands Advice: Keep going at it alone and give me a reason to give you thirty bucks a year. Here’s a thought, publish a book.
It’s official. After various flirtations with native newsreader applications, I’m on Bloglines 24/7. The reason is simple. Look at ever single entry in this year’s list of NADD tools. Web based tools and NADD are the perfect combination. They allow me to feed my need from any computer on the network with zero fuss.
Next year: Pretty much guarantee someone is going to grab my web-based feed reader dollars in the next year. FeedLounge looks swell. I’m guessing they’re are other bright folks wandering around here.
Rands Advice: Nice uptime record, but what about UI evolution? Where’s Bloglines 2.0 and why should I care?
This my honorable mention entry because I don’t use Urban Dictionary on a daily basis. Still, when I need to figure out what pwnz0r means, it never fails.
Next year: Don’t change a thing.
Rands Advice: Stay hip.
Rank: Up and Coming
The only thing more interesting than writing content for the site is pouring over referral statistics. Mint showed up on my radar a few weeks ago and I couldn’t pay my thirty bucks fast enough. Why? It provides an essential service built with uncompromising visual design. WHO CARES IF I CAN’T GET TECH SUPPORT, it works so well out the box, I don’t need it. Mint is exactly the type of application I was thinking of while I wrote my Web Application Leap essay.
I’ve only had the service running on Rands for a short time, but I’ve already discovered some fascinating statistics. Guess what “Rands”, “Repose”, and “Holy Shit” have in common? They all return this site as the first hit in Google. How about this. The #1 browser used to view this site is Firefox. I’m receiving almost double the hits from Firefox flavors versus Internet Explorer. When did that happen?
Next year: I’m clearly unnaturally high on Mint right now and I’m sure I’ll have some bright suggestions in a few months, but I’m still a little dizzy with joy.
Rands Advice: Make lots of money and don’t pull a Refer.
Rank: Up and Coming
The Taking Time to Think article altered my perspective of Digg in a morning. I’d seen the site before, but had quickly dismissed the site as a Del.icio.us knock-off. Wrong. Sort’f. When the Think entry was published, I received a decent hit bloom on Del.icio.us by gathering forty or so bookmarks which is good for my entries. Several days later, I woke up to a Slashdot-like referral storm from Digg.
When did Digg become Slashdot? Wasn’t it Del.icio.us++? No. A evening of research revealed that Digg is a hybrid. A little bit of social bookmarking, a smidge of Friendster, and a healthy dose of Slashdot. Throw some Ajax on top and a slick interface and you’re talking Digg.
Digg has the feel of a something big. It provides much of the usefulness of Del.icio.us, but it goes a step further by providing the sense there is a community of people wandering around the links by introducing the concept of friends. It goes a step further than Slashdot by integrating a sense of time. Looking at Digg Spy — it gives a near real time view into what Digg-ers care about. Click on the “Digg this” link associated with every entry provides instant, non-intrusive feedback. “Yeah, you dug that. Keep digging.”
Next year: Digg has the potential to bump several folks out of Tried and True. They got the features, but they need to scale.
Rands Advice: Scale.
Kottke stole my thunder on this topic, but I’m going a blow a fuse anyway. What the fuck. Technorati clearly had first mover advantage blog searching, but the blew it. Hard. The site was part of my default bookmark tab group, but my estimate is the site timed out 25% of time. They only recently added a time-out message which states, “We’re experience significant load…” Rubbish. If Microsoft Word only launched three out of four times, they’re be a revolt. If Technorati was an employee and performed like their site does, I’d fire it. So I did.
This is bittersweet. Refer was a Mint-like referral analyzer which I’d been faithfully using for several years. Despite it’s usefulness, the last revision to the code was November 27, 2003. Still, it worked and no one showed me anything better until Mint showed up. All I see in Refer is lost opportunity.