Monday, August 20, 2007

Dots vs. Facebook's "Posted Items"

A common question I get asked is why someone should use Blue Dot for bookmarking when Facebook has a "Posted Items" feature. Great question! Well, it comes down to Blue Dot really being all about bookmarks -- saving, sharing, discussing, searching, and discovering them. Here are my top reasons. Feel free to add a comment with yours. Search. You can search your own Dots, your friends' Dots, or everyone's Dots. For example, find a last minute restaurant recommendation by searching your own or your friends' Dots for a restaurant. Or, if you are on the road, do the same in our mobile version. Organization. You can tag your Dots with different words like "funny" or "restaurant".
  • Also, since you automatically get a page for each tag, it's a great way to share certain Dots with certain people. I tag Dots my investment club might find useful with the tag "investment club" and then share the page with my fellow members.
Privacy. Finally, you can choose to share your Dot with everyone, certain friends, or just for yourself. For example, use Blue Dot for private research by creating Dots that only you can see.

Monday, August 06, 2007

1 Million Page Views | What are they doing?

Blue Dot has just hit the 1 Million page view per month mark. I thought it would be interesting to share where Blue Dot users are spending their time. I particularly want to thank the avid fans and friends of Blue Dot, that have been contributing so many interesting and useful web sites to the Blue Dot database over the past year. First of all, the total time spent on Blue Dot is pretty amazing. We believe people spend 1.5 minutes on each page on average, so we're getting over 25,000 hours of user attention per month. If people value their time at $10/hour, they're investing over $3M per year just in using Blue Dot. Since a large portion of our traffic is coming from search engines (about 75%), the "average user" is not someone who is a regular user, creating their own dots. Rather, they are browsing and reading the dots created by our regular user base. When we created Blue Dot Buzz, we thought the majority of search traffic would be directed there. That's not at all what's happening. Most search traffic is landing on the individual profile pages of our users. In fact, over 60% of our total page views are spent looking in user profiles. Of those, 10% of time people are looking at a top level user profile, with the remaining page views split evenly between viewing a profile restricted to an individual tag (e.g., and individual Dot "permalink" pages (e.g. 144 Places I've Slept in the World). Surprisingly, less than 5% of our traffic is to our "Front Page" summary of today's dots. But about 10% of our page views go to "Buzz" pages where people are finding the most recently popular Dots about a particular category (e.g.,

Is the future of Social Networking Free and Open?

Can an open platform/protocol be the ultimate winner in the evolution of social networking? I've been arguing that that is just what will/should happen. But, I've gotten some strong arguments to the contrary. On the one hand, the most successful open communication protocol in the world, SMTP, has allowed billions of people to communicate openly and freely. There is no master gateway through which email must be sent. This is the model I think future social networks should have. I spoke with a Google engineer about an open social networking protocol, and his response was, "why hasn't it worked for Instant Messaging". Google has tried to make nice with the likes of Yahoo, AOL and Microsoft, but we still have these walled gardens, so that two people have to belong to the same monolithic IM platform in order to communicate. There have been some small attempts to form special inter-operating agreements between specific IM providers, but we still have no purely open, and universal standard for IM communication. Facebook is the first large scale social network to make an attempt at creating an open platform. Yet they are going too slow for many developers; there still exist restrictions on what you can do with the information you extract from the Facebook API, regardless of whether your users opt-in. And Facebook can unilaterally shut off any third party service provider, even if they have a devoted user base on Facebook that wants to use their application. I also don't think you can cobble together the integrated social experience of Facebook with free and open services that exist out there today (as suggested by this Wired article). What we need is a set of platform protocols that follow these principles:
  • The user is the owner of all his information. His friend list, his content, his interactions.
  • No social service should lock up a user so that he cannot switch to another social network provider, bringing all his information with him.
  • No social service should refuse to work any other service (with some exceptions for spam-like behavior).
  • Users should be able to opt-in to not only let their friends have access to their personal information and content, but also to allow third-party social service providers have access to their information and content.
The protocols we need go beyond simple micro-formats suggested for representing friend relationships, like XFN. We need real communication protocols to pass data back and forth between social services. The protocols need to have knowledge of user identity and should enable viewing and sending information based on permissions that users' have specified for their own accounts.
  • Portable identity system (identify a user, independent of the service provider).
  • Standardized information schema into which personal information, photos, bookmarks, friend lists, groups, communities, presence, and current status, can all be fit.
  • Protocol for querying and caching this information between services and third/party applications.
  • Mechanism for revoking permissions so that all previously cached data must be redacted.
  • Protocol for sending messages between users; either real time, or queued.
If such a distributed system existed, MySpace and Facebook could become just another (albeit the largest) social service provider, but without the monopoly-like control to lock up and control our interactions with friends and companies of our choosing.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

How do I rank?

Every time you create a public Dot, it has a chance to be displayed on a "Blue Dot Buzz" page for each of the topics (tags) you've added to your Dot. Not only that, but if you create popular dots for that topic frequently, you will become a Featured Dotter for that topic. If you go to any "Buzz" page about a topic, we will show you "Featured Dotters" in the right hand column. For example, if you go to:
you'll see six Blue Dot users listed, along with a score beneath their names. These are the people we've identified as having the most popular dots for the travel topic. What's a Score and how can you be featured on a Buzz page? We use an algorithm that calculates a score based on a) the number of dots that a user creates for this topic, b) the number of times that people click through their dots to read the linked-to web page. To become a Featured Dotter, I'd suggest following these steps:
  • Create Dots about this things you care about. Being the first to Dot a particular URL will give you a chance to have your dot shown on the Buzz page. Remember to consistently use the "tag" for the topic you're dotting for (e.g., "travel").
  • Edit your comments and title in such a way that people will want to click on the dot to read the underlying page. Tell your readers something useful about the page and why it is interesting or important.
  • Having friends on Blue Dot gives your Dot a way to be seen by people who are close to you, and will be interested in your Dot because YOU are interested in it. The more people click on your dot, the more likely it will be promoted to show up on the Buzz page for that topic. You might want to send a Friend request to other Blue Dot users, or current Featured Dotters for the topics you're interesting in.
P.S. For the geeks out there, the topic score (or "karma") formula for ranking Featured Dotters is approximately:
log(number_of_dots_in_topic) + log(views_of_your_dots_in_topic) + overall_bluedot_karma