After much debate I finally decide to switch to Gmail from Thunderbird. The three features that decided me on the switch were:
1) Labels. I've been using folders for two decades now. Folders are clearly a browse feature. Labels are (can be?) a search feature. I wanted to experiment with search-based email.
2) A unified address book. Since Gmail is web-based, I no longer have the problem of having my address book be different on every client.
Interesting article in the LA Times about Wikipedia and the battle over quality versus quantity. The heart of the story is the frenzy over Jimmy Wales creating an article about a little barbecue restaurant he likes. The article was deleted as "not notable". Wild discussion ensued, with many arguing that the article would have been deleted without question if it hadn't been created by Wales.
ReadWriteWeb has an interesting entry that says that photo sharing site Slide.com has moved into second place behind only Flickr -- in New Zealand, anyway.
Another interesting ReadWriteWeb article, this time on how life is shaking out in the social bookmarking world. The article has a number of interesting types of analysis, but the main focus is on user-ship. On this dimensions, del.icio.us dominate, with more than 10x more users than the next best (Magnolia).
ReadWriteWeb talks about a new feed reader that has strong social features, making it easy to share items with other users in rich ways. They say that FeedEachOther also has interesting recommender algorithms to help people find other feeds to read that are similar to feeds they have read in the past. Sounds very interesting!
Fun blog entry at freakonomics summarizing the querty/dvorak debate. I love the way they summarize the different back-and-forth arguments. Sadly, they don't leave us with a ground truth: what's better?!
Paul Graham is one of my favorite tech essayists. His essays on startup companies, Lisp, and -- especially -- American high schools are smart, funny, and insightful. On these topics, even when I think he's wrong, I learn something.
An interesting article discusses the problem in the reddit community that the community has wide agreement on a variety of issues, and that therefore only articles with the "correct" viewpoint on those issues get many votes. (Similar problems apply to the other social news sites like slashdot and digg.)
The off-the-cuff response from the recommender community might be "let's solve the problem by creating personalized reddit". In this world, everyone would read the articles he or she was most interested in, creating many overlapping communities of interest. A concern with this approach is that social psychology suggests that by making it easy for people to only talk with others with whom they agree, we would be creating a world that would emphasize our differences, amplifying them over time, balkanizing the community of news readers. For instance, all of the atheists would only read articles that support their views, and would become increasingly resistant to theist views -- and eventually unable to even find common ground for discussion with theists.
An alternative would be to find a way to create a community news reader that would simultaneously support personalization and encourage the sharing of opinions. What would such a news reader look like? How would it use recommenders in a novel way?
Chipmark (www.chipmark.com) is a cool bookmarking site that lets you share your bookmarks between multiple browsers seamlessly. (Bias alert: I've been advisor to the chipmark group for the past three years.) Chipmark is written entirely by University of Minnesota undergrads, and distributed free of cost either as a server the students maintain, or as open source code that anyone is welcome to use to run his own server. The most recent release of chipmark supports shared folders among buddies, and will be out Real Soon Now. Check it out!