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Eight good reasons for using headup (Firefox add-on)

January 25, 2009 6 comments

Headup – the semantic web Firefox addon

I recently started using Headup. I’ve been looking for this kind of addon for some time now. When bits of information are missing from peoples’ profile pages, product specs, media, and other online content it is crucial to combine multiple data sources to piece together a complete picture. Headup does this!

Using its smart semantic mapping of entities and relationships Headup gathers and links information from multiple online sources. To complete the picture it then personalizes the results using your presence on multiple web services like Gmail, Twitter, Facebook, Digg, etc.
Headup is not only innovative in its semantic approach to linking data, it also integrates nicely with your Firefox browser and offers you a few ways to access the data it discovers. One example is Google searches: After installing Headup you can expect to see your search term annotated “Headup:[search term]” with a thin orange underline at the top of Google’s results. When your mouse hovers over the term a click-able circular plus sign loader will allow you to open Headup’s overlay  interface.

headup-topserp 

The starting point – googling eagle eye.

headup-eagleeye

The complete picture – headup-ing eagle eye

I recommend you visit Headup‘s website to learn how to use it but as a whole it’s pretty intuitive and I prefer dedicating this post to the reasons you should get it:

My eight reasons for using the Headup Semantic Web Firefox add-on :

  1. Because hyperlinks simply aren’t enough – Relying merely on arbitrarily selected outbound links that send you to find info related to the page you are browsing is limiting. There are more relationships among the different entities on the page that could be leveraged to retrieve associated information. Headup already mapped out these semantic links and makes them available for you in a neat and accessible interface. The experience doesn’t end with search results.
  2. Because you can save valuable search time - Both the user interface, and the way information is presented, require less clicks to complete an in-depth search through multiple search sources.
  3. Because the information comes to you – Search can be an exhausting task. In many cases it involves either a recursive drilling down into multiple levels, or traversing the search vertical up and down for additional information. Google itself is aware of this potentially laborious process and is making an effort to bring associated information to the first SERP: Recently when I googled the term “movie” I got three results that were movies playing in theaters in my area. Headup provides multiple data types as a default: Using Headup on the “Pink Floyd” will get you a summary relating to the term, the bands albums, see photos depicting it, listen to the bands songs while reading their lyrics, find news blogs and web activities related to it, and much more.
  4. Because it brings down the chances you’ll miss key information – “Headuping” people is a terrific way to learn more about them. I “Headup-ed” my friend Bill Cammack on Facebook and immediately discovered that he’s a video editor with an Emmy award to his name. In this case the extra information regarding the Emmy award was brought in from Bill’s LinkedIn profile.
  5. Because you can learn and find information you didn’t expect –  If the example from my previous item wasn’t proof enough here’s anoter example: I ran Headup on “Kill Bill” (what can I say? – I’m a Tarantino fan) and discovered this blog post published today (1-2-2009): “More Kill Bill on the way” – Tell me this isn’t cool!!
  6. Because it’s personalized – When configuring Headup after download, or later via the “Settings” option, you can choose to connect Headup to the online services you are subscribed to. Headup connects to a wide variety of web services like: Gmail, Delicious, Twitter, Facebook, FriendDeed, Digg, Last.fm etc. The information Headup retrieves from these services allows it to personalize the info it discovers for you: If you Headup a firm you’ll get friends of yours that work there. If you Headup a band you’ll see who in your network likes them. This is another example of how Headup is not just a search tool but a browsing experience.
  7. Because you don’t lose your starting point – Headup is designed as an overlay window that keeps your starting web page, and anything else you have open on your desktop, visible beneath the interfaces’ SilverLight frame. Inside Headup you can drill down endlessly, but when you’re done you are back where you started.
  8. Because your information is safe – from Headup’s Privacy Policy – “In plain English”:
“We here at Headup treasure our privacy and that’s exactly why we made every effort to create a browser add-on that would live up to user privacy standards we would be comfortable with. We’d be embarrassed to let you download an add-on we wouldn’t download ourselves.”
 
**You don’t need to sign-up for using Headup and your information is stored on your machine only**

 **Bonus: one additional reason – because on some pages it ROCKS! Try it on last.fm and you’ll see why it ROCKS…literally! By the way, the Headup user interface lets you watch videos and listen to music like a regular media player.

My questions for the Headup team

I plan on occasionally checking Headup’s blog for updates. At this point Headup supports Firefox on Windows and on Macs but I know that they plan to support more browsers in the future. I think that at this point the key thing to focus on is that the Headup concept works.

I do have few questions for the Headup team:

  1. Do you plan on adding vertical derived classifications? I can see some use cases for health (and maybe even for software development). Just as headup was able to map out “Actors”, “Films by the same director”, “Web Activities”, “Related News”, “Trailers”, etc. for a “Film” type entity. I can see it applied in a similar fashion for a “Health” type entity – retrienving things like: “Case”, “Treatment”, “Clinics”, “Pharmaceuticals”, “News Groups” etc…
  2. Do you see enterprise usage for Headup? I still need to give it more thought but having Headup in my email could be cool. Another possible implementation is supporting corporate CMS tools.

Epilogue – Is Headup’s “Top Down” approach the face of the future Semantic Web?

The Semantic web promises to make information understandable by machines. If you follow Alex Iskold‘s excellent series on Semantic Web on ReadWriteWeb you are aware of the multiple approaches to make this happen. The top-down method implemented by Headup helps brings the future to us a little sooner. I think Headup is giving us a taste of what future browsers will look like in an age when they, and other tools, will be able to understand more than just hyperlinks. When using Headup it feels like I’m doing more than “browsing” or “searching” I feel like I’m experiencing a new web!

One last thing: using Headup for some objects didn’t yield complete results. Don’t judge them too harshly for it, instead please focus on the concept. My experience with Headup so far is that in most cases the relevancy of the information provided was more than reasonable. I think that for a small company just out of Alpha what has been accomplished in the short time the company has exited is impressive and promises that improvements will be fast coming.

I’m using Headup and gave you the eight reason I have for doing so. If you are using it too I’d be happy to hear why…

Finding obscure great bloggers and mashup

April 29, 2008 1 comment

As I continue playing with the small application that I’m writing for monitoring positive shifts in bloggers’ Technorati rank I realized that I’m actually finding bloggers writing about almost everything. The only common thing I could find so far is that they are just consistently great.

The tool scans and builds historical data for over 700 blogs so far. I build this growing blogs’ URL list using my favorites (i.e. humanly picked in multiple social ways) and the crawling algorithm I previously explained in this post.

I won’t get into the operation details (and there are plenty of details) but I mange to get a lot done not exceeding the 500 API calls daily Technorati limitation.

I output the result to BlogMon Twitter user for now so please, you are invited to be a follower.

Example of outputs:

Short-term pattern:  http://wpthemesplugin.com, rank gain: 18.10 %, since: 4/12/2008, Top Tags: “wordpress”, “themes”

Long-term pattern: http://mediaphyter.wordpress.com, rank gain: 76.10 %, since: 2/1/2008, Top Tags: “Social Media”, “Security”

As you can see I log the URL, the rank gain, since when, and the top two tags to give you an idea what this blog is all about. I found that in most cases this is good enough. Do you?

Why am I doing this?

  • First, it keeps me engaged with the mashup opportunities and there are lots of those available today .
  • Second, I enjoy doing it.
  • Finally, you may find it useful in some way – you can leave a comment on these blogs and maybe get some traffic to your website/blog. I will be happy to hear if you did.

I may be tempted to mashup more web data sources/services in the future or explore discrepancies between Alexa data and Technorati rank .

I’m also using a great early stage service developed by Microsoft called Popfly to build and deploy a small (too small and simple at this time) application to my Facebook profile called BlogTwitt. BlogTwitt will show the recently posted updates to the BlogMon Twitter user I use for outputting the daily findings from the application I’m working on.

PopflyInFacebook

At this point I could not share this application – I don’t know why so I left a message on the Popfly Facebook wall. As of this time I got no answer. I do appreciate what that they are trying to do, saving me the time learning/working with the Facebook API.

I think that I will write soon a post about the Popfly and the challenges writing a good mashup. I do encourage people that are just starting their mashup thought process to look at this tool and also at Yahoo pipes (fantastic interface) to play, understand, get ideas and brain-storm with the numerous available web services (API)  out there. This is like working in a software solution architect group for a company that offers multiple products and  findings new way to increase the value of the existing modules by symbiotically integrating them to new offerings.

Finally I don’t think that this is Software plus Service like Microsoft tries to sell it I see it as Service plus Service (the service is build of software, da). Maybe Service X N.

As always, I would love to hear your thoughts so please use the comment section.

Update: I forgot to mention that what that I like about using Twitter vs. my blog to post results is that it does not  add to the blog reactions count. So, it goes under Technorati radar and does not impact the Rank (avoiding the Observer Effect). That may change one day when they will realize that Twitter’s twitt with blog’s URL is actually a blog reaction.

Notes from the little contact, friend or follower

January 28, 2008 1 comment

I prefer to follow not to invite.

I joined LinkedIn some time ago. It was my first experience with a social network. I enthusiastically searched through all my contacts adding them to my growing network. So far so good.

I then started adding more and more services that offer the option to invite friends and share with them, you know, everything that runs on a computer.

I joined: Digg, delicious, Technorati, reddit, StumbleUpon, Facebook, Plaxo and some I don’t even remember.

This is when it become hairy, it feels like I need to bug again and again people to get them on my network. So, I did not. And I don’t plan to.

I leave it for other people to ask me to be their friend or contact. I promise that I will always say yes to any invotation.

Sometime in the process of socializing me I found Twitter. This time it was a different model. No more invitation just a simple click on the “Follow” button and that’s it. No hassle no more hesitation. I like this.

What that is also nice is that if you follow someone he gets an email notification telling him who you are and most times he will start following you. So the network grows without breaking a sweat.

If you don’t want people to follow you (I would advice you not to go there in the first place)  or if you want people to ask you if they can follow you first, you can control that.

I don’t know what the result of Open Social discussion will come up with but I do know that what that Twitter guys offered works for me.

Could that be the reason why it so appealing?

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