Archive for the ‘rojo’ Category

Google is showing Feedburner redirect URLs in their search results.

200810021519

They’re using the link:

http://feeds.latimes.com/~r/topoftheticket/~3/408704356/palin-couric.html

which is a Feedburner redirect URL which they use in RSS feeds to help in tracking.

Google owns Feedburner so it’s a bit embarrassing that they’re making such an obvious mistake.

This might be distorting the stats for the LA Times. Feedburner may in fact be ignoring these when they see that the HTTP referrer is in fact from Google (and not empty or from a web based reader).

The biggest problem with the implementation that Feedburner is using is that it’s impossible to reconstruct the original URL from the redirect URL once it’s in the wild.

A few years ago (when they were just a newly hatched startup and I was working on Rojo) I proposed that they use a URL that encodes the target URL and only adds about 30 additional characters.

The template would be:

http://feeds.latimes.com/r/$nonce/$site/$path

A search engine like Google or Spinn3r could use the URL found in the wild, decode the correct target URL, and then update their index (and rank) to reflect the actual URL.

Google is getting closer and closer to cloning Rojo with Google Reader.

First they added search and now they’re apparently adding more functionality.

The search functionality in particular was interesting because I implemented the first round of Rojo search based on Lucene.

An internal presentation leaked onto the web and apparently they’re going to be implementing more social functionality:

The Reader team is going to integrate more social features. Currently items can be sent to friends by email, and there are no plans for creating a Reader-inbox for that.

Google’s recent big social effort is called Mocha-Mocha (or Mocka-Mocka?), and will become the infrastructure for all social stuff across all of their applications. As a part of this, a new feature called Activity Streams will be introduced or at least implemented in Reader this quarter. This will be comparable to Facebook’s News Feed (Minifeed?) feature, and integrate Gmail’s addressbook and contact list.

I’m not sure this is a bad thing either. Rojo had a lot of cool features but I think it was a year or two too early. Part of me thinks that social news reading might never take off. I’d love to be proven wrong though.

200705302030Google Gears launches today and brings together a lot of open loops in my career.

While at Rojo, we spent a lot of time talking about offline storage. NewsMonster was the first RSS aggregator that added full offline support (which I’m still proud of – only took Google five years!) and we generally wanted it for Rojo as well.

Brad deserves a lot of credit for pushing this forward with Dojo offline storage. In fact, I’m a bit shocked that Google didn’t approach Brad to hire him to push this forward. If they don’t hire him now they’re insane.

What’s interesting here is that Gears is Open Source which really puts and end to the browser vs desktop debate:

Google Gears is open source software, licensed under the New BSD license. Generally speaking, this license is very permissive. You should, of course, always consult an attorney if you have any questions about software licensing.

There are generally two ways to use Google Gears: by embedding the API or runtime software in an application you distribute to end users, or by writing a web application which makes use of installations of Gears on end-users’ computers.

The only thing left I think is a local installer to keep shortcuts for online apps available in the start menu and on the desktop.

I’m not sure where this leaves Dojo offline. There were some significant limitations due to the fact that it was using flash and cookies and other ‘hacks’ (in the clever sense of the word) to store content locally.

Web Pro News has a good overview of the DMCA censorship issue that’s been making the rounds in the blogosphere.

In his misguided desire to become notorious, **** **** has become the preeminent villain of the blogosphere, the target of a lawsuit by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a laughing stock, and a fascinating case study into blog-ethics, copyright law on the Internet, the tenets of Fair Use, the reach of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and how its abuse can affect free speech.

It also becomes the diary of a madman.

****’s most recent tangle involved Rojo founder Kevin Burton, who claimed on his blog that SixApart was complicit to censorship after the blogging company received a DMCA takedown notice from **** demanding that a thumbnail image of himself from an appearance on Fox News be taken offline. **** argued his right to do so as the inherent copyright owner of the image (his face, e.g., his copyright).

Anyway. I’m going to pull a Voldemort on this guy (he who must not be named). He’s clearly just in this for the publicity so I’m just going to deny him the pleasure.

I also need to ping Six Apart on this issue as I want the original DMCA they sent off. They’ve since restore the image but I think he sent off a DMCA with different information that I haven’t yet seen.

CNET has a great review of RSS readers. Some of these really puzzle me. For example they have keyboard shortcuts on their grid but don’t have measured page load times. Page load time is much more important for users than keyboard shortcuts!

This really boils down to the feature set vs execution dilemma. Every startup has limited time. Is it better to implement a new feature or work on execution? It’s really just a zero sum game unfortunately. I think Tailrank 2.0 was more about execution than about feature set. We really spent a lot of time on fit and finish. Bloglines did a much better job on execution than Rojo (IMO). We spent far too long trying to innovate on features. Of course that was more than two years ago and hindsight is 20/20.

The new execution leader in the space is Google Reader. They’re doing a pretty good job. They need to speed it up a bit though.

200609051936I’ve been a big fan of Six Apart for a few years now. Not only do they have a great blogging service (and Vox seems poised to take over the world) but they just acquired Rojo as well.

Six Apart will be issuing a press release on the subject and I’ll let them give you all the juicy details once thats available.

In the mean time Om Malik notes:

Blogging company Six Apart will soon announce it has purchased Rojo, the web-based feed reader, for undisclosed terms.

Six Apart won’t be adding an aggregator based on Rojo, but instead incorporating some elements of the technology into its existing products, according to Six Apart CEO Barak Berkowitz. Rojo CEO Chris Alden will run Six Apart’s Movable Type group

Niall Kennedy comments:

Blogging company Six Apart has acquired online feed aggregator Rojo Networks. Rojo will be integrated with the Vox blogging tool allowing users to browse updated content and create more blog posts. Rojo CEO Chris Alden will be the new head of Movable Type according to a GigaOm report.

I helped co-found Rojo almost three years ago to build a killer online RSS aggregation service. Literally. Before we had a name for Rojo we called it the KSA (Killer Server-side Aggregator). Rojo lead the RSS space in a number of key areas including mobile support, feed search, and integrated social networking.

For the last year I’ve been independent (working on Tailrank actually) but still remained involved in an advisory capacity.

In hindsight, I don’t ever think Rojo was given the credit it deserved. Feed search in particular. In fact, earlier this year when Ask/Bloglines released their feed search it was pointed out that Rojo had been doing the same thing for months.

Six Apart has big plans for Rojo. They’re going to take Rojo’s RSS infrastructure and build it into LiveJournal and Vox which sounds pretty interesting. You can bet I’ll be paying attention…

Luckily, Rojo was located in blogger gulch (AKA SOMA) in San Francisco which is also the home of Technorati and Feedster. The employees literally only have two extra blocks to commute to their new offices.

Best of luck on the new gig guys!

Update:

Techcrunch has a few notes:

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but our assumption was that this a less than $5 million deal. Six Apart is not planning on continuing to build out the core Rojo products. In the press release (sorry no link available yet), Six Apart says “Six Apart intends to sell a majority interest in Rojo’s newsreader services in the coming months,” meaning they will become a minority stockholder of the service. Rojo founder and CEO Chris Alden and CTO Aaron Emigh will joing Six Apart’s executive team.

… and so does ValleyWag:

We hear GigaOM founder Om Malik heard about this deal when he saw Alden and 6A CEO Barak Berkowitz outside 6A’s office.

Update 2:

Six Apart finally issues a press release:

San Francisco, CA —September 6, 2006—Six Apart, the world leader in blogging software and services, today announced that it had acquired Rojo Networks for an undisclosed sum. Rojo senior executives Chris Alden and Aaron Emigh joined the Six Apart team as executive vice president and general manager of Movable Type, and executive vice president and general manager of core technologies, respectively. Six Apart intends to sell a majority interest in Rojo’s newsreader services in the coming months.

Update 3:

You can follow this over on Tailrank… For some reason it picked up Valleywag twice. I’m going to have to fix that.

This week has been crazy. I’m under the gun to deliver an updated version of TailRank for Under the Radar so if I’m a bit behind on blogging I apologize.

I’ve had a lot of positive feedback on TailRank this week and just wanted to spend the time and follow up.

What I find most interesting out of this whole process is how ideas I had just a few months ago are already hitting mainstream and being reified into topics like “post grazing”, “attention engines”, and “reading lists”. Innovation is accelerating. I can’t remember this much happening back when we started Rojo.

Joshua Porter talks about information grazing (and what I’m most excited about with ‘post grazing’):

I would say post grazing is getting nearer our end goal. It is grazing for the latest, most interesting posts, regardless of what feed they come from. Right now, there are a few services out there putting out feeds with which we can post-graze, such as tech.memeorandum, Tailrank, and Findory. As I was telling Kevin Burton of Tailrank the other day, I’m completely in awe of folks who create these services: Gabe, Kevin, and Greg, in this case.

This is why I created TailRank. I want to tell the engine that I’m interested in a few topics and blogs and have it filter out most of the spam and just show me the “ham”. I think our initial release of personalized rankings became too confusing for most people but we’ve had great feedback. The next revision will be complete here shortly and I think a it will be a big win for everyone.

Alex Barnett thinks this will become a full blown attention race:

Your OPML file (specifically your list of RSS subcriptions) is one example of this Attention data set. It says alot about you: the topics your interested in and the people you listen to, and much more. There is plenty more Attention data that can be leveraged though. My tags, my wishlist, the books I own, etc.

We’re just at the beginning of the Attention Engine race.

Yes. I couldn’t agree more. It should be pretty exciting. We’re pushing hard and fast to get to the top of the pack and then clearly differentiate and provide better relevance (and gain a lap or two). Stay tuned… Good stuff is coming fast.

If personalization is where it’s at then it needs to scale (fortunately Danny (correctly) disagrees).

Not necessarily. Clustering and similarity algorithms are generally very computationally expensive, but the size of the source corpus is the same whether there’s 1 client or 100,000. Nik says “different indexes each time” – why not use the same indexes? Ok, I wouldn’t for a moment say it’s an easy problem, but like most it can almost certainly be broken down into manageable units.

There are ways to solve this problem. You just have to think out of the box.

Some of my competitors feel it’s too hard:

“I agree with Nik that there’s a huge technical chasm to cross before a “personalized meme tracker” gets really useful. I think progress I make on the memeorandum engine is approaching that, but it’s still far off enough that I’ll pass on hyping it for now.”

Fortunately I’ve already solved this problem. I have an extensive background in building scalable clustering technology (I spent most of my time doing this at Rojo) and our ranking algorithms scale linearly in large compute clusters. Scalability is a hard problem. There aren’t that many people who have ever run a Friendster, MySpace or Technorati.

Of course this isn’t just talk. We already have 90% of the functionality complete. You can go ahead and import your OPML into TailRank right now and build a personalized feed. You can even add this back into your aggregator if you want with a custom feed. We’re going to deploy additional functionality over the next week or two to really take it to the next level.

Because let’s face it, Personalization + Clustering is the next big step in RSS. If 2005 was about Aggregation, then 2006 is all about Filtering.

I totally agree Richard. I think this is one major issue that’s holding RSS back. RSS lead to an explosion of information (which is good) but its almost too good. There’s just too much to track. Which is why we need memetrackers.

The RSS Weblog is running a misleading poll about RSS aggregator distribution.

They only include a few mainline aggregators (and forgot Rojo for example) and then have a catch-all “other” category.

Right now “other” is #3 behind Blogines and NewsGator (if you add up online and desktop ‘other’ votes).

You know, if you think about it, a ‘tag’ based online poll where users could submit their own entries would be a good thing.

It’s been two months since Jason Calacanis announced his “Blog 500” contest.

Where’s the beef? Jason never announced a winner!

PubSub, Feedster, Technorati, and Rojo all had entries (did I miss anyone?). So who won?

Update:

I forgot to mention that Jason told me via email that there was a September 15th deadline. I worked hard to have a TailRank beta ready by then but I think this was being a bit optimistic (I decided that I wanted a more ambitious product).

… so what happened?

Update:

Jason responded but I think he put his comment on the wrong blog post. Including it here:

Frankly, people made their lists like 10-20% better, but no one has really done anything close to what I laid out in the challenge.

At this point I’m going to wait and see if someone can come up with a real list… PubSub’s got half the problem solved in that they are tracking stuff by day… however, they don’t seem to want to groom the list and take out non-blogs (i.e. the top 100 list looks like a lists of the top 100 blogs on the internet!).

Who do you think did the best job?

Why won’t Technorati show the other 400 blogs in the 500 list?!?!

Why can’t anyone do a list based on all time, this year and last 30 days?

 Cnwk.1D I Ne Bigpicture Bigpicture 340 298-1It looks like CNET has a new feature called big picture which basically allows you to view their site as a graph. Their rendering control is actually LivePlasma which is pretty nice.

How it works For every story published, News.com editors and reporters included relevant links to other News.com stories. In addition, News.com highlights the important companies that appear in a story as well as attach appropriate topics to each story.

It’s awesome that CNET is trying out new ideas to see what sticks. I’ve blogged about this before in the past (though I don’t have a link since my old site is offline). If you’re interested in graph visualization I’d recommend checking out Prefuse. While at Rojo I actually did an experiment using our link graph to render web structure using Prefuse.

prefuse is a user interface toolkit for building highly interactive visualizations of structured and unstructured data. This includes any form of data that can be represented as a set of entities (or nodes) possibly connected by any number of relations (or edges). Examples of data supported by prefuse include hierarchies (organization charts, taxonomies, file systems), networks (computer networks, social networks, web site linkage) and even non-connected collections of data (timelines, scatterplots).

Of course it was just an experiment and only ran on my laptop so never saw the light of day.

The problem though is that users don’t like graph visualization. Even researchers have problems understanding graph visualizations. They’re just a toy. While I commend CNET for shipping a cool new innovative tool I just don’t see people using this on a day-to-day basis.

I’d love to be proven wrong though.

OK gang.

What’s the one feature you need in an RSS aggregator before even considering a move.

I’ll start… I must have OPML import because there’s no way I’m going to manually enter in all my feeds. Of course they also need to have OPML export because I don’t want to become locked in.

Leave your thoughts in the comments. Hopefully a few aggregation companies will read this post :)

Updated FeedBurner Stats

I might publish these at regular intervals similar to the way Tim Bray publishes his Browser stats every Sunday.

This time Rojo make’s the roundup since they just added user subscriber counts in their User-Agent header.

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So far I have 140 users and I’m moving forward at a pretty linear basis. The hope is that this blog will have a wide enough demographic so I’ll try to avoid getting too technical (but I might from time to time).

Looks like Bloglines Citations is Kaput!:

It’s been almost a week since Bloglines Citations responded with anything other than…

There is a problem with the database. Please try again later 

I hope Mark reads this. But since Citations is broken he’ll have to use Feedster to find it :-( 

I wonder if this might be a point where Blogines starts to have more scalability problems. I have to admit that they’ve scaled pretty well or at least avoided the issues becoming publicly aware. Every service seems to have problems sooner or later (Rojo, Technorati, Feedster, Friendster, all come to mind) and scaling is hard.

At first it seems like an opportunity for you to nab some users from your competitor but sooner or later you’ll have similar problems. At the end of the day it just ends up hurting consumers.

The main issue is that the tools most people are using just don’t scale. Building a cluster that can handle the number of transactions necessary is a very difficult problem. Hopefully in the next few years we will have Open Source tools which will allow even the novice and small company to build a decent and scalable cluster and have it scale.

rojologoNice! Looks like Rojo has launched their scriptlets support.

So you want to add some Rojo features to your blog or web site? Well, you have come to the right place. Here you will learn how to add some simple scripts to your blog template or web page page that will make some of your Rojo experience available to readers on your site!

The official Rojo blog has more:

We are very happy to announce Rojo Scriptlets! Rojo scriptlets are one line scripts that bloggers and other publishers can use to re-post content from Rojo onto their blog. Rojo users can choose to show the most recent headlines from the feeds they subscribe to in Rojo.

I’m personally excited to see this released because I wrote a prototype of this functionality a while back. Of course 90% of the work is never the initial feature but supporting it and making sure it works in production so hats off to the Rojo gang for making this happen!

There’s more functionality here that Rojo has yet to release so I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag. Needless to say it’s pretty cool.

If you’re reading from RSS make sure to load this blog post in your browser and you’ll see that my blog is not hosting Rojo tags in the right sidebar.

rojologoTechCrunch does a great review or Rojo’s new updates:

Rojo now lists the top 100 feeds subscribed to by users. The top ten include the usual suspects, which at least shows that Rojo users are pretty mainstream v. other reader.

They call it the Rojo 100. You can also view the most read feeds for any given tag.

This second part is more interesting. The top 100 is just another list – not super interesting as a stand alone feature. However, the ability to type a tag and see the most popular feeds based on the tag is, actually, quite useful. In particular, we like the results for the tag “Web2.0“, which lists Read/Write Web and TechCrunch in the top two spots (looks perfect to us!).

The fact that other top 100 indexes aren’t interactive is a bit sad.

Update:

Rojo has more on this on their blog:

For anyone searching for that hard to find RSS feed, check out Rojo’s brand new user generated feed directory. Here’s how it works: thousands of Rojo users “tag” their RSS feeds to make it easy for them to organize. In so doing, they act as a huge, distributed librarian, cataloging feeds and helping other Rojo users find RSS feeds in various subjects. Thousands of subjects and about 100,000 RSS feeds at last count. The feed directory is totally dynamic and updates every time a user tags a feed. You can see what feeds are being tagged recently and the most read (most popular) feeds for any tag.