SiliconFilter

The 10 Most Popular Stories on SiliconFilter this Year

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The first year for SiliconFilter is quickly coming to an end and I would like to say thanks to all of you who stuck with me throughout the last twelve months since I left ReadWriteWeb and decided to go solo.

As with any startup, there have been ups and downs, but to end the year on a high note, I thought I would compile a list of the most read stories on the site since the beginning of the year (and, if warranted, the stories behind them).

The list is ordered according to the number of pageviews each of these stories received.

10.) Kevin Rose at LeWeb: “I Made a Lot of Mistakes at Digg”

Talking to TWiT‘s Leo Laporte and Sarah Lane at LeWeb, Digg‘s founder Kevin Rose noted that he made lots of mistakes while he was still in charge of the popular social bookmarking site. According to Rose, “the first three years were insane.” Rose, however, acknowledged, that he learned a lot on the job by making plenty of mistakes, most importantly with regard to hiring and feature development.

(Background: This was my third year at LeWeb in Paris and this was the most popular story I wrote during the three-day conference.)

9.) Google’s JPEG Alternative WebP Gets Smarter, Takes on PNG

Last year, Google introduced a new image format for the web called WebP. WebP is meant to be a modern alternative to the popular but patent-encumbered JPEG standard. It produces significantly smaller files without sacrificing image quality. Today, Google announced some new features for WebP that may help bring wider adoption to the format, which is currently only natively supported by Opera and Google’s own Chrome browser. With today’s updates, WebP now offers a lossless mode as as well as support for transparency. Both of these features are currently the domain of the lossless PNG format which is currently the JPEG alternative of choice for designers who need either transparency or lossless encoding on their sites.

(Background: I was surprised how well this story did. It’s a relatively technical topic, but people are clearly interested in finding better image formats…)

8.) Think Quarterly: Google Launches Its Own Online Magazine (Updated)

We hear a lot about Google’s relationship with publishers, but this week the search giant also quietly launched its own online publication based in the UK. Think Quarterly, which calls itself a “a breathing space in a busy world” is, as the name implies, a quarterly online magazine. The design feels somewhat reminiscent of Wired, with a strong focus on infographics and large photos (but without ads). The articles come both from writers inside of Google and freelancers and the publication is designed and edited by creative agency The Church of London.

7.) The Internet Explorer IQ Hoax and the State of Tech Blogging

Last Friday, the tech blogosphere was enamored by a study that claimed that Internet Explorer users had a lower IQ than users of other browsers. The study by AptiQuant found that the average IE6 user only scored just over 80 on its IQ test – a test score that is, in terms of real-life accomplishments, generally associated with elementary school dropouts and unskilled workers. The study was a hoax.

(Background: I wrote quite a few posts about how many tech blogs were running stories about statistics that were clearly wrong this year. This one was the most popular, likely because the original hoax also played really well in the mainstream press. It probably also helped that the post provides a bit of background about how the tech blogosphere works.)

6.) Bing: What’s More Evil Than Satan Himself? 10^100

Not too long ago, hiybbprqag wasn’t much of a word, but as Google employee Andy Arnt noticed today, if you search Bing for it these days, you will find that it is an “orcish” word meaning “whiner.” Unless you’ve been closely following the search engine competition between Microsoft and Google, this probably doesn’t make much sense to you, but this little Easter egg is actually quite funny.

(Background: this was just a funny little story I wrote on a Friday afternoon after I read about these search results on Google+. People obviously love the Google/Microsoft rivalry in search. It did really well on Hacker News.)

5.) Why Twitter Should be Very Worried About Google+

When Google unexpectedly launched its new social network Google+ earlier this week, many pundits were skeptical about the company’s latest attempt to enter the social arena. Given Google’s dismal track record when it comes to these kinds of products, that kind of skepticism made sense, but after using it extensively for the last few days, I can’t help but think that it is the single biggest threat Twitter has had to face yet.

(Background: this was my original analysis of how the arrival Google+ would change the social networking  space. I think I still agree with most of what I wrote here, though it’s still a bit early in the game. By next year, we will likely have a better idea, but I think the recent changes to Twitter show that the company is taking this threat seriously.)

4.) Germany vs. Facebook: Like Button Declared Illegal, Sites Threatened With Fine

German websites based in the state of Schleswig-Holstein have until the end of September to remove Facebook‘s ‘like’ button or face a fine of up to 50,000 Euro.

Germany has a long tradition of using laws to protect its citizen’s privacy. Home owners, for example, can ask Google to pixelate their houses in Street View (maybe so that their garden gnomes can stay incognito?). Facebook’s facial recognition feature has also come under fire in recent weeks. The latest target of Germany’s privacy advocates is Facebook’s ‘like’ button („Gefällt mir,“ in German). Thilo Weichert, the head of the Independent Centre for Privacy Protection of the northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein, argues that Internet sites based in his state that use the ‘like’ button are illegally sending this data to Facebook, which in turn uses it to illegally create a profile of its users web habits.

3.) How a Fake MLK Jr. Quote Took the Internet by Storm

“I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy.” Chances are, you’ve seen this quote, attributed to Martin Luther King Jr., at least once on Twitter or Facebook. Perfectly capturing the feelings of many who felt somewhat conflicted about the images of Americans celebrating the death of Osama bin Laden, this quote sadly doesn’t appear anywhere in the works of Martin Luther King Jr. – it did, however, quickly make the rounds on virtually every social media service, starting, it seems, on Facebook and quickly spreading to Twitter, Tumblr and other sites.

(Background: this story went viral on Facebook. Sadly, the social buttons on the site don’t reflect this, as I had to change my domain name early in the year and those counts simply don’t transfer. I don’t generally do a lot of “explainer”-style posts, but there is clearly some value in these.)

2.) Hacker Shows It Doesn’t Take $8 Million to Clone Qwiki – Just 321 Lines of HTML Will do the Trick

Qwiki is an app that creates pretty slideshows based on Wikipedia entries. The service won the top award at the last Techcrunch Disrupt conference and just received $8 million in new funding from a group led by Facebook co-founder Eduardo Saverin.

Personally, I never understood why putting together a text-to-speech engine with a Ken Burns effect was disruptive. The VCs on the Disrupt jury thought different, though, and chose this pretty but ultimately utterly useless service over really disruptive ones like CloudFlare. Apparently I’m not the only one who thinks so. Now, just to show how Qwiki didn’t merit the large new round of funding and how it doesn’t deserve the constant hype on tech blogs like Techcrunch, an intrepid hacker who goes by the name of “Banksy the Lucky Stiff” put together Fqwiki, a workable Qwiki clone in just 321 Lines of HTML.

(Background: When I first saw this project, I just knew I had to write about it. I never got the point of Qwiki and this clearly showed I wasn’t the only one.)

1.) Google Engineer: “Google+ is a Prime Example of Our Complete Failure to Understand Platforms”

Google engineer Steve Yegge mistakenly posted a long rant about working at Amazon and Google’s own issues with creating platforms on Google+. Apparently, he only wanted to share it internally with everybody at Google, but mistaken shared it publicly. For the most part, Yegge’s post focusses on the horrors of working at Amazon, a company that is notorious for its political infighting. The most interesting part to me, though, is Yegge’s blunt assessment of what he perceives to be Google’s inability to understand platforms and how this could endanger the company in the long run.

(Background: this was, by far, the most read post on this site in the last 12 months. I read it in the middle of the night, sometime around 3am, because I had just come back from Japan and was severely jetlagged. I think others probably also read Yegge’s post, but never got to the point where he talks about Google+ (it really just looks like a post about Amazon at the start). I was so bored and wide awake that I read all the way through it and immediately got up and wrote this story in 30 minutes after I got to the Google+ part.)

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5:32 pm


Kevin Rose at LeWeb: “I Made a Lot of Mistakes at Digg”

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Talking to TWiT‘s Leo Laporte and Sarah Lane at LeWeb today, Digg‘s founder Kevin Rose noted that he made lots of mistakes while he was still in charge of the popular social bookmarking site. According to Rose, “the first three years were insane.” Rose, however, acknowledged, that he learned a lot on the job by making plenty of mistakes, most importantly with regard to hiring and feature development.

Rose’s Biggest Mistakes: Hiring, Feature Development

According to Rose, “there is a temptation that you want to throw as many developers as possible at a problem.” As Digg was built on top of PHP, the company would hire too many developers that specialized in this language. Then, however, Rose noted, “you end up with lots of PHP developers, but at some point, PHP isn’t a problem anymore and you are stuck with all of those developers.” At that point, said Rose, you end up having to hire a lot of developers that can do other things and don’t know what to do with the old developers.

Talking about the Digg community, Rose also noted that keeping the often unruly group of users on the site in control was often a problem. During the last presidential election in the U.S., for example, Rose would get death threats when too many pro-Obama stories hit the Digg frontpage.

Digg today still gets about 20 million uniques according to Rose, but at the height of the service’s popularity, it was getting about 38 million uniques.



11:25 am


Kevin Rose’s Oink: Stop Rating Places – Rate the Stuff Inside Them Instead

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Oink, the first product to come out of Digg-founder Kevin Rose‘s Milk project, launched on iOS earlier this week. At this point, the thought of seeing yet another location-based app that lets you rate things may induce some involuntary yawning in you. After testing it for a while now, though, I have to say that while I was highly skeptical of trying yet another app in this space, Oink actually puts enough of a twist on the genre to be interesting and to become a potential challenger to similar services like Foursquare (or even Yelp) in the long run.

The big difference between Oink and Foursquare or Yelp is that Oink doesn’t focus on places so much as on the things inside them. Instead of rating a local restaurant, for example, you would rate the pizza you had there. While it uses your location to make it easier for you to tag your discoveries, it doesn’t bother you with pointless check-ins.

Oink ios discoverThe app features the usual fixings you would expect from this kind of service: an activity stream, the ability to discover popular things around you, access to your profile and, of course, the ability to add your own ratings, photos and comments. While the app is extremely well designed, though, the real game-changer here isn’t so much the app itself, but the idea that users care more about finding interesting things or the best coffee around than the best restaurant or store

Rate Anything

In many ways, adding this granularity to these kinds of apps is really the next evolutionary step. After all, that cool coffee shop where all the hipsters hang out with their Macbook Airs may make a mean espresso, but may not actually make that great iced coffee you really want right now. While it clearly looks forward, though, Oink is also a throwback to the old days of Web 2.0, as its tagging system lets users tag virtually anything with any tag without imposing any clear structure.

Oink also goes beyond location by allowing you to rate and tag virtually anything. There is plenty of talk about books and games on the system right now, for example.

As users rate more items related to tags they are using, they will gain “cred.” This ramification element may attract some of the more competitive folks out there, but there are no Foursquare-like discounts to be had yet (which in return means you don’t have to worry about retaining your mayorship either, of course).

Verdict

Overall, then, Oink puts enough of a twist on this genre to be interesting – something that can’t be said about most of the new entrants in this oversaturated market for ratings+photo sharing apps. As any new service, it suffers from the fact that there isn’t much of a community on it yet – especially if you don’t live in San Francisco – but I’ve got a feeling that it will quickly attract a very dedicated following.



5:30 pm


Rumor: Kevin Rose Has Left Digg

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In a few years time, the story of Digg – the once popular social news/bookmarking service – will likely be a textbook case of a big brand that didn’t manage to change with the times. For now, Digg is still a decently large site, though down significantly from its heights pre-Digg v4. The end for Digg as we know it could be near, though. According to TechCrunch’s Mike Arrington, Digg founder Kevin Rose has resigned from the company. Rumor is that he is closing a $1 million financing round for a new startup.

Headshot of Kevin Rose during a live filming o...

Image via Wikipedia

As Arrington rightly points out, Digg’s glory days were around 2007/2008, when Google was quite interested in buying the site, though that deal eventually fell through. Since then, Digg has struggled to keep up with the times and is now under pressure from social media services like Twitter and Facebook, as well as from Digg-like sites, including Conde Nast’s Reddit. The launch of Digg v4, which alienated the site’s most loyal users in an effort to turn Digg into a more mainstream-oriented service, was a turning point for the site, which never recovered from this.

For Digg, Rose’s departure (assuming this rumor is true) likely won’t result in any immediate changes. While Rose took over as Digg’s CEO after the departure of Jay Adelson (who, according to various people I have talked to at SXSW, has rarely looked as happy and relaxed than these days), Matt Williams took  Rose’s role late last year and now runs the day-to-day operations at Digg. One has to wonder, though, if others at Digg won’t follow Rose’s example and will start looking for new jobs (maybe even at Rose’s new venture).

Note: I have asked Revision3/Digg for a comment about this rumor and will update this story once/if I hear back from them.



3:09 pm


As expected, Digg's users are unhappy with the redesign – a few examples

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Our RWW post about the new Digg just hit the Digg front page – and the comments are anything but friendly. A few choice examples:

  • dw221 Plain and simple….this sucks! Bring back the old Digg.
  • nicklo06 FUCK YOU NEW DIGG GIVE ME DIGG CLASSIC!
  • tophomeloans What’s the point in digging if you don’t get credit for it. Screw this…..
  • originalmadmatt this is crap.. digg has gone to the dogs..
  • outlawsundown New Digg is like New Coke horrible and unwanted. Bring back Classic Digg!
  • fuzybuny What the fuck is up with the color scheme?
    What the fuck is up with the layout?
    Where the fuck is the upcoming section?
    How the fuck do I see peoples comments?
    Fuck this fucking fuck shit and fuck Diggs shitty ass Web Designer they should have hired a fucking Usability specialist now this website is pure fuckery.

Almost by default, users don’t like redesigns – and the more invested users are in a site, the less they like change. It’ll be interesting to see what the effect of this redesign will have over the next week or so. Early reactions are almost unanimously negative (and Diggers tend to be quite vocal in their disapproval)



5:35 pm