SiliconFilter

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


Is Cell Phone Radiation Harmful? Nobody Knows, But San Francisco Wants to Warn You Anyway

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When it comes to the radiation that emanates from cell phones, nobody really knows if it is harmful or not. For every study that “proves” that cell phones will cause you cancer, another one appears that shows just the opposite. The Board of Supervisors of San Francisco, though, isn’t going to leave anything to chance and retailers in the city will now have to provide shoppers with information about potential radiation risks.

The version of San Francisco’s cellphone ordinance  that passed today is significantly weaker than another one the city tried to pass last year. At that time, though, the wireless industry association CTIA challenged that ordinance  in court where it remained in legal limbo until today. The old version would have forced retailers to make comparisons between different phones available to consumers, while the new version just expects them to display general information and to offer a tip sheet on how to reduce (the purported threat of) exposure.

These new rules still have to pass a final vote by the board on July 26, but, according to the Bay Citizen’s Stephanie Sara Chong the general expectation is that the ordinance will easily pass.

Image credit: Flickr user whatleydude

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4:59 pm


Chromebooks Take Flight on Virgin America

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Google is definitely trying its best to get the word out about its ChromeOS-based Chromebooks. Now, the company has teamed up with Virgin America – one of the Silicon Valley’s favorite (yet perennially money-losing) airlines – to offer travellers to “test-fly” Chromebooks for free onboard their flights and at select gates from July to the end of September. Chromebook users – including those who bring their own ChromeOS-powered laptops on board – will also get free WiFi courtesy of Virgin America and Gogo. Travelers who stay in New York’s Ace Hotel will also find a Chromebook in their rooms. (more…)



4:51 pm


Live Blog: Google’s Inside Search Event

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Google is hosting a small media event in San Francisco this morning. It’s not clear what Google plans to focus on during this event, but the last time the company hosted a similar meeting, it announced Google Instant.

The only thing we know about today’s event is that Google Fellow Amit Singhal will be among the presenters. Singhal’s research interests include speech retrieval, question answering and automatic text summarization. All of these sound like potential candidates for interesting new search products from Google.

To find out more about Google’s announcement, tune in for our live blog at 9:30am PT, 12:30am ET, 18:30 CET or watch the live video stream here. (more…)



3:51 pm


Know When Your Bus is Late: Google Maps Gets Live Transit Updates

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Most online mapping products today feature transit directions. Sadly, though, it’s the nature of public transit that things often don’t quite run on schedule. Thankfully, quite a few transit districts have now track their buses and trains with a GPS system so that the public can know exactly when the next bus or train will arrive. For the most part, however, you won’t know this information until you arrive at the station (which is always either far too early or just too late). Starting today, however, there’s a better way to get this information quickly: Google Maps will now feature live transit updates in four U.S. cities (Portland, OR, Boston, San Diego and San Francisco) and two European ones (Madrid and Turin).

Google maps will feature both live departure times and service notices to Maps on the desktop, mobile browser and on Google Maps for mobile (Android 1.6+).

To give this a try on the desktop, just look for a transit icon on the map and click on it. If you’re in a supported city, you will see when the next train or bus will arrive and if there are any alerts that affect traffic to or from this station.



3:13 pm


Google Earth Brings 3D Buildings to the Virtual San Francisco Bay Area

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Google just announced that Google Earth now features high-quality 3D-models of virtually all of the Bay Area, including San Francisco, Google’s hometown of Mountain View, Palo Alto, Oakland, Redwood City, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, San Mateo and Sunnyvale. To see this expanded 3D coverage, you will need to turn on “3D Buildings” in Google Earth.

If you are using Google Earth 6.0 – the latest version currently available – you will also be able to see 3D trees in San Francisco.

Google already offers 3D buildings in other cities around its virtual globe in Google Earth, including New York. It is also worth noting that Microsoft’s Virtual Earth application was among the first to feature 3D buildings. Microsoft was able to generate these relatively quickly by using radar data to create its models while Google seems to be using a more manual hands-on approach.

If you would like to improve how your own building looks like in Google Earth or help create more 3D buildings, you can use Google’s easy to use Building Maker and SketchUp tools to do so.



10:58 am