Product & Startup Builder

Filtering by Category: "collaborative filtering"

John Tropea describes an APML enabled world

Added on by Chris Saad.
John Tropea has an amazing ability to keep in his head (and subsequently on his posts) a big map of all the related tools and applications that are remotely related to any given topic.

As a result of his encyclopedic knowledge of all things RSS/Attention/Recommendation, he has written a lengthy post about various applications of APML in every day web 2.0 tools.

He has a fantastic view of an APML enabled world that puts the user at the center of their Attention driven experience.

Read it here.

Collaborative Recommendation 3.0

Added on by Chris Saad.

Every now and then someone asks 'Why don't you build Collaborative Recommendation into Particls'.

In case you don't know, Collaborative Recommendation is when a system uses the recommendation of many people to 'decide' that a piece of content is worth seeing. So, like Digg for example, if 100 people vote that something is great (vote is a word I use loosely here), then it is probably worth seeing.

There are a few answers to that question.

  1. Particls is really about filtering noise out - not discovering new recommended content (even though we provide some of that functionality just to get novice users started).
  2. There are plenty of other great collaborative recommendation services out there, stick the RSS feed into Particls and there you go.
  3. Google's PageRank and Technorati's Authority is already a form of Collaborative Recommendation - it isn't really very new.
  4. The next generation of Collaborative Recommendation is actually something different. Let's call it Collaborative Filtering 3.0 or... Peer LifeStreams + Personal Relevancy

You have friends (hopefully); they have lifestreams (or at the very least RSS feeds from all their social/sharing sites) - plug their feeds into Particls and we filter out the stuff you don't care about. What's left? Stuff your friends 'recommended' that you actually care about. Collaborative Recommendation done right.

If you want to add me to your Collaborative Recommendation lineup, you can find me on Jaiku

Major media outlets are starting to understand the zero sum game of Attention

Added on by Chris Saad.
Scott Karp has written a great piece summarizing what we here at Touchstone has been alluding to for quite some time.

Individuals can now make a good living as content creators, without ever creating or becoming part of a scale content business. What’s more disruptive, however, is that in the market for original content, the attention economy is draining dollars out of the cash economy. There remains a zero sum game for consumer attention, so for every minute a consumer spends with content created by an entity whose compensation is in form of attention, there’s a minute not being spend on content created by a for-profit entity.

In contrast, the content aggregation and distribution side of the divided media industry has all the advantages of scale, with the technology-enabled platform (e.g. MySpace, Facebook, YouTube, search) serving as the organizing principle for the new scalable media businesses. Content creation is asymptotically approaching commodity status, while platforms that can effectively aggregate content and allocate scarce consumer attention can unlock immense value in the new media marketplace.


This does not mean, however, that commercial content creators will lose out while Aggregators destroy their businesses. It means that content creators need to understand and respect and value the role of aggregators to help them find an audience. Further, they need to understand how Personalized Aggregation (based on Attention) changes the publisher/audience dynamic.

First, as we all know, there is no more audience, only participants. But more importantly for this discussion - the participants have different expectations. They want highly tailored content experiences that meet their tastes exactly. And they have no shortage of places to find that conent - in fact too many sources. We sometimes call this hyper choice or information overload.

This means that publishers need to:
  1. Start thinking niche.
  2. Start finding ways to cut through the noise to reach niche audiences.
This is where Attention comes in. By measuring one's Attention you can learn what they are interested in. By learning what they are interested in you can learn what content they want to see more of. From there, it's a hop, skip and a jump to connecting content creators with participants.

It also means that Aggregators will have a growing responsibility to content creators. A responsibility to report statistics, create transparency in their platforms and find some way to help the eco-system of Content Creators become successful.

Read Scott's full post for some more great insights.

The hardest thing I have to do every day is to decide what to ignore

Added on by Chris Saad.
What a great line:

The hardest thing I have to do every day is to decide what to ignore.

This comes from Jeremy Zawodny.

He goes on to say:

I need to invert my thinking. I should be starting most days with a strong idea in mind of what I want to spent the majority of the day focusing on. If there's time left, I'll tend to the other distractions.

This has implications for both business and media consumption:


Jeremy is correct. We must define our scope of interest first, and then make intelligent decisions about what to pay attention to.

That's what Touchstone does with APML. Your APML file (generated by Touchstone or any other APML compatible service) describes your scope of interest. Toucstone then ranks and filers incoming information for you against that profile.

Jeremy I'd be happy to give you a Beta Invite - drop me a line.

Some might say that this approach limits spontaneity or serendipidy. I'd argue that if you want spontaneity check Tailrank or Techmeme or Digg - they are fantastic Popularity/Meme Engines.

If you want a productive awareness of what you do all day, you need an Attention Management Engine.

Now some might say this sounds all academic and very 'Business Productivity' focused. But the reality is that this applies to media consumption as well. With a growing underbelly of great niche content, it is becoming very difficult for content creators to find an audience and audiences (or should we say participants) are finding it increasingly hard to pick the right entertainment experiences from a huge range of possible choices.

Thanks to Paul for pointing me to this post

Piping the internet - Yahoo Pipes released

Added on by Chris Saad.
Everyone is talking about the new service from Yahoo - Pipes.

Pipes is cool. It does a lot of stuff. Mainly it lets you take RSS (Ray Ozzie has referred to RSS as the "Unix pipe of the web") and literally pipe it. Through what? A series of services and transformations until it comes out look just like you want it.

Think of it as a super FeedRinse.

Unfortunately though, it's not exactly useful 'out-of-the-box'. But that's ok - because it is more a piece of Internet plumbing than it is a consumer facing service. Which is strange considering it's coming from Yahoo!

My friend Ian Forrester loves pipes. He has been talking about them for a long time. In fact he correctly noted that Touchstone is a sort of pipeline. Data comes in from a set of Input Adapters, is processed by our engine for Personal Relevancy, Cache and Routing, and is then passed on to one or more Output adapters for presentation to the user.

Of course our pipe is not as flexible or configurable, but it is immediately useful for consumers. It's interesting in fact that the first example that Yahoo provides (and O'reilly catches on to) is the idea of using pipes to aggregate and filter news alerts. But filtering is so 5 years ago.

Blog Highlights of 2006

Added on by Chris Saad.
Hi everyone - I hope you had a great 2006. I know we certainly have. In just one year, Touchstone has gone from the back of a napkin to a funded, flying company with a number of great staff, friends, advisors and testers. We wish to thank you all very much for your efforts this year - we literally could not be doing this without you.

Here are the highlights from the blog over the last year in reverse order (most recent at the top).

Hitting the Mainstream 2
Information Overload hits the mainstream media for a second time - in a big way.

Hitting the Mainstream 1
Information Overload hits the mainstream media for the first time (or there abouts)

Democracy Now!
Web 2.0 has barley hit and people are talking about Web 3.0. We discuss how absurd that is and why YouTube is NOT Web 2.0.

Show me the money (or pain!)
Some people (read:head in the sand) think there is no information overload problem. This post explains why there is.

Filtering vs. Ranking
Some people are still talking about filtering RSS. Filtering is so 5 years ago.

Aggregation is King
Content used to be king. If that's true, then Aggregation is now master of the universe.

Desktop vs. Web-based
Web 2.0 implies that stuff is on the web. Not true. This post talks about the value of desktop applications in a web world. By the way - did you know the Browser is a desktop application? Shock/Horror.

What is Attention Data?
And no - it is not just OPML or Attention.XML.

Personalized Content
Some claim that the battle for 'People Powered News' is over. Digg and others have won. I make the argument that People Powered News MIGHT be done, but Personalized Content is just getting started.

There is no more audience
Participants have killed the audience. Media outlets that treat their audience like eyeballs are doomed to fail in a Media 2.0 world. This is a short rant about the death of the Audience.

Touchstone funded by Angel
Touchstone get's funded by an Angel Investor. What more do we need to say about that!

The Long Tail of Attention
Chris Anderson describes the three factors that have made the Long Tail a viable market. I then explain why a Tool like Touchstone empowers the 'Long Tail' (that's you and me) to take advantage.

Personal Relevancy
What is Personal Relevancy exactly? It's when your interests and personality become the basis for choosing content, rather than the whims of one editor who decides what 'the mainstream' should care about.

Tune Out the Noise
Touchstone is not about alerting - it is about NOT alerting. Think about that.

Attention, Scarcity and Demand
Markets work on Supply and Demand. Price is dictated by Scarcity. So in an era of abundance, the scarcest resource is our Attention.

Power Back in your hands
Amazon Recommendations are great... for them. They help cross-sell and up-sell their customers. But what if you could use the same technology to take control of your information across all the sites you visit?

Anti-Web 2.0
Touchstone is a desktop application. Does this make it Anti-Web 2.0?

Not a Gadget Engine
Touchstone compared to the current rash of Gadget/Widget engines out there.

RSS is not just about News
Imagine using RSS for something other than News. Feed readers fail for most of those other applications. Touchstone picks up the slack.

Thanks again for sticking with us. The best is yet to come!

Chris, Ash and the whole Touchstone Crew.

The PageRank of Personal Relevancy

Added on by Chris Saad.
Ilya recently posted some great data and analysis on the current state of RSS reading habits.

He goes on to explain many of the issues I alluded to in a previous post titled "Show me the money (or the pain)".

I think the question of information overload is answered. Yes there is an overload. But RSS is not the problem. In fact blogs and user generated news are not the problem either. They are just one source of information in our lives.

There are application events, presence changes from our friends, internal memos from head office, applications on our desktop and more all clamoring for our time...

So tools that try to cluster and suggest content from blogs and mainstream news sites are only (very) useful for part of the time.

Ilya goes on to make a great suggestion in his post. He recognizes that collaborative filtering has limitations, Keyword filtering is 'so 5 years ago' and that any one 'community voting' measurement will fall short.

With Touchstone we have gone to great lengths to cover all these usage scenarios. We have built a platform that accepts 'items' not 'RSS'. This means that we can source content from places other than RSS and then cache, rank and route them in a unified way.

Our 'rank' is not based on collaborative filtering or keyword filtering or community voting or previous reading behavior. It is based on some and none of these things at the same time. As such, our technology can work in a vacuum on a personal item behind the firewall, just as it can work on a news item that the whole world can see and link (read:vote) to.

Also, there is no 'handshake' period where our application tries to track your reading behavior over time. We are on the client side which means we have access to your browser history/cache, documents and email for an instant, broad and ongoing base of 'Attention Data' in order to determine your interests.

Ilya rightly compares this to PageRank. While PageRank uses incoming links as a vote to measure authority, it relies on a broader set of factors to make a decision and produce a number.

And because the result is a number rather than a binary 'yes or no' filter or an opaque recommendation, Touchstone can make intelligent presentation decisions when displaying the alert/content/information. The bigger the number the bigger the item on the page.

My friend Adam also posted about the 'Feed Overload Problem' on his blog.