Sunday, June 15, 2008

Hippopost Brings Free Postcards to Facebook at the Cost of Privacy?

Ever wanted to send free post cards? Hippopost is making the bet that you do. They are a new service offered through Facebook and on the web that will let you create and send post cards for free. They pay the postage in return for placing an advertisement on the back of the card, but with no privacy policy you are using the service at your own risk.

The service is straight forward and easy to use. You basically start with a picture that you upload (or one that is already on Facebook) or choose from a selection of post cards. You can then write a personalized message, followed by the recipients address. You can even choose which advertisement will be printed on the back of the card. One area that could be improved would be to automate the filling out of the address by letting you choose from your friends on Facebook that have their addresses visible.

From what I can tell, their business model is advertisement based. Advertisements are on the application itself and on the card. I'm not sure if this will be viable source of revenue considering that postage to the U.S is 41 cents a pop. I doubt that a few ad impressions per user would recoup this operating cost. Maybe the company is a little more insidious than they appear and are selling the sender and sendee's addresses? It would be within their legal right to do so because as of right now there is no privacy policy on the site.

This is definitely troubling. Had I realized this before I used the service to send two cards, I wouldn't have used it. I think this has potential to be a great service, provided they get a privacy policy, and they don't go broke from operating costs.

Update: This story is being covered over on Techcrunch per my suggestion! I guess the privacy issue isn't a big of deal as I made it out to be because a member of the Hippopost team stated on their forum that they do not sell or give your information to their advertisers.

Update: Since this post, they have updated their privacy policy. Also, the two post cards that I sent were received and they look great. It took a little while, about 3 weeks, but hey, they were free!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Google Maps Street View Comes to Hampton Roads

Ok, Google Maps is becoming entirely too useful. They have steadily been adding new features and content to the service, all the while fine tuning. When Street View - a service that provides 360 degree panoramic street-level views - first came out about a year ago, I thought "Ok, this is cool, but it will be years before it makes it to where I live." I couldnt have been more wrong.

Google Maps now offers their Street View service to the Hampton Roads area. Below is panoramic picture taken in front of my house. You can even see my neighbor's car. I must have been at work when they were taking the images. This service is just entirely too useful. Going to a new location that you've never been too before? Look up the street view and wallah, it's like you're there!

This service will also help out when your trying to determine the quality/safety of an area. Say your in the market for a new home. Sometimes the pictures of the front of a house can be misleading, so punch in the address or area of the house your interested in and you instantly know whether or not you want to live there.

If Google keeps this up, I think Yahoo Maps will steadily keep losing their market share.

View Larger Map

Thursday, June 5, 2008 Needs to get Their Act Together

I sent the below email to a Spock user's group today. I am hoping this may urge them to add some features to their site that will make them more portable and usable.

Dear Spock Management,

Just wanted to drop you guys a link to a valuable resource.

I know you guys are busy doing what you do, but the information contained on that page coupled with what you already have would make Spock a #1 player. Right now it seems like you guys are kind of slipping into obscurity. I find myself using Spock less and less.

I think one of the main reasons I am using Spock less and less is that, well, you guys are living up to your charter, to be a people search engine. But let's face it, people search alone is not a utility that someone uses everyday. Actually, I think I only have the need to search for people maybe a few times a year. I think you guys have already shown that your not just a people search engine by implementing activity streams. There is nothing about an activity stream that is people search oriented. So I think you need to face to the facts that you are more than a people search engine and start including more content oriented application like comments. The reason FriendFeed is becoming so popular is because it has comments. That's it. It's basically Spock with comments!!

Sorry if I sound like I am bashing you guys. I just don't want to see you join the deadpool because I think what you have could be great.


Carlton Northern


A few other members of the group expressed the same sentiment and we got a reply from Jay Bhatti, founder of His email basically lays out Spock's roadmap. It is posted below. Unfortunately, it mentions nothing of data portability. Here is the reply in it's entirety:

Hi All - thanks for all the comments and bringing this up. I want to
take the oportunity to address the roadmap of Spock and where we are
going. I think it is quite exciting.

Take a look at Alexa and other comscore metrics out there and you will
see that Spock is really growing fast. And a lot of that credit is due
to our power users who have contributed valuable content to Spock.
Friendfeed and other applications are great for social engagment. But
our mission at Spock is a bit different.

Our goal has always been to create the world's best, free, and open
people search engine. We wanted something that when users added
quality content, that the power of that information could be seen and
used by anyone in the world. Along those lines, here are things you
will be seeing in Spock very soon and are already seeing. This is
stuff being implemented as a direct result of your feedback.

1. Tighter control of content - A search engine is not very valuable
if the content on it is spam or junk and not relevent to the world
looking for it. When we get relevent, factual and clean content on
Spock, it makes the experience better for everyone who uses it.
However, when poor content is added, it takes away from the experience
of everyone using it. In that light, we are creating better controls
in place for both content submission and content approval. In a few
weeks, there will be a dedicated UI that will be structured and
organized to encourage people to add the right type of content to
Spock. In addition, there will be a dedicated UI where either Spock
customer service or the user themselves will be able to review all new
content submitted about themselves, their favorite people, or anyone
on Spock and be able to approve or disapprove the content. Thus, no
longer will content just go up on Spock. It will be reviewed by the
right people and only the highest quality and right content will go
into Spock. That had been a major complaint by our power users (lack
of quality control) and we are addressing it here.

2. Dedicated Sections - at times we tried to do to much. For example
on any one of your detailed results on Spock, we used to try to show
your Spock Power, we tried to show your web content, we tried to give
you features right in that UI for adding and voting on content. And it
was just too much. We are becoming better at understanding user needs
at each point. For example, going forward

a - the search results page will be optimized for great display of
b - the detailed results page (eg. will be optimized
for great information display
c - we will have dedicated pages for power users to add content and
dedicated pages for power users to review content.
d - we will have dedicated pages for power users to see and review how
their content contributions rank and how their spock power is tracking
not just on a global basis, but against their peers, etc
e - we will have a dedicated ui that will enable power users to play a
"game" with each other to rank and vote on new content submitted
within Spock (this one is a bit longer in our roadmap, but something
that will be fun and useful).

3. Focus on rewarding power users - I have heard a lot of feedback
from Power Users saying that they want Spock to be like Wikipedia and
not like a social network. And we have taken that feedback seriously.
Many users who add great content on Spock say they want Spock to have
the best content and they want to be recognized by the world for
helping create a powerful people search engine that brings the world
closer and not be part of another social network. They have been
pushing us to focus more on:

a - high quality contributions by users that add value to the world
b - tight controls against spam, and bad actors
c - making sure power users have the tools to add and review content
and get the right rewards for it (recognitation, spock power,
community acknowledgement, etc)
d - remove some of the things causing spock to go against its mission
of great people search such as trust network, spam emails being sent
by one user to many people who do not know him, and poor control of
e - fix how spock power is calculated and make sure the right code is
in place to reward power users

In that light our goals is simple

- when visitors come to spock, they get great search results, they
can add any search result on spock to their "my people" list and get
news updates on their favorite people thanks to the spock robot and
the community always adding great content about people

- when power users use spock, they have the tools, rewards, and
process necessary to add great content, review content and make sure
they are building the world's biggest community generated search
engine ever.

Now, to do all these things is not easy. Especially trying to do all
these things at once:) It's almost like trying to build out a section
of a airplane while it is, we said that we will first
clean up Spock from a UI and data standpoint, then make sure to create
the right tools for power users, and then fix Spock Power and then
create even better tools for power users to add and review content.

I hope this helps in explaining our roadmap. I am certain the things
we are building will be exciting and fun for Power Users to engage
with, and at the same time, add a lot of value to the community. We
just need a little time to bake them fully...

I hope this helps.