Jigar Mehta’s WebBlog

June 7, 2008

How would it be if, "Google Reader gets Rules support!"

Filed under: How would it be.. — jigarme @ 2:11 pm

I was a hardcore FeedDemon fan! Especially after it taken over by NewsGator, it became better than ever! But then I tried Google Reader in parallel (version 2).. and I was forced to retire FeedDemon (though it became free!)

Google Reader is one of the site that is opened by me at least 5 times in any working day! (all days are working days for me right now.. at least when I am in the city!) Over the time, I have got a huge collection of RSS subscribed!


Its good, that Google Reader supports Labeling the feeds (so I can categorize them and focus on what I want at a particular time!)

But now, while dealing with so many feeds and traffic, I think its necessary to have Outlook-like (or EMail like) rules support in Google Reader!

Following are the Use-Case I can think of!!

  • One can create a rule to Mark items with specific word or entire feed As Read (without reading it)..
    • One would say what’s the point in having such a feed in Google Reader! Well, The day Google Reader released its Search Feature, I was the happiest user! I had thought of many things about this feature.. Now, I have my own customized Search Engine (My own Google, that Serves me for what I am interested in!!!)
    • So, there are few feeds in my Google Reader which were added just so that they get added to my ‘Personal Search Engine’.. I never wanted to read those few feeds on regular basis.. But What I want is, when I look for those Items, I should be able to search them quickly in my Personal Search Engine! (using the search feature of Google Reader..) One example of such item is, Feed from Books website where newly published/added book in specific category is syndicated over RSS.. I have all those new books (information about them) feed in my Google Reader which I dont want to read everyday (who has time!) but when I search for an ISBN in Google Reader, it should show me that Feed..
  • One can create a rule for an important feed such that any new post in that feed will send you an IM on GTalk/Jabber.
    • This will be really cool, Taking RSS to next level! (Instant Notification!)
    • Though, there are many sites out there who allows you to get RSS notifications over IM (like, try adding imfeeds@gmail.com to your google talk!), but having it integrated within Google Reader will be Awesome!
  • Marking items with specific items as starred items!
  • Automatically share the items from specific source or one having specific words.
  • I would love to have an ability to automatically post an item (or link to it!) to my blog if it contains specific words!
    • Just imagine, you publish set of photos on Flickr, which FriendFeed aggregates, which comes to Google reader (if you have subscribed to friendfeed RSS), and you already have a rule in place that posts Flickr related photo upload again on Blog! All your blog readers will automatically be able to see Flickr Photo uploads!! (this can cause recursive effect as well, but I am sure we can find some solution to get rid of it!)
  • EMail item to somebody with specific words or from specific source!

If you think there can be some more interesting use-cases for Rules feature in Google Reader, feel free to leave a comment..

Going forward, I would love to have GMail and Google Reader Integrated! Designing UI for this merging is going to be a challenging part, but that should be the way to go!! (no point in having two window [or tabs] having opened all the times!)

I think Google Reader has undoubtedly become Favorite RSS reader of the Mass.. Others should just retire!! (No offence, if you are BlogLines reader!!)

Go build your piece of cake! And yeah, if you are a geek feel free to subscribe to my Google Reader Shared Items

Stay tuned.. Wave

What will it take for Live Search to Win!!

Filed under: How would it be.. — jigarme @ 3:12 am

Microsoft has been a leader or really a good competitor when it comes to software (and now slowly, I can say in hardware devices as well)! But when it comes to Web Search it is not the leader, neither is it a big competitor comparing the Market Share.

It is always a big challenge to break the monopoly, especially when you are dealing with unbelievably good and growing competitor! Personally, I love working on almost impossible challenges (because when you achieve something which was really impossible, its out-of-the-world feeling! Though, I know it attracts high failure rate and risk as well!) It takes something more than extra-mile to reach that place! According to me (and many authors that I have read!), The key to win is, "Keep users in front of you, for all that you do!".

Well, I had thoughts about "Improving Live Search to Win" in my mind roaming around, from quite some time.. But could not get chance to materialize them into a blog post. This weekend, I decided to finish this pending task.. I want to list few things here that Microsoft (Live Search Team) can do in order to Win in the Search market! I know, Microsoft is FULL of smart & intelligent people, and may be some of THE BEST minds are thinking over this problem ‘day-n-night’ relentlessly.. Here are two cents from my side (being a drop in the sea, who’s not in the position right now to make direct decisions Happy)!

Here are main four themes around which my ideas can be grouped:

  1. Innovation:
    Though, people say Microsoft is no more Innovative! I completely dis-agree with them.. I see innovation every now and then with all the products I use from Microsoft. In-fact they are full of innovations! MS is the company who took PC industry till this point (where you and me having multiple machines helping us work efficiently!) I believe, Innovation would help Live Search beat competition as well! Here are few thoughts that I have collected..
    1. On the main page, show Today’s top three/five viewed search results! (be it from News, Science, Tech, Blog category!). This will add dynamic content on the search engine home page which will pull lot of curious geek!
    2. If Search query has any spelling-typing mistake, it should suggest correct spellings. (which live search does right now to some extent, but I am talking about suggestions not just for dictionary words but also comparing page rank/likeliness of result pages!)
      1. Say for example, I make a typing mistake and type, “jiagr mehta” (instead of “jigar mehta”), Live search can not suggest me right now! (where as Google does!)
    3. Live search should expose verbs to search for particular category from main page.. Something like,
      • “blog:latest live writer CTP” : should return me results about blog posts about live writer CTP..
      • “news:US presidential elections”
      • “tech:woopra release”
    4. Allow users to subscribe for latest search results, which has rank worth of appearing on first page (for those keywords). Notification for such results would be available to users through IM! Just imagine, you have registered for “Earthquake China” keywords and you get an IM as soon as that unfortunate event happens!
    5. If user clicks on any word in particular search result’s description (which is a content snippet from original article!), it should dynamically expand that search result showing 5 more continuous lines for that. This will allow users to read more information about the article on search result page itself (before clicking on correct result! – This will also improve click-through v/s success ratio)
    6. Auto suggest query and result about the most popular item on the sidebar as and when user starts typing in. (this can be challenging in real time, but what is not!)
    7. Provide more context to user query in search result preview: Right now Live Search (Same story with Google as well) provides very poor context of searched words in search result..

      e.g. searching for "Petrol price increase India", it gives result saying

      Petrol, diesel prices may rise after Jan 17-India Business-Business …
      Petrol, diesel prices may rise after Jan 17 5 Jan 2008, 0329 hrs IST , Diwakar & Sanjay Dutta , TNN … timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Petrol_diesel_prices_may_rise/articleshow/2676215.cms

      As you see in above result, actual content from the result page is hardly one line.. If more context is provided to user, he will be able to more efficiently select correct page by reading that information! (What I think is, its not a MUST to have first result the best one, if user is able to find his intended result on the first page without miss each time, every-time!, that should be absolutely fine! – Though, first result as best one is always good!)

    8. Use empty space on the results page to show more information that user might be interested in!

      Apart from sponsored results, there can be lots of things that can be shown on results page which can help user.. (I know, this will increase the wait time for user, but with the help of AJAX today, all these ‘extra’ items can be triggered to start loading after showing basic 10 results to user!)


      1. Allow user to group results from particular domain!
      2. Allow user to sort results from freshness of result page! (many times, I am looking for latest information and have to go through old articles!)
      3. If result is ‘marked as news article’, publish date of article! (This will help user decide to ignore too old articles! or choose the latest ones..)
      4. Provide user a small section of ‘Recommended Picks’ (more on this later in personalized theme) which will help user stay up-to-date with latest happenings he is most interested with.
    9. Implement ‘Smart Scrolling’ on search results page such that, there would be NO next and previous page links! As user starts scrolling the page, live search keeps on appending results! I think this would also help in improving overall search experience.
    10. Natural language interpretation! This is going to be a need going forward! If I write "What was the stock that gained highest today in NASDAQ" or "What is latest news about NASA’s Mars mission" Live search should be able to point me right to the information! (I see companies like PowerSet taking a giant leap in this direction, and that is probably a nice to have feature today! [and probably must-have in near future!])
    11. Donation to charity institutions on usage of Live search was on my mind but its already officially announced as, ‘Search and Give’.. A very good Idea.. (Though, it needs to get completely integrated with Live Search! I don’t understand why Different Search Provider in IE for Search and Give!!)
    12. Live Search already have “Smart Answers” Which is actually a great way to give user something ‘
      extra’.. I would like to suggest following additions or modifications to it..

      1. If I search for any Movie Name or TV Show/series,
        • It should show me some vital facts about the movie (by partnering with IMdb)
        • Allow me to directly land on the page on NetFlix where I can add that movie to my Queue
        • Gives me inline option to buy for that movie (with some discount offered by Cashback) or add it to WishList.
      2. If I search for some Person Name,
        • It should show me basic information about that person (like e-mail, web-site URL, Profession, City etc.) [Probably by looking at public information from social networks like Facebook/Orkut/MySpace/FriendFeed or Professional networks like LinkedIn] and provide link to their public profile
      3. If I search for Song track,
        • It should provide me option to play that track inline (on search result page) [by partnering with Napster]
        • An option to buy that track OR entire album from Napster/iTunes/Amazon!
      4. If I search for City Name,
        • Give me Whether Information for that City
        • List current time in that City
        • One top breaking news that happened last in that City!
        • Link to map for that city (linking to Virtual Earth page!)
      5. If I search for any Software Product name, [MS can build advertisement model for having custom messages for this category!]
        • It should list Product’s full name with latest version number linking to author’s web page.
        • Option to download/buy that product directly from Smart Answer!
        • Two flagship products from the same company hyper-linked to their Info page.
      6. If I search for ISBN,
        • Book’s cover page snapshot with more information about that book (like Author, No. of pages, Selling status (bestseller), Awards etc.
        • Option to buy that book from Amazon
      7. If I search for any Product’s Model Number
        • More information about that product (including small snapshot)
        • Option to buy it (with appx price & cashback!)
      8. If I search for Email address (I am not sure about privacy concerns around this!)
        • It should give at least Full name of this person! [Can be derived from search index and social network’s public profile pages]
      9. If I search for some Company Name
        • If that company is listed in any stock exchange, today’s latest stock quote chart should be shown.
        • Company’s Web-site URL should be listed
        • Very basic information about that company (may be their vision or mission statement!)
      10. If I search for any API (Application Programming Interface),
        • It should list signature of that function and link to web-page with more information about that API. (e.g. for Win32/.NET APIs link it to MSDN)
        • It should provide me link to sample snippet code which exhibits usage of that API (be it Windows API or Third party libraries API like STL).
      11. If query matches with any of Guinness World Record (e.g. “most t-shirt worn”),
        • Provide more information about that Record and hyperlink to more information about that world record.
      12. If I search for DHL tracking number (or formatted tracking number for any courier company, for that matter)
        • It should show me current status of shipping (by partnering with respective courier companies)
      13. If I search for formatted flight number,
        • It should list schedule for that flight for current day (giving user interactive options to see the schedule for next few days – AJAX way..)
      14. If search query contains two Cities,
        • It should list best & cheapest flight (probably with some cashback) between those two cities hyper-linking directly to partner airline site. (May be MS can use FareCast here!)
      15. If query contains some file extension (like “.pst”),
        • Give more information about that file extension and software program to open those files. (I think Microsoft already maintains this database for Windows Vista, that can be used)
      16. If query is an Idiom or Phrase,
        • It should provide meaning of that phrase (by partnering with encarta or dictionary.com)
      17. If query term contains only a single word,
        • Show meaning of that word (synonyms, antonyms) and a sentence using that word!
      18. If query contains Magazine name,
        • Show link to more information about latest edition of that magazine (if its readable online, show few top stories with links)
      19. If query contains Phone number [again not sure about privacy concerns around this, but I guess there are premium/free services out on Internet which provides this service! – If that is not feasible, it can also be derived simply by crawling the web!]
        • List information about owner of that number!
      20. If query contains URL to some website,
        • Show WhoIs information about that website!
      21. If query is simply IPv4/IPv6 address,
        • Show Basic information about that IP address (one I use normally is here)
      22. If query is just some DLL name,
        • Give information about that DLL
        • Link to download that DLL (or package that contains that DLL)
  2. Reliability:
    1. Providing THE BEST results every-time is very crucial for Live Search while being in competitor phase, because a single poor result will drive user back to his ‘old daddy’.. – And I think MS is working towards this very very hard.. I know Live search index has improved exponentially in last few months.. And they are onto it!
    2. Need to win TRUST from users! A user should have confidence (which p
      eople hardly have today) with live search. Of course, this does not happen over-night.
  3. Efficiency:
    1. As a user of Live Search, I want FAST search results (I know MS acquired FAST, but I am talking about Speed here!).. If Live Search can provide search results blazingly fast (at least as fast as the competitor), users will think about using it! Today, Live search is NOT-SO-FAST as compared to other options available!
  4. Personalized User Experience:
    1. Add social element to Search!
      Today, I see SOCIAL on the web with big buzz, I see people becoming more and more social than ever! Microsoft has largest online community (with MSN msgr), MS should leverage this and help users socialize search experience as well! There are few ideas floating around my head!
      1. Give a very quick way for a user to “Star” a particular search result. Give user functionality to share his ‘starred’ results through RSS feed! Give it a cool name, "Live Search Feed" Winking
      2. Design a portal where user can do more with his ‘starred’ search results like,
        1. Search them with Full Text Search
        2. Give a quick way to email a particular search result or group of results to a contact!
        3. Give ability to tag those results.. (suggested tags would be nice feature! Even this manual tagging can be used for many other purposes like keywords verification!)
        4. Ability to group/sort through days/month/domain-name/result-category(whether news/tech/science/blog)
        5. If a particular search result is also tagged by anybody in his/her contact, give them ability to discuss over that result by providing ability to add threaded comments to it!
          • Concept similar to that of FriendFeed.. Where each search result would become a discussion topic! This would prove great for people doing research/study from search results!
        6. Ability to automatically blog daily ‘starred’ search results on user’s live spaces! (Let them share with their community what they searched for and liked!)
        7. Ability to Digg/Twitter/Delicious/FriendFeed/Facebook about the search result with just one click! (that is possible today due to open APIs)
        8. Annotate particular search result with own research text and ability to share it with friends/family. (May be comment feature will make this one duplicate!)
        9. Ability to IM a particular search result to self or a friend (over MSN network).
    2. Give users their own customized search engine!
      We all are living in ‘Information Exploded’ world today! There is a lot happening and available to us, many times, we waste time digging for something which is important to us! (this becomes lot bigger question for Geek!) If Live search can solve this problem, it would definitely win love of many people!
      1. System should be able to detect user’s style/need by looking at search patterns! If one can detect what a particular user is generally looking for, A system can be built which gets intelligent and more perfect over time such that,
        • If I am a developer of C#, I should not have to write "C#" keyword every-time I search for ‘create thread sample’! (It should automatically show me C# sample on top of results!)
        • If my queries and click through results are around latest developments in telecom world, Live Search should be able to suggest me "Recommended reading" anytime some breaking news happens in that industry!
      2. My personalized search engine should be able to allow me increase/decrease rank for pages from particular domain! (even personalized blacklist feature would be nice!)
      3. There should be a section in search result that shows search results for my email conversations! (If I am logged on to my Live account while using Live Search!)
        • Or may be, give special search verb that searches emails instead of web (something like search query “email:I will call you on sunday”)
      4. As described in 4.1 <Social touch to live search>, there should be a section on result page that searches my ‘Starred’ search result items!

That’s almost everything that I can re-collect right now.. It may be possible that some of the ideas are already implemented by live search (which I am not aware of).. But I tried my best to confirm they are not! I may be missing many other thoughts as well, but I will use Comments section (as I generally do!) for adding those..

If you want to add any, feel free to add them here in Comments section!

This is probably the largest post I have ever written, but I think I had to start some day!! Winking

Stay tuned.. Wave

June 5, 2008

How would it be if, “Outlook can allow me to ignore specific email thread!”

Filed under: How would it be.. — jigarme @ 4:35 pm

In an organization, its common that you are part of many discussion groups. Not everytime, you get useful content (for you!) on there! I was just wondering if Outlook had a feature to allow me to ignore a particular thread such that all emails that comes for that thread would automatically be deleted!! I think outlook can create in-memory (short-term) client side rule to do this!

A small feature, but would be useful to many people! I hope it would be there in Office 14!

Stay tuned.. Wave

May 3, 2008

How would it be.. "If Plaxo provides desktop alert about contact update !!"

Filed under: How would it be.. — jigarme @ 4:51 pm

I love Plaxo! I have been using Plaxo since the days when it was still in Beta (even Today, their 3rd version is still in beta! but I am talking about days when Plaxo was beta for their first version)! Plaxo has been giving me all that I wanted about my Contacts!! (According to me Plaxo was one of the first implementers of Social Networking.. way before social networking balloon really started blowing!).. As a result of my long relationship with Plaxo, I have almost 1000+ contacts in Plaxo address-book and a few hundred in Pulse. I love to visit Plaxo Pulse website to check what’s up with my contacts..

But it would be really great if Plaxo comes up with a desktop application that notifies me for any of my Friend’s updates.. Where, I should be able to tell that application, I want ‘more’ updates for X, and ‘less’ for Y..

Right now, they have an update RSS feed which I can use to get update about all my contacts.. I subscribe to that feed right now and keep a watch! But I know how often I can reach my RSS reader to read my feeds!! My point is about "Push" mechanism of updates instead of Pull (from user’s perspective!!!).

Stay tuned.. Wave

How would it be.. "If I can develop *these* applications on Live Mesh Platform!"

Filed under: How would it be.. — jigarme @ 3:16 pm

Microsoft has already announced that they are building A PLATFORM for live mesh which will open new horizons for synchronized applications and provide a whole new user experience!

I have NO IDEA right now, what sort of platform is that going to be, but while thinking towards it, I can think of few applications!!

  • Synchronized Browser Experience..
    • This is something, I have been craving for, from a long time. I also blogged about this in my past ‘How would it be’ article..
    • But I think with Live Mesh Platform, I should be able to do this very easily (If Microsoft doesn’t do it themselves)! Having a browser add-in communicating with my Live Mesh storage on cloud, I should be able to store all my browser related data there like,
      • Browser settings.
        • For example, If I enable Inline URL Auto-Complete (BTW, I love this feature in IE), all machines that I own should automatically get this option enabled automatically! Having 5 physical machines and at least 14 virtual machines that I interact with, I have tired doing these very small settings on all browser again and again, I would love that if it happens automatically.
      • Browser History.
        • What I access on my office machine, should also be stored on the cloud (just the URL and Title of the page for "Search" purpose) so, when I come home, I just open IE and I can painlessly refer to that URL again.
      • Bookmarks.
        • Though, today I can have shared bookmarks between all machines with Live Mesh without any platform requirements (I will write a blog post later about how to do this!), Platform based Synchronized Bookmark solution will give many extra features like searching and sharing with other people!
  • Store/Read/Reply SMSs from Any machine..
    • I still hate typing SMS in Windows Mobile (or any other mobile device including iPhone for that matter).. May be because I type at somewhat faster rate on computers than mobile devices.
    • I should be able to develop an application using Live Mesh platform so that I can interact with SMSs on my Windows Mobile Phone through any computer/web!
    • I dont keep all SMSs (one that my Mom sent me on Birthday before 2 years! or one that a friend sent for his address before 6 months!) on my mobile phone! Wouldn’t it be great if all SMSs are stored on cloud and search/interaction is provided!!
  • All applications that I develop can store application related user settings on the web associated with user’s Live ID.. So, wherever user goes (even if he doesnt have his machine with him, he just installs the application and fetches the settings after authenticating with Live ID) he gets same experience..!
    • Say for example, I use Windows Live Mail and Windows Live Writer almost on all machines! So, wouldn’t it be great if my windows live writer fetches my Weblog account configurations from Live Mesh and makes it ready to blog for me!! No more time waste when I setup a new machine!! Thats called productivity and a great software! Though, No doubt that today Live Writer saves a lot of time and it is already productive!
  • Alerts from my mesh’ed devices diverted to my Windows Mobile!
    • Live Mesh, being a platform that allows PCs and Windows Mobiles to be added to ring, I should be able to develop another small platform on top that, which allows me to subscribe to alerts on cloud data and get an update on Windows Mobile! What would be a typical use-case? Well, Just imagine,
      • An IT administrator getting an alert on his Windows Mobile for Server5 running out of disk space.
      • A Web Admin getting alert on his Phone for W3WP.exe crash on one of his web server!
      • A Support Engineer like me getting an alert about a new CritSit from customer (Critical Situation).
      • A kid getting alert on his phone about his favorite latest cartoon episode downloaded to his Media Center at home!
      • A businessman getting an alert on his WM about somebody leaving a voicemail on his Desk Phone!
      • A music lover like me getting an alert on Windows Mobile that his/her Zune is running out of battery!!
      • If this becomes true, I would love to have an alert on WM that somebody just broke into my Car and its about to be stolen! Happy
  • All my search queries on Live Search are stored in Live Mesh (on cloud)!
    • Google already does this (with Web History) and I think it is really very good idea. If Live Search team implements this with the help of Live Mesh platform (yes, they have to do that, any application developer can not do that)
    • The main purpose behind this would be so that I can "Search" my past "Search Queries" and get correct "Search Results" very easily!
  • Store data somewhere else on cloud and still Sync with other devices through Live Mesh!!
    • Right now, Microsoft provides 5 GB space out there in the cloud and I have not heard of any plans to provide any more space as of now. If Live Mesh keeps on expanding at the rate that I am predicting, 5 GB will be very less for Users today living Digital Life!
    • So, Live Mesh Platform should help me create a system that helps solve this problem! Where I should be able to store the meta-data on Live Mesh for actual data stored somewhere else in cloud (may be on my Amazon S3, or at my Data Center online). And use that meta-data to keep content in sync with all my meshed devices!

What do you think? Isn’t Live Mesh opening up a whole new set of opportunities for Application Developers and lots of new ‘Start-up’ ideas?

Stay tuned.. Wave

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