May
05

Web 2.0 – Data Aggregation

Trying to define Web 2.0 is all the rage these days, some people say it is social networking others say it is about interactivity (AJAX). At the end of the day all the definitions are right because the whole point of a new version is the fact that it is new, so defining it as stuff we didn’t do in the 1.0 days is good enough for me. With that being said there are a couple things I’m excited about and they all tend to center around data aggregation. Now aggregation in general can apply to a lot of different things happening on the web, RSS for example is a simple way to help you aggregate your favorite authors or news sources.

Google and Microsoft for example are now aggregating traffic information, they are both using the information in similar ways but with just slightly different twists.

In Google’s case they take the traffic information and let you see what traffic is like on certain days.

Tomorrow I have to head to the airport around 2 o’clock, with this new functionality I can see what the traffic might be like around that time. Now they can’t predict accidents but I like the fact that if I’m in an unfamiliar city with a meeting the next day, I will be able to determine loosely what the traffic might be like.

I say that is pretty cool and some functionality that I’m sure a lot of people that travel will find useful.

Now Microsoft has taken this information and put a slight twist on it. What they do is when you ask for driving directions you can choose for them to factor in live traffic information. So if you are running out the door and are printing out directions it might be able to save you a big headache if it helps you avoid an accident. Now on the flip side of that is the fact that the piece of paper you print out is not magically going to update when you are on the road so if you print out the data the night before and are factoring in live traffic it isn’t going to help you the next day.

Obviously nothing substitutes having gps in the car with a live traffic feed but for you all out there not lucky enough to have that or are not psychic maybe a mix of what Google and Microsoft are doing will help you out. I’m sure ultimately they will start blending functionality so what Google has Microsoft will and vice versa.

Another great example of aggregation is a site called farecast.com, I have been using them for a couple years and it is a great free service. So good that Microsoft bought them a few weeks ago. Here is the cool part about farecast, it will tell you if you are getting a good deal or not. Now you can surf around the net and look for the best deal, you can even use a service like kayak that aggregates a whole bunch of sites together but farecast has a twist. Farecast will study historical trends for the route you are flying and will predict with sometimes fairly hight accuracy if you should wait to buy your ticket or if you should get it right away because the fare is only going to go higher.

For example I flew to Seattle this past March and I knew about the trip a couple month ahead of time, I was able to save a bunch on the ticket because farecast told me to wait. It felt based on the trends that the price will start to decline now I followed the advice and sure enough it went down almost a hundred dollars a fee weeks before the trip.

All of these are great examples of the impact websites can have on our day to day life by helping aggregate and mine all the data that is out there.

Apr
15

Is it football season yet?

I can’t wait for football season, college or pro. Today I came home to a package at the front door and to my surprise it was my 2007 Fantasy Football Championship tshirt. ummm, Yes Correct! We have a big time fantasy football league at 352 Media, last year I think we had 20 teams. We split the teams into two leagues and I got lucky and won my league.

Now I need to defend my title so I have a couple suggestions for Yahoo, who provides some top notch service for our league.

First, provide a way for guests to view the league. Since we have two leagues it would be nice to see how my friends are doing in the other league. I think that should be an easy thing to setup, just an admin setting to make the league public or private.

Second, along the same lines as the first request make a widget or some embed code that we can include on our blogs or sites so show people how we are doing in our league. Not that the growth of Fantasy Football is slowing but the more exposure the better.

Third, take your live stats tracker to the next level. Put it in Adobe AIR or Microsoft Silverlight I would love a basic desktop app for my stats. Add some better play by play for all the games, god knows if I could watch every game at the same time I would try to. Since I can’t, my live stats let me know how my team is doing. Add some sound or something when I score. Form a deal with NFL.com to put highlights of my players. Add live chat to the league members through the app, many of us are in different parts of the country so we can give each other updates for the games they are able to see. It is simple, I just want it to be cool.

Hopefully we will get to see some of these features here next season, truth be told Yahoo does a great job doing updates and every year they are making improvements.

Defend the Championship!

Feb
01

I’m not Goofy

Learning to SnowboardWell I’m probably a little goofy as a person but when it comes to snowboarding I’m not. For the non-snowboarders out there “goofy” is when your front foot on the board is your right foot. “Regular” is when your left foot leads, your lead foot is the one you put most your weight on and use for turning.

I went a couple weeks ago to Sugar Mountain, NC to learn how to snowboard. A couple of my good friends do it and love it so I wanted to give it a try. It is every bit as hard as you would think and it hurts even worse.

Here is how my two days learning went…
Day 1 – Horrible. Wrong board size mixed with lots of pain.

Day 2 – Fun. Right board size mixed with less pain.

After my two days I learned that the board can make all the difference in the world, I’m a big guy and the board I had on day one was not right for me. As soon as I would get up and move a yard I would fall. The instructor could tell right off the bat that it was the wrong size board so on Day 2 I was able to switch it and I was able to get the hang of it.

I liked snowboarding so much that I’m thinking of buying a board, a couple days of rentals will add up to the cost of a board so it makes sense. Everyone I have talked to says Burton makes the best equipment, add the fact that the board I had on Day 2 was Burton and I’m sold.

BurtonNow my friends and instructors I had gave me a ball park on the board size I should get, unfortunately XL is not a size. The way it works is length of board, I’m 164-168cm, and width of the board, which I’m around a 260mm.

Here is where my web designer side kicks in…. Burton’s site on a coolness factor is a 12 on a scale of ten, it has all this great flash work mixed in with killer videos. The part I don’t like is that I can’t sort all their boards by what is available in the size I need. Since all their boards range in length and width you have to go board by board to find ones that works. It is far from the end of the world but it is the little things that make websites truly usable and great. So Burton if you listening put a cool little filter on your boards page that lets you pick a length and height range.

By the way, I’m going to get a Burton Bullet. It has a sick design… and it comes in the right size.

352 BoardNow if only Burton offered the design we did for Microsoft…

P.S. I will write back after my next trip would should be in mid March… We are heading up to Seattle then driving to Whistler, BC!