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Blog, interrupted

As Outfoxed comes to life on it's own as Lijit, I am merging this blog with my personal blog at If you subscribe via RSS, this change should happen automatically. Otherwise, simply change your bookmarks.

This will be the last post at I look forward to continuing the conversation at

Thanks for reading.

Outfoxed is alive

The little project that began as my thesis is growing up...bigtime. Outfoxed is now officially incorporated with offices in Boulder, Colorado. I've been lucky to find a most amazing lineup of management, investors, and advisors.

* If you'd like to take part in the closed-beta testing the all-new version, simply register here. (If you are already registered, then we'll be contacting you shortly.)
* If you are a developer with experience in PHP, MySQL, Javascript and/or Java, and a strong interest in revolutionizing the web, drop me a line.
* Our first financing round is oversubscribed, but we are always interested in talking to investors. Feel free to contact me.
* Check back often ... things developing fast and furious!

Online walls of shame need to be aggregated

BoingBoing featured a Landlord Wall of Shame. This is great, but why can't their be an aggregator for this type of feedback? Do we really have to remember one site for book reviews, another for plumber reviews, and yet another for landlord reviews? This review information needs to be aggregated and made searchable rather than sitting behind dozens of little walled gardens.

The hReview mircoformat is a step in this direction, but it needs to be integrated with blogging software or other user-friendly apps.

And there needs to be someone to find all those reviews and aggregate them in one searchable place.

Social Bookmark Spam : More pee in the beer

Alex Bosworth get's it right in his recent post, Social Bookmarking Vs Spam.

The more people flock to something, the bigger target it is for abuse. The more people turn to to find useful bookmarks, or to read the latest news, the more tempting targets those services become for spammers and vandals.

Which I couldn't agree with more. As I said earlier,

However, [Zniff social search] is doomed to fail if it enjoys any success: If it becomes popular, it is all to easy for tricksters to create false bookmarks for the sole purpose of inflating the ranks of chosen pages. It's the same lesson that Google is learning now with googlebombing.

Social Bookmarks are just the latest targets for abuse. Xeni Jardin in Wired nailed it:

Web 2.0 is very open, but all that openness has its downside: When you invite the whole world to your party, inevitably someone pees in the beer.

Alex suggests that the best way to protect the beer is with more complicated algorithms, just as Google revived search after the exploitation of early naive search engines. Here I have to disagree. The answer will inevitably be to use only trusted sources, and to give up trying to figure out who the bad guys are. Just let the people choose their own sources, recurse outwards through social networks, let small world networks do their thing, and *voila* you've got good data.

Or am I the being naive now?


I'm working in the Univeristy Library today, and a girl just asked me for help with a typewriter. A form required it and she had never used one before. I guess some time has passed since the time I dressed as a computer for halloween and my classmates thought I was a typewriter.

My brain ain't so big: Why remembering is not enough.

I recently re-read the classic essay by Clay Shirky, A Group Is Its Own Worst Enemy. But one point stuck out to me: reputation needs a memory.

If you want a good reputation system, just let me remember who you are. And if you do me a favor, I'll remember it. And I won't store it in the front of my brain, I'll store it here, in the back. I'll just get a good feeling next time I get email from you; I won't even remember why. And if you do me a disservice and I get email from you, my temples will start to throb, and I won't even remember why. If you give users a way of remembering one another, reputation will happen, and that requires nothing more than simple and somewhat persistent handles.

Mabye this is fine for a normal sized social group, (which happens to be about 150) but what if what you want is reputation system for eBay, or PayPal, or the whole web? Even if I could interact with all those people, I certainly couldn't remember them all. What is needed is a group memory, where each person can store and publish memories of their ecounters.

Delicious does this to a limited degree, recording people's memories of good websites. But with Outfoxed I hope to take the idea much further, allowing all kinds of memories to be recorderd, and for you to easily draw on the memories of your friends and friends' friends...

That's the reputation system I want.

Absolute vs. Personalized Web Perspecitves

This funny post by Brad Feld got me thinking about customized search.

Brad's joke works because he thinks everyone else will get the same result from the search. However, yesterday my friend Fabian was so excited that his blog came up on the page of a search result for "outfoxed extension". But it was page 8 in my results, so clearly Google is doing some personalization. (And no, neither of us had turned on Google's personalized search.)

There is value in personalization, but there is also value in knowing that other people see the web the same way. I think personalization trumps here, but it's not clear.

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