Sunday, September 09, 2007

Searching attachments in Gmail

I have been wondering this for about a year now, my answer to myself has always been: "They are probably working on it and by the time you blog about it it will be avalaible for all."

Well, it's been over a year now and it still is not available yet; so here it is:

Why can't I search my attachments from withing Gmail??

I mean, if somebody sends me an attachment in an email, there is no way for me to search within this attachment that I know of. The only workaround I found so far is to import the attachment to Google docs and then it becomes searchable from within Google docs. But I mean this is really cumbersome.

Isn't Google supposed to organize the world's information and make it accessible and useful? How about my own information?

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Love the US open?

Please answer the opinion poll below -



Create polls and vote for free.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Ball in the mail

I just received a ball in the mail. A real ball, all inflated and all. The stamp was on the ball and my address too. It has been sent by Julian Cash because he enjoyed one my papers on tag clustering. Here's a Web friendly version written by Philipp Keller; Mail me if you want to read the original paper.

Thanks to Julian Cash for his creativity.

Facebook ads are evil

I really think that Facebook ads are obnoxious and very bothering. See the one below on my personal profile? They even have some that blink in big red letters.

Is this what one should expect of the rising star of the Web2.0 sites?
Is this how they are getting some $80 million a year?

Am I missing something here? Free cash on Facebook??

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Blog addiction

It turns out I am 68% addicted even though I did not post that many entries recently.

68%How Addicted to Blogging Are You?

Mingle2 - Online Dating

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Caponata on the grill - Healthy and Tasty

This is a version of the traditional caponata as shown here at Bencook.
This version contains much less fat as it uses the grill instead of frying and in fact it is much more tasty as you really taste each of the ingredients.

Also I took some more liberty and added Zucchini to add to this a unique Mediterranean flavor.

So here is goes:

Ingredients: 2 each of (Big) eggplant, zucchini, peppers, one small onion all cut up in small cubes.
2 tea spoons of olive oil.

Lay the cubes nicely on an aluminium foil and sprinkle a few drops of olive oil, Put the whole thing in the oven in the Grill position at the max heat.

Wait until the chunks are a bit burnt on the side.

Take out of the oven and sprinkle a good dose of fresh basil, a dollop of olive oil and some salt and pepper.

That's it you're in the Mediterranean heaven, the famous Gan Eden.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Not so delicious search -

One of the things that surprises me about delicious besides its poor usability and its relative frozen stage is that the search is not really satisfactory. This is surprising because, although it is acceptable or even good for a one man show to have a poor UI and virtually no search, I think that a Yahoo! company should put the standard a bit higher. I mean Yahoo! is trying to position itself as a search company right?

So, here it comes, if somebody from Yahoo! reads this, please pass this along to whoever can do something about it. Here's what I think is broken with delicious search:

Here's what I expect from a search on my and other people bookmarks:

Part One: The Basic

- There should be only one way to search - Currently on delicious if you type something on the seach box you get a set of results, but if you click on a tag you get a different set of results. The difference is that on the first search you do a plain search and on the second you search only on the tags. I think that a regular user does not care about that distinction. Tags are simply an additional layer of information and if they are not here one should still be able to retrieve pages. So please keep this distinction for the "advanced searchers" - People who only click should have only one option and it should search not only on tags.

- Fast - search sometimes takes up to 1mn. is already a Yahoo company for a year or so and I'd expect they had time to address this already. I don't think that they lack experience of money in making services go fast. So just do it. [For those interested, I believe there is a need for serious re-engineering here because tag-search is reasonably fast, however "plain search" is painfully slow. So I suspect the plain search has been done in an inefficient way and would have to be redone completely.]

- "bug tracking" and "bugtracking" should bring the same results. The fact that delicious is forcing users to write space delimited tags in the first place forces people to do ugly things like bugtracking or bug_tracking. There are 2 ways to fix this: 1. switch to comma delimited tags and 2. do some smart processing to be able to find out that "bugtracking" and "bug_tracking" are really like "bug tracking" -

- "tracking" should also bring pages that have been tagged "bug tracking" - I mean there are so many ways to tag a page that some people might say "bugtracking" whereas others would say "bug" and then "tracking" or whatever combination. One wants them all.

- Search on notes too - Again, Notes are like tags, simply an additional layer of information added by the users. Some users like tags some other like notes. The search engine should not discriminate and it should search on notes as well as in tags.

Part II The Advanced

- Related tags: I expect here to find tags that will help me find something, thus either tags that reduce my search or tags that change my search. Instead delicious puts tags that are related somehow. For example: if I search "google" then "google" will be on the related tags. This is not helpful, what I need are either the most discriminatory tags or tags that would help me search something else ("did you mean").

- Related users: When i search on a topic, I'd like to get the "wisdom of crowd" effect and see what are the users that are knowledgeable on this topic. Delicious does not even try to do that. Simpy does that well for example.

Well I figured that when a search company acquires a small startup, one of the first thing they would do is fix the search - Apparently it has not been a priority yet, I just wish they would put more effort into this.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Twitter is cool

So here's what I think about Twitter - I think it is a great broadcasting tool !
I've seen several uses of twitter in various blogs already, but I think that what it boils down to for me is that with Twitter I am able to broadcast a short message to my "followers" -

These followers are for example all the people I work with and who need to:

  • know how to reach me
  • ask or answer questions

For example, if I am stuck with a technical question such as "How do I configure lighttpd with multiple sites?" instead of asking several of my friends separately, I can broadcast this on my twitter and whoever knows and is available this day can pick it up and answer.

The second best use of twitter is the "Message of the Day" or "Status message" that is currently available in most IM tools. I think this is a cool use but I am not sure this is sustainable until they have an automatic update from my IM. For example if I am away or in a meeting.

What I like most about Twitter: I like the gtalk integration. I don't need to go to twitter site in order to either update my message or get updates from the people I follow. Kudos to the twitter team for this feature!!

What I want from Twitter: I'd like to be able to have several groups of followers (in a way multiple accounts). I'd like to have a group of technical people following me, a family group and maybe a friends group and a co-worker group. Please do that for me and you'll be my favorite tool.

Here's my Twitter page:

Friday, March 02, 2007

The bar is too high !!

Come on Gmail guys remove the "BETA" sign from the logo. This is really making hard on other software to go out of Beta.
I mean gmail successfully serves millions of users everyday, never (that I know of) has been broken off, (almost) always on, fast, reliable. Gmail is now available to everybody, no more invitation required. Nevertheless Gmail is still in Beta. I know a lot of software who would be lucky to be as reliable as gmail in production.

So please, gmail guys, do us a favor and remove the small Beta sign near the gmail logo.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Amazing India: Magai Paan

Have you ever tasted Magai Paan?
It is probably among the strangest, weirdest food items I ever tasted. It's not really delicious but it is really fascinating. To make it short, Magai Paan is the Indian version of a chewing gum, people eat it after a heavy and spicy lunch to kind of change the taste and keep on chewing for a while.

It is made of maybe 20 or 30 ingredients including the famous betle, it has the betle leaves as well as the nuts, but you can also find there many fragrant things like clove, rose petal, I suspect some other types of nuts (cashew?), many spices and a lot of secret ingredients coming from small bags, tin boxes, plastic bags, etc.

What is amazing is that you are supposed to keep on chewing this thing for a long time and that at least the first few minutes are full of surprise. First it is a really big bite, then it is surprisingly made of many different tastes all very strong and unfamiliar. So you keep on chewing and suddenly there is this new taste happening, maybe you're cracking the clove, or maybe it's a betel nut, you don't really know.

Take a look here, this is the work table of the paan cart - See all the boxes?
magai paan preparation -

This is the man at work:
Magai paan preparation

This is a close up in mid preparation - you can see some of the ingredients:
Magai paan close up

This is my friend Grish after eating his double bite magai pan:
After Magai Paan

This is me just before attempting my double bite:
Double magai paan

Now you can judge it yourself - Take a look at this movie, it shows the whole preparation for the magai. This is taken from the streets of Bangalore.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

The writing on the wall

I saw this sign at Ben Gurion airport - I guess the guy who did this just didn't know what to write and in what language, so he asked his 3 year old son to draw something that would indicate a low latrine for boys :)

Guess what this is about

Dahi Puri Chaat

This is a real delicacy I just discovered - The amazing thing about it is that it is a really entertaining snack or light food. It is really fun to eat. Why?

  • It crunchy outside, tender inside and liquid too
  • It is spicy, sweet, salty
  • It is cold inside, wam outside
  • Usually it is served on a plate containing 5-6 servings, and each serving is supposed to be eaten in one gulp. This is not so easy as it is big and juicy
So when you eat it, the puri breaks in your mouth and then you start feeling all these different tastes explode one after another, the hot and the cold, the crunch and the soft. It really makes for a fun eating experience.
I think Dahi Puri is the Indian answer to a fusion Panko Crusted Fried Avocado Maki Sushi with Wasabi Crème Fraiche :)

Here's a picture with the Puri bread formed as a shell - This is the toughest one to eat.

Puri Chaat

Here's a picture of the version in which the puri is crumbled - Delicious -

Puri Chaat

Sometimes I am wondering why European food is so blend and unsurprising. Are European spice impaired? I mean compare this to a steak or burger, what a difference !!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

On usability, adoption rates and deadpool for Web 2.0 services

There's been a number of posts on the net about the fate of RawSugar since we announced that RawSugar stopped its R&D operations. See for example these blog entries:

Besides the journalistic headlines (I felt like David Beckham for a day or two), and the number of good words for the RawSugar team from users; what mostly interested me was the reasons mentioned either in the blog posts or in the comments for RawSugar's failure. Here are the leading causes of failures that are cited:

  1. Poor marketing (weak focus on blogs, no differentiation with delicious, poor communication, poor positioning, etc.) - 5 mentions
  2. Poor UI design (colors, homepage, coolness, overall usability) - 5 mentions.
  3. Simply a victim of the bubble - 4 mentions
  4. No business plan (nor revenue plan) - 2 mentions
  5. Poor innovation - 1 mention.
  6. Ofer Ben-Shachar (Founder/CEO) stubbornness :) - 1 mention.

As RawSugar's former VP Engineering, I find this very interesting to see what people really think about this. The first conclusion I draw is that the technology was not to blame, indeed, as I write this blog, RawSugar's investors are negotiating with several potential buyers of the technology. So I believe that the RawSugar tag-search technology will find a new home and that's a good thing.

However, what stroke me most on the comments of people above is that I don't believe any of these is responsible for RawSugar poor adoption levels. When I look around at other services I see all these points in successful services. See for example:

  • Did Youtube have a business plan?
  • Did Delicious havea good UI design (starting from the hard to remember domain name)?
  • Is gmail a model of usability? Maybe yes, but only after you get it.
  • Was Craig's list done with a great marketing strategy in mind?
  • Where is the innovation in myspace?

No, I don't think these are the real reasons for RawSugar underperformance. I don't think you need a business plan, a great UI design, a solid marketing plan and a huge innovation to make a winning Web 2.0 service. I am not saying it hurts but I don't think these are necessary nor sufficient criteria.

I have my own explanation but I won't share it on my blog right now, maybe in a later post. What do you think? Leave me a comment.


Why I love spam and gmail

Here's the story. I used to read email from several Yahoo! managed accounts using Outlook and over time I realized that even though Yahoo! was catching a large majority of the spam mail I was getting, and Outlook was also catching a big chunk of what was left (all the false negative); I ended up spending more time cleaning up my Inbox than actually reading my email.

So it was time for a shakeup !!

Here's what I did:

  • I set up my gmail account to be able to send email from multiple accounts. So that gmail could now be used to send email on behalf of any of my other email accounts.
  • I set up all my Yahoo! email to forward all my incoming messages to my gmail account.
  • I created filters on gmail so that email coming from my Yahoo! email account Account1 was labeled "account1" and email coming from my Yahoo! email account Account2 was labeled "account2".
And voila!!! The result is amazing, I only have a couple of spam mail that gmail misses out of about 200 a day. That's pretty good I must say. In fact it is so good, that I sometimes go into the spam mail in gmail just to watch all these spam getting caught. And I smile at all this time wasted sifting through these. I also smile when I see the "spicy spam kabobs" ad they put up.

Sometimes software can really solve problems. Congratulations to the gmail team.

Related: Check out Jonathan Boutelle discussion on the comparison of several spam filters here.